Wooing My Work Place with some Choco Chip Banana Bread

Now that I have started work, I feel like writing about my experiences therein. It has been wonderful going back to work, meeting people, doing seemingly important sounding stuff like conducting meetings, making presentations, reviewing report and so on.

What is more lovely;  the warmth and the support of my colleagues. I feel perfectly comfortable with them and I appreciate how much they support and help me unlearn and relearn everyday stuff. While I take baby steps into this old-new world, I wanted to do something special to thank this amazing bunch of people.  Weekends in this part of the world are Fridays and Saturdays. So on Thursday, I rushed home and scrolled through my recipe books to figure out what I can make. I wasn’t able to put my finger on any of the recipes. I scanned my kitchen and found some ripe bananas and I knew a Banana Bread was in order. I decided to give it a healthy twist by using wholemeal flour ( 1/2 the quantity) and liberally sprinkled chocolate chips to make it as appetizing as possible.

I even added some leftover hazelnut meal to pack in more flavour. All in a bid to show how much their encouragement means to me. The Bread was an instant hit with my little one, grabbing a slice and gobbling it up in no time. That’s a sign, I thought. It will be well received, I was sure now.

So happy and content, I waited for Sunday to come, so that I could take it to office. Sunday is the first day of the week. Seriously. Don’t laugh.

I intentionally kept my bread box outside because has been on the better than pleasant all these days.

Sunday came. Excited, I arranged the slices delicately in  a box and took them to office. I offered it to my lovely colleagues. They praised it to the skies. They said, I shouldn’t be in this office, I should be out there, selling my bakes.

I was so happy and thrilled with the appreciation. I thought this was the best thing I could have done to woo my colleagues. The best idea ever

Post lunch I saw a few crumbs that remained and felt the impulse to taste it. I hadn’t really tasted it. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes I do not even taste whatever I bake.

The moment I put it in my mouth I realized the banana bread had gone stale!!!!!!!

I cursed myself for not keeping it in the refrigerator. Another realization that dawned was that my colleagues had eaten it without a murmur or complaint. In fact they praised my efforts generously. How utterly sweet can they possibly be!!! I wanted the earth to swallow me right then. I apologized to them and asked them why they didn’t tell me that it had gone bad. They said, when they saw it, it looked wonderful and they understood the feeling behind it. They would have it again, if I were to give them a stale banana bread again. Where have these people come from!!

Needless to say, I was touched beyond any measure. Then and there, I made up my mind to compensate and make them something that really tasted good and wasn’t stale. But that is the dope for another post.

For now, here’s the

Recipe for the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup of whole-wheat flour

3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

2 large eggs

1/3 cup of light olive oil (or any oil)

1/4 cup of milk

1/2 cup hazelnut meal

2 teaspoon Baking Powder

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, dash of fresh nutmeg

3/4 cup  chocolate chips(bittersweet) and or any nuts you like ( handful of roasted nuts)

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of golden syrup (can substitute maple syrup)

Preparation

  1. Place the flours, dash of salt, baking powder, spices, hazelnut meal,  and sugar in the bowl and mix well.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, corn syrup or maple syrup, milk and mashed bananas. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and mix well with a balloon whisk. Add the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour the batter in a loaf pan, lined with parchment or baking paper. Bake in a preheated 350F (180 C) oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, until a small knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. Cool, serve.

It feels like I am giving out a recipe of a stale banana bread but you have to trust me it was wonderfully received by my husband and daughter.

I had to share this story about my workplace since it solemnly makes me believe in the goodness of people. Touchwood!

Goofing around after office hours. We are so glad to see each other.
Goofing around after office hours. We are so glad to see each other.

Being Prepared With a No- Bake White Chocolate, Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheese Cake

Quite a title!

But it was only fair to include every ingredient that made this cheesecake so special. It was my friend, Namit’s birthday a few days ago. He is practically family after 2 years of our friendship. On his birthday, I invited him to come home and have dinner of dum aloo, boondi raita  and parathas with us. Knowing Namit, who likes everything to be very simple; no fanfare, no loud celebrations for him. I have also realized that he likes subtle flavours so I thought cheesecake may fit the bill perfectly.

Making this no- bake version of  a cheesecake is what I prefer when I am short of time but want to impress too. I referred plenty of cheesecake recipes and couldn’t put my finger on any one of them so I combined two or three of them and came up with an amalgamated version. It was really exciting to put it altogether, praying fervently that it should set and not fall apart when I try to loosen the springform pan around the sides.

This Cheese cake is special because it has the deep, satisfying flavours of the cinnamon infused oranges that take it to the next level. The fresh golden orange slices bubble and sizzle in a sugary syrup with cinnamon to bring out the exotic in them. The flavours are subtle but vibrant in parts. That makes this cake a class apart. Whenever I have someone coming home for dinner etc, I like to prepare a bit in advance so that I don’t feel harried in the end. Bits and pieces add up in the end to make a spectacular event.

All this talk about preparation makes me recall my experience on the first day at work. As I had mentioned in my previous post about having joined work, I felt underwhelmed by my lack of confidence on the first day at work. I felt my nerves giving away every time I had to pick up the phone to talk to people. I stressed and prayed for the day to end quickly. It wasn’t the most memorable experience. The same evening I had my writers’ circle meeting to attend. I met my dear friend Pooja, ( also a member of the writers’ circle) after work and we took off to attend the meeting. By some divine design, the session was about how to feel confident and excel at public speaking. Mr. Mohamed Isa – A distinguished Toastmasters speaker and a speaking coach gave us a wonderful insight into how one can excel in their personal and professional life by being able to speak confidently.

It was so apt for me and I thanked my stars as the session was most useful. He shared his ideas through plenty of funny anecdotes from his life that had his audience in splits. He emphasized on BEING PREPARED and GAUGING THE AUDIENCE for an effective and confident performance. All my life, I have never underestimated the importance of being prepared.  Be it exams or some presentation at work, I have always prepared well. His session only reiterated what I had known all along. It was time to get the focus back and take things in my control at work. I made mental notes for the next day and surprisingly enough I was able to sail through the day. Hopefully, I should be able to build up on this confidence to be able to tackle anything that is thrown my way at work.

 So I made this cheese cake a day in advance so that in case it flops for any reason, I would have enough time to put together another cake for the d-day. But preparing well ensured I put in sufficient time and energy into it – which basically meant, I was able to give it my best shot. I put this cheesecake in the refrigerator to set overnight and set it did. I arranged the golden slices on top of the cake and inhaled the divine concoction. It was stimulating to say the least.

Recipe for White Chocolate and Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the infused orange slices

Oranges – 4, large

water -2 cups

sugar – 300 gms

cinnamon stick – 1

For the Cheesecake Crust

Digestive biscuits – 180 gm

butter – 75  gm, melted

For the cheese cake

White Chocolate – 400 gm

Cream cheese – 300 gm

Double Cream – 200 ml

Preparation

1. Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin to fine crumbs and add the melted butter and mix well. Tip the mix into a 20 cm lined, loose bottomed cake tin/springform cake tin. Smooth the top of the crumb+butter mix with a spoon and put it in the fridge to set for 30 minutes.

2. Peel and slice or keep the peel on like I did for the oranges and place them in a bowl. Use 3 oranges for this. The last orange has to be grated and the zest kept in a separate bowl.

3. In a saucepan, bring the sugar-water and cinnamon to a boil until slightly thick and syrupy. Pour the syrup over the sliced oranges and the zest (half and half  or to cover both of them completely in their separate bowls) and cover for 30 minutes. You can do this in the morning and keep aside. The flavours will get more time to infuse and the scent of orange and cinnamon will give you a heady feeling. That’s a fantastic feeling to have, trust me.

4. Melt the white chocolate in a microwave and then allow it to cool slightly.

5. Beat the cream cheese and double cream until soft and thick., then stir in the white chocolate. To this add the cinnamon-sugar syrup infused orange zest and mix well. Don’t allow too much of the sugar syrup to fall into the mixture. We have to keep the mixture dense for it to set.

6. Pour this batter on the biscuit base and push it into the fridge to set overnight.

7. Once ready to serve, layer the orange slices on the cheesecake in concentric circles.

The birthday cake was enjoyed by all of us but soon we realized that even a thin slice of this cheesecake goes a long way. It was filling, flavourful and beautiful to look at. So I took Mr. Mohamed Isa’s words to heart – preparing well in advance  by making cheesecake ahead of when it was needed and gauging my audience who was none other than Namit. The birthday boy definitely seemed very happy.

Of Routines & Breakfasts (with Poha)

In my previous post, where in the list of 7 things, I mentioned I am a stickler for routines. It may come as a surprise even to people who have known me  for years.But without a pattern to my daily life, I am a goner. I look for reassurance that a daily routine lends to my life. The simple idea wherein, certain activities  have to be performed at a certain time, every single day, provides the much-needed succor in the otherwise chaotic events that life constantly presents. Certain days are shakier than others and to come out alive and unscathed to the solid ground that a routine provides is something I do not take for granted. Every single day requires that we think and process information and take tough decisions and it is only a routine that lets the brain go passive and lets it relax by making us function involuntarily.

From getting up everyday at 5 45 am till the time I hit the bed at 10 30 pm or 11 pm, I feel secure with the idea that most things wouldn’t change no matter what new circumstances present themselves without a prior warning. Having said that, it is a given that I do not adjust to change easily. Probably it has also to do with the fact that I am a taurus who tend to resist change with all that they can. I have never been good at change and usually take a horrible amount of effort  and time to not spin out of control.

Funnily if you meet me I may come across as the spur of the moment kind of person but at a much primitive level, my need to adhere to a routine is way stronger. I pretend to enjoy spontaneity most of the times but my poor brain at that time is dealing with an emergency short-circuit. Marrying a man who is also routine-oriented, made my life a lot easier.

Before Mimi was born, I had a set pattern to very single day which largely meant going to work and having a fitness routine in place. Weekends were meant for the spontaneous stuff that didn’t make me the boring figure that I have already succeeded in establishing myself as in the first few paragraphs of this post. I went dancing, took dancing classes, met friends, made short trips, watched movies and did things that didn’t mirror my weekdays. When Mimi arrived, inspite of all the mental notes and preparations, my life took a 180 degree flip and routines were sent flying out of the window. I grappled, coaxed, pepped talked myself and even after 2 years of being a stay at home mum, I didn’t have a routine in place. I just couldn’t manage. At all times, I felt like a failure. Now with my job, a new routine has been staring at me, claws and fangs baring. The past week has been chaotic but some semblance of what seems like a routine that may last seems to be taking shape. I know I will have to work towards getting the details in place and every day is going to be a step towards that.

Ironically, I know the blog speaks about something completely different but consider that as a testimony of my futile attempts to steady my routine- less life the past 2 and a half years. But a few things still didn’t change and that were my breakfast habits. Poha which is flattened rice is one of my family’s favourite breakfast options. Without fail, poha turns up on our breakfast table atleast twice a week. Embellished or unadorned, this makes for a tasty and filling breakfast. During my recent trip to India, I happened to eat a divine version of this humble dish and swore to recreate the magic during one of our Poha breakfast days.

Poha, in my honest opinion, does require a certain level of skill. My initial attempts at it ended in large mass of yellow lumps. Finally after practicing for a few months, I started to get it right. Now it seems like I can do it with my eyes closed. The base recipe remains the same but it can be garnished with anything that you please.  I made 3 different versions with different garnishes such as peanuts, pomegranate, sev, boondi and cheese.

Recipe for Poha

Ingredients

Poha – 2 and half cups ( use the thicker variety as the thinner versions tend to disintegrate)

Red onions – 3 medium-sized or 2 large ( we love a lot of onions in our poha)

Peanuts ,skinned and boiled – a handful

Turmeric – 1/2 a tsp

salt to taste

green chillies, chopped  – 1 or 2 ( optional. I didn’t use any)

Sugar – 1 tsp

Oil – 3 tbsp

cumin seeds – 2 tsp

fresh coriander for garnish

Lemon juice – a few tbsp

pomegranate – for garnish

boondi, sev, scrape some cheese – as per your preference.

Preparation

1. Wash and chop onions finely and keep aside

2. In a kadhaai/ wok heat some oil and brown cumin seeds.

3. Add the onions and let them turn translucent.

4. Meanwhile while the onions are cooking, wash the poha on a sieve under a tap. Squeeze out water as carefully as you can. You want only an optimum amount of water to be absorbed by poha otherwise it will reduce into a lump when you start cooking.

5. Once the onions have cooked, add turmeric, salt, sugar, peanuts and let it be for a few seconds before you add the washed poha.

6. Mix it up well. Poha doesn’t really need any cooking so once all of this is thoroughly mixed you can just take it off the heat and garnish it with fresh chopped coriander and others of your choice.

7.  Add lemon juice and mix well.

8. Serve hot with chai.

The other options that can be added to make poha as varied as possible are chopped, boiled potatoes, peas , carrots etc.

Even on days when every bit of my life is off track, making and serving poha tells me all is not lost. It reminds me that my routine however a little skewed, exists. Breakfast fads may come and go but good old poha always stays in my list of meals for all seasons.

#SpiceLove on Twitter and Facebook

A few weeks ago, I had some guests coming for dinner. I immersed myself in the task of preparing their meal. That involved getting my hands dirty with a lot of spices in my pantry. Some of the spices that made their way into the meal inspired me to write something quirky about them. Soon enough, I realized I was having a blast with it on twitter. I got plenty of Retweets and appreciating tweets about the same. So I took the #spicelove to Facebook and put them up as status updates. My friends felt that I might have got up on the wrong side of the bed since I was updating my status every half hour. But that day was extraordinary as I felt a compulsive need to show how much spices meant to me by drawing analogies with real life.

Those status updates/tweets were:

1. Cinnamon is a clever spice. It creates an illusion of sweetness as would a veiled woman of being beautiful. #spicelove

The kind of response  I got was fantastic. One of my friends added to this by writing ” Cinnamon is the sultry dancer waiting in the wings but when she struts her stuff , everyone knows”

2. A Clove is not shy. It is outspoken and dares to challenge other flavours for a debate like an Independent Presidential Campaigner #spicelove

One of  my friends sent me a video link that featured a stand up act by UK’s Micheal McIntyre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvi0ZLEHj3A. It is so so funny. You have to watch it. It centers around a conversations that spices have with each other in a pantry.

3.  A Nutmeg is like that guy at the back of the class who never takes notes. Like him, the flavour of the nutmeg needs to be cornered, prodded and appreciated to show its true colours #spicelove

The nutmeg tweet triggered a Mace one –  mace, its cousin (javithri in Hindi) it’s like the kid who went a little wild because nutmeg started to shine and decided to become a spray to defend the girls

4. A Cardamom is like a quivering virgin. #enoughsaid #spicelove

The garnered the most number of sly responses both on FB and twitter. 

5. Salt & Pepper are like the soul mates I knew once.They travel the vast foodlands together, bringing alive the blandest of scapes. #spicelove

I quite enjoyed doing this series. I would love it if you feel inspired to start one of your own. If you do, tag me or mention me on Facebook so that I can catch up. I would love to read your ideas about what these spices mean to you. Meanwhile if you are feeling spontaneous then you can write about it in the comments!

A Versatile Blogger Award- It Couldn’t Get Any Better

This year has been benevolent and has offered me so many opportunities to improve and grow. Recognition in any form is a motivator like no other. The gorgeous Cassandra of Foodmyfriend was so kind to bestow the Versatile blogger award to me. Thank you so much Cassandra for the award and the generous words that you wrote about me and my blog.

Cassandra’s posts are usually short ( unlike mine!!)  but fully convey her passion and love for cooking and baking. She shares the little tidbids from her life and that make for such a warm read. She also gives amazing pointers that I always keep in mind while baking something and they have always worked.

Cassandra – A BIG THANK YOU AGAIN.

The rules require me to do three things – link back to the blog that gave them the award, list seven things about themselves and finally, give the award to five others.

Now about the 7 things about me:

1. I am a workaholic and that was the primary reason why I took a break after Mimi was born. Now that I am back to work, I try to not get into that addictive state of mind.

2. I do everything in extremes and do not understand the concept of the middle ground. Though consciously, for the past few years I am practising to be the balanced person that I hope to be. Some day.

3. I am a stickler for routine but pretend to be spontaneous

4. I hate peanut butter. #thereIsaidit

5. I cannot do without books and I have to read a little bit every single day.

6. I turned into a movie buff after meeting my husband. Otherwise I thought, watching movies was a waste of time.

7. I also thinking sleeping is a waste of time ( I know, seriously weird right??). I am restless and I have to be occupied with something at all times.

That was pretty simple; the  7 things about me, that you may have not known before!

Now for nominating the five wonderful bloggers that I love and I think are versatile.

1. La of Food Slice is a very dear friend to whom I often turn to for advice and general rant outside the blogging sphere. She is one of the most grounded people I have met in my life albeit virtually. I do want to meet her in real life and I am sure I will. I am sure it would be just like a Julia Child and Avis DeVito sort of moment, when we meet! I heart her style of writing and her traditional recipes.

2. Deepthi Rao of Naughty Curry – She is a gorgeous home baker and cook who shares her simple formulas to make some amazing treats. She masterfully whips up gravys and sauces which I find so useful. I have bookmarked them all. She loves to travel and has a very evocative style of writing which brings alive the scenes from her visits. I particularly enjoyed her post about her trip to the various must-visit places in Hyderabad.

3. Helene of Masala Herb – This Austrian expat lives in Goa with her hubby and knows so much about Indian food that it makes me hang my head in shame. Every post of hers is a revelation and packs so much that is useful. When she is not blogging and talking about food on twitter, she enjoys reading about medieval Europe and fine art. She runs a Portuguese restaurant in Goa and we have a pact that we would definitely meet when I make a visit to Goa. Hopefully soon.

4. Meenakshi of Masala Art – Her style of writing is what attracts me to her blog every single time. I hang on to every word that she writes because it is sure to make me laugh. Rarely do you find bloggers who have such a fantastic sense of humour and I would like to admit that I am addicted to her blog. She has varied interests which range from Fashion to movies to books and her Foodless Fridays are a must read.

5. Madhuri of Cook Curry Nook – I connected with Madhuri on twitter and terribly enjoy reading her tweets. The USP of her blog is that her bakes are eggless. She has a huge readership because of her straightforward style of writing and vegetarian delicacies. She is an architect by profession and teaches at design school. So she brings the same artistic sensibility to her cakes and bakes.

So that’s the inspiring list of bloggers and do hope you go to their blogs and appreciate the wonderful work that they do.