Christmas and Chocolate: A match made in Heaven

Christmas Brownies

This week I have been really busy trying to get everything done before Christmas. You know that time of year where you are trying to do all your day to day things, but also trying to buy Christmas presents and organize yourself? I mean I love buying presents for others, but it does take up a lot of time because I take so much pride in when I give to people. Plus, I’m also trying to work out all of my Christmas baking, which is an entirely different undertaking! My sister reminded me that I don’t need to bake for people, especially when it comes to making gingerbread houses! But the truth is I just love doing it, especially because it is such a personal gift! So I guess it isn’t really a question that I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen gearing up to Christmas. And why wouldn’t you want to me? I mean I know it is really hot, being summer here, and sometimes the oven is a bit much, but there’s just something so awesome about Christmas baking. As you know I love the flavours, but its more the variety of baking there is to do. Everyone loves a good Christmas recipe, and there is the volume of recipes online to match! So I figured it was about time I started testing some out for potential contenders for my Christmas presents.

Christmas Brownies

I have had this recipe sitting around for a while and it caught my eye as one to give a try this week because it combines two of my great loves: Christmas and chocolate. Who doesn’t love a good brownie, especially one where when you bite into it you get delicious Christmas flavours! I figured that there was no time like the present to try this one out and see how it went. I had all the ingredients on hand, along with some Lindt chocolate, so I figured I could put it to good use and upgrade it beyond its chocolate bar origins. It was funny because it’s been so hot in Brisbane lately that I didn’t even need to melt my chocolate, it was already melted for me thanks to sitting out all day!

Christmas Brownies

I have to admit, when I looked at the actually directions for this recipe, I was a little skeptical. Part of the appeal of brownies for me is that they are so easy to make. You melt the chocolate and butter, add all the other ingredients, bake and then you are done! They have to be one of the easiest things to bake, and quickest to wash up (one bowl, one pan). But this recipe called for a lot more steps than what I would usually put into a brownie, as well as a lot more ingredients. I mean when I start having to whip things for a certain amount of time on a weeknight, sometimes I just cannot be bothered. I guess that is why I am always after quick and simple recipes, because sometimes you just want to be able to whip something up nice and easily, and have a finished product in under an hour. Is it too much to ask? But I told myself, even though I was feeling stressed and tired, that I needed to bite the bullet and try out this recipe. The promise of how delicious it would be at the end kept me going, and in the end it ended up making me feel a lot less stressed anyway!

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Don’t be disheartened by the slightly more complicated method in making these brownies, or how long they take to cook. Even though it seems a little more painful than a regular brownie, these were anything but regular brownies! The finished product I was a little skeptical of because they didn’t turn out like brownies I would normally make, but the finished product was absolutely delicious! These brownies are seriously good, so all that time in the kitchen is well worth it for the finished product! If you are after gooey, dense brownies with a perfect crunchy top and a little flavour twist, these are your brownies! So I urge you to not get frightened by the unusually large process behind these brownies, because they pack an amazing Christmas flavour and are well worth the extra effort.

Christmas Brownies

Christmas Brownies

Adapted From The Moon Blush Baker
Preparation Time 25 minutes
Cooking Time 45-55 minutes
Serves 16 brownies

Ingredients

·         175 grams of Unsalted Butter, cubed

·         125 grams of good quality Dark Chocolate, chopped up

·         275 grams of Caster Sugar

·         2 eggs

·         2 egg yolks

·         1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

·         100 grams of Plain Flour

·         1 teaspoon of Ground Ginger

·         1 teaspoon of Cinnamon

·         ¼ teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg

·         ½ teaspoon of All Spice

·         ¼ teaspoon Ground Cloves

·         ¼ teaspoon of Black Pepper

·         Pinch of Salt

·         ½ cup of Walnuts, roughly chopped

Method

1.       Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside.

2.       In a medium heat proof bowl melt chocolate and butter together over a pot of simmering water. Continue to stir until combined and then remove from the heat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

3.       While chocolate is cooling, whisk eggs, yolks, vanilla extract and caster sugar with an electronic whisk until very light and fluffy. This took about 5 minutes for me, and once you’re finished set aside.

4.       In a small bowl, mix together the flour, spices, salt and pepper until combined, and set aside.

5.       Roughly fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until completely combined. Ensure you scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the chocolate is fully mixed.

6.       Add the flour mixture to the rest of the batter and mix until completely combined. Add the walnuts and fold through to mix evenly.

7.       Pour the mixture into the tray and place in oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes. I left mine in for 53 minutes and they were still really gooey but had a delicious crunchy top.

8.       Allow to cool in the tin and then transfer to the fridge to cool overnight before cutting.

Christmas Brownies

Now I look at it, it really isn’t that bad at all. I think it’s just because brownies are normally a one bowl, simple recipe, and this is a little more complicated. But you will be rewarded for your efforts with these ones! I was surprised by how hard the top ended up being, and the brownies themselves deflated a lot while they cooled. But this ended up making the brownies really dense, which was amazing! I was surprised by how dense they ended up being giving how much the eggs and sugar were whipped. But that’s what I love about trying new recipes, they always surprise you.

Christmas Brownies

These brownies had a delicious hint of Christmas in every bite, as were perfectly spiced with those gingerbread sort of flavours that I love! I also think the walnuts really added something to the brownies, because it meant that they had a little extra crunch. They would make for the perfect gift for those special people in your life, or something to bring along to your Christmas party when you’re asked to bring a plate. They are sure to bring the festive cheer, and everyone loves chocolate!

Christmas Brownies

I took these brownies to work and they were a hit! Which is surprising, given how many of the girls in our office are on diets at the moment. Luckily I saved a couple at home for later because they were gone so quickly! I might need to share the love a little though, because I need to be able to fit into my bikini come Christmas time if this weather keeps up!

Christmas Brownies

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

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Blondies: I think I am in Love

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This week I have ended up with half of my week in Melbourne for a team offsite (tough life I know), and I knew that I wouldn’t really have time nor the supplies to do any sort of baking or cooking from my hotel room. I mean, although a lot of the apartments in Melbourne come with basic kitchenettes, it’s a little hard to work some cooking magic good enough for my readers from a hotel room. Plus, when in Melbourne, one has to take the opportunity to eat at the amazing range of delicious restaurants, why would anyone want to cook? So I decided I needed to figure out what I was going to make before I went to Melbourne, and as such I am now writing this blog post from the plane! It’s certainly providing a new atmosphere for my writing, with the whirring of the propellers and a free glass of red wine in hand. Makes for a rather relaxing evening! Hopefully this blog post still makes sense by the time I finish writing it!

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It actually worked out well, because it gave me a reason to bake something delicious to bring into work to sort of thank my team for supporting me while I am gone/baking for my boyfriend who I’m leaving in Brisbane while I get to be in amazing Melbourne. I mean, you know I will take any excuse for baking, but it was really nice to put a smile on the faces of my team at work and my partner.

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So I guess the question from there was what should I bake? Well, for quite some time I have been looking at recipes for these weird and wonderful things called ‘blondies’. Now I think these must be a little bigger in America than they are here, because I’d never really heard of them until I started taking an interest in food recipes, and I know a lot of the people at work also didn’t have a clue what they were. I guess the best way to describe them that I worked out was they are a brownie without the chocolate. Being a self-proclaimed chocolate addict, this to me doesn’t seem that great, I mean who doesn’t love a delicious, chocolatey brownie? But hear me out, because these ended up being so delicious I think I have been turned from my chocolate ways.

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I decided to give this recipe a go, because as much as I absolutely love chocolate, I also adore peanut butter. I find it strange when people tell me they don’t like peanut butter, because it is pretty much the best invention since chocolate. When I saw this recipe for peanut butter blondies, I decided that, with my newly bought peanut butter, it would be the perfect time to give a blondie recipe a whirl! I was really proud of myself because I was getting a bit carried away with pimping out my blondie recipe, and was about to add chocolate chips. But then I decided that I needed to show control and just calm down a little. I am always up for adding in whatever I feel like at the time to recipes, and for once I decided to put the chocolate down, and let these blondies shine all on their own!

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The resulting blondies were absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe to you how amazing the smell of the batter was as I was mixing it. It smelt like next level peanut butter caramel, and it took a lot of my will power to stop myself from eating it before cooking. But I am so glad I didn’t, because these blondies were next level good! I also made these gluten free, and you can’t even tell the difference! This made the girls who can’t eat gluten at my work very happy, and I was even able to pull one of them off her diet for the morning…whoops. And the best part was, I only used one bowl, was able to mix the batter with a kitchen spoon, and it only took 20 minutes to bake! You couldn’t ask for an easier, more delicious recipe! So here it is, especially because the girls at work were desperate for the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Caramel Blondies

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Adapted From Gal on a Mission
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 12 blondies

Ingredients

·         ½ cup of unsalted butter, melted

·         1 cup of packed brown sugar

·         1 egg

·         1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

·         ½ cup of peanut butter (I used crunchy for an extra texture, but smooth would work just as well)

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         1 cup of gluten free flour (if you don’t want to make these gluten free you can use 1 cup of plain flour)

·         1 packet of boiled caramel lollies (I used gluten free ones but you don’t have to)

Method

1.       Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line a baking dish (I used a square one that was nice and deep) with baking paper and set aside.

2.       In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, mixing with a spoon until combined completely.

3.       Add in the egg and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined.

4.       Mix in the peanut butter and stir to fully incorporate into the wet mixture.

5.       Sift in the salt and flour and mix until completely combined, ensuring all flour is pushed down from the edges of the bowl.

6.       Stir in the caramels until evenly mixed throughout the batter.

7.       Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula or the back of the spoon.

8.       Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

9.       Allow to cool and cut into even pieces.

10.   Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.

And that’s all there is to it, I told you it was simple! Maybe a little too easy to make, because now I know they are this easy I will find it hard not to whip them up all the time. I was surprised by how much people loved them given they aren’t really something we know about in Australia. Everyone went nuts for them at work, and they were gone before lunch time which I see as an indication of how delicious they were! My partner ate about 3, and said that when I get back from Melbourne I should make more because they were so delicious. I don’t believe anyone would complain if I did!

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You wouldn’t even know that these blondies were gluten free. They were gooey and delicious, full of peanut butter and caramel flavours, exactly what you want when there is no chocolate involved. I think these are a pretty good contender for brownies in general, because even though they didn’t contain chocolate, they held their own on the taste front! I think it also added a little extra to include the caramels, as these gave the blondies a texture and flavour to compliment the peanut butter.

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I would really consider making these again. They were so easy, as brownies normally are, and there was so much opportunity to add flavours. Who would have through that the blondie would make for such a delicious cousin of the brownie! I have always been a brownie fan and I think that now my eyes have been opened to a new world full of opportunities for delicious baking! I love how easy and quick these were to make, and you could really add any flavours you felt like having in them. I think next time I might try chocolate instead of caramel to make them taste a bit like Reece’s Pieces. That would be a delicious experiment!

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Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

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I Like Muffin Tops and I Cannot Lie

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

This weekend I was having coffee with my boyfriend, and there were these amazing looking muffins on the counter. I am the biggest sucker for those muffins that you find in stores, you know the ridiculously huge ones with the giant muffin top? My favourite thing about them is the crunchy top mixed with the delicious, soft interior. I could happily leave the rest of the muffin once I’ve eaten the top off it. So when I saw these muffins, the only thing that stopped me wanting to buy one was that we had breakfast reservations. I was so surprised that I was able to stop myself, but I managed…just.

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

As I was drinking my coffee, longingly gazing at these amazing muffins, I started thinking about baking muffins, which is my classic response to seeing baked goods I can’t eat. For some reason, every time I bake muffins, they never get that huge, delicious, crusty muffin top on them. They always bake quite flat, and just don’t have the same texture. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to replicate that bakery muffin that I am obsessed with. So when I was sitting in that café I started looking it up to see if other people were having the same problem. It turns out that they are, and a lot of the articles I read said that it was impossible to replicate it because of the ovens they use in bakeries being so different to those we use at home. This made me quite upset, because it seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to make my own delicious bakery muffins.

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

In comes my boyfriend. I told him what I was thinking about, and in classic construction manager style, he went to problem solving. He said surely it would either be something to do with the ingredients, or the oven temperature. He said perhaps if you started on a higher oven temperature, and then reduced the heat, it would probably cause the muffins to rise. He also said he was more than happy for me to test the muffins on him, if I wanted to try it that afternoon. Such a selfless boyfriend he is!

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

So I looked up a few more articles and found out that my boyfriend was on the right track! A couple of articles had mixed solutions, either to do with the flour content in the muffins, or to do with the heat – turning the oven up higher at the start for a few minutes and then reducing the heat for the remainder of the cook. So I figured to be safe that I would try a recipe that had both in it – a high flour content and the different cooking temperatures.

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

The best part about my spot of Sunday afternoon baking was that I did it at my boyfriend’s house, which meant I got to use his mother’s Kitchen Aid! Oh, my life would be complete if I had one of these, they are so amazing! I was so excited to use it and it made the baking so much more fun! I’m sure the novelty would wear off, but for now this is my ultimate Kitchen goal! Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to own one, although I am concerned that if I did I would be baking something every single day (a problem? I’m not so sure).

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

This recipe was quite simple to make, and really versatile. I let my boyfriend choose the flavours for the muffin (I did have to reign him in a little), and he chose to go down the chocolate and berry road. I love a good chocolate and berry muffin, especially when it’s still warm and the chocolate goes all gooey! However, if this isn’t your taste, you could definitely substitute the chocolate or the berries for something else! As long as the base mix stays the same the muffins should have the same result.

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

The muffins ended up rising a whole heap, and had the crunchiest top I have ever made on a muffin! They were absolutely delicious, so much so that I had to have two! I think they were best served warm, but they still tasted delicious cold. I just love that gooey, warm, muffin goodness that you get when they are fresh out of the oven, so maybe try one straight away and then save the rest for later, if you can make it that long!

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

Adapted From Little Sweet Baker
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 12 Muffins

Ingredients

·         2 and ½ cups of plain flour

·         1 tablespoon + 3 teaspoons of baking powder

·         ½ teaspoon of salt

·         ½ cup of unsalted butter, melted in the microwave and cooled

·         1 cup of caster sugar

·         2 large eggs

·         1 cup of milk (I used Zymil and this seemed to be fine)

·         1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

·         1 cup of chocolate chips (I used a mixture of white chocolate and dark chocolate to get different flavours into the muffins, but entirely up to you what you use)

·         ½ cup of frozen mixed berries

Method

1.      Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 Fahrenheit) and line a 12-cup muffin tray with muffin liners.

2.      In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Whisk to combine, and set aside.

3.      In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla until combined and light.

4.      In batches, slowly add in the dry ingredients to the mix, until the entire mixture is just combined. Once it has come together, fold in the frozen berries until they are evenly distributed.

5.      Divide the batter into the 12 muffin liners evenly.

6.      Bake in the oven for 5 minutes on 220 degrees Celsius, and then reduce the oven heat to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cook the muffins for another 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

7.      Leave to cool for 5 minutes and serve warm. The remaining muffins will keep in a container for around 5 days.

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

And that’s really all there is to it. I told you it was a nice and easy recipe. And these muffins were amazing! I definitely recommend having at least one fresh out of the oven for full effect, because muffins are always best served warm! I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by the delicious, crunchy top and gooey, chocolaty inside of these muffins. My boyfriend was certainly a happy taste tester, and I left him with the remaining muffins so he had treats for the rest of the week (if they lasted that long). He was lucky that I gave them up, I must have been feeling generous!

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

The muffins rose a lot more than muffins that I have made in the past, so it must have really helped having the two temperatures. I think the main thing about this recipe was that it produced muffins with that perfect crunchy top and soft, fluffy centre. They were pretty much just what I would expect from a bakery muffin, but a little smaller. I guess that means you are allowed to have two, or four! For such a simple, easy recipe, the results were absolutely delicious! I think this might become my new go to muffin recipe, because it is so easy to change up the flavour with whatever you have lying around. What combination would you try?

Chocolate and Berry Muffins

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Tis the Season for Gingerbread

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

It’s that time of year again when a few amazing things start to happen. The days get longer here in Australia, more parties are on, and everyone starts getting that excited feeling of another year winding up. As terrified as I am that it is getting so close to Christmas, I am also really excited, because with Christmas comes my favourite activity: Christmas baking!

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

There are so many delicious foods to bake at Christmas time, and even though it is far too hot in Australia to divulge in most of them, there are still some that I really enjoy. I love any opportunity to bake Christmas related treats, and I’ve already started planning what I will be giving to my family, friends and work colleagues this year. I figure it is the perfect opportunity to put my baking skills to good use to give to those I love, and it can make it a lot more personal giving someone something that you’ve actually put time and effort into. As you probably already know, I don’t really enjoy cooking for myself, so I love the opportunity to bake for others, and Christmas presents the perfect time.

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

My absolute favourite baking around Christmas would have to be gingerbread. I love the flavour of gingerbread so much, and every year I get excited to make some. But I’ve come to realise that Gingerbread does not necessarily need to be a Christmas only thing. Here I was thinking I could only crack it out in December, but there was a whole world of Gingerbread related cooking just waiting for me to discover! I guess I should have known better, because those flavours of cinnamon, ginger and cloves are just too good to be constricted to one occasion!

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

So when I was thinking about what to cook this week, and I stumbled across a recipe that combined some of my favourite type of cookies and gingerbread, I was sold. I absolutely love snicker doodle cookies, they are so soft and sugary, and you can really add any flavour to them to kick them up a notch from the traditional type. I’ve tried ones with chai spice before, and so when I had a look at the recipe for these cookies, I thought they sounded like something I definitely had to try. Especially because it meant whipping up some gingerbread related baking earlier than December.

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

The cookies themselves were really simple to make, and didn’t take long at all! I ended up making them on a weeknight to bring into work, because everyone has been having a bit of a tough week and I know baking always makes everyone feel better! As soon as the cookies started baking, my house got the most amazing aroma throughout it, and it reminded me so much of Christmas. Honestly, what more could you want from cookies? It doesn’t feel like the end of the year until I start smelling gingerbread baking, and if it felt even better to have it come early!

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 8-10 minutes
Serves 24 cookies

Ingredients

·         2 cups of plain flour

·         3 teaspoons of baking powder

·         1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

·         ½ teaspoon of ground cloves

·         ½ teaspoon of ground ginger

·         ½ teaspoon of salt

·         ¾ cup of butter at room temperature

·         ½ cup of caster sugar

·         ½ cup of brown sugar, firmly packed

·         1 egg

·         ¼ cup of golden syrup (or molasses)

·         Additional sugar for dusting

Method

1.      Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit)

2.      In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set this aside

3.      In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the two sugars and butter until light and fluffy. This should take about one minute on a medium speed

4.      Add in the egg and golden syrup, and mix on a low speed until completely combined. Use a spatula to push down the sides of the mixture if needed,

5.      Slowly mix in the flour mixture in batches, ensuring each time that the flour is fully incorporated before adding more. Beat until all flour is completely combined on a low speed

6.      Line two baking trays with baking paper. Put enough sugar into a small bowl to dust the cookies with.

7.      Roll the dough using your hands into small balls. I wet my hands and slightly dried them to make it a little easier to roll. Once you have a ball, roll this in the sugar mixture to coat, and place on the baking tray. Continue to do this until all your mixture has run out.

8.      Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they start to slightly crack on the top, and they are slightly golden in colour. Remove from oven and cool for a minute or two. Then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely. They will flatten a bit and crinkle further while they cool.

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

These cookies really didn’t last long. They were absolutely delicious, even though I might be a bit biased with my love of gingerbread. Everyone at work who tried them really enjoyed them and there were definitely multiple eaten! Because they were spiced I think it cut through the sweetness and made the cookies a lot easier to eat. They are dangerously good, and I’m only glad that most of them got demolished quickly so that I didn’t end up eating the entire batch! I would have if I had left them at home, because they were so delicious!

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

I think all in all, these were a great cookie to make and perfect all year round. They would go great with a nice cup of tea, or coffee, or just on their own. Plus they were quite quick and simple to make, and didn’t take long to cook at all! Much simpler than some other cookies that I have attempted to make, which is what you need when you decide you feel like doing late night baking as I did this week.

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

So go on, get into the Christmas spirit early and start enjoying that gingerbread! It’s never too early to enjoy the delicious flavours of gingerbread, and I’m so glad I’ve found recipes that allow me to enjoy it all year around!

Gingerbread Snickerdoodles

Until next time, happy baking.

Ella xx

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Chicken Burrito Bowls

For some reason I’ve really been craving Mexican lately. The flavours of Mexican food are so delicious and fresh; at the moment I just can’t get enough! I did have Mexican twice last week while I was out, but for some reason I was still craving it.

Chicken Burrito Bowls

The problem I find with Mexican food when you go out to eat it is that often it’s more fast food joints, which are really delicious, but just not quite fresh enough for my liking. I love having healthy options, and although there are some really unhealthy options when it comes to Mexican, healthy options do exist too! If you don’t add all the cheese and sour cream, Mexican food can be quite good for you.

Chicken Burrito Bowls

So I decided that I would cook up some burrito bowls for a weeknight dinner this week. I have made them in the past, but this time I decided that I was going to make it from scratch and try something new. Normally I would use a Mexican spice mix instead of making it myself because it is nice and easy. But when I actually looked around for recipe ideas, I realised it’s not that much more difficult to make it yourself, as long as you have the spices on hand!

Chicken Burrito Bowls

The main thing to get right in something like this is the protein, whether it is chicken, beef or vegetables. Once you have the Mexican flavour nailed in this element, all you have to do is chop up some salad vegetables, along with a couple of Mexican accompaniments, and you have yourself a delicious Burrito bowl! You can pretty much get everything organised while the chicken is cooking away, and so it means that the recipe ends up being quite quick to make! All I added was a bit of mashed avocado with lime, chilli flakes and fresh lime juice at the end and you have a delicious, healthy weeknight meal! The way you cooked the chicken also made for a delicious, spicy tomato sauce which you could mix through the vegetables to get the flavour throughout the salad.

Chicken Burrito Bowls

A little warning, the chicken sauce is quite spicy, and so is not for the faint hearted! It has a delicious kick though so if you can take true Mexican heat I would use all the spices in the recipe! If you aren’t a fan of spicy food you could cut back on chilli powder (even if you halved the chilli powder I think this would still give you enough of a kick if you aren’t into chilli).

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Adapted From Half Baked Harvest
Preparaton Time 20 minutes
Cooking Time 25 minutes
Serves 4 people

Ingredients

Chicken

·         500 grams of chicken breast, chopped into smaller pieces and seasoned

·         1 can of diced tomatoes

·         2 tablespoons of tomato paste

·         1 tablespoon of chilli powder

·         1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

·         ½ teaspoon of cumin

·         ½ teaspoon of salt

·         ½ teaspoon of pepper

·         ¼ teaspoon of cayenne

·         A pinch of onion powder

·         1 brown onion, sliced finely

·         1 red capsicum, sliced

·         250 grams of mushrooms, sliced

·         2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Accompaniments

·         4 handfuls of fresh lettuce leaves

·         2 cucumbers, finely diced

·         3 large tomatoes, finely diced

·         One lime, plus one half for squeezing

·         One ripe avocado

·         Chilli Flakes

Method

1.      Heat a large frypan over a medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

2.      Add the onions, mushrooms and capsicum to the skillet, and stir-fry for 3 -5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Once cooked, remove from the fry pan and set aside.

3.      Add the rest of the coconut oil to the frypan, and add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides, which should take about 5 minutes.

4.      Once the chicken is browned, add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne and onion powder. Bring everything to a boil, ensuring all the spices are mixed through and the chicken pretty much covered by the sauce.

5.      Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken in the sauce for 10-15 minutes, or until it shreds easily. I covered my chicken for about 5 minutes to speed up the process.

6.      Meanwhile, chop up and put into bowls your lettuce leaves, cucumber and tomato. Cut 4 pieces of fresh lime and set aside.

7.      Into your bowl of tomatoes, squeeze a bit of lime juice over the top and stir to combine.

8.      Get your avocado and scoop the contents into a bowl. Squeeze the remaining juice from the half a lime over the top, and using a fork mash the avocado into a spreadable consistency. Set aside.

9.      Once cooked through, take the chicken off the heat and shred using a couple of forks. Get your onion, mushroom and capsicum mixture and stir into the chicken to combine.

10.  To serve: place all the bowls out on the table with spoons. Using large bowls people can add whichever salad vegetables they want and then put a scoop of the chicken into the bowl. Top with avocado and a dash of chilli flakes to taste.

And that’s all there is to it! It is truly a really easy recipe to make and a perfect weeknight dinner! It also makes for great lunches the next day because all you need is some salad to go along with the delicious chicken mixture. You could also modify this recipe to use tortillas or tacos, and just use the same ingredients as the filling! You could also make burritos with the chicken, and just add some beans and rice! Once you have the chicken down pat you can really add it to any sort of Mexican dish! And I have to say it was worth making the spice mix from scratch, because that chicken was absolutely delicious! It had such a kick to it, and the sauce was so thick and completely coated the chicken and vegetables.

Chicken Burrito Bowls

This burrito bowl recipe is perfect for a healthy choice during the week, as it really is chicken and salad when it comes down to it. But the chicken mixture made it so much more delicious and interesting. It proves that not only can you have a healthy, delicious salad for dinner, but also that Mexican food does not need to be unhealthy! You can go beyond the fast food version of Mexican, which we are all too familiar with, and make healthy choices! As much as I love a good nachos covered in cheese and sour cream, its nice to eat healthy during the week. And you know I am always on the hunt for quick, simple and delicious healthy recipes for my weeknight meals! Trust me when I say this has been one of my favourites so far!

Chicken Burrito Bowls

What do you like to cook during the week? Would you try this recipe?

Until next time, happy cooking!

Ella xx

S’mores Cookies: Like a Warm, Cosy Fireplace

S'mores Cookies

I have a little confession to make. I am a little bit of a hoarder. I am hoping later in life/after some traumatic event it doesn’t become a huge issue where I end up on the show, because for now I mainly only hoard one thing: chocolate and sweets. I seem to have a real knack for collecting delicious treats and saving them for a rainy day! So I literally have stashes in my room, around my house and even at work filled with chocolate and candy, just waiting to be eaten later. I guess I always try to have a willpower of steel, and only when I’m really desperate do I crack them open.

S'mores Cookies

In the interest of spring cleaning, I started to go through these stashes, and realized just how much I had. Chocolate from America (I’m talking Hershey’s bars, candy from Dylan’s candy bar, milky ways, Ghirardelli’s chocolate, the list goes on!), Chocolate Coated Macadamias, Malteasers, Easter eggs, the list goes on! They are all completely untouched, which is unbelievable given my obsession with sweet food. I guess it’s a sort of out of sight out of mind thing. So when I finally went through it, I decided enough was enough and I really needed to start either eating or using up my supply. Unless the impeding chocolate shortage is going to happen in the next couple of months, I think there isn’t really a need for my excessive hoarding of chocolate (although that will probably be the saddest day of my life if chocolate does run out, I can’t even think about it).

S'mores Cookies

A few months ago I went to Stanthorpe with my boyfriend, and I bought these American marshmallows from Aldi. Now, in Australia, for all those Americans reading, our marshmallows are about 1/8 the size of yours. So when I found these giant pillows of sugary goodness for sale, I had to buy them, regardless of the price! But despite my best attempts over the weekend to eat all the marshmallows, we only got through half the packet. I kept them in my hoard, because they are made of pure sugar and will always stand the test of time, and they’ve been sitting there waiting for another camp fire. In Queensland, it is always too hot for fires, so this wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. So when I found them in my hoard, I decided that I would try to incorporate them into something delicious to make for the blog!

S'mores Cookies

I stumbled upon a recipe for S’mores cookies, and decided that this would be a perfect one to try! Without giant marshmallows, these cookies were going to be a little hard to make, and so it presented the perfect opportunity for me to give these bad boys a go! I tried S’mores for the first time when I was in America earlier this year. We were in Aspen, and at one of the bars at the ski field you could order a S’mores kit. I’d always wanted to try them because they’re not really a thing in Australia. They were absolutely delicious, and now I am obsessed! What an amazing invention, it’s such a shame they aren’t really a thing here, because I would eat them all the time!

S'mores Cookies

For anyone who isn’t sure what a S’more is, you get a graham cracker (a sort of spiced biscuit), a square of chocolate, and a marshmallow. You put the marshmallow in the fire, and once it is cooked to your liking, you sandwich it with a piece of chocolate in between two biscuits. What you are left with is a glorious, gooey, delicious sandwich that is beyond perfection. So when I saw a recipe that replicated this amazing treat, in a cookie, I was sold! You all know how much I love cookies, so it was an easy sell for me. They were really fun to make, and quite easy all things considered!

S’mores Cookies

S'mores Cookies

Adapted From Martha Stewart
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 12 minutes
Serves 12 medium sized cookies

Ingredients

·         ¼ cup of rolled oats

·         1 cup of plain flour

·         ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon

·         ¾  teaspoon of baking powder

·         ¼ teaspoon of salt

·         ½ cup of unsalted butter at room temperature

·         ¼ and 1/8 cup of light brown sugar

·         1 small egg

·         ½ block of good quality dark chocolate, broken into smaller squares

·         6 large marshmallows, halved horizontally

Method

1.       Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 180 degrees Celsius

2.       In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and whisk until combined. Set aside

3.       In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes)

4.       Beat in the egg and scrape down the sides in order to ensure it is fully mixed

5.       With the mixer on low, beat in the flour mixture until just combined.

6.       Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Using two spoons, drop balls of the dough on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch apart between each. I got each and rolled them with my hands to ensure they were nice and round

7.       Get your chocolate and press lightly into the top of each cookie.

8.       Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. You may need to turn the baking sheet half way. Remove the cookies from the oven

9.       Turn on your grill in the oven. Add a halved marshmallow to the top of each cookie. Make sure you work quickly, otherwise they might start melting and slide off!

10.   Place the cookies under the grill for one minute, or until the marshmallows are lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool

These cookies were absolutely delicious. The smell of them reminds me of being around a fireplace, so warm and comforting. And the taste was amazing. I was worried they may be too sweet, but because there isn’t that much sugar in the actual biscuits, and because I used dark chocolate, I think this really helped to balance the flavours out. The marshmallows, even when cooled, were soft and gooey, so every time you bit into the biscuit it was like biting into a delicious cloud. And the cookies themselves had a great texture.

S'mores Cookies

I took these biscuits to work and they did not last long! People were going back for seconds because you finished one and it made you want another 4. That’s the thing with S’mores, they are really addictive. I’m not even going to try and pretend that these cookies were healthy, but they were so delicious I don’t even care!

S'mores Cookies

As you might be aware if you have read some of my other blog posts (here and here), I am on a quest to find the perfect cookie. So I have developed a cookie score in order to rank the cookie recipes I try and see which one I prefer the most! Although this one isn’t a traditional chocolate chip cookie, I think that it still fits into the category, because I think even without the marshmallow on top these cookies would still be delicious with chocolate chips through them. So I decided they were worth ranking, to see how they stack up.

Supreme Cookie Awesomeness Score

S'mores Cookies

Simplicity: 6

Gooeyness: 5

Tastiness: 9

Gone Factor: 8

Total Score: 28/40

Even though these cookies were delicious, they aren’t as gooey as some of the other cookies I’ve tried. But I think that’s ok, because you wouldn’t want them to be when they are meant to replicate a graham cracker. So I think although they don’t rank as highly, they were super delicious off my traditional score card and in their own right.

S'mores Cookies

I really wish I had some more of these to get me through today, they were gone so quickly and I could have eaten at least 5 more. Next time I might need to make myself my own separate batch! Good thing I brought them into work, otherwise I would have eaten the lot!

S'mores Cookies

Until next time, happy baking!

Ella xx

Healthy Doughnuts Exist, and I Made Them

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

This week, I have been having a bit of a rough one, and I must admit I was getting dangerously close to not baking or cooking anything for the blog because I’ve been so exhausted. My mum told me I should just leave it for the week with so much other stuff going on. But then I thought about it, and decided that I knew the perfect remedy for stress! As you know, the one thing I love doing when I’m stressed is baking, it just makes me feel so relaxed. I love the feeling of making something special out of a few ingredients, and that feeling of accomplishing something always helps with the stress.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

A few things put the idea for this weeks baking into my mind. Firstly, for all of you who live in Brisbane, there is an amazing gluten free doughnut company called nodo donuts. Absolutely amazing and delicious guilt free doughnuts, if you are ever in the mood. Anyway, they have decided to open up a store, and the store happens to be really close to my work, which will mean I will have a lot of trouble not eating doughnuts every week (not the worst problem to have, I know). But it is also opening up on 1 Ella Street, which I take as a sign from a higher power that I should be eating more doughnuts! Seems legit.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Someone in my house also must have happened to purchase a mould for baking doughnuts, which has magically appeared in our drawer in the kitchen. I haven’t seen any doughnuts made using this mould yet, so I figured it was about time we broke it in! Having a doughnut mould means that you can bake your doughnuts instead of frying them, instantly making them healthier. It is the perfect way to cook doughnuts with special ingredients in them, such as making them gluten free or paleo. It really opens up the doughnut making to a whole new range of doughnuts! And as much as I am quite partial to a delicious deep fried doughnut, sometimes it’s nice to try healthy alternatives. Especially coming up to swim suit season in Australia!

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

I had a look for gluten free recipes for doughnuts, and surprisingly there are quite a few online, with so many variations it was hard to decide which one to try first. But I decided on a recipe for paleo almond doughnuts, because it seemed pretty simple and it used all natural ingredients. However, it didn’t have a recipe for a glaze, which I think is a necessity for any type of doughnut (except for cinnamon sugar, you can’t improve a classic). So I found another recipe for a salted caramel glaze that sounded amazing, and was also completely natural. And then in true Ella style I added dark chocolate, because I am absolutely obsessed with chocolate. I mean, you can’t be too healthy! And dark chocolate is good for you anyway. So I guess if you want it to be free of chocolate, you can easily remove it, but I wouldn’t personally, because they were really delicious doughnuts!

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

This recipe ended up being a little more complicated than I originally anticipated, but that’s ok because the results were absolutely delicious! I was surprised at how sweet they were given the lack of sugar in them, so I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about eating them. My only issue was that my doughnut mould and the recipe only made 6 doughnuts, which meant that they were gone really quickly. I think I might need to get more moulds to ensure I can make more, because I really want to try these again, and maybe try some other interesting flavours! It’s cool because once you’ve got your base doughnut, you can add whatever you want to it.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

Adapted From Southern In Law (Doughnuts) and NoDo Donuts (Glaze)
Preparation Time 30 minutes (including assembly)
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Serves 6 doughnuts

Ingredients

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

·         1 cup of Almond Meal

·         3 tablespoons of Honey

·         2 large Eggs

·         2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract

·         ¼ teaspoon of Baking Soda

·         500 grams of good quality Dark Chocolate

Salted Caramel Glaze

·         ¼ cup of Coconut Sugar

·         2 tablespoons of Water

·         270ml of Coconut Cream

Directions

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

1.      Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celcius (300 Degrees Fahrenheit).

2.      Grease the doughnut mould with coconut oil and set aside. You could use something else to grease it if you wanted, but I found this worked quite well.

3.      In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients until smooth. You don’t really need an electric mixer for this, a wooden spoon worked perfectly fine for me!

4.      Roughly break the chocolate up and fold into the mixture.

5.      Fill the doughnut moulds with the mixture, filling each about half way full

6.      Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine took about 20 minutes to get completely cooked

7.      Take out of the oven and allow the doughnuts to cool completely before removing from the moulds. Place on a wire rack with a plate underneath.

Salted Caramel Glaze

1.      Add the coconut sugar and water to a saucepan and let simmer for 2-4 minutes until a golden caramel colour. Make sure you stir constantly to avoid burning.

2.      Add the coconut cream and a pinch of salt, and allow to simmer until the mixture reduces. Ensure you keep stirring the mixture to avoid sticking. This should take about 5-8 minutes, at which point the mixture should have reduced by half and thickened enough to coat your spoon.

3.      Allow the Glaze to cool for a few minutes and bring over to your doughnuts on the wire rack. Using a spoon, cover the doughnuts completely with the glaze, ensuring all edges are covered.

4.      To garnish, shave some dark chocolate and sprinkle over the top.

5.      Refrigerate the doughnuts until ready to serve.

These doughnuts were absolutely delicious and I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty for eating them. I only wish there had been more! Next time I think I will make a double batch. I took these over to a friend’s place for dessert and her boyfriend demolished three of them in under 5 minutes. Given they were quite healthy I take this as a sign that they were really delicious.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

The doughnuts ended up having a great texture, and I loved having the chocolate through them to break them up, like a delicious chocolate chip cookie! The glaze was surprisingly sweet for using coconut sugar, but not too sweet. It was the perfect balance of flavours with the salted caramel and almond honey flavours.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts with a Salted Caramel Glaze

You could make these doughnuts with any flavours you wanted. I think blueberries or raspberries would also be delicious in these instead of the chocolate, or maybe even in addition! Go nuts!

Until next time, happy baking

Ella xx