Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
If you have an over-ripe banana with black spots lying on the counter that no one wants to eat or even look at, this recipe is for you.
Especially if your child is home from school due to some unforeseen circumstances and you do not have anything planned for lunch, or, if you had not factored in the amount of time you will have to invest to keep a 6 1/4 year old entertained without any screen-time.
Perhaps that's the story of just my life! You guys are super parents and totally rock it. Nonetheless, this is an easy recipe to have on hand.
So as I was saying, snow-day here. School is closed. As usual the call came at 5am in the morning. Till the call comes it is a guessing game - will it be a two-hour delay start or will the school be closed. After receiving the call on 10 (ok just 2) different mediums, I turned off all the alarms and happily settled down for at least 4 more hours of sleep, or at least I thought I would. The 6 1/4 year old came trotting into the room at 7:45 am and said in a very sweet sing-song voice - "Wakey wakey Mamma... its a school day!"
Nooooooo! School is closed! Let me please sleeeep!
But that ship had sailed. We are up and we are wide awake! And today we are hungry right after waking up.
After the cuddles (my favorite part of the day) and breakfast, started the non-stop chatter, painting, playing, negotiations about screen time... and boy! can he negotiate. Sometimes I feel that I am up against a shrewd politician or a lawyer (who still needs to be fed all his meals at home and still can't tie his shoelaces).
Anyhoo, I told him that since this is a school day I will let him watch TV at 4pm (we leave for tennis at 5). But I am getting a strong feeling that I will relent and let him watch TV at 3! And it is just 1:20pm. I asked him to go clean up and then read a book while I am finishing up this post. Then, I promised, I will play with him again!
Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
Ingredients: (Yield - 4 small)
  • One very ripe banana
  • Whole-wheat flour - 3 tbsp.
  • Eggs - 2 large, at room temperature
  • Cinnamon Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • A dab of butter for frying.
In a bowl, mash the banana using a fork. Now whisk in the eggs till nicely incorporated. Add the flour and the cinnamon powder. The sweetness comes from the over-ripe banana, so the more ripe it is the better.
Heat the frying pan and add a dab of butter. Ladle a spoonful of batter to the pan. Once the batter settles down, it is ready to be flipped over. Fry the other side and transfer to a paper towel lined plate - it will take about a minute on each side. Repeat till you are done.
I served the 6 1/4 yo old these pancakes with some chocolate syrup and a side of steamed broccoli & carrots. Who says pancakes are just for breakfast.
Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Whole-wheat Orzo Salad with Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans

Whole-wheat Orzo Salad with Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans

This one has been lying in the draft since the 2nd week of December.

This is more of a freestyle salad. Add whatever rocks your boat. Mine tasted more like a Orzo Chaat as I added chaat masala to it. I had made some for myself to counter one whole week of not too healthy eating. The 6 yo was fighting a double whammy of sinus infection and the flu and I was exactly not watching what I was eating.
I usually buy sprouted whole-wheat elbow pasta from the whole-sale aisle of Wholefoods. But last time I was there, they were out of it! So I picked up this instead. I have been trying to incorporate one day of non-animal protein in a week - and an orzo salad with chickpeas sounded just perfect.
  • Orzo - 1 Cup
  • Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans - 1 can, rinsed and washed
  • Chopped/cubed/diced cucumber, onions, tomatoes
  • Chaat Masala - 3/4 tsp
  • Cilantro - a handful, finely chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Couple of squeezes of lime or lemon juice
  • Olive oil
You have to cook orzo the same way you cook your pasta. Boil it in enough water (generously salted) for 8-10 minutes till it reaches your preferred level of firmness. Use a colander to drain the excess water.

In a bowl,  toss the orzo along with the cucumber, onion and tomatoes. Season with salt & freshly cracked black pepper & Chaat Masala, drizzle a little olive oil and finish it, sprinkle the chopped cilantro and finish it off with a couple of squeezes of lime/lemon juice.


Store leftovers in the fridge.


Monday, February 08, 2016

Super Bowl 50 & Super Easy Snacks - Blanched Almond Chaat (inspired by Peanut/Badam Chaat)

Blanched Almond Chaat (inspired by Peanut/Badam Chaat)

The Broncos won yesterday.
The 6 1/4 yo (who chose to watch a movie instead) was a little disappointed.  He sat through the pre-game patiently and then asked us if he could watch something else. What made him choose his winning team - Panthers of course. Panthers run faster than horse, hence they should win. Now who can argue with this rock solid 6 1/4 yo logic.
The husband was rooting for the Broncos. He has his reasons, I did not ask.
Me - I still do not understand the game and was mostly excited by the snacks and was looking forward to a power packed half-time performance.  
Sadly the snacks were more exciting than the half-time. Bruno Mars (totally my opinion) was the star of the show and the rest was kind of meh!
Now coming to the recipe. This is inspired by a popular snack - Peanut Masala. Since I am allergic to peanuts, I thought of making it with blanched almonds instead.
Blanching almonds is very easy. Bring a pot of water to boil. Throw in the almonds for about a minute. Take the pot off heat and drain off the liquid. Pat dry the almonds with a paper towel and peel the skin off. It's as easy as that!
Ingredients: (Was enough for the 3 of us)
  • Blanched Almonds - 1/2
  • Red Onion - 1 small, finely chopped (About 5 tbsp.)
  • Tomato - 1 medium, cored and diced
  • Green Chili - 1 or 2, finely chopped
  • Cilantro - a handful, finely chopped
  • A squeeze of lemon or lime juice
  • Chaat Masala - 3/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sev or Haldiram Bhujia - couple of spoonfuls
  • Mustard Oil - 1 tsp (optional)

Mix everything together except the Sev (or Bhujia) and oil. Drizzle a little mustard oil (for some added bite), sprinkle the sev (or bhujia) and serve.

Enjoy with a cup of tea.


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Super Bowl 50 and Super Easy Snacks - Roasted Cauliflower Florets

Super Bowl 50 and Super Easy Snacks - Roasted Cauliflower Florets

Its half-time. Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos. So far the score is 7-13 in favor of  Broncos. Coldplay (British rock band - yes, I had to google them) is performing. By the looks of it, the band has a solid fan following. I have never heard of them before only goes to show that I am in the 'almost senile' category!
Next up - Bruno Mars & Beyoncé - now we are talking! Watching them dance almost makes me want to become fit! And learn dancing! Almost!
Making snacks for Super Bowl was once again a last-minute thing. I was down the whole day with a bad case of lower back pain. When the husband called from Wholefoods to ask me if I wanted him to pick up a bag of chips (he goes grocery shopping armed with an exhaustive list but he will call at least 3 times.. every time) I found myself adding things to the list - chicken wings (raw), cauliflower and a few more things.
The husband picked a tub of spicy guacamole from Wholefoods along with some blue corn chips.
And I made some Baked Chicken Wings, Roasted Cauliflower Florets & Blanched Almond Chaat (inspired by Peanut Chaat) to munch on while 22 men fought.. err... played on the field. Quite an impressive snack line-up, if I may say so myself, considering I hauled myself up half an hour before the game started to make the snacks.
I called the roasted cauliflower florets vegetarian wings jokingly , so that the 6 1/4 yo would eat it without troubling me! He loves the Baked Chicken Wings that I make.
  • Cauliflower - 1 medium head, cut into florets, about 2 Cups
  • Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Curry Powder - 1 tsp (use your favorite masala/spice blend)
  • Paprika - 1/2 tsp (use chili powder if you prefer more heat)
Super Bowl 50 and Super Easy Snacks - Roasted Cauliflower Florets
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with foil, brush a little oil and set aside.
In a bowl whisk together oil, salt & pepper, curry powder (or your choice of spice blend) and paprika. Toss the florets in the oil-spice mix well. Spread the florets in a single layer on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or so. Halfway, give a toss.
Serve hot. With a condiment, if you prefer.
By the time I was done with the post, half-time was over! I have to admit, I enjoyed last year's half-time performance more!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Whole wheat Date Orange Raspberry Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake


I had been toying with the idea of combining the flavors of orange and raspberries and coming up with a moderately healthy loaf cake recipe for the 6 1/4 yo's snackbox. So I pulled up my trusted Eggless Date Cake recipe, made a few changes and ended up with this Whole wheat Date Orange Raspberry Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake. Phew!
Halfway into the process, I had second thoughts whether 6 1/4 yo would like it since he's not a huge fan of raspberries, so threw in a handful of semi sweet chocolate chips to seal the deal.
The end result was a gorgeous, super moist, flavorful loaf and oh, did I mention that the 6 1/4 yo took a bite and said.. "Its so good Mamma, can you give it to me for snack tomorrow!"
  • Whole-wheat flour - 1 Cup
  • Dates - 25, pitted
  • Milk - 1 Cup
  • Oil - 2 tbsp.
  • Egg - 1 large, at room temperature
  • Sugar - 2 tbsp (you can skip the sugar)
  • Cinnamon Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice - 1/4 Cup
  • Orange Zest - of a whole orange
  • Baking Soda - 1 tsp
  • Chocolate Chips - 1/4 Cup or more
  • Handful of raspberries - Optional
In a bowl, soak the dates in the milk and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour. Shake off the excess flour and set aside.

In the blender, puree the date-milk mix along with the oil and sugar. Add the egg and give it a quick pulse. Pour in the orange juice and pulse it one more time. Fold in the orange zest. Do not over-mix. Transfer the batter to a bowl.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking soda and set aside.

Add the flour-mix to the date-mix about 1/4th cup at a time and whisk it till the entire mixture comes together nicely. Be careful not to overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips gently.

Let the batter hang out for 20 minutes.

Pour the batter into the greased pan, randomly place the raspberries and push them in slightly.
and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes till done (baking time will differ). Insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, it is good to go.

Cool down completely before serving. Slice and serve. Drizzle some ganache if you wish.
Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Chocolate Mud Cake

Chocolate Mud Cake

Its rich and dense and decadent and oh-so chocolaty. It has become a family favorite as well as my go-to fudgy chocolate cake recipe! Its like a party in the mouth. I used it for the first time to make the 6 yo's 6th birthday Dinosaur Dig Site Cake. I was looking for a fudgy cake recipe to sculpt out a volcano (with flowing lava) but a sudden bout of shoulder spasm & a flared up tennis elbow made me scrap that idea and go with a very simple dig site cake - the Dinosaur loving kid was thrilled to bits. I used my Eggless Brownie recipe to make the mountains and crushed graham crackers to give a sandy look.

Then I used the same recipe to bake the husband's birthday cake. This time in a 9 inch round tin pan with minimal decorations. Poured some chocolate ganache, sprinkled some chocolate shavings and added few raspberries. Everyone loved it!
Today I'm making it again for a friend's husband's surprise birthday party. On request! That makes me really happy! It is a layered cake. I filled the layers with orange  flavored chocolate mousse filling and covered it with whipped Ganache (beat the ganache for at least 5 minutes till it becomes lighter in color) and then poured Ganache over it. Decorated with Ferrero Rochers and ganache dipped Whoppers.

  • All Purpose Flour - 2 Cups
  • Sugar - 2 3/4 Cup
  • Cocoa Powder - 1/2 Cup
  • Instant Coffee - 2 tbsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Powder - 2 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Eggs - 4 large, at room temperature
  • Oil - 2 tbsp
  • Butter - 1 1/4 Cup, unsalted (preferably at room temperature)
  • Chocolate - 8 ounces, I used Ghiradeli bittersweet baking bars
  • Milk - 1/2 Cup
  • Hot water - 3/4 Cup
Preheat oven to 300F.

In a cup, quickly whisk together the coffee granules and 3/4 Cup hot water. Using the double broiler method (see below), heat the butter, sugar, chopped chocolate and coffee-water mixture till everything melts and comes together into a smooth concoction. Take the bowl off the heat and let it cool down.

While the chocolaty concoction cools down, grease a 8 inch or 9 inch round pan. Cut out circles in the size of your pan out of parchment paper and line the bottom of it with it. Spray (oil) or butter the top of it. Use long strips of parchment paper (at least two inches higher than the pan) and stick it to the side of the pans. Smooth the parchment paper down with another dab of butter. This will ensure that the parchment paper sticks and the cake can rise freely without spilling over.

Once the chocolate mix has cooled down slightly add the milk to it. This will bring down the temperature further before adding the eggs. Give it a quick whisk. Now whisk in the eggs one by one using a electric mixer followed by the oil.
Now add the dry ingredients. I sifted the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a separate bowl and then added to the wet mix.
Beat the batter on low speed till everything comes together.

Pour the batter into the prepped pans, and bake for 2 hours till done. Insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean, it is done. I prefer checking at the 1.5 hour mark and adding additional 10 minutes till done. Another way of knowing that the cake is done is that it will start pulling away from the sides.
If you are using a 13x9 rectangular pan, it will take lesser time to bake.

Let the cake cool down before transferring it to the cooling rack.

Slather it with frosting or eat as it is. I like to pour ganache over it.

The recipe from here! 

Double Broiler Method: Fill a saucepan halfway with water and place a heat-safe bowl on it. Make sure that the water in the pan does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the ingredients on low heat, stirring occasionally.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Oven baked Mahi Mahi with Bell Pepper Salad

Oven baked Mahi Mahi with Bell Pepper Salad

Yo! I  have jumped on the "making healthier choices" bandwagon this year again! But this year I have set more realistic goals for myself. Flavorful and fun meals is what I am aiming for. Lean fat, loads of greens, smoothies, smart snacking and including small portion of desserts are on my list. Easy stretches, walking and Yoga have made the list too! Now the question is how long can I stay committed! We'll see!

We just came back from a 6 day long Hawaiian vacation (more about that later). The first week of January was mostly spent in getting ready for the trip! So today was officially the first day of making healthier choices this year.
It might be a little difficult to follow the goals I have set for myself from the very get-go as we still have some leftover snacks from the trip - now we shouldn't waste food, right? But I am sure I will get better over the next few days.
For this week, I bought fish and shrimps, broccoli, carrots, beans, bell peppers, cucumber, hummus, whole wheat pasta, an assortment of nuts (including dark chocolate covered almonds), dates, frozen fruits (for smoothies), cheese and of course lime/lemon and cilantro to brighten up the dishes I make. Oh, I got some collard greens as well - it will be the first time I make some! Will let you know how it turned out!
As always, this is an easy-fix dinner which works out great for weeknight.
Oven baked Mahi Mahi with Bell Pepper Salad
  • Mahi Mahi fillet - about 4 (1 lb)
  • Garlic Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Bread crumbs - 1 tbsp (I used Italian style bread crumbs which added an extra punch of flavor)
  • Salt & Black Pepper powder to taste
  • Lime Juice
  • Oil - 1 tsp
For the bell pepper salad, I tossed a cup of cored and diced bell peppers (red, yellow & green), 1/4 Cup of onions, 1 small tomato (de-seeded and chopped), 1/4 Cup of finely chopped cilantro, few squeezes of lime juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and 1/2 tsp of chaat masala (optional). You can add little chili flakes or cayenne pepper powder if you prefer some heat.
Set the oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 425 F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, brush it with little oil and arrange the fillets in a single layer. Drizzle the remaining oil on the fish fillets, hit them few squeezes of lime (or lemon) juice and season with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumb to coat the fish fillets evenly.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes till done. Serve hot with a side of salad. Whole wheat cooked orzo is our new favorite choice for carb. But we ate a slice of multi-seed whole wheat bread tonight as I totally forgot to pick some orzo up from Wholefoods!
Oven baked Mahi Mahi with Bell Pepper Salad

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year folks!

Happy New Year @Cocoawind

We popped open the bottle of bubbly around 8pm, right after we put the 6 year old in bed for the night. We told ourselves.. it's midnight somewhere! It is going to be a quiet night with lots of champagne (for me) and junk food (again, for me)! And perhaps a hopeless Hindi/Bollywood movie that we had earlier sworn that we are not going to watch.
The husband will be going for a 'Commitment Day' 5K run bright and early tomorrow.. so we are going to turn in early today.
Till last year, our New Years Eve has always been fairly eventful. But this year we were looking forward to staying in. This year has just been too eventful that quiet is what we are craving for.  
Or, perhaps age is catching up with us fast.
Next year we might just feel differently. We might just go out and paint the town red!
For now... Happy New Year people.. it really does not matter how you are celebrating... as long as you are celebrating it with your loved ones.
Be safe!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Saltine Cracker Toffee - sweet & savory

Saltine Cracker Toffee - sweet & savory
Warning: These sweet and savory treats are super addictive. Make them at your own risk.
These make for a wonderful last minute gift using few basic ingredients that might already be in your pantry. These went as gifts to friends too along with the boozy Alton Brown inspired fruit cake and mulled wine.
We had friends over during Christmas. I made this drool inducing saltine cracker toffees just before they came and I let these chill in the fridge overnight. The next day while I was packing some to put into gift bags that I was taking to a Christmas dinner invitation, I told them to help themselves to some and immediately followed it up with "... don't eat the pretty looking ones" and they obliged.
Funny part was that they did not mind at all and picked out the 'unpretty' looking ones.. as if that was the normal thing to do! I was almost ashamed when I realized how much I harass my friends and family when it comes to taking photos. My family, of course, has no choice. And I have some absolutely wonderful friends! Period!
Saltine Cracker Toffee - sweet & savory
  • Saltine crackers - 1 sleeve
  • Butter - 2 sticks/1 Cup
  • Brown Sugar - 1 Cup
  • Chocolate Chips - 2 1/2 Cups
  • Toppings of your choice - M&Ms, mini chocolate chip, chopped toasted nuts etc
  • Half teaspoonful of kosher salt (optional)
Saltine Cracker Toffee - sweet & savory
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange the saltine cookies in a single layer on it. Keep it aside.
In a saucepan melt the butter and brown sugar. Give it a gentle stir. Bring to a boil and let it boil, untouched for exactly 3 minutes. Take it off the heat and pour it over the saltine crackers evenly. Stick it in the oven for exactly 5 minutes. Take it out and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on the toffee layer and put it back in the oven for another minute to help it melt. Take it out and using a spatula spread it evenly.
Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and spread it on the slightly hardened toffee layer while its still hot.

Sprinkle toppings of your choice (add little salt as well if you like) and stick the baking sheet in the fridge and let it chill for at least 2 hours.

Break into small pieces. Start munching.

Store leftovers (if any) in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Happy Holidays!


Recipe adapted from - Sallysbakingaddiction

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mulled Wine - Perfect gift for the Holiday season

Mulled Wine

I love a warm mug of Mulled Apple Cider or Mulled Wine with slices of boozy fruit cake on a chilly winter night. This year I made both an alcohol version and an eggless, non-alcoholic version of the fruit cake. And a batch of warm Mulled Cider. These are all going as gifts for friends along with some Roasted Pecans.
The Mulled wine can be refrigerated for up to 7 days. Reheat the leftover gently and serve.
  • Red Wine - 750ml (one bottle of a fruity variety)
  • Apple Cider - 4 Cups
  • Peel of one orange
  • Honey - 1/4 Cup
  • Cinnamon - 3 sticks
  • Clove - 1 tsp
  • Star Anise - about 4 or 5
  • Freshly ground Nutmeg - 1 tsp
  • Slices of orange, a handful of cranberries - for garnish (optional)
Mulled Wine

Heat the wine, apple cider and honey in a pot on medium low heat. Let it simmer.

In a separate smaller pan, toast the spices for few minutes till fragrant. Add it to the pot of wine and give it a stir. Keep simmering on low heat for about for 30 to 40 minutes till the spices infuse. Stir a few times to make sure that the honey has melted

Ladle into mugs and serve warm. Store leftover in a clean, dry glass bottle and refrigerate for up to 7 days.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eggless Alcohol Free Fruit Cake

It wasn't long before I realized how deep rooted my little hobby has become. It was just day 4 of my self-declared break from blogging when I found myself jotting down/memorizing measurements even though I knew that I was not going to be blogging anytime soon. I caught myself  picturing how I would photograph this Eggless Alcohol free Fruit Cake even before I was done sifting the dry ingredients. Who was I kidding.. even though I wanted a break from blogging, blogging wasn't in the mood to let go of me! So now I have a new approach. I will blog when I want to, and I promised myself that I will not beat myself up if there were weeks of no new posts. I will be especially taking things slow since typing is one of the triggers that my shoulder spasm and tennis elbow pain worse! 
A break, however, is always rejuvenating, regardless how short it is.
This year it took me a while to start my Holiday baking. Once the 6 yo recovered from a nasty bout of flu, I fell sick. Then some bad news from home threw us all off the track for a little while. But life goes on. We pick up the pieces and move on.
I kicked off the Holiday baking with the Alton Brown inspired Boozy Fruit Cake. I baked it in mini loaf pans and I will be gifting these to a few friends. Friends who do not consume alcohol and/or eggs will be getting this Eggless Alcohol Free Fruit Cake. The addition of the glace cherries makes this cake a little on the sweeter side. You can switch out the glace cherries with dried fruits of your choice, if you, like me do not like your fruit cake over sweet. Addition of chopped orange peels and lemon peels also help in countering the sweetness.
  • Assorted Dried Fruits - 2 Cups, chopped (cherries, blueberries, apricots, dates, cranberries, plums)
  • Glace Cherries - 1 Cup, chopped (I used red, green and yellow)
  • Raisins - 1 Cup
  • Orange Juice - 1 Cup, freshly squeezed or store bought (or apple cider)
  • Toasted Chopped Nuts - 1/2 Cup (pecan, almonds, cashews, walnuts) 
  • Ground Jamaican Allspice - 1 tsp (or 4 whole cloves and 6 whole allspice berries, ground)
  • Ground Ginger - 1 tsp
  • Ground Cinnamon - 1 tsp
  • All Purpose Flour - 1 1/2 Cup
  • Whole-wheat Flour - 3/4 Cup (or you can use just APF)
  • Brown Sugar - 1 1/2 Cup, packed
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Baking Powder - 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Oil - 1 Cup
  • Milk - 1 Cup
  • Vinegar - 2 tbsp.
  • Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Check out:
Eggless Alcohol Free Fruit Cake

In a medium bowl, soak the dried fruits in the orange juice or apple cider. Cover it with cling wrap and stick it in the fridge overnight.
Preheat at 325F. Grease and flour your baking pan(s) and set aside
In a bowl or a measuring cup, add 1 Cup of milk. To it add the vinegar and let it stand till it curdles.
In a largish bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix in the sugar and the oil till everything starts coming together. Now add the soaked fruits. Whisk in the curdled milk along with vinegar. Do not overmix. Lastly, fold in the toasted
Bake at 325 F. I prefer checking at the 30 minute mark. Since I baked in mini loaf pans, it took about 40 minutes to bake. The mini Bundt pan was done in 35 minutes. If you are baking in a 8-inch circle pan or a regular loaf pan it will take close to or over an hour - but keep checking after the 40 minute mark. A little peek will be enough. Once it looks done, poke the cake in the middle with a toothpick or a skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Cover the cakes in cling wrap and store in an airtight container. If these are gifts (like mine) and you have baked in disposable mini loaf pans, cling wrap and then cover with an aluminum foil. These will stay fresh for 5 days.
Serve a slice with a warm mug of Mulled Apple Cider or Mulled Wine.
Mulled Wine

Monday, December 07, 2015

A short break. Happy Holidays & a very Happy New Year!

I have realized that I have not been trying out new recipes like I used to. I have not been giving my blog my 100%. It is not that I do not have time on hand. After my parents left, I am left with a chunk of the day, when I do not have anything to do. I am almost tempted to blame it totally on the innumerable changes we have been going through this year. But there are other contributing factors too.
My tennis elbow (and accompanying shoulder spasm) which decides to flare up at all the wrong times. The flares have gotten too frequent off late.
Then there's this Social media. I have decided to be sparingly on Facebook & WhatsApp. Not only are these distracting, all the typing is making my pain worse.
The 6 1/4 yo's busy schedule. Chaperoning him around takes up a chunk of my time and energy too.
And finally, with the husband traveling frequently, there's no one to eat what I make! And I totally count on him to give me honest feedback on the recipes that I try out. Now I can always try out new recipes on Fridays. But by the time the week comes to an end, I am just too tired to execute my plans that I have been hatching all week. All I want to do is order Chinese take out! And that's exactly what we do!
The 6 1/4 year old is still a somewhat picky eater and he will not eat everything that I make. And sometimes he gives me very mixed reviews. Take for example the gorgeous Roasted Pecans. First he said he liked them. Then he said he did not like them. Then the other day when his father was snacking on a small bowlful, he took it from him and polished off almost half of it. Again today, he refused to eat them. Not reliable at all!
So till I get a hang of the schedule a little and a better control  of the nagging aches & pains, I have decided to take a tiny break from blogging. The break can be as short as a week. Now there has been weeks when there has been no new recipes published on the blog, but there has not been a day that I have not felt guilty about not blogging.
This is going to be a guilt-free break.
Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year (just in case I am not back in time to wish you all)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Roasted Rosemary Pecans - a Thanksgiving/Holiday/Christmas gift idea

Thanksgiving week is here! We will be spending it with our very good friends in Georgia. Suitcases are packed. Cranberry Chutney is made and bottled. Apple Streusel Cheesecake is baking in the oven. Rosemary Pecans are roasted and packed.
PG of Whiff of Spice forwarded me this recipe! She made something similar with almonds and put her own twists to it.

Since I am allergic to most nuts including pecans, I did not want to experiment and stuck to the recipe. I was totally dependent on the husband for feedback. The result was crunchy, sweet and savory toasty warm pecans and the rosemary added a boat load of flavor!
The 6 yo said.. these are crunchy like chips!
  • Pecans - 1 lb
  • Brown Sugar - 1 Cup
  • Sesame Seeds - 1/4 Cups
  • Kosher Salt - 1 tbsp.
  • Rosemary - 1 tbsp, packed, finely chopped
  • Egg whites - 2
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and keep aside.
In a big bowl, beat the egg white till they start frothing. Add the pecans to the frothed egg whites and toss to coat. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, salt, rosemary and sesame seeds. Now add the rosemary mix to the pecans. Using your hands or 2 forks/spoons mix well. Spread on the two sheets in a single layer and bake for about 25 minutes till the nuts are roasted and the herb coating is dry.
Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Moong Dal Halwa & Dhanteras

Moong Dal Halwa & Dhanteras

As I joyously waved the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon that was missing for the last 2 weeks and declared that I am going to get myself a bundt pan the next day, the husband commented - "..for Dhanteras?"
Now we are not the kind who keeps track of these things. Sensing my surprise, he explained. Apparently his inbox is flooded with Dhanteras special deals from all the Indian sites he subscribes (willingly or unwillingly) to.

Staying in a cosmopolitan city has its advantages. Traditions and festivals of people from different parts of India settled in Kolkata slowly seeped into our indigenous culture. My Ma got caught in this tradition some 20 odd years back years back when we moved to a new apartment building which was home to not just Bengalis. Each year she would buy a little something - a gold trinket, a silver holy basil leaf, silver toe ring, utensils for the kitchen.
For the last 5 years, each year my Ma reminds me about Dhanteras couple of days in advance. And each year I buy a little something too.  A spoon, a microplane,  - just using this as an excuse to spend a little (more)! But this year, my parents are still settling back down in Kolkata after their 3.5 mos stay with us and Ma forgot to remind me! She told me today when I called her that a neighbor (also not a Bengali) told her that if she is not buying gold or silver, she should buy something made with clay - so Baba bought some clay diyas. My parents will use those along with some tealight candles in lieu of Choddo Prodeep (Fourteen diyas/lamps) to pay their homage to their Choddo Purush (14 ancestors).

We try to introduce a little of the traditions we have grown up with to the 6 yo. This year the lights are already up - they will double as both Diwali and Christmas lights. We will keep them on for couple of hours a day till the end of the year. We try not go overboard with the lights - our way of participating in the festival of lights without feeling guilty about the misuse of energy.

Tomorrow the 6 yo and I will light 14 tealight candles and say 'hello' to our ancestors who are now stars in the sky!
So.. coming back to today, I picked up the Bundt pan - it was on my list for a long time!  And I made some Moong Dal Halwa  to take to a Diwali dinner invitation on Wednesday. Here's hoping that I will put the Bundt pan to good use soon!

Moong Dal Halwa & Dhanteras
Ingredients: (Serves 8-10)
  • Moong Dal - 1.5 Cups
  • Ghee - 3/4 Cup
  • Milk - 1  1/2 Cup 
  • Water - 1 1/2 Cups
  • Sugar - 1 1/2 Cups (use more or less based on your taste)
  • Cardamom Powder - 1 tsp
  • Saffron - Few strands
  • Almonds slivers -  a handful + some for garnishing (or you can add chopped almonds, pistachios and/or raisins)
Soak the moong daal in enough water for at least 3 hours. Rinse well and drain all the water. In a blender, make a paste with about 1/3 cup of water.
Heat the ghee in a pan (preferably non-stick) and add the Moong Daal paste to it. Do not skimp on the amount of ghee. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes on medium heat, stirring, scraping and breaking down the lumps as you go along. Once the raw smell is gone and the fat starts separating, the moong daal is ready for the milk concoction.

While the moong daal paste is cooking down, heat the milk, water and sugar in a separate pan till it comes to a boil. Lower the heat and add the cardamom powder and saffron strands. Let the mix simmer till it is time to pour into the moong daal mixture. Once you have added the milk-water-sugar-spices concoction to the dal mix (which is almost pale yellow at this point of time), cook it down till all the liquid gets absorbed and the fat separates again. Fold in your choice of additions and take it off the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature (but preferably warm). Store leftovers in a airtight container and stick it in the fridge.


Monday, November 09, 2015

A family favorite inspired by Panchmel Daal

A family favorite inspired by Panchmel Daal
This is a favorite! Not only with the family but with the friends as well. We love eating it with warm roti, a quick-fix salad of onions & cucumbers, a side of steamed veggies and we will always follow it up with something sweet!
Ingredients: Serves 4
  • Moong Dal - 2 tbsp.
  • Masoor Dal - 2 tbsp.
  • Urad Dal - 2 tbsp.
  • Chana Dal - 2 tbsp.
  • Green Moong Dal - 4 tbsp.
Soak the lentils for about an hour. Rinse, drain and pressure cook with enough water till soft (2-3 whistles). Set aside.
  • Onions - 1 big, sliced in half moons
  • Garlic - 2 fat cloves, minced
  • Ginger - 1 tbsp. grated
  • Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
  • Cilantro - a handful, chopped
  • Kasuri Methi - a handful, crushed between the palms
  • Green chilies - 1 (or more, depending on your heat preference)
  • Ghee - 1 tsp + 1 tsp (You can use oil as well)
Spices: Set 1
  • Cumin Seeds - 3/4 tsp
  • Whole Garam Masala - 1 inch cinnamon, 2 cloves, 2 green cardamom slightly crushed
  • Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
  • Coriander - 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 tsp (powdered made from 1 inch cinnamon, 2 cloves, 2 green cardamom slightly)
Spices: Set 2 for tadka/tempering
  • Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
  • Red Chilies - 2, split
  • Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
  • Bay leaf - 1 small
Heat 1 tbsp. of ghee/oil in a pan. Temper with whole garam masala & cumin seeds (spices from set 1). Once the cumin starts spluttering, add the slice onions, grated ginger and minced garlic. Fry till fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes & green chili to it and cook for few minutes till you see the oil separating from the side. Add the remaining spices from set 1 - coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala powder. Cook for few minutes till the raw spice smell is gone. Add the cooked dal to it (do not drain the water), cook till some of the liquid evaporates and reaches your desired consistency. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and crushed kasuri methi.
Heat the remaining 1 tsp ghee in another pan and temper it with the bay leaf, red chilies, asafetida and cumin seed (spices from set 2).  Once it starts spluttering add it to the cooked dal. Cover and cook for couple more minutes. Give it one final stir and you are done! Serve hot!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Whole-wheat Eggless Date-Apple Cake in a blender

Whole-wheat Eggless Date-Apple Cake in a blender
It was my Baba's birthday last month. And the 6 yo wanted a cake for him. Since my father is diabetic, I wanted to bake something which would be a slightly healthier option, if not totally diabetic friendly. So I kind of experimented with my Eggless Date Cake recipe. I halved the recipe since I wanted a small cake and switched out All Purpose Flour with Whole Wheat Flour. Baked it in a 6 inch round pan, added a thin layer of my quick-fix ganache (chocolate chips melted in the microwave with a little milk) and sprinkled some chopped almonds on it. The 6 yo was happy! And his Bonno (my father) ate a decent slice of cake for a change.
It turned out so well, I thought I will try out the Whole-wheat version of it once again, and this time with less sugar and chopped apples. If you want, you can totally skip the apples and add a handful of chopped walnuts to it instead. The cake turned out to be super moist and we loved it with our evening cuppa tea!
  • Whole-wheat flour - 1 Cup
  • Dates - 25, pitted
  • Milk - 1 Cup + 1 tbsp.
  • Oil - 2 tbsp.
  • Sugar - 2 tbsp (you can add a tbsp more if you find the batter less sweet)
  • Cinnamon Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Apple - 1, cored and cut into itty bitty pieces
  • Baking Soda - 1 tsp
  • Chopped almonds - totally optional
Whole-wheat Eggless Date-Apple Cake in a blender
In a bowl, soak the dates in the milk and leave it in the fridge overnight. If you do not have the time, just nuke the dates and milk in the microwave for 2 minutes on high, so that it softens.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour. Shake off the excess flour and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking soda.
In the blender, puree the (slightly cooled down, if nuking in the microwave) date-milk mix along with the oil and sugar. To it add the flour-mix about 1/4th cup at a time and pulse it till the entire mixture comes together nicely. Be careful not to overmix. Add the chopped apples to it and gently fold the pieces in.

