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…

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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.

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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

Twix Cookie Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free, FODMAP Friendly

Hey YOU!

If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing lots of research over the last few years, and thanks to the findings and publications by a bunch of brainy gut experts, I’ve recently joined the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and full of nutrients, but calls for gut-lovin’ gluten alternatives that your bod and brain will thank you for! Ax
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“While distance makes the heart grow fonder, resistance makes the taste buds wonder”
                                              – Me, 2018 (enlightening, I know)

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

There’s only one confectionery I love as much as Kinder chocolate, and that’s Twix bars. There’s something about the combination of the shortbread biscuit base, gooey caramel filling and creamy chocolate blanket that’s just so mouthgasmic, it leaves me making noises that no one should ever make in public, let alone whilst eating. I’ve always gone nuts over anything Twix. Twix Pods, Twix ice cream, Twix slice… you name it and I’ve salivated over it. And don’t even get me started on Twix cheesecake. I used my boyfriend’s birthday last year as an excuse to make one, and ended up eating three quarters of the bloody thing over two days.

I’d also go so far as to say that Mars’ release of Twix Ice-cream Bars was to blame for five out of the six kilos I gained during my first European Summer in 2014. The daily habit was justified by the fact that they were only 1€ ($1.50) a pop, a welcomed revelation for my broke backpacking ass, and “I’ve got one life, BITCHES!”
Let’s just say that nourishing my bod wasn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind that trip.

Aside from the aforementioned four-month-long health hiatus and treats here and there, I’ve become pretty disciplined with my consumption of full-of-total-crapola fare since becoming a so-called adult. Full disclosure: I still receive a giant Kinder Surprise each year from the Easter Bunny. Still, it’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and resistance makes the taste buds wonder (that line is a 2018 edit and I’d I’m ridiculously smug rn, by the way), and so Twix is never too far from my fantasies…

I’d always wanted to create a healthy and FODMAP friendly Twix slice, but put it in the too-hard basket because I couldn’t think of how to make a healthy and tasty caramel filling without using a bunch of dates. To my delight, I came across the fabulous blog, Blissful Basil by Ashley Melillo, and her discovery of the incredibly caramely combination of almond butter, pure maple syrup and coconut oil. It changed my life, and if you’re not too sensitive to almonds it will change yours too.

This mega decadent Twix Cookie Slice recipe is my gluten free, vegan and fructose friendly spin on Twix bars, Mars’ best invention ever. Although the caramel mainly consists almond butter which is high in fructans when consumed in large amounts, I have made sure that each serving of this slice contains even less almond butter than is deemed “safe” by Monash University, and I’ve kept the overall FODMAP load low. In other words, this recipe is FODMAP friendly if the recommended serving size is adhered to. Please see notes below the recipe for specific recommendations.

FODMAP Friendly Twix Slice | Vegan, Gluten-Free,Low FODMAP)

Makes 18 bars or 25 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 bar or 1-2 squares (see notes below)

Ingredients

Vanilla Shortbread Biscuit Base:

  • 1 ¾ cups (210g) brown rice flour 
  • 1 cup (97g) tapioca starch
  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Almond ‘Caramel’ Filling:

  • 1 cup (250g) unsalted 100% almond butter
  • ⅓ cup (100g) pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup (66g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ tsp fine sea salt

Chocolate topping:

  • ½  cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ½  cup (34g) raw cacao powder
  • 1-2 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Small pinch of fine sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a square slice or cake tin with baking paper, ensuring that the paper hangs over the sides. My tin is 18 x 18cm.
  2. To make the biscuit base, combine the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture is a little clumpy or separated. If it seems too wet (and oil is noticeably pooling on top), add a little more rice flour.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use your fingertips to press the mixture in firmly and evenly. Use a fork to poke several holes in the base. Bake for 20 minutes or until the colour is becoming golden. Remove from the oven. Do not wait for it to brown, as it will become overcooked and dry. It should still be a little soft to touch and will harden as it cools. My base often forms a big raised bump in the middle toward the end of baking – if this happens to you, gently push it down as soon as it comes out of the oven while it’s still soft. Allow to cool and harden completely in the tin.
  4. To make the caramel filling, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Increase heat to medium and add the almond butter, maple, and salt. Lightly whisk until all ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. I also highly recommend helping yourself to a little spoonful of the almond caramel while it’s warm. You’re welcome. 💁🏼‍♀️
  5. Pour the caramel filling over the cooled biscuit base, smooth with the back of a spoon, and place in the freezer, ensuring a completely flat position, for 30 minutes to set. 
  6. To make the chocolate layer, place the coconut oil, cacao, maple and salt in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the ingredients have completely melted together. Pour the chocolate over the caramel layer, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Return the slice to the freezer for a further 20 minutes, ensuring a completely flat position, to set the chocolate layer.
  7. Remove the slice from the tin and transfer to a chopping board. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into 18 bars or 25 squares (see notes below on recommended low FODMAP serving sizes). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month.

Info for the irritable

  • Almonds –and thus almond butter– are high in Fermentable Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructans (AKA the “F” and “O” in “FODMAP”) when consumed in amounts larger than 35g in one sitting. However, according to Monash University, 1 tbs or 20g of almond butter is considered low in these carbohydrates, and should be tolerated by people with IBS or fructose malabsorption. Each serving of this slice, when cut into either 18 bars or 25 squares, contains only 14g and 10g of almond butter, respectively. If you’re unsure of your tolerance to almonds, opt for a small square and take it from there.

Ax

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

SkinniMini lovin: Spring cleaning from the inside out

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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!

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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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

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

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Gluten Free Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola (paleo, grain free, low FODMAP)

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Yep, I’m one of those people. One of those who still, even at 22 years of age, puts milk, cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeers on Christmas Eve. From December 1st I blast Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas album in my car, and refuse to take it off rotation until mid-January. Shopping centres go from being in my top-3-most-disliked-environments all year from January through November, to magical joy-filled havens which I find every excuse to immerse myself in during December. I take dramatic detours and scour the streets of suburban Melbourne late at night, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at fairy light displays. Even houses with the tackiest efforts (flashing rainbow fairy lights usually make my eyes hurt) send ripples of Christmas cheer through me. I’ve finally stopped dressing my car as Rudolf and acknowledge that the antlers on the side door windows and red nose on the front grill are a bit much.

As I write this, the most wonderful day of the year is just one week away. The early summer sun is shining outside, I’ve spent the afternoon wrapping presents and arranging them under the tree, and the oven is exhaling mouth-watering notes of ginger, cinnamon and maple from my fourth batch of Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola this week.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

This granola recipe is a festive and comforting marriage of sugar and spice. It’s sweetened with just enough maple syrup and the pops of tart lemon and dried cranberries add some extra zing. There’s a delicious crunch and chewiness to it, then it melts in your mouth like any granola should. It might look Christmassy, but it makes for a delicious and nutrient dense breakfast all year round. This recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to mix it up however you like. So long as you’re mindful of wet to dry ratios, you can pretty much throw in whatever you’ve got on hand.

How you use the granola is entirely up to you – serve a generous handful with your favourite nut milk and strawbs for a wholesome brekky, sprinkle it over smoothie bowls and banana ‘nice cream’ to add some crunch, or whiz some through smoothies to make them extra thicccc and amp up the flavour. It’s also great to snack on as a trail mix, but I try to portion it out in advance otherwise I end up eating half a batch in one sitting. Portion control has never been my forté.

For something a bit spesh, try layering the granola with cardamom-stewed oranges or other fruit and your favourite yoghurt (coconut or full fat) in individual glasses  – the perfect Christmas Parfait for brunch entertaining! I also love making cute homemade edible gifts by filling mason jars with the granola. Add some mini gingerbread men to the jars and arrange around the side of the jar so that they’re visible, then finish with some festive ribbon and hand-written gift tags.

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola

FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups(178g) quinoa flakes (you could also use flaked brown rice or buckwheat)
  • 1 cup (200g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • 1 cup (15g) puffed buckwheat (puffed brown rice also works great although it’s a grain)
  • ¾ cup (45g) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use mostly macadamias and pecans, plus some almonds and walnuts
  • ¼ cup (40g) pepitas
  • ¼ cup (40g) sunflower seeds
  • ¾ tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbs coconut sugar (optional)
  • ½ cup (60g) dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible, omit for strictly fructose friendly – see notes)

Wet mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) melted coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and lightly grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ‘muesli mixture’ ingredients, except the dried coconut and cranberries
  3. Add the ‘wet’ ingredients to the bowl, gently folding with a large wooden spoon until fully combined
  4. Spoon onto the prepared tray in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Add the dried coconut and use a spatula to gently turn the granola. Lightly press the mixture down to encourage the formation of clusters. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. At this point it should be fragrant and golden
  5. Remove from the oven and set aside. As it cools, the granola will continue to dry out and crisp up, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft. Allow to cool completely before adding the dried cranberries and transferring to an airtight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for at least a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

  • Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
  • Dried cranberries do contain moderate fructans, however the amount I have included once divided is considered low.
  • To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, ginger & cranberry granola

Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chai Spice Mix

Makes around 6 tbs. of chai mix

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

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

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 frozen ripe banana
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 heaped teaspoons chai spice mix (or to taste, recipe above)
  • 1 tbs natural almond butter
  • 4 ice cubes plus extra, to serve

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

Notes:

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

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust

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

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

A few FODMAP notes before you get started…

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

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

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

Ingredients

Crust:

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

Filling:

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

To serve:

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

Method

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

Notes:

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

Ax

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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.

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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.

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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

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

Hey YOU!
If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. 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, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and tastes the same as before, but calls for gut-friendlier alternatives to the gluten. Your belly will thank you for it, and I hope your tastebuds still do, too! Ax

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

If one of your most nostalgic and all-time favourite snacks isn’t banana bread, then who are you?

I wish I could say that I was an active child and that playing a plethora of sports was part of my afternoon routine as a primary schooler, but the truth is that I was never fond of anything that involved physically moving for the sake of it. All I wanted to do was write stories, read books and teenage magazines (the latter of which I was at least seven years too young for and would secretly buy despite my Mum’s efforts to shield me from sealed sections), listen to my Discman (So Fresh FTW), and attend Spy Club meetings and missions with Mitch, my Top Secret Agent partner, neighbour, and childhood bestie.

But before any of the above, my afternoon snack ritual took place. I’d barge through the front door at 3:45pm, throw four slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, then smother them with so much butter and honey that it would all run down my chin and forearms as I took each bite. Portion control wasn’t one of my strong suits as a prepubescent.

I calmed down on the banana bread front as I got a bit older and realised that banana “bread” is technically cake (AKA a treat) and not something I should be eating daily, let alone a quarter of a loaf in one sitting. But my love for this perfectly sugary, buttery, banana-ry American classic remains.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread Photo: Bangin' banana bread

My healthified banana bread might not taste exactly like the sugar laden and mega fluffy (thanks to all the refined flour) one we grew up with, but I can confidently –or borderline smugly– say that it’s still pretty good. Being gluten and grain free, low in FODMAPs, fructose friendly and relatively low in sugar, I love knowing that I can eat it errrrrrry day of the week. It’s also high in fibre, healthy fats, complete proteins, a range of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties that your gut, body and brain will thank you for.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

 

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: one slice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed (450g) overripe banana (approx. 4 medium bananas – see FODMAP notes below), plus one medium firm banana cut lengthways, for topping
  • 3 large organic free range eggs (approx 65g each), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tbs (70g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs (17g) pure vanilla extract
  • 120g tapioca starch
  • 95g buckwheat flour (brown rice flour would work too)
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut (halve this amount if you want the coconut to be less pronounced)
  • ¾ cup (80g) pecans, roughly chopped, plus extra for topping
  • ½ cup (50g) almond meal (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 4 tbs (40g) chia seeds
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking powder (no aluminium added)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (6g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground cardamom
  • 2 generous pinches Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 10.5cm.
  2. In one bowl, combine the mashed banana, beaten eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, tapioca starch, shredded coconut, chia seeds, almond meal, spices and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it. Gently fold until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin. Top with halved banana, pecans, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 55 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with slightly damp crumbs on it (don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely dry because the loaf will be too dry once it cools). I took mine out at the one hour mark because I like my banana bread to be on the moister side, but if you want it a little drier, leave it in for longer. Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with some foil.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.
  6. Serve fresh on its own, or toasted with organic salted butter, nut butter, or fresh berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of dark choc chips.

Info for the irritable

  • Although overripe bananas contain excess fructose, half a medium ripe banana (approx. 56g) is considered safe. When this loaf is divided into at least 12 slices, each slice contains less than 47g of banana (37g if you don’t use the banana on top), and is thus considered low in fructose.
  • Both the polyol content from the coconut (in the form of sorbitol), and the galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) in the almond meal, are considered to be very low and safe when only one slice is consumed in a single sitting.

Other notes

  • Can’t find buckwheat flour at your local store? You can use buckwheat grouts instead! Simply process them on high speed for one minute or until a fine flour is formed
  • I love to add dark choc chips to this recipe if I’m entertaining or taking it to a bring-a-plate night

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Deliciously Ugly: Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

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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!

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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