Categories
recipe

Delish Brownies

Brownies are one of those things you can never get enough of. But you try to stop at one slice (or two at most) because they’re full of all the good sinful stuff that makes us sugary happy. And I’ve been very good. I haven’t had brownies in a while. But Daryl got some keto brownies yesterday and it really hit the spot. We woke up thinking of brownies this morning.

As Daryl is on health binge so he made some with black chick peas and stevia. They tasted good but the chickpea taste was just too overpowering.

So I googled for a recipe and found a fuss-free one. I made some adjustments and wham, within 20 mins I had myself some insanely moist and deep dark brooding brownies that I haven’t been able to stop eating. Four slices in, and I’m still trying to resist. It’s that good. It certainly made my Saturday. If you’re looking to score some points with a friend (or lover or your favourite person), make them these. Best of all, you don’t need a fancy-esque mixer – just a whisk and a bowl.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp sucanat*
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee (I used decaf here)
  • 10 tbsps butter or 141g
  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°. Grease a 8×8 inch pan or line with parchment paper/aluminium foil.
  2. Whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sucanat, and instant coffee in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and chocolate. Whisk in the eggs and gently whisk in the dry ingredients just until mixed through. Do not over mix the batter to keep it light.
  4. Transfer batter into the baking pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out moist. Let cool 30 mins to 2 hours and slice before biting in!

*Note: Sucanat is pure dried sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated, and cooled, forming small brown grainy crystals. It contains less sucrose and retains the natural molasses and trace nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins.

**You can make these keto if you used a sugar substitute like erythritol

Categories
Motherhood recipe

Nutritious Oatmeal Cookies


If you think being a parent is a strange new world, think again. It’s even stranger as a lactating mother. 

I went into Motherhood pretty cold because I refused to go down the rabbit hole. I didn’t want to scare myself. Those who know me will know that anything I put my mind to I go in with deep abandon. 

Breast feeding, is a wonderful experience and for most part, it is what they say – a great way to bond with your newborn. The chemical release of oxytocin floods through you – and for me, my tear ducts always flow.  

Then there’s the byproduct of the process – the glorious breast milk. Filled with it’s own cocktail of nutrients that miraculously changes as your infant grows. A mixture of vitamins, anti-bodies, fats, I think it’s a super food!

With Ciaran, my first born, I only managed up to 6 months. The stress at work at my previous company got the better of me and a first-time mum navigating the feelings and emotions of such a role that is motherhood — I had so many unrealistic expectations. 

That was when I first encountered this delicious word  – galactagogue.

To this day i find it hard not to chuckle. My first thought was Galactica Monologues? What fantastical thing could this be?  

It originated from the Greek word “galacta,” meaning milk.

Galactagogues help you with your breast milk. And apparently it’s a whole list of foods that ‘triggers’ or encourages your glorious pair of boobies to continue feeding your precious child. 

Fatty foods and a whole lot of herbs make the bulk of the list. From nuts to seeds, to garlic and fenugreek, it’s an interesting make up. 

Then there’s oats. Oats is the most popular one – as it’s the most commonly found ingredient and easily available. Oh and you can keep it for long. 

Having nursed my second child Eoin for the past 8 months, I was feeling rather good. But my supply has dipped of late. 

And I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure I catch up on my galactagogues. Lactation cookies were my immediate choice as I do love my oats. But I prefer not to call them lactation cookies because they are really just souped up oatmeal cookies that are ultra nutritious (and really shouldn’t be limited to lactating mothers).

The good nutritious stuff. These ingredients are easily available from iHerb (I’ve included links in the ingredient list) or your local supermarkets.

Brewer’s yeast and flaxseeds, almond butter is the brilliant trigger. And chopped chocolate chunks make them irresistible to other non-lactating humans. My son and husband enjoys them just as much as I do. 

It has been a week since and my supply has been steadily increasing. Try making these for yourself if you find yourself requiring some assistance (or even just an excuse to eat a cookie in the name of health). Brewer’s Yeast, a common key ingredient in lactation cookies is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, protein, and minerals, including a biologically active form of chromium. It is also said to be effective at supporting the nervous system and enhancing the immune system.   

Delicious nutritious morsels for lactating mothers or otherwise.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 227g butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 tbsp barley malt* (optional)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup brewer’s yeast
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter (substitute in peanut butter or leave out altogether)
  • 3 cups rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill Thick Cut is my favourite)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate chunks

*Note: Barely malt is an excellent sweetener for baking and especially helpful for lactating mothers. It is barley grain that has been allowed to germinate. When this happens, the barley turns into a sweet syrupy malt that also contains a lot of beta-glucan (a prolactin stimulant, what lactating mothers need).

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 °C. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Using a mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and barley malt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  3. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined.
  4. Add the almond butter and oats, mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks
  5. Drop 1.5 tablespoons of dough onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake s20-30 minute, or until the bottom is golden brown. Cookies will puff up a bit in the oven; if you prefer flatter cookies, press down on the top of each cookie with a fork. 
  6. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to a week; cookies will keep frozen for up to 3 months. Cookie dough can be made in advance and kept in the freezer 6-12 months (make sure it’s tightly sealed).
Categories
Life recipe

Eleven Madison Park Granola

As a self-professed foodie, I am on a constant hunt for memorable food experiences and flavours. The same adrenaline rush a climber gets from a successful ascent on yet another peak, that’s the same feeling I get when I cross paths with an utterly life-changing meal. To most, this sounds like a mighty exaggeration. Perhaps if you know me, and the fact that I live for food and what it stands for, you won’t be surprised.

The year I turned 30; a milestone marker for most, where we reflect and ask ourselves what have we achieved and done, I decided to take life by its horns and book myself a ticket to New York. Known to be a buzzing mecca of culinary delights and legends, New York had been calling out to me and this time I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and eat up New York.

Travelling alone is actually rather intimidating but when you’re at the cusp of 30 (I was 29 when I arrived and 30 when I left New York!), the world really seems like one big fat amusement park. You go on the most exciting rides, even that big rollercoaster you’d usually avoid.

The first ‘assignment’ you’re given after you’ve taken your seat is to punch out one ingredient from this card. This will have an impact on your dishes.

The highlight of my New York birthday present to myself was my visit to Eleven Madison Park. Having placed a reservation months before my arrival, I was gearing up to having a meal to remember. At that time, Eleven Madison Park was ranked 4th by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and that was a big deal (and a huge splurge) and arguably the highlight of my trip.

At the back-of-house, the kitchen, where I requested for a tour prior to my trip because I couldn’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The meal itself was very theatrical – just imagine yourself watching a culinary Cirque Du Soleil, where the servers and chefs are both storytellers and ‘acrobats’, manoeuvring their way around the kitchen and even the diner’s tables, serving up food that spoke volumes, in texture, flavour and beyond.

One of the my favourite course – the picnic basket. I really wanted to ask if I could buy their basket, and ceramic plate.

One of the things you left the restaurant with, other than an incredibly filled tummy and happy tastebuds, is a bag of treats – a chocolate bar and a whole mason jar of their iconic granola. Yes granola, and it’s nothing high brow. It’s really just homely hearty granola. But there was something about this granola. It was both sweet and tart and savoury, all at the same time. Super tasty and incredibly addictive. I finished it within days.

Since then, I have yet to savour a granola as good as theirs. I’ve always wondered what made their granola so special. I only found out years later – thanks to NYT Cooking. Sam Sifton, New York Times food editor posted the much coveted recipe to Eleven Madison Granola a few years ago and because of that, I was able to relive my New York trip and at the same time, share the joy with my family. Daryl agrees that this granola is pretty bad-a**. He doesn’t usually like granola (especially commercial ones) because they’re just too damn sweet. I’ve also made several minor adjustments, which can be found at the recipe below.

The granola mix, pre-baking. Remember to only put the dried cherries last, after it’s baked. You don’t want to risk burning them.
It’s hard finding nice plump dried sour cherries so I am pretty stoked with the ones by Eden Organic.
All mixed in!

The pistachios can be substituted with pecans if you wish. I know not everyone is a fan of pistachios.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¾ cups rolled oats (I used 3 cups)
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
  • ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I used 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup dried sour cherries  (I get mine from iHerb – The Montmorency Tart cherries by Eden Organics is perfect) 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pistachios, coconut, pumpkinseeds and salt.
  2. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well.
  3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola over it. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way.
  4. Remove granola from oven, and mix into it the dried sour cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container. Makes about 6 cups.
A whole lotta granola! This will last you 1-2 weeks tops.
Categories
recipe Relationship

Utterly Divine Banana Bread

Food to me is life. I don’t care much for the material things of this world, really. For as long as I know, I’ve been searching for food experiences to keep in my memory bank. Food gives me comfort, it is the epitome of love – love for yourself (feeding your body well), love for others (expression of your love to others), and love for the world (respecting food, by enjoying the ingredients and making it well).  

It is to no surprise then, that I found a chef to marry me (I must have cast quite a spell, I like to think it was my baking) and who still wants to be with me even after almost 4 years of marriage. Given the current circuit breaker (Singapore’s version of a lite lockdown), I was ready to face a version of us that was all snark, and no patience. With 5 warm bodies under 1 roof, tensions will run high and it has. Thankfully we are in tune to our love languages – that being acts of love, like cooking for one another. 

So last Saturday, I woke up and decided to bake Daryl some stupendously delicious banana bread. He had casually mentioned the other day that banana bread was one of the first things he made for me. As I have a memory as non-existent as Dory from Finding Nemo, I could not remember.  He told me to go check Instagram and lo and behold, I found that dish of love: 

bananabread_on_insta
Awww… that banana bread he made for me, forever eternalised on the corners of the ‘Gram.

That brought back so many warm and fuzzy feelings! We had only just started dating little over a month by then. All our dates were about food – checking out that new cafe, or him surprising me with a night picnic (a small grass patch just below his apartment ha) with a charcuterie platter. Just thinking about those memories made me relish our time and bond together. It was a good reminder of what a great team we make. And I truly believe any day is a good day to say ‘thank you’ via a loaf of pure banana-nana love (trust me on this, it’s that good).

Just a few ingredients and some good overripe bananas.

I will have you know first that I’ve not made many banana breads in my life. Probably only 5 other times. And each time, I have used only recipes from Smitten Kitchen. She’s a great cook and baker and she’s so precise with her instructions. This time, I made several small tweaks just to change things up. Dang, it turned out to be a bonus! One thing I did right was to buy Pisang Raja bananas (or Musa Belle, here’s a guide on which is which), and to wait patiently for it to go really black and ugly (overripe). You will know when they are ready to be used for your banana bread – that intoxicating scent catches you when you walk past. 

The overripe Pisang Raja bananas – super easy to mash as they’re already so soft.

Once ripe, and if you’re not going to use it immediately, do freeze it – they last a long time. 

Banana bread batter ready for the oven.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 115 grams unsalted butter (vegan option – swap with coconut oil)
  • 50g coconut sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar (small note on sweetness. I prefer to let that natural ripe banana sweetness come through thus I use less sugar. you can tweak sugar amount to preference)
  • 4 large mashed large Pisang Raja bananas (try not to use Marshall Cavendish ones – they have the least flavour)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt (sea salt or otherwise)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 175°C. Butter a loaf pan or coat it with a nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Keep 2 slices of banana for decorating the top, before you mash the rest. 
  3. Melt butter (or coconut oil, if going vegan) in a large bowl and whisk in the sugars until smooth.
  4. Stir in mashed banana. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sprinkle the surface of the batter evenly with salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder, and whisk until the ingredients are mixed well.
  5. Add flour and stir until combined. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. It should come to just over 1/2-inch from the top rim. Place your two bananas at the top. If you like a nice caramelised top, sprinkle some raw demerara sugar
  6. Bake banana bread for 65 minutes. It is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted into the bread is batter-free
  7. Let cool completely in pan. Remove from pan once cool. Make sure not to slice it until it’s completely cool.
  8. It keeps for a week in the fridge (or 5 days at room temp).
Voila! Moist, naturally sweet with an intoxicating banana scent.

Have a lovely week, and remember, love one another and if you’re not one to verbalise it, then use your actions! Bake a banana bread, go bananas!

Categories
Childhood recipe

Orange Earl Grey Ice Cream

Like most kids growing up, the ice cream flavours I knew were decadent chocolate, comforting vanilla and delightful strawberry. Birthdays and special occasions meant that we could all share one giant tub (a whopping 1.5 litres) of Neopolitan – of which we would proceed to dive our faces and grimy tiny hands into. These ice cream flavours were also a perfect reflection of how simple our lives were; easily ranked from good (vanilla), better (strawberry), best (chocolate)! And when living in a ridiculously hot and humid climate, a cool decadent treat is everything you dream of.

As an adult, now, I rarely settle for just chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those classics. It’s just knowing what’s out there – the exotic (think burrata, ube, durian), intriguing (Marmite ice cream anyone?) and even strange (wasabi, gorgonzola cheese), that makes my tastebuds tremble with excitement.

My ice cream flavour obsession of late has been Earl Grey, Hazelnut and Brandy Apple Pie, made by that awesome local creamery Ice Cream Cookie Co. Alas, due to the on-going #circuitbreaker (semi lockdown), there has been a dearth of available flavours from said brand (their production line was suspended due to the government’s directive 2 weeks ago). And I do love a good tea-based ice cream. Earl Grey is also my preferred tea of choice.

As with most things these days, when a craving hits, and there are no commercial options, make it! I’m not particularly fond of making ice cream because I’ve only ever made it less than 10 times in my life and most times, the ice crystals were a little too big, so it was like creamy slush. But I’m a huge believer of “if you fail once, twice, thrice, just try again!”. So off I went. I used a recipe from David Lebovitz (he’s one of my foodie heroes. Most of my young adult days were spent drooling over his blogposts about dreamy Paris and amazing rustic Parisian food. He’s also got a reputation for really solid, reliable ice-cream recipes (‘The Perfect Scoop’ is a must-have. I had a copy even though I never made much ice-cream). If you have an ice-cream maker, great, and if you don’t – just churn it by hand every hour.

Straining the custard of the loose tea.

There are many variations of ice-cream but my favourite is still the French custard style with its generous portion of egg yolks. The rich, velvety texture is worth it. But make sure you don’t take your eye off the pot when waiting for the custard to thicken. For me, it took all of 4 mins.

Finished ice cream mixture in the ice-bath.

Feel free to taste the finished mixture at this point and see if you’d like to add more orange flavour. Then into the fridge it goes for further chilling before the churning begins.

Chilled mixture going into the ice-cream maker

If you forsee making ice-cream on the regular, I would suggest investing in a machine with a decent motor. The one I used is about 2-years old and I’ve only used it two other times and both times it got stuck half-way because the outer rim formed a hard layer, blocking the paddle. With both fingers and toes crossed, I was hoping that it would run smoothly this time. It was not to be. The motor on the machine got overheated and stopped turning 30 mins so…I got a really good arm workout.

Churnin’, churnin’, churnin’ and then wham, it stopped.
Not bad for a hand-churned ice-cream.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used demerara sugar for a nice slightly caramel flavour
  • A pinch of salt (Maldon sea salt is my preferred)
  • 1/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea (or contents of 6 Earl Grey Tea bags)
  • Finely grated zest of 4 medium oranges (I only had 1 orange, so I added 1/2 tsp orange oil on top of the zest)
  • 5 large egg yolks

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tea leaves and orange zest. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Taste and let sit longer if you want a stronger flavour.
  3. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1-1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl (this helps the custard cool quicker when you pour it in later). Set a fine strainer on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  4. Rewarm the cream mixture over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.
  5. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the spatula and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4 to 8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 79°C to 82°C at this point. Don’t let the sauce overheat or boil, or it will curdle. Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath. Press firmly on the tea leaves and orange zest in the strainer with the spatula to extract as much flavour as possible.
  6. Cool the custard to below 21°C by stirring it over the ice bath. Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Transfer the just-churned ice cream to an air-tight container, and freeze for at least 4 hours or up to 2 weeks.

I had some for breakfast (oh no don’t you pretend you’ve never had ice-cream for breakfast?) and lunch, and I’m about to have some more. It’s almost half gone as Ciaran and Daryl both loves it. Looks like this recipe is going to our McAlea recipe box!

Categories
Parenting recipe

Choco-Avo Spread

A crucial ninja skill all parents master at some point is the ability to disguise wholesome foods as something super droolsome. This skill takes plenty of practice and requires copious amounts of patience, and trial and error.

Ciaran slathering on some my super choc avo spread onto Daryl’s homemade sourdough bread.

My husband Daryl and I are pretty enthused food-lovers. We enjoy cooking as much as we love eating and when I first got pregnant, we were super excited to having ‘mini-gourmands’ who would appreciate food. Boy were we in for a sweet surprise (parents, are you nodding along with me?).

As it turns out, toddlers have pretty weird food preferences. Ciaran has gone through several phases now. He had a rice & egg stage, a noodle-phase and now he’s really into mangoes. We are truly tickled at his food requests. We now have plenty of “want chocolate” pleas. I claim responsibility for this – as a chocolate fanatic myself, I have my own chocolate snack stash and toddlers never say no to chocolate. Most of my chocolate treats has way too much sugar for a 3yo so I’ve been diligently seeking out ways to make kid-friendly chocolate snacks that are enticing enough but also healthy at the same time.

This concoction is one of them. I’ve been making this super easy blender-friendly tasty chocolate spread for a while now but usually just for myself. I made it again this week and decided to share it with Ciaran. And it seems like we have another winner.

Super easy and quick to make!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or agave)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I’m partial to Green & Black’s, as the chocolate is more intense)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce (don’t worry, you won’t taste it, this is to neutralise the avo taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor (or a blender).
  2. Chill in the refrigerator and enjoy as is or keep in a jar to use as a scrummy chocolate spread like I do. Freeze some, if you don’t forsee finishing it within 3-4 days.
Decadently thick, but also super healthy at the same time – double win.

This can be served as a chocolate mousse substitute if you’ve got vegan family members or friends coming over (well after the pandemic eases up) for dinner. Sometimes, I just dip apple slices in it for a quick afternoon snack.

Quick note about the avocados – make sure they are duly ripe because it’s important to have it creamy and buttery. Semi or unripe avocados will result in stronger ‘grassy’ tasting spread. I learnt from experience. Sharing with you this helpful colour guide I spotted at the supermarket to determine the best time to use your avocados.

Categories
Life recipe

Peanut Butter Cookies

A mother’s food memory of baking and having fun in the kitchen.

Before I became a mother, I had many thoughts and ideas about the kind of parent I’d be to my kid(s). Like most, these ideals stemmed from my own childhood. Food is a big deal in our family; Dad had always been a terrific cook and my earliest food memory is of the ubiquitous belachan (fermented shrimp paste) aroma that permeated our kitchen (and our whole apartment) whenever he made my favourite sambal belachan. I used to compete with my siblings to see who could tahan (Malay for tolerate) the most amount of said sambal. Oh the beads of sweat that would trickle down my temple as I shoveled down that tangy, briny and very shrimpy chili staple with copious amounts of rice and whatever was on our dinner table.

Though not much of a baker, Dad would whip up some gloriously light and fragrant orange pound cake whenever my school had a fund-raising carnival (fellow Convent girls will know what I’m talking about). You see, we each had to contribute to our class ‘stall’ and my dad’s slices of pound cake would always sell out by mid-day. At $0.10 a slice, it was quite a steal.

To this day, any mention of pound cake and I think of that citrusy rendition that I associate pound cake with. With my eyes closed, I catch an imaginary whiff of that orange scent, from all the freshly grated rind.

That cake memory may very well be the genesis of a certain fantasy I began to paint in my mind – I would own a large kitchen where I baked/cooked everything my heart desired and where I would eventually relegate my kid(s) to, training them up to be my adorable little Oompa Loompas. Isn’t it every parent’s dream for their kids to bring them breakfast in bed during the weekends?

Thus began my personal journey as an amateur baker and cook (I can’t teach my kid(s) unless I pick up some skills eh?). In 2005, I started a little blog to document my kitchen experiments, both good and not so good ones. It was an era before Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp mind you. Blogger (and later on WordPress) was the hottest platform to be on. I made so many wonderful friends (far and wide) via my blog. I used to participate in what was called “Blogging by Mail“. I’ve had hardtack candies sent to me from Tennessee, USA, and I once mailed Milo and my signature chocolate chunk cookies to Iowa. I moved my blog to a .net domain in 2009 but due to some technical roadblocks I lost my site (along with my posts) and relied mostly on Instagram to churn out more foodporn and what I’ve since been baking for my own family and kids.

Having been more nostalgic, and contemplative (no thanks to the pandemic), I re-read some of my old posts and realised that I really miss long-form writing. Instant posts on the ‘Gram or FB just didn’t cut it. There was an itch to scratch. With more time on my hands, I sunk my teeth into WordPress once more. There’s no time better than the present for me to document this chapter of my life as a mother and wife. It would be really nice for my sons to have a record of our kitchen (and other) adventures.

Yesterday, my son Ciaran walked into the kitchen and asked me “where cookies?”. Last weekend’s batch of homemade oatmeal cookies had been depleted (we are a very hungry family) and he wanted more. I asked what type of cookies he wanted me to make – “Peanut butter!” he shouted with enthusiasm. Our family goes through peanut butter faster thank you can say “peanut butter jelly time”. Our preferred brand of choice is most definitely Pic’s peanut butter. They use hi-oleic peanuts and they’ve got a salt-free option that we love.

Peanut butter – a staple we always have in our pantry.

With my jar of peanut butter at the ready, I started to prep and weigh out the ingredients. Just as I was about to combine everything, in came Ciaran with his wide smile, and a really sweet “Wanna help you Mama”. At that second, my heart swelled with pride and love. My little kitchen helper brought over his stool and he helped to mix the flour, and also the gooey peanut butter mixture.

Ciaran enjoys helping me in the kitchen.

You don’t really need a mixer for this recipe. We did it by hand, with our trusty whisk. Once the dough is formed, make sure you chuck it in the fridge so that it’s nice and firm for easy shaping later on. Now this is the part that Ciaran enjoyed the most. If your kid loves Play-Doh, this would be a fun activity!

Forming a cool pattern with the tines of a fork. Ciaran did a very good job!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (I substituted with coconut sugar)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (my preferred brand is Pic’s)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Prepare your baking sheets (or just use a silicon heat-proof mat like I do).
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of electric mixture combine the melted butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract. Beat just until well blended. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
  4. Refrigerate cookies until dough is stiff enough to shape into balls, about 2 hours. Using a tablespoon scoop out dough and with wet hands shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart of baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or a cookie press lightly press on the ball of dough to slightly flatten and make an indentation.
  5. Bake until bottoms are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cookies cool briefly on the pans. Using a wide flexible spatula transfer the warm cookies to a rack to cool.

    Makes about 36 cookies.

    *Taken from Williams-Sonoma Cookie cookbook.
Done in just 15 minutes. These smell phenomenal and taste like roast peanuts.

They are pretty dope warm, and fresh out of the oven but make sure you let it rest for at least 15 mins on the pan so it sets right. I had to pry Ciaran away from the hot sheet pans as he was so eager to take some once he saw me get them out of the oven.

These would be really good if dipped in dark chocolate.

Ciaran wanted 1, 2, 3 pieces and since he was such good help, I obliged.

My sweet cookie monster.

Cookie-making is a great gateway to an exciting world of baking for kids who want to help in the kitchen. My 3yo boy seems to share our passion for food. We can’t wait for him to advance to ‘bigger’ recipes – even if it’s just so we can put our feet up one day and have him cook a meal for us.

To all mothers out there, I wish you a hearty Happy Mother’s Day. I congratulate you for all you have done and even more that you will do for your kid(s)!

Categories
recipe

Easy Breezy Oat Squares

My g0-to fast snack option for the family. Takes less than 15 mins.

Snack bars are my achilles heel. Last month, I counted more than 6 varying types and brands of snack bars bursting through my pantry shelves. Granola, nut, protein, chia seed, wholegrain, and buckwheat bars, just to name a few. My husband Daryl has since banned me from adding to my impressive stash. I am trying to reign my obsession in. I would argue that snack bars are an essential. Fellow mothers reading this, I’m sure you’d nod in unison to all the reasons why snack bars are a must-have (especially with our on-going Covid-19 pandemic)!

  • You can multi-task even if inundated with back-to-back-to-back work conference calls; no time for lunch, no problem, a bar, 3 bites and all the energy to keep going
  • Keeps for longer, which means lesser grocery runs
  • Nutritious! Well most are, depends which ones you get. I like oat-based, wholegrain ones.
  • Great for when I feel peckish and trying not to open that bag of crisps.

But I’m not here to sell you snack bars or fawn all over them. I wanted to share a really great snack bar recipe I found and have been adapting every time I make it. Since I gobble that much snack bars, I might as well make my own and put in all the good stuff.

Pre-sliced oat bar in pan
No-bake oat snack bars, prior to slicing.

These bars are a cinch to make because they do not require you to bake and only involves 5 ingredients (excluding the fixings you decide to add).

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping cup packed pitted dates (medjool/deglet noor)*
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar or honey) 
  • 2 tbsp barley malt syrup*
  • 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter (or any nut butter really)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, coarse chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, toasted (I like to use Bob Red Mill’s Extra Thick Rolled Oats)
  • Cocoa nibs, raisins, cranberries, vanilla, or any other dried fruit etc would make great add-ins.

Method

  1. Process pitted dates in a food processor or blender (I use the latter and it works fine) for about 1-2 mins until it forms a sticky dough-like consistency.
  2.  If your almonds aren’t pre-roasted, toast them at 150°C for 10 mins
  3. Optional: Toast your rolled oats at 180°C for 10-12 mins (it should be a nice toasty golden brown)
  4. Combine rolled oats, almonds and date mixture in a bowl and set aside
  5.  Combine your syrups and peanut butter and warm them up in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over the oat mixture. 
  6. Use a sturdy spatula to mix thoroughly, until combined. Place in an 8×8-inch baking dish or a small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
  7. Press down firmly until uniformly flattened.  Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove bars from pan and chop into however many bars or squares you want, to size. I prefer small bite-size 1.5 inch squares.
  9. Store them in the freezer so they last longer.

Notes:
*Barley malt syrup is something I just discovered. It is easily available on iHerb and is an unrefined liquid sweetener made from soaked and sprouted barley. Its consistency is similar to molasses and golden syrup. I find that it helps bind these snacks better and I really like the flavour.
 

Tasty morsels filled with oat-goodness.

As a chocolate fiend, I had to resist throwing in chocolate chips into these bars. I wanted it to be healthy so cocoa nibs was a good alternative. It was a double-win actually – bittersweet meets natural gooey sweetness. Utter bliss and without (that much) guilt. I much prefer these bars now, and have indeed been buying less commercial made ones.

My son Ciaran is a huge fan of these snack bars.

Simple and (slightly) effortless, that’s everything you need to know about these bars. Blend, chop, mix, freeze and slice. I usually make them at night so they are nice and sturdy by the next day for my (and my son’s) enjoyment and due sustenance.