Healthy Lamington Balls

This week’s healthy lunchbox treat was named by Miss C. For she is a big fan of lamingtons, and declared these little balls to be rather similar to lamingtons when I packed some in her lunchbox.

But, unlike their cake counterparts, these little balls have no butter, sugar or flour. Rather, they are sweetened with medjool dates, and given their chocolate flavour with some cacao powder.

Some I rolled in coconut….

Others I kept ‘plain’…

But both came together beautifully, and we now have a big bowl of these lamington balls in the fridge to ‘grab and go’ when the afternoon slump hits.

Kid approved!

Print Recipe
Healthy Lamington Balls
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Process the oats and sunflower seeds in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Add the dates, coconut, honey, chia seeds, coconut oil and cacao powder- and process until combined. Add a little water if you think the mixture needs more liquid.
  3. Roll into balls (and coat with extra coconut if you like). I wet my hands a little to help with this step.
Recipe Notes

These balls are best stored in the fridge.

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Snickers Rocky Road

I’m interrupting my ‘healthy snack’ series this week, to bring you an extra special treat. I say “interrupting”, as this treat far from healthy, and its nut and sugar content would probably entice a sternly worded letter from your child’s teacher if you sent a piece along in their lunchbox.

But it is delicious.

And sometimes, particularly when one’s sleep is being interrupted by the overnight feeding demands of a newborn, we need to treat ourselves with a little deliciousness.

This rocky road still has the all chocolate and marshmallow hallmarks of the traditional version , but is jazzed up with snickers bars – creating a rather tasty chocolate / nut / caramel combination. The added bonus being that a batch can be made in a matter of moments.

So friends, I suggest you go and make a batch of this snickers rocky road and treat yourself today. Bearing in mind that because it is not school lunch-box friendly, there will be plenty for the grownups to indulge in at home!

You’re welcome!

Snickers Rocky Road

  • 280g marshmallows
  • 280g chopped snickers bars
  • 1 cup rice bubbles / puffed rice
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 350g milk chocolate, melted
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the marshmallows, snickers bars, rice bubbles and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour over melted chocolate, and stir to combine well.
  3. Spoon into the prepare tray, and place in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to set.
  4. Slice and serve.

 

Apricot and white chocolate bars

After the success of last week’s school snack baking session, I was eager to add another homemade treat to our list.

As Miss C, in particular, is a big fan of dried apricots, I hoped that an apricot treat would be well received. While she was a little hesitant to try these apricot and white chocolate bars at first, they did not return home when I packed a couple in her lunchbox – so I’m calling it a win (either that or a school buddy had an extra snack that day). Either way, the speed at which they are disappearing from our kitchen counter suggests that they may also be a hit with the older members of our family…

Somewhere between a bar and a cake, these treats are sweetened simply with a little brown sugar and white chocolate.  They may not be the ‘healthiest’, as such, but they are not overly sweet and the ingredient list is modest.

They slice nicely too, making them perfect to pack into little lunchboxes, and could easily be jazzed up with the addition of walnuts or the like (if you don’t have any school nut-bans to be mindful of, that is). 

Oh and in case you were wondering, I most certainly had my little kitchen helper on hand when making these too!

Apricot and white chocolate bars (makes 18)

  • 1 cup dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 120g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a slice tray.
  2. Place apricots and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer until the water has been absorbed. Add the butter and brown sugar, and cook over a low heat – stirring – until the butter and sugar have melted.
  3. Combine the flour and oats in a mixing bowl. Add the apricot mixture and stir to combine.  Fold through the chocolate bits.
  4. Press into lined pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice.

Healthier Honey Bubble Bars

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’m keen to get back into the kitchen. To develop new recipes, and generally get creative!

In particular, I want to create some lunchbox treats. Lately I’ve been relying on pre-packaged snacks all too often for the kids, and their ingredient list is far from desirable.

So with the rain falling heavily outside the other day, I got to work on my first lunchbox treat.

A healthier honey bubble bar.

As soon as I began pulling bowls out of the drawer, Little J arrived curiously at the kitchen bench. Actually, she is quite the shadow when I am in the kitchen, always eager to help out. And this being a no-bake treat, well that was just perfect for little hands!

I measured out the ingredients, and she poured them all into a big bowl and gave them a good stir. “Pat-pat-patting” the slice into the baking tin was also a big hit.

In the mix? Puffed rice, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sunflower kernels, butter and honey. Oh some chocolate chips for a little indulgence too.

Pressed into a lined tray, and allowed to firm up overnight in the fridge.

The following day, it was simply a matter of slicing the mixture into bars.

The bars were sweet, without being over-sweet, although I made the rookie mistake of adding the chocolate chips before the melted butter and honey (ie. the chocolate melted).

The honey also made the bases a little sticky,  so I wrapped each bar in some baking paper for ease of transport.

And just like that, my baking mojo has officially returned! Not to mention being able to share some time in the kitchen with Little J.

Stay tuned for more lunchbox treats in the weeks to come!

Healthier Honey Bubble Bars

  • 4 cups puffed rice
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 3 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
  • 125g butter
  • 220g honey
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Grease and line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the puffed rice, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the butter and honey in the microwave until melted and combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir to coat the mixture well. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  4. Press firmly into the lined tray, and place in the fridge overnight to firm.
  5. Remove from the fridge, and cut into slices. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Australia Day 2017

You might recall that last year we indulged in a full tasting menu for Australia Day. Yes, 8 courses that took us on a culinary tour around the Country – celebrating fresh, local and seasonal produce.

And while this year was much more ‘low key’, we still filled the day with family and food, and a favourite pastime – a morning hike!

Needless to say after the morning’s outdoor adventures, we were quite hungry when the afternoon rolled around. Our family joined us for an early dinner – and with the temperature exceeding 30 degrees outside, a BBQ seemed to be the most logical, if not sanest, choice.

On the menu?

Some homemade sausages by our local butcher. Served with a few “Aussie-themed” sides.

Starting with a mango macadamia salad – comprising of salad leaves, fresh mango, avocado and macadamias. Dressed simply with a mixture of lime juice, seeded mustard, oil and sliced red chilli.

I also turned on the oven for 20 minutes or so, in order to make another iconic Australian side…damper! Flavoured with camembert and cracked pepper (and these turned out very moreish indeed).

For dessert we kept things pretty simple. Instead of a large pavlova, I went with mini versions instead. Topped with cream, lemon curd and a fresh raspberry.


And to keep us hydrated, we served a fresh fruit cocktail.

Akin to a punch – I guess you’d say – made with vodka, coconut rum, cooled tea, pineapple juice and ginger ale – finished with some frozen honeydew balls, mint and raspberry.

And so another Australia Day came to pass  – and we retired to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day.

What about you? What did you get up to this Australia Day?

2016 – A Year in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting 2016 – and bidding it a quick and eager farewell. For us, though, 2016 was a good year. Sure, there were some less than stellar moments dotted throughout (but that’s generally the case isn’t it?) but for the most part, we finally managed to strike an ok work / life balance. We also made it through the year with good health and in good spirits, such that we enter 2017 with a sense of anticipation for what the new year might bring.

But before I turn to our hopes and aims for the year to come, it seems only fair to recap the year that was. 

January 

Summer holidays continued in full swing. We celebrated a late Christmas linner, devoured a 8-course Australia Day ‘tasting menu‘, and spent time playing tourist in our home town.

February

Josie turned ONE(!), Charlotte started Pre-School(!) and we took a week-long cruise around New Caledonia (see here, here, here and here).

March

Charlotte turned FOUR, we celebrated Easter and took lots of family hikes.

April

We took more family hikes, cheered on the Brumbies, went camping and got all dressed up for a costume party!

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day, took more hikes,  and had lots of little adventures – both indoors and out.

June

With the Canberra Winter having arrived, we had lots of fun indoors. We also took a girl’s road trip down to Melbourne to catch up with family and visit the zoo!

July

We had dance classes, visitors in town and lots of good food.

August

We celebrated Book Week, took a quick trip to Melbourne and then a family holiday to Fiji!

September

We celebrated Father’s Day – Italian Style, painted, created a fairy garden and flew a kite.

October

We took another trip to Melbourne, the girls dressed up for Halloween and the husband and I went on a “Bloody Long Walk” for charity.

November

We baked, we went to the Circus, we visited the Show and we celebrated our dear friends’ wedding in Thredbo (where we played in snow!).  

December

We ate, we drank, we partied.  We took a quick trip to Melbourne to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday. Then we had lots of family arrive into town, and celebrated Christmas accordingly.

And so our 2016 came to a close. Filled to the brim with new memories, time spent with family and a seemingly better balance between work and play (well better than in previous years, that’s for sure!!).

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2017!

Caramel chocolate celebration cake

img_1354It’s been a while since I put my ‘cake creation cap’ on. But when I was tasked with supplying dessert at a recent family dinner, well I figured it was well and truly time to dust off the ol’ cap and get to work.  Particularly when it was to be a birthday and “bon voyage” cake all in one.

img_1351I’ve seen lots of layer “drip” cakes doing the rounds, and decided to give one a try. I think my ganache was a little runny (resulting in rather drippy drips that were far from their picturesque pinterest cousins), but the flavour was still there. And I even went so far as to try my hand at Italian meringue buttercream in place of the usually sickly sweet American buttercream – and boy I’m glad that I did. For it worked just beautifully at mellowing out the otherwise rich caramel mudcake hidden inside – and meant that we reserved our sugar overload for the other goodies piled high on the cake – twix bars, jersey caramels, chocolate stars, malteasers and butterscotch popcorn.

