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/


Gluten free date and ginger slice, minus three points

Kid 1 to our dog: Elvis I love you so much but I minus three points of love because you have no butt cheeks.

Kid 1 is a hard taskmaster. After being begged asked to try this slice, he had a tiny nibble. Letting me down as gently as he was able to, the sproglet informed me that ‘it was not to his taste and he didn’t like the ginger and chocolate together.’ Well, that left a large amount of slice for the taller people in our household. (Kid 2 saw the cornflakes and ran a mile.) Leftover gluten free cornflakes needed to be used up so this recipe was on my ‘to do’ list. The Yak and myself were big fans, as were the other friends that I palmed it off on shared it lovingly with. It is a bit like a poorer cousin of a fancy florentine, but no less delicious.

With a chewy unctuousness, this slice isn’t as sweet as you would imagine and the ginger is a welcome spicy surprise. It would be a wonderful addition to a Christmas celebration or packaged prettily as a festive gift. Containing dates, this concoction must be good for you and being doused in dark chocolate (which science has proven to be rich in important nutrients), it is doubly so.

Kid 1, I love you so much but I minus three points of love for you being such a fussy bugger.

GLUTEN FREE DATE AND GINGER SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 1/2 cups (180g) chopped dates
170g butter
85g sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
3 cups (80g) gluten free cornflakes
170g dark chocolate

HOW YOU DO IT
Put the chopped dates, butter, sugar and ginger into a medium sized saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly amalgamated. This takes about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and mix in the cornflakes.
When everything is well combined, press into a 30 X 21 cm shallow tin until it’s about 1cm thick. My slice was about 26cm long, it depends how thick you make it.
Once the mixture has cooled, put it in the fridge until it is quite firm. This took about 45 minutes.

Finishing
Melt the chocolate carefully and pour it over the chilled slice.
Spread out evenly with a knife or spatula, then score the surface of the chocolate with a fork.
Set aside to cool and cut into small fingers or squares.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container, separating the layers with baking or waxed paper. Makes about 20-25 squares, depending on the size.
Cooking Note: you can use regular cornflakes if you don’t require a gluten free slice.

Recipe from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/16/more-evidence-that-chocolate-may-be-good-for-the-heart-say-researchers#img-1


Titanic and a gluten free date slice

I swore I would never watch the movie, Titanic.

Managed to avoid it for years. Then, one stormy night, it came upon the TV and I did.

Lord, I loved it. Lord, I was surprised.

Leonardo Di Caprio, what a wee spunk. And the luminous Kate WInslet.

That kiss at the stern bow (I ain’t no freakin sailor) of the boat is the stuff that Mills and Boon is made of, on steroids. A sweaty palm on a fogged up window, the boat was heating up on the inside whilst the outside temperature dropped ominously.

All along, you know what is going to happen. Making this love story seem more heightened and intense.

Yeah, the ending sucked. Like really sucked. And mayhaps, you think the movie really sucks.

But this slice doesn’t.

If Kate and Leonardo had made it to a desert island (geographically unlikely I know) they could have made this slice with its tropical coconut and dates. Bummer.

The zippy lemon icing is the perfect foil (such a strange saying) to the sweetness of the dates and rich coconut. It’s like a bunch of hula dancing Hawaiian hotties jumped into your mouth and had a party.

DATE, COCONUT AND LEMON SLICE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup sorghum flour (60g)
1/4 cup brown rice flour (40g)
1/4 cup tapioca flour (40g)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp Xanthum gum
1 big pinch salt
1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup rapadura, coconut or brown sugar
Zest of a small lemon
125g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten

Lemon Icing
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbl lemon juice
15g butter, melted
1/4 cup extra coconut for sprinkling on top of slice

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line an 18cm x 28cm slice tin with baking paper.
Sift the flours, baking powder, xanthum gum and salt into a large bowl.
Stir in the coconut, dates, sugar and lemon zest.
Add the melted butter and beaten egg and mix well.
Spread into the baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and firm. Cool in the tray.
Lemon Icing. Whilst the slice is cooling, add all the ingredients in a bowl and combine until smooth. Spread over the slice and sprinkle with the coconut. Cut into 12 squares and serve in an airtight container. This slice is a bit crumbly when you cut it but the rest of the slice holds together well.

Cooking Notes:
If you don’t have all of these flours you can use 140g of your preferred self raising gf flour blend.
This icing is thin but I knocked back the amount of icing sugar to try and minimise the sugar content a tad.

A Cheergerm adaptation from a recipe from the Womans Day website. See below for the link to the original recipe.

http://www.womansday.com.au/food/recipes/readers-recipes/2008/7/date-and-lemon-slice/


Gluten free sticky date pudding and please, let me go

Let’s make this clear, it’s entirely my own fault. A little while ago, I purchased our two young lads the soundtrack to the movie Frozen. This Cheergerm adores musicals, loves them in fact. (Repeat after me, life IS a musical.) However, after one solid week of hearing the song ‘Let It Go’ over and over again (whilst they play sword fights), I have one small sentence.

Please, let me go….

Which brings me to this dessert I baked last weekend for company. (How very Little House on the Prairie of me). I had made a banging Osso Buco in my stupid slow cooker that I may or may not be getting the hang of. I have an ongoing love affair with my Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish and using the slow cooker feels somewhat like cheating on one’s husband. (It’s an emotional topic we shall save for another place and time.)

It was bloody freezing, so what better way to end a meal on a brass monkey kind of night, than with sticky date pudding? Cheergermed of course.

This pudding was light and airy, and it must be said, one of my happiest and most raved about gluten free desserts thus far. Due to extreme pudding hunger (pudger?) I rushed the sauce and didn’t caramelise the sugar and water enough. Hence, when I added the cream and butter, it turned an insipid white creamy brown. Panic set in, (not helped by the glass or two of sparkling Shiraz that may or may not have been consumed.) The peanut gallery, aka Sister number 3 and Mancurian bro-in-law shouted in rough tavern-like voices, ‘add brown sugar’ and ‘add treacle!’ ‘Eureka’ I yelled, ‘I shall add organic molasses!’ So I whacked a tablespoon of that crazy, unctuous goo into the sauce. Disaster averted.

It was good and they ate.

Gluten free sticky date pudding

WHAT YOU NEED
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and finely chopped (note my awesome 5kg bag of chopped dates is really coming in handy)
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 cup boiling water
100g sorghum flour
50g buckwheat flour
30g almond meal
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract if you don’t have this)
1/4 tsp xanthum gum
75g butter softened
3/4 cup brown sugar (or rapadura or coconut sugar)
2 large eggs

Caramel Sauce
2/3 cup raw caster sugar
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup thickened cream
20g butter

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan forced.) Grease and line the base of a 20cm square cake pan.
Combine the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over. Set aside whilst preparing the cake batter.
Sift the sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, almond meal, vanilla powder and xanthum gum into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar into a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time (if you are using vanilla extract instead of vanilla powder, add it here.)
Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture then stir through the date mixture until smooth.
Pour into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Stand in pan for 5 minutes then remove to a rack.
Caramel Sauce
Place sugar and water in frying pan. Swirl until sugar has melted.
Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is a deep, golden caramel colour, about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in the cream and butter, whisking until smooth.
Return to heat and simmer, whisking for 2 minutes or until thickened slightly and is a rich, caramel colour. (It was at this point I added the tablespoon of molasses but hopefully, you won’t need to!)
Slice cake into squares and drizzle over sauce. Serve with cream or ice-cream if you so desire.

A Cheergerm Adapatation of a recipe from the Coles website, see after photos for the link.

http://recipes.coles.com.au/recipes/1677/gluten-free-sticky-date-pudding-with-caramel-sauce/


Gluten free chocolate date loaf

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In honour of my 6 year old (Kid 2) being given his first phone number by a girl….I present to you my low fat gluten free date loaf. (I trust it will be many years before my youngest progeny goes on an actual date…). I adapted this from a recipe called ‘Uncle Bill’s Date Loaf’ given by a friend a few years ago.

I like to experiment with different gluten free flours in a continual search for an enjoyable texture and for health purposes as well. The Yak can too easily get stuck chowing down on food containing too much starchy flour such as white rice flour or tapioca flour.

In this version, I have combined buckwheat flour and almond meal, mixed with store bought gluten free plain flour. What’s so great about buckwheat flour you ask? Glad you did….there are too many benefits to list here but in short, diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is actually not a grain but is a fruit seed, related to rhubarb and sorrel.

I also bake a version of this recipe using wholemeal wheat and spelt flour. (I shall post this some time in the future). I add the cocoa powder to distract my 9 year old (Kid 1) from the dates, anything chocolatey keeps that kid happy.

Coconut sugar and I have been having a passionate love affair for some time now (shhh…please don’t tell The Yak). There are many health claims attached to this sugar, it is meant to contain nutrients that cane sugar doesn’t have and is said to be a low GI alternative to cane sugar as well.

Basically, I ain’t a scientist…just a humble home cook. I like the taste and the possibility of it’s potential health benefits. I guess that stuffing oneself with too much sugar, no matter what it’s origin,  may not be the healthiest choice. But everything in moderation I say! (If you don’t have any coconut sugar use soft brown sugar and Bob’s your uncle, or is that Bill?).

YOU NEED
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups dates
1 teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or soft brown sugar)
1 egg
2 tbl cocoa powder
3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 1/2 tsps gluten free baking powder
pinch salt

METHOD
Heat oven to 180 C
Grease a loaf tin and line the base with baking paper.
Chop dates finely and place in a bowl, pour boiling water over. Add bi-carbonate soda and stir. Set aside until cool.
Sift cocoa powder, plain flour, buckwheat, baking powder and salt together. Stir in almond meal.
Put butter and sugar into a bowl and beat until smooth.
Add egg and beat well.
Add date mixture and flour, stir until combined.
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Pour into tin and bake for 35- 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Totally delicious when served hot and with butter or whatever your favourite spread is.