Mango Halwa

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Mango Halwa

I’m sharing an easy and popular recipe for your next holiday gathering. I found the original here, and tweaked it slightly to suit my family’s tastes. This halwa can be made using grated paneer or ricotta cheese. While the ricotta gives a creamier taste, it took longer to cook. Simmer the halwa mixture for about 20-30 minutes for regular texture, and around 45 minutes for a fudge  texture (which is what we love).

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Mango Halwa

Mango Halwa

(Serves 10-12)

  • 1 (30 oz) can mango pulp – about 3.5 cups
  • 12-14 oz block paneer [OR] 30 oz ricotta cheese (about 4 cups of one)
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder [OR] 2 tsp rose water
  • ghee to grease your serving platter
  • chopped nuts, saffron, silver leaf, etc for topping & presentation
  1. Finely grate the paneer if you are using it.
  2. Using a wide heavy-bottom pan (preferably non-stick or anodized), bring the mango pulp, cheese and sugar to a boil on medium-high flame.
  3. Once it reaches a boil, reduce flame to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes till mixture thickens, stirring frequently and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the cardamom powder or rose water and the milk powder for thickness. Mix well. Cook for another 5-10 minutes and pour into a flat greased platter to cool.
  5. Alternately, continue cooking an additional 15 – 20 minutes if you like a thicker, fudge-like consistency. Then add the milk powder and flavoring, and cook for another 5-10 minutes and pour into your platter to cool.
  6. Spoon into individual bowls and top with nuts and serve.

NOTE: Make sure the pan is atleast 4-5 inches deep as this mixture will splatter as it thickens and simmers. Also, DO NOT ADD sugar mid-way unless you plan on increasing the cooking time significantly (yes, I learnt this the hard way!). The sugar will dilute your mixture and you will have to cook it down again – it’s like starting from scratch. Paneer gives the halwa more texture while ricotta makes it more creamy.

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Mango Halwa

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

How many of you spent the summer with kids who were constantly eating – because they were starving after hours at the pool, because their friends were over and wanted a snack, they wanted to try a new concoction, or they were just plain bored because you took away their electronics? My kids had more than their fill of junk food over the last few months, and there was not much I could do about it when extended family visiting for a few months and there was constant entertaining.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Fast forward to mid-August: the guests leave and my college bound child – who is suddenly on a gym routine – announces that he needs lots more protein than he gets at home! The 11-year old on a growth spurt eats like there’s no tomorrow. Husband says he’d like to take something from home to keep the 3p.m. vending machine run at bay. I just want something that can be eaten without utensils and feels like a treat but is also healthy for my family. These Quinoa Bars to the rescue! I made these the first time without any recipe, and you can do the same too. The amounts and ingredients below are just a guide (as are many of my other recipes). Feel free to substitute what you have on hand and adjust quantities to suit your taste. For example, add coconut flakes if you like the taste. Substitute almonds with walnuts (or mix a little of both!). Replace cranberries with cherries or even raisins if that’s what you have on hand. I’ve used a whole 15 oz bag of milk chocolate chips but you could reduce it or switch it up with dark / semi-sweet / white chocolate.

With school back in session and after school events looming around the corner, breakfast and grab-and-go snacks that are easy, tasty and good for you are a blessing. These bars keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 bars 2-inch X 2-inch bars)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dates (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup figs (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or walnuts) – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (or cherries / tart raisins)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups chocolate chips of choice
  1. In a heavy bottom pan, lightly toast the quinoa over medium flame for few minutes. It will pop and lightly puff. Remove from heat & cool completely. (Do not brown.) – I feel this removes the slight bitter taste, but feel free to use raw if that’s what you prefer. 
  2. In a heavy duty food processor, add the dates, figs and coconut oil and pulse till it becomes finely processed.
  3. Add the cooled quinoa, flax, chia, almonds and half of the cranberries & pumpkin seeds. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed well.
  4. Line an 8X8 pan with wax paper and press the mixture into the pan. Level the top using the back of a flat spoon or dish.
  5. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions and pour evenly over the mixture and spread.
  6. Set in the refrigerator for an hour or so to set and firm up. Cut into 16 pieces. The bars keep for atleast 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Click here for recipes for No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars and No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Memorial Day is around the corner – a day for honoring American veterans and doing our patriotic duties. Started three years after the Civil war ended in 1868, it was the chosen day to place flowers at the graves of those who died in the war. Originally called Decoration Day, it is believed that May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Only in 1971 did Congress  nominate the last Monday in May to be recognized as Memorial Day, and expand the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.  (Pic: military.gov)

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.
(Pic: military.gov)

The first Memorial Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery and small American flags were placed at each grave. This tradition continues to date and has been adopted elsewhere too.

You can read more information on the U.S. Department of Veterans website.

It is also the day for parades, picnics and barbecues with family and friends, shopping, and the opening of pool season. This week’s recipe can be used through the year. Easy and adaptable, it can be made on the cheap too. (Have you seen the price of Ice-Cream cakes at your local store?!?!) Birthday parties, graduations, family gatherings, sleepovers, play dates …… I must warn you that the never ending stream of kids through your door over the next few warm months will love visiting you. Plus the fact that you can make it a week ahead of your event and freeze it makes it even more divine.

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Ice-Cream Cake

(Serves 8-12)

  • 2 (8-inch) round cakes of your choice (baked and cooled completely)
  • 1 gallon ice-cream of your choice (softened & stirred)
  • sliced fruit / coarsely crushed cookies (optional)
  • jelly / berry sauce / whipping cream / Magic Shell – for layering & frosting
  • cherries / sprinkles / candy – for decorating
  • 1 deep 9-inch springform (preferred) or regular round pan
  • large freezer-safe serving platter
  • plastic wrap

Ice-Cream Cake

1) Line the bottom and sides of your 9-inch pan with a double layer of plastic wrap so that the edges come over the sides of the pan.

2) Place one round cake in the center and poke holes over the top using a chopstick or fork.

3) Pour half the softened ice-cream on top and over the sides of the cake and smoothen to make it level. (If you like jam or berry sauce, pour on the cake first before adding ice cream).

4) Arrange a single layer of sliced fruit or crushed cookies on top (if using).

5) Gently drape the wrap over the ice cream (or cover with a freezer safe plate) and freeze for about 2 hours.

Ice-Cream Cake

6) Remove pan from freezer and unwrap. Place the other round cake over the first layer and poke holes again.

7) Pour the remaining ice-cream on top and around the sides and smoothen again. Make sure the top is flat.

8) Gently cover again and refreeze for another 2 hours. or overnight.

9) To plate & serve: remove pan from freezer and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.

10) Release the latch on the springform pan and lift the cake out holding the edges of the plastic wrap. Unwrap from the bottom and place on your serving platter. (For a regular pan, run a knife under hot water and gently run it around the inside edge of the pan to release the cake.)

11) Decorate with Magic Shell or whipping cream and top with cherries / berries and sprinkles.

TIP: For smooth and easy cutting, run or dip a knife under warm water and slice.

If you have a larger crowd to serve, you can follow the same method with a rectangular 9X13 cake. Just bake the cake as per instructions and cool completely (or use store bought). Trim the edges by a 1/4 inch on all sides and gently slice across to make two 9X13 layers. Place one sheet cake back in the same pan that is lined with a double layer of plastic wrap. Follow the remaining instructions as above. When ready to serve, cut into squares.

Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

As you all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Most of you have also probably come across multiple sources that state that starting your day with a healthy & nutritious protein-rich breakfast is the key to feeling energetic, controlling appetite, reducing snacking, and staying slim. Protein-rich breakfasts have shown to regulate blood sugars and reduce late afternoon cravings for sugary and unhealthy snacks, and I can personally vouch for it. But if you are like me, meat in the morning is not appealing and eggs are not an option due to allergies. Greek yogurt to the rescue!! With around 200 calories & over 20 gms of protein per cup, greek yogurt is an easy, tasty and portable breakfast or snack item.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

The Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait is so simple to make and can be assembled ahead of time. Just top with granola before eating. Use the fruit of your choice and customize quantities to suit your needs. If Greek yogurt is not available, you can use hung yogurt (recipe below). Make a few of these in resealable containers and store in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go snack or breakfast. My husband & kids love it too!

Blueberry-Yogurt Parfaits

  • 1 cup greek yogurt (plain or flavored) – [use hung yogurt if greek yogurt is not available – recipe below]
  • 1 cup fruit of choice (berries, banana, mango, peach, etc.)
  • sweetener of choice (honey, sugar, agave, etc) – optional
  •  1/2 cup granola (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

1) Take 2 resealable containers and layer each with 1/4 cup greek yogurt on the bottom.

2) If using sweetener, drizzle a teaspoon on the yogurt.

3) Top with 1/4 cup fruit.

4) Repeat yogurt, sweetener, fruit.

5) Just before eating, top with granola. Stir and enjoy. (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

 

To Make 1 cup Hung Yogurt

 1) Line a strainer/small colander with a large clean piece of muslin cloth and place the strainer over a deep bowl.

2) Pour 2 cups of regular yogurt onto the muslin cloth.

3) Bring the ends of the muslin together and make into a bundle.

4) Hang the bundle from the faucet / knob with a dish to catch the whey dripping.

5) Leave undisturbed for 3-4 hours till all the water is out. Creamy hung yogurt is ready.

6) Flavor with sweetener if needed and stir well.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

No-cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly,  can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.

I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.

These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide  – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)

  • 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
  • few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana

1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.

2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.

3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.

4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.

5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.

6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.

7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.

8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld. 

9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.

10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.

Patterned Jelly Roll

 Patterned Swiss Roll

Love is a game that two can play and both win. ~ Eva Gabor

For Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing the recipe for a Patterned Jelly Roll (or Swiss Roll). I had seen this on the Wilton website a while back, and noticed a few bloggers posting some amazing ideas. Finally got around to giving it a try and I love it. My design incorporates the hearts ubiquitous to Valentine’s Day, but with a slight desi twist 🙂 – I imagined a henna design cake for a mehendi party! The possibilities are endless here – you could personalize the cake with names, logos, themes, characters, wishes, etc. The combinations of colors and flavors are your choice.

Patterned Jelly Roll

For the design:

  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter (softened)
  • 1 large egg white (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (for chocolate flavor) OR gel food color of choice

For the cake:

  • 1 (18.25oz) box Duncan Hines golden yellow cake mix OR flavor of choice
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Other:

  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Chocolate Frosting OR flavor of choice
  • Piping bag & tip OR  small ziplock bag
  • 2 clean kitchen towels
  • parchment paper
  • 12 1/2 X 17 1/2 inch Jelly Roll pan (similar sizes easily available for a few $)
  • Design printed on (2) 8 1/2 X 11 sheets of paper

1) Find a pattern that you like and print or draw it onto a long 12X17 sheet of paper, or onto 2 horizontally taped letter size (8 1/2 X 11) sheets.

Patterned Swiss Roll

2) Place it on your jelly roll pan and lightly tape down at the edge, making sure that the tape overhangs and is easily reachable with your fingers.

3) Place parchment paper on top of your design, making sure that it comes up the sides of the pan. If the sheet is too large, cut down to size. Gently tape down on one or two sides only if necessary.

Patterned Swiss Roll

4) It helps to make a small diagonal slit at the corners of the parchment paper so that it stays in place more easily.

5) Lightly grease the parchment paper with a thin layer of butter – either ‘paint’ it on using a pastry brush OR rub a stick of butter on the paper to cover evenly. Set pan aside.

6) In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer till fluffy.

7) Add the egg white and beat till well incorporated.

Patterned Swiss Roll

8) Add the flour and cocoa (or food color) and gently mix till no streaks remain.

9) Spoon into the piping bag with tip and secure. (If using ziplock bag – fill, remove air & seal; then snip off a small corner to make a small hole for piping.)

Patterned Swiss Roll

10) Carefully pipe the design on top of the parchment paper by following the pattern underneath.

11) Place the pan in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes for the design to firm up.

12) Meanwhile, heat oven to 325* F [If you bake often, it really helps to have an oven thermometer handy (very inexpensive). Most ovens are not calibrated correctly, and may affect the quality of your food. For example, mine is off by about 30* and I didn’t know for almost 6 years!]

13) In a large bowl, prepare the box cake mix according to directions using the water, eggs & oil.

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14) Remove pan from freezer,and gently slide out the printed paper pattern from under the parchment using the overhanging tape.

15) Gently pour 2 full cups of batter on top of the design and spread evenly all the way to the corners using a dinner knife or offset spatula.

16) Bake in center of oven for 8 minutes.

17) After 8 minutes, turn the jelly roll pan around so the rear is now in the front. This allows even cooking. Cook for another 7-8 minutes.

18) While the cake is cooking, clear the counter and get a cooling rack ready.

19) Remove cake from oven when time is up and place on cooling rack.

20) Roll the cake with the parchment paper loosely and carefully set it seam side down on rack for 2-3 hours to cool completely. Do not disturb or move it.

Patterned Swiss Roll

21) Once completely cool, unroll the cake onto a flat surface and spread frosting or whipped cream & fruit and spread evenly, leaving a half inch clearance at the edges.

22) Re-roll and serve sliced.

NOTE:-  Meanwhile, use the rest of the batter to make cupcakes – I filled mini cupcake liners and used the remaining chocolate batter  to draw little hearts on top. Bake according to instructions on the box.

Patterned Swiss Roll

Gotgamssam – Korean Dessert with Persimmon & Walnut

Gotgamssam

Waiting at the barber while my kids got their haircuts, I was skimming through the old magazines they had around. One of the Korean magazines had a few beautiful pictures of dry persimmons, and this orange roll with nuts in the middle. Of course, all instructions were in Korean. I asked the ladies who work there what it was, and after a few minutes of going back and forth, another nice customer stepped in to help translate for us. He found out from the women where to buy the ingredients and how to make this roll. Hope he got a great haircut for his good deed :)).

Gotgamssam

Gotgamssam is a traditional Korean desert or snack that is served with cinnamon or green tea, and it requires only 2 ingredients. I was told that it is common in Korean homes to have a few rolls tucked away in the refrigerator for company. Super easy to make, I was reminded of diabetic family members who stay away from dessert. A few slices of this might be a welcome treat for them. Give it a try.

Gotgamssam

You can buy dried persimmons in the frozen section of your International market. The box pictured here was around $6. If you cannot find dried persimmons, this same technique can be used for dried apricots which are more easily available. Looking online, I learnt that the apricot version is called Salgussam.

Gotgamssam

(About 18 slices)

  • 1 container (6 pcs) dried persimmon (if frozen, thaw)
  • big handful of whole walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350*F, pour the walnuts on a rimmed cookie tray, and place on the center oven rack.

2) Bake for 6-8 minutes, stirring once in between, till golden and fragrant.

3) Remove from the cookie tray onto a plate and spread to cool completely.

4) With a sharp knife, trim the ends of the persimmon, and slit all the way down only on one side to form a flat, rectangular piece.

Gotgamssam

5) Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter, and line up the persimmon slices where the edges slightly overlap.

Gotgamssam

6) Place a double or triple layer of the toasted walnuts on top of the persimmon slices and gently press into the fruit to hold in place.

Gotgamssam

7) Gently, but tightly roll up the fruit over the walnuts and roll into a log. Cover with plastic wrap and reshape into a circular log if necessary.

8) Place the log in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes to firm up.

9) Unwrap, and cut each persimmon into 3 slices using a serrated knife.

Gotgamssam

10) Serve with green tea or cinnamon tea.

NOTE:

  1. If the slit fruit seems too ‘pulpy’, gently scrape out some of the soft stuff before filling with the walnuts.
  2. Toasting the walnuts was my idea – you may skip this step if you like.
  3. Consider substituting candied walnuts for a different taste.