Banana Coconut Saffron Muffins

banana saffron cardamom muffins

I started baking for the very first time around the same time I began to blog. As I didn’t see myself using eggs in baking, bananas were the default substitute in my egg-less baking adventures and experiments. Since then, I must have baked banana based cakes and loaves god-knows-how-many times. I feel forever thankful to the humble banana for ushering me into the wonderland of baking.

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Apple Almond Cornmeal Bread

It was more than a week since I had strained my back this Thanksgiving. I hadn’t even entered the kitchen let alone cook anything decent. Thanks to caring friends, we had hot home cooked meals served for lunch and dinner right at our table all throughout. Personally, that was a thing of true Thanksgiving for me, to have had timely help.

I couldn’t wait to heal. Just when I was feeling a lot better to do things by myself, all of a sudden this intense urge to bake something nice took over me by surprise. I wasn’t going to rationalize. I gave in. Baking made me feel normal once again as if nothing had happened in the first place. It was liberating. Sounds weird but true.

I had all the right ingredients – an unopened box of cornmeal, few organic apples, a brand new bottle of molasses and some unfinished applesauce. And quickly when I tinkered with my i-phone apps, I fished out a recipe that I felt confident enough to tweak on my own terms. The result was 200 miles opposite of disappointing.

Chocolate lovers, don’t be surprised. The seductive dark chocolate color is the work of a slow and sensuous molasses. Baking with molasses was a first for me and I was thrilled with the color and the mellow sweetness that sugar just does not offer otherwise.

I was happy the cornmeal experiment did not go awry. This fruit bread was soft, supple, fluffy enough without a trace of egg in it.

Operation success. Patient Happy.

APPLE ALMOND CORNMEAL BREAD RECIPE

recipe reference – Vegan Apple Almond gingerbread from Whole Foods Recipes

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:

1/4 cup almonds, coarsely crushed
2 tbsp slivered almonds, for topping
4-5 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp cane sugar or raw sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 tsp aluminium free baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 oz) all natural unsweetened applesauce
1 cup or 1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped

Other

two 5 inch loaf pans or one 8 inch loaf pan
lining tray
whisk
silicon spatula
wire rack

How it’s done:

Grease two 5 inch mini loaf pans or one 8 inch loaf pan with oil or butter.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put slivered almonds in the bottom of pan and then rotate pan to distribute them around the bottom and sides so they’ll stick to the greased pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, ground cinnamon, salt and crushed almonds with a whisk.

Microwave the butter for 10-20 secs and not more to just soften slightly.

Whisk together butter and sugar until creamy in another mixing bowl. Now, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients – buttermilk, molasses, applesauce and vanilla extract.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and fold in chopped apples gently until just combined. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into the pan(s) using a silicon spatula for near zero batter wastage. If using two 5 inch pans, place them at least 2 inches apart for uniform hot air circulation.

Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes for 5 inch pan and 45-50 minutes for 8 inch pan. Do not over bake.

Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then invert onto a plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note

When buying molasses, make sure it has unsulphured molasses as the only ingredient. I have used Grandma’s brand all natural molasses.

Add an additional tbsp of sugar if need be. The cake was mildly sweet which is how I prefer mine.

Skip the APF altogether and use whole wheat flour if you feel awkward about APF. You might have to up the buttermilk or applesauce by 1 or 2 tbsp if so.

You could consider swapping baking soda and baking powder quantities as I felt that the loaf was a bit crumbly.

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Pumpkin Halwa | Happy Deepavali

Deepavali,  a sanskrit word meaning “A row of lights” is as much a festival of fun and frolic as much it stands for a deeper meaning. Celebrated as a symbolic of victory of good over evil, light over dark, knowledge over ignorance, it signifies freedom for the mind from the clutter of dark thoughts and spiritual illumination for the soul.
While in North India, it is celebrated to commemorate Lord Rama’s return with Seetha after his triumph over Ravana, the ten headed wicked demon who abducted her, Deepavali in many parts of South India is mostly celebrated over three days for different legendary reasons. The first day is Naraka Chathurdashi on the 14th day of the Hindu month to celebrate the victory of lord Krishna over the mighty demon, Narakasura. The second day is Lakshmi Pooja on Amavaasya (New moon day) to celebrate the rebirth of goddess Lakshmi during Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean of milk) and lastly the third day, Bali Paadyami on Paadya (first day of the month)  to celebrate the victory of Lord Vishnu incarnated as a dwarf (vaamana in Dashaavataara) over the demon king, Bali when he was pushed to Paathaala, the netherworld.
Sitting miles away from home in front of the laptop, typing this post away, what I miss the most are the nuances of the festival that made it so special throughout my childhood and adolescent years.
Typically, the evening before Deepavali known as Neeru tumbo habba (literally translates to Water filling festival), bathrooms would be cleaned to a shine and decorated with flowers and rangoli and water be stocked up in as many huge containers and cauldrons as possible in preparation for the next morning’s Abhyanga Snana (full body oil bath). A huge copper cauldron full of boiling hot water heated through the night awaited us at 4:00 in the morning. After a customary Enne Shastra the “oil ritual”, a full body oil massage followed ending with an almost scalding hot water bath with Shikakai and besan only as soap. Dressed in brand new clothes smeared with a pinch of turmeric for auspices, mouth full of sweets, a lit incense stick in one hand and a favorite fire crackers in the other, rushing out the door to be the first on the street to burst them almost always make up the first of the mental pictures of my flashbacks of this day..
Today, I cannot help but recount and hope that I can relive those beautiful memories when my little girl gets to enjoy the simple richness of that experience some day..

Traditionally, Gulab Jamun and Vella Kozhukattai for sweets and Paruppu Urundai and Khara Sevai for savory have been the norm since childhood.
Food experiences make up for most of our nostalgic memories and as much as I miss celebrating the traditional way, being here in the US, I felt it was appropriate to celebrate fall and the festival of lights together in one! And Pumpkin Halwa has got to be one of the simpler sweet recipes calling for just five ingredients and the best way to do exactly that..

I wasn’t too fond of Pumpkin until my foray into blogging, when holiday recipes such as this Pumpkin Pie lured me into opening my mind and broadening my cooking/baking horizon. Since then, I haven’t looked back much when it comes to this sunset-orange autumn vegetable.

Verdict
None could tell there was pumpkin in it, even when they were certain that a vegetable was in there! I was quite pleasantly surprised myself with how instantly I fell in love with its mild taste, daintily sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth!

The recipe is so simple and unassuming that it might quickly become a part of your culinary repertoire without your knowledge. Just give it that first chance.

Wish you a Happy and Wonderful Deepavali! 

May this Deepavali brighten your lives with much joy, bliss, love, peace and serenity..

Pumpkin Halwa Recipe

(makes about 9 – 1 oz cups)

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:
  • 4 tiny pumpkins or 1-1/2 cups cooked pumpkin pulp
  • 1/2 can fat free sweetened condensed milk*
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee
  • skinned pumpkin seeds for garnish
*  (1 can = 14 oz or 396 g)  I use Borden – Eagle brand
How it’s done:
Wash and cut the tiny pumpkins in half, remove the seeds and pith and microwave cut side up for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Do not add any water. Let cool and scoop out the cooked pulp with a curved spoon. Mash this pulp for uniform consistency.
Heat ghee in a thick bottom pan on medium. Sauté mashed pumpkin for 10 mins or until rawness subsides. Add condensed milk and crush saffron between your fingertips into it. Cook stirring well intermittently until the Halwa comes together as one mass away from all sides of the pan or about 20 mins. Switch off and let cool. Take care to not let the halwa burn or brown.
To roast the pumpkin seeds, microwave on a plate for 2 mins in 30 sec intervals, shuffling them in between. Alternatively dry roast on a pan on low heat until fragrant.
Serve warm or cold garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Notes:
If you can’t find tiny pumpkins, use the slightly bigger sugar pumpkins, they are also pulpier. Store bought pumpkin puree can also be used. It might take a little longer to cook as it has more moisture content.
Do not leave the stove to attend to other things or the Halwa can get burnt in a  jiffy. Stirring intermittently is an important thing to do.
If you are not a big fan of pumpkin seeds, feel free to use a garnish of your choice. I don’t see why ghee fried or roasted and slivered cashews, pistachios or almonds won’t go well.
If you don’t have ghee, substitute with butter. Whatever happens, please don’t use oil.

