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
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)
1/3 cup maple syrup
extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle
- 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.
- 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.
- Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
- When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
- Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
- For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
- Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.
Makes 12-14 tarts.
The 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
10 crushed walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
- Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
- Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
- Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
- Stir in the walnuts.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
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 guardian.co.uk) 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!
In anticipation of a busy week ahead, I decided to make a set of pull-out freezer meals. I’d also accumulated ingredients from weeks of past dinner makings. These ingredients looked rather risotto-ish …
Tired of my usual veg option (mushroom), I zhuzhed up the dish with shittake mushrooms. And the help of some young asparagus.
Not a bad effort for ‘making it up as you go along’. And as it turns out, shittake risotto tastes better the day after it’s made!
1T rice bran oil
half an onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2c arborio rice
1c white wine
6c vegetable stock
2c shittake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, sliced into 1-2cm pieces
100g light cheese, grated
zest of half a lemon
- Heat the oil in a large frypan.
- Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent.
- Add rice. Stir to coat the grains with oil.
- Next add the white wine and stir until the liquid has reduced.
- Then add a cup of the stock and stir over medium heat until the liquid in the pan has reduced. Repeat this step with the remaining stock until the rice is half cooked.
- Next add the mushrooms and stir to distribute them through the rice mixture. Then continue to add the remaining stock until the the rice is almost tender enough to eat.
- Next, add the asparagus and cook briefly. The asparagus should still be bright green and firm to the bite when you serve the risotto. If the rice is still uncooked and the liquid has reduced, add more stock and keep cooking the rice until it’s done.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir through cheese and lemon rind.
I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook with coconut oil. I love coconut and it seems to be the superfood ‘flavour of the month’. Proselytising many (women at least), it’s being hailed as a mega-electrolyte source, an age-defying elixir, and of course, an aid to weight loss.
Back to coconut oil … I had some carrots in the fridge and so decided to make pumpkin carrot soup. Hence the (coconut oil) opportunity. I would sauté the vegetables in coconut oil and then also add coconut milk, to produce a rich coconut flavour. I would also add ginger and, at the end, chilli flakes and lime. Sounding Thai? I hoped so!
To get the vegetables to liquids ratio right, I sought guidance from Jamie’s Pumpkin and Ginger soup recipe.
Here’s what my recipe ended up looking like:
Coconut, Pumpkin, and Carrot Soup
1T coconut oil
large thumb of grated ginger
1L vegetable stock
200mL coconut milk
chilli flakes to taste
salt and pepper
half a lime
- Cut pumpkin and carrots into chunks.
- Heat coconut oil in a large pot and sauté pumpkin and carrots.
- Add ginger, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and chilli flakes.
- Bring mixture to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to mash or process.
- Mash or process soup mixture, to develop a texture to your liking (smooth or chunky).
- Season with salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lime before serving.
Coming up with ways to use left-over wine is one of my favourite dilemmas. “Left-over” wine? Yes.
Regardless of how it’s neglected, I’ll always take the opportunity to enrich a meal with it. In this case, it was white wine and I decided to make a low-fat mushroom lasagne with it.
When making ‘skinny’ meals, I work extra hard to ensure they’re full of flavour. Why make healthy-eating torture? The wine would add depth and flavour to the mushrooms; and the low-calorie ‘creamy’ partner would be a low-fat ricotta. For lift and complexity, I also added lemon zest to the ricotta.
As usual, I researched the net for mushroom ricotta lasagne recipes, before deciding on how I would shape my own recipe. I based my initial structure on the BBC’s GoodFood Quick Mushroom & Lasagne recipe:
My key changes to the recipe were:
- Adding white wine to the mushrooms
- Adding lemon rind to the ricotta
- Sautéeing the onions and mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter, for a hint of traditional comfort
Quick Low-fat Mushroom Lasagne with White Wine and Lemon Ricotta
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, diced
250g white button mushrooms, sliced
250mL white wine
pepper to taste
100g baby spinach
500g light ricotta cheese
grated rind of one lemon
6 fresh lasagne sheets
50g grated parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C /180˚C fan bake.
- Prepare a 19cm x 28cm baking dish with cooking spray.
- Melt butter in a large frying pan and sauté garlic and onion until onion is soft.
- Add mushrooms and cook until soft.
- Add white wine and cook until liquid has reduced to a small sauce. Season with cracked pepper.
- Add spinach and cook until just wilted.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta and lemon rind.
- Line the baking dish with two sheets of lasagne, followed by the mushroom mixture. Add another layer of lasagne, then the ricotta. Sprinkle half of the parmesan over the ricotta. Finish with a final layer of lasagne, followed by the remaining parmesan.
- Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden and the lasagne is cooked through.
Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?
So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.
To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:
- I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
- To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
- To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
- My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.
In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*
‘Healthy’ Date Loaf
1 cup chopped dried dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice
Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)
1 T melted butter or oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
- Combine the flours and baking powder.
- Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
- Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.
- Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
- Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
- Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
- Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
- Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
- Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.