Monday, August 18, 2014

Blueberry Cake Slices

DD2 went blueberry picking with her friend. She brought home a lot of berries. We ate most of them fresh but had to freeze the rest. She was also interested in baking something with it after her successful attempt at baking chocolate chip cookies. Lucky for her and for me the Food section of the Washington Post that week conveniently had a recipe for Blueberry Cake Squares.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on to a wax paper. Get the other ingredients ready.
Using a egg beater whisk the butter till it is fluffy. Add the sugar and mix them together.
Once the sugar is mixed, add in the eggs and beat till the egg starts to rise and becomes fluffy.
Add the flour to the egg mixture and the sour cream. With a spatula mix the flour just enough to be fully incorporated. Do not over mix.
Add 2 tsp of flour to the blueberries and toss them so the blueberries are coated with the flour. Mix in the blueberries gently into the flour.
Pour the batter into a greased pan. Bake in a 350F heated oven for 45 minutes till a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake for 20 minutes or so before slicing into wedges or squares.

We had most of the ingredients at home but for the sour cream. She followed the recipe more or less to the letter and needless to say the cake came out light and airy. The only thing she changed was the salt level, a lesson she learned from the chocolate chip baking was not to add the amount of salt specified in the recipe and to just add a pinch.

Blueberry Cake
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Baking Time:45 minutes
Serves: 16 slices
  1. 2 Cups of Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour
  2. 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
  3. 3/4 tsp baking powder
  4. 3/4 tsp baking soda
  5. a pinch of salt
  6. 1 cup of blueberries
  7. 3/4 raw sugar
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 3/4 cup sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" diameter round pan (or if you want square, use an 8 x 8 square pan).
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on to a wax paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter till it becomes nice, smooth and fluffy. Add in the sugar and mix them both together.
  4. Now add in the eggs and vanilla and beat till the eggs have become fluffy.
  5. Add the flour and sour cream to the egg mixture and with the spatula gently mix the batter till it is incorporated.
  6. Add 2 tsp of flour to the blueberries and toss to coat. Add in the coated blueberries to the batter and gently incorporate.
  7. Pour the mixture on to a greased pan and bake for 45 minutes till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack before cutting and serving.
  9. Note: The raw sugar compared to granulated sugar looks a lot grainy but not to worry. There is no difference at all once baked.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thattakkai Beans Kootu - Kongu Style - Tender Black Eyed Pea Pods with lentils

The characteristic of of my mother's or grandmother's cooking and by extension the Kongu method of cooking is that it is mostly light, quick to prepare and has a very few spices. I had some fresh Black Eyed Pea Pods and this kootu was the first thing that came to my mind. These black eyed pea pods are very similar to yard long beans in looks but shorter. Taste wise these are a bit sweeter.

I asked my mom to use toor dal instead of moong dal just because ... Anyway if you are using moong dal make sure to roast them first till they start to turn slightly brown.

Step by Step:

Cook the dal with plenty of water till mushy. Get the ingredients for the spice paste ready.
Blend the coconut, green chilies, coriander, cumin seeds and pepper corns with a couple of tbsp of water to a fairly smooth paste. Add turmeric powder to the cooked dal and set aside.
Chop the beans and the onions and get them ready. In a pressure cooker heat oil add seasonings followed by the onions and chopped beans and saute for a few minutes.
Add the blended paste and the dal and pressure cook for a couple of whistles.

Thattakai Beans kootu - Kongu Style
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
Serves: 2-4
  1. 3/4 cup toor dal or roasted moong dal (or half toor and half moong)
  2. 1 1/2 cups of Black eyed peas (thattakkai beans) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  3. 1/4 cup of chopped red onions or shallots
  4. For grinding
  5. 3-4 green chilies
  6. 2 tbsp of grated fresh or frozen coconut
  7. 2 tsp cumin seeds
  8. 1 tsp coriander seeds
  9. a few pepper corns
  10. a small piece of asfoetida
  11. Blend the above (raw) to a paste with addition of 2 tbsp or so of water
  12. 1 tsp of oil
  13. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  14. seasonigs: curry leaves, cumin, 1 split red chili and mustard seeds
  15. salt to taste

  1. Cook the toor dal till it is soft and mushy. Add the turmeric powder and set aside. Add as much as you want while cooking depending on if you want the kootu to be thin or thick.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the seasonings - cumin, red chili and mustard seeds and when the mustard starts to splutter add the onions and the beans, saute for a couple of minutes.
  3. Now add the ground coconut spice mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add in the cooked dal and salt and a cup of water if required. Place the lid of the cooker and cook for 2 whistles. Alternatively continue cooking on the stove top till the beans is completely cooked. More water be required if cooked without a pressure cooker.
  5. Note:Green beans, bottle gourd, snake gourd or even greens can be used.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer in the Farm - 2014

This is what I have been busy with this summer. Growing vegetables and some herb plants. The herb plants I believe will attract beneficial bugs and insects. It has been correct so far. The beautiful flowers do attract a lot of the bumble bees. I read review in the Washington Post for books on bumble bees. Bumble bees like their honey bee cousins are essential for pollination. A world without bumble bees will be a hard place. A world devoid of fruits and vegetables?

I bought a few varieties of the herbs as seeds all of them perennial so they come back year after year without any input from me. I planted Spanish and Fernleaf Lavender, English and French Thyme and Sage. I have only recently figured out which of them is which from the flowers. The Spanish Lavender is the one taking its own sweet time to grow.

I was not planning on planting anything besides the herbs this summer but my garden friendly green thumb neighbor gave me a bunch of tomato seedlings and a couple of snake gourd seedlings. I also planted a bunch of cow peas. Those tender cow pea pods are a delight. They are also easy to grow and don't require any special care other than regular watering of course.

Enjoy a few shots of the plants.

Fernleaf Lavender

Fernleaf Lavender flower



Snake Gourd

Snake Gourd Flower

Cow Peas

Cow Peas Flower

The most essential machinery on a farm!

Mini Barn for all the stuff!

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