Let the batter hang out for 15-20 minutes.
Pour the batter into the greased pan, sprinkle the chopped almonds (if using) on it and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes till done. Insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, it is done. Cool down completely before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Monday, November 02, 2015

S'mores Pops

S'mores Pops

I am trying to write this post while munching on Twix, Milky Way, Crunch and KitKat - the bite sized ones. Yup! I shamelessly ransacked my 6 yo's Halloween loot! It is a good thing that I am allergic to most nuts and do not like the awfully sweet candies, or he would have come back to an empty basket! Ha ha!
Coming back to the extremely easy dessert that kids absolutely love! I am yet to meet an adult who loves marshmallows.. but I am sure you guys are out there somewhere. All you need are some large marshmallows, leftover ganache, crushed graham crackers and some paper straws cut into halves or lollipop sticks.
Recipe for Ganache - here! This is a great way to use up leftover chocolate ganache. It was the husband's birthday last month and we had a small get-together. I had made a chocolate mud cake covered in chocolate ganache. I had some leftover and used it to make these treats for the kids.
The ganache has to be of the right consistency.. if it is too thick you will not be able to dunk the marshmallows in it.
Crush the graham crackers and put them in a shallow bowl. You can put the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and crush. You can use a rolling pin.
Keep the chocolate ganache ready in another bowl.
Twist in the lollipop sticks (or paper straws) about two-thirds of the way.
Dunk the marshmallows on sticks in the chocolate ganache. Turn the sticks slowly to catch the drips and gently shake off the excess.
Roll the chocolate covered marshmallows in the crushed graham crackers. Stack them upside down till dry.
Serve and be ready to see a lot of smiles all around! I have used a bucket of rice to stick the marshmallow pops before.
Check out the Valentine's Day special Marshmallow Pops here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Microwave Orange Flavored Kalakand - Happy Durga Pujo!

Dugga Pujo time at last! Yay! We look forward to Durga Puja all year.. there is so much of preparation and anticipation.. and food... loads of food! We celebrated Durga Puja this weekend, but actual Pujo started from yesterday and we celebrated with food! On the menu was Porota, Chholar Daal, Begun Bhaaja & Orange flavored Kalakand made in the microwave.
Kolkata Food Bloggers has been celebrating as well -  with various drool-worthy recipes, some traditional and some not so traditional. This week is dedicated to Mishti (sweets). I thought I will try out this very easy Microwavable Kalakand made with ricotta cheese and condensed milk. I never made mishit with condensed milk thinking that I will not have control over the sugar/sweetness. However, this time, totally strapped for time, I wanted to take the easy route. And it turned out to be such a good idea! The slight tartness of the ricotta cheese balanced out the sweetness of condensed milk.
My friend PeeGee, who is also a blogger (at A Whiff of Spice) suggested that I try out this recipe!

  • Ricotta Cheese - one tub (about 15oz/425gms)
  • Condensed Milk - 1 15 oz can
  • Orange Zest - 1/2 tsp ( you can use 1/4 tsp cardamom powder or few strands of saffron soaked in little warm milk instead)
  • Chopped pistachios or almonds for garnish. I decided to grate some semi-sweet chocolate as well.
I did not follow any particular recipe for this, just worked on the rough recipe provided by PeeGee!
In a bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, condensed milk and your choice of flavor (orange zest for me).
Grease a microwave safe square container with little ghee and transfer the mixture to it. Using the back of your spoon spread it out evenly.
Cook it for 5 minutes in the microwave on high power, give it a stir and cook for several more minutes but not more than 2-3 minutes at a time.  Cooking time will vary depending on the wattage of your microwave. Babysit it while it is cooking and make sure that the mixture doesn't get too hard.
Let it cool down before sticking it in the refrigerator for a 30-minute chill time.  Once it has cooled down completely, decorate with your choice of garnish, cut into your preferred shape with a sharp knife and enjoy with your family!

Happy Durga Puja, y'all!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Basil Mint Pesto with Almonds

Basil Mint Pesto with Almonds

The good months are almost over. My potted plants will start drying up soon. And since I do not have a sunny spot in my apartment where my potted plants can thrive, I will have to bid them adieu till warmer months. In the meantime I will be using the fresh herbs (like basil, mint) to make sauces and chutneys and drying others (like rosemary & oregano).

My potted plants did better this year.. I think it was because my Baba diligently watered the plants everyday! And plant food.. I added organic plant food once a month! It has been such a delight to pluck a handful of fragrant herbs whenever I wanted.  The basil has already started turning yellow, so it was high time I made a batch of pesto!
** Be sure to wash and dry the leaves before using.
** Use a clean dry airtight container for storing if you are not using it immediately.
** I have used almonds in this recipe since I am allergic to most nuts. Feel free to use pine nuts or walnuts.

