Fruity, Wholemeal, Rather Healthy Muffins

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Do you ever just crave something a bit “sweet” to go with your morning coffee or afternoon tea?

Because I do, quite often actually. Especially when I’m at work and the coffee van (yes we have a special van that delivers coffee straight to our door, be jealous) comes around. When I’m waiting out there for my usual skinny latte, I can help but ogle the delicious croissants and slices of banana bread on display. Seriously, banana bread and coffee = the best combination.

Or when I’m at my computer working on projects at home, and it’s that time of the afternoon when I want my coffee hit… and whilst waiting for the water to boil, that tin of biscuits in the cupboard or that packet of blueberry scones that someone decided to pick up whilst at the shops looks ever so tempting.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a treat once in a while. I do like my coffee and cake on a special occasion. But if you make it a frequent thing, the calories (and the sugar!) adds up. Plus, a sweet treat with my morning or afternoon cuppa generally leaves my energy levels all over the place. Not good, when I need to focus on my work.

The other day, I happened upon some healthy recipe magazines from a few years back, that were gathering dust on my bookshelf. It had been forever since I’d read them, so I thought I’d pick one up and have a flip through, with the hope that I might possibly stumble across a magical recipe that will make me be skinny for ever and ever no matter how much of it I eat, or perhaps just something that’s healthy and simple to make.

I did end up finding the latter. I found a recipe for healthy muffins, and when I saw that it didn’t contain cane sugar it was instantly added to my to-bake list and then successfully crossed off later that afternoon. These muffins are sweetened only by fruit. Though the recipe called for two apples, I decided to substitute one of them for some frozen raspberries; I also threw in some pistachios and chopped dates. I used olive oil, as well, because that’s all I had but you can probably use whatever oil tickles your fancy.

These make an excellent accompaniment to morning or afternoon tea. They’re filling, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and contain a good dose of delicious fruit. I think the fact that the apples are cooked beforehand makes them nice and soft and brings out their flavor. The muffins are quite moist (don’t you just love the word “moist”?) and should last for a good few days, particularly if refrigerated. Enjoy!

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Fruity Wholemeal Muffins
(adapted from Healthy Food Guide magazine)

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/3 cup frozen raspberries (or any fruit of your choosing)
1 medium banana, mashed
¼ cup chopped dates
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt
¼ cup pistachios (or other nut of your choosing)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Combine orange juice, apple, raspberries and banana in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour (return the husks to the bowl), cinnamon, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and oil. Add the egg mixture and the fruit mixture, along with the nuts, to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted through the centre of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

Depending on how large you make each muffin, you make have enough batter left over to make another half a batch. I managed to make about 17 small-ish muffins, but you can make larger ones and less of them if you wish.

Chocolate Chickpea Truffles

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Chickpeas. Who doesn’t love a good chickpea? They’re the perfect addition to your next soup, salad, casserole, dessert…

“Whoa – wait! Hold the phone!” you rudely interrupt. “Dessert? What is wrong with you, woman? Have you gone quite mad?”

But hear me out. Chickpeas are actually a surprisingly useful ingredient in crafting tasty, yet unbelievably healthy, sweets. I’ve made Chickpea Brownies before, which were quite delicious, and my most recent creation was these yummy Chickpea Truffles! Just like chocolate truffles, minus the guilt.

Here’s the story. I was in the kitchen with my very first loaf of bread rising in the oven – yes, my very first loaf of bread! Hate to go off topic, but I kneaded to brag about that one because I’m super proud of myself – but I was very much in a “cook/bake all the things” kind of mood. I wanted to make something healthy, though, to counteract the carb-fest that was coming together in the over at the time.

I basically made this up as I went along. I knew it would include chickpeas, almond butter, cocoa powder, and honey for sweetness. I threw in some quick-cooking oats as well, to give it texture and hold it together. I chucked it all in the blender ‘til it was smooth, then I chopped up some chunks of dark chocolate for extra chocolately goodness and antioxidants and stirred them in.

After rolling them into balls, I decided to coat them in a blend of chia seeds and cocoa powder. This made them ridiculously chocolatey, which is great because everyone loves chocolate. The only downside is that anything rolled in cocoa powder tends to get a little bit messy… so maybe don’t eat these whilst all dolled up in your Sunday best.

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Chocolate Chickpea Truffles

170g canned chickpeas, drained weight (I used two x 125g cans)
6 tbsp quick-cooking oats
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp. cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix
2-3 squares of chopped dark chocolate (or 2-3 tbsp of dark chocolate chips)
1 tbsp honey
2-3 tbsp cocoa powder, extra (for coating)
2-3 tbsp chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except for chia seeds, choc chips, and the extra cocoa powder in the blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chocolate chips/chunks.

In another bowl, combine the chia seeds and extra cocoa powder. With dampened hands, roll the chickpea mixture into balls and coat in the cocoa/chia mix. Place balls on a plate or tray, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until firm.

Enjoy without guilt! :)

Beary-Cute Mini Cupcakes

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Do you have certain foods or snacks that you enjoy purely for the nostalgia factor?

I have a whole list. Most of them I rarely, if ever, consume today. It seems that as children, we were instinctively drawn to food that came in shiny, colourful plastic packets and was stuffed with sugar and fake flavours and colours… they were essentially staples of one’s diet.

As I grew up I turned away from these sugary, salty, colourful confections and instead snacked on things that came in more dull packaging that boasted words like “organic”, “gluten free” and “raw” because they make me feel like a proper adult.

But for the sake of nostalgia, and also to give me something to actually write about in this post, I’ve decided to scour the interwebs and share with you some of my favourite sugary snacks as a young lass.

heart

HavaHeart ice cream: I was honestly a little surprised that I only found one picture of these on the Internet… maybe they weren’t as popular as I thought. But these heart-shaped, chocolate-coated, vanilla ice-cream bundles of goodness on a stick were the Number 1 way to make a hot summer afternoon even better*. I think if they were shaped like regular ice-cream I probably couldn’t have cared less, but because they were shaped like hearts they were just downright amazing.

*Notice I said “even better” and not “bearable” like I usually would when talking about the hotter months of the year… yes, I actually liked summer when I was a child. Shocking, no?

roses

Cadbury Roses: Okay, so you were probably expecting more kiddie, colourful, sugary snacks on this list. I mean, Cadbury Roses? Aren’t those a little bit classy for a 5-year-old? Maybe. So I guess I was a rather classy 5-year-old, because I loved these. This bright blue box of chocolates would magically appear on most “grown-up” special occasions – parents’ birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers’ Day, and other such events. The shiny wrappers that clearly differentiated the chocolates were a bonus. Not only were they super pretty, but they allowed me to swiftly avoid the “disgusting” flavours which my 5-year-old self was not fond of, such as strawberry or mint.

tinyteddies

Tinny Teddies: Normal biscuits? Boring. Biscuits shaped like small bears with varying personalities? HECK YES. Tiny Teddies were the ultimate snack of my childhood. I used to pretend that they were going on little adventures into the “cave” (i.e. my mouth) where they would then proceed to scream in terror as they were chomped into a mush. Yes, that’s a bit creepy. Don’t worry, I don’t do that anymore.

Reminiscing about these beary-delicious snacks inspired me to whip up some cupcakes in their honour. Mini-cupcakes, so you can eat three times as much… I mean, because they’re small and cute.

Mini-cupcakes with pieces of dark chocolate in them, to balance out the childishness with a bit of classiness… everyone knows that classy adults love eating dark chocolate, right?

Mini-cupcakes with “Cookies ‘n’ Cream” icing made from crushed Oreos… because each Tiny Teddy might get a bit lonely by itself on each individual cupcake, and will need a friend… even if that friend is an Oreo that’s been crushed into tiny pieces and mixed with sweet buttercream icing to produce an unappetizing gray yet extremely delicious substance.

So the icing was a bit of an experiment, and could maybe do with oh-so-slightly less Oreo… hence why it’s that awkward grey colour. Everyone did seem to like the icing, but for aesthetic reasons you may want to cut back a little. It’s up to you; add as much as you’d like to suit your tastes. Maybe you could try out the choc-filled Oreos or one of the other flavours! That could be fun.

Here is the recipe – bake and enjoy!

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Beary-Cute Mini Cupcakes

½ cup caster sugar
80g butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup dark chocolate, chopped

ICING:
80g butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
75g Oreos, crushed

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a 24-hole mini muffin tin with mini cupcake liners.

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the egg, and stir well to combine. Sift in the flour and add the milk, vanilla extract and dark chocolate chunks. Stir well to combine.

Evenly distribute the batter amongst the cupcake cases, and bake for about 15 minutes, until cupcakes are well risen and spring back lightly when touched. Leave to cool fully before icing.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sifted icing sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the crushed Oreos. Using a knife or a piping bag, ice the cooled Cupcakes. Top each with a Tiny Teddy or some other cute animal-shaped cookie. Maybe even Mini Oreos. That could look nice.

Caramel, Banana & Walnut Parfaits

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It was my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary a little over a month ago! Exciting stuff, right? 25 years! <3

So I guess that would make this their “Silver” Wedding Anniversary. Overcome with curiosity while writing this post, I decided to look up what each year represents, since all I really remember is Silver for 25 years and Gold for 50 years.

Thanks to my good friend The Internet, I am now quite well-versed in the appropriate gifts for each year of marriage. According to Wikipedia, the first year of marriage denotes a gift of paper (U.S.) or cotton (U.K.) Personally I’d be pretty happy with a gift of paper… I’m a designer so paper fascinates me, especially if it has a really nice texture and I can just sit there feeling it all day long. Of course there is also a section for “suggested modern gifts” like clocks and silverware, for people who are not as passionate about paper as I.

Though the list refers to gifts that the couple gives each other, I enjoy the idea of gifting my parents with something on their special day. Most of the time, it’s a home-cooked two or three course meal for them. Back in 2012, my brother and I whipped up a grand feast: Broadbean & Pecorino Salad, Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi (as in, I made the actual pieces of gnocchi myself rather than just buying a packet… fun times!) and some sort of tropical fruit pudding for dessert. This took basically the entire day to prepare but needless to say it was a delicious lunch and they quite liked it, even though the gnocchi tasted a bit doughy.

This year, we didn’t really have an entire day to prepare as we were out during the day. But I managed to scrape together a bit of time and creativity to make individual Caramel, Walnut & Banana Parfaits for dessert!

I essentially just made it up as I went along; Greek yoghurt and cream cheese, sliced banana, cinnamon… and this stuff:

caramel

I bought this earlier in the year whilst on a family holiday in Melbourne. We went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Farms and I picked this up in the gift shop. Even though it had nothing to do with strawberries I decided that it looked quite interesting, and I’d never heard of “Hazelnut Milk Jam” before… but basically it’s like caramel. So I brought it home and kind of just left it there, waiting for a worthy occasion to use it. Of course the likelihood of you owning this exact same jar is probably quite low, so you can probably just use any pre-made caramel or even make your own! Be creative! You can even add more layers like crushed biscuit crumbs, berries, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Once these parfaits have been refrigerated the banana flavor kind of permeates everything else a little (so if you’re planning to make this, hopefully you like bananas). They’re not sickly sweet and I can probably get away with saying they are even a bit on the “healthy” side. You can probably add sugar, honey or extra caramel if you wanted them sweeter.

Banana Caramel Walnut Parfaits

1 ½ cups Greek yoghurt
50g cream cheese
5-7 tablespoons Caramel
2 tbsp walnuts, crushed
½ tsp/ cinnamon
Extra caramel for drizzling on top
Extra walnuts for sprinkling
1 small banana, sliced

Beat the Greek yoghurt and cream cheese together until smooth, then stir in the caramel and cinnamon until combined.

Spoon a small amount of the mixture into four individual tall glasses, then top with a few slices of banana and a sprinkling of crushed walnuts (divide about a tablespoon amongst the glasses). Top with more of the yoghurt mixture, a few more slices of banana and the other tablespoon of walnuts. Finally, top with the remainder of the yoghurt mixture, the extra walnuts and a drizzle of extra caramel.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving and enjoy!

Spelt Vanilla Coffee Cookies with Pistachios & White Choc Chips

CoffeeVanillaCookies1So I had this random dream not too long ago. In the dream, my friend and I were going to see a movie. We took our seats in the cinema, and I told her to wait right there while I bought some snacks. I went down to the snack bar and had a look at my choices.

There was a small packet of popcorn (I don’t know why it came in a packet) that cost $11. This made me angrier than it should have – I was absolutely infuriated with the injustice! Eleven freaking dollars for a tiny packet of popcorn that’s not even hot or buttered! There was also a packet of some generic-brand lollies that was the same size as the popcorn packet, but this was only $3. Even though they looked really gross and unappetizing I bought that one because it was cheaper. And then a whole bunch of other really random and nonsensical things took place because, well, you know how dreams are.

But anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, movie food is expensive! Even in my dreams I cannot escape from the totally outrageous prices. I think it’s because for some reason, most people can’t watch a movie without eating. For me it’s also commonly a case of, “If we eat dinner beforehand we’ll be late for the movie, therefore we will eat popcorn for dinner.” And then you see almost-full buckets of popcorn just left behind in the cinema. What a waste – of both money and popcorn!

Sure, you could just buy snacks at the grocery store beforehand (assuming you have time, you’re not lazy, and it’s still open) but here’s another option that lets you get creative and ensures that your house will smell delicious upon your return – bake a bunch of cookies at home and smuggle them into the cinema!

And that’s the story behind how these cookies came to be. It was one of those winter afternoons where I was longing to fill my house with the scent of freshly-baked cookies. Of course, I wanted to share them rather than have them sitting in my pantry and tempting me all weekend, so I toted them off to the cinema and saved approximately ten thousand dollars on movie snacks.

So now let’s talk about the cookies themselves! I wanted to use up a few little odds and ends in my pantry and make these cookies a bit “different” (in a good way, hopefully). The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla essence as well as some vanilla-infused instant coffee for a double hit of vanilla goodness. The sweetness of the vanilla balanced out the strong coffee flavor which was quite nice. Then it was time to think about mix-ins! I threw in a packet of white choc chips because normal choc-chip cookies are too mainstream (also because I didn’t have any milk/dark choc chips) and half a container of pistachios. Might as well get creative and put them to good use instead of letting them sit around and go to waste!

Also, because I’ve been really into Spelt flour lately, I used that in place of regular flour. I like to think that this made them a little bit healthier, and would justify the fact that a couple of those cookies, along with a handful of popcorn, was essentially my dinner that night. Not that I’d promote cookies as a healthy alternative to dinner on a regular basis. You’ve got to eat your vegetables, people!

Here’s the recipe. If you don’t have vanilla-flavoured instant coffee (I used Moccona brand) then just regular coffee will work just fine.

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Spelt Vanilla Coffee Cookies with Pistachios & White Choc Chips

90g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla-infused instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup spelt flour
½ tsp of salt
¾ cup white choc chips
¼ cup pistachios

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two baking trays.

Beat the butter, vanilla extract, dissolved coffee and sugars with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Sift in the flours and salt and stir in the choc-chips and pistachios.

Drop heaped teaspoons of the dough onto the prepared baking trays, leaving ample space between each cookie (about 2-3cm) so they can spread.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned. Leave to set on the trays for 5-10 minutes or until firm, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Orange Marmalade Brownies and #MealForAMeal

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Lately – over the past week, at least – I’ve been a bit of a Domestic Goddess.

No, I don’t mean I’ve been doing loads of housework or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I do find housework fun at times (wife material right here) but I mean that I’ve been spending a lot of time making tasty things happen in the kitchen! Much of it can be seen on my Instagram – my username is @sarahwielgosz (creative, I know) and any kitchen shenanigans I get up to will be tagged with #sneakypuddingblog … if you happen to try out a recipe from here, it’d be swell if you could use that hashtag too!

On the topic of hashtags, a thought occurred to me whilst I was writing this post. I’ve seen the hashtag #mealforameal floating around on Instagram and Facebook. I’m sure most of you already know about it, but basically when you hashtag your food photos with that tag, a donation is made to OzHarvest that allows them to feed someone in need. Although there will always be starving people out there and one hashtagged photo of your lunch isn’t going to change the world, it’s a small step that we can each take to raise awareness of the issue. Besides , we’re all obviously addicted to snapping photos of our food, so we might as well make something good come out of it!

Anyway, back to the topic of my recent baking kick. The kitchen has been my second home lately, which is a bit weird because technically it’s in my home. I’ve overcome my aversion to kneading dough – I baked raspberry jam-filled scones and even some Damper! I’ve found the time to cook dinner for my family – lamb stew, fish pie, and lots of other delicious winter warmers.

Last Saturday I had some friends over for a board games night, and I really felt the urge to whip up some brownies to share around. I’ve made a variety of brownies before – brownies that are rich and fudgy, and brownies that are lighter and more cake-like. Brownies stuffed with marshmallows, and even completely egg-free, butter-free and sugar-free brownies with chickpeas as the secret ingredient (recipe coming soon!) This time, wanting to try something different, I searched my cupboards for some inspiration and came across a jar of orange marmalade. Chocolate and orange is a tried-and-true combination so I thought, why not?

Essentially, I prepared brownies the normal way but swirled the orange marmalade on top before they went in the oven. If you want to make these, the trick is to not use too much marmalade and to distribute it evenly, otherwise some of the brownies are just going to be drenched in marmalade and be a bit too gooey. Still delicious, but just not something that I want to serve to people in my house for fear that they’ll drip chocolatey-and-marmaladey-goodness all over my couch, floor and Monopoly set.

So, here’s the recipe. Enjoy! And if you do bake these (or anything) don’t forget: #mealforameal!

Orange Marmalade Brownies

125g butter
200g dark chocolate
2 eggs
¾ cup brown sugar
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a brownie/slice tin.

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan, stirring, until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the brown sugar and eggs until creamy, then beat in oil. Sift in flour, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon and add the melted butter/chocolate mixture and the chos chips. Stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, and evenly swirl the marmalade through the mixture. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until cooked (test with a skewer) Allow to cool and firm up in the tin for a while (10-15 minutes) before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream, or refrigerate and enjoy cold. :)

Almost-Vegan, Almost-Healthy Peanut Butter Banana Brownie Cups

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I believe I have most definitely jumped on the “healthy baking” bandwagon.

When I baked these, it had actually been a while since I’d baked a batch of rich, gooey chocolate brownies or a big loaf of sweet, buttery banana bread. (Just FYI, I’ve been very lazy in terms of blogging and I baked these many, many weeks ago)

Not that I’ve totally gone off those things – not at all! I just really enjoy the challenge of taking a bunch of fairly “healthy” ingredients and whipping them up into something that tastes like, well, an “actual dessert”.

So where did this healthy-baking kick begin?

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, in the final days of Autumn, and there was a slight chill in the air – a precursor to the delightfully freezing winter days to come. I was at my computer, doing something really important like looking for cute dresses on Modcloth, when suddenly, a realization hit me. “I need to bake.”

Only, there was one little dilemma – no eggs! Sure I could have gone shopping and bought some, but who could honestly be bothered? The lazy-girl way seemed much more appealing – bake something with no eggs. In fact, I thought; while I was at it, why not bake something with no butter as well? And use Spelt flour instead of regular flour? Why not make something a bit healthy, something I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about eating ten of… not that I did… heh heh heh… *shifty eyes*

I scoured the Internet for a recipe, and eventually came across this one. I pretty much had all the ingredients for it, and actually had some dark chocolate and some bananas that I needed to use up. Perfect!

I adapted the recipe a little, though. For example, instead of white flour, I used Spelt flour; and I used almond milk instead of soy milk because that’s all I had… and I also added a bit more. Finally, instead of cooking them in a brownie pan, I made them in cupcake cases so I wouldn’t have to grease the pan and slice them after. Told you I was lazy. Though actually, cupcake cases are a bit more convenient as well… it’s like each brownie comes with its own personal crumb-catcher!

These little guys taste sensational. Seriously, you wouldn’t think they were meant to be healthy. That combination of peanut butter, dark chocolate and banana… heck yes! I seriously could not get enough. They were still good a few days after they’ve been baked as well. So moist. The only thing I would change would be perhaps finding something else to replace the cup of sugar in the recipe… like something that’s not sugar, for instance (Hence why they are “Almost Healthy”). And maybe throwing in some mix-ins like choc-chips or dates, ‘cause that’s always an absolute blast.

Also, I call them “Almost Vegan” because of the chocolate I used… if you have some sort of vegan cooking chocolate though, you can use that.

Here’s the recipe. Now get your hot little self into the kitchen, bake up a batch of these bad boys, and enjoy!

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Banana Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

1 cup Spelt flour
½ cup baking soda
½ cup baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 mashed, ripe banana
½ cup peanut butter
30g dark cooking chocolate, melted
1/3 cup almond milk

 Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius, and fill a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Sift flour, baking soda and powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine banana, sugar, peanut butter and melted chocolate. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, adding the almond milk as you do so.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.