Eat here: Serotonin Eatery, Melbourne (healthy stuff)

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove, Burnley, Richmond

So, I finally got around to visiting Serotonin. I’ve been putting it off for aaaaages because:
a) it’s a shit to get to from my place, and
b) it just seemed a bit bright and shiny and happy and positive for me.

But, overdue for a lady date, my lovely friend suggested Serotonin, and I figured “why not?” I probably wasn’t going to go on my own! I figured I’d kick back and relax with some good food and great company after a looooong week, and not worry about photos or anything this time, because I didn’t intend on writing a blog post about it, because every other man and his dog has already. Obviously, I changed my mind..

Serotonin is all about the healthy. Combining an eatery and exercise centre, they’re all about promoting good health and the happiness that comes with it. The menu is plant-based, relating back to their belief that this kind of food helps regular hormones, moods and gut balance, and therefore gives you more energy to enjoy the things you love. Normally, I get a bit antsy about these super healthy types, having experienced the full range of health-nuts working in the health industry; I always worry that they’re going to be a bit preachy and judgy with those of us who aren’t rolling up to eat in our tights and sports bras, toned and tanned and terrific.

I couldn’t have been happier to be proven more wrong; yes, the team working there were all far fitter and more beautiful than I, but there was not a speck of arrogance or holier-than-thou about them. I genuinely don’t believe I have ever been anywhere the staff looked so happy to be there, and it makes all the difference (those of you who’ve experienced the surly, snappy service first thing on a Sunday morning in some lovely cafe or other know what I’m talking about). Not only did this crew take your order, they asked if you needed any recommendations or had any dietary restrictions that needed attending to, pulled up a seat next to you and actually stopped for a chat! And you know what? I did not see a single customer grumpy at having to wait an extra 2 minutes because their server was having a chat with the people at the next table. I didn’t actually believe this was possible in Melbourne…

The place itself is gorgeous, too – heaps of seating inside, but the courtyard is where it’s at, in my opinion. When the winter sun hits it, it’s perfection. And even better, there are swings to sit on out the back – you wanna talk about getting the happy chemicals flowing, put a grown woman on a giant swing at a fancy cafe and watch it happen!

And the menu was actually pretty impressive – they even had a few dishes that were specifically mentioned as being onion and garlic free! Do you have any idea how hard it is to go out for lunch and find something without onion and/or garlic?! Even soups are made with them! We both ordered the deconstructed sushi bowl ($17.00), because it just sounded too good to pass up – a bowl of warm brown rice & quinoa piled high with pickled ginger, daikon, carrot, mushroom, capsicum, cucumber, avocado, shredded nori and crunchy wasabi peas, along with a syringe full of tamari soy sauce.

I loved it. I love sushi anyway, and I actually really like raw veggies, so even without any meat, this was brilliant. It was deceptively big, as well, and very filling, without being heavy and sickening. If I wasn’t totally lazy, this is the sort of lunch I’d make myself most days – don’t get my wrong, I’m still an utter and complete burger addict, but sometimes it’s nice to have something fresh and light, and this completely hit the spot. Those crunchy little wasabi peas were magic in there, too (note to self: add to shopping list).

By that point, the sun was out and we were warming up on our swings (and we were both procrastinating going home to adult for the day), so we decided to stay a little longer with some hot drinks. Drinks menu is incredible; they even have a peanut butter latte (seriously)! It was a matcha latte ($7.00) for me, though, made with organic coconut milk. Matcha and coconut milk is one of my favourite combos, and even though it wasn’t a cheap drink and I couldn’t ever justify ordering these regularly, it was the perfect treat to end lunch with. And, it was so happy to see me 🙂

We finally and reluctantly left our seats on the swings, bellies full and happy, and I have to admit how wrong I was about this place. The food was fantastic, the people couldn’t have been nicer, and it couldn’t have been further from the scary, intimidating experience I was imagining. I just wish it was closer to home!


Serotonin Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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: olive oil chocolate zucchini cake (low FODMAP)

Oh, hey Sunday! I know most people have a real love/hate relationship with you, but mostly I really like you. I especially love you in the Melbourne spring time – more often than not, you follow a semi-hectic Saturday, breezing in with your just-warm-enough sunshine and blue skies, lazy mornings and relaxing afternoons. Personally, I think that right now, you’re one of the best days of the week to enjoy a good cup of tea, because right now it’s not so warm that you don’t feel like hot tea, and it’s not so cold that you can’t sit outside in the sunshine to enjoy it. And you can’t really enjoy a good pot of tea without something delicious to nibble on.

Enter a recipe I adapted from Laura’s dark chocolate olive oil zucchini bread on Fork Knife Swoon. I’ve made this twice in the last 10 days, and it’s one of the best chocolate cake recipes I have now. Of course, the recipe I’m using isn’t quite the same as Laura’s – you guys know I like to do these things my own way! And as much as I like Laura’s effort in calling in “bread,” I’m not even gonna bother. Despite the fact that this is a relatively healthy cake compared to other fudgy chocolate cakes (olive oil instead of plain butter, plenty of zucchini, unsweetened cocoa powder instead of heaps of sugar and melted chocolate), it is rich, moist, chocolatey and completely addictive. I’m also a  massive fan of the taste of good quality olive oil, and it works so absolutely perfectly with the dark chocolate in this cake. Oh yeah, and it’s still gluten free (providing you use gluten free plain flour), lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP and tummy friendly. Amazing.

Use these..
– 2 small zucchinis
– ¾ cup almond meal
– 1 cup plain flour
– ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ½ cup caster sugar

– ¾ cup olive oil
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– ½ cup dark chocolate chips (I used Lindt 85% dark chocolate because it doesn’t upset my stomach like other chocolates do, and just chopped it up into small pieces)

.. to make this:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease or baking paper-line a tin of choice – I used a medium sized loaf tin, but you can go round, square, whatever you want.

2. Grate the zucchini into a strainer or colander, and squeeze out a bit of the excess moisture (but not ALL of it, because you need some of it to keep the cake moist. I hate that word, but that’s what it is).

3. In a small bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.

4. In a larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Then stir in the zucchini.

5. Add about a quarter of the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Continue adding the flour bit by bit, stirring as you go and making sure it’s completely combined.  Lastly, stir in those chocolate chips.

6. Pour the batter into your tin and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Let your cake cool off until it’s safe to handle, slice it up and enjoy eating as much as you want, because it’s full of vegetables and what not 😉

Well, I’m off to enjoy lunch with my lovely in-laws (no, seriously) now, but I’ll be heading home to enjoy a cuppa and some of this cake when we’re done! And don’t worry guys – it’s not even midday yet, and this cake is stupidly easy to make, so you have plenty of time to get one in the oven to enjoy this arvo, too! Also, you really should get some extra veggies in today…  Here’s to you Sunday – thanks for the sunshine and down time to relax and eat cake before the start of another hectic week!

Cook this: mini meatloaf with roast veggies (gluten free, low FODMAP)

Know what really sucks? When you’re sick and can’t eat your usual “sick day” food. You know what I’m talking about? That thing you make every time you’re really, really feeling crap – the only thing you can stomach, the one plate of food you know will make you feel a little better. Mine is a bowl of pasta (preferably penne or spirals) with a little melted butter and salt. That’s what my grandmothers used to make me when I was sick as a little person, and that’s what I still crave, even now. Just plain, boiled pasta, with a bit of melted butter. Stupid low FODMAP crap won’t allow it, though (ohh gluten, my good friend, can’t wait to get you back in my life!), so I’m suffering through this stupid bloody flu without it.

That’s ok though – a few weeks ago, I found this amazing recipe for a FODMAP friendly meatloaf on Strands Of My Life – I played around with it a little and now have a back up, sick day, winter comfort food dish – happy days! It’s not a gourmet dinner (we take advantage of tinned tomato soup here), but it is warm and comforting, and, more importantly (particularly when you’re sick), it’s quick and easy. It also makes for pretty good left overs, and you can mess around with the herbs and spices as much as you want to get whatever flavour you feel like. So, here’s how we do mini meat loaves with roast veggies for winter-flu-feel-like-crap dinner!

Ingredients (makes 4)
– 2 slices gluten free bread (or a cup of oats if you don’t have any bread)
– 1 tbsp paprika (I like the sweet smokey stuff)
– 1 tbsp dried basil
– 1 tbsp dried oregano
– salt & pepper
– small handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
– 1 egg, lightly whisked
– 300g beef mince
– 300g pork mince
– oil (any is fine, but my preference is garlic infused olive oil, to give it all a bit more flavour, seeing as I can’t actually use onion or garlic in the meatloaf)
– 2 tins tomato soup (just check the ingredients – don’t want any FODMAPs in there, and gluten, lactose, onion or garlic are the usual offenders)
– veggies of choice to roast (I like zucchini and eggplant)


1. Put the bread (or oats), herbs, spices and cheese into a food processor, and process until crumbs form. Also, now is a good time to pre-heat the oven for your veggies.

2. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl, add the egg and meat, and mix together well with your hands, then shape the meat into 4 small loaves.

3. Heat a large pot over medium heat with a little oil, and brown off the loaves until they all have a nice, golden brown crust.

4. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomato soup. Place the lid on the pot and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through – it’s a good idea to turn the meat loaves every now and then so they cook evenly.

5. While the meat loaves are cooking, get the veggies into the oven to roast, as well.

6. Serve up your mini loaves with roast veggies and the tomato soup poured over them.


P.S. apologies for the poor quality of photos – they were just still too hot and steamy, and I wanted to dig in and eat before they cooled down hehe

Cook this: Zucchini chocolate chip cake (gluten/lactose free, low FODMAP)

zucchini cake 3

Last week I posted a bit of an educational post, after getting some test results that led me to a low FODMAP diet for the next few weeks. As a result, I’ve been getting creative in the kitchen, with surprisingly good results thus far (for those of you who are also FODMAP challenged, I’ll keep posting recipes that’ll hopefully make your lives easier as well!), but the daily scroll through my favourite blogs proves to be difficult reading. My sweet tooth is screaming for the pretty, sugary cakes and cookies I see, the gluten laden pastries and lactose heavy ice creams. But they’re all deal breakers at the moment, so the creativity continues; I can’t go without my bit of cake with my tea, so I’m making things FODMAP friendly instead! Instead of whinging about what I can’t have, I’ve just gotta work with what I can have!

About a fortnight ago, I saw this recipe as made by Sophie at Cooking Trips, who in turn took her cue from Levana at Levana’s Whole Foods Kitchen. While both their recipes looked lovely (with Levana suggesting the additions of walnuts or pecans for a nutty crunch, and Sophie going with pine nuts), I, as usual, had my own ideas. I needed to make my cake FODMAP friendly – that meant a gluten, lactose, fructose, etc free version. I was fortunate in finding a pretty decent gluten free flour at the Preston Market, and decided to try a gluten free flour/almond meal mix in lieu of regular flour. I also recently found out that Lindt 85% dark chocolate is lactose free (yay!) and that a small amount of sunflower seeds is ok.

Long story short; I made the changes I needed to make, and it turned out AMAZINGLY, perfectly, spectacularly well! I wasn’t honestly expecting amazing things from a gluten free, low FODMAP cake, but holy wow it was good! It’s one of my least favourite words, but “moist” would be one of the more appropriate ways to describe this cake. It was sweet, but not overpoweringly so, with the dark chocolate pairing up perfectly with the zucchini (I’d always heard they went well together in cakes, but had somehow never tried it), and the almond meal held the moisture of the zucchini really well, with the gluten free flour giving it a bit more of a typical cake-like texture.

zucchini cake 1

You shouldn’t need to know much more – it’s a delicious low FODMAP cake, it has chocolate which is delicious, zucchini which basically makes it a health food option, and it doesn’t taste like crap, which you’d probably expect. Go buy a zucchini and get baking!

Ingredients (makes one loaf):
– 1 large or 2 small zucchinis
– 3 large eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tbsp lactose free milk (I used Zymil)
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil
– finely grated zest of one small orange
– 1 cup almond meal
– 1½ cups gluten free flour, double sifted
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ⅓ cup caster sugar
– heaped ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
– 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped Lindt 85% dark chocolate

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and grease a loaf tin with butter. Grate the zucchini into a large strainer or colander, and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and orange zest, then set aside.

3. In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix together well to blend and combine.

4. Go back to the zucchini, and taking one handful at a time, squeeze out some of the excess moisture (don’t squeeze it dry, but you also don’t want it sopping wet), and mix it into the egg mixture.

5. Add about a third of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, and stir to combine. Add another third and stir again, then finally the remainder and again stir to completely combine.

6. Pour the mixture into the greased loaf tin and bake 60min, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

7. Allow the cake to cool down to room temperature in the tin, slice and enjoy! Should keep for 3 – 4 days in an air-tight container.

zucchini cake 2

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…


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”!)

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: quick & healthy – chicken & greens with coconut peanut sauce (gluten free)

OHHHH THIS IS SOOO GOOD!!! A HUGE thank you to the lovely Andrea at Cooking with a Wallflower who posted this recipe a few weeks ago – as soon as I saw it on my reader, I knew I had to give it a try! If you’re not pulling recipes from other blogs to try out in your own kitchen, you’re missing out, by the way; bloggers are real people, in real kitchens. Their photos may not be fancy and shiny and magazine quality, but because it’s coming from a real person, you know the food is going to be amazing!


Her chicken and greens looked delicious, but what really got my attention was the sauce – a combination of hoi sin, peanut butter and coconut milk. As soon as I read it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this idea before – three incredible flavours, which all worked perfectly together!

It’s a very, very quick dinner, and it actually is pretty healthy too! Andrea’s version looks amazing, and you can get her recipe from her blog. My version went something like this:

Veggies: stir fried broccolini and bok choy with garlic oil and a little soy sauce.
Chicken: sliced breast fillets, grilled on the BBQ with just a little salt and pepper.
Sauce: exactly as per Andrea’s instructions:

Add hoisin sauce (1/8 cup), peanut butter (2 tbsp, crunchy), and coconut milk (3 tbsp) into a small pot over low heat. Use a heat resistant spoon or spatula to stir the sauce. Once the ingredients are evenly incorporated, remove the sauce from heat, and pour it into a small bowl.

How simple is that?! Best part was that I doubled everything and it all re-heated really well for dinner the following night, too!