Moroccan spiced freekah salad

If you haven’t tried freekah before, you should. It’s a ‘superfood’ that packs a punch of protein and it’s mighty delicious. You can find it at most Middle Eastern supermarkets or health food stores and it’s worth seeking out. If you can’t find freekah then brown rice, quinoa or even barley are a great alternative in this recipe.

This freekah salad can also be served as a warm side dish, but I like to refrigerate the freekah when prepared and add salad greens before serving. The toasted spices and the texture of the freekah itself, makes this a truly beautiful and hearty dish.

Ingredients

½ cup rinsed freekah
½ brown onion chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1/3 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
¼ cup craisins or sultanas
Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup natural yoghurt
¼ bunch fresh mint or parsley finely chopped
½ lemon (optional)
¼ cup toasted nuts (like almonds, optional)

  • Lightly brown the onion and spices until the onion is soft.
  • Add the freekah and stir through. Toast everything for about 4 minutes.
  • Add 1/3 cup of water and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to allow the freekah to simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on.
  • When the water has absorbed, add the dried fruit, turn off the heat and with the lid on let the freekah rest for 10 minutes.
  • Give the freekah a good stir and serve with toasted nuts, a wedge of grilled lemon or  yoghurt that’s been combined with mint or parsley.

* I often stir through a chopped tomato or some shredded lettuce right before serving to bulk up my salad.

** This recipe is great when used as a side to a Moroccan tagine dish, or accompanied by meat, poultry or fish. Just experiment with your cooking to get a great balance of textures and flavours.

Freekah

Freekah has a terrifically nutty and buttery taste. Its texture has great bite which demonstrates how less processed this ancient Middle Eastern grain is. A staple in Arabic cultures, freekah has a high fibre and protein content as it’s harvested young – still green in colour, then roasted. It’s simply fantastic!

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.

Nut seed loaf

So I’ve been experimenting with coconut flour. When I say experimenting, I mean a few culinary disasters – I was a little shocked at how much liquid that stuff can absorb! But recently I got to playing in the kitchen again with the aim of creating a proper nut/seed bread. A loaf that could even be toasted for breakfast or eaten with cold butter and jam (naughty but nice). And so my Loving Cook nut seed loaf was created! Thank goodness all those coconut disasters were good for something…

This loaf is perfect to have with savoury toppings as well as sweet, and if you wanted to make this bread a little more of a sweet treat, you could always add some dried dates, shredded coconut or whatever you please. My tip is to keep the ratio of dry ingredients the same to make this recipe work well. Go nuts (haha) with whatever nuts (or seeds) you want to use.

Dry ingredients

1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 ½ cups rolled oats
4 heaped tablespoons of LSA mix (linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds)
3 tablespoons whole flaxseeds
2 tablespoons coconut flour

Wet ingredients

1 tablespoon maple syrup/rice malt syrup or honey
3 heaped tablespoons coconut butter, melted
1 ½ cups water

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180c.
  • Combine all of the dry ingredients and in a separate bowl whisk together the wet ingredients, including the coconut butter.
  • Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Set the mixture aside for one hour in a cool spot to let the coconut flour do its thing.
  • Line a loaf tin with baking paper (be generous with the baking paper as you will need excess to lift the loaf out of the tin) and give it a light spray of oil. To this add the loaf ingredients and press down firmly into the corners with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for about one hour and then remove the loaf from your tin and gently flip it over onto the baking paper and bake the bottom side for a further hour or until the bottom is lightly brown. When you tap the bottom it should sound hollow, but also check the inside of the loaf with a skewer to ensure it’s fully cooked. 
  • Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.

* This loaf tastes ahhhmazing slightly toasted and served with ricotta and honey.

** For a savoury alternative try toasting the loaf and serving with a sharp cheese, some slices of tomato, fresh basil leaves and lots of freshly cracked pepper.

Glass half full crunchy fruit and nut bars

I often find myself needing an energy hit in the afternoon, like most people, and I try as hard as I can to avoid unhealthy quick fixes. These dried fruit and nut bars are a terrific go-to snack. Full of healthy Omega-3 fats that are readily found in nuts, these bars will give you a steady flow of energy, versus a quick sugar hit that is often followed by a devastating low. The addition of rice malt syrup makes all the difference.

I love my food to have texture and these are super crunchy when enjoyed straight from the fridge, or you can break up the bars and scatter them over some stewed fruit as a crumble topping for dessert.

Dry ingredients

½ cup dried fruit (craisins, apricots, prunes, apples, sultanas etc.), chopped roughly
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pepitas
½ cup whole almonds
1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons shredded dry coconut
1 tablespoon whole or ground flaxseeds (optional)

Wet ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons rice malt syrup

  •  Pre-heat oven to 200c.
  •  In a large mixing bowl add the dry ingredients and combine well.
  •  Stir through the coconut oil and rice malt syrup. The mixture will be very chunky but it’s important you moisten all of the ingredients.
  •  Line a small-medium sized baking dish with baking paper and press the mixture very firmly down. Using the back of a spoon helps.
  •  Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the reserved tablespoon of flaxseeds.
  •  Bake for 30 minutes.
  •  Allow the mixture to thoroughly cool before slicing into preferred sizes. It will get crunchy as it cools.

* These fruit and nut bars refrigerate well for up to a week when kept in an airtight container.

** You can play around with your favourite dried fruit, nut, and seed combinations.

*** If your coconut oil has stiffened over winter, place the oil in the microwave for 30 seconds to make it easier to mix with.

Rice malt syrup

Rice malt syrup is gluten free, suitable for vegans, and it’s made from brown rice and is therefore a complex carbohydrate that is low GI and provides energy over a slow and consistent period of time. It’s a great alternative to honey and it has a delicious natural caramel flavour. The best bit is that rice malt syrup has an amazing ability to make ingredients become crunchy when baked. This ingredient is one of my favourite baking discoveries.

Toasted muesli

Most health nuts like me have their own muesli or granola recipe. This is mine. I like to eat regularly throughout the day to keep my metabolism working well, and trust me I am not a happy lady when I get hangry (angry-hungry). Rest assured when I tell you that this recipe really will give you energy and a feeling of fullness without it being high in sugar and fats. It’s crunchy, which is crucial, and I use this muesli mix for a number of recipes or just snack on it when I need some energy throughout the day.

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup shredded coconut
1 cup bran flakes
1 cup puffed brown rice
3 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup roughly chopped almonds
3 heaped tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons honey or rice malt syrup
½ cup pepitas
½ cup craisins (dried cranberries)

  • Preheat oven to 180c.
  • Heat the coconut oil and honey or rice malt syrup for 30 seconds in the microwave so it becomes syrupy.
  • In a very large bowl mix all of the ingredients together including the syrupy mixture. Ensure that all of the dry ingredients have been moistened by the syrup.
  • Place the muesli mix on a lined baking tray. Do this in 2-3 batches so the muesli can toast evenly.
  • Bake for about 10-15 minutes until lightly toasted and then give the muesli a good stir through and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden.
  • Once the muesli is toasted remove from the oven and let it cool and it will become even crunchier.

* I have this muesli on most mornings with frozen mixed berries and either some milk or fat reduced ricotta stirred through.

** This muesli makes a great crumble topping on stewed fruit.

*** My preference is to use rice malt syrup in this recipe as it helps you achieve a crunchy muesli and it’s not as sweet as honey.

**** You can store this muesli in an airtight container for up to 2-3 weeks.

Oats

Oats are a low calorie and low GI food that releases energy into your body at a steady rate, which leaves you feeling fuller for longer. They are packed with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, potassium, magnesium and much more. Not only are they a cheap ingredient, but because they are high in fibre oats can also help keep your cholesterol levels low and aide in healthy digestion.