Monday, 15 June 2015

Caramel chocolate chunk muffins, National Celtic Festival, a party and more long weekend eats

What is the purpose of a long weekend if not for cooking and sharing good food, heading out of town and relaxing at home!  We managed to do all of this on the recent Queen's Birthday weekend.  I don't claim to have brilliant photography of all of it but sometimes when you are enjoying yourself, it hard to spend much time behind the camera.

Actually my pictures might have been better if I had remembered to take my DSLR camera to Geelong so I could have taken better quality photos.  We went down to my niece's birthday party at Inflatable World.  It was a great place for the kids to run around in the middle of winter.

My sister in law made gorgeous cupcakes for Ashy.  Sylvia had a sore tummy after everyone sang happy birthday so we didn't stay long.  I took a cookies and cream cupcake with me and they were delicious.

We stayed at my parents' place in Geelong and my mum had stayed home cooking rather than going to the party.  For dinner we had curried cauliflower naan pizzas and a delicious tarte tatin for dessert.  The pizzas were delicious but the tarte tatin was amazing.  The apples were cooked so that they just melted in the mouth as they should and were beautifully caramelised.

On Sunday, Sylvia, my mum and I headed out to the National Celtic Festival while my dad rested up at home. The weather was not as pleasant as last year's festival.  The sun shone but the wind rattled our bones.  We saw some highland dancing, some buskers and the medieval sword fights.  Perhaps the highlight was an amazing vegetarian burger from Jerry's Vegie Burgers.  Made of lentils, rice, corn and other vegies, it was so good with some satay sauce, tomato relish and green leaves in a bun.

We stayed at my parents' place long enough for Sylvia to play with her cousin, while I shopped, and to eat fish and chips for dinner (thanks go to my brother Dave who went out to the fish and chip shop a second time when my corn jack was forgotten!   Then home so we could get up the next morning and make dodgy pancakes in our own kitchen.  I tried making pancake mixture (with beetroot powder) to use in a squeezy bottle but it was not my finest hour in pancake making.  This spider web was the best of a bad bunch and you should have seen it once I tried to flip it.

More successful was my almond feta that I made on Monday.  I confess that I left my almonds soaking for 2 days and found them with some cloudy shapes in the water.  I decided that the almonds were just cultured and ploughed on with the recipe.  It was very good in a salad sandwich with home made sourdough bread, spinach and Italian butter beans.

As the day drew to a close, I baked.  Sylvia wanted caramel cupcakes.  Fortunately Kari had posted a healthy recipe for choc chip caramel muffins only a few weeks previously. I love caramel but it is so sickly sweet.  These muffins were actually not very sweet at all and the bittersweet chocolate chunks in my muffins were quite dominant.  They were also quite stodgy in a substantial and satisfying way.  The stodge, however, meant they kept their knobbly shape of the thick batter rather than smoothing out when baking.

After baking, I made us a dinner of leftovers: pasta with a creamy sauce, Italian butter beans, tofu bacon and almond feta together with some spinach.  It made for a very satisfying pasta meal. Sadly it would be a lot of work to make it from scratch so it is unlikely to be a regular meal.  However I was rather pleased with bringing the creamy pasta (which Sylvia loves) and Italian beans together.

After dinner we all had a muffin and had one for lunch the next day.  We loved them so much that I made them again yesterday and again they were pounced upon with enthusiasm.

My only qualm about the muffins, which is not limited to this recipe, is that it is hard to detect the nuts.  Recently one of Sylvia's teachers expressed concern about one of her class mates having peanut butter sandwiches for lunch at school because of Sylvia's peanut allergy.  I get far more worried at the thought that someone will offer her a chocolate brownie made with a spoonful of peanut butter in it.  It is so easy to know peanuts are in a peanut butter sandwich but less easy to detect all the hidden ground nuts and nut butters in baking.  I don't have any answers to this quandry, given that I love baking with nuts but it is a concern.

Fortunately Sylvia is not allergic to cashews and has enjoyed these muffins.  I am pleased to have an easy recipe that is full of lots of healthy ingredients and minimal refined sugar and flour.

I am sending these muffins to Kimmy for Healthy Vegan Fridays 51, and Karen (and Janie) for Tea Time Treats.

More healthy baking from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate almond rice bubble slice (gf, v)  
Chocolate tahini cookies (v)
Fruit, Nut and Tahini Slice (v)
Fruity Quinoa Muffins (v)
Glo Bars (gf, v)
Healthy banana bread 
Heidi’s chocolate cake
Rustic muesli squares

Caramel Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Lightly adapted from Bite Sized Thoughts
Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup medjool dates
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 scant cup soy milk
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
1/2 cup plain white flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
85 g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)

Cover cashews and dates in boiling water for about 15-30 minutes (ie while you prepare the other ingredients).

Preheat oven to 180 C and place muffin papers in a 12 hole muffin pan.

Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a 250ml cup measure and fill the rest of the cup with soy milk.  Set aside to curdle and thicken.

Place flours, coconut sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Drain water off cashews and dates.  Blend with about a third of the milk mixture until smooth.  (I do this in a high powered blender but I think a little texture would be ok if your machinery is a bit less powerful.)  Pour or spoon into dry ingredients.  Tip the rest of the milk mixture into the blender and blitz to lift as much of the dates and cashews off the blender and pour into the dry ingredients.

Mix the wet and the dry ingredients together with a spoon until just combined.  It will seem quite dry but will mix in ok.  Then gently mix in the chocolate chunks.

Spoon mixture into muffin papers and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in a muffin comes out clean.  Best at room temperature and they keep for 2-3 days.

Update: September 2015: Made these with substituting 1/4 cup of maple syrup for milk - it brought out the caramel flavours.

On the stereo:
Title: Meghan Trainor


  1. Well, that is a new world to add to my list of worlds.. :) Sea world, Dream world, Movie World, Aussie World, Garage World, Battery World, Soap World, Fruit World, and now, Inflatable World. ;)

    I found it mildly surprising that my nieces and nephews do not enjoy Garage World, Battery World and Soap World as much as the first four. :) I was saying "But it is a WORLD" and they were like, no, it is totally boring Auntie, there are no rollercoasters or water rides here.

    I have a strong feeling they would deeply love inflatable world. :) It looks quite awesome!

    1. Thanks Snoskred - And don't forget Wayne's World - ha ha! I am sure your nieces and nephews would enjoy inflatable world - according to my sister in law they are all the rage and popping up everywhere!

  2. What a delicious selection of food. Your mums tart tatin looks amazing, properly caramelised apples. Yummy!
    I keep meaning to try making pancake designs, love the spider web idea. If it doesn't work you get to eat the results haha

    1. Thanks Katie - it was really lovely especially the apples - she was quite generous with the lemon juice and worried it would be too prominent but I think it just meant it wasn't sickly sweet! I did eat a messy heap of spider web after my poor flipping but it still tasted good :-)

  3. Gosh you have been busy, but well feed and feeding others well too. Love your use of the beetroot powder in the pancake, just a shame the designs are not working out in the frying pan. And the tarte tartin does really look silky good.

    1. Thanks Shaheen - I think I need to just try making the pancake batter with beetroot powder and enjoy the pinkness in a regular round shape.

  4. I am glad you liked the muffins! I also love the look of that apple tart, and am so impressed with your spiderweb even if I quiver to think of how to flip it. It sounds like a lovely long weekend - just the sorts of activities I too like to fit into those 3 day stretches.

    1. Thanks Kari - the spider web was a bit desperate when other designs were not working at all and once I put it on the frying pan I realised I had to flip it and regretted the design! It was a lovely long weekend and really enjoyed ending it with the muffins!

  5. I would definitely be afraid constantly if my kids had a serious nut allergy. THose things can be lurking anywhere!!

    1. Thanks Joanne - I would be a lot more worried if Sylvia had reacted with anaphylaxis when she was tested - but in a way nut allergies is made easier because it is something that so many people are - when they say food at schools etc must be nut free I sometimes wonder about kids with other allergies!

  6. Those muffins do look amazing to me - I love caramel flavours without having to actually go to the trouble of boiling sugar and all that. You might not have been impressed with the spider web but they're beyond cute!

    1. Thanks Joey - I am not always a fan of date caramel and truth be told this one is quite mild without the overwhelming sticky sweetness that caramel often has but I really like it and was pleased for an easy caramel option when sylvia requested caramel. And I am sad to say the spider web pancake didn't look so cute on the plate!

  7. OH CUPCAKES! I can't *wait* to make these. Yum =) I actually kind of like it when the cupcakes come out a little bumpy instead of nice & smooth - it gives them more sustenance. They look gorgeous.
    And that almond feta sounds delicious! Great food and great weekend =)

    1. I was so hoping you would share these at Healthy Vegan Fridays and my wish has been granted =D I am pinning these! Thank you =)

  8. Those pancakes are more difficult than one might think! I did manage to make some turtles once but I'd imagine a spider web would be very hard to flip.

    1. Thanks Lorraine - turtles are cute - I did a giraffe pancake which was ok - I am in great admiration of the guy who did Jim's Pancake blog with all his amazing pancakes.

  9. These muffins sound delish. I am curious about trying caramel made from dates.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I have tried a few caramels made from dates but I love sticky date pudding sort of date caramel - this is more like sticky date pudding albeit less spongy and sweet even though very tasty

  10. How do you fit it all in? It always sounds like you have such an amazingly busy life!!! The muffins sound delicious and pretty healthy too!
    The peanut allergy + school is an interesting one.... In the UK, many schools 'ban' any nut products because of the risk to children with allergies. It can make it very difficult when we need to send food in for my daughter as we rely on almonds particularly for baking. I am often very naughty and send stuff in for her anyway with strict instructions not to share with anyone just in case!!!!

    1. Thanks Kate - we have plenty of quiet times too but I just like to share some of the fun things we do!

      As for the allergy question with schools, child care and kindergarten are very strict on nuts but some schools are starting to not have no-nut policy because when kids bring their lunches they can't guarantee that there are no nuts in the school. However they do have no sharing of food policies, which not all kids heed. I use a lot of nuts in my baking and sometimes send it to school. Perhaps we need to teach out kids to tell others that there are nuts in baking if they do share. Though there are so many allergies out there that just being nut-free does not cover it. It is very complex.

  11. ABSOLUTELY stunning - thanks for adding them to Tea Time Treats for June! Karen


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