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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

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

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chai Spice Mix

Makes around 6 tbs of chai mix

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

Place all the spices in an airtight glass jar or container. Shake vigorously until fully combined. This spice mix will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dry place in your pantry away from direct sunlight.

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1natural almond butter
  • 4 ice cubes plus extra, to serve

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

Notes:

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

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust

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Does anybody else think that orange and chocolate is just the greatest culinary combo ever? As in even better than peanut butter and honey, or avocado and feta? I have such fond memories of scoffing family-size bags of Jaffas during pretty much every visit to the cinema with my parents as a child. Come to think of it, this is all I remember about those visits – I can’t recall a single film I saw, though I know there were many. My head was no doubt too busy being buried in the aforementioned bag of Jaffas to look up to the screen.

This chocolate, orange & almond tart couldn’t be simpler or quicker to make. The crust only calls for a few basic ingredients, and the filling can be quickly prepared while the crust bakes. Then it’s just a matter of pouring the filling over the crust and popping it in the fridge for 1-2 hours until it’s set. I recommend serving this tart as close to the 1-hour mark as possible (or as soon as the filling is set), as the moisture in the fridge won’t have softened the coconut and almonds too much yet, and they’ll still have their delicious crispy texture and toasted flavour. The tart will still be tasty after this time, but the texture just won’t be as good.

A few FODMAP notes before you get started…

In terms of the FODMAP content of this recipe, the lactose content of dark chocolate is very low. You will see that I’ve included relatively large amounts of dried coconut and almonds. According to Monash, those with moderate polyol sensitivies should limit dried coconut to to 1/4 cup per sitting, and those sensitive to oligo’s should stick to 10 almonds per sitting. If this tart is divided into at least 10 segments, there is less than these amounts per serving. Those who don’t need to be as strict should be able to tolerate more anyway (come at me, seconds!), providing their OVERALL FODMAP consumption isn’t already high that day, as it will add to the load.

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

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

Ingredients

Crust:

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

Filling:

  • 1 cup (100g) slithered almonds (can also use half almonds, half pecans), chopped roughly and toasted until golden brown
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup (250mL) full-fat pure coconut cream (organic if possible)
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Lindt 80% because it only has around 10g sugar in the whole block and the bitter/sweet ratio worked well for this recipe. You could also try a raw chocolate alternative but I cannot guarantee the same result as I have not tried it)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Orange oil (see notes for alternative)
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • Liquid stevia, to taste

To serve:

  • Fresh orange slices
  • Fresh Strawberries, sliced
  • Orange rind, finely grated
  • Cacao powder for dusting (optional)

Method

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

Notes:

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

Ax

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Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice

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