  • Basil Leaves - 2 Cups, packed
  • Mint leaves - 1 Cup, packed
  • Almonds - 1/2 Cup, toasted
  • Parmesan Cheese - 3 tbsp, grated
  • Garlic - 2 fat cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/2 Cup + 1 tsp
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a food processor, blitz the basil leaves, mint leaves, almonds and garlic while gradually drizzling the olive oil (except 1 tsp) till smooth. Add the grated parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Give it one final pulse. Transfer it to an airtight container (I used a glass canning jar), top it off with the remaining 1 tsp olive oil and stick it in the fridge if you are not using it immediately. You can freeze it too.
Add the pesto to your pasta or smear it on your toast. Sprinkle chili flakes and up the heat factor. Use it as a marinade for your shrimps or add a spoonful to your morning eggs. Do whatever you want to with this handy jar of pesto. A little goes a long way.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My photo made it to Mason 2016 Calendar.


The Mayor & Vice Mayor of the City of Mason presenting me with a framed image of my photograph
Sometime in March, I came across a post on a FB post regarding a photo contest for Mason's 2016 calendar. After a not-so-quick look through my photos (which I have plenty, ha ha), I submitted  a favorite of mine and then forgot all about it till I received this email in June while I was in Kolkata..
Congratulations! Your photograph has been selected for the 2016 Mason Photo Calendar.
We will be in touch with you regarding the release of the printed calendar and would like to invite you to attend a City Council Meeting on Monday, September 14 at 7 p.m. at Mason Municipal Center to be recognized for your contribution.
Title: Pretty Shades of Winter
I was pleasantly surprised when I read the email. And happy. I shared the news only with  3 people - the husband, my friend and mentor (not only in photography) and my best friend. Then earlier this month, with my parents and a couple of friends I was talking to during the 6 yo's birthday party and it sort of slipped out.
The event got re-scheduled to yesterday (09/28/2015) and I was there with my family.
The winners of the photo contest
I received a framed image of my photograph, a 2016 Mason Calendar and a Mason Bicentennial edition Monopoly. But what touched me most was all the love! My family couldn't be prouder.. my 6 yo said - "Mamma, you must be famous now!". Hilarious, I know! Heartwarming too!
Now that I am growing older, I find it difficult sharing news that puts me in the spotlight. And when I shared that with a close friend of mine, she said something in the lines of -  Do not underplay your achievements... accept the praise that you deserve instead of being overwhelmed or embarrassed by it. I have been trying to follow what she said, but not too successfully. I was reluctant to share the photos of the event on Facebook but my Ma emotionally blackmailed me into putting up the photos on Facebook and congratulatory messages have been pouring in ever since. I am truly humbled by all the love!
Btw, I just realized that my blouse matches the photograph. Happy co-incidence!

Roasted Crunchy Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

Roasted Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans: Crunchy snacks
This recipe has been lying in the draft section since the end of May. Our unexpected trip to Kolkata made me forget all about it. While reading through what I had typed in May, I realized exactly how susceptible to change life is. There I was making plans for long dreamy summer days while life had something else planned. The sudden loss of a dear one jolted us back to reality. But again, life is funny in so many ways. We were mourning the loss of my father-in-law yet we brought back some beautiful memories. The 6 year old (yeah he turned 6 last Sunday) bonded with his cousins all over again, I met with my family and friends, sampled all the street food and Kolkata style Biryani that I have been craving for and brought back half a suitcase full of food props.  
The husband came back after 3 weeks while the 6 yo and I flew back with my parents (their trip had already been planned few months back) after 5 weeks.
Anyways, coming back to the present - we love munching on this crunchy snack along with our evening cuppa of tea! Now that my parents are here, I bask in the luxury of being pampered with many cups of tea during the day! I just make my morning cup as they wake up after I do. I know that these days are short-lived (they leave in a month's time) but I am going to make the most of it while I can!

29th May 2015:
Summer vacations are on! Days will be filled with outdoor play, pool-time and more play! Which means I have a growing boy who's hungry every hour or so! Hence I need to have a constant supply of snacks! Few months back I had bought a box of almond samplers from Wholefoods. I saved the box, and filled each compartment with nuts and dates. I leave that out along with a big bottle of water. I cut up some apples in the morning and put it in a Ziploc bag (so that it stays fresh) along with a bag of berries (he loves blueberries and strawberries) and have it ready in the fridge. Bananas, cheese-sticks and cereal bars are great on-the-go snack ideas. But every now and then the 5.5 year old wants something new! 
As I prefer giving him more fresh fruits, nuts and homemade stuff than store-bought and processed, I am always looking for ideas. These are the times when the instant (the one-minute/two-minutes) cake or cookies in a mug come super handy! 
An active boy also needs a Mommy who can keep up! And with all the activities going on, I need my snack too! Many a times I find it easier to grab a cookie when I cannot find my bag of almonds and dates. Since I am allergic to most nuts, I can hardly ever find a suitable cereal bar! Then I found this recipe!

Roasted Crunchy Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

  • Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans - 2 Cups, cooked (you can use canned as well)
  • Oil - 2 tbsp (I used canola oil)
  • Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika - 1/2 tsp (Use chili powder or cayenne pepper if you prefer heat)
  • Chaat Masala - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a bowl toss the cooked chickpeas along with oil, salt and the spices. Feel free to use spices of your own choice. In a cookie sheet spread out the spice & oil coated garbanzo bean/chickpeas and bake until crisp for about 30 to 40 minutes or so. at the half way mark give the tray a shake. Check once after 30 minutes and then add on oven time accordingly but not more than few minutes at a time.
Cool down the beans completely and store in an airtight container.

Serve at room temperature with a squeeze of lime if you prefer.

Here's another version from my friend's blog - Chana Jor Garam


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