Carrot & Tahini Savoury Muffins

I love lazy Sundays. Waking up, not to an alarm nor the urgency of getting out of bed, but to the morning light filling the room as I continue to fall in and out of sleep. A slow breakfast, almost always pancakes, is always the first consideration on one of these days, as there is no rush to get moving or be anywhere in particular. The caffettiera goes on shortly after, albeit a lazy day a caffeine hit is a necessity. What follows after is a blend of reading, baking, eating, tidying, maybe some blogging or some exercise. Whatever it may be, it’s done in a slow and lazy fashion. The day always concludes watching a movie, on the couch, preferably wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea. And hopefully I’ve baked something to accompany said tea, but if not, a piece of dark chocolate will do. Now that's a perfect lazy Sunday.

The latest product of a lazy Sunday are these savoury muffins, the perfect snack to bake up and freeze ready for the week ahead. They may be small but they are packed with heaps of goodness - carrots, eggs, almonds, tahini - so they'll certainly kick those afternoon sugar cravings.

You have most likely gathered by now, if you read my blog regularly, that I love tahini (or you may just be thinking 'seriously, tahini again Steph'). Well yes, sweet or savoury, breakfast or dinner, I'm obsessed. How, you may ask, can one thing be so versatile. See for yourself...

For breakfast, drizzle tahini over your bowl of overnight oats
For a healthy snack, use tahini as a dip for veggie sticks
For a tasty sweet treat, make these gluten free tahini cookies
To jazz up a salad, use tahini in your dressing, like this pumpkin and brown rice salad
For a delicious marinade, replace half the peanut butter with tahini in this satay chicken skewer recipe

Carrot & Tahini Savoury Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds (plus extra for on top)
2 tbsp currants
3 eggs
1/2 cup natural yoghurt (or yoghurt of choice)
1/4 cup hulled tahini
2 cups grated carrots (approx 2 medium carrots)

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 12-muffin tray. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the sesame seeds and currants. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and tahini. Add the dry mixture and grated carrots, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tray, sprinkle each muffin with sesame seeds and bake for 15-20 minutes. Store in the refrigerator or freeze them for snacks.

*To make your own oat flour, simply put 1 cup of oats in a food processor and pulse until fine like breadcrumbs.


A Friendly Chat with Dietitian Chloe McLeod

Today I have the pleasure of introducing a truly talented individual to you, Chloe McLeod. Chloe is not only an Accredited Dietitian, but is also the Director of The FODMAP Challenge, a coaching program for beginners to the diet. Specialising in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the FODMAP approach and food intolerance, Chloe has kindly shared her story with us and answered of few burning questions of mine!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What do you do as a job and in your spare time?
I’ve been working as a dietitian for nearly 8 years, with IBS being one of the key areas I work in. I started The FODMAP Challenge in mid 2016 when I saw a gap for an online program to help individuals determine their triggers of IBS.

When I’m not working, I love cooking and developing recipes (though you could argue that has turned into work!), going out for meals, and of course, spending time with my loved ones. 

Chloe McLeod, Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Director of The FODMAP Challenge
What role does food play in your life? 
My partner often says to me that my day is always planned around food… so yes, I guess you could say it plays a major role in all facets of my life. 

What's your typical meal for...
Breakfast: Banana and peanut butter porridge, or homemade muesli with soy milk and fruit
Lunch: Either leftovers, or a salad with canned tuna or salmon, or tofu
Dinner: Usually based around fish and vegetables, and I include chickpeas and lentils a few times per week as well
Snacks: Soy flat white, raw nuts, carrot and cucumber sticks. Fruit and yoghurt for dessert.

A typical dinner for Chloe of Baked Ocean Trout with Orange, Fennel & Coriander Seed, yum!
As a Dietician (and fellow food intolerance sufferer), what advice do you give to new starters on the low FODMAP diet?
Be kind to yourself – it doesn’t matter if you are not perfect, it’s all about doing the best you can. If you accidentally ‘fodmap yourself’ as a client of mine calls it, so be it! These things happen, and whilst it is unfortunate, it’s bound to happen sometimes. This is why determining your individual triggers is so important, as it makes it much easier for you to make well informed decisions around what you choose to eat. Knowledge is power; if you had to choose, I think knowing you may have a reaction if you eat something you’re sensitive to is better than eating it not knowing, then being surprised and wondering why you feel terrible. 

I’ve been following the low FODMAP diet for 5 years, and I often get asked whether the low FODMAP diet is a forever diet. Could you share your expertise on this one?
Such a common misconception! Whilst everyone has different levels of sensitivity, research indicates that most people are able to re-introduce high FODMAP foods and maintain good symptom control. This means it is easier to make informed choices when not in control of food choices, and better management of symptoms on a daily basis. It also means a less restrictive diet, and likely better variety of prebiotic foods, which provide food for the healthy bacteria that are found in your gut. Research indicates that long term avoidance of these may affect the health of your microbiome.

Can you share with us your favourite resources you turn to for advice and inspiration?
I love the Monash Low FODMAP App, and the FODMAP Friendly App, they both provide great up to date information about what is low and what is high. I love instagram as well for recipe inspiration and beautiful pictures – there are so many creative people out there!

Thanks Chloe for sharing your story with us! 

Cranberry & Cardamom Scones

Traveling always feels somewhat of a challenge to fodmappers and restricted eaters. I always plan ahead and pack a few snacks (or half a suitcase full), however much to my delight, my ability to eat outside my comfort zone truly astonished me on my recent travels.

Maybe it was the beautiful sea air in Portugal or the bustling markets of Marrakech but I found myself doing things I would never have imagined I could or would! Like eating tinned fish, cooked onion and a lot of bread goods, amidst of a lot of vino drinking. To most, these few things don’t sound like much, but to a strict (at times fussy) fodmapper they were a big deal and made the trip that much more delicious!!... Believe it or not, I had never even tried canned tuna until I arrived in Portugal, a city where tinned seafood is a prized delicacy, and for good reason.

It was there I fell more in love with seafood than I thought possible, even the tinned stuff, which I ate almost daily! Then there was Morocco, where one cannot just request no onion, no garlic as many of meals are pre-prepared and cooked for hours and hours. This meant I inevitably had to eat onion if I wanted to experience Moroccan cuisine (and not starve). So tagines and bastilla I ate a plenty, with no variations (because that would be rude, right!?). But luckily for me, in these Moroccan dishes onion wasn’t over-used and it was always cooked down until it almost disintegrated.

What astonished me the most on my travels was not my brazen disgraced for the usual rules of the FODMAP diet, but that my belly stayed in pretty good shape.

And (very surprisingly) my stomach didn't mind even the pastries and bread I allowed myself to indulge in! For someone who always has a healthy breakfast (and is gluten intolerant mind you), I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many pastries and bread goods for breakfast in my life. Again, I'm looking at Morocco here! I'm honestly not sure why I coped so well overseas. Maybe it's that I was super relaxed and my digestion was in tip top working order but I personally put it down to the type of flour that must be used in Moroccan cooking, because seriously I was in awe at my ability to chow down a piece of bread with not even the slightest bloating. If only I could get some of that action here!!

As you can probably tell, and if you followed my travels on Instagram you would know, my trip was centred around eating. Needless to say, getting back into my healthy eating routine was top of mind on my return. But I also wanted to keep some of these fun new habits rolling! I mean, who doesn’t want to eat baked goods everyday! With freshly baked Pasteis De Nata (Portuguese Tarts) and Moroccan bread no longer at my disposal, a few things had to be done to fill the void of those beautiful baked delicacies…

This is where my delicious, easy, healthy-ish, friendly and freezable scones come into play. They are the perfect baked good to settle a craving, and fill that Europe-sized hole in my life post travel. They're also inspired by my new SodaStream! That’s right these scones are made not with lemonade and cream (can't have that now I'm back on home soil and on the healthy eating bandwagon). Instead, they're made with soda water and milk, now that’s nifty!

