Monday, March 20, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week and saying Thank You with a chocolate cake with floral decoration.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in my son's school. 
It's time to stop and thank all those loving teachers who share knowledge with the little ones and work not just towards making them learn Math or Grammar but also work on their confidence and self-esteem.

When we moved, 3 months ago, the biggest change was for Li'll S. Changing school mid year is dreadful. Facing a classroom full of new faces, a new teacher is rather intimidating.
Thankfully, he was made welcome and soon settled in and has adjusted very well to all the changes thrown at him. 

chocolate cake with buttercream flowers

Everyday, when I pick S from school, he looks relaxed and is happy. As a mother, I couldn't ask for more.

chocolate cake with flowers
  So when Teachers Appreciation Week rolled by, I wanted to show my gratitude and what better than to share something sweet.

I made this cake for Teachers Lunch.
Its a 4 layer Chocolate cake with whipped cream filling.
The outer frosting and flower decoration is vanilla butter cream.
Sadly, the pictures don't do justice, I clicked them in a hurry and in bad yellow lighting.

For those who want a frosting recipe:
For this cake I used

4 sticks Salted Butter
1 Tbs Vanilla extract
2 Lbs. Powdered / confectioners Sugar
Milk ( I add by the teaspoon, about 3-4)  to get stiff consistency icing

Start by using room temperature butter.
Add the soft butter to the stand mixer.
Use the paddle attachment and start at a low speed and beat the butter till its soft, creamy and a shade lighter.
Add the vanilla and whip the butter some more.
Add the sugar, slowly and mix at slow speed to incorporate it well ( if the mixer is at high speed, the sugar will fly out  and you will have a white layer on the counter top)
Beat the mixture for at least 4-5 minutes to mix the butter and sugar well and make smooth icing.

To store, place the frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate.
I place the frosting in a container, then put saran wrap and then place the lid. That is optional.

buttercream floral decoration

I made this cupcake for my friend Prachi's son. She helped me carry the cake to school. It was a big cake and I needed help.

This cupcake is VERY special for me. See that orange rose? My little boy made it! He saw me making flowers and wanted to pitch in and help. I am so proud of him!

That's it from my end today. Have a great week ahead! 
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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Vegetable and Corn Chowder (IP/ Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe)

February was the 'Sugar Free' month in the AC@H household. It started off with high enthusiasm and I am happy I could stick to my plan. I admit, there were times I felt like I was caving in, but luckily, I managed to stick to my resolution. 
I also realized that my sugar craving is almost gone. The other day, the son and I made chocolates at home and I couldn't eat a single piece.
Earlier, I would make sheera or something sweet at the drop of a hat and the temptation to sit down to a piping hot bowl of sugary sweetness as soon as it is done was unbeatable, but not anymore! 

I am so glad I did this.

But I also realized that sometimes, sugar, in small portions is ok. For example, a bit of sugar in pohe and upma elevates the taste and balances the flavors. Ditto with some vegetables (for example, this simple Dudhi chi bhaji or cabbage (made the Maharashtrian way).The addition of sugar makes it taste so good! 
My morning cup of chai is what gets me going and adding a bit of jaggery to it makes me happy. It's the one concession I will make. It helped me stick to my resolution, I believe.  

So to sum it up, avoid sugar where you can, if possible, substitute with jaggery (at least it has iron content) and when absolutely neededuse sugar in small quantities. 

I have also been making good use of my EPC. With the temperatures still low and snow piled up till the end of February, it's was very cold.  Cold....cold evenings and piping hot soup make such a good combination.

When we first moved to Utah and stayed in the hotel for a while, eating out was our only option. I carried the EPC,but who wants to stock grain and oil and spices in a hotel room. The lingering smell is unavoidable and I was not going to have it sticking to us as well as all our belongings packed in suitcases. 
So on the bitter cold evenings, we would bundle ourselves in the car and drive to Zupas (which, by the by, was opposite the hotel, but we weren't inclined to trudge through the snow and wind) and fill up on heartwarming soups. 
I tried Vegetable Chowder for the first time and loved it. 
After that, I scoured the net for recipes and found so many that my recipe is a mish-mash of all I read. 
It is very simple and also a very forgiving recipe.
Approximate measurements are fine as long as you are careful and don't overdo anything.

Start with chopping vegetables, I used my chopper to get even pieces. 
I used  1 Red onion, 1 Russet potato, 1 (big) or 2 medium carrot, 1 zucchini and 1 - 1 1/2 cup corn kernels.
This made enough soup for one dinner (for 3) and M took some to work the next day and I slurped up a small bowl for my lunch the next day.

Start the Electric Pressure Cooker (Magic Chef/ Power pressure cooker / Instant Pot) and use the Sear/ Saute option.

Heat oil and add the chopped onion and saute till translucent. Add in all the chopped vegetables and mix for a minute or two. 

Add 2-3 tbsp. of All Purpose Flour ( this acts as a thickener)  and mix well to coat the vegetables.
Add salt, pepper and about 1- 1.5 tsp seasoning ( I used Italian seasoning, it's what I have on hand, you can use oregano / mixed herbs/ thyme) and added a dash of red pepper flakes. 
Add 2- 3 water / vegetable stock, stir well. 
Press the 'Cancel' button and seal the pressure cooker (whistle on 'seal' mode). 
Set it on 'Manual' mode for 2 minutes. QPR (Quick Pressure Release) once the timer beeps. Be careful when releasing the pressure, the steam can burn!

Add 1 full cup of milk ( I used whole milk, you can use half-n-half if you wish, to get a creamier version) and mix.
I noticed that my soup was a bit watery and so I used the immersion blender and blended it just a bit. The pureed vegetables gave the soup some body and it was perfect.

Turn on the saute mode again. and let the soup come to a gentle boil stirring almost all the time ( I was worried, because of the milk, it may not be needed). 
Grate and add Cheese ( I used Sharp Cheddar) and mix to incorporate.
Once the cheese is mixed in the soup switch off the EPC. 
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Soup,one pot meal, chowder, vegetable chowder

Adding 1-2 cloves of minced Garlic (after sauteing onion) also tastes so good. I cannot recollect if I did or not, but as a side note, add in some. 
You can also add Yellow squash, celery, broccoli florets if you like. 
Adding Quinoa will amp up the protein. Just make sure you rinse it thoroughly to avoid the bitter taste.
Serve hot. Add a dash of red pepper flakes if you like. 
Adding some crushed tortilla chips as a garnish to vary the taste.

What's on my mind now.

I want to learn to enjoy salads and also to cut down on carbs. I also want to cut down on snacking. I love crunchy snacks and fall prey to them very easily. I did that just yesterday on my weekly visit to the Indian store. phrrrp! 
I guess, once I finish this lot, I will try and not buy any or at least but and v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y eat my way through the bag. 

The other thing is, to use my EPC more than I already am. I love using it for boiling eggs (makes the perfect boiled eggs and no babysitting), making chaivegetables, rice and khichadi, steaming ALu wadi, making yogurt and fermenting idli/dosa batter and very recently, dhokla and pullikachal ( coming up on the blog soon). 
I will update this place as I experiment and hope it helps fellow EPC users. 

Have a great week ahead, folks! 

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