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 :)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Healthy Nutella- Dairy and Refined Sugar Free

There is something about nutella which goes beyond it being a delicious chocolatey spread.

An emotional attachment of a certain sort exists between nutella and a lot of women, with the heavenly hazelnut tub an emotional crutch to aid you through the darkest of times. No matter the situation, it always so nice to know, that at the end of a horrible day you can crawl back into bed with your spoon and nutella jar, emersing yourself in chocolate comfort.

It's OK. We have all been there.

Most women however will grow out of this unhealthy habit once they develop a sense of emotional stability, or in the alternative, they discover wine.

Despite growing out of the eating nutella straight from the jar phase, I am still sentimentally triggered when I pass my former friend displayed prominently in isle 5. Even though I would never eat sugar loaded nutella today, I can't help reminisce about times past and the delicious spoonfuls that comforted every broken heart.

Fundamentally nutella is a sweet hazelnut butter that contains milk. Replicating it is SO easy and implementing little tweaks to make the occasional spoonful a little less naughty is very simple. While I don't encourage this to be eaten on a daily basis, this nutritious version is still a great treat alternative, which will satisfy any emotional craving and help make any life adversity, a little less hard.

Healthy 'Nutella'
Makes enough to fill 1 small jar.


1 cup hazelnuts (125g)
6 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
4 tbsp honey (or 4 tbsp rice malt syrup for a fructose friendly version or 4 tbsp granulated stevia for a sugar free version)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt


1. Place hazelnuts in a food processor. Blitz on high for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture resembles a crumby paste.

2. Add all other ingredients. Blitz on high again until smooth. Depending on how thick you want to spread to be you can add more milk if a thinner consitency is desired.

3. Pour the contents of the food processor into a glass jar or container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Try not to eat it all at once.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Best Low Carb Blueberry Muffins

The humble muffin. A sweet, yet not overly so, baked good that generally contains fruit, nuts, spices, chocolate or a mixture of the above. Muffins are a staple of the western diet, viewed as a healthier choice to cake and pastries, with every cafe, supermarket and bakery displaying abundant varieties, fueled by consumers eager to buy them.

But why the allure of the basic muffin? Well let me tell you a story about my first-year at University. I was 20 and considered myself a health conscious young adult. I would eat a 'healthy' diet, drink 'moderately' on the weekends and exercise regularly. However despite this, first-year university me was puzzled on why my weight never shifted! I mean, my diet was not that bad right?! Right?!

Well....along came a muffin.

Putting my other terrible dietary habits at the time aside, (hello binge drinking and sugar addiction), I was completely clueless to the calories and sugar that were found in cafe and shop bought foods. You see I had this ritual, every Monday morning at uni during my 1 hour break I would journey to the campuses 'healthy' food eatery and buy myself a ginormous blueberry muffin. It was my treat to myself for being such a dedicated university student that used my brain so hard. This ritual continued for nearly the entire year, until one day health conscious me thought I should look into the nutritional contents of my morning muffin treat. A quick look at the eateries website left me feeling sick. My 'humble' muffin contained a shocking 543 calories, 65grams of carbohydrates with 19g of that being sugar. As you can imagine I just wanted to cry. No wonder I was not losing weight.

This brings me to my point. Muffins are alluring because they appear as a 'healthier' treat alternative which induces people to be more likely to consume them. But in reality they are as calorie and sugar dense as cake. Food suppliers that call themselves 'wholefood' stores, and sell these mega calorie muffins are also to blame for the false imagery of muffins (among other foods). This same 'wholefood' store at my university also sells a Cocoa Cardomom Muffin which contains a scary 697 calories... yes you heard me right... and which also has 88g of carbs. That is more then what a McDonalds Quarter Pounder contains! How on earth is anyone expected to be healthy in a world full of false advertising and misguided information?

Four years on I can tell you I have never eaten another store or cafe bought muffin since. I pack my own lunches and bake my own versions of morning treats. I still eat blueberry muffins. Just a different kind and in more appropriate portion sizes.

These muffins are small, but moist, flavorful and bursting with ripe juicy blueberries. Each muffin contains 116 calories, 5 grams of carbs with only 2 grams being naturally occurring sugar, 6 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat. After many experimentations, I can honestly say this is the best blueberry muffin recipe I have tried, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do, and feel you never have to eat another store bought muffin again!

