Going Nuts

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into the home of one of my dear friends to be greeted by the wafting aroma of something delicious baking in the oven. Not only was she baking a cake for afternoon tea but being super organised, she had modified the recipe to: reduce the fat content but include more unsaturated fats, increase the fibre content by adding more fruit and lower the sugar content. And last but certainly not least, this friend of mine had taken the photo required to post it all on social media! This girl is a keeper.

Needless to say the cake delivered all that the aroma promised plus the inclusion of ground and slivered almonds fitted rather nicely into the Nuts for Life #nuts30days30ways campaign. In Australia, we are very much under performing in the nuts department by consuming on average just 6g per day, which is well below the recommended 30g daily handful.

Eating nuts every day can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes but can also help manage cholesterol and body weight. That might sound contradictory as nuts do contain fat (albeit the healthy kind) but these little morsels can actually help you manage your body weight. Nuts also contain much needed protein which helps regulate appetite and prolongs the feeling of being full – meaning that you don’t feel the need to pounce on anything that isn’t nailed down every 5 minutes.

Nuts of all kinds are such a great addition to a meal or a handy, portable snack that you can keep in your bag or desk.

Grinding nuts into meal to use in cakes, biscuits, protein balls or smoothies does not result in any nutrient loss and is just another easy way to get nuts into your day. Of course, eating cake every day is not as nutritious as eating a handful of nuts – but it is important to include some luxury items into your diet too!

This Apricot and Almond Cake is a great source of nuts, beta carotene, fibre and Vitamin C courtesy of the apricots and nectarines and is low in saturated fat. Of course, it is an excellent source of deliciousness too.

Apricot and Almond Cake


160ml olive oil
200g SR flour
150g ground almonds
180g raw sugar
150 ml milk
3 large free range eggs beaten
3 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
6 ripe apricots (or tinned apricot halves)
I used 2 sliced nectarines as well!
1 tblspn runny honey
50g slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan forced.
Grease and line a square cake pan with baking paper.

Place all dry ingredients into a food processor or thermomix and whiz together. Add the wet ingredients – oil, milk, eggs, vanilla – as well as the lemon zest and whiz again until all combined.

Pour the mixture into the tin.

Place apricot halves and nectarine slices in a random order on top for a rustic effect. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for 1 hour, then set aside to cool in the tin for 20 mins.

Serve just as it is or with Greek yoghurt.

Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding Recipe

chia puddingIt might seem like I am a little obsessed with chia seeds lately as it’s not long ago that I was whipping up a batch of Blueberry Chia Jam. The thing is, I can’t help it.  These little seeds are just so good for our health with their bundle of healthy omega-3 fats, fibre and protein.  Chia seeds can be added to so many dishes, including puddings which are pretty hot right now.  I have tried a few of these, but none that I really loved.  In my search for recipe idea’s I came across a handful that promised the taste and texture of cake batter and given that I was a helicopter kid waiting for that hotly contested mixing spoon, I was quite keen on the idea.  The problem with some of these recipes though, is that although promoted as ‘healthy’ they sometimes contain way too much fat and sugar even if they do originate from a ‘natural’ source. So, I created my own version of the Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding, which I made for breakfast this morning and then launched on the Morning Show on 6PR 882Am radio.  It is very delicious and I think that you might like to try it.

Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding

Ingredients: (Serves 6) 6 tablespoons chia seeds 6 Medjool dates, seeded and chopped 1 x 400 ml can evaporated light milk with coconut 1/4 cup rolled oats 1 tablespoon of nut butter (whichever takes your fancy) 1 x 400 ml can light coconut milk Method: Mix all ingredients together except the coconut milk and place in the refrigerator for one hour.  Place mixture into a blender and add 2 x tablespoons of cacao powder, 1 x teaspoon vanilla extract and a splash of milk if more liquid is required.  Pour into six small bowls, jars or cups and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning: Open the tin of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the solids at the top of the can, placing in a mixing bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and using electric beaters, beat until smooth and soft peaks form. Spoon a little onto the top of each pudding and finish these cute little bundles with a sprinkling of finely grated dark chocolate. Nutrition per serve = 230 calories, 8.5 g fat, 23.5 g carbohydrates, 11 g protein and 250 mg calcium


Friendship Friday

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t quite know what to do with? Let me tell you about one of those gifts.  My best friend at primary school was Fiona and she had a very friendly and community minded mother called June. When I was around 10 years old, June gifted my mum an unusual package containing some interesting smelling batter. It was a Friendship Cake. Mum kept that cake going for a long time and every 10 days we were treated to a delicious cake originating from this Friendship Cake batter. It drifted around our school community and beyond for several years. Of course everyone baked then and buying cakes and biscuits was frowned upon. The original Friendship Cake or Bread (as it is known in the US) is thought to have been developed by the Amish. There is even a website and a novel dedicated to it. Fast forward some years to present day where I find myself immersed in Friendship Cake. I love to bake and baking is making a comeback thanks to the plethora of reality cooking shows such as Masterchef. But there is another aspect to this cake that appeals to me.  Life just keeps getting busier and in our rush to get everywhere fast and do more we don’t seem to have the time to stop and say a meaningful hello to people or engage with our neighbours or get that sense of community that is so vital. My Friendship Cake has been travelling around the neighbourhood, school community, up north, down south since June this year and is going strong.  Its not a chain letter and no one will suffer great mishaps if they drop it, forget to stir or feed it.  Although if you drop the batter, its not pretty. My parents always taught me that you should accept a gift with good grace and the spirit in which it was given even if you don’t think it is right for you and of course, always remember to say thank you. With this in mind, when offered the gift of Friendship Cake many people are intrigued by the concept and some are doubtful that a batter can thrive over 10 days at room temperature.

Friendship Cake

Combine 1 cup each of plain flour, milk and white sugar in a large bowl with lid using a wooden spoon. This Day 1. Do not refrigerate and don’t be deterred by the interesting smell that emanates from your mixture, its just doing what its meant to, fermenting! Day 2 through to Day 10, stir with a wooden spoon.  On Day 5 feed your batter again with 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. (You may need to use a whisk when feeding the cake to prevent lumps).  On Day 10 take out three cups and give one each to three friends.  The remaining batter is yours to make a delicious cake with!  I have a few recipes that I use that have been modified but today I share my Carrot Cake recipe. I also have Chocolate and Lemon Coconut, so if you are planning on getting one started just let me know and I will post them up too. ______________________________________________________________

Carrot Friendship Cake

To the remaining batter from Friendship cake once divided and given add: 1 cup sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons each of cinnamon and bicarb soda 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons vanilla essence 2 eggs 1/2 cup poly or monounsaturated oil 1 cup sultanas or chopped dates 2 large carrots, grated Mix all ingredients well and pour into one large or two smaller loaf  tins and bake in a moderate oven for approximately 50 minutes. ______________________________________________________________ If you happen to live around the Scarborough area in Perth, I have three portions of the batter to ‘friend’ today, just let me know if one of them has your name on it. Otherwise, start your own, engage with your own community and every time you stir your cake, think about the great friends you already have and those that you are yet to meet.