Friday, November 22, 2013

Cheesecake Bites with Chocolate Crust

A few months ago, we posted a recipe for cheesecake bites that Karla had made for a dessert exchange at work. Over the last couple years, we have experimented with both the crust and the filling, including a crushed nuts crust, a chocolate crust, and even a sweet potato + cream cheese filling for a delicious thanksgiving dessert. The chocolate crust cheesecake bites were made for a couple occasions recently, and there were several recipe requests, so here’s a variation on Karla’s original cheesecake bites recipe.

Original recipe: Cheesecake Bites

The filling is the same, but the graham crackers were replaced by chocolate graham crackers. We added an extra chocolate graham cracker sheet. The consistency of the crust mixture should be such that you can form a ball, so if it’s too oily, add some more crackers! (9 cracker sheets did the trick for us). Instead of a fruit topping, we used chopped nuts. Macademia nuts or hazelnuts taste good, but you could use other nuts too, or leave the nuts out altogether. We drizzled dark chocolate to pretty up the cheesecake bites.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chocolatey-Banana Muffins

Every once in a while there is an overload of bananas in my kitchen :-). So far, banana nut bread has been my primary go-to recipe to use up ripe bananas. There are a few other things I like to make as well, including shira (Indian semolina pudding), banana pancakes, bread pudding, and good old shikran (a simple Maharashtrian dessert – sliced/mashed banana, milk, sugar, cardamom powder). But these typically don’t call for as much banana as the banana bread. So whenever I had more than one old banana to get through, I would always turn to the banana bread…. until last weekend. I realized that I was a little bored of the banana bread and wanted to try something slightly different, so I decided to add chocolate to it. But I didn’t quite know what else to change in the recipe to adjust for this addition, so I kind of just played with the ingredients till the batter tasted good and seemed to have good consistency… and it actually turned out pretty nice! This can be baked as a loaf, but I think it is better as muffins because of the light and moist texture.

Ingredients: (Makes approximately 18 regular sized muffins.)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups flour (all purpose/wheat)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
2/3 cup buttermilk (See note below)
2 medium-sized ripe bananas (mashed well)
3/4 cup melted dark chocolate
chocolate chips (optional)
chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 340 F. Line muffin pan with liners or grease the pan.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl (sift if necessary).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined. (Do not beat after this step. Use a spatula to mix ingredients). 
Add the flour mixture and buttermilk. Mix well with a spatula. Add the melted chocolate and bananas, and mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and mix well.

Fill the muffin cups ¾ full and bake for ~22 min or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you wish to sprinkle chocolate chips on top, sprinkle them about 15 min after putting the pan into the oven.


Note: If you don’t have buttermilk, use 1 Tbsp. lemon juice/vinegar for every cup of milk. Mix them well and let stand for about 5 min.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Bread

This one is a completely experimental recipe, but I got some good feedback from the folks who I tried this experiment on ;-)... so I figured I could post this! It’s a roasted rhubarb and strawberry bread, but any other fruit would also work, as long as it doesn’t release a lot of juice while baking. The reason I roasted the rhubarb with some sugar was to reduce the tartness, but this is optional. If you like the tart flavor of rhubarb, this step can be skipped. I plan to try using mango in this recipe while the stores still have good mangoes, and will update this post with the outcome of that… hopefully it will be just as delicious!

1/2 cup unsalted butter / margarine
1 cup + ½ tbsp brown sugar
2 cups flour (I used 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups chopped fruit (rhubarb and/or strawberries)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Mix ½ tbsp. sugar with the chopped rhubarb, and broil for a ~3-4 min. This can also be done in a pan on the stovetop.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or two loaf pans (I used three mini loaf pans and another small baking dish). Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter with ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat. Fold in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately. Add vanilla and mix. Stir in fruit.

Add batter to prepared pan. Mix nutmeg and cinnamon to ¼ cup brown sugar and sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake for ~35 min or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Stuffed Sweet Cubanelles

While visiting my good friend Pranati and her husband a couple weekends ago, I came across a picture in one of their photo albums – it was a picture of her proudly posing with the delicious stuffed sweet peppers she had made for lunch! This is a very easy and relatively quick recipe, so Pranati and I used to make these often when we were in grad school. The reason I like Cubanelles is because they are minimally hot once steamed, but any other pepper would work if you want more heat. The peppers in her picture looked so good, I had to make some once I was home :-)

3 green Cubanelle peppers
1 medium onion – finely chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 ½ cup grated coconut (I never have fresh or frozen coconut at home, so I use desiccated coconut – add just enough milk to soak the dry grated coconut and let it sit for 15-20 min)
2 tsp oil
2 tsp coriander powder

For tempering (optional, but it certainly enhances the flavor)
Mustard seeds
Cumin seeds
Asafoetida powder (typically used in Indian food for tempering)

Heat oil on medium high, and add mustard seeds. Once the seeds start sputtering add the cumin seeds and asafoetida, followed by the chopped onion. If not tempering, add the onions directly once the oil is hot.

