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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Summer Smoothie Series: Super 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
  • 2.5 tbsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all the spices together and store in an airtight glass jar or container.

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 frozen ripe banana
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 heaped teaspoons chai spice mix (or to taste, recipe above)
  • 1 tbs natural 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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Honestly Healthy Muesli Bars (fruit free, fructose friendly & dairy free)

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that 98% of packaged muesli bars on the market are not at all healthy.
Despite their efforts to market themselves as wholesome snacks, most muesli bars on the market are loaded with nasties. And those nasties aren’t necessarily always the usual suspects, either. Sure, if you’re into reading labels, you’re probably used to avoiding unpronounceable chem-lab names and numbers which translate into artificial preservatives, sweeteners and other additivies. And sure, you might do a quick scan of the sugar content. But how much notice do you pay to where all that sugar is coming from? The majority of muesli/snack bars out there are loaded with added sugar, whether it’s straight-up refined (white/brown sugar, golden syrup), unrefined like in the ‘healthier’ varieties (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar/nectar, rice malt syrup etc.), or sneakily disguised as being the most ‘natural’ sugar sources of all: dried/raw fruit and fruit juice concentrates.

As I write this, I’m analysing the labels of 2 different muesli bar boxes I found in my pantry. They’re by a popular ‘real food’ supermarket brand, marketed and believed to be truly healthy. Yes, most of the ingredients are whole, and one thing I’ll give them is how transparent they are about the ingredients they use, but they’re still out of touch with the anti-added sugar movement. Either that, or they know most people will read “honey” or “apple juice concentrate” and think that it must be healthy.
One of said muesli bars contains 6 DIFFERENT SOURCES OF SUGAR: cranberries, sugar, glucose, honey, rice syrup and apple. The other contains 5 sources: glucose, honey, sugar, cranberries and sultanas.
SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR…

Of course, if you don’t have fructose malabsorption, then finding a healthy packaged snack is less of an ordeal because there’s a whole heap of health bars on the shelves of health food stores and even supermarkets now. The problem for someone like me is that all those ‘refined sugar free’ and ‘raw’ bars and bliss balls usually scream one thing: FRUCTOSE. They’re pumped with agave (which is 70-90% fructose), dates, and dried fruit. And dried fruit is practically just concentrated fructose. So, without being too controversial, I’d argue that 90% of those raw food bars and bliss balls aren’t that great for you anyway, whether you can digest them or not. Most of them are glorified lollies with a little extra fibre and protein, disguised in rustic packaging with words like ‘raw vegan’ and ‘no added sugar’ sprawled across them. No added sugar? OF COURSE THEY DON’T CONTAIN ADDED SUGAR! They don’t need to add sugar on top of all the syrup and fruit, because if they did, those bars would be distastefully sweet.
Like I always say, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
And regardless of how ‘natural’ the sugar source is, if it’s as sweet as a lolly, it probably isn’t that good for you.

I’m pretty sure that you get my point by now: most muesli bars are unhealthy, and even the semi-healthy ones are often packed with fructose and are thus out-of-bounds for those who cannot digest excess fructose. I should quickly note that fructose friendly snack bars do exist, but I’m yet to come across one that ticks all four boxes: it’s gotta be honestly healthy, fructose friendly, filling, and YUMMY! All the ones I’ve tried lack in an area or two.

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These Honestly Healthy Fruit-Free Muesli Bars are super easy to whip up and the recipe is very forgiving. If you don’t have a particular ingredient, don’t stress, just use something else that’s similar in density (except maybe for the oats and eggs, you’ll need those!), being mindful of wet to dry ratios. This is a great base recipe, so feel free to mix things up! Try adding things like goji berries (dark choc-coated gojis would be delicious for a more decadent treat), cacao nibs, or a little unsweetened dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins. While this recipe is relatively high in protein, you could even incorporate your favourite CLEAN protein powder into the mix, to make it a great post-workout snack.
When divided into 24 pieces, each serving contains just 3g of sugar, which is equivalent to 2 large strawberries. These bars are super filling so you can be sure they’ll tie you over to your next meal. They’re also high in fibre, healthy fats, protein and antioxidants, and relatively low carb, making them a perfect snack any time of day.
Keep them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week. I also like to keep a little container of them in my car’s glove box  (in cooler weather), and one wrapped up in my handbag to ensure that I’m prepared for a snack attack no matter where I am.

Fructose Friendly Muesli Bars

Makes 24 snack squares (or 12 large bars).
Dietary info: fructose friendly, low FODMAP, wheat free (contains spelt), dairy free, refined sugar free, soy free.
Contains gluten (oats & spelt), eggs and tree nuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup  unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (pepitas & sunflower kernels)
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts (almonds & pecans), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 eggs (organic & free range, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup sweetener (I used half/half pure maple and rice malt syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs water
  • Stevia, to taste

Optional: cacao nibs, 3 tbs dried fruit (raisins, sultanas or cranberries), protein powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C and line a slice tray or square cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. At this point I also added 1/2 tsp of concentrated stevia extract powder (see notes).
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine well.
  4. Press firmly into prepared slice/cake tin and sprinkle the top with some extra pepitas and coconut, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm and golden brown (as pictured).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to sit in tin for 10 minutes. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack for a few hours. Use a sharp knife to remove the edges of the slice. Cut slice into desired pieces, and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week.

Notes:

  • As always, the amount of stevia you use will depend on what type of stevia you have. If it’s concentrated powder or liquid, you’ll only need a tiny bit. If it’s granulated, you can use a lot more because concentrated pure stevia is 8 times sweeter than granulated stevia. Those with FM will only be able to use concentrated stevia anyway, as granulated varieties contain fillers to increase their volume, such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which we cannot digest.
  • Some individuals with FM might be more sensitive to nuts and needs than others. If this applies to you, reduce the amounts. However, the amounts I have used should be pretty safe, especially when the recipe is divided into 24 servings.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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

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

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

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

*angry constipated-like expression and frustrated tear*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Notes

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

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Banana Split Overnight Oats

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

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

Banana Split Overnight Oats

Ingredients

Overnight Oats:

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

To serve:

Method

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

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

A healthy twist on a calorific classic: Banana Bread

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Banana bread is one of THE dreamiest nostalgic foods…

When that ever-familar aroma of toasted and buttered banana bread fills your kitchen, you know you’re home. When I was younger, I’d often barge through the front door after school, throw 4 thick slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, smother them with so much butter that it would pool on top and drip down my chin as I took each bite. I remember finding comfort in the justification that something that tasted as good as cake could be as healthy as bread. Ha!

I may have since come to my senses, but my senses don’t fail me: the second I smell fresh banana bread, or better still, warm and buttered fresh banana bread, my salivary glands quite literally go bananas. I know I’m not alone here.

Instead of the classic recipe’s refined wheat flour, my banana bread calls for spelt flour. Although spelt is technically related to wheat and there’s a lot of debate out there as to which grain is more nutritious, the gluten is spelt is more fragile and susceptible to chemical and mechanical breakdown in the body, making it significantly easier to digest for many people.

Without all the butter, refined sugar and flour, my healthified version might not be Brumby’s worthy, but I promise you that it still manages to celebrate all the things we love about the classic: that buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture, the comforting flavour of ripe banana and just the right amount of sweetness to bring it all together. Yum.

