Thursday, July 27, 2017

Instant Microwave Kesar Peda

Satisfy your sweet cravings with this INSTANT Peda recipe. Made in the microwave, these take under 30 minutes from start to finish! 

I can barely believe that we are almost past July already! It has been such a busy month with the blog, summer activities and trips. And by the end of this month we have reached the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar. This also means we will now have all our festivals lining up. 

First up is Rakhi, one of the festivals that binds brothers and sisters far and near. According to the Indian traditions, the sisters tie twines called 'Rakhi' on their brothers' wrists and the brothers promise to protect their sisters. Though I do not have a sibling, I have always had the fondest memories with Rakhi; given that my first cousin is really close to me. He has always been there for me, and I have never felt the need to have a sibling! 

Having celebrated Rakhi together since childhood, 'sending' a rakhi after moving to US was rather saddening. Now with a few years behind me, I am still convincing myself that I shall plan my India trip once during Rakhi and relive the wonderful moments again! Until then, it is sending rakhi and all my wishes to him each year. 

Wondering why I am talking of Rakhi? It is because the festival is about 13 days away now and it is time to start thinking what you are going to make for your loved ones that day. 

This year, I decided to make the easiest and yummiest peda recipe for Rakhi. Though I made this lot and we have our tummies full, I am going to make another larger lot of these pedas this Rakhi. The first reason; they are super delicious and we love them, and the second reason is that they come together in under 30 minutes and do not need any stove top cooking. Plus, they need just a few pantry essentials that are definitely easy to find. 

I made these pedas for Diwali last year and we have been enjoying them pretty often since then. Finally, I was satisfied with the result and shot them recently. And they make perfect sweets for Rakhi and all other festivals too! 

Here is a little something about these pedas

These golden yellow rounds of goodness are made from milk powder, an ingredient that can be stored for a while unlike fresh khoya or milk. They have condensed milk in them, another ingredient that can be stored in the pantry. 

Apart from the milk powder, condensed milk and unsalted butter all other ingredients are optional. If you like the plain white pedas, just eliminate the kesar and milk part and you have them ready. Fan of chocolates? Add cocoa powder instead of saffron infused milk and you have chocolate pedas ready! 

I made these rather quickly in the microwave. Mine took about 5 minutes to cook but the timing will vary depending on the make and power of the microwave. So keep a close watch and no not leave the mixture unattended. 

Want to make the same on a stove top? No issues, just mix everything in a pan and cook on medium flame till the mixture comes together and leaves the sides. Again, keep a close watch, making sure you do not burn the mixture. 

This is now my go-to recipe to make some sweet in a jiffy. And I love how a couple of variations can bring up a new flavor all together! If you are looking for more sweet options, try this Bombay Ice HalvaInstant Ricotta RasmalaiLonavala's Chocolate Walnut Fudge or The BEST Instant Jalebi


Milk Powder 1 cup
Sweetened Condensed Milk 1/2 cup
Ghee/ Unsalted Butter 3-4 tbsp (room temperature)
Powdered Cardamom 1 tsp
Milk 1 tbsp
Saffron a pinch
Pistachio 2 tbsp diced


In a small bowl heat the milk for 30 seconds in the microwave. Add saffron strands and set aside. 

In a bigger bowl add milk powder, condensed milk and 3 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter. Mix well and microwave for 1 minute. Remove, mix and repeat 4 more times. 

If it looks too dry, add 1/2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter. Also add the saffron infused milk and cardamom powder. Mix well.

Microwave for another minute. By then all the ingredients should come together and the mixture should leave the sides of the bowl. If not, microwave for one more minute. In all, I needed 5 minutes to make it. It will depend on the power of the microwave so be careful. 

Remove the mixture from the microwave and let it rest for 10 minutes, till you can handle it with bare hands. 

Apply a little ghee or butter on the palms and take a tbsp of the mixture. Roll into a ball and flatten it. Press your thumb in the centre and place diced pistachios. 

Refrigerate in an airtight container for upto a week. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eggless Black Forest Cake

Layers of thinly sliced chocolate cake, vanilla flavored cream and homemade cherry filling. Need any more to make a sinful cake? Me thinks not! 

It is July 2017 and it has been exactly THREE years since I first published a recipe on Herbivore Cucina. It has been such a great journey so far, full of love, luck and learning. I remember wanting to start my own blog, reading up all I could about food blogging and finally taking a shot at writing my own. 

From the first time I pressed the 'publish' button on my Cupcake Handvo post to today, I have enjoyed every bit of blogging. Photography, cooking, recipe testing and interacting with fellow bloggers; it has all been perfect to explain the last three years in this space. 

What started off as a passion and very little idea of how it will go, turned into something my husband and me are very proud of. We now have our very own small business and it is wonderful to see how it grows each day. From better and more relevant recipes to photography that is much better over the years, we changed quite a few things and are happy about it all. 

This blog has a lot of critics and supporters. When I mess up on the pictures, my best friend always sends out an alert with corrections needed. She is a chef and food stylist and has been such a support throughout. Plus, my mom! She looks through every recipe and every social share. She reminds me of upcoming festivals, so that I have the recipes in queue. 

Not to forget our friends who try out the recipe from the blog and give us a lot of constructive feedback and new ideas. The bigger the blog becomes, the more I thank my grandma. She taught me almost all the cooking I know and I am sure she would be super proud of my space today. 

This year I am celebrating the third Blogiversary and decided to make a cake that has been a childhood favorite for most people I know! Whenever I was asked which cake or pastry I want for any occasion, my  default answer used to be BLACK FOREST! Thin layers of chocolate cake, whipped cream and cherry filling describes this super delicious cake. 

I was never a fan of fondant cakes or of the ganache ones. Now I do like the chocolate ganache cakes, but whipped cream cakes are still my favorite! The melt in the mouth cream with sponge that is super soft; such a treat the combination is! 


When the Blogiversary was around the corner, I was contemplating which cake I should make. After a lot of thought I decided to make this one. Given that many of our friends prefer an eggless version, I made it eggless. The sponge came out PERFECT and all I wanted to do was eat the cake as is! 

I made the cherry filling using all the sweet red cherries I had. Adding home-made filling makes the cake EVEN more delicious. If you cannot make it at home for any reason, use the canned cherry filling. I have used it a couple of times when cherries are not in season. It does come out pretty well. 

For the whipping cream part, I used just cream. No butter cream and no stabilizer. The result is cloudy soft cream that was perfect with the chocolate cake. 

The last part of the cake, the toppings is something that can be made as you like. Use fresh cherries on top or Maraschino, make your own cherry soaking fluid or use it from the bottle of cherries.  For the chocolate shavings, I used a peeler to make them off a semi-sweet chocolate block. Use a cookie cutter or mandoline to make them. You can even buy them off the shelf.  

Make any changes you like, but you need to make this cake for your next birthday or celebration. Just one bite of the cake brings back a sea of memories! 


For the Cake
Eggless Chocolate Cake using this recipe 2 six inches rounds

For the Cherry Filling
Sweet Red Cherries 2 cups
Sugar 1 tbsp
Tapioca Flour/ Cornstarch 1 tsp
Water 2 tsp 

For the Cream Layer
Whipping Cream 2 cups
Sugar 1/4 cup
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp

For the Topping
Maraschino Cherries a few
Liquid from the Maraschino Cherries can 2 tbsp
Dark/ Milk chocolate 1 slab


Make two six inches round cakes using this recipe. I made the batter using the recipe and divided in two 6 inch pans. I replaced almond extract with vanilla extract and did not add strawberries. 

Cool the cakes to room temperature. Slice them midway and set aside.

To make the cherry filling, add pitted cherries to a pan. Heat on medium flame till the cherries are soft. Add rice flour or cornstarch to water. Mix well to dissolve. 

Add sugar and flour mixture to the cherries and mix well. Cook till the mixture is thick and the cherries are soft. Do not break them completely. Once done, turn down the heat and set aside. 

To make the whipping cream, whip all the ingredients required for whipped cream in a stand mixer. Continue till it has hard peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the cake, place one slice of chocolate cake on a cake board. Add some cherry filling and whipping cream. Also sprinkle some Maraschino Cherries fluid. 

Place the next 2 layer and repeat the above process. Finish off all the cherry filling. Place the last cake layer and top with whipped cream. Add the cream to the sides as well. 

Using a peeler or mandoline, make chocolate shavings from the chocolate block. Cover the sides of the cake using the chocolate shavings. Also add some on top, leaving a couple of inches to pipe rosettes.   

Transfer about 1/4 cup cream to a piping bag and pipe flowers or stars on the edges of the cake. Place Maraschino Cherries on them. 

Chill till ready to serve. Cut and enjoy! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cauliflower Sauce Mac n Cheese

Blogging Marathon #78 Week 2 Day 3
Theme: Secret Ingredients
Dish: Cauliflower Sauce Mac n Cheese

Can't give up on Mac n Cheese, but do not want the guilty ingredients? Make your own with this incredibly easy Cauliflower sauce! 

Any pasta lovers here?? I am definitely one. And when it comes to Mac n Cheese, I am the first one to reach out for it! I eat a lot of it and then I feel guilty of consuming all the packaged food ingredients. But it is definitely difficult to resist the urge to gobble a bowl full of Mac n Cheese. 

To make sure I can eat my pasta without feeling guilty, I decided to try making it with Cauliflower sauce. Yes, it is the same sauce I posted a couple of days back. I really loved how the Mac n Cheese came out and we definitely did not miss the authentic one! 

At first I was skeptic of tasting cauliflower in my pasta. However, after adding garlic, cheese and bread crumbs, I could definitely not tell it had half a head of cauliflower hidden in it! And I made a big plate and a few ramekins, making sure I have enough for TWO meals! 

For the longest time my definition of Mac n Cheese was to get a package and prepare it according to the instructions. Then I happened to travel to Tucson, AZ some time ago. The University town has a small place that serves just one dish; Mac n Cheese. Wondering how it runs? They have a long menu with tons of variations to Mac n Cheese. Flavors like Caprese, Cheddar, Pizza, Jalapeño, Bacon, Hawaiian, Baked Potato make an appearance on their menu! 

I had a few flavors there and felt like they changed Mac n Cheese for me forever! Once back, I finally started experimenting with this staple and it has been super fun. Cauliflower sauce is my latest obsession! 


Coming to the recipe, this one is pretty versatile. The only required ingredients are pasta, cauliflower sauce and some cheese. Everything else from peppers and seasoning to breadcrumbs is optional. 

I baked mine to melt the cheese and get a wonderful topping of crumbs and cheese. However, the step can be eliminated and the whole thing can be made on the stove top. It all depends how you like it. 

For this recipe use any short pasta like mini farfalle or elbows. The smaller pasta helps in a way that the sauce clings well to them. As this recipe does not have too much butter or oil and vegetables, it is important that the sauce and pasta cling well. 

What to do with left-over Cauliflower sauce? 

This recipe needs one cup of sauce, but I made about 2 cups. The sauce was yummy by itself and I ate quite a bit even before making anything out of it. 

The sauce is super creamy given the ingredients. I like it a little thick, so that it can be served with chips. I also like to serve it with chopped vegetables and on top of french fries. 

Wait no further and head straight to the recipe. You need to make this TODAY!!


Dried Elbow or Shell Pasta 1 cup
Cauliflower Sauce 1 cup (recipe here
Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese 1/4 cup, shredded
Oregano and Chilli Flakes 1 tsp
Garlic 1-2 cloves, minced
Olive Oil 1 tsp
Bread Crumbs 1/4 cup
Salt and Pepper to taste


Heat 4 cups water in a pan. Add the dried pasta and cook till al-dente. Drain and set aside.

In a pan heat olive oil and add garlic. Sauté till the raw flavors vanish. Then add this Cauliflower sauce and mix in oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. 

Add the boiled pasta, mix well and turn down the heat. In ramekins or oven safe tray add the pasta. Sprinkle cheese and bread crumbs. 

Place in a preheated oven at 350 F/ 180 C for 10-12 minutes. Once the cheese starts to melt and the bread crumb is light brown, remove. Serve with a side of Garlic Bread or this delicious Whole wheat Pizza Braid Bread.

Want more Cauliflower recipes? Check these Grilled Cauliflower SteakGobi Musallam: Roasted Whole Cauliflower and Spiced Roasted Cauliflower


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Za'atar Spiced Greek Mushrooms Wraps

What is better than Za'atar Spiced Mushrooms for weekend grilling?Super quick recipe for a filling and yummy meal!

Summers are made for grilling! I love grilling all kinds of vegetables marinated in different sauces and ingredients. Not to forget the grilled peaches and pineapple that scream S-U-M-M-E-R! 

I have tried quite a few combinations; most work, some fail. A couple of combinations taste really bland once cooked. Then I have to season it before serving. My favorites are these: Super Quick Balsamic Grilled Vegetables, Grilled Cauliflower SteakOven Grilled Tandoori Vegetables

This weekend I wanted to grill something different. I recently bought a large package of Za'atar Spice and decided to use that. And what better than garlic and olive oil to go with it? So I put all this together and made these yummy grilled Mushrooms. 

I served it with some grilled tortilla, olives and salad. These wraps were made perfect with some Blazing Hummus. And yes, and extra dash of Za'atar spice on it completed the taste and flavor. However, tortilla can be substituted with pita breads. They complete the Greek feel to the meal. 

This recipe is inspired from my trip to Dubai some time ago. We had a traditional meal as part of a Dessert Safari and had something similar there. Since then, I have been wanting to make these. Finally, I got myself to make these over the weekend. We had a great meal with everything! 


If you are one of those who do not like or consume mushrooms, do not worry. The recipe can be used for any vegetable that you like best! Whether it is zucchini, peppers or even paneer; the spice is great with all of these. It will make a perfect grilled dish! 

I used store bought Za'atar Spice. However, you can  make your own using any of the recipes that are easily available online. I would suggest you make a BIG batch and use it for all your Greek recipes. They become 'even better' with that! 

Finally, as I mentioned above, use Pita breads, homemade flatbreads or tortillas to make the wraps. And I used traditional hummus but any of these flavored hummus work really well too: Roasted Butternut Squash HummusGreen Chickpea HummusLime Cilantro Hummus or Roasted Beetroot Hummus. You can even add in Tzatziki or Muhammara.

Not a fan of wraps? Just enjoy the Mushroom Skewers and enjoy them! I would love to make these again with my Oven Grilled Tandoori Vegetables.


Brown Mushrooms 12-14
Garlic 1-2 cloves, minced
Za'atar Spice 1 tbsp
Olive Oil 2 tbsp
Salt 1/2 tsp

Tortilla/ Pita 
Hummus (Store bought or home-made)
Kalamata Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, Onion and Persian Cucumbers 


Wash and dry the mushrooms. In a bowl mix together Olive oil, garlic, za'atar spice and salt. Add in mushrooms, and toss well. 

Start the grill and set to medium heat. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

Divide the mushrooms among three skewers. Grill on the grill or in the oven till it cooks (Mine takes 15 minutes in the oven or 8-10 minutes on the grill).

Also, grill the tortillas or pita breads. To assemble, spread hummus on the bread and place a skewer of grilled mushrooms. Sprinkle some more Za'atar Spice and add tomatoes, onion, olives and cucumbers. Roll and serve. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Quinoa Idli: A healthy twist to a Classic

Blogging Marathon #78 Week 2 Day 2
Theme: Secret Ingredients
Dish: Quinoa Idli

An Indian quintessential Idli gets a healthy makeover. Quinoa makes these idlis yummy, nutty and packed with flavor. 

Quinoa, the healthy ingredient that has been around for some time is one of my favorites! It is healthy, has a yummy nutty flavor and is super versatile to work with. It happens to be one of my favorite ingredients now! 

In the past I have made Quinoa Kofta in Makhani GravyOne Pot Pineapple Fried Quinoa Quinoa Fried RiceQuinoa Sabudana Khichdi. Today is yet another delicious recipe using quinoa. I have been meaning to try this one for a while! 

Idli, the quintessential South Indian dish that is perfect for breakfast and dinner is one of my favorites. However, often times I feel guilty of all the carbs we end up consuming in a meal. I have tried to replace rice for quinoa in many recipes. I was not sure if it would work in fermented recipes, but referring to many recipes online, I was sure it would. 

The first time I tried to replace almost all the rice with quinoa and ended up with hard idlis. So then I added some amount of rice to make sure it ferments well. The result was perfect idlis with a slight nutty taste. We enjoyed it with Cilantro Coconut ChutneySambar or Homemade Ghee. Such a treat!

The batter I made was used up in making idlis. However, the same can be used to make dosas too. Just add some more water and it will be perfect. Not to forget Paniyarams, that will be awesome with this batter too. I hope to make some paniyarams using the same batter and some vegetables next time. It will definitely be a great snack! 

Coming to the recipe, the main ingredient here is quinoa. Using a little bit of urad dal and rice helps make it a well fermented batter. It takes a little while to soak the ingredients, but it can be be quick if you use a little warm water to soak. It will be done in 3-4 hours. 

While grinding, make sure you do it in parts. Add just a little water, so that the batter does not become very thin. It does thin out a little on fermenting. Adding fenugreek and poha is optional, but helps in making a great batter. 

The batter can be made in a big quantity and can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. Just make sure it is back to room temperature before you start making idlis or dosas. 

If you make this recipe, I would love to see your version. Don't forget to tag me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.   


Quinoa 3/4 cup
Idli Rice or any short rice 1/4 cup
Whole Urad Dal 1/3 cup
Fenugreek Seeds 1 tsp
Poha/ Beaten Rice 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Water as required


In a pan add the quinoa, idli rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds. Wash a few times and soak in a warm place for 6-7 hours. 

Once soaked, drain the soaked water in a bowl. Working in batches, grind the mixture to a smooth paste with the poha. Ensure you do not add too much water. Use about 1/3 cup water in 1/2 cup mixture. 

Transfer everything to a large pan, big enough to hold the batter post fermentation. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt and mix well. 

Ferment in a warm place for 10-12 hours. Once fermented, mix well and check the salt. Add more if required. 

Heat water in an idli stand and grease the idli plates. Add a spoon of batter in the cavities and place in the stand.

Steam for 10-12 minutes, till the idlis are cooked. Remove and serve hot with Tomato Onion ChutneySukha Coconut ChutneyCilantro Coconut ChutneySambar or Homemade Ghee