Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chocolate Cups

Recently I bought a Cusinart ice cream maker, which has become my favorite kitchen appliance. And if you like ice cream as much as I do, you’ve got to have one. The ice cream maker bowl is kept frozen until needed, so it does not require ice, and makes ice cream in 15-20 minutes. It’s also very easy to clean! So far I've only used it to make vanilla ice cream (will post the recipe soon), but it can be used for making healthier alternatives like frozen yogurts and sorbets too. I’ve already tried out two different ways of making ice cream (with and without eggs) and I’m planning to do a lot more experimenting with the taste and texture….so if you love ice cream, let me know what flavor you would like me to experiment with ;-).
Although this post is not about ice cream, here is a fun way of serving it. These chocolate cups can be used to serve ice cream, pudding or any other dessert that goes well with chocolate. (Recipe source: Crazy for Chocolate, published by Bay Books).

Dark chocolate chips (1 packet of 12 oz. chocolate makes about 18 cups).
1. Melt the chocolate chips.
2. Cut squares of plastic wrap and spread about a tablespoon of melted chocolate on the plastic wrap using the back of a spoon to form a circle.

3. Carefully pick up the plastic wrap holding the ends and gently place over an inverted styrofoam cup (chocolate side up).

4. Place the cup in the freezer for a couple minutes till the chocolate hardens. Remove from the freezer and carefully peel off the plastic wrap.
The chocolate cup is ready for serving your favorite dessert. The cups can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Banana Split Bars

I've gotten pretty good at making banana-nut muffins and was looking for an interesting twist. I thought What do I like to eat with bananas? I’m a big fan of peanut-butter-banana sandwiches. What goes well with peanut butter? Chocolate. Hmm...I might be on to something...

Preemptive apologies go out to anyone who might be disappointed to discover that at no point does ice cream enter into the recipe, but it's the best name I can think of so far. You can certainly eat the bars with ice cream...but it's not used while making the treat. Actually, the only main ingredient common between the two is banana. Unless you consider toppings. Then peanut butter and chocolate totally count!

6 oz. butter (I used margarine)
~1.5 cups sugar (Splenda)
2 eggs (you can use just egg whites with a little bit of milk, or egg substitute – I've done both with equal success)
~1.5-2 cups flour (I use superfine whole wheat flour)
~4-5 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 large or 4 small/med overripe bananas
~0.5-1 tbsp pure cocoa powder
dark chocolate chips/bittersweet baking morsels

Preheat oven to 375F. Mash the bananas and stir in the peanut butter. In a separate bowl, whip margarine and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in the banana-peanut-butter mixture. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips as desired and mix well. Slowly stir in the flour until the batter is sticky and somewhat thick, but not to the consistency of bread. Pour into a greased 8x8inch baking pan and bake 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool, then cut and enjoy (with or without ice cream)!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Last week we had a hummus party at the lab for a teammate’s birthday. He doesn’t eat the usual birthday sweets, so we had to be creative. Last year we got rice cakes for his birthday, but we didn’t want to repeat that. I knew he loves hummus but it looks too plain for a birthday treat, so I decided to make a few different varieties to add more color and flavor. I personally love cilantro hummus, and it also has a nice green color. I spiced it up a little with a jalapeno pepper. For another bright color, I decided to go with roasted-red pepper hummus. As there was no baking/cooking involved, this turned out to be a relatively effortless, but tasty snack.

Plain hummus (3/4 cup)
10 oz. chick peas (~ 1 cup)
2.5 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) – If you’re not going to use this very often, instead of buying an entire jar, you can make it at home by grinding toasted sesame seeds with a little bit of oil.
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
salt & pepper

Roasted red-pepper hummus (~ 3/4 cup)
¾ cup plain hummus
1/4 cup roasted red peppers

Cilantro-Jalapeno hummus (~ 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped

Add all the ingredients for the plain hummus except water in a food processor. Add a little bit of water at a time and grind, adding more water as required till you get a smooth paste.
For the roasted red pepper and cilantro-jalapeno hummus, add the respective ingredients to the plain hummus and grind the mixture until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Garnish with paprika and serve with pita bread or assorted crudités.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Cold Cucumber Soup

Hot summers generally don't call for soups, but here's a simple no-cook chilled soup recipe that you can relish on a summer afternoon. This refreshing cucumber soup is a great way to beat the summer heat and is also an easy to make starter for potluck dinners as it can be made ahead of time and served cold.

1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 cup thick yogurt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 mint leaves
Salt and pepper

Save a small piece of cucumber to be added to the soup at the end. In a blender, puree rest of the cucumber with yogurt, lemon juice and mint leaves, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Finely chop the small piece of cucumber and mix with the soup. Refrigerate for about an hour and serve cold. Although this basic recipe makes a delicious summer cooler, there are several variations that can be made to suit your taste. You can vary the quantity of mint leaves or lemon juice depending on how you like it. Basil leaves can be used instead of mint leaves. It also tastes good with a pinch of cumin powder. The recipe above makes 2-3 servings of soup.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Leftover cake…What’s that???

I know there is no such thing as leftover cake….well usually :-) …But if you do happen to have any leftover cake or even cake crumbs when you level your cakes, there’s something really delicious that you can transform them into! Cake truffles are quick and easy to make, yet so yummy that they’re gone before you know it.

1 cup cake crumbs (any kind of cake will do)
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup melted chocolate (I used dark chocolate, but any kind will work….just go with what you like or have at home)

For coating
6 oz. (~3/4 cup) milk/dark chocolate

Mix the cake crumbs, cream and melted chocolate till it becomes smooth. Make balls with two teaspoons of mixture.

Melt chocolate for the coating. Cover a plate/cookie sheet with plastic wrap.

Dip the balls of cake mixture in melted chocolate and set aside on the prepared plate. Freeze the truffles for a few minutes for the chocolate shell to harden.

Remove from freezer and decorate with melted white chocolate, or dust with powdered cocoa or powdered sugar.

Store in refrigerator if you won’t be eating them the same day. Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before eating.


Monday, July 12, 2010

ChavLi chi usaL (Curried black eyed beans)

One of my favorite Maharashtrian staples is usaL, a curry made with sprouted beans. This curry is generally made using “goDa/kaLa masala”, which is a spice blend used in most Maharashtrian foods and varies slightly from one household to another. I usually make this usaL with the masala that my mom makes, but here’s a modified version using commonly available spices.
ChavLi (black eyed beans): 1 cup (before soaking) OR 1 can (~15 oz)
1 big onion – finely chopped
3 medium size tomatoes – finely chopped
10-12 sprigs of cilantro - chopped
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger – grated
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon garam masala (Can use ground allspice instead of garam masala)
1/4 teaspoon grated jaggery or sugar (adjust quantity depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
Salt to taste
1. Soak the black eyed beans overnight. Drain and keep aside.
2. Heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and once they start popping, add cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds.
3. Add asafoetida and chopped onion. Sauté till the onion turns golden brown. Add tomatoes and half of the chopped cilantro. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, salt and chili powder. Mix well and fry till the mixture starts leaving oil.
4. Add the beans, garam masala and sugar. Fry for a couple minutes and add water. Let it come to a boil, then cover and cook till the beans are soft.
5. Garnish with cilantro and serve with chapati/roti or rice.
To save time and energy, the soaked beans can be cooked in a pressure cooker (with 2 cups of water and some salt) before making the curry. A much easier option would be to use canned beans :-). But the usaL tastes the best when beans are cooked in the pot with the spices!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not Quite Teriyaki


This recipe is inspired by my Filipino heritage and one of my favorite dishes - my mom's Chicken Adobo. I'll post the recipe for adobo some other time, but one of the base ingredients (besides chicken) is soy sauce. I love making adobo, especially when it comes out tasting just like my mom's ;-)

Sometimes, however, I'm too impatient (or maybe too lazy =P) to measure out the proportions of soy sauce, water, vinegar, etc. necessary for the tangy deliciousness of adobo. So I started just mixing things together without bothering to measure anything, and ironically (or maybe not so ironically) the initial experimentation process turned out to take longer than just following the adobo recipe in the first place! But the process has since been refined (sort of) and has led to this recipe, which I dubbed "Not Quite Teriyaki." It is basically a soy-based marinade that is sweet like teriyaki sauce, but not thick or syrupy like most teriyaki sauces. And it excludes one of the key teriyaki ingredients.

Since this was a make-it-up-as-I-go recipe, I'm just going to list the ingredients and guesstimate the measurements. I'll include some variants that I've tried that turned out pretty okay. The final marinade is highly dependent on personal preference...hence a lot of taste-testing along the way ;-) I like to use this marinade with both chicken and fish (salmon, to be exact - it's my favorite).

Base Ingredients:
Soy sauce
Sugar (or sugar substitute - I'm partial to Splenda)
Ground ginger
Garlic powder

Variants (additional ingredients)

Orange juice, lemon or lime juice (for a citrus-soy marinade)
Black pepper
Vinegar (for a bit of a tangy bite)

For the base marinade: Mix about 1-2 tsp ginger, 1-2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 - 1 cup sugar. Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup soy sauce, 1 - 1.5 cups water and mix.

What I actually do is dump some sugar in a bowl, sprinkle ginger and garlic powder over it so it makes sort of a thin layer on top of the sugar, mix it together, then add water and soy sauce and taste-test to to make sure it's not too watery, salty or sweet. Then I proceed to adjust the amount of each ingredient until the sauce taste is to my liking.

For the citrus-soy variant, add about equal amounts of soy sauce and orange juice and maybe a couple tablespoons of lemon or lime juice (or a mix of both). Again, the final product will be very dependent on personal preference.

