Asparagus Thoran (Curried Stir-fry)

Asparagus is supposed to be one of those negative calorie vegetables - which means that it takes more calories to digest than the calories it actually contains. Well, that's definitely an added bonus, given that this herb is rich in essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So, I couldn't resist trying to make something interesting and spicy with it. Beans thoran being one of my favorites, it inspired me to put it to similar use.



Ingredients: (serves 3)

asparagus - 1 bunch (about 50 spears, chopped fine)
grated coconut - 3 tbsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
carom seeds - 1 tsp
ginger - 1 inch piece
red chillies - 5
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)

Method:

Soak coconut, cumin and carom seeds in water for half an hour. Pulse in food processor along with red chillies and peeled ginger. Cook chopped asparagus with salt and turmeric powder for about five minutes. Pour the coconut mixture on top and cook covered for a few more minutes, until the asparagus is cooked.

Notes:
1. While chopping asparagus, the thick, whitish end needs to be removed.
2. Add very little water to make the coconut mixture, just enough to make a thin paste. Excess water might have to be drained, causing loss of nutrients, or will make it soggy.
3. Use warm water to soak the seeds and coconut, to reduce the soak time.
4. Ginger paste (1/2 tsp) can be used instead of ginger.
Microwave Almond Milk Peda (Fudge)
While I was making this, a couple of friends stopped by (well...it's my birthday). With no time to cool and roll it out into pedas, I had to serve it to them as semi-solid halwa, but they liked the taste of it. After they left, I put it in the refrigerator, cooled it for a few hours and then shaped into pedas. This is so easy to prepare, and later became one of my personal favorites!


Ingredients:

almond powder - 1/2 cup
milk-mava powder - 1/2 cup
ricotta cheese - 15 oz
sugar - 3/4 cup
butter / ghee - 1 tbsp
milk - 1 tsp
sliced almonds - a few
saffron strands - a few

Method:

Soak saffron strands in a teaspoon of milk and keep aside. Mix almond powder, milk mava powder and cheese in a bowl.  Microwave for 3 minutes. Add sugar, mix well and microwave for another 3 minutes. Add ghee, stir a couple of times and heat for another 3 minutes. Add the saffron, stir a few times and return to the microwave for another 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and mix in the sliced almonds. Allow to cool and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Take a lemon-sized portion, roll it between the palms and flatten out into a round patty. Repeat for the remaining fudge. 

Notes:
1. To make just milk peda, almond powder can be substituted with more milk mava powder.
2. If ricotta cheese is not available, unsweetened khoa can be used instead.
Fruity Chocolate Smoothie

Smoothies are my family's favorite choice of a simple meal. This recipe is an attempt to make it wholesome, with the succulence of fruits, the richness of milk, the goodness of grain and the cheer of chocolate.
This smoothie goes to the Virtual Party - Beverages event.


Ingredients: (serves 1)

ripe banana - 1 large
raspberries - 1/2 cup
hot cocoa mix - 2 tbsp
flax seeds - 1 tbsp (ground)
milk - 1 cup
ice chips - a few

Method:

Blend and Enjoy!

Note: If the sweetness in the fruits and cocoa mix are not sufficient, add a little honey.

Healthy Whole Grain Apple Muffin

Lazy weekend afternoons often come with the irresistible urge for snacking - the most challenging times for the health and diet conscious. I particularly enjoy baking a fresh snack at tea time, more so with the luscious apples in fall.


Ingredients: (makes 6 muffins)

whole wheat flour - 1 cup
apple - 1 (chopped)
walnuts - 2 tbsp (chopped)
oil - 1/3 cup
honey - 1/4 cup
applesauce - 1/4 cup
milk - 1/4 cup
wheat germ - 2 tbsp
flax seeds - 1 tbsp (ground)
baking powder - 1 tsp
baking soda - 1/2 tsp

Method:

Sieve flour with baking powder and baking soda ( I repeat this process a couple of times). Mix in the wheat germ. Keep aside. Take honey, oil, milk, applesauce and flax seed powder in a separate mixing bowl. Mix well. Now add the flour mixture and blend well with a hand blender. Then add the chopped apples and walnuts. Line a muffin pan and fill upto three-fourths with batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees (Fahrenheit) for about 25 minutes until golden brown. I'm sending this recipe to the Fruit in Baking event started by Meeta and Food Palette Red Event.
Mung fudge (Ashoka halwa)

This is a favorite south-Indian sweet, which is popular as a crowd-pleaser especially in weddings. A great Diwali pick too! With the chefs trying to keep the recipe a secret, and vastly different versions floating around on the internet, it took me a great deal of effort to figure out the "authentic" version and many iterations to perfect the recipe.


Ingredients: (serves 4)

split yellow mung beans - 2 cups
whole milk - 6 cups
maida / all-purpose flour - 2 tbsp
sugar - 2 1/2 cups
ghee / melted butter - 1 cup
cashews - a few
raisins - a few
orange food color - a pinch

Method:

Fry flour in a little ghee and keep aside. Pressure cook mung beans in milk until soft. Cool and blend to a smooth paste. Fry cashews and raisins in a little ghee and keep aside. Heat sugar in a pan and add about 1/4 cup water. Boil to a 1-string consistency. Add the bean paste and flour. Keep stirring continuously. Dissolve orange food color in a teaspoon of milk and add to bean mixture. Add ghee one tablespoon at a time and keep stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and becomes semi-solid (halwa consistency). Garnish with cashews and raisins. I'm sending this recipe to the Diwali sweets and snacks event and MLLA#29 ideated by Susan.
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