Essential oil bliss balls

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Dry ingredients

  • 50g almonds
  • 50g shredded coconut
  • 10g cacao or cocoa powder (or leave out for the coconut lemon variation)
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 pinch vanilla powder
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 10g collagen hydrolysate (optional) – exclude for vegan option
  • 10g of protein powder (I used pea protein powder) or 20g if not using collagen (optional)

Wet ingredients

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 2 medjool dates (you can use more if you like a sweeter treat)
  • 1 drop of food grade essential oil (I use and recommend doTERRA). In this case I used lavender which had a beautiful subtle floral flavor but other options are peppermint, wild orange, ginger or cinnamon.

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Instructions – makes 8 balls

  1. Simply add all the dry ingredients to your thermomix mixing bowl (or food processor) and combine for 5 to 7 seconds (depends on the texture you want) at speed 6.
  2. Then add the coconut oil and dates and mix for 1 minute 20 seconds at speed 5 to release the oils from the almonds and coconut and form a slightly sticky mixture.
  3. Add your essential oil carefully because you don’t want the flavor to be too overwhelming. I like to either use a toothpick or will add 1 drop to a teaspoon (to ensure I don’t accidentally drop 4 drops in) and then dip the teaspoon into the mixture. Then combine the mixture for 2 seconds at speed 4.
  4. Using a heaped dessert spoon to measure, roll the mixture into balls and place in the fridge until you are ready to consume them.

 

Coconut lemon variation: omit the cacao, add 1 tbsp. of lemon zest and 1 – 2 drops of lemon essential oil.
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Travel Observations

This blog post is a following on from last weeks, Holiday Highlights post that you can read here if you wish. Today I’m sharing some things (mostly the foodie related ones) that I observed while travelling in Europe. These are my observations, so chances are your experiences in Europe were different. I’d love to read about your observations in Europe (or any other country) in the comments below.

  • Sweet breakfasts – The cafes and restaurants that we went to were great, don’t get me wrong, but for someone who doesn’t eat gluten, dairy or refined sugar (and loves savoury breakfasts) the options are a bit more limited. A typically breakfast seemed to be croissants with jam or chocolate and a coffee (always a coffee), crepes or gallettes (a savoury crepe made with buckwheat… but also wheat). As a result of this we would often cook eggs and vegetables at our accommodation before going out for the day or get some fruit.
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Eggs and vegetables, toast, muesli and coffee on our balcony in Nice, France.

 

  • Alcohol is so much cheaper – Alcohol is much cheaper and easily accessible on supermarket shelves in Europe however the culture surrounding alcohol is quite different than we what we too often see in Australia with alcohol fuelled violence and drinking in excess. Rather in Europe wine or beer is usually consumed with a meal and in the company of friends and family.
  • In Australia, dietary requirements/preferences are well catered for – both in our supermarkets and when dining out. Gluten free options seem almost expected on menus and the supermarket shelves are filling with gluten free and paleo options (perhaps not necessarily the best options but it goes to show that consumer demand is being met). In Europe I was surprised at how long  it took me to find coconut yoghurt (without dairy), coconut oil and non-pasteurised sauerkraut whereas I can find them easily in Oz.
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I was pretty chuffed when I found a great health food shop in Utrecht that sold paleo granola and coconut yoghurt.

 

  • It is so bike friendly in Europe – even the busy cities like Paris where I admittedly had a bit of a meltdown trying to negotiate the traffic. Bike paths are abundant (and when they weren’t riding was welcomed on the road) and the terrain is favorable in many cities. Other road users (cars, buses, taxis) also seem more considerate of bike riders and even though traffic was very often so chaotic with no regards for road rules, I saw very little road rage. And side note, very few people wear helmets.
  • The price and availability of fresh fruit and vegetables – In many places we found fresh fruit and vegetables in abundance at small markets and in large supermarkets with quite reasonable prices (even with the exchange rate) and of good quality.
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I especially loved the markets in Munich.

 

 

  • Takeaway isn’t very common – we only saw a few people ordering takeaway or walking around with a takeaway coffee (guilty) and in most (if not all cases) they looked like they were tourists.
  • We rarely came across fast food outlets (i.e. the big M) – And when we did it was usually only in cities with a high population of tourists. But really why would you want a big mac when you can get a huge pizza for about 7 euro.
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Well I couldn’t possibly leave Italy without having a pizza at least once even if it was gluten and dairy free.

 

  • Obesity didn’t seem to be a problem – this likely goes hand in hand with a lot of the other points here but for countries whose cultures are based heavily on food, wine and beer it was surprising to see. It goes to show that its more than just what we eat/drink that plays a part in our weight and overall health. I think the biggest percentage of obesity I saw was on the cruise ship but with unlimited food and a lot of lounging around I’m sure we all walked away with a couple of extra kilograms then we boarded with.
  • The German’s are (traditionally) big on purity – in relation to beer that is. Regulations (or the German beer purity law) were put into place in 1487 that limited the ingredients in beer to hops, barley malt and water. If it contained more then these 3 ingredients it couldn’t be labeled and sold as beer in Germany. That has changed now but the locals still seem to prefer the real deal. As a result of the lack of preservatives and unnecessary additives, those who drink it don’t seem to suffer as nasty effects (or so they say).
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Hubby with said ‘pure’ beer and pretzel.

 

  • Culture is based heavily around meal times – We didn’t see this so much in the big touristy cities however in the smaller towns, especially in Italy it wasn’t uncommon for businesses to close from about midday for a couple of hours and everyone go have lunch with their loved ones. This encouraged eating in a more relaxed state and savoring the food (and the company) instead of eating on the run.
  • And finally, how thankful I was for technology – It was an odd feeling to be uncontactable by phone (I chose to keep my phone in flight mode) for nearly 2 months however I realized how much I relied on the internet when there is a language barrier. Luckily Wi-Fi was easy to find and Google translate, TripAdvisor and Air BnB fast became the most used apps/sites on my phone.

 

Hope you enjoyed the read and I’m looking forward to hearing about some of your travel observations.

Holiday Highlights

As some of you are aware, I have recently returned from an amazing holiday in Europe (partly why it has been so quiet on the blogging front) but I am back now and ready to share some more articles and recipes with you all. I might even get around to posting all the recipes that have been sitting in my drafts folder for way too long.

But for now I want to share with you some highlights of our travels

As Europe is a long way from Australia and albeit not cheap to get there we wanted to make the most of our first time there by seeing as many of our ‘to see’ places as possible. Our travels took us to the beautiful countries of Spain, Italy, Greece (plus a day in Montenegro on the way back), Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and France.

With so many places to see, our stay in some places were quite brief but I feel that it has given us a good idea of where we would love to spend more time when we return.

Of the places that we visited, I have listed below our top 7 (I was trying to keep it to 5) highlights.

  • Sightseeing in Barcelona – Barcelona was our first stop in Europe and it has made me so keen to go back to Spain and see more of the beautiful country. It felt like around every corner was another beautiful building with so much character. We visited a few of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces and wow.. if you go to Barcelona I would definitely recommend visiting Sagrada Familia. Sure it looks impressive from the outside but walk inside and that is where the true magic happens. The size, magnitude and detail is incredible (he took a lot of his inspiration from nature) and the stain glass windows throw the most amazing light through the whole building.
  • Hiking in Cinque Terre – Cinque Terre was a place that had been recommended to me by a number of friends and when I saw photos I instantly fell in love and had to go there. We stayed at La Spazia, a short train ride from the 5 villages and for 2 days we caught the train in and hiked between the villages. We did a mix of hiking along the coast and inland and the views were all amazing. Despite the fact that around 3 million (I think) people hike the trails each year, the tracks still felt so rugged and untouched. Hands down one of the best places I have ever hiked. Oh yea and it was also home to the best dairy free dark chocolate sorbet I’ve ever had.
  • Lake Garda – this location was one of the places my husband really wanted to go to and that was manly due to the mountain biking recommendations. We stayed near Riva Del Garda which is at the north of the lake and the location definitely didn’t disappoint. We ended up staying for 5 nights (our longest stay in one place) and the days were filled with things to do and see. Most days involved catching a bus or walking into Riva, hiring bikes and riding some of the many tracks. Other days we went hiking with friends and were rewarded with incredible views over the town.
  • Sightseeing and snowboarding in Austria – Austria was a place that we decided before we went that we probably wouldn’t have time to go to as we wanted to go to Switzerland however on the morning that we were leaving Italy we made the decision to go to Austria instead. We stayed at a little village outside of Innsbruck surrounded by picturesque mountains and green fields dotted with chateaus and hiking huts. We stayed at an awesome hostel (shout out to Doug’s mountain getaway) and used it as a base to visit Innsbruck, go hiking in the mountains and even had a day trip to the glaciers where we went snowboarding for the day. Having only been to the snow a few times in Australia, it was awesome to experience true European Alps.

 

  • Ancient Rome – I wont lie, Rome wasn’t our favourite place (we much preferred the countryside to the big cities) however we loved experiencing the culture and history of Ancient Rome. We took part in a tour that including the Colosseum (including 3rd level and the underground), Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and definitely recommend it. Our tour guide was great and really painted the picture of what these sights would have looked like in their grand days.
  • Spending time with family in Italy – Some of my husbands extended family live in Italy and it was great to spend a few days with them. We were blown away by the hospitality shown to us by people we had never before met. They welcomed us into their home, gave us a place to sleep, insisted on feeding us (manga manga) and were very informative local guides when we went sightseeing.
  • And finally (because I cant list them all), our time spent in Paris. We only had a few nights in Paris and would have loved to have spent a couple more days there but despite the short visit felt like we saw a lot. We briefly visited some of the typically touristy sites, the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomph, Palace of Versaille, The Lourve and more but our favourite moments were at night when we relaxed in front of the Eiffel tower at night watching the light show on the hour, catching up with friends at a local wine bar, and eating traditional French food (Escargot aka snails and frogs legs cooked in so much butter).

 

There you have it, some of our many highlights. Have you been to Europe? If so, I would love to hear what your highlights were/are so just leave me a comment below. Perhaps you’ll give me some ideas for our next visit whenever that may be🙂.

Single serve bread rolls (gluten free, nut free)

These are great for people that can’t (or choose not to) eat ‘normal’ bread and is great when you want bread made in a hurry without making a whole loaf. Avoid if you are following a GAPS diet because the coconut flour is too fibrous.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil (can be increased to 1 tbsp.)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 tsp physllium husks
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp GF baking powder

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In a small bowl, mug or ramekin whisk together the oil, egg and water. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until no lumps remain. Microwave on high for 90 seconds – 2 minutes and done. The bread will pop out of the ramekin easily and can be sliced, buttered and served with your choice of toppings.

This recipe can easily be doubled. Just use a larger bowl (i.e. a soup bowl) and increase the time to 3 – 4 minutes.

Variation – you can easily stir through a sprinkle of herbs or seeds to this bread. Or some finely chopped garlic or sun dried tomatoes… yum.

My microwave is old… seriously probably older than me (were microwaves invented then?) and if making at home I have to ere on the 2 minutes for a single serve, 4 minutes for the double batch. However when I use the more modern microwave at work, 90 seconds seems to be the right amount of time for the single serve.

 

Happy Valentines

Valentines day is literally just around the corner and whether you consider it to be a commercial holiday in which Hallmark and Haighs profit greatly or if you celebrate with bunches of flowers, chocolates, fancy dinner dates and weekends away there is no denying that if your in a relationship its nice to take time out of our busy schedule and spend some quality time with your significant other (be that on Valentines Day or another time)…. and hopefully your not just making this a priority one day of the year.

And if your not in a relationship thats no excuse not to show a little love and celebrate and appreciate the wonderful being that you are. Fancy treating yourself to a massage, mani and pedi, buy and admire your own bunch or flowers or just take time out and do something that you really enjoy.

I’d love to hear (in the comments below) what you are doing to celebrate the day and appreciate the loved one (or yourself) in your life. I’ll probably be soaking up some sunshine on the beach with my hunny after a lazy brunch together or hitting the trails for a bit of well overdue mountain biking with a picnic lunch spent at the lookout where we got engaged. Bliss.

Much love xx

Buckwheat pancakes

These were my go to Sunday morning breakfast for my husband when he requested pancakes, especially while I was preparing for the GAPS diet by clearing out my pantry. These are now off the menu while I focus on healing my gut but I’m looking forward to adding them back occasionally at a later date.

For those who aren’t following a strict gut healing protocol but wanting a healthy alternative to traditional fluffy pancakes then I hope you love these. They are gluten free and contain no refined sugars.

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Makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 20g ghee or coconut oil (plus extra for frying)
  • 150g milk of choice (almond, coconut or full fat dairy)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 – 1 banana, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. gluten free baking powder
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

 

Thermomix Instructions (a stick blender can be used in place of a thermomix)

  1. Place ghee or coconut oil into the mixing bowl and melt 1 min/70 degrees celcuis / speed 1
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix 10 seconds / speed 5
  3. To cook pancakes, heat 1 tsp butter in a frying pan over medium high heat. For each pancake pour in a couple of tbsp.’s of batter and slightly tilt the pan distribute over the center of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes or until bubbles start appearing then turn the pancake and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Transfer to a plate and cover with a tea towel to keep warm while you repeat steps 3 and 4 with the remaining batter. Serve hot and enjoy topped with berries and coconut cream or yoghurt.

 

 

 

Italian Beef Burgers

 

Makes 8 burgers (or 4 serves)

Ingredients

  • 500g grass fed beef mince
  • ¼ cup of fresh or tinned diced tomatoes or 2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Coconut oil or ghee for cooking with

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Instructions

Combine all ingredients except the oil/ghee in a mixing bowl.

Heat a fry pan over medium high heat with a bit of butter or coconut oil.

While the fry pan is heating up shape the burger mixture into 8 balls. Because these don’t contain flour or egg to bind them the trick to keeping the together is to hold the mixture in one cupped hand and pretty much just clap your hands a couple of times while swapping sides to compress the meat. Sounds strange I know but it’s a trick I learnt at a cooking demo with Simon Bryant and I swear it works.

Flatten them slightly in the frypan with a spatula and cook for 2 – 3 minutes either side or until browned and cooked inside.

Serve with a big salad or on grain free rolls as a burger.

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Meatball variation: To make meatballs, follow the above instructions but instead of shaping into 8 balls, shape into 16 or 20. You may want to add ½ to 1 tbsp of coconut flour if the mixture isn’t holding shape. Serve on top of carrot or zucchini noodles with a tomato based ‘pasta’ sauce.