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Macaroons_4
I’ve becoming more than a little obsessed with coconut of late. My rather more glamorous friend visited recently from Sydney and brought all her lotions and potions along for the ride which made not only her smell delicious but our house as well. Her aura made its olfactory mark, let’s say. I was jealous. I wanted to waft about the house smelling divinely sweet and just a little bit less like the mother of a toddler. You mothers out there will know what I mean.

Short of investing in the mini-apothecary that my friend carries with her, I made sure I nosied about in her stash to find out the scented secret of my lust. There were a few things I would have loved to get my hands on, but one in particular struck me as both unusual and so scrumptious to the nostrils that I had to give it a go. What was it? Why the humble, pantry-stored, cook-em-up Coconut Oil. How I have yet to discover this apparent miracle substance is beyond me. How did I miss the boat on this one?? I’ve recently discovered that there are a million and one uses for coconut oil and as many benefits from smearing it on every corporal surface possible (including the interior). I’ll extoll the full list in another blog post, but suffice to say that it’s so good for the body that you could be forgiven for bathing in it every day. Though naturally you’d be a little greasier for it.

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I’ve now taken to smearing my skin, head to toe, in this delicious substance twice daily after I shower. The first few times you do this you’ll find yourself sniffing your limbs every few minutes to fully inhale the intense coconuty delight that now resides on your epidermis. I smell like a Krispie biscuit 24/7 which is a very fine thing indeed.

All this skin-talk aside, the constant remind of Krispie biscuits has made me crave coconut cookies. Not the packet, processed kind, but the homemade variety made from real ingredients with real goodness and flavour. So, I whipped these tasty little morsels up this morning to fulfil my wanton needs.

These macaroons are not the delicate, multi-coloured French variety but rather more of the Moroccan ilk which are chewy and tender and incredibly moreish. They’re made them with a mix of ground almonds and coconut, sweetened with honey and scented delicately with orange zest. Perfect for morning tea with a freshly brewed coffee.

NOTE: Be sure to place the tray of cookies in the middle of the oven. If you place them too low or high you’ll burn their bums/heads.

ORANGE SCENTED MACAROONS

INGREDIENTS (makes 16 small cookies)
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup desiccated coconut
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup liquid honey
2 large certified free-range eggs – whites only

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with baking paper.
2. Place the ground almonds and coconut into a mixing bowl and zest the orange directly on top.

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3. Add the honey and egg whites (no need to whisk first) and stir well to bring all ingredients together into a sticky mass.

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4. Roll walnut-sized portions into balls and place on the baking tray. Flatten slightly with a fork and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden.

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5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve with freshly brewed coffee…these cookies are great for dunking!

Loaf_3
It’s been quite some time between blog posts I must say. I’ve been a little on the busy side, to say the least, and sadly the first thing to drop out of my days is creativity in the kitchen. I’m a creature of habit when I’m stretched for spare time so all the usual culinary suspects have been boring me to tears lately in a desperate attempt to simplify my daily routine. About the only thing I’ve managed to squeeze in has been a spot of baking brought about by my monthly hosting of a group of friends and their rugrats at our house.

I had a mound of overripe bananas on the cusp of Rotsville which were destined for the rather disparate fates of either baked glory or rubbish bin demise. The day of hosting arrived just in a nick of time as the bananas reached their full-flavoured baking potential, mere hours before they were only ripe for turfing out.

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So, bake ‘em I did. Into this very moist, very delicious loaf which has been naturally sweetened with honey, dates and aforementioned bananas. With a base of ground almonds it’s gluten-free and incredibly moist thanks to the fruit content.

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As divine as cakes are hot from the oven, this one does need a good 30 minutes to cool down before you carve into it. It’s dense from the fruit content yet light in texture, a combination which means it’s a little fragile when hot out of the oven. Exercise some restraint if you can muster it and leave the loaf to sit in the tin for 30 minutes before lifting out and carefully cutting into thick slices.

This recipe makes a large loaf so any leftovers can be put under a hot grill for breakfast the next day. Absolutely delicious smothered in butter or topped with a dollop of greek yoghurt if you want to keep it on the virtuous side.

INGREDIENTS
125g butter – at room temperature
1/3 cup liquid honey
2 large free-range eggs
100g dates – roughly chopped
2 large bananas, approximately 250g peeled weight (the riper the better)
1.5 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
80g walnuts – roughly chopped

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf tin and line the base with baking paper.
2. Place the roughly chopped dates into a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
3. Put the butter and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the drained dates and beat well again – this helps break the dates down a little.
4. Add the eggs to the butter mix, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Mash the bananas well and add to the butter/egg mix and stir to combine.
6. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and chopped nuts.
7. Tip the egg mix into the dry mix and fold together gently until just combined.
8. Pour the batter into the greased loaf tin, smooth the top and bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
9. Remove from the oven and leave to sit in the tin for about half an hour before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: If the top of the loaf starts to darken too much during cooking, place a sheet of tin foil very loosely over the top to prevent it burning.

Crumble_1
Is it wrong to eat pudding for lunch? Not in winter…and definitely not on a Sunday. In my book a hearty apple crumble is capable of encompassing many nutritional essentials…protein, carbohydrates, fruit, grains and nuts. This may be slightly wishful thinking on my part but I’ll try anything to relieve the tiny skerick of guilt I’m harboring in the back of my mind. At any rate, it’s naturally sweetened with honey and coconut sugar so really it’s not naughty at all given fats in moderation aren’t anything to be scared of.

I could be talked into eating this crumble at any time of the day, if I’m honest. For breakfast with greek yoghurt or for lunch or dessert with lashings of whipped cream. Whatever time of the day you decide to eat this deliciously warming little pudding, you’ll find it easy to throw together and absolutely divine served fresh out of the oven.

NOTE: This crumble would be great with any combination of cooked fruit. I’ve made this before with a mix of apple and tamarillo which was divine as the tang of the tamarillo was beautifully offset by the sweetness of the crumble. Pears, nectarines or peaches would also be delicious. Play around with fruit combos to find your favourite.

INGREDIENTS – for the apples
4 medium apples – peeled and cored
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp liquid honey
2 tbsp water

INGREDIENTS – for the crumble
2/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup thread coconut
1/3 cup coconut sugar
Rind 1 lemon
100g butter – melted

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Cut the peeled and cored apples into quarters then cut each quarter lengthwise into slices approximately 5mm thick.

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3. Place the sliced apples into a medium saucepan along with the vanilla extract, honey and water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the apples are just tender but not falling apart. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly with the lid off.
4. Put all the dry crumble ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and stir well to incorporate.
5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the apples to a pie dish (approximately 4 cup capacity), press down slightly then trickle over 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid. Discard any remaining liquid.

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6. Pour the crumble mix over the apples, spread out evenly and press down lightly with the back of a spoon.

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7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden and oh so fragrant. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, depending on how impatient you are.

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8. Spoon into bowls and served with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.

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Bites-8
I feel like I’m perpetually on a quest to find nutritious snacks to throw into Thea’s lunchbox which don’t cost the earth and won’t put her teeth into the line of sugary fire that most store-bought snacks promise to do. These little oaty bites are packed with the goodness of nuts and oats, are naturally sweetened with dates and honey and have a lovely nutty flavour thanks to the tahini. They’re very easy to throw together and keep well once stored in an airtight container.

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What I love most about these bites is that you can make up double the dry volume (everything minus the tahini and honey) and reserve half of it in a jar as homemade muesli. It’s super delicious soaked in almond or rice milk with a dollop of organic natural yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and some fresh fruit. My kind of start to the day.

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You could play around with the types of nuts and seeds you want to use depending on your preferences, just keep the volumes the same and the recipe will still work a treat. I used non-stick mini-muffin tins as they provide a good portion size and make it easy to press the bites into shape.

OATY, NUTTY BITES
1/2 cup dates – roughly chopped
50g brazil nuts – roughly chopped
25g sunflower seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
30g dessicated coconut
100g oats (buy gluten-free if need be)
150g hulled tahini
4 tbsp manuka honey

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Combine the dates, brazil nuts, seeds, coconut and oats in a bowl and mix well.

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3. Add the tahini and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated and has come together.
4. Use your hands to firmly press tablespoons of the mix into the mini-muffin tins (you don’t need to grease the cavities).

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5. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tins by gently running a bread knife around the edge of each bite. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and then store in an airtight container.

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Bites-1

Muffins_1a
I’m chomping my way through an influx of homegrown lemons which have generously been gifted to us over the last week or so. It’s a race against time as I try to do them all justice before they turn into garden mulch. I whipped up these delicious little lemon and poppy seed muffins this morning after wracking my brain for all things lemony. They’re absolutely delicious still warm from the oven served with a generous “fuck it, it’s Friday” smear of butter…not to mention the delicate little crunch from the poppy seeds.

A quick word on eggs…I urge you to spend a little extra money on certified free-range eggs as they not only taste immeasurably better than cage eggs, but you won’t be left with a heavy conscience and bitter taste in your mouth as to the origin and treatment of the chickens from whence they came. It’s deplorable how chickens are kept in a significant amount of commercial premises and the term ‘free-range’ has no legal standard as to the actual conditions in which the chickens are kept. The use of ‘free-range’ on packaging has become an insidious marketing ploy. The only way you can be sure you are not supporting inhumane practices is to buy certified free-range* produce.

Right then, that’s today’s rant out of the way. I’m off to have my second butter-soaked muffin in the beautiful autumn sunshine.

LEMON & POPPY SEEDS MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS (makes 8 medium muffins)
1 cup flour
1 cup ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup poppy seeds
Zest of 1 large lemon
100g butter – gently melted and cooled
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 free-range eggs*
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup milk

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 8 muffin cavities with muffin cases.
2. Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, poppy seeds and finely grated lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl.

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3. In a separate small bowl whisk the melted butter, sugar, eggs and lemon juice until well combined.
4. Pour the butter mix into the dry mix along with the milk and fold gently together until just incorporated.
5. Spoon the mix into the muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until lightly golden on top.

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6. Allow to cool for five minutes then serve warm with lashings of butter.

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NOTE: As with all muffins these are best eaten on the day they are baked. If you have any leftovers they can be refreshed by cutting in half and placing under the grill for a minute or two.

Lemon_syrup_cake_1
Making new friends is a very sweet thing indeed. I think the older you get the more you appreciate the relatively rare occurrence of meeting people in somewhat unforeseen scenarios and finding their company unexpectedly easy and effortless. It doesn’t happen very often, it never has really, at least not for me. It’s even sweeter when said friendships extend to letterbox drops of goodies such as bags of feijoas, homegrown tomatoes and most recently, a bag of the largest backyard lemons I’ve even seen (take note of the deceptively ‘perfect’ infiltrator in the ranks).

Lemon_syrup_cake_3
With winter just around the corner lemon season is approaching with great promise. There’s nothing I hate more than taking home a bag of store-bought lemons only to find you nearly dislocate your fingers trying to eek a meagre few dregs of juice from their dehydrated insides.

Lemon_syrup_cake_4
One of these beauties, on the other hand, is worth two in the bush. Their skin is thick and fragrant, they are loaded with pips (shock-horror), their juice spilleth-over in an abundant display of excess. Clearly I had to do something with these lemons which really showed off their pungency and taste-tingling merits. What better than a zesty, tangy lemon syrup loaf?

Lemon
This divinely moist loaf is gluten-free and can be converted to a refined-sugar free version by replacing the caster sugar* with coconut sugar. The recipe makes a relatively small loaf but if you make it any larger the syrup won’t soak through the body of the cake. Where cakes are concerned big isn’t always better. I served this up to six of my friends and after one generous slice each there was little left behind. It would comfortably serve eight but don’t count on any leftovers.

I served this still warm from the oven with a large dollop of organic yoghurt on the side. I’m currently obsessed with the Retro Organics brand. It is lactose-free and has a beautifully light, silky texture, not unlike that of whipped cream.

Yoghurt
INGREDIENTS – CAKE
100g butter – at room temperature
1/4 cup good quality honey – I used creamed manuka
1/4 cup caster sugar*
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated rind 1 large lemon
2 eggs – separated
1.5 cups ground almonds
Juice 1/2 orange
Pinch sea salt

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 10x22cmloaf tin with baking paper.
2. Put the butter, sugar and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy.
3. Add to this mix the egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon rind and beat again until well combined.
4. Add the juice of half an orange along with the ground almonds and mix again on a low setting until the ingredients have just come together. Transfer to a separate mixing bowl.
5. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until stiff peaks form (make sure the bowl and whisk of the electric mixer are completely clean and dry).
6. Fold the egg whites very gently through the almond mix with a large metal spoon. The almond mix will feel quite heavy in comparison to the whites but persevere turning the mix over gently until the whites are just incorporated. Then stop mixing!
7. Pour the mix into the loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Cake
8. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The loaf will darken quite a bit around the edges as it cooks so keep an eye on it towards the end of the cooking time – if it starts to darken too much loosely place a sheet of tinfoil over the top of the tin. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin while you make the syrup.

INGREDIENTS – SYRUP
Juice 1 large lemon
Juice 1/2 orange
1/4 cup caster sugar*

1. Put all syrup ingredients into a small saucepan over a low heat and simmer gently for a five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly.
2. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the surface of the loaf and allow to cool in the tin.
3. Gently lift the loaf from the tin and serve in thick slices with a generous dollop of organic yoghurt on the side.

Lemon_syrup_cake_2

Florentines_1
I had a little impromptu baking session this morning. I wanted something super quick to throw together which I could have on hand as a healthy sweet treat through the week. Florentines came to mind as they are about as simple as a biscuit can get, both where ingredients and method are concerned. They usually consist of flaked almonds held together with egg whites and sweetened with icing sugar. My pantry wasn’t playing ball though so I had to ad lib more than just a little from what I could find.

These are very loosely based on the florentine idea but include coarsely ground whole almonds and pistachios to supplement my flaked almond shortfall. I also included some coconut, cut back on the icing sugar and replaced it with honey to keep the refined-sugar content to a minimum.

They turned out very delicious indeed with a chewy texture similar to a traditional florentine with a slight crunch around the edges. The crunch-factor is best on the day they are baked but if they’re not consumed instantaneously store in an airtight container and they’ll stay deliciously chewy for a few days yet. Absolutely moreish with a cup of tea for an afternoon pick-me-up and a great little protein-packed treat for the little ones.

Florentines_2
INGREDIENTS (makes approximately 12 cookies)
40g flaked almonds
60g whole almonds
60g whole pistachios
60g desiccated coconut
30g icing sugar
30g liquid honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 free-range egg whites

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line an oven tray with baking paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
2. Put the whole almonds and pistachios into a food processor and grind until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl along with the flaked almonds.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.
4. Use your hands to drop little mounds of the mix onto the baking tray, allowing plenty of room between each one.
5. Dip a fork into a bowl of cold water then gently press each cookie into a flat disc (the water stops the fork from sticking to the cookie). Try to get each one as flat as you can without making any gaps. Once flattened they should be approximately 8cm in diameter.
6. Bake for 15 minutes until they are a lovely golden brown. Remove from the oven and use a fish slice to carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Untitled-8
I think we all know that muffins are hiding behind a very tenuous guise of being a healthy baked option. Let’s be honest here. For all intents and purposes they’re mini-cakes that have somehow acquired a ‘good for you’ reputation. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good muffin but at the end of the day muffins are often a poor substitute for that slice of cake we’ve told ourselves we shouldn’t be eating. Unless there is some actual goodness in a muffin we might as well cut our loses and have a piece of cake.

This recipe is a versatile example of what I think a good muffin should be. Erring on the side of healthy without compromising on taste, texture and yum-factor. Muffins are convenient packages to hand to the little people in our lives so if I can squeeze a tad more nutrition into the package I’m feeling all the better for it.

Untitled-2These little gems are packed with the goodness of blueberries, LSA, almonds and yoghurt and are naturally sweetened with honey and orange juice making them free of refined sugar. They’re beautifully moist with a lovely crumbly texture and have a great fruit-to-muffin balance.

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I’ve made this recipe in a variety of different forms: firstly I made a batch of standard muffins for the big kids; on my second go I reincarnated them as mini-muffins, the perfect toddler fistful of goodness; and yesterday I baked the mix as a loaf for friends who came over for afternoon tea. It’s a very versatile mix which you can convert to suit depending on who you want to feed.

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NOTE: The muffins freeze very well stored in freezer bags. The loaf also freezes well but make sure you slice it first and layer between pieces of greaseproof paper before you wrap and put in the freezer. This way you can defrost what you need and refresh in the toaster.

These are the cooking times for each permutation which are all baked at 180°C:
– Mini-muffins (15 mins)
– Standard muffins (25 mins)
– Loaf (45 mins)

ORANGE, ALMOND & BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS
100g butter – at room temperature
1/3 cup liquid honey
2 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup LSA
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Rind and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp milk
1 cup frozen blueberries

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease your muffin tins well with butter (if making this as a loaf, grease with butter and line the base with baking paper).
2. Put the butter and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Combine the flour, almonds, LSA, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl. Zest the orange into this bowl and toss through the dry ingredients.

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4. Add the dry ingredients to the egg/butter mix along with the orange juice, yoghurt and milk. Stir to just combine, don’t overdo it. The mix will be heavy but don’t be put off by this, the cooked muffins have a very light texture.
5. Add the blueberries to the bowl and turn the mix a further 3-4 times to distribute the berries through the batter without entirely staining it blue.

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6. Spoon the batter into the muffin moulds or loaf tin and bake for the appropriate length of time (see NOTE above) until lightly golden and cooked through. The centre of the muffin should spring back when pressed with your fingertip if it is cooked.
7. Allow to cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack using a bread knife to gently lift them out.

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8. Serve warm with lashings of butter.

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