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Desserts/ Italian/ Winter Special

Brutti ma Buoni / Ugly but Good Hazelnut Cookies

Flourless Butterless Crispy Chewy Nutty Goodness

After a recent winter rain, I discovered an intricately crafted spider web filling the entire frame outside my kitchen window. The water droplets clinging to it sparkled and danced with the sunlight, drawing my attention to an enormous spider resting there. I looked away for a minute and when I looked back, the web was gone or rather, I could no longer see it. Without the light of the sun, momentarily obscured by the clouds, the natural work of art disappeared from the view.

The way the change in life hiding and revealing things struck me as a perfect metaphor for awareness. When we put full awareness on something it’s as if we are making it come to life. Isn’t it? We spend a lot of energy at this time of year buying and making gifts, finding the perfect holiday trees and dresses for holiday parties. The original motivation for giving gifts and celebrating can get obscured by stress and fatigue as our awareness shifts from the feeling of connection and contentment to the harried finishing of all our to-dos.

The solution to this typical holiday syndrome is seemed so simple: Keep it light! Keep your awareness shining on the things you want to bring it to life. Let’s take this beautiful idea a step further and apply it to this year’s holiday baking too. By “light” I mean, something that does not require a lot of efforts while making and digesting, something that is not loaded with fats and processed carbs, something that’s delightful and will make us all happy while giving and receiving! These tiny hazelnut cookies not only sound festive but also fit the theme!

Hazelnut cookies

Brutti ma Buoni, are Italian cookies, similar to meringue cookies but these contain nuts too. Traditionally made with almonds or hazelnuts, they have a beautiful nutty texture with crispy from outside and chewy from inside. Only 4 ingredients; yet no all-purpose flour or butter, make these cookies really light and very attractive for health-conscious foodies.

flourless hazelnut cookies

Brutti ma Buoni roughly translates to ‘ugly but good‘. These are popular in northern and central Italy; more specifically in Gavirate, a small town in the province of Varese, north of Milan. Supposedly, the recipe was created in 1878 by Costantino Veniani, an age-old pastry chef, and owner of the pastry shop Pasticceria Veniani. Over the course of a few years, these cookies became very popular, attracting famous people from across northern Italy into the shop. Veniani’s customers included names like Maestro Giuseppe Verdi and Queen Elena, who apparently loved brutti ma buoni so much that she would visit the little shop in person with her bodyguards and return home with the cookies for her court.


You need only four ingredients: hazelnuts, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Since there is no flour, these are completely gluten-free. The natural oil from hazelnuts provides the fat and well-beaten eggs bind sugar and ground nuts together.

Breakfast/ Continental/ Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Zucchini Bread

Everyone around me seems to be fighting allergies these days. The culprit? Climate Change! Warmer, drier air is prompting trees to release their offending pollen prematurely. Stay sniffle free with this nutrition packed treat – zucchini bread with cranberries and walnuts!

zucchini bread

This was a complete surprise. I was under the impression that zucchini bread was a mere attempt to hide veggies inside a sweet treat without adding anything to the flavor. But that’s not really true. After first bite, I was sold; partly because I had pretty low expectations and also because it does taste yum!zucchini cranberry breadAddition of cranberries and walnuts contributed a whole new dimension to otherwise chewy one-tone bread. So I totally recommend adding nuts and dried fruits of your choice.

zucchini bread slicesVitamin C, anti-oxidants and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from the 3 key ingredients will definitely help you build your defenses against the seasonal allergies. That’s how I convinced my husband to try this bread and he loved it, as always!

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

A nice treat to have after a long day!



1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.

2 In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.

3 Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.

4 Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.zucchini bread loaf


I will recommend cranberries as they add a slight tangy note to this sweet bread. Feel free to try raisins or chopped apricots or dried figs.
Walnuts can be substituted by any other nuts of your choice such as pecans or almonds or pistachios.

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Middle Eastern

Baklava / Baklawa

Change is good if it offers you ample time to adapt to it. Sudden change is hard to digest. It’s been one and half years, I have been working on this project at work, the project which I truly believed in. It forced me to break out of my comfort zone to learn something new every day where change was a constant phenomenon. And now suddenly it’s dead. I don’t know what I am going to work on next, I am hoping something as exciting as it was earlier. This vacuum is disturbing yet relaxing on some front. No more sprints, no more deadlines and no checking emails from home, at least for some more days! And yes, I am back on MyHomeMantra after a big gap of more than two months.

