Chocolate Avocado Truffles

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In parenting, some moments you just want to last forever. And others you just want to forget. The funny thing is that the line between the two is often blurred.

This week my two little boys made me this beautiful heart “sculpture” with their toy cars while arguing over who loved me more. I must say I was enjoying the conversation. At least initially. It went something like this:

20140812_124640_1– I love mommy.

– No I love mommy more!

– Well I love mommy’s hair. It’s so pretty!

– Well I love mommy’s tummy. It’s sooo soft. Just like a big pillow!

Hmmm…not the best comparison I thought, but I didn’t want to lose this loving moment we were sharing. So I justified it to myself…I mean, who doesn’t like a nice comfy pillow?

But the conversation was on a downward spiral and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It completely hit bottom when my younger one chimed in, “Awww I love it! It looks like there is a baby in mommy’s tummy!”.

And just like that, happy mommy time was officially over.

Actually I am thankful for my little guy’s astute observation of my waistline, for he forced me to realize I need to get back to my healthy eating habits which are currently on hiatus thanks to summer vacation.

Every summer we come to California to see my family and I always go overboard with all the yummy food. Vacation for me means no schedule and over indulging in everything. (Mint chocolate chip ice cream at 1am? Why yes I will have 3 scoops please!) In just 4 weeks I have seen the scale steadily creep higher and higher and my tummy get bigger and dare I say, more pillow-like.

So I decided to compromise. I will add more vegetables and make healthy choices but not deprive myself. And that is when I discovered avocado chocolate truffles. Yes, that is correct… Avocado Chocolate Truffles! All the nutrients in avocados plus all the antioxidants in dark chocolate combine to make a decadent and arguably healthy, treat. Although I won’t be on vacation forever, these truffles let me feel like I always am!

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES

20140814_181344_1INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz (Almost 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips (or use dark chocolate if you want less sweet)

½ cup mashed avocado (about 1 small avocado)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup cocoa powder, for coating. *Substitute any other coating such as ground almonds or pistachios, coconut or chocolate sprinkles

METHOD:

  1. Melt chocolate on stovetop or in microwave. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Mash avocado and vanilla with fork or handheld stick blender until smooth. (I prefer to use the hand blender so it is completely smooth)
  3. Mix avocado mixture and chocolate together with spatula and cool in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Scoop out bite size pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each piece into a ball and drop into bowl of cocoa powder. Roll around to coat. ( Instead of cocoa powder, you can use shredded coconut or chopped pistachios, rainbow sprinkles or anything you like.) Store in the refrigerator, but you can eat them at room temperature.

Pantry Diva Notes:

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Use a handheld blender to get the avocado really smooth

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Mix the avocado, vanilla, and chocolate well before chilling in refrigerator.

**By the way, these are super easy to make and fun to make with the kids! Just try not to eat them all at once!

Recipe inspired by the Detoxinista

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Barbecue Delights in Downtown Dubai and Banjan Borani (Afghani Eggplant) Recipe

Being a food blogger definitely has its perks, and one of them is receiving invitations to fabulous foodie events around town. Barbecue Delights, a restaurant specializing in Pakistani, Afghani, and North Indian cuisines, was hosting a lunch at their newest location in Downtown Dubai, and I was one of the lucky food bloggers invited.

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Barbecue Delights downtown location

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Upon walking into the restaurant, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful artwork on the walls, inspired by the colorful way in which trucks are designed in Pakistan. The restaurant had commissioned an artist from Pakistan who makes “Truck Art,” and he flew all the way to Dubai to see the panels fitted together and mounted on the wall. The finished result is striking.

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Beautiful “Truck Art”

On a side note, my husband is Pakistani. When I visited Pakistan, I loved seeing all the colorful busses and trucks driving around, and was constantly pointing out how beautiful they were. I even bought a postcard with the colorful trucks on it, much to the amusement of my local Pakistani family. So seeing the “truck art” on the wall was a fun (and beautiful) reminder of those memories.

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So back to the meal. After being seated we were welcomed with a refreshing beverage of green mango blended with cumin while we perused the menu’s selection of appetizers which were about to arrive. The starters were a Rocca Salad, both Aloo and Keema naan, and an Afghani Mutton Rosh, which is a hearty stew of mutton, vegetables and aromatic spices.

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Afghani Mutton Rosh

After the appetizers, came a selection of naan and barbecue items such as Malai Boti, Gola Kabob, and Hara Fish, boneless cubes of fish marinated in fresh herbs. But the real star of this course was the Mutton Ribs, a fall-off-the bone tender rack of mutton steamed and grilled in a rich and spicy marinade. I was told Barbecue Delights sources all of their mutton from Pakistan from the best high quality suppliers. The ribs were a testament to that quality.

