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.

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

Cook this: cacao, puffed quinoa & pistachio granola

I have the most ridiculous accumulation of cookbooks at home, and at one point had started to hoard magazines, as well.

When I realised how out of control it was getting, I decided to consolidate all of my favourite recipes from my magazines into smaller collections; I went out and bought a few large spiral notebooks and went through my magazines, cutting out the recipes I actually liked and thought I’d cook. I stuck them into the notebooks, and they now sit in a nice, neat little pile on my bookshelf.


I go through them every few weeks to find inspiration and ideas I’d forgotten I’d collected, and found some new breaky inspiration in one of my books last week; a Donna Hay granola recipe, using puffed quinoa, which I’ve been wanting to try adding to my breakfast oats for a while now.

I made a few changes to suit my tastes and pantry supplies, and ended up with an incredible mix, and the perfect way to enjoy a chocolatey breakfast without the extra sugar and calories – happy!

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 large jar)
– 1/4 cup cacao powder
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 6 tbsp water
– 2 cups puffed quinoa
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chia seeds
– 1/2 cup cacao nibs
– 1 cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Heat the cacao (or cocoa) powder, sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, gently mixing until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat to cool a little.

3. While that cools, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to coat and combine.

5. Spread the mixture over the oven tray, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, mixing it around every 5 minutes or so to ensure it cooks evenly.

6. Cool completed on the tray, and store in an airtight jar or container 2 – 3 weeks.

From my travel journal: New Orleans, 2015

IMG_6238

“There’s a lot to do in the city, and it’s easy to have a good time, but the best part is just walking around… The streets are never the same. The people change, the vibes change, it’s constant movement and completely perfect.”

Eat here: Shifty Chèvre, Melbourne (French/cafe/bar)

Shifty Chèvre
375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://www.shiftychevre.com/#shiftychevre

This is another one of those places we’ve been meaning to get around to for ages; the blessing and curse of being a food lover living in Melbourne is that for every place you tick off your “to eat” list, another 3 pop up. It’s relentless. It’s the best possible problem to have.

Part cheese & wine bar, part brunch spot, they’re all about making you feel right at home. As they say on their website, their place is designed to be an extension of their own kitchen, “a place of warmth, laughter, cheese, good food and a bottle of something with friends.” It’s also a really beautiful place, full of the little touches like the wooden coat stand and random framed pictures.

Given the Sunday morning visit, husband got stuck right into some coffee, and tea was my poison. Both fresh and hot and all sorts of perfect for a Melbourne winter’s morning.

Then, food. Tough decisions had to be made. Husband finally settled on the smokey bacon sandwich ($18.00) – house-smoked thick-cut bacon with melted triple cheese, thyme roasted field mushrooms and tomato relish in sourdough bread with a fried egg on top. Damn good sandwich – that bacon was magic! While the egg on top made it pretty hard to eat like a proper sandwich, everything worked perfectly. Big winner!

My decision was easy: the Shifty Benedict ($18.00) – slow roasted smoked ham hock, poached eggs, multigrain toast, apple cider hollandaise sauce and pork crackling.

Perfectly poached eggs, soft and molten, and smothered in deliciously creamy hollandaise. The ham hock was the highlight, though – piled high under the egg, I couldn’t really tell what I was getting into, but breaking it up with my fork, it was soft and tender and juicy, with the most delicious smokey flavour. Oh, and that pork crackling… WOW…

If that was the brunch menu, I cannot wait to try out the dinner (with wine, obviously). Everything that was promised was delivered – it was a warm, cosy place, easy to feel at home in, and the food was incredible. Another perfect addition to the Melbourne brunch scene :)


Shifty Chevre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato