Easy and Clean Desserts

As a society we are addicted to sweets. We know they aren’t great for us, we know we should really avoid them, but its part of the culture. In this article I’m definitely not saying dessert is healthy, but I do have a few tasty options that are much better for you. On top of all that, all of the recipes are quick and easy.

You can’t go anywhere without seeing a frozen yogurt place. It’s all the rage these days. And of course it’s typically advertised as a healthy dessert. I think we can both agree that sugar filled yogurt with sugary toppings isn’t exactly “healthy.” Not to mention the price point isn’t so great either. Well if you have a food processor or blender at home, you can actually make some really great frozen yogurt. Perhaps it isn’t a traditional method, but I can assure you, no one will care. All you need is a vanilla yogurt. Any kind works. I like coconut milk yogurt because of lactose reasons, but you could do whatever you like. Add some frozen fruit and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (if you have it!). I also like to add a splash of almond extract. Blend together until smooth and you won’t believe the creamy goodness!

The next dessert on the docket is also fruit based but quite opposite in temperature. A fruit cobbler is a great way to get sweet, comforting dessert without a lot of refined or processed sugars. Start with a frozen or fresh fruit. Toss with a tablespoon or two of flour or cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon or two of sugar. You know how much sugar your fruit needs. Next make a crumb topping by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of soft butter, with a tablespoon of flour, 1 tablespoon of quick rolled oats, some chopped pecans and maybe a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. The crumb topping should be in pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle the topping on the fruit and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubbly. I like to bake mine during dinner so it’s ready to go when we’re all done eating.

Another great quick dessert is a pudding. You could make a bread pudding with old, stale bread, or perhaps a yummy chocolate pudding. Tapioca pudding is also a really nice, comfort food as well. The great thing about a pudding is that it can be served hot or cold, with or without fruit, in many different flavors, all relatively quickly. There are so many good pudding recipes out there to choose from. Just make sure its homemade, simple, and in a flavor everyone will enjoy. There’s nothing better that a nice, warm pudding and a dollop of fresh whip cream.

Hopefully you have a few more ideas for some quick, relatively healthy desserts. Just keep in mind that anytime you can make something yourself, without a processed, boxed mix you have a win for your health. Keep up the good work and take a few moments here and there to enjoy some dessert. Happy eating!

My Tips For Making The Perfect Pizzelle

If you’re not already familiar with pizzelle they’re a delicious treat that are simple to make, requiring nothing more than a few basic ingredients. Typically pizzelle are round and flat and come embossed with a distinctive snowflake pattern. They originate from Italy and are traditionally flavored with anise (although today they come in many different flavors).

I won’t bother listing a pizzelle recipe here since there are already so many published online. A quick search should give you a basic recipe in no time. But what I will do is list my own personal ‘success list’ for making, what I consider, the perfect pizzelle. After all you can’t beat a bit of home cooking and pizzelle are a great place for beginners to start because of their simplicity.

One of the most basic things that catches most people out (myself included) is simply using your pizzelle maker correctly. You need to make sure it is fully heated. So before you even begin making your pizzelle batter, switch your maker on and allow it to heat fully. If you don’t you’re going to end up with a sticky mess that runs out of the mold when you close it. And it’s a real bugger to clean off.

Speaky of sticky messes I’d recommend putting a non-stick spray or lightly rubbing a small amount of vegetable oil into your pizzelle maker before using it to help season it – especially if its new. Do this even if your maker states its non stick because my pizzelle still sometimes stick in my non-stick maker – go figure!

Also play around with your temperature controller if your maker has one. I like my pizzelle a light golden brown. But you may prefer yours a darker golden color. Your temperature controller will allow you to do this. So make a few batches varying different times and temperatures and you’ll come up with a combination that makes your perfect pizzelle. My maker doesn’t have a temperature control, which I think would be handy, but I know that one minute is the ‘optimum’ time for me. (If you’re in the market for a pizzelle maker I picked my one up at this site).

You could also get a few forms for your baked pizzelle. You see, when pizzelle are warm, they can be shaped around a mold to make cones or cylinders which harden when they set. To form something like a sugar cone. You can then fill them with ice cream or custard and cr�me – whatever you want really. I like this because I do prefer my pizzelle warm and fresh – actually when I’m making anything I always prefer it fresh from the oven. So this is a good way to make some really nice stuff to snack on later – that’s just as delectable as the fresh pizzelle.

Well, there you have it. My round up of tips for making a decent pizzelle. The tips sound basic, and I suppose they are, but it is so surprising just how easy you forget the basics when you’re making something new so it’s handy to have a little crib sheet to guide you through

How To Make A Flat White Coffee

Flat White has been appearing in our coffee shops over the last couple of years and seems to be growing in popularity. So what is it exactly?

It’s an espresso-based drink from Australia (but perfected in New Zealand), currently spreading around the world and becoming particularly popular in the US. This is surprising as many Americans are used to Starbucks-style coffee which can taste harsh to the European and Australian palate, but it seems the Americans are coming round!

Flat White

There are several things about the flat white that are in sharp contrast to Starbucks coffee. First is the rich and velvety texture of the flat white, and the second being the size of the serving, typically a 5.5fl.oz cup rather than the 20oz monsters served in some outlets. However, they say sometimes it’s quality that is more important that quantity, and this is a perfect example. The massive ‘venti’ drinks can be like drinking a pint of hot coffee-flavoured milk (this is exactly what it is after all), whereas the flat white is a far more subtle balance of smooth milk and coffee blended together.

So how do I make a flat white?

You’ll need the following ingredients. Please beware of substituting any of these or skipping parts that you don’t think are important – the flat white is a subtle drink and needs to be made properly to avoid it tasting just like any other coffee.

Use good quality fresh coffee beans, not roasted too dark (unless you have a strong preference otherwise). Something like a Lavazza Super Crema or an equivalent Illy / Segafredo will be just right. Avoid using cheap beans or anything that has been sitting around for a while, it will ruin the finished drink.

Grind the coffee beans to espresso grind just before making your flat white.

Heat a 165ml ceramic coffee cup – this doesn’t have to be exact but refrain from using anything that’s very much bigger or smaller if at all possible.

Make a double shot of espresso, avoiding over extraction which wil result in a more bitter flavour. If you’re using a traditional espresso machine, make your espresso on the strong side. If you’re using a capsule or pod machine such as a Lavazza Modo Mio, then limit the amount of water dispensed slightly more than you normally would.

Whole milk. Please don’t use semi skimmed or skimmed milk, it simply won’t work! If you’re on a diet, then avoid flat whites and stick with a skinny cappuccino.

Milk. This part is arguably the most important and is what differentiates a flat white from other milky coffees. The perfect milk for a flat white should not have any of the dry foam on top of it that is typical for making a caffe latte or cappuccino. The term used for what you do to the milk is “stretching”. This is achieved by keeping the tip of the steaming wand slightly lower into the milk than usual so as not to break the surface of the milk at all. Your aim is not to introduce air into the milk. The heating of the milk and circulation of the milk in the frothing jug will result in the milk becoming stretched. The volume should more than double in size and the milk should appear somewhat glassy and shiny when done. The milk should be heated to approximately 60� C / 140� F.

If you are using a coffee machine at home that doesn’t foam milk, don’t worry. An alternative is to use a hand-held electric milk frother, though the same principle still applies – make sure you don’t break the surface of the milk, and if necessary fold the milk at the end.

If you’ve got it right first time, your milk will have no dry foam on the top. Once you’ve got your milk ready, pull your espresso. Just before pouring the milk, bang the bottom of the milk jug onto a towel or cloth on your work surface to break any large air bubbles in the milk, and swirl the jug round a couple of times. Gently and carefully pour the milk into the espresso so that the crema from the coffee sits on top of the milk.

If you’ve done this and ended up with silky milk in your cup with a crema on top, then congratulations, you’ve just made a flat white! Like most things, practice makes perfect so the more you make this, the more you will refine your technique. It won’t be long before you’re making them without thinking about it, and then you can start getting clever with latte art if you want to really show off!

If you’ve never seen latte art stencils before, ours look at our range – they’re a great investment and last pretty much forever.

Better Nutrition With Homemade Soup

Many of my clients tell me how much they like having soup for lunch in the colder months, but most of the time, they name off various brands of soups bought at the store. Don’t get me wrong: many commercial soups are great options for the calorie conscious. The problem with canned soups, of course, is the sodium content. Some products have an excess of 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. To my way of thinking, this is far too much salt for one simple food item. So while it’s easy to turn to grocery store shelves for your lunchtime soup, consider making your own soup.

The beauty of homemade soup is that you can literally take any basic soup recipe and modify it based on ingredients you have on hand. You can make adjustments and get the sodium content reduced without foregoing good taste. Most soups start with a stock, broth, or a vegetable base. You can make your own stock if you have the time, but starting with a ready made broth can cut down on preparation time. If you buy ready made soup broth, I recommend that you read the labels carefully. Regular broth will make your homemade version of soup just as high in sodium as canned soup. The low sodium versions of broth have sodium too! I found that most of the “low sodium” brands of broth had close to 500 mg. sodium per serving. This is still too much if you are sodium conscious. I found several organic low sodium stocks with just 140 mg. per serving, so it pays to look around.

If you want to try making homemade soup for your lunches, here’s an idea: make one batch pot of a different soup every week. Keep enough of the soup on hand for one or two meals, and then freeze the rest in smaller containers, preferably 1-2 portion containers. If you make a different kind of soup each week, you will soon have a “selection”of different soups in your freezer that you can choose from for a quick lunch or dinner meal. Take a single serving of frozen soup to work and you’ll have a nice healthful meal ready to heat up.

Here is my favorite vegetable soup recipe:

Vegetable Barley Soup

2 Tb. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced carrots

12 oz. fresh mushrooms chopped

1/2 cup barley (use pearl or hulless barley)

6 cups low sodium beef, chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp coarse salt

2-3 cups chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard

Heat oil in large pot and saut� onions and carrots until tender. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add barley, low sodium broth and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer until barley is done. (Pearl barley takes about 40 minutes; hulless barley takes about 60 minutes to cook). Add chopped greens and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serves 6.