Apple Crumble: Slow Cooker

I have had a few emails asking about cooking with quinoa. There are so many uses, and I’m going to start with a dessert recipe.

Quinoa Apple Crumble
Quinoa Apple Crumble

Quinoa is a wholesome grain that has high nutritional value and has been given the prestigious “superfood” title. It is often used in savoury foods (like soups or stews) to thicken them or as a rice replacement. However this little oat-like grain is versatile in flavour and texture and can be added to almost anything!

To change things up a little, from the savoury dishes, I wanted try out a sweet recipe.
I have this huge jar of quinoa in my pantry and several pink lady apples to use, so I decided to try an apple crumble.

To my surprise the apple crumble turned out perfectly! The apples were soft (but not mushy) the honey added amazing flavour and the quinoa and butter had become crispy!

Step 1. Grease slow cooker insert with butter

Step 2. Peel and core apples. Slice apples into 1/8ths

Apple Slices
Apple Slices

Step 3. Spread apple slices out across the bottom of the slow cooker

Step 4. Pour honey over apple slices and add spices on top of the honey

Step 5. Evenly spread quinoa over the mix and put little dollops of butter on top

Honey, Quinoa, Cinnamon, and Butter
Honey, Quinoa, Cinnamon, and Butter

Step 6. Put a tea towel under the lid (this absorbs moisture so that it doesn’t make the crumble soggy)

Step 7. Cook for 3-4 hours on high setting.

Regan’s Thoughts: “It’s surprisingly good! It’s still crunchy and the apples taste really good. This is a winner.”

DIY: Homemade Room Fragrance

room frag 3
DIY Essential Oil Room Spray

When I started seeking natural lifestyle alternatives, I began with what I was eating. Building habits like increasing the amount of water I was drinking, and eating more green things. Slowly I began replacing store-bought cleaning products with home made alternatives and using natural beauty products. I became aware of how many chemicals were in cleaning products, fragrances, body lotions, make up etc and decided to swap them out for a more natural approach.

After rummaging through the back of my bathroom cupboard I found some long lost friends- essential oils! I have a few select ones that I use for cleaning (like Tea Tree and Eucalyptus) but I had forgotten about the other little bottles of fragrant oils I had packed away.

Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy (basically, using smell to help mood). There are certain scents that are calming, reduce stress and anxiety, some even help sleep, and so much more. They are invaluable, and by using essential oils to spray around your home, you can enjoy the benefits that come from the plant and make it smell amazing too!

I’ve found a quick-guide chart that summarizes the benefits of some different essential oils so that you can pick and choose what you need. There are many other oils and benefits, so do some research- but this is a nice simple place to start.

 

Aromatherapy Quick Guide
Aromatherapy Quick Guide

 

I had some spritzer bottles that I had set aside, and making a fragrance was the perfect use for them!

Because scent is entirely objective, feel free to change these recipes up. I did some aromatherapy research to figure out some good combinations and to work in the oils that I had available.

A good rule of thumb to follow for the strength of the fragrance is 20 drops of oil per 100mL of liquid.

Using alcohol or water as a base is entirely preferential, however the higher the alcohol concentration is the more “lingering” the product will be. I did a 50:50 split, of alcohol:water. Using filtered or distilled water will provide a better base for the oils.

Room Spray Ingredients
Room Spray Ingredients

Ingredients:

Bottle with squirt attachment
Essential oils (one or more)
Filtered or distilled water
Alcohol (I used some cheap vodka)

Instructions:
Step 1. Fill your bottle with a mixture of alcohol and water (if using both) I did 50/50.

Step 2. Put essential oils in bottle (about 20 drops for 100mL of base)

Step 3. Make a cute label so you remember your combination for next time

Step 4. Shake bottle well before every use. Keep out of direct sunlight and spray as needed!

 

Mental Clarity Combination: Rosemary, Lavender, Lemon, Ylang Ylang.
Mental Clarity Combination: Rosemary, Lavender, Lemon, Ylang Ylang.

