Easy Home Made Granola

It's so easy.

Its so easy.

Walking down the aisle, I battled with all the choices given to me. We are being spoilt and confused was my constant refrain. The shelves looked so perfectly tabulated and full with these gorgeous boxes of cereal.
Sigh! ‘They do it purposely’, was my grumble while I placed the box back precariously. Well, the shopping was taking more time than necessary, and I was in no mood to loiter. So off I went, billed my stuff and got back home in good time to do what I do when in distress.

That you will make little gifts out of them

That you will make little gifts out of them

I was going to make granola at home – decided. Now all I needed was a nice clean recipe. πŸ™‚
The web caters thousand different varied recipes. (Was running away from all the choices I had to make in the superfood aisle, and here I was, pounded by more!!) Well, did manage to get a gist of what I need to do and the rest was up to me. Yay!! I could throw in what ever I like, how much ever I like and skip what I don’t. Hmm.. pretty neat huh.

Goodness Jar

Goodness Jar

Getting all the stuff together is a pretty straight forward job, all I found difficult to procure was a pack of old-fashioned rolled oats. The most common variety is the quick cooking oats which cannot be used here. Well, after a bit of nosing around, I did find and I bought a big box immediately.

Thats pretty much what all you need

Thats pretty much what all you need

The best part about making this at home is you can play with the ingredients as you like. Some more of this, less of that, it’s all upto you.

I was so pleased with the results, that I packed small jars for family and friends to enjoy. The little jars make such cute gift article that its impossible not to like the look as well as whats in it!

Mix. Mix n Mix

Mix. Mix n Mix

Well, children (or rather my child) do not eat it so readily. I coaxed and cajoled, and she did give in to take a tiny bite. But that was it, she didn’t want to do anything more with it.

Try some

Try some

A small bowl of this very healthy nutritious granola goes a long way. Make it your breakfast with some fresh fruits and a tall glass of milk or some yoghurt. Try topping on your milkshakes. A handful of this on your ice cream adds crunch and a bit of health into it πŸ˜‰

Pack some

Pack some

The Recipe: To make about 1 kg granola.

Ingredients

  • 500gms old fashioned rolled oats
  • 250gms mixed chopped nuts, I used almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans
  • 100 gms mixed currants and raisins, I used dried blueberries, raisins and black currants
  • 50 gms mixed seeds – I used melon, pumpkin, sunflower and flax
  • 100 ml coconut oil or olive oil or any healthy cooking oil
  • maple syprup or honey as per taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • a pinch of sea salt

Method

Keep the currants and raisins separately. In a saucepan, heat oil, maple syrup or honey, vanilla and salt. Simmer for a minute or two until all ingredients are well combined.

In a huge bowl, take oats, nuts and seeds. Do not add raisins and currants. Pour the honey-oil mix and combine it well. On a lined baking sheet, spread this mix out evenly and bake at 175 C for about 10-12 minutes or till they start to evenly brown. The ideal colour is golden and please take care not to over bake else they turn bitter.

Once the oats and nuts are cooked. Remove, Cool. Add raisins an currants. Give it a final toss. Store in airtight containers. Use as required.

Spill some

Spill some

Best Served with – yoghurt and fresh fruits!

I usually take mine with fresh fruits and chocolate protein shake. Its one full breakfast!

Daily Sustenance

Daily Sustenance

To health and nutrition

To health and nutrition

Gulab Phirni / Rose Rice Pudding with fresh Fruits

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
– Henri Matisse

Gulab Phirni

Gulab Phirni

When the occasion is pious. The mood festive. The spirit convivial. The ambience contagious. And the mind, harmonious – it is then, we make something sweet.

It’s exactly in these times, we don’t squirm to eat a cupful of our favourite dessert and amiably let our loved ones stuff our mouth with saccharine stuff. We relish every bite, enjoy every moment. It’s for these times that I reserve my quota of desserts or Indian mithais/sweets.

Colour

Colour

On one such radiant day, I put milk to boil, stirred in some ground fragrant basmati rice and lovingly flavoured it with cardamom, rose essence and saffron. Sounds divine, doesn’t it!?

The milk and rice simmered and nonchalantly thickened away, gloriously dancing with the aromatic spices. The result was this thick rice pudding, mildly sweet and abundantly gratified with chopped nuts and essence of roses.

Layered into Jars!

Layered into Jars!

Phirni or Firni is a mughal inspired North Indian/Pakistani milk-rice dessert, typically set in small clay pots and garnished with saffron and rose petals! How exotic does it sound!

A bit of pink

A bit of pink

So, I was calling for some flowers, marigold and jasmine to be exact, required to decorate my little temple. But then added a few roses at the last moment. Soon, my house emanated such dizzy whiffs of flowers, cardamom and boiled sweetened milk, that the effect made everyone say “whats cooking?” πŸ™‚

A thing of beauty if joy forever

A thing of beauty if joy forever

He never cared for roses, still doesn’t. But I have a special affinity towards them. Roses are the ultimate romantic meridian of my firm belief in hope and love. And when I set up my shoot area with props and phirni cups and jars, the flowers hold a special place.

