Spiced Chocolate Crackle Biscuits

These ‘brownie-like’ biscuits make such a pretty Christmas gift.

With their snowy appearance and hint of orange and spice, your family and friends will love these chocolate treats. 

There are only 2 simple steps involved, melting the chocolate and flavourings and creaming the eggs and sugar. For the creaming part, you will need electric beaters to get the mixture as pale and thick as possible. Using a hand held whisk will simply not cut it. 

These biscuits really do require a good quality dark chocolate such as 70% cocoa, as their base. But if you must, you could substitute it with milk chocolate. They will be lighter in colour and not quite as rich. 

A batch of these have said thank you to my son’s teachers, who have patiently encouraged, inspired and believed in my boys this year. 

I think another batch is in order soon, as my husband is complaining he didn’t get any and they just really do make the cutest gifts. Placed in a beautiful bowl or wrapped in cello bags, they will be a hit I promise. 

Thanks to the Australian Women’s Weekly for another great recipe. 

Happy Baking friends x

Spiced Chocolate Crackle Biscuits
Yields 25
A brownie-like chocolate biscuit with a hint of orange and spice.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
42 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
42 min
Ingredients
  1. 200 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa) chopped
  2. 40 grams unsalted butter, chopped
  3. 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
  4. finely grated rind of 1 orange
  5. 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 egg white
  8. 1/2 cup castor sugar
  9. 1/3 cup plain flour
  10. 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  11. 3/4 cup icing sugar for rolling
Instructions
  1. Place the chocolate, butter, spread, rind and spice in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until melted and combined. Set aside.
  2. Beat eggs, egg white and sugar in a small bowl with electric beaters for at least 5 minutes, or until very pale and thick. When you lift the beaters, the mixture should fall in ribbons.
  3. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.
  4. Gently fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder.
  5. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm.
  6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius, 160 degrees for a fan-forced oven.
  7. Sift icing sugar into a large bowl.
  8. Using a dessert spoon of mixture, carefully form a ball with your hands and drop the ball into the icing sugar, tossing it around the icing sugar so it's coated thickly.
  9. Place on baking trays lined with baking paper, leaving room for them to spread.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until firm.
  11. Stand on trays for a couple of minutes, then cool on wire racks.
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Rocky Road (and what Celebration means to me)

I am a celebrations person. 

There is no denying it and the older I get, the more I want to embrace celebrating everything. 

Birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, Friday night, Hump Day, going on holidays, coming home from holidays, the start of a new season, the end of a season, new friends, old friends, a new season of my favourite TV show, public holidays, a new house, the end of a job, graduations….I could go on. Do you get the picture? 

A few months back, I decided to light a candelabra and put it in the middle of the dinner table, that had been set with my favourite grey and white striped place mats. 

“What are we celebrating?” my middle son said as he came to sit down. 

“The fact that it’s Thursday and we are all home for dinner at the same time.” I said.

This past year we have celebrated many special birthdays of family and friends. 40, 50 and 70th’s and some milestone anniversaries. They have all looked different, but one constant has been the presence of champagne and tears at them all.

Champagne and Tears.

The good and the bad, the bitter and the sweet. 

When I talk about celebrating, I am not Pollyanna, declaring everything is happy, perfect and sparkly, clinking glasses with a big fake smile. 

Celebrating to me, is often the defiant stance of remembering, pausing and giving thanks for something or someone inspite of our circumstances, the difficulty or cost. 

This brings me to December and I am declaring this the month of Celebration. 

I am challenging myself to keep my celebrating spirit alive, despite my weariness and a to-do-list that feels unattainable and sends me into a mild panic from time to time. 

As surely as the sun rises each morning, Christmas comes to us in December each year. Not to overwhelm us and send us into a state of chaos and exhaustion, but indeed to remind us to pause and remember and give thanks. 

For every event and get together that keeps the calendar full, I celebrate the gift of relationships and the family and friends who do life with us. 

For every gift purchased, wrapped and given, we get to say thank you to a teacher, coach, neighbour, minister or friend who has enriched our lives this year. 

And for me, surpassing all of those wonderful things, I get to crank the music loud and with arms raised high sing 

JOY TO THE WORLD, The Lord Has Come!

There is no greater reason to celebrate in all the world, than the fact that Jesus came. For me. And for you.

So to kick off a month of Celebrating, today I share with you a very simple recipe that says ‘Christmas’ in our house. 

On a night close to Christmas Day, we bundle the boys in the car in their PJ’s after dinner. With a tin of rocky road on my lap, Christmas carols playing and my husband at the wheel, we drive our surrounding suburbs with the windows down in search of the best Christmas lights. The boys look forward to this night so much, I am not sure if it’s the thrill of being out in their PJ’s at night or the rocky road that they love the most. 

Each week till Christmas I will share my favourite celebrating recipes. Simple ideas perfect for giving away as gifts or sharing with family and friends at this time of year. Most of them will be yummy, fun and not overly healthy. But then that’s what celebrations are for right? 

Rocky Road
Yields 40
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 200 grams dark eating chocolate, chopped
  2. 200 grams milk eating chocolate, chopped
  3. 2 x 180 gram packets pink and white marshmellows, chopped in half
  4. 2 x 180 gram packets red raspberry lollies
  5. 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  6. 150 grams real turkish delight, chopped
  7. 90 grams pistachio nuts, shelled
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except chocolate, in a large bowl.
  2. Place both chocolates in a heat proof bowl and melt for 1 minute on HIGH in the microwave.
  3. Remove, stir and keep heating in 30 second increments on HALF power, stirring in between, until melted.
  4. Pour melted chocolate over ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Press into a lined square or rectangular tin.
  6. Refrigerate until set.
  7. Cut into small pieces and store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. Use your favourite eating chocolate to make a yummy Rocky Road, this is no place for 'cooking chocolate'.
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Salmon & Quinoa Salad with Lime Mint Dressing (gluten free)

I love a protein packed salad for lunch at this time of year. Especially one that is easy to prepare, or can be prepped in advance for you to take to work. 

This one uses a tin of pink salmon and some cooked quinoa for your midday protein hit. If you’re not in a habit of eating protein at lunch, give it a try and see how much it keeps your afternoon hunger and the 3pm slump at bay. 

Add some avocado and veggies for all round goodness and throw on a slurp of your favourite dressing, store-bought or homemade, whatever works for you. 

The quantity below made enough for my lunch for 2 days. I just added some more avocado and the dressing on the second day. 

Keeping tins of tuna or salmon in the pantry and cooking a few cups of quinoa at the beginning of the week, will mean you have your main ingredients ready to go each day. We all know that the secret to eating a good lunch or dinner is in a little advance thought and preparation. 

I am looking forward to making a huge bowl of the this the next time a friend pops in and perches at the bench for a quick lunch.

 

Salmon & Quinoa Salad with Lime Mint Dressing
Serves 2
A simple, fresh salad packed with protein, raw veg and a zesty dressing.
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup cooked tri-colour Quinoa
  2. 185 gram tin of salmon or tuna
  3. 1 small cucumber, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 avocado, flesh diced
  5. 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  6. Lime Mint Dressing
  7. 1/4 cup good quality extra virign olive oil
  8. 1/4 lime juice (approx 2 limes)
  9. 1 tablespoon honey
  10. 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently.
  2. For the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake well to combine.
  3. If making in advance, leave the avocado and dressing out and add just before eating.
Notes
  1. Cooked quinoa will last in the fridge for 3 days, covered in an airtight container.
  2. The dressing will last in the fridge for about a week, but the mint will lose it's colour and flavour over time. It is best used on the day it's made, or alternatively, leave the mint out and add to the dressing just prior to using.
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Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg

I love this kind of recipe. You know the one that mostly uses ingredients you’ll find in the pantry. Rice, stock, tinned tomatoes – building blocks for so many simple dinners.

Throw in some spices for flavour, veggies, either fresh or frozen, for goodness, and top with golden chorizo – for no other reason that it tastes brilliant and always gets the kids over the line with any meal. 

“What is this green bit?” one child might say, staring at his fork. 

“Yum, isn’t this Chorizo amazing!” I will reply, hoping to distract the enquiring child from realising I did indeed put asparagus in AGAIN! 

The original recipe is a Bill Granger classic from Delicious Magazine October 2012. 

I have left out the marinated roasted red capsicum simply because that is a more expensive item that won’t always be in a normal pantry and I added more vegetables, of course. 

Once again, don’t be a slave to the recipe. If you hate beans or don’t have any asparagus, use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge or freezer. 

We are a family of Chorizo lovers, but if you don’t have any or don’t like it, just simply leave it out.  It will then become a fragrant vegetarian rice dish. 

Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg
Serves 5
A frangrant rice dish, with mixed vegetables and chorizo.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  3. 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika and coriander
  4. 1 1/2 cups (300gm) basmati rice
  5. 400gm tin crushed tomatoes
  6. 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  7. 200gm green beans, cut into 3-4cm lengths (frozen works well too)
  8. 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 3-4cm lengths
  9. 250gm (2) chorizo, cut into thin rounds
  10. fresh coriander or parsley, chopped to garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice and mix well.
  4. Pour in the tomatoes and 3 cups chicken stock.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
  7. You will need to check it a few times, and give it a stir to prevent it from sticking. If the stock is all absorbed and the rice isn't quite cooked, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time.
  8. Add the beans and asparagus, and cook for a further 5 minutes until they are slightly soft, but still bright green.
  9. In another frying pan, over medium heat, cook the chorizo rounds until they are golden brown.
  10. Throw the chorizo and fresh herbs on top of the rice and serve straight from the pan.
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
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Choosing to Be Still

Sometimes the list of what we can’t do or fix for our families is much longer than what we can. 

As mum’s, it knocks the very air out of our lungs when we realise that by our sheer will, determination, or the pure force of our mother’s love, we can’t actually change things.

Over the last little while, I haven’t been able to fix challenges at school, stop nighttime fears, solve friendship struggles or even stop bleeding noses. I haven’t been able to get in front of the technology battles, or solve an ongoing issue with our youngest who is due to start school next year, but is just not ready. I haven’t been able to get a child to drink 10ml fluid from a syringe, so watched a drip rehydrate him instead. I haven’t been able to stop a nasty illness ravage my boys body, or answer his ‘Why mum?’ at 2am in the morning when nothing could relieve his pain. I haven’t been able to get homework done without arguments, or succeed in forcing everyone in the house to just LOVE EACH OTHER. 

I haven’t been able to get to church for weeks due to sick kids, stop the possums from ravaging my garden or the mould from growing in the shower. On some nights, I have not even managed to get a simple meal on the table. And I have a food blog that is supposed to help mum’s like me with exactly that. Seriously.

I am not on top of the tax paperwork, family birthday cards and gifts from months ago remain unsent on my study desk. 

You know the season I am talking about? You have had one or been in one too. 

Outside of my walls, there are marriages I can’t fix, illnesses I can’t take away from loved ones, depression I can’t lift and suffering in the world I can’t eleviate. 

On the bathroom floor at 2am, beside my sick boy in the bath, I determined that today would be the day I would take this Very Long List of Things I Cannot Change or Fix and give them over to the One I profess to trust and follow with my life.

I am laying down my arrogance and pride that says it’s up to me to make everything right. 

I am thanking God for his goodness and faithfulness in my life and those I love and trusting what it says in Romans 8:32 that He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

The term give us all things is not referring to a sprinkling of fairy dust that mends every broken thing, heals every sickness and gives me everything I want for a stress free, totally perfect existence. 

No. If you keep reading a few verses down, you see that it goes on to say in verse 35:

Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger or sword….No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced, that neither death nor life, neither angels of demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That’s the good stuff right there. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Not A Thing. We are not alone, we are not forgotten and we are not left to try and figure it all out in our own strength. I don’t have to get it all right, earn it, work for it or achieve it. 

I am resting in that promise today and hope friend, you may too. 

My natural tendency when faced with a long list of challenges is to get my boxing gloves on and gear up for a fight. I want to DO STUFF, keep busy, keep moving, research, plan, make lists, make appointments because my human nature says ‘You need to make this right.’

There is a time and place for all of the doing, but I am going to do the opposite today.

Choosing to Be Still in one way means actually physically stopping, but I’m mainly referring to choosing to quieten the voice in my head that says it’s all up to me. 

I’m so thankful for a Heavenly Father who did not in his wisdom, leave it all up to me to solve or fix. 

Today, I will be present for those I love and meet their needs, I will ‘show up’ to do what is required of me. But I will leave the fear, stress, anxiety, unknowns and burdens at the feet of the cross of my saviour. 

One of my current favourite songs, from Hillary Scott & The Scott Family is Still. It sums up all of my ramblings perfectly. I hope it encourages you, wherever you’re at and whatever season you’re in, to join me today in being Still.