Banana and Almond Muffins? Yes pleaaassee

You know when you have that sudden craving to bake? Well, I experienced this at about 11pm last night and stayed up until midnight baking & feasting away.

I usually head straight for the cacao and dates to make something super chocolatey, fudgy and sweet, but for some reason today my eye caught the two overripe bananas that were sitting on the kitchen ledge.

So, I preheated the oven to 180˚C and gathered together what I could find in the pantry for my banana and almond muffins. These can be vegan and are gluten free.

I used almond meal instead of ordinary flour, as it is high in protein and vitamin E – providing essential nutrients whilst filling you up (read more here). The bananas are the perfect natural sweetener, and they provide a sweet note as well as potassium and fibre.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Sprinkle of salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs (use an egg replacer for the vegan option)
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp almond milk (or any milk of your choosing)

I popped the dry ingredients into a blender, whisked them together (make sure the oats are ground into a fine powder) and poured them into a bowl. Then I blended the wet ingredients to form a runny mixture, which I combined in the bowl with the dry ingredients.

I placed about 2 heaped spoonfuls of mixture into 8 lined cupcake tins. All they needed was 30 minutes in the oven (check with a skewer – no mixture residue should be on it when you poke it through the middle of a muffin), and they were done. Voila!

xx

Nutritional Breakdown (per serve):

  • 137 calories/572 kilojoules
  • 5.0g Protein
  • 8.5g Fat (0.8g Saturated)
  • 9.0g Carbs
  • 43mg Sodium

I found Vegan Yum Cha and it didn’t disappoint 

Wait… doesn’t Yum Cha involve selections of pork buns, prawn/pork dumplings, beef entrails, spiced meatballs, chicken wrapped in lotus leaf?

The Green Gourmet offers a plant-based Yum Cha menu. From fake-Beijing-duck wraps and chia seed ‘prawn’ dumplings to BBQ-not pork buns and taro meatballs, they have it all.

From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t look like much. A (green) hole in the wall, sitting on a major Highway amongst the barking traffic. It’s a gem only locals know about. Inside soft music plays, customers sit at homely wooden tables and the tasty food is served quickly by the friendly staff.

My cuisine craving this week was Chinese. After visiting 45 Broughton Chinese Takeaway on Wednesday night for delicious stir fried black fungi & greens in oyster sauce, sweet & sour chicken, (real) pork buns and San Choy Bow, by Saturday I wanted more.

My friend and I decided to order a Green Gourmet feast whilst doing a Harry Potter movie marathon (the perfect combination).

We ordered the Deluxe Gourmet Entrée which, for $32 together, gave us a selection of BBQ-not-pork satay skewers, ‘oyster’ (mushroom) fritters, steamed dumplings and burdock salad. To complement the entrée range we ordered stir fried veggies in soy sauce, shangtung-not-chicken and finished the meal off with peppermint tea and dark chocolate.

The Green Gourmet also does a fantastic selection of homemade vegan desserts; ‘monkey choccy’ sponge cake, lemon and berry ‘cheesecake’, Oreo chocolate cake (to name a few). But we didn’t have much of a sweet tooth that night so decided to give them a miss.

The Green Gourmet has two locations – St Leonards and Newtown. If you’re in the area definitely give it a try!

xx

I finally gave up coffee… How do I stay awake?

I seem to go through phases of being a coffee addict, and then cutting down to one a day.

A month ago I lived on four cups a day and swore by the stuff for mental acuity, increased cheeriness, and the ability to stay wired all day and complete everything I had packed into my schedule without being dreary.

Unfortunately, the $4.50 I was dishing out left right and centre for a small almond Capp just wasn’t agreeing with my bank account.

After realising I was spending $60 per week on coffee I knew I had to quit. I waited until university exams were over (or else I would jeopardise any chance of late night study) and went cold turkey on quitting coffee…

I won’t dress it up. The headaches and irritability were terrible.

