December 31, 2014

Christmas Holiday Fruit Cake

Here is my last post for the year. Christmas and the holiday season brings a lot of memories for Malayalees.  One such memory would definitely be a piece of dark flavorful fruit cake. It is probably a representative flavor of the season and will be something that every Malayalee would have had over the years during this season. Initially when we moved to the US, we were not able to find Kerala style fruit cake here and I started to attempt to bake my versions of it. This is one cake I have been making for the past 14 years, though I have been refining the recipe every year based on our increased awareness about food and the cooking ingredients used. Nowadays, even though we can buy the Kerala fruit cake from any Malayali bakery, we still stick with our homemade version. This is the latest version of my christmas holiday fruit cake. It is made with all organic and pure ingredients, yet not compromising much on the flavor. Though, this recipe has egg, I have made eggless versions of this in the past without compromising much on the texture or the flavor. We end up making between 3-5 cakes during the 10 days as all of us love it and I hope you do too. I am making one for this New Year's eve as well.



Wishing all of you a very Happy, Healthy, Safe, Peaceful & Prosperous 2015 !!! 

Ingredients:
  • Unrefined coconut palm sugar - 3/4 cup + 2 Tbs. 
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1/2 cup
  • Organic free range eggs - 2
  • Unbleached all purpose flour - 3/4 cup
  • Sprouted spelt flour - 3/4 cup
  • Mashed banana - 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda - 3/4 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp
  • Ground nutmeg - 1/4 tsp
  • Ground dried ginger - 1/2 tsp
  • Ground cloves - 1 tsp 
  • Sea salt - 1/4 tsp
  • Raisins - 1 cup
  • Mixed dried fruit - 1 cup (goji berries, chopped apricot, chopped dried plums etc)
  • Cashew nuts - for garnish
To soak the dried fruits:
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice - 1 cup 
  • Myer's Jamaican dark rum - 1 cup 
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp
  • Ground nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
  • Ground dried ginger - 1 tsp
  • Ground cloves - 1 tsp 
Directions:
  • Soak the dried fruit along the spices in orange juice and rum for a day up to a week. 
  • When ready to make the cake drain the dried fruits, squeeze out excess liquid, mix 1/4 cup of flour with the dried fruits, stir until coated and keep aside. Reserve the rum-juice mixture. 
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch cake pan with coconut oil or line with parchment paper. You can also use 3, 4-inch pans or 2, 6-inch pans.
  • In a small bowl, add the remaining 1 1/4 cups of flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together coconut sugar and coconut oil until light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one and beating well. Add mashed banana and 2 Tbs of the reserved rum-juice mixture, mix well. 
  • Add the flour mixture and mix till moistened. Beat with the hand mixture on medium speed for about 2 minutes, do not over mix.
  • Add the flour coated dried fruits, mix to incorporate well. 
  • Pour the mixture into prepared cake pan(s). Level off the surface with a spatula and arrange cashew nuts on top. Bake at 325 deg oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If using 3, 4-inch pans, baking time will be around 50-55 minutes. If using 2, 6-inch pans, baking time will be around 1 hour.
  • Cool upright in pan 5 minutes.(Optionally, while the cake is still hot, you can prick a few wholes in the cake with a toothpick and drizzle rum on top). Remove the cake from pan and cool completely on wire rack.  
  • Enjoy with family and friends for the season!!!

Note: For an eggless version - mix a tablespoon of ground flax with 4 tablespoons of filtered water. Keep aside for 5 minutes till they gel together. This replaces one egg. 


December 29, 2014

Tropical Chickpea Stew

During our recent trip to a middle eastern restaurant, we were having a conversation about chickpeas. During the discussion we found that it is one ingredient that is used in so many cultures, and each one used in a different way, that you cannot make out that they are all from the same ingredient as all of them taste so different. It is probably one of the most common ingredient every ethnic group finds some use in their kitchen. We use chick peas in many ways in India itself, starting with the varieties of channa masala and besan (chickpea flour) used for many snacks. Then we have the hummus from the middle east, the different chickpea stews from the African continent, all the different types of chickpea salads from the Americas and Europe, chickpea soups from Europe and Asia... the list goes on and on. Also chickpeas fits well into many diet regimes, if you are into any.. vegan, gluten-free, paleo, low carb. you name it. Moreover, chickpeas come loaded with nutrients, are high fiber content, low glycemic index, heart healthy and a good source of plant based protein. The phytochemical known as saponins found in chickpeas are good for women's health...all reasons to stock up chickpeas.  Today's recipe is a simple, hearty tropical stew made with chickpeas, baby greens, mango all simmered in spiced coconut milk.  

Ingredients:
  • Chickpeas - 1 cup (soaked for 12 -18 hours)
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Garlic - 3-4 cloves (chopped)
  • Ginger - 2 Tbs (chopped) 
  • Red chilly - 3-4
  • Tomato - 3 medium (quartered) 
  • Red onion - 1 large (chopped)
  • Baby greens - 2 cups (Spinach, kale, swiss chard  or a mix) 
  • Ripe mango - 1/2 cup (cubes) 
  • Homemade coconut milk - 2 cup (recipe here)
  • Chopped cilantro - 1/2 cup 

Directions:
  • Drain and rinse chickpeas, cook with 1 1/2 cups of water, salt and turmeric powder. Keep aside.
  • Heat 1 Tbs of coconut oil on medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and when they are slightly roasted, add tomato and red chilly, sauté for 2-3 minutes. Remove from flame, puree the whole thing to sort of a spiced tomato purée. Keep aside.
  • Blend coconut milk and a handful of chickpeas to a smooth consistency. 
  • Heat remaining 1 Tbs of coconut oil and sauté red onion until slightly golden. 
  • Add tomato puree and mango cubes. Cook on low medium heat till mango is soft (for about 3-4 minutes). 
  • Add baby greens, chickpeas and coconut milk-chickpea purée. Simmer on low medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasonings and switch off. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm. 
  • Enjoy!!




December 25, 2014

Eggless 'eggnog'

Wishing all my friends and readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays !!!
Since we are vegetarians for a month, we are having a simple and quicknhealthy Christmas breakfast. Moroccan anise bread served with African style almond mango stew along with a slice of our homemade eggless christmas fruit cake and 'eggless' eggnog. If you are a vegetarian, or vegan,  or just cannot stand raw egg (like me) and you just like a simple taste, then this recipe is for you.



Ingredients:

  • Homemade coconut milk- 3 cups
  • Cashew nuts - 6
  • Dates - 8-10
  • Cardamom - 5-6 (skin removed)
  • Fresh grated nutmeg - for garnish

Directions:

  • Blend all ingredients to a smooth consistency. 
  • Optionally you can warm it on stove top for a warm eggnog. 
  • Pour into 3 serving glasses and grate nutmeg on each.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Enjoy!!

December 22, 2014

Patra w/ Collard Leaves

Patra is a Gujarati dish which is made with steamed colocasia leaves and coated with a batter made with besan (chickpea flour) or rice flour. My version here is made with collard leaves and the batter is made with soaked channa dal. This can be served as a healthy snack, appetizer or as a side dish which is gluten-free, vegan and quicknhealthy :).




Ingredients:
  • Collard greens - 1 bunch ( about 12 leaves)
  • Channa dal - 1 cup soaked for 6-8 hours
  • Green chilly - 1-2
  • Lemon juice - from a lemon
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Ajwain/Omam - 1/2 tsp (crushed)
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tspn
  • Sea salt - as per taste

Directions:
  • Drain and grind the channa dal with salt, lemon juice and green chilly adding very extra little water (just enough for the blender to run).
  • Add the spices and mix well.
  • Wash the collard greens and wipe them with a kitchen towel. Cut them thru the center and remove the stem. 
  • Lay one collard leaf half with ribbed face up. Take about 2 tablespoons of the batter and spread evenly on the leaf. Lay one more leaf half on top of the first one and repeat the same. Roll them together as tightly as you can.
  • Repeat with the rest of the leaves and batter.
  • Meanwhile keep a steamer or pasta boiler ready with water boiling.
  • Steam the rolled collard leaves for about 10 minutes.
  • Let it cool down a little bit before slicing.
  • Slice them into 1/2 inch thick slices.

For optional tempering:
  • Coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves - few
  • Green chilly - 1-2 slit into halves
  • Chopped coriander leaves - 1/4 cup
Directions:
  • Heat coconut oil on medium heat and add mustard seeds. When they start popping, add cumin and fennel, curry leaves and green chilly one by one. Saute for a couple of minutes, switch off and sliced patra. Garnish with chopped cilantro. 
  • Serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Enjoy!

December 18, 2014

Apricot Energy Bars

How often do you get goodie-bags filled with junk? Yes I know, it is an over debated topic as to whether distributing goodie-bags is a good idea or not. My son does not get much of them nowadays because he is older, but have got a fair share of it in the past, though I have to admit that many parents have been conscious to give my son books rather than candies and other junk.

A few weeks back we were pleasantly surprised to get a goodie-bag at a birthday party hosted by a close friend which was not filled with junk, instead it was filled with real 'goodies'. It had an assortment of healthy organic snacks. My son was pleasantly surprised and loved it, and so did we. This post is inspired from one of those goodies, an Apricot-nut energy bar. I made it right in time when my husband was getting ready for his next travel and  was looking for good snacks for the long haul flight (as we have stopped eating food from flights).

My usual energy bars are nutty and my son always wanted me to make more fruity versions of those. So this is an attempt to satisfy that request as well. These are made with apricots, dates and activated nuts/seeds. Activated nuts/seeds are basically nuts soaked, drained and dried. Soaking time varies for different nuts (read more on the benefits of soaking here).


Ingredients:
  • Apricots - 1 1/2 cups
  • Dates/raisins - 1/2 cup
  • Activated nuts/seeds - 1 1/2 cups
  • Cashews (slightly roasted) or dried shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Himalayan salt - a pinch
Directions:
  • Powder nuts using a dry blender or food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Chop roasted cashews (if using) roughly into fine bites. If using coconut, you don't need to roast.
  • Chop apricots and dates(or raisins) and add to a high speed blender or food processor, and process to get them mashed almost close to a paste.
  • Transfer to the bowl and mix everything well and form a 'dough'.
  • Preheat oven to the lowest temperature (mine is at 170 deg F).
  • Roll the dough into a 1/4 inch thick sheet. Cut out 1x4 inch rectangle bars. Repeat till the whole dough is used up. 
  • Arrange the bars on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. 
  • Let them cool down. Wrap them or just store in an air tight container.
  • Makes 16 bars. Pack'em and Enjoy'em !



December 15, 2014

Green Mango Quinoa

Raw mango could take on different meanings. We have always called the green sour mango as raw mango, while in these parts raw mango is the ripe mango fruit eaten raw. Anyway, what I mean by raw mango is the green and sour un-ripened mango. So the raw mango is very widely used ingredient in Indian cuisine and they are great addition to make any bland dish to a lip puckering one. One of our favorite dish with it is the raw mango rice, but what we have for today is a take on it using quinoa. Here is a great blend of Indian and South western tastes which can be put together in under 30 minutes. It is a perfect warm meal for a winter day.


Ingredients:
  • Quinoa - 1 cup (soaked overnight or up to 24 hours)
  • Green Mango - 1 large
  • Garlic - 4-5 cloves
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Chopped cilantro - 1/2 cup
  • EV olive oil - 1 Tbs
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Chopped almonds - 2 Tbs 
Directions:
  • Drain and rinse quinoa well. Cook with 1 cup of water. Keep aside.
  • Remove skin from mango and chop very fine. I use my vitamix at a low speed to chop really fine.
  • Slice garlic, green chilly and chop cilantro
  • Heat olive oil on medium heat and add garlic and green chilly. Saute till garlic is roasted well.
  • Add chopped mango, cilantro, cooked quinoa and salt. Adjust seasoning and switch off. 
  • Garnish with chopped almonds and extra drizzle of EV olive oil. 
  • Serve warm as a light lunch or as a side dish. 
  • Enjoy!!


December 13, 2014

Cranberry Puliyogare

Cranberry is one of those seasonal things that we love. In fact, a lot of people do not really know that cranberry is a sour sweetless fruit as they always associate it with cranberry juice, syrup and crainsins, all loaded with additional sugar. I never liked that cranberry, but the real fresh cranberry is a whole different story, it is awesome and can be used in so many different ways. This recipe is a South Indian classic called Puliyogare.

Puliyogare is a traditional dish and can be eaten at any time of the day :-). As the name suggests, it has a sour/tangy taste. This rice dish gets the sour taste from tamarind (and from lime in some parts). It is also a staple at most temples as a prasadam. This is the case in tbe US as well where most temples serve this dish and we have always look forward to it as part of the temple visits :-). 

Many of our traditional dishes call for sour ingredients like raw mango, tamarind, lime, cocum, etc. and cranberry is a great substitute for each of them. Being seasonal and packed with nutrients is an obvious bonus, along with the color it can bring to all dishes.


For puliyogare powder:

Ingredients:

  • Horse gram - 3 Tbs
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilly - 3-4 
  • Asaphoetida - a pinch
Directions:
  • Dry roast the ingredients one by one, cool down and grind them using a dry blender or coffee grinder.
For puliyogare:

Ingredients:
  • Raw rice - 1 cup (I used Jasmine rice, but Basmati or other varieties work fine too)
  • Fresh cranberries - 1 cup
  • Sesame oil - 2 Tbs
  • Urud dal - 1 Tbs
  • Peanuts - 2 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1-2
  • Sea salt - as per taste 
Directions:
  • Cook rice with 1 3/4 cups of water. Keep aside. 
  • Heat oil on medium heat and add mustard seeds, urud dal, peanuts and red chillies. 
  • Once the mustard seeds pop, and urud dal and peanuts golden, add curry leaves and saute for a few seconds.
  • Add cranberries and saute till cranberries pop and become soft. Add the puliyogare powder and salt, mix and mash well. Adjust seasonings and switch off.
  • Add the cooked rice and mix well. 
  • Serve warm. Enjoy!!