Healthy caramel popcorn

Healthy Caramel Popcorn

The kids love popcorn and while we have been buying the stuff commercially at the local grocers, I decided I had enough and to make my own. At least this way, I could control how much sugar I put in my caramel, what sugars I used and so forth. In fact, I could even make a buttered or unsalted version and so forth. The commercial popcorns were a little on the sweet side so time to ditch it. Besides, I didn’t relish paying nearly 2-3 euroes for a bag of popcorn goodness.

The recipe I used is very simple and quick – I finished making this in under 20 minutes after much dilly-dallying and going back and forth between assignments on back ground checks and recipes. I hadn’t anticipated the volume of popcorn I ended up with so I would reduce the quantity of kernels used if it’s just for two people and/or immediate consumption. Original quantities are for 4 tablespoon of unpopped kernels so if you just want a light coating or drizzle of caramel, feel free to reduce the amount.

Eva gave this a thumbs-up and honestly, it’s hard to resist this while it is cooling in the baking tray! Tehehehe.

Healthy caramel popcorn
Recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie here
Ingredients

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tsp maltose (optional)
1 tsp margarine/butter
Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Pop the kernels in a nonstick, lighly greased pot (with a lid – very important!) on medium-low heat. Shake the pot ocassionally. Remove excess popcorn if the pot is full. Continue until almost all the kernels are popped. Separated the unpopped kernels (discard) and set aside.
  2. In a separate pot, add in the sugar, syrup, maltose and butter and cook over low heat until the mixture is bubbly and the sugar has melted. Add in the salt and stir to incorporate.
  3. When ready, pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss to coat the popcorns well. Do this fast as the caramel will start to stick as it is cooling.
  4. Once well-coated, break up the large pieces (or not) and spread on a baking tray. Cool until room temperature and store in an airtight container.
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Bitter orange marmalade

Marmalade 2013: The finished product

I have been toying with the idea of making my own marmalade after tasting some at my mother-in-law’s place. Since my mum was still around and could help out with the prep work or with the kids, I thought why not churn some out. A quick search online didn’t yield much promise as a lot of recipes out there incorporate water into their jams whereas I prefer my jams to be just made up of fruit, sugar and gelling agent (pectin).

While grocery shopping for ingredients for the reunion dinner, I decided to see if I could find some bitter oranges, also known as Selville oranges, and came across a rather decent looking batch over at our usual grocery spot (Grand Frais). I bought nearly 2 kg of oranges. Then over the weekend, I approached my step-father-in-law (the one who makes most of the jam at my mother-in-law’s place) and asked him for a recipe. His proved to be quite simple and straightforward. When my sister-in-law showed up with a bag of juicing oranges, I decided to add those into the mix.

Marmalade 2013: Bitter/Selville oranges Marmalade 2013: Peeled oranges Marmalade 2013: Peel pieces Marmalade 2013: Pulp from juicing oranges

I must admit one thing – making marmalade is a lot of work, especially the prepping part. Removing and finely slicing the peel, boiling the peel until it’s soft, peeling off the pith, getting rid of the seeds and then slicing or getting out of the flesh while retaining the juice… It took us about 1 to 1.5 hours to get about 1.4 kg of pulp and juice. On hindsight, I should have measured the peel before cooking in – something I’ll have to do next time.

Marmalade 2013: Boiling peel strips Marmalade 2013: Cooking down the marmalade Marmalade 2013: An additional boost Marmalade 2013: Getting the marmalade to setting point

Then there is the cooking. I mixed the amount of jamming sugar and regular sugar which resulted in me having to cook my jam for longer than called for if I were to use cooking sugar. It took me about 30 minutes to get it to the desired consistency – I like my jams to be thick instead of runny. A thick consistency will help prevent the marmalade from dripping off toasts!

The finished product is very tangy, yet full of that lovely orange taste and smell. The extra boost in the form of Cointreau – orange liquor – which I added in during the cooking process is very subtle. The jam gives a slightly bitter after-taste which is normal if you’re using bitter oranges as your base. I put aside some in a ramekin as I didn’t have any small jars left but no worries, this will go down well for breakfast tomorrow (hm, I wonder how good are those coffee pots from cw-usa…).

Bitter orange marmalade

Ingredients

Approx 2 kg bitter oranges
8-10 medium sized juicing oranges
6 tbsp Cointreau
300 gms brown sugar
300 gms white sugar
950 gms gelling sugar

Method

  1. Prep the jars by washing them (jar and lid) in boiling hot water. Set aside to dry.
  2. Wash the oranges well before drying them. Using a peeler, removing the zest from the bitter oranges. Take care not to cut too deep or remove the pith as well.
  3. Once all of zest has been removed, thinly sliced them into strips and place them in a pot. Add in enough water to cover the orange strips and cook over high heat until they reach a boil. Turn down the fire and simmer the mixture for at least 20-25 minutes. Remove the water and repeat the process again. When the peel has been cooked for the 2nd time, drain and set aside.
  4. Remove the pith & seeds from the bitter oranges while retaining the flesh and pulp. For the juicing oranges, only the pulp is required so slice the orange into half and proceed to remove the pulp. Some chunks of pulp or orange flesh is fine.
  5. Once ready, pour the orange pulp and juice into a pot before adding in the sugar and Cointreau. Cook over high heat until it boils and then turn down to a medium fire. Add in the zest and cook until you reach the right consistency.
  6. When ready, fill the jars to the maximum level, cover and tighten the lid. Once all the jars have been filled, wipe the outside clean and label them. Set aside to cool before storing them in a dark and dry place. If done well, jam should be able to keep for over a year.
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Banana Blueberry Minis

Banana Blueberry Minis

The other flavour for Eva’s Christmas party tomorrow (I managed to make time in between knitting and reviews on church chairs to churn out TWO flavours!). This muffin is gorgeously springy and moist plus the whole blueberries lend a lovely texture and gives you a pleasant surprise with each bite despite it oozing during the baking process. You could replace the blueberries with other type of berries but why change a lovely recipe like this? Tehehehe.

NOTE: You can replace the coconut milk and oil with butter and regular milk. The quantity of the sugar has been reduced by 25% from the original recipe but you can go down a little bit more – just not more than 35% (it’ll change the overall flavour and texture of the cake).

Banana Blueberry Minis

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup whole blueberries
1 1/2 whole bananas

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. In a bowl, mash the bananas before adding in the sugar, oil, egg & coconut milk. Stir until well incorporated.
  3. Add in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon gently and when it’s almost incorporated, fold in the blueberries – take care to not overbeat. The mixture should look lumpy.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the dough into a muffin tray until it’s about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  5. Enjoy them fresh or store in an airtight container to keep for later.
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Citrus Poppyseed Minis

Citrus Poppyseed Minis

We received word that there would be a Christmas party at Eva’s school in the afternoon and parents were asked if they could contribute either clementines, chocolates or cakes. On a whim, I picked cake and decided to churn out mini muffins in place of cakes to make it easier for the kids (and parents) to eat. Because Noah is sensitive to citrus, I made two flavours – citrus poppyseed and banana blueberry. You can substitute citrus with just lemon or orange or lime, poppyseed with some diced almonds.

While churning these muffins out, I discovered that the moulds I had were not enough and settled on a mini financier mould that I had purchased months earlier. Financier is a type of French cake that is similar to a sponge cake and usually baked in a rectangular mould, making it similar to petit fours in shape and size.

The result is a very cute and yummy cake that is not too sweet or overpowering. My mum – who is here for a visit – loved the strong orange flavour while I like the crunch. The hubby wolved down five at one go…a clear sign that he loves it!

NOTE: You can replace the coconut milk and oil with butter and regular milk. The quantity of the sugar has been reduced by 25% from the original recipe but you can go down a little bit more – just not more than 35% (it’ll change the overall flavour and texture of the cake).

Citrus Poppyseed Minis

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup orange & lemon juice
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 large eggs
Zest from 1 orange & 1 lemon
2 tbsp poppyseed
1/2 tsp baking soda

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and baking soda together with the orange & lemon zest. Stir until well incorpoated.
  3. Add in the eggs and mix to break the yolks (but do not incorporate it fully into the flour) before adding in the juice, oil and coconut milk. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon gently and when it’s almost incorporated, fold in the poppyseed – take care to not overbeat. The mixture should look lumpy.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the dough into a muffin tray until it’s about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  5. Enjoy them fresh or store in an airtight container to keep for later.
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Coconut Buckwheat Soft Cookies

Coconut Buckwheat Soft Cookies

We were down to our last two cookies so I decided to make up another batch. Since chocolate was out, I was left with the usual flavours – coconut, fruit or plain. I remembered buying a packet of shredded coconut a few weeks earlier and decided on a coconut based cookie. One of my cookbooks featured a coconut oat cookie which I thought was interesting but I didn’t have enough quick cooking oats so I decided to replace them with buckwheat flakes which I usually add to Noah’s morning cereal to give it some texture.

Buckwheat is a wonderful gluten-free alternative that is packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals. I have been giving buckwheat regularly in the form of whole groats; this seed is commonly found here in France as ble de noir or farine de sarrasin (simply put, it is buckwheat flour) and you use this flour to make savoury crepes. I use the groats in Noah’s food, flakes in his cereal (together with millet puffs) and yes, in baked goods.

Do be forewarned, this recipe will give you a soft cookie due to the inclusion of buckwheat flakes. If you don’t have buckwheat, you can replace it with quick-cooking oats OR quinoa/millet/corn/wheat/rice flakes.

Coconut Buckwheat Soft Cookies
Adapted from Best Ever Cookies’ Coconut Oat Cookies recipe

Makes about 30 cookies depending on the size

Ingredients

175 gms / 2 cups buckwheat flakes
75 gms / 1 cup shredded coconut
225 gms / 1 cup butter or margarine
40 gms / 1/4 cup white sugar
40 gms / 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp yogurt
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
115 gms / 1 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Spread the buckwheat flakes and coconut on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown, stirring frequently.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter or margarine with both white & brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the yogurt and vanilla essence. Fold in the flour and baking soda before adding in the toasted buckwheat flakes and coconut. Stir to incorporate all.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the dough about 1-2 inches apart onto a baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Enjoy them fresh or store in an airtight container to keep for later.
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Lemon yogurt poppy seed cake

Lemon yogurt poppy seed cake

I’ve been making a lot of cakes this month to add some variety to Noah’s breakfast; on some days, he has cereal with fruit or yogurt with his cereal but I wanted to include something different in terms of texture into his meals. Hence the cake recipes thus far.

I chanced upon this while surfing the Internet (in between hunts for a stand with mount) for lemon poppy seed pound cakes and ended up making a variation of this instead. The poppy seeds gives the cake added crunch. The lemon flavour and taste is just nice and not too overpowering on the palate. Unlike my previous bakes, I used white sugar for this as I was trying to finish up whatever that I had left – I’m not very keen on using white sugar in baked goods as it doesn’t lend much flavour or moisture.

Do note that this is a dairy-free version – if dairy isn’t an issue, you can replace the margarine and soy yogurt with regular butter and cow’s milk yogurt. I reckon the cake would be even more fragrant! Tehehehe.

Lemon yogurt poppy seed cake
Adapted from Bake Your Day’s recipe here

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup margarine
Slightly less than 1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup soy yogurt
Zest & juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C and prepare a pan of your choice.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a another bowl, cream the margarine with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until fully incorporated
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients, alternating with the yoghurt, to the creamed margarine, eggs and sugar. Mix just until incorporated – be careful not to overbeat. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, lemon zest and poppy seeds, and stir until blended.
  5. When ready, pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10-15 mins before transferring to a wire rack.
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Banana & raisin bread

Banana & raisin bread

Because we’re in a need of some bread and the bananas were “dying”!

The original recipe called for 120 gms of sugar but I cut back on this as the bananas are already sweet plus I don’t like to use too much sugar in my baked goods. It can be overpowering! Raisins adds a nice, chewy texture to an otherwise light and fluffy bread that is still quite moist.

Banana & raisin bread
Adapted from Cooking Crave’s recipe here

Ingredients

3 large overripe bananas, mashed
50 g butter/margarine, melted
85 g brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking soda
200 g plain flour
1/2 cup raisins (I used golden, dark and sultanas)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C and prepare a grease pan of your choice.
  2. Add the melted butter/margarine into the mashed bananas and mix well before adding the sugar, vanilla essence and egg. Mix in well.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking soda and fold in until just incorporate. Add in the raisins and fold in. Be careful to not overmix.
  4. Pour into your pan of choice and bake for 50 minutes until golden brown. I like mine a little on the darker side but if you want yours to be light, cover the top with aluminium foil about 30 minutes after baking.
  5. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing. Stand on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy as it is or store in an airtight container in the fridge (to keep for a few days) or leave at room temperature (for 2-3 days).
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Tropical Crunch Cookies

Tropical Crunch Cookies

We ran out of cookies a while back and buying biscuits for Noah are slowly becoming an expensive affair because he is eating so much (can’t believe this is a problem now!) and he also has dietary restrictions. I could easily opt for cheap cookies but they often contain a lot of dairy by-products as well as other possible triggers that we have yet to test out. So homemade food is the best way to go about the whole thing.

While leafing through my recipe books and going online to look for recipes, I came across a cookie recipe that utilised corn flakes for that added crunch. To make it edible for Noah – we make things everyone can out just so my son doesn’t feel left out – I replaced the white chocolate with some crushed banana chips and dessicated coconut to give it a little bit of texture. You can substitute with chopped dried fruit, and nuts to suit your palate.

The resulting cookie is crunchy yet not overly sweet – as I cut back on the sugar – and the olive oil (in place of vegetable oil) gave it a slight spiced-bread-like flavour. It was an instant hit with the kids, especially Noah. He can eat two large cookies at one go and sometimes even has room for another one!

Tropical Crunch Cookies
Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly: Biscuit & Slices’ White Chocolate Corn Flake Cookies recipe.
Makes about 30-40 cookies depending on the size

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup (125 ml) olive/vegetable oil
1/2 cup crushed banana chips
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup (150 gms) plain flour
3/4 cup (110 gms) self-rising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups crushed corn flakes

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a small bowl until the mixture lightens to a pale shade. Stir in the essence, oil, and sifted dry ingredients. Mix well – lumps are fine. Add in the banana chips and dessicated coconut. Stir well and place aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.
  3. When ready, roll teaspoon/tablespoons of the mixture into balls – they will be a little sticky so wet your palm occasionally. Toss them into the crushed corn flakes and roll around until the balls are evenly coated. Place on a baking pan about 4 cm apart and flatten slightly.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes or until browned lightly. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to stand in the pan for 5 mins – to firm up – before removing them to wire racks to cool.
  5. Enjoy them fresh or store in an airtight container to keep for later.
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