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Healthy Choc Chip Cookies (or cookie dough for the rebels)

“They say we should all be eating more raw foods.
That’s all I needed to hear to whip up another batch of cookie dough.”

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In hindsight, I can’t believe I’ve never tried to come up with a healthy choc chip cookie recipe before. It might be because when I’m really craving choc chip cookies, only a real choc chip cookie (and I’m talkin’ Mrs. Fields’ crispy-around-the-edges-n-super-chewy-n-gooey-in-the-middle) will satisfy the gnawing Cookie Monster within.

Have I ever mentioned that my 18th birthday cake was a giant double-layer Mrs Fields choc chip cookie? Probably not, because it was 5 years ago. Anyway, I was secretly elated when the ‘cake’ was cut and all my guests were too focused on their ridiculous dance moves to care for anything edible but jelly shots. Guess what 200 leftover servings of utter deliciousness meant? Weeks and weeks of cookies for me! My younger brother quickly caught on to the fact, so I hid the giant red box under my bed.

Needless to say, I’m glad my cookie-hoarding day are over.
I still love cookies and everything to do with them: cookies and cream ice cream, cookie dough, cookie dough in ice cream – you name it (it’s quite plausible that I love cookie dough more than I love actual cookies themselves).
However, if I allowed myself a cookie each and every time I felt like one, I’d be well on my way to Type II diabetes. So here’s a way to have your cookie and eat it, too!

If you’re someone who loves cookies that have a slight crispness on the outside and are soft and crumbly on the inside, then you will love this recipe. However, if you prefer those Mrs Fields-esque cookies I keep harping on about (crispy on the outside and super chewy on the inside), you might need a little more convincing. Like all healthy baking of sweets, there’s only so much you can achieve without that wonderful amalgamation of butter, sugar and flour! Still, taking into consideration that these cookies are butter free, refined flour free and refined sugar free (depending on which choc chips you use), I’m pretty darn happy with them! They’ve also won a big tick of approval from my Dad which, by his traditional-sugar-and-fat-loving standards, means a lot. I always say that if a recipe fools the boys, it’ll fool the world.

I really shouldn’t be condoning this, but I’m just saying, if you’re as terrible at the waiting game as I am, you won’t be able to go without tasting the dough. And when you do, you’ll wish you hadn’t. See the 11 cookies in the photo above? Yeah well that’s all that came out of the oven, and the original recipe should make around 16-18. Told you I love cookie dough.
What’s salmonella?

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The testing of this recipe wasn’t exactly seamless. Is baking ever seamless? I’m doubtful.
The first time around, I left the coconut oil to reach smoke point unattended on the stove  (do not ever, ever do this) and it melted every plastic appliance in its wake as I frantically hurled it into the sink (please don’t ever do this, either). During this frazzled episode,  l also forgot to refrigerate the dough before baking and the cookies turned out more like sad, dilapidated muffins than cookies – too cakey and crumbly for my liking (take note: chilling the dough is essential!). During the second attempt, I somehow managed to knock a cup of melted –and hot, but not quite smoke point-hot– coconut oil all over the kitchen bench and onto our very porous floor tiles. Mum was not impressed when she got home to discover “white fat” all over the cupboards and in the Thermomix blades. Oops.

Third time lucky, hey?

Healthy Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oat flour (see method)
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking/bi-carb soda (NOT baking powder)
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark choc chips (as dark as possible. You could also use an organic dark chocolate bar chopped into tiny chunks), plus extra.

Method

  1. Melt the coconut oil and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make the oat flour, place approx. 90g traditional oats in a high-powered food processor and process until a fine flour forms. Using a spoon, measure out a cup of the oat flour. Be careful not to pack the flour in too tightly (hence using a spoon), or the cookies will turn out dry.
  3. In a bowl, combine the oat flour, spelt flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the egg, coconut oil, coconut sugar and vanilla until combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.
  5. Fold through the choc chips until just combined.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180’C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and give it a feel. If it feels too firm to easily break bits off, allow it to soften at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. It’s read to use when it’s quite firm, but bits can easily be broken off it.
  9. Break tablespoon size bits off the dough, form into rough balls and place on the tray. Repeat until approx. 16 cookies have been formed (depending on how much dough you ate!). Press down on each cookie to flatten only slightly. Press extra choc chips into the tops of the cookies, if desired.
  10. Place onto the middle oven rack and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges. They should still be light in the middle (the cookies in the top photo were cooked a minute too long).
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 3 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Of course, these cookies are delicious warm, but bear in mind that they will be a little crumbly until they cool completely.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

 

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Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

It’s no secret that I’m a breakfast person. Whether it’s eggs, smashed avo, pancakes, Acai, smoothies, quinoa/chia pudding, French toast, waffles or granola, no type of food makes me more excited than breakfast food. A few years ago, I’d have scoffed at the suggestion of eating leafy greens for breakfast. A bowl of kale and spinach for my wake up call? No thanks, I needed to be eased into my veggie intake for the day. I didn’t see fibrous leaves fitting into my precious morning meal ritual unless they were blended into microscopic particles and masked by fruit in a smoothie.

That all changed during my first visit to Byron Bay’s Bayleaf cafe, my now go-to brunch spot when I’m in town. It was around 1pm on a Saturday arvo and I’d had a big one at the Beach Hotel the night before, so I was feeling a little rusty. Given the circumstances, I’d usually go for something a little heartier like smashed avo with poachies and slow cooked ham hock *drool*, but I decided that if there was one place in the world I would channel my soul’s most inner zen, it was Byron. So I took a leap of faith and ordered the Brekky Greens. Annnnnnd I was blown away.

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Here’s my take on Bayleaf Cafe’s Brekky Greens. It’s probably not as good as Bayleaf’s anyway, but let’s face it, any meal tastes better when it’s served up to you by a Xavier Rudd/Chris Hemsworth hybrid as you sway to the dreamy notes of an acoustic busker in the distance, looking out at the blue sky over one of Australia’s –and arguably the world’s– coolest seaside locations, but I reckon it tastes pretty awesome. It’s hard to believe that something so honestly healthy can be packed with so much flavour!

Although it’s called a Brekky Greens Bowl, this salad can be enjoyed any time of day. The best thing about it is that because its lightly cooked and warm, you don’t feel like you’re chowing down bland greens – it’s surprisingly hearty! Plus the textures are amazing. Feel free to chop and change this recipe up to suit your preferences; pistachios instead of almonds, quinoa instead of buckwheat, adding green beans and broccolini.

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Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

Ingredients
Serves 1

  • 1-2 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 large handfuls kale, leaves removed from stalk and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 spring onions (green part only for low FODMAP), chopped
  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup activated buckwheat grouts
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp minced chilli (or 1/2 – 1 medium chilli – remove the seeds if you’re not huge on spice!)
  • 1 small handful each fresh mint, coriander and parsley
  • 1 organic free range egg
  • 1 tbs roasted almonds, chopped (I just throw raw almonds under the grill for a minute or two)
  • 1-2 tbs dukkah (available from spice markets, delis and most supermarkets)
  • 1/3 lemon
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced

Method

  1. Fill a small saucepan 2/3 of the way and bring to the boil. Reduce to low/medium and add buckwheat grouts. Cook for 10 mins or until soft but still chewy. They should not be mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. To soft boil the egg, Place the egg in a saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Once the water has started boiling, reduce to a simmer (medium heat) and cook for 3 minutes for a creamy yolk or 4.5 minutes for a harder yolk. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg and run under cold water. Peel under the water and set the egg aside.
  3. In the meantime, heat the coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry the spring onion and chilli for around 2 mins or until fragrant.
  4. Add the kale and cooked buckwheat. Sauté until the kale begins to wilt, around 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and fresh herbs and cook for a further minute. Season with Himalayan sea salt.
  5.  Transfer to a serving bowl or plate. Squeeze desired amount of lemon juice over the salad. Slice the egg in half and add to the dish along with the sliced avocado, almonds and extra chilli, if desired. Sprinkle generously with dukkah and serve.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax
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Lemon & Raspberry Oat Balls

It would be ill-mannered of me to start this post without first apologising for my serious illustration of MIA over the past few months. It’s a crappy excuse I know, but life’s demands have been getting the better of me. Life before full time Uni, work commitments and several ongoing projects allowed for much more time in the kitchen, but I’ve been feeling very guilty lately so I’m going to make a huuuuuge effort to post more regularly from now on!

What better way to butter you up than with a pretty little sweet treat?
My website is definitely calling out for more quick and tasty on-the-go snack recipes, so I thought I’d go down the ‘bliss balls’ road, only these ones don’t contain dates and are almost fructose free. The coconut and almond give these balls a velvety creaminess, which is lovely with the tartness of the lemon and raspberry. They’re perfect to munch on in between meals, with a cuppa, or when those after-dinner sweet cravings strike!

