Cacao, Macadamia & Strawberry Granola

Throughout human history, people make an occasion out of dining and similarly, special occasions are organised around the consumption and presentation of food.  From ambiance to seating arrangements, meal times are a way for the society to order itself and the various rituals and practices help to solidify the social fabric and the participants’ relationships.

Due to our fast-paced lifestyle, our meals are often the first to suffer, repeatedly becoming an afterthought.  In order to stave off hunger and dampen stressful emotions, we turn to cheap, quick, and commonly processed foods to provide the instant gratification our busy lives desire.  Amidst the hustle of life the simple pleasures can become easily forgotten, prompting my constant reminder to appreciate the joyous nature of food. There’s nothing more thrilling than meticulously selecting every ingredient with the specific purpose of surprising a loved one or family.  My Cacao, Macadamia, and Strawberry Granola represents this exact feeling.

With a special someone in mind, the ingredients were selected to warm their heart and remind them that despite the busy nature of life, there is always time to sit down, breathe, and enjoy breakfast in the face of looming deadlines, high-stress days and a never ending stream of life choices to make. Since food is such an integral part of our lives, choosing to be gentle with ourselves and treat our body with love means we need to prioritise slow food wherever possible. Doing this for a loved one, simply out of love or to lend a helping hand, is also a showing of kindness and support that regardless of what life has presented them with, you are there, you are hearing them and you’re providing comfort. Can I bring this back to granola? For sure. Breakfasts can often lack this element of slow food, therefore preparing this on the weekend to have on hand for yourself throughout the week, or jar and gift to someone with a sweet little tag, is the ultimate celebration of slow food, mindfulness and honouring your body even when life gets all a little messy.

The mashed bananas in this recipe act as a binding agent and provide the “crunchy” factor when it fully cools. I am yet to find a substitute but assume that apple purée/sauce can also stand in place of the 2 bananas if you’re not a fan. The riper your bananas, the sweeter your granola. Feel free to substitute different nuts, I suspect walnuts would work perfectly in this mix. The granola is not overly sweet like store-bought counterparts, so adjust the sweetness as you wish but I suggest following the recipe and allowing yourself to be surprised for your first batch as it’s a little treasure. Enjoy!

Cacao, Macadamia & Strawberry Granola

Makes 1 big jar

  • ½ cup / 70g macadamias/walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup / 70g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup / 80g rolled oats
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice (or alternatively, another cup of rolled oats)
  • 1 cup / 40g coconut flakes/chips (and more to scatter at the end)
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup / 45ml coconut oil/extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey/rice malt syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/extract
  • 2 heaped Tablespoons cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup / 140g strawberries, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Make the dry mixture. Combine the nuts, oats, puffed brown rice, coconut flakes, sesame and chia seeds (if using) in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the wet mixture. Mash the 2 bananas in another mixing bowl until smooth. If your coconut oil is solid, melt in a saucepan on low heat and then transfer to the mixing bowl with the bananas. Add the honey and vanilla bean paste/extract, and mix until everything is incorporated and smooth. Add the cacao powder and sea salt. Mix again.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and, using your hands to mix, ensure everything is well-coated in the cacao-banana sauce. At this point, add the chopped strawberries and press some of the strawberries into the granola, also leaving some chunky for texture.

Turn the granola onto the baking tray, spreading the mix evenly on the tray and pressing with a spatula to ensure it is compact, and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes to ensure there is no burning. Take out of the oven, flip the granola in chunks with a spatula. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes. Repeat once again, flip the granola in chunks and place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Check regularly to ensure there is no burning.

Take the granola out of the oven, do not touch it. Let it cool completely as this will let it set in chunks, and then stir. Store the granola in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Serve with milk of choice, yoghurt, kefir, berries or any other fruit you desire.


Post written by Maria and Quincy.

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Rhubarb & Vanilla Compote

To say I am now obsessed with discovering the world of rhubarb would be an understatement. Ever fixated on it’s crimson red allure, my love Quincy described stories of delicious meals prepared with rhubarb which inspired our creation of a rhubarb compote to accompany a deconstructed Easter cheesecake.

The morning I prepared this compote, I decided then and there that the smell drifting throughout the house was most divine.  As smell is more closely linked to memory than any other sense, it came as no surprise that the sweet wafting smell of rhubarb stewing steadily over the kitchen stove conjured vivid recollections of time spent with family and friends. In my opinion, the je ne sais quoi factor of the compote is the combination of vanilla and orange juice which offsets the tartness of the rhubarb ever-so-slightly. I’ve only used 2 tablespoons of honey in this compote to ensure that this beautiful vegetable shines and isn’t disguised by too much sweetness.


