Mango Strawberry Yogurt Granola Parfait

I know, I know, I have been away for a while now. Did you guess I was busy? Well, you are right in doing so. It seems, “Busy” is not quite an excuse for a mom, rather a state of life and more so if one has school going kids. No, I get it, let’s just say a mom is busy no matter what and everything else has to somehow fit in.

I sound dramatic, don’t I? Indeed! It was a big milestone for my little one as she started pre-school last week . My life is busier than before with my new job as the resident chauffeur and yet, I will get to have “my” time while she is away. So it is a win-win for both of us and hopefully it means many more frequent posts for you too..

Anyhow, I am glad to be back and this time, with a beautiful fruit combo in a healthy dessert and a guest post for a special friend.

A personification of her blog’s namesake, she is bubbly, she is enthusiastic and is the sweetest blogger I know of. Our friendship sparked off over a weekend of web photography session by Penny De Los Santos, virtually of course. And as we were learning together miles apart, it didn’t take too long before we started bonding over tweets. This to me (and many bloggers might probably agree) is one of the most beautiful gifts of blogging. There are some really lovely people to befriend and help you in the food blogging world.

And I am so thankful to blogging for having found me this wonderful friend. I only hope we can meet in person too someday.

So when she asked me if I could guest post, my instant reply was “Of course, I’d love to!

She is none other than the girl with bright eyes and a big smile, my good friend Kanakana Saxena of Sunshine and Smile

Blogging from the sunshine state of California, Kankana, a Bengali and a newly wed showcases recipes that she’s tried to woo her doting husband, though she claims he is a better cook! She comforts you with her laid back easy-going conversational style and stories from everyday life. Paapri Chaat, Whole wheat carom seed crackers, Gobi Manchurian, Watermelon cooler are some of my favorites among her vegetarian food fare.

So be sure to head over to her lovely blog for some sunshine, a smile, lot of interesting recipes and my guest post.

You can also find Kankana on twitter and facebook.

Here’s a quick link to the Printable Recipe as well

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Pasta and Vegetables Soup

Guest Post

You know how casual random acts can lead to nice things? For instance, casual browsing on Foodgawker brought me to pause at  these Egyptian Date Crescents that I instantly fell in love with for, I hardly find eggless pastry based desserts that easily. This blog hopping then led to twitter connection.

In the words of Penny de Los Santos whose workshop I recently attended and have been catching myself quoting only her quotes ever since, “Facebook is for those you already know and twitter is for those who you want to know“. Well said.

What are tweets meant for? And that is how I got to know Lynn (@LynnLawandi on twitter) was looking out for someone to guest post while she is moving in and out of condos. Happy to help I was and so was Lynn and that is how this special post has come alive. Lynn has quite a few egg-less desserts like Good old-fashioned Apple Pie, Pear Caramel Ice cream, Plum Tarte Tatin to name a few. So be sure to check her blog.

Over the years, reasons might have changed, but Summer has remained very dear to me. During the pre-teen years, summer was all about a precious vacation with my parents, the only solid three-month long time I would get to spend with them during the entire year. Summers those days were carefree, irrespective of how scorching the sun decided to be. Strolling through mango and guava orchards occasionally helping myself to a few, in a small village in a remote corner of the Karnataka map then seemed like the best way to spend the afternoons. Those were the good old days.

Golden memories are seldom remade. But we sure can create new ones so they turn golden as the years roll. Amidst such teeny whims and fancies this year among all others, summer is special to me for reasons green. My interest in gardening peaked out of the blue off late and the balcony container garden that I expanded during early spring of this year has started showing prolific results. I’m excited more than I can word(ex)press about growing my own herbs – parsley flat and curled, chives, thyme or mint. A realization however late it might seem is yet so true – there’s no greater satisfaction than growing your own silly garden.

The best produce is one that we harvest from our own gardens tended with our very own hands. No supermarket produce stands tall in front of it.