They brought such joy and beauty that John Keats ‘Endymion’ kept popping in my head. I played with the colours, the placements. I took innumerable shots(which were not so pleasurable when I sat down to edit πŸ˜‰ ) The little girl danced about offering me any assistance that I called for. I was in my own space.. a very happy space indeed. It seems weird how something so trivial and ephemeral can lift my spirits and make me dream incredible dreams if only for some fleeting spell.

Garnish with rose petals

Garnish with rose petals

A couple of teaspoons of rose-water or essence and tiny petals from the roses take this dessert to really another realm. It’s not the taste of the petal though …it’s the perfume from the flower that lingers on your taste buds and make the entire ensemble so inviting.

Add freshness with fruits

Add freshness with fruits

I served the rice pudding with chopped fresh fruits green apples, pomegranate and orange segments. I wish had some berries, I can only imagine the tartness and all that juice from the colourful berries complimenting the cardamom and saffron!

Ideal party desserts

Ideal party desserts

The recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes
  • a few strands of saffron, soaked in 2 tsp of milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar or as desired
  • pods of 1 cardamom – ground/powdered
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts like pistachios, almonds, cashew nuts
  • 2-3 drops of rose essence or 1 tbsp of rose water
  • 2 tbsp rose petals, I used the Indian rose, which has small thin natural petals. If the petals are huge, then chop or gently tear to smaller bits.
  • A cup of chopped fresh fruits to serve with
  • Method

    Grind soaked rice to a rava like consistency. Use few drops of milk if required. Keep aside. Heat milk in a thick bottomed pan or kadai. When it starts boiling away, lower the flame and stir in the ground rice. On a low flame, cook the ground rice in milk till it starts to thicken.

    It is imperative to stir in intervals to prevent burning and from lumps being formed. Once the rice is cooked and the mixture has thickened considerably, stir in sugar, saffron strands and ground cardamom. Add chopped nuts. Simmer again for a while. Once done. Add rose-water or essence. Give it a good mix. Cool the pudding. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

    Serve with rose petals, chopped nuts and fresh fruits.

    Thick creamy delicious pudding

    Thick creamy delicious pudding

    Note: Fruits like apples, banana, pomegranate, oranges, berries, kiwi, custard apple go very well with phirni.

    Make some, you won't regret

    Make some, you won’t regret

    This creamy dreamy dessert goes to Angie’s 31st Friday Fiesta – a weekly Visual Potluck.

    No Bake Cherry Nutella Chocolate Tart

    Cherry Nutella Chocolate Tart

    Cherry Nutella Chocolate Tart

    The web’s inundated with such recipes. Recipes of luscious no bake cakes and pies. But just a deluge of formulas is never enough to do certain things. I could have made this oh-so-simple sweet something long long back.. but I didn’t. What was I waiting for? Christmas you would say, but a decadent strawberry cake took its rightful place and again this particular recipe took a backseat.

    One for the season

    One for the season

    Inspiration. Yes, that’s what I needed. And Inspiration comes to us slowly and quietly… prime it with a little solitude
    Being all alone(and the fact that a box full of cherries is lying uneaten)has its impacts. Yes, you end up making a cheery cherry chocolate pie. And if the inspiration bit is kicking your butt, then you end up adding nutella to it πŸ˜‰

    tart sweet and juicy

    tart sweet and juicy

    Those cherries had not takers. The precious little eyes which gleamed when a box full was spotted turned blind at the mere mention. The tongue was more than appeased with the little stone fruits. They had been gorging on them for over a month now. So, the scorned neglected but juicy red fruit sat all alone waiting to be acknowledged. I grabbed them before they withered and sulked.

    Serves One :)

    Serves One πŸ™‚

    The Recipe: To make a small tart or 4 small one-serve cups

    Ingredients

    • 1 pack of digestive biscuits or any cream biscuits. I used Bourbon
    • 1 tbsp melted butter
    • 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
    • 1/2 cup low fat cream, I used Amul’s
    • 50 gms dark cooking chocolate, cut into big pieces
    • 2 tbsp nutella
    • 2 tsp cornflour

    Method

    Crush the biscuits in a ziplock pouch using a rolling pin. Remove the crushed mix into a large bowl. Drop a tablespoon of melted butter. Using your fingers, mix and mash around till it resembles a fine crumb.
    Grease the container in which you want to set the dessert. Press the biscuit butter crumb as tightly and neatly as you can. Refrigerate for about an hour or so.
    Meanwhile, save a bit of cream and mix with cornflour. Keep aside. The remaining cream, nutella and chocolate goes into a pan. Heat till it melts, stir all the while.
    Pour the cream and cornflour mix into it. Keep stirring till the sauce thickens to a batter like texture. Cool for about 30 minutes or so.

    Now, remove the biscuit base, dot with pitted and halved cherries. Pour the cooled chocolate-nutella-cream mix. Chill for at least 3/4 hours or until set.

