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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egg and bacon muffins

All you ever wanted for breakfast in one neat little parcel! These are adapted from Sarah Wilson’s recipe – I’ve just used persian fetta because it’s the best – fetta in oil (so there’s no need to grease the muffin tray), marinated with thyme, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. Brilliant.

These tasty protein pockets were a great favourite at the breakfast table on Easter morning. My folks are always looking for ways to use up the copious amount of eggs their chooks lay about the farm. While I always buy free range, nothing beats the bright yellow yolks and the creamy texture of freshly laid eggs. After I served the urban-version to their rumbling tummys, I get the feeling they’ll be taking a little bit of the city back to the country…

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To make six muffins:

  • 4-6 rashers bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • Persian fetta
  • Chives, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice the bacon so that it lines the edges of 6 muffin cups. Line the bottom with any any broken bits.
Crumble a teaspoon of fetta into each muffin cup and sprinkle with chives.

Crack one egg into each and gently poke a knife through the yoke so that it breaks ever so slightly.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the egg is white and set. Remove from the oven an let sit for a minute or two.

Run a knife between to the bacon and the muffin tray to separate any bits that are stuck and then use a spoon to gently remove the muffins from the tray.

Serve with crusty bread, some avocado, and perhaps a little slice of lemon on the side. There’s really no need for any extra seasoning as the bacon provides enough salt and the fetta is infused with pepper. But pop it on the table for sheer aesthetics alone – and marvel at how no one even bats an eye.

Tastes like home…

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seafood and avocado salad

This fresh little beauty is adapted from Lee Holmes’ Supercharged Food. Her selection of tasty recipes and simple dressings make feeding the masses that much more joyful.

Regarding the health benefits of this salad, she writes:

An exceedingly good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, prawns also contain high levels of vitamin B12 – an important vitamin for those with digestive difficulties, as it is essential for making blood red blood cells and nerve cells. Prawns also contain immune system boosters such as zinc, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, as well as iron, calcium and magnesium.

Excellent. So with this – and Easter traditions – in mind, I went one step further with an all out seafood salad fiesta. This went to the table alongside my ruby red grapefruit, smoked salmon and roquette salad for Easter Sunday lunch in my attempts to nourish and impress my beloved family on their trip to Sydney for the long weekend. Dare I say, I think it worked… With a splash of pinot gris in our glasses, this proved to be a delightfully festive yet simple, light lunch with all the feel good factors – tasty and healthy – WIN!

  • 12 cos lettuce leaves
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber (or half a continental), thinly sliced
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 red onion (optional, or sliced so that it’s easy to dodge!)
  • 1 cup cooked prawns, shelled and cleaned
  • 1 cup cooked crab meat

Lemon & Garlic Dressing:

  • 125mls extra virgin olive oil
  • 125mls grape seed oil
  • 2 tblsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper

(This dressing will keep in fridge for up to 5 days.)

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I bought my prawns and crabmeat from my local fish shop – shelled, cleaned, cooked and just asking to be tossed around with a bunch of greens. Too easy. Arrange the lettuce so that it lines a big salad bowl. Toss the rest of the ingredients in on top, leaving the seafood to sit on top. Drizzle with the dressing – you will only need about half of the mixture so pop the rest in the fridge ready for other salad concoctions – and serve.

Serves four.

buttermilk pancakes with berry compote

20130401-124029.jpgOk, so I cheated on this one. Don’t judge me. While I juggled the egg cracking, hot cross bun buttering, avo slicing, toast popping and table setting hoopla, Mum graciously set to work on the pancake pan with this wonder-cheat. Woolworths saved the pre-prep day (and time and money) with their gluten, wheat, yeast free Buttermilk Pancake Mix. Just add water, a hot pan and Mum! While she was an invaluable assistant, Mum’s heavy sighs of ‘Oh darn! I’ve stuffed up flipping another one!’ soon started to glean an air of highly suspicious behaviour. Particularly once she’d set herself up with a ‘demolition pancake plate’ and intermittently lowered her voice ever so slightly, exclaiming ‘I’ll just have to eat this one too! They really are good just on their own..20130401-144647.jpg.’

Hiding the evidence, huh? Sneaky Mumma, very sneaky…

Unfortunately this mix is not dairy free, if that’s your bag, but there were no complaints from the family breakfast table come Easter Sunday. Oh no! They were too busy lip smacking, berry splatting, sugar tossing, lemon squeezing, banana mashing and reaching for seconds with their mouths still full. Needless to say, they went down a treat – both in the kitchen and at the breakfast table.

The berry compote is super easy. It goes a little something like this…

  • 1 coffee mug of frozen berries
  • 1 tsp vanilla concentrated extract
  • 1 tblsp rice malt syrup

Boil the kettle and poor hot water over the berries to defrost for a minute or two. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and add the vanilla and syrup and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about ten minutes while you build your pile of pancakes.

Once the pancakes are golden brown, drizzle with berry compote and top with sliced banana.

Now thats what I call soul food.

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triple berry chocolate ripple

So this was meant to be my attempt at making  a sweet treat for the Easter lunch I was planning for my family. It never made it that far…So please – tread carefully! It took all my strength not to eat the entire tray in the first sitting. So I ate the rest the next night instead…for dinner. Apologies to my poor family who missed out on account of my inability to reign in my tastebuds!

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp Nuttelex
  • 2 tblsp cocoa
  • 1 tblsp rice malt syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut, shredded
  • 1/3 cup of frozen berries
  • Salt

Melt the Nuttelex and oil in a saucepan or in the microwave…the oil takes longer to melt so add the butter a little after. Stir in the cocoa and syrup. Salt to taste. Arrange the berries and coconut on a small baking tray. Pour the coconut oil mixture over the top and pop in the fridge for an hour or the freezer for 20 minutes and serve.

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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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