Archive for Sweets & treats

Coconut, coconut, coconut, coconut & banana cake

Vegie Smugglers banana and coconut cake

And sprinkle a bit of coconut on top, too.

Ain’t life grand when you discover that all of life’s woes can be solved by one little ingredient. No more will I battle with dementia, mouth sores, irregular periods, bloating, stubbed toes or mismatched socks, because I have discovered COCONUT.

Only a blind sheep could have possible missed the whole coconut-thing. Actually, not even a blind sheep, since every sheeple I know (including me) is well and truly caught up in the craze and is trading all their coin for a trolley full of 44-gallon drums of the stuff. But is it worth it? And is it actually healthy? Rather than paraphrasing the entire internet, if you’re interested to know more, then go and read this, or this, or this, or this. They are all good articles that seem pretty balanced.

If you can’t be bothered clicking around then here’s my summary…. coconut oil should be bought ‘virgin’. It’s expensive and full of saturated fat. But it’s thought some of this fat is beneficial. But the science isn’t conclusive and keep in mind that nutrition information is currently changing more often than Kimye’s outfits.

Seems like it’s a great ingredient to have in your cupboard, but one to use in moderation (I know, back to that ol’ boring mantra). For lactose-intolerant me, it makes a great butter substitute in baking and treats, when I’m after a coconut flavour. It works well with some Asian stir-fry dishes, but generally I’m happier with olive oil.

This recipe though, is a complete homage to coconut. It uses coconut oil in just the way I like it – dairy-free cake that last well for several days and can also be sliced and frozen, ready for lunchboxes. Even better, the evocative coconut taste is so divine that it inspires me to don my grass skirt and coconut-bra, and hula the day-away.

Coconut & banana cake

So there’s not much that’s healthful in this cake (it IS cake), but it is a fantastic way to use coconut and all of your overripe bananas (and it’s dairy-free)

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup sugar (I’ll leave it up to you – raw sugar will give you an amazingly white cake, coconut sugar gives is a more molassas-y flavour)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
165ml can coconut milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
3 overripe bananas, peeled, mashed
Sprinkle of shredded coconut.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x20cm loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, coconut and sugar.

Combine the melted oil and vanilla extract. Stir in the coconut milk and also your egg (add the egg last so that the warm oil doesn’t start to cook it). Pour this wet mix into the dry one. Combine well then also mix through the banana (this mix is more a dough than a batter).

Plop the dough into your tin. Push it out to fill the corners and even the surface. Sprinkle over the shredded coconut.

Bake for a total of 55-60 minutes. Cover with foil around the 40 minutes mark to avoid burning.

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‘Yes!’ excited children, ‘you CAN have ice-cream for breakfast!’

My kids love that Optus ad on the TV – the one where Josh Thomas is saying ‘yes’ all the time. I’ve got to assume it’s because it’s so lovely to consider a land where you get a ‘yes’ answer to everything you want.

A few years ago in parenting land, it was emphasised often how important is was to always say ‘yes’ to your children. It was NEVER ok to say ‘no’. I can’t even remember why it is now, I think something to do with exploration and self-esteem and creative play. When they said, “I want lollies.” I’d say, “yes, great idea, but right now we’re going to have some fruit.” And in the shop they’d say, “give me the toy,” and I’d say, “yes, I agree that this toy is lovely, what a great choice you’ve made, but right now we’re going to pop it back on the shelf so that it’s ready for some other child.”

I’m exhausted just remembering it.

Fair to say that my kids are pretty familiar with the word ‘no’ these days and I genuinely can’t remember at what stage that shift occurred. Now they only ask if they think there’s a reasonable chance that I’d say yes, which is what makes this breakfast dish so fab. They’d never ever ask for ice-cream at breakfast time (they only really eat it at Nanna’s house), so imagine their excitement when I offer them a bowl of it.

This breakfast has been a bit of a lifesaver over winter as it’s a power punch of vitamins first thing in the day. It’s kept the sniffles at bay and lifted their spirit and energy levels on quite a few mornings. And eating ice-cream on a cold winter’s morning? Well, they’re so damn excited by this recipe that it’s never been an issue. Although I have been waiting for almost-Spring to share it, figuring that other children might be more sensible than mine.

vegie smugglers breakfast ice cream

‘Yes!’ to a breakfast treat that also packs in nutrition.

Breakfast Ice-cream

To get an ‘ice-cream’ consistency, either the berries or banana (or both) need to be frozen – this winter I’ve just been using regular bananas and frozen berries – play around and see what consistency your kids prefer.

1 banana
1 cup frozen berries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup spinach leaves (I grow silverbeet and English spinach in my Vegepod and use whichever is available)
1/4 cup milk (soy or rice also both work)
1 tbsp C Berry Blast powder – This is an organic vitamin C powder by NutraOrganics. I love their products and am happy to support my friend Vanessa’s small family business.

Pop everything into a blender or mini-food processor and blitz until it’s a consistency to suit your family.

Serves 2-3 kids.

family-food-made-fun

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From no-cake, to cake, in 5 minutes.

There are times when my tea looks at me, sitting on the bench and I can’t help but think that it seems very lonely. On Gourmet Farmer I heard the lovely quote, “A cup of tea without a biscuit is a wasted opportunity” and I can’t help but agree. But the problem is that I keep my cupboard lean and free from too many sweet temptations. To avoid additives and mucky weird processed food, I also have a general rule that I only eat baked goods that I’ve made myself.

Thankfully then, I’ve discovered this lifesaver of a recipe. It’s a cake that is prepared with a tablespoon measure and one jug then cooked in a large mug in the microwave. All in under 5 minutes.

So if you don’t use gluten, sugar or the microwave, please don’t email me or comment with a tonne of nasty abuse, just look away and come back next week – I promise you a healthier recipe then (or click here for my cocoa bliss balls). The rest of you, keep this on file for the next time your cup of tea needs a friend.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

2-minute chocolate & coconut cake

1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk (or soy milk also works)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (melted butter would also work, but cool it a little)
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw sugar (or golden caster sugar or coconut sugar both also work)
3 tbsp self-raising flour

(I mix this together in a 2-cup glass jug, which makes it super easy to pour into the cup and then goes straight into the dishwasher).

Use a fork to whisk your egg in a jug or bowl. You don’t need the entire egg; especially if it’s a large one, so tip out about a quarter of it (don’t worry about being too precise!).

Whisk in the vanilla, milk and oil. Once combined, continue to whisk in the coconut, cocoa, sugar and lastly the flour.

Pour into a large mug and microwave on high for 2- 2 1/2 minutes (you might have to try a couple of times to find the timing that is perfect in your microwave).

Serves 2 kids, or 1 greedy adult.

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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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