Orange Chocolate Chip Scones: The scones that stole my heart and took my breath away!

Yesterday was Mother's Day here in the UK. As promised, I made my family (specially dedicated to my mom, of course) a lavish brunch consisting of a feta/mushroom/spinach quiche with a hashbrown crust, a baked apple pie pancake with homemade salted caramel, these amazing (out of this world, to die for, knock-your-socks-off, every positive adjective!) orange chocolate scones, and greek yogurt and homemade fresh strawberry sauce parfaits. 

This post is the first of recipes in this brunch series. It also happens to be my favorite.
THESE SCONES ARE SO GOOD YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM! I promise you won't regret it. 

And what's more? The hardest part of this recipe is grating the orange zest. Fresh orange zest and fresh orange juice are the essence of these scones. Don't be lazy and use stuff from the supermarket - your scones won't be as good! Plus, fresh = healthier, right? Seriously though. Also, use some good quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips - the kind that get all melty and delicious when baked, the kind that are so rich and full of chocolatey goodness.
Chocolate and orange are a killer flavor combination. I used to be a non-believer in this match made in heaven, but these scones were one of the things that helped convert me. The tanginess, bitterness and zestiness of the orange combined with a creamy, richness of the chocolate - wow, now that's a winner!

If that wasn't enough to convince you, here's two more things that may get you on-board. Firstly, my non-sweet-toothed dad ate two large scones. Now that may not seems significant, but it's a huge deal... and that, too, combined with all the other brunch goodies! Secondly, I am shamelessly (not really) admitting that we wiped the entire batch of scones clean in a single sitting... Yup, we still ate all the rest of the food as well! They were that good.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
freshly grated zest of 3 juicing oranges
5 tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
4-8 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
pinch of granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 200 C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Sift the flours and baking powder and mix in the sugar and orange zest.
Next, cut in the butter in small cubes using a knife or pastry cutter and mix into the dry ingredients until it resembles course crumbs the size of peas. Don't overmix with your hands as the butter will melt and large chunks of cold butter are what make scones light and moist! 
Add in the chocolate chips.
Lastly, tablespoon by tablespoon, mix in the orange juice until the scone "dough" is just holding together. If you add too much liquid, the scones won't be scones - they'll be muffins!
Transfer the dough to the baking tray and form a large circle. Gently press down with your hands until it is around 3/4-1 inch thick. Cut into 8-10 triangles. 
Sprinkle with some granulated sugar.
Bake for around 15-18 minutes, or until the top looks a beautiful golden brown.
Wait for them to cool, and enjoy!
Like all scones, these taste best on the first day, so don't worry about eating them all! I won't tell...


Homemade Salted Caramel

I've been wanting to make my own salted caramel for forever. And I literally mean forever. As much as I'm a major chocoholic, I really really love good salted caramel. I'm drooling just thinking about it - drizzled on ice cream, pancakes, french toast, pies, crumbles, in milkshakes, frappucinos, dipping anything and everything into it (apples, cookies, yes... spoon included!). 

After reading tons of recipes and articles that made it sound like a real art and a very difficult technique to master, I was slightly put off and well, scared, which is why it took me a while to take the plunge. Well, I finally did, and boy oh boy.... I'm so glad I did.

I'm not going to lie. I didn't get it right on the first try - the sugar burnt, and the final caramel was a chocolate brown color... NOT the way salted caramel should be. But the second batch was perfect. I'm pretty proud of myself, to be honest. Just two batches to get it right? Good job Tanvi!
My version requires no fancy ingredients and no fancy equipments - this means NO candy thermometers like the majority of recipes call for!

The ten minute process is very involved and you don't want to step away from the stove. But ten minutes of paying close attention for a jar of delicious, homemade salted caramel? It's worth it. I promise you!

If you're a caramel fan, I urge you to stop buying the pre-jarred stuff, or even worse, the stuff out of a squeezy bottle! This is SO. MUCH. BETTER.

One more thing checked off my list with this recipe - taking photos with sauce "dripping"! I had a ton of fun with my mom taking these pictures (not sure if she felt the same way!). I'm quite happy with the way they turned out, but as always, there's lots of room for improvement.
Homemade salted caramel. What are you waiting for?

