5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls

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I’m just gonna dive right in and say that if you love peanut butter and/or magical marriages of sweet and salty, then you absolutely must try this recipe because it is, quite frankly, simplicity at its culinary best. But before you think I’m tooting my own horn, please note that I am not taking full credit for this creation – this recipe is a replication of Ace’s Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls, which I’d been spending far too much money on at the F.O.G store in Richmond before I decided to try to make them myself.

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I’m racking my brain for something creative to write here, but with two group assignments (kill me) looming and three weeks worth of lectures to catch up on, I think my mental efforts best be redirected. So all I’ll say is that these balls are a cheap, no bake, vegan, one bowl, ready-in-moments and virtually mess free (unless you’re a klutz like me and trip over absolutely nothing and spill 1kg of coconut flour on the floor) kind of job, plus they’re super yummy and satisfying, and you should really try them.
Oh and I’ll make and hand deliver a quadruple batch (and throw a few bear hugs and kisses in) for whoever offers to write one of my assignments for me, preferably the evaluation of statistical analysis on taste receptor gene studies (like I said, kill me).

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Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls

Ingredients (makes approx. 9 balls)

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 4tbs coconut nectar/syrup
  • 4 tbs coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 tbs activated buckinis

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then mix with your hands, ensuring all the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Massage until the “dough” comes together.
  2. Divide into 9 even portions, then roll into smooth balls. I rolled mine in a mixture of ground cinnamon, coconut sugar and a pinch of salt which added to the yumminess and finished them off really nicely, but this is totally optional. Place on a tray and refrigerate for an hour, or until set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.imageimage

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

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

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

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

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

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns 

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third time lucky, hey?

Healthy Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

 

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Lemon and Coconut Slice

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

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

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

Lemon and Coconut Slice

Ingredients Biscuit base:

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

Lemon cream topping:

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

Method

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

Notes:

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

Happy Nourishing! Ax

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

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

 

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon and Mint

imageI’m very fickle when it comes to zucchini (or courgette, to some of you).
It’s either the first thing demolished off my plate, or the one ingredient I find myself pushing to the side with my fork. I’ve decided it all depends on how it’s cooked, and what else it’s been put with. For instance, I can’t get enough of zucchini if it’s been roasted among other Mediterranean-style vegies with a little oil and salt, but I’m guaranteed to gag if I eat it plain steamed – so squelchy and gross. Then again, I’ve always been a high calorie-inclined fat kid at heart.

Truth be told, I’ve never really used zucchini in its raw form that much. Unless I’m grating it and adding it to salads or making ‘zuchetti’ (zuchini noodles made with a vegie spiralizer), I tend to eat it cooked. But I’ve found a way to enjoy zucchini all the time, and since this salad is raw, it means that I can obtain maximum nutritional benefits from it. Super fresh, tasty, healthy and simple, this salad makes the perfect accompaniment for fish (think grilled snapper or pan-seared salmon!), or even barbecued white meats like chicken. If you want to jazz it up a bit, try adding toasted pine nuts and extra herbs like fresh parsley and coriander. While I try not to eat too much dairy, this salad is especially delicious sprinkled with feta or shaved parmesan.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon and Mint

Ingredients

  • 3 medium zucchinis
  • Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Use a peeler down the length of the zucchini to create ‘ribbons’. Place in a mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the zucchini, mint, lemon (to taste) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. You can serve this immediately, but I find that it turns out tastier after an hour in the fridge.
  4. Serve with toasted pine nuts and a small sprinkle of shaved parmesan or feta, if desired.

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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Honestly Healthy Muesli Bars (fruit free, fructose friendly & dairy free)

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that 98% of packaged muesli bars on the market are not at all healthy.
Despite their efforts to market themselves as wholesome snacks, most muesli bars on the market are loaded with nasties. And those nasties aren’t necessarily always the usual suspects, either. Sure, if you’re into reading labels, you’re probably used to avoiding unpronounceable chem-lab names and numbers which translate into artificial preservatives, sweeteners and other additivies. And sure, you might do a quick scan of the sugar content. But how much notice do you pay to where all that sugar is coming from? The majority of muesli/snack bars out there are loaded with added sugar, whether it’s straight-up refined (white/brown sugar, golden syrup), unrefined like in the ‘healthier’ varieties (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar/nectar, rice malt syrup etc.), or sneakily disguised as being the most ‘natural’ sugar sources of all: dried/raw fruit and fruit juice concentrates.