You might notice the oils and base separate after sitting for a while, the mix is fine- just shake the bottle well to combine.

Calm and Refresh Combination: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary
Calm and Refresh Combination: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary

These would also make really cute, practical gifts for a birthday. Let me know what combinations you like! I’d love to hear how you go.

Calm and Refresh Combination: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary
Calm and Refresh Combination: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary

 

The Perfect Allergen Free Cake! Zucchini-Banana Cake.

Green tea and Zucchini Cake
Zucchini Cake

I have been a bit zucchini obsessed, recently. I have made zucchini spaghetti, lentils and now a cake! An actual, sweet cake made from zucchini. Oh, and banana.

This cake is the perfect recipe if you are entertaining someone with multiple allergies, or you are clean eating.

This wonderful creation has NO: Eggs, Sugar, Gluten, Dairy, Nuts, Soy.

It is moist, more-ish, and full of good stuff (not to mention sneaky, hidden vegetables!).

Ingredients, plus banana and zucchini
Ingredients, plus banana and zucchini

Ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup of coconut (shredded)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 2 small/medium bananas)

1 1/4 cups shredded zucchini, measured loosely laid in cup (not packed in or squeezed; about 1 medium zucchini, I didn’t peel it)

1 1/2 cups Gluten Free plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

OPTIONAL: *Chocolate chips for topping

* Adding chocolate may contain allergens such as dairy or sugar, so avoid or use a chocolate replacement if you are allergic to chocolate ingredients.

Instructions:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 200C and grease a cake tin, or line with baking paper

Step 2: To a large bowl, add the first 6 ingredients, (including cinnamon) and whisk to combine.

Step 3: Add banana and zucchini and mash in. Optional: Blend bananas and zucchini together

Blended zucchini and banana
Blended zucchini and banana

Step 4: Add the flour, baking powder, optional salt and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.

Step 5: Pour batter into cake tin and sprinkle the top with a generous amount of chocolate chips (or roughly cut a few squares of chocolate up)

Put the chocolate on top of the batter
Put the chocolate on top of the batter

Step 6: Bake at 200C for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.

Allow the cake to cool in pan for about 10 to 15 minutes before eating. It’s normal for the cake to flatten as it cools.

This is one of those cakes that tastes better about 2-3 days after the flavors have combined. Enjoy!

zuc banana cake 1

Regan’s Thoughts: “This is a great cake! So moist and quite dense, but in a tasty way. I really loved the chocolate on top, it finished it well.”

 

Raw Vegan Spaghetti/Pasta

If you are a pasta lover and need a low-carb or gluten free version closer to the real thing then zucchini spaghetti is for you! I called this recipe ‘raw’ technically it isn’t, as it is being heated up- however if you are strictly raw you can always use the same technique but skip the cooking stage.

This is a great recipe for one, or a family; super-quick and super-versatile. Serve with your favorite meat and sauce.

“How does a zucchini become spaghetti?” you ask. You simply use a vegetable peeler/spiralizer to strip the zucchini down to the seeds, breaking apart any pieces that stick together.

I don’t know if making a vegetable into spaghetti tricks your mind somehow, but I ate almost two medium zucchini this way. It is a great way to include more vegetables in your meal and avoid gluten and carbs at the same time.

Peeled Zucchini
Peeled Zucchini

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

2 x Zucchini

1-2 teaspoons of Butter (use olive or coconut oil for vegan option)

1-2 teaspoons of Garlic

Herbs

A good squeeze of Lemon juice

zuc spag 2
Garlic, herbs, zucchini, butter and lemon

Method:

Step 1: Using a vegetable peeler or spiralizer, shred the zucchini down to the seeds (I leave the skin on)

Step 2: Heat up butter and garlic in saucepan

zuc spag 3

Step 3: When garlic becomes fragrant, add the herbs and zucchini

Step 4: Using some tongs, twirl the zucchini around in the pan until the colour of the zucchini becomes bright yellow-green (or cook to your taste).

zuc spag 4

Step 5: Squeeze lemon over the zucchini and serve up!

