The Flour Chronicles : 3

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After a relatively successful first batch of sourdough (made using the rye in my valentines day basket of interesting ‘flours’) I let the starter die. Was it the travel to Brisbane and back? Or the salt added too early? Perhaps my not discarding any of the starter as I fed it meant it didn’t stay fresh. Whatever it was, I’ve restocked up on rye flour and will need to begin the sourdough project again soon, my rudimentary success and the price of a decent sourdough loaf urge me on!

In the mean time, I had a go at using one of the other ‘flours’ this week. Millet flour. I did some Pintrest searching and mostly came up with gluten free bread loaves and flat bread recipes. I wanted to bake something that was good as a take-to-uni-or-to-work-as-a-healthy-snack rather than a loaf of bread so hunted around for a muffin or biscuit recipe. I found one but, as the recipe author suggested, found that millet flour can sometimes leave a bit of a funny aftertaste in your mouth. The muffin recipe was also very (very) dry. I actually felt mean sending it off to uni with my brother the other day (he was desperate for some extra things to nibble on). I needed to come up with an innovative way of using them up without wasting them … so I dreamed up a cross between energy balls and cake pops. ‘Muffin mouthfuls’ maybe? I give instructions below for how to turn mildly sweet muffins into little chewy morsels perfect for morning tea!

Ingredients:
12 unsweetened muffins (mine were millet based, and therefore gluten free, but I’m sure wheat/spelt/another type of gf would work. A for flavour, the ones I used had 1 cup of grated sweet potato in them but any flavour you like would work, just adjust added ingredients depending on moisture content of your muffins)
250-270g roasted sweet potato
4 1/2 Tbs date paste (this is the sweetener, feel free to add more, you’ll just need to add more ‘drying ingredients’*, see below, to compensate).
2 1/2 Tbs oat bran*
1 1/2 Tbs chia seeds*
1 1/2 Tbs psyllium husk*
2 Tbs cacao nibs

Method:
1. Bake the muffins up as per the recipe.
2. When cool, place them in the bowl of the food processor with half the sweet potato, pulse to combine. Add more sweet potato as needed, ideally the mixture will stop looking like bread crumbs and start looking like dough.
3. Add in the date paste, check sweetness.
4. Add in ‘drying’ ingredients and cacao nibs. Check texture. If wet, add more of your chosen ‘drying ingredient’, if dry, add a little more date paste.
5. Roll into balls and freeze till needed! I’m sure they could also be rolled in something tasty, perhaps cacao or coconut, cinnamon sugar … but I’m going to enjoy mine plain this time!

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(almost) Nut free Muesli Bars

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I guess the reality is that ‘back to school’ baking doesn’t really stop after the first week back. Everyone – kids, husbands, wives, mums and dads, workers everywhere – everyone needs good food week-in-week-out to keep them going. Those who plan and pack lunches week after week seeking to nourish and care for their family (or friends) perform a labour of love. I love the premise of the blog Dinner: a Love Story, but after watching my mum in the kitchen late at night (or early in the morning) for years, I know the same is true of packed lunches. Preparing food thoughtfully is always costly – and always worthwhile. Of course it is important to allow exceptions and to compromise at times of extreme busyness and exhaustion, but the choice to carefully prepare and cook healthy, nourishing food is one worth making as often as possible. So, here we are, back to school, week 2 underway and I’ve tweaked Angela Liddon’s Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars for lunches this week. Working with kids (or feeding them), it is important to try and avoid using nuts in snacks because of food allergies so I’ve tried to base this one mostly on seeds, grains and dried fruit instead. I imagine that they would work with other mixtures of seeds and dried fruit if you wanted to get creative – I probably will in time! If you chose to use gluten free oats then they would also suit Coeliac sufferers and others who need to follow a gluten free diet. They fill a crack, are quite tasty and very healthy – hope you enjoy them too!

Ingredients:
1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dates, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sunflower, pepita and pinenut mix
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 1750oC and line a 24x30cm shallow baking tray with baking paper.
2. Process the oats in a food processor till they become coarse and textured. Mash the banana and vanilla through the rough oat ‘flour’.
3. Chop the dates and cherries and stir these with the rest of the seeds, buckwheat and cinnamon into the banana-oat mixture. Mix till the ingredients are combined and the seeds and fruit are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Spread the mixture into the baking tray evenly so that it all cooks uniformly.
5. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and just golden around the edge. Allow to cool in the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
6. Once the mixture is cool slice into bars – I got about 21 bars (7 rows by 3 columns).
7. Pack lunch!

Crunchy Oats for Breakfast

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Very loosely based on the grain free version of this recipe from Our Four Forks, I had a go at developing this nutritious toasted muesli recipe for my breakfast. I’m trying to get into making things for breakfast ahead of time, so I am more likely to make wise decisions when I’m hungry – following the advice I’m quick to give students … and am finding harder to follow now I’m the one who makes most of the food decisions in my house! I love sweet potato more than I do pumpkin, so that was my first switch – I also made a quite a big batch of this so it would last longer. We tried it out soaked overnight for a softer cereal (very nice), but it is also delightful crunchy, served with cold milk in the morning! I’ve recently tried a few other delicious ‘granola’ recipes; the peanut butter and honey one from Cooking Classy combines some of my favourite things (peanut butter and honey combined is my long time favourite toast topping … yum!) – I added some sunflower and pumpkin seeds too. I also really enjoyed the Oh She Glows Blissful Buckwheat Granola Clusters, very yummy! Although I might try using some buckwheat in my version next time I make it, the simplicity of the dates and sweet potato as the ‘wet mix’ is a bit of a winner! Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup currents
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 cup linseeds (partially ground in a coffee/spice grinder)
1/2-2/3 cup almonds (roughly chopped)
1/2-2/3 cup pecans (roughly chopped)

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups orange sweet potato/kumera puree (either boil in water, drain and puree or roast and then remove skins and puree soft inner sections*)
20 dried dates
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

a note about spices … 
when I made it the first time I under spiced the recipe – it was still delicious, here I’ve upped the spice levels so you can taste them but feel free to adapt and adjust to your own preference. 

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 140oC (my oven can’t go much lower without going out, if you can make it lower, do, it will take longer to cook though).
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix the wet ingredients (including spices) and blend these with the dry till the texture is uniform.
4. Sprinkle the clumps of ingredients over about 3 baking trays and cook for about an hour and 40 minutes. Keep and eye on the mixture to see how it is drying out, adjust time if needed. I rotated the trays around every 30 minutes or so – this way it cooked evenly.
5. Enjoy as is or blend with other ingredients to stretch it out – rice puffs or raw oats could be nice, or perhaps chia seeds and psyllium husk for some extra fibre.
6. Serve with milk or yogurt and perhaps fruit. Enjoy your delicious breakfast (or snack at another time of the day)!

*See this link for helpful guidance on roasting sweet potatoes for making puree. The degrees centigrade conversion is 190oC .
http://thehealthyfoodie.com/deliciously-healthy-sweet-potato-brownies/

Old fashioned date cake

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This is one of my grandma’s recipes. I’m actually not sure which grandma, I think Grandma, as opposed to Minnie. Anyhow. It is a very moist and delicious cake and looks great cooked in these old fashioned nut loaf tins. Although, a word of warning. The nut loaf tins are small. They do not need much mixture. They can’t take much mixture. Otherwise they have blow outs. I managed to rescue mine … but it was close. They make lovely gifts, see photo above. This particular one made its way to a Pre-Primary classroom to feed the teacher, the parent helper … etc. It looked pretty and apparently made morning tea a bit of an occasion!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dates
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bicarb soda)
2 cups self raising flour
1 egg

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Prepare baking tins (either grease and line a loaf tin or grease the inside of a cylindrical old fashioned nut loaf tin).
3. Finely chop dates.
4. Add dates, water, sugar and butter to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue cooking till dates are very soft and all ingredients appear to have combined.
5. Add the bicarbonate of soda and remove from heat (the mixture will froth and aerate).
6. Pour into a mixing bowl and allow mixture to cool (about 10 minutes).
7. Add the flour and egg, mixing well to combine.
8. Place in chosen baking dish – the nut loaf tins will take about 1/3 of this mixture. Remember not to over fill these, the tin should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full, any more and you’ll have an explosion (the pictures that didn’t make the blog post!).
9. Bake in a moderate oven till cooked through when tested with a skewer (at least 30 minutes … depending on your pan!).
10. Enjoy!