So, now when I want some of the herbs that I normally don’t frequently use but still need occasionally, all I have to do is step out of the door wide open to the balcony and feel the joy abound.

Similar is the joy of cooking with farmer’s market fresh vegetables.

Given the fresh vegetables and herbs, I couldn’t miss thinking about making a hearty pasta and vegetable soup. Since the day I accidentally made this once, I must’ve made it umpteen times and yet never really came to think of sharing with you.

So, it felt like the right time to introduce this recipe to you through this guest post for Lynn.

Please join me at Lynn Lawandi’s to read more about what she’s having!

You can also go straight to the Printable Recipe

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset.

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Rosemary and Garlic roasted Purple Potatoes

 

Right from the time I first saw them on Discovery or some such channel  I was quite fascinated with them. Years later, very recently I was thrilled when I got to buy them at whole foods. That was the first time ever that I held a purple potato in my life. You must be surprised at the way I talk about this rare (at least to me) vegetable as if it is worth its weight in gold.

So incredible is the feeling of discovering/exploring a new food ingredient!

Ever since I started blogging, everyday is a discovery of something new to me, blogging has left the doors of learning wide open. Now I always have my eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary when I stroll around the food market.

Nature displays her sense of color in fascinating ways. There is something magical about food in unusual colors, a pure delight.

Contrary to popular skepticism, purple potatoes even as they appear outlandish, are not genetically modified. Thank God!
Purple potatoes it seems were among the first to be cultivated in the Peruvian Andes by the Incas, reserved as a special treat for the kings.
Potatoes are off-late the most frowned upon food for their high starch content and for being just what they are, ‘carbs’. Purple potato with its vivid deep navy blue mixed purple color is both bold and beautiful, bold in hue and beautiful in looks and just like blueberries, it is supposedly rich in antioxidants.
Now that I have revealed the good news, aren’t there more reasons to pick up this purple tater than its whiter namesake?

I know exactly what’s on your mind now. What about its texture and taste? I am coming to it right away.
Some say they taste just like potatoes. I felt they taste quite purple, in a nice way, really. I don’t know if it was just me or the potatoes themselves.
The texture is creamy with a velvety feel to the bite, a tad bit sweet with a skin thinner. Some even say it is subtly nutty with a grassy note, may be it just depends on the produce or the season.
They are smaller, cook fast and turn almost an elephant grey on cooking.

I guess you can cook them in all the same ways as you would the regular spud but I wanted a recipe as flamboyant as their looks.
My least favorite way to eat them is all mushy in mashed potatoes. I feel slices and chunks flatter them better and thus roasting came as the natural choice.
Next time around, I’d love to explore them in a mixed bag along with their gold and rose counterparts as the contrasting colors sound rather interesting.

They are a bit pricey compared to the regular ones, but hey! I feel they are worth the premium. They are more nutritious and I love to eat them.


Rosemary being intensely aromatic perfectly accentuates this purple tuber united with the characteristic pungency of garlic.
Intensely flavorful and deeply satisfying, these healthy roasted purple potatoes are the perfect recipe to replace french fries. Neither the calories nor the guilt!
Purple potatoes are not something you see often served in a restaurant or in someone’s house. Hope you got a new recipe to share some good-eat moments with friends and family.
Do have your eyes out when you hit the farmer’s market this spring/summer.
May be I should grow them in my balcony garden…

 My next exploration would be purple potatoes with lavendar and fleur de sel in place of sea salt for a whimsical taste with perfect saltiness, another time. A pinch of food for thought, eh?
 Have you ever had a rendezvous with purple potatoes? How would you describe its taste?

