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.

Date, Cocoa & Chia Balls

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Since I’m going to be talking about one of my “healthy” recipes in this post, I was going to begin this post with a statement like, “I’m a bit of a health-freak” or something along those lines.

But that would be a lie, at least most of the time.

I ain’t no gym junkie. I do go to the gym, but I mostly spend the time huffing and puffing away on whatever machines I feel like that day whilst daydreaming about all the nice clothes I can wear if I keep up my exercise routine ‘til bikini season rolls around, and at the end I’m like, “Yes! I burned 400 calories! That’s like, a whole slice of cake! Go me!” Then I go home and eat a whole slice of cake. No, I’m joking, that’s just gross.

I do like to eat healthily though – I may not live solely on kale smoothies and quinoa, but I like making healthy choices when it comes to what I shove in my cake-hole (or quinoa-hole… that sounds kinda weird, though, I don’t think I’ll use that saying anymore)

But cooking and baking is my weakness. I like to make sweets to share with my friends and family – cake, cookies, that kind of thing – but often what I bake ends up on my own plate too, negating the whole “being a health-freak” thing. Yet I love to bake, and I love to bake often. Dilemma.

Well, it’s not necessarily the biggest dilemma ever… because lately I’ve developed a fondness for cooking/baking/assembling guilt-free indulgences.

I decided to experiment a little in the kitchen the other day, and came up with a recipe for these delicious little balls of fun! Date, Cocoa and Chia Balls. No butter, no sugar, but lots of deliciousness!

The recipe is still kind of in the beta stage. Basically, I chopped up a bunch of dates and chucked them in the blender with the other ingredients, but I found that nothing was happening to the dates except for being shaken madly about in the blender… so I added more water to help them blend. It worked, but it made the mixture quite soft. They were fine once I rolled them into balls, coated them in Chia Seeds and put them in the fridge overnight, though I would have liked them a bit more chewy. I honestly didn’t regulate the amount of extra water I poured in there, but I guesstimated 1/3 cup when I wrote down the recipe… maybe a bit less would be better?

Why not try the recipe out yourself and have a bit of a play with the proportions? It’s a no-bake recipe, so you needn’t worry about the whole “Baking is a science and you need the exact measurements of everything” deal. You could also roll them in something else like desiccated coconut or cocoa powder if you’re not fond of using Chia Seeds.

Also, a word of warning: These taste a bit like brownies. Brownies are addictive. Therefore, you might possibly find these addictive. But they’re healthy, so it’s okay, right? Right?

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Date, Cocoa and Chia Seeds Balls

1 ½ cups dried dates, pitted, chopped
6 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee (I used Moccona Hazelnut infusions, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy) dissolved in about 1/3 cup of hot water (if you’re not a coffee fan, just use the water on its own)
A pinch of salt
Approx. half a cup Chia Seeds

Place all the ingredients except the Chia Seeds in a blender or food processor. Blend to a fairly smooth paste, adding extra water if necessary.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls (it might be a bit sticky… I recommend rinsing your hands before doing this, it makes it easier to handle) and roll in the Chia Seeds to coat. Place the completed balls onto a lined baking tray, and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Nutella Swirl Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Cream Cheese frosting

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let me tell you, these past few weeks have been a little on the crazy side, but now that all the madness is over, I can finally say that I’m no longer a student!

Yes, that’s right, I’ve finished my graphic design course at last. I’m in the “real world” now and to be honest it’s a bit terrifying. Like, it’s not just my “holiday” break right now, a time that I can spend lazing about, watching movies, playing The Sims ‘til 3am and baking cookies all day long. This is my life now. I have to apply for jobs and be a grown-up.

So, I went on a job-applying-spree the other night, and had my first interview on Wednesday! It was for an unpaid internship, but experience is experience. I threw on my brand new pair of what I call my “job interview shoes” (sensible, black high-heels, which are actually more reminiscent of an old lady’s Church shoes than a pair of sexy businesswoman shoes, but shhh, no-one has to know that), a dress I’d bought the other week, and a smart cropped blazer. I felt like a savvy, sophisticated businesswomen, at least until the shoes started painfully digging in to the back of my ankles (ouch ouch OUCH) as I limped my way back home… then I felt more like a child playing dress-up. :P

That’s been my life lately, I just thought I’d give a bit of an update. I don’t know, do you guys enjoy reading blogs where the writer gives little insights into what’s happening in their personal lives (nothing too personal, don’t worry, I’ll keep my shower-stories and other private things to myself), or have you been skimming through these paragraphs whilst thinking, “Gosh darn it, get yourself back in the kitchen, woman! I want me some cakes, just get to the recipe already!”

Well if you identify as the latter option, don’t you fret! Cakes are coming. I’ve got a few different recipes up my sleeves; different things I’ve baked in the past few weeks. I baked Hot Cross Buns for the first time ever, then I baked them again, for the second time ever! It was my first time baking with yeast… exciting, no? That’s going to be the next post, though. Today I’m going to share something sweet and Nutella-packed, as a delicious apology for the neglect I’ve been showing you, my dear readers, lately (in fact, maybe it’s make up for all the times I’ve promised to post more and then neglected to do so… there is a lot of Nutella in these after all).

So I present to you…

Nutella-swirled vanilla cupcakes…

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…with Nutella and Cream Cheese frosting!

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Didn’t end up taking a proper shot with my SLR camera, so I hope you’re all okay with Instagram pics! If you’d like to follow me on Instagram my username is sarahwielgosz but be warned that I don’t only post baking pics, much of it will be selfies, my dogs, books I’m reading, cups of tea and just general weirdness… I’ll try to tag my food/baking pics with #sneakypudding so you can just search those up if you need a Sneaky Pudding fix. ;)

So here’s the story. Easter was a couple of weeks ago, remember? If you chowed down on enough chocolate and ended up in a sugar coma, your memory might be a little fuzzy, but I assure you, Easter most definitely happened. Anyway, a bit before Easter, we got a packet of these candy-coated Easter eggs so I could back something Easter-themed… but as I ended up baking a batch of Hot Cross Buns on Easter Sunday itself, I figured I should use up the candy eggs by the Sunday after, because it feels weird to eat Easter stuff when more than a week’s gone by since the special day. We also had a jar of Nutella in the cupboard, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t eat Nutella with normal meals or snacks; it’s most definitely a treat/indulgence.

I decided to use up both in the one go, by whipping up these delectable cupcakes! The icing, by the way, is amazing. Way too amazing. There was some left over and for the next few days, I would occasionally indulge in a sneaky teaspoon or two as “dessert”. Hey, I was stressed out with assignments, okay? Chocolate helps. Oh, and fun fact, it was my first time successfully using a piping bag! Go me!

Here’s the recipe. Left-over candy-coated Easter eggs optional, of course. Personally, I think topping each one with a strawberry would be a good decision too. Whatever floats your boat!

Nutella-Swirled Cupcakes

80g butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons of Nutella, approximately

ICING:

1 cup Nutella
225g Cream Cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar, approximately

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

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the egg and vanilla and stir until well-combined.
Sift in the flour and salt, and add the milk. Stir until well-combined (don’t overmix!)

Evenly distribute the batter amongst the cupcake liners. Using a knife or skewer, swirl small amounts of Nutella into each cupcake to create a marbled effect. (if your Nutella is a bit solid, you might want to microwave it for a little to melt it, just to make this task easier).

Bake for 18-20 minutes in the oven, until the cupcakes are well-risen and spring back lightly when touched. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.

For the icing, combine the Nutella and Cream Cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and well-combined. Add the icing sugar and continue to mix until combined (you can adjust the amount of icing sugar if you’d like, adding less or more depending on how sweet/thick you want the icing… I find the icing sweet enough without it, but added some to make it thicker and easier to work with).

If the icing is a bit runny, place it in the fridge for about half an hour; this will make it easier to decorate the cupcakes.

When you’re happy with the consistency of the icing, use either a piping bag or a knife to spread it on the cooled cupcakes. Top them with whatever decorative element you wish (or leave them plain if that’s your thing) and enjoy!

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.