‘Not my sisters mince pies’ Christmas cupcakes

Every Christmas, Sister Two bakes what may possibly be the most amazing mince pies in the entire galaxy. Some of you will shake your head and ask, ‘what kind of lunatic overstatement is that?’ Let me put it plainly. They just are. So there. These pastries are legendary enough to convert this mince pie loather into someone who actually delights in partaking of a few (delicate cough), every festive season. In the spirit of inclusivity for the gluten intolerant and coeliacs in our hoard, Sister Two also makes a gluten free batch. The Yak, who is English, adores these short-crusted and delicious wee morsels. Fruitcake, mince pies and plum puddings are the stuff of his festive childhood memories and dreams.

It is easy to know when The Yak is missing home. He hops onto the Information Superhighway and begins googling houses for sale in his hometown of Ulverston. (No Yak, we are not moving there.) A spot of coeliac cheering up was required but being a sensible woman, something simple was required. After all, it is only five more sleeps until the mince pie fairy works her magic and the roly-poly bloke in the red suit visits. I thought that a light cupcake version of a fruitcake would provide some solace to my far less portly old man. The weather is getting hot, hot, hot and these sponge-like, fruity, ever so slightly boozy cakes would be a super dessert on the day itself. Pop them in a fancy tin as an edible Christmas gift or just do as the Yak did. Happily devour them with a good strong cuppa tea.

Merry Christmas to my Yak and to you all.

GLUTEN FREE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU NEED
175g butter, softened
150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g gluten free self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice
115g mixed dried fruit (I used 50g each of currants, sultanas and chopped dried tart cherries)
2 tbsp brandy or orange juice
115g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water
White sanding sugar or edible white glitter or even regular white sugar for sprinkling on top
(2 tbsp extra brandy, liquer Muscat or rum or if you choose to soak the fruit)

HOW YOU DO IT
If you want a more traditional boozy Christmas flavour, soak the fruit in the extra tablespoon of brandy or rum for an hour or two before baking. I used a liquer Muscat. Delicious.
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 12 hole muffin tray , placing a circle of baking paper at the bottom of each hole. I used smaller brown cupcake papers and gave each one a light spray with a non-stick cooking spray.
Place the butter, sugar, eggs into a large bowl then sift flour, baking powder and spices over the top.
Beat with a hand held mixer (I used my stand mixer) for 3-4 minutes until pale and creamy.
Fold in the fruit and brandy or orange juice.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin trays or papers.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until they have risen and are golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Leave in the tray for 5 minutes then remove and let cool on a baking tray.
Once they are completely cooled, sift the icing sugar then add enough of the hot water to make a smooth and thick icing. Ice the cakes then sprinkle a shedload of the sparkly snow like sugar/glitter over the top of the cakes.
Makes 12 regular small muffin size or 14 smaller cupcake sizes.

Cooking Notes: These cupcakes freeze well, just don’t ice them. You can also pop a glace cherry on top of each with with some fake (or real) holly leaves so they look like mini-plum puddings.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Good To Know website. Website link after photos.

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/536399/mini-christmas-cakes


Big healthy balls

The original intent of this post was not to highlight men’s health. However, seeing as we are still in the month of November it does seem appropriate to touch briefly (yes, figuratively speaking) upon this subject. November is the chosen month of The Movember Foundation, a global charity that focuses on encouraging men to live longer, happier and healthier lives. Founded in 2003 and focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity, they have raised over $685 million dollars. This has been through the growing of moustaches for thirty days in ‘Movember’ or something called MOVE. A thirty day physical fitness challenge. An awesome effort in my opinion.

Having witnessed the devastation that cancer can wreak and the heartbreak that suicide brings to all, I say ‘balls’ to the bad old days of men just ‘pushing through and getting on with it’. If you are a man, go get those regular doctors checks and let us all start more open dialogues regarding men’s health and mental well being. Discussing emotions and seeking professional help when needed, is not just for chicks. As my young lads grow into this world, we encourage them to talk about their feelings and try to convey to them that being a man, is not just about showing the world a tough exterior.

Back to the original topic. These date, nut and prune laden ovoid edibles are a delicious healthy bite for those peckish times. Based on a recipe that a friend has been making for a while, I must admit to feeling completely ripped off that they were not her usual scrumptious old school spherical butter, chocolate and biscuit goodies. However, as balls will do (on those of us who are male), they have grown on me.

Adaptations include swapping the oats for gluten free puffed millet, using whatever nuts I had on hand and opening a jar of wondrous Prunes in Vinno Cotto (or vincotto) from the Western Australian Cape Farm Shop. (Given by the mothership after a recent sojourn she enjoyed there.) Vincotto is essentially a condiment made from unfermented grapes that are slowly cooked until they become thick and syrupy. These prunes added a sweet and almost musty piquancy to this unctuous mixture of nuts, fruit and cocoa. You can of course, use regular prunes if you have nothing similar.

Healthy balls, we all need them.

HEALTHY GLUTEN FREE DATE AND NUT BALLS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 2/3 cups pecans (original recipe called for 1 cup walnuts and 2/3 cup raw cashews)
2/3 cup 100g almonds (recipe asked for blanched I used regular almonds, skins on)
150g pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes (mine were in vinocotto)
1/3 cup sultannas
1/3 cup tart dried cherries (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup apricots chopped but I used sultannas and cherries)
1/2 cup puffed millet (puffed amaranth or rice would also work)
2 tbl sesame seeds
2 tbl cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla essence)
2 tbl honey
1 cup dessicated coconut

HOW YOU DO IT

Place the pecans and almonds (or whatever nuts you have chosen) into a frypan and cook over a low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted.
Using a food processor, process them until finely chopped.
Add the dates, prunes, sultannas, cherries, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla and honey into the food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes until the mixture forms a paste.
Divide the mixture into golf ball sizes (about 50g) and roll into balls. It helps if you lightly moisten your hands before rolling them.
Roll the balls in the coconut and serve.
Store in an airtight container, as we have had extremely hot weather, I refrigerated ours.
Makes 12 balls.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a Jill Dupleix recipe from the Delicious website,

https://au.movember.com/about/foundation

https://www.beyondblue.org.au

http://www.delicious.com.au/recipes/date-nut-beach-balls/67e3e391-4a01-4302-904a-d4583e26ca85

http://capefarmshop.com.au/category/recipes/page/2/


Black sesame chocolate cake, looking into the heart of darkness

A person with a vivid imagination could easily gaze into the inky black oil slick that is this cake batter and associate it with all that is dark and evil. Easy to do, in the distressing and challenging times we are currently living in. The portion of my soul that is part poet longs to wax allegorically. However, the pragmatist within, gave the poet inside, a short sharp slap around the chops. Serving as a stern reminder that this was merely a cake made of black sesame powder, given as a gift by a sweet friend. Pondering what to do with this bounty, there was certainly something fortuitous in the recipe that popped up on my Facebook feed a day or so later.

Black sesame seeds are rich in vitamin B and iron and the Chinese believe they assist in slowing down the ageing process. (Anti-ageing you cry! Be warned, they can also have a laxative effect so don’t start chowing down on them by the handful.) They contain nutrients that protect the heart, aid digestion and can assist in lactation. Quite the tiny powerhouse indeed.

Ground sesame has the aroma of a musty health food store but this rich dense cake ends up tasting nutty and earthy. The generous slathering of chocolate ganache atop this somewhat grim looking bake is a decadent and welcome addition. Maybe it is a cake perfect for a Halloween or Day of the Dead celebration. Our children were extremely fond of this toothsome dessert despite it’s subdued sweetness. To the point of asking for extra servings, repeatedly. And there certainly isn’t anything dark about that.

BLACK SESAME CHOCOLATE CAKE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
200g (1 1/3 cups) black sesame seeds (I used 1 cup ground sesame seed powder as that’s what I had.)
200g butter, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
185g (1 cup) coconut sugar
100g (1 cup) almond meal
35g (1/3 cup) plain gluten free flour
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
Chocolate Ganache
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100 ml pure cream

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.
Grind the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice mill. (I didn’t need to as my seeds were already ground.)
Put the butter and sesame seed paste into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until melted.
Remove from heat and place into a large bowl, allow to cool down for ten minutes.
Stir the eggs and sugar into the sesame seed mixture.
Sift the almond meal, flour and baking powder into the sesame seed mixture and gently fold to combine.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to stand in the tin for ten minutes before turning onto a cake tray to cool completely.
To make the chocolate ganache, combine the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate melts.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes, until thickened.
Spread the ganache over the cake and allow to set. Cut into small pieces and serve.

Recipe from the SBS Food Website taken from Beautiful Food by Jody Vassallo, published by Harlequin.
http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/black-sesame-chocolate-cake?cid=23230


A honey cake fit for a Pooh Bear

‘Pooh said goodbye affectionately to his fourteen pots of honey and hoped they were fifteen, and he and Rabbit went out into the Forest.’

Recently, I accidentally found myself with three kilograms of glorious honey. It may not have been Pooh’s fourteen pots but it did feel as if the gods of providence had smiled upon me.

This abundance of golden liquid ambrosia called for a honey cake. The weather had turned nasty so all and sundry were cooped up within the confines of the house. The Pied Piper smell of the melting honey, butter and sugar enticed lads of all sizes into the kitchen. ‘What is that smell?’ they whispered wondrously. This cake smelt of every good thing that ever existed.

The warmy woody spices balanced the cakes caramel like sweetness. Honey is a natural source of sugar but from what I have read, it isn’t necessarily a healthier sweetener when used in baking. However, when consumed in its raw and unheated state it contains antioxidants as well as anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Maybe Pooh Bear really was a bear before his time but I am also sure that he wouldn’t have turned up his nose at a little smackeral of this moreish cake. Particularly if it was eleven o’clock.

GLUTEN FREE HONEY CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
250g clear honey and 2 tbls extra for glazing
225g unsalted butter, chopped
80g dark sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
300g gluten free self-raising flour (or regular SR flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 140C and grease and line a 22cm springform tin.
Place the honey, butter and sugar into a medium saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat. When the mixture looks quite liquid, increase the heat and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
Let the honey mixture cool down, this prevents the eggs cooking when they are added. (This took about half an hour.)
Once cooled, beat the eggs into the honey mixture using a wooden spoon.
Sift the flour and spices over the honey and egg mixture and beat until you have a smooth and quite runny batter.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes until the cake is risen well, golden and springs back to the touch. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean.
Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the pan then turn onto a wire rack.
Warm the 2 tbl of reserved honey and brush over the top of the cake to give it a sticky glaze. Allow to cool. Then eat a smackeral around eleven o’clock in the morning. You won’t regret it.
Store wrapped, in an airtight container.

Cooking Notes
If you don’t require this cake to be gluten free, simply use the same amount of regular plain self-raising flour.

A Cheergerm adaptation a recipe from the BBC Good Food website. Link provided after photos.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1840/devonshire-honey-cake

The leading quote comes from AA Milnes beloved and charming children’s novel ‘The House at Pooh Corner.’


Building windmills millet and rice puff squares

Me: I don’t like it, it’s new.

Kid 1: Stop building walls and build windmills.

I stare agog at this child of mine dispensing wise advice like a miniature life coach. This ‘set in its ways’ brain of mine has forgotten what ‘new’ thing I was alluding to. He was referring to an ancient Chinese proverb that goes ‘when the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.’ Change is one of the few things in life that is constant. Having always thought of myself as someone adapts to change readily, I was somewhat taken aback. It would seem that ‘wall building’ creeps up on you. Not wanting to be the stubborn person who remains unresponsive to all that is new, I will have to remain vigilant. (In other words, I do not want to become what is commonly known as ‘an old fart’.) I am thankful (mostly), that my Anthony Robbins wannabe son will keep me on the straight and narrow.

One thing that has thus far remained constant, is my love of the ever changing world of food and the brilliant adventure of trying new recipes. My latest cookbook love is The Wholesome Cook, written by Martyna Angelas. The creator of an award-winning blog, her book is chock full of refined sugar-free wholesome recipes. It is a stylish tome full of inspiring photos and a wide range of nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals. Her sensible philosophy really resonates with me. She acknowledges that no single diet fits everybody the same and as our environments and bodies change, so should our diet. No wall building going on in this book. Some of my earmarked recipes include the Polish gingerbread cake, the double chocolate and caramel popcorn cake, kale and cashew pesto, the fennel, ginger and turmeric soup and the sweet and sour lamb riblets. My mouth is watering already.

This nifty little snack lives up to its promise. A few changes were made to the original recipe but this was merely due to the fact that I wanted to use whatever I had on hand. It is a grown up, healthy-err, gluten free version of salted caramel rice bar. The tangy fruit adds a zesty brightness to it. Moreish, chewy and a new favourite for the adults in our household.

MILLET AND RICE KRISPIE SQUARES, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
3 cups gluten free crispy rice cereal (I used wholegrain brown rice puffs)
1/2 cup puffed millet (the recipe calls for puffed quinoa)
3 tbl dried blueberries or cranberries (I used tart dried cherries, chopped)
1/2 cup hulled tahini (I used unhulled as its all I had)
1/2 cup rice malt syrup
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 1/2 tsp salt (optional, I used 1 tsp, this gives it the salted caramel flavour, the recipe says its optional, I highly recommend going the salt route)
1 tbl (15g) raw cacao butter (I used unsalted butter)

HOW YOU DO IT
Line a 29cm square baking tin with baking paper.
Place rice cereal, puffed millet and dried fruit into a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine tahini, rice malt syrup, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.
Melt, stirring gently over low heat until all ingredients are blended together. Do not boil. Add cacao butter (butter) and whisk until melted.
Pour warm mixture over rice cereal mixture and mix well. (Move fast while the mixture is still warm.)
Transfer to prepared tin and press into the base, corners and edges. I used my small off-set spatula to do this.
Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before slicing into squares. We kept our squares refrigerated.

Recipe from The Wholesome Cook by Martyna Angell, published by Harlequin, October 2015

http://wholesome-cook.com


A messy life and a messy rhubarb and coconut slice

In our social media lives, we are inundated with beauty. Images of gorgeous food, people and places rain down upon us from our Instagram, Facebook and blogging feeds. This stuff floats my boat. It inspires and feeds the creative beast that lurks within. There is nothing wrong with beauty, with wanting to create it or own it. It lifts our spirits and soothes our eyes and souls when we are weary, low or merely bored.

Beauty lubricates life and is the grease that keeps my wheels turning. But there is a flip side to every coin and a ying to every yang.

When viewing these images, we can easily forget the chaos that goes on behind the scenes and that life is intrinsically messy. Children are, intimacy is, friendships and family can be. My hair is messy and curly, no matter how I may try to tame it. My house is a weird mixture of beauty, clutter and order. Work is not always straightforward, nor is writing a blog. It can be difficult to decide how much to reveal and how much to keep private. Disarray abounds.

This slice reminded me of that fact. Whilst trying to smooth the troublesome batter into the cake tin, the temptation of binning the entire bake was high. My fingers were steeped in a sticky blend of butter and flour and as the vibrant rhubarb poached, my temper rose to simmering point. The coconut crumble for the top resembled the surface of the moon and the resulting photos looked shambolic. The scrappy coconut playing havoc with my focus (both the cameras and my own.)

Don’t post, came to mind. Yet it tasted so very, very good. The jammy sweet and sour rhubarb was offset by a crunchy biscuity bottom and the textural tropical macaroon topping. The Yak was a very happy man, giving it the big coeliac thumbs up. He certainly didn’t give a flying fig how it looked.

So perhaps, loveliness is also in the mess. We were brought up to believe that beauty is only skin deep and what truly matters is depth of character. Something we try and relay to our own children. So much of the food we consume at home isn’t always picture book perfect but it certainly tastes darned good.

Beauty perhaps, truly is in the eye of the beholder.

GLUTEN FREE RHUBARB AND COCONUT SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
150g butter, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup teff flour (or rice flour)
2 bunches rhubarb (I had one big bunch that weighed 550g) washed, trimmed and cut into 3cm lengths
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup caster sugar (to cook with rhubarb)

Topping
2 cups desiccated coconut
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup caster sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 160C and line a 3.5cm deep 16cm x 26 cm (base) lamington pan. I used a larger tin and spread the mixture out to roughly those dimensions.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the 1/3 cup of sugar until well combined.
Sift the plain and teff flours into the butter mixture and mix well.
Using an offset spatula (the recipe suggests floured fingertips but I found it far too messy), press and smooth the flour mixture evenly into a pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool down and increase the oven temperature to 170C.
While the base is cooking, combine the rhubarb, water and 1/4 cup caster sugar in a large saucepan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for up to ten minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool for about 30 minutes then spoon the rhubarb mixture over the cooled and cooked base.
Topping
Mix the eggs, sugar and coconut well, then spoon the mixture over the rhubarb. Press down and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until light golden. Cool in the pan and cut into squares or slices.

An adaptation of a recipe from the Taste website. Link to original recipe provided after the photos.

IMG_4719

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/7676/rhubarb+and+coconut+slice


Gluten free lemon coconut fridge slice, a happy accident

This recipe was a happy accident. Others accidents I have experienced have been far less joyful. Take for example the time that I gained rather painful third-degree burns on a delicate part of the anatomy, upon backing into a wall heater. In my defence, it was a cold and wintery Melbourne morning and the heater was irresistibly warm. No cheer found there.

Then a few years ago, I boarded a train, holding Kid 2’s pram with one hand and attempted to open the train door with the other. Pushing the door with undue force, I overbalanced and slipped into the gap between the train and the platform. Dangling from the train door handle, I utilised my superhuman strength and propelled myself upwards. My shoulder was badly damaged but I did have the wherewithal to let go of the pram when I slipped. Could have been worse but again, not happy.

Or the time that I haphazardly found myself in the middle of a bar fight that had nothing to do with me and was punched in the face. That experience provided very little glee indeed.

This tasty no-bake slice is just as good using either gluten free or regular store purchased biscuits. The recipe required 250g of biscuits but my pantry only coughed up a mere 160g packet of gluten free Anzacs. What to do? With the temperatures set to unseasonally and prematurely soar to 37 degrees Celsius there was no way that I was getting in the car to go shopping. It was also a public holiday and lassitude ruled the day.

Necessity once again being the mother of invention, my beady eyes happened upon some bags of puffed amaranth and millet. A cup of each was added and Eureka! It worked.

Chewy, cold, buttery and sweet, this fridge slice is balanced by a superb lemony punch. A happy accident indeed and so much more enjoyable than a real punch in the face. Trust me.

GLUTEN FREE LEMON AND COCONUT FRIDGE SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
125g butter
250g milk arrowroot biscuits gluten free or not ( Arrowroot work best but all I had was a 160g packet of gluten free Anzacs.)
1 cup puffed amaranth
1 cup puffed millet
1 tsp grated lemon rind (I used the rind of two small lemons)
1 cup desiccated coconut

Icing
1 3/4 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tbl lemon juice
15g butter, softened
2 tbl dessiccated coconut

HOW YOU DO IT
Line a lamington tin with nonstick baking paper.
Place condensed milk and butter in a saucepan. Stir over gentle heat until the butter has melted and the mixture has combined.
Crush the biscuits very finely. (Either old school by placing them in a plastic bag and beating the stuffing out of them with a rolling pin or sensibly, as I did, by placing them in a food processor.)
Place the biscuits into a large bowl, add the lemon rind and coconut. Mix well.
Add the condensed milk and butter to the biscuit mixture. Mix well.
Press the mixture into the tin, my slice was about 1.5 cm thick and about 24cm long x 23cm wide, it didn’t use up all the tin. Refrigerate for one hour.
Icing: Combine the sifted icing sugar, lemon juice and butter in a bowl. Mix well until smooth. Spread over the chilled biscuit base and sprinkle with the coconut.
Refrigerate until the icing is set, cut into small squares.

A Cheergerm adaptation from a recipe found on the Allrecipes website.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/12464/lemon-coconut-slice.aspx


A side of herb polenta bake and an aside

Yak: You are a good lad, will you look after me when I am old?
Kid 2: Probably, but I might be somewhere else.
Me: Kid 2, if I were you, I would start running now. Unfortunately, I have nowhere left to run.

This hearty side of polenta is magnificent Yak food. It helps trick convince The Yak into feeling like he is not ‘missing out’. There is very little that this side dish doesn’t go with. We have scoffed it down with a ratatouille like vegetarian sauce as well as a creamy braised mushroom dish. It goes beautifully with a myriad of casseroles or good piece of meat or fish. Breakfast for dinner? Try it with a fried or poached egg and some steamed asparagus.

Chuck in whatever herb combination tickles your fancy. No fresh herbs? Then throw in a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and let them steep in the stock whilst it comes to the boil. This version has parsley, thyme and a smidgen of sage. In the time it took me to prepare the thyme (boom tish) for this dish, my lads had gone to high school, got degrees, travelled the world and started families. Picking the leaves off thyme is one of the worst kitchen jobs. I would love to say I find it meditative but I don’t.

Take note if you will, of the beautiful wooden board that this polenta sits upon. Uncle R, a veritable goldmine of funny and punny one liners and the master of the ‘aside’ made this for me back in 1993. Whilst staying in Christchurch, NZ, with the always hospitable Uncle R and Aunty L, we took a day trip to Akaroa and stopped in at French Farm winery for a snack with flavour. Some of the food was served upon divine wooden boards that were labelled ‘French Farm Vineyards’. I admired them greatly and Uncle R, a collector of bits of wood (as well as of puns) said ‘Don’t worry niece, I shall make you a board just as nice as this one.’ (He would have said this in a silly voice, cause that’s how he rolls.)

Back at their house, he whipped up a piece of kauri (wood) into this gorgeous wee board, copying the details from the one back at the vineyard. It is exactly the same as the original version I had coveted. Bar one thing. It’s made with the love, care and thoughtful detail of my uncle, and it is far better than anything I could have ever purchased for myself. And that my friends, is something that you just don’t get bored of.

GARLIC AND HERB POLENTA BAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup gluten free veggie stock and 2 cups water (the original recipe calls for 3 cups of stock but I find it too salty for my taste.)
1 cup instant polenta
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, sage, thyme, oregano) this is a bit flexible I have also used 1-2 to 1 cup with great results.
3 tbl grated Parmesan
30g butter
Salt to taste
3 tbl grated Parmesan extra for topping

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 15cm x 15cm baking dish with baking paper. I use a larger one and it makes a wedge of polenta that is about 22cm x 18cm and 3cm high.)
Bring the stock and water to the boil in a medium saucepan.
Pour in the polenta and cook over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, the mixture should be very thick.
Stir in the garlic, chopped herbs, parmesan and butter and taste for seasoning.
Pour/spread the mixture into the baking dish. Smooth the surface and sprinkle with the extra Parmesan.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
Cut into triangles, squares or into whatever damn crazy shape you wish.
Serves 8 with one piece each.

Recipe from The Gluten-free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd

http://frenchfarm.co.nz/wordpress/


Healthy err gluten free brownies

First things first. Today marks the start of Coeliac Awareness Week in this vast land of thongs and Vegemite.  I for one, am very aware. The Silly Yak seemed to lack some awareness yesterday, when he ordered some salads for his lunch and one of them was couscous. (He has made a mental note to himself, couscous contains gluten, I must not eat gluten). Have a happy coeliac kind of week! 

Back to the healthy err brownie. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decadent chocolate brownie. Loads of butter, unctuous dark melted chocolate, a caramel swirl, a sprinkle of sea salt…burble…stay tuned for that recipe folks.

However, sometimes the inner health food hippy wins out. (That hippy would also like me to dress in long tie-dyed swirling skirts, multiple jangly bangles and a braided leather head band but I keep a sartorial lid on her, mostly.) 

These brownies are dialed back in the fat and sugar content and the addition of dates adds some texture and natural sweetness. It is a gluten free adaptation of a fave little Bill Granger recipe I have been using for a few years. No nuts have been used so the Kidlets can still take them to school. Try changing the dates to apricots or figs if you are not a fan of the date. (Don’t blame yourself if you aren’t, we all have our little oddities). 

They are actually better the next day, you know, a little more moist and all that.
 
Healthy err chocolate brownies

YOU NEED
60g (1/2) cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthum gum
50g (1/3) cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
100g (2/3 cup) chopped dried dates
90g unsalted butter, melted
80ml (1/3 cup) low fat milk (or whatever milk you got)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (1 tsp vanilla extract)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 160C
Lightly grease and line the base of a 20cm square non stick baking pan.
Sift the cocoa powder, gluten free and buckwheat flours, baking powder and xanthum gum into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together the butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Spread the mixture (it’s quite thick) into the tin and bake for 15 minutes or until just set.
Cool in the tin before cutting into squares. Dust with icing sugar (or don’t). (I did).

Adapted from Bill Grangers Healthy Chocolate Brownie recipe


Frozen cheesecake anyone?

Two weeks ago, whilst searching for a gluten free cheesecake recipe, I came across this little beauty on a great blog, The Gluten Free Scallywag. Now, being immensely fond of the word scallywag, it just had to be tried.

Too much citrus is never enough for this cheergerm, so I added a tad more lemon juice than the recipe said. As a result, when the springform pan was undone, it was a bit too melty to serve. To the freezer I cried! After an hour of nervous nail biting (or completely forgetting it was there due to the odd champers or two) we discovered, a frozen cheesecake! A delicious accident.

Kid 1 and The Yak loved it so much, I churned out another one for a Christmas get together the other night. Frozen cheesecake, that’s how we roll now baby. Before serving, I tumbled some blueberries atop in a very Nigella type manner.

My wee changes:
Grated the zest of one lemon and lime, halved it, added half to the base mixture and half to the cheese mixture.
Not having baked The Gluten Free Scallywags GF graham crackers, I used half GF arrowroot and half GF rice coconut biscuits.
I added 2 tablespoons of lime juice in the cheese mixture and sneaked in 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla paste as well.
Big cheesecake tip,always bring the cheese to room temperature before mixing.
I put the cheesecake in the fridge overnight then popped it in the freezer a few hours befor serving. Make sure you pull it out for about 15 minutes or so to ensure you can cut it.

Go here for the fantastic recipe!

http://www.glutenfreescallywag.com/2010/02/no-bake-cheesecake-gluten-free.html