Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos | Vegan, Paleo

(Almost) gone are the days of fried taco shells stuffed with MSG-laden ground beef offcuts, barely-there guac, under-cheesed and over-refried-beaned nachos and soggy taquitos…

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

 They were all pretty awesome in 2004 when we didn’t know any better (and let’s be honest we were probably all high on the blue colour dye in the fishbowls anyway), but the Tex-Mex joints from the ’90s just ain’t cutting it anymore. Over the last decade we’ve witnessed a soar in modern Mexican cuisine, and now we’re wonderfully spoilt for choice.

Of course, if you have IBS or fructose malabsorption, you might be a little frightened of going out for Mexican given its reliance on onion, garlic and black beans. I used to avoid it at all costs. It just wasn’t worth the menu battle only to end up ordering soft tacos with plain chicken (yep, hold every single topping please, dear waiter) and a bland side salad. Thankfully, the huge demand for adaptable menus has meant that chefs and waiting staff are now more clued up than ever, making eating out with food sensitivities SO much easier and more enjoyable than before. So long as you’re willing to pass up a few obvious options, that is. Pre-made guac laden with raw onion will always be the bane of my Mex-food-lovin’ existence.

FODMAP-friendly Mexican restaurants in Melbourne

The below list comprises some of my favourite modern Mexican eats in and around Melbourne, all from which I’ve been able to find FODMAP friendly or easily modifiable menu items:

Mamasita – CBD
Touché Hombre – CBD (a personal favourite and home of the BEST corn on the cob you’ll ever sink your teeth into)
Fonda – various locations
The Black Toro – Glen Waverly (a little pricier and more refined but definitely worth a visit)

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

So here’s my spin on an old favourite – Sweet Potato Nachos. This fresher and much healthier version is vegan, grain free and paleo, and calls on baked sweet potato “chips” to replace pro-inflammatory fried corn chips, fragrant quinoa instead of high-fructan refried beans, sautéed capsicum to add some bulk, a zesty guac, and all seasoned with my super simple Low FODMAP Mexican Spice Mix. This recipe is perfect for sharing with a few friends or as a side dish. Pile all the components on a serving board, place in the middle of the table and and tuck in, being sure to grab a little of everything. The best thing about this recipe? No one fighting over the cheesiest corn chips.
I also like to make extra spice mix and add it to other dishes for a healthy Mexican twist – perfect for making FODMAP friendly chicken fajitas!

I’m finallllllly more tolerant to legumes these days, so sometimes I’ll pile chipotle beans onto these nachos, especially when making them for other people because it really elevates the flavours. To make your own, simply place the desired amount of canned beans (pinto, kidney or black) in a pan with a generous splash of water (avoid using the canned liquid as it will be high in FODMAPs due to leaching) and a few dollops of good-quality natural chipotle sauce. Stir, bring to the boil over medium high heat, then reduce to simmer and leave until the liquid has reduced slightly. Please note that this option will add significantly to the ‘FODMAP load’ of the meal and will definitely not be suitable for some people.

You may wonder why this recipe calls for large amounts of sweet potato and avocado, foods both known to be moderately high in the polyols (AKA sugar alcohols) mannitol and sorbitol, respectively. The reason I’ve published a recipe so high in these is because irrespective of the severity of my “intolerances” to FODMAPs, I’ve always been able to eat large amounts of sweet potato and avo without dramas, and you might as well, while the next person may find them very problematic. It all depends on how you currently absorb polyols. For this reason, I have made sure that all other ingredients in this recipe are super low in FODMAPs to reduce the overall load. If you’re currently extremely sensitive to polyols, I recommend saving this recipe for a later date when your gut has begun the healing process and you’re able to start reintroducing foods like sweet potato and avocado again.

On the other hand, if you’re currently reintroducing polyol-containing foods but don’t want to overdo it, simply limit your serving of both guac and sweet potato chips (see recipe notes for specific recommendations), and bulk up your plate with more of the quinoa and capsicum instead. Alternatively, you could replace half or more of the sweet potato with zucchini and/or eggplant chips – simply wash, cut (no need to peel), and cook them exactly the same as the sweet potato in the recipe below!

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Vegan and Paleo Sweet Potato Nachos

Serves 3 meals or 5 sides

FODMAP friendly serving size: see notes below

Ingredients

Low FODMAP Mexican Seasoning:

  • 2 tbs cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Guac:

  • 2 large avocados
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 5 spring onions (green part only), chopped

Nachos:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (approx. 500g each), peeled and sliced into even 3mm-thick rounds
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups all natural stock of choice or filtered water
  • 1 large red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 small handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve
  • 5 spring onions (green part only), chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced, to serve (optional)
  • Lime wedges, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220*C and line two large trays with baking paper.
  2. Prepare the seasoning by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. To make the sweet potato chips, arrange the sweet potato rounds in a single layer on the prepared baking trays. Drizzle very lightly with coconut oil and sprinkle a quarter of the spice mix. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and use tongs to turn the rounds over. Add another sprinkle of spice mix, then return to the oven for a further 15-20 mins or until the rounds are beginning to resemble chips (refer to the images). Remove from oven and set aside. You may also wish to swap the tray positions half way through to ensure even baking.
  4. While the sweet potato is cooking, rinse the quinoa under cold running water to remove any bitterness. Transfer to a saucepan and add the stock/water and half of the remaining seasoning. If you’re using water instead of stock, add some salt for more flavour. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the germ (the little ring around the seed) is exposed and the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  5. Heat a little coconut oil in a frypan over medium heat. Sauté the capsicum and half of the green onions until the capsicum is slightly tender, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To make the guac, combine all ingredients and season with a sprinkle of seasoning and a little extra sea salt. Set aside.
  7. Assemble the nachos on a serving board starting with the sweet potato chips on the bottom, then piling on the quinoa, sautéed capsicum, and guac. Garnish with coriander, spring onions, sliced chilli (I often use dried chilli flakes instead), lime wedges and a light sprinkle of the spice mix. If you’ve got any good-quality chipotle sauce on hand, feel free to drizzle over. These nachos are best served immediately when the sweet potato chips are crispy around the edges and the quinoa and capsicum are still warm.

Info for the irritable:

  • This recipe is obviously not as low in the FODMAP, Polyol (sugar alcohols) as my typical recipes. For people with high sensitivities to polyols (sugar alcohols), please read below:
    • Avocado contains sorbitol. ⅛ whole avocado or 20g is considered low in sorbitol and thus safe; ¼ or 40g is considered moderate and should be limited; ½ or 80g is considered high and should be avoided.
    • Sweet potato contains mannitol. 70g sweet potato is considered low in mannitol and thus safe; 107g is considered moderate and should be limited; 140g is considered high and should be avoided).
    • Do reduce the polyol load, you could replace half or more of the sweet potato with zucchini or eggplant chips. Simply wash, dry, cut (no need to peel) and cook them exactly the same as the sweet potato in the method above!

Buen provecho, amigos y amigas!
Ax

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

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

 

Photo: Choccy granola

Gluten Free Crunchy Chocolate Granola | Paleo, Grain Free, Fruit Free

My world was momentarily flipped upside down at eight years old when Mum fractured almost every bone in her foot* and was forced to employ Helga, a middle-aged German Nanny, to help out with us beastly children.

Photo: Choccy granola

Shocked and outraged by the sheer abandonment by our own mother (AKA her physical inability to be at our beck and call 24/7) and her decision to palm us off to a complete stranger who had an accent we couldn’t –or blatantly pretended not to– understand, we vowed to make Helga’s experience as difficult as possible. We were devils disguised in eight, five and four year old bodies.

Of course, in affectionate and remorseful hindsight, Helga was a lovely and caring woman. She desperately wanted to win us over and eventually realised that she could, to some degree at least, through our stomachs. We began seeing her as less of a villain when instead of serving the usual Vegemite toast for breakfast, she started giving us Special Coco Pops. These Coco Pops were extra special because not only were we not allowed to eat Coco Pops on weekdays, but Helga would also sprinkle white sugar all over them to add to the thrilling novelty of our new morning ritual. This was during the days when Foot Loops were still a perfectly acceptable breakfast food *face palm*, plus mum didn’t want to crush Helga’s newfound glory, so she let it slide for a while.

Photo: Choccy granola

And that’s where my love for sweet AF breakfast cereals began. I eventually grew out of Coco Pops and my obsession with sprinkling white poison all over them, but the habit was replaced by only marginally less sugary cereals with boxes that read anything along the lines of “crunchy granola” or “nut clusters” throughout the majority of my teenage years. I may not eat the highly processed and sugar laden versions anymore, but my love for any type of granola remains. Anyone with IBS or fructose malabsorption will share my frustration of not being able to easily find muesli options that tick all the boxes (punny). They’re either full of crap, processed gluten, refined sugars or dried fruits, and if you do find one that’s low in FODMAPs and genuinely healthy, chances are it’s pretty pricey. So I just make my own. My go-to recipes are this Crunchy Chocolate Granola, and my Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola.

Photo: Choccy granola

This Crunchy Chocolate Granola immediately takes me back to the mornings with Helga when I’d eat two huge bowls of candied Coco Pop greatness and then drink the leftover pool of super sweet chocolatey milk at the end. This version might contain 8 teaspoons less sugar per serving, but the crunchy clusters of chocolatey puffed seeds, quinoa flakes and toasted nuts taste totally indulgent and are so satisfying.

The beauty of granola is that it can be used in so many ways – serve it with your favourite nut milk and fresh berries, on top of smoothie bowls or “nice cream”, layered in chia pudding parfaits, sprinkled on grilled banana, or simply use it as a trail mix to snack on.

*Background story: It was school holidays and mum took us to “Pirate Day” at the Polly Woodside in Melbourne, the site where a famous 1885 cargo ship is preserved. We ended up playing on the grounds late into the afternoon and most likely ignored the numerous “closing soon” announcements. To this day I cannot fathom how they managed it, but security ended up locking us in. Determined to not have to sleep on a potentially haunted ship overnight, we screamed our lungs out for help, to no avail. The only solution that seemed logical at the time was to jump the three metre fence, and obviously mum was to be the guinea pig. She ended up landing badly (her high heeled boots probably didn’t help) and broke the bejeezus out of her foot.

Photo: Choccy granola

Crunchy Chocolate Granola

Makes x 10 ¾ cup servings

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

Ingredients

Muesli mixture:

  • 2 cups (178g) quinoa flakes (flaked brown rice or buckwheat also works well)
  • 1 ½ cups (23g) puffed buckwheat (if you’re not strictly grain free, puffed brown rice also works well)
  • 1 ¼ cups (250g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
  • ¾ cup (45g) unsweetened dried shredded or flaked coconut
  • ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use a combination of pecans, macadamias, almonds and walnuts
  • ½ cup (80g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ cup (40g) chia seeds

Chocolate mixture:

  • ½ cup (100g) coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup (32g) raw cacao powder (you can also use regular fair-trade cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and grease a large baking tray with 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.
  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 from oven 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 soft.
  6. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a large air-tight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for over a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Info for the Irritable:

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

Ax

Photo: Choccy granola

Fragrant Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

Photo: Fragrant Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

I know I’m not alone in the food blogosphere when I look at old posts from what feels like a previous life, and cringe at every single photo and every second word I once put out there. I try to remind myself that nearly every food blogger who started in the days when it was totally acceptable to feature iPhone photos on websites and professional DSLR-captured photos were pretty much exclusive to print magazines and cookbooks, has been there. Still, telling myself this doesn’t make me want to bury myself in a deep, dark hole any less when I revisit my blog after a ridiculously long hiatus (AKA a quarter life “WTF am I going to do with my life?!” crisis) and rediscover posts like this one. 

Photo: Fragrant Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

Last week I discovered that this recipe hadn’t been touched in over four years. If I could travel back in time, I’d smack the iPhone 4 out of my hand and beg myself not to use rainbow light beam filters. But I obviously can’t do that, so I’ve re-photographed the salad and deleted approximately 2,000 flimsy words. Thankfully, the actual recipe is solid and I’ve been making it on a near-weekly basis for years, which is more than I can say for a few other questionable recipes that were posted before I realised that anyone was actually reading my ramblings on here.

CYA in 10 years when I’ve finished re-photographing the remaining 59 recipes…

Photo: Fragrant Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

Fragrant Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Quinoa Salad

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • ½ large Jap pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 medium sweet potato or ½ large, washed, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 2 cups tri-coloured quinoa, rinsed thoroughly*
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (always fragrant but not essential)
  • 10 slices pickled beetroot (see FODMAP notes below)
  • ¼ cup flaked or slivered almonds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ cup Danish or Persian Feta, crumbled
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • EVOO or melted coconut oil
  • Sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and garam masala in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place the almonds on the prepared tray and place in the oven for 2 minutes or until toasted and golden. Keep a close eye on them after the 1 minute mark – the suckers can go from raw to charcoal real quick. Remove from oven, place in a small bowl, and set aside. Reuse the paper if possible.
  4. Place pumpkin and sweet potato in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to coat the veg with ½ tbs oil (preferably coconut).
  5. Arrange the pumpkin and sweet potato on the lined baking tray and sprinkle with half the spice mix and sea salt. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and golden. Cooking times will vary from oven to oven.
  6. While the veg is roasting, place the quinoa, water, thyme sprigs (if using), remaining spice mix and a generous sprinkle of sea salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer, cover and leave for 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. The quinoa is ready when its germ (the little white ring around the outer edge) is exposed. Remove from heat, remove thyme sprigs, fluff with a fork, and set aside.
  7. In a large salad bowl, toss the quinoa, baby spinach, chives, coriander, lemon juice, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Top with the roasted veg, pickled beetroot, feta and roasted almonds. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO, a squeeze of lemon juice, coriander and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

*Quinoa has a natural chemical called saponin, which can be bitter to taste when quinoa is not rinsed thoroughly prior to cooking.

FODMAP notes

  • Sweet potato contains moderate amounts of mannitol, so large amounts can be troublesome for people with polyol sensitivities. Once divided into servings, this recipe calls for even less than the “safe” recommendation, so most people with IBS or fructose malabsorption should be fine. If you’re unsure of your tolerance level, simply omit and use more pumpkin instead. I’ve personally always been able to tolerate large amounts of sweet potato.
  • According to Monash University, up to ½ cup pickled beetroot is considered safe for those with Fructose malabsorption and IBS, however I still like to moderate it because it can be quite high in sugar and therefore not great for you or your gut microbes in large amounts 🙂

Ax