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Lemon & Raspberry Oat Balls

Ingredients
Makes approx. 10 balls

  • 1 cup oat flour (made from approx. 100g rolled oats – see method)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut plus extra, to roll.
  • 1/8 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup thawed frozen raspberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs rice malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

  1. In a high-power processor, process the rolled oats until a fine flour forms. Around 100g oats should yield 1 cup of oat flour.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the mixture is smooth and well combined. It should be very soft (they set quite hard in the fridge), but not dry or wet. Add more oat flour/coconut oil if necessary.
  3. Roll into balls using your hands, then roll in desiccated coconut, cacao or crushed macadamias. I rolled some of mine in crushed goji berries and bee pollen, but the plain coconut ones are my fave! Allow to set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Lemon and Coconut Slice

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In primary school, vary rarely would I leave our after-school trips to the local bakery without a lemon slice in hand. My irrepressible love continued into the early years of high school where I’d make a batch most weekends, using half of the sweetened condensed milk for the biscuit base and drinking the rest straight from the tin…

Still to this day, I’ll never knock back a little nibble on a traditional Lemon Slice in all its delectably sweet, lemony, melt-in-your-mouth biscuity glory, but it’s great to know that I can enjoy a full slice of my healthified version without the guilt or sugar slump afterwards. This Lemon and Coconut Slice recipe tastes unbelievably close to the real deal, and has all those familiar characteristics: just enough sweet, perfectly lemony with a base so buttery (sans butter or biscuits) that it melts in your mouth. I can’t wait for you to try it!

Like all my recipes, it’s very adaptable to suit your taste buds, dietary requirements or what’s in your pantry. Just use similar ingredients to those you can’t/don’t have, and you should end up with a fairly similar result.

Lemon and Coconut Slice

Ingredients Biscuit base:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans*
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 tbs linseeds (or any other seeds)
  • 2.5 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 4 tbs melted coconut oil (or 2tbs each coconut oil & almond/macadamia oil)
  • Generous pinch of Himalayan sea salt

Lemon cream topping:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews*
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/3 cup + 2tbs coconut cream
  • 1.5 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 – 1 lemon (depending on how lemony you like it)

Method

  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper. Please note, the quantities above yield enough to fill half a normal slice tray (4 full sized bars or 8 small squares). If you want to make a full sized slice recipe –and fill the tin– simply double the ingredients.
  2. To make the biscuit base, use a high-powered processor to process the buckwheat groats, seeds, pecans and salt until a fine crumb forms. Add the oats and coconut and blitz again (I like my oats a little chunky, but you can blend for longer to make a fine crumb). Add the oil and maple syrup and process until it all comes together and is sticky. You may need to scrape the bowl/jug down a few times to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Press firmly into the prepared slice tin (see images for thickness) and place in the freezer to set while you make the topping.
  3. To make the lemon topping, process the cashews, coconut and lemon rind until a super-fine crumb forms, taking care not to over-process into butter. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy.
  4. Remove the base from the freezer and top with the lemon cream, using the back of a dessert spoon to smooth. Top with extra shredded coconut and allow to set in the fridge for an hour or so.
  5. Once set, cut into 4 large bars or 8 squares. I would say one square is a good sized portion for a snack.

Notes:

  • The quantities above yield enough to fill half a normal slice tray (4 full sized bars or 8 small squares). If you want to make a full sized slice recipe –and fill the tin– simply double the ingredients.
  • If you like your slice extra lemony, try adding zest of 1/2 lemon to the biscuit base.
  • For a gluten free version, replace the oats with buckwheat groats or gluten free oats (depending what your stance on GF oats is).
  • Ingredients marked with an asterisk* are higher in FODMAPs than the others. As such, this recipe is relatively low in FODMAPs, but it is not FODMAP free. Modify the quantities to suit your tolerance levels.

Happy Nourishing! Ax

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Hellenic Republic-Inspired Quinoa Salad with Cumin Yoghurt Dressing & Pomegranate

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Last December, my mum had a bunch of her girlfriends over for their annual Chrissy lunch. Of all the memorably tasty dishes on offer (the leftovers overflowed our fridge for days – score!), one thing stood out in particular: a colourful little grain salad made by one of my mum’s friends. Upon tasting it, I was equal parts delighted and deflated; delighted because it set off a party of whiz-bang flavours and textures in my mouth, but deflated because it was packed with high FODMAP ingredients like freekeh (green wheat), lentils, red onion and dried fruits.
Typical me, always wanting what I can’t have…

As it turns out, the ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ is a recipe by George Columbaris (of Masterchef fame), and is one of the most popular side dishes served at his modern Greek taverna, Hellenic Republic, in Brunswick, Melbourne. I’d love to be able to take full credit for this recipe, but that would be a jackass move. All I’ve done is add a few things here and there for flavour and tweaked it to suit my dietary needs. Besides, I’d rather not be on George’s bad side.
I couldn’t wait to taste this dish again, and so here it is: my low FODMAP version of Hellenic Republic’s ‘Cypriot Grain Salad’ in all its fluffy, crunchy, sweet and savoury glory. It’s perfect on its own or as a side salad to chicken or slow cooked lamb.

Hellenic Republic-Inspired Quinoa Salad with Cumin Yoghurt Dressing & Pomegranate

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups tri-coloured quinoa (available at most supermarkets)
  • 3 cups low-sodium stock of choice
  • 1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch continental (flat-leaf) parsley, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spring onion, green part only (use 1/2 chopped red onion if you don’t have FM )
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • 2 tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup currants*
  • 2 tbs dried cranberries*
  • Juice of 1 – 1.5 lemons (or to taste)
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thick full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Seeds of 1 small pomegranate, or 1/2 large
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 1.5 tsp cumin powder, carefully cooked in a dry fry-pan over medium-low heat until fragrant)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup (use honey if you don’t have FM)

Method

  1. In a saucepan or pot, bring the quinoa and stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (depending on your cook top, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the yoghurt, cumin and maple syrup/honey in a small serving bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, coriander, parsley, onion, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, currants, cranberries, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Transfer salad to a serving dish and top with the yoghurt dressing and pomegranate seeds. I like to mix some of the yoghurt dressing through the salad, then add more on top, but that’s up to you :)

* Those of you with fructose malabsorption/IBS or on a low FODMAP diet should limit your intake of dried fruit (excess fructose). However, if you’re trying to reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet, a small amount shouldn’t hurt as the overall FODMAP load of this recipe is quite low. As always, assess your own tolerance. Halve or quarter the quantities if you’re unsure, and leave out altogether if you know you react to any amount of dried fruit.

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon and Mint

imageI’m very fickle when it comes to zucchini (or courgette, to some of you).
It’s either the first thing demolished off my plate, or the one ingredient I find myself pushing to the side with my fork. I’ve decided it all depends on how it’s cooked, and what else it’s been put with. For instance, I can’t get enough of zucchini if it’s been roasted among other Mediterranean-style vegies with a little oil and salt, but I’m guaranteed to gag if I eat it plain steamed – so squelchy and gross. Then again, I’ve always been a high calorie-inclined fat kid at heart.

Truth be told, I’ve never really used zucchini in its raw form that much. Unless I’m grating it and adding it to salads or making ‘zuchetti’ (zuchini noodles made with a vegie spiralizer), I tend to eat it cooked. But I’ve found a way to enjoy zucchini all the time, and since this salad is raw, it means that I can obtain maximum nutritional benefits from it. Super fresh, tasty, healthy and simple, this salad makes the perfect accompaniment for fish (think grilled snapper or pan-seared salmon!), or even barbecued white meats like chicken. If you want to jazz it up a bit, try adding toasted pine nuts and extra herbs like fresh parsley and coriander. While I try not to eat too much dairy, this salad is especially delicious sprinkled with feta or shaved parmesan.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon and Mint

Ingredients

  • 3 medium zucchinis
  • Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Use a peeler down the length of the zucchini to create ‘ribbons’. Place in a mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the zucchini, mint, lemon (to taste) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. You can serve this immediately, but I find that it turns out tastier after an hour in the fridge.
  4. Serve with toasted pine nuts and a small sprinkle of shaved parmesan or feta, if desired.
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Jolly Christmas Cheer and the Ultimate Summer Salad: Maple-roasted Pumpkin & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

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Synonymous with all things indulgent, the Silly Season is a time for feeding the soul…

We find ourselves kicking back more, getting outdoors more and filling our social calendars with BBQs, parties and beachside gatherings. Any excuse to get together with friends and family over beautiful food and one too many drinks will do.
So yes, between all the Christmas, New Year and summertime (for us Aussies) festivities, it’s almost impossible to stay as disciplined with your diet as you normally would. It feels like you’re perpetually surrounded by a sea of lip-smacking food, and it somehow seems more justified to pick at anything and everything just because “it’s the festive season!”.