As I write this, I’m analysing the labels of 2 different muesli bar boxes I found in my pantry. They’re by a popular ‘real food’ supermarket brand, marketed and believed to be truly healthy. Yes, most of the ingredients are whole, and one thing I’ll give them is how transparent they are about the ingredients they use, but they’re still out of touch with the anti-added sugar movement. Either that, or they know most people will read “honey” or “apple juice concentrate” and think that it must be healthy.
One of said muesli bars contains 6 DIFFERENT SOURCES OF SUGAR: cranberries, sugar, glucose, honey, rice syrup and apple. The other contains 5 sources: glucose, honey, sugar, cranberries and sultanas.
SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR…

Of course, if you don’t have fructose malabsorption, then finding a healthy packaged snack is less of an ordeal because there’s a whole heap of health bars on the shelves of health food stores and even supermarkets now. The problem for someone like me is that all those ‘refined sugar free’ and ‘raw’ bars and bliss balls usually scream one thing: FRUCTOSE. They’re pumped with agave (which is 70-90% fructose), dates, and dried fruit. And dried fruit is practically just concentrated fructose. So, without being too controversial, I’d argue that 90% of those raw food bars and bliss balls aren’t that great for you anyway, whether you can digest them or not. Most of them are glorified lollies with a little extra fibre and protein, disguised in rustic packaging with words like ‘raw vegan’ and ‘no added sugar’ sprawled across them. No added sugar? OF COURSE THEY DON’T CONTAIN ADDED SUGAR! They don’t need to add sugar on top of all the syrup and fruit, because if they did, those bars would be distastefully sweet.
Like I always say, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
And regardless of how ‘natural’ the sugar source is, if it’s as sweet as a lolly, it probably isn’t that good for you.

I’m pretty sure that you get my point by now: most muesli bars are unhealthy, and even the semi-healthy ones are often packed with fructose and are thus out-of-bounds for those who cannot digest excess fructose. I should quickly note that fructose friendly snack bars do exist, but I’m yet to come across one that ticks all four boxes: it’s gotta be honestly healthy, fructose friendly, filling, and YUMMY! All the ones I’ve tried lack in an area or two.

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These Honestly Healthy Fruit-Free Muesli Bars are super easy to whip up and the recipe is very forgiving. If you don’t have a particular ingredient, don’t stress, just use something else that’s similar in density (except maybe for the oats and eggs, you’ll need those!), being mindful of wet to dry ratios. This is a great base recipe, so feel free to mix things up! Try adding things like goji berries (dark choc-coated gojis would be delicious for a more decadent treat), cacao nibs, or a little unsweetened dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins. While this recipe is relatively high in protein, you could even incorporate your favourite CLEAN protein powder into the mix, to make it a great post-workout snack.
When divided into 24 pieces, each serving contains just 3g of sugar, which is equivalent to 2 large strawberries. These bars are super filling so you can be sure they’ll tie you over to your next meal. They’re also high in fibre, healthy fats, protein and antioxidants, and relatively low carb, making them a perfect snack any time of day.
Keep them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week. I also like to keep a little container of them in my car’s glove box  (in cooler weather), and one wrapped up in my handbag to ensure that I’m prepared for a snack attack no matter where I am.

Fructose Friendly Muesli Bars

Makes 24 snack squares (or 12 large bars).
Dietary info: fructose friendly, low FODMAP, wheat free (contains spelt), dairy free, refined sugar free, soy free.
Contains gluten (oats & spelt), eggs and tree nuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup  unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (pepitas & sunflower kernels)
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts (almonds & pecans), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 eggs (organic & free range, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup sweetener (I used half/half pure maple and rice malt syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs water
  • Stevia, to taste

Optional: cacao nibs, 3 tbs dried fruit (raisins, sultanas or cranberries), protein powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C and line a slice tray or square cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. At this point I also added 1/2 tsp of concentrated stevia extract powder (see notes).
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine well.
  4. Press firmly into prepared slice/cake tin and sprinkle the top with some extra pepitas and coconut, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm and golden brown (as pictured).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to sit in tin for 10 minutes. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack for a few hours. Use a sharp knife to remove the edges of the slice. Cut slice into desired pieces, and store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to a week.

Notes:

  • As always, the amount of stevia you use will depend on what type of stevia you have. If it’s concentrated powder or liquid, you’ll only need a tiny bit. If it’s granulated, you can use a lot more because concentrated pure stevia is 8 times sweeter than granulated stevia. Those with FM will only be able to use concentrated stevia anyway, as granulated varieties contain fillers to increase their volume, such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which we cannot digest.
  • Some individuals with FM might be more sensitive to nuts and needs than others. If this applies to you, reduce the amounts. However, the amounts I have used should be pretty safe, especially when the recipe is divided into 24 servings.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Easy as Pie: Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconutty Crust (gluten free + fructose friendly)

I’m not an expert on people (as much as I like to think I am), and I’m certainly no expert at baking, but I do know two things:
1. People find making desserts intimidating, especially when a recipe involves several elements like a crust, layered fillings, a topping, sauce, etc., etc.
2. Desserts can be very time consuming; Ain’t nobody got a spare 6-hours floating around in their day to devote to souffle-perfecting or tempering chocolate.
The ultimate conclusion?
Desserts that look half appealing are a pain in the ass to make.
But I want to prove to you that they don’t always have to be…

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My chocolate, orange & almond tart might look a little fancy, but it couldn’t be simpler. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s idiot proof, but don’t quote me on that. The coconut crust only calls for a few basic ingredients, and the filling can be prepped in a couple of simple steps while the crust turns crust-like in the oven. Then, it’s just a matter of pouring the filling over the crust and throwing it in the fridge for a few hours ’til it’s set. All the preparation can be achieved in half an hour –give or take a few minutes– and the filling only takes 1-2 hours to set in the fridge. In fact, the closer to that 1-hour mark you eat it, the better it is because the crust and almonds will still be crispy. Because of the moisture in the fridge, these will soften more as time goes by. Still yummy, but the texture won’t be as good.

But first, a few notes…

People either love or hate coconut. The crust of this tart is 95% dried coconut and the filling is mostly coconut cream. So, if you’re not a HUGE coconut fan, please don’t bother making this recipe. That’s like asking me to enjoy sushi covered in wassabi; it doesn’t matter how amazing that sushi is, once wassabi touches it, it tastes like poison to me.

Secondly, as you would already be aware, I don’t usually include ingredients which contain added/refined sugar in my recipes. However, you will notice that this recipe uses dark chocolate which, of course, means sugar. My justification? Everything in… yep, you read it before I even said it: moderation. I used Lindt 80% as it only contains about 10g of sugar in the whole 100g block which, when distributed throughout the recipe, equates to less than a gram of sugar per serving from the chocolate which is a negligible amount.

Now, readers who don’t need to worry about fructose of FODMAPs are welcome to stop reading now, unless, of course, you’re interested in our awful intolerances.
In terms of  the fructose and FODMAP content, you will see that this recipe includes two known moderately fructan-containing ingredients in relatively large amounts: dried coconut and almonds. According to the guidelines of Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet, those on the strict plan should limit their intake of dried coconut to 1/4 cup per sitting, and almonds to about 10 per sitting. If this tart is divided into at least 10 segments (which is should be anyway), there is less than these amounts per servings. Individuals who aren’t on a diet as strict and who are trying to build up their tolerance should be able to tolerate more than these amounts anyway, providing their OVERALL FODMAP consumption isn’t already high that day, as it will add to the load/accumulation and could cause a reaction.

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Chocolate, Orange & Almond Tart with a Coconut Crust

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

Ingredients

Crust:

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

Filling:

  • 1 cup (100g) slithered almonds (can also use half almonds and half pecans), chopped roughly and toasted until golden brown
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup (250mL) full-fat coconut cream
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate (I used Lindt 80% because it only has around 10g sugar in the whole block. For dairy free, you could also use a vegan block such as Loving Earth)
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup
  • Orange oil (see notes for alternative)
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • Liquid stevia, to taste

To serve:

  • Fresh orange slices
  • Fresh Strawberries, sliced
  • Orange rind, finely grated

Method

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

Notes:

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

Happy Nourshing!
Ax

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Don’t serve this to Nonna: Turkey Spag Bowl (Low FODMAP, fructose friendly, GF + DF)

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. Why not, you might ask? Why wouldn’t I share some of the recipes I eat most often? The answer is pathetic, really: I’ve either been eating the meal for so long that the prospect of writing about it bores me to tears, or it’s dark at dinner time in mid-year Australia and ain’t nobody got the skills to photograph food under artificial lighting. Or at least I don’t…

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But it recently occurred to me that you guys couldn’t care less whether I post a recipe that I’ve been cooking for 2 years or 2 days. It’s going to be a new recipe for you regardless, right? Sometimes people just need REAL life food – hearty home style meals that can be whipped up for one, or for two, or for a whole family to enjoy.

You guys need dishes that are just as nutrish and delish as they are easy and cheap to make.

