Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chocolate-filled Chocolate Cookies

These great chewy chocolate-filled chocolate cookies have a surprise in the center of each one. Pour yourself a cold glass of milk and get stuck in!

This recipe comes from a cookbook I haven’t picked up in ages, Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef. Of course, Jamie called them Chocolate Biscuits with Soft Chocolate Centres. I’m sharing these for Belleau Kitchen’s Random Recipe Challenge merged this month with the Chocolate Log Blog’s We Should Cocoa challenge, cohosted this month by both Dom and Choclette.

The rules are the same as normal Random Recipe Challenges. Choose a cookbook at random, make the first recipe you open to, except this month, it is make the first chocolate recipe you open to. I like to make my life simple, so I used Eat Your Books to choose both. Click on the graphic for full details.

2/3 cup or 145g butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup or 145g sugar
1 whole egg
2 cups or 250g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/3 cup or about 26g cocoa powder
3 1/2 oz or 100g chocolate bar (milk, white or dark) I used chocolate mint.

Grease a large baking sheet or line it with baking parchment. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Whisk your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in another mixing bowl.

Beat the egg into the butter/sugar mixture.

Add in the cocoa powder and the flour to make a soft dough. Beat until completely combined.

Wrap it in cling film and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Roll the dough into small balls about 1 inch or 2 centimeters across and break your chocolate bar into small squares.

Press them out into circles on your prepared cookie sheet, making sure to leave a good space between them for rising while baking.

Top each circle with a piece of chocolate.

Add another dough ball on top and press out to cover the chocolate.

Bake for 10 minutes in your preheated oven. These cookies are delicious as is but would also be great for ice cream sandwiches!


***This post has an affiliate link, which means I earn some small change if you click on the Amazon link and buy.**

Monday, February 24, 2014

Banana Sour Cream Muffins #MuffinMonday

The secret to these muffins is the sour cream. It makes them so rich and moist I will double dog dare you to eat just one. Can’t be done.

Since I’m still in Uganda, once again, I’ve chosen an ingredient that is produced here in abundance, bananas. We’ve been eating them every day and the farm where we are staying grows several types, including ones called Matoki that the Ugandans serve cooked and mashed. They taste remarkably like potatoes.  For these muffins, use normal sweet bananas.

I’ll add a little bit about my first day at Masooli School and some photos after the recipe so for anyone who is interested, scroll on down.

1 1/2 cups or 190g flour
1/2 cup or 100g cup brown sugar
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup or 120ml canola or other light oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup over-ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 medium bananas or 175g when peeled)
3/4 cup or 185g sour cream
1 large egg

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by spraying with non-stick spray or lining with muffin papers.

Combine your flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together your bananas, egg, oil, sour cream and vanilla.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stop when it’s still quite dry looking. 

Divide your batter between the 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pans and then remove to continue cooling on a wire rack.


The first day at school got off to a late start when the battery on our rented van was dead and the engine refused to turn over. The plan had been to start our “specials” of art, sewing, technology and puzzles at 8:30 and get through four half-hour sessions before recess at 10:30. Then we’d keep going for another four sessions before the 1 p.m. lunch hour. And yet another four 30-minute sessions between 2 and 4 p.m. Well, that didn’t happen. But between day one and day two, we did manage to see all of the P4, P5, P6 and P7 children, teaching in all more than 200 children.

My sewing project was for each of them to make a small drawstring bag, tied with ribbon. So far, they have all started their bags and I am hoping they will finish them in one more 30-minute session each. I will also be working with the lower grades, stringing beads and playing with punch cards and shoestring for “stitching” practice.

Here’s an amazing thing: At the instigation of my teacher friend, Margaret, also known as MJ (the one who sucked me into this!) last school year was the first time that Masooli School had a Kindergarten class so, before that, they all arrived in P1 at the age of six with no knowledge of the alphabet or counting and, frankly, no experience in the how to behave in school or listen to the teacher. This year the P1 teacher is having a joyous time! Her students already know about half of the year’s curriculum and they all know how to sit and learn and listen and interact.

Which brings me to another change that has come about in this school the last two years. The children are gradually learning to interact, to question, to discuss, to collaborate. The old educating-by-rote method, that is sheer memorization, is slowing dying out as the teachers learn to teach in a new more dynamic, interactive style. Which is a pretty amazing breakthrough. I know that is a very western idea so it will take a while to overcome the innate shyness of these students but we are already seeing the blossoming of calculative thought and reasoning.

The kindergarten students with MJ.

Putting on their new shoes to make a "short call," the Uganda term for a trip to the toilet to pee pee.

Masooli School yard

Enjoying the donated laptops

Crowding around an iTouch

Art lab

Their favorite thing:  Selfies! With one of my fellow Dubai-based volunteers.
Then they all want to see!

The lunch line at 1 p.m. - serving a hot lunch to more than 250 students.
About 120 little ones who go home before lunch get porridge mid-morning.
Sharing her juice drink in a bag with her friends.

Some of my students with their bags.  They were so proud to have sewn them! If you'd like to see photos of the area around Masooli and read about my first impressions of Uganda, check out my Muffin Monday post from last week.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Orange Honey Muffins #MuffinMonday

Sweetened naturally with honey and flavored with orange juice, these muffins make a delicious and reasonably healthy breakfast.

So, I am in Uganda, folks! I’m hoping to update this with first reactions and a little bit of what my days have been like but, just in case I don’t have internet, I’m going ahead and scheduling Muffin Monday before I leave Dubai. I’ve chosen two ingredients for today’s muffin that my research tells me are available and common in Uganda, although it seems that Ugandan oranges are a little more green on the outside than we are used to. And Ugandan honey is supposed to be wonderful.  Can’t wait to find out if that’s true!

Update: Still haven’t tried Ugandan honey but Yay! I have internet, albeit sporadically, so I’ll add my first impressions at the end of the recipe along with some photos, for those who are interested. For the rest of you, bake orange muffins with honey and think wild African thoughts! 

1 orange, for zest and decoration
2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup or 80ml honey
3/4 cup or 180ml orange juice
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
1/4 cup or 60ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar for topping, if desired

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by spraying with non-stick spray or lining with muffin papers.

Combine your flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the zest of your orange and stir well.

Peel your orange and remove all of the loose bits of white pith. Using a sharp knife, cut the hard side off of each peg and remove the seeds. Slice six of the pegs in half lengthwise. Set aside. (You can juice the rest to make up part of your 3/4 cup or 180ml orange juice or just eat the remaining pegs. Guess what I did?)

In another smaller bowl, whisk together your egg, honey, milk, orange juice and oil.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just mixed.

Divide your batter between the 12 muffin cups. Top each with an orange slice. Sprinkle with the sugar, if using.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pans and then remove to continue cooling on a wire rack.


Part of our human experience is that we try to make connections.  With people, with places we’ve lived, indeed with past experiences. As we arrived in Uganda, it felt more familiar than different. The airport was Freeport, Bahamas or Talara, Perú or Port of Spain, Trinidad many, many years ago. The landscape as we drove through the countryside shares the deep green foliage and red clay soil of Brazil or Malaysia and the dusty towns we passed through could well have been Balikpapan, Indonesia or San Fernando, Trinidad as easily as they could have been Macaé, Brazil during the years when we lived there or even our small area of Kuala Lumpur.

There were shop fronts selling myriad sundries, butchers with meat hanging in the open air, flamboyantly colored new clothes on hangers swinging in the breeze to entice passing shoppers, the languid men lounging on their boda-boda or motorcycle taxis waiting for a customer, women and children sitting on stoops, cooking or hanging out laundry and my favorite, shoe shops that were no more than a tarp laid out and spread with a colorful selection of sandals and flip flops and tennis shoes.

The red clay roads through the countryside. 

Storefronts in the village, complete with live chickens for sale.

Going through Kampala

Roadside dress shop

They carry enormous weights on their heads!
 As we passed out of the larger towns and into the countryside on our one and a half hour journey from airport to camp, many of the tiny cobbled-together houses by the roadside had little shelves in their front windows or outside their front doors with just a small bunch of tomatoes, or a couple of pineapples, perhaps some onions or eggs.

I was sitting in the front seat so I had a chance to chat with our driver and all around Mr. Get Things Done in Uganda, Kevin. When folks go to the market, they bring back a little extra to sell in the neighborhood. The slight mark-up they charge is worth it to the housewife who doesn’t have transportation and would have to either pay a motorcycle taxi or walk there herself. I thought that was pretty ingenious.

Notice the little window shelves on the houses, with a few things to sell.

No matter who you are or where you live, everybody's got laundry.

We are staying at a small farm, in thatched roof huts called rondavels. The property is owned by an English couple and they built the extra out buildings for their daughters who are now grown, so they rent them out on a daily basis.

We do have electricity and running water and even hot water if you time your shower right. The water is heated by a wood-burning stove that is lit in the morning. The windows are open and without screens so every bed has a mosquito net. Since malaria is prevalent here, sleeping under the net is imperative, as is a liberally slathering with insect repellent in the early evening.

Our rondavel
Our camp, for all its rustic appeal, has one real luxury, a freshwater pool made out of local stones in greys and blues. It is set in a huge garden with one of the most majestic trees I have ever seen. At the end of our first hot, dusty day at school (more on that next week), all I could think about was a dip in the chilly pool.

The pool. Boy, howdy, is it cold! 

Notice the person at the bottom. She is 5-foot, 5-inches tall.

We finished our first afternoon in Uganda with a quick tour of the Masooli School and a hike down to the watering hole where the villagers fill jerry cans of water for their daily use. This seems to be the responsibility of the children, with even the littlest of them carrying a small plastic jug.

Heading down to the watering hole.

A local on the left, doing it right, and one of our group trying hard on the right.

We filled only one jerry can and six of us took turns carrying it back up the hill to the school. With every plodding and ungainly step we gained a greater appreciation of the blessing that is piped in water and the strength of those wee ones who carry an equal load. All alone. Every day.

Check out next week's Muffin Monday where I've added photos of the school and our work there.

Till next week!