Month: January 2015

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Miniature lemon cheesecakes with gingersnap crusts

Superbowl Sunday is just around the corner and what better dessert to offset those savory appetizers? I thought of bringing some miniature desserts as there will be so much to choose from.  Folks love cheesecake and the minis will  mean that you will definitely be able to go back for seconds :).  The warm spices compliment these minis and the lemony taste definitely enhances the flavor. I’ve put the coffee pot on too, so we can enjoy coffee with a selection of desserts.

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For the crust

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (I used a food processor to crush mine)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • A small pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Cheesecake

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 2 tablespoons greek style yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350deg F.  Line mini muffin pan with paper liners.  In a medium bowl mix the gingersnap cookie crumbs, brown sugar, lemon zest and salt and stir to combine.  Pour over melted butter and stir with a fork to moisten the crumbs.  Place about a tablespoon of crumb mixture in each of the prepared muffin liners and pack down into an even layer.

In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese, yogurt and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg, vanilla extract.  Stir in lemon zest.  Divide cheesecake mixture evenly into prepared muffins tins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until set.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan, then carefully transfer cheesecake to a cooling rack to cool completely before refrigerating.  Makes about 18 mini cheesecakes.

IMG_2646These mini cheesecakes were wonderful.  I hope you will enjoy them.

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Curry Cook-Off!

Chilli cook-off gatherings are pretty popular here in the Fall, in the USA.  I blogged on one here that we attended in October.  January is a pretty desolate month, the temperatures plummet, the holidays are done and dusted, the parties and events come to a standstill and the winter months drag on.  I thought I’d change that around and organize an event.  The Curry Cook-off idea was born!  A curry cook-off you ask?  You bet, there’s nothing like inventing a new ritual is there?  Based on the same guidelines, we came up with a venue and before you knew it, emails were being exchanged, recipes swapped, friends were handing in their submissions, others asking for particular spices, yet others creating trial runs.   A few weeks of prep work and liaising with one another finally evolved into the most wonderful contribution of curries on a cold winter’s day.

Most of the chefs were male, the curried dishes hailed from Jamaica, India and Malaysia. The energy and enthusiasm before the big day was infectious.  Fueled by beer and wine, this was sure to be an annual bash from now on. Here is my husband’s idea of a joke, he designed these evites before the event :)

Curry Cook-off

The winning dish was the Malaysian Yellow Chicken curry.  You could taste the lemon grass and coconut in this subtly pungent curry.  All the entries were fabulous, it was pretty hard to choose a winner.  Each guest had to vote,  we tallied up the most number of votes for the brass lantern prize.  Here are a few pictures of the event.  The picture below shows a friend flipping rotis that will accompany his Jamaican Goat curry.

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The paneer was made from scratch, considering most of the chefs had never cooked curries before, they sure researched it all and did an outstanding job!  Of course it helped that all the guests loved curries even though some of them had never attempted to cook it before.  Now I’m sure they will. :)

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IMG_2614and the winner is……The Malaysian Yellow Chicken curry.  The recipe to follow.

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Here’s the recipe in Rob’s words:

The paste is:
4 jalapeño peppers* (sliced, seeds removed)
2 stalks lemon grass (washed, trimmed, chopped)
2 small shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 big cube of peeled ginger root
2-3 tablespoons of ground tumeric
Big pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons of peanut oil

Put all this in the food processor & blend till relatively smooth. (*You can add heat by chopping a pepper with its seeds, or swapping in 1 or 2 hotter peppers for 1-2 jalapeños.)

Put paste in a pan on medium heat with another few tablespoons of peanut oil. Sauté the paste in the oil for a few minutes…

Keep heat on medium and add 2 small white onions chopped… sweat those down a few minutes.
Add chicken… (note on chicken, best option is dark meat on the bone with the skin removed, thighs & legs, hit it hard with some nice salt before it’s in the pan.) Cook all that down on medium heat for another few minutes.

Now add…

16 ounces of coconut milk
4-6 ounces of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 kaffir lime leaves
1-2 tablespoon of ground coriander

Let that go about 5-10 minutes… Now add whatever vegetable you like. I used…

2-3 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed.
3 large carrots, peeled & cubed.
1/2 lb of green beans, trimmed
(Keep the pieces relatively large to prevent over cooking. Smaller veg like the haricot vert can be added late since those take a shorter cook time.)

Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour. Adjust seasoning as needed. You could splash is some broth and reduce if needed just watch not to over cook the veg. You could cut the heat with another tablespoon of soy (savory) and/or brown sugar (sweet).

I’m bringing this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday gathering as well.  I had posted this last week, and I wanted to share a wonderful recipe that won the prize for the curry cook-off that I had organized.

 

 

 

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A Fiesta Friday anniversary celebration!

Sound the trumpet, toot the horn, It’s a Fiesta Friday anniversary celebration!  Bravo Angie! It’s been a whole year since your Fiesta Friday gatherings and we are all here to celebrate its success!  I know you are always too modest to accept praise and recognition, but if it weren’t for you, this wonderful, virtual gathering of friends from around the world would never have happened.  We have all learned so much from each other, made friends along the way and passed on an amazing number of recipes, tips and tricks from our kitchens.  It feels like family now when I attend the gatherings each Friday and interact with all of you.  Angie has created something very special for all of us and for that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Linky parties?  Who knew……..

To celebrate this jubilant occasion, I’m bringing molasses-lime chicken meatballs to share.    Meatballs are always a big hit at any party. I’ve trimmed the fat so to speak and made a healthier version of the regular meatballs.  Ground chicken, oatmeal, Italian turkey sausage are formed with other spices and doused in a molasses and lime sauce.  I’ve brought some bubbly along as well.  Cheers Fiesta Friday revelers, here’s one we will remember for sometime to come.  Today’s entries are Aperitifs & Cocktails as well Appetizers & Amuse-Bouches.  We will continue to celebrate next week too, when main courses and desserts will be part of the menu – I can hardly wait to party and get my dancing shoes on – there is music isn’t there?  I just love to dance :)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 8 ounces uncooked hot Italian turkey sausage (casings removed)
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

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Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, sausage, oats, egg, green onion, Worcestershire sauce and crushed red pepper.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  3. Shape mixture into balls and place on baking sheet.
  4. Heat oven to 350 deg F.
  5. Place baking sheet in oven and brown meatballs on both sides.  Continue cooking in a slow cooker on low for 2 hours.
  6. When cooked, in a small bowl, whisk together molasses, soy sauce and lime juice.  Pour over meatballs.  Toss gently to coat.  Serve immediately or keep warm covered on warm or low-heat setting in the slow cooker.

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IMG_2575These savory meatballs are a sure crowd pleaser.  The first bite will be a tangy and sweet combination, you can even taste a hint of the crushed red chilli pepper and the smokiness of the hot Italian sausage.   Here’s to you Angie, I hope you are able to luxuriate in all the attention and accolades (and deservedly so).  Thanks to our wonderful co-hosts Hilda and Juliana.  Check out their amazing blogs.

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A jewel in the sea

When we discovered that our family were all off for the Thanksgiving week, we decided to take a trip for some sun, sand and much needed relaxation.  Isn’t it difficult to plan vacations when your children are now adults?  It is just so hard to get everyone’s calendars in sync.  It is even harder when they live in a different state. Why Puerto Rico?  We had been to Puerto Rico quite a few years back when our children were very young; we stayed in Dorado and as we were on a business trip, we had never really explored the island.  Besides, Puerto Rico is only a 3 hour flight from our closest airport, that was reason enough to pack our bags and head for the sun :)

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Goan fish cutlets

It’s been quite a week fellow-bloggers and friends. I’ve been consumed with eating, sleeping and dreaming about WordPress.  I decided to take the Blogging 101 course online to tweak and refine my site, and it has proved to be invaluable.  There are daily assignments, interactions with the instructors and fellow bloggers from around the world.  I’d highly recommend it!

On another note, when dear Nandini first asked me to do a guest post for her blog, I happily obliged.  We had both met via the blogging world and share the same roots from Goa.  But having never lived in Goa myself, I always found myself trekking around her blog and feeling the old cravings return when going through some of her posts featuring Goan cuisine.  Nandini has a great blog, she explains the Goan culture and history pretty well, she posts a wide selection of Goan dishes and visits Goa pretty frequently.  I do believe I’ve already made reference to her blog on one of my previous postings.  Click here to learn a bit more about the Goan culture and food on her blog.  When I first learned that Nandini imported some of these wonderful spices and masalas all the way from Goa, I was hellbent on finding out how I could get some of them in my own kitchen.  Today’s recipe for fish cutlets has the popular Goan vinegar which is very hard to find anywhere else, but in Goa.  It is made from the toddy of the coconut tree.  This vinegar is used in a variety of  dishes in Goa.  Those familiar with Goan cuisine, will know the ever famous vindaloo dish that originated in Goa.  Vindaloo is made with the Goan vinegar, as is the Recheado masala I used for the fish cutlets.   I think you will find Nandini’s explanation of how the vinegar is produced very interesting.  Click on the word vinegar.

You can order some of these spices and pastes from Nandini’s website, Goan Imports.  Using Recheado masala in the fish gave the cutlets a wonderful tangy, spicy and authentic taste which is sure to please every palate.  Click on the above links to learn more.   I also used the cafarel masala/paste to make a spicy ground chicken shepherd’s pie for last night’s dinner.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs cooked tilapia or any white fish
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 beaten egg
  • a handful of cilantro finely chopped (fresh coriander)
  • 1/2 jalapeno finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cream of wheat or panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 can of sardines
  • 1 potato cooked and mashed
  • 1 tablespoon Recheado Masala (more to suit your taste)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for pan frying

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  1. Squeeze the liquid from the cooked fish, breaking it apart with a fork.
  2. My secret ingredient in the fish cutlets is half a can or a can of sardines.  My mother in law used to make hers this way; I find it really adds additional flavor to the fish.
  3. Boil the potato, mash it and add to the fish.  It makes it softer inside and easier to form.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, onion, cilantro, egg, jalapeno, recheado masala, salt, pepper.
  5. Form into individual cutlets, coat with panko breadcrumbs or cream of wheat and pan fry.

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There you have it friends, Goan fish cutlets – serve it with a dry lentil curry ,chickpea curry or any other curried vegetable.  A meatless, healthy meal, just the ticket for a cold winter’s day.  Visit Nandini’s blog site for more information on Goan foods, Goa’s culture and general information on this beautiful state in India.

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I’m heading over to Angie@The Novice Gardener  with another contribution for FF #50 this week.  Her two lovely co-hosts Selma@Selma’s Table and Sue@BirgerBird will welcome everyone with their contributions.  Be sure to click on their links to take you to their wonderful blogs.

 

Writing to my Dream Reader – Blogging 101

So today’s assignment on our Blogging 101 course is exactly what the title suggests.  We all  wonder how far and wide our blog audiences reach.  Who will be looking forward to my posts?  Are there any readers out there who connect the dots when Safari of the Mind writes a new post?  Are they anxiously looking forward to the next post?  Well, today I’m going to imagine that there IS in fact a Dream Reader somewhere out there on the worldwide web.  I’m hoping to write for that Reader today.  Hopefully, that dear reader will appreciate my post for him/her.  I’m passionate about the subjects I write and for sure there are readers out there who enjoy the same.

Clematis growing on the fence in my backyard

Clematis growing on the fence in my backyard

Dear Dream Reader,

As my thoughts ramble this morning, I’m curious as to what you might like about my blog.  If you’re a gardening enthusiast like myself, you will look forward to tips and tricks in my garden.  If you enjoy cooking, you will be looking forward to each recipe I post and so painstakingly put together.  If you enjoy travel and learning a bit of history and background on the countries or places I visit, then you will definitely be my dream reader.  Welcome, as we trawl Safari of the Mind together.  I will try to keep my posts short and concise, adding visuals and perhaps a video at times.  Photography is something I’ve really taken to since the inception of this blog.  I’m learning to tweak and edit the posts, it is definitely time-consuming, but so productive in the end.  Today, I’ll post a picture or two from each of the categories I blog about, I hope you will enjoy them.  I’ll try to embed a video too, so that you will get an idea of the meaning of this blog for me, and hopefully for you too.

A chocolate cake I baked for my friend's Dad's birthday

A chocolate cake I baked for my friend’s Dad’s birthday

Here is a beautiful video which I hope you will listen to Dear Reader.

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Coriander Tomato Chicken Curry

This must be my week to reference other bloggers and try out some of their recipes.  When I saw Sadia’s Coriander and Tomato Chicken Curry @ Sweet& Savory, I knew I just had to bookmark it and try it on a bone-chilling winter’s day, and that’s exactly what I did.  We experienced our very first cold, snowy winter’s day here on the East Coast of the USA.  It was not pleasant.  I know soups, stews, curries and crock pot meals, certainly tick the boxes for me when it comes to preparing comfort foods in the winter.  My meals in the summertime remain, lighter – grilled meats and fish, lots of salads and grains.  I wonder if Sadia feels the same, I’m not quite sure what the cooler days are like in Kuwait, but that’s where Sadia lives and still enjoys these wonderful curries all the year round.  I hope you enjoy this delicious curry, imagine the aroma in my house with all the wonderful goodness that this curry provides.

Coriander Tomato Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken approx, 2lbs (that’s what I used, you can use bone-in too)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 green chillies
  •  1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ginger minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (I actually added tomato paste, as I didn’t have enough tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water

Method

Marinate the chicken with 1 tsp chilli powder (I used less), 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt to taste.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

  1.  Meanwhile, place the cilantro, garlic, chillies, 1/2 tsp cumin, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water in the bowl of a food processor.  Process 20-30 seconds or until the mixture forms a paste, set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the black pepper and red pepper flakes and let it cook in the oil for a minute.  Add the cumin, onions and brown sugar and curry leaves to the pan and toss to coat the onions in the spices.  Let cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions are nicely browned.
  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the pan.  Toss to coat it in the onions and spices.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the ginger, tomatoes, tumeric, and cardamom and give it a good stir.  Add in the contents of the food processor or blender, stir, and let cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Pour in the coconut milk and water and let the contents of the pan slowly come to a boil over medium heat.  Once it has reached a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  The sauce should be reduced and thick.  Add salt and black pepper as needed.

I made a delicious pilau rice to go with the chicken curry and garnished it with roasted cashews.

I’m pretty chuffed with some of my photos that I took on the manual setting of my camera for this post, (and not the automatic setting).  They say food photos should be taken in the daylight with plenty of natural light.  These days it gets dark around 4.30 or 5pm, and that’s when I’m usually in the kitchen getting dinner prepared with my glass of vino :).   I have to play around with more of the settings and get it all right, but for now, it’s an improvement.  :)

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A side salad, rotis and you’re good to go :) Enjoy friends!

Let’s trot off to Angie’s 50th FF party  .  Today her co-hosts are Selma and Sue .  Wonderful ladies with such amazing blogs.  Click on all 3 names to reach their blogs for a snoop around.  :)