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

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: 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.

Cook this: Eggplant, tomato & beef stew 

One of my best friends told me about this recipe she found on taste.com.au last week, and it sounded amazing for the cold weather hitting Melbourne at the moment. I also love eggplant and slow cooked chuck steak, but haven’t used them together before, so I was pretty keen on trying this out.

I’ve been bulk cooking a lot lately, too; making big meals of 8 – 10 servings so I can freeze extras for those mid-week dinners I can’t be bothered cooking. This is a perfect recipe for bulk cooking – it reheats really well, and you can add in whatever grains you want when you’re ready to eat, be it pasta, cous cous, rice, bread, whatever! My version is also very vegetable heavy, because they’re good for you, especially in winter when our immune systems are being put to the test and we’re prone to rely more on heavy meals and not get enough healthy stuff in.


Ingredients (10 serves):
– 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
– a little plain flour, to coat steak in
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed – of, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, use garlic infused oil
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp tumeric
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika
– 1 tbsp smoked paprika
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp mustard seeds
– 10 tomatoes, roughly chopped (preferably vine-ripened)
– 3 cup vegetable stock
– 2 mild red chillis, roughly chopped
– 4 large eggplants, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, halved lengthways, then chopped

 

Method:
1. Add the steak and flour into a large mixing bowl and toss to lightly coat.

2. Heat a large saucepan and add a little olive oil (plain or garlic infused), enough to just coat the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 5 – 10 minutes, until browned.

3. Stir in the oregano, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, and a little salt and pepper.

4. Next, add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chilli, stir to combine, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for an hour. After an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes while it thickens up, until you’re happy with it.

5. While the stew cooks, heat up the oven to 200°C and lightly spray two large baking trays with cooking oil. Add the vegetables between the two trays, spray again with a little more oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through.

6. Once the stew is done, stir the vegetables through and serve with grains of choice – I like cous cous, but a good piece of crusty bread to dip is a great option, too!

Make this: Easy green smoothie bowl (gluten, lactose & fructose free)

Ahh Monday morning. The time of the week when you resolve to do better after reflecting on a weekend spent in stretchy-waisted pants indulging in delicious food, with your only exercise being lifting another donut to your mouth. No judgement; we’ve all been there. And we all will be again. But if, like me, you like to start the week off strong (knowing full well things will descend into anarchy come Thursday night), this breakfast might be a good place to start.

Let me preface this recipe by saying that I absolutely bloody hate smoothies and juices. A smoothie is not a meal. Neither is soup, for that matter. You eat a meal, you don’t drink it. UNLESS you can add some stuff to it to make it chunky and crunchy and substantial. So I added stuff on top. I also love a good chia pudding, so I make this smoothie the night before and stir chia seeds through it, so by morning it’s basically a big, thick, healthy, green chia pudding with crunchy bits on top. And, because there’s green stuff in it, it’s obviously healthy. Happy days!

 

Ingredients (for 1):
– ½ cup milk (I use an almond coconut milk blend)
– 1 tbsp rolled oats
– 1 tsp matcha powder
– 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
– 2 blocks of frozen spinach
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– all of the toppings!!!! On this one, I used homemade muesli, toasted cacao nibs, shredded coconut and frozen raspberry, but lets be honest – anything goes!

Method:
1. Throw the milk, oats, matcha, protein powder and frozen spinach into a blender/Nutri-bullet/that type of device and blend until smooth and combined.

2. Pour your mixture into a plastic tub and stir through the chia seeds. Place the lid on, into the fridge, and rest over night while you go to sleep and dream of breakfast.

3. In the morning, pour it into a bowl, top with whatever you want, and enjoy your fancy, health breakfast that didn’t cost $20 and a 45 minute wait at a café 😉