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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Sumac & Orange Spiced Pumpkin Wedges

I recently shared this easy and inexpensive one-pan dinner side on my instagram and thought they were too delicious not to add to the blog. Now that uni is nearly done for the year I can’t wait for summer, beach, tennis and I’m hoping to devote more time to simple recipes that are totally dinner party worthy as well.

Disclaimer: if you are a pumpkin lover, you may devour a whole tray before they make it to the platter. If you despise pumpkin, will you allow me to change your mind with these zesty, delicious bites?

I’ve been expanding my recipe repertoire and experimenting with flavours and cuisines previously untouched by me, documenting everything I’ve loved in my many notebooks. I have also been cooking recipes like a madwoman from books and online columns by my culinary crush, Yotam Ottolenghi, which is where the inspiration for these wedges came. I even brought one of his cookbooks with me to my recent skiing trip because I read cookbooks in bed, like narratives, soaking in the stories, flavours as well as cultural influences that seep through the pages. I’m not a dag, I just really love books.

I adore Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influenced meals, hence the addition of spices and zests that some may not be used to. Orange zest/peel and sumac bring out a surprising zesty flavour in the pumpkin whilst cinnamon just oozes the comfort and warmth only roasted root vegetables bring. When zesting the orange, do not zest the pith as this is bitter – stick to the deep orange peel. Sumac is a versatile spice, so if you do buy a mini jar to make this recipe, do not restrict yourself to roasted vegetables. It works beautifully in soups, stews, salad dressings and even on eggs and toast.

I imagine these would work equally well with sweet potato but am yet to depart from my foolproof method just yet. Ottolenghi often serves his roasted roots with yoghurt and herb oil or pesto which is what I’ve done in the pictures. If you’re lucky enough to have some dukkah and pomegranate arils, a sprinkle of those on top before serving would look beautiful. Goat’s feta or ricotta and parsley would be equally delicious. I served these alongside some organic grass fed sausages, rocket, tomatoes and kalamata olives. I’m sure any other protein would suit or falafels and lentils for vegetarians.

Sumac & Orange Spiced Pumpkin Wedges

Makes 2 trays full of wedges / 1 platter

  • 1 kg Kent/Jap pumpkin, with skin
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sumac
  • 1 orange, zested (an excuse to eat the inside whilst you prep)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • black pepper
  • sesame & pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, pesto, hummus, herb oil, goat’s feta, parsley, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Deseed and chop the pumpkin into large, thumb-sized wedges. Keep the skin on if you like, I do. Place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, spices, salt and a few good grinds of pepper. Toss to evenly cover the pumpkins in this mix.

Spread out the wedges on two lined baking trays, ensuring there is space between them so they get a little crispy at the edges and not soggy.

Roast for 25 – 30 minutes until soft, nicely golden and caramelised. Leave to cool. Arrange in a platter with the toppings and devour!

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

Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Hummus

Oh hummus, how I love thee. Let me give you a snapshot of how I use hummus. Always on my breakfast buckwheat wrap, as a dip for falafels and crudités, the last touch to my big nourish bowls and even stirred into soup. Okay yes I know that last one sounds a bit weird but whatever, no one comes between me and soup. 😉

Wherever I am travelling, I always make it a goal to order a hummus or falafel side. I will never forget sitting in a hotel in Rome with my best friend at the end of our summer holiday feasting on a tub of hummus with cucumber sticks and farro salad. Or when my beautiful granny bought me the purest hummus she could find from the Bucharest farmer’s markets and I studied each and every ingredient so I could recreate it back home. The falafel served atop a thick scrape of hummus, tabbouleh and tahini in an alleyway down in Byron Bay also remains one of my most nostalgic food experiences to date. Hummus will seriously elevate your meals. It is a staple for me.

This recipe is a bit of a fusion between traditional hummus and Muhammara which is a Syrian dip. I’ve included two recipes, the quick version which admittedly is the one most used by myself, as well as the soaked dried chickpea version for the health nuts amongst us which requires prep the night before but will yield a more intense, creamier, beautiful and superior chickpea flavour. The world is your chickpea (ahem oyster)! After a bit of research, I found that adding a little bicarbonate of soda to the long version promotes softening of the chickpeas, there is a whole scientific explanation to this but I won’t go into it, just trust me.

Instead of the usual heavenly hummus recipe I normally make by Green Kitchen Stories, I wanted to spice this baby up with the inclusion of three of my favourite ingredients, walnuts, roasted red peppers (capsicums for us Aussies) and zesty lime. And the result? #win Just don’t try to eat the whole bowl and leave some for breakfast to have with avo, eggs, goat’s cheese, tomato slices, rocket and quinoa or as I have been doing, in a buckwheat wrap (recipe to be posted soon).

Nutrition Talk
Chickpeas are an amazing legume with about 65-75% of the fibre in chickpeas being insoluble fibre which is essential for digestive system support. Recent studies have shown the ability of the fibre in chickpeas to be metabolised by our colonic bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic and butyric acid, which are the fuel for the cells lining the intestinal wall and as such play an important role in gut health. Because the gut is everything, right? SCFAs esentially provide our intestinal cells energy! In addition to their super digestive system support function, chickpeas are also blood sugar regulators due to their fibre content. Blood sugar regulation is a real feature of this recipe alongside the omega-3 rich walnuts. In a recent study, even ½ cup of chickpeas per day in just a week was shown to improve blood sugar control in participants. This review further elaborates on the nutritional value of chickpeas and hummus so that this doesn’t turn into one of my university essays. Whenever I make the full version of this hummus I always double the recipe to have chickpeas to add to salads and to make crispy spiced chickpeas for topping soups and curry.

My favourite serving options: crudités (as pictured), burgers and falafels, buckwheat wraps, salad/nourish bowls, with eggs, veggies and quinoa/rice, as a dressing, carrots, sweet potato wedges (try coconut-crusted!!), flat bread or pita (highly recommend this broccoli flatbread – never fails me) with olives, pine nuts and parsley, shakshuka, socca, galettes, lettuce leaf dippers, roasted vegetable sandwich, or on rye toast. Get creative.

Optional: Experiment with adding ½ a sliced jalapeño, ground sumac, or 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses.

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Hummus

Serves: 6-8 as a side

QUICK VERSION

  • 2 red capsicums, approx. 300 g
  • 1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, preferably organic (drained, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel)
  • ½ cup / 50 g walnuts
  • 1 lime, juiced*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (leave whole if doing long version)
  • a pinch of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil / walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons water (or reserved chickpea cooking water if using the long version)
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

*Lemon can be used if preferred.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the capsicum into small wedges/slices and spread out on a lined baking tray, making sure they are not touching each other. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until the edges slightly crisp up.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, blender or bowl and blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the edges a few times. If using a stick/immersion blender (my preferred method), use a larger bowl. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Use on everything!

I like to top the jar or bowl off with a sprinkle of sumac, sesame seeds, chopped walnuts, dukkah or lime zest.

LONG VERSION

Start this the night before you plan to make. Replace the can of chickpeas with ½ cup / 100 g of dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans and place in a bowl along with ¼ tsp baking soda and 500 ml/2 cups of water. Place in the fridge to soak overnight or for 24 hours.

After soaking, drain the chickpeas and place in a medium-sized saucepan along with ½ teaspoon sea salt1 litre / 4 cups of water and the 2 garlic cloves (leave them whole). Bring this to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for an hour and a half. Skim off the foam and chickpea skins that settle on the top throughout this time. You will know they are done if they are very tender, breaking easily if pressed. Reserve ¼ cup / 60 ml of the cooking water, and drain the chickpeas, setting aside to cool.

When cool, place the roasted capsicums (from the quick version), walnuts, reserved cooking water, salt and pepper, lime juice, cumin and olive oil in a bowl or food processor and blend (or with an immersion blender) until creamy and smooth. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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References:

Wallace, T. C., Murray, R. M., & Zelman, K. M. (2016). The nutritional value and health benefits of chickpeas and hummus. Nutrients, 8(12), 766. doi:10.3390/nu8120766

WH Foods. (n.d.). Garbanzo beans. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=58