Friday, 30 March 2012

Baked Banana Oatmeal

I love bananas.

Not only are they amazing when they are perfectly ripe, but they are so versatile. When they are browning you can make this recipe, you can make banana bread, banana cake, you can caramelise them, you can put them in brownies, they are great in fruit salads. 

I love my mother's banana cake for an easy treat. I make low fat banana bread when I want a guilt-free treat. And I love caramelised bananas and fresh strawberries topped with cinammon and honey on fresh ricotta and homemade bread (like my Irish Soda Bread). But this breakfast - its super easy, you can shower and pack your lunch in the time it takes to bake, and it is perfect on cold mornings. 

I can't believe March is almost over. The mornings and nights are starting to get cool; the wind is chilly and I can't wear thongs every day anymore. I'm still adapting to this weather - I'm used to consistently hot weather, with a few cold weeks in winter, and so living in a place which is actually seasonal (if only slightly) is weird. That also means it is almost Easter. My roomates and I are celebrating this Sunday - I can't wait. I have bought them some really cute presents, and I am planning on spending most of the day in the kitchen to get everything just right.

I will definitely need to do some cardio next week after this. I've been so lazy this week - I've just done pilates and then nothing for the past two days because I got so busy. I need to make more time in my life to exercise - I am really missing it. And my abs are killing me - I need to take a break from core work. 

So this breakfast - amazing on cold mornings, and I do love it after a morning run. 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: banana, oats
Recipe adapted from: Chocolate Covered Katie
Occasion: Breakfast, but I won’t tell if you eat it for dinner
Menu Options: This recipe is so basic, you could simply add whatever you like. I like adding a tablespoon of peanut butter and a handful of dark chocolate chips before baking. The chocolate melts slightly in your mouth and the peanut butter adds an extra kick. Or you could add the peanut butter afterwards – I drizzle mine with honey because I have a killer sweet tooth, but I have also added peanut butter, and it was delicious. You could add other fruits, either after the oatmeal is baked or before, instead of banana. Feel free to add cinnamon, vanilla or other spices (I sometimes add ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp vanilla). I also sprinkle the top of mine with coconut before baking. This is just a simple recipe to which you can add whatever you feel like.

Serves 1 - also, while the calorie count may seem like a lot, it is incredibly filling - you won't need to eat for hours! 

What you need:
-          1 banana
-          ½ cup oats (this is based off the recommended serving – ½ cup oats for one serve, so simply add another ½ cup if you are making this for others)
-          3 tbsp milk – I use low fat
-          3 tbsp honey

What to do:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Mash the banana in a bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined – it will just look like a bowl of chunky oatmeal.

Grease a ramekin (mine is 10 cm in diameter) well – I use coconut oil as it adds a sweet flavour to the outside of the oatmeal. Place the mix into the ramekin and pat down with a spoon so the mixture forms perfectly around the ramekin.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. You can eat it straight from the ramekin, but if you’re serving this at brunch, which is definitely something you should consider, given it so easy yet so delicious, flip the baked oatmeal onto a plate. Drizzle with any toppings you chose – I often use honey, or peanut butter, or LSA, or all of them.

In my opinion, the best way to spice this up to serve for brunch, would be to add chocolate chips prior to baking, sprinkle each oatmeal mix when in the ramekin with coconut, then serve sprinkled with LSA, more honey or maple syrup and peanut butter.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Chocolate Nests

Wow, look at the Nutella oozing from the chocolate nest. You just can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter.

 My parents never lied to me much when I was a child. Just about things like Santa and the Easter Bunny. I remember I burst into tears the day they told me Santa wasn't real. Granted, it was entirely my fault, as for several weeks I had been pestering them with 'he isn't real, is he?' and they would keep saying he was. Finally my Mum snapped and told me he wasn't real. It was very upsetting.

Now I have two younger cousins who very much believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. I never really had cousins growing up, just my brother, so I kind of consider these girls to be my neices, not cousins. When I asked the older one, who is five, what was happenning in two weeks, she replied with 'CHOCOLATE!'. I put this in caps because she was very excited by the prospect.

It makes me sad that I won't be home this year to see them all excited about the Easter Bunny visiting. I don't think I was ever really that excited about Easter - we always celebrated it on Good Friday as my parents worked on the Sunday, so I suppose it didn't feel quite as real as when Santa came. I was a Christmas child. Still am.

So, I got thinking about Easter and decided to throw myself and my roomates a grown up Easter because I won't get to go home this year (they are - I'm all alone over the actual break). We're celebrating early, so the Easter-themed snacks have begun.

I always thought this recipe was my Mum's, but no, she got it off the back of the noodle packet used in the recipe. So the credit for this amazingly simple and tasty recipe goes to Chang, the company.

Who doesn't love a no-bake, peanut butter and chocolate treat that kids and adults alike will love. I always loved it when Mum made these and it was one of the first things she taught me to make by myself. Probably because there was no way I could injure myself.

And now, my roomates love them to. They were originally called 'Chocolate Spiders' but my roomate freaked out when she heard the name and refused to try them, so I am calling them 'nests' for her.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: chocolate, peanut butter, noodles – hey, that is all you need.
Recipe from: the back of Chang’s Original Fried Noodles
Occasion: Snack, Easter
Menu Options: This recipe is for the simple chocolate nests. I love sprinkling coconut over the top for a bit of spice, or making half a nest, putting a dollop of Nutella in the middle and placing the other half of the nest on top. You could replace the Nutella with peanut butter. You could add your favourite dried fruit to the mix. The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination.

Nutrition wise they're not brilliant - but seriously, it's peanut butter and chocolate. Who cares about nutrition.

What you need:
-          2 tbsp peanut butter – crunchy or smooth, but crunchy is definitely the best option for these
-          200 g chocolate (I used bittersweet chocolate melts) – your choice whether it is dark or milk chocolate – I made a mix
-          1 packet of Chang’s Original Fried Noodles (if you are Australian) or 100g of any kind of fried noodles

What to do:

Melt the peanut butter and chocolate together in a large bowl until there is a smooth dark brown paste. If using crunchy peanut butter, the mix will not be smooth, but will have the usual crunch.

Add the noodles and make sure they are coated with the chocolate mix and you can’t see the noodles. Here is where you can add anything you like to the mix – chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, Nutella, peanut butter, etc.

Scoop the noodles up into balls and place on a baking tray. You can make as many or few as you want – the size of the nests depends on you. I usually make around 12 – 15.

Refrigerate until the nests are set. For me, this was approximately 40 minutes, but you can eat them before the time is up.

Serve with easter eggs for a cute treat for the kids pre-Easter lunch. Of course, the adults may just eat them all anyway. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Goats Cheese and Apple Pie

So, the Hunger Games.

 If you haven't heard of it, then you haven't been paying proper attention.

I admit I jumped on the bandwagon rather late - I actually decided to read it, in spite of my mother and one of my friends telling me for months to, after the movie trailer was released. As I love Josh Hutcherson, I decided to read it. And I am so glad I did. It is honestly one of the best books I have ever read. Admittedly, I have an obsessive personality, and this may be why I develop an obsession with most books I read, but if you haven't read it, you should.

I like Finnick, Joanna and Peeta. They all appeal to me - Finnick's undying loyalty and bravery, Joanna's strong-minded-ness and determination and Peeta's positivity and kindness. These are the characters kids should look up to - like Harry, Ron and Hermione. If I ever write something that gets published, my goal is to have characters that children should admire as well as hate.

I also got lucky enough to see the movie at Australia's midnight premiere. Which was awesome. When we got there they gave us each a District to represent, with little tags with the districts symbol on. They also had red berry lollies in a cup labelled 'nightlock'. They had an archery competition, a mini Hunger Games based on trivia from the books, and they took like a million pictures of everyone.

Now this pie comes straight from the book. It reminds me of Peeta - sweet and uncomplicated. The recipe is uncomplicated and the pie is amazing. If you don't like goats cheese, just try it. It may change your mind. I prefer to eat this cold, absolutely covered in honey and with cold yoghurt. It is still lovely warm, just very cheesy. So take note of this - if you don't like the cheesy taste, lessen the amount of cheese or maybe drizzle honey of the top of the pie before baking. Or you could serve it warm covered in honey. And with yoghurt. Even when it is cold, and it is not as cheesy, I still love it with honey. I have a slight obsession.

The recipe is very long, but that is because I went into an insane amount of detail in the recipe because this pie is so easy, and in all honesty, one of the best things I have made this year.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $$
Main Ingredients: goats cheese, apple
Inspired by: Scarletta Bakes and Sugar Laws (I mixed both recipes together to create this one)
Occasion: Breakfast, Snack, Dessert
Menu Options: This is lovely hot, but even better cold. I would serve it hot or cold completely covered with honey (maybe even honey warmed over the stove) and with low fat greek yoghurt. I found I would was eating it cold covered in the sweetest honey I have (tea tree) and dipping it in greek yoghurt (my greek yoghurt is a lot sweeter than most, so maybe a vanilla/honey flavoured yoghurt would be nice too).

Serves 2. I would say 2 could easily eat this pie for dessert, but if you want to serve 4 simply double the recipe and I would create two small pies, much cuter, as opposed to one big one. Hell, even 4 people could eat this happily - I ate it over 4 days, about a quarter at a time, but my portions weren't massive. The nutritional analysis is based on serving 4.

What you will need:
For the crust:
3/4 cup self raising/all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Between 1/4-1/2 cup butter, cubed (I would say use a 1/2 cup measuring cup, and fill it three quarters of the way)
3 tbsp white sugar
1.5 tbsp cold water

Of course, you could use shortcrust or puff pastry if you want, but the dough is absolutely beautiful. It does require refrigeration, and I simply left mine overnight as I ran out of time the day I made the dough. It really made the dough very easy to work with, so I would suggest leaving it overnight.

For the filling:
2 apples – your choice of apple. I used red delicious purely because that was what I had and they are my favourite type, but I think most types would work.
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp honey
1/3 cup goats cheese – preferably the spreadable type, but if yours is a little chunky like mine was, it doesn’t matter.

What to do:
To make the crust:
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and white sugar. Stir thoroughly.

Using a mixer (I used a handheld one and found it was easy to make the dough, but I’m sure a stand mixer would be easier) add the butter slowly to the bowl, mixing until the mixture is breadcrumb-like. It should be fine and course. Think thick breadcrumbs.

Add the water and mix further until a dough forms. It will be thick and sticky. Add a little more water if you feel you need to, but not too much.

On a floured surface, knead the dough. You only want to knead until the dough just comes together. Feel free to add flour to your dough to help it do this.

Form the dough into a ball; it should be thick and smooth looking, and not too floury. Wrap the dough in plastic and place in the refrigerator. Like I said, I left my dough overnight, but as long as the dough is properly cold and holds together well – between one and two hours.

When the dough is ready, place it on a sheet of baking paper and roll the dough out until relatively flat. The dough will thicken in the oven, so it can be very thin. As this pie is freeform and messy, make an oval-ish shape with the dough but it does in no way need to be perfect.

 Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Celsius and move the parchment paper to a baking tray.

For the filling:
Peel, core and cut the apples. You can cut the apples however you please. As I couldn’t be bothered to make mine look perfect, I simply cut mine into small cubes, which looked and tasted fantastic.

In a bowl, combine lemon juice and cinnamon. As you are cutting the apples put them into the lemon juice to stop them from browning.

Once all of the apples have been cut and coated in the lemon juice mixture, add the honey to the mixture and make sure all apples are coated with the cinnamon, lemon juice and honey.

Spread the goats cheese over the dough. Try to keep the cheese in the fridge immediately prior to doing this. If the cheese is hard, simply crumble it, but try to spread it. My cheese was kind of spreadable, but it did get stuck into the dough and didn’t so much as spread as break the dough. I ended up using my fingers to spread it rather thickly. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just try to not break the dough and if you do, don’t fret, just patch it up – the dough is strong.

Do not spread the cheese all the way to the edge as you have to fold the dough over itself. Therefore, leave a border of about 5 centimetres.

Add the apples to the pie, drizzling any leftover juice over the apples.

Fold the sides of the dough over the fruit filling, and again don’t worry if the dough tears, just patch it up. Once the filling is safely folded inside the dough, bake for 10 – 20 minutes. I say this because it really does depend on how baked you want your fruit to be. I baked mine for approximately 15 minutes, maybe a little less, because my crust was very brown and the apples slightly crispy.

Serve warm or cold, but you know my preference is cold.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

Greek Pasta Salad

This week was another good one. I ended up getting a part time job at  an Australian healthy burger chain. It is actually healthy, I swear. The calorie count for each burger and all nutritional values are available on the website, and yes, while some have high calorie counts, the burgers are packed with veggies and proper, good quality meat. I have never been disappointed eating there yet. Any other Australians can back me up on this.

I did try to make wholemeal bread, but I couldn't knead it, got frustrated and gave up. It was a bit of a disaster. However, my scone making has improved - the first try resulted in tasteless, shapeless bits of barely cooked dough. The second try resulted in yummy scones, although over-kneaded and flat. Today's recipe turned out wonderful looking and tasting scones. It's a start.

So, about this Greek Pasta Salad. It is really yummy, and really quite healthy. I did change the original recipe quite a bit, as I don't have any white wine, nor do I eat olives, so I substituted for mushrooms. I also don't really do oily pasta, so I changed the oil amounts to suit my taste. However, the pasta is delicious, the dressing is lovely and while not so much Greek as Mediterranean, still one of the best and easiest pasta dishes I have ever made.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $$
Main Ingredients: pasta, tomatoes, mushroom, feta cheese
Adapted from: The Fig Tree
Occasion: Dinner, lunch
Menu Options: I would serve it for dinner, but reheated the next day and in a smaller portion, it also works for lunch.

Serves 4

What you need:
-          500 g pasta – your choice
-          2 cloves garlic
-          Olive oil or sesame oil – I’d say 1 – 2 tbsp, but use what you like
-          ¼ - ½ cup of sliced or flaked almonds
-          10 red cherry tomatoes
-          ½ - 1 cup chopped mushrooms – does not need to be chopped thin – I chose a mix of portabella mushrooms and shitake mushrooms.
-          1 tsp dried or fresh basil – alter to taste
-          1/2 cucumber – diced
-          3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
-          ½ tsp white sugar
-          Salt and pepper to taste
-          1 cup feta cheese or more/less to taste

What to do:

Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Peel the garlic cloves and cook with the pasta in salted, boiling water. Do not cook the pasta as much as you would usually, ensure the pasta is still a little firm. The garlic cloves should be a soft when removed from the water.

Meanwhile, with a little bit of oil (your choice, I prefer sesame oil for its nutty flavour) toast the almonds in a skillet until fragrant and slightly darkened. Cook the mushrooms with the nuts (same skillet, same amount of time) – if you wish, flavour the mushrooms with dried herbs (I prefer rosemary and oregano).

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Once the nuts have been toasted and the mushrooms are soft, remove from pan. Use leftover oil to lightly cook the tomatoes. They should be soft and slightly browned when removed from the pan.

Cut the cucumber – I prefer dicing it, but if you simply want to slice it, that is also fine.

Drain the water from the pasta and remove the garlic cloves. Add the cucumbers, tomato, basil, nuts and mushrooms to the pasta.

Mash the garlic cloves in a bowl. They should form a thick paste. Add in olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. If you want to add more oil feel free to do so, but I find this is oily enough.

Add dressing to pasta and toss to combine. Crumble feta over the top of the pasta and serve warm. 

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend - if you are looking for a quick, easy, delicious and homely meal for Sunday night - try the pasta. 

Coming soon - an Apple and Goats Cheese tart - because I am seriously obsessed with the Hunger Games.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Chocolate Fudge Cake

The worlds most amazing dark chocolate cake (not as good as my Mum's cake, which is light and fluffy and lovely) - but the best rich, dark, cake.

So according to the sign outside a gym I pass on the bus everyday to uni, it is International Fitness Week. So to celebrate, I am providing you with chocolate cake. Not just chocolate cake, but brownie-esque, fudgy, rich, chocolate cake. Yeah, I am aware of the irony.

So this cake is not healthy, and if you're counting calories, you won't like it. But if you're like me, and can't resist something rich and fudgy, and feel that if you eat healthy 80% of the time, one slice of cake certainly won't kill you (in fact it will make you feel fabulous), then this is the cake for you.

When it is straight out of the oven, the cake is moist, decadent and warm. The centre is so gooey it practically melts onto the plate, and the dark chocolate chips, which were not melted before being placed in the cake, melt in your mouth. Served with hot fudge sauce, this dessert would be perfect to share with friends or family. Even better, Easter is only two weeks away and this would make the most amazing lunchtime dessert.

You could refreidgerate the cake, and it becomes more like a decadent brownie. It is fudgy and moist after being refridgerated for an hour or two. Served cold, it is almost as good as hot. But not quite. You can also cut this cake anyway - if you want to use a square cake pan and not a round one, feel free to, and instead, as the cake doesn't rise an awful lot, cut the cake into brownie-sized squares. It would make an amazing treat after a long day and would cut down the calorie count if you care. But let's face it, some desserts, like this, are just too good to turn down.

Now, about fitness - I feel I should say something, in tribute of fitness week. I am relatively fit. I think, if there were a zombie apocalypse, I may manage to run away for a little bit, but it wouldn't take long for the zombies to track me down and turn me. I do try; I do a good half hour of cardio each day, usually jogging/walking/running. I have also recently started doing pilates, which I absolutely love and my abs are just starting to recover. So all in all, I do a small bit of exercise. I don't love exercise, but I never regret it. And I do feel great after I've done some - it really helps to de-stress me. So, thanks exercise.