Savoury lentils on Zucchini Spaghetti
Savoury lentils on Zucchini Spaghetti

 

 

Challenge: Eat The Best Raw Desserts in Melbourne

One of my dear friends, Kathryn tagged me in this article, and I just had to share it. Being new to Melbourne, I’m still discovering new cafe’s and places to eat. All of these dishes look phenomenal, so I decided to set myself the challenge of trying all of these (not in one day!). I haven’t set a deadline, but from my experience good things take time.

I will blog them all, with lots of pictures and probably great enthusiasm. I’m so excited about this project- lucky the holidays are around the corner!

 

The raw food craze has been around for a while now, and its popularity is still growing! Raw desserts are about as ‘healthy’ as desserts can get – and when we say this, we’re not talking about an artificially sweetened fat-free, sugar-free chocolate dessert in a tub that tastes of chemicals. Oh no. This is a whole new level. Often made with superfoods and ingredients such as nuts instead of dairy, raw desserts are something that just have to be tasted to be believed. Here’s our sweet as selection of the best raw desserts in Melbourne.

GREEN TEA GANACHE | YONG GREEN FOOD IN FITZROY

This bite sized raw dessert at Yong is the perfect treat to indulge in, when you’re full from your raw pad thai or dragon bowl. Made from Macha, brazil nuts, goji berries, coconut, agave and raw chocolate, you’re going to want more than just one.

BLACKBERRY & LIME RAW CHEESECAKE | VEGIE BAR IN FITZROY

These single serve portions from Vegie Bar make the prefect afternoon treat when the 3pm sugar cravings kick in. We absolutely love the combination of blackberries and lime. This guilt-free raw dessert ticks all the boxes – vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, it’s pretty much a saintly treat!


Image credit: Combi Facebook.

RAW CARAMEL SLICE | COMBI IN ELWOOD

Combi is a little pocket of raw food heaven by the bay, where we just can’t get enough of their raw caramel slice! Offering some of the best raw dessert in Melbourne, it’s a tough choice between their Raw Passionfruit and Mango Cake, Raw Snickers Bar and the aforementioned caramel slice; but oozing with gooey caramel in the centre on top of a grain-free raw base, covered in a thick layer of raw chocolate… we would have to pick this one as our very fave.

ICE VO VO SLICE | RAW TRADER IN MELBOURNE CBD

If you’re anything like us, you’ll remember Iced Vo-Vo biscuits your Grandma used to give you for a special treat. Reminiscent of the biscuits loaded with icing, jam and coconut, this raw dessert version by Raw Trader is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea that you’ve been searching for.


Image credit: Green Press Facebook.

RAW LEMON ‘CHEESECAKE’ | GREEN PRESS IN MELBOURNE CBD

The simple pleasures of this lemon cheesecake (containing no cheese at all – nor gluten, dairy or sugar) is simply unreal. This Green Press number is sure to nip any sweet craving in the bud, all whilst keeping your blood sugar relatively stable, avoiding the nasty sugar spike that’d be brought on by a traditional version. Plus, it’s super delicious!

NUTELLA SLICE | THE NUTRITION BAR IN RICHMOND

Home to some of the best raw desserts in Melbourne, plus a heap of superfood smoothies and acai bowls, we love love love The Nutrition Bar. For those with serious chocolate cravings, you just can’t go past the Nutella Slice. Made with oats, protein powder and a hazelnut/cocoa mix, you’re going to want more than just one when you pick up your smoothie.

– See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/best-raw-desserts-melbourne#sthash.9ljMic1y.dpuf

Banana and Chocolate Sandwhiches

I love the idea of using a few simple ingredients to create a raw and healthy treat.

This recipe is just that. I make up a big batch, and have them in the freezer. When I crave something frozen, or sweet I reach for one of these (I don’t stop at one).

Perfect for afternoon tea
Perfect for afternoon tea

They are easy to prepare, and each stage is quick and simple. The time consuming part is waiting for everything to freeze. The trick is to freeze each stage, so that they set and stick together.

I cut up the banana and freeze overnight, and then in the morning I will put the peanut butter filling in, and then finish by dipping in chocolate when I come home from uni.

You will notice that I haven’t put quantities in this recipe. Just add however much you want of each. Some people (like Regan) are peanut butter crazy, others may just want a little bit. Make them to your taste and let me know how they turn out.

 

Ingredients:

Banana

Peanut butter

Chocolate

Coconut Oil (optional)

 

Method:

Step 1. Cut banana up into small pieces, freeze.

Frozen Banana Slices
Frozen Banana Slices

Step 2. Put a dollop of peanut butter on one side, and place another piece of banana on top (like a sandwich), freeze.

Peanut butter filling
Peanut butter filling

Step 3. Melt chocolate (with coconut oil, if using). I find that coconut oil makes the chocolate go further, and also it makes the chocolate nice and crunchy when it has set.

Melted Dark (80%) Chocolate and Coconut Oil
Melted Dark (80%) Chocolate and Coconut Oil

Step 4. Dip each little sandwich into the melted chocolate (it will set really quickly). I usually double dip, if I have chocolate left over.

Step 5. Return to freezer, or enjoy straight away. Store in the freezer.

Super Duper Green Smoothie!

Regan and I love breakfast. It is our favourite meal of the day. We never leave the house without having had breakfast- unless we are going out to have breakfast.

We usually have bacon and eggs. Or eggs and bacon, just to mix it up. We change up the sides, like spinach or capsicum and onion etc. Or we just have it all in an omelette sometimes too.

Anyway, all this to say that we decided to change things up a bit recently. I thought Regan would need more convincing- but he got right on board and has even started making his own combinations… of BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE!

Green Smoothie
Green Smoothie

We have a few rules for breakfast, as it is the most important meal of the day.

  1. It needs to be filling.
  2. It needs to pack a nutritional punch.
  3. It needs to have fiber and protien.
  4. It needs to be energising.
  5. It needs to be wholesome.
  6. It must not be high in sugar.
  7. It needs to be tasty.

We kept this in mind when tailoring our recipe for the perfect breakfast smoothie, and this is what we came up with.

Ingredients: 

One banana

Handful of leafy greens (I used spinah from our garden)

A few strawberries

1/2-1 teaspoon of tumeric

1/2-1 teaspoon of spirulina

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 eggs

250mL of Kefir/Coconut milk (follow link to find out more about Kefir)

2 Tablespoons of chia swollen in water/kefir overnight (follow link to learn more about chia seeds).

 

Green Smoothie Ingredients
Green Smoothie Ingredients

 

Instructions:

It’s hard to go wrong with a smoothie, but;

Step 1. Chop up the straweberries, greens and banana. Add to the blender;

Step 2. Sprinkle the spices and spirulina on top;

All of the fruit and spices ready to go...
All of the fruit and spices ready to go…

Step 3. Break eggs in a separate bowl if you are worried about shell getting in the smoothie. If not, a little shell will be good for you 😉

Step 4. Add kefir or coconut milk;

Mmm, eggs.
Mmm, eggs.

Step 5. Blend it all together! The spirulina may give off a little fishy smell- but it doesn’t taste that bad.

Step 5.5. Taste it at this point, and add honey if you think it needs it.

Step 6. Add the chia seeds and serve in a cute glass.

Wait until the end to add the chia seeds- they are more filling and give the smoothie nice texture.
Wait until the end to add the chia seeds- they are more filling and give the smoothie nice texture.

Handy tip: If you are serving this to someone who has a vendetta against green things, add some blueberries and it should turn a nice purple colour (and taste great too!).

Breakfast is served, hardly any mess and no fuss, all for a super duper smoothie!

We added some rice cakes and avocado- perfect!
Rise and Shine with an amazing breaky.

Profile: Kefir

Milk Kefir
Milk Kefir

 

What is Kefir? A fermented milk drink, made from kefir grains. Chris Kresser toted it “The Not So Paleo Super Food”

What are Kefir grains? Kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, fats, and sugars. Also known as a symbiotic matrix, or (SCOBY) which forms “grains” that resemble cauliflower.

Kefir Grains
Kefir Grains

How do you say it? Most people say “ke-fear”

Why is it good for you?

  1. Kefir contains high levels of Thiamin, B12, Folates and *Vitamin K2.
  2. Only 175 grams of kefir provides 20% of daily calcium.
  3. It is a good source of biotin, a B vitamin that HELPS the body assimilate other B vitamins.
  4.  High in minerals, such as magnesium, and phosphorus, which helps the body utilize carbohydrates, fats and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
  5. It is a potent probiotic, consisting of both bacterial and yeast species of beneficial flora, and may help protect you against gastrointestinal diseases.
  6. Improves lactose digestion in adults with lactose intolerance.
  7. Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
  8. May play a role in regulating immune function, allergic response, and inflammation.
  9. It is food for healthy skin, hair and nails and digestive function.
  10. Contains tryptophan, an amino acid which helps with sleep.
  11. Contains more beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals than yoghurt.

*What is Vitamin K2? A product of bacterial fermentation, especially when made with milk from pastured animals. Vitamin K2 plays a key role in calcium metabolism, where it is used to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the soft tissues and the arteries.

Colours and varieties: Kefir is usually white, or the colour of whatever liquid it has fermented. The varieties of kefir are endless, different liquids can be used to alter results, such as:

– Cow Milk

– Sheep Milk

– Goat Milk

– Coconut Milk/Cream/Water

– Juice

– Ginger Beer

– Sweetened Filtered Water

Kefir Rainbow
Kefir Rainbow

Texture: The end result of milk kefir is like a thin yoghurt. It is lightly carbonated. The thickness depends on how long it has been fermented for, and often can have some lumps in it.

Taste: Kefir is slightly tangy, like yoghurt. And not as pungent as one might expect. It is really quite pleasant. However, for fussy tasters, the flavour is easily masked in smoothies or when used in cooking.

Preparation: Preparation is simple. Using a sterilized jar, place kefir grains in the jar (make sure the jar is room temperature) and pour in milk. Put the lid on and sit on a bench for 24-48 hours. Make sure it is out of direct sunlight, and away from direct heat sources.  Cheeseslave has a great post on how to prepare kefir.

From Cheeseslave: straining kefir
From Cheeseslave: straining kefir

Uses: Often served plain in European cafes it can be consumed as a drink, added as a milk replacement in baking (especially yummy in cakes and breads), used in salad dressings or sauces, poured on soup (instead of cream), eaten with cereal… where-ever I would normally use milk (or sometimes cream) I replace with kefir.

Where can I get it? Kefir milk can be bought in health food stores- but often around $6-9 per liter. If this price doesn’t appeal to you, it is so easy to make at home very cheaply. Kefir grains can be bought online, or from health food stores. But if you are looking for a budget friendly way to obtain kefir grains- ask another ‘grower’. Kefir grains multiply (slowly) as they consume their liquid-food. Often people who grow or use kefir grains are more than happy to share their grains.

Kefir is an amazing addition to your diet. It is simple and easy to prepare and very versatile to use. Myself, and many of my friends who make kefir swear by it, and can’t live without it. Give it a go, there’s nothing but good things that kefir can offer.

 

Sunday night Sashimi

Regan took me on a surprise dinner date a few Sunday nights ago.

In true Melbournian fashion, Regan took the first car park we came across (you never know when you will find another one) in a busy Northcote street.

IMG_4936.JPG
My hot date

 

Regan isn’t much of a ‘planner’ per se. Whatever we were having for dinner was as much a surprise to me, as it was to him. We hurried through the cold to the first shop we saw; a dimly lit Japanese restaraunt, ‘Otsumami’ (address tagged in post location). Quickly scanning the menu pinned in the window, prices seemed reasonable with share plates and mains priced $15-30.

Urbanspoon reviews were hit and miss, but in all honesty Melbourne is too cold to be indecisive!

Inside was cosy and welcoming, tables sort of scattered around the small space, the kitchen was open and easily visible.

IMG_5258.JPG
Table set up (taken from Urban Spoon)

We each had miso soup to start. It was perfectly warming, with added greens and silken tofu. No spoons were provided, just chop sticks. We drank the soup, a little self consciously at first, but after a few more sips I remembered why I love Japanese food- no cutlery!

IMG_4938.JPG
Sushi and Sashimi

We shared a sashimi plate and some karage chicken. The portion sizes were small-ish. But the quality of the food was phenomenal. The flavours were perfect and the sashimi was cut with such finesse!

I know that raw fish isn’t everyone’s idea of perfection, but it is close to ours.

Regan was still hungry and ordered a potato, quinoa and buckwheat salad. It came cold and was delicious.

It was a perfect meal. With perfect company. It’s been such a great weekend.

 

 

IMG_5259.JPG
Otsumami by day

Profile: Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds
Chia Seeds

What is it? A seed, that is a nutritional powerhouse!

How do you say it? Most people say “chee-ya”

Why is it good for you?

  1. It boasts 20% of recommended intake of protein
  2. The protein is a complete protein with all 8 essential amino acids
  3. It is high in antioxidants (more than blueberries)
  4. Chia contains five times more calcium than milk
  5. Chia contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges
  6. It contains three times more iron than spinach
  7. It contains twice the potassium content of banana
  8. It is food for healthy skin, hair and nails
  9. It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (making it awesome for diabetics)
  10. One tablespoon of chia will provide you with 100% of your daily requirement for omega-3 ALA
  11. Contains 25% of your dietary fibre, promoting a healthy digestive system
  12. A great way to curb cravings. They fill you up (with the addition of liquid they swell to 17 times their original size!)

Colours and varieties: Black or White. There is no taste or nutritional difference, the coat on the seed is just a different colour. Varieties include whole seeds, chia bran, ground chia and chia seed oil. I have used whole seeds in my recipes.

Texture: The seeds themselves aren’t too dissimilar to poppy seeds, nothing too crazy there. But add water and you have a completely different ingredient- they form a type of gel when they swell.

Swollen: Chia Seeds in Water
Swollen: Chia Seeds in Water

Preparation: Preparation is simple and entirely dependent on what you are using them for. They are usually simply added to a recipe dry; or soaked (swollen) in a liquid like water, milk, coconut milk.

Uses: Chia is one of those versatile seeds that can be added to salads, rice, smoothies, cereal, porridge, juices or whatever your heart desires!

They can be used as an egg replacement: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water for each egg you’re replacing.

Chia pudding: Swelling the seeds in milk and adding in fruits or nuts.

Or it can be used in baking to either bring the ingredients together, or as a nutritional extra.

Some might argue that using chia seeds isn’t very budget friendly, and I wouldn’t disagree. However, because of the nature of chia seeds- a little goes a long way. We purchase ours from a market, at $20 per kg. That may sound expensive, but we buy small amounts at a time, and it works out to be more affordable this way. In the supermarkets they are a bit more expensive (I have seen them selling 300 grams for $15!) if you can find a market, or a health food store that sells them by the scoop, prices are generally cheaper because the cost of packaging, labour and overheads isn’t a factor.

When you look at the huge nutritional benefits in such a tiny seed, it is easy to justify spending a few dollars more.

Do you eat Chia seeds? I’d love to hear how you use Chia!