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 wholesome 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 few days.

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 goats or Persian feta (omit for vegan version)
  • 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
  • Coconut (melted) oil or olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 4 wheat free/low gluten buns of choice
 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. Stir to combine.
  6. When ready to serve, start with a large dollop of mashed avo and baby spinach/salad leaves on the bottom half of each bun, then top with the veggies, fresh herbs, an extra crumble of feta (if desired), a drizzle of olive oil and the top half of each bun. Enjoy!

Jolly Christmas Cheer and the Ultimate Summer Salad: Maple-roasted Pumpkin & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

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Synonymous with all things indulgent, the Silly Season is a time for feeding the soul…

We find ourselves kicking back more, getting outdoors more and filling our social calendars with BBQs, parties and beachside gatherings. Any excuse to get together with friends and family over beautiful food and one too many drinks will do.
So yes, between all the Christmas, New Year and summertime (for us Aussies) festivities, it’s almost impossible to stay as disciplined with your diet as you normally would. It feels like you’re perpetually surrounded by a sea of lip-smacking food, and it somehow seems more justified to pick at anything and everything just because “it’s the festive season!”.

The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself.
I choose to look at it this way: if you can’t loosen up and treat yourself at this time of year, then when the hell can you?! That pretty pavlova wasn’t just put there to take photos of. You are supposed to enjoy this time of year and everything it has to offer. With that said, while I might loosen my belt (literally) and pick at more desserts, cheese boards and processed snacks than I usually would, this doesn’t mean that all my other healthful habits go down the drain. I certainly don’t want to miss out on yummy food, but I also know that going totally overboard will leave me with nothing but a heavy guilty conscience and five extra kilos. As with any time of year, maintaining balance is important. Some things I do to achieve this balance include staying hydrated at all times, opting for vodka, lime and soda over sugar alcoholic drinks, filling up on veggies and quality protein at meals so that I don’t have a bottomless pit when it comes to dessert, chewing my food slowly so I enjoy each mouthful, drinking green smoothies each day to leave less room for unhealthy and processed snacks, taking long walks and swimming whenever I can. I try to be as mindful as possible, while enjoying myself all the while.

It’s easy(ish) to stay in control of what goes into your mouth when you’re at home, but not so much when your plate is at the hands of someone else – you naturally feel pressured to eat everything that’s being served up to you, and unless your family and friends are squeaky clean raw vegans (which mine certainly are not), chances are you’re going to be faced with an array of not-so-healthy temptations. To combat this, I make a big, bright salad like this one whenever I’m asked to bring a plate of food to a gathering, so there’s always something delicious and healthy for me to fill up on and I won’t be as likely devour my weight’s worth of double brie, cabana and cheesecake.

This Maple-roasted Pumpkin and Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Macadamias is fab – I can’t wait to share it with you. But first, here are some snaps from Chrissy Day, all taken on my iPhone because although Santa very generously gave me a Canon EOS 700D SLR so I can start doing real food photography, I’m not quite ready to move from the comfort zone of my iPhone 5 just yet.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I had a ball preparing festive treats all day (and night) long on Christmas Eve…

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I first made this salad around two months ago, and it’s already become my go-to staple of the season. It’s simple and has enough substance to serve to your family any day of the week, but it’s also a little fancy, making it the perfect dish for entertaining. Casual indulgence, if you like. Donning just the right amounts of sweet, sour and savoury, this salad will have your taste buds singing and your belly satisfied. Like any salad, this recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to play around with it. If you’re after a vegetarian dish or light side salad, simply leave the chicken out. This salad is wonderful when the roasted veggies and chicken are warm, however, it’s just as delicious cold, so don’t worry about being meticulous with timing everything. Leftovers make for a perfect lunch the next day!

Full bellies and happy hearts all round…

Maple-roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Caramelised Macadamias

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roast chicken, skin removed & flesh shredded (omit for vegetarian)
  • 1/4 Jap/Kent pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato (approx. 700g), washed, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1/2 cup macadamias, chopped roughly into halves
  • 2 tbs + 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbs oil (olive, coconut or macadamia)
  • 200g baby leaf salad mix
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 punnet (approx. 200g) strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup spring onion, chopped (green part only)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tbs pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Small handful each fresh basil and parsley (flat-leaf), roughly chopped
  • 100g goat’s curd or Danish feta, to serve (omit for dairy free)
  • EVOO, to serve
  • Balsamic vinegar, to serve (optional)
  • Himalayan 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 2 tsp maple syrup. Pour onto the baking paper and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove and set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
  2. Turn the oven up to 200*C and line a tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, coat the pumpkin and sweet potato chunks with 2 tbs maple syrup, 1.5 tbs olive oil, oregano and salt. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning half way through. For the last 5 minutes of baking, add the pepitas to the tray. As always, cooking times will vary from oven to oven and depending on the size you’ve cut your veg. Use my photos as a reference to determine if the veggies are ‘done’ or not. 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 caremelisation will dry out!
  3. While the veggies are roasting, arrange the salad leaves in a servings bowl or platter. Drizzle leaves with a little olive oil and a small amount of balsamic vinegar, if using (the balsamic goes perfectly with the strawberries and feta, but be sure to only use a tiny bit otherwise the salad will be too sweet!).
  4. When the veggies are ready, top the salad mix with the spring onion, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, roasted veg, chicken, feta, macadamias and pepitas. Just before servings, finish with a tiny sprinkle of EVOO. Enjoy!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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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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Fragrant Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

imageIMG_3636 IMG_3787Last Saturday was my favourite kind of Saturday; the air smelt like Summer and I spent the day walking my pup in the sunshine, wandering around Prahran Market and cooking.

Prahran market is any health foodie’s bliss, and its location — being just off the hustle and bustle of fashion heaven Chapel Street –makes it even more blissful for those who love fashion and food. I was in my element. I won’t lie, this market isn’t cheap. But, then again, it’s only expensive relative to supermarket produce that’s mass-produced and often genetically modified, and is laden with preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Like many local markets, most of the produce at Prahran Market is organic, seasonal and farmed locally. Basically, you get what you pay for. Not only is organic produce free of all the nasty stuff, but it’s also far richer in the good stuff – organic fruit and veg provides far more vitamins, minerals and nutritional antioxidants because it’s grown in nutrient-rich soil and is harvested with care. It’s also for this reason that organic food looks more vibrant and tastes better. I believe wholeheartedly that your health is the best investment you can make, monetarily and otherwise. People often complain that organic and ‘health’ foods are unjustifiably expensive, but I personally look at it this way: it’s more worthwhile to spend money on nourishing the body I’m going to have until I die, rather than a dress I’m going to wear once or twice. That’s not to say I don’t put money into both. One is just more justifiable than the other…

I managed to fill the boot of my car with a whole heap of gorgeous organic goodies such purple carrots, wild baby carrots, sweet potato, a Woodfrog Bakery baguette, Loving Earth coconut sugar, pumpkin seed butter and quinoa, just to name a few. I even bought a bunch of these exquisite wild tulips which, as the proud cashier announced, were not grown hydroponically (in a water solution), but in real soil. How incredibly naive of me for assuming that all flowers are grown in the grounds of pretty meadows all these years…

When I got home, my mum asked what on earth I was going to do with it all, as she usually does. I decided to whip up a big quinoa dish to get me through the next week’s lunches. None of it made it past dinner – the entire thing got demolished by my family before I could get my tuppaware containers out of the cupboard.

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Fragrant Roasted Veggie + Quinoa Salad

Serves 5-6
Dietary info: wheat & gluten free, fructose friendly, low FODMAP, soy free. Contains nuts (almonds) & lactose (omit feta for dairy free).

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, washed & peeled
  • 1/2 kent/jap pumpkin, washed & peeled
  • 1 large purple carrot (optional)
  • 2 cups white quinoa, rinsed thoroughly* (I often cheat and use two packets of Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander
  • 1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala (Indian spice mix – available from supermarkets & spice markets)
  • Pinch sweet paprika
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO
  • 1/2 cup Danish or Persian Feta, crumbled

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C.
  2. Combine the ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and garam masala.
  3. Chop pumpkin into 2cm chunks and sweet potato and carrot (if using) into 1cm chunks. The pumpkin is softer and therefore cooks twice as fast as sweet potato & carrot, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than fiddle with varied cooking times, so I just cut the pumpkin twice as large as the sweet potato & carrot.
  4. Throw pumpkin, sweet potato & carrot in  a large bowl with the garlic olive oil and 1/2 tbs of the EVOO (the rest will be used for the dressing). Use your hands to ensure that the veggies are evenly coated with the oil.
  5. Arrange veggies on a baking/roasting dish and sprinkle with half of the prepared spice mix. Also sprinkle with a little Himalayan salt.
  6. Bake veggies for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn to expose the less-cooked sides. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and some more paprika and salt if you wish. Return to the oven until they’re golden and cooked through – another 15-20 mins should do it. If they’re still a little under done, cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Cooking times will vary from oven to oven, and also depending on the size of the veggies.
  7. While the veggies are roasting, place the quinoa and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then turn right down and cover with a lid. Leave for 15 minutes to allow the grains to absorb the liquid. Once ready, use a fork to fluff it up and separate the grains. If you’re using Celebrate Health Lemon & Thyme Quinoa or another packaged recipe base, prepare the quinoa according to packet instructions, using stock instead if it calls for water. The quinoa is ready when its germ is exposed (a white little ring around the grain will appear). It should be soft but still have some resistance when chewed – sort of like the ‘al dente’ quinoa version of pasta! It should not be cluggy or porridge-like, but if it is, don’t bother starting from scratch – it’ll still taste good!
  8. In a large salad bowl, combine the quinoa, lemon juice (to taste), remaining EVOO, baby spinach, chives and coriander. At this stage, I threw in more of the spices to taste to make the quinoa itself more fragrant and flavourful. Top the quinoa with the roasted veggies, toasted almonds, feta and extra coriander. Finish with a little drizzle of EVOO and a squeeze of lemon juice. If I have some on hand at the time, I also love to top the salad with some of my Mum’s homegrown and home-pickled beetroot chunks. Since it’s full of sugar and not exactly clean, I only use a few tablespoons of it, but the sweetness really ties everything together and makes the flavours pop. Besides, I’ve never been able to pass up a beetroot and feta combo, anyway.

*Always rinse plain uncooked quinoa thoroughly prior to cooking, or you might end up with a very unpleasantly bitter result!

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

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Dukkah-Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Goat’s Curd Pizza

There’s a hell of a lot to be said for the modest homemade pizza, especially when it’s healthy.

Healthified pizzas make marvellous lunches and dinners because while they require such little effort, they totally max on taste. All you need is a preheated oven, a healthy wrap for your base and whatever’s-in-the-fridge for toppings.  I can’t remember the last time I used a wrap to make an actual wrap for lunch – why settle for cold wraps and tired salads when you can get all those nutrients and a whole lot more deliciousness from a pizza?

For some peculiar reason, I always crave pizza when I’m tired and run-down, which is strange because I only started liking pizza after I decided it was unhealthy and that I shouldn’t have it, and even more so now that I can’t have it (another reason to love/hate my intolerance). You always want what you can’t have.

Anyway, yesterday I was really craving pizza. Not the healthy kind, either – the oil-dripping, cheese pervaded, processed-plastic pepperoni kind. Incidentally, I was also craving roasted veggies, dukkah and goat’s feta (as I so often do these days – I’m convinced that I’m addicted to this combo. Sorry, vegans!). Just 10 minutes after finishing the last mouthful of my breakfast omelette, I found myself dreaming of an in-my-mouth orgy between crispy carbs, roast pumpkin, sweet potato and goat’s curd.  I would clearly have to wait a few hours before the Gala de Pizzeria could commence. Damn.

So, like all food-infatuated creatures, I planned my wonderful little lunch-to-be to a T, preheating the oven and prepping my veggies and all the other trimmings three hours before I even needed them. Needless to say, the result was oh-so satisfying. I’m salivating as I write this just thinking about it. The only regret I have is cutting the pizza in half and giving my Mum the larger piece before I’d even tasted it. I foolishly underestimated how good it would be. Next time, there will be absolutely no sharing. And by next time, I mean most likely tomorrow.

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Dukkah-Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Goat’s Curd Pizza

Serves 1 large meal, or 2 light meals

Ingredients:

  • 1 HEALTHY wrap for the base:
    * I always use the Old Time Bakery’s ‘Certified Organic Gluten Free Wraps‘ because they’re made purely from wholesome stuff, contain no nasty additives or fillers and are 100% allergy/intolerance friendly. They’re also super high in protein, fibre and relatively low in carbs. They’re not so great on their own, but they make a perfect base for tasty toppings!
    *  If you can tolerate wheat and gluten, opt for HEALTHY wraps such as wholemeal lebanese pita. BUT be sure to READ those ingredients lists, because I’ve found that even some ‘organic’ wrap brands pump their wraps with refined flour and even apple juice for taste, and can contain up to 70-80g of simple carbohydrates in one measly serving!
  • Pumpkin, cut roughly into large slices, 3mm thick (enough slices to cover the base)
  • Sweet potato, peeled and diced (around 1/2 cup)
  • 1-2 tbs Egyptian dukkah (plus extra, to serve)
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 2 tbs fresh basil leaves, torn (plus extra, to serve)
  • 2 tbs fresh chives, chopped (plus extra, to serve)
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs (or dried oregano)
  • 2 tbs pine nuts
  • 1 tsp low-sodium tomato paste
  • Goat’s feta/curd, to serve
  • Fresh roquette, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200*C for 10 mins.
  2. Place the pumpkin and sweet potato on a lined baking tray. Spray or brush veggies lightly with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and evenly sprinkle over 1/2 the dukkah and mixed herbs. Roast in oven until veggies start to brown at the edges (approx 20 mins). Remove from oven, turn over veggies and sprinkle with remaining dukkah and mixed herbs. Return to oven and bake until other side appears cooked, 5-10 mins. Remove and transfer veggies to a plate. Keep oven on.
  3. In the meantime, spread tomato paste over pizza ‘base’ and top with spinach and basil leaves. Once veggies are out, place the pizza base on the same tray the veggies were on (a hot tray ensures a crispy pizza base) and put the pine nuts on the tray next to the base. Bake in the oven for 10 mins or until the base is hot and crispy and the pine nuts are lightly browned and toasted. Remove from the oven.
  4. Top the base with roast pumpkin, sweet potato, fresh chives, goat’s curd and toasted pine nuts. Finish with some fresh roquette and an extra sprinkle of dukkah. Serve immediately and RELISH in the goodness.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax

Dukkah & Maple Sweet Potato Chippies

There’s definitely an art to finding the positives in otherwise negative situations, and it often involves being a brilliant liar – to yourself. When you’re a soulfoodie with fructose malabsorption like me, the only way to not let it shatter your spirit entirely is to convince yourself that sometimes you’re better off with it. Of course, the effectiveness of this self-deception varies greatly each time. My own little Silver Lingings Playbook comes into play (successfully), for instance, at every celebratory occasion where food is involved: I’m genuinely thankful that my intolerance steers me away from calorific finger food and menu temptations like cakes, pastries, creamy pastas, pizza and deep-fried foods, because it means that I no longer have to rely on willpower alone to dodge them. Another positive which accompanies being intolerant to so many different and seemingly unrelated foods (like honey and lentils, for example) is that those around me don’t even think twice anymore when I turn unhealthy foods down. Now, I can comfortably decline greasy shared entrees and the fatal table centrepiece (the God-Damned Bread Basket), because everyone just assumes I’m intolerant to whatever I say no to. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it makes for a bloody good excuse.

While before I felt obliged to eat “just a slither” of each and every birthday cake I encountered (that adds up to be a shit-load of birthday cake) as a means of Going With The Flow and avoiding all the irritated looks, rolling eyes and occasional “anorexic” taunts, my notorious intolerance now means that I escape the Fat Trap absolutely scott-free. Hosts would be rightfully offended if I turned down their Beef Wellington or Apple Crumble Pie that they’d slaved away at on the pure basis of them being nutritionless, but my intolerance gives me the power to say, “Oh I’d love to, but I’m intolerant”. Then, instead of a mutual guilt-trip, I’m smothered with sympathy and, more often than not, offered healthier alternatives. It’s great, really…

So yes, admittedly, I am guilty of playing on my intolerances just a little bit. Or a lot, depending on what’s on offer. When Cake Time rolls around at family and social get-togethers, I can almost bet my bottom dollar that I’ll hear at least one person exclaim:

“Oh, it’s such a shame/just awful/sooo shitty that you make all these cakes and you can’t even eat them yourself, you poor thing!” And with that, a sea of synchronised, pitying nods and compassionate murmurs will follow. I’ll just smile and shrug it off casually, and I might even ponder the sadness of it all for a moment or two. Then I snap out of it and remember that I avoided all those foods way before I developed intolerances to them, anyway. I know how instantly the biscuit base of that cheesecake Melts in Your Mouth. I’m well aware of how delectable the chocolate cream cheese frosting atop that caramel mudcake is. Yes, the smell of Sticky Date Pudding does make my mouth water. We’re all human here. The truth is, at the end of the celebration when others are balls-deep in Carb Coma, this “poor little thing” ain’t so poor, because none of that delicious junk is going to my trunk. Muuuahahahahaha.

Of course, I’m exaggerating here. It’s not all doom and gloom for my tastebuds: since I only have intolerances, not anaphylaxis, I can still afford to taste dangerously delectable offerings without developing any horrid symptoms, let alone dying. I just have to know my limits – one spoonful of cake is enough for me.