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Brilliantly Healthy Banana Bread

Serves 14

Dietary info: Wheat free, dairy free, refined-sugar free, fructose-friendly, contains some fructans (see notes), gluten (spelt), nuts (almonds) and egg.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed over ripe banana (approx. 4 medium-large bananas)
  • 3 large organic free range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nut oil
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 cups wholemeal spelt flour*
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup almond meal*
  • 3 tbs chia seeds
  • 1.25  tsp baking powder (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • generous pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • To top batter with before baking: 1 large banana cut lengthways, 3 tbs pecans*, 2 tbs good quality dark choc chips (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and generously grease a loaf tin (my tin is approx. 11cm x 26cm)
  2. In one bowl, combine the mashed banana, beaten eggs, macadamia oil, vanilla and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the spelt flour, coconut, chia seeds, almond meal, spices and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour banana mixture into it. Gently fold the ingredients until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin and smooth out lightly with the back of a large spoon if needed. Top with halved banana, pecans, dark chic chips and a drizzle of maple syrup. Bake for around 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, but still moist (don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely dry because the loaf is supposed to be moist throughout!). Cooking times will vary from oven to oven. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with a little bit of foil.
  5. Remove from the oven, allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. For a snack, serve on its own or toasted with a little organic butter or your favourite nut butter and a little drizzle of maple syrup. For a fuss-free brekky, serve warm with organic yoghurt/coconut yoghurt and berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, some choc chips and a drizzle of maple syrup – a sure winner among the boys!

Notes

  • To those on a low FODMAP diet:
    Ingredients marked with one asterisk (*) contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs. Each individual’s tolerance to these particular foods will vary, but unless you’re super sensitive or in the early stages of healing your gut, said ingredients in isolation shouldn’t cause a reaction if consumed in small amounts. However, because this banana bread contains a combination, it is possible that very sensitive individuals might not be able to tolerate a full serving of the bread (one 1.5cm thick slice).  If you find that you’re generally fine with these foods and you’re used to consuming similar things daily, then you should be fine with this recipe, especially if you limit yourself to one slice per sitting.  I can tolerate two slices now without worry, however two years ago I would have been pushing it and would have stuck to one. ALWAYS test your own tolerance! If spelt is a known issue for you in large amounts, try replacing half of it with buckwheat flour (but please remember that it will give a significantly different texture and flavour).  If you cannot tolerate spelt at all, you can play around with different low FODMAP flour combinations such as buckwheat flour, oat flour, rice flour etc. Other lower FODMAP swaps include ground flaxseed, peanut flour or carob powder instead of almond meal and carob powder instead of chia seeds. All the above will lend different textures and flavours and I have not tested any of them so if you do, I’d love to hear how you went!

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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Don’t forget to stop and smell the cinnamon

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
– Hugh Laurie

IMG_2396Year after year throughout my early-mid adolescence, my New Years Resolution was to stop biting my fingernails. 10 years on, I still have the hands of a prepubescent boy. I even bit my French-polished acrylics off when I tried the whole girly manicured hands thing in year 10.

I’ve always been of the opinion that New Years Resolutions are ridiculous. It’s just so easy to verbalise a commitment to something when you don’t have to actually act on that commitment just yet. I become irrationally peeved when I overhear statements like OMG I’m gonna get sooo fit next year/I’m waiting until the new year to start my new savings plan/New Years Day is when the DIET begins/Next year, I’m going to focus on finding the positive in all situations.

Why next year? If I feel that a particular mindset, action, hobby or change of habit is going to better my life, I’m not about to wait for the New Year to roll around before I embrace it. Why delay it? Why not start NOW? (unless it’s a diet. Never start one of those). In my opinion, New Years Resolutions are security statements for people whom I label the ‘Gonna But Neverers’: people who continuously propose they are Gunna get shit done, but Never get shit done. Of course, I’m a big fat hypocrite here– just look at my fingernails. We’re all Gunna But Neverers at various times, but some are just more inclined to the Gunna But Never grand plans than others.

It’s funny how you become more and more aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a human as you get older. Critical self-awareness is a coming-of-age thing, I think. Late last year, for instance, I began realising that I’ve never been ‘present’ enough, ‘in the moment’ enough; I’m always in limbo, fretting about the past and the future and landing somewhere in between as a result, somewhere in between which is still not quite the present moment– the now. And I’ve realised that I’m not okay with this anymore. So, after several years of abandoning the whole new-year-turns-over-a-new-leaf theory, I decided to go against the grain and make a resolution of sorts. Not a New Year’s Resolution, but a Life Resolution: To Be Present; To acknowledge every. single. moment; To stop living in the past and the future realms, the what could have been and the what will be, could be, won’t be, should be, shouldn’t be; to stop obsessing over the thoughts, feelings and doings of others. Because when your mind is stuck the realms it has no control over, it’s impossible to appreciate where you are at this very moment in time. And what moment in your entire life matters more than right now as you read this? Absolutely none. Your thoughts NOW and what you do NOW determine more than any past or future thought or doing can.

My 2014 mantra? Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses…

IMG_2415IMG_2411 Everyone’s heard it, it’s one of the oldest in the book. My Dad always said it, and I always rolled my eyes until recently. I thought he was merely telling me to appreciate what I’ve got. I suppose he was, but I never appreciated its deeper meaning until now.

These days, we have so many distractions which manipulate our awareness and ‘force’ our minds into all the realms but our very own. Take beloved Instagram for example: how many times do you scroll through your feed a day? Probably more than you’d care to admit. Probably even subconsciously sometimes. The amount of times I’ve found myself automatically scrolling through my notifications when all I’ve taken my phone out to do is check the time is alarming.

You look at photos of your friends’ whereabouts, check out Fitspo images of bodies you’d just die for, you drool over fashion you can’t afford and excessive lifestyles you’ll most likely never lead and you’re constantly reminded of all the places around the world You’d Rather Be by the People You’d Rather Be. All of a sudden you’re not as satisfied with your life and your position in society as you envisioned you would be. Your life suddenly seems ordinary –uninspiring and, well, a bit of a let-down. Who’s wouldn’t when every second image we look at makes us ponder If Only.

Instagram and modern lifestyle diversions alike pull us farther and farther from our own reality, sucking us so far into the realm of What Could/Should be until we’re aware of everything on earth we’re missing out on, while totally out of touch with the moment we’re breathing in. How can we possibly be honestly happy, truly satisfied with our lives and content with the beings we were born to be, if we’re living in a lifelong limbo between what we want and what we have?

I’ve suddenly realised why my back injury over the past year has been every bit as emotionally impactful as it has been physical: all the fitness pages I follow on Instagram were powerful motivators when I could literally do whatever exercise I wanted to, whenever I wanted to and how hard I wanted to. Which was all the time, mind you, and it was always HARD. Now, they’re cruel, cruel reminders of everything I can’t do. They pump me up and make me want to work my ass off, and then I’m left teary and deflated when I remember that I’m injured. Instead of using the present moment to be proactive about my injury and focus on what I’m going to do right now to heal by body, I’m perpetually disheartened by what all these girls can do and achieve, which I cannot. It’s bullshit and it’s pathetic, and it has to stop.

It’s so incredibly important to focus on the moment and be present wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, otherwise your life will become a manifestation of bottomless What Ifs and If Onlys. Which brings me back to Hugh Laurie’s quote at the top of the post –it couldn’t be more fitting. One of the best things you can do for yourself this year is realise how important NOW is, and act on that realisation NOW. 

Here’s 10 things I’ve been doing this past month, and plan to do this year, to increase my Now-factor:
  1. Eat breakfast outdoors every morning possible: soak up that morning sunshine, breathe in fresh air and listen to singing birds. It’s so grounding.
  2. Be near the ocean as much and as often as I can. Nothing brings me back to earth quite like salty air and vast waters.
  3. Listen more, talk less.
  4. Leave my phone at home more often, especially when out with my boyfriend or family.
  5. Get serious about meditation.
  6. Read while on the bus to and from work instead of scrolling through my Instagram/Facebook feeds.
  7. Take time out every day to write notes: thoughts, feelings, goals & to-do lists.
  8. Go for technology-free walks: no watch, no phone, no music– just me and the outdoors.
  9. Swim more, gym less.
  10. Make a conscious effort to check Instagram less, and decrease the amount of ‘fitspo’, model and celeb accounts I follow: Fierce aspiration inevitably leads to motivation, but constantly striving for what others possess cannot be healthy for the human psyche. Social media has become a part of our lifestyle. Looking at images, videos and blog posts about what others have has formed one of our daily habits, as natural to us as eating, sleeping and exercising, whether we can admit it or not. You’ll find that you instantly become happier and more satisfied with exactly who you are and where you’re heading in life if you decrease your exposure to all the things you ‘want’ and ‘need’ in other realms, those realms being the lives of others: their wealth, home, car, holidays, physique, face, hair, relationship, friendship circle, humour, confidence, intelligence, career path etc. Start using your inherent passions and values to create your own dreams.

Rant officially over.

So, here’s your little challenge for this coming weekend: wake up, spring out of bed and make this guiltless version of a not-so-healthy breakfast favourite. Take it outside with a great book, bask in the Summer morning light (if you’re in Australia) and Enjoy.Every.Mouthful. Oh, and don’t forget to stop and smell the cinnamon… 😉

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Vanilla & Cinnamon French Toast
Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 free range organic eggs
  • 2 pieces wheat-free bread of choice, the thicker the better (I’m loving anything by Healthy Bake at the moment. I used their Organic Pharaoh & Linseed loaf for this recipe which was lovely)
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (I used Pure Harvest’s coconut milk drink, which is a combo of coconut and brown rice milk)
  • 1 tbs rice malt syrup or pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, depending on how cinnamon-y you like it
  • 6-8 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • Coconut oil, for cooking
  • Toppings of choice (I used banana, fresh berries, five:am organic natural yoghurt and a sneaky spread of violet & raspberry jam)

Method:

  1. In a small dish or shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the milk, syrup,  stevia, vanilla and salt.
  2. Dip the bread in the egg mixture one slice at a time, pressing the bread lightly to make sure all that eggy goodness goes right through it. Allow each slice to soak for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Heat a little coconut oil in a FLAT non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium/low heat. Add the soaked bread to the pan, cooking until golden brown, around 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Take extra care not to overcook it, because you will end up with a horribly dry and bland brekkie; French toast is supposed to be MOIST! (Sincere apologies for using that adjective from hell).
  4. Remove from heat, transfer to a plate and top with organic full-fat yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt) and fresh fruit. It’s super special with a finishing drizzle of maple syrup, too!

Happy Nourishing!
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

Sweet Cinnamon Omelette Filled w/ Stewed Summer Berries

Sometimes you just have those days when you know you need to go a little easier on the carbs, like after the AFL Grand Final weekend, for example. You know that dreadful feeling after eating your body’s worth in weight, when you could swear your digestive system is going to cark it and you feel as though you won’t be able to eat for a week? Well, that was me last Sunday, after a post-granny banquet at one of my all-time favourite restaurants, Red Spice Road. The truth is, I hadn’t eaten there since last year, because I was convinced that my fructose malabsorption would render any menu item out of the question. So, I was utterly shocked (and overwhelmed with joy) when the kind waiters said that they’d do a tailored banquet for me, separate to that of my fellow diners. Now, it sounded excellent in theory, and the food was just as orgasmic as ever, but there were three issues:

  1. There were 9 courses. NINE BLOODY COURSES.
  2. Naturally, Urbanspoon’s top rating Melbourne restaurants are very competitive. This generally means that when they have another-pain-in-the-ass-customer-with-an-intolerance in their restaurant, they want to please them, because if you’ve got your eyes on the prize in this day and age, you don’t want to risk seeming unaccommodating and getting a bad review by an over-reactive intolerance sufferer. SO, rest assured, top-notch restaurants will FEED you, and they will FATTEN you up. I’m not talking nine bite-sized courses here, I’m talking nine full-sized freaking DINNER servings.
  3. I felt obliged to clean every mammoth-sized plate and bowl that was thrown under my nose, almost to the point of licking them clean, because I didn’t dare offed any of the lovely waiting staff or, God Forbid, the chef, after being so considerate and generous. This is a major concern when 10% of each meal could have been considered clean, and that’s only because they were covered with fresh coriander and chilli.

So, if I’m going to be really honest to myself here, I’d have to say that I ate three days’ worth of main meals in one sitting. Fully aware of this, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to eat anything but green tea the next day. And the day after that…

Yeah right.

Surely enough, I awoke at 8am the next morning, hungry. I tried telling myself that it wasn’t real hunger, that my mind was on food first thing in the morning out of habit. After two hours of doing everything in my power to avoid the kitchen, I crumbled. I just had to eat. I was genuinely hungry. How? with the equivalent of twelve meals in my gut from the day before? Not to mention a litre jug of ginger Mojito? I’ll never know.

Needless to say, I needed something light. The thought of mushy, heavy oats was enough to make me dry-reach, and I knew that I needed something relatively low-carb to avoid feeling –and looking– even more pregnant with a 10-pound food baby than I already did. Incidentally, and no doubt due to the amount of foods with high glycaemic loads I’d demolished the day before, I was craving sugar. For me, sweet breakfast cravings generally come in the form of oats, healthy pancakes, smoothies and yoghurt bowls. But I needed protein. So, I whipped up a simple sweet omelette, and filled it with a combination of stewed and fresh berries.

I’ve always been a little skeptical about sweet omelettes, much the same as the thought of French toast used to scare me. Sweet eggs just never really appealed to me (except in the form of egg tarts at Yum Cha, something I ate a little too frequently in my earlier years). Needless to say, I didn’t think a sweet omelette was going to do it for me, but I’m glad to say it did. Please bear in mind that this recipe won’t taste like a pancake or French toast because it is still an omelette, after all. The filling doesn’t have to be limited to berries either – you can fill it with whatever you like. Just make sure you’re getting some form of complex carbohydrate, healthy fats and lots of vitamins and minerals in there. Grilled banana and Coyo (coconut yoghurt) is next on my list.
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Sweet Cinnamon Omelette Filled w/ Stewed Summer Berries

Ingredients:

  • 2 large organic free range eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure organic maple syrup
  • approx. 4-5 drops liquid stevia
  • 3 large strawberries (organic if possible), sliced
  • 1 cup mixed blueberries & raspberries (organic if possible), fresh or frozen.
  • 1 tbs favourite pure & unsweetened nut butter (peanut, coconut-infused peanut, almond, cacao-almond, cashew, ABC, hazelnut etc.)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

Method:

  1. In a bowl, whisk eggs lightly using a fork. Add cinnamon, maple syrup and stevia, and whisk until combined.
  1. Melt coconut oil in a small non-stick pan over medium-low heat.  Pour in egg mixture. Leave to cook for around 4 minutes or until the omelette has started to set and isn’t as runny on top.
  2. When the omelette easily comes away from the pan with a spatula, flip onto the other side and allow to finish cooking. This will take less than a minute. Remove omelette from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.
  3. In the meantime, add the blueberries and raspberries to a small pot on the stove over medium heat. Cook until berries are tender, warm and a juicy compote has formed.
      1. Note: If you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend eating the berries fresh as opposed to microwaving them, but it’s entirely up to you. Microwaves are dangerously convenient, but bear in mind that the more you cook fruit and veg, the more its nutritional value decreases full stop, and microwaving does this by ten-fold.
  4. Spread the omelette with your favourite nut butter, layer with fresh sliced strawberries and top with the stewed blueberries and raspberries. Fold over, and enjoy with a cuppa and an inspiring morning read.

Happy Nourishing!
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