Category Archives: sweets

Quinoa, Cinnamon And Chia Seed Bars

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It’s been a lot of years since I have eaten store-bought muesli bars. They have too much sugar for my liking and added preservatives that I just don’t care for. I prefer to make my own.

This simple recipe is adapted from one I wrote for Who Magazine last year.

Oats and quinoa flakes are combined with spices, dried fruit and nuts. It uses rice bran syrup as a natural alternative to highly processed sugar, and chia seeds soaked to a gel to help hold it all together during baking.

 

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Using rice bran syrup makes these quinoa and chia seed bars low Gi, and that’s a good thing! Low GI foods are digested slower, causing a lower rise in blood glucose levels making it a more sustainable energy source, which also keeps you fuller for longer.  Yay! 

For those of you with children who face the weekly ordeal of packing lunch boxes,(I have two of them that like to inspect the contents of their boxes each day), teach them good food doesn’t come from a packet and add these to their weekly routine.

For hikers and bushwalkers, these bars can quickly become a backpack staple, and one you’ll be happy to have near by when hitting those mountains.

And if you are the type of person to have breakfast on the run (not me, I am truly dedicated to this first meal of the day, and cannot leave home with out it) these bars would get you off to a good start.

Get baking!

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Quinoa and chia seed bars 

1 tbsp (Australian standard size: 20ml) black chia seeds

1/2 cup rice bran syrup

1/4 cup rice bran oil, or grape seed oil

2 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup quinoa flakes 

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 1/2 cups trail mix (dried fruit and nut mix)

Pre heat oven to 175C

Place the chia seeds and 1/4 cup of cold water in  a small bowl, whisk and stand for 10 minutes till chia seeds turn to a thick gel.

Place the rice bran syrup, oil, honey (if using) and spices in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the quinoa flakes, rolled oats, shredded coconut and trail mix.

Add the soaked chia seeds to the warm rice bran syrup and whisk to combine. Pour onto the quinoa and oat mixture and stir till well combined.

Line a 30cm shallow baking tray with baking paper. Place the quinoa mixture  into the lined tray and using a spatula press it firmly all over till it’s smooth and level.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tray before cooling on a wire rack.  Once bars have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut bars to desired size. Store in an air tight container for up to one week.

Note: For a vegan version of these bars, leave out the 2 tbsp of honey.

(C) Copy right foodfrommichelleskitchen 2016 –  Quinoa and chia seed bars

 

 

 

 

Upside Down Blueberry, Hazelnut And Ricotta Cake

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Cake has a wonderful way of making everything seem good and bright and cheery.

This upside down blueberry cake is light and fruity and not-too-sweet.

Why is it an upside down cake? The blueberries sink to the bottom of the cake during baking so flipping it over onto a plate lets the dark purple colours shine through. It’s far prettier served upside down. The crumbled chunks of ricotta create little pockets of soft cheese that surprise and excite when you spoon into the cake and find them there nestled next to the tangy blueberries.

Although i’d usually make this cake with almond meal, today I’ve used ground hazelnuts. But to be honest I think the almond is the way to go. You can be your own judge, and try either or both.

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Upside down blueberry, hazelnut and ricotta cake 

4 free range eggs separated

150g caster sugar

65g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g hazelnut meal

Zest of 1 lemon

100g melted butter

150g ricotta

125g punnet fresh blueberries 

To serve

Icing sugar

Thickened cream 

Pre heat oven to 175C. Line a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a medium bowl and whisk for 1 minute till light and creamy.

Sift the flour and baking powder onto the eggs, add the hazelnut meal, zest of lemon, and melted butter, and whisk to combine.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to a soft peak.

Add half the egg whites to the cake mixture and fold gently, add remaining egg whites and fold till combined. Finally, crumble to ricotta in large chunks into the cake, add the blueberries fold gently and pour into lined cake tin.

Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack (don’t serve it warm, it’s better cold).

To serve, place an upside down plate over the cake, flip it over and remove the base. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with thickened cream.

 

(C) Copy right 2016 – Upside down blueberry, hazelnut and ricotta cake

Medjool Date And Cranberry Balls With Chia And Macadamia

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Truth be known – I adore Medjool dates, and think they are fabulous simply eaten as is. Their soft, sweet, distinct caramel flavour, can’t be beat.

But you take that flavour and add it with other goodies like chia seeds, spices, coconut, and nuts and you get date balls. They are my latest obsession, and they might become yours too.

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The dried cranberries can be left out entirely. But I quite like the tart flavour they add. Instead of cinnamon you might use mixed spice, ground ginger, or even a pinch of nutmeg. As an alternative to rolling them in coconut you might roll them in sesame seeds, or raw cacao. But I love anything rolled in coconut…

As long as the Medjool dates you buy are fresh, these balls will last for up to a month in an airtight container in the fridge. That is if they aren’t eaten well before then.

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Medjool date and cranberry balls with chia seed and macadamia nuts 

Ingredients

1 tbsp black chia seeds

150g macadamia nuts

450g Medjool dates 

80g dried cranberries

1 tsp cinnamon 

1 cup shredded coconut 

Place the chia seeds in a small bowl with 1/4 cup cold water. Whisk till combined and stand for 10 minutes. The chia seeds will swell up and turn to a gel consistency.

Meanwhile, roast the macadamia nuts in a moderate oven (180C) for about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, place in a food processor and blitz to a rough crumb. Set aside.

Break open the dates and remove the pip. Roughly chop the dates and place in a food processor with the cranberries. Add the soaked chia seeds and cinnamon. Blitz the mix till the dates are well combined. In the final 30 seconds add the chopped macadamia nuts, the mix should come together in a ball.

Divide the mix into about 20 balls, rolling them between your finger tips and the palm of your hand. Place them on a tray. On a second tray, lay the shredded coconut. Roll each ball in the coconut till covered all over.

Store them in an air tight container out of the fridge. Eat within one month.

Coconut Pepita and Chia Biscuits with Dark Chocolate

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I have to admit, I’m more of a cake-kind-of-girl then a biscuit one. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good biscuit. I do. Actually, I’m sharing this recipe with you now because this IS a good biscuit. It’s a great biscuit. It’s crunchy…not too sweet…and can actually be debated that’s it’s kind of healthy.

And what makes it so? Wholemeal flour is a good start – sure beats processed white.

Then there’s the pepita seeds – the pretty green seed taken from inside a pumpkin seed – which by the way are full of iron, magnesium and zinc.

LSA mix – ground linseed, sunflower, almond meal – is in here too. That adds some healthy omega-3 fats.

Chia seeds are full of calcium and high in antioxidants – apparently they have higher levels than blueberries! – and they replace the need for egg – remember this recipe?.

And coconut, well, I just love coconut…

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These biscuits have a similar method to an Anzac biscuit, only they’re healthier.  The melted chocolate on top is totally optional and not altogether necessary. If I’m short on time I skip the melted chocolate part and leave them as is.

My kids love it when I bake these biscuits. Actually, my husband probably loves it just as much they do, maybe more. He’s a biscuit-kind-of-guy. He’s been known in the past to buy horrible supermarket biscuits. He practically has to sneak them in the door so I don’t give him a lecture on how foul they are, how full of processed rubbish they are, and how overly sugared they are – poor guy, must be tough being married to me.

He does love these though and if I’m trying to get him on board for some favour I need doing then a batch of these oh-so-good-biscuits are a great place to start.

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If you want to make these for the kids to take to school, yet your having to follow strict school guidelines about no food with nuts (this is seriously out of control this whole allergy thing) then leave out the LSA mix and add an extra 2 tbsp wholemeal self raising flour. That keeps them nut free and school lunch-box-friendly.

Coconut pepita and chia seed biscuits with dark chocolate

Ingredients

100g butter

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2tbsp hot water

160g wholemeal self raising flour

2 tbsp LSA mix (ground linseed, sunflower and almonds)

80g brown sugar

60g shredded coconut

70g pepita seeds

80g dark chocolate bits, plus extra for melting if desired

Pre heat oven to 175C OR 155C fan forced. Place the butter, honey, chia seeds, bi carb and hot water in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat till butter melts. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Place the wholemeal flour, LSA mix, brown sugar, shredded coconut, pepita seeds and chocolate bits in a medium size bowl, stir till well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour.  When the butter mixture has cooled add to the flour mixture and stir till dough comes together.

Line two trays with baking paper. Take a spoon of biscuit mix and roll it into a ball, place it on the lined tray then use your finger tips and palm of hand to flatten to a circular shape. Continue with remaining mix till all biscuits are rolled and flattened.

Bake in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes, or till golden and cooked through. Cool biscuits on a wire rack. If you are drizzling with the extra chocolate – this is optional and feel free to skip this step – place melted chocolate in a snap lock bag, snip off the end, and drizzle biscuits in a zig zag manner. Allow chocolate to set. Store the cold biscuits in an airtight container for 5-6 days.

Nectarine and Coconut Bread

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Nectarines have become a favourite summer fruit and when they are this good and plentiful I buy nothing short of a kilo at a time. With these sweet beauties I decided to make a simple nectarine and coconut bread. Well, it’s more like a loaf really. I call it a bread as after enjoying it fresh on the day, the following day I toast it much the same as you would banana bread. It’s delicious with a lathering of butter and I find it hard to resist when served with a cup of hot tea.

This is getting a little personal. Do you ever store your fruit in the fridge? Please tell me you don’t. Please tell me you buy small amounts of in-season fruit, placing the pieces in a bowl on the bench or kitchen table so that you may enjoy the sweeter flavours of the natural sugars when the fruit is eaten at room temperature. Please, can you tell me that? Refrigerators are not meant for fruit. Especially stone fruit.

 

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This loaf, or sweet bread, has a method similar to making muffins. All the dry ingredients are placed in a bowl, the diced fruit is added, followed by the whisked eggs, milk and melted butter. The stirring is minimal, just as with muffins. This is important to keep the softness to the loaf, over stirring will give a tougher finish. I’ve used white nectarines but yellow ones are just as good. Smell the fruit before you buy it and pick the variety with the sweetest smell. When summer is over, and autumn begins, you can make this same loaf with pears instead of nectarines, for this 2 medium sized pears would be sufficient.

 

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Often what I do with this loaf is slice a few portions and freeze then individually so the following week when I fancy something for morning tea it’s on hand, and goes straight in the toaster and gets served with organic butter and raspberry jam.

 

Nectarine and coconut bread

Ingredients 

260g (2cups) wholemeal self raising flour

35g (1/3 cup) hazelnut or almond meal

50g (3/4 cup) shredded coconut

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

1/2 tsp bi carb soda (sifted if lumps are present)

3 white or yellow nectarines diced into 1cm pieces

100g butter, melted

2 free range eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract

125ml milk

 

Pre heat oven to 175C, or 165C fan forced. Lightly grease a loaf tin with butter then line the tin with baking paper.

Place the flour, hazelnut meal, coconut, sugar, and sifted bi carb soda in a large bowl, stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the diced nectarines.

In a medium sized jug, melt the butter, add the eggs, vanilla and milk, and whisk till well combined.

Pour the egg mixture onto the flour and stir briefly till the batter just comes together (remember not to over stir). Pour the batter into the lined tin, and spread lightly till surface is even. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes, or till an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly in tin then remove from tin and cool completely on a cake rack.

Once cooled, slice the nectarine bread and serve with butter and your favourite jam.

 

Chocolate, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Brownie

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When I first started out as an apprentice chef (all those years ago) I would of never considered combing avocado and chocolate. No Way! I would of screwed my nose up and shouted “don’t be ridiculous”. But these days, I’m excited by the idea.

Last year I experimented with chocolate and beetroot and found this combination to be earthy and tasty, and right. I feel much the same about combing avocado with chocolate; there’s an earthiness, and richness, and a depth to the taste; it’s perfect baked into a brownie. It’s fun.

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A pinch of sea salt can do marvellous things when used with chocolate. I added some to the avocado, which was then folded through the melted chocolate and this gives the chocolate that salted kick. It takes the edge away from the sugar and balances the chocolate in a most alluring way.

Macadamia nuts are native to Australia and I find myself using them in everything. I love them in this brownie. You might consider hazelnuts or walnuts, but macadamias have a creamy nuttiness that work so humbly beside the avocado.

Generally speaking, I like my brownie pretty fudge like, you know, almost under cooked. The brownie I’ve photographed needed five minutes less – damn phone ringing – 18-minutes would be perfect for fudge-like brownie, 22-25 minutes for those who like it cooked through.

 

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Because I’m mad about bitter chocolate, when the brownie came out of the oven, I grated some Venezuelan 100% cocoa chocolate on top. I also dusted it with cocoa, this was probably an over kill.

My five year old can longer tell me she doesn’t like avocado because, ha, she ate it in this brownie and never knew the difference! I will forever use this an an example that she REALLY DOES like avocado.

Chocolate, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Brownie – makes 15 pieces

Ingredients 

200g 70% cocoa chocolate

125g butter

2 eggs

150g ( 2/3 cup) caster sugar

150g (1 cup) plain flour

1 large avocado

1/4 cup milk

pinch sea salt

80g (1/2 cup) macadamia nuts

To serve – optional

Dutch cocoa for dusting

 

Pre heat oven to 170C. Line a 30cm by 20cm tray with baking paper.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl with the butter. Place the bowl over a shallow pot of simmering water and allow the chocolate to melt. Remove from the heat, stir till smooth and well combined. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes till light and fluffy.

Place the avocado flesh, milk and sea salt in a food processor and blitz till smooth (if you don’t have a food processor you could mash the avocado with a fork, add the milk after it’s mashed and try to get it as smooth as possible).

Add the pureed avocado to the warm melted chocolate and stir to combine. Add the chocolate and avocado to the eggs and sugar and fold gently. Sift the flour onto the chocolate mix, add the chopped macadamias and fold till just combined. Pour into the lined tray, and evenly smooth out the batter, Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes – if you like it soft and gooey, or 22-25 minutes – if you like it a little firmer.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes. It’s optional at this point to grate some extra chocolate on top (whilst it’s still warm). Remove brownie from tin and cool on a wire rack. Cut into desired pieces, and dust with cocoa, or sprinkle with sea salt, if you wish. Store in an air tight container for 3 days.

Blueberry and ricotta, buttermilk hotcakes

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There was a period there, about 10 (or more) years ago, where I spent entire weekends cooking ricotta hotcakes. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re working in a cafe, but there’s a limit to how many hotcakes one can make and still think of them as a food one might want to eat. I could possibly blame Bill Granger for introducing Sydney siders to hotcakes. His tiny Darlinghurst cafe, Bills popularised this weekend breakfast dish so every other cafe, including the one I worked in, followed suit and had a version on their menu. Mind you, he was obviously on to something, as 20 years on, hotcakes still feature on Bill’s menus across his now SEVEN cafes! Cafe work certainly offered a more social life style, even if we did cook hundreds upon hundreds of hotcakes each week. The bonus was obvious, the work hours were during the day (nights off) and we only worked 9 hours as opposed to the 16 i’d been doing in restaurants.

 

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It’s been six or seven years since I’ve made ricotta hotcakes. Seriously! You think I’m joking? I’m not!

Last weekend, I suddenly and whole heartedly knew I was ready to cook them again. Making a small batch of ricotta hotcakes at home was enjoyable. It was not stressful, sweaty, or tiring as it had been in the past. They deserved a second chance and they have redeemed themselves. Ricotta hotcakes have returned to my repertoire – yippee! I hope they find a place in yours too.

Adding fruit to a hotcake mix adds a level of sophistication that is amiss from the plain variety.

The cafe I worked at had several ways of serving hotcakes depending on the season. There was caramalised banana – every bodies favourite, sour cherries made an appearance, poached rhubarb was popular, and when in season raspberries always made a show.

But blueberries work a treat with ricotta. And that’s how I made them last weekend. I’ve tweaked my old recipe and replaced the white flour with wholemeal, and added almond meal to the mix too. This makes them a little healthier and these days that’s preferred.

 

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These blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes will have weekend brunch taken care of. Smother them in pure maple syrup, and serve them with double cream or yoghurt.

 

Blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes 

Ingredients

150g (1 cup) wholemeal self raising flour

25g (3 tbsp) almond meal

1 tsp bi carb soda

2 tbsp brown sugar

25g melted butter, plus extra for cooking

2 eggs, yolks and whites separated

190ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk – see note

150g fresh ricotta

1 punnet blueberries

Olive oil for cooking

 

Place the flour and almond meal in a medium bowl, sift in the bi carb, add brown sugar and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre of the flour.

In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, egg yolks and buttermilk, whisk till combined and pour this in the middle of the flour. Stir lightly, add the ricotta and fold and stir till well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Add to the hotcake mix and fold gently till combined. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a non stick fry pan with oil and butter (about 1 tbsp of each), when the butter sizzles spoon 4 or 5 hotcakes into the pan, immediately scatter each hotcake with 4-5 blueberries, cook on a medium to low heat till golden on both sides. Continue to cook hotcakes using more oil and more butter till the mix is used up.

Serve blueberry hotcakes with maple syrup, and double cream or yoghurt.

Note – you can make buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to regular milk.