Monthly Archives: December 2015

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti

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A delicious, Christmas-y bake! Of course these would be appropriate at any time of year, but adorned with red and green jewels, it is hard not to associate these with Christmas! These would make an ideal last minute gift or treat for unexpected visitors!

So Christmas is very almost here, and I’m breaking with tradition of a Sunday post to give you an early present! These Cranberry and Pistachio biscotti are the perfect thing if you are still in need of a present for someone. I promise they’re fool proof, and the great thing is if you don’t have cranberries or pistachios, then you can easily substitute them for another fruit and nut combination.

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December always flies by, and this year has been no exception. I’m therefore really quite pleased with myself for having made the plethora of home baked gifts this year. That was what inspired this post – I wanted to make a Christmas worthy biscotti. Biscotti in Italian literally means twice baked, and in Italy, there is no association with Christmas at all. However, here in the UK, biscotti have become a sort of ‘only at Christmas time treat’, and to be honest, I can see why! Versatile in the sense you can use lots of different flavourings (read – whatever you have lying around the house!) and they last really well. They can easily go a week in an air tight tin with no issues at all, which is also partly what makes them such a great gift to give.

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I decided to use cranberries and pistachios for flavours here – there I was thinking “how original” until I googled it and found everyone has already done it! But, original idea or not, this is a great flavour combination. The slightly sweet and soft pistachios contrast with the sharp cranberries; the small amount of orange zest just lifts the whole biscuit and makes it perfect to go alongside a black tea or coffee (or do like the Italians and dip them in wine!!).

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So, if you find yourself in need of a simple bake with household ingredients, or worse still, need a quick present you can rustle up for an unexpected visitor, look no further! I can promise these will be ever so gratefully received.

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Merry Christmas!

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Filed under baking, Biscuits & Cookies, Christmas, Fruit

Baked Apples

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A delicious, healthy, low sugar dessert perfect for using whatever you have around the house. Stuffed with pecans, sultanas and cinnamon, the maple syrup and butter filling turns into a beautiful caramel sauce. 

The third and last of my healthy baking series are these simple baked apples. This is one of my favourite desserts all year round as it is so quick and involves things that I pretty much always have around the house. Plus, it is genuinely healthy (as far as you can have a healthy dessert of course!) because they are low in sugar and count as 1 of your 5 a day!

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I use maple syrup as the sugar in this recipe; you could use any sugar, but I personally love the flavour of maple syrup. Nothing compares in my book! Plus, as an unrefined sugar, it is marginally better for you that using refined white caster sugar… but let’s be honest – the choice should be all about the flavour (especially if it’s got base!). As the recipe also uses sultanas (you could use any dried fruit really) and a sweet eating apple, you don’t need to add much maple syrup at all. The dessert is already quite sweet on it’s own, making it a perfect weekday evening treat.

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If that doesn’t tempt you enough, then let me tell you that honestly the hardest bit of this dessert is cutting the centre out of the apples, which can be done with a small sharp knife or an apple corer if you’re lazy, like me. That really is as hard as it gets! Once this is done, all that is left is mixing the remaining ingredients and stuffing the centre, and then baking. Easy!

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My recipe uses sultanas, pecans and cinnamon – which is just perfect at this time of year when the warming spices infiltrate your house as the apples bake. But you could make these at any time of year, with anything you have in the cupboards really! Vanilla works well with walnuts and cranberries; or use pistachios and raisins. Really anything goes!

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Filed under dessert, Fruit, Gluten Free, vegan

Health(ier) Maple & Pecan Flapjacks

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A healthier flapjack recipe – just as tasty, but with no dairy, wheat, gluten or refined sugar! Although not as nutritious as a piece of fruit, there are worse things you could eat!

Flapjacks; although kind in appearance and reminiscent of school lunch boxes and picnics, they are generally not a healthy treat with so much butter and sugar. Yes, they may be oat-y, but trust me, normally, the bad definitely outweighs the good!

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This version contains no dairy (would you expect anything else?!), wheat, gluten, or refined sugars. But I’m not going to pretend that these are ‘healthy’… they do still contain good amounts of fats and sugars, but here it is about recognising that you can make a bad or a better choice in those categories. This is a great recipe when you feel you want a treat; but particularly at this time of the year when our diets tend to go out of the window slightly with the copious amounts of sweet treats and drinks, it’s good to have a choice.

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I’m a big maple syrup fan – and combined with pecan nuts, it’s flavour is intense enough not to need help from a long list of ingredients. I like to use quite a strong maple syrup – a 2 or 3 on the strength scale – which does help the flavour pack a punch, but you can of course use a lighter flavour version.

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By using just maple syrup in the recipe, we’ve avoided having any refined sugar in the recipe. Of course maple syrup is still sugar – you can’t get away from that fact – but as it contains more than just sugars in it’s make up, you eat less true sugars per gram. That doesn’t give you free reign to eat as much as you want, but again it’s about understanding how to make the better choice.

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I’m praising myself slightly too much here for making these gluten and wheat free. As most flapjacks are oat based – and oats are not wheat – most will be gluten and wheat free, technically. The important thing is if you are making this for someone with a gluten intolerance, make sure you buy gluten free oats. Most oats are produced in wheat factories, so there is a very high level of contamination. So you have been warned!

 

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Filed under Biscuits & Cookies, Sweet treats, vegan

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

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A healthy low added sugar dessert, perfect for feeding a crowd in a hurry. It’s the perfect recipe to have up your sleeve in time for Christmas!

Yes, I’m sorry – I’m joining the bandwagon and mentioning Christmas! It just doesn’t seem possible that it’s that time already, but then here we are. This recipe, and the recipes over the next few weeks are very much inspired by my holiday to Australia, and perhaps not in the way you’d expect (spoiler: No crocodile or kangaroo ingredients in sight!)

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As a baking blogger, at times it can seem quite irresponsible filling up people’s news feeds with tempting desserts and sweet bakes. I often get asked by people how do I stay slim if I eat all of this – and there’s one giant secret. A good balanced diet!! Yes, I may eat cookies, and chocolate desserts, and ice cream – but not every day. Most days, if I want a dessert I’m reaching for something smaller, healthier, and simpler, and that’s what I want to share with you all.

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Australia fits in with this because I think they’ve really nailed how to do healthy the tasty way. Particularly in Melbourne, there were so many amazing cafes and restaurants packed with people, and all serving purposefully healthy, delicious food. It really made me think about why I hadn’t shared some of these recipes before…

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This Apple Crumble may surprise you as being ‘healthy’, but actually, despite its butter and flour filled topping, it contains low added sugar. At just over 6g of sugar per portion you can have either a whole portion of crumble, or one third of a piece of these Raspberry & Amaretti Brownies… and let’s be honest. Who has just one brownie!?

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The crumble also has less flour in the topping that normal. By using a mixture of porridge oats, nuts and flour you up the nutritional content of the top, plus you get way more crunchiness – perfect for a crumble topping in my book! You could even take the healthiness of this dessert one step further and use gluten and wheat free flour instead.

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Overall, I hope you enjoy this mini series of recipes. In the run up to christmas where everywhere is filled with unhealthy food, it can be nice to have a healthier choice when you just fancy a bit of pudding….

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Filed under dessert, Fruit, vegan