Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chikoo (Sapodilla) Cake

Have you watched the Jungle Book movie yet? I heard some mixed reviews, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. It brought back childhood memories of intently waiting every Sunday morning for The Jungle Book animated series on national television and singing “Jungle jungle baat chali hai…” (that was the title song written by Gulzar for the Hindi version of the TV show) along with thousands of other kids watching the same TV show in their homes. It was a time before Cartoon Network, with only a limited number of cartoons on Indian TV. Mowgli and his friends always made those Sunday mornings special.

This nostalgia might have subconsciously triggered the urge to make a chikoo based dessert. Chikoo, or sapodilla is a very common fruit in India and many other tropical countries. When perfectly ripe, this brown fruit is deliciously sweet and soft. Although the fresh version is hard to come by in my part of the world, the Indian grocery stores carry a frozen version of it. I wouldn’t want to eat the defrosted mushy fruit as it, but it works great in milkshakes, smoothies and ice cream… and apparently cake! I mashed up the defrosted chikoo slices and used it in cake batter as I would use mashed bananas or pureed berries. If using fresh fruit, make sure to pick ripe ones, peel and remove seeds, then mash or puree the fruit. The cardamom in this recipe gives it more of an Indian flavor, and if you didn’t know what chikoo tastes like you might think this is just a cardamom spice cake. It still tastes good though :). The texture turned out more muffin  like, and that’s the route I’ll probably go with the next time I make it. I generally try to stay away from adding unnecessary sugar, but the cardamom glaze on this cake really helps the flavor, so I would highly recommend using it - maybe add an extra hour of workout to your week to balance it out! ;-)


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
⅔ cup vegetable/canola/light olive oil
4-5 chickoo fruits peeled, deseeded and pureed or mashed with a fork (about ⅓-½ cup) - add a little water if required
½ tsp cardamom powder
A small pinch of salt
⅓ cup chopped walnuts/cashews (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare an 8” round baking pan by greasing the base and sides or lining with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom powder in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and oil until combined. Add sugar, chikoo puree and whisk to break down any lumps in the sugar. Add the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until everything is combined. This batter will be thick.

Pour the batter into prepared baking pan and smoothen out the top with a spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the cake cool down for 10-15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let it cool further on a wire rack.

Once the cake is out of the oven, make the glaze by mixing just enough milk/water with powdered sugar to make a runny paste. Add a pinch or two of cardamom powder and mix well. Drizzle the glaze over warm cake, slice and serve with a hot cup of tea or coffee!



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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baked Spinach Artichoke Chicken Dip

One of my husband’s favorite appetizers is spinach artichoke dip - two healthy greens turned into somewhat of an indulgence with warm, gooey, garlicky melty cheese. Sometimes, if we are not particularly hungry, we’ll split an order of spinach artichoke dip for a meal, and we always run out of dip before we’ve used up the chips that come with it! I had never really thought about trying to make my own spinach artichoke dip. While I usually have frozen spinach on standby in the freezer, artichoke almost never makes it to my weekly shopping list. I had tried using fresh artichoke once before, many years ago, and it was pretty disastrous. Recently, however, I started experimenting with soufflés and have regularly gotten canned artichokes - much easier to work with! With both spinach and artichoke on hand, I decided it was time to give this favorite appetizer a try. For additional substance, I tossed in some shredded chicken breast to make it a little more meal-worthy.


1 can artichoke hearts (about 8-10 hearts), coarsely chopped
~10oz chopped spinach (I used frozen, thawed & drained)
~1.5 cups chicken breast, cooked and shredded
8oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
~6oz plain Greek yogurt (I used fat-free)
~½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
~1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
3-4 garlic cloves, minced


Heat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until cream cheese and yogurt are incorporated, but no need to make it a homogenous mixture - pockets of melty cheese are wonderful when eating!


Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese at the edges begins to brown. Allow sufficient cooling time to prevent burned tongues, top with more parmesan, then dig in with crackers or chips!



