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:

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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!

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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.

Choc Chip Nutella Cookies

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Nutella. Who doesn’t love Nutella? It’s chocolatey, smooth and sweet. Use it for dipping strawberries, spreading on toast… or baking cookies!

I made these a while back, when I had a massive jar of Nutella sitting in my cupboard that wanted to be used up. I generally use Nutella only for baking (and occasionally to take on picnics to dip fruit in… try it! Great picnic dessert) as it’s not really an “everyday” food for me. It’s a little too sweet to spread on toast for breakfast, in my opinion. But it does make some absolutely delectable brownies, cakes and cookies.

When I made these Nutella cookies, it was a fairly cold Sunday afternoon and I was at home working on assignments, but I had a little spare time and I decided I wanted to bake – I didn’t want to spend the entire afternoon doing so, though! Just a quick baking-break to fill the house with the delicious smell of fresh cookies was all I needed. So I decided to whip up some super easy Nutella cookies that use only a few ingredients.

The cookies are absolutely amazing, sweet but not too sweet since no extra sugar is added, only that which is already in the Nutella. Obviously they taste best when enjoyed fresh from the oven, while still warm and soft, but I found that even after being kept in the fridge for a couple of days they were just as good. If you’re a fan of Nutella (of course you are! I shouldn’t have to say “if”)  then get yourself to the kitchen, pull out that giant jar of Nutella you’ve been hiding (don’t lie, I know you have one, stashed away in a secret spot just for you, so you can indulge in a spoonful or two whenever you feel lonely) and get baking!

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Nutella Choc-Chip Cookies

1 cup Nutella
½ cup plain flour
1 egg
1/3 cup milk choc chips
1 tsp vanilla essence
a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a large baking tray.
Place Nutella, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Sift in flour and salt, and stir until combined. Stir in the choc chips.
Roll tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepared tray, flattening slightly. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.
When taken out of the oven they should look fairly cooked / slightly cracked; they will still be soft, so let them cool on the tray until set, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely (if you don’t eat them all while still warm, that is!)