Simple, Homemade Chocolate Pudding

Simple, basic, feel-good recipe for homemade Chocolate pudding made quickly in 10 minutes using milk, cocoa powder and cornstarch to thicken.

Simple, Homemade Chocolate Pudding made in 10 Minutes Flat

Serves 6 (Go easy on the servings unless you plan to make it the main course!)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 cups milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter

White Chocolate Shavings for Garnish (optional)

Chocolate Pudding in Cups

Chocolate Pots de Crème

How to:

1. Mix the first 4 ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and mix well.

2. Now add 1/2 cup milk to the dry mixture and mix thoroughly to get as smooth a mixture as possible. DO NOT HEAT YET.

3. Add the remaining milk 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Still, do not turn on the heat yet.

4. Now, place the saucepan over a medium flame and stir continuously for 6-8 minutes until the mixture coats the back of your spoon.

5. Turn off the flame, stir in the butter and allow the pudding mixture to cool and thicken. The pudding will form a darker film on top. Just mix it back into the pudding by giving it a good stir.

6. Serve warm or chilled garnished with white chocolate shavings.

Chocolate Pudding Recipe

My Secret to Making Lump-Free Pudding/Sauces

The first 3 steps are crucial to the recipe as they result in a lump-free pudding. Often, thickening agents like cornstarch are mixed with a little cold milk and then added to boiling milk which causes lumps more often than not. I was ‘initiated’ to the process of making lump-free sauces at a cooking class I took where my teacher demonstrated a different process for making a ‘white sauce’ (bechamel). Instead of stirring in milk, she mixed the thickening agent in cold milk and gave it a good mix. After that, it was only a few minutes on the stove before the milk thickened into a beautiful lump-free sauce.

I have done the same here – mixed all the dry, powder ingredients with cold milk and mixed them well and then heated the milk mixture. It works for me everytime and I am sure you will find it easier to make lump-free sauces with this method.

Egg Free Irish Soda Bread

The basic recipe for a simple Irish Soda Bread has lately been turned into a more decadent version with raisins and caraway seeds. Usually, eggs are also added to make this versatile tea bread richer. Here I have for you an egg-free version of the Spotted Dog (with raisins) Irish Soda Bread, just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day!

Egg Free Irish Soda Bread Spotted Dog

My first ever Google+ Hangout was hosted by Brooks Walker of CakeWalkr.com on Making Irish Soda Bread. It is his recipe that I have tweaked to make my own egg-free version. There are also a couple of minor changes in the quantity of ingredients that I felt were necessary as I examined my dough at various stages.

Soda breads do not require yeast and are fairly easy to make. The Irish Soda bread tastes like a Scone and beneath its thick, golden crust lies a beautifully moist interior – dotted with beautiful raisins in my case.

Irish Soda Bread

Click Here to see Brooks recipe. My recipe is almost exactly the same except for:

1. I used Egg Replacer Powder equivalent of 1 egg to replace the egg.

2. I used 7 tablespoons of butter as opposed to the 6 mentioned in the original recipe since my dough would not hold well. I test my dough by holding it tight in my palm after I have mixed in the butter. If the dough takes the shape of my palm, it is done. If it does not, it needs more shortening.

3. I was out of caraway seeds, so I skipped them.

4. My dough required more liquid, so I ended up using 1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk.

Sliced Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

I baked two loaves from this recipe. Which means we had 2 hours of divine smells coming from the kitchen (you know – the kind when you bake something with cinnamon in it). The first one did not last long after it came out from the oven. The second, we served with softened butter and marmalade and it tasted equally heavenly! The gorgeously rustic loaf was cut into thick slices that we slathered with salted butter and orange marmalade.

You can serve it with your favorite tea for a perfect teatime snack on St. Patrick’s Day or any other day throughout the year! And check out Brooks Walker on Google Plus. He hosts regular hangouts that food lovers wouldn’t want to miss.

Of Lemons, Scrubbing, Waxed and Unwaxed

Many recipes call for scrubbed lemons. What exactly are they referring to? I will explain in simple terms what it means to scrub a lemon and if it is necessary at all to do so.

Why Lemons need to be scrubbed

Do You Need to Scrub a Lemon before Using it?

The answer is:

YES, if

  1. You need to use the rind in your recipe
  2. You bought waxed lemons

Although scrubbing them does involve the risk of washing away some of their nutrients.

NO, if

  1. You need only the juice, and not the rind
  2. You bought lemons clearly labeled ‘unwaxed’
  3. You grow your own lemons

In the above 3 cases, you only need to rinse them well, like you would any other fruits and veggies.

Why are Lemons ‘Waxed’ in the first place?

Most lemons are waxed to preserve their freshness for a longer time. So, if you are buying a lemon for its juice, it would be a great idea to buy a waxed lemon since it will keep longer. The wax used is edible and does not do any harm but I’d rather scrub it off (along with other pesticides and chemicals sprayed on it). Waxed lemons can stay fresh for 2-3 weeks whereas the unwaxed will stay only for a week or so.

How to Scrub Lemons

Rinse all the lemons with hot water and give them a real scrub using a brush. Finally, rinse them with cold water. Dry naturally or use paper towels. If you have kids around, give them the job of scrubbing. They will enjoy doing it more than you do.

As I mentioned above, scrubbing does involve the risk of losing some essential oils on the skin of the lemon. Buying unwaxed lemons or growing your own (or having a friend who does) are the only ways that will give you the best of both worlds. And while you are still at it, it would be a good idea to know that these facts hold true for all citrus fruits.

Egg Free Chocolate Walnut Cake

There is something so comforting about the classic, un-pretentious, homemade chocolate cake that I would, at any given time, trade a fancy plate of dessert for a generous slice of a rich and moist chocolate cake. Add to it walnuts – and you have a winning combination! The chocolate-raisin pair is good for chocolates, but for chocolate cakes, my first choice is sure to remain walnuts. Here’s my recipe, just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Heart shaped Chocolate Walnut Cake for Valentine's Day

All You Need is Love,
But a Little Chocolate Now and Then Doesn’t Hurt
– Charles M. Schulz

Being a lacto-vegetarian who loves to bake, my pantry almost always has an egg replacer powder as a staple. But this particular chocolate recipe does not call for it. The rich condensed milk makes the cake super moist and the cake rises beautifully.

What You Will Need:

Wet Ingredients:

  1. Condensed Milk – 14 oz /400 ml can
  2. Melted White Butter – 8 tbsp
  3. Water or Milk – 10 tbsp (or more if required to attain the desired consistency of the batter)
  4. Vanilla – 1 tsp

Dry Ingredients:

  1. Flour – 1-1/2 cups
  2. Cocoa Powder – 1/2 cup
  3. Baking Powder – 2 tsp
  4. Salt – a pinch
  5. Walnuts, broken into small pieces – 3/4 cup

Chocolate Walnut Cake Slices

How to:

I have broken down the ingredients into dry and wet ingredients to make it super simple to make this cake.

1. Mix all the wet ingredients and beat well using a spatula or an electric beater or a stand mixer.

2. Place a sieve over the bowl containing your wet ingredients. Add all the dry ingredients, except the walnuts into the sieve and then sieve them into the wet ingredients. Beat well to mix.

3. Fold in the walnuts.

4. Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake in a pre-heated oven on 320°F or 160°C for 40-50 minutes or until done.

5. The recipe halves and doubles very well should you need to change the proportions.

6. Cool and dust cake with sieved fine sugar to serve.

Vegetable Au Gratin

‘Vegetable Au Gratin’ is a dish of French origins where assorted vegetables are mixed with white sauce and topped with butter, cheese and bread crumbs. This is my twist to the original recipe, as my kids like to have it. I use a little oregano and chives to slightly ‘Italianize’ the flavor of the white sauce because that’s the way my kids like it. And I love to top it with extra cheese because my kids love cheese! This is what I love about cooking. You can always experiment with the recipe and come up with something that your family loves to eat!

Vegetable Au Gratin

Ingredients

  1. 500 grams (3-1/2 cups) of chopped assorted vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Peas, Green Beans, Bell Peppers, Baby Corn, Mushrooms, Asparagus, etc). Use whatever you like.
  2. 20 grams (1 tbsp) butter
  3. Italian Seasonings like Oregano, Chives, Paprika, etc. Again use flavors that you like.

For the sauce

  1. 50 (2 oz) grams butter.
  2. 50 (2 oz) grams flour
  3. 500 ml milk (approx. 17 oz)
  4. 100  (4 oz) grams cheese
  5. Salt to taste
  6. Oregano, Chives, White Pepper for seasoning.

For the topping

  1. 200  (8 oz) grams grated cheese
The beautifully baked Veg Au Gratin

The beautifully browned and crisped cheese topping

Method

To prepare the vegetables:

Wash the chopped vegetables and boil them for 3 minutes in enough boiling water to cover them. The vegetables should be al-dente, and not over cooked. Drain the vegetables and keep aside.

Vegetables in White Sauce

In a frying pan melt 20 grams butter, and lightly saute the boiled vegetables for about 2 minutes. Season with Oregano, Chives and Pepper or Paprika. Remove to a bowl.

To prepare the white sauce:

In a sauce pan, melt 50 grams butter. Add 50 grams white flour to the butter and combine the two over low heat. This mixture of butter and flour is called a ‘Roux’. Keep stirring the roux till the flour is cooked and no longer smells raw. Make sure the flour does not turn brown or burn. Take the sauce pan off the heat.

Now add 500 ml milk slowly to the roux, stirring continuously so as not to form any lumps. After you have added all the milk, place the saucepan on medium heat again and bring the sauce to a boil. Add 100 grams grated cheese. Add salt, oregano, chives, paprika and any other seasonings you like. Keep stirring the sauce so as not to form any lumps. Cook the sauce for 2 minutes or until the roux, milk and cheese are completely melted into a thick sauce. The sauce for the Au Gratin should be thick, and should coat your finger thickly without dripping.

To assemble

Vegetable Au Gratin

Pour the white sauce over the boiled and sauteed vegetables, and mix till all the vegetables are evenly coated. Lightly grease a baking dish with butter. Spoon the vegetables in white sauce into the baking dish. I spooned them directly into several aluminum foil dishes since I had to give them away to friends and family. We have plenty of takers for this dish here!

Vegetable Au Gratin

Now top with 200 grams grated cheese so that the vegetables are entirely covered with a layer of cheese. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or till the top cheese layer turns light brown. Keep an eye on the oven to make sure the cheese does not burn. Adjust the time according to your oven.

Vegetable Au Gratin

My kids love to gorge on this soul satisfying Vegetable Au Gratin! You can serve slices of buttered and grilled garlic bread with the Vegetable Au Gratin. It is, though, a complete one-dish meal. In my home, we eat it all by itself, and we never have leftovers!

Easy, DIY Angry Birds Playable Birthday Cake

Here’s a very simple way to make a ‘Playable’ Angry Birds Cake. I did for my daughter’s 6th birthday. It is pretty simple as I was looking for a cake that did not exhaust me since I had a newborn to take care of.

Step 1. Preparing a Long Base

Create a long rectangular cake base. I baked a total of 3 rectangular cakes and made 2 layers using 1+1/2 cakes for each layer as seen in the image below.

 Preparing a long rectangle sheet cake

This was he first layer. I moistened it with pineapple juice (reserved from the can) and spread cream frosting on this. Then, I topped with another 1+1/2 cake. I got so caught up working on it, I forgot to take pictures. But I am sure you get the general idea. The 1+1/2 was only to increase the length of the cake.

Step 2. Angry Birds Cake Topper

I made the ‘Pigs’ using homemade rolled fondant tinted green. The rest of the birds and the slingshot came from this game purchased on eBay that we also gave as party favors.

Angry Birds Game Cake Toppers

Step 3. Decorating the Cake

Frost the prepared cake in green. Place chocolate bars to create the logs. Do not press them down into the cake or they won’t fall off when hit with the slingshot. Instead, just fix them on the surface with a dab of buttercream frosting. Place green fondant ‘pigs’ in different positions. A small square block of brown fondant was used to create the TNT boxes.

DIY, Playable, Easy Angry Birds Birthday Cake

Finally, fix the slingshot firmly at the top end of the cake and place the birds in a line, waiting for their turn.

Step 4: Play, Don’t Cut!

The birthday girl was told that she could only get a piece of her cake after she toppled at least something on the ‘cake game’. Once she was done, the logs were put back together and the other kids took turns playing the ‘Angry Birds’ game on the cake.

Playable Angry Birds Cake

This was the first party where the kids wanted to delay cutting the cake for as long as we allowed them to!

Sanika’s No-Bake Cranberry Bars

Little Chef Sanika got tired of Mamma asking her not go near the oven or the gas stove, and asked for a recipe that needed no cooking or baking. I modified a Dr. Oz recipe for healthy and nutritious no-bake bars that she made which turned out really good and made her a star at school. All her friends are in awe and she plans to take a cooking class for them soon!

No Bake Cranberry, Oatmeal and Peanut Butter Bars

These yummy bars are actually certified by Dr. Oz as healthy and nutritious and have no sugar added to them. Kids will love to make these as it takes nothing more than mixing dried cranberries, peanut butter and quick-cooking oats together and setting in the refrigerator. They need a few hours in the refrigerator, though, but keep well at room temperature after that.

The Recipe

Here’s the recipe Sanika used:

No-Bake Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Cranberry Bars Recipe

Sanika took down the recipe for her own recipe book. Art is always going to be her first love and I love the way she uses her talent to quickly sketch between her recipes. Reminds me of the ‘Jamie at Home’ recipe book in the show.

About the Ingredients:

1. Peanut Butter may be substituted with Almond Butter if your child is allergic.

2. The original recipe calls for tart cherries instead of cranberries so you can substitute that.

3. I would increase the quantity of the cranberries next time.

4. We used maple syrup, but honey will do just fine.

5. Sanika’s ‘tip’ about ‘roasting if it is old’ relates to the fact that I roasted the oats since they were a little dated.

6. You could sweeten them if you want. We just kept them this way.

Directions:

Just mix everything together, press in a rectangular pan, refrigerate for 4-5 hours, slice and store.

It takes time to mix the ingredients for the kids (peanut butter being involved), but let them do it at their own pace and they end up mixing it quite well.

Makes: Approx. 8 Bars depending upon the size of the pan you use

Storage: They have lasted a week at room temperature and could last more since none of the ingredients need to be refrigerated. Anyways, they are gone pretty quickly so you probably won’t need to store them longer.

 

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Caramelized Orange Jelly

Rich, creamy Panna Cotta is a lovely Italian dessert that stands out proudly among complicated desserts. This easy and no-fuss dessert can, however, be jazzed up a little for your dinner table by layering it up with whatever color you wish to add to your table. There are endless number of combinations that would go well with a basic Vanilla Panna Cotta. I made use of the abundant oranges my city is famous for, but not before treating them for a sweeter tooth.

A basic Orange Jelly sounded too simple. Adding bits of caramelized orange segments to it makes it much more interesting. The caramelized oranges turn a shade darker and lend a beautiful color to the jelly. The reserved caramel poured upon the unmolded layers of Panna Cotta and Jelly makes for a great sauce for this beautiful winter dessert.

Caramelised Orange Jelly Panna Cotta

Caramelised Orange Jelly Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

“Panna Cotta” simply means “cooked cream” if translated from Italian. A more exact way of describing it would be ‘gelled, cooked cream”. The simplest way to make Panna Cotta is to heat cream and sugar in the proportion of 1:8 and add a gelling agent like gelatin or agar-agar to it and allow to set. That’s all there really is to making the perfect Panna Cotta! Adding any flavor like a Vanilla bean is also equally easy as you will see in my recipe.

Cooking with Gelatin/Agar-Agar

The general rule of thumb when creating perfectly ‘set’ desserts is to use 1 envelope/sachet of the gelling agent for 500 ml (about 2 cups) of any liquid. Here, I used 1 sachet, divided, to set 250 ml of cream and 250 ml of orange juice. Any other additions to the above are completely optional and as long as you do this step correctly, you will end up with a good looking dessert every time.

Caramelizing Oranges

There are many ways of caramelizing oranges, but the basics always remain that sugar is to be melted with a little liquid (water/juice/cream/milk) and the fruit is to be tossed into the caramel and coated evenly. Only the caramel differs in its thickness. You can make a thick caramel and pour it over the orange segments to make crunchy dessert oranges. But for the purpose of this recipe, adjust the liquid to make a thinner sauce that the oranges can cook in, for a while, and the remaining caramel can be retained for pouring on the dessert when served.

Panna Cotta Orange Jelly Caramel

Layered Panna Cotta and Orange Jelly with Caramel Sauce

My Recipe for Vanilla Panna Cotta with Caramelized Orange Jelly

Serves 4

Time Taken: At least 6 hours to chill (3 hours for each layer). So, prepare in advance if you plan to serve it after a meal.

What You Will Need:

For Caramelized Oranges

  •  Sugar – 125 gms/5oz
  • Orange Juice – 100 ml/4 oz
  • Cream – 1 tbsp
  • 1 Orange – Peeled and De-seeded Segments

For Orange Jelly

  • Orange Juice – 250 ml/9 oz
  • Agar-Agar – 1/2 sachet (about 1 tsp.). Reserve the other 1/2 for Panna Cotta
  • Sugar – if needed

For Panna Cotta

  • Cream (or Half and Half) – 250 ml/9 oz
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp (or as desired)
  • Agar-Agar – 1/2 sachet (about 1 tsp.)

How To:

1. Take Sugar and Orange Juice in a pan and melt it on low heat. Without stirring, let it simmer until the color begins to change.

2. Stir in cream and let simmer for another minute before adding in the oranges. Toss the oranges in the caramel to coat them completely and cook without stirring for another couple of minutes.

3. Remove from heat, spoon the caramelized oranges along with the caramel into a bowl and wipe your pan immediately with paper towels to clean it. Don’t immerse it in cold water immediately or the caramel will set. Wiping it off when hot is the quickest way to clean a pan used to make caramel.

4. Divide the oranges evenly among your molds and spoon them at the bottom of each oiled mold. Reserve the caramel for later use.

5. To make orange jelly, combine orange juice and sugar (if needed) and heat.

6. Meanwhile, mix agar-agar in 4 tbsp of cold water and let dissolve.

7. When the juice of heated, add the agar-agar (dissolved in water) and whisk into the juice.

8. Let cool for 5 minutes before pouring it into the molds containing the caramelized oranges, filling them to half of their capacity.

9. Let the jelly set completely at room temperature and chill it for 2 to 3 hours before adding the panna cotta.

10. Start making your Panna Cotta 20 minutes before your jelly is completely chilled. Heat cream and sugar along with the vanilla bean (slit). Turn off heat and cover the pan to let the vanilla get infused into the cream.

11. Dissolve the remaining (1/2 envelope) agar-agar in 4 tbsp cold water and keep ready.

12. Discard the vanilla bean and seeds from the cream. Heat the cream again and add the agar-agar mixture to it, mixing well.

13. Let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly (taking care that it does not start to set) before pouring it into the molds containing jelly. Pouring the Panna Cotta mixture when too hot can make the jelly melt which will result in mixing of the two layers.

14. Let is set at room temperature and then chill for 2-3 hours before serving them.

15. To serve, unmold by either immersing the bottoms of the molds in hot water or loosening up the Panna Cotta using a sharp knife. Pour the orange-flavored caramel over each serving and garnish with orange segments and a sprig of basil or mint.

Orange-flavored caramel sauce

The leftover Orange-flavored caramel is a delight on its own!

There are truly few things as sinful as caramel flavored with oranges. Even if you skip layering your Panna Cotta with a jelly layer, you can simply serve plain Panna Cotta with a Caramel Sauce made using orange juice or with a few segments of oranges thrown in to caramelize along with the sugar.

High Protein, Vegetarian Soya Chunk Rice with Chinese Chilli Sauce

Looking for a high protein, vegetarian lunch? Try my power packed lunch for today:

High Protein, Vegetarian Soya Chunk Rice with Chinese Chilli Sauce

A High Protein, Vegetarian Recipe with Soya Chunks, Corn, Peas and Rice tossed with Chinese Chilli Sauce

I can hardly be called punctual when it comes to posting on my blog. Today is different, however. I was so embarrassed to not have begun my using my Instagram account ever since I created it about 2 months ago! I am an “internet and 10 MP camera” kind of a person. I have probably never used a Mobile App and never taken a picture from my mobile (except of my kids, sometimes). But instagram, although online, is practically useless if you try to log in online. You can do nothing more than see a picture someone posted the URL of, on twitter. For everything else, you need to access the mobile app. What you see above, is my first pic on instagram.

The recipe is pretty simple and packs a lot of energy for moms with highly energetic kids and a need to cut empty calories from their diet. To make the soya chunks rice, you will need:

  • 1 cup Soya Chunks, boiled, drained and rinsed as per instructions
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn and peas, rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 2 tbsp of Chinese Chilli Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

The procedure is fairly easy.

1. Saute the veggies in olive oil.

2. Add the drained soya chunks and cook for a while.

3. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add the Chinese Chilli sauce and cook covered till the veggies and chunks all get coated in the sauce evenly.

5. Finally, add the rice and mix well.

6. Switch off the gas, cover and let stand for 5 mins. Serve hot!

Adorable Valentine’s Day Cupcake Designs

Pinks, Reds, Roses, Chocolate & Hearts – these adorable cupcake decorating ideas are easy to follow and look so stunning, you will wish Valentine’s Day was here already!

Valentine's Day Cupcake Decorating Ideas

Valentine's Day Cupcake Decorating Ideas from Celebrating-ValentinesDay.com

Celebrating Valentine’s Day has these dainty cupcakes featured along with many more recipe ideas for Valentine’s Day Desserts, Valentine’s Day Breakfast Recipes, Valentine’s Day Dinner Recipes and many more Valentine’s Day Ideas. Don’t forget to enter their annual Love Message Contest while you are browsing!