Juicy, lean Mediterranean Turkey Meatballs

Hands down the juiciest turkey meatballs you can make. The secret to the moistness in these meatballs is a combination of yogurt, zucchini and bread. Try these, and you will think twice before buying store bought meatballs again. And it’s also a great way to sneak some veggies in!

Our family loves meatballs….in pasta, curry, Mediterranean bowls, a sub, or on its own, the possibilities are endless. It’s easy to make meatballs at home and freeze them. Turkey meatballs can be still juicy and delicious and most of all, lean and healthier than beef meatballs.

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes

Servings: for 4 – 6;people

Ingredients

  • 1.25 lbs 93% lean ground turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 2 cups baby spinach (chopped)
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes (optional if you like it spicy)
  • 1 cup grated zucchini, liquid squeezed out well
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, or gluten-free bread
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs, or gluten-free panko
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp fried oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray olive oil on a sheet pan and set aside.
  3. Put the slices of bread in a bowl and cover the slices with water. Allow it to soak for about 1 minute.  Discard the water and squeeze the water out from the bread. Crumble it a bit with your hands and add it to a mixing bowl.
  4. To the same mixing bowl, add in the rest of the ingredients seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Form balls (golf sized) with that mixture and arrange them on a sheet pan.
  6. Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until meatballs are fully cooked.
  7. Then transfer to the top rack and turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the tops are boiled.
  8. Alternatively, in a skillet, add in a tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and cook over low heat, until cooked through, turning halfway, for about 10-12 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.
  9. Serve them in a Mediterranean bowl with greens, feta, olives, couscous, and all the sauces you like. Alternatively, they taste great in pasta.

London in Three Days with Teens

A first timers itinerary in London. London has a wealth of child-friendly, fun, historic, educational, and cultural things to do. How then to make the most of 3 days in this fun UK capital? With so much to see and do, here’s an itinerary to get to those bucket-list sights and must-dos in London.

Day 1: Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, China Town

Day 2: Uber Boat to Greenwich, Royal Observatory (Prime Meridian and GMT), Cutty Sark, Burroughs Market, The Shard and Leake Street Tunnel

Day 3: Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, High Tea at The Wolseley, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods

In early 2022, we had planned on visiting Europe and then unfortunately, two of us came down with Covid a couple of days before our departure date resulting in cancelled plans. So, over the Christmas holidays, we made last minute plans to go back. Given that it was such short notice, we ended up going for 8 days and split that time between London and Paris.

We arrived early morning at 6:30am at London’s Heathrow airport. From there, we decided to take the train into the city to our hotel right beside Lambeth train station.

We decided against buying the Oyster card but instead bought single metro tickets for the four of us. The journey from Heathrow to central London takes around 45 minutes by taxi, 15 minutes by train, 35-45 minutes by London underground (Picadilly or Elizabeth Line) and 1 hour by the National Express bus.

When we got to the hotel, we kept our baggage at the front desk and decided to go on our way. Since we were hungry, we stopped by a bakery, grabbing some croissants and coffee to charge us up.

Tips: I planned the day with all the key sites we wanted to visit based on proximity to each other allowing us to maximize our time. The best way was to put the sites we wanted into Google Maps, sequence to optimize proximity to each other, and then follow the directions either walking or taking public transportation. We walked a lot – averaging 20,000 – 30,000 steps a day. As long as the two teens were well fed, they were troopers! (minus some exceptions!). I evaluated the cost of separately bought tickets to the various sights and realized it was cheaper and effective to use the London Pass instead.

Day 1: Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, London Eye, China Town

We walked from our hotel to Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and continued walking towards Buckingham Palace. To get to the Palace, we passed the Wellington Barracks, on the edge of St. James’ Park along Birdcage Walk.

Since it was a Sunday, we had to watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. You can watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can watch them at Windsor Palace on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. https://changing-guard.com/where-to-watch.html

You don’t have to watch them at the gates of Buckingham as there are other options. The first troop movements for the Changing of the Guard ceremony take place at St. James’ Palace. 10:25 The St James’ Palace Detachment of The King’s Guard form up for inspection on Friary Court. During the inspection the St James’s Palace Band play a selection of music. (Check the calendar as on occasions there is no St James’s Palace Band). The Guards, normally led by a Regimental Band or Corp of Drums, step off to march down The Mall to Buckingham Palace.

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Since it was winter, you couldn’t do a tour of Buckingham Palace but we strolled outside the dates, and admired the statue of Queen Victoria. The Queen Victoria Memorial is located in front of Buckingham Palace and comprises the Dominion Gates (Canada Gate, Australia Gate and South and West Africa Gates), the Memorial Gardens and a vast central monument commemorating the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

From there, we walked down the Mall to Piccadilly Circus. We planned on watching London’s New Year’s Day Parade and snagged a coveted spot. It was a cold, clammy day and some hot cocoa kept us going.

After watching the parade, we plugged in directions to our hotel in Google Maps and walked back, via Trafalgar Square, where had the kids been younger, they would have surely climbed on the lion statues at the base of Nelson’s column. Along the way, we enjoyed the sights of London. We walked right past the London Eye, where you had lines of visitors lined up for a ride up into the sky.

Being London, we had to try Fish and Chips and decided to check out The Fishcotheque an old-fashioned, long-standing chip shop offering fried fish, burgers & pies, plus a take-out option. After tasting the drool-worth fish and calamari, I think we’ll want to jet out there again just for that!

After lunch, we strolled back to the hotel and checked in. We lounged around in the room for a bit and then feeling rested, we headed out again. We wanted to experience the lights of London at night. Big Ben, London Eye, the lights on Regent street, it was so beautiful.

The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. It is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. It moves very slowly.

Big Ben, one of the most Instagrammed landmarks, has an iconic silhouette and is probably the world’s most famous clock. Did you know though that the Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, are commonly called Big Ben?

Six monarchs and 41 prime ministers have come and gone since the bells first struck their now familiar music across Westminster.  Unfortunately, with renovations, the tower was closed, but it’s a high  292 steps to the clock faces and 334 steps to the Belfry where Big Ben, the Great Bell, hangs. Big Ben is not the only bell in the clocktower. The bells are fixed and struck by hammers from outside, rather than swinging and being struck from inside by clappers.   

The streets were beautifully lit up with holiday lights.

The trick to keep moving with teens is to keep them well-fed. We snacked on sandwiches and finger-foods from bakeries and by the time we wanted to grab dinner, we realized most places were shutting down for the night. Fortunately, we were close to China Town and found a well-known restaurant that caters to late-night diners. There we feasted on Malaysian Laksa Noodles, Roast Duck and Roast Pork, Mussels in Chili oil and Sweet and Sour Ribs. The kids washed that down with Mango Bubble Tea. We then walked back to our Hotel, collapsing after a long but fun first day.

Day 2: Uber Boat to Greenwich, Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian (GMT), Cutty Sark, eating traditional foods, Burroughs Market and a visit to the Shard ending with a walk home via Leake Street Tunnel

Day 2 started with a ride down the Thames via the Uber boat from the Westminster bridge pier all the way down to Greenwich. It’s a great way to see the sights of the capital as you jet down the river.

London’s central business district
The Tower Bridge
Canary Wharf

Greenwich, the tranquil borough on the bank of the Thames is home to the Cutty Sark, the classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, and the Royal Observatory, the site of the Greenwich Meridian line and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

The Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship, is considered the world’s only surviving extreme clipper. Most of the hull fabric seen on the ship is from it’s original construction. Clipper ships are marked by three design characteristics – a long, narrow hull, a sharp bow which cuts through the waves rather riding atop – and three raking masts. Launched in 1869, it was the fastest and sleekest ship of its time. She’s beautiful and dominates the waterfront.

After the Cutty Sark, you wind your way past the Old Royal Naval College and through the wide-open Greenwich park up a steep hill to the Royal Observatory.

The Cutty Sark
Greenwich Palace also known as Placentia
Royal Observatory The Shepherd 24 hour Gate Clock

This is one of the earliest electrically driven time public clocks, installed in 1852. Being a 24-hour clock, the hour hand marks noon at the bottom on the dial and midnight to the top.

Prime Meridian

Just as the equator divides the northern and southern hemisphere, the Prime Meridian divides the eastern and western hemispheres. It is longitude 0°.  In 1884, Sir George Biddell Airy, built the Transit Circle telescope at the Royal Observatory. The cross-hairs in the eyepiece of the telescope precisely defined Longitude 0° for the world.

Hungry after spending a hew hours there, the Pie and Mash at Goddards at Greenwich beckoned us and we enjoyed a delicious meal of pie, mash and absolutely scrumptious sticky toffee pudding.

Minced Beed Pie and Mash
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Cheese & Onion Pie and Mash

Well satiated, we made our way back to the pier and took the Uber boat back to Bankside Pier which is within walking distance of Borough Market, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It’s fun to just walk through the market and try out the wares of the vendors. A quick walk from Borough Market is The Shard, considered an Icon of modern London. A ride up to the  68, 69 and 72 floors gave us spectacular 360-degree views upto 40 miles despite it being a deary day. We spent over an hour there, watching the sun go down.

A view of The Shard from the bottom of the building
A room with a view

After enjoying the views from the Shard, it was time to head home, taking the boat back to Waterloo pier where we walked through Leake Street Tunnel on the way to the hotel.

