sugar-free baking: banana, cacao nib and raspberry muffins

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I was really busy this last week or so with work, uni assignments and life more generally – so much so, I found it too difficult to find the mental-space to think creatively about food. I’ve been surviving on takeout, bowls of sugar-free cereal (like this amazing one from whisk and pen), and pretty uninspired salads.

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dried strawberries, coconut flakes, toasted pistachios, dried pineapple.. ohhhh heaven in milk

Overall, being sugar-free has been going pretty well – although it’s hard to tell if I’m feeling any better two weeks in because I’ve been battling a stubborn cold. I have to admit I’m eating too much fruit still, probably about three portions a day. I’m just finding it so hard to cut out! probably because I haven’t been organised enough to put together veggie-based alternatives, so that’s definitely on the to do list for this week.

In my sugar-free existence I’ve been thinking about baking a lot. I’ve been a bit hesitant because I hate the taste of stevia and other sweeteners.

Ignoring my over consumption of fruit for a moment, these muffins are a nice afternoon snack. The use of hazelnut meal makes these muffins pretty moorish and earthy; whilst the cacao nibs give it a bit of crunch. I found the flavours without sugar take a little adjusting to and I think you need to be a fan of that distinct nut meal taste. This is also probably because I associate banana and “chocolate” muffins with a big hit of sweetness. In my opinion, you have to use super ripe bananas to balance out the flavours if you’re like myself and don’t fancy the taste of stevia.

I’m really bad at measuring my ingredients and base things like muffins on feel and taste. I think the beauty of recipes like this is that they’re very forgiving, so you can add and subtract, swap and change, without thinking too hard about it all.

sugar-free banana, cacao nib and raspberry muffins

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dry ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup of hazelnut meal (or another meal of choice)
  • 1 cup of plain flour (wholewheat or white)
  • 1/2 cup of oats (quick or rolled)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup of raw organic cacao nibs

wet ingredients: 

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup of oil
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of strong coffee, cooled (optional)
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries, chopped (frozen or fresh; other berries would also work well)
  • stevia or other sweetener (optional, to taste)

method:

  1. preheat oven to 180C, line a muffin tray with patty-cases
  2. place dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk to combine
  3. in a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients, minus the bananas and raspberries
  4. make a well in the centre, of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. fold through until just combined (be careful not to overbeat).
  5. add the banana and raspberries and fold through gently.
  6. fill each patty case 3/4 full and bake in the over for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean (note: they will be quite dark in colour due to the hazelnut meal and espresso)

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pure indulgence: banana ricotta pancakes with cinnamon maple butter

hooray for the weekend! With the weather finally warming (even if only ever so slightly), it’s much more pleasant to spend the day outside. S and I went for a wonderful drive last weekend, and discovered a big beautiful lake about … Continue reading

a wholefoods dilemma: how do you cook amaranth?

I love wholefood shops, I lose myself in the shelves of little bags of feel-good nuts and vials of exotic ointments. I’m a sucker for the jargon-filled health food labels. Yeats, your poetry will not melt my heart, but whisper me sweet nothings like “a nutritious, all natural, high-protein, ancient grain” and I’m yours, body and soul.

In true form, I walked out of a wholefood shop last Saturday with a bag of amaranth. Now I dont actually know what to do with it….

According to the label, amaranth, like quinoa, is a high-protein gluten-free crop that lowers-cholesterol and is packed with lots of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

A bit of google-magic has told me amaranth means “unfading” and was a major food crop of the Aztecs. To the ancient Greeks, the amaranth was a symbol for immortality. They made crowns from it, since they believed that anyone who wore such a crown would gain fame and fortune. Inspiring stuff.

Despite the googling, I still don’t know how to cook it, and I’m a bit scared I’ll choose the one un-yummy way to try it out…

Recipes welcome!

fighting the flu: roasted tomato soup with roast potato, onion and rosemary bread

oh no, I think I’m getting spring flu! (actually, maybe it’s the last gasp of winter flu, because it’s still soo cold outside.) I’m determined to beat it down before it conquers though, and what better way than with a steamy … Continue reading

the highs and lows: cake failure

I didn’t post this last week because I had a pretty bad week – one that made me angry and frustrated and cry a lot.

for me, a bad week like this leads to really bad cooking.

for example, I made this batch of ugly cupcakes.

I clearly didn’t think the proportion of each mixture through enough. It tasted nice, but cupcakes cant be ugly, it defeats their whole purpose for existing.

In my mind it was a dense rich spiced coffee cake with a swirled in cheesecake layer and a caramelised sauteed apple cluster on top. In reality the cake rose way too much, the cheesecake was too dense, and the apples looked like big sparse growths.

I was so devastated by this result, because I had so carefully made the batter for each of the three layers, so I sat on the kitchen floor and had a mini teary. I’m such a sook, I know. I felt much better afterwards though.

But this weekend marked the beginning of spring, and spring means new beginnings right?