Friday, April 29, 2011

A double product review: Orgran Amaretti Biscotti and Orgran Kids Dinosaur Wholefruit Cookies (both vegan)

I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks now, which might give you a clue as to how exciting (or otherwise) I found one of these products. I really like the Orgran brand and so was disappointed not to be able to review both biscuits favourably, but ultimately only one proved to be a hit for me. 

Can you guess which it was? :)

To start: Amaretti Biscotti

In summary: As with all Orgran products, these biscuits are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, yeast, soy and genetically modified ingredients. Thus, they tick the vegan box and several more. They are one of several biscotti flavour options and the biscuits are light and slightly crunchy.

The verdict: I like biscotti, I like almond-flavoured biscuits and I like Orgran products, so I really expected to like these. Sadly, I can't quite say that I did.

There was something about the taste and texture that just didn't do it for me, and I struggled to pick up much almond flavour. Although the almond in Amaretti is subtle, I am fairly sure it should be at least slightly detectable.

In contrast, I could taste coconut (the sixth ingredient, before almond flavour), and found the texture to be more like a macaroon than a biscotti or almond cookie.

Ingredients and nutrition: The biscuits are obviously above average in meeting vegan and gluten free criteria, but otherwise have a fairly typical nutritional profile for a biscuit (e.g., 21.4g fat, 2.1g fibre and 476 calories per 100g).

Overall verdict: 5 / 10.

These are definitely my least favourite Orgran product to date, although I'm still grateful the brand tries as hard as it does to provide a range of vegan / allergy friendly products.

Next up: Kids Dinosaur Wholefruit Cookies.

If you thought the adult biscuit option was going to be the winner, you were wrong :P 

In summary: These appealed to me far more than the biscotti and I liked the small size of the dinosaur shapes (although I confess I didn't think they looked like dinosaurs!). They are also free of white sugar and thus taste sweet without being too sweet. The fruit component really provides most of the flavour and sweetness.

I imagine these would go down well with their intended child audience, as in addition to the pleasant taste they are small, interestingly shaped, and would no doubt be fun to eat if you liked dinosaurs or animal shapes of any kind.

Can you see a dinosaur? They look more like bears to me!

Ingredients and nutrition: These biscuits really tick the nutrition box. They provide 10.8g fibre, 4.5g fat (1.6g saturated) and 338 calories per 100g. Although still reasonably high in sugar (37.8g / 100g), much of this is from the fruit. Indeed, at 25%, currants are the first ingredient listed.

Overall verdict: 8 / 10. I don't know if this suggests I am immature, or if the Amaretti Biscotti really do miss their target with flavour, but I can see myself buying the Dinosaur Fruit Cookies again and not the Biscotti!

Have you tried Orgran biscuits? Do you have a favourite?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And back to work we go (ho hum, ho hum)

Yesterday morning I felt a bit like a small child returning to school after the summer holidays. There are many advantages to 5-day weekends, but perhaps some slight disadvantages too. Fortunately, the feeling didn't last long and there are now only two days left until next weekend. Including today!

Interestingly, I do feel like I got much more done in 5 days at home than I usually do in 5 days at work. I managed to do most of the things I wanted to do, minus cleaning the windows (although I did clean the blinds!) and re-planting my vegetable patch. I was at least able to plan what I will re-plant, so I am hoping to get to the planting in the next week or so.

One thing is certain: I produced plenty of snack options to fuel the return to work.

In addition to said snack-y items, my return to work was enhanced by rainy, cool, cloudy, lovely weather. I am going to regret that last sentence in a month or two when I am permanently cold and wasting electricity on constant heater use, but I really love the transition to autumn.

Note the real rain drops! As in water from the sky, not the garden hose!

And after just 0.4mm of rain in February and March combined, we have had over 12mm in the last 2 days. It's quite a strange experience.

I can get out scarves...

Drink even more tea...

And sleep under the weight of a quilt, instead of a sheet.

I'm also looking forward to some cooler weather recipes, and being able to use my oven without turning into a melted puddle.

All of this makes me feel very snug :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter baking part II

Easter baking part I featured a repeat effort at berry oat slices and introduced a vegan lemon pie slice.

Both involved an oven and, as the name would suggest, baking.

Easter baking part II actually didn't involve any baking. No oven, no heat, no cooking.

I know, my title lies.

The upside is, these two products are very easy to make and are well worth the minimal effort required!

Hannah's recipe can also make spreadable Chocolate Coconut Hazelnut butter, and I had originally planned to make half butter-y and half fudge-y. In the end, though, I ended up going for all fudge. I am glad I did...

...because the fudge-y squares are good :)

The only modification I made to Hannah's recipe was to use 35g of dessicated coconut instead of 55g, as I didn't want the coconut to be too overpowering. It worked brilliantly. I found the taste to be very slightly reminiscent of a Golden Rough, but better, and more adult-like in taste and texture.

Incidentally, I promise the squares in my pictures aren't really the size of brownies (although I can understand why one might want to make them that large). I should have put something in for scale - they're about 2cm across.

Second: Two varieties of raw (or nearly raw) balls.

The first variety was a standard 1 cup raw almonds, 1 cup chopped dates, 1 tsp vanilla affair. Process the almonds, add the dates and vanilla, process some more, and roll balls in dessicated coconut before setting in the fridge.

The second was adapted from a Nestle recipe for fruity chocolate truffles, which I had tucked away for some reason that I am not fully aware of (I don't usually make recipes provided by companies / brands).

I processed 1/2 cup raw almonds, then added 1/2 cup chopped dates, 1/2 cup sultanas, 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate, 1 tsp cocoa and 1 tsp vanilla and processed some more. I rolled these balls in extra cocoa.

The chocolate date balls were softer than the plain date / almond ones, so could be set (or stored) in the freezer as an alternative to the fridge.

Each batch made around 20.

I actually found the chocolate version of these to be a little disappointing - I thought they lacked punch. I think if I made them again, I would add some peppermint essence, chilli, or some other flavour to give them a kick.

My partner also commented that they were a bit sweet, and I think adding other flavours would balance out the date / chocolate sweetness.

With that said, my brother and sister reportedly liked them, so it might depend on your taste.

I really like the plain date and almond ones though. There's not much that can go wrong with that combination (although having said that, I am probably now inviting a date and almond disaster to visit my kitchen...).

All in all, a productive food weekend! And probably enough baking for a little while...

Monday, April 25, 2011

ANZAC Day and a tree-based outing

On the 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli, Turkey, to join allied solders in the fight that was World War I.

By the end of 1915, over 8,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers had died in Turkey.

Over the full course of World War I, 416,809 Australian men enlisted to fight. Of these, over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner*. A combined total of 52%.

Of course, many more men from other countries were also affected. And others would have survived physically, but born the emotional scars for the rest of their lives.

On the 25th April each year, we continue to remember those who fought, those who gave their lives, and those who lost loved ones. In World War I and all the wars since.

Today, I didn't march or attend a memorial ceremony. But I did think of those who had gone to war and I was grateful I could do this in a peaceful country, where I can walk alone without worrying about my safety.

We also headed out of the city today, and the trip to trees, gravel roads and fewer people (although we did pass some very crowded camp sites!) seemed somehow appropriate.

We walked...

Saw strange sap:

Passed multiple route trails...

Climbed hills...

And saw scenery worth stopping for...

Again, all things that I am grateful for having access to in a free country.

What about you? Do you honour any remembrance days (formally or informally), or know anyone (or been yourself) affected by war?

In a non-ANZAC day sense, happy Easter Monday :)

* Statistics from the Australian War Memorial website

Sunday, April 24, 2011

6 signs you may not yet be a proper adult

1. You wake up at 5.30am and experience absolute glee when you remember that this morning, you get to be the Easter Bunny and hide easter eggs around the house. Lie awake for some 15 minutes planning where the eggs might be hidden.

This exciting experience stems from your partner reaching adulthood without ever having an Easter egg hunt (I know!). With this being the first year you are living together at Easter, you have a chance to rectify the situation.

2. Go back to sleep, but wake up an hour later to the sound of rain. Experience yet more excitement at the presence of rain after many months without it, and seriously consider going outside in your pyjamas to see liquid falling from the sky first hand.

Decide against this, but hope that it lasts long enough for you to get wet on your run.

3. When you do head out the door at about 7.45am (after hiding Easter eggs!!), have a marvellous time running in the rain.

[Of note, this would not be enjoyable if it was winter.)

4. Whilst running, start thinking about random things that make you laugh, for no apparent reason. Some examples of such random things may include:

- The time you got stuck up a tree. This year.

- The fact that Wikipedia has an entry on biscuit dunking. Although you are wholly in favour of biscuit dunking,  the presence of a Wikipedia entry on the topic is, to you, hillarious.

- The time you and your sister starting laughing like hyenas, in tandem. You really had to be there.

Whilst thinking about these things, you try not to laugh out loud, but may not be entirely successful.

5. Return home and take photos of the Easter eggs hidden around the house. Tweak a few positions. If you like, hum happily whilst you do this.

Spot the eggs

6. Feel ridiculously pleased that you are going for a bike ride this afternoon.

It was a good morning!

Happy Easter :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter baking part I and a vegan lemon pie slice


I spent a very happy 3 hours in the kitchen yesterday :) I didn't do overly well at reducing my options, although I did cull from 8 possibilities to 4 final creations.

One of those was a repeat effort of Oh She Glow's Berry Oat Squares, which I made just 4 weeks ago, but nonetheless wanted again (which shows how much I liked them!). I made a full berry batch this time and they turned out just as well as the first set.


I also made a modified version of a Lemon Bars slice recipe. The original version called for butter, eggs, and 1/4 cup + 1 cup + 1/3 cup of sugar. I've been having fun with veganising recipes lately, so I thought I'd try turning this one vegan too. I also reduced the sugar and used more lemon juice than the original recipe.

Vegan Lemon Pie Bars
Makes 12 - 16; Adapted from All Recipes Lemon Bars

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy spread, melted
  • 2 tbsp apple sauce

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Egg replacers to the equivalent of 2 eggs (I used Orgran: 2 tbsp powder mixed with 4 tbsp water, as per pack directions)
  • 5 tbsp lemon juice
  • Small amount lemon zest (~1 tsp)


1) Start by pre-heating your oven to 175'C and lining a square baking dish with baking paper (see note below on baking dish sizes).

2) Combine base ingredients and press into pan; bake for 15 minutes or until just firm and starting to turn golden.

3) Combine dry topping ingredients (sugars, flour, baking powder), then add the egg replacement (or eggs) and lemon juice and zest. Beat for ~1 minute.

4) Pour the liquid ingredients over the pre-baked base. At this point you might be concerned that the topping is too liquid-y - don't worry!

 5) Return to the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until the top is set and slightly golden. At this point you might be worried that the product doesn't look very attractive - again, don't worry!

Allow to cool before cutting into slices. Express some relief that when out of the tin, the slices look fine.

I was really happy with the finished product - nice and lemony, with a good combination of sweet and tart. I found the taste and texture to be similar to lemon pie, but less rich (although they are still quite filling).

The one criticism I had for these was that they were a bit 'flat' in appearance. I used a square baking tin and I think a smaller size than the one I own (or even a narrower loaf tin) would work better. Possibly the egg replacements also didn't give the filling as much 'fluff' as eggs would have, so the original recipe may have risen more.

Aside from that, though, I was happy with the end point and they were a good match for the berry oat slices.

Both were also welcomed by my non-vegan family last night, which I think has to be a good sign...when I saw my brother going back for seconds, I knew the changes in ingredients couldn't be too extreme!

The other half of yesterday's kitchen efforts will appear before long :)