The Best Low Carb Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6

3 eggs
1/2 cup premium quality coconut milk (I used Ayam Brand)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla essence
20 drops vanilla liquid stevia (or regular)
2 tbsp granulated stevia
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup frozen blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180 (350F) and line 6 muffin holes with paper cases.

2. Mix the coconut flour, chia seeds and the baking paper in a large mixing bowl and put aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, vanilla essence, lemon zest and stevias, until well combined. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, gently folding the ingredients together until the mixture appear smooth and uniform. Once done, gently fold through the blueberries.

4. Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin holes and bake for 25 minutes or until the top have turned a rich golden brown. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before removing and eating. Yum!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Healthy Rhubarb and Ginger Upside Down Cake

Last month's Australian Delicious magazine contained a feature from Katie Quinn Davies, a collaboration of delicious winter cakes, which left my mouth watering as I hungrily flicked through the glossy pages that elegantly displayed her creative recipes. An upside down rhubarb cake in particular grabbed my attention. Perfect photography combined with a brilliant recipe left me craving this vivid and warming dessert. However the cake unfortunately contained a little too much sugar and gluten for my liking as I wanted this cake as a light afternoon tea that I then wouldn't feel guilty and weighed down by. So I looked at this recipe as I do with many, a challenge, to recreate, using ingredients that nourish and agree with me.

While many of my first attempts to recreate a recipe fail miserably, this cake defied all my expectations. It was moist and flavorful, bright and appealing, with the warming ginger spice the perfect partner for the tart rhubarb. Why flour and sugar were ever necessary are beyond me, with the almond meal and coconut flour giving the cake a dense and moist texture that wheat flour could simply not achieve. This texture I believe is necessary to compliment the hearty rhubarb and support its weight as the star feature of this cake. The boyfriend agreed that the flavors of this cake were enhanced by it being flourless, with this recipe being a sure hit with him as evidenced by the cake's rapid disappearance over that warm winter afternoon.

Upside Down Rhubarb and Ginger Cake
Serves 8


5 stalks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways and then cut horizontally at 3cm (1.5 Inch) intervals
4 tbsp honey or rice malt syrup
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated stevia
100ml almond milk
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
20 drops vanilla stevia
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
3 tsp baking powder


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350F) and grease a springform cake tin, lining it with baking paper.

2. Cover the bottom of the pan with the rhubarb, making sure not to leave any large gaps between the pieces.

3. Place the rice malt syrup or honey, ginger and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and turns a light golden brown. Pour the mixture over the rhubarb in the cake tin and set aside.

4. Beat the eggs and granulated stevia until pale. Add the coconut oil, liquid stevia, vanilla essence and almond milk, beating again until combined. Add the coconut flour and almond meal, beating until all lumps disappear. Finally, fold in the baking powder.

5. Pour the batter over the rhubarb and smooth the top out with the back of a spatula (the mixture will be quite thick). Place the tin in the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Once 50 minutes has passed and the cake is golden brown, remove from the oven and let the cake cool completely while still in the pan.

6. Once cool, remove the sides of the springform pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Serve with tea or coffee for a healthy yet satisfying afternoon treat. I really hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rabbit Pie

I am always up for trying new foods, in fact there are few things which excite me more. Walking through the meat isle at Coles I was super shocked to stumble upon a small hoard of wild rabbits staring back at me. Despite the ridiculous price tag, the rabbit quickly found its way into my shopping basket and soon after on top of my kitchen bench.

After watching a quick YouTube demonstration on how to joint a rabbit, I eagerly hacked away at the long foreign protein before me. My experience of jointing a rabbit was anything but graceful. The YouTube demonstrator man made it look so easy and effortless, which was completely misleading because I found cutting up a rabbit into neat little portions is anything but easy! After 30 minutes of violently trying to cut through bone, locate the 'saddles' and remove the hind legs, I was left with a very messy and dismembered bunny, but whatever, at that point I did not care, the bunny was portioned and the hardest part of the cooking experience was over.

Once the bunny was cut up (seriously just cut it up however you want), it was smooth sailing from there. After about 3 hours in total I was finally able to taste my first ever mouthful of rabbit! And yum! Why had this experience been delayed so long?! Rabbit is rich and hearty, tasted a little like lamb yet with the texture of chicken. This pie is the perfect winter warmer and a healthy take on the humble pie. Rabbit is a super lean meat and a great addition to any diet. If it was more affordable I would love to eat it more often, however at $16 a rabbit and while living on a uni budget, it will have to be reserved for special occasions.

Rabbit Pie
Adapted from He Needs Food
Serves 4


1 rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
200g smoked pork loin or bacon, diced
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 large bay leafs
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Juniper berries, crushed
10 drops liquid stevia or 1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine (Shiraz works well)
2 tbsp vino cotto
3 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
1 small sweet potato
Olive oil to spray
Salt and Pepper to season


1. In a large cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rabbit and brown on all sides, removing once complete.

2. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and pork, stirring over medium heat for a further 2 minutes. Return the rabbit to the pan, add the paprika and saute for a minute further. Now add the wine, de-glazing the pan, followed by the stock, tomato paste, bay leaf, juniper berries, vino cotto, salt, stevia and thyme.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot however leave the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape, and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Once 90 minutes has past, remove the rabbit from the pot and shred the meat from the bone. Return the meat to the dish and bring the mixture to a soft boil, allowing the mixture to thicken for a further 20-30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 210°C (410F). Using a mandaline, thinly slice the sweet potato width-ways. Once the rabbit mixture is thick and reduced, adjust the seasoning if needed and spoon the mixture into a pie dish, topping with the sweet potato. Lightly spray the sweet potato with oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the potato is cooked and soft. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with desired green vegetables.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Homemade Vanilla Chai Concentrate

I am a little bit of a tea addict. Despite having no money and constantly whinging about my finances as a poor uni student, I am still more then happy to justify spending a ridiculous amount of money on tea. From fruity tisanes to exotic greens, delicate whites, flavored rooibos and classic blacks; nearly an entire shelf in my pantry is dedicated to storing tea in neatly labelled canisters and jars.

However the new financial year recently began and my partner and I sat down and had a good hard look at our budget. Putting the obsence amount of money I spend on clothes aside (that is another story in itself), it was obvious our food bills were slightly excessive, with my tea fund an easy area to cut in order to help elevate our costs. 

Chai is easily my most favorite cup of tea. Not only is it a black tea that helps wake my sleepy head but the melody of spices helps ease any adversity that I must face throughout the day. 

When I was in Melbourne I bought the most incredible blend of vanilla chai tea however it has sadly come to its end. My favourite blend of chai I can get in Sydney is ok but I always find myself adding more spices to the brew to help give it a bit of a kick. A few months ago I found a liquid chai concentrate that was strong, spicy and ticked all the boxes. However the price tag is not one my partner would ever see the value in... and as much as I loved it I would have to agree. 

When all hope seemed lost, last week a revelation occurred when I stumbled across a recipe for DIY chai concentrate on a fellow bloggers site. It then hit me that I COULD MAKE MY OWN chai concentrate. Mind was blown and my new chai making journey began.

I buy my spices from Middle Eastern/Indian specialty shops and buy them in bulk. I suggest you do so also as you will save SO much money. While at first buying all the spices you need to make your own chai might be a little pricy, once you stock up and have your pantry resembling a mini spice market, you will be savings oodles over the next year! 

Homemade Vanilla Chai Concentrate
Adapted from Cooking ala mel   
Makes 4 1/2 cups concentrate


5 cups water
10 cheap black tea bags, labels removed or 10 tsp loose leaf black tea
10-20 drops vanilla stevia (depending on taste)
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cm (1-2 inch) piece of ginger, roughly chopped 
10 whole cloves
8 cardamon pods
2 whole anise stars
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg


1. Throw all ingredients into a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then lower the heat until the liquid is softly simmering. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer for 20-30min.

2. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and into a large bowl, allowing it to cool completely. 

3. Once cool, the concentrate can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

4. To serve, combine chai concentrate with milk in a ratio of about 2:1. However I like my chai strong and less milky, so feel free to play around with this ratio to find one that suits your taste :)

If you would like make hot chai tea, gently heat the mixture in a small saucepan until simmering, or simply place it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes as I do. 

The concentrate also tastes amazing cold so feel free to serve it over ice for a refreshing iced chai tea. 

It cold even be used to flavor baked goods...mmm...the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Healthy Low Carb Pizza Crust

I don't eat pizza. Or pasta. Or rice. Or bread. And I am not sorry for this.

