Sunday, May 10, 2015

Healthy, Guilt-free, and Baby Friendly Chocolate Date Balls

Date balls are the ultimate paleo dessert. With no added sugar, only natural sweetness, and full of protein, these date balls take the cake when it comes to a guilt-free dessert. These are the perfect alternative when you're craving a large slice of chocolate cake to stuff your face with. Granted, not the same thing, but the added cocoa powder adds a great fudge-y flavor. I made these date balls a week ago only to watch them be demolished by S and Baby in no time! 

The date balls are so customizable. By adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder, I instantly made these date balls chocoholic friendly. I filled them with a mix of nuts and rolled them in cocoa powder, pistachio nuts powder, and coconut flakes. You can decide what nuts you want to fill your date balls with and what to roll them in. Store them refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 1 week or so. I don't think the date balls go bad, but they will lose their freshness. 

My 16 month old son loved these too (probably my favorite thing about these balls)! These are the perfect treat for baby when he doesn't want to eat anything else but you want him to have that extra boost of energy and healthy fats. Don't feed these to babies under 1 years old!! For a toddler friendly alternative, chop the nuts extremely small or exclude them completely to reduce the risk of choking. Only use nuts that you have tested for allergic reactions. You might want to leave the cocoa powder out too. 

Chocolate Date Balls
(makes around 25 balls)

1 1/3 cup of washed and pitted dates
1/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup walnuts
1-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
cocoa powder, powdered pistachio, and coconut flakes for topping

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor (except the toppings) and blend until well combined. I ended up chopping the nuts painstakingly by hand since my food processor sucks but this is supposed to be much easier than that. 

Shape the mixture into equal sized balls (I used a 1 tsp measuring spoon). 

Roll them in whatever topping you desire. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mozzarella Cheese Stuffed Meat Balls

I'm moving this week and let me just get this out there, moving with a baby is hard!  It makes me grateful for loving family and amazing friends. It's stressful times like these, moving or exams or welcoming a baby, when having frozen food can be so helpful. Frozen food just eliminates the stress of having to cook food! And any stress gone is a good thing.

So as I sit in a coffee shop, writing this blog post, since I don't have internet at my new place yet, I am grateful for these yummy meat balls in my freezer. Here's how you can make them too!

Tip on how to wash ground beef thoroughly - Put the meat in a large bowl and fill it with water until all the meat is separated. Shake it around and loosen all the particles, make sure water gets everywhere. Line a colander with 3 or 4 sheets of paper towels and pour in the meat. Let it strain for a few minutes and gently squeeze the paper towels so all the water drains out. Repeat until you think the meat is clean enough to your liking (for me one good rinse and drain is enough). This method is long but it gets all the icky blood out without getting little meat pieces stuck in your strainer!

Mozzarella Cheese Stuffed Meat Balls
(Makes around 12-16)

1 lb ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp paprika
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp water (as needed)

2 Mozzarella sticks (string cheese)
3 tbs olive oil
1 jar pasta sauce
boiled pasta

Cut the mozzarella sticks into 8 pieces each.

Mix together the first set of ingredients until fully combined. Don't be afraid to use your hands! Add water only if necessary if the mixture is too dry to shape into balls.

Next is a sweet trick on making same sized meatballs and shaping them easily. Spread the mixture into a rectangular shape. Cut 12-16 squares out of it. Press a cheese piece into the mixture. Now just roll each square into a ball! (Here is when you can freeze the meatballs. To use them, just defrost in the fridge overnight and then continue on to the next steps). 

Heat oil in a large skillet and cook meatballs on each side until fully browned, around 10 minutes. Add in the pasta sauce and simmer while covered for an additional 15 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked through. Don't worry if some cheese leaks out at this point! It's not the end of the world if it does. :)

Serve over boiled pasta and enjoy!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Raspberry-filled Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Spring has evaded us folks living in the Midwest (I refuse to call myself a Midwesterner) for a long time. And then all of a sudden, the weather reached the 50's, we started to see squirrels and hear birds chirping, and everything felt alive again. A beautiful family of cardinals made its home outside our town home. The bright red streak as the cardinals flit around is definitely a sign that spring is finally here.

To honor spring and the cute little birds outside, I made these raspberry-filled lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. These would also be great for mother's day which is coming up on May 10th! The cupcakes are a doctored cake mix recipe, which is great when you're in a pinch (or not the best baker) and it makes deliciously moist cupcakes. If you have a recipe from scratch you love, go ahead and use that. The frosting is to die for! Dye it yellow or pink for added cuteness. The raspberry jam filling adds a much appreciated sweetness to the tart of the lemon. All in all, it is a perfect combination.

Give these cupcakes a try and good luck in the kitchen!

