Roasted Veggie Burgers (vegan option)

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As I sat on the train on my way into work this morning editing a photo of a scrumptious vegan burger and oohing and ahhing at its layer porn^^^^^, it occurred to me that I hadn’t uploaded a recipe in a while. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked when I saw that my last recipe post was May last year. Can someone please explain to me at which point I blinked and TEN MONTHS shot by?!

The only justification I can offer to myself is that 2016 was a heccaz year, in both insufferable (by first-world standards) and fabulous ways; My third and final year of Uni got a bit mental, and just as my motivation to study for anotherr year plummeted, my workload conveniently increased to a record high (as did the contemplation of my own existence).

Between lectures and assignment writing, I worked as many hours as possible as I saved my dollars like a mad woman, before jetting off and spending Euros with equal rigor in Italy and the Greek Isles when I should have been studying for my final exams. Sunset Aperol spritzers in Positano > 3am cramming in the Deakin Library any day…

Fortunately, I graduated last week and am officially a Nutritionist! Suffice to say there’s less Legally Blonde-style piffing of the hat with untameable excitement and pride, and more worry/future anxiety at this end. “Now the hell what…?

I’m sure none of you noticed that I (unintentionally) took a nine-month sabbatical from the blogosphere, but if anyone did, I’m sorry for being crappy and I’m officially back to providing you with unimportant ramblings and recipes again (until I take another sabbatical to explore Central & South America later in the year, that is. Not sorry at all).

So here’s my first recipe of 2017: Vegan Roasted Veggie Burgers – no patty, just layers of sweetly roasted veggies married with nature’s butter (avo) in a GF bun. These burgers are super fuss free and make for a perfect Friday-night-in dinner. I like to roast extra veggies to toss with salad, feta and seeds for lunch the next day.

Roasted Veggie Burgers (vegan option)

Serves 4.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into chip-like strips
  • 1/4 Kent/Jap pumpkin, cut in half width ways and sliced into 3mm-thick pieces
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 5mm-thick rounds
  • 1 large red capsicum, sliced into eighths
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta of choice (omit for vegan)
  • 1 cup baby spinach or salad leaves of choice
  • 1/4 cup each fresh basil and continental (flat leaf) parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Melted coconut oil
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 good quality gluten free buns
 Method
  1. Preheat oven to 200*C and line two large baking trays with baking paper
  2. Place sweet potato on one tray in one layer, ensuring the chips are not touching if possible.
  3. Place the pumpkin, eggplant and capsicum on the other tray. Drizzle veggies on both trays with oil of choice and sprinkle with dried oregano. Season with salt.
  4. Place the sweet potato in the top 1/3 of the oven and the other veggies on the tray below. Bake for 35-40 mins or until the sweet potato chips are golden and cooked through, and the other veggies are tender and starting to char on the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins.
  5. While the veggies are roasting, place the avocado flesh in a small bowl and mash it with a fork. Add the feta (if using) and lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and stir to combine.
  6. When ready to assemble the buns and serve, start with a large dollop of mashed avo on the bottom half of each bun, then laying the fresh spinach, roasted veggies, fresh herbs, an extra crumble of feta (if desired), a drizzle of olive oil and the top half of each bun. Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spelt & Chia Hot Cross Buns with Orange and Cranberries

Makes 9 buns.

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Info for the irritable

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

Other notes

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

SkinniMini lovin: Spring cleaning from the inside out

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It’s bizarrely warm in Melbourne at the moment, and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. A week and a half ago I was wearing five layers and downing chicken and vegetable soup like no tomorrow in the desperate bid to warm myself up, and now, just mere days later, I’m slurping on a green smoothie on my backyard lawn, building up an unfamiliar sweat in 34 degree heat. In my bathers. Bathers! At the beginning of October!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but I feel as though us Melbournians have earned the right to be cynical – our weather is as bipolar as it gets. We’ll probably be donning our warmest coats and wooliest socks in a few days’ time. Still, if bikini weather appears to be on its way (and apparently it’s already here, thanks for the bloody warning!), then I’m not taking any chances. It’s time to remove my body’s evidence of the Nutella doughnuts and sweet potato fries that were eaten in reckless abundance over Winter. And there’s no way to get back in shape but with honest nutrition and exercise. It’s the perfect time to give my bod a little Spring clean. More green smoothies, please!

 It’s impossible to commit to ice-cold green smoothies on winter mornings when your frosty body is screaming out for poachies and hot toast or banana-ry porridge, but now that the mornings are less nippy, I’m finding that I’m waking up craving them. One of the things I love most about the warmer months is that I can enjoy my greenies for brekky every morning and actually feel totally satisfied by them. I wanted to do a cleanse to whip my eating habits back into shape, give my digestive system the clean out it’s been crying out for, and to boost my energy levels before Uni exams next week. I thought a straight juice fast would be a bit too intense straight off the bat (I might do one in a few weeks after exams), so I decided to ease into it and commit to one nutrient-dense green smoothie every day until I started feeling the familiar benefits. I also came across SkinniMini, a fabulous 10-day super-cleanse formula, which I’ve been adding to my smoothies.

SkinniMini is designed to be a 10-day green smoothie super-cleanse formula, whereby you simply add 10g (about 2 tablespoons) to your daily green smoothie/smoothie bowl for 10 days. However, the ingredients are so pure and gorgeously healthy (hello chia seeds, psyllium husk, goji berry powder, ground flax seeds, maca powder, acai berry powder and spirulina) that you can use it indefinitely. Bursting with fibre, antioxidants, plant-based protein, minerals and essential vitamins, SkinniMini packs a nutritional punch and helps to boost energy levels, mood and immunity, cleans your digestive tract, strengthens hair, skin and nails and increases your fat burning potential. I’ve been using SkinniMini in my smoothies for 14 days straight now, and I’m honestly feeling great. I seem to be digesting food much easier with less tummy upsets, I’ve noticed that my night-time bloating has decreased significantly, my stomach is definitely a little leaner and flatter, my sugar cravings have eased off and I seem to be sleeping more restfully. Although you can’t actually taste the formula formula once it’s blended through the smoothie, the psyllium makes it go super smooth and thickens it up, and leaves you feeling full and super satisfied. I’m also really regular at the moment (apologies for the over-share, but for those of you who don’t always find it so easy to ‘go’, you will empathise with me here!), and I feel like my appetite has been much better regulated as a result.

SkinniMini is essentially everything-friendly, so it’s suitable for vegans, paleos and those with food intolerances/sensitivities (yup, it’s even IBS and FructMal friendly – hallelujah!). The thing I love most about this product is that it’s a wonderful combination of lots of different ingredients which I’d like to add to my smoothies all the time, but usually don’t have on hand. Buying all those ingredients individually can be very pricey, plus you’ve got the dilemma of knowing exactly how much of each you should be using to reap the benefits. And then there’s the time issue – who has the time to play around with 20 different ingredients from the fridge, freezer and pantry on a hectic weekday morning? I sure don’t. SkinniMini takes the steep cost, guesswork and effort out of making a smoothie that your body will seriously love you for, and I couldn’t recommend giving it a shot more!
The 10 Day Green Smoothie Super-Cleanse blend is available for purchase online at skinnimini.com.au, and they’re currently offering 10% off if you ‘like’ their Facebook page – get on it!

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Super Cleanse Green Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs SkinniMini Green Smoothie Super Cleanse formula
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 3 large handfuls of 2-3 different types of leafy greens (see notes)
  • 1 stick frozen celery
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbs chia seeds (for extra protein)

Method: In a high powered blender, blend all ingredients until thick and smooth, approximately 1.5 minutes. Drink immediately. Repeat each day for 10 days. 

Notes

  • It’s very important to mix up your greens every other day, as all leafy greens contain alkaloids which can pose negative health impacts if they accumulate too much. Try alternating between spinach, kale (make sure it’s not bitter!), Chinese broccoli/choy sum, silverbeet, beetroot leaves and cos lettuce to achieve diversity.
  • Make sure you drink your smoothie immediately, otherwise the chia seeds and psyllium will continue to rapidly absorb moisture and you’ll be left with an unpleasantly thick and gluggy smoothie.
  • To kickstart your metabolism and get an even more intense detox, drink a large glass of warm lemon water water (1/2 filtered cold water and 1/2 boiling water with the juice of 1/2 lemon) half an hour before your breakfast smoothie.
  • In addition to the banana, you can also add other fruits such as kiwi or berries. Lime juice and fresh mint make wonderful additions, too!

Happy Nourishing! 
Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

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

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

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

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

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

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

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

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

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

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

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • ½ roasted chicken (free range and organic if possible), shredded
  • ½ medium Jap/Kent pumpkin (approx 2kg), peeled and cut into even 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup (130g) macadamias, halved
  • 2 tbs + 3 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1½ tbs melted coconut oil
  • 200g leafy salad mix of choice
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet strawberries (200g), sliced
  • ½ cup spring onion (40g), chopped (green part only)
  • ¼ cup (35g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 100g goats curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for vegan)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to dress
  • Balsamic vinegar, to dress (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a small bowl, coat the macadamias with 3 tsp of the maple syrup. Pour onto the tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 200*C and line two trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin  with the remaining maple syrup, melted coconut oil, dried oregano and salt.
  3. Divide the pumpkin between the two lined trays and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through and adding the pepitas to the top tray for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Depending on your oven, you may also want to swap the trays half way through to ensure even cooking. This salad works best when the veggies are a little on the ‘under’ side – quite soft in the middle and caramelised and chewy around the edges. Don’t let them crisp up too much as the delicious gooey maple will dry out!
  4. In the meantime, arrange the salad leaves in a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle with EVOO and top with spring onions, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, shredded chicken, feta, maple macadamias and pepitas. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for those who want a little more acidity – a tiny drizzle goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta! 

Ax

Photo: Maple pumpkin, chicken & strawberry salad

 

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

Hey YOU!
If you made this recipe prior to 2018, you may notice it’s a little different now. I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research over the last few years (thanks to findings and publications by a bunch of mega brainy gut experts), and I’ve recently decided to join the glutard (AKA gluten free) crusade. As such, this recipe is now gluten free. It’s still FODMAP friendly, low in fructose and tastes the same as before, but calls for gut-friendlier alternatives to the gluten. Your belly will thank you for it, and I hope your tastebuds still do, too! Ax

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

If one of your most nostalgic and all-time favourite snacks isn’t banana bread, then who are you?

I wish I could say that I was an active child and that playing a plethora of sports was part of my afternoon routine as a primary schooler, but the truth is that I was never fond of anything that involved physically moving for the sake of it. All I wanted to do was write stories, read books and teenage magazines (the latter of which I was at least seven years too young for and would secretly buy despite my Mum’s efforts to shield me from sealed sections), listen to my Discman (So Fresh FTW), and attend Spy Club meetings and missions with Mitch, my Top Secret Agent partner, neighbour, and childhood bestie.

But before any of the above, my afternoon snack ritual took place. I’d barge through the front door at 3:45pm, throw four slices of Brumby’s banana bread in the toaster before I’d even put my bag down, then smother them with so much butter and honey that it would all run down my chin and forearms as I took each bite. Portion control wasn’t one of my strong suits as a prepubescent.

I calmed down on the banana bread front as I got a bit older and realised that banana “bread” is technically cake (AKA a treat) and not something I should be eating daily, let alone a quarter of a loaf in one sitting. But my love for this perfectly sugary, buttery, banana-ry American classic remains.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread Photo: Bangin' banana bread

My healthified banana bread might not taste exactly like the sugar laden and mega fluffy (thanks to all the refined flour) one we grew up with, but I can confidently –or borderline smugly– say that it’s still pretty good. Being gluten and grain free, low in FODMAPs, fructose friendly and relatively low in sugar, I love knowing that I can eat it errrrrrry day of the week. It’s also high in fibre, healthy fats, complete proteins, a range of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties that your gut, body and brain will thank you for.

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

 

Bangin’ Banana Bread (low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, grain free)

Makes 12-15 slices

FODMAP friendly serving size: one slice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed (450g) overripe banana (approx. 4 medium bananas – see FODMAP notes below), plus one medium firm banana cut lengthways, for topping
  • 3 large organic free range eggs (approx 65g each), lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup (50g) coconut oil, melted
  • 4 tbs (70g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbs (17g) pure vanilla extract
  • 120g tapioca starch
  • 95g buckwheat flour (brown rice flour would work too)
  • ½ cup (30g) unsweetened shredded coconut (halve this amount if you want the coconut to be less pronounced)
  • ¾ cup (80g) pecans, roughly chopped, plus extra for topping
  • ½ cup (50g) almond meal (see FODMAP notes below)
  • 4 tbs (40g) chia seeds
  • 1 tsp (3g) baking powder (no aluminium added)
  • 2 tsp (6g) baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 2 tsp (6g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp (1g) ground cardamom
  • 2 generous pinches Himalayan sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160*C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is approximately 29cm x 10.5cm.
  2. In one bowl, combine the mashed banana, beaten eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, tapioca starch, shredded coconut, chia seeds, almond meal, spices and salt. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it. Gently fold until just fully combined. Be very careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf tin. Top with halved banana, pecans, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 55 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with slightly damp crumbs on it (don’t wait until the skewer comes out completely dry because the loaf will be too dry once it cools). I took mine out at the one hour mark because I like my banana bread to be on the moister side, but if you want it a little drier, leave it in for longer. Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and loaf tin. If the top begins to brown too much while cooking, cover with some foil.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or slice it up and freeze for up to one month.
  6. Serve fresh on its own, or toasted with organic salted butter, nut butter, or fresh berries. For something a little more indulgent, serve toasted with organic butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of dark choc chips.

Info for the irritable

  • Although overripe bananas contain excess fructose, half a medium ripe banana (approx. 56g) is considered safe. When this loaf is divided into at least 12 slices, each slice contains less than 47g of banana (37g if you don’t use the banana on top), and is thus considered low in fructose.
  • Both the polyol content from the coconut (in the form of sorbitol), and the galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) in the almond meal, are considered to be very low and safe when only one slice is consumed in a single sitting.

Other notes

  • Can’t find buckwheat flour at your local store? You can use buckwheat grouts instead! Simply process them on high speed for one minute or until a fine flour is formed
  • I love to add dark choc chips to this recipe if I’m entertaining or taking it to a bring-a-plate night

Photo: Bangin' banana bread

Spice up your low FODMAP life: healthified Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

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WARNING: do NOT pick your nose within 12 hours of trying this recipe. You’ll regret it. And don’t let curiosity do you in now that I’ve warned you, either. I’ve already told you, you’ll regret it. 

I’m feeling seriously proud right now, like pride-bordering-on-undiluted-arrogance proud. I’ve recreated one of my favourite dishes of all time, one which I thought I’d never be able to eat again, and I’ve made it FODMAP friendly.
Oh, curry laksa…

According to Wikipedia, laksa is a spicy noodle soup which comes from the Peranakan culture, a fusion of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Curry laksa (or just ‘laksa’, as we know it) uses coconut milk in addition to stock to give it a beautiful curry-like richness. Before I became as health-conscious as I am today, I was a regular at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, where a lovely Malay man makes the best laksa in the world (huge call, I know, but I’ve never had better). That little man’s aromatic bowl of laksa heaven is still one of the most mouthgasm-inducing things I’ve ever experienced. I’m seriously salivating just thinking about it as I write this, and I only just ate lunch.IMG_1765IMG_1767

These days, I steer clear of laksa and store-bought laksa pastes for a few reasons:

  1. Fact: all laksas are full of onion and garlic. Brown/Spanish (purple) onion and garlic are two of the main components of any curry paste, especially laksa paste. The abundance of onion in these pastes makes them totally intolerable for people with fructose malabsorption. In addition, the curry soup typically contains stock, and nearly all stocks are made with onion and garlic.
  2. Restaurant and hawker-style laksas often contain substantial amount of added sugar.
  3. Traditional laksas served at restaurants are covered in fried shallots, which are both unhealthy and high FODMAP.
  4. Store-bought laksa pastes are full of nutritionless crap: refined sugar, vegetable oil and/or palm oil, salt, artificial flavours, preservatives, thickeners, stabilisers, and other nasty fillers.

Healthifying and low FODMAP-ifying (how’s that for good English?) curry laksa was easier, but more time consuming than I expected. It was a fun challenge swapping typical ingredients for healthier and “safe” ones, but I found myself in the kitchen for many more hours than I care to admit. Don’t let that put you off though; writing recipes is a far more arduous task than following them, especially when you’re the world’s biggest procrastinator, re-thinking every milligram and milliliter of each ingredient, wondering if and how each element will work and at which point it should be added. It’ll take you a quarter of the time it took me. IMG_1771IMG_1764

The key to getting Asian flavours right is finding the perfect balance between its three distinct taste components: spicy (mostly chilli), sweet (usually palm sugar or brown sugar) and salty (fish sauce and salt).
You need sweetness to soften the blow of that spice, and salt to enhance the flavour of each ingredient. Too much or too little of any one component and you’ve got a disaster. To create a healthy, low FODMAP version of curry laksa soup, I used spring onion (the green part) instead of regular onion to form the base of my paste, and garlic-infused olive oil to replace both the vegetable oil and fresh garlic that all traditional laksas call for. I used a little coconut sugar instead of brown sugar to get the sweetness balance right, and added lots of vibrant veggies to up the nutritional value of the meal. Admittedly, I did use a little fish sauce –which contains added sugar and salt– because it’s hard to achieve an authentic quality without it. In the scheme of the recipe, the amount used is minuscule, so that’s how I justify its use. Always opt for good quality fish sauce with as least sugar as possible.

The recipe does call for rice noodles, and while I rarely eat refined rice products, I’m willing to make an exception in the name of Curry Laksa. Don’t get me wrong, rice noodles aren’t at all terrible for you, but they’re just not particularly good for your health, either. They’re one of those “empty” calorie foods, meaning they don’t provide anywhere near the amount of nutritional value as they do calories. The great thing about rice noodles (such as vermicelli or pad thai noodles) is that a little goes a long way. Unlike traditional laksas which are comprised primarily of noodles (either rice or egg noodles), you only need a very small portion of noodles in my recipe because it’s so packed with other nutrient-dense foods which will fill your belly up. Remember that balance is everything when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle; moderation is key. So when you do really want rice noodles, have them! Just don’t make them the main component of your meal. Pack your dish with veggies and quality protein, and you’ll find yourself only needing a tiny amount of the not-so-good stuff.IMG_1766 IMG_1768 IMG_1772

In terms of cost, the below looks like a hell of a lot of ingredients. I already had most of the items at home, such as the spices, coconut milk, coconut sugar, cashews and fresh ginger, because they’re staple ingredients in my kitchen. My family and I recently started a big veggie patch, so I was super excited to use our own homegrown –and as organic as it gets– cucumber, beans, spring onion, coriander and mint for this recipe. Needless to say, a mega expensive Woolies trip wasn’t necessary.

If you don’t have at least half of the below items at home, you could be looking at one nasty supermarket receipt. So, while I highly recommend using all the below ingredients to achieve beautiful depth of flavour and a laksa that actually tastes like laksa (not to mention the nutritional benefits the ingredients deliver), you might need to cater the shopping list to your budget. If there’s one thing you buy, it should be the spices. Spices are my secret weapon – I never make a meal without them. Not only do they contain potent antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties, packing a variety of spices into your meals will give your skin a radiance no moisturiser can buy, and you’ll notice your immune system picking up. What’s more, one $3 jar will last you from months to even years, so an A-Z range of spices is a totally justifiable investment. Another recommendation I can make is growing your own fresh herbs. You don’t need a large veggie patch or even a garden bed to grow them. All you need is a few pots, soil and an area that is well sun-lit. It’s cheaper than buying a bunch of herbs every time you need them, and there’s something so gratifying about making meals out of your own organically grown produce. Not to mention they taste better!IMG_1760

My Low FODMAP Laksa Paste
(makes approx 1.5 cups)

Ingredients:

1 large bunch spring onion (green part only), chopped
2 tbs chopped FRESH ginger
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, chopped (only use the bottom thirds – that’s where all the flavour is!)
2 birds eye chillies (birds eye chillies are the small ones and they’re HOT. If you prefer milder dishes, only use one)
1/3 cup cashews (if you’re particularly sensitive to cashews, use peanuts instead)
Roots from 1 bunch coriander, chopped (reserve leaves for serving laksa)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (READ the ingredients! The more shrimp, the better. I used ‘Trachang’ brand from Woolies)**
1.5 tsp each ground turmeric, ground coriander & ground cumin
1/2 tsp each ground cardamom & sweet paprika
3 cloves
1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), plus extra

Method:

Add all ingredients to a high-powered food processor. Blend until a paste forms, scraping the sides of the bowl down with a spatula as needed. If the mixture is not coming together properly, add tiny amounts of garlic-infused EVOO until a paste forms. Transfer to a jar or small airtight container and cover with 2 tbs EVOO to seal in flavour. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for a few months.
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Low FODMAP Chicken & Prawn Curry Laksa

Serves 8
Dietary Info: Wheat free, dairy free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP. Contains nuts.

Ingredients:

1 cup of my low FODMAP laksa paste (if you’re using a pre-made laksa paste, you’ll probably still need 1 cup)
300g rice noodles (I used pad thai stick noodles because I love the width and texture. You could also use rice vermicelli)
2x 400g cans coconut milk (I use organic and full fat)
1L chicken stock*
600g green (uncooked) prawns, tails left on**
1.2kg skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks**
2 punnets (400g) cherry tomatoes, halved
350g green beans, ends chopped
1 very large capsicum, or 2 small, sliced into strips
juice of 1 lime
2 tbs coconut sugar
1/8 cup fish sauce (a variety that’s low in added sugar & salt, if possible)**
1 large handful fresh coriander leaves, to serve
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, to serve
1 cucumber, sliced into thin sticks, to serve
2 cups bean sprouts, to serve
coconut oil

Method:
  1. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a little coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the paste for 5 minutes, or until it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut sugar and fish sauce. Fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Season with lime juice.
  5. Add the chicken, capsicum and tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through.
  6. Add the prawns and beans, and cook for 3 minutes or until the prawns are just opaque and the beans are slightly tender but still crisp. Remove from heat. The prawns will continue to cook in the heat of the soup.
  7. Divide noodles among bowls. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve chicken, prawns and vegetables from the soup and divide evenly among bowls. Spoon desired amount of soup over the top. Serve with fresh cucumber sticks, coriander, bean sprouts and mint.

* Unless I’m making my own onion-free stock, I always use Massel’s chicken or beef stock cubes. They’re the only onion and garlic free stock I’ve come across, and although they’re not totally clean, they used in sparing amounts and they sure make life easier for those with sensitivities to onion and garlic. The packet recommends that you use one stock cube for each cup of water, but I like to roughly halve this to minimise the sodium levels, depending on what I’m making. I believe the Massel’s vegetable cubes still contain garlic, hence why I only use chicken or beef.
** For a vegetarian or vegan version, simply omit the shrimp paste from the paste recipe, and omit the prawns, chicken, chicken stock and fish sauce from the soup. Use organic firm tofu (you may want to cook it first, then add it for a few mins toward the end to soak up flavours), vegetable stock and season with Himalayan sea salt to make up for the fish sauce.

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Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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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