Monday, May 26, 2014

Baby Food: Vadda Ragi Hittu / Finger Millet Malt

It's amazing how time flies in a rocket speed, especially when it comes to babies. It is as if it were yesterday that I was soooo pregnant, counting days till the due date, and waiting desperately to the little naughty fellow inside, who was making it so difficult for me to eat or sleep! And Adu is now already seven months old! Seven months!! How soon did the time fly off??

But I'm glad I'm living every single moment with him, enjoying all that he does, most of the time. I can sit for hours with him, just admiring this little sweet fellow and feel blessed! May be this is what is called Motherhood!

I started giving him solids after he completed six months, and boy, was he eager to start eating! He used to see us all eat and drink various things, especially when in India, with lot of people around. He had naturally become curious about this 'eating' business! I didn't want to start solids till we travelled back here, and till he completed six months and so poor he, had to wait. He however, had started his eating business with the occasional kheers/payasas that the ajjis specially made dairy free and fed him. He used to devour it, his ajjis would beam in joy, while I would worry he'd reject his baby foods later if he got used to the sweet taste first. He was, however, quite adaptable, even in this case and accepted my salt-less, sugar-less preparations equally well.

Mom prepared two varieties of ragi based malt for him, so that it'd be easy for me back here. Here's the first one, with just ragi / finger millet, sprouted, powdered and sieved with a cloth. Ragi is considered one of the best home made foods for infants in Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra. This is a wonderful food for starting on solids for the following reasons:

  • Food quality of finger millet is enhanced by sprouting finger millet.
  • Food prepared from malt is easily digestible
  • By sprouting, salts in finger millet are easily available to the body
  • Water soluble vitamins will increase and the quantity of anti nutrients will decrease
  • Sprouted finger millet possesses maximum energy/calorie and high density nutrients.

Adu loved his first food and was eagerly looking forward to his meal times as long as I gave him only this malt. The pack Amma had sent lasted for about 3 weeks after which I started with 'Ragi Sari', another malt with ragi, and other grains.

Vadda Ragi Hittu / Finger millet Malt

Ragi - 1 kg (Amma had made with only about half a kilo of ragi, which didn't last long)

  • Wash cleaned ragi and soak it in water for 24 hours
  • Drain the water in a colander and cover it loosely.
  • Allow it to sprout for one full fay or a little more if the weather is cold.
  • Dry sprouted ragi in shade completely till all the wetness is gone.
  • Roast it in a pan on a low flame till it gives aroma
  • Cool and grind it to fine powder.
  • Sieve it with a fine cloth, discarding the residue (or mix it with any other flours used for adults or add to dosa batter, rather than just wasting it)
  • Store it in an air tight container

Preparing the Malt:

Ragi malt (Vadda ragi hittu) - 1 tsp
Milk + Water - ¼ cup (See notes)
Ghee or oil – 1 tsp (I use oil as Adu has milk-protein allergy)

  • In a small saucepan, mix the ragi malt and water (and milk if using)
  • Bring it to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Once it starts bubbling, take it out from heat, add the ghee/oil and mix.
  • If the consistency feels thick, thin it out in a bit more boiled water
  • Let it cool down to luke warm to feed the baby
  • I use water and a spoonful of his milk-free formula powder, as Adu is allergic to cow's milk. Do the same if you do not want to introduce cows milk to your baby under one year.
  • You can also use breast milk in place of milk or formula. In this case, use lesser water and thin it out with BM at the end
  • Adjust the quantity of the malt and the consistency as per your baby's appetite and preference. You'll get a hang in a couple of days.
  • Using one tsp of the powder is just enough for Adu.
  • Salt and sugar are not recommended for babies till one year, so I avoid using both, except on rare occasions, when I add a wee bit.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Date and Almonds Muffins

Dates are packed with an impressive list of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Dates are an excellent source of iron, contains 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits. Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. It is highly recommended for vegetarians to counter anemia. 

If you are someone like me, you find dates are a tad too sweet to eat as is. It is with great difficulty that i manage to eat a couple of them, and then get really saturated with it! So, I'd rather like to add them as sweeteners to my milkshakes, smoothies and so on, which will have an added benefit of reducing sugar! And then another nice way to use up these fruits are in bakes... as there would be less guilt for using much less of the bad-sugar and sneaking a good-fruit! 

