Nearly Sugar Free Cookies


I am officially back to school, no more lazy days or dossing I am into the full swing of 5th year work and study.  Home work has been a foreign word to me for over a year. Somebody described the transition from 4th year to 5th as “stepping out into bright light after spending the last year in a dark room. Last year I didn’t even have a pencil or pen in my pencil case but as I have been reminded by teachers and relatives I now begin a two year course that ends with the big LC- Leaving Certificate. I shudder at the thought. I have two years of left in my little school where teachers know my name and people look out for me then it is out into the big bad world. This time next year I will be filling out my CAO form and deciding what path to take, it all seems so scary.  I have no idea what I want to do or be, the options are limitless but yet I seem constrained in the choices can make. I can wait one more year before I really have to worry about all of that.

I am only two days into school and it seems just like I never left. My evening are now packed with homework but I still have tim e to make these cookies which are not really sugar free at all because as one of my teachers used to say “what do you call nearly right? …. wrong”, they contain maple syrup and chocolate chip, but you don’t have to litterly but sugar into them so I like to think they are that little bit healthier.

 

“Kinda” Sugar Free Cookies- adapted from Leon: Baking and Puddings

  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 200g chocolate chips or chunks ( I used half dark and half milk)
  • 50ml honey
  • 200ml maple syrup
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 75ml of sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (including the chocolate chips or chunks).
3. Mix together all the wet ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until they are well combined, but do not over-mix.
5. Drop spoonfuls of the cookie dough on to the prepared baking tray.
6. Bake in the oven for only 11 minutes ( I tried 10 and they just need that extra one), and allow the biscuits to cool on the tray for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

“I’ll go tomorrow” Porridge

How do you start your mornings? In Spain I started my morning with this, a big bowl of cherries from the fruit shop next door to the apartment, and a crusty roll from the bakery two doors down. Then I went for a dip in the Sea in 20C water. I think it wold be a lot easier to get up everyday if I lived in Spain.

Back home in Ireland I usually start my day with a bowl of cereal or toast and whatever fruit is left in the bowl never very exciting.

Sometimes I go for a run ( only sometimes)

Other days I role over in bed and come up with some excuse and not even these will work. On the ” I’ll go for a long run tomorrow” mornings, I make myself this porridge so I feel good about myself. I find porridge is so wholesome it almost compensates for the run, or lack of it.

Porridge My Way 

I make porridge with pinhead oatmeal a.k.a  steel-cut oats a.k.a Irish oats. They take longer to cut but I prefer the texture. You could over course use rolled oats just follow the instructions on the packet. I cook it with all water but again thats just a preference use all milk or half and half for a creamier porridge. I make a big batch of pinhead oatmeal refrigerate it and then heat it up through out the week with a little water. 

Ingredients

One cup of steel cut oats

Four cups of water

Put the oats and water in a saucepan over the heat. Bring to the boil then simmer on a lower heat for 20-25 minutes. When the oats are creamy and tender, remove from heat . Serve immediately or allow to cool before transferring into air tight containers in the fridge. In the morning, add a splash of milk or water and reheat in the microwave or on the stove-top.

Toppings

For a little variety I like to serve my porrige with toppings here are some suggestions.

Nuts for Bananas porridge

1/2 a banana sliced.

4-5 almonds and hazelnuts (toasted)

3 tablespoons of toasted dessicated coconut

drizzle of maple syrup.

Arrange the slices of bananas on the porridge. Scatter over the nuts and coconut. Then drizzle with the syrup.

Blueberry Bliss porridge

1/2 cup of blueberries (frozen is okay)

1/2 cup of flaked almonds (toatsted)

drizzle of honey

Gently heat the blueberries over a low heat or microwave them for about 45-60 seconds. They should be soft but still hold their shape. Place on top of the porridge and scater over the flaked almonds. Drizzle with honey for sweetness.

Peach Melba Porridge

One peach sliced into wedges.

3-4 tablespoons of natural yogurt

4-5 raspberries

drizzle of honey

Place the yogurt in the center of the porridge. Then top with peaches and raspberries. Drizzle with honey

Apple Crumble Porridge

One apple chopped up

2-3 tablespoons of coconut

2 tablespoons of flaked almonds

1 table spoon of sunflower seeds

Fry the apple slices over a low heat with a little butter or oil to soften them. Toast the coconut, almonds and seeds until just golden. Arrange the softened apple on top of the porridge and scatter with nut topping.

Feel Good Chocolate Cake

I am leaving this rainy country for sunnier climate, I am off to Spain tomorrow. One week of Sunshine and beach… hopefully. Beach and sunshine also means bikini and my body hasn’t been so forgiving to the scones, cookies and cakes I have been filling it with. Before I go I would like to share this feel good chocolate cake. I spent a while coming up for a name for this cake, I didn’t want the word healthy in the title as that suggests some tasteless, dry chocolate cake, which this is not. It is decadent and fudgy cake almost like a brownie. The wholemeal flour adds a nutty flavour and the honey creates a light sticky sweetness. It is not a low fat, weightloss cake but more of a whole food cake you eat to feel good. Its decadent but you feel happy after eating it plus their is no sugar or white flour. Enjoy and adios por ahora!!

Feel Good Chocolate Cake

I created a new way for adding chocolate to the chocolate cake. I finely ground the chocolate in a food processor until it resembled powder almost like cocoa powder. It adds to the fudgyness of the cake. I also use wholemeal flour but feel free to subsitute it with all purpose flour,

45og of wholemeal flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

3/4 tsp of salt

1/2 cup of oil

2 eggs

1 cup of honey

1 cup of yogurt/buttermilk

200g of chocolate powder (see above) or cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 170C degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter and flour an 20×20 square cake pan (I used a le crueset square stone dish 23cmx23).

Put the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Mix the egg, honey and oil in a jug. Add the yogurt and mix. Then pour the wet ingredients into the flour. Then add the chocolate powder and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and place in the oven for 40-50 minutes. The cake will be fudgy and slightly sticky so the skewer test wont work .Leave to cool and make the chocolate cream to frost.

Chocolate Cream

1 cup of cream

150g of dark chocolate

80g of icing sugar (omit if not using very dark chocolate)

Melt the chocolate. Whip the cream to stiff peaks (but be careful you want it thick and creamy but you don’t want butter) Pour the chocolate over the cream and stir it in until all the chocolate is incorporated. Then fold in the sugar.Top the cooled cake with the chocolate frosting and spread evenly over top. Use a n offset spatula to create little swirls on the top.

My Very Retro Upside Down Pineapple Cake

My recent trip to Madison, Wisconsin has put a vintage theme on my life. Madison is a quirky town studded with vintage shops and hippies. On returning to the cold and wet Dublin I tried to continued my life in retro style. Yesterday I enjoyed a shopping spree into town with me, myself and I. It was a wonderful experience I could go where I wanted when I wanted, I wasn’t had no time limits or agenda and just wandered from shop to shop. I spent most of my time in George’s Street Arcade which is filled with quirky shops I bought a ring made of a 5p coin in Beaux bows and a vintage style clock pendent necklace in bobay banshee. I also enjoyed wandering around in the other vintage shops along the street including Om Diva which has vintage clothing but also new Irish designers . Apart from having cute shops Georges street Arcade has wonderful foodie outlets I enjoyed a FroYo from Yogism, where if you guess the weight correctly you get the yogurt free I was off by about 100g (maybe next time). I decided to continue on this vintage theme into  my cooking and what screams retro cake more than upside down pineapple cake. I know it’s cliche so I tweaked it a little bit. Instead of the sickening red glace cherry I used raspberries and I used a wholemeal batter for the cake and omitted the caramel topping . Simply because I bought the wrong ones I used cubes of pineapple and not the usual rings that top the traditional rings which are probably nicer. This cake is one of those cakes that you will go for a second slice because it seems healthy despite the butter and sugar and then maybe take serve up another slice the next morning for breakfast because it is wholemeal after all how bad can it be for you. In my opinion cake for breakfast is the ultimate luxury.

Retro Upside Down Pineapple Cake

For the cake adapted from whole wheat pound cake from joy the baker

250g  of white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour

30g of   of plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

15og of butter, at room temperature250g of caster sugar
1/2 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

for the topping
8 pineapple rings or 200g of cubed pineapple
handful of raspberries fresh or frozenre
prehheat oven to 160 degrees C.  Butter and flour the a 28 cm round tin

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip the butter, sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute after each addition.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add the d

ry mixture and buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is evenly incorporate. Lay the pineapple rings or cubes in the prepared tin. In the center of each ring place a raspberry dot the spare raspberries around the place. Pour the batter on top in spoonfuls then spread it out.

Put it in preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes  . leave to cool slightly before turning up and putting on a wire tray pineapple side up.

Bircher Muesli


Anybody who knows me knows I love breakfast. It is my favourite meal of the day. It is the only meal where it is acceptable to eat anything from Cake to sausages. Given my attatchment to the morning meal you can only imagine my excitement when I recently breakfasted at McNean house I had heard a lot about the breakfast and it didn’t fall short. One thing that I truly enjoyed was the Bircher Muesli. I am not a huge Muesli fan as I have voiced before but the Bircher muesli is a whole different ball game. I had heard about this type of muesli where the oats are soaked in milk and yogurt the night before but dared not make it for fear it would be soggy. Infact it wasn’t soggy at all it was extremly tasty and with just under 200 calories per serving it’s the perfect kick start to my detox weekend. Bircher muesli was first created by a 20th century physician to feed patients, althought it has been adapted to suite our modern taste, the idea remains the same.

Bircher-Style Muesli

adapted from the Jamie Magazine issue 26 February 12

This recipe is made the night before you wish to serve it. You can chop and change this recipe to suite your own personal change. I added fresh berries before eating it, instead of the dried fruit. Bananas, Kiwis, peaches and cubes of mango would aslo be rally nice in it.

makes 5 small servings

1 apple

1/2 a pear

1/2 a lemon

40ml of orange or apple juice

1/2 a small handful of dried fruit (optional)

1/2 a small handfull of nuts and seeds (optional) I used pumpkin, sunflower, almonds and pine nuts

250g of plain yogurt

50g of dessicated coconut

1 tbsp of honey

100ml of milk

Prepare the muesli a night in advance. Grate the apple and pear skin and all. Transfer to a bowl squeeze in the lemon juice add the orange juice. Roughly chop the dried fruit and nuts, add to the bowl. Add the yogurt and oats. Mix well to coat all the oats in the juice and yogurt. Stir in the honey. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge overnight. The next morning loosen with the milk . Serve in bowls with your cchoice of topping – honey, fresh or dried fruit, toasted nuts ect.  It will last 2 days covered in cling film in the fridge

The Hunger Games Inspired Fruit and Nut Bread

I, like the rest of the world have just finished reading “The Hunger Games” first book. I unlike the rest of the world did not fall madly in love with it. I will admit it is a good book and enjoyed every minute of reading it but I just wanted the Hunger Games to end and for Peeta’s and Katniss’s romance to bloom. I suppose I won’t really enjoy the next two in the trilogy hence the name “The Hunger Games Trilogy”. I have a sneaky feeling that the next two book will not focus on a happy ever after the hunger games theme. Oh well, I still commend Suzanne Collins for like J.K Rowling and Stephanie Meyer she has gotten people who never read before to start reading which is always great.

When I read a book or watch a Movie I remember and focus on the food eaten and prepared by the characters ( Anne of Green Gables -Liniment Cake, The Help-Mississippi Mud Pie, Laura Ingalls Wilder Maple syrup snow). I am an avid foodie. In “The Hunger Games” food and lack of it plays a big part. One food scene that I remember most (and don’t worry it won’t ruin the end of the book) is at the start when Katniss recalls Peeta purposely burning Fruit and Nut Bread so she could feed her starving family. I decided to try for myself fruit and nut bread.

Peeta’s Fruit and Nut Bread a.k.a Hazelnut, Raisin and Honey Wholemeal Loaf.

^note you could call it a Honey I’m Wholemeal Loaf


When I made this bread for the photo I killed the yeast so it didn’t rise. Instead of light airy bread it was dense and heavy in texture but the flavour was still really nice (and I ate it all) that’s why I have included it on my blog. I am going to try it again hopefully with a better outcome

80g of hazelnuts blanched toated and chopped

400g of wholemeal flour

100g of plain flour

1.5 tsp of salt

7g sachet of fast-action yeast

1tbs of honey

350 ml of lukewarm milk

60g of raisins

2 tbs of milk to brush top with

Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl or freestanding electric mixer. Add the yeast and make a well in the flour. Stir the honey and milk together and pour into the well.

Using your hand or a dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix the flour into the liquid. If it feels or looks to dry add a tablespoon more milk at a time and vice versa with the flour if its too wet.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed by hand for 10 minutes until it feels elasticy.  Add the nuts and raisins and gently work in to evenly distribute. Return to bowl cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and shape into a loaf. Cut a line down the center. Tuck the ends under each other on a lined baking tray Cover loosely with cling film and leave to double in size again for about an hour. Towards the end of the rising preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Uncover the loaf and glaze with milk. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

This bread is lovely plain or just buttered but it is not too sweet to serve with savory toppings either such as cheese or chutneys.

Crunchy a.k.a Granola

Granola, or crunchy as it’s known in my house, has always been the naughtier cousin of the healthy muesli. Then again food is about enjoyment and who honestly enjoys a bowl of muesli. I love anything oaty but there is something about the dry uncooked oats that gives me the shivers. Granola is is enjoyable and this homemade recipe unlike the shop bought version contains no sugar ( just honey so the calories are still there) so it’s a little healthier. It’s delicious served with natural yogurt and fruit for breakfast it’s also yummy,, or so I’ve been told, as a topping to ice-cream sundae. Another option layer it in pretty jam jars with fruit or compete, granola and yogurt and serve for breakfast or healthy dessert. I also like to nibble at it dry through out the day but that’s just me.

Granola

makes one large tub that lasts a week in a airtight container

Measurements don’t have to be exact use it as a rough guideline

250g of oats

5 heaped tbs of honey

3 tbs of olive oil

handful of pumpkin seeds

handful of sunflower seeds

small handful of chopped almonds

small handful of hazelnuts (raw)

50g of dessicated unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the oats and coconut in a saucepan and put on a low heat for about 2 minutes stirring regularly. Add the coconut and continue to stir. Add the seeds and nuts. Then add the honey continue to gently heat and mix it so the honey covers all the oats. Take off the heat and mix in the oil (the oil makes it crunchy). Pour onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Take it out every 5 minutes and give it a stir as the pieces on the edge cook quicker than the center.

The above recipe is just a guideline the first three ingredients are the base after that you can add what you wish.  Seeds and nuts go in before baking just ensure they are unsalted and raw (from experience poppy seeds don’t really work) dried fruit or chocolate can be added after baking. You can add as much or little extras as you like.

P.S I think the coconut is really nice in it so I would recommend  that unless you have a coconut phobia.

Award winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble

From 4th of March
Today is one of those days in Ireland that tricks you. I left my house this morning to go to my sisters camogie match looking out the  window I saw that the sun was shining and the sky was blue. “What a lovely day” I thought “I won’t need a jacket” but boy was I wrong. I spent all morning freezing on a sideline. I should have known, it is March after all, who am I kidding you need a jacket in June in Ireland. I was deceived by the blue sky  . I then feeling very energetic despite the cold went for a swim. There is something about swimming that makes you very hungry afterwords. I wanted something sweet but not wanting to undo my mornings work swimming I decided upon this Award Winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble. I love it because anybody who knows me will know I am healthy, I love oaty things and fruit. This is a combination of all three and of course it is award winning. Well I lie it’s not actually award winning but Runner Up Oaty Raspberry Crumble doesn’t have the same ring to it and I think it was worthy of first place.
The story is Sister number two who was only seven at the time entered this recipe  a kids cooking competition one night and we thought we would hear nothing of it again. Then about a month later Daddy received a phone call to say she had been chosen as a finalist and had to go to Hamleys Dundrum to prepare her dish. There was great excitement Sister number one and I even skipped training to go to Hamleys with her.  All the contestants were given a station to prepare their dish. Mammy, Sister number one and I watched anxiously from afar as Sister number two prepared the dish. It was one of the most nerve raking experiences of my life. “Oh no she is going to forget the sugar” or “How long has it been in the oven” we said to each other, but we should have trusted her she knew what she was doing. She didn’t forget the sugar and cooked it to perfection. Sadly to say she didn’t win despite all of us agreeing that it was the best dish there. So here it is our Almost Award Winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble.
Oaty Raspberry Crumble 
Serves a family of five or six
100g of oats
20g of coconut desiccated
10g of chopped almonds
5g of butter
2 tbs of honey
600g of raspberries ( I use frozen)
30g of sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Put the oats, chopped almonds, butter, and cocunut into a saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted. Then add the honey and continue to heat for 2-3 minutes until it has turned slightly golden. Put the raspberries and sugar in a 25 by 25cm pie dish. Scatter over the oat mixture and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the raspberries are hot through and the tip is a dark golden colour. Eat warm served with natural yogurt ( for a healthy option) or vanilla ice cream ( for a naughty option).
You could of course use any fruit of your choice – apples, rhuabarb, pears ect. but if using a hard fruit I would stew it first and add sugar according to taste. I love  raspberry and apple together but try out whatever fruit you want to decide you like.