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Raspberry Pear Tart | Just Home Made turns One! and a Giveaway

**This GIVEAWAY is now closed (29th Sep 2011 midnight). Winner will be announced in my next post**

Can you believe it is a whole year already? You won’t believe me if I say I had almost forgotten about the milestone, almost. Luckily, my amnesia broke its spell before the month passed! I really didn’t know where or how to begin, it took me a better part of the day to get over my writer’s block. So here’s my inadequate attempt:
A food blog that I started on a lazy afternoon as a way to keep my sanity in check (letting go of an almost decade long career to care for your firstborn baby is natural right?) means so much more to me now. If there is something that I think of non-stop (other than my little girl and my husband or my family) and even just before I fall asleep, it is none other than this blog. Sometimes or most of the times my eyes and my mind are filled to the brim with dreams for this blog that I just can’t fall asleep!
Just Home Made has consumed the creative better of me and keeps my soul alive..
From an inconsequential beginning with my first post, from the first few hither-tither comments on the blog or the first few extra hits, subscribers, Twitter follows and Facebook likes, from knowing that somebody’s ‘search results’ landed them on my page to getting to know so many of you lovely bloggers – sweet, helpful and kind, to meet Helene in person at her photography workshop it has been an amazing roller coaster ride with butterflies in my stomach when I check the site stats, heart beating faster on reading your comments, adrenaline rush when phone buzzes over a tweet mention or message, a contended smile on my face when blog photos get featured on various sites and everything in between I failed to express here..
And undoubtedly it is with your love and sweet words of appreciation that I have been able to see my humble blog take this beautiful journey. Blessed are my mornings when I wake up eyes still closed but hands busy scrambling for the phone eager as a two-year old waiting to unfold a chocolate wrapper, only to see your comments lined up in the inbox…
For all those beautiful moments of joy and whatever Just Home Made is today, I owe it to you from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!
Don’t underestimate the power of your words, they bring a million dollar smile to my face (ask my husband)! So anytime you are here, don’t forget to say hello or you dropped by, I’d love to hear from you!
There, I got it off my chest..
So, in my sheer excitement, I bring you in this post a GIVEAWAY and an elegant fruit tart while still trying to bid summer a grass-fire good-bye here in Texas.
Baking was completely alien to me all my life until I started blogging. Much like a bewitched window shopper on Rodeo drive, gaping (with almost mouth wide open!) at all the luscious desserts and baked goodies on food blogs luring with drop dead gorgeous photographs or mouth-watering recipes, sparked an inextinguishable fire in me to turn on the oven. From being a baking lay person who couldn’t make out a thing between why baking soda and why not baking powder to brave it all and try a hand at baking a pie and this tart from scratch, all brownie points must go to blogging!
Among all things baked, I must say that I am not just a wee bit but totally and completely partial to fruit desserts . So, little surprise to see this fruit tart making it for my blog’s birthday celebrations. My love for summer fruits like cherries, berries and stone fruits is timeless and I have left it to be no secret either on many of my posts earlier. Pears however come a close second and amongst the different pear varieties, I particularly enjoy snacking on Seckel and Red Anjou pears. When I was on the lookout for a good fruit dessert, I realized that Pears were a neglected lot in comparison to the lion’s share of baking limelight berries and stone fruits devour. And that’s quite the reason I chose a shy and silent but full of character Pear and paired it with the beautifully ruby pink and sublimely flavorful raspberries, just for the fun of walking the less trodden path or so I think!
The original recipe called for Macadamia nuts and a 11 inch fluted pan. I had bought a 10 inch pan with great enthusiasm, so I stuck to it even though the recipe quantity is more for the size of the pan. Just pat an extra cookie or two with extra flour mix like I did.

Verdict? The tart was delicious with a mild raspberry and pear flavor burst in between. But I also see why these are a rare sight compared to the stone fruits. Unless I knew Pear was in there, I am left with just an indistinct sweet juicy fruit flavor. Nonetheless, it made for a lovely fruit dessert for the first try.