In this case, it is paired with another ingredient filled with nutrients - almonds. And the almonds, along with giving a nice nutty taste and texture, helps in reducing the amount of fat that goes in. It was a perfect recipe for my baking itch.

It can be baked as a cake, as in the original recipe, but i chose to bake them as muffins/cup cakes. I'd rather call these as muffins than cup cakes owing to the oil used, the mix-n-bake preparation and the final texture. They make a nice snack or breakfast item. 

Date and Almonds Muffins

Preparation time : 15 min
Baking time : 5 min
Adapted from  : Versatile Kitchen

Almonds - 1 cup (Remove the skin if you want a lighter color, I didn't)
Dates - pitted 15
All purpose flour - 3 cups
Salt - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Cardamom powder - 1 1/2 tsp OR Vanilla - 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 1/2 cups (I reduced the sugar by a couple of tablespoons)
Vegetable or Canola Oil - 2/3 cup

  • Soak almond and dates in warm water to cover them for about 4 hours. 
  • Grind into a smooth paste in a mixie/blender. Use enough water so that the resultant liquid/puree is 2 1/4 cups.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 dec C or 350 F. 
  • Grease and line the muffin tray with paper liner cups and set aside. I used silicon cups.
  • In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom powder. 
  • In another bowl whisk together the date and almond puree with oil and vanilla if using. 
  • Dump the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Do not over mix. 
  • Pour into the prepared cups. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on the wire rack in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it on to the wire rack to cool completely. 
  • When completely cool, glaze or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. It tastes good as is, without the additional sugar or glaze.
  • I halved the recipe and made 8 cup muffins.
  • If baking in a cake pan, bake for 50-60min.
  • I increased dates by 3-4 and reduced the sugar and it was just fine.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cream cheese Pound cake (cold oven)

Hello folks! The chances are you have forgotten me completely, owing to my absence in the past few months.... The thing is, I was too busy with my sweet creation, that I didn't want to miss out a single moment of his growing up... I did miss blogging though, but then the baby came first!

Well, now he is over 6 months and giving us a wonderful time. He is a co operative baby, touch wood, lets us do our work provided we are around, talking out to him every few minutes. More updates on him here. Let me now get on to today's recipe!

Here's Cream cheese Pound cake, one of the best cakes I've ever baked! it was baked sometime during my pregnancy, in the second trimester, to carry along for a trip we were going. With my pregnancy hormones in full action, throwing up at its peak, food aversion at its maximum, there were very few foods that I craved for, and that I felt like cooking or baking. One of them was this cake and boy, was I glad I baked it! I just loooooved it! I've had it for breakfast, and lunch and as snack on a couple of days during that trip!

Well, it makes a pretty big cake and keeps well, fresh for at least 3 days. It has such a wonderful taste and a good crumb texture.It is a cold oven cake, meaning the oven is not preheated before placing the batter. We both loved loved having it and finishing off the huge cake in just a couple of days! The calories, you say? Of course, I was pregnant with just a handful of cravings, and we were on a trip to a nature reserve, which involved a LOT of walking and walking!

Now, here's the recipe...

Creamcheese Pound cake (Cold oven)

Preparation time: 15 min 
Baking time: 60 - 65 minutes 

Cake flour - 1 1/2 cups (See notes)
Baking Powder - 3/4 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 1/4 cups
Cream cheese - 4 oz (at room temperature)
Butter - 1/2 cup softened
Vanilla - 1 Tbsp
Eggs - 3 large (at room temperature)

  • Grease and flour a large loaf pan. I used a ring mould that I had recently bought
  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder. Set aside. 
  • Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar till fluffy about 3 minutes scraping the bottom couple of times. 
  • Add eggs one at a time and continue beating. 
  • Add vanilla and beat. 
  • Running the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients. 
  • When it has incorporated, add the remaining and mix it all well. 
  • Pour into the prepared pan. 
  • Place it in the middle rack of the oven and turn it on to 170 C or 325 F. 
  • Bake for 60 - 65 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine was done in 60 min.
  • Cool on the rack in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it on to the wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Slice after it has completely cooled and you get awesomely neat slices!
  • To make 1 1/2 cups cake flour, take 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour in a big bowl. Remove 3 Tbsp of the flour from the bowl and add 3 Tbsp of corn starch. Sift very well, 3-4 times.
  • The cake can be doubled and baked in a 12 cup bundt pan, says Champa. In that case, the baking time would be about 80 min.