Rosemary and Garlic roasted Purple Potatoes Recipe

recipe adapted from epicurious.com
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 lb purple potatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves (about 1 sprig), minced
  • 2 garlic cloves or per taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
Others
  • baking tray
  • aluminium foil to line the tray
How it’s done:
Preheat oven to 400°F
Line baking tray with aluminium foil and either brush or spray some olive oil.
Wash, dry and quarter the potatoes into wedges. To easily release rosemary leaves, hold the end of the sprig in one hand and pull the leaves backwards in a swift motion. Hold them all together to chop.
To easily mince garlic, let’s use the “smash the garlic clove with the knife” trick. Place the chef’s knife sideways on the garlic clove with one hand and smash it against the cutting board with the other palm as the hammer. Then peel and run your knife back and forth like a saw to chop/mince it.
In a large mixing bowl, quickly combine all the ingredients, salt being the last (to avoid sogginess) making sure that all the potato wedges are well coated with olive oil, herb and spices.
Arrange the wedges facing up on the baking tray and bake for 20 mins or until edges are brown and crisp and fork tender.
Do not over bake or leave the potatoes in the oven longer than the baking time or they’ll shrink.

Note

Dried rosemary should be fine too, though fresh works best. If it is your first time with this highly aromatic herb, here’s a handy video on how to chop Rosemary.
Thyme can also be used along with or instead of rosemary.
Fingerlings and gourmet potatoes work equally well with this recipe and result in crisp on the outside and buttery on the inside wedges.
White and red skinned potatoes work fine as well but not the russet potatoes.

Rosemary and Garlic roasted Purple Potatoes is my favorite post in April and hence sending it off to Your Best Recipe Roundup for April held by Nancy of Spicie Foodie

Also sending it as my entry to Hearth and Soul Hop volume 46 at the hub

Hearth and Soul Hop at the Hearth and Soul Hop Hub

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Easy Eggless Chocolate Pudding

Just the other day my three-year old came up to me and made what looked like an unassuming request, Amma (mom) can I have “choca-lake pudding”?
Simple as it seemed, it startled me to bits, pleasantly of course. A never-heard-of food request of this sort from my little one whom I have known to be or rather labelled as a picky-eater ages back, was quite a welcome surprise. It was no ordinary day for me, it was a dream come true for a mother who was all-ears yearning to hear at least something remotely similar to ‘any food request’. Overwhelmed, I showered her with hugs and kisses, in turn all she gave me was a bewildered look and the same request repeated few times more than my little girl could count.
That did it for me. I had to make the chocolate pudding, who cares if she might reject it after the first lick?
I was whole-heartedly thankful for mickey mouse clubhouse for rousing the curiosity to explore a new food in an otherwise reluctant and judgemental (of food) pre-schooler. And secretly for once, an ever-pricking guilt over the few hours of ‘idiot box’ babysitting I had left her in didn’t seem to hurt my conscience.
This is a real simple chocolate pudding recipe fit to be enjoyed as a dessert or just as a pick-me-up treat a la balmy comfort food for a lazy day for which the silky chocolaty mouth feel seems perfectly paired.

All the recipes I looked up either had heavy cream or butter called for, which meant either the devil or the deep-sea. Guess I chose the deep-sea. The pudding came out perfectly set with the right amount of sweetness we relish except that I was craving for a bit more depth to the chocolate flavor. Cocoa powder alone felt a little flat, so the next time around I would surely add some semi sweet chocolate to bring forth another dimension of chocolate goodness.
Here’s the question, what is your favorite pudding? Do you ever reach out for a Chocolate pudding for comfort?

Psst: In case the curious cat in you wants to know what my tiny tot’s verdict was, she ate half the serving bowl just so you know and it is much more than what I expected – remember?

Easy Egg-less Chocolate Pudding Recipe

adapted from allrecipes.com
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 1-1/2 cups milk (I used 3/4 cup non fat & 3/4 cup whole milk)
  • 2-3 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
For garnish (optional)
  • toasted, slivered or crushed almonds or pistachios
How it’s done:
  • Bring 1 cup milk to a boil in a thick bottomed saucepan. In the mean while, whisk together corn starch, cocoa, sugar and salt and stir the mix into 1/2 cup milk at room temperature making sure to avoid dry lumps from forming.
  • When the milk comes to a boil, reduce heat and stir in the cocoa milk. Let simmer stirring continuously until thick and creamy for about 10-12 mins. It is done when the saucepan bottom can be seen when scraped with a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and butter until butter melts and blends in.
  • Pour into individual serving dishes or bowls of your fancy. To avoid pudding skin from forming, cover with cling wrap on the surface of the pudding (not at the rim of the dish) and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or store up to 2 days. Serve cold as is or with suggested garnish.
Note If you need an intense chocolate flavor, you can add 2-3 tbsp semi sweet chocolate chips. Next time I make this, I am sure to add them.


Few other Chocolate Pudding Recipes I liked:

Egg-less Chocolate Custard from Divine Taste
Silky Chocolate Pudding from Smitten Kitchen
Very Orange Chocolate Pudding from Kitchen Daily
Hasty Microwave Chocolate Pudding from allrecipes.com

Sending this easy to prepare Egg-less Chocolate Pudding to Food Palette series Brown hosted by Torview

Torview presented this award as a token of appreciation for participating in the food palette series.
Thank You Torview!

 

Chocolate Pudding I feel is my best recipe of this month and hence sending it to Your Best Recipe Roundup for March held by Nancy of Spicie Foodie

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Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin

Eggless Whole Wheat Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin | Valentine’s Day Special

I normally don’t believe in Valentine’s Day.

Roses, Strawberries and Chocolate are not my kind of Valentine’s day either. Yeah, probably twelve years back may be. Both of us are over and done with that phase of romance now, I guess. Nonetheless ironically, it seemed like ‘not a bad idea’ as a theme on the blog for Feb the 14th.

Besides, I have been yearning to eat strawberries the whole winter (happens only when we can’t get them right!) and now, the timing seems to be right as the northern crop has already hit the supermarkets.

I love strawberries by their fruity selves, not dipped in chocolate or any other way, smoothie may be an exception though.  This time, I thought I could do with a little change. I sometimes wondered how strawberries tasted in a baked product as I’d not heard of as many recipes as there are for blueberries. But, I was somehow not in the mood for any cake (possibly due to an overdose of cakes on all blogs I’ve been hopping lately). Cupcakes sounded very cute but you must know I am not much of a fan of whipped cream, so pass. Muffins (though they seemed like twins) on the other hand turned out to be a pretty neat option.

Does the thought of muffin and cake puzzle you like it did for me? Are they same, are they not?
Here’s some food for thought on Cupcakes vs Muffins from “Cake Spy”
With that definition, I don’t know if I left my muffins be muffins or dragged them into the cupcake arena!
Even though it felt like too much of a big deal, my requirement for an eggless whole wheat muffin with strawberries and chocolate chips finally did meet a recipe. Frosting and I are not the best of friends but, I did make the best use of some leftover frosting to dress up my muffins for Valentine’s day.
But don’t let yourself be restricted to just these muffin decorating ideas. Valentine’s day is definitely a time to let your imagination take control of your creativity!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you! Here’s to a day filled with love and lovely home made muffins..

What better way than a home made ‘something special’ to show someone you love? What say, you?

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

recipe adapted from Parita’s Kitchen

Makes about 12 small muffins
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
For the muffins:
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp aluminium-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar + 1/2 to 1 tbsp
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup non fat greek yogurt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup non fat milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped hulled strawberries (about 5-6 large strawberries)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 100% natural Ghirardelli)
Other things:
  • Baking tray/sheet pan
  • muffin pans (two 6 muffin pans)
  • paper muffin cups
  • whisk
  • Ice cream / cookie dough scoop ~ optional
  • wire rack
For the chocolate frosting:
(makes about 2 cups of frosting)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup natural unsweetened Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For Valentine’s day special decoration:
  • 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
  • tea strainer
  • 3/4″ paper or cardboard heart cutout
  • ziploc bag for frosting decoration
How it’s done:


To bake the strawberry muffins:
  • Taste the strawberries first. If the strawberries are not that sweet, macerate the strawberries in a clean non-reactive bowl by sprinkling 1/2 to 1 tbsp of sugar and let sit for the fruit to soak in for at least 15 mins. Skip this step if you think the strawberries are sweet by themselves.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Line the muffin sheet with paper cups or grease with oil or butter.
  • Mean while, in a mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk/sift for thorough mixing.
  • To bring butter to room temperature, either let sit on the counter for 15-30 mins or just microwave for 10-12 secs until just soft. In another bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until well combined and creamy. To this add the greek yogurt and 2/3 cup milk and whisk together. Finally whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Now, add in the dry flour mix and whisk in slowly until it comes together. Add more milk as necessary a tbsp or two at a time as you go. Do not over mix. Fold in the chopped (macerated) strawberries and chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the dough into lined muffin cups only upto 3/4 th full to give enough room for the muffin to rise or else the dough will rise and spill out during baking . Place the muffin pans on a baking tray with at least 2-3 inches between them as well as with the inside of the oven for even hot air circulation. Bake for 25-30 mins or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check around 25 mins for done-ness check. Do not overbake.
  • Remove the baked muffins from the tin and let cool immediately on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature as is or decorated with confectioner’s sugar heart impressions or chocolate drizzlings for the valentine’s day! (continue reading for recipe and how to)
Don’ts:
  • Do not open the oven door during the first 15 mins as it causes the rising muffin dough to collapse.
  • Do not forget or delay cooling the muffins on a wire rack right after pulling out of the oven. Otherwise, due to the retained heat, muffins start to sweat inside and end up soggy instead of fluffy.
How to make chocolate frosting:
recipe for Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate Frosting from the back of Hershey’s Cocoa-Natural Unsweetened box
  • Melt butter in a saucepan until just soft or microwave for about 12-15 seconds. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and milk, beating to “spreading” consistency. If you take a dollop out of a spoon it should fall but not flow freely. Add small amount of additional milk (a tsp or so) if needed. Stir in vanilla extract. Do not overmix.
Note: The ingredients listed (are) from the original recipe make a huge quantity of chocolate frosting.
I had leftover chocolate frosting from the chocolate almond cake I baked a month back and used the same. If you do not wish to make so much of the frosting, just halve the frosting recipe and store the leftovers in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator. Does not spoil for 3-4 weeks.
For the Valentine’s Day special muffins:
To make the heart impressions:
Place the paper heart cut-out on the muffin at the centre. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar through a dry tea strainer until the top surface is covered. Remove the heart cut-out with a fork.
For the muffins with chocolate frosting:
Fill a ziploc bag with chocolate frosting, twist it tight and zip shut. Snip the tip of the ziplock bag just a tiny bit. Holding the other end of the bag secure, press and drizzle the chocolate frosting in a zig zag manner.


Note on Substitutions:
  • Baking Flour – I have always used regular whole wheat flour for baking cakes and love the ‘healthy’ taste of it. However, if you are not up for it, whole wheat flour can be substituted with whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour or a combination of both. The amount of milk required reduces considerably in which case, just start with 1/4 cup milk and add a tbsp at a time as you go as needed. Here’s a useful link that explains the difference between different baking flours.
  • Yogurt makes this muffin fluffy and airy. Regular yogurt may be used in place of greek yogurt (which is thicker and contains more protein than regular yogurt). Reduce the amount of milk accordingly as mentioned in flour substitution.
  • Blueberries should also work perfectly in place of strawberries.
  • Chocolate chips can be substituted with dry fruits like raisins or chopped pitted dates.
  • Single use aluminium muffin pans work very well and last for much more than a couple of uses. If you are not a frequent baker, feel free to buy them (costs <$3 for a set of 3 pans) in place of a more expensive regular/non-stick muffin pan.

Sending this Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffin as my entry to these events:
The weekly Bake-Off event – Feb 18th Roundup hosted by Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen

Cooking with Fruit event hosted by Smita of Taste Buds

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