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Product review : no bake cheesecake

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On a latest visit to the supermarket, this box of ‘No bake cheesecake’, beckoned me. The pic on the box set me drooling and I thought to myself, ‘why not?’ But the Puritan in me rebelled at the thought of a dessert out of a box. I managed to pacify her by telling her that it’s purely to prove that it won’t be good enough.

When I got home, I shoved the box at the back of the baking cupboard, since ‘she’ was still growling at the thought of making it. It idled there for a month, before I noticed it and decided to ‘try it out. The voice in my head continued throughout the making and all the ‘critique’ comments are courtesy ‘her’!!!!!!!

The box had three pouches :
1) biscuit crumbs (“doesn’t look enough for the pan size mentioned”)
2) cheesecake mix in powder form (“looks like stone dust”)
3) blueberry sauce (“we will see what it’s like when we open it”)

Biscuit Base:
The instructions asked to mix the crumbs with 75gms of melted butter (“Cheapskates! Couldn’t include that in the box now could they!”) I thought the quantity of butter to crumbs was a lot and was proved right when I mixed them. The mix became almost like a paste and took some effort to set it into the pan.

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Cheesecake mix:
I put the powder in a bowl and added 350 ml of cold milk and beat it as per the two sets of beating instructions. Wow! The texture was amazing! (“It’s alright”)

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Setting up:
I pulled the tin out of the fridge and was surprised to see how well the base had set (“hmmm!!!”) I upturned the bowl on it and dropped the entire mix and then set about spreading it with a spatula to level it right. It was quite springy and was a delight to set.

I returned the tin to the fridge for a while and then opened the sauce packet which was sadly very very less. This was the only and biggest let down. (“gloat!! gloat!!!) I spread the miserly quantity over the set cake as best as I could and let it set for another 2 hours.

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The pictures say it all as to how it looked and the many many comments from my friends and family told me how great it was in taste.

All in all a hearty recommendation for it as a rainy-day saver or for an instant dessert when you have unexpected guests.

Notes:
* I feel that the butter can be reduced to 50 gms as the biscuit base turned out to be too hard.
* Although the pack says setting time is 2 hours, I found it easier to cut and it tasted much better the next day. On the same day, it was still a bit loose and cutting it was not easy. The biscuit base was also so hard that though the cake was cut, the base wasn’t and I ended up with a bit of a mess on the plate.
* I could have really used up any additional sauce to drizzle over it while serving the pieces and I would seriously recommend making or buying some extra.

I look forward to hearing from my readers on this. And in case this post inspires you to try it out, pls do share your success and experience with it. I would love to learn more!

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Tripping in 2013!!!

I realised travel has become a synonymous part of my life when I sat down to review my year that was. I want to share a conversation that I had with someone over my travel ambition in 2013. I had just quit my corporate job and one of the reasons was that I wanted to travel. So when someone asked me how much travel do I want in a year, my reply was at least once in two months!! ♥

And I realised I did achieve that and more in 2013.

Way to go…. onwards to 2014 where the first trip of the year is slated to be to Benares – a city I am fascinated by at the moment.

My travel diary for 2013 was something like this:

♥January was driving down to Shekhawati & Bikaner- golden mustard fields, painted havelis and vista of camels.

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♥ February saw me on a trip to Mumbai where I savoured the KalaGhoda Art fest for the first time.

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♥ March was all about another trip to my favourite state of Rajasthan – Jaisalmer, Jodhpur & Udaipur.

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♣ April,May & June were quite travel free on account of moving house which in itself is very much an adventure.

♥July saw me off to Agra for a wedding and the clamour that ensues forth.

♥ August, it was back to Mumbai but a very short personal trip in which I did manage to fit in one lunch on the 18th floor which was floating in the monsoon clouds!

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♣ September & October were no go!
♥ November, I was back in the saddle with a photo trip to Pushkar – camels and camels and more camels…..

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♥ November & December ended with work trips to Benares and I was both repulsed and captivated by its many charms. But its a buzzing city with some very warm and helpful people and the food here is to die for, for sure.

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Some of these trips were chronicled and started as we’ll intentioned blogs but stuttered due to paucity of time and …… Er…… Interest !!!

Hoping to resuscitate some of them this year as a flashback travel diary!

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Red velvet cheer!!

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First day of the new year started with a lunch outing at the recently opened cyberhub in DLF phase 3, where one is simply spoilt for choice of restaurants to choose from – coffee shops, deli, ice cream parlours, pizza joints, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Californian …………… Endless! The swanky upscale food court was the perfect place to start the first day of new year – the buzz of the place was an affirmation of things to come in 2014.

This year is the perfect launch year for my range of home accessories and interior design business. Amen to that!

A new year resolution is to complete my travel blog from the past years and get them all in.

This is also the year to start my travel groups to explore India in my own unique style. First trip coming up with Benares in Jan 2014.

Maybe a first travel book of sorts should come out from my travels – an idea to explore in 2014.

Also a year to start with photo exhibitions and selling my photos commercially.

So as you can see, this year is choc a bloc with new resolutions and loads to achieve!

Wishing everyone a great 2014!!!!!!

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Note from Benares – spirituality

Having heard so much about the ganga aarti at the dashvamedh ghat, we ventured out for it one evening and couldn’t have asked for a better spend of our time while in Benares.

The ghat was all prepped up with seven prayer stations set up on raised platforms, each framed by an arch; for the seven Brahmins who would conduct the aarti.

