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.

20161004_163321

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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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Double Chocolate Cookies.

The Boy's favourite cookies.

These are the cookies that are the way to The Boy’s heart. Every time that I make them for him he gets this far away look in his eyes and lights up like he’s just spotted a litter of kittens.

That’s good, by the way.

This recipe is basically a riff on the Condensed milk chocolate chip cookie recipe I have posted previously. I substitute a few tablespoons of the flour for dutch process cocoa, use chunks instead of chips of chocolate and add a sprinkling of sea salt. It all works.

I shall repeat the recipe with the tweaks in its entirety right here for you though. It will save lots of jumping about – although that may help you to deal with the calories…

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.

Measure out your plain flour, add the cocoa ( I use Dutch process, but you don’t have to) and sift together with the baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Add the lot to your butter mixture and stir well.

That just looks sinful, doesn't it?

That just looks decadent, doesn’t it?

Now, you may choose to use choc chips for this part of the recipe. I use a ‘family-sized’ block of dark cooking chocolate that I have placed in a paper bag and smashed to smithereens with a meat mallet. If you wish to smash things too then you can use whatever heavy implement you have to hand. Enjoy this bit.

Add to the mixing bowl.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

For a really special touch, add a good pinch of sea salt flakes. The touch of salt serves to intensify the chocolate flavour beautifully. I haven’t tried this with milk chocolate, but with dark chocolate it’s pure heaven.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Stir to combine.

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

Use a 1" scoop to measure out your cookies.

Use a 1″ scoop to measure out your cookies.

Press down gently on the top to flatten slightly and pop into a moderately hot oven for around 15 minutes. If you forget to flatten them, then bake for 20 minutes.

Not that I have ever forgotten this step, you understand. Ahem.

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.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Prepare to look for kittens.

Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: makes 28
  • Difficulty: easy
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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, minus 2 Tablespoons

2 Tbsps Cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt flakes

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, cocoa and baking powder.

Add to the butter mixture and mix to combine.

Add the chocolate pieces and salt flakes and stir well.

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.

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel...

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel…

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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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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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Apple and Oat Bars

Stay calm and eat Apple and Oat Bars...

Last night, The Boy declared – out of the blue – that I should do a muesli (granola) bar recipe. Because school goes back next week or something and this could be useful to people.

I think he just wanted muesli bars.

I also think he could have told me before I did the fortnight’s shopping and could stock up on the expensive stuff that goes into these snacks.

So, I compromised. I’m good at that.

I made these little Apple and Oat Bars from stuff I already had and which – most likely – you already have too. Because that is how we roll in the Budget Bounty kitchen.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

The recipe for these came from one of the first cookbooks I ever bought for my now massive collection. It’s called Good Cooking by the people at Good Housekeeping and was published way back in 1988. Which is why I have changed one of the ingredients from margarine to butter…

It’s a recipe that literally takes only minutes to put together and which you could quite easily do with smaller versions of yourself HELPING.  Ahem.

You will need some butter, some honey, some brown sugar, some rolled oats and an apple or two. Also a bowl, a baking tin and a microwave proof jug and spatula.  Sound complicated?

After setting your oven to 190°C get out a set of scales and your microwave proof jug. Into your jug measure your butter, brown sugar and honey, like so:

Melt these things together.

Melt these things together.

Heat them for 1 minute at a time at 80% power until the butter is melted. You can do this in a saucepan on the stove, if you wish.

While it is melting, measure the oats into a medium sized mixing bowl and line a baking tin with parchment. The original recipe called for an 18 cm/7 inch square cake tin.

Pour your now liquid ingredients into the oats and mix well.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Press half this mixture into the base of your tin. Do NOT do what I did and use a silicon tray. You want the oats to crisp up and they just get soggy if you follow my example. Honestly.

Press half your oats into something that isn't silicon and is preferably metal...

Press half your oats into something that isn’t silicon and is preferably metal…

Now get a large cooking apple (around 250 g worth), peel it and slice it thinly.  Arrange the apple slices in overlapping rows to cover the oat base.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Sprinkle your slices with cinnamon. I was cooking for an adult who likes it, so I also used ground ginger on mine.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Top with the rest of the oats, press down firmly and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Cut it into portions while still hot and in the pan. Leave in the tin to cool. You want your butter and honey to set before you try to move anything, or it will all fall apart.

Elevenses, Anyone?

Elevenses, Anyone?

Store in an airtight container somewhere cool. Wrap in cling film and send as part of a school lunch, serve as an after school snack or use to accompany a much deserved cuppa.

Easy. Affordable. Tasty.

Apple and Oat Bars

  • Servings: 12 -15
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

100 g/4 oz butter

60 g/2½ oz brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

225 g/8 oz rolled oats

1 large cooking apple (250 g/9 oz) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

ground cinnamon.

Method

Heat oven to 190°C/ 375°F.

Lightly grease or line an 18 cm/ 7 inch square shallow baking tin.

In a microwave proof jug or bowl, combine the first three ingredients and heat at 80% power for 1 minute intervals until melted. Stir together. This may be done in a small saucepan on the stove top if wished.

Measure the oats into a medium-sized bowl. Pour liquid ingredients over the oats and mix well.

Divide the mixture in two and press half into the base of your prepared tin.

Arrange the sliced apple over the top of the oats in overlapping rows.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Top with the remaining oats and press down gently.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Cut into slices while still hot and then leave in the tin until cool.

Variations:

  • For a gluten-free version, substitute a gluten free muesli or granola mix for the rolled oats.
  • Try using different spices for variety. A Pumpkin Pie spice mix might be just the thing for you.
  • Sprinkle a handful of sultanas over with the cinnamon.
  • Add a scattering of choc chips over the apple for a special treat.

 

Cranberry-Almond Quinoa Pilaf

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

I’m posting this particular recipe in response to a request from my Dad, although I do hope everyone else likes it too.

It’s not really a pilaf in the strictest sense of the word – rice cooked in broth with other things then added – but it does resemble it and I’ll settle for that.

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

It contains an ingredient that seems to be one of the trendiest on the planet at this point in time, but I first learned about it in the early 1990s.

Not that I could find it anywhere, of course. Now it’s on the supermarket shelves. How times change.

I’m talking about Quinoa, an ancient South American grain that is unique in its nutritional profile.

Quinoa in the raw

Quinoa in the raw

But before I go on, let’s address a matter of some importance…how to pronounce it.

Keen-wa.

Ok? Got it? Good.

If I hear anyone saying kwin-oh-ah, I’ll slap them.

Quinoa, as I was saying, is a little famous at the moment. It is a seed that has been in cultivation for thousands of years, but only commercially so for a very short time. Which explains its cost (more on that later).

Remarkably it is a source of complete protein, which makes it extremely valuable to vegans and vegetarians. It is gluten-free and rich in dietary fibre, magnesium and iron as well as being a good source of calcium – very handy for the lactose-intolerant.

It comes in white, black and red versions. I prefer the white, but that’s just me.

Teeny, tiny seeds

Teeny, tiny seeds

It also tastes good, is easily digested, low GI and incredibly easy to prepare.

It’s not a large commercial crop though, and is on the pricey side. At my local supermarket it comes in at $2 per 100g or $10 for a half kilo (500g) bag. Bear in mind that it behaves somewhat like rice in that it swells when cooked, so one cup of quinoa will yield 2½ – 3 cups of it cooked. It can also be used in recipes that call for rice and I have made several quite successful risottos with it.

Please note that, even at that price, this entire recipe will still only cost you around AUD 4.50.

Cooked Quinoa.

Cooked Quinoa.

Unlike rice, it will give a large nutritional bang for your buck (see above) and not give you just calories and carbohydrates.

This dish is one I like to take to gatherings that require one to “bring a plate.” It’s simple, it has only three and a bit ingredients, it travels well, it caters for the gluten and lactose intolerant as well as vegetarians, it’s served cold and can often provide a talking point as everyone tries to work out (a) what it is and (b) how to pronounce it.  HINT: Keen – Wa

Ahem. Moving on.

This dish is great for Christmas gatherings in Australia too as the colours of the craisins are very much of the season and the coolness of the dish is wonderful on stinking hot days.

Enough. Let’s cook.

The first, and most important, step is to wash your quinoa. It’s also the trickiest. Quinoa seeds have a chemical in their coating called saponin. It is quite bitter and may not all be removed on the way from the field to your kitchen. Wash it.

This can be difficult to do as the seeds themselves are tiny. Really small.  Think the tip-of-a-ball-point-pen small.

The quinoa is only a little larger than the holes in my finest mesh sifter.

The quinoa is only a little larger than the holes in my finest mesh strainer.

They are easily washed through the holes of any sieves you may own. I have found myself a strainer with a very fine mesh that saves me from dumping the lot down the drain with the water. You may find that your current strainer works with the addition of a lining piece of paper towel, cheesecloth or a clean Chux.

Line your sieve so you don't lose your quinoa.

Line your sieve so you don’t lose your quinoa.

Place your quinoa in a bowl and cover with water, agitating gently. The water will turn cloudy, like this:

First rinse.

First rinse.

Drain through your sieve, return to the bowl and continue the process until the rinse water looks clear, like this:

The same bowl, two rinses later.

The same bowl, two rinses later.

It will only take two or three turns.

While you are doing this, three-quarter fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. By the time the boiling point is reached, your quinoa will be clean and can be added all in one go to the pot. There is no need to add salt.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and just let it cook, stirring occasionally.

Let it cook at a roiling boil.

Let it cook at a roiling boil.

At the end of the 15 mins, drain it. You’ll notice that the seed has separated from its husk. Don’t panic, those aren’t worms through it. And yes, I have actually been asked this!

Cooked quinoa

Cooked quinoa.

Run a fork through the seeds in order to facilitate proper draining as quite a bit of water can become caught. Leave it to cool thoroughly.

Now place your quinoa in a bowl and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil – as much or as little as you want.

Add your craisins (dried cranberries) and stir through.

Add the cranberries.

Add the cranberries.

Now heat a small frypan and gently toast your slivered almonds. Toss or stir them constantly as they will burn quite easily. You will know when they are done when they are a gorgeous tanned colour and the smell is simply mouth-watering…

I use a little egg pan for toasting my nuts.

I use a little egg pan for toasting my nuts.

Add to your bowl, mix through and serve.

Isn't it purty?

Isn’t it purdy?

This will keep happily in the refrigerator for at least three days. You’ll find the colour of the dried cranberries will ‘bleed’ into the quinoa, which just makes it look even prettier for my money.

Apart from being ideal for gatherings, it’s also a great packed lunch option. Make up a batch on the weekend to be taken to work or school during the week to come.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to add anything more to this dish. It looks as though it needs something, but it really doesn’t. I added some parsley to it once and regretted it immensely. If you really can’t help yourself, then I would suggest some very finely grated lemon or orange zest. Then stop.

Cranberry-Almond Quinoa Pilaf

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup (185g) quinoa

½ cup dried cranberries (craisins)

¼ cup slivered almonds

olive oil.

Method

Rinse the quinoa well until the water is clear. This will remove any bitterness.

Fill a large saucepan ¾ full with water and bring to the boil. Add the rinsed quinoa and cook at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.

Drain the quinoa thoroughly and cool. It is helpful to stir the draining seeds with a fork to release any trapped pockets of liquid.

Place the cold quinoa in a large bowl and add a glug of olive oil to taste. Stir through.

Add the craisins and mix through.

Toast the slivered almonds until lightly brown, either in a frypan or in the oven on low heat. Watch them carefully as nuts burn easily. Toasted nuts smell fragrant.

Add the nuts to the pilaf and serve.

Will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

The Easiest Fruit Cake. Ever. (Last minute Xmas Cake)

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the clices.
The easiest fruit cake ever.

The easiest fruit cake ever.

Yes, yes, I know, you don’t like fruit cake. Nothing personal, but…it’s just not your thing.

You’re aware that it’s a tradition, but you really just think you’ll pass this time — Okay?

Nope.

Not happening.

You have to try this cake.  If I had a dollar for every time someone who detested fruit cake then told me how much they ♥LURVED♥ this one, I’d have enough to make many more of them.

This group of people includes The Boy, who was *adamant* that I do a post on it!

Yum!

Yum!

I must confess that I don’t like your regular, traditional dark fruit cake either. It does nothing for me at all.

In fact, when my 19 year old self was copying the original handwritten recipe from my grandmother’s notes sometime last century, I wondered if I was going nuts. I mean, seriously… why would I want to make a fruit cake? However, in the interest of preserving things for posterity, and thinking my mother might like one sometime, I kept on with it.

Many years later, I decided to update it a bit. I find sultanas travel best in small quantities, but whole cakes full of them are rather uninteresting.

Note: I know this recipe doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a budget dish, the fruit is not inexpensive (about $10), but we should all have at least one special occasion card up our sleeves and this is a special occasion dish.

Master Cake decorator, I am not.

Master Cake decorator, I am not.

I changed the dried fruit in the recipe to a fruit medley product I found in the supermarket that contained dried apples, peaches, pears and apricots – alongside a small quantity of sultanas.

Angas Park Fruit Medley rocks.

Angas Park Fruit Medley rocks.

The weight (375g) wasn’t quite up to the 500g that was called for, so I decided to make it up with something a little bit special.

