Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos (vegan, onion & garlic free)

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Let’s be honest, who are you if one of your favourite things to eat in the entire world isn’t nachos?
One thing that’s certainly booming in Melbourne at the moment is modern Mexican cuisine. Gone are the days of soggy fried taco shells bursting with MSG-laden seasoned ground beef, lack lustre guar (um, where’s my coriander?!) and cloudy fish bowls filled with sugar syrup, ghastly colour dyes and cheap tequila. Under-cheesed nachos were awesome in 2004 when we didn’t know any better, but with all these new restaurants boasting affordable and outrageously tasty menu offerings with funky interiors and vibes to boot, tacky Tex-Mex joints just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Of course, if you have an irritable tummy, you’ll more than likely be frightened of Mexican food, as Mexican is synonymous with onion, garlic and black beans. However, the list of restaurants I’ve compiled below are all ones that I’ve found to be quite accommodating. As long as you’re willing to pass up a few obvious options (I hate you, pre-made guac), it is possible to find something that’s tummy friendly, tasty AND relatively healthy on all the below menus!

Here’s a list of some of my favourite modern Mexican joints around Melbourne:

Mamasita – CBD
Touche Hombre – CBD (home of the best corn on the cob you’ll ever sink your teeth into)
The Black Toro – Glen Waverly
Fonda – CBD, Hawthorn, Richmond & Windsor

Because of all the different vegetables, herbs and spices that characterise the cuisine, Mexican is actually very easy to health-ify. Having said that, I couldn’t be bothered inventing a dehydrated corn chip, so here’s my healthy take on modern nachos, using sweet potato chips instead! Since my recipe is FODMAP/fructose conscious, it doesn’t include beans, but feel free to add them if you can eat them!

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Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos (Vegan)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Low FODMAP Mexican Spice Mix (makes approx. 2.5 tbs):

  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Guac:

  • 2 large avocados*, lightly mashed
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • small handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 6 spring onions (green part only), chopped
  • Generous sprinkle of ‘Low FODMAP Mexican Spice Mix’ (above^)

Nachos:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes**, washed, peeled and sliced thinly into 3mm-thick rounds
  • 1 packet Celebrate Health Mexican Quinoa (available from the health food aisle of most leading supermarkets in Aus)
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 tin corn kernels (no added salt or sugar)
  • 1 small handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve
  • 3 spring onions (green part only), chopped, to serve
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced, to serve (optional)
  • Lime wedges, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220*C and line 2 large trays with baking paper.
  2. Prepare the spice mix by combining all ingredients. Set aside.
  3. To make the sweet potato chips, spread the sliced potato in an even layer on the prepared baking trays. Spray lightly with coconut oil spray and sprinkle with the spice mix. Bake the chips for 20 minutes, then flip the chips, give another light spray of oil and another sprinkle of spices, then return to the oven for a further 15-20 mins or until the rounds are beginning to resemble chips (refer to the images). Remove form oven and set aside. You may also wish to swap the position of the trays half way through to ensure even baking.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the Celebrate Health Mexican Quinoa according to packet instructions and set aside.
  5. Heat a little coconut oil in a frypan over medium-low heat. Sautee the capsicum, corn and a sprinkle of the spice mix until the capsicum is slightly tender and the corn kernels are beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To make the guac, combine all ingredients and season with sea salt.
  7. On a large flat serving dish or board, assemble the nachos by starting with the sweet potato chips on the bottom, then piling on the quinoa, capsicum, corn and guac. Garnish with coriander, spring onions, sliced chilli, lime wedges and a light sprinkle of the spice mix.

Notes: 
*Avocado contains sorbitol. Monash currently recommends that people highly sensitive to polyols should stick to 1/8th.
** Sweet potato contains mannitol. Monash currently recommends that people highly sensitive to polyols should stick to 1/2 cup.

Buen provecho, amigos! 
Ax

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A smashed avo recipe that doesn’t taste like regurgitated avocado…

This post comes with a proceed-with-caution warning: my inner food snob is about to unleash. If you didn’t already know that I’m a  food snob, you’re about to. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in food, cooking, health, wellness or all of the above anyway, so you’ve probably got a wee bit of food snob in you as well. And if you don’t, then I’m going to sound like a total brat. But that’s ok because I feel that my brattiness is well-justified, as all brats do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m the world’s greatest cook – not by any means. I stuff up recipes and make hideous meals all the time – I just don’t take pictures or blog about them. And given that I’ve only been cooking properly for the past two to three years (before that, all I cared about was eating), my culinary opinion doesn’t come with much authority. But I’ll never hesitate to offer it anyway…

I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with restaurants’ efforts when it comes to the most basic dishes. I believe that anyone and everyone paying for food has the right to be a food snob. If I were charging people real money for my food in a commercial landscape, everything about the entire experience would have to be pretty great: the presentation, the service, the ambiance and, most importantly, the food. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. When eating out, which is probably far too often mind you, I always ask myself this: “Could I have easily made something that tastes and looks better than this?” If the answer is yes, then I’m not happy. Isn’t the whole point of “eating out” to relish in the pleasure of eating something you don’t have the ability, time or inclination to produce yourself? I’m sick of going to pretentious restaurants with snooty waiting staff and prices to match, then being totally underwhelmed by the food and leaving knowing I could have whipped up something a whole lot better myself for a fraction of the price.

I could ramble on with a thousand examples, but you’d probably never return to my blog again. So I’ll share one grievance that’s becoming more and more frequent, and less and less well-tolerated: down-right crappy breakfasts. Melbourne prides itself on its top-notch brekkies, and competitive trendy cafe-filled areas such as Richmond, Hawthorn and Collingwood even more so. So when you take regular trips to Urban Spoon’s top-rated Melbourne brunch joints and the breakfast menus display prices that equal those of standard restaurants’ dinners (20-30 bucks), it’s your right as a generously paying customer to expect a pretty shit-hot breakfast. Yes, I made a punny.

But when the waiter takes 20 minutes to ask if you’d like something to drink, then the chef is less than accommodating of your food intolerances, insisting that “no menu items can be altered or cooked without garlic and onion” and you’re left with poached-eggs-and-your-choice-of-sides for the gazillionth time since you developed this crappy intolerance, then you’re getting pretty annoyed. Then, when your family receives their delectable Spanish baked eggs and gourmet breakfast burgers, you’re thinking: those $12 poached eggs better be hot and cooked medium, that $9 side of smoked trout or salmon wouldn’t want to taste like a fish market smells at 4pm, those grilled tomatoes better be all juicy and herby (and not be covered in minced garlic so you don’t have to send them back), that spelt sourdough should not be soggy, the sauteed spinach shouldn’t leave the rest of your plate swimming in oil and, for heaven’s sake, that $7 “smashed avocado” better not taste like the chef chewed up an avocado and spat it out on your plate…

Far too often lately, I’ve been served a cold plate of under or over-done poached eggs, overly fishy fish, tasteless tomatoes, soggy bread, super oily spinach and what I now coin ‘regurgitated avocado’. A lover of fresh, whole produce, I believe that basic is best – real food sings for itself. You don’t need complex cooking methods and a million ingredients to make food taste wonderful. A little always goes a long way in the kitchen, but a little love is still needed to give any dish pizzazz, even if it is only breakfast. And why should breakfast be less delicious than any other meal?! When you’re paying premium price for food, or any price for that matter, you have the right to expect to get what you pay for. 

So, here’s my take on ‘smashed avocado’: it’s super tasty, quick and easy and calls for minimal ingredients with a whole lotta taste. It can be used to add some spunk (and a bunch of nutritional benefits) to any breakfast, and it’s great as a spread, salad topping, guacamole or even a healthy dip alternative. I served mine on organic spelt sourdough with poached eggs and smoked salmon. Nourishing, simple, cheap and, most importantly, YUMMO!
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Simple Avo & Bulgarian Feta Smash

Serves 3 as a side
Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe avocado*, skin and pip removed.
  • 40g Bulgarian feta (you could also use Danish feta, or Goats for dairy-free)
  • Juice of 1/4 – 1/2 lemon (to taste)
  • 1 small handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 2 large spring (green) onions, chopped (green part only for those with FructMal), or 2 tbs chopped chives
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mash avocado and half the feta with a fork. Don’t worry about getting it totally smooth – the chunkier, the better.
  2. Add the juice, coriander and green onion and stir to combine. Add the pepper and salt to taste & add more lemon juice if needed. The lemon juice will also delay the avocado’s natural browning process (handy side tip: you can use fresh lemon juice to prevent sliced fruits like banana and apple from going brown, too!).
  3. Add the rest of the feta and stir until just combined. Use immediately. Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for the rest of the day, but will begin to brown after a few hours.

*I’ve recently started introducing more avocado into my diet. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t tolerate more than a spoonful. I can now tolerate much more. If you’ve got FructMal and you’re not sure of your tolerance to avocado, just be careful. As always, tolerance to FODMAPs varies greatly from individual to individual and the best way to ensure a happy gut is to test your own tolerance.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

It’s my birthday, I’ll eat (an entire) cake if I want to.

IMG_4487So I’ve been MIA lately (sorry about that), but I do have a very viable excuse: 21st Birthday celebrations. I’ve gotta be honest, though: it’s not really my birthday. I actually turned 21 back in July, but with over fifty close friends exploring abroad and a home in the midst of renovations and landscaping at the time, it made perfect sense to hold off celebrating until later in the year when all my pals would be home and my house would be party-ready. Just a quick side note: for anyone who’s planning a milestone birthday party in future, birthdays and parties in close proximity to one another are totally overrated. I highly recommend having your party 4-6 months after your actual birthday – it literally feels like you have two birthdays in the one year!

Anyway, I had the most incredible time laughing, dancing and going bonkers until the wee hours of Sunday with over 200 brilliant people. I almost slipped ‘memorable’ in there with ‘incredible’, but I’d be lying because the entire night is a monumental blur. A monumentally glorious blur, but a blur nonetheless. I do, however,  remember that the night went far too quickly as all eagerly-anticipated celebrations do, and I also remember that the night was absolutely perfect in every way. I’d give almost anything to relive those hours on the dance floor again. On the contrary, Sunday’s whopping hangover is something I’m happy to farewell. It’s Thursday as I write this, and I still haven’t recovered fully. Nor has my digestive system…

Sunday and Monday, I ate birthday cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Technically speaking, I didn’t eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but rather with breakfast, lunch and dinner, with numerous candy bar leftovers (hello, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and white chocolate raspberry bullets!) in between. My family couldn’t believe my bizarre lack on self-control as I scoffed my two-tiered moist-white-chocolate-mudcake-with-strawberry-swirl by the handful. I usually turn down one slice of cake — opting for a mouthful of someone else’s instead– let alone eating three kilos of the stuff over two days. The thing is that I wasn’t even trying to control myself. I didn’t want to. If I can’t eat every delicious ounce of refined, fat-forming and fructose-fueled food under the sun during my 21st birthday celebrations, then when the hell will I?! It’s my birthday, I’ll eat whatever, whenever and however much I want to.

Come Monday night, I was feeling thoroughly flat. I hadn’t eaten a full days’ serving of vegetables in three or four days. My daily three litres of water came in the form of vodka and champagne punch. I’d been forgetting to take my vitamin supplements and my excitement I hadn’t had a decent sleep in weeks. AND I’d been shoveling FODMAPs and fructose into my gob like nobody’s business (can you imagine how mortified I was when I receieved the 20 kilos of candy I ordered for my candy bar, only to realise that 90% of it was sweetened with the only thing worse than pure fructose itself: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP?!?!?!?!?!). I’m almost ashamed to say that this did not stop me. Almost…

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Refined food has an evilly addictive nature, and I’ve got an awfully addictive personality, so it took a lot to quell the devil in my head who was telling me just one more chunk of white mud cake wasn’t going to kill me. My abdominal cramps and impertinent gastrointestinal symptoms suggested otherwise. I told myself enough was enough. I needed serious nutrients, but lacked the motivation to move, let alone cook. So I did a quick brainstorm and whipped up a perfectly healthy and positively delicious Summer dinner in 25 minutes. I cheated a little bit, but my family couldn’t tell, and neither will yours!

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This meal is jam-packed with A-grade quality proteins and complete amino acids, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, minerals, a range of vitamins and essential fats including the amazing benefits omega-3. I started eating salmon at the start of last year, I haven’t looked back since. My eczema and dermatitis have improved ten-fold since incorporating essential fatty acids into my daily diet. I eat one large salmon fillet once a week, and small amounts of raw and smoked salmon throughout the week.

Crispy-Skinned Salmon with Lemon, Thyme & Mint Quinoa

Serves 5
Ingredients:

  • 5 boneless salmon fillets, skin on (200g each, wild if possible)
  • 2 Packets Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken/vegetable stock
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Leaves from 2 large rosemary sprigs, chopped
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 200g green beans
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds, lightly roasted
  • Juice and grated rind of 1/2 small lemon
  • EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Sea salt flakes

Method: 

  1. Place quinoa, stock and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil (uncovered). Reduce heat to low and cover, allowing the grains to absorb the liquid for 15 minutes. Remove from heat when all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.
  2. In the meantime, place salmon, skin-side up, on a large plate. Drizzle skin with EVOO, sprinkle skin and sides with chopped rosemary leaves and rub a little sea salt flakes into the skin. Heat a non-stick fry-pan over medium-high heat. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on the pan (if it’s hot enough, it should sizzle and spit, but not burn). Cook for around 4 minutes until the skin is crisp. Flip, then cook for a further 4 minutes on the other side. Remove from heat and cover with foil. Move quickly, as the the salmon will continue to cook. Cooking times will always vary depending on the thickness of the fillet, but this will generally ensure a medium-rare centre that flakes away and melts in your mouth. I love my salmon a little pinker in the middle, as pictured. Adjust cooking times to suit how rare or well-done you like yours.
  3. Transfer the quinoa to a mixing bowl and toss through torn mint leaves, thyme leaves, spinach, avocado and a little grated lemon rind. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  4. Arrange green beans on plates (I served mine raw for textural and nutritional purposes –not because I was just feeling lazy, of course 😉 — but you could lightly sautée them in a tiny bit garlic-infused EVOO if you wish). Top beans with quinoa salad and salmon fillets. Drizzle each plate with a little lemon juice and sprinkle roasted flaked almonds on top. Bog in.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax