Secretly Vegan Carrot and Plum Cake- Eggless and Dairy free

plumcake vegan 
christmas ornament

All is quiet, the little one is fast asleep, snug between his two cousins, and dreaming of Santa. I am writing this post quickly just to share with you a quick and super easy recipe for a plum cake that happens to be vegan. But you really shouldn't label it a vegan cake and it's not really a traditional Christmas cake. It's just a really good moist cake that happens to be vegan- mahed bananas replace the eggs and most of the fat, with grated carrots and enough chopped dried plums to make it Christmassy

plumcake vegan 3

After complaining about my dislike for fruitcake in my guest post for Shulie, you must be wondering why I am here with a fruit cake recipe right? Well I do want to give fruit cake one more try, and also wanted my little one to get a taste of some Christmas-time traditions that his mom grew up with! Since he is allergice to dairy and eggs, I just adapted his favourite banana cake into something more Christmassy and quite healthy yet delicious too!
You can soak the fruits in brandy or rum and spices as in traditional fruitcake if you like, but as I have mentioned (repeatedly here ), I am not a fan, so I just soaked the plums in warm water to soften it and it really did the trick, making them plump and moist.

Merry Christmas!

plumcakevegan 4

plumcake slice

Carrot Banana Plum Cake

Ingredients ( The order in which these ingredients are added is important):
  • 4 medium very ripe bananas peeled and mashed well till no lumps remain ( the riper the bananas the stronger the banana flavour.) 
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar ( I have  halved this amount too and it works- just made the cake a little drier)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 TBSP water, 3 TBSP oil, 2 tsp baking powder (all mixed together in that order and kept aside for about 5 minutes prior, not much more ahead else it may lose some of the fizz require to make the cake rise)
  • 1/4 tsp, baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence ( optional) 
  • 1 cup chopped dried plums or prunes ( soak the fruits in warm water or just put them in a bowl of water and heat in the microwave for 15 secons to make them moist) 
  • 1 cup grated carrots 

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees or 325 F if using a glass pyrex dish 

Grease and flour a 9X5 inch loaf pan, or a pyrex bowl as I used in the photos above, to give it a traditional Christmas pudding look ( I used vegetable oil to grease the pan and didn't flour it, but lined the bottom with parchment paper, cutting the paper where it bent and creased and overlapping it to make it as smooth as possible to fit the curved shape of the bowl)
In large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients in order given ( if you don't follow the order, things may not work so its VERY IMPORTANT!). Pour into pan and bake 40 to 50 minutes. 
Let it cool in the pan for about 10-15 mins. Then run a knife around the sides of the pan.
Invert it onto a plate or cooling rack and let cool completely
You can also bake this in muffin or cup cake tins and it would be perfect for breakfast

Am sending this cake over to Simone of Junglefrog Cooking who is hosting the Monthly Mingle as well as a sparkling photo challenge

Nankhatais Indian Cardamom and Whole Wheat Cookies -Guest Post for Food Wanderings

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

I love Shulie's blog Food Wanderings ( such an apt blog name right?) and enjoy discovering many new things to try from her Jewish heritage. Several times I have been happily surprised to learn about Jewish dishes that may have influenced those that I grew up eating all the way in Kerala in the south of India, among my Syrian Christian community there. I am very excited that I am getting to do a guest post for her inspirational blog as part of her Indian Food Series, which has featured some of my most favorite Indian food bloggers. 

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

When we were brainstorming about what the post should be about, I mentioned Nankhatais since I had just taken a batch along with some macarons to a cookie swap and I was so happy to learn that Shulie loved them and that her mom used to make them for her too, after taking grains to a store in their community where it was ground for her.

 I am glad these cookies brought back childhood memories for Shulie and hope you all enjoy them too! 

Do go over to Shulie's blog, fall in love with her writing and breath taking photographs if you haven't already and also read my post on these buttery, cardamom infused snappy cookies from India (which are also a snap to make), and read about one particular Christmas time tradition in Kerala I am more than happy to escape! 

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

I hope these cookies held their own among the other deliciousness like Chocolate drizzle caramel bars from Patty, these Salted caramel and coconut thumbprints that just have no mercy from Lisa, Chocolate Caramel Filled Cherry Thumbprints from the Cookie Queen herself :) -the lovely Gina, melt in the mouth Mexican wedding cookies from Jean and tender Coconutty cookies (with cute cookie swap printables) from Liren and pretty, swirly Cinnamon bun biscotti from Azmina

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

Nankhatais- Indian Wholewheat cardamom cookies

They really go well with tea or coffee and would even be great nibbles to serve alongside some red wine. Make them, gift them, but most importantly enjoy them, and have a wonderful holiday, and a very Blessed, Merry Christmas! 
Love, Joy, Peace

Recipe is over at Shulies blog Food Wanderings here

Garam Masala Pulled Pork with Polenta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

pressure cooker pot roast

As I mentioned in my last post, I came to the US, just four Decembers ago. I immediately fell in love with the breathtaking beauty that surrounds us here in California,the warm, welcoming people and in these short years that I have been here, I have felt at home.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Today, I too mourn with the rest of the country for the many young lives lost to senseless violence. This festive season, we are all robbed of good cheer, replaced by feelings of sadness, anger and fear. Happy carols sometimes grate on my nerves, and I feel a pang of guilt when I decorate the house or bake cookies while so many other mothers are mourning. But I am trying to focus on keeping this season of Christmas special and magical for my little monkey, as it should be. I join thousands of others in signing petitions to prohibit assault weapons.  Whenever the uneasiness wraps itself around me, I whisper a prayer for the grieving families and for the protection of my own.
That's all I know to do, and to bake cookies and cook a warm and comforting meal for my loved ones, and that is what I am going to stick to doing.

Eppa Sangria Cranberry Preserve with Easy Yogurt Pannacotta

cranberry sangria preserve with yogurt pannacotta

cranberry sangria preserve

There is a tangible sense of excitement and expectation in December. I always feel like something amazing is going to happen, a feeling echoed perhaps from thousands of years ago at that very first Christmas... December has since always been a month of hope, and is definitely the happiest month of the year. In my life December has always been the month of new beginnings-T and I were married in December four fleeting years ago, we came to this country on the last day of the month to bein our new life together here, and it is also the month that I began another beautiful new journey as a mom to my little monkey. I am always excited to see what December brings! 


One of the things I enjoy the most about this time of the year is getting together with friends and family. Everyone takes the time out and makes the extra effort to get together, sit at one table, share stories, laughter and create memories. Food is festive, rich and plentiful and wine always seems to flow more freely.
Living close to Napa Valley I always like discovering new wines to try and I was only happy to accept when the people of Eppa Sangria asked me if I would like to review their wine.

On a whim I also used it to make a cranberry preserve or dessert topping for a creamy panna cotta that I made lighter replacing half greek yogurt in place of cream. I think I came up with the perfect Christmas time dessert- it is a light refreshing end to a heavy meal, is super easy and takes only a few minutes, a saucepan and a spoon to put together, you can make it ahead to set and chill in your fridge and it doesn't take up oven space. With a seasonally apt red cranberry topping infused with spices and wine how much more perfect can it get?

Eppa Sangria

I made the dessert for some friends who came home for dinner and I also served them the wine which I was not so surprised to note was preferred more by us women because of its sweet taste and fruitiness. I think Sangria just looks so pretty too, with the bobbing bits of fruit that infuse the wine with their bright fresh flavors.

Eppa Sangria is a combination of Cabernet and Syrah from beautiful Mendocino County, blended with fruit juces from antioxidant-rich fruits, including pomegranate, blueberry, Mediterranean blood orange and acai. I was pleased to learn that this makes it nearly twice as antioxidant rich as a glass of red wine and it is also certified organic- something that is not very easy to find. You can buy it in Whole Foods or other stores mentioned on their website and you can also have it shipped to most states. It came to me well packed in thermocole bottle savers and could be a good gift idea to send friends and family who don't live close by.

Eppa Sangria

I made the cranberry preserve by simmering the red berries until they burst with spices and citrus zest and it is even more delicious than it looks, especially when paired with the refreshingly light and so easy to make pannacotta. I'm sure it would taste great with crackers or cookies, plain yogurt, or even with cheese. I would probably spoon it over ice cream especially this one.

cranberries simmering with spices in wine Cranberry Preserve

Travel Post: Monterey Bay Aquarium

"The sea is as close as we can come to entering another world"
- Quote seen on entering Monterey Bay Aquarium's sardine room 

Monterey Bay

I found some pictures from a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and thought I would share them here even though these were taken about a year ago on my point and shoot camera. The monkey (seen here with his Ammama who was visiting us then) is now a very opinionated pint sized little man, no longer the baby in these photos! 

You should definitely make a trip to the aquarium if you find these angelic beings as fascinating as I do. (I could stare at them for hours. Or days.)

