It's Christmas baking week! Yay!!! I've already started, having made the peppermint bark today, and I'm going to get stuck into the shortbread a little later on. But aside from the Christmas goodies, I've been having a little fun with a few other things food-wise. As I've mentioned before, Pinterest is a dangerous time-waster, but it has some amazing stuff on it all the same. I've quite enjoyed experimenting with a number of recipes. Here's a wee list, and my verdicts so far:
Sunflower nutella - I'm not a fan of hazelnuts, so when I stumbled across this recipe (admittedly, not on Pinterest, although it's certainly on there now!!) I was intrigued. I made it this morning, and was pleasantly surprised. It is rather delicious! I haven't tried it out on the kids yet, but give me time ;-) Of course, I'll have to hide it between bread slices, as it doesn't come out as smooth as the store-bought chocolate spreads. But I'm hoping if they can't see it they won't notice, and they'll like it. Maybe then I can do a bit of a 'reveal'...
Oatmeal banana breakfast muffins - not bad, but although they proclaim to be healthy and use no flour, they are still over 200 calories per muffin and since you blend the bajezus out of the oats, you're basically just using oat flour. They weren't anything special, so I won't bother making them again.
Honey cloud pancakes - I made this on Sunday after a long run (I figured I'd earned a treat!). It was delish! However, as I didn't have an oven-proof 6" frying pan, I made it in a pot. This made it rather difficult to get out without it falling apart. It didn't look quite so pretty, but it still tasted yum. I made mine with strawberries and blueberries, just like in the picture :-) Sadly, I didn't have any nectarines on hand, or I would've thrown some of those in too.
Healthy apple pie dessert - okay, so this isn't really a recipe as such, more like instructions. Super simple, but still good. Why didn't I think of this before?!?
Make-your-own instant oatmeal - another one of those 'why didn't I think of that?' moments. I haven't actually eaten this myself, but X is a fan of the Uncle Toby's Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oats packets. Rather than buying more, I just made up a couple with some oats, brown sugar and cinnamon I had in the pantry. He gave them a thumbs up! When winter rolls around again, I'll be putting some more of these together with different fruits and nuts. They'll be perfect to grab and make in the mornings after a run.
Overnight french toast - I have made this twice now. I think I'm going to have to stop making it. It is just SO. DAMN. GOOD!!! Very dangerous for the waistline, but man oh man, it tastes divine! On its own, with ice cream, whatever. It is delightfully delicious. Second time around, I omitted the pecans because the kids don't like them. With or without, this is a 'keep going back for more' kind of food.
Overnight, no-cook, refrigerator oatmeal - basically bircher muesli. We've tried two flavours so far, the cinnamon apple and the blueberry maple. Both were yum, but we preferred the blueberry maple to the cinnamon apple. Next on the list to try is the banana cocoa. There's a link to another page with six more flavours. Of course, you can basically make any flavour you want, depending on what you fancy, or what you happen to have in the cupboard. It's a good use of chia seeds though.
Granola bars - I haven't actually made any of the bars yet, but I made the winter granola this morning (yes, I am aware that it is the middle of summer, but it just sounded so yummy I had to make it), and had a wee taste test. OMG yum! I substituted raisins for the craisins (I don't like cranberries, and I didn't have any in the cupboard), and used walnuts instead of pecans, since I'd used up my pecans on the french toast (above). I chopped up some Cadbury Dream white chocolate in place of the choc chips. This is definitely a breakfast muesli that I can see myself making again! The granola bars will be something I will try some time in the new year.
Blueberry breakfast grilled cheese - the link just goes to a random blog site, not to the 'recipe', so the link I've posted is to my Pinterest page with the pin (not sure you'll be able to see it). Basically just the idea grabbed my attention. Take two slices of bread, slather with cream cheese, sprinkle on some blueberries, whack them together and grill, then dust with icing sugar. Yum!
Pretzel cookies - we don't get peanut butter chips in New Zealand (that I know of) so I just used chocolate chips. These cookies are weird, but yum. T loved them! X hated them. Guess you can't win 'em all... Perhaps I'll freeze half the dough next time, since we ended up with quite a lot and with only two people eating them, it took a while to get through them all. They're certainly something a little bit different.
Pancake bites - there's a bunch of stuff on this blog page, but I liked the idea of individual muffin-sized pancakes so I made some pancake batter and pulled out the muffin tin. Half I kept plain for the kids, and the other half I added blueberries to. There was still plenty of pancake batter left so I made some 'normal' pancakes as well. Meh. X claimed that they tasted different, and didn't like them. He did eat the normal pancakes though. T refused to eat the pancake muffins and had the normal ones too. They were a bit annoying to get out of the muffin tin, and although it did cut out a bit of standing around and pancake flipping, the convenience-factor wasn't worth it. Think I'll stick to 'normal' pancakes :-)
Chickpea, tomato and feta salad - pretty good this one, but next time I'll cut back on the feta just a smidge. Seemed to me there was a little bit too much.
Next on the list to try is this cucumber salad (although on a smaller scale - can't see us getting through six cucumbers! Or three for that matter...), and tonight I think I'll start this bread, so I can bake it first thing in the morning. The kids adore fresh home baked bread, so I'm hoping this one is a winner because it sounds dead easy! I also like the idea of being able to add any flavours - I see some experimentation in the future with this recipe.
For Christmas morning, I have my sights set very firmly on these cinnamon rolls. They look absolutely divine, and I love me a good cinnamon roll. So mum, I hope you're keen to give them a try for Christmas morning breakfast! I plan on getting up nice and early to make the dough. Hopefully I'll be able to make it quietly without waking the kids up. In the meantime, if I can't hold back the cinnamon roll cravings, I think I'll make these cookies. Having said that, I still have plenty of other baking to keep me busy this week, so probably best not to add to the list...
I've pinned a bunch of salads and dinner meals which I hope to try out in the new year as well. Might have to give you another recipe roundup in the near future :-)
Of course, with all this experimenting going on in the food department, I've felt the need to kick up the running a notch to counter the effects. I ran a fairly decent 50km total last week, finishing off the week with a rather fantastic 16km that I was pretty damn happy with. If not for the knee, I could've just kept running. My body felt like it could go for hours. My knee did not. And with the longer distances my Asics give me blisters (one of the many reasons I prefer my far-more-comfortable Nikes). Of course, this 16km was on almost completely flat ground - the usual Tamaki Drive route I fall back on for long runs. It's such a nice relaxing route - good view, nice and flat (mostly), with a lovely breeze coming in off the water most days.
I have been trying out a few hillier routes lately though - my current favourite is quite a tough one, but good. I found it online on RunningPlus (which I think is a relatively new site), called the 'Ponsonby Loop'. Members can submit and share their favourite running routes, and people like myself can give them a whirl ;-) The Ponsonby Loop is great - very hilly, and it takes in some lovely scenic areas of Central Auckland. I was quite surprised to come across a herd of cows the other day while running through one of the parks! Unfortunately I forgot to snap some photographic evidence. Perhaps next time. I've run it three times now, taking slightly different paths through the parks, and will admit that I've only run all the hills once. As I said, it's a tough one! But one I'll keep working on. It's a nice distance, and it gives me a challenge.
This week will involve trying to fit early morning runs in before breakfast, as the days will be full of finishing off the Christmas knits (not long to go now!!), Christmas baking, housework, packing and study. I'm hoping to get another couple of modules finished, which will leave me with just the second assignment and one more module to do next year, before lots of revision and an exam at the end of February. I think I may just make it to Christmas without the wheels falling off the cart...
I hope you're all sorted for the holidays! If I don't make it back on here before then, have a wonderful couple of weeks, and enjoy the summer weather (or winter, if you're over that way ;-P) Right, I'm off to bake some shortbread :D