Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)

Here comes my fourth recipe under “My Julie & Julia Project” for this year. For those who don’t know, I have started this project under which I will be posting 100 recipes from my kitchen by the end of the year 2019. This is the Recipe #4. Here is the link to “My Julie & Julia Project” post:

Julie & Julia – Starting my journey

This recipe has its roots in Delhi, the capital of India. North India is known for it’s lip-smacking food all over the world. Butter chicken, chicken tikka, dal makhani, sarson da saag, makki di roti, chhole, bhature, naan, are among the very few names in the extremely big list of its dishes. My apologies for leaving out some names which might be close to my reader’s hearts.

It might sound funny to see that I am apologizing to my readers here, but being a Punjabi, I know how much “food” means to some of us. LOL!! As soon as we are born, we are loaded with dishes topped with ghee (clarified butter). Also, milk and curd are out diet’s staples. Along with vegetables, pulses and grains are also an important part of the daily diet.

I have grown up with fond memories of this special dish that I am sharing with you all today. When I was little, I still remember that the celebrations in our family were never complete without the Oh-So-Special Butter Chicken. Loaded with fats, the taste of this dish would never go wrong.

I am constantly finding ways to be creative with this dish, thinking about how we can use leftover butter chicken in a different way, other than pairing it up with the usual naan and rice.

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But, trust me, there is no such thing as “Leftover Butter Chicken”. The creamy gravy paired with the succulent chicken pieces is never left for more experimentation. This time also, the complete dish was knocked off in no time with naan and rice. I’ll be probably preparing this dish again in a few days with the experiment I have in my mind.

The main winner in this dish is its rich and creamy sauce, which is prepared with few basic ingredients from the kitchen, which form the basis of many Indian gravies. Those are ginger, garlic, green chilies, onion and tomato. These are used to prepare a sauce which is flavored with some spices, and then loaded with the fats (butter and cream) which make the gravy what it is, thick, creamy and delicious. The final result is a rich, velvety blend of melt in mouth flavors.

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There is a version of the recipe which can be prepared by marinating the boneless chicken breast pieces. Chicken thigh pieces can also be used, but mostly it is everyone’s personal preference. I prefer to use the breast pieces for this recipe. The marination is prepared with yogurt, ginger garlic paste and other spices. Chicken pieces are coated with the marinade, and kept aside for few hours, or sometimes, even overnight. But I generally prefer to prepare the version without the chicken marination. Marination definitely imparts additional flavor to the chicken pieces, but this version also works well. It is quicker to prepare, and no less than the marination version. Also, some people prefer to use Ghee (Clarified Butter) to saute onions etc, but I have used Avocado Oil in this recipe. Please feel free to use ghee in place of oil if you want.

So, without wasting more time, let’s jump straight to the recipe. Happy cooking!!

Butter Chicken Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print
Butter Chicken…

Ingredients

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast (chopped into bite-sized pieces) ~ 500 grams
  • Onions (cut roughly into big pieces) ~ 2-3 (medium)
  • Tomatoes (cut roughly into big pieces) ~ 4-5 (medium)
  • Ginger (cut roughly into one inch pieces) – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic ~ 5-6 big cloves
  • Green chilies ~ 2-3 (as per spice preference)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Butter chicken masala (I used MDH brand) – 1 tbsp
  • Ground cumin – 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Ground black pepper – 1/4 tsp
  • Asafoetida powder (Hing) – 1/4 tsp
  • Coriander Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Crushed Mint – 1/4 tsp
  • Dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) – 1 tsp
  • Cooking oil (I used Avocado oil) – 1 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
  • Jaggery powder – 1 tsp (Can be replaced with sugar)
  • Heavy cream – 1 cup
  • Butter – 1 tbsp
  • Cardamom seeds (crushed) – From 2 cardamom pods
  • Coriander/Cilantro leaves (for garnish) – 1/4 cup
  • Water ~ 1 cup

Directions

  1. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan or skillet. Add chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies in the oil. Also add onions and saute them on medium flame till they turn golden brown. Switch off the flame and let the mixture cool for sometime.
  2. Meanwhile, add the chopped tomatoes to the blender.
  3. Also add the onion mixture prepared in step 1 to the blender along with the tomatoes.
  4. Blend the ingredients to a smooth paste. The base of makhani gravy is ready.
  5. In the same non-stick pan/skillet, heat 1/2 tsp oil, add asafoetida powder and then add the blended mixture.
  6. Cook the mixture for around 5 minutes, and add the dry spices (salt, turmeric powder, butter chicken masala, ground cumin, red chili powder, ground black pepper and coriander powder.
  7. Simmer the mixture on low-medium heat for around 10-15 minutes or till oil starts to separate from the mixture.
  8. Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and saute for around 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add water and cover the pan. Simmer the mixture for around 15-20 minutes on medium heat till the chicken is completely cooked through.
  10. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, and add butter, cream, jaggery powder, crushed mint, crushed cardamom seeds and dried fenugreek leaves
  11. Adjust the salt and cook for around 2-3 minutes more. Switch off the flame.
  12. Garnish the creamy butter chicken with chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, and serve hot with naan or basmati rice.

