May 20, 2013

Homemade Cheez-its - A Pinterest Find

I had pinned this a while back on my food board, but never got a chance to make these until now. These are easy to make with just a few ingredients. The dough and preparation reminded me of pie crusts, so you know how easy this is going to be.
Homemade cheez-its
Cheez-its and gold fish crackers are a few of my daughter's favorite snacks. And, even her school teacher recommends gold fish as one of the "healthy snacks". But, I was never  convinced that the bright orange "cheese" that sticks to your fingers could be really cheese and hence healthy.
When I saw this pin, I was inspired to try some. It was an instant hit at my home. I should warn you that even though the serving suggestion is for 4, it will be over in half an hour. Do not blame me!
The original author even made her own goldfish cookie cutter for this recipe. I wish to do that someday...

We used a couple of icing tips and veggie cutters for the small shapes. I also used my pizza cutter to cut squares (our version of cheez-it). A fluted cutter like the spoons we get in India (with a fluted wheel on the back) would be very helpful, I guess. My daughter was assigned the task of cutting and arranging, and I should say she did a pretty good job. This could be a great rainy day activity.
Ready for the oven

We put numerous holes (with a fork, tooth pick or skewer, depending on the shape) on the crackers but they still puffed up a little, when it came out of the oven. but, these were super crispy, so no complaints!
Baked Cheez-its
For my subsequent batches, I realized that rolling out a small portion of dough helps in rolling it out really thin. So, I pinched out a little dough and left the rest wrapped up in plastic while I worked on the pinched-off dough.
I also used my pizza cutter to cut some sticks, as an experiment. We baked these for an additional 5 minutes to avoid chewy bits in the middle.

Cheese Sticks
 Go on, grab a fistful!

Cheez-it - Crispy and Gone in 60 seconds!
Source: Tasty Kitchen
Verdict: Liked it as is
Will I make it again: Yes, for sure.

May 13, 2013

Kuzhi Paniyaram - Savory Rice Turnovers

Kuzhi Paniyaram is a small, round ball of rice flour deep fried in oil. This results in a crispy snack with a soft, chewy center. You could liken this to Medhu Vadai, except that medhu vadai uses only urad flour, while kuzhi paniyaram uses rice and urad flour.
Kuzhi Paniyaram

Unlike medhu vadai, you need a specialty pan to cook these. The traditional ones are made with cast iron or brass. The more modern ones are nonstick coated. Due to the benefits of cooking in cast iron cookware, and the possible side effects of cooking with nonstick cookware, I use a cast iron pan for this. A properly seasoned cast iron pan could develop nonstick characteristics and will require little or no oil.
Kuzhi Paniyram in aebleskiver pan

I bought mine at . Go ahead, click on that link. does not even know I exist on this planet! It is an Aebleskiver pan that is used in Danish cooking. But, it looks and cooks just like the South Indian Kuzhi Paniyaram pan.
The kuzhi paniyaram batter is prepared much the same way as idli batter. Aromatic spices are added to the fermented batter. Rounded spoonfuls of batter are ladled into the seasoned aebleskiver pan and cooked similar to turnovers. Growing up, I remember one of my neighbors cook these frequently. She would pour oil on top of the filled molds and effectively deep fry the paniyaram in the confined environment. Of course, using that much oil is considered a sin now :) So, I try to use just a tablespoon.


  • Idli rice - 2 cups
  • Urad dal - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilies - 3
  • Ginger -  1 inch piece
  • Coconut - 5 square inches
  • mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • curry leaves - 5
  • oil - 2 tbsps, divided 
  • salt, to taste
Mise en Place / Prep:
  1. Wash and soak idli rice and urad dal together in fresh water for 4 hours. Grind it coarsely (to the consistency of idli batter).
  2. When you are ready to make the paniyaram, finely chop green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Chop the coconut into 1/2 inch square pieces.
  1. In a small kadai or saute pan on medium fire, add 1 tbsp of oil . When it is heated, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds splatter, add in the chopped green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Once the ginger has fried, remove from fire.
  2. Stir in  this seasoning into the prepared batter. Also add the chopped coconut.
  3. Season a kuzhi paniyaram or aebleskiver pan with 1 tsp of oil. Use your fingers/paper towel or cheesecloth to swipe the surface of the concave rounded molds with this oil.
  4. Start this pan on medium high fire. When the pan has heated up, lower the heat to medium low.
  5. With a rounded spoon, spoon in the seasoned batter in to the rounded molds. The batter should be level with the rim of each round mold.
  6. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. If you insert a bamboo skewer in the middle of the paniyaram, it should come out clean (very similar to cake doneness test).
  7. Using the skewer, flip the paniyaram and let the other side cook for a couple more minutes.
  8. When completely cooked, remove to a plate.
  9. Scrape out dried batter (if any) and season the pan again (only if needed).
  10. Repeat steps 5 through 9 until all batter is used up.
  11. Serve hot with any chutney.
Kuzhi Paniyaram and Peanut Chutney

  1. To up the nutrition value and eye candy, you could add a few tablespoons of grated carrots or cabbage to the batter.
  2. Skip the part on preparing batter and instead use leftover idli/dosa batter.
  3. Oiling the cast iron pan before the first batch is essential. This ensures that the cooked paniyaram is released easily from the pan. 
  4. Once the pan has heated up, lower the heat and maintain it. Cast iron takes a while to heat up and retains heat for a long time.

May 6, 2013

Shrimp Fry

Shrimp fry - Shrimp pan fried with curry masala
  • Shrimp, peeled, tail off, deveined - 1 lb (50-60)
  • onions - 1
  • tomato - 2
  • turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • ginger garlic paste - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • chili powder - 2 tsp
  • coriander powder - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • fennel powder - 1 tsp
  • cilantro, chopped - 1/4 cup
  • lemon, for garnish
  • fennel seeds - 1 tbsp
  • oil, for sauteing
  • salt, to taste
Mise en place / Prep:
  1. If you are starting with raw shrimp, start shelling the shrimp. 
  2. With a sharp pairing knife, devein all the shrimp.
  3. Fill a bowl with water and a quarter cup of vinegar. Rinse the shrimp in this water. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with paper towel.
  4. While the shrimp is drying, chop the onion finely to get about 3/4th cup of chopped onions.
  5. Chop the tomatoes to yield about 2 cups.
Shrimp Fry / Shrimp Masala

  1. Heat a kadai or other wide saute pan on medium high heat. When ready, add oil and wait for it to heat up.
  2. Temper the oil with fennel seeds. When it splatters, add the ginger garlic paste.
  3. Stir continuously so the paste doesn't get stuck to the pan or otherwise burn.
  4. Now fry the chopped onions in this oil. Wait for the onions to soften up a bit before adding the tomatoes.
  5. Follow this up with a little salt, chili powder and coriander powder.
  6. Let this mixture cook for at least 15 minutes.  An occasional stir and a tablespoon of water, if it looks like the mixture might burn, is all that's needed.
  7. If you wish, you could taste and adjust seasoning now.
  8. Add the shrimp and stir gently to mix the masala and shrimp.
  9. Cook covered until the shrimp is cooked.
  10. Shrimp gets cooked very fast and goes from firm to rubbery in 5 seconds flat. So, watch the pan and check often.
  11. If the masala is a little too watery, remove the lid and cook on a medium fire until the masala reaches your desired consistency.
  12. Stir the fennel powder and cilantro and remove from fire.
This pairs well with rice, roti or as a spicy appetizer on its own. Serve with a squeeze of lemon .
Shrimp fry, served with Egg masala and Chicken Biryani

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