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.

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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.

 

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.

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.)

 

Microwave Doodh Peda

Here is an easy and tasty recipe for Krishna Janmashtami – the festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. Considering he was such a lover of milk & butter, it is customary to make sweets rich in dairy. My mother-in-law used to make odd-number (3 or 5 types each) variety of sweet and savory dishes the morning of the festival; no rice served the whole day. Dinner was a plate full of snacks, and the kids loved it.

The recipe for Microwave Doodh Peda & Microwave Besan Ladoo was given to me by my aunt  years ago, and I have made it many times. It is fail-proof, quick, and really tasty.

Microwave Doodh Peda

(30-35 pieces)

  • 3/4 stick butter – 6 Tbsp (melted)
  • 1 (15oz) can condensed milk – about 1 3/4 cup
  • 2 cups milk powder – (the better the quality of powder, the tastier the pedas)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch saffron (optional)

1) Mix the melted butter, condensed milk & milk powder well in a glass microwavable bowl.

2) Microwave for 2 minutes. Mixture will rise in container when heated. Remove from microwave and stir well.

3) Microwave for another 2 minutes.

4) Remove from microwave and stir in the cardamom powder and saffron strands. Stir mixture well again and let it cool slightly so it is easy to handle.

5) While mixture is still warm, grease palms lightly with ghee. Roll about 1 Tbsp mixture into balls, flattening slightly on top and bottom. Arrange on a wax paper lined tray to cool completely.

6) Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for a day or two. For longer storage, refrigerate.

NOTE: For a pretty presentation, you may press down nuts (sliced or chopped) on top of the peda before it cools. Another option is to leave out the saffron while cooking, and press a strand or two after rolling into balls. I have used a simple stamp (cleaned well, of course) to press a design on the top of the pedas too.