Healthy-er Chocolate Crackles

Use a variation of this recipe (below) to make these cute Easter Nests

I grew up without chocolate crackles. I know, unimaginable, right? Well, we had lots of yummy treats in Germany, but chocolate crackles were not one of them. I’ve seen them at a few kids’ birtdays lately and my daughter really loves them, so I thought I’d make some. But, as per usual, I couldn’t help tinkering with them to make them a bit healthier. So, my best friend Google and I started looking around for alternatives.

Oh, did you know that my husband lovingly refers to me as Gigi – Google Geek

I stumbled across this recipe from “Just this side of chaos”
I will have to check out her other posts.

Anyway, back to the chocolate – yummmm
Her recipe uses coconut oil instead of Copha. Copha is hydrogenated coconut oil. And hydrogenated oil is something I avoid. So, she uses regular coconut oil instead. Coconut Oil is sooo good for you. Google it (I would, but then again, I google everything ;-). People use it for all kinds of things aside from it being a very healthy fat and one that doesn’t go rancid as quickly as many other oils.

I also added some toasted almonds cause i just love them and thought the texture would be nice – and it is. They also add some goodness to them. You can use toasted seeds like sunflower instead if you want to do it nut free.
Finally, for the birds nest version, I also used some Chang’s crispy fried noodles so it would look like sticks.

This makes about 24 crackles

Ingredients:
3 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar (I didn’t have icing sugar so I used caster sugar instead)
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder (I accidentally used too much)
250 grams melted coconut oil (coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature. Although in Queensland summer, it’s liquid)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Drizzle the coconut oil over the top and mix well. Spoon the mixture into paper or silicon cupcake liners and refrigerate until set.
Store in fridge or freezer.

Variation: Easter Nests:
2 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of Chang’s crispy fried noodles
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
250 grams melted coconut oil
mini speckled eggs or any other type of small egg-shaped candy (like jelly beans) to decorate.

Note: These really have to be kept in the fridge, especially in summer as the coconut oil is not firm enough otherwise to hold them together. If you want firm chocolate crackles that don’t need refridgeration, try the following recipe which is based on this

Makes 24 mini crackles
200g milk chocolate
100g butter or coconut oil
2 1/2 cups rice bubbles or puffed rice
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts or seeds

Line a mini-muffin pan with paper or silicon cases. Melt the chocolate and fat together over a double boiler or in a heavy based saucepan over low to medium heat., gently stiring. Be careful not to burn your chocolate. Cool slightly and add your rice and nuts or seeds. Spoon into lined muffin pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

500 liker give-away

To thank you for spreading the word about Bento Bits for me, I’m giving away a $10 store credit. To enter, simply leave a comment under this post. What theme would you like me to tackle in an upcoming Bento?
Of course I’d love if you wanted to share my page with all your friends, but that is not a requirement for entry. However, you have to be a current liker of my Facebook page to enter. And sharing might just give you some brownie points 😉

I will pick the winner on Tuesday, 11th of April 2012 at 10pm with the help of random.org. So any entry after that time will be void. Good luck!

PS: the voucher is not redeemable for cash and it will need to be filled within 12 months or it will be void.

Fish Fingers

We all know that fish is good for us. And most kids love fish fingers, right? For a home-made version that also sneaks some vegies, give this recipe a try. My kids just inhaled them for dinner (with a little tomato sauce, cause in their mind tomato sauce goes with anything).
It’s based on this recipe.
These turn out nice and crunchy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
My little secret is panko crumbs. They are Japanese bread crumbs and they are just da bomb 😉 But if you don’t have those on hand, you can use cornflake crumbs or even normal bread crumbs.

Panko Crumbs make these healthy-er fish fingers soooo crunchy

Serves 3

Ingredients:
1 (450g) of canned salmon – I mixed red and pink salmon
1 small onion, grated
1 celery stick, chopped very finely
1 small carrot, grated
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (or you could pulse all the vegies in a food processor)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
juice and zest of half a lime (or lemon)
1/2-1 cup of fine dry breadcrumbs (I didn’t have any so used a combination of panko crumbs and flour)
1/2 cup or more of panko crumbs for coating (you can use normal breadcrumbs or cornflake crumbs)
oil or butter for frying

Drain salmon and place into a mixing bowl. Flake roughly and mash the bones between your fingers. The bones are a great source of calcium, so don’t remove them. Add the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, eggs, lime juice and breadcrumbs and mix. Add more breadcrumbs if needed. You are aiming for a mixture that is dry enough to hold its shape when you form a patty but not crumbly and firm.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Place remaining breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl.
Form sausage shapes with the mixtures. Roll the sausages in the breadcrumbs and flatten lightly between your palms. Place into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Serve with tartare sauce for the adults or tomato sauce for the kids.

Tip: to cut down on the fat content, you could bake these in the oven on an oiled tray for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) or until golden brown. Turn after 10 minutes.

Bunny Bento with Fish Fingers

These are also great cold the next day. Here's an example on how to use them in a Bento style lunch that is sure to please most children. Just include some tomato suace in a little condiment cup or bottle. The bunny face has been drawn with FooDoodler food colouring markers.

St Patrick’s Day Colouring Page

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all of you!!!

It’s raining here on the Gold Coast, so I quickly whipped up a colouring page for my kids and thought I’d share it with you. There’s also a printable Snakes and Ladders that I put together a couple of weeks ago that you might want to use for rainy day kids entertainment. Great way to learn the numbers! You could use different shaped beads or even rolled up pieces of different coloured paper as your play figurines. You obviously need a dice. But if you don’t have one handy, in a snap you could write the numbers 1-6 on pieces of paper and pull them out of a hat…


Download St Patricks Day Colouring Page

Download Sankes and Ladders

St Patrick’s Day Shamrock Buns

These cute little Shamrock buns were a breeze to make and are very healthy. Not only do they have quite a high proportion of wholemeal flour, they also hide broccoli in them. And they’re delicious, especially with cream cheese (lots of cream cheese)…
I adapted this recipe from the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” site. For those unfamiliar with this revolutionary method that involves neither kneading nor multiple rises, check out this post.

Bright green Shamrock buns for St Patrick's Day

Yield: 8 buns
Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup of raw broccoli florets
1/2 cup of water for cooking
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten*
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon of warm water
Optional: 1/3 cup of grated cheese for sprinkling – I left this out
I also added a few drops of green food colouring

*(I have this as I use it a lot. You could skip it, but your buns might not rise as much. To add some more gluten to your dough, you could use bread flour in place of the plain flour. If you are planning to bake with wholemeal flour again, you should be able to buy vital wheat gluten from a health food shop)

Method:
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot. Add the broccoli and cook covered for about 4-5 minutes. Pour water and broccoli into a blender and blend until fairly smooth. I added a few drops of green food colouring here to make the colour pop.
Mix the flours, gluten, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and broccoli puree and mix with a spoon (or in a food processor). You might need to use wet hands to make sure there are no pockets of dry flour.

This is the dough after it is mixed but before resting

Set aside in a warm spot, covered (I use a plate to cover my bowl) for 2 hours.
Now you can refrigerate the dough for later use (up to 7 days). The original recipe calls for 3 times the amount, so you could bake 3 batches at 3 different times.
I chose to bake it straight away. I floured my bench, plopped the dough onto it and shaped it into a ball. I cut that dough in half, and cut each half in quarters so I had 8 roughly equal portions of dough. I divided each of those portions into thirds and formed them into balls which I placed onto a baking tray that I covered with baking paper. I arranged the little balls in groups of 3.

The original recipe calls for 4 balls per group, to make a 4-leaf clover. But shamrocks actually have only 4 leaves. I also omitted the muffin tin because I was aiming for a more defined leaf shape.

Now is the time to pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
After a 20 minute rest (40 if you’re using refrigerated dough), I baked the buns for about 20-25 minutes.

They're ready - aaand... kinda.... green...

Of course you could experiment with other ingredients. Maybe try beetroot instead for pink bread and make flowers out of 6 little balls of dough (one in the centre and 4 petals).
Happy St Patrick’s Day!!!!

Bread making for the lazy (or busy, that sounds better) mum

I love baking bread. I don’t do it all the time, but I really enjoy going back to basics and doing something old-fashioned like baking bread. I love knowing exactly what’s in this staple, from choosing the right flour to adding other ingredients – and even hiding fruit and veg in it.

However, I don’t have the time or energy for traditional bread making which involves strenuous kneading and multiple rises. I also don’t have the kitchen space for a breadmaker, nor do I like the constraints on loaf shape these machines have.

I grew up in Germany with an incredible variety of crusty, rustic looking loaves, beautiful, slightly chewy pretzels, delicious buns, made from all kinds of different grains, some made with sourdough, others with baker’s yeast. Unfortunately I didn’t really appreciate it while I lived there. These days I crave it.

Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

The first 2 books in the 5 Minutes a Day series.

A few years back I stumbled across a post on a novel way of making bread that did not involve kneading and multiple rises. I HAD to get that book. It’s called “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and is simply brilliant. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have adapted a no-knead method of bread making and added the concept of dough storage. To put it simply, they have you mixing up a large batch of a fairly moist yeast dough without kneading it, let it rest for a couple of hours and then refrigerate it. Over the next 2 weeks you can take portions from that cold dough, let it rest for half an hour or so and bake it. Their recipes make 4 loaves but can easily be doubled or halved.
The bread comes out with a thin crisp crust and delicious moist interior.
Better yet, their basic dough can be used as a delicious crispy pizza dough which requires no second rise at all. Just think of always having home made pizza dough in the fridge! All you need to do is take some out, roll it out and top it with your favourite toppings, bake it and ENJOY!
There are many different savoury and sweet recipes in that book. Rye breads, soft sandwich breads, pastries and more.

My kids never ate bread. But when I make it fresh, they devour it!

They have since published 2 more books: “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day”. I don’t have that last one yet, but I love the healthy one. It includes lots of wholegrain, alternative grains and gluten-free recipes.

They are also extremely helpful and answer questions on their website all the time. Can you tell, I just love them 😉

Seriously, check out their website and try out their master recipe.