Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns (vegan, wheat free, fructose friendly)

Hey YOU!
I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, all recipes containing gluten on my site that were written prior to 2018 are currently under reconstruction as I strive to make them all gluten free. Keep watching this space because I’ll be delving into my reasons for going completely gluten free at a later date, but all I’ll say for now is that I want my recipes to be as friendly to your gut –and the trillions of incredible microbes that inhabit it– as possible, so that you can kick your digestive issues to the curb and get back to devouring caramelised onion, apples and bulk avocado again.

Just to throw another spanner in, THIS particular recipe is an exception to the above – I’ve personally never eaten a GF/yeast free hot cross bun that I’ve remotely enjoyed, and I’m too happy with this recipe to delete it or butcher it with alterations. Besides, HCB’s are supposed to be a treat anyway. Sufficiently justified? K cool.
By the way, if anyone has ever made or bought a HCB that is genuinely healthy, gluten free, yeast free and FODMAP friendly, I’d LOVE to hear from you. But until then…

image

So it’s 5pm on Easter Sunday which means two things: a) I’m in a scalloped potato/cheesecake/giant Kinder Surprise/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 year to post. Besides, who doesn’t love a fresh-outta-the-oven hot cross bun at any time of year? If it’s acceptable now-days to eat HCB’s from Boxing Day until Easter Sunday, it should be acceptable to enjoy them for a few (or many) months afterward, too.

 image

  image

These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar than my usual recipes (in the form of coconut sugar & dried fruit), but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real deal as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sweetness and spice, and the spelt flour lends a wonderful nuttiness and dense texture. What’s more, they’ll fill your home with the most beauuuuuuutiful aroma – the smell of any kind of bread baking in the oven is magic, but the notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange in these buns will take you to a whole new level of aromatic 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’m certainly no baking wiz so I don’t know whether the rising time or 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 with Orange and Cranberries

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

  • ½ cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 7g instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp dried ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼cup raisins
  • ¼cup dried currants
  • Zest of 1 orange (halve this if you don’t want the orange flavour to be pronounced)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use no added sugar coconut or almond milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup, to glaze
  • For the crosses: 40g dark chocolate of choice

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. Don’t have a piping bag? See notes below.
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your a cuppa. Bliss. It’s probably worth nothing 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.

Info for the irritable

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 ¼ – ½ cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.

Other notes

  • I used normal organic dark choc for the crosses because I knew it would set and photograph better, but vegans can substitute raw chocolate
  • If you don’t own a piping bag, spoon the melted choc into a snap-lock bag and snip the corner with scissors. Voila!Healthy Spelt and chia hot cross buns

SkinniMini lovin: Spring cleaning from the inside out

image

It’s bizarrely warm in Melbourne at the moment, and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. A week and a half ago I was wearing five layers and downing chicken and vegetable soup like no tomorrow in the desperate bid to warm myself up, and now, just mere days later, I’m slurping on a green smoothie on my backyard lawn, building up an unfamiliar sweat in 34 degree heat. In my bathers. Bathers! At the beginning of October!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but I feel as though us Melbournians have earned the right to be cynical – our weather is as bipolar as it gets. We’ll probably be donning our warmest coats and wooliest socks in a few days’ time. Still, if bikini weather appears to be on its way (and apparently it’s already here, thanks for the bloody warning!), then I’m not taking any chances. It’s time to remove my body’s evidence of the Nutella doughnuts and sweet potato fries that were eaten in reckless abundance over Winter. And there’s no way to get back in shape but with honest nutrition and exercise. It’s the perfect time to give my bod a little Spring clean. More green smoothies, please!

 It’s impossible to commit to ice-cold green smoothies on winter mornings when your frosty body is screaming out for poachies and hot toast or banana-ry porridge, but now that the mornings are less nippy, I’m finding that I’m waking up craving them. One of the things I love most about the warmer months is that I can enjoy my greenies for brekky every morning and actually feel totally satisfied by them. I wanted to do a cleanse to whip my eating habits back into shape, give my digestive system the clean out it’s been crying out for, and to boost my energy levels before Uni exams next week. I thought a straight juice fast would be a bit too intense straight off the bat (I might do one in a few weeks after exams), so I decided to ease into it and commit to one nutrient-dense green smoothie every day until I started feeling the familiar benefits. I also came across SkinniMini, a fabulous 10-day super-cleanse formula, which I’ve been adding to my smoothies.

SkinniMini is designed to be a 10-day green smoothie super-cleanse formula, whereby you simply add 10g (about 2 tablespoons) to your daily green smoothie/smoothie bowl for 10 days. However, the ingredients are so pure and gorgeously healthy (hello chia seeds, psyllium husk, goji berry powder, ground flax seeds, maca powder, acai berry powder and spirulina) that you can use it indefinitely. Bursting with fibre, antioxidants, plant-based protein, minerals and essential vitamins, SkinniMini packs a nutritional punch and helps to boost energy levels, mood and immunity, cleans your digestive tract, strengthens hair, skin and nails and increases your fat burning potential. I’ve been using SkinniMini in my smoothies for 14 days straight now, and I’m honestly feeling great. I seem to be digesting food much easier with less tummy upsets, I’ve noticed that my night-time bloating has decreased significantly, my stomach is definitely a little leaner and flatter, my sugar cravings have eased off and I seem to be sleeping more restfully. Although you can’t actually taste the formula formula once it’s blended through the smoothie, the psyllium makes it go super smooth and thickens it up, and leaves you feeling full and super satisfied. I’m also really regular at the moment (apologies for the over-share, but for those of you who don’t always find it so easy to ‘go’, you will empathise with me here!), and I feel like my appetite has been much better regulated as a result.

SkinniMini is essentially everything-friendly, so it’s suitable for vegans, paleos and those with food intolerances/sensitivities (yup, it’s even IBS and FructMal friendly – hallelujah!). The thing I love most about this product is that it’s a wonderful combination of lots of different ingredients which I’d like to add to my smoothies all the time, but usually don’t have on hand. Buying all those ingredients individually can be very pricey, plus you’ve got the dilemma of knowing exactly how much of each you should be using to reap the benefits. And then there’s the time issue – who has the time to play around with 20 different ingredients from the fridge, freezer and pantry on a hectic weekday morning? I sure don’t. SkinniMini takes the steep cost, guesswork and effort out of making a smoothie that your body will seriously love you for, and I couldn’t recommend giving it a shot more!
The 10 Day Green Smoothie Super-Cleanse blend is available for purchase online at skinnimini.com.au, and they’re currently offering 10% off if you ‘like’ their Facebook page – get on it!

image

Super Cleanse Green Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs SkinniMini Green Smoothie Super Cleanse formula
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 3 large handfuls of 2-3 different types of leafy greens (see notes)
  • 1 stick frozen celery
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbs chia seeds (for extra protein)

Method: In a high powered blender, blend all ingredients until thick and smooth, approximately 1.5 minutes. Drink immediately. Repeat each day for 10 days. 

Notes

  • It’s very important to mix up your greens every other day, as all leafy greens contain alkaloids which can pose negative health impacts if they accumulate too much. Try alternating between spinach, kale (make sure it’s not bitter!), Chinese broccoli/choy sum, silverbeet, beetroot leaves and cos lettuce to achieve diversity.
  • Make sure you drink your smoothie immediately, otherwise the chia seeds and psyllium will continue to rapidly absorb moisture and you’ll be left with an unpleasantly thick and gluggy smoothie.
  • To kickstart your metabolism and get an even more intense detox, drink a large glass of warm lemon water water (1/2 filtered cold water and 1/2 boiling water with the juice of 1/2 lemon) half an hour before your breakfast smoothie.
  • In addition to the banana, you can also add other fruits such as kiwi or berries. Lime juice and fresh mint make wonderful additions, too!

Happy Nourishing! 
Ax

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

image

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

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

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

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

image

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.

image

Mum’s (not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol

Lately I’ve been getting lots of requests to post more dinner-y recipes, and it made me realise that I never share my favourite dinner meals. So here’s a weeknight favourite in our household – Mum’s (Not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol. I don’t have a Nonna, nor do I have an Italian heritage (a reality that makes me sad quite often), but if I did I wouldn’t dare serve her this rendition to her, in fear of having the veggie-packed and gluten, onion and garlic free morsels spat right back at me.

image

image

It’s no secret that traditional spaghetti bolognese gets a bad nutritional rap from its core ingredients: low quality beef mince cooked in nasty oils, gluten, and cheese. And as delicious and comforting as a giant bowl of ole spag bol from your local Italian joint may be –and sometimes totally granted– it’s not a very healthful choice to make too regularly. What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption or IBS it’s pretty much out of bounds anyway, thanks to all the onion and garlic.

Being the ever-accommodating woman that she is, my fabulous mumma came up with a spag bol that’s wholesome, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-FODMAPifying recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bol is a true testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her low FODMAP Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you one day soon!

I hope you love this no-frills but tasty weeknight dinner as much as we do.  Just please don’t serve it to your Nonna.

image

Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bol

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1kg free range turkey mince (organic if possible)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters (see notes for fructose info)
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 green capsicum, diced
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (no added sugar or preservatives)
  • 3/4 cup salt reduced tomato paste* (see notes for fructose info)
  • 8 spring/green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 3/4 cups LOW FODMAP veg or chicken stock
  • 1.5 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Coconut oil
  • Sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet gluten free spaghetti or other pasta of choice (I love brown rice noodles or buckwheat pasta)
  • To serve: fresh basil leaves & shaved parmesan (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Sautée the spring onions, carrot, eggplant, zucchini, capsicums and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have started to soften. Remove from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Heat some more coconut oil in the pot and add the turkey mince. Cook the mince on medium heat until browned (around 8 minutes), using a wooden spoon to break it up as you go.
  4. Add the cooked veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, stock, fresh basil and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for at least an hour. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t want to overcook the meat!), the richer and more flavourful it will be.
  6. Serve with one ladle’s worth of gluten free pasta of choice, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan. For a paleo or lower carb version, use the turkey mixture to stuff into roasted eggplants (see recipe below).

FODMAP Notes

  • Those with high sensitivities to fructose should use 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, or even less if you’re unsure
  • Due to the concentrated form of tomato paste, some people with very high sensitivities to fructose might find it problematic in large amounts, though I’ve never had an issue with it. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance levels, and add more fresh and dried herbs to make up the flavour.

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

Please note that due to the polyol (sorbitol) content in large amounts of eggplant (“large” is defined by Monash as 2 1/4 cups), those who malabsorb polyols should either use smaller eggplants or avoid this variation until you are sure of your eggplant tolerance.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants to serve 8 people, or 1/2 eggplant per person.
  • Turkey Bolognese recipe above, minus the pasta (can be made in advance)
  • 1 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • Sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Use a fork to prick the eggplants several times. Place on prepared tray and lightly brush over with coconut oil. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until tender.
  3. If you made the bolognese in advance, reheat however much of it you’re using (roughly 1-1.5 cups per person)
  4. Cut the eggplants in half length-ways. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh from each half, leaving a 1cm boarder. Chop the scooped out flesh. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the eggplant halves.
  5. Mix the chopped eggplant through the heated Turkey Bolognese. Spoon mixture into the eggplant halves and sprinkle shaved parmesan (optional) over the top, if using. Return stuffed eggplants to the oven for 10 minutes, or until all heated through. Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

Ax

Deliciously Ugly: Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

IMG_3062

A million different ingredients. 3 different mixtures to be made. One processor. Go!
Measure all ingredients. Take first lot. Sift these, melt those. Process together. Taste and adjust. Freeze for 2 hours. Clean processor. Process next batch of ingredients. Taste and adjust. Pour onto first frozen layer. Freeze for half an hour. Clean processor. Melt some of this, mash some of that. Process. Taste. Pour over the second frozen layer and freeze. Clean processor and the rest of your bomb-site kitchen.

