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Fudgy Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Pistachio Truffles

Fudgy Pistachio Chocolate Peanut butter truffles

If you are anything like me, your Pinterest, Gojee and FoodGawker boards are full of fudges.

They go by tempting names like White Chocolate and Peppermint or Salted bourbon with Butterscotch Fudge or with Eggnog and mini marshmallows. And you know when the sweets are this tempting, I can never stop at one piece. I sneak in for a piece here and there for sustenance. Most of these have cream, butter, sugar or even corn syrup. I even saw 2 ingredient recipes that use frosting and bisquik! Now, just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean we need to unnecessarily pack on the pounds!

Sorry to be a party-poopper but I need to fit in my jeans on Jan 2nd and not size up (even though the sales all around make it easier on the pocket).

Between the holiday parties, drinks, cookies and other desserts at office, we don’t need to contribute to the sugar overload. I wanted to make a healthier version of fudge. Pistachio and Chocolate fudge truffles fit the bill.

Made with 4 ingredients and naturally sweetened these have to find a place in your dessert bar. They are no cook, no bake truffles and come together easily. They can be customized many different ways, with different coatings ( coconut flakes, sprinkles, chopped nuts or cocoa nibs) to make them sweeter and appeal to different age groups.

Pair them with other natural desserts – like date truffles and you are bound to have enough to snack on without guilt. In fact I encourage Varun to eat them as the ingredients are all healthy.

Cheers to healthy desserts! Especially the ones that are as easy as this!

Fudgy Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Pistachio Truffles Recipe

For 8 – 10 balls

  • 4 oz peanut butter, room temperature (creamy kind for a smoother truffle)
  • 4 oz apple sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened dark chocolate powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil or butter (to grease your palms while shaping the balls)

1. Beat the peanut butter and apple sauce till smooth (about a minute)

2. Add the dark chocolate and pistachios to the peanut butter and mix well.

3. Line a plate or pie pan with a wax paper. Spread the mix on the plate/pan till about 1/2 inch thick and then set it in the fridge covered with a foil.

Leave it overnight to firm up.

4. Grease your palms and shape them into balls.

As we are not using cream or butter or sugar, the ‘fudge’ is soft and it will be hard to cut them into bars. Keep them refrigerated in an air tight container. Though I doubt they will last long 🙂

Enjoy healthy holidays!

Cardamom Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce

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With holiday season in full swing, we all want recipes that can be made ahead, look like ton of work but are actually quick and easy. Poached pears fall in that category. Easy to make ahead, elegant and inexpensive – as all ingredients are seasonal.

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Or perhaps you have some fruit and left over wine from the party last night and are looking for a new way to use it all up.

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This dessert wins on all categories: fruit based, nut and dairy free and is light. And the red hue is very appealing. Based on what you pair with it can be dressed up ( puff pastry, custard, candied fruits) or had simply in a rustic wine sauce or just fresh diced fruits (kiwi, pomegranate and oranges would complement the flavors fabulously). It can be individually plated ( or served in wine glasses with a bit of creme anglaise to stabilize the base) for smaller gatherings or served in a platter for a potluck party.

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Oh, and citrus and cardamom perfumes the entire house. As Candice Olson would say, Simply Divine!

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Note:

1. I didn’t core the pears but I have seen recipes that quarter or halve the pears and remove the seeds. Probably makes eating them easier but I find the whole pears look more fancy.If you do halve or quarter, the pears will poach sooner than what the recipe below calls for. Keep an eye out for tender but not mushy pears.

2. You can use All Spice or Nutmeg instead of cardamom. I used what I had on hand. I had a gift pack of pepper, mace and cardamom spices from our trip to Nilgiris, Ooty, India.

Cardamom Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce Recipe

  • 2 Bosc or Bartlett pears
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 small orange thinly sliced (like a cutie orange)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7-8 cardamom pods peeled and seeds crushed.
  • 4 black peppercorns

1. Mix all the ingredients (except the pears) in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

2. In the meantime, peel and remove the bottom brown bit from the pear ( the brown bit is from its blossom flower). Slice it at the bottom to make it stand upright.

