Healthy Strawberry, Coconut & Nutella Muffins

I love experimenting with my baking and what better day to do so then Sunday!! Last night I had trouble sleeping so instead I thought about variousways to improve my muffin making skills. I really want to crIMG_3914eate a muffin recipe that produces light, fluffy, delicious cupcakes with as little of the bad stuff as possible! Anyway I started thinking about muffins that I like to eat that fit that category and of course you have your regular muffin mix but then theres also the friand, which is light and fluffy and predominately uses almond meal and egg whites instead of flour! Now I’ve made muffins with an almond meal and flour combination as my dry ingredients and that was pretty tasty but I hate wasting the yellow bit of the egg! So i decided to sort of combine the two recipes so that I didn’t waste anything at all. I’m also trying to avoid using too much refined sugar and friands tend to use quite a bit of icing sugar so that would need to be changed. What I needed, I thought, was a whipped egg white, to give the muffin its sense of light, airy-ness and a more natural sweetener such as honey or maple syrup to give a little sweetness. I also decided to incorporate coconut to replace some of the flour, adding another layer of flavour and texture whilst healthy-ifying the muffins just a little bit more! The other essential component of experimental baking is using whats already available in your fridge or pantry and at the moment we have an abundance of beautiful, plump strawberries that would be the perfect addition to my muffins!

So off I went, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I must add that when I experiment I tend not to use measures (or I don’t really remember them) but what I ended up with made 6 beautiful, moist strawberry muffins with a cheeky Nutella dollop centre!! Sooo yummy and now my house smells amazing! So heres what I did:

1. Separate two eggs, keeping the egg whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

2. Add to the bowl with the yolks, 1 cup of self raising flour, sifted (could use gf flour or wholemeal flour), 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 2Tbs maple syrup (or honey), a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla essence. Mix together to form a smooth consistency. You may need to add a dash of milk (or water if you want it dairy free) to loosen the mixture. I used about 1/4 cup soy milk.

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3. In your other bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then fold this mix into your flour/coconut mixture, being mindful not to knock the air out of it. Have a little taste and make sure its to your liking. Remember that the strawberries will add quite a bit of sweetness naturally so this mix shouldn’t be overly sweet.

4. Line your muffin tins and divide the mixture between 6 cases. Then slice up your strawberries and press down into each muffin. The strawberries should be covered by the mixture. Add a small dollop of nutella (optional) and try to press this down into the mixture also. Finally, top with a strawberry slice for beautiful presentation.

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5. Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees C) for about 15-17mins or until a skewer comes out of the centre cleanly.

6. Allow to cool and sift generously with icing sugar and then enjoy!

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

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Brown Rice sort-of Seafood Paella

ImageEven though I love baking sweet treats I do spend the most part of my week cooking and eating as healthily as I possibly can. I often try to use recipes that are not so healthy and modify them to make them even better. This can often be tricky as I’m still trying to convince my parents that dinner can still taste great without potato!! But for the most part, they are pretty willing to try whatever strange concoctions I come up with (their pretty great!). So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try a healthy spin on one of my family favourite dishes, Paella. Now Paella in and of itself is pretty good on the health-scale but I of course wanted to see if I could go one better and make it with brown rice instead of a short grain (dad wasn’t too keen and couldn’t understand why I yet again had to change something that I know works perfectly well!) So off to the shops we went, purchasing some beautiful prawns, mussels, squid tubes and choritzo sausage! And then the cooking began. In true Mia style, I’ve researched a whole lot of recipes, putting together all of the best bits and overall I’m really happy with the base recipe. It seems long and fiddly but in reality its just got a few (maybe more then a few) easy steps, that, when put together have a beautiful flavour true to Spanish food.

Normally, (when I use a short grain rice such as arborio) the dish takes about 35-40mins to make but knowing that I was using brown rice I allocated 45-50mins. Off I went, cooking away and the smells and flavours were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I added stock and stirred and tasted and still after almost 45mins the rice was no where near cooked. My family was getting hungry, moving closer and closer to the kitchen so I knew I had to hurry up but there was just no way to speed up the process! I knew that the seafood wouldn’t take very long at all to cook, so I didn’t want to add it until that rice was cooked through. So there I was faced with an ultimate dilemma, keep cooking the rice and have a hungry/angry family or just stick the seafood in and hope that it cooks at the same time as the seafood. I opted for the second option which in the end was not as bad as I had thought. The rice was just cooked through, with a slight firmness to it, while the seafood cooked through perfectly. I’d have to say that the flavours in this Paella were my best by far. Sadly though, (and probably because of the length of the grains of rice) the liquid did not absorb as should happen in a Paella and there was no crispy bottom. As opposed to a traditional Paella, the dish was more a Spanish rice with seafood and tomato sauce, maybe closer to a gumbo then a Paella. That being said, it was absolutely delicious and even my dad (whose not such a fan of brown rice) thought it was great!

So here’s my recipe, I’d recommend it for sure but just allow at least an hour for the rice to cook through and remember that it won’t be exactly like a traditional Paella. But that just goes to show that you can make Paella with brown rice! Alternatively, you can still use this recipe with arborio or spanish rice (I’ve even used sushi rice before and that works a treat!) and could make it with chicken instead of seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

What you need:

500g Green prawns, peeled

1 Squid tube, cut into rings

1kg Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned

2 sticks of choritzo

1 cup brown jasmine rice

1 onion, diced

1 capsicum

1 tin chopped tomato

1L chicken stock

Smoked Paprika

pinch saffron threads

handful frozen peas

chopped parsley

What I did:

1. First off, chargrill your capsicum over an open flame on your stovetop. I literally leave it sitting on the flame, turning occasionally until the whole thing is black and charred. To remove the skin, pop it straight into a plastic bag and tie a knot in the top. The steam will help to remove the skin and then (while its still in the bag rub it all over to remove it. Take the capsicum out of the bag, rinse under cold water and remove the seeds inside.

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2. Using a food processor, blend your capsicum and diced tomato to make a saucy/liquid,

3. Heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil in your Paella pan and add your diced onion, cooking to translucent but not brown. Then add your diced choritzo sausages and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat up your stock in the microwave and add your saffron threads. leave them to “dissolve” and flavour. Add a good dash of paprika to your pan and cook out for 1-2mins, until it starts to give off a beautiful fragrant smell. Then add your brown rice, stirring to coat in the paprika. (I haven’t included a measurement here as its just to your taste).

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4. Finally, add the tomato/capsicum mixture from earlier and about half your stock, stirring it all to combine. Continue to stir your rice, adding more liquid as required for about 45mins (or until the rice is tender and just about cooked).

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5. At this stage, add half your seafood and stir it through, before adding the rest to decorate the top of the Paella. Once this is done, no more stirring, this will help to form a crisp bottom to the rice. Sprinkle with frozen peas and leave for 5 mins.

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6. Before serving, top the whole thing with lots of freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!