Archive for Sweets & treats

A little piece of lunchbox happy

Don’t know about you, but I’ve got the serious BLAHS.

Winter is blah. Northern hemisphere friends taunt me on Facebook with glorious shots of their fun summer holidays.

Finances are blah. I’ve just been revisiting our seriously large mortgage, which never leaves anyone in a cheery state.

The kids are blah. Although really they’re a joy, they’re also surrounded by school projects, permission notes and birthday parties that require a level of involvement for me, without any particular satisfaction.

And to top it all off, it’s education week. And while I love visiting the classrooms and seeing every page of every book that the kids have touched this year, and I love to see them excited about me being there, and I love to see their achievements, I can SO DO WITHOUT sitting through any more school performances. Lordy lord how I wish I were home with a cup of tea rather than in a draughty school hall working my way through the various bands, choirs, ensembles and dance troupes. And there’s some parenting murphy’s law that states that your child will always be in the last group, forcing your participation in the full morning.

Still, eventually you do make it home, and hopefully you’ve got the jug ready to boil and a nice little piece of a slice like this one, that’s perfect for a kid’s lunchbox treat, but yum enough for the parents to find satisfaction, too.

Get them excited about their lunchbox!

Get them excited about their lunchbox!

Coconut, sultana & lemon slice

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup sultanas
Zest 1 lemon
125g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarb soda, mixed into 1 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, coconut, sultanas & lemon zest.

Place a small saucepan over low/medium heat. Melt the butter and golden syrup. Once melted, scrape in the bicarb/water mix and stir well.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir to combine well. Tip into your baking tray and press down evenly. Use the heel of your hand to press it in really well.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Cut into 20 squares.

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If you’re after a healthier addition to their lunchbox, check out these Oat, sultana & sesame seed biscuits or these home-made muesli bars.

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Eating just like grandma…

Like nearly every other sheeple (sheep + people) in healthy-food-land, I’ve recently cut right down on the amount of sugar that I consume. The argument that sugar is an evil poison is extremely convincing and I find myself being swept along with public opinion.

Naturally though, my teeth are SWEET, so I’ve never felt the need to banish sugar from my life completely. I know myself well enough to know that it would be a futile exercise that would result in guilt and failure – two emotions that I just don’t need intertwined with my food experience. I love food, I love eating, I love cooking. And I love to cook for, feed and eat with the people I love.

So with that in mind, I keep the sugar debate in perspective. We don’t eat much processed food. We don’t drink soft drink or juice. Dessert is a rarity. Lollies are left for parties and most of the healthy treats I cook for the lunch boxes are fibre-rich with ingredients that nourish.

Which means on occasion, there’s room in our life for sugar. Not coconut sugar, or stevia or anything so fancy. Just sugar.

A couple of years ago, before the current sugar-fear exploded, the common food adage was, “Don’t eat anything your grandma wouldn’t recognise.” Luckily for me, my granny – like the rest of her generation – was extremely familiar with flour and sugar.

Unlike some foodie-types who claim to have grown up at their nanna’s apron strings, absorbing her food wisdom, my Granny was a pretty average cook. In fact it was a chore that she didn’t particularly like at all, which explains why good old fashioned crumble was on the menu so often. It’s a dessert that gives you a heap of bang for your buck. Just some chopping then a bit of massaging some ingredients together, into the oven and VOILA, the most gorgeous treat appears. And did I mention that it’s absolutely delicious, especially on a cold night, when eaten around a table with the rest of your family? It is. Try it.

Just quietly - this apple & berry crumble is a bit yummier than the one my granny used to make!

My granny ate this type of dish often, and she lived to a happy and sprightly 94.


Apple & berry crumble

Feel free to swap out the sugar for other natural sweeteners, as is the current trend. This is a traditional ‘grandma’ dish though, and I’m a big fan of making it with the traditional ingredients.

1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g butter, softened

3 granny smith apples
2 cups frozen berries
1/4 cup raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Combine the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers so that you have the consistency of rough breadcrumbs (you don’t have to be too exact here – a bit of lumpy butter works out just fine). Set aside.

Core and chop the apples. Toss into a medium sized oven dish (I use my 24cm round glass dish). Mix in the berries and scatter the sugar over the top.

Scatter the crumble mix over the top – leave it pretty loose – no need to pack it down neatly. Pop into the oven for 55 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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Beautiful school holiday baking boredom busters…

What do you think, enough alliteration for one headline? After an intense term of school, my brain has started to dissolve now we’ve hit the school holidays! Mainly I can’t believe that half the year has gone already.

With the wind being chilly I’m keen to stay indoors a bit, but I’m keen to keep the kids off screens too, so the textas are out, the old toy boxes are down from the top of the cupboards and my cooking-shy kids are even venturing into the warm kitchen. You’re not going to see my kids on Junior Masterchef anytime soon, so to pique their interest, we resort to baking treats. At least when they’re made at home we know the ingredients are quality AND they do learn a few kitchen skills along the way.

Here’s some suggestions of things you might like to whip up with your little lovelies (click to link to the recipe)…

Traditional American-style pancakes.

Traditional American-style pancakes.

...awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland with these pineapple cakes.

…awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland with these pineapple cakes.

fruit chocolate slice recipe

Chocolate and butter… it must be school holidays!

Delicious bliss balls, with a bit of power-nutrition packed in.

Delicious bliss balls, with a bit of power-nutrition packed in.

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Adorable orange-mega-seed muffins

vegie-smugglers-orange-seed-muffins

I guess it’s time to accept that Miss F is officially a ‘tween’. Somehow in a brief flash of light my baby girl has turned from a pink-clad muppet dancing to the Hooley Dooleys to a fully fledged Ke$Ha wannabee, leading with the hips and a vocab that both irks and blows my mind.

The word of the moment is ‘adorable’. Said with the emphasis of a much-older girl. EG. “Did you see her little sister? She is ADORABLE. Especially in her winter uniform, that is just, like, too, you know, ADORABLE. [Squeal] PUPPIES! ADORABLE! Check out my new boots….like, adooorrrrrraaaabbbble”

Sigh.

Thankfully she also thinks that these orange poppy(+)seed cakes are also adorable. (Do you like the added punctuation? It’s Ke$Ha and P!nk inspired.)

Anyway, these cakes are ADORABLY AWESOME, since they’re nut free and school-friendly. But they pack in poppy, chia and pumpkin seeds (sesame seed allergy is on the rise, so I’ve left them out). So there’s nutrition here – pumpkin seeds in particular are high in protein. They make a perfect protein punch (nice alliteration) for the daily tween (and younger kid) lunchbox.

Orange seed muffins

1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup unrefined golden caster sugar (or whatever sugar/sweetener you like to use)
2 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tbsp poppyseeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Juice 1 orange
1 overripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

Grease a 12-hole muffin tray or line with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Tip the flour, sugar, baking powder, zest and seeds into a large mixing bowl and combine well.

In a jug or bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, juice, banana and oil.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Divide evenly between your muffin cases.

Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy when touched.

Makes 12

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An apple cake to impress your kids with

Apples are tippety-top at the moment, especially if you can grab some from a farmers market or grocer. Lucky, isn’t it, that their peak coincides with the time of year where there’s nothing better than a warm fruit dessert. Somehow a mouthful of them magically reaches right down to my toes and spreads a happy glow right back up to my heart.

Seeing as it’s also still school holidays here, it seemed right to make a good ol’fashioned cake recipe. Miss F and I made this one together the other day. There’s a bunch of traditional baking skills to pass on while you whip this up. There’s lining the tin, creaming butter and sugar and all the little baking tips, like making sure everything is at room temperature and if the mix starts to curdle when you add the eggs, chuck in a spoonful of flour to pull it all back together.

Even if you’re not a proficient cake maker, this recipe is easy enough that you can fake your way through it and earn some serious kudos from your kids who will be delighted by the smells and textures and very pleased with the end result of your handiwork. Particularly if you drizzle over a dollop of cream.

Apple heaven, and easy, too.

Apple heaven, and easy, too.



Traditional apple cake

3 eating apples (I used royal gala)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice 1/2 lemon
150g butter – cubed, at room temperature
Just over 3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs – at room temperature
Just over 1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Glaze:
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line the base of a 23cm springform tin with baking paper and grease the edges with oil spray or butter.

Core and slice the apples (about 4-5mm slices). Toss them into a bowl with the combined cinnamon, vanilla & lemon juice. Combine well.

Add the butter to a bowl and cream using hand held beaters (or do this in your mixmaster if you have one). Add in the sugar, a large spoonful at a time until combined well and your mix is creamy and pale brown (it’s worth taking your time with this step).

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. (If the mix starts to curdle at this stage, adding a spoonful of flour will pull the mix back together.) After the eggs are well combined, mix through the flour (mix the baking powder into the flour). Drain off the juice from the apples and stir that through gently.

Transfer the mix into your cake tin. Use a spatula to spread it our evenly. Tip your apples on top – make them look a bit pretty if you like, but don’t go crazy, the cake mix rises up to engulf them quite a bit.

Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes until a skewer pushed down into the cake part comes out clean. (Check the cake at 40 minutes and if the edges of apple are starting to burn, cover it with foil).

Mix together the sugar and boiling water. Use a pastry brush to dab it over the whole cake while it is still hot, straight out of the oven. Leave to cool slightly before undoing the pan.

Serve warm or cold, delicious on it’s own, but a bit of cream will make it even more indulgent.

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Like apple desserts? Try this recipe for stewed apples.
Or try these apple, pear & prune pastry squares.

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A quick easter treat – bunny tails!

vegie-smugglers-bunny-tails

Sick to death of Easter eggs? Needing a bit of crafty-cooking to fill in half an hour of school holiday time? Why not whip up some of these bunny tails. They’re easy as, too. Just melt some white chocolate (I’m lazy and do mine in the microwave, but feel free to use the bain marie method over simmering water). Dip cut slices of banana into the chocolate then toss them into a bowl of coconut (desiccated or shredded – whatever you have on hand will do) and coat well. Transfer onto a plate and leave to set in the fridge for half an hour.

Chocolate is an inevitable fact of Easter life and one that I don’t fight too much. Especially in this week before, I just let the kids get excited and have fun. At least with this piece of the sugar-a-thon you have an activity that you can do with them and you know that a couple of nutrients might be making into them, too.

DISCOUNT

I’m having an Easter sale! 15% off storewide, until midnight, April 17, 2014 (AEST).

Wishing you all a wonderful break.
x

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Those stinking, overripe bananas are your new best friend

At some stage throughout the week I find myself dashing into the supermarket to ‘grab a few things’.

The list of ‘those things’ was clear as day in my head while I was driving to the supermarket. But once inside the frenzied walls, surrounded by 40,000 products and a clock that is reminding me that I’ve only got 10 minutes to shop, pay and get to the school gate, my mind goes amazingly blank. All I’ll remember is that the list had four things on it, and that they were eclectic. So in a panic, I’ll grab milk, bananas, marinated tofu and tampons. Only to get home and find that I actually needed udon noodles, olives, deoderant and cat food.

After a few trips just like this, I end up with a dulux-colour-chart worth of banana bunches in varying states of decay. And despite lunchboxes, icecream and smoothies, I seem to constantly have a bunch of near-mush that is a degrading reminder of the inadequacies of my brain.

Lucky then, that I’ve got four sure-fire recipes that use them up in ways that transform my self image from harried, forgetful, middle-aged-woman to sexy and resourceful domestic goddess.

Click to visit the recipe…

Vegie smugglers banana bread recipe

Basis banana bread. Always delicious.

vegie smugglers choc chip almond and banana muffin

Choc chip, almond & banana muffins.

My kids will hoover this, will yours?

Carrot & muesli muffins

And finally, this piece of recipe gold….

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

Gluten free, egg free banana cookies

‘2 ingredient’ banana cookies

These are called ‘2 ingredient’ since the only essential elements are the bananas and oats. Beyond that, you can add dried fruit, nuts and flavouring to suit your family.

2 overripe bananas, peeled
1 cup oats (gluten free is fine here)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup choc chunks (I just cut up choc melts)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a tray with baking paper.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl.

Add the oats, cinnamon and coconut to a mini food processor and blitz it up a bit to break the oats down a little.

Mix the oat mix into the banana, roll into balls, press onto trays and bake for 15 minutes until set.

Makes 16

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4-ingredient frozen yoghurt

Do your kids fight? Mine do, in fact, they can manage to find an argument in pretty much every circumstance. This week, with a bit of welcome rainfall, we’ve been focusing all our squabbles on THE UMBRELLA.

Rain has been such a rare event this summer that as we were dashing out the door the other day, I couldn’t find an umbrella each, so the two kids had to ‘work together’ (my quote) and use the one large umbrella, which theoretically is more than large enough to shelter them both.

You’ll probably not be shocked to hear that so far with this system we end up at our final destination with someone dry & victorious and someone soggy & bitterly wronged. ‘Working together’ will have to wait for another week, apparently.

Working together perfectly are the four ingredients in this ‘frozen yoghurt’. And it’s a simple blitz & chill which takes about 2 minutes to make. Since the fruit content is high, it freezes hard, so remember to pop it out of the freezer a half hour before you want to eat to ensure it’s a scoopable consistency.

So pretty!

So pretty!



