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Honestly Healthy Muesli Bars (fruit free, fructose friendly & lactose 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.

Honestly Healthy Fructose Friendly Muesli Bars

Makes 24 snack squares (or 12 large bars).
Dietary info: fructose friendly, low FODMAP, (modern) wheat free, 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

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Easy as Pie: Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust (gluten free + fructose friendly)

I’m not an expert on people (as much as I like to think I am), and I’m certainly no expert at baking, but I do know two things:
1. People find making desserts intimidating, especially when a recipe involves several elements like a crust, layered fillings, a topping, sauce, etc., etc.
2. Desserts can be very time consuming; Ain’t nobody got a spare 6-hours floating around in their day to devote to souffle-perfecting or tempering chocolate.
The ultimate conclusion?
Desserts that look half appealing are a pain in the ass to make.
But I want to prove to you that they don’t always have to be…

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My chocolate, orange & almond tart might look a little fancy, but it couldn’t be simpler. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s idiot proof, but don’t quote me on that. The coconut crust only calls for a few basic ingredients, and the filling can be prepped in a couple of simple steps while the crust turns crust-like in the oven. Then, it’s just a matter of pouring the filling over the crust and throwing it in the fridge for a few hours ’til it’s set. All the preparation can be achieved in half an hour –give or take a few minutes– and the filling only takes 1-2 hours to set in the fridge. In fact, the closer to that 1-hour mark you eat it, the better it is because the crust and almonds will still be crispy. Because of the moisture in the fridge, these will soften more as time goes by. Still yummy, but the texture won’t be as good.

But first, a few notes…

People either love or hate coconut. The crust of this tart is 95% dried coconut and the filling is mostly coconut cream. So, if you’re not a HUGE coconut fan, please don’t bother making this recipe. That’s like asking me to enjoy sushi covered in wassabi; it doesn’t matter how amazing that sushi is, once wassabi touches it, it tastes like poison to me.

Secondly, as you would already be aware, I don’t usually include ingredients which contain added/refined sugar in my recipes. However, you will notice that this recipe uses dark chocolate which, of course, means sugar. My justification? Everything in… yep, you read it before I even said it: moderation. I used Lindt 80% as it only contains about 10g of sugar in the whole 100g block which, when distributed throughout the recipe, equates to less than a gram of sugar per serving from the chocolate which is a negligible amount.

Now, readers who don’t need to worry about fructose of FODMAPs are welcome to stop reading now, unless, of course, you’re interested in our awful intolerances.
In terms of  the fructose and FODMAP content, you will see that this recipe includes two known moderately fructan-containing ingredients in relatively large amounts: dried coconut and almonds. According to the guidelines of Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet, those on the strict plan should limit their intake of dried coconut to 1/4 cup per sitting, and almonds to about 10 per sitting. If this tart is divided into at least 10 segments (which is should be anyway), there is less than these amounts per servings. Individuals who aren’t on a diet as strict and who are trying to build up their tolerance should be able to tolerate more than these amounts anyway, providing their OVERALL FODMAP consumption isn’t already high that day, as it will add to the load/accumulation and could cause a reaction.

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

Dietary info: Gluten free, low FODMAP (see notes above), low fructose (see notes above). Contains egg, nuts and dairy (use vegan chocolate for dairy free).

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 3.5 cups (or 200g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs rice malt syrup

Filling:

  • 1 cup (100g) slithered almonds (can also use half almonds and half pecans), chopped roughly and toasted until golden brown
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup (250mL) full-fat coconut cream
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate (I used Lindt 80% because it only has around 10g sugar in the whole block. For dairy free, you could also use a vegan block such as Loving Earth)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Orange oil (see notes for alternative)
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • Liquid stevia, to taste

To serve:

  • Fresh orange slices
  • Fresh Strawberries, sliced
  • Orange rind, finely grated

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175’C and lightly grease a 20cm non-stick tart/flan tin (with a loose base) with coconut oil. Good quality tins should not need greasing, but I like to be safe. Nothing ruins a tart more than a crust that sticks to the tin!
  2. Place the shredded coconut, egg whites, rice malt syrup and melted coconut oil in a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze and fully combine. The mixture should be sticky and form a loose dough. Press the dough VERY firmly into the base and up the sides of the tart tin. It’s important to get the crust thick enough so it will maintain form, but not so thick that not all of it cooks properly. If you think you’ve got too much, discard some of it or flatten it into small discs and bake until browned to make healthy macaroons-style biccies with! Bake the crust in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. In the meantime, place the toasted slithered almonds in a small bowl with the orange zest and use your fingers to evenly massage the zest through the almonds. Set aside.
  4. When the crust only has 5 minutes of baking time left, finely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring the coconut cream to a boil in a saucepan. Pour boiling coconut cream over the chocolate and whisk until fully combined.
  5. Add the maple syrup, sea salt and 5-10 drops of orange oil, depending on how orangey you like it. Taste and add orange oil and liquid stevia as needed. If you’re after a deeper chocolate flavour, add a teaspoon or so of raw cacao powder.
  6. When the tart crust is ready, cover its base with the toasted slithered almonds. Then carefully pour the coconut/chocolate mixture evenly over the top. Place in the fridge to set for 1-2 hours (the coconut crust and toasted almonds will begin to lose their awesome crispiness after 2 hours, so I’d serve it as close to then as possible).
  7. Serve with fresh orange segments, sliced strawberries, shaved dark chocolate and a sprinkle of grated orange rind.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have any orange oil, you can use 1-2 tsp of finely grated orange zest instead, but the flavour might not distribute as evenly.

Happy Nourshing!
Ax

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Don’t serve this to Nonna: Turkey Spag Bowl (Low FODMAP, fructose friendly, GF + DF)

I’ve been getting lots of requests to post more dinner-y recipes of late, and it made me realise that I never share my favourite dinner meals. Why not, you ask? Why wouldn’t I share recipes that I use all the time when they’re super delish, nutrish and fructose friendly? The answer is pathetic, really: I’ve either been eating the meal for so long that the prospect of writing about it bores me to tears, or it’s dark at dinner time in mid-year Australia and ain’t nobody got the skills to photograph food under artificial lighting. Or at least I don’t…

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But it recently occurred to me that you guys couldn’t care less whether I post a recipe that I’ve been cooking for 2 years or 2 days. It’s going to be a new recipe for you regardless, right? Sometimes people just need REAL life food – hearty home style meals that can be whipped up for one, or for two, or for a whole family to enjoy.

You guys need dishes that are just as nutritious as they are easy and cheap to make after a long, busy day.

I’m also aware that my lovely FM readers (love you) are desperately seeking fructose friendly and low FODMAP meals that don’t solely consist of steamed veg and plain meat. BO-RING. So from now on I plan to bombard you all with options.
Here’s the first one: Turkey Spag Bowl.

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It’s no secret that the ole spag bowl gets a bad nutritional rap.
Especially when served at restaurants, the classic Italian recipe is heavy on the not-so healthy stuff like beef mince (often very fatty), oil and/or butter, salt, cheese, refined carbs (from pasta), and sometimes even cream. And aside from the tomatoes, it’s very light on veggies.
What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption, it’s completely out of bounds because a) it’s full of onion and garlic and b) you can’t eat wheat, so there goes the pasta.

I know it’s a staple for millions of people around the world, but I’ve never actually been a huge fan of traditional spaghetti bolognese. Truth be told, I’ve always found it a little boring. The flavours and textures are just too same-same for me. But, like most normal people, my parents and siblings love their spag bowl. Unfortunately for them, Mum stopped cooking it –along with many other family favourites– for a while when I first developed FM.

 Being the ever-accommodating and eager to please woman that she is, my fabulous mama came up with a spag bowl rendition that ticks all the boxes of Lincoln Dinner Criteria: it’s wholesome, nutritionally balanced, fructose free, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-fructosing recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bowl is a testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you!

No, this recipe doesn’t retain much of the traditional spaghetti bolognese’s integrity (hello, turkey, veggies and brown rice spaghetti!), and yes, a true Italian chef would probably spit it back out at me. But I don’t care. My aim in posting this recipe is to share with you a homestyle recipe that’s wholesome, hearty, cheap, easy, and fructose-friendly.
But please don’t serve it to Nonna.

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bowl

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1kg turkey mince
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup semi sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 green capsicum, diced
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (no added sugar or preservatives)
  • 3/4 cup salt reduced tomato paste* (see notes for fructose info.)
  • 1.5 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large handful fresh basil, leaves torn
  • 8 spring onions, chopped (green part only for low FODMAP)
  • Oil of choice (I use garlic-infused for flavour, but coconut is one of the more stable oils)
  • Himalayan sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet brown rice noodles for gluten free, or spelt spaghetti (optional – see notes)
  • To serve: fresh basil leaves, shaved parmesan (optional – see notes)

Method

  1. Heat a generous splash of garlic-infused olive oil (or other chosen oil) in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Sautee all the fresh veggies and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have softened. Remove veggies from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Heat another splash of oil and add the turkey mince to the pot. Cook the mince until browned (around 8 minutes) and use a wooden spoon to break it up.
  4. Add the veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, stock, basil and dried oregano. Season with Himalayan salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for an hour or longer. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t to overcook the meat!), the richer and thicker it will get and the deeper the flavour will be.
  5. Serve with one ladle’e worth of brown rice noodles or spelt spaghetti if using, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan.

Notes

  • You will notice this recipe uses quite a lot of tomato paste, which is where the dish gets a lot of its flavour. According to Dr. Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet guidelines, people on a strict low FODMAP diet shouldn’t exceed 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste in one sitting because although fresh tomatoes are safe, paste is concentrated. I’ve never had an issue with tomato paste, but some people might. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance, and add more fresh and dried herbs for flavour.

My Trolley: The Ultimate Shopping List for a Healthy Kitchen

More and more often I’m getting asked what my typical shopping list looks like,
so I thought I’d share it with you!

imageAll the ingredients below are things that I either purchase on a regular basis (like fresh produce), or staples which only need to be bought occasionally (such as spices and grains). As we all know, healthy, fresh and/or organic foods can be quite expensive. I don’t always have every single thing on this list at home at the one time, so please don’t be shocked by the abundance of items below. The main point of this post is to show you the kinds of things you should be filling your trolley with. The more you fill your trolley and stock your kitchen with good stuff, the less room (and money!) you’ll have for bad stuff.

The list below constitutes 90% of what’s in my fridge and pantry. I still live at home with my family, and by no means is my kitchen 100% clean in the nutritional sense. If you were to come over, you’d be sure to find a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer (my absolute weakness), bacon and chorizo in the fridge, and a packet of biccies in the pantry. To provide an accurate depiction of what my diet mainly consists of, I have only included the ingredients I consume regularly. Anything else is labelled as an ‘extra’.

Just as often as I’m asked what I buy, I also get asked where I buy it. The answer is everywhere – farmers markets, supermarkets (there’s a Super Coles right near my house), local grocers, organic grocers, health food stores and even online. Much to the dismay of small health food store and grocery owners, almost everything I mention below can be found in a supermarket. Even some of the more foreign superfoods can be found in the health food aisle of Coles these days, whereas a year ago I would have had to go to a specialty health store. The same goes for the variety of organic fresh produce; it pains me to admit that, more often than not, Coles has a bigger and cheaper variety of organic goods than my local grocers. Still, I prefer to support local farmers and businesses.

In cases where brands or specific products are mentioned, please note this is simply because I prefer them for their particular taste and quality, relative to price; by no means am I paid to endorse ANY of the following items or their brands.

Another important thing to note is that unless stated otherwise/marked with an asterisk (*), all the below ingredients are fructose-friendly and low FODMAP to suit my food intolerance (fructose malabsorption). As a result, this list does not contain particular foods which are still healthy for digestively normal people  –foods I always ate prior to developing the intolerance and which are still eaten by the rest my family –but ones I can no longer digest properly (such as apples, mango, pear, watermelon, kale, red and brown onion, garlic, mushies, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and other legumes etc.). If you don’t have fructose malabsorption or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), I highly recommend you incorporate said ingredients into your daily diet because they possess wonderful nutritional benefits for those who can digest them.

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FRESH

 When it comes to fruit and veg, my family tries to eat as organically, seasonally and locally as possible for health and environmental reasons, but in reality, only 50-70% of the fruit and veg we buy is organic. I’m lucky enough to have a large veggie patch at home, so a lot of our seasonal produce comes from there, too. Eating organically is not feasible for everyone, but there are certain non-organic foods that have been found to obtain a higher pesticide residue than others and are thus more important to eat organically if possible. These include spinach, lettuce, celery, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum (sweet bell peppers), chili peppers, cherry tomatoes, white potatoes, apples*, peaches*, imported nectarines*, grapes and berries. If you cannot always buy these foods organically, make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating them.

Then there’s the flip-side: although buying organically is great for supporting local farmers and promoting a toxin-free environment, if you’re looking from an artificial pesticide and fertilizer perspective, there are certain foods which seem to remain fairly clean from such chemicals. These include onion*, sweet corn, sweet potato, eggplant, avocado, cabbage*, kiwi fruit, pineapple, mango*, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon*, grapefruit.
*contain excess fructose or fructans (not suitable for those on a low-FODMAP diet).

VEGGIES

Baby spinach
Bok choy
Chinese broccoli
Broccoli* (fructan – I only eat small amounts at a time)
Green beans
Cos lettuce
Tomatoes (truss and cherry)
Capsicum
Zucchini
Eggplant
Cucumber
Celery* (polyol apparently, but it doesn’t seem to affect me)
Carrot
Beetroot* (contains some FODMAPS. I stick to small amounts.)
Sweet potato
Kent/Jap pumpkin
Avocado* (polyol – I have built myself up to tolerate avocado)
Spring onion
Chives
Ginger

FRUIT

Banana
Blueberries and raspberries (fresh or frozen, depending on season and price)
Strawberries
Kiwi fruit
Passionfruit
Pineapple
Orange
Mandarin
Lemon
Lime

HERBS
We grow all our own herbs, but these are the ones I’d buy if I couldn’t grow them.
Unlike larger veg and fruit, growing your own herbs is super easy and takes up very little space. It’ll also save you a lot of cash!

Basil
Parsley
Coriander
Mint
Rosemary
Curry leaves

Extras: sage, dill, thyme, oregano

MEAT, FISH & POULTRY
I’m personally not a huge red meat eater (I probably only eat it once a week or less), so most of my protein comes from chicken, fish and eggs.

Eggs (always organic free range)
Chicken breast (preferably organic & free range)
Roast/BBQ Chicken (skin & excess fat removed & used in salads, wraps etc.)
Turkey
Salmon fillets
Smoked salmon
White fish
Lean beef (preferably organic & grass-fed)
Pork (rarely)
Lamb (rarely)

DAIRY
I try not to eat much cow’s dairy, but I don’t cut it out completely because I enjoy small amounts of it with certain meals too much.

Full fat natural & Greek-style yoghurt (I love five:am brand)
Danish or Persian feta
Goats feta/curd (Meredith Dairy is my absolute favourite)
Full fat butter (absolutely NO margarine in my house! I usually use avocado instead of butter, anyway)

MILK ALTERNATIVES

Coconut-brown rice milk (Pure Harvest’s Coco Quench brand)
Unsweetened oat milk (Pure Harvest)

FROZEN

Blueberries
Raspberries
Bananas
Stir-fry veg (pre-chopped, so no matter what, I always have some veg to turn to)
Prawns

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IN THE PANTRY

GRAINS & CEREALS

Quinoa (white and red)
Brown rice
Rolled oats (traditional)
Food for Health Fibre Cleanse Muesli (Bought from Coles. I usually always make my own muesli and granola, but it’s good to have a box on hand for convenience so I don’t reach for my brother’s Crunchy Nut Clusters [which I'm very partial to!])

Extras: brown rice noodles, brown rice pasta,
spelt pasta*, polenta, Celebrate Health Mexican quinoa, Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme quinoa

PACKAGED
BREADS & WRAPS:

Gluten free & organic Old Time Bakery wraps (not so good as a wrap, but great as a healthy pizza base for quick lunch/dinner)
100% spelt wraps*
Healthybake brand breads: oat, spelt & pharoah loaves (Healthybake can be purchased from many health food stores such as GoVita, as well as selected grocers)
Ancient Grains brand breads: oat & spelt loaves (Can be purchased from some supermarkets, health food stores & selected grocers)

SNACKS:
Dr Karg Seeded Spelt crispbread (can be purchased from health food stores and selected grocers)
Corn thins
Brown rice cakes
Cobs natural popcorn
Buckwheat crispbread (Orgran brand)
Brown rice-seaweed crackers (Eat Rite brand)
Mary’s Gone Crackers ‘superseed’ crackers
Rice paper rounds (to make rice paper rolls – found in ‘Asian’ section of supermarkets)
Goji-berries

OTHER:
Puffed rice crisps (Lotus brand)
Plain activated buckinis (Loving Earth brand)
Dried shredded/flaked coconut (Eco brand)

Extra: nori (seaweed sheets for sushi & adding to salads), carob powder (Lotus), psyllium husk, maca powder (Loving Earth), Slippery Elm bark powder

CANNED

Corn kernels (no added sugar)
Crushed/chopped tomatoes
Pure coconut milk (full fat & unsweetened)
Tinned tuna (controversial for a few reasons, I know, but its convenience suits my lifestyle and I just love tuna. I try to not eat it too often, and always opt for more ethical brands)

FLOUR SUBSTITUTES

Buckwheat flour
Brown rice flour (I make my own by blending brown rice in the Thermomix)
Oat flour (I make my own by blending oats in the Thermomix)
Wholemeal spelt flour*
Almond meal* (I make my own by blending almonds in the Thermomix)

Extras: quinoa flour, coconut flour*

*spelt: some individuals who react to fructans might not be able to tolerate large amounts of spelt. I don’t seem to have any issues with it.
* almonds: I use almond and other nut meals sparingly because I cannot tolerate tree nuts in large amounts.
* Coconut flour: dried coconut is fructan-containing. I can only tolerate small amounts.

