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: Cacao nib & oat cookies (sugar, lactose & gluten free)

So, a flare up of stomach issues have necessitated a return to slightly stricter low-FODMAP regulations. Again. But that’s not as bad as it was the first time around – I know more know, and know what my body can and can’t deal with a little better.

I was browsing Instagram for recipe ideas the other week, and came across this gorgeous picture from @edgarraw – his Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Ummmm yes please! I’m an oat addict, and an even bigger chocolate lover, so these looked pretty good even before I scrolled through to the recipe.

Once I got to the recipe, I also found it included other favourite ingredients of mine – cacao nibs, dried dates and almond milk. Despite the severe fructose intolerance, I actually stomach a little dried fruit (yay!), so while it might look like a LOT of dates in this recipe, remember it’s divided between the whole batch. This recipe is also sugar free, as the cookies get all their sweetness from the dates – basically makes them health food. I made some changes (as usual) and was stoked with the result! Here’s my version of Edgar’s cookies…

Ingredients:
– 1½ cups loosely packed dried dates
– ½ cup almond milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– ½ cup almond meal or gluten free plain flour
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 1 cup rolled oats
– ¼ cup flax seeds
– ¼ cup toasted cacao nibs
– ¼ cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Soak the dates in super hot water for an hour.

2. After soaking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients – the flour, baking powder, oats, flax seeds, cacao nibs and shredded coconut.

4. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the milk and vanilla extract. Blend until a paste comes together.

5. Spoon the paste mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to combine completely. If it’s too dry, add a little water to help bring it all together.

6. Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape into balls, placing them on the oven tray with a little space in between.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, and cool on the tray. Enjoy!

Cook this: 6 ingredient cookies (gluten, lactose, egg free)

I used to hate Fridays. Back when I was working in gyms and in retail travel. I bloody hated Fridays. Because when everyone else was winding down from the week and ready to enjoy their weekend, I was just gearing up. Friday was like a Tuesday or Wednesday for me. For the first decade of my working life, I worked almost every weekend. And it sucked.

But now that I’m doing the corporate thing for work, and not stressing about whether or not I’ll actually get paid because I no longer get paid per personal training session or on commission per holiday sold, weekends are a thing of beauty. Friday is a happy day. I get to wear my jeans to work and be all “casual.” I get to visit my beloved Preston Market after work and do my groceries with the Euro-nannas. I get to take said groceries home and bake something! That’s where it can get a little tricky – Friday nights are when you want something nice to nibble on, but can’t actually be bothered putting in much of an effort, because, ya know, it’s Friday.

Enter these guys. Cookies from the heavens.
6 ingredients.
1 bowl.
1 spoon.
Highly customizable.
Gluten free.
Lactose free.
Egg free.

This is Friday night baking at its best. Now, throw these together when you get home this afternoon and prepare a glass of wine to go with that shitty movie you’re planning to unwind with after another long week at work.

Unless you work in the gym or retail sector, in which case prepare a double batch and a bottle of wine, and good luck for the weekend!!

(Based loosely on the cookie layer recipe from Eating Bird Food’s Twix Bars)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup almond meal
– ⅛ tsp sea salt
– ⅛ tsp baking soda
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

That’s the base 6 ingredients you need, but then you can top the cookies with whatever you want. I used chocolate chips, but anything goes!

1. Throw everything into a bowl and mix it together – when it becomes too crumbly, use your hands to smoosh it all together.

2. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and take tablespoon (or teaspoon, depending on what you’re after) sized chunks of dough, roll into balls and flatten slightly, placing them on the baking tray as you go. If you want to add a little something on top, like my chocolate chips, do that now.

3. Sit the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes, and while they’re resting, preheat the oven to 160°C.

4. Take the cookies out of the freezer and into the oven for 15 minutes; once they’re baked (they won’t brown up much, and that’s ok – they’re not meant to!), take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray to room temperature.

5. Eat all of the cookies while watching the latest episodes of The Vampire Diaries and America’s Next Top Model. Yes they are my guilty pleasures, judge away, I don’t even care. Except that tonight I won’t be in my PJs by 7pm, because I’ll be out at the first Christmas party of the season… I hope they have cookies…

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: 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

Method:
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