I am looking at this change as my opportunity for renewal and growth. I’m looking forward to celebrating spring in its true spirit. We recently visited Skagit Valley in Washington. It’s absolutely magical to witness the natural wonders, the vivid colors spread over acres of land with a beautiful backdrop of green mountains.

Tulips festival in Seattle

The longer days and budding tulips have been very inspiring for me to refresh my life, my cooking experiments, and my yoga practice.

Speaking of cooking experiments, there are many to talk about but the one clearly strikes out in my mind is Baklawa! It was three years back when I first had a piece of Baklava at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. It absolutely tasted heavens! The nuts baked in lots of butter had a texture similar to ghee which I’m obsessed with! It paired perfectly with the crunchy pastry soaked in sugar syrup with a slight aftertaste of Indian spices left me with an urge to have more!



If you are hosting a big party or a potluck, this is a great choice!  Make it in advance, it tastes better on day 2.  The efforts are totally worth the praise and love you will receive in turn.

Last year, we had our friends come over for Thanksgiving party at our place. We chose Middle Eastern theme to try something new at home.  The menu featured tabbouleh salad, pita sandwiches with falafel, tomato, cucumber and tahini sauce, french lentil soup and of course the yummy goodness … Baklava.Middle eastern menu



Delicious phyllo pastry dessert popular in middle eastern countries

Recipe source:



Thaw the phyllo sheets as per manufacturer's instructions. This could mean keeping them in the refrigerator overnight and outside for 2-3 hours before you can use them. Always make sure to keep them moist by covering them with a wet paper towel.

  1. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set the oven to 350°F.
  2. Process the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.Baklava nut filling
  3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
  4. Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 6 more times until it is 4 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.Baklava painting sheets with butter
  5. Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 4 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Do not worry if the sheets crinkle up a bit, it will just add more texture.Baklawa layer
  6. Cut into 24 equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown and edges appear slightly crisp.Baklawa with sugar syrup
  7. While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
  8. Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Garnish with some finely crushed pistachios of desired.


  • The original recipe asked for 1 cup of butter and more phyllo sheets for top and bottom layer. I used only 4 sheets for these layers and also needed only half a cup of butter which is one stick melted butter.
  • I did not use honey while making sugar syrup as it's not good to boil honey. Boiling destroys its molecular structure. I used less sugar syrup because I had reduced the number of phyllo sheets used in making the layers.
  • For nuts, I prefer to use 1/2 cup of almonds and rest walnuts and pistachios in equal proportions.
  • The spices added with the nuts were the best part of this recipe.
Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Qubani Ka Meetha / Apricot Dessert

Qubani is an Urdu word for Apricots. And this dessert – Qubani Ka Meetha which itself translates to stewed Apricot dessert is a specialty of Hyderabad. It was the challenge posed by Roha from Hyderabadi Cuisine as part of  SNC ( South Vs North Challenge), which as you might know is a brainchild of Divya from YouTooCanCook, you can read about it more here.

When I first saw this in my inbox I was almost jumping with joy. Apricots are one of my favorite fruits. What I like about apricot is its distinct aromatic flavor. Currently farmer’s markets in the US are boasting California’s “spring gold” – the fresh Apricots. Its velvety golden skin, sweet-tart taste and the fragrance makes it unique.

Thanks to Roha, we now have an unbelievably quick recipe to enjoy apricots. No wonder the dessert is very common in  Hyderabadi weddings. It’s really really simple yet elegant. They generally use dried apricots as fresh apricots are seasonal and they are not native to India. It’s served with cream or custard or ice-cream on top which is completely missing from my plate this time but I have promised myself to do a complete justice to this delicious dessert next time!Stewed Apricot Dessert

Qubani Ka meetha

Qubani Ka meetha

Simplest Apricot dessert you have ever known!



  1. In a deep bowl, add washed apricots and cover them with water. Soak them overnight. (up to 4-5 hours)
  2. Apricots will become softer and will absorb the water. Take out the apricots and  keep the soaking liquid aside, it contains the apricot flavor.
  3. Now remove the seeds carefully and crack them open to get the apricot kernel, these will be used as garnish.Apricot Almonds
  4. In a non-stick saucepan, add soaking liquid, the apricots and some sugar. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes until it turns golden brown. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice.Apricot Dessert in making 1
  5. Taste and add more sugar if you like, while it's still cooking. I also added some Apricot kernels so that they also cook little bit.
  6. You can also blanch the Apricot kernels and remove their skin. I skipped this step.
  7. Feel free to add some water or milk if the mixture looks very dry. It should be pulpy and mushy.
  8. When almost done, add few strands of saffron and cardamom powder.Apricot Dessert in making 2
  9. Let it cool down,

Serve it cold with your favorite ice cream scoop or fresh cream, topped with pistachios slices.

Desserts/ Festival Special/ Maharashtrian/ Smoothie/ South Indian

Moogachi Kheer / Parippu Kanji – A Festive Lentil and Jaggery Porridge

A healthy festive drink!

Last Monday we celebrated Akshay Trutiya, a religious occasion which calls for a sweet treat. “Akshay” means the never diminishing in Sanskrit and this day falls on the third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of the Indian month of Vaishakha and one of the 3 and 1/2 “the most auspicious days” or also known as “Sade-Teen Muhurt” considered by Hindus. It’s believed that Akshay Trutiya was the day when Lord Ganesha started writing epic Mahabharata to Ved Vyasa’s dictation. It’s considered auspicious to start a new venture or a new job, buy new property and jewelry too.

Every year my aajji used to celebrate Akshay trutiya by buying a gold coin and visiting the Vishnu temple. And I used to wait for her to come back so that I could get the prasad – the sweets! She tried making new sweets every time and this Moong Kheer (Porridge) was one of those innumerable treats I have had from her. Parippu Kanji

Traditionally it’s served warm but I like it chilled too. A very simple lentil kheer with just over 3 ingredients. Easy to make yet rates quite high on healthy spectrum which is quite unusual for an Indian sweet.Here is what you need.

Moogachi Kheer

Moogachi Kheer

A festive healthy drink!  the two words fit in one sentence quite rarely!



  1. Lightly toast the moong dal with some ghee in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Do not let them turn brown. You should be able smell their nutty aroma.Toasted Moong Dal
  2. Add one cup of water to moong dal and pressure cook it for 2 whistels. They should be well cooked with very little water left in your cooking pot. It will have soft and smushy texture.
  3. Meanwhile, add jaggery in 1/2 cup water an dlet it dissolve completely. Strain the mixture in order to separate any impurities. Keep it aside.
  4. Using a potato masher or churner, mash the lentils so they become creamy but still have some bits in it.
  5. Put these cooked lentils and the jaggery solution in a pan and let it come to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn.
  6. Add the milk and stir till mixed well, and turn up the heat a bit. Bring it to a boil, and let it cook for another minute.
  7. Take it off the heat and then add the powdered ginger and the cardamom. Stir well.

Let it cool a bit before you pour it in glasses. Serve it warm. This recipe serves 4 to 6 depending on size of serving.


  1. Toasting helps to bring out the nuttiness which makes the kheer more flavorful. But be careful not to turn them brown or it would overpower the taste.
  2. Before adding milk, stir frequently as it doen't contain lot of liquid and it may stick to the bottom and burn.
  3. Add basil leaves and a pinch of saffron before serving. Adds another dimension to the simple flavors.

Paruppu KanjiI recently came to know that this is also known as Parippu Kanji or Paruppu Kanji where “parippu” is lentils and “kanji” is  porridge in Tamil and it’s almost synonymous to Shivratri in some communities.  I think it completely makes sense. The kheer made of moong dal, a rich source of protein yet easy on digestion system and jaggery which is unrefined sugar, high in energy,  added with milk, sounds like a perfect recipe which is light but nutritious for a fasting day. Enjoy your healthy treat!

Desserts/ Festival Special/ Maharashtrian/ Quick n Healthy/ Winter Special

Til-Gul / Tilachya Wadya / Sesame Candy

तीळ गूळ घ्या गोड गोड बोला!

Makar Sankranti, marks the transition (Sankraman) of the Sun into Capricorn (Makar) rashi on its celestial path. Traditionally this has been one of many harvest seasons in India and being agriculture based community, harvest season and festivals always go hand in hand. Known by different names, it’s celebrated all over India.

In Maharashtra, we celebrate it by exchanging til-gul laddoo and halwa as token of goodwill and we fondly say “तीळ गूळ घ्या गोड गोड बोला” which means “Savor this sweet Til-Gul and may the sweetness fill your thoughts and speech”. The Til-Gul literally translates to Sesame Seeds and Jaggery. The laddoos or wadis made with jaggery, sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut  not only taste good but also provide the essential oils needed in cold, dry winter days.

Even though I have made tilgul at home, Makar Sankranti doesn’t seem the same anymore. It’s just not in the air. In my school, everyone would get tilgul and halwa from home and there would be so much variety with these simple ingredients – different shapes, sizes, softness. But I always thought my mom makes the best tilgul; soft, easy to bite which melts in your mouth.


The other best part of Sankranti was Puranpoli and that makes me really nostalgic. For now here is the recipe for TilGul

Til Gul / Tilachya Wadya

Til Gul / Tilachya Wadya

Sesame Seeds, peanuts, coconut and jaggery. You can't go wrong with these.



  1. Roast all sesame seeds in a deep bottom skillet or kadhai, till they start changing their color. Do not get them too brown.
  2. Similarly, roast the peanuts. And grind them, but not into a fine powder. Crunchy pieces always taste better.
  3. Also roast the shredded dry coconut slightly. It takes almost no time if the skillet it already hot.
  4. When sesame seeds are cool enough to handle, grind them.
  5. In a saucepan or kadhai, take 1-2 table spoons of Ghee and add jaggery. Let it melt completely. Reduce the heat.
  6. Now add ground sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut and mix well until everything comes together.
  7. Grease a big plat with some Ghee and spread the mixture onto the plate evenly.
  8. While it's still hot, mark the lines with a sharp knife and let it cool down.
  9. Separate the wadis when completely cooled down.


  • If you want to make hard wadis like Chikki, use the special Chikki Jaggery. Also when it melts, put a drop of melted jaggery in a cup of cold water, if it forms a firm ball the jaggery syrup is done. This will make hard candies.
  • You can also substitute jaggery with sugar but it does not taste the same.

Wish you all a wonderful Makar Sankranti and may it bring warmth and lots of happiness in your life!

[Update] A healthy snack that can be packed and stored for a while, sending it to Kid’s Delight – Back to Hostel special event started by Srivalli

Continental/ Desserts/ Entertaining/ Italian


Truly irresistible with Bold burst of Coffee flavor!

Tiramisu or tiramesù in Venetian dialect, literally means “pick me up” or idiomatically it means “make me happy”. And it does 🙂 I love coffee and this dessert takes my favorite flavor to a next level.


Though it’s a quite recent addition, it’s now ubiquitous across Italy and worldwide. I first had Tiramisu at Royal Orchid Hotel in Mumbai and I fell in love with this masterpiece. As with the most things in Italy there is a great debate about the true origin of tiramisu. Some sources name its origin as Siena in Tuscany however the most credible claim comes from Treviso, in the Veneto near to Venice. Roberto Linguanotto from the Beccherierestaurant claims to have invented it at the end of the 60s and this is his recipe.

People have changed the recipe a lot over the years and the original included no cream or alcohol and hence there are so many versions available on Internet. And here is one more addition to it, adopted from multiple sources which claimed the ‘authentic tiramius’ title.

It’s a no bake dessert and contains raw eggs. The base is made with ladyfingers which is lightly sweet, porous, soft cake shaped like lady fingers and has nothing to do with Okra. (Okra in India is known as lady fingers). The lady fingers are dipped in coffee mixed with alcohol. Needless to mention, you should use the best coffee you have got. Instead of debating between Nescafe or Bru or any other brand I picked up a tall espresso cup from local Starbucks. Alcohol is optional and if you are using it there are two options – dark rum or marsala wine. I prefer Rum & Coffee combination. And then the cream part – it’s made with beaten egg whites and the mascarpone cheese – the cheese with highest fat content – it tastes like साय (say) if you know what I mean. All these ingredients work together to create this magic.tiramisu_1



I am sure it requires no introduction!



  1. Make sure coffee is cold before you use it. Add 2 shots of rum to coffee. 
  2. Separate egg whites and yolks.
  3. Mix the egg yolks with 4 table spoons of sugar and whisk it until you get creamy light mixture.
  4. Fold in mascarpone in sugar-egg mixture making sure that there are no lumps.
  5. In a bigger bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until it forms firm peaks. Don't overbeat it.
  6. Now carefully fold in mascarpone-egg cream with egg whites to form the cream.
  7. In a wide dish, pour some coffee.ladyfingers & coffee
  8. Now take one ladyfinger and dip it in the coffee from both side. Don't leave it in the dish for too long or it will become too soggy.ladyfinger dipped in coffee
  9. You can arrange them in a wide rectangular glass dish or use individual serving bowl.
  10. Now create a thick layer of the cream on top.tiramisu_in_progress_1
  11. Build one more layer of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and cream on top.tramisu_in _progress
  12. Now, sprinkle some unsweetened cocoa powder on top to add one more flavor dimension.sprinkle_cocoa
  13. Finally, if you like some chocolate shavings go on look - tiramisu
  14. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours before serving. tiramisu_2

By the way, be ready to clean such mess but it's worth it.



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This is my official entry for Foodomania’s Christmas Cook-Off Contest. Happy Cooking!

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Quick n Healthy/ Spring - Summer Special

Blueberry Delight

Holidays are here and so is the season of sweets and extra-calories. When my friends came over last night, I wanted to serve them a quick healthy dessert. I understand Healthy & Desserts can not fit into one sentence but this was an exception.

First of all it was a petite dessert made with ‘camouflaged’ greek yogurt mixed with homemade Blueberry compote and apple chunks. When it comes to dessert presentation is what matters the most, rightt?

blueberry_delight So, here is  how I did it.

Blueberry Delight

Blueberry Delight

There can be a healthy dessert!



  1. Whisk the Greek yogurt with Blueberry compote, add honey as per your taste.
  2. Add apple chunks ad mix well.
  3. Serve into small dessert glasses. Add a small dollop of cream at the bottom if you like.
  4. Garnish with your favorite berries.

Happy Holidays!

Desserts/ Maharashtrian/ Superfoods

नाचणीचे लाडू / Nachaneeche Ladoo / Ragi Laddoo

This is my mom’s speciality and I simply love these laddoos. Forget about being healthy, they are so good, they just melt in your mouth and you won’t be able to make out the main ingredient which is नाचणी / Nachani or Ragi or Finger millet

She always asks me to eat Nachani (Ragi) more often as it contains lot of calcium. Toady on the occasion of Thanksgiving day, I made her speciality to express my gratitude towards my mom.

नाचणीचे लाडू / Nachaneeche Ladoo / Ragi Laddoo

नाचणीचे लाडू / Nachaneeche Ladoo / Ragi Laddoo

The most delicious and healthiest laddoos ever!

Makes 10-11 laddoos



  1. In a medium pan, add 4 table spoons of ghee. Once it melts, add Ragi flour and mix well.
  2. Make sure it does not form any big lumps. If there are lumps, add more flour. Or if it looks very dry, add more Ghee.
  3. Roast the Ragi flour nicely until you can smell it distinctly. It takes 15-18 minutes.
  4. Once done, take it out in a plate and let it cool.
  5. In the same pan, add remaining 1 table spoon of Ghee and roast the Besan (Chick pea flour) nicely. It takes 5-8 minutes.  
  6. Take it out on a plate and let it cool.
  7. Grind sugar in a grinder.
  8. Mix both Ragi and besan flours and also add cardamom powder. Mix well.
  9. Then add sugar one spoon at a time and mix lightly. The mixture should not feel very oily or greasy. 
  10. Add sugar as per your taste. Make sure when you taste it's not too sweet.
  11. Now take handful of mixture and press it together with your hands to make laddoos or balls.
  12. Roll this ball in your palm.
  13. Repeat the steps 11 & 12 for making all laddoos. 
  14. Garnish them with your choice of nuts.

You can keep them for up to 2 weeks but I am sure they won't last that long.

Mom's Tips -

  • Once you form ladoo, roll it in your palm. That's how the ladoo gains shine. It's not excess ghee but the rolling action that adds the shine.
  • Start with less Ghee, you can always add more Ghee before making laddos if needed.
Desserts/ Superfoods

Rose Chia Pudding

Grown in Mexico, Chia was a staple diet of the Aztecs and Mayans. The seeds nutrients provided sustained energy during lng hunts and had numerous medicinal benefits. Revered by the people, Chia was often used in religious ceremonies which led to its ban by the Spanish during their conquest of the region.

In the list of rediscovered forgotten foods, the Chia seeds have topped the “Super-foods” category. The oval shaped, nutty flavored seeds are packed with  ALA(alpha-linolenic acid) an Omega-3 essential fatty acids (150%) and fibre (16%)

Chia seeds are extremely easy to consume, you can add these to oatmeal, yogurt, salads or soups. They gain a unique texture when soaked in water or milk. Their soluble fiber forms a gel that thickens milk or other liquids. Try this pudding recipe and you will start loving chia seeds!

Rose Chia Pudding

Rose Chia Pudding

No pudding recipe can be healthier than this.



  1. Add chia seeds and milk in a big bowl and mix them well.
  2. Keep the seeds soaked in milk overnight in a refrigerator  Also keep these covered with a lid.
  3. Next morning, when ready to serve, add other ingredients. Top the mixture with coconut and keshar masala.

Note -

  • I used Everest Keshar masala that contains almonds, pistachios, keshar (saffron) and cardamom.
  • The Rose syrup I used had sugar. You can adjust the amount of honey / sugar according to your tast
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