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!!

The Grounds

 

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The Grounds at Alexandria has got to be one of Sydney’s best kept not-so-secret places to eat. If your young, hip, trendy, health conscious, love coffee or just plain hungry it is most definitely the place to be, and trust me there are many many reasons why. But be warned, on a weekend you best be ready for at least a 2 hour wait!

Aside from brewing and making their own coffee, The Grounds presents a complete picture of everything diners are after, especially the locals of Alexandria. The cafe, bakery and restaurant are located in an old Pie Factory and the owners, Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna have literally thought of everything! The decor is rustic and homely with wide wooden tables and vintage flair. Externally, the cafe is surrounded by beautiful gardens from which some of the kitchen produce is grown and it is here that you’ll find the little animal pen. Once again, a genius foresight by the owners, ensuring that yet another market is catered for; families with young children. 

On weekends, the Grounds markets add an extra special something, with fresh fruits and pastries available for sale as well as flowers and candles, roasted nuts and gelato. The staff are wonderful and are always willing to allow you to taste till your hearts content. Again, a brilliant idea marketing idea as while patrons are whiling away the hours waiting for a table in the cafe they can peruse and make extra purchases from the market stalls. And who can blame them! 

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The pastries alone look sublime! And they taste that good too, as does the freshly baked bread! So damn delicious!!

Luckily I used my brain and planned a trip to the gym across the road whilst waiting the hour and a half for a table (this was a very very good plan). Once seated though it was completely worth the wait! Sadly we missed the breakfast menu (which finishes at 11:30am) but the brunch and lunch menus were of course still available and equally as beautiful. For lunch I had the duck and pear salad which was filled with moist flakes of duck flesh, crispy radish and firm pistachio nuts. And such a nice big serve too I couldn’t finish it. To wash it all down I had the Banana Smoothie which is by far the best smoothie I have ever had! Sweet, creamy and thick, I completely understand the necessity for the giant, fat straw that it was served with. And I love that their drinks are served in mason jars! Very trendy and unique. 

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My boyfriend had a coffee first and he dubbed it the best coffee he has had in a while, very strong and full flavoured. Following that he had the lamb shank which was flavoured with middle eastern spices and served with wild rice. So much lovely flavour packed into a dish with beautiful, moist meat. Looking around though, the steak sandwich look beautiful with a huge serve of the house-made bread, caramelised onions, steak and pickles, Yum! On a previous occasion I have also ordered the New Zealand Salmon which is so perfect! Crispy skin salmon with moist flakey flesh served on a bed of quinoa and broad beans, mmm you literally can not go wrong!

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For those with kids, there is a great kids menu and overall the whole experience is reasonably priced especially considering the quality of produce and use of fresh, clean ingredients. Be ready to have savoury and sweet because the pastry display looks as good as it tastes! While I didn’t sample any of these delights on the weekend (hardest thing to do ever!) I have been told that the cinnamon and Nutella donuts are to die for! 

Regardless, I highly recommend a trip to The Grounds at Alexandria. Whether its for Sunday brunch with the family, coffee with your friends or just for a nice outing you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have, and I can’t wait to get back there again!

Healthy Summer Salad

ImageIf you’re looking for a Summer salad idea then look no further! Here’s a recipe for one that I made almost by accident this week (I had a few ingredients in my fridge that were about to go off so I threw them altogether). This salad is fresh, vibrant, tasty and very very healthy and combines pomegranate, sweet potato and quinoa to make a modern tabouli style salad. It’s really easy to make as its one of those chop it all up and throw it together kind of things! I served it with dukkah crusted chicken (which I just baked in the oven, so no oil required at all) and it was such an amazing, flavoursome dish. Great for BBQ’s too! If you’re unsure about where to buy quinoa, most supermarkets sell it now but it can also be purchased from health food stores. Its similar to couscous but is a grain as opposed to being made from wheat, so is suitable for people on a gluten free diet. It’s very easy to cook, simply bring to the boil in water and simmer away (takes about 15 mins depending on quantities) and can be purchased in a variety of colours, any of which are perfect for this recipe. Give it a go, you might be surprised by the taste! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

What You’ll Need:

1 cup cooked Quinoa (Follow packet instructions and then allow to cool)

1 Sweet potato (peeled and diced then bake in the oven until soft)

1 tsp ground Cumin

1 bunch flat leaf Parsley (roughly chopped)

3 Spring onions (finely sliced)

1 can of Chickpeas (rinsed)

1/2 lemon juiced

1 Pomegranate (seeds removed)

Salt and Pepper to taste

What I Did:

1. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl together and toss lightly. Check your seasonings and add more lemon juice/salt/pepper/cumin as you’d like. You can also drizzle with some olive oil for a lovely rich flavour. Serve as a side dish for chicken or red meat or use for your lunches during the week.

You could serve this salad warm but be mindful that your parsley doesn’t wilt (let the quinoa cool slightly before putting it altogether). Tomatoes are a lovely addition and my favourite are the cherry type and pumpkin could also be used if you don’t like sweet potato.

(NB A helpful way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate is to tap it firmly all over the outside before you cut it. Using a wooden spoon is a good idea. This will loosen the seeds so that when you do cut it in half, they should fall out easily when the pomegranate is lightly squeezed. Be careful not to get juice on your clothing though as it will stain very easily. I have read that vinegar helps to get it out)

Overnight Blueberry Oats

ImageI’ve recently discovered the power of overnight oats (took me long enough!) and just had to share it with everyone. Breakfast has never usually been my favourite meal of the day (as a kid I hated cereal so I used to eat leftovers from dinner) but it is most certainly the most important. I can’t skip breakfast, ever and without a nice filling one I find it really hard to concentrate throughout the day. I should probably also mention that I get really grumpy when I’m hungry so probably best to avoid that whenever I can!

I really love the concept of overnight oats because they really are the simplest thing ever. You literally put everything in a bowl the night before, pop it in the fridge and in the morning when you wake up you’re presented with a creamy refreshing breakfast. I had always thought that overnight oats would be like eating cold porridge (could there be anything worse!) but I was so pleasantly surprised. Its nothing like porridge but more like a really creamy breakfast pudding, which is great because its nice and refreshing on these hot Summer mornings. On top of all of these great things is the fact that you can put whatever you like into/on top of it and it will always taste delish! I tried adding a bit of granola (see my cinnamon granola post from earlier) and some banana chips for extra crunch. Nutritionally, Oats have been linked to lowering cholesterol and are also low GI which means that their energy is released more slowly, keeping you feeling fuller for longer!

So here it is, my recipe for Overnight Blueberry Oats

What you need:

1/3 cup oats

1/2 cup soy milk (or milk of your choosing)

small handful of blueberries, sunflower seeds and pepita seeds

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

What I did:

1. Combine all of your ingredients in a bowl (I haven’t put quantities for the cinnamon or nutmeg as you should add them to your taste. Be sparing with the nutmeg as its quite strong). Stir with a spoon and put in the fridge overnight.

2. In the morning, add some extra milk if you need it and top with extra berries, banana chips, nuts or homemade granola (whatever you fancy really).

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Granola…Healthy and Delicious

Recently I discovered the wondrous powers on cinnamon which has inevitably resulted in my including it in absolutely everything that I possibly can! Aside from tasting and smelling delicious, cinnamon has been linked to lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar levels and reducing arthritic pain. It’s also been suggested that including cinnamon in your diet can increase your metabolism and aid weight loss, so it’s an ingredient thats worthwhile using. Personally, I like the boost of flavour it provides to any dish, savoury or sweet, that can often replace sugar. Porridge or oats that would normally be topped with honey or golden syrup could instead be served with a nice sprinkling of cinnamon and fresh banana! So tasty and much lower in sugar then the former. If your after a warm drink try hot soy or almond milk with cinnamon instead of a sugary hot chocolate. Better still, a chai tea is the perfect option before bed.

One of the best new things that I’ve discovered to include cinnamon in though is my homemade granola. Besides the fact that I love to cook, I like to make my own granola as opposed to buying a pre-made one as I know exactly whats in it (often the store-made ones are full of hidden nasties and loads of sugar which I like to avoid wherever possible). It’s also super easy and tends to follow a “throw whatever’s in the pantry rule” which is perfect when your pressed fro time. There are no real measurements and you can include whatever flavour combinations that you’d like. I like to make up a big batch at the beginning of the week and store it in jars to have for breakfast or snacks throughout the week. It goes really nicely with Greek Yogurt and fresh fruit too! I’ve played around with a few combinations and so far my favourite flavour is cinnamon, cranberry and pistachio.

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What I used:

Ground Cinnamon

Honey

Almonds

Pistachio nuts

Oats

Seeds (chia seeds, pepitas, sunflower)

Coconut (shredded or desiccated) 

Dried Cranberries

Dried Dates

What I did:

In a bowl mix together about a handful of almonds, pistachio nuts, seeds (of your choosing) and oats and top with a liberal amount of cinnamon. Mix through so evenly coated and then add a squeeze of honey. Mix through and lay it all on a baking tray. Put it into the oven (200 degrees Celsius) and KEEP AN EYE ON IT!! This stuff burns really quickly so keep checking it every 10mins or so. Cooking time will depend on how much you’ve made and how crispy you like your oats but mine usually takes around 20mins. The oats should just start to go golden (remember it keeps cooking after your done). Once it’s looking sunkissed remove from oven, turn it off and mix through a handful of dried cranberries, sliced dates and coconut. Finally, drizzle over a little more honey and then pop it back into the oven (which is no longer on). This will help to make some delicious clusters of sweet cinnamony goodness that are hard to resist! Leave here for about 10mins before removing and allowing to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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And there you have it! A perfect option for breakfasts or snacks. Like I said, I think it goes especially well served with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and even some banana chips. Trust me, it will be hard to resist, but hey … who cares when it tastes this good!

Enjoy!!