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

Advertisements

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.

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.

IMG_1071 IMG_1072

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

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Last weekend, I attended a Cast Party for a dance I did at our local Indian association event. While the piece itself was small, it was so much fun going to practices, picking out outfits, and dressing up for the ‘big show’. The entire segment involved almost 70 people – men, women & kids. A lot of kids!!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

For many years, I had planned on making candy-melt Monarch butterflies that I had seen in a cake decorating book, but never got around to it. I figured it might be a good technique to use for fall cupcake decorations. Considering that there would be dozens of kids at the party, my reasoning was that no matter how the end result would be, the kids would devour them. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly these decorations came together. I made the candy leaves one afternoon, and baked and decorated the cupcakes the day of the event. It’s easy enough that the kids can help – my 10 year old did. Suffice to say that the first of three boxes of cupcakes was emptied out even before dinner was served!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Candy Melts in colors of choice
  • Design printed on paper
  • Wax paper for piping candy
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Piping bag with fine tip [OR] sturdy ziplock bags
  • Toothpick (to fill in small spots)
  • Metal spatula [OR] wide knife to lift the candy leaves

STEPS:

1) Make copies or free-hand sketch the design you want onto white paper.

2) Place on a flat, moveable surface (like a cookie sheet or sturdy chopping board) and top with wax paper. Once in position, tape down into place.

3) In a small bowl, microwave a handful of Candy Melts according to package directions till completely melted and runny.

4) Pour into the piping bag / ziplock bag (make a tiny snip at the corner for the candy to flow) and using a slow and steady hand, pipe over the designs.

5) Allow to harden – about 10 minutes.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

As you can see in the picture above, I used a piping bag. The tray on top has the full outline piped in. The one on the bottom has only the ‘veins’ piped in. You will see below how these give two different effects.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

6) In another small bowl, melt a handful of leaf color candy melt chips and pour into another bag. Pipe over the leaf designs and make sure to fill in the entire design. Go over the back of the ‘veins’ and make sure that all areas are covered.

(While you do not want clumps of candy, don’t worry about being super neat. In the finished stage, this will be the bottom of the leaf and will not show. Of course, if you plan on making the leaves stand up where both front and back will be visible, then take the time to smooth out the candy. Work in small batches to keep it flowing easily.)

7) Set the finished cookie trays aside to harden – about 30 minutes (depending on how thick you spread the candy). Alternately, stick them in the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to harden up faster.

8) When set, gently slip a spatula under the candy leaf – it should slide right out – and place on top of your completely cooled and frosted cake.

Cupcakes with Candy LeavesCupcakes with Candy Leaves

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HERSHEY’S KISSES ACORNS:

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Nutter Butter Bites (Peanut Butter Sandwich Mini Cookies)
  • Double number of Hershey’s Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Few Candy Melts to use like glue

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

1) Split the mini cookies and remove the filling (above). Lay them all in a plate, right side down. (Alternately, you can just use the cookies whole without splitting them up.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

2) Melt a few Candy Melts and pour into bag for piping (or use the leftover bag from the candy leaves). Place a small dot on a few cookies.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

3) Quickly place the Kisses on top of the cookie and press down gently. Work in small batches, and make sure the candy melts do not ooze out from under the Kisses. Do not disturb them for about 10-15 minutes, till firm.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

4) Now flip the cookies right side up and dab with another small dot of candy melt. Quickly top with a mini chocolate chip and press down gently. Set on plate to harden completely – another 10-15 minutes. (The chips might slide away from the center if the candy melt is too runny. Make sure to move it back to place as it cools.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

I used box cake mix & frosting – Yellow cake (my favorite!), Devil’s Food, Caramel Apple Frosting, Cinnamon Bun frosting, and plain chocolate frosting. I made a total of 4 boxes, and about 75 cupcakes.

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.

 

Coconut Macaroons – To dip in chocolate or not?

Coconut Macaroons

I got this recipe from a PTA mom at my son’s school a long time ago – she must have given it to over a dozen people as the cookies were SO good – and I’ve looked at it and put it away so many times over the years. Finally decided to try making them, and boy, are they easy to make. In fact, I would say the ‘hardest part’ was scooping them onto the cookie tray (well, besides sweating it out on the treadmill and cursing myself for eating too many! But that’s a different blog post ;)).

Coconut Macaroons

You can dip these macaroons in chocolate if you like, but they are good as-is too. Super easy to make, crispy on the edges, chewy on the inside. YUM!

Coconut Macaroons

(about 3-dozen cookies)

  • 1 (14 oz) package flaked coconut – sweetened**
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 egg whites – room temperature
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips – optional

1) Preheat oven to 325*F.

2) In a large bowl, add flaked coconut, sugar, flour & salt, and mix well.

3) In another small bowl, add the egg whites & the almond extract, and beat lightly.

4) Add eggs to the coconut mixture and mix well.

5) Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie tray.*****

6) Bake 18-20 minutes, until edges are golden brown.

7) Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

8) If you are using chocolate, melt the chips according to package directions and dip the macaroons halfway. Set on the same parchment lined trays to harden completely.

9) Store in an air-tight box for several days.

 

NOTE** : If you decide to use unsweetened coconut flakes, increase the sugar to 2/3 cups.

NOTE*****: I always use parchment paper to ensure my food does not stick to the pan, and also to make for easy cleanup.

For easy and even scooping, I use a small ice cream scoop (and NO – I don’t make any revenue by linking to Amazon from here. This is just to give you an idea.)

 

3-ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

3-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

This is seriously one of the easiest and tastiest desserts you can make for the holidays (or anytime!). I made them during Thanksgiving, and it’s definitely something I will be making again. You can make them ahead of time for your dinner party, take them for a pot luck, or give them as holiday gifts.

I had to share pictures of my two hand models – my precious little nieces Jyothi & Kerah. They were paid with sugary treats 🙂

3-ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

3-ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

3-ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

(Makes 30-35 pieces)

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg  Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate – (8 squares)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter – creamy or chunky
  • 1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip – thawed

1) In a large microwaveable bowl, zap the chocolate on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir and return for 1 more minute. Remove and stir until completely melted.

IMG_7858

2) Mix in the peanut butter thoroughly and let it cool to room temperature.

IMG_7860

3) Gently stir in the Cool Whip till well mixed and refrigerate till ready to use, at least 1 hour.

4) Once chilled, scoop about 1 teaspoon full into your hands and roll into balls.

5) Roll in chopped nuts, powdered sugar, coconut flakes, crushed cookie crumbs, colored sugar, etc.