Eat here: Vincent The Dog, Melbourne (brunch/café)

Vincent The Dog
348 Drummond St, Carlton
https://www.instagram.com/vincentthedogcafe/

Another weekend, another brunch date. And guys, it’s Monday morning; the best way to get through the week is to start preparing for weekend brunch now!

Last weekend, I finally got around to Vincent The Dog, an unassuming little hole-in-the-wall in Carlton, which is pretty easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Inside, it’s teeny tiny, with one big communal dining table and a few bench seats, so prepare to get to know your fellow diners. Looking at the shelving displaying oh so much pretty coffee-ware, you get the impression that these guys take their coffee pretty seriously; you’d be both right and wrong.

Waiting on my friend’s arrival, I had a read through the menu, and found it to be pretty “this is what we think;” in little notes around the menu, they let you know just how their coffee making differs from everyone else, and make no apologies for it. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I respect anyone willing to back their methods. Instead, I ordered a jasmine/green tea blend, and am absolutely stoked when it comes out properly brewed and at the right temperature (when I’m served green tea leaves in a pot of boiling water, I know I’m dealing with amateurs – if not steeped for only a few minutes at a lower-than-boiling temperature, it goes bitter and yuk, and that’s disappointing). Beautiful tea, perfect start to the morning!

Breakfast. That was actually a pretty simple decision for me because
a) they’re kind enough to label the menu items with anything that may upset people with food allergies, so I knew exactly what to skip if I wanted to avoid onion and garlic – thank you!
b) I like sweet breakfasts.

So I went with the sweet waffle option: coconut waffles with fresh & freeze dried strawberries,  cherries, kiwi, coconut jelly, green tea jelly, fresh mint & pistachios… wow. The waffles were right on point for me – thick and fluffy, with heaps of shredded coconut through them. The jellies were easily the other highlight – I’ve found that a lot of places who promise jellies like this tend to end up with quite watered down flavours to the point that it could just be green-tinged jelly, but you could really taste the coconut and green tea in these. Thank goodness!

It’s a pity the place isn’t a little bit bigger so people could relax and sprawl out a little more rather than being so squished in, because it’s a really cute little café, and my waffles were great – everything else rolling out of the kitchen looked amazing, too. Another delicious addition to Carlton 🙂

 
Vincent the Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cook this: lemon, almond & coconut cookies

I made a batch of these guys last week to take into work, because I work with really lovely people and I love baking for them! I wasn’t sure how well they’d go down – lemon, almond and coconut in cookies? Most people prefer chocolate chips… but they were a surprise hit, were finished the same day they were brought it, and the recipe was requested by a few of the girls.


I made another batch a few days later, because I was kicking myself for not keeping any at home, and figured I should probably record this recipe for later use. Not that you really need a recipe – it’s pretty simple!

 

Ingredients:
– 100g butter, softened
– 100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp lemon OR almond liqueur, OR ½ tbsp lemon juice + ½ tbsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
Handful almonds, crushed
½ cup shredded coconut
Zest of 1 lemon

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 170° and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy.

3. Beat in the egg and the lemon liqueur/lemon juice + vanilla extract.

4. Stir in the flour and baking powder until combined, then stir in the rest of the ingredients.

5. Roll into balls and place on the oven tray, bake for 15min, or until golden brown.

 

Eat here: BSKT Café, Gold Coast, Queensland (healthy & special diet friendly)

BSKT Café
4 Lavarack Rd, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
http://www.bskt.com.au/

Our quick Queensland escape weekend was actually a family affair, with us all there to celebrate my mum-in-law’s birthday 🙂 So, when they all arrived a few days before us and discovered some hipster-looking, kale-on-the-menu, drinks-in-jars café near our apartment, they all made sure to let me know about it and make fun of me a bit – fair enough! But upon menu investigation, BSKT actually looked like it had some great stuff that I really would enjoy, so after an early morning walk on Saturday, husband and I decided to have breaky there.

First up, gorgeous space – a block back from the beach, big and open and full of natural light, it was perfect for Mermaid Beach. It also had plenty of room – indoor, outdoor and courtyard seating, it looked like it was able to cater easily for the day long crowds (they do breakfast, lunch and dinner); apparently not, though, because walking past at 8am on Sunday morning, there was standing room only and it was PACKED! That’s always a good sign.

