Sunday, June 30, 2013

Choices.


This is not too recent. But the idea of this is always fresh and new and exhilarating to me so I wanted to "chronicle" it down in my blogging life. This was an 8 mile hike my cousins and I embarked on a summer ago. I think the woods are made for adventure alone with the many trails calling your attention this way and that. Which do you choose? "Bear Claw trail," or some path claiming to be an "Eagle." But the choices didn't matter so much as the idea did. Someone dear and near once said, "the heart of a girl inclines and rejoices at the thought of having choices." Hmmm, choices. Quite honestly, I hadn't reaaalllly thought of the whole 'choices' situation until boredom took me through my iPod camera roll. I just scrolled through these woodsy pictures and came to the conclusion that I should never wear a headband in the sweltering heat (frizzy frizzy hair). Ok, kidding. I noticed the trees and the twigs, but mostly I felt the sense of freedom that comes with aimlessly roaming the woods. Like, aimlessly skipping though life with nothing but a pocketful of options left and right. And I like it. I like the idea that I can CHOOSE where I want to go and who I want to be, and what I want to eat for breakfast. Things we take for granted everyday...everyday at the Starbucks drive-thru, every week at the nearest redbox...every year to be someone new. 

Choices are nice. Really they are.




Monday, June 24, 2013

"Just let the words fall out..."



This just makes me feel good. Like, good on the deep down inside and underneath my skin good. Sara Bareilles is a “repeat” regular in my iPod and her voice always sends me off to someplace brighter. "Brave" takes me everywhere. Everywhere and anywhere I've ever hesitated. The people in this video are so freeeee. So brave. Makes me want to dance around in silly circles and flap my arms like a weirdo, too. And especially makes me want to not care who knows it. In the meantime though, I'm just snapping my fingers from side to side and bouncing my shoulders up and down and sharing this with you so you can do the same :) You can choose to be in a cage and swallow your words, OR you can let your hair down and "say what you wanna say." Choice is ours. (I love this song and video so much, that if I don’t stop talking about it I most likely never will stop.)

If you want to feel like a bird and be happy today (I mean...what crazy person doesn't?), probably you should watch this. 

xx Zareen

ps: where was I when she shot this video??! Next time ;) 



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Upside Down.



This cake is like Pineapple Upside Down Cake's younger more eccentric sister who just wants to break free from her older's sister's comparisons. But I as simply an advocate for all things cake, love each one equally. 

My mom used to make the Pineapple version all the time when we were little, so the process of any sort of upside down cake is sort of nostalgic. Caramelizing the butter and sugar, arranging the fruit...licking the beaters, it's all very comforting and reminiscent of a simpler time. And even though I sort of claimed the household whisk; I get so happy inside when mom decides to bake for a change. (Still working on my Indian cooking so we can't trade roles too often :)) 

I kind of took my mom's basic formula, combined it with something similar I found in Bon Appetite's Desserts cookbook (my latest obsession) and ended up with something as pretty tasting as it looks. 

A drizzle of honey in the typical brown sugar-butter mixture, fresh juicy peaches instead of canned pineapple, a touch of yogurt and some spices turn my mom's classic up a few notches. The concept of an upside down cake is in the sauce that sits on the bottom of the pan. In this cake, the honey mixture melts ever so gently into the peaches and into the bottom of the cake (which will become the top once flipped), and creates the most luscious, sweet topping. It's sensational. 

For the topping: 

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in honey and brown sugar, boil until mixture slightly darkens. Make sure you're stirring often...it'll take about 2-3 minutes only. Immediately pour honey mixture into prepared pan (I used a 10 in spring form); coat bottom completely by tilting the pan around. Let stand while preparing the batter. 

1 1/4 cups  all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
 1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons butter room temperature
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla exctract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
About 3 peaches; pitted and sliced

Whisk together the flour, cardomom, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then all of the yogurt, and then lastly, beat in the remaining flour mixture until JUST blended. 

Arrange the sliced peaches over the honey mixture (It will be firm to the touch), covering it as best you can. Drop batter by spoonfuls and gently spread it all over the peaches to cover completely. 

Bake until cake begins to pull away from the side, and toothpick comes out fairly clean. 35-40 minutes should do it. 

After it's cooled, run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Place serving plate/pedestal over pan, and flip! Make sure you wear oven mitts though. 

Serve it with a dollop of whipped cream :) 



xx Zareen 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Dear self (and others who need words to feel cool on the inside)

This morning on my way to school when no radio station wanted to play Justin Timberlake, I turned it off and tuned in. I talk to myself a lot and often underestimate my ability to actually make sense. (Well, contrary to my brother and cousin’s belief.) I don’t know why I felt the urge to literally be myself, and that sounds painfully cliché and sappy, but I just wanted to feel comfortable/confident with zero face paint and an ok hair day. You know? Sometimes you just need to feel it more than look it. It was my first day of summer class and I guess I had only myself to rely on. New place, new people, new term, new notebook…recipe for major awkwardness. Well back to the part about me making sense on occasion…as I was thinking out loud, I realized how easy it is to connect with others when you’re being exactly you. It’s nearly impossible to do so when you’re trying to be someone else. You’re kind of….lost and confused then. How do you connect genuinely when you connected while you weren’t even being genuine? Right?! SO I decided that I wasn’t going to swipe mascara on or talk in a British accent (I’ve pulled one off before, for the record)….I was just going to walk in and let it be known that I have arrived.

Just kidding. I just walked in and sat in the last row gracelessly twiddling my hair. But the whole spiel about connecting and being genuine and whatnot has been remedial to my soul. For future references, you know?
Ehh I’m just having a moment, excuse me.  

Sincerely,

Someone with one too many feelings 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lemon- White Chocolate Coconut Cookies (and a lengthy story about clarified butter)

Hello! For my first EVER baking post (eeks I’m getting excited!), I want it to be something as new as I am to the blogging world. Every so often I ditch my many cookbooks and bookmarked recipes and let loose. In baking, letting loose can sometimes pose as a big mess, especially when you’re feeling lucky and dare to mess around with baking soda and whatnot. But other times, if you just switch and swap regular softened butter with clarified butter experimentally, you’ll discover that it IS humanly possible to melt away in awe. So let me tell you how this butter situation came to be.

I needed a sweet fix. (Also I just wanted to bake.) But of course when I came around to the fridge, we had only ½ a stick of butter and the cookies I intended to make required two. I tend to steer clear from panic mode in the kitchen, but I just really had a pesky cookie craving and I couldn't settle for a spoonful of nutella. I continued gathering the rest of the stuff, still rummaging through my mental list of butter substitutions. (Note: Only use applesauce if you don’t care about your taste buds.) I wandered upon a glass container with “ghee.” Hmmm.  Mom had made what is commonly called “clarified butter” a couple days ago. Clarified butter is the translucent golden butterfat (yes…I know) left over after the milk solids, water and salt are removed. But that's beside the point.  It’s melted ever so slowly to deepen the flavor, and it had become this glossy spreadable concoction. I thought about it for a good minute and decided that life is too short to disregard something as beautiful and rich, nutty and lustrous as clarified butter. I threw in what was left along with my modest half stick of butter and any further doubts went out the window.

But the “ghee” I used, was my mom’s doing- not mine. So I asked her to walk me through the mystery that is clarified butter and today, I made some of my own! I’ve concluded that though it requires a bit from the patience department, from the point it melts and cools and transforms into a spreadable state; clarified butter is just so special that it’s worth every minute. It’s much MUCH more rich and buttery than…butter, which sounds bizarre but really. It’s so shiny, almost like it has its own pristine personality. I spent today dipping my finger into the jar and asking my mother a billion questions about it and how they used it in India- smack slathered on top of a paratha. I love the idea and it, and though the self-professed Nutritionist in me scolds me every time my finger goes into the jar (which frankly is pure butter fat at the end of the process), I slap a word of moderation across and continue to live happily.

Anyways, that’s enough clarified butter talk. But I have to say that these cookies are just spectacular in all the ways a cookie can be thanks to it. They are soft and chewy, moist and creamy; lemony and nutty. The butter gives them a velvety texture and a aromatic undertone which is a tad different from ordinary cookies that tend to get hard as they sit. It’s a classic white chocolate cookie with the volume turned to blast. And to take them even further, I dip one side into melted white chocolate and sprinkle on some toasted coconut!  Yes, why stop when you don’t have to!? 

By the way, these come with an implied warning label so don’t blame me if you eat them all in one sitting. : )



     


    

      Ingredients:

      1 ½ cups all purpose flour
      ½ tsp baking soda
       ¼ tsp baking powder
       ¼ tsp salt
       ½ stick of unsalted butter, softened
       ½ cup (I stick) clarified butter, cooled
       ½  cup granulated sugar
       1/3 cup brown sugar
       1 teaspoon vanilla
       2-3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
       ¾ cup Coconut
       1 cup white chocolate (and more for dipping)

To make the clarified butter: Put a stick of butter right into a saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. When the butter has completely melted, be patient and keep it there over low heat. It’ll start transforming; slowly but so fragrantly. When the melted butter starts boiling, it will begin to foam and sputter a lot at first as the water boils off. Continue boiling the butter, uncovered. Its gets reaaaally foamy, but just you wait…
As the butter melts, it will slowly separate into 3 layers.

Slowly the liquid on top becomes more and more transparent. When the clarified butter has a golden transparent color, there is very little foam left on the surface, and the solids settle comfortably on the bottom…that’s when the clarified butter is ready. The cooking time is approximately 25 minutes, depending on the heat and the kind of pot that you use. So yeah, that’s it! Just strain it quickly and let it cool on the counter. Then pop in the fridge for a couple hours before you use it. I know,  there’s A LOT of down time in between, so if you decide on making these, make the butter way ahead of time and you’re good to go.

Directions: 
  1.     .   Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2.         In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3.          In a larger bowl, beat the ½ stick butter, ½ cup clarified butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. (A whisk will do just fine if your butters are soft enough.)
  4.         Add the egg, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat a few seconds more until it gets fluffy.
  5.         Gradually add the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture. Beat until JUST combined.
  6.       .  Fold in white chocolate chips and coconut. (Taste the batter! It’s awesome.)
  7.      Drop by a rounded teaspoon onto lined or greased baking sheet, bake for only 8-10 minutes. These are perfect slightly underdone, as the hot cookie sheet will keep them toasting for a couple more minutes. 

Pretty simple, right? The clarified butter is the only somewhat tricky part, but trust me, once you nail the melting part, it’s all smooth sailing. Enjoy guys! (And thanks so much for reading.) 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bon Jour

HELLO! Oh gosh, that was over enthusiastic  Well, I've started a blog. That probably is hashtag #stuffgirlssay on twitter. I just felt it was time to chronicle my oh so exhilarating life so when my life really is exhilarating I can look back and laugh. Ok ok, mostly this is going to be the first ever baking/food photography blog you've ever seen. (Fingers tightly crossed you catch on to my sarcasm eventually :)) I bake a lot...really a lot, and every time I do so, I mentally slap myself for still not having a blog to keep track of all the things in my repertoire  Even my mother straight up asked me why I'm not "making a portfolio" of my kitchen adventures. And I thought to myself once more and physically took my palm to my forehead. So, here I am! Finally. And in all seriousness, for all my Facebook/ instagram friends who've been lovely "likers" on all my baking photos, I thank you kindly for your enthusiasm. And it's only fair that I throw in a recipe or two along with my humble attempt to capture a pretty picture of a bedazzled cake or a plate full of cookies. So from now on forth, that'll be what's up. 

I might also sprinkle in a post here and there about inspirational stuff and feelings and whatnot. Sometimes there's just something so endearing and happy about the way the stars look at night and the fact that we all share the same sky. I've found resisting my journal to be a very challenging act.

Hmmm this is awkward, is it not? I feel like I'm talking to myself- well, I am. That being said, I would love for you to join in on the conversation one day. xx 

Zareen