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Cornmeal Pumpkin Anytime Muffins ( No Added Sugar or Butter!)

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins

I know, I know the last couple of recipes have been very indulgent. Creamy chocolate pudding and Dahi- Vada. What can I say, I really love them.

Cheese, whole milk, elaborate process, whisking. This recipe is an exact antidote to that.

One pot prep. Healthy. No added sugar. And Varun approved to boot.

Cornmeal, pumpkin and applesauce come together in these muffins to create a naturally sweetened muffin which is great for breakfast with eggs ( or just coffee), after school snack or with chili for dinner.

It has fiber, good carbs and protein.

And did I say no oil, sugar or butter.

They freeze well in an airtight container and are perfect to be made on weekend when your toddler naps or when he wants to help in the kitchen and you are ok with a little mess.

Microwave when needed for a minute for a healthy snack with a pat of peanut butter or as is.

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins

Cornmeal Pumpkin Muffins Recipe

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons sugar for dusting on top (optional, incase you need things to be a little sweet)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons chopped almonds, walnuts for crunchy topping.

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper cups.

2. In the meantime, mix all the dry ingredients ( cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl or a stand mixer.

Dump pumpkin puree, applesauce and egg in the same bowl.

Mix well for couple of minutes ( by hand) or a minute, if using a mixer on low-speed.

3. Scoop the mixture in paper cups.

Dust with sugar. Sprinkle chopped nuts.

4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or frezee for later.

Semi-sweet Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding

The other thing besides Dahi vada, I was craving during last couple of weeks of pregnancy was a good old fashioned pudding. Made from scratch at home with love.

Creamy, chocolately, that leaves a thick drape on back of the spoon that you want to lick.

Puddings are really easy to make. But most recipes call for cream and corn starch; which I never don’t have on hand.

When I am at Whole Foods, I pause at the fresh cream bottles, thinking that I can make a pudding with this today. Those Straus cream bottles are very inviting. In their cute shape, they sit right next to the milk gallons begging to be brought home. And made into pudding.

But at 25% fat ( albeit good fat), I don’t really give into temptation and walk away as quickly as possible.

Recently, I came across a Tyler Florence recipe using whole milk ( which is what we have switched to given the milk powder and other additives in low fat milk), I decided to give it a try.

Low in sugar, this is a healthier version of chocolate pudding that you can otherwise make.

Flour can be used in a pinch as a substitute to cornstarch.

The result was a silky, creamy pudding as rich as the one made with cream.

If you are craving a special treat this weekend, give this a try. You probably have everything you need in your house to make it right now.

Its bound to surprise you with its ease and its taste. And its something you wouldn’t mind your kid indulging in.

Note: 

1. Don’t use fat free or 1% milk for this. The resulting pudding will be thin and you may not like the texture.

2. Don’t skimp on whisking. It will reward with a smooth lump free pudding.

Chocolate Pudding

Semi sweet Chocolate Pudding Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk + 1 table spoon milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 tablespoon flour
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • Vanilla from 1/2 bean, split and scraped ( or 1 teaspoon extract)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

 For garnish 

  • Whipped Cream ( I didn’t use any but sounds delicious)
  • Grated Chocolate
  • Sugar tossed raspberries or strawberries
  1. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the milk, sugar, and the cocoa powder in an saucepan. Bring it to a simmer, over medium-high heat, whisking intermittently to avoid scorching the milk. Remove from the heat and keep aside.
  2. In the meantime, whisk eggs, flour and table spoon of milk, salt and vanilla in a bowl  ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture.
  3. Add a tablespoon of chocolate milk from the saucepan to the eggs. Whisk till incorporated. Repeat with another 2 – 3 tablespoons of milk, adding one tablespoon at a time. This ensures that the eggs don’t get scrambled when added back to the chocolate milk mixture.
  4. Add eggs- milk mixture to the saucepan. Whisk it with the remaining milk and  cook over medium-high heat. Whisk constantly  until pudding comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and continue whisking until thick, about 2 or 3 minutes more.
  5. Pour the pudding into 4 ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Garnish with chilled whipped cream, raspberries or strawberries or grated chocolate.

Serve chilled.

Dahi Vada – An Indian Street Food Affair

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[ I wrote this post last week before the baby’s arrival; am simply posting it  today. We are at home, resting, nursing and catching up on sleep. Will resume blogging soon!]

Pushpa: Le Dahi Vade kha le.

Urmila: Nahi mann nahi kar raha.
Pushpa: Arre Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi kar raha. Agar kisi ladki ka Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi karta to do cheeze ho sakti hai,

  • ya to woh dheere dheere ladki se ladka ban rahi hai…
  • ya to usse PREM ho gaya hai

Ek din mujhe bhi Dahi Vade khaane ka mann nahi kiya, teen din baad pata chala ki mujhe Bunty se Prem ho gaya hai 🙂 (and bluntly blushing)
Bol ri! Kya naam hai unka?

Urmila:(sharmate hue) Lucky naam hai…

[Don’t worry if you don’t understand the dialog exchanged in Hindi above. The humor will be lost in translation.It doesn’t really impact the recipe or why you should make it. You should make this recipe to get a taste of India, regardless of movie scene that recommends it.]

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This is a classic scene ( copied from being desh blog) from a very popular oldie- goldie Hindi movie “GolMaal”. Its hilarious in its reasoning.

Dahi vada’s have been on my mind lately. At least since mom is here. And they always remind me of GolMaal.

There is a reason why these are not on the menu of any and every Indian restaurant that you have visited. Unlike Saag Paneer, Chole or Alu- Gobi, dahi vada’s are tricky, need a lot of patience and muscular strength.

The lightest,fluffiest melt in your mouth vadas are made solely by whipping the batter with your hands. Whip and whip till you feel that your arms are going to fall off. And then some.

Then this fluffy batter is deep-fried in hot oil.

Once golden brown, they are dunked in a buttermilk bath to soften the core and then immersed in cool tangy yogurt sauce. It is served with a variety of spices – cumin powder, red chilli powder and a tangy tamarind chutney.

But once made and chilled, they are these lightly puffy yogurt soaked lentil balls that you will fight  over.

One bowl or serving will never be enough. At least plan on 2 to 3 servings per person.

This is one recipe that is worth the effort. Every single time.

Here is mom’s recipe below.

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Dahi vada Recipe

For vadas 

  • 3/4 cup urad dal (black lentils)
  • 1/4 cup moong dal 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (optional)

For buttermilk bath

  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste

For the Dahi ( Spicy yogurt sauce)

  • 3 cups thick yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For garnish

  • Tamarind – date chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Green chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Finely chopped cilantro ( for garnish)

1. Wash both the urad and moong  dal well ( at least 7 – 8 times in plenty of water) till the water runs clear. It will be milky at first and then run clear.

Soak dal in plenty of water for at least 5-6 hours to overnight.

2. Discard water from the dal and finely grind it with as little water as possible. Set aside the dal batter for 1 – 2 hours.

3. In the meantime prepare the buttermilk bath. Whisk all the ingredients listed till you get a thin batter. Set aside in a large shallow bowl.

4. Heat oil in a wok on medium-high heat.

Add salt and ginger to the dal batter. Whisk the batter with hand for at least 10 minutes in a flat plate. Whisk and whisk some more till you feel the batter to be light and fluffy.

4. Fry small golf ball sized vadas in hot oil till golden brown. Test one vada to ensure that the vada is cooked evenly through the center. If not, lower the heat and cook till they are golden brown.

6. Soak the vadas in buttermilk bath for at least 2 hours. Remove the vadas from the buttermilk bath and keep aside covered. They can be kept at room temperature.

7. Prepare the yogurt sauce by missing all the ingredients and adjusting to taste. Keep the yogurt in the refrigerator to chill till ready to serve.

8. When ready to serve, layer the vadas in serving bowl. Pour the yogurt sauce over the vadas.

Garnish with chutneys and cilantro.

Serve with additional bowls of chutney, cilantro, cumin and chili powder to add per taste.

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.

Pear Ginger Smoothie

Pear and Ginger Smoothie

I am on a smoothie kick these days. Mostly because they are so easy to make.

Once I have fruits and veggies on hand, it’s just mix and match and then whirl in my Magic bullet. Single container. Easy cleanup. Tasty. And filling.

I learnt recently that home-made smoothies are healthier than juicing as we retain the fiber in the smoothie v/s discarding the pulp. The fiber makes them filling and low glycemic index.

I mean seriously whats not to love.

I saw pear and ginger combination on Pinterest recently. Had it on hand and this came about.

If a recipe can be so-called, then here it is.

P.S. If you are looking for more smoothie inspiration, just check out Pinterest Smoothies board. There are tips and tricks, combinations and beautiful photos.

Pear and Ginger Smoothie

Pear Ginger Smoothie Recipe

  • 1/2 red pear , washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 1/2″  knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

1. Swirl everything in the blender till well mixed.

Serve immediately.

Are you on a smoothie kick? Which flavors are your all time favorites???

Along The Road to Hana

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I have always wanted to drive on the Road to Hana since I saw it on some travel channel years ago.

In one of our earlier versions of the trip plan, we planned to stay overnight in Hana and explore the Seven Sacred Pools and hike in the vicinity.

Of course, this time we didn’t really want to change hotels etc. So we just decided to do a day trip. Drive as far as we could go and then turn back. the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

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We didn’t want to wake up early just to complete the drive. The drive one way is about 45 miles and there are several guides/maps that list what to do mile by mile. The roads hugs the coast and crosses many single lane bridges as it winds its way to Hana. On a busy day there is a pile of cars and that tends to slow folks down. Most folks tend to drive all the way to Hana, have lunch there and then stop at different attractions on the way back.

We took it easy and left Wailea after breakfast and decided that we will probably go up to mile marker 17 or such and then head back.

First stop – Paia Town

This is the last big town before you embark onto the road to Hana drive. We stopped here to pick up picnic lunch, water and use restrooms before continuing further. Didn’t really spend much time here though it has some excellent shopping opportunities – jewelry, clothes, restaurants etc

With our lunch packed we headed to our first real stop on the drive.

Mile Marker 2 –  Twin Falls

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Varun hates long drives. To get him excited about the trip we told him about waterfalls and how he could splash in them and get wet. In fact the only reason he agreed to sit in the car for this long was to see waterfalls. So, we were very happy to find a decent waterfall right off the bat. Parking was a bit tricky here as this is the first stop on the trip and almost everyone stops here but we managed to find one along the road. Varun hiked the almost one mile gravel trail to the falls.

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Flowers, fruits, singing and dragging a stick behind him helped him walk on the uneven trail.

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The falls were strictly ok but Varun loved getting wet in the big pool.

And holding a big green gecko on a stick.

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As a reward for walking, we treated him to coconut water and bananas at the fresh fruit stand right outside the trail head to the falls.

Exhausted he slept in the car. So now, we had a dilemma – should we stop along the way and carry him or drive a bit further and then stop on the way back. We decided to do the latter.

We stopped and ooh-ed-aah-ed at the views from the car but our real next stop was in Ke’anae Peninsula.

Mile Marker 16.5 – Ke’anae Peninsula 

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Tall waves spraying over rocky lava coastline, taro fields, a beautiful old Hawaiian church and not to mention the most amazing banana bread. Need I say more why we stopped here. Shaved ice was heaven. It was dramatic and hypnotizing. Inviting us to stay, lay a blanket and have a picnic lunch right there.

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The open green fields next to the church would be perfect for Varun to run around but he was still asleep.

We sat there taking in the dramatic scenery and munching on the warm banana bread and then drove down further south to see more waterfalls and coast.

Mile Marker 25 – Nahiku Landing 

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Nahiku landing promised a drive through forest and a hidden waterfall on the beach. We though this would be perfect for Varun. Wake up from his nap, have lunch on the beach and then spend time in the waterfall before heading back. The drive was beautiful. But unfortunately the waterfall had dried up. We met another couple who hiked around the beach to find the waterfall with no luck.

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This was the least touristy spot on the drive thus far and the solace was very comforting.

Varun was a bit disappointed about the waterfall but was happy to see the giant waves splash on the rocky shore below.

We decided to head back as it was past 3 by now and see if we could wrangle in one more waterfall stop on the way back.

Mile Marker 17 – Pua’a Ka’a Park & Falls

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We stopped at the Pua’a Ka’a park for late lunch and rest room break. Across the road there was a small waterfall and Varun was very impatient to cross a little stream to reach it. He wanted Vipul to help him jump from one rock to another while crossing the stream. The water was a bit cool to actually bathe in but it was fun splashing around in it.

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We spent some time here and then decided to drive back home. Clouds started gathering and it was bit dark. We drove back playing car games like I Spy games and  asking him to recognize animal sounds.

It was a lovely day out – away from the resort to see the real Maui.

I am sure areas around Hana are even more prettier but we got a glimpse of it on this lush green tropical drive. Wonderful seascapes, quaint one lane bridges, thick bamboo forests and taro patches. A must do while on Maui.

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