Sunday, 15 May 2016

Amazing Coconut, Rose and Vanilla Popsicles

Amazing Coconut, Rose and Vanilla Popsicles

Who doesn’t love a popsicle on a sunny, hot afternoon?  But why have one of those artificial chemical concoctions when you can have one that is intensely delicious, and good for you?

These take less than five minutes to prepare, and freeze in about three hours. 

Beautiful granddaughter, all of eleven, invented this recipe while I was puttering around the kitchen, focussed on making dinner.  It wasn't till we tasted these the next afternoon that I realized how silly delicious these are!  Sometimes homemade popsicles can taste a little bland, but these grab hold and shake you!

1 can unsweetened coconut water
1 capful real vanilla
1 capful rose water
Pieces of mango, fresh or frozen, enough for one per popsicle

Popsicle makers vary in size, so you need to fill a measuring cup with water to two cups.  Pour the water into your popsicle maker to see exactly how much liquid yours requires.  Ours are approximately 2 cups.  Dump out the water and add vanilla and rosewater to your measuring cup. 

Fill the measuring cup with coconut water, almost to the same amount your popsicle maker holds.  Stir.  Remember that the mango piece will displace the coconut water to an extent.

Push a piece of mango into each popsicle hole.  

Pour the coconut water mix into the popsicle maker and then place the sticks into position.  

Freeze till solid, at least two maybe three hours.

Run the outside of the popsicle maker under hot water to loosen however many popsicles you want.

Coconut water naturally contains some sodium, so these popsicles have a lot of punch.  The flavour of the rose water will capture you, then the substantial hint of sodium, then the coconut.  By the time your mouth arrives at the mango, it will have thawed into a juicy chunk, so that treat is awaiting you as well.

Those artificially coloured and flavoured bits of chemicals can stay in the middle aisles in their queer liquid packs, while you  drool over these delicious and healthy versions.  Enjoy!

A child can make these!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

White Chocolate Besan Burfi

White Chocolate Besan Burfi

Burfi is an easily made Indian sweet, something like fudge, but a million times better.  There are no crystals of sugar to grate in your mouth, just a creamy smoothness that will float you up to heaven.  Although it has an outrageous amount of butter, the other ingredients are reasonably healthy, so the guilt factor is more than halved when comparing this sweet to actual fudge, which is lacklustre in comparison.

This recipe takes less than half an hour to make, and another couple of hours to chill in the fridge.  This amount makes about 48 pieces.  It is rich, very rich, so keep the pieces small.  But just try to resist having more than one!

1 cup butter
4 green cardamom pods
1 cup besan (chick pea) flour (available in Indian aisle of big groceries, and Indian groceries)
1 tin (almost 2 cups) plain evaporated milk (not the sweet stuff!)
1 ½ cups jaggery powder, or any available raw brown sugar
½ cup good quality white chocolate chunks
2 to 3 drops rosewater

¼ cup same white chocolate chunks and ¼ cup almonds for topping

Leave some identifiable chunks of almond and chocolate.
Before starting to cook, put the topping ingredients into a blender and whir to a combo of finely and fairly finely chopped.  You still want to see some pieces of almond and chocolate, and not have just an unidentifiable powder.  Also line a 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper.  Have all of your ingredients ready and on standby.  Once you start cooking, you must stay with the pot, so organization is critical here!

In a large, heavy pot, begin melting butter on medium heat.  This is the only point in the recipe when you can turn aside and quickly perform the next step of husking and grinding the cardamom pods.  If you can’t do it fast, do it before hand!

The pods must be ground to a fine powder.  You can buy ground cardamom powder, but it won’t taste as heavenly, so invest in a mortar and pestle if you don’t yet have one.  This recipe alone makes buying one well worth it.

Add the cardamom powder to the butter and stir with a big wooden spoon.  At this point you could slightly brown the butter for extra nutty flavour, but it’s not necessary.
When the milky besan thickens up, add sugar.
Add the besan flour all at once and start stirring.  This is the kind of recipe you can’t wander away from, or the besan will scorch.  Cleaning scorched besan is a task, so focus! Keep stirring!
The besan and butter mixture will slightly darken after about five minutes of continuous stirring.  Add the tinned plain milk.  Now you really can’t wander off.  You must stay and stir till the mixture thickens, much like Jello pudding would do.  Thick and bubbly. This will take another three or four minutes.

Stir in the jaggery powder or raw sugar, whatever is on hand.  For one batch I used jaggery, for several others I used the raw, organic coconut sugar sold at a certain giant big box store.  Stirring remains the focus of the remainder of your time with this dessert. 
Not alive yet...

After about seven minutes, the confection will start to feel almost alive, clinging to the wooden spoon. You will see the butter just beginning to separate.  Keep stirring, till like in the famous Frankenstein movie, you, as the creator, want to cry out “It’s alive!”  The mass will become almost rubbery, and determined to lovingly cling to your wooden spoon, cringing as it fears the sides of the pot.  Take it off the heat and stir in the white chocolate and rosewater drops. The chocolate will melt and become invisible, but the taste and silkiness will remain.
Plop it into the parchment lined pan.  It’s still very hot, so use a knife or spatula to spread it.  