The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself.
I choose to look at it this way: if you can’t loosen up and treat yourself at this time of year, then when the hell can you?! That pretty pavlova wasn’t just put there to take photos of. You are supposed to enjoy this time of year and everything it has to offer. With that said, while I might loosen my belt (literally) and pick at more desserts, cheese boards and processed snacks than I usually would, this doesn’t mean that all my other healthful habits go down the drain. I certainly don’t want to miss out on yummy food, but I also know that going totally overboard will leave me with nothing but a heavy guilty conscience and five extra kilos. As with any time of year, maintaining balance is important. Some things I do to achieve this balance include staying hydrated at all times, opting for vodka, lime and soda over sugar alcoholic drinks, filling up on veggies and quality protein at meals so that I don’t have a bottomless pit when it comes to dessert, chewing my food slowly so I enjoy each mouthful, drinking green smoothies each day to leave less room for unhealthy and processed snacks, taking long walks and swimming whenever I can. I try to be as mindful as possible, while enjoying myself all the while.

It’s easy(ish) to stay in control of what goes into your mouth when you’re at home, but not so much when your plate is at the hands of someone else – you naturally feel pressured to eat everything that’s being served up to you, and unless your family and friends are squeaky clean raw vegans (which mine certainly are not), chances are you’re going to be faced with an array of not-so-healthy temptations. To combat this, I make a big, bright salad like this one whenever I’m asked to bring a plate of food to a gathering, so there’s always something delicious and healthy for me to fill up on and I won’t be as likely devour my weight’s worth of double brie, cabana and cheesecake.

This Maple-roasted Pumpkin and Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Macadamias is fab – I can’t wait to share it with you. But first, here are some snaps from Chrissy Day, all taken on my iPhone because although Santa very generously gave me a Canon EOS 700D SLR so I can start doing real food photography, I’m not quite ready to move from the comfort zone of my iPhone 5 just yet.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I had a ball preparing festive treats all day (and night) long on Christmas Eve…

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I first made this salad around two months ago, and it’s already become my go-to staple of the season. It’s simple and has enough substance to serve to your family any day of the week, but it’s also a little fancy, making it the perfect dish for entertaining. Casual indulgence, if you like. Donning just the right amounts of sweet, sour and savoury, this salad will have your taste buds singing and your belly satisfied. Like any salad, this recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to play around with it. If you’re after a vegetarian dish or light side salad, simply leave the chicken out. This salad is wonderful when the roasted veggies and chicken are warm, however, it’s just as delicious cold, so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing everything. Leftovers make for a perfect lunch the next day!

Full bellies and happy hearts all round…

Maple-roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roast chicken, skin removed & flesh shredded (omit for vegetarian)
  • 1/4 Jap/Kent pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato (approx. 700g), washed, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1/2 cup macadamias, chopped roughly into halves
  • 2 tbs + 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbs oil (olive, coconut or macadamia)
  • 200g baby leaf salad mix
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet (approx. 200g) strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup spring onion, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tbs pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and parsley (flat-leaf), roughly chopped
  • 100g goat’s curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for dairy free)
  • EVOO, to serve
  • Balsamic vinegar, to serve (optional)
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a small bowl, coat the macadamias with 2 tsp maple syrup. Pour onto the baking paper and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove and set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
  2. Turn the oven up to 200*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin and sweet potato chunks with 2 tbs maple syrup, 1.5 tbs olive oil, oregano and salt. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through. For the last 5 minutes of baking, add the pepitas to the tray. As always, cooking times will vary from oven to oven and depending on the size you’ve cut your veg. Use my photos as a reference to determine if the veggies are ‘done’ or not. This salad works best when the veggies are a little on the ‘under’ side – quite soft in the middle and caramelised and chewy around the edges. Don’t let them crisp up too much as the caremelisation will dry out!
  3. While the veggies are roasting, arrange the salad leaves in a servings bowl or platter. Drizzle leaves with a little olive oil and a small amount of balsamic vinegar, if using (the balsamic goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta, but be sure to only use a tiny bit otherwise the salad will be too sweet!).
  4. When the veggies are ready, top the salad mix with the spring onion, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, roasted veg, chicken, feta, macadamias and pepitas. Just before servings, finish with a tiny sprinkle of EVOO. Enjoy!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Christmas in a mouthful: Gingerbread Granola (low FODMAP & refined sugar free )

Yep, I’m one of those people…

One of those people who still, even at 22 years of age, puts milk, cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer and wakes up to an overflowing human-size stocking on Christmas Morning. For me, tinsel-adorned traffic lights signify that it’s time to start blasting Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas album in my car, and that CD doesn’t come off rotation until mid-January. I find excuses to go driving late at night just so I can “ooh” and “ahh” at the fairy light exhibitions in Melbourne’s backstreets. Even the tackiest light displays send ripples of sweet nostalgia through me.

Maintaining our childhood Christmas fantasies, even when we’re far too old to do so, is kind of a big deal to my family. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year…

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How could I not be at ease with the world when the most wonderful day of the year is only one shy week away, the early Summer sun is shining outside, I’ve just spent the afternoon decorating the tree and wrapping presents, and my oven is exhaling the most delightful notes of ginger, cinnamon and maple?

My home has been diffused with the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies and gingerbread, except it’s not sugar cookies, nor is it gingerbread; It’s my Gingerbread Granola. And it’s a winner. I’ve already eaten a third of the tray, it’s that good (oops).

Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, this Gingerbread Granola recipe is a gorgeous marriage of cinnamon, ginger, pecans and coconut. It’s sweetened just enough with maple syrup, and subtle pops of lemon and dried cranberries bring all the flavours together. Like any good granola should, it offers that perfect crunch and crispiness before it melts in your mouth.

Gingerbread for breakfast? YES PLEASE!

However you use this granola is entirely up to you; pair a generous handful with your favourite nut milk and berries for a wholesome fuss-free brekky, sprinkle it over smoothie bowls, banana ‘ice cream’, or whiz it through smoothies to amp up their flavour, thickness and nutritional content. It’s also great to snack on as is, but try to portion it out so that you don’t go overboard (If only I could take my own advice – hopefully you’ve got a little more self-discipline than I do!)

For something a bit spesh, try layering the granola with stewed oranges or other fruit and your favourite yoghurt (coconut or full fat) in individual glasses  – the perfect Christmas Parfait for brunch entertaining! I can’t wait to serve these to my family on Christmas Morning while we rummage through our stockings…

And if you’ve really got your loved ones in mind, make lovely homemade gifts by filling up jam jars with the granola and tying festive ribbon and gift tags on them. Everyone loves homemade edible treats! I also added gingerbread babies (as pictured, available at Coles) to the jars for an extra gingerbread-y touch – not exactly clean, but hey, it’s CHRISTMAS!

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Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, this Gingerbread Granola recipe is a gorgeous marriage of cinnamon, ginger, pecans and coconut. It’s sweetened just enough with maple syrup, and subtle pops of lemon and dried cranberries bring all the flavours together. Like any good granola should, it offers that perfect crunch and crispiness before it melts in your mouth.

Like any granola, this recipe is very forgiving. So long as you’re mindful of dry to wet ratios, you can pretty much throw in whatever you’ve got on hand!

Gingerbread Granola

Dietary info: Vegan, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free (see notes), low FODMAP (lessen nut & coconut quantities to further reduce FODMAPs), fructose-friendly (omit dried cranberries to lessen fructose load). For a gluten free version, simply replace the rolled oats with a mix of other suitable cereals, such as activated buckinis, puffed quinoa, puffed corn, rice flakes or more rice crisps. For a Paleo version, replace most of the oats and rice crisps with buckinis and increase the nut, seed & dried coconut content (if FODMAPs are not an issue for you).

Ingredients

Dry:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (sub in activated buckinis for gluten free or Paleo)
  • 1 cup rice crispies/puffed rice
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups raw nuts of choice, roughly chopped (I used mostly pecans and almonds, but macadamias and walnuts would also be great)
  • 1/2 cup seeds of choice (I used pepitas and sunflower kernels)
  • 2 tbs coconut sugar
  • 3/4 tsp finely ground Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible, omit for strictly fructose friendly – see notes)

Wet:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (you could also use rice malt syrup)
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and lightly grease a large baking tray (I use cold pressed coconut oil spray, available at Coles).
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ‘dry’ ingredients except the dried coconut and cranberries.
  3. Add the ‘wet’ ingredients, gently folding with a large wooden spoon until the dry mixture is evenly coated. If you taste the raw mixture at this point, you may notice that it tastes quite tangy and leaves a strange feeling in the back of your mouth. DO NOT FRET! That’s just the uncooked ginger, and the resulting flavour once it’s cooked will be gorgeous. It might also seem a little too sweet, but most of this sweetness cooks out in the baking process too.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, add the dried coocnut and give the tray a good mix to ensure the granola cooks evenly. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned.
  5. Remove from the oven and mix through dried cranberries. The granola will continue to cook and crisp up after you’ve taken it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s a little soft or wet. Allow to cool completely before transferring to airtight containers or glass jars. The granola will keep for 1-2 weeks if stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

Notes:

  • A few of you fructose malabsorbers may be wondering why there’s dried cranberries in this recipe. Well, there’s two reasons: firstly, from a fructose sensitivity perspective, unless you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, you should be able to incorporate small amounts of moderate-to-high FODMAP foods into your diet; And secondly, from a general health perspective, I try to limit my intake of dried fruit (AKA concentrated sugar/fructose) as much as possible, however, I couldn’t be a bigger advocate of “everything in moderation”, and a few cranberries in your granola ain’t gonna kill you. Plus, they really bring this recipe together and, well, it’s CHRISTMAS! Convinced?
  • While we’re on the sugar note, you may notice that this recipe contains a little more sugar than my usual recipes do (1/3 cup pure maple syrup + 2 tbs coconut sugar). In my opinion, this recipe is too yum not to follow, so I recommend sticking to it and serving it with unsweetened nut milk and low-sugar fruits like berries. However, if you really must be extra sugar-conscious, simply cut out the coconut sugar and lessen the maple to 1/4 cup. You may wish to add some powdered stevia to taste at the end to bring the sweetness up a notch, but be careful not to overdo it.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Summer Smoothie Series: Super Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

Smoothies are to summer what porridge is to winter, and as the weather warms up in Australia, I like my brekkies to cool down…

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You might have gathered by now that I’m obsessed with all things chai. Like any chai-enthusiast, nothing encompasses those gorgeous Indian masala aromatics quite like the ole chai latte does (yep, that heavenly hot milky drink made with sickly sweet powder or syrup. Pure refined sugary delight).
However, since learning a few years back that refined sugar, preservatives, additives, fillers and artificial flavours are terrible for my health and waistline, I’ve given my beloved weekly McCafe indulgence the flick.

Depending on the type of milk and chai flavouring used, the average cafes style small chai latte contains anywhere between 20-40 grams of sugar (5-10 teaspoons), with the majority weighing in at around the 32g mark! That’s a hell of a lot of sugar to waste on one small drink.

These days, I flavour anything and everything I can with my own chai spice mix. Instead of harming my health like my chai latte habit did, the real spice mix delivers a whole heap of goodness and just as much flavour. Chai spices, when used in their real and pure form, are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals and boast cancer-prevention properties. Such spices are also great for immune function, hormone balancing (thus PMS symptom relief), gut health, bloating reduction, metabolism firing and energy boosting.

My chai spice mix uses nothing but pure ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. More traditional recipes call for white pepper, which you could also try. I use this mix to transform simple porridge, pancakes, muffins, granola, banana ‘ice cream’ and smoothies into gorgeous chai flavoured treats. I love how adding so much flavour to a recipe with these spices also boosts its nutritional value – win/win!

Since chai just wouldn’t be chai-like without a particular sweetness to complement and balance those spices, you can add a little natural sweetener such as rice malt syrup or pure maple to recipes.

Chai Spice Mix

Makes around 6 tbs. of chai mix

  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2.5 tbsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all the spices together and store in an airtight glass jar or container.

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 frozen ripe banana
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I love Pure Harvest coconut-rice milk drink)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons chai spice mix (or to taste, recipe above)
  • 1 tbs almond butter
  • 4 ice cubes plus extra, to serve
  • Few drops liquid stevia or 1-2 tsp maple/rice malt syrup (optional – I like to stick to stevia as there’s already enough sugar in the banana)

Method: Add all ingredients to a blender and process on high for one minute or until thick and creamy. Pour into a glass over ice and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Slurp away.

Notes:

  • If you need a more substantial breakfast or post workout smoothie, adding 1 tbs chia seeds delivers a great source of natural protein, finer, omega-3, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • I use a Thermomix, and while blending for so long in such a high-power blender might sound excessive, I find that frozen banana needs at least one minute to thicken the rest of the ingredients up and get silky smooth. The longer you blend frozen banana, the better!

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Honestly Healthy Muesli Bars (fruit free, fructose friendly & dairy free)

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that 98% of packaged muesli bars on the market are not at all healthy.
Despite their efforts to market themselves as wholesome snacks, most muesli bars on the market are loaded with nasties. And those nasties aren’t necessarily always the usual suspects, either. Sure, if you’re into reading labels, you’re probably used to avoiding unpronounceable chem-lab names and numbers which translate into artificial preservatives, sweeteners and other additivies. And sure, you might do a quick scan of the sugar content. But how much notice do you pay to where all that sugar is coming from? The majority of muesli/snack bars out there are loaded with added sugar, whether it’s straight-up refined (white/brown sugar, golden syrup), unrefined like in the ‘healthier’ varieties (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar/nectar, rice malt syrup etc.), or sneakily disguised as being the most ‘natural’ sugar sources of all: dried/raw fruit and fruit juice concentrates.