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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goat Cheese, Tomato and Arugula Crepes

As winter is coming to an end, so is the indoor winter farmers’ market in town. I picked up some lovely fresh greens at the last market for this season on Saturday. Crisp arugula leaves - perfect for a salad! But there was enough to use in another recipe as well. So I decided to add some arugula to my brunch crepes along with goat cheese and tomatoes. It’s mild bitterness worked perfectly with the sweetness of tomatoes and the tartness of the balsamic drizzle. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you - this is a really simple crepe recipe which can be easily customized per the ingredients you have at hand. This version is especially quick since the filling doesn’t have to be cooked, but if you’re in the mood for more elaborate crepes, try our crepes with caramelized onion and mushroom filling and Bechamel sauce.


Crepes (~4-5 crepes)
½ cup flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
1 egg - beaten
½-¾ cup milk (adjust to get a thin consistency)
1 tsp melted butter (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped spring onions (optional)
½ tsp minced garlic or garlic powder (optional)
Salt to taste
Oil or butter to grease the pan
~2-3 Tbsp soft goat cheese
2 tomatoes -sliced
Freshly cracked pepper
Fresh arugula leaves (~6-7 per crepe)
Balsamic reduction
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Mix all the crepe ingredients and adjust the amount of milk to get a thin batter consistency such that it can spread and coat the pan as you twirl it.
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a little bit of oil/butter to grease the pan. Add ¼-⅓ cup batter in the middle of the pan. Twirl the pan gently for batter to spread. Cover and cook until bottom is slightly browned. Flip the crepe over and cook uncovered until golden brown on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
While the crepes are cooking, make the balsamic reduction by heating the vinegar and honey on medium-high. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for another minute before taking off the heat. It will get thicker as it cools. If it is still too thin heat a bit more; if it’s too thick, add some water and reheat to combine.
Spread goat cheese on half of a crepe. Top it with tomato slices, cracked pepper and arugula leaves. Drizzle some balsamic reduction. Fold over the other half of the crepe. Drizzle more balsamic reduction (optional) and serve warm.

Crepe with goat cheese tomato arugula.jpg


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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

Sometimes on a rainy, grey day, there’s nothing better to eat than a nice hot bowl of soup, whether it’s tomato bisque, chicken noodle, beef stew, minestrone, or this delicious take on vegetable soup. Even though they seem pretty easy (broth plus veggies plus protein, right?), I’ve never been particularly good at making soups - most of the time they end up too bland and watery. But I can be a rather stubborn person, and am determined to master at least one variety! I found this Greek-style chicken lemon rice soup in my mother’s recipe box, and it looked right up my alley with only a handful of ingredients. I made some minor tweaks and ended up with a deliciously flavorful soup!


Ingredients: (makes 4-6 servings)
4 cups chicken broth
4 oz (~½ cup) uncooked rice
~½ - ¾ lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded or diced (see this post for instructions on cooking chicken)
3 eggs
4 TBSP lemon juice
salt, pepper to taste


In a 2-quart pot, bring chicken broth to a boil over med-hi to high heat. Add rice and cover, reducing heat to med-lo, and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Add chicken to the pot.

In a small bowl, beat eggs and lemon juice. Then, stirring constantly, add about 1 cup of hot water from the rice to the egg/lemon mixture, a little at a time so the eggs do not curdle.

Slowly add the egg mixture back into the soup. Cook and stir over low heat until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Take care not to boil or the eggs will curdle. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.


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Thursday, April 14, 2016

One Pot Macaroni With Creamy Spinach Sauce

Pasta might not be considered the healthiest of foods, but a nice weekend workout deserves some warm, comforting pasta with a delicious creamy sauce. Especially so, if you are able to sneak in a lot of nutrition in the pasta meal! Here’s one way of doing that - this creamy one pot pasta is cooked in the sauce itself. The starch from the pasta helps thicken the sauce without having to add any cheese or cream. Pureed spinach adds a good dose of vitamins and a bright pop of color to the meal. I used broccoli and corn, but any other vegetables can be added to the pasta. To complete the meal with protein, serve it with boiled eggs or grilled chicken.


Ingredients: (Serves 2)
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic - minced
1 cup chopped broccoli
¼ cup corn
4 oz elbow macaroni - uncooked
1 cup water
1 cup packed spinach
½ cup skimmed milk
Salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes (to taste)
2 boiled eggs (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. Add the veggies and garlic, saute for a couple minutes to let the garlic cook. Add the uncooked pasta, and saute for a minute. Add 1 cup of water, deglaze the pan, add salt, pepper and/or chili flakes and cook covered for 2-3 minutes. While pasta is cooking, add the spinach and milk to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the pureed mixture to the pasta, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until pasta is cooked. Add more water or milk if required.


Serve hot topped with boiled eggs. Sprinkle fresh lemon juice and grated Parmesan cheese if desired.



Other one pot pastas you might like -
Spaghetti in a tomato based sauce with spinach and mushrooms
Pasta with creamy garlic sauce

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Portobello Mushroom Strudel

I’m always looking for quick weeknight dinners, but throwing salads together, making sandwiches or an omelette quickly gets boring. However, with some time spent prepping on the weekend (and store bought pie crusts!) weeknight dinners can be a breeze. One such dish is a simple strudel. Here’s one of our recipes for a chicken strudel, and if you’d like a vegetarian version, follow along for a crispy but moist and cheesy strudel recipe using Portobello mushrooms, asparagus and spinach. The veggies can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated to speed up the process. You could even assemble the strudel, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until ready to bake.

2016-04-02 19.22.59.jpg

1 small onion - chopped
8-10 asparagus stalks - chopped
2 cups packed fresh spinach - chopped
3 large portobello mushroom caps - sliced about ½ inch thick
4 tsp oil
Red wine vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
Salt, black pepper
1 pie crust
3 provolone cheese slices

Egg wash (optional)
Mix 1:1 parts water and beaten egg

Mushroom Sauce (optional)
~⅓ cup dehydrated wild mushrooms- soaked in hot water for half hour
1 tsp oil/ butter
2 tsp flour
¼ tsp thyme leaves
1.5 cups water/vegetable stock/milk
Salt, black pepper to taste

Spinach, asparagus mixture
Heat 1 tsp oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, cook until onions are translucent. Add the asparagus and spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook until spinach is wilted (1-2 min). Add lemon juice or vinegar, take off the heat and set aside.

Portobello mushroom slices
Slice the mushroom caps about ½ inch thick. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Place the mushroom slices in a single layer. Once they are browned on the bottom, turn them over. Add some lemon juice or vinegar if using, and let the mushroom cook until the other side is browned.

Assembling and baking the strudel
Preheat oven to 425 F.

Roll out the pie crust on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using the back of a knife, gently mark vertical lines on the pie crust approximately dividing it in thirds. Using a sharp knife, make horizontal cuts on the outer sections as shown.

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Place the cheese slices slightly overlapping each other in the middle third of the pie crust. Top it with the spinach asparagus mixture. Lay the portobello slices on top of the mixture.

Fold over the sides and press them together to seal. Seal the ends of the strudel, and brush the top with egg wash (optional).

2016-04-02 18.37.31.jpg

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is browned.

Mushroom sauce
While the strudel is baking, prepare the mushroom sauce. Roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms. Heat oil/butter over medium-low heat and add the mushrooms. Sauté for a minute, then add flour and cook, stirring continuously, for a couple minutes. Add the water that the mushrooms were soaked in (and/or vegetable stock or milk). Season with salt and pepper and let the sauce reduce to the consistency of your liking.

Slice the strudel and serve it topped with the mushroom sauce for extra deliciousness!

2016-04-02 19.27.10.jpg


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Portobellow mushroom, spinach and asparagus strudel with a creamy mushroom sauce

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, April 11, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Kale Yogurt Dip

Crunchy veggies, crackers, chips etc. always taste more delicious when accompanied with a creamy spread or dip. Some of my favorites are warm delicious spinach-artichoke dip, and a creamy garlic, egg and cheese dip. But a creamy dip doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use cheese, mayonnaise or other sometimes unhealthy fats. A great example of that is hummus - with a chickpea base, it is rich in protein, and there are a lot of flavor combinations to choose from. Another low fat but creamy ingredient is yogurt. Indian food is often accompanied by yogurt salad, and the same can take the form of a dip based on the ingredients and consistency of the yogurt. For this particular recipe I used kale, carrots and corn - simply because that’s what I had in my refrigerator at the time. You could use any greens and other vegetables that have a low water content. It’s best to use thick yogurt since the addition of vegetables could make it a bit thinner over time as they release moisture. This dip can be served with crudités, pita bread, crackers or tortilla chips. It also works great as a spread for sandwiches or wraps, or as a yogurt salad on it’s own.


1 cup finely chopped kale leaves
¼ cup finely chopped/grated carrot
¼ cup steamed corn kernels
2 Tbsp finely chopped pecans (or other nuts)
1.5 - 2 cups thick yogurt (can use low fat as long as it is not runny)
2 tsp garlic powder
Ground black pepper
Honey (optional)


Mix the veggies and nuts with the yogurt. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and adjust the seasoning to taste.

If kale is not your favorite leafy vegetable, you could use spinach or some other greens. You could also add some honey to cut the bitterness of the kale.

Chill until ready to serve.



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Kale Yogurt Dip - creamy, garlicky, delicious!

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Friday, April 8, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Birthdays at work have been fun lately - some harmless pranks (I guess I am enjoying them as I haven’t been pranked yet!), lunch with the team, and to make up for some of the pranking, we try to make some sweets. Recently I made some chewy chocolate cookies for a colleague’s birthday. We try to find gluten free recipes such as this one so that everyone in the team can enjoy. A lot of recipes call for gluten free all purpose flour or oat flour. But this particular one from the Power Hungry blog piqued my interest because of the flour used in it. These cookies are made with chickpea flour (Yay protein!). The recipe also used coconut oil which is a healthier fat than butter or vegetable oil, but I’m personally not a big fan of the chocolate and coconut combination. I did have coconut oil which I use for cooking often, so I decided to give it a try anyway, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the chocolate and coconut flavors complemented each other in this recipe. It’s wasn’t overpoweringly coconut-y, and the chocolate flavor definitely was the most prominent. The only change I made to the original recipe was reducing the sugar quantity. I recommend this recipe to all chocolate lovers - it’s simple to make and not that unhealthy :-)


1 cup chickpea flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
A small pinch of salt
1 large egg
½ cup virgin coconut oil
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder/granules (optional - but recommended! It really helps enhance the chocolate flavor)
½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped nuts (optional)

Sift the chickpea flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Sifting is ideal for this recipe as both chickpea flour and cocoa powder often have small lumps. But if you don’t have a sifter or a sieve, just whisk the ingredients until you see the lumps disappear.

Coconut oil has a tendency to solidify, so if required microwave it for a few seconds to melt it to bring it to liquid form and add the coffee powder to it.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil & coffee mixture with the sugar. Once combined, add the egg, vanilla extract and whisk until blended.

Add the flours and mix until everything comes together to form fairly thick dough. Add chocolate chips, nuts, and mix. To prevent cookies from spreading too much as they bake, cover and refrigerate the dough for ~15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the chilled dough into 1” balls and place them about 2” apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes until the edges are firm.

Resist the urge to bite into a piping hot cookie, but be prepared to gorge on these once they are cooled - I bet it would be hard to stop at one!




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Gluten-free double chocolate cookies - if you've never made cookies with chickpea flour (besan), give this a shot!...

Posted by The Cooks of Cake and Kindness on Monday, April 4, 2016