People were seated on the ghat steps and on the boats below. We opted for a boat view and glad that we did. On enquiring, we were told that the crowd consisted of only tourists and that was a surprise for us.

The entire scenario was sane and organised; no pushing and no waiting. And no overt noise or confusion anywhere.

The ceremony started with a traditional shankhnaad (blowing of conch shell) and then mantra chanting. The rising smoke of the incense and camphor seemed to drape each priest in a mystique while they performed the steps fluidly. The crowds, sounds of the aarti, temple bells, conch shell, the chanting and the gentle rocking of the boat – it was surreal.

Feeling calm and quiet, I wondered is this spirituality?

Notes

* The aarti starts at 6 pm every evening and finishes by 6.45 pm.

* One can sit in any of the moored boats for a fee of 20/-

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Note from Benares – A jaunt through kachori gali

Yesterday evening I went pickle shopping with our erstwhile and very resourceful guide who took me to a lane called kachori gali. And there was this Willy Wonka’ s version of a pickle shop with all kinds of sweet and savoury preparations in huge glass jars -some were yesteryear friends like mango, chilies, lemons, ginger and then there were others I had never imagined could be made into pickles like bamboo, olives, black pepper and others I can’t figure out the English name for .

I opened the glass caps and delighted in poking, prodding, sniffing and tasting a few before finally making my selections. Besides pickles, there was quite an assortment of sun dried savoury stuff like pappadams (papad), badiyan, etc too which are generally fried or roasted to prepare to eat.

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Tired out after the shopping bout (more from the effort to dodge people while walking in the narrow lane) and in severe need of caffeine, my guide suggested a popular foreigner haunt – brown bread bakery. It turned out to be a charming and rustic rooftop place but with very average food.
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Ordered chocolate pancake (that I had first tasted at Pushkar this year and fallen into gourmet ecstasy) but . . .  and the filter coffee was warm and just not crisp enough.
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Plus point after labouring up five flights of stairs was the sense of openness and privacy which is so devoid in the congested streets of Varanasi where everyone and their uncle seem to be out to trample on your toes.

A word to the wise ‘Keep your elbows handy while walking the narrow lanes of Benares.’ ;-
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Annual Christmas Cake Mixing at The Park hotel

The table setting was straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, laden with bowls of fine chocolate sprinkles, multi-colored discs of chocolate confectionary, cylinders of marsh-mellows, big round cookies, bits of sponge cake, tiny squares of tutti-frutti, fluffy icing cream and a huge bowl full-to-the-brim with molten chocolate. It was a veritable smorgasbord for any kid worth his/her sugar,  er… salt!

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This was a table setup done especially for the children who had accompanied their moms to the Annual Christmas Cake Mixing event at The Park Hotel, New Delhi. Usually organized as a fun activity for the staff, The Park decided to collaborate with CaL and invited 20 Mommy Chefs to partake in the do. The event is a prelude to the traditional Christmas cake that is a delicious cornucopia of dry fruits, alcohol and warm spices – not to forget the ubiquitous cake mix.

The goodies!!!

The goodies!!!

The idea is to get everyone involved in mixing sacks full of dry fruits (cashew nuts, almonds, raisins, dates, apricots,) candied peels (ginger, orange, citrus), powdered warm spices (nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon), brown sugar and loads of alcohol (rum, brandy, vodka, whiskey). This concoction is then “brewed” for over a month and finally added to the cake mix and baked.

The onlookers gazing longingly at the table!

The onlookers gazing longingly at the table!

The budding junior chefs were kitted out in aprons and caps and asked to vent out their creativity on the cookies and sponge cake bits with the variety of sprinkles for decorations.

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Two chefs attended to the tiny tots and helpfully piped the cream as and when directed.

 

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The enthusiasm and delight with which the kids participated was evident in the telltale smears on their lips. I am sure the sampling was done to ensure a perfect taste to their creations! 

 

 

 

All the young chefs!

All the young chefs!

 

Picture courtesy The Park

 

 

 

Picture courtesy The Park

The mommies were also ensconced head-to-toe in protective gear of gauze cap, plastic apron and some gloves and then let loose onto the mixing table. First all the sacks were emptied in the 4-5 large baking trays and all the dry fruits were mixed thoroughly. To our surprise, we found some coins (1 & 2 rupee) were added in to the mix. These are “good-luck” bits, explained one of the chefs while offering that we hold onto one each for ourselves. Then came the spices with their overwhelming aromas, prompting someone to comment that it smelt all warm and wintery here! And the best was saved for last – the ambrosia!

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Most of us got a bottle each to tip in which we did with great gusto. Reeling back when the fumes hit us, the mixing proved to be a therapeutic and decadent experience for all of us. Laughing and cheering, we moved on from the mixing table for a group picture.

Picture courtesy The Park

Picture courtesy The Park

The ones who enjoyed this the most were definitely the kids who could be seen gamboling onto the green patch and the cabanas by the side with great abandon while the parents relaxed with their cuppas of hot tea/coffee and snacks – all served with such warm smiles by the hotel staff.

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It was heartening to see a hospitality giant open its doors and provide such a joyful experience. The bonhomie and camaraderie of the staff while engaging in this activity was simply a delight to behold. Now, I am waiting anxiously for an invite to the final cake tasting. After all we need to check how good a job we did with this – anyone listening?! CaL? The Park?!