In this photo, the rhubarb compote is served atop a Deconstructed Set “Cheesecake” with orange-infused oil and a hazelnut-sesame crumble. Recipe for the cheesecake is from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty More’.

Here are a few ideas for how to use up your jar of rhubarb compote: on top of porridge/oatmeal, overnight oats, on toast, with cottage cheese/halloumi/soft goat’s cheese, yoghurt, crumble, muffins, pancakes, waffles, cake, chia pudding, galettes, cookies, tarts, ice-cream, crepes, sandwiches etc.

Careful deliberation regarding measurements and ingredient inclusions back and forth led to this little treasure.

Rhubarb & Vanilla Compote

Makes 1 jar

  • 400g rhubarb stalks, trimmed (1 bunch)
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded*
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey

* can substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste

Remove the tough strings running down the rhubarb stalk, if present, much like you would with celery. Chop up the rhubarb stalks into small chunks. The smaller you chop the stalks, the shorter the stringier bits.

Add rhubarb stalks, orange juice and vanilla seeds to a sauce pan or pot, heating on a low-medium heat. Let simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the rhubarb has completely cooked down into a syrupy liquid, stirring often to avoid scorching. Turn off heat.

Stir through the 2 tablespoons of raw honey and mix well. Let cool and transfer to a jar. Keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze. Use on anything your heart desires.


Here are also a few more recipes I have found on the web utilising rhubarb that pique my interest:

Orange Rhubarb and Porridge
Rhubarb & Almond Upside-Down Yogurt Cake
Rhubarb Ice Cream Sandwiches
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Chia Rhubarb Apricot Muffins
Rhubarb and Sumac Kimchi
Rhubarb and Strawberry Quinoa Crumble
Overnight Upside-Down Breakfast Muffins
Strawberry Cake with Grilled Rhubarb Vanilla Sauce

The Breakfast Pancake

* Previously published May 2016, hence the edits.

I couldn’t wait to share this amazing meal with you guys. So many of my friends have been asking for the recipe and I’ve since jazzed it up so I’m getting deliciousness, greens and protein for my very first meal of the day (usually at 6 am), all necessities for me to survive through my 8 am class or through a morning workout. (Edit: luckily I don’t have to wake up this early for class anymore and greens don’t always feature, woops!) I’ve really been craving savoury breakfasts this year and this almost always includes avocado. I’ve streamlined the process so much that it takes 5 minutes to prepare this! It’s been my go-to breakfast/lunch/dinner and I really hope you give it a try and make pancakes a weekday fare as well. No need to stack them, pour the whole batter in your pan and enjoy it all to yourself. (Edit: I still make and love this, over a year later.)

Hello Popeye!
Drizzling lemon or lime on your greens and salads like I have done in this recipe increases the bioavailability of nutrients like iron. Hand me the spinach! Buckwheat’s protein profile is quite impressive, boasting 8 essential amino acids including lysine. Buckwheat has got a really lovely, nutty taste which I absolutely adore so do give it a try, most supermakets now sell buckwheat so it’s not like I’m sending you off in search of a SCOBY! This recipe is adapted from Jessica Cox (wonderful source of recipes and nutrition).

Sweet version of the pancake, leave out the herbs and zucchini.

The Buckwheat Breakfast Pancake

Serves 1

  • 3 tablespoons buckwheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda (stick to this, don’t put too much or it will taste like baking soda – speaking from experience)
  • 1 egg
  • milk of choice
  • a handful of grated zucchini (I keep a bag of grated zucchini in the fridge and use within a day)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar/lemon juice (to activate the baking soda)
  • Optional:
    – adding honey, maple syrup etc. will make the batter a little sweeter
    – add 1 minced garlic clove
    – add ¼ cup finely chopped herbs of choice (mint, parsley, coriander, watercress, spring onions etc.)