When SodaStream approached me to try out their new SodaStream Power, I of course jumped at the opportunity. I have long swooned at my friend Maddie's SodaStream and her ability to make me sparkling water at the drop of a hat. It seriously excites me and soda water is, of course, so much more fun than plain old tap water! But little did I know the added benefits of having sparkling water on tap, also meant I could now easily and conveniently whip up a batch of scones when ever I got a travel inspired longing for a freshly baked treat. So now whenever a craving kicks in, I can brew myself a cold glass of sparkling water to sip on and whip up some delicious scones. This SodaStream really could not have come into my life at a better time :)

Cranberry & Cardamom Scones
Makes 8 large scones

2 cups, plus extra for dusting, organic spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Good pinch of salt
75 grams unsalted butter, cubed
1 tbsp rice malt syrup
Zest of half an orange
1/4 cup milk of choice
3/4 cup soda water (made with my SodaStream)
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 200C and prepare a tray with baking paper and a good dusting of flour. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, and add rice malt syrup, orange zest, milk and soda water into the well, and gently mix to combine. Add the cranberries, and continue to mix until it forms a nice soft dough. Dust with a bit of extra flour and place the dough on to the tray. Pat the dough into a 2cm thick circle, and use a large knife to cut the circle into 8 scones (don't separate them until after they've baked). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

I love these served warm with a lathering of butter, or a little jam and yoghurt :)


Stuffed Capsicums

There’s so much going on at the moment, and not in a bad, crazy, hectic way for a change. Well things are a little hectic, but I guess that’s just the way I roll. But what’s different about this hectic time in my life you may ask. Well, I am starting a new job, I am working on a new and exciting project with Mel from The Fructose Friendly Chef (check it out: A Friendly Gathering) and I am about to embark on a 6 week Euro trip. Fair to say, I’m pretty darn excited, particularly for the latter. Hello sunny UK, Portugal, Spain and Morocco!

The change in job however comes with mixed emotions and bittersweet feelings of change and farewells. It's been an almost 5 year journey at the one workplace, which is apparently a long time for us Gen Y kids. It felt that way too, with all the farewells. But it is amazing how it takes change like this to appreciate just how many awesome people I have met along the way and the seriously good friends I have made. All the same, I'm excited for my next adventure to begin...

Anyway, that's enough about my life for one post. It's business (dinner) time! Now capsicums have long been one of my favourite vegetables. But not in all the ways. Capsicums have to be cooked really well for me to like them. I have a slight fondness for sweet raw capsicum every now and then, but when it comes to cooked capsicum, it has to be cooked! This mentality sure enough has come from mum’s Italian cooking. Whether it’s her charred capsicums, peeled and kept in oil and vinegar, or her classic ‘potatoes and peppers’, the capsicums are always soft, silky and delicious. So you will certainly notice my stuffed capsicums are not short on oven time. The longer I have, the better, to get the capsicums soft and delicious, and the top of the rice super crispy! I love these stuffed capsicums and hope you will too.

Keep in touch while I'm away by following my Instagram and Facebook :)

Stuffed Capsicums
Makes 4

1 cup white rice
4 red capsicums
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 zucchini, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
250g premium beef mince
1/2 tsp dried oregano
A few sprigs of fresh parsley, diced
Chili flakes
Salt & pepper
200g canned crushed tomato
2 tbsp water
2 eggs
80g feta, cubed
1-2 tbsp grated Parmesan

Cook rice in a small saucepan with 1.5 cups of water and set aside. Prepare capsicums by carving off the tops and removing the seeds from the inside. Preheat oven to 200C and prepare a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil.

Heat a fry-pan on medium heat, lightly toast pine nuts and set aside. Using the same fry-pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and fry the grated zucchini for a few minutes. Increase to high heat, add the cumin, oregano, chili flakes, parsley, salt, pepper and beef mince and fry until browned. Add tomato and water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has almost dried out. Allow to cool slightly, then mix together with the rice, followed by the eggs, feta and Parmesan.

Firmly stuff the capsicums and squish the lids on top. Place on the tray and bake for 45-60 minutes. I like to add chopped veggies like carrot and zucchini to the tray about half way through the cooking time to add to the meal.


Low FODMAP | gluten free | fructose friendly | sugar free
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