Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

Beetroot chocolate cake, courgette cake, sweet potato brownies… I love the idea of baking vegetables into sweet treats that you can’t see or taste! I was so excited to try my hand at sweet potato brownies but, unfortunately the recipes I tried produced mushy not fudgey brownies, or just didn’t resemble a classic brownie/cake consistency at all.

After going through a few recipes, I realised a couple of tricks were required to work with this type of mixture (you’re not working with a regular brownie mixture, after all!):

My first tip would be to bake the sweet potato. Boiling or even steaming the sweet potato will generate too much liquid, resulting in an overly-wet batter.

Second, the final batter really needs to resemble a stiff cookie dough-like texture before you bake it. So continue to add more ground nuts until you achieve this consistency.

Finally, I’ve found this recipe to be pretty versatile. You can switch out the types of nuts, fats, and sweetners you use, depending on what you have on hand. (At the moment, my favourite key ingredients are walnuts, manuka honey, and rice bran oil). And, as per usual, I’ve kept the sugar and fat to a minimum, so you can enjoy this as a regular snack!


1 medium orange kumara (sweet potato)

1-2 cups walnuts or almonds or nuts of your choice

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch of salt

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 cup manuka honey or coconut sugar or maple syrup

1/4 cup almond butter or coconut oil or rice bran oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

100g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Icing sugar or frosting to finish


  1. Cut the sweet potato into 3cm x 3cm cubes and bake at 180 degrees celsius, until tender. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, ground 1 cup walnuts with cacao powder, baking soda, and salt. Tip the ground dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In the food processor, blend the sweet potato, almond butter, manuka honey, and vanilla essence together.
  4. Add the blended wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine with dry ingredients. (At this stage I advise blending the mixture in a bowl as it may be too stiff for your food processor to process!). The final consistency of the batter should be like cookie-dough, so add more ground walnuts until you achieve this dough-like consistency.
  5. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Press the dough evenly into a greased 21cm x 11cm loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, or until a skewer comes out with moist cooked crumbs attached. (Cooked batter will look dark brown and uncooked batter will appear pastel brown).
  7. Leave to cool in tin before turning out.
  8. Once the brownie is completely cool, dust with icing sugar or frost if you wish. Slice into squares.

*You can cook the brownie in a square tin, just adjust the cooking time. I prefer using a loaf tin as I like a ‘taller’ brownie.

Oat Flour Banana Bread

Banana bread

I’m always thinking of how I can maximise both the nutritional value and flavour in my day-to-day baking. I’d made banana bread for years using wholemeal flour, but as I’ve grown older, it’s been important to increase the nutritional value of my meals even more. So I came up with the idea of putting oats in a food processor to make ‘oat flour’. Making oat flour only when you need it also means you don’t have to buy a specialty product at a high price that you’ll only use part of, leaving the rest to go to waste…

Here’s the recipe. This banana bread is great for an evening treat, or as I show you later, fantastic for healthy work snacks. It’s also freezable, so you can have some now, and save some for later!



1 cup oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

pinch salt

1 ripe banana, chopped roughly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence*


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a loaf tin** with oil.
  2. Place the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Blend until the oats resemble a floury texture.
  3. Add the banana, eggs, and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and blend until just incorporated.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when touched and a skewer comes out clean after inserting it.


*Flavour. For a spicy banana bread, substitute the vanilla essence with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Sometimes I’ll also add walnuts, blueberries, chia seeds, or coconut.

**Shape. This recipe is also great for work snacking. For convenience, use a muffin tin in place of the loaf tin. Add another half cup of oats for a firmer batter.


Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These walnut chocolate chunk cookies are gluten-free, low in sugar, and will add to your dose of omega-3! The resulting texture is a cross between a soft-chewy cookie and an amaretti cookie. I was originally inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie’s vegan recipe but used walnut flour to boost the protein and reduce the carbs. If you preferred to keep it vegan, you could also replace the egg with oil and milk as Katie does.

