Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Healthier Pumpkin Pie

How do you know you have met 'the one'?

Do you just wake up one morning and think, yes, this is the person I will spend the rest of my life with? Or do you think that you will never really know and will simply wake up one morning in your mid thirties and go crap, time to get married so my friends and family get off my back?

I like to think you just know... at least to some extent. Perhaps you don't simply wake up and with 100% certainty know that they are 'the one' for you, but you certainly think that they could be.

The moment I realized I loved William was after Spring Cycle last year. I had for the first time met his family, been inside his childhood home and really let into his life. After a day of cycling around Sydney and a celebratory BBQ with his family, I realized how much I loved being a part of his life. Being there in that moment with him just felt natural, like I belonged there and how I could happily spend the rest of my life enjoying such moments with him.

For William I think he realized he loved me when he discovered I loved pumpkin pie. No seriously... I honestly think it was.

Most Australians have never tried (or heard of!) pumpkin pie. Its just not something that anyone born in Australia grew up eating and it is not a symbolic dish for any of our holidays unlike in the US and Canada. William being raised in a Canadian family grew up with the dish and has developed a deep sentimental attachment to it. When I told him I too loved pumpkin pie he looked surprised and said, "how on earth did I find an Australian girl who has tried and likes pumpkin pie?!" Well luckily for him he was dating an Australian girl addicted to American food blogs!

As it was our anniversary last week I decided to make this relationship defining dish, however added a few tweaks to make it 'Brooke' diet appropriate. I would of loved to have made it with a more healthier crust but I took the large tub of crisco bought for me by William as a hint to what he would prefer. Crisco is not sold commonly in Australia, and for anyone wondering what it is, it is essentially vegetable shortening and is used in pastry in place of butter. You can buy it at specialty Thomas Dux Grocers and also online at USA Foods.

For our anniversary we went for a lovely walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and then dined at Circular Quay at a scrumptious waterfront restaurant. The beautiful weather and scenery made it a perfect day spent with the man who I believe is perfect for me.

For the pie I used wholemeal spelt in the crust, which despite my gluten sensitivity I can digest rather well and I also replaced all sugar with stevia and the cream with coconut milk. The result was a rich yet not overly indulgent pie, refined sugar and dairy free and with William giving it the big tick of approval. I urge all Australians to at least try pumpkin pie because it it honestly delicious and nothing like what you would expect a pie made from a vegetable to taste like!

Healthier Pumpkin Pie
Serves 8-10


1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening (or 100g butter for Australians who can't find crisco)
1 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt

Pie Filling
1 1/2 cup puréed pumpkin (feel free to use Libby's canned pumpkin if you have it!)
2 eggs
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
3/4 cup granulated stevia
2 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour


1. For the Crust: Place the crisco/butter in a food processor. Add the flour and blitz until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the salt and vinegar and blitz again until the mixture comes together. You may need to add more flour depending on how wet your mixture is.
2. Once the mixture resembles a workable dough, knead it with the palm of your hand for about 30 seconds before shaping it into a ball and wrapping it in plastic. Place the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour to rest.
3. For the filling: Meanwhile place the eggs in a stand alone mixer and beat on medium until pale and creamy. Add the stevia and coconut milk, beating again. Add the spices, vanilla and pumpkin, beating until combined. Finally add the flour, mixing for a further 30 seconds on low until incorporated.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Once the dough has finished resting, roll it out on a dusted surface until it has reached a desired thickness, which will depend on your taste- we like our crust thin. Once rolled out, roll the dough over the rolling pin so you can pick it up and unfold over a prepared pie dish. Trim the edges and place baking paper and pie weights on top of the crust as it needs to be blind baked.
5 Blind bake for 20 minutes with the weights on top, and then a further 10 with the weights and baking paper removed. Remove the crust from the oven and pour the filling into the partially baked pie crust, which should now be light golden brown in color. After smoothing the top of the filling with the back of a large spoon, place the pie back in the oven to bake for a further 40-50 min, until the center of the pie has just set, meaning it is firm but still has a nice little wobble to it.
6. Once set, remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Eat immediately at room temperature or refrigerate to be eaten cold later. This pie will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Healthier Rocky Road

My dad LOVES rocky road. At least we think he does. Regardless, buying dad rocky road for his birthday, Easter and Christmas has become a tradition, which was not to be ignored last Sunday when we celebrated Father's Day.

Dad lives 3 hours drive away from my sister and me, so seeing him is an exciting occasion. When he drives up to see us we always organise a memorable outing/activity to ensure his travels are well worth it.

On Sunday when he came up for Father's Day I planned a bush walk and picnic around the gorgeous Lake Parramatta-a hidden gem in Sydney's West.

And in keeping with tradition, for the picnic I made daddy a healthier version of his beloved rocky road. I am using the word 'healtheir' rather then healthy as this is still a treat that should be eaten in moderation. This recipe can be made very simple if you are happy to use store bought marshmallows. However for a paleo friendly version you will need to invest a little more time and effort and make them from scratch! I followed the marshmallow recipe from The Urban Poser which worked a treat! By using marshmallows made from unrefined sugars, very dark chocolate and no biscuit, you get a healthier version of rocky road that anyone can enjoy, both chocoholics and health conscious people alike :)

Healthier Rocky Road
Makes 12+ squares (depending on size)


200g (7oz) very Dark Chocolate (I used Lindt 85% cocoa solids)
2 tbsp granulated stevia (this is optional and is only needed if 85% cocoa chocolate is too dark for your taste)
1 tbsp coconut oil
200g (7oz) refined sugar free marshmallows, recipe here or use store bought
3/4 cup craisins
1/2 shaved coconut, toasted
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, either kept whole or chopped in half
1 cup nuts of choice (I used almonds/cashews/Brazil nuts), pulsed in a food processor until they resemble large granules
Optional: If you're happy eating grains I have also made a batch that used 1/2 cup less granulated nuts and added puffed millet/buckwheat instead, which was equally yummy :)


1.Oil and line a brownie/slice pan with baking paper. You want one that is around 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch).

2. Place the chocolate, stevia if using and the coconut oil in a large heavy based saucepan and gently melt the chocolate over low heat. Add half the marshmallows and mix until they have become a hot gooey mess.

3. Once everything is melted, take the saucepan off the heat and fold through the craisins, coconut and nuts (and puffed grains if using), mixing until combined. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before folding through the remaining marshmallows, doing so very gently so that the marshmallows do not melt as we want these ones to remain whole!

4. Gently spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and by using the back of a spoon or spatula, gently press down on the mixture to even it out. Once even, place in the refrigerator to set for at least 4 hours. When set, use the baking paper to lift the hardened block out of the pan and using a large sharp knife, cut into desired sized pieces. Your rocky road can now be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week :)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Healthy Fruit Leather (a.k.a rollups)

Growing up I thought my mother was irrationally strict. I was the child that was forced to do swimming squad in the midst of a freezing winter, who was never allowed to watch cartoons before school and who was banned from consuming artificial colours and flavours. Red fizzy drinks, lollies and most pre-packaged lunch box snacks were out of the question. School birthday parties or afternoons spent at friends houses were a luxurious escape for me, where I could indulge in sugar-loaded Fanta and 100's and 1000's smothered fairy bread without my mother's knowledge... oh how sneaky of me! I would smugly return home thinking how clever I was for fooling her.

But somehow she always knew... Oh yes, a mother always knows.

My earlier indulgences were given away by my hyperactive and manic behaviour upon return. Bouncing off the walls on a fructose driven sugar high while screaming and crying at my poor defenceless parents was hardly hide-able.

Of course now when reflecting on my childhood I realise my mothers actions were for my own benefit. As a child that was sensitive to artificial colours/flavours and excess sugar she acted in my best interest. However try telling an 8 year old that!

During school recess I was particularly envious of my friends whose lunch boxes contained 'fruit' roll ups. Realistically they are a chewy lolly marketed as a 'healthier' lunch box alternative to ordinary confectionery. As a child I couldn't understand why my mother wouldn't let me eat these!

Now I simply need to look at the list of ingredients to understand why.


Emulsifier 471 for your information is a fatty acid that can be from either plant or animal origin.

For something marketed as a strawberry fruit product it is a little shocking to see that only 1% of the product actually comes from strawberries... actually its disgusting!!!

So here I offer you a healthy alternative to the commercial roll-up. Homemade fruit leather that does not require a dehydrator to make!

Basically you can use whatever fruit you would like! 3 cups of puree will roughly be enough to cover one large baking tray. Play around with whatever fruit/flavours you like and add whatever spices you like :) I chose to use apples, strawberries and ruby grapefruit with a pinch of cinnamon!

Not only do these NOT contain any of the nasties that commercial roll ups contain, but they are pretty much PURE fruit! Say no to artificial crap and yes to real food!

Healthy Fruit Leather (a.k.a roll ups)
Makes 10 strips


2 apples, finely diced
10 strawberries, diced
1 ruby pink grapefruit, diced
Stevia/rice malt syrup to sweeten if needed
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/4 cup water


1. Place the fruit in saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the fruit is soft and the liquid has been reduced. Stir through the cinnamon and salt.

2. Transfer the fruit to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and if required add a sweetener. The grapefruit can be quite tart and while suitable for adults children may not appreciate this. If you would like a sweeter roll up than I suggest adding some sweetness to balance out the sourness. If a sweetener is added blend again until combined. You should end up with 2-3 cups worth of pureed fruit.

3. Heat oven to 120-150°C (250-300F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper (if your baking tray is not very large you may need to use two smaller sized trays). Pour the mixture onto the tray and spread it out thinly by using the back of a spatula. You want it to just cover the baking paper's surface without leaving any gaps (the thinner the better!). Place the baking tray in the oven on the lowest shelf availiable and bake for 8-12 hours. I left mine overnight baking at about 130°C for 9 hours. Remove the tray from the oven and using a sharp knife cut the fruit leather into strips. Let it cool completely before peeling the fruit leather off the baking paper. Roll up if desired and store in an airtight container for up to a week! Enjoy :)