Friday, June 28, 2013

Date And Nut Energy Squares

Energy bars2

If you're looking for a simple and healthy treat to satisfy your sweet tooth, you should try this recipe. 
I've been buying energy bars from the bulk bins at my local grocery store for the last few months and decided to try making it at home recently since I had most of the ingredients.  

Here's what I used-


  • 4 ounces chopped dates (I used the Amport Foods brand)
  • 6-7 dried figs (I used Sun-Maid Mission Figs)
  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp flax seeds


Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times until the mixture comes together. Knead the mixture well and press into a foil-lined dish. Refrigerate for a few hours until firm. Cut into bars or squares and serve.

By using different combinations of dried fruits and nuts, you could   come up with a variety of fruit and nut bars.   I've used dried figs and dates here, but prunes or  apricots would  also work well. Some other nuts that could be used in this recipe are cashews, hazelnuts and pecans.

Energy bars1

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Black Bean Brownies

Black bean brownies6

When I’m looking for new recipes to try, I usually go for the ones that do not make use of fancy or unusual ingredients. I also try and stay away from recipes that seem too “healthy” to taste good.  I’ve wanted to make brownies with black beans for a long time but was a bit skeptical about how they would turn out. Then I found this recipe on Meal Makeover Moms. With so many positive comments, it seemed like the perfect recipe to try. Black beans are pureed and used instead of flour here. I tweaked the recipe a bit and this is what I used-


  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ -1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange extract (or 1 Tbsp fresh orange zest)
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules (I used Nescafe)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts (reserve a handful for sprinkling on top of the batter)


Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line an 8 x 8- inch baking dish with foil and grease well.

Place the drained and rinsed black beans in the bowl of a food processor and puree till smooth.

Add the oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, coffee granules, orange extract, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder, and process until everything is combined well.  Throw in the chocolate chips and toasted hazelnuts and pulse a couple of times to incorporate them into the batter.

Dump the batter into the greased baking pan and spread as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts over the top.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done.

Cool completely before slicing. I refrigerated the brownies for an hour before cutting them into squares.

I was expecting very “beany” brownies but was pleasantly surprised by the taste. Had I not made these myself, I would never have guessed that black beans formed the base of the recipe. I’m glad I added the coffee powder, orange extract and toasted hazelnuts- they gave the brownies so much flavor. I don’t think I’ll add the vanilla extract if I make these again- I could hardly taste it. While these brownies do not taste like the ones made with flour and have a slightly different texture, they are pretty good considering that they're made with beans.  They taste even better a day after they’re baked. I took a batch in to work and no one could tell that they were made with beans. 

Black bean brownies7

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kale Chips

Kale chips1

I made these tasty and crispy kale chips to go with the pita pizzas we were having for dinner.


  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with foil. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale leaves. Remove the inner ribs, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place on the baking sheets. Drizzle oil over them, add salt, pepper and garlic powder, toss to evenly coat,  and bake for 8-10 minutes or until crispy.

 I made 2 batches of chips and they were gone in no time at all!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Avocado Brownies

Avocado brownies 2

I make brownies regularly and have tried a lot of brownie recipes over the years.  This was my go-to recipe for the longest time until I tried Dorie Greenspan's recipe. I borrowed Baking: From My Home to Yours  from my library sometime last year and came across Dorie’s  Classic Brownies. I've made her brownies several times in the last few months, adding my tweaks and modifications, each time I bake a batch. 

I make brownies frequently, and recently I was making a particularly large batch to give away as gifts. I decided to double the original recipe and replace some of the butter with avocado puree and make a few other changes.


(This makes enough batter for a 9x13-inch pan)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used Baker's)
  • 1 ½  tsp instant coffee granules (I used Nescafe)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 avocado, peeled & pureed
  • 2/3  cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ - ¾   cup walnuts


Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil and grease well.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the coffee powder, salt and sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, avocado puree, flour, baking powder and baking soda, mixing after each addition. Stir in half of the chopped walnuts and combine to get a smooth batter. 

Dump the batter into the prepared pan and spread as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top of the batter. Bake at 325 F for around 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool completely before slicing or else it will be difficult to get perfect straight-edged pieces. I refrigerated my baking dish with the brownies (after it had cooled down completely) for a couple of hours before cutting them into squares.  As delicious as these brownies are fresh out of the oven, they taste even better after a day or two.

Avocado brownies 1

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wheat Flour Dosa

Wheat dosa3

I make these instant dosas anytime, day or night, when nothing but dosas will do for a meal. While I love the traditional dosas, making them requires a little bit of planning and preparation. The batter for wheat dosas is ready in less then 5 minutes and does not require any soaking, grinding or fermenting.


(For 12 -14 paper-thin dosas)
  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ -1 tsp cumin seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • A sprig of curry leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Water, to make a thin and watery batter


Mix together the ingredients listed above and add enough water to form a thin and smooth batter.

Heat a cast-iron skillet until hot and pour a ladleful of batter onto it. Lift the skillet off the heat and tilt it around so that the batter is distributed evenly over it. Since this is a very thin batter, spreading it using a ladle like you normally would for other dosas  will not work. Add a couple of drops of oil around the edges of the dosa and cook till done. Then flip over and cook the other side.

Serve hot with chutney.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bread Pakodas

Fried food tastes so good and is so addictive, but I limit deep-frying to just a couple of times a year since it is an unhealthy way of cooking and the whole process is such a hassle for me. When I do fry, I go all out and fry up different things so that the entire batch of oil is used up all at once. I made these pakodas to go with steaming hot cups of tea recently. 

Bread pakoda1


  • 4 slices of bread, edges trimmed and each slice cut into 4 small triangles
  • 1 cup besan/chickpea flour
  • 2 Tbsp rice flour
  • 3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp chaat masala
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds
  • 3/4 tsp - 1 tsp baking soda
  • Salt to taste
  • Water, for preparing the batter
  • Vegetable oil, for deep- frying


Mix the chickpea flour, rice flour, green chillies, chaat masala, asafoetida, carom seeds and salt in a bowl. Add enough water to make a smooth and lump-free batter. Add baking soda to the batter just before you start making the pakodas and mix well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat until very hot.

Drop 3-4 pieces of bread into the batter. Carefully drop the batter-coated bread pieces, one at a time, into the hot oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry in 3-4 small batches till the pakodas are crisp and golden-brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-lined plate. Serve hot with ketchup or chutney.

Bread pakoda2

Friday, March 8, 2013

Classic Brownies

Classic brownies1

This is my version of Dorie Greenspan's brownies from her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. 
I've used the basic recipe many times- I sometimes substitute the walnuts in the recipe with pecans or hazelnuts (my favorite) and add different flavors (peppermint, orange, vanilla) depending on what kind of brownies I want to make.
 I baked a large batch of brownies last week. I doubled all the ingredients (except the butter, eggs and nuts) and used a 9-x-13-inch pan.  I didn't follow the method mentioned in the original recipe and just did what I normally do when I make brownies. 

Classic brownies2


(For a 9-x-13-inch pan)

  • 1 stick/8 Tbsp butter
  • 1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey's)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  •  3 eggs
  •  2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules (I used Nescafe)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a 9-x-13-inch baking dish with foil and grease well.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the coffee powder, vanilla extract, salt and sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, stir in the flour and combine. Stir in half of the chopped walnuts and mix well to get a smooth batter.

Dump the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top of the batter. Bake at 325 F for around 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Classic brownies3

These brownies are very chocolaty, moist and rich, and have a nice crackled crust. 
I've made them on different occasions and they've always been a hit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

Cocoa orange cake1

Chocolate and orange are a classic flavor combination and this cake is one of my favorites. I make a couple of different versions with minor variations depending on the ingredients I have at the time. It only takes about 10 minutes to make the batter for this cake and it can also be baked as cupcakes or loaf cakes (with the baking time adjusted accordingly) depending on your preference.

Cocoa orange cake3

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of 2 oranges (reserve a bit for the glaze)
  • ½- ¾ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cake pan. I used my bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs, orange zest and orange juice and mix well.  The mixture may look curdled at this point, but it comes together well once the rest of the ingredients are in. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients and transfer the batter to the pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

While the cake was cooling I made a simple glaze. I just melted some chocolate, mixed in some orange zest and a splash of milk and poured it all over the top of the cake.

Cocoa orange cake2

Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Hazelnut Fudge

I  love giving homemade food gifts during the holiday season. Last week, I made a few different kinds of treats- some old favorites, some new finds- and filled up more than a dozen holiday themed take-out boxes and festive bags, and gave them away as gifts. An assortment of goodies- chocolate truffles, bark, fudge, cookies and peppermint bark brownies- went into each bag.

Gift bag2

This hazelnut fudge was one of the things that went into my gift bags. The fudge is rich, creamy, and smooth and melts in your mouth.

Hazelnut fudge1


(makes 64 small pieces/squares)
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used Baker's baking squares)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp coffee powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Nutella
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ - ¾   cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (reserve a handful to sprinkle over the fudge before it sets)
  • A pinch of salt


Grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8- inch baking dish and line with parchment paper.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butter. Add the condensed milk, vanilla extract, coffee powder, Nutella and salt. Microwave in 45-second increments for 3-5 minutes  and mix well in between. Stir in the toasted and chopped hazelnuts.  Mix well until the mixture is smooth and everything comes together.

Pour the thick mixture into the prepared baking dish, smooth the top and sprinkle the reserved hazelnuts all over the surface.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator). Once the fudge has set, take it out of the dish and cut into bite-sized pieces using a sharp knife.

Hazelnut fudge2

Here are some of the other treats I made-
* Pistachio and Peppermint White Chocolate Bark
choc-peppermint-pista bark1

Line a baking sheet with foil. Melt 8 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Pour the melted chocolate over the lined baking sheet and spread it with a spatula to get a layer that is about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle the top evenly with crushed candy canes and chopped pistachios. Refrigerate until firm. Cut/break into pieces and serve.

* Orange-flavored truffles
Although truffles are simple enough to make any time of the year, I usually get down to making them only during the holidays.  I use this recipe as the base and make different kinds of truffles by changing the flavors (vanilla, orange, peppermint, balsamic vinegar) and toppings (toasted and chopped nuts, cocoa powder, sweetened coconut flakes, crushed candy canes, toffee bits).
This time I made orange flavored truffles and used toffee bits, cocoa powder and toasted and chopped hazelnuts as my toppings.

* World Peace Cookies
WP Cookies1

I consider myself to be a fairly decent baker, but for some reason, I’ve had no luck with cookies despite numerous attempts. This very popular recipe for world peace cookies (I found it here) is the only cookie recipe that has actually worked well for me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole

This casserole is healthy and filling without being heavy. It can be assembled ahead of time, refrigerated, and baked just before you're ready to eat. This breakfast/brunch dish is very versatile and works well with a variety of vegetables. I usually use a combination of spinach and mushrooms but bell peppers, broccoli and asparagus would all be great additions.

Spinach, mushroom & egg casserole2

Here's what needs to be done-


For cooking in a skillet:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 small box mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 5 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the custard:
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼  - ½  cup milk (I use 2%)
  • ¼  cup low-fat mozarella cheese
  • ½  cup 1% cottage cheese
  • Salt and Pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking dish with some oil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic and green chillies followed by the sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until all the liquid released evaporates. Next, add spinach and cook, stirring, just until it wilts. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mozzarella, cottage cheese, salt and pepper until smooth. Spread the vegetable mixture in an even layer in the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture.

Bake at 375 F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the eggs set and the top of the casserole starts to brown.

Spinach, mushroom & egg