1 cup granulated sugar** 
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in three squares from the stick 
(should be firm - from the fridge is best)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sea salt (fleur de sel is best, but I didn't have any)

**I used raw cane sugar, which is a light brown color, which is why my caramel is a bit darker than if you were to start with white sugar

Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a deep, golden-brown, amber-colored viscous liquid. At all times, be careful not to burn!
Once the sugar is all melted, immediately add the butter. The mixture will bubble, so do watch out. Stir until the butter has completely melted and is mixed well into the sugar.
Slowly pour in the heavy cream. Due to the reaction between the cold cream and hot sugar mixture, the final mixture will bubble vigorously. Allow the mixture to boil/bubble for 30 seconds. It will rise in the pan as it does so. Once again, watch that it's not burning!
Remove from heat and stir in salt, starting with 1/2 tsp and adding as you taste. Allow to cool.
Store in a tightly-capped jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Warm slightly before using again.
Enjoy - I'm sure you will!


Luscious Lemon Squares

Before we even begin to think or speak about these lemon bars (lemons are such a spring thing, and it's spring!), I'd like to share with you a great lunch experience I had today.

My mom and I ventured out on another one of our weekly (often more than once a week!) lunch dates exploring London's food scene. On our agenda today: Tibits.

Tibits is extremely conveniently located just off Oxford Street and tucked away in a cute little nook (on a tiny street called Heddon Street). It's location itself makes it a hotspot for office crowd, teenagers hanging out and shoppers alike.  It's a vegetarian cafe/bar/restaurant flaunting a very unique concept. Food is served in a food boat (buffet style) and has on offer a variety of hot dishes that change daily, delicious salads and cold dishes, a soup of the day, bread rolls, and a not-to-be missed dessert section. You pile your plate high, then head to the counter to weigh you plate and pay (yes, you pay by weight). I will shamelessly admit that my plate was quite full, and hence, slightly pricey! But you're paying for quality. Everything I had was fresh, healthy, wholesome and outstandingly yummy! I, being a sugar addict, and thankfully my mom is my dessert partner-in-crime, finished my lunch and headed for a dessert round. We were blown away by the sticky toffee pudding with dates, maple syrup and ginger. That's all I'll say about Tibits right now, but I could rave on and on and give it lots of praise. If you take away one thing, it's that Tibits is definitely worth a try if you're in London!

Back to these luscious and tart lemon squares. Like most of my recipes, they're relatively healthy, super easy to put together and made with ingredients you'll probably have in your pantry right now.

Rather than ramble on and on, let me cut to the chase! Check out the recipe below and when your citrus cravings hit, this is your go-to recipe!

For the base:
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup baby oats
3 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp cold water
pinch of salt

For the lemon filling:
4 eggs
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
8 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp honey
1 tbsp unrefined sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp cup flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Mix together all the ingredients for the base and press into a baking dish lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top looks crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling.
Whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey and sugar. Add in the eggs and salt and whisk again. Lastly, mix in the flour, making sure there are no small lumps of flour left.
The mixture will be quite runny, but that's fine. Pour the prepared mixture on top of the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the lemon filling is cooked through but still gooey and soft.
Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut into squares and serve.


Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are a superfood that have been gaining popularity like crazy in the past year. Although I was late to try them, I've been amazed by their versatility. The seeds themselves have no distinct flavor, so it's all up to you. Whatever liquid you decide to soak them in is the flavor they'll pick up as they absorb the liquid.

This simple (non) recipe for chia seed pudding can be made up to five days in advance! The pudding can be eaten as a great, healthy, filling breakfast or as a guilt-free dessert. The varieties and options are literally endless - different soaking liquid, choice of nuts, wide range of fruits, chocolate is welcome to join as well!

Here I've done a very simple vanilla honey chia seed pudding layered with some of this raspberry chia jam and topped with some greek yogurt and chopped almonds.

This works as a great, no-cook breakfast that you can prep the night before and just grab out of the fridge when you're ready to eat. Topping it with some fresh fruit would complete the breakfast experience (breakfast without fruit isn't breakfast to me!). It's a great alternative to overnight oats especially if that ends up being your breakfast almost everyday! Don't forget it can be sneakily-healthy dessert option as well!

For 1 breakfast-sized serving
3/4 cup milk of choice
4 tbsp chia seeds
2-3 tsp honey
few drops vanilla extract
toppings - fruit, nuts, other seeds, jams, yogurt

Add all ingredients except toppings in a jar, bowl or container and mix around. Place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top the chia seed pudding with your desired toppings or layer in another serving bowl/glass.


Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Ever dreamed of eating something that resembles peanut butter ice cream, rice krispies, butterfinger and the most delicious crumble all at once? Ever dreamed this treat was healthy?

Well, today's your lucky day! All your dreams have come true. These peanut butter crunch bars are just that - healthy, delicious and taste like all of the above in some way.

The base is crunchy, sweet soft and has just a subtle flavor of peanut butter. The topping however, gives this treat its special kick! It takes the bars from a peanut butter flavored rice krispie sort-of treat to one that resembles your favorite (peanut butter) candy bar! It's smooth, sweet, sticky and well, you guessed it - peanut butter-y!

They take literally 30 minutes from start to finish, excluding chilling time. If you're too hungry to wait the 2 hours of chilling time, pop these in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and you could have these made from scratch to the final product in just an hour!

What are you waiting for?

For the crispy layer:
1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups crunchy cereal (cheerios, special K, rice krispies - I just used some lightly sweetened multigrain flakes)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp agave nectar
4 tbsp creamy peanut butter, melted (I used Skippy so I'm not sure if this works with a more natural peanut butter)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

For the topping:
4 tbsp peanut butter, melted (don't use natural here!)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 175 C. Line a small baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the almond flour and cereal until cereal just slightly until cereal has broken up a bit. You don't want to make a flour here! Pour this into a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients for the crispy layer and mix well to combine.
Press into the baking sheet and bake for around 15 minutes and until the top looks golden brown.
Let this cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Just mix up all the ingredients together!

When the bars have come to room temperature, pour/drizzle/spread the topping on the bars. Refrigerate the bars for at least 2 hours so the topping and bars have time to set.
Cut a huge square and enjoy with a cold glass of milk!


Grilled Vegetable and Spinach Couscous Salad

You should be proud. I'm adding a savory recipe to my repertoire. That's right - no sugar!

A colorful, hearty, tasty, feel-good salad! This is a great light lunch option or as a side dish. It's also a fantastic dish to make in larger quantities for lunch/dinner parties or picnics!

It encompasses so many flavors, textures and food groups that you won't even feel like you're eating a 'salad'.  From crispy, fresh spinach leaves, to salty, rich grilled vegetables, to the creamy, nutty couscous, topped with sweet, crunchy sunflower seeds and all rounded off with some tangy lemon juice... How could you possibly say no?

The veggies contribute to your five-a-day, the sunflower seeds add some belly-filling healthy fat and the couscous curb your carb cravings. The perfect meal in a bowl!

As with most recipes, this is just a starting point, so feel free to change up the vegetables, sprinkle different nuts/seeds, spice it up with your own dressing or even change the grain to quinoa or millet etc. Basically, this is just one (delicious!) example of a plethora of varieties.  

Serves 2 as a light lunch
1 large or 2 small zucchini
1 large eggplant
1 large red bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette 
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of mixed herbs (dried or fresh)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2-3 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 - 1 1/2 cups cooked couscous
1 tbsp lemon juice 

Slice the zucchini and eggplant into ovals (like you would if cutting them in rounds, but cut diagonally to lengthen). Similarly, slice the bell pepper into strips around 1 inch wide.
Place the sliced vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette on vegetables and toss around until each piece is well coated. Spring the salt, pepper and herbs and toss once again.
Put the bowl in the fridge for around 2 hours to let the marinade sink in and give the flavors time to meld together.
Once the veggies have had time to marinate, pull out your sandwich grill and heat it to medium heat. Place the veggies on the grill in a single layer and let them grill until cooked and slightly softened, but still firm. Grill marks are always nice! Continue to repeat until all veggies have been grilled. Keep them a single layer is paramount! Don't try to take as shortcut and just pile them up.
Get out two nice bowls (pretty food = tasty food!) and it's time to build the salad!
Put half the grilled veggies, half the spinach leaves and half the couscous in each bowl and toss to combine.
Drizzle around the lemon juice and mix one last time.
Sprinkle each serving with some sunflower seeds and voila!
It's time to enjoy the goodness in a bowl!


Raspberry Chia Jam

I couldn't help it. Yup, I jumped on the chia seed bandwagon.

For the past six months or so, I've really wanted to try out chia seeds for myself after all the hype. I'd seen recipes everywhere describing the versatility of chia seeds, the miraculous way they multiply in size and transform into a gel-like pudding when soaked/mixed in liquid and finally, their many health benefits (read this article). However, I take all health claims with caution and wasn't willing to pick up a large bag of chia seeds only to find out I didn't like them...

That's when a good friend of mine came to the rescue! Over a conversation at dinner, we happened to come to the topic of chia seeds. After explaining my dilemma, she mentioned that she had recently bought chia seeds and would gladly give me some to try.

She gave me around two tablespoons (a single serving) and I soaked them in milk and honey overnight and then topped them with greek yogurt, chopped granny smith apple and maple glazed walnuts. It was such a great change to the overnight oats I ate almost everyday for breakfast in college (don't get me wrong, I love my overnight oats!).

After the first try, I wouldn't say I was hooked, but was definitely ready to pick up my own bag and experiment!
The first thing I did was make a batch of this delicious, fresh, healthy and pure raspberry jam. Look at that vibrant red color! The great thing about making jam with chia seeds is that it's not only healthier than regular jam (no added weird ingredients in this version!), but it also means no having to deal with pectin and the like.

Any fruit can be subbed in for the raspberries, be it another berry, peaches, anything really! That said, I think berries do work the best (and are also the natural choice for jam), as the berry seeds combine well with the chia seeds to make a perfectly-textured jam! Also, do remember that the main ingredient is the fruit itself, so make sure to use ripe, good-quality fruit for this jam!
500g raspberries (or any other berry or fruit)
3-4 tbsp chia seeds (adjust depending on how thick you like your jam)
4 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the berries in a saucepan and heat on medium heat until berries have almost broken down. Mix around or mash with a fork, but do leave some larger chunks for texture.
At this point, add in the honey and chia seeds and keep heating for another 5-7 minutes. Once it looks like the jam has thickened quite a bit, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Let the jam come to room temperature, then put it into jars and refrigerate.
The jam is best after resting for a day so that the flavor has time to shine and the chia seeds have lots of time to blow up and thicken the jam.
Spread on toast, scones, use in a pb&j, mix into yogurt, be creative!
Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. It probably won't last much longer because it's au-natural, but I doubt you'll have trouble finishing it off!


Golden Syrup Muffins

In January, my mom enthusiastically picked up a can of Lyle's Golden Syrup, thinking we could use it in tons of recipes. Now, this is true but not what she was thinking. I mean, there are thousands of recipes out there that call for golden syrup, but you have to go looking for them. It's unlikely you'll come across a recipe that specifically calls for golden syrup...other than flapjacks, of course!

Anyways, I love trying out new ingredients and combinations, so I was nothing but happy to try and use this golden syrup... And so I did!

These muffins are different from the average muffin - they have an almost chewy, gooey, crispy exterior and have a dense buttery interior (no butter!). They are just sweet enough for an afternoon treat and can definitely be turned into dessert-type pudding by serving with oodles of golden syrup poured on top with a side of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream. Now you can't turn that down, can you? 

The golden syrup yields a distinct flavor, almost toffee-like. A little toffee never hurt anyone, did it? The way these muffins are constructed means you can truly enjoy the stickiness and flavor of the golden syrup! A blob of mixture is put into the muffin tin, topped with a teaspoon of pure golden syrup and then covered with batter. I'm sure you can imagine how sticky these get when baking, so as I did, I suggest you bake these straight into a lightly buttered and floured muffin pan rather than use muffin liners.

They're very easy to put together. No fancy equipment, no weird ingredients. And the best part? They're best served warm, which means no having to wait until they cool to dig in! 

As a note, I used leftover almond date pulp from this almond milk in place of the one cup of flour and some milk. But that's just because I had it and wanted to make the most of all the goodness! The recipe below is the original and works just as well, if not better. Comment below if you want the adjusted recipe with almond pulp.

1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp + 7 tsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170 C.
Lightly butter and flour 7 muffin tins in a muffin pan.
Sift the flours and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
Whisk the coconut oil, egg, milk, 3 tbsp golden syrup and vanilla extract in a smaller bowl.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to form a batter. The more you mix, the denser these muffins will be, so in this case, it's up to you whether you want to overmix or not!
Fill the muffin tins until halfway full. Spoon 1 tsp of golden syrup on top of the batter in each muffin tin. Top with the remaining half of the batter.
Bake for 40 minutes or until tops of muffins look golden brown and slightly crispy.
Best enjoyed warm with a cup of tea or coffee! If you're feeling decadent, top with spoonfuls of golden syrup! I had them as is about two minutes after they came out of the oven and they were oh-so-good.