Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls | Low Fructose, FODMAP Friendly

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I’m just gonna dive right into this post and say that if you love peanut butter and the magical marriage of kinda sweet, kinda salty, then you absolutely must try this recipe. This is my take on Ace’s Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls, which I’d been spending far too much money on at the F.O.G store in Richmond (not because they’re stupidly expensive, but because I’d buy several of them several times weekly) before I decided to make my own version.

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I’m racking my brain for something creative to write here, but with two group assignments (kill me) looming and three weeks worth of lectures to catch up on, I think my mental efforts best be redirected. So all I’ll say is that these balls are a cheap, no bake, vegan, one bowl, ready-in-moments and virtually mess free job (unless you’re a total klutz like me and trip over absolutely nothing, spilling a kilo of coconut flour on the floor).
Oh and I’ll make and hand deliver a quadruple batch (and throw a few bear hugs and kisses in) for whoever offers to write one of my assignments for me, preferably the “evaluation of statistical analysis on taste receptor gene studies” one (like I said, kill me).

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Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls | Fructose Friendly, Low FODMAP

Makes approx. 10 balls

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 ball

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup (235g) natural unsalted crunchy peanut butter
  • 5 tbs (38g) chia seeds
  • 4tbs pure maple syrup or coconut nectar
  • 3 tbs activated buckinis
  • Generous pinch fine sea salt
  • For rolling: ground cinnamon, fine sea salt and coconut sugar

Method

  1. Place chia seeds into a coffee grinder or blender and pulse until a flour-like consistency forms
  2. Combine the chia four, PB, maple, buckinis and salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon, then mix with your hands if needed, ensuring all the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Keep stirring until the chia flour has absorbed most of the moisture and a dough-like consistency forms.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbs coconut sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt
  4. Divide dough into 10 even portions, then roll into balls with your palms. Lightly roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat, then place on a lined tray and allow to set in the freezer for one hour. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for softer balls, or in the freezer for firmer balls. I prefer them firm (trying really hard not to giggle here, real mature I know).

Info for the irritable

  • Peanut butter is high in fructans when consumed in large amounts in one sitting (75g or more). According to Monash, 2 tbs or 32g of PB is considered low in fructans and should thus be tolerated by people with IBS or fructose malabsorption. One of these balls contains 23.5g of PB.

Ax

Twix Cookie Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free, FODMAP Friendly

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax
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“While distance makes the heart grow fonder, resistance makes the taste buds wonder”
                                              – Me, 2018 (enlightening, I know)

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

There’s only one confectionery I love as much as Kinder chocolate, and that’s Twix bars. There’s something about the combination of the shortbread biscuit base, gooey caramel filling and creamy chocolate blanket that’s just so mouthgasmic, it leaves me making noises that no one should ever make in public, let alone whilst eating. I’ve always gone nuts over anything Twix. Twix Pods, Twix ice cream, Twix slice… you name it and I’ve salivated over it. And don’t even get me started on Twix cheesecake. I used my boyfriend’s birthday last year as an excuse to make one, and ended up eating three quarters of the bloody thing over two days.

I’d also go so far as to say that Mars’ release of Twix Ice-cream Bars was to blame for five out of the six kilos I gained during my first European Summer in 2014. The daily habit was justified by the fact that they were only 1€ ($1.50) a pop, a welcomed revelation for my broke backpacking ass, and “I’ve got one life, BITCHES!”
Let’s just say that nourishing my bod wasn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind that trip.

Aside from the aforementioned four-month-long health hiatus and treats here and there, I’ve become pretty disciplined with my consumption of full-of-total-crapola fare since becoming a so-called adult. Full disclosure: I still receive a giant Kinder Surprise each year from the Easter Bunny. Still, it’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and resistance makes the taste buds wonder (that line is a 2018 edit and I’d I’m ridiculously smug rn, by the way), and so Twix is never too far from my fantasies…

I’d always wanted to create a healthy and FODMAP friendly Twix slice, but put it in the too-hard basket because I couldn’t think of how to make a healthy and tasty caramel filling without using a bunch of dates. To my delight, I came across the fabulous blog, Blissful Basil by Ashley Melillo, and her discovery of the incredibly caramely combination of almond butter, pure maple syrup and coconut oil. It changed my life, and if you’re not too sensitive to almonds it will change yours too.

This mega decadent Twix Cookie Slice recipe is my gluten free, vegan and fructose friendly spin on Twix bars, Mars’ best invention ever. Although the caramel mainly consists almond butter which is high in fructans when consumed in large amounts, I have made sure that each serving of this slice contains even less almond butter than is deemed “safe” by Monash University, and I’ve kept the overall FODMAP load low. In other words, this recipe is FODMAP friendly if the recommended serving size is adhered to. Please see notes below the recipe for specific recommendations.

