Saturday, 14 April 2012

Oatmeal Bread

What's the worst part of going on holidays for a week?  Apart from the suitcase full of dirty laundry, no food in the house and a car full of grumpy people moaning something suspiciously like "I don't want to go home", it's gotta be the knowledge that the lazy days of ice-cream, chocolate, red wine and take-aways have come to an end.  Someone once told me that none of these foods contain calories when consumed on holidays and I've used this advice as my mantra ever since - although my jeans probably dispute the theory!

Once home, time to cheer everyone up (there's only so much of the grumbling you can take before it wears you down).  I decided on something semi-healthy as a way to break us into the normality of being home.  This Oatmeal Bread is more a loaf cake than an actual bread.  The recipe takes a leaf out of Nigella's book by substituting applesauce for some of the sugar and butter.  I wouldn't dare call it super healthy but its a step in the right direction.  Don't feel the need to add the sugary, nutty topping, the cake is sweet enough and doesn't necessarily need it but it's an delicious bonus. 

This cake is moist and full of flavour.  Maybe I'll have a slice or two for breakfast in the morning - it's gotta be as good as a bowl of porridge.  Yeah I know, I'm totally in denial and intend to stay that way for another few days until I ease myself gently back into the swing of things.  Now, which of you ate my King Size Snickers?

Oatmeal Bread, adapted from Dorie Greenspan, "Baking From My Home to Yours"


For the topping
50g light brown sugar
30g chopped pecans
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the bread
2 large eggs
300g apple sauce *
80ml vegetable oil
60ml buttermilk
150g wholewheat flour
150g sugar
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
75g dried apricots or any dried fruits of your choice
100g rolled oats

* I just stew some chopped eating apples in a little water until soft, blitz them in the processor then put into ice cube trays and freeze until needed.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F) and grease a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin.
First make the topping by combining all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs, apple sauce, vegetable oil and buttermilk together in a bowl or jug.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and spices together.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.  Fold in the apricots and oats until just mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the topping.  Press down slightly with your fingers so that it sticks to the bread.
Bake for 55-65 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Energy Bites

I'm totally in awe of the people who excel at something other than their day job.  Everyone knows the guy who is effortlessly good at playing guitar in his spare time or the shy reserved girl who can produce an amazing singing voice out of nowhere.  Unless you'd count making jigsaws with 2 year olds, changing babies nappies or pushing kids on swings, it's safe to say I'm just an Average Joe.

I run quite a bit but I'd never call myself "a runner".  I'm more of a slow plodder, someone who will keep going but will never ever win anything.  I try to get do 10km 4 times a week (children and husband permitting!).  Although sometimes if I listen hard enough I can hear my body saying something like "You big fool.  You get one hour to yourself, would it not be better to spend the little spare time you have sitting in front of the TV and not be hauling your sorry ass out into the streets in lycra?".  It has a point and sometimes I'm tempted to listen to it but I usually but nothing beats the feeling of finishing another run - I'm ready to take on the day.

If I go for a run in the morning, I'm always starving for the rest of the day.  These little bites are great for bridging the gap between breakfast and lunch.  They're a perfect energy boost for anybody in training for a marathon or charity run or even when you fancy something sweet before dinner.  They taste quite chocolatey even though there is only 1 tablespoon of cocoa in them and the dates and honey make them quite sweet.

Energy Bites, adapted from BBC Good Food magazine, April 2012.

100g toasted pecans
75g chopped dates
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp wheatgerm
1 tsp brown linseed (poppy seeds, sesame seeds or any other small seeds would work here)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp honey
50g desiccated coconut

Blitz the pecans in a food processor until they are fine crumbs.
Add all of the other ingredients (except the desiccated coconut) and pulse until it is all combined.
Shape the mixture into golf ball sized balls and roll in the coconut until fully coated.
Place the balls in the fridge for 20 mins. to firm up.