Classic Christmas Fruitcake

It's officially Christmas season and hence totally acceptable to make, eat and post about Christmas treats. Or maybe too late already? Either way, I'm doing it. And this one is just about as classic as you can get - a festive fruitcake wrapped in homemade marzipan!

I'm currently sitting on my couch, wrapped up comfy pants and watching snow ever so gently falling from in the sky. Believe or not, this is the first proper snow I've ever experience in London (and my fifth winter here!). I've seen several such snowy days in Cambridge and seen glimpses of snow here in London, but nothing like today. I guess this Christmas-y post was meant to be.

My day began with stacks of homemade greek yogurt pancakes (recipe for these will come soon!) with allll the toppings: homemade mixed berry compote, pure maple syrup, crunchy peanut butter, sliced banana and fresh blueberries. In other words, a snowy Sunday breakfast of dreams. This was then followed by a few hours of life admin (I know ya'll get me) and a trip to a gorgeous restaurant for lunch. Basically, it's been a cozy day filled with lotsa good food (and more to come because it's the little sis' birthday so tonight will end with cake!) and well, the perfect Sunday.

And yes, I know you're thinking it - where have I been for the last two months? Trust me, I've been here, making and eating lots of nice things, but just never really getting around to photographing or posting about them *insert monkey covering its eyes emoji here*.

Okay anyways, I think it's time we get back to the talk of the day: Christmas cake.

Now, this recipe does require some pre-planning, so take that into account. In fact, if you're looking to make this for Christmas day, you're reading this at just about at the right time. I've dubbed this the -one-week Christmas cake recipe. Some call for soaking your fruit for just a couple of hours while other recommend baking the cake several weeks or even months in advance and "feeding" with extra liquid regular. This one is just in between - you soak the fruit for a week, but once baked, it's kind of just ready to go the next day.

It's rich, but not too heavy. Boozy, but not too strong. Fruity, but not too sweet. It's simple and perfect.

I will now and forever always be a chocolate girl at heart, so a couple of servings of Christmas cake during the festive period is enough and I've just about lost my attention. But those couple of servings -  enjoy them from beginning to the last crumb. I'm very into eating with the seasons and for different occasions!

Long story short - if Christmas cake is your jam, then get cracking on this recipe.

For the cake:
350g mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas, cranberries and mixed peel)
100g glace cherries, halved
75g dried apricots, chopped into smaller bits
30g additional mixed peel (I really like it hence added more)
150ml brandy, sherry or rum
juice and zest of 1 orange
3 eggs, at room temperature
175g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

For the marzipan:
250g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
juice of one lemon
splash of vanilla extract
almond extract, optional (I didn't use this as I didn't feel the need for any extra almond-y flavour and just wanted the natural flavour to shine)

A week before you plan on making the cake, place all the dried fruit (including cherries, apricots and additional mixed peel in a large mixing bowl or airtight container), pour over the liquor of choice and orange juice and stir in the orange zest. Cover and leave to soak in the fridge, stirring daily. If the fruit at any point seems to have soaked up all the liquid, add a tad more juice or liquor and check again the next day.

On baking day, line a 9 inch round tin with greaseproof baking paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 140°C.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat again. Sift in the flour, salt and ground spices and mix well. Fold in the soaked fruit, first having drained off any excess liquid.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for an hour then turn the cake around and bake for a further 30 to 45 minutes or until the cake is a rich golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly and the inside is not yet done, cover the cake/pan with foil and keep baking until done.

Meanwhile, start on the marzipan. Pour all the ingredients into a food processor and mix just until they just well combined and form a ball. Knead further with your hands if necessary, but be extra careful not to over-process or over-mix, because you don't want the almonds to turn into a sticky paste (i.e. almond butter).

Wrap the ball in cling film and place in the fridge to set until the cake is ready to cover.

Once the cake is done, let it cool in the pan until completely cool. This is absolutely essential, otherwise, the marzipan will just melt into the cake.

Once you are sure the cake is cool, it is time for the final assembly. Pull the marzipan out of the fridge and roll it out until it is about half a centimeter thick. Wrap the sheet of marzipan on the cake and press down just a bit so the marzipan just sticks. Cut any extra bits off and save for snacking or decorating.

If you can hold off, I promise it tastes better the next day, but if you're like me and find it hard to hold back, then you know what, go for it!



Toasted Cashew Walnut Butter

There are only a few things in life that got me as excited as this did. It was truly a joyous moment.

Trust me, I had tried several times before.

If you've been following me since the beginning, you'll even know I once posted a recipe for cinnamon almond butter. Trust me - it was NOT cinnamon almond butter. If I had to call it something, I'd say it was a "gritty almond spread that was seized up with the addition of milk and honey with a dash of cinnamon"... Pleasant, right? Not. I have no idea what it was or why I thought it was recipe-worthy. Don't worry, the recipe post is long gone.
This stuff, on the other hand, is liquid crack. I could (and do!) eat it by the spoonful. It tastes amazing, is packed full of healthy fats and is devoid of any nasty additives. The natural sweetness of the cashews pairs so well with the slight bitterness of the walnuts and the sea salt just takes everything to the next level.

I've been loving eating it with a sliced banana or apple, dolloping it on top of oatmeal, slathering it onto chocolate and well, straight up spooning it out of the jar (as I said above...).

If you're a nut butter fiend like me, I really don't know what you're waiting for.

1⁄3 cups raw unsalted cashews - broken ones or pieces work perfectly!
½ cup raw walnut halves - same goes for the walnuts
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp or tbsp of melted coconut oil (optional and probably unnecessary, but do use if your butter isn't coming together)
+ a bit of patience and faith

While it is not necessary to toast the nuts, I felt it really enhanced their flavour and allowed for a quicker transition to a smooth butter. Turn on your oven to 160°C and place the nuts on a tray in the oven. Toast the nuts for around 10 minutes, or until golden brown, watching carefully as nuts can burn quickly. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes, or until just slightly warm.

Once cooled, pour the toasted nuts into a blender or food processor. Process/blend on high in two- to three-minute intervals. The nuts will go from whole to smaller bits to a flour to a sticky blob and finally into a butter. Be. Patient. It will happen. Just trust the process. For the first several minutes, you'll be very sceptical, but just wait it out. 

Two important points:

  1. Be sure to give your blender/processor a break every few minutes to avoid it from overheating. 
  2. If it's really not coming together after 10-12 minutes of processing time, then go ahead and add the tsp or tbsp of coconut oil - just a touch of liquid will help. Don't get tempted to add any water-based liquid like milk or the like, as this and the fats in the nuts will further separate the nut butter!

Once the nut butter reaches an almost smooth butter, like in the picture above, it's time to add the salt. Add it, then process for a minute or two further if you want it pretty much perfectly smooth. And ta-da - there you have it. The most incredible nut butter ever.

Because it is homemade and free of additives, I would be sure to store this in an airtight jar or container in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid. It should last for up to a month, but who are you kidding... It'll be gone well before that. Enjoy!


Chocolate Cardamom Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Pistachios

Mouthful, isn't it? If you have no idea what I'm referring to, go (re-)read the title of this post. A delicious mouthful, that's for sure. 

I was having a couple of friends over a few weeks ago and knew I wanted to bake them dessert. But it's not as simple as that. Well, not for me, at least. You see, I think quite long and hard about these things (okay not so long and hard, but just go with it for dramatic effect). 

I had to make something that a) I wanted because I'd be the one single-handedly eating any leftover as the fam was out of town (no complaints here, by the way!), b) was chocolatey because duh, c) but was not too simple because I like adding a bit of flair and d) was not super involved or difficult to make like layer cakes can often be.

Then it hit me - a bundt cake. They look stunning, require minimal effort and are just the perfect dessert shape. So progress had been made: a chocolate bundt. But I wasn't happy just yet. A chocolate ganache/glaze seemed like the perfect simple topping. I wanted something to contrast with it. Something crunchy and that was visually popping. Sprinkles? Nuts? Chocolate curls? I rummaged around my pantry and found a winner: pistachios! There was one last decision to be made - should I spice up the chocolate base with anything? I was thinking a spice to complement the pistachios and fell in love with the idea of cardamom. And thus, the idea of this cake was born.

If you made it through the paragraphs on what inspired this cake, I applaud you. If not, then don't worry. Just keep scrolling and make it!

I think it's simply wrong to call cakes "healthy" (in quotations because I've realised that there's no one definition of healthy to begin with), so rather I'll just say I made some tweaks to a very traditional, indulgent chocolate cake recipe and swapped out some ingredients for lighter or less refined ones. Healthy or nah, I leave it up to you.

What I don't leave up to you is the fact that this cake is scrumptious, gorgeous and effortless.

Oh, and if you were wondering, it was a hit with my friends!

For the cake
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2⁄3 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup unrefined sugar
1⁄3 cup coconut oil, soft but not melted
2 eggs
¼ cup honey
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup dark chocolate chips

For the ganache & topping

100 g chocolate - I used about 75 g dark chocolate (75-80%) and 25 g milk chocolate
¼ cup whole milk or cream
1⁄3 cup pistachios, chopped roughly

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Generously brush a bundt cake tin with coconut oil. If you don't have a bundt pan, fear not - this can easily be made in a brownie pan, standard circular cake tin or even a loaf tin if you wish.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in the cardamom.

In a separate medium bowl, beat together the coconut oil and sugar until well incorporated. Then, beat in the eggs until the mixture is light and fluffy, yet thick. It should form ribbons as it falls.

Add in the honey, yogurt and vanilla and beat again.

Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Mix until just incorporated, as overmixing will lead to a dry, dense cake.

Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tap down to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  

Cool the cake in its tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has cooled completely (VERY important otherwise the ganache won't set!), prepare the ganache. I actually didn't have any cream on hand, so ended up using whole milk instead and it turned out wonderfully, so I guess either will work!

Melt the chocolate and milk together over a double boiler. Once most of the chocolate has melted, take the mixture off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes. In this time, the remaining chocolate will melt. 

Let the mixture cool and thicken slightly. Once the ganache has come to room temperature, or pretty much thereabouts, pour it on the cake and let it drizzle down the sides and middle naturally. Sprinkle on the chopped pistachios.

The cake is ready to serve now or in a couple of hours. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and warm up ever-so-slightly before eating again. I really enjoyed eating this warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of natural chocolate hazelnut butter. Go big or go home, eh?

You don't even need me to say it, but enjoy!!


One Banana, One Bowl: Small Batch Banana Walnut Muffins

Ever suddenly crave a specific baked good? Always.  Ever feel like you don't really want to end up eating a whole batch of said baked good? Sometimes.  Ever realise you don't have enough ingredients to make a whole batch to begin with? Often. 

Solution? These small batch banana walnut muffins!

Late one Sunday evening, I was really craving banana walnut muffins and I knew I had to have them for breakfast the next morning. There were two things throwing me off, though. First, I was going to be the only one in the house for the next ten days. Sure, I could give the "extra" muffins to friends or the like, but I am just so used to sharing my freshly baked goods with the family that it just wasn't feeling right. Second, I looked in my fruit bowl to see just one spotty lonesome banana sitting there. Yup, just one. Definitely not enough for a whole tray of muffins.

I guess this only meant one thing - these small batch banana walnut muffins!

Are you seeing a pattern yet?

If not, let me spell it out for you. These small batch banana walnut muffins are the answer to your problems. Trust me.

I threw together the batter in a matter of ten minutes, put them in the oven, ran to take a quick shower and came back out to the warming and comforting smell of banana bread permeating through the house.

Also, I had seen muffins and breads being eaten this way on Instagram and on other food blogs, but never once did I feel the urge to spread a muffin with thick creamy yogurt and some nut butter. Or at least until the morning I ate these muffins I didn't. But the Monday morning I ate these (yes, I ate two), I caved. I took spoonfuls of Greek yogurt and natural almond butter and put them onto the muffin before taking each bite. Life. Changing. Just imagine it - chunky banana nutty muffins, cool yogurt and rich nut butter? A combo from the heavens, I tell ya.

Whether or not you're into the nut butter + yogurt + muffin combo (not sure why you wouldn't be!), I can assure you you'll be into these muffins. They're literally made from everyday breakfast ingredients, so they 100% qualify as breakfast (or snack or dessert, of course!).
Makes 2 large or 3 medium muffins
½ cup oat flour
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 medium ripe banana
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white almond butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
1 heaped tsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp pure maple syrup
a handful of raw walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a muffin tin with two or three muffin liners and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the banana. Next, whisk in the egg. Then add the vanilla, almond butter, coconut oil, yogurt and maple syrup and whisk again.

Put the dry ingredients - oat flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt - in the same bowl and mix everything until just combined. Fold in most of the chopped walnuts, saving a few for sprinkling on top.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin liners. Sprinkle any remaining walnuts on top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat warm with a pat of butter or wait for them to cool and slather with yogurt & nut butter and devour the goodness.

Either (or whatever) way, enjoy!


Simple Nut & Seed Granola for Nutty Granola Addicts (Like Me...)

Who doesn't love a bowl of crunchy granola, creamy yogurt and fresh berries? I could eat one any time of day. Like actually. 
This granola is for the simple-hearted (or at least, when you're craving a classic granola!). There are no funky flavors, no trendy twists, no superfood surprises. Instead, this boasts pure, unadulterated nuttiness enhanced by cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple. Almond butter and coconut oil are mild, yet flavorful wet ingredients that allow for the *oomph* crunch factor that this granola has. 

This recipe is super customisable to your nut & seed preferences, but I wouldn't go so far as to add dried fruit or too many other flavorings, as although it may (okay, probably will) still be delicious, it will lose its charm as a simple, classic granola. The best part about the simplicity means you can get totally creative with what you pair this granola with. 
Here's how I like to build my 'nola bowls:
I love the thick creamy texture of yogurt and most often use greek yogurt (Fage is my go-to brand - full fat all the way!). Next best are Skyr or coconut yogurt. Any dairy or non-dairy milk works too but I would pour these on at the end rather than use them as the "base"!


I tend to pile on the granola next. And loooaaaads of it. Because go hard or go home, eh?


No 'nola bowl is complete without fruit. 90% of the time I use fresh fruit, but if I don't have any on hand or if absolutely nothing good is in season, I use homemade peach or berry compote. If fresh fruit, I use some combination of the following - berries, peaches/nectarines, apricots and/or bananas.

The "extras"

These really just take your bowl to the next level. Toppings I frequently use include chia seeds, cacao nibs, nut butter (holla to the nut buttah), shredded coconut, Brazil nuts and blanched & toasted almonds.
Feel free to get even more extravagant, but this is all I got for you.
And don't forget to think further than granola bowls - this can be used as an ice cream topping, a super quick deconstructed crumble topping and of course, for straight-up snacking!

It's super simple, super quick and insanely addictive. But granola addictions are allowed, right?
Go. Go now. Go make it.

2 cups of whole rolled oats
1 1/3 cups of mixed raw nuts, chopped coarsely (I used a mix of cashews, pecans, walnuts and pistachios)
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
3 tbsp white almond butter
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
4-5 tbsp pure maple syrup 

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Low(er) and slow(er) is the way forward here! 

Place the oats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the buys. Very roughly! Big and chunky is key.

In a small saucepan, melt together the almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla. Let cool.

Once the oats have slightly toasted, remove them from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes. Then pour them into a large mixing bowl and stir in the nuts, seeds, spices and salt. Finally, mix in the wet ingredients until the oats and nuts are all coated. 

Pour the mixture back on the sheet lined with parchment, spread it apart and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice in between at regular intervals. Do keep a close eye past 15 minutes as this can go from golden brown to burnt in a matter of seconds. If the mixture hasn't browned enough, let it stay in a bit longer than 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven. It may be soft at this point, but it will become crunchy as it cools! Let it cool on the baking sheet until completely cool then pour into an airtight container and store in a cool place (not fridge!!!) for up to a month. But it's never going to last that long anyways. Hehe.



A Superpower Breakfast or Lunch Plate (of Dreams!)

I am squeamishly ashamed to admit that this post is over five weeks pending... SORRY. But it is so SO worth it.

Five, okay maybe even two, years ago, if you asked me to eat sweet potato anything, I'd probably roll my eyes and make a face at you wondering if you were crazy. Me? Eat sweet potatoes? No way. I just couldn't stand them. Not sure whether I was cooking them "wrongly" or what the problem was, but just the thought made me queasy.
Fast forward to today. I. Literally. Cannot. Live. Without. Them. But actually. Ask anyone who knows me well/check out my Instagram and you'll definitely believe me. If you didn't already... And for those of you wondering, when, why and/or how did the change come about? To be completely honest, I have absolutely no idea.

I eat them any time of day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. I haven't yet got on the dessert train yet, but in all honesty, I'm really not sure why. I mean, sweet potato muffins, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato yogurt bowls, sweet potato ice cream... who wouldn't want these things?

My favorite way to prepare/eat them is to cut them up into chunks or wedges, roast until tender on the inside and ever-so-slightly crispy on the outside and serve with a "dip" of some sort. For me, this could be mashed avocado, tahini yogurt, a pesto-based dip, runny egg yolks, hummus and the like. Just something creamy, rich and delicious. Bonus points for two "dips". And that was my not-so-subtle segway into this plate.
It features just these things. Delicious paprika cumin spiced & roasted sweet potato chunks, two "dips" in the form of soft eggs and mashed avo, fresh greens and crunchy seeds. Trust me. I crave this just as much as I do chocolate. Or just about. And that is saying A LOT.

This plate is really packed with everything super - healthy fats from the eggs, avocado, seeds and coconut oil. Complex carbs from the sweet potato. Protein from the eggs and seeds. Micronutrients from it all. Salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy, indulgent, fresh. BLISSFUL, I tell ya.

This is my go-to savory(ish) breakfast or a simple, yet utterly wonderful lunch and sometimes, a super duper lazy dinner. Oh, wait. It can also be a very substantial snack on those days your body just needs a lot of fooooood. Well, mine feels like this almost everyday #noshame.

2 eggs (ideally organic and free range, but this doesn't always happen - even for me!)
1 medium or 1 ½ small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into chunks (ideally organic, but if not, peel before chopping)
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coconut or olive oil
a handful of mixed greens, organic if possible
1 small or ½ of a large avocado
juice of ½ a lemon
some pumpkin and sunflower seeds, for sprinkling
sea salt, to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

Turn your oven on and heat to 180°C. 

Toss the sweet potato chunks in the coconut/olive oil, paprika and ground cumin. Place them on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 30-35 minutes or until very tender and fluffy on the inside, but just slightly crispy on the outside. Once done, remove from oven and set aside. 

Meanwhile, prep your eggs. Heat a pot of water and once it has come to a boil, gently place the two eggs and boil for 6 minutes for a soft-boil or 8 minutes for a medium-boil. I generally just do somewhere between the two. Once the time is up, put the eggs in a bowl of ice or very cold water to "shock" the eggs and prevent them from cooking further. Leave them there for 3-4 minutes, then peel. 

The last step before plating is to prep the avocado mash. Surprise surprise - mash the avocado with the lemon juice and some salt, if you wish. 

Now time to get plating. Throwing it all in a wide bowl will yield an almost just as good result! I mean, it is proven that pretty food tastes better... or is that just me? :P

Put everything (eggs, sweet potato chunks, avo mash, greens) in your dish of choice, sprinkle with seeds, salt and red pepper flakes. Then snap a few quick pics of your masterpiece, share on social media to make people jealous and finally, relish, or devour, the goodness.

I know you will, but, as always, ENJOY!


Crunchy Fruity Nutty Everything Granola Bars

I know, I know. It's been a while (again). But, in the midst of revising for my last ever exams (of my undergrad degree!), I'm back! And this time, with a snack attack!

This term has been filled with all sorts of feelings. As my last term as an undergraduate, I feel this need (want?) to make the most of it, yet I know that days in the library are necessary and that exams are important. Yes, there's more to life than school and grades, but it's equally important to reign each opportunity and that means studying when it's necessary... And it most definitely is right now.

And my best friend when studying? Snacks, duh. Just kidding. But only kinda....

I love keeping lots of snacks around to make sure I have something to grab when the snack cravings hit. I also make sure they'll hit the spot depending on what I'm feeling at that point - sweet, savoury, crunchy, creamy, light, hearty, healthy and yes, sometimes totally indulgent. Here are a few of my favs:
  • An apple or banana with almond butter
  • Mashed avo on toast/rice cakes or with pita chips/tortilla chips 
  • Dates with greek yogurt and nuts - the tart, sweet, crunchy combo is a winner
  • Banana walnut smoothie
  • Cookies (check out the many recipes on the blog here)
  • A handful of nuts - I've been loving sprouted, blanched & toasted almonds as well as brazil nuts
  • Chocolate in any form!
I definitely eat my fair share of store-bought snacks (which are really great nowadays as new companies launch new products with minimal additives), but it's nice to have portable snacks that are homemade too. Mashed avocado and smoothies are great, but they're generally best eaten/drunk fresh and not the easiest things to bring around. 

That's where these bars fit in. Once cut/broken apart, they can be wrapped in cling film and stored for up to a month (if they last even close to this long, you've got willpower!). Grab one for a quick, small breakfast on-the-go, toss one in with your packed lunch, carry it in your handbag for when the munchies hit when you're out shopping, need I continue? Basically, they're absolutely delicious, hearty, easy to carry and good any time of day. Even as a post-dinner sweet treat! 

Another thing I love doing, not necessarily intentionally, is using it as granola on yoghurt. I tend to do this with the crumbled bits (yes, they do crumble a bit when you cut them), but am also known to take a bar and crush it straight on top of my bowl of yogurt when I'm really feeling it.
They are 100% customizable with whatever you like/what mix-ins you have on hand. As I'm writing this, I'm envisioning a super summery tropical version with dried mango, apricot, pineapple and coconut. Or an indulgent almond chocolate variety. Really whatever floats your boat. 