Method (Step-by-step with pictures)

  • Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan or skillet. Add chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies in the oil. Also add onions and saute them on medium flame till they turn golden brown. Switch off the flame and let the mixture cool for sometime.
  • Meanwhile, add the chopped tomatoes to the blender.
  • Also add the onion mixture prepared in step 1 to the blender along with the tomatoes.
  • Blend the ingredients to a smooth paste. The base of makhani gravy is ready.
  • In the same non-stick pan/skillet, heat 1/2 tsp oil, add asafoetida powder and then add the blended mixture.
  • Cook the mixture for around 5 minutes, and add the dry spices (salt, turmeric powder, butter chicken masala, ground cumin, red chili powder, ground black pepper and coriander powder.
  • Simmer the mixture on low-medium heat for around 10-15 minutes or till oil starts to separate from the mixture.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and saute for around 2-3 minutes.
  • Add water and cover the pan. Simmer the mixture for around 15-20 minutes on medium heat till the chicken is completely cooked through.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, and add butter, cream, jaggery powder, crushed mint, crushed cardamom seeds and dried fenugreek leaves. Adjust the salt and cook for around 2-3 minutes more. Switch off the flame.
  • Garnish the creamy butter chicken with chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, and serve hot with naan or basmati rice!!

Happily ever after – A short story

“Get out of my house”, he shouted, after hitting her hard on the face. She was crying inconsolably, her face wet with tears and fearful sweating, with his signature shining on her face in the form of his fingers’ impression. Her son was standing there too, quiet. Patriarchy had ruled that house for years, and the same instilled in her son too.

She never stopped her son from being one, never stopped him for hitting his wife, though she knew she was wrong in not stopping her son for being a patriarch too. This had been happening for many generations, and maybe would continue for many more to come.

But, that day. That day was different. The animal in her husband was active to an extent that verbal abuses and physical torture was continuing from the last one hour. Till……

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She stood near the window, crying inconsolably. Her thoughts went haywire. She started thinking about the fairy tales that she grew up listening to, though she was too old for the fairy tales now. Everything seemed to be delusional.

While she was lost in thinking about the prince charming she always dreamt of, who would rescue her, a hand emerged from behind, and she heard a whisper in her ear, “I am here now. Meet me outside in 10 minutes. Trust me..”!! She couldn’t think of anything and did as directed. Finally they ran away and lived happily ever after.

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The daughter-in-law had shattered years of patriarchal abuse, and freed herself and her mother-in-law. The prince charming came to her rescue, only in a different form though. Happily ever after was not a mere phrase for them. They lived it, finally!!

**** The end ****

Image courtesy: Pexels.com

Whole Wheat Macadamia Nuts Chocolate Chip Cookies

Presenting my third recipe under “My Julie & Julia Project” for this year. For those who don’t know, I have started this project under which I will be posting 100 recipes from my kitchen by the end of the year 2019. This is the Recipe #3. Here is the link to “My Julie & Julia Project” post:

Julie & Julia – Starting my journey

We are really fond of having cookies/biscotti/rusk, something to snack on, to go along with our tea during our morning and evening tea time. I have baked chocolate, oats, almond cookies in the past, but baking with this nut, macadamia, was my first time.

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Macadamia nuts are also called Hawaii Nuts, but these are actually native to Australia. These nuts are sweet and full of flavor, but most importantly, they are the powerhouse of nutrition.

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The health benefits of these nuts are numerous. These nuts are a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help in lowering the bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol levels in blood, which are linked to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Macadamia nuts provide a good amount of energy, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. All in all, these nuts are packed with lots of health benefits.

I have been trying to reduce the use of all purpose flour from my baking experiments, and have been using whole wheat flour through my recipes. Though I occasionally love to use all purpose flour for baking breads, as I love the texture of the bread if prepared with all purpose flour. This recipe calls for using whole wheat flour in the macadamia cookies. I was a little skeptical at first, but the taste and texture with whole wheat is a winner as well, just like with all purpose flour.

I have not chopped the macadamia nuts, and have used it as I got from the bag, but if you plan to bake smaller cookies, you can chop them to as little a size you want. Even the chocolate chips I used are big in size. Well, I loved baking the cookies bigger, with two tablespoons full of batter for each cookie. So, the bigger nuts and chips worked for me.

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I baked the cookies in two batches, and got around 23 cookies in all, thanks to the size of each cookie. Do make smaller ones, as per your preference, you might get double the number of cookies that I got.

Also, cranberries pair well with macadamia nuts. I will try using them in my next batch of macadamia cookies that I bake. Those who are fond of cranberries, do try adding some dried cranberries to the recipe. You can use half-n-half of chocolate chips and cranberries, or maybe even leave the chocolate chips in the recipe and just use cranberries, as per your preference.

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The cookies were baked to perfection, just how I like them. Crusty outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. Without further taking more time, I will take you guys straight to the recipe. Happy baking!!

Whole Wheat Macadamia Nuts Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print
Whole Wheat Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies…

Ingredients

  • Butter (unsalted) – 1 cup
  • Jaggery powder – 1 1/4 cup (1 cup + 1/4 cup)
  • Eggs – 2
  • Vanilla Essence – 1 tsp
  • Whole wheat flour – 2 cups
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Macadamia Nuts – 1 cup
  • Chocolate Chips – 3/4 cup
  • Milk – 2 tbsp (optional)

Directions

  1. (Optional) Chop the macadamia nuts and chocolate chips to small pieces. I did not do this step, as I was baking bigger cookies, and used both macadamia nuts and chocolate chips as I got them from the bag.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the butter and the jaggery powder till the jaggery powder is completely blended with the butter. I prefer to not use hand mixer for most of my baking recipes, as I believe that beating the mixture with a whisk is better than using mixer (I have over-mixed the batter many a times previously using a mixer, so I avoid using it).
  4. Add in the eggs to this mixture and keep stirring till all the ingredients are uniformly mixed.
  5. Now add vanilla essence to the above mixture. The wet ingredients mixture is now ready.
  6. For the dry ingredients, mix in whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt to the wet mixture.
  7. Finally add the macadamia nuts and chocolate chips and give it a stir. I have also added milk in this step since I felt the mixture was too dry. Milk is just added to adjust the consistency.
  8. Line a baking sheet with ungreased cookie sheet. Drop the batter on to the cookie sheet spoon by spoon and flatten using the fingers, keeping 1-2 inches space between each cookie. Since I have baked bigger cookies, I used two tablespoons of batter for each cookie (I baked the entire batter in two batches).
  9. Once the oven is preheated, bake the cookies in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool for 2 minutes.
  11. The macadamia nut cookies are now ready to be stored in an air-tight container or enjoy them just out of the oven!!

Method (Step-by-step with pictures)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Meanwhile, mix the butter and the jaggery powder till the jaggery powder is completely blended with the butter.
  • Add in the eggs to this mixture and keep stirring till all the ingredients are uniformly mixed.
  • Now add vanilla essence to the above mixture. The wet ingredients mixture is now ready.
  • For the dry ingredients, mix in whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt to the wet mixture. Finally add the macadamia nuts and chocolate chips to the mixture and give it a stir. I have also added milk in this step since I felt the mixture was too dry.
  • Line a baking sheet with ungreased cookie sheet. Drop the batter on to the cookie sheet spoon by spoon and flatten using the fingers, keeping 1-2 inches space between each cookie. Since I have baked bigger cookies, I used two tablespoons of batter for each cookie (I baked the entire batter in two batches).
  • Once the oven is preheated, bake the cookies in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool for 2 minutes.

The macadamia nut cookies are now ready to be stored in an air-tight container or enjoy them just out of the oven!!

Eggless Whole Wheat Pistachio Cranberry Cake – No oil, no butter bake

Here comes my second recipe under “My Julie & Julia Project” for this year. For those who don’t know, I have started this project under which I will be posting 100 recipes from my kitchen by the end of the year 2019. This is the Recipe #2. Here is the link to “My Julie & Julia Project” post:

Julie & Julia – Starting my journey

Pistachios, as we all know, have numerous health benefits. They are loaded with antioxidants. These nuts help in boosting immunity and also help in managing blood pressure levels, among many other benefits.

I am using Roasted and Salted Pistachios here in this recipe, so that’s the reason I have skipped salt completely in the ingredients. If you are using unsalted pistachios, please add 1/4th teaspoon of salt to the ingredients list.

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The no oil, no butter and no egg has been my favorite part in this. Avocado, bananas and milk help in maintaining the softness and moisture in the cake. And using jaggery powder in the recipe is a win-win too, for those who are looking for refined sugar substitutes.

