Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wacky Cake!

I am late, sorely late in fact. What for, you ask?  Well..in wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year!! Better late than never, though..that's one of my guiding principles and so here's wishing you and your family a very happy, prosperous and successful New Year. I hope that this new year heralds the beginning of a year where you are swamped with love, friendship, peace, knowledge and contentment and where sickness, unhappiness, loneliness and discontentment stay far away !          

Now that that's out of the way, let me share a recipe for Wacky Chocolate Cake. When I was  (googling all over the internet) researching this recipe, I found that this is also known as the Depression Era cake. The main reason is because this recipe calls for no eggs, no butter, no milk. Absolutely no rich ingredients at all and since people during that time had a scarcity for these items, some intrepid homemaker must have come up with this simple, one-pan recipe to be able to (ahem..) have her cake and eat it too! 
You read that right, you can mix this cake batter up in the same pan that you bake it in. No mess, no fuss and a simple yet satisfying cake in the end. Without further ado, here's the recipe.

                       IMAG0315

The recipe was adapted from sweetlittlebluebird

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C flour (I used a combination of unbleached all purpose and whole wheat pastry)
3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 C sugar 
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp Ener-G egg replacer(optional)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar  (can use white vinegar too)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules (optional)
5 Tbs oil of choice (I used olive)
1 C water

Method:
1. Grease an 8 X 8 pan. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
2. Mix the flours, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, egg replacer (if using), salt and the coffee granules in the pan. Whisk it thoroughly so that there are no pockets of cocoa left.
3. Make a well in the center, or three different wells and pour in the vinegar, oil and vanilla in the three different holes. Pour the water all over and gently stir the batter until it is well mixed.
4. I found that I had to mix in the corners really diligently to prevent dry flour mix (yuck!) from remaining in said corners.
5. Once the batter is smooth, clean the edges and the sides of the pan, if necessary and then place the pan in the preheated oven in the center of the middle rack.
6. Bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean(ish).
7. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then gently remove onto a wire rack.
8. If your kids dont come hurtling into the kitchen, clamoring for a piece of the cake, let it cool for some more time, before slicing into it.
9. I served it plain, but you could cover it with chocolate ganache or a simple frosting to make it more decadent. Its best if the cake is consumed within a day, because it wont remain moist that long. 
10. Its definitely not comparable to the rich, decadent, sigh inducing pastries and chocolate cakes, but for the time that it takes and the ingredients that it requires, its definitely a must make recipe. 

Notes:
1. The kids loved it as a snack and as a lunch box item. 
2. The next time I make this, I plan to use whole grain flour to make it healthier. I might even use simple chocolate ganache to top it! 

 




Monday, November 24, 2014

Dave's Killer Bread - a review

It has always been fascinating to me how different cultures view food differently. What is a daily oft eaten food in one country could very possibly be a luxury in others. And so it was with sliced bread when I was growing up in India in the 80s and 90s. It wasn't a luxury, per se, but we definitely didn't eat it everyday. It was available in all the mom and pop grocery stores that are so common in India, but my mother cooked traditional Indian food most of the the times and bread didn't show up regularly on the menu.
It was only after I came to the United States in 2003 that I realized how pervasive the humble bread was in American diets. I was also stunned at the variety of breads available here, such as I had never seen, let alone eaten before. Whole wheat, white, honey, oat, English muffins, rye, boules, sourdough and what have you!

                                                                        Picture - courtesy of Dave's Killer Bread.
Although I have followed in my mother's footsteps and cook traditional Indian food on a regular basis, my family and I also indulge in breads much more frequently than my husband or I ever did when we were children. We generally have a couple of loaves of bread at home and I have even tried my hand at baking bread at home with good results.
As I became more and more aware of the ingredients in bread, I realized that not all loaves were made equal. In an effort to reduce the amount of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives in bread, I try to purchase only whole wheat or whole grain bread, without HFCS and other additives. Reading labels has become a norm and finding a good brand that is healthy, versatile and delicious and also has a short ingredient list has become a challenge.
That's why when I realized that I had been selected by Moms Meet to review Dave's Killer Bread for my blog, I was pleasantly surprised. I had seen the loaves at the stores where I shop, but had never purchased them because they were slightly outside my budget.
I received two loaves to review - Dave's 21 whole grains and seeds and Dave's Thinly sliced Good Seed.
                                                                                               Picture - courtesy of Dave's Killer Bread.
Even before I sampled the bread, the following points stood out for me:
* All the breads were made using organic ingredients.
* Most were vegan with high levels of protein and fiber.
* They are also certified non-GMO
* The breads contain no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

When I looked at the ingredient list on the breads that I had received, I was able to read, pronounce and recognize all of them! The sheer variety of the grains and seeds used in the bread amazed me.
I used the bread to make sandwiches for myself and my kids. I also used them to make croutons.
Both the varieties were hearty, filling and stayed fresh tasting even without preservatives of any kind.
I like having seeds and grains in my bread, I like the contrast in the textures. The breads made good toast too. Also, the thinly sliced Good Seed bread had only about 70 calories.

I have seen the loaves available at Costco and Sprouts Farmers market. For stores that sell this bread in your area, you can visit the store locator on the website and find out. The breads generally retail at 4 - 6$ per loaf.

On the website, I read about the history of the company and the concept of second chances that were offered to the employees of the company and was even more impressed. A company that makes amazing bread and also offers people with a past
a chance to turn their lives around - I can get behind that!

Read more about Dave's Killer Bread here http://www.daveskillerbread.com.
Visit the following links for more information about Dave's Killer bread.
www.facebook.com/Daveskillerbread
www.twitter.com/KillerBreadMan





If you eat bread regularly and are looking for a good, natural bread without unnecessary ingredients, do give Dave's Killer Bread a try.



Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eggless Applesauce Loaf

We are a month into the new school year and so far we are doing well in the lunch and snack department. Admittedly, we rotate quite a few of the main 'entree' potion of the meal and I change up the sides quite a bit. That's one of the reasons I haven't started posting my Week in Bentos section. I am planning on incorporating a new set of lunch main dishes, so hopefully I will be able to restart that section again.
Every weekend, I try to bake at least two different types of muffins or quick breads so that I can use them liberally in the kids' lunch and snack boxes. LG8 has a really late lunch time this year and needs a hearty snack to tide him over till then. We cant afford to have hungry stomachs interfere with learning minds :). Rather than just sliced apples or pretzels, I try including something slightly more filling. A baked snack bar, or a couple of mini muffins, sandwiches too. Flavorful, healthy quick breads made with multi grain flour and studded with dried fruits lend themselves to interesting sandwiches.

IMAG0088



I was browsing around for recipes when I came across this one at Williams Sonoma. It looked very adaptable and pretty easy to assemble quickly. It would probably have been healthier to make my own applesauce, but store bought organic applesauce, with no added sugar was a good substitute!

Ingredients:
1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 C amaranth flour
1/4 C stoneground corn meal
1/4 C spelt flour
1 C walnuts, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup dark or golden raisins (I used raisins)
2/3 C sugar (I used a mix of regular sugar and coconut palm sugar)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/3 C neutral tasting oil (you could also use coconut oil for a nice change)
1/4 C sour cream or yogurt
1 heaping cup applesauce 
1 tsp corn starch or arrowroot powder

IMAG0087



Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a standard 9 X 5 loaf pan liberally with softened butter or oil.
2. In a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients - flours, nuts or dried fruits, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and the arrowroot or corn starch. Whisk thoroughly.
3. In another bowl, whisk the oil, sour cream and apple sauce to get a smooth homogeneous mixture.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until it is evenly moistened. Mix with a light hand so that the bread doesn't end up as a dense block.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 55 minutes. Keep checking for doneness after 50 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack until it cools completely.
7. If possible, do not slice into the bread until it has completely cooled down. It makes such a big difference to the texture and the crumb of the bread!
8. Slice evenly with a serrated knife and serve with butter, jam, peanut butter or even cream cheese for a yummy snack!

Notes:
1. The original recipe called for 2 C of all purpose flour. I replaced half of it with various other flours that I had on hand. Use whatever you have available.
2. The original recipe also called for 1 egg that I replaced with sour cream. You could use yogurt, commercial egg replacers or any other substitute of choice.
3. I sprinkled the top of the bread with some rolled oats before baking for visual appeal!
4. The apple loaf turned out pretty tasty. I sent this in snack boxes, sandwiched with some cream cheese and jelly. It tastes delicious even plain with some soft butter.
5. You could also make mini or regular sized muffins with the same batter. Mini muffins take around 15 - 17 minutes and regular sized muffins need around 22 -24 minutes. If you use smaller loaf pans, adjust the time accordingly.
6. You could add other add-ins such as chopped apples, mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, etc. for a variation on the same bread.

Do give it a try!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Danish Pastry - Eggless Baking Challenge

Visit any bakery or avail your self of any continental breakfast in a hotel / motel and you will definitely have either seen or eaten a danish pastry. Flaky layers of  dough with sweet fillings like jam or savory ones like cheese, these pastries are rich, indulgent and are definitely on my "have once in a blue moon" list. When I saw that the next thing that the Baking Eggless group was going to attempt, was Danish pastry, I was apprehensive to say the least. I had seen cooking shows where the method of making the dough had been demonstrated and "easy" had most certainly not been the key word. But what's the fun in being a part of a challenge group, if one doesn't attempt any challenges? Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things definitely expands your knowledge and your confidence. So attempt I did.
As usual, I left things until the end of the month. Given that we also had a major Hindu festival to celebrate at around the same time, it wasn't until the first weekend in September that I was finally able to make the dough and bake off the pastries the next day.



Recipe source : Joe Pastry

Ingredients:
For Pastry Dough:
2/3 c milk (I used whole milk)
2 Tbsp sugar
11/2 tsp instant yeast
2 C unbleached all purpose flour + more as required
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C yogurt (replaces 1 egg)

For the butter slab:
8 ounces of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour



Method:
1.I followed a slightly different order of making the dough. The original recipe had us making the dough first and then refrigerating it. I made the butter slab first and refrigerated that. I followed a youtube video that made the dough this way.
2.I brought the butter sticks to room temperature and then creamed it along with the flour until everything was well incorporated.
3. Using a butter knife, spread the butter - flour mixture into a roughly square shape on a parchment paper. Scrape off all the butter from the bowl onto the paper. You dont want to waste any butter after all!
4. Cover the butter square with another parchment paper, smooth it with your hands and then place it onto a flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.
5. For the dough: Warm the milk slightly. Add all the ingredients to the same bowl and knead lightly until a smooth and slightly sticky dough is formed. Add about 1 3/4 C of the flour first and then if needed, add by the tablespoon to make a dough that is easily kneaded. This dough doesnt require as long or as vigorous kneading as a bread dough. Once the dough came together, I kneaded lightly for about 3 minutes.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl. Cover it with a clean tea towel and place it in a warm area for the dough to rise.(about 2 hours)
7. After about 90 minutes, remove the butter slab from the refrigerator.
8. Now begins the fun part of laminating the dough!
9. Roll out the dough, using extra flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and the counter, into a shape that is slightly larger then the butter slab. It should be big enough to just cover the butter slab from all sides.
10. Once the dough is rolled out, peel the butter slab from the parchment paper and place it in the middle of the dough. Bring up the sides of the dough to cover the butter and encase it from all sides.
11. Keeping the seam side down, roll the dough gently but quickly into a rectangular shape.
12. Brush any residual flour that might be on the dough and then fold the dough like an envelope. The original site has very detailed pictures and referring to it will be very useful.
13. At this time, the butter in my dough started melting. It is the middle of summer here in North Dallas and temperatures are quite high. Not a very good time to be making laminated dough for the very first time, but still. So I quickly transferred the folded dough onto the cookie sheet and chilled it for 25 minutes.
14. Repeat the process two more times, rolling into a rectangular shape, folding into an envelope and then refrigerating for about 20 minutes.
15. Once the final folding was done, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, plunk it down on the baking sheet and send it back to the refrigerator. You can chill it overnight or you can start baking after about 3 hours.
16. When you are ready to bake the pastries, take the dough out from the fridge.
17. Using enough flour, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. The exact dimensions don't matter. Try to get it as thin as you can get it. The butter might start melting and oozing out again. You can either patch up using flour or cooling it again.
18. Then proceed to cut and shape the dough according to whichever style you have chosen.
Here are a few options to make with danish pastry dough. 
I made the pinwheels. Cut the dough into rough square shapes. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut from the 4 corners stopping just before the center. Take the right edge of each of the resulting triangles and secure it at the center to form a pinwheel shape. Form a depression in the center and then spoon in some jam into the center.
19. Once all the pastries are shaped, place them on a parchment paper on a cookie sheet, cover with the previously used parchment paper and let rise for about 45 minutes.
20. Preheat the oven to 375 deg. Once the dough is risen and the over preheated, bake the pastries for about 15 - 20 minutes, until they are puffed and golden brown.
21. Cool for a little while before enjoying the rich and flaky pastries.

Notes:
1. Like I mentioned previously, the heat made it slightly difficult for me to roll out the pastry as thinly as I would have liked. Though the pastries were flaky and crispy, they were not as delicate as I would have liked. They were slightly bigger and thicker.
2. The quality of the butter matters because you can taste a lot of the butter in the layers. So use a good quality butter.
3. A lot of patience is required to make the dough and to roll it out. So give your self enough time for the preparation.
4. We all liked the pastries, but they are too full of fat and calories to be had frequently, much less made on a frequent basis.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Cola - Review

I have never been a big soda drinker. Yes, I do enjoy the occasional chilled Pepsi or a Coke with a piping hot pizza or a spicy dish. The tart, almost bitter taste of the cola somehow complements a hot, spicy meal and I might indulge myself with one. The key word being indulge, because in my humble opinion, a soda - it doesn't matter what brand is it, doesn't qualify as an everyday consumable item. Other than the fact that soda has absolutely no nutritional value, some brands have about 40 grams of sugar in each serving, that's almost 8 teaspoons of sugar !! Add in the caffeine content and you have an addictive drink that replaces real nutrition with empty calories. Even if you go in for the diet varieties, they almost always use sugar substitutes which are no nutrition powerhouses themselves!


That is just for adults, I shudder every time I see kids guzzling these sodas down. Just think about childhood obesity, nutrition deficiency, dental decay and you will understand why! That's why, when I got the opportunity to review SweetLeaf Cola flavored sweet drops through Moms Meet, I was a little intrigued and a little curious as well. I had of course heard of stevia sugar substitute, I knew that it was plant based and was considered safer amongst all the sugar substitutes on the market, but I had never tried it myself. I always get a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, no matter the brand of the sugar substitute and I just end up using real sugar in lesser amounts.

A few facts about the SweetLeaf cola drops that I came across are:
  • SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia Sweet Drops Cola is a healthy alternative to traditional sodas.
  • All you need to do to enjoy a refreshing beverage is to add 2 - 3 drops of the Cola sweet drops to every ounce of sparkling water.
  • These drops are portable and very convenient.
  • SweetLeaf Sweet Drops contain no carbohydrates, sugar alcohols, calories, methanol, aspartame or sucralose. They are all-natural and gluten-free.
  • They are made with USDA certified organic stevia.


I bought a bottle of sparkling water from my local grocery store and immediately refrigerated it so that I could have a cool base for my cola drops. You could also use ice cubes, if you preferred that.
I then added about 8 - 10 drops of the liquid cola drops, stirred it well. I was pleasantly surprised when I could not detect the metallic aftertaste that I usually experience with all sugar substitutes. The taste was refreshing and the drink was fizzy due to the sparkling water. I could see how it could be used as a substitute for traditional sodas, especially by those who consume caffeinated beverages throughout the day, instead of water. I wouldnt say that using these cola drops would give you a beverage that would taste exactly like traditional soda. It doesnt. But, given that it contains 0 calories, no chemicals and is all natural, it would be worth it to just try and see for yourself.

The retail price is $4.39 for 37 servings and $14.99 for 100 servings. You could also visit SweetLeaf online and use the coupon code ColaMD at checkout to take 30% off your online order. You would also get free shipping with this deal.

Please visit the following links for more information about SweetLeaf.
www.SweetLeaf.com
www.ShopSweetLeaf.com
www.facebook.com/sweetleafstevia
www.twitter.com/SweetLeafStevia
www.pinterest.com/sweetleafstevia


Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.