Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spaghetti and Beet Balls


Who says spaghetti and meatballs is something only meat eaters can enjoy? You could always put a vegetarian twist on it and make a veggie patty into a sphere, or to really convince yourself that it’s indeed a comparable dish, you could make spinach and ricotta balls, give them a rhyming name and call them “no-meat” balls, or make “beet” balls with beets, black beans and cashews. Fine, it’s still not quite the same, but all puns aside, these delicious and moist beet balls are wonderful with spaghetti, salads, sandwiches, or just on their own as a snack.


3 medium beets
¾ cup cooked black beans (or from a can)
½ cup packed spinach leaves
¼ cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp quick oats
1 clove of garlic
½ tsp grated ginger
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp paprika (adjust to taste)
Salt to taste

Wash the beets and cut into halves. Leave the skin on and steam for ~15 minutes until they’re tender. Peel off the skin. Alternately, you could boil or roast the beets in the oven.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Add the steamed beets along with all other ingredients to a food processor and process until the mixture is well combined and starts to come together. Shape into 1” balls and arrange them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.


Bake in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes. Flip them over gently and bake for another 5-7 minutes until lightly browned and firm to touch.

Let cool and store in airtight container in the refrigerator. For a delicious healthy snack, serve the beet balls with yogurt (or sour cream) and paprika.


To pair the beet balls with spaghetti, make an avocado pesto sauce by blending together 1 Tbsp spinach walnut pesto, one mashed avocado, enough water to get a creamy sauce consistency and lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste. Mix the sauce with cooked spaghetti and enjoy with beautiful red beet balls.



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Not your average spaghetti and meat balls! This vegetarian pasta dish uses beets for a delicious flair.

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Saturday, December 26, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Orange Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

It’s almost Christmas time and the festive mood is apparent everywhere - houses are beautifully adorned with twinkling lights, cafes serve holiday specials and pretty much every store is full of red and green. It’s indeed a wonderful time of the year. It’s also a time to bake sweet treats and share with your loved ones! Worry not if you’re not really into baking. This is the simplest and easiest cookie recipe you’ll find. The trick is to use instant pudding mix powder which takes care of the sweetener and leavener. You don’t need eggs or any other liquid - just add butter and flour, and let the pudding mix do it’s magic!


Recipe adapted from Eggless Cooking
1 packet (5.1oz or 145g) of dry instant vanilla pudding mix - I used the Great Value brand
¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1¼ cup all purpose flour
Zest of 1 orange
⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
Omit the orange zest and chocolate chips for simple vanilla cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sift the dry pudding mix into a large bowl. Sifting helps remove some of the large sugar granules which might not melt and could leave a gritty texture.

Add butter and beat on high speed for ~5 minutes. This might seem excessive but it helps break down and melt the sugar in the pudding mix. Melting the butter before adding the pudding mix also helps, however the dough doesn’t stay quite as stiff and spreads while baking, leading to thinner cookies.

Add the flour & orange zest, and beat on low speed until completely combined. The dough should be thick but not sticky. Mix in the chocolate chips using your hands or a wooden spoon.

Make 1” balls of the dough and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet at least an inch apart. Bake for 11-15 minutes (it took 13 minutes in my oven) until golden brown on the bottom and lightly browned on top.

The cookies will be soft to touch, so let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea, and store the rest in an airtight container once completely cooled.


Wish you all safe and happy holidays!


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Quick, easy and delicious cookies for Christmas time.. holidays everyone!
Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spinach Walnut Pesto

Pesto is one of my favorite condiments - the aromatic sweetness of basil contrasting with the kick from the raw garlic is perfect to jazz up many savory dishes. It’s a wonderful spread for toasts and sandwiches, can be used as salad dressing, or as a sauce for pasta. The possibilities are endless! However, it is fairly high in calories owing to the cheese, oil and nuts that are typically used to make pesto sauce. I wanted to cut down on some of those ingredient quantities and also add some healthier greens. This spinach walnut pesto is a modification of the delicious basil pesto recipe. Check notes at the bottom for recipes using pesto sauce.


1½ cups packed fresh baby spinach
¼ - ½ cup fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper for seasoning

Pulse the spinach, basil, garlic, walnuts and cheese in a food processor until a coarsely ground mixture is formed. With the food processor running, add oil and process until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Use in your favorite recipe, or make a delicious healthy snack with pesto as a dipping sauce for carrots and sweet peppers.

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


Some delicious recipes you could make with the spinach walnut pesto:
Pesto cavatappi

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A healthier pesto recipe thats just as delicious as the original - spinach walnut pesto

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Sunday, December 20, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ginger, Honey and Lemon Glazed Carrots


Carrots are not one of my favorite foods, but I’m a sucker for beautiful fresh vegetables. So when I saw these lovely carrots at the Original Farmers’ Market in Indianapolis last weekend, I was drawn to them. The vendor offered me a carrot to taste, and I was sold after just one bite!

These were very sweet and tender carrots, unlike what I typically buy from the produce section of a store. I decided to keep them whole and roast them in a pan with a ginger, lemon and honey glaze. The quantities for these ingredients can be adjusted to your taste. Since I was cooking these on the stove top and not in the oven, I steamed the carrots first to tenderise them before pan roasting.

4-6 fresh carrots
1 tsp olive oil
1-1.5 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt, ground black pepper for seasoning
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Trim the stems close to the carrot top. Wash the carrots well and use a knife to scrape off any impurities from the surface. Steam the carrots until tender (~10 min).

Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add ginger and the carrots. Drizzle honey and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper. Toss well to coat the carrots. Cover and cook for a minute or two until the the carrots are browned on one side. Turn them gently, then cover and cook again until browned on the other side. Take the pan off the heat, squeeze more lemon juice on top if you’d like, and serve garnished with chopped cilantro.



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Ginger, Honey and Lemon Glazed Carrots - a delicious dose of Vitamin A!

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Thursday, December 17, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake

For the past few years I’ve been trying to replicate a delicious and beautiful pumpkin chocolate cake with two distinct layers of pumpkin and chocolate. Unfortunately every time I ended up with one of the two layers being too dry. Recently I was able to track down the original recipe thanks to the person who introduced me to it in the first place. The big thing missing in my attempts in replicating the recipe was that I only mixed pumpkin puree in the pumpkin batter. This recipe made things simpler by mixing the puree in a big batch of batter and then adding cacao powder to only half the batter. The addition of cacao powder in the chocolate batter was balanced by the moisture of the pumpkin puree, and the result was two deliciously moist cakes fused together! With just a couple modifications to the recipe, I baked this cake for Thanksgiving dinner with friends.


¾ cup butter at room temperature (1.5 sticks)
1¼ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ - ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
Heat oven to 325 F. Grease two 6” pans and dust with flour (or line with parchment paper).  
In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and continue to beat.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin.

Divide the batter in half. Mix in cocoa powder in half the batter and beat until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips in the chocolate batter.

Add half of the chocolate batter to each pan. Top each one with half of the pumpkin batter. Smoothen out the top and bake for ~60 minutes, checking for doneness after ~45 minutes. If using a larger pan, the baking time will be reduced as the cake height will be lower  and it will bake faster.
Let the cake cool down for 15-20 minutes before removing from the pan. Sift a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar on top. I made two little maple leaf cutouts and put them on the cake before adding the cocoa and sugar. Then lifted them up and piped an outline with melted chocolate. Alternately, top with dark chocolate ganache (Click here for ganache recipe).

Note: To get a flat cake top instead of a dome, follow these instructions.

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Delicious dessert for the cold days - pumpkin chocolate cake!
Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, December 14, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Garlic and Black Pepper Roasted Cauliflower

Some foods are special to us because of the memories we associate with them. Every time we make or eat these, they remind us of a particular time or incident from the past. This pan roasted cauliflower recipe has a special place in my heart because it takes me back to my elementary school days when mom used to pack me lunch. It was always a pleasant surprise to open my lunchbox and find the roasted cauliflower simply seasoned with salt and pepper. Over the years as I started cooking for myself, this recipe has evolved perhaps because my taste has evolved. Roasting brings out the sweetness of cauliflower, so in addition to the salt and pepper seasoning, I like adding garlic to balance out that subtle sweetness, and fresh cilantro and lemon juice to really make the flavor pop!


1 head of cauliflower
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Black pepper
1 tsp oil
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)

Chop the cauliflower into small florets. Heat oil over medium high heat. I like using a nonstick pot for this since it doesn’t need too much oil. If using a steel pot, add a little more oil. Once oil is heated, add the garlic and cauliflower, and mix well. Sprinkle a pinch of salt, cover and cook until the cauliflower is a little tender. Keep stirring occasionally to get an even cook and to ensure the cauliflower at the bottom doesn’t burn. Add ground black pepper and more salt if required, continue to cook until cauliflower is tender to your liking. I like it a little crunchy when eating as a side, but I cook it until it is fairly soft and browned if I plan to serve it with roti. Once cooked, take it off the heat, mix in chopped cilantro, squeeze some lemon juice on top and serve hot.



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Simple ingredients bring out the best flavors in fresh vegetables! Here's an easy recipe for garlic & black pepper...

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Thursday, December 10, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Baked Bruschetta Topping

One of my favorite appetizers at Italian restaurants is bruschetta - toasty garlicky bread topped with deliciously seasoned tomatoes and mozzarella is the perfect start to a traditional Italian meal. I had always thought that “bruschetta” was the tomato part of the dish, with the bread simply being a medium for consumption (a not uncommon misconception, at least according to Wikipedia). Bruschetta actually refers to the bread, which is grilled, rubbed with garlic, and topped with olive oil and salt. This balsamic-tomato-basil-mozzarella mix is just one of many variations of toppings that can be served with bruschetta, and can be quite easy to make!


Ingredients: (makes ~8-10 servings of 2-3 pieces)
~1lb Roma tomatoes (can use other varieties as well)
~¼ - ½ cup balsamic vinegar
~2 TBSP chopped basil (fresh or dried)
~2-3 tsp garlic powder (or 5-6 garlic cloves, minced)
~1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 baguette
Olive oil

Heat oven to 350F.

Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch thick slices. Place the tomato slices in a single layer on a greased baking pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar so each piece is coated. Season generously with garlic powder and basil. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and brown at the edges and the tomatoes start looking wrinkly. Let cool for 5 minutes.


Slice the baguette into ¼-½ inch thick slices. Sometimes I am lazy and just leave the bread plain, but to get the toasted garlicky goodness, drizzle a little olive oil over the slices and sprinkle with garlic powder, then bake at 350F for 5-10 minutes.

Top a bread slice with a cheesy, basil-y, balsamic tomato slice. Serve as an appetizer, side, or anytime snack!



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Quick and easy version of an Italian classic.

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, December 7, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quinoa Crepes with Creamy Mushroom Filling

Quinoa is a wonder food, rich in protein, providing all essential amino acids and is a good source of potassium. I try to include it in my diet as much as I can in the form of salads, stir fry and even soups. It’s easy to cook and so versatile that you can change up the flavors as you wish. Last week I cooked a large batch of red quinoa to make a salad for a potluck, and made sure to leave some aside to use in another dish. Instead of the usual stir fry or soup, thought I’d get a bit creative - here’s a recipe for crepes made with cooked quinoa and chickpeas for an additional protein boost.


For the crepes (makes ~6 crepes)
1 cup cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa)
½-¾ cup cooked chickpeas (or canned)
2 Tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream
1 Tbsp parsley/cilantro (optional)
Paprika (optional)

For the filling
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
¼-½ cup shredded carrots
1 clove of garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp flour (I used wheat flour)
1-2 tsp oil
~½ cup milk

Combine all the ingredients for the crepes except water in a food processor. Add about ¼ cup of water and blend to a puree. Add more water as required until you get a crepe batter consistency.

In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add a few drops of oil/butter. Pour a ¼ cup of batter and move the pan around to quickly spread the batter. Cover and cook for a couple minutes until lightly browned on the bottom. Gently lift the crepe and flip it over. Add a couple more drops of oil/butter from the sides if required. Cook uncovered for another minute or so until it is completely cooked, and crispy to your liking.

For the filling, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Once onions begin to brown a little, add the flour and mix well to combine. Let the flour roast for a minute, and then slowly add milk - a couple tablespoons at a time, until it forms a creamy base for the filling. Season with additional salt, pepper if required.

Transfer a cooked crepe to a plate by flipping it over so that the side that was cooked last is facing up. Spoon some of the filling along the center of the crepe and fold the sides up and over, similar to an enchilada. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley.


Alternate assembly: While making the crepes, sprinkle some shredded cheese (I used a pizza cheese blend) after flipping the crepe. Place the crepe cheese side up on a plate, spread some filling and sprinkle chopped parsley. Repeat with another 3-4 crepes. Slice and serve!

Quinia chickpea crepes.jpg


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Protein rich crepes made from cooked quinoa and chickpeas

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Thursday, December 3, 2015