It has been quite a couple weeks without a recipe blog post for Once Upon A Supper. And no, it wasn’t a quiet time. Not even closely quiet. The past few weeks were rather supersonic for me. And when it’s that, you know it isn’t audible…although those laws of physics say it’s actually a 5 folds higher sound speed than we can hear!! And that was almost the state I was in…caught up in and doing too many things around. Ha, but I ain’t here to talk physics. Not one bit. I am back to what I am best at doing…my yumyum ramblings!
This weekend and Monday is very festive. Dhanteras, then the Bengali “Bhoot Chaturdasi”, when they celebrate the auspicious 14 and eat 14 types of greens for lunch and light 14 earthen lamps in the evening to thank and pay respects to their ancestors for being their guardian angels. Yesterday was Choti Diwali, and also Kali Puja for the Bengalis. Today is Diwali (also called Deepawali). And tomorrow, Halloween. And throughout in between lots of work for this Mommy! Lots because, this year her 7-year-old kid wants to celebrate these festivals the way Mommy did when she was little.
J hand painted and decorated 2 Diyas (earthen lamps) on her own and inspired. The little mind’s creative thoughtfulness and perseverance amazes me each time. And then, I did have to do my bit for her. Well, quite a bit really!! And mommy did what she did after many many many years…
I am not so religious and not one who’d typically follow rituals. I’ve never been. ‘M rather spiritual, self-driven, and follow after where my mind and heart leads me. Though I’ve always loved the festive season and appreciated that they all bring us together in many ways. What I like most is that they usually mean a day off work, a lot of sleep and plenty of family time. However, this time it was different. I had to do as many of those lovely little somethings that I grew up seeing Ma do on festive occasions. I agree, I cannot match Ma’s perfection, knowledge and ease of doing these things…but I was going to try my best. This little girl J, was growing up in a distant land, half a globe away from her ethnic roots. And she completely deserves the happy experiences and to know some of the beautiful traditions that I grew up observing. Things I commonly saw in India, are an extremely rare sight for J, if she sees them at all.
Honestly, (though I strongly value the cultural footprint), I grew up to care less about customary festive rituals, religious mandates and traditional do’s-don’ts. But I am going to go back in time and renew some of the priceless memories and times of Deepawali. It is important that J knows and values some of these special occasions and imbibes the positivities in her life.
I bought this book called “Amma, tell me about Diwali” by Bhakti Mathur. J and I read it together last night. The book is very kid-friendly and beautifully illustrated. Diwali stories and versions explained in a way that kids can easily understand. There were things I learnt from it too. Wish we had such easy books for children when I was little. As we read, J got excited “Mumma, Ravana only has 10 heads. I counted. He doesn’t have a hundred heads as I thought!”. She then asked, “why do Lakshmi and Ganesha have 4 arms? Why can’t they do with 2?” It was funny explaining her and explaining her not at times. What I liked most, was that J took interest in reading it, and that it incited thoughts and questions in her.
We’ve been lighting Diyas since last 2 evenings and we’ll light many more today. And as always, I’d be super vigilant on the burning flames on my porch! This Dhanteras, to have J know that we buy metals, I bought a pair of matching brass Lakshmi – Ganesha, and a beautiful golden swing for Them two. Today, we would worship them during our evening Puja, before we step out for our fireworks. I am a Bengali. Yes! But I grew up in Uttar Pradesh where Deepawali is the biggest, grandest and the most important festival of the year. And my Dad grew up in that state too. You see, so a blending of cultures and a mix of regional way of life is what I know, learned and comes naturally to me. But, but, but…it has been close to 2 decades that I did any elaborate puja or had purchased and lit any fireworks. Each year on Diwali, while all in my town in India would be out lighting fireworks and screaming with joy, I’d be indoors with my fingers trying to tightly shut close my ear entrance…frowning, shuddering with each loud firework, and wishing that my glass-windows don’t shatter and ways I could getaway from that evening as quickly. I am not a lover of loud noises…and ones that are sudden and frequent, makes it worse. Though once a year, I don’t mind the quiet and cracking sparklers, fountain fireworks or the ground spinners!
Here in New Jersey, firecrackers are forbidden by law. So yesterday, we made this trip to this Fireworks store, about 20 miles away in Pennsylvania. The store was buzzing with Indians that were on a “Patakha” shopping spree. Yes, and most of them from NJ!!! S and I handpicked a few “nicer” colorful fireworks that J precisely wanted. She has invited a few close friends in the neighborhood to share them with her this evening. Last evening on their bike-ride, she had explained all about Diwali and got them curious and all excited. The kids look forward to their fireworks date tonight!
No Diwali is a Diwali without “Mithai” (meaning sweets) …without lots and lots of them. And they get sweeter when shared. I was planning something healthy this year. Though I don’t mind us and the kids gobbling down sugars occasionally on festivals and celebrations, but I don’t question the fact that eating a healthier dessert doesn’t hurt half as much! And because this Diwali was going to be made a special one for J, I had to think of one that she absolutely dotes on. Cookies, lots of vanilla and cream-cheese filling! Of course, her mommy’s habit of blending-in and hiding nutritious goodness in her foods was also going to play a profound role here, as always…well, I was going to try to load and pack as much nourishment as I could into a dessert! And I tried a yummy and off-beat dessert.
It was a healthier version born out of my regular sugar cookie dough recipe, and was very different. I turned them into cookie muffins, and topped them with pumpkin cream-cheese, that I otherwise use to fill in my cakes. I don’t call these cookie cups or bowls, because these aren’t as deep as them. All they have is a stamped in shallow depression to hold the cream cheese topping. Adding Quaker oats, green apples, spices and pumpkin puree, made them very autumn chic and October appropriate. I replaced most of the flour in my whole-wheat sugar cookies with oat flour. Then the rest with all-purpose flour to balance the dense grittiness of oats. Though you may choose any apple, I used a Granny Smith’s green and crisp apple to counteract the sweet cookie dough. And it made so much more sense to include the fall spices and the pumpkin flavor! I used ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to bring in a subtle note of warmth in my Diwali Mithai.
The sweet cookie muffins were a delightfully softer variety of cookies. Crumbly, yummy and so so palate satisfying. Although they go super-duper good with my pumpkin cream-cheese topping, I have also used a variety of other things and there haven’t disappointed – Jellos, fruit preserves, whipped cream, cake icing/frosting, ice-cream sauces – I’ve tried them all. However, most favorite remains the pumpkin cream cheese, topped with lots of fresh cut fruits and chocolate chips or shavings! In the pictures, I’ve used sunshine raspberries and sliced plums, peanut butter chocolate chips and assorted sugar sprinkles. This month, Chef at Large is celebrating #OatoberFest with #QuakerOats and #EkMuthiPoshan. I am sending this recipe as an entry to #QuakerMithai.
With S’s parents visiting us, we are 4 adults and 2 kids at home these days. I made 2 batches of these, about 50 in all last week. And between us and a few visiting friends, all my “Mithai’s” were gone too quickly from my large ladybug cookie jar…licked off the last crumb there was! Amidst all the busy eating, the eaters did take a couple seconds break now and then to let me know how delicious they were and how much they loved it. They are easy to make, so, I made a 3rd batch of them last night to share with neighbors today on Diwali. And I had little giveaway boxes for my special Diwali sweet. I also put in some homemade Shakarpara (sweet fried snacks). I gifted the boxes, ornate diyas and a couple colorful sparklers to my neighbors, to mark our festival of lights today.
May your souls glow with that inner light this Diwali and always. Let us be someone’s light and spread as much of it all our lives…Have a blessed, happy and a prosperous Deepawali all of you! And I hope you all love these Diwali Oats Mithai as much as we did. Here’s wishing J has a fun-filled Diwali evening too!!
Makes about 26–28
For Oats and apple cookie muffins:
- 5 Quaker’s instant oatmeal packets (each pack is 0.9 oz or 28 gms) or 1.5 packed US cups of instant oatmeal
- 8 tbsp regular sweet cream salted butter — softened
- 1/2 US cup (170 gms) brown sugar (or use regular sugar)
- 1/2 US cup (170 gms) regular granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 US cup (340 gms) all-purpose flour or Maida
- 1/2 of an Apple (I use Granny Smith green apple) — peeled, cored and grated
- 1/2 tsp ground or powdered cinnamon (Dalchini)
- 1/4 tsp ground or powdered cloves (Lavang)
- 1/4 tsp ground or powdered nutmeg (Jayphal)
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- Olive or vegetable oil for greasing the muffin pans
For Pumpkin Cream Cheese:
- 6 tbsp regular sweet cream salted butter, softened
- 1 brick or 8 oz (227 gms) of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1 US cup (340 gms) Confectioner’s powdered sugar or castor sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp canned or homemade pumpkin puree**
- Fresh cut fruits, sugar sprinkles or chocolate chips/shavings for decoration
**To make homemade pumpkin puree, clean the orange pumpkin, slice. Wrap with aluminium foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 45 minutes or till tender. Mash with fork when done.
Equipment, kitchen tools and other things you will need: Mixing bowl, whisker or handheld electric blender, dry grinder, oven, measuring cups/spoons for ingredients, 1 teaspoon for scooping the cookie mixture, a clean round bottomed stamper to stamp the muffins (you may also use a round spoon or your thumb to press down!!) and two 24-cup mini muffin pans (I love to use the regular muffin pans. However, for the mini pans yield bite sized muffins that the kids can manage better). Piping bag and icing tip for piping the cream cheese.
How I Make it⇒
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Empty Quaker’s instant oatmeal packets into a clean, dry grinder. Dry grind them into a fine dust.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter (if you’ve melted the butter, wait until it has cooled down a bit) with brown and white sugar till combined. Crack an egg into it and whisk them together.
- Add the grated apple, the spices (cinnamon, clove and nutmeg), salt, vanilla and baking powder. Whisk and mix them all.
- Add the ground oatmeal to the bowl and mix well.
- Now add the all-purpose flour and fold and whisk till the cookie mixture is uniform throughout.
- Grease the 2 mini-muffin pans. Using a clean and dry teaspoon, scoop out about 1/2 heaped tsp of the cookie mixture balls and drop them into each cup. You would be able to fill one 24-cup mini muffin pan completely. The 2nd one however, may only be partially used.
- Place the pans on the lower or middle racks of the preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or till the muffin top/centers are nicely done and a food-prick comes out clean.
- Once the cookie muffins are done (and out from oven, while still in the muffin pan), immediately use the stamper to push down the muffin domes. Hold down for a couple seconds on each, so that the impression is well-formed and the depression is firm. Repeat for all the cookie muffins.
- Let the cookie muffin cool down before you take them out of the muffin pan.
- In another mixing bowl, add the softened cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, confectioner’s sugar and pumpkin puree. Whisk and blend them together till nicely and uniformly mixed and you no longer see any cheesy lumps.
- Refrigerate the pumpkin cream cheese for about half hour to be piping-ready. Then, fill them into a ready piping bag with icing tip and pipe the cream cheese onto cookie muffins before serving. Garnish with tiny pieces of fresh cut fruits, or sugar confetti/sprinkles, chocolate chips/shavings, or gobble down as is. They are yumyum delicious anyways!!
Storage: The cookie muffins have not seen a 3rd day in my house so far! But they will keep well for about a week, if stored in well sealed air-tight cookie containers. Best if consumed within 3-4 days of making. You may refrigerate the pumpkin cream cheese for about a week too. Spoon them straight on the cookie muffins before serving. But, if you’d like to pipe them, then store them out of the refrigerator for a few minutes, so they soften enough and are piping ready.