Tadka Indian Restaurant Review - Manhattan New York

On a recent business trip to New York, I was craving for some delicious indian food, and I have to say I was happy when a colleague recommended Tadka Indian restaurant in Manhattan, for a memorable lunch! Its hard to find nice and reliably good food for reasonable prices in a Manhattan/Midtown, and Tadka turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It is indeed a very tiny and cramped place in a busy location, but if you are seeking fast service, better-than-average food, and affordable lunch alternative, then Tadka will not disappoint you. In fact, a lot of my American colleagues seemed to like it too, and I was also told that this serves to be a very popular restaurant for take-out and delivery! With so many people vouching for it, I think you can safely give Tadka Indian restaurant a fair chance on your next trip to Manhattan, right?!

Tadka restaurant in New York the newest addition to the critically acclaimed Indian eateries by Shiva Natarajan, the chef & owner of the already famous Chola, Bombay, Malabar Hill and Jaipore Royal Cuisine in the Tri-State areas. Combining traditional Indian decor with a New York look, this is a small yet cozy place that features dark wooden floors and tables, light flowering hanging lanterns, comfortable chairs, walls decorated with small statues hidden amidst strategically mounted frames and a large front window that makes the dining area a bit more spacious. The limited space is not so much of a concern, considering the other similar restaurants on the same street! The overall feeling is comfortable and inviting.

They feature an extensive menu, with a special one for Vegetarians like me. we ordered the Tawa Paneer and the kalmi Kababs for appetizers, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed these. There are a lot of exquisite entrees for the main course. The prices are pretty reasonable, and the portions are substantial too. The Navratan Korma, Shahi Paneer, Lamb Vindaloo and the Bhuna Gosht were particularly good. Loads of choices for the Breads and Parathas too; the only disappointment was the dessert. With only Gulab Jamuns, Halwa or Kheer to choose from, the sweet-loving critic in me was not too satisfied - but the Gulab Jamuns we ordered were soft and nice, so it was good.

The service was fast and efficient, and the waiting staff was courteous and educated about the menu options. The price ranges from $3.50 to $17.95, which is quite reasonable for a comparable fine-dining experience. Having said that, we all enjoyed the food, and though it was not "exquisite", it was worth the value, and without any grievances. The only drawback would be the tiny place, and the lack of parking. It's an ideal location for weekday lunches if you work around the area; better yet, order a take-out as they provide free delivery upto a certain radius!

Tadka is not a place you'd choose for a romantic dinner or a boisterous family gathering. But if what you seek is reasonably-priced good food with fast service, Tadka Indian Cuisine should be on your to-go list.

229 E53rd St
New York, NY 10022
Tadka Indian Cuisine - New York

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Hyderabadi Baghare Baingan (Eggplant Curry)

Hyderabadi recipes are famous for their unique taste, use of roasted spices, and a spicy flavor, and this traditional Hyderabadi Baghare Baingan (Stuffed Aubergines) is definitely no exception! I'm not an eggplant-lover, but after Baingan Bharta, this one has to be my preferred choice. It's amazing how a simple blend of spices can taste and smell so good; the tiny aubergines (brinjals) are fried and then cooked in a delicious gravy made with freshly roasted spices ground to a fine paste. With coconut, peanuts, cumin, ginger and tamarind lending their unique flavor, the Baghare Baingan will leave you smacking your lips, whether you love eggplants or not!

8 baby brinjals (aubergines/baingan) - round and small
1 medium onion
2 dried red chillies
2 tbsp tamarind extract
1/2 tsp ginger paste
4 tbsp crushed peanut powder
2 tbsp dessicated coconut - grated
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp dhania powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 cup water
salt - to taste
4 tbsp oil + oil for frying aubergines

Wash the brinjals well, and make 2 perpendicular cuts through its base, upto 3/4 of the length, making a criss-cross, and leaving the head (green stem) intact. Now heat oil in a wok for frying. When its ready, drop 2-3 aubergines at a time and deep fry till they turn purplish-grey, and the skin becomes crispy. Remove and let it drain on a tissue paper.

Tip: Heat two tablespoons of oil in a thick and wide pan and add the brinjals. Sprinkle some salt and leave the brinjals to cook until well done and soft.

In the meantime roast the peanuts and sesame seeds. Switch off the flame and add the grated coconut to this, then pan-fry on low-flame till it turns light golden. Grind in a spice blender and keep aside.

In the same wok, take 2 tbsp oil and add the chopped onions to it. Saute for 3-4 mins till pinkish in color. Add the cumin seeds, coriander powder and red chillies, and roast for another 2 mins.

Now blend all of the roasted ingredients along with the turmeric powder.Add the ginger and tamarind paste, along with 1/4 cup water, and blend to form a smooth and thick paste.

Take a non-stick pan, add 1 tbsp oil, add the roasted spice blend and sufficient water to make a gravy. Add salt and lemon juice according to taste. Cover and let it simmer on low-flame for 5-8 minutes.

Now add the fried brinjals to this gravy. Stir gently to allow gravy to penetrate the slits in the brinjals. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

When its time to serve, garnish with some finely chopped coriander. Serve the traditional Hyderabadi Baghare Baingan with rotis, Parathas or Rice; off this goes to Mona who's hosting RCI-Hyderabad this month!

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Top 10 Healthy Recipes - Vote for The Finalists!

I sincerely apologize for the delay in posting this list of finalists, but let's just say, some unavoidable circumstances shifted this to a lower priority, and I'm sure my kind readers will forgive me this sin! Also, selecting 10 finalists from a pool of hundred healthy recipes is NOT a small feat; but we managed to nail it down to ten favorites, and now its upto you all to decide who wears the crown, and walks away with Pam Anderson's beautiful new cookbook! So here's presenting the top 10 healthy recipes that made their way to the finals. Use the voting form to vote for your favorite recipe; please be honest, and choose wisely; its not as easy as voting for a US president - this is the Best Healthy Recipe contest, and it deserves your full concentration!

Dee's Date & Almond Rolls
An intriguing mix of almond butter, dates, sunflower seeds, apple-juice and cocoa powder, these tiny rolls are extremely hard to resist!

Sunita's Peanut Butter & Puffed Rice Squares
An innovative use of puffed rice, chopped dried fruits and nuts, chunky peanut butter and molasses - these delicious breakfast bars are sure to b a hit with kids and adults alike!

Cristina's Healthy Summer Salad
It's hard to make a salad very interesting, but here's one with swiss chard, lettuce, strawberries and cashew nuts , all mixed with a zesty orange and parsely dressing!

Ricki's Zucchini & Pineapple Mini Loaves
A healthier version of a heavier bread, this is a great recipe that uses leftover zucchini, avocado and pineapple mixed with barley flour, dates & sunflower seeds to make these delicious mini-loaves!

The Taste Tinkerer's Masala Muffin Vadai
For a healthier take on the favorite Masala Vadai, these savoury muffins are made of chana dal (lentils), onions, spices, olive oil and flax seeds - very filling, yet low in calories!

Ashley's Healthy Applesauce & Oat-Bran Muffins
Packed with the goodness of soymilk, amaranth-flour, whole wheat, oat-bran, nuts, as well as no sugar and no egg, these have got to be the healthiest and tastiest muffins ever!

Sharon's Summer Black Bean & Quinoa Salad
Quinoa, black beans, red peppers, cucumber and cilantro all tossed with some zesty salad dressing and a hint of butter make this a lovely yet healthy take on a filling salad recipe

Priya's Berry-Tasty Pancakes with Jam
Made from whole wheat and oat flour, berries, walnuts, no sugar and no eggs, then topped with homemade fresh fruit jam, these pancakes are the perfect breakfast ever!

Nags' Whole Wheat Curry Noodles
Whole wheat noodles get a spicy makeover with addition of a curry base, eggs, fresh veggies and some indian spices, making it healthy and tasty at the same time!

Tal's Old-Fashioned Organic Apricot Cake
Filled with the richness of organic apricots, and healthier ingredients like whole-wheat flour, quinoa flour, date-molasses and natural cane sugar, this old-fashioned cake is all set to roll!

Thanks again everyone for your wonderful entries. It was hard to choose just a few, but unfortunately, I cannot afford 100 cookbooks to give away! The voting will be open from tomorrow until Sept 30th; so vote for your favorite Healthy Recipe, and may the best one win! Please visit the entire roundup for more ideas.

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Eggless Chocolate Cake Recipe - Revisited

After my recent post about egg substitutes, I tried using them to revisit my old eggless chocolate cake recipe! Eating a cake is sinful for some, but not with this recipe that uses whole wheat, no eggs, minimal butter and all the goodness of chocolate! Cakes and desserts don't necessarily have to be elaborate and high in calories - this simple, healthy and wholesome cake is a classic example of how you can indulge without being overly guilty! The ghiradelli chocolate that I used gives it a rich texture, and the applesauce and sour cream make it soft and smooth without using eggs! perfect for a weeknight dessert, this eggless chocolate cake recipe is for keeps!

1 cup wheat flour (or whole-grain pastry flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup applesauce or 1/2 mashed banana
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter - at room temp
1 tsp vanilla essence

Note: you can skip the butter altogether if you use AP flour; but with wheat, you do need the butter to make the cake soft.

Take a bowl and mix the sour cream, butter, applesauce (or mashed banana) and essence properly.

Seive the wheat flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Now add this to the sour cream mixture and beat properly in one direction. Whisk continuously for 5-7 mins till the mixture starts to fold and form peaks.

Melt half of the chocolate chips in the microwave, then add this to the cake mixture. Add the remaining chocolate-chips and blend in to just fold everything together.

Preheat oven at 350 deg F.Grease a 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray. Pour the mixture into it. Bake for about 20-25 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Microwave Method
You can also pour the cake mixture into small ramekins or microwave-safe bowls, then bake on high for 8 mins. Repeat this for another 8-10 mins, until the cake is done.

Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Then slice into wedges, dust with some powdered sugar, and top with a few berries. Serve this delicious Eggless Chocolate Cake to your guests, or indulge in a guilt-free dessert yourself!

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Nankhatai - Eggless Almond Cookies
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
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Alcohol - Drink Responsibly or Avoid it Altogether!

Alcohol in the form of beer, wine, spirits, or cocktails is consumed by many people around the world. At the same time, there are a few people who simply do not relate to alcohol in any way, and avoid it always. But like any other social habit, you should learn to drink responsibly, if you must - and if you can't do that, then its good to simply avoid it! Self control is the key, and remember, Alcohol does NOT do any benefit to your health; it may give you temporary euphoria, but so does dark chocolate! so make sure you educate yourself about Alcohol, and exercise self control. An occasional drink at a party or to celebrate an anniversary is enjoyable, but when inclination turns into an obsession, it's easy to become an alcoholic, and believe it or not, that's not an easy habit to get rid of!

Why this sudden post on preaching, you might think - actually, I just about a neighbor who passed away last night due to alcohol addiction. His kids were my friends; me and my brother have spent days and evenings playing with them, and I've seen them take the pain of an alcoholic father. It was even harder for their mother, who was stuck in a relationship that was going nowhere, just for the sake of her kids. They even tried alcohol rehab and drug treatment, but at the end, what happened was sad, and it just made me realise there could be so many others in this world who theow away their lives like this!

If you are an adult who loves to consume alcohol occasionally, you are not at sin. In fact, wine is one of these spirits that has been cited to be good for the body when taken in proportion. However, heavier consumption of alcohol, far from being helpful, initiates free-radical damage in the body linked to heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver, depression, violent tendencies, and many other disorders. It is important to drink responsibly, as not only your life, but the life of your friends and family depends on it. So don't let a craving turn into an addiction!

Know your limit
If you do not already know how much alcohol you can handle, its best to stick to just one glass. If you are not sure, have a friend or family member allow who can stop you from going overboard. Its always good to err on the lower side, as different drinks have different effects on your system, so a glass of scotch is not the same as a bottle of beer!

Eat food while you drink
Never drink alcohol alone, which is a sure-shot way to get drunk. It is particularly good to eat high protein foods such as cheese and peanuts, which help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system, thereby helping you keep control over yourself.

Do Not Succumb to Peer Pressure
Accept a drink only when you really want one. One small glass is sufficient to mingle at a social party; it does not mean you have to keep drinking till the party's over! Personally, I don't think there's any shame in refusing a drink; but if you feel its a social obligation, stop at the first round; keep a friend with you who can force you to stop if you can't, and don't ever give in to requests for "just one more round"! Better yet, just order a soda!

Never Drink & Drive
When drinking out, if you must drive home, have your drinks with a meal, not afterwards. This allows time for the alcohol to be burned up and for it to be absorbed slowly into the circulatory system. Remember, drinking and driving can cost you way more than a traffic violation; don't risk your life for it! The laws have defined limits, but it basically translates to "not more than one beer"!

Do Not Combine Alcohol with Medication
Use alcohol carefully in connection with other drugs, including over-the-counter drugs such as sleeping pills and cold or cough medicines. Alcohol should be avoided while taking certain antibiotics, arthritic, anti-depressant, and many other prescription medications. Check with your physician or pharmacy before you drink while on any prescription drug.

Never Force Someone Else to Drink
Respect the right of an individual who chooses not to drink; forcing him to have alcohol is a bigger crime than drinking it yourself! Take inspiration and try limiting yourself to a single glass; maybe this will boost your self control.

Generally speaking, alcohol is mainly consumed as part of social gatherings, as people yearn to be accepted by their friends, families or colleagues and alcohol can sometimes help to achieve that acceptance, but there can be a fine line between acceptance and being taken advantage of. The responsible consumption of alcohol is defined as deciding upon what to drink, when to drink and most importantly why to drink. If you enjoy alcohol in any form, ask yourself what are the reasons you do so, and you might not find many reasons to support it, or they may suddenly seem to lame! Use it to celebrate some special occasions, but have a long-term perspective, and do a favor to yourself, your health and your family by knowing when to stop! And if you are a victim who wants to have a second chance, try an alcohol rehab program; remember, you can do it if you put your heart to it!

A significant number of families are destroyed by an untreatable drinking habit; don't let yours be one of them!

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Badam Burfi - Almond Fudge

Burfis, a traditional Indian sweet made with milk, khoya and flavoring comes in varieties of shapes and forms. From saffron to chocolate, pineapple and coconut to mangoes and almonds, Burfis have honored several festivals and gatherings. So to celebrate India's Independence Day, and also the festival of "Rakhi" this weekend, I made these delicious Kesar Badam Pista Burfis. Made with milk and flavored with saffron, you can call it an Indian version of Fudge! Mildly sweet and adorned with chopped almonds and pistachios, they look pretty on a plate and are pretty easy to make! So try this simple badam burfi recipe and spread the festive spirit around!

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) condensed milk
sugar (optional, if needed)
6 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) - melted
6-7 strands of saffron + more for garnish
2 drops yellow food color (optional)
slivered almonds & pistachios - for garnish

Soak the almonds in the milk for a at least an hour. remove the skins, then using a blender or food processor, blend the almonds and milk together into a fine thick paste.

Soak the saffron in 2 tbsp warm milk and set aside to bleed.

Take a deep skillet, set it on low-medium heat, and add the almond paste and keep stirring continuously. After 3-4 minutes, add the sugar, saffron and the melted ghee slowly into the pan (in small increments) while stirring continuously, and cook till the ghee is absorbed by the almonds.

As the mixture thickens, add the condensed milk and the food coloring, then again stir for another 5-7 mins, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool just slightly. Lightly grease a square baking tray (about 1/2 inch deep). Transfer the mixture to the tray while it is still warm. Garnish with some chopped almonds and pistachios, and the remaining saffron strands.

Now allow to cool, about half an hour. Then cut into diamonds or squares. If its still soft, refrigerate for 15 mins then cut. You can store the burfi in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for upto a week. This goes to Pooja for her Independence Day theme this week, featuring Orange-Green-White colors.

Serve the Kesar Badam Burfi to your friends and family. Here's wishing every Indian a very Happy Independence Day, and I also wish every brother & sister a Happy Rakhi as they celebrate their bond of love!

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Kesar Elaichi Shrikhand (Yogurt Dessert)
Coconut Burfi (Laddus)
Kesar Rasmalai

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Egg Substitutes For Baking & Cooking

I have loads of readers who have asked for Eggless Recipes, especially for cakes and desserts, and though I always try to add a little eggless version in my posts, I thought it would be good to write a separate post about using Egg Substitutes in Cooking and Baking, and how they affect the taste and texture of a recipe. Eggs are sometimes hard to substitute, mainly where desserts are concerned; but most of the times, with a few tweaks in the recipe and diligent use of certain natural or artificial substitutes, you can still get an eggless version which is not inferior to the original! Lots of people are strict vegans or vegetarians, and many others choose simply not to eat eggs; whatever may be your reason, here is a post that will solve all your troubles so you'd never have to ask anyone for an "eggless recipe" again!

