Fruity Stacks

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday was eventful.Weekend in the wild,lovely..…..hmm before anyone gets me wrong,I was talking about my visit to the Zoo.Its been quite some time since I visited one. I was all the more excited when P mentioned that this place was more of a wild life sanctuary. He was indeed right and I was happy to see animals in vast open spaces amidst thick vegetation. I believe it’s cruel to put animals in cage and not giving them freedom to move around. It was a good five hour walk thru the vast area.I was able to spot the majestic Tiger,its agile cousin the leopard,fast and furious Puma,marathon winner Ostrich,wild wolf to name a few.It was also a treat to watch cute li’l kids feed to Giraffes. The trip would have been memorable if I had spotted my fav animal the mighty Elephant.The highlight of the trip was the Monorail which runs across the entire place,giving us a panoramic view of the wild life and vegetation.Yet again the weather favored us.Last but not the least there was a festive mood in the Zoo,thanks to the wonderful musical orchestra.

I had picked up a box of Strawberries,Blueberries and Raspberries from Sams thinking I would make something.We kept munching some on our way to the Zoo and before we finish the entire box I decided to make “ Fruity Stacks”.I guess this one is a perfect dessert when we end up with an unplanned dinner/party ,easy to make and great to relish!

Prep Time – 30min
Baking – 10min
Start to Finish – 40min


Phyllo sheets – 3 (thawed)
Butter –2 tbsp( I used Butter spray,coz its easy to use)
Almonds and Pecans – 2 tbsp (sliced or very finely chopped)
Whipped Cream – 1 cup ( I used the fat free one)
Sugar – 1/4 cup
Fruits – You may use any fruits available (Strawberries,raspberries,Blueberries,Mango,Kiwi fruit,Banana,Apple,Nectarines,Peaches etc) – Chopped into small slices/pieces.


Place one Phyllo sheet on a baking tray.Spray/brush butter and sprinkle sugar,place another sheet on top and brush butter and sprinkle sugar,place the last sheet ,brush/spray butter and sprinkle the almonds pecan mixture.Cut the Phylo sheets horizontally into three strips,further cutting them into small squares.Bake at 350F for about ten minutes/until golden brown.Cool it completely.

In the meanwhile,beat the cream and a tbsp of sugar (this is optional,the cream had sweet so I avoided this).Just before serving,assemble the Phyllo square and fruits.Place one square,top it with Whipped Cream and fruits.Place another square and repeat the same.

This is off to "Strawberry Feast" hosted by Happy Cook,"Click" event hosted by Jugalbandhi and "Low Fat(Eggless) Baking event" hosted by Madhuram and Fruit n Nut hosted by Mansi


Low Cal Yogurt and Banana Frozen Dessert

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Talk about Birthday parties,if it is ours its fun,if its our friends it all the more fun,what if it’s a small kido’s birthday?
After moving here,I have been attending Kids Birthday Parties more than ever before.While P doesn’t miss any of it,more so for the free meal(as always):-D,I often wonder how much he actually enjoys being a part of it.Initially,I used to feel a li’l out of place during these parties as most people had kids leaving the newly weds as minorities.However over a period of time I’ve started getting used to these, reminding myself that I wud be in the same boat sooner or later hosting my kids party.It also makes me realize the amount of patience and responsibility that I need to have before I become a parent.The birthday babies all decked up are blissfully unaware of the colorful surrounding ,clapping hands and multitude of new faces.They look extremely adorable and hog the limelight for the entire evening.Thanks to the technology - Digital Camera,Camcorders etc,these precious moments are captured and can be treasured lifelong.Shopping for gifts isn’t easy either,with tons of cute options available .I wish I were a kid here celebrating birthdays and receiving gifts:). How I wish?

