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

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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Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice

IMG_3249I’m about as vegan as a lion. It’s not that I’m against –or even mildly skeptical about– the vegan diet, because I absolutely LOVE plant-based foods, whether they’re cooked or in their natural (raw) state. I have no doubt that humans are able to obtain sufficient nourishment from a solely plant-based diet, given enough variety. It’s just that, well, frankly, I bloody love meat. Full Stop.

An impassioned animal fanatic, I do my very best to only consume certified organic, and therefore more ethically produced, meat and animal products. My diet is predominantly paleolithic, not by conscious choice, but pure incidence. Without even realising it, I’d been following a largely Stone Age/Paleo/Hunter-Gatherer diet for a long time. My omnivorous diet suits my lifestyle perfectly, and I find that I’m most focused, energised and happiest when I’m dining like a caveman. It’s as simple as that. And it is for this simple reason I personally believe that the Paleo Diet is what homo sapiens are genetically designed to consume.

Like I said before, my diet is not entirely, but predominantly paleolithic. Although 95% of my diet consists of unprocessed meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, tree nuts and seeds, I do eat some foods that the cave-dwellers would have frothed over given the luxury. These include, but are not entirely limited to, oats, tempeh, the occasional slice of oat bread, some unrefined grains that I’m not already intolerant to (like quinoa and brown rice), peanuts, goats feta, Greek yoghurt, and small amounts of other minimally-processed dairy.

Eating meat and animal products is a personal choice I make, but it doesn’t mean that all my meals contain them. I love eating purely plant-based and raw dishes, and I aim to incorporate them into my diet every day. To be honest, my diet would undoubtedly contain a lot less animal-factor if I wasn’t intolerant to so many plant-based foods. As much as I love eating animal protein, I honestly adore veggies just as much. I’d have a lot more herbivorous days if my body could tolerate more protein-rich plant foods. But until then, I’ll listen to my fuss-pot gut and take chicken over chickpeas.

Since developing my intolerances, I’ve become increasingly sick of going to ‘health’ restaurants and vegan cafes and being intolerant to every single menu item. What’s more, the all-too-often standoffish and apathetic attitudes of hipster waiting staff doesn’t ease the frustration, either. It baffles me that they claim to be the most health-focused eateries going ’round, yet they’re totally unaware (or totally unconcerned) about Fructose Malabsorption or the booming demand for low FODMAP options. ‘Gluten free’ is on every menu you look at, even in third-world countries, yet the mention of fructose malabsorption leaves waiters and chefs with an expression that’s part puzzled, part constipated. I’ll show YOU constipated – just feed me an apple!

So, last Monday I got all vegan in spirit and was, incidentally, craving sweets. Since I can’t eat store-bought raw vegan sweets (they all either contain dates, dried fruit, honey, agave, or all of the above), I decided to make my own super nutritious raw vegan, refined-sugar free and fructose friendly dessert. At first, I was sure that I’d miss the gorgeous taste of Nature’s Caramel –dates–, since they’re an incredibly toothsome plant-based sugar alternative. But, after a bit of throwing various ingredients together and a whole lot of Hoping For The Best, I tasted my pièce de résistance, and BOOM…

The love child of strawberry and coconut was born. And oh my gosh, it is simply scrump-didili-umptious! 

My Coconut Cream and Strawberry Slice is one healthy dessert you can feed to even the most carnivorous, sugar-lovin’ beast and remain confident that they will NEVER know that it’s 100% healthy. Or Vegan. Or RAW! The truth is, it just tastes like it’s bad for you. My sister has asked me a few times, “are you sure this is good for me?”, and my boyfriend can’t stand nuts “unless they’re covered in (milk) chocolate” because they dry his mouth out (um, what?), but even he couldn’t get enough of it.

The base is so buttery and biscuity (without actually being buttery or biscuity) and the filling is dreamily creamy, velvety and sweet. Then there’s the delectable strawbs – the icing on the cake. Like all bona fide slices should, the whole thing just Melts in Your Mouth. Nanna would be so approving. Impressed, even.  It’s incredibly hard to believe that something that tastes like it belongs at a fete cake stall can be perfectly nourishing, vegan and 100% clean. Don’t believe me? I DARE you to try it…

My ultimate verdict? Raw vegans are certainly NOT missing out…

Now, because the slice does contain lots of tree nuts, seeds and dried coconut, my lovely fellow fructose malabsorbers must go easy on it – if you’re particularly sensitive to nuts, please stick to a small serving at a time. That said, some of you might be able to tolerate a lot of it. I’m somewhere in the middle. Still, I’d be willing to experience mild stomach upsets the following day in the name of this Godly Goody.

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Raw Vegan Coconut Cream & Strawberry Slice
Serves 6
To yield enough to fill a normal ‘slice’ dish, double the ingredients.

Ingredients (all nuts & seeds are natural & raw)

‘Biscuit’ Base:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (desiccated/shredded/flakes/chips)
  • 1 tbs LSA
  • 1/2 tbs each flax seeds, sunflower seeds & pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbs liquid coconut oil
  • 1 tbs pure organic maple syrup (NOTE: if you follow a strictly raw diet, simply substitute the maple syrup for a raw sweetener. Maple syrup is not considered a raw food, but I use it as its health benefits surpass any raw sweetener I could use).
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Liquid or powdered stevia, to taste

Coconut Cream filling:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut cream (I used light)
  • 1/3 cup dried coconut
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs pure organic maple syrup/raw sweetener
  • 5-7 of the most titillatingly tasty strawberries you can get your hands on, sliced, for topping
  • fresh mint leaves, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Line a container with baking paper. The container I used was approx. 16cm/16cm (quite small), but if you want to make enough to fill a proper ‘slice’ tray, double the ingredients.
  2. In a high powered food processor, process all dry ‘ biscuit base’ ingredients (except for the stevia) until a crumbly consistency has formed.
  3. Add the wet ingredients and whiz until it all comes together and is sticky. Taste. If you want it sweeter, gradually add small amounts of stevia until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the base of the lined container/tray and pop into the fridge or freezer while you make the filling.
  5. To make the cashew cream filling, process the cashews and coconut until a fine powder forms.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined. Spread the coconut cream filling over the biscuit base and allow to set in the fridge for a few hours.
  7. Just before serving, top the coconut cream with sliced strawbs, carefully cut into portions with a sharp knife, top with a few fresh mint leaves for that little extra colour pop, and DEVOUR!


Happy Nourishing!
Ax