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A healthy dessert – Ricotta Stuffed Strawberries

Strawberries Stuffed with Ricotta

We have been on the healthy eating bandwagon since earlier this year. It was our only New Year Resolution, if you will.

And although there have been occasional slips ( French-Creole food from Brenda’s, Fish curry from Gajalee and Vada-Pav from DOSA), largely we have stuck to the game plan. More veggies, moderate amount of protein, no sugar, no artificial processed foods and whole natural fat.

After nurturing years of sweet tooth, its hard to go without a sugar fix. Thankfully two deserts have come to our rescue. Ricotta stuffed strawberries and Oatmeal-applesauce cookies.

Made with all natural ingredients both these desserts are naturally sweet. Now I know, sweet is a very relative term. My parents can’t have their cuppa of tea without a teaspoon or two of sugar in it. That’s their baseline. For me, more than half a teaspoon sugar makes it too sweet.

Thanks to the south beach diet and the palate cleansing, we can actually taste the natural sweetness in vegetables – tomatoes, bell peppers and even squashes. Sadly that means we find traditional desserts at restaurants too sweet.

To indulge in our sweet tooth while still maintaining the diet, I made us some ricotta stuffed strawberries. I know strawberries are not in season but I got them on sale at Whole Foods so there they were. I am sure the ricotta would go well with grilled peaches, pineapples or whatever fruit is in season.

This is a recipe where ingredients shine – so don’t buy the prepackaged ricotta which is grainier but get some freshly made ricotta. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other natural food markets carry them next to fresh guacamole,salsa etc. Or make it yourself. There are tons of recipes online.

I used to always think that bloggers who ask to get premium ingredients are snooty – but really after having this I change my mind. The fresh ricotta melts in your mouth. I added a little bit of maple syrup and Meyer lemon juice to the ricotta to brighten this further but it was good even as is.

A take on strawberries and cream, this is one dessert that I think we can make over and over again especially once spring brings fresh seasonal berries.

Strawberries Stuffed with Ricotta

Ricotta Stuffed Strawberries Recipe

  • 10 – 12 strawberries, washed and core removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon juice from Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon zest of Meyer lemon

1. With a light hand, core the strawberries and scoop out the flesh. Save it to make some strawberry jam.

Set them aside in a serving dish.

2. Whip the ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more syrup if necessary. Whip again.

3. Using a small spoon (or pastry bag if you really want to be fancy and make swirls), spoon the ricotta cheese in strawberries.

Refrigerate for couple of hours at least. Garnish with Meyer lemon zest. Serve chilled.

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Butternut Squash and Black Beans Burgers

Butternut Squash and Black bean burger

Taking a break from the desserts that I have been posting here lately, I wanted to share with you a recipe for a really tasty, sweet and spicy veggie burger. After all a little bit of spice is nice.

No, no, I hope I didn’t lose you at “veggie” or the “spicy” part. These are damn good vegetarian burgers. Vipul who doesn’t care for veggie burgers enjoyed them . Thats saying a lot! And hence the atypical second post for today.

Butternut Squash and Black bean burger

Butternut squash is so good for us – fiber, beta carotene, loaded with Vitamin A and C and even folate – it is a super food in itself. Pair it with black beans – a protein powerhouse- you have a healthy and filling burger. A can of black beans saves some hassle and roasting the squash brings out its natural sweetness. Paired with some chili powder, cumin and ginger, the patty dough is tasty as is.

Mustard and ketchup are the simple accompaniments to keep the focus on the flavors of the patty.

The best part, it can be made ahead and kept frozen for a quick weeknight healthy meal.

Give it a try this weekend. I guarantee even pickiest of eaters will love it.

Butternut Squash and Black bean burger

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Burgers Recipe

  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger root, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon green chili pepper finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil to fry the patties

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toss the squash cubes with olive oil, cumin seeds, chili powder and salt. Bake for 30 mins till tender. It should be easy to mash them up with a spoon.

2. In the meantime, wash the black beans well and marinate them in lemon juice, ginger root, green chili pepper and salt. Set aside till the squash is done.

3. Remove the squash from the oven. Let it cool a bit. Mash it well with back of a spoon.

4. Mix the squash, black beans and bread crumbs. Taste and adjust seasonings. Shape into patties.

5. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the patties about a minute or two on each side taking care not to char them.

Serve them on sandwich or burger or in enchiladas or simply as is with a bit of mustard and ketchup!

Watermelon Labneh Parfait

Labneh and Watermelon parfaits

I recently joined The Daring Kitchen, an online community where everyone month a new challenging recipe or technique is posted and enthusiasts around the world recreate it and post their results.

I was too late for their March 2013 Cheese Making Challenge, but I decided to try it out regardless. There were a few recipes shared on true cheeses like Mozzarella and Goat cheese. But as I didn’t have necessary ingredients on hand, I decided to go with a soft cheese recipe for Labneh. Labneh is a soft breakfast cheese made from yogurt.  Besides being yogurt based, it actually needs no other ingredients and is a recipe ( if I can call hanging a yogurt to drain the whey a recipe) that works on its own.

Curd hung to make labneh

Hanging the yogurt to remove its moisture is a typical first step in making Srikhand – a very traditional Maharashtrian desert. I remember days when my mom used to do this to create a very dry curd base called – chakka and then mix it with sugar, saffron or mango pulp to make Srikhand and Amrakhand. A creamy desert loved by kids and adults alike!

Labneh

Using labneh, I wanted to make a modern version of this traditional Indian desert. So instead of a sweet nutty desert, I served it  as a light breakfast parfait complete with saffron and pistachios.

Pairing the crunchy watermelons chunks with the soft creamy labneh is an exotic way to start your day.  Top it with a dollop of orange marmalade and honey for a touch of sweetness, while pistachios elevated the crunch factor.  I surprised Vipul with these on a weekday morning by serving them in wine goblets as they allowed for a generous serving.  Varun was excited by the colorful watermelon while I loved the crunchiness of pistachios and watermelon against the creamy labneh. I would love to try this with mangoes in summer. Though I think any fruit would work just as well -strawberries, blueberries, peaches!

Top view

A perfect start to any day where you want to feel like you are on vacation even though tons of work awaits you. Bliss in a glass when stresses abound. Try it. Am sure it will help you escape your daily work realities!

Breakfast Parfaits

Watermelon Labneh Parfait Recipe

  • 32 Oz container of full fat yogurt
  • 1 generous pinch – Saffron strands
  • Watermelon chunks – 1 cup
  • 2 tablespoon marmalade or honey
  • 1/4 cup pistachios -coarsely chopped

1. Take a clean white non terry cloth ( muslin or large men’s cotton handkerchief) and place yogurt in it. Tie it into a bundle. Place it in a colander with a bowl underneath to collect the whey. Let this drain in the refrigerator for a few hours to overnight to drain.

2. Squeeze excess whey out of the yogurt before  opening the yogurt bundle. Whisk the strained yogurt labneh with saffron to make it smooth and creamy.

3. In serving glasses, layer watermelon, labneh and pistachios. Drizzle some honey on top or scoop in orange marmalade. Top with pistachios.

Chill for a couple of hours to overnight. Serve chilled.

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