Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

It’s no secret that I’m a breakfast person. Whether it’s eggs, smashed avo, pancakes, Acai, smoothies, quinoa/chia pudding, French toast, waffles or granola, no type of food makes me more excited than breakfast food. A few years ago, I’d have scoffed at the suggestion of eating leafy greens for breakfast. A bowl of kale and spinach for my wake up call? No thanks, I needed to be eased into my veggie intake for the day. I didn’t see fibrous leaves fitting into my precious morning meal ritual unless they were blended into microscopic particles and masked by fruit in a smoothie.

That all changed during my first visit to Byron Bay’s Bayleaf cafe, my now go-to brunch spot when I’m in town. It was around 1pm on a Saturday arvo and I’d had a big one at the Beach Hotel the night before, so I was feeling a little rusty. Given the circumstances, I’d usually go for something a little heartier like smashed avo with poachies and slow cooked ham hock *drool*, but I decided that if there was one place in the world I would channel my soul’s most inner zen, it was Byron. So I took a leap of faith and ordered the Brekky Greens. Annnnnnd I was blown away.

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Here’s my take on Bayleaf Cafe’s Brekky Greens. It’s probably not as good as Bayleaf’s anyway, but let’s face it, any meal tastes better when it’s served up to you by a Xavier Rudd/Chris Hemsworth hybrid as you sway to the dreamy notes of an acoustic busker in the distance, looking out at the blue sky over one of Australia’s –and arguably the world’s– coolest seaside locations, but I reckon it tastes pretty awesome. It’s hard to believe that something so honestly healthy can be packed with so much flavour!

Although it’s called a Brekky Greens Bowl, this salad can be enjoyed any time of day. The best thing about it is that because its lightly cooked and warm, you don’t feel like you’re chowing down bland greens – it’s surprisingly hearty! Plus the textures are amazing. Feel free to chop and change this recipe up to suit your preferences; pistachios instead of almonds, quinoa instead of buckwheat, adding green beans and broccolini.

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Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

Ingredients
Serves 1

  • 1-2 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 large handfuls kale, leaves removed from stalk and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 spring onions (green part only for low FODMAP), chopped
  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup activated buckwheat grouts
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp minced chilli (or 1/2 – 1 medium chilli – remove the seeds if you’re not huge on spice!)
  • 1 small handful each fresh mint, coriander and parsley
  • 1 organic free range egg
  • 1 tbs roasted almonds, chopped (I just throw raw almonds under the grill for a minute or two)
  • 1-2 tbs dukkah (available from spice markets, delis and most supermarkets)
  • 1/3 lemon
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced

Method

  1. Fill a small saucepan 2/3 of the way and bring to the boil. Reduce to low/medium and add buckwheat grouts. Cook for 10 mins or until soft but still chewy. They should not be mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. To soft boil the egg, Place the egg in a saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Once the water has started boiling, reduce to a simmer (medium heat) and cook for 3 minutes for a creamy yolk or 4.5 minutes for a harder yolk. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg and run under cold water. Peel under the water and set the egg aside.
  3. In the meantime, heat the coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry the spring onion and chilli for around 2 mins or until fragrant.
  4. Add the kale and cooked buckwheat. Sauté until the kale begins to wilt, around 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and fresh herbs and cook for a further minute. Season with Himalayan sea salt.
  5.  Transfer to a serving bowl or plate. Squeeze desired amount of lemon juice over the salad. Slice the egg in half and add to the dish along with the sliced avocado, almonds and extra chilli, if desired. Sprinkle generously with dukkah and serve.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax
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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

Easy as Pie: Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust (gluten free + fructose friendly)

I’m not an expert on people (as much as I like to think I am), and I’m certainly no expert at baking, but I do know two things:
1. People find making desserts intimidating, especially when a recipe involves several elements like a crust, layered fillings, a topping, sauce, etc., etc.
2. Desserts can be very time consuming; Ain’t nobody got a spare 6-hours floating around in their day to devote to souffle-perfecting or tempering chocolate.
The ultimate conclusion?
Desserts that look half appealing are a pain in the ass to make.
But I want to prove to you that they don’t always have to be…

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My chocolate, orange & almond tart might look a little fancy, but it couldn’t be simpler. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s idiot proof, but don’t quote me on that. The coconut crust only calls for a few basic ingredients, and the filling can be prepped in a couple of simple steps while the crust turns crust-like in the oven. Then, it’s just a matter of pouring the filling over the crust and throwing it in the fridge for a few hours ’til it’s set. All the preparation can be achieved in half an hour –give or take a few minutes– and the filling only takes 1-2 hours to set in the fridge. In fact, the closer to that 1-hour mark you eat it, the better it is because the crust and almonds will still be crispy. Because of the moisture in the fridge, these will soften more as time goes by. Still yummy, but the texture won’t be as good.

