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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Bone Broth: what it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

Cook this: quick & healthy – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelette

This isn’t so much a “recipe” as your friendly Monday morning reminder that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming. By Monday morning, most of us have probably enjoyed a bit of weekend indulgence (I know I did, after attending a gorgeous wedding with amazing food!), and we’d like to get back to eating something a bit healthier and lighter. But the thought of eating a boring salad sends most of us back to the heavier food we’d indulged in to start off with; it’s a vicious cycle.

This is one of my go-to recipes when…
a) I’m craving something healthy and lots of veggies but I don’t want a salad
b) I’ve got leftover veggies and rice that are at the end of their lifespan in the fridge and want to use them up rather than wasting them (and more money on more food)
c) I’ve got other delicious odds and ends in the fridge or pantry that I want to use but can’t think of another dish to tie them all together
d) I can’t really be bothered working too hard to get a healthy meal on the table

Eggs are also a pretty great source of protein, and it’s not a bad idea to give your gut a break from digesting meat all the time. With my food intolerances, beans and legumes are sadly off the table for me now, so eggs are the perfect back up option (they’re also pretty cheap compared to meat). Aaaaand if you double to recipe, you’ve got dinner for 2 and leftovers for lunch!

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggs
– cooking spray oil
– salt & pepper & your favourite dried herbs
– whatever else you want to throw in! I used (for this omelette) a cup of (cooked) brown rice, leftover roast red capsicum and zucchini, a few cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few Kalamata olives. I’ve also used everything from leftover roast vegetables, antipasto mixes and cheese left behind from weekend platters, even leftover stir fried vegetables and noodles in an Asian style omelette!

Method:
1. Preheat your grill to high and leave it waiting.

2. Whisk the eggs together, season with a little salt, pepper and dried (or fresh, if you have them) herbs, and stir in everything else you want in there.

3. Heat a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil, making sure to coat it well (otherwise you’ll leave half the omelette behind in the pan).

4. Pour in the omelette mix, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until you start to see the egg getting whiter rather than translucent. At that point, you can flip it, but I prefer putting it under the grill to slowing cook through from the top and forming a nice golden crust. This is also a good time to sprinkle some cheese on top, if you’re that way inclined.

5. Once cooked through, let it cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, slicing up and serving – a little sauce on top is always a good touch, and we use everything from mayonnaise to mustard to hoi sin sauce to chili paste; anything goes!

Cook this: mini matcha balls

One of my favourite Instagram feeds belongs to Matchaeologist; purveyors of high quality matcha, and sharers of the best matcha recipes online. The last recipe I tried from their feed was this batch of oddly coloured but VERY delicious matcha white chocolate muffins. Yesterday morning,  another one of their recipes caught my eye. With a little tweaking, I give you these ridiculously simple to make and full of goodness matcha balls.

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Not only do they require very few ingredients, they can very easily be made gluten free. They’re lactose and fructose free,  too. They take all of 3 minutes to put together before a quick bake in the oven. They come out like delicious little biscuit balls on the outside, with a soft, moist centre. Stop reading,  start baking.

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Ingredients:
– 80g plain flour
– 5g matcha
– 25g caster sugar
– 20g almond meal
– 2 tsp vegetable oil
– 4 tbsp water

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then stir in the oil and water.

3. Roll into small balls and place on the oven tray. Bake for 18 minutes, then transfer to a metal rack to cool.

4. Once cooled to room temperature,  dust with icing sugar and serve.

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: Gluten & sugar free banana bread (from Balance by Monica)

If you were reading last week, you might have seen this post where I introduced my sister’s brainchild, Balance By Monica; starting small with Instagram to share her food creations until she has her nutrition qualification to go along with her teaching, psychology and health instructor ones, at which point the empire will no doubt expand.

I also promised to share a recipe from her; I mentioned in my post that a lack of education is a big problem when it comes to making healthy, balanced choices, and when you have food intolerances, that only makes it all the harder. But, even though there are a lot more instances of food intolerances these days, we’re also lucky to have a lot more access to information on how to deal with and adapt to them. If you have issues with gluten, lactose and/or sugar, this ones’s for you!

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Ingredients:
– 2 ripe bananas, mashed, plus 1 more banana, peeled and cut in half length ways
– ½ cup rolled oats
– ¾ cup almond meal
– ¾ cup LSA mix (available from health food stores)
– 2 eggs, lightly whisked
– ¼ cup milk (regular, almond, soy, whatever!)
– 2 tbsp plain vanilla or Greek yoghurt
– 2 tbsp Stevia or honey
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tbsp chia seeds

Method:
1.Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a loaf tin or line it with non-stick baking paper.

2. Add all ingredients (except the banana halved length ways and the chia seeds) into a large mixing bowl and stir together to combine completely.

3. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth it out with a spatula.

4. Top the cake with the extra banana and sprinkle with chia seeds.

5. Bake for 60min or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Rest in the tin until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cook this: Vanilla raspberry protein loaf (lactose, sugar & gluten free)

I actually really enjoy baking with protein powder, and think it can be a bit of an underrated ingredient in the kitchen. If you can find one with a good flavor (I love a strong vanilla), it’s a great addition; it’s also a convenient way to pass off treats as “healthy”  ; )

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Anyway, when I saw this recipe on my blog roll a few weeks ago, I saved it to make later, and I finally got around to it this week. It’s a great one for those with special diets (you can substitute flour for more nut meal or GF flour if you’re coeliac), there’s no refined sugar unless you want to add some (but I find the sweetness from the berries good enough for me), you can use oil instead of butter if you prefer, and you can use any milk you want if you need a lactose free version. While the original recipe uses raspberries (and used them too because they’re my favourites), you can really use any frozen berries.

Also, it’s Friday – and if you want to treat yourself without totally eating crap, you may as well 🙂 Here’s my version of the protein berry loaf, inspired by Healthy with Anja’s recipe.

 

Ingredients:
– ½ rolled oats
– ½ cup plain flour, sifted
– ½ cup almond meal
– 2 scoops protein powder (I like vanilla Vital protein, which also happens to be vegan and dairy/soy free)
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ¼ heaped cup shredded coconut
– 2 large eggs, whisked
– 25g butter, melted and cooled
– ½ cup milk
– 1 heaped tbsp plain Greek yoghurt
– 1 cup frozen raspberries

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and line a loaf tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine the oats, flour, almond meal, protein powder, baking powder and coconut in a large mixing bowl.

3. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the eggs until completely combined, then add in the butter, again mixing until completely combined.

4. Stir in the milk next, a bit at a time (you may not need it all) until it comes together in a good cake-batter consistency.

5. Pour half the batter into the prepared tin and spread about two thirds of the raspberries over it. Cover the raspberries with the rest of the batter, and sprinkle the remaining berries over the top.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cover with foil; bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until cooked through.

 

 

** Note – this is definitely more of a loaf than a cake in terms of sweetness, so if you want it a bit sweeter, add a tablespoon or two of caster sugar in with the dry ingredients **