Posts tagged chocolate

These baked treats will pull you out of your parenting slump…

Inevitably, years of parenting do not pass by without periods of slump. Like any job, enthusiasm for certain tasks ebbs and flows. Of course the suckish part of parenting is that you’re in your job 24/7, so unlike regular employment, the hard times are not just an aspect of life that isn’t working, it’s more a feeling like YOUR WHOLE LIFE ISN’T WORKING.

Of course, it’s never that bad, but there’s something about the inability to get breathing space that does make perspective and negotiating your way out of a parenting lull quite tricky.

Usually the fixes are pretty easy to find. Maybe the kids will move out of their current frustrating stage, or you’ll just wake up one day with a fresh bit of perspective. Or they might do something particularly loveable, like give you lots of cuddles or manage to wee IN the toilet for a day or two (sometimes it’s the little things).

And sometimes you have to just suck it up and jolly yourself out of it. A bit of attitude adjustment and tackling things in a new way can make a massive difference.

In my job (as a graphic designer) I tackle tricky clients by pouring love onto them. You know, if a client is complaining I totally take their side, shower them in attention and find that pretty much any situation is instantly diffused. I take the same tactic with my parenting – I find the core issue, and pour some love on it. Whether it’s just a conscious bit of mental reassessing of a situation or a more physical manifestation like cooking my way out of it. Which is why I say these muffins will pull you out of a parenting-hole, particularly if it is lunchbox-shaped and demanding attention five days a week.

Make a double batch of these and freeze them. Then instead of groaning at the thought of packing lunch on yet another day, you’ll have a bit of instant relief. And it’s home-made too, which is positive for you AND the kids.

chocolate seed muffins lunchbox

Just the sight of that cute damn dog cheers me up!

Chocolate seed muffins

1/2 cup seeds (any combo of black chia, sunflower, pepitas, flax)
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1 egg
Juice 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
3 tbsp maple syrup (optional but recommended)
1 small ripe avocado

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease or line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Give the seeds a blitz in a blender, food processor or mortar & pestle – you need to break them down a bit. Tip them into a large mixing bowl and toss in the flour, cocoa, sugar and oats.

In a separate bowl or large jug, whisk the egg, then combine in the orange juice, milk, butter & maple syrup.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently until just combined.

Use a fork to mash the avocado in a small bowl, then add that the the muffin mixture and combine in.

Divide evenly between the cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops spring back with touched and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 12


Need more ideas? Check out my 40-week lunchbox planner, full of super simple and seasonal ideas!



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What’s your favourite thing to do?

Using my new sugar bowl is on the list too - makes me smile, every time.

Using my new sugar bowl is on the list too – makes me smile, every time.

“Mum, what’s your favourite thing to do?” asked Miss F the other day.

I was a bit taken aback. Like most 9-year-old girls, usually her chat is based firmly on herself, her own awesomeness, her awesome friends or cute baby animals. But looking at her, I realised that she was genuinely keen to know something about me. Luckily I had a good (and true) answer ready.

“My favourite thing to do is cuddle my children.”

“And your next favourite thing?”
“I like to read books, in bed.”

She smiled and nodded having recently learned the joy of that one.

“And your next favourite thing?”
“Reading a book in bed, while my children are snuggled up around me, also reading books.”

She was thoroughly happy with my answers and me.

“And your next favourite thing?”
Bit of a pause as I quickly calculated whether food or sleep is my next greatest passion.
“I love eating.”

More nodding. Then we ran through sleeping, eating cake and eating cake in bed after just waking up from a nap. In an Oscars-speech-style-faux pas, I realised I’d forgotten daddy, so I casually dropped him in there too, in about 15th position.

Finally we had a long list of thing we both love to do and life was feeling very blessed indeed.

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

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

Date & pecan bliss balls

Thanks to the ever-lovely Sonia from Natural NewAge Mum for getting me onto bliss balls. The kids ADORE them.

1 cup dates
1 cup pecans (or walnuts are also great)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (zap it in the microwave)
¼ cup good-quality cocoa powder
½ cup desiccated (or shredded) coconut (plus ½ cup extra for the coating)
1 tbsp chia seeds (black or white)

Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and add to a food processor bowl along with the pecans, oil, cocoa, chia seeds and ¼ cup coconut.

Blitz until smooth, and then use your hands to roll bite-sized balls. Roll in the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for 2 hours until firm.



What are your favourite things?

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Holiday treat – rocky road

Last week I promised chocolate. Being a woman of my word, here’s a fab little chocolate treat just in time for the school holidays.

Cooking with the kids can be a fun educational way to spend a couple of hours together. If your kids aren’t naturally inclined towards the kitchen (like mine), then the best way to get them involved is to cook treats. Unlike the marble cake or chocolate slice from previous holiday posts, this recipe has the advantage that it’s a no-oven winner, which means that you’ll have the recipe wrapped up before anyone can stutter “I’m bored” or “what time can I play PS3?”.

And unlike those showy-offy sponges or uber-posh macarons, rocky road’s charm is in it’s randomness. Each piece is special, just a little bit ugly and best of all you can’t really get it wrong, which all appeals to a down-to-earth lass like myself.

Bumpy and imperfect, just like life.

Bumpy and imperfect, just like life.

Rocky Road

4 full cups of chunks –choose any or all of…
Marshmallows, cranberries, goji berries, sultanas, currants, dried strawberries or pears, shredded coconut, nuts (peanuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamias) turkish delight, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas
200g block dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tbsp golden syrup
25g butter
¾ cup dark chocolate melts (or more dark chocolate, roughly chopped)

Line a 18x28cm slice tray with baking paper.

Mix your choice of chunks in a large bowl. Place the 200g chocolate, syrup and butter into a small saucepan over gentle heat and stir to melt. Remove from heat, tip in the extra chocolate (I like melts, since they quickly stick into the mix, but they’ll stay chunky enough that you’ll get good chocolate chunks through the finished mix). Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well, tip into the tray and refrigerate.


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A chocolate cake that will make grown men cry

No, it's ok! See! You serve it with raspberries!

No, it’s ok! See! You serve it with raspberries!

Admittedly, this cake is scraping into the Vegie Smugglers repertoire on an almond-meal technicality. I considered calling it ‘adult nut cake (with rum and a block of chocolate)’ but I have to concede that it doesn’t contain anything healthy at all. The truth? It’s a flourless dark chocolate, almond & rum cake that is SO delicious that Mr VS loved me more after I made it for him on Valentine’s day.

Being a fan of all things tasty, I thought it worth sharing in case you know an adult in need of spoiling sometime soon. It starts off like a mousse cake, then after a day in the fridge becomes a sinful truffle cake that lasts several days.

The recipe is from Claudia Roden’s ‘The Food of Spain‘, but it’s not her recipe either, apparently it dates bake to Spanish cookbooks from last century.

Chocolate, almond and rum cake

150g dark cooking chocolate (best quality you can afford), broken into pieces
3 tbsp water
150g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp dark rum

50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup caster sugar
25g unsalted butter, cubed

Heat the oven to 160C. Line a 23cm springform pan with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate with the water in a double boiler (a bowl, over a pot of boiling water – but don’t let the bowl touch the water or it will burn, you just want the steam to be a nice gentle heat source – still not sure how? Watch this video).

Stir constantly and once the chocolate is nearly melted, add in the butter and stir them together into melty-awesomeness. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, almonds, baking powder and rum. Add in the melted chocolate and mix really well.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks (when you lift up the beaters, the peaks stay up in the air – if they flop to the side, they are ‘soft peaks’ and you need to beat them a bit more.

Add 1/4 eggwhites into the chocolate mix and combine in gently with a spatula. Repeat with 1/2 the remaining mix and then again until all the eggwhites are combined in – there’s an ok ‘how to’ video here about beating and folding in eggwhites).

Pour into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes until firm.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan (it will sink – totally fine).

Release the cake from the pan and transfer to a cake plate. For the topping, melt the chocolate and water as above, add the sugar and butter and melt and mix well, then pour over your cake, easing nice drips down the side every now and again.


