Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Of The Mature And Not So Mature - Banana's - Banana Chocolate Bread -Eggless

Banana Chocolate Bread

Now that football season is over America can take a breather, the emotions, the pent up energy and not to mention all the junk food too. I am a mother of two boys and married to a sports fanatic. Me being me I hate sports, always did. Grew up watching my brothers go crazy over cricket, nothing mattered when there was cricket on TV, the superstitions,  the emotions and the crazy bets. I was always happy reading a book or a magazine in front of the TV while the entire house was glued watching every second of the game with their heart in their hands. Of course I was not all that naive about Cricket, I knew all the good looking cricketers or cricketers dating models etc.. you get the point.

Off late with kids growing up I often feel left out of their conversations, unlike before its hard to pick up a book while there is a game on TV and pretend or ignore the conversations. In the car, at the dining table, with friends, the gift they crave everything is about sports. Last few weeks back wanted to surprise both my sons with jerseys of their favorite team, found it so hard to figure out the names of the player whom they like.
Just like me I am sure my boys feel the same way, they hate shopping and are never into movies or any of the activities I find interesting . Sometimes I fear this gap getting wider as they age. But just like every other trooper mom I can't give up on finding things to do in common or spend time together. Eventually we found few activities where three of us and some time their dad chimes in too, enjoy. All four of us love going out for hike Sunday morning and breakfast at the local bakery. We paint sometimes together. I have gotten my sons to learn photography and they do an Ok job, the picture above of the Banana's was taken by my younger son. But most importantly realized that kids love to bake. We bake cupcakes, brownies and pizza's. The time spent in the kitchen while baking is precious. Get to hear stories about school, how they fell about things, my assessment report, questions like  how do grades in English matter in life?, etc.. etc.. All in all reminds and restores the faith that the strings that binds us are stronger and goes beyond my liking of sports.

Few weeks back a friend of ours introduced us to Banana bread, it has since become an instant favorite and we have been baking Banana bread on a weekly basis. So here goes the recipe.. recipe adapted from here.


1/2 cup shortening or canola oil, or butter etc. (substitute 1/3c applesauce)
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe mashed bananas 
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/2  cup chocolate chips

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). 
2. Lightly grease an 8x4 inch loaf pan. (This can be made in any size pan or muffin tins just adjust the baking time)
3. In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar and add vanilla. 
4. Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt. Blend in the mashed bananas. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 45~ 60 minutes depending on the size of the container and oven or until it tests done with a toothpick.
Banana bread makes for an excellent snack for school or after school treat, goes very well with a hot cup of Chai.
Here's to all the moms and to their crazy antiques !!! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Makara Sankranti Subhakanshalu

Wishing all of my readers a very happy Sankranti/Lohri. May the New Year bring in lots of happiness and peace. Growing up Sankranti was one of my favorite, it was time spent at grandparents, time spent with cousins, time spent playing endless hours of cards. Pongal brought festivities lasting for four days, the dressing up, the food and not to mention all the loot in the form of presents. Those were good old times and times that I will cherish forever. Today, thanks to the community I live in, kids get to experience a flavor of the same.

My previous blog post about Sankranti in pictures can be found here.
Made Sweet Saffron Rice as an offering. There are many flavors of the recipe which include cloves and cinnamon but today my version is the minimalistic few ingredients and cooked slowly with love. This recipe works best with Basmathi rice.

1 cup Basmathi rice washed and soaked in water for about 10 min
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp. Ghee/ Clarified butter
pinch of elachi/Cardamon pods (optional)
2 tbsp. of saffron soaked in warm milk or warm water
2~3 drops of orange food color
2 tbsp. of rose water (optional)
1 cup water

1. In a thick bottom pan add two cups of water and then soaked basmathi rice and cook for about 8~10 minutes, till rice is well cooked.
2. While the rice is cooking, take a thick bottom pan add sugar and water and allow to boil
3. While the sugar syrup is boiling take two table spoons of saffron and allow to dissolve in warm water. Once the color comes out which takes about 2 minutes, add the water to boiling sugar syrup.
4. Add elachi and raisins which are sautéed in ghee.
5. Add orange color and optionally rose water for additional flavoring.
6. Allow sugar syrup to come to boil which is when you see small bubbles around the rim.
7. Now add cooked rice to the sugar syrup and cook closed for about 20~25 minutes on slow/medium flame. The rice grain absorbs the sugar and turns yellow.

Remove from heat and serve. Can be served both hot and cold.

Check out other delicacies for Pongal on my blog here

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Aaaaa The New Years Resolutions - Eat Healthy - Stay Healthy

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
– Mark Twain

It's start of the year and like many I am on Resolutions high, resolve to exercise regularly, eat healthy and stay healthy. My weight scale is pretty evident of the all the parties, dinners and pigging out that happened for the last few weeks. Its time to cleanse, get organized and get back on track. 

Weather is the bay area is still very cold, when I say cold I mean by California standards. Cold weather call for warm and comfort food and hence my soup recipe today. Heart, healthy, warm, spicy and delicious.

1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup cubed yellow carrot
1/2 cup cubed red/violet carrots
1/2 shredded brussel sprouts
1/3 cup frozen red bell pepper ( since I did not have fresh one)
1/2 cup shredded leeks
1/2 green onion finely chopped
1 cup canned white beam
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups of vegetable broth optionally you can add water
1/3 tsp of oregano 
1/3 tsp paprika
1/2 tbsp of pesto 
1/3rd cup milk 
1 tbsp of olive oil or butter
This soup can be made with your choice of vegetables and dressings, you could use diced potato, shredded cabbage, finely chopped kale/spinach or other green. Recipe is very versatile change it up according to your taste and add your choice of flavorings.

1. Heat oil/butter in a pot big enough to hold about 5 cups of water, when hot add garlic and crushed pepper flakes and saute for few minutes.
2. Now add leeks, carrots, brussel sprouts, bell pepper and all the vegetables along with white beans.
3. Fill the pot with either broth or water.
4. Add seasonings and salt
5. Simmer for about half an hour, mixing in between.
6. Check to see if carrots and other vegetables are done.
7. Add a tbsp of pesto or any other dressing of your choice and milk as well.
8. Allow to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes
9. Remove from heat and garnish with Parsley and cilantro.

Serve hot with sourdough bread or some croutons.

As they say the greatest of the joy comes from the simplest of things. Healthy and simple foods equals healthy mind.

Here is wishing everyone a happy and a healthy new year. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ending The Year On A Sweet Note- Almond Chocolate Rocca

Ending The Year On A Sweet Note- Almond Chocolate Rocca
A year has gone by and it sure seemed like a blur. As I reflect on the year that passed by I feel  blessed and contented.This year has been great one, saw my fair share of lows and equal share of highs.If Summer trip to visit my parents and there by visiting Kashmir was a highlight then loosing my grandmother was definitely a big loss and a void that cannot be filled. This year spent time with quality folks both personally and professionally, stayed true to myself and stood up more. Cemented many friendships and let go of few. 

As the new year approaches I can feel the change in air, next year will be a year of change, a year of new beginnings and a year of promise. Call me OCD but I live by goals and have written up my set of resolutions for the year to come, one of them being staying healthy and exercising.

It is only fair that I bid adieu to 2013 on a sweeter note and hence the last post of the year and Almond Rocca.  

So here is Almond Chocolate Rocca step by step in pictures. Thanks to a dear friend for inviting me to a baking session and then sharing her recipe. This recipe has been adapted from here.

4 oz (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of Vanilla extract (optional)
1.5 cups toasted unsalted whole almonds, coarsely chopped
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
Step 1. Prepare an 8x4 loaf pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray
Step 2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
Step 3. Measure 3/4 cups of sugar packed.
Step 4. Add the brown sugar, the corn syrup, and the salt, and stir until the brown sugar dissolves
Step 5. Cook on medium till brown sugar dissolves, this is critical for a crunchy caramel toffee, run the spatula through the mixture and you should not find any grainy consistency, that ensures that brown sugar has melted completely.
Step 6. Once the brown sugar melts, start your timer and cook the candy for exactly 6 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. If you want to use a candy thermometer, stir and boil the toffee until it reaches 290 degrees F (143 C).
Step 7. After six minutes, pull the toffee pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the chopped toasted almonds.
Step 8. Scrape the toffee into the prepared loaf pan—it should be in a layer about 1/2-inch thick.

Step 9.Let the toffee set for about 3 minutes, then use a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut the toffee into thin bars about 1/2-inch by 2.5-inches. These will look like small pieces, but once they are dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, they'll be substantially bigger. After another 2 minutes, go over your cuts again as the toffee continues to harden.
Step 10. I wanted my Rocca chunky and homey so made them size of about an inch.
Step 11. As you wait for your toffee to set, chop the remaining 1 cup of toasted almonds very finely, or put them in a food processor and pulse for several seconds until they are in very small pieces. Pour the finely chopped almonds into a shallow bowl. Once the toffee is completely cool and set, break it into pieces along the lines you made, and trim off any jagged edges with a knife.
Step 12. Melt the chocolate or candy coating. Dip each piece of Almond rocca in the melted chocolate, then place it in the bowl of nuts. Roll it around until it is coated with nuts on all sides, then take it out of the nuts with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the toffee pieces are coated with chocolate and nuts.Refrigerate the tray to set the chocolate, for about 10 minutes. Store Almond Rocca in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but for best taste and texture, bring it to room temperature before serving. Original recipe can be found here.

My Rocca did not stay two weeks long, took them along on a road trip with friends and it was relished. Wishing all of my readers the very best in the year to come, may we all find peace and happiness in 2014.

My resolutions for the year 2014

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And This Festive Season

It feels really strange to mention Diwali is here, it feels like just yesterday we celebrated and then a year went by. Diwali brings such happiness, joy and lights up our lives. Personally I reflect on the year that passed by and be grateful for all the blessing we have been showered. There are days when I can't stop tears from flowing down my cheeks and then there are days where it's hard to put my feet on the ground. There are days where I long for solitude and then days when I would want to run to the comfort of my mom's lap. Like every year there are ups and there are down and its been a blessing to be on this journey with people whom I love and family and friends whom I can't live without. Past year has been a beautiful journey and a memory and hope the year to come would be the same.

This festive season I would like to wish all my family, friends and my readers a season of love & peace.
May your hearts be filled with love and tolerance. This also is the time of the year to open our hearts and wallets and be generous to those in need, I am staunch believer in Karma, sow shall you reap has always been my principal and I have experienced it first hand both good and bad. I do believe in the power of giving, giving does not have to be monetary, it could be time and other resources too. Below are few local organizations that have been doing an outstanding work, please click on the links below for additional information.

Sankara's Mission:
Our mission is to reach out to the rural poor and provide quality eye care free of cost to the needy by building operationally self-sufficient super specialty eye care hospitals across India. Click here for more details.

Maitri Foundation

Helping Women Help Themselves

Maitri's Mission statement: 
Maitri’s mission is three-fold:
  • To help integrate clients into the mainstream of American society, so that they feel comfortable and become full participants in it. Maitri recognizes that the very social and cultural separation or isolation that it’s clients experience contributes largely to their problems, and is a hindrance to their solutions.
  • To focus efforts on supplementing and complementing existing services, not on duplicating them. To this end, Maitri has developed close working relationships with mainstream agencies and organizations, as well as organizations working with similar ethnic groups.
  • To work towards fostering self-reliance and self-confidence in its clients. We believe that a large number of difficulties experienced by Maitri’s clients arise out of a real or perceived situation of dependency. This philosophy is encapsulated in Maitri’s motto of “Helping Women to Help Themselves” and Maitris mission statement:
Maitri believes that the best human relationships are characterized by mutual respect, open communication, and individual empowerment. To that end, Maitri’s activities are designed to help South Asian women make an informed choice of the lives they lead.
Maitri currently has a quadruple donation match, best time to stretch those dollars.

As they say there is no bigger giving than the giving of education.
Asha's Mission:
Asha for Education is a secular organization dedicated to change in India by focusing on basic education in the belief that education is a critical requisite for socio-economic change.

Sanjose Homeless Shelter

May all of you feel generous, now get ready for the next few post on ideas to decorate your homes and to wow your friends with some home made goodies.
Till then,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stir Fried Vegetable Fried Rice - October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.  For more information click here and information about how you can participate or contribute click here

Last few weeks have been very hectic, between kids activities, work and home hardly have time to breathe. Today's recipe is inspired by my visit to Trader Joe's last weekend. I love Trader Joes PERIOD. The amazing array of ingredients from around the world and reasonable prices make it my first choice for groceries. Every time I walk the aisle there is always something new, get the creative juices flowing and makes want to experiment. So made stir-fried vegetable fried rice, so delicious and healthy that kids asked for seconds and that's a rarity.

Makes for about 4 cups
Cooking time ~20 min
1 cup of boiled rice-left over rice works even better
2 cups frozen stir fry mix from TJ's (contains beans, mushrooms, baby corn, red bell pepper, broccoli,carrot and lotus stems)
1/2 cup flavored tofu or firm tofu cut into cubes
1/4 cup green onion chopped
couple tbsp fresh mint
tbsp fresh basil chopped fine
1/3 cup coriander chopped fine
2 tbsp ginger julienned finely
1 garlic chopped fine
3 tbsp of Ginger mango chutney from TJ's
1/3 cup soy sauce adjust according to taste
fresh ground pepper
salt according to taste
and pinch of sugar

Stir fried vegetable fried rice

Ginger Mango Chutney - Perfect blend of heat and sweetness
1. Heat wok and add tbsp of oil and when hot add ginger and garlic and saute for 20~30 seconds
2. Now add soy sauce, sugar, salt and allow it cook for few seconds, Soy sauce thickens
3. Add all frozen vegetable and tofu and toss till they are well coated with the sauce
4. Allow for the vegetables and tofu to cook, takes about 6~7 minutes
5. Check for salt and adjust accordingly
6. Add rice and all the fresh herbs and saute till well mixed and allow to cook for about 2~3 minutes.
7. Garnish with coriander and green onions and serve hot.

Makes for comfort food, especially now since evenings are getting cold.
Have a fabulous rest of the week, I am looking forward to the festive season and can't wait to celebrate the same with family and friends.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall In Love

Fall In Love

My favorite season of the year is here, can't believe we are on the last leg of this year.  Time to enjoy the spectacular show nature puts on, time for books, boots and some hot cocoa.
Few of my favorite pics from Pintrest. So sit back, relax and enjoy...


Happy Friday and have a relaxed weekend..

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