carrot and zucchini cupcakes with yoghurt frosting

cupcake Over the past ten years, I feel like I’ve transformed from a Type-A, borderline obsessive, rigidly organised individual into someone who is late for everything. Someone who forgets birthdays, who loses the electricity bill ‘somewhere’ between the bedroom and the study, someone who forgets to pay said bill until one week after the due date.

It’s strange. Slightly unnerving.

Not to say that I’ve completely eradicated my Type-A personality traits; conversely, I’m still a typical over committing, perfectionistic workaholic who suffers more stress and emotion than the average Type-B. I’ve just slipped further down the spectrum. coconutbutter Take this weekend, for example. After a full week at work, the scourge of disorganization struck. I completely failed to organise Mother’s Day activities until late on Wednesday night. All plans to bake my mother’s favourite cake fell in a heap after I forgot to buy oranges and eggs.

(It’s the scourge, I tell you).

I finally got around to organising breakfast and a posy of flowers yesterday (the latter from The Little Posy Co. in Perth; I’m a big fan). We ate avocado toast with plenty of chilli flakes and hot English Breakfast tea. But… there was still something missing. Warm baked goods, hand-delivered, made with my mother in mind. veg So, yesterday afternoon, I sifted flour and poured batter with sticky hands. I made sugar-free yoghurt frosting and pried Loki away from my beloved jar of coconut butter. I sang rhyming songs in dulcet tones whilst my thoughts drifted to days of old; four hands grating apples onto the kitchen bench of my childhood home.

There was love baked right into that apple cake. lokivegveg2 So, mum – these are for you. Full of goodness, not-too-sweet, moist with fruit and vegetables. Just the way you like them. I love you more than feeble words could say.

Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S. I’m on my way, bearing cupcakes. Put the kettle on! x spoon Carrot and Zucchini Cupcakes

Adapted from this recipe by Giadia De Laurentiis at Food Network.com

Makes 12 medium cupcakes

  • 1 cup nut meal (I used a combination of almond and hazelnut)
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (preferably brown)
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup or maple syrup
  • 1 large free-range egg, at room temperature (substitute a flax egg to make this completely vegan)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 large carrot, I don’t bother peeling)
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini/courgette (about 1/2 large zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Yoghurt Frosting:

  • 180mL (6 oz) plain coconut yoghurt or Greek yoghurt (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2-3 tsp coconut nectar (I use Loving Earth, it’s got a stunning burnt butterscotch flavour; substitute honey or rice malt syrup) to taste
  • for garnish: crunchy toasted coconut flakes and edible flowers (the latter if you happen to have some hanging around)

Position a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat it to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Line 12 muffin pans with paper liners, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, sieve the dry ingredients together (add any nut solids left in the sieve back into the bowl and mix in). In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and the grated vegetables. Add to the dry and mix until just combined.

Using two spoons, distribute the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake until light and golden (about 15-20 minutes). Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cool, whisk together the yoghurt and coconut nectar until smooth. Spread liberally over each cupcake. icingSprinkle with coconut flakes and edible flowers, then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving (this allows the frosting to set; however if you’re impatient like I am, feel free to dig straight in!). icedhand

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blackberry and coconut muffins. and friendship

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In recent years, I’ve become more and more aware of how blessed I am to have lifelong friends. Friends who I know (with absolute certainty) will be there during the highest points of my life whilst also traversing the earth-shattering lows. Friends like these are a rarity in the transient nature of modern life. I’ve somehow been blessed with a few.

I’ve written a few times on this blog about one of my best friends, the absolute treasure who answered to Hippy Vic (I’m using past tense as she’s progressively abandoned the blogging game). It was her birthday on Monday and I still haven’t given her a hug.

It frustrates me how life has steadily crowded out the times when we just used to sit and breathe. Nights when we’d talk unrestricted til the air grew cold and the sun emerged from hiding. I miss smiling til my face hurt and soaking in the relentless swell of youth.

At least it seemed relentless; perennial in the best of ways, tinged with blissful ignorance and folly. But youth finally faded, as it always does. Responsibility awakened like a lofty giant. Age brought maturity, and with that came both beauty and perpetual loss. I’m trying to appreciate both.

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Back to the issue of time, or rather, lack of it. I’m sure most (if not all) of you can relate to the burden of conflicting responsibilities, the absorbent qualities of full-time work and the joy (but occasionally overwhelming nature) of parenthood. I often experience pressing guilt or regret after choosing to do one thing over another. I also spend endless moments reflecting upon what I want to do as opposed to what I need to do. This year, I wanted it to end.

