Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Making of My Jackfruit Kheer

For most of my young life I had a very straightforward, uncomplicated (read boring) sweet tooth. It recognized and accepted all things chocolate, but only chocolate. Nothing else but cocoa based wonders worked in satisfying my urge for indulgent sugared treats. My life progressed (thankfully) as I got older, with my tastebud profile taking me from all things Hershey to a slightly more sophisticate form. Culturally landing in the flavor footfalls of Kerala helped, where over- the- top desserts and extravagant sweetmeats were in part tradition and part, way of life. Here, I discovered all sorts of exquisite, a poignant factor which  sparked my forever battle with the weighing scale.

Delicacies I'd never tried now called my name. Flavor contrasts and pairs were beyond my wildest comprehension. In my new sugar smitten world, everything around me was unbearably delicious. It was in one of these instances that I fell in love with the gloriousness I introduce to you today.

Chakka payasam. Also known as jackfruit kheer. Can be known as Awesomeness Beyond Recognition.

Payasam is the Kerala nomen for a common milk- based, pudding- like dessert, called kheer in other parts of India. To characterize it as mere pudding would do huge disservice to this sweet nectared bed of delight. Such is the character of payasam, made in a myriad of ways with a handful of staple ingredients, this ambrosia of a dessert is of must -try, must- eat purports .

Legend has it that this same kheer was once served in the courts of kings, when Kerala was ruled by it's Royal family. The sweet fare is as much a part of regional folklore as it is a ritualistic culmination to many a lavish feast. It is as good as payasam gets.

Traditionally, chakka payasam is a production of sorts, ridiculously time consuming, and  overwhelmingly authentic. Tradition can be good, though I chose not to travel that route, not in my time starved world.

Chakka is what we call jackfruit, the mammoth fruit of the tree sharing the same name. This tree is predominantly native to Kerala, but also populates it's adjoining coastal regions. The gigantous fruit, literally lumps downward off the tree's trunk and lower branches due to it's sheer weight. Once cut open, Humongo houses a numerous amount of smaller, fragrant fruit bulbs. These juicy segments can be pulled out and most gluttonously eaten straight from their hard skin jacket. Ripe or not, the bulbs are morsels of pure pleasure, a treat for your lucky mouth. "Betcha can't eat just one" can very well be the new catchphrase on experiencing a first bite.

Of course, fresh ripened pods shucked straight from its fruit on a larger than life tree would be my ideal payasam filler. Annoyingly so, there exists not one jackfruit tree nearing even a 4 digit mile radius of where I live. So, my answer came from tins straight from the aisles of local Asian grocers. Yup, Chaokoh brand jackfruit would have to do the trick.

The liquid base for this dessert comes from rich coconut milk, again of the canned variety,which plushly gets sweetened with jaggery. The  scrumptious blocks of raw sugar that I'd introduced here and mentioned here, justly lend a right amount of dulcet pureness, adding in the color of molten gold, along the way.

Once I began, my mind filled with significant doubts as to how this whole thing would play out. It took all of twenty minutes of mashing, mixing and stirring to help me realize I just might exceed my expectations and be left with a righteously good bowl of kheer.

I loosely followed the Jackfruit Jam Payasam recipe of Mrs. K.M. Mathew, India's equivalent to Julia Child.  But I was forced to adapt many of the techniques with my own what- to- dos. Hers required making a customary jackfruit jam base, which would be flavorfully beneficial had I been using fresh fruit, but would turn cloyingly overbearing for my canned and syrup- infused chakka.

As the thicker part of the coconut milk is streamed in, I culminate my payasam making journey, transporting myself to the end-all of a revamped drama production, one that runs its sweet course, in less than an hour's time.

Ingredients:
The delicious task of breaking apart  jaggery, 
  • 1 ½ c  shaved jaggery
  • ¾ c water
  • 2 cans jackfruit or 2 ½ cups ripe jackfruit, chopped into ½ pieces
  • ¼ c water
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 13 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, divided 
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 cardamom pod, powdered
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • ¼ c slivered almonds
  • ¼ c coconut slices
Method:
  • Melt the shaved jaggery pieces with the ¾c water in a sauce pan. Keep flame on high until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce to medium and have it simmer until it comes to a mild syrup consistency, once one thread of syrup is maintained without breaking when pulled apart either between fingers or dipping spoon into the syrup.
  • Strain canned jackfruit and rinse. Place in ¼ c water over heat and bring to a boil. Lower flame to medium low and let simmer, until cooked through and fruit is soft, about 15 minutes. Take off heat.
  • Process jackfruit to a semi chunked form or mash with a vegetable masher. 
  • Again on medium heat, in a deep heavy duty pan, place processed jackfruit.
  • Stir in ghee and combine with jackfruit.
  • Strain the jaggery syrup into the jackfruit mixture. Let simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Measure and keep aside 1 cup of pure coconut milk. Dilute the remaining milk with the ¾ c water and pour into the mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring at intervals. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes. 
  • Pour in the undiluted milk and cardamom powder. Mix through and heat for an additional minute. Take off flame and set aside.
  • Fry the almonds and coconut slices in ghee. Add to the cooked payasam.
  • Alternatively, scatter the individual servings with the fried garnishing.
  • Have it warm or refrigerate for a couple of hours and enjoy chilled.
The payasam should be stored in the refrigerator and is best consumed within a few days. It didn't last long in my house and I don't think you'll have much trouble finding people to help you work it quicker than lightning either.
I know, it's been a stretch since we last met. Please excuse the delay, friends, I will do my all to keep pace after these final dregs of summer. Thank you for sticking on. I so appreciate your patience during my delayed drafts.

******
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,  and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

His love is absolute and complete, it heals our brokenness and pain, perfects our flawed selves and brings us to the realization that we are made whole in Christ alone.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Daring Cooks Challenge, July 2012, En Papillote


Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to "cooking in parchment".
En papillote ensures that all components of a meal are wrapped in an oven safe packet, in most cases parchment, bringing about a moist, flavorful outcome. It's a delightfully healthful way to cook.
Sarah gave us much latitude in terms of ingredients, so I decided on a fish bake, made a number of times, but with not the parchment.

The packet brought back memories of a traditional Kerala cooking technique in which fish is teamed in  a host of zesty ingredients, ultimately to be wrapped and roasted/broiled with fragrant banana leaves. I wanted a similar flavor profile, not quite as spicy, with of course, the covering of parchment, in lieu of the large, leaf envelope.

I admit I am notorious for the onion/garlic/ ginger saute, but it works so well with this fish, I could not keep away from the familiar masala trio. Along with ground serranos and a splash of curry leaves, the  heat/awesome factor would be in perfect balance. Juice from a freshly squeezed lemon provided moisture and complementing tartness. Fragrant coconut oil was further added, suitably fusing this French preparation with a distinct Kerala stamp. 


Fish in Masala~
Ingredients:
  •  2 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 4 serranos, deseed if needed
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 cod fillets or any white flesh fish, cut into two halves 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
Method:
  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • In a mini chopper, grind ginger, garlic, and serranos to a chunky paste.
  • In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat, saute onions and your ground ingredients. Stir and cook till fragrant and all ingredients are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in curry leaves.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Mix in coconut oil and lemon juice and take off heat. Leave to cool and prepare parchment packet.
  • Cut out heart shape or rectangular shapes from parchment enough to cover fish, either two very large shapes or smaller ones for individual fish packets. Season the fish with salt and pepper. 
  • Put fish in packets, 4 pieces per packet and divide and spread onion mixture evenly over fish. Alternatively, for individual packs, one fish piece plus one tablespoon of onion mixture spread over it. 
Oversized freeform hearts were advised, but parchment rectangles are what mine turned out to be.
  •  Tightly pinch and seal edges.


  •  Place packets on baking tray for 20-25 minutes.
  • Take out of oven and wait  a couple of minutes before breaking open packet to serve.
The flavors of all the ingredients melded so well that when our envelopes were opened, we were hit in the face with intense bursts of aroma. The fish, ultimately buried in caramelized masala was moist, and thoroughly engulfed in mouth watering seasonings. A must mention- the good amount of dinnertime fun had by my kids, who were super delighted on breaking apart their surprise food pockets.


This cooking in a packet technique though impressive enough to be forked up at fancy restaurants  works incredibly well in the kitchen of your home. And since tonight was the night I cooked and ate food en papillote for the very first time, I know now that with some ideal main ingredients and a good reserve of flavorful pantry stock I can papillote up an exceptional spread anytime, any day.


Behold, take heed; a full cooked meal made with a sheet of parchment and a baking sheet. You tell me, could it get any easier than this?


Thanks so much Sarah, this will probably be the most truant entry for the July challenge, but it was too good to pass.
  
******
Know that you are always safe and secure in His presence and under His faithful, ever watchful guard~

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91, 1-4 (NIV)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of Black Forest Cake and A Kitchen Mishap

I ended my last post saying I would return in a week. It actually took me an additional 4 days to come back to my senses.  Laziness post vacation recovery got the best of me. A week out of town, part of it spent in visiting the most celebrated mouse in the world, led to my slower than a slug state of affairs.
My hands were unwilling to type, my brain unable to comprehend. Did I mention returning to a region where sun scorching is a way of life and any thinking capability possessed by me, had fried into irretrievable oblivion (almost)?

Of course, I can't proceed to bore you with my gazillion- things- that- await- after- vacation speech. Through all this, I knew I was beckoned back to my recipe drafting and picture taking and any new blogger challenges and conquests that came my way.

To top it off, we celebrated JZ's birthday during our excursion, a home party pending to when we returned.

This is and has been a fact of life for me, that even before I really knew anything about baking, I could never, let my better half's birthday go unnoticed without a homemade, wowing piece of cake, fashioned by me, his other half. Not ever.

I wanted to make a beauteous stacked stunner for him this year.

That didn't happen.

My ambitious plan was derailed, hugely due to my busied mind. I mixed and baked. I sliced, soaked, whipped and frosted, all in one day. Then, oversight supervened when my gorgeous assembled cake was left by yours truly on the cliff edge of a very crowded refrigerator.

Any guesses to what transpired next? Sadly enough, the tiered rounds took a free fall. Once the door was opened, layer after layer of JZ's cake plummeted to smithereened fate. Almost. After witnessing the first fall, fortunately, synchronized hand action from me and my two kid wonders prevented the last 3 layers from also kissing ground. I cried, dried my tears and thanked Jesus. My kids were crestfallen, which forced me to conquer my blubbering uncomposed emotions and charge forward in rehabilitating our fragmented chocolate, now partly creamed lump of cake.

And so, Indiana Jones style, we set to save Appa's Cake. The three of us glued the remainder of baked mass and cemented it together with rustic- to the point of boorishly ugly- chocolate slabs, creating JZ's new and (un)improved birthday cake. A sorry situation? Maybe. But passing over any cake odds and forging on ahead helped us in creating one of the best cakes in my baking history. Drenched in flavor packed syrup and reconstructed with not a stifling amount of cream, the flavors of chocolate and cherries stood outstandingly front and center in this super phenomenal black forest cake.
Cake~
(Adapted from Allrecipes Black Forest Cake)
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/8 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • ¾ c cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
  • Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper.
  • In bowl of stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, and the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Add in wet ingredients ; beat on medium speed until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, or when toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans for 15 minutes. Loosen edges carefully and remove from pans. Cool on wire racks completely.
Soaking syrup~
Ingredients:
  • ½ c water
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 tbsp maraschino cherry syrup (from the jar)
  • *1 tbsp rum
Method:
  • In a saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from pan, add in cherry syrup and rum. Let cool slightly.
Whipped cream~
Ingredients:
  • 2½ c heavy cream
  • ¼ c confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tbsp cherry syrup + 1 tbsp rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
  • Using a stand mixer, whip cream and sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
  • With the mixer on, set to a slower speed,add in all liquids and beat for an additional minute.
Cherry Layer~
  • 1 ½ c from a combination of fresh cherries and maraschino cherries or canned cherries.
Chocolate~
  • 1 c grated chocolate , chocolate curls or 1½ cups chocolate chips, melted/ hardened to create shards or various shapes.
This is the mess that was salvaged, needless to say there was much crying and wailing.

My flattened, muddled up heap, albeit hideous, was mindblowingly good.
Assembly (in perfect circumstances)~
  • Trim the cakes to level off the tops and cut each cake horizontally in half to make 4 even layers.
  • Poke holes using a skewer or fork in 5 or 6 places on top of each round.
  • Place one of the layers on a serving plate and either sprinkle soaking syrup over the top of the cake or brush generously, be sure to cover the edges.
  • Spread about a cup of the whipped cream over the layer. Scatter with one third of the cherries.
  • Top with another layer  and repeat soak and layer process.
  • Top with last cake layer, cut side down. Soak with remaining syrup and top sides and top with whipped cream.
  • Garnish with chocolate curls, grated chocolate or chocolate shards.

Notes:
If you wish not to use alcohol, substitute with rum extract, cherry juice or more maraschino cherry syrup.

Despite, the unfortunate predicament, JZ was thoroughly impressed. The kids were elated. As for me, a refreshing lesson was learned, never think smack about so called kitchen catastrophes. Had I dumped this galactic mishap into the garbage, we would not have encountered our uniquely gratifying, ridiculously moist, tiered cake remodel.  

While I type the last few words, I see the fridge opening and hands rummaging for any remaining scraps.



Finally, I hope this tale encourages all my home cook buddies out there. I don't think the end here would have had the same spontaneous and victorious result had I slaved over a brand new cake. Remember, mindset matters, so when calamity happens, cry a little and then rise up - knowing that only you can beat the situation, wallop all odds, and prize your rightful place as undefeatable queen/ king of the kitchen, and perhaps your life as well (better to conclude now, before I end up sappy philosophical :)). 


Aesthetically, the cake was not a beauty, but never underestimate the beguiling character of the beast, who winsomely gains not only beauty, but also all praise in the end.


******

http://goodnews2.tumblr.com/
"We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties." Oswald Chambers

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shrimp Masala


When you visit Kerala, you will most likely get a taste of some matchless seafood. Kerala sits facing the Arabian sea on the southern tip of India. A good part of the state is surrounded by water, mainly providing networks of canals, lakes and inland waterways, commonly known as the Kerala backwaters. These famous waters combine the flow from the sea and its conjunct rivers resulting in an exceptional multi- purposed freshwater expanse. The self sourced wonder is beautified on all sides with a looping of small islands and towns, villages and scenic coasts which dot it's embankments.

The unique physical environment existent in those lakes contribute to extensive aquatic life, chief among is the celebrated pearlspot fish. As with any coastal region you will find a profusion of hotels, restaurants, local shacks, even local toddy shops churning out wonderful seafood preparations.

Shrimp masala is a derivation of my favorite coastal cuisine. Served at many a backwater eatery, it is one of the hottest items on their menus. Most often, utilizing the prominent tiger prawn, this is a super spiced dish with a unique blend of roasted ground masala.

Let me expand on the fabulous ingredient makeup which produces stand up and salute results. Where succulent shrimp are deliciously spice- pasted and browned, a triumvirate of onions, garlic and ginger know just where and when to  flow into a final subtly tanged and rightly seasoned colossal platter of goodness. Sprinkling this dish off with fresh, toasted coconut lushly cuts through a heated, vibrant and most indulgent seafood plate.

Admittedly, I  kick up the spice several notches on the shrimp. Despite the fire exhalation, the chilli addition greatly adds more flavor.

Especially  in it's serious leftover appeal. Come tomorrow, spice stamps more richness onto the tasty crustacean leading to a highly addictive next day side.

A dilemma indeed. So, you decide; polish it off it today or devour it tomorrow?

Maybe, just double the recipe and make enough for both days - sound like an idea?

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp ground garlic
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 3-4 whole red chillies, crushed 
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • pinch turmeric
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined 
  • 1 tsp salt or more to taste
  • ½ cup grated coconut or dried unsweetened coconut
  • 2 whole red chillies

Method:

  • Heat oil in skillet. Temper mustard seeds
  • On medium heat, saute onions until translucent.
  • Add garlic, ginger and cook until soft and lightly browned.
  • Add one curry leaf sprig.
  • Add ingredients from the chillies to the turmeric, stirring until cooked and oil separates from the masala. 
  • Stir in vinegar and cook until liquid is slightly reduced.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, cook until wilted and soft.
  • Add the shrimp, stir in evenly turning.
  • Add salt.
  • Cook shrimp through, turning once or twice, about 4-5 minutes per side. Take off heat.
  • In a separate sauce pan, fry the coconut and, whole chillies and curry leaves of remaining sprig. Allow the coconut to get a toasted brown and take off heat. Pour over the the shrimp.
I am taking a break for a week. It is summer and getaways abound. The shrimp masala was our dinner prior to a few days of non-home cooked fare. Served with yogurt rice, it is a greatly desired comfort meal for the wee folk in my home.
I took these pictures in a hurried mess right before dinner. A hungry family does not make for great food pics :)
******
God's always got your back~
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 ( NIV)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fourth of July Fruit Tarts

I started out at the beginning of last month dreaming up ambitious tricolored cake projects for the coming July 4th. Calling to mind years gone by, I reminisced over the berry topped cheesecake I'd baked up two years in row. Last year I toiled over heaps of red, white and blue cake pops. This year, the change in a new domain warranted a not so enterprising, nor ambitious Independence Day project. High heat combined with a long, dry airless summer pushed me into a slothful kitchen existence.  

Mind you, slackness on my part doesn't mean going AWOL from any culinary adventure. There were my kids to consider, who would at repeated junctures come up and remind me incessantly..."got to make the flag dessert, right?" Oh yes, I had to come up with something, right

So the day of, I whipped these fabulous, labor saving lovelies complete with a filling redolent to that of cheesecake, sans the hassle, and topped with berries coordinated to the colors of the American flag.

I streamlined a custard base that I made for a fruit salad many years ago, also another submitted entry during my brief stint in the RWOP competition world. It demands all of three ingredients that you whip, scoop and dollop over preposterously good buttery shortbread shells.

Crested with fresh berries and displayed in harmony with the flag colors brought me to the final phase of my easier than pie treat. So easy, per se, that come next year, you might catch me making these same tarts, and constructing this identical display. A cinch it was, so much so that you should grab a hold of the idea and the recipe, as well and say hello to your new July 4th tradition.

The 13 stripes of the American flag were represented in my abbreviated four. The fifty stars were pruned to four groups of five. The number of stars and stripes of your flag in assembled form should be in balance to the amount of people you serve. 

Both the custard base and the tart can be versatile contributors for other desserts. Serve the cream base in fruit salad form. Alternatively, warmed preserves can fill these shells for some righteously appealing jam tarts. After this, multipurpose will be your new favorite word.

Happy 236th Birthday America! ( belated, no doubt, by a couple of days).


Shell~
Small hands work a meticulous shaped shell.
Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ c all purpose flour
  • ½ c confectioner's sugar 
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1½ sticks butter, softened and sliced

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 325° F.
  • Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, pulse till mixed.
  • Add butter in increments and pulse until mixture turns to ball.
  • Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Pull off small amounts (heaped tablespoons) of dough and press into bottoms of muffin pan, working dough a little way up sides.
  • Poke holes on the bottom of shells with fork tines.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until shells are lightly browned and done.
  • Take out and set to cool on a rack.
Filling:
  • ⅓ c cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can sweetened, condensed milk
  • 1 c heavy cream, whipped till soft peaks form
Method:
  • Using an electric mixer, combine cheese and condensed milk till smooth and uniform. 
  • Using a wooden spoon, fold in heavy cream and slowly mix to incorporate all three ingredients.



Topping:
  • Spoon empty, cooled shell with a generous dollop of this mixture.
  • Use blueberries, strawberries (rinsed, and patted dry) or fruits of choice to top off cream mixture.
  • Chill or serve immediately.
Notes:
The custard base was a last minute idea I came up with a long time ago when numerous, unexpected guests showed up at my doorstep. As mentioned earlier, I leave the cream in a non- whipped form and serve it as a velvety base for a bevy of fresh fruits.

******
 "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)

(Source: http://goodnews2.tumblr.com/page/5) 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Of Versatility, Awesomeness and an Appetizer


Before I start off, I must mention my gratitude to all the people who follow and read my blog. Because of your readership and subsequent comments, my inspiration is sparked, influencing many a kitchen experiment and concomitant post. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

Last week, I was very honored and greatly pleased to be nominated for the Versatile Blogger award by my new friend, a Kerala sister, herself, Renu of Renu's Foodigest.  Renu has some coastal goodies happening over in her space. I highly recommend you go through her recipes, especially, manga kaalan, signature dish that she seems to have mastered quite well. Thanks so much Renu, I'm overjoyed  that you see some versatility here at Blessings.

To comply with rules , I shall begin ~
  • Thank my blogger friend. (✔)
  • Include a link to their blog. (✔)
  • Paste the award on your blog. (✔)
  • Share 7 things about yourself. ( I've done it here and here.)
  • Pass this award on to as many as 15 blogs you enjoy reading and let them know about the award. (I consider many more than 15 for this award, for sure. But, I am listing 5 for the time being.)
Now, on to the fun part - passing on the torch to the following bloggers: 
1. Gluten Free Food, Balvinder blogs versatilty indeed, quinoa pilaf is delectable goodness for everyone.
2. The Cookie Fairy, you may need the translator to read Inbal's wonderful recipes, but not for the drool worthy photographs.
3. Recipe World is exceptional Indian fare, the author bearing her distinct lip smacking stamp on each dish.
4. Real Food Runner Blog. In line with the title, Katherine loves to run. Wholesome recipes as well as  lovely pics, a most beautiful blog haven.
5. Spoonful Of Delight. Sarah blogs here and chronicles not only her culinary aptitude, but her photography skills as well. Proof is in the picture.

Congratulations, you versatile gems. Thank you for being super inspiration to me.

Now, bear with me I have another award that my friend Reshmi, spoiled me with; the Awesome Blogger Award. Besides being an encourager in this wide world of blogs, she, herself is a generator of some awesomeness over at Noel Collections  recently celebrating a sweet 100 posts. Check out her zebra cake how-to, I promise you'll love it.  Thank you Ms. Reshmi, I consider it an honor that you consider me awesome ;-)
As with all awards etiquette, I get to recognize 5 totally awesome good reads. Drum roll, please...
1. The Saucy Gourmet. Simply great recipes. You'll never need to order take out again after trying Shari's General Tso's chicken .
2. Quest For Delish. Going through Andrea's blog might bring a full stop in your quest for delicious eats.
3. Sweet Frosting. Annie's the business major with a burning passion for utterly jaw dropping recipes, sweet and otherwise.
4. Easy Flavors. Leena's experiments in the kitchen are comparable to top chef standards. One look at her dishes and lamb meatballs may be your menu tonight.
5.Cosmopolitan Currymania. Heritaged delights straight from our common Indian heartland. Purabi makes a mean almond kulfi and conducts cooking classes to boot.

Congratulations, awesome ladies. It is a privilege to be able to nominate all of you.

These awards are supposed to be fun, and by no means, a mandate of set conditions and rules for those being nominated. It's just a great way to open out other blogs and convey some blogger love. There is a lot of amazingness out there waiting to be discovered. So to all you marvelous reads, versatile, awesome and otherwise, you really do rock. Thank you.


Now, for your patience in sitting through my awards ceremony, I shall embark upon the third part of my post title. No surprise it is a recipe, an appetizer that is as health filled as it is flavor filled. A platter of these elegantly filled bundles will be a guaranteed hit for any dinner party.
Smoked salmon rolls ~
If you love the combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese you will adore this short eat.

Ingredients:
(Adapted from The Best Of America's Test Kitchen cookbook)

  • 1 tbsp Neufch√Ętel cheese
  • 1 tbsp lowfat sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  •  dash of pepper
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tsp capers, rinsed and minced fine
  • 1 tsp minced fresh chives
  • 9 slices smoked salmon, halved into 18 long slices
  • 18 small lettuce leaves of choice

Method:
  • Mix together all ingredients from cheese to chives. Combine well and set aside.
  • Spread 1 tsp of mixture over each salmon slice. 
  • Starting at one end, roll salmon over filling.
  • Garnish with lettuce leaf.

Notes:
The recipe calls for lowfat cream cheese, I used Neufchatel which works really well and has a clean, light taste. Pickled banana peppers or even jalapenos,  serve as tangy substitutes for the capers and the lemon juice.


Awards aside, once again, I can't thank enough all of you who read and go through this small space of mine. Your follows and comments are encouragement fodder to my recipe penning soul. You truly make weblogging a joy. God bless you.

******
One of my favorite Scriptures in the Bible, my motivating heartnote, ~
 "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  John 8:36 ( NIV)

You are not bound by circumstances, inabilities, mindsets, the external factors of the world. No one and nothing can close what He's opened up. For the risen Christ is your liberator. He has set you free.