Leake Street Tunnel: Tucked under Waterloo station is one of London’s coolest street art locations with its ever-changing colorful murals. This 300-meter tunnel is the city’s largest legal graffiti wall and very cool! The Tunnel is a short walk away from Waterloo Station. It takes about five minutes to walk it from the station via York Road or you can get there from Lower Marsh street. To learn more, check out: https://www.leakestreetarches.london/

Day 3: Ride along with the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Bus, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, High Tea at The Wolseley, Fortnum and Mason, ending with a visit to Harrods

We decided to use the Hop On Hop Off Bus as part of the London Pass. Buying the pass was the best decision we made. Not only did it include attractions that would have been more expensive purchasing individually, we were able to ride the HOHO bus on a cold wet day, seeing various sites from the bus, while staying dry from the rain.

Tower Bridge:

There’s always a waiting line for the Tower Bridge so we started the day there hoping to avoid the crowds. There’s a lot of narrow stairs to climb up that bridge – beware! But the view from the top is worth it. You can see up and down the river and walk along its panoramic glass walkway and see the mechanics of the bridge that make it open and close. This engineering marvel, is not only London’s most striking bridge thanks to its Neo-Gothic architecture and lifting central sections that can open frequently, but when it was first opened, it was the most sophisticate bascule bridge in the world.

Tower Bridge is often incorrectly called London Bridge. These are two separate bridges. Tower Bridge is the stately one, seen in the picture below and besides the Tower of London. When opened, it connected London and quickly made commerce easier. London Bridge, meanwhile, is slightly upriver, spanning the Thames from the City of London to Southwark. Walking from London Bridge to Tower Bridge takes less than 15 minutes.

Jump on the glass floor if you dare!
A mirrored ceiling makes the views more fun
Tower Bridge

From the Tower Bridge, we headed over to the Tower of London, a stone’s throw away.

Tower of London:

The Tower of London is one of London’s most important tourist attractions, an incredible palace and castle that you can’t miss on a trip to London. It will probably take you 1 – 2 hours to visit the Tower of London. The tour was included and was extremely informative and fun. Officially His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, this is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It also houses the Crown Jewels. The Tower’s been around since Roman times and has seen many changes over the years. During the Second World War, parts of the Tower were destroyed by bombing, including part of a building used by the Royal Mint and the Main Guard. War Prisoners, including the German deputy leader, Rudolph Hess, were kept as prisoners in the Tower. Another famous prisoner was Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up Parliament with gunpowder, on November 5th 1605.




The Yeoman guard, in the middle, is a popular symbol of the guards of London. Henry VII’s personal guards were the first ‘Beefeaters’, so named as they were permitted to eat as much beef as they wanted from the King’s table, and Henry VIII decreed that some of them would stay and guard the Tower permanently. They carry out ceremonial duties, such as unlocking and locking the Tower every day in the Ceremony of the Keys.
Here’s where you will find the Crown Jewels, under armed guard, a dazzling collection of  dazzling collection of crowns, scepters, orbs, medals and rings handed down by British monarchs throughout history
Yeoman Warder. popularly known as the Beefeaters
The Tower of London

We then hopped back on the bus and got off at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey: The magnificent Westminster Abbey, one of the most famous places in London and a must-see on your visit to London. It will probably take you 1-2 hours to visit the Abbey. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have been held in the abbey, as have many royal weddings, including that of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.Westminster Abbey was initially built by Henry III in 1245 and it is one of the most important Gothic buildings of England. At first it was home of Benedictine monks, then the coronation church since 1066 and the final resting place of 17 monarchs. It contains a treasury full of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles, books and various other artefacts plus the most significant collection of monumental sculptures of the UK. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Abbey’s Triforium opened in June 2018.

This Coronation Chair has been used at every Coronation ceremony since 1308. The Stone, which filled the space below the seat, was returned to Scotland in 1996, but will come back to the Abbey for future coronations.

After this, we hopped onto the Bus again, headed down towards Bond Street where we got off at The Ritz.

High Tea Afternoon Tea in Mayfair | The Wolseley, Piccadilly, London

Our 15-year old has been dreaming of London for a while now. It was sweetly amusing to see how enamored she was with the British accent and kept practicing it with dad! For her, the highlight of a visit to London would have been High Tea. And so we splurged with a visit to Fortnum & Mason followed by High Tea at The Wolseley, one of London’s oldest restaurants. These restaurants are within walking distance of each other.

At Fortnum and Mason, our 17-year old was able to pick up amazing Beef Wellington, something he had been craving while the 15-year old and the hubby entertained themselves checking out the selection of teas, chocolates and cheese.

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The Wolseley, established in 1707 and located in Mayfair in London’s iconic Piccadilly. is an elegant restaurant serving Modern European food & afternoon tea with grand, art deco glamour. We could understand why it’s renowned for it’s art decor, food and truly impeccable service, making it indeed an evening to remember. The server, a Texan transplant to London, went out of his away to make sure this was a special occasion and a memorable evening.

We also walked along Bond Street and Oxford Street, window shopping, checking out the fanciest of cars, and imagining the lives of the Rich and Famous.

We then hopped a car (Uber) that took us over to Harrods.

Harrods is London’s well-known high-end department store. It epitomizes British luxury retail, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe for its selection of world-class, high-end retail shopping. Set in a beautiful historic location on Brompton Road near Knightstbridge London Underground Station, the distinguished department stores boasts seven floors and more than 330 departments.  For one of my teenagers, Harrods was all about checking out the shoes – study hard kid!

This brought us to the end of our 3-day visit. The next day, we hopped on the Eurostar to Paris. We’ll be back – London was amazing!


Blueberry Banana bread

Thick slices to have on their own or with a cup of tea. Chock-full of antioxidant rich blueberries, potassium laden bananas, this yogurt-moistened, blueberry banana bread recipe is a keeper.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon to coat the blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (can substitute frozen although bread will be streaked blue)
  • Butter or cooking spray to grease 9*5 loaf pan

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Grease the loaf pan with butter or cooking spray and set aside.

Wash and pace the blueberries in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of flour and toss to coat.

In a mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and add the mashed banana to it. Mix the banana in well.

Slowly add in the try ingredients, mixing till it is all moist. Slowly blend in the blueberries.

Gently drop the mix to the greased loaf pan.

Place in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the bread for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack; remove the bread from pan.

Cool completely on wire rack before cutting.


Highlights of the Louvre with teens!

The Louvre is one of the most well-known museums in the world. It’s extensive and you can easily spend a day or two or more, especially if you are a history buff. But since our two teens were more interested in IG (Instagrammable) moments, and wanted mostly the highlights, we charted out a path that was no more than a couple of hours and took us through the the must-see things in the Louvre (as identified by these teens).

Since we had arrived the previous evening in Paris, and were staying a stone throw’s away from the Louvre, we stopped by. The lights are simply beautiful and we were able to snag some amazing pictures.

First let’s start with what we know about the Louvre. The Louvre is a national museum in Paris, France. An iconic palace, it is one of the most visited sites in Paris. The building started with being a military fort built by Philip II in the 12th century. Francis I had the fort torn down and replaced with a palace for the royal family. He named his new home the Louvre, a name that has stuck. Subsequent kings continued to add buildings around the main building.

So, now let’s get moving.

Quick tips that worked for us: It’s best to get to the Louvre using a timed entry pass. We bought it online and arrived 15 minutes prior to the time on the ticket but even then there were long queues. Had we not bought a ticket ahead of time, it would have been worse. There are also three entrances to the Louvre. Most people will head to the glass pyramid entrance, but you can also enter through Porte des Lions or Le Carrousel du Louvre, and they are usually not as busy. Now, get an audio guide or tour guide. Have a plan, get a map (free at the info desk) and plan out your must-do sights. Time-box yourself – so much to see, lots to walk around and kids get bored. A plan with a set time limit was the best thing we did. We did carry our passports along since the museums are free for kids under 18. In this case, I wasn’t asked for proof but I’ve heard of friends who were asked to show proof.

Our first stop was to head down to the moat where we saw one of the old walls of the castle that is preserved in the Medieval Louvre. This is the wall facing the city with the support pillar of the drawbridge, the main entrance to the Louvre.

As we looked closely at bricks on the wall, we noticed that quite a few bricks have a symbol on it – a circle, heart, square, etc. That’s because each brickmaker had to account for the number of bricks they made. Tagging each brick by a symbol enabled them to do just that. In those days, a heart didn’t symbolize love, it was no different than a square, circle or similar symbols.

Then we were off to see the statues.

The Sphinx

The Great Sphinx of Tanis is a granite sculpture of a sphinx, whose date may be as early as the 26th century BC. It has the body of a lion and the face of the Pharoah.

Athena – Pallas de Velletri

Our next stop was at Athena. Athena, the daughter of Zeus, is the Greek goddess of crafts, wisdom, and warfare. She was also known as the Goddess of the wise war. The statue in the Louvre is known as the Athena de Velletri Pallas. Pallas is a specific type of marble statue with Athena wearing a helmet. All statues of this type are 1st century Roman copies of a lost Greek bronze.

From here, we moved on to see the statue of Aphrodite.

As you walk through the museum, you will notice that these statues in the museum are all white. When these statues were originally created, they were painted and adorned with jewelry but over time, the paint colors faded or jewelry was looted. It was during the Renaissance that the statues were painted white which is how we see most of them today.

Aphrodite

This statue of Aphrodite has an apple in one hand and there’s a story behind it.

In Greek mythology, both gods and mortals coveted the golden apples the goddess Gaia gave as a wedding present to Hera and Zeus. They were kept in a garden guarded by a hundred-headed dragon that never slept. These apples promised immortality and more to anyone who ate them.  Now Eris, the goddess of discord, was very angry at not having been invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, so she took one of the apples and threw it among the guests. On the apple was inscribed, “For the most beautiful of them all”. 

Three goddesses saw the apple that Aries had thrown on a table. Hera, Zeus’ wife, Athena, his daughter and Aphrodite, his other daughter. Zeus was asked to intervene, and to decide who was the most beautiful. Of course,he didn’t  want to do so he asked a mortal prince, prince Paris to intervene. The three tried to bribe him and he picked Aphrodite swayed by The three goddesses appearing before the shepherd prince, each offering him gifts for favour. He chose Aphrodite, swayed by her promise to bestow upon him Helene, the most beautiful woman, for wife. The subsequent abduction of Helene led directly to the Trojan War and the fall of the city.

Venus de Milo

Venus is the Roman counterpart to Aphrodite. This status is very famous because it was not only the first Greek sculpture to be in the collection and is also one of the best preserved Greek statues in existence. It is said to be as old as 150 years BC. Legend has it that it caused women in the 19th and early 20th century to have unrealistic expectations of body image.

Now, for over a thousand years, temples and statues slowly disappeared as ancient wonders were dismantled and used to build homes. The marble that had been used for certain sculptures made the best lime. Statue and temple marble fragments spent centuries, forgotten in caves. Then, in 1820, French naval ships anchored on the island of Melos (Milo). As Olivier Voutier, a young navy officer with a passion for ancient Greece, walked around what the runes of a theater, he came upon Yorgos Kentrotas, a peasant, who was searching for stones to reinforce the wall around this field. The peasant had just uncovered the upper part of a statue in poor condition but given that he didn’t think it useful, was going to cover it with rubble. However, Olivier, instead dug it out. Despite having no arms, broken knot of the hair and nose, it looked like a remarkable piece and the two continued to look for the rest. Olivier has the statue then assembled, much to the amazement of the officers who had gathered around. There is much debate on how the statue was transported back to France but nevertheless, the statue was delivered to King Louis the XVIII who offered it to the Louvre.

We don’t know who she is. Milo is the name of the island where she was discovered but the features on the arms that would have helped identify her are lost. In ancient Greece, gods took human form and sculptures depicting gods are made taller than human beings. The best materials were also used for gods and there is a serenity radiating from her face while led people to believe she was a goddess. Aphrodite was the only goddess to be naked and this hip position . The hole in the arm was to hold a bracelet in place. Being half-naked, it was speculated that she was probably Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and fertility. Aphrodite being Venud to the Romans, this Greek statue ended up with a Roman name,

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, is a Hellensitic-era Greek sculptural masterwork depicting the goddess Nike.

As mentioned in the Louvre, the Greeks had the idea of portraying Victory as a woman, a messenger of Zeus. This monument of Samothrace is the finest representation of that image. The artist wanted to represent the winged messenger, atop the prow of a ship, made of gray marble from the island of Rhodes. The statue itself is made of marble, from white Parian marble.

Nike wears a long garment of a beautiful cloth with folded flaps and a belted beneath the breast. The mantle is slipping from her shoulders and the power of the wind is shown with the drapes on her legs. The torso is not naked but represents her dress with the wind and sea blowing against her.

Victory in Greek is Nike and the brand was inspired by the statue and the name.

After that we entered Gallery of little Versailles.

King Louis XIV, famously identified himself with the sun god Apollo and he had in mind how he wanted to represent that and build out Versailles. But before that, he called on an architect and outlined his vision for Versailles asking to first build this gallery at the Louvre. If that went well, the architect would get to build out Versailles. One may say, the audition went very well as this splendid gallery is a beautiful representation of Louis’ image. The greatest painters, gilders and sculptors of the day worked on it and then worked on the Hall of Mirrors at the Chateau de Versailles.

Today, the Galerie d’Apollon is home to the royal collection of hardstone vessels and the French Crown Jewels. Charles Le Brun, the lead, decorated the vaulted ceiling with paintings of Apollo driving his chariot across the sky. The center of the ceiling shows the sun god’s journey, marking the different times of the day from dawn to night. On the sides, you will be mesmerized with images and symbols of the variations in the sun’s light depicting hours, days, months, seasons, and zodiac signs, giving visual representation to the sun’s power and in turn, the glory of the Sun King, Apollo Dawn to Night. These are surrounded by a whole cosmos of images and symbols of everything that is influenced by variations in the sun’s light and heat (the hours, days, months, seasons, signs of the zodiac and continents). The ‘Gallery of Apollo’, with its lavish carved and painted decoration, gave visual form to the sun’s power over the whole universe, magnifying the glory of the Sun King.

This gallery also houses the French crown jewels. Wow – These are the daily utensils of King Louis XIV, they had actual jewels in it. The small diamond in the picture below was installed on Napoleon’s sword

Mona Lisa and the Wedding Feast at Cana

From there we had to the most famous of them all – The Mona Lisa. Beware, there are always lines, and it can take as long as 45 minutes to see the beguiling Mona Lisa. Of the 5 paintings by Da Vinci in the Louvre, only one has millions lining up for it. Is it worth it? What do you think?

Now, before you get to the Mona Lisa, while we were waiting in queue to see the Mona Lisa, we looked around. The room is filled with magnificent paintings, the biggest painting of which is Veronese’s monumental Wedding Feast at Cana. For those not familiar with this biblical story, it’s the first miracle of Jesus where he turned water into wine.  At the wedding, towards the end of the feast, the wine was over. Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked him to help. Jesus reluctantly stepped in and asked servants to fill jugs with water and He transformed the water into wine, the best one served at that wedding.

Now the Mona Lisa: Let’s start with who she is and why did she get so famous?

 A silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to paint a portrait of his wife, Lisa Gherardini, aka Madonna -Madam- Lisa del Giocondo, shortened to Madonna Lisa del Giocondo, and eventually, shortened into Mona Lisa. As the story goes, Madam Lisa had just lost her baby, and Da Vinci took it upon himself to make her smile but he wasn’t satisfied with the result. As a result, Leonardo never delivered the painting to Francesco and Lisa. He kept it, kept improvising it and took it with him to France. Upon his death, his assistant sold the painting to the King of France. Through his expression of his ideal vision, he ended up giving an unassuming woman the nobility of a lady of high rank, and the majesty of a Virgin Mary. The smile is something that Da Vinci has captured in his other paintings too – whether it’s the Virgin Mary smiling lovingly at the infant Jesus in her arms or John the Baptist smiling widely, the smile is there is most of his paintings, although the enigmatic smile is attributed to the circumstances while the portrait of Madam Lisa was being painted. You’ll also note that this painting is not on canvas but is actually on wood panels.

Besides this being Da Vinci’s painting, why did this get so famous?

On a quiet morning in August 1911, a weekly closure day for the Louvre, a man entered unnoticed into the Louvre. He had worked here before, putting glass into frames and knew his way around. He wasn’t happy these Italian paintings were in France and was determined to take them back. Vincenzo Peruggia realized that most of the paintings were way too big, with the exception of the Mona Lisa. He seized it and quickly took it out of the frame and slid it under his jacket. The next morning, the theft was noticed when a painter who was supposed to paint a copy of the Mona Lisa found it missing. The police scoured the city for clues including searching the apartment of Peruggia, a known thief, who had left a thumb-print behind but the police missed finding the painting.

Days after the theft, a contest for eccentric stories started. A newspaper interviewed Mona Lisa; others speculated that it must be a ‘crime of passion.’ Or that Arsène Lupin was involved. Movies and popular songs poked fun at the whole thing. Newspapers offered financial rewards for information leading to the painting. For over two years, the Louvre ran daily ads in the newspaper. All that publicity led to the Mona Lisa becoming such a famous painting – any other painting would have likely received the same publicity.

For two years, it stayed hidden until Peruggia decided to sell the painting to antique dealers in Italy who were offering good prices for art. With the painting hidden in the bottom of a trunk, Peruggia crossed the border to Florence. There the merchant he was negotiating with contacted the Italian authorities and Peruggia was arrested. He was given a lenient sentence as he claimed he was trying to return it to Italy believing Napoleon stole it.

And some other questions that often get asked:

  • Why this this painting so small? It is not small. Au contraire, it is the biggest portrait that Leonardo has ever painted. Like all portraits, it is roughly life size.
  • Do her eyes really look at you?  If a painter can turn a few drops of color into living eyes, it can provide an an opening into someone’s soul and looks like the eyes follow you. It’s a myth that they eyes are following you
  • , then the painting is most likely a masterpiece

We took our time and enjoyed the painting. Ignoring the hype and the mystique and the stories around it. We had to let the beauty of the painting sink in.

The Grande Galerie

Dozens of Italian Masterpieces hang in this Grande Galerie at the Louvre, a hot-spot to see majestic paintings. The Grande Galerie was built at the end of the 16th century to link two royal palaces:  the Louvre and Tuileries and runs parallel to the Seine.

One of the masterpieces in that corridor, is the Coronation of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine. This painting is a contradiction of both history and fiction. It was ordered by Emperor Napoleon to establish his power. The Pope was supposed to crown him but Napoleon believed he was above the church and everyone so he took the crown from the Pope and placed it on his own head and then placed it on the queen. While the painting is supposed to represent the coronation of Napoleon, it shows Napoleon crowning the queen while the Pope looks on disgusted and mad.

This painting is full of factual error. In the balcony, you see a woman sitting who is Napoleon’s mother. But Napoleon’s mother lived in Corsica, and didn’t attend the coronation and she knew her son was going to disrespect the Pope, and she didn’t want to be a part of that. His mother also didn’t like Napoleon’s wife, Josephine who was older than Napoleon. In the painting, Josephine looks so young but she was 43 and didn’t want to look older than Napoleon and so she asked the artist to make her look younger. The exact same picture is also in Versailles. In the original painting, the sisters and cousins of Napoleon are also depicted in the same dress. But one of the women paid the painter to redo it with her wearing a pink dress and you’ll see that version in Versailles.

Now our last stop of the day is to see Alexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon created one of the largest empires of the ancient world in little over a decade. According to the website historyextra.com, after suppressing his enemies on home soil, Alexander moved quickly to reassert Macedonian power in Greece and to conquer the Persian empire, achieving victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat.

The next eight years of campaigning saw him create an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles – south into Egypt and as far east as the Indian Punjab.

He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders – but died in his prime at Babylon in June 323 BC, just before his 33rd birthday.

Now that brought us to the end of the tour. There was still plenty to see within the Louvre. There are so many works of art. But our kid wanted to visit the Paris Saint Germain stadium, so we wandered a little bit more through some of the other galleries. The one with all the Islamic artifacts reminded us of our visit to Istanbul. When we were done, we stepped out and took a break in Jardin de Tuileries, a public garden located between the Louvre and Place de La Concorde before heading out to the football stadium and the home of Messi.


Korean Ground Turkey

Sweet, sour, spicy come together for a delicious flavor profile in this Korean Ground Turkey recipe. This dish has become a comfort food for the kids. Combine it with a bowl of steaming Jasmine rice, a side of broccoli, carrot sticks and edamame beans and viola, a perfectly healthy, flavorful meal at your fingertips.

This is a perfect weeknight dinner as it is ready under 15 minutes. This recipe is often made with beef but I substitute turkey or chicken for a lean option.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey or any lean ground meat
  • 1/4 cup soya sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp siracha sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dry red chili flakes
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp ginger, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds for garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions for garnish

Method

1. In a frying pan, heat the oil. When hot, add in the red chili flakes, ginger and garlic. Stir fry on medium heat for a minute

2. Add in the ground meat, frying it well, breaking the meat into crumbles over medium heat, until it is no longer pink

3. Add in the soya sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha, mixing it well, until it is well combined. Let it simmer for 2 minutes

4. Serve on a bed of hot rice, garnished with the sesame seeds and green onions. Add a side of vegetables like sweet pepper strips, cucumber slices, steamed edamame beans, broccoli, green beans or carrot sticks


BBQ Pork (Char Siu) Board

This Asian-twist to a Charcuterie board is a veritable feast on a tray! With Charcuterie boards being all the rage, why not try something different? I’ve made a grazing board a couple of times now using this BBQ board and my guests/hosts have appreciated it being different, but they loved the taste as well.

Method: Click here to make the Char Siu following this recipe

Time: 10 minutes not including the time to make the Char Siu

Servings: 10-15 people as an appetizer (along with other appetizers)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Warm crusted French Bread
  • Fillings (4 cups char siu slices)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar (sub apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup julienned carrots
  • 3/4 cup julienned radish (daikon or regular)
  • 3/4 cup cucumber cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup cilantro sprigs
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced jalapenos, optional
  • 1/2 cup mayo with Sriracha sauce mixed in, if you like it spicy

Method:

  1. Slice and keep aside 4 cups of char siu slices in 1-2 serving bowls that will fit on your charcuterie board or arrange them on the board
  2. Mix the warm water, vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Divide the mixture into three small separate serving bowls and add the carrots to one bowl, radish to the next and cucumber to the third bowl. Best to let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving
  3. Mix the Sriracha sauce with the mayo and place in a small serving bowl on the charcuterie board
  4. Cut the French bread into thin slices (preferable on a bias) and arrange on the charcuterie board
  5. Place cucumber springs and jalapeno slides either on the board or in a small serving bowl
  6. Guest will lather slices of the bread with the mayo and layer it with meat and vegetables for a delectable treat (makes it a deconstructed Banh-Mi sandwich!)
  7. Manger!

Rum Balls / Walnut Fudge Balls

A popular Christmas treat, these simple and yet, decadent rum balls are a quick, easy add to our Christmas treat or to our Kuswar. Kuswar, derived from the Portuguese term consoada, means dinner served on Christmas eve. It’s a set of Christmas sweets prepared by the Catholics in India during Christmas. On Christmas day, after mass, we’d take plates of Christmas sweet – rum balls, marzipan, rose kookies, kulkuls, biscuits, gauva cheese and more – all homemade and exchange treats with our neighbors. Now living in the US, we have tried to keep the tradition going. We often have carol-singing parties followed by a Kuswar exchange. This easy-to-make treat is a decadent add to the Kuswar plate.

1 minute prep time, 1 minute in the microwave, let it cool a couple of minutes, form the rum balls and before you know it, you have a delicious treat on hand!

Time: 10 minutes Servings: 50-60 rum balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 14oz condensed milk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoons Spiced Rum (feel free to add more if you’d like to up the alcohol content) – avoid alcohol, if you’d like
  • 1 tablespoon butter (to coat palms to form the balls)
  • 1/4 cup tiny walnut pieces

Method:

  1. Prep a sheet of parchment paper by rubbing a spoon of hardened butter over the sheet – this will prevent the fudge from sticking to the sheet later.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish pour the condensed milk and then stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Place the dish in the microwave and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir the contents until the chips and condensed milk is well blended and smooth. Stir in the rum.
  4. Microwave in 15 second increments incase the chips are not melted as the duration varies by the microwave.
  5. Pour the contents of the dish on the parchment paper. Place in the fridge to cool or cool on the countertop.
  6. When cool to touch, coat palms with butter and take teaspoon full of fudge and roll into a ball on the palm of your hand. Top with a tiny piece of walnut, similar to the picture
  7. Place the balls in an airtight bowl to store, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

4-minute Fudge!!

Seriously??!! Yes, 1 minute prep time, 1 minute in the microwave, let it cool a couple of minutes, slice and serve. In less than 4 minutes you have fudge…delicious, finger-licking and decadent fudge! Want to make it festive, follow the tip at the bottom of the page.

Time: Under 4 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 14oz condensed milk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Prep a sheet of parchment paper by rubbing a spoon of hardened butter over the sheet – this will prevent the fudge from sticking to the sheet later.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish pour the condensed milk and then stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Place the dish in the microwave and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir the contents until the chips and condensed milk is well blended and smooth.
  4. Microwave in 15 second increments incase the chips are not melted as the duration varies by the microwave.
  5. Pour the contents of the dish on the parchment paper. Place in the fridge to cool or cool on the countertop.
  6. When cool to touch, cut into squares to serve.
  7. Place the squares in an airtight bowl to store, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

Tip: Want to make it festive? Add two tablespoons of spiced rum (or more, to taste) after step 3 and stir into the melted chips/condensed milk. When slightly cool to touch, coat palms with butter and take teaspoon full of fudge and roll into a ball on the palm of your hand. Top with a tiny piece of walnut, similar to the picture below. You can make 50-60 balls.

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Nankhatai (Indian shortbread biscuits)

Gearing up for Christmas? This is an easy to make, rich, and such a pretty add to your Christmas platter. This one is from mum’s recipe book and also one that Nilesh’s mom makes each year.

Makes about 30-40 nankhatais

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup ghee/ clarified butter
  • 10 green cardamon (remove the outer covering and crush the seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: for garnish – edible silver balls, chopped pistachios, or candied fruit

Method

  • Sieve the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl. Mix in the baking powder and cardamon powder
  • Add the ghee and knead to prepare a soft dough. Do not add water
  • Wrap the dough in a Saran/plastic wrap tightly and keep it aside for 4-6 hours or overnight. No need to refrigerate
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. In the meantime, line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Optional step: should you wish to make colorful nankhatai, split the dough into smaller chunks and add color to each chunk, kneading the color in until desired color is reached and it is well blended
  • Make small balls from the dough and in the center, add a silver ball or a piece of pistachio nut or a tiny piece of candied fruit for garnish to the top of the ball, pressing gently to stick it to the ball
  • Place the balls on a tray about an inch apart and place the tray in the oven
  • Bake for 12-15 mins until the cookies are golden. The timing will vary depending on your container, oven, etc. Remove the tray from the oven and place cookies on a wire tray to cool. Otherwise you can leave it on the baking tray but the bottoms will continue to brown
  • Place in an air-tight container. Will stay for 3 weeks
  • Enjoy!!

Falooda

Falooda is a quintessential summer drink in India. It has a lot of resemblance to the popular drink Boba. Made with layers of rose syrup, basil seeds, creamy milk, vermicelli, ice cream and jello, it will keep you thirsting for more!

While my mom made this frequently at home, the highlight of a trip to Mumbai was a visit to Badshah’s, in Crawford Market where their Falooda was to die for. That was her favorite restaurant and now a trip to Mumbai with our kids always includes that stop!

Servings: 6.  Time: 15-30 mins including the time to soak the seeds but not including the time to set the optional jello

Ingredients

  • 3 cups – Chilled milk
  • 1 packet Falooda sev (looks like yellow thin noodles) usually found in an Indian grocery store
  • 2 tbsp – Subja/Takmuria seeds (optionally use chia seeds). Subja seeds are good for digestion and found in Indian grocery stores
  • 1 cup – Rose syrup (Sharbat Rooh Afza bottle) or more to meet the desired sweetness
  • 6 scoops Vanilla or Strawberry  ice cream or a flavor of choice
  • 1 packet Jello – strawberry flavor (optional)

Method

  • If using Jello, make it as per the instructions on the box and refrigerate to set.
  • Cook the Falooda sev per the instructions  on the packet or follow these instructions. In a cooking vessel, add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the Falooda sev/noodles and boil for 7 minutes, remove from the stove, drain the water and then add 3 cups of cold water and keep aside the cooked sev.
  • In another bowl, soak the subja seeds in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes. You will notice the seeds plump up.
  • Take 6 glasses in which you intend serving the Falooda. Pour a half cup of milk into each glass.
  • To each cup, add in 1/8th  cup (2 tbsp) of the rose syrup  to each glass and stir until blended. You can always add more syrup for desired sweetness.
  • Add in 2 tablespoons of jello along with 2 tablespoons of sev and 2 teaspoons of sabja seeds, in each cup.
  • Serve with two scoops of icecream into each cup.
  • Slurp!!

Semolina (Cream of Wheat) porridge

Semolina, or suji as it is known in India, is made from durum wheat, and not highly refined or  processed.  It is a good source of healthy carbs, protein and fiber. Also popularly known by the brand name Cream of Wheat, this is a healthy and  quick breakfast option.  As shared by a report in Times of India, semolina not only helps in providing instant energy but also boosts your metabolism in the longer run.  Due to the presence of iron, it helps in regulating and maintaining a normal blood pressure level in the body. It improves blood circulation and prevents anemia. The best part about this gritty grain is that it doesn’t contain any cholesterol, thus, it can be a good staple for people with cardiovascular diseases.

Both Nilesh and I had this as a breakfast option before school and when Nilesh’s parents would visit from India, they looked forward to Papa making it for them both before and after school. Even now, it is a nice breakfast or after-school option especially on cold days!

Time: 10 minutes.  Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons suji
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk

Method

  • In a heavy bottomed vessel, add the semolina and place on the stove on low heat
  • Roast semolina on low heat, stirring continuously to prevent the suji from burning. Should take a minute or so, and you will notice the aroma of the roasted suji. Make sure it doesn’t burn
  • When the semolina is roasted, add the milk to the vessel along with the sugar and salt, and stir until well combined
  • Raise flame to medium heat and keep stirring until the porridge thickens to desired consistency. We like it more liquid in texture so I keep stirring it for about 5 minutes
  • When the desired consistency is reached, remove the vessel from the flame and pour the porridge into a cup or bowl.

Enjoy!


Kalakhand – An Indian Milk Sweet

Kalakhand, is the Indian version of milk cake, oozing with the goodness of milk, sugar and nuts.

Now there’s “easy” and there’s “too much effort” when it comes to making desserts. This one has gone from “too time-consuming” to “goodness me, how is something so easy, so delicious?!”. Try it, I’ve had many folks ask me for this recipe because it is just so delicious and they also couldn’t believe how easy it is to make.

Come December, my mom, grandmother, and all the aunties we knew would get busy with preparing for Christmas. They’de slave over the stove, or oven for hours. Gauva cheese, dodhol (a Goan jaggery sweet), marizpan- all delicious but oh so time consuming. Here I’ve found shortcuts and this particular dessert takes away the hours you’d need stirring milk on the stove to just minutes in the microwave.

Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 18 minutes, Set time: 1 hour

Servings: approximately 20 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz Ricotta cheese
  • 14oz Condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Rose water
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cardamom powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Almonds or almond slivers

Method:

  1. In a microwave safe rectangular dish, mix the Ricotta Cheese and the Condensed Milk well. Make sure there are no lumps, mashing them with the back of a spoon or using a whisk
  2. Place the dish in the microwave, uncovered and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Remove from microwave and stir the contents well, making sure you loosen the edges
  4. Place the dish back in the microwave, uncovered, and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir
  5. Microwave for 2 minutes, covered. Take out and stir
  6. Now place back in the microwave, cross cover the dish and microwave for 2 minutes. Then remove and stir
  7. Microwave for another 6 minutes, uncovered taking out and stirring every 2 minutes
  8. Once done, add in the Cardamom powder and rose water and stir well again
  9. Evenly flatten the mix into the dish, spreading and flattening it
  10. Sprinkle chopped Almonds on top of the mix and press them down to help them stick to the top of the dessert
  11. Cover the dish and place in the bridge, setting it for atleast an hour.
  12. Remove and cut into squares before serving

Cluster beans (gawar)

A simple, healthy dish made with cluster beans or gawar phali as it’s commonly known in India.

Cluster Beans are a legume, also known as gavar, gawar, or guvar beans, often available in fresh and frozen forms at an Indian grocery store. Not only is it high in fiber, it is said to help with resolving anemia issues and building stronger bones. Why not give this simple recipe a try and add this recipe to your list of side dishes?

Time: 20 minutes Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 300 grams gawar phali / cluster beans
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon carrom seeds (ajwain)
  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 pods garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon haldi (turmeric) powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dhania powder (coriander)
  • 2 tablespoon coriander leaves chopped (hari dhania)

Method:

  • In a pan, heat the oil. Add the carrom seeds and let it splutter, and then add the onion, ginger and garlic. Cook till the onions are translucent.
  • Add the tomatoes, chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder. Saute on medium flame, until the tomatoes are mushy.
  • Add salt to taste, one-third cup water, cover and cook on medium flame for about 12 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle the coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot with chapatis

Mango custard with fruit

Fruit salad with custard. It was a given that when you went for Goan party, dessert would include a fruit salad with custard. In my home, it’s now a nice option for when the kids want a quick snack. Use low fat milk, let the fruit sweeten the sugar, and now you have a healthy snack or even breakfast option!

Custard, a creamy milk dish, was traditionally made with milk, cream and eggs. Today, the fastest (and eggless way) to make this is by using custard powder. I often buy Brown & Polson’s custard powder, as that’s what I remember my mom and grandma using. It’s easily available in Indian grocery stores and is a quick option for when the kids want something for a snack or a dessert when guests swing by. The addition of milk and a variety of chopped fruits give it a ton of nutritional benefits. For a twist, I will use unsweetened mango pulp for mango-flavored custard. I hope this becomes a regular at your home too.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup custard powder ( I use Brown & Polson vanilla custard powder)
  • 2 cups 1% milk (3 cups milk, if you don’t want to make a mango custard but prefer a vanilla custard)
  • 1 cup unsweetened mango pulp (omit if you just want a vanilla custard and increase milk to a total 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar ( or reduce it to 1 tablespoon and let the fruit sweetness take centre stage)
  • Fruit for serving – blueberries, chopped banana, apple, grapes, strawberries, pomegranate arils

Method

  • In a bowl, mix 4 tablespoons of the milk with the custard powder to form a smooth plaster and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, boil the remaining fill on medium heat. When the milk reaches boiling point, stir in the sugar and the mango pulp.
  • Turn the heat to low, and add the custard paste and continue stirring until it thickens. The consistency should be almost like a sauce.  You don’t want this to burn so continue stirring until it reaches that consistency.
  • Turn off the heat and cool. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
  • Serve with fresh fruits like blueberries, chopped strawberries, apples, bananas, grapes and pomegranate arils.

Chickpea Cucumber Salad

A refreshing salad that is healthy and big on taste – perfect as a side salad or grab a bigger portion for a complete meal. This invigorating salad has a zesty taste with a capers, lemon and jalapeno dressing.

Servings: 2 Time: 20 minutes including 10 minutes resting time

Ingredients

  • 1 15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed
  • 1 pound Persian cucumbers
  • 2 medium tomatoes or 16 oz grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, for serving
  • 2/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp capers, drained and chopped alternatively 1.5 tbsp finely chopped dill pickles
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil and honey together. Add in capers, oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.
  • Dice the cucumbers and add to the bowl along with tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and parsley. Toss all the ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes, at least before serving.
  • Top with feta cheese before serving.

Mediterranean Flatbread (Za’atar flatbread)

This past summer, we stopped by Abu Dhabi enroute to India. It was a few days of beautiful sights and the most delicious middle eastern food. The Za’atar on tender bread reminded Nilesh of his days growing up in the middle east. He couldn’t stop talking about those flavors even after a month so this afternoon, we stopped by a Lebanese grocery store, picked up some Za’atar spice and gyros bread and used our home grown tomatoes to make some scrumptious Middle Eastern flatbread.

What’s Za’atar? It’s a herb and spice mix that tastes a bit nutty, savory and crunchy. The herb, originally is a herb called hyssop, although in the US, oregano or thyme replace it. The spices are a combination of sumac, coriander seeds and sesame seeds.

Benefits of Za’atar: In some parts of the middle east, there is a belief that Za’atar makes the mind alert and is also used to prevent or eliminate internal parasites. It’s also known to sooth inflammation, boost skin health and build strong bones. No wonder, Lebanese kids are encouraged to have it for breakfast. You can drizzle it over vegetables, avocado on toast, or mix it up with olive oil for use on a pizza/flatbread.

Cook time: 10 mins. Prep time: 5 mins

Servings: 2

For the pizza

  • 2 pitas or naans
  • 1 large tomato cut into half and then sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Za’atar spice mix

Tahini Sauce for drizzle

  • 1/2 cup Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold water

Method for Tahini sauce:

Blend all ingredients together to form sauce. Add extra water for desired consistency.

Method for pizza: (Oven/ Foodi/ Air fryer options)

  • Preheat Foodi or Air Fryer with air fryer option to 375 degree Farenheit or Oven to 400 degrees
  • Mix Za’atar and olive oil and brush the mix on the pita
  • Layer tomato slices
  • Cook in air fryer or over for 10 mins
  • Remove and drizzle with tahini sauce to serve

Easy, Healthy Granola

Granola is an excellent source of fiber and potassium. It’s a magical, delicious mix of oats, nuts, dried fruits and maple syrup or honey. Not only is it beloved by hikers, it’s good for breakfast, a snack, or when mixed in with yogurt and berries, makes for a delicious desert. But store bought granola can be full of artificial sweeteners. Here is a super easy and yet, very healthy granola recipe. It’s sweetness comes from maple syrup (or honey) and the crunch comes from nuts. Make it your own with your choice of nuts.

Servings: 6 cups of granola

Time: 35 minutes including baking time of about 20-22 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats ( or use gluten free oats)
  • 1.5 cups mixed nuts – almonds, walnuts and pecans (you can use your own combination of nuts – cashews, pistachios taste great)
  • 2/3rd cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive or coconut oil (I prefer the flavor of coconut oil)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3rd cup dried cranberries (other dried berries, just watch the sugar in those)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Method:

  • Line a large, rimmed baking sheet or pan with parchment paper while preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon powder.
  • Pour into the mixing bowl the maple syrup(or honey), oil and vanilla essence. Stir to combine so all the oats and nuts are coated.
  • Evenly layer the mix on the baking sheet and place the sheet in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, remove sheet/pan from oven and stir the granola so that it browns evenly. Put the sheet back in oven and cook for another 10-12 minutes.
  • Remove sheet/pan from oven and cool for an hour, as the granola will further crisp.
  • When cool, mix in the dried cranberry and chocolate chips.
  • It is now ready to be served or store in an air-tight container.
Berry yogurt with granola topping

The best buttercream frosting ever!

Growing up, every birthday party had the most delicious and beautiful homemade cakes. I especially remember a cake in the shape of a multi wagon train with goodies in each wagon, and a checkered cake for my 21st birthday. I am so grateful for such a creative and loving mom. I have tried to replicate that for my kids with every birthday being a themed one. As they’ve grown into teens, the themes are no longer there but they still want homemade cakes. And that’s where this buttercream icing has stood the rest of the time. Adults, kids all love it and I will often use a box cake mix (I love Duncan Hines) to save myself time and focus instead on the shape and decoration. This icing makes the cake out of this world.

Time: 10 mins including prep time

Servings: enough for one 9 inch cake

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks salted butter, softened
  • 1/3rd teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pounds ( 3 cups or 24 ounces) powdered sugar (confectioner’s), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Method:

  • Soften the butter either in 15 second increments in microwave or by keeping it at room temperature. Butter should be soft but not fully melted. If melted, the frosting will just take a little longer to make.
  • In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer) add the butter, and beat on low speed with the mixer (hand or stand mixer) for 30 seconds until butter is a little fluffy.
  • Slowly add in the sugar to bowl and continue to beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated.
  • Add in vanilla, salt and 3 tablespoons milk and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Turn speed to medium and beat for another 5-6 minutes.
  • If buttercream is too thick, ass in milk one tablespoon at a time to get the desired consistency.
  • You’re now ready to frost your cake and if your family is like mine, they will be standing around to lick the paddles!

Old-Fashioned Overnight Oats

Oats are a nutrient-dense food. Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a half cup of dry, quick-cooking oats, contains about 150 calories, 5 grams of plant protein, 27 grams of carbs, 4 grams of filling fiber, and a few grams of fat. Oats also contain vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamins, and smaller amounts of calcium and potassium. So, why not add them to your food choices? It’s not only a great option to start your day but an easy to have snack during the day. Avoid those sugar-loaded, ready-made Oatmeal packets and try one of these overnight oat recipes or even the warm oat recipes.

This Healthy Old-Fashioned Overnight Oats Recipe is a delicious breakfast that can be prepared easily and ready for a busy morning. Customize with toppings of your choice and you won’t have a reason to skip a healthy, delicious breakfast no matter how crazy your morning can get!

Overnight nights are an easy, no-cook breakfast that you can prep and keep ready for the entire week. Our favorite toppings are walnuts, almonds, banana, maple syrup, peanut butter and granola. You can also try dark chocolate chips, honey, fresh fruit.

Serving Size: 2

Prep Time: 5 minutes plus 8 hours/overnight

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (for vegan – use a plant-based yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional – but super good for you!)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey or sweetener like agave/stevia)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a large glass container and stir until combined
  2. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight (or atleast 2 hours).
  3. Before serving, give it a stir and add a little more milk, if desired for a thinner consistency. Add toppings and serve!

Jazz up your overnight oats with these other recipes


Apple-cinnamon overnight oats

Overnight oats are delicious, easy to make and not just a perfect way to start the day but also very healthy! Mix, soak, enjoy!! And if you really don’t like them cold, just pop them into your microwave and heat in 30 second increments until the desired temperature is reached and enjoy!

Chopped apples, cinnamon, maple syrup! What’s not to enjoy!!

Prep time : 8 hours including overnight time

Serving size: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened milk, I prefer unsweetened almond but any milk will do
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or plant-based for a vegan recipe)
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey or sweetener like stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, optional
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Big pinch of cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 a small apple, diced
  • Toppings like nuts, granola, berries, diced apple and banana

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients, except for the toppings in a large glass container and stir until combined
  2. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight (or atleast 2 hours).
  3. Before serving, give it a stir and add a little more milk, if desired for a thinner consistency. Add toppings and serve!

Enjoy! Make a bigger batch and it can stay in the fridge for up to 5 days

Try out some other overnight recipes here:

  1. Old Fashioned Overnight Oats
  2. Tropical Mango, Banana Overnight Oats
  3. Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats

Tropical Mango Banana overnight oats

Tropical mango and banana combine to form this delicious, vegan and gluten-free overnight oatmeal breakfast.

Servings: 2

Time: 5 minutes plus 8 hours (overnight)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 3/4 cup Mango pulp (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (for vegan – use a plant-based yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional – but super good for you!)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey or sweetener like agave/stevia)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 banana mashed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings (optional) – banana slices, mango cubes, other fruits like berries, nuts, coconut flakes

Method

  1. Mash banana in a glass container with a lid
  2. Add the remaining ingredients with the exception of the toppings
  3. Stir, cover and refrigerate overnight
  4. Before serving, give it a quick stir and serve garnished with fresh banana slices and mango cubes and other toppings of your choice

Try these other delicious recipes

  1. Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
  2. Old Fashioned Overnight Oats
  3. Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats

Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats

These peanut butter banana overnight oats combine all of your favorite flavors to make the most delicious, high-protein breakfast made in under 5 minutes!

Serving Size: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes plus 8 hours (including overnight time)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)
  • 1 whole banana, mashed
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter, creamy
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional – but super good for you!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Toppings: Crushed peanuts, banana slices, strawberries, dark chocolate morsels and nuts

Method:

  1. Mash banana in a glass container with a lid
  2. Add the remaining ingredients with the exception of the toppings
  3. Stir, cover and refrigerate overnight
  4. Before serving, give it a quick stir and serve garnished with fresh banana slices, dark chocolate morsels, peanuts and other toppings of your choice

Jazz up your overnight oats with these other recipes


Broccoli Beef

Why get take out when you can quickly dish up a quintessential Chinese takeout dish in minutes? This one-pan, 30-minutes dish is loaded with tender broccoli and nutrition-packed beef cooked in a delicious sauce. Serve over rice for a delicious meal!

Broccoli Beef originates from a Chinese dish called Gai Lan Chao Niu Rounor or Chinese Broccoli Fried Beef. However, early immigrants could not find Gai Lan in the US, and American broccoli became an easy substitute, right around when broccoli was getting more popular in the US too. Given the ability of the broccoli to absorb delicious flavors of the sauce and the tender slices of beef, it’s no wonder it makes its way onto every Chinese restaurant menu.

Servings: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda or tenderize the meat by hammering it with a meat mallet)
  • 1  pound flank steak, cut into 1-inch pieces. (Find the grains of the beef and cut against it. After cutting rinse off the blood and set aside)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper powder
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame or vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks (optional)

Method

  • In a large bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch with water to form a slurry. Add beef to the bowl and toss until the beef is well coated with the cornstarch mix.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch along with soya sauce, oyster sauce, pepper and brown sugar. Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok on medium flame. When hot, add the beef and fry the beef on one side for 30-60 seconds. Flip and fry the beef until it is cooked through another 60 seconds. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.
  • Add remaining oil to the pan and when hot, add the diced onions, garlic and ginger and cook for a minute and then add the broccoli florets and carrots. Cook until broccoli is tender, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the beef back to the pan and pour the sauce over. Stir for another minute until the sauce thickens.
  • Turn off the stove and serve with a side of rice or noodles.

Chicken with lemon-caper sauce

A healthy dish that comes together in a flash for a weeknight dinner but with its restaurant- quality look and flavors it’s perfect for when guests stop by. The tart, briny and lemony flavors will have you licking the plate clean. You may want to double up the servings as you will be craving this again the next day!

Dairy and nut free.

Servings:4

Prep time: 4 minutes. Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 4 – 5oz boneless, skinless /skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (preferably no salt)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (mix in a quarter cup of water)

Method

In a plate, mix together the flour, black pepper powder, Italian seasoning. Coat chicken with the flour mixture, and shake off excess.

In a skillet, heat oil, on medium flame. When hot, add garlic, and cook garlic for 30 seconds.

Add the chicken to the pan and cook. After 5 minutes, turn chicken over, and continue cooking until brown on both sides and cooked through for another 5 minutes. Should take about 10 minutes to cook on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside

Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add in the water and the cornstarch slurry (cornstarch water mix). Continue cooking for about 2-3 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add chicken back to the skillet, cover and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in lemon juice, capers and parsley. Turn off the stove. Divide amongst four plates, spooning the sauce over the chicken.

Serve chicken in lemon-caper sauce with a side of beans and mashed potatoes! Yum!!

Kheema – ground turkey, beef or chicken

Kheema is a staple Indian dish and just so versatile. Nilesh, as a bachelor, made a huge pot of kheema and had it with pasta, with chapatis, or rice..he almost always seemed to be having kheema for a meal. Now we also use it in patties, empanadas, shepherd’s pie, and potato chops. Make a large pot and then package it into ziplock bags, frozen for another day and another dish!

This is my mum’s recipe. The secret ingredient which made her dish stand out was the addition of vinegar and sugar! You won’t be disappointed.

Servings:6

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey (or other meat – cooking time for non turkey options will vary )
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced fine
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced fine
  • 2 heaped tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 heaped tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp kasuri methi (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method:

  • Heat oil in a large pan
  • When oil simmers, add in the chopped onion, garlic and ginger
  • Turn the flame to low and stirring occasionally, let the mix cook 3 minutes until onions are translucent and soft
  • Add spices (except vinegar, salt and sugar) and fry for 1 minute on low flame
  • Add the meat, fry for 5 minutes
  • Add the vinegar, salt, sugar
  • Cook for 15 mins on low flame
  • Sprinkle in kasuri methi and cilantro, stir and cook for another minute
  • Serve hot with chapatis. Use leftovers to make shepherd’s pie or potato chops

Lentils with spinach – dal palak

This nutritional lentil dish packs an additional punch thanks to the addition of spinach. It’s vegetarian, gluten free and low fat giving you all the benefits of lentils (good protein, digestive health, weight loss etc.) and spinach (weight loss, eye health, anticancer and immunity boosting). Have it as a soup, over rice or scoop it up with a chapati.

Servings: 4. Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas or yellow lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (or olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 5 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, diced fined
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water

Method:

  • Start the instant pot or pressure cooker or ninja foodi in Saute mode
  • Heat the oil/ghee
  • Add in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and let them splutter for 10 seconds
  • Add garlic, let it splutter for 10 seconds
  • Add chopped tomatoes, spices and fry for 30 seconds
  • Add in the lentils, stir and add in water
  • Close lid of cooker and change mode to pressure cook
  • Pressure cook for 15 minutes
  • Let the pressure release naturally
  • Open the lid and add in the spinach and lime juice. Stir well and let us rest for 3-4 minutes, covered. The spinach will melt
  • Serve as a soup, over rice or with chapatis

Air fryer spicy peanuts

Looking for a quick snack, air fryer roasted peanuts come to the rescue. These roasted peanuts typically accompanied a drinking session, a nice accompaniment to a cold glass of beer or a glass of scotch or lemonade! Often made for parties, you will find yourself mindlessly grabbing a handful while you are busy catching up with someone.

Time:20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw peanuts
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • Smoked paprika or Red chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Preheat air fryer to 350 degree Fahrenheit on air crisp setting
  • In an air fryer safe dish, add oil and chili/paprika and salt
  • Toss the peanuts in and shake to coat it well
  • Put the container in the air fryer and air crisp for 15 mins, shaking the container intermittently
  • After 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 340 degrees and roast for another 5 minutes
  • Remove from air fryer and let cool for a bit before serving
  • Enjoy!

No-bake easy Chocolate Cheesecake with orange liqueur

This Father’s day turned out to be an unusually special one. My dad is visiting from India (the first time we have him here for Father’s day), my mum’s cousin Fr. Allan is visiting and of course, Nilesh. Three fathers in the house – we had to make something special! But after toiling over several dishes for lunch, I wanted a chocolate dessert that would make Nilesh’s day but would also be special and yet, easy.

That’s where this easy, no bake chocolate cheesecake comes in. I didn’t have the ingredients for a pie crust and even without that, everyone said this was finger licking good! And the orange liqueur with a dusting of shaved dark orange chocolate – ooh, heaven!!

Try it – this will be the highlight of every dinner party, and celebration.

Prep time: 10 minutes Chill time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips ( I use Kirklands)
  • 11 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • Optional but it definitely elevates the flavor- 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier Orange & Cognac liqueur and 1/4 cup shaved dark orange chocolate

Method

  • Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 45 seconds and then continue hearing in 10 second increments, stirring until chips are melted
  • In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar on medium speed with mixer. Gradually add melted chips, until blended
  • Fold in whipped topping, until blended
  • If using liqueur, pour in and blend
  • Spoon into a pie bowl or if using a prepared crust, spoon into crust
  • Refrigerate until firm
  • Garnish with shaved dark orange chocolate and whipped topping
  • Serve

German Apple Pancakes

We stayed over at our friend Prafulla’s house one weekend and awoke to this delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen. Cinnamon, apples….was that really apple pie for breakfast?? Instead we were greeted by an oversized and very fluffy pancake baked with apple slices and drizzled with Maple syrup. And while it was not apple pie, we werw not disappointed.

This delicious and yet, simple and quick but so special breakfast has become my go to and it was great to see both my dad and Nilesh enjoy it on this Father’s day weekend.

I highly recommend this. It comes together so quickly and you will be asking yourself why you want to make individual American pancakes when this one is so easy and quick!

Servings: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time:20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large apples (honeycrisp or gala) – peeled or unpeeled, cored and thinly slices
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour (no need to sift)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or regular)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder(or per taste)
  • For serving: Optional: Maple syrup to drizzle and confectioners sugar for dusting

Method

  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit
  • Take two 9-inch round cake pans and grease evenly with butter
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk, flour, salt, sugar, and half the cinnamon powder
  • Layer the apple slices on the bottom of each pan
  • Pour the mix into the two cake pans distributing evenly between the pans
  • Sprinkle remaining cinnamon powder over each pan
  • Put pans in the oven
  • Bake uncovered until puffed and golden brown about 20 – 22 minutes
  • Drizzle maple syrup and dust confectioners sugar
  • Serve!

Dragon Fruit Bowl

For those hot summer days, here’s something to cool you down.

Dragon fruit aka pitaya is a superfruit native to Central America. It is a fantastic source of fiber, magnesium and vitamin C. The perfect fruit to start the day energized or to refresh yourself at the end of a hot day.

Prep: 5 minutes        Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can (403ml) unsweetened  coconut  milk
  • 1 cup frozen dragon fruit
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • Sweetner of choice, as desired

Method

  • Pour coconut milk into the blender bowl
  • Add in the remaining ingredients
  • Blend 45 seconds
  • Pour into serving containers
  • Add in toppings of your choice like raspberries, almond slices, granola, banana slices, or pineapple chunks
  • Serve

Barbecue pulled pork – slow cooker/ Ninja Foodi /oven

Pulled pork simmered in a tangy, sweet and spicy sauce bringing back memories of a roadtrip  down to Texas where we had the most delicious and moist pulled pork – in the parking lot of a restaurant because of Covid. As we reminisced over the trip, we had to replicate the flavors at home.

Servings: 8 (for 8 sandwiches)

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 6 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1.5 large onions, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 lbs pork shoulder butt roast
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon  Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon  red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (see notes to make barbecue sauce at home)

Method

  1. Lightly rub the pork with salt and pepper
  2. If using a Ninja Foodi, put on the sear option on high
  3. Pour the oil into the bottom of a slow cooker, dutch oven or the Ninja Foodi
  4. Add the onions, garlic
  5. Add the remaining ingredients including the pork
  6. Cover the container to cook:
    1. Turn on the slow cooker and set for high
    2. For Foodi, switch to slow cooker option and set to high
    3. For oven, preheat to 250F. Cover dutch oven and place in oven
  7. Cook on high for 5-6 hours until the pork shreds easily with a fork
  8. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred the meat using two forks
  9. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, and stir the meat with the juices in the pot
  10. Serve on hamburger buns with a side of beans, coleslaw and potato salad

Notes:

  • Home made barbeque sauce:
    • Ingredients:
      • 1.5 cups ketchup
      • 2 tablespoon molasses
      • 3 garlic cloves minced
      • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
      • 1  teaspoon black pepper powder
      • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
    • Method
      • Combine ingredients in a pot on the stove. Simmer for 15- 20 minutes until sauce has deepened in color. Store in a tightly covered lid for upto 10 days

Mango Chia Seed Pudding

If you love mango and tropical flavors, this chia pudding is for you. A combination of coconut milk, combined with chia seeds and mango pulp, makes for a delicious pudding that will energize you and fill you up. A great way to start the day or a pick-me-up during the day.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk (alternatively, almond or any other milk, or 1/2 cup coconut cream with 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1 cup unsweetened mango pulp
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Toppings: Mango cubes, pineapple, berries, almonds, granola

Method

  • In a large, lidded bowl, mix the mango pulp and almond milk. Stir
  • Add in the chia seeds and maple syrup. Stir with a spoon. Ensure no clumps of chia seeds remain
  • Close with lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Top with mango chunks, pineapple, berries, granola, or nuts

Try these other chia seed pudding flavors:


Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

This deliciously sinful, chocolate chia seed pudding is for when those chocolate cravings hit or if you want dessert for breakfast without feeling guilty. This calls for only 5 ingredients and you likely have them already.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk (alternatively, any other milk)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Toppings: Berries, almonds, granola

Method

  • In a large, lidded bowl, whisk in the cocoa powder into the almond milk, removing any clumps
  • Add in the chia seeds, vanilla essence and maple syrup. Stir with a spoon. Ensure no clumps of chia seeds remain
  • Close with lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Top with berries, granola, or nuts

Try these other chia seed pudding flavors:


Matcha Chia Seed Pudding

Sophie loves her matcha boba tea and was very happy when we made a matcha Chia seed pudding. Not only did the matcha powder give it it’s beautiful green color, the matcha flavor was elevated with the use of coconut cream. If you love matcha, this pudding is for you! It will energize you while filling you up.

Why Matcha? Did you know it’s full of antioxidants, can speed up metabolism, and lower bad cholesterol? And of course, chia seeds contain protein, fiber and the good-for-you kind of fat

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Toppings: Berries, almonds, granola

Method

  • In a large, lidded bowl, whisk the matcha powder, coconut cream and almond milk, making sure no clumps remain
  • Add in the chia seeds and maple syrup. Stir with a spoon. Ensure no clumps of chia seeds remain
  • Close with lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Top with granola, fruit or nuts

Try these other chia seed pudding flavors:


Chia seeds pudding

Something I always struggle with is what to eat as a snack or have ready for breakfast for the kids to grab quickly before school. This chia seed pudding fits the bill – it is a make-ahead, easy and yet healthy breakfast or snack option that is energizing and filling. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. And best of all, it is so good for you.

Chia seeds contain protein, fiber and the good-for-you kind of fat. Soak them in a liquid and you get this smooth, gelatinous pudding texture. Add a little sweetener, a topping of your choice like fruit or granola, and who can resist dessert, and a healthy one at that??!

I make this Chia seed pudding with simple ingredients. And then top it with granola (at time of eating) or layer it with fruit for a grab-when-you-need option. I have found that 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to 1/4 cup of milk is the ideal ratio.

Once you have this, it may soon be a go-to, so check out the links below to other chia-seed pudding options.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups light coconut milk or almond milk (or cow’s milk)
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1.5 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)

Toppings

  • Berries
  • Granola or chopped nuts
  • Chopped fresh mango or pineapple
  • Coconut flakes

Method

  • In a lidded container, pour in the milk. Stir in the chia seeds. Cover the container and shake well to combine. Wait for 2-3 minutes and then stir well with a spoon making sure to break any clumps
  • Add in the vanilla essence and maple syrup, and stir
  • Cover with a tight light and let set in fridge overnight or at least 2 hours
  • When serving, top with your favorite fruit, nuts or granola, and enjoy!

Other Chia Seed Pudding recipes:


Mushroom, Spinach and Black Bean Quesadillas

When you want a healthy and yet quick meal or a snack on-the-go, these quesadillas are a great option. A mix of spinach, corn, mushrooms, black beans, onions, and creamy avocado makes for a filling, delicious vegetarian meal. And if you’re craving meat, just add some shredded chicken to the mix.

Servings: 4 quesadillas Cook and prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 large Red Onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 8 oz Baby Bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups fresh Spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen Corn
  • 1/2 cup cooked Black Beans
  • 2 large Avocados, removed from shell and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • 4 medium Tortillas (I use whole wheat although flour tortillas are usually tastier but less healthy)
  • Salt to taste
  • Salsa, for serving
  • 2 cups shredded chicken, optional (for when you want a non-vegetarian option)

Method:

  • In a pan, heat the Olive oil
  • When oil is hot and shimmering, add in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and add in the onions, stir occasionally while the onions turn translucent.
  • Add in the sliced mushrooms. Fry the mix, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and caramelized, and the water from the mushrooms in the pan has dissipated – approximately 3-4 minutes
  • Add in the spinach, black beans and corn. Cook till spinach has wilted. Sprinkle salt, stir and keep aside
  • Lay out the four tortillas on plates
  • Cover a half of each tortilla by distributing the 1 cup of cheese across the tortillas
  • Distribute equally the spinach, corn, black beans, and mushroom mix over the cheese
  • Layer the mix with equal amounts of avocado slices and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese evenly over it, as well
  • Fold tortilla into half by pressing the empty half of the tortilla over the toppings
  • Heat a medium/large size skillet. When skillet is hot, place the folded tortilla in the skillet. Cook on both sides for a total of 4 mins, flipping half-way through
  • Before serving, cut the quesadillas into 3 equal sizes
  • Serve hot with a side of salsa
  • Enjoy!

Tuvar Dal (Pigeon-Pea lentils)

While growing up, dal, or lentils, was a staple part of a meal. Tuvar dal, moong daal, chana dal, it didn’t matter. There were so many different recipes, and all were so nutritious and delicious. When you were sick, you had a simple dal soup, and on occasions, you had some more complex recipes. This recipe is a staple in our home. It’s flavorful and can be just had with rice. On some days, the perfect accompaniment to dal and rice is fried fish, stuffed with red masala…..but more on that fried fish later!

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup tuvar/tur dal rinsed
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • .5 tsp red chili powder
  • .5 tsp garam masala powder
  • .5 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tsp lime juice

Method:

  • In a pressure cooker, or Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot (both on sear setting) heat oil
  • When oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds, they will splutter
  • Add in the onion, ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes until onions are soft and translucent
  • Add in the tomato and fry for 2 minutes
  • Add in the dry powders and stir for another minute
  • Add in the dal and 2.5 cups of water along with the salt
  • Put the pressure cooker lid on (for Foodi or Instant Pot, turn setting to Pressure cook and put timer to 16 minutes)
  • Pressure cook for 16 minutes
  • When done, wait until the lid can be safely removed. You can change the consistency of the daal by adding more water
  • Stir in the cilantro leaves (and lime juice, if using) and serve with rice or chapatis

Mango Pineapple Salsa

Sweet, tangy, healthy, fresh mango, pineapple salsa will have you dreaming of the tropics with a single bite. This salsa is the perfect make-ahead appetizer or a topping for fish, tacos, grilled chicken or pork. Best of all, it comes together in minutes.

We often make salsa for fish tacos or as a quick snack for when the kids come home from school. This mango and pineapple salsa brings vision of glorious summer days. I sometimes add a dash of Tagin, a Mexican seasoning available in ethnic grocery stores, and just dig in with a spoon – why waste calories on chips?!!

Prep: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced Pineapple
  • 2 cups diced Mangoes (see notes on chopping a mango easily)
  • 1 small Red Pepper
  • 1/2 small Red Onion, diced fine
  • 1 Jalapeno, diced fine (deseed if you don’t like it too spicy)
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

  • In a bowl, mix all ingredients well
  • Serve with tortilla chips or over tacos, chicken, fish…. or just grab a spoon and dig in
  • Refrigerate to keep fresh up to two days

How to chop a mango easily:

  1. Wash and dry the mango
  2. Place the mango upright on a cutting board, supporting it with your non-dominant hand
  3. Hold a sharp knife in your other hands
  4. Cut the thickest (widest) side of the mango, cutting from top to bottom as close to the pit as you can
  5. Repeat on the other side
  6. These sides are called “cheeks” – so you end up with two cheeks and a pit that still has a bit of flesh around it
  7. Use a knife to make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in each cheek, being careful to avoid cutting through the skin. Now, press the skin side of the mango cheek to turn it inside out, to resemble a porcupine. Scoop out the cubes off the skin using a knife or skin
  8. Peel the skin of the remaining middle piece and using a paring knife, cut as close to the pit as possible. Cut the remaining fruit flesh into cubes
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Sesame Garlic Bok Choy

A delicious, crisp vegetable that comes together in minutes. Bok Choy, a Chinese cabbage, can be braised, stir-fried or roasted. You can eat all of it, which reduces prep work. It has a crisp texture with a slightly nutty flavor.

Bok choy is 90% water, negligible fat and full of vitamins A, C and beta carotene. Pair it with soy sauce, sesame seeds, chili flakes, ginger and garlic, and you have a flavorful side on the table.

Sometimes bok choy is harvested when not yet mature and sold as baby bok choy. It’s usually 3-6 inches in length, sweeter and can be cooked whole.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb baby Bok Choy (quartered or halved)
  • 1 small White Onion (diced fine)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 5 large Garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 tsp Ginger (minced)

Method:

To clean Boy Choy: Under running water, rub off any dirt from the leaves and especially at the bottom of the stalks. Chop the boy choy into quarters or halves. Place them in a bowl until you are ready to cook.

To cook: In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 10 seconds. Add in the onions, and ginger and cook over high heat until fragrant, 20 seconds. Add the bok choy and stir-fry until the leaves start to wilt, 2 minutes. Add in the soy sauce and sesame seeds. Stir for about 20 seconds. Remove the bok choy from the heat and serve.


Blueberry Oat Vegan Smoothie

You are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised with this oat-filled smoothie. Raw oats are safe to eat. They aid weight-loss and improve heart and gut health. It makes a smoothie heartier and more filling. Blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse, full of anti-oxidants.

Interestingly when Nilesh’s cholesterol numbers went up, one of the ways to manage that was with regular oatmeal for breakfast.

Ingredients


1 cup cold almond milk
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats, dry
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp maple syrup

Method

Fill a blender with all the above mentioned ingredients.
Blend…sluuurp!!


Mediterranean Chickpea and eggplant

The Mediterranean diet focuses heavily on nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables resulting in lower inflammation and better heart health. When we visited Greece, we enjoyed the salads, vegetarian dishes and pan-seared aardines. Even the simple tomato just seemed a lot more delicious. This chickpea and eggplant dish aims to bring back those memories. It includes eggplant, known for its vitamins and antioxidants with chickpeas, which keep you full longer because it’s full of fiber. The combination of those two in a simple tomato sauce is luscious and hearty.

Servings: 4

Time to cook including prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups eggplant (1 large), chopped into chunks
  • 1.5 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
  • 2 Cups chick peas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped

Method

  • In a large frying pan, heat oil
  • Add onions and fry until translucent
  • Turn flame to medium heat
  • Add garlic and fry for a minute
  • Turn heat to low
  • Add in the chili powder, nutmeg powder, pepper powder, cumin powder. Give it a stir
  • Add in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and eggplant. Cover the pan and on low flame, cook till eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes
  • Add in the chickpeas. Sprinkle salt and stir gently. Cook another minute.
  • Sprinkle the parsley and turn off the stove
  • Serve with a side of couscous or a salad