Last weekend, I spent some very deliberate time reflecting upon how I spend the majority of my waking hours. The past ten years have been largely consumed with study and work, the remainder being fragmented into time with family and friends. I’ve long been aware of a glaring imbalance between time spent with lifelong friends and that spent with ‘incidental acquaintances’, i.e. colleagues or people attached to my personal pursuits. All very nice people, mind you. But not those whom I’d call ‘sisters’ when I’m old and grey.

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I’ll spare you the rest of my weekend contemplation. Let’s skip through to some very purposeful time spent last Sunday eating muffins on the crest of a hill. Time spent chatting in the cool of the morning until hours disappeared and the afternoon arrived.

Time spent with my other best friend and heart sister, Lucy.

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We arrived around 9:00am, armed with fresh pencils, paints, snacks, one furkid (Loki) and our two favourite boys (Aaron and Lucy’s little boy, Isaac). Over the course of the morning, we etched images on paper, cracking almonds with our teeth and breathing the scent of warm eucalyptus.

Lucy was Lucy, beautifully creative, always kind and encouraging. The same strong-but-gentle woman whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for over fifteen years. She’s seen me crumble under pressure and glow with happiness on my wedding day.

I’m so, so grateful for the journey that we’ve taken together. And most of all, I look forward to the days to come.

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So, back to Sunday. Before leaving the park, we took Isaac to Synergy parkland to climb stone dinosaurs and eat rainbow ice creams. Loki nosed around in the wood chips, making friends with stray children and chasing abandoned balls.

We lay on freshly watered grass which left stains on our clothing and huge smiles on our faces. We loved every minute and, as usual, we’ve promised to ‘do it again soon’.

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And this time, we will.

I’m already baking the muffins.

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Blackberry and Coconut Muffins

Makes 18

  • 1/2 cup coconut yoghurt (I used CO YO, substitute natural yoghurt)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (substitute oat or dairy milk)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup organic oat flour
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking (bicarbonate) soda
  • Optional: coconut nectar and coconut chips/flakes, to garnish

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Whisk the yoghurt, water, eggs, milk and coconut oil together in a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.

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Spoon into lined or greased muffin pans and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

If using coconut nectar, prick holes into the top of the muffins and drizzle over a little coconut nectar whilst still warm. Garnish with toasted coconut chips.

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prosciutto and roast sweetcorn muffins

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This coming Sunday, my beautiful friend Elissa (doctor and haiku writer extraordinaire) is moving to the port city of Bunbury from Perth, Western Australia. That’s 175 kilometres away; a great chunk of bitumen framed by dirt, trees and a kangaroo if you’re lucky.

No, it’s not the end of the world, or even the end of Western Australia. But it’s far enough to mean no last minute coffee dates, weeknight dinners or Rage-a-thons on Friday nights. For the next six-or-so months, our ‘dates’ will require a full tank of fuel and a sizeable drive. And a packed lunch (if you’re a Hobbit like me).

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parsley

Understandably, the past fortnight has been a series of goodbye events for those of us in Elissa’s friendship group; particularly her beautiful bestie Deanne and… well, me (also known as ‘sisterling’, as we’ve been happily mistaken for sisters more than once).

The first of these goodbye events was two weeks ago; an afternoon tea at Elissa’s apartment for a small group of girlfriends. We drank tea from pretty cups whilst feasting on anecdotes, crudites, taramasalata, soft cheese and corn muffins with Parmesan and smoky paprika.

The latter were made by myself and Deanne with occasional help from a spotty-socked Kelpie named Lucy (below; she smiles for pig’s ears).

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lucy1Throughout the course of an afternoon, Deanne and I chatted, laughed, baked and cried. Somehow in the midst of that, these muffins emerged from the oven.

Despite the fact that I met Deanne through our mutual friendship with Elissa, I feel very blessed to have her in my life. She’s one of the most genuine, transparent, loving and generous hearts I have ever met on this earth. Her second blog Gratitude, All the Time is testament to that.

prosciutto

But back to the muffins: these were real crowd-pleasers. Moist, soft, sweet with blackened corn and salty with crisp prosciutto. They also had some added kick from the fragrant smoked paprika (Elissa referred to it as the ‘secret ingredient’ and I’d have to agree).

As for the recipe, Dea found it here via Good Food. We made a few edits, including the addition of dried parsley (there wasn’t enough of the fresh herb in the pot) and the substitution of whole milk for buttermilk (as Dea doesn’t believe in buttermilk. I think. Or something like that).

smokedpaprikaI’ve included an edited but unabridged version of the recipe below in case you’d like to try them. They’re simple and very forgiving (trust me, we interrupted the process multiple times).

Dea and I also feel that the muffins would be highly adaptable for those who prefer to exercise some artistic license. Chipotle and lime butter, anyone?

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Prosciutto and Roast Sweetcorn Muffins

Adapted from this recipe by Good Food.

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

  • 200g canned corn kernels, drained (or fresh kernels from 2-3 cobs, removed)
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 80g butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (374 degrees f). Drain your canned corn and scatter it over a lined oven tray.

corntrayBake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly blackened around the edges. Leave to cool.

Add the flour, paprika, cumin, sugar and sea salt to a large mixing bowl.

flours

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add in the parsley and all but one tablespoon of the corn, mixing well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, then add in the egg and milk. Combine very lightly with a fork until thick and clumpy. Do not overmix.

Lightly oil twelve regular-sized muffin holes. Line the sides of each hole with a slice of prosciutto.

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Divide the mixture between the muffin holes, filling right to the top. Scatter over the remaining corn kernels and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden (an inserted skewer should come out clean).

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Serve these muffins warm with butter, cream cheese and/or tomato chutney. They are best consumed on the day they were made.

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Elissa: thanks for being the genuinely beautiful friend that you are. Have a safe trip down to Bunno and know that we’re coming to visit you very, very soon (in fact, you’d better put the kettle on. You may never get rid of us).

Deanne: you’re amazing. You deserve to be treasured for the incredibly generous and wise person that you are. I look forward to our next cook-up very soon!

raspberry, macadamia and white chocolate muffins

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I like muffins. They’re ridiculously simple to make, quick to cook and easy to eat. However, despite muffins being in my regular baking repertoire, I’ve never posted a recipe. Why? Well… muffins are usually my go-to ‘quick fix’ option when I need to bake and don’t have available cooking time for a cake. Within half an hour, the muffins are mixed, baked and gently packed in paper for transport.

As any food blogger would know, taking photographs for a post slows down the cooking process considerably, so muffins never really hit my blogging radar. Until now. This muffin recipe is too good not to share.

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Based on this recipe from taste.com.au, my version of the classic raspberry and white chocolate muffin is studded with macadamia nuts, white chocolate buttons and rosy fruit. The batter is moistened with toasty macadamia oil and buttermilk, both of which are absorbed and retained by the additional coconut flour.

Raw sugar balances the tartness of the raspberries, whilst a sprinkle of demerara sugar creates crunch on the golden muffin top. When eaten warm from the oven, they’re positively heavenly… warm, gooey white chocolate contrasts against tart raspberry, moist coconut and earthy macadamias in a joyous tumble of flavour and texture.

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I took all eighteen of these muffins to my workplace as a Monday sweetener. Their box was empty by morning tea time and eleven emails soon arrived in thanks (plus two door drop-in’s calling for my entry to The Great Australian Bake-Off).

So, needless to say, if you’d like to win friends and make office alliances, make these muffins. They’re quick, easy and absolutely delicious. They’ve never failed me yet.

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Raspberry, Macadamia and White Chocolate Muffins

Makes 18 medium-sized muffins

  • 1 cup (about 200g) white chocolate buds
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) raw caster sugar
  • 3 cups (450g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (150g) organic coconut flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) macadamia oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (160g) raw macadamias, crushed lightly in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 cups (250g) frozen or fresh raspberries
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly whisked
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling (if desired)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (360 degrees f). Line 18 (one 12-hole and one 6-hole muffin tray) muffin pans with paper cases.

muffincases1

In a large bowl, combine the white chocolate, sugar, flours and macadamia nuts. Gently fold in the raspberries (don’t worry if some of them get crushed, it creates a lovely rosy hue upon baking). Make a well in the centre.

flours

mix

Whisk the egg, oil and buttermilk together in a jug. Pour the mixture into the well in the centre of your flour mixture, then gently stir until just combined.

mixing

Spoon the mixture evenly into each paper case, ensuring that the chocolate, nuts and berries are evenly distributed.

filling

filled2Sprinkle each muffin top with some demarara sugar. Transfer trays into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through (insert a skewer into the centre of a large muffin; it should come out with only moist crumbs attached). splitaerial2Cool the muffins for 5 minutes before removing them from their trays. They’re wonderful served warm with a hot cup of coffee.

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