Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Oat and coconut choc chip peanut butter cookie bars

I know, I know, what a ridiculously long name for a recipe: Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars. It sounds so very earnest and "Please Pinterest me!" However, I think all the individual elements in the name are important, so Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars they remain.

The oats and coconut give the bars a wholesome texture, choc chips are choc chips, they have the texture of chewy cookies, and they're cut into little bars. You can't absolutely taste the peanut butter in it, but any time you use peanut butter in a recipe I think it's best to err on the side of caution in case anyone with peanut allergies wants to try it!

Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars, with salted peanuts

I got the baking urge when I saw some fancy schmancy chocolate-drizzled muesli bars at the supermarket, and suddenly wanted butter, oats, and choc chips. Stat! Bought muesli bars always tend to be disappointing (especially the expensive "gourmet" types), so when I got home I started looking for a recipe, and these oaty coconut choc chip squares on the Cadbury website seemed like a good place to start. I blinged them up by adding smooth peanut butter and a little salt and wow - they were just awesome! Moist and oaty but still decadent with the choc chips, brown sugar and butter. Yum!

Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Bars, with salted peanuts

I've made these a couple of times now, tweaking the recipe each time, and I've totally got them just how I like them. The key: don't overbake it so that it remains chewy and doesn't dry out, and increase the amount of chocolate. (The latter is also good general life advice). On reflection, I don't know what it says about me that a recipe on the Cadbury website didn't have enough chocolate in it for my liking. Hah! I've made these bars with salted peanuts too, and whilst they were nice, I prefer them without.

Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Bars, with salted peanuts

The recipe is quite forgiving - I've made it with different flours and different oats, using up what I had in the pantry and it's always turned out well. (Wholemeal spelt flour, wholemeal rye flour, normal oats, rye flakes - and I like the idea of matching the flour to the flakes! Rye flour with rye flakes? Spelt flour with spelt flakes? Or just regular old plain flour with normal oats).

Oat and coconut choc chip peanut butter cookie bars

They're awesome fresh out of the oven, great with coffee or tea, and even nice crumbled up and served with Greek yogurt for a treat of a breakfast.

Crumbled bars with Greek yogurt

Oat and Coconut Choc Chip Peanut Butter Bars
Based on Cadbury Kitchen's Oaty Coconut Choc Chip Squares

1 cup rolled oats (or rye flakes)
1/2 cup wholemeal flour (or wholemeal rye flour, wholemeal spelt flour or plain flour)
1/2 cup light muscovado sugar
150 grams milk chocolate chips
100 grams salted peanuts (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
75 grams salted butter
50 grams smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.
Stir together the rolled oats, flour, light muscovado sugar, chocolate chips, peanuts (if using), coconut and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
Melt the butter and peanut butter together in a small saucepan. Allow to cool slightly before whisking in the egg and vanilla.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Press the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and just firm.
Use the baking paper to lift the slice from the baking tin onto a wire rack to cool.
Slice into bars to serve.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festival

Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festival

Confession time. My friend (also coworker and personal trainer) D-Slam and I are really into Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Like, a lot. He's just so buff and awesome! When Hercules came out, we were planning on doing a double-date night at the cinema, but before we could arrange a time, I got an invite to the first Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festival (plus food vouchers) and one of the films on offer was Hercules! Woo-hoo! Yay for happy coincidences! We were totally on board! (Is it sad that I was even more excited about the movie than the food?)

Hipster table settings

So, here's the deal - Village Cinemas is holding a Food Truck Festival at the Coburg Drive-In (155 Newlands Road, Coburg, VIC). We visited on 30 July, and there will be two more: the next one is on 27 August, and the final one will be on 24 September. Book any session at the Drive-In on those days, and you get access to the food trucks (different trucks each time) and of course can go and watch your film. It was funny though, when we pulled up and got my name ticked off on the "invited media" list, the lady at the gate handed us the food vouchers and then was like: "Oh wait, did you want to see a film as well tonight?" Answer: OHMYGOD YES HERCULES HERCULES! There seemed to be quite a few media and bloggery-types invited that night, wandering around with big cameras, and I think perhaps a lot of them just wanted to get in, see and experience the food trucks so they could write about them, and then get out. That's totally cool of course, but, you know, HERCULES.

So, speaking of the food trucks, here are the ones we visited:

Señor BBQ

Señor BBQ

Señor BBQ's Beef Ribs Asado - Beef ribs with salad and chimichurri - $12 (Small)

I got some beef ribs from Argentinian BBQ truck Señor BBQ, and really liked them! The meat was toothsome but tender, and the chimichurri sauce added a nice hit of saltiness and great herby flavours.

Nando's Food Truck

Confession number two. I am obsessed with Nando's. I think I literally eat it once a fortnight. I thought I had my habit under control, but the other day I checked my loyalty card online and apparently I've spent over $300 at Nando's over the last year. (And sometimes my friends shout me or I forget to bring my card so those meals wouldn't count towards my $300 spend. Eep.)

Nando's Classic Chicken Wrap - $15.20 with chips and a drink 

D-Slam also loves Nando's, and got a classic chicken wrap and peri-peri chips. They were one of the better organised trucks there, with a lot of the wraps pre-prepared so they could hand them out quickly. (FYI they still tasted fresh - she let me try some so I could "review it accurately for the blog". Haha, I've trained my friends well). Pro: quick turnaround time and management of queues. Con: limited selection. They only had mild or hot basting, so those of us who like lemon and herb or extra hot were out of luck.

Mr Burger

Sandra and D-Slam's man both got burgers from Mr Burger. The burgers were good, but wow, they were really, really slow. They both placed their order early, when there weren't any queues, and it still took half an hour for the burgers to be made. D-Slam and I ordered our meals at the same time and had finished them before the burgers even came out. It would have been even worse for those people who got there later, had to queue for ages and then wait for the burgers to be made! Not sure what the deal was, but hopefully it was just a once off, because the burgers and chips were very good.

Mr Burger's Mr Meat - beef, cheese, bacon, caramelised onions & BBQ sauce (we requested no lettuce, pickle or mayo) - $17 with chips and a drink

Señor Churro

We also got some churros to share from Señor Churro - they were filled the dulce de leche, crunchy, hot, dusted with crunchy sugar and totally delicious!

Señor Churro's Dulce de Leche Churros - 6 for $12.50

So that was our experience of the food trucks! We had a lot of fun, and it was cool that there was a variety of trucks on offer so everyone could order something they wanted. (In addition to Señor Churro, Nando's, Mr Burger and Señor BBQ, there was also Nem n' Nem and Iv's Burritos - check the website to see which trucks will be at the next festival). It's important to note, however, that the queues did build up after a while (and as I said above, Mister Burger was really slow despite there not being a queue when we placed our order) - so if you're interested in visiting the food trucks and seeing a film, my suggestion would be to get there early like we did. Gates open at 5:30 and we got there around 5:45, which gave us heaps of time to get our tickets, park our car in a good spot in front of the screen, order and eat our food, buy some popcorn and malteasers at the diner / Candy Bar (N.B. we paid for these ourselves), and be all settled in before the film started at 7.

I'm really into movies - I majored in cinema studies at uni and happened to work at both major cinema chains at different times back in my uni days - and had never been to the Coburg Drive-In before, so was really interested to see what the experience would be like. For anyone else similarly curious, Coburg has three screens, and here's what the cinema looks like.

Coburg Drive-In

I wasn't expecting the picture or sound quality to be that good, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were on par with a conventional cinema. You tune your car radio into the frequency provided to hear the film. D-Slam has a convertible, so we all dressed warmly (puffy jackets, gloves, beanies) and loaded up the car with blankets as well as our snacks and drinks and hunkered down for the film.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, as Hercules

The important question: was the film any good? Well, we still love The Rock, but let's just say it wasn't his best film. It was fun to watch, but unlike Dwayne's ridiculous shoulders and biceps, the storyline was pretty weak.

The Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festival will be running again on 27 August and 24 September, with rotating food trucks. Tickets are $17.50 each, or $40 for a carload (up to five people). Details available at the Village Cinemas website.

Sarah and friends received free movie tickets and food tokens courtesy of Village Cinemas and Twenty3 Group.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with avocados. I normally eat them on toast for breakfast, and usually I can keep up with my subscription (six a month from Barham Avocados) eating them this way. However, this month they seemed to ripen faster than I could eat them, and I thought it would be a good excuse to try some more avocado-based baking!

You may remember that last year I made a vegan chocolate avocado cake with chocolate avocado icing, (cake recipe from Joy The Baker, icing recipe from Paleo Spirit), which I totally loved. This time though, I felt like something altogether plainer - a sturdy cake for afternoon tea (or even breakfast!), rather than a glossily-iced celebration cake. Some googling led to avocado pound cakes, which seem to be pretty popular across the foodie interwebs. Seeing as I liked Joy The Baker's vegan chocolate avocado cake so much last time, I decided to go with her version of avocado pound cake. I changed it up by replacing the suggested cornmeal with almond meal (simply because I had it in the pantry already), using milk and yogurt instead of buttermilk, and turning it into a marble cake because chocolate swirls are The Best. I also halved quantities to make just one loaf. Too easy!

I don't think I've made pound cake before, although I did used to love the Sara Lee poundcakes that my mum would buy us when I was a kid! Essentially, pound cake is a pretty standard creamed butter cake - i.e. one for which you cream together butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, then fold in your dry ingredients alternately with milk - with equal weights of butter to flour to sugar to eggs. Looking at the recipe, I don't think the weights are exactly equal across the ingredients, but the cake still turned out well, and I think it's obviously recognisable as a pound cake!

Of course, being an avocado pound cake, some of the butter in the recipe is replaced with mashed avocado. I love the pale jade colour that the mixture takes on once you add the avocado.

Creamed butter and sugar
Creamed butter, sugar and avocado

Here are the mixtures in the tin - I wasn't particularly neat with it, and just spooned the alternating mixtures into the lined tin. I did whack the tin a couple of times against the bench to get rid of any major air pockets, and - phew! - it turned out pretty neatly once baked.

Ready to bake


Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

I had initially thought I might want to ice the cake, like with a chocolate or lemon glaze, but it smelled so good coming out of the oven that I couldn't wait for it to cool and just cut myself a slice. And you know what? It doesn't need anything - it's very moist and has enough flavour to be delicious on its own. Hooray!

Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

It was so good! You can't really taste the avocado, so it just felt like a regular cake to me. We also shared it with some friends, and no-one twigged that there was anything unusual about the cake until they were told. It's also quite sturdy - perfect in thick slices with a nice cup of coffee.

It also keeps really well - even on the fourth day after baking, the cake hadn't dried out and was still nice. (I didn't keep it in a tin, but just let it sit in the kitchen, uncovered on a chopping board).

Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Yum, yum, yum. Enjoy!
Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker's Avocado Pound Cake

1.5 cups plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
170 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 very ripe avocado (approx 1/2 - 3/4 cup mashed)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 175C.
Sift together the flour, almond meal, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a mixing bowl and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, until well combined. Add the mashed avocado and continue beating until thoroughly mixed.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk and yogurt, and the remainder of the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
Place half the mixture in a separate mixing bowl and sift in the cocoa powder. Stir to combine.
Line a loaf tin with baking powder. Spoon alternating dollops of each mixture into the loaf tin, and whack the tin against the table a couple of times to settle the mixture.
Place the tin in the oven and turn the temperature down to 160C.
Bake for 30-50 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While we're here, let's have a look at some more avocado deliciousness! Here we have some avo on toast - some smashed, some sliced, all fabulous.

Avo on toast: sliced, smashed and with smoked salmon

Last night, I also made some guacamole! I saw this recipe for roasted tomato and feta guacamole on - you guessed it - Joy the Baker, and just had to try it! This version of guacamole includes the usual suspects of lime juice, chopped onion, jalapeños, coriander leaves and avocados, but also adds crumbled feta and chopped roasted cherry tomatoes. Argh! So good! (Okay, I just realised that I've talked about three Joy The Baker avocado recipes in this post. What can I say? The woman knows her way around an avocado!)