Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here's to a New Year and a Fresh Start!

This year has definitely been one of ups and downs for me, as most of you know. The year started on a low note and proceeded to oscillate between ok times and bad times. Through it all, I feel I've grown stronger as a person. I've learned so much about life and myself through blogging. I was also able to re-connect with a lot of old friends who I haven't been able to talk to in a very long time.

I participated in the arusuvai chain in the US, won the first round of the open sesame contest (created by Dhivi and Siri), and enjoyed participating in many blog events. Along the way, I've discovered many new bloggers and am constantly inspired by all of you.

I introduced the blog to family members and have even gotten marks of approval on many of my recipes! What more validation could a blogger want, right? I'm glad that they are also able to share this side of me and look forward to creating more recipes from their input, too.

2008 was overall a trying, but inspiring year for me and I am looking forward to a much better 2009! I would like to thank all of you for sharing in the good and bad times I've had this year. I look forward to blogging more and learning more from each of your blogs.

I wish each and every one of the readers of Samaithu Paarkalaam a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year 2009!

And now, a small greeting from me to you...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crazy for Cookies!

So, I've been on a bit of a baking spree for the past few days... Blame it on the upcoming holidays and having to mail things out to people! Guess it's pretty obvious that I've baked a bunch of cookies and want to share the recipes here.

Benne Biscuit:

Benne Biscuit

This is one that my husband and sister-in-law were telling me about. Apparently, it's a butter biscuit that they used to love eating in Bangalore. So, I looked up a recipe and decided to try it. The results were delicious!! Original recipe can be found here. I didn't make any changes to the recipe and they came out awesome!

Eggless Chocolate Oat Cookies:

Choc Oat Edited

This one was a special recipe that I found to send to my cousin's kids. Her two little ones have eczema and can't have dairy or eggs. What to send? Well, I didn't have to look far for this one. Sailu's blog came to my rescue with this recipe. The cookies were slightly chewy when warm and turned crisp on cooling. They had a nice chocolatey flavor and the oats texture really shined through. Perfect treat for little ones! No changes to this recipe either. Sailu's instructions were perfect!



These are the perfect all-American holiday cookie... A little spicy, a little sweet and crispy. They keep forever (if you can hold on to them for that long!) and are perfect for dunking in tea or hot apple cider. The following recipe is from my King Arthur Flour cookbook.


All purpose flour - 1 1/3 cup
White whole wheat (or all purpose) - 1 cup
Dried ginger powder - 2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Cloves powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 2 tsp
Butter - 3/4 cup, softened
Sugar - 2/3 cup (1 cup for more sweet cookies)
Egg - 1 large
Molasses - 1/3 cup

Coarse sugar to roll cookies in - about 1/3 cup


1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, spices, salt, and baking soda) in a small bowl. In another larger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy (like whipped cream). Now, beat in the molasses until well combined. At this point, add in the dry ingredients and stir together to form a soft dough.

3. Now, take 1-2 tsp of dough for each cookie, form into a ball and roll each ball into the coarse sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on the greased or lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 375 F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. They will appear soft when you remove them from the oven, but will harden on cooling. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gingersnaps CloseUp

Enjoy with beverage of your choice!

In honor of the events going on in the blogosphere, the first 2 cookies are going to Sharmi's cookie event as well as JZ's Santa's Holiday Challenge.

Gingersnaps are headed to the monthly mingle at Meeta's blog!

And with that, my friends, am going on vacation and will be back in 10 days or so. Hope everyone has a great rest of the year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baby Turns One!

My baby (I mean, my blog) is one year old already! I really cannot believe that it's been a whole year since I started my blog. Time really flies. I remember not having any idea of how to start and what to post... I started visiting blogs that I'd seen from before starting my own blog. Slowly, ideas began coming to me. I've learned so much through blogging!

I've found that I have grown tremendously as a person in this past year. I have found an outlet for something that I truly love. I am able to express myself in a completely unique way via blogging. I love cooking, baking and sharing. This blog has been a perfect vehicle for all of those things. In addition, I've learned a little bit about recipe writing and photography (OK, very little).

I am also thankful for all of the amazing souls I have "met" virtually through blogging. Dear friends who didn't know I existed a year ago have been so kind, sweet, encouraging, and supportive in good times and during rough patches. I am truly grateful for each and every interaction we've had and look forward to deepening friendships and new friendships in the coming year.

As always, I am open to any comments/suggestions as to how you think this blog could be improved or for any specific post requests. Once again, thank you all and let's get the party started!

Apple Cake 1

I thought it would be best to celebrate with the fruits of the season. So, I made an apple cake to share with you all. This cake (adapted from my King Arthur Flour baking book) is perfect for snacking or can easily be dressed up for a simple, elegant dessert. Sweet apples are complemented by raisins, dried cranberries, and spices. The result is sheer bliss without much effort on your part!

Apple Cake (yields 16 pieces):


Whole wheat flour - 1/2 cup
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1/4 cup (for mildly sweet; can increase to 1/3 cup for sweeter)
Brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - 3/8 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Allspice - 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/4 tsp
Softened butter - 4 tbsp
Crystallized ginger or fresh ginger (optional) - 1 1/2 tbsp, minced finely
Apples - 2 cups, peeled and chopped
Raisins - 1/4 cup
Dried cranberries - 1/4 cup
Egg - 1


1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with greased parchment paper or grease and flour the pan.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, salt, sugars, baking soda, and spices) together. Cut the butter into pieces and add it along with the apples, ginger, raisins, cranberries, and the egg. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Note: The batter may seem a bit thick, but it's ok!

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top and bake at 325 F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, slice, and serve!

apple cake 2

We had ours plain (mine with whipped cream) with tea or coffee. So moist and flavorful with spices. Juicy bursts of raisins and cranberries throughout made it the perfect cake for the season! I think that a cream cheese frosting would be delicious on it, too. This is one that I will definitely be making again. Hope you enjoyed my celebration and here's to another wonderful year of blogging!

Update: I'm sending this in to JZ's Santa's Holiday Challenge event.