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zucchini, carrot and sunflower seed slice

Today is just the second day in the last two months that it hasn’t rained, a gorgeous sky blue day but my garden is still too wet to plant.  The zucchinis have struggled in the wet, but the tromboncinos have done really well right through all this rain.  (And the Suyo Long cucumbers – very impressed with their mildew resistance).

So my glut crop is tromboncinos rather than zucchini, but this recipe works equally well with both.

Zucchini, Carrot and Sunflower Seed Slice

Turn the oven on to heat up.

Grate 1½ cups of carrot, 1½ cups of zucchini, and one onion.

Put them all in a heavy pan with a good swig of olive oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  The idea is just to heat the vegetables through, soften them, and evaporate a bit of moisture.

While they are cooking, blend together:

  • ½ cup of  cottage cheese 
  • 3 eggs
  • a good handful of flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 big tablespoon of wholemeal plain flour
  • salt and pepper

Grease an ovenproof dish well.  I have a square, pyrex dish 20 cm square that is perfect for it.  You may like to line the base with greaseproof paper – it does come out without it but it makes a little less risk of sticking.

Mix the egg, cottage cheese and parsley mix with the vegetable mix.  Add 1/3 cup sunflower seeds and mix well. Tip into the oven dish and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes until golden on top.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then tip it out and slice into little squares or fingers.

Serve on a platter to share, with chili jam or chutney or homemade tomato sauce, or cold in a lunch box or picnic basket.

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I found this gem iron in an op shop.  It took me several months and quite a few goes to learn how to use it, but now it is one of my favourite kitchen tools.  It’s a heavy cast iron baking tray for tiny little cake-scone-muffin bites called gems. It’s an old fashioned implement designed for the days when any self-respecting cook was expected to be able to whip up a batch of baking at a minute’s notice. Which makes gem irons due for a resurgence in these days when time poverty beats money poverty every day.

Once you get the hang of gem irons, this can be done in less than 20 minutes – 5 minutes preparation and 10 to 12 minutes cooking time – making it feasible to be a domestic goddess (or god) and bake on weekday mornings.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to medium high and put the gem iron on the top shelf. It needs to be sizzling hot before you put the batter in.

Use an egg beater to beat together

  • 1 egg
  • 3 dessertspoons of plain low fat yoghurt
  • 1 dessertspoon of honey
  • pinch cinnamon

Stir in

  • half a cup (4 good dessertspoons) of dried fruit, seeds and nuts.  I used pepitas, sunflower seeds, chopped macadamias and sultanas, but you could use dates, dried apple, almonds – whatever you have and is in season.
  • half a cup of rolled oats
  • 3 dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour

You will end up with a thick batter. Like muffin batter, it is best not over-mixed.

Take the hot gem iron out of the oven and put a tiny dob of butter in each hollow.  You only need a small teaspoonful altogether.  It will sizzle.  Tilt the iron to spread the melted butter.

Working quickly, spoon the batter into the hot gem iron and put it back in the oven, near the top and up fairly high. Bake for around 10 minutes till the gems are almost cooked.

The Syrup

Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt a good dessertspoon of butter and a good dessertspoon of honey together. Working quickly, spoon a little syrup over each gem and put them back in the oven for another few minutes.

They’re best hot, straight from the oven, but if you make a double batch, you may even have leftovers for lunch boxes, making this double as a Muesli Bar Challenge recipe as will.

(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, andtaste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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This is my current favourite breakfast, and the next in the Breakfast Cereal Challenge. The first of the new season apples have just arrived at our local Farmers Market, coming down from the Tablelands (within our 160 km range as the crow flies), and there are still some late season peaches too, so just for a few weeks the seasons overlap.

Living with stand-alone solar power, you become very aware of what an energy guzzler refrigeration is.  Our little, 60 litre, 12 volt electric fridge is the biggest electricity consuming thing in our household, by a long way.  So I hate to think how much power is consumed, and how much greenhouse gas is created, cold storing apples.

One of the benefits of refusing to buy cold-stored apples is that you stop taking humble apples for granted and really appreciate these  first of the season ones.

Apple season is all over by the end of May in my part of the world.  If you live further south, it probably won’t start till next month and though the season is longer, it won’t last into spring.  Apples cold store reasonably well, but who would choose a cold-stored apple when there are fresh, just picked strawberries instead? And conversely, who would choose strawberries imported from USA and treated with methyl bromide, when you can buy fresh, crisp, sweet new season apples?

The Recipe:

Like all the Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipes, this one is simple, fast and healthy enough for a work and school day mornings.

This quantity is the amount I make for me.  You can double it, but don’t try to do too much at once or the fruit will stew.

Chop an apple and a peach into bite sized pieces.

Heat a little macadamia oil or butter in a heavy pan and saute the chopped fruit, along with a handful of  pepitas, a handful of sunflower seeds, and a handful of raw rolled oats.  Sprinkle over a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook for just a few minutes, stirring gently occasionally, till the fruit starts to caramelise and the seeds toast.

Serve warm with a good dollop of plain, low fat yoghurt.

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A seedy biscuit

This is the last of my Muesli Bar Challenge series for the year. The draft of this post has been in my drafts folder since the very first week.  It’s one of my old favourites – so easy, so healthy, so school lunch box acceptable.  As a gardener, I’m really conscious that seeds are concentrated sources of nutrients – complex carbohydrates  that fuel a plant’s early growth, protein to allow it to create new cells, phytonutrients to protect it.  You can make these with or without nuts as well, depending on your school’s nut policy.

A whole four terms of Challenge recipes, and not one has come home uneaten.  Take that, LCMs!

The Recipe:

Into the food processor, put:

  • two eggs,
  • two dessertspoons (60 grams) butter,
  • two dessertspoons of brown sugar.
  • two heaped dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour.

Blend this mix well, then add a cup full of nuts and/or seeds. I used pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds cashews,  macadamias and almonds, but you can use any combination.  You can blend this very briefly, just enough to break up the bigger nuts but not enough to blend, or you can just stir them in whole.  Large nuts might need rough chopping but whole seeds give a good texture. In the photo I left them whole, but in this latest batch that the kids are reviewing I blended briefly.

Add half a cup of sultanas. Organic sultanas are worth the expense if you can find them. You can taste the difference, and they haven’t been coated in cottonseed oil. If your school has a no-nuts policy, stick to just seeds.

Butter a baking tray and put spoonfuls on it. The biscuits will spread as they cook so give them room. Bake in a moderately hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes till nicely browned. Cool on the tray (they crispen as they cool).

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