Chai-Spiced Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, low sugar)

Hey there….. it’s been a while I know. 

More than 3 months to be exact, since I sat and wrote to you and shared a new recipe from my kitchen. 

After posting a new recipe nearly every week for the past 2 years, I can’t believe the last 3 months have come and gone so quick. 

How have you been? 

I’ve been doing Life With a Capital L. Probably the same as you. 

I remember vividly sitting down with a cuppa towards the end of January and thinking through what was to come over the next few months and wondering How On Earth We Would Get It All Done. 

But as sure as the sun rose this morning, here I am. Sitting down in my quiet house, next to my warm fire and writing once again, with the last few months already in the past. 

There was no magic formula to managing the mayhem of the last few months. We tackled it the old fashioned way – one day at a time. 

We’ve had a few firsts in our house this year. 

My husband started a new job which has been super exciting and I finally got the courage up to enrol in a Masters of Teaching so I can take my love of food and cooking and teach it to high school students. I have been dreaming of doing this since my early 20’s, but each time I thought I about it seriously, it just didn’t seem to be a good time. 

That doesn’t mean now is a great time either. Life, Marriage and Motherhood have taught me that nothing is neat and straight forward. It’s messy, a juggle and full of lots of give and take and compromise and sometimes you just have to dive in and figure it out as you go. It dawned on me late last year that if I kept waiting for the perfect time, when all my ducks were in a row, I would never do it. 

So I am 2 subjects in and filled with excitement and sheer terror at the thought of getting through the next 4 years. I have been talking to myself a lot lately, and I am trying to follow the advice I often give the boys – don’t look too far ahead. Do what is right in front of you and tomorrow will take care of itself. 

Just to keep things interesting, we added 2  x children surgeries, 1 x child’s broken wrist, and decided to put our house on the market and sell it. 

We tackled it like any normal person would. With loads of lists, help from family and many more take away meals than I would usually admit to. Oh.. and lunch orders too. 

There was no spare time for coming up with new meal ideas or playing in my kitchen. If I wasn’t using my own website for recipes that take less than 20 minutes, I was sitting in our local shopping village, feeding the boys Subway at 6pm on a Wednesday night. 

It hasn’t been all chaos and drama. Recently we celebrated my husbands ‘special’ birthday, the one that starts with a 4….My husband loves the water, so after he spent a day sailing with a bunch of mates, the boys and I joined him for a night on a boat. It was a fun thing to do as a family after a pretty stressful few months and a great way to celebrate him. 

Despite still having uni work to do over Easter, we enjoyed a change of scenery at the Farm. A few days of rest and reflection and country air did us all the world of good. 

So that brings us to today. 

The idea for these brownies popped into my head while working on one of my assignments. 

Inspired by a recipe from Bourke St Bakery, I wanted to make a brownie that was moist and chocolatey, but didn’t have the normal 2 cups of sugar that are in most brownie recipes. 

The chai-soaked prunes are the star of this recipe – whilst you can’t actually taste the prunes, they are what makes these brownies ultra moist and sweet. The longer you can soak the prunes for the better. Overnight at the very least, but up to 3 days if you can handle waiting that long!

Replacing butter for almond butter, normal flour for gluten free flour, using good quality 70% chocolate (with no dairy) and using rice malt syrup to sweeten it just a little means that this becomes a recipe people on restricted diets can enjoy. 

My boys LOVE these brownies, but to make it school friendly, I will need to use normal butter instead of almond butter. I think 200 grams of unsalted butter would probably work fine. 

It’s great to be baking again.

E x

Chai-Spiced Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, low sugar)
A moist chocolate brownie with a hint of spice from chai tea.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups pitted dried prunes
  2. 1 chai tea bag
  3. 250 gram jar of almond butter
  4. 200 gram 70% or 85% good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup rice malt syrup
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
Instructions
  1. Place prunes in a heatproof bowl with the chai tea bag.
  2. Pour enough boiling water over to cover the prunes, no more than 2 cups.
  3. Remove the tea bag after 5 minutes.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.
  6. Line a rectangular slice tin with baking paper.
  7. Place chocolate, almond butter and rice malt syrup in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted. (This mixture will be stiff and not 100% smooth, but it doesn't matter.)
  8. Place prunes and soaking liquid in a food processor, add the chocolate mixture and blitz for a few seconds till smooth.
  9. Add eggs and blitz till combined.
  10. Add remaining ingredients and process for 1-2 minutes.
  11. The mixture will be mousse-like and quite thick.
  12. Pour into tray and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and it springs back when pressed lightly.
  13. Cool in tray for 15 minutes.
  14. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Notes
  1. This will keep for a few days in an airtight container.
  2. Place in fridge to extend it's shelf life, but eat at room temperature or slightly warmed for maximum flavour.
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
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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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Chocolate Cherry Friands (gluten free)

Friands, originating in France, are typically an oval shaped, small cake, made with almond meal, butter, egg whites and powdered (we know it as icing) sugar. 

According to Wikipedia, the word Friand means “dainty, or a gourmet who delights in delicate tastes.”

At our cocktail-party style wedding reception, trays and trays of friands were handed out as part of the dessert. I have always had a soft spot for them and would order one over a muffin or large slice of cake any day of the week. 

Made well, they should be moist and springy and not too sweet. 

A standard Friand recipe will have only a small amount of flour added to the almond meal, so substituting gluten-free plain flour works beautifully in a friand every time. 

Black Forest or Cherry Ripe lovers, this recipe is for you. The dark chocolate, coconut and dried sour cherries make this recipe a little different to the standard berry or citrus friand you always find in the shops. 

For serious chocoholics, I would add an extra 100 grams of dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks and fold it through with the cherries at the end. 

Chocolate Cherry Friands
Serves 12
A moist chocolate friand with coconut and dried sour cherries.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped (plus 100 grams extra if you want chunks through it)
  2. 175 grams unsalted butter, chopped
  3. 1 cup almond meal
  4. 6 egg whites
  5. 1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
  6. 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  7. 1/2 cup dried sour cherries (dried cranberries would work too if you can't find them)
  8. 1/2 cup plain flour or gluten-free plain flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsuis.
  2. Place butter and 100 grams of chocolate in a heat proof bowl and melt in microwave for 1 minute. Remove, stir, and if needed, put back in microwave in 20 second bursts until all melted. Set aside.
  3. Lightly whisk egg whites with a hand whisk till it's a little bubbly, then add chocolate mixture and stir till combined.
  4. Add all other ingredients, except cherries (and extra chocolate if using) and stir till thoroughly combined.
  5. Lightly fold in cherries.
  6. Spoon mixture into lightly greased friand tins, filling 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and it springs back when lightly touched.
  8. Leave to cool in tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes
  1. These will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.
  2. After day 1, they are best enjoyed after being slightly refreshed in the microwave for 15 seconds or so.
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Flourless Chocolate Cake (gluten free)

It was our anniversary last week. We celebrated as many middle- age-couples-with-kids do. Staying home, ordering take away and falling asleep in front of a movie. Yep, party animals, I know!

I often find myself in a reflective mood on days like anniversaries, and this day was no different. As I went about my day, with the highs and lows of the last 16 years swirling through my head, I came up with 16 lessons that the last 16 years have taught me. 

I wrote them down with the intention of sharing them with you, but that was before the argument that turned into a fight. 

I was quick to toss the list aside. 

I can’t write about marriage when we are just cooling off from our last argument? What qualifies me to share lessons from our journey? 

And then it was the conversation with a kindred spirit that had me mulling over what qualifies any of us to write and share anything at all. 

If perfection is required to share thoughts on parenting, marriage, cooking, or faith, then I really need to make this my last ever blog post and say farewell to you all. 

The truth is I, like all people who write about stuff, have it no more together or perfect than those who don’t write.

I suppose the only difference is I am willing to share the good and the not so good stuff of life through what I write.

So here they are, lessons learnt through the imperfection of the journey. Lessons we keep learning today. 

16 Lessons from 16 Years of Marriage

  1. I love him more now than 16 years ago.
  2. It’s harder than I expected.
  3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. My husband always seems to offer the olive branch first. He shows grace and moves on quickly. I’m still working on this. 
  5. It’s ok that we are different. I’m good in the morning, he holds it together at night. I can cook, he can build the boys a billy cart. I freak out about a potential disaster, he stays calm. He can drive all day, I negotiate peace amongst the kids in the car. Different means we’re a good team, even if it makes for interesting sometimes. 
  6. We’ve grown to be the same over the years too. I love the rugby and he now knows how to book a good restaurant and sit with me for hours talking over a meal. 
  7. You don’t always needs to talk. It’s ok to sit in silence. It doesn’t always mean something is wrong. 
  8. Communication is essential. Say it. Get it out. Deal with it. Move on. Unresolved issues not spoken of will fester, bubbling under the surface and eventually rot the foundations. 
  9. We can agree to disagree on things that don’t matter. Bedtimes, clothes, job lists, holiday destinations can all be negotiated. But family, it’s direction, goals, beliefs, parenting, use of time and money – we need to be on the same page on the big things.
  10. We need to compromise with no strings attached. 
  11. Small random acts of kindness on a daily basis, like making a cuppa, calling during a busy day to see how an appointment went, offering to do something helpful, will show love sometimes more than the once off, BIG, FLASHY things.
  12. Time alone without the kids is essential.
  13. Laugh. Hold Hands. Dance in the kitchen. Life is going to get harder, so fight for joy when you can. 
  14. Give each other time to do the things they love. He has sent me to cooking classes over the years, I’ve encouraged him to cycle with his mates. 
  15. Invest in mutual friends who we can be real with. They’ll see the good, the bad and the ugly and they’ll still be a safe place for us both.
  16. Keep our eyes on Jesus. He was the ultimate example of sacrificial love, grace, forgiveness and putting others first. We’re going to need all those things to make it to the finish line together. 
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Serves 12
A rich, moist, chocolate cake made with roasted pecans and a hint of brandy.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 250 grams unsalted butter
  2. 250 grams good quality dark chocolate
  3. 85 grams sifted cocoa powder
  4. 180 grams pecans, roasted
  5. 6 eggs
  6. 1 cup castor sugar
  7. 1/3 cup brandy
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  9. icing sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20-22cm round cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  4. Add the broken chocolate and whisk until melted too.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the cocoa, till smooth and glossy.
  6. Set aside to cool a little.
  7. Whiz the pecans in a food processor till they are as fine as possible, being careful to stop before they turn into a paste.
  8. Set aside.
  9. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with a hand balloon whisk till combined.
  10. Whisk in the chocolate mixture, then the brandy and vanilla.
  11. Stir in the ground pecans.
  12. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes. The middle of the cake may still wobble a little, but if the sides are set, it is ready.
  13. Cool completely in the tin.
  14. Remove from tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.
  15. Serve warm or at room temperature with thick cream, ice-cream and berries for a special dessert.
Notes
  1. This cake will last for one week covered in the fridge.
Adapted from Mix and Bake
Adapted from Mix and Bake
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