Monday, 25 April 2011

:: Healthy Loving Snack ::

Oat, Raisin & Sunflower Cookies
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

oat & raisin cookies with cranberries & sunflower seeds- yummy!

This cookie combination came to me when I was wanting a healthy, home baked snack for my toddler’s lunchbox & also a morning tea option for my husband at work. I had some left over dried cranberries from Christmas & wondered what sunflower seeds would be like in lieu of nuts, so I added them to the mixture as well & voila! Now I buy these ingredients purposefully for this recipe & it is regularly baked in our home. These cookies have fruity, chewy, jewels of goodness inside with a slight crunch of the sunflower seeds (high in vitamin E oils & vitamin B1- see footnote) that are addictive + healthy + yummy + filling & loved by one & all!

250 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of brown sugar
¾ cup of white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 cups of rolled oats
1½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt, optional
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ¼ tsp of dried ground)
½ cup sunflower seeds, optional
1 cup raisins/saltanas
½ cup craisins

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two large cookie trays with baking paper. Place the butter & both sugars into a bowl then beat with an electric mixer until light & creamy. Add eggs, one by one. Add vanilla paste. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl, stir, then add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add raisins, craisins, sunflower seeds & rolled oats, stirring between each one.
Spoon dough out with large tablespoons leaving gaps between each one. Bake until the edges turn brown, around 12 minutes. Leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack using a spatula.

:: makes about 36 average sized cookies (x-large batch as they go fast).

healthy cookies taking a rest

Kitchen Notes
:: I know it may seem like a lot of butter & sugar as it is a double recipe, but the health benefits of these cookies are substancial enough to allow for a little bit of sweetness in your life! 
:: You can play around with this recipe. I have used nuts instead of sunflower seeds, only raisins (total it to 1½ cups), just think about your textures & flavours you want in your final product. Explore & enjoy!

Sunflower seeds are packed with vitamins, including vitamins B1 and B5, vitamin E and folate. They also provide a healthy dose of copper, magnesium, selenium and phosphorous–important minerals. Just a quarter of a cup–four tablespoons–of seeds hold half the daily requirement or more of these important nutrients. The fats present in sunflower seeds are also good quality, heart healthy fats that can help increase “good” cholesterol and protect the heart and cardiovascular system.
Of these nutrients, vitamin E in particular is a powerful antioxidant, helping preserve cardiovascular health. Sunflower seeds are quite high in vitamin E, with ninety percent of the recommended daily allowance of this vitamin in a quarter cup. Also helpful to cardiovascular health and cholesterol maintenance are lignans, arginine and phenolic acids. While these substances are less well-known to most people, studies increasingly show benefits from increasing their intake.
Other substances found in sunflower seeds include tryptophan and choline. Also found in pumpkin seeds, tryptophan can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Choline appears to help increase brain function, particularly helping to improve memory. With this wide combination of phytochemicals, vitamins & minerals, sunflower seeds are a surprisingly nutrient dense food.

Source: Sunflower seed info came from internet under health benefits from whole foods & 3 fat chicks, the health benefits.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

:: More than just Memories ::

Hot Cross Buns
:: Megann's Kitchen ::

:: beautiful & traditional toasted hot cross buns with melting butter ::

I don’t know one person that doesn’t have memories of deliciously warm hot cross buns with a slathering of golden butter, melting on the top at Easter time. They always had charred, crusty bits on the edges, adding to that extra depth of flavour & this was what I loved when we attempted to grill them to perfection. Simply biting through the crunch of the first layer to get to the soft centre, ooh, heaven! They really do take me back to my childhood, Easter Egg hunts with our extended family members, the red leaves of the maples on our farm, the crisp morning air that filled my lungs when playing outside. I ate them for breakfast AND lunch & you know what, sometimes still do!

This original recipe was written out from a vintage gourmet traveller magazine years ago, however have adapted it with spices & peel to my liking to make it unique from Megann's Kitchen. These buns are not hard at all but are a little time consuming, so allow a good 3 hours for the rising of the dough. I hope you like them just as much as our family does.

4½ cups plain flour
1/3 cup of caster sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups (225 grams) sultanas
100 grams of candied mixed peel, finely chopped
1 orange rind, zested with a microplane
pinch of sea salt
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup cream
90 grams unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg

½ cup flour
2 TBS caster sugar
water- enough to form a thick, smooth paste

¼ cup water
¼ cup caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice or cinnamon (I do two shakes of each)

:: Gently warm the milk, cream & butter over a low heat, stirring constantly until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat & sit for 15-20 minutes. When ready to add the milk mixture to the below flour mixture, whisk the egg.
:: Combine flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, mixed peel, orange rind & sea salt into a large bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add milk mixture. Stir then turn out onto a well floured workbench & knead for 10 minutes until smooth or
- Use your KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer with the dough hook attachment: place all the above flour mixture ingredients into the bowl & gradually add the milk mixture. Mix for about 5 minutes & you will notice that as the gluten in the dough activates, it will start to work its way up the dough hook. Finish with a 3 minute knead on the workbench until smooth while adding more flour if required.
:: Place the large ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap & place in a warm part of the house for at least an hour or until it has almost doubled in size.
:: ‘Knock back’ the dough & cut into 16 equal pieces (half/half/half/half). Knead each piece into a ball, place in a lightly greased & lined 22cm square cake pan, cover with either a damp tea towel or cling wrap, & again stand in a warm place until, once again, almost doubled in size.

:: Preheat oven to 220°C. Combine flour, caster sugar & water in a small bowl to make a thick, smooth paste. Place into a piping & snip off the corner. Pipe lines down the centre of each row of your prepared buns in order to form a cross. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven to 200°C & bake for another 10-15 minutes until a warm golden colour. The trick here is they should sound hollow when tapped.

:: While your hot cross buns are in the oven, prepare your glaze. Place water, sugar & spices in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat & simmer for a further 3-4 minutes, then take off the heat. Brush glaze over the buns freshly out of the oven, then cool on a wire rack.

:: the ingredients prepared & ready to bake ::
:: good dough rising ::

Toast & Serve: The best way to serve is to toast under the grill until a beautifully golden colour with a generous slathering of real, salted butter.

:: knead the dough into a gorgeous elastic ball ::
:: sectioned into 16 equal balls, ready to rise ::
:: piping on the crosses ::
:: 'just glazed' hot cross buns straight out of the oven ::

I hope you enjoy these hot cross buns as much as our family does!
:: Happy Easter ::

Thursday, 7 April 2011

:: Megann's Best Ever Banana Bread ::

Megann’s Banana Bread
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

Yes, everyone has a recipe out there that they are good at or that everyone asks for or requests to be baked. Most men have specialty spaghetti bolognaise that they whip up in times of need. My friend Heidi’s mum, Lynette, has her incredible & delectable fudgy chocolate cake that she is famous in her community for. If this particular cake had ever passed your lips you would certainly know about it! For my mum, it’s her delicious Southern Pecan Pie. But for me, it has to be my lowly old country style Banana Bread.
I have always loved banana bread, but my pursuit to perfect the recipe came during my pregnancy when I craved it beyond words. I poured over recipe books, reforming them to find the ideal one. My son & husband both now eat it like there is no tomorrow so I have to bake a loaf a week.
If I have it in stock, I love to use our local Fosterton Farm Biodynamic Organic Unbleached Flour. If not, I often loosely measure half whole wheat flour & plain white flour. I find it gives a lovely country texture to the banana bread without making it too crumbly. Enjoy!

200 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of white sugar
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs
4 large ripened bananas
   - keep 1 banana aside (cut in half lengthways)
350 grams plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp or 3 shakes ground allspice
¾ cup buttermilk
pinch of sea salt, optional

:: Preheat oven to 180°C. Pre-prepare a 23.5x15x9cm deep loaf tin (I use one with sharp edges) with baking paper. I simply place one long piece across the pan & when it is done, lift it straight out onto the cooling rack.
Place the butter, both sugars & vanilla paste into a bowl, then beat with an electric mixer/beaters on a high speed until light & creamy. Add eggs, one by one, mixing between each one. Add flour & bicarb soda, buttermilk, salt & mix on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Add the 3 bananas, & again, mix on low speed until the banana is just dispersed through. Pour into the prepared loaf tin. Carefully slice the final banana that you have kept aside in half (lengthways) & place carefully on top of the batter in the tin. Bake for 70-75mins, or until cake tested clean with a skewer & golden on top.

a beautiful banana mixture

Kitchen Notes:  
:: To substitute buttermilk, add 1 tbs of lemon juice to the desired qualities of half cream/half milk. Stir & set aside on your benchtop for a few minutes to let it sour.
:: When making the banana bread for children, I leave out the salt to keep the sodium levels down.
:: I also find that the condition of the bananas play a great part in the consistency of the batter. If the bananas aren’t ripe enough, they tend to be floury so add more milk accordingly to achieve the perfect cake batter texture. If they are older, they tend to be more "caramelised" & sweeter, so you may be able to adjust the sugar levels as well.

kids love this one too!

Toast & Serve: The absolute BEST way to toast your banana bread is with a gorgeously thick slice on the stovetop in a non-stick pan. Simply lightly butter each side & toast over a medium heat until golden. It is great with mascarpone & honey or a slathering of butter.

Source: Fosterton Farm Biodynamic Organic Unbleached Flour
Bakers Secret Deep Loaf Pan 23x5x15x9cm, online & from David Jones

If you are famous for a recipe and would like to share, contact me at on my email. 

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