Monday, June 29, 2015

Blueberry Banana Muffins

I often find myself in the position of trying to make use of super ripe bananas in creative ways, such as banana chips, oatmeal, or rolled up and baked in a pie crust with walnuts and brown sugar, kind of like an empanada. Most often, though, I make some sort of banana bread treat - banana split bars, banana bread, banana bread with walnuts, banana muffins (with or without nuts and/or chocolate chips), chocolatey-banana muffins...lots of banana-bread-type stuff, many of which use the same basic recipe. Recently I made blueberry banana muffins, which got some pretty great reviews! Here’s my tried-and-true banana bread recipe with a blueberry twist.


Ingredients: (about 2 dozen muffins, or 2 loaves)
Basic recipe:
2 cups whole wheat flour
⅛ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter/margarine (I used ¾ cup canola oil, ¼ cup applesauce)
2 cups sugar (I used half white and half loosely-packed brown sugar)
4 medium bananas, ripe
4 eggs, beaten (I used EggBeaters)

Optional add-ins:
~¾-1 cup blueberries (I used frozen - no need to defrost)
~¾-1 cup chopped walnuts
~¾-1 cup dark chocolate chips


Heat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, coarsely mash the bananas.

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together butter/margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in bananas and eggs and mix until well-blended.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in your add-ins of choice (this time I only used blueberries for the add-in). 


Spoon the batter into a lined muffin pan, filling each cup about -¾ full. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


If you want to make bread loaves instead of muffins, divide batter into 2 greased 4"x8" loaf pans and bake 50-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Let cool before serving.



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Simple and versatile banana bread recipe in the form of delicious moist blueberry banana muffins!

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, June 29, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

One pot pasta with creamy garlic sauce

The convenience of a one pot meal is extremely appealing, and for certain dishes, like pasta, it even helps enhance the taste and texture. Cooking the pasta in the sauce helps soak up the flavors better and it also thickens the sauce. A good example of a delicious one pot pasta is the Italian One-derpot which has a tomato based sauce and can be customized to your taste with the vegetables you like. I wanted to try a pasta with creamy sauce with the one pot convenience, and found this garlic parmesan pasta recipe quite interesting. I added some asparagus and mushrooms, increased the quantity of garlic to make the sauce really garlicky, reduced the amount of cheese and butter, and adjusted the liquids as required. This pasta is so rich and creamy - its hard to tell that there’s no cream and hardly any cheese in the sauce.

Ingredients: (~3 servings)
½ Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms (or other kind)
1 cup chopped asparagus
Other vegetables that would work really well: broccoli, carrots, snap peas
¾ - 1 cup milk
~2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tsp unsalted butter or margarine
4 oz dry fettuccine pasta - uncooked
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the mushrooms and garlic for a couple minutes. Add ¾ cup of milk and about 1.5 cups of water. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper. Add the fettuccine and let the liquid come to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus and simmer for another 5-10 min until pasta is al dente (make sure to stir a couple times). Add more water and/or milk if required. Remove from heat and mix in the parmesan cheese. Serve warm garnished with chopped herbs and extra parmesan cheese if desired.



Note: Since you're not draining and cooling the cooked pasta under cold water as you would usually do (when pasta is cooked separately), it will continue to cook a little in the hot pan with the sauce even after you take it off the heat. So, make sure not to overcook the pasta.

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Delicious pasta with mushrooms, asparagus and creamy garlic sauce - cooks in a single pot saving time and cleaning...

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fasting... with Potatoes (Upavas Batata Bhaaji)

Fasting is quite common in India, and a lot of these fasts don’t necessarily mean eating less/healthier food. However there are certain restrictions on what is considered fasting food. One of the most common fasting ingredients is potato. Even though I never fasted, I would always be excited when my grandma did, because she would make these delicious potatoes with roasted peanuts and cumin. The recipe requires simple ingredients and doesn’t involve much work - hence one of my favorites for weekday dinners. But the best thing about this dish is the wonderful aroma of cumin seeds tempered in ghee (clarified butter).

Ingredients (3-4 servings)
5 small potatoes
~3 Tbsp coarsely ground roasted peanuts
½ tsp cumin seeds
2-3 tsp ghee/oil (ghee can be made at home using unsalted butter (this is a good tutorial), or you can buy it at an Indian store)
½ tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
¼-½ tsp sugar (adjust to taste)
½ - 1 tsp lemon juice (adjust to taste)
Wash and boil the potatoes. Peel and cube them once cool enough to touch.

Heat ghee/oil over medium-high heat; add cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds are roasted (only takes a few seconds for them to puff up and be incredibly aromatic), add the potatoes. Saute for a few minutes, add salt, chili powder to taste. Add a little bit of sugar (optional). Once the potatoes get golden brown, add the ground peanuts, mix well and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, adjust seasoning if required and take it off the heat.

Serve warm by itself, or with roti/chapati.



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Quick & easy recipe - Potatoes with roasted peanuts and cumin

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, June 22, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I like to call these “little pieces of heaven” because they combine two of the greatest, most heavenly flavors known to humankind - hazelnut and chocolate. Nutella, anyone?! The recipe is based on a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, but I’ve made several adjustments, and it’s been so long since I got the recipe that I can’t even find the original! In any case, you can use the same basic cookie recipe and just swap the nuts and chocolate if you want white chocolate macadamia instead :-)

Ingredients: (makes about 3 dozen cookies)
2 cups flour (I used a 1:2 ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (I used ¼ cup applesauce and about ¾ cup + 1 TBSP canola oil)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

~¾ cup chopped hazelnuts
~1 cup dark chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, blend the sugars together. Add butter and mix well (if using real butter, mix until a grainy paste forms, otherwise the mixture should be smooth and a little liquidy). Add eggs and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Place tablespoon-sized dollops of batter on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. These cookies have a tendency to spread (especially with the applesauce/oil substitution) so make sure there’s plenty of room between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes...then stuff yourself silly!


Note: If using the applesauce/oil substitution, refrigerating the dough for about an hour before baking will make it easier to handle when spooning onto the cookie sheets. Refrigerating will also help keep cookies from spreading so much during baking.

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Chocolate-hazelnut-heaven! Warning: these cookies may be highly addictive.

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Friday, June 19, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Crispy Parmesan Cups



A few years ago when I finished graduate school, my foodie friends Meghana and Vikram gifted me a super fancy cookbook titled The French Laundry Cookbook. The author, Thomas Keller, is the chef/proprietor of the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, among other fine dining restaurants. Starting his kitchen journey as a dishwasher, he climbed his way up to be a chef and restaurateur, currently holding 7 Michelin stars between 3 restaurants, and is also a James Beard award winner. Both the food and the photography in this book are brilliant. Every dish is elegant and is beautifully plated. Vikram and Meghana themselves are artists with food, and this wonderful gift from them is simply full of food art.

Parmesan crisp cups.jpg

One of the recipes that caught my eye was a goat cheese mousse served in parmesan crisps. The combination of delicate crispy parmesan and the goat cheese seemed like a great idea, but I thought I’d try to make it just a little bit healthier by adding some greens. I still wanted to have the goat cheese component without making the mousse, so I made a goat cheese salad dressing.

The Parmesan crisps in the original recipe are prepared by melting the Parmesan cheese in the oven, but I didn’t want to heat up the oven just for that, so I decided to try this on the stove top. It was really quick and easy, with extremely satisfying results.  

Parmesan cups (for each cup)
~¼ cup (loosely packed) finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese.

Freshly grated from a block of Parmesan is best for this because it is not as dry and you can grate it finely, however pre-shredded fresh Parmesan would work. Don’t use the dry granulated “grated Parmesan” sold in the plastic canisters.

Mixed greens
Cherry tomatoes
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced radishes
Any other ingredients of your choice!

Goat cheese salad dressing
1 Tbsp soft goat cheese
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice


Heat a nonstick pan over low-medium heat. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly in a 6” circle. Don’t leave any big gaps. Let the cheese melt and get bubbly. Take the pan off heat after ~2 minutes (once the bubbling reduces and cheese starts to change color). Using a thin spatula, gently start peeling the Parmesan crisp from one side. Once you lift it a little, you can peel the rest of it carefully with your hands. Don’t worry if it breaks - you can use the broken pieces of the Parmesan crisp to top any salads unless you scarf them down while making the next one like I did.


Quickly place the hot Parmesan “sheet” on an inverted bowl and press on the edges gently but firmly to form the “cup”. Hold for a minute until hardened then take it off the bowl. Now step back and admire your awesome lacy edible creation!



Combine all the salad ingredients. Make the dressing by mixing the goat cheese, honey and lemon juice. Adjust the amounts to taste. Theres a lot of room to get creative with the salad ingredients as well as the dressing!
Carefully add the salad to the Parmesan cups and drizzle the goat cheese dressing on top.


This would make a perfect dinner party first course since it is not time intensive. The parmesan cups are fairly quick to make - the only time consuming step is grating the cheese. The cups can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. The salad and the dressing can also be made ahead of time and stored separately in the refrigerator. Just put together all the components right before the meal and get ready to impress your guests.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Celebrating 5 years of deliciousness


The Cooks of Cake and Kindness turns 5 today! In human years, that’s pretty young...but in blog years, that’s, like, FOREVER.

Actually, time has flown, and it really doesn’t seem like that much time has passed since the inception of our blog and that first post. In the ensuing years, we have both earned our PhDs and accepted jobs in the same group at Cummins, Inc., and sit right next to each other at work, sharing a (cubicle) wall just like the good old grad school days. Karla has gotten married, bought a house, and had a son (and has another baby on the way). Gayatri has become “Tita G” (translation: Aunt G) to Karla’s son.

Now that we aren’t being distracted by tedious graduate research and studies, we’ve been able to blog more actively. From a low of only 4 recipes posts in 2012 (admittedly a busy year with thesis defenses, graduations, a wedding, and relocations), this year we have more than septupled that amount - and the year isn’t even half over yet! We have also received our very first “we’re gonna get paid to bake!” order - for a baby shower cake!

To celebrate this milestone birthday, The Cooks of Cake and Kindness has launched a Facebook page! And, of course, any mention of “birthday” wouldn’t be complete without cake!


Vanilla chocolate chip cake:
Add-ins: mini chocolate chips

Vanilla buttercream:
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening (can use butter instead, I used shortening to get more stable buttercream)
1.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk/whipping cream (if required)

Whip all ingredients for the buttercream until light and fluffy. If you refrigerate the buttercream to use later, add some milk/whipping cream and whip frosting until soft.


We’d like to thank our readers for the support, and promise to keep bringing more recipes to you in the coming years. If you’re on Facebook, check out our page and maybe even toss us a cookie! i.e. give us a “like” :-) Thanks for reading, and happy baking!

~ Gayatri & Karla

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those deliciously cheesy, belly-filling Italian meals that I crave every so often, but don’t necessarily want to take time to make - it can be a lengthy process! However, if you prepare ingredients in stages, making a lasagna can be a piece of (layered) cake :-)


Ingredients: (makes 9-12 servings)
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 chicken breasts
~1½-2 cups milk (I used skim)
~1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
~½ lb spinach (I used fresh, but you can use frozen - make sure it is thawed and drained)
~¼-½ cup flour (I used whole wheat)
~¼-½ cup finely chopped onions (I used dried - adjust according to preference)
~3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
~12oz lasagna noodles
minced garlic or garlic powder, paprika, salt and black pepper to taste
canola oil for cooking

The chicken, and even the sauce, can be prepared a day or two ahead of time.

To make the sauce:
Saute mushrooms, onion, and garlic in oil over medium heat. Add flour and roast for a few minutes, then slowly stir in milk, breaking lumps if they’re formed. Add parmesan cheese and spinach and let cook for a few minutes to thicken. Adjust milk/flour/cheese quantities as desired for preferred thickness.


To cook chicken on stove-top:
Using 1-2 TBSP oil, pan-fry chicken breast over medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side. Once cooked, shred chicken, then return to pan and season with paprika, garlic powder, and ground pepper to taste.

To cook chicken in the oven:
Place chicken breast in a lined, greased baking pan. Season with paprika, garlic powder, and ground pepper. Grease one side of a sheet of parchment paper, then place parchment paper greased-side-down over the chicken. Tuck the edges down into the pan so that it is snug around the chicken and the chicken is completely covered with parchment paper. Bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice or chop.

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package.

In a deep baking pan, spread a thin layer of sauce. Put down a layer of noodles, then a layer of shredded/chopped chicken followed by sauce, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese. Repeat until the chicken is used up, making sure to reserve some sauce. You should have a final top layer of noodles. Cover with remaining sauce, and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.


Bake finished lasagna for 35-45 minutes at 375 F until heated through and the cheese on top has melted.


Let cool for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy!