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

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

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

With gift-giving season around the corner, I’m sure the pressure to find something ‘perfect’ for everyone on your list without breaking the bank is on your mind. Hello Black Friday shopping!!! But as I’ve gotten older, I seem to have lost the pleasure in giving & receiving store bought gifts; I mean, doesn’t everybody have enough ‘stuff’ already? In the last 2-3 years, unless I find something that I am pretty certain the recipient will love. I would rather give flowers or home-made edibles or even an experience (movie/dinner/museum out together) than another candle/bowl/you-name-it item that’s pretty but will probably be re-gifted or sit in the basement. This drives my family crazy!! Gift-giving occasions are a pain-in-the-*** for them because they really need to think about it :)). For me, it’s not how much the gift is worth in $$ but how much thought went into it. Along these lines, when I had a certain (ahem!) milestone birthday a few years ago, I was treated to a fantastic trip to Morocco – one of my ‘places to visit before I die’. What an experience!!! The scenic beauty, the people, the food, the history & culture is definitely one I will never forget. I will do a small post on our trip soon and share photos, but I wanted to share this recipe for yummy Stuffed Dates that we were offered with mint tea in some of the places we stayed. While it probably isn’t authentic Moroccan, my recipe below has blended several recipes I’ve come across, with a touch of Indian. Hope you enjoy it.

You can find Orange-Blossom water in any International or Middle Eastern grocery store for around $2-$3. If it is not readily available, you may substitute Rosewater (more readily available at any of the above or Indian grocers). Please read the bottom of this post for how to make Rosewater flavored stuffed dates.

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

(About 25-30 dates)

  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup fine confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 25-30 (soft) dates – NOT the dry dehydrated ones
  • 2-3 tsp + 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water
  • zest of one orange (Optional)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1 large orange)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • pinch of cardamom powder

1) Boil 2 cups of water in a small bowl and remove from stove. Drop the almonds in the hot water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

2) In another small saucepan, bring the orange juice, honey, 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water, orange zest (if using) & cardamom to boil on medium heat, then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool completely.

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(Oops – didn’t realize how messy the saucepan looks 😦 )

3) Meanwhile, toast the pistachio nuts in a pan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid browning – about 3-4 minutes. Pour into a wide plate in a single layer to cool completely.

4) Now drain the almonds and pinch between your thumb & forefinger to remove the skin – it should slide off easily. (Check this video if you’ve never blanched almonds before.) Drain well and cool completely on a plate.

5) Gently slit the dates down one side and remove the pit – do not cut all the way through into halves. Set aside on a flat plate. (I buy pitted dates from Costco).

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6) Coarsely chop the pistachios in a small food processor jar and set aside in a bowl.

7) In the same jar, combine the blanched almonds, powdered sugar and 1 tsp of blossom water and process till the almonds are ground fine. You may need to add another teaspoon or two of blossom water to help the mixture come together like a ball, but add only as needed or the paste will become too sticky. (I needed 3 tsp). Do not over-process.

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8) Take teaspoons full of almond paste and roll into small logs the size of the dates, keeping them slightly fatter in the center. (Keep the paste covered with plastic wrap or it will dry out.)

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9) Stuff all the dates with the almonds and gently press into shape with your fingers. Set aside on the flat plate.

10) Brush the dates generously with the orange-honey mixture and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to soak up the juices. (You can wrap the plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate at this point for a day or two.)

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11) Before serving, brush with the dates with the remaining syrup. Lift each date, and holding upside down, gently roll in the chopped pistachios and place on serving platter. Top with orange zest (optional) and serve at room temperature.

FOR ROSEWATER SUBSTITUTE:

1) Process the almonds, sugar and rose syrup to form a paste (step 7 above).

2) Roll into logs & stuff the dates with the paste.

3) Make the syrup with 1/4 cup water + 1-2 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp rosewater (step 2 above). Skip the cardamom is you feel it will overpower the delicate rose taste.

4) Brush the stuffed dates with the cooled syrup, roll in chopped pistachios and serve at room temperature.

5) If you serve each date in an edible rose petal, it should make for a spectacular presentation. Alternately, arrange some dry edible rose buds in the serving platter for some wow factor.

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Here’s a dessert that I’ve made dozens of times and it has always brought rave reviews. Thanks to my aunt Uma for the recipe. Super easy to whip together, Mango Pudding can be made a day or two ahead, and will keep refrigerated for a couple days if covered tightly. This is a great dish to take for pot-luck meals as it travels well; no sloshing and spilling on your party outfit :)).