    Serve with more cherries or stewed cherries like I did.

    The biscuit base lends a delicious crunch!

    The biscuit base lends a delicious crunch!

    Recipe for Stewed Cherries:

    Boil 1 cup of pitted and halved cherries, along with 2 tbsp sugar, juice of 1/2 a lime and 1 cup water. Simmer till the cherries have wilted into a mushy consistency. Keep adding water all along if they stick to the base or incase they tend to burn. Cool and use as required.

    A peek inside

    A peek inside

    Note: The original recipe has a baked base, I opted for a no bake one. To follow the original, click here.

    Note: This recipe will go great with peaches, strawberries, blueberries or even mango.

    Note: You can use standard white chocolate instead of the dark one.

    Note: Serving options include whipped cream or even vanilla ice-cream. Yumm!

    Simple, easy delicious dessert

    Simple, easy delicious dessert

    I am taking dessert this time over at Angie’s Friday Fiesta #24. Do peek over to see some awesome collection of mouth-watering recipes and writing.

    Choco Chip Mini Muffins – EggFree

    School re-opens. A brand new year. New teacher. Fresh clean books. Sharpened pencils. And amongst all this – new classmates. Her class gets shuffled every year, and this grade none of her friends are with her. She returns home dejected and sullen.

    Mini Muffins

    Mini Muffins

    Slow at makin friends and adapting to new people, the little girl takes her own sweet time in settling down and getting companionable. Once she does though is another story altogether! But for now, she is bitter. Full of complaints on the first day – that girl pushed me, this boy pulled my hair, teacher was rude… the list is endless. It takes mammoth patience and understanding to explain that the whole world is not there to bite her. They have other work too. A task really. But her stubborn mind is not so yielding.

    Choco chips in butter vanilla

    Choco chips in butter vanilla

    When the hostile mind slowly dies down, out rises the receptiveness. Her desires for amity make way for innumerable possibilities. Topping the list was Food πŸ™‚

    One smart girl I have. Food brings people closer, breaks barriers, warms the heart.
    Someone so rightly said “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house, EAT with Him….. the people who give you their food, will give you their heart”

    So I bake for her camaraderie. And I bake for her zest and spirit.

    chocolate muffin

    chocolate muffin

    For the Vanilla Butter Cupcakes

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup maida/all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • Baking powder 1 tsp
    • Baking soda 1/4 tsp
    • Warm Milk 1/3 cup
    • Curd 1/2 cup, whisk it before using
    • melted butter, 1/4 cup
    • Vanilla essence 1/4 tsp
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup chocolate chips, white or dark or a bit of both

    Method

    Preheat oven to 150 C.
    In a big mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix well. Now, make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add the curd, vanilla, vinegar and butter.
    Using a hand whisk, gently mix the ingredients until well combined. Make sure the wet ingredients are incorporated into the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. Gently fold in the choco chips.

    Now line your cupcake tray with liners or grease them of required. Spoon the batter till the moulds are 3/4th full. If you like, you can top the cupcakes with more chocolate chips.
    Bake the little muffins at 150 C for about 8-10 minutes or until they are done. Remove. Cool.

    For the chocolate cupcakes, follow the above method and add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa to the dry ingredients and add a bit of milk accordingly.

    Box full

    Box full

    Note: Chopped nuts or any dried fruit can also be added in place of chocolate chips.

    Note: Do not over bake the cupcake, around 8-10 minutes should be apt, else they turn hard and chewy.

    Little Treats

    Little Treats

    She wanted the entire box, which is SO not allowed in school. Gently coaxing her to take a few to share with her immediate neighbors was met with instant disapproval.
    Friendship takes time, I cajoled.
    Yes, but I need some for my old friends too…. left me with no more words.

    Whole Wheat Oats Banana Honey Bread – Eggless, Sugarless, Butterless

    Whole Wheat Oats Banana Honey Bread

    Whole Wheat Oats Banana Honey Bread

    Less is definitely more. Especially when it comes to this divine soft dense bread. Going sugar free and fat free along with skipping the eggs is no joke guys. Really. Skeptical from scratch, I still ventured ahead because the germ of the idea had firmly incorporated itself in my head.
    Banana bread. Sounds so enticing, and when you make it literally fat free and supremely healthy who would want to wait and why? πŸ™‚

    So healthy

    So healthy

    If truth be told, I had never eaten banana bread before but had seen numerous recipes floating around. So when I came across this super healthy recipe with easily available ingredients I got all excited and eager. I sieved, mixed and baked. And then I waited. While the beauty rose, my house smelled warm and divine. I could hardly wait for it to cool down. To kill time, I put up teasers on my page on FB, chatted with friends, disturbed the husband and checked the clock repeatedly.

    Finally when my knife sank into the well risen bread, well.. so did my heart. It was dense and slightly sticky. My face fell. The excitement evaporated. What did I make? Is it supposed to be like this? This thing has all the stuff which never goes into making bread – whole grain, oats, no sugar, no butter, no eggs… yea, it has all rights to be what it is. I was crest fallen.