We started with drinks – husband gave the thumbs up to his skinny latte, and my mint matcha latte (made with coconut milk) was magic. Absolutely the best matcha beverage I’ve ever had, it was basically fairy dust in a cup. It wasn’t cheap at $7.00, but it was worth every cent. I need more.

For breakfast, husband went with the H & M Omlette ($19.00) – Shaved leg ham & field mushrooms folded over with melted Gruyere, served with superseed toast & house made tomato relish. It was a monster serve, and full of ham and cheese. Husband very much enjoyed it, although he did say that without the relish it didn’t pack much flavour, so he was glad he got a decent serve of that on the side.

I hated myself for ordering something with such a pretentious name, but I ordered the paleo veganola ($15.00). I even hate typing that, I’m sorry! Let me say that I am not a vegan or paleo worshipper, but a serving of granola packed with nuts, seeds, berries, coconut, macqui and a side of coconut ice cream sounded too good to pass up! And it really, really was – crunchy perfect granola, it was some of the best I can remember having… and that coconut ice cream was incredible! Husband got stuck into it, too, after he finished his omlette, and was a little disappointed there wasn’t more to go around.

It’s a great little café, although it does attract the young and beautiful “fitness crowd,” clad in their tight, bright lycra, puffer vests and a layer of make up. If you can get past that, though, the service was friendly and quick, and the menu is pretty great when you want a break from the standard surf club bacon-and-egg breaky, as are the brilliant range of coffees, teas, specialty hot drinks and juices  : )

 

BSKT Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook this: chocolate & Bounty cupcakes 

Happy Hump Day! How good is it when you’re given a box of chocolates? How much better is it when they’re your favourites?! Big thanks to my sibling’s legend of a boyfriend for the box of dark chocolate Bounty bars I used to make these fudgy, chocolatey, rich pieces of heaven, adapted from a Donna Hay chocolate cake recipe. If you haven’t got someone who’ll gift you chocolate, I suggest buying some for yourself so you can get involved in some mid week chocolate cake action, anyway.

Ingredients:
– 250g butter, softened
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1⅓ cup plain flour
-1½ tsp baking powder
– ½ cup coca powder
– ½ cup milk
– ½ cup desiccated coconut
– 3-4 king size bounty bars, chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until light and creamy.
3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat again until completely incorporated.
4. Sift in the four, baking powder and cocoa, and fold into the mixture.
5. Stir in the milk, then the coconut and Bounty pieces.
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
7. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling before decorating; I’ll be honest, I cheated with the frosting this time and used the pre-made Betty Crocker stuff, along with a bit more coconut and Bounty pieces on top. Amazing!

How my dog saved my life… Cook this: coconut matcha porridge

Summer might almost be here, but we’re still getting some cooler mornings in Melbourne, which means there are still a few chances left for warm breakfasts. But to get to that, let me first rewind a moment…

This weekend hasn’t been amazing. We were meant to stay in Geelong last night and take part in Run Geelong this morning, a 6km fun run husband and I entered together. It was not to be.

After 48 hours of vomiting, I took my fur baby to the vet on Friday morning. There had been a big fat storm the night before which meant the little guy didn’t sleep, I’d only had 3 hours myself, and was exhausted… I expected (hoped for) a check up and maybe some antibiotics for a tummy bug; he ended up staying overnight. After a physical examination found him to be in a fair bit of tummy pain, the vet said it could be anything from having eaten something he shouldn’t have (being part beagle, this was highly likely) to something more serious.


She couldn’t have been more kind and understanding as she gently explained that he would be sedated for his ultrasound, a drip inserted into his little paw to keep his fluids up, and through-the-night monitoring. I cried. Bless her, she gave me a box of tissues, a pat on the arm and the assurance he’d be ok. I just cried harder as she led him out of the consulting room with his tail between his legs, leaving me there with a hand full of tissues and a face full of snot and tears. I proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next four hours until I had nothing left.

This may seem like a bit of an overreaction to a sick dog, so let me explain. He’s not just a pet, he’s not just family. Depression entered my life in my late teens; by the time I moved out of home straight out of uni, I was in a pretty shitty state. Having never been allowed a dog growing up because my mum doesn’t like them, the first thing husband and I did when we got our own place was to go puppy shopping. Enter little tiny Marley…


He was the best thing possible for my depression; he dragged me out of my bad states because I had to look after him. I couldn’t just sit in a corner and cry, because this little fur blob needed me to look after him. He was totally dependent on me, and I, in turn, became totally dependent on him. He saved my life. When I’m at home, he’s never more than a few steps away from me. When I’m sitting down, he’s sitting on my lap. When I’m depressed or anxious, he senses it and sits with me silently. When I cry, he nuzzles my neck with his nose to wipe away my tears. When I get home from work, the yelping is deafening. He’s my best friend and my shadow and my constant, loyal companion in every sense of the word.


So having to bring him to the vet and leave him there and imagining him waking up from his anesthetic scared and alone was more than I could handle. So I reacted the same way any rational, fully grown woman after dropping her dog off at the vet for an ultrasound; I cried my eyes out. And texted my dad, who called me immediately, and cried to him even harder. It wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, back on the recipe track, we were told we could collect him yesterday morning. It was cooler than it had been in a while and I wanted comfort food for breakfast, which meant porridge. Checking the fridge to make sure there was enough almond milk left, I noticed the matcha jar I’d brought home from Tokyo and thought I’d give that a try…

To make one bowl of porridge:
– scant half cup of rolled oats
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– 1-2 tbsp shredded coconut
– 1 scoop protein powder – I use Amazonia’s raw vanilla protein (optional)
– 1 tsp matcha powder (more if you prefer a stronger flavour)
– 1 cup milk – I prefer almond milk for this

1. Put all ingredients except the almond milk into a tub and shake to combine.

2. Pour the tub into a small saucepan over medium heat, along with the milk, and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer, and stir constantly until it thickens to a consistency you’re happy with (somewhere in the vicinity of 4 – 8 minutes).

4. Serve immediately – enjoy 🙂

After that warm bowl of love, we collected our fur baby (with a bag full of medication) and took him home to rest. As you can see, he got real comfy, real quick… 🙂 here’s to a better week ahead for my poor little bug, and I hope everyone else has a great week, too! And if you need a warm, comforting breakfast at any stage, I hope this recipe helps! xo

Treat yoself breakfast: overnight coconut pandan oat & matcha chia parfait

So, last Saturday night was Oktoberfest. The man cave was transformed into a beer hall. Several batches of pretzels were baked. Several more batches of pretzels cookies, too. And schnitzels, potato salad, gravy… There was a lot to do, and while Friday night was reserved for the bulk of it, but there was still plenty left to do Saturday morning before everyone arrived.

With all that coming and my inability to work on an empty stomach, I knew I was gonna need a decent breakfast. It had been a pretty long, challenging, sleepless week, so by Friday night I was mentally and physically exhausted. With a big day ahead, I wanted to treat myself to something a little nicer than my regular overnight oats to start the day.

My usual overnight oats consists of oats, chia seeds, protein powder, almond milk and yoghurt thrown into a tub, shaken violently, and topped with whatever is in the pantry – coconut flakes, pepitas, goji berries, chocolate chips, anything goes. I also found this absolutely unreal pandan kaya custard type stuff at ARC Asian Grocers at the Preston Market that I’m loving with my morning oats at the moment. I thought I’d try to add that in with the shredded coconut (because matcha and coconut are delicious together) and seperate the chia and oats for something a bit different – takes a bit of effort, but the different layers makes it look and taste great! Actually, that’s not entirely truthful – it doesn’t take much effort at all…

For one serve:

Chia layer:
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– ½ tsp matcha powder
– 5 tbsp milk (again, I use almond milk, but coconut milk would be perfect as well)

Combine all of the ingredients in a jar or plastic tub and shake well to combine. Set it aside for 10 minutes, going back to give it a quick stir every few minutes.

 

Oat layer:
– 1 heaped tbsp plain yoghurt
– ½ cup milk (I use almond)
– heaped ⅓ cup oats
– 1 scoop (approx 8-10g) protein powder of your choice – I really love the Amazonia vanilla for this!
– 1 tbsp shredded coconut
– 2 tbsp pandan custard

Put the yoghurt, milk and protein powder in a jar or plastic tub and shake until well combined. Add in the oats and coconut and shake again, the set aside.

Once the chia pudding has set and gelled a little, the oats should have soaked up a bit of the milk; stir the pandan custard through the oats.

To assemble, just spoon half the oats into a glass or jar, followed by half the chia, the rest of the oats and the rest of the chia on top. That simple!

Cook this: quick & healthy – frozen fruit, yoghurt & coconut granola bark

Happy Sunday guys and dolls! I hope everyone’s had a great weekend, relaxing or action packed, whatever your preference! Personally, around this time on a Sunday, I’m usually winding down, hanging out on the couch or in the backyard with my other half and fur baby, enjoying a read through the posts from my favourite blogs.

One of my favourites, even though it’s not actually a blog, is the Beautiful Pictures of Healthy Food Tumblr – it’s one of the best collections of healthy food recipes I’ve come across! All that pops up on my WordPress reader are gorgeous, colourful pictures of delicious looking food, and a link to the original recipe source if I want to know more (usually I do, there are some really quick, easy, healthy ideas on there) – perfect for someone who, by Sunday afternoon, has the attention span of a goldfish!

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I saw this this picture perfect pile of fruity frozen yoghurt clumps last weekend, and have been really looking forward to giving it a go; after doing the groceries on Friday night, I finally threw a batch together, and they came out brilliantly! Perfect little snack nuggets, especially coming into the warmer weather (any time now, Melbourne…), and particularly because we don’t really keep anything to snack on in our house… no loaves of bread, no bags of chips, no chocolate bars; old habits die hard when an ex-PT marries a PE teacher! It’s usually not a problem, until one of us reallllyyy needs a quick little nibble between getting home from work and dinner time, or before a gym session when we wake up hungry but don’t want to eat a big breakfast first.

These little guys are perfect – Greek yoghurt is low in lactose/fructose (yay for me) and high in protein, meaning it’ll fill you up for longer. Fruit is obviously your friend, and a healthier way of getting a sugar hit than a handful of lollies. And the little bit of toasted granola and coconut on top make it a little more substantial and delicious. And the best part? It doesn’t take long to throw together, it’ll keep in the freezer for quite some time, and you genuinely don’t have to feel guilty when you’re reaching for a piece to snack on. What’s not to love?!

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I didn’t actually bother clicking through to the recipe link, because this seemed pretty straightforward, and I had my own ideas. This isn’t really a recipe so much as a few basic guidelines, because really, you can do whatever the hell you want with this!

You’ll need:
– 2 or 3 cups of fresh fruit (I used a punnet each of strawberries and blueberries)
– 500g tub of Greek yoghurt (I actually used a tub of Coconut Chobani + 400g plain Greek yoghurt, just to up the ante on the coconut flavour a bit more) – side note: if you want to make this lactose free, just use lactose free yoghurt!
– 1½ cups homemade coconut granola or any granola you want, really.

*** If you want to do the coconut granola from scratch, I used one heaped cup of oats mixed with 2 tbsp melted coconut oil, mixed them together to coat the oats, and spread the oats out on a lined oven tray. I baked that an oven at 180°C for about 15min, until the oats started to get a little golden (it’s a good idea to stir them around every now and then so they cook evenly), then took the tray out to cool completely. I also mixed some shredded coconut through the oats. I really like coconut, can you tell?

Once all that’s done, mix the fruit and yoghurt together in a large bowl.

Line a large oven or lamington tray with non-stick baking paper.

IMG_3059

Spread the yoghurt mixture over the tray, using a spoon to flatten it out.

Top with the cooled granola, and cover the tray with plastic wrap  (I was a bit cheeky and also threw some chocolate chips on top of the muesli after taking this photo, because why the hell not?!).

IMG_3060

Pop it in the freezer for a few hours, until it’s set (preferably overnight).

Chop it up into pieces, throw it into a plastic tub, and keep it in the freezer to raid at your leisure!