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Pumpkin muffins

‘Tis pumpkin season, which calls for pumpkin muffins:  easy, clean and paleo.

pumpkin-muffins

I used Wellness Mama’s recipe, which turned out great. I added some Enjoy Life chocolate morsels (dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free), and that’s why I used only 3 Tbs of pure maple syrup (instead of honey), and added pecans into the batter. All the rest, remains the same as the original recipe. Of course you can play around with the sweetener and the quantity.

Bon Appétit !

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Fall Bliss

 

 

I wanted to make a vegan cake for someone’s birthday, but most vegan desserts usually contain some grains or processed sugar, which I try to avoid, being Paleo. On the other hand, I do use eggs for baking, but that’s not vegan, right? I also wanted chocolate, thank you.

cake

This cake was gone after a day!

After googling endlessly for the ideal combination of vegan and paleo with chocolate, I found Ester Perez’ recipe that looked promising and really pretty. I made two versions of it after tweaking it to my needs (basically, to ingredients I had at home) and thought this version is the better one, cause I don’t like it too sweet:

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 7-8 pitted dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbs water

***

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbs melted organic cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs organic vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

how to:

  1. combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until sticks together. You don’t want to turn it into a powder, but you don’t want any whole pecans in there either.
  2. Once blended, press the mix into a pie plate. You don’t have to butter the pan.
  3. Set that aside and make your filling.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients into the food processor or blender.
  5. Once ingredients are completely blended together into a creamy consistency, pour mix into the prepared crust.
  6. Set in the fridge to chill until serving, or if making ahead, freeze and serve at a later time, but thaw at least an hour to room temperature before serving.

This is a great dessert for a warm summer night, it’s cool and light. Only problem is, it’s so tasty and such an easy pie to make, that it’s tempting to make again and again. Bon Appétit!

Highlights of Hyderabad

I was lucky to have a short diversion and land in Hyderabad for a week. With no further ado, allow me to introduce my favorite spots:

*Temples. The two that were both beautiful, interesting, and served as a quiet place to rest from the bustling city:

Jagannath Temple

Located in the somewhat affluent neighborhood of Banjara Hills, a quiet part of town. I recommend visiting in the afternoon, before sun sets, when the colorful sculptures and intricate marble carvings are complimented by the lighting system. Also visit mid-week, when it’s not crowded. Take your time to sit, watch people, maybe meditate, then walk around and adore the characters in the little shrines.

Jagannath Temple at night

Jagannath Temple at night

So many colorful figures at Jagannath Temple

So many colorful figures at Jagannath Temple

Birla Mandir Temple

Located in a scenic environment at the top of a hill, the glistening white temple surroundings offer the best scenery of Hyderabad, as well as air and good breeze. The temple is a white beauty, with many artistic designs for the eye to take in. Be aware, that like many other temples in India, you will need to remove your shoes before entering, and leave them outside. Also, in this temple, phones and cameras are not allowed, and they are very strict about it.

Birla

A view of Birla temple, built on top of a rocky hill, Hyderabad

*Architecture and views. Hyderabad is a city of contrasts. Full of old, magnificent buildings from different eras, up to the ultimate, up-to-date modern architecture. That is why, even by driving around the city, one’s eyes simply can’t rest but devour the sights of old and new, marble and glass, domes and geometrical designs.

Charminar

One of Hyderabad’s musts, Charminar (stands for the “four towers) is a monument built in 1591 by Mohammed Qutub Shah, the fifth sultan of the Qutub Shahi dynasty of India. A climb up the narrow, winding, uneven steps is quite the experience: awkward as you’re squeezed between people, and climbing very, very slow. Yet, the views from the tower, as well as the many architectural details that the structure presents, are well worth it (and the money they’re collecting).

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Charminar= the “four towers” are clearly seen from afar, high above

Charminar, Hyderabad

curves and arches at Charminar

Charminar

Islamic arches

Golkonda Fort

Somewhat of a drive from city center, this old fort (approx. 800 years) is the epitome of engineering. Be sure to take the full english tour to learn the many secretes that the fort holds with the interesting bits of historical information. Do it during  the day and don’t be tempted to stay for the lights show during evening, which was meant as a gimmick, but not a very good one for a non-Indian.

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Stepping on 800 years old stones

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The famous acoustic effect: A hand clap below the dome can be heard clearly almost a kilometer away

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Arches corridor

HITEC City

A few years ago, a new, modern city emerged on the flat prairie near Hyderabad, all clean shaped, glass and steel, built for the world leading technology, pharma, and financial companies. With those, came residential buildings, campuses, and all the rest. I recommend driving around and noting the amazing differences, and the contrast that is still evolving between the old city and the contemporary landscape.

640px-Cyber_Towers_Madhapur_Hyderabad

An example of the modern new buildings in HITEC City, photo by Veera.sj.

*Shopping and food. Oh, where do I start? Shopping is all around. Shops and bazaars seem to be the arteries and veins that connect and make the city a whole. Each sari and fabric store is filled with gorgeous colors and patterns. Restaurants and food carts all looked equally inviting. My suggestions are these:

Laad bazaar right next to Charminar, for all the bangles you could dream of. Allow time to wonder around and view people and sellers.

laad bazaar

Glass, metal, fabric wrapped bangles. You ask, they have it. I’m in there somewhere…

Shopper’s Stop at GVK One mallFor ethnic clothes, there are the markets, and the endless shops everywhere, but I found it easy to eventually shop at one of the local malls, where I could try the kurta on, and the prices were very decent.

street

Of course there’s plenty of other stuff everywhere in the street

Bawarchi. Perhaps ze’ (french accent please) most tastiest Hyderabadi chicken biryani in Hyderabad.

chicken

I asked for a fork, but I’ve learned to use my hand since then.

Minerva Coffee Shop. Despite the name, these guys’ specialty is their amazing thali, that kept on refilling itself. My kind of heaven.

thali

GREAT thali at Minerva Coffee

Of course, other kinds of street food were absolutely a delish: samosas being my top choice.

street

Hyderabad street life

*indulgence. Make time for a good Ayurvedic massage, especially the scalp and head warm oil massage, or even a full body oil massage, completed with hot steam sauna. I’ve been to Senses, and after the massage I emerged as a new person. It was so good, that I made my husband take the massage the day after. Please remember though, this is India, so don’t expect any western style or standard.

*Thanks. It’s always wonderful to travel with a local, not to mention warm, generous people, who become friends. I’d like to thank you guys, for the wealth of information, guidance, and efforts: Sharma, Indira, Justine, Priya, Srihari, Vivek, Vamshi, Mapu and mostly to Amrutha. Shukriya!

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Hyderabad, 2015

 

 

 

 

Kohlrabi Thins

Autumn season is here, and along with the other great root vegetables, kohlrabi is an excellent choice. Both bulb and green stem and leaves can be used in different ways. The texture feels like a crisp apple, the taste- like a broccoli stem, but a bit sweeter. Many people I’ve met are not familiar with kohlrabi, and are missing out, and that’s a shame!

fresh kolhrabi thins

fresh kohlrabi thins

Here’s a very easy way to prepare the bulb, and enjoy a healthy, tasty snack, or salad. I give you: raw, thin slices of kohlrabi, or kohlrabi carpaccio if you will.

First, you’ll need to peel it. I use my knife to cut the stems off, then cut the woody base, and peel the outer layer. You can use a vegetable peeler for that, but I really prefer my knife, as its quicker.  See demo here (used with a peeler).

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and each half into thin slices. Prepare the slices on a plate, one layer first. Drizzle olive oil on top, sprinkle sea salt, and squeeze fresh lemon. Prepare the next layer, and again: drizzle olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Continue layer upon layer. Finally, leave for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

*nice additions (all together or just some): sprinkle thyme or mint, small chunks of goat cheese or parmesan cheese, some balsamic vinegar, or- toss with lime juice and lime zest with some cilantro.

Enjoy !

Call it ice-cream, call it pudding, as long as it’s chocolaty, soft, and cool in my mouth, it’s one of the ultimate heat breakers for summer. The fact that it’s gluten, and dairy free, both paleo and vegan, elevates it to ideal. And, to top it all, it’s easy to make. Oh, it will be somewhat grainy, as I like to feel some chunks (dates, pecans). Now that’s pure awesomeness.

chilled chocolate banana date mousse

chilled chocolate banana date ice-cream

you’ll need:

How to:

  1. Pulse the coconut flakes in a food processor, for about 1-2 minutes. At first it will be powdered, and then it will start to stick to the container walls.
  2. Peel bananas and cut roughly into slices, and add to the coconut mixture in the food processor. Add cacao powder, medjool dates (make sure no pits), and pecans. Add any optional flavors*.
  3. Blend in food processor until thick and creamy. If you like it smoother (and not feel the date, or coconut chunks), keep blending even more.
  4. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish, and tuck in the freezer 30-60 minutes, yet not too long so it doesn’t harden too much. If you do leave it too long, that’s fine, just thaw it outside for a while, before serving. Alternatively, you can save in the fridge, covered, to have it as a soft mousse/pudding treat. All of the above, if you don’t finish it right away.

optional flavors to add:

  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder. YES, it’ll add pizzazz to your mouth;
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon powder;
  • 1/3 tsp coffee powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder + 1 Tbs vanilla extract;
  • throw in some of your favorite nuts and berries (goji, mulberries, etc’);
  • throw in some mini chocolate nibs or chocolate chips.

What’s your favorite addition?

India is unique in so many levels. One of them is the liveliness and constant vibrance that grabs attention wherever one is. Colors, people, foods, smells, sounds, animals, buildings, all lure one’s gaze and awareness in all directions, that by the end of each day, I was dead tired. For good and bad. Not all images are jolly, not all scents are roses. Yet, all those make India a photographer’s heaven, as wherever the eye blinks, it blinks a postcard.

It was nice to take our time and walk around, sometimes sit and watch, and imagine, while listening to the audio tour in Jodhpur’s Maharaja’s palace.

Jodhpur, the blue city

Entering Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

You can see how grand life was, back in the days, if you were the Maharaja, of course.

Maharaja's palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Inside the walls of the Maharaja’s palace, Jodhpur

They don’t call Jodhpur “The Blue City” for nothin’. Indeed, it’s a spectacular view from Mehrangarh Fort, high above the city’s slopes.

seen from the Maharaja's palace

The Blue City, Jodhpur

And, like any other city that prides itself, Jodhpur, too, can boast a busy, find-it-all market, with anything from saris, to spices and tea, with cows roaming between stalls, and sweet chai being offered for a few cents.

Sardar Market, around the clocktower, Jodhpur

Sardar Market, around the clocktower, Jodhpur

Of course we had to buy tea, lots of it. And saffron, not so much…

By the end of that long day, we could peacefully go on and drive to our lodging for the night, in Chandelao. When I reserved the spot online, some months before, I wasn’t aware of two things:
One- it was damn far from Jodhpur, in the middle of nowhere. We arrived so late at night after a few wrong turns and endless driving. What was I thinking?
Two- what a quiet, tranquil place, located in a tiny cheerful village, where my kids interacted with the local kids, who hardly knew any English. The haveli where we slept was old and charming. I guess I knew exactly what I wanted when ordering online.

detail of Chandelao Garh, our Haveli in Chandelao village

detail of Chandelao Garh, our Haveli in Chandelao village

grand entrance to Chandelao Garh

grand entrance to Chandelao Garh

The best part: mingling with the locals, especially the kids, giggles and all.

bike riding with the local kids

bike riding with the local kids

Watching daily life

Beautiful girl drawing water

Beautiful girl drawing water

One of my favorites: Lior teaching the kids how to whistle with their hands

One of my favorites: Lior teaching the kids how to whistle with their hands

After many hours of driving through mustard colored, flat scenery of sands and villages, with the occasional Khejri tree and many more camels than cars, we arrived at the fort city of Jaisalmer. The city rises proud and high, elevated on top of a yellow sandstone hill, enclosed by old walls.

Lior: Jaisalmer reminds me a lot of Jerusalem- an ancient stone city, with markets, and warm weather. I really just loved walking through the old city, since it’s so easy to get lost.

Looking at beautiful Jaisalmer from outside the city walls

Looking at beautiful Jaisalmer from outside the city walls

A stroll in the complex, winding, narrow streets within the old city, that contains many Jain temples and others, tiny stores, restaurants that lead to rooftops, people wearing colorful outfits, cows and camels, and most of all, beautiful stone carvings embedded in the buildings, made me feel like it’s all part of an Aladdin movie set. We took a local guide to show us around, which was OK, but I wish I had more time to just sit and view street scenes. Next time, perhaps.

The view towards the main gate of the Golden City

The view towards the main gate of the Golden City

Hats vendor, adding splash of colors

Hats vendor, adding splash of colors

collage of texture, color, and shape

collage of texture, color, and shape

Lady in window

Lady in window

One of the best views we had, was from our hotel’s room window. We woke up early, just to watch and be in the moment of the sunrise at the desert horizon.

The Helsinki House sits on the very edge of Jaisalmer; beyond that is strictly desert for as far as the eye can see. It was amazing to wake up, watch the sunrise, then walk into the desert, not knowing what we would see or find. (We did end up seeing many stray dogs, an ox, and some sort of shrine). 

window to desert

a window to the desert

And after spending some “urban” time in Jaisalmer, we wanted to taste some solitude and desert life.

Not much solitude. People and camels as far as the eye can see

Not much solitude. People and camels as far as the eye can see

So it wasn’t as empty as we wished for, but hey, we got a taste of the desert. We slept in a tent, had a big party with food and dances, and sand.

Our night in the desert tent camp was also fun. Although we came for solitude, of which there was none, we did enjoy a great feast and party in the camp. This ‘desert resort’ is apparently a popular venue for many Indian tourists! 

a desert friend

a desert friend

you can see more photos in instagram, or FB

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