Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Gluten Free Chicken and Vegetable Pie

Gluten free and pastry don't generally go together very successfully - anyone on a gluten free diet could attest to that.   I've been diagnosed for about 12-13 years now, and let me tell you, being a Coeliac now versus the early 2000's is so so much easier.  For those diagnosed many years earlier than that, I take my hat off to you and wonder, truely, how you managed to eat!  Things have changed in many ways.  Restaurants, cafes, and other eating places outside of the home have not only become aware and accommodating, but many have actually embraced it by offering gluten free menus, or even creating a whole establishment dedicated to gluten free dining.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Party time - healthy style!

It's been a longer time between posts than usual for me and this is the reason why!  I have been sitting on this one for ages feeling not quite right about it but couldn't put my finger on why.  Well, then it suddenly came to me and I realised that the tone of the post was quite negative and anyone that knows me knows I don't like negativity!  I'm defaulted to a glass half full person. 

Situations that have occurred in my life have made me that way and ironically even though they have been tragic events, I am thankful for the lessons I have learnt from them.  Anyway, that is soooo far off the point!

So originally the post was all about the horror of artificial preservatives, colours and flavours and copious amounts of fat, salt and sugar in all of the traditional party foods.  But it was weighing me down.  We all know that but what I decided you would benefit more from is being provided with tasty alternatives, plus a few recipes to get you started! 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Chestnut, cacao and pomegranate multi-purpose mix!

I would say that chestnuts are the complete package.  They have a great nutrition profile, and they also lend themselves beautifully to both savoury and sweet dishes and are even a great idea for a snack.  They have a delicate, slightly sweet flavour and a lovely smooth texture.  Unlike other nuts they are quite starchy,  often used as a substitute for potatoes in some European and African countries.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Feeding the family on a budget

This is one of the most popular questions I get asked and believe me, if your food shopping bill is growing at such an expeditious rate as ours is, I can see why!
When I'm scouting the aisles of the supermarket I have discovered two little voices in my head arguing!  One could be visualised as a dollar sign, reminding me that with each new entrant to my trolley, the total bill is climbing.  The other could be visualised as, well, me!  Wanting the best health and nutrition for my family, but without the premium price tag!   So which one wins out?  Well, here are some ways to achieve them both!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Gluten free cheese and herb loaf - perfect accompaniment to winter soups!

By reading my earlier post on ice cream I'm sure you would think I was living in Far North Queensland (I WISH!).  But sadly I'm braving yet another chilly winter down here in Melbourne, and although there are few things I actually like about the thermostat plummeting, I must say that soul warming soups and rich, slow cooked meat dishes are something I look forward to.

I tend to find a soup each year that quickly becomes a favourite and this year I have already found one that the whole family enjoys, Quirky Jo's creamy chicken and brown rice soup.  This soup is like a blanket, wrapping itself around you and warming you through to your core, whilst lifting the soul!

Fresh mint and raw cacao ice cream - no fuss!

I know I know, it STILL isn't the right weather for ice cream!  But you know, somewhere it is, and I'm going there tonight!!  Coming with me?
So as you saw in my last blog entry, I have recently been introduced to the world of raw cacao and have been busily 'playing' around with it, making custards, drinks, raw bliss balls.... but when I noticed the other day that my mint had been quietly getting away from me and invading my other herbs, a flavour invaded my taste buds... choc mint ice cream!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Rapadura, raw cacao nibs, Crio Bru.... yes, I'm speaking English!!!

I am absolutely loving whats happening at our place at the moment!  Since our newest member of the family came along, the Thermomix (!!), my passion for food and cooking has been reignited and my eyes have been opened to some fantastic ingredients, and a way of cooking that is bringing us right back to the most unprocessed foods possible.

Obviously a food is at its peak nutritionally when it is just picked from the vine, pulled from the earth, milked from the cow.  But we are all not lucky enough to have access to that in this day and age, so the aim should be to look at everything that we eat and see how fresh and unprocessed we can get it. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

No Boil Easy Whole Orange and Almond Cake

My eldest son, Liam, is nearly 4 now which for him seems soooooo old yet for me I still see my little boy and can't believe we have had him in our life for nearly 4 years now!  He surprises me all the time with things he says, the way he has thought about things and how he pieces different bits of information together to form his own ideas.  Its such a nice age to see them forming their own thoughts and perceptions.

So when we were thinking about what to cook the other day he said to me 'mum, what about we use the orange in the fruit bowl and whizz it up in the Thermomix to make a cake'?  'What a great idea' I said and my mind started ticking as to how I would make this idea of his work in a recipe.  Obviously there are many orange cakes around that use a whole orange but the whole notion of boiling it first for an hour didn't appeal to me and I knew the kids wouldn't have patience for it either!!

Friday, 1 June 2012

I'm going wild for puffs!

Puffed rice and puffed corn seem to come in and out of my pantry.  At different times I have rediscovered and found new uses for these foods and then just like that they go again.  Well, they are back now!  The reason this time was my quest to find more healthy snack solutions for my kids (and us!), a quest that seems to be both never ending and much more scarce than the junky alternatives.

In the last few days I have found just how versatile these two products are!  There are other grains that you can purchase in a 'puffed' format (millet, kumut, amaranth, quinoa, wheat) however these two are probably of the mildest in flavour and therefore are a good place to start with kids.
Nutritionally they tick a lot of boxes and don't have any salt, oil or sugar added!  In fact nothing is added!

They contain varying amounts of fibre, protein and potassium and only trace or small amounts of naturally occurring fat and sodium.  
Oh and by the way, I am in no way endorsed by this company!  They are just the packs I use that can be found in supermarkets but I'm sure there are many other options, including those in health food stores.
So what can be done with these products??  Well I am getting the sense as I start to play around with them that it is limited only to your imagination!
  • Meatballs can be made, rolled and coated in puffed rice (or puffed quinoa or amaranth) then pan fried.  A crunchy, fun and nutritious addition to meatballs (a puffed take on the traditional 'porcupines'), and could even be applied to veggie burgers too.

  • They can be eaten just as is, or make a snack mix by adding some dried fruit like sultanas or apricots and even seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Young kids especially seem to love them (but I probably wouldnt give them to kids much younger than one year old due to choking risk).
  • Instead of those sugar and colour laden lolly bracelets and necklaces that are often given at parties, thread the puffed corn onto string and make your own jewellery to add to party bags.
  • Any recipes you have using rice bubbles can be substituted with the brown rice puffs which will reduce salt, eliminate additives (from the bubbles ingredient anyway) and increase fibre and other nutrients.  
Ok, so these two recipes are ones I have made this week and have been a big hit with the kids (and us big kids too!).  They are from another blog that I have much respect for - and I have also added some variations I think would be fun to try out.  They are egg free, dairy free and gluten free and yet full of flavour.  For those on a fructose free diet, just substitute maple syrup for the honey in the second recipe.

The first one comes from Natural New Age Mum and are Chocolate Crackles!   Obviously still a 'sometimes food' but much better for you than the traditional ingredients!!
I have written the recipe below as I made it but just click on the link to see the original recipe.  This is what I would consider to be a  'recipe renovation' too!  The traditional chocolate crackles are filled with copha (hydrogenated coconut oil - hydrogenated being the process that forces hydrogen gas into oil at high temperature and pressure, causing the fats to become trans fats - BAD BAD BAD!!!  Stay away from any hydrogenated fats!), icing sugar (containing no nutrients other than highly processed carbohydrates), and rice bubbles (highly processed with added salt and sugar).  Hmmmm, yes a recipe that could do with improvements indeed!!!  

Chocolate crackles


2 cups brown rice puffs
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (organic coconut generally means no sulphites which some people react to)
1/2 cup sugar (rapadura is my sugar of choice now due to the minimal processing and therefore maintenance of nutrients but otherwise use brown)
3 tablespoons of cocoa (I am now using raw cacao nibs which for this recipe I just blended in the Thermomix until it was a powder consistency)
125g virgin, organic coconut oil (you can now find this in Safeway stores in the Asian section.  Its in a jar and is white in colour.  Much better for you than the hydrogenated stuff!)


  1. If you dont have a Thermomix, mix rice puffs and coconut together in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, cocoa and oil to a small saucepan and gently heat just until oil is melted and ingredients are well mixed.  Pour over the puffs and mix thoroughly.  Divide mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.
  2. If you have a Thermomix, pulverise the sugar for 5-10 seconds on speed 5.  Add the oil and cocoa and heat for 2 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2.  Add puffs and coconut and mix on REVERSE/speed soft for 1 minute.  Then divide the mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.

Now this second recipe is from the same blog, Natural New Age Mum (who got it from a book written by Julie Maree Wood called 'Feeding Fussy Kids').  It is a recipe for gluten free cereal although in typical Mel style, I have tweaked it and have the amended recipe below - finding it quickly became more popular as a snack in this house than a cereal with milk!  I added nuts and changed the apple juice concentrate to honey just because I didn't have the concentrate and figure honey is probably an ingredient more of you have on hand.  Once cooled you could add dried fruit, seeds such as flaxseed and chia, or even for those of you who aren't Coeliac, you could add oats to the mix as well!  Below the recipe is a savoury idea too!

Crispy Corn and Rice cereal


1 1/2 c puffed corn
1 1/2 c puffed brown rice
1/2 c shredded or dessicated coconut (preferably organic)
1/4 c slivered almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs virgin organic coconut oil
2 tbs honey (or maple syrup if avoiding fructose)


  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix together corn, rice, coconut, almonds and cinnamon.
  3. If you have a Thermomix, place coconut oil and honey in bowl and heat at 50 degrees/speed soft for 2 minutes.  If you dont, do this in a small saucepan and heat gently until oil has just melted.
  4. Pour oil mixture over puffs and mix thoroughly to ensure all dry ingredients are coated.
  5. Spread mix over the lined tray and place in oven for 10 minutes, taking care not to let it burn!  They should be crunchy and will get more crunchy once cooled.  
  6. Allow to cool before placing in an airtight container.

 A savoury version of this recipe could be great as a 'nibbly' with drinks or even as a healthy snack to eat at your desk at work!  Just omit the coconut, honey and cinnamon and add 1/4c raw peanuts, a tablespoon of brown sugar or rapadura (you can cut this back if you want the mix to be more savoury than sweet), and 2-3 tsp of mixed ground spices that take your fancy (try cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika) and season with salt and pepper.  Add an extra tablespoon of the coconut oil.

What versatile, healthy ingredients they are!  Stay tuned for more........