I began my coffee cleanse as I went on holiday to South Africa, and spent the 14 hour flight over unable to watch movies, eat food or chat to anyone as I was trying to escape the withdrawal headache with Panadol.

Luckily for me (and everyone around me), after about 24 hours the pain had eased off, and after 3 days I was free of irritability, headaches and intense coffee cravings.

Even a month on, I do miss the rich, smooth, bitter-sweet taste of a freshly brewed Cappuccino, but more than that I miss the mentally stimulating effect it gave me. Here is a list of the alternatives I’ve gone for that do the job.

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Green Tea

I have recently become a green tea enthusiast. I can never stomach the taste of the original green tea from tea bags (tastes like I’m munching on field of grass), however, The English Tea Shop has a wonderful range of organic & free trade, herbal teas that are delicately delicious. Although Green Tea does have a bit of caffeine, it’s much cheaper than coffee and doesn’t give me the jitters that coffee gives.

Kombucha

You may not be familiar with Kombucha. It’s a fermented drink made from black tea, that’s known for boosting immunity, and has a very low-calorie content. It also gives me the kick I need before my 9am lectures.

Dark Chocolate 

Aside from its glorious taste, Dark Chocolate also has a fair bit of caffeine which usually does the trick. I’ll snack on a piece of dark choccy in the afternoon if I’m feeling lethargic. As well as that, it’s a powerful source of antioxidants which fight harmful radicals in the body.

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Coconut Water

A very refreshing alternative to water, coconut water is taken from the fresh green coconuts (before it turns to milk) and serves as a boost in the form of sugar and electrolytes.

I’m also interested in trying latte alternatives like turmeric/dark chocolate/beetroot/matcha lattes when I’m out for brekkies and brunches. I know The Porch has a range of these options, so I’m planning on going there soon.

Having said all that, Australia is known to have some of the best coffee in the world – and whilst I’ve given myself a break from the drink for a while – if you are around Sydney you must grab your fix from my favourite places (some of these are run by coffee connoisseurs who have spent their lives perfecting their signature blends):

Do you have any good coffee alternatives?

xx

I Tried Being Vegan for a Week

I’ve always been interested in trying out different diets I discover (Banting, Keto, Paleo, Vegetarian, Mediterranean you name it). Except I’ve always had a hard time with straight veganism, because of how many food groups it cuts out.

The benefits that the Vegan diet provides to the environment and to animals are undeniable. (If you have any shred of doubt about this check out the facts here).

However, I am sceptical about whether it is a viable option for maintaining balanced nutrition and fuelling my body with everything it needs to function. Whilst I am sure that there are ways to get all required nutrients whilst being vegan, as there are fewer options to choose from, it requires a commitment to ensure that the body is deficient in anything.

To elaborate; when committing to a vegan lifestyle you must ensure you are still getting enough protein (1.3 x your weight in kilograms, in grams), iron, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc.

Here are some fantastic VEGAN sources of those:

So, I decided I was only allowed to judge it once I’d given it a go, and try being the all-scary, waiter-frustrating, plant-based eating, VEGAN. For a week.

Sunday DAY ONE

I’ll start here by admitting that the vegan diet was meant to start yesterday (Saturday). However come Saturday lunchtime, with the all-good intentions of being vegan, I bought Dal and Naan from an Indian shop I wasn’t familiar with. When my food arrived I found the Dal was made with creamy ghee butter and the Naan was smothered in cheese. With my steaming Dal and gooey, cheesy naan staring up at me, I decided veganism would have to wait until Sunday.

Hint 1: When ordering out at new places, always ask what ingredients are in dishes.

Sunday, my first day of being vegan. My boyfriend and I went out for brunch at a local cafe that does the generic big brekkies, bircher muesli’s, porridges, pastries etc. for breakfast. I was shocked to find that not one of the twenty-or-so dishes were vegan.  I had to Build My Own Brekkie and ordered half an avo, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a slice of toasted sourdough for AU$12.50.

