Monday, November 30, 2015

Whole Wheat Banana Walnut Bread

I am back from a month long vacation and I am so shocked to see that we are almost in December. 31 more days and it is time to bid good-bye to 2015. Can't wait for 2016! So many hopes, expectations and unfinished tasks for the coming year. Also, we are almost into Christmas and it is time to put on my baking hat. So here is the first recipe from my kitchen for the upcoming holiday season: Whole wheat banana walnut bread.




This recipe is particularly close to my heart because I have been wanting to make a bread or cake from whole wheat instead of all purpose flour and I finally made it. Not only was the cake healthy, it had a very earthy flavor which we all loved. This cake is eggless and butter free. The addition of yogurt and chia seeds makes up for the egg and vegetable oil in place for butter. Honey and ripe bananas are used to sweeten the cake. 




As the weather is cold and it is perfect time to pile up on spices, use cinnamon and nutmeg in the cake. If you dislike any of these ingredients, use substitutions. Also, to break away from the smooth texture of flour, I have used fresh walnuts that I bought from the farmer's market. You may add them, and add almonds too. If you like a chocolate flavored bread, add a handful of chocolate chips to the bread too. 

I made a 9*5 loaf of this special treat, and we gobbled it down in a day! Wish I had made two loaves by simply doubling the ingredients. So when you make this bread, make sure you make enough for a few days! The recipe is free of all the unhealthy things, and so you will not mind your family enjoying a lot of pieces of this holiday treat. Happy Holidays peeps!




Ingredients

Whole Wheat flour 2 cup
Vegetable Oil 1/2 cup
Yogurt 3 tbsp
Ripe Bananas 3-4 
Powdered Brown Sugar 1/2 cup
Honey 1/4 cup
Roasted Walnuts 3/4 cup
Baking Soda 1 tsp
Baking Powder 1 tsp
Chia seeds 2 tbsp
Cinnamon powder 1 tsp
Nutmeg Powder (optional) a pinch
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
Salt a pinch




Method


For the initial preparation, roughly chop the walnuts post roasting them on medium flame. Peel and mash the ripe bananas with a potato masher. Powder the chia seeds and mix the powder with 1/4 cup water and set aside for 15 minutes. 

In a mixing bowl mix the oil, yogurt mashed bananas and stir. Then add the sugar, honey, soaked chia seeds powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Mix using a hand mixture and add a tbsp or two of water if required. Set aside. In another mixing bowl sift the flour and mix with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour half the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk. Once combined, repeat with the remaining mixture and whisk on medium speed to form a smooth batter. Now add 1/2 cup of walnuts and mix well.  

Preheat oven to 375 F and line a 9*5 loaf pan with nonstick spray or oil. Transfer the mixture to it, top with remaining walnuts and bake it uncovered for 35 minutes. Then cover with a piece of aluminium foil and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the bread is done. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.







Friday, November 20, 2015

Spinach Artichoke Pizza

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see Artichoke hearts in a grocery store? What crosses your mind when you look at a bag of tortilla chips and do not want to enjoy it with salsa? What is your favorite appetizer at the cheesecake factory? The answer to most of these questions for majority people is the same: Spinach Artichoke Dip! That warm dip which is so full of flavorful creamy white sauce with a lot of cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts. 




What if you could convert this dip to a pizza? Sounds great right? That was the exact thought in my mind when I made this pizza at home. We love pizza at home, but sometimes are bored of the run out of the mill tomato based vegetarian pizza. That is the reason that recipes like this pav bhaji pizza and this spinach artichoke pizza are a hit in our family. 




The recipe of this pizza is fairly simple. I made the base from scratch, but you could buy one from the grocery store too. Then is the white sauce used to top the base instead of the tomato sauce. And finally the toppings, spinach artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese. Just bring everything together and you are ready for your next pizza party! This recipe is enough for making two 12-14 inches pizzas. The thickness is moderate. However you can make a thick crust large and a thick crust personal pan size or about 5-6 thin crust pizzas. Depends on how you like it in your house!




Ingredients

For the base
All purpose flour/maida 3 cups
Rapid Rise yeast 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp)
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar 1 tsp
Unsalted Butter 3 tbsp
Warm water 1 cup 
Dried Oregano 1 tbsp

For the Sauce
All purpose flour/maida 1/2 cup
Garlic 2-3 pods minced
Olive Oil/Butter 1 tbsp
Milk 1 cup
Cream 1/4 cup
Mozzarella Cheese 1/4 cup
Salt, Pepper, oregano



For the topping
Artichoke hearts 1 cup drained
Spinach 2 cups chopped
White Sauce 1 cup 
Mozzarella Cheese 1/2 cup




Method

Making the base

Heat a cup of water for 30-45 seconds in the microwave. Stir in a tsp of salt, a tsp of sugar and yeast and let it stand in a warm place for 10-15 minutes till it becomes frothy. If the yeast refuses to bloom, there are a few reasons; either the water is too cold to activate it or the water is too hot and killed the yeast or that the yeast is too old. If that happens, discard the liquid and repeat with a fresh batch of water and yeast. Mix flour, remaining salt and oregano in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter and pour it in the flour along with the activated yeast and form a soft dough. Add more water if needed to make a soft dough.

Let the dough rest  for an hour covered in a bowl, with little oil or butter on it. After that time, the dough becomes double in size. Punch it down and divide into two parts. Take one ball, roll it out with a rolling pin or hand on a lightly floured surface. The base can be made of desired thickness and size. Let the base rest for another 20 minutes, covered with a wet kitchen towel.

Preheat oven to 380F / 200C. Spray cooking spray or oil on a pizza stone or pizza plate. Put the base on it and bake it for 5 minutes. 




For the sauce
Heat the oil in a pan, saute garlic for a minute. Once the raw flavor vanishes, add the flour and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium flame. Add the milk and mix well ensuring no lumps form. Boil the sauce on medium high flame till it thickens. Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Add the cream and cheese and mix well. Once the cream mixes and cheese melts, remove from flame and set aside.

To make the pizza

To top the pizza, spread half the sauce on one base. Spread half the chopped spinach and drained artichoke hearts. Top with the cheese and sprinkle oregano or seasoning of your choice. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes or till the cheese melts. Remove and serve hot with some extra white sauce on the side.





For the recipe of the traditional Spinach Artichoke Dip with Chips, head straight to this recipe.



For another exciting pizza recipe, try this Pav Bhaji Pizza!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Black Pepper Tofu


Tofu, a natural replacement for paneer in the US is a very versatile ingredient. That is the reason it is used in all the cuisines like Mexican, Indian, Italian, Chinese and it forms the base of the Vegan dishes. Tofu as most of you know is available in multiple firmness and the use of each type is fairly unique. I use the softer varieties and the silken form in soups and stews, the firmer variety in most main courses as well as dumplings and the fried puffs in gravy based main courses and hot-pots. It is amazing to see how well tofu blends with all kinds of spices from all the cuisines. 



Couple of weeks ago I had lunch at one of the Asian food joints in Mountain View known as Bangkok Bistro. We had their popular Black Pepper Tofu, Spicy Tofu and Fried Rice. I loved the way they served the lunch plate with a sizable amount of the main course along with some white rice and a small side of salad. To me, that was a perfect lunch plate. Having loved that, I made up my mind I would go back and try their other lunch plates too. But to my surprise, the joint shut shop a week ago. And now my wish remains unfulfilled. 



This week, I decided to try the Black Pepper Tofu at home, just trying to replicate the taste I had relished a few weeks ago.  But I was in a mood to try non conventional items that day, and so I made a big batch of Sriracha Fried Rice and Chili Paneer Noodles to go with it. For soup and appetizer, I made the Ginger Broth from Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant and these totally indulgent Crispy Thread Paneer, logs of paneer wrapped with kataifi and fried to make perfect finger food. So that way I completed my perfect Asian meal. Here is the recipe for the pepper tofu, the recipe for sriracha rice is coming up soon!




Ingredients

Extra firm tofu 1 box
Garlic 5-6 pods
Ginger 1 inch grated
Green Chili 2-3 (adjust quantity to taste)
Spring Onion white and greens 1/2 cup
Green and yellow bell pepper 1/2 cup, diced
Cornstarch 3-4 tbsp
Vinegar 1/2 tsp
Soy Sauce 1 tbsp
Oil 2 tbsp
Chili Oil 1/4 tbsp
Chinese Salt
Ground black pepper 2 tbsp




Method

Drain and press the tofu block between two kitchen napkins. Place a pan on it to squeeze out all the water content. Cut the tofu into equal sized cubes and saute them in a pan with 1 tbsp of oil till it is brown on all sides. Remove, set aside.

In the same pan, add remaining oil and chili oil. The amount of chili oil will depend on how spicy you like the gravy. Add finely diced garlic, grated ginger and some minced green chili. Once the garlic loses its raw flavor, add the peppers and spring onion whites. Mix well. Let the peppers and onions become soft, and then add some chinese salt and pepper. Add all the tofu cubes.




In a bowl mix together cornstarch, 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, vinegar and black pepper. Make a homogeneous mixture, and pour in the pan. Keep stirring the gravy till it becomes glossy and deepens in color. Check the salt and spice. Adjust the salt, pepper and vinegar.

For serving, garnish with the spring onion greens. Enjoy with Vegetable Fried Rice or Chili garlic Noodles. If you want to break away from the regular rice recipes, try this Mushroom Fried RiceIt is absolutely yummy!! Also, try this Paneer Chili Noodles.







Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Baked Chakli

Chakli is a savory snack originating in India. It is a spiral shaped, pretzel-like snack with a spiked surface. Chakli is typically made from flours of rice, bengal gram (chickpea) and black gram (udad dal). It has several variations, depending on the types and proportion of flours used. Murukku, a similar snack typically made without the bengal gram flour, is also sometimes called chakli. Whenever I make a list of Indian snacks and sweets for Diwali, Chakli is probably at the top of the list. It is also on my list of snacks to bring to the US on every trip to India and on my shopping list for the Indian store. Such is my love for these cute rounds of rice flour. 



The only thing I probably dislike about chakli is that it is fried! The amount of oil that is required to make them and the amount of oil that is consumed in each disc is probably too much. So as a healthy alternative, I decided to bake these beauties. I started with rice flour, yogurt, butter and spices. Then I added some besan to get the crunch and to absorb the extra moisture out of the flour. 



I made these baked chaklis with just a couple of spices and some sesame seeds and cumin seeds. If you like, you can also add a tsp of green chili and garlic paste to enhance the flavor. Also, being an ardent fan of Amul butter, I made these chaklis with 3 tbsp of butter (compromised a little on the calories here!). However, it can be replaced with ghee if you prefer that. 

The same recipe can be used to prepare fried chakli too. Make the flour mixture as per the steps below. Heat oil in a broad pan and using the flower design in a chakli press, drop the rounds of flour directly in the oil. Ensure that the temperature is not too high or too low else the chakli will not be crisp as desired!


Ingredients

Rice Flour 2 cup
Besan 2 tbsp
Yogurt 3/4 cup
Butter/ Ghee 2-3 tbsp
Sesame seeds 3 tbsp 
Cumin seeds 3 tbsp
Red Chili Powder 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Salt 1 tbsp
Sugar a pinch
Warm water 1 cup



Method
Mix the flour and besan with all the other dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter or ghee and make a crumbly mixture. Add yogurt, mix well and then add water as required to make a soft dough. Knead the dough well and make it smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. 




Preheat oven to 375 F/ 200 C. Knead the dough again and divide into 3 parts. Put one ball in the chakli press and using a star jaali, make round chaklis on a baking mat. If you do not have a baking mat, line a piece of aluminium foil with oil and spread it on a baking tray. Leave a little space between the chaklis. Bake for 12-14 minutes and turn them over. Bake for another 10-12 minutes till the top is golden brown. 

Remove the chaklis once done and let them cool on a cooling rack. Store in air-tight container and enjoy with a cup of Masala Chai. Serve them as a Diwali snack and surprise all your guests with this low calorie snack!