Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Treats for the arduous journey, happy 2015!


Happy 2015!

If you're anything like me, you're probably running behind on your to-do errands, and that resolution list should definitely be retitled '2016' - by the time I get to it.

But that's ok.

It's alright to take some time to catch your breath, to relish the threshold of crossing into a brand new year.
> Ringing in the year with cake pops


































I've been catching up on some reading over the holidays, and reminded that the essence of anything we do is really to be in the moment.

Each step is there for a reason, to make a difference.
Savor it. And then move on.

Starting a whole new set of 365 days is a big deal, so let's take a little time out to let that sink in. It'll refresh and refocus us, and we'll get to what we need to do in just the right time.

I'm still working on my 2015 Inspiration List for now.

This is by no means a rattling of resolutions, but really things that I want to remind myself to do as I barrel into the year.

I'd probably fail at half of them, and forget the other half.


























But I do find myself needing inspiration and reminders, especially as the year chugs along.

It's easy to get swept up in things we're doing, work, obligations and even fun.

I've learnt over the years, that it helps to have a couple of little lights to point us back to path along the way, remind us of what it is we WANT our year to be like.

5 things on my Inspiration List:
1) Be grateful
2) Live healthily
3) Make a difference
4) Enjoy what I'm doing/baking
5) Feel joy about something - everyday

It's still a work in progress, but this is where I'm at for now.

I'll continue refining it along the next 358 days.

And as you work on your lists and resolutions, I know you're gonna be needing a bit of encouragement.

Here are 5 little treats to keep on hand for the arduous journey ;)

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES


These little bites are crunchy and light, perfect with some milk or cocoa. And the best part? The dough can be made ahead, so you're never left without.  

And they're just perfect for packing into little bags to share with a fellow resolution-maker.























> Recipe from Martha Stewart

Ombre swirl cookies


HERB SESAME SHORTBREAD


































Mix it up with any sort of herbs you like, this recipe from Bon Appetit brings out a nice savory fragrance balanced by a barely-weighty shortbread. And if you don't have caraway seeds, toasted black sesame seeds work perfectly well too, adding a pinch of earthiness.

More shortbread recipes:
Chocolate chip shortbread
Chocolate-almond sables - shortbread cookies


































CHOCOLATE ALMOND SABLES





























One of my fave snacks, just can't get enough of these. Swap the almonds out for any other nuts you prefer. These sables have such a chocolately fragrance, I make them jumbo for indulgence, but they work just as well in teeny bites.

> How to make these delectable beauties
> Double chocolate cookies - equally irresistible!


































CHAI SPICE COOKIES

I love making cookies either extra large for giant yumness, or bite-sized poppers - so easy to eat, no crumbs, no fuss. These (recipe here) go wonderfully with a hot cup of tea, or if you have milky chai on hand - even better!

> Make some Chai Granola to go along



































GULA MELAKA GRANOLA



These are dangerous. They carry a hint of the Asian palm sugar (gula melaka), settling subtly and making merry with its bowl mates. You could eat a whole jarful of this without feeling anything close to sick. So addictive. Good thing they're packed with oats, nuts and coconut - so it's good for us!

> Make your own gula melaka granola

> More granola recipes:
   - Chai Honey
   - Deep Chocolate


These are all bites that keep well so have them handy in a jar, and good luck with your list-making and inspiration in the new year ahead!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The season for delicious - Chocolate Almond Sables


It's 6 days to the birth of Christ (the mankind date, at least), and it doesn't just look like Christmas, but sounds and smells a lot like it too.

There are 2 camps of Christmast-ers.

The Gifters - natural-born Martha Stewarts who adore the shopping and wrapping. And then there are the Diss-ers - people who scorn gifting as the commercial witchcraft of the season.

I actually appreciate the act of Christmas gifting, as long as we don't get too carried away.

Giving someone a gift is telling the person they matter to us, and we've put in effort to think about them in the tizzy of festivities.

Of course there are many gift nightmares, things you have no idea what to do with, things that shouldn't have been invented in the first place. But take it in the right spirit - someone thought of you,  and you're lucky enough for someone to care.

I love food gifts.

And when I say Christmas smells, it's really kitchen baking that I'm thinking of.

Make some amazing kitchen gifts of your own:
> Gula Melaka Granola

One of my favorite bakes this Christmas is Bon Appetit's Chocolate-Pistachio Sables - so scrummy.

I've adapted it into Chocolate-Almond Sables because I love a good crunch, and the almonds give a much stronger crackle.


