Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns (vegan, wheat free & refined sugar free)

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So it’s 5pm on Easter Sunday which means two things: a) I’m in a slow cooked lamb/scalloped potato/cheesecake/rocky road/chocolate tart-induced coma and literally typing this post through one half-opened eye; and b) it’s definitely a tad late to be posting a hot cross bun recipe. That said, ‘a tad late’ is how I go about life in general, and this recipe is too good to wait until next April to post. Besides, who doesn’t love a fresh-outta-the-oven hot cross bun at any time of year? If it’s acceptable nowadays to eat HCB’s in the three months leading up to Easter, it should be acceptable to enjoy them for a few (or many) months after Easter, too.

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Spelt flour has become my best baking friend over the past few years. I try not to eat too much gluten in general, but when I do it’s usually in the form of spelt or oats. Spelt is technically a sub-species of wheat and thus is not suitable for those with coeliac or severe gluten sensitivities, but it’s significantly lower in gluten than normal wheat so most people who are sensitive to wheat find that they can digest spelt better without feeling heavy and bloated. It’s also high in vitamins and minerals and has a nutty flavour that I just love. The lower level of gluten (and thus protein) in spelt means less elasticity, so baked goods turn out more dense and textural, as opposed to light and fluffy with normal wheat. Being the born carb fiend that I am, I find dense, bready textures more satisfying than fluffy textures, so this suits me perfectly. Gimme something to sink my teeth into!

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These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar (coconut sugar & dried fruit) than my usual recipes, but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real thing as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sugar and spice and they’ll fill your home with the most beautiful aroma. The smell of bread baking in the oven is magic on its own – add notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange, and you’re on a whole new level of heaven.

I think the key to getting these buns right is ensuring that the dough gets its full 2 hours of rising time in a warm, draught-free area. I don’t really know whether the rising time or the warm environment is more crucial, but the two together resulted in a far better bun texture than the first time I attempted this recipe when  I only gave the dough 1 1/2 hours to rise in a cool kitchen.

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns 

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 7g instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp dried ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • Zest of 1 orange (or 1/2 if you don’t want the orange to be pronounced)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I use Pureharvest Cocoquench coconut-rice milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup, to glaze
  • 40g dark chocolate of choice, for the crosses

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C. Line a small square cake tin (20cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the milk and coconut sugar over medium-low heat until the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and coconut oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, chia seeds, yeast and dried spices. Wake a well and pour in the milk mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined, then add in the dried fruit, zest and salt. Use your hands to combine fully and form into a dough with the dried fruit and zest dispersed throughout.
  4. Lightly flour a clean bench space or a kneading mat with a little spelt flour. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.
  5. Oil the original mixing bowl with a little coconut oil, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap (to trap heat in). Place a tea towel over the bowl (to keep light out). Leave in a warm, draught free space for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size (it’s imperative that the dough doubles, and I strongly recommend leaving it for the full 2 hours regardless). My house was quite cool when I was making these, so I found that the best place to leave the bowl was on a stool right in front of the heated oven.
  6. After the dough has risen, knead for another 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions and roll into rough balls. Place the buns into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Brush the buns with pure maple syrup to glaze. Allow the buns to cool before piping crosses with melted dark choc (see notes).
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your favourite cuppa. Bliss. (Please note that you may want to remove the chocolate cross before toasting the buns!)
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

  • If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, adjust the amount of dried fruit to suit you tolerance levels.  You could try omitting the currants and raisins using 1/4 – 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.
  • I used normal organic dairy dark choc for the crosses because I knew it would set and photograph better, but otherwise I’d use vegan dark choc.
  • Make a fuss-free piping bag by spooning the melted choc into a snap-lock bag and snip the corner.Healthy Spelt and chia hot cross bunsimageimage
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Gettin’ my Twix Fix: “Twix” Cookie Bar Slice

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There’s only one confectionery I love more than Kinder Surprises (I still receive a giant Kinder Surprise egg every Easter from the Easter Bunny AKA mum), and that’s Twix bars. There’s something about the shortbread biscuit base, gooey caramel filling and creamy chocolate blanket combo that makes my heart sing.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it), I’ve been able to reduce my once several-weekly Twix consumption to a moderated treat here and there, but that doesn’t mean I stop wanting my Twix Fix several times a week.

In the past, I’ve always shied away from creating healthified sweets that called for ‘caramel’, simply because in the ever-ominous healthy dessert world, ‘caramel’ is synonymous with a heck load of dates (and therefore excess fructose). To my delight, I recently discovered how caramel-y the combination of almond butter, pure maple syrup and coconut oil is, thanks to the lovely Ashley from Blissful Basil, whose Twix bar recipe was the inspiration behind this one. I have tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes and to reduce the relative maple syrup content and FODMAP load.

You will notice that this recipe does seem a little energy dense  – there’s a lot of coconut oil, almond butter and maple. But this is one of those recipes that should be treated as a treat, and that means portion control. Good news is that because it’s so decadent and rich, you only need a little piece, and therefore the recipe yields lots of serves. However stopping at one piece is difficult.

Note for those with FrucMal/IBS: although this recipe contains no excess fructose, it does contain a few FODMAPs (coconut flour and almond butter). I’ve eaten several bars in a row to test my tolerance (at least I told myself that was the purpose of the binge) and I didn’t have any upsets, but depending on your own sensitivity to these ingredients, you may need to be more careful.

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Vegan “Twix” Cookie Bars

Ingredients 

Biscuit base:

  • 2 + 1/4 cups rolled (not instant) oats, processed in a high-powered processor until a fine flour is formed
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Caramel filling:

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 tsp fine sea salt

Chocolate topping:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao (more or less depending on how dark/bitter you like it)
  • 1-2 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a tart/slice pan (approx 20cm x 30cm) with baking paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Use a fork to poke 10 holes in the base. Bake for 18 minutes or until the colour is becoming golden. Do not wait for it to brown, as it will be overcooked and dry. Remove from the oven. It should still be a little soft and will harden as it cools. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  3. To make the caramel filling, place the almond butter, maple, coconut oil and salt in a saucepan and lightly whisk over medium heat until all ingredients are melted and combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temp.
  4. Pour the caramel filling over the cooled biscuit base and freeze for 30 minutes to set the caramel.
  5. To make the chocolate layer, place the coconut oil, cacao and maple 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 another 20 minutes to set the chocolate layer.
  6. Remove the slice from the tray/pan. Transfer to a chopping board and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares or bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. It probably freezes quite well, although I’ve never needed to try it because it gets demolished so quickly in my household. If you do happen to freeze it, please let me know how it goes!

Happy Nourishing! 
Ax

 

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

Healthy Choc Chip Cookies (or cookie dough for the rebels)

“They say we should all be eating more raw foods.
That’s all I needed to hear to whip up another batch of cookie dough.”

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In hindsight, I can’t believe I’ve never tried to come up with a healthy choc chip cookie recipe before. It might be because when I’m really craving choc chip cookies, only a real choc chip cookie (and I’m talkin’ Mrs. Fields’ crispy-around-the-edges-n-super-chewy-n-gooey-in-the-middle) will satisfy the gnawing Cookie Monster within.

Have I ever mentioned that my 18th birthday cake was a giant double-layer Mrs Fields choc chip cookie? Probably not, because it was 5 years ago. Anyway, I was secretly elated when the ‘cake’ was cut and all my guests were too focused on their ridiculous dance moves to care for anything edible but jelly shots. Guess what 200 leftover servings of utter deliciousness meant? Weeks and weeks of cookies for me! My younger brother quickly caught on to the fact, so I hid the giant red box under my bed.

Needless to say, I’m glad my cookie-hoarding day are over.
I still love cookies and everything to do with them: cookies and cream ice cream, cookie dough, cookie dough in ice cream – you name it (it’s quite plausible that I love cookie dough more than I love actual cookies themselves).
However, if I allowed myself a cookie each and every time I felt like one, I’d be well on my way to Type II diabetes. So here’s a way to have your cookie and eat it, too!

If you’re someone who loves cookies that have a slight crispness on the outside and are soft and crumbly on the inside, then you will love this recipe. However, if you prefer those Mrs Fields-esque cookies I keep harping on about (crispy on the outside and super chewy on the inside), you might need a little more convincing. Like all healthy baking of sweets, there’s only so much you can achieve without that wonderful amalgamation of butter, sugar and flour! Still, taking into consideration that these cookies are butter free, refined flour free and refined sugar free (depending on which choc chips you use), I’m pretty darn happy with them! They’ve also won a big tick of approval from my Dad which, by his traditional-sugar-and-fat-loving standards, means a lot. I always say that if a recipe fools the boys, it’ll fool the world.

I really shouldn’t be condoning this, but I’m just saying, if you’re as terrible at the waiting game as I am, you won’t be able to go without tasting the dough. And when you do, you’ll wish you hadn’t. See the 11 cookies in the photo above? Yeah well that’s all that came out of the oven, and the original recipe should make around 16-18. Told you I love cookie dough.
What’s salmonella?

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The testing of this recipe wasn’t exactly seamless. Is baking ever seamless? I’m doubtful.
The first time around, I left the coconut oil to reach smoke point unattended on the stove  (do not ever, ever do this) and it melted every plastic appliance in its wake as I frantically hurled it into the sink (please don’t ever do this, either). During this frazzled episode,  l also forgot to refrigerate the dough before baking and the cookies turned out more like sad, dilapidated muffins than cookies – too cakey and crumbly for my liking (take note: chilling the dough is essential!). During the second attempt, I somehow managed to knock a cup of melted –and hot, but not quite smoke point-hot– coconut oil all over the kitchen bench and onto our very porous floor tiles. Mum was not impressed when she got home to discover “white fat” all over the cupboards and in the Thermomix blades. Oops.

Third time lucky, hey?

Healthy Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oat flour (see method)
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking/bi-carb soda (NOT baking powder)
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark choc chips (as dark as possible. You could also use an organic dark chocolate bar chopped into tiny chunks), plus extra.

Method

  1. Melt the coconut oil and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make the oat flour, place approx. 90g traditional oats in a high-powered food processor and process until a fine flour forms. Using a spoon, measure out a cup of the oat flour. Be careful not to pack the flour in too tightly (hence using a spoon), or the cookies will turn out dry.
  3. In a bowl, combine the oat flour, spelt flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the egg, coconut oil, coconut sugar and vanilla until combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.
  5. Fold through the choc chips until just combined.
  6. Place a large piece of plastic wrap on your bench, spoon the cookie dough onto the film (it will be quite runny) and wrap the dough up. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180’C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and give it a feel. If it feels too firm to easily break bits off, allow it to soften at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. It’s ready to use when it’s quite firm, but bits can easily be broken off it.
  9. Break tablespoon size bits off the dough, form into rough balls and place on the tray. Repeat until approx. 15 cookies have been formed (depending on how much dough you ate!). Press down on each cookie to flatten only slightly. Press extra choc chips into the tops of the cookies, if desired.
  10. Place onto the middle oven rack and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges. They should still be light in the middle (the cookies in the top photo were cooked a minute too long).
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 3 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Of course, these cookies are delicious warm, but bear in mind that they will be a little crumbly until they cool completely.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

 

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Lemon & Raspberry Oat Balls

It would be ill-mannered of me to start this post without first apologising for my serious illustration of MIA over the past few months. It’s a crappy excuse I know, but life’s demands have been getting the better of me. Life before full time Uni, work commitments and several ongoing projects allowed for much more time in the kitchen, but I’ve been feeling very guilty lately so I’m going to make a huuuuuge effort to post more regularly from now on!

What better way to butter you up than with a pretty little sweet treat?
My website is definitely calling out for more quick and tasty on-the-go snack recipes, so I thought I’d go down the ‘bliss balls’ road, only these ones don’t contain dates and are almost fructose free. The coconut and almond give these balls a velvety creaminess, which is lovely with the tartness of the lemon and raspberry. They’re perfect to munch on in between meals, with a cuppa, or when those after-dinner sweet cravings strike!

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Lemon & Raspberry Oat Balls

Ingredients
Makes approx. 10 balls

  • 1 cup oat flour (made from approx. 100g rolled oats – see method)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut plus extra, to roll.
  • 1/8 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup thawed frozen raspberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs rice malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

  1. In a high-power processor, process the rolled oats until a fine flour forms. Around 100g oats should yield 1 cup of oat flour.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the mixture is smooth and well combined. It should be very soft (they set quite hard in the fridge), but not dry or wet. Add more oat flour/coconut oil if necessary.
  3. Roll into balls using your hands, then roll in desiccated coconut, cacao or crushed macadamias. I rolled some of mine in crushed goji berries and bee pollen, but the plain coconut ones are my fave! Allow to set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Lemon and Coconut Slice

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In primary school, vary rarely would I leave our after-school trips to the local bakery without a lemon slice in hand. My irrepressible love continued into the early years of high school where I’d make a batch most weekends, using half of the sweetened condensed milk for the biscuit base and drinking the rest straight from the tin…

Still to this day, I’ll never knock back a little nibble on a traditional Lemon Slice in all its delectably sweet, lemony, melt-in-your-mouth biscuity glory, but it’s great to know that I can enjoy a full slice of my healthified version without the guilt or sugar slump afterwards. This Lemon and Coconut Slice recipe tastes unbelievably close to the real deal, and has all those familiar characteristics: just enough sweet, perfectly lemony with a base so buttery (sans butter or biscuits) that it melts in your mouth. I can’t wait for you to try it!

Like all my recipes, it’s very adaptable to suit your taste buds, dietary requirements or what’s in your pantry. Just use similar ingredients to those you can’t/don’t have, and you should end up with a fairly similar result.

Lemon and Coconut Slice

Ingredients Biscuit base:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans*
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 tbs linseeds (or any other seeds)
  • 2.5 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 4 tbs melted coconut oil (or 2tbs each coconut oil & almond/macadamia oil)
  • Generous pinch of Himalayan sea salt

Lemon cream topping:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews*
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
  • 1/3 cup + 2tbs coconut cream
  • 1.5 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 – 1 lemon (depending on how lemony you like it)

Method

  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper. Please note, the quantities above yield enough to fill half a normal slice tray (4 full sized bars or 8 small squares). If you want to make a full sized slice recipe –and fill the tin– simply double the ingredients.
  2. To make the biscuit base, use a high-powered processor to process the buckwheat groats, seeds, pecans and salt until a fine crumb forms. Add the oats and coconut and blitz again (I like my oats a little chunky, but you can blend for longer to make a fine crumb). Add the oil and maple syrup and process until it all comes together and is sticky. You may need to scrape the bowl/jug down a few times to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Press firmly into the prepared slice tin (see images for thickness) and place in the freezer to set while you make the topping.
  3. To make the lemon topping, process the cashews, coconut and lemon rind until a super-fine crumb forms, taking care not to over-process into butter. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy.
  4. Remove the base from the freezer and top with the lemon cream, using the back of a dessert spoon to smooth. Top with extra shredded coconut and allow to set in the fridge for an hour or so.
  5. Once set, cut into 4 large bars or 8 squares. I would say one square is a good sized portion for a snack.

Notes:

  • The quantities above yield enough to fill half a normal slice tray (4 full sized bars or 8 small squares). If you want to make a full sized slice recipe –and fill the tin– simply double the ingredients.
  • If you like your slice extra lemony, try adding zest of 1/2 lemon to the biscuit base.
  • For a gluten free version, replace the oats with buckwheat groats or gluten free oats (depending what your stance on GF oats is).
  • Ingredients marked with an asterisk* are higher in FODMAPs than the others. As such, this recipe is relatively low in FODMAPs, but it is not FODMAP free. Modify the quantities to suit your tolerance levels.

Happy Nourishing! Ax

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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

Jolly Christmas Cheer and the Ultimate Summer Salad: Maple-roasted Pumpkin & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

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Synonymous with all things indulgent, the Silly Season is a time for feeding the soul…

We find ourselves kicking back more, getting outdoors more and filling our social calendars with BBQs, parties and beachside gatherings. Any excuse to get together with friends and family over beautiful food and one too many drinks will do.
So yes, between all the Christmas, New Year and summertime (for us Aussies) festivities, it’s almost impossible to stay as disciplined with your diet as you normally would. It feels like you’re perpetually surrounded by a sea of lip-smacking food, and it somehow seems more justified to pick at anything and everything just because “it’s the festive season!”.

The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself.
I choose to look at it this way: if you can’t loosen up and treat yourself at this time of year, then when the hell can you?! That pretty pavlova wasn’t just put there to take photos of. You are supposed to enjoy this time of year and everything it has to offer. With that said, while I might loosen my belt (literally) and pick at more desserts, cheese boards and processed snacks than I usually would, this doesn’t mean that all my other healthful habits go down the drain. I certainly don’t want to miss out on yummy food, but I also know that going totally overboard will leave me with nothing but a heavy guilty conscience and five extra kilos. As with any time of year, maintaining balance is important. Some things I do to achieve this balance include staying hydrated at all times, opting for vodka, lime and soda over sugar alcoholic drinks, filling up on veggies and quality protein at meals so that I don’t have a bottomless pit when it comes to dessert, chewing my food slowly so I enjoy each mouthful, drinking green smoothies each day to leave less room for unhealthy and processed snacks, taking long walks and swimming whenever I can. I try to be as mindful as possible, while enjoying myself all the while.

It’s easy(ish) to stay in control of what goes into your mouth when you’re at home, but not so much when your plate is at the hands of someone else – you naturally feel pressured to eat everything that’s being served up to you, and unless your family and friends are squeaky clean raw vegans (which mine certainly are not), chances are you’re going to be faced with an array of not-so-healthy temptations. To combat this, I make a big, bright salad like this one whenever I’m asked to bring a plate of food to a gathering, so there’s always something delicious and healthy for me to fill up on and I won’t be as likely devour my weight’s worth of double brie, cabana and cheesecake.

This Maple-roasted Pumpkin and Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Macadamias is fab – I can’t wait to share it with you. But first, here are some snaps from Chrissy Day, all taken on my iPhone because although Santa very generously gave me a Canon EOS 700D SLR so I can start doing real food photography, I’m not quite ready to move from the comfort zone of my iPhone 5 just yet.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I had a ball preparing festive treats all day (and night) long on Christmas Eve…

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I first made this salad around two months ago, and it’s already become my go-to staple of the season. It’s simple and has enough substance to serve to your family any day of the week, but it’s also a little fancy, making it the perfect dish for entertaining. Casual indulgence, if you like. Donning just the right amounts of sweet, sour and savoury, this salad will have your taste buds singing and your belly satisfied. Like any salad, this recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to play around with it. If you’re after a vegetarian dish or light side salad, simply leave the chicken out. This salad is wonderful when the roasted veggies and chicken are warm, however, it’s just as delicious cold, so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing everything. Leftovers make for a perfect lunch the next day!

Full bellies and happy hearts all round…

Maple-roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roast chicken, skin removed & flesh shredded (omit for vegetarian)
  • 1/4 Jap/Kent pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato (approx. 700g), washed, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1/2 cup macadamias, chopped roughly into halves
  • 2 tbs + 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbs oil (olive, coconut or macadamia)
  • 200g baby leaf salad mix
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet (approx. 200g) strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup spring onion, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tbs pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and parsley (flat-leaf), roughly chopped
  • 100g goat’s curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for dairy free)
  • EVOO, to serve
  • Balsamic vinegar, to serve (optional)
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a small bowl, coat the macadamias with 2 tsp maple syrup. Pour onto the baking paper and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove and set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
  2. Turn the oven up to 200*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin and sweet potato chunks with 2 tbs maple syrup, 1.5 tbs olive oil, oregano and salt. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through. For the last 5 minutes of baking, add the pepitas to the tray. As always, cooking times will vary from oven to oven and depending on the size you’ve cut your veg. Use my photos as a reference to determine if the veggies are ‘done’ or not. This salad works best when the veggies are a little on the ‘under’ side – quite soft in the middle and caramelised and chewy around the edges. Don’t let them crisp up too much as the caremelisation will dry out!
  3. While the veggies are roasting, arrange the salad leaves in a servings bowl or platter. Drizzle leaves with a little olive oil and a small amount of balsamic vinegar, if using (the balsamic goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta, but be sure to only use a tiny bit otherwise the salad will be too sweet!).
  4. When the veggies are ready, top the salad mix with the spring onion, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, roasted veg, chicken, feta, macadamias and pepitas. Just before servings, finish with a tiny sprinkle of EVOO. Enjoy!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Christmas in a mouthful: Gingerbread Granola (low FODMAP & refined sugar free )

Yep, I’m one of those people…

One of those people who still, even at 22 years of age, puts milk, cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer and wakes up to an overflowing human-size stocking on Christmas Morning. For me, tinsel-adorned traffic lights signify that it’s time to start blasting Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas album in my car, and that CD doesn’t come off rotation until mid-January. I find excuses to go driving late at night just so I can “ooh” and “ahh” at the fairy light exhibitions in Melbourne’s backstreets. Even the tackiest light displays send ripples of sweet nostalgia through me.

Maintaining our childhood Christmas fantasies, even when we’re far too old to do so, is kind of a big deal to my family. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year…

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How could I not be at ease with the world when the most wonderful day of the year is only one shy week away, the early Summer sun is shining outside, I’ve just spent the afternoon decorating the tree and wrapping presents, and my oven is exhaling the most delightful notes of ginger, cinnamon and maple?

My home has been diffused with the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies and gingerbread, except it’s not sugar cookies, nor is it gingerbread; It’s my Gingerbread Granola. And it’s a winner. I’ve already eaten a third of the tray, it’s that good (oops).

Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, this Gingerbread Granola recipe is a gorgeous marriage of cinnamon, ginger, pecans and coconut. It’s sweetened just enough with maple syrup, and subtle pops of lemon and dried cranberries bring all the flavours together. Like any good granola should, it offers that perfect crunch and crispiness before it melts in your mouth.

Gingerbread for breakfast? YES PLEASE!

However you use this granola is entirely up to you; pair a generous handful with your favourite nut milk and berries for a wholesome fuss-free brekky, sprinkle it over smoothie bowls, banana ‘ice cream’, or whiz it through smoothies to amp up their flavour, thickness and nutritional content. It’s also great to snack on as is, but try to portion it out so that you don’t go overboard (If only I could take my own advice – hopefully you’ve got a little more self-discipline than I do!)

For something a bit spesh, try layering the granola with stewed oranges or other fruit and your favourite yoghurt (coconut or full fat) in individual glasses  – the perfect Christmas Parfait for brunch entertaining! I can’t wait to serve these to my family on Christmas Morning while we rummage through our stockings…

And if you’ve really got your loved ones in mind, make lovely homemade gifts by filling up jam jars with the granola and tying festive ribbon and gift tags on them. Everyone loves homemade edible treats! I also added gingerbread babies (as pictured, available at Coles) to the jars for an extra gingerbread-y touch – not exactly clean, but hey, it’s CHRISTMAS!

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Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, this Gingerbread Granola recipe is a gorgeous marriage of cinnamon, ginger, pecans and coconut. It’s sweetened just enough with maple syrup, and subtle pops of lemon and dried cranberries bring all the flavours together. As any good granola should, it offers that perfect crunch and crispiness before it melts in your mouth.

This recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to mix it up. So long as you’re mindful of dry to wet ratios, you can pretty much throw in whatever you’ve got on hand!

Gingerbread Granola

Dietary info: Vegan, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free (see notes), low FODMAP (lessen nut & coconut quantities to further reduce FODMAPs), fructose-friendly (omit dried cranberries to lessen fructose load). For a gluten free version, simply replace the rolled oats with a mix of other suitable cereals, such as activated buckinis, puffed quinoa, puffed corn, rice flakes or more rice crisps. For a grain free version, replace most of the oats and rice crisps with buckinis and increase the nut, seed & dried coconut content (if FODMAPs are not an issue for you).

Ingredients

Dry:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (sub in activated buckinis for gluten free or Paleo)
  • 1 cup rice crispies/puffed rice
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups raw nuts of choice, roughly chopped (I used mostly pecans and almonds, but macadamias and walnuts would also be great)
  • 1/2 cup seeds of choice (I used pepitas and sunflower kernels)
  • 2 tbs coconut sugar
  • 3/4 tsp finely ground Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened if possible, omit for strictly fructose friendly – see notes)

Wet:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (you could also use rice malt syrup)
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and lightly grease a large baking tray (I use cold pressed coconut oil spray, available at Coles).
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ‘dry’ ingredients except the dried coconut and cranberries.
  3. Add the ‘wet’ ingredients, gently folding with a large wooden spoon until the dry mixture is evenly coated. If you taste the raw mixture at this point, you may notice that it tastes quite tangy and leaves a strange feeling in the back of your mouth. DO NOT FRET! That’s just the uncooked ginger, and the resulting flavour once it’s cooked will be gorgeous. It might also seem a little too sweet, but most of this sweetness cooks out in the baking process too.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, add the dried coocnut and give the tray a good mix to ensure the granola cooks evenly. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned.
  5. Remove from the oven and mix through dried cranberries. The granola will continue to cook and crisp up after you’ve taken it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s a little soft or wet. Allow to cool completely before transferring to airtight containers or glass jars. The granola will keep for 1-2 weeks if stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

Notes:

  • A few of you fructose malabsorbers may be wondering why there’s dried cranberries in this recipe. Well, there’s two reasons: firstly, from a fructose sensitivity perspective, unless you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, you should be able to incorporate small amounts of moderate-to-high FODMAP foods into your diet; And secondly, from a general health perspective, I try to limit my intake of dried fruit (AKA concentrated sugar/fructose) as much as possible, however, I couldn’t be a bigger advocate of “everything in moderation”, and a few cranberries in your granola ain’t gonna kill you. Plus, they really bring this recipe together and, well, it’s CHRISTMAS! Convinced?
  • While we’re on the sugar note, you may notice that this recipe contains a little more sugar than my usual recipes do (1/3 cup pure maple syrup + 2 tbs coconut sugar). In my opinion, this recipe is too yum not to follow, so I recommend sticking to it and serving it with unsweetened nut milk and low-sugar fruits like berries. However, if you really must be extra sugar-conscious, simply cut out the coconut sugar and lessen the maple to 1/4 cup. You may wish to add some powdered stevia to taste at the end to bring the sweetness up a notch, but be careful not to overdo it.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Summer Smoothie Series: Super Icey & Chai Spicy Banana Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chai Spice Mix

Makes around 6 tbs. of chai mix

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

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

Super Icey and Chai Spicey Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

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

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

Notes:

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

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