Tag Archives: treats

Happy World Baking Day!

Standard

Yay! Today was World Baking Day. It’s a fairly popular day, but I hope it’s also obscure enough to count towards Goal #36 on my list!

Biscotti 1

The premise behind World Baking Day is that those who love baking will pledge to bake something for someone in their lives, and give a reason. I would’ve liked to have baked for Ninja, as a token of my appreciation for how hard he’s been working as my provider, but… well… to bake something he’d truly enjoy, I’d have to bake little more than a plain vanilla cake! And of course I wanted to be a bit more adventurous than that 😉

So I’ve decided to bake for my parents and my colleagues: my parents coz they’ve helped us have a new home, and my work team just coz they’re such a great bunch of people 🙂

To celebrate this occasion I chose to try out a new recipe from a trusted source: Sharon Glass’s delicious book Sweet Endings. I picked her White Chocolate Coffee Biscotti, and for a good (though strange) reason. During my battle with eczema over the last few months, I’ve begun discovering a few dietary triggers that seem to cause my skin to flare up noticeably.

For the recipe and more, keep reading…

Advertisements

Valentine’s cake and stargazing

Standard

Valentine’s Day sped by in a blur this year. Remember last year’s fanfare? Well, this year was quieter but still fun, and I used the celebration to work on two more of my goals: #22 (bake another cake) and #30 (visit a planetarium).

We went to the Johannesburg Planetarium for their Valentine’s Day show. It was really funny being in a crowd of about 150 couples! The show was cute, and one could opt to screen a personal message in the stars. This is what I wrote for my man:

Ninja

You are strong, handsome, godly, funny, loving and an incredible husband. No matter what happens in life, always look up!

With love, respect and stars in my eyes,

Zest

All together now: “Awwww!” 🙂

As I mentioned, I also managed to bake the fourth of five cakes on my 22nd goal: a fresh raspberry cake. The recipe for this treat (and all the credit!) for the cake can be found here: http://bakingbites.com/2013/06/fresh-raspberry-cake/. (The only thing I changed was using 1 t lemon juice instead of 1 t lemon zest.) Here are my pics to whet your appetite:

Fresh raspberry cake

Fresh raspberry cake

The batter only fills part of the tin

The batter only fills part of the tin

Then you dot in the raspberries

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

Sprinkle the cake with sugar

And bake till it's lovely golden colour

And bake till it’s lovely golden colour

I can’t imagine this cake with any berries other than these tart red delights, but of course you could try other berries if you wanted to. Next time I make this I might experiment with using less sugar, as a whole cup seemed like a huge portion, but otherwise this was fantastic and gobbled up by all those I shared it with. (FYI: I did notice that it’s probably best eaten fresh, as the longer you keep it the softer the berries will become.)

Thank you, Baking Bites, for sharing this recipe with us! The sweetest side of baking is in the sharing 🙂

Rats at play

Standard

A few pics from our rats’ first week with us…

Moon: 'Argh, my brothers are so noisy!'

Moon: ‘Argh, my brothers are so noisy!’

Moon is still the little loner we first thought him to be. He has a very sweet personality but he’s always doing the opposite of what the other three are getting up to. He likes this corner of the cage where he can groom in relative peace.

Garden games

Garden games

While cleaning the cage (again!) this week, I decided to entertain the rats with their Ratty Eden. They had a blast tasting the soil and munching the pet grass. Here you can see Moon, Vodka and Knight. The perspective of this pic doesn’t show it, but Knight is still the smallest guy. What a sweetie though 🙂

Mishka: 'MY glass pebble!'

Mishka: ‘MY glass pebble!’

Mishka was fascinated by the blue glass pebbles I’d dotted around the garden. As you can see, this rat tests everything with his teeth. He’s the first chewing rat we’ve had – in one short week he’s chewed bits of metal, perspex and wood from the cage fittings, as well as several rawhide treats, cardboard boxes, his water bowl and anything else he can find 🙄

Moon nomming soil with one hand

Moon nomming soil with one hand

Ninja’s boys are very cute with their hands, often drinking and eating with only one hand. It’s adorable to watch them scoop water from their water bowl and lick it off their fingers or wash their faces with it!

Vodka: 'Ahh, rawhide FTW!'

Vodka: ‘Ahh, rawhide FTW!’

If you ever doubted that pet rats are like small pet dogs, just throw a couple of rawhide chew toys into the cage and sit back to watch. The rats leap on these tough treats and each drag theirs off a safe distance away, angling their bodies away from potential thieves.

Vodka, Knight and Mishka

Then they settle down with determination to gnaw those treats to shreds. They make short work of the hard rawhide and the first to finish will usually venture around to those who are still busy, looking for leftovers and trouble 😛

Moon with his munchies

Moon with his munchies

Little Knight is quite a vocal ratty, at first seeming like the victim most picked on. We thought it might be because he’s so small… but after a few days of observation we realised that he’s often the one to start the scuffles, sidling up to one of his bigger brothers and snatching away the food they’re eating! All of which prompted us to sing him this rhyme:

Tiny tot, tiny tot

Looks so innocent

But he’s not!

Mishka and Moon: ‘This gap ain’t big enough for the both of us!’

For me, the cutest moments with the rats are not just when they seem almost human in their antics, but also when they’re being so very thoroughly ratty. Take the pic above: give them one night with a cardboard box and they’ll chew a stereotypical round hole in the side… and then all try to squeeze through the gap at the same time! :mrgreen:

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Standard

For our Spring Day feast I made us a really quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert. It only uses three ingredients and satisfied every palate, rounding off our feast with a treat that’s both fruity and sweet. I don’t really have a proper name for it though, so let’s just call it a strawberry and marshmallow dessert.

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

You could start making this dessert the day before your dinner party. I did, by preparing some jelly (I think you guys call it Jell-O overseas?) in four dessert glasses. I only had the raspberry flavour in my cupboard at the time, but you could always experiment with different options. And I’m sure this would work with other fruit too, such as bananas or peaches.

Jelly base for dessert

Jelly base for dessert

This jelly base set overnight in the fridge, so all I had to do today was to slice up some fresh strawberries and prepare the marshmallow sauce.

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

The hot marshmallow sauce was a random idea I’d had. I wasn’t sure it would even work, but luckily it did 🙂

In a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water) I melted together about two cups of mini pink and white marshmallows. I guessed they’d become quite sticky, so I first greased the bowl with vegetable oil. As they started melting I stirred in a little milk, which thinned and smoothed the sauce beautifully.

Melting marshmallows

Melting marshmallows

The last step was then simply to spoon the warm, sweet, sticky sauce over the strawberries, and serve them up.

I was concerned the marshmallow sauce would be too sweet (you know how sickly sweet they get when you cook them over a fire?), but when the sauce mixed with the tart, unsweetened strawberries, the balance was perfect.

Quick, easy, cheap, creamy, sweet and almost healthy – it’s everything you want in a dessert! 😉

Christmas in July Part 2

Standard

The Christmas in July gifts for me and Flea finally arrived in the post! I raced home from the post office to unwrap the box… with Flea’s help 😉

Our Secret Santa (SS) was very generous!!!

Christmas in July 2013

Christmas in July 2013

Inside the box we found…

  • two small boxes (a pink one and a blue one, for Flea and the new boys respectively) filled with all manner of tasty ratty treats: mini Marie biscuits, choc-coated sunflower seeds, yoghurt drops and rooibos biscuits
  • three cute rat-themed decals
  • the Ratatouille movie DVD (which we’ve never watched before, shame on us!)
  • a fleecy tunnel for the rat cage
  • and a stunning necklace for me!
Flea tastes her first-ever yogi

Flea tastes her first-ever yogi

My gorgeous new necklace

My gorgeous new necklace

Rat treats in a jar with a ratty decal

Rat treats in a jar with a ratty decal

That was the best fun I’ve had in the middle of winter in a long time :mrgreen:

Count me in for next year’s one!

Resisting temptation

Standard

Temptation

Six days left of the 21-day sugar detox, and I’m quite proud of my progress. I’ve managed to avoid sweet and carby temptations for over two weeks now – though it’s not so easy when they get handed to me on a platter!

The cute vanilla and white-chocolate cupcake pictured above is from a work colleague’s birthday tea. My friend and I who are doing the 21DSD each took a cupcake… not to eat but to freeze at home, in readiness for this coming Sunday when the detox ends.

Shew. I haven’t been so close to sugar in weeks. I held it close and inhaled the sweet creamy scent…

But since I’m so close to the end I didn’t want to spoil my good streak. So I snapped a pic and hastily stashed away the cupcake in the freezer.

A marvel of self-control.

:mrgreen:

Seriously though, this detox hasn’t been as hardcore as I expected it to be. In fact, once it’s over I think there are quite a few lessons I can take away and principles I want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

For example, I’ve discovered that I really don’t need sweetener in my tea. With the possible exception of some rather earthy herbal infusions, most of my teas are palatable enough without honey.

I’ve also realised that although carbs do have a place in my normal diet, I can happily reduce the amounts I eat and still feel full. So I can enjoy a warm bowl of oats on a winter’s morning – but it doesn’t have to be a big bowl, or every morning, or sweetened overly much.

