Friday, December 13, 2013

Gingerbread Mini Cakes

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I think December is the favorite month of the year for most people here, and I am no exception. The weather is nice and there's so much yummy stuff to eat this month - thanks to Christmas! 

Christmas is a such a blessed and wonderful time of year, and this year I've been spending a lot of time explaining to Aimee that Christmas isn't all about Santa and cookies! We've been telling the Christmas story to her and she's starting to understand the significance of Christ's birth. And she's as excited about Christmas as any four year old would be - especially after she found Santa's been leaving her candy in the advent calendar every morning!  
And Christmas baking is just amazing, isn't it? This past week, Aimee and I baked some gingerbread together. The aroma of gingerbread is just so Christmassy!

This recipe is adapted from a Martha Stewart book on cakes and I was pretty pleased with it! The flavors are amazing and the hardest part of making this cake is getting the cake into the oven - the batter is that yummy!

Gingerbread Trees  
Makes one 9x5 loaf or 8-10 cupcakes or mini-cakes like these trees
150g all purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger 
1/4 tsp ground cloves
180g unsalted butter, soft (slightly more than 3/4 cup) 
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla 
Icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 180C or 350f. 
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices and set aside. 
3. In large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy - about 3-4 minutes. 
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each egg into the mixture before adding the next egg. The mixture may appear curdled at this point but that's perfectly fine. 
5. Add the vanilla and beat into the mixture. 
6. Add the flour mixture and mix just until completely incorporated. Don't over-mix the batter. 
7. Pour into a greased and floured mould and bake for approximately 45 minutes for the loaf or approximately 25 minutes for the cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. 
8. Allow to cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes and turn out onto a plate. Allow to cool some more and dust generously with icing sugar. 
If you want to make your house smell like Christmas, this is the recipe you want to make. 

I love my little Christmas tree moulds, and dusted with icing sugar 'snow' and decorated with jimmies, they sure make a a very pretty picture. 

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bacon, Mushroom & Spinach Muffins

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I am beginning to wonder if I need to rename this blog. Maybe I should name it The Harried Muffin Maker. That's how much I've been making (and posting) muffins lately! 

Muffins happen to be my husband's breakfast of choice, and so I tend to make them quite often. And it helps that muffins freeze really beautifully and so I sometimes make a double or even a triple batch of his favorite muffins and pop them in a freezer bag, and into the freezer they go!

These particular muffins are amazingly good! They taste fabulous warm and fresh, and somehow taste even better the next day! And they're not too bad for you either!
Bacon, Mushroom & Spinach Muffins
Ingredients (Makes 6 muffins)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup (tightly packed) chopped leeks 
3 rashers bacon, chopped
1 cup (tightly packed) chopped spinach 
1 cup chopped button mushrooms
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/3 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of parmesan & cheddar)

1. In a frying pan, sauté the leeks and mushrooms together in the 2 tablespoons of butter until the leeks are soft and translucent. 
2. Add the chopped spinach and the chopped mushrooms and sauté until the spinach is wilted and the mushrooms have softened - about 3-4 minutes. Season lightly - just a pinch of salt will do. Set aside to cool slightly. 
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line your muffin tray with paper liners or grease and flour them. 
4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and baking soda. 
5. In a small bowl or measuring jar, stir together the oil, yoghurt, egg and cheese. Whisk together lightly and combined. 
6. Take the bowl with the flour mixture and make a well in the middle of these dry ingredients. Pour the oil mixture into this space and stir lightly till just combined. Don't overmix. 
7. Add the slightly cooled bacon mixture and fold lightly to distribute evenly. Don't overmix. 
8. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups. Don't fill more than 2/3rd of the way. 
9. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly golden on top and springy to the touch. 
10. Serve warm. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. 
I made these muffins based on what I had in the fridge. I guess substitutions will work well - onion, garlic chives, ham etc. should all work great! I didn't follow a recipe and these turned out great (whew!) - so don't hesitate to experiment!

The muffins should stay good in the fridge for a couple of days. If you want to store them longer, pop the fresh muffins into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer. They should stay good for a couple of weeks. 

The flavors are really complementary to each other, and somehow the flavors really meld, and intensify overnight. So good! You really must try this recipe!