The Green Goddess (aka my favourite) topping combo:

  • ½ avocado, mashed
  • small handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) & chia seeds
  • squeeze of lemon
  • herb salt (like Herbamare), sea salt or Himalayan pink salt & pepper
  • big handful of greens (I adore rocket/arugula on this)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (if you’re in Australia, Cobram Estate has this amazing lemon-infused EVOO which I prefer on this)

Method:

  1. Mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl. Add lemon juice/apple cider vinegar in and crack egg into the bowl.
  2. Mix it all again with a fork or spoon, breaking the yolk.
  3. Add enough milk, start with 4 tablespoons and build up, to bring to a cake-batter consistency. Not too thin but still scoop-able. Make sure there are minimal lumps in the batter.
  4. Add a handful of grated zucchini, garlic and herbs if using, and mix through the batter. If more milk is needed, add now.
  5. Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Add a little coconut oil/olive oil/organic butter (about 1 teaspoon), and pour the whole batter onto the pan. Spread the batter out with the back of a spoon to cover the pan.
  6. Watch for a substantial amount of bubbles to appear on the surface, this takes around a minute or two for me. Flip! Check after another minute that the bottom has cooked through and then transfer to your plate.
  7. Add your toppings: mashed avocado, pepitas, squeeze of lemon all over, salt & pepper, and a big handful of chosen greens. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Topping ideas:

  • hummus, dukkah/seeds (pepitas, fennel seeds), lemon, olives, rocket, pomegranate
  • tahini, herb salt/sea salt, parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • avocado, sardines, sliced radish, parsley, chilli flakes
  • tahini, lemon, poppy seeds, ricotta, drizzle of raw honey
  • organic butter & avocado
  • chicken liver pâté, capers, parsley
  • tzatziki, cucumber, mint
  • cream cheese, tuna, onion/spring onion, lemon
  • hummus, tomato slices, balsamic vinegar, pepitas
  • fried, scrambled or poached egg
  • mint, pea and feta smash
  • pesto, mozzarella/haloumi/labneh/feta, roast tomato & capsicum, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, rocket/arugula
  • almond butter, strawberries
  • almond butter, berry chia jam, coconut shreds, chopped dark chocolate

What are your favourite topping combinations?

Mediterranean Carrot, Parsley & Fennel Seed Loaf

Don’t ever call me, doll.’

Yes, I just began this blog post with a quote from Lola Bunny (Space Jam). When I was a little girl my hero was Bugs Bunny. When Space Jam came out, I watched it every day without fail, admiring Bugs’ carrot-eating habit and Lola’s strong, independent woman vibe. I grew up munching on carrots almost everyday, probably my most healthful practice growing up. Now my mum actually questions if my tan comes from consuming so many carrots and sweet potatoes, but I assure her that I would have a slightly more orange tinge if that were the case (cue carotenaemia – an actual thing). Bugs aside, in comes this herbed carrot loaf.


As you can see I’m not very patient, the crust is the best part of any loaf in my opinion.

Every week I try to make a loaf, whether this be a buckwheat, rye, spelt or veggie loaf, to have on hand for early mornings and lazy lunches, because I am Romanian and bread is synonymous with life. There is a saying in Romania, ‘bun/bună ca pâinea caldă’, which is literally saying you are a quality person, better than warm bread. Now that is a compliment. I have a collection of tried and tested recipes that I rotate every week from my bookshelf, but I really wanted to create my own with a unique flavour that also packs a nutritional punch. I’m calling this a loaf as opposed to a bread as you should not expect a traditional loaf of bread that Romanians would eat in one sitting. It is dense, filling and delicious. Rather than preaching about the benefits of adding vegetables and herbs to every meal (keep it simple, health and food should never be stress-inducing) I will just subtly present this loaf that has 4 cups of grated carrots. 😉

Nutrition Talk
Mediterranean food inspires me so much. The colour, the aroma, the lifestyle, the love. What I really adore about the Mediterranean lifestyle is that food is stripped back, simplicity is essential. Social media doesn’t dictate what is trendy in the Mediterranean, food is to be loved, enjoyed and shared. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by the newest food trend, there is also something incredibly beautiful about sharing a Caprese or Niçoise salad with someone you love. A simple foundation of olive oil, lemon, balsamic vinegar, a liberal scattering of herbs, and salt and pepper can elevate any dish.

Parsley and fennel seeds fulfill the senses. Everything could do with a generous sprinkle of both. Fennel seeds have traditionally been used as carminatives, a remedy easing abdominal cramping, bloating, flatulence and facilitating digestion. They are composed of volatile essential oils, which provide fennel seeds their unique property. Flavonoid antioxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin are present, quenching free radicals and providing protection from many illnesses. Additionally, fennel seeds have been shown effective in amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea, supporting the menstrual cycle. Try not to skip the fennel seeds, it gives the loaf a distinct taste and aroma.

Similar to fennel seeds, parsley also contains volatile oils, of note myristicin which activates glutathione-S-transferase, catalysing detoxification of toxic compounds. This makes parsley a super addition to support the liver via boosting liver enzyme production. The neutralisation of particular types of carcinogens (coming from charcoal grill smoke and cigarettes) may also be assisted by the activity of the chemoprotective volatile oils present in parsley. I have attached a link at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read up on the many health benefits of parsley – a true superfood. Whenever I use the leaves, I chop up the stems and sauté them with onion, garlic, ginger and spices at the beginning of a blended soup, ensuring I minimise waste. Sometimes I also make parsley tea, anything goes!

My passion for herbs runs so deep that I even have a mezzaluna knife and chopping board because my patience runs thin and my knife skills are still questionable. I’m known for leaving herbs (and stems – woops) whole due to the frustration that chopping herbs induces in me – I’m sure my family wonder why they let me cook when this happens, scuze/sorry! So the mezzaluna ensures I can reduce a massive pile of herbs to a fine dice thus my meals regularly feature herbs. #lifesaver But I trust that you are way more patient than me. 😉

There are so many ways to enjoy this loaf. Toasted and dipped into my miso and sweet potato soup (so European), for brekkie with this pesto and goat’s cheese or ricotta, olive tapenade, hummus, scrambled eggs or baked cumin and tomato eggs, smashed avo, a few slices in my uni lunchbox as a snack…all amazing options as this baby is very versatile and a sneaky little way to get some veggies in as well which I love. My favourite way is to pan-toast 2 slices, spread with Paté di Olive Taggiasche (thanks Giuly), mashed avocado and goat’s cheese alongside my matcha latte.

A few notes: When trialing the loaf my first one was slightly soggy therefore the arrowroot/tapioca is essential if you want a loaf that holds together better. Leaving it overnight in the fridge and pan-toasting in the morning will also produce a firmer loaf. I also made the mistake of using cumin seeds the first time because I am a bit of a haphazard cook, delicious but I wanted fennel seeds. I’m even considering adding sliced Kalamata olives to the loaf batter as well because olives are life.

Mediterranean Carrot, Parsley & Fennel Seed Loaf

Makes 1 loaf (about 12 slices)

Ingredients:

  • 400 g / 4 cups grated carrots (or use the grater attachment on a food processor)
  • 2 big handfuls parsley, finely chopped (I honestly put way more because I love my herbs)
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • a pinch of cumin
  • 150 g / 1 ½ cups of hazelnut meal/flour (can use almond)
  • 30 g / ¼ cup of tapioca flour/arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • pepitas, to top
  • sliced Kalamata olives, to top

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix the grated carrots, parsley, fennel seeds and cumin in a large bowl. Add the hazelnut meal, tapioca/arrowroot, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt and pepper, mix again.

Make a well in the centre of this mixture and crack the eggs into the middle and add the olive oil and apple cider vinegar as well. Whisk the liquids in the centre with a fork then incorporate this into the rest of the batter until everything is well combined – use your hands! Transfer this mixture to the loaf tin and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with pepitas and press some sliced olives on the top.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, checking regularly around the 40 minute mark until a skewer comes out clean. Ensure you are not burning the loaf as all ovens are different. Your loaf may need a little more time as this is quite a dense loaf and does not rise like a traditional loaf.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then take loaf out of the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool completely and firm up. Slice and serve! This will keep up to a week in the fridge. Alternatively, you can leave to fully cool, slice and freeze individual slices into zip lock bags or place a sheet of baking paper between each slice. Toast before eating, can pan-toast alternatively, 2 minutes on each side.

*Try baking this as a flatbread by transferring to a lined baking tray and flattening this mixture into a rectangle. Bake for 25 minutes in a 200°C oven. Slice into sandwich slice pieces.

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Links:

Morning Matcha Coco Latte

🍵💜

It’s no secret I am obsessed with matcha. My first memory of matcha was in Japanese (日本語) class in primary school, which to date is still one of my favourite classes. I still remember the only way Mamiko Sensei (先生) could make it palatable for our little 6-year-old taste buds was with the addition of a spoonful of sugar or honey. Or maybe we were the ones that went behind her back and sweetened our matcha. Regardless, it was an acquired taste but I loved it.

Flash forward 14 years and I’m quite literally obsessed with matcha. It is my preferred drink, alternating with the occasional golden turmeric latte. A day does not go by without my matcha and I’m even considering bringing my matcha powder with me to Europe. The love is real. Health benefits would never sway me if I didn’t like the taste, and that is something I live by.

😍

This recipe appears to be way too simple for a post, and I’m sure there are hundreds of similar recipes floating around, but for something that I gain so much happiness from I thought it was deserving of a little blog time – my own little recipe. Despite detracting from its traditional roots, as I do not have a bamboo whisk (chasen) yet and with the addition of some milk (mylk* anyone?), I still believe mindfulness is most important when making and sipping your matcha. It is on the pricey side and admittedly the only superfood powder I invest in, but I do only use ½ teaspoon for every latte so I personally ensure I always treat myself to a packet. I have also included delicious optional add-ins to supercharge your morning matcha. Over time I have slowly increased the amount of water to mylk I use as I have become accustomed to the delicate unsweetened taste but feel free to include more mylk in yours.

*Mylk = almond, coconut, nut, rice, macadamia, oat milk etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pictured also are an adapted version of these oat and ginger cookies.

Nutrition Talk
Matcha is essentially stone-ground green tea leaves. Simple. Instead of brewing the leaf and discarding, as you do with green tea, you are consuming the whole leaf including it’s amazing qualities. A study published in the Journal of Chromatography A conducted by the University of Colorado highlighted that the concentration of the catechin credited for matcha’s beneficial health properties, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), is present in an amount 137 times greater than that available in regular green teas. The study compares matcha to a specific brand of green tea therefore this number may not correlate across the board and definitely not definitive. I have found many studies exploring the potential of EGCG though this is the first analysis of its kind therefore I look forward to further studies as there is a lack of clinical trials currently available.

The primary amino acid present is L-theanine which acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, promoting α-brain wave activity benefiting the central nervous system. This induces a heightened state of relaxation and focus counteracting the effects of caffeine, which some describe as a “calm state of alertness”. There are so many more benefits to matcha so definitely read up if interested. All the studies utilised for this Nutrition Talk can be found in a list below the recipe because as you must know by now, I love this stuff!

As always though, pay attention to your body and notice any side effects as caffeine is still present in matcha, usually in lower amounts depending on source. Too much of a good thing may become not so good in the end and not everyone’s bodies may agree so above all, listen to that bod! 😉 Remember matcha is a concentrated source of nutrients, so less is more. If you are unsure, please consult with a health practitioner. 🙂

Morning Matcha Coco Latte

Serves: 1 mug

  • ½ teaspoon matcha powder
  • 2 tablespoons hot water (I’ve started using ½ cup water and ½ cup milk)
  • 1 cup / 250 ml milk of choice (I love a mix of coconut and rice milk OR coconut and almond)
  • Optional:
    – sweetener: 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup etc.
    – add ½ – 1 teaspoon of cacao powder for a cacao-matcha latte.
    – experiment with any of the following: vanilla bean powder, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coconut oil, collagen, nut butter – like almond, sea salt, ginger etc.

Method:

Put the matcha powder in a mug and dissolve in 2 tablespoons of hot water, stirring with a spoon. If using more water, decrease the amount of milk you warm up. This should create a clump-free paste/syrup.

Warming the milk is next. I use my coffee machine’s steam wand to heat up the milk and create some lovely froth. I then pour this slowly over the matcha liquid saving the froth for last…yum! If you have got a milk frother or blender (you will need to add all the ingredients to this version) you can use them to heat the milk. Using your stove top or microwave to heat up the milk and then pouring over the matcha are also options though no froth will be created.

Add the sweetener at the end if using. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, cacao, coconut flakes or more matcha if desired. Hope you love this so matcha like me!

Notes: 
– as noted above, store your matcha powder in the fridge to minimise oxidation.
– ceremonial-grade matcha powder from Japan is is the highest quality matcha and ensures exposure to lead is minimal.
– some brands that I love to use and readily available at health stores in Australia are Matcha Maiden and Konomi Matcha. Please check quality matcha brands, sourced from Japan, in your country.

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References:

Head, K. A., & Kelly, G.S. (2009). Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: Adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep. Alternative Medicine Review, 14(2), 114-140.

Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 17(1), 167-168.

Weiss, D. J., & Anderton, C. R. (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1011(2),  173-180. doi:10.1016/S0021-9673(03)01133-6