    When I took a teeny tiny piece for him to taste and give his highly valued verdict, all that he could gesture(he was on those never ending conf calls of his) was ‘ya nice, now go’. Sigh! With no bona fide feedback, I resigned to FB and friends. They did rescue me. Both FB food groups and my dear friends.

    So what I learnt was that Banana bread is naturally dense and more moist than other cakes. Depending on the quantity of bananas used, the result could vary in stickiness(I hope that’s a word).
    Oh Well. One pal of mine went a step ahead, smeared a slice with some tart marmalade and encouraged me to take a mouthful. I hesitated. But just one bite was enough to tell me, I didn’t have a recipe failure for sure πŸ™‚ It tasted SO good with the fruit preserve, that I wondered why I was in any doubt in the first place.

    Yumm with some nutella

    Yumm with some nutella

    gorgeous Crust

    gorgeous Crust

    This recipe has been adapted from here.

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup whole wheat flour or atta
    • 1 cup mashed banana
    • 1/2 cup Oats
    • 1/3 cup Orange juice or sweet lime juice
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 3 tbsp. oil
    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 3 tbsp. chocolate chips
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • A pinch of salt

    Method

    Preheat oven to 180Β°C and grease a bread pan and keep aside.

    Take whole wheat flour, Oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl add mashed banana, oil, honey, cider vinegar, mosambi juice and combine well.

    Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in it. Mix until just combined.
    Pour the batter in the greased baking tin and bake for about 40 minutes or till done. Mine was done in 50 minutes. Once done. Cool well. Invert and slice thinly.

    Serve with butter or jam or nutella.

    Good with some butter

    Good with some butter

    Note: Sanjeeta of LiteBite.in encourages to use apple cider vinegar as it acts as a substitute to eggs and gives lightness to the bake. Apple cider variety has a lovely taste than the plain vinegar. If you want to skip it, then add yogurt instead.

    Jam and Nutella - perfect on some bread

    Jam and Nutella – perfect on some bread

    For the next two days, my breakfast comprised of a slice of this delicious bread, some marmalade, a glass of warm milk and 5-6 almonds. The natural sweeteners in the cake took care of my day’s sweet cravings and I for one felt like some harbinger of good health and nutrition.

    Sugarless, butterless and eggless

    Sugarless, butterless and eggless

    To Santa with love – Strawberry Cake

    To Santa, with Love

    To Santa, with Love

    I love winters. My most favorite season. I love December. My most favorite month.
    And a wintery december brings with it a host of festivities. Tis the season of weddings(in India). Tis the time to shop till you drop. Tis the month of Christmas. Tis the month of Santa!

    From the time I have been told about good old Santa Claus, I have believed in him. I still do. I believe in this incredible concept of hope and joy.

    Children hope that Santa would true their innermost desires. We also do something similar, albeit a tad differently. We hope for some surreal magic in our daily lives that would elevate and give wings to our wants.
    It is this exact faith that makes a child dream and aspire. He dreams, hence he achieves. So in effect am I saying Santa has a huge role in shaping your child’s future? Er… Not exactly..but what I am trying to say is – Santa is important. It is more important to believe in him than discuss the validity of his existence.
    So go ahead tell your child about good old Santa Claus. Tell them about his gift decisive lists, the elves, the North Pole, his sleigh, about Rudolph.. let those little eyes fill with wonder, those spirits soar, let those hearts fill with hope and everlasting joy. Let.
    This post is dedicated to Santa Claus.

    Joinin in the festivities :)

    Joinin in the festivities πŸ™‚

    The quintessential red and white needs to be emulated. So what better than strawberries and cream. Oh! such a classic combination. And its Christmas! So cake has to be there too. So what do you get when you throw in cake, strawberries and cream – ah, no rocket science this. Strawberry Cake you fellas! πŸ™‚

    Strawberries and Cream - can't go wrong with these two!

    Strawberries and Cream – can’t go wrong with these two!

    As I sieved, added and mixed, the incessant chatter of my 6 year old was on. Her innumerable queries on anything remotely to Santa, Christmas, trees and gifts was already putting me in a tizzy. So, to rest the chatterbox a while, I invented a story. This spur-of-the-moment-thought-of story which had Santa as a super hero had my little girl transfixed, her imagination on fire and the tongue firmly in place. πŸ™‚

    There is no thing like "extra" cream ;)

    There is no thing like “extra” cream πŸ˜‰

     

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup all purpose flour/maida
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 cup butter or oil
    • 1/2 cup sugar (use a little bit less than 1/2 a cup)
    • 1/2 cup curds
    • 1/4 tsp strawberry essence
    • 2 drops vanilla essence
    • milk, as required

    For the icing:

    • 2 cups of sliced strawberries
    • 1/2 cup of sugar water – mix 1 tablespoon of sugar in 1/2 cup water
    • 1 cup of whipping or any heavy cream – sweetened.