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pin It It's been a while, hasn't it? It has been a roller-coaster ride around here. First the kids were sick. Then I joined them and now it's my husband. It has been almost one whole month of coughs, colds and fevers. Thankfully, nothing more serious than that. We're well on our way to recovery - thanking God for that!

I have been doing a lot of baking and cooking but haven't had time to post. Will post those recipes in the coming weeks. 
Baked goods for breakfast seems to be becoming a favorite in our household! I've been making muffins, scones, rolls and so much more! And I am trying to keep them as healthy as possible! 

This muffin recipe is so good, easy and quick to put together, and really healthy too - made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal. Fresh strawberries & white chocolate - who can deny that's a match made in heaven? And add to that a crunchy topping and you're all set. Tartness from the strawberries, explosive sweetness from the chunks of white chocolate and crunchy, toasty hazelnuts. What a way to start your day!
Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Makes 6 large or 8 regular sized muffins)
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil 
1/2 cup yoghurt (I used low fat)
1/3 cup light brown sugar 
1 egg
3/4 cup roughly chopped strawberries
1/3 cup white chocolate, chopped into small chunks 
1/4 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts 

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Line your muffin tin with paper muffin cases. 
2. In a large bowl stir together the oatmeal, flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder until well combined. 
3. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, yoghurt, sugar and egg. Whisk until completely blended. 
4. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon fold gently until you can't see dry streaks anymore. Stop mixing at this point. Don't over-mix. 
5. Gently stir in the chopped strawberries and white chocolate. Stir lightly until well-distributed. 
6. Spoon the mixture into your lined muffin tins, filling them about 2/3 full. 
7. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with the chopped hazelnuts
8. Bake in the preheated oven for
15-18 minutes or until the tops of the muffins spring back when touched. 

Serve these warm while the chocolate chunks are oozy soft and the hazelnuts are still crunchy. Add that to bursts of freshness from the strawberries, and everyone's happy!
These are a crowd pleaser, for sure! Try them and tell me what you think! :)

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Feta, Fig & Honey Savory Muffins (Egg-less recipe)

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A week ago, I got back to my baking classes! I just love combining two things I love doing - teaching & baking! Had an awesome group of bakers and we had a blast and baked up a storm! I have another, slightly more advanced class that I will be teaching later this month, if you are interested in joining! :) Here is an awesome picture of the pound cake made by the participants.

(Photo courtesy - Gowrishanker Siva)

Now on to the recipe! This muffin recipe was an experiment and I was pretty pleased with it! The texture was amazing - totally moist, soft and light. And the flavors were mild and understated with an occasional salty hit from the feta. A very interesting savory muffin, indeed! 
This is a small batch recipe and makes 3 muffins - perfect for our breakfast! If you want a bigger batch, I am sure this can be doubled or tripled. 

Feta, Fig & Honey Savory Muffins (Egg-less)
Makes 3 muffins
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt 
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp honey 
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 small, ripe figs, chopped
3-4 tbsp firm feta, roughly crumbled 

1. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, honey and oil. Set aside
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Stir lightly to make sure the salt and soda are evenly distributed. 
3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Stir lightly until just combined. Don't overmix. 
4. Stir in the feta and figs very gently until just combined. 
5. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for about 15-18 minutes or until golden on top and springy to touch. 
6. Serve warm with butter and some extra honey to drizzle. 
I was going to add 1 egg into this batter but I totally forgot to add it! And so I unintentionally ended up with this awesome egg-less muffin!

Both my husband and I enjoyed this light, delicate muffin recipe and I wouldn't have to think twice about baking these again!
If you want more details about the baking classes, write to me using the email form in my contact page or at contact me at my Facebook page. Cheers!
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Best Ghee Biscuits

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This post almost didn't make the cut.

Should I? Shouldn't I? I debated with myself for quite a while before I decided to share this with you. Why did I think so long and hard, you ask? Well, I have a couple of reasons. 

One, this recipe is so ridiculously easy that even a child could make it. My four year old actually did most of the work on this one - hence the not-so-perfect shapes. Honest. It is such a simple recipe, I was not sure it even warranted an entire post. 