But first, a few notes…

People either love or hate coconut. The crust of this tart is 95% dried coconut and the filling is mostly coconut cream. So, if you’re not a HUGE coconut fan, please don’t bother making this recipe. That’s like asking me to enjoy sushi covered in wassabi; it doesn’t matter how amazing that sushi is, once wassabi touches it, it tastes like poison to me.

Secondly, as you would already be aware, I don’t usually include ingredients which contain added/refined sugar in my recipes. However, you will notice that this recipe uses dark chocolate which, of course, means sugar. My justification? Everything in… yep, you read it before I even said it: moderation. I used Lindt 80% as it only contains about 10g of sugar in the whole 100g block which, when distributed throughout the recipe, equates to less than a gram of sugar per serving from the chocolate which is a negligible amount.

Now, readers who don’t need to worry about fructose of FODMAPs are welcome to stop reading now, unless, of course, you’re interested in our awful intolerances.
In terms of  the fructose and FODMAP content, you will see that this recipe includes two known moderately fructan-containing ingredients in relatively large amounts: dried coconut and almonds. According to the guidelines of Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet, those on the strict plan should limit their intake of dried coconut to 1/4 cup per sitting, and almonds to about 10 per sitting. If this tart is divided into at least 10 segments (which is should be anyway), there is less than these amounts per servings. Individuals who aren’t on a diet as strict and who are trying to build up their tolerance should be able to tolerate more than these amounts anyway, providing their OVERALL FODMAP consumption isn’t already high that day, as it will add to the load/accumulation and could cause a reaction.

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

Dietary info: Gluten free, low FODMAP (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 rice malt syrup

Filling:

  • 1 cup (100g) slithered almonds (can also use half almonds and half pecans), chopped roughly and toasted until golden brown
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup (250mL) full-fat coconut cream
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate (I used Lindt 80% because it only has around 10g sugar in the whole block. For dairy free, you could also use a vegan block such as Loving Earth)
  • 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

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 form, but not so thick that not all of it cooks properly. If you think you’ve got too much, discard some of it or flatten it into small discs and bake until browned to make healthy macaroons-style biccies with! Bake the crust in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. 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.
  4. When the crust only has 5 minutes of baking time left, finely chop the chocolate and place 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.
  5. 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.
  6. When the tart crust is ready, cover its 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’d serve it as close to then as possible).
  7. Serve with fresh orange segments, sliced strawberries, shaved dark chocolate 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.

Happy Nourshing!
Ax

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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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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!

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!
Ax

An Epiphany Served w/ Contentment & Baked Eggs

For whatever reason, I’ve always believed that the most successful, powerful and fulfilled people spend every moment of their lives working at the perfection of their craft. I now know that it was all just a big fat misconception, and I don’t know where it came from. Apparently even Steve Jobs slept sometimes.

To normal people, drizzly Winter weekend mornings call for extra long lie-ins (spooning), ugg boots and hot breakfasts. Usually on Saturday mornings I’m out of bed, fed and in my gym gear by 8am. Lately, however, I’ve been trying this new thing called Taking it Easy. It’s definitely something new. Since returning from Bali three weeks ago, I’ve been indulging in all sorts of wicked ‘normality’: Saturday just gone, I slept in until 9:15am. This is a huge accomplishment for me, and my boyfriend was pleasantly surprised when I was still in bed when he woke up. I awoke so refreshed and invigorated (also something new – I usually force myself out of bed in spite of exhaustion-induced delirium), and I didn’t even consider swapping my Peter Alexanders for Lorna Janes. Instead of my sports bra, I continued with no bra (not a fan of free-boobin’, as it turns out), and instead of runners, I slipped on my uggies. I made myself a tea, grabbed a blankie and… drum roll, please…

…switched on the TV.

After an all-too suspenseful episode of Pretty Little Liars (we’d already watched three the night before), my stomach was screaming at me. I reluctantly dragged myself off the couch and saw that it was 10:30am. Oh gosh, I would have usually done so much by now! But before any minions of guilt had time to march in and piss on my parade, I smiled to myself with contentment. I had far better things to do with my Saturday morning than race off to the gym. Like make baked eggs and snuggle with my two favourite boys (one far hairier and smellier than the other). I’M A CHANGED WOMAN!

The truth is that whilst in Bali, I had an epiphany.

When we arrived at our stunning three bedroom villa in Seminyak, my bliss was quickly and aggressively interrupted by My Biggest Fear. There was no gym. I was not okay about this, and I let my whole family know it.

Sister: “You’re on holidays, why the hell would you want to exercise? Holidays are for relaxing, you weirdo!”
Dad: “We’ve got a private pool, I’ll swim laps with you”
Mum: “YOU SHOULDN’T BE EXERCISING AT ALL WITH THAT HIP!”
Brother: “Ha-ha, you’re gonna get fat as”

I soon discovered that there was a state-of-the-art club just down the road among many other boutique gyms within walking range. Dad and I agreed to smash out a session the following morning. It never happened. When I woke up the next day, however, I was so incredibly relaxed and at-ease. The last thing I wanted to do was pump iron in an artificially-lit, air conditioned gym. So, I swam (vigorous) laps and did a body-weight circuit on the lawn instead, all in the privacy of our villa. By the end of it, I was stuffed and feeling awesome. I realised that if I did this every day, I would be getting more than enough exercise and would just go for a few casual visits to the gym to get some weights sessions in. Super! As each day of our two-week holiday passed, my laps got less vigorous and more leisurely, and my lawn circuits stopped altogether. Soon enough, my daily exercise regime consisted solely of walking to and from my beach lounge to fetch drinking coconuts. And I didn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt. I realised that it was okay to be carefree, lazy and indulgent for a little while. I was shocked at how perfectly fine I became about moving less, sleeping in and eating more. I drowned myself in virgin mojitos, sunshine, tranquility, and culture, and forgot all about my dumbells and leg press. I should mention that one day, I did climb Mt. Batur, an exquisite active volcano. It was one of the most phenomenal and enriching experiences of my life so far.

Of course, I eased back into the gym and my usual eating patterns once I got home, but my exercise regime is definitely less rigid now. I really don’t think it’s such a bad thing. I can confidently say that just two weeks of deep thought and self-reflection abroad forced me to re-evaluate my views on exercise and fitness. I’m not about to go a week without exercising at all, but I no longer have to work out every single — or even every second — day to feel accomplished. Lately, if I really haven’t felt like going to the gym, I just won’t go, and I’ll take my dog for a leisurely walk instead. If I wake up exhausted on a weekend morning, I’ll do my best to switch my brain off (easier said than done) and go back to sleep. If I feel like watching a movie after an exhausting day at work instead of doing something ‘productive’, then I’ll let myself veg on the couch for a while and just relish in the delight of Doing Nothing.

For the purpose of dramatization, I’d love to say that I didn’t end up going to the gym last Saturday at all, but I’d be lying – I did end up squeezing in an arms and back session later that day.  But, by incorporating a little bit of lazy (or normal) into my lifestyle, I’ve realised just this: sometimes, your body, mind and spirit deserve an internal vacay. You’re only doing yourself harm if you deny your mind, body and soul the rest and calm they crave. I now know that my fitness, ambitions and chances at future career success are not going to scamper away if I trade one gym session for a coffee date, an hour of research for the couch, or a few waking hours for a sleep in.

So, if you’re feeling a little self-indulgent and lazy this coming weekend, why not take some time out to whip up these baked eggs? This simple breakie requires next to no effort, and you can throw in whatever ingredients you feel like. What’s more, you can even watch Pretty Little Liars while it bakes away in the oven!

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Country-Style Baked Eggs
Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 large free range eggs, organic if possible
  • a few large slices of lean ham
  • 1 handful organic baby spinach, torn
  • 5-7 cherry/mini roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh chives
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
  • dried oregano/dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tbs shaved parmesan (optional)
  • fresh chili, sliced (optional)
  • goat’s feta, to serve

Extra optional ingredients (for fellow diners who are less health-centric, like boyfriends):

  • 1/2 chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
  • grated tasty cheese
  • tomato relish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C. Line the bottom and edges of an individual ramekin with ham (I used three large slices).
  2. Fill the remekin with torn spinach, tomato, parmesan, chives and herbs. Create 2 wells and crack 2 eggs into them. To prevent losing the egg white between all the spinach, arrange the tomato halves so that they form a barrier around the little ‘wells’. This should help a bit.
  3. Sprinkle with fresh chili (if using), extra chives, herbs and cracked black pepper.
  4. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the white is completely cooked. The yolks should still be slightly oozy, but keep an eye on them and be careful: as I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a very fine line between undercooked and overcooked eggs!
  5. Remove dish from the oven, crumble goat’s feta over the top, and sprinkle with extra fresh herbs if you desire. Remember that the eggs will continue to cook once they’re out of the oven, so serve immediately!

Note: to make my boyfriend’s baked eggs, I used a spoon to coat the ham inside the ramekin with relish, then added the sliced chorizo and tasty cheese with the other ingredients before cracking the eggs in. While I’d usually serve his with toast, he didn’t get it this time because he’d already devoured four slices with Nutella (more like Nutella with four slices) for “Breakfast Entree”. Typical.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax