Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Hello my lovelies, I come bearing more temptation.

Because that’s how I roll.

Today’s offering is a nice, simple cookie (that is, soft on the inside) that also doubles as a nice hit of fibre. You can do your digestion some good while making your taste buds do the happy dance.

The Double Chocolate referred to is a charming combination of Cocoa (antioxidants!) and Choc chips – the oatmeal (for my Aussie readers) is rolled oats. Really, it’s practically a health food and should be considered suitable for breakfast…

Let us begin.

Get your butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat your oven to 180°C/ 350°F. If you have a stand mixer, fit the paddle attachment and make yourself a cuppa until the butter is softened. You may also wish to pummel a block of dark cooking chocolate should you not wish to use choc chips – like I did.

Cream together the butter and sugars for about 4 minutes. I must confess that, when making this batch, I left out the brown sugar completely as I became distracted by something.

They still turned out beautifully, just not as sweet. Health food, dontchaknow?

After you’ve reached the soft and fluffy consistency, add a dash of vanilla extract and two whole eggs. Beat until thoroughly combined.

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Flour and cocoa for sifting.

At this point most of the dry ingredients can be combined and sifted into a bowl.

Flour and cocoa sifted.

Flour and cocoa sifted.

Add this to the mixing bowl and stir until just combined. Then add the rolled oats and repeat.

Oats are healthy.

Oats are healthy.

Stir those in and add the chocolate pieces. I prefer to use bits from a smashed up block of cooking chocolate, because it gives a different texture to the finished product. You’ll end up with pools of chocolate that blend nicely into the mix. Choc chips are designed to retain their structural integrity and remain recognisable after baking.

You can use whichever method you like. They’re your cookies.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants. Health food.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants. Health food.

Then, drop rounded spoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 mins.

Use an ice cream scoop to save on arguments

Use an ice cream scoop to save on arguments.

Leave them to cool on the tray for about 5 minutes before you attempt to move them to a cooling rack. It will save on tears.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • Servings: 48
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

70 g softened, unsalted butter

½ cup white sugar

1½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1½ cups plain flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups rolled oats (not quick or minute oats)

1 cup dark chocolate chips.

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C/375°F.

Using an electric mixer and a paddle attachment if possible, cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. This will take about 4 minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Sieve into your butter mixture and blend until just combined.

Stir in the oats.

Stir in the choc chips.

Drop in rounded tablespoons onto a lined baking sheet. Do not flatten.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until set. Cooked cookies will be soft to the touch.

Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

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Tuna Rice Bake (simple)

Simple tuna and rice bake.

This is a very simple meal from The Boy’s childhood. I begged the recipe from his mother about a year ago (he kept on about it), but have only just got round to making it.

Because fish.

I’m not a big fish eater, I’m afraid. My mother had a deadly allergy to shellfish and an uncanny talent to turn fish fillets into cardboard. It all rather put me off.

I didn’t make this exactly according to the recipe either – which kind of spoiled the nostalgia surprise effect I was aiming for. Meh. I didn’t have any celery (IKR!) so I used red capsicum and I added Old Bay Seasoning to the white sauce, because I thought it would taste good.

And it did.

So there.

Anyway, here goes. This is actually a really good, simple, casserole for those nights when stocks are low and inspiration lower. Most of the ingredients will be found in a well-stocked pantry, especially if said pantry includes long-life milk… It’s even better if you have some plain rice already cooked and languishing in your refrigerator.

It starts off with a large tin of tuna in brine or spring water. The tuna is drained, but the liquid is reserved and made up to 1½ cups by adding milk to it. Now, I actually ended up using about a cup or so more of milk when I made it, as my sauce was exceedingly thick. But more on that later.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Some butter is melted and and used to saute an onion until translucent. Now I did this bit differently to the original recipe, as I didn’t want to risk a raw flour taste in the sauce. A few tablespoons of plain flour were then added and stirred to make a roux before the milk mix was whisked in and stirred until it boiled and thickened. Basically a fish-flavoured white sauce with onions in.

Make a roux.

Make a roux.

After you have your thickened liquid, add salt and pepper. If you are me, however, add something more interesting (like Old Bay Seasoning).

Add some yum.

Add some yum.

If you don’t have any – which is understandable in Oz – something similar could be conjured up with a touch of dry mustard and smoked paprika, with a little salt.

To your newly-flavourful white sauce, add the contents of the tuna tin, some celery and some nuts. The recipe called for cashews, but I had slivered almonds so I used those and of course I substituted the celery with capsicum.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Now a smallish (1.5 l) oven dish was sprayed with oil and half a cup of grated cheese (I had mozzarella)was spread on the base before a cup of rice was also added.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

The tuna mixture followed.

Tuna mix next.

Tuna mix next.

Then a layer of sliced tomatoes. Related: we grew these tomatoes. In our garden. Oh yeah.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

I sprinkled the top with another half cup of cheese and it went into the oven for 30 mins.

After which it was eaten.

Dinner.

Dinner.

And everyone was happy.

I am particularly happy now. The fact that this is on my website will mean that I can find it and read it much more easily than this photo of the recipe that was emailed to me…

I couldn't change the rotation to read it when cooking...

I couldn’t change the rotation to read it when cooking…

Tuna Rice Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

1 x 425g tin tuna in brine or springwater

1¼ cups of milk (approx.)

2 tbsps butter

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsps flour

Salt and pepper

¾ cup chopped celery

½ cup whole cashews or almonds

1 cup grated cheese

1 cup cooked rice

1 large tomato, sliced.

Method.

Set oven to 180°C/350°F.

Drain tin of tuna, reserving liquid. To the liquid add enough milk to make 1¼ cups.

Flake the tuna into a small bowl, removing skin and bones.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over gentle heat.

Add onion and sauté gently until soft and translucent (not browned).

Add flour and stir into butter, creating a roux. Fry gently for one minute.

Remove from heat and whisk in milk, dissolving any lumps. Return to heat and cook gently until liquid boils and thickens.

(If you think your sauce is too thick, add more milk a ¼ cup at a time until it reaches a consistency you prefer. You don’t want anything too runny.)

Add tuna, celery, nuts and seasoning.

Grease a medium-sized casserole and sprinkle half the cheese on the base.

Add the cooked rice.

Spread the tuna and white sauce mix onto the rice layer.

Arrange slices of tomato on top of the tuna layer.

Spread with remainder of cheese.

For ease of handling, place your casserole dish onto a larger oven tray. 😉

Bake for 30 minutes – until heated through and the cheese is browned.

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

We make our own bread in the Budget Bounty household. It started out as a budgetary mechanism, but now we’ve got ourselves into a groove and it’s become a thing.

We just use a purchased bread mix and add bits to it, like ground flaxseeds or buckwheat. We buy a 5 kg bag, decant most of it into a food grade sealed bucket and put a kilogram or so into a smaller container in the pantry. When this smaller container is empty, it is refilled from the bucket by The Boy.

So, you can imagine my surprise when my request for the smaller container to be refilled from the bucket was answered with the words, “It’s empty.”

Ahem.

I’m still at a loss as to how the empty bucket wasn’t noted at the time it was emptied, so that it could be refilled before we ran out.

Anyway, moving on.

We needed bread. About this time, I remembered making Irish Soda Bread several lifetimes ago and that it had been well received – so I thought I’d give it a shot on The Boy.

It’s a very scone-like bread (half way to a damper) that toasts well and lets one consider one’s farm-dwelling ancestry a generation or two back. It’s also a great introduction to bread-making for those who are afraid of using yeast.

Ahem.

Unfortunately, its density means that it isn’t something that diabetics will be wanting to consume on a regular basis, but it is very yummy.

It’s a very simple recipe using basically plain flour, baking soda and buttermilk. We had all of these things.

So, into a largish bowl 800g of plain flour was poured. I had a bit of wholemeal plain flour in a jar, so I added it first and then made up the weight with some regular stuff.

It was all sifted on the way through, along with some salt and some baking soda. The bran from the wholemeal was added after.

The flours were sifted.

The flours were sifted.

I also added a tablespoon or so of golden flax seeds. Because I like them.

Flax seeds rock

Flax seeds rock

It was all stirred together thoroughly, a well was made in the middle, and a pint of buttermilk was added. Then it was mixed together with a heavy spatula (or I could have used a wooden spoon) until it came together as a firm dough. My bread needed more liquid, so I just added splashes of milk until I got that result. It’s important not to be too heavy-handed with this. It is a lot like scones, in that light handling will result in a lighter bread.

Then it was tipped out onto a lightly floured surface.

Turn it out onto a floured surface.

Turn it out onto a floured surface.

Then, with a light touch, I shaped it into a big ball – kneading it gently until it was only just smooth.

Remember it's rustic. Alton says people pay extra for that...

Remember it’s rustic. Alton says people pay extra for that…

A tray was sprayed with cooking oil, the loaf was placed smack dab in the centre of it and brushed with a little milk. Then, following tradition, a cross was cut in the centre. This enables the bread to rise in such a way that the loaf maintains its shape on the way.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Then it was all baked in a moderate oven for just on an hour.

The same bread, now baked.

The same bread, now baked.

It really is that simple. Measure your flour, add your wet stuff and bake.

Let it cool on a rack and then treat as you would any other bread. Ours kept in the bread box in the pantry for 5 days after baking.

Yum!

Yum!

Once life is a little more settled (probably after we move) I’m intending to try experimenting with different flours and additives. I think this would be awesome with some rolled oats added in, just as a f’r’instance.

If you’ve never made bread from scratch before, then please give this a try and then let me know how you go. 🙂

Irish Soda Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

800g plain (All Purpose) flour. You may use a combination of different flours if you wish.

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

600 ml  buttermilk

milk to glaze

Method

Heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together into a large bowl, adding back any bran left in the sieve. Mix well.

Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk. Stir lightly and quickly until a firm dough forms. If loose flour is still evident, simply add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until it is all incorporated.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead and shape into a smooth round about 20 cm across.

Place onto a lightly greased tray.

Cut a cross about 1 cm (½ inch) deep into the top of the loaf.

Brush the surface of the bread with a little milk. This will remove excess flour and help the bread to get a lovely golden colour.

Bake for an hour, testing after 50 minutes. Bread is done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Lift onto a wire rack to cool.

 

Mediterranean Morsels

Yum.

This post could quite easily be titled “Yummy things made from bits and pieces in the fridge” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

It’s true, however.

I came up with this recipe to use a heap of bits that were cluttering up my refrigerator. I had some tri-colour quinoa that was left over from something else, a bit of feta cheese that needed using, a handful (literally) of shredded mozzarella and half a red capsicum that also needed to be used.

It’s also turned stinking hot here again, after a week of almost chilly weather, and I consider finger food to be the way to go at times like these. Finger food in this house means something more-ish, but not junky.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Anyway, I came up with these here yummies to combine all the bits into something that The Boy declared he could, “literally devour by the handful.”

You heard it here first, Folks!

So, I started off with the leftover quinoa. The amount turned out to be two cups worth (which is going to look a whole lot more professional in a recipe), so that’s what I used. If you’ve not cooked quinoa before, you’ll find instructions here. If you don’t have quinoa then cooked rice of any colour or description would also work.

I popped it into a medium sized bowl and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of plain flour to help bind it together (it also gave me time to think about what to do next). If you have a celiac in your family then gluten-free flour will work too.

I’d decided that I wanted to make it a Mediterranean flavoured …whatever… so I added a tablespoonful of an Italian Mixed Herb blend that I had and a teaspoon of minced garlic. From a jar. Sue me.

Still pretty.

Still pretty.

That was all mixed through quite thoroughly, then the red capsicum was diced and added. I was glad it was in there when I saw the finished products as it gave a pop of colour to something that might have been too beige.

Moving on. I also had one spring (green) onion so I sliced it up and added it too. Why not?

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Next the Mozzarella went in and I contemplated the feta. I’m not a fan of feta, but The Boy loves it. However, I adore black olives, so I pitted and minced three of those and stirred them through.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Then the feta cheese. I didn’t weigh it, sorry, but I’d say I had about 3/4 of a cup when it was chopped up. That was mixed through too.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

I thought that looked like a rather tasty little mix and stopped adding stuff. If you are a hard-core carnivore, some diced ham or bacon would be a tasty addition too. You’re welcome.

Now, in between all the dicing and mixing I had decided to make something to bake, so at this point I turned the oven on and started gazing soulfully at my baking trays.

I have one for tiny little cupcakes/muffins that I rarely use and which seemed perfect for this, so I retrieved it and then went on the hunt for the paper cases that I knew were in the pantry somewhere

They were found but I didn’t have quite enough, so I just sprayed the empty cups with oil.

The quinoa still needed something to bind it a little more, so I whisked up 2 eggs and mixed them through. Then I filled each cup with about 2 teaspoons full of the quinoa mixture, making sure that a piece of the capsicum could be seen on the top of each cup – because pretty.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Then the tray was placed in the oven for 20 mins, until the morsels smelled amazing and the cheese was starting to brown.

All done.

All done.

The Boy followed his nose into the kitchen as they were being retrieved from the oven and I had to stand guard until they were cool enough to eat.

These little mouthfuls of flavour will find their place in lunch boxes during the week, but they would be just as at home at a party or BBQ. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but try to bring them up to room temperature again before eating to allow the flavours to develop.

Hint: Get the kids to help you make them and they’ll be more likely to eat them.

Enjoy.

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

  • Servings: 24 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa or rice

2 tbsps plain flour

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tbsp mixed herbs (add a few chilli flakes for a mild bite if you wish)

½ medium red capsicum (bell pepper), diced.

1 spring (green) onion, sliced finely

3 black olives, pips removed and minced finely

½ cup shredded mozzarella

¾ cup diced feta cheese

1 lean rasher of bacon, finely diced (optional)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Line a mini cupcake tray with paper cases or oil well.

Place quinoa or rice in a medium-sized bowl and add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring well between each.

Fill paper cases with quinoa mix – about 2 rounded teaspoons per case.

Bake for 20 mins.

Allow to cool in the tray before removing to a cooling rack.

Serve at room temperature.

Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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Yum.

Yum.

 

Today, bread was baked.  It was enriched with home-ground flaxseed and some steel cut oat groats that I want to use up.

Then the smallest slow cooker was filled with the makings of a lentil and barley hotpot with a slight variation. The Boy isn’t keen on the texture of the dried shiitake mushrooms that I like to add to it, so this time I thought I’d do something different.

Dried Mushrooms.

Dried Mushrooms.

I piled the dried mushrooms into the little electric coffee grinder- that I use for grinding everything except coffee – and pulverised them.

Dried mushroom powder.

Dried mushroom powder.

Then I added the mushroom powder to the chicken stock and continued as per normal. This way I got the mushroomy aroma that I adore and he didn’t have to deal with sensory issues. This is what is known as a win/win.

Some of yesterday’s Tuscan Kale bonanza was also added to the pot. We had it for dinner served over steamed basmati rice.

Lentil and Barley Hotpot

Lentil and Barley Hotpot

But before that we reduced a heaping pile of killer rose debris to a much smaller, smouldering pile of ash and charcoal. It was very satisfying.

However, it caused me to reflect on how skills are being lost – especially after three abortive attempts to get the pyre lit. My mother used to woman the incinerator at our house (before the advent of recycling bins) and I regaled The Boy with tales of yesteryear when everyone’s Sunday afternoon usually included one or another neighbour’s smoke from ‘burning off’ household waste of some kind.  Usually blowing directly onto someone’s freshly laundered sheets.

I now smell of wood smoke. The cats are viewing me with suspicion.

We followed this caveman-like feat with some very civilised Loaded Hot Potato Chips and collapsed in front of the telly.

Loaded hot potato chips

Loaded hot potato chips

I decided (in my deranged exhaustion) that I wanted to try something I’d never done before for dessert. I decided this about 10 minutes before I was going to serve dinner. I’m an idiot.

Anyway, I spent about 20 minutes searching for a recipe in my book collection and then asked Mr Google. For dessert I made some Baked Stuffed Apples.

Stuffed Baked Apple

Stuffed Baked Apple

I was too tired to eat them.

There were leftovers.

A mañana todos.

Microwaved Jacket Potato

I'm feeling peckish now.

There are times when you want something quick but hearty to eat, be it for dinner or lunch.

This is one of those dishes.

In fact, this is an ideal process to teach hollow-legged teenagers to follow for filling/healthy after school or school holiday snacks. Actually, it just makes an ideal Saturday/after sport/after-after-school-activity-and-I’m-too-tired-to-cook-anything-imaginative-dinner.

If you have a microwave, then you can have a baked jacket potato on your plate in mere minutes. In fact, many microwaves have a potato button…

Spot the 'Potato' button.

Spot the ‘Potato’ button.

But you can still do this even if your particular zapper doesn’t.

First, you need a potato.

This is a potato.

This is a potato.

I buy washed potatoes. I know they are cheaper unwashed, but I don’t enjoy scrubbing them and I refuse to peel potatoes on the grounds of good nutrition. So there.

When I choose my potatoes, I try to buy ones that fit nicely into the palm of my hand. That is a decent serving size for me. You might like your potatoes larger. Go for it.

Wash your potato and then prick it in several different places using the tines of a fork.

Pierce your potato's skin.

Pierce your potato’s skin.

Don’t skip this step. You need to do this or your potato will explode while you are cooking it. Now wrap it in a sheet of paper towel, like so.

Gift wrapped potato.

Gift wrapped potato.

Put it into your microwave and either use the potato program – my microwave requires me to press “potato” and then the number of items, followed by “cook” – or input cooking times yourself.

This can vary depending on the size of your spud. Try starting with 3 mins 30 sec at 80% power and work your way up from there. You’ll know your potato is cooked when the fork you used to puncture the skin will go into the flesh easily.

Warning: The potato will be HOT. Take proper precautions when handling it.

Check that it is done.

Check that it is done.

Then place it on a plate or into a bowl. You can eat it just like this, if you wish, but I like to top mine.

Cut a cross in the flattest side, opening up the potato like so:

That already looks good.

That already looks good.

We like to top ours with some home-made Baked Beans. I keep little jars of these in our freezer for meals like this, you can use store bought canned baked beans if you have them – any flavour you like.

Home-made cider baked beans.

Home-made cider baked beans.

Top your potato with the beans, cover and put it back into the microwave for a further minute at 100% power.

Ready to heat.

Ready to heat.

While it heats, get some grated cheese out of the fridge (or grate some). Top your potato and beans.

Top with a sprinkling of shredded tasty cheese or mozzarella.

Top with a sprinkling of shredded tasty cheese or mozzarella.

Return to the microwave, covered, for a further 30 seconds on 100%.

Melt your cheese.

Melt your cheese.

Eat.

Or, if you want to be really decadent, add a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkling of mixed herbs or lemon pepper.

I'm feeling peckish now.

I’m feeling peckish now.

That, my friends, is a decent lunch in under 5 minutes.

Variations:

  • Try topping with a mixture of diced ham, cheese and pineapple for an Hawaiian Pizza feel.
  • Try a tin of three or four bean mix instead of the baked beans, add some pesto and bacon bits.
  • Try topping the baked potato with cheese and serving topped with some mixed frozen vegetables that have been cooked separately.
Osso Buco

I have spent the vast majority of the day tucked up in my bed with a cat or two.

However, I did emerge long enough to make dinner.

The Boy had the stated objective of “making Osso Buco in the bomb” – by this he meant our pressure cooker. Unfortunately, he got sidetracked on his ‘puter and my tummy got rumbling; so I did it.

Thankfully his distraction lasted long enough that I was able to cook it, realise it needed more time, and do it over again. Which also gave me time to stir up a pot of polenta.

?????????????

Polenta

And a glorious dinner was had.

Polenta

Polenta

Now I intend to head back to bed and continue working my way through the exhaustive list of home remedies that has generously been flowing in over the last few days.

Night All.

Cough, sniffle.