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
  • Print

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.

 

 

 

How to reconstitute dried sourdough

This post might seem to be a bit “out of the blue” – and it is. I’ve just started learning and experimenting with Sourdough and I’m not quite ready to post about it all just yet.

However, I have two gorgeous cousins who are also interested in it and I thought I’d dry some of my starter, Bullwinkle, and send him to them.

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I did that quite successfully, as you can see. I started out with flakes and then remembered I owned a coffee grinder I could powder them in. So I did.

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Then I realised that they’d have to reconstitute him. I needed to learn how to do that. I also needed to check that these little bags of magic powder would actually work before I sent them off into the vast reaches of Oz.

Or I might be disowned or something.

This blog post is for Marina and Laurina. (Yes their names rhyme, but I promise they have different mothers.)

Moving on.

Start with a small, clean bowl. To it, add a teaspoon of starter powder followed by a tablespoon of unchlorinated water. (Boil your kettle, use that when it’s cooled.)

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Pre-grinding flakey starter was used for this pic. Don’t panic.

Mix to a slurry and set aside for a few hours. To be safe, do this at breakfast and the next step in the evening.

Now add a tablespoon of flour and the same weight of your unchlorinated water.  So, if your flour comes to 20 g – for the sake of argument – then add 20 g of water. It is important to use the same type of flour the starter was originally made with. You can wean it onto another type after it is out of ICU.

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Mix well, cover loosely and put aside.

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It will look particularly unimpressive.

The next day you may see a bubble or two, or you may not. Don’t despair. Repeat the feeding process above and put it aside. You will know it has revived when bubbles appear. If more than 4 days pass and no bubbles surface – ahem – discard and start again.

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Like this.

Transfer it to a larger bowl or jar and add 100 g each of flour and water. Mix well and place aside. Your mixture will double in size and rise.

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There’s life in them thar bubbles!

Feed it again, place it in the jar you want to store it in permanently, cover loosely and transfer to your fridge.

Look how happy the one I revived is!

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All bubbled up and ready to bake!

Yes, the process is slow. It’s not an instant ‘add water and bake’ thing. But, you know, that’s actually a really good introduction to the slowness of the sourdough baking process.

Enjoy it.

Meanwhile, The Boy has decided I should go into business selling little bags of sourdough starter. What do you all think?

Jelly Whip (2 ingredient dessert)

And doesn't that look good?

I know, it’s been a while. Never mind.

I’m back now.

I’ve been unwell and it’s been hot – these two things are related.

However, I figure most of my Southern Hemisphere readership has also been feeling a tad warm, so here’s a quick and easy dessert recipe to (a) cool you down and (b) entertain the kidlets as you get toward the end of the School holidays.

This recipe uses exactly two (2) ingredients: evaporated milk and instant jelly (jello).

You’ll also need an electric mixer or be an absolute virtuoso at hand whisking.

This dessert resembles mousse and takes nothing more than a good sense of timing, really.

Basically, you chill a tin of evaporated milk. Then you make up a sachet of flavoured jelly, using only half the water and pop it into the fridge. Then, when the jelly is only just set, you whip up the milk until it triples in volume and mix in the jelly.

Spoon into parfait dishes (or, you know, whatever) chill for another hour and eat.

Easy as, bru.

The timing comes into the whole “only just set” bit. You’ll wait and wait and wait (and the kids will nag and nag and nag…) and then suddenly it will be completely firm, because of course. If this happens, then nil desperandum, pop the jelly into the microwave for 10 seconds and it will no longer be perfectly set.

So!  From the beginning then…

Pop a tin of evaporated milk into the refrigerator for a few hours, or make it easier on yourself and just keep one in there.

Then make up a packet of jelly – or as the Americans call it, Jello – but only use half the water needed.

A packet of Strawberry Jelly crystals.

A packet of Strawberry Jelly crystals.

I prefer not to use “diet” jellies for this, the artificial sweeteners don’t really help the flavour profile of what is actually a very rich dish. I always find it has a rather metallic taint to it, however you may not so go with what you have.

This packet called for 2 cups or 500 ml of water to be added, so I added only 1 cup – half boiling and half chilled.

jelly Crystals. Pretty, aren't they?

Jelly Crystals. Pretty, aren’t they?

I have trouble dissolving it all properly in such a small amount of water, so I use a tiny whisk I got in a Christmas gift of Hot Chocolate a few years ago. It’s okay though, you may use a spoon.

Isn't it precious? (The hot chocolate mix it came with was awful!)

Isn’t it precious? (The hot chocolate mix it came with was awful!)

Put your jelly liquid in the fridge and wait until it has just begun to set – you don’t want a liquid and you don’t want a sliceable texture either. Give it 2 to 3 hours, tops.

When it gets there, remove your evaporated milk into the basin of a mixer and prepare to be amazed. It will start out looking like this.

Evap milk: Exhibit A

Evap milk: Exhibit A

Beat it on full speed for several minutes. It will start to thicken and will eventually form stiff peaks.

Really.

You might think it’s not going to work and then it will. Like this.

Evap milk: Exhibit B.

Evap milk: Exhibit B.

Now spoon in your jelly and mix gently until incorporated.

Can you see the strawberry tint to it? Can you? Can you?

Can you see the strawberry tint to it? Can you? Can you?

It will smell delicious.

Now, scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula and give it a final stir by hand, making sure to incorporate any heavier bits of jelly that have dropped to the bottom of the mixing bowl.

Spoon into parfait dishes and return to the refrigerator for one hour. Do NOT do what I did and pile it up in the bowl, it won’t hold its own weight and will spill over the sides of the dish.  You have been warned.

And doesn't that look good?

And doesn’t that look good?

I would suggest using milkshake glasses if you have them, just quietly.

This will serve four generously. If there are not that many of you and you wish to keep some for later (!) then be sure to cover with plastic wrap or a lid of some kind. The jelly will do what jelly does and form a skin. This is by no means inedible – just ask me – but it isn’t particularly attractive.

So, there you go. A cool, rich dessert for a hot summer night.

Even the kids could make it. Heavens, they could even wash up the mixing bowl and clean the kitchen while you wait for it to set.

Just a thought.

Man oh man!

Man oh man!

Jelly Whip

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 400g tin evaporated milk (a little larger or smaller won’t matter)

1 packet flavoured jelly crystals

Method

Chill the evaporated milk in its tin for a few hours or overnight.

Make up the jelly crystals using only half the water called for in the packet instructions.

(Most packets call for 2 cups or 500 ml of water, so use ½ a cup of boiling water to dissolve the crystals thoroughly and then add ½ a cup of cool water to complete.)

Place in the refrigerator to chill until only just set. It should be neither liquid nor solid.

This will take about 3 hours. If you do misjudge the window – or forget- and it sets hard, simply microwave for 10 secs and then return to the refrigerator if necessary.

When the jelly is set sufficiently, empty the evaporated milk into a large bowl and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until thickened and doubled in volume – about 4 minutes.

Add the jelly and mix gently until incorporated.

Spoon into serving dishes and return to the refrigerator for a further hour before serving.

Cover any leftovers to prevent a ‘skin’ from forming.

You may wish to garnish with fruit to match the flavour of the jelly…

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

I simply adore toasted pine nuts.

I think I mentioned a little while ago that the Budget Bounty household now has a plot at the local Community Garden.

This has been an adventure over the last few months as we have managed to grow things quite well, without actually growing anything to harvest, viz our Brussels Sprouts were overwhelmingly Brussels with nary a sprout in sight. *sigh*

We have, however, cracked the Silverbeet growing thing. You might call it Chard, or Spinach or some such, but I grew up calling this particular leaf Silverbeet. It’s thick, it’s squeaky (!) and we have oodles of it – although I think it may be about to go to seed.

I also don’t like it very much. Don’t tell The Boy, please.

He does like it. Very much. So, having returned from our last visit to our patch with several armfuls of the stuff, I had to find something to do with it all! There was no way it was all going to fit into the refrigerator and the weather we are currently experiencing would see it wilt to inedible in no time. So I cooked it.

I washed it, shook it dry, tore the leaves off the stems and crammed them all into my largest pot, with the lid on and over the lowest heat – and just let it all wilt. I ended up with this.

Cooked Spinach

Cooked Spinach

Looks attractive, dunnit?

I now had a large glass container full of spinach to contend with, but there was no rush to do it. A breather had been orchestrated. Yay.

I wanted to make a Spanakopita that I had made before from www.Food.com (way back when it was still Recipezaar) but I just don’t have the energy right now to give it the attention it deserves. So I searched the Interwebz and my recipe books for things-that-look-like-a-thing-but-aren’t-quite and got overwhelmed by it all.

