Something Sweet: Low-fat Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

Recipe for Raspberry Yogurt Muffins taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Diwali came and went in a blur this year. We had just moved a few weeks earlier, and were deep in the midst of settling down in our new neighbourhood. In the midst of unpacking, getting Baby Dear adjusted into his new school, Hubby Dear’s new work schedule and all, a lavish celebration was the last thing on our minds. All we wanted to do was take the time to be thankful for everything that we had. A nice quiet meal, family time together, and lots of love and laughter were all we needed to bring in the festival of lights. And sweets of course. Loads and loads of sweets. After all, what is Diwali if not for the sweets?

While traditionally, people tend to make the classic Indian desserts loaded with ghee, milk and dried fruits, I for one, never cared for them. I find them cloyingly sweet for my taste and often just give them a pass after a bite or two. This year, however, I wanted to try something different. So I decided to make do with something unconventional. What can I say, fusion is definitely my thing and love what a mix of cultures can bring to the table. I got started on the baking, and by the time I was done, I had managed to pack neat little baskets filled with an assortment of Brownies, Muffins and Chocolate Cake that I could then share with our new neighbours and friends.

This muffin recipe is a simple and delicious one. What makes it a definite keeper in my book it surely the fact that it contains hardly any fat or sugar, and makes a sizeable batch for our family of three! Since I first tried it, I’ve made it a few times already, each time changing up the berries; and they’ve all been equally good. I now make sure I have a batch in the freezer, ready to warm up in the microwave and serve with a cup of steaming coffee on cold, lazy Staurday mornings. Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!

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A Walk down Memory Lane: Chocolate Chip Oats Cookies

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Oats Cookies taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

As I was cleaning up my archives and updating my recipe list with new links and pictures, it just dawned on me that this month, 8 years ago, was when I sheepishly logged online and typed up one of my first recipes. Its been a wonderful and fulfilling journey so far and I’m so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had through this blog. I can’t wait to see what the upcoming years have in store for me and I’m super pumped to get back into my kitchen and cook up lots more delicious goodies to share with you all!

Like I’ve said time and time again, I was never one for baking. I love my cakes and baked goods – but have always preferred them store-bought. There’s something about becoming a mom that just makes you want to jump off your seat and bake THE best cookies in the world! The day I fed Baby Dear his first solid meal was the same day I knew that no matter what, I wanted to be able to bake one of the best Choco-Chip Cookies, Chocolate Cake and also a mighty fine Pizza for my wee one to enjoy whenever he wished. I wanted to be able to make these things in my own kitchen with as many healthy and fresh ingredients I could gather – and I wanted him to enjoy them and have pride in his mom’s delicacies. And so, this is mostly what I’ve been upto the last few months: baking, tasting, and baking some more. I do believe I have a Chocolate Cake recipe that we absolutely love; so much so, that even my not-so-crazy-for-chocolate Hubby Dear has requested it a few times.

I’ve tried out a few pizza doughs but have yet to pick out the one we all like best. But until then, this cookie is everything that I’ve ever dreamt of baking and more. And as Baby Dear walks in his Big Boy shoes into his first day of school this Fall, I say bring on the play-dates and birthday parties, the school picnics and field trips, the class parties and celebrations – I’m ready to don on my Class Mom hat and carry in baskets full of yummy treats!

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Simple Indulgences: Quick Chocolate Cake

Recipe for Quick Chocolate Cake taken from www.hookedonheat.com

I’m not one for baking, never have been. Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE CAKE. But I’d much rather buy them than spend my time beating eggs and sugar into a creamy, fluffy mush. That was of course, until Baby Dear developed a love for them too. As much as I love cooking and get compliments for my food, I suck big time when it comes to baking. I run miles away from any cake recipe that asks me to use ore than 3 eggs, or a cup of sugar or both. But I had to find a way out. I couldn’t get myself to buy the sugar laden stuff that’s so easily available at grocery stores nowadays. I wanted to bake my own cake out of love and healthy ingredients, and have Baby Dear enjoy them too!

As a kid, I fondly remember my Mom baking the most delicious cakes often. She had her specialties and would alternate between the chocolate, orange, banana and vanilla flavours. But every now and then she would also dust off her trusty cake bible and pick something new and fun for us to try. My Mom has always been the baker of the family, still is, and this was why I ran to her when I needed a recipe that wouldn’t have me crying at the outcome! And come to my rescue she did.

