Monday, April 27, 2015

Blueberry English Muffins (SRC)

Blueberry English Muffins basket ©

Hooray it's Secret Recipe Club time! For those who don't know SRC is a group of dedicated cooks and bakers who are assigned a blog in secret each month from which to choose a recipe and blog about on the same day.

This month I was delighted to be assigned Karen's Kitchen Stories and I had a wonderful time this month on Karen's blog. Karen is a little bit obsessed with bread and has baked some amazing things which had my mouth watering like Braided Lemon Bread with Blackberries, Pain au Chocolat and Strawberry Danish. Yum! She claims to not be an expert at either baking or photography but her recipe index and stunning photos beg to differ!

I also love baking bread (although I am nowhere near as accomplished as Karen) so I decided to choose a bread for SRC and settled on her Cherry English Muffins. Mine ended up being blueberry muffins though as I couldn't find any dried cherries.

Making English muffins has been on my to-do list for years but I've never quite gotten around to it. Part of the reason is that English muffin/crumpet rings just aren't available here in Australia. I know because I've looked in every kitchenware shop I've come across and searched online to no avail. Actually that's not quite true as I found a set of 4 on Ebay that would ship from the US for more than $30! Um, no.

I decided that I wasn't going to let that defeat me and came up with an alternative - I used the rings from my mini spring-form pans instead! I could only fit 3 rings in the pan at a time and the 3 batches each took about 20 minutes to cook so this is definitely not a quick bake, but it does make a great weekend project and we got to enjoy some delicious muffins for afternoon tea. I got 9 largish muffins from this mixture and between the 5 of us they lasted all of, oh, 15 minutes. Seriously!

There's definitely no comparison between these and the shop-bought ones - they were sensational! They may have taken ages to make but it was totally worth it. I'm really pleased I persevered and finally made them. Thanks to Karen for the inspiration!

Blueberry English Muffins ©

Blueberry English Muffins
Very slightly adapted from Karen's Kitchen Stories

2 tsp rice malt syrup (or honey)
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk (I used homemade almond and coconut milk)
340 g (12 oz) bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/4 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
3 tbs warm water
Corn meal or semolina flour for dusting

Mix the syrup, oil, milk, flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl with a large spoon. Mix together for a few minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 4 days.

Remove the bowl from the fridge about 2 hours before you will be making the muffins.

When you are ready to make the muffins, mix the baking soda with the water. Sprinkle the cherries over the dough and then gently fold the water, soda and cherries into the dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a heavy based frying pan or griddle over medium heat (150 C / 300 F for an electric griddle).

Spray the griddle, muffin rings and a 1/3 cup measure with spray oil and then dust the inside of the rings with cornmeal. Pour 1/3 cup of dough into each ring (no more than 2/3 full). Sprinkle cornmeal over each muffin once you've filled all of the rings.

Cook for at least 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and then flip the muffins in their rings and cook for another 12 minutes or until you are sure they are cooked through and springy to the touch.

Cool the muffins in their rings for 2 minutes, then remove the rings and cool them on their edges for at least 30 minutes to prevent shrinking.

Thanks Karen! I really enjoyed my month visiting Karen's Kitchen Stories

Friday, April 24, 2015

Marinated Chicken Burger with Fountain Good Choice Sauces

I gave up sugar in September 2012 after reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie and then stumbling across Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar program. While I don't remember the exact date I do remember jumping up and clearing out the pantry and being horrified at the amount of sugar that was hiding in our everyday products. I thought we were eating quite healthily but the bags of stuff I threw away said otherwise!

One group of products that didn't survive the great cull of 2012 were condiments. I knew that some sauces were quite sweet but I was astounded that our tomato sauce was over 25% sugar, the BBQ sauce around 40% and the sweet chilli contained a whopping 60%! I know you don't use much at a time but if I was going to be eating something so packed with sugar I would have rather had a chocolate bar or bowl of ice cream!

While I make most things from scratch these days, especially since buying our Thermomix, I have never really made any sauces.  I just didn't think I would be able to make a version that the kids would really like and I didn't think we would get through a whole batch before it went off.

So I was delighted to receive a pack of Fountain Good Choice Sauces to review thanks to Product Talk by Nuffnang. All the sauces are free of both sugar and gluten and the pack included a squeezy bottle each of tomato and barbeque sauces, and glass bottles of sweet chilli, hot chilli and soy sauces. Instead of sugar the sauces are all sweetened with Natvia which is an alternative sweetener using stevia.

Fountain Good Choice Sauces Review

We had a BBQ at Oscar's birthday party last weekend and I knew this would be perhaps the greatest test for the Good Choice Tomato and BBQ sauces. Would the kids be able to taste the difference? Would the adults notice the labels on the bottles? Well, I can say that both sauces got the thumbs up from all our big and little taste testers, every sausage got eaten and there was not a single complaint!!

As for the other sauces I decided the best test for them would be a burger. I mean, it's not a real burger unless there's sauce dripping from your chin! I came up with this simple marinated chicken burger and it was SO good: lick-your-fingers-to-savour-every-last-bit good. I was surprised how spicy the sweet chilli sauce was (in a good way) but the hot one was too hot for me. In fact you can tell just how much we like the sweet chilli sauce as by the time I got around to taking the photo of the bottles it was half empty!

Marinated Chicken Burger with Fountain Good Choice Sauces ©

Marinated Chicken Burger

For the marinade:
6 chicken thigh fillets
2 tbs Fountain Good Choice Soy Sauce
1 tbs Fountain Good Choice Tomato Sauce
1 tbs Fountain Good Choice Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 crushed clove of garlic

Place all ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Massage the sauces into the chicken pieces until well covered and then leave to marinate in the fridge for at least a 2 hours. The chicken pieces can be fried, grilled or barbecued until cooked through. I baked mine at 200 degrees C for approximately 20 minutes (make sure you check they are cooked through). Cover the chicken pieces with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the burgers.

For the burger:
6 hamburger buns
1 avocado
2 tomatoes
2 grated carrots
Fountain Good Choice Sweet Chilli or Hot Chilli Sauce

Assemble your burgers with your favourite salad ingredients, place a piece of chicken on top and drizzle over some sweet or hot chilli sauce to taste.

So. Would I buy these for myself? Yes but I'd still use them in moderation. There's not too much research into stevia yet and I've gotten my kids out of the habit of smothering everything in sauce so for us these sauces would still be a 'sometimes' food.  That being said I do love that this range is available and for anyone who wants to switch to something healthier but is worried the kids would reject it, try these!  The full range is available at Woolworths both in store and online.

*This is NOT a sponsored post. I received product for review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Oscar turns 6!

My big boy turned 6 yesterday. I can hardly believe it! There has been much excitement over the past month or so as we planned his party, wrote invitations and decided on a birthday cake. His party was held at a local park on Saturday afternoon and despite the threatening weather it turned into a wonderful day. The party went off without a hitch and we had 14 kids plus siblings and parents. We had John from Crazy Party come to run some crazy games for the kids which was lots of fun followed by some food and of course birthday cake. It really was one of the easiest parties we've had. I was a little concerned about how the lack of junk food would go with the kids but no one seemed to notice (or at least they didn't say anything to me!).

Rainbow fruit skewers ©
Rainbow fruit skewers

Nut free Bliss Balls ©
Apricot Balls and Nut-free Chocolate Bliss Balls

The food was really simple - some rainbow fruit skewers with watermelon, pineapple, kiwi fruit, green and red grapes and blueberries, a huge bowl of popcorn, some plain salted chips, apricot balls and nut free chocolate bliss balls, sausages, bread and sauce. We had bottles of water for the kids for after their activities and some mineral water for the adults.

Smarties Cake ©
Smarties Cake!
The one exception to our no-junk party was the cake. I made a double layer fudgy chocolate cake covered with vanilla buttercream icing and smarties. It went down a treat and got lots of ooohs and aaaahs at the table. I thought it would be big enough to feed everyone but my first few slices were too big so we got down to some thin slivers of cake at the end and every crumb got eaten. I guess that's a sign of a good cake!

We also didn't have a traditional party bag because I'm really not a fan of the cheap plastic stuff and all the lollies that usually go with it. Instead we had a lucky dip and as each child was leaving they got to choose something. I found lots of great stuff like giant playing cards, stamp sets, packs of textas and crayons, figurines and sticker packs all for $2. The kids loved being able to choose and unwrap something to take home and I didn't hear any complaints. 

Then yesterday was Oscar's actual birthday and we had family around for an afternoon tea of birthday cake and dinner of lasagna, salad, garlic bread and dairy-free chocolate ice cream (all chosen by the birthday boy).

Oscar was very keen on having a number 6 cake but he was happy to leave the decorations to me. I decided that given how much he loves school, writing and reading that he would like a school themed cake and I was right! I made a simple butter cake with vanilla butter cream icing and decorated with some fondant shapes. Cake decorating is really not my strong point and while they do look amateurish I was pretty happy with how they turned out. I made a book, open notepad, ruler, (wonky) pencil and a little apple. We even found some candles that looked like crayons! Oscar loved his cake and everyone had seconds.

School theme number 6 cake ©

All in all it was a brilliant birthday for him, he was surrounded by friends and family, ate some great food and received lots of great presents. Can't ask for more than that!

Friday, April 17, 2015

2 ingredient Apricot Balls

2 Ingredient Apricot Balls ©

We are coming to the end of 2 weeks school holidays here and it has been action packed! Between sleepovers, trips to the park and the movies and play dates with friends there hasn't been too much down time. And to top it all off we have Oscar's 6th birthday party tomorrow! I will write a separate post about the party and all the happenings on his actual birthday but for now I thought I would share one of the recipes I am making for the party.

We are expecting 14 kids plus parents and sibilings (maybe 40 people all up) but are keeping the food very simple. I remember loving apricot slice as a kid but I do remember it being very sweet and I recently checked the packet and yep, LOADS of sugar!

Luckily The Organised Housewife came to the rescue with these simple apricot balls which have just 2 ingredients and take all of a minute to whip up. I found they had to be squeezed into balls rather than rolled but they held together beautifully and were certainly firm enough even without being refrigerated.

My kids loved these and I loved how simple they were. Perhaps the easiest party food ever!

2 Ingredient Apricot Balls
Recipe from The Organised Housewife

200g dried apricots
200g desiccated coconut

Place apricots and coconut into the food processor and blitz until well combined and sticky, about 90 seconds. In the thermomix process on speed 10 40-50 seconds.

Squeeze into balls and store in the fridge.

Makes approx 18 (depending how big or small you make them!)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chocolate Custard Tart and our Easter wrap-up

Chocolate Custard Tart - dairy free, gluten free, fructose free - no refined sugar - from

Every Easter for the past few years my goal for our family has been to cut back on commercial chocolate, indulge in a healthier way and make some great family memories instead of gorging on sugar.

In our house the Easter Bunny always brings winter pyjamas, a CD and 1 chocolate (this year it was a Lindt dark chocolate bunny). We do an Easter egg hunt using small plastic eggs that each have one of those little fluffy chickens inside and then once they've found them all they get a prize (this year they each got a pre-printed canvas set with paint and brushes which kept them busy for a few hours). In spite of our efforts to cut back on junk both the big boys still had stomach aches at the end of the day so we had a bit of a chat about how junk food can taste good but still make your body feel yucky.

We had a delicious lunch of roast lamb and vegetables and I made this fabulous chocolate custard tart for dessert. I found it on Alexx Stuart's blog and if you haven't heard of her then head on over and check out her amazing real food recipes and low-tox living ideas.

This tart is creamy, chocolatey and indulgent but won't leave you with a stomach ache! It's also easily grain and dairy free and totally decadent. I had all the ingredients in the pantry already except the chocolate so it was really easy to whip up and also very easy to eat!

I've just included the Thermomix instructions but Alexx's recipe includes non-Thermomix instructions as well so you can check out the link below.

This really was one of the best things I've made in a long time and we will definitely be making again for another special occasion!

Chocolate Custard Tart
Recipe from Alexx Stuart

1 1/4 cups (120g) tapioca flour
1/3 cup (30g) almond meal
2 heaped tbs (20g) coconut flour
1/2 cup (45g) buckwheat or sorghum flour
160g butter (or solid coconut oil to be dairy free) (VERY COLD)
1 egg
2ts vanilla extract
2 tbs rice malt syrup (or honey/maple syrup to be grain free)
2 tbs raw cacao

400ml coconut cream (I used Ayam brand)
100ml water
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tbs arrowroot flour
1 tbs gelatin
5 tbs rice malt syrup (or honey/maple syrup to be grain free)
1 ts vanilla extract
120g very dark chocolate (Lindt 85% is good, grated or finely chopped

To make the base:
Place the flours and cacao into the thermomix (3 secs/ sp 5) to aerate and combine. Add the chilled fat and pulse until it has disappeared (TMX 3 secs / sp 6). Whisk together the egg, vanilla and syrup and slowly add 2/3 of this mixture to the dry ingredients. If it clumps you don't need to add anymore, or you may need the whole lot.

Use a spatula to remove the dough (it will be very wet) onto plastic wrap, shape into a disc and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F fan-forced or 200C/400F non-fan-forced. Grease a 23 cm loose-bottomed tart pan with coconut oil and dust with a little extra sorghum flour. Set aside.

Dust the dough with some extra flour and then roll it out in between 2 sheets of baking paper. Remove the top sheet, flip the dough and lay it over the prepared tart pan. Remove the second sheet of baking paper and press the pastry into the tin. It will be soft, sticky and a little temperamental. If it breaks or there are holes just patch them with a blob of dough. Trim the excess and then blind bake (covered with baking paper and filled with beans or rice) for 10 minutes. Remove the baking rice and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until it is a deep brown (not black!).

Set aside. Start the filling as soon as you remove the the blind baking rice/beans to get the timing right - hot filling needs to go into a hot pastry shell, cold filling into a cold pastry shell (that tip is courtesy of the great Maggie Beer).

To make the filling:
Place all ingredients except the gelatin and chocolate into the thermomix and cook for 7 mins/90 deg/sp 4. Add the gelatin at the end for 5 secs / sp 6. Then the chocolate for 20 secs / sp 7.

Pour into the baked pastry shell and chill until firm. Decorate with grated chocolate and serve with berries. Serves 10.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Coconut Bread

Coconut Bread ©

Move over banana bread there's a new kid in town!

When this coconut bread popped up in my facebook feed from Smitten Kitchen I had no idea it would lead me back to a blog I used to read religiously (The Wednesday Chef) and from there to renowned Aussie chef Bill Granger who is famous for this recipe.

We've been on a real coconut kick lately and eat it in some form every day be it coconut milk on my muesli, coconut flour in some muffins or coconut oil in a stir fry.  This bread is a celebration of coconut and while I knew my husband wouldn't be particularly keen, the rest of us would love it and I was not disappointed.

I did make a few substitutions (of course) but I think I have stayed pretty true to the original recipe. It makes a huge (10 x 5) loaf which is pretty tasty warm from the oven but is absolutely sensational toasted and spread with lots of butter and a drizzle of syrup.

I was intending on serving a slice of this topped with homemade mango sorbet for my mother in law's birthday but in the end we had a piece of this for afternoon tea and saved the mango sorbet for a few days later when we weren't quite so full from our dinner of takeaway Chinese food.

It is the perfect breakfast or brunch bread and is really substantial without being too heavy. I loved it.

If you like coconut and are getting sick of the same old banana bread, this is the one for you!

I chose to use the recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly just so I wouldn't have to do any of the conversions.

Coconut Bread
Slightly adapted from AWW

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
2 ts baking powder
2 ts cinnamon
150g shredded coconut (I used coconut flakes which I blitzed in the food processor to make finer)
300ml milk (I used almond and coconut milk)
2 eggs
1 ts vanilla
1/2 cup rice malt syrup
75 g melted butter
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a large loaf tin (mine was 10 x 5 even though the original said 8.5 x 5) and set aside.

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir together. Make a well in the middle.

Place the liquid ingredients into a large and whisk well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix until only just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before turning out of the tin. Serve warm or slice and freeze to be thawed and toasted later.

Serves 10-12.

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