Chewy Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks {flourless}

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

It kind of snuck up on us, but hey! This blog just hit 1500 followers and it now has over 70000 page views. That’s a pretty neat feat! I wish I could update this space more often, but it gets a little tough when you’ve got so many other things to juggle. That said, James and I have been researching things to do in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Mount Kōya and Osaka. We’ve booked everything for our November-December Japan trip and I’m happy to announce that we have a very packed itinerary already planned. James will be going to Vanuatu for Christmas as soon as we get back, and then he’ll be meeting me in Singapore to welcome the New Year! Looks like the final few weeks of 2014 are going to be pretty hectic for us.

Organic Coconut Oil Chopped Dark Chocolate Oats, Barley and Coconut Honey

We made cookies a few weeks ago. I decided to experiment with a new ingredient: rolled barley flakes! Now, I don’t think I have ever mentioned barley on this blog before, so let’s talk a little bit about that. When cooked, barley has a chewy, pasta-like consistency and a subtle nutty flavour. I was brought up in Singapore, so I am most familiar with the grain being used as an ingredient to make barley water, a refreshing drink sweetened with rock sugar (and sometimes flavoured with lemon) that has time and again been touted for its healing properties. Not many people are aware of barley’s health benefits and write it off as just another typical cereal grain. However, barley actually has some pretty impressive attributes that surpass even oats.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Health Benefits of Barley:

  • controls blood sugar better
  • lowers glucose levels
  • lowers glycemic index
  • better insulin response
  • beats oats in glucose response study
  • reduces blood pressure
  • significantly lowers total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • significantly reduces visceral fat

Source: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

These cookies consist of a blend of rolled oats and rolled barley, a good deal of desiccated coconut, some coconut oil, a drizzle of honey, two eggs, and a wild smattering of dark chocolate chunks. If you think about it, that’s not really a whole lot of ingredients. These are the chewy, crumbly kind of cookie — dense, textured and tightly packed with wholesome grains, a breakfast cookie if you will. Flavour-wise, they remind me of soft and chewy Anzac biscuits that aren’t overly sweet and are maybe just a little bit healthier for you. The distinctive taste of coconut and the smooth richness of dark chocolate perfectly complement the hearty mouthfeel of the oats and barley to create a wonderfully satisfying snack.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Chewy Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks
adapted from The Healthy Chef’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies; yield: ~12 large cookies.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup rolled barley
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
60g coconut oil, melted
60g honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100g dark chocolate, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, barley, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, honey and eggs. Thoroughly mush everything together using clean fingers so that the ingredients clump together.
  3. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, then add the chopped chocolate and combine.
  4. Carefully form the mixture into 12 large cookies and place them onto the prepared baking tray, flattening each cookie slightly. The mixture is quite sticky – dampen your fingers with some water to prevent it from sticking to you while you shape the cookies.
  5. Bake cookies for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until golden and fairly firm on top.
  6. Remove tray from oven and leave cookies to cool before serving. They will be crumbly when hot, but will firm up when they cool.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Chinese Garden of Friendship @ Darling Harbour, Sydney

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

Prior to heading to the aquarium, we took a look around the beautiful Chinese Garden of Friendship. Conveniently located at Darling Harbour, the garden was built as a symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhou to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. Aesthetic and harmonious elements make up the garden’s sizeable landscape: koi-filled lakes, gushing waterfalls, curious rock formations, stunning bonsai trees and the presence of interesting wildlife, just to name a few. With such lovely backdrops for photographs, it is no wonder the garden is known as a popular venue for weddings and functions.

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

When James was young, he had always wanted to move to Sydney. In his mind’s eye, he pictured himself visiting the garden regularly during his spare time, spending the day there and maybe reading a book in one of the peaceful pavilions. The idea that such a tranquil space could exist in the middle of a bustling city environment greatly appealed to him. As for me? Well, a magpie-lark decided to attack me while we were there (I guess it really didn’t like my camera and my god, that beak makes a vicious weapon), so I have other ideas about this garden. At least a territorial seagull came along and managed to teach that evil bird a good lesson!

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, SydneyChinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

CHINESE GARDEN OF FRIENDSHIP
Pier Street, Darling Harbour
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm
Admission: $6 (adult), $3 (child/concession)
www.chinesegarden.com.au

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

Other posts from the Sydney series:
Angela’s Birthday Weekend Getaway | Taronga Zoo @ Sydney, New South Wales

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins {with coconut oil & soy milk}

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

We’ve been watching a lot of movies of varying genres lately. I finally caved and sat through Disney’s Frozen (2013) for the first time and I must say: how the in the world did I ever go so long without watching such an adorable movie?! Sven, that ridiculous reindeer, was my number one favourite. Ender’s Game (2013), a sci-fi film based on a novel by Orson Scott Card, struck me as somewhat slow-moving, but the story remained fascinating enough for me to watch the entire thing. Asa Butterfield is quite an impressive actor, and you can’t really fault Harrison Ford. We also watched Odd Thomas (2013), a mystery thriller based on a Dean Koontz novel about a dude who can see dead people, though it is nothing like that creepy movie with Bruce Willis. The plot is intriguing, oftentimes incredibly amusing and actually altogether quite brilliant. Finally and most recently, we watched Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006). Probably one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen. At least that was the conclusion I came to after watching the final few scenes. Those of you who’ve seen it will know exactly what I mean. Nonetheless, the cinematography was superb and who doesn’t love Ben Whishaw and Alan Rickman?

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Okay, so these muffins. I would like to stress the importance of the lack of butter and full cream milk in this recipe. Use coconut oil and soy milk (any non-dairy milk, really) and you will be rewarded with muffins that are healthier and not overly heavy. These muffins will sit much more comfortably in your stomach than any regular dairy-laden muffin would. Also, use dark chocolate chips with a high percentage of cocoa. If you don’t already know, the plant chemicals in dark chocolate have been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, among many other things. Read more about the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption here. As for coconut oil, you can find some evidence-based health benefits of the superfood ingredient here, if you are interested.

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

The muffin batter is easy enough to whip together — you’ll end up with a pale and pretty mixture reminiscent of cookie dough. The muffins themselves rise beautifully in the oven and bake to a lovely crisp-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside sort of perfection. I think it’s safe to say these were a huge hit with everyone who tried them. Well, you’d be a lunatic to turn down something so thoroughly studded with warm, ooey-gooey, melty chocolate chips. Granted, these little baked goodies seemed to be more chocolate than muffin, really. What’s not to like?

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Interested in other types of muffins? We can offer recipes for a good batch of Sugar-Dusted Green Tea Chocolate Chip Muffins {eggless & butterless}, Chocolate Honey Buckwheat Muffins {gluten, grain & dairy free}, Savoury Polenta & Semi-Dried Tomato Chilli-Cheese Muffins {butterless}, and Chocolate Cream Cheese Walnut Muffins {eggless}.

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins {with coconut oil & soy milk}
a simple butterless recipe for chocolate chip muffins; yield: ~12 regular muffins.

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup organic soy milk*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups dark chocolate chips

* I used Pureharvest’s Organic Unsweetened & Malt-Free Soy Milk in this recipe.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 210°C and line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Mix well, set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly stir together the coconut oil, soy milk and eggs.
  4. Using a large wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined – don’t worry if the mixture remains a little lumpy.
  5. Add the dark chocolate chips and gently fold them into the mixture. Do not overmix.
  6. Carefully spoon equal amounts of the batter into the prepared paper cases, filling them just over three-quarts full.
  7. Bake in the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are a nice golden brown and have started to crack a little.
  8. Remove tray from oven and transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Best eaten still slightly warm.

Storage tip: Let muffins cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. Muffins will keep for about 4-5 days after baking. For a heavenly, gooey, melty chocolate treat, zap muffins in the microwave for a quick 20 seconds before eating — they’ll be hot and fluffy just like when they first came out of the oven!

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Taronga Zoo @ Sydney, New South Wales

Crimson Finch

Taronga Zoo was on the list of places that I insisted we visit during our weekend stay in Sydney. You know me: as an avid photographer, I’d jump at any chance to spend a few (okay, many) hours in a place full of animals. And lucky us, the weather was absolutely gorgeous when we set out — frilly clouds against a stark blue sky, calm breezes without too much bite. As our hotel was located in the CBD, we figured the easiest way for us to get there was to catch a ferry from Circular Quay. It got us there in under 15 minutes.

Taronga Zoo

Situated on a hill along the shores of Sydney Harbour, Taronga Zoo’s elevated vantage point charmingly presents visitors with a lovely view of Sydney Cove, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The zoo itself spans approximately 21 hectares and is home to over 4,000 animals from over 350 species. We came across creatures big and small – from mega Asian elephants to tiny Gouldian finches. There was quite a bit to see. Needless to say, we were at the zoo from morning to sundown. The following images make up just a fraction of the overall potpourri of pictures we managed to snap.

Red Panda Red Panda Red Panda Red Panda Red Panda Ducks Ducks Duck Koi Pond Koi Pond Koi Pond Koi Pond Koi Pond Ducks Mandarin Duck and Java Finch Mandarin Duck Black Ibis Java Finch Java Finch Asian Elephants Asian Elephant Gorilla Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Sea Lion Taronga Zoo Taronga Zoo Lemur Lemur Lemur Lemur Lemur Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Giraffe Mountain Goat Mountain Goat Mountain Goat Tiger Tiger Fennec Fox Meerkat Meerkat Meerkat Meerkat Rooster Rooster Peacock Peacock Green Pygmy-Goose Green Pygmy-Goose Gouldian Finch Finches Crimson Finch Crimson Finch Crimson Finch Gouldian Finch Gouldian Finch Gouldian Finch Rainbow Lorikeet

TARONGA ZOO
Bradleys Head Road
Mosman, NSW 2088
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm/4:30pm (summer/winter)
Admission: $46 (adult), $23 (child)

See what we thought about other zoos and animal parks here:
1. The Singapore Zoo / Singapore
2. Nogeyama Zoological Gardens / Japan
3. Marine Life Park S.E.A. Aquarium / Singapore