Sunday, 25 March 2012

Choc-mint crazy

My older daughter is a huge fan of anything choc-mint (just like her mummy), and requested choc-mint cupcakes to take into school for her class for her 8th birthday. Too often cupcakes go to waste as children rarely get through them. You know the story. . . you slave away in the kitchen just so a child can lick off the icing and leave the cake behind or only make it half way through! This lesson has taught me to stick with smaller, bite-size portions for birthday treats like mini cupcakes. In years gone by I have sent teacups into school. They are always a big hit and so very simple to put together when you don't have time to bake. Australians would be familiar with these, they sell for about $2 AUD in some cafes. You assemble them to look like a mini teacup using an Arnott's tic doc biscuit as the saucer, a marshmallow for the cup with half a musk lifesaver secured onto the side as a handle, plus a chocolate freckle on top to represent the frothy hot drink inside the cup . . . I'll post a photo when I make them next for my daughter's party. Anyway, back to the choc-mint cupcakes, this year I developed my own recipe for the Thermomix and for something different stuck a lolly pop stick in the bottom! Much like a cake pop without all the extra work :) 

Choc-mint mini cupcake pops
makes 30

100g Lindt Mint Intense dark chocolate
120g butter, softened
190ml buttermilk (or use half natural yoghurt + half milk)
3 large eggs
140g raw caster sugar
240g self-raising flour
30g raw cacao

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a mini muffin pans or line with patty cases.
  2. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the TM bowl. Grate for 8 seconds on speed 8.
  3. Chop butter into chunks and add to the grated chocolate together with the eggs and buttermilk. Beat for 1 minute at 37°C on speed 4.
  4. Add the caster sugar, SR flour and raw cacao to the TM bowl. Mix on speed 4 for 10 seconds, scrape the sides of the bowl, then mix for a further 5 seconds or until just combined.
  5. Spoon in the muffins holes, filling almost to the top edge. You want the muffins to rise with a rounded top over the lip. 
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until done when tested with a skewer.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan before removing to a cooling rack.
  8. Ice with melted white chocolate tinted with green food colouring and flavoured with peppermint essence. I used 300g of white chocolate to ice 30 mini cupcakes. Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles or a crushed Peppermint Crisp bar. 

Variation ideas                                                                                                                                         

  • If you can't get hold of mint chocolate, use a good quality 70% dark chocolate and add 1 tsp of peppermint essence or 4 drops of peppermint oil.   
  • Ice with dark chocolate melts and decorate with green sprinkles. 
  • A green tinted, mint flavoured buttercream would also go really nicely if you serve up these cupcakes without the lolly pop sticks either as the mini or full-size version. 
  • You could use half white & half wholemeal flour, even spelt for this recipe :)

No Thermomix?                                                                                                                                  

  • Use a food processor for step 2 and combine the wet and dry ingredients together in an electric mixer. Be careful not to over-mix or your cupcake will be tough rather than light and fluffy.
  • Take the eggs and buttermilk out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you make the cupcakes. Room temperature eggs will give you more volume on beating than refrigerated eggs. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Lunchbox legends

If you’re anything like me where your children’s lunchbox is concerned, nasties in packets are banned and you aim to include a home-cooked treat each day. I try to whip up a batch of biscuits, muffins or muesli bars most weeks. Of course, these days we need to think ‘nut-free’ so commercial muesli bars which ‘may contain traces of nuts’ are a no no. Instead, I make my own for the girls and usually take one into work myself for a quick boost of energy!

Wheat, nut & dairy-free muesli bars
Makes 16 bars

This muesli bar recipe is ideal for your children's lunchbox. It is very nutritious and largely allergen-free. For a bit of fun get the kids involved in drizzling a little melted chocolate over the bars. Wrap in a 30cm length of wax paper by folding in at the sides and rolling the bar in the paper. You could secure with a fun sticker!

65 g brown rice
1 tbsp golden flaxseeds (linseeds)
1 tbsp chia seeds
half Pink lady apple (or any sweet apple) - omit for a crunchier-style bar
200 g your choice of dried fruit (e.g. dates, apricots,
cranberries, mango, sultanas, goji berries etc.)
90 g whole oats
70 g rice bubbles (preferably wholegrain brown)
25 g coconut, dessicated
60 g raw caster sugar (or rapadura)
1-2 tbsp pepitas or sunflower seeds
40 g coconut or avocado oil
2 large eggs
50 g raw honey
100 g white chocolate, melted (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Line the base and sides of a 3cm deep, 20 x 30cm rectangular pan with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang.

Add the flaxseeds, chia seeds and brown rice to the TM bowl and grind for 20 seconds on speed 9. Decant into a bowl and set aside.

Place the apple half in the TM bowl and grate for a few seconds on speed 5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add all the dried fruit. Turn to the lid closed position and pulse on Turbo about 3 times until the dried fruit is evenly chopped.

Return the grounds seeds and rice to the TM bowl together with all of the remaining ingredients. Combine on reverse for 20-30 seconds on speed 3 until well combined. Check that the dry ingredients are completely coated in the wet.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan using the spatula. Use the back of a metal spoon or the bottom of a heavy glass to press the mixture evenly into the pan and smooth the surface.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes in the pan before lifting onto a cooking rack to cool completely before cutting. Cut the muesli slice into 16 bars and drizzle with melted white chocolate (optional).

This recipe is not over-sweet, so it is a good idea to include dates as part of the dried fruit mix for the extra sweetness.

Try different combinations of cereal in place of the brown rice bubbles, e.g. bran sticks, flake cereals (just make sure they are nut-free).

Add 50g white, milk or dark choc chips at step 4.

Omit the half apple for a crunchier-style bar.

No Thermomix?
  • use 65g brown rice flour in place of the whole rice
  • grind seeds using a coffee grinder
  • chop the dried fruit in a food processor or by hand
  • combine all ingredients by hand or using a food processor or mixer

Here are some more lunchbox legends that you might like to check out . . .

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Pancake Sunday

It has become a weekend tradition at our place, that if Daddy is home he cooks the girls and I an egg and bacon breakfast on Sundays . . . yummy bacon & onion scrambled eggs with roasted tomatoes for mummy and fried or boiled eggs with toast soldiers for the girls. If Daddy is away the girls look for mummy to make pancakes or more recently crumpets in the Thermomix. 

Of course these are not your everyday run of the (flour) mill pancakes . . ha ha.  Anyone who knows me would ask . . "So what goodness do you have hiding in these Paula?" Whenever I'm cooking for my girls in particular, I do my very best to maximise the assortment of nutrients I can get into them without compromising taste and texture. There is no point making something healthier and then struggling to get your children to eat it. Making healthy changes to a recipe and satisfying little tummies is no easy feat. Clearly I live for this type of challenge :)

My banana, oat and spelt pancakes are a light and fluffy assortment of nutritious ingredients that leave me feeling very satisfied that I have provided my children a with great start to the day, and of course they have no idea just how good these scrummy pancakes are for them.  

Paula’s Banana, Oat & Spelt Pancakes

These pancakes are low in fat, high in dietary fibre and a source of omega-3 fats.
They are light and fluffy in texture which is an unexpected surprise when you consider that they are made from wholegrain flours. The fluffiness is thanks to the egg and raising agents, but is helped along by the ground flaxseed. One quantity makes enough for breakfast over two days. The left-over mixture should be kept in the fridge. Just add a little extra milk before cooking up the next day.

1 tbsp (10g) golden flaxseeds
140g whole oats
1 large ripe banana, roughly chopped
10g coconut oil (liquefied)
120g wholemeal spelt flour
pinch salt
40g raw caster sugar
½ tsp bicarb
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 MC milk or plant-based milk
2 MC natural yoghurt (or vanilla)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Add flaxseeds and oats to TM bowl and mill for 20 seconds at speed 9 with the MC cup on. Decant into a bowl and put aside.

Place sliced bananas in TM bowl and mash for a few seconds on speed 4. Return the ground flaxseed and oats to the bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Mix for 20 seconds on speed 5 or until smooth. Allow mixture to rest for at least 10-15 minutes.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat and grease with a little butter or oil. Pour the mixture onto the hot pan. Cook until bubbled and then turn over and cook the other side. Turn the heat to low as the pan heats up.

Optional: Add a few blueberries or sliced kiwi or strawberries to each pikelet as it is cooking for extra fruity flavour and nutrition. Serve sprinkled with sifted icing sugar or drizzled with a little honey. Also delicious with Mum's lemon butter.

No Thermomix? 
  • Freshly grind your flaxseeds (also known as linseeds) in a coffee grinder. 
  • Use ready-made oat flour.
  • Use a hand blender or food processor to make your pancake mixture.
  • An MC cup is equivalent to 100ml of liquid

Nutrition tid bits
In order to access the omega-3 oils in flaxseed, you should grind the seeds before use. It's best to grind your own flaxseeds as ready-ground flax will go rancid quickly. To keep your ground seeds fresh, store them in an airtight container in the fridge (1 month) or freezer. Whole seeds will last longer - up to 2 years (check the use by date). If you suspect your flaxseeds are old, taste a few. If they are off in flavour and not pleasantly nutty, discard them. 

Did you know that ground flax can be used as a substitute for whole eggs in baking? Simply exchange 1 tbsp finely ground flax + 3 tbsp water for 1 egg. Blend together to make a viscous liquid. For more info on flaxseeds and other nutritious seeds see Ingredients.

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