Monterey Bay

...and If your bucket list includes high fiving a star fish

Get friendly with a starfish!- Monterey Bay

And especially if you have little monkeys who would like to have conversations with fish...

Monterey Bay

....or look for Nemo 

Monterey Bay

...or just make silly faces with grandmothers from behind the fish tanks :)

Monterey Bay

If you are visiting the Bay area and especially if you are planning a trip to beautiful Carmel or Big Sur, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is close and is definitely worth seeing. There are special events at the aquarium during the day including wine tasting and even celebrity chef visits so check out the website before you plan your trip. Cannery row where the aquarium is located, where there used to be sardine canning companies which are all shut down now,  is also interesting to stroll through. There are many quaint little shops and restaurants.

If you are driving down from San Jose it is only about a two hour drive and you must make a pit stop at Morgan Hill at the delicious Trail Dust  BBQ. The Gilroy outlet malls are also enroute if you want to stop for some deep discount and factory store shopping  and in July, Gilroy is the destination for all garlic lovers during their annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. 

Thanksgiving Macaron Centerpiece: Pumpkin Spice Macarons



Hey all! How are your thanksgiving preparations going? did you plan your menus, finish the grocery shopping and shine the silver already or are you more of a last minute type (like me?) I have been seeing posts and tweets about turkey thawing, and pie-crust rolling and I can't help getting caught up in the excitement. I always miss my large family during holiday season and wish there were more of us on the West Coast. But I can't complain too much since I was blessed to see my awesome cousins recently and had my mom-in-law visiting us until last week. So this year Thanksgiving looks to be a small affair with my little family and plans to meet a couple of friends after which we three are heading off for a short trip. It didn't seem natural to not do any cooking or baking though, so here is a thanks giving center piece idea: Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Macarons! 

Making these and piling them into glass jars or stacking them on cake stands along with little pumpkins, squash, pine cones and autumn leaves seemed like a good idea to add some festive cheer to your table. They would make great hostess gifts too I'm thinking :)

I haven't made macarons in a while and recently a couple of friends were discussing them and I felt that familiar itch to bake them all over again. Looks like my macobsession is back eeeeeks! These pint sized treats are perfect to nibble on while waiting for the caramel cardamom pumpkin pie or swirly pumpkin-ginger  cheesecake to be served. Another interesting fall macaron idea is this Ginger Spice Macaron

Oh and I discovered that you don't need cream to make ganache. Ok so I forgot to buy cream. But the important thing  is- you don't need it! Make ganache with chocolate and ...milk! You can thank me now and Nigella who apparently knew too. 

macarons2 macarons3 macarons4


Easy Small Batch Spiced Plum Preserve ( No pectin)



Hello every one! I would like to introduce you all to my first ever bottle of jam. I am so hooked!
Update: This bottle of jam was featured on Yummly's 10 Fruity Fall Jams for National Canning Day 
Ok first of all the difference between preserve and jam apparently is that in preserve there are chunks of fruit whereas jam is more smooth with the fruit having been crushed or pureed, and jelly is even more smooth being made from the fruit juice and not the pulp. This one is full of soft spreadable plum chunks so it is a preserve, and not jam but I'm going to  use the terms interchangeably, ok?

Last month I met the talented Patty of Patty's Food at a bloggers meet and we discovered that we lived quite close to each other. She invited me to her beautiful home to cook together,  and I had a blast whipping  up some spicy tomato rice with the cherry tomatoes we bought from the farmers market on the way over,  and Patty showed me how to make this delicious Spiced Plum Jam. I had no idea it would be SO easy to make! ( and eat :O) So Patty, I have you to thank, both for a delightful afternoon, and what I am sure is going to be a lifelong addiction to jamming!


It was all gone too quickly and then I made another large batch of jam and learnt to can or bottle it so that I could take it with me in my suitcase to Ohio to gift to my family I was visiting there, and it was a huge hit with them too. Now that I am back I am buying up all the plums and peaches I can find at my favourite stall for stone fruits at our farmers market- Kashiwase Farms, to make more jam, and  bottle up the last of summer goodness for the chilly months to come ( well, not SO chilly, I do live in California after all!)

jam white

My mom makes a very sweet banana jam popular in banana abundant Kerala, with a surprisingly natural red hue,  which was a favourite of mine growing up. She used to make it to take to my college hostel- my roomies and I  would spread the runny jam on Marie biscuits as a midnight snack! I think I ate too much of it though, because now I've become a lot more  finicky about my jam and do not like it overly sweet, and prefer to let the taste of the fruit shine through. If you love jam then you MUST make yours at home too. It is so easy and it knocks the socks of supermarket jam. Best of all you can make your own flavour combinations to spread on toast ( try it in between your grilled cheese sandwich!) , crackers, spoon over dessert or serve with yogurt or cheese...


The leaves on most trees are tinged red and I know overnight they will be all red or gold and soon begin to fall. So go, hurry and get jamming before all trace of summer is gone along with all the summer fruits! Isn't that a really depressing thought? That these mounds of juicy stone fruits are going to quickly disappear? But you know what, every time I think that September slipping away  is going to throw me into wallowing despair, almost unwillingly I succumb to Fall's seductions. A lone red leaf lying on the pavement, a whiff of cinnamon,  Halloween  costumes and Thanksgiving decorations in store windows (ALREADY! ) My mind wanders towards pumpkin pies and crisp apples  and then of course I am falling for Fall too :)


Just in case I do pine for  a taste of summer, all I have to do is open up one of my many bottles of spiced plum jam!

Recipe for Small Batch Plum Preserve
Recipe adapted from: Epicurious with tips from Patty of Patty's Food
Yield: Makes about 3 half pint bottles of jam, recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

  • 2 pounds plums or pluots ( I used a delicious variety fom Kashiwase Farms called Flavour King) 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cloves or 1 stick cinnamon or other spice of your choice
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (optional) 
plumjamslices collage

Place a plate or bowl in the freezer ( preferably a steel one)
Coarsely chop the plums after pitting into large chunks ( if you are using organic plums, no need to peel them)
Stir together with the water, sugar and cloves in a large (2 quart or more) pot, saucepan or dutch oven.
Slit and scrape the inside of the vanilla bean and add it along with the bean to the saucepan.
Place on medium heat until it reaches a simmer and then reduce heat to low.
Let it simmer, stirring occasionally so that it does not get stuck to the bottom of the pan, especially towards the end when the jam starts to thicken and reduce (in about an hour)
Pick out the cloves and vanilla bean before bottling.

To check that the jam is done, put a drop of the jam on the cold plate from the freezer.
Tilt the plate and if the drop of jam runs down then that means that the jam needs to cook some more.
Another way to check is to run a spoon through the jam in the pot and it should leave a channel or a trail ( think parting of the red sea!) for a few seconds before getting filled up again.
I don't mind my jam being a little runny, but I make sure that I don't over cook it so that the fruit still tastes bright and  the texture is not too hard or gummy.
If you jam is still too runny, you can use it as a delicious topping for yogurt,  ice cream or other desserts too! So don't worry, get jamming!

You can store your jam in clean and dry containers in the fridge. If you want to keep it longer than a month or so and plan to store it out of the fridge, you should can it, following the guide lines here

Onam Special

Onam kerala

Happy Onam to all my fellow Malayalis and Malayalis at heart :) I hope you all enjoy a wonderful feast and have some extra for me :)

Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala celebrated not only by the Hindus for whom it is a religious festival, but by everyone throughout the state and all Mallus scattered worldwide,  as a sort of celebration of everything that is beautiful and beloved to Kerala! If you visit Kerala during Onam, you will see colourful carpets made from flower petals outside every home, beautifully dressed women in their white and gold saris and ornate jewelry with strings of jasmine in their hair, and boat races along the many rivers, and if you are really lucky maybe even some Kathakali performances or Puli Kali ( tiger dance with the dancers bodies painted orange and striped black to look like tigers)

I hope to enjoy a full blown Sadhya this year after ages. Sadhya to all my non-Mallu friends is a large feast of delicious vegetarian dishes ranging from spicy to tangy to sweet, served with a mound of rice, typically on a large banana leaf, which ofcourse is my favourite part of Onam!
I am really looking forward to my Onam celebration with my sister-in-law's family, especially since my cute little niece will be performing a special Onam dance! but this Onam get together is happening only in two weeks. So tomorrow, I will be making just one or two of our Onam favourites. Since it will just be the two of us and the monkey I am not attempting to make a full Sadhya (that might probably kill me!) Preparing a full Sadhya requires a lot of collaborative effort and you need a team of dedicated, chattering aunts or a team of skilled cooks to accomplish!

Here are some of my favourite dishes from the archives that may be part of the Sadhya:

Kerala beans stir fry

And now to my favourite part... the dessert! 

carrot pal payasam collage

For more Onam special recipes visit our Kerala Cooking group- The Kerala Kitchen 

I think the apart from the Payasams, Eriserry is my favourite. What is your favourite Onam item?