The Birthday cakes again are so colorful and fascinating.Having a cake in the shape of Garfields,Barbie or Dora is so common these days.Its jes not the taste of the cake,the presentation and decoration makes it even more appealing to the taste buds.I realized after coming back from my vacation,I haven’t baked a cake/a pie/tart.Since I wanted to make something different,some thing simple and low on calories I made this yummy looking dessert.The recipe was from the book Smoothies and desserts,but I have tweaked it to suit my taste buds and yes it is a Low Cal Dessert,aint that good enuf to indulge on?:-P

Prep Time – 20min
Start to Finish – 3.5 hrs(including freezing time)
Servings – 10-12


Graham Cracker Crumbs – 1 cup
Butter – 2 tbsp (Melted)
Pecans – 2 tbsp (very small pieces)
Sugar – 2 tbsp

For the topping:

White Chocolate/Vanilla Instant Pudding & Pie filing mix – 1 pkt
Fat Free Vanilla Yogurt – 2 cups
Milk – ¼ cup( I used 1% milk)
Low Fat Whipped topping – 1 ½ cups – Frozen(thawed)
Bananas – 2 ripe and firm (chopped into cubes)
1 tbsp – chocolate syrup


Grease an 8 inch square baking tray,with fork mix crumbs,melted butter,Pecans and sugar until crumbs are evenly moistened.With hands,press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the plate.Bake at 375F for 10mins.Cool it well.This is the usual recipe I follow to make the crust.
In a bowl,mix the pudding mix,yogurt and milk,whisk for a minute until smooth(I used an electric blender for a min in low speed).Fold in the whipped topping,don’t try beating it.Drop the Bananas and stir in slowly.Spread this mixture onto the crust(Crust should be at room temperature or cold).Cover and freeze at least for 3 hours or until firm.

Remove from the freezer , let it stand for 10min and then cut into squares and top each squares with chocolate syrup. Always store the remaining covered in the freezer.

The second time I tried this,I didn’t bake the crust.I went by the original recipe - I spread the crumbs and placed it in the freezer for 10mins,did the topping and it was jes perfect.


Looks can kill,don’t they?During each bite, I could feel the banana chunks,it was very well coated with the cream and yogurt.In between l'il pecans made it crunchy.I could eat this guilt free not thinking much of calories.230 cals per serving for this wonderful dessert….ain’t that great?:P)

Am sending this to Sugar High Fridays "Fruit & Nut" (Banana & Pecans are the Fruit and nut that I have used)and since this doesn't contain Egg and is Low on fat this is also off to Madhuram's "Low Fat Baking Event"

Preethi of Preethi's online Cookbook has passed on the lovely blog award.Thanks so much Preethi.

I am also asked to pass this on to 10 bloggers,so here I go - I would like to pass this on to Harini,Padma,Somoo,Priya,A2ZVegetarian,Parita,Divya Vikram,Pavithra,Prathiba and Varsha

Also, Varsha has tagged me for the "Honest Scrap Award" where am supposed to write 10 things about myself and guess I have already done this here.


Apple-Pear Crisp

Monday, June 15, 2009

Train rides have always fascinated me since childhood.Journey through the lush green agricultural lands,deep dense woods,the feel of wind gushing thru my face,the sound of the engine horn, the rumbling noise of the wheels,etc.I have enjoyed Mother Nature’s beauty most while travelling by train.Thanks to the numerous trips during Summer Vacations in India. Well this is how I spent my weekend….a nature lover would surely enjoy these.Indian Railways is the largest railway network in the world, one of the most profitable ones too and not to mention one of the largest employers in the world.I had expressed my interest to travel in train here several times to P and my request finally fructified this weekend.Well it was a pleasant surprise trip to Iowa.We took the scenic Rail ride across the Iowa valley in an Open top train.This reminded me of the “Chaiya chaiya song” from the movie “Dil Se”.The weather was beautiful making the trip even more pleasant.It was a good two hours journey through the woods and rivers.We saw pretty homes,wild life and some breath taking views.It was a good break from the usual grind.We have made sure to make the best use of Summer,Road trips,biking, canoeing,rafting and the list goes on.I hope atleast a few of them materialize in the next few months.

Coming to the recipe,few days back I came across Rachel’s blog filled with wonderful recipes.I am sending across the “Apple-Pear Crisp” which I made from her recipe to Coconut & Lime’s Annual Recipe Contest that she is hosting this month.

Preparation Time – 10mins
Start to finish – 40mins(Including Baking time of 30mins)


Apples – 3 Large (cubed)
Pears – 3 large (cubed)
Light Brown Sugar – ½ cup
Cinnamon powder – 1 ½ tsp
Corn Starch – ½ tsp

For the topping :

Old fashioned rolled oats – ½ cup
All Purpose Flour – ¼ cup
Light Brown Sugar – ¼ cup
Butter – 3 tbsp(melted)
Cinnamon – ½ tsp


Mix the first set of ingredients and place it on a greased baking dish.Mix the toppings separately and sprinkle evenly over the fruit mixture.Bake at 350F until the fruit is soft or the top turns brown and crispy.


Surely a wonderful recipe,best when served hot with a scoop of Vanilla Icecream. I made this for breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it.This tastes best only when made with brown sugar.

Note : I used Granny Smith Apples.While making it for the second time I reduced the quantity of all the ingredients as it was made only for the two of us.I had also added pecans and raisins for the topping.

This is also off to Shanthi’s Sweet Time event and Divya of Dil Se’s Show me your breakfast event.


Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake ....a celebration!

Monday, June 8, 2009

And it is so very Cold. Its time for Summer and here am still feeling cold.The temperature is about 52 F and doesn’t seem to get any better. I am irritated to get back to the same old warm clothes..poor me! It was drizzling thru out the weekend too.Oh god, I wish I had a magic wand and change the weather the way I want it to be:)

In spite of the weather being bad,we didn’t compromise on our plans,especially on the Saturday. Weekends can be really quixotic and inspiring .P & I had a lovely day, “we” being formally dressed had a quiet and romantic Dinner at a classic American Restaurant, actually this is one of the finest restaurants here. Being a foodie I have been to all the kind of restaurants,have tried most of the cuisines and tasted best of the best foods, I guess very soon I should start blogging about my food and travel experiences too:-P.The restaurant pretty much had limited veggie entrée,but we were able to adapt a pasta dish (which was made veggie for us) called Linguini with fresh tomatoes (the original one had shrimp),we were happy to manage very well with the little that we could order.We also had Creamed Spinach which was served with Asiago cheese & some hand cut Idaho Potato fries,Bruschetta(grilled crostini rubbed with garlic and Virgin Olive oil topped with Roma Tomatoes,fresh Basil and Herbs).The dessert section was to die for - I had a Chocolate Lust cake ie., sinful layers of Devils food,Chocolate cheesecake and Rice Chocolate Truffle cake topped with Fudge Icing and Chocolate cookie crumbles…ummmm it was SINFUL!.

Well coming to the recipe, this is something I tried baking this weekend (Recipe taken from - the book “Taste of Home Desserts” along with my li’l variation) for something special…a celebration. I love cheesecakes and here is my endeavor with Apples and Cinnamon!

Preparation time – 15mins
Start to Finish – 1 hour(excluding the refrigerating time)
Yield – 12 Servings


Butter – 1 stick/1/2 cup(softened)
Brown Sugar – ¼ cup
All Purpose flour – ½ cup
Wheat flour – ½ cup
Quick Cooking Oats – ¼ cup
Pecans – ¼ cup(finely chopped)
Ground Cinnamon – ½ tsp


Cream cheese – 2 packages( 8 ounces each)
Condensed Milk – 1 can (14 ounces)
Apple juice concentrate – ½ cup
Eggs – 3 (lightly beaten)


Apples – 2 medium( peeled and sliced,I used Pink Lady Apples)
Butter – 1 tbsp
Cornstarch – 1 tsp
Ground Cinnamon ¼ tsp
Apple Juice concentrate – ¼ cup

Method :

In a small mixing bowl,cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.Gradually add Flour,Oats,Cinnamon and Pecans until well blended.Press onto the botton of a greased baking sheet(1 ½ in. up the sides).Bake at 325F for tem minutes or until set.Cool on a wire rack.
In a large mixing bowl,beat cream cheese until fluffy.Beat in Condensed milk and Apple concentrate until smooth.Add eggs beat on low speed just until combined( the batter will be thin).Pour into crust.Bake at 325F for 40-45min or until centre is almost set.Cool and carefully run a knife on the edges to loosen.Refrigerate over night.
In a pan cook and stir in apples in butter over medium heat until crisp and tender.Cool and arrange over cheesecake.In a small sauce pan,combine cornstarch,cinnamon and apple juice concentrate until smooth.Bring to a boil.Reduce heat;cook and stir for a minute or until thickened.Immediately brush over Apples.Refrigerate for an hour or until chilled.

These cakes have to be consumed at the earliest(I mean it cannot be stored for long),else they turn a li’l harder. The original recipe doesn’t call for wheat flour,I wanted to reduce the intake of A.P Flour,hence used wheat flour .


Jain Cuisine - Kadu Palak Roti and Doodhi Paneer Kofta Curry

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Longback P had been to a Swaminarayan temple along with a friend,followed by a lunch feast by the Gujarathi community. They had a second thought about the meal when they were informed that the food had no Onion ,no Garlic and no Potato.However,P lured his friend into it by highlighting their dessert specialities.Li’l did they know then ,that this would be one of their most delicious and lip smacking lunch.As bachelors(then) they cudn’t have asked for anything better.When P narrated this to me,I was amused but not surprised.I knew all and well about Gujarathi/Jain cuisine.Be it the presentation/spice level/variety they are arguably one of the best,my fav too!

When I was in India this time, the very first restaurant I had visited was a restaurant by name “ Rajdhani” in Delhi which served authentic Guju Thali.This was my automatic choice when my BIL asked my preference. I add sugar/jaggery in my everyday cooking,as I prefer li’l bit of sweetness in everything I eat.Guess this is one of the reasons for my love for Guju food,as they always have a sweet and spicy flavor to their food.Tomato forms their base for most of their curries.I tried making Kadu(Pumpkin) Palak(Spinach) ki Roti and Doodhi Palak Kofta curry,ie grated pumpkin crispy koftas in tangy tomato gravy,these are purely Jain food.These are Tarla Dalal’s recipe,however I have tweaked it a li’l to suit my requirement.I have almost all her collections with me and would proudly say that am one of her most ardent fans:-P.

Kadu Palak ki Roti

Preparation Time – 10min
Start to Finish – 25min
Serves – 1 – 2 (Makes abt 5 rotis)


Red Pumpkin(Kaddu) – 1 cup
Spinach – 1 cup(chopped)
Whole wheat flour(Atta) – 1 Cup + l’il more for rolling
Chilli Powder – 1 ½ tsp( increase as per your spice level)
Green Chilli – 1 tsp(minced/crushed)
Oil for cooking
Salt – for taste


1.Heat a tsp of Oil,add the spinach and sauté for 2 mins until cooked.Keep aside.(I used frozen spinach so just cooked it as per package instructions)
2.Mix this along with the rest of the ingredients except oil and knead into a soft dough.Use water if required.Knead well and divide them into small portions
3.Using a rolling pin, roll out them into a circle and cook each rotis on a hot griddle.Apply li’l bit of oil on both sides and cook until golden brown.Serve hot alongwith pickle and curd.

Most times, I have difficulty in getting the right shaped “rotis”.The pic also hasn’t come out very well,wanted to take another one but was so lazy to do so.

Doodhi Paneer Kofta Curry

The original recipe didn't have Paneer in it.

Preparation time – 10min
Start to Finish – 30min
Servings – 6


For the Koftas :

White Pumpkin(Doodhi/lauki) – 1 cup
Red Pumpkin – 1/2cup (This wasn't mentioned in the original recipe,I had some left with me hence added)
Rice Flour – ¾ cup
Green Chilli - 4 (minced/chopped)
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Cilantro – 1 tbsp
Turmeric Powder – 1/4tsp
Baking Soda – 1 pinch
Oil – for frying
Salt – for taste

For the Gravy:

Tomatoes - 4 (finely chopped,I used Roma tomatoes)
Bay Leaves – 3
Cloves – 4
Peppercorns – 6
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Coriander Cumin Powder(Dhaniya jeera powder) – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Coconut Milk – ¾ cup
Cream – ¼ cup
Corn flour – 1 tbsp(mixed with 1 tbsp water)
Oil – 2 tbsp
Paneer – 4 tbsp
Sugar – a tbsp
Salt – to taste
Cilantro – for garnishing

Method :

For the Koftas – 1. Mix all the ingredients except paneer together.The Pumpkin would have left water so ideally you wouldn’t need more water,however if needed you may add li’l water.
2.Make them into small balls,fill in few pieces of Paneer inside. Deep fry in oil until golden brown.As per the original recipe you may also microwave the balls for 40secs (I din’t try doing this)

For the Gravy:

Tomato Sauce - Grind chopped tomatoes(1 cup)+ ½ Cup Grated White Pumpkin(lauki/doodhi) + Sugar(1 tbsp)+Chilli Powder (1/2 tsp)+1/4 cup water+Salt to taste. Make this into a smooth puree and boil it in a small vessel,along with a bayleaf + 1” cinnamon stick+ 4 cloves+4 peppercorns.When the gravy starts thickening,add a tsp of cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp of water to it.Cook until the mixture resembles a smooth sauce

1.Heat oil in a pan,add bay leaves,cloves and peppercorns.Add chopped tomatoes,chilli powder,coriander cumin powder and asafetida
2.Cook until oil separates.Add tomato sauce(recipe above),coconut milk,cream.The gravy would ideally thicken if it doesn’t add the corn flour mixture.
3.Add the koftas,bring to boil and simmer for sometime.Garnish with cilantro and paneer.Serve hot with Roti.

These Koftas don’t stay soft for long.P took these for lunch and told me that these turned a li’l hard.So its better to be consumed the same day.Few days back i had made Malai Kofta and the koftas din't come out well,besan was used as a binding agent,they started breaking out when i dropped them in oil.I was anticipating similar issue this time too,but luckily rice flour did a fantastic job,the koftas were neat,crisp and tasty too.Guess rice flour should be used for any other koftas too,i shall try the next time.

These are off to Padmajha of “Seduce your tastebuds” who is hosting RCI Jain cuisine originally started by Lakshmi of the Veggie Cuisine.

Chaitra of Aathidhyam has passed on the above mentioned award…thank you so much Chaitra,that’s wonderful of you.

I have been trying few recipes that I had bookmarked,but haven't been capturing the pics,here are three of my fav ones......Tried and Tested:)

1.Mango Pudding by Bong Moms cookbook.

Verdict - The pudding was moist,soft,well baked and delicious.I reduced the sweetness in the pudding,this ended up being the finest pudding i have ever had.Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe.

2.Eggplant Potato Curry in Peanut Tamarind Gravy (without the potatoes) by Usha of Veg Inspirations

Verdict - It was tangy,the aroma of peanuts was excellent.It tasted very well without the potatoes too.

3.Mangalore Buns by SJ

Verdict - It was jes the way I had tasted it while in India.Soft inside,l'il crispy outside.Perfect sweetness and wonderful brown color.

Thanks all for sharing these wonderful recipes.


Vegetable Biryani

Monday, June 1, 2009

Remember those days when Vegetarians(mainly the bachelors)traveling abroad carried a lot of homemade pastes,MTR ready to eats,easy to cook meals etc,often attracting the attention of the customs.This made me wonder if it was indeed difficult to survive as a “veggie” in the US? It’s a common misconception people have about the scarcity of Vegetarian food.Things have changed dramatically in the past few years owing to an increase in the Indian Immigrant population.Most restaurants cater to the needs of vegetarians giving them a fair deal.Two days back, P and I we went to TGIF and were bowled over seeing a customized menu card for “vegetarians”.

Of course there are times when we have to compromise on our likings, like am fond of Burgers and I don’t find any Veggie ones in any of the Burger joints like a Mc Donalds,Wendys or even in Burger King.I cudn’t care less as there are many other things to indulge on and enjoy.

I belong to school of thought that any food with the right blend of spices and timely cooking will taste as good regardless of whether it has meat or not.And I enjoy conversations with my ardent Non vegetarian friends on the same.Recently,a friend of mine argued on Biryani being the best when cooked with meat.According to him, a true Biryani is with either Mutton or Chicken and there is no such thing called Vegetable Biryani .While I can understand the tastebuds of my fellow Non Veg friends,I took it as a friendly challenge and made this spicy,aroma filled “Vegetable Biryani”(Basmati Rice layered with spices and vegetables).The word “Biryani” is a Persian word which means “fried before cooking”.This is a very popular dish in India,Pakistan,Iraq(my recent visit to a Kurdish restaurant helped me taste some,will talk about it in my next post),Afghanistan etc.There are also different types of Biryani ,Hyderabadi Biryani being the most popular one. Needless to say this was a royal dish for the Nawabs and Nizams.

I did mention about the origin of Pulao in my earlier post on “Tawa Pulao”.The difference between a Pulao and Biryani is - In Pulao the vegetables and rice are stirred/mixed before cooking,where as in Biryani the vegetables and rice are layered during cooking.And also Biryani is made more spicy and colorful,thus being my fav one too!

Prep Time - 20min
Start to Finish - 45-50min
Servings – 5

Ingredients :

For the masala (to be grinded to a smooth paste)

Ginger – an inch
Garlic – 2 large pods
Red Onion – 1
Tomato – 1 small
Poppy seed – 2 tbsp
Mint leaves – a few leaves
Coriander leaves – 2tbsp
Chilli powder – 1 tbsp

Main Ingredients:

Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Ghee – 6 tbsp
Bay leaf – 1
Red Onion – 1 (sliced)
Cashewnuts and Raisins – 3 tbsp (roasted in li’l bit of ghee)
Tomatoes – 2 chopped (I used Roma tomatoes)
Boiled Vegetables (Carrots,French Beans,Peas,Cauliflower,Potato) – 2- 3 cups chopped to an inch thickness
Black Pepper corns – 1 tsp
Milk – 3 tbsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
Cilantro - 3 tbsp
Saffron – a pinch(soak in 3 tbsp warm milk/water)
Cinnamon – 2 sticks
Cardamom – 4 nos
Salt to taste

Method :

1.Cook rice along with salt and ensure each and every grain is separated. Mix saffron and allow it to cool.
2.Heat Ghee (4 tbsp),add Bay leaf,Cinnamon Sticks,Cardamom,Pepper corns and Onions. Saute the Onions until translucent,add the masala paste(already grinded),turmeric powder and Coriander powder. When you see the Oil separating from the sides,add the tomatoes and sauté for few minutes.
3.Now add the boiled vegetables,salt and coriander leaves.Cook for a while until you see the veggies completely coated with the masalas.If needed, you may add ½ cup of water.
4.Preheat the oven to 375F,on a large baking pan,smear ghee(remaining) in the bottom,spread one layer of cooked rice,cashewnuts and raisins and then spread li’l bit of the vegetable gravy on top,thus forming layers of vegetables,nuts and rice.End it with the rice,sprinkle milk and ½ tsp of ghee on the top.
5.Cover and bake for 20min.Serve hot along with raita.Also, if you wish you may turn it upside down before serving.

The Rice already has salt in it,hence be careful when you add salt to the veggies.You may also add grated Paneer at the end,this would give a richer taste.And trust me,after baking the Aroma that it brings is simple mind blowing.

This is off to "Ravishing Rice" event hosted my Nags of the Edible Garden,originally started by Meeta of Monthly mingle


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