    Method

    Preheat the oven at 200C for 8-10 minutes. Till then, sieve the flour, baking powder and soda. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar till smooth. I usually add little by little to ensure a smooth uniform paste. Then using a tablespoon, alternate between curds and flour, that is, pour curds, mix. Then flour. Mix. Do till you finish the given quantities of curds and flour. If the batter is too thick, then add a few tablespoons of milk and mix to make a smooth batter. Add both the essences. Give it a final whirl. Pour the batter in a greased tin. Bake at 170C for at least 25 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick at the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, then the cake is done. If not, then bake for a couple of more minutes till the cake is uniformly baked.

    Remove the tin, cool.

    Icing:

    Whip the cream till you get soft peaks. Slice the cake horizontally using a sharp long blade knife. On the bottom portion, sprinkle some sugar water. Place a semi thick layer of cream on the base. Top with sliced strawberries. Now keep the sliced portion on the creamed strawberry topped base. Repeat the process. If desired you could apply cream on the sides too. Chill for atleast 30 minutes before serving it.

    Serving Suggestion: Serve every slice with more cream and strawberries!

    Yummy bite

    Yummy bite

    Note: The intermittent additions of the ingredients combined with the mixing of the batter, ensures it a smooth, knot free batter. I have found this to be a never-fail technique when baking eggless. It makes the cake lighter and airier.

    Note: If you do not have heavy cream or whipped cream, use a toned lighter cream(like Amul in India), whip the lighter cream in a bowl placed on a bed of ice of another bowl. This helps the light cream to gain some volume and body.

    Note: Top with as much strawberries as you can. It is never too much. The sweet and the tart and the cream … ooh! so delicious!

    We love you Santa

    We love you Santa

    That night she wanted to leave a slice by the tree. I let her.

    But then, when she was fast asleep, dreaming and living her fancies, is when I tiptoed to the little tree, relished half the slice, refrigerated the rest.  There! done. I just had to be up before her and place the  half eaten slice back near the tree. πŸ™‚

    Everyone needs a Santa in their life. I’m hers.

    Merry Christmas!!

    Merry Christmas!!

    Merry Christmas my lovely readers! Merry Christmas.

    Kheer/Rice Pudding and a book review

    ‘Every sentient being has a mind whose fundamental nature is essentially pure…’
    The Dalai Lama

    My faith and belief in this sublime thought is compounded by my beautiful life and the various people that I meet.
    This post brings to you a traditional Indian recipe of the classic North Indian Kheer/Rice pudding and an unbiased review of a fabulous book.

    Some time back I was invited for coffee. The invite was spontaneous, genuine and exhorted such positive vibes that I could not say no. My hosts were a very lovely mother daughter duo who read, write and lead such simple unpretentious lives, that you cannot help but be inspired.

    Rice Pudding

    Rice Pudding

    Sometimes it was books that we spoke about, and at other times the conversation reeled towards spirituality or parenting. The ambience warm and endearing. The talk intelligent, honest and the coffee. Perfect. What more could I ask for?

    A book. A great book.

    We exchange, suggest and review books unofficially for each other. So when I rose to take their leave, the very lovely daughter hands me a book and says “I took this out especially for you”. What a way to bid adieu. I beamed.

    Subtle flavor of cardamom

    Subtle flavor of cardamom

    The Dalai Lama’s Cat is a stunner. To say it is unassumingly preachy, supremely intelligent and endearingly funny, would not be a fabrication.
    The Dalai Lama’s Cat is David Michie’s novel account of life with the Dalai Lama from the perspective of a cat. How Interesting!
    This book offers a sneak peak into a Buddhists life, their simple elevated thoughts and a fresh take on “happiness”. That elusive word, which every human being strives and fights for.

    Can Happiness be conquered? What does it take to become “Wisely Selfish”. David Michie gives a Buddhist’s take on Life and Happiness in such a seamless effortless way, that you learn from the book without being nagged and preached. Buddhist mantra of Love and Compassion to all is beautifully etched in the various rendezvous of His Holiness’s Cat.

    Cashews, saffron in warm milk

    Cashews, saffron in warm milk

    Kheer, a very traditional Indian rice pudding is also known as payasam(in kannada, tamil, telugu and malyalam) or Payesh(in Bengali).
    Typically, rice is boiled in milk, infused with flavors of cardamom, lightly colored by saffron and loaded with assorted nuts. The variations are plenty and the taste, inexplicable. This exquisite sweet dish is usually made on special occasions like on festive days or for poojas.

    Supreme Saffron

    Supreme Saffron

    I love the fragrance and flavor of saffron/Kesar/Zaffran. The inclusiveness of saffron is optional but the slightest addition elevates the dish and takes it to another supreme level. So I would say it is integral to my recipe of kheer.

    Loaded with assorted nuts

    Loaded with assorted nuts

    The Recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 1 litre milk, whole or toned, as you please
    • 1.5 tbsp of raw rice, washed and soaked for 10 minutes
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
    • 1 pinch of saffron, soaked in a tbsp of warm milk
    • 1/2 cup of assorted nuts, I used almonds, cashews, pistachios and raisins, preferably soaked in little milk
    • 3 tbsp of sugar, change as per your desired level of sweetness

    Method

    In a thick bottomed pan, heat milk. Once it boils, add the raw rice and mix. Keep simmering and stirring all the while till the milk reduces to almost half the quantity. The milk will thicken and gradually stick to the sides. Keep scraping the sides and let the entire mix form into one cohesive thick stew. Add cardamom, saffron(rubbed in warm milk), assorted nuts and sugar towards the end. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

    If you like the consistency thin, do not reduce the milk to half, add the sugar-cardamom-saffron-nuts mix earlier and get done with it. We like kheer thick and pudding like, almost that of ‘rabdi’ consistency.

    If you notice I have added very less sugar, the natural sweetness and flavor of milk and dry fruits, along with little bit of sweetner is enough to satiate those saccharine cravings. So, to get maximum flavors and taste, keep the sugar minimum and see the difference.

    We chill the kheer and top it with pistachios and saffron. Each bite is like an almost set rice pudding, loaded with nuts and enhanced by cardamom.
    Heaven, dear readers, Heaven!

    We like it - Chilled

    We like it – Chilled

    The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?
    -Buddha

    Rakshabandhan Special – Eggless Whole Wheat Oat Cookies

    Rakshabandhan – the bond of protection, is a beautiful Hindu festival celebrated with much fan fare and gusto in all parts of India. This auspicious day falls on the full moon(Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

    The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. Wow, Right?!!

    Whole Wheat Oat Cookies

    Whole Wheat Oat Cookies

    My brother does not reside in the same city as I do. But distance never deters any sister to send this sacred thread across to her loving brother. A box full of cookies, some very dark chocolate brownies and fancy beautiful threads to adorn my little brothers wrist, I send these little beauties across and make sure the recipient gets it well in advance.

    Sacred thread

    Sacred thread

    A simple sacred red-yellow thread was the norm many many years ago. But now things have changed. Indian market is flooded with designer rakhis which usually cost a bomb. They are visually very appealing, studded with stones and pearls.
    Mom always made sure we girls tied a simple thread first and then the fancy shancy ones which we splurged on. The thread adorned the brother’s wrist for days to come, where as the decorative ones usually came out within an hour or two of tying.

    So, what do you do if you don’t have a brother? Well, with changing times, this brother sister celebration extended even to sister-sister and brother-brother fanfare. Now, usually boys being boys never indulged in extra ‘frivolous’ things like these. You will never catch a guy tying any thread on another guy’s wrist, but what you will find is this – chirpy cheery girls tying the most decorative piece on their sister’s wrist.
    I know this, because that’s what we sisters did for a very long time, until my brother was born. To this date, I send girl rakhis(called Lumbas) for my sisters and they love to showcase them on their bangles.

    One to adorn your wrist

    One to adorn your wrist

    My brother is all of 17 years old. I was 16 when he was born – oh please don’t do the math to my age πŸ™‚
    Having such a small brother is like having a grown up son. He is smart, naughty, caring, witty and hates girl talk. Imagine him living his life surrounded by very talkative sisters, the kind who nagged, the kind who bullied, the kind who also gave in to all his wishes and demands.

    I remember him being my handy until I got married and moved away. He would run to do my work, but not before he bullied me into baking some chocolate cake or maybe a bowl full of hakka noodles. Sigh! Those were the days, now the stuff he wants scares the hell out of me – mobile phones, PSP’s .. and what not.

    I made them crisp and crunchy.

    I made them crisp and crunchy.

    This year, along with the threads, I decided to send some good bakes as well. Its sheer joy when someone, anyone, sends you something hand made – home made. And the insatiable sweet tooth in my brother also gets satisfied with these sweet delights – yay!

    I’ve never baked cookies before, so when I came across this easy breezy recipe, I bookmarked it. With the goodness of whole wheat and oats, laced with a hint of cinnamon powder and pure vanilla extract, these cookies were a big crowd pleaser back home.

    Cinnamon Flavored

    Cinnamon Flavored

    What we have here is an eggless whole wheat oat cookie recipe. They are dense, crisp and crunchy. If you prefer soft chewy bites, then simply bake them for a lesser time.
    For lighter-fluffier cookies, use plain flour/maida instead of whole wheat.

    Sweet Delight

    Sweet Delight

    The recipe:

    To make 16 medium sized cookies –

    Ingredients

    • 50 gms butter
    • 80 gms powdered sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 2-3 drops of essence
    • 1 tbsp of milk
    • 50 gms oats
    • 75 gms whole wheat flour or plain flour
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder

    Optional: gems or MnM’s to decorate

    Method

    Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth and creamy. Mix all the dry ingredients, oats, flour, cinnamon powder and baking powder.

    Preheat the oven at 175 C.

    Mix in the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and knead briefly until the cookie dough comes together. Grab small handfuls of the dough, and shape into small balls. Place on a greased or non stick cookie tray at a distance from each other. They will rise and spread.

    Bake @150 C for 15 to 20 minutes for a chewy cookie and 25 to 30 minutes for crisp cookies.

    To place the MnM/Gems: Midway while baking, wear a glove, place a gem each in the center of every cookie and return to bake.

    Once done, allow to cool. Sample if you crave a bite, and store in an airtight container.

    Thats it.

    Tea time treats

    Tea time treats

    My daughter does not enjoy plain sweet treats unless they have a little bit of chocolate in them. Now with the success of these, I am itching to try them with choco chips or even Nutella swirls or maybe some nuts and saffron! The mind does race ahead of its time πŸ™‚

    The brother pleased as a punch, hijacks the entire box, merely handing down a piece or two for the others to sample, relishes these sweet delights, calls me up and complains, “Why you didn’t send something savory to eat with all these sweets?”.
    No how-are-yous. No Thank-yous. No saccharine talk. Sigh! Brothers.

    Raksha Bandhan

    Raksha Bandhan

    Easy Biscuit Chocolate Fudge – Century Post

    6 months back all I could think of was to put up a few tried recipes and some serious journaling of my boring life.
    Then Time happened. And along with time, 99 posts happened.
    These two changed my priorities, wants and needs. Now I disarmigly try n concoct recipes and formulas, view my once mundane life with a story in every moment, capture those timeless-fleeting occasions in my heart as well as in words, be fascinated with pixels and ISO settings, play around with picasa and instagram, make new friends and the best bit – wake up to ‘likes’ and kind ‘comments’!!
    Life has been fun since.

    Biscuit Chocolate Fudge

    Biscuit Chocolate Fudge

    Exactly 6 months and 99 posts later, I bring this sweet delicacy for you dear foodies to celebrate my 100th post. Biscuit Chocolate Fudge, a gooey-chewy soft sweet mouthful – a perfect way to enhance my festive spirit.

    Soft, gooey, chewy

    Soft, gooey, chewy

    Milee was already celebrating. Not my 100th post dear friends. But ‘Friendship Day’. Frankly, I never got around understanding all the special days that come in a year – friendships day, women’s day, father’s day, mother’s day, wife day, this day, that day. Phew! tiring.

    But the child’s zest and spirit to make friends and share threads of amity made me tickle her demands of little friendships bands and some chocolate candies.

    It might sound strange, but I never made a band for my friends to declare and pledge my loyalty towards them. And others around me did it and were subject to ‘Hmph, so silly’ looks. But like said before, Time taught me to never say ‘never’ again. My kid, who has a very fine mind of her own and she makes that very clear, announces loud that she needs those threads for all the people on her list. The girl was on a mission, I could make that out.

    Milee's friends eye the fudge...

    Milee’s friends eye the fudge…

    And now a little word on Milee’s social skills. My kid is sensitive, touchy and easily offended. Comradeship doesn’t come easily to her. She usually gets left out or kicked out from games and teams. We can see she is eager to make friends and join in all the fun, but the kid struggles with social skills and team spirit.
    Hmm… so now her agenda was to bribe her way into games and groups. Well..I could not say no, and moreover I needed a sweet treat to ceremonialize my 100 posts.

    Sticky stack

    Sticky stack

    The band making project turned quite a dampner when we realized crocheting threads is no joke. We struggled, wasted and finally flung the thin satin yarns. Leaving a room full of fine threads, scissors and lots of mess for another time in the day, we enter the kitchen in lieu of creating some magic there at the least.

    The recipe simple, the ingredients ready, the zest back, we set to work. And it works like a charm.

    Ingredients

    • 1 tin condensed milk, I used nestle
    • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 100 gms butter
    • 200 gms coarsely crushed biscuits/cookies, I used Hide n Seek
    • Gems/ MnM’s to decorate

    -THAT’S IT!

    Method

    Mix the condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter to a smooth paste in a pan or kadai/wok. Place the mixture on low flame and while stirring all the while, cook for at least 10-12 minutes. You will find it thickening and becoming one cohesive mass. Once done. Throw in the coarsely crushed biscuits. Mix well.

    Pour the contents into a well greased plate. Let it cool. I refrigerated it once the fudge had cooled down. After a couple of hours, remove, cut into square pieces, decorate with MnM’s or gems.

    Serve!

    Keep the rest refrigerated else it starts to get all sticky and melty.

    A milestone reached

    A milestone reached

    We later did get back to the band making project. And we did complete it, though with not any outstanding results. But it pleased Milee like no other. She was very proud of her handi work, joyous about the little goodies cooling in the fridge and hopeful of all those beautiful relationships she was going to make.

    No, I am no witch. I didn’t burst the bubble that was floating so high up in the air. I let her dream. I let her hope. I let her be.

    Colorful setting

    Of Journeys and Ends

    And with this new-found hope that both mother daughter found, we embark on our respective journeys with similar roads to travel and familiar destinations.
    So, here’s one, for many more to come.

    Dark Double Chocolate Walnut Brownies

    Dark Double chocolate walnut brownie served with warm milk

    Dark Double chocolate walnut brownie served with warm milk

    I like to cook, but it doesn’t mean I eat all that I have experimented in the kitchen. So, I tend to distribute all the goodies among family, friends and neighbors.
    But we are Indians. We are taught not to take stuff, and if we do, we have to reciprocate in a similar manner. As products of this culturally strong country it is imbibed in us to return favors, especially food favors.

    Decadent and dense

    Decadent and dense

    Now what happens is, all those boxes that I send over, comes back loaded with more food.. glorious food! You can imagine my plight. My umpteen refusals and explanations falls on deaf ears. They willingly accept and smilingly give back more. Sigh!

    Whipped up a brown storm

    Whipped up a brown storm

    Now, a very exciting recipe was on the card, a dark double chocolate walnut brownie! While I sieved/mixed/baked, I thought of all the smiles I was going to bring on little expectant faces! But then the thought of the returned boxes haunted my vision. Then is when I went smart.
    This time, I carefully packed the treat in disposable containers. Ingenious eh?

    Brownies and Milk

    Brownies and Milk

    Well.. not so much. Favors, you package them in tupperware or in aluminium foil, are favors. They have to be returned come what may. My bad.

    dense bite

    dense bite

    Multiple compliments on the awesomeness of the brownie was combined with what became my lunch and dinner for next couple of days. Just 15 minutes of toil and I was exempt from cooking next few meals. Yea… people are that sweet around me.

    Hello Kitty eyes the treat

    Hello Kitty eyes the treat

    I’ve made brownies before. But I tried a new formula, where coffee and dark chocolate thrown in, take these little eggless brownie to another level altogether. Dense, chewy, gooey, this little joy is best enjoyed in my place with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce and a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream! DE-LISH!

    Dark chocolate and coffee in it!

    Dark chocolate and coffee in it!

    The original recipe is a triple chocolate one. But I ran short of vanilla chocolate chips and made do with only dark chocolate, coffee and walnuts. So double chocolate it is.

    Dark choco chips, walnuts and brownies

    Dark choco chips, walnuts and brownies

    The Recipe:

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup maida/all purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, I actually used a little bit more than 1/3 cup.
    • Baking powder 1 tsp
    • Baking soda 1/4 tsp
    • 1/4 cup Dark chocolate chopped into pieces or dark chocolate chips
    • Instant coffee powder 1 tbsp
    • 2-3 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
    • Warm Milk 1/3 cup
    • Curd 1/2 cup, whisk it before using
    • melted butter, 1/4 cup. Original calls for oil, but oil makes my cakes smell.. so I tend to avoid oil.
    • Vanilla essence 1/4 tsp
    • YEP, they are eggless too!!

    Method

    Preheat oven to 150 C. Dissolve the instant coffee powder in 1/3 cup of milk. Stir and set aside.
    In a big mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix well. Now, make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add the coffee, curd, vanilla and butter.
    Using a hand whisk, gently mix the ingredients until well combined. Make sure the wet ingredients are incorporated into the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix the batter. Requirement is of dense gooey brownies, not a well risen cake!
    Now, pour half of the batter into a parchment paper lined tray and evenly spread it out using a spatula making sure that it covers the whole pan. Gently tap the pan onto the counter. Sprinkle 1/2 of the chocolate chips. Evenly.
    Now, add the remaining dark chocolate bits to the remaining batter and pour over. Gently even using a spatula even the surface out. Place the tray into the preheated oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

    Once done, let it cool completely before you cut them into neat squares! Enjoy warm with a glass of milk.

    Note: if you notice the brownies I’ve made, they have risen a little. I mixed the batter a bit more than required. Hence, you make sure to beat the batter just so much as to incorporate the contents properly.

    Fresh out of the oven

    Fresh out of the oven

    Note: Its always better to line your tray with parchment paper before pouring the batter in. It’s cleaner, neater and you have no hassle of brownie ends clinging on to the aluminium.

    Sinful Indulgence

    Sinful Indulgence

    Note: Try adding vanilla chocolate chips too to the batter, thus making it a “Triple chocolate Brownie“. Havent tried it, but am sure it would transport me to another realm.

    Double Chocolate Wonder

    Double Chocolate Wonder

    Note: If you’re not a nut fan( πŸ™‚ ), skip the walnuts. I had kids removing the highly nutritious nut and gobbling up the chocolate bit. Milee sulked for a whole 10 minutes when she saw I threw in walnuts, but then later she had more than her share, when I removed the spoilers for her.

    Bundle of joy

    Bundle of joy

    Note: All in all this recipe took 1 hour to make. Just 15 minutes to get the batter ready, 30-35 minutes to bake and after it was out of the oven, we lost track of time..:)

    Try stopping with one...

    Try stopping with one…

    In case you are wondering of my abnegation of chocolates and sweets. Mere mortal me, tried hard. Then gave up the giving up of life’s simple pleasures. I do indulge, but just a wee bit. One tiny amazing dense chocolaty brownie piece is all that I ever need to feel the fullness of Life.