Spiced Baked Apples

Grandpa Ish or "Bacca" is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who owned highly regarded and reviewed restaurants in California in the 80s and 90s (and naturally that's why I married into the family ;) ). Dad is retired now but his imagination and culinary creativity are very much alive. On a recent visit to Hong Kong, he made these gorgeous spiced baked apples for an easy weeknight dessert and both son and grandson were floored. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, these beauties will give any ol' Apple Pie a run for its money. 

Science Corner
Cinnamon helps stabilise blood sugar so I literally throw it in everything, especially sugary treats. It lends a comforting and warming spiced aroma and flavour to anything from porridge to baked apples to chicken stews and even soups like our Moroccan Lentil Soup here. Cardamom is a luxurious, floral and peppery spice with umpteen health benefits previously discussed here. And of course, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Ingredients
1 apple good for baking like Golden Delicious
1/2 teaspoon coconut or brown sugar
3-5 large golden raisins
3-5 dried cranberries
2 cloves cardamom
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon preferably Ceylon
1 small square slice butter
Boiling water

Method
Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.

Core and de-seed the apple with a sharp paring knife, a peeler with a pointed edge or an apple corer if you have one, creating a hollow about an inch in diameter. Be sure to leave a good amount of flesh at the bottom to hold the filling.  Sprinkle the bottom of the apple with the sugar and fill the hollow with the raisins, cranberries and smashed cardamom cloves. Drizzle the maple syrup on top and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the square of butter on the apple. 

Place the stuffed apple in an oven proof dish containing 2 inches of boiling water. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until the bottom of the apple is fork tender. Serve with vanilla ice-cream or as is for a nutritious, delicious and decadent tasting dessert. 

 

Vroom Vroom Energy Balls

Vroom Vroom Energy Balls
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Yield
12-14 balls
Each bite contains 33 mg of Mg or 41% and 25% of the daily required intake of Mg for 1-3 and 4-8 year olds, respectively. 

Ingredients
1/2 cup almond butter
3/4 cup oats
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

Method
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend well until the oats are broken down into granules and the ingredients are well combined into a crumbly dough. Shape the mixture into 3/4 inch diameter balls between the palms of your hands. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour to set. These will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks in an airtight container but they will most definitely not last that long, if my tot's obsession with them is any indication :). You can also freeze them for longer enjoyment. 

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Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba

Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba
Toddler, Kid, Adult

One of the best things about meeting my husband 14 odd years ago, besides the man himself of course <insert wink emoji>, was getting acquainted with his father. Ish, as he's lovingly called, is not only an amazing, loving and fun dad, dad-in-law and grandpa to toddler but also, as I mentioned here before, a Cordon Bleu trained professional chef and ex-restauranteur. You can safely assume that many recipes I concoct are in some shape or form inspired by him. Having grown up on the Fiji Islands, trained in classical French cooking and run restaurants in culinarily cutting-edge California, Ish cooks with precise technique married to tradition with truly innovative flavours thrown in, all without compromising heart and soul. 

On a recent visit to my in-law's home in sunny Florida, Ish whipped up an old classic, the Peach Melba, and we were all blown away. This French dessert, invented in the late 1800s by the renowned chef Auguste Escoffier, consists of a poached peach, vanilla ice-cream and raspberry sauce, and like most French desserts, does not disappoint. I was especially pleased that Ish's innovative spin on the dish included spices like cardamon, clove and star anise! In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion Monsieur Escoffier might have preferred this spiced, delicious interpretation of his famed creation. 

RECIPE

Yield
12 servings

Ingredients
6 peaches, cut in half and de-seeded
5 cardamom pods gently smashed
8 cloves
2 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean sliced lengthwise and scraped
6 tablespoons sugar
Water
10 oz frozen raspberries
1/2 lemon juiced
3/4 cup orange juice
vanilla ice-cream or plain Greek yoghurt
few leaves of fresh mint (optional)

Method

Place the peaches cut side up with the cardamom, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a wide saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes until the peaches are fork tender. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a fresh dish. Skin the peaches by hand (the skins should slide off easily at this stage but you can use a small knife if necessary). Chill the peaches for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. The peaches will keep for 2 days covered in the fridge.

Place the raspberries, lemon juice, orange juice and remaining sugar in a blender. Puree well and chill. 

When ready to serve, place a peach half in a serving bowl. Cover with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream or Greek yoghurt (for a healthier version). Drizzle generously with the raspberry sauce. Garnish with fresh mint and enjoy as a refreshing summer dessert. Don't forget to think of Auguste Escoffier and Grandpa Ish :).

Cardamom Chocolate Energy Balls

CARDAMOM CHOCOLATE ENERGY BALLS
Toddler, Kid, Adult

This past rainy weekend brought with it an intense chocolate craving and my stash was out. In a moment of desperation, I whipped up these 'laddoos' or energy balls with the only chocolate I had on hand - raw cacao . I wasn't expecting fireworks but boy oh boy were these AMAZING. Packed with protein, iron, calcium, fiber, anti-oxidants and a host of other nutrients, these cardamom chocolate energy balls have become toddler's favorite snack and the best part - he hasn't asked for 'real' chocolate since! 

Science Corner
As discussed in a previous post, cardamom has a range of scientifically proven health benefits including anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, digestion-promoting, detoxifying and anti-nausea effects. In one study, the effect of a blend of essential oils from ginger, peppermint, spearmint and cardamom was assessed on post-operative nausea in 300 patients. Both nausea levels and the need for anti-nausea medications were reduced in a statistically significant manner in the aromatherapy treated group versus controls! Raw cacao is minimally processed cacao to preserve all the magic of the cacao bean, including anti-oxidants and polyphenols. Tahini is a wonderful non-dairy source of calcium and protein and oats have heart-healthy fiber. All of these beautiful ingredients join forces to make these ultra delicious superfood delights you can feel amazing about feeding your family. 

Yield
About 15 balls

Ingredients
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 cloves cardamom, seeds removed and ground
1/4 cup oats
4 dates pitted
1 tablespoon cacao powder (preferably raw for a nutritional punch)
2 tablespoons honey

Method
Blend all the ingredients in a good processor until smooth. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 1 inch diameter balls. Allow them to set in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes. They should last for 5-7 days in the fridge if you can wait that long to finish them! They are perfect as an energizing mid-morning snack, in the lunchbox or whenever a chocolate craving strikes. 




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Cardamom Chocolate Popsicles

Cardamom Chocolate Popsicles
Toddler, Kid, Adult

Science Corner
Cardamom oh cardamom! I know we've talked ad nauseam about your health benefits but we won't stop now. Beauty is not just skin-deep when it comes to this gorgeous, aromatic, luxurious spice. Not only does it impart an exquisite flavor and aroma but carries tremendous health benefits like anti-cancer, anti-nausea, digestion-boosting, detoxification and antibacterial effects. I have a cardamom, ginger and cinnamon-spiced tea every single morning (especially when the previous night involved a bit too much wine - hey it's good for the liver this cardamom!) and when my son has a cough, he gets cardamom-scented porridge whether he likes it or not. Luckily for me, he loves his carda-mom (hehe sorry too many popsicles eaten in the test kitchen today). These tasty treats are calcium-rich, anti-oxidant packed (from the mango, unsweetened chocolate and cardamom) and gently sweet. We seriously cannot get enough. 

Yield
4-5 popsicles

Ingredients
1 cup plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt
1 cup chopped ripe mango (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder
2 cardamom pods dry roasted for 1-2 minutes, seeds removed and ground (skip the dry roasting if you're ok with a milder flavor)

Method
Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Pour into your favorite popsicle mold until frozen. Devour. Rinse. Repeat. 

We were honored to first share this recipe as a guest post on the blog of one of our favorite baby and kid's clothing brands Baby Hero. Theirs' is such an inspiring story where ethical fashion saves lives of moms and babies in remote corners of the globe. Please do check them out. Buying adorable onesies may never have felt as fulfilling! 


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Turmeric Lebanese Sfouf

Lebanese Sfouf
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Adapted from this beautiful blog and post http://nevermindthehummus.com/2014/05/12/sfouf-yellow-lebanese-cake/

Nutrition
Semolina is made from ground durum wheat and is yellowish in color. It's richer in protein and iron than regular wheat. Here it comes together with milk, sugar, flour, turmeric and pine nuts for an addictive, delicious cake. I try and limit white sugar in my toddler's diet to a few treats a week but sometimes, a piece of homemade, love and spice infused cake is just what the heart and soul ordered. 

Science Corner
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterized by the activation and reactivation of fear-based memories, affects about 8% of the US population, yet treatment options are limited. In one studyusing a well established model for PTSD in rats, a diet enriched in curcumin impaired the consolidation and activation of fear memories and affected the expression of genes involved in PTSD. The researchers suggest that curcumin may be useful in combination with other therapies for PTSD and anxiety disorders. 

Yield
About 12 diamond shaped pieces

Ingredients
2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup fine semolina
2 cups caster sugar
1 1/4 cup full fat milk
1 teaspoon turmeric
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon tahini 
1/2 cup pine nuts

Method
Preheat the oven to 350F / 170C. Mix the flour, semolina, turmeric and baking powder well in a bowl. In another bowl mix the milk and sugar until well dissolved. Add the oil and mix well. Add the wet to the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter without overmixing. Don't forget to ooh and aah at the gorgeous golden yellow color! Grease a cake pan with the tahini, mix the batter once again and pour into the pan. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry from the midsection of the cake. Allow the cake to cool. Slice into the traditional diamond shaped pieces and serve with cold milk for your toddler or a cup of hot mint tea for the perfect afternoon treat. 

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Spiced Brownies

Spiced Brownies
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Adapted from Mollie's Brownies https://food52.com/recipes/10697-mollie-s-brownies

Nutrition

Jeanne Louise Calment has held the record for being the oldest woman in the world (she died in 1997 at age 122) until Leandra Becerra Lumbreraswoman recently claimed to be 127, making her potentially the oldest person ever to have lived. Both of these women attributed their longevity to, among other things, lots and lots of chocolate. Jeanne Louise apparently ate 2 lb of chocolate a week until her doctor told her to give up sweets at age 119! Now I would be lying if I said these heavenly brownies are 'good' for you in the same way as the chocolate I imagine Jeanne and Leandra consumed. Chocolate has numerous health benefits mostly due to its flavanoid or anti-oxidant content. These range from cardiovascular improvements, enhancement of mood and cognitive abilities, insulin regulation and even assistance in weight loss! But all of these benefits come from chocolate that's 70% or higher without too much added fat and sugar which negates some of the positive effects (dammit). I can say, however, that these brownies are very very good for your soul and sometimes, that's reason enough. 

Yield

12 large brownies 

Ingredients

4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
12 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoons ground Ceylong cinnamon
2 cups coconut sugar (or regular sugar)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 C. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the paprika and cinnamon and whisk together to blend well. In a large bowl, blend sugar, eggs and vanilla at high speed for a couple of minutes. Add the spiced chocolate and butter to the mixture and blend well. Finally, add the flour and blend well again. Pour into an 8X8 inch greased pan and bake for 45 - 60 minutes. A toothpick should come out of the baked brownies with a little batter stuck to it but not wet (undercooked) or totally dry (overcooked). 

Serving Suggestions

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve as is with a glass of milk or with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. They also work beautifully with a glass of tawny port wine (adults only). Salut!  

Cardamom Mango Lassi Popsicles

CARDAMOM MANGO LASSI POPSICLES
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Recipe adapted fromAdapted from http://www.dessertsforbreakfast.com/2010/09/mango-lassi-and-strawberry-honey-yogurt.html#more 

Nutrition

Mangoes have been a part of the human diet for 4000 years. Their sweet luxurious taste has made them one of the most consumed fruits in the world but they have an impressive host of nutrients to boot. Mangoes are brimming with carotenids like alpha and beta-carotene, which are precursors to Vitamin A production in the body and potent anti-cancer agents due to their antioxidant free radical scavenging activities. Vitamin A is especially important for eye development in children - being fat soluble, it is well absorbed in these greek yoghurt and milk popsicles. Mangoes also offer a boatload of Vitamin C and some B vitamins, particularly folate - if you're pregnant and looking for sources of folic acid, you can devour these with your kids. Together with calcium, protein and probiotics from yoghurt, the range of health benefits from cardamom and NO ADDED SUGAR, these are truly treats you can feel amazing about. 

Yield

Makes 4-6 popsicles, depending on the size of your molds

Ingredients

1 cup chopped ripe mango (about 1 large mango)
3/4 cup plain full fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup plain whole or skim milk
3 pods cardamom, skins removed and seeds finely ground
Pinch of salt

Method

Dry roast the ground cardamom over a medium flame in a nonstick skillet if you are concerned about contaminants in your spice stock or to be on the safe side for younger kids (see the GUIDELINES section under the SPICES tab). Combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the mixture into the popsicle molds and freeze until solid (usually several hours). Remove molds by running a bit of hot water on the outside and enjoy! 

Download the recipe here.



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