Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

There’s been far too many healthy recipes on Pop Therapy of late, so it was definitely time to bake something devious!!  I made these cupcakes for a friends birthday and they were a hit…. easy to make, and loved by all!!

Nothing beats an Oreo…..except maybe combining it with delicious chocolate cake, coating it in cookies and cream icing, then topping it with another Oreo….and don’t forget to serve with milk….possibly milk which contains additional Oreos…. and maybe a side of ice cream, also containing Oreos…

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I used this recipe from Bakerella

Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup hot water
24 Oreos, plus more for crumbs

Frosting:
250 grams butter
250 grams icing supar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 or more teaspoons Oreo cookie crumbs

For the cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  • Line tray with 12 baking cups.
  • Place one whole cookie in each cup or break apart at least 12 cookies and place the broken pieces into each cup.
  • Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl using a wire whisk.
  • Add the eggs, oil, vanilla and milk and mix well until thoroughly combined. Add the hot water and mix until combined.
  • Transfer the batter (it will be very liquid) to a large measuring cup and then pour batter into each baking cup so it’s about three quarters full. You should have a little left over.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Makes at least 12 cupcakes

For the frosting:

  • Beat the butter in a mixer until smooth.
  • Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Add the powdered sugar in three additions, scraping down the sides after each addition.
  • Add a Tablespoon of milk at a time and mix together until you achieve the consistency you like.
  • Add the cookie crumbs and mix until completely combined. You can add more if you like, but I just wanted a light speckling to show off the white frosting.
  • Place frosting in a decorator bag with a 1M tip and swirl on top of each cupcake.
  • Insert a cookie on top of each cupcake.
  • You can also apply frosting on each cupcake in a mounded shape. Turn upside down and roll the top around in a small bowl of cookie crumbs to coat.

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Would you try these?  Are you an Oreo lover?  What’s your dream cupcake flavour!?

Boost your Mental Toughness!!

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When you hear the term “Mental Toughness” it’s easy to think of sportspeople, or people putting themselves through extreme feats like climbing Mount Everest!!  Mental Toughness seems to be everywhere today, and is frequently referenced in sporting literature…. but do you need to be super sporty, or hike through mud and snow to be mentally tough?  Or can mental toughness help anyone achieve their goals?  Are there mentally tough musicians, dancers, office workers, accountants etc!?

Anyone, in fact, can be mentally tough….regardless of your interest or lack of interest in sport/ice bucket challenges/Tough Mudder/eating insects etc.  *Phew!*

jem balcony 3Mentally toughness can be defined as “a collection of values, attitudes, behaviours, emotions, which enable and individual to persevere through any adversity, and to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well” (Gucciardi & Gordon, 2007).  So in a nutshell, it’s about having qualities which can help direct you to persevere towards your goals and to be motivated to keep persevering!!

So what are these wonderful qualities which make up mental toughness?  Clough & Strycharczyk (2011) use the 4 “C’s” model of mental toughness, which breaks mental toughness into:

  •  Challenge – this is about embracing change, and seeing challenges as opportunities for growth!
  • Control – this is about having a “can do” attitude, feelings of accountability and belief you can achieve the outcomes you want, as well as your ability to control your emotions.
  • Confidence – a belief in your own abilities, as well as confidence in your ability to influence others!
  • Commitment – an ability to set clear goals, and to persevere towards them!

This all sounds great in theory, but are some people just born more “mentally tough” than others!?  Well luckily, mental toughness can be taught, and there are several strategies which have been tried and tested in the field of sports psychology, which are now translating to coaching and management literature.

There is no quick fix to become mentally tough, but through a combination of strategies, you can increase your mental toughness….here are a few of my favourite strategies!!