I’m also aware that my wonderful FM readers (love you) are desperately seeking fructose friendly and low FODMAP meals that don’t solely consist of steamed veg and a slab of meat. BOOO-RING. So from now on I plan to bombard you with options.
Here’s the first one: Turkey Spag Bowl.

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It’s no secret that the ole spag bowl gets a bad nutritional rap.
Especially when served at restaurants, the classic Italian recipe is heavy on the not-so healthy stuff like beef mince (often very fatty), oil and/or butter, salt, cheese, refined carbs (from pasta), and sometimes even cream. And aside from the tomatoes, it’s very light on veggies.
What’s more, if you’ve got fructose malabsorption, it’s completely out of bounds because a) it’s full of onion and garlic and b) you can’t eat wheat, so there goes the pasta.

I know it’s a staple for millions of people around the world, but I’ve never actually been a huge fan of traditional spaghetti bolognese. Truth be told, I’ve always found it a little boring. The flavours and textures are just too same-same for me. But, like most normal people, my parents and siblings love their spag bowl. Unfortunately for them, Mum stopped cooking it –along with many other family favourites– for a while when I first developed FM.

 Being the ever-accommodating and eager to please woman that she is, my fabulous mama came up with a spag bowl rendition that ticks all the boxes of Lincoln Dinner Criteria: it’s wholesome, nutritionally balanced, fructose free, FODMAP friendly, fills the boys up, and tastes GREAT! It has to be said that she’s becoming an expert at de-fructosing recipes, and her Turkey Spag Bowl is a testimony to this. On that note, I can’t wait to share her Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe with you soon!

No, this recipe doesn’t retain much of the traditional spaghetti bolognese’s integrity (hello turkey, veggies and brown rice spaghetti), and yes, a true Italian chef would probably spit it back out at me. But I don’t care. My aim in posting this recipe is to share with you a homestyle recipe that’s wholesome, hearty, cheap, easy, and fructose-friendly.
Just please don’t serve it to Nonna.

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Low FODMAP Turkey Spag Bowl

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1kg turkey mince
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup semi sun-dried tomatoes*, cut into halves or quarters
  • 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.)
  • 1.5 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large handful fresh basil, leaves torn
  • 8 spring onions, chopped (green part only for low FODMAP)
  • Oil of choice (I use garlic-infused for flavour, but coconut is one of the more stable oils)
  • Himalayan sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet brown rice noodles for gluten free, or spelt spaghetti (optional – see notes)
  • To serve: fresh basil leaves, shaved parmesan (optional, omit for dairy free/paleo)

Method

  1. Heat a generous splash of garlic-infused olive oil (or other chosen oil) in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Sautee all the fresh veggies and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring for around 7 minutes or until the veggies have softened. Remove veggies from pot and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Heat another splash of oil and add the turkey mince to the pot. Cook the mince until browned (around 8 minutes) and use a wooden spoon to break it up.
  4. Add the veggies to the pot along with the tomato paste, stock, basil and dried oregano. Season with Himalayan salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for a minimum of 40 minutes. If I have time, I leave it for an hour or longer. The longer you leave it (within reason – you don’t to overcook the meat!), the richer and thicker it will get and the deeper the flavour will be.
  5. Serve with one ladle’s worth of brown rice noodles or spelt spaghetti if using, and garnish with extra torn basil and shaved parmesan. For a paleo or lower carb version, use the bolognese to stuff into roasted eggplants (see recipe below).

Notes

  • You will notice this recipe uses quite a lot of tomato paste, which is where the dish gets a lot of its flavour. According to Dr. Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet guidelines, people on a strict low FODMAP diet shouldn’t exceed 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste in one sitting because although fresh tomatoes are safe, paste is concentrated. I’ve never had an issue with tomato paste, but some people might. Use less if you’re unsure of your tolerance, and add more fresh and dried herbs for flavour.

Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Eggplants

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants to serve 8 people, or 1/2 eggplant per person.
  • Turkey Bolognese recipe (above)
  • Fresh basil leaves, to serve
  • Shaved parmean, so serve (optional, omit for dairy free/paleo)
  • Oil of choice (I use coconut)
  • Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200’C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Use a fork to prick the eggplant/s several times. Place on prepared tray and lightly spray all over with 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 (about 1-1.5 cups per person would be a suitable portion).
  4. Cut the eggplant/s 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 Himalayan sea salt over the eggplant halves.
  5. Mix the chopped eggplant through the heated Turkey Bolognese. Spoon mixture into eggplant halves and sprinkle shaved parmesan over the top, if using. Return eggplants to the oven for 10 minutes, or until all heated through. Serve with fresh basil leaves, as pictured below.
Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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