Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns (vegan, wheat free & refined sugar free)

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So it’s 5pm on Easter Sunday which means two things: a) I’m in a slow cooked lamb/scalloped potato/cheesecake/rocky road/chocolate tart-induced coma and literally typing this post through one half-opened eye; and b) it’s definitely a tad late to be posting a hot cross bun recipe. That said, ‘a tad late’ is how I go about life in general, and this recipe is too good to wait until next April to post. Besides, who doesn’t love a fresh-outta-the-oven hot cross bun at any time of year? If it’s acceptable nowadays to eat HCB’s in the three months leading up to Easter, it should be acceptable to enjoy them for a few (or many) months after Easter, too.

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Spelt flour has become my best baking friend over the past few years. I try not to eat too much gluten in general, but when I do it’s usually in the form of spelt or oats. Spelt is technically a sub-species of wheat and thus is not suitable for those with coeliac or severe gluten sensitivities, but it’s significantly lower in gluten than normal wheat so most people who are sensitive to wheat find that they can digest spelt better without feeling heavy and bloated. It’s also high in vitamins and minerals and has a nutty flavour that I just love. The lower level of gluten (and thus protein) in spelt means less elasticity, so baked goods turn out more dense and textural, as opposed to light and fluffy with normal wheat. Being the born carb fiend that I am, I find dense, bready textures more satisfying than fluffy textures, so this suits me perfectly. Gimme something to sink my teeth into!

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These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar (coconut sugar & dried fruit) than my usual recipes, but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real thing as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sugar and spice and they’ll fill your home with the most beautiful aroma. The smell of bread baking in the oven is magic on its own – add notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange, and you’re on a whole new level of heaven.

I think the key to getting these buns right is ensuring that the dough gets its full 2 hours of rising time in a warm, draught-free area. I don’t really know whether the rising time or the warm environment is more crucial, but the two together resulted in a far better bun texture than the first time I attempted this recipe when  I only gave the dough 1 1/2 hours to rise in a cool kitchen.

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns 

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 7g instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp dried ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • Zest of 1 orange (or 1/2 if you don’t want the orange to be pronounced)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use Pureharvest Cocoquench coconut-rice milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup, to glaze
  • 40g dark chocolate of choice, for the crosses

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C. Line a small square cake tin (20cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the milk and coconut sugar over medium-low heat until the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and coconut oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, chia seeds, yeast and dried spices. Wake a well and pour in the milk mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined, then add in the dried fruit, zest and salt. Use your hands to combine fully and form into a dough with the dried fruit and zest dispersed throughout.
  4. Lightly flour a clean bench space or a kneading mat with a little spelt flour. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.
  5. Oil the original mixing bowl with a little coconut oil, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap (to trap heat in). Place a tea towel over the bowl (to keep light out). Leave in a warm, draught free space for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size (it’s imperative that the dough doubles, and I strongly recommend leaving it for the full 2 hours regardless). My house was quite cool when I was making these, so I found that the best place to leave the bowl was on a stool right in front of the heated oven.
  6. After the dough has risen, knead for another 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions and roll into rough balls. Place the buns into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Brush the buns with pure maple syrup to glaze. Allow the buns to cool before piping crosses with melted dark choc (see notes).
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your favourite cuppa. Bliss. (Please note that you may want to remove the chocolate cross before toasting the buns!)
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

  • If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, adjust the amount of dried fruit to suit you tolerance levels.  You could try omitting the currants and raisins using 1/4 – 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.
  • I used normal organic dairy dark choc for the crosses because I knew it would set and photograph better, but otherwise I’d use vegan dark choc.
  • Make a fuss-free piping bag by spooning the melted choc into a snap-lock bag and snip the corner.Healthy Spelt and chia hot cross bunsimageimage
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Toasted Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Granola

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Granola is just one of those foods that makes me salivate.

The
 warm flavours, the sweetness, the wonderful texture and, of course, that irresistible crunch. It just gets me every time.

I think I was in year 7 when my mum first brought home the newest addition to the Kellogg’s breakfast cereal range, Crunchy Nut Clusters. Those peanut and ‘honey’ (sugar, molasses and vegetable oil) coated cornflakes teamed with deliciously crunchy clusters of oats, puffed wheat and coconut (and yep, more sugar, molasses and vegetable oil) became not only my brekkie bowl filler, but also my mid-morning, afternoon and pre-bedtime snack by the handful. I had every right to go through four boxes of this golden blessedness a week because Crunchy Nut Clusters were clearly less sugary than the Froot Loops and Frosty Flakes many of my friends still ate, and they were made with healthy ingredients like corn, oats, honey and nuts. I was so on my way to getting healthy and losing all my puppy fat quickly, all while eating something so damn tasty. YEAH!

Much to my horror, the so-called puppy fat not only stuck around, but started to soar. Thankfully, I slowly grew older and wiser. I learned that just because something is manufactured from a vegetable, that does not necessarily make it healthy (but what do you mean vegetable oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup aren’t good for you?!)  and I began reading labels (why doesn’t the front of the box mention anything about the cereal being covered in sugar, molasses and oil as well as honey?!)

It took a while, but I started to become aware of marketing gimmicks and misleading advertising. After a year, my beloved Crunchy Nut Clusters were replaced by Sultana Bran Crunch after a year. Ah, the ignorance. Still, it was a move in the right direction, and at least I wasn’t eating Honey Joys disguised as a breakfast cereal anymore.

For those of you who are more or less like me, buying packaged granola poses two main problems:

  1. Mainstream granola brands packed with different forms of sugar, preservatives and other additives and provide little to no nutritional value.
  2. They’re very rarely fructose-friendly: pre-packaged granola always contains either loads of honey, dried fruit or both, which makes them indigestible for my fellow fructose malabsorbers. Even the ‘healthier’ granola alternatives available at health food stores are made with with high-fructose sweeteners like agave and dried fruit.

I’ve been avoiding pre-packaged granola and toasted muesli for several years now. The thought of sweet, crunchy clusters of puffed grain heaven still excites me, but I’ve never come across one that’s healthy enough to eat regularly. And so, I’m more of an egg gal these days.

The other week, however, my love for granola was reignited. I was in the cereal aisle of Coles, looking at Carman’s muesli for my sister when I saw them. Carman’s Crunchy Clusters with Honey Roasted Nuts. I was immediately taken back to my mornings in early high school when I’d eat two bowls of candied greatness and drink the leftover pool of sweet milk afterward. My salivary glands started going mental as I viewed the large oaty clumps and golden roasted nuts through the heart-shaped plastic window on the box. I threw the box into my trolley without giving it a second thought or reading any labels. My sister just had to try it. Not me, my sister. I was getting it for my sister.