  1.  Goal setting.  Whilst this sounds simple, setting clear goals can help to direct your attention to the important tasks you need to focus on, and can enhance your commitment to goals.  Just remember to set your goals at a level of difficulty that is at the right level of challenge.  You may start which smaller, easier to achieve sub goals, then work towards increasing your sense of challenge buy progressing setting more difficult goals.  Think about how you will measure your goals….how will you know when you’ve achieved them?  Think about the support or resources you might need to achieve your goals.
  2. Mindfulness.  Mindfulness compliments mental toughness in many ways – mindfulness is actually a fantastic tool for helping you to develop attentional control and focus (a key element of the “control” component of mental toughness!).  In turn, when you’re better able to focus and remain in control of your emotions, you may just find you experience increased confidence as a result of this!
  3. Imagery.  Imagery, or mental rehearsal, is commonly used by athletes who are trying to practice and perfect their technical skills, without engaging in physical practice, and can also help increase your feelings of confidence and control.  Whatever you’re working on developing your mental toughness for, you can apply imagery to.  Are you giving a performance?  A speech?  Playing in a tennis match?  Whatever the task, close your eyes and imagine performing the task in real time.  Imagine yourself in the same setting where you would perform the actual task.  Think of the feelings you would typically have at the time of the task, and try and bring those to mind.  Practice your task/performance in as much detail as you can, using all your senses (imagining the task, imagining the sensations you would feel, imagining the sounds that you would hear).  Imagine yourself performing the task perfectly!
  4. Reflection.  Mentally tough people regularly reflect on their successes and setbacks…what worked well and what didn’t.  Reflection is a key tool to help you to review your progress, acknowledge your successes and improvements, and to make adjustments to your goals and strategies to achieve them if they’re not working!!  You could also reflect on your past successes in similar situations to increase your optimism and confidence even more!!

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Remember, like all changes, building mental toughness takes time and persistence!!  Enlisting social support from friends and loved ones can also be a great tactic to help support you in your changes.

Would you try some of these strategies?  Would you go on a mental toughness journey to help you to achieve and persevere at your goals?

Change your habits

Change is hard work!!  It’s often much easier to maintain the status quo than to challenge ourselves to change habits.

Here are a few of my favourite posts on goal setting to help you get started on the path to achieving your goals!!

What do you want to achieve?  Why does it matter to you?  Would you try some of these tips?

A simple strategy to improve your self regulation

I for one, know what it’s like to set goals just to realise I haven’t come close to achieving them!!  I’ve set about many resolutions to increase my exercise, save money, improve my diet etc, but haven’t got there…why is this? Did I not clearly define what I wanted to achieve?  Was I not motivated to actually achieve the goal? Or could it have been that I hadn’t taken the time to look at what I was currently doing, and reflect on this is relation to what I wanted to achieve.

Self regulation lies at the heart of goal setting.  Self regulation is about firstly setting a standard for our desired behaviour, then monitoring our current behaviour….if the fit between our desired goal and our current behaviour is right, then we don’t need to act to change what we’re doing….. but if what we want to achieve does not match up with what were currently doing, this discrepancy (also known as Cognitive Dissonance) then motivates us to act!!

So….when preparing to make a change, firstly, set a clear goal for what you want to achieve (for example, I want to reduce my coffee consumption to one cup per day)…and then spend some time collecting some observations about what you are currently doing (currently drinking four cups!). It’s likely that simply comparing what you’re currently doing, to the goal or standard you wish to achieve, will increase your motivation to act towards change, as you have a clear baseline for what you want to address.  Taking the time to really notice what we’re doing, also helps us to notice when we’re doing things on “auto-pilot” and to reflect on possible triggers for our behaviours. Is it that in fact I go for another coffee when I’m in need of a break, or is it to relieve boredom?

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Wanting to change your diet?  Start with a 1 week food diary where you write down everything you eat each day.  Wanting to save money?  Keep a log of every purchase you make (no matter how small) for seven days.  At the end of your week reflect on your log/diary in relation to where you want to be.  Then have a think about the triggers or antecedents that might have led to the behaviour you’ve logged.  This simple self monitoring task is very likely to increase your motivation and help you achieve your goals.  Continue your log as you set about achieving your goal, and this will give you objective feedback of your progress!!

It may sound basic, but it works!!  Have you tried this strategy when making a change?

References:

Watson, D.  (1997).  The principles of self-regulation.  Self directed behaviour:  self modification for personal adjustment. Pacific Grove:  California, pp 111 – 136.

Tumeric glow balls

I was at my local cafe the other day, and in my usual fashion, didn’t have enough coins for my coffee, and had to meet the $10 EFT minimum to pay for my precious cappuccino….usually in such a predicament, I would find this to be the perfect excuse to buy a chocolate brownie….but instead, I decided to try a bright yellow “glow bar” displayed neatly on the front counter…. the yellow “glow”, comes from tumeric, so says the delightful barista…. so I gave it a whirl, and it was delicious!!

I decided to try and make my own version (to save me $4.50 a pop)!!  These are free of sugar, dairy and wheat, but were seriously delicious!!  The addition of pineapple makes them naturally sweet and gives a tropical flavour!!

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Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tinned pineapple (you could use fresh if you want to also…I just couldn’t be bothered chopping one up!! Or you could use dried pineapple, but if you do, use less almond meal!!)
  • 1 cup almond meal (for more texture, you could also use crushed macadamias or cashews instead)
  • 1/2  a cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • An additional 1/4 cup dessicated coconut for rolling the balls

 

Method:

  1.  In a food processor, blitz the dates and pineapple
  2. Add in tumeric, and , coconut powder and protein powder and blitz again.
  3.  Gradually add in almond meal, stirring to combine
  4.  To make the balls, scoop out approximately two tablespoons of mix, and roll into balls, dipping into the extra coconut to form a coating on the outside.

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These little balls were absolutely delicious, and make the perfect mid morning snack (especially when you’re avoiding chocolate brownies!).  Have you tried tumeric in your smoothies or protein balls?

The biggest predictor of happiness

What is it that you feel you need in order to live the good life?  Is it money, a good career, being able to enjoy creature comforts?  What is it that keeps us happy throughout our lives?

A recent longitudinal study provides us with key insights into what matters most when it comes to happiness.  The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the longest study of adult development that’s ever been done.  The study involved tracking the lives of 75 men, asking them detailed questions about their health, work, family and their home lives.  The participants in the study were a group of two men; the first, a group of Harvard graduates, and the second a group of men from Boston’s poorest suburbs.

The key findings of the study were:

  •  Forget about wealth, fame and success – it’s good relationships that keep people happier and healthier
  • People with good social connections with family, friends and community are happier, healthier and live longer.
  • People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, have more declining health, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives.
  • It’s not the number of friends that you have, it’s the quality of your close relationships that counts!
  • High conflict relationships can be bad for our health!
  • Positive relationships can serve as a buffer against declining health as we age
  • With age, being in a secure relationship where we can count on the other person, can be protective for our brains (participants in their 80s in secure relationships had sharper memories than those who weren’t!!)

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The study’s director, Robert Waldinger, concludes that “the good life begins with good relationships.”

This study is another reminder that for all the demands life places on us, positive relationships are worth prioritising over all!!    Do you nurture your relationships? What can you do to feel more connected to family, friend or your community?

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Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chia seeds…..apparently they’re really good for you etc…BUT, did you know, you can also make delicious, low carb desserts with them!?  The consistency may appear alarming, but I assure you, this is a delicious and guilt free dessert or breakfast….so much so, that I’m now making them all the time!!  Yes, that’s right….and this is coming from someone who previously thought a Nutella Cronut constituted a super food (“you’ll always be super to me cronuts!”)

Chia seeds absorb liquid, and form a pudding like consistency if you leave them soaking for an hour or so.

Cocoa chia pudding

These are really easy to make!  Recipe below makes 2 servings!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey (you can add more or less honey depending on your desired sweetness)
  • 1 cup almond and coconut milk (or whatever milk you would like – I used Almond Breeze Coconut almond blend)
  • Raspberries and flaked almonds (or any fruit, nut etc) for topping

Method:  

  •  Combine chia seeds, cacao powder and cinnamon,, and pour into the bottom of an empty jar or glass
  • Pour in almond milk and stir to combine
  • Add in honey and continue stirring
  • Cover your container or jar, and leave to set in the fridge for at least one hour, or up to overnight
  • Remove from the fridge, stir, and top with your desired toppings!!

You can add any other flavour combination to this, such as vanilla bean paste, pureed mango or berries, banana etc.  You can also puree the entire pudding to make a smooth and creamy consistency if you’re not a fan of the seeds – keep in mind you may need to add some additional sweetener if you do this!!  Try dates, or additional honey or maple syrup!

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A simple, easy and guilt free dessert!!  A great option for when you’re craving some chocolately, but attempting to avoid actual CHOCOLATE!!  Are you on the chia seed bandwagon yet!?

Simply Delicious Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been attempting to clean up my diet lately, and this means cutting back on the delicious, butter and sugar filled baked goods I’ve been baking all too often lately!!

I’ve done several dairy free recipes in the past, and was loving coconut oil as an alternative to butter!!  This recipe takes it a step further, and is gluten free, as well as dairy free!!  It also uses Coconut Sugar instead of refined sugar.. Coconut Sugar has  lower GI than regular sugar so is a (slightly) better alternative.

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It uses a mix of almond meal and coconut flour in the place of regular sugar, which gives these a crumbly and slightly coconutty flavour.

These cookies are simply delicious!!  Thick and crumbly, and full of chocolate goodness!!  I used this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pack dark chocolate melts – you can use dairy free chocolate if you’re keeping the recipe dairy free Coles stock a brand called “Sweet William” who make baking chips.
  • Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a large bowl, add add in beaten egg, melted and cooled coconut oil, coconut sugar and vanilla extract. (Please make sure your coconut oil is cool!) Next add in almond flour, coconut flour and baking soda, mixing well to combine and form a dough. Fold in dark chocolate chunks. You may need to use your hands to moisten the dough so that it sticks together well.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or large tablespoon to drop dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Gently flatten the dough with your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden brown. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finishing cooling. Makes 12 cookies.

Easy to make, and easy to eat!!!  Perfect for your gluten free and dairy free pals too!!!  Do you have a favourite paleo recipe?

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Every now and then a recipe comes along that is just so darn delicious that you wonder where it’s been your whole life!  This is such a recipe!!

The combination of brown butter, and a gooey cookie dough consistency make recipe one to be reckoned with…just when you thought a cookie couldn’t get any more delicious…along comes my good friend Nutella, to make it even more amazing!!

Disclaimer:  You may want to eat far too many of these in one sitting – I strongly suggest you share these with your friends, or trouble will ensue.

I used this recipe on a Cup of Jo, by Monique at Ambitious Kitchen.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (light brown sugar works too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 tbsp Nutella (1 cup)
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper. (A 7 x 11 inch pan will also work well.)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. The butter will begin to crackle and foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. It is VERY important to let the butter cool. Please do not skip this step.

With an electric mixer, mix the brown butter and sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined, smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.

Divide the cookie dough batter in half. Spread half of the dough onto prepared pan, patting towards the edges. Try to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed; it’s going to seem like a thin layer but they will bake up and be glorious.

Drop Nutella by tablespoonfuls on top of first layer of cookie dough. You’ll want to do this all around the pan, leaving a small amount of space on the edges. Next, spread Nutella with a spatula so that it’s in an even layer on top of the cookie dough. Top Nutella with remaining batter, making sure Nutella is completely covered. Tip: I drop a handful of cookie dough in different areas on top of the Nutella, then use my hands to pat the cookie dough into an even layer.

Bake for 23 to 27 minutes, or until edges begin to turn a slight golden brown. I like to underbake mine a little so they stay gooey and soft in the middle. Sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.

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If you love these, I also recommend trying these brown butter chocolate chip cookies, stuffed with Nutella!!

Dairy free cacao thickshake

So it’s taken me several attempts to spell “Cacao” correctly….no, it isn’t a spelling error, it’s just a healthier and less refined version of our good friend cocoa (Who knew!?).

Now that I’m taking a temporary break from my good friends butter, saturated fat and refined sugar, I’m on a quest for heathy but delicious recipes.  If you’ve read my blog for a while now, you’ll be well aware that I do enjoy a good unhealthy treat, but it’s time for me to put the mod in moderation!!

After one too many Nutella milkshakes, topped with Nutella Donuts (Yes, they exist), I’m off the baked goods (hell, for a good few days at least!!).  Today I made this delicious alternative, which is dairy free, contains no refined sugar or sweeteners, and is naturally sweet and creamy!!  Perfect as a post workout shake, or as a healthy desert!!

Dairy Free Cacao smoothie

Ingredients:

  •  Two tablespoons Cacao powder (I used Blackmores – it’s not cheap, but you only need a small amount per serve)
  • 1 large banana (frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 cup coconut almond milk (I used Almond Breeze) – you can use plain almond or the milk of your choice if you prefer.
  • 1 handful of ice

Blend to combine – the consistency should be nice and thick!!

This was legit delish!  Do try it!! :)  Do you have a favourite healthy smoothie recipe?  I would love to hear it!!