It’s no secret that I like to make things out of food. In My Ideal World, I’d happily spend entire days floating around the kitchen, cooking, creating, decorating. And eating.
Still, even I can admit that making healthy desserts and clean sweet treats can be pretty bloody arduous and time-consuming. So much so that I often just don’t bother with them unless I’m recipe testing or making something for an occasion. Complicated and meticulously presented desserts, whether healthy or not, take patience, time and an excessive willingness to clean the same gadgets over and over. So, while I love my intricately layered sweet treats in all their pretty glory, sometimes the fuss-free uglies are way more appealing than their photo-worthy counterparts. How do Cadbury describe their Picnic bars again? Deliciously Ugly? Nearly all the best tasting recipes are…

So here’s a recipe that looks like a chocolate bar, smells like a chocolate bar, gives you that sugar fix like a chocolate bar, and, yep, tastes like a chocolate bar. EXCEPT it’ll only take you 5 minutes to make, and while your taste buds are fooled into thinking you’re eating a chocolate bar, your insides with be thanking you for impregnating it with healthful fats, powerful antioxidants, wholegrains, fiber, iron, selenium (helps to reduce the risk of common diseases), manganese (helps the body to synthesize fats and benefits nervous system function), copper (support for brain function), Vitamin-E and a range of Vitamin-B complexes.

Please don’t be afraid to use your imagination with this one. The recipe is super basic, and it would be pretty hard to go wrong. You can experiment with different nut butters and add puffed quinoa or buckinis for texture and crunch. A chocolate ‘ganache’ made of coconut oil (or a little organic butter if you eat dairy), cacao, stevia and a little maple syrup would be scrumptioua on top, too!

 IMG_3063IMG_3066 IMG_3060

Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

Makes 10 bars or 20 bite-sized squares.
Dietary info: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegan, fructose-friendly, low FODMAP, refined-sugar free. Contains grains and peanuts.

Ingredients: 
  • 2.5 cups brown rice crispies (not “puffed brown rice” as they go soggy!)
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 3.5-4 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 7 drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
Method:
  1. Line a square slice tin with baking paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the puffed brown rice and shredded coconut.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the peanut butter, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, stevia, vanilla, cacao powder and salt.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry mixture. Stir gently until the rice puffs and coconut are coated evenly and everything sticks together.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly, ensuring that the slice is tightly compacted. Set in the freezer for 1 hour. Use a sharp knife to cut slab into desired sizes. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat it. I prefer it kept in the freezer as it stays firmer and goes chewier. If kept correctly, I’m assuming that the slice would last weeks in the freezer, though I put emphasis on ‘assuming’ because these things never last more than a few days in my household.
Notes:
  • The peanut butter can be substituted with any other textured nut butter: almond, brazil, ABC etc.
  • Instead of eating as a ‘slice’, you can roll the mixture into ping pong-sized balls and wrap in glad wrap before freezing to make a portioned and guilt free snack, ready to grab when you’re on the go and sugar cravings strike!IMG_3061 IMG_3065 IMG_3058 IMG_3067 IMG_3059 IMG_3057IMG_3068

Spice up your low FODMAP life: healthified Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

IMG_1770

WARNING: do NOT pick your nose within 12 hours of trying this recipe. You’ll regret it. And don’t let curiosity do you in now that I’ve warned you, either. I’ve already told you, you’ll regret it. 

I’m feeling seriously proud right now, like pride-bordering-on-undiluted-arrogance proud. I’ve recreated one of my favourite dishes of all time, one which I thought I’d never be able to eat again, and I’ve made it FODMAP friendly.
Oh, curry laksa…

According to Wikipedia, laksa is a spicy noodle soup which comes from the Peranakan culture, a fusion of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Curry laksa (or just ‘laksa’, as we know it) uses coconut milk in addition to stock to give it a beautiful curry-like richness. Before I became as health-conscious as I am today, I was a regular at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, where a lovely Malay man makes the best laksa in the world (huge call, I know, but I’ve never had better). That little man’s aromatic bowl of laksa heaven is still one of the most mouthgasm-inducing things I’ve ever experienced. I’m seriously salivating just thinking about it as I write this, and I only just ate lunch.IMG_1765IMG_1767

These days, I steer clear of laksa and store-bought laksa pastes for a few reasons:

  1. Fact: all laksas are full of onion and garlic. Brown/Spanish (purple) onion and garlic are two of the main components of any curry paste, especially laksa paste. The abundance of onion in these pastes makes them totally intolerable for people with fructose malabsorption. In addition, the curry soup typically contains stock, and nearly all stocks are made with onion and garlic.
  2. Restaurant and hawker-style laksas often contain substantial amount of added sugar.
  3. Traditional laksas served at restaurants are covered in fried shallots, which are both unhealthy and high FODMAP.
  4. Store-bought laksa pastes are full of nutritionless crap: refined sugar, vegetable oil and/or palm oil, salt, artificial flavours, preservatives, thickeners, stabilisers, and other nasty fillers.

Healthifying and low FODMAP-ifying (how’s that for good English?) curry laksa was easier, but more time consuming than I expected. It was a fun challenge swapping typical ingredients for healthier and “safe” ones, but I found myself in the kitchen for many more hours than I care to admit. Don’t let that put you off though; writing recipes is a far more arduous task than following them, especially when you’re the world’s biggest procrastinator, re-thinking every milligram and milliliter of each ingredient, wondering if and how each element will work and at which point it should be added. It’ll take you a quarter of the time it took me. IMG_1771IMG_1764

The key to getting Asian flavours right is finding the perfect balance between its three distinct taste components: spicy (mostly chilli), sweet (usually palm sugar or brown sugar) and salty (fish sauce and salt).
You need sweetness to soften the blow of that spice, and salt to enhance the flavour of each ingredient. Too much or too little of any one component and you’ve got a disaster. To create a healthy, low FODMAP version of curry laksa soup, I used spring onion (the green part) instead of regular onion to form the base of my paste, and garlic-infused olive oil to replace both the vegetable oil and fresh garlic that all traditional laksas call for. I used a little coconut sugar instead of brown sugar to get the sweetness balance right, and added lots of vibrant veggies to up the nutritional value of the meal. Admittedly, I did use a little fish sauce –which contains added sugar and salt– because it’s hard to achieve an authentic quality without it. In the scheme of the recipe, the amount used is minuscule, so that’s how I justify its use. Always opt for good quality fish sauce with as least sugar as possible.

The recipe does call for rice noodles, and while I rarely eat refined rice products, I’m willing to make an exception in the name of Curry Laksa. Don’t get me wrong, rice noodles aren’t at all terrible for you, but they’re just not particularly good for your health, either. They’re one of those “empty” calorie foods, meaning they don’t provide anywhere near the amount of nutritional value as they do calories. The great thing about rice noodles (such as vermicelli or pad thai noodles) is that a little goes a long way. Unlike traditional laksas which are comprised primarily of noodles (either rice or egg noodles), you only need a very small portion of noodles in my recipe because it’s so packed with other nutrient-dense foods which will fill your belly up. Remember that balance is everything when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle; moderation is key. So when you do really want rice noodles, have them! Just don’t make them the main component of your meal. Pack your dish with veggies and quality protein, and you’ll find yourself only needing a tiny amount of the not-so-good stuff.IMG_1766 IMG_1768 IMG_1772

In terms of cost, the below looks like a hell of a lot of ingredients. I already had most of the items at home, such as the spices, coconut milk, coconut sugar, cashews and fresh ginger, because they’re staple ingredients in my kitchen. My family and I recently started a big veggie patch, so I was super excited to use our own homegrown –and as organic as it gets– cucumber, beans, spring onion, coriander and mint for this recipe. Needless to say, a mega expensive Woolies trip wasn’t necessary.

If you don’t have at least half of the below items at home, you could be looking at one nasty supermarket receipt. So, while I highly recommend using all the below ingredients to achieve beautiful depth of flavour and a laksa that actually tastes like laksa (not to mention the nutritional benefits the ingredients deliver), you might need to cater the shopping list to your budget. If there’s one thing you buy, it should be the spices. Spices are my secret weapon – I never make a meal without them. Not only do they contain potent antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties, packing a variety of spices into your meals will give your skin a radiance no moisturiser can buy, and you’ll notice your immune system picking up. What’s more, one $3 jar will last you from months to even years, so an A-Z range of spices is a totally justifiable investment. Another recommendation I can make is growing your own fresh herbs. You don’t need a large veggie patch or even a garden bed to grow them. All you need is a few pots, soil and an area that is well sun-lit. It’s cheaper than buying a bunch of herbs every time you need them, and there’s something so gratifying about making meals out of your own organically grown produce. Not to mention they taste better!IMG_1760

My Low FODMAP Laksa Paste
(makes approx 1.5 cups)

Ingredients:

1 large bunch spring onion (green part only), chopped
2 tbs chopped FRESH ginger
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, chopped (only use the bottom thirds – that’s where all the flavour is!)
2 birds eye chillies (birds eye chillies are the small ones and they’re HOT. If you prefer milder dishes, only use one)
1/3 cup cashews (if you’re particularly sensitive to cashews, use peanuts instead)
Roots from 1 bunch coriander, chopped (reserve leaves for serving laksa)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (READ the ingredients! The more shrimp, the better. I used ‘Trachang’ brand from Woolies)**
1.5 tsp each ground turmeric, ground coriander & ground cumin
1/2 tsp each ground cardamom & sweet paprika
3 cloves
1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), plus extra

Method:

Add all ingredients to a high-powered food processor. Blend until a paste forms, scraping the sides of the bowl down with a spatula as needed. If the mixture is not coming together properly, add tiny amounts of garlic-infused EVOO until a paste forms. Transfer to a jar or small airtight container and cover with 2 tbs EVOO to seal in flavour. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for a few months.
IMG_1758 IMG_1759 IMG_1762 IMG_1763

Low FODMAP Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

Serves 8
Dietary Info: Wheat free, dairy free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP. Contains nuts.

Ingredients:

1 cup of my low FODMAP laksa paste (if you’re using a pre-made laksa paste, you’ll probably still need 1 cup)
300g rice noodles (I used pad thai stick noodles because I love the width and texture. You could also use rice vermicelli)
2x 400g cans coconut milk (I use organic and full fat)
1L chicken stock*
600g green (uncooked) prawns, tails left on**
1.2kg skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks**
2 punnets (400g) cherry tomatoes, halved
350g green beans, ends chopped
1 very large capsicum, or 2 small, sliced into strips
juice of 1 lime
2 tbs coconut sugar
1/8 cup fish sauce (a variety that’s low in added sugar & salt, if possible)**
1 large handful fresh coriander leaves, to serve
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, to serve
1 cucumber, sliced into thin sticks, to serve
2 cups bean sprouts, to serve
coconut oil

Method:
  1. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a little coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the paste for 5 minutes, or until it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut sugar and fish sauce. Fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Season with lime juice.
  5. Add the chicken, capsicum and tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through.
  6. Add the prawns and beans, and cook for 3 minutes or until the prawns are just opaque and the beans are slightly tender but still crisp. Remove from heat. The prawns will continue to cook in the heat of the soup.
  7. Divide noodles among bowls. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve chicken, prawns and vegetables from the soup and divide evenly among bowls. Spoon desired amount of soup over the top. Serve with fresh cucumber sticks, coriander, bean sprouts and mint.

* Unless I’m making my own onion-free stock, I always use Massel’s chicken or beef stock cubes. They’re the only onion and garlic free stock I’ve come across, and although they’re not totally clean, they used in sparing amounts and they sure make life easier for those with sensitivities to onion and garlic. The packet recommends that you use one stock cube for each cup of water, but I like to roughly halve this to minimise the sodium levels, depending on what I’m making. I believe the Massel’s vegetable cubes still contain garlic, hence why I only use chicken or beef.
** For a vegetarian or vegan version, simply omit the shrimp paste from the paste recipe, and omit the prawns, chicken, chicken stock and fish sauce from the soup. Use organic firm tofu (you may want to cook it first, then add it for a few mins toward the end to soak up flavours), vegetable stock and season with Himalayan sea salt to make up for the fish sauce.

IMG_1769 IMG_1773 IMG_1774

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3248

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

Ingredients (all nuts & seeds are natural & raw)

‘Biscuit’ Base:

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

Coconut Cream filling:

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

Method

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


Happy Nourishing!
Ax