Sunday, 31 October 2021

Delicious and Healthy Wholewheat, Chocolate and Oatmeal Biscuits/Cookies

 Even though this is one of the healthiest biscuit recipes I have ever baked, it is also one of the most delicious. I wanted a biscuit that I could take away with us on a road trip, to nibble while driving in the car, to stop and have with a cuppa for morning or afternoon tea, to eat for dessert if necessary with some ice cream, or even to eat for brekkie  if we needed to get back on the road quickly in the morning. I know that sounds like a tall order for a humble biscuit, but it totally lived up to those expectations without compromising on flavour, quality or crispness. I refuse to compromise with biscuits or cakes, they must still taste amazing, regardless of any other criteria they need to fill. Then the second batch, quickly  made with chocolate chips, has just been a marvellous standby to have in the biscuit tin at home, know what I mean? I first saw this recipe @Smitten Kitchen ages ago, and I have been wanting to make them ever since. Jump straight to my recipe here.

Did I mention a Coastal road trip before? Over the last month we have been on a couple of trips away. First we went to Hamilton Island for the weekend after we said goodbye to our dear Border Collie Locky dog, came home for a week, and then left on a road trip for Cairns. 

Here are some photos of beautiful Hamilton Island, part of the Whitsunday Island group, very accessible by plane from the southern states in Australia when borders reopen, and only  two hours drive North along the Bruce Highway from where we live, and a short boat trip to the island. There are lots of road works right  now, so the road trip takes a bit longer than usual. I sent these photos to our family but I don't think I have showed them to you yet.

The Whitsunday Islands really are a stunning part of the world. These were the views from our apartment, but we did wander down to the beach and relax as well.

Sailing boats for hire after a brief lesson on how to sail.
Surf skis for hire.


A batch of the Wholemeal Wheat chocolate oatmeal biscuits travelled to Cairns with us a week later, and on the way we drove into Mission Beach which is just North of  beautiful Tully, about 28 km by road. Tourists can catch a bus to MB if they need to.  Tully has the reputation of being the wettest town in Queensland when the wet monsoonal season arrives. So wet that it has a Wellington Boot as its symbol. I don't have a photo of the Wellington boot, but I took a photo of the Tully Sugar Cane Mill which is full steam ahead at the moment, as it was the middle of the Sugar Cane crush when we drove through. Iconic Sugar Cane train carriages are loaded with cut sugar cane, which are destined for this sugar mill. This is such an interesting sight for travellers as we venture a "A Little Further North", which incidentally is the name of a North Queensland song made famous by our very own Graeme Connors, a Country singer from Mackay where we live. Have you heard one of Graeme's other songs, Let the Canefields Burn? Here's the link.

Graeme Connors - Let The Canefields Burn (Live) - Bing video

Both these songs are from Graeme's North album.

It's marvellous to play this song when we are travelling North.


When in Tully which is just a short deviation off the highway, we stop at the beautiful Petals and Beanz Coffee shop and Florist in the main street, quench our need for food and delicious coffee and then depart for our next destination. We had a toasted sandwich at the coffee shop for breakfast with our coffee which was delicious, remembering that we still had some of our biscuits on board in the car.


We drove on to Mission Beach, where we discovered a film was being made at one of the secluded beaches.  North Queensland Beaches and coastal townships are now sought after as film locations. We heard they are after film extras, so if you are interested, head for Mission Beach, this could be your big chance. Mr. HRK took a stroll along beautiful Garners Beach, just North of Mission Beach, where the rainforest really does meet the sea.


Curious Kangaroos were near our holiday unit at Mission Beach


These First Aid posts are mandatory at all the beaches for Marine stingers.


It's Cassowary country, as we are travel up the North Queensland Cassowary Coast. Drivers around Mission Beach are warned to be careful when driving as these huge birds are likely to walk out of the bush onto the road. It's not a pretty outcome if you hit one of them. This one doesn't move though.


Let's Bake and Eat Delicious Biscuits:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons (25 grams) raw sugar

1/2 cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (115 grams) butter chopped into chunks

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 large egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup (95 grams) whole grain flour

1/4 cup finely chopped very fresh walnuts or pecans,  or you can use wheat germ, or oat bran

1 1/2 cups (120 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup (6 oz/170 g) chocolate chips

Flaky sea salt to finish off (optional)

Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal biscuits

Method:

Heat oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugars, the butter, and the salt together until fluffy. 

Add the vanilla and the egg to the bowl, and beat until all mixed together.

Sprinkle the baking powder and the bicarb soda over the batter and beat until the mixture is very well combined, scraping down the bowl as well to include all the mixture.

Add the flour, walnuts, oats and chocolate chips and mix until flour just disappears.

Using an ice cream scoop,  place mounds equivalent to 3 tablespoons, on the baking paper, about 8 centimetres or 3 inches apart,  and sprinkle with a couple of flakes of sea salt if you wish. 

Looks good enough to eat before baking

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown all over. At this point they will still be slightly soft so transfer the tray to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Remove the baking tray from the cooling rack onto a cutting board, and place the biscuits carefully back onto the cooling rack to really crisp up.

Store in an airtight container.

Cook's notes:

  • Unless I start baking  early, the days are very warm when I am cooking now. The heat is here. If you are baking biscuits in the Aussie Summer, the butter will soften enough in about 15 minutes to beat with the sugars. There's no need to leave it out overnight to soften.
  • Because the biscuit mixture was very soft after I had finished mixing it and gooey to handle, I placed the whole bowl of biscuit mixture in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, and then it was really easy to work with. Using the ice cream scoop to place chilled mounds of biscuit mixture onto the baking paper was a fast, effective and easy process. If you are working in Winter temperatures, you don't need to chill the biscuit mixture, however it does stop the biscuits from spreading on the tray. This is a personal preference.

  • Extra dough will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days, and even longer if you freeze it for later. Freeze the biscuit scoops onto a tray, and when solid, pack them tightly in a freezer bag. Cooking them straight from the freezer, only takes 1 to 2 minutes longer, and they won't spread as much. Crispy on the outside and softer in the middle is the result. However allowing them to spread on the tray, results in a crispier biscuit. 
  • Check out my Anzac biscuit recipe, which is also oaty and delicious and I chill this mixture in the frig as well.
  • I used roughly chopped dark chocolate in the first batch of these I made, which was delicious and resulted in larger threads of melted chocolate throughout the biscuit. Then I used dark chocolate chips in the next batch, chilled the dough as well, resulting in a neater looking more uniform biscuit. However it really doesn't matter, choose the look and style you want. I promise you though they will still taste delicious.That's the wonderful thing about making these biscuits they  are very versatile.
Hope your weekend is productive, enjoyable and relaxing. Happy Halloween to those of you that follow it, it is a lot of fun for a lot of people and is gaining strength here in Australia. 

Warm wishes,

Pauline


Love a good biscuit and these well travelled biscuits do the vanishing act very quickly!



















Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Taking a walk through the Cairns Botanic Gardens in Far North Tropical Queensland

 We drove to beautiful Cairns in Far North Tropical Queensland last week where our daughter lives, with a stopover at Mission Beach, and on Sunday afternoon after lunch, I went for a walk through the remarkable Botanic Gardens.  If I was asked what are my favourite things to do when I'm travelling, besides going to the beaches and restaurants,  one of them would definitely be visiting the nearest Botanic Gardens. I have been to the Cairns Botanic Gardens several times during previous visits, and each time I just escape into the wonderful world of lush tropical plants and not so tropical plants, some thriving in dappled sunlight, some growing in full sun, but always interesting and inspiring. It is easy to forget that the gardens located in trendy Edge Hill are only 5 minutes away from the Cairns City Centre, with very easy access. It is a marvellous form of escapism for me and very calming to the soul. So dear reader, I invite you to take a walk with me through the Cairns Botanic Gardens and let the photos tell most of the story. I was only there for 90 minutes this time, leaving many more areas to explore next time I visit. The Gardens are open from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm every day, no pets allowed.

The bright orange flowers of the large exotic Panama Flame Tree were one of the highlights of my visit and one of these trees is close to the Gardens entrance. I've never seen this one in flower before. That is the wonderful thing about gardens, there will always be different plants in flower depending on the seasons and the time of year you visit, and they are a mirror of what home gardeners in the area might be planting as well. So inspirational.

The Panama Flame Tree

My first place to visit in the  gardens is always the enclosed Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory, because as my friends and family know, I am a fan of tropical orchids. This is also the butterfly conservatory, but it's very tricky to catch those little darlings on camera. All the photos here were taken on my phone.

I loved this perfectly vivid orange orchid. 

Ascocentrum miniatum 060125



This delicate Vireya Rhododendron "Kisses" thrives in a tropical climate. I was quite taken with 
her.


Coral Seas "Rhododendron"



Pretty Phalaenopsis Orchids

The Tropical Pitcher Plant is quite eye catching, don't you think?




I took a photo of this one to remind me to repot my yellow Aggregatum orchid which is quite similar to this one, into a larger pot.

Can you spot the butterfly below.


This yellow and white soft cane dendrobium is one of my favourite orchids in flower right now.



Delicate.


Hardy and butterfly loving Pentas

And there's important information.




Very lush, and reminiscent of a tropical rainforest

Lipstick Palms, very popular in Cairns gardens


I did walk with care.

By this time, I was in need of some refreshment, and the Cafe is appropriately rustic, licensed, and serves good food. There is also a much more modern cafe located closer to another entrance, which I didn't get to this time, but we have enjoyed good coffee and food there during other visits.

A sample of locally produced jams and preserves available for sale at the cafe.

Cafe menu





Interesting formation, spiky and growing in full sun

A very large Staghorn



An elusive Scrub Turkey, red head, black feathers


I was excited to find an Australian Native Bee Hive.

Can you see the tiny native bees entering the hive through the black hole?



Cooling and calming waters nearby.


Enter the Heliconias and Gingers with Fanfare









Mmmm, a conversation starter? Just popping up out of the ground, in response to the heat and humidity.






Beautiful Medinillas

Medinillas are one of my favourite plants, so delicate, and they always seem to be in flower here in Cairns. As you can see I took plenty of photos of these. I love them. We have one growing at home in our garden, and one in a hanging pot, which I bought from the Friends plant stall at the Cairns Botanical Gardens. The potted one flowers almost continuously, but after two years the one in the ground still hasn't flowered. However I am persisting.














A magnificent prized Tassel Fern

Back to the Orchid House for another peek before I leave.




I hope you enjoyed this sojourn with me through the tropics. The Staff and Friends of the Botanic Gardens do an amazing job to grow and maintain these plants under sometimes quite dry and trying conditions. Cairns hasn't had any decent rainfall for a while now, but it will come with a vengeance.

Thankyou to you all for your very heartfelt messages after the passing of our Locky dog. A little piece of our hearts went with him, and it meant a lot to hear from those of you who sent a kind message. We still can't believe he has left our lives,  however since he has gone, Mr. HRK and I have been travelling and keeping busy and whilst we still miss him every day, we are trying to dwell on our happy memories of him.

Take care,

Pauline