Self saucing chocolate pudding you can feel good about … well, at least not so guilty ….

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It is my belief that the desire for pudding comes in direct correlation with the decrease in temperature. The days have gone from 44 to 24 degrees here so it’s time to let you in on a pudding recipe that ticks all the boxes – delicious, warm, gooey and chocolatey with a luscious sauce that forms magically under the cake. It also happens to be reduced in sugar, easily adapted to be gluten free or vegan and has the benefits of maca, cacao, flax and almond meal.

Saucy chocolate pudding 

* see below for details of products that can make things less complicated ūüôā

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup gluten free flour (you could also use wheat, spelt or coconut flour here)
1/2 cup almond meal     *
2 heaped tablespoons of flax meal      *
4 tablespoons cacao powder (you can use cocoa powder here)     *
4 tablespoons maca powder      *
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup apple sauce)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)

Sauce ingredients
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons white or coconut sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 20x20cm baking dish.

Mix together sugar, flour, almond meal, flax meal, cacao, maca, baking powder and salt.
Add eggs (or apple sauce), vanilla and milk and stir until combined.
Pour into baking dish and smooth surface with the back of a spoon or spatula.

For the sauce mix together sugars and cocoa powder and sprinkle over cake batter. Gently pour the boiling water over the top – it will look weird, don’t worry it will all come together beautifully.

Bake for 30mins.

* To make things easier I buy Power Super Foods Maca and Cacao Smoothie blend from the local health food/organic store. You can use this in baking, smoothies, to make hot chocolate as well as replacing the maca and cacao powders above with the equivalent amount of this product.

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*this flax and almond baking meal is available in the health food aisle of supermarkets and is a healthy and more cost effective way to include flax and almond meals into your baking. You can replace the flax and almond meal above with equivalent amount of this blend.

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Pea, mint and feta fritters…

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These fritters are a perfect simple dinner for the hot weather we’re currently experiencing. When its 40 degrees outside dinner needs to happen fast.

Quick to make, delicious eaten hot or cold and all ready in a flash with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

Make a big batch and have some for lunch the next day although I doubt they will last that long. Serve with a big salad, some tomato chutney or some yoghurt or tzatziki.

Pea, mint, broccoli and feta fritters

Makes approx 20 fritters

5 eggs
1 cup milk (soy, dairy or almond)
1 1/3 cups self raising flour (gluten free flour works well)
pepper to taste
4 cups frozen peas, thawed and roughly mashed
1/2 bunch of mint, finely chopped
1/2 head of broccoli, finely chopped
200g feta, crumbled
6 spring onions, finely chopped

In a large bowl  whisk together flour and pepper. Mix in milk and eggs till well combined and no lumps remain. Stir in all other ingredients.

Heat olive oil in a shallow frying pan. Drop a large tablespoon on mixture into pan and cook for about 2 minutes or until brown then turn the fritter and cook briefly on the other side.

Tahini biscuits…

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My eldest daughter Zoe has an obsession with tahini. She loves it in all it’s forms. I’ve been making tahini salad dressing, black tahini banana bread and now I’ve whipped up a batch of tahini biscuits.

Tahini is the paste of ground sesame seeds. It has a lovely nutty taste and is a fantastic source of calcium.

If you’re looking for a refined sugar free, gluten free, vegan and delicious biscuit to have with your afternoon cup of tea I urge you to give these a go.

Tahini Biscuits 

90mls maple syrup
90mls treacle (you could use honey, molasses or golden syrup here)
90mls tahini
zest of an orange
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups oat flour (this can be made by processing rolled oats in a food processor until your get a flour consistency. Alternatively, you could use plain or GF flour instead)
150g almond meal
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds or flaked almonds for dipping

How to..

With an electric or stand mixer blend together maple syrup, treacle, tahini, orange zest and vanilla. Beat for a few minutes until well mixed and fluffy.
Mix in oat flour and bicarb soda.

Roll into teaspoon size balls and roll in seeds or almonds. Flatten slightly and place on baking tray. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Bake biscuits for 10-15 mins.
Cool on trays.

Sticky, chewy date and nut bars …

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Looking for something to get you through the 3pm slump ? Look no further !
These easy to make, gluten free, vegan bars are just the thing. They come together in about 10 minutes and require no baking so are perfect when you’re baking on the run.

Sticky date and nut bars

1/2 cup honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1/2 cup nut butter – this can be any nut butter or a combination. I like to use 1/2 peanut
and 1/2 almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats) – if you are gluten intolerant make sure your oats are GF
1 1/2 cups nuts – use what you like here – almonds, pecans, walnuts – if you have time toss them around in a frypan for a few minutes to toast them and bring out their flavour
2 cups dates, pitted
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces chopped finely (optional)

Melt honey/syrup and nut butter together in a small saucepan over low heat. When melted remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Blitz dates in a food processor till it forms a paste. Don’t worry if there are still some lumps. Place date paste in a large bowl.
Place nuts in food processor and pulse till roughly chopped. Place in bowl with dates.
Add rolled oats and chocolate if using. Mix well. This is easiest done with clean hands.
Pour over butter/syrup mixture and mix well.

Line a slice pan with being paper and spoon in mixture. Top with another piece of baking paper and squash flat with hands or rolling pin till about 1 1/2 cm thick.

Chill in fridge or freezer till cold then slice into small bars. These are quite rich so small bars are best. Store in fridge or for longer term storage you can place in freezer and thaw as wanted.

Feel free to change the ingredients to suit your taste. Try replacing some nuts with seeds, dried fruit or rice puffs.

 

Anzac biscuits … vegan, GF and delicious…

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If you’re looking for something to have with a cup of tea you can’t go past Anzac biscuits.
This recipe has been adapted to suit vegans and those who are wheat intolerant without losing any of the traditional yumminess.

Chewy, wholesome, perfect for lunch boxes or to share around.

To up the nutritional content I’ve included some almond and flax meal and reduced the sugar. These are so easy to make and would be great way for kids to have a go at baking !

Recipe makes about 20 biscuits

1 cup rolled oats (check to make sure these are GF if intolerant)
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or cane sugar if you don’t have this)
2/3 cup coconut flakes (or desiccated coconut)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (optional)
1/4 cup maple, golden or rice malt syrup
125g butter or butter substitute eg Nuttelex, coconut butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method

Mix together all dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
Melt butter and syrup in *medium sized saucepan over low heat. When butter has melted turn off heat and stir in bicarbonate of soda.

*The butter mixture will froth up and bubble to about double its size when the bicarbonate of soda is added so make sure your saucepan is able to hold this volume of liquid.

Roll together dessert spoon sized balls of mixture and place on baking trays allowing some room to spread during baking. Flatten slightly and bake at 170 degrees celsius for about 20 minutes till lightly browned.

 

Oxidative stress and inflammation and why you should be taking curcumin…..

 

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Everyone’s talking about turmeric and curcumin ! Here’s why it’s such a popular topic and incredibly powerful health promoter….

 

Oxidative stress is a state where there are insufficient antioxidants to neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are a natural by-product of cellular function in the body which, left unchecked, can damage cells or create abnormal cells like cancer. Antioxidants act to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Some antioxidants are made in the body but most come from the food we eat.

A good balance between free radicals and antioxidants leads to a healthy ‚Äėredox state‚Äô for cells. Too high or too low levels of ‚Äėredox balance‚Äô affects the efficiency of our cells and can lead to problems like premature aging, cell damage and dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, dementia and arthritis.

Antioxidants are our front line protection against cell damage, they improve general health outcomes and boost immune function

Inflammation is often thought to be a totally negative thing but in fact is incredibly important. It helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could progress unchecked making us very sick indeed.

Although acute inflammation is beneficial in protecting us such as when we are injured, it can become a major problem when it is chronic and inappropriately affecting our body’s own tissues.

Long term, low level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer‚Äôs and various ¬†conditions such as arthritis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, asthma, dermatitis etc.¬†Sources of antioxidants that help fight chronic inflammation play a vital role in preventing and treating these diseases.

 

Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory. Clinical trials have shown that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, has none of the nasty side effects and has the benefit of a number of other health promoting properties.

Curcumin is also a source of antioxidants and not only protects our cells from free radical damage but also boosts our bodies levels of antioxidant enzymes.

Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium which has positive impacts on blood pressure and blood clotting reducing risks for cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart disease.

Other important benefits include management and reduction of arthritis symptoms, cancer treatment and prevention (through the modulating of cell damage, division and proliferation), treating depression by increasing BDNF which is vital to the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine

Curcumin is the active beneficial compound found in turmeric. The spice turmeric only provides about 3% curcuma by weight so it’s virtually impossible to receive a therapeutic dose through diet alone.

Curcumin, when taken as a supplement, is most effective when combined with a good quality fat source and pepper. Swallowing a few whole peppercorns when you take your curcumin will hugely increase its absorption.

 

Others  antioxidant supplements include :

Glutathione
Vitamin C and E
Alpha lipoic acid
CoQ10
Resveratrol
Carotenoids found in bright coloured fruit and vegetable.

 

Dietary sources :

Bright and dark fruit and veg ‚Äď orange fruit and veg, berries, kiwi fruit, dark grapes, dark green leafy vegetables
Nuts
Tea ‚Äď black and green
Whole grains

If you’re looking for ways to include more turmeric into your diet why not try this favourite of mine – Tofu and Chickpea Curry¬†

 

Prevention is better than cure !  Ways to reduce oxidative stress

Eat a low sugar diet
Exercise
Keep stress at a healthy level
Get enough sleep
Avoid smoking and alcohol
Minimise exposure to toxins ‚Äď environmental and food sources, drugs

Darcy’s excellent dinner … power bowl magic

Is there anything better than when you’re sitting around reading the Saturday paper in front of the fire and your utterly lovely daughter says “I’ve made a bit of dinner, want some ?’

The answer, hell yes please.

This is what came my way two minutes later ….

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Super yummy, healthy, nourishing.  The beauty of this kind of meal is that you can use whatever you have at hand and zing it up with her crazy good dressing.

In this version we had brown jasmine rice, steamed sweet potato rounds and spinach, fresh julienned carrots, seared tofu and thinly sliced nori. The nori really makes a difference so make sure you include it !

Darcy’s Power Bowl Sauce

2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini (we used black tahini but white is fine too)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

Mix it all together with a whisk and pour over your choice of yummy things.

 

 

Amazing Vegan Pavlova. This is not a drill…

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Do you have a sweet tooth ? Crave a bit of pavlova every now and then ? Well do I have the recipe for you. This delicious mess of aquafaba meringue, creaminess and tart fruits is sure to have you swooning.

This pavlova is vegan and tastes amazing. Not just ‘that’s good for a vegan pav kind of amazing’ but truly delicious. ¬†It’s got all the necessary elements – crunchy meringue, your choice of creamy goodness ( I used a soy based whipped cream) and tart yummy berries and passionfruit.

A quick search told me that the average egg meringue and dairy cream based pavlova has whopping 50 grams ¬†(10 teaspoons) of sugar per small serve. This generously sized version has less than 10 grams of sugar and that includes the meringue, the fructose in the fruit and the small amount in the cream. This is one pavlova you can actually have and not feel like you’re heading for an insulin spike or a sugar induced coma.

The meringue is from a previous post and is super easy to make (especially when you have a new Kitchenmaid mixer woohoo).

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This recipe made enough for about 30 palm sized meringues and a tray of about 50 small meringue kisses which store well in an airtight container for at least a couple of weeks. Recipe link here …Aquafaba Meringue Recipe

I used Soyatoo Soy Whip because it’s quick and easy and and I didn’t have a tin of coconut cream in the fridge to make coconut whipped cream. This stuff is great when you are in a hurry and has the added benefit of having a lot less fat content than cream and less wastage than great big bowls of whipped coconut cream.

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To assemble I put a meringue nest on a plate, topped it with some soy cream,added a handful of berries and some passionfruit. I also mashed some raspberries to make a kind of coulis to drizzle over the top. That’s it ! Nothing to it. Once you have the meringues on hand the whole thing comes together in minutes.

I got my husband to take one for a test drive and it was gone in record time with a second serving  following close behind. My vegan daughters are pretty darn excited too. I think this could become a family favourite.

If you are liking these recipes or are interested in vegan, gluten free, allergy friendly baking head on over to my Quirky Cake Facebook page and have a look around.

 

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Wedding carrot soup with coriander pesto

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About 14 years ago my eldest daughter Zoe changed schools. On her first day at her new primary school she met a girl called Sammy and from then on they were inseparable. She loved Sammy and so did I and since then I’ve always thought of her as one of my girls. Last weekend I had the honour of attending Sammy’s wedding to her lovely new husband and it was such a wonderful thing to see them so crazy happy together.

Sammy is one of those girls that you cant help but love – brave, beautiful, kind, creative and gentle. She’s a dreadlocked, musical, vegan, fun loving girl and it’s no wonder she has found someone who loves her so well.

After a walk down the aisle to Radiohead in her lacy gown (and Doc Martens) we headed for the party where the vegan food and great music kept coming. I was so taken with the super delicious carrot soup that I pulled up all my carrots and picked some coriander and now have a pot bubbling on the stove.

carrot        pesto

Carrot soup with coriander pesto 

1kg carrots
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon curry paste
1 litre vegetable stock
pepper

Fry onions and garlic till soft. Adding curry paste and stir until fragrant. Add in chopped carrots, stock and pepper. Simmer for 30 – 40 mins until carrots are tender. Whiz in a blender till smooth.

Coriander pesto

A good handful of coriander – about 2 cups
1/2 cup roasted cashews
2 tablespoons each of sunflower and sesame seeds
1/2 clove garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil

Place all ingredients in blender and whiz till smooth adding enough olive oil to get the consistency you like.

 

Vegan Meringues…. weird chickpea magic

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Before you freak out at the thought of using chickpea cooking liquid to make meringues can I ask you to suspend your disbelief and give these a whirl. Not only do they taste great (not a bit like chickpea), they also contain a much smaller amount of sugar than standard meringue and would be a fun thing to do with kids. Known as aquafaba in the business, this liquid is a great all round egg replacer.

I used these meringues recently for a vegan cake I made and the consensus was that they are the business for vegans or anyone who can’t have egg.

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Aquafaba Meringues       Makes 80 small meringues

1/2 cup chickpea liquid – the liquid drained from a standard can of chickpeas
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place chickpea liquid and vinegar in a very clean bowl. Any trace of fat will ruin this so I like to wash my bowl well with hot soapy water before I start. Beat with a stand or electric hand held mixer for about 5 mins until stiff peaks form. Slowly add sugar one spoonful at a time whilst continuing to beat. Once all the sugar is incorporated add in vanilla.
At this stage you could also fold in flavourings such as coconut or almond meal if you’d like to.

Pipe or spoon meringue onto trays lined with baking paper and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours at 100 degrees c. Small meringues will obviously take less time to cook than pavlova sizes and will feel dry to touch when ready. Once cooked open oven door slightly and allow to cool for another 30 minutes.

*** If you want to get creative you can tint meringue mixture with food colouring, pipe into different sizes and shapes or, like the photo above, you can paint food dye (you can use natural colourings) onto the inside of your piping bag, fill with meringue and pipe stripy meringues onto trays.