I bought Feta cheese, I bought Ricotta cheese, I thought about buying Filo/Phyllo pastry and then mentally backhanded myself for even considering it, so I bought puff pastry instead… and I still didn’t know what I was going to do.

This is Not. Like. Me.

So I took bits from everywhere and basically made something up. The something I made up was a hit with The Boy, who took one mouthful and exclaimed, “You have to post this!”

This is me, doing as I was told.

Let me start by saying you could use Filo pastry for this if you wished. I just don’t have the co-ordination to deal with it at the moment. I used a 1 kg packet of puff pastry sheets that I had thawed in the refrigerator, and they did the trick beautifully. If you want to make your own, then all power to you.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Then I got out my food processor, because knives and I are not a good combination right now.

Into the processor bowl went various things, starting with 100 g of the cooked spinach – weighed after I had squeezed most of the water out of it.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Then I added a drained can of chickpeas. These were some I had canned myself with the addition of a touch of Cashew Za’atar, but a normal store-bought tin will do just fine. I put these in because I wanted to add a depth of flavour and texture. I was worried that, if I just made it with cheese, spinach and puff pastry, it would be a little insipid and watery. This would make it more filling and ground it a little (I hoped).

Add some chickpeas

Add some chickpeas

Then I added 100 g each of Feta and drained Ricotta.

Prepare to be blended.

Prepare to be blended.

And whizzed it all up to a nice puree.

Gotta love technology.

Gotta love technology.

Then I decided that I didn’t want it to be all bland mushiness inside and toasted up a spoonful or so of pine nuts to stir through.

Stir them through, don't whaz them!

Stir them through, don’t whaz them!

About this time, I turned the oven on and retrieved the pastry from the fridge. Which is when I had to figure out how to attack this. The pastry sheets look kind of uninspiring. But I got one out, keeping it on the dividing sheet of plastic – which later came in quite handy.

Blank canvas.

Blank canvas.

I figured that one sheet would make two good sized pastries or hand pies. So I got out a sharp knife and scored it down the centre.

Let’s just skip over the fact that I then dropped the knife and it plunged, tip-first, a good centimetre into the hardwood floor right beside my foot…  Ahem.

The pastry and said knife.

The pastry and said knife.

I meditated for a bit, then filled a coffee mug with some cold tap water. I dipped two fingers into this and ran them around the outermost edges of the pastry sheet and on either side of the score line, rewetting as necessary.

Then I very precisely dolloped some of the puree into the middle of the top of the pastry strips. Like so.

Behold! The dollop!

Behold! The dollop!

For those who want to know the precise volume of the dollops – I dunno. Try about ¼ – ½ a cup’s worth.

You’re welcome.

Then I folded it in half, bottom to top, still leaving the plastic attached. Once the corners were matched, I pressed down quite firmly with my fingertips, going all around the outside and down both sides of the middle score line. Then I peeled the plastic back.

Look what I did!

Look what I did!

I wanted them to brown up a bit while they cooked, so I broke an egg into a small jug and beat it a little with a fork for an egg wash. First though, I grabbed another fork and pressed quite firmly around all the edges with it. Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and transferred the parcels onto it.

I don’t have photos of this, but I slid an egg flip under them and turned them bare-side down onto my other palm. This let me remove the rest of the plastic. Then I placed them with that side down onto the baking sheet.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

I could only fit two on to the sheet as I didn’t wish to crowd them. Using a pastry brush, I glazed them with the egg wash and popped them in the oven for 15 minutes.

It worked.

I'm quite pleased with that, really...

I’m quite pleased with that, really…

Then I immediately plated one up and served it to The Boy. History was made.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

I baked another four to have as lunches throughout the week. The rest I flash froze after glazing. Then, when they were chilled sufficiently, transferred to a large bag for longer term storage. I’m not quite sure how long they would take to cook from the freezer, but I’m going with 30 minutes until proven wrong.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Enjoy.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 kg packet puff pastry sheets (you want 6), defrosted.

100 g of cooked spinach, squeezed as dry as you can (you can use frozen spinach from the supermarket, defrosted)

400 g tin chickpeas, drained

100 g feta cheese

100 g ricotta cheese, drained a little

1 tsp dried dill (optional)

¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Cup of luke warm water for sealing

1 egg, beaten slightly

Method

Note: Keep the packet of puff pastry in the fridge. Remove one sheet at a time and replace the rest of the packet in the fridge while you are working with that one. This will keep the pastry relatively firm and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/450°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine spinach, chickpeas, feta and ricotta cheeses.

Add dried dill, if liked. Other spices or herbs may be used according to your preference.

Process until the chickpeas are fully incorporated.

Remove to a small bowl.

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Approx. 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully to avoid scorching.

Add pine nuts to contents of bowl and stir through.

Take one sheet of puff pastry. Using a sharp knife score down the middle, dividing it into two rectangular strips of equal size.

Using the cupful of warm water, dampen your index and middle fingertips and run them around the outer edges of the pastry surface as well as down both sides of the centre score line. This will help the pastry joins to seal and avoid the filling leaking out during baking.

In the middle of the top half of each strip place several large spoonfuls of spinach and cheese mixture. The exact amount will depend on the size of the pastry sheet you are using.  It should be around ¼ – ½ a cup of the mixture.

Then fold the bottom of the pastry sheet (including the plastic lining) over the filling, matching the corners and pressing firmly. Using your fingertips, press each edge together including the one with the fold. You should have two nicely sealed pockets of pastry.

Peel back the plastic.

If you wish, you can now use a fork to crimp the edges you just pressed together with your fingertips. This is optional, but may give you a much better seal.

(And it looks pretty 😉 )

Transfer the pastry packets to a lined oven tray with the crimped edge upwards. You may only be able to fit two to a tray.

Take a pastry brush and paint the top of each parcel with the beaten egg. It doesn’t need to be done thickly.

This will help to get a golden finish on the pastry as it bakes.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes and eat immediately or remove to a rack to cool.

Prepare the next lot of parcels as the previous batch bakes.

To store: cool thoroughly on a rack before placing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eat within 3-4 days.

To freeze: prepare up to the egg wash stage. Place on a flat surface in the freezer and leave for 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a sealed container or freezer bag.

To reheat from frozen: place in a 220°C/450°F oven for 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

To serve: May be eaten on its own as a light meal or lunch or served with a salad for a main course.

How to make evenly-sized cookies – easily.

 

This post uses some of the content from this one.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with judicially minded offspring or youngsters – you know the ones, “Muuuuum, it’s not fair! Her cookie is bigger than mine!” needs to be able to say “they’re all the same size”; and mean it.

Also, it’s sometimes a useful thing in the adult world to know that everything has the same amount of calories kilojoules bad stuff diet disasters  the portions are all the same size for planning purposes.

So, when I make cookies, I use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure them out onto a paper-lined baking sheet.

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later...

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later…

This method means that they are all around the same size which helps with both portion control and arbitrating amongst the youngsters.

We’ve all been there.

It also helps if the kidlings are assisting you with your baking…

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

 

It won’t ensure that each child’s portion has the same amount of choc chips if they’re included in your cookie, but the rebuttal to that is that, if they are counting instead of eating, then they aren’t hungry enough for more cookies.

I bought my ice cream scoop on eBay. It was in a set of three, with the largest 2 inches across. They cost me something like $3 including postage from China, so the fact that I really only ever regularly use the one doesn’t bother me as a waste of money.

However, I do use the larger ones for scoops of mashed potato and pumpkin if I want to prettify a dinner serving or use them to top a cottage pie.

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Jam drops (Thumb-print biscuits)

Jam drops

Jam drops are an old-fashioned biscuit that remind me of my childhood any time I see them. They were a standard addition to my lunch boxes throughout our primary school years, and I’m pretty sure they still are for a number of lucky kids today.

I remember that, when I was little, I used to have a ritual of nibbling very slowly around the edge of these biscuits until only the jam-filled centre was left –  leaving the best till last.

These are some of the easiest biscuits you will ever make. They aren’t a cookie. They should be crisp – not soft and cakey like a cookie is. This relative hardness is what makes them such a good lunch box treat as they won’t turn to crumbs during the journey to school.

You can fill them with whatever jam you have and like; strawberry jam is traditional. However, you could also use your own home-made lemon butter and I have used dulce de leche quite successfully. It’s up to you.

You can also make these quite easily with children as your apprentices. If you are in the grips of an ‘OMG it’s the school holidays and they are looking bored, help me!’ panic attack, then here you go. I’ve even included instructions for cleaning up along the way.

You’re welcome.

The first thing to do is to decide which jam you are going to use.

Home made jams

Home made jams

This recipe is ideal for using up the last few teaspoons of a jar that has been lurking unloved in the refrigerator for a while – because no one ever  wants to use that last little bit, do they?

I didn’t have anything that was opened and so I decided to use one of the jars I had put up earlier this year.

The Boy prefers things that aren’t marmalade, so that narrowed it down to the crabapple jam. Easy.

Begin by creaming together the room-temperature butter and the sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract and two eggs. Beat again.

Add eggs and flavourings.

Add eggs and flavourings.

In a medium size bowl, sift together some plain flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir well to combine.

To help keep your kitchen under control, fill the bowl you sifted the flour into with warm water and washing-up liquid/dish soap. Now is the time to put any electric mixer away. Wipe it down (if necessary) and place the beaters in the bowl of water along with any measuring cups and spoons you have used.

Turn your oven on to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tray with paper.

Take small spoonfuls of batter and roll into small balls the size of walnuts…or use a 1″ ice cream scoop, like I do.  Don’t overcrowd the tray as the batter contains butter and will spread as the butter melts…

Using a (well-washed) thumb of a nearby child or the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the top of each ball. Don’t go all the way through to the tray.

Make little cups for your jam.

Make little cups for your jam.

Now, carefully spoon a little bit of jam into each dent.  If you are the adult, you may wish to do this or risk having most of the jam licked off fingertips instead of going into your biscuit!

Fill your cups.

Fill your cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown – check after 10 minutes.

While your first tray is in the oven, prepare your second batch of biscuits and then do the washing up that has been soaking in the bowl of warm sudsy water. You’ll have plenty of time.

Baked jam drops.

Baked jam drops.

Allow to cool on a rack. Remember hot jam can BURN. Do not eat the biscuits until they are properly cool.

If you are the responsible adult, the best answer to the question, “When can we try them can I have one?” is after the last batch is baked. You’ll get at least three trays of eight from this mixture.

The jam when I started...

The jam when I started…

As you put the last batch into the oven, add the bowl and jam spoon to the sink and wash them up. All the washing up is now done. Wipe down the benches while the last tray of biscuits is in the oven.

You probably won’t need to wash the trays if you have been using baking paper. Just let them cool and put them away later. Unless, of course, you are an Outstandingly Conscientious Domestic engineer – in which case, go ahead. Ahem.

Serve with milk or a nice cuppa. Store in an airtight container for as long as you have any left.

This is my mother’s recipe.

Jam Drop Biscuits

  • Servings: makes 24
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

125 g butter, room temperature

¾ cup (165 g) sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cups (300 g) plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/3 cup (100 g) jam or jelly of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the salt, vanilla extract and eggs and beat well.

Into a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture and stir until well combined.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture between your palms to make small balls about the size of a walnut.

Place balls onto prepared baking trays, leaving room for them to spread as they bake.

Use your thumb, or the end of a wooden spoon handle, to make small indentations in the top of each ball.

With a teaspoon, spoon a little jam into each dent – Don’t overfill.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, checking after the first 10 mins. They are done when golden brown.

Allow to cool thoroughly before eating.

Store in an airtight container.

...and the jam left when I was finished.

…and the jam left when I was finished.

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Condensed milk chocolate chip cookies (no eggs).

A full biscuit barrel is a good thing to have.

This is my go-to recipe when I want to make cookies that don’t require thinking.

It comes from a wonderful little book that I bought from Aldi a few years ago, called “Cookies, Slices and Squares.”  I’ve not made a great many of the recipes it contains, but all those I have tried have been amazing.

I like to have some home-made biscuits in the house for The Boy. I’ll make a batch once a fortnight or so, keep most of them in the fridge and put four or five into a tin on the counter for him to nibble with his hot beverage of choice.

The beauty of butter-based cookies like these, is that they are far too hard to eat straight out of the refrigerator. Also, the flavour is much better developed at room temperature…do you see my strategy here? Basically, I’m ensuring that he doesn’t scoff the whole lot at one sitting.

This is a cookie recipe. It’s much softer when finished than Aussie biscuits are – cookies have a ‘cakey’ centre where biscuits are the same hardness all the way through.

condensed milk - ready to go.

condensed milk – ready to go.

This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk instead of eggs. One tin of condensed milk will get me three batches of these cookies. I pour the leftover milk into little jelly jars and keep it in the fridge until I need it. One jelly jar is the exact amount I need for the recipe, so it works out well.

It begins with creaming softened butter and caster sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then you whip in the condensed milk until combined.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

To this plain flour sifted with baking powder is added and stirred in well. The recipe then calls for MASSES of chocolate chips – 300 g of them. This is what a batter with that amount of chips looks like … just for reference purposes.

Lashings and lashings of chocolate chips.

Lashings and lashings of chocolate chips.

Now I am of the belief that no everyday snacking cookie requires this much chocolate in it. I have (obviously) made them with it in the past, but only for special occasions or for gifts. On some occasions I have made up the 300 g with a combination of different types of chips – dark, milk, white and caramel – and it has worked beautifully.

I usually make these with 100 g worth.

Less chocolate works quite well too.

Less chocolate works quite well too.

It still works and no-one feels deprived of chocolate. Really, truly.

I then use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure out the cookies onto a paper lined baking sheet.

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later...

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later…

This method means that they are all around the same size which helps with both portion control and arbitrating amongst judicially minded offspring – you know how it goes, “Muuuuum, it’s not fair! Her biscuit is bigger than mine!”

We’ve all been there.

It also helps if the kidlings are assisting you with your baking…

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

Press down gently on the top to flatten slightly and pop into a moderately hot oven for around 15 minutes, or until slightly golden.

Yum.

Yum.

Leave them to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a cake rack to cool completely. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven.

Also, DO NOT eat a hot cookie. Melted chocolate will burn. You have been warned.

Adequate choc chips for all...

Adequate choc chips for all…

As you can see, the smaller amount of chocolate chips is hardly inadequate.

Transfer to whatever receptacle works for you and enjoy.

The biscuit barrel is full.

The biscuit barrel is full.

Condensed milk chocolate chip cookies

  • Servings: makes 28
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) butter, softened

75 g (2¾ oz) caster sugar

125 ml (4 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk

250 g (9 oz) plain or all purpose flour)

1 tsp baking powder

300 g (10 ½ oz) chocolate chips or chunks (or less, if you prefer)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy.

Pour in the condensed milk and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.

Add to the butter mixture with the chocolate pieces and mix to combine.

Roll into tablespoon sized balls (or use an ice cream scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving room to spread. Press down gently with your fingertips or a fork to flatten slightly,

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake rake to cool completely.

Cookies will harden on standing.

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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.

Sweet Quesadillas

I’m pretty sure I saw this on a now defunct kid’s television show, not long after I was retired. Rollercoaster was one of my favourite parts of the day at the time, especially The Secret Show which I still consider to be one of the best shows ever made. Fluffy, fluffy bunnies….

Ahem.

Fresh stuff

Fresh stuff

Anyway, Rollercoaster stopped airing quite a long time ago and I still hadn’t made this recipe.
I bought some bananas this week thinking I might try it sometime, but then this morning this happened.

This is bad.

This is bad.

What better reason to eat something quick, easy and sweet? (Gotta get those blood sugars up…)

On a more serious note, this is a great snack to make with the kids, after school or during the holidays. It takes mere seconds, is relatively healthy – especially if you use wholegrain wraps -but needs adult supervision.

I used a sandwich press (panini), but this could easily be done with a frying pan.

Sandwich press.

Sandwich press.

Basically, grab a flour tortilla or a wrap.  I had this packet already open in my fridge.

That's a wrap.

That’s a wrap.

Zap the closed packet for 30 seconds in the microwave to heat them and make them a little more pliable. Then take one out and fold it in half, like so.

Looks tricky, doesn't it?

Looks tricky, doesn’t it?

Then, peel a banana and slice it thinly. You don’t want it too thick or it may not stick together later.

Slice a banana thinly.

Slice a banana thinly.

I used a Cavendish banana, but I’m willing to bet that a sugar or Lady Finger banana would be even better (if more expensive).

The slices of bananas are then scattered on one half of the inside of the folded wrap, like so:

Start filling your quesadilla.

Start filling your quesadilla.

Use the fold line as a guide as to where to stop.

Then choc chips are added in between the slices. Yum!

You don’t need a great many choc chips, and try to place at least a few on the edge of the wrap to hold it together.

Add choc chips.

Add choc chips.

Using an oil spray, lightly coat the upper and lower plates of the sandwich press once it is heated.

Fold the wrap in half and place it on the press, close, and toast to the level you prefer. When you sneak a peak (you know you will) you’ll see that the chips have melted.

A melting moment...

A melting moment…

Using an egg slice or spatula, remove to a piece of paper towel to cool.

DO NOT eat the quesadilla immediately!

The chocolate is hot and will burn.

Distract children with making further servings. We found three wraps was a perfect snack size for two adults.

When you have finished. Wipe the sandwich press with a piece of paper towel, turn it off and put it out of reach and THEN cut your snacks into wedges and serve.

If you don’t own a sandwich press, then a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat will work too. Just remember to press on the top of the folded wrap to encourage the two sides to stick together. Turn once.

Hungry?

Hungry?

You may not use all of a banana, depending on its size. Anyone wanting seconds should be given the banana to eat IMHO.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate ‘Ice Cream’ (with bananas)

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

You know when you buy a hand of bananas and suddenly they’re all too ripe and no-one wants to eat them and you get annoyed because you’ve spent the money and now it’s being wasted and it doesn’t matter what you do it seems like you can never get it right and why is life so unfair?

Take a breath. Calm down.

Firstly, freeze your bananas. If they’re getting past the eating-as-a-fresh-banana stage, then peel them and pop them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. They can be defrosted and used in cakes and muffins and what-not at a later stage.

If you don’t want them to stick together, so you can take out one or two at a time, then freeze them separately before you place them in the bag. They will live in there quite happily for many months.

And don't they look attractive?

And don’t they look attractive?

Then you can make ice cream out of them.

Yes. I said ice cream. Frozen bananas can be used to make a soft serve ice cream which is wonderful for those with a lactose intolerance. Cold affects the performance of your taste buds, so the banana flavour fades right away and you are left with a cold, creamy substance that you can add other flavours to. Like chocolate.

This requires a food processor with a metal blade. I’m sorry, there’s really not an alternative to the use of an appliance for this.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

Also, I had quite a few bananas I wanted to use as I wanted the freezer space. So the pictures you see here will be of about three times the quantity that will be made from the recipe provided.

Making the actual dessert is super simple. Get the kids involved (just don’t let them lick the blade…)

Cut your bananas into chunks and put them into the processor bowl.

Chunky bananas.

Chunky bananas.

Now sift in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder. I used Dutch process cocoa because that’s what I had. If you’re an Aussie and you have some to spare, then try using Milo instead.

Add cocoa.

Add cocoa.

Now add some vanilla extract and a touch of salt. The salt will help to accent the sweetness of the bananas.

I used sea salt flakes - you don't have to.

I used sea salt flakes – you don’t have to.

Then add a dollop of sweetener if you really want to. I added a touch of honey, but it’s really not necessary. Bananas are full of natural sugars – don’t for a moment start thinking of this as a low calorie alternative to regular dairy ice-creams.

*Diabetics be warned, this will make your sugars spike.*

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

You may like to add a few tablespoons of a nut butter here. Peanut butter works fine, or you can try almond or sunflower butter instead. The oils in the butter give the final dessert a smoother texture and “mouth feel.” I didn’t have any, so I didn’t.

I did find that it wasn’t blending as smoothly as I would have liked, so I drizzled in some buttermilk that I had in the refrigerator. Adding yoghurt would also work – and this can be dairy, soy or coconut – or you could just add a little vegetable oil.

None of these things is absolutely vital.

Put the lid on your processor and pulse a few times to get it going.

It will form a thick paste.

It will form a thick paste.

Keep blending until you reach the desired texture. I wanted a smoother blend and added a drizzle of buttermilk to loosen it up a little. I stopped blending when it looked like this.

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

You may serve it immediately. If you are making it with kids, you’ll probably have to serve it immediately.

Otherwise, place it in a sealed container and re-freeze.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

When the time comes to serve it up, remove it from the freezer at least 15 minutes beforehand to soften.  You may end up with a sprained wrist otherwise.

Enjoy.

Chocolate 'Ice-cream' (banana)

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

3 medium bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen

½ tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

optional:

  • sweetener such as honey or maple syrup
  • 3-5 tbsps peanut butter or similar
  • 2-3 tbsps Greek yoghurt or buttermilk

Method

Place the metal ‘S’ blade in a food processor.

Combine the first four ingredients in the bowl and blend until smooth. Add the optional ingredients if you wish.

Serve immediately.

May be stored in a sealed container in the freezer, but remove at least 15 minutes before serving if you do so. The warmer the ice-cream the more it will resemble soft serve.

Variations:

  • Mix through chopped nuts or choc chips.
  • Use another frozen fruit e.g. strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango etc., instead of the cocoa powder for a fruit flavoured dessert.