Berry breakfast quinoa

I hate to admit it, but I hate porridge, the sludgy smooshy texture puts me off based on clearly tormenting childhood memories. That said, I love the idea of porridge, a nutritious and filling breakfast that provides plenty of energy in the morning. In order to enjoy a warm breakfast I created my own sweet berry breakfast quinoa recipe. The fresh pops of berries and toasted almonds provide a nice texture crunch to avoid the baby food texture of porridge.

Ingredients

½ cup washed quinoa
½ cup milk (any)
½ cup water
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cacao (optional)

Optional toppings

Fresh or frozen berries
Toasted almonds, pepitas, walnuts etc.
Fresh or frozen bananas
Toasted shaved coconut
Honey or rice malt syrup (or even maple syrup)

  • In a small saucepan add all of the main ingredients.
  • Bring to the boil then simmer on a very low heat for 10 minutes. Watch the pot to ensure it doesn’t boil over as milk has a tendency to do this.
  • After 10 minutes (or when the liquid has evaporated), take off the heat and add frozen berries or a frozen banana (or both)
  • Cover the lid and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Top with toasted coconut and toasted slivered almonds (or any nuts or seeds of your choice) and drizzle lightly with some honey or rice malt syrup (sweet toppings are optional as I find I don’t need them if the berries are sweet enough).


* Adding a dash of vanilla extract to the quinoa mix adds a beautiful caramel flavour.
* Get creative with toppings, I like to use frozen fruit like berries because it’s quick and easy. But you could also top your quinoa with fresh figs and drizzle over Greek yoghurt, or fresh summer strawberries with chopped mint, or stewed apples and rhubarb in winter…

Blurry pic of my puppy admiring my breakfast….

Quinoa

I could go on about quinoa for days as it’s a protein staple in my daily salads, however it also works beautifully in sweet dishes. Quinoa is a gluten free seed that is high in protein, hence a terrific energy source, and has the best nutty flavour. It’s really filling and I often use it as a pasta or rice alternative because it’s lower in calories and less refined. The protein and complex carbs in quinoa help me stay fuller for longer, helping me stabilise my metabolism, which is why this berry breakfast quinoa is such a great recipe to keep you going in the morning.

Chocolate crackle slice

I subscribe to health and fitness magazines, I love them. I also devour cooking books and scour the web for ‘healthy’ recipes to inspire my kitchen experiments. When it comes to ‘healthy’ treats like ‘energy’ bars or chocolate slices I’m often shocked at the high sugar content, especially with the overload of added dried fruit in most recipes.

I created this chocolate crackle slice when trying to emulate the traditional chocolate crackles that many Australian children have grown up enjoying at kids parties. The traditional version uses butter, milk chocolate and other not so healthy ingredients. My slice on the other hand, is nutritious, crunchy and coconutty and it makes you feel like you’re eating something naughty from your childhood. You can play with the ingredient variations but the key is to ensure that your mixture is wet enough to set. This recipe makes 24 squares and pleases both kiddies and ‘adult-children’ alike.

Wet ingredients

10 dried dates
1 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 tablespoon brown rice malt syrup or honey
8-10 tablespoon water

Dry ingredients

1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup puffed rice
¼ cup pepitas
¼ cup craisins (dried cranberries)
¼ cup cacao nibs (optional)
3 tablespoons coconut butter, melted

  • Place the wet ingredients in a hand held mixer and blend until well combined. The mixture needs to be moist (think chocolate crackle consistency).
  • Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, including the melted coconut butter and stir well ensuring that all of the ingredients are well coated.
  • Spoon the chunky mixture in a brownie dish lined with baking paper, press the mixture down firmly with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting into squares.

 

* Once the slice has solidified you could decorate your squares by drizzling with melted chocolate. Try using white chocolate for a cheeky treat as the contrast between the rich dark slice and the white chocolate looks beautiful.

** This slice freezes well. Cut into squares and wrap in cling film and freeze for up to 2 weeks. The slice also tastes great semi-frozen.

Almond Milk

So many people have intolerances these days and lactose intolerance is something my mum has unfortunately suffered with most of her adult life. As a result, an excess in cow’s milk can also sometimes upset my stomach so I like to mix it up and use almond milk some weeks.

In my quest for low-calorie and nutritious almond milk I discovered that many brands of milk contain additives, preservatives and extra sugar to give it a longer shelf life. This recipe is extremely simple and a great way to create milk for your own needs so you can control exactly what you’re putting into your body.

Ingredients

1 cup almonds
3 cups water
Large piece of muslin (cheese cloth) fabric

  • Soak your almonds in water for at least 24-hours. 
  • Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until the almonds have broken down and the liquid becomes white and frothy.
  • Place a piece of muslin over a sieve and strain the mixture, reserving the almond pulp.
  • Store in a glass bottle, refrigerate and use within 3-4 days.
  • For my recipe on how to use the almond pulp, see the notes below.

Makes 1 litre

* You can add a dash of vanilla extract to add some more flavour to the milk.

** A great way to use the leftover pulp is to place it on a baking tray in a pre-heated 200c oven, sprinkle with some cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of rice malt syrup. Bake for 20 minutes until crunchy and let cool. This almond topping is great on baked desserts or added to muesli.

*** I use this almond milk on my muesli, in baking and it tastes delicious in hot chocolate. See http://thelovingcook.com.au/recipes/lush-hot-chocolate//

Almonds

Almond milk is a great milk alternative as it’s high in Omega-3 healthy fats and it’s a perfect dairy-free alternative for those that suffer from lactose intolerance. Almonds are a nutrient-packed parcel that helps lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. They are also said to decrease spikes in blood-sugar following a meal which is particularly helpful to diabetics. Super high in protein, quite often before a gym class I’ll grab a small handful of almonds to give me a pre-workout protein boost. My top tip: Keep your almonds in a sealed container in the crisper compartment of your fridge. They will stay crunchy and flavoursome for months.

Choc banana berry smoothie

I’m not a big fan of drinking my calories as you can often find yourself consuming more calories than you would if you were eating a proper meal. This recipe should be treated as a small meal because it provides protein (almonds and cocoa), calcium (yoghurt and milk) as well as a good dose of antioxidants (berries) and potassium (bananas). This smoothie is a very nutrient dense ‘liquid meal’ that doesn’t add sweet ingredients for the sake of it.

Ingredients

½ cup mixed frozen berries
1 ripe frozen banana
1 cup milk
2 heaped tablespoons Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon organic cocoa powder
Pinch of cinnamon
6 almonds

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

* You can add your own frozen fruit to this recipe. I personally like to buy fruit when it’s in season, like berries, bananas or mangoes and then freeze them to use in smoothies throughout winter. That way your smoothies are naturally sweet from the ripe fruit and you don’t need to add any extra sweeteners.

** Almond or rice milk or any milk of your choice works well in this recipe. In summer sometimes I use water instead of milk to make this smoothie even lighter.