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Naughty and 40

Have you ever had that experience of waking up, looking in the mirror and being a bit shocked by what you see? I had that moment over the weekend when I looked and welcomed another significant wrinkle. Not content with adding to my collection of laugh lines, this one actually crosses over the laugh lines forming a nice mesh, reminiscent of fishnets but far less alluring.

Apparently the phrase ‘aging overnight’ is based on fact, not fiction. It’s true, people don’t age gradually, but in ‘clunks’ and after the age of 35 we’re in aging freefall.

Having a second non-sleeping baby at 34½ apparently gave me a double whammy of aging. My ‘overnight’ seemed to stretch for one blurry four-year period and then when my focus cleared enough to look in the mirror, I was 38 and not the youthful flower I had been seven years earlier when I breathlessly announced my first pregnancy. (Incidentally, women feel at their most beautiful at age 32).

Searching the web on all things aging, I was thrilled to discover ‘Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome’ which is the sudden aging of soap characters. Like when Bridget Forrester suddenly got old enough to be in a love triangle with her mother and Deacon. And I’m wondering if all those university hours spent watching ‘The Bold & The Beautiful’ was detrimental to my health and somehow it twiddled with my gene structure to leave me stuck with that syndrome. You see, in my mind, I’m still 25. Which is weird, because my daughter turns 9 next birthday and she’s nearly as tall as me.

Actually the truth is that I’m pondering all these things because I’m turning 40 this week. And no matter how I try to deny it, people keep doing things like giving me birthday cards with ’40 and naughty’ on the front and cheery messages like “you’re another year more wonderful”. The sentiment is sweet, but I can’t help but think of people saying, “gee you must be lucky” when a bird craps on your jacket. They’re trying to make you feel better, but really, it’s all a little bit bullshit.

So sticking with sweet, it seems right to do a chocolate slice recipe this week. And when you bite in, think of me, huddled in the old lady corner, lamenting the loss of my youth.

Happy birthday to me, I live in a tree…

Chocolate slice

1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup oat bran
40g butter, melted and cooled
140g tub apple purée
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, lightly whisked

1 1/4 cups icing sugar mixture
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2-3 tbsp water
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a lamington/slice tin with baking paper (leave some to hang over the two long sides).

Sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar, coconut and oat bran. Mix lightly.

In a separate bowl or jug combine the butter, purée, eggs and vanilla.

Pour the wet into the dry and fold until totally combined. Spoon the mixture into your tin and patiently spread with a spatula until even. Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tray.

Sift the icing sugar mixture and cocoa into a bowl. Add in the water and mix well then pour over the slice and leave it to harden in the tin.

Use the sides of the paper to lift out and slice into 20 pieces.

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What’s for pudding?

I’ve been remiss and I apologise profusely. I’ve just realised that there isn’t a single sweetie on my blog! For someone with a tooth as sweet as mine that is unthinkable. So I’ll rectify it immediately with this chocolate & beetroot brownie recipe. Don’t be put off by the thought of vegie treats – I have people pestering me for this recipe, saying they prefer it to regular brownies. It is moist and delicious. The beetroot adds a depth of flavour and gives it a lovely pink tinge.

Let’s face it, it is still on the list of ‘sometimes’ foods, but at least if we’re going to eat chocolate we can ease our conscience a little.

Now I know you all cook in a Doris Day angora twin-set, so my advice is to pop on one of those cute frilly aprons and a pair of disposable kitchen gloves when you grate the beetroot. Grating it in a clean sink also makes the tidy up easier.

Chocolate & beetroot brownie

I just can't help myself, I've even got a healthy root in here.

Chocolate & beetroot brownies

Butter, for greasing
150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
½ cup caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup plain flour
110g almond meal
½ cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup peeled and grated raw beetroot (use disposable gloves and wear an apron for this!)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease and line a lamington tin with baking paper.

Use the microwave on medium heat to melt the chocolate. Stir every 30 seconds until runny. Add the butter and mix through until melted, microwaving a little more if needed. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour over the top. Add the almond meal, walnuts, beetroot and chocolate and fold through until just combined.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Leave to cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Dust with icing sugar and serve with strawberries.


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