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The cake can be sliced and served as a tea time snack and will also be great for adding to children’s lunchbox. I love the hint of cranberries in each bite, but those are completely optional. Those who want to savor the pistachio cake in its purest form, can skip the cranberries completely. I am using dried cranberries from Trader Joe’s.

Do try the recipe and please pour in your suggestions on what other dried berries or nuts will go with the pistachio cake. I would love to give it a try. Happy baking everyone!!

Eggless Whole Wheat Pistachio Cranberry Cake Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print
Eggless Whole Wheat Pistachio Cranberry Cake..

Ingredients

  • Powdered Jaggery – 3/4 cup
  • Avocado (mashed) – 1/2 cup
  • Bananas – 3 (medium)
  • Orange zest – 1 tbsp
  • Pistachios – 3/4 cup
  • Milk – 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla Essence – 1/4 tsp
  • Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Cranberries (optional) – 4 tbsp

Directions

  1. Grind the pistachios in a blender or food processor to a fine flour consistency and keep the ground mixture aside to be used later.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the mashed avocado and the jaggery powder till the jaggery powder is completely blended with the avocado.
  4. Add in the mashed bananas to this mixture and keep stirring till all the ingredients are uniformly mixed.
  5. The pistachio flour can now be added to the above mixture, along with the orange zest. Combine to form a smooth blend.
  6. Also add milk and vanilla essence to this. The wet ingredients mixture is now ready.
  7. For the dry ingredients, mix in whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda to the wet mixture.
  8. Finally add the dried cranberries and give it a stir.
  9. Pour the mixture to a lined or greased cake pan dusted with flour.
  10. Once the oven is preheated, bake the cake mix in the oven for 40 minutes, or till the cake is done (when the inserted toothpick comes out clean).
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool before serving.
  12. The guilt-free pistachio cake is ready to be relished!!

Method (Step-by-step with pictures)

  • Grind the pistachios in a blender or food processor to a fine flour consistency.
  • Keep the ground mixture aside to be used later.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Meanwhile, mix the mashed avocado and the jaggery powder till the jaggery powder is completely blended with the avocado.
  • Add in the mashed bananas to this mixture and keep stirring till all the ingredients are uniformly mixed.
  • The pistachio flour can now be added to the above mixture, along with the orange zest. Combine to form a smooth blend.
  • Also add milk and vanilla essence to this. The wet ingredients mixture is now ready.
  • For the dry ingredients, mix in whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda to the wet mixture.
  • Finally add the dried cranberries and give it a stir
  • Pour the mixture to a lined or greased cake pan dusted with flour. Once the oven is preheated, bake the cake mix in the oven for 40 minutes, or till the cake is done (when the inserted toothpick comes out clean)
  • Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool before serving

Relish the yummy pistachio cake with your family and friends!!

Do you procrastinate? I do!!

As per dictionary definition, procrastination is delaying or postponing something, something that requires some action from your side. As simple as that. To be shamelessly truthful, I do procrastinate, many a times, for many things. Call me lazy, but yes, some things require us to take an action in life, but we keep on postponing them, that we eventually forget about the particular activity or event. Sad but true.

Now, the question is why do we do that? I mean why do we become lazy about certain things in life, even though we know they are going to benefit us in near future or sometimes, maybe later in life. Why laziness for certain things? Well, it is difficult to explain, but it’s all about priorities. I think it is mostly because of the laziness in thinking about how this act will affect us in future. It’s really important to know the impact of procrastinating certain things, only then we will be able to stop this thirteen letter word to become a habit in life. We fail to think about the consequences that we may need to face if we keep on delaying things.

This can be easily explained with the help of following example. Daily fitness routine. This impacts the most important thing in life, health. A simple walk, run, exercise for half an hour to an hour is enough to keep us healthy. But, it is human nature to procrastinate. “I’ll do it tomorrow. Today doesn’t seem to be a good day.”, these are the exact words going on in the mind of a person who is trying to delay even a simple 30 minute workout. He/she is trying to persuade himself/herself in his/her head that postponing is alright, since I have tomorrow in my hand. There you go, the person lost 90% of the battle here. The remaining 10% will be lost, when the walk will again be postponed tomorrow because of some other reason. The importance of their own health has been reduced because of a mere single act of procrastination. And since this habit multiplies when used, people end up forgetting that it was for their own benefit, till they land themselves up in an emergency situation.

“Tomorrow never comes”, the phrase holds true to its definition. So, how do we actually stop this habit. Well, first of all, stop being a slave to the theory of tomorrow. Creating a plan for everything you do is definitely a solution, but, the most important and effective solution, in my opinion, is to train your brain. Talk to yourself in your head about the situation or task at hand that you are about to postpone. If it is really going to affect you in case you postpone it again the next day, then stop thinking and just go for it. Got for the walk, go for a run, call the friend, read the book, write that blog, do the damn thing. Don’t stop. Kill the lazy person sitting inside your head.

Well, I killed one today. As funny as it may sound, I had been procrastinating writing this blog on procrastination from few days. LOL!! And here I am, killing that daemon who tried to stop me or from doing it by persuading me every time to delay. These people sitting in your head telling you that it is ok to postpone or you can do it tomorrow, need to be told to SHUT UP. Try it once, its contagious, for all your tasks at hand. Slowly it will become a habit. Trust me, you won’t regret saying Shut Up to the lazy voice in your head. Till then.

Adios Amigos

Image courtesy: Pexels.com

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Cake – Healthy, Moist & Yummy

This is the first recipe I am posting under “My Julie & Julia Project” for this year. For those who don’t know, I have started this project under which I will be posting 100 recipes from my kitchen by the end of the year 2019. This is the Recipe #1. I have chosen this recipe to be the first one, as it is one of my daughter’s favorite and so, is quite close to my heart.

I have tried this recipe a couple of times, and it has never failed. The best part, of course, is that there is no all purpose flour or oil or butter involved (as healthy as it can be). And I am using cane sugar in this recipe, which is definitely a healthier option compared to the white sugar. Also, even though there is no oil or butter in it, still the cake is amazingly moist because of bananas and yogurt.

I am a big fan of Trader Joe’s products. And this time, I decided to use their Cocoa Powder (I mostly use Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and find it quite good). Loved every bit of their Cocoa powder, the chocolatey flavor imparted to the cake by Trader Joe’s Cocoa powder wins hands down (though chocolate chips also added their bit to the chocolicious flavor). Which other cocoa powder brands have you all used? Let me know in the comments.

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My daughter has a sweet tooth, and every now n then, I am looking for healthy alternatives to the store bought sweet treats. So, this recipe is a keeper for those who are okay with loads of chocolate but want to go easy on butter, oil or all-purpose flour.

Myra loved preparing the cake with me for this blog post. You might see her hand holding the ingredients in some pictures. It’s so amazing to see how we can engage kids at such a young age, and making this whole baking time a play date with them. Sometimes, they can come up with ideas that are completely mind blowing.

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It’s a proud moment when we see them working in the kitchen wholeheartedly. They love stirring and mixing in the things, making a cute little mess in the kitchen, but it’s worth it. Sometimes I feel this is the correct time when we can instill basic cooking skills in our kids (boys and girls both). This is the skill that any person would require in his/her life.

Well, I will not go more into the “who will work in the kitchen in future” mode, as it’s a different topic altogether. But, I would certainly say that we can making baking time fun for our kids. They learn responsibility, precision, team-work and of course, the basic kitchen skills as well.

All in all, this recipe is a hit at my home. And I hope you guys love it too. Let’s take you all straight to the recipe now.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Cake Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print
Super moist Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Cake pieces..

Ingredients

  • Bananas – 3
  • Cane sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Vanilla Essence – 1 tsp
  • Yogurt – 1/2 cup
  • Egg – 1
  • Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • Cocoa powder – 1/2 cup
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Chocolate chips – 3/4 cup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the bananas in a bowl and add cane sugar. Mix them together to a smooth blend.
  3. Add vanilla essence, yogurt and egg to the banana-sugar mixture and mix them all together. Wet ingredients mixture is ready.
  4. For the dry ingredients, add whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder to the wet ingredients mixture.
  5. Start mixing all the ingredients, the mixture will be little thick by this time.
  6. Once the dry and wet ingredients form a smooth and uniform blend, add in the chocolate chips.
  7. Pour the mixture to a greased cake pan dusted with flour.
  8. Once the oven is preheated, bake the cake mix in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or till the cake is done (when the inserted toothpick comes out clean).
  9. Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool before serving.
  10. The guilt-free cake is ready to be relished!!

Method (Step-by-step with pictures)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Meanwhile, mash the bananas in a bowl and add cane sugar. Mix them together to a smooth blend.
  • Add vanilla essence, yogurt and egg to the banana-sugar mixture and mix them all together. Wet ingredients mixture is ready.
  • For the dry ingredients, add whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder to the wet ingredients mixture. Start mixing all the ingredients, the mixture will be little thick by this time. Once the dry and wet ingredients form a smooth and uniform blend, add in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour the mixture to a greased cake pan dusted with flour.
  • Once the oven is preheated, bake the cake mix in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or till the cake is done (when the inserted toothpick comes out clean). Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool before serving.

Relish the yummy moist cake with your family and friends!!

Casa Loma, a Castle in Toronto – Straight out of a Fairy Tale

A recent visit to the famous Toronto city in Canada was one of a kind experience for us. The multi cultural city left us with ever lasting memories, some of which we were able to capture through our camera lens.

It was the first week of April, the weather was pretty cold there (even though Spring had officially started in Canada), but the warmth, the friendliness and the smiles of people was enough to keep us in good spirits. I really could never imagine so many different cultures, races, religions and nationalities of people living together, that too, in the most humble and beautiful way. I was really awestruck by the way people would happily help us out, without even knowing a bit about us. We had such experiences multiple times in the week long stay, with strangers guiding us whenever we were confused about the subway trains or streetcars (the light-rail system) or even the buses. People would really go out of the way to help us, especially with the directions.

We stayed at an Airbnb condominium located at Downtown Toronto, which was at eleventh floor and had really breathtaking views of the city. And also, the public transit (especially in Downtown Toronto) is amazing. They have Subway (underground trains), streetcars (light-rail running on the roads) and of course, the buses. The frequency of all the transit modes is great, making it easy for the tourists to explore some famous landmarks of the city.

Our favorite ride in Toronto Downtown area, The Streetcar..
Our favorite ride in Toronto Downtown area, The Streetcar..

If you plan to visit the city, do relish their famous dish, Poutine (we tried from the famous New York Fries) and also enjoy a hot cuppa from Tim Hortons. We just fell in love with their amazing concoction of regular coffee mixed with French Vanilla. Absolutely delicious and keeps you going for the day. The city literally survives on that cup!!

Our stay in the city was a short one, and out of the major tourist attractions, we could cover the following ones:

  • Dundas square
  • Eaton Center
  • Union Square
  • Casa Loma
  • CN Tower
  • Niagara Falls

But the visit to Casa Loma will always stay in my heart. Here is my experience of the architectural wonder.

The Gothic element visible in many artifacts in the castle..
The Gothic element visible in many artifacts in the castle..

Casa Loma is a Gothic style castle, built in 1911, by Sir Henry Pellatt, which costed about 3.5 million dollars and took 3 years to complete. After Sir Henry got bankrupt, the castle was converted into a museum and is now a major attraction in Toronto.

The castle looks straight out of a fairy tale.

The wine cellar..
The wine cellar..

My daughter was mesmerized to see a real princess castle and was awestruck with the way it looked from inside. There was a bridal photo shoot going on at a particular hall in the castle, and my daughter was convinced that the lady in the white bridal gown with the tiara on her head holding the long veil was the princess of the castle. It was funny to see her look at the bride in utter amazement for a long time through a window pane. It was hilarious but still very sweet.

Every artifact in the castle was extraordinary, so was this..
Every artifact in the castle was extraordinary, so was this..

The castle has an old Victorian look and feel. There are multiple bedrooms complete with the dressers and the beautiful reading nooks, along with the modern bathroom designs. The guest rooms boasted of sheer luxury with vintage furniture and artifacts.

Unparalleled Luxury..
Unparalleled Luxury..

Walking across the library was an experience in itself. It was really difficult to take your eyes off from the crystal chandeliers hanging down the ceiling, brightly lit up and adding grace to the plethora of books adorning the library hall.

The beautifully lit up Library..
The beautifully lit up Library..

The castle also has an underground attic, which is like a secret floor, where horse stables were built and vintage cars were displayed. Walking across the tight lanes in the attic was a scary but great experience.

State-of-the-art Chandelier.. Vintage, Elegant & Gothic..
State-of-the-art Chandelier.. Vintage, Elegant & Gothic..

Also if you don’t fear heights, there are some stairs which take you right to the top of the tower, which gives you some surreal views of the city. But remember, the stairs to the top are very narrow and not that easy to climb up and down, especially for the kids and old people.

The hallways had their stories to tell..
The hallways had their stories to tell..

The castle is home to a lot of scenes in many popular movies like, X-Men, Chicago, The Tuxedo and The Pacifier, to name a few. The shots in these movies are splendid and worth taking a note of. One of the floors displays the pictures of the famous movies shot in the castle. And there are videos played in repeat mode in the castle cafeteria, where one can relax and have great snacks, along with watching the famous scenes of the popular movies which have been shot in the castle.

The enigmatic castle tower..
The enigmatic castle tower..

The castle looks right out of fairy tale and there is no doubt about it. Do visit Casa Loma if in Toronto. It is worth the name and hype. Till then.

