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: 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: 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.

Be the change you want to see in the world: introducing Balance By Monica

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Some people are just meant to change the world. You know the people I mean? The ones who completely light up when they tell you about what they believe in. The ones who work relentlessly and forgo days off because they want to, because they believe in what they’re doing. The ones who do what they do for the sole purpose of bettering someone else’s life. That’s the kind of person I want to introduce to you today, the lady behind Balance By Monica, a woman who will change a lot of lives for the better. She’s one of my biggest role models. And my little sister 🙂

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Before I go on, full disclosure: she may be my sister, but just like a generous eatery that offers me a chance to try their new menu, I wouldn’t back her or promote her if I didn’t unequivocally believe in what she’s doing. And having worked in the health & wellness industry for many years, where I spent a good chunk of them running health programs for children and teens (like the MEND program to help educate overweight and obese children and their families), once she told me what her plan was, I was backing her 110%.

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WHO?
Mon grew up as the sporty sister (I was the academic one, the other sister was the performing artist). She was the family’s star athlete, and the only one of us three girls who never had any major body image issues; I put that down to the fact she’s always been so healthy and active. She studied psychology at uni, and is now a primary school teacher. But, like me, she’s a restless little thing who always has something else on the horizon. So now, while teaching kiddies full time during the day, teaching spin and pump classes in gyms after school and on weekends, and cooking like a fiend in the spare time between, she’s taken on the big task of going back to study again, the thing she’s always been passionate about: nutrition.

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WHAT?
Balance By Monica started as an idea years ago, as simply a way to share the food she was cooking, after constant “OMG your food is amazing!!!” type comments from family, friends and total strangers. She finally got her Instagram page up and running this year where she’s starting to share some of that delicious food with the world, but there’s so much more to it than food porn.

Mon wants to grow this little idea into a bigger platform that she can use to educate people on the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. And by healthy lifestyle, she doesn’t mean all kale and chia seeds and no more chocolate; the biggest point she wants to get across is that another diet is not the answer. Once her studies are complete and she’s a qualified nutritionist, Monica plans to use that knowledge along with her degrees in teaching and psychology to make a serious difference.

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WHY?
“I love food. Food is life.” Direct quote she gave me over our breakfast date last weekend. And she genuinely does love food; it’s an all-consuming passion. Yeah, she’s a healthy eater, but the reason for that is because she’s a firm believer in balance. That’s what this is all about; it’s ok if that beautiful chicken salad for lunch is followed by a piece of cake. One of the biggest problems is when people forget about balance; the other big problem is a lack of education around making smart choices to help keep that balance.

Being a primary school teacher, she’s been exposed in a pretty scary way to the eating habits of the majority of kids. She’s seen kids turn up to school without having had breakfast, or with a lunch box full of cookies to see them through the day. Other kids still might have 5 pieces of fruit and nothing else. The problem isn’t that parents don’t care about their children, they just don’t necessarily know any better. Having to teach these kids, Mon also sees how their poor diets affect their energy and concentration levels, as well as their ability to learn; she said it’s pretty obvious come the end of the day which children are eating the right things. By educating the parents and showing them quick, cheap and easy ways to feed their kids, she’s hoping those lessons will filter down to the children, and everyone will be happier and healthier.

She said at the end of the day, she just wants to make a difference and show people that they can live a happy and healthy life without extreme diets or cutting out entire food groups or taking any other drastic actions.

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Mon’s also kindly passed on a recipe for me to share next week; her gluten, sugar and butter free banana bread (pop back in a few days for that gem), but for now, feast your eyes on that Toblerone cake food porn…

Also, if you know anyone else who’s trying to make a difference through food and/or travel, please let me know – I’d love to talk to them and start writing up some more profiles like this! I feel like we’re so exposed to all the bad things going on in the world today, that if we can start shining light on the inspiring people out there who are trying to change the world for the better, that can only be a good thing 🙂

Eat here: Serotonin Eatery, Melbourne (healthy stuff)

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove, Burnley, Richmond
http://www.serotonindealer.com/

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