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On Mondays I travel an hour and a half to work, and I car pool which means I can’t be late.  So Monday mornings are somewhat rushed (to put it mildly!)  To make matters worse, it’s a full on day when I really don’t want to be fuzzy brained, and I often end up with a rushed and less than perfect lunch. I also work in a room full of people so I’m exposed to every  germ going round.

Fruit smoothies are a perfect breakfast solution.  There’s one for every season.  This is my current winter version. I have a tree full of navel oranges to get through. Custard apples are in season, and though they’re hard to go past just eating as is, to my taste the acidity of orange juice and yoghurt actually improves them. Custard apples are a good source of vitamin C (actually just as rich as oranges), and the magnesium and calcium in them are good for staying centred under stress. Add in some yoghurt for the protein and its a good balanced breakfast for on the run days.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe:

Blend together

  • 1 small peeled and seeded custard apple
  • Juice of a large orange
  • two or three heaped dessertspoons of plain low fat yoghurt

That’s it. Pour into a glass and drink it, in the car on the way if you have to!




I do draw the line at Cointreau for breakfast, and I like breakfast pancakes to be higher protein and lower fat and sugar than desserts. But with a bit of tweaking, Crepes Suzette work perfectly for a citrus season Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipe. They’re fast and easy, healthy and very delicious. We have a tree full of oranges at the moment, and this recipe uses a couple of them per serve, so they meet the criteria of being based on local in-season ingredients. I’m making these a couple of times a week at the moment, until the oranges run out.

The Recipe:

This is the recipe for a single adult serve. Multiply by the number of people.

Ideally you need a large, heavy based frypan for this. If you don’t have one, you can manage with a couple of smaller ones.

Start with the crepe batter.

All pancake batters work better if they get to sit for a few minutes, for the flour to soak up the moisture. I use a stick blender to blend (for each serve)

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup of milk (semi skim or full cream)
  • 2 dessertspoons of wholemeal plain flour

(For US readers, a dessertspoon equals two teaspoons, and wholemeal flour is wholewheat flour)

The Orange Sauce

While that is sitting, grate the rind and juice two medium oranges per person. (Much easier to grate the rind first)

  • You need one good teaspoon of grated rind and a cup of orange juice per serve.
  • Add a teaspoon of butter and
  • a teaspoon of raw sugar per serve.

Cook the Crepes

Melt a little butter in a large heavy frypan. Pour in a little crepe batter and tilt the pan to spread it as thin as you can. You want to end up with a crepe about 15 cm (6 inches)  across.

As soon as it is set, flip it and cook the other side.  The crepes don’t need to be browned, just set.

Take the crepe out and put it on a plate and repeat for all the batter. You should end up with three crepes per serve.


Pour the orange juice, rind, butter and sugar into the pan.  Cook for a couple of minutes to melt the butter and sugar, then put one crepe in.  Turn it to coat in the sauce, then fold it in quarters and push to the side of the pan.  Keeping the orange mixture at a gentle boil, add the next crepe, turn and coat, fold and put to the side.

Continue until you have all the crepes in quarters in the pan.  They should very nearly have soaked up all the sauce. You can spread the quartered crepes around the pan and flip them again to soak up the last of it, then serve onto warmed plates.

They really don’t need anything else, but if you like you can serve with some slices of orange for decoration.

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For practically the first time in my adult life, I have no chooks at present.  This is the culprit.

I am working on a new roost design.  If it works, the chooks will be able to put themselves to bed at night.  I will be able to let them free range in the daytime and she (or he) won’t be able to get them at night.

I am missing them for many reasons, but right now because it is egg season.  Luckily though, I have friends who have free-range, ethically raised chooks and, at this time of year an abundance of eggs.

My Muesli Bar Challenge series is a series of recipes for healthy lunch box baking based on fresh in-season produce.  This recipe melds the last of the citrus season with the start of the egg season.  It is a flourless cake with no butter but no less than six eggs.

Eggs are a great source of protein, but they go extra well in school lunches because they are rich in choline, which is needed for nerves and brain to function properly. Using them in baking makes them safer in the heat of a lunch box.

You need a cup of macadamia meal for this recipe.  You can substitute almond meal – in fact I would be fairly sure that somewhere back in time I had an original version of this recipe  based on almond meal.  But for me, macadamias have no food miles at all. And they’re super healthy, with monounsaturated heart healthy oils  and a huge range of vitamins and minerals.  And fresh, in-the-shell macas in season are a taste sensation.  This little tool makes cracking macas easy, and the kernels blend to a meal easily in a food processor.

Once you have your maca meal, the recipe is dead easy. Let’s see what the reviewers think.

The Recipe:

Turn your oven on to heat up to medium.

Grease a 20 cm cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Blend together until smooth:

  • 1 cup of macadamia meal
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup of orange, tangelo, mandarin, or lime segments with seeds removed.
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • 6 whole eggs

Stir in 3 good dessertspoons of poppy seeds.

The mixture will not be at all like a cake mix.  It will be quite liquid.

Pour it into your prepared cake tin and bake for around 40 minutes till the cake is set and a skewer comes out clean.


The rules of my Muesli Bar Challenge series are that the Challenger must be healthy (low in sugar and saturated fat, low GI, wholegrain), based on in-season fresh produce, easy enough to be a realistic option for busy parents and kids themselves to make, and rated by my school age reviewers as no-way-going-to-be-left-in-the-lunchbox.

So many choices for a recipe for this week!

It is the turning point in the seasons – my strawberries and mulberries and pawpaws are still green but so close that a bit of warm weather will bring them on, and I haven’t yet finished with all the macadamias, oranges, mandarins, limes and tangelos that are all still just finishing their season. The cockatoos have finished off the bush lemons (which are the sweetest, much like a Meyer but hardier) but we still have plenty of Eureka lemons. What to feature?

In the end I’ve decided to go with this adaption of a traditional recipe that uses macadamias along with the date and orange combination that was so successful last week. The recipe takes more time than most of this series, but it is easy in the sense that even young kids can manage much of the making, and will probably love helping.

Traditional Lebanese cooks probably should turn away now. I have taken huge liberties with a traditional Middle Eastern sweet. These little pastry mouthfuls are tradionally a bite sized ball of sweet shortbread surrounding a date, almond, fig or pistachio filling. But for a lunch box treat, the dates and orange juice provide nearly all the sweetness needed, and macadamias make the most wonderful shortbread, smooth and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth, and they’re super healthy at the same time.

So this is a very non-traditional Ma-amoul that fits the rules of the Muesli Bar Challenge.

The Recipe:

First crack your macadamias. I’ve written before about this little tool that takes macadamias in shell from “too hard” to “seasonal staple”. Like all nuts, if you buy them fresh, in season, in shell, (or grow your own) you will be amazed how different they are to the stale, slightly rancid things you get in packets in mid-summer.

The Shortbread

You need 125 grams, or about a cup of macadamia kernels. They will blend quite easily in a food processor into a fine meal.

To the maca meal, add

  • 3 dessertspoons of cold butter,
  • 3 dessertspoons of brown sugar,
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest, and
  • ¾ of a cup of wholemeal plain flour.

Process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then add cold water, a dessertspoon at a time, until you can knead it into a soft dough. Add carefully – you can’t take it out – but when you have a dough that just holds together, add another spoonful. You want a dough that is soft but not quite sticky.

Put your dough in the freezer for a few minutes while you make the filling.

The Filling

In a small saucepan, bring to the boil 100 grams (2/3 cup) of stoned dates and 100 ml of orange juice. Tip into your food processor and blend briefly till it is minced but not smooth.


Now here’s the bit that kids will love doing.

Break off a piece of dough, large macadamia sized or slightly larger, and roll it into a ball. Push your thumb into the ball and hollow out the inside like making a little pot. (Mudpie making practice will help here). You should be able to fit a good half teaspoon or more of filling into the pot, then squeeze the top shut, roll it into a ball shape again, and roll the ball in a little raw sugar.

Put the Ma-amoul seam-side down on a greased biscuit tray and bake them in a medium oven for about 30 minutes until they are browned. Cool on the tray (they will crispen up as they cool). Store in an airtight container, but not for long, because they will disappear.



Number 23 in the Muesli Bar Challenge – my weekly series of  recipes for school lunch box baking  that is healthy, easy, cheap and based on fresh produce – features oranges.  It is coming to the end of the navel orange season, and once they finish there will be a gap of a few months until the beginning of the Valencia  season.  Our navel tree is flowering again already, so I’m picking the last of them to allow the tree to put all its energy into the next season’s fruit.

Oranges are super healthy.  Besides being well known as a good source of Vitamin C, they are also a good source of folic acid, which is especially important for growing kids.  This recipe also features oats which are another superfood – low calorie, fairly low GI,  good amounts of B vitamins and several minerals, and protective against deposits of bad cholesterol – and dates, which supply a huge range of vitamins and minerals.

Let’s see what my school age reviewers think of them.

The Recipe

The Filling

In a small saucepan, mix

  • 2 cups of dates
  • 1 cup of fresh orange juice and pulp

Bring it up to the boil then turn it off and allow to soak while you make the crust.

The Crust

Into your food processor, put

  • 1½ cups of wholemeal plain flour
  • 1½ cups of rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 good teaspoon of grated orange rind
  • 100 ml of honey
  • 100 ml of macadamia oil, or other mild flavoured oil

Pulse briefly to partly cut up the oats and mix thoroughly.


  • Grease a 20 cm square baking pan and press half the crust into it.
  • Process the filling briefly to break up the dates and make a spreadable mix.  Spread over the base.
  • Cover with the rest of the crust and press it down.
  • Bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour until browned.
  • Cool in the tin, then cut into squares or fingers.

When I was a kid, every block in suburban Brisbane had a backyard macadamia tree. Maca season meant finding a good rock with the right kind of hollow to stop the nut flying off, and a good hand sized rock for hitting them with. And for the gourmets, lighting a backyard fire to roast them in. It took quite a lot of time and effort to get a feast out of those hard, hard shells, but it was so worth it!

Unfortunately we grown-ups don’t have that kind of time these days. For years, most of the macas that dropped from our trees went unharvested – too hard to get at – and macadamia trees in their bumper years  have a huge yield. The tool that changed all that – that will make macas a staple in your house is a maca cracker.

Whoever invented this needs a medal. It is so easy to use that macadamia nuts become a real food, not just a kid forage food. And if you learn the way macas should taste -fresh, in-season, out of the shell – you will realise why kids go to all that trouble.

Macadamia nuts are in season, and they are super healthy. Their fats are the “good” kind – monounsaturated – like olive oil. They have good quality protein, lots of fibre and B vitamins (including folate)  and a variety of minerals.  They are also a good source of a whole range of micronutrients. This recipe also has wholemeal flour, healthy orange juice and and zest with its flavonoids, and not too much sugar or butter.

This is the  eighteenth in my Muesli Bar Challenge series and the first for Term 3.  The Challenge is a series of recipes for school lunch box treats that are healthy, based on in season ingredients,  easy and fast enough to be a realistic option, and most important of all, rated by my school age reviewers as preferable to packaged junk food.

The Recipe:

Makes about 10 muffin-sized friands.

Turn your oven on to heat up.

You will be folding together three mixes: the dry mix, the wet mix, and the egg whites.

The Dry Mix

  • First,crack your nuts to extract 100 grams of macadamia kernels.
  • Process them with ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of sugar in the food processor, or grind with a mortar and pestle, into a fine meal.
  • Mix in 3 tablespoons of wholemeal plain flour and a good teaspoon of baking powder.

The Wet Mix

Separate 4 eggs.  Beat the yolks with half a cup of orange juice and 2 teaspoons of orange zest.

The Egg Whites

Beat the 4 egg whites with an egg beater or whisk until soft peaks form.  This is really not hard to do so long as you use a clean dry bowl and beater.  It is a bit harder with very fresh eggs but still takes only a matter of half a minute to do.

Fold the three parts together till they are just combined.  Spoon the mix into paper lined muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or so in a medium oven till they are lightly browned and spring back.

The Glaze

Meanwhile, make a little glaze by boiling together a couple of tablespoons of orange juice, a teaspoon of orange rind, a teaspoon of butter, and a dessertspoon of sugar.  Boil the mix in a small saucepan for a few minutes till it goes thick and syrupy.

When they come out of the oven, spoon a teaspoon of glaze onto the top of each friand and decorate with half a maca.


There are two recipes for one in the Muesli Bar Challenge this week.  The jumping off point was Stephanie Alexander’s adaption of Claudia Roden’s adaption from a Middle Eastern classic that uses whole boiled oranges.  Oranges and almonds are right in season, and I liked the idea of using whole oranges, because most of the “bioflavanoids” that make citrus fruit so healthy are in the pulp, not the juice. But the original version is marmalade-y bitter in a way that adults find gorgeous but kids find a bit too strong.

So there are two versions:  one that makes a great adult lunch box treat, or, with a dollop of cream, a sensational dinner party desert.  The other one that satisfies the Muesli Bar Challenge rules:  healthy, ethical, based on in-season ingredients, fast and easy to make, and rated by school age reviewers as preferable to the overpackaged junk food marketed as suitable for school lunches.

The Recipe


  • 1 cup of orange juice and pulp (or substitute mandarin juice and pulp)

For the adult, marmalade-y version, boil one large or two small oranges in a pot of water for an hour.  Roughly chop, remove the seeds, and use  a good stick blender or food processor to blend the whole orange, skin and all, to give 1 cup of orange pulp.

For the sweeter kids’ version, juice 2 or 3 oranges, remove the seeds, but add the pulp to the juice to give 1 cup of orange pulp.

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 good desertspoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder

Using a good stick blender or food processor, blend all this list together with the orange pulp till it is smooth and creamy.

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ¾ cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Fold this list in.

Grease and line a shallow, square or rectangular cake pan with greaseproof paper.

  • flaked almonds

Sprinkle all over the bottom of the pan, and spoon the cake mix in on top.

Bake in a moderate oven  till the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean.  It takes about 30 minutes in a rectangular pan, a bit longer if there is more “middle” – that is, if your pan is square or deep.

The Syrup

  • half a cup of orange juice
  • 2 good desertspoons of raw sugar

Simmer for a few minutes until it goes  syrupy. While the cake is still warm, turn it out of the tin and strip off the greaseproof paper.  With the flaked almond side on top,  poke holes all over it with a skewer.  Pour the warm syrup over the warm cake and allow to soak in.