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 20 cookies


2 1/2 cups walnuts

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

100g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Line a 39x27cm cookie tray with baking paper.
  3. Process 2 cups of the walnuts, baking, and salt in a food processor until the walnuts are finely ground.
  4. Tip the walnut mix into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, egg, and vanilla essence. Blend until incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate pieces.
  6. Shape cookies from the dough: Begin by shaping one tablespoon of dough into a ball and flatten to about half a centimetre on your lined cookie tray. At this point, if the mixture is looking a bit wet, add in more ground walnuts bit by bit until you get a drier consistency. Continue shaping cookies from the dough until finished.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies are browned to your liking.
  8. Transfer to a tray and cool.
  9. Enjoy!


Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies


Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!

So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.

They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!



Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

IMG_3865 new

Over the weekend I hosted my first crafternoon, with my version of a crafternoon being: making stuff (in this case dream catchers), hanging out with friends, and treats. Heaven in an afternoon.

Leading up to the weekend, I had a recipe in progress for the treats part … which turned out to be for heart-shaped banoffee tarts: as delicious as traditional banoffee pies, but subtle enough for seconds. I used low-fat ricotta instead of cream and maple syrup in place of a traditional caramel. To make things interesting and flavoursome I used ground hazelnuts and crushed Ginger Nuts biscuits in the bases.

Here’s the recipe:

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

Tart shell

The Roaming Kitchen’s Nectarine Hazelnut Tart recipe (substituting the Digestive biscuits for Ginger Nuts).


500g low-fat ricotta

1/4 cup maple syrup

1-2 bananas (green at the tips)


30 walnuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease or line 12-14 tart moulds of your choosing. I used heart-shaped moulds, but you could just as easily use a standard muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the tart mix using the The Roaming Kitchen’s recipe above. Line the tart moulds with the mix and bake for about 10 minutes. If the tarts brown quickly, you can lower the heat or turn off the oven in the last minute to avoid burning. Cool completely.
  3. Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
  4. When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
  5. Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
  6. For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
  7. Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.

Makes 12-14 tarts.




Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana BreadThe smell of baking coconut, manuka honey, and banana wafting from the oven was too heavenly to resist. I had to share this recipe. I had half a carton of buttermilk left over, so I decided to bake a banana loaf for the week’s snacks. The buttermilk, combined with baking soda would produce a nice, light loaf.

Always thinking of how to make food healthy, yet full of deliciousness, I added coconut oil, manuka honey, and walnuts to the mix. Manuka honey packs a nice punch in flavour, especially in low-fat baking. And nuts are always a treat!

Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread

5 ripe bananas, mashed

2T Manuka honey

1T coconut oil (you can also use butter or oil)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2t baking soda

1t baking powder

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 cup plain flour

1t cinnamon

1/2t nutmeg

3t ginger

10 crushed walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
  2. Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
  4. Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
  5. Stir in the walnuts.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.


Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Loaf

gingerbread IMG_2309

Over the holiday season, everyone in the flat was away at different times, seeing family and friends. So I thought some form of connection over this time would be nice. How about gingerbread?

Jane Brocket’s gingerbread recipe (published as a ‘ginger cake’ recipe on produces a dense, rich, gingery slice. It’s delicious served warm, or with tea. Instructions are easy to follow and will get you to a spicy holiday destination pretty quickly. And using only 85g of butter, you’re in no danger of filling your pants before Christmas!

Labour of Love: Chocolate Caramel Cake


So it was my friend Nicole’s birthday last weekend. And it was an honour to make her a cake. The requested flavour? Chocolate. And Caramel. “Intense” was my first thought. Nevertheless, I fossicked through a few different recipes – sans the ones with creamy fillings (I’m not really a fan), and looked for a cake robust enough to survive a few modes of public transport. (Is there a limit to love??). I finally settled on this recipe from Astoria in Lambton Quay, Wellington.

With three glorious layers (chocolate cake, caramel, and chocolate ganache) this cake is semi-high maintenance. Production requires good ingredients, time, and patience. There’s nothing instant about this cake (the only things store-bought are the raw ingredients).

However, if you use quality ingredients from the start, you’ll taste that quality in every bite of your final masterpiece. So of course the chocolate I used was 70 percent cocoa (not compound) and the eggs were free range.

The result is a rich cake that goes the distance. This cake served 10 guests, with a quarter remaining. The recipe says it serves 16, but I guess it depends on who you’ve invited to dinner …

Spresso Love: Coffee Hazelnut Meringue Cakes


For a change, I took the scenic route to last weekend’s party. Through the bush, like Little Red Riding Hood.

Given the journey ahead, my dinner contribution needed to be roadworthy. I took this opportunity to create hazelnut meringue /pavlova cakes: cake bases with crispy cloud toppings.

Despite the brilliance of this concept, I’ve only seen meringue /pavlova cakes at a couple of cafes – and they’ve been of a macaroon texture, rather than a cake texture. What’s more, the recipes I’ve seen have only been for large chocolate hazelnut cakes.

Hence, “the plan” for my own hazelnut meringue cakes:

  • A cake base mixture split into 12 muffin tins, using the hazelnut cake recipe from pastrystudio.blogspot.
  • A pavolva /meringue topping, based on the chocolate meringue recipe from

For the cake bases, I omitted the orange zest and substituted the milk for a latte. And for the toppings I omitted the chocolate. (Although chocolate and hazelnut is a favourite Italian pairing, I left out the chocolate to reveal the subtle flavour of the hazelnuts).

Of importance to note, is the optimum baking time of fifteen minutes (approx), when using silicon heart-shaped moulds. A helpful point to remember: the meringue toppings obscure the cake bases, so it’s difficult to check the cakes for ‘done-ness’ with the usual touch or prick test!

Barely a few moments out of the oven and into the mouths of my tasting panel, feedback emerged: “Amazing texture” … “You could sell these in a café”.


Phew. A safe journey completed. With no wolves in sight.


Four Legs Good: Animal Farm Jelly, Jell-O, Jiggler shapes

Jelly IMG_1129

It’s a beautiful thing when people have faith in your abilities, visions beyond your wildest dreams.

Recently, I was asked if I could make “coloured” jelly for a party. I was hoping the host was thinking of the standard two-toned jelly in a bowl our family made at Christmas every year. I sent her an image of this “standard jelly” to contain expectations. Sure enough, she responded with images of delicate miniature, free-standing jellies. Even heart shaped ones.

Despite my forehead pulsating with anxiety, part of me was really excited about the opportunity. I was on it, focused, and determined to solve this jelly riddle.

I began searching for jelly recipes made with moulds and quickly realised the best source of recipes would be jelly-crystal makers’ websites. Thus I became well-acquainted with Kraft’s ‘jiggler’ recipes. There, I discovered recipes for a range of occasions, including eggs for Easter, trees for Christmas, and even “spooky” jigglers for Halloween.

After looking at a few different recipes, I decided I would concentrate the jelly mixture (by four times the usual amount of jelly crystals), to get the jellies to hold their shape. However, the heart moulds I had held about a quarter-cup of jelly – a quarter of a cup too much concentrated jelly mix for the average guest. The alternative was to use an ice tray with smaller heart moulds – however, I would risk the jellies losing their shape after removing them from their moulds (melting the jellies by running hot water over the moulds would be required to loosen them from the moulds).

This led me to settle on the cookie cutter method. I chose ‘bite-sized’ animal-shaped cookie cutters from Let’s Cook. These were 2cm deep, so I used a 4cm deep roasting pan to set the jelly.

In keeping with the host’s theme colours, I chose strawberry flavoured crystals, and next time I’ll experiment with vodka. I’ve included the recipe below, so you can make your own replica jelly Animal Farm. Four legs good, two legs bad.

Animal Farm jellies

4 packets of jelly crystals

2 cups boiling water

extra boiling water

cooking spray


  1. Empty the packets of jelly into a jug.
  2. Add boiling water and whisk the mixture until all jelly crystals are dissolved. This is important, for consistency and to cut clean shapes out of the mixture when it is set.
  3. Pour mixture into a baking tray lined with baking paper and leave to cool to room temperature.
  4. Refrigerate jelly overnight.
  5. Prepare your serving plate with cooking spray.
  6. Place cookie cutters in a bowl of hot water before you use them, so they won’t stick to the jelly.
  7. Use the cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the jelly.

Tips for cutting clean, sharp shapes:

  • Push the cookie cutters straight down.
  • Push the cookie cutters down until they hit the bottom of the tray.
  • Hold the cookie cutters down for several seconds before removing them from the pan.
  • Use a butter knife to extract the shapes from the pan.