VEGEEEEMMMMIIIITTTTTEEEEEE

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness!! My excitement is off the charts right now. I can make our own Vegemite!!! It’s Gluten Free, It’s Oh. So. Tasty. It’s Healthy (!!) and it tastes better than the real thing.

For those who aren’t Australian, you might not get my excitement right now. That’s ok. I’m sorry for you. Vegemite is the stuff many of us grow up on here. It’s salty, with the right amount of butter it’s creamy, and it’s addictive. In fact, it’s one of the things Mr Incredible has missed most about not being able to eat wheat – the store bought replacements are very ordinary – one of them smelt so bad I wanted to puke whenever he opened the jar.

Now though, HOOORAY! With 4 ingredients we can make the stuff at home. Stoked.

The ingredients is thanks to this post on Thermomix’s recipe community.

Ingredients

  • 70 grams Black Tahini Paste or black sesame seeds
  • 50 grams tamari sauce
  • 5 grams Nutritional Yeast Flakes, or 1 Tablespoon
  • 5 grams apple cider vinegar, or 1 teaspoon (I use Braggs)

Method

  1. If you are using black sesame seeds, mill them until they become a paste
  2. Add all ingredients to Thermomix mixing bowl (or a high speed blender) and mix for 20 seconds at speed 3. Scrape down and repeat.
  3. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Homemade "vegemite" on homemade bread

Lunchbox safe: nut, dairy, gluten and sugar free muesli bars – which are delicious too!!

Mr Incredible just got the following text message:

Cooked these. They’re awesome and may not be any left when you get home…. shall I save you one??

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Made with banana as a binder and whatever you have in the cupboard, these muesli bars are incredibly versatile and super duper delicious. In fact, with the fruity undercurrent and chewy texture they remind me a little of the roll-ups I had as a kid. They’re also super easy to make – no electronic equipment required except for the oven. I’ve passed this recipe on to friends who “don’t bake” as they’re really that simple and satisfying.

Thanks to a friend for sharing this incredible idea – we make these almost daily at the moment and each batch is always gobbled up faster than I can believe. I’ve adapted the recipe from Eat Your Greens.

Pick and mix Banana Muesli Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional 1 tsp vanilla / honey / maple syrup
  • * 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • * 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • * 1/3 cup sultanas
  • * 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  • * 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 3 mashed bananas (to the puree stage)

* These ingredients are interchangeable with what you have in your cupboard – if your school allows nuts you can also add chopped almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.. You also don’t need exact measurements – again, just use what you have and ensure that there’s enough banana to cover the ingredients. To be honest, now I’ve made them so many times I’m not even measuring the ingredients out!

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced oven 180 for non fan-forced).
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch square pan (I use a silicone pan so this isn’t needed)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients
  4. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until they resemble a puree and add the vanilla / honey / maple syrup to this if you want to use it (I find it’s sweet enough without)
  5. Pour the bananas over the oat mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moist.
  6. Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until firm and lightly browned on the edges.
  8. Cut up and place on a cooling rack (they hold quite a lot of moisture so a cooling rack is better than cooling in the pan or on a plate).

 

Cooking notes:

  • You can store them in an airtight container for a couple days, but I recommend wrapping them individually and freezing them in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months if you don’t think you’ll eat them that quickly.
  • Mine were quite thin, If you wanted them thicker like a commercial muesli bar, you might need to add more ingredients and another banana to cover the mix. Try it as it is the first time though – then get your confidence up and experiment.
  • The chia seeds also help to bind the mixture – if you leave these out it might not work as well.
  • These are super easy to make with kids!
  • The more I make these the more I take short cuts and still have success. I now mash the bananas in a bowl first, then just top all the dry ingredients on top and mix it together – less washing and works just as well.

Hummus that works – and tastes oh. so. good.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with making hummus. When Adventure Girl started solids I would make it often and while it was on the chunkier side, we both quite enjoyed it. Upon reflection though it was after a friend came over for lunch and couldn’t stand it that I stopped making it so much… she was right, it was rather strong on the garlic even if I had done that on purpose. Criticism sticks and after a few bad batches I decided just to buy it (a great grocer in Sydney makes it additive free and delicious so it was just as good to buy although not as cheap).

We’ve been eating A LOT of hummus lately though. It just works with so many things – for dinners with baked potatoes or our hummus and lamb dish that we still eat on an almost weekly basis even though it’s mid-winter. It works for lunch or breakfast on the easy oatmeal loaf I’ve been making twice weekly since returning from NZ, or it’s delicious with crackers and cheese as an afternoon snack. We’re eating so much of it right now that what my stomach craved had run out… disaster! Did I dare to try again? Especially with the memory still fresh of my last batch that was way too strong on tahini… Thank you Google for directing me to the most genius recipe on Inspired Taste. This recipe has a different method from anything I’ve tried before AND it opens up the path to use peanut butter instead of tahini! This is brilliant as we always have peanut butter on hand (I buy in bulk whenever the good stuff is on sale and I use tahini so rarely it sets like a rock in our cupboard. This switch worked so well  – no peanut taste but oh. so. delicious. hummus. Creamy, light (I really couldn’t believe how light this method makes it) and spreadable. Adventure Girl and Dash ate it with a spoon. I may have also.

Hummus  by Joanne (on inspired taste)

Ingredients 

  • 1 tin of chickpeas (I use Honest to Goodness no BPA tins)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of tahini OR peanut butter
  • 1 small, minced, clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste if needed)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of water, depending upon texture

Method

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peanut butter/tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Add the chickpeas and process for another minute.
  4. Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.
  5. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Notes:

  • Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.
  • You can cook the chickpeas yourself and then use them to make hummus – I have done that once or twice before but it’s a long process including overnight soaking.
  • Please, please, please don’t skimp on the blending time – it’s what makes this hummus better than the rest.

Gluten Free Breakfasts on the go: Nigella’s Breakfast Bars

Mr Incredible, while being incredible in many ways is NOT incredibly good at getting out the door quickly in the morning.Since he was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat, this daily process has become harder. In my search to find an easy breakfast for him I chanced on this breakfast bar recipe by Nigella Lawson and I’m glad to say he loves it. Personally, I love it as it’s easily adaptable for whatever ingredients you have on hand – you don’t need to stick to Nigella’s recipe. Below, I’ve adapted it but you can see her original recipe here. I’m sure there’s a healthier alternative to condensed milk that you could use to bind this, but, as Mr Incredible likes it the way it is I’m not messing with what works (this time)!

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Breakfast Bars

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 1 can (395mL) condensed milk
  • 250 grams rolled oats (not instant)
  • 425 grams of mixed dry ingredients (I use a blend of almonds, cashews, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sultanas, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds and walnuts).

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 130 deg Celsius and line a roasting tray with baking paper
  2. Warm the condensed milk in a saucepan on the stove
  3. While that’s happening, mix all the dry ingredients
  4. When the condensed milk is thinner, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix (with your hands or a fork)
  5. Spread the mix into your prepared tray and press down with a spatula (or your hands)
  6. Bake for 1 hour and cut into 16 bars (4 cuts in each direction) and store in an airtight tin

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.

 

Finally, a gluten free bread we can make at home

Almond and Chia BreadPrevious to Mr Incredible being diagnosed with a wheat allergy we made all our bread at home. We often still do for the kids and I but I lost a lot of drive to do this after diagnoses. Firstly, he couldn’t eat it and he ate a lot of it. Secondly, for those who love bread, the smell of a good loaf baking that you can’t eat can be classified as torture. Instead, we’ve been purchasing Ancient Grain’s Oat or Breakfast breads, really great alternatives for the wheat free (no additives, wheat free, tastes great and good textures) but expensive… really expensive (between $8-10 a loaf and as I said, Mr Incredible loves his bread).

I’ve been looking everywhere for a good loaf recipe but have been turned off by xantham gum and quinoa/coconut flour loaves that didn’t resemble the cravings of my hubby’s dreams. In fact, when I told Mr Incredible that I’d found a great recipe his first comment was “it’s not with quinoa flour is it?”. Thankfully, it wasn’t and finally, thank God, we’ve discovered this loaf (huzzah for amazing social media pages!). Not only is it easy to make, has ingredients we stock in our pantry already and tastes great (none of the awful texture in most GF breads), it’s also highly adaptable. Here come home made Olive and Rosemary or Fig and Walnut or Fruit loaves! Oh, and the only “kitchen equipment” you need is a bowl, a whisk, measuring implements and an oven… awesome.

Almond and Chia Bread

By Tania Hubbard of www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked in 30 mL of water)
  • 30mL water (this is used to soak the chia seeds (do this whilst preparing the dry mix))
  • 3/4 cups arrowroot or tapioca (remember to sift this to remove any lumps)
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb (baking soda) (sifted with the starch to remove any lumps)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use lemon juice if you cannot have vinegar)
  • 3 eggs (usually no larger than 60 gram eggs)
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. preheat oven to 175C
  2. soak chia seeds in water whilst preparing the dry mix in a bowl. Stir to make sure the seeds are in the water
  3. sift arrowroot and bi-carb (baking soda) into bowl
  4. add almond meal and salt and mix well
  5. use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients to help break up lumps and distribute ingredients evenly
  6. add eggs, soaked chia seeds and apple cider vinegar
  7. combine everything well until there are no lumps (about 1 minute of whisking)
  8. don’t be tempted to add any liquid – this mix is meant to be thick
  9. pour mix into a baking tin lined with non-stick baking paper or a silicon bread mold lightly oiled with olive oil
  10. bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread is firm (single loaf) to the touch and bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean. The top will be golden in colour and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove bread from the oven and turn out onto a cooking rack.
  12. Adjust cooking time to 45-50 minutes if cooking a double mix (larger loaf)

COOKING NOTES:

  • This is a small loaf – a single mix – it won’t rise and rise like traditional bread so you need to use a small baking mold to “force” the rise – I purchased a single size loaf tin once I was happy with the recipe but previous to that used a pyrex dish lined with baking paper. If you don’t the bread won’t rise very well. You’ll end up with more of a focaccia loaf… which might be nice for a change anyway!
  • BIG LOAF: you will need to double the mix and bake in a loaf tin or 20 cm or smaller cake tin (lined with non stick baking paper)
  • Missing buns and rolls? Make the recipe in a muffin tin for individual GF buns.

For more information, check out the recipe on Tania’s page and read the comments for information on freezing etc: http://www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au/gluten-free-almond-chia-seed-bread/