Cook this: mini microwave matcha pudding cakes

Monday morning. You’re meant to be rested and ready to go on Monday mornings. As I begin to type this on Sunday night, I get the feeling that’s not going to be the case for me. A lifelong insomniac, I’m also struggling with depression and anxiety and disordered eating. Throw all that into the cauldron along with how busy things are getting in the lead up to Christmas (not very compatible with a textbook introvert who gets her energy from being along rather than in big social situations), a particularly frustrating work situation that I’m stuck with at the moment, and my body struggling to adjust to some new medication, and it’s just, well…. yeah. So at this point, every Monday I can get through in one piece is a massive win right now!

I know a lot of people like to reward themselves for getting through another Monday unscathed; for some, it’s a beer or a nice glass of wine. For others, it’s a spot of online shopping. Or maybe watching their favourite guilty pleasure trashy TV show. Personally, I like a cup of tea on the couch in my PJs with a little something sweet to eat. So if I get through today, this is what I’m gonna be treating myself with.

This is a magical little cup of happiness, based on the recipe I used for the chocolate mug cake. Other than the matcha powder, it uses staple pantry ingredients that you should always have handy, and it only takes about 5 minutes start to finish, so it’s the perfect end-of-the-day treat 🙂 I also like to use pandan kaya on top of mine, because it tastes fantastic with the matcha – this is the stuff I use, which I get from ARC Asian Grocers at Preston Market. It’s SO GOOD!!!

 

To make one big pudding cup or two small ones:
– ¼ cup plain flour or almond meal (if I have almond meal, I like a 50/50 mix)
– ½ tsp matcha powder
– ¼ tsp baking powder
– ½ tbsp caster sugar
– ½ tbsp shredded coconut
– ¼ cup milk (I like almond milk for this)
– 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
– optional – a few strawberries or raspberries, pandan kaya

And then:
1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a coffee mug or tea cup.
2. Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.
3. If you want to add in berries, stir them in now.

4. Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is.
5. Take it out, let it cool for a minute, top with pandan kaya and a little more shredded coconut if you want, and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a good Monday; make sure you make time to do a little something for yourself, and if you need a little treat tonight, I hope you can enjoy a matcha pudding cup, too!

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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…

Cook this: quick & healthy – citrus & coriander snapper on baked corn & pineapple rice (gluten free/low FODMAP)

After our crazy busy Saturday of Christmas shopping, normal people would have spent Sunday chilling out. But we’re not normal people; we’re idiots. After crawling into bed just before midnight, we set the alarm for 7am so we could get a work out in before heading back to the shopping centres to find some Christmas decorations for the tree and the house. The alarm went off, we both groaned and rolled around not wanting to move too far, but we dragged ourselves out of bed anyway. We decided to make it a big walk with Marley so he could get his walk in too, and so we could enjoy the sunshine while it was out. We laughed at the idea that normal people wouldn’t be doing this to themselves – normal people would be sleeping in on a Sunday, enjoying a lazy breaky, making no concrete commitments to doing anything much. But there we were.

On reflection, the pursuit of being fit and healthy has always been there for me. I always checked out magazine articles that had the little workout tips or healthy eating ideas in them. I researched exercise plans online when we got the internet (around when I started high school). I studied calorie counts when the Calorie King website got popular. Despite the fact that I’ve always been at a healthy weight, my family has always been healthy, we were never fed anything but fruit and veggies and home cooked, balanced meals as kids (thanks, mum!), and none of us have ever been close to overweight, it’s always been a bit of a preoccupation of mine. I guess that’s why setting my alarm for 7am on a Sunday to exercise doesn’t really strike me as odd. As kids, we were always active. Basketball training, tennis lessons, dance classes, taekwondo. Whatever it was, it wasn’t questioned. Time to go to basketball? Sweet, let’s go. There was never the option of “nah, I can’t be bothered, I’d rather sleep in, play video games for 3 hours and eat 4 bags of chips while I’m doing it.” We just got on with it.

So, we got up, we got moving, we got a little overenthusiastic and may or may not have started decorating the house in red and green already… But at the end of it all, we still needed dinner. It needed to be quick, healthy, nothing too heavy, fructose free, and use the snapper fillets we’d bought at the market on Friday night. I have a few notebooks in the kitchen with recipes I’ve cut out of magazines and collected over the years – in  the one with the seafood recipes in it, I found a recipe from an old Women’s Health magazine from years ago, and it looked just about perfect. As usual, I messed about with it to make it more tummy friendly and quick and simple, so here’s my take on their Costa Rican snapper!

Ingredients (makes 4 serves):
– juice of 1 small orange
– juice of half a lemon or lime
– 2 tbsp oil (I used garlic infused oil)
– 1 clove garlic minced (leave it out if you’re a low FODMAPper)
– 4 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
– 1 tsp caster sugar
– salt and pepper
– 4 snapper fillets, approx 120g each
– 2 cups cooked brown rice
– 2 green capsicums, diced
– 1 ear of corn kernels
– small tin diced pineapple
– 2 tomatoes, diced

Method:
1. Combine the orange and lemon or lime juices, the oil, garlic, coriander, sugar and a little salt and pepper in a large tub. Add the fish fillets and shake the tub to coat well. Marinate for 15 minutes.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and grab a large baking dish out.

3. In a large bowl, combine the rice, green capsicum, corn kernels and pineapple (I left the pineapple out because husband and I both like cold pineapple more than having it warmed up, but you can go either way), and spread it over the baking dish.

4. Lay the fish fillets on top of the rice and spoon the rest of the marinating mixture over the top.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked through – serve fresh out of the oven with fresh diced tomatoes (and the pineapple if you didn’t put it in the rice).

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.

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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?!).

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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!

Cook this: quick & healthy – spring onion & zucchini omelette (gluten/lactose free, low FODMAP). And an open letter to crappy doctors.

Ohhh it’s been a long week. And it’s recipes like this one getting me through at the moment – cheap, quick to throw together, a few simple ingredients, and FODMAP friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and spending time creating, but some days I’ve only got like 10 minutes worth of energy left to make dinner so it needs to be QUICK!

But, before we get to the recipe, a letter to the medical “professionals” out there who brought me to the point of trying this whole low FODMAP thing. _________________________________________________________________________________________
Dear shitty, unprofessional, uncaring, uneducated doctors,

I’m a few weeks into doing my absolute best to stick to a low FODMAP diet. Why? Well, I’ve had stomach problems, nasty ones, on and off for the past few years. Yes, years. Why the hell would anyone put that off for so long? In a word, YOU. Doctors. Specifically, the really shitty ones out there – you know who you are. I’ve seen four of you in my quest to get my stomach issues sorted, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated dealing with a group of “professionals” in my life. Let me tell you why.

The first of you I saw was the family doctor. You’ve been looking after me since I was a kid. Yes, granted, I understand that we have a hypochondriac in the family who’s probably annoyed the crap out of you over the years, but surely the fact that you rarely see me tells you I’m not of the same pedigree. The first time I saw you with my concerns, you told me that it’s a common problem, it’ll go away when it’s ready. When I come back to you a year later with the problem having gotten worse, you first told me that another girl you saw around my age recently presenting with the same problems ended up having cancer. Three minutes later, after my asking what we could do to find out exactly what the problem was, you said we could maybe test for gluten intolerance, but not to expect to find anything – just because it was the “trendy problem” that all the kids wanted to have these days didn’t mean it was an “actual thing.” Wanna know what isn’t trendy? Vomiting, diarrhea and crippling stomach pain. Asshole.

The next one of you helped another family member of mine, the aforementioned hypochondriac, with some other problems. I’d also seen you with concerns about my mental health when I felt my depression and disordered eating were spiralling out of control. Your advise? “Hmmm it sounds like it’s just stress. Try finding a way to relax, you’ll be fine.”  So glad I had the privilege of paying you $80.00 for that little nugget of wisdom.

Next up was the doctor I found walking down a main street near our house. You were on time, you seemed almost genuinely concerned, but you had absolutely no F-ing idea. Not a damn clue. I walked out shaking my head, none the wiser to what was going on.

Lastly, another doctor in the local area and a clinic with a slightly better reputation than the first. I saw you because honestly I was at the end of my tether, had been in tears all night, and booked an appointment with the first doctor I found via Google who could fit me in on the same day. Unlike the first three of your contemporaries, it actually sounded like you knew a bit about gut problems. You lost me though when you greeted me with “oh good, you’re here early, that means I might be able to actually leave this place at a decent hour tonight.” Are you f*%#ing for real?! You rushed me through it all at a pace I never would have believed possible, ordered a few tests and pushed me out the door with referrals containing no real instructions. I made my appointments to get the blood and breath tests done (by the way, I’m still waiting on results for tests I had done a MONTH ago), and called you as per your instructions after the final breath test for the result. Remember the chat we had? I do.

“Well, it seems that you’ve definitely tested positive for fructose intolerance, so that’s probably the main problem for you.”
Ohh ok… so where do we go from here? I asked, knowing a friend who’d been through the same thing then had a few further tests done, saw a nutritionist, etc
“Umm… just don’t eat foods with fructose in them”
Forever? Is there anywhere I can go to find some information on this? Do you have any resources on what to avoid and how long for?
“Just Google it. Good afternoon.”

Just Google it. That’s the culmination of all this. Just Google it. You doctors whinge and bitch about the self-diagnosing culture making your jobs so difficult, and the over medicated generations and the stupid amounts of “food intolerance” you didn’t have back in your day – you know what might help? GET EDUCATED ABOUT ISSUES THAT ARE AFFECTING PEOPLE TODAY AND ACTUALLY HELP YOUR DAMN PATIENTS INSTEAD OF BRUSHING IT OFF AS BEING NOTHING WHEN ACTUALLY YOU JUST PLAIN DON’T KNOW!!!!

So, shitty, lazy doctors, I consulted Dr Google, who did NOT make me wait an hour to see me, who did NOT charge me ridiculous fees and who did NOT laugh me off as just wanting to be diagnosed with a “trendy” problem. Dr Google recommended a low FODMAP diet for 8 weeks or so, after which point I should try to reintroduce some of those FODMAP foods. So, that’s what I’m doing for now, because quite frankly, I don’t want to invest waste any more time or money on “professional” opinions.
Sincerely,

Jess
________________________________________________________________________________________________

And now, to my lovely readers; if the letter above brings up issues that you’ve faced too, I’m so sorry. No one should have to deal with that crap. There may not be a ton of information out there yet on gut problems, but they are very much real. So, instead of trying to offer medical advice that your doctors can’t/won’t give you, I’ll help the best way I know how – another quick, healthy low FODMAP recipe 🙂


Ingredients for one:
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup grated zucchini
– 2 spring onions, finely sliced (top green bits only!)
– FODMAP friendly (no onion, garlic, etc) mayo, fresh coriander and toasted sesame seeds to serve.

Method:
1. Lightly sprinkle the zucchini with salt and set aside for 10 minutes while you chop the spring onion and toast the sesame seeds if they’re not already toasted.

2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add in the spring onion.

3. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the zucchini and add that to the eggs.

4. Lightly spray a non-stick fry pan with cooking oil and set over medium heat. Pour in the omelette mixture and tilt to coat the pan. Cook over low-medium heat until almost cooked through.

5. You can muck around with it a bit at this point: if I’m super hungry, I’ll fill my omelette with brown rice, vermicelli noodles, chicken, more veggies (grated carrot, grilled capsicum and bean shoots are all favourites) – whatever you want!

6. Fold your omelette over, and serve topped with a little mayo, fresh coriander and toasted sesame seeds.

 

Fellow FODMAPers – if anyone else has any quick & easy recipes to share, any information to share or questions to ask, or if anyone just wants to vent about their experiences around it all, consider it open forum!!

Cook this: quick & healthy – 6 ingredient pork fried rice (low fat/gluten free)

“It’s way too expensive.”

“It’s too hard – how am I supposed to come up with ideas every night?!”

“It’ll taste crap.”

“What, like kale and salad? No thanks!”

“How can you be bothered? It takes too long and I have better things to do than spend hours in the kitchen!”

“But my kids/partner/cat has special dietary requirements.”

“It won’t keep – instead of having left overs, I’ll just have to throw it out, and that’s such a waste.”

While it did in large part contribute to my current disordered eating situation, my career in the health and wellness industry (the result of my uni degree in exercise science) did also have a few up sides, one of which was that I developed an appreciation and genuine enjoyment of well prepared healthy food.

One of my biggest professional hates, along with “I didn’t have time to exercise this week” (but you had time to watch TV for 2 hours each night?!) were all the excuses listed above for not making healthy food choices. Studying nutrition made up a good part of my uni degree and further learning/career; a huge con is the subconscious knowledge and counting of every single calorie I eat. But an even bigger pro is the ability I now have to put together a healthy meal with minimal ingredients, in a short time frame.

Allow me to give you a really quick recipe before demonstrating how wrong all of those points are…

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6 Ingredient Pork Fried Rice

Ingredients (makes 4 serves)
– 500g pork mince
– 2 cups cooked brown rice
– 2 carrots, peeled and diced (you can par-boil if you don’t like your veggies as crunchy)
– 1 broccoli, chopped (you can par-boil if you don’t like your veggies as crunchy)
– 400g tin corn kernels, drained
– soy sauce
– cooking spray oil (I’m not counting this as an actual “ingredient”!)

Method
1. Heat a large wok over high heat, spray with cooking oil and add the mince. Cook, stirring constantly to break it up in the wok for a few minutes, until it’s cooked through and no pink remains in the meat.

2. Add the carrots, broccoli and corn kernels, cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the carrot softens and the veggies get a little colour to them.

3. Add the cooked rice and as much or as little soy sauce as you want – keep stirring over high heat for another 5 minutes, or until the rice starts to get a little crispier (I tend to stop and stir in intervals around 30 seconds, to allow the rice to form a bit of a crust on the bottom of my wok, which tastes amazing when you scrape it up.

4. That’s it! Serve it up with garnishes if you have/want them – I use fresh coriander and the tops of spring onions, to keep it FODMAP friendly.

 

 

So, how does it weigh up?

 

“It’s way too expensive.”
No it’s not – I can get a kilo of pork mince at my local market for around $7.00, 2kg of rice for around $4.00, and you can’t tell me 2 carrots, a broccoli and a tin of corn are going to break the bank!

“It’s too hard – how am I supposed to come up with ideas every night?!”
6 ingredients and 4 steps ain’t hard! As for coming up with ideas, there are SO many amazing healthy food blogs around – get inspired and read!

“It’ll taste crap.”
Wrong again! Keep it simple – a few good ingredients = delicious meal.

“What, like kale and salad? No thanks!”
Healthy food doesnt’ have to be salad! I’ve based this recipe off a pretty basic principle – 1 serve of healthy fat (cooking oil), 1 serve of protein (mince), 2 serves of grains (rice), 3 serves of veggies. Once you’ve got that basic formula, you can make it whatever you want!

“How can you be bothered? It takes too long and I have better things to do than spend hours in the kitchen!”
Around half an hour to make 4 meals. That’s all you need.Wanna make it extra quick? Use one of those microwave rice packets instead!

“But my kids/partner/cat has special dietary requirements.”
Low fat, low calorie, gluten free (as long as you use GF soy sauce), lactose free, low FODMAP, no nuts, no eggs. What else do you want?!

“It won’t keep – instead of having left overs, I’ll just have to throw it out, and that’s such a waste.”
Keeps perfectly well in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the fridge.

 

So if you’re stuck for quick and easy and cheap and healthy meal ideas for the rest of the week, just grab these few ingredients and enjoy this week!

Cook this: healthy peanut butter cookies

I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, sure, “healthy” cookies. Like a few seeds makes it “good” for you. Whatever.

But seriously, these actually are good. No flour, no sugar, no eggs or butter. My baby sister (a clean eating and tough training machine) got me onto these – a super simple recipe that tastes like a treat, but made from pretty healthy ingredients, so you can enjoy them without guilt! They can’t be THAT bad, can they?! Now that I have your attention..

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You’re gonna need (to make around 15):
– 100g almond meal
– 150g peanut butter
– 75g mixed seeds (I used sunflower and pepitas)
– 175g pitted dates
– 1-2tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp bicarb soda

Ready for how ridiculously easy these are to make?
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Put the dates & peanut butter into a food processor or blender, and blitz until the dates are well shredded up and combined with the peanut butter.
3. Put the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and blitz again until they are all combined.
4. Roll the mixture into balls, pop them onto the tray and bake 12 – 15min.

That’s it. Seriously. They are soft, crumbly, and really really delicious. No sugar required. Can be made gluten free or vegan. Can muck around with it and swap ingredients around – use cranberries or figs instead of dates. Use hazelnuts and cacao nibs instead of seeds. Use almond butter instead of peanut butter. Use oats instead of almond meal. Whatever, anything goes! Enjoy!