Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekend in Wales

I spent the weekend before last in Wales, which was surprisingly beautiful and, yes, kind of full of sheep. Some of you may have seen some of my sheep themed Instagram pictures while I was there...

We stayed at a converted mill, which had a ship door knocker and a wooden mill by the stream behind the building.

Saturday was spent hiking/walking up Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales. I felt very outdoorsy, even though we took the fairly reasonable Llanberis Path. (The round-trip still took up the majority of the day though! Whew!) We took the Granola Cluster Cookies I made along for sustenance. Below are some pictures from the day.

Near the start of the trail

Beautiful views
No, that is not a view of our trail.
More stunning views of the countryside.
Found this little guy behind the mill when we returned.
 Sunday we explored Caernarfon and the nearby area.

This was the view from the top of Caernarfon Castle, which is, according to our tour guide, technically a Palace.

As non-Welsh speakers, everyone enjoyed this seemingly onomatopoeic sign.

Found TONS of these lining a narrow street. So pretty!

Have you been to Wales? What did you most enjoy exploring?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Granola Cluster Cookies

I made these reasonably healthy Granola Cluster Cookies for a hike up Snowdon this weekend - more on that later. They're fluffy and filling and full of good stuff. How's that for alliteration? The big secret - wait for it - is that I use all natural applesauce instead of butter! You could eat these for breakfast and feel pretty good about it.

All ready for Welsh mountains

What you'll need (makes 3-4 dozen cookies):

  • 240g natural applesauce
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 320g self-raising flour (I used Dove's Farm GF blend, you can use any variety you'd like!)
  • 320g granola

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 170C/340F.

Combine the natural applesauce, eggs, vanilla extract and sugars (caster and light brown) in a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer to blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Then gradually add this to the wet mixture.

Next comes the fun part - add in 400g of the granola of your choice. I'm sort of obsessed with this pumpkin granola. Like the sort of obsessed that means I really should eliminate the temptation and ban it for life. But I digress. I actually used a granola without raisins this time though, as some of my group are dried fruit averse.

Fold the granola into the cookie batter using a handheld mixer on low or a heavy duty spoon and some arm strength.

Once you've added the granola, the mixture should look chunky, but still have enough non-granola batter to it to hold things together. The consistency will be sticky, and somewhere between traditional cookie dough that you can roll into balls and cake batter. (You will not be able to shape these cookies, nor should you be able to pour the dough out of the mixing bowl.)

You can also add raisins or chocolate chips (Or both! Go crazy!) to taste if you'd like. I made about half of this batch with raisins and half without.

Drop heaping spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto a baking sheet (as above), leaving space in between each cookie mound because these do tend to spread out just a bit.

Golden brown on top and waiting to be scooped into a travel bag!

Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before removing. Eat these at home, or pack them up and go exploring!

(Thanks A Cup of Joe for alerting me to the concept of banned for life - hilariously applicable to my own kitchen!)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Tried It: Cauliflower Base Pizza

Looks like a nice, normal pizza waiting for cheese and the oven, doesn't it? Just call it the master of disguise.

Admittedly my expectations were probably a bit too high. I was probably just a little bit seduced by the promise of a healthy pizza. Mmmm ... pizza. With that caveat, Cauliflower Crust Pizza may look like a pizza; it may even smell almost like a pizza; but it does not taste like a pizza.

But it looks so much like a real pizza! 
And if you, like me, actually like most vegetables, but just can't seem to make cauliflower palatable, cauliflower base pizza will not remedy this. In fact, you may become more suspicious of cauliflower than you were in the first place, once it has permeated otherwise perfectly good pizza toppings.

You have been warned.

Of course, if you actually like cauliflower, you may still want to try this. More power to you! Or maybe I am missing something? Do you think cauliflower is secretly amazing? Please let me know!

Monday, August 5, 2013

On (and off) the Flying Trapeze

A few weeks ago I was visiting my sister and got the chance to take a swing (hehe...bad pun totally intended) at the flying trapeze.

It is seriously up high - 30 feet up to get to the "board", which is the platform you swing from. I get pretty anxious about heights, or falling from them, so I was pretty shaky as I slowly made my way up the ladder. There was a funny moment at the top when I realized how heavy the bar was. I kept repeating safety checks to myself to calm down, because that's apparently how I roll.

I am so glad I went for it; it was such a great rush! I have taken some static trapeze classes in the past - think Cirque du Soleil aerial dancing - and had never been super keen on the idea of flying trapeze. But I got to do a knee hang and a back flip and the adrenaline fueled fun was crazy and now I'm looking for classes in my area!

Knee hang! Photo by Blondie sister.

Thank you, blonde sister. You have created a circus wannabe monster. Congratulations and well done.

Below are some shots I took of said Blondie practicing her skills. She's super strong and flexible.  

Straddle swing

Practicing her dismount

Letting go for the catch

Do you have anywhere near you that you could try a flying trapeze lesson? I highly (whoops, sorry - last pun, I swear) recommend it!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Cups

There have (luckily!) been many days around here recently during which it was just too hot to turn on the oven. We're talking smoothie-pops-featuring-heavily-at-dinner-time too hot in the kitchen. 

Enter these little guys - a no-bake tropically inspired treat. Naming inspiration was somewhat lacking though, as suggested names for these included Coconut UFOS, Coconut Chocolate Dealies, and Plentifuls (a play on a certain candy). Clearly my naming consultant was getting a little light headed over these... 

What you'll need:

  • 75ml coconut milk
  • 100g desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 25ml coconut oil, melted
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • about 24 hours (of waiting time, not prep time, I promise!)

What to do:

In a small mixing bowl, combine all coconut ingredients - desiccated, milk, and oil varieties. The coconut oil should be in liquid form, so you might need to melt it. Mine was helpfully already in liquid form when I took it out of the cupboard; I told you it's been warm here!

Use a fork to combine the ingredients until the coconut starts to clump together, as above.

Once you've achieved the desired consistency, line a muffin tin with paper liners and evenly distribute the coconut mixture into the paper cups. I made 6 with this, but I like the coconut quite thick. I would say you could easily make 9 chocolate coconut cups with this, or possibly 12. (However, I can't confirm the structural integrity of any that are this thin. I'll try again soon and report back!) Make sure to firmly press the coconut mixture into the bottom of the paper liners. 

Next, cover the muffin tin and place in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

Twelve or so hours later, roughly chop your milk chocolate and melt using a double boiler. Stir constantly and remove from heat once a little over half of the chocolate appears to have melted. Continue stirring to allow the remaining chocolate to melt.

Remove the coconut cups from the refrigerator, the muffin tin, and the paper liners. Honestly, you could probably dispense with the paper liners altogether if you lightly grease the muffin tin with coconut oil. I will verify this after my next batch too! 

Space the coconut cups evenly apart on a piece of parchment paper and spoon the melted milk chocolate over each one. I had just enough chocolate to make a nice chocolate top for each coconut cup. If you're aiming to make 9 or 12 coconut cups, I would recommend adding at least another 100g of chocolate to provide proper coverage. 

After you've exhausted your supply of melted chocolate, let the chocolate coconut cups cool for a bit before returning to the refrigerator in an airtight container. Once the chocolate is solid again (8 hours to be safe), they're finally ready to eat!

Not that these will last very long, but I would recommend you enjoy your no-bake treat within the week.