Erin’s Chocolate, Fig and Walnut cake

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Having moved southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere a few months ago, I understand the blessing of the ‘fall bounty’ more truly. Our local farmers market and grocery shops have been full of bright harvest for the last few months. Now, as both the birds and leaves migrate southwards, the abundance has begun to fade, now revolving, as it does late in the season, around squash and pumpkins. The fig trees around our new home fruited late too, we have been tripping over the fruit as it came thick and fast in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I feel a little guilty admitting to it, but neither Asher or I love fresh figs terribly. On the other hand, I really do not like fruit going to waste and so I had been gathering it up ‘to cook’ at a later date. Perishable as tender fresh figs are, Asher began to get frustrated finding my bowls of slightly fermented figs which were good only for adding to the compost. Anyhow, with a little (negative!) encouragement from him, I started trying to cook them up. I made chilli fig jam – a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. Erin’s birthday seemed like a good excuse to have a go at incorporating the jam into some baking. I played around with a few recipes to come up with the one below – the almond meal makes the batter it more dense than an average butter cake. I might keep playing with the recipe – I will keep you updated with any break-throughs!

Base
½ cup butter, softened (115g)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
¾ cup milk
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 cup almond meal
½ cup coco powder
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt

Crumblings
75g butter
2/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts (roasted)

1 cup fig jam

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs, beat till combined.
4. Combine the milk and yoghurt, and all the dry ingredients in two separate containers.
5. Begin adding a little of the milk mixture and a little of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mixing till combined, continue the cycle of adding the liquid and dry ingredients and the mixing till combined till all the ingredients are added.
6. Set aside.
7. Beat the butter and sugar for the ‘crumblings’, add in the flour till the mixture clumps together when you squeeze it with your hands.
8. Grease a bundt tin (or whatever tin you have decided to use!) and begin adding the batter, the crumblings, jam and walnuts to the tin, jam works better in the batter not at the edge near the tin. Spreading all the different components around equally will mean a more uniform result!
9. Bake it for about 50-55 minutes – just keep an eye on the browning – if it looks like its getting toasty round the edges and you want to let it go a little longer for the sake of a cooked centre – I use foil to protect it from over-browning-that-is-really-burning.
10. Serve with ice-cream or a little whipped cream – perhaps dusted with icing sugar.

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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/