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Strange cookie ingredients

I had a bizarre idea a few weeks ago – what can I put in cookies that people wouldn’t necessarily think of putting in cookies.  And my brain started whirring.  Then I spent a very enjoyable day in the kitchen baking a number of different types of cookies, basically using up a whole pile of ingredients I had lying around.  And here’s the result:

2016-06 Strange ingredient cookies

Some of these I’ve just posted recipes for (i.e. the ones that worked) and some I just had to throw in the trash (those I’m not going to give you the recipe for!).  So going from the ‘Sarah’s kitchen kettle’ clockwise:

  • Pineapple cookies – recipe posted here
  • Sour cream sugar cookies – basically tasteless
  • Pistachio choc chip cookies – using instant pudding mix, recipe posted here
  • Chocolate cream cheese cookies – ok, but not dazzling

And then I remembered when I first started working in my new job, I would hold ‘guess the mystery ingredient’ competitions.  You know how it is, you want to make a good impression, meet new people etc.  And I remembered the cookies I used (funny how all of them are peanut butter based!):

  • Chickpea chocolate chip peanut butter cookies (recipe here)
  • Quinoa peanut butter cookies (recipes here for the no-refined sugar version and here for the ‘normal’ sugar version)
  • Peanut butter mystery cookies – using ketchup (recipe here)

It took a while for my colleagues to guess the ketchup and the chickpea cookies but the quinoa ones they guess within about 30 mins of the competition starting.

Anyway, I’m always looking for other interesting ingredients to make into cookies and I’d love your feedback.  Please write in the comments section below if you have any ideas for me to try, or any recipes you may have with ‘strange’ cookie ingredients.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


I bake … therefore I run

I realize I haven’t posted many new recipes recently.  Don’t worry, my dear friends.  I’ve got stacks of yummy new things for you to try out.  Things that range from spicy Thai cucumber salad to flourless tahini cookies just to name a few.  I just need to download the photos and get my butt into gear and put the recipes together.  I have been baking and cooking up a storm recently – and had a stack of fun doing it too!  And, as always, you are aware of my tendency to sample a lot of the batter while baking, so I’ve been trying to look after the eating/exercise balance again.  

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at this, I was coerced into joining a team from work to run a Ragnar relay.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, check out this link … Ragnar.  Basically it’s 12 people, running almost 200 miles overall in a relay race.  Each person runs 3 times, for varying distances and at varying difficulties.  It all takes place over about a day and a half, with very little sleep or downtime.  I’ve been training a lot, running 5-6 times a week to get my legs trained for this.  And the race was this weekend.

I did 16 miles in total – two in the heat of the day and one at night time.  And got very little sleep overnight.  But I had an awesome group of people in the van with me, and they put up with me.  

I had a great time training, and with all the running (and baking), my weight actually stayed relatively stable over the past month or so.  I now know how much exercise I need to do if I want to keep up that level of baking … maybe I should cut down on both sides!

I came home this afternoon and baked.  As I do.  And I made these awesome peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  And I’ll put up the recipe for them shortly.  But trust me, it was worth the many hours I had to think about recipes …

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let you know that I’m still around, still baking and cooking, still planning on giving you lots of options for having fun in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for the recipes!  And feel free to comment on anything you read here!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home,


Nut allergies …

As most of you know, I love nuts.  Specifically peanuts.  My typical go-to meal for when we have guests is a peanut satay chicken stir-fry (using this sauce), followed by a chocolate pudding (recipe here).  We recently had some dinner guests where one of the kids was/is allergic to nuts.  All nuts.  My alternative go-to main course recipe is the broccoli and bacon fettucine (recipe here), but I was told that the father of the family couldn’t stand broccoli.  Add this to us trying to eat healthier, and limit sweets with sugar to just once a week (and we had already committed to a dessert later that weekend).  Now this shouldn’t have caused me to panic, but I did …

So, Abby and I looked through my recipe folder and came up with a healthy dessert, which didn’t contain any nuts.  I took my chocolate banana pie (recipe here) and adapted it.  Abby helped me, as she wants to learn how to cook ALL the recipes in my folder.  And by all, I mean ALL.  She has in her mind that we’ll knock off a few recipes each week, she’ll help me and take notes on what I change (’cause I do change, even my own recipes!).  Anyway, more on that later.

Our adaptations were:

  • Instead of walnuts in the crust, we used flaxseed meal
  • Instead of peanut butter in the filling, we used sunflower seed butter

Nothing to out of the ordinary, but gee, it was yummy!

2016-03-17 Chocolate banana pie

The funny thing was, when Abby and I were making this pie, I was encouraging her to try all the ingredients so she got a sense of what each thing tasted like.  As most of you are aware, Abby hates dried fruit.  Really hates it.  To the point that every time I give her something I’ve made I have to tell her whether it has any dried fruit in it or not.  So, making the crust with dates, flaxseed meal and cocoa, she wouldn’t eat the dates by themselves.  When they had all been processed together, she tried some.  She’s a funny girl, that one, but I love her heaps and wouldn’t want her any other way.

Oh yeah, for the main course we had ribs and veggies.  Grant cooked the ribs and is becoming quite the expert in the art.  They were VERY yummy!

Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed reading my adventures.  Stay tuned for more cooking with kids stuff as Abby and I go through the recipes …

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


Competition entry

My wonderful readers, I need your help!  I have entered the Earth Balance Cupcake Challenge with some yummy blueberry crumble cupcakes.  The winner is determined by which photo/recipe obtains the most votes, so follow the link here (Earth Balance Cupcake Challenge and choose the tab with ‘Gallery’) and where you see the following photo, click on the link to either ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ about it.  The more votes, the more chances I have of winning.

Earth Balance Blueberry crumble cupcakes

So let me tell you about these cupcakes.  They are a mixture of the original blueberry muffin recipe on this website (here), mixed with some crumble from my apple crumble recipe (here) and then glazed with a topping I kind of made up as I went along.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, mostly refined sugar-free (apart from the powdered sugar in the topping) and mostly nut-free (apart from some almond milk).  And they are light and fluffy, with a taste and texture that really surprised me.  I think you can get the recipe from the competition website, but once the competition is over, I’ll be posting it on this website too.

And there’s a story behind why I made these cupcakes – apart from just wanting to bake and enter into the competition.  I originally wanted to make the strawberry basil cupcakes (recipe here) and I had them in the oven, when I realized that they included eggs.  Now the challenge was for a ‘vegan’ cupcake, so eggs were out.  Then I thought I could use my donut recipe (see here) but halfway through realized that i wasn’t going to use any of the Earth Balance products, so I used some of their peanut butter to make a peanut butter banana cupcake.  Unfortunately, they turned out pretty heavy and dense.  So I didn’t want to share that with the rest of the internet world!

And I was going to try using my all-time favorite gluten-free brownie recipe (see here) and substitute ground oats for the egg (just to try it) but was worried they would be very crumbly and fudgey, not really like a cupcake.  Actually I still might try that recipe some time and see how it turns out.  Stay tuned.  

Anyway, as I was flicking through my recipe folder, I came upon the blueberry muffin recipe, which didn’t need eggs and used vegetable oil – which I easily switched to the Earth Balance product.  And to make it look a little more fancy, I included a crumble on top, with a drizzle of a slight hint of lemon in the topping.  Mmmm, they were yummy!

So, I would love it if you would vote for this photo and see if I can win something … Oh, and try the recipe (or any of the other ones that I’ve linked to in this post!) and let me know what you think.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


Everything’s better with bacon

We’ve been in the US for just over 18 months now and have realized the truth of the statement ‘everything is better with bacon’.  When Grant and I get to go out for a work dinner (at someone else’s expense) there’s usually the question of whether any of the appetizers are wrapped in bacon!

I didn’t grow up having bacon and eggs for breakfast, or much pork at all, come to think of it.  It’s only been later in my life that I found that I actually liked toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, I still struggle with ham steaks and some of the other pork products … I remember one time my mum cooked some pork schnitzels for dinner and wouldn’t tell me what the meat was – I KNEW it wasn’t chicken!  Maybe that’s where Abby gets her food fussiness from – think beans, any dried fruit … but I digress.

A weekend or so ago I realized that somehow Grant and I had managed to buy too much bacon and we had to eat a lot of it before it went off.  The rest we kept in the freezer, for the next time we feel like bacon and eggs and realize we’ve got to defrost the whole packet!  This weekend Abby had suggested that we make stuffed pork chops for one of the meals (thanks to us watching Worst Cooks in America).  Unfortunately on the episode that had the stuffed pork chop inspiration, the chefs had cooked it and given it to the contestants without any instructions and the contestants had to recreate it.  So, I did some research of my own and came up with a recipe that was gluten and dairy free – a bacon and apple stuffing (see here for the recipe).  And I have to say, it was worth the effort.  I slightly overcooked the pork, but the stuffing was delicious.

Stuffed pork chop

We were invited to a neighbor’s house for Superbowl and I (obviously) offered to bring some snacks.  Trying to reduce the amount of sugar I’m eating, I thought of bacon-wrapped dates.  The recipe is very easy – cut bacon rashers in half or thirds.  Pit Medjool or other variety of date and roll in bacon.  Bake in oven at 350F for 15 mins and allow to cool slightly before eating.  So simple.  So yummy, I surprised myself that I really REALLY liked these!

Bacon wrapped dates

The next day we were having guests over for dinner and I’d been wanting to try my bacon and broccoli pasta recipe (see here) with turkey bacon and coconut cream.  So, while unfortunately our guests cancelled on us, we still had a really yummy dinner.   To make it dairy-free I used nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese and coconut cream instead of the normal cream.  Also added a few shakes of salt and pepper and the end result was awesome.  So awesome I forgot to take a photo of the actual dish, so you’ll have to put up with an old photo of this dish!

2015-05-10 Bacon & broccoli pasta

And to top off the whole ‘Bacon’ extravaganza, it was recently Shrove, or Pancake Tuesday.  I wanted a pancake with the bacon, eggs and maple syrup that I’d seen Grant enjoy many times since we’ve been here.  I’ve never been brave enough to try it, but for some reason I wanted to see if my non-dislike of bacon extended this far.  Grant and I actually got invited to a work dinner for that night, which I was upset about since I wouldn’t get my pancakes, but Grant (being the awesome husband that he is) offered to get up early and make me pancakes for breakfast.  And he did.  And it was yummy.  And I just might do this again … maybe for my birthday?

Pancake, bacon & eggs

Thanks for reading through this longer than normal post, but it was fun just dribbling on about bacon (coz that’s what bacon makes you do!).  Hope you’ve enjoyed the adventures with bacon – if you have a favorite bacon recipe that you would like to share with me, let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home.


Christmas baking for neighbors

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (sung in a nice Bing Crosby-style voice … not really!).  And this year, due to all the other baking and cooking and entertaining we have been doing recently, I wasn’t going to bake cookies for the neighbors.  But then, they kept bringing us Christmas gifts, so I thought the only decent thing to do, would be to bake.  And give the majority of baked goods away.  But I still ate a bit too much cookie dough in the process … I’m working on that problem of mine!

So, here is what I madefor the neighbors:

  • Gingerbread donuts – using this gingerbread recipe here;
  • Carrot cake – all-time favorite recipe here;
  • Sugar cookies – using a recipe I have had handwritten in my folder for years, but haven’t been able to make it because it calls for custard powder – something that is quite rare in the US.  But we were given 4 boxes of gluten and dairy-free custard powder earlier this year which I’ve been saving for just an occasion.  Oh, and making custard with it too!  Anyway, I still wasn’t totally happy with the product, so I’ll need to tinker around with it a little more before putting it on this website.
  • Chocolate orange cupcakes – this was Abby’s cupcakes of the week – you can read more about them here.

2015 Christmas baking for neighbors

Who would want to be our neighbors?

So Abby and I dressed up in our Santa hats and delivered them, one-by-one to the neighbors.  And learnt the hard way, that ice can be difficult to see on concrete at night time.  I still have the bruise on my leg as evidence … fortunately we only lost one of the cupcakes and one slice of carrot cake … which I just had to eat to make sure they all still tasted good.  I think the neighbors enjoyed them, although I’ve never seen them eat any of my baking … I wonder …!

Anyway, I also wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you an awesome holiday time and to take care of yourselves.  And if you’re doing stuff in the kitchen, enjoy it!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


The Brownie experiment

Last weekend it was all about zucchinis.  This weekend it’s all about brownies.  4 different recipes to be exact …

According to Wikipedia (the expert on all topics!), a brownie is ‘a flat, baked dessert square’ that is ‘a cross between a cake and a soft cookie in texture’.  I was given a few recipes that I’ve been wanting to try for a while and this weekend gave me the opportunity to do so.  All of these recipes were gluten-free (obviously), dairy-free and refined sugar-free.  Grant made a comment that I’m really pushing the refined sugar-free angle with a lot of the more recent recipes I’ve made, but I understand these are still treats and should only be irregular snacks, not every day!  They may be low in sugar, but the calorific value is still there and should be accounted for if you’re watching your weight.  Having said that, comparing treats with and without refined sugar, while they may be similar in calories, I know my stomach feels much better with the no-refined sugar option.

And here’s how it went:

Brownies - sweet potato Sweet potato brownies (from Deliciously Ella) – I was given this recipe from a lady at work, who was visiting from London.  She mentioned that every year she did a 2 month detox, where she ate gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and refined sugar-free.  She said she loved this recipe, and since it contained one of my favorite vegetables (sweet potato), I was hanging out to make this recipe.  So I did, and the end result?  Well, it was a lot more gooey than I really expected, and it wasn’t really my idea of a fantastic brownie, but still ok to use in a taste test with the rest of the brownies!
Zucchini brownies (adapted from a recipe from Henry’s teacher last year, thanks Janet) – When we visited Henry’s teacher last year to buy her second-hand couches for our new house in the US, she gave me a whole pile of zucchini and a recipe for zucchini brownies that she said was awesome.  So, I tried it, and substituted a whole pile of ingredients to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free.  And the result – well, this time around it was awesome.  Using ingredients like almond flour, applesauce, honey and flaxseed, I think I made it a little healthier than the original recipe.  And it was definitely yummy, which I guess is all that matters! Brownies - zucchini
Brownies - quinoa Quinoa brownies (from a cupcake recipe I’ve had for ages) – I went through a real quinoa phase just after I discovered I was gluten-intolerant and found a recipe book that was all about quinoa.  Unfortunately that book has long gone, but I still have my hand-written copy of the recipe.  This was originally for cupcakes, and contained normal granulated sugar and butter.  Actually, funny story, last time I made the cupcakes, I left the butter in the microwave and totally missed putting it into the batter …!  So I changed some ingredients to switch out the butter and sugar for more natural ingredients and put it in a brownie form, rather than cupcakes.  These actually took the cake (no pun intended!).  They were great … and very more-ish!
Almond butter brownies (from my healthy chocolate mint brownies) – A good ol’ favorite of mine.  Real simple ingredients, including almond butter, maple syrup, an egg, cocoa and vanilla … and that’s about it.  This can have the tendency of being a little dry and crumbly, but if you’re careful about the proportions, they’re quite nice and definitely worth the wait for cooling down after being baked! Brownies - almond butter

So, 4 different types of brownies.  I gave a few sampler plates away and the majority of people I gave these to liked the zucchini and the quinoa ones the best.  I may have confused the issue slightly with the frostings that I used, as many people said they liked the banana ones best (I used bananas in two of the frostings instead of powdered sugar!).  I will be posting the recipes for both these brownies on here shortly … sorry to Deliciously Ella as I don’t think the sweet potato brownies really got many votes!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my brownie adventures – let me know in the comments below what you thought!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!



All things zucchini

Everything is bigger in America.  Including zucchinis.  A guy at work was telling me about the zucchinis he had grown in his veggie garden and talked about bringing some in for me.  I didn’t really expect him to (a) remember to bring any in for me or (b) the size of them.  So one day I turned up at work and found these on my desk:

Zucchini prelim


So, thus beginneth my zucchini baking and cooking challenge.  What to do with 3 zucchinis the size of baseball bats?  And then another one from our neighbor … and another one just as I was getting through them all!  See below for what I’ve used over the last 2 weeks or so:

Some of these were successes:

  • Zucchini burger – grated zucchini and carrot, together with an egg, nutritional yeast and gluten-free bread crumbs;
  • Zucchini brownies – based off a recipe from Henry’s school teacher (thanks Janet!), and made a little more healthy with no refined sugar or oil, with my famous pecan/date frosting (recipe here)
  • Zucchini cake – my never-fail carrot cake recipe (here) with the only substitution of zucchini for the carrot – one of the guys at work said it tasted so good, he was sure there was pot in it … I just looked at him and shook my head!
  • Thai almond curry with veggies – I love this recipe (sauce recipe here) and it works absolutely fantastically with any veggies you have lying around the house.  This time I did it with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini (obviously) and spinach
  • Roast veggie salad – (recipe here) I actually had the salad with some gluten-free bread and wraps for a healthy lunch at work over a number of days
  • Veggie quiche – (recipe adapted from here) – with mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini and spinach, along with some dairy-free cheese and nutritional yeast, this was a winner in my book!

Some of these were ok experiments, but not worth doing them again:

  • Zucchini choc chip muffins – nice and moist, but didn’t have that ‘zing’ I was looking for
  • Chocolate zucchini cookies – as above
  • Zucchini peanut butter cookies – as above

And then there were the disasters:

  • Zucchini fries – trying to be too clever and ‘healthy’ by not coating them in breadcrumbs, just roasting them alongside potato wedges.  The zucchini fries were soggy and yucky.  The wedges were awesome.
  • Zucchini and veggie sandwich – really didn’t give me much satisfaction for lunch that day, just very bland
  • Zucchini donut cookies (not shown) – I did the recipe according to what was written, but they just weren’t that great.  I ended up throwing these in the bin …

So I’ve learnt a lot about zucchini over the past few weeks (and I still have another zucchini to use up).  I would love to hear from you guys with your tried and true zucchini recipes – so I can use up the last bit of zucchini until I get given some more!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my cooking adventures – feel free to share with your friends and family and I would love to hear any and all comments you have!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


The oatmeal raisin cookie challenge

I love cookies … and cookie dough.  Which is better, I wonder?  Anyway, I was in a baking mode last week and decided to make some oatmeal raisin cookies … as you do!

I received one of my regular e-mails with a recipe for ‘healthy’ oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and thought it was my duty to try them out.  And as I was mixing up the dough (and taste-testing along the way, you know you have to do this!), I made a number of adjustments.  And then I thought it would be fun to see if people could tell the difference between ‘healthy’ oatmeal raisin cookies i.e. no refined sugar and those with refined sugar.  So I whipped up a batch of Sally’s peanut butter oatmeal cookies (recipe adapted from her Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – see here).  Oh yeah, the no-refined sugar ones also had peanut butter in them, so they were basically the same but different proportions, and obviously different sweeteners.

I took the two types of cookies to two meetings at work … and got people to vote.

Oatmeal raisin challenge


I also wanted to know whether people liked the one with no-refined sugar (or the one they thought had no-refined sugar) better than the other one.  You can see I only made small cookies, so there was no excuse for people not to try both.

And the results were …

In the vote for the cookie with no-refined sugar, 55% of people got it correct.  Which meant that it was pretty evenly split between the two.  Which means, it wasn’t that easy to tell the difference.  Interesting …

In the vote for which they preferred – 55% of people voted for the one with no-refined sugar.  Which meant that healthy can mean tasty!

I found these results really interesting that people couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t really prefer one over the other!

I’m still working on tweaking the recipe for the no-refined sugar one and I’ll post that when I get the chance.  Let me know what you think – any suggestions are always welcome!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


The gluten-free snickerdoodle challenge

Ok, so for those of you following along, you will know that I love cookies (and the dough).  And I love making cookie crusts for cheesecakes, pies, etc.  Well, I got it into my head that I needed to find a go-to recipe for a cookie crumb crust that didn’t involve peanut butter.  I know, how strange!!  But I want to make some cheesecakes and pies that just won’t go well with anything peanut butter, like a banana custard pie, blueberry lemon cheesecake, etc.  I’m getting hungry already!

I put on my thinking cap, and thought that snickerdoodles (you know, sugar cookies rolled in sugar and cinnamon) would be a good place to start.  My mum had a snickerdoodle recipe that I absolutely loved.  Ok, truth be told, I loved the dough while it was chilling more than the finished product, but you get the picture!  But I didn’t necessarily want to have a cookie that used flour, since then I would have to substitute for gluten-free flour and that sometimes doesn’t work very well.  So I found three recipes that were gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies and one day after work, I tried all of them out and asked the family for their opinion.  A bonus was that all of these recipes contained no refined sugar, so my tendency to eat the dough while baking wasn’t too bad on my overall health (and weight!).

Snickerdoodles - Elana's 

This was a recipe that I found from Elana’s Pantry (see here) and used almond flour, palm shortening, and honey all mixed in a food processor.  Because I didn’t have any palm shortening, I used coconut oil instead, but the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much to plan. 



Snickerdoodles - Slimpalate


This recipe was from Slim Palate (see here) and again used almond flour, but also had a little bit of coconut flour, coconut oil and honey, but could be all mixed in a bowl.  I actually followed this recipe right to the letter, except for rolling the cookies in the cinnamon-sugar mixture – I got lazy and just sprinkled cinnamon on top!


Snickerdoodles - Life Made Full


This recipe was from Life Made Full (see here) and called for coconut oil, coconut sugar, almond flour (again) and cream of tartar, as well as chilling the dough before baking.  From the picture you can obviously tell that I put way too many on the tray at once, and they spread A LOT!



And the verdict?  Well for taste, it was the Life Made Full recipe as the winner.  This was hands down the best tasting snickerdoodle, although it was quite chewy and crumbly and difficult to hold while eating.  That could be due to the fact that I just didn’t bake it for long enough, but it’s a learning process.

For texture, it was the Slim Palate recipe, but maybe it was because I just sprinkled on the cinnamon rather than rolling the cookies in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, but all in the family agreed these were a little bland.  However, all is not lost because these are the cookies that I’ve now taken to the freezer and will use as the base of a cheesecake in the near future (and add some more cinnamon etc to it!)

So a great big thank-you to the three recipe originators – I might try tweaking some of their recipes at a later date, but at this stage, I’m done with snickerdoodles for a while!

I’d love to hear any comments you may have, or any suggestions about other challenges I can conduct for you as well – just let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!



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