However this has not always been the case. In the past I was filled with guilt when I made my friends choose places to eat or cook around my dietary preferences. They did not seem to understand that I just can't handle eating certain foods. I would often be looked at in disgust as I ate the toppings off pizza, or the fillings in sandwiches, leaving behind the doughy and refined crust or bread. When I started dating my current partner I felt ashamed of my dietary preferences and hid them at first, because who wants to be seen as that crazy girl who only eats salad when on a date?! So I gave in and ate whatever I felt like for a few months ignoring my normal food bans. And do you know what? I got fat. Well not fat fat but a little pudgy. No one admitted it to me but I did. Since being in a relationship, the weight kept slowly creeping on and before I knew it I was looking a little rounder and softer than before and my clothes were significantly tighter. After seeing photos of myself from earlier this year I knew I had to refine my diet once again. I told William we were no longer eating sugar and my black list of foods was back and in force! And guess what? Not surprisingly I lost weight.

It is for that reason I am not sorry I have strict and bizarre dietary habits. While I am happy to on occasion have the special sweet treat, generally I will not eat refined sugar, bread, pasta or rice. I am not sorry that I will massacre my slice of pizza or pick out the noodles from a stir-fry. These habits allow me to feel comfortable in my own skin and force me to eat foods which are nutrient dense and better for me. A gluten-free and refined sugar free diet has also left me feeling so much better, less bloated and with far more energy.

However I still like to eat lots of food, just good food, like this healthy pizza.

While I have created flourless pizza bases in the past they have never really given me the 'this could actually be real pizza' feel that I have desired. What I mean by that is that the base has never been strong enough to support the topping so you could pick it up and eat it with your hand as you would 'real' pizza. One of my favourite bloggers who I absolutely adore, The Healthy Foodie, posted an amazing blog post on a cauliflower pizza crust with a picture of her hand holding a piece of pizza, with the crust strong enough to support the topping. I got a little excited by this and when last week my fortnightly veggie box, delivered to me through Aussie Farmers Direct, came with a cauliflower in it I knew great things were about to happen...

And how they did! My taste buds were delighted on Monday night when introduced to this Cauliflower Crust Steak Pizza. While I changed the healthy foodies recipe slightly, it still resulted in a firm crusted pizza that I was able to pick up with my hand. The base was moist and flavourful, and unlike pizza dough was refreshingly light, which I felt complimented the hearty and tender scotch fillet steak perfectly. The pizza was also greeted with as much enthusiasm from the boyfriend, who although acknowledged the taste and texture was different to normal pizza, said it was delicious nevertheless.

The pizza base is paleo, gluten-free, low carb, protein rich and nutritious. So basically everything that regular pizza dough is not. However most importantly it tastes great and would work with any topping your heart desires. Go on and try it, I assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised :)

Healthy Low Carb Pizza Crust
Adapted from The Healthie Foodie
Serves 4


1/2 head cauliflower
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp horseradish
2 eggs
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp fresh parsley
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp granulated stevia or honey
Salt and pepper to season


1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius (410F). Line a pizza pan with baking paper and place it in the oven to warm up.

2. Chop the cauliflower into small florets and place in a food processor. Blitz on high until the cauliflower resembles small 'rice' like particles. Do not over process as you do not want the mixture to turn into a puree!

3. Remove the cauliflower crumbs from the food processor and place in a small microwave safe bowl. Place a damp piece of paper towel on top of the mixture and microwave for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before using either paper towel or a tea towel to squeeze out excess moisture from the cauliflower.

4. Add the mustard, horseradish, eggs, chia seeds, parsley, stevia, almond meal, coconut flour and seasoning to the cauliflower crumbs and mix to combine. Depending on how much moisture you were able to squeeze out, you may need to add more or less almond meal/coconut flour to the mixture to achieve a wet dough-like mixture.

5. Once your dough has reached a moist yet thick and semi-firm texture, remove the hot pan from the oven and place the wet dough on the prepared pan, spreading it out so it covers the entire base of the pizza pan evenly. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 min until golden brown.

6. Once cooked remove the pizza from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before topping with desired ingredients. I made a tomato base by mixing tomato paste with some Dijon mustard, crushed garlic and dried Italian herbs, spread it with a pastry brush across the pizza and then topped it with baby spinach, seared scotch fillet steak, mozzarella cheese, homemade sugar-free BBQ sauce and fresh parsley. I then placed the pizza back in the oven and baked for 10 minutes. Once you remove your pizza from the oven allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Healthy Coco-Choc Caramel Cheesecake

When my mother asked me to bake my sister a healthy cake for her 21st I was a little worried. I had fed my sister my healthified treats in the past and have had no luck.. she hated them all. My sister is in a relationship with sugar and has condemned anything made with stevia as inedible and incomparable to her one true love.

Despite knowing she has a hatred of stevia, I used it in this cake anyway, but also used real sugar in the form of dates and rice malt syrup in a hope to keep Cassy happy. For those who follow a strict paleo diet you could easily replace the rice syrup with honey- they are pretty much identical in sweetness. The idea of using rice malt syrup came from Sarah Wilson, whose blog and books I adore and who taught me that rice malt syrup is actually very low in fructose (the worst type of sugar), and in that sense is a better substitute for sugar than honey. She made a cheesecake in her book I Quit Sugar that inspired me to bake a cheesecake for Cassy.

In some respects I wish I had not invented my own recipe for this, as the anxiety I experienced from cooking till tasting was a little extreme. At dinner before we ate I apologized to everyone as they were all essentially involved in my little experiment of a cake, which could for all I know be a total dud.

Visually it was a very simple looking cake yet pretty enough to fit in among the balloons  and presents. Watching Cassy slice it was very nerve wracking but alas, the first slice came out perfectly. I quickly grabbed the plate to ensure I had the first bite just in case I needed to stop anyone from following suit. But luckily I could relax. The cake worked, Cassy liked it and everyone was very impressed that a cake that has the word 'healthy' in the title could taste so good. My job was done.

The base is chocolatey but not too sweet, with distinct notes of coconut. The caramel cheesecake is creamy and indulgent, sweet but not sickeningly so with a soft caramel flavor. The topping is like a thick fudge, gooey and tasting as I imagine chocolate toffee would taste like. Overall all my odd components worked well together, with the subtle flavors and juxtaposing textures resulting in a cake that will certainly be made again!

Mummy and the Birthday Girl

William and I
Grandma very excited, Grandpa not so...
A Babushka Doll from Grandma, what every 21 year old needs
Sarah and my gorgeous baby brother Alex
Special 21st present from Mum, Victoria Buckley Ring
Nervous moment the cake was cut!

Our Beautiful Mother!

This cake is grain free, refined sugar free and when made with honey paleo. You could also make it vegan by replacing the cream cheese with cashews that have been soaked over-night and blitzed in a food processor. If you were to use cashews you would leave out the eggs, not bake the filling and serve chilled.

Healthy Coco-Choc Caramel Cheesecake
Serves 10-12

For the Crust
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
1 cup dates - soaked in boiling water for at least 30min
2 tbsp honey or rice malt syrup
10 drops chocolate stevia (optional)
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp espresso coffee powder dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

For the Cheesecake
400ml (14oz) good quality coconut milk
6 tbsp honey or rice malt syrup
500g full fat cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
15 drops liquid caramel stevia (or just use regular)
1/2 cup granulated stevia (you can add more depending on your taste)
Pinch of salt

For the Ganache
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
6 tbsp honey or rice malt syrup
10 drops chocolate stevia (or just use normal)
Shredded/shaved coconut to garnish
1. For the cheesecake: Place the coconut milk and honey/rice syrup in a pressure cooker and cook on high for 1 hour- until caramelized. (You could also do this in a saucepan, simmering the coconut milk over low heat for 2 or so hours). Once caramelized transfer to a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes, until the mixture has reached a deep brown color and some of the water has evaporated off.
2. Transfer this mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the stevia, eggs, salt and vanilla essence, beating again until incorporated. Once complete place the mixture to the side as you move on to making the base

3. For the base: Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking paper. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the espresso coffee. Blitz on high until the dates resemble a chunky puree. Add the honey/rice syrup, stevia, cinnamon and coconut oil, pulsing again on high. Now add the cocoa powder, almond meal and coconut flour, and pulse until the mixture comes together forming a 'dough'. Transfer the dough to the cake tin and using your hands press the mixture down over the bottom of the pan, forming an evenly leveled base.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 20minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 160C (320F). Pour the cheesecake mixture over the base and bake for 30 minutes, until the middle has just set. Turn the oven off and let the cake cool in there completely.

5. For the Ganache: Once the cake is completely cool make the ganache. Place the coconut oil, cocoa powder, stevia and honey/rice malt syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the mixture thickens- about 5 minutes. Once thick pour over the top of the cake. The ganache sets very quickly so it is important to work fast! Garnish with coconut if desired.

6.Once set, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, however overnight is preferable. When ready to eat, remove the cake from the fridge 1-2 hours before serving to allow it to soften slightly. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Chocolate Protein Balls

My poor blog. It has felt very neglected the past few weeks during my exam period and I honestly feel bad for my absence. However moving forward exams are over and holidays have begun! The past few weeks have been hell. I rarely got more then 4 hours sleep a night and on several occasions no sleep. My fatigued little fingers could not type fast enough, trying to get through 4 take home exams over a sadistically short period of time. During study breaks I would quickly scroll through my favourite food blogs, keeping a mental list of things to cook once my holidays begin. And finally... holidays are here!

Lets just say I have very excited to to get back in the kitchen and continuing my exploration of healthy yet yummy foods. Today I started with something simple yet something that will become a staple in our house. Protein balls! These help solve the dilemma of getting protein into your mid-morning snack. They contain a good combination of fat, protein and carbs helping you power through until lunch. William loved them and thought they were a great alternative to his normal morning snack of fruit.

Because they contain protein powder they need to be stored in the freezer to preserve the protein, however they are completely edible straight from the freezer as they stay soft! If you want to pack these in your bag as a transportable snack that's fine as they are still perfectly edible after being out at room temperature for a few hours too.

Chocolate Protein Balls
Makes 15+, depending on size


1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup low carb protein powder of choice
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dates, pitted, and left to soak in boiling water for at least 30min
1/2 cup cashews/almonds/brazil nuts/pecans
1 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
10 drops liquid vanilla stevia (or just use regular stevia)


1. In a food processor add your nuts of choice and pulse for 10-20 seconds, until they resemble course crumbs. Drain the dates and add them to the food processor with the espresso shot, and blitz on high until they resemble a thick puree.

2. Add the stevia, coconut flour, protein powder and almond meal. Pulse until all ingredients are fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required. You want the dough to be hold together but not too sticky, so add more water if the dough appears too dry but add it in very small amounts.

3. Once combined, take a large spoonful of the mixture from the food processor and roll it between the palms of your hands until it forms a symmetrical ball. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Store balls in an airtight container in the freezer for a handy and satisfying snack :)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Grain Free Coconut Crunch Mango Granola

Over the weekend, the worst possible thing that could ever happen occurred. My MacBook Pro's hard drive failed. Not only did it fail but it decided to do so as I was halfway through a 4000 word research essay. With haste I took my computer to the Apple store, where I waited for over an hour watching the Genius bar man try and access my "pretty much dead" laptop's files, with alas, no success. To calm my impending anxiety attack the Apple guy assured me that a hard drive retrieval specialist would have a good chance of being able to recover my files, but it would cost from $300-$1000. Being a full time student I don't have access to large amounts of cash and knew it would be a few weeks before I could save my pennies to afford this service. So right now I have no laptop and no files. I had to research and re-write a 4000 word essay in 3 days, which to say the least is an experience I never wish to repeat again.

Lucky for me, the morning before this incident I had made granola. Not only was it a delicious, filling and nutritious breakfast, but it acted as the perfect meal replacement for lunch and dinner also; allowing more time to for me to frantically retrace my previous weeks research and furiously type out my ridiculously long essay.

While I don't endorse granola as a meal replacement, it does make an excellent breakfast, especially for time poor people like myself, who need a nutritious and balanced meal in a hurry.

Grain Free Coconut Crunch Mango Granola
Adapted from I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson


3 cups coconut flakes (unsweetened, found in health food shops)
2 cups cashews, roughly chopped
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/3 cup flaxmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
10 drops liquid stevia (optional)
1/2 cup dried mango, roughly chopped


1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius (300F), and line a baking tray with baking paper

2. Combine the coconut oil and stevia in a bowl, mixing well, then add the remaining ingredients. except the mango, mixing until combined.

3. Tip the ingredients onto to baking tray, spreading evenly, and place in the oven to cook for 40-60 minutes. After 20 minutes has passed, remove the tray from the oven, and using a spatula flip the mixture so all sides cook evenly. Return to the oven and repeat this process every 10-15 minutes until it has reached the desired colour of golden brown.

4.Once toasted, remove from the oven, add the mango and let cool on the tray. Once cold place in an air tight container (or your mouth!) and store for up to a week.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Beef Cheeks Braised in Spiced Red Wine

When stressed I am most certainly not a fun person to be around. I panic, I worry and my moods change from excited to anxious in 2.0 seconds. I am constantly trying to find the balance between my duties as a studious law and science student, part time worker, house maintainer, cook, gardener, girlfriend, good friend, daughter and grand daughter. And on top of all of that for some crazy reason a few months ago I started a food blog... which to say the least I have become addicted to.

Normally I balance all my life duties well, but come exam time the studious side overtakes, the leisure side resists and stress quickly onsets.

Living with my boyfriend I feel bad he can't escape me at such times where logic seems incapable of reaching me, and I convince myself its all to much and I should simply run away and join the circus or move to Romania and become a gypsy. Yes I can be a tad dramatic.

As a silent gesture of my apology to him for having to put up with me, Ive been making sure meal times are extra special and to his taste. He is a passionate meat eater and lover of pumpkin pie. I decided to use the earthy spices of cinnamon and cloves and combine them with a hearty beef dish.

My cut of choice- beef cheeks. A cheap cut despite their growing popularity, which when slow cooked will become so tender, each bite melts in your mouth. Naturally William loved this dish, commenting on how flavorful and rich the sauce was and how soft the beef had become. It's currently Autumn in Australia so this dish not only warmed his heart but our bellies also. This dish is comfort food personified, which although tastes rich and moreish, did not leave either of us feeling weighed down.

Beef Cheeks Braised in Spiced Red Wine
Serves 4


For the marinade
1-1.2 kg Beef Cheeks (around 3 Ibs)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
750ml dry red wine
4 bay leafs
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cinnamon quills

For the casserole
Salt and pepper 
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups beef stock
2 eschallot onions, finely diced
100g button mushrooms, sliced
100g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, roughly chopped


1. Combine the beef cheeks, garlic, thyme, wine, bay leafs, ground cloves and cinnamon quills in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate over night- at least 12 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (300F) 

3. When ready to cook, remove the beef cheeks to a plate and pat dry with paper towel. Leave the marinade in the bowl and put aside. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish. Season the beef and add them to the casserole dish, browning the cheeks on all sides. 

4. Now return the marinade to the beef by pouring it into the casserole dish. Add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Once at the boil, return the lid to the pot and place in the oven. Cook the beef cheeks in the oven for 4 hours, checking and turning the beef cheeks every hour or so.

5. After 3 hours has passed add the chopped vegetables to the casserole dish, cover and return to the oven to cook along side the beef for the final hour.

6. After 4 hours has passed, remove the dish from the oven and place on the stove top. Remove the beef a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Remove the cinnamon quills and bay leaves and discard. Now bring the remaining stock mixture to the boil (you could remove the veggies too but I found they were fine keeping them in there). Boil the sauce until reduced by about one third. Return the beef to the pan and gently simmer for a further 5-10 minutes, until the beef is hot and extremely tender.

This dish is great served with green beans if you wanted some green veggies in there :)

Bar Searching in Melbourne- New Gold Mountain and Red Hummingbird

I decided that for my birthday I would treat myself to a weekend away in Melbourne. Despite my love for Sydney, there is something about Melbourne which resonates within me.

Maybe its the mysterious laneway bars, hidden watering holes and quirky cafes that appeals to me and my desires to explore. Everywhere you turn you are greeted with a new experience and sight, whether its a vintage record store or a fake-grass decked cafe, Melbourne is overwhelming on the senses. However my favourite part of Melbourne must be the small boutique bars hidden among the urban landscape. For non-Melbournites, most of the hidden and concealed bars/eateries are only discoverable via word of mouth or by reading posts from excited bloggers detailing their evening's ecstasies. There is a huge sense of achievement when visiting these venues, you almost feel part of a sneaky little club of people, which have been capable of unraveling the cities hidden gems.

However this is not an easy task. There are no signs or security guards identifying your landmark, which can be worrying as the address of your destination will more then likely direct you down a dark and deserted laneway. On closer inspection, you will notice that the dim street is lined with large doors, some open, with street numbers above them. The number we were searching for even had a bike suspended above it.

After stepping through an unfamiliar alley way door, it is expected that you will begin to question the sensibility of your actions. In Sydney if I had entered a room lit with red lights, featuring a staircase ascending to an unknown location, I would of known I was probably in Kings Cross and should probably get the hell out of there. But when in Melbourne, curiosity gets the better of you.

 Up those stairs was my hoped for destination of New Gold Mountain, a quirky Asian-retro themed oasis, featuring a refreshingly unique cocktail list, which was as impressive as its furnishings.The smooth ambient music perfectly complimented the intimate atmosphere, which was created through dim overhead lighting juxtaposed with patches of glistering fluorescent speckles. The decor was green and organic, featuring dark sleek furniture with an Asian flair, dangling origami and psychedelic wood inspired walls.

I ordered the Calva Dose which contained calvados, lime, house made grenadine and absinthe. Smooth and refreshing with strong sour notes fighting against a softer sweetness.  Most of all it was unlike any cocktail I had ever come across before, and I do love trying new things.

William was brave and ordered the 'Carter beats the Devil,' which contained tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, lime, chili tincture garnished with a pickled Serrano chili. I don't know how but the flavours actually worked! It was zesty and extremely spicy and left my lips tingling, but in a good way.

Another bar we visited was Red Hummingbird. This bar was a little easier to find as a large red birdcage hangs over the small narrow doorway, signifying you are in the right place and not at a brothel.

A flight of stairs later and you arrive in the bedazzling and quirky world of paisley prints and wallpaper birds. The small venue is decorated with encyclopedias, a heritage fireplace, mason jar vases and a ceiling lit with jewelled lanterns.

The venue was very popular and so packed full of young lively night owls, that we could not find a seat. However this was fine by me as I would rather hang by the encyclopedia collection anyway. We ordered the signature cocktail, 'the Red Hummingbird,' which as a female and lover of sweet things I enjoyed immensely. Although I think they might of forgotten to include the alcohol...

I would highly recommend both of these bars if you are ever in Melbourne. At least now you can be assured that the red lightened stairwell will  (most probably) not lead you into a whore house.

New Mountain Gold is located at  21 Liverpool St  Melbourne VIC 3000

The Red Hummingbird is located at  246 Russell St  Melbourne VIC 3000

Monday, 20 May 2013

Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Cinnamon Icing

Have you ever wondered why there are two different spellings for the word donut? (doughnut?) This only occurred to me today as I was baking these. I decided to Google the answer (because Google knows everything) and discovered that 'doughnut' was the original spelling which, makes sense as 'dough' refers to what they are made of while 'nut' refers to the shape (referring to the circular nut that you screw around a bolt). However when the Dutch introduced these adorable baked rings to America, the Americans abbreviated the spelling and created the second version of the word 'donut'.

You learn something new every day!

At first I was unsure what version of the word to use. Then I realized I was being pedantic. Spelling does not affect the taste of a recipe.

These donuts doughnuts are baked, grain free, sugar free, dairy free and taste like sweet potato pie! The icing is divine and the cake dense and moist. They are the perfect afternoon treat to get you over that 3pm slump without sending your blood sugar levels mad, keeping you satisfied until dinner :)

Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Cinnamon Icing
Makes 10


For the Donuts
1 cup grated sweet potato
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup granulated stevia (or sweetener of choice)
20 drops liquid stevia
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the icing
1 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp granulated stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 tsp almond milk
1 tbsp cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350F). Grease a donut pan with coconut oil.

2. Place all the ingredients for the donuts in a bowl and mix till thoroughly combined (no need to be delicate or add liquids to the solids!)

3. Spoon the mixture into a large zip-lock bag. Cut one of the corners off the bag, creating a hole large enough to pipe the mixture out of. Squeezing the mixture, pipe it into the rings of the donut pan, using a wet finger to smooth out any uneven surface areas that occur.

4. Now place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30min. Once the donut is golden brown and the center feels springy to touch, remove from the oven and let cool completely before icing.

5. To make the icing combine the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to combine. Place the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes, until the icing starts to harden. Remove from the fridge and continue to stir the icing until it thickens to a paste-like consistency. Using a knife, ice the donuts with the paste. If the icing is hardening too quickly, resulting in a rough uneven surface, don't fret! Simply run the knife under boiling water and then use it to smooth out the icing over the donuts, achieving an even glossy coat.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin