As simple as simple gets.

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One of the things I looked forward to most after giving up the day job was the prospect of sleeping in. Tossing aside the bed covers in my own time. Drawing the curtains to see the first light. Making breakfast – a proper breakfast. And spending the rest of the day decidedly make-up free, and hair undone in an awkward abandonment.

The only thing I’ve yet to master is being home at the right time to catch the postman. Four weeks and I’m still doing this silly dance with UPS.

Breakfast, however, is starting to come together. The question of whether I can buy avocados or smoked salmon and still come under the weekly grocery budget remains unanswered, so this week it’s all about the oatmeal, bagel and waffle breakfasts. I started my Tuesday (because – let’s be real here – starting things on Mondays never happen) with an apple, almond and coconut oatmeal bowl. I didn’t immediately warm to the idea of combining apple with oats but this was surprisingly really good.

It feels silly to post a ‘recipe’ to be honest, because all I really did was warm up a bowl of oats with milk in the microwave, then drizzled over it with honey. For the topping: I sliced half a Fuji apple (word to the wise: slice it thinly if you’re going to be Instagramming this…), then grabbed a handful of almond and coconut flakes (the more, the merrier!).

I also took the chance to refresh my home with new bowls and serving plates from Country Road. The Dias oakwood oval plate (above) is a favourite as it’s served so many different purposes already. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be capturing my #countryroadstyle homewares (and accompanying breakfasts) on Instagram (because, $1000 gift card)! The best part is, you can take part in it too.

Sticky situation.

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I have this notorious reputation amongst my family for producing disastrous desserts. Most of the time, I’m relegated to making a salad because I’m that untrustworthy with organising the most important meal of the day.

I’ll admit, a green tea cheesecake I once made turned out to be a little too cheesy on the palate (read: unedible) and that (probably too healthy) lime & macadamia raw cheesecake I made for my brother’s birthday last month went down like a lead balloon, even though I quite enjoyed it. How was I to know? No one told me what they really thought of it until a couple of days ago. I thought everyone loved avocados?

So given I evidently don’t have the most solid track record with cheesecakes, I offered to whip up a sticky date pudding for everyone last night, reassuring them that I had ‘practised’ earlier in the week. On, er, myself (and my husband), that is. My husb gave it his tick of approval even though he’s too nice to say what he really thinks, most likely out of fear that I’ll never cook for him again. He be a clever man.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to make this pudding for years in my Thermomix but it always seemed so involved. And I’m lazy. But like most things, it was easier and quicker than I had thought, though it helped that I happened to have all the ingredients on hand last week. I decided to buy fresh dates for last night’s version, though, as a Thermomixin’ friend of mine (hi, Meif!) had suggested to.

As you can hopefully see above, the end result was incredibly light, fluffy and moist with edges crispy in all the right places. I also made an accompanying butterscotch sauce that was so heavenly that it made you forget chocolate existed altogether, and finally served the pudding with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

Safe to say, it was a crowd-pleaser.

Photographs by me.

Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake.

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After a week living in offline exile, our wifi at home was switched back on just before the weekend. Life without internet was annoying, but also strangely cathartic. I spent my nights mostly with my nose in a book, re-reading all the magazines on my iPad, cleansing my closet, planning the next chapter of my wardrobe cull (more on this later) and spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing dinners I never had time to, before. Emails were left answered until the next morning and online shopping was non-existent. The past week has taught me a lot about how being online all the time has a lot to do with habit, and that there is a certain beauty and benefit to being offline. Even just for a little while.

So onto this cake! My brother’s birthday falls a week after mine. I love any opportunity to make & bake and after the decadent birthday week I had, this week had been about overcoming the birthday hangover with healthy eats and more sleep.

So I got stuck into this recipe from Quirky Cooking for a Raw Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake. It’s non-dairy (so it doesn’t actually contain any ‘cheese’) and it’s perfect for Vegans and non-Vegans alike. It’s not the most conventional birthday cake but, hey, rules were made for bending.

I used my Thermomix (as per the recipe) to make this cake but a food processor would work perfectly  in this case, too. I didn’t follow the ingredient list exactly as I wanted to use up some of my pantry items, so here’s what went into my cake:

Raw Macadamia & Lime Cheesecake (here’s the method)

For the base:

130g raw macadamias and hazelnuts

70g desiccated coconut for the base (instead of flaked/shredded)

10 pitted dates (I wanted to use Medjool but instead opted for conveniently pitted ones)

Pinch of Himalayan salt

 

For the filling:

2 vanilla beans (I used the McCormick brand from my local IGA which gives two in a sachet)

Zest from 2 limes

Flesh from 1 of the above limes

150g raw cashews (I used unsalted)

320g fresh avocados (this equates to about 3 medium – large avocados)

80g honey (instead of 100g maple syrup – I was scared of making it too sweet)

55g coconut oil

Pinch of Himalayan salt

 

For the topping:

150g macadamias (I soaked them beforehand)

A 400ml can of coconut cream

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Juice of 1 lime

30g honey (as I don’t have maple syrup)

 

Recipe notes

I decorated my cake with flaked coconut (about a cup) and lime wedges (you can decorate it any way you wish, though!).

As the cake is best eaten semi-freddo style, it needs to be kept in the freezer at all times. I found storing it in the fridge makes the topping & filling too soft.

I made the cake late Friday night, then set it in the freezer overnight. It was served at Saturday lunch.

I know not everyone owns a Thermomix, but the method is easily adaptable to a food processor/blender. You just need to weigh out the ingredients beforehand obviously (I don’t, as the TM convienently weighs everything for me & then calibrates the scales – hooray). Otherwise, there are plenty of non-TM recipes floating around on Pinterest or Taste.com.au you can refer to.

If you don’t like avocados in desserts, you might not like this cake. Just sayin’.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment under this post.

Enjoy! I’m off to have a slice for breakfast, ha!

Photographs by me.

Healthy Snacking.

Now that we’re on the tail end of the Easter weekend, it’s time to think about weaning off those jumbo chocolate bunnies and toasted hot cross buns. Yes, I know. But you’ll thank me later.

Since returning from my Europe holiday six months ago, I’ve ashamedly fallen from grace. I checked myself out of clean eating (I blame Rome and Paris for my new-found addiction to pasta and cheese), I became a slave to sugar (another post for another day) and my motivation to workout took a dive over summer (it was too hot!).

I’m only just finding my feet again (in a brand new pair of Frees, no less) and thought I’d share a couple of recipes for some healthy snack ideas that will have you (hopefully) reaching for carob in favour of chocolate. I don’t just save these for post-workout though; I’ll pop them in a small container and take them with me to work for morning/afternoon snacks. I also brought them along on the weekend road trip and they proved handy when I felt peckish in the car!

gojienergybars

Goji Berry Energy Bars

So easy to make and so very addictive. I used/adapted this recipe from www.movenourishbelieve.com (one of my favourite websites for recipe ideas) and replaced linseeds (didn’t have any on hand) with goji berries during step 4. It actually tastes exactly like those deliciously addictive sesame bars you can buy in pharmacies (the one in the red/clear wrapper)!

What you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups of cashews

1/2 cup dates

1/4 cup goji berries

1/4 cup shredded/desiccated coconut

2 tbsp each of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

A pinch of salt

A few drops of vanilla essence

A tbsp of coconut oil.

What to do:

1. Cover dates with water in a bowl and soak for half an hour.

2. Blend cashews in a food processor until crumbly (I used my Thermomix, which worked perfectly well).

3. Drain the dates and pop them all into the processor. Blend well.

4. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Blend until they’re all mixed well together.

5. Press mixture into a rectangular tin (lined with baking paper) and pop in freezer for half an hour until set.

6. Once set, portion into bite-sized pieces with a sharp knife, and enjoy! They’ll keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

My tips: Make sure you store these in the fridge at all times, and don’t use more coconut oil than needed (no more than one tablespoon) otherwise you’ll be draining oil out of these bars from here until eternity.

Date Cacao Bites

Cacao & Date Bites

These cacao bites are a healthier alternative for those with a deep affinity for chocolate. If you’d like to read up on cacao (the raw vs cocoa debate is quite contentious!) this makes for good, informative reading.

As for the recipe I used to create these Cacao & Date bites, I stuck to this one and just added a tablespoon of chia seeds during step 3. Just reserve around half an hour to do the ‘rolling’ – I found this took the most time!

What you’ll need:

1 cup dates

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup cacao powder

1 tbsp coconut oil

Extra chia seeds and dessiccated coconut for rolling

What to do:

1. Cover dates with water in a bowl and soak for half an hour.

2. In a food processor (or Thermomix, if you have one) blend the nuts and oats until they resemble a rough crumb.

3. Drain the dates and add them to the processor. Then add the coconut, coconut oil, and cacao and whiz them all up until well mixed.

4. Divide the mixture into bite-sized balls and roll in the chia seed & coconut mix. If the mixture is too dry and falls apart, add a tiny bit more coconut oil.

5. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated. They’ll keep for up to 2 weeks.

In my wildest dreams.

I’ve been feeling a little bleh at work this week, trying to serve out the rest of my notice period with a smile on my face (wish Get Out of Jail cards applied for times like these) so this freshly baked bread delivery – complete with its own Scanpan knife and French butter – couldn’t come at a more perfect time.

This sourdough cob loaf from South Fremantle-based Wild Bakery even has its own name – I kid you not – and is named after the owners’ daughter, Hannah. The hole-in-the-wall family bakery was conceived with a loaf of bread that was created for Hannah, who was showing signs of gluten intolerance. It’s the sort of story that nourishes the soul in more ways than one.

So much to the detriment of my currently non-existent clean eating plan, this loaf is taking pride of place on the dinner table tonight. The waft of baked bread (second to coffee on a Monday morning) gets me every single time.

Strawberry Bruschetta.

After a little sleep-in this morning, I woke up and took my usual Sunday morning stroll to buy groceries, flowers and coffee.

The abundance of strawberries at the moment inspired me to make Strawberry Basil Bruschetta. I picked up a loaf of sourdough from Mary Street Bakery and came home to fix myself up with this delicious and simple breakfast.

Strawberry Basil Bruschetta

Punnet of strawberries, sliced (use half a punnet for 1-2 serves)

Fresh basil, chopped

Balsamic glaze (I made my own on the stove)

Ricotta cheese

Sourdough, sliced and lightly grilled/toasted

Spread slices of your toasted sourdough with ricotta, then top with strawberries and chopped basil. Drizzle over the top with lashings of balsamic glaze, and serve!

Pantry Organisation.

How gorgeous are these kraft paper round stickers? I originally purchased them to seal my wedding invitations but given we had a small guest list, I had quite a lot left over. I’ve taken to using them for all sorts of things around the house – they proved to be particularly handy when I re-organised my pantry over the weekend! Together with a fine-tipped Sharpie and a few empty Moccona jars, and I was in business.

Coconut & Chia seed pudding.

I’ve been pottering around the house today, decluttering, doing a bit of sewing, and finding a sun-drenched corner of my courtyard to unwind for the rest of the afternoon.

I also found some time to make a delicious coconut & chia seed pudding using a few things from the pantry and a fresh punnet of strawberries I picked up from the grocer yesterday.

It’s so simple to make – all you need is a few hours to wait for it to set in the fridge. The recipe is slightly adapted from one of my favourite food blogs, Petite Kitchen.

coconut & chia seed pudding

1 can of coconut milk or cream
1/2 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
4 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
A handful of strawberries or fruit of your choice (bananas are great!)
In a glass bowl or large jar, add all of the ingredients. Mix well, place in the fridge then leave to soak overnight or for at least 2 hours (I popped mine in the fridge for about 3 hours). Serve with fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or desiccated coconut.
This pudding’s dairy-free and gluten-free and is perfect for breakfast or as a dessert! The recipe above will make about 3 generous sized serves. Enjoy!

Eton Mess.

Et voila! My ‘Eton Mess’.

I will freely admit I am a complete meringue novice and utter disaster in the kitchen so it was a small miracle that I had no complaints about my dessert at lunch today. I had contemplated making something a bit more ‘relevant’ to the occasion (like Ang Ku Kueh) but when you have a mother in-law who makes the best Ang Ku Kueh in the business, why not err on the side of caution and just make something very English, like meringue?

To that end, I’ve been eating nothing but salad and tuna for lunch all week in preparation for the onslaught of food that Chinese New Year will bring this weekend.

I’ve already had my quota of Yee Sang today (but jeepers – it’s not until you start eating ‘clean’ that you realise how fatty this is for you!) and I’m eagerly awaiting what my mum has in store for us when we have dinner with my family tomorrow night.

To all my readers who are celebrating, wishing you all a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Bruschetta pasta.

My morning is obviously going at a snails’ pace today because I’m already thinking about what I’m having for lunch.

I made this ‘bruschetta’ pasta for dinner last night and made enough for lunch leftovers today. The recipe is embarrassingly Sandra-simple and I made do with what I had in my fridge/pantry: Linguine dressed in Olio Bello olive oil, topped with cherry tomatoes, Spanish onion, and tossed through with balsamic and freshly torn basil.

Ever since I started boxing classes, I’ve been eating nothing but light and refreshing meals that don’t undo those 55 minutes of hell that my Polish ex-boxer/instructor unleashes.