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!

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (fructose friendly & low FODMAP)

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I’m just gonna dive right into this post and say that if you love peanut butter and the magical marriage of kinda sweet, kinda salty, then you absolutely must try this recipe. This is my take on Ace’s Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls, which I’d been spending far too much money on at the F.O.G store in Richmond (not because they’re stupidly expensive, but because I’d buy several of them several times weekly) before I decided to make my own version.

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

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Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (fructose friendly & low FODMAP)

Makes approx. 10 balls

FODMAP friendly serving size: 1 ball

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup (235g) natural unsalted crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 tbs (30g) chia seeds
  • 4tbs (70g) pure maple syrup or coconut nectar
  • 3 tbs (35g) activated buckinis
  • Generous pinch of fine sea salt
  • For rolling: ground cinnamon, fine sea salt and coconut sugar

Method

  1. Make chia flour by putting seeds into a coffee grinder or blender and pulsing until they’re finely ground
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon, then mix with your hands if needed, ensuring all the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Keep mixing until the chia flour has absorbed most of the moisture and a dough-like consistency forms
  3. In a little bowl, combine 1 tbs coconut sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt
  4. Divide dough into 10 even portions, then roll into balls with your palms. Lightly roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat, then place on a lined tray and allow to set in the freezer for one hour. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for softer balls, or in the freezer for firmer balls. I prefer them firm (trying really hard not to sound creepy here).

Ax

Photo: Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos (vegan and 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

Deliciously Ugly: Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

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A million different ingredients. 3 different mixtures to be made. One processor. Go!
Measure all ingredients. Take first lot. Sift these, melt those. Process together. Taste and adjust. Freeze for 2 hours. Clean processor. Process next batch of ingredients. Taste and adjust. Pour onto first frozen layer. Freeze for half an hour. Clean processor. Melt some of this, mash some of that. Process. Taste. Pour over the second frozen layer and freeze. Clean processor and the rest of your bomb-site kitchen.

It’s no secret that I like to make things out of food. In My Ideal World, I’d happily spend entire days floating around the kitchen, cooking, creating, decorating. And eating.
Still, even I can admit that making healthy desserts and clean sweet treats can be pretty bloody arduous and time-consuming. So much so that I often just don’t bother with them unless I’m recipe testing or making something for an occasion. Complicated and meticulously presented desserts, whether healthy or not, take patience, time and an excessive willingness to clean the same gadgets over and over. So, while I love my intricately layered sweet treats in all their pretty glory, sometimes the fuss-free uglies are way more appealing than their photo-worthy counterparts. How do Cadbury describe their Picnic bars again? Deliciously Ugly? Nearly all the best tasting recipes are…

So here’s a recipe that looks like a chocolate bar, smells like a chocolate bar, gives you that sugar fix like a chocolate bar, and, yep, tastes like a chocolate bar. EXCEPT it’ll only take you 5 minutes to make, and while your taste buds are fooled into thinking you’re eating a chocolate bar, your insides with be thanking you for impregnating it with healthful fats, powerful antioxidants, wholegrains, fiber, iron, selenium (helps to reduce the risk of common diseases), manganese (helps the body to synthesize fats and benefits nervous system function), copper (support for brain function), Vitamin-E and a range of Vitamin-B complexes.

Please don’t be afraid to use your imagination with this one. The recipe is super basic, and it would be pretty hard to go wrong. You can experiment with different nut butters and add puffed quinoa or buckinis for texture and crunch. A chocolate ‘ganache’ made of coconut oil (or a little organic butter if you eat dairy), cacao, stevia and a little maple syrup would be scrumptioua on top, too!

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Chewy Choc Nutter Bars

Makes 10 bars or 20 bite-sized squares.
Dietary info: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegan, fructose-friendly, low FODMAP, refined-sugar free. Contains grains and peanuts.

Ingredients: 
  • 2.5 cups brown rice crispies (not “puffed brown rice” as they go soggy!)
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 3.5-4 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 7 drops liquid stevia
  • Pinch Himalayan sea salt
Method:
  1. Line a square slice tin with baking paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the puffed brown rice and shredded coconut.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the peanut butter, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, stevia, vanilla, cacao powder and salt.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry mixture. Stir gently until the rice puffs and coconut are coated evenly and everything sticks together.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly, ensuring that the slice is tightly compacted. Set in the freezer for 1 hour. Use a sharp knife to cut slab into desired sizes. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat it. I prefer it kept in the freezer as it stays firmer and goes chewier. If kept correctly, I’m assuming that the slice would last weeks in the freezer, though I put emphasis on ‘assuming’ because these things never last more than a few days in my household.
Notes:
  • The peanut butter can be substituted with any other textured nut butter: almond, brazil, ABC etc.
  • Instead of eating as a ‘slice’, you can roll the mixture into ping pong-sized balls and wrap in glad wrap before freezing to make a portioned and guilt free snack, ready to grab when you’re on the go and sugar cravings strike!IMG_3061 IMG_3065 IMG_3058 IMG_3067 IMG_3059 IMG_3057IMG_3068

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