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!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baked Mini Cheese Board

Entertaining guests this weekend? Then may I suggest this super cute and impressive looking - but also quick and easy! - starter? It's great to have ready when your guests arrive and you're (or at least I am usually) still getting the main meal ready. Something about melted cheese makes for a big crowd pleaser - am I right?

What you'll need:

  • An assortment of mini cheeses (or larger cheeses if you're feeling wild)
  • Pre-made puff pastry of your choice (one sheet/block should be enough for 6-7 mini cheeses)
  • Honey, jams, and/or cranberry sauce
  • Optional: pecans and/or walnuts
  • Optional: brown sugar

What to do:

Preheat your oven according to the directions on your selected puff pastry.

Roll out the dough (particularly easy if you have pre-rolled pastry) using a rolling pin. You want to aim for a pretty thin pastry sheet here - about what you would want for a pie crust.

Once you have a flat sheet of puff pastry, place your mini cheese selections on top, leaving enough space around each cheese to wrap it up in pastry after you add the toppings. I used a sharp knife to cut the pastry dough around the cheeses.

Now comes the fun part - experimenting with toppings! You can really add whatever you have in terms of jams, honey, and nuts. As starter suggestions, here are the combinations I went with:

Strawberry jam on top of the baby brie:

Honey and pecans on the emmental cheese:

Home-made cranberry sauce on a soft cheese:

Brown sugar mixed with chopped walnuts or pecans also makes a nice topping - particularly good on brie or a similar cheese.

Once you've decorated your mini cheeses with your toppings of choice, wrap the puff pastry around the cheeses. Carefully pinch together the edges so that nothing leaks out with it's in the oven!

Place on a cookie sheet and bake according to the directions of your chosen puff pastry - about 15 minutes for mine. Remove from the oven and let cool for a minute or two before removing the cheese filled pastries from the tray onto a more aesthetically pleasing dish or tray!

I served mine with a small bowl of my homemade cranberry sauce and baby spinach garnish.

I also made a larger version of this - a giant wheel of brie and cranberry sauce - to hold back the hungry masses at Thanksgiving. It was gone in minutes...

Spinach and artichoke dip also makes for an excellent crowd-pleasing starter that you can prep ahead of time and have ready when your guests arrive (I made a large dish of this for Thanksgiving too!). I usually just look up a Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe and adapt it according to what I have on hand/my dislike of mayonnaise. For the basic idea, I've adapted both this recipe and this one in the past.

Happy pre-dinner party snacking!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ginger Molasses Cookies

So there's this place in Athens, Georgia called Big City Bread Cafe that makes (among other things) really and truly delicious ginger molasses cookies. When I'm able to visit, I always try to stock up on a few. But since the delicious cookies live thousands of miles away from me right now, I'm trying to perfect my own recipe. This recipe makes chewy, not too sweet cookies with a little ginger kick. Yum!

What you'll need: (Makes 3 dozen cookies)

  • 140g butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml molasses (black treacle)
  • 160g chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 270g flour (I used a GF blend)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 170C/325F.

Add the light brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a mixing bowl. Blend with a handheld mixer on low/medium for about a minute.

Set this wet mixture aside and roughly chop the crystallized ginger. Don't worry about being too uniform, but do aim for smallish pieces. The pieces should be not much larger than a chocolate chip morsel or M&M. (Or you could use The Ginger People's crystallized ginger chips, which are already the perfect size.) Once you've chopped the ginger, set it aside for a moment.

In a separate, smaller bowl combine the dry ingredients - the baking soda, powdered ginger, and flour. Then gradually blend this into the wet mixture. Finally, mix in the molasses. Once the molasses is thoroughly blended, fold in the crystallized ginger pieces.

Evenly space rounded spoonfuls of the cookie dough (which will be on the sticky side) onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. You can also lightly sprinkle the tops of the cookie mounds with caster sugar.

Bake for about 9 minutes and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing from the tray if you want the cookies to remain in one piece!

Enjoy as a warming (both inside and out!) snack on a cold January afternoon!

Are you a ginger fan? I definitely am - I always bring these ginger candies with me when I travel (ginger is supposed to help with motion sickness!).

Friday, January 10, 2014

42 Wallaby Way?

Whale shark with fish groupies

Happy Friday! In Atlanta and looking for something to do this weekend?

We went on a little daytime holidate (holiday date - see what I did there?) to the Georgia Aquarium just before New Year's. If you're ever in Atlanta, especially on a cold or rainy day, it's worth a visit. Make sure to plan time to enjoy the main tank with the whale sharks and manta rays - it was my favorite!

Goliath grouper vs boy staring contest
Looks like the Goliath Grouper is about to have a little boy snack, doesn't he? I sincerely hope the boy is making the same grumpy face back at him.

Colorful jellyfish

Blacktip reef shark in the main tank

Have you been to an aquarium lately? What about the zoo?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Happy (belated) New Year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays! It's been far too long since I've posted anything here, but I've been away having family time and eating way too much - I hope that sounds familiar to some of you...

Since it's freezing almost everywhere (apparently) and I'm sure you've all been just sitting at home pondering over what to do with your leftover pumpkin and cranberries, may I suggest using this bread recipe? It's extra tasty warm.

What you'll need:

  • 140g plain flour (I used a GF blend here)
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 40 g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 120ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g pumpkin puree
  • 300g cranberries
  • 200ml orange juice

What to do for the cranberry sauce:

Rinse off the cranberries and then dump them into a saucepan with the orange juice. Bring just to a boil, then simmer until the cranberries pop. Set aside to cool while you prep the rest of the batter.

What to do for the bread:

Preheat your oven to 170C/325F.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large mix bowl and stir together.

Next blend in the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla with a handheld mixer on low/medium.

Once the batter is well blended, gently fold in the cranberry sauce.

Lightly butter a bundt tin and pour the batter in. Level off the top with a spatula or spoon.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until an inserted fork comes out clean. 

Loosen the edges of the loaf away from the tin using a spoon, and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove from the bundt tin. 

Pumpkin cranberry bread morning snack, anyone?