Non-alcoholic Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

 

I made this to accompany a Saturday lunch party with spicy Indian food because I was tired of serving the same sodas/lemonades/mango lassi to guests who preferred non-alcoholic drinks,  As with most of my recipes, this can be made ahead of time, and mixed quickly when your guests request the drink.

Fennel seeds/saunf has a licorice flavor, and is generally know as the sugar-candy-coated seeds that are placed at the entrance of almost every Indian restaurant. While one of its roles is as a mouth freshener, saunf is also known to help relieve many stomach ailments – colic, constipation, indigestion, flatulence, heartburn. etc.

Original recipe credit to SAVEUR magazine. My version is a little sweeter and has a slightly more pronounced fennel taste.

 

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

(Makes about 1-cup syrup; enough for 6-8 drinks)

FOR THE SYRUP:

  • 2 tbsp. fennel (saunf) seeds – [coarsely ground]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

1) Add the crushed fennel seeds, water & sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2) Cook on medium-low flame for about 5 minutes till slightly thick, about 5 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and let the mixture rest till it reaches room temperature.

4) Strain into an airtight container or a pretty glass bottle. If not using right away, this mixture can be stored in the refrigerator (tightly sealed) for up to  1 month.

TO SERVE THE DRINK: (per person)-

  • 2-3 Tbsp fennel syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Thin apple slices for garnish
  • Ice

1) Mix all ingredients above in a tall glass and add ice. Garnish with apple slices and serve.

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Coconut Macaroons – To dip in chocolate or not?

Coconut Macaroons

I got this recipe from a PTA mom at my son’s school a long time ago – she must have given it to over a dozen people as the cookies were SO good – and I’ve looked at it and put it away so many times over the years. Finally decided to try making them, and boy, are they easy to make. In fact, I would say the ‘hardest part’ was scooping them onto the cookie tray (well, besides sweating it out on the treadmill and cursing myself for eating too many! But that’s a different blog post ;)).

Coconut Macaroons

You can dip these macaroons in chocolate if you like, but they are good as-is too. Super easy to make, crispy on the edges, chewy on the inside. YUM!

Coconut Macaroons

(about 3-dozen cookies)

  • 1 (14 oz) package flaked coconut – sweetened**
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 egg whites – room temperature
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips – optional

1) Preheat oven to 325*F.

2) In a large bowl, add flaked coconut, sugar, flour & salt, and mix well.

3) In another small bowl, add the egg whites & the almond extract, and beat lightly.

4) Add eggs to the coconut mixture and mix well.

5) Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie tray.*****

6) Bake 18-20 minutes, until edges are golden brown.

7) Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

8) If you are using chocolate, melt the chips according to package directions and dip the macaroons halfway. Set on the same parchment lined trays to harden completely.

9) Store in an air-tight box for several days.

 

NOTE** : If you decide to use unsweetened coconut flakes, increase the sugar to 2/3 cups.

NOTE*****: I always use parchment paper to ensure my food does not stick to the pan, and also to make for easy cleanup.

For easy and even scooping, I use a small ice cream scoop (and NO – I don’t make any revenue by linking to Amazon from here. This is just to give you an idea.)

 

Diwali Lighting Ideas

Diwali Lighting Ideas

I’ve shared some ideas for lighting up your home this Diwali.

The first two photos on the top show the easiest way to go; cover your table with a bright colored table cloth and top with a festive runner / dupatta /stole in complementary colors along the center. You can even use matching gift-wrap paper that is folded down to size as an easy & inexpensive alternative. Line the runner with clear votives and use tea lights in them. If you want to use decorative votives, use a plain runner. Consider using decorative chargers, mirrors, or silverware to hold your votives.

As with any source of fire, be careful and never leave it unattended, especially around children and pets.

The remaining four photos have been decorated to mimic henna / mehndi. Henna candles are all over Pinterest and I wanted to give it a try. Problem is, when henna dries, it shrinks and flakes off the smooth candle surface. The easier option was to use brown puffy paint (3D paint) instead. First, the paint adheres well to the candle surface; second, it does not need to be sealed when dry like actual henna. If you are experienced, make the designs freehand directly on the candles. If you are a novice like me, wrap the candle with a piece of blank paper and cut to size. Draw your pattern on it and trace onto the candle with graphite / transfer paper. Trace over the design and allow the paint to dry completely – about 24 hours. Burn the candle for a short while before your party so it forms a well by the wick. This allows the light to show through the candle and give a wonderful glow. (My candles are by no means perfect – I don’t have a steady hand – but the way to perfection is practice, isn’t it 🙂 ) The last candle with the peacock design is battery operated, making it the safest bet.

**UPDATE: – Verizon problems, and my Internet connection has been going haywire the past few days. The post that went up yesterday was just an incomplete draft!! Not sure how it got posted. Anyway, here’s the updated version, and I hope the post makes more sense now.

I’ve also included links for other interesting ideas on the web. Hope you enjoy them. So many ideas – so little time! Lesson learnt – start getting blog entries ready early! Way Early!!

Check out how DECOR IN A SNAP uses beaded cuffs to make pretty and interesting tealight holders.

ODE TO INSPIRATION  has a simple tutorial on making beautiful Moroccan lanterns in jewel colors. Definitely on my to-do list; hopefully for next Diwali 🙂

Morrocan Lanterns

http://odetoinspiration.com/2012/07/ramadan-countdown-to-eid/

Sharing some more beautiful photos of Moroccan lanterns for inspiration:

DIY-Project-Idea-Moroccan-Glass-Jar-Candle-Holder-Votive-Lantern-Light-Upcycle-Craft-Tutorial-Blog

cremedelacraft.com

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

Badam Phirni

Phirni is traditionally made with fragrant Basmati rice that has been soaked for a few hours, then slow cooked for hours in milk till it turns into a creamy, decadent pudding that is flavored with sugar, saffron, and chopped nuts. My grandmother always made the most amazing phirni as a sweet accompaniment to  her famous mutton pulao. I am yet to eat something that matches – let alone beats –  her cooking!!

The recipe below is an easier version that is very simple to make. No soaking or hours of cooking required.  This phirni can be served warm, but it tastes best chilled. Make ahead the day before your Diwali party, and you have a fantastic dessert to serve.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

(Serves 8-10)

  • 20 almonds, blanched
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups + 1/2 cups whole milk / half & half / cream* – (do not use skim milk – the cream in the dairy is what makes this dish tasty)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch saffron

1) To blanch the almonds, soak them in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Test one almond by pressing between your thumb and forefinger. The skin should slide right off. If it doesn’t, soak for a few more minutes. Drain the water and skin the rest.

2) In a heavy bottom (preferably non-stick) pan, add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer on a low flame.

3) Meanwhile, in a small blender jar, add the blanched almonds, 1/2 cup milk and rice flour, and make into a fine paste. Set aside.

4) When the milk comes to a boil, add sugar and saffron, and simmer till all the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.

5) Still on a low flame, slowly add the almond-rice mixture and whisk so no lumps form, and the milk is creamy.

6) Add the cardamom powder and simmer about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. The phirni will thicken as it cools to the consistency of pudding.

7) Pour into serving bowl(s) and garnish with edible silver, nuts, saffron, etc.

8) Can be served warm, cool or chilled.

9) Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight containers.

*I plan on making a vegan version with Almond Milk the next time. Will update and let you all know how it turns out.