This recipe is one that you need to keep in your back pocket. It’s like that little black dress that you reach for when you don’t know what to wear, or want to wear something that would make you feel great. It’s perfect for any occasion, or no occasion at all. All you need is a large mixing bowl and a spatula – no fancy counter-top mixers required. I made it twice last week. Both times, with Baby Dear as my baking assistant. It is that good. And simple. And quick. Oh, and did I mention its decadently delicious too?
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I know the Muffin Man: Strawberry Banana Almond Muffin

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

As a kid, I loved sleeping in. Obviously, with school on weekdays, it was hard to keep my eyes shut with Mom screaming from the kitchen for me to get dressed. But not weekends. Aah… weekends were when I could get as much shut eye as I wanted – or rather, as much as my parents allowed me! There was a time when my Dad had to scan the markets to find an alarm loud enough to break my sweet slumber. Alas, even then Mom would come running to my room to shut it off before the neighbours heard the deafening shrill. But me, I did not even twitch a muscle. I truly believed that had I been Sleeping Beauty, the fairy tale would’ve ended very differently! But who am I kidding? That was eons ago, in a time when sleep for me was more of a sport than a luxury. I think all moms reading this can nod their heads in agreement that once the home has welcomed its first baby,  our sleep and life as we know it, takes a completely different turn!

Baby Dear is a morning person in every sense of the word. He wakes up bright-eyed and bushy tailed every weekend when the sun comes out and announces his rising through the baby monitor as loud as he possibly can. Either Hubby Dear or I will then, in our dazed half asleep state, bring him into our room and put him in the middle of our bed under the covers with the cartoons turned on. Then, we fall back to sleep. In the meanwhile, our Tarzan baby who has learned that no amount of coercing will wake up his sleep-deprived parents, will entertain himself with the TV, reading his books or playing – all the while nestled between the both of us. But this will only last a few minutes till he realizes that its no fun talking to yourself and not getting any responses back. And Baby Dear is nothing if he can’t talk and be talked back to.

So there we are, up and early on a Saturday morning at the kitchen table. And that’s exactly why I tend to always have a stash of some delicious baked goodies to tie us over till I’ve had my first sip of coffee and can actually start thinking of what to feed my family. This recipe is one of our favourites, and one that I’ve made upmteen number of times. It’s perfect to take with you on the go for a quick morning bite. Or, if you’re fortunate like us and have a happy early riser to shake you off your deep, sweet slumber, then it’ll feel like a godsend to have them at arm’s length!

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Sweet Beginnings: Rainbow Cupcakes

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

What can I say. I caved. I didn’t want to. But I did.

Growing up, I remember spending most of my vacation time in the summers pouring over mouth-wateringly tempting photographs of intricately designed cakes, cookies and other baked goodies. My mom had (or must I say, still does) this tendency to pick up wonderfully photographed cookbooks cramped with an even more delicious assortment of recipes. It’s no wonder where I’ve caught the bug from.

One look at the many overstocked shelves throughout my home will give you a slight idea of my fixation to them. Heck, who am I kidding! I have cookbooks peeping out from my pantry shelves, kitchen cabinets, on top of the fridge, and not to mention a few prized possessions that I deem only fit to snuggle on my bedside table. Yes, it’s shameful I know. I’m addicted. Hi, I’m Meena, and I’m a cookbook addict. There, I said it. Now hopefully, we can all get on with our very normal or some not-so-normal lives!

Coming back to my Mom. I must say her favourites to collect included books on baking. And unlike me, who mostly drool over pages and pages of food talk, she actually dons her apron and puts those words into action. It’s no surprise then to point out that she bakes some of the best cakes I know. And not one to let Mr. Opportunity walk past my door without so much as grabbing him with both arms and giving him a tight hug, I decided to learn a few tricks from her while she’s here visiting me.

It’s been good so far. The food comes out from the kitchen faster than I can request them, and I find myself ravishing every spoonful with such passion. But the baking, oh the baking! I always thought of myself as not-a-baker. But she’s adamant on making me one.

What can I say? I caved. And I’m adamant to succeed.

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The Art of Food: Gajar (Carrot) Halwa

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I woke up this morning, a head bursting full of fresh ideas, inspiration and knowledge. I had just gotten back from a wonderful weekend spent with 100 people I’ve never met before, yet some I’ve felt like I’ve known since ages. We were all there for a purpose, some more focused than others. And the one common thread that strung us all together was our combined love for eating and sharing of food. It was the first ever Food Bloggers of Canada Conference, and I know it can’t be the last. It has open many more doors of opportunity and learning, and there can only be ways to climb up from that.

I tuck away my laptop neatly into my backpack. Alongside, I place my notebook, a sticky pad, some markers, a pencil and a pen. And the cookbook I’m currently reviewing. Yes, can’t leave without it. Ends of tiny sticky notes proudly display themselves from pages in between. Evidence that the book has been prodded, probed, and not to mention, picked and marked for its must-try recipes. Just as I’m about to step out the door, I decide to take my camera along as well. I walk the short distance to the cozy cafe around the corner. The air is crisp and birds chirp in almost a sing-song. Finally, signs of Spring. I find myself humming along only to realize a while later, that my IPod in still in its casing in the bag’s front pocket. The song I hear and hum along to must be in my heart then.

I order myself a large cup of Mint Hot Chocolate (the best I’ve had in a long, long time), and a muffin. As I grab my cup, I spot a cozy chair at the corner by the window. Perfect, I say to myself. I set up my laptop, open my notebook to a fresh page and take out my favourite pen. I comfortably settle on the plush leather chair and browse away on my laptop. I make notes as I sip on my drink and nibble at my muffin. It’s been so long since I did it this way that I’d forgotten how much I loved it.

Minutes went by, and before I knew it, I was getting messages from my stomach. I had hardly noticed that it was almost time for lunch. I had spent the past few hours working, just doing what I considered play. An old man walked up to me and asked if I was a writer. I beamed. It’s been long since I was asked that question. I smiled and said yes, along with a few other things. I’m a writer in a more broader sense of the word, I told him. I explained to him that I write about food, simple food, exotic food, everyday food. Food that brings us comfort and pleasure, and also about food in general. I take pictures of everything I cook and most of what I eat, I photograph moments and capture memories. I create and design and make things pretty. Yes, I like having pretty things to look at.

Well then, you must be a food-artist, he said as he smiled and trailed away. Food Artist. Is that what I am? Is there even such a thing? I’d never thought of it that way. A smile lingered on my face as I packed up my things. It was time to head to my kitchen.

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Morning Blues

Coconut-Almond Banana Bread
Coconut-Almond Banana Bread

Early mornings are always a hazardous affair at my household. Both me and Hubby Dear love to hold on strongly to our last few minutes of sleep. The alarm goes off and the snooze button is banged on a few times in a row, until it’s the absolute final second. Weekends however, are a whole other story altogether. We wake up not with the shrill tone of the ringing bed-side clock, but with brightness breaking  into the room through the drapes. No one fights to be the last to remain in bed. We each take our time in dragging our sleepy bodies out if it. What we do fight over though, is the weekend paper. You know, the ones so thick with all those different sections that would take you almost all day, had you the slightest will to read it all. To be precise, the comics section is what gets our undivided, unforgiving attention.

Growing up in a family where my Dad didn’t know how to start his day without his cup of tea and the morning national headline news; a Mom who didn’t care too much about politics but try as she might, found it hard to resist a good gossip in the entertainment section; and siblings who couldn’t care less about what was happening around them except for things that involved them personally; I was all too happy to have the likes of Garfield and Peanuts discarded my way! Aah, good times.

As I grew up and moved away from home, my weekend morning ritual continued. No matter how much of a frugal college student I was, I always saved up enough to get the Sunday paper to devour over with my morning cup. But now, with Hubby Dear and his swift hand, I can only but enjoy my coffee while I wait for him to get done before I am able to get hold of my morning laughs. And if there’s banana bread to keep me company while I eye him scornfully, then even better. Aah, good times!

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Stop me…

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

… before I flood the town with cookies!Okay, so I have a disease. When I like something, and I mean, really like it, I tend to go overboard. Yes, as in waaaay overboard!So, the past few days have kept me busy with regular trips to the kitchen store to load up on parchment paper, pastry brushes, whisks of all sizes and most importantly, cookie jars!

I guess you could say I’ve caught the cookie-baking bug. I’ve been baking non-stop for the past four days, churning out tray after tray of the most delicious, chewy, melt-in-you-mouth goodies I’d have never even imagined possible by someone who doesn’t really like to bake per se.

The journey so far has been fun, and for the most part, enlightening. I figured out many short-cuts, some easy and simple substitutions, and learnt quite a few lessons the hard way over some not-so-delightful looking treats that filled my home with the whiff of burning plastic! Yes, it’s been an insightful few days, and nothing that I’d regret. Infact, I think it’s going on great and I still have the will to try out a few more of Hubby’s picks from a cookie bible I bought not so very long ago.

With my Christmas shopping all taken care of, gifts duly wrapped, labeled and strategically placed under the tree, and the home looking it’s absolute best in all Holiday slendour, I can’t help but wait to wake up on Christmas morning to the smell of fresh brewing coffee and a platter of home-made baked treats. Yes, nothing can quite beat that feeling, except, of course knowing that mine is the biggest gift under the tree this year. Now, if only I knew what it was!

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And so it begins…

… my christmas Baking marathon!

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of baking, nor have I ever attempted to turn my kitchen into a cookie workshop during Christmas time. But this time it’s going to be different. When Hubby Dear suggested that we (or rather, I!) bake cookies fresh at home this year, instead of taking a trip down the lane to our favourite Italian bakery, I was intrigued. The thought did cross my mind, several times. But the succeeding thought of being covered in flour and my oven going up in flames always scared me just a little bit. But then again, one look at his puppy face, and I couldn’t help but become compelled to at least give it one try.

Mango-Coconut Cookies

With my school finally over, I am currently enjoying the benefits of being at home. That is ofcourse, before I get into the grind of looking for a full-time job – but let’s not think about that right now and try and enjoy the moment, shall we! So, with a new found energy I decided this was goin gto be the day that would either make or break a tradition in my home. I was about to enter the realm where the aroma of freshly baked goods could be smelled in the air during the Holiday season. Mind you, if this by some grace of God turned out to be a success, I knew it would be stuck as a tradition in our home, where I would be expected to bake every Christmas!

As I sat down with a cookie bible I picked up about the same time last year, deciding on which one of the classic favourites I wanted to play with, my mind began to circle around some not-so-traditonal ideas. Another couple of minutes later, I was convinced on what I wanted. One problem was, I had no idea how to go about it. Neither had I ever eaten such a cookie, not had I heard of one. But wonder of wonders, that didn’t stop me. And boy am I glad! Needless to say, the smell of something baking in the oven was only one of it’s perks!

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Sinful Pleasures…

Let me make a confession. I am not a baker. I am not into baking, nor do I enjoy the tiresome process of folding one part of the batter into the other. Infact, the closest step I take to baking is opening a pre-packaged box of cake mix, breaking an egg or two into it as per the instructions, a spash of water as needed, and popping it into a warm oven.

Chocolate Cup Cakes

Except until I decided to throw down my shield and create this. It was simple, quick and easy – not something I can easily relate to with baking. And so today, once more, I thought of doing the unmentioned. I decided to create a recipe that wouldn’t drive me away from the oven, but instead, could be my run-to solution for a quick remedy to those sugar pangs.

For the past one week, I’ve been craving chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but those sinfuly, rich, dark, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth-rest-on-your-hips decadent chocolate cakes. And it didn’t help that all the food magazines I subscribe to (yes, all 10 of them!) were filled with the most drool enhancing photographs of chocolatey holiday treats.

Looking puppy-eyed and battling my eye lids to Hubby didn’t work either. He refused to buy me a 12-inch cake to eat all by myself (locked in a room, gorging on it with my bare hands and having cream all over my face and hands, just like in my most secret chocolate fantasy!). So I had no choice but to experiment, and that I sure did. I studied over a dozen recipes, worked out the necessary ingredients, altered the measurements and of course, simplified the process.

As I sat down and took the first bite of the warm cake, I was taken to a place I had since long yearned to go. I suggest induling in the sin fresh from the oven. The soft chocolate chips in their almost liquified form, gives the cakes a warm gooey goodness. almost to the likes of a molten chocolate interior.

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