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

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

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

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

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These hot X babies do contain a little more sugar than my usual recipes (in the form of coconut sugar & dried fruit), but I really wanted them to taste and feel as close to the real deal as possible. They’ve got just the right balance of sweetness and spice, and the spelt flour lends a wonderful nuttiness and dense texture. What’s more, they’ll fill your home with the most beauuuuuuutiful aroma – the smell of any kind of bread baking in the oven is magic, but the notes of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and orange in these buns will take you to a whole new level of aromatic heaven. 

I think the key to getting these buns right is ensuring that the dough gets its full 2 hours of rising time in a warm, draught-free area. I’m certainly no baking wiz so I don’t know whether the rising time or warm environment is more crucial, but the two together resulted in a far better bun texture than the first time I attempted this recipe, when I only gave the dough 1 1/2 hours to rise in a cool kitchen.

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns with Orange and Cranberries

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C. Line a small square cake tin (20cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the milk and coconut sugar over medium-low heat until the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and coconut oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, chia seeds, yeast and dried spices. Wake a well and pour in the milk mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined, then add in the dried fruit, zest and salt. Use your hands to combine fully and form into a dough with the dried fruit and zest dispersed throughout.
  4. Lightly flour a clean bench space or a kneading mat with a little spelt flour. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.
  5. Oil the original mixing bowl with a little coconut oil, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap (to trap heat in). Place a tea towel over the bowl (to keep light out). Leave in a warm, draught free space for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size (it’s imperative that the dough doubles, and I strongly recommend leaving it for the full 2 hours regardless). My house was quite cool when I was making these, so I found that the best place to leave the bowl was on a stool right in front of the heated oven.
  6. After the dough has risen, knead for another 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions and roll into rough balls. Place the buns into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Brush the buns with pure maple syrup to glaze. Allow the buns to cool before piping crosses with melted dark choc. Don’t have a piping bag? See notes below.
  8. Serve the only way you ever should: toasted, warm, smothered with organic salted butter (or almond butter) and with your a cuppa. Bliss. It’s probably worth nothing that you may want to remove the chocolate cross before toasting the buns!
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Info for the irritable

If you’re highly sensitive to fructose, adjust the amount of dried fruit to suit you tolerance levels.  You could try omitting the currants and raisins using ¼ – ½ cup dried cranberries, or leave the fruit out altogether if necessary.

Other notes

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

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

Hey YOU!

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

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 18 bars or 25 squares

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

Ingredients

Vanilla Shortbread Biscuit Base:

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

Almond ‘Caramel’ Filling:

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

Chocolate topping:

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

Method

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

Info for the irritable

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

Ax

Photo: Twix Cookie Bar Slice

Vegan Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Hey YOU!

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

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Throughout my primary school years, my favourite afternoons involved a visit to the local bakery where I’d leave with a choccie Big M in one hand, and either a sausage roll or lemon slice in the other. Sometimes all three, depending on how much Mum wanted to shut me up until dinner. My irrepressible love for lemon slice continued into the early years of high school –as did sausage rolls, unfortunately– when I’d make a batch most weekends, using half the sweetened condensed milk for the biscuit base and drinking the rest straight from the tin…

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

To this day, I can never knock back a traditional lemon slice when the opportunity arises, and I still revel in its delectably citrusy, melt-in-your-mouth glory, but I try not to chow them down on the regular like I used to. FYI I’ve also stopped drinking sweetened condensed milk from the can.

It’s quite easy to find healthy gluten free lemon slice alternatives these days, but as with all healthy spins on traditional desserts, it’s difficult to find ones that are suitable for the digestively challenged. Most health-ified lemon slices I’ve come across, delightful as they are, rely heavily on nuts, dried coconut and dates in the base, and cashews in the cream topping. Great for some; not so great for us FODMAP malabsorbers.

My Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice, albeit not FODMAP free (because that’s not the point of the low FODMAP diet), has been very carefully formulated to use enough coconut and lower-FODMAP nuts and seeds so that it has a nice flavour and texture and is nutrient dense, but is still at the ‘low’, and thus ‘safe’, end of the FODMAP spectrum so long as the recommended serving size is adhered to. The base is bulked with quinoa flakes and buckwheat grouts, and soaked macadamias make for a lovely cream (not as creamy as cashews would, granted, but we can’t have it all). This slice is also vegan, gluten free, grain free, paleo, and packed with quality proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice (vegan, gluten free, Paleo)

Makes 24 squares

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 square

Ingredients

Biscuit Base:

  • 1 cup (70g) quinoa flakes 
  • 1.5 cups (82g) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut plus a little extra, to serve 
  • 1 cup (100g) raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup (80g) buckwheat groats
  • 2 tbs linseeds (chia seeds would also work)
  • 1/4 cup (85g) pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup (70g) melted coconut oil
  • Generous pinch of sea salt

Lemon and Macadamia Cream Topping:

  • 1.5 cups (180g) macadamias
  • 2/3 cup (120g) coconut cream (100% coconut and guar gum free)
  • 3 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil (this is an option for a slightly firmer topping – see notes in step 4 below)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 – 1 lemon plus extra, to serve

Method

  1. Place the macadamias in a small bowl and cover with filtered water. Cover the bowl with a small plate and allow to soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Line a rectangular slice tray (mine is 18 x 27cm) with baking paper.  
  3. To make the biscuit base, use a high-powered processor to process the quinoa flakes, dried coconut, pecans, buckwheat grouts, linseeds and salt until a crumb forms. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and process until it all comes together, scraping the bowl down with a spatula as necessary. Spoon the mixture into the tin and use your fingertips to press it down firmly and evenly. Place in the freezer to set while you make the topping.
  4. To make the lemon cream topping, drain the soaked macadamias and discard the liquid. Place the macadamias into the cleaned processor bowl/jug and process until as smooth as possible. Add the coconut cream, maple syrup, lemon juice and a quarter of the zest, and process until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides down with a spatula as necessary. At this stage, taste the cream and add more lemon zest if you wish. Please note: this topping is designed to be quite soft and creamy once set, but if you want it to be a bit firmer you can add 3-4 tbs melted coconut oil, which will help it set more in the fridge as the coconut oil solidifies. 
  5. Remove the biscuit base from the freezer and top with the lemon cream, using the back of the spatula to smooth over. Top with extra lemon zest and shredded/flaked coconut (I like to toast mine lightly first). Allow to set in the freezer for an hour or so.
  6. Once set, use a sharp knife to cut the slice into 24 squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month and thaw slightly before serving.
Info for the irritable:
  • This recipe has been carefully formulated to be FODMAP friendly when the recommeded serving size is adhered to. It contains moderate amounts of the polyol, sorbitol, from coconut (dried and milk/cream) and small amounts of fructans from pecans, macadamias and linseeds. One square of this slice (when the slice has been divided into 24 squares) is considered low in both sorbitol and fructans and should thus be safe for people with IBS or fructose malabsorption.

Ax

Photo: Lemon, Macadamia and Coconut Slice

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

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

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I find myself making this salad all year round, but there’s no denying its utter summery-ness. Whether it’s Sunday dinner at home, a casual picnic, or a festive bring-a-plate night, this salad has been one of my top go-to’s since I first posted it. Going by your emails, it’s still probably THE most loved recipe on here (thank you, lovely readers!), and it makes me V happy to know that you’re still loving it as much as I do. It’s even one of my Dad’s favourites which, given the fact that it’s “just a bloody salad”, says a bit.

It’s simple and straightforward enough to whip up on a weeknight, but the strawberries and caramelised macadamias give it that extra touch of pizzazz, making it perfect for entertaining or when you’re on salad duty. The warm roasted chicken and generous chunks of pumpkin add heartiness and make it feel like a real meal, and together with the nuts and feta it’s deceivingly filling.

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

I’m a total sucker for anything that combines sweet and savoury (HELLOOOOO fig paste on double brie, honey on peanut butter, and my ultimate vice – maple syrup on fried chicken), and the marriage of savoury chicken and feta with sweet strawberries and maple-coated pumpkin and nuts in this salad is no exception, so when you curate a forkful that has just a little bit of everything, it really is a party in your mouth.

 With just the right balance of sweet and savoury and a touch of tart, this very low-FODMAP salad will leave your tastebuds singing and your belly happy. If you’re after a side a salad or a vegetarian version, simply leave the chicken out. Vegans can omit the feta altogether or substitute with a nut-based feta, however because of the concentration of high FODMAP nuts (commonly cashews) in nut-based fetas, I have not come across one that is strictly low FODMAP.

This salad is best served while the pumpkin is still warm and caramelised, however it’s also great at room temp so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing. If you’re actually capable of controlling your portions and have leftovers, they make for a delicious lunch the next day!

