going green broccoli soup

Ok, so it’s been a while since I submitted a post and for that I am sorry – mostly to myself, but also to anyone who might have been following me. I did that life-upheaval thing and dropped my job, my home and my life in Australia and moved across the other side of the world to London. But there’s a happy ending to this particular story – I did it all in pursuit of love. More specifically, my love of acting and the pursuit of a career; and the whirlwind love of a crazy Irishman who happened to be setting sail back home. And so here I am in the theatrical homeland with a warm heart.

But this is where the warm and fuzzy ends and the war on winter begins… Now, I was warned about the cold and the rain and the grey, grey skies, but the realisation of what that actually means is only just setting in to this little Aussie. As someone with bad circulation, a weak immune system, and a general preference for sunshine and warm weather, I’m on the lookout for some extra strength winter warmers this year. The mittens, the coats, the scarves, the beanies, the stockings under the socks, the triple-topped, double-jumpered partridge in a pear tree act just ain’t gonna cut it.

And so my first plan of attack is possibly a predictable move – but a good one, nonetheless. Enter my favourite immune-boosting, creamy, Going Green soup.

  • 2 broccoli heads and stems roughly chopped
  • 2 tblsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped (or 1 tsp of crushed)
  • 1 tsp lemongrass, crushed
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped finely (optional)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 handful fresh mint or coriander
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (optional)
  • handful of slithered almonds to garnish (optional)

In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat coconut oil and add garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilli (if using) for about a minute. Then add the celery and cook through
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Add the broccoli, including the stems, and pour in stock.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and add seasoning and herbs
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Simmer for 15 minutes and stir in coconut milk
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Place in blender or blitz with a stick and blend together until smooth. I like to leave mine a little chunky as a little reminder of all the goodness I’m eating.

Garnish with slithered almonds and enjoy!

Alternatives and options…

I often mix things up by substituting a broccoli head for a range of different green vegetables. For this particular brew I threw in kale, spinach, zucchini…the list is endless!

I also don’t always have lemongrass or ginger on hand. These are interchangeable or alternatively easily left out, but they add a little extra zing and goodness that I, for one, can’t go passed. Chilli is another of those ingredients that you can take or leave, but again, I say the hot and spicier, the better!

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fruit free muesli

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For a long time, one of my favourite things to eat on a cold Melbourne morning used to be a big bowl of hot toasted muesli. In fact, it used to be one of my favourite things to eat as an afternoon delight too. However, since discovering all my tummy sensitivities, it’s now highly fraught with danger: gluten in bran and oats (I know, controversial), fructose in all that sweet dried fruit, fructose in the added fruit juice, added sugar, added this, added that…it’s a mine field (and a mind field)! And a sad state of affairs. How can something so simple be so bad for me? Unfortunately the majority of pre-packaged cereals – and the cereal aisle in a supermarket more generally – are the same.

Well, I walked in to work this week to find my colleague’s bag of muesli sitting on the kitchen bench. Now, it’s not often you see the words ‘Fructose Free’ on any kind of packaging, but Aussie Health Snax have done it – I soon found out after a quick google – on a number of cereal products. Brilliant! Go Aussies!

The only thing is…I’m a little bit of a Scrooge when it comes to this stuff. I get that the market is smaller for these companies trying to cater for people like me, and I understand that this has to be reflected in their prices. I really do. And for those who prefer the convenience of someone else sourcing the ingredients, having it made, packaged AND delivered to their door – I totally get that a lot of the time you would rather save the time (as opposed to the money).

I – on the other hand – get a lot of pleasure out of spending the time strolling around food aisles, designing and redesigning my recipe ideas, discovering alternatives and of course, playing with measurements, utensils and flavours back in the kitchen itself. And to be frank, at $9.95 for a 700g bag, I can spend $20 and end up with twice that in mixture PLUS ingredients left over to mix up a whole other batch once I’ve eaten my way through the first lot. But please, don’t get me wrong – their products look great, and to be fair, I drew my inspiration from one of their bestsellers, Organic Quinoa Blend of Fruit Free Muesli and couldn’t be bothered going the extra mile to include the quinoa on my first run so…each to their own. I’ll give it a go next time though…famous last words.

  • 2 cups puffed brown rice
  • 2 cups corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup natural almonds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup linseeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut, shredded
  • 1/4 cup LSA meal
  • 1/4 cup psyllium husks
  • 1 tblsp cinnamon, ground
  • vanilla concentrate extract (to serve)

Optional additions…
2 cups quinoa, cooked and toasted
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cacao nibs

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I quite literally just dumped everything in a big bowl, stirred it through and poured in into an air right container for storage. I might even try drizzling with coconut oil and toasting the whole lot in the oven next time…as I said earlier, with some quinoa. The best thing about making your own muesli is there are no rules! Mix ‘n’ match, pick ‘n’ mix and for goodness sake – enjoy!

I topped this batch with some (fructose free) fruit – banana or berries – soy milk and a little drizzle of vanilla concentrate extract. Or go without the fruit – still tasty, hot or cold! And outrageously easy. If you can spare the time. You can definitely spare the money. Just beware the psyllium husks – and the chia seeds, if you include them – those babies are machines at soaking up liquid, so have your milk at the ready if you like your muesli moist and creamy. Dare I say, we’re heading into bircher territory. And I say: go there.

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cheesy roast pumpkin salad

When I discovered that coconut oil was in fact NOT bad for me, my arteries or my heart, my kitchen took on a whole new world. According to Dr Joseph Mercola’s article in the Huffington Post, not all saturated fats were created equal…

Back in the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price found South Pacific Islanders whose diets were high in coconut to be healthy and trim, despite high dietary fat, and heart disease was virtually non-existent. Similarly, in 1981, researchers studying two Polynesian communities for whom coconut was the primary caloric energy source found them to have excellent cardiovascular health and fitness.

Dr Mercola goes on to say that coconut oil is actually good for us and outlines a number of health benefits:

  1. Improving heart health
  2. Boosting thyroid function
  3. Increasing metabolism
  4. Promoting a lean body and weight loss if needed.
  5. Supporting the immune system
  6. Benefits the skin such as anti-aging and regenerative effects

There is plenty of people out there banging on about how great the coconut – oil, water, flesh…it’s all good! But my favourite part is the way the intoxicating sweet smell washes over the house when I cook with it. And I haven’t even begun to start in on the flavour. Needless to say, I use it as my one-stop shop for cooking with oils. Extra-virgin olive oil would be the other main one I use and other times a splash of sesame oil for particular dishes, but as a rule, I heart the coconut. And when it comes to the sweetness of a vegetable like pumpkin, these two were made for each other.

  • 1/4 pumpkin, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 tblsp coconut oil
  • 1tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Linseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds to serve
  • Mixed lettuce to serve

Other optional additions that go amazingly with pumpkin..

  • blue cheese, crumbled over the top
  • walnuts, crushed

Chop the pumpkin into big chunky pieces and steam until it softens slightly. If you have time, you don’t need to steam at all, simply pop the pieces in the oven, drizzled with coconut oil to bake until golden brown.

Alternatively, in a deep frying pan heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger. Once it is hot, add the par-steamed pumpkin, turning in the oil until golden brown.

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Sprinkle the pumpkin with nutmeg and toss in the oil again briefly.

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Remove from the heat, serve on a bed of your choice of lettuce leaves or greens.

Sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes for a dairy-free cheesy flavour.

Add any seeds you like and serve!

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chocolate fudge brownie

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Everyone loves a chocolate brownie. These little crowd pleasers were subject to heckling in the baking of them. Housemates were crying out in revolt, “Can you stop with the chocolate smells, please?!” My gym-geared gal pal hollered, “You’re killing me in here!”

I tried to ease their pain and get rid of the evidence by licking the spoon…the bowl…and the bench. But now, as I sit here waiting to pull my little slice of chocolate heaven out of the oven, we’re all helpless to its charms. We’re salivating like hounds, scratching at the oven door…

They will be mine. Oh yes…they will be mine…

  • 225g butter (I used Nuttelex for a dairy free option, plopped straight into the saucepan), chopped coarsely (or 150g butter + 1/2 cup or 120g sour cream)
  • 300g dark eating chocolate (I used 80% cocoa dark Lindt blocks), broken into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar or 200g caster sugar if you prefer
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup (150g) hazelnut or almond meal
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced).

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a medium sized saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar and vanilla essence and take off the heat to cool for about 10 minutes.

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While you wait, beat the eggs, crush the walnuts, sift the cocoa and line a slice pan approx 19cm x 29cm with baking paper.

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Stir through the eggs, flour, cocoa and walnuts. Turn the mixture into the lined pan and spread evenly.

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Bake brownies for 35-45 minutes, depending on your preferred gooey rating. At 35 minutes, they will be firm on top, but still squidgy underneath. At 45 minutes, they should be more solid throughout.

Cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Serve dusted with cocoa or icing sugar…if you can bear to wait that long…

quinoa tabbouleh

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This gluten-free (and guilt free!) alternative to the much loved traditional Greek dish is just as moreish as the couscous version. The fragrant, fresh herbs are such a wonderful assault on the senses in preparation. The quantities here made enough as an accompaniment at a dinner party or a weeks worth of lunches for one! I even went so far as to exclude the oil…and if you’re so inclined, give it a try.

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  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked (see notes)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 3 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, chopped finely (frucmal friends take note: only the dark green part!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

To prepare the quinoa, place 1 cup (200g) uncooked and 600ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat, then bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well and leave to cool.

Place the quinoa in a bowl.

Half the tomatoes and scoop the pulp from the tomato over the quinoa.

Chop the tomato flesh finely and spread over quinoa. Refrigerate for an hour.

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Combine the quinoa and tomato mixture in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for later. Too easy!

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ruby red grapefruit, smoked salmon and roquette

This fresh, summery salad is ridiculously quick and easy. Inspired by a love of Japanese food, it’s perfect as a delicate little entree, a light lunch or for all those ‘I-can’t-be-bothered-cooking’ dinners. In fact, I couldn’t even be bothered crushing the cashews on this particular occasion. Reckless or just plain lazy? Who cares! Less chat. More salad tossing.

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  • 300g smoked sliced salmon
  • 2 ruby red grapefruits
  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 150g mizuna (a Japanese mustard leaf) or roquette
  • 1/3 cup roasted cashews, chopped coarsely

Optional additions…

  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly (frucmal friends – I left this one off!)
  • 3-4 tsp capers

Pop four slices of salmon aside and slice the rest into thick pieces.

Segment the grapefruit over a large bowl and slice along the spine of each to remove any pips and release some of the juice. Add oil, mustard, mizuna or roquette, nuts and salmon slices. Mix gently.

Divide salad among serving plates and top with the remaining salmon. Serves four.

Note…I’ve used a couple of generous handfuls of roquette here as mizuna was nowhere to be found at the time I happened to pop to the shops. It has a similar bold, bitter mustardy character so the two are easily interchangeable.

mike’s rice pudding

After a Thai-inspired dinner party I was left with an obscene amount of leftover rice. What is it about rice that makes it so tricky? It’s either burnt or gluggy, the wrong grain or too much grain! As it was I miscalculated my measurements and ended up with mountains of the stuff clogging up my fridge. But with a little trip down memory lane, I managed to find a very tasty way to start my day with an old favourite. My Dad used to cook us up this soul food for supper when we were kids. While this has a bit of an alternative spin on his recipe, I’m sure it would do him proud.

  • 1 cup cooked medium-long grain rice
  • knob of butter (use Coconut Oil or Nuttelex for a dairy-free alternative)
  • Tsp ground cinnamon
  • Tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy or almond milk to cover (or other milk alternative)

Optional additions…

  • Tblsp Linseed, Sesame and Almond meal (LSA)
  • Tblsp coconut flakes

In a small saucepan, melt the butter/oil. Add the cooked rice and stir through for 30 seconds. Sprinkle cinnamon over and stir through vanilla extract. Finally, add enough milk to cover the rice and simmer until the rice starts to soak it up. It will continue to thicken slightly on standing so make sure you take it off the stove with some liquid.

Serve immediately with another sprinkle of cinnamon. Some chopped banana on top might be a welcome addition too.

Serves 1.

Try this! Swap the rice for white quinoa and add some chia seeds or psyllium husks (one tablespoon should do the trick). Chia seeds and psyllium tend to soak up any liquid they can find. Chia then tends to bind together while psyllium becomes gel-like – both or either would help bind the quinoa together to create that ‘pudding’ consistency.