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Malai Boti, Boneless chicken marinated in cream, milk, and herbs and spices

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Although I was stuffed at this point, I realized the main courses still hadn’t been served. Before I knew it, Chicken Karahi, Prawn Masala,  Afghani Pulao, Daal, and Banjan Borani was placed before me. The Banjan Borani seemed to be the blogger favorite of the afternoon. It is an Afghani eggplant dish, with a garlicky yoghurt and tomato sauce. It has simple yet bold flavors and an elegant presentation. I have written the recipe at the end of the post so you can create your own Banjan Borani at home.

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After the mains we finally moved on to dessert of jalebi, kheer and pistachio ice cream. I cannot end any meal without dessert, even a very very large filling one, so I gobbled a few jalebi before leaving, loving the sticky sweetness of every bite. As we left, we received a beautiful parting gift of a colorful little rickshaw so I can showcase a little “truck art” style at home.

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Barbecue Delights Locations:

Downtown Dubai-Clarens Building

Mohd Bin Rashid Boulevard (formerly Emaar Boulevard)

Tel: 04 4343 443

 The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence

Adjacent to Sofitel Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 4230632

Lamcy Square, Oud Mehta Road

Near Movenpick Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 3359868/69

Note: I was a guest at a lunch hosted by Barbecue Delights. Some of the images in this post are from Barbecue Delights

Barbecue Delight’s Banjan Borani – Afghani Eggplant RecipeImage

INGREDIENTS:

500g (About 1 pound) Eggplants, cut into round slices

500g (About 1 pound) Yoghurt

15g (1 tablespoon) Garlic paste

5g (½ teaspoon) Cumin seeds

5-10g (1-2 teaspoons) Olive oil

100g (about ½ cup) Tomato paste

15g (1 tablespoon) vinegar

Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Coriander for garnish

Olive oil/Cooking oil for frying

PREPARATION:

1. Fry OR bake eggplant slices until cooked.

If frying, heat oil in pan and fry on both sides for a couple minutes until cooked.

If baking, brush each side of eggplant slice with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt. Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes each side or until done. Remove and cool.

2.  Add garlic paste into yoghurt. Saute cumin seeds in oil and add into yoghurt. Mix well.

3. Mix tomato paste and vinegar in a small bowl.

4. Spread a layer of yoghurt on serving dish. Place cooked eggplant slices on yoghurt. Spread the tomato paste mixture on top of eggplant slices. Add a bit of yoghurt on eggplant. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Baked Spinach, Feta, and Sundried Tomato Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Sometimes it’s hard having a different opinion than the rest of the group. This is especially true in the food world. For example, try telling a chocoholic you don’t like chocolate and they will start to question your character.  What do you mean you don’t like chocolate? What kind of person are you??

Usually food preference is pretty subjective but some foods are so widely loved that expressing dislike towards them causes anger. I have somehow provoked outrage when I told people I didn’t like jello, or doughnuts, or scones, or even coffee. Sometimes I really want to like something because everyone else does, but my stubborn taste buds just won’t do it. Such was the case with quinoa.

It was initially just a food trend, but over the past few years quinoa has slowly become a food staple, and for a few years I have been trying to make it palatable. After every unsuccessful quinoa dish, I plan to never eat it again, but then I am bombarded with people raving about its’ great health benefits, and I find myself trying to cook it again.

This time I vowed not to listen to anyone anymore. But some voices you cannot ignore, such as the voices of your close family and friends. Every time I post anything about quinoa on facebook, it always gets more likes, more comments and more recipe requests than any other dish. So I decided to try quinoa one more time. My solution was to make a dish with enough additional ingredients to mask the quinoa “look” and a dipping sauce to mask the quinoa flavor. This scenario worked well for me as I get a nutritious meal with minimal quinoa flavor and my quinoa-hungry Khana Mama fans get a recipe with their apparently favorite ingredient.

Now if only I can find a way to make my kids eat it…

Baked Spinach, Feta, and Sundried Tomato Quinoa cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce


Ingredients for Quinoa Cakes:
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooked as per package instructions
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned, rinsed chickpeas ok)
5 oz fresh baby spinach, sautéed and chopped with excess water squeezed out OR 1 cup frozen chopped spinach thawed with excess water squeezed out
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup feta cheese
1 small finely chopped onion
4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1-2 tsp cumin to taste
Cayenne to taste

PREPARATION for Quinoa Cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Spray nonstick spray on cooking sheet.
2. If using fresh spinach, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Drain in colandar and squeeze out excess water. When drained completely, chop.
OR
Defrost frozen chopped spinach and squeeze water out with paper towel.
3. Coarsely mash chickpeas in food processor. Add in sundried tomatoes, spinach, feta, garlic, onions, and coriander and mix in food processor until combined.
4. Combine egg, flour, tahini and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in COOKED quinoa and spices. Stir in remaining ingredients from food processor then mix (or mash) together until mixture is firm enough to shape in little patties.
5. Shape mixture into 1/4 cup patties and put on cookie sheet. Patties should not be too flat, and they will bake to the shape you leave them in.
6. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes then flip patties and bake another 10- 15 minutes or until brown and lightly crisp.
Serve with red pepper sauce.

INGREDIENTS For Roasted Pepper Sauce:

3-4 peeled roasted bell peppers NOTE: I like to use a combo of red, orange and yellow. (Peppers from a jar ok or you can roast them yourself: Just put them on baking sheet for 30-40 mins at 225C, remove from oven and cover with foil until cooled, then peel and throw away seeds)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1-2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Cayenne, if desired

PREPARATION For Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
1. Puree all ingredients listed for sauce in a food processor.
If you have extra sauce, it is great on burgers, quesadillas, crackers, or really anything!

Vegetable Pakoras with Coriander and Mint Chutney

I remember the day my foodie 3 year old became a food enemy.  Before that day, I smugly grinned while other mothers talked about resorting to feeding their kids plain boiled pasta for days.  I scoffed at Annabel Karmel’s cookbooks that talked about the need for special recipes to feed fussy toddlers. As my kids ate their edamame and chicken satay, I thought I missed out on the picky food phase and even had the nerve to think it was because my superior cooking skills.

But then it happened. I had made a huge meal of vegetable pakoras, chicken curry, and masoor daal. These were things my son had previously eaten and liked. But instead of eating my food, he chose to have raisins and string cheese for dinner. I thought maybe he wasn’t feeling well. The next day I made some chicken nuggets and french fries (both baked but still very yummy) and he didn’t even try them!! Eating habits like that can drive any cook to insanity.

I then thought about how I always ate everything I was given when I was a child. But then slowly, little details began popping up in my mind suggesting otherwise. One example was during a vacation in India with my family. We were on an extensive tour of Jaipur, Agra and Rajasthan and between sightseeing, had dined at many amazing restaurants which offered numerous varieties of delicious food. But no matter what the dish was, for some reason all I wanted to eat were pakoras and Pepsi. Day after day, I turned away many beautiful dishes to the wrath of all servers and family members and was branded an ungrateful wretch.

So much good food to experience but all I could eat were pakoras and Pepsi for 2 weeks! My parents must have been as annoyed with me as I am now when my kids don’t eat what they are supposed to. It’s interesting how life comes full circle.

Vegetable Pakoras with Coriander and Mint Chutney



Ingredients:
3 cups Chickpea Flour (Besan)* Usually found in the Indian section of grocery store
1-2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 large potato, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 bunch green onions, chopped
5 red Indian onions, peeled and cut in long slices
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 bunch spinach, chopped
Vegetable Oil for frying

Preparation:
1. Add first 4 ingredients to create pakora batter. Add additional water as necessary. Mix well in large bowl so batter becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you are not sure with the consistency, thicker is better than runny. Let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Add all vegetables to batter until well mixed. (The vegetables should be LIGHTLY coated. The vegetables are the stars, not the batter. It may look like the batter is not enough, but as long as there is enough batter to coat all the veggies you will be fine. This light coating ensures crisp pakoras and not heavy soggy oily ones. )
3. Heat oil until hot. Fry pakoras by sprinkling by hand into hot oil. Do not drop a big blob of batter into the pan but instead sprinkle and spread evenly as a thin layer in the oil. Fry until golden brown.
4. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm with coriander and mint chutney.   

Devilled Eggs

I don’t like eggs. Not runny, not scrambled, not fried, not sunny side up. Yet today was the second time in my life that I found myself faced with a multitude of hard boiled eggs. Last time, I had no idea what to do with them, but this time I was prepared.

My first egg dilemma was when we visited my husband’s village one winter in Punjab. We went to someone’s house for tea. I was pregnant and starving and sitting awkwardly in my salwar kameez. Our host started to pass out some food on a huge platter. When she came to serve me I was shocked to find about 50 perfectly arranged hard boiled eggs. I didn’t want to offend the host, but I definitely didn’t want to eat a plain boiled egg either. So, I just sat there petrified staring blankly. Luckily the chai came and the host moved on to the next person and I was saved from my bad egg etiquette.

Today is the day after Easter. I opened the refrigerator and found all the decorated boiled eggs waiting to be eaten.  I again stared blankly at them but this time no chai appeared to magically whisk them away. These eggs were here to stay unless I did something to them. I quickly scanned the ingredients I had and made some devilled eggs.  They were hella good. 😉

Devilled Eggs



INGREDIENTS:

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or any you prefer)
Splash of worcestershire sauce
Sriracha hot sauce (or any you prefer)
Smoked paprika for garnish
Chives or green onion, chopped finely for garnish

PREPARATION:

1. Cut boiled and peeled eggs in half. Put all egg yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.

2. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, worcestershire, sriracha and mix well. Adjust quantities to taste. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

3.  Put all egg yolk mixture in a piping bag and pipe back into the egg white halves. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can just cut a corner off of a Ziploc plastic bag, or just spoon the mixture back into the egg white halves.

4. Garnish with smoked paprika and chives.

The variations of devilled eggs are endless. I just used what I had in my refrigerator, but you can use anything. Be creative! Would love to hear about it!

Jalapeno Sweet Corn Muffins

I love jalapenos. Growing up in California, they were always around. Even as a kid I loved jalapeno poppers and jalapeno chips. During my second pregnancy, I had such a strong craving that I almost ate an entire jar of pickled jalapenos in one sitting.

I especially love how jalapenos add a little kick to many foods such as burgers, salads, or in this case sweet corn muffins. These muffins cannot be made at a bake sale and left out for hours waiting to be devoured. These muffins need to be eaten fresh out of the oven, sliced open while still steaming, and topped with a nice pat of butter. Or some fresh grated cheddar. Or both. Or eat just as is. Either way you will not be disappointed.

Jalapeno Sweet Corn Muffins



Makes about 18 muffins, Inspired by original recipe by Albers

INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2⁄3  cup granulated sugar
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup pickled jalapeno, chopped fine (more or less to taste)

PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F Grease or paper-line 18 to 20 muffin cups, or a pan for cornbread.

2. Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

3. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and butter in small bowl; mix well.

4. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture; stir until just blended.

5. Pour into prepared muffin cups filling 2/3 full.

6. Sprinkle chopped jalapeno pieces on top of each muffin. Remember a little goes a long way if you are using really spicy jalapenos!

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm and enjoy!

Aloo Tikki with Coriander and Mint Chutney

My son’s current favorite bedtime story is the Gingerbread Man. He especially loves the part “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  So when he asked if we could make our own gingerbread man I happily agreed. After quickly finding a recipe online and scanning the cupboard to make sure we had all the ingredients, we started. 

As we were rolling out the dough I noticed one item I did not check I had: the gingerbread man cookie cutter. Not wanting to alarm my adoring spectator I decided to cut out the gingerbread men freestyle with a knife. This task was not as easy as it would seem. Each gingerbread man came out more deformed than the next, with lopsided or broken limbs or with heads growing out of arms. None of them seemed like they could run like the one from the story, or even limp for that matter. Nonetheless, after they were baked and decorated, my 3 year old loved them all. Whew!

So after that ordeal, I needed something easy to make for dinner. I decided to make aloo tikkis since they are easy to shape (round!). Again I didn’t anticipate one small detail: everyone in my house likes to eat them differently.

1. I prefer my tikki slightly warmed with a side of green chutney mixed with a splash of kechup.

2. My husband makes a sandwich with a cheese bread roll, the bottom slice spread with green chutney and ketchup. He then adds a layer of crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos and then smashes the tikki on top. He covers the top slice spread with mayonnaise.

3. My one year old likes aloo tikki in a bowl with yogurt and ketchup all mashed together.

4. My three year old didn’t even eat one bite since he was so full with gingerbread men :).

I love how the simplest dish can be enjoyed different ways. I am already imagining tomorrow’s chutney sandwiches I am going to be making with the leftovers….

Aloo Tikki with Coriander and Mint Chutney



INGREDIENTS for Aloo Tikki:

3 large potatoes – boiled with skins on, then peeled
1-2  teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 chopped green chili (I leave this out when I make for kids)
½ teaspoon red chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch chopped fresh coriander
1 bunch chopped green onion
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
**Note all spices can be adjusted to taste.

PREPARATION For Aloo Tikki:

1. Mash potatoes in large bowl, when potatoes are still slightly warm. Add all spices and chopped coriander,  green onion and green chili if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust spices and salt if necessary.

2. Shape the mixture into 3” flat rounds. Makes about 8-10 tikkis.

3. Beat 2 eggs in bowl and keep aside.

4. Lightly coat frying pan with cooking oil. Keep on medium high heat.

5. Take one potato round, dip in egg, then put in hot frying pan. Fry 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat  with remaining rounds.

6. Serve with coriander and mint chutney. Recipe below
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INGREDIENTS for Coriander and Mint Chutney:

1 ½ bunch coriander
½ cup mint leaves
¾  cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 green chili (optional)
Red chili powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)

PREPARATION for Coriander and Mint  Chutney:

1. Put all items into a blender and blend into a fine liquid. Taste and adjust spices if necessary.