General Egg Substitutions
1 egg = 2 heaped tbsp potato starch or arrowroot powder
1 egg = 1 small banana (or 1/2 big one)
1 egg = 2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water
1 egg = 1/4 cup silken tofu
1 egg = 1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg = 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds + 2-3 tbsp warm water
1 egg = 1 tbsp soy flour + 1 tbsp water
1 egg = 2 tbsp vinegar dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 egg = 1/4 cup fruit puree + 1/2 tsp baking powder

In a cake, the eggs serve as a leavening agent, helping to make the cake light and fluffy. In baked goods such as cookies and muffins, the eggs add moisture and act as a binder, gluing all the other ingredients together. So depending on what you are baking, you may need to choose an egg-substitute that works the best.

Flat foods such as pancakes and cookies don't rely on eggs for lift, so you can safely omit the egg from the recipe; however, it's a good idea to add a tablespoon or two of additional liquid like milk, fruit juice, or water to restore the recipe to its original moisture content.

Savoury Recipes
Arrowroot starch, Potato starch, Cornstarch, Whole-wheat flour, unbleached, oat, or bean flour, Finely crushed breadcrumbs, cracker meal, Quick-cooking rolled oats or cooked oatmeal, Mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or instant potato flakes are all great substitutes for eggs in savoury recipes like Casseroles, Patties/Cutlets, Breads and main Course entrees. Play around a little with these ingredients and experiment till you find the right balance. Try using 2-3 tbsp of any of these ingredients to replace 1 whole egg, and try choosing an ingredient that's already a part of your recipe so you do not alter the original taste a lot. Again, egg-replacers work the best as they have no taste of their own.

Commercial Egg Replacer
Ener-G is an incredibly versatile and easy to use commercial egg replacer available in most health food stores and larger well-stocked grocery stores. Despite the instructions on the package to mix Ener-G with two tablespoons of water, some recipes will need a bit more moisture when replacing eggs using Ener-G, so you may need to compensate with an extra tablespoon of water or soy milk. Ener-G and other store-bought egg substitutes are relatively flavorless and work best in baked goods, such as cookies, muffins and cakes, and can also be used to bind ingredients together in a vegan casserole or loaf. Ener-G is vegan and certified kosher, but be sure to read the labels carefully on other brands, as some may contain egg whites.

Bananas and Applesauce
Smash up or blend about a half a banana or 1/4 cup applesauce to use as an egg replacer in baked goods such as muffins, pancakes or yeast-free quick breads. Bananas and applesauce add the perfect amount of thick moisture, like eggs, but they won't help your dishes rise or turn out light and fluffy, so be sure to add 1/2 tsp extra of baking powder or baking soda to help it rise if needed.

Silken Tofu
Tofu is the best way to substitute eggs in savoury dishes such as a quiche, fritatta, sandwiches or salads. The texture of silken tofu or crumbled regular tofu is surprisingly similar to boiled or cooked eggs, and can lend a nice taste to the recipe.

Silken tofu is also an appropriate egg substitute in baked goods. To use, blend 1/4 cup silken tofu with liquid ingredients until tofu is smooth and creamy. While it won't alter the flavor of a recipe, using tofu as an egg substitute will make baked goods a bit on the heavy and thick side, so it works well in brownies, and pancakes, but wouldn't work well in something like an angel food cake which needs to be light and fluffy.

Flaxseeds or Whole Grains
Combine 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds with 3 tbsp boiling water in a small bowl for each egg you wish to replace. Let it stand approximately 10 minutes, until water is absorbed by flax, and then add to the recipe in place of egg

Egg substitutes are a preferred way to avoid eggs in your cooking. The lesser the amount of eggs a recipe needs, the easier it is to substitute them, without losing flavor or texture. Replacing eggs in recipes is also recommended at times to reduce fat and cholesterol content. So try these simple solutions for eggless recipes and experiment with them to find egg substitutes that work best with a recipe!

If you have a tried substitute that you'd like to share, please do so via comments and I'll update the post with your suggestions!

Eggless Recipes:
Cranberry Walnut Scones
Eggless Anjeer(Fig) Icecream
Chocolate Banana Bread
Eggless Thumbprint Cookies
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Mixed Berry Pavlova Dessert- Meringue Cake

"Pavlova", a famous Australian dessert, is basically a meringue cake with a light, delicate, crisp crust and a soft & sweet marshmallow center that is produced by folding a little vinegar and cornstarch into stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar. This dessert is then served with whipped cream and some fresh fruits. Named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, this dessert is as beautiful as the ballerina herself. Light and airy, this Meringue Cake is a wonderful way to make use of seasonal or frozen fruits and a bundle of eggs that no baking recipe will be able to utilize! Inspired by a recipe I had seen some time back, and determined to master the meringue-making process, I set forth last weekend to bake this beautiful Mixed Berry Pavlova. It wasn't all child's play, but at the end, I knew I had baked something I could be proud of!

Pavlova is a meringue, and it is important when making any meringue that the egg whites reach maximum volume, so make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and free of grease. Since we need just the whites of the eggs, the eggs will need to be separated. It is easier to do this while the eggs are still cold; I generally use the EggCracker for this and it works pretty well. Once separated, cover the egg whites and let them come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

I have to say that Deb's first-hand instructions about baking the meringue helped me overcome my initial disaster; also, it is definitely advisable to follow the temperature and size suggestions in the recipe, as baking times would vary quite a bit depending on the size of the cakes, making it hard to get the "perfect" texture, which essentially means firm and light on the outside, soft and marshmallowy on the inside!

Adapted from Joy of Baking's Pavlova recipe

Meringue Cake
4 large egg whites
1/2 tspn salt
1 cup superfine castor sugar
1 tspn white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tbsp cornstarch (or cornflour, or arrowroot powder)

Berries and Whip Cream Topping
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry sauce
1 cup frozen mixed berries (thawed)
1/4 cup regular Whip Cream

Preheat oven to 250°F (130°C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper. (I ust used an icecream bowl to mark the rounds)

Pour the vanilla and vinegar into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)

Assembling the Pavlova
Just before serving, gently place the meringue-cakes onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the thawed mixed berries on the top, then drizzle some raspberry sauce over it. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

This Mixed Berry Pavlova is a delicious yet light dessert to cater to your sweet tooth. Try with other fruit toppings, or even nuts, but this traditional version definitely works the best! This was a learning experience for me indeed, and if you are a first-timer too, try my Meringue Recipe Tips to make this a bit easier for you!

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Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil & Cream Sauce

cheese ravioli-tomato-cream sauce
Ravioli, by far, is my preferred pasta choice over any others, and I tend to be partial towards places which serve a good plate of Cheese Ravioli cooked in Creamy Tomato sauce. I don't like the plain marinara sauce with my Ravioli, and white sauce gets too heavy, so whenever we make Stuffed Ravioli at home, I go for a Tomato Basil and Cream sauce, which is a best of both the worlds! Filled with the goodness of tomatoes, spiced with basil and herbs, and with just a hint of cream to give it the smooth texture, this sauce is a perfect accompaniment to any stuffed ravioli, be it mushroom, spinach or cheese! Just sprinkle some Parmesan on the top and you are good to go. Try this Cheese Ravioli with homemade Tomato Basil Cream sauce and you'll never miss the restaurant recipe again!

1 packet of spinach raviolis
Parmesan cheese - for garnish
slivered almonds - for garnish

Ravioli Sauce
3 large fresh tomatoes
1/2 small onion - chopped
3 garlic cloves - minced
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tsp basil flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup whipping cream
salt & pepper - to taste

Boil the tomatoes for 4-5 mins or until tender; Chop the onions and saute them in some oil till they look pinkish and glazed. Add the minced garlic and saute for another 1 minute.

Now blend the tomatoes, onions and garlic mixture to form a smooth paste.

Add some butter to a non-stick pan, then add the tomato-onion-garlic sauce and let it boil on medium-flame. Add the basil and oregano, salt and pepper, and let it simmer.

Whisk the whipping cream and the Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl to form a thick mixture. Reduce the flame to low, and add this mixture to the tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, cook the cheese ravioli in boiling water as instructed on the packet.

To Serve
Layer the cooked ravioli in a dish, then top it with a generous coating of the sauce. Garnish with some more Parmesan cheese, slivered almonds and basil flakes. Serve your delicious restaurant-style Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil & Cream Sauce and flatter your friends and family! Off this goes to DK's AWED-Italian Food event, and also to Harini's Food in Color featuring Red this month!

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How To Break a Weight Loss Plateau

weight-loss plateau
No matter how efficient your diet & workout plan, you are bound to face a weight-loss plateau at one point or another. But this does not mean your weight-loss trend has ended, it just means that you need to revise your tactics and fitness routine to overcome the plateau and march ahead! Plateaus are common to anybody who's been on the same diet and exercise plan for a while, which is the reason why you don't see the same results you saw at the beginning. But its not as scary or difficult to break a weight-loss plateau. I've done it myself, and I hope my ideas help you achieve similar results too!

If you've been eating right and exercising often, you've probably been losing weight at a rate of one or two pounds a week. However, as you get closer to your optimum weight, it usually gets harder to lose those last few pounds. You know you've hit a weight-loss plateau when more than two weeks have gone by without any further change in your weight, while you still follow the same regimen! So the first thing you do is review your exercise and diet program, find out what's wrong and make amendments. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started!

Calorie Intake & Diet Plan
As you probably know by now, weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume. A healthy diet plan is the key, so take a quick look at your food diary, or calorie intake.

Are you still keeping track of your portion sizes, even when you are dining out?
Are you spacing your meals 5 times a day, dividing daily calories between them?
have you recently sneaked in a few desserts or carbs thinking a piece won't hurt much?
Did you switch to sodas instead of smoothies and juices?
Are you drinking enough water?

It's easy to increase your calorie intake accidentally, without realizing how its hurting your diet plan. Remember, a baked potato is not the same as a baked potato with gravy and butter! So evaluate your calorie consumption; maintain a diet hhournal if you like; if you are well above the 1200(for women) or 1500 (for men) daily intake level, you can try cutting down a couple hundred calories to break the plateau. However, if you are consuming less than 1,200 calories a day (1,500 for a man), your body may react by slowing down as a self-preservation measure. This means your metabolism rate falls, and you actually store fat even if you're working out consistently.

Eat 5-6 Times a Day
Eating frequently stabilizes your blood sugar, controls appetite, and keeps your energy up. Ideally, you shouldn't go more than three or four hours without eating something. Doing so slows down your metabolism and makes your body burn fat at a slower rate. Its also very important to eat as soon as you feel hungry - a feeling of hunger indicates your blood sugar is going down, which makes you prone to craving simple sugars. If you're eating three times a day, eat five. If you're already eating five times, upgrade to six or seven. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll be eating more food; just divide your calories into 6 meals per day.

Change Your Workout Routine
"Variety is the spice of life" - and this phrase has never been so fitting to a scenario! It takes your body only four weeks to get used to a workout. Once something becomes a routine for your metabolism, plateaus are likely. The most efficient way to break a plateau is to shake up your fitness routine. Join an online weight loss program to find tips and ideas. If you are used to 30 mins on the treadmill, switch to cycling or kick-boxing instead. Instead of the stationary bike, switch to a Stepper or a StairMaster. Instead of running in the morning, try playing tennis or do some swimming. Use Interval Training to your advantage; short bursts (30-60 sec)of higher-intensity movement, such as sprint, followed by 2-3 mins of less intense exercise like walking. Adding variety to your routine brings revs up your metabolism as the body has to start adapting again.

Add More Strength Training
If you are not doing so already, start lifting weights now to boost your metabolism and burn fat! When you lift weights, your muscle fibers suffer tiny tears which causes you to experience soreness for a couple days; but that's normal. Changing the intensity of the workout helps a lot. Try to increase the amount of weights you lift, or try changing the number of repetitions. Whenever you change a workout routine your body responds by burning fat. Do not under-estimate the power of strength-training; in fact, lifting weights is the best way to conquer that plateau! Challenge your muscles with harder exercises or heavier weights (every 6 to 8 weeks), adding a set of risers during your step class, increasing the incline on the treadmill, the duration of your run/walk, etc… It might seem tough at first as your newly challenged muscles will have to work harder but you will burn more calories and build more lean muscle mass in the process. its always a good idea to do a combination of resistance machines and free-weights, as the latter can increase metabolic rate as high as 10% in one session!

Avoid Alcohol & Drink Water
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Every time you feel the urge to snack, drink a glass of water first and see if the urge goes away. Coffee, tea or any other juices count as liquids, but add an extra glass of pure water for each cup of coffee you drink, as caffeine tends to dehydrate the body. Research has shown that BMR increase by 30%, not to mention flushing out all toxins from your body, thereby contributing to a healthy weight-loss. As for Alcohol, it is a known fact that it contains a large amount of calories, but hardly any other nutrients, and some of these are also high in sugars and fat. Alcohol consumption slows down the fat burning capabilities of the body, as the body focuses on using the alcohol (a toxin) as fuel, rather than burning fat for energy. Alcohol also dehydrates, which in turn, makes you hungry. So avoid Alcohol, and start drinking more Water instead!

Losing weight requires exercise or controlled caloric intake . While its important to maintain a healthy weight, do not get obsessed by it! And plateaus in weight loss are very common; it only means you've successfully lost a lot of weight, and now you need to re-evaluate your regimen to overcome the weight-loss plateaus. Just follow the simple steps above, and you'll be ready to drop a couple more sizes the next time you buy yourself a new dress!

Related Articles:
Best Workouts Outside of the Gym
What to Eat Before & After a Workout
Combine Cardio & Strength Training for Healthy Weight Loss

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Nutella Crepes with Peaches & Raspberry Sauce

I've always preferred crepes over omelettes, especially for breakfasts, but after watching Alton Brown's Good Eats episode featuring Crepes, I have to say I've become a fan! These Nutella Crepes are particularly special as they have hazelnut-flavored Nutella, one of my favorite indulgences! Seriously, there's no way someone could refuse a helping of Nutella; creamy, chocalatey, nutty, gooey, velvety, sweet & tasty, I could go on describing this spread, and Crepes are a wonderful way to enjoy the goodness of this special blend. This is my second heist with crepes, the first one not being good enough to post:). But I think I've mastered it now, thanks to Alton's tips and a tried-and-tested recipe. These beautiful crepes filled with Nutella, then topped with raspberry sauce, and served with some fresh seasonal fruits on the side, are perfect to enjoy as breakfast or brunch, or even as an easy dessert!

I always used to think that Crepes are very difficult to make, and its easier to stick with pancakes. but after seeing Mike's Mango Nutella Crepes, and reading his excellent tips, I was inspired to try these myself. A colleague at work had shared her mom's perfect crepe recipe with me, so I was all geared up to give crepe-making a shot! Unfortunately, my first experience was not so exciting! But, Alton Brown's expert advice once again got me going. I changed Mike's recipe just a little to use some water in place of milk. I served my crepes with some fresh peaches and raspberry sauce, and now I have to say I'm no longer afraid of making Crepes! Thanks Mike, and thanks Mr.Brown, wherever you are!

Makes about 6-8 crepes

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tbsp melted butter
butter - for coating the pan

Filling & Garnish
Nutella - for filling
Raspberry sauce - to drizzle on the top
Seasonal Fruits - sliced (I used Peaches)
Powdered sugar - for dusting

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking.
Note: The batter can be kept for up to 48 hours.

Now warm up your pan (a 7 or 8 inch skillet works the best) to about medium-high heat, giving it a few minutes to ensure it reaches a steady temperature. Melt down a knob of butter and swirl it around to coat the surface of the pan.

Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board(or any flat surface), and allow to cool slightly.

Continue until all the crepes are done. Wipe the inside of your pan clean with a paper towel after each crepe, and butter the pan for the next one.

Assembling the Crepes
Spread a generous layer of Nutella on each crepe. You can even add some chopped fruits inside the crepe. Then fold it once in half, then again in half to form a triangle.

Transfer your crepe to a serving plate. Drizzle with some raspberry sauce, and serve with some sliced fruit like Mangoes, Peaches or Strawberries.

These Nutella Crepes are perfectly delicious with coffee for breakfast. To serve these as desserts, top with some ice-cream of whipped cream!

Related Recipes:
Wholegrain Blueberry Pancakes
Mango Streusel Cake
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