FODMAP Friendly Twix Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free,Low FODMAP)

Makes 18 bars or 25 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 bar or 1-2 squares (see notes below)

Ingredients

Vanilla Shortbread Biscuit Base:

  • 1 ¾ cups (210g) brown rice flour 
  • 1 cup (97g) tapioca starch
  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Almond ‘Caramel’ Filling:

  • 1 cup (250g) unsalted 100% almond butter
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup (66g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ tsp fine sea salt

Chocolate topping:

  • ½  cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ½  cup (34g) raw cacao powder
  • 1-2 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Small pinch of fine sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a square slice or cake tin with baking paper, ensuring that the paper hangs over the sides. My tin is 18 x 18cm.
  2. To make the biscuit base, combine the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little clumpy or separated. If it seems too wet (and oil is noticeably pooling on top), add a little more rice flour.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use your fingertips to press the mixture in firmly and evenly. Use a fork to poke several holes in the base. Bake for 20 minutes or until the colour is becoming golden. Remove from the oven. Do not wait for it to brown, as it will become overcooked and dry. It should still be a little soft to touch and will harden as it cools. My base often forms a big raised bump in the middle toward the end of baking – if this happens to you, gently push it down as soon as it comes out of the oven while it’s still soft. Allow to cool and harden completely in the tin.
  4. To make the caramel filling, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Increase heat to medium and add the almond butter, maple, and salt. Lightly whisk until all ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. I also highly recommend helping yourself to a little spoonful of the almond caramel while it’s warm. You’re welcome. 💁🏼‍♀️
  5. Pour the caramel filling over the cooled biscuit base, smooth with the back of a spoon, and place in the freezer, ensuring a completely flat position, for 30 minutes to set. 
  6. To make the chocolate layer, place the coconut oil, cacao, maple and salt in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the ingredients have completely melted together. Pour the chocolate over the caramel layer, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Return the slice to the freezer for a further 20 minutes, ensuring a completely flat position, to set the chocolate layer.
  7. Remove the slice from the tin and transfer to a chopping board. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into 18 bars or 25 squares (see notes below on recommended low FODMAP serving sizes). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable

  • Almonds –and thus almond butter– are high in Fermentable Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructans (AKA the “F” and “O” in “FODMAP”) when consumed in amounts larger than 35g in one sitting. However, according to Monash University, 1 tbs or 20g of almond butter is considered low in these carbohydrates, and should be tolerated by people with IBS or fructose malabsorption. Each serving of this slice, when cut into either 18 bars or 25 squares, contains only 14g and 10g of almond butter, respectively. If you’re unsure of your tolerance to almonds, opt for a small square and take it from there.

Ax

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

Low FODMAP Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Throughout my primary school years, my favourite afternoons involved a visit to the local bakery where I’d leave with a choccie Big M in one hand, and either a sausage roll or lemon slice in the other. Sometimes all three, depending on how much Mum wanted to shut me up until dinner. My irrepressible love for lemon slice continued into the early years of high school –as did sausage rolls, unfortunately– when I’d make a batch most weekends, using half the sweetened condensed milk for the biscuit base and drinking the rest straight from the tin…

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

To this day, I can never knock back a traditional lemon slice when the opportunity arises, and I still revel in its delectably citrusy, melt-in-your-mouth glory, but I try not to chow them down on the regular like I used to. FYI I’ve also stopped drinking sweetened condensed milk from the can.

It’s quite easy to find healthy gluten free lemon slice alternatives these days, but as with all healthy spins on traditional desserts, it’s difficult to find ones that are suitable for the digestively challenged. Most health-ified lemon slices I’ve come across, delightful as they are, rely heavily on nuts, dried coconut and dates in the base, and cashews in the cream topping. Great for some; not so great for us FODMAP malabsorbers.

My Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice, albeit not FODMAP free (because that’s not the point of the low FODMAP diet), has been very carefully formulated to use enough coconut and lower-FODMAP nuts and seeds so that it has a nice flavour and texture and is nutrient dense, but is still at the ‘low’, and thus ‘safe’, end of the FODMAP spectrum so long as the recommended serving size is adhered to. The base is bulked with quinoa flakes and buckwheat grouts, and soaked macadamias make for a lovely cream (not as creamy as cashews would, granted, but we can’t have it all). This slice is also vegan, gluten free, grain free, paleo, and packed with quality proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice (vegan, gluten free, Paleo)

Makes 24 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 square

Ingredients

Biscuit Base:

  • 1 cup (70g) quinoa flakes 
  • 1.5 cups (82g) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut plus a little extra, to serve 
  • 1 cup (100g) raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup (80g) buckwheat groats
  • 2 tbs linseeds (chia seeds would also work)
  • 1/4 cup (85g) pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup (70g) melted coconut oil
  • Generous pinch of sea salt

Lemon and Macadamia Cream Topping:

  • 1.5 cups (180g) macadamias
  • 2/3 cup (120g) coconut cream (100% coconut and guar gum free)
  • 3 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil (this is an option for a slightly firmer topping – see notes in step 4 below)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 – 1 lemon plus extra, to serve

Method

  1. Place the macadamias in a small bowl and cover with filtered water. Cover the bowl with a small plate and allow to soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Line a rectangular slice tray (mine is 18 x 27cm) with baking paper.  
  3. To make the biscuit base, use a high-powered processor to process the quinoa flakes, dried coconut, pecans, buckwheat grouts, linseeds and salt until a crumb forms. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and process until it all comes together, scraping the bowl down with a spatula as necessary. Spoon the mixture into the tin and use your fingertips to press it down firmly and evenly. Place in the freezer to set while you make the topping.
  4. To make the lemon cream topping, drain the soaked macadamias and discard the liquid. Place the macadamias into the cleaned processor bowl/jug and process until as smooth as possible. Add the coconut cream, maple syrup, lemon juice and a quarter of the zest, and process until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides down with a spatula as necessary. At this stage, taste the cream and add more lemon zest if you wish. Please note: this topping is designed to be quite soft and creamy once set, but if you want it to be a bit firmer you can add 3-4 tbs melted coconut oil, which will help it set more in the fridge as the coconut oil solidifies. 
  5. Remove the biscuit base from the freezer and top with the lemon cream, using the back of the spatula to smooth over. Top with extra lemon zest and shredded/flaked coconut (I like to toast mine lightly first). Allow to set in the freezer for an hour or so.
  6. Once set, use a sharp knife to cut the slice into 24 squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month and thaw slightly before serving.
Info for the irritable:
  • This recipe has been carefully formulated to be FODMAP friendly when the recommeded serving size is adhered to. It contains moderate amounts of the polyol, sorbitol, from coconut (dried and milk/cream) and small amounts of fructans from pecans, macadamias and linseeds. One square of this slice (when the slice has been divided into 24 squares) is considered low in both sorbitol and fructans and should thus be safe for people with IBS or fructose malabsorption.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I find myself making this salad all year round, but there’s no denying its utter summery-ness. Whether it’s Sunday dinner at home, a casual picnic, or a festive bring-a-plate night, this salad has been one of my top go-to’s since I first posted it. Going by your emails, it’s still probably THE most loved recipe on here (thank you, lovely readers!), and it makes me V happy to know that you’re still loving it as much as I do. It’s even one of my Dad’s favourites which, given the fact that it’s “just a bloody salad”, says a bit.

It’s simple and straightforward enough to whip up on a weeknight, but the strawberries and caramelised macadamias give it that extra touch of pizzazz, making it perfect for entertaining or when you’re on salad duty. The warm roasted chicken and generous chunks of pumpkin add heartiness and make it feel like a real meal, and together with the nuts and feta it’s deceivingly filling.

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I’m a total sucker for anything that combines sweet and savoury (HELLOOOOO fig paste on double brie, honey on peanut butter, and my ultimate vice – maple syrup on fried chicken), and the marriage of savoury chicken and feta with sweet strawberries and maple-coated pumpkin and nuts in this salad is no exception, so when you curate a forkful that has just a little bit of everything, it really is a party in your mouth.

 With just the right balance of sweet and savoury and a touch of tart, this very low-FODMAP salad will leave your tastebuds singing and your belly happy. If you’re after a side a salad or a vegetarian version, simply leave the chicken out. Vegans can omit the feta altogether or substitute with a nut-based feta, however because of the concentration of high FODMAP nuts (commonly cashews) in nut-based fetas, I have not come across one that is strictly low FODMAP.

This salad is best served while the pumpkin is still warm and caramelised, however it’s also great at room temp so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing. If you’re actually capable of controlling your portions and have leftovers, they make for a delicious lunch the next day!

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • ½ roasted chicken (free range and organic if possible), shredded
  • ½ medium Jap/Kent pumpkin (approx 2kg), peeled and cut into even 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup (130g) macadamias, halved
  • 2 tbs + 3 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1½ tbs melted coconut oil
  • 200g leafy salad mix of choice
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet strawberries (200g), sliced
  • ½ cup spring onion (40g), chopped (green part only)
  • ¼ cup (35g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 100g goats curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for vegan)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to dress
  • Balsamic vinegar, to dress (optional)
  • 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 3 tsp of the maple syrup. Pour onto the tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 200*C and line two trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin  with the remaining maple syrup, melted coconut oil, dried oregano and salt.
  3. Divide the pumpkin between the two lined trays and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through and adding the pepitas to the top tray for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Depending on your oven, you may also want to swap the trays half way through to ensure even cooking. 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 delicious gooey maple will dry out!
  4. In the meantime, arrange the salad leaves in a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle with EVOO and top with spring onions, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, shredded chicken, feta, maple macadamias and pepitas. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for those who want a little more acidity – a tiny drizzle goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta! 

Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

 

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Gluten Free Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola | Grain Free, Low FODMAP

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Yep, I’m one of those people. One of those who still, even at 22 years of age, puts milk, cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeers on Christmas Eve. From December 1st I blast Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas album in my car, and refuse to take it off rotation until mid-January. Shopping centres go from being in my top-3-most-disliked-environments all year from January through November, to magical joy-filled havens which I find every excuse to immerse myself in during December. I take dramatic detours and scour the streets of suburban Melbourne late at night, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at fairy light displays. Even houses with the tackiest efforts (flashing rainbow fairy lights usually make my eyes hurt) send ripples of Christmas cheer through me. I’ve finally stopped dressing my car as Rudolf and acknowledge that the antlers on the side door windows and red nose on the front grill are a bit much.

As I write this, the most wonderful day of the year is just one week away. The early summer sun is shining outside, I’ve spent the afternoon wrapping presents and arranging them under the tree, and the oven is exhaling mouth-watering notes of ginger, cinnamon and maple from my fourth batch of Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola this week.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

This granola recipe is a festive and comforting marriage of sugar and spice. It’s sweetened with just enough maple syrup and the pops of tart lemon and dried cranberries add some extra zing. There’s a delicious crunch and chewiness to it, then it melts in your mouth like any granola should. It might look Christmassy, but it makes for a delicious and nutrient dense breakfast all year round. This recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to mix it up however you like. So long as you’re mindful of wet to dry ratios, you can pretty much throw in whatever you’ve got on hand.

How you use the granola is entirely up to you – serve a generous handful with your favourite nut milk and strawbs for a wholesome brekky, sprinkle it over smoothie bowls and banana ‘nice cream’ to add some crunch, or whiz some through smoothies to make them extra thicccc and amp up the flavour. It’s also great to snack on as a trail mix, but I try to portion it out in advance otherwise I end up eating half a batch in one sitting. Portion control has never been my forté.

For something a bit spesh, try layering the granola with cardamom-stewed oranges or other fruit and your favourite yoghurt (coconut or full fat) in individual glasses  – the perfect Christmas Parfait for brunch entertaining! I also love making cute homemade edible gifts by filling mason jars with the granola. Add some mini gingerbread men to the jars and arrange around the side of the jar so that they’re visible, then finish with some festive ribbon and hand-written gift tags.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola

FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups(178g) quinoa flakes (you could also use flaked brown rice or buckwheat)
  • 1 cup (200g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • 1 cup (15g) puffed buckwheat (puffed brown rice also works great although it’s a grain)
  • ¾ cup (45g) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use mostly macadamias and pecans, plus some almonds and walnuts
  • ¼ cup (40g) pepitas
  • ¼ cup (40g) sunflower seeds
  • ¾ tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbs coconut sugar (optional)
  • ½ cup (60g) dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible, omit for strictly fructose friendly – see notes)

Wet mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and lightly grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ‘muesli mixture’ ingredients, except the dried coconut and cranberries
  3. Add the ‘wet’ ingredients to the bowl, gently folding with a large wooden spoon until fully combined
  4. Spoon onto the prepared tray in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Add the dried coconut and use a spatula to gently turn the granola. Lightly press the mixture down to encourage the formation of clusters. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. At this point it should be fragrant and golden
  5. Remove from the oven and set aside. As it cools, the granola will continue to dry out and crisp up, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft. Allow to cool completely before adding the dried cranberries and transferring to an airtight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for at least a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

  • Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
  • Dried cranberries do contain moderate fructans, however the amount I have included once divided is considered low.
  • To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Slice | Fructose Friendly, Low FODMAP, Gluten Free

Hey YOU!
If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and tastes the same as before, but now calls for gut-friendlier alternatives to the gluten. Your belly will thank you for it, and I hope your tastebuds still do, too! Ax

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

It’s probably not news to you that most muesli bars on supermarket shelves -and even some in the “health food” aisle- are not that great for you.

Many of them belong in the confectionary aisle right next to the beloved Cadbury Black Forest block. If you’re reading this, you’re probably also a label reader accustomed to doing a quick scan of sugar contents when deciding between pre-packaged muesli bars. But how much notice do you pay to where that sugar is coming from? The majority of muesli/snack bars out there are absolutely LOADED with added sugars, whether it’s refined in the form of white/brown sugar or horrible processed syrups, unrefined in the form of raw cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice malt syrup etc., or sneakily disguised as being the most ‘natural’ –yet actually the most concentrated– forms of fructose of all: dried fruit and fruit juice concentrates.

As I write this, I’m analysing the labels of 2 different muesli bar boxes by a popular ‘real food’ brand sold at supermarkets. Their products are marketed as, and widely believed to be, a much healthier alternative to their processed counterparts. Yes, they use mainly whole food ingredients and don’t contain any nasty preservatives or additives which is great, but the sugar content is simply way too high to be promoted as healthy.
One of the aforementioned labels reads SIX DIFFERENT SOURCES OF SUGAR: cranberries, sugar, glucose, honey, rice syrup and apple. The other contains FIVE different sources: glucose, honey, sugar, cranberries and sultanas.
Ruuuuuude.

Photo: Fruit Free Muesli Bar Slice

Sure, these bars make our taste buds happy because we’re hard-wired to gorge on anything sweet as it was once so rarely available (it’s no secret that the food industry capitalises on this biological fact), but the bottom line is that large amounts of sugar, regardless of where it’s coming from, wreaks havoc on your brain and organs, promotes systemic inflammation throughout your body, and provides a feeding frenzy to the pathogenic bacteria in your gut, making any intestine-related digestive issues you may have a whole lot worse in the long-run.

The main point of this argument isn’t to put you off eating any form of sugar for the rest of your life (how terribly sad would that be?!). I’m just saying that if you’re going to tuck into six different forms of sugar in one snack sized portion, it should be a mega decadent treat, like a double-fudge-peanut-butter-brownie-with-maple-frosting-and-butterscotch-macadamias for instance, not your mid-morning snack. 

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

You might be thinking, “how the hell do I know what muesli bars to choose, then?!”

And rightfully so.
Finding pre-packaged snacks that are low FODMAP, gut-friendly and genuinely healthy can seem impossible, and sometimes it is. Thankfully, more and more options are becoming available in supermarkets all the time. Here’s what I look out for:

1. Excess fructose and overall sugar content

If you have fructose malabsorption or IBS, be mindful of ingredients that contain excess fructose such as dates, dried fruits, concentrated fruit juices and agave syrup, as these could leave you bowed over with mega food regret. With that said, don’t be fooled into choosing a product just because it contains predominately glucose, and is thus low fructose (i.e. glucose syrup, rice malt syrup etc.). Just because it’s low in fructose and won’t promote gastrointestinal symptoms immediately, does not mean it’s good for your gut in the long term! I’ll say it again and again, if you’ve got digestive issues, there’s a good chance your intestinal ecosystem is out of whack, and any bad bugs in your belly love to feed –and multiply like evil gremlins– on glucose, leading to the worsening of intestinal flora imbalances.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid snacks that have a sugar source as one of the first three listed ingredients, and opt for products that contain no more than 3-4g total sugars per 100g. That way you’re minimising exposure to excess fructose whilst keeping overall sugar consumption relatively low.

2. Fibre content and source

Fibre is one of our best friends for a multitude of reasons, but unfortunately sometimes manufacturers like to bulk health food products with plant-extracted fibres such as inulin and chicory root, which can be troublesome for people with FM/IBS due to their fermentable oligosaccharide (GOS) content. Avoid any products containing these particular fibres while your gut is hyper sensitive.

3. Gluten

Research is pointing more and more towards all gluten promoting inflammation in the intestines, and far beyond. I’ve recently decided to cut gluten out as much as possible, with the odd slip-up. And by “odd slip-up”, I mean every day whilst #vacaying in Italy, or when drunk.

4. Inflammatory fats

I’m totally pro-fat, and eat a lot of it, but not all fat is created equally. It’s important to opt for ingredients lists that contain truly healthful fatty acids (such as nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado and pressed olives), and not refined pro-inflammatory “vegetable fats”, such as canola oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil etc. Oh and it goes without saying that laboratory-made trans fats should be avoided at all costs – never touch anything that reads “hydrogenated-” as a prefix before any oil or fat. Bad bad bad.

5. Other troublesome additives

As if you didn’t have enough criteria already, make sure you’re also weary of troublesome high FODMAP sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol etc. Protein bars are common culprits of this! Lastly, if it’s marketed as a health food then it shouldn’t contain artificial additives anyway, but just to be safe, watch out for nasty sulphites (numbers 220-228), which are commonly found in commercially dried fruits.

Granted, it’s a lot easier to narrow the process down when you’re at a health food store as they’re already a lot stricter on what products they stock, but then I’m always conflicted by paying up to $5 for a single snack when I can make a week’s worth of my own muesli slice for the same price…

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

This Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Slice is super easy to whip up and the recipe is very forgiving. If you don’t have a particular ingredient just use something else that’s similar in density, being mindful of wet to dry ratios. This is designed to be a base recipe, so feel free to jazz things up! Try adding things like goji berries (dark choc-coated gojis would be delicious for a more decadent treat), or a little unsweetened and sulphite-free dried fruit, like cranberries or blueberries.

High in fibre, healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, and low in sugars (just 3g per snack-sized square), this muesli slice makes a perfect on-the-go breakfast or snack any time of day. I love to serve mine spread with natural salted peanut butter and a little homemade strawberry jam – delish. 

Fruit Free Quinoa Muesli Bar Slice

Makes 24 snack squares, or 12 bars

FODMAP friendly serving size: one snack sized square

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (160g) quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup (30g) brown rice flour
  • 1½ cups (180g) mixed seeds (I use pepitas & sunflower kernels)
  • ½ cup (60g) nuts of choice, such as walnuts and pecans (activated if possible), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs (10g) chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp (3-6g) ground cinnamon (depending on your taste preferences)
  • ½ tsp (2g) ground cardamom (reduce this to ¼ tsp if you don’t want the cardamom to be pronounced)
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground dried ginger
  • ¼ tsp (1g) Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 large free range eggs (approx 65g each & organic if possible), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (60g) natural nut butter of choice (I use peanut)
  • 2 tbs (26g) melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs (30mL) warm filtered water (can be boiled and then cooled slightly)
  • 1 tsp (4.5g) pure vanilla extract

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 with a wooden spoon
  3. In another bowl, add the beaten eggs and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine well
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use your fingers to press it in firmly. Sprinkle the top with some pepitas and linseeds, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven allow to stand for 10 minutes, before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack
  6. Cut the slice into 12 bars or 24 squares (I often do half and half), and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to one week.

Ax

Photo: Fruit free muesli bar slice

 

 

Mum’s (not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol

Lately I’ve been getting lots of requests to post more dinner-y recipes, and it made me realise that I never share my favourite dinner meals. So here’s a weeknight favourite in our household – Mum’s (Not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol. I don’t have a Nonna, nor do I have an Italian heritage (a reality that makes me sad quite often), but if I did I wouldn’t dare serve her this rendition to her, in fear of having the veggie-packed and gluten, onion and garlic free morsels spat right back at me.

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It’s no secret that traditional spaghetti bolognese gets a bad nutritional rap from its core ingredients: low quality beef mince cooked in nasty oils, gluten, and cheese. And as delicious and comforting as a giant bowl of ole spag bol from your local Italian joint may be –and sometimes totally granted– it’s not a very healthful choice to make too regularly. What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption or IBS it’s pretty much out of bounds anyway, thanks to all the onion and garlic.

Being the ever-accommodating woman that she is, my fabulous mumma came up with a spag bol that’s wholesome, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-FODMAPifying recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bol is a true testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her low FODMAP Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you one day soon!

I hope you love this no-frills but tasty weeknight dinner as much as we do.  Just please don’t serve it to your Nonna.

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bol

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1kg free range turkey mince (organic if possible)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters (see notes for fructose info)
  • 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)
  • 8 spring/green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 3/4 cups LOW FODMAP veg or chicken stock
  • 1.5 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Coconut oil
  • Sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet gluten free spaghetti or other pasta of choice (I love brown rice noodles or buckwheat pasta)
  • To serve: fresh basil leaves & shaved parmesan (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Sautée the spring onions, carrot, eggplant, zucchini, capsicums and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have started to soften. Remove from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Heat some more coconut oil in the pot and add the turkey mince. Cook the mince on medium heat until browned (around 8 minutes), using a wooden spoon to break it up as you go.
  4. Add the cooked veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, stock, fresh basil and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for at least an hour. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t want to overcook the meat!), the richer and more flavourful it will be.
  6. Serve with one ladle’s worth of gluten free pasta of choice, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan. For a paleo or lower carb version, use the turkey mixture to stuff into roasted eggplants (see recipe below).

FODMAP Notes

  • Those with high sensitivities to fructose should use 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, or even less if you’re unsure
  • Due to the concentrated form of tomato paste, some people with very high sensitivities to fructose might find it problematic in large amounts, though I’ve never had an issue with it. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance levels, and add more fresh and dried herbs to make up the flavour.

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

Please note that due to the polyol (sorbitol) content in large amounts of eggplant (“large” is defined by Monash as 2 1/4 cups), those who malabsorb polyols should either use smaller eggplants or avoid this variation until you are sure of your eggplant tolerance.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants to serve 8 people, or 1/2 eggplant per person.
  • Turkey Bolognese recipe above, minus the pasta (can be made in advance)
  • 1 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • Sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Use a fork to prick the eggplants several times. Place on prepared tray and lightly brush over with coconut oil. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until tender.
  3. If you made the bolognese in advance, reheat however much of it you’re using (roughly 1-1.5 cups per person)
  4. Cut the eggplants in half length-ways. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh from each half, leaving a 1cm boarder. Chop the scooped out flesh. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the eggplant halves.
  5. Mix the chopped eggplant through the heated Turkey Bolognese. Spoon mixture into the eggplant halves and sprinkle shaved parmesan (optional) over the top, if using. Return stuffed eggplants to the oven for 10 minutes, or until all heated through. Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

Ax

Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf | Gluten Free, Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly

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

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

I’ve fluked a few things throughout my 25 years, but baked goods have seldom been among them. I used to think I was a baker through and through, but I now realise that I was just really good at following cake recipes to an absolute T, and then making them look pretty. When I first started this blog and began developing low FODMAP loaves, muffins and cookies, I quickly realised that I was not a natural born baker. Not at all.

The Lazy Perfectionist in me (a rather detrimental internal conflict at times) can’t handle the uncertainty or the potentially wasted effort. I find myself getting all anxious and stressed when brainstorming which combinations of low FODMAP flours/meals to use, what ratios I should use them in, whether or not I’ll need to add or reduce the liquid, if it will work without the use of a gum, if it will even rise at all, if the balance of flavours is right etc,. etc., etc. The list goes on and on. 

Then there’s the torturous waiting game –and far too frequent opening of the oven door as if three minutes will make all the difference– while it’s baking. Nine times out of ten, after taking it out of the oven and not letting anyone in the house try it because I can’t handle them reconfirming its shit-ness and my failure, I’m back to square one. Meanwhile an entire precious day has gone by and I go to bed feeling frustrated and defeated and I’m positive that I’ve contracted sinusitis in the last few hours, before realising it’s just all the tapioca starch I’ve inhaled. So that’s why you don’t see any fluffy low FODMAP cake recipes on here… yet. 

 Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

So yeah, it’s pretty rare for me to nail a recipe like this one the first time I attempt it. But all jokes about my psycho anxieties aside, I couldn’t believe it the first time I made this Pumpkin, Feta and Chive loaf and it not only worked, but worked really, REALLY well. I was obviously ecstatic. (2018 edit: the same euphoria was definitely not felt two days ago when I spent eight hours developing the gluten free version of this recipe. I’ve finally gotten it to the identical texture and flavour of the old version that used spelt, by the way. No biggie [insert blond hair toss emoji]).

This loaf is honestly one of my favourite recipes, primarily because it’s tasty as hell but also because it’s so much more nutrient dense than regular gluten free breads and my belly is always happy after eating it. I often omit the feta from my everyday loaf but will always use it if I’m trying to impress people which, if I’m being honest with myself, is often. It’s got a hearty, dense texture and the combination of the chives, rosemary, feta and buttery pumpkin makes it SO flavourful and morish. It’s great as a snack just on its own, or with a generous spread of nut butter or avocado. Toast it and slather with organic salted butter for THE most perfect soup accompaniment.

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf | Gluten Free, FODMAP Friendly, Fructose Friendly)

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: Up to 2 slices (see notes below)

Ingredients

  • ⅛ medium Jap pumpkin (approx 400g), peeled, deseeded, chopped into cubes, and steamed until soft
  • 75g brown rice flour
  • 120g tapioca starch
  • 95g LSA meal (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds & almonds – see FODMAP notes below)
  • 3 large free range eggs (approx. 55g each), organic if possible, lightly beaten
  • 30g chives, chopped
  • 150g Danish feta (omit for dairy free option)
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbs (20g) pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs (15g) psyllium (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking powder (no added aluminium)
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (2g) ground sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp (3g) sea salt
  • For topping: leaves of 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and a small handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C and line a full sized loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 10.5cm.
  2. Mash the steamed pumpkin until smooth. Set aside to cool (this can also be done the night before to save time later).
  3. Place the rice flour and tapioca starch in a tightly sealed container, and shake vigorously to combine thoroughly.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, LSA, baking powder, baking soda, paprika, psyllium and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, melted coconut oil, chives and maple syrup. Add to the dry mixture.
  6. Weigh 230g (1 cup) of mashed pumpkin and gently fold it through until well combined.
  7. Crumble most of the feta into chunks (reserving some for the topping), and fold through the dough very gently, taking care not to over-mix as you’ll break the feta up too much. The loaf will be best if it has chunky pops of feta throughout it!
  8. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin and use the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Top with remaining chunks of feta, rosemary, and pepitas. Press the feta and pepitas into the dough very lightly with your fingertips to ensure they stick.
  9. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 45 mins to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out semi-dry (damp crumbs are fine but you don’t want wet batter). I like to check on the loaf at the 45 minute mark and go from there. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the toppings start to burn at any point, simply cover with some aluminium foil.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to sit for half an hour before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days (after three days it will start to dry out and will be better toasted), or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable:

  • Although LSA contains high amounts of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) when consumed in very large amounts, the FODMAP contribution from LSA in this recipe is considered to be very low when no more than two slices are consumed in a sitting
  • Psyllium is usually beneficial for people with fructose malabsorption and IBS, however due to its soluble fibre content it might not be great for everyone. If you’re unsure, leave it out and remove 1tbs of coconut oil. You may need to increase the cooking time since psyllium absorbs a lot of moisture.

Other notes

  • To make this recipe grain free, you could try substituting the brown rice flour for buckwheat flour (it’s technically a seed not a grain), although I cannot vouch for this as I haven’t tried it yet. If you do or do not have success with this variation, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ax

Photo: Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Bangin’ Banana Bread | Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free

Hey YOU!
If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and tastes the same as before, but calls for gut-friendlier alternatives to the gluten. Your belly will thank you for it, and I hope your tastebuds still do, too! Ax

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

If one of your most nostalgic and all-time favourite snacks isn’t banana bread, then who are you?

I wish I could say that I was an active child and that playing a plethora of sports was part of my afternoon routine as a primary schooler, but the truth is that I was never fond of anything that involved physically moving for the sake of it. All I wanted to do was write stories, read books and teenage magazines (the latter of which I was at least seven years too young for and would secretly buy despite my Mum’s efforts to shield me from sealed sections), listen to my Discman (So Fresh FTW), and attend Spy Club meetings and missions with Mitch, my Top Secret Agent partner, neighbour, and childhood bestie.

But before any of the above, my afternoon snack ritual took place. I’d barge through the front door at 3:45pm, throw four slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, then smother them with so much butter and honey that it would all run down my chin and forearms as I took each bite. Portion control wasn’t one of my strong suits as a prepubescent.

I calmed down on the banana bread front as I got a bit older and realised that banana “bread” is technically cake (AKA a treat) and not something I should be eating daily, let alone a quarter of a loaf in one sitting. But my love for this perfectly sugary, buttery, banana-ry American classic remains.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread Photo: Bangin' banana bread

My healthified banana bread might not taste exactly like the sugar laden and mega fluffy (thanks to all the refined flour) one we grew up with, but I can confidently –or borderline smugly– say that it’s still pretty good. Being gluten and grain free, low in FODMAPs, fructose friendly and relatively low in sugar, I love knowing that I can eat it errrrrrry day of the week. It’s also high in fibre, healthy fats, complete proteins, a range of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties that your gut, body and brain will thank you for. 

This recipe is great on its own, but I’ll sometimes mix it up and add frozen blueberries, raspberries or dark choc chips.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Bangin’ Banana Bread | Low Fructose, FODMAP Friendly, Gluten Free, Paleo

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: one slice

Ingredients:

  • 5 (560g)* medium overripe bananas, mashed, plus one firm banana cut lengthways, for topping
  • 3 large organic free range eggs (approx 65g each), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tbs (70g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs (17g) pure vanilla extract
  • 220g buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup (80g) pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped, plus extra for topping
  • 5 tbs (50g) chia seeds
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking powder (no aluminium added)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (6g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground cardamom
  • 2 generous pinches Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 11cm.
  2. Mash the banana in a large bowl, then add the beaten eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, shredded coconut, chia seeds, chopped nuts, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it. Gently fold until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin and smooth with the back of a spoon. Top with halved banana, pecans, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 55 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with slightly damp crumbs on it. Don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely clean because the loaf will be too dry. I take mine out at the one hour mark because I like banana bread to be on the moister side. Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with some foil.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.
  6. Serve fresh on its own, or toasted with organic salted butter, nut butter, or fresh berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of dark choc chips.

Info for the irritable

  • *Overripe bananas contain excess fructose. Half a medium ripe banana (approx. 56g) is considered safe in terms of fructose content. When this loaf is topped with the extra banana and divided into 12 slices, each slice coincidentally contains 56g of banana, and is thus considered low in fructose. If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, use 4 bananas (450g) instead and reduce the chia seeds to 4 tbs (40g).
  • The polyol content from the dried coconut is considered low and safe when one slice is adhered to.

Other notes

  • Can’t find buckwheat flour at your local store? You can use buckwheat grouts instead! Simply process them on high speed for one minute or until a fine flour is formed

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Photo: Choccy granola

Gluten Free Crunchy Chocolate Granola | Paleo, Grain Free, Fruit Free

My world was momentarily flipped upside down at eight years old when Mum fractured almost every bone in her foot* and was forced to employ Helga, a middle-aged German Nanny, to help out with us beastly children.

Photo: Choccy granola

Shocked and outraged by the sheer abandonment by our own mother (AKA her physical inability to be at our beck and call 24/7) and her decision to palm us off to a complete stranger who had an accent we couldn’t –or blatantly pretended not to– understand, we vowed to make Helga’s experience as difficult as possible. We were devils disguised in eight, five and four year old bodies.

Of course, in affectionate and remorseful hindsight, Helga was a lovely and caring woman. She desperately wanted to win us over and eventually realised that she could, to some degree at least, through our stomachs. We began seeing her as less of a villain when instead of serving the usual Vegemite toast for breakfast, she started giving us Special Coco Pops. These Coco Pops were extra special because not only were we not allowed to eat Coco Pops on weekdays, but Helga would also sprinkle white sugar all over them to add to the thrilling novelty of our new morning ritual. This was during the days when Foot Loops were still a perfectly acceptable breakfast food *face palm*, plus mum didn’t want to crush Helga’s newfound glory, so she let it slide for a while.

Photo: Choccy granola

And that’s where my love for sweet AF breakfast cereals began. I eventually grew out of Coco Pops and my obsession with sprinkling white poison all over them, but the habit was replaced by only marginally less sugary cereals with boxes that read anything along the lines of “crunchy granola” or “nut clusters” throughout the majority of my teenage years. I may not eat the highly processed and sugar laden versions anymore, but my love for any type of granola remains. Anyone with IBS or fructose malabsorption will share my frustration of not being able to easily find muesli options that tick all the boxes (punny). They’re either full of crap, processed gluten, refined sugars or dried fruits, and if you do find one that’s low in FODMAPs and genuinely healthy, chances are it’s pretty pricey. So I just make my own. My go-to recipes are this Crunchy Chocolate Granola, and my Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola.

Photo: Choccy granola

This Crunchy Chocolate Granola immediately takes me back to the mornings with Helga when I’d eat two huge bowls of candied Coco Pop greatness and then drink the leftover pool of super sweet chocolatey milk at the end. This version might contain 8 teaspoons less sugar per serving, but the crunchy clusters of chocolatey puffed seeds, quinoa flakes and toasted nuts taste totally indulgent and are so satisfying.

The beauty of granola is that it can be used in so many ways – serve it with your favourite nut milk and fresh berries, on top of smoothie bowls or “nice cream”, layered in chia pudding parfaits, sprinkled on grilled banana, or simply use it as a trail mix to snack on.

*Background story: It was school holidays and mum took us to “Pirate Day” at the Polly Woodside in Melbourne, the site where a famous 1885 cargo ship is preserved. We ended up playing on the grounds late into the afternoon and most likely ignored the numerous “closing soon” announcements. To this day I cannot fathom how they managed it, but security ended up locking us in. Determined to not have to sleep on a potentially haunted ship overnight, we screamed our lungs out for help, to no avail. The only solution that seemed logical at the time was to jump the three metre fence, and obviously mum was to be the guinea pig. She ended up landing badly (her high heeled boots probably didn’t help) and broke the bejeezus out of her foot.

Photo: Choccy granola

Crunchy Chocolate Granola

Makes x 10 ¾ cup servings

FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups (178g) quinoa flakes (flaked brown rice or buckwheat also works well)
  • 1 ½ cups (23g) puffed buckwheat (if you’re not strictly grain free, puffed brown rice also works well)
  • 1 ¼ cups (250g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • ¾ cup (45g) unsweetened dried shredded or flaked coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use a combination of pecans, macadamias, almonds and walnuts
  • ½ cup (80g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ cup (40g) chia seeds

Chocolate mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup (32g) raw cacao powder (you can also use regular fair-trade cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
  2. In a large bowl, combine all “muesli mixture” ingredients, except the shredded coconut
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup, cacao and cinnamon and stir until all combined. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until the liquid is fully incorporated.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry muesli mixture and stir gently until all dry ingredients are evenly coated. There should be enough ‘wet’ mixture to completely cover the muesli.
  5. Spread mixture evenly over the greased tray. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and stir. Add the dried coconut and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. The granola will continue to crisp up after you take it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft.
  6. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a large air-tight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for over a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

  • Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
  • To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.

Ax

Photo: Choccy granola