Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free)

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Karla and I love to try making new (and preferably healthy) desserts, and the best way to get feedback is to take them to work and share with our team! One of our colleagues is on a gluten free, low sugar diet so he doesn’t quite indulge in most desserts like the rest of us. So, this time I decided to make a gluten free dessert and keep it low on sugar as well. I’d been planning to make pumpkin cookies for a while and figured I could use gluten free oat flour as a base. There are plenty of gluten free pumpkin cookie recipes online, however I wanted more of a soft cakey cookie. So I ended up approximating the dry ingredients from a handful of recipes that used all purpose flour. I substituted it with oat flour, added some corn starch to make sure the cookies are not dry and crumbly (oat flour has no gluten for binding!), reduced the amount of sugar and added some milk because oat flour absorbs more liquid than wheat flour, which could also leave the cookies dry. These whole grain cookies are like little pillows of pumpkin with a hint of sweetness and spice.

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Ingredients: (Makes ~4 dozen small cookies)
2 cups gluten free whole grain oat flour
2 Tbsp corn starch
1½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 cup brown sugar (or more if you prefer)
1 cup pumpkin puree (if using canned, make sure it is not pie filling)
½ cup of canola/vegetable oil
1 egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk (I used fat free)

Optional add-ins
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 F. 

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, vanilla, milk until well combined. Make sure the sugar doesn’t leave any lumps. In another bowl combine the  oat flour, corn flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add the chocolate chips, nuts and mix. 

Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Drop the batter using a couple teaspoons onto the prepared cookie sheet (~2-3 teaspoonfuls per cookie). Use a small ice-cream/cookie scoop if you’d like perfectly round cookies. These don’t spread too much so leaving about an inch or so between the cookies would be enough.

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Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned. They will be nice and puffy, and should spring back when gently pressed. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee!

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~Gayatri

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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crispy Tofu Spinach Bites

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Being a good source of protein, extra firm tofu is a staple in my fridge, and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. Typically I marinate and bake it, which gives it a firmer texture, but it isn’t as crispy on the outside as deep fried tofu. Not wanting to deep fry, I was looking for other ideas and found this vegan fried chicken recipe. Wrapping in rice paper and then pan frying - what a brilliant idea! Instead of wrapping each piece of tofu individually, I decided to use two tofu slices with some sauteed spinach sandwiched in between. The rice wrapper helped contain the delicious juices from the spinach and the tofu marinade, while the crust was nice and crispy.

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Ingredients (Makes 10 tofu sandwiches: ~4-5 servings)
14 oz extra firm tofu

Marinade (Any other marinade will also work)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced (or garlic powder)
1/2 tsp grated ginger (or ginger powder)
1 tsp honey
Adjust ingredients to taste if required

Spinach filling
10 oz spinach
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp coarsely chopped cashews
1 tsp sesame seeds
Soy sauce or salt for seasoning
1 tsp sesame oil (or any other oil of your choice)
 
Crispy wrapper
5 rice paper wrappers
1 egg beaten + salt + black pepper to taste
Optional:  ¼ cup rice flour + garlic powder + salt + pepper
Oil for pan frying

The tofu and the spinach filling can be prepared separately ahead of time.

Prepare the tofu
Drain and slice the tofu about ½” thick. Cut each slice in two to get about 2x2” pieces. Using a paper towel squeeze out excess water from the tofu slices.

Mix all the marinade ingredients and soak the tofu slices in the marinade for at least half an hour.

The marinated tofu can be used as is, or the slices can be baked or cooked in a pan on the stovetop. I used the stovetop method - lightly browning the tofu on both sides in a non stick pan over medium heat (no oil required).

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Spinach filling
Heat oil and saute garlic, cashews and sesame seeds over medium heat for a few seconds. Add spinach and mix well. Take off the heat once spinach is wilted but still crunchy.

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Assembling
Break the rice papers in half and soak in warm water until softened.
 
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Place one of the wrapper halves on a plate. Place a piece of tofu close to one end. Top it with a Tbsp of spinach filling followed by another piece of tofu. Fold the sides up and start rolling from the end. Keep rolling tightly till you get to the other end of the rice paper. Set aside the wrapped tofu 'sandwich' and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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These wrapped tofu bites can be eaten as is with a dipping sauce if you don’t want to fry them. For the crispy pan fried version, heat a few drops of oil - just enough to lightly coat the bottom of a non-stick pan. Dip the wrapped tofu in the egg, then dip it in the flour mixture, dust off excess flour and pan fry on all sides until golden brown. The flour dipping definitely gives extra crunchiness (picture at the top of the post), but I liked it best just dipped in egg before pan frying (picture below).

Drizzle with your favorite sauce (I boiled and reduced the marinade; added some more vinegar, honey to make the sauce), and serve warm.

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~Gayatri

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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

Egg curry in a hurry!

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For several years in India, egg curry was what I ate on Sundays. My family typically eats meat on Sunday, goat curry most often - so after I gave up meat, my Sunday staple became egg curry. I love making the traditional egg curry starting with the onion & tomato masala made with cilantro and spices - grinding it, carefully making slits in the hard boiled eggs and stuffing in the masala before making a gravy. As you can see, that’s a little bit involved. Some days I just want to fix dinner quickly after work, hence the curry in a hurry! This one also uses onions and tomatoes, but doesn’t have a liquid gravy as the base. However it isn’t completely dry either - just perfect to eat with either rice or roti.
 
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I generally start boiling the eggs and then chop ingredients and make the curry while the eggs are cooking. The whole thing is ready in no time!

Ingredients (~4-5 servings)
8 eggs - hard boiled
1 large onion - chopped (~ 2 cups)
2-3 small tomatoes - chopped (~1.5 cups)
3 cloves of garlic (or garlic powder)
1 tsp grated ginger (or ginger powder)
2 tsp coriander powder (optional, but really helps the flavor!)
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
Salt
1 tsp oil
Chopped herbs for garnishing (optional) - cilantro, parsley, green onions

Optional tempering (Definitely helps the taste, but isn’t crucial if you don’t have the ingredients)
⅛ tsp mustard seeds
⅛ tsp cumin seeds
⅛ tsp asafoetida powder (See note)

Heat oil over medium high heat. If using tempering ingredients, add the mustard seeds; once the seeds start spluttering, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida powder. Immediately add the chopped onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until translucent (if you are skipping the tempering, just add onions once the oil is hot).

Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute. Add the spices and season with salt. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until some of the liquid evaporates.

While the onions and tomatoes are cooking, peel and coarsely chop the eggs. Add the eggs to the onion, tomato mixture. Mix well, adjust seasoning if required, and take off the heat once heated through (~30-60 seconds). Do not cook for too long after eggs are added to prevent them from getting chewy.

Garnish with chopped herbs and serve warm.

~Gayatri

Note: Asafoetida, or hing, is an herb used extensively in Indian cooking to enhance flavor and aid digestion. It can be found in any Indian store.


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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, August 24, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cheddar and Sun-dried Tomato Scones

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Scones are a wonderfully versatile treat, and the same basic recipe can be customized for a wide range of both savory and sweet flavors. We have been exploring several variations of our base recipe, including (cranberry-orange, cardamom-pistachio-rose, and spinach-feta). For another savory flavor, I took a stab at recreating a version of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits in scone form, and for a little extra flair, I threw in some sun-dried tomatoes.

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Ingredients: (makes ~16 scones)
~2¼ cups flour (I used ⅔ cup whole wheat, the rest all-purpose)
~3.5 tsp baking powder
5 TBSP unsalted butter
~1½ TBSP sugar
~1 cup buttermilk (you can make buttermilk by stirring together ~1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice and 1 cup milk - I used skim - then letting it sit for about 5 minutes)

Add-ins:
~2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
~½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
~1 TBSP garlic powder (or minced garlic)
~2 TBSP dried chopped parsley (but can also use fresh)
~¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

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Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Cut in the butter, rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingers until you get a crumbly mixture.
Mix in sugar, cheese, and tomatoes. Add the buttermilk slowly (reserve a couple tablespoons for brushing the scones) and mix until everything comes together. Do not knead the dough, though.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a square-ish shape about an inch thick. Cut into about 16 pieces and place on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Be sure to leave a little space between the scones as they will grow a bit during baking. Brush the tops and sides of the scones with the reserved buttermilk.
 
 
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Bake 12-15 minutes until golden-brown and the cheese starts bubbling out. Let cool before digging in!

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~Karla


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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Friday, August 21, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Apple Millefeuille (a.k.a. Leaning Tower of Fruit!)

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Growing up I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and I can hardly recall any meals from my childhood without a dessert. If nothing else, I used to have a little bit of jam, jaggery, or sugar with ghee on my plate. Over the years I’ve consciously tried to reduce my refined sugar intake, which is not very easy when you like to bake cakes ;-) … but I now enjoy the healthier desserts with a lot of fruits, so I can occasionally indulge in the more sugary delicious baked treats.

This recipe is for a simple dessert which can be made with fresh fruits such as apple or pear. I like calling it Millefeuille because it is a layered tower. Millefeuille is a French pastry with several thin crispy layers stacked up with creamy filling in between. This version doesn’t have any pastry but it does have thin and crunchy layers of apple! The dish is not just visually pleasing but it also really elevates the taste of the simple everyday apple. It uses very few ingredients (things you might already have in your pantry) and takes hardly any time and effort to put together. It’s a healthier dessert too - in addition to the vitamins and fiber from the fruit, you can also get your protein fix with your favorite nuts and nut butters.

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Ingredients: (Serves 1-2)
1 apple (any kind - I used the Gold Delicious variety)
~2 Tbsp peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
1 Tbsp dried cranberries/raisins (or chopped fresh berries)
1-2 tsp chopped nuts (I used pecans and pistachios)
Cinnamon, nutmeg (optional)
Any seeds such as sunflower or chia, nuts, granola etc. can be used in this recipe.
Sauce
1-2 tsp honey
¼ - ½ tsp lemon juice
Water
A pinch of ground cardamom
Salt (optional)

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Thinly slice the apple. Mandolin slicer would work great for very even slices, but I just used a knife. Core the slices with a small cookie cutter or a knife. Start laying down the slices from the bottom up. After every 2-3 slices spread a thin layer of nut butter, sprinkle chopped nuts and cranberries. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg if using. Continue till you reach the top.

To make the sauce, mix honey, lemon juice and cardamom powder. Thin the sauce to your liking with water. If your nut butter doesn’t have any added salt, a little bit of salt in the sauce would taste great! Drizzle the sauce on the apple tower.

I’ve been asked how to eat this tower of fruit , so here are the 'instructions' ;-). I like to gently push it over so the apple slices fan out nicely onto the plate. That makes it easy to cut into only a few slices at a time. Dip in extra sauce if desired and enjoy as a (relatively) guilt free breakfast or dessert!

~Gayatri


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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, August 17, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Meatloaf

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Meatloaf is one of those fabulous good-old-fashioned comfort foods that’s super easy to make, since it entails just mixing all ingredients in a bowl then tossing it in the oven for a while. I’ve tried several variations (meatloaf is highly customizable!) but this is by far my favorite - it’s full of flavor and the easiest to prepare.

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Ingredients:

~2 lbs ground turkey (or ground beef)

2 large eggs, beaten (I used EggBeaters)

~¾ cup bread crumbs
~½ cup ketchup
~1 TBSP garlic powder
~¼ - ½ tsp ground black pepper
seasonings (about 1-2 tsp each): rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram
dash of salt (optional - I don’t use any)
extra ketchup for glaze (optional)
Note: For a different kind of kick, replace the ketchup with A1 or your favorite steak or barbecue sauce

Heat oven to 400F. Grease a 5x9 or 4x8 loaf pan.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until a mixture similar to bread dough forms. Transfer to loaf pan and pat down into a loaf shape. Spread a thin layer of ketchup on top for a tangy glaze.

 
 


Bake at 400F for 1 hour or until internal temperature reaches 165F. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with your favorite side.

~Karla

Note: Leftovers can be reheated for about 30 seconds per slice on max power.


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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cardamom, Pistachio & Rose Scones

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Our scone flavor exploration continues! We’ve modified the same base scone recipe to incorporate both sweet and savory flavors, and this recipe is for another delicious sweet one. I have to say, so far this one if my favorite - not only does it taste great, it smells and looks great too! It’s not too uncommon to find cardamom, rose and pistachios together in some of the Indian desserts, but I was a little unsure of baking all these flavors into scones - a pastry that’s generally not very sweet. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The scones are quite good on their own, but with the glaze and pistachio, rose petal topping, they are just perfect!

 
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Ingredients
Click here for base ingredients

Add ins
1.5-2 tsp rose water
2 Tbsp chopped pistachio
½-1 tsp ground cardamom
Sugar glaze (optional)
¼ cup confectioners sugar
Few drops of rose water (optional)
1-2 tsp milk

Topping (optional)
~1 tsp chopped pistachio
~½ tsp dry rose petals (food grade)
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Preheat oven to 425 F. Roughly chop the butter and rub it into the self rising flour until crumbly. Mix in the sugar, chopped pistachios, ground cardamom. Mix rose water with the milk and add it to the flour mixture. Combine to form a dough.

Divide the dough in half and roll it out into a circle, about ¾” thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

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Spread out the pieces on a greased baking sheet. Generously brush the tops and sides with milk. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Topping!
The topping can be definitely be skipped, but it is certainly recommended. It elevates the flavors greatly! To make the glaze mix the cardamom powder and rose water with the powdered sugar. Mix it all up, and slowly add only enough milk to form a thin paste. Be careful not to add too much milk at once.

Drizzle a little bit of the glaze on the scones. Quickly sprinkle chopped pistachios and rose petals, and drizzle a little more glaze to make sure the toppings stick.

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Enjoy the fragrant delicious scones with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
~Gayatri

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Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Sunday, August 9, 2015