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Yes, I think this was very appropriately dubbed a celebration cake – for it had a little of everything!        img_1358Caramel chocolate celebration cake

For the caramel mud cakes:

  • 400g butter, cubed
  • 400g white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over low heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place the cooled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the sifted flours and stir until combined.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the caramel Italian meringue buttercream:

  • 1 sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or more to taste)
  1. Place the water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over a low to medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of cream of tartar if you like. Start the mixer on medium-low to begin frothing the whites
  3. When the sugar begins to boil, increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. When the whites are at soft peaks, gradually add the 1/4 cup of reserved sugar. Continue beating until they become stiff peaks, then change to the beater attachment.
  4. When the sugar reaches 120C, turn off the heat. With the mixer running on a low speed, slowly pour the hot sugar in a fine stream down the side of the bowl with the egg whites
  5. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has almost cooled (this takes a good 5–10 mins).
  6. When the meringue has cooled, start adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is running on medium.
  7. When all the butter has been added, increase the mixer to high to beat until the buttercream forms and is smooth. Change to the whisk attachment, add the caramel sauce, and whisk for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Heat the double cream in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate. Continue to stir until the mixture is thick and smooth, without any remaining lumps of chocolate. Place in the fridge until the desired “drip” consistency is reached.

To decorate

  • Prepared buttercream icing and ganache
  • Leftover caramel sauce
  • malteasers
  • butterscotch or caramel popcorn
  • chocolate stars
  • jersey caramels, halved
  • twix bars, halved

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops off the cakes, so that they are even.
  2. Put a small dot of the buttercream on your serving plate, then place one of the cakes on top. Spread with a good amount of the buttercream, a little caramel sauce, then place the other cake on top.
  3. Using a palette knife, cover the cakes completely in the buttercream, starting with a crumb layer then a smooth outer layer. Place in the fridge for one hour to chill.
  4. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the ganache over. You can do this using a disposable piping bag , or by gently spooning the ganache onto the centre of the cake and encouraging drips to fall down the sides.
  5. Top the cake with the various edible decorations, and place back in the fridge.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge about half an hour before serving.

Banana raisin muffins

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Yes, I did it again.

I left some bananas in the fruit bowl too long.

Meaning they were waaaay too overripe to eat, yes, but perfect for a batch of banana muffins.

This time I went with a simple version. No coconut, no berries, just the addition of raisins for some extra sweetness.

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What I love about recipes like these is the yield. Some for now, some for later, and some packaged up and frozen for school lunchbox treats.

And suddenly leaving a few bananas in the fruit bowl too long doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all!

img_1263 Banana raisin muffins (makes 12)

  • 2 cups self raising flour – sifted
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a muffin pan with cases.
  2. Combine dry ingredients, and make a well in the centre.
  3. Combine eggs, bananas, oil, yoghurt and milk – and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, then fold through the raisins.
  4. Spoon into the muffin cases, and bake for 20 minutes – or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

 

White chocolate and macadamia cookies

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Canberra feels more like Melbourne at the moment – warm Spring days one minute, and cold overcast days the next.

And rain.

So much rain.

So with two kids who are also a little under the weather, there has been lots of time spent indoors. Lego, puzzles, dress-ups and a personal favourite, baking!

Cookies were on the agenda the other day. But rather than turn to our regular spelt chocolate chip or freckle cookies, we went with a white chocolate and macadamia version instead.

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As is usually the case, Miss C had a great time helping me measure out the ingredients and control the mixer speed, and Little J loved flattening down the cookies when they were placed on the trays. Although both kids quickly disappeared when they realised it was time to do the dishes!?
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The cookies kept well for a few days, and I suspect they would keep for longer if they weren’t gobbled up so quickly!

White chocolate and macadamia cookies (makes 12 large)

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 120g white chocolate chips
  • 120g chopped macadamias
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg, and continue beating until combined.
  3. Stir in the sifted flour, chocolate and nuts, and mix until well combined.
  4. Roll out heaped tablespoons of the mixture into balls, and place on the prepared trays (well spaced). Gently press to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

What about you? Do you have a favourite cookie recipe?

Rainbow cookies

IMG_8727

Being a family that loves the outdoors, spending almost an entire week inside with 2 sick kids has been..well…interesting.

We’ve had to avoid the frigid outdoor temperatures (which even resulted in a little snow on one day) searching instead for indoor activities to keep everyone entertained.

Needless to say there has been lots of movies, drawing, role play, lego and…baking!

These rainbow cookies were a great baking activity for the girls. Not only for the end result (and all the chocolate freckles we consumed along the way), but also for the process of creating them itself. C loved turning the mixer on and off, and helping me roll the biscuits into little balls, before placing a freckle on top of each. And, J, well she sat nearby passing us various ingredients and even gave the mixture a little stir.

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Into the oven for 14 minutes, then it was ‘hands off’ for at least a few more minutes to allow them to cool. We then wasted no time in having ourselves a lovely afternoon tea of warm cookies straight out of the oven.

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So, while a trip to the park was not an option this week, spending time in the kitchen backing with the kids was a pretty great (and delicious) alternative!

You can find the recipe here.