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

(Makes 35 1/3-cup servings; approx 12 cups total)

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 8 oz plain cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (30 oz) mango pulp can – [available at most Indian grocers]
  • 8 oz Cool Whip (thawed)
  • saffron, cardamom powder, almonds/pistachio to garnish (optional)

Mango Pudding

1) Boil 3 cups water on the stove and stir well to completely dissolve 3 packets gelatin in it. Cool till luke warm – about 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in a large round bowl (at least 4 quart/4 liter capacity), add the cream cheese and beat with a hand blender till smooth.

Mango Pudding

(Yes, I know the photo shows cream cheese & sugar together. You could do that too :).)

3) Add the sugar and blend with the cream cheese till light and fluffy, and well incorporated.

4) Add the mango pulp and CoolWhip – a little at a time – and beat well till no lumps remain. Scrape down the sides if necessary and mix well with the sugar-cheese mixture.

Mango Pudding Mango Pudding

5) Now slowly add the cooled gelatin in batches and make sure to thoroughly mix it with the rest of the ingredients. This step is important for the entire dish to set.

Mango Pudding

6) Pour into a 3-quart serving dish or into individual serving cups and chill till set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

7) Garnish with more Cool Whip, chopped nuts or saffron before serving.

TIPS: Do not use hot gelatin water as the rest of the ingredients will change consistency. Make sure to add a little pulp at a time while beating or else the cream cheese will ‘ball’ and leave lumps. Mix the gelatin well with the rest of the ingredients for consistent consistency. If bubbles form while transferring into a serving dish, they will set and look weird (in my opinion – but then, I’m finicky like that!) Pour gently or spoon the mixture into your serving dish and shake out the bubbles if you see them. Garnish only after the pudding has set.

While this looks like a lot of steps, it is surprisingly easy to make and is totally worth the effort. Hope you enjoy this pudding, and leave some feedback on how it turns out.

Easy Microwave Chocolate Barfi

Microwave Chocolate BarfiThis is an easy recipe I got many years ago from a friend’s mom who said she got it from a yoga buddy. My trial batch, in my opinion, was not perfect, and I had no plans of posting it here. Turns out that when I met a few friends and offered them a taste, they all loved it and requested not only to take a few pieces home, but also that I definitely share the recipe. I have slightly tweaked the recipe since then to improve it. Hope you all enjoy these barfis too.

Easy Microwave Chocolate Barfi

(Makes 36 1-inch pieces)

  • 5 cups – Dry instant milk powder (You may substitute a 14oz packet of Milk Mawa Powder that is readily available at most Indian grocers.)
  • 2 cups – Heavy Whipping cream
  • 2 cups – Fine Confectioners Sugar
  • 1/2 cup – Chocolate Chips**
  • 2 Tbsp – Cocoa Powder

1) Line an 8X8 inch pan with parchment or wax paper (click here or here to see how – I don’t even spray or butter my pan). Alternately, generously grease the pan with butter and set aside. (I prefer the parchment paper method as it is sturdy enough to aid in removing the barfis from the pan to cut on a chopping board.)

2) In a microwaveable container that is atleast 2 quarts (8-10 cups) capacity, add the milk powder, cream and sugar, and mix thoroughly.

3) Microwave for 2 minute and stir well.

4) Repeat the microwaving and stirring another 3-4 times in 2 minute intervals (total cook time of 8-10 minutes). The mixture will get foamy and fluffy towards the end, so exercise caution when moving the bowl in and out of the microwave. Cook time will vary because of different microwave power.

5) At around 8 minutes cook time, drop a small ball of the mixture into a bowl of cold water and see if it sets into a relatively firm shape. If it is still soft, microwave an additional minute or two, stirring well and checking the consistency with each additional minute.

6) Pour 2/3 mixture into the pan and quickly smooth the top. Set aside on counter or in the refrigerator to chill and firm up, about 30 minutes.

7) Add the chocolate chips and cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and set aside at room temperature.

8) Once the barfi mixture in the pan is firm, reheat the chocolate mixture at 30 second intervals till it is well mixed and smooth, but do not make it hot or the chocolate mix will sink. Pour over the barfi mixture in the pan. You can spread the chocolate smooth & evenly on top, or drop spoonfuls  in a random designs so that the finished barfis will have an interesting contrast.

9) Cool completely and remove the barfis from the pan by holding the parchment paper. Set on a chopping board and cut into 36 pieces.

 

Sapota Phirni & Sabudana Cutlets = Perfect snack for a cool fall evening

Sapota Phirni

Fall!!! My favorite season of the year. Everything around is fresh and crisp and clean. I love the cool breeze, the vibrant colors on the trees, hot chai, the holidays around the corner (that brings with it it’s own madness, but in my mind’s eye, everything is perfect & organized :)). As the weather starts to cool down, I have had hankerings for fried, starchy, savory snacks for the last few days. Not to mention that everywhere I turn (maybe I should say, click), I see Navratri recipes, with sabudana vada being the most posted. A friend of mine makes the best ones that stay crisp even after they cool – stay tuned for her recipe here soon. In the meantime, I wanted to make a quick and lighter version. Incidentally, a bag of frozen sapota that I had bought on an impulse kept staring at me for the last few weeks, and I figured Sapota Phirni would be an interesting accompaniment to the vadas. I figured that my Almond Phirni method would work here too. While I did have reservations about how it would taste, let me just say that they both turned out well.

Sapota Phirni

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups sapota puree (fresh or frozen) – I used a bag of the frozen fruit
  • pinch of cardamom powder
  • pinch of saffron strands (optional)
  • roasted nuts & raisins (optional)

1) In a small bowl, stir together the rice flour and 1/2 cup milk, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and sugar on medium till it comes to a boil.

3) Reduce the heat, and slowly pour in the rice flour mixture, stirring vigorously to make sure that no lumps form.

4) Add the cardamom powder and saffron, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.

5) Stir in the sapota puree and simmer 1 minute.

6) Remove from heat and cool  to room temperature, or chill.

7) Top with roasted and chopped nuts and raisins before serving (optional).

Sabudana Cutlets

Sabudana Cutlets

(Makes about 15-17)

  • 1 cup sabudana
  • 2 large potatoes (boiled, peeled & mashed)
  • 3-4 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera) seeds
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for pan frying

1) Rinse and soak the sabudana in water for 4-5 hours or overnight (each batch varies in how quickly it softens; when ready to use, the sabudana must be easily squished between your fingers).

2) Drain the sabudana well in a colander, and make sure it does not have excess water.

3) Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. Shape into small balls, about golf ball size.

4) Heat a griddle on medium heat and spread a teaspoon of oil on it.

5) Flatten the potato balls on your palms and shape into a disc. Place on the hot griddle and cook both sides on medium heat till golden brown.

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

A week into summer break, and I’ve already heard “Mom, can we go to the pool?”, “Mom, can we go get ice-cream?”, and “I’m Bored!!” more times than I can take. I had my 10-year old make a list of all the things he would like to do for fun over the next two months, and making popsicles was one of the first few items. We’re checking off one item on the list each day, and yesterday happened to be the day we pulled out the popsicle molds from the basement. But let me be honest; I foresee many days where screen time is going to be my best friend :).

IMG_0042  (Mom’s ‘not-so-little’ helper)

 

I got this paleta Latin American popsicles that are either cream or juice mixed with fruit – recipe several years ago from my friend Nellie, and had really enjoyed the taste. I meant to share it here earlier, but had misplaced the hand written scrap of paper. After looking everywhere, I found it folded and tucked inside one of my many recipe books and binders. One of my most favorite recipes, these are creamy and just sweet enough. I’ve been inspired to use this basic recipe to substitute other fruits, and will update here once (if) my experiments are successful.

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(Guava paste can be found in the Hispanic food section at the grocery store.)

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut PopsiclesCreamy Guava-Coconut Popsicle

(Makes 15-17 popsicles, about quarter cup each)

  • 1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 (15 oz) can condensed milk
  • 10-12 oz guava paste

1) Chop about a quarter of the guava paste into small pieces and drop into the bottom of the popsicle molds.

2) In a large blender jar, add the coconut milk, cream, milk, cornstarch, condensed milk, & chunks of the remaining guava paste. Blend till well mixed, but not frothy.

3) Pour into the popsicle molds, add handles and freeze for atleast 4-6 hours.

4) To remove popsicles, run the bottom & sides of the mold under warm water for a few seconds and slide the ice cream out.

NOTE : If using dixie cups, place them on a cookie tray or plate and then fill them according to instructions. Freeze on the cookie tray for about an hour. Then insert the popsicle sticks. This will help keep the sticks straight as they freeze for several more hours.