Monday, 28 April 2014

Sugar-Free Lemon Yoghurt Cake

So my blogging break turned into a bit of a blogging slump. I've had heaps of post ideas floating around my head but just couldn't seem to get fingers to the keyboard! I've still been baking up a storm over the Easter holidays mostly trying out recipes from Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar for Life, her recipes in her latest book are a lot more up my alley (maybe its because she actually uses white flour in some recipes!!) with some stand-outs being her LCM bars and Red-Velvet Cupcakes.  
 
It is sometimes hard as designated family 'birthday cake maker' to come up with something other than another incarnation of the 'chocolate cake' (not that there's anything wrong with another chocolate cake) but a year on sugar-free I am still on a constant search for a good sugar-free cake. An overflowing bowl of lemons inspired my latest birthday cake for my Mother-in-law, Sugar-free Lemon Yoghurt Cake. It was as described by everyone as 'very lemony', so if you would rather a feint hint of lemon I would reduce the amount of lemon juice and leave out the zest. There was also a few comments regarding the texture, it is mostly made with almond meal and has no fats in it, so it makes a rather 'dense' cake. Personally I really liked it and was happy to gobble up the left-overs! Definitely going to keep working on this one, think it would convert to an orange and poppy seed cake well so will attempt that next.
 
The original recipe that inspired this cake used almond meal exclusively so you could replace the white flour for almond meal to make it gluten free if you desire.
 

Frosted it with sugar-free cream cheese icing it was a citrus-y delight! (even if I do say so myself!).
 

 

Sugar-free Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup rice malt syrup (can be substituted for honey if you aren't sugar free)
2 tbsp powdered stevia (I use Natvia)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
2/3 cup plain flour
1 1/3 cups almond meal
500 grams plain thick greek yoghurt
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
 

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees fan forced
Line a 22cm spring form tin with baking paper on bottom and grease and flour the sides
 
1. Separate eggs, place egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until they form stiff peaks
2. Place sifted flour, almond meal, baking powder, bi-carb soda, stevia in a bowl and combine
3. In a jug mix together egg yolks, vanilla extract, rice malt syrup, yoghurt, lemon zest and lemon juice.
4. Add this to bowl and combine with dry ingredients until just combined (don't over mix)
5. Once egg whites have formed stiff peaks gently fold into mixture.
1/3 cup lemon juice
6. Pour mixture into prepared tin
7. Bake in oven for 1 hour 10 minutes approx. (place baking paper over tin at 40 mins to stop from browning too much).
8. Once skewer comes out clean remove from oven, stand in tin for 5 mins before turning placing on cooling rack.
9. Once cooled completely top with sugar-free cream cheese icing (recipe here)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Moving out and moving on

Things have been a little quiet on the blog front over the couple of weeks whilst I have been preoccupied with sick kids and packing up our holiday house. It seems we are not the only ones moving house at the moment, every second blog post I read someone is packing up, must be the season.

One thing I think all us ‘movers’ can agree on, there is nothing fun about packing. You start out with great gusto but then get to the point where you are stuck between getting things done and needing to live so boxes become half packed, rooms are in a constant state of disarray and you find TV antenna cords and kid’s building blocks around every corner.
Beach house back yard
Moving house also causes you to reflect. Memories are dug up from the back of drawers and found in forgotten boxes stored high up in cupboards. As the house begins to bare its bones the home that held so many memories begins to simply become a house once more. You realise that although you can become attached to bricks and mortar it is the people the filled the house with laughter, tears, the sounds of celebration and joy. The memories don’t leave you when you take that one last look around the empty house, they are transported with you and can be called into your mind’s eye at any time.
 
Behind the curtains was a favourite place to play
I firmly believe this to be true as I am what you might call a ‘modern day nomad’, I have moved house 26 times in my lifetime (there could be a few more that I have forgotten about!) with majority of them being since I moved out of home. Taking this at face value I wouldn’t have attributed this constant state of motion as an ingrained part of my personality just a reflection of the circumstances I have found myself in. However as this move is probably one of the few that I am embarked upon reluctantly (you can read more about this here) I find myself questioning the reasons behind my history of relocating.
Down at the beach during winter
Obviously the frequent moves our family made whilst I was growing up had an impact on me, I became accustomed to not getting attached to houses and possessions, making friends and then moving on, settling into a school and then packing up again. I am certain this has influenced my frequent change of abode as an adult but it is also in conflict with another part of my personality which craves stability. Whether this is as a consequence of the moving forced upon me whilst growing up or not I find myself at odds. I like the idea of settling into a house, into a neighbourhood and putting down roots. I also don’t wish for my children to experience the stress of frequently moving schools but I also know that change is good. It is character building; adaptability, not getting attached to material things and knowing where your priorities lie brings fortitude, something I wish to instil in my children. So how then do you find the right balance?
I have also found myself somewhat concerned that this need for change is in fact an inability to feel satisfied with what I have and where I am. Although I am not sure if this is in fact the truth it does worry me that this may be at the root of my obsession with pouring over real estate websites and planning our next move. Lately whilst I scour the new house listings on a daily basis looking for our next address I have often paused to consider, “what I am really searching for”?
Beautiful beachside sky
Our house is not even four years old, it’s not small (a lot of people I know live in smaller and with more people), my only real gripe being our lack of backyard. But is this enough of a reason to get into more debt? To move from neighbours and a neighbourhood we love? With good parks nearby and still some room for the kids to play outside am I just getting sucked into the ‘bigger is better’ syndrome? And will a move to a bigger house and a bigger backyard guarantee that I won’t find myself dissatisfied and looking for the next ‘big move’ within a couple of years? I would like to say it wouldn’t, but honestly I am not sure.
Our society is based on wanting more. Everything around us is telling us that we should be striving for something bigger, something better. That we shouldn’t be satisfied with just ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ but to become the ‘Joneses’. That we will not feel fulfilled until we have the latest and greatest. In some respects this mantra is admirable. Wanting more from yourself, from life is a worthy objective but needing the latest TV, iProduct, car or house for that matter is unlikely to provide the sense of achievement and contentment we are searching for.
Beautiful blooms at the beach house
The groundswell, especially within my generation (Gen X), to a more simpler, slower way of life; where time is taken to cook, grow food and to spend quality time with family and friends is in response to the lack of satisfaction we are getting out of slogging it out 16 hours a day at work and spending our limited time off half comatose in front of the TV. I find the movement of a lot of families toward this type of lifestyle where priorities are refocusing on our relationships, our health and our communities to be exciting and in the right direction in my opinion. This of course does not mean we will be ditching our iPhones or Smart TVs anytime soon but the role and priority they take in our lives should be realigned.
 
Don’t get me wrong I am sure there will be many more moves in the future for our family but I want to ensure that we will be doing it for the right reasons. That I won’t be sacrificing the things that I value for a quick fix of the next bigger and better.  
Farewell little house
This latest move was hard and emotionally draining. But as hard as this sacrifice was it has allowed us to cement the priorities and values of our family and its allowing us to move on.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Renew the Menu: Slow Cooker Chilli Con Carne

During a toddler mealtime melt down the other day I frantically grabbed a can of what I thought was baked beans to stop the constant yelling but instead opened up a can of red kidney beans by mistake. (Yep it was a relaxing dinner time!) So not letting the red kidney beans go to waste I scanned my cookbooks for inspiration. Red kidney beans became Chilli Con Carne!
 
I converted the recipe to cook in the slow cooker so I could get it out of the way at the start of the day. I adjusted the recipe so that it was quite mild for the kids but it turned out yum! Both kids are sick at the moment so I could barely get them to eat a few spoonfuls but husband and I enjoyed it and now there are plenty of leftovers! I served ours with quinoa which makes a great alternative to rice. Here it is!
 
 
 

Slow Cooker Chilli Con Carne

(Serves 4-6, Cooking time: 4-6 hours)

Ingredients

800g beef chuck steak
440g tin red kidney beans
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (add more chilli to your heat level)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 x 440g tins chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
200ml beef or chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
Olive oil
Salt
1 cup sour cream, to serve
1/2 avocado chopped, to serve
coriander, to serve
 

Method

1. Pre-heat slow cooker
2. Brown diced steak in batches in frying pan with olive oil, transfer to plate
3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in frying pan and sweat onions, garlic and chilli
4. Once onion has softened add cumin, coriander, stir for 1 minute
5. Add meat, onion mixture, tomato tins, tomato paste and stock to slow cooker
6. Cook on low for 4-6 hours
7. About 45 minutes before end of cooking time add tin of kidney beans to slow cooker, season to taste (If sauce is too thin make a paste of cornflour/arrowroot flour and water and add to slow cooker to thicken sauce)
8. Serve on bed of quinoa, rice or with some tortillas
9. Dollop mashed avocado, sour cream on top and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
 
 
(Recipe adapted from Slow Food Bible by Margaret Barca.)