Adios Amigos

How important is teaching self-worth to the kids?

“You are not good”!!, I said in a loud tone. “I am good”, she replies back, in an equally loud tone. “No, you are not good at all!!”, I screamed louder. “I am good”, she had the same tone. Well, this is a snippet of the conversation I had with my daughter. Yes, you heard it right. And no, I am not a bad mom. But, I am a mother who wants her child to always think positive about herself. So, I was playing a little lie game with my daughter. Before I could explain to her what she should reply in case someone says bad about her, she was already there with her answer. Honestly, I was impressed. I had to just tell her about the game I was playing with her and that she needs to be firm with the answer for anyone who ever says that to her. And yes, sometimes she doesn’t even need to reply back, she just needs to remember it.

Many of you might be thinking, why am I teaching this to my daughter at such an early age, she’s too young to understand these things (she’s four by the way). Yes, maybe she’s too young, but I feel that this is the age when they are at their smartest best. They can grasp things easily. Their brain is working at it’s peak. We want to teach them quite a lot at this age, specifically the basic educational skills, like numbers, alphabets, English, other languages, science etc. But, I feel that no matter how much intelligence or degrees we have, at the end of the day, what matters is the ability to see ourselves in a positive light. Feeling confident about who you are makes way for your own growth and success in life.

Consider a person who has been a topper in school and college life, but once he/she has to face the real world, be it job, be it relationships, if that person is vulnerable to negative comments by others, all his/her education does not do him/her any good. Whereas, a person who might be mediocre in studies, but has good faith in himself/herself, will definitely excel in whichever field he/she works in, and also that helps in maintaining good relationships in life.

Low self esteem is a disease. It works like cancer to kill the self confidence of a person to such a level from where it is very difficult to make a comeback. This can even lead to depression in many cases. Sounds freaking scary, right? Well, the good news is that we can inculcate this virtue in our kids at a young age. Their blank minds can be taught the value of self-love and self-worth. The future is unknown, but we, as parents, can sow this seed in their tiny brains.

Life is a journey where everyone meets people who tell them that they’re not good. Not beautiful, not good in academics, not good friends, parents, spouse or children, not doing a good job in office, well, the list is endless. The people who are vulnerable will easily accept what is negatively said about them. The mere words that others say multiply in their mind and they lose themselves all along, even though they are good enough. And then, there are others who hear those negative words, but always remember that they are worth it. The words that others say will not matter to them, no matter how many times those words are said. To be really successful in life, possessing such a virtue is a bliss. So, let’s teach our sons and daughters to always feel that “They’re worth it”. Till then.

Adios Amigos

Julie & Julia – Starting my journey

Julie & Julia. Yes, I am talking about the famous movie, starring the ever oh-so-charming star Meryl Streep and the gorgeous Amy Adams. The movie is the first motion picture based on a blog. The first time when I watched that movie, I just fell in love with it. The movie shows the life of two ladies, Julia Child and Julie Powell, from different generations. In a nutshell, in the movie, Julia Child is shown working her way through her culinary career and also as the author of cookbook titled “Mastering the art of French Cooking”. And Julie Powell is shown to be in awe of the recipes written in that book, and is in deep soulful connection with Julia Child. So she decides to write a blog about trying out recipes from Julia’s cookbook. The blog is titled “Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen”. And in the end, she makes her way to cook those 524 recipes in 365 days.

Julia Child is shown to be a strong, quirky, and always high on life woman, who loves her husband deeply, and always moulds her life according to her husband’s job demands, moving to different cities, but still is always at her happiest best. Everywhere she goes, she finds something for herself to utilize her time. Her passion for cooking and the way she works in the kitchen is shown to be anything beyond perfection. She is the epitome of grace and poise. Julie Powell, on the other hand, is shown to have a life which she doesn’t like much, hates her 9 to 5 job, dreads the lunch dates with her snobbish friends. But, she loves her husband dearly. Above everything else, the main reason of happiness in her life is cooking.

I loved this dialogue from the movie. As Julie Powell stated, “You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing! You can come home and absolutely know that if you add eggs yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

My dear friends, if you love cooking and blogging, do watch that movie if you already haven’t. I am sure you won’t regret. And those of you who have already watched, you know the masterpiece that I am talking about!!

I am writing this blog post not to review the movie in any more detail, but, I want to live what Julie Powell did in that special phase of her life as a blogger. It will not be exactly the way she did, but something similar. Her passion for cooking and writing made her start that blog. And that’s what my biggest passions are, cooking and writing.

I have already started my blogging journey. But from now on, I would love to include my love for cooking in the blogs as well. I am going to start “My Julie And Julia Project”. As Julie Powell described that she always loved timelines, so do I. With a kid at hand and multiple other responsibilities to juggle, I will be reasonable with myself and not go overboard with my timelines. I will be posting 100 recipes till the end of this year. But the Julia here will be myself, so basically this will be a kind of “Julie and Julie” blog. I will be posting the recipes that I am good at preparing. My journey will get started with my first recipe post soon!! Till then.

Adios Amigos

Perks of being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Working mother or SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mother)? Been there, done that!! The debate around this is endless. Each of these roles comes with its own set of advantages and guilts. I have been able to live through both. And trust me, it doesn’t matter whether you are a working mom or a SAHM, there are going to be different sets of crazy plus points and of course, different kinds of challenges and guilts that we go through. So, its best to stick to what works for you the best at the moment.

I had always been a very sincere student since my childhood, and I was raised to be a strong and independent woman, including the financial independence. I had always loved my job as a software engineer, but after Myra was born, balancing both the roles had become a roller-coaster ride for me. So, I decided to take a break and give a stability to one role. I have huge respect for the ladies who can balance both the roles perfectly. Even though I have a very supportive partner, I went ahead with the decision of taking things at a lighter pace for me. Now that my daughter is all set to start her school, I am looking forward to become a working mother once again. Since I’ve been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for the last three years, I thought of highlighting some perks that I enjoyed of being one. So, here are some of those that I have lived and loved.

What, you had some hobbies, mother??

Well, this is the time that you can blissfully ponder over what you liked doing the most while growing up. And by growing up, I mean when the mind was free to wander, when you wanted to try new things, when there was no 9 to 6 life, when the little thing you built made you happier than you could ever imagine. Well, yes, I am talking about that time, the beautiful time of childhood. I had loved to write. Writing was in my blood. But that time, it was all diaries, notebooks, letters, in short, “hand-writing”. It was stopped years back, once the full-time job got started, or may be even before that, when the actual run for career was started in college. But TADA, here I am now, writing religiously for my blog, enjoying each n every moment when I write. And it’s the same for cooking. I never cooked in my entire life as a student. I started learning to cook after my marriage, and that learning process sped up after my little one was born. And little did I know, that of all the things in life, cooking will be the one that I will fall in love with. It is therapeutic for me, cooking calms me down and makes me happy. So, here I am working on my blog, creating new recipes for my loved ones, and gearing up for the future recipe blog posts. And all this came with advantage, that I can earn money through my blog. What better than this? So, go for it ladies, those who decide to be Stay-At-Home-Moms, put aside your guilt pangs of giving a break to your career, and utilize that time to pursue your interests, and, if you can, then blog about it.

Let’s go out for lunch, mom!!

There are lots of times, that me and my daughter head to the local pizzeria to have lunch dates. Then we rush off to the local grocery store to do some random, but limited to a specific budget, shopping!! Being girls, we enjoy shopping like anything. Shopping is a therapy, be it for a simple candy (for my daughter) or a small kitchen tool (I love investing in different kitchen tools), we both love doing that. Apart from that, we love dropping in to the local library, and read for hours and hours altogether. I know all these things are possible even for a working mother, but I love the random part here. You just go whenever you or your kid feels like going sometimes.

The never ending hugs and kisses in the morning

Mornings are a bliss everyday. Waking her up is more of a long and lovely plethora of cuddles, lots and lots of hugs and kisses than anything else. Once she would start her school and I am back to pursuing my career, this will shrug to a small time of cuddles, and more of a rush rush to get ready. But till that time, I just want it to be a never ending affair.

The elaborate breakfasts

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you and your little one have the time in your hands, you can work on creating this time as healthy and nutritious as possible for them. Starting with a serving of fruits, to a more filling entree, followed by milk or yogurt ensures that they get the best possible nutrients. My daughter even loves watching me cook for her, and wants to give her ideas about what things to add in a particular dish, or how to serve a particular dish in an oh-so-charming way. The hearts and other shape cutters have always been to my rescue when she sometimes used to be fussy about something she didn’t like the taste of. But the simple cookie cutters have always been there to my rescue. These things take time, if need to be done on a day-to-day basis, but that’s the perk that a Stay-At-Home-Mom has.

Few months down the line, she will be in her school, and I will be back to being a working mom once again. But, the time spent with her at home will always be special and priceless.

Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, I think the responsibilities in both cases are endless. And it is very important to support the decision that a woman takes. Every mom has a story, and judging her is the worst one can do. I salute each n every mother out there, who is working hard for her children and family. Cheers to all the super moms, since, every mom is a super mom. Till then.

Adios Amigos