Monday, July 27, 2015

Chocolate Chess Pie (SRC)

Chocolate Chess Pie © www.foodbabylife.com

Secret recipe club time! For those who are new, each member of SRC is secretly assigned a blog each month to peruse and choose a recipe to post. All is revealed on the same day and today is Group D's turn!

This month I was assigned I am a Honey Bee by Nicole. I had a brilliant time on Nicole's blog and found even though we live on opposite sides of the world we actually have a lot in common (apart from just a love of food and cooking) - we are both detail oriented, hate the cold, are morning people, think eggs Benedict is the best way to eat eggs and love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I binge-watched the entire series again when Oscar was a baby and I was stuck on the couch feeding).

I also found similar food journeys and she has completed not one but two rounds of the Whole30. I eat pretty cleanly (no sugar or dairy and reduced grain) most of the time and am really keen to give it a go. I have bookmarked a few of Nicole's Whole30 posts to re-read when I do finally take the plunge.

So what did I end up choosing? Well it was really tough to choose and I narrowed it down to 3 - Lemony Raspberry Zucchini Bread with a Lemony Glaze, Paleo Waffled Breakfast Sandwiches and
Chocolate Chess Pie.

In the end I couldn't go past the Chocolate Chess Pie because I have seen the name around for years and wondered what on earth it had to do with chess! After a bit of research I am none the wiser (there seem to be at least 3 distinct explanations) but I am delighted to have made this delicious chocolate pie. I love that this one has cocoa powder rather than chocolate which makes it cheaper and easier to whip up.

I did make a few substitutions like using coconut oil instead of shortening in the pastry and some rice malt syrup instead of just sugar in the filling.

The taste test? It was completely delicious. The top was crispy and crackly while underneath was creamy, chocolatey and sweet without being too rich. The pastry was light and flaky and I loved the slight hint of coconut with the chocolate. The pastry was a little underdone in the middle although the filling was perfect so next time I would blind bake the pastry first to make it extra crisp.

Chocolate Chess Pie with strawberries © www.foodbabylife.com

Chocolate Chess Pie
Slightly Adapted from I am a Honey Bee

Crust:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 ts salt
60g coconut oil, very cold and cut into pieces
60g butter, very cold and cut into pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
2/3 cup rice malt syrup
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional)
4 tbs butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 ts vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

To make the crust:

Grease a 9 inch pie dish and set aside. Keep the butter and coconut oil in the fridge until ready to use.

Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough blade and pulse a few times to combine. Add the coconut oil and butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually add enough ice water to the mixture while pulsing until a ball of dough is about formed.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press into a disc then wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Once chilled place the dough back on a floured surface and roll out to approx 3mm thick. Add more flour if it starts to stick to the bench while you’re rolling.

Press onto the base and sides of the prepared pie dish and trim and crimp the edges as needed. Cover the pie plate with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to overnight.

To make the pie:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer or large bowl with electric beaters, beat together the cacao, sugar, coffee powder, melted butter and syrup and beat on high speed.

Add the vanilla extract and eggs and mix on high for approximately 2-3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell and bake for 35-40 minutes. The centre of the pie will still be a little soft but it will firm up as it cools. Leave on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. I baked mine the day before and stored in the fridge then left at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Thanks Nicole for a great recipe and great month!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Healthy Peanut Butter Slice

Healthy Peanut Butter Slice © www.foodbabylife.com

One of my all time favourite things is peanut butter and chocolate. For many years I've made Nigella's Peanut Butter Squares every Christmas and I always get requests for it. But seeing we're nowhere near Christmas and I'm baking a little healthier these days I thought it was time I tweaked the recipe and came up with my own peanut butter slice.

I had all of these ingredients in the pantry and it took probably 10 minutes to whip up which I love. It is gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar free but certainly not flavour free and be warned, it is VERY rich so a little goes a long way!

Healthy Peanut Butter Slice © www.foodbabylife.comHealthy Peanut Butter Slice

Crust:
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup dried pitted dates
2 tbs raw cacao
2 tbs coconut oil (solid)
pinch salt

Filling:
200g natural peanut butter
1 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs rice malt syrup
pinch salt

Topping:
1/3 cup raw cacao
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tbs rice malt syrup

Grease and line an 8 inch square brownie pan and set aside.

Place all crust ingredients in your food processor and blitz until sticky and well combined. Press into the base of the prepared tin and place in the fridge.

Wipe out the bowl then add all filling ingredients and blitz until smooth. Taste and add another pinch of salt if desired. Pour mixture over the top of the chilled base and smooth with a spatula. Place back in the fridge.

Place the topping ingredients in a small saucepan over low-medium heat and stir until smooth and well combined (TMX 3 mins/50 degrees/SP 2). Pour over the peanut butter filling and smooth with a spatula.

Place in the freezer until set. Delicious frozen but for best results remove from the freezer about 10 minutes for slicing into squares and serving.

Makes 16 pieces (or more if cut smaller squares!)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Winter Warmer - Beef, Bacon and Tomato Casserole

Beef Bacon and Tomato Slow Cooker Casserole © www.foodbabylife.com

I know our winters here don't really compare with the rest of the world in terms of low temperatures but jeez it's been cold for the past week! We've had an antarctic vortex which brought snow to the southern parts of Queensland and dropped the nighttime temperature to as low as 3 degrees where I am.

The thing is, I'm not made for cold weather and our house certainly isn't either. We don't have heaters or reverse cycle air-conditioning or electric blankets. All we can do is rug up and keep warm on the inside with lots of cups of tea and hearty, warming fare like this casserole.

I love my slow cooker even in summer but it winter it is a lifesaver. I had this beef, bacon and tomato casserole simmering along for a full 8 hours and the house smelt amazing. Served with some buttery mashed potato it was the perfect dinner for a cold winter's night.

Beef, Bacon and Tomato Casserole
Serves 6

1kg gravy beef or chuck casserole steak
3 rashers bacon
1 x 700ml bottle tomato passata
2 medium onions, diced
6 medium carrots, sliced into the 2 cm circles
2 ts dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaped ts homemade vegetable stock paste (optional)
2 tbs olive oil

Dice the beef into 4 cm pieces and fry off in batches in the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until browned on all sides.

Place the browned beef into the bowl of your slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients, stir, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Check for seasoning.

Serve with mashed potato and steamed greens.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pizza-Pasta


This is another of the kid-friendly meals I found on Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks ago. It sounded easy and delicious and was a nice twist on both pizza and pasta, both of which we eat about once a fortnight.

So this dish is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, all your favorite pizza toppings on bed of pasta. So simple I can't believe I've never thought of it before! As with last time there were no quantities available as I copied it down directly from the show but I have included what I used and my method.

I knew Mr 6 would love it - he eats pretty much anything except visible onion which absolutely must be picked off even if he can't taste it. Mr 4 would be a different matter. He has slowly come around to pizza but not with sauce. He generally has a plain base with olives, pineapple and cheese and calls it 'cheesy bread.' He is also just starting to come around to pasta but definitely not with any thing else touching it.  In the end he ate some pasta from around the edges of the plate (none with melted cheese on) and a few olives but wasn't particularly impressed. Anyone else with fussy kids? I would love to hear your tips and tricks!

Pizza-Pasta
Slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

For the sauce:
2 stalks celery
2 onions
2 large carrots
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 ts dried italian herbs
1 jar tomato passata
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs rice malt syrup
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs olive oil

The toppings:
Pepperoni
Olives
Mozzarella cheese

The base:
Your favourite pasta (I used penne) cooked to al dente per packet instuctions

To make the sauce, finely chop the celery, carrot and onion and fry off with the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When it is just starting to soften, add the garlic and cook for another few minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are completely cooked and the sauce is thick and smells amazing.

You can use the sauce as is or puree it like I did using a stick blender or food processor (you will need to let it cool down a bit first).

To assemble the dish, place a serve of pasta in each bowl (ovenproof), top with a generous amount of sauce then the pepperoni, olives and cheese. Place the bowls under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Make sure you let the bowls cool down before giving them to the kids!

Serves 6






Wednesday, July 8, 2015

'Apple' Crumble Slice

 

This may be the most amazingly sneaky recipe I've ever made. I mean I've done lots of hidden veggies recipes before but this really takes the cake. I called it an apple crumble slice and my kids went nuts for it. But let me tell you a secret ... there isn't any apple in it.

So do you want to take a guess as to exactly what is cooking in this pan?


It's zucchini!!!

Seriously.

I found this recipe for Zucchini Pie Bars on Crazy for Crust and I was immediately intrigued but quite dubious. How on earth would zucchinis taste like apples? Especially as I wouldn't be smothering it in ice cream and caramel sauce like the original recipe. But I'm always up for a challenge so I gave it a go.


The slice consists of a pastry base which you bake until golden brown. Then the filling is diced zucchini sauteed in butter, cinnamon and sugar until just soft and then drained. Next there is a buttery crumble topping.

There was absolutely no discernible taste of zucchini. For all intents and purposes it was an apple slice, although perhaps a little less sweet than normal. The crust and crumble were crisp and buttery and the filling was soft and lightly spiced with cinnamon and lemon. My boys absolutely devoured it, asking for seconds and thirds.

So do I feel a little guilty about the deception? Not even a little bit. It is totally delicious and my extremely fussy 4 year old actually ate a serve of vegetables. Win!

'Apple' Crumble Slice
Adapted from Crazy for Crust

For the Crust:
125g softened butter
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 ts salt

For the Filling:
3 large zucchini, peeled and diced
2 tbs butter
2 tbs coconut sugar
1 ts cinnamon
zest 1/2 lemon

For the Topping:
125 softened butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 cup white spelt flour
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 ts salt

Line a 20x30cm slice pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

To prepare the crust, place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. It may look dry but if it sticks together when you squeeze a handful it is ready. Press the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 13 minutes.

To make the filling, melt the butter and sugar together in a frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the zucchini, cinnamon and lemon zest and cook, stirring often, for approximately 5 minutes or until the zucchini is just starting to soften. Remove from the heat and drain until ready to use.

While the zucchini is cooking prepare the topping. Place all ingredients into the food processor and pulse until crumbly.

Remove the hot crust from the oven and scatter the cooked zucchini carefully over the top before sprinkling the topping evenly over the top. Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely in the pan before slicing into bars and serving. Can be stored in the fridge for 3 days in an airtight container or up to 1 month in the freezer.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sticky Date Muffins for my mum

Sticky date muffins © www.foodbabylife.com

So today would have been my mum's 64th birthday and it also marks 7 years to the day since her funeral. With each anniversary I think maybe it will get a little easier ... but it never does. I had some fun with my boys today but I was also snappy and exhausted and tears were always just under the surface.

Mum and I didn't always see eye to eye, especially when I was a teenager but she was always my confidante, the one person in the world I could guarantee would be on my side. She would literally drop everything if I needed her. That's what mums are for right?

I have loved baking since I was little and mum and I spent many hours in the kitchen together. I think she was relieved though when I got older and wanted to take over more of the cooking duties as I don't she really enjoyed it all that much. She loved tasting everything I baked and she would have loved these sticky date muffins which I made today in her memory. They are pure comfort food, like a big warm hug, and I was comforted enjoying them with my boys this afternoon.

"Life has to end" she said. "Love doesn't."
-Mitch Albom

Sticky Date Muffins 

250g dried pitted dates
400mls water
2 tbs brandy
1 tbs bicarb soda
100g butter
1/2 cup rice malt syrup
1 ts vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
2 ts cinnamon
2 ts dried ginger
3 eggs
250g white spelt flour, sifted with 3 ts baking powder
6 extra dates, split in half

Line a 12 cup muffin tray and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place the dates, water and brandy. Bring to the simmer for 5 minutes then add the bicarb and stir well. It will foam and froth up. Add the orange zest and vanilla then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

In a stand mixer or a large bowl with electric beaters, cream the butter and add the syrup a splodge at a time, until well incorporated.

Next add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold through half the flour together with the cinnamon and ginger, then half the cooled date mixture and repeat with the remainder.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tray and top each with half a dried date.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and springing back in the middle (mine were done at 18 mins but it depends on your oven so check once they start to smell amazing). Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tray before turning out. Enjoy warm for dessert with ice-cream (if you're not dairy free) or at room temperature with a cup of tea or coffee for afternoon tea.

Makes 12. Suitable to freeze.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Apricot Chicken

Apricot Chicken © www.foodbabylife.com

When I was growing up, apricot chicken was one of my favourite dinners. There's just something so delicious about that combination of sweet and savoury.

Last week on Better Homes and Gardens, Fast Ed did a series of 'kid-friendly' dishes which included apricot chicken and I realised my kids have never tried it. This is an updated version of the one I would have had growing up, which almost certainly would have included a packet of french onion soup mix!

The boys actually love watching BHG with me. Oscar really likes the gardening and pet segments, Charlie likes the building and of course we all love the cooking. So when we saw this recipe and the boys wanted to try it, of course we had to.

I copied it down directly from the show but you can view the video with the recipe here. It doesn't give all the exact quantities so I have included what I used below. The recipe said to use a rice and quinoa blend which I have seen around but never tried. As it was on special this week we got a bag and it was great. Really filling and much more interesting and nutritious than regular rice.

Fast Ed's Apricot Chicken
Serves 6

3 tbs butter
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
1/4 cup flour
1 x 400ml tin apricot nectar
400ml chicken stock
1 x tin apricot halves
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chives
rice and quinoa to serve

Melt 1 tbs of the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and saute the leeks until they are starting to soften. Add the crushed garlic and cook together until the leeks are tender and collapsed. Remove from the pan.

Dust the chicken pieces in flour and set aside. Cook your rice or quinoa using your preferred method and keep warm until ready to serve.

Add another 1 tbs of butter to the pan and fry off the chicken in 2 batches until it is well browned. Use the remaining 1 tbs of butter for the second batch of chicken pieces. Return the leek mixture and all the chicken to the pan and pour in the apricot nectar and chicken stock. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened a little. Check for seasoning and sprinkle in some fresh chopped chives just before serving.

In a separate non-stick pan over medium-high heat, place the apricot halves in, cut side down, and fry until golden brown. Remove and keep warm.

Serve the apricot chicken with rice or quinoa and the fried apricot halves.

The taste test ... we loved this! My 1yo and 6yo went absolutely nuts for it and wanted seconds and then thirds. This is definitely going into our rotation of meals.