An Attempt at Being Healthy...

So, sometimes my dad is right. I know that's weird ae? He's actually a pretty smart guy, even though I try not to tell him too often. :) So we've both read this book, "The Smarter Science of Slim" by Jonathan Bailor. I know it seems a little strange, having a blog all about baking and then trying to eat healthy... But I guess my secret is that I don't eat much myself. I like to try what I bake, but only as a treat. I'd highly recommend reading his book to anyone who wants to just be more healthy, it doesn't have to all be about losing weight (although I have lost 9 kilos... Score!). So dad and I have really gotten into protein powder, healthier flours and natural sweetners. I know some of this stuff can be expensive, but if you buy it in bulk it gets a lot cheaper, plus having parents still buy your food is always a bonus... I have a protein shake for breakfast pretty much every morning, and it's great. I make mine with low fat greek yoghurt, trim milk, a banana, protein powder and some ice to keep it chilled. Most of the time it's quick and easy and so it works for me, but sometimes, the alarm just doesn't go off or I get the mid-morning munchies... I think you get my drift, I was kind of wanting something to snack on that I wouldn't feel bad about. So dad suggested putting protein powder into pancakes instead of flour, but I thought that would taste kind of weird... But. Then I started thinking... What about high-protein banana muffins? Bananas are great, dad and I are trying some stevia at the moment (awesome natural sweetner) and the protein powder makes them a great protein boost! So I think they turned out really well, they taste really yum and they're really moist, which they weren't so much the first time I tried them... So, these muffins are pretty darn SANE (you have to read the book to understand) and you don't have to feel really bad about eating them!

Banana Protein Powder Muffins

4 or 5 frozen or overripe bananas (we freeze our bananas when they go bad because you can just defrost them and then use them in cooking and they keep in the freezer for ages. It's also a much better taste with frozen or overripe than ones that you might actually eat.)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup stevia or other natural sweetner (you can use sugar, but then use 1/2 cup and they're not as guilt-free)
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
3/4 cup stoneground flour (you can use normal, but stoneground is more like wholemeal, but finer and better tasting!)
3/4 cup protein powder (I use Aussie Bodies 100% Whey WPC/WPI Protein because it tastes the best and has the highest amount of protein whilst having less than 10g of sugar per 100g. Anymore than that and you may as well just have Frosties for breakfast!)

Preheat the oven to 175C and either grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with muffin liners. My mum got these really cool reusable muffin liners that are non-stick and washable. I would totally invest in some if you're planning to make muffins more than once in your life because it means you don't go through tons of cupcake liners and there's less washing up afterwards! Defrost the bananas in the microwave and then mash them together. Add the stevia, the egg and the melted butter and mix together until combine. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour and protein powder and mix all together until just combined. Using a tablespoon, drop the mixture into the prepared tin, filling the cups about three-quarters full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. There you have it, healthy muffins!


Allergen Free Chocolate Cupcakes

So I was doing some more baking with my nanny kids, and I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart. It worked out really well, I probably should've used smaller cases but the little girl I nanny wanted to use the bigger ones, so that was okay. Even though they sound kind of weird, being allergen free, they taste great and as a plus, they're way cheaper. No eggs or butter or anything expensive, making them very student friendly! The icing is pretty easy on the wallet too, just a little bit of butter. I thought they looked really cute and the kids really liked them.

Allergen Free Chocolate Cupcake

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
5T vegetable oil
1T white vinegar
1t vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water

50g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2-4T boiling water

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Using an electric mixer (or by hand, I did it by hand and my arm muscles aren't even very strong!) mix together oil, vinegar, vanilla and water until well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until smooth. The batter should look and feel more watery than normal cake/cupcake batters. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup 1/2 to 3/4 full. Put the tray in the oven and bake until a skewer inserted into the centre of one or two cupcakes comes out clean, 20-25 mins. Immediately remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before icing.

Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl and then add the icing sugar. Mix together as well as you can and then add the hot water. You just need to add enough that it gets to icing consistency, I generally find about 4T is good, but it really depends. It's easier to add more hot water if it's too thick, so don't add too much! Be careful in the amounts that you add.

We also used pink food colouring and food glitter to make them sparkly. :) Enjoy!


Graduation Cake

One of my family friends had her graduation on Thursday as she finished her degree in Early Childhood last year. Our families have been friends for years and she's the first one of us to graduate (being the oldest) plus the first grandchild from both sides of her family, so this was a pretty big deal! I didn't actually make this cake for Emma, although I did do the writing (extremely challenging...) but this is one of mum's specialties and it's so yummy, so I thought that I'd share it anyway. With her permission of course. This cake actually comes from a restaurant in Wellington, Astoria, but I don't think they make it anymore. They wouldn't make it as well as my mum even if they did! It tastes great and works really well as any sort of celebration cake, so enjoy!

Emma with her awesome cake.
Astoria's Chocolate and Raspberry Cake


300g butter
300g chocolate bits
90mL water
1 1/4 cups flour
Scant 1/2 cup cocoa
2t baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1t vanilla essence
220g frozen raspberries, thawed and drained

275mL cream
275g chocolate bits

Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 25cm springform cake tin. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave for about 2 mins. Add the water and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Place eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer (or just by hand, some electric mixers come with whisk attachments which are cool!) until pale and creamy in colour. Pour this mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture and begin to fold* together. When it is almost incorporated, add dry ingredients and continue to fold in, Once mixture is an even colour, fold the raspberries through the mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Remove cake from oven and cool. Take the cake out of the cake tin and set cake on a rack when cooled. Cover with the chocolate ganache (you may be able to pour it on and just spread it round a bit) and enjoy!

Chocolate Ganache:
Pour cream into a pot and bring to a temperature just below boiling. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and, using a metal spoon, stir gently until all the chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth (if you whisk, or stir, vigorously with a wooden spoon, you will create tiny air bubbles which will appear as tiny pits in the ganache when it is set.) Cool ganache until just about cold either on the bench or in the refrigerator. It should be a thick pouring consistency, and don't use heat or water on the knife or spreader you use on the cake, otherwise it will become dull and streaky.

*Folding is a technique used in baking when one does not stir the ingredients together as such, but just brings the mixture from underneath to the top, incorporating it, but not really mixing. It is really like just folding the mixture together, like you would fold clothes.

Nannying + Baking = Happiness

Lots of baking yesterday! So I love baking with the kids that I nanny because they love it too! We make heaps of different things; cakes, muffins, cupcakes etc... Yesterday, it was chocolate chip biscuits. Now, someone like me, who loves baking, I should be able to make chocolate chip biscuits right? Wrong! I always have issues. Other biscuits, all good. But plain old chocolate chippies, I never get it right. My problem, is that I never put in enough flour. My mum makes them, my sister makes them, my nana, from whom the recipe actuallly comes, they all make them really well. You'd think I'd learn, and just put in more flour. But unfortunately, it never seems to work out this way... So they always taste great but are rather flat... This recipe is gold, just remember that you need at least 2 cups, if not the full 2 1/2 cups of flour.

(See how sad and flat they are?)

Nana's Chocolate Chip Biscuits

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
200g butter
1t vanilla essence
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175°C and grease two cookie sheets or flat trays. Cream the butter and the sugars together in a large bowl with an electric mixer. You can do it by hand, as I did yesterday, but it takes quite a while. The mixture should be light coloured and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well. Add the flour and the baking powder and soda and mix together with a wooden spoon. Wooden spoons are amazing, if you don't have one, I would advise you to invest in one. When it's just about mixed, add the chocolate chips and mix well. Roll into small balls and place on the greased trays. Push them all down with a fork and pop into the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remember the flour and you'll be fine!


Baking for Netball

So, any of you who have read my little blurb about me, or, in fact, know me, will know that I'm a keen netball umpire. I love netball, even though it's not very well known worldwide, I think it's a fantastic sport. So I go every Saturday to the sports centre in Kilbirnie (near where I live) and umpire different games in our regional club competition. This year, two women who are also umpires have been buying food and bringing it for all of us to eat and just hoping that people will be kind enough to donate. Last week there was some baking there also, so I thought that this week it could be my turn! My boyfriend (Cam) and I have baked these twice, and the first time they turned out great, the second time they were more like pancakes than pies... But this time they turned out really well again. You'll notice that there are vanilla ones in the picture, but I didn't really like the recipe for those ones, they were also a little flat and didn't really taste as good. So I'm just going to put up the chocolate recipe and if you really, REALLY want to make the vanilla ones, then just omit the cocoa powder and use 1 1/2 cups of plain flour instead. I found this recipe in an Australian Women's Weekly cookbook.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies (my mum said that they used to be called Sponge Drops as well.)

125g butter, softened
2t vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup self-raising flour*
1t baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup buttermilk

60g butter, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
1T milk

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and line oven trays with baking paper. Beat butter, extract, sugar and egg in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk, in two batches, on low speed, until mixture is smooth. Drop level teaspoons of mixture onto trays, 4cm apart. Bake about 8 minutes. Cool on trays. Meanwhile, make butter cream filling. Join cooled pies with butter cream filling.

Butter Cream Filling:
Beat butter in a small bowl with electric mixer until as white as possible. Gradually beat in half the sifted icing sugar and the milk, beat in remaining sifted icing sugar.

*Self-raising flour: If you don't have any, don't go out and buy some. Self-raising flour is just plain flour with baking powder. So, for every cup of plain flour, add 1t baking powder. For this recipe, that means 1/4t baking powder.

These are amazing, do not bake alone or you will eat them all! But enjoy. :)



I had a bit of time on my hands today... So after the brownies I decided to make some calzones for lunch for Alex (my twin sister) and me! We halved this recipe because it makes quite a lot, the full recipe makes 8-10 calzones. The dough recipe is from Jamie Oliver and I've included a suggestion for a filling that Alex and I really like.


2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1T salt
1/2T sugar
7 cups flour
4T olive oil
2T yeast

1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
200g ham
200g bacon
100g salami
1 cup cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix water, sugar, oil and yeast in a small bowl and allow to proof. (Proofing means letting it ferment a bit... About 10 minutes.) Sift together flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Using a fork, bring in the flour mixture until it forms a dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes springy and holds together (add more flour if necessary). Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. Divide the dough into 8-10 sections (depending on how big you want the calzones). Roll out each section into a round and then spread the filling over the top, leaving about 1cm at the edges. Fold on top of itself and pinch the edges together and then place on a baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut up the ham and bacon into little pieces and grate the cheese. Mix together with the wet ingredients and voilĂ ! Magic filling!

These are great for lunch, dinner... Anytime of the day really! They taste awesome.


Jess' Peanut Butter Brownies

My dad and his whole family are American. He is, in fact, the only one still out here in New Zealand. So, with all that American blood flowing through our veins, it's not really a big surprise that we all love peanut butter. And chocolate. Together. Match made in heaven! I think I'd even go as far as to say that I personally could happily survive on peanut butter chocolate baked goods for the rest of my life. (Too bad I'd end up so big you'd have to roll me everywhere! :() When I saw this recipe on one of the earlier seasons of New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker, I knew that my family would love it. And everyone does! There's something about a brownie that always turns out right and when mixed with peanut butter, well. It's perfect. So for some reason I took some of this brownie into school once, probably for a shared lunch or something. And my friend Jess also fell in love with it, just like my family. Now she's up in Auckland, doing some hard out optometry degree and so I thought she might appreciate a care package from Wellington in the form of chocolate peanut butter brownies. Enjoy Jess!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

225g butter
200g chocolate bits
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1t vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter, melted (the amount depends on how peanut buttery you are feeling... I'd recommend between half a cup and 1 cup with half going into the mixture and half going on top.)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. (I generally do about 2 minutes, but it depends on your microwave. The butter should be all or just about all melted. Then mix until smooth. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and stir. Then stir in the sifted flour and cocoa and add half of the melted peanut butter. (When you're melting the peanut butter, make sure that you don't leave it in the microwave too long otherwise it burns and goes weird. I know because I did it once.) Pour into a reasonably sized lined and greased tray. Using the rest of the peanut butter, drop big blobs all over the brownie, trying to get to the edges as well as the middle and then swirl it all around with a toothpick or the handle of a spoon. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Enjoy!

Jess went a little crazy with the photos but I thought they were all pretty cool, so here are some satisfied customer photos!


Mothers' Day Dessert

Because it's Mothers' Day today, I thought I would try and make something really nice for dessert for mum. This morning we gave her some lotto tickets and a couple of magazines and this GHD heatproof case which was really cool. At the moment her and dad are at The Food Show and she's doing a masterclass (from Master Chef New Zealand) in preparing a High Tea, which is pretty cool. So because mum likes rhubarb, and this dessert is for her not me, I found this recipe which comes from Dish (Issue 31) a New Zealand food magazine:

Little Rhubarb Crumble Cakes with Vanilla Custard

50g plain flour
40g butter
1 1/2T brown sugar

150g rhubarb
1T brown sugar
175g butter, softened
175g brown sugar
1/4t vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
175g plain flour, sifted
1t baking powder
3T milk

Custard (optional):
3 egg yolks
2T caster sugar
1 cup of cream
1/2t vanilla bean paste (really expensive-if you can't find it, just use vanilla essence)

Preheat the oven to 190° C. Line a 12 muffin tin with stiff paper cases (not cupcake cases, but ones with no indents).

Put the flour in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

Rinse and dry the rhubarb and then cut into approximately 1cm pieces. Sprinkle over the tablespoon of brown sugar and toss gently to coat.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Sift the flour and the baking powder into the butter mixture then gently fold in together with the milk. The mixture should be soft enough to just drop off the spoon.

Divide evenly between the cases (it should fill them about two thirds). Pile 2-3 pieces of rhubarb on top and then sprinkle over the crumble. Bake 20-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl that will fit snugly over a saucepan. Using an electric beater, beat until thick, pale and creamy and the beater leaves a trail when dragged through. Place the bowl over gently simmering water and slowly stir in the cream. Stir almost continuously until it thickens and leaves a coating on the back of the spoon. (This bit actually took me ages, we have a gas stove so at first I couldn't simmer the water, it was just staying hot but then I moved it to a bigger heat and it worked way better! It should still be runny of course, but not watery.) The custard will gradually lose the foamy appearance on the top as it heats and thickens. Stir in the vanilla (and the ginger syrup). Serve custard warm or leave to cool with the surface covered directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Serve the cakes warm as a pudding (Mothers' Day treat!) or leave to cool and serve as a little cake. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did!