Sprinkle the white chocolate and almond pieces over the top and gingerly start pressing the topping into the now warm burfi.  As you press the pieces into the top, you can smooth it out as much as you like.

"It's alive!!!"

Refrigerate for a couple of hours, lift out by the parchment, and slice into pretty pieces.

The buttery smoothness, the flavourful silkiness, the fragrant sweetness, oh my.  Oh my.  I’ll confess to eating entirely too much of this, rationalizing all the while that it is made out of chick peas and raw, organic sugar.  Let's see if you can resist!

Cut into about 48 little pieces to discourage greediness.  Ha!  Go ahead and eat all of them.
Recipe adapted 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Devilled Eggs

Devilled Eggs

Nothing says summertime and picnics like devilled eggs.  I’m sure this is a British invention.  Who else would associate chilies with Satan? Even so, they did come up with a fabulous way to deal with eggs, so there will be no sniping at them for the time being.

This recipe is easy, if you don’t include the peeling.  Avoid fresh eggs for this recipe, as the fresher they are, the harder to peel.  Keep them refrigerated for a week or so, and they should be easier to manage. This recipe makes 20 halves, with most people opting for two to three pieces, more if they’re really hungry.  It takes about 45 minutes, longer to chill.  

10 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried chilies, crushed or very finely diced fresh Thai chili if you like spice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely diced, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill if you must
¼   cup very finely diced red onion
¼  cup very finely diced sweet red pepper
¼  cup plain yogurt
Salt, pepper, to taste--  1/2 teaspoonful of sugar to taste, maximim 

Dice onion and pepper as finely as possible

½ teaspoon hot paprika to sprinkle on top,
A few sprigs of stemmed chopped parsley leaves sprinkled on top, if you have it.

Place eggs in large pot cold water.  Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for 6  minutes. 

Use an egg plate, if you can!
Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and some cold water, or have cold water running at sink.

Remove one egg from hot water and place in ice and cold water till cool enough to handle.  

Peel carefully, slice lengthwise to see if yolk is cooked.  If it is, use a spider to remove all eggs from hot water, slipping into ice and water, or just drain pot of hot water, and place under tap running cold water.

Peeling the eggs is the hardest part of this recipe.   Start from broad end, crack gently and look for the membrane and air pocket.  Slide your thumb onto the slippery shiny white, under the membrane.  Peel by sliding thumb down and under shell and membrane, very carefully, to keep the egg white intact.  

Slice lengthwise.  (If any eggs should break, or get mangled, add broken whites to yolk mix).  
Pop out yolks into large bowl.  
Use real mayonnaise, not any of that weird stuff
meant to save you a few pennies or calories. .

Add onion, red pepper, mayonnaise, dried chillies, and dill. Mix till completely smooth.  Add plain yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, till mixture is smooth and moist. (Use a potato masher or pastry cutter if necessary.) Add salt and pepper to taste.  You may add a little sugar at this point, or a bit more mustard, or chilli, it’s up to you.  I like these spicy, but I do consider guests, especially children.

Place eggs whites onto a serving tray.  Either spoon in the filling or use a  piping bag to fill each egg white with yolk mixture. 

Ha!  I say that so smoothly.  I experimented with a piping bag, and chose a tip that was too narrow.  I gave up and spooned the rest of the yolk into the whites, I'll confess.

Sprinkle hot paprika sparingly over all, it’s just there for the colour.  Garnish with a little of the parsely leaves for extra colour.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  Be careful to keep these well chilled until serving time, and don’t leave them in a warm place for more than an hour.  Hopefully they’ll be gobbled down in a hurry, so everyone will be gloriously happy.   

They're delicious and gorgeous, but do keep them well chilled!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Kefir Mango Lassi

Kefir Mango Lassi
My warm and sunny spot still has no flowers.  This is Canada!

Traditionally a lassi is made with plain yogurt, also known as curd.  But kefir is that much healthier than yogurt.  The pro-biotic qualities are more intense, and they stay in the digestive system longer than those of yogurt.  The taste is somewhat similar, but a bit more like a fresh, very mild cheese.

I’m giving two choices here.  You can buy your kefir, and make this lassi within minutes, or you can make your kefir, which will take overnight. 

Either way, the method is easy.  Whether you go commercial or home-made, you still need to start with a good quality, plain commercial kefir. 

Let’s focus on the mango lassi first!  

This recipe makes 1 large serving or two smaller servings.  You can multiply amounts for more people, up to what your blender can manage.

1 ½ cups plain kefir
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 banana
1 tablespoon jaggery (raw Indian sugar) (optional)
½ capful Kewda water (available in Indian groceries)

Put kefir then frozen mango into blender.  In Canada, frozen mango chunks are relatively inexpensive, saving money and time, though many people prefer to buy an entire crate of mangoes at a certain big box store.  I don’t, because that many mangoes go bad on me before I get a chance to use them, not to mention that mangoes are rather high calories, and eating a crate of mangoes by myself in the time it takes to keep them fresh is a bad idea. 

Fresh mango is sweeter of course, but the banana adds enough sweetness for me.  Another tip is if you have bananas on the cusp of being overly ripe, peel them and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  They come in very handy!  You can skip the banana and use the jaggery, or keep the banana and still add the jaggery, as you please. 
Run, don't walk, to get yourself some of this!

Kewda water is my recent discovery.  It tastes sunny and cheerful in a way that reminds me of a yellow and pink toy carousel.  I can’t imagine why.  It evokes pleasant childhood memories, maybe a time at a fair, eating some long forgotten child’s candy.  Trust me, you can't get through your next summer without it!

Add the kewda water and buzz till the lassi is smooth.  Serve in a pretty glass, preferably in a warm spot.  It will cool you down, establish great pro-biotic activity in your belly, quench your thirst and make you very happy.

Now for the kefir directions.  This recipe is my first in my new category, “growing it!”

If I don’t already have kefir starter, I buy a litre of good quality, plain kefir.  I use most of that in, guess what, mango lassis. When I’m down to the last three tablespoons or so, I leave it on the counter for several hours, to wake up the pro-biotics.  

The warmer the room, the quicker the entire process takes, so in my case, I start this process in the evening so it’s done by morning.

3 tablespoons room temperature plain kefir
1 litre (less 3 tablespoons) milk

First, pour the milk into a very clean, wide pot with the lid on.  Turn the heat to medium high, and watch carefully.  As soon as it starts to simmer, remove from heat and take off the lid.  Set aside till it becomes just warm, not hot.  Try a small spoonful on your wrist.  If it’s too hot, it will murder the kefir people. 
You don't have to clean the bottle for the next batch.

Canada is chilly much of the time, so I make a warm area by turning on my oven while the milk is cooling.  It heats up to about 100 F in a few minutes, then I turn it off.  I turn on the oven light to keep a steady temperature in the oven overnight.

If necessary, use a clean funnel to pour the warmish milk into the kefir.  Give it a shake or stir, and cover and place in a warm spot.  I put mine next to the oven light.  If your area is already quite warm, check your kefir after about 5 hours.  If it’s thick, it’s ready to be refrigerated.

Time to refrigerate when it's this thick.
Occasionally, my area is extra warm, and the kefir overdoes itself.  It separates into whey and a very thick, ricotta like cheese substance.  When this happens I tend to panic, but the smell and taste of the thick part reassures me it’s fine.  Just shake it like mad to combine the whey and kefir, best as possible.  

Remember to have lots of fresh milk on hand so that when you’re down to your last three tablespoons of kefir you can start the process all over again.  It is so good that I’m not sure that I’ll be bothering with yogurt ever again!  Fermenting your own kefir will save you much money, and your own is that much healthier!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Spicy Popcorn, Home made!

Spicy Popcorn, Homemade!

You can buy a bag of pre-made popcorn, stuff it into your microwave, and let it pop, but let’s face it. The smell of it isn’t that pleasant, the taste not so great either, and queer chemicals abound.  It’s actually silly easy to make it from scratch with healthy ingredients.  A popcorn popper and a microwave are the only gizmos you need, though I also use a garlic slicer and a cheese grater to speed up the process.

This recipe takes about seven minutes, and makes a good amount of popcorn for four people, or an extravagant amount for two, or an overwhelming amount for one.  If you want to go full vegan, skip the ghee or butter and use just olive oil, but only cook half and add the other half raw, for optimum health benefits.
My garlic slicer makes this a snap!

2 to 3 tablespoons ghee or good quality butter
1 to 3 fresh garlic cloves, sliced almost paper thin
½  or (to taste)teaspoon dried chilies
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
1 inch cube Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup best quality olive oil
¼ cup popcorn kernals, or fill machine to its limit

My cheese grater makes this even easier.

In a microwavable container, mix ghee, garlic and chilies.  If you don’t have ghee, use a good quality butter.  Microwave for about one minute.  Add the salt.  It will bubble up a little.  If the garlic is still white, microwave for another 15 seconds, so the garlic is a pale gold.  Any darker would get bitter, but barely gold will make for delicious garlic chips. 
Garlic chips should be barely golden.

While ghee is still very hot, put popcorn into popcorn maker and start machine.  As it’s beginning to pop, add olive oil to the ghee. 

Dribble ghee mixture over popcorn as it arrives in a bowl.  Start sprinkling in grated Parmesan.  
Continue to dribble and sprinkle, and then stuff some popcorn directly into the oil container and stir to get every last molecule of deliciousness back into the popcorn.  Don’t waste a drop of that delicious topping.

Eat right away.  We like this in front of a movie, preferably with a glass or two of nice, red wine.  Lazy weekends are so heavenly.  We sometimes don't even bother with dinner when we're having this.

I use a maniac amount of popcorn to keep the oil levels down, but you shouldn't!