Healthy breakfast muffins

Instead of a buying a present this year, one of my friends requested a batch of healthy breakfast muffins. She was flying out to Queensland for a holiday Christmas night and wanted to take some healthy food on the flight. On Christmas Eve I found myself awake at 4.30am and unable to sleep, so I got up and baked the muffins.

I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe that we had both tried before and liked. I replaced the ground nutmeg with some mixed spice and cinnamon, and the raisins with dried cranberries (I thought the changes made them more Christmasy). I also used apple sauce instead of mashed banana. The house smelt lovely that morning and the muffins were very happily received a few hours later. I think I’ll bake myself some of these next time I’m flying anywhere. They are also great to have in the freezer for breakfast on the run.

Later in the day, I was dropping off presents to another friend, who on hearing about the muffins exclaimed “We can request baked goods for presents?” I think I might be getting a few more requests next year. But that’s okay, as I’ve always liked giving gifts that I’ve made myself. And it was lovely to receive my handmade smart rider (train card) holder and bike riding garters (so I can ride my recently bought vintage looking bike while wearing a dress) from my friend.breakfast muffins

Click here for the recipe

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Christmas baking – Gingerbread trees, stars and more

Time for the last of my trio of Christmas gifts from my kitchen. This year is actually the first time I have made gingerbread at home as an adult, and I have to say I am very happy with the results. Not only does it taste nice, the gingerbread Christmas tree worked wonderfully, and the stars, snow flakes, angels and other shapes looked lovely decorated with royal icing.

The recipe below can be used to make whatever shapes you want out of gingerbread. You are only limited by either your imagination, or whatever cookie cutters you may have on hand.

My team's gingerbread Christmas tree
My team’s gingerbread Christmas tree

To make a tree out of gingerbread, you will need several star cutters in different sizes. For my larger tree I used 9 cutters ranging from 2.5cm (top stars) to 18cm in size. For the smaller one I used 5 cutters from 2.5cm to 9cm. You cut two stars out in each size. After they are baked and decorated (edges only), you stick them together with royal icing, alternating the positioning of the star so the points are in the gaps of the previous star. From two batches of this dough I got a small and a large tree, and lots of other shapes. I decorated my trees with bought decorating icings and gels, as they were decorated by my team at work. However at home, I decorated the gingerbread with white royal icing, which I prefer as it sets firm.

Mini tree

Click here for the recipe

Christmas baking – Rum balls

Onto the next of my Christmas gifts from the kitchen. I have to say, that when I was rolling these in the coconut, it started to feel and smell like Christmas in my kitchen. This recipe uses bought fruit cake, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Of course, if you have leftover home-made fruit cake at home, you can use that. But I’ve always made these with bought light fruit cake (just the basic home brand version) and have been happy with the result every time.

For a non-alcoholic version, just replace the rum with orange juice. The recipe below is a double batch of the original recipe.

rum balls

Click here for the recipe

Christmas cooking – Quick and easy chocolate and almond fudge

In my quest to share the holiday spirit through food, I may have overdone it a bit this week. It started off innocently enough in the planning stage about a month ago. I like to give food gifts at Christmas. This began years ago when I was still in high school. I would make a hamper of goodies for my friend’s families. Now I tend to do food gifts for people at work. Last year I went a bit overboard making fudge, rum balls and truffles, which took several nights to complete, and this year I promised myself I was just going to make one thing. Small gingerbread trees (out of stars). I did a test run a month ago, it all worked so I was (I thought) set.

Then, a work morning tea was organised, and I offered to bake. So far, still okay. It was then decided that there would be a “best representation of a Christmas tree” competition at the morning tea. My team settled on my suggestion, a gingerbread Christmas tree decorated by the team. And there went my Christmas gift plan.

My team's gingerbread Christmas tree
My team’s gingerbread Christmas tree

The end result was over the last week I have:

  • Cooked a dinner party for friends (home made dips, slow cooked roast lamb with a few sides and two desserts);
  • Baked and decorated numerous gingerbread stars, men and ornaments, and assembled a tree made out of decorated stars;
  • Baked cupcakes and a yule log for the work morning tea; and
  • Made and packaged up fudge and rum balls to give out at work.
Death by chocolate cupckaes
Death by chocolate cupcakes

Not to mention I still had to work everyday, finishing up the Christmas shopping, etc. Let’s just say I spent a lot of yesterday sleeping to recover. But it was worth it. I had a lovely night with my friends over for dinner last weekend, the gingerbread tree turned out amazingly well (even if we didn’t win – we still got to eat it) and everyone loved the morning tea and the gifts. So I was happy, if a bit tired.

Now however I am very behind with posting, so today I will share my three holiday baked gift ideas, starting with the easiest fudge recipe ever. I don’t even know where the recipe came from originally, that is how long I’ve been making it. I think it was one of those Nestlé Christmas recipes that you find in magazines at this time of year.Choc almond fudge

Click here for the recipe

Apple Tart

Jerome’s parents travelled from France to Western Australia earlier this year and stayed with us for three weeks. This was their second visit to Australia since Jerome moved here and the first since Jerome and I met. They had heard a lot about how much I like cooking, so I wanted to have a nice meal and dessert ready for their first night at our house. However I was also performing in a play that night, so I wasn’t going to be home until late.

I decided on cooking a casserole that could easily be reheated (creamy chicken, leak and mushrooms…I’ll cook it when the weather is cooler and then post) and then set about finding a dessert to cook. Flicking through one of my cooking magazines, I came across a recipe for a French Apple Tart that seemed perfect. When I came home that night most of it had been eaten, so I’d say it was a success. I cooked this again for a friend last weekend and was just as happy with the results the second time. The sweet and tart apples provide a nice contrast to the rich, creamy pastry cream. Yum. This is also a great dessert to make ahead when you are entertaining.

The original recipe said it served 8, however they would have to be quite small slices. I would suggest 6 serves is more generous.

Apple Tart

Click here for the recipe

The Hairy Dieters’ Chicken Korma

My threshold for hot/spicy food is very low, so when we do eat Indian food a korma is usually my dish of choice. Unfortunately, a creamy korma isn’t the best choice if you are trying to watch what you eat. So my interest was sparked by a recipe in the Hairy Biker’s latest book and TV show The Hairy Dieters’ : How to Love Food and Lose Weight for a chicken korma that was less than 300 calories per portion (without rice). As I’ve said on this blog before, I really like finding healthier alternatives to favourite foods/dishes rather than cutting them out altogether. That way I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

I’ve cooked this twice now and have been happy with the results both times.  It doesn’t feel like a light/diet version of something. It still has the creamy texture and rich taste of a korma from the blended cooked onion mix and the very small amount of cream added at the end. So now I can enjoy my korma at home without the guilt.

I like to add some steamed green beans at the end, as I feel the dish needs some added vegetables. I also prefer to cook this with chicken thigh fillets, though the original recipe was for chicken breasts. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. That is mostly the spices. The actual recipe itself is, in my opinion, quite easy to cook. Next time I think I’ll try it just with a variety of different vegetables.

Chicken korma

Click here for the recipe