Sep 23, 2013

Zespri Kiwi 14 Day Challenge

When Zespri approached me to take part in their 14 Day Challenge, I couldn't have said yes any quicker.  Firstly, Zespri kiwi's may technically be fruit, but for me, I might as well be eating candy.  They are sweet, tangy, and always ripe to perfection.  Secondly, hello!  They are darn good for you too.  And when does that ever happen?  Something that is natural, tastes like dessert, AND healthy?  Oh sign me up Zespri.

So here's how it works.  Now pay attention because there is still time for you to sign up too (the challenge runs until the end of October).  Head over to the Zespri Arabia Facebook page and register to take part in the14 Day Challenge.  You must eat two kiwi per day for 14 days and simply complete a short questionnaire about your experience and the end of the two weeks.  And what's in it for you?  You'll be automatically entered into the draw to win a trip for two to New Zealand. 
The New Zealand trip includes:
Seven nights in the Bay of Plenty
A helicopter flight over a Zespri orchard.
A 25 km Jetboat ride along the Kaituna river (
Return flights to New Zealand with Qantas
A visit to a Zespri Kiwi orchard at Kiwi 360 (
Score! Am I right?
If you need a little more incentive, take a look at the loads of heath benefits from incorporating this fuzzy little ball of yummy goodness into your daily diet:
  • Kiwi's are loaded with fiber and are known to be a natural digestive aid.  Step aside prunes, kiwi's offer better relief for bloating and blocked up bowels. 
  • Kiwi's pack TWICE the amount of vitamin C as compared to oranges.
  • Think of kiwi's as being on top of the food chain when it comes to nutrients.  Kiwifruit consistently rank at the top of fruit in nutrition density models which tell us exactly how nutritious food is. That means you get more vitamins and minerals per gram, and per calorie, of kiwifruit than most other fruit. 
  • Due to their high amount of natural antioxidants, kiwi fruits help to boost collagen production which may reduce the appearance of ageing (*note: do not attempt to smother your face with kiwi pulp hoping it will reduce lines and wrinkles, you'll just end up with a sticky, yet yummy mess)
  • Eating two kiwi's a day has been proven to reduce the amount of oxidative damage to your cells and improve the repair of damaged Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) cause by oxidative stress.
  • Kiwi's contain the highest amount of lutein in fruits which can help to prevent age related deterioration of eye-sight.

You may be thinking 2 weeks of kiwi, that might get a bit monotonous?  I sat down before I started the challenge and made a list so each day I incorporated kiwi's into my diet in a new way.  Here's some options to help you get started:

Malibu Rum Glazed Kiwi & Coconut Cake (click here for recipe)

Kiwi, Lime, & Mint Sorbet with Raspberry Sauce in a Cookie Cup (click here for recipe)

White Chocolate, Kiwi & Mixed Berry Cobbler (see recipe below)

 Kiwi & Peach Smoothie (see recipe below)

 Frozen Kiwi Pops with Passion Fruit & Yogurt (see recipe below)

Whole grain waffles topped with kiwi, banana, and honey:

Yogurt topped with kiwi and dry cereal

White Chocolate, Kiwi & Mixed Berry Cobbler


For the filling:

10 Zespri kiwi’s, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (*if using frozen, first thaw and drain excess liquid)
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

For the biscuits:
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup white chocolate chips
For sprinkling:
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Combine all the filling ingredients and pour into dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.
While the filling is cooking, prepare the biscuit batter.  Combine the milk and vinegar and let sit 5 minutes to curdle.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add sugar and stir to combine.  Add the cold butter and cut into the dry ingredients using your fingers or a pastry cutter until large crumbles form.  Add white chocolate and mix to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle over the top.
Remove the pan from the oven and place large spoonfuls of batter over the top of the hot fruit.  Sprinkle top of batter with the cinnamon sugar. 
Place back in the oven and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm.
Kiwi & Peach Smoothie

2 Zespri green kiwi, peeled & chopped
2 peaches, peed, pitted, & chopped
2 bananas
¼ cup oats
1-2 tablespoons honey
¾ cup skim milk
½ cup skimmed yogurt
Combine &  blend all ingredients in blender.  Pour over ice and drink immediately.  Serves 2.
Note: since this recipe contains 2 kiwi and serves 2 portions, I ate a sliced kiwi on the side in order to consume my 2 kiwi-daily limit for the challenge!

Frozen Kiwi Pops with Passion Fruit & Yogurt


4-5 peeled & coarsely chopped Kiwis
¾ cup passion fruit pulp (you can sieve out the seeds if you wish)
¾ cup flavored fruit yogurt (I used strawberry)
*quantities will vary depending on the size of your popsicle maker
Place chopped kiwis in a blender until smooth.  Equally divide kiwi juice into the bottom of the popsicle tray, filling each compartment half-way full.  Freeze until semi-solid.  Do not freeze completely or you won’t be able to insert the popsicle stick.  Remove from freezer and pour in the passion fruit pulp.  Fill compartment with pulp until it reaches about ¾ full (including the kiwi juice).  Place back into the freezer until the pulp is semi-solid.  Remove from freezer and fill remainder of compartment with yogurt.  Place sticks/base inside the popsicle and freeze until completely frozen.

As for my experience, over the course of the 14 days I certainly felt like I had a boost of energy after inhaling my 2 kiwis in one shot. Word to the wise, try to avoid eating them at bedtime...I had a few nights where I was left wide awake after having a late night-kiwi snack. Best to consume at breakfast or for an afternoon pick-me-up. Also, being 8 months pregnant, I sure loved having all the additional fiber in my system...if you know what I mean mamas! Over-all I whole-heartily enjoyed the challenge. It was truly rewarding to know everyday I was putting something so full of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants in my system that wasn't too high in calories and was such a hug of love for my body. I will most certainly be adding kiwi's to my daily diet from now on, challenge or no challenge.
Ready to register for the Zespri 14 Day Challenge? Visit the Zespri Arabia Facebook page for all the details.   
Good luck!!! 

Sep 12, 2013

Malted Mocha Cowboy Cookies


Yeeeee-haw y’all it’s Cowboy Cookie Time.  This was actually the first time I ever made Cowboy Cookies or even tasted them for that matter.  I did a bit of research on the origin of the cookie, because let’s face it, the name doesn’t give too much away.  I kept bumping into dead-ends…seems all other bloggers, cook book authors, and even my holy-grail Martha Stewart couldn’t give a straight forward explanation on the name of these chewy lil’ cowboys.  Some say the name was derived simply from the fact that these cookies are super hearty, enough to keep a cowboy’s tummy satisfied over a long haul.  Gotta keep that giddy-up a going.
But what is really important here to understand is that these cookies offer a multitude of textures and flavors.  Every bite will keep you guessing.  Seriously my husband went through one cookie with about 5 different mmm’s and followed up with what was in that bite, it’s soooo good and wow it’s soooo chewy.  You know you’re onto something when your husband gives at least one comment other than, yes they are good, quit asking me.
I decided to add chocolate malted milk powder to these cookies because I feel it’s one of those ingredients that you can never quite put your finger on, but you know something interesting is going on.  It’s like adding salt to baked goods.  It’s a flavor that’s pretty much undetectable but just makes everything better.
Typically these cookies call for chocolate chips but I have a plethora of chocolate candies in the house that had to be used up, otherwise they’d go down the hatch (aka eaten during endless re-runs of American Pickers).  I used a combo of Whoopers and Galaxy Minstrels (a big chocolate button, similar to an m&m, but doubled in size).
Lastly, to wrap things up I’m really sorry I have to share this.  I’m from Vegas and this was always my favorite hillbilly bumper sticker around town. 
Giddy up and enjoy!  The  cookies I mean…not a cowboy.  Well, whatever you’re into…enjoy. 
Malted Mocha Cowboy Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ cup chocolate malted milk powder (plain is also fine) *I used Horlicks brand
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ cup rolled oats
7 ounces (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into small cubes
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (or try m&m’s, Whoopers, Galaxy Minstrels, or try a combination of them all.  *If you end up using the Whoppers and Minstrels as I did, be sure to chop them in half first)
¾ cup thin salty pretzels (about 1.5 ounces) broken into tiny pieces, but not crushed into dust)

In a medium sized bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch, malted milk powder, and instant espresso.  
 Add the oats and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture is light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for about 10 seconds. 
Add half of the dry ingredients and mix for about 15 seconds. 
Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.  Do not over-mix.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the chocolate chips and ½ cup of the pretzel pieces.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out dough into 2 tablespoon-sized balls.  Place balls on prepared sheets, about one inch apart.  Sprinkle remaining pretzels over the dough balls and gently press the pieces into the dough. 
*I added some additional chopped candy into the tops of the cookies as I noticed when the cookies baked, the chocolate settled into the cookie and went missing.  If you want the tops of your cookies to have nice chunks of chocolate popping out you may want to do the same, even if you're using chocolate chips.
Bake 11-13 minutes or until edges look firm (center will looks slightly chewy, this is okay).  Place pan on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes; use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.  Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.  
Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

Sep 5, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate & Pecan Cinnamon Streusel

As we slowly turn the corner into fall (well not here in Dubai, it’s still about a million degrees out…in the shade) it’s finally that time of year to dust off our pumpkin recipes.  What is it with bakers and pumpkin recipes in the fall?  Especially considering that pretty much ALL of us use canned pumpkin in our recipes, which hello! is available all year round! 

I guess it’s all about getting into the season and nostalgia of flavors we remember from our childhood.  As a kid I remember my mom baking plenty of pumpkin recipes in the fall, so as a mother now myself, it just seems like the honorary thing to do.  
And don’t ever let any hoity-toity diva tell you there is something wrong with using canned pumpkin (seriously hoity-toity is an actual word…as in THE dictionary lol).  Martha Stewart uses it and so does Ina Garten.  In fact, I was watching Ina whip up some purdy-pumpkin treat and she said specifically ‘using canned pumpkin for baking is MUCH better than hacking up one from the garden and trying to grind it down to a consistent pulp’ or you know, she said something to the effect of that anyway.  Look, canned pumpkin will always have the perfect texture, taste, and correct consistency for baking.  Save your pretty garden versions for jack o’ lantern’s or better yet, chillin' beer.  
Happy Fall!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate & Pecan Cinnamon Streusel
makes 9 large or 16 skinny-person size bars
For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar
4 ounces butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
For the Filling:
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
For the Streusel:
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 ounces butter, cold and cut into small chunks
¾ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all of the crust ingredients in a medium sized bowl. 
Combine mixture with the back of a fork until crumbly.   

Press into a 9x9 inch pan and bake for 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, combine all of the filling ingredients in the bowl of a stand up mixer (hand mixer is also fine) and mix on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes; set aside.  

Combine all of the streusel ingredients in a medium bowl.  Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.

Once the crust has finished baking, remove from oven.  Pour filling mixture over the hot crust. 
Place chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Mix with about 2 teaspoons of flour.  
Transfer chips to a sieve and shake off any excess flour. This step ensures the chocolate won't sink to the bottom of the bars.
Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the filling. 
Using your fingers, gently break apart the streusel crumbles evenly over the chocolate chips to create an even layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until streusel is set.  Let cool completely on wire rack. 
Bars are best served cold.  Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and dust with cinnamon.  Enjoy!