Last evening during a shopping spree in a store, we passed through shelves with rows and rows of carbonated drinks in varied flavours, fruit juices – some natural, others with flavours and colours added, some ready to mix fruit powders, some energy drinks and also in the same shelf were small tetra packs of Aam Panna. I was wondering how my grandmother would have reacted to see Aam Panna in a 200ml pack in a store. Perhaps she would have scoffed at the idea of buying it from the store and wondered if we are hard pressed for time or we lack the inclination and desire to make things at home or are we now so spoilt that convenience rules over everything and we love the easy way out.
I have a little bit of my grandmother in me and the idea of buying readymade food and drinks from the stores has never appealed me. There is nothing like fresh homemade food made with love and choicest of ingredients.

Mynas in a meeting.....

The mercury is on the rise and on the way to break new records. Blame it on global warming or whatever, the heat is becoming intolerable. Throat is perpetually dry and nothing seems to bring relief. A freak storm last night left us with some raw mangoes and I used them to make Aam Panna. A glass of cold Aam Panna is soothing for the parched throat. It is a traditional recipe made in almost every Indian household during summers. With the goodness of fresh mint, roasted cumin seeds and black salt, it is cooling, refreshing, rejuvenating, digestive, and carminative and the ultimate cold drink. Mint is packed with antioxidants and is good for digestion. Cumin improves digestion and appetite. Indian black salt is regarded as a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine. It is good for upset stomach, constipation and digestion. All these ingredients make Aam Panna a tangy and tasty drink that is really healthy.

This is how I made Aam Panna
Aam Panna |Raw Mango Summer Drink
4 to 5 medium size raw mangoes
2 ½ teaspoons roasted cumin seed powder
2 ½ teaspoons back salt
1 bunch of mint leaves
¾ cup sugar
1 liter cold water
Wash the raw mangoes. Take them in a pressure cooker with enough water to submerge the mangoes. Pressure cook the mangoes (2 whistles). Remove the mangoes and keep them in a plate to cool. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Wash mint leaves and chop them roughly.
Take mango pulp and mint leaves in a blender, add half cup of water and blend till smooth. Pass the mixture through a strainer.
Add roasted cumin seed powder, black salt and sugar to the mixture and mix well.
Add cold water and garnish with mint leaves. Add ice cubes and serve.

Summer is at its peak here. The earth looks dry and dreary. It is hard to believe that the same landscape was once a splendor in the Spring where the juicy vegetation and flowers in all the colours and hues adorned the Earth. Some vagrant clouds sail across the sky raising hopes of a shower that would bring great succor at this point of time. But the roaring winds drive them away clearing the way for the Sun to continue spewing fire. Birds flit listlessly from branch to branch, biding most of the time in the tress with thick canopy.

For kids and animals the heat is no deterrent to their pranks and antics. My daughter discovered a frog in the fish pond and was greatly amused by the guest. She tried to feed him but it dived and hid under a stone. Since then she has been observing and watching him share the pond with our carps. Our cat rests under a tree in the afternoons. Her fur perfectly merges with the dry foliage and camouflages her. After several unsuccessful attempts in catching birds, she runs after and plays with the dry leaves that roll and rustle as the hot winds push them in all directions.

Heat and heat induced lassitude makes it uncomfortable to work in the kitchen. After a long break I baked whole wheat chocolate chip cinnamon cake yesterday.

 Made some cup cakes with the same batter and my kids loved them. 

Chocolate and cinnamon make a great combination while whole wheat flour reduces the guilt quotient in this cake. And the heavenly aroma of cinnamon fills up nooks and crannies of your home while the cake bakes!

This is how I made Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cake
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cake
I read the recipe here and here and made some changes to suit taste
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1cup powdered sugar
1cup fat free yogurt
¼ cup low fat milk
2 eggs
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon fine sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line and grease one 7x7 inch cake pan.
Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl till fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla essence.
Beat yogurt in a small bowl till smooth. Add milk.
Add flour mixture to butter sugar mix in two rounds. Add yogurt mix alternately. Mix well till the batter becomes smooth. Do not over mix.
Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Make the top smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top. Combine cinnamon powder and sugar. Sprinkle evenly on top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or till the cake shrinks from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice next day.

The colours of spring have faded in the heat of the summer. Small bushes and flowering shrubs that donned the Earth in spring are in the fag end of their life cycle. The intricacy of the web of nature and the beauty and precision with which everything is interconnected leaves one marveling at the expertise and deftness of the creator.

some wild berries here......

 Strange, intriguing and amazing are the ways of nature. Bright flowers in the spring attracted bees and butterflies that kept hovering on them for nectar and carried out pollination in turn. Equally bright and colourful are the berries full of seeds, now, attracting birds that find food here and carry out seed dispersal in turn.  This is also the time when baby birds are ready to fly or have just left the nest and are learning the art of survival. There is a constant chirruping of birds in our backyard as avian families feed on wild berries that are growing in abundance.  

I had been yearning to make a sweet loaf since long. Some oranges in the refrigerator were beginning to shrivel. I used them in orange cinnamon swirl bread.  The bread was sweet with delicate citrusy flavours from orange juice and zest. Cinnamon added lovely aroma and flavor to the bread.

Low Fat Whole Wheat Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Adapted from here and baked with some changes. 
I have used 1 cup whole wheat flour in my bread. I have used olive oil in place of butter in bread dough to make it low fat bread.
 I have used orange juice in place of butter to make sugar cinnamon paste. Butter causes gaping around swirls. This experiment worked well and there were no gaps around swirls.
Ingredients for Bread
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
Zest of an orange
Ingredients for cinnamon swirl
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon powdered cinnamon
2 tablespoon orange juice
Whisk together flours and salt. Add olive oil and orange zest and mix well with hands.
Heat the milk till lukewarm. Add sugar and stir till sugar dissolves. Add yeast, cover and keep for 15 minutes.
Add ½ cup flour mix to milk mix and stir well to get soft sticky dough. Turn dough onto a floured counter. Add flour and orange juice kneading well after each addition. Repeat till the flour mix is over. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes till dough becomes soft and elastic.
Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Flip dough over so that it is oiled from all sides. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour or until double.
Punch down dough; knead for 3 to 4 minutes.
Roll the dough into 10 x 8 inch rectangle. Mix cinnamon powder and powdered sugar. Add orange juice just enough to give a thick paste. Spread the paste evenly on the rolled dough leaving ½ inch from the sides.
Roll the dough tightly starting at 8 inch side. Pinch seams and tuck under edges. Place the roll in the greased 9 x 4 ½ inch pan with seam side down. Cover and keep it to rise for 30 minutes or until double.
Bake 1t 180 degrees C for about 50 minutes till the loaves turn golden from top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Tent loosely with a foil if the top is browning too fast.
Remove from the pan after 5 minutes. Cool in the rack. Slice next day.

Submitting for Yeastspotting

Nature inspires, nature motivates, nature enlightens, and nature awakens. A trip to the hills last weekend was an exhilarating one. Pleasant weather, lovely landscapes dotted with wild flowers, grassy meadows, birds, and the mesmerizing views of the Himalayas made the trip a memorable one.

 In the serene environs, the rhythm of the nature seems to connect with the inner self and it is a soul uplifting experience.  You never seem to have enough of it.

 These moments give the much required impetus to leave the chaos of the modern world, to embrace beauty and tranquility of  nature, to be one with nature that has so much to offer, where there is so much to learn and evolve. The resolve just gets stronger after every trip.

A day before leaving for the hills, I baked Fougasse. Fougasse is the French version of the Italian foccacia bread. It is topped with herbs. Fougasse is flat bread that can be slashed to form shapes of a leaf or tree, or the slits can also be cut to form a lattice. This makes the bread easy to pull apart.    
In French cuisine, fougasse is a type of bread typically associated with Provence but found in other regions. Some versions are sculpted or slashed into a pattern resembling an ear of wheat (source – Wikipedia
My fougasse is inspired by nature. I am awed by the intricately shaped leaves in nature and am inspired to bake many more breads in obeisance to the great artist.
This is how I made Fougasse
Fougasse (With Whole Wheat flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ¾ cup warm water (start with 1 cup; keep adding more according to need)
½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil and some more for oiling the bowl and brushing the bread
1 tablespoon corn meal
Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water.
Whisk together flours, salt and dried herbs (reserve some for sprinkling on top of the bread).
Add I cup flour mix to warm water, add oil and stir adding more water and ½ cup flour. Stir till a thick sticky dough forms.
Turn the dough onto a floured counter or a kneading plate. Add remaining flour. Add water if needed and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn the dough so that it is coated with oil from all sides. Cover with an oiled cling film or a dishtowel and keep it to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.
Punch the dough and knead it gently for 2-3 minutes. Shape into 1 ½ inch oval by stretching. Grease a baking tray. Sprinkle corn meal. Place the oval shaped dough onto the baking tray. Shape like a leaf tapering at the upper end. Make several slashes in the bread in the shape of mid veins and side veins. Use finger (dipped in oil) to stretch the slits and to get the right shape. Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle the remaining herbs on top. Cover with a cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 210 degrees C. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Cool in the rack.
Enjoy warm fougasse with soup or stew.

Linking to Vegan Thursdays
Submitted for Yeastspotting

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