Cook this: cacao nib & oat cookies (sugar, lactose & gluten free)

So, a flare up of stomach issues have necessitated a return to slightly stricter low-FODMAP regulations. Again. But that’s not as bad as it was the first time around – I know more know, and know what my body can and can’t deal with a little better.

I was browsing Instagram for recipe ideas the other week, and came across this gorgeous picture from @edgarraw – his Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Ummmm yes please! I’m an oat addict, and an even bigger chocolate lover, so these looked pretty good even before I scrolled through to the recipe.

Once I got to the recipe, I also found it included other favourite ingredients of mine – cacao nibs, dried dates and almond milk. Despite the severe fructose intolerance, I actually stomach a little dried fruit (yay!), so while it might look like a LOT of dates in this recipe, remember it’s divided between the whole batch. This recipe is also sugar free, as the cookies get all their sweetness from the dates – basically makes them health food. I made some changes (as usual) and was stoked with the result! Here’s my version of Edgar’s cookies…

Ingredients:
– 1½ cups loosely packed dried dates
– ½ cup almond milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– ½ cup almond meal or gluten free plain flour
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 1 cup rolled oats
– ¼ cup flax seeds
– ¼ cup toasted cacao nibs
– ¼ cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Soak the dates in super hot water for an hour.

2. After soaking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients – the flour, baking powder, oats, flax seeds, cacao nibs and shredded coconut.

4. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the milk and vanilla extract. Blend until a paste comes together.

5. Spoon the paste mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to combine completely. If it’s too dry, add a little water to help bring it all together.

6. Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape into balls, placing them on the oven tray with a little space in between.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, and cool on the tray. Enjoy!

Make this: quick & healthy – green smoothie bowl (gluten, lactose & fructose free)

Ahh Monday morning. The time of the week when you resolve to do better after reflecting on a weekend spent in stretchy-waisted pants indulging in delicious food, with your only exercise being lifting another donut to your mouth. No judgement; we’ve all been there. And we all will be again. But if, like me, you like to start the week off strong (knowing full well things will descend into anarchy come Thursday night), this breakfast might be a good place to start.

Let me preface this recipe by saying that I absolutely bloody hate smoothies and juices. A smoothie is not a meal. Neither is soup, for that matter. You eat a meal, you don’t drink it. UNLESS you can add some stuff to it to make it chunky and crunchy and substantial. So I added stuff on top. I also love a good chia pudding, so I make this smoothie the night before and stir chia seeds through it, so by morning it’s basically a big, thick, healthy, green chia pudding with crunchy bits on top. And, because there’s green stuff in it, it’s obviously healthy. Happy days!

 

Ingredients (for 1):
– ½ cup milk (I use an almond coconut milk blend)
– 1 tbsp rolled oats
– 1 tsp matcha powder
– 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
– 2 blocks of frozen spinach
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– all of the toppings!!!! On this one, I used homemade muesli, toasted cacao nibs, shredded coconut and frozen raspberry, but lets be honest – anything goes!

Method:
1. Throw the milk, oats, matcha, protein powder and frozen spinach into a blender/Nutri-bullet/that type of device and blend until smooth and combined.

2. Pour your mixture into a plastic tub and stir through the chia seeds. Place the lid on, into the fridge, and rest over night while you go to sleep and dream of breakfast.

3. In the morning, pour it into a bowl, top with whatever you want, and enjoy your fancy, health breakfast that didn’t cost $20 and a 45 minute wait at a café 😉

Cook this: quick & healthy – vanilla polenta “porridge” 

I wasn’t too concerned about the pain of getting a wisdom tooth ripped out (thought I really don’t relish the memory of having my head held down by the dental assistant while the dentist tried 4 different pliers to twist and yank one awfully big, long and deep set tooth from me), but I didn’t anticipate the headaches and migraines that came with it. I figured a few days of mushy food and soup, and I’d be good to go again.

Nope; a constant headache with severe light sensitivity, punctuated by migraine spells has seen me laying around a dark house in my PJs for the past 5 days. I got out of the house for an hour yesterday after begging and pleading for a quick breaky, then returned to the darkness for most of the rest of the day. I’m actually a vampire now.

Anyway, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and when you’re restricted to soft, mushy foods that won’t get stuck in the big, bleeding, gaping hole in your gum, your options are few and far between. Thank goodness for polenta! After seeing a recipe on my blog feed a while ago using polenta as a sweet ingredient (kicking myself for not being able to remember who’s blog it was, sorry!), I thought about making some porridge with polenta.

Instead of going the milk, butter and salt route for a savoury version, I added almond milk, vanilla and sugar instead, and it turned out perfectly! It’s actually a really great change from regular porridge, too, and it’s a nice gluten free alternative for the Coaeliacs out there. Super easy and quick to make, here’s how I did my version…

Ingredients (for one bowl):

– 1 cup almond milk

– 1 tsp caster sugar

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– pinch of vanilla powder (optional)

– 1/4 cup of polenta/fine cornmeal

– 1/2 cup mixed berries and a little maple syrup to serve

 

Method:

1. Heat the milk, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat.

2. When the milk stars to simmer, turn the heat down to low and slowly pour in the polenta, whisking as you go. Once it’s all been added, whisk continuously over low heat until it thickens up to a consistency you’re happy with. If it thickens up too quickly, add a little more water to thin it out.

3. I served mine with mixed berries that I microwaved for 30 seconds, mashed up a little, and mixed a little maple syrup through.

 

On that note, I’m off to work now hoping that the pretty white lace top I’m wearing will disguise the fact that I was too busy throwing up and squinting at the open windows to do my hair or put some mascara on this morning! Ohh, it’s a glamorous life  >.<  hehe

Cook this: one pot quinoa fish pilaf (from the Simplicious cookbook)

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As promised yesterday, I’m sharing today my Tuesday night fish pilaf dinner, which I cooked from Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cookbook 🙂 I love this recipe – it was SO easy it’s almost not even a recipe, which is what I like midweek when I’m knackered from work, want something made from scratch, still healthy, but can’t be bothered with anything fancy or complicated with 50 ingredients and steps. Enter Simplicious. 

To save me re-typing, I did follow the recipe in the book below, with my only changes being:


1.  I used vegetable stock from the packet (I know, totally against her theory, but I already had it and it would have been wasteful to throw it out and make it from scratch!
2. I added in some extra veggies in the form of capsicum
3. I used a basa fillet and a squid tube from our local market – they were both enormous so this made 4 serves (yay for leftovers!)
4. For the herbs/spices, I used fresh coriander and mint, and a mix of dried smoky paprika, turmeric and cumin
5. I added toasted almonds at the end so they’d be nice and crunchy

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Changes I’d make next time would be to add some more salt and coriander through the quinoa, and use about a third of the stock the recipe called for. The fresh herbs and lemon juice were an absolute must to give it flavour; I’d probably be using some stronger herbs and spices on the seafood, too, to give it bit more kick. All in all, great quick & easy mid-week meal, and a fantastic way to add seafood to your diet  little more regularly.

Eat. Travel. Blog. The 2015 highlights :)

Holy wow, 2015 is over… I never believed mum when I’d hear her say “the older you get, the quicker it goes!” I hate to admit it, but she’s kinda right… It simultaneously feels like it was only a few weeks ago/it was all a big dream that we were on our way to America for our mega-trip, but it was this time last year we were half way through it all!

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It’s been a pretty big year for me. Among other things, this year has seen me:
– turn thirty  >_<
– travel to America, Canada, Mexico and Japan
– get closer to some friends and finally shed some toxic ones
– start a new job
– finally acknowledge my depression/anxiety/disordered eating and get help for it all
– acquire a few new tattoos
– complete my first 5km fun run, and a consequential 8km run
– thoroughly enjoy Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
– discover that I’m lactose and fructose intolerant
– start getting back to who I used to be

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It’s been big. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging. It’s been heart breaking and joy bringing and all the rest of it. Because that’s what life is. The other thing 2015 gave me was the opportunity to write. I love blogging; I love being able to do what I love, whenever I want. And the fact that there are so many of you out there interested enough in what I have to say to read along means more than you can possibly imagine! From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for reading along from time to time; I’ve been writing and recording since I was old enough to put pen to paper, and I’ll continue to do so for as long as I can still hold a pen in my hand 🙂

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I thought that I’d follow suit with so many other bloggers and take a little walk down memory lane at some of my most popular posts over the last year…

It seems that my readers enjoy my food review posts the most, with these Melbourne eats getting the most views:
1. Yu-U
2. Kustom Burgers
3. Supernormal
4. Cheshire
5. Mamor
6. Bad Boys
7. Leyalina
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Mankoushe
10. Good Ovening

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For the record, my favourite Melbourne eats of the year are a little different; my favourites were, in no particular order:
1. Lievita
2. Sookie La La
3. Rockwell & Sons
4. Gypsy & Pig
5. 1090
6. The Gem
7. Shortstop Donuts
8. Addict Food & Coffee
9. Tipo 00
10. Two Little Pigs

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This year’s most popular international eats looked like this:
1. Bangkok’s ice cream truck
2. Nong Ploy, Koh Samui
3. The Halal Guys, New York City
4. Eataly, Chicago
5. Momofuku, Toronto
6. Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington DC
7. Eggslut & Tumbras, Los Angeles
8. Shake Shack / In-N-Out
9. Central Grocery, New Orleans
10. Kanga, Toronto

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Again, my favourites looked a little different:
1. The Joint, New Orleans
2. Four & Twenty Blackbirds, New York City
3. Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
4. The Great Burger, Tokyo
5. Tsukiji Fish Market sushi, Tokyo
6. Yummy Yummy, San Francisco
7. Momofuku, Toronto
8. The Halal Guys, New York City
9. Au Cheval, Chicago
10. Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

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Recipes weren’t as popular as reviews, but the most viewed recipes were:
** Pork, macadamia, cranberry & sage sausage rolls – even though this wasn’t a 2015, it had over 350 more views than the next most popular recipe this year!! Amazing!
1. Red beans & rice
2. Poached egg & polenta
3. Tea infused porridge
4. Peanut butter granola
5. Zucchini choc chip cake
6. Quick 6 ingredient cookies
7. Coconut matcha porridge
8. Spring onion zucchini omelette
9. Cornbread pudding
10. Roy Choi’s ketchup fried rice

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And just for the record, the recipes I enjoyed most this year were:
1. 6 ingredient fried rice
2. Microwave matcha pudding cakes
3. Cranberry gingerbread granola
4. Coconut pandan oat & matcha chia parfait
5. Cornbread pudding
6. Crispy salted sage, hazelnut and cacao nib cookies
7. Olive oil chocolate zucchini cake
8. Fluffy protein pancakes
9. Chocolate pretzels
10. Tea infused porridge

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Your favourite travel related posts?
1. Dong Xuan Night Market, Hanoi, Vietnam
2. 10 Books Every Traveller Must Read
3. Through my eyes: Nutella crepes in Phuket, Thailand
4. Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, Los Angeles
5. Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1
6. The New Orleans School of Cooking
7. USAdventure days 26-33- New York
8. TBT: Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
9. Pure freedom: cruising Isla Mujeres
10. iPhoto essay: The Californian Redwoods, Warburton

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And my favourite travel experiences this year (other than those 10)?
1. “Finding myself” in St Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans
2. Inside the hospital of Alcatraz
3. Through my eyes: Jomyo-in Temple, Tokyo
4. Through my eyesL crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sundown
5. Through my eyesL New Orleans, 10 years post-Katrina
6. Urban paradise: Milton Lee Olive Park, Chicago
7. Toronto Islands, Canada
8. Through my eyes: The streets of Kagurazaka, Japan
9. Greystone Mansion & Park, Los Angeles
10. Flashback Friday: A night at the Temple of Edfu, Egypt

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And last but not least, because I do my very best to keep it as real as possible on here, the most viewed personal musing posts this year have been:
1. Sometimes you DO get to choose your family
2. I believe the time has come for me to re-introduce myself
3. The importance of pizza and a strong father-daughter relationship
4. Welcome to my book nook
5. You’re not alone
6. Wanderlust 108: Melbourne 2015
7. Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? [Escape part 2]
8. S2, Ep2: Eat. Travel. Blog. It’s been a big weekend
9. Ways to keep your love & friendships strong: Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club
10. There is NOTHING wrong with being real

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From the bottom of my heart guys, thank you so much for reading this year 🙂 Writing is my biggest love and passion in life. It’s what I’ve always done, truly, since I was as young as I can remember. I write primarily for me, but having other people read and appreciate my work is absolutely the biggest, kindest compliment I have ever been paid. So, whether you’ve been reading most days or just read one or two posts this year, thank you so so much 🙂

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve saying farewell the year that has been, saying thank you for the lessons learnt, and getting ready to take on 2016 with reckless abandon xoxo

Cook this: cranberry gingerbread granola

Because I’m kinda getting into Christmas more than usual this year, and wanted to find a way to extend the gingerbread man into a legitimate breakfast option.

You know what’s funny? I used to HATE gingerbread men as a kid. Absolutely hated them. I think it was because I was always given ones that had cinnamon as well as ginger in them, and cinnamon just makes me sick. So for the longest time I’ve gone without. Until last year; I gave this recipe a crack and just didn’t put cinnamon in (duh). Now, these gingerbread gentlemen are year-round favourites in our house!

I’ve made a few batches leading up to Christmas this year, too, and added dried cranberries in the last batch, which made them even better )didn’t actually think that was possible), so I based this granola recipe on that successful and quickly devoured batch…

Ingredients (makes 4 serves):
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 1-2 tsp ground ginger (depending on how strong you want it)
– 1 tsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp nuts or seeds of choice
– 3 tbsp maple syrup
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– small handful dried cranberries

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with paper.
2. Combine 1½ cups of the oats, the ground ginger, brown sugar and your nuts or seeds in a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil and vanilla; pour that into the oat mixture and stir through to coat the oats well.
4. Pour the oats onto the oven tray and bake for 15 – 20  minutes (depending on how crunchy you want them), checking every 5 minutes or so to toss the oats around, ensuring they bake evenly.
5. Let them cool on the tray, then mix in the rest of the oats and the cranberries, and enjoy! If you have a lovely friend like I do, you may even get a cutie pie gingerbread man to thrown in with your breakfast 😉

Cook this: super simple 6 ingredient cookies (gluten, lactose, egg free)

I used to hate Fridays. Back when I was working in gyms and in retail travel. I bloody hated Fridays. Because when everyone else was winding down from the week and ready to enjoy their weekend, I was just gearing up. Friday was like a Tuesday or Wednesday for me. For the first decade of my working life, I worked almost every weekend. And it sucked.

But now that I’m doing the corporate thing for work, and not stressing about whether or not I’ll actually get paid because I no longer get paid per personal training session or on commission per holiday sold, weekends are a thing of beauty. Friday is a happy day. I get to wear my jeans to work and be all “casual.” I get to visit my beloved Preston Market after work and do my groceries with the Euro-nannas. I get to take said groceries home and bake something! That’s where it can get a little tricky – Friday nights are when you want something nice to nibble on, but can’t actually be bothered putting in much of an effort, because, ya know, it’s Friday.

Enter these guys. Cookies from the heavens.
6 ingredients.
1 bowl.
1 spoon.
Highly customizable.
Gluten free.
Lactose free.
Egg free.

This is Friday night baking at its best. Now, throw these together when you get home this afternoon and prepare a glass of wine to go with that shitty movie you’re planning to unwind with after another long week at work.

Unless you work in the gym or retail sector, in which case prepare a double batch and a bottle of wine, and good luck for the weekend!!

(Based loosely on the cookie layer recipe from Eating Bird Food’s Twix Bars)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup almond meal
– ⅛ tsp sea salt
– ⅛ tsp baking soda
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

That’s the base 6 ingredients you need, but then you can top the cookies with whatever you want. I used chocolate chips, but anything goes!

1. Throw everything into a bowl and mix it together – when it becomes too crumbly, use your hands to smoosh it all together.

2. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and take tablespoon (or teaspoon, depending on what you’re after) sized chunks of dough, roll into balls and flatten slightly, placing them on the baking tray as you go. If you want to add a little something on top, like my chocolate chips, do that now.

3. Sit the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes, and while they’re resting, preheat the oven to 160°C.

4. Take the cookies out of the freezer and into the oven for 15 minutes; once they’re baked (they won’t brown up much, and that’s ok – they’re not meant to!), take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray to room temperature.

5. Eat all of the cookies while watching the latest episodes of The Vampire Diaries and America’s Next Top Model. Yes they are my guilty pleasures, judge away, I don’t even care. Except that tonight I won’t be in my PJs by 7pm, because I’ll be out at the first Christmas party of the season… I hope they have cookies…