NUTS & SEEDS (all raw)

pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
sunflower seeds
flax seeds
chia seeds*
sesame seeds
pinenuts
almonds*
pecans
macadamias*
walnuts*
cashews*
LSA meal (ground linseed [flax seeds], sunflower seeds & almonds)

*most nuts and seeds contain moderate amounts of fructan, some much more than others.  Now that I’ve built my tolerance up more, I stick to small portions at a time (the equivalent to a small handful). Cashews and macadamias seem to stir me up more than the others.

SPREADS

Natural peanut butter (I love good ol’ Sanitarium)
Almond butter*
Tahini (I use Mayver’s brand)

Extras: Mayver’s cacao-peanut butter spread, Mayver’s coconut-peanut butter spread, Mayver’s Energy spread (almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, cashews and spirulina), pumpkin seed spread

OILS

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
Cold-pressed coconut oil
Macadamia nut oil
Garlic-infused EVOO
Sesame oil

Extras: flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, raw cacao butter

SWEETENERS

Rice malt syrup (I use Pure Harvest brand)
Pure organic maple syrup (various brands from supermarkets. Health food/organic stores will try to rip you off BIG TIME for the same brands – don’t pay more than $8!)
Coconut sugar (Loving Earth)
Glucose syrup (for those with FructMal ONLY! Not ideal, but I’ll have a few teaspoons of this if I’ve accidentally eaten something I might react to. The glucose helps to carry the excess fructose molecules across the small intestinal wall, thus facilitating absorption. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!)

SEASONINGS, DRESSINGS & NATURAL FLAVOURINGS

Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
White wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Bragg’s All Purpose Seasoning
Pure vanilla extract
Raw cacao powder
Himalayan pink rock salt

Extras: pure coconut essence, pure orange essence,  rose water, vanilla beans, natural vanilla powder

DRIED HERBS & SPICES
(all grounded unless specified otherwise)

Oregano leaves
Mixed herbs
Rosemary leaves
Curry leaves
Bay leaves
Coriander seeds
Cinnamon
Cardamom
Nutmeg
Ginger
Paprika
Cayenne pepper
chili powder
Cumin
Garam Masala
Sumac
Saffron
Turmeric
Black pepper

TREATS

Pana chocolate (the ones not sweetened with agave)
Loving Earth chocolate (coconut mylk)
Alter Eco dark chocolate (I LOVE the one with puffed quinoa!)
Dark-choc coated goji berries
Coyo ice cream

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The first of many mornings at Combi + a Pumpkin, Feta & Chive Loaf

Why don’t you loaf me?
Tell me, baby,
Why don’t you knead me?

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I’m excited for two reasons:
1. Food puns are the best puns^^^
2. I’ve just returned home from my European Summer adventure, which is a harrowing fact in itself, but at least it means I can get reacquainted with glorious Melbourne cuisine again, and finally get my ass back in the kitchen.

The other morning, I was brunching with a few girlfriends at popular Elwood health foodie hangout, Combi. If you reside in Melbourne, Combi is absolutely worth a visit, by the way. Their styling is impeccable and they offer a truly healthful menu including cold pressed juices, organic fair trade coffee, Acai bowls, chia pudding, superfood smoothies, homemade nut mylks (which are now unsweetened because they stopped using dates! Win!), on-tap kombucha and an abundance of raw savoury dishes. However, if you’re intolerant to fructose or have IBS, I suggest you steer clear of their spectacular snacks and sweets cabinet, because everything’s made with dates and/or agave

*angry constipated-like expression and frustrated tear*

But what impresses me more than their menu and quirky styling is the integrity upon which their business is built. Combi aren’t just trying to appeal to health foodies, pro-green hippies or indie jar-food fad seekers. Rather, their objective is to deliver a true earth to table experience by working closely with growers, producers and suppliers to bring organic, seasonal, sustainable and ethical meals and beverages to the public. It could be for this reason that sometimes –and I’ve only been once so I can’t be sure until I’ve been several times– it seemed that the flavour of some of our menu choices (smoothies and chia pudding) was slightly lacking. Local, organic produce is sometimes not as appealing to the taste buds as mass-farmed produce that’s been cultivated under industrial conditions. For example, sometimes my homegrown strawberries are no where near as juicy, sweet or flavoursome as the ones I buy from Coles that have been mass-farmed using pesticides, herbicides and who knows what else. And sometimes they are just as good.

However, the nutrient-rich and chemical free soil in which the organic ones are grown means they’re far more nutritious. Unless Combi are going to pump their meals with sweeteners or artificial enhancers (which provide no nutrient value), it’s no wonder that the flavours of the meals which rely solely on organic fruit and veg don’t absolutely “WOW” you all the time. Organic produce is REAL, and thus less predictable in flavour. I’d rather consume something knowing every ingredient in there is thoughtful and serves a purpose to my body, rather than thrown in there to satisfy my sugar-hungry tastebuds.

While it’s no secret that I love eating out for breakfast, just like any bona fide Melbournian does, the bread situation is an ongoing frustration. Steering clear of wheat means passing on the regular seed-packed or brown options, and more often than not, the gluten free options are white, totally refined and pumped with more crap than any wheat-based bread could be. And yes, I could just opt for no bread, but I’ve never understood how people cut the fluffy stuff out.

WHAT DO YOU MOP UP YOUR EGG YOLK WITH,?! WHAT DO YOU DIP IN YOUR SOUP?!

A life without bread? If I could fathom it, I’d probably be Paleo. But I cannot. Which is why I was super excited when I came across Combi’s ‘gluten free sprouted bread’, made from fermented sprouted grains (gut-healing health for those with intolerances or bloated bellies!), fresh veg, herbs, cold-pressed coconut oil, and all cultured in coconut kefir. And yep, all intolerance-friendly.

So, as I sipped on my ‘Berry Beloved’ smoothie and chowed down my smashed avo on sprouted toast (the smashed avo with feta, lemon and mint is spot-on, by the way), something occurred to me: I’ve never made my own savoury bread before. I’m still (very slowly) getting back into the swing of things and trying to transition back into real life, so I wasn’t about to go experimenting with fermenting sprouted grains or culturing things with kefir. That all seemed a bit much. So I asked myself, “what would the perfect savoury bread consist of?” It has to be healthy, filling, fructose-friendly, have a great texture and taste great. I’ve always loved savoury sconnes, namely cheese and chive, so I thought about how I could take those flavours and use them in a healthy loaf. I also thought pumpkin would be a great addition in terms of flavour, texture and nutritional value. Luckily for my jet-lagged, grumpy bum self, the recipe worked the first time around.

If there’s one thing I love more than a food pun, it’s a food fluke.

My Pumpkin, Feta and Chive loaf is very straight forward and fuss-free. It has a hearty, dense texture and a wonderfully buttery flavour (sans butter), with pops of flair from the feta and herbs. Serve it toasted with your favourite nut butter (I love it with Mayver’s ‘Energy Spread’, made of peanuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and spirulina), or with avo and poached eggs. It’s also got enough flavour and moistness to snack on as is (sorry, too tired to come up with a better synonym for ‘moistness’). It’s packed full of nutrients and fibre and, unlike regular breads, is relatively low-carb and high in protein.
So to all you carb-conscious creatures out there, now
you can have your bread and eat it, too.

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Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed Jap/Kent pumpkin (approx. 400g uncooked – see method)
  • 1.5 cups wholemeal spelt flour* (see notes for gluten free alternative)
  • 1 cup LSA meal (ground linseed, sunflower seed & almonds)*
  • 2 tsp baking powder (aluminium free, if possible)
  • 4 free range eggs, organic if possible, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • 150g Danish feta (it’s always better from the deli. Omit for dairy/lactose free)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs rice malt syrup (optional – this amount is tiny but you can omit to keep it sugar free. If you don’t mind the fructose, you can substitute for honey)
  • 3 tbs psyllium (now available from the health food aisle of almost any supermarket, as well as health food stores)
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • Fresh sage leaves or rosemary sprigs, plus a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), to serve (optional, but the herbs on top infuse the loaf with their flavour as it bakes, and the pepitas give a great texure).

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. 400g uncooked and peeled pumpkin should yield 1 cup of mashed pumpkin. To make the mash, simply take 400g of peeled pumpkin and chop it into chunks. Steam chunks until soft, then mash until all clumps are removed. I’m all about short cuts, so if you’re feeling really lazy, you could always blend it. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, LSA, baking powder, paprika, psyllium and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, melted coconut oil and rice malt syrup. Tip: to avoid losing half the syrup to its tendency to stick to the bowl, pour in the coconut oil first and swirl it around the edges. This will stop it from sticking. Add to the dry mixture and combine well.
  5. Gently fold through the mashed pumpkin and chives until well combined.
  6. Crumble the feta into chunks, and fold through the dough very gently, careful not to over-mix as you’ll break the feta up too much. The loaf will taste best if there are little chunks of feta throughout it.
  7. Spoon evenly into prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top with the back of the spoon. Arrange the sage leaves/rosemary sprigs over the top of the dough, and sprinkle the pepitas. Using your fingers, apply a very light pressure to the garnishes to ensure that they stick.
  8. Bake for 35-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. I’ve provided such a time range because all ovens and ingredients vary. Mine took closer to 50 minutes, but that might be because I steamed my pumpkin for too long and it thus had a lot of water in it. Check it at the 35-minute mark, and take it from there.

Notes

  • For those with fructose malabsorption/IBS: the ingredients labelled with an asterisk (spelt and LSA) contain fructans, the almonds in the LSA more so than the spelt. I can tolerate large amounts of spelt, and some individuals have no issue with it at all, while others do. As with any potential irritant, test your own tolerance.
  • To make this loaf gluten free, leave out the spelt and use 2 cups of almond meal and 1/4 to 1/2 cup LSA instead. I can’t guarantee an absolute success because I haven’t tried it and it might not rise as well. You may need to use a little more mashed pumpkin to provide more moisture for all the nuts to soak up. Make sure you use gluten free baking powder, too. This alternative would not be wise for those with fructmal, as the almond content is too high.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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BRB: after the European summer

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Hey there, gorgeous readers!

I’m currently on an adventure abroad, chasing the glorious European sun.
Because I’m backpacking/roughing it, internet access is scarce and I obviously don’t have a kitchen, so I won’t be available on emails, nor will I be updating my blog while I’m away.
I thank you kindly for your patience and look forward to responding to your emails and comments and coming up with new inspired recipes in September upon my return.
I’ve got some exciting new ideas up my sleeve for this space, so stay tuned!

Stay nourished in my absence (I say this as I’m sipping on a strawberry mojito in Nice, South France. #keepinitreal). 

Life is balance.

Love love,
Ax

Note: I sincerely apologise for the hideous font changes in this post; this hostel computer is one hell-horrid machine which won’t let me format anything, and I’m about to smash the keyboard over my forehead. I’ll rectify it as soon as I find a semi-functioning computer. In the meantime, I’m off to sunbake and climb castle ruins…

Orange & Chai-Spiced Pancakes w/ Caramelised Mandarin Compote, Cardamom Coconut Cream + Candied Maple Walnuts

Holy cow, what a mouthful that title is.
If it sounds convoluted to me, I can only imagine how hard it must have been to process in your minds. Apologies, I’m a bit of a convoluted being in general.

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I promise you this recipe is no where near as pretentious as it sounds.
Are there a lot of ingredients involved? Yeah, but none of them should be foreign – you’ll probably be surprised at how many of them you’ve already got lying around in your cupboards and drawers. It pretty much just calls for staples, or what are staples in my kitchen, anyway: rolled oats, ground spices, nuts, unrefined flour substitutes, eggs, milk of some description, coconut cream and a few other essential bits and bobs.

If you don’t have all the ingredients, or even half of them, please don’t stress. I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe precisely in all my life (apart from when making macaroons, when the slightest stray in an ingredient, even if only by a gram, results in a big fat fail and you swear you’ll never bake again). If you don’t have coconut cream or an orange or mandarin or pure maple syrup, don’t stress –  you can always make something out of whatever you’ve got on hand. Unless you don’t own ground spices, then you should stress. Anyone who cooks should boast a ridiculous accumulation of spices, or the fundamental spices at least, even if you don’t have the slightest clue what to use them in or if they’ve been sitting unopened next to toothpicks and stock cubes at the back of a dusty drawer for the past five years. Knowing that I’ve got a drawer jam-packed with packets and jars full of different herbs and spices provides a lot of comfort, even if I’ve only ever cooked with half of them. It’s literally impossible to create a tasteless meal when you’ve got a range of spices on hand. What’s more, they’re so good for you and they’re SO CHEAP!

As you will see, this recipe contains a wee bit of added sweetener (about 4 tsp for all components in total). Sometimes you need a ‘lil bit of the sweet stuff to do a dish like pancakes proper justice. So, no I wouldn’t eat these every single day, purely because they do contain more added sweetener than I aim for in a typical breakfast, and I’m likely to be nibbling on something later in the day that contains said unrefined sweeteners anyway. On ordinary days, the only sugar in my breakfast comes from fresh fruit (usually banana and/or berries). While it’s absolutely FINE to incorporate some unrefined sweeteners (such as maple & rice malt) into your weekly diet, sugar is still sugar and it’s not great to cover your porridge or muesli with them every single morning.
Fructose is an addictive best and the more of it you consume (refined or unrefined), the more you will crave, and the more likely you will be to devour foods loaded with REFINED sugar. Believe me, I’ve been nibbling on far more sugary things than usual lately: a drizzle on maple syrup on this, a line of dark chocolate with that, a spoonful of ice cream here and a square of Mars Bar & Malteser Slice there. It’s not the actual food in my mouth at the time that’s doing the damage because let’s face it, those amounts are not going to kill me or break my scales, but it’s the effect that it has on my brain afterwards that’s the real issue: after that little bit of chocolate or that mouthful of ice cream, all I can think about is my next sugar fix. Usually, I genuinely crave vegetables and wholesome foods, but lately all I can think about is cake and cookies. And doughnuts and Marvellous Creations and sticky date pudding and chai lattes.

Sugar truly is the devil.

With all that said, this brekky is still relatively low in sugar overall. You can definitely afford to add small amounts of unrefined sweeteners to your breakfasts a few times a week, so long as you’re not relying on them just to make it “taste good”. Remember you could always leave the sweeteners out of this recipe, but don’t expect it to taste as good. Just sayin’.
If you can’t be bothered with all the fancy components and just want the pancakes, just make the pancakes and serve them smothered with almond butter and warm blueberries instead. Deeeeelish!

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Orange & Chai-Spiced Pancakes w/ Caramelised Mandarin Compote, Cardamom Coconut Cream + Candied Maple Walnuts

Makes 3 small pancakes (serves 1)

Ingredients

Pancakes:

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbs whole meal spelt flour*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 small ripe banana
  • 3 tbs milk of choice (I used oat milk)
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • tiny pinch dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp orange rind (finely grated)
  • 1/2 tsp aluminium free baking powder
  • pinch salt (I use pink Himalayan)
  • stevia

Caramelised Mandarin Compote:

  • 1 mandarin, separated into its segments and visible pips removed if necessary
  • zest and juice of half an orange (approx. 3 tsp)
  • 1 tsp rice malt syrup (or maple syrup if you don’t have any)
  • thumbnail slice of fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Cardamom Coconut Cream:

  • 2 tbs coconut cream (I always have a tin stored in the fridge because the cream sets on top of the milk when refrigerated)
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom, or to taste
  • stevia, to taste

Candied Maple Walnuts:

  • 2 tbs walnut pieces (macadamias or peacans would work well too)*
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup

Method

  1. To make the candied walnuts, preheat your oven to 160’C and line a tray with baking paper. In a small dish (you could even use a little cup), coat the walnut pieces with maple syrup. Spread out onto the lined baking tray and drizzle any excess maple left in the dish/cup over the walnuts. Bake for 5-10minutes, stirring a few times, until they begin to brown and take on a candied shell. Cooking times will depend on your oven and the size of your walnut pieces). If you’re making them in advance, allow to cool on the tray first, then store them in a little container in the fridge until needed.
  2. To make the mandarin compote: mix the orange zest, juice, rice malt, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it’s been boiling for a minute and starts to caramelise, (be careful that it doesn’t start to burn), add the mandarin segments and turn stove down to low. Stir and leave for a few minutes, or until the mandarin is heated through. Remove from stove and set aside until ready to use.
  3. To make the pancakes, blend all ingredients in a high-power blender or processor until a batter has formed. The batter should be a thick, pourable consistency. If it’s too thick, add a little milk, and add more spelt or oats if it seems too runny.
  4. To make the cardamom coconut cream, simply mix cardamom and a little stevia (optional) though the coconut cream and refrigerate until needed.
  5. Melt some coconut oil in a fry-pan over low-medium heat. Ensure that the pan is greased well enough, as the oat flour in the batter will try to stick to the pan like glue if you let it. But you’ve got this. Pour rounds of the pancake batter onto the pan (all 3 should fit in a medium/large fry-pan). Use the back of a spoon to shape into rounds if the batter is misbehaving. You know they’re ready to flip when the tops have bubbled (just like normal pancakes!). Cook on the other side for a few minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Serve in a stack with the mandarin compote, cardamom cream and candied maple walnuts. If you’re only making the pancakes, serve smothered with almond butter (this is just as delicious in my books).

Note: ingredients labelled with an (*) contain low levels of fructan and might not be suitable for people who are highly sensitive to such irritants. They’d never bother me in these amounts, but just as with any potential irritant, test your own tolerance.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Another healthy pizza recipe (no, they never get old): Roasted Eggplant + Capsicum Pizza

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This recipe started off as a “I’m cold, I’m tired, I’m sick to death of staring blankly at textbooks and I’m craving pizza something chronic but I can’t be bothered with anything fancy” kind of lunch, and turned out to be my new favourite go-to meal. It was inspired in part by my new-found obsession with eggplant, and also by my yearning for comfort food: I needed something warm, and hearty and full of taste. It was the first day of Winter and also my first proper day of attempted exam study***, and in true Melbourne Winter tradition, it was so bitterly cold that I swear the raindrops could have frozen into icicles before they hit the pavement.

I’m actually eating this Roasted Capsicum and Eggplant Pizza again as I write this, the loud sounds of my munching only just obscuring Mum’s audible annihilation of her own share across the table. Unfortunately, I can hear her slight moans of satisfaction because I’m not moaning myself. I don’t even know if she knows she’s doing it. Now I’m giggling and she’s asking why (“Oh, nothing, just something on the internet!”) Don’t get me wrong, I do moan and groan in culinary delight, but just not when I’m eating and typing simultaneously – 2 tasks are hard enough to juggle, let alone 3. I also don’t moan while tasting my own food in front of others because that would just be weird and, well, wanky.

***I should clarify that by “my first proper day of attempted exam study”, I really mean “the first day that I planned to spend all my time revising, but instead the ratio of study hours versus hours of laying on my cow hide rug in front of the open fire reading cook books and planning my upcoming Europe trip was  1:5, at best”. HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I’M JETTING OFF TO EUROPE FOR 3 MONTHS IN 2 WEEKS’ TIME?! How can a girl possibly concentrate on exams when her head is in the clouds (or cloudless skies, more like it) hanging over Santorini sunsets, Croatian waters, Parisian markets and picnics, Ibizan boat parties, Spanish tomato fights, Berlin beer gardens and Turkish tree houses?
But back to important pizza stuff…

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Roasted Capsicum + Eggplant Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 small wheat-free wrap of choice for pizza base (I’m loving the spelt wraps from Go Vita health stores at the moment. They’re quite big as a base for one serving, so I just cut it down to the size of a small plate. A note on wraps: if you’re at the supermarket, don’t be fooled by ‘gluten free’, ‘wholegrain’ or even ‘organic’ wrap packet labels, because they might not be as healthy as they claim to be. The majority of wrap varieties I’ve come across, particularly at supermarkets, are FULL of crap. As always, keep ingredients lists to a minimum and avoid unnecessary additives such as preservatives, sugar or anything defined by a number)
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp tomato paste
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 eggplant, cut into thin (approx. 3mm) discs
  • 1 small or 1/2 large red capsicum, sliced into strips
  • small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs raw pine nuts (these will toast while the pizza cooks)
  • 2 tbs grated cheese (this is obviously optional, but I included it because I try to be as transparent when it comes to my diet as possible. I don’t eat processed cheese very often, but is pizza really pizza without cheese of some description? I don’t think so. It also just so happened that my mum had bought ‘Pizza Plus’ cheese for my brother the day before, and I simply couldn’t resist the ultimate melt combo: mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan.
  • 15g danish feta, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 250’C and line a baking tray with aluminium foil.
  2. Slice eggplant and place in a colander. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the slices and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sit for 15 minutes. The salt will draw water out of the eggplant (water molecules follow sodium), so you’re not left with rubbery, soggy eggplant on your pizza. After 15 minutes, rinse eggplant thoroughly and dry well with paper towelling.
  3. Arrange capsicum strips on the lined tray and brush with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the capsicum begins to char around the edges. When the capsicum is ready, remove from oven, transfer capsicum to a plate and put tray back in the oven while you prepare the rest of your pizza – a piping hot tray is the secret to getting a crispy pizza base!
  4. Spread the wrap with tomato paste and top with baby spinach. Arrange eggplant slices on top of the spinach and brush with a little olive oil. Follow with the capsicum, chopped parsley, pine nuts, and cheese (if using). Season with a little sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt. Place pizza on preheated tray (no foil or baking paper underneath) and bake in oven for around 15 minutes, or until the edges of the base have started to brown and the eggplant is visibly cooked. Remove from oven.
  5. To serve, top the pizza with extra parsley and crumbled feta. Cut into slices, forget about the knife and fork and enjoy each bite with your hands – true pizza style.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Overstuffed Baked Sweet Potato

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During my heavenly stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat back in February, I couldn’t believe how many fellow guests suffered from fructose malabsorption. Out of 50 visitors, I’d guestimate that around a THIRD of us were plagued by FructMal, and the majority of the others had some type of food intolerance or a combination of them. At first I found comfort in knowing so many other individuals shared the frustrations associated with fructose intolerance. Let’s just say the short-lived comfort (aka: the calm) came before the unendurable (aka: the storm)…

Boy oh boy did these women like to vocalise to anyone within ear-shot the catastrophic burden Fructose Malabsorption had forced on their once-idyllic lives. If I didn’t have such a wicked sense of humour, I might have been embarrassed by their relentless whinging, since I was technically “one of them”. Truth be told, it was just downright hilarious. At all meal times, I’d watch in amusement as they screwed up their faces in disgust and used their forks to prod dramatically at their custom made meals as if dissecting a rotten sheep’s brain. Then, when the waiters would come around again to serve the ‘digestively normal’ diners their lentil dahls, coconut prawn curries and plum and apple crumbles, my dear fructose malabsorbers would drop their jaws and ogle –practically drooling–over their fellow diners’ meals. They’d then spend the next two hours complaining about how miserable fructose malabsorption has made them and the massive injustice of it all. While I politely smiled and nodded (and zoned the hell out), it took all my composure not to tell the Housewives of the Gold Coast to get some real problems.

Oh, you poor little lamb, you can’t eat onion or watermelon? Golly, you were really given the shit end of the stick, weren’t you?
Pahhh-lease.

It’s worth noting that 90% of the fructose-friendly meals served to us at Gwinganna were absolutely divine, and they were always more than satisfying. The lovely chef put a great deal of effort into accommodating our individual needs and creating tasty meals that didn’t leave us feeling like we were missing out. Or at least he tried to. To be honest, I don’t think the main issue for these people was fructose malabsorption itself, but rather wholesome, clean foods in general. Most of them had never before tasted quinoa, almond milk, unbattered fish, tahini, activated nuts, baked sweet potato chips, pure green vegetable juice, unsalted soups or sugar-rife desserts. The majority of them were also coming down off major caffeine addictions. They didn’t find their meals unpalatable because they’d been tailored to suit their intolerances; they found the food awful simply because they were so used to stuffing themselves with processed and refined foods full of added salt, saturated fat, sugar and chemicals. They weren’t used to eating REAL food. Simple as that.

Anyway, moving on from whinging about whingers…
Another thing I found perplexing was the amount of sweet potato being served on the ‘fructose friendly’ menu. Between the mounds of silky smooth mash, baked-to-perfection crisps, dehydrated chips, dips, chunky soups and roasted veg medleys, I was quite literally being served the equivalent of one mammoth-sized sweet beauty, or two regular-sized ones, every day. And I felt absolutely FINE – no crippling cramps, nausea, fatigue, reflux or **ick alert** repugnant wind.

After going 10 melancholy months without it (post-diagnosis), I only reintroduced sweet potato back into my diet late last year. I was still limiting myself to pathetically puny portions in the fear that I’d react to its then-perceived FODMAPs [fructose (F) and polyols (P)]. When I first developed FructMal, every web page, blog post or forum I came across painted a danger haze around sweet potato. Even my dietitian at the time, who specializes in food intolerance, said to stick to 1/4 cup of sweet potato in a sitting, and to not eat any other potential irritants with it (like avocado), to decrease the likelihood of having an adverse reaction. The dietician at Gwinganna, however, said that sweet potato is now thought to be safe for those with sensitivities to fructose and polyols (naturally-occuring sugar alcohols in certain fruit and veg, such as sorbitol and mannitol). I was over the moon, and I’ve been stuffing my face with sweet potato ever since.

What better way to celebrate the rekindled flame with my sweet lover than with an over-stuffed baked sweet potato in all its fluffy, comforting, flavourful glory?

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Overstuffed Baked Sweet ‘Tato

Ingredients

Stuffed baked potato:

  • 1 large sweet potato, washed and dried thoroughly with paper towel
  • Shredded roast chicken breast (about 100g)
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onions or chives (green part only for low FODMAP)
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • 15g Danish feta, crumbled (omit for dairy free)
  • small handful fresh coriander springs

Avocado cream:

  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/4 cup full fat organic natural or Greek yoghurt (I use five:am organics brand – omit for dairy free and replace with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tsp lime juice (use lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1/2 tsp ground sumac
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of Himalayan sea salt, or to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 230’C. After washing and drying the sweet potato, prick all over with a fork or sharp knife. Place sweet potato on an oven tray and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until soft throughout. Cooking times will depend on your oven and the size of your sweet potato. If the skin begins to burn, cover with aluminium foil.
  2. In the meantime, blend the avocado cream ingredients in a food processor. Season to taste.
  3. Take the hard boiled egg and use a grater to creating soft white shavings. It’s up to you whether you use the egg yolk too, but I don’t like hard yolk, so I didn’t.
  4. When the sweet potato is cooked through, sit it on a plate and cut a slit down the length of it. At this point, it’s up to you how you stuff your potato. So many baked sweet potato recipes ask you to scoop out all the flesh, season it with a myriad of herbs and spices and then stuff the flesh back in, before topping it with all your goodies. That’s all a bit too arduous for me – when my grumbling tummy has already waited an hour for the potato to bake, the last thing I’m going to do is tease myself more by stuffing around (ha! Punny) with the flesh, only to put it back in to serve, and scoop it back out to eat. Sweet potato flesh is such a natural beauty on its own anyway, it hardly needs to be masked with complex flavours. Besides, I’m all about cutting inefficient corners. I just like to chuck all the toppings over the baked ‘tato and sprinkle extra spices (such as sumac, cumin, paprika etc.) over at the end if I’m wanting like more of a kick.
  5. Serve the sweet potato topped with shredded chicken, spring onion/chives, feta, shaved egg white, coriander and dollops of the avocado cram. You can also finish it off with a sprinkle of extra sumac, cumin and paprika if you wish.

Happy Stuffing (your face!),
Ax

Banana Split Overnight Oats

Banana splits never get old. 
Overnight oats never get old.
Why not marry the two and have an all-American dessert for breakfast?

IMG_5220These Banana Split Overnight Oats are quite the breakfast treat. They’re perfect to tuck into on a wintry and couch-ridded Saturday morning, while you’re encased in a blanket  cocoon with a tea nearby. That’s if you reside in Melbourne, of course. If you’re anywhere else in the world remotely sunny/not utterly miserable, you might even be able to enjoy your oats outside…

Banana Split Overnight Oats

Ingredients

Overnight Oats:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (organic if possible)
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup milk of choice (I use coconut-rice milk), or a combination of water & milk
  • 1/4 cup natural full-fat yoghurt (five:am organics do the best organic yoghurts EVER!)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tsp shredded coconut
  • sweetener, to taste (stevia for sugar-free, or rice malt syrup/pure maple syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 heaped tbs raw cacao powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 banana, mashed

To serve:

Method

  1. Combine all ‘overnight oats’ ingredients except the mashed banana, cacao powder and sweetener. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. In the morning, combine the overnight oats with the mashed banana and cacao. Add desired sweetener to taste.
  3. In a tall glass, create layers by alternating with the oats, sliced banana, yoghurt and granola. Top with a drizzle of cacao-peanut butter and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts. Dig in!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax