Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

I'll let you in on a secret... I'm working on project; PROJECT UGLY DOLL (it's not that ugly, in fact, it's rather cute).
The other day my sister and I went shopping for materials to make clothes with. You see, my sister is studying a unit called "Creative Garment Making" this term, and she has begun a project to create a sleeveless checkered shirt with pockets too. So while she was scouting around for templates and suitable materials, I was browsing through the clearance section. That's when I came across a 5 dollar scrap material pack and the idea to embark on this project sparked. 
I'll let you in on another secret... there's no butter, no sugar and no flour in this banana bread recipe. It's gluten free! To be honest, I'm still learning about the different sorts of baked products that can be made.
Gluten free basically means that there is no gluten duh. Gluten is the protein complex found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Surprisingly, corn and rice are considered gluten free though both contain gluten, however the gluten in these items do not cause the allergies associated with gluten found in other items. Thank you Wikipedia!
 Back to baking. This recipe is a cinch. The batter can be made by placing everything in a mixer (or blender!) and simply mixed until everything is combined. Pour the batter into a baking tin and it's ready to bake, of course don't forget to top off your banana bread with your favourite goodies.
It looks the same and smells the same as a banana bread loaf. But your body will notice the difference because this recipe is loaded with: banana for potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function; almonds, packed full of protein and heart healthy fats and can help lower cholesterol as well as keep blood sugars stable; cold-pressed (or extra virgin) olive oil, a delicious source of the good fats that help support good health and well-being.
Have I convinced you that this banana recipe rocks? Naturally full of moisture and sweetness because of the bananas. It's just good to know it's a health-ier sort of banana bread, a nice change from the highly refined goods.
Did you know? I have never learned to use a sewing machine before and never learned how to sew using a thread and needle. Okay, I can kind of sew, but really amateurish kind of sewing. I think I've let you in on one secret too many. I'll keep you posted on how this project goes.

Banana Bread (Gluten Free)
Adapted from The Healthy Chef

Makes 1 loaf

300 grams (about 3 large bananas) mashed ripe bananas
3 large eggs
60 grams (2 tablespoons) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 grams (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda + 1 tablespoon lemon juice (the lemon activates the bicarb... juicy science)
200 grams (2 cups) almond meal
25 grams (1/4 cup) ground flaxseed (linseed) or chia seed

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Lightly oil one loaf tin (approx. 10x22cm) and coat with extra almond, or cover with baking paper.
  2. Combine mashed bananas, honey, oil, vanilla, eggs, bicarb and lemon, in a mixer or blender or even by hand if you prefer. Add the almond meal and flaxseed and mix well.
  3. Pour batter into the tin, don't forget your favourite toppings (may I suggest chopped cashews or walnuts or even a sliced banana), and  bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out dry. [Tip: Cover the top with foil if over-browning.]
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool before turning out the loaf. Keeps in the fridge well covered up to 1 week.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are moments in life when you doubt whether you made the right choice. However, after you make the decision, those around you support you and a new found strength drives you forward. Have you ever experienced moments like that? These cookies are like that moment. I can tell you that I support any opportunity to turn pumpkin into dessert. Just look at the bright orange flesh that blends itself into this batter. The good thing is, yes, a healthy fact is that this recipe doesn't need butter.
These cookies are soft and cakey, which is completely unexpected until you try one. A pleasant surprise.
If you're in doubt whether you've made the right choice, look to people around, ask others for their opinion. Don't sit with your doubts and let them weigh you down. You never know when your decisions are a delight to others and they might just support you too.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 20-24 cookies

1 cup mashed butternut pumpkin (about 1/4 of butternut pumpkin steamed and mashed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) dark chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to about 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2-3 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until pale and thick. Carefully whisk in the oil and vanilla. Fold in the mashed pumpkin.
  4. Add the egg mixture, all at once, to the flour mixture. Fold together with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoonful, onto prepared baking tray about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly puffed and a skewer inserted into the centre of one cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies last up to 4 days at room temperature, well wrapped.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

How to Feed a Mocha Monster


Define Mocha Monster: loves chocolate and coffee; not exactly like cookie monster; experiments with all things involving chocolate and coffee.

How to feed a Mocha Monster: incorporate staples of the Cookie Monster's diet including butter, sugar and flour; add coffee paste; top off with chocolate.
Other details: save the cute little fancy cookies for a friend and feed the rest to the Mocha Monster, for the Mocha Monster gobbles down all things with chocolate and coffee.
You can find the recipe at dailydelicious

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Coffee Letter Remedy

It's 3pm and I was hitting the slumps. It reached a staggering 41 degrees today and I was clearly not functioning well as I almost fell asleep at the wheel. On my way home from a friend's place, I was feeling sluggish and my eyes were droopy. Thank God I reached home safely and I hit the couch for a short power nap. Not the kind of citizen you'd want on the streets. But I'm not usually like this. No, I'm rarely like this.

I quickly made an afternoon coffee for that kick. I don't always have coffee. It's just today I needed I just felt like it. To pair my coffee, I had a delicious letter. A what letter? I think it's this weather. The heat is driving my head in circles.

Ahh...much better. A nice cup of coffee and a good read. Now I'm off again. Driving, yes, but I'll be sure to peel my eyes open. I promise I'll be a good citizen despite the heat wave that's hitting this place.

About time I write some replies to long overdue letters (sorry to those friends afar, I'm getting there, slowly).

What's your remedy for that afternoon slump?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Oh, there's soy sauce in this?

I splash soy sauce in soups. I fry it up in stir fries. I bake it in meats. I steam it in fish. One thing I've never done with it is mix it in my cookie batter.

I'm born Australian. I'm actually of Taiwanese decent. I'm no good at cooking. I'm actually into baking. But how did soy sauce end up in this sweet batter of cookie dough?

I like chocolate. I like cookies. I like chocolate in my cookies. I like cookies in my chocolate. How did soy sauce come between this match made under heaven?

For the record, this odd combination is decadent and delectable.

Tell people it's a cookie. Tell people is got chocolate in it. Tell people it's got soy sauce in it. "Oh", they might say, but they'll savour every bite of it (and come back for seconds, maybe, if there's any left).

Try something different. It's okay to be different. Just be brave.

Sesame and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker

makes 20 to 24 cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225 grams) I salted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon soy sauce (yes, be brave)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 cup dark chocolate chips
about 1/4 cup black sesame seeds for rolling

1. Line two or three baking trays with baking paper. Set aside and we'll preheat oven after chilling the dough.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add egg and yolk and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Don't forget to scrape down sides.
5. Beat in vanilla and soy sauce.
6. Stop mixer and add in dry ingredients, all at once to butter mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined.
7. Stop the mixture, add the 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and chocolate chunks, and fold together.
8. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 45 minutes (or overnight). Just before you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
9. Place 1/4 cup black sesame seeds in small bowl. Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoonful into your hand. Roll into a ball and sprinkle the sesame seeds on.
10. Place on prepared baking trays. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cookies will last a day or two. The oils on seeds tend to go rancid, so cookies are best eaten within a few days.

Friday, 15 February 2013

It's like you disappeared...

I tend do do that. Seemingly disappear (yet, I'm still here). Some of my friends tell me it's like I disappear from the face of the earth and then reappear for a short period, and then disappear again. I guess I have that effect because I travel to a different place at the end of the year. To local friends, I will "disappear" for about a month and it's hard to keep in touch because I rely on wi-fi, hence limited blogging for that matter. To friends afar, I will "disappear" for almost a year but we keep in contact by writing letters. You know, the old- fashioned way. Yes, I like the authenticity of it though many of my immediate family members think it is such a waste of time. But I think small tangible things like letters, hand made cards, thoughtful gifts, and freshly baked goods go a long way. I mean you can go your way and buy these things almost instantly these days, but call it time wasters... I like doing things my way. I want to stick around and update you what I've been up to this past month or two and I would love to but I can't.

These days I've got loads of books to get through. What kind of books you might ask? Teaching books, resource books and children's books (and baking books too). So my day is packed. How about yours?

I think I've got just as many baking and cookery books compared to teaching resources, and I'm supposed to be a teacher? I see why getting started is such a daunting reality when you enter the workforce. Don't forget breakfast...remember that cocoa almond granola? I added some juicy summer grapes and banana. I think fruit cereal is becoming a new favourite.

Have a productive day!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Oh Joy

If I hadn't come across Joy the Baker, I believe my baking adventures would be short-lived. I was losing inspiration to keep going as I seemed to bake the same recipes repeatedly. Although playing with flour, butter, sugar and eggs has its therapeutic soothing effects, it was becoming somewhat burdensome. 

Eating cakes, pastries, brownies, donuts, and cookies is not a sustainable long-term diet (unless you can monitor yourself closely like the Twinkie Diet). I can't eat too much anymore. It's definitely true that your metabolism slows down a lot when you hit the 20s. So I set out in search of a different kind of recipe, and that's when I stumbled across Joy the Baker's 10 Real-Talk Blog Tips Part Two.

To 2013, may this year be full of sweet and beautiful things to share with you.

Cocoa Almond Granola
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 8 cups granola

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup shredded coconut (I used desiccated coconut because that was all I had on hand)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare a rack for the top and middle. Line 1 large or 2 small baking trays with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, toss together oats, almonds, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In saucepan, combine sugar, honey, oil and butter. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
4. Pour the warm mixture over the oat mixture and toss with wooden spoon until oats and almonds are moistened. Spoon mixture onto baking tray and place in oven.
5. Bake granola for 30 minutes, removing from oven to toss 2 to 3 times during baking. Granola is done when toasted on the edges and fragrant.
6. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in airtight container, at room temperature. Last up to 2 weeks.

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