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

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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.

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.

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.