{Cooking} RICOTTA & CREAM CHEESE CHILI POPPERS with KIWI SALSA

“Fresh fruits are so untainted. We don’t process them, cook them or package them. There are some fruits out there that are packed with natural energy that kids like, like kiwi fruit, … Kiwis are part of the super fruit category. One kiwi has all the vitamin C you need for the day.”
Robert Stanley
I’ve had a busy few days, and then to add to the mid summer madness, the folk from Perfect Relations were wonderful enough to invite me to a couple of foodie events this past month. There were 2 invites to EAT {European Art of Taste}, a program supported by the European Union and the Italian Government that aims to present the best of Food and Wine from Europe. I made it to one, and wasn’t able to attend the other. Did however manage to make it to the Zespri Kiwi Fruit Launch hosted by  HE Mr Rupert Holborow, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, at his residence. The largest sole exporter of Kiwifruit in the world, ZESPRI International, entered the Indian market on that day, May26th, 2010, and the launch was held amidst much green kiwifruit glory in the presence of  Mr. Cliff Fuller, New Zealand Trade Commissioner & Mr. Daniel Matheison, Zespri Regional Market Manager, Southeast/South Asia.
Considered to be the best in the world, ZESPRI® Kiwifruit can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, anytime as it is naturally fresh, full of flavour, safe and good for your health. ZESPRI offers an innovative range of premium quality kiwifruit products: ZESPRI® GREEN, ZESPRI® GOLD and ZESPRI® ORGANIC Kiwifruit. The fruit pack a natural protection punch, with a combination of beneficial nutrients which is more concentrated than many other fruits. ZESPRI® GREEN and GOLD Kiwifruit are great sources of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids and other antioxidants. They also have a low glycaemic index (GI) and are low in fat – so they’re perfect to eat every day to assist with natural protection.
At the High Commissioners residence, there was a mind boggling array of kiwi  fruit delectables  doing the rounds. Since it was an evening launch party, on offer were finger foods like ‘herb chicken and kiwi vol au vents‘,  ‘tomato and kiwi bruschetta‘, ‘cheese and jalapeño poppers with kiwi salsa to name a few. The bar also offered a wide variety of mocktails and cocktails kiwi fruit based and otherwise! It was an eye opener to see the kiwi creativity on display, and that’s how I came up with inspiration for these poppers today.
Left over mania! It was time to clear the fridge as we are off on a small vacation to Gangtok, a town nestled within higher peaks of the Himalayas at a height of 4715ft. These poppers are a tribute to the ever versatile and the nutrient packed kiwi, a fruit that contains so many vitamins and minerals, it’s truly bursting with goodness. Zespri is the brand of choice available at most outlets around where we live, so I bought a couple the other day. The last remaining one went into this salsa, and was kept good company by 2 apricots that were left over as well.
The poppers were darned delicious little bites. They got created in an attempt to use up some left over home made ricotta that I had made for roasted bell peppers and ricotta bruschetta 2 days ago. I eye balled the ingredients, and have to say these little poppers were wonderful. {For those who don’t like the eggy smell in food, the egg in here didn’t add any eggy flavours}. Be cautious while dealing with hot oil, and keep the poppers small / teaspoon sized batter drops, else they tend to spread and flatten. To check if the batter consistency is alright, I drop a little bit into a small bowl of water. If it rises immediately and floats, I am good to go. If it sinks or disintegrates, I add a little more flour, to bind it and test again!
The poppers made for fun snacks, and are pretty nice at room temperature too, only not as crisp as when hot. For more recipes, you can check out the Zespri site, which I just discovered. There’s plenty of fun kiwi based recipes there!

Ricotta and Cream Cheese Chili Poppers with Kiwi Salsa
250gms ricotta, well drained {home made recipe here}
3-4 tbsps cream cheese {I used Brittania cheese spread}
1 egg
4 tbsps plain flour
1-2 fresh green chillies, {or jalapeños}
1/2 tsp salt {cream cheese has salt of its own}
1/4 tsp baking soda
Method:

Whiz the ricotta, cream cheese and egg in a processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process for a minute till uniformly mixed.
Heat about 4 inches of oil in a heavy bottom pan. Drop tea spoonfuls of batter into hot oil, and cook until both sides evenly browned. {Make sure the oil isn’t too hot, or they will over-brown and might remain uncooked within. Also don’t overcrowd the pan, else they might stick to each other}
Drain from oil onto paper napkins to absorb extra oil. Serve hot / warm with kiwi salsa! POP… they’re YUM!!
Kiwi Salsa
1 ripe, firm kiwi fruit, peeled
2 ripe apricots, halved and pitted
1/2-1 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt
Method:
Whir all ingredients in processor until blended. Taste and season. Chill for 30 minutes to allow flavours to blend. {You can add a dash of lime if it isn’t tangy. My kiwi fruit was very sweet yet tangy}
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Superfood SPROUTS Salad…Sprouting healthy & tasty beans!!

“We don’t need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables – the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers – to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences. “
Jane Elliot
Sprouted Mung Dal Salad
Fresh mint & a squeeze of lime…
I posted some bits about this wonderful sprout on the CLICK post for May ’08, where the theme was ‘Beans & Lentils’. Sprouts are easy to make at home, & you don’t actually need special bowls or ‘sprouters’. I sprout the dal at home almost every week, & can hardly stop marvelling at the cute little ‘sprouts’ the dal obliges me with each time.
A super healthy salad, & a very fresh & crisp one at that!
Check out an interesting article about sprouts on Oprah.com, where sprouts are called Superfood No. 9. Sprouts are a highly nutritious food. Grown locally year round, sprouts are a good source of protein and vitamin C. All nutrients necessary for life are contained in seeds—a food category that includes grain kernels, beans, legumes, and nuts. Because sprouts are so fresh, and do not sit for days or weeks in warehouses, we know that we are getting optimum nutrition. ”

Other Great Ways to Serve Sprouts
Use in coleslaw (cabbage, clover, radish)
Try in wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
Stir-fry with other vegetables (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean, lentil)
Blend with vegetable juices (cabbage, mung bean, lentil)
Mix with soft cheeses, tofu, yogurt of kefir for a dip (mung bean, radish)
Stir into soups or stews when serving (mung bean, lentil)
Top omelet or scrambled eggs (alfalfa, clover, radish)
Combine in oat, barley or buckwheat dishes (fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)
Add to sushi (radish, sunflower)
Sauté with onions (mung bean, clover, radish)
Puree with dried peas or beans (mung bean, lentil)
Add to baked beans (lentil)

“Why Sprouts?…

…There are a great many reasons to eat sprouts. As we age, our body’s ability to produce enzymes declines. Sprouts are a concentrated source of the living enzymes and “life force” that is lost when foods are cooked or not picked fresh from your own garden. Additionally, due to their high enzyme content, sprouts are also much easier to digest than the seed or bean from which they came.

Sprouted Mung Dal Salad

Ingredients:

Mung dal beans – 1 cup / soaked for 3-5 hours (till you see them start splitting open)
Tomatoes – 2-3 / deseeded & chopped small
Spring onions – 2-3 / chopped fine (can use 1 small regular onion too)
Mint leaves – a handful / chopped fine
Cucumber – 1 small / peeled & chopped fine
Juice of 1-2 limes
Green chili – 1 / deseeded/ chopped fine (optional)
Salt to tasteMethod:

  • Once the dal begins to split, drain it & put it into a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a plastic colander, with a bowl underneath. Cover it keep it in a dark place for 10-12 hours or overnight.
  • Wash gently the next day, taking care not to disturb the roots (sprouts) too much, to enable them to grow long. Cover & keep in dark place again.
  • In summer, my sprouts are ready in a day & a half. Check to see if they are done, rinse gently, drain & refrigerate.
  • Toss all the salad ingredients gently & chill well. This can be made a couple of hours in advance. Try not to keep sprouts for more than 2-3 days as they tend to taste bitter after that. Also, fresh sprouts offer maximum food value.

My son asked me a ‘prudent’ question this evening while eating his salad, “Mama, if we plant these seeds, will these sprouts grow out on the branches?Hmmmmmmmmmm….another long month of vacations!!

This salad is on its way to SnackShots # 4 ‘SALAD’, to Michelle @ Greedy Gourmet.

…& also to Lisa @ Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen for her colourful No Croutons Required which she is hosting for the month of June. The theme for June is soups or salads featuring legumes because beans and pulses are an important part of a healthy vegetarian diet. Whole, or split, big or small, anything belonging to the legume family qualifies. (Thank you Arundathi for letting me know!!)

Bon Appetit!

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MOCHA WALNUT CHOC-CHIP MUFFINS…GREEDY GOODNESS!!

“I believe the world to be a muffin pan, and there certainly are a lot of muffins here.”
Aaron Funk
Mocha Walnut Chocolate-chip Muffins…

When I read about theSnackshots #3 event hosted by Michelle @ Greedy Gourmet , I was thrilled. Opportunity to try these mocha muffins I had bookmarked long ago, & soon. Michelle asks What’s the difference between a muffin and cupcake? …A muffin contains less sugar and doesn’t have icing on top, in other words it’s healthier.
My choice of muffin is deep, dark, decadent & chocolaty; the flavours enhanced with the addition of coffee. Am still trying to place the source on the net; I know I wanted to try these because they used oil instead of butter & were literally popping out of the screen!! They didn’t disappoint at all; lovely chocolaty dark muffins, great taste, moist & soft!! What’s more ? No butter!! Got a whole batch of 12 regular ones, & also almost a dozen mini muffins out of the batter…bonanza!!
Like other quick breads, muffins do best with a light touch. Mix muffin batter gently; stir only enough to moisten the dry ingredients to keep the muffins tender and to avoid the peaked shape. After adding the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, stir just until moistened. If you try to stir out all the lumps, your muffins will have peaks, tunnels, and a tough texture. Most muffins, especially reduced-fat versions, are best served warm from the oven. Reheating briefly in the oven or microwave can revive flavor and texture. You can find more tips to bake perfect muffins here.

The name ‘Muffin‘ either comes from the French word ‘moufflet‘, meaning a soft bread, or from the German word ‘muffe‘ which is the name for a type of cake. There are two types of muffins: English and American. What ‘American-style’ muffins means is that the muffins are made, not from a yeast dough like the English Muffin, but rather they use a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda). Maybe it would be better to describe them as a cross between a bread and a cake.

Either which ways, the kids are always happy to have muffins. These chocolate ones were really nice, so the son made me a ‘Happy Happy Day’ card to thank me!!

The mini muffins were very cute too. I topped each with a dark & milk chocolate chip the minute they came out of the oven. Perfect little bites!

Ingredients:

Hot water – 1/2 cup
Instant coffee/espresso powder – 2tbsp
Buttermilk – 1/2 cup
Vegetable oil – 1/2 cup
Eggs – 2 large
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Flour – 1 3/4 cups
Sugar – 1/2 cup
Brown sugar – 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder – 4 tbsp
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Chocolate chips – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup / coarsely chopped / optional ; reserve a few halves for topping

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Stir 1/2 cup hot water and instant coffee in medium bowl until it dissolves.
  • Add buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
  • Mix flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  • Add buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts (or pecans).
  • Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Bake until tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  • Transfer muffins to rack and cool.

MUFFIN is the way to go!!

As Michelle so rightly puts it… “The beauty of the humble muffin is that it’s so versatile and almost any ingredient is agreeable with the baked bun; from pumpkin and fresh fruit to chocolate chips.”

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