Lemon Cupcakes
adapted from Cannellavita
(makes around 24 cupcakes)

1 package lemon cake mix
1 (3.4 oz) package instant lemon pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp lemon extract or essence (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 Fº.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and blend till fully combined. Spoon into a cupcake pan lined with liners, around 2-3 tablespoons per cup (I only needed 2). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clear. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature 
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp of lemon extract or essence

Cream the cream cheese and butter together in an electric mixer until well combined. Add in the extracts. Once combined, slowly add in powdered sugar to achieve the consistency you desire (spreadable but not too thick or runny).


around 1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
25-30 fresh raspberries, washed and dried

Create a hole in the center of the cupcake. I made mine by putting a thick chopstick in the center and turning it in circles to make the hole a little wider. Fill a ziploc bag with raspberry jam and cut a small hole at the bottom. Insert the cut end of the bag in the cupcake hole and fill the cupcake until you feel the cupcake fill out or you can see that is filled to to top of the hole.

Fit a piping bag with a 3M tip and fill with frosting. Pipe swirls or roses and top with a fresh raspberry. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Penne Chicken Tikka Masala

On my 21st birthday, S took me to a great little restaurant in Chicago called Tandoor Char House. It is a Pakistani restaurant that has some pretty unique items in the "fusion" section of their menu. "Penne tikka masala" immediately jumped out to me from the menu. I had to order it and we both fell in love at first bite.

I knew I had to recreate this recipe when S started asking for it at least once a week. So here's my take on this clever fusion dish - penne chicken tikka masala. I hope you give it a try and please share if you do! I'd love to hear from you.

Penne Chicken Tikka Masala
(serves 4-6)

1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tbs melted butter
1 tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chicken tikka masala powder (optional)

Other ingredients-
1 lb box penne pasta (I used whole grain 13.25 oz box, which was great too)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs oil
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (optional or to taste)
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup (minus the 1 tbs used in the marinade) heavy cream
1/2-1 cup of hot water (optional)
cilantro for topping
grated paneer cheese for topping (optional)

Combine the marinade ingredients together until fully combined. Stir in the chicken until fully coated. Keep covered in the fridge for 4 hours or upto overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to reach room temperature.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in a grill pan or nonstick pan. Fry the chicken pieces in it for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat or until fully cooked. Set aside.

Boil the pasta according to box directions. You want to leave it al-dente.

Melt rest of butter and oil in a large pot (I used the same one I boiled the pasta in). Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown. Add in the garlic and ginger paste and cook for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add in salt, chili powder, and cinnamon and cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly.

Add the tomato sauce and cook at a high heat for 5 minutes, constantly stirring, until the oil starts to show through. Add sugar and heavy cream and cook on a low heat, a low simmer, for 2-3 minutes. Add hot water to the pan to thin the sauce to the consistency you like. I added around 3/4 cups of water. Add the chicken and all its juices to the pan.

Cook for a few additional minutes until you are sure the chicken is fully cooked through. Add pasta back to the pan and stir until fully combined. Turn the heat to low and cover and cook for 10-15 minutes so the flavor can infuse into the pasta. Serve with cilantro and freshly grated paneer on top. 


You may also be interested in this dessert I posted a few weeks back - mango cheesecake. This was what we ordered for dessert from this restaurant. Delicious!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Asparagus, Chicken, & Quinoa Casserole

Good afternoon, lovely readers.

This blog, that I have been writing for 5 years, is a chronicle of all of my cooking adventures. I've been through quite a few phases of different styles of cooking for my family. When I was living with my parents, I shared many large, family friendly, and healthy dishes. When I got married, I started cooking a lot of "dinner for two" recipes, romantic and adventurous dishes. 

Now, I've started cooking a lot of healthy but fattening foods for my toddler that seems to live on air. These are dishes that S and I can enjoy and are very nutritious for our little one. Today's recipe is one of these dishes, something that I might cook on a week night. 

I've posted several recipes using quinoa in the past and written about its health benefits as well. One can definitely call quinoa a superfood. It is a great source of protein and vitamins and will give the little one enough energy for his whole day. You can replace asparagus with broccoli if you prefer to give the dish an additional boost of calcium, very important for little baby bones. Best part is, this recipe is baby approved! Y loved it and I'm sure you and your family will too.

So give it a try and good luck in the kitchen!

Asparagus, Chicken, & Quinoa Casserole
(Serves 6-8)

2 tbs butter
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups organic whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbs Italian seasoning
1/2 tbs cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 lb chicken, cut into small bite size pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
2/3 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Melt the butter in an oven safe pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it is well combined, no lumps. You may need to add a little bit of chicken broth  to get it to a good consistency. Cook it for an additional minute and slowly add both liquids, milk and broth, while constantly stirring so no lumps form. Add in all the seasonings to taste. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Mix all the ingredients, except cheese and bread crumbs, into the sauce until well combined.

Top with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake covered for 45 minutes until the quinoa has sprouted and uncovered for 10 minutes until cheese is golden brown. The sauce will become creamier as the quinoa absorbs it. Serve warm and enjoy!

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