Happy Vishu to all those who celebrate – Vishu falls on the 14th of April this year. In Kerala, the start of the Zodiac New Year is celebrated as ‘Vishu’. It is believed that what one sees when one first opens one’s eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what one can expect in the year to come. Thus on the morning of Vishu, ‘Vishukkani’ is prepared, which is an assortment of beautiful things – the image or idol of Lord Vishnu, beautiful flower arrangements and a panorama of vegetables and fruits to show abundance. Even gold jewelry and gold coins are displayed as part of the kani. It is said to be auspicious to open one’s eyes before the decorated ‘vishukkani’ on Vishu morning. And an elaborate and delicious sadya just like Onam is prepared in all Malayalee households for Vishu.
Although I don’t usually prepare an elaborate sadya for Vishu, I do make some sweet dish at least. This year that was hard too considering my dietary restrictions. But I am one not to be easily discouraged – I decided to make this Papaya halwa. Traditionally this halwa is made using milk and rice flour along with ripened papaya. But since I am on a paleo diet, I came up with some alternative ingredients – coconut milk instead of regular milk and coconut flour instead of rice flour. The coconut flour gave it a wonderful texture. I also skipped the sugar and used maple syrup instead. The halwa came out delicious!
Mind you, this version is indeed an easy version of the traditional halwa since I cooked it only for about 30 minutes until I got the desired fudge consistency. But I remember my aunts in kerala making the traditional version of papaya halwa by cooking it over slow fire for at least a couple hours stirring constantly. The resulting halwa under the laborious process is of course even more tastier with all the sugars in it getting caramelized completely. But the result of this easy vegan version is not far behind either. So I hope you do get to try making this!
The celebration of Vishu signifies the importance of ‘making a good start’ and of asking for divine blessings before embarking on a new project. Hope all your dreams for the following year come true!
Papaya Halwa is a delectable dessert of Southern india and this version is a modified, vegan and paleo version of the traditional halwa using ripe papayas, coconut milk and coconut flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups ripe Papaya pieces pureed in blender
¼ tsp or pinch salt
½ cup thick coconut milk or coconut cream
¼ cup maple syrup (or honey)
1 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
¼ cup coconut flour (or desiccated coconut powder
½ cup water
Chopped nuts for garnish
Take a non stick frying pan or a wok style pan (kadai). Add the coconut oil and when hot, add the papaya puree to it. Add the salt and Cook on low heat stirring frequently for about 10 mins. You should begin to see the oil separating from sides.
Next add the coconut milk and maple syrup and continue cooking on low heat stirring frequently. After about 10 mins, when you see the oil separating out again, add the coconut flour with the water to the papaya mixture. Stir very quickly to avoid forming any lumps and then continue to slow cook for another 5 mins stirring regularly until the mixture attaining a 'halwa' consistency - i.e. semisolid and smooth. Remove from heat. Serve garnished with the chopped nuts.
For AIP version: Skip the cardamom powder and the nuts
I love Instagram! Don’t know why I stayed away from it for so long! I am loving meeting different food bloggers and seeing their inspiring creations! Am I inspired? Nope, I am floored! Gosh, so much talent out there and so many young kiddos creating such cool stuff. One of my favorite things in the morning (whilst waking up in bed) is to quickly check out the insta posts to get inspiration for my morning breakfast smoothie. These days along with smoothies, a new healthy deliciousness has been trending – ‘nice creams’! He He, ‘nice cream’ sounds a bit shady but it is nothing but a healthy version of ‘ice-cream’ which uses only fruits and other vegan ingredients. Most recipes use frozen bananas to get the ‘nice cream’ texture. And then with that as the base, you can add different fruits – frozen or otherwise of your choice and blend everything to a creamy, smooth ‘nice cream’ texture 🙂 Oh so yum!
So these days mixed berries nice cream is my favorite afternoon snack to satisfy my sweet cravings! I make sure I keep a few slices of bananas in the freezer at all times so i am adequately prepared to meet my cravings 🙂 The other morning I woke up to see a couple nice cream posts and oh, boy I started craving for one right away. So I decided to make a smoothie ‘nice cream’ for breakfast. A couple dashes of coconut milk gave it the perfect smoothie/nice cream texture. I made a separate blueberry compote to give it some additional richness and sophistication 🙂 Hey, you’ve gotta love your breakfast!
Hope you get inspired by this post to come up with some lovely creations of your own. Please do share with me! Btw, looks like spring is almost here! Yay!
Mixed berries blended with frozen bananas and a dash of coconut milk to create this healthy and delicious 'nice cream' with a topping of blueberry sauce/compote
For the nice cream:
1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen for 3 hours or more
1 cup mixed berries (I used combination of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries - if using frozen, thaw them to room temperature)
2 tablespoons coconut cream or thick coconut milk
½ cup water
For the blueberry compote(sauce):
½ cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
¼ cup water
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp tapioca starch mixed in 2 tbsp water to form a slurry
In a small cooking pot, add the blueberries, water, salt and maple syrup and cook for about 4-5 mins until the blueberries turn soft. Add the tapioca slurry and mix on low heat for another 2-3 minutes till you get a thick sauce. Turn heat off and transfer sauce to a container.
Blend all the ingredients under 'nice cream' in a high speed blender until you get a creamy smooth consistency (should be like slightly thawed ice-cream)
Take a tall glass or jar. Add some blueberry sauce on the bottom. Add 'nice cream' on top and drizzle more sauce on top. Top with berries!
I have been ‘refined sugar’ free for more than a year now and tell you what…I don’t miss it at all! In fact I feel so awful that I was eating all that unnecessary refined sugar all these years. Once you go completely sugar free you will start reaching out for the natural sugars as in fruits, dried fruits and other natural products like honey and maple syrup. And the best thing is that the natural products do not give you a sugar rush plus they all provide beneficial nutrients to your body in addition to just sweetness.
But sometimes you do crave for sweets because you crave for that texture. For example even though I have not felt deprived for the most part, I sometimes have this craving for Indian sweets like coconut barfi (fudge) or coconut ladoo (sweetened balls)! That’s when I began to experiment. I made date, almond and coconut rolls which are absolutely delicious and are now a permanent snack in my home – my son just loves them! My Date nut truffles are also equally amazing and so decadent they feel like an absolute treat! I also made a dates and Nut Barfi (fudge) with dates, almonds and walnuts and that is again absolutely delicious with the gooey fudge texture.
So two weeks ago my cravings for texture meant I had to experiment again since I am on the Autoimmune protocol diet and so I cannot do nuts either. So I scratched my brains and scanned the available items for me in my pantry and apricots and dates were the winners!. I really wanted something that had a texture like a coconut ladoo and so that made me come up with these apricot coconut balls. Oh boy, the texture of these balls are amazing. The coconut flour just gives it the soft but dense texture that I was craving for! And that’s not all – it gets even better! OK so all you need for this recipe are just 3 ingredients! Yes! Dried Apricots, Dates and coconut flour. And Shredded Coconut to roll them in.
And yes you do need a food processor. These balls came together in less than 15 minutes though from start to finish. The first time I made it, I had made a very small experimental batch and I could make around 8 balls and they were all gone in 2 days! And that was just me eating all of them! SO then of course I had to make them again. And again. You see I had to perfect the recipe too so I could share with you guys 🙂
I used lemon zest the first time to get an additional burst of flavor and that gave a wonderful freshness to the balls. The second time I tried cardamom powder so that I could get the taste to be very close to the Indian coconut ladoo. I loved that too. SO you can pick your flavor. Maybe you will come up with some additional ideas. Even if you don’t add anything the apricots give it enough flavor already. If you are 100% AIP compliant then you cannot do cardamom. Over the past one month I have been able to add all my spices (Indian) back to my diet without much complaints. So I am ecstatic. And completely blissful when I eat these apricot coconutties!
Sometimes I wonder if there is too much hype surrounding Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong…I am very much a romantic at heart! However I dislike how commercialization of Valentine’s Day by the marketeers has somehow made people hung up with the date of Feb 14th. Couples feel that they need to do special things only on this date. Single folks might feel depressed thinking that they need to find a date for Valentine’s day or else they will lose out! As a consequence they end up spending too much money more often than not on the wrong person! Well, the simple fact is this: If you have been fortunate enough to have found the love of your life, then everyday can be Valentine’s day. And if you haven’t been lucky to have met this person yet, it’s not likely that you will magically meet your sweetheart on Valentine’s day! Anyways the point I want to make is this: I hope that people express their love outside of Valentine’s day too and that everyday can be romantic too. All you need is the right attitude and an optimism towards life and everything beautiful. All these thoughts reminded me of a quote that I had memorized in high school – don’t ask me why 🙂
“I may not say it often
But you know that it is true
That I am always wishing
Real Happiness for you
For though I may not say so
To me you are always dear
Not only on a day like this
But Every day, Every year! ”
I had pinned this special dessert recipe specifically for Valentine’s day since it was a dessert that I could actually eat! Yes being on a dairy free and sugar free diet for almost a year now, my desserts have been mostly limited to fruits, dates and raw honey. I was so excited to see this recipe of Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta by Eileen from Phoenix Helix. Along with the recipe what excited me was her story of how she has been battling RA too just like me and that the Autoimmune Paleo diet has been helping her control her disease for the last few years. Now isn’t that exciting!
I made some slight changes to her recipe – I added a combination of strawberries and raspberries since I find raspberries alone to be too tart. Also I upped the amount of sweetener -and used maple syrup instead of honey. I find maple syrup to provide the right amount of sweetness that I crave for in desserts. And for the sauce , since I ran out of raspberries, I made it out of cherries! The end result was one special dessert! This indeed felt like a huge treat for me having not had any frozen treats for so long! Yummy yum! thank you Eileen for this great recipe and I think this is already inspiring me to come up with other ideas of similar frozen treats.
Granola had been on my list to make for ever. I don’t know why it took so long for me to try it. Especially since I have made Homemade cereal bars before which has been a big hit in my house. Granola is actually much easier to make since you don’t need to chop the nuts and you don’t need to follow an exact recipe since binding is not important here.
I thought of finally making granola this past weekend since I had just toasted pumpkin seeds and wanted to use them in a granola. Not that they needed to be ‘used’ – they were going pretty fast so I had to save some actually 🙂 So I looked at a few recipes and then just decided to throw some things that I had in my pantry together. And of course it had to be sugar free. So I used a combination of maple syrup and honey for sweetness. Almonds, pumpkin seeds and raisins went in to give company to the oats and all of them toasted well to form this healthy and tasty granola.! Trust me, so much tastier than any store bought granola! I have been eating it this entire week for afternoon snack along with some goat kefir that I recently bought from Whole Foods. So Yum!
2 Cups old fashioned oats or rolled oats (NOT quick cooking oats)
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice or pumpkin spice (optional)
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used a combination of honey and maple syrup)
1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 rd cup dried fruit like raisins or cranberries or apricots(chopped)
Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F (or 180 deg C).
Line a large baking tray (18 inches by 12 inches) with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, add the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, all spice and salt. Toss them well together to mix.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, honey (if adding) and vanilla extract together. Mix well to blend together and pour this mixture onto the bowl with the oats mixture. Using a large wooden spoon, mix everything well together taking care not to crush the oats too much. Mix till all of the oats is coated with the oil mixture.
Now dump all of this mixture onto the tray and spread well to keep the oats separate. Some clumps are ok.
Place tray in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes or until you get a delicious aroma and the oats and the almonds are well toasted. Take care not to over roast them.
Take tray out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before transferring onto an air-tight container. Enjoy granola plain or with some yoghurt.