GIVEAWAY:
(see giveaway rules below)
Now, let me come to the part that interests you most – the giveaway!
One of my friends and neighbor PG started out as a Tupperware Consultant recently. After attending her Tupperware party and a preview of some cool products, I got the perfect idea for the giveaway. I get to give some business to my friend and also give away something nice to you lovely readers as my token of appreciation for all the boundless love and support you have given me so far.
So, to celebrate this milestone, I am giving away a TUPPERWARE Best Seller – One Classic Sheer® Midgets® Set of 6 storage containers (2 oz)
If you are like me who loves to organize (rather organization obsessed!), then you will surely like to own these cute storage containers. Cute and utilitarian, they come in handy to store anything from spices in the kitchen to buttons, thumbtacks or tiny knickknacks around the house or to go in a lunch box.
*If you need more information on TUPPERWARE, go to tupperware.com
TUPPERWARE products are not sold in stores, only through consultants and online.

Giveaway Rules:
Giveaway is open to residents of USA. If you live outside of US, but can provide an US shipping address, you are eligible to participate too.
To Enter:
Leave a comment on this post telling me what you like or dislike about Just Home Made or what you would like to see here in future or any other suggestions for improvement.
For an extra chance to win:
  • Follow Just Home Made on twitter and tweet about this giveaway including my twitter handle and tell me you did or if you already do:
@justhomemade Just Home Made turns One! GIVEAWAY-Win a Tupperware – Classic Sheer® Midgets® Set of 6 storage containers http://wp.me/p17ciF-Gp
  • Like Just Home Made on Facebook and tell me you did or if you already do
  • Subscribe to Just Home Made via Email and tell me you did or if you already do
  • Link to this giveaway on Facebook, then leave a comment telling me and including a link to the post
 Hurry! Last date to enter this giveaway is 29th Sep 2011 11:59 CST 
One winner will be chosen based on a random draw. Will contact the winner for the shipping address once announced.

Raspberry Pear Tart with Hazelnut Crust Recipe

recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com
Yield: 16 servings
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
For the Crust:
  • 1-2/3 cups half and half mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup or 10 ⅔ tbsp cold butter
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • ¼ tsp salt
For the Filling:
  • 4 small-medium pears (I’ve used Seckel pears)
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon extract / lemon zest
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (6 oz or ½ dry pint, more will also do)
For the Topping:
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup cold butter or 4 tbsp
  • 1/3 cup almonds
Other:
  • 10″ fluted Tart pan with removable bottom
  • Baking or lining tray
  • Cooling rack
 How it’s done:
Read the full recipe before starting.
To start with, roast hazelnuts and almonds. To roast the hazelnuts, microwave for about 2 minutes in 30 sec intervals until fragrant. When cooled, pulse it in a food processor or coffee grinder or mixer until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pulse more and you will end up with hazelnut butter.
Roast almonds the same way. Chop into bits when cooled and keep aside.
Wash the pears, pat dry, peel, core and slice into thin rounds about 1/8th of an inch. Squeeze lemon juice over the pear slices (to keep them from browning), mix well and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425° F
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in cold butter and either mix well with your fingers or process in a food processor (I did the former) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you see pea sized butter blobs here and there, it is fine. Stir in hazelnut meal.
Gently press this flour mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 10 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
In a large bowl, combine the pears, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon zest/extract. Add raspberries and toss gently. Carefully lay out the fruit mix on to crust filling empty spots with raspberries.
Bake at 425° for 25 minutes.
In the meanwhile, for the topping, in a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and lemon zest; cut in butter and mix until crumbly. Stir in chopped roasted almonds. Sprinkle over filling.
Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.
Tastes best served warm by itself or served with honey yogurt or even an indulging rich vanilla ice cream with some raspberries on top.

Don’ts:
  • Do not overly press the four mixture onto the tart pan or it will result in a hard tart crust instead of crumbly.
  • Instead of washing the raspberries as they become soggy, just wipe them with a soft wet cloth or tissue.
Notes:
  • You can core the fruit even if you don’t have a corer. Insert a (vertical) peeler at the bottom end of the pear and rotate clockwise and anti-clockwise once each or until the core comes out. 
  • If you happen to make the flour mixture for the tart crust before slicing up the fruit, do not fret! “Carefully” place the tart pan (remember the pan bottom can move) on a baking tray and put it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready. Since the flour mix is dry and crumbly, tart crust can shatter easily at this point.
  • Be very careful when taking the baked tart out of the removable pan to place on the cooling rack or it might break.
  • Add a few drops of water to cane sugar if you do not have brown sugar
  • If you can’t find Hazelnuts, they can be safely substituted with almonds without much damage to the recipe or taste.
  • Microwave leftover slices for about 30 secs before serving.

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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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