Other cookie recipes to try:
> Double Chocolate Fudgy Cookies
Ombré Swirl Cookies
> Chocolate Chip Shortbread
> Lemon Poppy Cookies

Strictly speaking, these are not your traditional French-style sables (shortbread cookies). But they carry the butter-cookie base that makes them so sabley rich and tender, generously enveloped with rich dark chocolate.

It screams of Christmas!

I've made mine into jumbo logs and sliced them thickly for extra festive indulgence.



So gorgeous for gifting.

They bake into a lovely semi-crunchy exterior, with a mottled crumbly interior that makes them quite addictive.

You can use any sort of nuts you like, just remember to chop them up coarsely so they mix easily into the dough.

Chilling the logs is also essential for a crunchy bake, and when you make jumbos like mine (about 7-8cm), use a big sturdy knife to slice your cold dough - or a big ol' cleaver, much better grip!



Remember friends, think of family and even strangers this Christmas season. Remember to show some love.
> Remembering Robbie Williams

Everyone deserves to be happy at Christmas.

More Christmas goodies for the season:
> Edible Christmas Wreaths
> Red Santa Hats
> Christmas Cake Pops

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tummy break - make some Gula Melaka Granola

  

Happy post-Thanksgiving!

The wonderful year-end festivities have unofficially started, now that Thanksgiving is well and truly in the bag.

We've got some pretty scrumptious Christmas desserts that are perfect for parties and make adorable gifts (check them out here), mm mmm good!

You're in this for the long haul though, so you've gotta pace yourself.

Strategize.

December hasn't even hit yet, and the road to grateful eating and welcoming Christmas with family and friends will be paved with happy moments and less-than-svelte bellies.

   More desserts for Christmas:
   > Strawberry Santa hats
   > Edible Christmas wreaths
   > Salted Bailey's mint chocolate pie

In this brief respite window, be good to your tummies.

I believe in balance. You don't have to go postal and swear off desserts, but you can still snack well and healthy with the right kind.

For this little window week at least ;)


































Load up on good-for-you granola - full of fiber, good oils, vitamins and minerals.

This scrummy recipe for Salted Gula Melaka & Coconut Granola is full of tropical flavors.

The palm sugar lends an earthiness to the grains, and the toasted coconut adds extra crunch and a very familiar South-Asian fragrance.

Granola is super versatile, you can ramp up sweetness or tone down the savoriness as you like it.

If you only have quick-cooking or instant oats on hand, you could use them in a pinch here. They are rolled thinner than old-fashioned oats, and will just have less of a crunch and texture. 

You can really go nuts and make up your own grain/nut mixture for the recipe - almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts - anything! 

I love adding linola seeds or flax seeds; they may seem insubstantial, but add quite a remarkable crunchy undertone to the mix.

And if you like a bigger coconut taste, use flakes instead of finer desiccated grains.





























Salted Gula Melaka & Coconut Granola
Yields about 650g

Ingredients
6 cups rolled/old-fashioned oats (not instant oats)
2.5 tbspn brown sugar
0.5 tspn fine sea salt
1.5 cups raw nuts & grains
2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 egg whites, lightly beaten till foamy
1 cup canola or coconut oil (or any light nuetral tasting oil)
0.75 cup salted gula melaka syrup (see below on how to make your own)
Handfuls of raisins or dried cranberries - optional

To make gula melaka syrup:
Dissolve 500g of roughly chopped or grated dark palm sugar in 600ml water. Simmer over low heat till mixture reduces a little to consistency of runny honey. Season with a pinch of sea salt and strain syrup through a sieve. Store leftover in fridge.


Method
1) Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celcius.

2) Mix al the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix throughly.

3) Spread mixture evenly onto two baking trays lined with parchment paper. Spread it out thin if you like your granola fine, or packed the mixture tightly if you like yours chunky.

4) Bake for 45min - 1 hour, or until golden brown. Keep an eye from the 30min mark to make sure it doesn't burn.

5) Stir in raisins or dried cranberries, let cool in trays. Break up straight away with wooden spoon when it comes out of the oven (you might have to do this twice or thrice), if you want finer grained granola. For chunkier clumps, break up with fingers when completely cool.

6) The granola will turn wonderfully crunchy as it cools, store what you have left (that survived the 'taste testing') in an airtight container. It'll keep well for a week or two.

The granola goes superbly with fragrant chai latte, make some of your own - enjoy!

More healthy (sorta!) desserts:
> Sweet strawberries
Summer fruits to beat the heat
> Eat well for little ones, it's Food Revolution Day