But getting back to these ones - they are definitely classic, but fun. They are chock full of allll the nuts, seeds and dried fruit. They're perfectly sweet├╝ber crunchy and just straight up heavenly. Oh, and did I mention your home will smell just incredible when these are baking?

Makes 12-15 bars depending on what size you like 'em

Treat these only as a rough guide - feel free to increase/decrease proportions of the nuts/seeds/fruits as you wish!

3 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut (medium ground)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and pistachios, but any mix of nuts will do!)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
3/4 cup chopped dried fruits (I used dates, figs and apricots but other options I could definite imagine working well are cranberries, cherries. raisins or goji berries)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
pinch of salt

Turn on your oven and heat to 160°F. Yes, this somewhat lower than "usual" baking temperatures, but it's important not to go any higher. The bars need to bake for a while to get nice and crunchy, so working with this temperature prevents them from burning/browning on top too quickly.

Line a 13" x 9" baking dish with parchment paper. 

In this, pour the dry rolled oats and place in the oven for 10 minutes to toast slightly. Once 10 minutes is up, add the coconut, nuts and seeds to the same dish and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Once they're done, remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, work on the wet mixture. Don't forget about the dry ingredients, though! You don't want to let them brown or cook too much at this stage. 

In a small pot or saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, coconut oil, honey and salt and place on the stove over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. Turn off the heat as soon as you see bubbles.

Let both the toasted dry ingredients and hot liquid mixture cool for 2-3 minutes until you can handle them. Keep the same parchment paper!

Then, in a large mixing bowl, throw in the toasted oats/nuts/seeds and the chopped dried fruit. Give it a quick stir. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir well until all the dry ingredients are well coated. 

Pour the mixture into the lined baking dish and press down firmly until even and compacted. I find the easiest way to do this is to actually cut another small piece of parchment paper and use that to avoid sticky fingers.

Bake for 40-60 minutes until gorgeously golden brown, aromatic and crunchy. Keep a close eye ever 5 or so minutes as these can go from golden to burnt very quickly.

Once they're out, lightly cut into bars to make the final cutting apart a bit easier. Let them cool in the dish for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Cut/break apart the bars, wrap in cling film and store in an airtight box. Make sure to leave one unwrapped so you can enjoy it... now!


Healthier Two-Toned Cookie Brownie Bars

Cookie + brownie? Yes, all the way. I mean, how could you not want this?

Ever since I was young, I was obsessed with all things that were essentially a layer of cookie + a layer of brownie (aka. slutty brownies), so recently I got thinking - how could I make something similar out of whole(r) food ingredients?

So I turned to my favourite go-to ingredients and whipped up this delicious batch of cookie dough come brownie come banana bread. Basically the epitome of delicious. It has all the elements - crunchy, chewy, soft, nutty, chocolatey and not too sweet at all! I've recently been all into sweet treats that aren't overly sugary because as I said, I've been really enjoying savoury foods a lot lately, but that doesn't mean the sweet tooth doesn't strike. And when it does, I don't need something over-the-top sweet to curb those cravings.

The cookie layer is like a softer, fluffier blondie with a tinge of banana bread feel while the brownie "blobs", as I like to call them, are reminiscent of a baked version of a chewy date-based brownie. For me, this combination is everything I could dream of.
The great thing about these is that they hit the spot anytime you want something sweet, yet are healthy enough for breakfast, light enough for an afternoon snack and decadent enough for dessert. You'd better be convinced by this point!

Don't let the long-looking ingredient or instruction list dissuade you. These are actually super easy to throw together (mostly all down in a food processor/blender) and taste absolutely incredible!

For the cookie layer:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

For the brownie "blobs"
1/4 cup cocoa or cacao powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 pitted medjool dates - soak them in hot water for 10 minutes if they are quite dry
1/4 cup almond flour
2 eggs
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

For the blondie layer:
In a food processor or high-speed blender, pulse the oats, coconut flakes and almonds until they turn into a coarse flour. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the plain flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, mashed banana, vanilla and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

For the brownie "blobs":
In the same food processor or blender (no need to wash out!), blend together all the ingredients until a mostly smooth (thick!) paste-y mixture forms, remembering to drain the dates first if you had previously soaked them.

Putting it together:
Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a standard square baking dish with parchment paper. 

Pour in the blondie layer. Spoon big dollops of the date brownie layer across the blondie layer, making sure to leave space between the dollops so the blondie layer shows through.

Place the dish in the oven for 25 or until a toothpick inserted in the blondie layer comes out clean. It should be a gorgeous golden brown on top, too!

Remove from the oven and cool in the dish for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

It is essential that you wait until it is completely cool to get nice squares, else it may crumble. That's not to say digging in immediately is not allowed! Who needs perfect squares anyway?

Grab your favourite drink alongside for sipping and/or dunking and as always, enjoy!


A Sweet Potato Kale Salad You Never Knew You Needed

So, I told you you'd be seeing more savoury recipes here on the blog. And I'm kicking it off with a reeeally good one. Like so good, even I didn't know how delicious it was going to be. Full credit to my mom for being the brains behind this incredible creation.

Definitely aware of my sweet potato obsession, she came back one day from lunch at her friend's place and shared that she had eaten a "delicious sweet potato and kale salad with all sorts of crunchy nuts, maybe some feta, a sprinkling of pomegranate and a sesame soy dressing". 

The minute her words entered my ears, I knew I had to make something with similar ingredients. My thoughts at the time: Sweet potatoes? LOVE. Kale? Love too but haven't bought or eaten in forever. Nuts in salad? Big fat yes. Feta? Uhm, hundred percent yes. The pomegranate and dressing were elements I was going to play around with, as wasn't really feeling them.
And then this salad was born. It feels almost silly calling it a salad because it is so far removed from the bowls of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes that we still often picture in our heads when someone says "salad". This one is hearty, delicious, nutritious and full of texture, healthy fats, greens & carbs. It's sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, naughty yet nice. It's just full of all the good stuff. I replaced the pomegranate with naturally dried cranberries and the soy sesame dressing with a lemony honey simple dressing and I could not have imagined this any other way. It turned out im-pec-ca-ble.

The sweet potato lends a delicious starchiness, the kale adds a boost of greens and earthiness, the feta gives just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness, the nuts have the perfect crunchiness and the cranberries and dressing just rack up the deliciousness. This salad screams yumminess.

With spring officially having arrived - it has here in London, at least - this salad will be a new favourite addition to your lunch rota. As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, I love eating colder lunches (that often end up being much more colourful too!). 

Another great thing about this salad is it's great made ahead because kale, unlike many other greens, doesn't get soggy in a matter of hours and in fact, almost gets better the longer it sits. In other words, it's a great way to get you greens in daily by making a larger batch on Sunday or the beginning of the week. It would also make a fabulous packed lunch for school or work. 

So.... what are you waiting for?

For two lunch servings (or four side portions)
2-3 large sweet potatoes 
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups kale, chopped quite finely
1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 feta, crumbled
spring onion, chopped, for garnish
olive oil, for roasting sweet potatoes and for dressing
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Start by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes into chunks. Toss them with some olive oil, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for 25-35 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the chopped kale, juice from the lemon and 1 tsp of olive oil. Use your (clean!) hands to really massage the kale until it starts to wilt and tenderise. Once the kale has been massaged to your satisfaction, stir in the honey.

Then, add the cooled sweet potato chunks, pine nuts, sesame, walnuts and cranberries and toss together. Add a touch of salt to taste.

Pour into two bowls and top with chopped spring onion and the crumbled feta.

Snap a quick pic, post on Instagram, tag #strawberrychocolateconcoction and ENJOY! 


Chocolate Nut Oat Cookie Bars (and some real talk)

Soooo.... I'm back *insert monkey covering face in shame emoji here*

That's right. After another crazy, hectic yet absolutely wonderful (and probably the best to date) term, I'm back to baking and blogging in full swing. This term did actually feature maaaany good eats and treats, but more memories than pictures were captured, and I have absolutely no shame in admitting so.
Actually, I want to get real here. It's absolutely the same with this blog. I love it and it definitely holds an extremely special place in my life and heart, but I don't force it. I don't set calendar reminders to share posts or make things JUST to blog them. I live a real life that extends far beyond my food and this blog, and I only hope it continues this way. Sure, I could be more organized and measured with my posts, but for me, I am not at this stage. To all my readers and followers, I can see how it may seem unfair or like I'm not fully invested in this, but it's actually quite the opposite: it's because I so very much am that I don't want to share fake or forced content. On that note, I've actually been enjoying my savoury food a lot more now (don't worry, sweet tooth still going strong!), so do be prepared to see more savoury recipes on here from now on. Okay, I think that's it for the day - let's get back to these insanely moreish cookie oat bars. I'm actually off to India tomorrow and if you've read this post, you'll know I love to bake for my grandparents (and they love it too!!). FYI, I'm going to visit them in India. And chocolate and nuts? Definitely their favourite combo! I wanted to whip up something transportable, long-lasting, healthy(ish) and of course, delicious. And that's how these came about. They're full of oats, nuts, dark chocolate and other goodness. They're part cookie, part bar, part blondie. They're whole good, though!

They are insanely easy to put together, require no fancy steps or ingredients and are downright drool-worthy. There's a simple "trick" to getting them right - start by baking them as a whole brownie/blondie style item, then slice into squares, separate them and bake again. This gives them that crusty cookie like edge while keeping the center of each square ever-so-slightly-moist so it doesn't completely dry out or crumble apart.


Makes 15 medium square bars
1/2 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup porridge (quick-cooking) oats
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 large egg, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a 13x9" rectangular tray with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from the rolled oats all the way down to the nuts. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, coconut oil and egg. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. The mixture should be thick and gloopy. If it, however, seems too dry add a tablespoon to two more of milk until it comes together.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, let them cool for not more than 5 minutes. Then, carefully, slice into squares. 

Move the squares from the pan to a large cookie sheet (they may still be pretty hot, so again, be careful!) lined with parchment paper and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until nicely golden brown and crusty.

Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat a square or two immediately with a glass of milk, and place the rest in an airtight container for up to two weeks. I couldn't resist so ate a couple before reluctantly putting them away... They were made for the grandparents, after all!



Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies, cookies, cookies. Anyone else been feeling the cookies lately? Well, I don't know about you, but I sure have. I've pretty much professed my love for all things cookies several times by now. They're portable, dunkable, long-lasting (not that they ever last long) and eat-two-able (small = can eat more, right? And I know you like the new word choice!).

Aside: I'm back in Cambridge for my final Lent Term and so many feels right now. These past three and a bit years have just flown by. I mean it. I'll treasure these years forever and am so very grateful to be here. I'm going to take my final six months by storm. Work hard, play hard is my motto. There's obviously lots of tough academic work to be done (and it will be done), but I want to make sure I make the most of the city and this incredible place. 

Okay seriously, who doesn't love a good cookie? Cookies keep me sane. Especially when I'm cracking through a research paper or problem set.

These are a modified version of my almond-y oat chocolate chip cookies. The main difference is that these are a blend of oat flour and regular flour, resulting in a lighter, softer cookie. The other ones are crunchy and almost reminiscent of biscotti. It really depends on what you're looking for.
These were made on request of the sister, who wanted a softer cookie, and these definitely were just that. Perfectly crisp exterior but crumbly and soft on the inside. Yes, it is possible to be both soft(ish) and crumbly at the same time. Trust me. 

Actually, as far as chocolate chip cookies go, these are just about as classic as you'll find on my blog. There's no banana, walnuts, almond, coconut or peanut butter. Just chocolate chips. The oat flour lends a wonderful texture and ups the health. I am a coconut oil fiend, so obviously, coconut oil features instead of butter. There's just the right amount of sugar to make these taste like your favorite treat.
Real talk for a minute. No, I don't think coconut oil has miracle superpowers or is any healthier than grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil or the like. What I do know is I have grown up with it, it works for me and I personally love the subtle sweet coconut aroma. So if something else is your jam, please, I urge you to go with what works for you.

This cookies are delicious, easy and a real crowd-pleaser. Double, triple or quadruple the recipe for a bigger batch of cookies.

Makes 12 cookies
1 cup oat flour*
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted**
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

*Don't bother buying this in store (generally more expensive!). Just take regular rolled oats and whizz them in a blender or food processor until you get a rough flour. There's no need to aim for a perfectly fine powder here. Store any remaining ground oat flour in an airtight jar for future use. 

**I've tried doing 2 tbsp natural almond butter and 2 tbsp coconut and this works wonderfully too. It will results in an ever-so-slightly fudgier cookie. But truly just ever-so-slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oat flour, plain flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, sugar and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Set the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Heat the oven to 175°C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop the dough into equal sized balls and flatten slightly before placing them on the lined cookie sheet. Keep a bit of space between cookies to allow for spreading. 

Bake for 12 minutes or until slightly golden brown on the inside and just firm to touch. For a crispier cookie, bake for 15 minutes. For a more soft-bake texture, bake for 9-10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool complete.

Best eaten when just baked so the chocolate chips and melty and perfect. But anytime will be scrumptious!