Now, about that delicious cake.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: chocolate
Adapted from: Scientifically Sweet
Occasion: dessert, snack
Menu Options: As I said, I would serve this hot with hot fudge sauce or cold like brownies.

Serves 8-10 if cut like a cake, or approximately 20 if cut like a brownie (the recipe is thick enough to be a good brownie). Nutritional value is calculated as if it were cut into 10 cake pieces – I said it wasn’t healthy – it’s just best to ignore the nutritional value here, as everyone deserves chocolate cake, especially one as good as this. Besides, if you did cut smaller pieces, you could easily have some each day as a snack, and it wouldn’t kill you. Good quality chocolate, like this, it’s just a good thing. Really.

What you will need:
-          85 g dark cooking chocolate (bittersweet chocolate), at least 70% cocoa
-          ½ cup flour
-          ¼ cup cocoa powder
-          ¼ cup butter
-          ½ cup granulated sugar
-          ½ cup dark brown sugar
-          ½ tsp salt
-          3 eggs
-          1 tsp vanilla extract
-          2 tbsp sour cream, I used Weight Watchers, and mine were really heaped tablespoons
-          ¼ cup dark chocolate chips

What to do:
-          Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius and oil an 8 or 9 inch round pan.
-          Melt the 85 grams of chocolate and set aside to cool.
-          In a large bowl, sift in flour and cocoa and then stir together.
-          In another bowl, beat butter, both sugars and salt together (I used a handheld beater, but I would have used a stand mixer if I could afford one – do not do the next few steps by hand, use a mixer). The mixture will be crumbly.
-          Beat in the eggs on at a time until the mixture is smooth. It will be very, very runny.
-          Finally, add in vanilla and sour cream, and beat until smooth. It is important to make sure the sour cream is mixed in thoroughly and there are no lumps.
-          Add the chocolate, which should have cooled, and beat until the mixture is dark brown.
-          Finally add the dry ingredients. Mix together until just smooth – the mixture will be very thick, and be careful not to overmix.
-          Using a spoon or spatula, not the mixer, stir in the chocolate chips.
-          Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. The surface will puff slightly and be a light brown. Let cool in pan for a while, then remove from pan. It is up to you to serve it hot, or let cool completely and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Oh, and I am seeing the Hunger Games in a few hours at the midnight premier. I could not be more excited. It's ridiculous. I hope you all have a fantastic mid-week day. And seriously, make the cake.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Homemade Granola and Parfait

Hello all,

I hope you had a brilliant weekend. Mine was rather easygoing; I did some uni work, some baking and finally got around to making the homemade granola again so that the recipe was ok for you guys to see. I had an induction for my internship at the radio station, which was a lot of fun. I start in less than two weeks, so the nerves will start kicking in soon. I've also gone a little crazy planning parties I'm not actually throwing - Hunger-games themed, Willa Wonka themed, cocktails and canapes, picnic-on-a-balcony, a birthday party for my roomate (which I will do when it gets to her birthday - in May - I already have the perfect gift, cake and some ideas for food in mind), tea parties, etc.

I'm also really looking forward to Easter. This will be my first Easter without my family - even though I moved 22 hours away from them last year I flew home for the break. This time, I can't afford it and it's only for a few days, so I decided I would instead go visit my grandparents who live near me and who I rarely see. My mum is flying down the week after Easter for three days, which will be so much fun. So this will be my first Easter without my family from home - my grandparents, mum's sister and husband and kids, my parents and my brother - we're all so close it's like we're not even an extended family, but a real one. So, I have an easter dinner planned for me and my roomates, and I'm hoping my beautiful grandmother who I will be spending Easter with will cook with me - she is Dutch, and so she bakes beautifully. Mind you, my Italian grandmother from home, also bakes beautifully. So does my mum - I hope I inherited it!

So, about that granola.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: oats, honey, coconut
Occasion: Breakfast, Snack
Menu Options: I usually have a granola parfait for Saturday or Sunday breakfast, but I love granola and yoghurt as a snack in the afternoon. I also love apple slices, coated in peanut butter and topped with granola as a healthy snack. 

What you will need:
-          2/3 cups flaked almonds
-          1/2 cup walnuts
-          1/4 cup sunflower seeds
-          2 tbs sesame seeds
-          1/4 cup olive/canola oil
-          3/4 cup honey (more if needed)
-          3 cups oats
-          1/4 tsp salt
-          1/4 cup coconut
-          1/2 tsp cinnamon
-          1/2 tsp nutmeg
-          1/2 cup raisins
-          1/2 cup dried apricots

What to do:
-          Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
-          Toast almonds and walnuts in skillet until fragrant and darkened – on high heat about 6 minutes. Add seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the nuts, as they will be cooked for longer later on.
-          Melt honey and oil together over low heat, being careful not to let it burn.
-          Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl until coated, included toasted nuts and seeds. Add in melted honey mix, until the dry ingredients are coated. If necessary, add more honey to ensure everything is coated.
-          Spread mixture on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until oats are a golden brown. Stir the mixture so the white oats from the bottom of the tray are at the top. Add in raisins and apricot. Bake another 8-10 mins, until oats are golden brown.
-          Let cool completely and then store. Some of the granola will be in clumps, some will not be. 

This recipe is not only super easy, but tastes fantastic, and it has no added sugars or chemicals like the granola found in supermarkets. It's so much better when it's homemade. That is my favourite bit about this - I can eat it, and actually know that what I am eating is good for me. I hope you all enjoy it - it is such an easy, delicious recipe.

To make the granola parfait:
- Simply chose a glass - any will do, I was lazy and went for a water one, but if you're serving this at brunch I would opt for a prettier wine or cocktail glass.
- Place a dollop of yoghurt in the bottom of each glass (whatever yoghurt you like is fine - I love natural greek yoghurt).
- Put 2-3 tbs of granola over the top, making sure to completely cover the yoghurt.
- Cover granola with berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
- Repeat the last three steps - yoghurt, granola, berries and garnish with fresh mint, or more granola and honey. 

Again - so easy, and so beautiful. I hope you enjoy this deliciously healthy breakfast!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St Patrick's Day everyone!

It's been a bit of a miserable day here, not really conducive to having fun. I am wearing my Boston Celtics shirt, which is green, so I am attempting to. I have spent the entire day writing an essay for uni, so I am totally exhausted. However, I did manage to make Irish Soda Bread, purely because I wanted to make something Irish, and I really didn't want to do anything too difficult.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: Flour
Occasion: Snack, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Menu Options: This bread would be amazing with soup or stew for dinner, or with fresh vegetables or a salad for lunch. Or you could use the leftovers to make a healthy ricotta, banana and strawberry breakfast treat.  

Adapted from: Gina’s Low Fat Irish Soda Bread (who am I kidding, it’s pretty much her recipe)

You will need:
-          1 1/2 cups self raising white flour
-          2 cups whole wheat flour
-          1 1/2 - 2 tsp baking soda
-          1/2 tsp salt
-          1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

-          Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
-          Mix the dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl.
-          Add the buttermilk bit by bit, stirring together until a wet, shaggy dough has formed.
-          On a floured surface, knead the dough for a couple of minutes. It should be smooth, but be careful not to overknead.
-          Place on a baking tray, either oiled or covered in baking paper, in the form of a ball.
-          Using a sharp knife, cut an ‘x’ into the top of the bread.
-          Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. The bread should sound hollow when the base is tapped or a skewer inserted into the bread should be clean.
-          Best to serve when hot, but can be frozen. 

This bread is absolutely beautiful. My roomates loved it too, so we all enjoyed this lovely bread with dinner. My St Patrick's day was rather boring, but I hope you all have a beautiful, much more enjoyable day.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Banana Choc Chip Muffins

I swear, these muffins are amazing.

They are super easy, take about 10 minutes to cook, and are absolutely amazing. When they are warm from the oven, the chocolate melts into your mouth. The banana flavour is strong, but does not overpower the chocolate. Together, the taste is spectacular. I absolutely swear by these muffins. I could eat the entire batch straight from the oven. You do have to wait for the bananas to ripen completely, which is always hard after you've tried these and know what to expect when they come out of the oven. However, these muffins are worth the wait.They're also rather healthy - for a muffin.

They can be frozen and simply left in the fridge until you want to eat them. You can always reheat them, but I find they sink a little and are not as pretty. They also become a little soft, and not firm like a muffin should be. The taste - not remotely affected.

Another great thing - they are so easy to bake! All you have to do is combine the ingrediants, throw it in a muffin tray, bake for 10 minutes and you're done!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: Banana and Chocolate
Occasion: Dessert or Snack
Menu Options: These are beautiful. You can put them with anything really – great in a kid’s lunchbox, or as an afternoon snack or even as a cheeky breakfast treat with a granola parfait (who am I kidding, that’s what I do).

Makes 12 muffins.

You will need:
- 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
-1/3 cup caster sugar
- 60g butter
- 2/3 cup mashed banana (2 bananas - best that they be very ripe, even a little brown won't hurt)
- 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (depends on your taste) – this can be increased to 2/3 cup if you love chocolate, but the nutrition facts will change.
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk

-          Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Grease a 12 holed muffin tray.
-          Sift flour into large bowl. Add in sugar and butter. Using fingertips, crumble butter with dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
-          Stir in the remaining ingredients. Be careful not to overmix; the batter should be wet looking but thick.
-          Pour the batter into the muffin holes. Be careful not to pour too much batter into each muffin hole, the muffins rise quite high. Cook for 10 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into a muffin is clean.

I should note that this lovely recipe was my mum’s, and it was one of the first recipes I learnt as soon I left home as it was the one thing I couldn’t live without. If this recipe is from somewhere other than my mum, I give them whole credit for it. 

On another note, yesterday I received some amazing news. Next month I start an internship at a radio station, where I not only get to write the news but read it on air as well! I've only been studying journalism at university for three weeks, so this is amazing for me. I have already done a year of university, but it was a double degree in law and creative writing - I know, I know, my degree is very different to what I did last year. I just didn't want to be a lawyer; I want to be a writer. That was what made me change my degree, and honestly, it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

And speaking of good decisions, it would be an excellent one to go make these muffins now.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Picnic Time - Potato Salad

Today was beautiful. It was sunny, for the first time in ages, and really hot. So my roomates and I had a picnic. We live right next to this massive shopping centre and on the other side, if you walk through a bit of a forest-type-thing, you get to the most beautiful little park. Sometimes I just love Australia.

As the park was full of families (there is this massive wooden house masquerading as a playground - enough to make anyone too old to fit down the slide jealous) we simply sat under a tree and ate like crazy. There was potato salad with egg (because really, what picnic doesn't have potato salad and some form of egg), chicken salad with berries, caramalised walnuts and a lime and mayo dressing (which is actually amazing), homemade bread and chocolate and banana muffins (which I will post up soon).

The other reason why my day was brilliant (other than the food) was that for the first time ever I made bread with yeast. It was a horrifying experience, but it turned out ok. I made English Muffin Bread, but I may make a few changes to the recipe I followed because I wasn't completely happy with mine (didn't quite rise, a bit too moist, etc). But overall, rather successful.

See how happy I am?

The bread really was quite golden!

So, now for the recipe -

Super Easy Potato Salad:

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: Potato, Egg
Occasion:Lunch or for a picnic
Menu Options: Is great with anything chicken related or bread. Absolutely fantastic actually.

There is no real way to measure how many people this serves - it depends on how much potato you cook and how many eggs you put in. It's so flexible, and so easy. But I'd approximate and say this would serve four.

I did honestly try and do a calorie count, but perhaps the brand of dressing I use is Australian-only and it was difficult to find nutritional values for. I can say that it is a low-fat brand, and so amazingly delicious - it doesn't taste like mayonnaise (which I hate), but instead you can taste subtle flavours of onion, barley and vinegar. It truly is beautiful. If you have access to this dressing, I truly do suggest you buy some.

You will need:
- 3 or 4 potatoes, depending on size
- 3 tbs ETA brand 'Original Potato Salad Dressing'
- 3 eggs

- Peel and cut potatoes into cubes.
- Boil in salt water until tender, but do not overcook. For me, on high heat, this was about 7 or 8 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, boil the eggs.
- While hot, combine the potato with the egg (diced into quarters) and the dressing. Mix well.

This is such an easy recipe, and I swear it easily the most delicious potato salad recipe I have found, particularly if you, like me, don't particularly like mayonnaise or similar flavoured dressings.

Now, the Lion King is on TV and I feel like reliving my childhood with my roomates. I am also in the process of baking apple loaf harvast bread, by the fabulous and brilliant Kamran and I need to go check on its progress. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Peach and Pear Breakfast Crumble

So this is my first official blog post. I thought about what would be the best recipe to start with and I decided to go for a breakfast one. Not only is it such an important meal, but I love breakfast. I love brunch more, as you can eat chocolate and claim it is breakfast, but as I always wake up hungry, I always enjoy breakfast.

This breakfast is incredibly healthy. Actually its calorie count is lower than a large croissant with jam, two pieces of toast with jam or nutella, and even cornflakes with milk and sugar. I also love fruit for breakfast - its an easy way to get a sugar hit to kickstart your day. It is absolutely delicious.

So here it is, the first ever recipe on Half Baked - 

Pear and Peach Breakfast Crumble

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Cost: $
Main Ingredients: Pear, Peach
Occasion: Breakfast or Dessert
Menu Options: Could also be served with ice cream instead of yoghurt. Or Greek Yoghurt instead of low-fat yoghurt. Note that the nutritional facts will change if you alter the recipe - but only slightly.
For Four – either serves four people or can make for four separate weekday breakfasts

2 pears
1 tsp Lemon juice (at most)
4 peaches / 400 g sliced peaches in juice (I use Weight Watchers)
Cinnamon / Nutmeg / your preferred flavour (optional) – how much you use depends on you
Granola or muesli – how much of this you use depends on you (see below). I use homemade granola (recipe to come later) or Lowan Whole Foods Fruit and Nut Muesli.
200g Low fat greek yoghurt (I use this much because I really love yoghurt, but again how much you use is up to you)

-          Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
-          Core and cut pears into eighths. Place them in saucepan with approx half cup of water and lemon juice. Bring water to boil. Simmer pears for five minutes, or until pears are soft.
-          Drain most of the water from the saucepan, though keep a little juice leftover. If you are making this breakfast for one, keep a fair amount of juice as you will refrigerate the pears with the juice for future mornings.
-          Place pears with peaches in a small ramekin (size of ramekin depends on you and how much you want to eat) / divide the pears and peaches among four ramekins. Ensure the peaches are cored and sliced thinly if using fresh peaches – if using tinned simply place as many peaches are you like in the ramekin.
-          If you are making this breakfast for one, you can simply use as many pear slices as you want today and keep the rest with some juice in the fridge for following breakfasts.
-          Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over the mixture – how much you use depends on your taste. I usually place about half a teaspoon of cinnamon over each ramekin.
-          Now cover the mixture with granola or muesli – again this depends on how much you want to eat. It is a good idea to completely cover the fruit with the muesli or granola. I find 2-3 tbs the right amount.
-          Bake in the oven until muesli or granola is a golden brown and the peaches are easy to cut into. This is approximately 20 minutes (as often my granola is already a golden brown and it is difficult to tell). Note that while you can eat it straightaway, the fruit will be very hot.
-          Serve with yoghurt.

      Now I am sure you have heard about this before, but it is something I want to quickly mention in hope that it will get the message out. KONY2012 - This is a worldwide event which aims to stop dictator Joseph Kony from crimes against humanity in Uganda. It is seriously worth watching the video and understanding the hype. I myself am going to particpate and it would be great if you guys could help raise awareness. 

      And on that note, goodbye fellow foodies. I hope you have a delicious day.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


My name is Bec, and this is the very first post on Half Baked. It is currently pouring with rain outside, my street is flooded, and, as our balcony is enclosed with shutters (we have shut them all to stop the rain coming in), it is dark and gloomy. And I am sick. This is not a great day for me to be sick. I wanted to start posting recipes today, but unfortunantly I can't taste anything and all I really want is hot tea and toast.

So you're probably wondering about me. I am an 18 year old university student, having studied law and creative writing before changing to journalism and falling in love with it. Ok, so I have only done journalism for a week, but so far it's been fantastic. I love writing, reading, baking, travelling, watching movies, playing tennis, walking, learning about health and nutrition, and fashion. I have, for as long as I can remember, loved writing, and only recently considered it as a career. It is something I am looking forward to persuing for the rest of my life. I was raised on books and imagination, and these are two things I carry with me - I love to read and I love to imagine. Being a novelist is an amazing dream. I have travelled, and kept a diary as I did so. When I have returned, I realised the diary was more like a food journal - where I ate, what I ate and what it was like. So I also realised how much I love food, and how I love to eat out and eat healthily. So I decided to combine the two passions and create this blog.

My aim is to provide healthy, hearty, delicious meals, with nutrition values and ideas. I love rich, delicious food that isn't going to destroy your health or figure. I also love baking, brownies, brunch, bread and chocolate. That's why I eat everything in moderation, do a little exercise each day, and somehow manage to make it through life just fine. These recipes will not be expensive or difficult, rather really simple and adaptable (hopefully) to any lifestyle - I am single and living with two university girlfriends, though I often feed them like one would a family.

So I hope you enjoyed getting to know me, and feel free to ask me any questions you please. I am looking forward to posting soon and joining the fabulous food blogging community!