Two, I wasn't sure if I wanted to share. These little nuggets are SO good. 
I would say that "Ghee biscuits" are the Indian version of a shortbread. Ghee is nothing but clarified butter. These mildly sweet, just a wee bit salty, totally melting in my mouth biscuits are addictive and it doesn't help that they are so darn easy to make! And I think they make awesome gifts.

I got the ingredient list from a friend, and fiddled around with the proportions and this is now the way I like it!

"Ghee Biscuits"
110g ghee (clarified butter)
60g powdered sugar 
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
210g all purpose flour

1. Melt the ghee in the microwave or in a saucepan until completely liquid. Allow to cool. 
2. Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Mix well to combine. 
3. Stir in the flour and knead into a soft and slightly crumbly dough. 
4. Form 1-2 inch balls of dough and place them on a baking sheet.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 15-18 minutes or until the bottom of each cookie is golden. Don't over-bake. 
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray. When cool, transfer to an airtight box. 
See? I told you they were easy! These cookies are mildly sweet and a little salty as I mentioned earlier. You could adjust these levels slightly till you find the proportions you like. For me, this is just heaven. 

Don't make these cookies too often, because they are so addictive and you'll just pack on the pounds. You probably don't have as much self-control as I do! I only ate FOUR within one hour of making these. Sigh. 
I had made some food for a friend who was sick and this batch was made for her. Unfortunately, I thought of making the cookies only at the last minute, and the cookies were still in the oven when the rest of food was picked up! I was sad they didn't get to her, and I had to eat a few straight out of the oven just to make myself feel better. ;-)

In my opinion, these cookies are best nibbled on. 

Nibble on one and just let it melt on your tongue and just try and resist taking another nibble. 

Go on! I dare you! 
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Maple Oat Walnut Scones

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These may not be the prettiest scones out there, but man - do they taste goooood!
I've been seeing copycat recipes for Starbucks' Maple Oat Pecan scones and it sounded really tempting. So this is my take on that recipe. I've adapted it quite a bit and loved how it turned out!

This is a delicious recipe and the flavor and texture of the scones is fabulous. I made only half a batch and instantly regretted it. It was gone in one sitting! Everyone loved it and it was just an amazing addition to the breakfast table.
These scones are pretty good for you too! Loaded with oatmeal and whole wheat flour, not too much fat and hardly any sugar (depending on how much glaze you slather on!) - you can't go wrong with this one!. 

I love that this can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight or frozen for a couple of days until you're ready to bake them! 

Maple Oat Walnut Scones
Adapted from
1 cup oats (quick cooking is fine but not the instant kind)
1 cup all purpose flour 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder 
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 1/2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces 
1 large egg, cold
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp maple extract 
1 cup walnuts

Maple glaze 
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp maple extract
3-4 tsp milk or water

1. In a food processor or blender jar, grind the oatmeal into a fine powder along with 1/3 cup of walnuts. 
2. Combine this powder in a large bowl along with the all purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well to combine. 
3. Add in the cold butter and maple syrup and work the mixture with your fingertips so you have a crumbly, sand-like mixture. 
4. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, maple extract and cream. 
5. Add this mixture to the large bowl and mix to bring the dough together. 
6. Finely chop the remaining walnuts and add it to the bowl. Mix long enough to incorporate the walnuts into the dough. 
7. If baking immediately - on a floured surface flatten the dough with your hands until you have a circle approximately 8cm in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F for a about 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before glazing. 
8. If baking later - lay down a large piece of cling-film on a plate. Lightly flour the surface and pat the dough down into an 8cm circle on the cling film. Cut into 8 wedges using a sharp knife. Wrap the dough up securely in the cling film. Place the plate in the fridge overnight or freezer for a couple of days. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Remove the cut scones from the refrigerator, unwrap and transfer to a greased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. No need to thaw! Just add a few extra minutes baking time. Allow to cool for five minutes before glazing. 
9. For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar and extract in a bowl and add enough milk or water to get the glaze to the consistency you like. Glaze the still-warm scones with as much or as little glaze as desired!
The nutty flavor from the oatmeal and the walnuts in these scones can't be beat! And the maple flavor comes through just enough and the texture is beautifully crumbly and perfect!

