Cardamom Carrot Halwa To Light Up Your Family Table This Diwali

One of the best things about being an expat in Hong Kong is the diverse global community we find ourselves in.

At my son's preschool, there are kids from all over the world: France, India, South Africa, China, America, Lebanon and so on. As a result, the children are exposed to a range of cultural traditions, foods and festivals. It's a rich and special kind of education. 

The Indian festival of lights, known as Diwali, is around the corner. It will actually coincide with Halloween this year so there will be a lot of festive action in our household. 

Diwali symbolises the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, truth over ignorance. We will dust off and wear our Indian clothes, have traditional Indian fare, light tiny earthen lamps called diyas and eat loads of Indian desserts. Between the Diwali indulgence and the candy avalanche on Halloween, I am looking forward to the weekend's festivities with excitement and some trepidation. A little sugar never hurt anyone. Boatloads of it is another matter. 

So naturally, I've been hard at work conjuring up traditional Indian desserts that are healthier than the kind grandma made, without compromising on flavour and nostalgia. 

This cardamom-spiced carrot halwa meets my healthy and yumminess standards and maybe it's because kiddo never had great grandma's version, or maybe it's because he's been well trained by his mama ;), he loved it too. 

Shredded carrots softened in milk until they develop a fudge-like texture are mixed with luxurious, fragrant, floral cardamom. I used coconut sugar and raisins for their more gentle sweetening effects over white sugar and let the natural sugars of the carrots themselves shine. Topped with a few cashews for crunch, this dessert brings back memories of comfort, love and celebration with some nutrition to boot. 

I hope this recipe inspires you to bring the Light of Diwali to your family table. After all, it doesn't get much healthier than veggies for dessert, especially on a holiday weekend! 

With Love & Spice,
Your Chief Spice Mama


Healthy Carrot Halwa
Toddlers, Kids, Adults

Science Corner
Cardamom, another one of nature's miracle spices, possesses several health benefits corroborated by modern science. It has been shown to have 1) Anti-cancer activity 2) Digestion-boosting powers 3) Antibacterial capacity 4) Anti-nausea effects and 5) Cardioprotective benefits. 

4 servings

4 cups shredded carrots
2 cups whole milk (you can use almond milk if you prefer)
1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
1/4 cup raisins
4-5 cashew nuts coarsely chopped

In a heavy bottom pan, bring the carrots and milk to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook, stirring often, until the milk has dried up, about 30 minutes.

Add the sugar and cardamom and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture dries even more into a fudge-like texture, about 10 minutes. Stir in the raisins.

Allow the halwa to cool a bit. Spoon into bowls and enjoy as a dessert, mid-afternoon snack or with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream for an extra decadent treat (maybe skip that version this coming weekend ;)).   

Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba

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. 


Grandpa Ish's Peach Melba
Toddler, Kid, Adult

12 servings

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
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)


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. 

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 :).








Drool-Worthy, Guilt-Free (yes really) Cardamom Chocolate Popsicles


It's officially summer and that means my son wants ice-cream every single day (and me too, not gonna lie). Now as much as I am a passionate foodie, I can't be down with refined sugar-filled ice-cream EVERY SINGLE DAY so I just have to get creative and come up with treats that taste like the real deal but are reasonably good for you. These cardamom chocolate popsicles are that treat. 

Sweetened with real mango, a bit of maple syrup and NO REFINED SUGAR, these lightly spiced, chocalicious beauties are the perfect post-pool snack as long as you're cool with some chocolatey mess. But hey, as Roseanna Barr said "Excuse the mess, but we live here".

Here's to living a little messily, very deliciously and healthfully this summer!

With Love & Spice.


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. 

4-5 popsicles

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)

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! 


Paprika Part V - Death by Chocolate

Over dinner and wine in sufficient enough quantity to warrant this kind of conversation (and inspired by, I recently asked my husband what his ideal 'Last Supper' would be. "My mom's shepherd's pie" he responded, without the slightest hesitation. "And you?" he asked, not one to initiate such discussions but now indulging me a little. "Ummmmm chocolate in some shape or form. Oh and something spicy of course!" I said, thinking hard about how that would indeed go down, were I to plan my last meal before departing the earthly plane. "OK - weird" he observed, and we moved on. 

Turns out that if I'm weird, so were the ancient Aztecs. Chilli and chocolate have been soulmates since as early as 1900 BC when they were consumed together as a frothy drink with additions of honey and black pepper. This mesmerizing sweet and savory combination has thankfully been rediscovered in modern foodie circles where it has been observed that the chilli augments the flavor of chocolate without being spicy, but rather provides a little heat as an after-taste. To wrap up our paprika series then, we went back in time to create this brilliant combination in the form of spiced chocolate brownies fit for the family table. You will want to make these again and again I promise. 


Adapted from Mollie's Brownies

Paprika Spiced Brownies
12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult


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. 


12-24 brownies depending on how small or large you cut them


4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
12 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika (or smoked paprika if you want no heat)
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour



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!  

Download the recipe here.

Spice Mama of the Month - Guest Post

Drumroll please we have a guest blogger people!

Our fourth recipe in the Cardamom series comes from our first ever SPICE MAMA OF THE MONTH, Kelly Mezyk Mokkapati. Kelly is a school teacher turned fabulous mommy who loves experimenting with new recipes for her toddler. She's also working on a creative and educational new venture Felted where she hand makes gorgeous felt food for kids - She invited my son Ilhan and I over to try these absolutely divine popsicles and I melted into cardamom mango heaven after my first bite. These babies have no added sugar and they taste better than any store bought popsicles - guaranteed.

Kelly Mezyk Mokkapati

The distant hum of a lawnmower, the birds’ song, the chime of the ice cream truck . . . to me, these are the sounds of summer! Although these aren’t the same sounds my city-dwelling son relates to summer, I recreate our own version of the ice cream truck in our kitchen. These mango lassi popsicles hit the spot on a hot summer day, or even a chilly winter day; they’re that good. The added bonus is that you can feel good about giving them to your kids—they’re a healthy treat! (shhh, keep that part to yourself)


Adapted from

12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult


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. 


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


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


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.


Vitamins A and C
PLUS all the previously discussed cardamom benefits!


Cardamom Mango Lassi Popsicles
12 months+,
Toddler, Kid,