Zucchini Pasta

Zucchini pasta adds sneaky vegetables while being naturally gluten-free, grain-free (paleo) and low carb!  I find zucchini is a very versatile vegetable in the kitchen as it is easily accessible, affordable and contains fibre, vitamin C,  vitamin B6 and manganese. This zucchini pasta can be used raw or cooked – use it instead of pasta or noodles in a pasta or stir fry.
This easy zucchini pasta recipe is suitable for those requiring meals that are PALEO, GRAIN FREE, GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW FODMAPs.
zucchini pasta
What you  need for zucchini pasta…
Serves:  4
6-8 zucchinis
salt and pepper, to tasteveggie twister
Make the magic happen…

  • Cut zucchinis into ribbons, spirals or julienne strips. The easiest way to do this is to use a Veggie Twister like the one pictured to the right.  I bought mine on eBay but most kitchen shops will sell them.  A Julienne peeler will work just as well though.

 

  • Once zucchini’s are sliced, place into saucepan and cover with water plus an extra 3-4cm water. Bring water to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and pour zucchini through a strainer immediately.  Do not overcook or they will be soggy!  Serve warm with a sauce or topping such as our Pesto Pasta.

Health Benefits of Chia

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds seem to be sprouting up everywhere these days in a variety of health foods. Although the chia  seed seems like a “new” food, chia has actually been around for over 3500 years. Chia is a seed native to southern Mexico from a plant called Salvia hisipanica. In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seeds to give them strength for battle and relieve pain. The Aztecs also used chia as a high energy-density food they could consume during long travels or during times when food was not as readily available. Now much of the chia in the world is grown in Australia, instead of Mexico, and Australia may soon become the biggest producer of chia seeds internationally.

Chia has several health benefits. These powerful seeds contain a significant amount of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), even more than flax seeds. ALA may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and even symptoms of asthma. The seeds also have an extra benefit in that the omega-3 fat is protected by a large amount of antioxidants, which prevents the heart-healthy fat from becoming rancid.  Chia seeds are also very high in fiber, providing 10g per ounce.  Chia is a high calcium seed, as it provides 179 mg of calcium per serving. That’s not all for their nutritional benefits, they are also chock full of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc all of which are minerals vital to health.

Omega-3s and calcium have been shown to help with weight loss and chia seeds provide large doses of both nutrients. But chia seeds actually have an additional weight-loss boosting benefit other than their nutritional profile. When mixed with water, chia seeds grow to 10x their size, forming a gel that is high soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not digested by our bodies and therefore is calorie-free. The gel also grows in the stomach, making us feel full and leading to a reduced overall calorie consumption. Soluble fiber traps fat and cholesterol, possibly lowering calorie absorption from a meal. Less calories being absorbed, means less calories are stored as unwanted fat!

Not sure how to eat chia seeds? When mixed with water, they have a rubbery, gel- like consistency. Chia seeds are 100% gluten free so are safe to eat on a gluten or grain free diet. If you want to lose weight, add them to water or tea to help fill you up before a meal, so you feel full and eat less overall. Sprinkle them on salads, blend them into smoothies, or add them to your favorite soup as a thickener. Add them to hot cereal, yogurt, or grind them to add to muffins or breads. Many people use chia as an egg replacer in baked goods to add omega-3 fats and reduce cholesterol. As chia becomes more popular, you are sure to see it pop up in a variety of health foods and they are a great addition to any diet.

Here is a recipe for you adapted from Simple Bites. This recipe is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW SUGAR, LOW GLYCAEMIC and HIGH CALCIUM

 

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk (you can also use 1% cow’s milk)
  • 2 tbsp xylitol or Stevia (you can also use coconut sugar, agave, or honey- although these contain real sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a vigorous shake.
  2. Chill for about an hour, then return to the jar and shake it up. Let chill for at least 4 hours and overnight is even better.
  3. Chia seeds will expand and turn into pudding the consistency of applesauce (it won’t get really thick).
  4. Serve cold with sliced fruit or toasted nuts on top.

 

 

Healthy Muesli Bars

 

A muesli  bar may be a quick and easy grab as you run out the door in the morning, but is your bar as healthy as it could be? Many muesli bars, although calorie controlled, may contain an enormous amount of sugar, a significant number of calories, and maybe even trans fats. Although it may be a quick option, you don’t want to start your day with a sugar rush, right?

Here are some quick tips for choosing a muesli bar and an awesome low-sugar recipe you can make at home:

 

1.      Sugar.

Look for bars with 10g of sugar or less. Some bars can contain over 20g of sugar, that’s 4 teaspoons of added sugar! Generally, if there is a ton of sugar, the bar is highly processed and may contain other additives or very little fiber.

2.      Fiber

Aim for a bar with at least 3-5g of fiber. Breakfast is a great place to get in some extra fiber in your day. Your total fiber intake should equal 25-30g per day. Plus, fiber helps slow digestion, so the high fiber bar should hold you over until lunch.

3.      Protein

Protein increases satiety or the feeling of fullness. It also helps prevent carbohydrates (sugar) from rushing into the blood stream too quickly. A bar that contains at least 5-10g of protein will help you stay full until lunch. If the bar doesn’t have enough protein, try adding a handful of nuts, a boiled egg, or some low fat cheese for that added protein.

4.      Other ingredients

Make sure you read the ingredients list on the muesli bars. Don’t be fooled by the words “whole grains” or “organic” or other seemingly healthy words on the package.  Look for bars with a short list of ingredients, all of which you should be able to pronounce. Stay clear of bars with the words “partially hydrogenated” on the label, this means the bar contains trans fats.

The best way to know what ingredients are going into your granola or muesli bar is to make it yourself. Here is an excellent low-carb, gluten-free recipe for homemade muesli bars.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, VEGAN, VEGETARIAN, LOW CARB, PALEO, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

 

HEALTHY MUESLI BAR

Adapted from Healthy Indulgences Blog

Makes 6 bars

Ingredients:

Wet Mix:

1 tbspn rice malt syrup or pure maple syrup

2 tbspn coconut oil

1 Tablespoon stevia

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Dry Mix:

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts

3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 Tablespoon pepitas

1 Tablespoon finely shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Tablespoon cacao nibs (for that chocolate flavor- can do more nuts instead)

1 teaspoon flax seed meal

2 Tablespoons coconut milk powder (in Asian section of supermarket)

1/16 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/16 teaspoon sea salt

1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract

4-6 tablespoons vanilla protein powder – I like Sunwarrior Rice protein (if dairy free) or Optimum Nutrition Gold 100% Standard Whey (not dairy free)

In a small food processor, add almonds and pecans to processor bowl, and pulse 8-10 times. Add sunflower seeds, pepitas, coconut, cacao nibs, flax seed meal, coconut milk powder, xanthan gum, sea salt, protein powder and stevia extract. Replace lid, and pulse 3-5x, until all the nuts are chopped up.

Preheat oven to 180*C. Line the bottom of a 20 by 10cm slice pan with parchment paper. Heat maple syrup or rice malt syrup and stevia in a small saucepan over medium heat until you see tiny bubbles forming in the mixture and the stevia is dissolved. Wait one minute after stevia has dissolved, then take the mixture off heat and stir in vanilla. Quickly, scrape hot liquid from pan into dry mixture, and stir around with a spatula until mixture is evenly coated. Press evenly into the bottom of loaf pan with spatula.

Bake for 10 minutes (7 minutes, 30 seconds in convection ovens). Remove bars from oven, let cool a couple minutes, and invert on to cutting board. Cut into bars with a sharp knife. Remold the corners as necessary. Slide bars, bottom side up, on to metal pan. Bake for 9 more minutes (7 minutes for convection oven). Remove from oven, and place muesli bars on cooling rack. Store each bar separately in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator, ready to grab and go!

Gluten-free, low-sugar, banana bread

Here is a great recipe for those of you craving a healthier, sweet dessert. Since this doesn’t contain any flour it is great for those of you following a gluten-free diet. The sweetness in this recipe comes from the bananas and dates, which also provide a great deal of fibre. There is no refined or processed sugar in bananathis recipe at all. Bananas provide not only 3g of fibre, but also a good dose of potassium, Vitamin A, and folate. Dates are also super high in potassium, iron, and magnesium. A dessert packed with all these amazing nutrients? Yes, please!

I made these as muffins or you can use a traditional banana bread dish. Be aware if you cook it in a bread dish, you will have to cook it for slightly longer.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, PALEO, NUT FREE, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

Ingredients

For the banana muffin

  • 6 bananas (brown ones are sweeter)
  • 4 dried dates, pitted
  • 4 eggs
  • ? cup coconut cream concentrate or homemade coconut butter  (see recipe)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Coconut Butter Recipe

  • 200g unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt.

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor and blend together until smooth. This may take up to 10 minutes to get smooth depending on the power of your blender or food processor.  Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Toppings
Frozen blueberries or raspberries
Sliced banana
Dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Flaked almonds

                                                Instructions
glutenfreeveganbananamuffins_158x2001. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Add dried dates to the food processor and puree until you get a lumpy paste.
3. Then place bananas in the food processor and pulse until completely pureed.
4. Next add eggs and coconut butter and puree.
5. Then add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.
6. Pour batter into well-greased muffin tins (baking paper works best).
7. Add blueberries, cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), flaked almonds or whatever other topping you like onto the muffins. Mix with a knife to incorporate if you like.
8. Place into the oven for 30 minutes or until you poke each one with a skewer and they come out clean.
9. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

 

Coconut and Almond Rice Pudding

I’ve always loved rice pudding or ‘rizogolo’ in Greek as my wonderful mother-in-law calls it (and I should note her more traditional cinnamon and vanilla version is to diet for…and she has made this for me MANY times in the last decade).  This rice pudding just has a little dairy free and coco-nutty twist!  This is a great little dessert but I ate it for breakfast too! It is so creamy and tasty you wouldn’t guess it is dairy free, gluten free and low in added sugar too.  Perfect for the adults and the kids.

Now that I’ve made it, I think this would also be divine made with quinoa instead of the rice which would make it higher in protein, fibre and lower glycaemic index too.

This creamy deliciousness is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, MODERATE GI LOW FODMAP20130407-140452.jpg

What you need…

  • 1 cup (250g) arborio rice
  • 1 x 400ml Can Coconut Milk
  • 3 cups Almond Breeze, unsweetened
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped (or 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste)
  • ¼ cup Stevia, Xylitol (these are the sugar free options)…OR… Coconut sugar or Rapadura (these are sugar alternatives but still contain sugar but in a less processed form)
  • 1 cinnamon pod
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted slightly
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

 

How the magic happens…

…on the Stovetop:

1. Start by rinsing the rice with water. Add rice to a medium saucepan. Add sugar substitute, vanilla bean and pod (or paste) and coconut milk.

2. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 2 more cups of almond milk, about 1/2 cup at a time. Let the milk absorb before adding more.

3. After 25 minutes, the rice pudding will be thick and creamy.

4. Let cool slightly and stir in the last cup of milk. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod.

5. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Slow cooker or Rice cooker:

1. Turn the slow/rice cooker on.

2. Add rice, coconut milk, almond milk, vanilla paste, sugar substitute, almond extract (if using) and cinnamon to the slow cooker. Set to high for 2-2 ½ hours or low for 4 hours.

3. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod if used. Allow to cool slightly.

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Thermomix (adapted from the fabulous Quirky Cooking)

1. In your Thermomix, grind up the sugar and vanilla bean for 1 minute on speed 9.

2. Scrape down lid and sides and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 25 minutes at 90 degrees, reverse, speed 1 1/2.

3. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving (it will thicken slightly).

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

Quirky Quinoa Salad

We have posted about how much we love the super grain Quinoa before (check it out here) so I thought we should post another recipe for you all to try!  I made this for a family Summer BBQ we had last weekend.  I knew my sisters would love it however I was less certain about the boys in my family.  Our boys love salad – but they are very quick to tell you how much they hate the way we add ‘all that other junk’ (i.e chickpeas, fruit, noodles) to them – they just want normal green salads ‘like mum makes it’.  Time to think outside the box guys!

The result? My husband was at first cautious about this strange looking salad but I think it was proof that he loved it when he scoffed all of the salad leftovers before any of the others the following day!  SUCCESS!

If you’d like to make this more substantial (i,e as a complete meal), add some chicken or boiled eggs. Perfect for lunches as it can be pre-made just leave the dressing in a separate container until ready to eat.

This salad is GLUTEN FREE, LOW GI HIGH FIBRE.  Leave out the white part of the spring onions and the chickpeas to make it LOW FODMAPS.

quinoa salad

What you need…

  • 170g (1 cup) mixed coloured quinoa as desired, soaked in enough water to cover for minimum 30 minutes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tin (425g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ sweet potato or pumpkin (approx. 250g), sliced approx. 1 cm thick pieces
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 4 spring onion/shallots, sliced on the angle
  • 3 sticks celery, sliced thinly
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 100 g reduced fat feta, cubed
  • 100g (approx) mixed toasted nuts and seeds, (I used walnut, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pepitas lightly roasted in the oven on a baking tray)
  • ½ bag mixed salad greens or baby spinach
  • Few Italian parsley leaves (optional)

 

Dressing:

  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 30g (1-2 tbspn) tamari or soy sauce
  • 40g fresh lemon juice (or juice of approx. 2 small lemons)
  • 30g (1-2 tbspn) extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil

 

How the magic happens…

Doing it the traditional way:

  1. Combine water and quinoa in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat chargrill or oven grill on med-high. Spray lightly with oil. Cook the sweet potato/pumpkin for 8-10 minutes or until slightly tender. Break up roughly into large pieces.
  3. Add the all other ingredients to the quinoa.
  4. Blend together the lemon juice, garlic, oil and soy sauce until well combined.  Add the dressing to the quinoa mixture.
  5. Toss salad gently.  Top with extra seeds and serve!

 

Thermomix magic:

  1. Drain quinoa and place into simmering basket. Fill Thermomix bowl to 1L mark with water and set basket into bowl.
  2. Place the lid on the bowl, with Varoma on top, and pumpkin/sweet potato spread evenly in Varoma dish. Ensure it is spread apart enough that steam can get through.
  3. Steam quinoa 18 min/Varoma temp/speed 2. Remove basket from bowl and set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the rest of the salad by combining all remaining salad ingredients.
  5. Make dressing by placing all ingredients into Thermomix bowl and blending 20 sec/speed 8.
  6. Pour over prepared salad and add quinoa. Toss gently.
  7. Garnish with additional seeds, nuts, spring onions etc.

 

Recipe inspired by Quirky Cooking and Tenina

 

Zucchini, Carrot and Sweet Potato Slice

I love eggs! And I love zucchini slice even more!  To be honest, my Mum makes the best zucchini slice in the world (doesn’t everybody’s mum?)…pretty surprising considering my Mum absolutely hates egg. 

I think the reason I love zucchini slice so much is that it is such an easy food to eat at any time of the day – meal or snack.  It also freezes beautifully for those (many) times when you just haven’t had enough time to prepare lunch/dinner – all you need is some salad to put with it.  As well as all this, it is a great source of protein and fibre and an easy way to hide vegetables for the big and little kids. 

So here we go, my take on zucchini slice…and trust me, it is VERY easy…and VERY tasty…in fact, my husband told me it tasted better than my Mum’s (but don’t tell her that because she may not feed him any more).

 

zucchini slice

 

Ingredients

6 eggs (could use 3 eggs + 3-4 egg whites)

1 cup (150g) self-raising flour (or gluten free flour), sifted

350g (approx 3) zucchini, grated, excess moisture squeezed

250g (approx 2) carrots, grated

1 small sweet potato, grated

1 large onion, finely diced

150g salt reduced ham, chopped

1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, cubed if thermomix, grated if normal recipe

60ml (1/4 cup) olive or rice bran oil

1-2 tsp mixed dried herbs

1 tbspn parsley, finely chopped (optional)

1 tbspn fresh basil, finely chopped (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

 

How the magic happens…

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a lasagne dish.
  2. To grate/dice vegetables, add vegetables to food processor and chop until finely diced.  If no food processor, grate or chop as described above.
  3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until combined.
  4. Add the flour and beat until smooth
  5. Add zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, onion, ham, cheese, oil, herbs and spices and stir to combine.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

 

Thermomix Version…

  1. Grease a ceramic or glass lasagne dish.
  2. Cube cheddar cheese, place in the TM bowl and grate on 5 secs / speed 6.  Set aside.
  3. Place onion and bacon in the TM bowl and chop on speed 5 for 2-3 seconds.  Set aside with cheese.
  4. Place zucchini, carrot, sweet potato in the TM bowl and chop on speed 5 for 3-4 seconds
  5. Add SR flour, oil, eggs and salt/pepper to the TM bowl and mix on speed 4 for 20 seconds.
  6. Return cheese, zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, onion and bacon to the TM bowl and combine all ingredients on speed 3 for 30-40 seconds on reverse (or until combined).
  7. Pour mixture into the prepared dish and bake in a pre-heated moderate oven for approximately 40 minutes or until browned.  
  8. Serve warm (or cold!) with salad.

 

ENJOY!

 

Crunch & colour – Beef, beet, lentil and walnut salad

My sisters and niece came over for a surprise home warming lunch at our new house and I had to whip something up rather quickly.  I found some leftover beef strips in thr fridge and so I tossed together this amazing salad.  It is a very well rounded salad with crunch and colour – plus it is very filling.  Love the lentils and walnuts for the fibre and protein, not to mention the antioxidant punch you will get from the coloured veg such as the beetroot, sweet potato, tomato and baby spinach.  The best thing yet, it tasted even better for lunch the next day.  Enjoy!

 

BEEF, BEETS, WALNUTS AND LENTIL SALAD

[gluten free, low carb, high protein; omit onion and garlic (infuse in oil), beetroot and lentils for low FODMAP option]

Cooking Time   15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 500g beef fillet
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 medium beetroot, trimmed  OR  425g can baby beets, drained, halved
  • 400g can lentils, drained, rinsed
  • 1/2 sweet potato, chopped
  • 120g baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 75g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method

  1. If using fresh beetroot:  Preheat oven to 200°C/180C°C fan-forced. Wrap each beetroot in foil. Place on a baking tray. Bake for 1 hour or until tender. Set aside to cool. Remove and discard foil. Wearing gloves, peel beetroot. Cut into 4cm pieces.
  2. Heat small amount of oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or chargrill over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minute or until fragrant.
  3. Add sweet potato.  Cook until tender.
  4. Add lentils and beetroot. Cook, tossing, for 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove to a plate.
  5. Add beef to frying pan. Cook beef until cooked to your liking. Remove to a plate to cool slightly.
  6. Combine spinach, mint, feta, tomato and walnuts in a      large bowl. Thinly slice beef. Add to salad. Add beetroot and lentil mixture.
  7. Combine vinegars and remaining oil in a jug. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad. Toss to combine. Serve.

Banana and Walnut Muffins – gf, df, sf, low FODMAP

I had a whole heap of mushie brown bananas and didn’t know what to do with them. I put it on our Facebook page, and our followers had terrific suggested to use them up. Some great ideas included smoothies, banana frozen yoghurt, pancakes (using banana instead of sugar) and even cocktails!  The winning vote however was for muffins.   Being a self confessed horrible muffin maker, I was guided by the suggestions of all our followers to make a really amazing finished product.  The trick is – don’t overmix, keep the oven temperature lower and only cook them for 15-20 minutes. 

These delicious banana and walnut muffins are perfect for a sweet treat – even for those that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free or on a low FODMAPs diet.  Plus, they are higher protein  and have good fats due to the walnuts and chia seeds.  Don’t forget to freeze them for lunchbox fillers.

 

BANANA & WALNUT MUFFINS

[Options for gluten free, dairy free and soy free]

Cooking Time   20 minutes

Makes   12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) self-raising flour (I used Orgran gluten free)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 70g butter, melted, cooled (I used Nuttelex lite)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup chia seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 12 x muffin pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk butter and eggs together. Stir in banana and walnuts (do not overmix). Spoon into prepared muffin pan.
  3. Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Note:

– To make this into banana bread instead, use 1 cup plain flour and ½ cup self-raising flour.  Cook for 45-50 minutes.

– Freeze extras for easy snacks