Sauté onions until they are translucent. Add coconut, coriander powder, and salt and sauté for a couple minutes until the mixture dries out a little (don’t let it lose all the moisture). Mix in cilantro and turn off the heat.

To prepare the peppers for stuffing, slit them open lengthwise without removing the stem. Carefully remove and discard the seeds. Stuff the peppers with the filling - really pack it in! Steam the peppers with the cut side up until they are soft (test by poking with a fork or a knife). I used a steamer, but this can be done in a rice cooker or pressure cooker as well.

Once the peppers are steamed, you can eat them as is, or crisp up the skin in a frying pan with little or no oil (I didn’t use any). If any more filling is left, that can be toasted in the pan with the peppers as well. Serve hot with roti or rice!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cheesecake Bites

A few weeks ago at work, we had a dessert exchange with the theme “bite-sized treats.” My husband’s mom makes a delectable no-bake cheesecake, so I thought I’d try out miniature versions to share. Some minor modifications later, and I had a pretty good bite-sized treat!
8 whole graham cracker sheets, crushed
3 TBSP sugar (or Splenda)
1/3 cup melted butter or canola oil
~2 oz applesauce

8 oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
½ cup + 1 TBSP sugar (or Splenda)
4½ oz cool whip ( I used fat-free)

For the crust: Mix all crust ingredients together. Press into mini-muffin molds. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Let crust cool completely before filling.
NOTE: For the original no-bake version, omit the apple sauce and do not bake the crust. Just press into a pie pan and you can immediately pour in the filling.

For the filling: Mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in the cool whip. Store in refrigerator until the crust is cool enough to fill.

Construction: Spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust shells. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Optional: top with your favorite small fruit or candy topping.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vegetarian Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce


What do you do when you’re stressed out from school/work or having a really bad day? Well, I generally bake :-)… shopping helps too, but baking is always better! So yesterday, after arguing with my apartment management folks to no avail (didn’t know carpet cleaning could be so complicated!), I came home and decided to bake. I was thinking of making a simple chocolate cake, but didn’t have all the ingredients (that rarely happens!). I realized that I had not baked anything savory in a while, so I figured I’d experiment with a tomatillo and sour cream sauce for enchiladas… it turned out pretty delicious! The recipe might seem long, but it is very simple and quick. The sauce can be modified as per taste and desired consistency. Also, the filling for the enchiladas is completely customizable to your taste, or ingredients available in your pantry :-). Here’s what I used:

For sauce
6-8 tomatillos (can use canned)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 ½ cup vegetable stock (or water)
1 – 1 ½ cup fat free sour cream (depending on how thick you want the sauce to be)
Diced Serrano pepper (to taste)
½ cup chopped cilantro
Cumin powder

For enchiladas
1 tbsp olive oil
Paprika (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 tsp cumin powder
(You can use fajita seasoning or other spices of your choice)
2 cloves of garlic - chopped
1 small onion sliced/diced
½ red bell pepper sliced
1 zucchini chopped
1 cup cooked black/kidney beans (or 1 can)
Any other vegetables/meat of your choice
Shredded cheese (I used the Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican blend)
6-8 corn/wheat tortillas

To make the sauce:
Cut tomatillos in half and broil on both sides until soft (Took me about 5 minutes per side). Heat butter in a saucepan. Add chopped Serrano peppers, flour. Add vegetable stock once the flour is golden brown. Whisk to avoid lumps. Let the mixture boil and reduce till the vegetable stock is thickened. Add sour cream and cilantro, mix well and take off the heat.  Puree the mixture with tomatillos in a blender. Season with salt as required.

Making the filling:
For the filling, heat oil and add onions, garlic. On medium-high heat, sauté onions and garlic for a minute, then add peppers. After the peppers have softened a little, add zucchini, beans, salt and spices. Sauté for a couple minutes and turn off the heat.

To assemble:
Pour about ¾ cup of sauce in a baking dish. Lay the filling in the middle of a tortilla, sprinkle cheese (optional), and roll. Lay it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat for all the tortillas. Pour rest of the sauce evenly and top with more shredded cheese if desired.

Bake in the oven at 350 deg F for 20 min followed by broiling until top is golden brown (only about a minute). Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

Sadly, there isn’t a particularly noteworthy back-story for posting this recipe. I simply wanted to try my hand at stuffed peppers. I’ve had lots of stuffed vegetables before – stuffed zucchini in Italy that was to die for, stuffed baby eggplants that I still need to learn from Gayatri how to make, stuffed tomatoes, etc. Peppers seemed like a good place to start – mix a bunch of stuff together, put inside peppers, and bake. Easy, right? Right! :-)

6-8 bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange all taste better than green, in my opinion)
~2 lbs ground turkey
~ ½ - ¾ cup chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
~2 cups cooked brown rice (I used 2 bags of the 10-minute boil-in-a-bag kind)
~ ½ cup chopped onion (I usually use dried)
Black pepper to taste
Ground red pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
~ ¾ - 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
~2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Small jar pimientos (optional)
Low-fat or fat-free Feta cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice the peppers in half and clean out the insides. Place them cut-side-up on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook the ground turkey in a pan or skillet over med-hi heat. Add in the spinach, chopped onions and spices. The brown rice can also be cooked at the same time according to the boil-in-a-bag directions (bring water to a boil in a pot, add the rice – still in the bag – and let boil for 10 minutes). When the rice is done, drain the water. In a large bowl, mix the turkey and rice, and stir in the ricotta cheese. Add pimientos and Feta cheese if desired.

After the un-stuffed peppers have baked for 30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool before stuffing. Stuff each pepper – be sure to get filling into every nook and cranny! You will more than likely have a bunch of extra filling that can be used to make delicious wraps, sandwiches and pasta.

Top the stuffed peppers with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake the stuffed peppers for another 15-20 minutes. Let cool before serving…then enjoy!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(Seriously!) Healthy Oat Chocolate Muffins

Our good friends Mike and Erika gifted a beautiful teapot for Karla’s wedding last fall, and we had been planning to have a tea party for a while so we could use it. So a couple weekends ago we got together to have refreshing tea with cookies and muffins. That was my first attempt at baking oat muffins, which turned out okay, but not quite how I wanted. They were not as moist as I thought they would be, and the texture was a bit dense. So after making some modifications to the recipe (and a few spills and burns later), I am pretty happy with the result – a light and moist chocolate muffin, which really is healthy!

Ingredients (Makes ~12 regular or ~36 mini muffins)
1 ¾ cup old fashioned oats
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ tsp cream of tartar (or 2 tsp. vinegar)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup agave nectar (or 1 cup granulated sugar)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup yogurt (I used low fat)
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup hot water (1 cup water if using granulated sugar instead of agave nectar)
Chocolate chips (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners (or prepare any other baking pan by lightly greasing).
In a food processor, grind all the dry ingredients together (except chocolate chips). Add the wet ingredients and blend. The hot water should be added in the end, just before you start blending, or you might lose all the fizz from the baking soda which helps with the airy texture.
Fold in the chocolate chips in the batter. Fill the muffin cups ¾ full, and bake for 10 min. After 10 min, sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the muffins, and bake for another 3-4 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with some cooked batter stuck to it (not liquid!). Do not wait for the toothpick to come out clean, or the muffins might be too dry.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tea and crumpets! Well, just the crumpets.

One day, several years ago, I had a near-insatiable craving for oatmeal raisin cookies. Fortunately, I had a container of Quaker Oats, which always has a recipe for their Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin CookiesUnfortunately, I didn’t have half the ingredients, and didn’t really want to run to the store just to indulge my sweet tooth. So I started researching substitutions for ingredients – oil or margarine for butter, Splenda instead of sugar (since I had neither granulated nor brown), wheat for all-purpose flour, cranberries for raisins, etc. The end result? Instead of oatmeal raisin cookies, I got miniature cranberry oatmeal scones! Thankfully I took note of all the substitutions, and over the years have refined the recipe – relatively easy to whip up and not all that unhealthy!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter/margarine (I use ¼ cup all-natural, no sugar added apple sauce, and just under ¾ cup canola oil)
1.5 cups sugar (Splenda)
2 eggs (EggBeaters)
1.5 cups flour (super fine whole wheat flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
~2 cups Quaker Oats (quick 1-minute or old fashioned)
~1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat together butter/margarine (or apple sauce/oil) and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Stir in the oats and cranberries. Drop rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake roughly 15 minutes or until the tops and edges start to brown. Cool for a minute or two before serving. Makes a great snack or after-dinner-with-coffee-or-tea treat!