Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

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

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

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

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

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Brekky Greens with Dukkah Eggs

Ingredients
Serves 1

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

Method

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

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

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

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

*angry constipated-like expression and frustrated tear*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pumpkin, Feta and Chive Loaf

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Notes

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

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Banana Split Overnight Oats

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

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

Banana Split Overnight Oats

Ingredients

Overnight Oats:

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

To serve:

Method

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

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Toasted Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Granola

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Granola is just one of those foods that makes me salivate.

The
 warm flavours, the sweetness, the wonderful texture and, of course, that irresistible crunch. It just gets me every time.

I think I was in year 7 when my mum first brought home the newest addition to the Kellogg’s breakfast cereal range, Crunchy Nut Clusters. Those peanut and ‘honey’ (sugar, molasses and vegetable oil) coated cornflakes teamed with deliciously crunchy clusters of oats, puffed wheat and coconut (and yep, more sugar, molasses and vegetable oil) became not only my brekkie bowl filler, but also my mid-morning, afternoon and pre-bedtime snack by the handful. I had every right to go through four boxes of this golden blessedness a week because Crunchy Nut Clusters were clearly less sugary than the Froot Loops and Frosty Flakes many of my friends still ate, and they were made with healthy ingredients like corn, oats, honey and nuts. I was so on my way to getting healthy and losing all my puppy fat quickly, all while eating something so damn tasty. YEAH!

Much to my horror, the so-called puppy fat not only stuck around, but started to soar. Thankfully, I slowly grew older and wiser. I learned that just because something is manufactured from a vegetable, that does not necessarily make it healthy (but what do you mean vegetable oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup aren’t good for you?!)  and I began reading labels (why doesn’t the front of the box mention anything about the cereal being covered in sugar, molasses and oil as well as honey?!)

It took a while, but I started to become aware of marketing gimmicks and misleading advertising. After a year, my beloved Crunchy Nut Clusters were replaced by Sultana Bran Crunch after a year. Ah, the ignorance. Still, it was a move in the right direction, and at least I wasn’t eating Honey Joys disguised as a breakfast cereal anymore.

For those of you who are more or less like me, buying packaged granola poses two main problems:

  1. Mainstream granola brands packed with different forms of sugar, preservatives and other additives and provide little to no nutritional value.
  2. They’re very rarely fructose-friendly: pre-packaged granola always contains either loads of honey, dried fruit or both, which makes them indigestible for my fellow fructose malabsorbers. Even the ‘healthier’ granola alternatives available at health food stores are made with with high-fructose sweeteners like agave and dried fruit.

I’ve been avoiding pre-packaged granola and toasted muesli for several years now. The thought of sweet, crunchy clusters of puffed grain heaven still excites me, but I’ve never come across one that’s healthy enough to eat regularly. And so, I’m more of an egg gal these days.

The other week, however, my love for granola was reignited. I was in the cereal aisle of Coles, looking at Carman’s muesli for my sister when I saw them. Carman’s Crunchy Clusters with Honey Roasted Nuts. I was immediately taken back to my mornings in early high school when I’d eat two bowls of candied greatness and drink the leftover pool of sweet milk afterward. My salivary glands started going mental as I viewed the large oaty clumps and golden roasted nuts through the heart-shaped plastic window on the box. I threw the box into my trolley without giving it a second thought or reading any labels. My sister just had to try it. Not me, my sister. I was getting it for my sister.

I ripped open the box the second I got home and started shovelling handfuls of the stuff into my mouth as if it were popcorn. Everything about the granola was lip-smacking. The wording on the box was spot on: I absolutely did “adore these crunchy muesli clusters with almonds, hazelnuts and pecans, buzzing with trickles of honey and a hint of vanilla!” The granola was also “fruit free, Low GI, high in fibre and full of wholegrain goodness”. It all sounded too good to be true. I soon realised it was, but it was all too late. After my snacking straight from the box for three days, the box was empty. I don’t think my sister ever got to touch it. I read the label more closely just before I threw the box into the recycling. I was shocked.

Carman’s is usually one of the more wholesome and cleaner cereal brands available at supermarkets. They usually sweeten their products with a little honey instead of sugar, and while this makes their products unsuitable for most FructMal sufferers, at least it’s better than nearly all other cereal boxes for most people. This is why I was shocked when I read the Carman’s Crunchy Clusters ingredients list. After the oats and nuts, raw sugar comes in as the third ingredient, making it even more predominant than supposed primary ingredients like puffed rice and pepitas! And that’s before the honey is added. That’s a lot of added sugar! I did some quick calculations and became aware that I’d consumed just shy of 70g of added sugar over a few days from the granola aloneThat’s nearly EIGHTEEN teaspoons of added sugar, which equates to almost NINE teaspoons of pure fructose! No bloody wonder why it tasted so good. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Carman’s would rightfully argue that you’re not supposed to eat the entire box over just a few sittings, hence their “serves 11” guideline. I would argue that if you make something taste that freaking awesome, you’re asking people to eat the entire box over a single sitting.

Healthy or not, I’d gotten a taste for granola again. I tried so hard to forget about it, but we all know that telling ourselves not to crave something usually leads us to craving it all the more. The human psyche is a treacherous beast. To crush my cravings once and for all, I came up with this scrumptious granola recipe, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. My Toasted Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Granola has all that wonderful crunch, so much full-bodied flavour and just the right amount of fructose-friendly sweetness. If Coco Pops and Crunchy Nut Clusters decided to have a lovechild and it were born healthy, this would be it.

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Toasted Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Granola

Serves 12 (1/2 cup servings)
Dietary Information:
wheat free, vegan-friendly, refined sugar free, dairy free, fructose-friendly, low FODMAP. Contains gluten (Oats – see notes for GF alternative) and nuts.

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded/flaked coconut
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice or rice crisps (I use 1/2 cup of each for varied textures)
  • 1 cup activated plain buckinis (activated buckwheat. I used Loving Earth brand)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup of your favourite raw nuts, roughly chopped (I use a combination of almonds, walnuts, pecans and macadamias)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs (optional – If you’re not a fan of cacao nibs, don’t use them because their flavour can be quite dominating)

Chocolate mixture:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 15-20 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp  Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150*C and grease a large baking tray with a little coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all “muesli mixture” ingredients, except the shredded coconut.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup, cacao and cinnamon and stir until all combined. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until the liquid is fully incorporated. Sweeten further with stevia to taste, if needed.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry muesli mixture and stir gently until all dry ingredients are evenly coated. There should be enough ‘wet’ mixture to completely cover the muesli.
  5. Spread mixture evenly over the greased tray. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove and stir. Add the dried coconut and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. The granola will continue to crisp up after you take it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s still a little wet or soft.
  6. Allow to cool completely before transferring to air-tight containers or large glass jars. The granola will remain fresh for 1-2 weeks if stored in a cool place, away from sunlight.
Notes and serving suggestions: 
  • For an indulgent weekend treat or breakfast entertaining, serve with cinnamon-grilled banana, organic full-fat or coconut yoghurt, fresh berries and a large drizzle of chocolate ‘sauce’, as pictured. To make the grilled banana, simply cut a large ripe banana length-ways, sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon and place under an oven grill. Grill until the natural sugars in the banana start to caramelise and bubble. Remove immediately and serve while still hot. To make the ‘sauce’, combine 1 tsp natural smooth peanut butter, 1 tsp raw cacao powder, 1 tsp melted coconut oil and a few drops of liquid stevia.
  • Use the granola to make a layered Chia Pudding Parfait, another quick, easy and effective breakfast entertaining idea.
  • For a nourishing breakfast, serve with organic full fat or coconut yoghurt, your choice of milk (I love Pure Harvest’s coconut-rice milk) and fresh strawberries.
  • Serve on top of healthy banana ‘ice cream’ (frozen banana blended with a little natural peanut butter) for a great post-workout meal or snack.
  • Portion into little snap-lock bags for a super tasty and nourishing trail mix to nibble on between meals and satisfy late-arvo chocolate cravings.
  • For a gluten-free version, simply replace the oats with 1 cup extra puffed brown rice or rice crisps, 1/2 cup extra shredded coconut and 1/2 cup extra plain buckinis.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Don’t forget to stop and smell the cinnamon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rant officially over.

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

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Vanilla & Cinnamon French Toast
Serves 1

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Porridge ParTea: Creamy Chai-Infused Oats + Cinnamon-Grilled Banana

Not that I’ve traveled there yet, but I don’t know what I love more about India – the glorious cuisine, or the fact that Masala chai originated from there. I know I go on about how much certain foods do it for me, like bananas and coconut anything, but chai is something that really does it for me. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s almost on par with dark chocolate. I just can’t get past the flavour combination of aromatic cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, fennel and clove.

Almost three years ago, I was introduced to chai in the form of the all-too popular latte, which is essentially just a combination milk, chai-flavoured syrup/powder (sugar) and honey/sugar. It pains me to admit it, but this whirlwind love affair didn’t start in a trendy cafe one Winter morning as I flicked through Frankie, or even out of a mug. Rather, I fell in love with the contents of a paper takeaway cup at my local McCafe. That’s right.

Before long, my obsession with the creamy, sweetly spiced awesomeness had gone from being a once-weekly ‘treat’, to a daily pre-morning-lecture-ritual. I justified my addiction by telling myself that Lot 6 Cafe used chai powder, not syrup like Macca’s did, and thus couldn’t be as sugary, and I only ordered a size small so how much harm could one measly cup a day possibly do anyway? Deep down I knew that I was consuming the calorific equivalent to a Max Brenner hot chocolate each time I downed that little cup of sunshine, and I knew something had to give. The truth is, I loved the marriage of flavours and the place of bliss each cup took me far too much to give it up entirely, and I wasn’t aware –or particularly willing to look for — healthier, less-glorious alternatives. So I kept downing it.

Then I discovered Masala chai tea. The real stuff. I don’t remember where it was, but it certainly wasn’t at Macca’s, and it was so magnificent that I haven’t been swayed by the temptation of a chai latte since. My particular favourites are all T2 varieties, Tea Drop’s Malabar Chai and Twinings’ Chai-Vanilla Origins. These days, my afternoons are incomplete without a big mug of chai tea and a few pieces of my Dark ‘Chocolate’ Bark to dunk in – it’s my simple, infallible way to slip a little bit of calm into my day.

For me, trying new additions to the chai range at T2 elicits a similar feeling to shoe shopping. No exaggeration. Last Friday during my lunch break at work I had the pleasure of both and it was the best start to the weekend I could ask for. A new pair of Windsor Smiths and a box of T2 Creamy Choc Chai should make any girl happy. 

When 5:30 hit and the weekend’s social calendar should have been on my mind, I was thinking about Saturday’s breakfast. I knew I wanted a big fat mug of my new Creamy Choc Chai, but I wanted to try something a bit different. So, I decided to marry three of the World’s Greatest Things, according to me: oats, chai and grilled banana. Saturday morning was unreal.IMG_2012IMG_2015 IMG_2011 IMG_2010

Creamy Chai-Infused Porridge & Cinnamon-Grilled Banana

Ingredients:

  • 40g oats (1/3 cup + 2 tbs)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 tsp loose leaf chai tea in a brewing tool (or 2 tea bags)
  • Ground cinnamon*
  • Ground cardamom*
  • Ground nutmeg*
  • 1 ripe firm banana, quartered (cut once lengthways, then half again)
  • 1 tsp pure organic maple syrup
  • 1 tbs flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp walnuts, chopped
  • Stevia

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill & toast the flaked almonds until golden. Watch them carefully – my grill takes 30 seconds to toast almonds, not 5 minutes, which I learnt last week when I almost set my entire kitchen on fire. Remove almonds from grill and allow to cool.
  2. In a small saucepan bring the milk and water to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the tea and allow to infuse for 8 minutes. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a simmer again. Remove the tea bags and transfer the mixture to a large mug/jug.
  3. In the meantime, sprinkle the banana pieces with a little cinnamon and grill until they begin to bubble and caramelise. Depending on your grill, this could take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the oats, chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon*, 3/4 tsp cardamom* a pinch of nutmeg* and 3/4 of the milky tea mixture to the saucepan. Allow to sit over medium heat.  Once it begins to boil, stir continuously until the oats and seeds have absorbed the liquid, around 5 minutes. Add the remaining milk mixture and extra water/milk if you need it. Remove from heat when a desired consistency is reached. Taste and sweeten with stevia or other sweetener of choice accordingly.
  5. Spoon porridge into a serving bowl and top with the grilled banana, walnuts, toasted almonds and maple syrup. Delec-tea-ble!

* I’m HUGE on spices, and chai spices are no exception. The quantities I’ve suggested give an intense and deeply aromatic chai flavour. If you’re not so big on these spices and like your chai a little more subtle, just add the ground spices at the end, to taste.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax