I had always thought that once you grew up you could do anything you wanted — stay up all night or eat ice-cream straight out of the container. 
 Bill Bryson

I was delighted to hear from Sean for CSN Stores the other day asking if I’d like to do a home decor or kitchen accessories giveaway for readers of Passionate About Baking from the US and Canada. YES PLEASE!! I could choose something from counter stools or cookware from any of the CSN  Stores. Of course I had to choose something form the ‘cookware‘! This giveaway offers me an opportunity to thank you for stopping by, and for taking the time to leave a comment and say wonderful things.

Have you had a look at the CSN Stores? CSN Stores LLC is a fast-growing, privately-held company offering customers the best online shopping available for home and office goods. A $200 million company, CSN is made up of more than 200 online niche shops offering a huge selection of products ranging from barstools and bedroom sets to grills, greenhouses and gaming equipment. They include All, Toys and Games, and


With summer here, I thought either the Cuisineart Ice Cream Maker or Delonghi Retro Panini Grill would be a fun giveaway. I loved both of them, so thought I’d offer you a choice. Suggestion: With the grill, you can start with a several array of delicious panini sandwich recipes .

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment on this post before Sunday, April 24th, midnight your time, and let me know which of the two items from CSN Stores you’d like to win.  Tweet about this giveaway for an extra entry leaving a comment for each entry.

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2 Qt. Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker – ICE-30BC

What’s better than a quart of luscious homemade ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt? Two quarts! The fully automatic Cuisinart Pure Indulgence makes 2 quarts of your favorite frozen desserts or drinks in as little as 25 minutes. It’s easy, an integrated motor, double-insulated freezer bowl and automatic mixing paddle do all the work. Results are consistently smooth, cleanup is easy, and the brushed metal styling is simply sensational. 
Delonghi Retro Panini Grill – CGH800
Make great tasting, restaurant-style grilled sandwiches in the comfort of your own home! This product features a double-sided non-stick grill that cooks from the top and bottom for fast, even grilling. Adjustable thermostat for grilling and toasting allows for easy operation and the temperature range window lets you easily view the precise temperature for perfect customized grilling and toasting every time!
The giveaway is only open to residents of the US and Canada. Be sure your email address is included in your comment.
My stash of strawberries lasted long. Some eaten straight out of the bowl, and loads frozen to be preserved. Others reduced to delicious Roasted Vanilla and Balsamic Strawberries, some headed into jars of Strawberry Vanilla Bean Conserve, and also in a Strawberry Cake with Quark and Mascarpone. Did I forget to mention the Strawberry Vanilla Bean Scented Frangipane Galette and these Double Chocolate Strawberry Energy Bars? Add to that a No Bake Strawberry Quark Cheesecake which I still have to post, and I could happily live off this passionate fruit for ever.

Like all good things come to an end, so has the strawberry season in our neck of the woods. It’s been better than any season before, and we’ve been spoilt silly by these luscious berries. Now it’s time to dig into the reserves and use the frozen ones! With the mercury almost hitting 45C very early in the season, this luscious eggless strawberry ice-cream was absolutely sensational.

Quick Strawberry Ice-Cream was music to my ears when I first saw the recipe in INDULGE – 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark This gorgeous book that I received to review from Blogger Aid is one of the most special ones on my bookshelf, and if offers a variety of desserts from very involved to very simple. Each recipe has trivia attached to it, and Claire Clark extensively uses fruit in her desserts… that is something I love. If I were to own just one book on desserts, this would be my choice!

About the recipe, the author writes, ” One day when I was teaching at Le Cordon Bleu, my friend and fellow pastry lecturer, Matthew Hardy, was in the basement , busily prepping for our ice-cream demonstration the next day. I was shocked to see him making strawberry ice-cream without any eggs, and was convinced it wouldn’t be as luxurious as my recipe. I was, however, pleasantly surprised, as it was every bit as rich and creamy as mine.Whenever I make a fruit ice-cream, now, whatever the flavour, I use this recipe.”

I adapted the recipe a little as I had just made fresh mascarpone for something and looking through Indulge had a a change of heart. I just HAD to make ice cream. but had used my last batch of cream to make mascarpone. The recipe is QUICK as it says. I used vanilla sugar, and the only extra ingredient was a tbsp of vodka. By all means go the double cream way as that might be easier for most of you. It’s a delightfully creamy ice cream and just right for summer. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, this giveaway just might win you one!


Adapted from Indulge by Claire Clark, pg 193
600gms frozen strawberries,  (or if using fresh, washed and hulled)
300gms vanilla sugar (or Castor sugar)
500 ml freshly thickened mascarpone ( or double cream)
1 tbsp vodka (optional)
Puree the strawberries in a blender and then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. ( I leave the seeds in because I love the added texture they offer)
Mix half the sugar with the thickened cream, and bring to a simmering boil. (If you are using double cream, mix half the sugar with the cream, and bring to a boil)
Pour this mixture over the fruit puree and mix well, then stir in the rest of the sugar,
Leave to cool completely. Set in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, then place in a freezer safe container in the freezer. Stir 6-8 times, every hour, to break and distribute the crystals, and then leave to set overnight.
Soften slightly before serving.

Note: I added a tbsp of vodka. This doesn’t change the taste, but helps keep the ice cream from getting rock hard.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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“The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.”
W. C. Fields
My fascination with fresh home made soft cheese continues. Vera’s blog, Baking Obsession, is constant inspiration, & I went back to make some ricotta for the second time. the first time I made it with her recipe was for the Daring Cooks Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi, where the ricotta was wonderful in every way, but not so the gnocchi, which floated away in gay abandon. This time I was making some to add taste to a lasagna recipe which was taking shape in my mind. I wanted creamy & cheesy, but with soft fresh cheese, not mozzarella alone. I also opted for chicken mince from thigh tenders rather than lamb mince, because I find chicken lighter in many ways, especially in hot weather. The lasagna came out beautifully, & can easily be turned into vegetarian fare. Just skip the mince & replace it with thinly sliced zucchini, or eggplant, or whichever vegetable grabs your fancy. This is a simple dish to put together, & it was the first time I used no need to cook lasagna sheets. I attempted using my box with great apprehension…what a pleasant surprise. This does take a lot of work out of lasagna making. We had family coming over for dinner, so I split up the process over 2 days, as I had a lot to do. I did the chicken mince, ricotta & tomato sauce the previous day. The next morning I layered the lasagna, covered it with foil sans the mozzarella, & baked it. Once cool, it went into the fridge. Took it out in the evening, grated mozzarella over the top, & baked it open for 10-15 minutes in a hot oven, then let it stand for 30 minutes before serving. Did ease the workload a lot. This is one fabulous lasagna, one that we all loved, especially the daughter who is always first in the queue when I make lasagna. She ♥’d it!!

Chicken Mince
750gms minced chicken (of thigh tenders)
1 onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful of fresh herbs (I used oregano & basil)
Olive oil
Red chili flakes, salt & pepper


  • Saute onion & garlic in oil till pink. Add chili flakes, saute, followed by chicken mince, Stir fry on high flame till almost dry. Add fresh chopped herbs, season with salt & pepper & continue to cook till dry. Reserve in bowl.

Quick Tomato Sauce

500gms tomatoes; quartered & blended with skins
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Red chili flakes
2-3 tsps of oregano/Italian herbs
pinch of sugar
salt & pepper to taste

  • Heat 1-2 tbsps of olive oil in pan. Add onion & garlic, red chili flakes & oregano & simmer till oil gets flavoured (4-5 minutes). Be careful the garlic doesn’t brown.
  • Add the tomatoes, pinch of sugar, salt & pepper. Cook on medium heat till sauce thickens. Reserve .
Note: I used very little bit of tomato sauce in every layer. You can double this recipe if you’d like your lasagna more tomatoee.

Bechamel (White Sauce)
1/4 cup white butter
1/2 cup flour
3 3/4 cups milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg
Parmigiana Romano (optional)

  • Melt butter in pan. Add flour & whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly, till fully incorporated. Stir continuously to avoid forming lumps. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly till it thickens. Add salt & pepper to taste. Grate in nutmeg, mix well & reserve. The sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
as adapted from Baking Obsession
2 liter whole milk
200ml 25% low fat cream
½ tsp salt
¼ cup fresh lime juice (form 5-6 small limes)


  • In a large pot combine the milk, cream, and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, till the thermometer registers 180F.
  • Add the lime juice, stir. Reduce the heat to low and continue heating the mixture until the curds form (not just milk curdles – it happens immediately after the lime juice added, but when the whey separates and the curds are obvious). But by all means, DO NOT let the mixture come to the boil.
  • Remove from the burner and let it stand for a little while (for about 15 – 20 minutes) to cool slightly. Meanwhile, line a sieve with several layers of cheese cloth. Set the sieve over a large bowl (if you plan to keep the whey) or over the sink (if you plan to discard the whey). Transfer the cheese into the lined sieve and drain for about an hour (or longer, if you plan to use the ricotta as a filling in pies or pastries, or if any particular recipe specifies so).
  • Transfer the cheese into a lidded container and store in the refrigerator. Consume within two days. The ricotta will firm up after several hours of refrigerating.
  • I like to make a firm ricotta when I make lasagna, so I can grate it.
(The lasagna recipe is enough for 8-10 servings. You can halve it if you like. Else make the whole portion , & freeze 1/2)
Begin with a thin tomato sauce on base…
& then …Lasagna , Tomato sauce, Ricotta, Mince, Bechamel, Lasagna, Tomato Sauce, Ricotta, Mince, Bechamel, Lasagna, Bechamel, Ricotta, Mozzarella…

Bake at 180C for 30 minutes covered tightly with foil. (You can cool and refrigearate this at this point for use later). Remove foil & bake open for 10 minutes, till the top is bubbly & light brown.

We had these Peach & Cherry Crisps for dessert that day. You can find a similar recipe here. The recipe is for Apricot & Cherry Crisps. I try & use whichever stone fruit is available.

“There’s more to life than chocolate, but not right now”

There’s a new book out there, & it sounds good … Cooking Green by Kate Heyhoe. It’s aimed at shrinking your ‘cookprint’ (new interesting word for me), & offers daily strategies for ‘lower impact living’. To quote the author, “How we cook is as important as what we cook. Fortunately, the kitchen is the place where you can make real green choices, and take direct control of your impact—through passive and active cooking strategies, water conservation tips, and low-carbon choices for cookware, appliances, foods, dining, and more. Save money and time, too, just by rethinking how you cook and eat. Cooking Green is like having a personal eco-consultant at your side whenever you cook, shop or eat. You’ll discover how to prepare favorite meals using less fuel and water, and make greener choices along the entire food chain, from field to market to home. The goal: lower your impact, and shrink your cookprint. Topics cover cookware from skillets to pressure cookers, appliances small and large, buying options from organics to packaging, and strategies that stretch from water heater to kitchen sink.”
This eggless no-bake cheesecake was delicious, but more importantly, gained brownie points due to a lower cookprint & use of yogurt in the form of curd cheese. It also gave me a chance to combine 2 good things in life … chocolate & strawberries. We’ve bid adieu to strawberries this season, & this is one the last few things I tried while I could lay my hands on some good fresh ones.

I receive numerous mails from readers of my blog looking for ‘eggless cakes’. A large portion of people in India are vegetarian / ‘no egg’ eaters, some on certain days of the week, some for a short period of time, & some others for life. I’m not a huge ‘egg in food’ person myself, & prefer my ice-creams, pastas, bread eggless etc, but have come a long way in learning that the problem lies more in my mind than on the plate. I have no reservations about using eggs , but sometimes would choose a panna cotta over a bake which has eggs. Strange…hmmmm.Baking & eggs do go hand in hand … what do eggs do?
Eggs, as well as flour, are the structural ingredients in baking. Eggs provide leavening; add color, texture, flavor and richness to the batter. They are very important in helping to bind all the other ingredients together. Beaten eggs are a leavening agent as they incorporate air into the batter, which will expand in the oven and cause the cake to rise. Some cakes use beaten eggs as their only source of leavening. Eggs are also used as a thickener in custards and creams, and to glaze pastries and breads. Egg whites are used to make meringues.
Yet, ‘no bake & no eggs’ make good friends at times. Learnt that in this Strawberry Refrigerator Cheesecake I did earlier. This time it had to be chocolate. I had hung curd cheese in the fridge, & wanted to make something with chocolate this time around. There was frozen yogurt in the freezer, so frozen chocolate yogurt would have to wait for another day, though is entirely a possibility in the experimental days to come. Of course when I lay down at night, the mind kept thinking, & this is what I attempted the next morning. I had initially planned individual desserts, but lack of time forced me to make a single cheesecake with curd cheese. It came out beautifully…smooth, rich & delicious! For the biscuit base, I used some left-over Brown Sugar Shortbread I had iced earlier in the week for Easter. I had made about a dozen round cookies to use as a base for individual desserts, but a rapid change of plans made me crush them. Feel free to use graham crackers or digestives if you like.


1 1/2 cups curd cheese (made with curd hung overnight to remove all whey)
400ml low fat cream (We get a 25% fresh cream/Amul here)
200gms dark chocolate
50 gms white coocolate (optional)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (or plain)
1 1/2 tbsps gelatin
1/3 cup milk; cold
Biscuit crust
200gms brown sugar shortbread cookies; crushed (or gingersnaps/digestives etc)
75gms melted butter
  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold milk & leave over a bowl of warm water till clear & melted.
  • Melt the dark chocolate & loosen it with 100ml cream. Microwave for 20-25 seconds to blend well if need be. Leave to cool.
  • Whisk the remaining cream  {minus 2 tbsp  to soft peaks}.
  • Whisk the curd cheese & sugar in the processor till smooth. Add the melted dark chocolate ganache & whisk till well blended. Then add the gelatin mixture & blend again. Fold in the whipped cream. Adjust sweetness if required.
  • Melt the white chocolate with 2 tbsps cream, & stir until smooth.
  • Hull & halve about 10 strawberries for the sides if you like, reserved 3-4 for topping, & hull, chop the rest.
  • Line a 7″ spring from tin with baking parchment on the bottom & sides. Stand the halved strawberries all around, tip facing downwards & drizzle some white chocolate around the circumference to hold them in place. (You can omit this if you are short on time).
  • Scatter the chopped strawberries on the bottom of the tin. Pour the chocolate mixture gently over this, careful that the standing strawberries don’t get shifted. I have just an 8″ springform tin, so I used a ring in the centre to get a decent height to my cake.
  • Set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, check to see that the top is slightly firm. Mix the melted butter into the breadcrumbs, & tbsp by tbsp spread gently but quickly over the top to form a uniform crust. You need to this a little quick as the butter will begin to set in contact with the chilled cheesecake. Allow to set a further 4 hours or overnight.
  • Invert onto a dessert plate, garnish the top & serve chilled slices!
This is also my entry for Monthly Mingle #32 @ What’s For Lunch Honey, where the lovely Meeta is calling for fruity Spring Cakes. Our Spring is done with here in India, but this fruity cake is all yours Meeta…


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