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!

image

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

A crash course in FODMAPs & cook this: poached egg in polenta & sugo

So, it’s been a frustrating year thus far, trying to work out what’s causing my stomach to hate me so much. After recently undergoing some blood tests and hydrogen breath tests, turns out we can confirm now that I’m not coeliac (although large amounts of gluten don’t really agree with me),  but I am lactose and fructose intolerant, which is apparently why my stomach has been hating me so much. Great. So what does that mean? A super exciting low FODMAP diet for the next few weeks, after which we try to reintroduce some of the stuff that’s currently a no-go. I won’t bore you with the details (Google “low FODMAPs” for more detailed info), but basically FODMAPs are molecules found in a lot of common foods we eat that aren’t digested properly, and then cause nasty digestive issues.  FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable
Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))
Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
and
Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

Great, but what the hell does that mean in real life? Basically, foods containing those guys are not my friend for the next few weeks. Not a whole lot of Ben & Jerry’s shenanigans over the next few weeks, then…

 

The OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – gluten free everything – bread, pasta, flour etc, quinoa, rice, rice noodles, tapioca, corn thins, popcorn (yay!), oats (double yay!), polenta
VEGGIES – among a few others, red capsicums, bok choy, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, ginger, tomato, lettuce, olives, parsnip, potato, spinach, the green tops of spring onions only
FRUITS – kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, blueberries, rockmelon, limes, lemons, mandarins, passionfruit
DAIRY – lactose free milk and yoghurt (Liddell’s for me!), coconut milk, feta, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan, brie, camembert cheeses
PROTEIN – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, eggs, unprocessed meats
NUTS/SEEDS – anything but cashews and almonds really, in very small amounts (10 nuts or less)
OTHER – pure maple syrup, pure sugar/sucrose, dark chocolate (Lindt 85% for me!), raw cacao, salt/pepper, most oils, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, herbs like cumin, paprika, coriander, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary, Nuttelex spread, small amounts of soy, fish and oyster sauces, some mayo/mustard (providing they don’t have any onion or garlic in the ingredients), tea (THANK GOD!), Massell stock cubes made without onion/garlic (SO happy I found these!)

Basically, not a heap of sauces/condiments/packaged stuff where the nasties are hidden – more plainly prepared stuff like grilled prawns (minus the garlic butter, unfortunately!), rice and simple steamed veggies. I’d be way happier in Thailand or Vietnam for the next 8 weeks, actually…

 

 

The not OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – Gluten – regular bread and pasta, cous cous, barley, and pretty much all pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, crackers, pastries etc.
VEGGIES – garlic, onion, broccoli, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, celery, fennel, leeks
FRUITS – apples, pears, stone fruits, tinned fruit, concentrated fruit juices, dried fruits
DAIRY – cow’s milk, lactose products, buttermilk, ice cream, custard, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, sour cream
PROTEIN – sausages/processed meats (often have fructose products such as honey used in them, so check the ingredients!), all beans (kidney beans, black beans, etc), chickpeas, lentils, soy beans
NUTS/SEEDS – cashews, pistachios, large amounts of any other nuts/seeds
OTHER – honey, milk chocolate, molasses, regular stock cubes, relish, cocoa powder, teas that have fennel, dandelion or chamomile in them,  and anything that includes fructose, isomalt, high fructose corn syrup, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and sugar free drinks and sweets that have polyols (ingredients typically ending in -yol) in them…. how the hell I’m going to study nutritional labels for all this crap is beyond me…

 

Grey areas:
– Soy and almond milk are the ones that’ll impact me most – almonds and soy beans are technically on the NOT OK section for the low FODMAP diet, but I’m figuring a little soy milk in my tea will still be better that regular milk! Otherwise I’ll stick with Zymil milk I think. Tofu is another one on the maybe/maybe not list, for the same reason.
– In terms of veggies, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn – small serves of a half cup or less are thought to maybe be ok, but no conclusive evidence is available at this stage either way.

Without going into too much detail, it’s not a life sentence; generally after 8 – 10 weeks of this, you’re encouraged to start re-introducing some of those FODMAPs, group by group, to see if you can include them into your diet again 🙂 What that means here is that you won’t be seeing a heap of my standard delicious naughty food on here (I’m not saying I may not have the occasional slip up – I’ll do my best but I am only human!), but instead some more gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP friendly options for a few weeks! And I have no intention of eating chicken and rice every day for the next 2 months, so we’ll see how creative this can get!

IMG_0893

ANYWAY, enough of the education component of this post (I didn’t want to get into it too much, but I also didn’t want you guys to be wondering why there wasn’t a new burger every week on here!), let’s get to the food – gooey, runny yolked poached egg in a polenta and chunky sugo nest. Winter time comfort food. The perfect meal to end the week. Which I really, really needed last night after only 3 hours sleep Saturday night.

The polenta and sugo were pretty simple – I make them both pretty often. But, surprisingly, I’ve never done poached eggs before! How is this possible?! I have no idea! It really only just hit me when I vetoed frying the egg and couldn’t be bothered waiting long enough to do the baked egg thing. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try,  and happily, it was no where near as difficult or scary as I thought it’d be!

So here’s your gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, low FODMAP, tummy friendly, blah blah blah winter warmer dinner of poached egg/s, polenta and sugo…

Ingredients (for 2):
Sugo:
– garlic infused olive oil
– 2 rashers bacon, diced
– 1 red capsicum, diced
– 2 heaped tbsp pitted, sliced black olives
– 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup plain tomato pasta sauce
– salt, pepper and dried basil
– 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, torn

Polenta:
– 2 cups water with a sprinkle of salt
– ½ cup polenta/fine semolina
– 1 tbsp Nuttelex spread (or just regular butter if you’re not low FODMAPing)
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Eggs:
– as many eggs as you want
– pot of water
– 1 tbsp vinegar

Method:
1. Get the sugo started first – heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Once the bacon starts to get a little colour, add the capsicum and cook over high heat until the capsicum starts to soften.

2. Next, add the olives, tomato, pasta sauce and as much salt, pepper and basil as you like to the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Then mix the spinach through until it wilts and shrinks. You can set the sauce aside and re-heat it if need be just before serving.

IMG_0890

3. Get your pot of water and the little bit of vinegar for the eggs on the boil next – it needs to be a roaring, rolling boil before you even think about throwing those eggs in there. Crack as many eggs as you want into separate, small dishes and set them aside.

4. Finally, get the pot of water for the polenta on medium heat – bring it almost to the boil, turn the heat down and slowly add the polenta, whisking as you add it (if you dump it all in at once, it’ll be a lumpy mess). Once all the polenta is in, keep the heat on low and whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes, until you’re happy with the consistency – if it’s too thin for you, keep whisking over low heat to thicken it up, and if it’s too thick add a little more water. Add in the butter and cheese, whisk through, and again leave it to the side to re-heat if you need to before serving.

5. Now, those eggs. Water’s on a strong rolling boil, give it a stir with a spoon to create a little whirlpool in the centre, and slowly and carefully slide in the first egg. Set a timer for 2 minutes, try not to panic like I did at the messy trail of egg white that’s probably floating around in there (I don’t know how, but egg magic will bring it all together in the end), and remove your egg with a slotted spoon just before the timer hits the 2 minute mark – rest it on a paper towel-covered plate until you’re ready for it. Keep poaching your remaining eggs, one at a time.

6. Assembly is easy – polenta into the bowl first, lots of sugo next, and plonk your egg on top. Hopefully you saved a little parmesan to top it with, too! Enjoy 🙂

IMG_0892

And if there are any more low FODMAPers out there reading this, I’d LOVE to hear from you guys – let me know how you’re going with it all, any favourite dishes you have, any helpful tips and what not!

Cook this: Cornbread pudding

I found this recipe while on The Culinesstress’ site last week, and the gorgeous photo caught my eye pretty quickly. I read on to find a pretty simple recipe, and thought I’d give it a go, too – it seemed a really great winter-warmer type dish.

I haven’t really messed around with this recipe as much as I usually would – I actually had most of the ingredients in my pantry already other than fresh corn, which only cost $1 per ear at the market. The great thing about this recipe, other than it’s simplicity and the fact that it’s actually not terribly unhealthy, is the fact that it’s already gluten free, can be made lactose free, and as well as being low FODMAP friendly (by using only the green tops of the spring onions). So here’s how we do…

 

Ingredients (serves 2)
– butter, to grease tin with, and to serve (optional)
– 1¾ cups corn kernels, fresh if possible
– 4 tbsp thinly sliced spring onions
– 2 eggs
– ½ cup milk
– ½ cup loosely packed grated parmesan cheese
– salt (optional)
– 4 tablespoons cornmeal (polenta)

 

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C  and grease two small baking dishes or larger ramekins with butter – I know the proper ‘Murican way to do cornbread is in a case iron skillet, but sadly I didn’t have any of those lying around…

2. Mix together ¾ cup of corn kernels and the spring onion, and set aside.

3. Throw the remaining 1 cup of corn along with the eggs, milk, cheese (if you’re like me, reserve a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top at the end before baking!) and cornmeal into a food processor or blender, and blend until it a smooth batter just comes together – be careful not to over mix! You can add a little salt here too, if you want – the parmesan may make it salty enough for you anyway, or if you’re like me, you may want a little more, because salty food is delicious.

4. Pour the blended batter into the pie tins and mix in the corn/spring onion mix, diving evenly between the two tins. If you saved some cheese from step 1, now would be the time to sprinkle it on top, before it goes into the oven.

5. Bake corn pudding at for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top. Optionally, serve with a dollop of butter and sprinkle of salt on top.

It’s soft, surprisingly light and full of flavour, real winter comfort food 🙂 If you’re also enjoying the Melbourne cold at the moment, think about this for a quick, warming dinner this week!