So, I guess fructose malabsorption has its pros when I’m faced with unhealthy foods that I’d feel obliged to eat otherwise. Being intolerant to a lot of refined and processed crap doesn’t bother me at all, because it gives me yet another reason as to why I must avoid it. However, fructose malabsorption doesn’t restrict me from just the bad stuff. In fact, there are so many perfectly healthy foods that I’ve loved all my life, but am either partially or totally intolerant to. I won’t sugar-coat it: dining out at my old favourite restaurants is now downright depressing. It’s very hard to be intolerant to flavoursome staple foods like onion and garlic, because they’re in all pre-made bases, marinades, sauces, soup stocks and dressings. The fact that I can’t eat legumes, beans or chickpeas restricts me from many ‘healthy’ menu options, and I can’t enjoy sweet treats at organic eateries as they’re all sweetened with agave or honey. People are just baffled when I tell them I could eat an entire deep fryer’s yield of Maccas French Fries, but I can’t have more than one floret of broccoli in a sitting. When I speak to other fellow FructMal victims, they’ll often say that they just order a bowl of chips when dining out because they’re either too embarrassed or can’t be bothered talking to the chef about other possibilities. I obviously have an issue with this, but I bite my tongue. Eight times out of ten, chefs are more than accommodating.

Still, I’m elated to announce that I’m not as sensitive to all these things as I was five months ago, and that my digestive system is slowly recovering. In March, I couldn’t let a trace of garlic, sweet potato or nuts pass my lips without appearing pregnant with triplets and being bed-ridden for the whole next day. I’ve recently reintroduced things like nuts, some rye, broccoli and sweet potato (I can now eat 1/4 cup at a time!), and I can even eat dishes with small amounts of cooked garlic, too. Hellllllo, tandoori prawns! I still can’t touch the biggest offenders like onion, legumes, apples, mango or dried fruit, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers – I’m just grateful that I can again eat some of the things I’ve been missing so badly!

So, to honour the newly rekindled flame with my Clean Carb Sweetheart, Sweet Potato, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favourite snacks and side dishes: oven-baked sweet potato chips. To spice things up for the occasion, I’ve added a little twist by seasoning them with sensationally flavoursome Egyptian Dukkah and a hint of pure maple to show off the potato’s natural sweetness. I can never get enough of Dukkah. I use it to flavour everything from curries to veggie stir fries, grilled meat and eggs. Traditionally, Egyptian dukkah consists of nuts (usually hazelnuts), sesame seeds, salt and various herbs and spices. Its nutty texture adds an element of crunch to dishes and the magically flavoursome combination of herbs and spices is just awesome.

I hope you enjoy these babies as much as I do, and to those of you who can have more than 1/4 cup’s worth at a time, I’m riddled with jealousy. And utter resentment.
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Dukkah & Maple Sweet Potato Chips
Serves 4 as a snack or side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed clean, ends chopped off & skin left on
  • 1 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tbs good-quality Eqyptian Dukkah, wood-fired if possible as the flavour is more authentic
  • 1 tbs pure organic maple syrup
  • Himalayan salt or sea salt flakes

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200*C. Chop potato in half through the width, then continue to cut into large French-fry like pieces, as pictured.
  • Put chips in a bowl and drizzle over the olive oil. Use your hands to combine the potato and oil, ensuring that each chip is covered evenly.
  • Lay chips in a single layer on a lined baking tray. Sprinkle evenly with dukkah and place tray in the oven. Allow to bake for approx. 20 minutes.
  • When chips have browned and appear cooked on one side (after about 20-25 mins), remove from the oven and carefully flip onto the other side. Cook for a further 10 minutes or until cooked throughout and slightly crisp, but not burnt.
  • In the last 5 minutes of baking, drizzle chips with maple syrup. This will allow the syrup to caramelise and go deliciously sticky.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a little extra dukkah if desired. ENJOY!

Note: The chips should be lightly crispy around the edges, but don’t expect them to be as crispy as French fries – fries are crispy for the very reason that lies in their name – they’re deep fried! If you want a crispy packeted potato chip effect, cut the sweet potato into 2mm-thick rounds instead of thick sticks. The cooking time will be less, and they will be very crunchy once completely cooled. If you do them this way, you can also store leftovers in an airtight container in the pantry or portion into snap-lock bags, ready to grab and go! This version is great to serve on dip platters as a healthy biscuit alternative.

Happy Nourishing!
Ax