These probably aren’t going to be the prettiest muffins you will see in the run up to Christmas. If you want pretty – and I’m sure extremely tasty – festive baking, have a look at the world of wonder and fantasy that is Pinterest. I’m crushing on this page in particular. I practically weep at the skill and creativity contained within those rolling pixels of perfection. Maybe I have even wailed and gnashed my teeth over your dainty treats. To restore sanity and a sense of perspective I have recently adopted a habit of going over to Damn You Autocorrect. I find it is just the thing to cheer myself up after going on my increasingly regular Pinterest benders. True. Continue reading
Confession time: I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. There. I said it. However, I’m not proud of this declaration. For an American it is rather like saying you hate baseball, or Disney World. Might as well burn your passport and be done with it.
I have to admit I haven’t tried very hard with the whole pumpkin pie liking thing. I’ve attempted a few slices in my day but they were always too bland, too soft, or too aggressively spiced: Goldilocks and the three pumpkin pies… Continue reading
It is not very often that I go a bit crazy with my own cooking. Like most cooks and food bloggers I will make stuff, serve it, write about it, but gosh don’t I get embarrassed when people like it. Do you do that too?
It is not that we aren’t grateful for adulation – not at all, please don’t stop – but we can be a bit awkward and weirdly shy. My schtick is that I hem and haw and say something like “oh, it doesn’t have enough salt in it,” or “it was in the oven about five minutes too long” (that was yesterday’s rebuttal to the lemon polenta cake I brought to a class). To some this may smack of false modesty, but I am sure that the majority of the time most of us praise-rebuffers are not fishing for compliments: we genuinely don’t think our offering is worthy of special mention. We’ve made it, we hope it is edible. End of.
But for today and today only, I will retract my inner self-critic and say that I really quite like this frosting AND I will smile politely and say “thank you very much” to anyone who likes it too. I’m quite chuffed with it because, to my knowledge, it is original and, crucially, tastes pretty much like chocolate frosting should taste – creamy, chocolatey, lickable. And the whole food twist? Black beans. Yup, black beans.
Some of you will have made avocado frosting – and that’s really tasty stuff – but recently while cooking some black beans up for a savoury dish I just thought, why not? Why not indeed. They are awesome in black bean brownies (I’ll post my own version soon), so why wouldn’t they be good in something else in the chocolate-cocoa canon?
I knew it would need a wee help with the texture – a bit ‘floury’ on its own – so I added a little peanut butter (although cashew would be even better as it is milder). Melted good quality chocolate in place of the nut butter would be divine, but I wanted to see how ‘pure’ I could get it. I was totally shocked that I didn’t have to immediately stick it in the bin (we have no dog). None of it made it into the bin. My very truthful family helped out with the ‘cleaning up’. If they hadn’t given their thumbs up – or rather fingers in – I would’ve gone no further with this cranky idea.
If you dare to make this up do have more patience than have I: blend the heck out of the frosting. I blended as best as my tiny attention span would allow, but dark flecks are visible. The bold among you could pass them off as chocolate chips (?). Maybe pushing the beans through a sieve or food mill would be even better. You would also be more patient with the spreading and decorating.
It IS a bit nutty, and I wouldn’t recommend whacking it on anything too healthy (date-sweetened oat & chia cookies need not apply), but I think it would be a fun frosting on homemade chocolate cake, fairy cakes, anything with a nut or coffee flavour in need of frosting, even a dip for fresh fruit (it was nice with banana slices). I frosted up chocolate and beetroot muffins for a few nutrition groups and no one guessed the surprise healthy ingredient. The closest anyone got was avocado. Good guess. My next go with this will be to add malt syrup for a Horlick’s/Ovaltine vibe. That might be pushing it…
What weird stuff have you concocted lately?
Last year: Spinach and Walnut Dip (Spinach Pkhali)
Two years ago: Kale-Berry Smoothie
Unusual? Yes. A pretty good doppelganger for the real thing? I think so. If you have had black bean brownies (my recipe soon) you will know that somehow this ingredient works with chocolate and cocoa. I’ve just taken it in a slightly different direction: on top.
This black bean frosting was taste-tested on over 30 people: all thought it was chocolate frosting. With ingredients mainly of the store cupboard variety I hope you try it and give your verdict. Spread it on a decadent cake for a kind of calorie and fat balancing act, or do what we do and use it on my beetroot chocolate cake/muffins.
The following is just a guide – start with these amounts, blend, taste and adjust as you like. Makes enough to spread on one small cake or 9 muffins.
60g (slightly heaped 1/3 cup) cooked and rinsed black beans or adzuki beans
1 ½ tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1 very heaped tbsp smooth nut butter (cashew would be mildest but I used peanut butter with good results)
2 tbsp (+) runny acacia honey or maple syrup
Pinch of fine salt
¼ tsp vanilla powder or paste (extract is to strong here – you taste the alcohol)
Enough warm water to get a smooth frosting (I used about 1 teaspoon)
METHOD: Pop everything into a blender and blend like mad. Keeps for four days, refrigerated in a covered container.
I’ve given the recipe sharing a break for a couple of weeks but this week I would like to include this unusual sweet over at Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays, and to Heather for her Sweet Wednesday Link Party. Please go and visit their great sites for ideas and more.
Hello, hello! Just back from seeing my lovely Dad and sister in Florida. It was a super visit, with too much food, lots of sun (and sunscreen) and loads of cheering for my star-pitcher nephew. Going to Tripp’s baseball games are always a highlight, even if any mosquito in a 20 mile radius always finds us…
It is funny to think that this young man, with a 90 mile an hour pitch (he is only just 14), used to throw so wildly that even the spectators ducked – from behind a 25-foot mesh fence. Perhaps I exaggerate. A tad. Continue reading
Obviously as you are reading this blog on some kind of device through the modern voodoo that is the Internet, you don’t need to be convinced of the value of New Media. Blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook (still a hold out on the latter), Reddit, Google+ etc are the way many of us get current, useable information. No more waiting for the 6 pm TV bulletins or morning newspapers to find out what is happening/has happened.
We also get to ‘meet’ some fantastically inspiring kindred spirits who, without the Internet, we would never know. Continue reading
The French word galette seems to have a few definitions and interpretations – I have made a sautéed and thin-layered sweet potato cake – similar to a rosti – that some would call a galette. Bonne Maman, purveyor of delicious conserves and treats, has a butter biscuit that they call a galette. But usually – in the UK and US at least – galette denotes a flat-ish, open fruit pie.
I like to think of galette as French for lazy-person’s pie, a pie for the non-baker. With this rustic approach there is no awkward transferring to a pie dish, pricking, blind-baking, trimming, worrying about shrinkage, making a faffy filling, worrying about leakage (!), etc. Or even knowing what any of the aforementioned baking terms mean.
I admit that this fruit galette is not the most refined of pies – a bit of a gargoyle among pies really – but who cares if it tastes good. Continue reading
Those checkout aisles at the grocery store can be a nightmare. Not only do we have to negotiate tempting pocket-money magazines with eye-catching headlines (“Is Pippa MIddleton Engaged?”; “25 Worst Beach Bodies”), but also serried rows of come-hither confectionary. Ahh, those crispy, colourful packages containing a black hole of happiness. Mmm, it’s only little. Just rip off the wrapper and dive on in: to over a third of a days’ worth of added sugar and fat.
And that’s if you stick with one modestly-sized bar or bag. Kinda makes the trolley-load of kale and quinoa a bit redundant. *Wince* Continue reading
Polenta cakes are stupidly easy to make. I don’t mean this as an insult to polenta cakes, you, or anyone else for that matter. But, really. Dumping everything in a stand mixer and pressing ‘on’ is pretty easy. And sometimes – even although you may be the best baker in your family, in your workplace, in the world – stupidly-easy is what you need. If and when that situation arises, polenta cake is there for you.
Milkshakes for breakfast. Not quite what you might expect from food to glow. Kale shakes, like my kale berry smoothie perhaps. But not a milkshake. And most certainly not one for breakfast.
I have previously had a rant about terrible breakfasts, but not a word did I write about milkshakes. Who in their right mind would have a milkshake for breakfast? All that sugar and saturated fat? Surely this is something only children might crave. Well… despite my predilection for savoury, kale-
infested packed breakfasts (my recipe index tells all…), the idea of a milkshake – a healthy one – on a hot summer’s day actually sounds kinda nice. So, if I think it sounds nice, 99% of the population probably thinks so too. And, this bad boy is adults only. Unless you like your children wired and tearing around the house like Superman. Continue reading
Some of you reading this may be packing too, Perhaps you are jetting off to some island to laze around and sip rum punch, or maybe you and your family will be threading your way through the queues in some exciting theme park. I however am packing to go to London. Not to shop (although I will definitely squeeze a bit of that in) or go to the theatre. No, I am down to attend my second Food Blogger Connect, and I am SO excited. Last year I was scared-excited. This year I am just excited-excited. Which is the same thing, but with less nervous sweating. Not a good mental image in a food blog, but I like to tell the truth.
Any of you who were kindly reading me last October may recall a rather long post reviewing my weekend at FBC. It was beyond my rather pedestrian imagination. And this year promises to be even better. To wit, we are getting to press the flesh with Mr American in Paris himself, the wonderful David Lebovitz. There is the chance of winning a 15 minute one-to-one chat with David about how to improve one’s blog. Which sounds terrifying but probably a game-changer for the lucky winner.
Another highlight will be seeing fellow FBC alumni Ren Behan and Karen Burns-Booth on the podium sharing a panel discussion with Sarah Cook of BBC Good Food magazine on how to get published in magazines (I will be taking furious notes: Why didn’t I do shorthand!). I adore these bloggers as people and as wonderfully good examples of how to run a compelling, must-read blog. And of course, there will be -ahem – serious and academically-rigourous attention paid to the art of eating. I have lost count of the number of folks and companies lined up to help us expand our waistlines. But I am especially looking forward to sampling from Ren’s pop-up Polish Kitchen. Her website is already making me want to book a second holiday to Krakow.
So, the muffins. Which I will sneak into my miniscule Easyjet handluggage, along with a little tub of my butternut squash and almond dip and some homemade pitta chips. Anything to avoid getting hungry enough to buy one of the airline’s extortionate ‘snack packs’ (full of cr*p and more cr*p). I just hope my little healthy snack pack doesn’t get confiscated!
By the time you read this I will have said goodbye to friends old and new and be on my way to meet Mr A for his birthday lunch. Another London food adventure awaits! Back up the stairs to add another pair of stretchy trousers to the bag…
Carrot and Coconut Muffins
This is a riff on an old recipe of mine, Carrot and Marmalade Cake.
This is an easy and delicious way of making a sweet treat healthy. Perfect for trips, picnics, brownbags and handbags. I make this recipe as muffins mostly, but it happens to make a fine ‘plain’ cake too. The decoration is all on the inside…
NB. Trade the coconut for plump raisins or, what the heck, put them both in.
50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling on top
*If you don’t have self-raising flour, just add an extra one and one-quarter teaspoon of baking powder (total) to the flour mixture.
Oil a 12-hole muffin tin (I tend to make them smaller and use an extra 6). You could also line the holes with squares of baking paper (so they look like the muffins you get in coffee shops) or regular muffin tin liners. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
Sift together the flours with the baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in any bran that remains in the sieve from the wholemeal flour.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs with electric beaters or stand mixer until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and sugar until thickened and leaves a trail when the beater is lifted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Fold the wet mixture into the flour until the flour just disappears, and no more. Mixing any more may give you a tough muffin. Which sounds like an insult, or perhaps a strange compliment: “She’s one tough muffin!”
Fill each muffin hole evenly and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until well-risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you want to add coconut to the top, do this about halfway through the baking so as not to burn the delicate coconut, but just give it a lovely toasty tinge of gold. Let the muffins cool in the tin on a wire rack and eat immediately. Or store for a few days in an airtight container. You could always go a bit fancy and extra-sweet by spreading over your favourite cream cheese frosting, or one such as this vegan one from food.com; or a classic cream cheese one from cook.uk. I like to keep them ‘plain’ for my nutrition classes and serve with fresh fruit.
Makes 12-18 muffins or two small cakes (I don’t think this would be as good if made as a big fat cake).