Vegan Whole Wheat Mango Cupcakes with Vegan Mango Frosting

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For me, the month of May is all about mangoes. Growing up in India, the month of May is the peak of mango season; my mind is flooded with memories of “aamras and puri” (mango pulp and fried mini roti), mango milkshakes, “amrakhand” (the traditional shrikhand, a thick, sweetened yogurt, with a mango twist) and countless mango-based desserts and cakes that my mom made for our birthdays (my sister and I are both May-born).

So for the month of May as part of my cupcake project, the fruit of the month just had to be Mango. It didn’t matter what else is in season in California at the moment, it had to be mango! I’m always looking for delicious vegan recipes for my mom to bake in India with the ingredients easily available in India, so I decided to make these mango cupcakes vegan (and while I was at it, whole grain, with the use of whole wheat pastry flour)!

These cupcakes are light and moist with a great mango and cardamom flavor, and the mango frosting (made vegan with the use of Country Crock plant butter instead of regular dairy butter) is like cardamom-scented ball of fluff!

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Tiranga Shrikhand Bars (frozen yogurt bars)

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Ever since my friend Shruti told me how to make shortcut Shrikhand (a sweet and creamy dessert from my home state of Maharashtra in India, made with hung yogurt, sugar, ground cardamom and saffron) using Labneh, I must have made it dozens of times. It comes together in no time – whisk together Labneh (extra thick middle-eastern yogurt cheese aka yogurt that is the consistency of cream cheese) and sugar with a pinch of ground cardamom and saffron, and chill in the fridge for a bit. That’s it!

I make it quite frequently to go with elaborate Indian meals – meals that have 7 or 8 other components as it is. So making the shortcut version is an easy win, especially if you make the mango version of it, called Amrakhand (Aam = mango), with mango pureé subbing for half the sugar. I’ve had this idea of converting Shrikhand to a bite-size, easy to freeze format, so that its easy to get a quick taste of it occasionally without investing any time/effort. I thought it would be a great idea to try a “Tiranga” (Indian tricolor) version of it to celebrate the upcoming Indian Republic Day (January 26th).

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Sweet Pongal (Sakkarai Pongal)

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Sakkarai Pongal is a rice and lentil pudding sweetened with jaggery, spiced with ground cardamom and tempered with cashews and raisins, a Tamil delicacy made for its eponymous festival, Pongal! This is the sweet variation of Ven Pongal, which is savory (tempered with cashews and black peppercorns), and usually made all year round.

It’s a warm, sweet and comforting pudding, and can be made as simple or as decadent as you prefer, simply by adding more ghee (clarified butter) and dry fruits and nuts. A friend of mine made this for Makar Sankrant/Pongal over a decade ago, and it still remains one of my favorite Indian desserts of all time!

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Rose Cheesecake Squares (No Bake)

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No-bake cheesecakes are a world of their own, so quick, fuss-free, make-ahead, endlessly adaptable and eggless to boot! The eggless aspect of it lends well to a lot of Indian-flavored desserts, something my sister experiments a lot with. She had once made individual no-bake cheesecakes in these clear dessert cups for a party, and they were very well received!

My love for rose and all flavors floral is well-documented on this site, so when this fruity and floral decaffeinated Blood Orange tea showed up in my Simple Loose Leaf tea box, this chilled, no-bake Rose Cheesecake seemed like a really good idea. The mild, tangy and creamy cheesecake lets the fruit and floral flavors shine, the buttery crust provides a good contrast for the sharp and bright flavors, and the coolness of the cake makes it perfect for the upcoming warm weather, where the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven!

The crust is a simple, no-bake one with Nilla wafers (or you can use graham crackers or any neutral, buttery cracker), butter and a pinch of salt. The filling is softened, whipped cream cheese, with whipped cream for extra lift, and flavored with citrus zest (I used lemon, but orange or blood orange would be even better) and rose water/extract. Assembled in the fridge for 4-6 hours, or ideally overnight, this cheesecake is ready to go in all its glory for your teatime and dessert needs – no water baths, collapsed fillings, soggy crusts.

Shall we?

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Ukad (rice flour and buttermilk porridge)

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This recipe is very close to my heart, almost family heirloom status. It’s one of my mom’s favorite recipes, a modified version of which she happily fed my sister and I since we were 7 or 8 months old. Something my grandmother fed my mom since she was a baby herself! It is quick, comforting and resembles a warm hug in food form. Not that I’m biased or anything.

A mixture of rice flour-buttermilk (or yogurt thinned out with water), flavored with finely chopped ginger, green chilies, asafetida (hing) and salt, is cooked in a quick tempering of mustard seeds, sliced garlic and curry leaves (sometimes with turmeric, sometimes without), until its a soft, smooth and tangy pillow. The porridge is served with a drizzle of raw oil, and is to be enjoyed in complete peace and quiet – at least the one you can control, in your head. If peace is eluding you, this Ukad will help you get there. And that’s all there is to it.

Shall we?

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Lavender and Lemon Scones

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I bake scones and biscuits quite often, and all year round. Scones make beautiful centerpieces for breakfasts, brunches and tea parties, easy to make ahead, freeze and bake just when needed, ready to shine on their own or play second fiddle to fancy jams and spreads just the same. Their southern, savory cousin, the biscuit, is equally praise worthy, brilliant with scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon, or humble supporters of winter stew, studded with bits of goat cheese.

None of these recipes are written on the blog, and in an attempt to remedy that, here we have some Lavender and Lemon Cream Scones with a Lavender and Lemon glaze! These scones are also an answer to another question – what would go really well with the oh-so-divine Blue Lady Grey tea in my next Simple Loose Leaf box! For the past few weeks, I paired 4 of their select black teas with 4 new recipes. We are on to the next box, so watch this space for more tea pairings!

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