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

Chicken and Maple-Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Strawberries and Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • ½ roasted chicken (free range and organic if possible), shredded
  • ½ medium Jap/Kent pumpkin (approx 2kg), peeled and cut into even 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup (130g) macadamias, halved
  • 2 tbs + 3 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1½ tbs melted coconut oil
  • 200g leafy salad mix of choice
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet strawberries (200g), sliced
  • ½ cup spring onion (40g), chopped (green part only)
  • ¼ cup (35g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 100g goats curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for vegan)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to dress
  • Balsamic vinegar, to dress (optional)
  • 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 3 tsp of the maple syrup. Pour onto the tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 200*C and line two trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin  with the remaining maple syrup, melted coconut oil, dried oregano and salt.
  3. Divide the pumpkin between the two lined trays and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through and adding the pepitas to the top tray for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Depending on your oven, you may also want to swap the trays half way through to ensure even cooking. 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 delicious gooey maple will dry out!
  4. In the meantime, arrange the salad leaves in a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle with EVOO and top with spring onions, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, shredded chicken, feta, maple macadamias and pepitas. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for those who want a little more acidity – a tiny drizzle goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta! 

Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

 

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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Mum’s (not Nonna’s) Turkey Spag Bol

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

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

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

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

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bol

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

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

Method

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

FODMAP Notes

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

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Ax

Fudgey Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies (gluten free & low fructose)

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I first posted this recipe well over two years ago, and the truth is that I’ve never been totally thrilled with it. It was always just “alright” (seconded by my family), and I’ve been too butt-lazy to improve it. Until last weekend, that is, when I had a sudden craving for sweet potato choccie brownies. As it turns out, all the recipe needed was zero banana to get rid of the too-wet-issue, a little coconut flour (I was too scared to use it a few years ago) to mop up any excess moisture and a bit more cacao. Easy peasy.

Even some of the most culinarily curious people screw up their noses and purse their lips when they hear “sweet potato chocolate brownies”, so I was really nervous when I took the brownies to work for colleagues to try the other day. The nerves quickly subsided when one of my young male colleagues took a bite and excitedly pronounced, “that shit is off its d***!”
Boo yah. Success!

This recipe calls for mashed sweet potato, but please don’t be mistaken: I learnt the hard way that not all sweet-taty-is created equal, especially when it’s going into a brownie. The first time I attempted these brownies circa 2013, I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the potato to roast, so I boiled the bejeezuz out of it until it was mashable. The flavour of the brownies was great, but the texture was more sad, soggy cake than fudgey brownie, and the only people who enjoy soggy cake are trifle fans. I am not a trifle fan.
Moral of that little ramble? ROAST YOUR SWEET POTATO!!!

Now, as content as I am with this recipe, please don’t expect these brownies to resemble your mum’s best chocolate brownie recipe too closely. After all, it’s the combination of brown sugar, butter and processed flour that gives brownies their characteristic chewy outer crust and fudgey centre, so if you remind yourself that this recipe is a wholesome and far healthier version, I’m sure you’ll love it.
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Fudgey Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies

Gluten free, grain free, Paleo, low fructose.
Contains egg and a small amount of FODMAPs (almond meal & coconut flour)

Makes 16 squares, or 8 bars (let’s be honest – you’ll eat two squares at a time anyway).

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (to yield 370g roasted sweet potato flesh)
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I use almond)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 tbs coconut flour
  • 1/3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional), roughly chopped
  • 3 tbs dark choc chips (optional – they add a little refined sugar)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C. Wash and dry the sweet potato. Prick all over with a knife, place on a lined baking tray lined and roast until very tender, approximately one hour. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 185*C.
  2. Cut a slit down the length of the sweet potato and scoop out 370g of flesh (try to not get any skin). In a large bowl, mash the sweet potato until no large lumps are left. Set aside to cool for half an hour.
  3. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. In a bowl, combine the eggs, oil, maple syrup, nut butter and vanilla and whisk until fully combined.  Add to the mashed sweet potato and whisk vigorously until the mixture is as lump-free as possible.
  4. In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except the choc chips, if using).
  5. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, folding gently until fully combined.
  6. Pour the batter into prepared tin and smooth the top over with the back of your spoon. Scatter over the choc chips, if using.
  7. Bake in the oven for 35-40 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean, but not totally dry as you want the brownies to be fudgey.
  8. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into desired portions.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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