3 reasons why we should distribute healthy cupcakes to kids to give a moment of joy when the poverty that surrounds them cannot be removed with just one baked good ? Well, there are more than 3 and very good ones at.
There is a lot of scepticism when it comes to unusual , different , experimental flavours in baking. Especially if you have those in the traditional bakes – the cakes, the cookies, the pies and tarts, the breads. And because I am a healthy and inclusive #baker a lot of my baked stuff is viewed in the same way. My favourite words for anyone who wonders how it might taste is – “Healthy bakes are an acquired taste. They are not the same as the regular ones. They are different. A good different.” There are many who will not bake without all purpose flour or refined white sugar because they believe they do not want to compromise on the flavours. And that’s just fine.
Because for me when I weigh factors on some very basic scales like what I want to give my family, what I want to give the street kids I distribute bakes to , what I want to give my friends , what I want to give my clients – is health. Is always nutrition over flavour. Is always a different kind of delicious , over what is regular. It takes a lot of path-setting stuff and almost incomprehensible amount of courage to experiment with some of the flours, fats and natural sweetners that I work with. And it’s totally worth it ! A picture of some experimental mix that I will eventually turn into a tart shell or a biscuit – yet to make up my mind on that one.
But while I decide on that, here is a quick , nutritious and simple recipe of the Walnut-crusted Baked Fish Fillets flavoured with Mustard for all of you to try out !
Basa Fillet – 1 big one, you can clean and into small pieces.
1/2 cup – Walnuts crushed using mortar and pestle. Do not grind in mixer.
Salt, paprika powder, thyme – 1 or 2 tsp of each, as per your taste preference.
1 or 2 tsp of mustard powder.
Coated the cleaned pieces of fish with a mix of crushed walnuts , salt, paprika powder , thyme(you can use basil if you prefer) and mustard. Apply some olive oil before coating.
Sprinkle some drops of lemon juice and then wrap gently with amaranth leaves. Place it in an oven proof dish on a bed of Amaranth leaves with some oil drizzled onto it.
Bake at 170 degree C for 20 mins in preheated oven. Check to see if the fish has cooked through and serve.
Sometimes there are places that bring tears to your eyes when they are being spoken about – tears of joy, of memories, of belonging, of streets known, of hidden bylanes unknown. Do you have such a place that means that to you?
For me it is the place where there once sat a vendor selling “puchka” – those little fried balls that are filled with spicy yum coriander water and some potato-black chana mix. And no – golgappa/panipuri / any other name does not even begin to describe what that is ! And that is Calcutta 🙂
And sometimes when we felt like, it was a ‘deconstructed’ version of the puchka called the ‘”choormoor” that was eaten.
I have lived so long, and so longingly, with the lingering taste of that quintessential street food of Calcutta, that I wondering how might I replicate it in some form. Here it is – the spiced potato-black chana mix was recreated as a baked cutlet, with the baked sweet potato shreds adding to the crispiness.
In flavour it tasted very similar, though a healthier and slightly drier version of it.
Until I go back to Calcutta again, this is going to have to be my go-to food, for memory trips to that place that brings tears.
1 cup boiled black chana mashed well
2 small boiled potatoes mashed well
Chopped Dhaniya and Pudina ( Coriander and Mint)
Amchoor – 1 tbsp or more. You can use tamarind water instead.
Salt, Red Chilly Powder, Jeera Powder as per preference.
Mix these well. Make round flat cutlet. Keep them in the fridge for 20 minutes. Grease the baking tray with some oil. Lightly brush the top with oil too.
Put the cutlets onto it. Bake until crisp and brown. You can turn it around mid way.
Baked at 170 degrees C for 20 minutes.
A couple of conference calls related to work on the project front and the Ovenderful front , a quick visit to the swimming pool to take the little boy whose holidays have started in full flow , a little walk on the way for his little sister, a set of articles written and submitted and booom – half the day is gone ! And just as you ponder over how it’s 12 noon already and feel a bit worried about how you didn’t realise how time flies , your crazy day is made – a friend calls and tells you that the only way to describe your cookies is by saying ‘Your food makes me happy, truly’ 🙂
And you are so much at peace with these busy days that fly past, because being bone tired is good. When you are happy with what you do. Being fatigued is good. When you have such a lot of happiness that it starts reflecting in your food !
To more such days
On that note, here is a lovely and simple recipe for a quiche we make very often at home. Baking different quiches is yet another thing that makes me very happy.
1 cup milk ,
1 TSP paprika ,
salt and basil as per taste.
Blanched and chopped spinach
Crumbled cottage cheese
For the Crust – 1 cup whole wheat flour, chilled water as per what is needed, 50 gms unsalted butter cold , 1/2 tsp and 1 TSP thyme. Mix the flour ,thyme and salt. Rub the butter into it to form bread like crumbs. Slowly add chilled water only as much as is necessary to bring the dough together. Wrap in cling film. Store for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Take it out. Roll and place in quiche pan and blind bake for 20 mins.
For the filling –
Beat the eggs well along with the milk and the spices. Keep it aside. Blanch and chop spinach and crumble some cottage cheese. Proportions for all these will depend on what you want more or less of. You can add onions too if you want. Grate half a cube of cheese. Add the spinach and cottage as the first layer at the base of the prebaked crust. Add the grated cheese. Pour the egg mix uniformly. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 160 degrees C.
Bangalore, April 2012. We had just moved to a city we didn’t know anyone in. Mala Didi, 60+ years old came to our home, asked if I wanted help with cooking and since I hadn’t hired a cook before, I was a bit uncertain. But I had also discovered that day that I was pregnant with my son and with a full-time job plus the complications, I will need help. I said Yes. She started coming. A few days of hesitant instruction-giving from my end about what we ate, followed. A few days of curt nods in response to those instructions, followed. Slowly, Didi started observing how I was trying to juggle my new-born baby, the full-time job and my nascent home baking venture. And without a word she would do small steps that made me save crucial time – she would ask me what I was baking that day. I’d say “Date & Walnut Cake” . And quietly she would break the walnuts, chop the dates and leave them near my oven. She would ask a general question about how many loaves I had to bake, and since she knew I had only 1 loaf tin going into that 18 litre MR, she would see to it that the used one was washed and greased just I wanted it. My “thank you” was met with a gruff “yes , yes ( in Bengali)” almost as though she was self-conscious of being thanked for it. Then came a day when Didi’s son was diagnosed with cancer of the foot for the first time, and she had to go to Calcutta. She was distraught and yet, as a grandmother’s heart is – in the middle of her worries, she asked me if I could bake a chocolate and banana cake for her grandson. She carried it along and the little boy loved it.
Here is my tribute to that lady whose grit despite life’s odds has been unmatched. Her son has been diagnosed yet again with cancer on the other foot. But she stood by him quietly yet again and helped him fight it. Just has she had stood by a new mother who was constantly on the verge of abandoning her home baking venture. She made me realize through her gestures, that I must go on and make it work. In some ways her grit and determination rubbed onto me.
The Gluten-free Buckwheat Chocolate Banana Cake (No maida/no refined white sugar)
1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
100 gms good quality dark chocolate ( at least 50% cocoa)
2 ripe bananas ( small)
2 small chopped fresh figs just for added flavour and texture
1 tsp baking powder
50 gms butter
1 cup milk
Mix the mashed bananas and egg together. Melt the butter and chocolate. Shift the flour and bp. Add the butter-chocolate mix to the banana-egg milk and ensure that all the ingredients are mixed well. Add the flour and milk alternately. Fold the chopped figs in.
Transfer to a loaf tin that has been greased and dusted. Bake at 170 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove from tin and allow it to cool.
Every so often one thinks and over-thinks how to manage a crazy schedule with two little kids – who are little enough to find joy in the most ordinary things in life together. Yet a little apart in age to move onto different things that hold their interest.
My son is now in the phase where he loves the story of ‘Black Beauty’, the horse and his life journey. And we are reading it over and over again. And we are carrying it to bed so that he can hug the book and sleep. My daughter is mainly treating books as a chew toy when no one is watching and at times trying to turn the pages to discover what’s inside.
And yet, he decided to keep away his book and try and flip through the pages of his sister’s book with her. She in turn , despite being so tiny has figured out that when we are reading out his story book, she can also actually join in by listening !
As adults there are so many times when we refuse to give up what we love doing just for a few hours to try and be with the other person and do what they truly want to do.
But children ? They can drop what they enjoy doing with unbelievable ease, and move onto another thing that makes the other person happy and immediately get engrossed in that.
May we all find the quality to be in the moment , be involved and be engrossed in what someone else loves doing – even if it is not what we might like.
Happy week ahead to all of you 🙂
For this time, here is a recipe that is super simple. It’s quick to mix and bake. Contains loads of spinach and some great spices . And a hint of Millet flour . It’s a great recipe to add to your collection of mealtime bakes and get more spinach into your child’s foodplate !
Pick up a fork and dig into these yum crustless glutenfree , butterfree Spinach and Caramelized Onion Quiche.
1 bunch of spinach washed and chopped finely
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 large onion sliced thinly and caramelized till they are brown
1 cup milk
2 tbsp jowar/sorghum flour
1 tbsp oil
Seasoned with salt, paprika and thyme as per your requirement.
Method – Beat the eggs nicely and add the seasoning, as well as the chopped garlic. Add milk and beat well. Add the jowar flour and oil, mix well. Add the onions and spinach. Mix well.
Pour it into ramekins or tart tins. Sprinkle some cheese ( optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes at 175 degrees C.
Mondays are not the most exciting days unless you truly enjoy what you do for a living. Sometimes it becomes better because of conversations that you have had the previous evening just as the weekend was winding down.
One such conversation while I sipped my #tea was with my 5 year old. I usually try and ask him what he wants in his #snack box and we negotiate or re-negotiate to come to a common ground on what we both are comfortable with 🙂 Now, remember I am not aiming to win the parent of the year award and so these are tough discussions about why store-bought chips cannot be a part of the box. But there are many moments which fill my heart with pride for the child I am raising – I told him that I will give him paneer / cottage cheese as one of the items for a snack on his #tiffin . He responded back saying that he wanted to eat #foxnuts / makhana . And as if to convince me he added ‘those are as healthy as paneer, Mamma’ . Truly speaking those are healthier and I realised that the slow and often challenging process of inculcating #healthyeating in #children is finally paying off !
On that note, let me share yet another one of my little boy’s favourites – a healthy pizza made with a base that you can’t imagine and topped with barbeque chicken.
Baked gluten free Pizza topped with barbecue chicken. The base is made of jowar / sorghum millet , foxtail millet grains and fresh amaranth leaves !
1 cup jowar
1/2 cup coarsely ground foxtail millet
1/2 cup chopped amaranth leaves ( red ones)
1 green chilly and 2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp oil
Salt as per preference
1 tsp paprika powder for flavour
For Topping – Homemade Pizza Sauce, Grated cheese, corn, capsicum, barbeque chicken pieces / shredded portions.
Mix the flours and the spices. Add the chopped leaves, green chilly and garlic and grind well. Add to the flour-spice mix. Then add the oil and mix till it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add warm water to bring together the dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Roll it out into rectangles, cut the pizza slices / triangles and bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees C, for 15-20 minutes until crisp. Remove and cool entirely, before storing in air tight containers.
Use with any toppings of your preference, and bake again for 10-12 minutes with the topping.
For the first 12 years of my school life , I went to a school that did not have its own field. It was the best school that I could have gone to – inclusive , close-knit, encouraging and warm. But we didn’t have a field that we could call our own – our Sports days were conducted in the field of another school. Our ‘heats’ and practice races were conducted in a large maidan / public ground. All that came rushing back to me as I sat in the pavilion and watched the field being prepared for the Sports Meet for my son’s class.
The way he would come and describe his field practice each day lifted my heart. The way he spoke about how they were running the races , made me smile immediately. The thrill of being in an open space , running a race , with your friends , the march-past , the flags , the dust-covered sports shoes. A child who didn’t care that the field didnt belong to her school when she ran. A child who didn’t care that the field did belong to his school when he ran.
It was as if Calcutta 1988 had merged into Bangalore 2018, seamlessly, from one childhood to another. From one field that we couldnt call our own, to one that we could.
We just loved the thrill of running a race, then and now
Alongside that we also love a Butterfree , white sugar-free , Gluten-free Brownie that melts in the mouth. Yup, that’s what a treat should be.
Superfood Amaranth ( if you didn’t know it already, it is my favourite flour ) in the form of grains mingled with dark chocolate – who says we need sugar or butter to make life happier ? 🙂
- 170g Dark Chocolate ( I used Bournville- 50% Dark)
- 50 ml Sunflower Oil
- 80 g Raw Sugar or Coconut Sugar
- 50g Sorghum / Jowar Flour
- 25g Amaranth Seeds , coarsely ground into a flour
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
Mix the chocolate and oil, and melt over a double boiler. Let it cool. Whisk together the sugar, the flours, baking powder. Preheat oven to 170°C.
Beat the eggs well and then add them to the melted chocolate-oil mix. Add the vanilla. Beat well. Pour the batter into your brownie pan or square tin which is lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.
Happy Sankranti , Lohri, Pongal ! What’s a harvest festival got to do with us – city folks to the hilt, rushing within the cycle of which new app to order food from or which new website to order clothes from. Don’t get me wrong – these are very important.
But so is the ability to pause , sow the seeds of the unexplored path you want to take and harvest the choices your soul makes. Sometimes that choice takes you down the beaten path , sometimes it gives you the courage to meander.
If you had asked me 6 years ago I would have looked blank when you said ‘vegan’ . More blank if you told me that I could bake a vegan cake that I did a couple of days ago.
But then, I meandered and happily lost my way into a world I didn’t know – that of healthy baking 🙂
Happy Harvesting of the choices your soul wants to make – let it meander !
In the spirit for vegan baking, here is an exciting recipe for you to try out 🙂 And to make it better, it is also gluten-free.
If you are like me then you love the taste of something to go with your morning cup of tea . I do not have a sweet tooth and so usually a mildly sweet rusk works well. But I love a good savoury option like these mathri which are made with fresh Amaranth (Lal saag) leaves , cumin seeds and a hint of spice .
Not your traditional mathri / matthi but yum all the same 🙂 for my son I did a non vegan version with ghee or clarified butter.
Flours used in this are gramflour and rice flour. Enriched further by using moong dal water rather than regular water.
1 cup gramflour
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp jeera / cumin
1 tbsp ajwain / caraway
Freshly chopped amaranth leaves
Salt and red chilly pepper as taste
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup oil
Moong Dal water to bring together the dough.
Mix all the dry ingredients well so that the spices are uniformly spread in it. Add the chopped leaves into this and make sure that they are coated with the spiced flour mix. Slowly add the oil and mix until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Then add the moong dal water slowly until the dough becomes soft and like the consistency of puri dough.
Let it rest for an hour. Then start rolling it and cutting it into round shapes.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, at 160 degrees C. Cool well and store in air tight container.
Chanced upon this place in the heart of Bangalore and what a serene place it was , with a sense of purpose. A plant nursery by the Association of People with Disabilities, and the memory I will have imprinted on my mind is of a young boy without legs, expertly guiding us through the rows of plants to help us choose what we were looking for. I did not want to embarrass him by taking a picture and so I strongly urge you to visit the place to meet him, and realize how knowledgeable he is.
Truly the mind is so much more powerful than the body will ever be.
And the icing on the cake was to see my son loving plant our plants into the pots 🙂
What more could one ask for , to brighten up a weekend ? There is one more thing that could brighten it up a wee bit more 🙂 These yum and healthy fudge squares.
Baked Jowar – Oats Dark Chocolate Fudge Squares
- 200g dark chocolate, broken into cubes (I used Bournville, 50% Cocoa)
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 125 gms butter
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup flour mix ( half jowar, half powdered oats)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-Heat the oven to 160 C. Prepare a square tin or square sectional baking pan, since this is a traybake.
- Melt the chocolate, coconut sugar and butter in a pan. Keep stirring with the whisk and then when its well mixed, remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool off.
- Beat in the eggs, flour mix and vanilla extract.
- Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 25 mins or so.
- Cool in the tin and then cut into squares.
Gearing up to start 2018
The cupboard can definitely be cleaner but that’s the best I can manage with a 5 year old and a 6 month old acquiring new personalities in 2018 – while one has discovered that she has a voice and she must use it at the highest pitch possible , the other has realized that he still prefers his sister’s rattles to his puzzles ( as is the case with all siblings !) .
But then 2018 was never going to be about a cleaner baking cupboard it is about more and more opportunities to dig into it and try out all that it contains !
One such opportunity arose when I had to think through a healthy ingredient, for my healthy baking community bakers on Facebook, Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community, to bake with, for the month of January. And guess what – its Coconut !
Here is my first take ( or rather bake!) – a lovely Wholewheat Coconut Almond cake with coconut sugar. The thick sauce on top is a mix of Coconut cream, coconut powder and some almonds.
1 1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 dessicated coconut
1/2 ground almonds
3 / 4 cup coconut sugar
100 gms butter
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven at 165 degrees C for 10 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the eggs and mix, one at a time. Add the ground almonds and dessicated coconut, and mix well. Add the sifted flour and milk, alternately.
Transfer into an 8 inch round pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow it to rest before removing from the pan.
For the topping, all I did was mix coconut cream and some coconut powder. I am fine with the mild sweetness that the cream lends. But if you want it sweeter, add a healthy sweetener of your choice.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup Oats ( Rolled)
Jeera and Kasoori Methi, as much as you prefer
Salt as per your preference
Homemade garam masala, as per your preference
Red chilly powder , as per your preference
4 tablespoons of oil + 2 / 3 tbsp of ghee ( to make a vegan version, exclude ghee and add only oil)
Warm water to bring the dough together
Mix together whole wheat flour, oats( I ground them roughly), salt, jeera, kasoori methi in a big bowl.
Add the oil and ghee, into the above mix and rub into it till it turns crumby. Add only as much warm water is needed to bring the dough together.
Preheat oven to 165 degrees Centigrade and prepare your biscuit tray.
Roll out the dough as thin as possible. Cut out the crackers with a cookie cutter. Arrange them on the baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes till it turns crispy. Cool it off and store.