As I write this, I’m analysing the labels of 2 different muesli bar boxes I found in my pantry. They’re by a popular ‘real food’ supermarket brand, marketed and believed to be truly healthy. Yes, most of the ingredients are whole, and one thing I’ll give them is how transparent they are about the ingredients they use, but they’re still out of touch with the anti-added sugar movement. Either that, or they know most people will read “honey” or “apple juice concentrate” and think that it must be healthy.
One of said muesli bars contains 6 DIFFERENT SOURCES OF SUGAR: cranberries, sugar, glucose, honey, rice syrup and apple. The other contains 5 sources: glucose, honey, sugar, cranberries and sultanas.
SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR…

Of course, if you don’t have fructose malabsorption, then finding a healthy packaged snack is less of an ordeal because there’s a whole heap of health bars on the shelves of health food stores and even supermarkets now. The problem for someone like me is that all those ‘refined sugar free’ and ‘raw’ bars and bliss balls usually scream one thing: FRUCTOSE. They’re pumped with agave (which is 70-90% fructose), dates, and dried fruit. And dried fruit is practically just concentrated fructose. So, without being too controversial, I’d argue that 90% of those raw food bars and bliss balls aren’t that great for you anyway, whether you can digest them or not. Most of them are glorified lollies with a little extra fibre and protein, disguised in rustic packaging with words like ‘raw vegan’ and ‘no added sugar’ sprawled across them. No added sugar? OF COURSE THEY DON’T CONTAIN ADDED SUGAR! They don’t need to add sugar on top of all the syrup and fruit, because if they did, those bars would be distastefully sweet.
Like I always say, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
And regardless of how ‘natural’ the sugar source is, if it’s as sweet as a lolly, it probably isn’t that good for you.

I’m pretty sure that you get my point by now: most muesli bars are unhealthy, and even the semi-healthy ones are often packed with fructose and are thus out-of-bounds for those who cannot digest excess fructose. I should quickly note that fructose friendly snack bars do exist, but I’m yet to come across one that ticks all four boxes: it’s gotta be honestly healthy, fructose friendly, filling, and YUMMY! All the ones I’ve tried lack in an area or two.

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These Honestly Healthy Fruit-Free Muesli Bars are super easy to whip up and the recipe is very forgiving. If you don’t have a particular ingredient, don’t stress, just use something else that’s similar in density (except maybe for the oats and eggs, you’ll need those!), being mindful of wet to dry ratios. This is a great base recipe, so feel free to mix things up! Try adding things like goji berries (dark choc-coated gojis would be delicious for a more decadent treat), cacao nibs, or a little unsweetened dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins. While this recipe is relatively high in protein, you could even incorporate your favourite CLEAN protein powder into the mix, to make it a great post-workout snack.
When divided into 24 pieces, each serving contains just 3g of sugar, which is equivalent to 2 large strawberries. These bars are super filling so you can be sure they’ll tie you over to your next meal. They’re also high in fibre, healthy fats, protein and antioxidants, and relatively low carb, making them a perfect snack any time of day.
Keep them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week. I also like to keep a little container of them in my car’s glove box  (in cooler weather), and one wrapped up in my handbag to ensure that I’m prepared for a snack attack no matter where I am.

Fructose Friendly Muesli Bars

Makes 24 snack squares (or 12 large bars).
Dietary info: fructose friendly, low FODMAP, wheat free (contains spelt), dairy free, refined sugar free, soy free.
Contains gluten (oats & spelt), eggs and tree nuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup  unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (pepitas & sunflower kernels)
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts (almonds & pecans), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 eggs (organic & free range, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup sweetener (I used half/half pure maple and rice malt syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs water
  • Stevia, to taste

Optional: cacao nibs, 3 tbs dried fruit (raisins, sultanas or cranberries), protein powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C and line a slice tray or square cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. At this point I also added 1/2 tsp of concentrated stevia extract powder (see notes).
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine well.
  4. Press firmly into prepared slice/cake tin and sprinkle the top with some extra pepitas and coconut, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm and golden brown (as pictured).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to sit in tin for 10 minutes. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack for a few hours. Use a sharp knife to remove the edges of the slice. Cut slice into desired pieces, and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week.

Notes:

  • As always, the amount of stevia you use will depend on what type of stevia you have. If it’s concentrated powder or liquid, you’ll only need a tiny bit. If it’s granulated, you can use a lot more because concentrated pure stevia is 8 times sweeter than granulated stevia. Those with FM will only be able to use concentrated stevia anyway, as granulated varieties contain fillers to increase their volume, such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which we cannot digest.
  • Some individuals with FM might be more sensitive to nuts and needs than others. If this applies to you, reduce the amounts. However, the amounts I have used should be pretty safe, especially when the recipe is divided into 24 servings.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax