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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blender Carrot Cake Easy Enough That Kids Can Make !

Now that we have finally entered the blessed month and the  Christamas tree has been decorated (or soon will be ), the only other thing that requires our immediate attention is holiday baking , For it is a season of fruit cakes, wreath cookies and Christmas puddings . What fun is to bake something at home and distribute it to family and friends? In my view, that fun is doubled when you involve the kids in the baking process too. Let their skills not be limited to just adding sprinkles to the finished goods . Some bakes may require more adult attention but this particular bake is the opposite. In fact , it is so ridiculously easy that it might give your kids "accomplished baker" complex ! 
I would still implore you guys to be present during the bakingprocess..especially while handling the blender as well as the oven but even with your presence, the kids will get an independent bake feel . This in turn might be crucial in developing their interest in baking and culinary arts.. .a field as sacred as scholastic in my opinion. For a person who knows to cook will be curious about what goes into his food leading to greater awareness and a more informed decision . Coming back to the present , pay tribute to the holiday baking season with this fun carrot cake with a completely different texture than the original . Did  I mention the wonderful yellow color achieved ? Hard to believe that no food color has been added.

Ingredients
4-5 carrots cut in chunks
 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
melted chocolate wafers(optional for the decoration)
holiday themed mold(optional for the decoration)

Method
Grease and flour a loaf pan along with pre heating the oven to 350 degrees F 
Wash and peel the carrots and cut into small chunks.
In a blender, add the chopped carrots, oil and eggs. Give it a few minutes till you have a well blended consistency .
Meanwhile , in a separate bowl sieve the flour, sugar and baking soda.
Add the blended mixture to the flour mixture and mix well with the help of spatula.
Transfer the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake it for a good 45- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool for 5-10 minutes before taking it out form the pan . Col again , cut into individual slices and serve.

For the decoration
I just melted some colored chocolate wafers and transferred to a Christmas theme holiday mold. Kept it in the  freezer for 30 minutes and they were firm enough to be taken out and used as decorative prop. Eating them is optional :-)





Monday, November 23, 2015

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes just in time for Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you are still vacillating about your dinner menu for that day , let me take take the sweat out of the side options atleast with this blog post. Don't these baked hassleback sweet potatoes seal teh deal for you appetizer wise? They are healthy , take minimum fuss to prepare and have Thanksgiving written all over them. Need more pitching ? How about the extremely healthy dip/sauce that goes with it ?Give it a try and you are bound to get compliments galore !! Please feel free to leave a thank you note later :-)

Ingredients -
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 finely grated garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
For the sauce -
1/3 cup non fat yogurt
1 scallion finely chopped

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking tray with aluminum foil.

Wash the sweet potatoes and now make 1/8 th inch cuts 2/3 rd of the way through.
Take a small bowl and stir in it butter , olive oil ,salt , pepper and Italian seasoning.
Rub this mixture all over the potatoes , making sure to get in between the slices.

Bake it in the pre heated oven for close to an hour till the outside is  crisp and the inner parts tender. In my oven it took 55 minutes.(at half time , take out and run a fork or knife gently with some pressure across the top so that the individual slices get separated.
While it is the oven , prepare the dip/sauce by stirring the yogurt and scallions with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Take out from then oven , cool and serve with the yogurt sauce.
Check out  other Thanksgiving meal ideas like these - Cranberry Upside Down Cake , Mexican Corn Bread and Southern Corn Bread.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chocolate ladoos serve as Diwali mithai !


For us desi folks, festive season  means mithai and loads of it . We like it in such copious amounts and varying flavors and we are not ashamed to admit it . Not only do we like sampling it ourselves but also exchanging it with friends and relatives making the festive season even more sweeter. Our charitable side urges us to share the  mithai  with those unfortunate than us in keeping with the true meaning of the festive season . In short , it is the mithai which is the focal point of any south Asian festivity and especially so for Diwali . For it is then that it's sales go sky rocketing with the halwai wallas blocking the streets with their display of colorful mithai to which we humble folks unable to resist are simply drawn like bees are to the nectar of the flowers.
Alas, here in the US we do not have so many halwai walla's in our vicinity and as such  copious and multitude are not the words which we use to describe our festive mithai situation. But since our mithai craving is still as string if not more than our friends and family back home , we have to rely on ingenious ways to satisfy it.  Not being fortunate enough to have lots of domestic help, ease of making mithai and the process being less time consuming are important things to consider too. As such , imagine my joy when I came across this recipe of chocolate ladoos. Not only are they super ease to make but pack a load of deliciousness in every bite . The best thing of all, you can make copious amounts of it and distribute to friends in the true festive way we used to do back in India .

Ingredients -
3 cups grinded  Brownies ( made an eggless version of store bought mix using flax meal as an egg replacer )
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut 
1/2 cup condensed milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
nuts to decorate (optional)

Note :Given quantities are approximate depending upon the consistency and thickness of the ingredients. You may need to add more coconut so that the batter cab be molded into laddoo form.

Method

Bake some eggless brownies . I used store bought mix which I baked eggless by substituting the eggs with flax seed meal. Replace each egg with 1 tbsp of Flax meal dipped in 3 tsp of water which is made to stand for 5-10 minutes till you get gum like consistency.
Once the brownies have cooled down , grind them or just mash them up. Add the rest of the ingredients(shredded coconut, condensed milk and cocoa powder ) , mixing them such you get a batter the right consistency to roll up into laddoos.
(See Note)
Decorate with cashews or shredded coconut .
Eat them to your hear's content and remember to share with friends and neighbors !

Friday, October 30, 2015

Eggless Chocolate Bundt Cake and Mystery Book Club Meetings


One productive thing that was accomplished this year was the beginning of our local book club. Glad to report that we are already looking forward to our second monthly meeting  , no small feat considering that the formation itself took quite some time . But now that we have met , the "ice has been broken" and the next month meeting all planned with attendance confirmed , the future of the book club looks secure. talking of book club meetings , how can you leave cake behind ? A sinfully rich cake is an absolute requirement even more than managing to finish the book before the meeting . Truthfully !  The cake has to be accompanied by loads of chai , which is generously taken care by a fellow book club member . We can count on the others to bring more delectable treats and so you gentle reader get an idea that food is quite an important part of our book club.  

For the first book club meeting  at my place, I made the eggless dates cake . Not to toot my own horn , but everyone appreciated it . Encouraged by it's success, decided to continue with  the eggless route this time too. Just ditched the dates and loaded on the chocolate . The result was this decadent treat which could be described as a true chocolate lovers delight. Just be generous with pouring the dark chocolate topping as well. Over time , it will seep through and keep the cake moist . The recipe I followed is widely available online , though the only thing I would add to it would be some extra sugar if making for a get togther. Also, while greasing the bundt pan, remember to sprinkle with cocoa powder and not flour if you do not want ugly white streaks on the cake.
Ingredients
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt.
1 cup water
9 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vinegar
Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F . Grease and flour a bundt pan . Use cocoa powder for the same instead of all purpose flour for the color.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl .
Gently whisk in the sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.
Now, whisk the wet ingredients - water, oil , vanilla extract and vinegar in well so as to form a smooth batter.

Pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 40-45 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning it out.

Pour some warm dark chocolate topping and enjoy while warm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Eggless Sweet Potato Banana Bread and Weekend Festivities

The much awaited and anticipated part of the year is here . The festive season ..Not only is it a time for religious observances and fasting for some  but also of  social mingling .donning our best desi attire and indulging in scrumptious Indian mithai . I will admit that no baking can even come close to a well prepared desi mithai . If the above statement reeks of bias , so be it . Coming back to "it's a season theme " how can I not mention that it is the season for Durga Puja festivities too ? My first time being part of the same was after my marriage ( perks of being married to a Bengali ) and since then I have been fortunate to experience it both in India and various parts of US . While the location and few others things may vary , great Bengali cuisine served at Pujo has always been a constant.
Here in the Carolinas, we had our Pujo celebrations a tad  bit early but that didn't dampen our spirit a wee bit. It was a fun weekend where we sought Durga Thakur's blessings , mingled with friends , enjoyed some entertaining cultural activities ( even an art contest thrown it ..the sketches pictured above are my daughter's  practice work for the same) and gorged on some great Bengali cuisine. All this heavenly  and heavy eating made for a very 
lazy Monday followed by a craving for something healthy . A look at my fruits baskets made me aware of some over ripe bananas . That followed by the discovery of some lonesome sweet potato made me decide on baking it sweet potato banana bread. The oats were an afterthought in keeping with the healthy craving.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup oats flour 
2 ripe bananas
1 medium steamed sweet potato
4 tbsp honey
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 tsp chai masala powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Note :If you do not want to make it eggless, you can substitute the apple sauce foe one. Also, feel free to add more honey if you prefer it sweeter . The chai masala can be readily replaced by pumpkin pie spice if your taste vary from mine.

Method -
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan .

Prepare the oatmeal flour by just giving the oats few quick turns in the food processor.
In a bowl . mash the bananas and sweet potato with the help of a fork . Few chunks left are absolutely fine.
Now , add the applesauce , vanilla extract and chai masala. Blend it all in with the help of spatula.
Time to add the honey and olive oil . Once again , use the spatula to mix it well.
The dry ingredients go in last (oats flour, baking soda, baking powder ,salt ) . Fold them gently in , making sure as to not overmix.
Transfer into a greased loaf pan . Level it with the back of spatula. You can sprinkle some almonds or any other nuts on top .(optional)
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy later as a slice for breakfast or with my beverage of choice- tea.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pumpkin Choco Chip Muffins and Insane Breakfast Timing


I am not going to let go of pumpkin bakes so easily !! How can I when pumpkin chocolate muffins are yet to make their way on my blog? I know they should  have  found their  way sooner considering that I prefer healthy muffins as a good after  school snack and we are
 so near to finishing our first quarter there  but  somehow  I  have been interested in other bakes more . Let me get all philosophical and say that better late than never.So,here they are , occupying  their  rightful  place on my blog and deservedly so , considering that they taste divine..no  easy  feat for whole wheat healthy muffins to claim . Plus, we know when muffins taste good , kids don't mind the  vegetables  that go into their making which in this case is the not so humble pumpkin.




Muffins anyways are a godsend if you or anyone in your family follows insane breakfast timing. My son has to leave for school at the crack of dawn and as such having a tray of healthy muffins nearby is really and truly appreciated . Depending on the mood, they can be eaten as breakfast along with a glass of warm milk or packed along as snack to break the always fruit for snack routine. The chocolate chips in the healthy snacks do tend out bring the smiles and serve as a great reward for good behavior or to satisfy those dessert  cravings. Makes one feel less guilty especially when it is part of something healthy..atleast in my book it does.

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips 
1/2 cup butter ( or 1 stick at room temperature)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin pan with non stick spray.
Sieve the dry ingredients - flour, pumpkin pie spice , salt, baking powder and baking soda in  a bowl and set aside. 
In a separate bowl ,cream the butter , sugar and vanilla extract till light and fluffy.
Now ,add the eggs one at a time making sure that they blend well.
Now add the pumpkin puree and mix well with the help of a spatula.
Take the sieved dry ingredients and fold it in the batter alternately with  the water making sure to start and end with the dry ingredients.
Now add the 1 cup of chocolate chips to the batter and mix them in the batter with the spatula.
Fill the greased muffin cups with the batter making sure that they are 2/3 rd filled. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chips on top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with chai or milk .
Check out my other pumpkin bakes here - Pumpkin Scones and Pumpkin Donuts !