No-Bake Peanut Butter Oat Bars

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Muesli bars: the go-to snack when you’re on the go. They’re pretty healthy, right? Packed with oats and dried fruit? Well, kind of. I guess. But, I mean, have you ever looked at the ingredients list? I guess it depends on the brand, but most muesli bars I’ve seen are full of sugar and all manner of other things that make it seem less and less like a healthy snack.

Added to that, I find that muesli bars don’t really make me any less hungry. If anything, chowing down on a muesli bar will just make me even more peckish and have me demanding the nearest passer-by to whip up a three-course feast for me. So, in my case at least, they are not worth the sugar and calories.

This is what spurred me to try and concoct my own, homemade muesli bar in the comfort of my very own kitchen!

I threw in some rolled oats (because what’s a muesli bar without oats), some peanut butter and some manuka honey, to make it hold together. Then for extra nutrients and flavor I added some raisins, chia seeds and a dash of cinnamon. After mixing it all together I pressed it into the bottom of a square casserole dish and popped it in the fridge overnight.

So, um, a word of warning if you ever decide to make these. They are highly addictive. Every time I happened to walk past the kitchen, I’d see them just chillaxin’ in that plastic container on the table. I think the fact that they weren’t particularly solid, but actually rather crumbly, made it easier for me to just keep grabbing tiny little pieces without the guilt of “Oh, I just ate a whole slice!” Which certainly isn’t a good thing, because even though they’re healthier than something like a cookie or muffin, too much of a good thing can’t be good. So I think I’ll need to address that by making the bars less crumbly. Or maybe just work on my self-control. :P

The flavour of them, however, was delicious; so peanut-buttery! I am a huge fan of peanut butter so maybe this is why they were so irresistible. The cool thing about these is that you can pretty much just throw in anything; next time I make them, I plan to throw in some extra seeds and some dried blueberries… and perhaps adjust the balance of the ingredients so they hold together a bit better. More honey, perhaps? Or less oats? I guess it’s back to the kitchen for me; time for some experimentation! Here’s the recipe ; maybe you guys can do some experimenting of your own as well.

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Peanut Butter Oat Bars

1 cup Rolled Oats
1 tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
½ cup Peanut Butter
¼ cup Raisins
½ tsp Cinnamon

Melt the peanut butter in a Microwave (I had mine on Medium and melted it in 30-second intervals until quite runny) and combine it with the honey, chia, oats, raisins and cinnamon in a mixing bowl, and mix until well-combined.

Line a square dish with baking paper. Pour the mixture in and press it down very firmly. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, then slice into squares or bars with a knife and enjoy!

High Tea, Turning 21, and Other Shenanigans

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Hi guys! So, this blog post is going to be little different, because I didn’t bake anything. Truth be told, I haven’t been baking much at all lately. Time is flying by way too fast! The start of the year seemed to by crawling by super slowly and it felt like I was fitting in so many adventures within that short period of time, but now it almost feels like the opposite. I have only a couple of months of college left and most of my time is spent chained to my laptop, sometimes doing assignments and sometimes getting distracted and watching videos or online window-shopping (for clothes. Not windows.)

So instead of offering you a recipe today, my dear readers, I shall instead enchant you with the story of the High Tea I indulged in for my 21st a few weeks ago on the Ides of March.

Originally, I was going to host my own High Tea at home, and bake everything myself. Little sandwiches, tiny cupcakes, scones, maybe even macarons… but realistically, with a busy week and a hair appointment that morning and barely any time to plan recipes, shop for ingredients and actually make everything, I realized that it just wouldn’t work out. So I figured, hey, why don’t I go out?

So on the 15th of March, a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon, myself and 21 other lovely people (heh, 21 guests at my 21st, I love how that worked out!) got all dolled up (and whatever the male equivalent of “dolled up” is) and made our merry way over to Gatehouse Tea Rooms in Parramatta Park! The theme was “vintage” and everyone looked rather dashing in their ensembles. The weather was beautiful and held out for the duration of the party… only to turn into a violent thunderstorm while everyone was driving home. Oops.

Now seeing as though this is a “Blog of Sweetness” I suppose I should talk about some sweets, and just the food in general I guess.

We got a selection of different kinds of tea, and wanting to try something different, I went for the Peach black tea. It was so nice; not bitter and strong like I normally find black tea and thus no need to add milk. It tasted almost like a herbal tea, or perhaps like a peach iced tea but just not iced. Very light, delicate and fruity.

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The nibblies were served on a tall, 3-tier tower of deliciousness. On the bottom layer there were small finger sandwiches and miniature quiches; on the middle layer there were warm scones, cream and jam; and on the uppermost layer (which I must confess was my favourite!) there was a selection of sweets; blueberry macarons, dark chocolate tarts with a tiny gold leaf in the centre, tiny cupcakes, and these really lovely little tarts filled with some sort of apricot jam and topped with what looked (and tasted) like toasted marshmallow. It all felt very fancy and classy, like we should all be delicately holding our teacups and extending our pinkies and speaking in British accents peppered with the occasional, “Oh, yes, rather!” and “Quite right, old chap!”

I would most definitely recommend this place if you want a High Tea; it’s in a beautiful outdoor location, the people working there are warm and welcoming and the food is ridiculously amazing.

My next challenge… to attempt to host my own High Tea! I seriously want to do this some time, although naturally with a few less people do I don’t go crazy from baking too much ;)

Ricotta, Pear & Walnut Ice Cream

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Ice cream. Doesn’t that conjure up sweet, nostalgic summertime memories? Sitting on the hot sand at the beach, after a delightful seaside romp, your hair dripping with salty seawater as you slurp up your Cornetto ice cream cone, without a care in the world except perhaps trying to finish it before it melts. Or perhaps you’re reminiscing about heading to the gelato bar with your sweetheart and ordering a cup to share with one scoop of your favourite flavor, 1 scoop of theirs because that’s just so darn adorable, you guys! Awww! :3

Anyway. The point is, ice cream is one of the things that makes summer awesome (or, for me, one of the things that makes it bearable).
Recently (by which I mean, the other week when I wrote this post), the weather hasn’t been particularly summery – which I’m actually incredibly pleased about! The skies are grey with clouds, it’s chilly enough to wear pants, and it even rained yesterday! It’s all nice and cozy inside and cold out there and I love it!

The thing is, though, I have a perfectly good ice cream maker just sitting around waiting to be of use, and I was planning to fire it up on a hot summery day. But then I thought, “Who cares? Let’s make ice cream anyway.” Ice cream doesn’t wait for anyone.

This ice cream is a bit special. Want to know why? Because it’s healthy (sort of)! There’s no heavy cream in it. No sugar. None of those things. It’s made with yummy, calcium-packed Ricotta cheese, and sweetened only with honey and pureed roasted pears. So it’s a dessert you can feel good about!<p)
The original recipe called for low-fat Ricotta and skim milk, but I used full-fat because I wanted it to be a little bit richer (I was making it as dessert for my family, and I wanted them to actually like it). Also, fun fact: I’m not really a fan of low-fat dairy products, except low-fat milk. But with things like cheese or yoghurt, I prefer to experience the full flavor of it and only have a little bit, rather than eating a larger amount of the low-fat stuff which I find doesn’t taste that good and isn’t satisfying, leaving me prone to further snackage later on when I get hungry again.

This ice-cream is really great, though. The combination of the Ricotta and the orange rind/juice gives it a delicious tart, tangy flavor, almost like a frozen cheesecake, and the honey and roasted pears sweeten it perfectly. Enjoy!

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Ricotta, Pear & Walnut Ice Cream
(adapted from 500 ice creams)

3 ripe pears
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 tablespoons honey
250g ricotta cheese
120 mL full cream milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
zest and juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Peel and core the pears, and chop them into quarters. Arrange the pears in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes, until softer and slightly brown. Remove from the oven, and chill in the fridge.

When cold, remove the pears and juice from the fridge, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth (if you wish, you may place it in a blender to get it even smoother). Combine this mixture with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn until thicker and more frozen. Once churned, transfer the ice cream to a freezer container and place in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.

Delicious Cornbread!

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Last night, I had this hilarious dream in which I was baking some bread. I’ve never made actual “Bread” bread before – like, the kind you’d use for sandwiches – so I was feeling pretty proud of myself in that dream as I watched it rise in the warm oven. Then I noticed something was a little off – for some reason, there was a metal spoon sitting on top of the loaf! This is so typical of dreams… there’s always something weird going on. I didn’t want to remove it from the oven because I thought it would stuff up the baking, so I just left it in there. When I finally took the loaf out, it was well-risen and quite lovely except for a massive dent where the spoon had been. Then I had to take a photo of it for my blog so I was trying to find an angle where the dent was not visible.

I blame this crazy dream on two things – the fact that I’d baked some cornbread that afternoon for the first time, and the fact that baking said cornbread got me into a bread baking mood and right before I went to bed, I was leafing through one of the baking books I’d received for Christmas and thinking of what I should try baking next.

So, back to the cornbread. Here’s a fun fact: up until yesterday, I’d never baked or even eaten cornbread before! I scarcely even knew what it was! But I saw the recipe, thought it looked pretty good, and decided that it would play a vital role in the feast I was whipping up for my family. It was a fairly small feast, in fact not really a feast at all, but I just like calling it a “feast” because it makes me feel like I’m a king or something, feasting every night, wearing my shiny crown and holding my goblet and chuckling heartily. Anyway, this feast involved Cream of Cauliflower soup, and I thought that since it’s a fairly light soup it needs something on the side… like cornbread!

I was a bit worried because it said to use “cornmeal”, which we couldn’t find in the shops. But I thought, wait, isn’t polenta the same thing? A few Google searches later, I was somewhat convinced, albeit not entirely confident, but I decided to give it a go.

When the cornbread came out of the oven, it looked so warm and tempting. It seemed absurd to wait until the soup was ready. I had at least two pieces of it while it was hot from the oven, and convinced the rest of my family to try some too so they too could enjoy the goodness that is freshly baked cornbread (and also so I would feel less greedy about chowing down on so much of it before dinner).

It’s amazing. And so addictive. And so versatile, too! We had it as a side dish with the soup yesterday, dipping it in to soak up the flavor. As I type this, I’m enjoying another piece with a bit of jam and a cup of coffee. And I have all these ideas for new recipes. Cheese-filled cornbread, served hot from the oven so the cheese is all melty and gooey? Or how about jam-filled cornbread as a nice sweet treat? You will most definitely be seeing more cornbread recipes on my blog in the near future, no doubt about it. Be excited!

Since I copied the exact recipe from the book with no alterations this time, I won’t be posting it up here, but I would highly recommend the book I got it from; “The Way We Used to Cook.”

Happy baking!

Banana, Walnut & Date Muffins with Coconut Sugar

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Ever made a promise to yourself but ended up not keeping it?

I have! Loads of times! Here are three I made and broke this month:

1. Make a new post on Sneaky Pudding at least once a week.

Nope, last post was on January 1st. I’m pretty sure that was more than a week ago.

2. Make some sort of celebratory cake in honour of Sneaky Pudding’s first birthday.

Again, nope. My blog actually turned one year old a couple of weeks ago, and I told myself I would whip up a pretty, nicely-decorated cake to share on my blog, but life got in the way as per usual.

3. Be a healthy person and don’t lick the leftover batter off the spoon before you put it in the wash.

That one was going well (probably because I haven’t been doing much baking this month) until last night when I baked those muffins that you’re about to read about. Seriously, those calories do count, I should stop pretending that they don’t! :P

So yeah, that’s my life story. Now let’s get on to the recipe.

See, we’re going for a holiday soon and we had a whole bunch of bananas just chilling in the fruit bowl. If they could talk, I’m sure they’d say, “Heh heh, we’re just gonna hang out here ‘til you get back and then we’ll be all brown and gross and make the whole house smell like banana.” Seriously, who wants to come home to that? So I figured, hey, why not transform some of those pesky bananas into a batch of Banana, Walnut & Date Muffins to share around? The whole batch was consumed by family and friends in under 24 hours – so, yes, it was a brilliant way to show those bananas who’s boss.

Oh, and this is my second recipe with coconut sugar. I know what you’re thinking (yes, I read minds) – “Again with the coconut sugar! What is with this girl and coconut sugar?” Seriously, try some! If you can’t find it though, substitute the same amount with light brown sugar, firmly packed.

What I like about these muffins is the fact that they are not overly sweet, but have very subtle caramel-y flavor thanks to the coconut sugar, which works nicely with the dates. Enjoy!

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Banana, Walnut & Date Muffins with Coconut Sugar

2 cups of self-raising flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup dates, chopped
125g butter, melted
1 ¼ cup mashed banana
½ cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin, plus 6 holes of another muffin tin, with margarine.

Sift the flour and spices in a large mixing bowl, then sift in the coconut sugar and mix to combine.

Combine the eggs and milk in a smaller bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/milk mixture followed by the mashed banana and melted butter (make sure the butter has cooled slightly). Gently fold together until just combined, then stir through the walnuts and dates. Do not overmix the batter!

Distribute the batter evenly amongst the holes of the muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes (I did one tin at a time, but you can do both at once depending on how spacious your oven is). The muffins are cooked if the edges are slightly browned, they spring back lightly when touched and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool muffins in the tin for a few minutes before carefully removing, and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack. Makes 18 muffins.

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins with Coconut Sugar

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Happy, happy, happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a spectacular time ringing in the New Year alongside your nearest and dearest, and I wish you all the best in keeping your New Years Resolutions for at least two weeks or so, until you realize that these resolutions are pointless and you’re always going to be the same person who makes the same mistakes year after year… hah, just kidding! I’m sure it will be a fantastic year :)

In fact, I too have some resolutions – to bake more and not neglect Sneaky Pudding so much! Expect way more posts and delicious recipes this year. I also want to try and get into baking healthier snacks and such, so keep an eye out for those too.

And now I bring you the first recipe of the year – Apple & Cinnamon Muffins! Fresh out of the oven on New Years Day. Hooray!
What makes these muffins interesting is that I’ve decided to try something new. A while back, I bought a packet of “coconut sugar” from the supermarket. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but it intrigued me. So, what is it? Well, it comes from the flower blossom of the coconut palm – the syrup is heated to evaporate the water, creating a slight caramel flavor. Also, it’s apparently way healthier than cane sugar – it’s got way more iron, magnesium and over ten times the zinc. Wow!

I used coconut sugar in place of cane sugar in this recipe, but if you can’t get your hands on coconut sugar, feel free to just use caster sugar instead. I’d highly recommend coconut sugar, though. It’s delicious!

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Apple & Cinnamon Muffins with Coconut Sugar

65g butter
½ cup coconut sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/3 cup of full cream milk
1 apple (you can use any kind – I used Pink Lady) cored and sliced thinly

TOPPING:
2 heaped tablespoons coconut sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift in half the flour and the cinnamon, then stir in half the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, and stir until combined.

Distribute the batter evenly amongst the 12 paper cases. Top each muffin with a thin apple slice. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the muffins are risen and spring back gently when touched, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

While the muffins are cooling in the tray, make the topping. Melt the tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and brush over the tops of the muffins while they are still slightly warm. Combine the coconut sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle this over the top of each muffin.

Once the muffins have cooled in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely, or serve them warm (they’d go nicely with some vanilla custard!)

Peppermint Candy Cane Cupcakes

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One of my favourite parts of baking for Christmas time (or for any holiday or birthday or whatever) is making cupcakes and getting creative in regards to decorating them. I mean, cupcakes are awesome at any time of year, but it’s always a blast to jazz them up to suit the occasion!

I don’t exactly do a lot of cupcake-decorating, though. I don’t even own a piping bag, so I can’t do that fancy swirly-whirly icing that always looks so pretty. But I’ve got tonnes of ideas – I even have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to snazzy-looking cupcakes.

For Christmas this year though, I decided to keep it simple – choc-mint cupcakes topped with mini candy canes. After I kind of failed at making peppermint marshmallows (hey, it’s my first time attempting marshmallows, don’t judge) I still wanted to whip up something sweet and pepperminty for my extended family at Christmas… so I figured, why not cupcakes? Everyone loves cupcakes!

These guys are super simple to make, and can be made in normal- or mini-form depending on what floats your boat. If you’re making them as mini cupcakes though, just remember to bake them for 12-15 minutes rather than 18-20; otherwise, just follow the recipe.

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Peppermint Candy Cane Cupcakes

80g of butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon peppermint essence
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/3 cup dark choc chips

ICING:
1 cup milk chocolate buttons
¼ cup cream
½ teaspoon peppermint essence
12 mini candy canes

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, then stir in the egg until well combined.
Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, and add the milk, peppermint essence and dark choc chips. Stir until combined.
Divide the batter amongst each cupcake liner, and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until cupcakes are risen and spring back lightly when touched (and a skewer pierced into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean). Leave to cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the topping, melt the milk chocolate buttons with the cream and peppermint essence in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly, then smooth over the surface of each cupcake. Top each with a mini candy cane.