You may recall that we're pretty crazy about walnuts around here. In fact, my Walnut Coffee Muffins post is still one of my most visited recipes on the site. And it was one of my post requested muffins on order, when I used to take orders! These yummy scones are reminiscent of those muffins. And you know what - I think a Coffee Oat Walnut scone wouldn't be too bad either! Must try that next time. 
Try this recipe. You won't regret it!
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chocolate Chip Amish Puff Cookies

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I have a confession to make. I seldom bake chocolate chip cookies. In fact, I may have only baked 1-2 batches my whole life. Sounds weird, I know! For some reason, every time I consider making chocolate chip cookies, I end up thinking, "We're eating cookies. Why not get some oatmeal, fruit and nuts in there too?" And so I've always baked only oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips/nuts/dried fruit in them. But never classic chocolate chip cookies. Well, at least not till about a month ago. When I discovered these beauties. Well, I suppose these aren't your CLASSIC chocolate chip cookies either, but I am more than happy to stick with these. They are SO good! Really addictive!
I found the recipe on but the recipe is originally from The Field Guide to Cookies. I want to get my hands on this book! I am totally a cookie person! :)
Instead of chocolate chips, I used chopped chocolate chunks and I added some good vanilla extract because somehow it seemed incomplete to me without vanilla! This recipe yields 32 regular sized chocolate chip cookies, or 18-20 large ones.

Chocolate Chip Amish Puff Cookies
Ingredients (Makes 32 cookies)
1/2 cup  (113g) butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
150g chopped chocolate or chocolate chips 
1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon for rolling 

1. Cream the butter and sugars together for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. 
2. And the egg and vanilla and whisk for a further 2 minutes. 
3. Sift in the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Mix into the butter mixture until completely incorporated. 
4. Stir in the chocolate and mix well to combine thoroughly. 
5. Form into one inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. If you find the cookie dough too sticky to handle, refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and then form the balls. You should get around 32 cookie balls.
6. Place the cookie dough balls on a plate and chill thoroughly from anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight. 
7. When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and place the balls at least two inches apart on a parchment/Silpat lined baking sheet. Don't press to flatten the balls. 
8. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the edges start turning golden and the cookies are still soft to the touch. They'll firm up while cooling! Turn the tray around once if needed, for even baking.
9. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and transfer to a cooling rack. 
10. When completely cool, transfer to an airtight box for storage
If you are making larger cookies, like I did once, increase the baking time, and keep an eye on the cookies! They turn out just fine.

These cookies are have a lovely buttery flavor, and are slightly chewy, just like a good chocolate chip cookie should be, but they are much lighter than your average chocolate chip cookie. Personally, I love the texture of these cookies and I love the cinnamon-sugar crunch on the outside. Adds another dimension and makes them absolutely yummy!

Classic or not, these are really exceptional cookies. I have baked three batches of these in the one month since I discovered them, and they've turned out great every single time. An absolute winner and a must-try recipe!
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rich Moist Chocolate Cake

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know I said on my Facebook page that I was going to share a cookie recipe next, but I loved this cake so much, I just had to share! I hope you love it too! The cookie recipe is coming up soon too! :)

Today, we celebrate 9 years of marriage. What a roller coaster ride it has been! :) And the best part of the 9 years? Our little girls, of course! I wanted to make a chocolate cake for my husband because that is his favorite kind of cake.
Usually, I keep my pantry well stocked with baking essentials. Mainly because you don't know when a baking urge is going to hit! Today, I was just a little low on almost everything - surprisingly even on basics like flour and sugar - I blame it on the sleep deprivation! When baby has a cold, no one sleeps. Sigh!

When you're baking at 5:30 AM while the kids are still asleep and the husbands still at work, you can't really hop down to the neighborhood store. After a little middle of the night googling, I found a recipe for which I was certain I could (almost) scrape up the ingredients for. Joy the Baker to the rescue!
The recipe sounded perfect and I would have made it exactly as she wrote it, if I wasn't running short on flour and sugar. I made minor substitutions. I was short of about 1/4 cup flour and used a mix of whole wheat flour and corn starch to make up the difference. I am going to say that cake flour would work well here. The recipe called for 3/4 cup of white sugar, but I could only manage 1/2. So I used 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. Apart from that I followed the recipe as she wrote it. 

Rich, Moist Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 cup freshly made strong black coffee
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 cup milk 
2 cups cake flour 
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar 
4 eggs 

1. Mix together the cocoa and the coffee until smooth. Stir in the milk and vanilla and set aside. 
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. 
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. 
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating in each egg until completely incorporated. 
5. Alternating between the flour mixture and the cocoa slurry, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Make sure you start and finish with the flour mixture. The mixture may look a little curdled, but that's fine. 
6. Divide the mixture between two greased and floured 8-inch/ 9-inch round cake tins and bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius/350 Fahrenheit. I used 8 inch rounds and got a pretty tall cake. 
7. Bake until the a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake begins to come away from the sides of the tin. This took about 30 minutes in my oven. 
8. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins, remove from the tins and frost with your favorite chocolate buttercream or with a chocolate ganache like I have. 
I loved the flavor and texture of this cake. It had a rich, complex flavor due to the brown sugar-coffee-cocoa combination. Divine! The cake was perfectly moist and dense - exactly how a good chocolate cake should be. And I just LOVED how beautifully this cake sliced up. Gorgeous, neat slices! Don't you hate when your moist cakes sometimes don't yield clean slices?
I blame my silliness for the uneven layers. I measured them out and they came out of the oven perfectly even! And then when I took them out of their tins and left them to cool on the rack, I put one of them (the lower layer) upside down. That flattened out the layer of course. And the top layer retained the height. I know this happens, but I was negligent this time. Next time, they're both cooling in the same direction!

Uneven layers or not, this cake did not disappoint at all!! Everyone here loved this cake and I am sure you will too! You must try it!

I'll be back in a few days with the cookie recipe! Until then... xoxox
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mocha Orange Muffins

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Has it really been more than a month since my last post? I know I said I was going to post at least once a week, but this time I didn't even realize time go by. Wow... guess I am more sleep-deprived than I realized!

Also, and I must be honest here, I don't have that same drive to blog that I had before. I'm still baking and cooking like crazy, but it feels like no one is reading my blog anymore. Hmm. Don't mean to sound whiny here. Just saying. But this week, I got a lovely email from a person I don't know - her name is Cindy - and she just wrote to say hello and that she's a SAHM with two little boys and that she knows how tough a job it can be! And she said 'I look forward to more posts from you'. That really made me want to post again! Thank you, Cindy!!! <3

Today I want to share a lovely muffin recipe again. This one is so unusual and complex that I would classify it 'a grown-up muffin'. Very mildly sweet, a good hit of coffee and orange zest and bittersweet chocolate chips make it a very interesting muffin. A lot of ingredients to organize, but not at all a labor-intensive recipe. I hope you like it!
Mocha Orange Muffins
Makes 6 large or 9 small muffins
Adapted from 'Muffins Galore' by Catherine Atkinson 

150g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
30g cocoa powder 
2 1/2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
1 heaping tbsp ground coffee 
(Not instant! Freshly ground roasted coffee is best.)
30g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp milk
1 large egg 
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 whole orange 
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat your oven to 180C or 350F. Line your muffin tin with paper liners. 
2 In a small bowl, cream the butter and slowly add in the yoghurt, the milk and the cream. Whisk together well. 
3. Add the egg and vanilla. Whisk well to combine and set aside. 
4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Stir well to combine. 
5. Add the sugar and coffee powder and mix well. 
6. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the butter mixture. Stir well till just combined and no dry mixture is seen. Don't overmix. 
7. Stir in the chocolate chips and orange zest. 
8. Spoon the batter into the tins and bake for 18-25 minutes (depending on the size of the muffins) or until the tops of the muffins are springy to the touch. 
My husband, the coffee lover, loved these muffins but we both found the orange flavor a little intense. Maybe next time, I'll add less of the zest or even skip it altogether. But if you are someone who loves the combination of orange and chocolate, I would suggest you go with the original measurements!

These muffins, like most muffins, freeze great! There are five sitting in our freezer in a freezer bag waiting to be warmed up for breakfast one morning when I don't feel like baking!

Surprisingly, my daughter ate almost a whole muffin. I thought she wouldn't like the bittersweet taste, but as usual, she surprised me. 
Speaking of my daughter, if you follow me on my Facebook page, you would know how crazy she is about baking. She knows recipes by heart and she's not even four! She really amazes me. This week, we made these cupcakes together. 
Aren't they cute? That's buttercream 'spaghetti', a hazelnut truffle 'meatball', raspberry jam 'tomato sauce' and grated white chocolate 'Parmesan' on a simple buttery vanilla cupcake. Of course, I did a lot of it but she talked me through the whole thing because she's the one who has watched the tutorial video on how to make these! So proud of my little girl! :)

If you want to keep up with what's happening with us and get updates on regular posts and recipes, follow me on Facebook.

Until next time! 


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Monday, July 8, 2013

Basil-Walnut Pesto and a Quick Crust Pizza with Feta & Olives

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I am slowly getting my groove back. :)

It has been a tiring but fun week. I've been cooking a lot, baking some and I have a few recipes to share with you in the coming weeks. I am still aiming for a post a week and hopefully, I will be able to fulfill that.

My posts are going to be quite a mix of desserts and non-dessert dishes for a while. This is because I don't bake the sweet treats as much these days - lack of time being the main reason.

This is a simple recipe but sometimes, simple just blows your socks off, doesn't it?
This pizza is so easy to fix and tastes as good as any pizza from any fancy Italian place. I kid you not! You could easily make this with a store bought pesto, but I will share a simple recipe for a basil-walnut pesto at the end of this post, too. The work involved in making the dough takes about 15 minutes. 

This recipe makes 2 large thin-crust pizzas.
Thin Crust Pesto Pizza with Olives and Feta
Ingredients - Quick Crust
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 cup room-temperature water
3-4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 - 3/4 cup pesto
Feta Cheese
Sliced Black Olives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

(Any other toppings you want, really, but these work really well together! I added sliced ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, and some sausage too.)

1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and warm water and mix briefly.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir to combine. Set aside till the mixture is frothy.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and add in the yeast mixture and the remaining quarter cup of water. Add more water as needed - you want a soft, pliable dough. Bring the dough together and knead well until the dough is smooth and elastic. This takes about 10 minutes.
4. Knead in the olive oil and roll the dough into a smooth ball. Place in a oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel or with clingfilm and set aside in a warm place for 10-30 minutes while you get the toppings together.
5. Punch down the dough and divide into two portions.
6. Form the pizza by stretching into a circle about 10-12 inches in diameter. We like our crusts really thin, and I find I get best results by rolling it out using a rolling pin.
7. Over the pizza, spread as much (or as little) pesto sauce as you like. Cover it with a light sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan.
8. Sprinkle generously with crumbled feta cheese and sliced black olives. Add any other toppings want!
9. Finish off with a few strategically placed slices of  Mozzarella and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin Olive oil.
10. Bake until the base is golden and crisp on the bottom and starting to brown around the edges around the edges and the cheese is melted. If the crust gets too brown, the pizza will be too crisp.
11. If desired, season with some sea salt and serve hot!
I loved this pizza! No leftovers. So good!

And here's my simple recipe for pesto. This is the one I've been using for years and I haven't had a reason to want to change it. I like to blanch my basil leaves before they go into the blender. Blanching the leaves keeps the pesto bright green and stops it turning brown. It is an extra step that only takes a few minutes. It is optional, but I would recommend it.
Basil-Walnut Pesto
3 cups (tightly packed) fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil 
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
A squeeze of lemon juice

1. Bring a small pan of water to a rolling boil. While it comes to the boil, ready a bowl of iced water, and add a few ice-cubes to keep it really cold.
2. Pack the basil leaves into a wide sieve. Plunge sieve into the boiling water and keep it submerged for 10 seconds. Pull them out and plunge into the ice cold water.
3. Drain the leaves well and squeeze out all the excess water. 
4. Add the blanched basil, 1/3 cup of the olive oil, walnuts, salt and garlic into a blender and blitz for a couple of minutes until smooth and creamy. 
5. Add the Parmesan and a little more olive oil and blitz for a about 30 seconds more. 
6. Check and adjust seasoning, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add more olive oil, if desired. 
7. Use fresh or store in an airtight jar for a couple of weeks if refrigerated. Pesto freezes really well too!

I really don't need to sell pesto to you. Anyone who has had a good pesto will agree on its awesomeness. It has so many uses - pizzas, sandwich fillings, dips, breads, pastas, risottos, in main courses... I could go on! This pesto recipe will serve you well! :)

Until next time!
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Berry Banana Muffins - and hello again!

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Hello. I am the blogger formerly known as The Harried Cook. My name is Marsha. Remember me? Probably not! :)

It has been one year since you last heard from me on the blog - and what a year it's been! I've lost a loved one, and gained another. I've lost some weight (yay!) and gained a lot of gray hairs (not fun!). I've lost a lot of sleep and gained a lot of hugs and kisses. It's been busy, overwhelming, sad, happy and extremely eventful since I last posted here.

I said goodbye to my dear grandmother in August 2012. That was a really sad day. I still miss her and I have so many moments when I want to just pick up the phone and call her like I used to. She was really sick and went through a lot of pain and suffering, and in that sense, I am glad it's all over now. She was an inspirational woman with an inspirational story, and she did so much for me. For that, and for her, I am so grateful! She was a great cook too, especially when it came to her favorite thing to eat - dessert! And she could eat dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner - and she often did! :) I plan to share one of her recipes soon on the blog. 

In happier news, we welcomed a new family member early this year. This is our second baby - my little girl,  Zoe Hope Thompson.
She's five months old now, and such a sweetheart (most of the time!). Both my girls are absolutely thrilled to have each other in their lives, and I am the proud momma of two perfectly precious girls! Thank you, Lord! Can you believe my older girl is in school now? Wow! How time flies! 

So much more has been happening, that it would take me forever to share all the news. I have meaning to get back to blogging, but hardly find the time to sit down at the computer these days. Life is just too full right now, and in a good way. But I need to get started, even if I don't post so regularly, just to give me something to do that's mine! 

So, here's a simple recipe to get started. These muffins are really tasty, pretty easy to make, once you have all your ingredients assembled, and will have everyone coming back for seconds or thirds. 
This is a small batch recipe - makes 4 jumbo or 6 regular sized muffins. I made the jumbo muffins. 

Berry Banana Muffins

1 large banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
30g butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp neutral flavored vegetable oil
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp oat bran (or) wheat germ
1/8 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used a combination of frozen blueberries and diced, fresh strawberries once, and the other time, I made it with just diced, frozen strawberries.)
2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350f degrees. Line a muffin tray with liners or grease and flour the tray. Set aside. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, banana and vanilla. 
3. Stir in the melted butter and oil and whisk until well-combined. 
4. Whisk in the brown sugar and mix well for a few minutes. Set side. 
5. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, the wheat germ/oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix well so all the dry ingredients are combined. 
6. Add the fresh/frozen berries into the flour mixture and stir lightly to coat the berries. This will keep your berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins while baking. 
7. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir gently until combined and no dry flour is visible. Don't overmix. If you stir/mix too much, you will have tough, chewy muffins. 
8. Spoon the muffin batter into the prepared tin, filling each cup 3/4 full. If using the walnuts, sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top of each muffin. 
9. Bake until golden and risen, or until a toothpick/cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
10. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then gently remove from the tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Serve warm. 
(Doesn't this muffin look positively evil? It's actually looking at you, daring you to eat it! Scary Muffin!)

I hope you enjoy this recipe! My family did. My older daughter and my husband are both big fans of muffins. They loved this recipe - especially because it was loaded with nuts, berries and bananas. This is going to be a staple recipe in our kitchen!
I am so excited to be blogging again! I hope to be able to post at least one recipe a week. I really hope I can! I have missed all my readers and blogger friends so much! Thank you for being there for me and writing in to me this year. You have no idea how much that means to me!

To keep up with what is happening in The Harried Cook's kitchen, and to receive updates on new recipes as soon as they're posted, don't forget to follow me on Facebook!

P.S. - Please excuse the photographs in this post. They were all taken on my cellphone. When I have the time to whip out the "big camera", I will update the post with better pictures!

P.P.S. - Thank you to my dear friend, Gitu, for nagging me into blogging again. I doubt I would have a post out if not for her! You are an prizeworthy nag, darling! xoxo
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