Another school year underway, and so begins another round of fund raising opportunities with food.
Our first event for the year was our Welcome Night Movie on the Green. Families come early for kids to eat and play until dark, and then everyone settled on the grass in front of a giant screen to watch Ice Age 4. Even if you’ve seen the movie, it’s a wonderful way to start the school social calendar!
The key is to start the event early- so that at some point in the proceedings pretty much everyone there decides they need something to eat!
One of my contributions to the night was this lovely slice. It has vague pretensions to health, with dates and wholemeal flour, and isn’t too sweet. The texture is soft and slightly chewy, but not too heavy.
- 250g dried dates, chopped
- 3/4 t bicarb soda
- 190g butter
- 1 1/2 c wholemeal flour
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 t vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 75 ml milk
Preheat oven to 180C. Line 20 x 30 cm baking pan with baking paper.
Place dates and 225ml water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes or until water almost completely absorbed. Add baking soda and mix well. Set aside to cool.
Process butter, flour, baking powder, vanilla, eggs and milk in a food processor until well mixed. Add the dates and mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared tray. Cook for 20 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool.
- 50ml milk
- 45 g butter
- 3 T dark brown sugar
- 125g icing sugar
- toasted coconut to decorate
Heat milk, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add sifted icing sugar, stirring as you add it to avoid lumps. Stir until very smooth and paler in colour. Spread over cooled slice and top with coconut.
Cornflakes are a rarity in our house. Cereal is generally a pretty boring affair, with high-fibre and low sugar being the key factors for choosing. Lots of bran and oats – yum. So cornflakes are only bought as a rare treat. It says a lot about my kids’ diet though that they never even think to ask for things like Coco Pops or Fruit Loops! When we do have some cornflakes about, I will often make some cookies with them.
These cookies have a lovely soft texture on the inside, with bites of chocolate and date sweetness, and a crunchy outside.
- 250 g butter, softened
- 1/2 c brown sugar, loosely packed
- 1/2 c raw sugar
- 1 t vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 2 c plain flour
- 3 t baking powder
- 1 c dried dates, chopped
- 1 c dark chocolate bits
Line baking trays with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180C.
Beat butter, sugars and vanilla together until batter is light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat until well mixed. Mix baking powder with flour, and add to egg batter in batches, mixing well with each addition. Add dates and choc bits and mix until well combined.
Roll into teaspoon sized balls and roll in cornflakes, pressing them into the dough. Place on baking tray with room for them to spread.
Cook for about 10 minutes to until just set. Leave to cool fully on trays.
I have a sister, I’ll call her Salsa, whose diet has become very restricted. She has cut so many things from her diet: most meat, all sugar, anything processed, anything with preservatives, etc. So many delicious things gone. Hers is actually a diet many of us would like to follow, or aspire to, but just can’t acheive due to the level of sacrifice required. Salsa changed her diet for health reasons, which is a powerful motivator, and because of this she very rarely cheats.
Sugar is one of the biggest no-no’s in Salsa’s diet. Such a big thing to rule out – sugar is in so many foods. So many delicious indulgent foods. Because Salsa doesn’t have the time or the inclination to bake sweet treats just for herself (and because I am so impressed by what she is doing), I always make an effort to bake something sweet for her when I see her. I always use as many organic ingredients as I can find, and I only use 100% pure Mimosa Honey direct from the producer in country NSW.
Using honey in baked goods can be tricky. It is denser than sugar and moist so you need to counter those factors when baking muffins or cakes so they don’t turn out heavy and gluggy. These muffins are very light, and the dates and blueberries offer some delicious extra sweetness and texture.
- 2/3 c wholemeal self-raising flour
- 1/2 c plain white or spelt flour
- 2 1/2 c bran
- 2 t baking powder
- 4 T butter
- 1/4 c honey
- 1 egg
- 1 c milk
- 2/3 c dried dates, chopped
- 2/3 c fresh blueberries
Line 12 muffin capacity muffin pan with muffin cases. Preheat oven to 190C.
Sift flours and baking powder into large bowl. Add bran and mix well. Measure milk into small bowl. In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and honey together. Pour butter mixture into milk and whisk. Add egg and whisk again. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and add dates. Mix slightly. Add blueberries and mix gently until just combined.
Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until skewer inserted into muffin comes out clean. Best served immediately with butter and honey.
When I was young my mother, who I called B, was a fabulous cook, in much the same style as my grandmother. She regularly cooked meals from the Bohemian family repertoire and so many people would happen to drop by our house at dinner time that she always made enough food to cater for at least a couple of unexpected guests.
However, as the bohemian influence began to outstrip the Bohemian heritage, B’s cooking started to deteriorate. In her efforts to make things healthier she would substitute ingredients. Initially her substitutions were ok – wholemeal flour instead of white, 4 eggs instead of 5… She could get away with that. But eventually the subsitutions got out of hand. There would be the change in flour, honey instead of sugar, powdered skim milk and water instead of full cream milk, oil instead of butter (not even sure she could claim a health benefit there), 2 eggs instead of 5 etc etc. The result was most often what we’d call a ‘sod’. Sods were flat, damp, hard, sad pans of disappointment, laid on the table in exchange for dessert.
Now there is nothing wrong with B’s healthy intentions, nor the ingredients she used. The problem was that she used those ingredients in recipes not designed for them. So eventually, whenever some family friend would serve us something tasty, I would ask them for the recipe so that I could hopefully offer some inspiration to go with our pantry offerings. Of course the outcome was that B happily retreated from the kitchen and encouraged me to experiment with new culinary ideas.
This recipe was one of the first recipes I was given during this time. These muffins are so light and airy you won’t believe they use wholemeal flour.
- 125 g butter
- 3/4 c caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 whole pureed orange (peel and all)
- 125 ml orange juice
- 1 1/2 c wholemeal flour
- 1 t bicarb soda
- 1 t baking powder
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 c chopped dried dates
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Beat in egg. Beat in puree and juice. Fold in dry ingredients. Add dates. Spoon into lined muffin tins or 1 loaf tin. Bake 20 minutes at 175C (or 35-40 mins for loaf) or until skewer comes out clean. Makes 10 standard muffins or 1 loaf.
My grandmother stopped working when she got married. She lived in an era when most men believed it was their job to be The Provider and the woman’s role was to manage the home. It was a shame really because she was an incredibly smart woman who had begun a highly promising career. So anyway , she moved into her new home and diverted her boundless energies into being the best of the best home makers. Ultimately this led to a level of domestic obsession that has become legend, but those are tales for another day.
Annie was up early each day, and she began most mornings in the kitchen whipping up some essential meal or treat. Friends would often pop in around breakfast time for a morning coffee. So it was a good idea to have a freshly baked loaf of something scrumptious to hand…
This date loaf is dense and filling and absolutely lovely. Like most of my favourite recipes it is also easy to make. The recipe calls for 1 cup of nuts (I think pecans work best) but these days I just put a couple of nuts on the top because the sprogs don’t like cooked nuts.
- 1 1/2 c dates
- 1 1/2 c boiling water
- 2 T butter
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 c wholemeal flour
- 1 3/4 c plain flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t cream of tartar
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1 c nuts (optional)
Cut dates, pour boiling water over. Add butter, sugar and salt and mix well. Once cool, add egg, vanilla, flours, cinnamon, soda and cream of tartar. Add nuts if using. Bake in large load pan lined with baking powder for about an hour at 175C.