Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chocolate Cups

Recently I bought a Cusinart ice cream maker, which has become my favorite kitchen appliance. And if you like ice cream as much as I do, you’ve got to have one. The ice cream maker bowl is kept frozen until needed, so it does not require ice, and makes ice cream in 15-20 minutes. It’s also very easy to clean! So far I've only used it to make vanilla ice cream (will post the recipe soon), but it can be used for making healthier alternatives like frozen yogurts and sorbets too. I’ve already tried out two different ways of making ice cream (with and without eggs) and I’m planning to do a lot more experimenting with the taste and texture….so if you love ice cream, let me know what flavor you would like me to experiment with ;-).
Although this post is not about ice cream, here is a fun way of serving it. These chocolate cups can be used to serve ice cream, pudding or any other dessert that goes well with chocolate. (Recipe source: Crazy for Chocolate, published by Bay Books).

Dark chocolate chips (1 packet of 12 oz. chocolate makes about 18 cups).
1. Melt the chocolate chips.
2. Cut squares of plastic wrap and spread about a tablespoon of melted chocolate on the plastic wrap using the back of a spoon to form a circle.

3. Carefully pick up the plastic wrap holding the ends and gently place over an inverted styrofoam cup (chocolate side up).

4. Place the cup in the freezer for a couple minutes till the chocolate hardens. Remove from the freezer and carefully peel off the plastic wrap.
The chocolate cup is ready for serving your favorite dessert. The cups can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Banana Split Bars

I've gotten pretty good at making banana-nut muffins and was looking for an interesting twist. I thought What do I like to eat with bananas? I’m a big fan of peanut-butter-banana sandwiches. What goes well with peanut butter? Chocolate. Hmm...I might be on to something...

Preemptive apologies go out to anyone who might be disappointed to discover that at no point does ice cream enter into the recipe, but it's the best name I can think of so far. You can certainly eat the bars with ice cream...but it's not used while making the treat. Actually, the only main ingredient common between the two is banana. Unless you consider toppings. Then peanut butter and chocolate totally count!

6 oz. butter (I used margarine)
~1.5 cups sugar (Splenda)
2 eggs (you can use just egg whites with a little bit of milk, or egg substitute – I've done both with equal success)
~1.5-2 cups flour (I use superfine whole wheat flour)
~4-5 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 large or 4 small/med overripe bananas
~0.5-1 tbsp pure cocoa powder
dark chocolate chips/bittersweet baking morsels

Preheat oven to 375F. Mash the bananas and stir in the peanut butter. In a separate bowl, whip margarine and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in the banana-peanut-butter mixture. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips as desired and mix well. Slowly stir in the flour until the batter is sticky and somewhat thick, but not to the consistency of bread. Pour into a greased 8x8inch baking pan and bake 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool, then cut and enjoy (with or without ice cream)!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Last week we had a hummus party at the lab for a teammate’s birthday. He doesn’t eat the usual birthday sweets, so we had to be creative. Last year we got rice cakes for his birthday, but we didn’t want to repeat that. I knew he loves hummus but it looks too plain for a birthday treat, so I decided to make a few different varieties to add more color and flavor. I personally love cilantro hummus, and it also has a nice green color. I spiced it up a little with a jalapeno pepper. For another bright color, I decided to go with roasted-red pepper hummus. As there was no baking/cooking involved, this turned out to be a relatively effortless, but tasty snack.

Plain hummus (3/4 cup)
10 oz. chick peas (~ 1 cup)
2.5 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) – If you’re not going to use this very often, instead of buying an entire jar, you can make it at home by grinding toasted sesame seeds with a little bit of oil.
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
salt & pepper

Roasted red-pepper hummus (~ 3/4 cup)
¾ cup plain hummus
1/4 cup roasted red peppers

Cilantro-Jalapeno hummus (~ 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped

Add all the ingredients for the plain hummus except water in a food processor. Add a little bit of water at a time and grind, adding more water as required till you get a smooth paste.
For the roasted red pepper and cilantro-jalapeno hummus, add the respective ingredients to the plain hummus and grind the mixture until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Garnish with paprika and serve with pita bread or assorted crudités.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Cold Cucumber Soup

Hot summers generally don't call for soups, but here's a simple no-cook chilled soup recipe that you can relish on a summer afternoon. This refreshing cucumber soup is a great way to beat the summer heat and is also an easy to make starter for potluck dinners as it can be made ahead of time and served cold.

1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 cup thick yogurt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 mint leaves
Salt and pepper

Save a small piece of cucumber to be added to the soup at the end. In a blender, puree rest of the cucumber with yogurt, lemon juice and mint leaves, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Finely chop the small piece of cucumber and mix with the soup. Refrigerate for about an hour and serve cold. Although this basic recipe makes a delicious summer cooler, there are several variations that can be made to suit your taste. You can vary the quantity of mint leaves or lemon juice depending on how you like it. Basil leaves can be used instead of mint leaves. It also tastes good with a pinch of cumin powder. The recipe above makes 2-3 servings of soup.