I ripped open the box the second I got home and started shovelling handfuls of the stuff into my mouth as if it were popcorn. Everything about the granola was lip-smacking. The wording on the box was spot on: I absolutely did “adore these crunchy muesli clusters with almonds, hazelnuts and pecans, buzzing with trickles of honey and a hint of vanilla!” The granola was also “fruit free, Low GI, high in fibre and full of wholegrain goodness”. It all sounded too good to be true. I soon realised it was, but it was all too late. After my snacking straight from the box for three days, the box was empty. I don’t think my sister ever got to touch it. I read the label more closely just before I threw the box into the recycling. I was shocked.

Carman’s is usually one of the more wholesome and cleaner cereal brands available at supermarkets. They usually sweeten their products with a little honey instead of sugar, and while this makes their products unsuitable for most FructMal sufferers, at least it’s better than nearly all other cereal boxes for most people. This is why I was shocked when I read the Carman’s Crunchy Clusters ingredients list. After the oats and nuts, raw sugar comes in as the third ingredient, making it even more predominant than supposed primary ingredients like puffed rice and pepitas! And that’s before the honey is added. That’s a lot of added sugar! I did some quick calculations and became aware that I’d consumed just shy of 70g of added sugar over a few days from the granola aloneThat’s nearly EIGHTEEN teaspoons of added sugar, which equates to almost NINE teaspoons of pure fructose! No bloody wonder why it tasted so good. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Carman’s would rightfully argue that you’re not supposed to eat the entire box over just a few sittings, hence their “serves 11” guideline. I would argue that if you make something taste that freaking awesome, you’re asking people to eat the entire box over a single sitting.

Healthy or not, I’d gotten a taste for granola again. I tried so hard to forget about it, but we all know that telling ourselves not to crave something usually leads us to craving it all the more. The human psyche is a treacherous beast. To crush my cravings once and for all, I came up with this scrumptious granola recipe, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. My Toasted Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Granola has all that wonderful crunch, so much full-bodied flavour and just the right amount of fructose-friendly sweetness. If Coco Pops and Crunchy Nut Clusters decided to have a lovechild and it were born healthy, this would be it.

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Toasted Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Granola

Serves 12 (1/2 cup servings)
Dietary Information:
wheat free, vegan-friendly, refined sugar free, dairy free, fructose-friendly, low FODMAP. Contains gluten (Oats – see notes for GF alternative) and nuts.

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded/flaked coconut
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice or rice crisps (I use 1/2 cup of each for varied textures)
  • 1 cup activated plain buckinis (activated buckwheat. I used Loving Earth brand)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup of your favourite raw nuts, roughly chopped (I use a combination of almonds, walnuts, pecans and macadamias)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs (optional – If you’re not a fan of cacao nibs, don’t use them because their flavour can be quite dominating)

Chocolate mixture:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 15-20 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp  Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150*C and grease a large baking tray with a little 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. Sweeten further with stevia to taste, if needed.
  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 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 wet or soft.
  6. Allow to cool completely before transferring to air-tight containers or large glass jars. The granola will remain fresh for 1-2 weeks if stored in a cool place, away from sunlight.
Notes and serving suggestions: 
  • For an indulgent weekend treat or breakfast entertaining, serve with cinnamon-grilled banana, organic full-fat or coconut yoghurt, fresh berries and a large drizzle of chocolate ‘sauce’, as pictured. To make the grilled banana, simply cut a large ripe banana length-ways, sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon and place under an oven grill. Grill until the natural sugars in the banana start to caramelise and bubble. Remove immediately and serve while still hot. To make the ‘sauce’, combine 1 tsp natural smooth peanut butter, 1 tsp raw cacao powder, 1 tsp melted coconut oil and a few drops of liquid stevia.
  • Use the granola to make a layered Chia Pudding Parfait, another quick, easy and effective breakfast entertaining idea.
  • For a nourishing breakfast, serve with organic full fat or coconut yoghurt, your choice of milk (I love Pure Harvest’s coconut-rice milk) and fresh strawberries.
  • Serve on top of healthy banana ‘ice cream’ (frozen banana blended with a little natural peanut butter) for a great post-workout meal or snack.
  • Portion into little snap-lock bags for a super tasty and nourishing trail mix to nibble on between meals and satisfy late-arvo chocolate cravings.
  • For a gluten-free version, simply replace the oats with 1 cup extra puffed brown rice or rice crisps, 1/2 cup extra shredded coconut and 1/2 cup extra plain buckinis.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Shhh! Don’ tell them it’s raw vegan: Banana & Coconut Cream Tart with a Coco-Nutty Chocolate Crust

IMG_0729Even the jolliest of Christmas bellies will never know that this tart is healthy, let alone raw vegan…

Nothing makes my mouth water like the thought of 1pm on Christmas Day. Each year’s Chrissy spread seems to get more momentous than the last, as the demand for Donna Hay magazine-worthy food grows, and my efforts in the kitchen move further from a helping hand and closer towards a zealous control freak.

Whatever the elaborate new additions are, I’ll never go past my family’s festive classics: Mum’s turkey with pistachio & cranberry stuffing, fig and maple-glazed ham, gourmet cheese boards and her sweet fried noodle and bok choy salad; Dad’s succulent lamb, herby roast veggies; and seafood platters; Nanna’s famous plumb pudding and Christmas Cake with all the dolloping trimmings; Aunty Kate’s choccie mouse and her Best-In-The-World-Meringues with Peppermint Crisp and raspberries.
These dishes are always served with bittersweet nostalgia and a whole lot of calorific Christmas cheer as all bona fide festive feeds should be.

But how do you do it, without overdoing it? Most unfortunately for us Aussies, December brings to us an itching issue: festive season coincides with bikini season. Because my exercise regime has been so restricted all year due to a perpetual injury, I’ll admit this problem has been playing on my mind. When all the Chrissy and New Years mayhem is over, I can’t as simply run, box and grapevine* the excess pudding** and vodka off as I could last year.

*The ‘Grapevine’ is the term used by indoor aerobics-enthusiasts to describe a particular move
** I’ve developed fructose malabsorption since then.There will be no pudding. But I can smash meringues, so that’s alright.

While I might not be able to exert as much control as I’d like over my family’s Christmas lunch, I had more luck with my girlfriends this year. And they were 100% on-board. Late each December, my best girlfriends and I try to catch up for one last ‘Soul Sistah’s’ dinner for the year. This year, instead of going out for our Christmas dinner, we decided to do have a picnic. We also decided that it should be somewhat healthy, anticipating that the fortnight ahead certainly won’t be. The spread was wonderful: we feasted on Christmas ham and turkey, a range of fresh salads (mine included spinach, cos and herbs picked from my veggie patch), raw veggie sticks with yummy cashew dips, ginger and strawberry punch, fruit platters and a raw tart which I whipped up in a last-minute frenzy, but actually turned out pretty awesome. So, I thought I’d share it with you. It’s sweet without being sickly, rich without being heavy and oozes festive decadence without being unhealthy. The fact that it tastes unhealthy makes it even more appealing – your pav-and-whipped-cream-loving fam will never know it’s healthy, let alone raw vegan. This tart amakes a great addition to the usual Chrissy spread, because it means you have something delicious to turn to when the pudding and brandy custard come out. Plus it looks pretty with a pop of fruity colour, which never hurts… IMG_0722IMG_0721IMG_0723 IMG_0728 IMG_0724 IMG_0725 IMG_0720IMG_0727 IMG_0714 IMG_0726

Banana & Coconut Cream Tart with a Coco-nutty Chocolate Crust

Dietary/allergen information: free from wheat, gluten, grains, dairy, soy, egg and animal products. Fructose-friendly. Contains nuts and some FODMAPs (cashews, almonds & dried coconut. If you can’t tolerate a large quantity of nuts in the one sitting or at all, please avoid this recipe).

Ingredients (serves 10)

Tart shell:

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut (I used Loving Earth’s shredded coconut)
  • 2 tbs flax seeds (optional)
  • 7 tbs raw cacao powder (I used Eco brand)
  • 2 tbs vanilla extract
  • 5 tbs pure organic maple syrup (for a strictly raw version, use rice malt syrup)
  • Cold-pressed coconut oil, melted
  • Stevia

Tart Filling:

  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup dried coconut
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup full-fat coconut cream
  • 4 tbs pure organic maple syrup
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • liquid stevia

Fresh berries, cherries**, figs**, pomegranate seeds** and mint leaves, to serve.

Method:

  1. To make the tart crust, whiz all dry ingredients in a high-powered processor until it forms a rough crumb.
  2. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and process until combined.
  3. Add coconut oil, tablespoon at a time, until the ingredients all come together and form a mouldable, sticky ‘dough’. I used roughly 12 tbs. Taste mixture and add stevia until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Remove from processor and press evenly into a tart tin.  Make sure you press very firmly, packing the mixture in tightly around the base and up the sides. I trimmed the excess sides with a sharp knife and place in the freezer  while you make the filling.
  5. To make the filling, process all filling ingredients (except one banana – only use one), until a thick, smooth consistency forms. Taste and adjust sweetness with liquid stevia.
  6. Remove the tart tin from the freezer and allow to stand for 5 mins. Carefully remove the tart shell from the tin and place on a large plate.
  7. Slice the second banana thinly and arrange on the base of the tart shell. Dollop filling over the banana to fill the tart shell. Store in refrigerator until 30 mins before serving*. Top with fresh berries, cherries**, quartered figs**, pomegranate seeds** and mint leaves upon serving. Will store in the fridge for up to 4 days (see notes below).

*Because of the banana, the filling will begin to brown within four hours of making it. This tart is thus best made the day of serving if entertaining. The ‘brownness’ doesn’t affect the flavour of the cream, so leftovers are fine kept in the fridge
**Fruits contain excess fructose, and should only be consumed in small amounts by those with fructose malabsorption.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Melbourne Cup Day: slug poo, gardening and a riverbank picnic

IMG_4303IMG_4306 In typical ‘me’ tradition, my Melbourne Cup Day (a Victorian public holiday for you non-Melbournians) was a lot more about food than horses. In previous years, I’ve always been enlivened with all things Spring Racing Carnival (all things bar the actual horse racing), but with a crazy work schedule, social events up to my neck and 21st party planning eating up any spare time, another expensive outfit, another pair of shoes, another cab fare and another day on the bubbly couldn’t have sounded less appealing. So instead I opted for a day spent out in the gorgeous Spring sunshine with my parents, planting our new veggie garden and fruit orchard, followed by a balmy evening feasting along the Yarra riverbank at Studley Park with my boyfriend.

Since this post isn’t dedicated to a specific recipe, I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to share my favourite green smoothie combinations with you. Like anything seen to be a fad, there’s a lot of ridicule surrounding green smoothies and green juices. My family stopped screwing up their faces after three or so months of me carrying them around the house, but my work colleagues still grimace at the sight of my daily dose of “slug poo”, as they’ve coined it.  I don’t care what green-smoothie-cynics say – I’ve been hooked on them since my first one, and I can confidently say that I’ll be drinking them daily for the rest of my life. Getting 5+ FULL servings of vegetables in a day, and ensuring that they’re mostly raw, can be a tough gig. Now I don’t know about you, but munching on a large mixing bowl full of nothing but spinach leaves, lettuce and celery sounds ghastly, not to mention time consuming. It’s for this reason that I swear by green smoothies: they help you to effortlessly and painlessly reach your 5+ veggie servings a day, and they can account for all your raw servings!

The truth is, slug poo tastes a whole lot better than it looks. In fact, so long  as you’ve got the right combinations happening, it’s perfectly refreshing and delicious. The thing I love most about green smoothies is how I feel physically healthier and rejuvenated with every single gulp. Whenever I’m feeling sluggish (pardon the pun) or not quite right, I can always rely on a green smoothie bursting with nutrients to reenergise me. What’s more, ever since I began incorporating green smoothies into my daily diet, my skin has a more consistent glow and my random bursts of dermatitis and eczema have stopped altogether.

As more and more health cafes and juice bars include green smoothies on their menus, I become more and more outraged at their prices. One day last week, I hadn’t had enough time to make my green smoothie in the morning, so I prowled the cafes of Melbourne’s CBD in search of one. I ended up at an organic health eatery in one of Melbourne’s most famous foodie alleys. Given my past experiences there, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the lack of customer service. Let’s just say that the snooty hipster waitresses there have “I don’t want to take your order and I’m way too cool for your mainstream corporate attire-wearing self” written all over their frown-wrinkled foreheads. Anyway, although I didn’t show it, I was taken aback by the $9.50 I was charged for the stingiest, most tasteless green smoothie I’ve ever had. It tasted like mouldy celery blended with muddy water. I was not impressed, and I remembered why I always make my own green smoothies: they actually taste good, they don’t cost me the earth, and I don’t walk away seething.

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My all-time favourite green smoothies

A few things to note:

  • All recipes serve one large glass, or 2 small.
  • The first 2 recipes are great as breakfast meals, and the second two are great to drink in-between meals.
  • The coconut-rice milk used is Pureharvest’s Cocoquench coconut-rice milk.
  • While it’s true that you can pretty much throw whatever you want into a green smoothie, remember that green smoothies have the word “green” in them for one reason: they are supposed to be comprised mainly of veggies! To keep my sugar intake in check, I stick to using 1-2 full servings of fruit in my green smoothies (e.g. 1 medium banana or 1 cup berries = 1 serving fruit). If you’ve used a fair bit of fruit and are still struggling with the taste of the greens, try adding some liquid stevia to increase the sweetness without increasing the sugar.
  • There’s no doubt about it; the secret to a thick and silky green smoothie is BANANA! Of course, you can make your green smoothies without it (avocado is also a great thickener!), but if you’re after a lovely thick and smooth texture, you can’t go past the old ‘nana. Besides, bananas taste awesome and they mask any of the bitterness that the leafy greens may have – if you close your eyes, you’ll never know you’re drinking a salad.
  • A note on cucumber: I used to add cucumber to all my green smoothies, however, it’s been giving me bad indigestion and reflux lately so I’ve stopped. If it’s not problematic for you, then use it.
  • The amount of fruit, coconut water/milk and chia seeds I put in my smoothies always depends on whether I’m having it as a meal (i.e. for breakfast), or a snack between lunch and dinner. If it’s only a snack, I use less fruit (more berries than banana as they’re lower in sugar), and half a cup of coconut water/milk + 1/2 cup water.
  • Feel free to add in superfood extras like spirulina, Vital Greens, etc.
  • Green smoothies are always best enjoyed immediately. 8-hour old slug poo tastes pretty putrid, trust me…

To make:

Start by add liquids to the jug first, followed by frozen solids and then add the other ingredients on top. Process in a high-speed blender for 1-2 minutes, or until the consistency is smooth and silky. I find that even in a blender as powerful as my Thermomix, green smoothies really need at least a minute to break down all the fibrous greens and give you that silky smooth texture. If you don’t blend it for long enough, it will separate, or be stringy and chunky.

Green Piña Colada

  • 1 cup coconut-rice milk
  • 1 frozen banana (or 1/2 large)
  • 1 thick slice pineapple
  • 3 handfuls leafy greens (baby spinach leaves + cos + bok choy)
  • Small handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia

Very Berry Breakfast Greens

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup berries (strawberries, blueberries & raspberries)
  • 3 handfuls leafy greens (baby spinach leaves + cos + bok choy)
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1.5 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp freeze-dried acai berry powder (optional)
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia

Ultimate Greens 1

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 thick slice frozen pineapple
  • 1-2 kiwis, peeled (I eat the skin separately. YES, I eat fury kiwi skin!)
  • 1 large handful baby spinach or bok choy
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • Small handful mint leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 drops liquid stevia
  • Ice

Ultimate Greens 2

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 large handful spinach
  • 1 large handful cos lettuce
  • 1 large handful bok choy
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 celery stalk
  • 1 small handful continental parsley
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 thumbnail-size piece fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Spirulina
  • 4 drops liquid stevia
  • Ice

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Cheat’s Mexican Quinoa-Stuffed Capsicums

IMG_4057 IMG_4052 The term ‘cheats’ isn’t exactly synonymous with the cooking habits of fructose malabsorbers. Given the amount of onion and garlic powders in almost every packeted/bottled, marinade, recipe base, stock and seasoning known to man, we’re given no choice to make it all from scratch. After being forced to farewell many of my favourite FODMAP-filled fruits and veggies, this has been my next biggest challenge; all of a sudden, even the most basic cooking methods like using organic store-bought stock to make soups or using sauces, curry pastes and spice blends for dishes became impossible. I was so used to turning to healthy store-bought recipe bases (particularly ones by Celebrate Health) when I was short on time or lacking the desire to cook. I soon realised how badly I’d taken for granted the very luxury of being able to use healthy  products to create meals –and cut precious time– with.

Lo and behold, it is with pure rapture I can announce that Celebrate Health have, whether they realise it or not, added ONION AND GARLIC FREE PRODUCTS to their range of healthy packaged culinary bliss!!! Upon realising this, I quite literally did a happy dance down the health food aisle of my local Coles. I squealed with excitement, demanding that my boyfriend show the same amount of enthusiasm which, going by the way he scurried away from his seizure-induced girlfriend, he clearly did not. That wasn’t going to stop me – I just convulsed harder. By pure coincidence, I was having a Mexican fiesta-themed dinner party with my girlfriends that night, so I used the Celebrate Health Mexican Quinoa as a base for a gloriously vibrant salad. I was in too much of a rush to photograph it at the time, but it was so incredibly tasty and popular among my friends (one of my besties even shot-gunned the leftovers for lunch the next day) that I made it again first thing on Sunday – this time stuffing some of the salad into roasted capsicums. This dish really speaks for itself, both in terms of taste and appearance – the flavours pop just as much as the colours do! It’s full of texture from the veggies, and it’s alive with those explosive Mexican flavours (think cumin, chilli, paprika, coriander, kaffir lime and oregano).

Sadly, I can’t take full credit for the taste sensation that this dish is because I’ve used a recipe base. Frankly, I don’t really care, either. I’m going to take full advantage of this newly rekindled luxury and relish in the fact that I no longer have to make every.single.meal. from scratch every.single.day. for the rest of my life. This recipe is so positively delicious that I know I’ll be eating it for a very long time. It makes a perfect salad for all-year ’round entertaining (just double the recipe) and is wonderful either warm or cold, so leftovers can be enjoyed as a healthy, sustaining and fuss-free lunch for days after.