I am a ginger fiend. I love the stuff. So, when I saw 125g packs of glacé ginger from our friends at Buderim, I knew that had to go in as well.

Glace ginger

Glace ginger

It did and it was a triumph.

I’ve even served this up to our Governor-General and his wife, and can proudly boast it has Vice-Regal approval. So there.

If you don’t like ginger (wha..?) feel free to substitute glacé cherries instead. If you must.

Also, there is no alcohol in this recipe. If you absolutely must have booze, you may wish to use it to soak your dried fruit, I give no guarantees as to the results having never tried it this way.

This is the easiest, simplest cake to make. It takes about 10 mins of preparation – total.

It will disappear in about the same amount of time (once you get past all the “but I don’t like fruit cake…” stuff).

Don’t bother getting your electric beaters out for it, they’ll struggle. Instead, arm the nearest, largest child with a wooden spoon and get them to mix it. Say it’s a tradition. Invoke Santa and good and bad lists if you must.

Do this even if it’s August and you’re serving it that evening.

You will need a large bowl and a mug. The mug is important.

The mug.

The mug.

This is the mug I have always used for this recipe. It doesn’t matter which mug you use (you can’t have mine, sorry), but try to use the same one throughout. It’s a matter of proportions, you see.

Empty your 500g of dried fruit into a large bowl and then add a mug of hot, black tea. Leave overnight. Only soak your dried fruit, any glacé fruit will be added later.

Soak your fruit overnight

Soak your fruit overnight

It will plump up and start looking luscious. My fridge was rather full when I did this part, so I used a smaller bowl for it.

The next day, cut your glacé fruit into quite large chunks (or leave whole) and mix through the soaked fruit.

Add your glaced fruit to your soaked

Add your glaced fruit to your soaked

I’ve discovered over the years that small pieces just disappear into the background and that – strangely! – some people don’t like ginger.

Leaving the pieces on the large side means that you get a definite zing from them and it’s easy to pick them out if they aren’t wanted.

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the clices.

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the slices.

Now, lightly beat your egg and mix it through the fruit. It’s much easier to do this now than after adding the dry ingredients, trust me on this.

Working in your large bowl now, sift in two mugs of self-raising flour and then add one mug of brown sugar. Stir.

Add your fruit to your dry ingredients.

Add your fruit to your dry ingredients.

This will be a stiff mix, there may be enough liquid left in your fruit to make a batter, or there may not. It depends on ambient humidity and the relative positions of the stars…

Should your mix be too dry, simply add splashes of plain old water until it all comes together. It will look something like this.

The mixed batter.

The mixed batter.

Using a spatula, scrape into a lined cake tin of whatever shape you fancy. I usually bake this cake in a silicon, Christmas tree-shaped cake mould, simply because I have one.

Deck the halls...

Deck the halls…

Bake at 160ºC or 325ºF for 2 hours, turning the pan at the halfway point.

Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, before turning out to finish cooling on a rack.

I cut off the “muffin top” to create a flat base. The removed piece then becomes the Cook’s treat. Ahem. It’s the only bit I let myself eat of this or I would be in deep trouble, both calorically and blood sugar-wise. The cake then gets turned over for presentation.

Slice off the muffin top for easy preparation. Use a serrated knife.

Slice off the muffin top for easy preparation. Use a serrated knife.

It’s the underside of this ‘crusty bit’ that you’ve seen in the pictures of slices above.

Decorate and serve.

Brace yourself for all the “I don’t like fruitcake” claims.

You have been warned.

Easy Fruit Cake

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

500g dried fruit (or a mix of dried fruit and glacé fruit). Use whatever mix of soft, dried fruit you like, just make sure that the pieces are all around the same size.

1 mug hot black tea

1 large egg

2 mugs self raising flour

1 packed mug brown sugar

Method

Soak dried fruit in hot tea overnight.

Heat oven to 160ºC or 325ºF.

Cut glacé fruit into large chunks and mix through soaked fruit.

Beat the egg with a fork and mix through the fruit.

In a large bowl sift Self Raising Flour and add in brown sugar, breaking up any lumps.

Add the fruit, stirring with a wooden spoon or large spatula until a stiff batter forms. If the mix is too dry and flour remains unincorporated, add splashes of cold water until it is all mixed in.

Place batter in a prepared tin (a regular loaf or square pan will work well) and bake for 2 hours in the top third of the oven.

Turn the tin at the 1 hour mark.

Cake is baked when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 mins before turning out.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

This cake freezes well, either whole or in slices for a lunch box treat.

All gone...

All gone…