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
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Apple and Almond Cake (gluten free, dairy free)

These school holidays came and went in a whirlwind of park visits, skateboarding, basketball, soccer, play dates, bush walks, camp fires and bike rides.

It is my pleasure and joy to be raising three gorgeous humans who need enormous amounts of physical activity each day. It’s like constantly moving is their oxygen and absolutely essential for their survival. 

I am a slow learner, however, and always start off school holidays in the exact same, girly way.

“Boys, lets stay in today. Let’s have a PJ day, watch movies, play with toys, sip hot drinks and catch up on how each other is going. It’s been such a busy term, let’s just go slow today.”

This works NEVER.

And I am declaring it publicly so that you will remind me before the next holidays roll around NOT TO DO THIS AGAIN.

By 9.30am on Day 1 of holidays, I have ordered all cushions back on lounges instead of being used as weapons, I have yelled things like “please get off your brothers head/please take the ball outside/please stop yelling at each other/the house is not a gymnasium/get that skateboard outside/no, you cannot have WIFI yet/you can’t shoot water guns inside/stop swinging on the chair/I asked you to get off your brothers head.”

And then, we all get promptly dressed, pack the car with bikes, skateboards, RC cars, basketballs and soccer balls and head to the park. 

Peace at last. 

After a couple of days we did get into our holiday rhythm and enjoyed time with extended family and friends amongst many activities.

As exhausted as I am at trying to keep up with them during holiday time, I realise these years with our boys are precious as we make memories and experience stuff together. I know I will look back on them with fondness, remembering the time spent together more than how tired I felt. I hope so anyway.

One of our favourite days was spent with friends picking apples at an orchard. I felt like a real country bumpkin in my cowgirl boots, carrying my red bag and filling it with all types of apples, while recipe ideas swam through my head. Meanwhile the boys ran, climbed the trees to get the best apples, jumped on tractors, ran some more and picked as many apples as they could.

11 kilos in total.

Yes folks, this is the first of a few recipes coming your way with apples as the star ingredient. 

I think Apple Picking may indeed become an Autumn school holiday tradition in our house. 

This very simple, one bowl cake from the Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter, has minimal ingredients and is a moist, almost friand-like cake. It’s beautiful warm, and if you can have dairy, served with cream or custard.

As school went back today, I thoroughly enjoyed making it, eating it slowly, still warm from the oven and then opening my computer and writing about it. And I did all of that without uttering one word. 

I feel better already. 

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Apple and Almond Cake (dairy free and gluten free)
Serves 8
An apple and almond, friand-like cake, with a hint of orange and honey.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups (200 grams) almond meal, (or hazelnut meal)
  2. 1 teaspoon baking powder, gluten free
  3. 1/4 cup light olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup honey
  5. zest of 1 orange
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  8. 1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
  9. flaked almonds to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Line a 16cm or 20cm round baking tin with baking paper, on the bottom and sides.
  3. Combine almond meal, baking powder, oil, honey, eggs, zest and vanilla in a mixing bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.
  4. Fold in the apple.
  5. Press into the tin and scatter with a handful of flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for approx 50 minutes, or until golden and the middle springs back when pressed lightly.
  7. Let stand in the tin for 30 mins to cool.
  8. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from The Healthy Chef
Adapted from The Healthy Chef
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Chewy Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt (gluten, grain and dairy free)

When you read the ingredient list for these cookies, you can’t possibly believe that they turn out as good as they do. 

A weekend baking treat for those who live on restricted diets for health reasons, or for anyone who wants to try a different method of baking, without using flour or grains of any kind. 

The sugar used in this recipe is coconut sugar, but if you wanted to make them and you don’t have it, you can substitute raw sugar. Coconut sugar is currently trending as a sugar that is ‘not refined’ and therefore better for you than refined or processed sugars. At the end of the day, it’s still sugar and we shouldn’t be eating heaps of it. If you have blood sugar problems, then these biscuits are still probably not the best thing for you.  However, compared to store-bought biscuits and other recipes, these are overall lower in sugar.

To make these dairy free, you just need to use a good quality 70% – 85% dark chocolate or a dairy free chocolate that is available in most supermarkets these days. 

They are loved by all in this house…the only issue is this recipe makes approx 13, which means they don’t last long for a family of 5!

This recipe is from www.slimpalate.com 

Chewy Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt
Serves 12
A chewy chocolate cookie that is gluten, grain and dairy free
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
17 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
17 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup almond butter (this can be purchased in the supermarket in the Health Food section or speads isle)
  2. 3/4 coconut or raw sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  6. 1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carb soda)
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 100 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  9. sea salt for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Line 1 large baking tray with baking paper, or 2 smaller trays. The biscuits need room to spread.
  3. Place the almond butter in a medium size bowl.
  4. Whisk together the egg and egg yolk in a separate small bowl.
  5. Stir the sugar into the almond butter, then add baking soda, salt and vanilla and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Add the egg mixture and stir again.
  7. Fold through the chopped chocolate.
  8. Place a heaped dessert spoonful of mixture into the palm of your hand, roll into a ball and place on tray. Lightly flatten.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. They will be ready when they are slightly golden, firm on top and have spread.
  10. Remove from oven, lightly sprinkle the top of each cookie with sea salt and leave to cool for 10 minutes on the trays.
  11. These will last a couple of days in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. The Almond Butter I use for these cookies is the Macro brand from Woolworths and is called Almond Spread. The ingredients is 100% raw almonds.
Adapted from Slim Palate
Adapted from Slim Palate
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Avocado & Basil Pesto Potato Salad (dairy free)

Potato Salad. It appears at nearly every BBQ or Christmas gathering in some form or another.

I have had to think outside the square with creating a Potato Salad my boys would eat as they don’t like mayonnaise.

Thankfully, this one is loved by them all. The ‘creaminess’ that you want in a good potato salad is achieved by using one of my favourite foods – avocado. Add a few other ingredients to it and you have a healthy way of adding flavour to your potatoes without all the nasties that store-bought mayo can have in it.

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Crispy pancetta adds a crunchy saltiness that the dish needs, and then the tomatoes are just so yum and add colour too.

This is where you can play around. Use regular old bacon and fresh tomatoes if you prefer. Or leave out the pancetta altogether to make it a vegetarian meal. If you were to do that, I would add some toasted almonds to the top to add the crunch factor.

I think we have all eaten a BAD potato salad before. There are a few really simple rules to follow, no matter what type of potato salad you are making:

  1. Choose the right potato – look for a waxy potato like Desiree, Dutch Cream, Kipfler, Nadine or Nicola. They have less starch than other varieties and hold their shape nicely when they are boiled. There’s nothing worse than a mushy potato salad.
  2. Cook them in cold water that is brought to the boil, rather than adding them to boiling water. Also, be careful not to over cook them. You want them soft to eat but to still hold their shape.
  3. ‘Dress them’ with either a small amount of oil or vinegar when they are warm so they absorb some of that flavour.
  4. Potato Salad is almost always best eaten at room temperature. Cooked potatoes can go very hard once they have been in the fridge too long.

Happy Cooking!

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Avocado & Basil Pesto Potato Salad (dairy free)

  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 20m
  • Total Time: 25m

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, (plus 1 tablespoon extra for potatoes)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 kilogram dutch cream potatoes, washed and halved (or left whole if they are baby sized)
  • 100 grams pancetta
  • 150 grams semi-dried tomatoes
  • chopped chives for garnish

Method

  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Over a medium heat, bring to the boil with a lid on. Boil for 12-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft but not mushy. Drain in a colander, and then put the potatoes back in the saucepan. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil or basil-infused olive oil over them. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Place the avocado flesh, basil, almonds, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice in the food processor and process till smooth. Set aside.
  3. Heat a non stick frying pan over medium and cook the pancetta until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towel and finally chop.
  4. When almost ready to serve, mix the pesto through the potatoes. I find this easiest to do in the large saucepan.
  5. Place the pesto potatoes in a serving bowl and add the tomatoes, crispy pancetta and chives.

Homemade Chicken Burgers

The storm had just started as I was busy trying to finish and serve dinner.

Our 4 yr old hates storms, so as he was getting more and more upset, I was frantically trying to come up with some helpful and calming words for him.

As each new bolt of lightning lit up the sky and the big boys ran to the window with excitement, our little man’s screams would just go up a notch.

“Sshhh….it’s okay… you don’t need to scream…” as I am trying not to burn the burger patties in the frying pan and I am signalling to another child to start setting the table, while my little boy is wrapped around my legs.

“Um..just picture Lightning McQueen up in the clouds….he’s.. um.. trying to race… um….Mater and (insert sound of thunder here) LOOK…that’s just them having a BIG CRASH… but.. um… everyone’s really okay…shhh…. it’s okay… please stop screaming”

Then it’s my turn…”Can someone PLEASE set the table, dinner’s almost ready!” I yell.

I do sometimes wonder if I walked calmly around the house at this point, quietly gesturing for people to come to the table, if they in fact, would actually come? Let me know if this works for you in your house…

Probably more than I should, after a few quieter mutterings, I usually end up yelling something like “If you don’t come to the table NOW, you can’t touch your iPad for a MONTH.” That usually gets people there pretty quick.

Anyway, back to the storm.

Thanks to the quick-thinking of my eldest, he put some music on, hoping to calm our little man down.

He chose UPTOWN FUNK…not quite the calming, background dinner music I had in mind, but it worked.

Our little man started his moves and singing along….”UPTOWN FUNKY DUCK, UPTOWN FUNKY DUCK” he yelled over and over again.

At this point, I am placing things on the STILL UNSET TABLE (to which I decided to let go)… Who needs a set table when eating burgers anyway?

“I know, let’s have a DANCE competition. Everyone gets to choose one song and dance, and mum can score us out of 10” suggested one of my sons.

“How about we eat our dinner?” I suggest

To say spirits were a little high and there was lots of energy buzzing in our house that night, is an understatement. I quickly realised no-one was going to sit down and eat anytime soon, so embracing the ‘fun mum’ somewhere inside of me (she’s often not around at 6pm on a weeknight) I agreed to said Dance Competition.

Everything from here on in went well…until it didn’t.

The dance floor kept getting crashed by the now over-tired and over-excited 4 year old. Everyone wanted one more turn when their song ended and no-one was happy, when I declared all their scores were the same – 8.5 out of 10! I am all for fairness…..

The burgers were cold, but still tasted great. The highlight of actually eating dinner was reminding one of my children that we don’t use our whole hand and fingers to get the rest of the BBQ sauce out of the container, but maybe we try using a spoon or knife instead?

After cleaning up said sauce, breaking up another fight over a rumbling incident and heading back to the kitchen to realise I still had more burger patties to cook, I stood at the kitchen sink and looked out at the stormy sky.

‘Try and find the beauty, joy and adventure right where you are,’ were words I had read earlier that day.

Oh boy…I am trying.

Slowly the kitchen was cleaned and I started getting the kids ready for bed.

I was a little frazzled, but it had actually been quite a fun night, I thought to myself as I headed to our little man’s room to tuck him into bed.

And all over his floor and in his bed were hundreds of little beads…..from who knows where… and I just started to laugh.

You know that laugh? The slightly-crazy-person, could start-crying at any minute laugh?

Beauty, Joy and Adventure… right where I am…..

Back to the Burgers….one thing I do when I clean out my freezer and find leftovers of loaves of bread, crusts or the ends of breadsticks, I pop the lot in my food processor and make a big batch of fresh breadcrumbs.

I pop the breadcrumbs into smaller portions in snack size freezer bags and freeze them for a day like this when I want to quickly make some burgers or another day when I want to make some meatballs. It’s a great way of using up leftover bread you otherwise might have thrown away.

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The only limit to how you eat your burger is your imagination…so knock yourself out! This was our family edition – with un-toasted soft white buns and all! If I had my way, it may have had a few more fancy trimmings….but that being said, it tasted pretty good ┬ájust like this.

Homemade Chicken Burgers

  • Prep Time: 10m
  • Cook Time: 10m
  • Total Time: 20m
  • Serves: 5
  • Yield: 8-10 small patties or 5 large ones
  • Category:

Ingredients

  • 500 grams chicken mince
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, mint and chives

Method

  1. Place all ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined.
  2. Using your hands, form into the size patties you want to cook.
  3. If you have time, let them sit, covered in the fridge for up to half an hour - this just helps them bind well together.
  4. Heat olive oil in large non stick pan over medium heat and cook the patties on both sides, until golden and cooked through.
  5. Drain on paper towel while assembling your other ingredients.
  6. Serve on hamburger buns or bread of your choice with any fillings you like! We used lettuce, tomato, beetroot, store-bought beetroot relish, cheese, cucumber and pineapple. Avocado, hummus, Aioli (garlic mayonnaise) all work beautifully as toppings.
  7. These patties also taste great on their own with salad, if you want a carb-free meal.