Once the sauce is mixed, place chicken or fish in a sealable container and, using a fork, poke holes into the meat to let the sauce seep in. Pour the sauce over the meat so that it is mostly submerged. Let it sit for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. When you're ready to cook, place the meat in a broiling or baking pan and:

For fish: broil 4-5 minutes on each side

For chicken: broil 5-7 minutes on each side or bake at 375 F for 1.25 - 1.5 hours (for chicken, I think baking is better, if you have the time!)

To make a sort of "au jus" type dipping sauce with the leftover marinade, pour it into a saucepan and bring to a low boil, then let it simmer for roughly 10 minutes. Serve meat over rice or noodles (or by itself!) and pour sauce over dish as desired!

I've made this plenty of times with both chicken and fish, but am usually too eager to dig in to stop and take a picture of the finished product! Thankfully, Gayatri swooped in with her camera one time when I made salmon, pictured above with brown rice and seaweed salad - store-bought, but something I'll attempt in the future!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolate collar cake

It’s been over a week since we promised a chocolate cake recipe, so I think it’s about time to post one :P
Karla and I were at Borders one day during finals week, attempting to study for exams but mostly g-chatting with each other, even though we were sitting at the same table. During one of our breaks, I was browsing through a cookbook and saw a cake so pretty that I immediately wanted to go home and bake it. I settled for buying the book, and we managed to get a decent amount of studying done ;-)
Karla and I and our friend Carrie got together once exams were over and everyone was back from visiting family and, after a delicious zucchini lasagna dinner (we’ll post later!), we gave this cake a shot. The recipe is from the book Crazy for Chocolate, published by Bay Books:

Chocolate cake:
125g (4 oz) butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
1/2 cup strawberry/ mixed berry jam
1 1/3 cup plain flour
1 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder (can use melted dark chocolate)
3/4 cup buttermilk

Chocolate buttercream icing:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 egg whites
~6 oz butter/margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz melted and cooled dark chocolate

Chocolate collar:
~ 1 oz. White chocolate melts, melted
~ 2.5 oz. Semi sweet chocolate melts, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease an 8 inch square (or 9 inch round) cake tin with butter.

  2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and creamy. Add eggs and beat well. Add jam and beat until smooth.

  3. Add sifted flour, baking soda and cocoa alternately with buttermilk and mix well.

  4. Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center.

  5. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack for cooling completely.

  6. Chocolate buttercream icing (recipe source: Off the Shelf by Donna Hay ): Beat together the egg whites and sugar until soft peaks form. Add the butter, a little at a time, and keep beating. Stir in vanilla essence and melted dark chocolate. (Do not refrigerate icing before spreading over cake.) Spread sides and top of cake evenly with the icing.

  7. Chocolate collar: Measure the height and length of sides of the cake and cut four rectangular strips out of baking paper according to those dimensions. If you don’t have baking paper (we didn’t!!), you can use any thick paper cut to the required dimensions and wrapped in plastic wrap.

  8. Drop dots of melted white chocolate randomly (or in any pattern you want) on a strip. Allow to set, and then spread a layer of melted semi sweet chocolate over the entire strip. Quickly stick the paper, chocolate-side in, on the side of the cake. Repeat with the remaining strips. Allow to set.

  9. Carefully peel the paper away. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

  10. Optional: if the collar doesn’t evenly match up with the top of the cake (or even if it does!), grate some solid white chocolate and sprinkle the shavings on top of the cake.

Our kitchen was kind of a mess when we were done, but it was well worth the final product!


Saturday, June 12, 2010


Welcome to the culinary adventures of two engineering graduate students! We are the Cooks of Cake and Kindness. This idea was born from months of cooking experiments as we attempted to distract ourselves from frustrating studies. It has been almost a year since we promised ourselves that we would document our successes (or failures) and, to stave off the onset of a boring Saturday afternoon, have finally sat down to write our very first post. The recipes we will be posting come from a mixture of cookbooks, other food blogs, friends, and our moms. Most, if not all, will include our own personal modifications, be it for health-conscious reasons or because we simply didn't have the necessary ingredients ;)

This first post doesn't contain any recipes. Sorry! We're just giving some background. To start, kudos to our good friend Michael Bunce for coming up with the name of our blog. "Cooks of Cake and Kindness" is actually the title of a song by a 60's band, The Californians. We think it's fitting, considering we do bake a lot of cakes, and we're also pretty nice people :P

A little bit about us...we are both mechanical engineering PhD students at Purdue University and have been roommates for almost a year. Gayatri is from India and Karla (a half Filipino) is from Michigan, and our different backgrounds contribute a lot to the variety of our dishes. We hope you will have as much fun reading about our exploits as we had living them! Watch for our first actual recipe post, a fancy chocolate cake!

~ Karla and Gayatri