Being vegan, gluten free, dairy free, low FODMAP, fructose friendly, egg free and nut free, it’s totally tummy and allergy friendly. What’s more, unlike other recipes that call for pre-made bases which are filled with refined sugar and fructose, simple carbs, saturated fat, preservatives, fillers, flavour enhancers, thickeners and countless other nasty artificial additives, this Mexican Quinoa Salad is  brimming with all the good stuff: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, complex carbs, complete protein and health-promoting fatty acids.IMG_4047 IMG_4048 IMG_4049 IMG_4053 IMG_4051 IMG_4056 IMG_4055 IMG_4054 IMG_4058

Cheat’s Mexican Quinoa-Stuffed Capsicums

Makes 2 meals or 4 side dishes. I like to double the recipe to make a week’s worth of lunches!

Note: You can either stuff the quinoa salad into roasted capsicums or just eat the salad on its own, as the recipe already has capsicum in it. I do both, although the stuffed capsicums make great individual servings for entertaining. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet Celebrate Health Mexican Quinoa
  • 1.5 cups reduced-sodium vegetable stock, organic if possible (organic chicken stock could be used too, or water but it won’t be as flavoursome)
  • 1 large red capsicum, chopped (plus 2 more red capsicums to be stuffed, if using)
  • 1 small tin sweet corn* kernels, or 1/2 large tin (ensure that no sugar has been added)
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 large handful baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring/green onion**, or chives.
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander plus extra, to serve
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • lime zest and juice , to serve
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped, to serve

Method:

    1. If you’re making the stuffed capsicums, preheat oven to 180*C for 10 mins. Cut 2 capsicums in half lengthways, place on a lined baking tray cut-side up and bake until slightly tender, around 10-15 mins, while the quinoa is cooking.
    2. Place the Celebrate Health Mexican Quinoa in a saucepan along with the stock, cumin, paprika, oregano and dried chili. Give a quick stir, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, allowing the grains to absorb the liquid for 15 minutes. If the quinoa hasn’t absorbed all the liquid by now, let it cook for a further 5 minutes, careful not to overcook or it will turn into mushy porridge. It’s ready when the grains are soft, but still able to be separated with a fork. Remove from heat.
    3. In the meantime, heat 1tsp olive oil (I used garlic-infused) in a fry pan. Add chopped capsicum to the pan and sautée over medium-high heat for 2 mins. Add chopped green beans and sautée until slightly tender but still crisp.
    4. In a bowl, combine the quinoa, capsicum, green beans, corn, green onion/chives, spinach and coriander. If you’re making stuffed capsicums, spoon the mixture into the roasted capsicum halves. Upon serving, top with chopped avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Garnish with fresh coriander and a sprinkle of lime zest. It’s also great with a dollop of Greek yoghurt if you’re not vegan or dairy-free!

* If you have fructmal and you’re quite sensitive to sweet corn, try halving the recommended quantity. I can personally tolerate a fair bit of it, and this amount shouldn’t cause any upsets because the rest of the ingredients are very low in fructose and free of fructans. The safest thing is to test your own tolerance.
**Those with fructmal should only use the green part of spring (green) onion.

Happy Nourishing!

Ax

Fragrant Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

imageIMG_3636 IMG_3787Last Saturday was my favourite kind of Saturday; the air smelt like Summer and I spent the day walking my pup in the sunshine, wandering around Prahran Market and cooking.

Prahran market is any health foodie’s bliss, and its location — being just off the hustle and bustle of fashion heaven Chapel Street –makes it even more blissful for those who love fashion and food. I was in my element. I won’t lie, this market isn’t cheap. But, then again, it’s only expensive relative to supermarket produce that’s mass-produced and often genetically modified, and is laden with preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Like many local markets, most of the produce at Prahran Market is organic, seasonal and farmed locally. Basically, you get what you pay for. Not only is organic produce free of all the nasty stuff, but it’s also far richer in the good stuff – organic fruit and veg provides far more vitamins, minerals and nutritional antioxidants because it’s grown in nutrient-rich soil and is harvested with care. It’s also for this reason that organic food looks more vibrant and tastes better. I believe wholeheartedly that your health is the best investment you can make, monetarily and otherwise. People often complain that organic and ‘health’ foods are unjustifiably expensive, but I personally look at it this way: it’s more worthwhile to spend money on nourishing the body I’m going to have until I die, rather than a dress I’m going to wear once or twice. That’s not to say I don’t put money into both. One is just more justifiable than the other…

I managed to fill the boot of my car with a whole heap of gorgeous organic goodies such purple carrots, wild baby carrots, sweet potato, a Woodfrog Bakery baguette, Loving Earth coconut sugar, pumpkin seed butter and quinoa, just to name a few. I even bought a bunch of these exquisite wild tulips which, as the proud cashier announced, were not grown hydroponically (in a water solution), but in real soil. How incredibly naive of me for assuming that all flowers are grown in the grounds of pretty meadows all these years…

When I got home, my mum asked what on earth I was going to do with it all, as she usually does. I decided to whip up a big quinoa dish to get me through the next week’s lunches. None of it made it past dinner – the entire thing got demolished by my family before I could get my tuppaware containers out of the cupboard.

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Fragrant Roasted Veggie + Quinoa Salad

Serves 5-6
Dietary info: wheat & gluten free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP, soy free. Contains nuts (almonds) & lactose (omit feta for dairy free).

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, washed & peeled
  • 1/2 kent/jap pumpkin, washed & peeled
  • 1 large purple carrot (optional)
  • 2 cups white quinoa, rinsed thoroughly* (I often cheat and use two packets of Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander
  • 1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala (Indian spice mix – available from supermarkets & spice markets)
  • Pinch sweet paprika
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO
  • 1/2 cup Danish or Persian Feta, crumbled

