Really quick and easy chocolate muffins

This recipe is as quick and easy as it gets. Just turn the oven to 170C, get a muffin tin (I love the bendy silicone ones, so easy to get the muffins out 🙂 and/or some paper muffin cups.  Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 5 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 cup cacao (depending on how chocolatey you like them)
  • 1 cup sugar (I use dark brown for a lovely warm sweetness)
  • 1/2-1 cup chocolate chips or cut up chocolate bar

Then mix lightly and make a “well”. Pour in:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg

Stir, as gently as possible, till mixed. Spoon into the baking tin/cups. Makes 12 middling size muffins. Sprinkle with sugar or almond slivers. Bake about 15-20 mins till dry but still soft (not moist and squishy). If this batch are dry try again cooking less, till perfect or till you need a break from chocolate 😉

Do use FairTrade cacao and chocolate, so they don’t depend on slave (or near-slave) child labour.  And try to keep some for tomorrow (for the sake of your own weight)!

Emergency chocolate cake

  • 75g butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Throw these in a food processor and zap till well blended (it is easier if the butter is at room temperature (but for Emergency Chocolate Cake it usually isn’t 😉

Grease a middling size microwave-proof bowl, if you want to use a cake sized bowl then make double quantity.

Then add to the food processor:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Zap into a thick batter consistency, if it is solid add a little more milk (you can use soya etc. milk or water and milk powder).

Pour into bowl, and microwave on high for 2-3 mins till the top is firm. Cool then release onto a plate, eat while still warm, if you need a topping make extra mixture and use that (uncooked).

Chilli Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Gooey chilli beetroot chocolate cake

This moist chocolate cake with a twist of chilli is delicious and economical. 1 Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet 🙂   The chilli adds a touch of interest, the beet adds colour, texture 2 Too much according to one critic 😉 and moistens the cake. The recipe is adapted (to make it more economical and lower fat (so I can excuse eating it with cream) from one in Lifestyle Block magazine from last year..

  • 200ml cooking oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tsp Vanilla

Zapped together in the food processor, or by hand.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp (yes really!) Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Chilli powder

Sifted and mixed.

  • 1 big cooked beetroot

Either: Tim’s preferred version, grate the beet and add to the wet mix. Or: Barbara’s preference, zap the beet while you are zapping the rest of the ‘wet” mix. 3 The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour into an oiled floured cake tin. 4 I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked 😉 Bake at 180C for about 30 mins (or maybe 35 in a non fan oven. I think it is best to remove it while the insides are still a little gooey, because that’s how I like to eat it, with cream 🙂 5 But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream 😉

Notes   [ + ]

1. Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet 🙂
2. Too much according to one critic 😉
3. The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake.
4. I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked 😉
5. But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream 😉

Chocolate muffins (non-Vegan)

Chocolate muffins on a sunny Spring day 🙂

Not Vegan because they use eggs, but then our freely ranging chooks produce several a day…

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 2-3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 cup sugar (at least some brown is nice)
  • 175 ml milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (three if they’re from our quasi-bantam 😉
  • 100 ml vegetable oil (soya or sunflower are good)
  • 75 g plain chocolate chunks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Set oven to 160ºC (a bit more if not a fan oven, c375 in the USA).
  2. Prepare a deep muffin tin (with paper cases or if you are stuck grease) it should make a dozen
  3. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder
  4. Add sugar mix then make a well in the centre
  5. Pour in the milk, eggs, oil, chocolate, and vanilla
  6. Gently mix
  7. Spoon  into the muffin tin
  8. Bake for approximately 15 mins or until springy
  9. Cool for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack and leave any that remain uneaten until cold before putting them away in a tin for later 🙂

I made these because I needed a break after finishing the course notes, I’ve eaten three while uploading this recipe, the only changes I’d make next time, apart from making sure we had paper cups so they could stand properly tall, would be to add more vanilla (we got some proper vanilla extract and it is so much better than imitation “essence”) and to use real dark chocolate instead of Bin Inn’s best chips.

Mushroom risotto

Photo by tristanf

1 Tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
3 garlic cloves
300g fresh mushrooms (I used half button, half portobello for cheapness and variety)
350g arborio rice
150ml white wine preferably dry
1+ litres hot vege stock
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chives, spring onions or fennel
a little more oil, Avocado is nice as well as good Extra Virgin Olive (non-Vegans can use c25g Butter)
Salt and pepper
Non Vegans can top with grated Parmesan

 

Cover the dried mushrooms in hot water and soak (c15 mins), drain them.

Chop the onion and garlic finely. In a heavy saucepan big enough to take the full recipe, heat the olive oil and fry chopped onion and garlic (use a low heat, the idea is to sweat them until soft, not turn them to carbon). Chop the fresh mushrooms and fry them also for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add wine and simmer, stirring often. When it has been absorbed add stock a little at a time. Keep stirring! Add stock (Remember it is important that this is hot, we don’t want to shock the poor little rice grains do we?) till the rice is tender.

Chop and add the porcini and parsley. Season and add the extra oil (or butter and Parmesan).

Lower fat vegetable oil pastry

This recipe (as well as being truly vegan 1 apart from the egg glaze – for which vegans will substitute soy milk. has no saturated or hydrogenated fat) for a lower fat pastry works well 2 Actually I’ve only tried the savoury version, but I imagine the sweet one does too 😉

I found it on UK site “Grow your own Fruit and Vegetables” here. The writer does not give a name but developed the technique themself. I’ve tried it and it works.

Low fat pastry for a 20cm pie

  • 225g (8oz) flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs sugar (for sweet pastry omit this for savoury dishes)
  • 50g (2oz) vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 4-5 Tbs water
  • 1 egg to glaze (Vegans use soy milk)

Whisk the water and oil in a small bowl with a fork, it will quite soon turn to a cloudy emulsified mixture.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl add salt (and for sweet pastry sugar).

Pour liquid into flour and pull together till it binds. If the mixture is too dry, add a little cold water. Do not overwork it or the pastry will become tough. (Barbara has been watching Britain’s Bake-off on TV so this lesson was drummed into me 😉

Roll out thin and place (roughly half) onto the bottom of a well oiled pie plate. Patch any holes, brush with egg (this helps it become waterproof). Bake blind for 15 min at 210 C.

Add the filling and use the rest of the pastry to cover the pie, this time brush the outside with egg to glaze. Bake at 210 C until the top is brown and crisp 🙂

NB:

Regular pastry uses lots of saturated or hydrogenated fat which makes it crisp and acts as waterproofing to keep the filling from making the pastry soggy. There are two things you can do to reduce this problem with low fat pastry:

  1. brush well with egg (yes, not just the top for decoration but the base of the pie too, to seal it)
  2. bake the base “blind” 3 Which means you bake the case before putting in the filling with ordinary (high fat) pastry this step is optional, while you can avoid it here you risk a soggy bottom 😉

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. apart from the egg glaze – for which vegans will substitute soy milk.
2. Actually I’ve only tried the savoury version, but I imagine the sweet one does too 😉
3. Which means you bake the case before putting in the filling

Breads and dips

Again the photo is not our meal, I must get in the habit of taking shots of my food 🙁 so, photo by jbcurio

One of the most pleasant Vegan lunches is breads and dips, most often when it’s just the two of us it is bread and dips, but several breads or toasts do help make it more special. The recipes are simple, keep well in the frig, and cheap too 🙂

For lunch today we had hummus, skordalia, some olive oil with a little fruity balsamic at the bottom, and Miriam’s competition recipe Guacomole.

Miriam’s Vegan Guacamole

  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado (you can tell it’s perfect when then little knobbly bit where it used to be attached to the tree comes off easily when you nudge it gently-ish with your thumb).
  • 1/4 onion/red onion or one shallot or a couple of spring onions cut into tiny little pieces.
  • 1 small-medium sized tomato cut into equally tiny little pieces.
  • lemon or lime juice
  • plenty of salt and pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 3 or 4 good shakes of your favourite hot sauce (I favour Kaitaia fire)

Mash up the avocado with a fork, mix everything else in, add more lemon juice etc to taste.

I omitted the hot sauce, though I got quite used in Africa to adding chili paste to my meals I don’t like to add a little chili to everything as so many Kiwis do, I also reduced the salt, making a healthy dip even more healthy.

Nathan’s Really Quick, Really Tasty, Really Easy Lunch

The remains of the Really Quick, Really Tasty, Really Easy Lunch after the Carey Baptist College Staff Lunch Club had both eaten their fill
  • Can of mixed beans, drained.
  • Sundried tomatoes, sliced.
  • Fresh parsley or whatever herbs you have, torn/shredded/chopped/cut/rubbed/whatever.
  • Olive oil and a splash of balsamic, (Nathan says S&P I wonder if he meant Lea and Perrins? I used lemon juice).

Serve with nice bread and mixed leaves.

Nathan adds some ground corriander and chilli flakes or whatever I have around.

This really was really, really quick, really really easy, and pretty tasty too 🙂

Vegetarian Fondue – Great meal and a lot of fun

First, I should apologize for my absence.  Over the last three weeks I’ve been teaching some certification courses in my diocese.  I had a great time doing it, but it has pretty much consumed my life.

So, I thought I come back with probably the most successful meal I think I’ve ever done when I had company over.  And, that was a fondue dinner I did with my folks and my wife a while back.  The food was great and we all had a blast sitting around the fondue pot and enjoying one another’s company.

That night I didn’t go vegetarian.  We had seafood fondue, but shortly after that I tried a vegetarian version with my wife that was very good too.  (Not to mention we once again had an enjoyable time ;-))

The meal requires that you have a fondue pot.  It is also helpful if you have an insert for the fondue pot for the cheese and chocolate, so that you don’t have to clean your fondue pot between each course (perhaps like this one – luckily we had an insert from another set of pots that fit right into our electric fondue pot).

The fondue meal I’m going to suggest does have a good bit of dairy in it.  So, I’ll leave you to decide on that as it’s been a matter of discussion on this blog.  Otherwise, I think you’ll enjoy it.

[One of our favorite restaurants is a fondue restaurant called the Melting Pot.  You can find a significant number of their recipes scattered over the internet or in this cookbook.  Each of the recipes below are from the restaurant.]

First course

For the first course, I’d recommend starting with a spinach and artichoke cheese fondue.  The recipe can be found here.  Rather than waste space reproducing that, I’ll just give a couple of pointers.

The recipe calls for cheddar, but the current one that they are doing at the Melting Pot uses a mix of Fontina and Butterkäse cheeses.  I think this mixture probably works better, as we’ve had it at the restaurant.  However, I’ve not been able to find Butterkäse locally, so we’ve stuck with the cheddar, which is still very good.

In addition, for the dipping the recipe suggests cubed bread and raw vegetables.  I’d suggest that tortilla chips work well too, perhaps even better.

You’ll want to use an insert to cook the cheese at this stage if you have one, so that for the next course you can simply remove the insert and cook your broth in the large pot.

Second Course

The second course I did was the entree, but if you wanted to throw in a salad you could easily turn this into a four course meal.

For the entree, the first thing that you will want to do is get a broth going in the fondue pot. You can just turn the heat up to high and add the broth ingredients.  Or you can get the broth going on a stove top and then add it to the pot.  Our personal favorite by far is the mojo broth.  It is very citrusy and has a bit of a kick.  But, if you are looking for something a bit more savory you can try the coq au vin.  The coq au vin is also great because whatever wine you don’t cook with you can then drink ;-).

While you are getting the broth going, you can bring everyone a selection of items that they will use their fondue forks to cook in the broth.  For a vegetarian meal, I’d suggest giving everyone a selection of portabello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and vegetable dumplings.  I used wonton wraps and stuffed them with shredded cabbage and carrots.  If you wanted to add a bit of meat you might want to add a bit of pork.

Once, the broth is going throw in some broccoli florets and small size potatoes (or larger ones cut up).  The longer you let these cook in the broth the better they will be.  (The broccoli is probably my favorite part of the meal because the tips of it soak up the broth so well).

While those vegetables are cooking everyone can begin sticking their main entree selections (i.e. mushrooms, artichokes and dumplings) with their fondue forks and cooking them in the broth.  They shouldn’t take too long to cook, but you may want to check the cook times and give everyone an idea of what to expect.

You will also want to make a dipping sauce ahead of time.  Since you are using vegetables, I would recommend a Green Goddess dipping sauce.  I used this recipe once, but I did it a second time substituting cream cheese for the sour cream.  It was much better the second go round.  You can let everyone dip out the sauce on to their own plates.

One good thing, since you are using vegetables, those who are dining can eat from the same plate that you served them with their selection of vegetables.  When using meat for the fondue you’d have to use separate plate.

Don’t forget to enjoy your conversation while everyone is cooking their vegetables.  And, maybe even share some of the wine you used for your coq au vin 😉

Third Course

The third course was the most simple.  I just threw some fondue chocolate into the insert (which my wonderful wife cleaned while I was getting the broth ready for the second course) that we place into the fondue pot.  I served out strawberries and bananas for everyone to dip in the chocolate.  Though this was the easiest, it is probably everyone’s favorite part of the meal.  Once you melt the chocolate you can cut off the heat and let everyone use their hands to dip the strawberries and bananas if you’re okay with that.  Otherwise, you may need to clean some of the fondue forks.

I’m sure I may have left out some details in such a long post.  Feel free to shoot out your questions or suggestions in the comments section below.

In my opinion, fondue isn’t all that hard to do.  You could even take the cheese or chocolate fondue recipes and add them to a course for any meal that you are cooking for friends, even if you do something else for the entree.  The upshot is a lot of fun and some really good food.  The down side is the clean up afterwards.  🙁  But, it’s worth it if you’ve got good friends and family coming over.

African Black Eyed Beans

African Black Eyed Beans (no the beans aren't from Africa, just the recipe 😉

Last night I tried Lois’ African Black Eyed Beans. 1I did not mean to do two of Lois’ recipes in a row, but that’s what I had in the storecupboard 🙂 Barbara was just back from Tauranga and I had them ready with rice, Barbara did not know it was a competition recipe but said the beans were delicious without prompting 🙂 I adapted the recipe for Repentant Carnivores (rather than Vegans) by cutting the fat, especially the bad fat in the coconut cream, halving this works fine and still tastes deliciously different.

  • 1½ cups black-eyed beans. Start these cooking for 30 – 45 minutes.

Make the sauce with:

  • 2 chopped onions Sautéd in a little oil until they’re softish.
  • 1 small can tomato paste (or chopped tomatoes but then you will need to “reduce” 2That is boil to remove some of the water. the sauce a bit).
  • ½ can coconut cream
  • 2 tsp paprika 3I used smoked, it adds a nice depth to the warmth – as I also used less chili.
  • ½ tsp (or more or less) chili powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stir together till combined, if necessary reduce to thicken, but if you keep the beans warm in the sauce before serving it will thicken up a bit then.

When the beans are cooked, drain and mix the sauce into them.

Serve with rice. This is would serves 4 as a main meal. 4Lois or Alison reckoned 4-6 but the 6 would all need small appetites or to eat desert as well 😉

Lois gave credit to Alison Holst, the beans taste interesting and different as most Westerners are not used to the coconut and bean combination, which worked very well. Once again the recipe risks looking plain, I think (in the Capsicum season at least) some thin Jullienne strips of green Capsicum might lift it… I am sure this dish, especially if it was enhanced by some appropriate (or better still inappropriate) story about the African origin of the recipe, would go down a treat with most children – though definitely reduce the chili (like I did) in that case.

Like the previous two entries I’ve tested this is likely to stay on my regular list, so far it is going to be hard to choose who gets the prize 😉

Notes   [ + ]

1. I did not mean to do two of Lois’ recipes in a row, but that’s what I had in the storecupboard 🙂
2. That is boil to remove some of the water.
3. I used smoked, it adds a nice depth to the warmth – as I also used less chili.
4. Lois or Alison reckoned 4-6 but the 6 would all need small appetites or to eat desert as well 😉