Cook this: (almost) paleo granola

On my naturopath’s advice, I gave up grains for a few weeks to help reset my tummy lining. The only thing I really missed was my morning bowls of porridge and muesli; I need my oats!

Because I eat breaky at work every morning, poached eggs and sautéed veggies every morning wasn’t a realistic option, so I needed something else… something easy to prepare in advance and easy to take to work.

Enter paleo granola. Basically, a whole lot of nuts and seeds, toasted and ready to top my green smoothie bowl. Over the last few weeks I’ve become hooked on it, so now that I can reintroduce some grains back into my diet, I’ve decided to stick with it, but just add some oats to the mix. And it’s pretty delicious!

Ingredients:
– juice & zest of 1 orange
– 1 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 cup mixed sunflower & pepita seeds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 4 tbsp chia seeds
– ½ cup rolled oats (leave these out if you want a proper paleo mix)
– ½ cup crushed walnuts
– ½ cup slivered almonds
– ½ cup chopped dates

 

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Combine the orange juice, zest and maple syrup in a small bowl, and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then stir through the orange juice.

4. Pour the mixture onto the tray and spread it out. Bake for about 20 – 25min or until golden; stir the mixture around every 5min or so to ensure it bakes evenly.

5. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container up to 2 weeks

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Cook this: Orange & zucchini “muesli bars” (lactose, gluten & sugar free)

Remember how I said the other day that I wanted to try using puffed quinoa a bit more? I have a giant bag of the stuff at home now and have been experimenting with other ways of using it. Enter these muesli bars. But first, let’s backtrack a few steps..

I’m a snacker. I like to eat in dribs and drabs throughout the day, and I’ll snack on whatever is handy and convenient. If that’s a jar of cookies, I’ll have a cookie. If I come across chocolate before I notice carrot sticks, I’m having some chocolate. So, it’s in my best interests to have healthy snacks laying about the house instead. Many years ago, before fructose decided it wasn’t my friend, I used to make apple and honey “muesli bars” to snack on – the ones you buy are FULL of sugar, so I preferred to make my own healthier ones. It’s been a while since I’ve made muesli bars, though, so I had an idea to make some more – but without any butter, oil, eggs or sugar. Simple stuff.

I also wanted to create a snack that would fill me up and give me energy, and not be completely unhealthy. Something I could nibble on to tie me over between getting home from work and dinner time. Or post-morning workout before I get to work and eat breaky properly. I used the baked oats theory, and here’s what I came up with…

Ingredients:
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1 heaped scoop protein powder (I like vanilla, but chocolate would work well, too)
– 1 cup milk (soy, almond, regular, whatever)
– zest & juice of 1 large orange
– 1 large zucchini (or 2 small ones)
– 1 cup puffed quinoa
– ½ cup sunflower seeds

Method:
1. Combine the oats, protein powder, milk, orange zest and juice in a tub, place the lid on and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, line a medium-sized baking tin with non-stick baking paper, and grate the zucchini into a bowl. Squeeze out any excess liquid.

3. Combine the zucchini with the rested oats, puffed quinoa and seeds in a large mixing bowl, and mix until totally combined and there are no dry “lumps” in the mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth out with a spoon or spatula.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

6. Cool in tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Slice up your “muesli bars” and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.

Cook this: T2 Lamington Tea porridge

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Monday morning, ready to take on another week! But not without a good breakfast. And this one is an absolute beauty. But before I get to that, let me explain how the ridiculous idea of making porridge with a cup of tea came about. I stumbled on a great find last week in the Extraordinary Routines site. This project, put together by Madeleine Dore, is exploring the daily routines of creatives such as writers, artists, designers and other who “bring a unique spirit to the world around them.” It’s really interesting to read how these successful and happy people run their days, and has some fantastic inspiration if you’re looking for a bit of a change!

Being food-minded though, it wasn’t long before the RECIPES menu caught my eye. The first image I saw was what looked to be a pretty little bowl of porridge or overnight oats or something, so I clicked on that to find myself face to face with a recipe for earl grey porridge. Sorry, WHAT?!

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It’s no secret that I love my tea. As you may be able to tell from the picture above: that’s all of the tea. No, that’s a lie – there’s more in the pantry And more tea cups and mugs. So many more.  I also love oats, in just about any form. So the idea of combining these two of my favourite things? Yup. All sorts of yup.

I mentioned this earl grey porridge idea to husband, to which he replied, “I bet it’d taste good with that Lamington tea you’re so obsessed with at the moment.” Damn, why didn’t I think of that?! Done deal! I love T2’s teas (their Melbourne Breakfast is a HUGE favourite in our house), but they’ve really outdone themselves with their Lamington Tea; as you can see below, it’s a gorgeous black tea with coconut flakes, cocoa nibs and tiny little chocolate drops. Heaven!
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I’m sure whatever the recipe on the site was was perfectly good, but I didn’t actually bother reading it. Once I’d seen the title, I figured I’d be able to get it right myself. And surprisingly, I actually did (not all of my ideas work out so well)! Here’s how you can make your own bowl of lamington porridge breakfast happiness..

For one bowl of porridge, you’ll need:
– 1 cup of tea. T2’s Lamington is perfect for this, but if you don’t have any/can’t be bothered buying any, just use your favourite black tea. Brew it with ¾ cup boiling water, steep for a few minutes, then mix it ½ cup milk.
– ½ cup rolled oats
– Toppings of choice – I used a few raspberries, crushed toasted almonds, shredded coconut and toasted cacao nibs

 

To cook it:
1. Combine the tea and oats in a pot over medium heat. Bring to boiling point, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until porridge reaches your desired consistency. Serve immediately with your toppings of choice.

A one step recipe. So simple. So delicious. It’s also the perfect starter meal for the day for me, being gluten and lactose free (I use almond milk), as well as low FODMAPs. So much stomach can’t bitch up later on. And just to get a bit more tea in, I made a cup of the English Tea Shop’s organic green tea to go along with it.That, my friends, is the way to breakfast.

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Cook this: Hazelnut, coconut & dark chocolate biscuits (gluten free, low FODMAPs)

These biscuits are really different, but surprisingly delicious – they’re the sort of gluten free biscuits that you’d eat even if you weren’t gluten intolerant! They are surprisingly light, and I really love the taste that the hazelnut meal gives them. If it’s not for you, any other nut meal will work just as well – almond, cashew, whatever! IMG_2975.JPG You’ll need:
– 100g butter, softened
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg, at room temperature
– 1½ cups hazelnut meal
– ½ cup gluten free plain flour (or you regular plain flour if you don’t need it to be gluten free)
– ½ cup shredded coconut, toasted
– 2 tbsp dark chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a large oven tray with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer for 3 – 4 minutes, until it becomes noticeably thicker, lighter and creamier. Then, beat in the egg.

3. Fold the nut meal and flour into the creamed mixture with a spoon, followed by the coconut and chocolate. This recipe is incredibly adaptable, so feel free to substitute the coconut and chocolate with anything else you’d like – seeds, chopped dried fruit, chocolate chips, whatever!

4. Roll the mixture into tablespoon sized balls, flattening them slightly when you place them on the tray, and bake 12 – 15 minutes, or until they start to turn golden around the edges. Cool completely on the tray.

Cook this: Breakfast – chocolate & peanut butter porridge! (gluten free, low FODMAPs)

Thanks for re-visiting Vietnam with me over the past few days 🙂 I’m heading back to the real world for the weekend and thought I’d share something that I’m obsessed with, yet haven’t actually blogged about yet: breakfast!

I don’t understand non-breakfast people. How anyone can operate on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is utterly and completely beyond me. Maybe it’s that I’m a crappy sleeper, and 5 interrupted hours is a good night. Maybe it’s that I get up at 5.45am almost every morning to workout before work. Maybe it’s just that I’m Italian, so food is a big thing. But I cannot physically leave the house in the morning to face the day without eating breakfast.

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My weapon of choice is (and has been for a long time now) oats. I’ve been known to make my own muesli, and recently got completely addicted to the overnight oats thing. I thought I’d have a change for a week or two though, and go back to making my own porridge each morning, which is actually no where near as difficult or time consuming as it sounds. If you want to make this really easy, do as I do and combine all your dry ingredients in a jar or tub the night before, so you can just tip it all in the saucepan with the milk in the morning without having to worry about spending time measuring it all out!

I love to play around with different flavours with both porridge and overnight oats; some favourite combos have been pistachio, fig & honey, raspberry & coconut, and chocolate, vanilla & almonds. This time, I decided it had to be my good old favourite – chocolate and peanut butter. If there’s a better combination of foods in the world, I don’t believe you, nor am I interested.

To make a most spectacular breakfast for one, you’ll need…
– ½ cup oats (wheat free, if you want to keep it low FODMAPs)
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– ½ tsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder if you prefer)
– 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
– 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
– 1 tsp cacao nibs (or chocolate chips!)

1. Combine the oats, chia seeds, cocoa powder & milk in a small saucepan over high heat.
2. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring constantly until your porridge is at your preferred consistency – mine usually takes around 3-4 minutes of simmering.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir through the peanut butter. Pour it into a bowl and top wth cacao nibs and/or anything else you want! Enjoy 🙂

Cook this: quick & healthy – easy pork bun cha

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I decided to make a version of my favourite Vietnamese dish for dinner the other night – bun cha. I ate it all over Vietnam, with some of my favourites being this one and this one. I grabbed out my very trusty cook book that I got at the Morning Glory Cooking School for some inspiration from Ms Vy’s version, which calls for minced pork patties.

Because I’m giving this whole low FODMAPs thing a go, it sadly lacked the shallots and garlic I’d have usually used, otherwise I really didn’t change a lot! After glancing quickly at the picture in the cook book for a little inspiration, I made up a quick and easy version that will be super easy to re-create for dinner even on the nights I’m in a bit of a hurry.

To make this quick and healthy bun cha for 2, you’re going to need:
– 300g minced pork
– finely grated zest of 1 lemon
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
– 1 small shallot, finely diced, as well as 1 crushed clove of garlic (leave these out if you need it low FODMAPs!)

– rice noodles, as much as you want, cooked as per packet instructions
– 1 carrot, peeled and grated
– 1 cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
– fresh coriander and chives, to serve

To make the pork patties, combine all of the ingredients and mush them together with your hands. Roll them into balls and flatten slightly, cooking them for a few minutes on each side on a hot pan sprayed with cooking oil. Or, if your very Aussie husband is cooking them while you’re preparing the rest of the meal, cook them up on the BBQ. We are coming into BBQ weather, after all.

To serve, pop your noodles in a bowl. Add the carrot and cucumber, then the pork patties. Sprinkle some fresh coriander and chives over the top, and spoon some sweet and sour chilli sauce over it, too (recipe below). How easy is that?! It’s also highly advisable to double the quantities so you can have the leftovers for lunch the day after!

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SWEET CHILLI SAUCE – if you’re keen and want to make your own (which I’d recommend, it’s actually really easy!):
– 3 tbsp lemon juice
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– 1 tbsp caster sugar
– 2 tbsp cold water
– 1 small shallot, diced and crushed a little
– 1 small red chilli, sliced

To make your chilli sauce, just combine everything in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. To be perfectly honest, this is not a perfect science; the taste can easily vary depending on your lemon and type of fish sauce, so it is absolutely imperative that you taste it and just adjust accordingly! Once it’s all done, just set it aside – left over sauce also keeps really well in the fridge for a week or so in an air-proof container or jar.

Cook this: peanut butter oat slice (gluten free, lactose free & low FODMAPs!)

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You may have noticed, I’m doing some more special diet-friendly recipes at the moment. I’ve noticed that there’s not a lot out there if you do have certain intolerance, and the food that is out there isn’t always amazing. With my past as a personal trainer and degree in exercise science and nutrition, I actually really enjoy playing around with recipes to make them a little healthier and/or friendlier to sensitive tummies and what not. I’ve also been quite ill lately, and am trying to find out if there’s something my body perhaps can’t tolerate, like lactose or gluten or who-knows-what.

Anyway, as has been well documented, I am a nanna, I like tea, and I cannot have my tea without a slice of cake or a biscuit or even more cake with it. It cannot and should not be done. While I’m cutting out gluten and lactose and some other foods as per the low FODMAPs thing, I refuse to accept my only tea time treats as the crappy packaged “special” biscuits available at supermarkets. I’m not eating that stuff.

I adapted this recipe from a baked porridge recipe I came across and adjusted to perfection a few years ago – rather than making a baking dish full of baked porridge (which is amazing, by the way!), I decided to spread out the mixture over a larger, rectangular tray, so it would be a bit of a cake/slice/biscuit hybrid kind of thing.

 

You’ll need:
– 1½ cups oats (use wheat free to make it GF/low FODMAPs friendly!)
– 2 heaped tbsp brown sugar (if you prefer to go sugar free, you can use honey instead, 2 tbsp should do it!)
– 2 tbsp chia seeds
– 2 tbsp cacao nibs
– ½ cup mixed seeds (I used sunflower and pepitas)
– pinch of salt
– 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
– ¾ cup peanut butter (Mayvers, of course, my favourite!)
– splash of vanilla extract

And the super easy part:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a tray with non stick baking paper.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add all the wet ingredients.
4. Mix them together until they’re completely combined.
5. Smooth the mixture out in the tray, put it in the oven, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes

That’s it. Just let it cool completely before slicing it up and chowing down.

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It came out exactly as I wanted – soft and crumbly, great flavours, still sweet without being overly sugary, and chock full of things that are actually good for you and provide nutrients, rather than the processed and genetically modified stuff you buy in a package. The other great thing is that you can (obviously) play around with the add ins and use what ever you want – nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, whatever! Have fun making this one your own – would love to hear other combinations you guys have tried too!