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C.
  2. Combine the ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and garam masala.
  3. Chop pumpkin into 2cm chunks and sweet potato and carrot (if using) into 1cm chunks. The pumpkin is softer and therefore cooks twice as fast as sweet potato & carrot, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than fiddle with varied cooking times, so I just cut the pumpkin twice as large as the sweet potato & carrot.
  4. Throw pumpkin, sweet potato & carrot in  a large bowl with the garlic olive oil and 1/2 tbs of the EVOO (the rest will be used for the dressing). Use your hands to ensure that the veggies are evenly coated with the oil.
  5. Arrange veggies on a baking/roasting dish and sprinkle with half of the prepared spice mix. Also sprinkle with a little Himalayan salt.
  6. Bake veggies for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn to expose the less-cooked sides. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and some more paprika and salt if you wish. Return to the oven until they’re golden and cooked through – another 15-20 mins should do it. If they’re still a little under done, cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Cooking times will vary from oven to oven, and also depending on the size of the veggies.
  7. While the veggies are roasting, place the quinoa and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then turn right down and cover with a lid. Leave for 15 minutes to allow the grains to absorb the liquid. Once ready, use a fork to fluff it up and separate the grains. If you’re using Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa or another packaged recipe base, prepare the quinoa according to packet instructions, using stock instead if it calls for water. The quinoa is ready when its germ is exposed (a white little ring around the grain will appear). It should be soft but still have some resistance when chewed – sort of like the ‘al dente’ quinoa version of pasta! It should not be cluggy or porridge-like, but if it is, don’t bother starting from scratch – it’ll still taste good!
  8. In a large salad bowl, combine the quinoa, lemon juice (to taste), remaining EVOO, baby spinach, chives and coriander. At this stage, I threw in more of the spices to taste to make the quinoa itself more fragrant and flavourful. Top the quinoa with the roasted veggies, toasted almonds, feta and extra coriander. Finish with a little drizzle of EVOO and a squeeze of lemon juice. If I have some on hand at the time, I also love to top the salad with some of my Mum’s homegrown and home-pickled beetroot chunks. Since it’s full of sugar and not exactly clean, I only use a few tablespoons of it, but the sweetness really ties everything together and makes the flavours pop. Besides, I’ve never been able to pass up a beetroot and feta combo, anyway.

*Always rinse plain uncooked quinoa thoroughly prior to cooking, or you might end up with a very unpleasantly bitter result!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Raw Vegan Chocolate Custard Tarts

Om nom NOM…

I’m currently feeling a little under the weather due to some chronic sleep deprivation, and my creative cap has been MIA lately, so it’s a short and oh-so-sweet little hello from me today.

These dandy little creations were verrrrrrrry popular. So popular, in fact, that I only scored half of one myself. Not okay.

The quantities in the recipe make about 8 small tarts (or 7 if you can’t stop eating the ingredients like me), but it could easily be doubled. I used quite small quantities as I made the recipe up along the way and wasn’t sure whether it would be a success or not. I’m quickly learning that it’s pretty hard to stuff raw sweets up. They’re practically infallible – if the flavours and textures work well together while you’re putting them together, chances are that the end product will be a success. Baked treats, on the other hand, are far more volatile (even more so when you’re a gluten-free baker). Will it rise? Will it be too sweet? Will it lose too much sweetness? Will it be fluffy? Will it hold form? Will it curdle? You could be licking the Muffin Batter of The Gods from the bowl one minute, convinced that you’re onto something great, then you’ve got 12 tragic little muffins in the bin 20 minutes later, not even worthy of the dog bowl. Ovens are dangerous, and lately I just haven’t had the energy to deal with the anxiety that Oven Time brings…

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Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse Tarts
Makes 8 small tarts

Ingredients

Tart shells:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut
  • 1 tbs LSA (linseed, sunflower & almond meal)
  • 2.5 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup (for a strictly raw version, sub in a raw sweetener of choice)
  • 3 drops liquid stevia

Custard filling:

  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tbs raw cacao powder (or more, depending on how deep you want the flavour to be)
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup (for a strictly raw version, sub in a raw sweetener of choice)
  • 2 drops liquid stevia (or more, to taste)

To serve:

  • 1 ripe banana, plus a little maple syrup

Method

  1.  Line 8 disposable aluminium foil tartlet cases with small squares of glad wrap. I did this to ensure they wouldn’t stick.
  2. Process all Tart Shell ingredients in a high-speed processor until it all comes together like a dough. Taste and adjust flavours if needed.
  3. Divide the mixture into portions and carefully mould each portion into the foil cases with your fingers to create a little ‘cup’. Place on a tray and allow to set in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. To make the custard filling, process all ingredients until a thick and smooth custard-like consistency forms. Taste and adjust sweetness/cacao to suit your preferences.
  5. Remove tart shells from the freezer. Remove the tarts from the foil cases by carefully lifting and peeling away the plastic wrap.
  6. Spoon custard mixture into chilled tart shells. Freeze until 10 minutes before serving.
  7. To serve, allow the tarts to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes first, then top with slices of maple-grilled banana.
  8. To make the maple-grilled banana, slice a ripe (but firm) banana, brush lightly with a little pure maple syrup and place under the grill until the banana starts to brown, bubble and caramelise (about 3 minutes).

Notes:

  • To make a strictly raw version of this recipe, simply replace the maple syrup with a raw sweetener, and top the tarts with fresh banana instead of grilled.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Raw Vegan Chocolate Cookie & Peanut Butter Fudge Cups

Now, everyone on the face of the earth is familiar with the amazingness of Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, right?  Well, apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the past 21 years. I only became aware of their existence once recipes of their healthy take-offs went viral and infested my social networking (and Google) feeds. In the online health-nut community (I refuse to call us ‘Clean Eaters’ – that term makes even me cringe, and I am one), healthy versions of Reese’s ingenious creation have become all the rage. Simple, quick, fuss-free, no-bake and healthy, they make a perfect little sweet treat. And while I’ve since made them numerous times, I’ve found little reason to post my own recipe because let’s face it, they’re everywhere. It would be like posting a recipe pretending that I invented the raw-universally celebrated Raw Chocolate Mousse (avocado, cacao & sweetener). Not much new or exciting there. So, last night I decided to put a little spin on the famous chocolate-peanut butter marriage. But how could I make it my own?

Everyone loves chocolate. Everyone loves peanut butter (my cat and boyfriend are the only exceptions I know)…

…and everyone loves cookies. Even my cat.

With that little Lightbulb Moment, my Raw Chocolate Cookie & Peanut Butter Fudge Cups were born. Not only are they deliciously more-ish and sure to quell any sweet cravings, they’re also loaded with super nourishing properties like antioxidants, natural anti-depressants (tryptophan), anti-inflammatory powers, metabolism and energy boosters, essential fats, proteins, fibre, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, folate, iron, zinc and magnesium, just to name a few!

Now, I have used a little maple syrup for the sole purposes of nutritional benefit (not to mention unbeatable taste). To avoid getting into any trouble here, I must highlight the fact that maple syrup is not actually considered a raw food. Sorry. Making pure maple syrup involves boiling down the sap from maple trees, a process which is extremely lengthy, delicate and involved (hence the high cost of pure maple syrup compared to maple flavoured syrup — not so good for you!) The health benefits of pure maple syrup, however, surpass that of any raw sweetener by a mile, and its relative fructose content is much lower. So, if your diet is absolutely raw, just substitute the maple for a raw sweetener. If you don’t follow a raw lifestyle, then I’d encourage you to opt for pure certified organic maple syrup over ANY ‘raw’ sweetener like agave, for example, which has a whopping fructose content ranging anywhere from 70-90%! Agave might possess other health benefits, but its incredibly high fructose percentage is enough for me to stay clear of it, whether I have fructose malabsorption or not.

These little babies are great served with a mid morning cuppa, as a post workout snack (new research shows that almonds are one of the top natural post-workout fuels), or as a lovely little low carb and guilt-free dessert. Or any time of day that you’re having a chocolate/cookie/peanut butter craving, really…
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Raw Chocolate Cookie & Peanut Butter Fudge Cups
Makes 10 cups

Ingredients:
Raw Chocolate Cookie

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 4-6 tbs raw cacao powder (according to taste)
  • 8 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tbs pure organic maple syrup
  • 6 drops liquid stevia, or to taste

Peanut Butter Fudge Filling

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3 tsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pure organic maple syrup
  • 2 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
  • Pinch Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste

Chocolate Topping

  • 6 tbs raw cacao butter, melted
  • 2-4 tbs raw cacao powder, or to taste
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia, or to taste

Method:

  1. Completely combine all Chocolate Cookie ingredients in a bowl. Firmly press half the mixture into 10 silicone cup cake moulds. Freeze for 10 mins.
  2. In the meantime, combine all Peanut Butter Fudge Filling ingredients. Remove cups from freezer and smooth peanut butter mixture on top of the first cookie layer. Freeze for 20-30 mins.
  3. Press the remaining chocolate cookie mixture into the cups, on top of the peanut butter filling. Freeze for 10 mins.
  4. Combine Chocolate Topping ingredients, remove cups from freezer and cover evenly with the chocolate. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts before serving if you wish. Only remove from the freezer 10 mins before serving. They will melt and lose shape rapidly, otherwise.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Just like a chocolate thick shake, only THICKER!

One day last week, my best gal pal was coming over for one of our habitual Afternoon Tea dates. Being the 21-going-on-75ers that we unashamedly are (bar the weekend, of course, when tea is replaced with vodka), my best friends and I always relish in the rare delight of lazing around in our moccasins for a few hours while chatting frantically about anything and everything (often forgetting to breathe), getting stuck into dark chocolate and, of course, drinking copious amounts of tea. Green, Chai, English Breakfast, French Earl Grey, Peppermint…

Incidentally, I had the whole day off, which naturally means a day of recipe invention, experimentation and converting my kitchen into an A-grade bomb site. With the extra time on my hands, I decided to jazz our tea date up a little. In the true tradition of all bona fide afternoon teas, one fundamental element was called for: sweets. And what do I love even more than sweets? HEALTHIFIED SWEETS!

So, I got to work on a little feast: raw vegan Coconut Cream and Strawberry Slice , strawberries dipped in homemade raw vegan almond chocolate and –lo and behold– THE BEST healthy choc-banana smoothie EVER! I decided to be all outrageous and skip the tea (many cups of China Jasmine were consumed post-fiesta, of course), and what a decision it was.

This delightful concoction is definitely more of a thick shake than a smoothie. It has all the naughty tastes and textures of a thick shake, but is 100% healthy AND, what’s more,  it’s sugar free! As much as I adore healthy smoothies, it can’t be denied that they taste just that – healthy. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a given that a wholesome smoothie packed with spinach and berries won’t titillate your taste buds quite like a thick shake made from ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce will.

THIS ‘smoothie’, however, is guaranteed to titillate your taste buds. When I was younger, a McDonald’s choccie thick shake was always my chosen 6-Nugget Happy Meal accompaniment, and no, it wasn’t my dessert because a shake is “just a drink!”. I’d have a large Chocolate Sundae, too. I kid you not, the first gulp of my Choc-Banana Thick Shake took my straight back to my enchanted childhood. It was magnificent.

This thick shake is so incredibly creamy, chocolatey, sweet and, as one can expect, thick. So wonderfully thick, in fact, that the thin straw I served it with was quickly ditched for a spoon. I definitely recommend a thick straw if you’re planning on drinking this liquefied chocolate velvet. The secret to such a smooth, creamy and thick result? Frozen bananas.

To add to the indulgence factor, I whipped up some choc-almond fudge to drizzle around the edges of the glasses. I then used the leftovers to coat strawberries with before rolling them in crushed pistachios and shredded coconut…
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Choc-Banana Thick Shake with Chocolate Fudge Sauce
Serves 2 (or one fat me)

Ingredients

  • 3 frozen bananas (I peel and chop fresh bananas into halves and store them in a container in the freezer, so I always have them ready to go)
  • 2-3 tbs raw cacao powder, or to taste (I use Loving Earth brand)
  • 1 tbs almond butter
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice (cow’s milk or vegan nut milk such as almond or cashew for vegans or lactose-free)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia, or to taste (if you’re not too concerned about keeping it sugar-free, a tablespoon or two of pure maple would also be delicious)
  • Ice

Choc-Almond Fudge (optional):

  • 3 tbs raw cacao butter buttons, melted (I use Eco brand. If you don’t have any, you could use coconut oil but it won’t have that creamy, real chocolate effect)
  • 1-2 raw cacao powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tbs almond butter
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Splash of pure maple syrup (can leave out to make it strictly sugar-free)
  • liquid stevia, to taste

Method:

  1. If you’re making the chocolate fudge, combine the relevant ingredients with the melted cacao butter. Stir vigorously until fully combined. You can either drizzle the chocolate around the edges of your serving glasses before you pour the drink in as I did, or top your shake with it. Because it sets like real chocolate, you will need to move quickly with it. If it starts to harden, simply melt it down again slightly.
  2. To make the thick shake, add all ingredients to a high-powered blender or processor and blend until completely smooth and creamy. Pour into servings glasses and enjoy immediately.

Notes:

  • If you have leftover chocolate, dip strawberries into it and then roll them in crushed pistachios and shredded coconut. YUM! Or, you could just eat it by the spoonful…
  • If you only want enough to serve one person, there might not be enough ingredients for the blender to work properly. I’d suggest still making enough for two servings, and store the remainder in the fridge for ‘later’. By later, I mean immediately after your first glass, before you realise how full you are.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Calling all Omnivorous Raw Vegan Cynics

IMG_3249I’m about as vegan as a lion. It’s not that I’m against –or even mildly skeptical about– the vegan diet, because I absolutely LOVE plant-based foods, whether they’re cooked or in their natural (raw) state. I have no doubt that humans are able to obtain sufficient nourishment from a solely plant-based diet, given enough variety. It’s just that, well, frankly, I bloody love meat. Full Stop.

An impassioned animal fanatic, I do my very best to only consume certified organic, and therefore more ethically produced, meat and animal products. My diet is predominantly paleolithic, not by conscious choice, but pure incidence. Without even realising it, I’d been following a largely Stone Age/Paleo/Hunter-Gatherer diet for a long time. My omnivorous diet suits my lifestyle perfectly, and I find that I’m most focused, energised and happiest when I’m dining like a caveman. It’s as simple as that. And it is for this simple reason I personally believe that the Paleo Diet is what homo sapiens are genetically designed to consume.

Like I said before, my diet is not entirely, but predominantly paleolithic. Although 95% of my diet consists of unprocessed meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, tree nuts and seeds, I do eat some foods that the cave-dwellers would have frothed over given the luxury. These include, but are not entirely limited to, oats, tempeh, the occasional slice of oat bread, some unrefined grains that I’m not already intolerant to (like quinoa and brown rice), peanuts, goats feta, Greek yoghurt, and small amounts of other minimally-processed dairy.

Eating meat and animal products is a personal choice I make, but it doesn’t mean that all my meals contain them. I love eating purely plant-based and raw dishes, and I aim to incorporate them into my diet every day. To be honest, my diet would undoubtedly contain a lot less animal-factor if I wasn’t intolerant to so many plant-based foods. As much as I love eating animal protein, I honestly adore veggies just as much. I’d have a lot more herbivorous days if my body could tolerate more protein-rich plant foods. But until then, I’ll listen to my fuss-pot gut and take chicken over chickpeas.

Since developing my intolerances, I’ve become increasingly sick of going to ‘health’ restaurants and vegan cafes and being intolerant to every single menu item. What’s more, the all-too-often standoffish and apathetic attitudes of hipster waiting staff doesn’t ease the frustration, either. It baffles me that they claim to be the most health-focused eateries going ’round, yet they’re totally unaware (or totally unconcerned) about Fructose Malabsorption or the booming demand for low FODMAP options. ‘Gluten free’ is on every menu you look at, even in third-world countries, yet the mention of fructose malabsorption leaves waiters and chefs with an expression that’s part puzzled, part constipated. I’ll show YOU constipated – just feed me an apple!

So, last Monday I got all vegan in spirit and was, incidentally, craving sweets. Since I can’t eat store-bought raw vegan sweets (they all either contain dates, dried fruit, honey, agave, or all of the above), I decided to make my own super nutritious raw vegan, refined-sugar free and fructose friendly dessert. At first, I was sure that I’d miss the gorgeous taste of Nature’s Caramel –dates–, since they’re an incredibly toothsome plant-based sugar alternative. But, after a bit of throwing various ingredients together and a whole lot of Hoping For The Best, I tasted my pièce de résistance, and BOOM…

The love child of strawberry and coconut was born. And oh my gosh, it is simply scrump-didili-umptious! 

My Coconut Cream and Strawberry Slice is one healthy dessert you can feed to even the most carnivorous, sugar-lovin’ beast and remain confident that they will NEVER know that it’s 100% healthy. Or Vegan. Or RAW! The truth is, it just tastes like it’s bad for you. My sister has asked me a few times, “are you sure this is good for me?”, and my boyfriend can’t stand nuts “unless they’re covered in (milk) chocolate” because they dry his mouth out (um, what?), but even he couldn’t get enough of it.

The base is so buttery and biscuity (without actually being buttery or biscuity) and the filling is dreamily creamy, velvety and sweet. Then there’s the delectable strawbs – the icing on the cake. Like all bona fide slices should, the whole thing just Melts in Your Mouth. Nanna would be so approving. Impressed, even.  It’s incredibly hard to believe that something that tastes like it belongs at a fete cake stall can be perfectly nourishing, vegan and 100% clean. Don’t believe me? I DARE you to try it…

My ultimate verdict? Raw vegans are certainly NOT missing out…

Now, because the slice does contain lots of tree nuts, seeds and dried coconut, my lovely fellow fructose malabsorbers must go easy on it – if you’re particularly sensitive to nuts, please stick to a small serving at a time. That said, some of you might be able to tolerate a lot of it. I’m somewhere in the middle. Still, I’d be willing to experience mild stomach upsets the following day in the name of this Godly Goody.

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Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice
Serves 6
To yield enough to fill a normal ‘slice’ dish, double the ingredients.

Ingredients (all nuts & seeds are natural & raw)

‘Biscuit’ Base:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (desiccated/shredded/flakes/chips)
  • 1 tbs LSA
  • 1/2 tbs each flax seeds, sunflower seeds & pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbs liquid coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure organic maple syrup (NOTE: if you follow a strictly raw diet, simply substitute the maple syrup for a raw sweetener. Maple syrup is not considered a raw food, but I use it as its health benefits surpass any raw sweetener I could use).
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Liquid or powdered stevia, to taste

Coconut Cream filling:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut cream (I used light)
  • 1/3 cup dried coconut
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs pure organic maple syrup/raw sweetener
  • 5-7 of the most titillatingly tasty strawberries you can get your hands on, sliced, for topping
  • fresh mint leaves, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Line a container with baking paper. The container I used was approx. 16cm/16cm (quite small), but if you want to make enough to fill a proper ‘slice’ tray, double the ingredients.
  2. In a high powered food processor, process all dry ‘ biscuit base’ ingredients (except for the stevia) until a crumbly consistency has formed.
  3. Add the wet ingredients and whiz until it all comes together and is sticky. Taste. If you want it sweeter, gradually add small amounts of stevia until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the base of the lined container/tray and pop into the fridge or freezer while you make the filling.
  5. To make the cashew cream filling, process the cashews and coconut until a fine powder forms.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined. Spread the coconut cream filling over the biscuit base and allow to set in the fridge for a few hours.
  7. Just before serving, top the coconut cream with sliced strawbs, carefully cut into portions with a sharp knife, top with a few fresh mint leaves for that little extra colour pop, and DEVOUR!


Happy Nourishing!
Ax