Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

dsc_0137dsc_0140Happy New Year folks! Let’s start the New Year with something sweet and delicious!  Which also looks very pretty!  Yeah I made this chocolate bark for our New Year’s Eve party and everyone both adults and kids loved it.!

And the best part is – its a breeze to make! All you have to do is melt some chocolate and spread it thin on a tray. Slice up some strawberries and some pistachios and place them on top. Melt some more dark chocolate and drizzle on top.  Refrigerate for a couple hours to set and then cut it up into pieces or barks 🙂 Now isn’t this just what you need? Best part is since the bark is very thin, you are technically not going to be eating too many calories (unless of course you gobble up all of it 🙂 ) It’s a great party pleaser too and oh so easy to make 🙂

dsc_0138Wishing all of you folks a wonderful new year that is filled with everything your heart desires. May all your wishes and dreams come true and may you be blessed with good health and happiness.  May peace prevail everywhere.

Isaiah 40:31

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

  • Servings: Makes about 12-16 small pieces
  • Time: 15 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes refrigeration time
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

3 Milk Chocolate bars , 4.4 ounce bars (about 360 grams)

1 Dark Chocolate bar – 70% cocoa, about 2 ounces (180 grams)

4-6 strawberries, sliced thinly

1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped

Method:

Take a small baking tray (12 inches by 9 inches) and line it with parchment paper. Keep aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, place the milk chocolate bars and  melt the chocolate by heating bowl between 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals. Meaning heat first for 30 seconds, get it out, stir with a spatula and again put it back in microwave and heat for another 30 seconds. Do this 3-4 times or until the chocolate is almost melted and then just stir with a spatula to form a smooth creamy liquid.

Immediately pour this melted chocolate onto the tray and spread slowly using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate over entire length of tray or atleast 3/4 th the length of the tray.

Place the strawberry slices and the pistachios randomly over the chocolate.

Next melt the dark chocolate similarly in the microwave and drizzle it slowly over the tray.

Place tray in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

When you get it out, the bark will come off easily from the parchment. Cut into thin slices/barks and enjoy! Refrigerate until serving time!

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Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

dsc_1726-1Now this is a cake that I have been meaning to make for ever. I have looked at several recipes over the past few years and saved a few too. But somehow not got around baking it.

Growing up in Mumbai, Plum Cake was a common pantry item. Yes I am serious – you would find store bought Plum cake anytime in our kitchen. It was probably related to my dad’s love for this cake I guess. As a result, whenever we had unexpected guests, they were promptly served some plum cake with tea 🙂  We sisters for some reason over the years began to not like this cake as much – I think it was  a consequence of it being available 12 months of the year I guess 🙂 But now after several years, memories of the moist cake filled with the delicious flavors of dried plums soaked in rum, made me want to try baking it. Plus the fact that I could load it with a ton of healthy ingredients – dried fruits and nuts made it even more attractive.

Early this year I came across a wonderful recipe on Pinterest which specifically had the recipe for Kerala Christmas Cake.  Looking over the recipe and seeing the huge amount of dry fruits it asked for , I knew this was the one I wanted to make. I also made a note that I would replace the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  However, in our mad baking frenzy yesterday, I forgot to use whole wheat flour. I did use a wide mix of dry fruits – dried plums(prunes), dates,dried figs,dried cherries, dark raisins and dried cranberries.  img_0014I soaked the dry fruits only 24 hours in advance vs the 1 month in advance that the recipe called for.  I also did not use rum as the recipe called for but used a dash of cherry flavored brandy that I had lying around in my pantry along with some apple juice. I also reduced the quantity of sugar since I was adding so much dried fruit. My kids don’t like too strong orange flavor so I replaced the orange marmalade in the recipe with honey. And just used a dash of orange juice to give a citrusy flavor. Finally I also added pumpkin spice since everyone in my family loves that particular blend of spices.

dsc_1745-1The mixing of the batter was some work and I am glad I had my kiddos helping me. The egg yolks and whites have to be beaten separately etc.  All the hard work paid off and the cake came out simply fabulous.  So flavorful and moist.  And so so rich and delicious. ! The only one downside was that I had not chopped the dry fruits very fine so it was hard to get thin slices of the cake. But that’s after all not such a bad problem to have I guess 🙂

This recipe makes two large cakes and we are bringing these to our Christmas gathering with friends. I am sure these will be devoured in no time!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

  • Servings: Makes 2 large round 8-9 inch cakes
  • Time: 60 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes baking time
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Recipe adapted from Lifescoops

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup  – granulated Sugar plus 1 tbsp water
    5 Cups – Dry Fruits(I used mix of dark Raisins, dried Cranberries, dried Cherries, dried Figs, Prunes and Dates)
    1 Cup – Water
    1/4 Cup – Cherry flavored brandy
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

    Ingredients for Cake
    2 1/2 Cups- All Purpose Flour (Maida)
    1 ½ Tsp – Baking powder
    ½ Tsp – Baking Soda
    1/2 Tsp – sea salt
    1 /2 tsp – Allspice
    1/2 Tsp – Cinnamon
    1 Tsp – Pumpkin spice
    —-
    2 and 3/4 sticks (approx 310 gms) – unsalted Butter
    2 cups- granulated Sugar or raw cane sugar
    5 – Egg Yolks
    —-
    1 Tsp- Vanilla essence
    3Tbsp – Honey
    2 tbsp orange juice
    —-
    5 – Egg Whites

    —-
    1 Cup – Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Directions

Soaking the dried fruits:

  • At least a day or two in advance,  soak the dry fruits. (You can do weeks in advance too)
  • Finely chop the dry fruits and keep aside. In a non-stick sauce pan, add the 2/3 cups sugar along with the tbsp of water and let it heat on medium so that it starts to caramelize. Once the sugar caramelizes or turns into brown color (will take about 10-12 minutes), stir occasionally to mix the sugar to avoid burning. Once all the sugar is caramelized – i.e. turned into brown liquid, take the sauce pan off the heat and carefully add the 1 cup water little by little. Be very careful to avoid splashes as the caramelized sugar would be extremely hot. Stir well.
  • Now Add the chopped dry fruits and reheat mixture until it starts boiling.
  • Take it off the heat and add 1/4 Cup Brandy and 1/4 cup apple juice
  • Let the mixture cool completely; cover the container and keep at room temperature until you bake the cake.

Baking the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C
  • Grease 2 cake pans (I used an angel pan and a round 8 inch pan) and line it with parchment paper. Lightly brush with butter. Keep aside.
  • Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices and keep it aside.
  • Mix the butter and sugar together in  stand mixer (or an electric mixer) and add the egg yolk one by one until everything is incorporated.
  • Add the soaked dry fruits along with any liquid and mix.
  • Stir in the flour mixture in batches and mix.
  • Add Vanilla extract, honey, Orange juice
  • In a big bowl, beat the egg white using an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks(for about 5 minutes).
  • Fold the egg whites into the cake batter slowly little at a time.
  • Pour the cake batter into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

dsc_1704-1OK you will not see me baking such treats often. But hey its the holidays! And then what do you do when they come and tell you so excitedly ‘ Mom, you have got to make this cookie – can you guess what is in it? ‘ Hmm…let’s see chocolate chips? ‘ ‘ yes of course, but then what else?’  Me thinks ‘Nuts maybe?’  ‘No mom, you are going in the right direction’ ‘ OK OK why don’t you just tell me?’  ‘Mom, this is insane – there is an Oreo cookie stuffed inside a chocolate chip cookie!, what an awesome creation, isn’t it?, you’ve got to make it for Christmas!’

Oh God, yeah truly awesome calories that’s for sure.! Anyways those cute eyes flickering with so much excitement made me give in. In case you are wondering, that wasn’t my 10 yr old daughter but my 16 year old son! One of his high schooler friends had evidently made one of these cookies and shared with him and his friends.

dsc_1702-1So along with my Christmas Cake baking, which I have been planning to bake this year , we went about baking these ‘ginormouslyamazing’ cookies 🙂 Of course, both of them helped which was great!

So I got the recipe from Tablespoon.com and we baked a couple dozen of these cookies in less than 2 hours. The recipe for the dough was perfect and we carefully placed a cookie dough layer on top and bottom of each oreo cookie and sealed the edges to result in cute, fat cookie dough lumps that baked to become these gigantic stuffed cookies.  For once a year, they are alright to have I guess plus they will be sharing the love with their neighborhood friends so technically my kids will only be eating a couple of these 🙂

Btw the cute small plates in the pics are what my daughter got for me from her class auction! So sweet of her isn’t it? Another reason I guess why I give in to their occasional demand for not-so-healthy treats 🙂 See the 2 hands dunking the cookies in the milk. Aww..I wish my babies weren’t growing up so fast!

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dsc_1705-1For the recipe, please click link below : 

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/oreo-stuffed-chocolate-chip-cookies/0a222ab7-125d-4310-9a3d-d737e14a4d48

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Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies (Peanut Butter Jelly cookies)


Peanut butter jelly cookies
Last time I asked my husband to get peanut butter for the kids snacks, he got a giant jar of it. Which of course the kids were only too happy about.  But that instantly got me thinking about utilizing this peanut butter into other recipes!  I had also been wanting to bake healthy recipes and had purchased whole wheat pastry flour recently. And so the idea of making peanut butter cookies came to mind. I looked up some recipes but came across this wonderful and healthy recipe from ‘The American Vegetarian Cookbook’ by Marilyn Diamond. This book was a gift to me by my newest friend Debbie who has been ‘Godsend’ soul to me to boost my morale and offer so much support. More about Debbie later. For now let’s go back to the cookies!

This recipe uses healthy whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour and maple syrup instead of sugar for sweetness. So today evening when I had some free time, I decided to try this recipe. I made some changes to her recipe since I wanted to use regular butter instead of margarine and did not want to add almonds additionally. Wanted to stick to only peanuts to keep this ‘peanutty perfect’.

I didn’t add jelly to the whole batch.  So we had a mix of plain peanut butter cookies and PBJ cookies. The kids loved both of them!  The plain ones were a little less sweet than regular cookies they said but they definitely loved it!  They said they loved the texture – crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth kind! Isn’t that wonderful? When you give them no sugar and they say they love it! What more can a mom ask for 🙂

These also seem like perfect to bake and share for the holiday season – Make a large batch for your family and for your friends!

Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies (Peanut Butter Jelly cookies)

  • Servings: Makes about 18 cookies
  • Time: about 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup organic creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

strawberry preserves as needed for PBJ cookies

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375 deg F (or 180 deg C).

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix with a fork to blend well. To that add the melted butter, maple syrup, peanut butter and the vanilla extract.  Using a large spoon or your hands knead into a smooth dough.

In a large tray, arrange small ping pong ball size balls of dough. Using a fork, press the dough ball to flatten it.

To make PBJ cookies, flatten and make a deep indent in the center of the dough ball using your fingers. Place about 1/4 tsp of jelly into the indent.

Bake cookies at 375 Deg F (180 deg C) for between 12-15 minutes or until the base is slightly browned. They may still seem soft on top but will harden on cooling. Let cool for 10 minutes on cooling rack before serving.

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PBJ cookies

 

Happy Holi! : Puran Puffs (Sweet Lentil stuffed Puff Pastry)

Puran Poli PuffsHoli Hain! The mention of Holi makes my heart feel so happy. And warm. The warm feeling you get when you think of fun things that you used to do on Holi like fooling around with friends, playing pranks on strangers (only when I was a teenager 🙂 ), throwing tons of water and color on each other and of course gorging on ‘Puran Polis’ that my mom would make! And Holi being a harbinger of spring too, it is just the best of all festivals! Good weather and good times are here folks!  Yippy!

DSC_1366Puran Polis are a traditional sweet dish prepared in Maharashtra. I had posted the recipe for puran polis before.  Late Last year when our friend Vaishali visited us she prepared puran polis for me that I ate for every single meal for all of 2 days! Now because of my arthritis making polis (chapatis) is arduous and actually out of bounds for me. Hence I decided to be innovative and try something different. I don’t know how the idea came to me …I probably dreamed it not sure 🙂 …but I thought of stuffing the puran into puff pastry!

DSC_1388It was my easy way out but actually turned out to be so good! Was a big hit with my children and my hubby as well who generally does not like sweets much. I overfilled them with the puran (yeah I love it so much!) and so you can see the filling oozing out of the puffs…Wow! I am so happy 🙂

Bringing these delicious puffs to Throwback Thursday this week. Also bringing these yummy treats to Fiesta Friday where this week  Natalie @ Kitchen, Uncorked and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine are co-hosts.

Puran Puffs (Sweet lentil stuffed puff pastry)

  • Servings: Makes 18 puff pastries with extra stuffing
  • Time: about 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Ingredients:

For the Puran (stuffing):

  • 2 cups pre-soaked chana dal(slit chickpea lentils)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup jaggery,shredded
  • shredded fine 2 tsp elaichi(cardamom powder)
  • 2 frozen Puff Pastry sheets, thawed

Method:

Wash the chana dal thoroughly (2-3 times with cold water) and then soak  for about 3-4 hours in a large vessel.

Take a medium size cooking pot and cook the chana dal by placing on medium heat with 2 cups water. Cover and cook however check periodically and skim the scum that appears.

The dal should cook in about 10-15 minutes. Check to see if all water is gone and test doneness by taking a lentil in your hand and touching to see if it is totally soft. If you feel any hardness, add a little more water and cook for another 5 minutes or so covered.

When the lentils are completely done and all water almost gone, add the shredded/powdery jaggery and mix to mix and dissolve the jaggery. Stir on low heat to get a smooth thick pasty mixture. Turn the heat off.

Add the cardamom powder and mix again. Use a potato masher to mash the mixture further to get really smooth consistency. (or You could also use a food processor or a hand blender to make this really smooth ). Let the stuffing cool for 30 minutes at least.

To make the puffs, place the pre heat oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C).

Take the thawed (follow instructions according to brand) puff pastry sheet and cut each sheet into 3 vertically and then cut each sheet further into 3 squares to get 9 squares.

Fill the puran into a square of puff pastry and fold into a rectangle using a little water to seal the edges.

Place the puffs on a baking tray lined with al foil and Bake them at 350 deg F (180 deg C) for 15-20 minutes on one side . Then flip them and bake again for another 10-12 minutes until both sides are crispy and golden brown.

Notes: For detailed step-wise pictures for making puran, check my puran poli post.

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