Saturday, September 27, 2014

Simple Paneer Tikka Masala

One day quite a few weeks ago, I decided to do something with the paneer I bought a few weeks before that at the Indian market. I'm a fan of tikka masalas, so I thought I would try my hand at Paneer Tikka Masala. I decided to go with this one from Swasthi's Recipes that she adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor and I was super impressed with the results, if I do say so myself. Apart from ordering Indian takeout, this is sure to satisfy any Indian food fix. I know the pics look messy and not terribly appetizing, but just trust me when I say you have to give this a try.

I've toned down the spice level quite a bit for my taste, but you can of course season it to your taste. The recipe is a bit more involved, but less so than traditional tikka masalas. Although this recipe is for paneer, I could easily see it being used for chicken, beef, and other hearty vegetables. As with most curries and stews, I found it to taste best the day and days after it was made. Serve it with rice, naan or chapati, some veggies and you've got one fantastic meal.

Simple Paneer Tikka Masala
Adapted from Swasthi's Recipes

Paneer and Veggies
15 oz paneer, cubed
1 cup thick yogurt, greek or plain yogurt that's been strained
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 cups cubed bell pepper/onion

Mix all the ingredients above except for the bell pepper/onion and marinate in the fridge overnight or longer.

When ready to prepare the tikka masala, preheat your oven to 400 deg F or heat a frying pan over medium heat with some oil. If cooking in the oven, place the paneer cubes on a lined baking sheet, spray with some oil, and bake for about 20 min, turning halfway. If cooking over the stove, pan fry the paneer for a few minutes on each side. While the paneer is cooking, add the bell pepper/onion to the leftover marinade. When the paneer is done, set aside and either bake the veggies for about 5-10 min or pan fry for a few minutes. Next, make the sauce/gravy.

1 cup chopped tomatoes
about 25 roasted cashews
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
6 green cardamon
a few peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
10 cloves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup water
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves(kasuri methi)
1/3 cup milk, cream, or a large dollop of yogurt
oil or butter
salt, to taste

Blend the tomatoes and cashews in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add a few tbsp. of oil and add the spices(cumin seeds, cardamon, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves). Toast the spices for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Add in the chopped onion and sauté until it begins to turn golden brown.

Add the ginger garlic paste, sauté for another minute. Then add the tomato puree and chili powder, cooking for another 5 minutes until you see the oil begin to separate from the mixture. Add the water, garam masala, and fenugreek leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so until it has thickened to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Add the cooked paneer cubes to the sauce, simmering for a few minutes before adding the veggies. Simmer for another minute, then add your choice of milk, cream, or yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with rice, naan, or chapati.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Coconut Flour Banana Bread

In case you haven't noticed, I've been very interested in trying out grain-free recipes lately. I would also like to give some gluten free recipes a try, but haven't gotten around to that yet. So far, they've all been pretty fantastic and it's great to be able to enjoy a baked good more often that I also feel good about. I still think there's room for a baked good made with butter and sugar now and again as an indulgence and you'll definitely continue to see them here, but on the whole, I do think it's important to treat these things as treats.

The most recent grain-free recipe I tried was this Coconut Flour Banana Bread from SparkRecipes. I don't think you can really ever have enough good banana bread recipes, as evidenced here on this blog as well. This recipe is another one that was recommended to me by Amanda, aka amandalolita, on TwoGrand and it's another winner. I have quite a few more recipes saved on TwoGrand that I've been meaning to try, so you'll probably see those soon. The coconut flour and coconut oil I subbed in this definitely make this a super coconutty banana bread. If you wanted to bump up the coconut flavor even more, you could also add some shredded coconut to it. When I made this, I left out the cinnamon in the recipe because I wanted a more typical banana bread, but I would keep it in next time because cinnamon would go really nicely with the nuttiness that coconut flour brings. I've dialed back the cinnamon in the recipe below, but feel free to go with the original amount for a super cinnamony banana bread. That's not a bad thing.

I found that I didn't like this banana bread so much warm from the oven and I really thought it was much better when fully cooled because the texture becomes more cake-like when cooled. The flavors also seem to meld a bit better when it's cooled. This banana bread freezes well, so it's great to make ahead and store for those busy days when you want a treat, but don't have time to turn on the oven.

Coconut Flour Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from SparkRecipes
Makes One 9 x 5 inch loaf

3 medium bananas, super ripe but not black, mashed
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp. honey
6 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped nuts(walnuts, pecans, etc.), optional

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Prepare a 9x 5 inch loaf pan, line with parchment if necessary. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the bananas and coconut oil together. Add in the honey and vanilla, whisking well. Then add in the eggs, whisking thoroughly once again. Add in the dry ingredients and stir together with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Fold in the chopped nuts, if using.

Transfer the batter to a loaf pan and bake for 45-50 min until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the loaf pan to cool completely. Banana bread will last for a few days at room temp or for several weeks in the freezer. Freeze in wrapped individual slices for ease.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Healthy Chocolate Cake

Yes, it's true. You can have cake and enjoy it without feeling an ounce of guilt. That's because this cake is made mainly of black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, and sweetened with honey. I've been immensely enjoying a slice of this cake for breakfast along with a dollop of plain yogurt and some fruit. Who would've thought that you could have cake for breakfast? Well, actually I guess you can whenever you want, but this is one cake you won't feel bad about enjoying.

I first saw this cake on The Real Girl's Kitchen and it looked and supposedly tasted just like a regular chocolate cake, so it got me thinking. Then after some web searching, I found the same basic recipe on Healthy Indulgences, which was also praised highly by the author, so I decided to give it a go. I was very pleased with the results and while the texture is not exactly the same as a traditional chocolate cake, the flavor still satisfies those of us who are chocoholics. I used my own cooked black beans in this cake and found the resulting cake to be a bit dry and not quite smooth enough, even when the beans were thoroughly blended. So, the next time I make this cake, I would probably try it with canned beans to see how the cake turns out. I also found that 15 oz of cooked beans was a bit too much since I think a 15 oz can only contains about 12 oz of beans, so I've adjusted the recipe to use a bit less.

To make this a little bit less healthy, you could certainly make a frosting to top it with, but I decided to keep it simple.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Real Girl's Kitchen and Healthy Indulgences
Makes one 9 inch cake

1 15 oz can of unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained (or 12 oz of cooked black beans)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp kosher salt (half the amount of fine salt)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter or 5 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or dutch-processed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with a parchment round. Then butter and dust with cocoa powder. You can skip the buttering and dusting if you have a nonstick pan.

In a blender, combine the beans, vanilla extract, salt, instant coffee, and 3 of the eggs. Blend on high until everything is smooth. In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat the butter or coconut oil with the honey for 3-5 minutes on medium high until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining two eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.

Add in the bean mixture and mix until well incorporated. Then add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 40-45 min until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 min before removing from the pan to cool completely. Cake will last wrapped in foil at room temp. for a few days. Freeze in individual slices, well wrapped, for longer storage.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hard to Believe It's Grain Free Carrot Cake

I'm all about making healthier choices, but I believe in treating yourself occasionally as well. So when I come across a recipe that meets both requirements, that's the best news of all. I first saw this carrot cake in a TwoGrand post by Amanda, aka amandalolita, and it looked deeelicious. I know several carrot cake enthusiasts so I thought I'd give it a try.

This carrot cake turned out to be a real winner, gluten free or not. You'll be able to taste a slight difference in texture if you're looking for it, but otherwise, it tastes just like a regular carrot cake, maybe even better. The almond flour and coconut flour add a wonderful nutty and coconutty note to the cake. I added some cinnamon since I like my carrot cakes to be well spiced and went with a basic honey sweetened cream cheese frosting. Nuts, coconut, and raisins are typical carrot cake add-ins that would work well here, but the options are only limited by your imagination.

The original recipe is for cupcakes, but would make a 2 layer 8-inch cake. I decided to use half the recipe to make a 2 layer 6-inch cake.  I did not frost the sides of the cake, but if you wanted to do that, just double the recipe for the cream cheese frosting.

Grain-free Carrot Cake
Adapted from nourished kitchen
Makes One 2-layer 6-inch cake

Carrot Cake
8 oz. carrots, peeled and grated finely
1 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt, Greek style or otherwise

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Line two 6-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and a strip of parchment for the sides. In a medium bowl, combine the grated carrots, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Warm the honey in a small pot over the stove until it is easily pourable. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly for a minute. Add the honey and mix well. Then add the melted coconut oil and yogurt whisking thoroughly to combine. Add the carrot mixture to the egg mixture and mix thoroughly for 2-3 min with a spatula or wooden spoon breaking up any clumps of almond flour.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30-35 min until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

To make the frosting, in a small bowl with a wooden spoon or with a mixer, give the cream cheese a good mix to smooth out any lumps. Then mix in the honey, vanilla extract, and salt.

To assemble the cake, remove the cake layers from the pans and remove the parchment. Slice off the tops if necessary to even out the cake layers. Place one layer right side up on a serving plate, spread half of the frosting over the top with a small offset spatula. Place the other cake layer upside down over the frosting and press gently. Spread the remaining frosting on the top of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for about half an hour before serving. Cake will keep, wrapped, in the refrigerator for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.