Gluten Free Carrot and Date Cake

Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free
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Today I was going to go to uni and finish three assignments, but instead I skipped class and made a carrot cake.

I’m worried by how often this has been happening lately. Very worried. But it’s such a nice day today! If you live in Sydney you’ll agree this last week has been awesome. Goodbye winter and having to sit on my heater every five minutes while I’m getting dressed.

I am kind of sad it’s too hot to drink hot chocolate now though. I developed the perfect recipe this winter involving lots of cinnamon and homemade almond milk. Sooo good.

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I’ve been getting weirdly stressed about making blog posts lately, I don’t know if anyone noticed how late each post is going up. I just can’t decide what to make! And when I do decide, I can’t find the time to make it and photograph it and edit it in time. So stressful!

This morning though the urge to make carrot cake was stronger than the voice saying “but you already made a banana carrot layer cake” and a carrot loaf for this blog. Not to mention the best carrot cupcakes of all time.

But you can never have too many carrot cake recipes! Right? Right guys?! And besides, this one is gluten free. It’s also absolutely delicious. Super moist and fluffy and yogurty from the icing (if you go the non-vegan way). it’s the kind of cake where you cut yourself a second slice before you’ve even finished the first piece, not that I would know anything about that…
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My sister and I demolished half the cake this morning, in-between listening to all the new music I downloaded and dancing with my dog. I’m somehow not feeling too regretful about missing my morning lecture about client/lawyer retainers.

You can either top this cake like I have, with a cup of strained yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp of maple syrup, or you can use coconut yogurt or cashew cream for a vegan option. Any will be delicious! Enjoy 🙂

One Year Ago: Carrot, Pear and Quinoa Crumble Muffins

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake: Inspired by this recipe

3 eggs OR 3 tbsp chia seeds mixed with almond milk
2 very ripe bananas
15 fresh dates, seeded
6 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

3 medium carrots, grated finely (skin on ok)

300g yogurt, drained in a cheesecloth for at least an hour
4 tbsp maple syrup

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Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Either mix the chia seeds with the almond milk and set aside, or whisk up the 3 eggs. In a blender, blitz the banana, dates and oil. In a medium bowl sift together all the dry ingredients.

Fold the eggs into the dry ingredients, then fold in the banana date mix. Stir in the grated carrots and pour into the tin. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Mix together the yogurt and maple syrup or honey, or 300g cashew cream with maple syrup. Top the cake once it is cool and keep in the fridge.
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Dumpling Month Part 2 – spring vegetable and mushroom

Vegan

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Are you guys ready for the second instalment of dumpling month?! I know I’m ready. This time round I tried to channel my absolute favourite dumplings from a local Chinese restaurant. Every time we go there I go a little bit cray cray over them. They’re full of vegetables and mushrooms, which makes them kind of…meaty? That sounds gross, but you know what I mean. They’re hearty!

This time did the moneybag shape, which worked well and was super easy to store and steam. Plus it was faster than the crimping method in last week’s spinach and tofu dumplings, which was helpful. I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe to use a mix of seasonal vegetables, so you can kind of add what you like to these. I used a mix of fresh pea, cabbage, spinach, mushroom and tofu. This time round I lightly stir-fried the vegetables first before putting them in the dumplings. This made the flavours much more intense and tasty so I will definitely keep doing this step.

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For the sake of experiment (code for laziness) this time round I didn’t make my own dough, I bought some pre-made dim sum squares from the local Asian grocer. It did save a lot of time, but the dough was really hard to work with. Any moisture that got on them would disintegrate it into pieces. They did steam fine, but I think they would be too delicate for pot stickers. If you know any good brands for dumpling wrappers let me know in the comments!

This week I’m going to Splendour in The Grass music festival, so I may be a little slow with comments and questions. My third dumpling recipe will be going up some time in the week though and it’s my favourite by far! So make sure you check it out 🙂 I’m loving all the dumpling suggestions I’ve been getting so keep telling me your favourite flavours! May dumpling month never end!

One Year Ago: Lemon Berry Poppyseed Cake (gluten free)
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Spring Vegetable and Mushroom Dumplings: Inspired by Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 30 dumplings
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 cup finely shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1 cup finely shredded English Spinach
1/2 cup baby peas (frozen ok)
3 large flat mushrooms, chopped finely
100g (3.5 ounces) firm tofu, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar

1 quantity dumpling dough or 30 bought wrappers
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In a hot wok, fry the shallots, garlic and ginger in the oils until transparent. Add in the mushrooms and tofu and stir fry until slightly brown. Throw in the greens and just slightly cook. Pour off any excess liquid that comes out in the cooking process and discard.

Once the mix has cooled a little, use a spoon to put a small amount (about 3cm, 2 inches) of mixture in the centre of the wrapper. slightly wet (not too much!) the edges with a bit of water and fold the dumpling over towards you, in half. Press down the edges. Slightly wet one edge of the dumpling and fold over the front, pressing it together with the other side. Keep on a plate with baking paper whilst you make the rest of the dumplings.

To cook, place each dumpling about 1cm apart from each other in a steamer. Steam for about 5 minutes, until the skin is shiny and translucent in places. If you freeze them first you will need to cook them for longer. Enjoy! Serve with chilli and vinegar
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Spiced Pumpkin Fritters with Roast Garlic Tahini Sauce (gluten free!)

Gluten Free
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 Oh my gosh guys. Today might just be the biggest day of the year. Possible EVER. Sugar and Cinnamon has officially started doing savoury! I can hear you thinking ‘but the name sugar and cinnamon suggests you know, sugar…and cinnamon…’ I knooow. But I thought that was a silly reason at the end of the day to not do something I’ve pretty much been thinking of doing since I started this blog. 

This year I wanted to focus more on making healthy, wholesome recipes packed with loads of good for you things. In my real life I’ve actually started making savoury food all the time, as you can probably tell if you follow me on Instagram (I over-gram. I can admit it.) So I thought it was time to start sharing the successful recipes on here with you guys. Because everyone has to eat savoury food. You can try and live off cake, weetbix and toast, I did that very well all through school. But once you start making awesome stuff like these fritters it’s kind of hard to go back to those sad breakfast foods for lunch. 

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I think the photography is going to take a while to catch up in the savoury department…I did try and do some ‘stylistic’ swishing of sauce and fancy herb placement as you can see but fritters are hard. Fritters are just so ugly. They make up for it though by tasting amazing. Packed with pumpkin, carrot and zucchini as well as cumin and tumeric they’re so flavoursome! And the roasted garlic sauce…oh my goodness. I might of eaten the whole bowl while shooting photos…I’m not going to lie. 

I’ve given quantities for the amounts of vegetables I used but you can sub in sweet potato, more or less carrot and zucchini, basically whatever you have really. I bet even corn would be nice! Just try and keep a good ratio of firm roots (carrot, potato, sweet potato) and the watery vegetables (pumpkin, zucchini, spinach). I used quinoa flour as a little experiment and they worked out so well! You can’t taste the difference at all. Feel free to sub back in plain white flour if that’s what you have though. And you can double or even triple the recipe too if you want, they’re so easy! I have a sneaky feeling they’d taste epic in a sandwich or burger as well. 

I haven’t tried making these fritters without eggs but you could try flax as a binding substitute. If you do let me know how they go! Otherwise these fritters would be completely vegan friendly 🙂 

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 Vegetable Fritters with Garlic Tahini Dipping Sauce:

350g grated zucchini (about 4)

350g grated pumpkin (1/4 large pumpkin)

250g grated carrot (4-5)

1 handful chopped coriander

2 shallots, finely sliced

2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp each cinnamon and tumeric

100g quinoa flour

4 large eggs, or 4 tablespoons flax mixed with water

Olive oil, for frying 

Mix everything together in a large bowl, seasoning with a little salt and pepper at the end. Heat a large fry pan with a good splash of the olive oil to shallow fry the fritters. Use a big spoon to scoop ladles of the mix (about 3-4 tbsp) into the pan. Using the back of a spatula, push down the fritters carefully so they are flat. Fry on each side for about 5 minutes, draining on a plate with paper. 

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For the dipping sauce:

Roast 4-5 cloves of garlic in the oven until soft in the middle, about 10 minutes. 

Blend with 4-5 tablespoons of tahini and the juice of 2 limes. 

Keep blending, slowly adding water until the sauce is as runny as you like it. Drizzle over the fritters with extra coriander to serve. 
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Banana and Fig + Carrot and Cinnamon Cupcakes

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 As you can see I made cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. My Mum is having an art exhibition tonight and guess who got asked to make the cakes! Some professional baker called Susan. Well you know what I told Susan? I said shove your fancy tarts up your jumper! She’s my Mum and Imma gonna make her cakes and they’re going to RULE. 

Last time I baked for an art show, things got very *tense* in the kitchen. Namely the cupcakes came out as dry, flat pancakes burnt on to the bottom of the muffin pan. And don’t even get me started on the chocolate icing that split and became a greasy ball of brown slime. That was a very stressful day for me. 

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 So today I thought I’d do a post on good ideas for party catering! Or maybe more of what are not good ideas for party baking, because I have had far more of those and can happily share them with you for future avoidance. 

Ok: the big kahuna of don’t do it in the realm of catering is…don’t try a recipe you’ve never made before!! Obvious you say? Not so obvious to me! Why did you choose five recipes you’d never seen before you may ask? Because I am an idiot. This time I chose trusty old timers from the archives. You may recognise the banana and fig cupcakes from this recipe. Just replace 150g of the pureed banana with pureed fresh figs. 

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 Tip number two: Don’t choose recipes that are really involved and require lots of washing up. For example eton mess cups. Delicious in theory! But so messy you will be throwing blueberries at your dog in frustration. Also the cream will need to be in the fridge until you’re literally ready to serve, so as a handy hint number 3 make sure there is a fridge at the venue beforehand. 

Tip number four: Choose cakes and slices that are naturally moist and longlasting. Little sponge cupcakes are so cute in theory but so dry and crumbly 24 hours later when they’ve been sitting in an air-conditioned room. The little carrot cakes I made today are from this recipe. I think you could take it to the beach for a day in the sun and it would still come home sticky and dense and perfect. 

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 Tip number 5: Choose a few dishes rather than a whole heap. I was originally going to also make a rhubarb and coconut crumble slice and a caramel slice and at one point even fairy cakes! But no one wants to spend the end of the night trying to pack boxes of uneaten cakes and take them home and eat them by yourself. 

Today I made brownies, these two sets of cupcakes, and a friend made berry friands. Something for everyone! Everybody is happy and no one has food poisoning from the cream in the eton mess cups. Perfecto. 

I made the same icing for both cupcakes: 500g (just shy of 1 pound) cream cheese, 225g (1/2 pound) mascarpone, 4 limes zested and juiced, plus 125g (4.5 ounces) icing sugar. Blend it all together and dollop on the cupcakes! Either keep them in the fridge or only ice them half an hour before serving. 

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Banana Carrot Cake with Ricotta Honey Frosting

Refined Sugar Free, Wholemeal, optional Vegan

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 Carrot cake revealed my baking dark side. Years ago in the era before I became obsessed with baking, my friend and I baked a carrot cake together. It went along fine until she tried to measure a tablespoon of baking powder instead of a teaspoon, and added the entire egg (shell and all!) into the mixing bowl. It ended with me standing on a stool holding a wooden spoon, dictating the recipe to her like a military general. 

I’m not proud of these memories. But I can accept that very occasionally, under stressful situations, I can become a little “tense” in the kitchen. I like to think I’ve improved with age, but I think it’s more just that now when cooking with friends, I don’t lift a finger to help. Lest the evil carrot cake dictator should emerge and take over and the wooden spoon make a second appearance. 

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Making this carrot cake was different to that first carrot cake for lots of reasons. For starters, I made it calmly and methodically with no shouting whatsoever! And the cake itself has had a makeover too. Instead of a traditional sugar filled dessert made with lots of eggs and butter, this cake is made entirely of natural and wholesome ingredients. Sweetened with agave nectar and mashed bananas, it is dense and fruity. Just how I like my carrot cakes! It’s studded with lots of nuts and raisins and bursting with cinnamon and nutmeg. 

But the best part by far is the icing. I made a version of the yogurt icing I topped my gluten free banana chai cupcakes with, substituting half the yogurt with ricotta. The result was a super creamy and light icing that tasted almost like creme fraiche. Scented with honey and dusted with crunchy nuts, this ended up as the best layer cake I think I’ve made so far. And by far the healthiest!

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 The recipe is adapted from this yummy carrot loaf from 101 cookbooks. I’ve been using this recipe for so long I don’t even read the recipe anymore. Over the years I’ve adapted it to be vegan (unless you ice it, obviously) and to suit whatever is on hand. Today I only had two carrots, so I increased the bananas by an extra half. I also stopped putting in the olive oil ever since I made Wholesome Carrot Muffins without it, and didn’t even notice the difference until I found the cup of oil the next day. 

This cake is great for special occasions and birthdays because it looks so festive and it lasts really well in the fridge. Perfect for Christmas season if you know what I’m saying! Start the icing the day before, but if you want to make a vegan version, maybe try a cashew cream or coconut topping. I’m working on a tofu icing to put on my next birthday cake, so keep updated!

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Banana Carrot Cake with Ricotta Frosting: Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup mashed banana (about 3.5)

1.5 cups grated carrot (about 2)

60 ml (1/4 cup) agave nectar or runny honey

110 ml (1/2 cup) almond milk

2 tablespoons chia mixed with 4 tablespoons water to make a gel

45g (1/3 cup) raisins

45g (1/3 cup) chopped nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pecans) 

365g (2 cups) wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ginger and allspice

 

Topping:

300g ricotta

300g yogurt

45ml (1/4 cup) runny honey

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Put the yogurt and ricotta in a cloth inside a sieve, and tie up the cloth in a bundle. Keep in the fridge for about 2-3 hours, to drain. 

Preheat oven to 170C (340F) and line two 20cm (8 inch) sandwich pans. Mix all the wet ingredients together well and sift in the flour and baking powder and spices. Mix well to combine. Pour into tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through. 

Mix the icing with the honey well while the cake is cooling. Chop up the nuts into small chunks, leaving some bigger. Place one piece of cake on a plate and spread half the icing in the middle. Spread to the edges and sprinkle on half the nuts. Place on the top layer, even side down, and spread the rest of the icing on top. Decorate with the nuts. Serves 8-10. 

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Carrot, Pear and Quinoa Crumble Muffins (vegan, sugar free)

Vegan and Sugar Free

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I am so, sooo sick of the election lead-up. Everywhere you look, Abbot and the Ruddmeister smiling and waving creepily, commercials of little children being cast in to darkness because nobody cares about their education! Ridiculous slogans like “stop the boats,” that will be played back in thirty years as an example of how backwards and racist Australians used to be. 

It makes me sad that in this “democratic” country so many people’s votes are shaped not by party’s policies, but by fear campaigns and propaganda spread by the media controlled by a certain someone I won’t name (Murdoch). I don’t want this post to be all about politics and I don’t want to alienate anyone with my views, but it’s hard not to say a word or two when the election is tomorrow! 

It’s embarrassing to think what overseas countries must see in Australian politics. It seems that every three years, all the darkest and ugliest sides of Australia come out and take centre stage for a while, even though most of these views are held by a minority for the rest of the term. For instance gay marriage has been a hot topic this election, and instead of playing out as a cooperative and respectful debate it has become a monster of homophobia, discrimination and name-calling. Within the parties too, not just in general society. It’s such a horrible point to use as a defining policy and it shines negatively on the entire liberal party to take such a primitive and old-fashioned stance. The worst part is, it’s gaining them votes, not losing them. 

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 Sorry about that rant! And on to these muffins. I love muffins but so often they’re the most unhealthy option in the entire cafe. They can be packed full of preservatives, sugar, margarine and other strange ingredients I’ve never heard of, especially if you buy them at the supermarket or make them from a muffin mix. 

That’s where these bad boys step in! Each muffin has a whopping 7 grams of protein! That’s an entire serving, which for a vegetarian is like Christmas come early. They are also intensely delicious. I had a little “taste test” so I could explain the quinoa flour flavour to everyone, and I ended up eating an entire muffin. They are fruity and sweet and packed full of flavours like coconut, sultanas, walnuts, carrot and pear and cinnamon and vanilla and are you drooling yet?? The honey flavour really shines through and gives the loveliest sweetness and crunch to these muffins. 

But it’s the crumble that takes them to the next level. 

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Coconut, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, flaked almonds and nutty wholemeal flour come together in a medley of love to create a very crunchy and flavoursome topping. Don’t do what I did and pour hot honey over the crumble, because that will melt your butter like nothing else. Also don’t under-estimate just how much crumble your muffins can take! 

I have a terrible condition of overfilling my muffin cases, and this crumble topping was a great way of exercising control. Once the crumble’s on you can’t add any more muffin mix! Genius. These muffins are great the day they are made, but wait for them to cool down before eating them because all the flavours come together more. Also quinoa flour! What is that you may wonder? It is ground quinoa and it has an earthy, strong flavour that works well here because it is completely masked by the other ingredients. 

I wouldn’t know if you could substitute more than I have, but I would proceed with caution. It’s naturally gluten free so doesn’t behave like normal flour, and depending on the brand it can have a powerful “plant” flavour that can be overwhelming in lighter cakes. It’s very good for you though! So lets all continue to experiment with it and tell me what you discover.

Can’t get enough of your muffin fix? Here’s some recipes I’ve been eyeing this week:
Delicious Oatmeal Muffins from 101 Cookbooks
Mini Almond and Roasted Strawberry Muffins from Sprouted Kitchen so cute!
Plums and Almond Muffins from A Tasty Love Story look amaaazing.

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Carrot and Pear Crumble Muffins: Adapted from Ottolenghi 

Topping:

60g (1/4 cup) coconut butter, in pieces (or regular butter for non-vegan)

50g (1/2 cup) wholemeal flour

45ml (1/3 cup) runny honey or maple syrup for vegan

1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp water

50g (1/4 cup) oats

25g (1 tbsp) desiccated coconut

30g (1 heaped tbsp) sunflower seeds

20g (1 heaped tblsp) poppy seeds

15g (1 tbsp) flaked almonds

In a bowl, mix with your fingers the flour and butter until sandy. Add the other ingredients and mix until crumbly with your hands. Set aside. 

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Muffins:

4 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 8 tbsp of water to form a gel (or 4 large eggs)

200g (1.5 cups + 1 tbsp) plain flour sifted with 100g (3/4 cup) quinoa flour (or all plain/half wholemeal)

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla extract

200g (1 +3/4 cups each) each grated carrot and pear (apple works too)

270ml (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) honey or maple syrup for vegan

160ml (2/3 cup) olive oil

50g (2.5 tbsp) desiccated coconut

100g (2/3 cup) sultanas

100g (3/4 cup) walnuts, chopped

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Preheat the oven to 170C (340F) and line 12-14 muffin pans. Mix together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and sift well. In a large bowl mix the chia gel or eggs, honey, oil, carrots, pears and vanilla. Stir in the walnuts, coconut and sultanas. Fold in the flour mixture and gently combine. Spoon into 12-14 muffin cases and sprinkle with the  crumble generously, pushing it down so it sticks to the muffin mix. Bake for 18-25 minutes until golden brown and crunchy on top. Leave to cool and then eat them!

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Healthy Carrot Muffins with Bush Honey Icing

Low Fat, Sugar Free
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 Today I did exercise for the first time in five months. You heard me, five. I wish I was exaggerating! But this is the truth, I haven’t even gone on a medium to fast paced walk in weeks! (unless you count running awkwardly for the bus and falling over in front of your class acquaintance that always dresses like they’re going to a trendy art gallery). 

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 What can I say, I felt motivated by these muffins. You wont believe me when I say this, and you definitely won’t believe me if you actually go and try them! But these muffins have no sugar, no butter or oil, no honey or agave business, and they are made with wholemeal flour. And they taste amazing. Of course they are much healthier without the generous dollop of cream cheese icing but I usually only ice half of them, and keep the rest for breakfast. The measurements are in cups because this isn’t the kind of recipe that you have to worry about being exact. 

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 It took me two years to get this recipe right. I started with a relatively healthy but still sugary carrot cake recipe and tweaked it, tweaked it, tweaked it, TOO FAR! You know the drill, and this is the finished result. There is no road further my healthy friends, believe me. Do not substitute skim milk for light. Do not reduce the dates, or the flour. These muffins are moist and dense and packed with flavour, but they will take no more compromising without tasting, well, like health muffins. Instead of delicious happy gently spiced carrot muffins. Like I said the icing is up to you, but it helps to get kids to eat them (kids love them- that is a good sign for a healthy muffin).IMG_4761Carrot Muffins with Honey Icing: First adapted from Jamie Oliver

3 1/2 bananas, (1 large cup) mashed or blended until smooth

2-3 medium carrots (to equal 1.5 cups) skinned and grated

60g (1/2 cup) dates blended until smooth with 110ml (1/2 cup) light milk (this will help them blend)

325g (2 cups) wholemeal flour, sifted with 2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamon and salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons pepitas or sunflower seeds

Icing: (double if you want to ice the whole 10 muffins

250 grams (1/2 pound, 8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

100 ml (1/2 cup) slightly warmed honey (I used lavender bush honey but any will work)

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 Preheat your oven to 170C (340F) and line 10 large muffin holes with muffin cases. Sift your flour, spices, salt and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Mix your milk and dates, carrot, banana, eggs, walnuts and seeds in a bowl until well combined. Sift over the dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon until everything is just combined. Spoon into muffin holes and bake for about 22-25 minutes, until golden on top and dry when pierced with a skewer. Leave to cool completely. 

Icing: Blend or whisk your cream cheese with the honey until completely combined and fluffy. Spread over the cooled muffins and either eat within 24 hours or store in the fridge once iced. 

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