I’ve learnt that there are many other fine flavours to be enjoyed other than just ‘level-10 sickly sweet’! So I’ve started looking at sweet treats with new eyes now. I feel drawn to flavourful, healthier, freshly baked, homemade treats rather than store-bought ones packed full of unnecessary extras.

I’ve been surprised at my resistance to my old cravings. I think the beauty of the 21-day sugar detox is that by telling your brain that ‘it’s just a detox, not a diet’, somehow your body relaxes and doesn’t feel so deprived anymore 🙂

On the downside, though, I would be happy not to see meat for the next month. Cutting out carbs has made me increase my protein portions, which isn’t so appealing to someone who was never much of a carnivore in the first place. Hmmm… methinks that once this detox is done, I should give that month of vegetarianism another shot…

Sugar-free gluten-free coconut crumpets

Standard

This 21-day sugar detox has been a surprising experience so far. Until I began this detox, I had no idea such a thing as coconut flour even existed!

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Of course once I discovered it, I immediately wanted to try making my favourite food with coconut flour :mrgreen: As you know by now, my favourite food is crepes (called pancakes here in South Africa), with crumpets (called pancakes overseas) following a close second.

The various recipes I browsed through seemed to suggest that crepes would be a bit tricky (though not impossible) to get right with coconut flour, so I decided to try out a recipe for crumpets/pancakes instead. I came across this recipe, which seemed simple and used ingredients I had on hand.

I adapted it a little because I can’t have honey or other sweeteners while I’m on the 21DSD detox, so this is what I used:

Ingredients

4 whole eggs

1/4 C coconut flour (finely sifted to remove all clumps)

1/4 C plain full-cream yoghurt

1 t vanilla essence

1 t mixed spice

Butter/oil/coconut oil for frying

Coconut flour pancakes

Ingredients

Most of the info I read about coconut flour referred to how quickly it absorbs liquids. Since I didn’t want these crumpets to soak up too much butter, I only used a little butter and fried the pancakes in a non-stick pan. It was perfectly easy:

Method

1. Mix all ingredients to make a batter.

2. Fry spoonfuls in a little oil/butter on a medium to high heat.

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

3. Carefully flip over when the bottom has cooked and bubbles start to form around the top edges.

4. Once golden brown and cooked through, remove from pan and drain (if needed).

Make sure both sides are golden brown

Make sure both sides are golden brown

5. Serve with your toppings of choice.

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

These turned out pleasantly delicious, but I did miss the sweetness I’m used to. To pep up these healthy crumpets, I enjoyed them with my daily allowance of one green apple, as well as some pecan nuts and desiccated coconut.

Not a bad way to make it through another sugarless day 😉

The 21-day sugar detox? I must be nuts!

Standard

Ohhhhh boy. What was I thinking?

Today I began 21 days of no sugar and no carbs – read: pretty much no comfort food of any kind – and I did it voluntarily. In winter. For twenty-one days!

Detox

Day 1 and I feel a bit lost, really.

Me without sugar is like a sunflower without the sun. I run on sugar! Sweet treats are my staple source of glee. At restaurants I peruse the menus backwards, starting with the desserts. And in winter I gravitate towards breads, pastas, grains and rich sauces.

I guess that’s exactly why this detox is a good idea for me 😛

I was introduced to it by a friend at work and we’re tackling it together, so I’ll have support. This is her second time on the detox, which is a good sign: she survived the first one!

The basic premise of the program is that our bodies are clogged up with an overload of unnatural, refined, processed carbs and sugars and that this lifestyle is bringing on mood swings, tummy troubles, weight gain and a host of other unpleasant effects. As the author of the program, Diane Sanfilippo, puts it, ‘Somewhere along the way, we stopped eating real food.’

All things considered, I’ve coped with the first day better than I expected to. Here’s what I’ve nibbled so far:

  • One semi-ripe banana with lashings of full-cream Greek yoghurt, mixed with vanilla essence, pumpkin seeds, coconut and cinnamon
  • Celery sticks with cheddar cheese
  • A carrot
  • Two cups of unsweetened herbal tea
  • A serving of savoury mince with mushrooms and tomato
  • A handful of salted pistachio nuts

That’s a lot of nibbling. And I haven’t even got to dinner yet.

But I am still so hungry! Clearly I’ll have to increase my portion sizes of the allowed foods…

The nice thing about this detox is that dairy is allowed – as long as it’s full cream. Proteins are allowed too, and so are most veggies. The only things I’m cutting down/out are grains, starchy vegetables, fruit and sweet treats. In other words, it’s not total deprivation.

I’ll let you know how it goes :mrgreen:

Crunchy oat and cereal bars

Standard

Remember how my first attempt at making cereal bars turned out? Well, if at first you don’t succeed… right? 🙂

I was determined to figure out a good recipe for homemade bars that ticked the following boxes:

  • They had to be egg-free, because I need them to keep well (unfridged) for a whole week
  • They had to be easy to vary, because I just don’t do monotony :mrgreen:
  • They had to dry into a hard, crunchy form – and stay that way
  • They had to be as healthy as possible
  • And of course, they had to taste great

Cereal bars

Here’s the first recipe I came up with after trying to balance the wet and dry ingredients so the bars wouldn’t fall apart:

Ingredients

2 C cereal (I used Kellogg’s rice-and-wheat cereal flakes that I crushed a little)

1 C puffed brown rice

1 C desiccated coconut

1/4 C syrup

1/4 C peanut butter

1/4 C honey

1 t vanilla essence

40 g butter

Method

1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Step 1

2. Melt together the syrup, peanut butter, honey, butter and vanilla essence.

Step 2

3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well.

4. Press the mixture into a lined baking tray.

Step 4

Step 4

5. Bake at 190 °C for 15–20 minutes, until golden and toasty.

6. Carefully cut into slices as soon as they’re out the oven, then leave to cool completely.

Step 6

Step 6

Note: Don’t be like me, thinking you can squeeze in a game (or three) of Plants vs Zombies while these bake! Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Mine were a teensy bit too toasted, though still edible.

Crunchy cereal bars

Crunchy cereal bars

Verdict

  • These weren’t bad for a thumb-sucked recipe, but they were a bit too peanut buttery for my liking.
  • They held together very well and stayed crunchy all week (I wrapped them individually in clingwrap and stored them in an airtight biscuit tin).
  • This recipe would really benefit from using rice paper to line the baking tray. I had a tough time getting the bars off the baking paper and vice versa.
  • The wet ingredient mix was just a tiny bit short, so at the last moment of mixing I had to add a further blob of melted butter so that all the wet and dry ingredients would form a proper mixture.

Healthy lunchbox snacks

After we’d eaten up that first batch, I made the recipe again for the next week, but with the following tweaks:

Ingredients

1 C puffed brown rice

1 C cereal

1 C rolled oats

3/4 C desiccated coconut

1/4 C filled with pumpkin seeds, flax seeds (linseeds) and sesame seeds

1/4 C syrup

1/8 C honey

1/8 C peanut butter

1 t vanilla essence

50 g butter

1 small carob chunk

Method

The method is the same as above, except that I melted a carob chunk with the rest of the wet ingredients.

Verdict

These refinements to the recipe made it even better. I preferred the bars with less peanut butter, and the carob added a pleasant chocolatey flavour. The bars were slightly soft though, so I’m thinking of reducing the butter to 40 g next time so that the bars aren’t too moist. They lasted well for a whole week, although by Friday they were starting to feel a bit soft.

I’ll keep tweaking an experimenting until I find the perfect concoction! 🙂

Banana bread / banana muffins recipe

Standard

I know there are a million gazillion banana bread and banana muffin recipes on the net, but permit me to add just one more 😉 Everyone needs a go-to banana bread recipe for when those lovely yellow fruit go ripe before you can eat them all.

I’ve been trying to bake a few homemade treats for Ninja’s and my work lunchboxes, and these banana muffins, made from my mom’s banana bread recipe, worked wonderfully. They lasted a whole week (due to rationing and self-control – not because we didn’t want to eat them all in one go!) and kept well in an airtight tin.

Banana muffins

Banana muffins

Ingredients

125 g butter

3/4 C sugar

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas

2 C flour

1/4 t salt

2 t baking powder

1/4 t bicarb

1/2 C milk

1/2 t vanilla essence

1/2 C pecan nuts, chopped (I didn’t have any though, so I just left these out)

 

Method

1. Grease and line a loaf tin, or line a muffin tray with muffin papers.

2. Cream butter and sugar.

3. Add eggs, beating thoroughly after each.

4. Mash bananas and add.

5. Sift in flour, salt and baking powder.

6. Mix bicarb with a little of the milk and add.

7. Gradually add rest of milk and vanilla essence.

8. Fold in nuts (if using) and pour into loaf tin or into muffin papers.

9. Bake at 180 °C for 1 hour or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Yum!

Yum!

Because they’re made from a bread recipe, these muffins do take a while to bake… but the results are fantastic: a crispy golden-brown crust with a soft cakey centre. Mmmmm 🙂