Sunday, December 25, 2011

Three Nearly-Instant Recipes, and a Book Meme

It really is the most wonderful time of the year, the season of parties and reunions, of noshing with abandon and of sighing over the passage of yet another year in the blink of an eye. My longing to spend long hours cooking and baking always peaks at this time of year. Here are three recipes I made recently that resulted in near-instant gratification. Two of them rely on store-bought puff pastry; this is one ingredient that is gloriously fatty and unabashedly sinful but those crisp flaky layers are worth it, especially if you spread the calories love around by sharing with friends. 

Frozen puff pastry can be found in practically every supermarket in the US, usually the Pepperidge Farm  brand. The advantage of using this brand is that it is vegan but it does have a long list of ingredients. In the holiday season, I use Trader Joe's puff pastry which is all butter with a short ingredient list. 

1. Fauxmosas. That is, faux samosas. Or maybe you want to call them quick vegetable puffs. Or savory strudel. You make a delicious stuffing of vegetables and encase them in puff pastry in the quickest way possible. 

I made a potato and peas filling, just the way typical samosas fillings are made, by sautéing cumin and fennel seeds, onions, ginger, coriander powder, turmeric powder, dried mango powder, red chili powder, boiled potatoes, peas and plenty of fresh cilantro. Another idea for a filling would be paneer/tofu and vegetables, or even sweet fillings, say cooked apples for an apple pie like dessert. 
  1. Keep a lightly greased baking sheet ready and preheat the oven to 400F. 
  2. Sprinkle a clean counter lightly with flour and thaw out a puff pastry sheet. 
  3. Roll out the sheet into a thinner square. spread the filling in the middle third of the square, then fold both edges over. 
  4. Place the roll seam side down on the baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut slits in the roll at intervals as shown in the picture. 
  5. Paint all over the roll with a pastry brush dipped in egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water). 
  6. Bake for 30 minutes of until golden and puffy. 
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature, slicing along the slits to make individual servings. 

2. Elephant ear cookies. This is a three ingredient wonder: puff pastry, sugar and cinnamon.

  1. Keep a lightly greased baking sheet ready and preheat the oven to 400F. 
  2. On a clean counter surface, lightly sprinkle some flour. Thaw out a sheet of puff pastry on this surface. 
  3. When the puff pastry is thawed but still cold, roll it gently in one direction to make a long rectangle. 
  4. Sprinkle the rolled pastry with a generous coating of granulated sugar, then sprinkle lashings of cinnamon powder. 
  5. Roll one long side of the pastry into the center, then the other side so the two scrolls meet in the middle. 
  6. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, cut the tube of pastry into 1 cm pieces. I get 16-20 pieces from each pastry sheet. 
  7. Lay each piece flat on the baking sheet, then use the bottom of a glass or katori to flatten it a bit. 
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and golden. 

3. Chai concentrate. I don't have a picture for this one but liked the idea so much that I had to share it with you. A strong cup of tea is what I want and need a couple of times every day at work, and I like my tea strong, black, sweet and milky in the typical Indian fashion. That means either stocking the office fridge with a small bottle of milk every week or making do with the horrid non-dairy powder creamers. This chai concentrate that I found via the Kitchn neatly solves the problem by packaging milk, sugar and spices neatly in one jar. It took me less than a minute to open a can of sweetened condensed milk, pour it into a clean glass jar, stir in some cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon and slap the lid on. The jar stays in the fridge and a spoonful or two adds milk, sweetness and wonderful warming spices all at once into my cup of tea. 

On The Bookshelf

Blog memes are fun to do once in a while and I enjoyed reading the One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five meme on Niranjana's Brown Paper. Here I am following along-

1. The book I'm currently reading: The Secret Garden.
They say don't judge a book by its cover but I must confess I would not have sought this book out but for this gorgeous embroidered cover. This collision of crafts and classics caught my eye and I found a copy of the book in the library. Alas, the copy I am reading is an older publication with a different cover, but the story, first published in 1911, is very engaging. 

2. The last book I finished: The Book Thief
This book spent months on the New York Times bestseller list and kept popping up in book suggestions from several friends so it was inevitable that I was going to read it sooner or later. It is a beautiful book but harrowing (it is set in Germany in the time of the holocaust) with many moments that are unimaginably sorrowful.

3. The next book I want to read: The Phantom Tollbooth
One more classic of children's literature that I had never heard of until recently, when the 50th anniversary of its publication was covered in magazine articles and blog posts. I'm looking forward to reading it. 

4. The last book I bought: The Happiness Project
We had a holiday gift exchange in my knitting group and I purchased this book to include in the gift basket I put together. I enjoy reading the blog and we could all probably use a little inspiration to lead happier lives. 

5. The last book I was given: I was given two books recently- Knitting Around the World is a gorgeous book that I received in the knitting group gift exchange. This is one of those books that I will savor and learn from for a long time.

And Top 100 Baby Purees was a gift from an aunt, and a book that will be useful in just a few short months when Lila starts to eat table food. I plan to use some concepts from baby led weaning but I'm sure to use some homemade purees too.

If you feel like playing along, dear reader, please answer the 5 meme questions in the comments. Maybe we will all get some good book ideas from each other for the new year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! 


  1. what fun fixes for instant snacks!
    I like puff pastry samosas and make them in the typical triangle.

    Maska-fan! that is what we used to call it in India!! It was just sugar then, but I like the cinna- sugar combo!

    about the chai conc, sounds awesome, but i have a question, do u need that extra sugar, as we are using sweetened condensed milk?

    The secret garden is a lovely book, I read it when I was little, check out the movie too, it is a good adaptation of the book.

    Happy new year to U , V, Dalu dada and Lovely little Lila!

  2. hiiii nupur i was waiting fr ur post u kno wht i am now in a habit to scroll on ur blog atleast on alternate days have tried some f ur recipies the were gud .n merry christmas to u n d baby .manasi frm pune.

  3. Merry Christmas Nupur..
    All the recipes look awesome. Enjoy your weekend.

  4. I love frozen puff pastry! It's so versatile. Your recipe for Fauxmosas is great - I'll definitely give that a try sometime. I think the Pepperidge Farm brand is good, but the Trader Joe's is better. Even better - for those of you in St. Louis - is what Straub's sells in their frozen food section (I don't remember the brand, but they sell this and Pepperidge Farm).

    The Secret Garden was a childhood favorite of mine. Wonderful story, and I still occasionally read it as an adult. In fact, now that you've reminded me of it, I'll probably reread it over the holidays! And speaking of holidays, Happy Holidays!

  5. I just saw the recipe on the kitchn as well and well... the extra sugar is optional.. should hv guessed ~sheepish grin~!
    And also wanted to add this, the last book i 'read' was Pride & Prejudice ( I cannot get enough of that book)but that was not a hard copy not on the kindle, but an audiobook on my iphone, they have this free app and tons of books (free and paid), I am currently listening to 'Adventures of Sally' by P G Wodehouse.
    Do u like Wodehouse, Nupur?

  6. A very Christmas to you AND Happy Holidays dear Nupur! I just saw that copy of Secret Garden yesterday along with the same embroidered covers for Sense and Sensibility and lovely! Will be back to do the book meme..:)

  7. Those elephant ear cookies look really nice, love the name too...Those are a nice set of books, there...

  8. The Phantom Tollbooth is a fantastic book! You won't be sorry you read it at all - I recently re-read it, and it totally holds up to an adult reading. LOVE IT!

  9. Happy mommydom, Nupur! The baby is beautiful!

  10. Happy Holiday! Nupur. Those stromboli like samosas look fantastic. I am going to check out those books you have suggested.

  11. Wishing you and your family happy holidays Nupur!


  12. So nice to have you joining in the meme! Wishing you and yours happy holidays, with lots of good books and good food...

  13. Elephant ear cookies - I didn't know this was so easy to make! I think this is a great thing to make with little kids, whether you are a mother or a kindergarten teacher.

  14. Interesting meme Nupur. Here is my list:
    The book I am currently reading: The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
    The last book I finished: Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)
    The next book I want to read: We the living (Ayn Rand)
    The last book I bought: We the living (Ayn Rand)
    The last book I was given: 14 years of loyal service in a fabric covered box (Scott Adams). I am huge Scott Adam fan so my ex-colleague and very good friend gifted this book.

  15. we dont get puff pastry here :( but those are two lovely recipes. irani chai that hyd is famous for gets its sweetness and flavour from simmered sondensed milk. so i always use a teaspoon of it in regular sweetened chai.

    have a lovely end of the year dear nupur and family. lots of love

  16. Wishing you and your lovely family a very happy New Year, Nupur.

  17. Dear Nupur -- could you possibly be speaking of the very Secret Garden I read as a child? I remember it yet :)

    Your puff pastry samosas look fabulous -- wishing you a Happy New Year!

  18. You have two of my favorite childhood books there - The Phantom Tollbooth and The Secret Garden. Both excellent.
    best wishes for you ll for 2012.

  19. Happy New Year Nupur to you and your beautiful family! XO

  20. wish you and your family a very happy new year.
    the puff pastry dishes look wonderful.

  21. Long time, Nupur-sorry i've been really out of touch! Congratulations!! Just read the news about the arrival of darling baby Lila, she looks adorable!

    Great post, with wonderful ideas-love the chai concentrate thing. It would be a great thing to have at work and also make a great present! Love, love Secret Garden-hope you are enjoying it!

  22. great ideas for quick recipes and a lovely meme - the secret garden is such a lovely story that I remember from my youth and now sylvia (aged 2) has a condensed version that she is already loving to have read to her - best wishes for a happy and healthy new year with baby Lila and your family

  23. A Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2012 to u and your family... May you be blessed with happiness and good health...
    I have blogged about the book meme...

  24. Wishing you n yours a very happy n prosperous new year 2012.Puff pastry recipe looks so delicious.

  25. Manasi- Maska fan is a great name, I shall have to remember that. You know, in fact next time I will add extra sugar to the condensed milk for the chai concentrate, because the way it is now, if I add enough to make it as sweet as I like it, it gets too milky. Does that make sense at all? :)
    And oh yes, I do love Wodehouse! especially the aunts- gotta love the aunts, I have a bunch of crazy lovable aunts myself so I identify.

    Manasi from Pune- Thank you so much and wishing you the same!

    Cooks- Thank you :)

    Kitchen Riffs- OOh, thanks for the tip, I shall have to look for the other brand in Straubs', I have a feeling it is the buttery and expensive but tasty dafour puff pastry. Happy Holidays to you too!

    Lavanya- Happy Holidays to you too! The covers are too lovely aren't they?

    Arch- Thanks!

    radioactivegan- I AM loving the Phantom Tollbooth- such a clever book it is!

    Vani- Thank you so much :) mommydom is a wonderful place to live in.

    indosungod- I think both you and your daughters would like the first two books!

    Mamatha- Happy holidays and happy new year to you and your family too!

    niranjana- I really enjoyed doing the meme.

    easy recipes teacher- I agree, the elephant ears would be a really fun project with kids.

    Anonymous- Thanks for playing along! I've never read Scott Adams, will have to look him up.

  26. arundati- I hope you have a lovely new year too!

    BongMom- Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2012 too!

    Linda- Yes, it is the same Secret Garden, a very charming story. Happy New Year to you too!

    Diane- Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful 2012 too!

    Soma- Thank you and wishing you the same!

    Sayantani- Wishing you and your family the best too!

    musical- How are you?? How wonderful to see you here again! Glad you got a chance to hear about baby Lila :) and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the Secret Garden.

    Johanna- Aww, how fun that Sylvia is already old enough to enjoy more complex stories! Best wishes to you and your family too!

    Rujuta- Thank you so much for the wishes and I hope you have a lovely year too!

    hemalata- Thank you and happy 2012 to you too!

  27. those elephant ears look so cute! such an easy way to impress :)

  28. Happy New Year Nupur! :)

    For weaning try having a look at - I wrote for them for a couple of years in 2007/8 and included a lot of recipes which are Indian and convenient

  29. Hiii Nupur,

    Yesterday we tried the fauxmosas and they came out so yummmm! they will be surely part of next high-tea :) thank you for sharing the recipe :)
    You have a nice day and take care.
    Warm Regards,


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