Optionally, halve or quarter the pear and scoop out the seeds.

3. Submerge the pears in the saucepan. Add water if necessary to cover the pears. Cover and let simmer on low to medium low heat for about 30 minutes or till tender. Test with a fork or a spoon.

Keep ladling the wine mix over the pears if they are not fully submerged. Rotate the pears carefully midway through for even poaching.

4. Scoop the pears out and set aside in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

5. Reduce the wine and spices mix to half or even third of the volume on high heat. Chill this reduction as well.

To serve, arrange the pears on a platter. Spoon the reduction over the pears to get a shiny glaze.

Serve chilled with remaining reduced sauce.

Cucumber Guacamole Sandwiches

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Don’t you feel hungry when you are at home all day?

It happens to me all the time. I want to nibble on something here and there. A bit of this and that. We have stocked up on a lot of fruits and veggies just so that Varun and I can snack healthy. Varun enjoys his fruits but not vegetables. I am trying to introduce veggies back in his diet.

Carrots with hummus, celery sticks with peanut butter, cucumber sandwiches is what I have planed for this week. Serving carrots in avocado boats filled with hummus or cheese and baby tomatoes as flower seems to make it more appealing for him. So far he has had carrots, cucumber and cheese but hasn’t touch the hummus or celery. Baby steps.

To make this more adult friendly and filling, I made cucumber sandwiches. A fresh take on using guacamole and cucumbers and making them into finger food. They are perfect with good fat, veggies and a satisfying crunch. Made ahead, they are perfect as appetizers or h’ordeuvres for a party.

Fresh home guacamole is always best ( no preservatives) but store-bought one can work in a pinch. Especially during these busy holiday weekends when we are trying to do multiple things – shop for gifts, deck the halls, setup the tree, bake, attend gatherings etc.

I had them with my cuppa yesterday and they kept me full till dinner.

Any variety of cucumber works though I think English would be lovely. Zucchini rounds work as an alternative.You can top the guacamole with nuts or smoked salmon or even tofu to make it more filling and for that added boost of protein and vitamins. I suppose goat cheese, finely diced sun-dried tomato and anchovies would make a festive party filling.

Give them a try today. You probably already have everything you need in your fridge already!

Cucumber Guacamole Sandwiches Recipe

  • 1/2 Cucumber or Zucchini sliced into rounds
  • 2 – 3 tablespoon pesto (optional)
  • 1 Ripe Avocado
  • 1/4 – 1/2 habernaro chilli pepper
  • 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1  – 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

1. Slice the cucumber or zucchini and arrange on a platter. Smear wee bit of pesto on half of the round. You don’t want the pesto to overpower the taste but a bit enhances the flavors. Set aside.

2. Cut and de seed the avocado. Mash its pulp in a bowl. Add rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice per taste.

3. Add a dollop of guacamole on the pesto smeared rounds. Cover with remaining rounds.

Serve immediately.

Happy snacking.

Sweet Weekend Beginnings: Roasted Balsamic Grapes

over icecream

Finally Friday evening here and you know what that means…its weekend time! Time to chill, relax and not think about work.

And we are ending our Friday evening with yogurt topped with roasted balsamic grapes. If you have never had this before then let me tell you this is the perfect ice-cream topping. Crunchy from the grapes seeds, sweet due to caramelized natural sugar in grape and a hint of acidity from the reduced balsamic vinegar.

Very very easy to make,this is another stellar dish where quality of ingredients shine. Put it for your summer weekend BBQ and I am sure it will be a hit with kids and adults alike. Don’t like grapes? No worries, this goes well with cherries, berries as well as peaches.

It goes well with ice-cream, pancakes or as crepes filling.

Serve and be prepared for compliments on your culinary skills.

Happy weekend!!

Roasted grapes

Roasted Balsamic Grapes Recipe

  • 2 cups red grapes cut in half
  • 1/3 rd cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon parsley (or rosemary)

1. Soak the grapes in the balsamic vinegar and parsley and let them macerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425 F.

3. Drain the balsamic vinegar into a saucepan. Layer the grapes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and let them bake in lower third of the oven for 10 -12 minutes. They will be caramelized and shriveled but still will retain their shape.

Remove them in a bowl.

4. Reduce the balsamic vinegar on medium heat for about 4- 5 minutes till it thickens. Add this reduction to the grapes.

Mix well.

Serve warm over thick greek yogurt, ice-cream,pancakes, crepes or even PBJ.

Yummm!!

Pan Fried Tofu – A Quick Dinner Idea

Pan fried Tofu

Do you get in a salad rut? I know I do.

I get bored with eating it and look for ways to add some sizzle to them. In US, I used to buy baked savory tofu. I haven’t found it here. So instead of marinating and baking tofu, I pan-fried it.

And let me tell you it was a delicious accident. I wasn’t sure how this will turn out. But over salad, it was perfect. Crisp on the outside, flavorful and soft on the inside.

The tofu that I had on hand was firmer and drier than ‘extra firm’ kind in US. You may need to keep the tofu sandwiched between plates and with weights to take excess moisture out before marinating the tofu. While the tofu marinates, chop the salad. Add dressing of your choice ( simple lemon juice works too). Pan-fry the tofu slices and then serve over salad.

Gotta love quick and easy recipes! And serendipitous accidents!!

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Pan Fried Tofu Recipe

  • 1 block Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 tablespoon Siracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Few mint leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and  freshly grated
  • 1 inch lemongrass stalk chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon oil

1. Remove the tofu from its package. Keep it pressed between 2 plates and weigh the plate with some canned beans or  books.  After 15 – 20 minutes, enough water will be removed from tofu that it can be sliced and marinated.

Slice it into large pieces.

2. Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the tofu. Set aside for 10 -15 minutes.

3. Heat oil in a pan. Fry tofu slices till golden brown.

Keep an eye out this chars quickly and no one likes charred tofu 😉

Crispy Left Over Rice and Vegetable Cakes

Ricecakes

A working parent can’t have too many quick and easy dinner recipes in their repertoire. The same applies to snacks. Something that can be easily made, served warm, are filling and delicious. Savory rice cakes made with left over rice, fresh or frozen vegetables come to the rescue when you have made too much rice and the family will not have any more.

Add dices vegetables of choice for color (bell peppers, kale, golden beets, red kidney beans),crunch ( celery, broccoli) and protein (shelled edmame beans, drained canned chickpeas ). Technically beans are not veggies but they add protein to the cakes and make them filling. And as they are staple of vegetarian diet, they fall under vegetable category for me. The possibilities to customize these savory cakes are endless based on what you have on hand and what flavors you crave. Italian seasonings, mexican spices and even Chinese spices can totally render this into a completely different snack.

Rice being a binder, you don’t need anything else to hold them together. Add spices, mix and mash. Shape and either bake in oven or pan fry with a little oil. With a side of salad this can even be a filling meal. Colorful, flavorful and crunchy to boot. Not to mention the protein and the fibre. Make some extra rice ( or moong dal khichadi or risotto) just so that you can make these the following evening.

Am sure this will soon be a staple in your house just like it is in ours!

Crispy Left Over Rice and Vegetable Cakes Recipe

  • 2 cups left over rice ( or khichadi)
  • 1/4 cup Onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper finely diced ( red and yellow mix)
  • 1/4 cup asparagus or French beans , diced
  • 2 tablespoons green onions finely diced (only the green part)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves
  • Handful spinach leaves chopped up
  • 3- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 ” ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • A generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of hing or asafoetida
  • Pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (reduce if you are not a lemon lover)
  • 2 tablespoon oil (to fry)

1. Take rice in a large mixing bowl and break into smaller lumps with a spoon.

2. Add all the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Shape the mixture into patties or cakes and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a non stick skillet. Fry them till golden brown and crispy on each side ( about 3- 4 minutes per side). Alternatively you can bake them at 325 F for 12 – 15 minutes till cooked through.

Serve warm with ketchup or mint chutney and onions and extra lemon. Enjoy!

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