Walnut and Maple syrup biscuits

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Sometimes only a biscuit will do and I don’t mean a shop bought one (although custard creams will do at a pinch!) A still warm biccie fresh from the oven can really brighten a cold day or a hard mornings planting bulbs (250 so far….) since it’s raining walnuts here my memory was jogged to remember this recipe for a Walnut and Maple syrup biscuit. It doesn’t contain sugar but is sweetened by Maple Syrup and Rice Syrup. You can use raisins, sultanas, cranberries for the fruit – whatever you have to hand. There’s also no rolling out to do just a quick dollop on the baking tray. It also means that I can use one of my favourite kitchen gadgets – a coffee grinder. Now, I don’t drink coffee so this must be the only coffee grinder that has never ground a single bean. However, it’s been used to grind spices, nuts and even flowers (for my homemade concoctions). A pretty happy grinder all in all. If you don’t have a grinder just use your processor and scrape the sides down until everything is dust or buy ready ground walnuts!

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Mmmmm something very therapeutic about reducing things to rubble 🙂

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Recipe

75g raisins/sultanas/cranberries
90g walnuts, ground
100g rolled oats
50g plain white flour
90g wholemeal flour
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
5 Tblsp vegetable oil
5 Tblsp maple syrup
5 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Add your dried fruit to a small bowl and cover with boiling water to rehydrate them. Grind the walnuts and half of the rolled oats and add to a large bowl. Add all other dry ingredients.

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Then simply mix in the wet ingredients and the raisins and mix to a sticky dough. I always measure out the oil first. I find that the sticky maple syrup and rice syrup slip off the spoon a lot quicker – but maybe that’s just me being ultra impatient….

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Dollop dessert spoonfuls of the dough on to a baking sheet and cook at 180c for 13-15 minutes. I turn halfway through and cover with a sheet of baking paper to stop the edges burning.

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Hey presto! A yummy, chewy (really quite healthy for a biscuit) treat for a hard working gardener or those in need of a little comforting cheer….

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….oh….and a cup of tea 🙂

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Sugar Free Ginger and Date Muffins

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It’s the start of the Busy Season here and what with seed sowing and orchestrating a huge School Fundraiser my blog has been sadly neglected. However, recently little ideas for posts have been popping into my head so hopefully I’m back on track again. I have to say I’ve a lot to blog about what with choosing trees for The Nuttery, sowing seeds for the Cut Flower Garden not to mention my plans for a Herb Garden (Aromatherapy and Tea) and of course the usual vege seed sowing. I’m exhausted just reading that list!

To even begin a To do List like that I highly recommend a little toothsome snack. It’s a Sugar Free Date and Ginger Muffin. Strictly speaking you will of course find sugar in the dates and the apple juice but…..for a pretty healthy, tasty option this little muffin is hits the spot! It’s such an easy recipe too; no butter to cream or melt just a little light date chopping and you’re halfway there.

To Do List Muffin

Ingredients
150g dates
140g self raising flour
1 egg
125ml apple juice
3 Tbsp veg oil
1/2 tsp powdered ginger

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Sieve the flour and ginger into a bowl. Chop up the dates and add to the bowl. Mix all of the wet ingredients in a jug and pour over the dry ingredients.

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Give it a mix but don’t go mad and over do it. Spoon into prepared muffin trays. Bake for 12 minutes at 200c.

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It’s a cute little cake and not too heavy. Just enough sweetness to give you a mid morning boost after an hour or two of gardening. So next time you’re staring at an endless To Do List make some of these to lighten the load!

 

Nutty about nuts

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This post wears lots of hats; by that I mean it is going to cover many of the categories that I write about. This week has been more hectic than usual and I haven’t written a single post. Not One. I’m going to squeeze this post in to cover Week 2 of the Green Urban Living Challenge which is all about creating a meal (snack in my case) out of Local Ingredients. It will also cover Low Sugar Baking which is becoming something I’m really interested in and of course Seasonal. My garden is Bursting with produce at the moment. My veranda looks like a very messy grocers with buckets of quince, sunflower heads, the odd fig and now walnuts.

Walnut tree

Here’s my walnut tree. It’s a beautiful shaped tree and a favourite climbing tree of the Figlets. It sheltered the little figlet sticks for a year and produces enormous amounts of huge walnuts every year. I’ve been a bit unadventurous about processing this nut; I generally give a lot away and eat a few raw and some find their way on top of a coffee cake. However, this year is different. I’ve had this recipe in mind for a little while now. It’s from Dr Libby’s Real Food Chef Cookbook. Dr Libby is all about the Power of the Plant and how we should be eating a larger proportion of live green plants and less meat. After each recipe she gives information about nutrients within the dish and how they will benefit you. It’s impossible to cook one of her recipes without feeling Really Virtuous! So, without further ado lets get Virtuous!

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Dr Libby’s Brain Balls
2 cups walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup cacao powder
8 fresh dates (or I used 16 dried dates)
1/4 cup water (you might need a bit more)
Pinch of salt

Combine the walnuts, sunflower seeds, dates and coconut in a food processor and pulse until combined (I added all the dry ingredients together).

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Add the cacao powder, salt and water and process until it firms up a little. Add more water if the mixture is too dry.

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Form the mixture into little balls, place on waxed paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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These little morsels taste satisfyingly chocolately and they feel like a little treat. However, they are so much more than that being full to the brim with monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory so good for the heart and brain. A good source of zinc and vitamin E and a great source of energy. What a little star. The downside is they need to be chilled otherwise they’re a bit crumbly but I might try them in a lunchbox with a small freeze pack to keep them firm. I think you could quite easily substitute other ingredients into this recipe. I actually added some raisins too but I was also thinking dried cranberries and apricots and perhaps use hazelnuts. As I was making them it put me in mind of Nigella’s Puddini BonBons made to look like mini Christmas puds. A splodge of white icing and a snippet of cherry and angelica and these would make a very healthy version!

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5 A day Chocolate Avocado Mousse

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Sometimes I come across a recipe that I Just Have To Try. This is one of them. It ticks many boxes for me that I look for in a dessert (namely chocolate and speed) but also relatively healthy! My youngest Figlet LOATHES avocado with a passion but I think I might be able to tempt him with this.

This dessert is going to start a series of posts about Eating Your 5 A Day. Some days I find it really easy; other days not so much. I’m going to try and put together a load of recipes that are easy, kid friendly and full to the brim with veggies or fruit. Pick and choose the ones you like. They may become your Go To recipes!

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Ingredients

2 very, very ripe avocadoes
50g chocolate (good quality 70% solids otherwise it’s full of fat)
1 tablespoon cacao powder or cocoa powder (cacao is more bitter than cocoa)
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons sour cream

Break up the chocolate, pop it in a bowl and set above a saucepan of boiling water to melt. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

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Halve the avos….

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…and scoop out the flesh…..

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……straight into a blender with the cacao or cocoa powder and honey.

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Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whizz! I did a fair amount of scraping, stopping and starting of the mixer and sighing at this point. That’s when I wondered if a little Sour Cream might loosen the mixture and soften it too.  It did but if your avocadoes are riper than mine perhaps you won’t need to add this.

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Spoon into little dishes (it is Very Rich so you won’t need much) and chill.

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I grated a little chocolate on top just to show off a bit. So, the verdict? Smooth, creamy, rich, more-ish and oh-so-chocolately. When I got some friends to try it there was more than a little furrowing of the brow as they tried to guess the Mystery Ingredient. And Littlest Figlet? He tried it and gave it a one thumbs up and one thumbs down. Apparently his taste buds are Very Sensitive To Avocado…..! I think it’s a smashing little dessert and definitely worth a try and what a way to get some of your 5 A day!!

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A Spoonful of Sugar…..

Sugar does indeed make life sweeter in many ways and can certainly help the medicine go down after a particularly fraught day. Sugar has become intricately wound up into our lives in all sorts of ways; who would have a wedding, birthday or christening without a sugary cake confection? Conversely a bit of a sugar hit certainly helps when we’re feeling a bit down or in need of an energy boost. Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not; I love a piece of cake as much as the next person. Concern over our sugar habits only becomes apparent when we compare our sugar use historically.  The use of sugar has been recorded as far back as 1100 in Britain and it was known as White Gold because it was so expensive. These days sugar is relatively cheap and the confectionery giants show no hesitation in loading up chocolate bars and biscuits with the cheap white stuff thus satisfying society’s increasingly sweet tooth and their profit margins. It’s not just the confectionery companies that use sugar; it can be found in vast quantities in so called healthy foods like yoghurt and muesli bars. Sugar is no longer a treat; it’s the norm. And that’s the problem.

I recently went to the River Cottage Autumn Fayre in Devon, England.

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I got to meet the man himself, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall and I tried to persuade him to bring River Cottage to New Zealand (he was definitely tempted!)…

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and I visited the Yurt where Dream Thyme Remedies demonstrated how to use comfrey and nettles in a muscle rub and I attended a very interesting talk about chocolate from Chococo. Chococo are one of the many small chocolate companies that are springing up all over the place who are striving to make good quality, fairtrade chocolate without preservatives and with a lot less sugar than the big commercial giants. They rely on quality chocolate and less sugar. Yes they are more expensive but isn’t that what a treat should be? Something that we can’t have everyday? Something to look forward to? Something that isn’t the norm?

So next time you consider a treat try to Think Outside the (chocolate) Box. We’re well into Spring here in New Zealand and the treats are growing quietly and speedily in a vege bed or farm shop near you; think strawberries, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes or fresh avocado spread on crackers with mozzarella and tomato.  Not as quick as ripping open a chocolate bar I agree but I think as a society we have got so spoilt with our demand for instant gratification that we’re in danger of losing out on the simple pleasures in life that may require a bit of effort but are worth it and a lot healthier too. Try these ideas on your kids; you might be surprised when a small bowl of easy-to-eat- veg and cut up fruit disappears in minutes. Or, if your little ones are anything like my Figlets (who are cookie monsters) then you may want to try this sugar free cookie recipe from Sugar free Kids. They are crumbly little bites of delicious-ness…..with no added sugar. Bit Spooky I know…..but give it a try.

Ingredients

Ingredients
1/2 cup dates
1/2 dessicated coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds
3 Tablespoons of butter or Coconut oil (I used coconut oil and it worked really well)
Juice of a small orange

Process the dates, dessicated coconut, oats and almonds to crumbs.

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Then add the butter (or coconut oil) and orange juice and process again. Roll mixture into small balls and place on a lined baking sheets.

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Squash each little ball with a fork and bake at 170c for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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A pretty healthy snack disguised as a naughty little biscuit; what’s not to like?