Date and Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Almond flour is magic. I promise you. It makes everything better. It adds a subtle sweetness, nuttiness, creaminess, moistness and most importantly, deliciousness to every recipe. And it does just that and more in these cookies!
I started off just wanting to make regular thumbprint cookies, which are generally filled with jam and sometimes topped with a simple icing. However, I wasn't really feeling the jam vibe. It then occurred to me - dates were the solution! All I had to do was make a simple date paste and fill the thumbprints with it. I'm so glad I went with it!

By all means, feel free to use your favorite jam or even some really good applesauce or lemon curd. But for me, the dates won. I may be (very!) biased when I say that the dates work perfectly with the textures and flavors in these cookies, because my family and I are all date-crazy. We've been eating them for as long as I can remember, and if anything, we love them more and more every day. 
Thanks to the almond flour, these cookies require barely any oil and thanks to the sweet, gooey date filling, they need minimal added sweetness. These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, gooey in the center and crunchy on top. What more do you want? To top it off, when these are baking (and when they're just sitting in your cookie jar/box), they give off the most amazing aroma from the almond extract.

The ingredient list is so simple, and the instructions are just as easy. That said, one thing is even simpler: eating a freshly baked cookie! Or two...or three. They're bite-sized perfection, and their small size means you can eat two or three of these without feeling guilty. Not that these are guilt-inducing cookies anyways. I mean, just take a look at the ingredient list!
Makes 20 small cookies
For the cookie base:
1 1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

For the filling and topping:
6 dates (feel free to substitute with 1/3 cup of your favorite jam)
1 tbsp thinly sliced almonds
granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Soak the dates in hot water and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond flour and coconut oil together. Add the maple syrup, beaten egg and almond extract and mix again.

In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining dry ingredients - cinnamon, flour, baking soda, and salt.

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet almond mixture and mix until just combined. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the date filling and preheat the oven to 175 C.

Removed the dates from the soaking water and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the dates are very soft and mushy, use a fork to mash them. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 2-3 minutes until dried slightly. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Line a cooking baking sheet with baking paper.

Once the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge. Roll the dough into small balls. Flatten slightly and place on the baking sheet.

With your thumb (I used my knuckle!) make a small "thumbprint" (indentation) in the center of each cookie. Fill each cookie with a small amount of the date mixture. Finally, top each cookie with a sprinkling of sliced almonds and granulated sugar.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are slightly crisp and golden brown but center is still soft. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Taste test a couple to make sure they're delish!



Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

If you read my last post, then you'd have known this was coming. And it's coming with force! This is double-the-trouble, double-chocolate and double-the-yumminess. Not only is the batter chocolate-y, but its loaded with chocolate chips, taking this to the next level.

Baking this wonderful loaf satisfied several purposes: 1) my desire to bake, 2) my chocolate cravings and 3) our quest to use up all my summer zucchini.

The base batter is very similar to that of my zucchini coconut loaf, but with an extra egg added in and the cocoa powder to make it chocolate-y, of course. It satiates all chocolate cravings, is perfectly sweet, yet healthy enough for breakfast. Before I continue, just look at those chocolate chips! Mmm... I bet you're drooling already. 
Unlike in the last recipe, I peeled the zucchini for this one, as I wasn't sure I wanted to see the stark green shreds when eating a slice of chocolate bread. On retrospect, I may not have minded it as it adds an extra element of flair to a standard chocolate loaf, which this is not! I leave this decision up to you!

I just had one more dilemma. Every time I pulled this loaf out of the fridge, I cut a slice, and then stopped. I simply couldn't decide whether I liked this warmed up slightly, so the cake became soft and chocolate chips all gooey or whether I liked it cold and almost fudgy. Such a hard decision!

1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1 1/2 cup peeled and grated zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a loaf baking pan with baking paper and set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine.

In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil together. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and yogurt. Mix in the zucchini with a large spoon.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a large spoon or spatula, until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (disregarding the chocolate chips as they are bound to be melty!).

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into (thick!) slices and enjoy!


Delicious Zucchini Coconut Loaf Cake

Last weekend we headed to a pick-your-own farm and went strawberry picking! Or at least that's what we thought we were going to do. We bought £25 worth of strawberries, which lasted us exactly a week. They were absolutely fresh, juicy, sweet and scrumptious. But that's not all. We also ended up picking up raspberries, blackberries, green beans, zucchinis and spinach.

We (read: my mom!) went a little bit crazy and were too enthused by all the fresh produce that we picked up ten zucchinis, only to come home and realize that we already had three wonderful, organic zucchinis lying in the fridge. So yes, that means a total of thirteen zucchinis. You'll be glad to know to know that as I'm writing this post a week later, we are down to six zucchinis. We've made zucchini fritters; pasta with spinach, ricotta, pesto and zucchini ribbons; this outstanding zucchini coconut bread and a double chocolate zucchini loaf (recipe coming next!).

If you haven't ever seen baked goods with zucchini, I have a couple of things to tell you: 1) it does not feel like you're eating a vegetable (green too!) yet gives you all the nutrition, 2) don't be scared - it works just like carrot, 3) it is delicious and adds moistness, reducing the amount of butter or oil required in a recipe!
This zucchini bread, with the bite of the oats, crunch and flavor of the coconut, and perfect caramel sweetness from the little bit of brown sugar - it's to die for! I loved this for breakfast paired with some fruit and my homemade almond milk!
It is the perfect way to use up all the summer zucchini, but also so amazing that it's worth buying some zucchini for it! It's easy to throw together and even easier to eat!

I absolutely love seeing the specks of green spread throughout the loaf, but if you'd rather not see that green, feel free to peel the zucchini. Trust me though, the green looks gorgeous - just look at it!

3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup baby oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
coconut flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg, sugar and coconut oil together. Add in the yogurt and vanilla extract and beat again. Mix in the shredded zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Finally, stir in the shredded coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using the coconut flakes, pull the bread out of the oven at 30 minutes and sprinkle on top, working quickly. Place back in the oven for the additional 20-30 minutes.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack before slicing.



Banana Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Now, before you get too excited... Actually, no. You should be excited. These cookies are de-lish-ous! But in all seriousness, these aren't your classic Scottish shortbreads that are super light and crumbly. These are more dense, crispy yet tender, sweet cookies studded with pecans that get all toasty and fragrant as the cookies bake.

The subtle coconut-y flavor from the coconut oil and the slight banana-y infusion from the banana only serve to enhance these delicious cookies. And apart from coconut oil and banana, there are only five more ingredients! Simple as that. Seven ingredients, minimal effort, and delicious cookies. Just look at them....

It being summer right now, these are perfect as they are sturdy enough to carry to picnics in the park! There are also super easy to make, so they make the perfect gift! I can just imagine a stack of these cookies tied up in a beautiful ribbon. The gift-receiver is bound to love you, though they probably do already!

These are seriously delectable, made with the simplest of ingredients and an even simple method. Get baking!

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup ripe banana, mashed
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Cream together the oil and sugar. Add in the mashed banana and cream again.

Add vanilla and salt and blend again.

Sift in the flour and blend until combined.

Stir in the chopped pecans.

Transfer to baking paper and roll the dough into a tight log around 2-3 inches wide. Place the log in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden. At this point, preheat the oven to 175 C.

Once the dough has chilled, unroll the paper and slice the log into discs around 1 cm wide. If it's too hard to slice, leave it out for a few minutes and try again. If too soft, place back in the freezer for a bit longer.

Place on the baking sheet (close together is ok as these don't spread much - not touching though!). Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Your house will smell heavenly at this stage!

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack to crisp up slightly.

Grab a cold glass of milk, your favorite mug of tea or coffee, a couple of these cookies and enjoy!


Marble Cake Lightened Up!

I've been baking (and eating!) but not blogging. Whoops! Moving on, last weekend we had some guests coming over at "coffee time" on a Sunday to catch up with us before watching the World Cup final. We need something to serve them with the caffeine, so it meant it was time to bake... but I guess it's time to bake all day every day anyways. 

I wanted to make something that was well liked by everyone, yummy, yet elegant. Marble cake is what came to mind. Regular marble cake follows along the lines of a pound cake with part of the batter getting flavored with chocolate. Why is this different, you ask? Well it's not pound cake, per se. You won't find a pound of butter, nor a pound of sugar in this lightened-up version of marble cake! In that sense, it fit my bill perfectly. It's perfectly light to be eaten any time of day. If you're looking for a super rich, decadent marble cake, I'd have to admit that this won't satisfy your cravings. But let me assure you... this is some gooood marble cake!
It's baked up in a loaf pan, which I love because loaves are generally fuss-free, yet always presentable! This one is just that: very easy to put together, and looks wonderful too! This marble cake is moist, and the chocolate and vanilla flavors and mellow, so feel free to up the cocoa or vanilla extract if you want a more potent flavor. It's just the right sweetness, making it perfect for a snack.

The best part about marble cake (for me!) is the marbling itself. There's just something about the way the chocolate batter is swirled through the vanilla batter. And cutting a slice and seeing that beauty... it just takes my breath away. And then you eat it.

Convinced? I see marble cake being your next afternoon snack!

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp melted baking chocolate

Preheat the oven to 175 C. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and set aside. 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a separate, medium bowl, beat together the coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating after each addition. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla extract until smooth.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet into the dry, stirring until just combined.

Separate the batter into two approximate halves, with one slightly more than the other. In the lesser one, add the cocoa powder and baking chocolate and stir gently to combine.

Pour/spoon a thin layer of the vanilla batter into the loaf pan to coat the bottom. After this, spoon the chocolate and vanilla batters in a checkerboard pattern of two layers. Once all the batter has been added, take a butter knife and very gently swirl it through the batter to create the marble effect. Be sure not to overdo the swirling, otherwise you'll be left with a light brown loaf with strands of vanilla batter rather than the gorgeous marble effect.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. At this point, the top should also be golden brown (in the vanilla areas, of course). Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool.

Slice into thick slices, gape at your creating and take a big bite.



Caramelized Banana Oat Muffins

Oops. The blueberry muffins are all gone. Yes, they were that good. No, I'm not surprised. And NO, I'm not ashamed. Ok... Maybe I am. Just a little bit, though.

Moving on, no more blueberry muffins meant it was time to re-stock the house with another delicious baked good. Muffins were calling my name again, so in under an hour, a batch of freshly baked caramelized banana oat muffins were sitting on my kitchen counter.

Before you keep reading, just think about what I just said: caramelized banana in muffins. Mind-blowing, am I right? Bet you didn't think of doing that! I mean caramelized bananas in general are just pure deliciousness - on top of any breakfast-y thing mmmm. But baked into a muffin... now that's something! Ooey and gooey and all the natural sugars oozing out... If those descriptions don't do it for you, then I have no idea what will!

These sky-high muffins have a wonderful variety of textures from the oats in the batter, soft caramelized banana, and crunchy oat topping! They're everything you love about banana bread, but in muffin form, and taken to the next level because of the caramelized bananas.

The flavor of the cinnamon and nutmeg is very slight in these muffins, so if you're a big fan of strong spice flavors, go heavy on them. Another great addition would be chopped nuts (walnuts sound best to me), but I tend to avoid nuts because my sister has a few allergies and even the ones she's not allergic to, she's not a big fan of large chunks of nuts in baked goods. There's also minimal added sweetness in these muffins, because the bananas are more than sweet enough (make sure you use sweet, ripe bananas!).

Like many of my recipes, these are a perfect teatime snack, healthy post lunch dessert, or quick grab and go breakfast.

Makes 8 large muffins
For the muffins:
3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into large coins
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup baby oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 eggs
4 tbsp honey
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp whole milk
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the oat topping:
1/3 cup baby oats
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the banana coins on the sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes, flipping once in between and removing when the bananas have darkened slightly and are soft and mushy, but not falling apart. Transfer them to a bowl let them sit for 5 minutes. If the bananas release any juice, drain this. Then mash the bananas. I enjoy biting into chunks of soft banana, so I just mash the bananas until they have broken apart, not into the consistency of applesauce, but feel free to do what fits your bill!

Line a muffin tin with muffin liners and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C.

Sift together the dry ingredients for the muffins and add in the oats, mixing to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, greek yogurt, milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract until smooth.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet to the dry. Stir gently and mix until just combined. Please please please don't overmix as this will result in the muffins have a gummy and tough consistency. The batter may seem slightly dry at this point. But fear not! Finally fold in the mashed bananas, once again, until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and place in the oven to bake (for 25-30 mins total).

Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the oat topping. Once the muffins have been baking for 12 minutes, pull them out and sprinkle each muffin top with some of the oat topping (do this quickly to avoid the muffins from falling). Place back in the oven for another 13-15 minutes or until tops are slightly crispy and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and enjoy!


Better-than-Bakery Blueberry Muffins (with a streusel topping)!

Yesterday, we got back from our trip to Mumbai, and headed straight to our favorite cafe for breakfast (after freshening up!). Years ago, we would've been the type of family that didn't step out all day because we need to "rest", "unpack", and "get settled" again. While I don't necessarily think that such an attitude is wrong, I'm much happier with our newfound spontaneity. I had a delicious maple pecan scone and iced chocolate - I'm drooling just thinking about that heavenly combination again! But I'm not worried... Knowing us, we'll be back next weekend!

Post breakfast, post unpacking (this does unfortunately have to be done) and post taking care of little things here in there, it was baking time! That is how these beautiful bakery-style blueberry muffins were born.

They are better-than-bakery blueberry muffins in all ways possible:
1) They're topped with a streusel topping, and let's be honest, streusel equals yummier.
2) They're made with healthy, wholesome ingredients and minimal fat and refined sugar.
3) Because they're filled with goodness, they make you feel satisfied and don't send your blood sugar up to the sky, then suddenly make you crash from the sugar.
4) They taste absolutely amazing and have a gorgeous texture due to the almond flour.
5) They hint of subtle aromas from the almond extract and coconut oil really shine through and add another aspect of richness and depth of flavor.

When they came out of the oven, they were wonderfully risen... They were so well risen that I was afraid as soon as I pulled them out, they muffin tops would fall. But I was pleasantly surprised, as you can see from the pictures!

Fresh blueberries are everywhere as it's still summertime (yay!), so whip up a batch of these delicious blueberry muffins for your next picnic, family brunch, a quick breakfast, a perfect teatime snack, or simply because. Blueberry muffins don't need a reason to be made. And if you still need to justify to yourself why you're making them, it's because I'm telling you to!

Makes 7 hearty muffins
For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

For the streusel topping:
2-3 tbsp unrefined sugar
2 tbsp almond flour
2 tbsp baby oats
1 tbsp coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 175 C and line a muffin tray with muffin liners.
Mix together the dry ingredients for the muffins.
In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk the eggs first, then add in the rest of the wet ingredients (except blueberries) and whisk again.
Pour the wet into the dry and mix until just combined.
Gently toss the blueberries in a sprinkling of flour (this is to keep them from sinking in the muffin batter). Fold the blueberries into the muffin batter.
Place a small drop of coconut oil into each muffin liner and coat it evenly. You don't need more than a small drop, so even if you aren't able to spread it over the entire muffin liner, don't add more!
Spoon the batter into the muffin liners and place in the oven to bake (total of 25-30 minutes but read on!).

Don't leave yet! It's time to make the streusel topping. Mix together the ingredients for the streusel topping. Once the muffins have been baking for 15 minutes, pull them out of the oven and sprinkle the streusel mixture (work fast so the muffins don't fall flat!) on the muffin tops. Place the muffins back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the tops are a golden brown, streusel is crunchy and a toothpick inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy the glorious deliciousness!