For dinner, I went out with a friend to Coco Cubano, a restaurant that serves flavour-packed Cuban food, including Fajitas, Nachos, Pressed Sandwiches, Burgers, Burritos, Churros and exotic cocktails (reminds me of an up-market Guzman Y Gomez). I went with their quinoa salad – and opted not to have a topping of chicken/steak/halloumi – with a side of guacamole and plain corn chips. My problem: The meal was delicious, but I was still peckish afterwards. I had to have a handful of roasted cashews and almond milk tea to save me rolling about with hunger pains all night…

Monday DAY TWO

I didn’t have any big plans today (eating-wise) but I did have my weekly Game of Thrones night with my friend, where she always cooks dinner for me. I have to admit, I did feel a little uncomfortable mentioning that I was Day Two of my vegan streak, and when I sheepishly mentioned my diet restrictions I realised I had to bring a dish along so I wouldn’t be a pain.

Hint 2: Offer to cook/bring your dishes to other’s houses.

Tuesday DAY THREE 

I worked all morning and decided to treat myself by going out for a late lunch afterwards (a habit that’s become a little too regular lately). Usually, I would head for Guzman Y Gomez, Sushi Train, or Grill’d, but I spotted a restaurant that’s recently opened up, called Nudefish Poké. I chose to go with the Down to Earth poké bowl which hosted tofu, mushrooms, beetroot, pickled carrot, ginger, snow peas, radishes and tamari almonds, brown rice and avo in a salty-sweet soy sauce. I definitely wouldn’t have usually chosen this option, but it turned out to be a delicious choice I’ll go for again.

Wednesday DAY FOUR 

I was off to uni today, which meant I needed a big, filling breakfast if I was going to last the day without breaking the budget and splurging on another bought lunch. I put together a homemade brunch, taking inspiration from Niomi Smart’s Butternut Cashew Wholemeal Pasta (she calls it vegan Mac n’ Cheese), which filled me up until 4pm.

I realised here that I was halfway through the diet. Had I noticed any changes in my mood/appearance/health? To be fair, I was only four days in, but I had noticed my skin had mysteriously cleared up – it was looking a lot fresher and livelier… could cutting out animal products be working?

Thursday DAY FIVE 

Thursday was a full on day of work and uni, but I managed to squeeze in a quick dinner at Sushi Train with a couple of friends. Straying away from my usual sashimi, soft shell crab and tuna/avocado rolls, I went for the avocado seaweed salad (with soy sauce dressing), a large bowl of miso soup packed with creamy tofu, and edamame beans. The meal combo was so good, that I’ve decided I’m going to go for it the next time I’m there, regardless of being vegan or not.

Friday DAY SIX

I’m coming to the end of my seven days, and I’m in shock that I’ve made it so easily… I thought I’d slip up with the temptations of baked goods, Gelato, creamy sauces and chocolates that had been staring at me from shop windows all week.

On the way home from work I stopped by at McDonalds, to check out if the menu had any vegan options – I was expecting to be told that I would only be able to have a glass of water. To my surprise, that was not the case.

Hint 3: The sodas, apple pie, bread, hash brown’s and juices are all vegan approved.

Saturday DAY SEVEN

I’ve come to the end of my vegan week and went out with a bang with dinner at one of my favourite Indian restaurants; Cumin.

The Verdict: I had a wonderful week exploring new food options and meals, and I respect the lengths Vegan’s go, to protect animals, their health and the environment. However, the limitations with ordering out, and the guilt I felt inconveniencing others when I ate at their houses were major drawbacks for me. 

However, noticeable changes in my mood, skin and weight (after just one week) has motivated me to look for more animal product alternatives (nut butter, nut mylk, soy mylk and egg replacers) and to cut down on my meat intake. 

Do you have any diets you swear by? Let me know xx

Healthy Almond-Cacao Protein Balls

Protein balls are a fantastic, filling, healthy snack. Just try not to eat all of them on one go (they are very moreish).

I use coconut oil because it much more filling compared to lots of other cooking oils, and also helps stick them together. Alternatively you could mix up the flavours and use peanut butter instead.

Each ball has about 205 calories and is dense with healthy fats and protein to make it the perfect snack.

My recipe makes 5. You will need:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 50g sultanas
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Method:

  1. Put all dry ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth
  2. Put peanut butter and coconut oil in the microwave for 1 minute
  3. Pour peanut butter/coconut oil mixture into dry ingredients and mix with spoon.
  4. Using your hands form the mixture into 5 little protein balls
  5. Place in fridge for an hour
  6. Enjoy!

xx

Let me know if you try the recipe out!

5 Go-to Healthy Snacks

As mentioned in my previous posts, I am a huge snacker.

To stop me from standing in the pantry and eating everything in sight, I have five healthy snacks that I go for when hunger strikes.

These are:

  • Carrot sticks & Hummous – carrots are my favourite veggie because of their sweetness. I buy Pilpel Hummus to go with them, as it has so much flavour and is basically just chickpeas.
  • Dried fruit/nut mix – I go for a mix of pecans, pepitas, dried apricots, sultanas and walnuts. The fruits satisfy any sweet cravings and the nuts fill you up.
  • Carman’s Nut Bar – Carman’s does such a great range of healthy and filling muesli bars. If your local supermarket stocks them I would recommend checking them out. They are the perfect snack, and funnily enough, I got up at 2am the other night because my stomach was rumbling, and the Carmen’s nut bar was the perfect fix to send me back to sleep.
  • Popcorn – try to avoid popcorns that are doused in butter, just plain corn kernels will do the trick.
  • Sugarless banana & oatmeal cookies (see recipe below)

Sugarless Banana/Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

I have been making batches of these for longer than I can remember because they are the perfect moreish snack, especially when I’m on the go.

You will need:

  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  3. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  4. Sprinkle of salt
  5. 1/4 cup olive oil (be ready to add more in case your mixture is too dry)
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 cup sultanas
  8. 2 soft bananas
  9. 1/3 cup pepitas
  10. 2 tbsp maple syrup
  11. Handful of pecans (to decorate)
  12. Feel free to add chocolate chunks if that’s your thing – I LOVE Pico Super Dark chocolate to bake with.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, sultanas, bananas and pepitas together in a large bowl. Then, add the olive oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup and stir to combine.

Add extra olive oil until the mixture is cookie dough consistency. Roll into small balls and whack in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

I hope you enjoy these great snacks.

xx

Flourless Banana Pancake Recipe

There is nothing better than waking up to warm, fluffy pancakes.

Of course, that requires someone to make them for you, but I’m always happy to do the hard work if it means I get the largest one. This week, I was having pancake cravings so I used my recipe for simple, healthy, flourless recipe for pancakes. I like to substitute white flour for oatmeal because oats are full of fibre, very nutritious, and filling, meaning that the pancakes are sure to keep me full until lunchtime.

The banana also acts as a sweetener instead of cane sugar, whilst providing the fluffy texture

I’ve come up with oatmeal-banana pancakes –  the banana acts as the perfect healthy sweetener, whilst adding a creamy texture to the batter.

You only need 4 ingredients and this recipe makes around 3 medium sized pancakes. Each pancake is very filling, which saves you from snacking for the rest of the day.

You will need:

  •  1/2 a very ripe banana
  •  1 egg (vegan option: 1 chia egg)
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse together until smooth and runny. Add a dribble of milk (I use almond) if the mixture is too dry. Sometimes I also like to add powdered peanut butter for some nutty flavour.

Grease pan with coconut oil, and pour batter into pancake shapes over medium heat. Wait for them to bubble before you flip!

For toppings I usually go for a compotee of mixed berries: mix 1 cup of mixed berries, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup and cinnamon together. Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir shaved almonds or coconut shavings through.

This is a perfect fix for breakfast in bed, and it’s filling and contains nutritious ingredients!

Enjoy!

My Travel Work Out Routine

Having the motivation to workout every day is tough and it’s even harder when traveling.  Usually, when I’m on holiday all I want to do after a day of sight-seeing is crash on the hotel bed.

However, exercise makes me feel so good AFTER that I try to squeeze in 3-4 sessions per travelling week. Of course, there’s the excuse of not having a gym. If I don’t have a hotel gym or a gym nearby I use YouTube workouts or, if I feel like a lighter workout to get my body moving I do Tabata training.

Tabata training is a Japanese workout method that involves high intensity interval training for short periods of time, with shorter rest. There are lots of different Tabata workouts, so I created one that works my whole body:

For each set (each number), there are 5 repetitions, 20 seconds each with 10 seconds rest.

  1. Star jumps
  2. Push ups
  3. Sit ups
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Lunges
  6. Jumps (getting your knees to your chest)

The workout itself if quite short, which keeps me motivated to do it. It means that I can boost my heart rate and activate my muscles so that they are not complete jelly when I return home. If you want to work out for longer, you can do more reps or do the whole workout twice through.

If I am feeling like a more intense workout or I need a source of motivation I use a video I have downloaded onto my phone from Youtube.

Again this workout doesn’t require any equipment, which is essential because who wants to fill up their suitcase with 10kg of weights.

I know that sometimes it does get really tough to exercise on holiday but once you get into a rhythm you’ll feel so good!

xx

Healthy Mulled Wine? Recipe

Despite being an alcoholic drink, mulled wine touts a couple of fantastic health benefits, which can be boosted if you make a couple of clever substitutions.

It’s important to note that mulled wine is never going to be as ‘clean’ as kale or broccoli, but don’t discount the powerful properties this delicious Christmas drink has.

Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits are a powerful source of vitamin C, which is an immunity booster. Don’t waste the orange in this recipe – make sure to enjoy it after you’ve taken the rind!

The Wine: Red wine itself has several health benefits, and is recommended to be consumed to reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels and provide antioxidants to the body.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg improves the cardiovascular system, which boosts heart function.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a wonderful anti-inflammatory spice, and it has also been shown to reduce sugar cravings.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle of red table wine
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 grated nutmeg
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 chunk of ginger

Method:

Bring water, raisins, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, orange rind and ginger to the boil in a saucepan. Then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the red wine and simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain the mulled wine and serve immediately. I like to put little orange peel curls or cinnamon sticks in each glass for decoration and extra flavour.

Merry Christmas Eve!

xx

A Delicious Alternative to Restaurant Bought Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is one of my favourite dishes. So, I decided to develop a healthier recipe so that I could enjoy it more nights of the week. Every now and again I do like to enjoy the real thing. If you live in Sydney, Nilgiris does a fantastic butter chicken that I would recommend.

For my homemade butter chicken I substitute the butter, cream and naan for other, leaner flavours.

For one serving:

  • 150g chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (or plain dairy free yoghurt).
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Handful of slivered Almonds
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (you can try other oils if you like, but I find that olive oil gives the best flavour)
  • Couple of sprigs of coriander, chopped finely
  • Sprinkle of salt and garlic powder
  • 3/4 tbsp of Garam Masala for more authentic flavour
  • Vegetable stock or water, to add if the paste becomes too thick

After mixing everything except the chicken thighs and yoghurt together in a bowl, chop the chicken thighs into small pieces and mix them in with the paste you just made. Then fry the bowl contents on medium-high heat, and once the mix is done stir through the Greek yoghurt.

It’s as easy as that!

I usually serve this with some falafels or brown rice for a nutritious source of healthy carbs!

xx