Fruity Frozen Yoghurt

1 banana, frozen, peeled, roughly sliced
½ pear, peeled, roughly diced
½ cup frozen berries
½ cup vanilla yoghurt

Pop all your ingredients into the bowl of a blender (or pop them into a large sturdy jug and use your stick blender). Blitz until smooth. At this stage you have a delicious berry smoothie, but if you pour it into a container and freeze for an hour or so, it will harden more and you’ll be able to serve scoops of delicious frozen yoghurt.

Serves 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

PS: this is the perfect recipe to pop in some Superfoodz for kids “C Berry Blast”, for a bit of added nutritional oomph!

C Berry Blast – 200g

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Lazy lunchbox baking with one 1/2 cup measure

Are your kids back at school? All settled in? How are you all coping?

My kids are dealing with the change of classes much better this year. Not a single tantrum yet. Me? After flying back into the country the night before school resumed, I’m struggling more than the kids to settle back into the tedium of washing/lunchboxes/ironing/nagging/homework/extra activities. Family life seems to require so much self-discipline that I’m never ready to embrace until the weather cools down. Actually even then I find it a bit of a struggle.

I’ve considered letting life turn feral for a while, just leaving the kids totally in charge of themselves, but after contemplating the aftermath of that for a couple of minutes, I find enough motivation to pull my finger out and return to my place as fat controller of the family.

And here, look; I’m even managing to bake goodies for lunchboxes. Of course it’s a lazy solution – a cake/slice that can be measured out with multiples of a 1/2 cup measure. I’m not quite ready for too much washing up just yet.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

So easy, I barely noticed I was baking.

1/2 cup lunchbox slice

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed fruit (a 140g tub apple puree is a good cheat)
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, chopped (apple, sultanas & pear are good)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 eggs, lightly whisked
50-75g melted butter – using 50g is healthier and it works out well, but 75g gives a more moist result

Preheat the oven to 180C, line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

Mix all the ingredients together, press into the tin evenly and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Leave in the tin to cool, then ice…

Lemon icing

1 cup icing sugar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Sift the sugar to remove lumps, add the juice gradually until you have a nice consistency and spread over the slice. Leave to set in the tin, then remove and chop into 20 pieces.

Keeps well in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

Needing more help with the return to school? These morning jobs posters might be just what you need for smooth-running mornings…

a poster of morning jobs to help the kids get organised

Help the kids get themselves ready each day.

Finally, did you see that I launched my new Thermomix e-book? You can check it out here…

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Old fruit, new tarts

In recent weeks the kids have become obsessed with watching me put on make up.

Every morning when I’m getting ready for work, I seem to end up with a companion. Someone will happen to need to brush their teeth at just the moment I start to slather on cosmetics. They pretend they’re concentrating on their own task, but standing beside me I can see their eyes tracking me in the mirror.

As I grab a new tube or pencil, toothpaste starts frothing everywhere and they’ll spout, “what’s that for?” Or “What do you call that?”

I explain concealer. “This makes mummy look less tired.”
I explain eyeliner. “This makes mummy’s eyes look nicer.”

Even as the words roll out I’m aware of how weird they sound. And how strange the whole idea of make up is. How trivial.

The kids just look at me quizzically. Bewildered that a mummy would even have ‘looks’ or should care about them. I’m just their mum, after all. I look pretty much the same to them every day.

The toothbrushing facade gets totally forgotten as they just stand and gape. After my entire routine is done (it takes about 2 minutes), I’ll say, “do I look better now?”

They shrug in that we-don’t-get-it way. If my companion is Mr M&P, he’ll eventually pipe up, ‘Yep’. Ever the charmer, he knows that it’s always worth complimenting effort, even if he doesn’t quite understand it.

Like make up, pastry with tart up anything.

Like make up, pastry will tart up nearly anything.

Old fruit tart

Use up excess stone fruit with these tarts.

2 sheets puff pastry
3-4 nectarines, peaches, apricots (or a combination)
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp almond meal
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked, for sticking & glazing

Ice cream (to serve)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Separate the frozen pastry sheets off the block. Score one into quarters and snap it apart. Leave to thaw while you chop the nectarines (chunks or pretty slices are all fine). Toss them with the maple syrup and lemon juice.

Brush the pastry quarters with egg, sprinkle the almond meal and sugar over the centre (leave a 1cm border).

Slice 1cm strips from your spare sheet and layer them around the edges of your squares. Brush with more egg.

Divide the fruit between the squares, reserving the liquid. Scatter a little more caster sugar or raw sugar over the entire tart and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serve with icecream and the reserved juices drizzled over the top.

MAKES 4

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