Thursday, January 17, 2013


Friday, November 30, 2012

Marbled Brownies

At home I am constantly reminded to make “healthy” cakes and cookies.  “Healthy” refers to not using butter or sugar.  When these are replaced with substitutes like oil or honey, then I am told that the cakes are not as spongy or not as enticing as they should be.  You cannot have it all people – make up your minds.  Apparently they cannot – so I switch between creating healthy and scrumptious desserts.

I remember a colleague of mine once said, “a dessert is a dessert if after eating you think you have committed a sin.”  What he meant was that it will be so full of butter and chocolate and all those flavors and ingredients you try to avoid for a healthy heart and weight, that you think you have sinned after you have finished enjoying it.  This is what I did the other day – created a dessert with chocolates and cheese and butter – a touch of heaven when put to your lips and sheer guilt after you have finished and contemplating another piece.  And then you head to serve yourself the next piece of moist and creamy brownie brushing away any thoughts of guilt by convincing yourself you will exercise longer or eat less the next day.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Makes 12                                      

120 grams semi sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
120 grams cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
½  cup chopped walnuts (optional)
½ teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.  
  2. Use a fork or electric mixer to cream the remaining butter with the cream cheese and ½ cup of the sugar.  Beat in one of the eggs.  Stir in the tablespoon of flour, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the vanilla.  
  3. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the remaining eggs until thick; gradually add the remaining sugar and beat until quite thick.  
  4. Combine the chocolate and 3 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally.  When the chocolate is just about melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.  Keep aside
  5. I another bowl, mix together the baking powder, salt and remaining flour.  Gently stir into the beaten egg mixture from above.
  6. Add the melted chocolate mixture, nuts if using, almond extract, and remaining vanilla to this. 
  7. Spread half the chocolate mixture in the bottom of the baking pan; top with the cream cheese mixture, and the remaining chocolate mixture.  Swirl through all with a rubber spatula to create a marbled effect.  
  8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until just barely set in the middle.  Cool on a rack before cutting.  Store covered and refrigerated for no more than a day, if you still have something remaining.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tomatoes, Corn and Capsicum on Crisp Toast

Every time I visit Italy, I fall more in love with the food over there.  The freshness of the vegetables, the passion with which food is prepared and eaten never fails to surprise me.  Even simple everyday food seems to be so special – wonders are created with the humble tomato, some basil and olive oil and seasonings.  Lip smacking pasta is created with sprinklings of olive oil, pepper and salt. 

Bruschetta consists of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Depending on the region, the toppings could have fresh tomatoes and basil, salami or mozzarella.  I tried to use the bruschetta to make my own topping – a topping consisting of more veggies and it was an instant hit with the children and husband.  I cooked up all the vegetables whereas a typical bruschetta consists of mainly uncooked ingredients.    Actually we ended up eating only bruschetta for dinner even though there was a pot of hot stew ready to be eaten in the oven. 

I used whatever was available at home to prepare this recipe.  I am sure you could substitute it with any other vegetables or toppings you have available at the time of preparation.  I was able to get some bruschetta bread from the super market, but it can be substituted with any bread – the secret is toasting the bread well before adding the topping or you can end up with some soggy bread that can be inedible. 

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6                                        


1 large yellow onions, finely diced
50 grams unsalted butter
2 green capsicums, finely diced and deseeded
2 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed from the cob
2 large red tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons gherkins, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
6 slices buttered crisp toast or bruschetta
A few sprigs of coriander to garnish
Sprinkling of olive oil


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan.  
  2. Add the onions and cook without coloring for five minutes.  
  3. Season well with salt and pepper according to taste.  
  4. Add the prepared tomatoes and capsicum along with the nutmeg and sugar.  Continue cooking over gentle flame until the tomatoes are well-reduced – say about 20 minutes.  
  5. Stir in the corn and let it simmer in the covered saucepan for a further 10 minutes.  
  6. Serve with hot buttered toast or toasted bruschetta and garnish with the coriander leaves and some sprinkling of olive oil.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spiced Chickpeas {Chana Masala}

Whenever I am at a loss as to what to cook, I soak up some lentils or legume, pressure cook them and then add some spices and voila – a healthy vegetarian dish for the family is ready within minutes.  I almost never use the canned version of legumes.  With a bit of planning, I soak them in the morning before I leave to work, and back in the evening I give them a quick boil in the pressure cooker or vessel and freeze whatever is left for next time when my planning is not so good or I forget to soak them in the morning.

Chickpeas can be very versatile – I use them in soups to thicken it, in vegetables to increase the quantity or then on their own to make savory snacks or meals like the one below.  When I have guests who like Indian flavors, I make the dish below and garnish some raw onions, tomatoes and boiled potatoes and a dash of lemon juice to add some fresh flavors and colors to the dish.  Here I simply garnished with coriander and a bit of mint for my taste.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes + overnight soaking
Serves: 4

1 cup chick peas
1 large red tomato
1 green chili
1” piece ginger
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 onion
A pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon corn oil


  1. Wash and soak the chick peas overnight in water.  Pressure cook for 15 minutes in 2 cups of water.  
  2. Wash and grind the onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, green chili and 2 tablespoons coriander leaves to a paste.  
  3. Heat oil in a vessel and when hot, add the bay leaves.  
  4. Now add the ground paste and fry for 5 minutes.  
  5. Now add the chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, salt and sugar.  Also add the coriander powder and mix well.  
  6. Stir for a couple of minutes more and add the chick peas along with the water.  Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes.  
  7. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.