Monday, March 17, 2014

Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To celebrate, I adapted this Irish Soda Bread recipe from the delightful bakers at King Arthur Flour. SO GOOD for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up. I primarily adjusted the original recipe to work with gluten-free flour, incorporate my love of cinnamon, and use the abundance of sultanas in my kitchen!

I made these yesterday and there might be only three left. So I think it's fair to say these were a hit. Hope you think so too!

What you'll need (makes 18 muffins)

  • 210g all purpose gluten-free flour blend
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 225g buttermilk
  • 50ml milk
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 60g sultanas
  • 120g currants
  • caster sugar and ground cinnamon for topping

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 180C/360F.

Combine all dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar, salt, sultanas, and currants - in a large mixing bowl.

In a smaller separate bowl lightly beat the egg, then combine with the buttermilk, milk, and vegetable oil. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir lightly. Really a turn or two with a mixing spoon should do it. To ensure optimum fluffiness for your baked muffins, take care to not over stir. 

Line a muffin tin with papers or lightly grease the tin - I went for papers here, clearly. Fill the paper liners at least 2/3 of the way up - these muffins do not rise too much, so I had no trouble with overflow.

Once you've filled the muffin tin, mix together about 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, then sprinkle on top of each muffin.

Pop the filled muffin tin into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown on top and/or an inserted fork comes out clean. Enjoy warm with coffee or tea! Or perhaps with a festively green juice?

The buttermilk made these surprisingly airy, and the adjusted liquid to dry ingredients ratio worked really well with the gluten-free flour blend (no crumbly mess, as is sometimes the case when you substitute gluten-free flour directly into a recipe - hurrah!).

Hope you enjoy your St. Patrick's Day! Any big celebration plans? Baking with Guinness or Bailey's maybe? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Canals and Bicycles and Flowers, Oh My!

This weekend we had a little getaway adventure to Amsterdam! It was so nice to explore and relax in a city full of canals and boats and bicycles. And the weather was amazingly cooperative - I maybe wanted to play hooky and stay another day in the sunshine. If only!

SO MANY BICYCLES. And so many varieties - cargo bicycles, a mother with a baby strapped to her and another small child riding at the handlebars, passengers riding sidesaddle, and one guy transporting a stack on chairs, just to name a few! On Sunday we took a bicycle tour of the city and pretended to be locals. Well, pretended to be locals if we ignored the duck-like line of our fellow tour takers.

Pretty purple canal side houses - apparently they are built to lean forward a little bit so people can use a pulley system to move their furniture in! Or at least that's the story we were told...

Flowers in the floating flower market.

I also kind of want to live in a houseboat now. And maybe walk to Pancakes! Amsterdam a few times a week. I have a serious pancake/waffle weakness.

More flowers in the market. We brought some tulip bulbs home with us - fingers crossed they do well!

We stayed in the Museum Quarter, which made it super convenient to visit the newly renovated Rijksmuseum, the symphony -because we fancy like that, clearly ;-) - and the Van Gogh Museum.

I would love to go back again sometime and and see the tulip fields in bloom, enjoy a leisurely afternoon drink by a canal, and take a long bike ride out of the city. Have you been to Amsterdam? Are you planning an adventure there anytime soon?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Carrot Cake Cookies

Oh yes, you heard me - carrots in cookies. Delicious and fluffy Carrot Cake Cookies. Seriously, these are totally the cookie incarnation of carrot cake. The carrots lend an excellent cake-like consistency to these cookies, as well as a natural sweetness so you won't need nearly as much sugar as you would for other oatmeal raisin type cookies!

What you'll need (Makes 3 dozen cookies)

  • 240g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g grated carrots
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 360g flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 140g oats
  • 200g raisins
  • 100g walnuts (optional)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 170C/340F.

Prepare the 200g of grated carrots. 2-3 large carrots should cover it.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract. Once thoroughly blended - no butter lumps! - add in the grated carrots. 

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger together in a separate bowl. Gradually add this to the wet mixture, stirring as you go. Next gradually stir in the oats.

Finally, fold in the raisins and, if you want to include them, the walnuts.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then use a spoon to scoop rounded heaps of cookie dough, spaced evenly (leave at least an inch between each mound of dough), onto the baking sheet. Pop into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies turn lightly golden brown on the top. 

Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing from the baking sheet. And enjoy!

Eating your veggies with your cookies - sounds like a win to me, don't you agree? 

If you want slightly fancier cookies, these are excellent (and slightly sweeter) with a dollop of cream cheese frosting on top too!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Quick and Easy Hummus

Hummus, houmous, hummous - however you choose to spell it, with a little bit of planning you can make a super tasty batch of it at home.  I tend to keep dried chickpeas at home. If you have these on hand, you'll want to prep the night before. This means rinsing and soaking the dried chickpeas overnight (or at least 8 hours). 

What you'll need:

  • 300g chickpeas
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp sea salt

What to do:

If you're using soaked chickpeas, you will need to boil the chickpeas first. Rinse off the chickpeas, place them in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes, then simmer for another 50 minutes. (This is what I meant by a little bit of planning...)

OR Use canned chickpeas, which are typically pre-cooked! 

Place the chickpeas in a food processor or blender, then add the water, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and chili powder. Technically most hummus recipes also call for tahini, which is a sesame paste. If you have some, you are super welcome to use it. However, you don't absolutely need it for this recipe. Maybe it's a little unorthodox, but it's still tasty! In the paste, the lack of tahini in my kitchen scared me away from trying hummus recipes - don't let that be a problem for you.

Use a low/medium pulse setting to blend up the ingredients. Even with a blender, this step only took a little over a minute!

Chop up a carrot or tear up some pitta bread and dig in! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Forget-Me-Not Cookies

Inspired by what my family has always called "Forgotten Cookies" - meringue cookies left so long in the oven it's as though you've forgotten them there - I made these Valentine's Day themed "Forget-Me-Not Cookies" - get it? Oh so witty...

These delicate cookies are sure to hit your sweet tooth and they're filled with chocolate and strawberry tastiness. 

What you'll need (makes 2 dozen cookies):

  • 2 egg whites
  • 120g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4g freeze dried strawberry pieces (or raspberry!)
  • 75g chocolate (milk or dark to taste)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 160C/320F.

Separate 2 eggs and put the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Unless you have superhuman strength and whisking stamina, you'll want to use an electric handheld mixer for this next step - beating the egg whites. It took me well over 5 minutes on high to whip the egg whites up. You will want the egg whites to start to peak, but not look dry. Once you've achieved a thicker feeling consistency, gradually add in the sugar and then the vanilla. Keep whipping for a minute to thoroughly mix in the vanilla.

The meringue should look thick and glossy at this stage. Set aside for a moment while you roughly chop the chocolate. Then gently fold the chocolate and freeze-dried strawberry pieces into the meringue.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop dessert spoon sized onto the parchment paper, leaving an inch between each spoonful.

Place the tray in the oven and leave at the preheated temperature for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 60C/140F for the next hour. Keep checking on the cookies though, to make sure they don't burn!

After removing the tray from the oven, let cool for a minute or so and gently remove the cookies from the parchment paper. They are very delicate, so be very gentle!

Share these super sweet Valentine's Day treats with people you like.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chunky Ginger Applesauce

Still cold outside... still wanting warm things to eat inside. This chunky ginger applesauce is easy to make, tastes delicious warm, and - bonus - makes the whole house smell amazing!

What you'll need:

  • 6 medium sized cooking apples - I used Granny Smiths
  • 20g fresh ginger
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • water

What to do:

First peel the apples and and the ginger.

Next cut the apples up into reasonably large chunks, as below:

Place the apple chunks in a medium/large saucepan. Next, finely chop the ginger and put it in the saucepan along with the apple chunks. Sprinkle a pinch of ground cinnamon on top if you'd like.

Pour water into the saucepan over the apples - the water level should be just below the apple level. Bring the water to a boil, and then allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently so the apples do not stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Your kitchen should be smelling pretty good by now...

You can enjoy this warm directly from the saucepan (it's practically dessert that way!) or let cool for some surprisingly refreshing applesauce.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Looking for February Recipes?

This picture has nothing to do with treats, but it is pink - so it kind of matches the theme... right?

There are so many festive treats floating around the web in anticipation of February. Have you made any yet? I'm ready to try all of these! What do you think?

These raspberry coconut macaroons look refreshingly festive!

These red velvet chocolate swirled brownie bars over on Averie Cooks should hit your February chocolate cravings.

These soft m&m chocolate chip cookies would be especially delicious if you managed to stash away any of the peppermint white chocolate m&ms from the holidays...

Looking for a healthier treat? What about this delicious looking frozen pink cheesecake from Green Kitchen Stories? Why is this not in my kitchen right now?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Quinoa Nori Wrap

Ever since trying out quinoa in place of brown rice in sushi last week - it totally works, by the way - I've been making these super tasty and healthy quinoa nori wraps for lunch. Quinoa is full of protein, which makes it the ideal filler for a vegetarian lunch.

What you'll need (makes 2 servings):

  • 2 sheets of nori 
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked)
  • avocado
  • carrot
  • bell pepper
  • optional: soy sauce and wasabi

What to do:

Rinse off your quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked) and bring to a bowl in a saucepan. Reduce and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. You can also do this ahead of time and use cold quinoa. The wraps work well both hot and cold!

Lay out the nori sheets and spread the quinoa evenly over each sheet, nearly to the edge.

Next, thinly slice the vegetables of your choice - I really like using an avocado, carrot, and half a bell pepper for two wraps.

Place the sliced vegetables in the middle of the quinoa, then carefully roll the wrap. If your wrap is oriented like the picture above, start rolling from the left or right hand side.

If you have a bamboo sushi rolling mat, you can use that to roll up the mat. It's not totally necessary though, so don't worry if you don't have one on hand! Finally, slice the rolls in half and enjoy your protein packed veggie lunch!

I like to dip mine in a bit of soy sauce and wasabi. Okay, maybe a lot of wasabi. That part's optional though, of course!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Raisin, Date, and Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars

In an attempt to snack a bite more often on things with recognizable ingredients, and to feel healthier after snacking, I've been experimenting with home made granola bars. And not to go overboard here or anything, but I think I've struck gold with this combination. Sweet, raisin-y gold.

What you'll need:

  • 1 egg
  • 80g flour
  • 120g oats (I used a mixture of GF porridge oats)
  • 80g applesauce
  • 45ml honey
  • 15g ground flaxseed
  • 100g raisins/sultanas 
  • 45g pumpkin seeds
  • 50g chopped dates

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 160C/320F.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, honey and applesauce. Mix them together with a fork or whisk.

This is a one bowl, no fussy bits kind of recipe, so next you can literally dump the oats, flour, and ground flaxseed right on top of the other ingredients in the large mixing bowl. I continued using a fork to mix everything together.

Clockwise from the top: Ground flaxseed, mixed "oats", flour, oats
Once you have achieved a dough-like consistency, add the raisins (and/or sultanas), chopped dates, and pumpkin seeds to the mix. I've also made a few batches with chopped pecans that were quite tasty too. If you have some on hand, add about 45g of chopped pecans and reduce the pumpkin seeds to 30g. 

You may want to switch to a bit of (clean, obviously!) hand kneading to mix in all of the dried fruit and seeds/nuts.

Adding raisins, sultanas, dates, and pumpkin seeds
Finally, line a baking dish or pan with parchment paper (I used a round glass baking dish that was approximately 12in/30cm in diameter) and smoosh your granola bar dough mixture into the dish. Make sure you really press the mixture down well so that it retains proper granola bar shape once it has baked.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges start to lightly brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before using a very sharp knife to cut into bars. Desired bar shape will come a bit more easily if you use a rectangular pan, of course. But I had a round dish on hand and I "taste-tested" the rounded edge bits. You know, just to make sure...

These granola bars are thin, but a bit chewy rather than crispy. They have just the right level of sweetness from the dried fruit, applesauce, and bit of honey, but they're definitely not that too-sweet kind of sweet you get from store bough granola bars. And, to top it all off, they were pretty darn easy to make, wouldn't you agree?

Hope you enjoy these! I'm definitely planning on experimenting with some more flavors soon. And clearly having a granola kind of week, if you hadn't already noticed. If you're having a similarly crunchy kind of week, take a look at my Pumpkin Spice Granola and Granola Cluster Cookies. Mmmmm.....granola. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Good morning! I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend! After a very exciting sushi making dinner on Friday night, the rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and catching up on some work. A good weekend, in my book.

Now how about some homemade Pumpkin Spice Granola to start Monday off right?

What you'll need (makes enough to fill a 1L container):

  • 200g oats
  • 60ml maple syrup
  • 45ml honey
  • 60ml water
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 60g pecans
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g coconut flakes
  • 60g sultanas/raisins
  • 60g dates

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 160C/320F.

Line a baking sheet (preferably one with a slight rim so nothing slides off) with baking parchment.

Evenly spread the oats over the parchment paper. I used a mixture of gluten free oats, rice flakes, millet flakes, buckwheat flakes, and golden linseeds (Alara's Gluten Free Pure Oats and Gluten Free Luxurious Porridge). You are very welcome to use whatever kind of oats you prefer and/or have on hand, but I do recommend the mixture!

Next you should sprinkle the chopped pecans and pumpkin seeds over the oats, making sure to distribute them evenly(ish). Then sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg on top.

Drizzle the maple syrup, honey, and water over the nuts and place the baking sheet of goodies into the oven. Use a spatula to stir the baking granola around and re-spread every five minutes or so to ensure everything bakes evenly. The granola should bake for about 25 minutes, or until the oats reach a nice golden hue. 

When the granola has about 3 minutes of baking remaining, quickly sprinkle the coconut flakes on top so they lightly toast. No more than about 3 minutes though, or they'll go from toasted to burnt!

After about 25 minutes, remove the baking sheet of granola from the oven and carefully use the parchment paper to pour the granola into a large mixing bowl that can stand a bit of heat. 

Then add the raisins and/or sultanas and the dates to the granola and stir to properly combine everything.

Enjoy this tasty granola sprinkled over porridge or yogurt, in a bowl with unsweetened almond milk, a handful on the go, or - if you feel like more baking - try using it in my Granola Cluster Cookie recipe!

This will keep perfectly well for at least a week in an airtight container. That is, if your willpower allows it to last that long! Mine, maybe... possibly.... who told? did not. What can I say? This granola was calling out to be consumed. Good luck!