broccoli and quinoa tabbouleh with harissa dressing

aerial Broccoli was ridiculously cheap at my local market this week. Beautiful, too – tight green florets, crisp stalks, fresh-cut stems dripping with moisture. So, as most seasonal eaters do, I squirreled a few heads into my shopping basket without further thought as to what I’d do with them. They went straight into the vegetable drawer.

Cue yesterday afternoon when, in search of an avocado, I rediscovered my cruciferous hoard. I decided to turn some of it into ‘dinner’ but had little enthusiasm for my default roasted broccoli with garlic. broccoli I decided upon a salad, with initial thoughts gravitating towards this pomegranate wonder from Green Kitchen Stories. However, as pomegranates were $5 each at the supermarket, the idea became slightly less appealing (whilst also quietly defeating my seasonal locavore principles).

That brings us to this gloriously spicy, crunchy, nutrient packed bowl of green deliciousness that I’ve loosely dubbed as ‘tabbouleh’ (hopefully the Levantines will forgive me). mix I’m sure that most of you would be familiar with traditional tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad packed with fragrant herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice, finely chopped onion and cracked wheat (known as burghul or ‘bulgur‘). I think I first came across it at a kebab stand as a young teenager, when I declined to have it applied to doner (my idea of ‘salad’ was iceberg lettuce and tomato).

I’ve since learned the error of my ways and enjoy tabbouleh in all its forms, both for nutritional and taste benefits. I’ve swapped out the bulgur for either quinoa or cous cous on a number of occasions and added a few crushed pistachios, however this is my first proper ‘reinvention’. harissa The base of this salad is a rough tumble of finely chopped broccoli and quinoa, with familiar herbs, onions and lemon drawing reference from tabbouleh. Crumbled feta adds creaminess whilst toasted almonds add a welcome crunch.

For me, the harissa dressing is the stuff of dreams: hot, smoky and slightly sweet from the addition of honey. I’d recommend that you taste and adjust your dressing to suit your personal heat tolerance.

I like to serve this salad on its own, with a big dollop of lemony hummus, for a complete lunch. For dinner, I’d push the boat out with some additional crispy falafel, pickled radishes, natural yoghurt and warmed flat bread. handbowl Broccoli and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Harissa Dressing Adapted from this recipe by BBC Food.

  • 100g quinoa, rinsed (I used black and red, but any colour will do)
  • 300g broccoli florets (don’t throw the stems away, take a look at these gorgeous ideas), very finely chopped or finely blitzed in a food processor
  • 4 spring onion stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved*
  • 100g feta cheese (the creamy type, I use goats feta), crumbled
  • large bunch parsley, washed and finely chopped
  • small bunch mint, washed and finely chopped
  • 50g toasted almonds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper


  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste (maybe start with a little less, mix, taste and add as desired)
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (above*)

Add the quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the broccoli and continue to cook until the quinoa is tender and the broccoli steamed until bright green (you may need to add a splash more water before replacing the lid, do not allow the pot to boil dry).

Tip the broccoli and quinoa mix into a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Mix, then set aside to cool slightly. When at room temperature, add the herbs, spring onions, lemon zest and a good amount of salt and pepper. Set aside whilst you make the dressing.

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium screw-top jar. Shake, then check the balance of flavours (add a little more honey if too hot, a little more lemon if too viscous, a little more harissa if the heat’s not enough for you). pour Pour over the quinoa mix, add the crumbled feta and almonds, then mix thoroughly. Taste and check for seasoning. Serves 4-6 as a side dish (though I would happily eat it all myself!).  bowl2

bib & tucker, north fremantle

boardwalkI love breakfast. It’s probably my favourite meal of the day, to the point where I often lie awake at night thinking about what I’ll eat in the morning. Steel cut oats, seeded toast with lemon-drenched avocado, crunchy macadamia muesli, fresh crumpets with Lescure butter and raw organic honey… I love it all. I’m one of those people who could very easy eat brinner every night of the week. But then again, where would that leave tacos and braised pork belly? Oh, the dilemmas!

A few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned a little cafe in North Fremantle called Bib & Tucker. Described as the ‘next best thing in breakfast’, I naturally wanted to visit… mostly as a comparison to my favourite breakfast destination of the moment, Harvest Espresso in Victoria Park (a place that actually solves my pork belly dilemma. They serve it for breakfast. Really).


We arrived mid-morning last Saturday. The sky was pale blue, slightly overcast, with thick clouds wafting like a scattered blanket. By the time we pried open the front doors, sweat started to bead on our foreheads in a sticky sheen.

Luckily, we were ushered to an outside table where the reliable Fremantle Doctor was blowing. Cool, salty air gently lapped at our skin as we perused the breakfast menu.


There’s something beautifully balanced about Bib & Tucker. Old favourites such as pancakes, eggs and crispy bacon sit snugly alongside redemptive kale, green lentils, chia seeds and almond milk. If would be fair to say that as a patron, you can be as virtuous or indulgent as you want to be. My favourite kind of place.

coffeebandt hatAfter ordering our coffees, we selected three dishes from the breakfast menu: fig chia pudding ($15), smashed avocado on cornbread ($19) and house-smoked ocean trout tartare ($24). Despite various criticisms on Urbanspoon about the ‘terrible service’ at Bib & Tucker, we met a wonderful brunette waitress who delivered our food within 15 short minutes. Nothing wrong with that.

As for the food? Well, it’s safe to say that we were three happy campers on this Saturday morning. Everything that arrived was fresh, generous, beautifully presented and suitably nourishing. My selection was (typically) chunky seasoned avocado atop thick, toasted cornbread with fresh greens, quinoa and vibrant chive oil. Aaron chose (typically) the smoked ocean trout, which was deliciously salty, soft and delicate against robust fried capers, fresh asparagus, croutons and lemon mascarpone.

oceantrout2 chiaavo

My lovely mother (atypically) selected the chia pudding, mostly out of ‘curiosity’. The dish arrived in a mason jar crowned with fresh wedges of fragrant fig, pomegranate arils and toasted almonds.

For a woman who habitually chooses ‘eggs any way with toast’ (a.k.a poached eggs with wholemeal bread), she enjoyed the breakfast variation. The chia seeds carried a slight creaminess from the organic almond milk, beautifully complimented by the sweet figs, acidic pomegranate and toasted nuts.

chiabandt insideoutside

From scanning the crowd, it would be fair to say that Bib & Tucker is a beautiful embodiment of the Fremantle subculture: eclectic, relaxed, slightly hippy (as opposed to hipster; these guys were growing kale in loamy soil far before the first hipster discovered plaid) artistic and entirely wonderful. As an ‘artsy’ type myself, I felt right at home.

It’s a place to contemplate, breathe and feel nourished within 100 metres of the Indian Ocean. A place I definitely want to revisit. Soon.

beach docks

Bib & Tucker

18 Leighton Beach Blvd, North Fremantle WA 6159

(08) 9433 2147

Coffee: Tues – Sun, 6am – 4pm

Breakfast: Tues – Sun, 7am – 11am

Lunch: Tues – Sun, 12pm – 3pm

Dinner: Wed – Sun, 6pm – 9pm

char-grilled vegetable and quinoa salad


Yesterday morning, Aaron and I woke early to have breakfast with my beautiful mother at Perth City Farm. The day was cool and fresh, slightly overcast; a welcome change from the blistering temperatures of summer.

We chatted and laughed, feasting on free-range eggs, organic sourdough, grilled tomatoes and lemony smashed avocado in the dappled shade. Between sips of coffee, we sampled spinach from the farm’s own garden before discussing family foibles, travel plans and (mostly) the 2014 Western Australian Senate (re)election.

Before leaving the farm, Aaron and my mother perused the Farm’s art exhibition while I chatted to some friendly Armenian growers at the Organic Market. I left with an armload of fresh produce including Armenian cucumbers, fresh zucchini, homegrown kale and tri-colour capsicums from their bio-dynamic garden.


That afternoon, I snacked on torn bread and babaghanouj (made with their organic aubergines and home-pressed olive oil) whilst making the grilled vegetable salad below. My mother stayed for some quality mother-daughter time; we drank tea, laughed, took photographs and reminisced about old times.

That evening, the sky grew dark and cold. Aaron and I had a picnic in the park with our best friends, sharing stories over paper plates, grilled chicken and homemade empanadas. Whilst chewing a forkful of homegrown zucchini, I felt truly blessed and grateful; for farmers, fresh vegetables, weekends, warm jumpers and quality time with those I love the most.


Thanks to all who travel through this life with me. In particular, my family, who embrace me despite weaknesses and always love unconditionally.

I’m grateful. I always will be.


Char-grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from this recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as a light meal

  • 190g (1 cup) royal quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 small capsicums (bell peppers), preferably mixed colours
  • 200g sweet potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 Spanish (red onion) sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 cup washed, picked herbs (I used parsley and mint), coarsely chopped
  • 100g goats feta, crumbled
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, roasted and crushed
  • olive oil, to cook


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper

Place the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot with 500ml (2 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then replace the lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is translucent. Place into a large bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and add in the lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

Cut the sweet potatoes into a medium (2x2cm) dice. Steam or boil until just tender. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then set aside.

Preheat a char-grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the capsicums in half and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Brush the skins with oil, then char-grill them skin side down until the skins blacken and blister. Turn and cook for an extra minute to allow the inside to steam.


Place into a sealed bag, covered bowl or airtight container and leave at room temperature until cool (the steam will help the skins to loosen, making them easier to peel).


Brush the zucchini and onion with a little olive oil, then add them to the grill pan with the sweet potatoes. Cook until soft and lightly grill-marked. Add the grilled vegetables to the same bowl as the quinoa.

Peel the capsicum halves and slice them into long, thin strips. Add them to the salad bowl with the chopped fresh herbs, walnuts and feta.


To make the dressing, place the oil, mustard, sugar, garlic and vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk until well emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


To serve, pour over the dressing and mix gently with a spoon or salad tongs. Place onto a platter and garnish with more herbs if desired.

This salad is wonderful as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. It’s also a nutritious light meal, embellished with some plump black olives and served with some fresh bread and butter.


lemon quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes and persian feta

bowl2It’s just passed 02:00am. Instead of sleeping, I’m listening to the sound of rain beating on the bedroom window; steady, soft, dull and rhythmic. A lone bus drifts down the highway, groaning under the weight of tired passengers and reinforced steel. I feel equally heavy. Strained under the weight of contemplation, emotion and unreasonable alertness.

I fidget, shifting my weight from right to left. Cold fingers tap incessantly on black keys, futilely aiming to translate muddled thoughts.

Type. Erase. Type…. rephrase. Begin again.

Progress. Fail. Darn it.

tommontBy now, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing such a bleak introduction to a vibrant, colourful recipe post. I’m not really sure; my brain has many things to say, but my heart and hands aren’t adequate translators. Let me start with a small recollection of recent events.

Earlier this evening, Aaron and I visited two beautiful friends of ours, Brett and Kendall Stanford. I’m being completely honest in saying that Brett and Kendall are some of the best people you could ever meet: warm, gentle, kind, strong, ridiculously funny, faithful and wise. They’re both generous and loving in every sense of the word.


By day, Brett works as a physiotherapist in a private clinic. He donates his weekends and extra time to Perth-based basketball trick shot group How Ridiculous, which you may have heard of in relation to their Guinness World Record for highest basketball shot (66.89m / 219 ft 5 in). Since 2009, these four Perth guys have been making basketball trick shot videos as a source of both entertainment and sponsorship for the not-for-profit organization Compassion. They’ve been featured by media worldwide and have over 72K subscribers on YouTube. Everything they do radiates genuine passion for the alleviation of poverty, worldwide.

On the other hand, Kendall is one of the sweetest, kindest nurses that you could ever wish to meet. She has a generous heart for people and has been a loyal friend to Aaron and I for many years now. She sung at our wedding at short notice, standing in the boiling sun for sound checks with a bad sound system and persistent flies (nevertheless, she was wonderful, as was Chris, who sung and played with her). Aaron and I attended the Stanford wedding around one month later, hand-in-hand as husband and wife, with smiles from ear to ear. It was beautiful, memorable… uniquely Brett and Kendall.

avoLast Sunday, Aaron and I read a message from Brett that has since permanently burned into the back of our minds. Around four weeks ago, Kendall began experiencing increased fatigue, headaches and facial swelling. After many investigations, she was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Yes, cancer. It’s scary. I’m angry, sad and frustrated all at the same time. Kendall’s diagnosis brings back memories of my beautiful mother suffering through breast cancer surgery, then months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy a few years ago. It’s a fate that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, particularly not a woman of 24 years.

Kendall has now commenced chemotherapy, and the rest of us have commenced a routine of prayer, more prayer and practical help as required. A few days ago, Kendall sent me a message to ask if I could bring them a bite of dinner on Thursday night. I jumped at the chance, ecstatic to be able to do something tangibly ‘helpful’. I brought over this salad (below) with warm bread, dips and slow-cooked lamb. I hoped that the food would be palatable, nourishing and satisfying, but I still felt a little bit… well, ineffective. Kendall jokingly remarked in a text, ‘…we may want to be on your blog too’. So, after some thought, that’s exactly what I did.

fetacloseAs Kendall tells her story much better than I can, I’d encourage you to read her beautifully honest words over at Kendall Stanford: As I Battle Lymphoma. She’s planning to write updates as she progresses through the next few months, both as a personal means of catharsis and for information sharing. As for me, I’ve signed up for the ‘food roster’ (actually, I requested that she create a food roster!) so you may see a few more Kendall updates on here as time passes, if it feels right to do so.

One last request: if you’re a Christian as we are, I’d like to humbly ask you to please pray alongside us, specifically for Kendall, Brett, their families and friends, the treating doctors involved in her care… and otherwise as you feel led. We’re praying for victory, healing and renewed strength. Thanks beautiful friends. I appreciate every one of you.


This salad is simple, nourishing and comforting, speckled with lemon zest and fresh garden herbs. If you don’t have quinoa, you can easily substitute it for brown rice, bulgur (burghul) or cous cous.

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Goats Cheese

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 cup dry organic white Royal Quinoa
  • 200g punnet mixed cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1/2 red capsicum, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 avocado, seed and peel removed
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber (substitute half a telegraph cucumber)
  • 1/2 small Spanish onion, outer peel removed
  • 1 handful washed Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 handful washed coriander leaves (retain stalk)
  • 1 large unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup organic Persian marinated feta
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer, then rinse it thoroughly under fresh cold water. Swish the quinoa around with your hands, rubbing slightly to remove the bitter outer coating (called saponin, which can contribute a slightly bitter or soapy flavour).

Drain well, then place into a medium saucepan with two cups of fresh cold water. Replace the lid and bring the mixture to a rolling boil; immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer, then cook with the lid on for 10-15 minutes.

lemonycookedWhen your quinoa is cooked, the liquid should be fully absorbed and the germ should slightly curl away from the quinoa seeds. Allow to stand for five minutes (covered) then add in a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and the fresh lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

caponionChop your cherry tomatoes, capsicum, Spanish onion, cucumber and avocado into small (0.5 x 0.5cm) dice. Place into a medium bowl, then squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the rest of the raw ingredients with the lemony quinoa, crumbled Persian feta, a good drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

finmontServe this salad on its own or topped with warm chickpeas, freshly grilled chicken, fish or a handful of toasted pepitas. It’s also great as part of a Summer barbecue spread with a selection of salads, meat and some cold beer.


  • Quinoa (‘keen wah’) is one of the most nutrient rich grains around. It’s an excellent source of iron (needed to transport oxygen around the body), B vitamins for energy, calcium and magnesium (for healthy nervous system function) and vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).
  • For more information on quinoa (including basic cooking ratios) see my previous post, Quinoa Salad with Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate and Mint.
  • The Australian website has a nice little collection of quinoa recipes here. Beautiful, versatile nutrition. Love it.
  • This salad can be easily veganised by omitting the Persian feta. I’d recommend additions of toasted pepitas, chickpeas or other nuts for added substance, texture and flavour.


quinoa salad with preserved lemon, pomegranate and mint


Crimson red, forest green, flecks of gold and snow-capped white. Absolutely everywhere? Yep, that’s the Christmas season for you. Alternatively, you could be sitting in a camp Italian restaurant waiting for garlicky pasta marinara… but since it’s December, let’s go with the former.

Hm, Christmas. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost upon us… in nine days to be exact. I’m only half way through my Christmas shopping but I’ve already celebrated three times this month; with work, family and most recently, with friends around an apartment barbecue. This gathering, albeit informal, contained pretty much all that I love about Christmas. We shared great food and weird stories around an improvised table before crashing on the floor to watch Charlie the Unicorn with rich cocoa brownies and wine in mismatched glasses.


Strangely, there was no tinsel in sight. No pudding either. We did, however, celebrate the year that was, whilst thanking God for His strength that brought us through every circumstance. Now, I know that for some people ‘religious talk’ is a big turn off in any context, especially in an otherwise non-religious blog post. But since it’s December, nine days away from Christmas, please grant me one line: I believe that Jesus Christ is the one gift that matters, the Saviour for all eternity and the biggest reason to lift our hearts in celebration this Christmas and always.

There, that’s it. If you’d like to find out more, or if you have no idea what I’m going on about, take a look here (also check out Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20). If you don’t want to bother, then don’t. Okay, on with the recipe post.


In my opinion, today’s recipe is perfect for a balmy Australian Christmas. It’s deliciously light, fresh and healthy but will add a touch of Christmas colour and complexity to your festive table. The main ingredients you’ll need are quinoa, pomegranate, mint and preserved lemon. I’ve discussed quinoa previously in my Honey Chia Muesli Slice post, but in a nutshell it’s the seed of an Andean flowering plant that’s full of vitamins, complete protein and minerals. It’s both delicious and good for you, especially when complimented by complex flavours such as goat’s cheese, mint, pomegranate seeds and toasted nuts.

This salad was happily devoured at our communal barbecue with creamy potato and bacon salad, Heirloom tomato salad, fresh kaiser rolls, homemade beetroot relish, chicken kebabs and garlicky Scotch fillet steaks. It’s a beautiful feeling to bring joy to people through the medium of food, especially during the holiday season. I hope that this recipe will become a valued (and healthy) part of your festive repertoire this Summer.


Quinoa Salad with Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate and Mint

Serves 3-4 as a light meal or 6 as an accompaniment

  • 3/4 cup dry organic white Royal Quinoa
  • 1/4 cup dry organic black Royal Quinoa
  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, a few leaves reserved
  • 2 quarters (or half) of a preserved lemon*
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds removed, pith and skin discarded (see below for preparation tips)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or Danish feta
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, lightly toasted then coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a fresh lemon (or to taste)
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • pomegranate molasses* (optional)

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then rinse it thoroughly under fresh cold water. Swish the quinoa around with your hands, rubbing slightly to remove the bitter outer coating (called saponin, which can contribute a slightly bitter or soapy flavour). Drain well, then place your quinoa in a medium saucepan. Add in two cups of fresh cold water, replace the lid and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Immediately lower the heat so that the mixture simmers gently, then cook with the lid in place for about 15 minutes. When your quinoa is cooked, the liquid should be fully absorbed and the germ should slightly curl away from the quinoa seeds. Allow to stand for five minutes, covered, then add in a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, the lemon juice, some sea salt and black pepper. Place into a medium bowl then set aside.


Start preparing your preserved lemon: remove and discard the flesh from the rinds. Rinse the rinds well under fresh cold water then pat them dry with a paper towel. Chop finely with a very sharp knife; first lengthways then crossways as below:


Add the prepared rind to your quinoa, then set aside. Next, remove the seeds from your pomegranate. There are several ways to do this without resembling a blood-splattered butcher, but my favourite method is practiced by Sanam at My Persian Kitchen. Check out her tutorial here. Once you’ve dislodged your seeds, make sure that there’s no remaining white pith, skin or membrane attached then add them to your bowl of ingredients with the chopped mint, crumbled cheese, three quarters of the nuts and an extra splash of olive oil. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper. Add in a little more lemon juice if desired.


To serve, place your quinoa salad into a clean bowl or onto a serving platter, then garnish with a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses, the extra nuts, reserved mint leaves and some black pepper. Serve on it’s own, or as an accompaniment with some grilled harissa chicken and a dollop of mint-infused Greek yoghurt.



  • *Preserved lemons are made by quartering fresh lemons and packing them tightly in sterilised jars with salt and lemon juice. After a few weeks, the rind and pith soften into a delicious, slightly salty, intensely lemony condiment that’s perfect to add to salads, tagines, and pretty much any other North African or Moroccan dish. Read more about preserved lemons here.
  • *Pomegranate molasses (above) is a concentrated form of pomegranate juice. It’s sticky, sweetly tart and slightly syrupy, and it adds an extra dimension of deliciousness to this dish if you can purchase some. I order mine via mail from Herbie’s at Gourmet Shopper, see link. It’s also delicious in cocktails or in marinades for chicken or fish.
  • Quinoa ratios for cooking: as a general rule, one cup dry quinoa yields about three cups of cooked quinoa. Always use the ratio of one part dry quinoa to two parts water or other liquids. You can also soak quinoa in the same amount of liquid to ease digestive processes whilst maintaining nutrients in an almost-raw state. See this tutorial for more details. It also helps remove some of the bitter saponin that I mentioned above.
  • Feel free to experiment with various stocks and soaking liquids to add extra flavour. I’ve also cooked quinoa in water with a splash of maple syrup to create a sweet-ish breakfast porridge, crowned with fresh creamy ricotta, toasted almonds, a sprinkle of cinnamon and grated orange zest. So delicious and so good for you.
  • Quinoa adapts incredibly well to any recipe that calls for seeds or grains. I’ve used it successfully as a substitute for bulgur in Tabbouleh whilst also reinventing salads traditionally inhabited by Couscous. You’ll be pleased to know that it completely overwhelms the nutritional value of each.


honey chia muesli slice. and homemade nut butter

In approximately three months, I’m going to wake up, wipe the drool from my cheek and look in the mirror at my 29 year old face. Twenty nine. That makes me feel ridiculously old, even though I know that in the bigger scheme of things it’s just a number. In fact, it’s no more significant than the mileage on your car… oh wait, maybe that’s a bad example. Ahem, let me correct myself: I’m not yet 30. And in my still-28-year-old brain, that is good.

Anyway, on a more positive note there are plenty of great things about getting older. For me, they mostly center around relationships, self-awareness, a distinct lack of pimples and… well, the fact that I’ve finally gained enough life experience to be classified as ‘wisdom’. Though I’m definitely not a sage, there are some deeper realizations that have penetrated my subconscious:

  • Freckles are good. For the first time in my life, I’ve completely abandoned all efforts to erase the evident dappling across my nose and cheeks. It’s hard, but I’m accepting the position that I don’t have to look like a magazine model to be beautiful, as with uniqueness comes a beauty distinct from all others. Plus, if God the Master Artist put the blotches on the canvas, they’re automatically good, right?
  • Limitations are real. The human body and mind get tired. They need rest, not coffee. And every now and then there will be something that, no matter how hard you try, you’ll be unable to achieve. And that, my friends, is okay.
  • You can’t please everyone. There’s no point trying, as you’ll just get tired and burn yourself up like a strand of hair in a candle flame. You’ll probably smell just as bad, too.
  • We are not immortal. The body has a limited ability to self-repair. Some things that break cannot be organically fixed, such as eardrums, rotator cuffs, eyes and natural teeth. So, to avoid hobbling, gummy smiles and future surgery I’m engaging my responsible self. You should too.
  • Fat does happen. For a very long time I was blessed with the ability to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, whilst remaining as thin as a rail. In fact, I hated being thin. Stupid me. I no longer have that luxury and at the ripe old age of 28, I’m finally taking a sensible interest in nutrition and exercise. And you know what? It’s been fun.

Okay, so I’m probably pushing it with the bullet points. And I’ve glossed over enough deep issues in one paragraph to stimulate the immediate ingestion of a Tim Tam in most people. But… well, don’t. Because I’m going to spend the rest of this post telling you about a metabolism boosting snack that’s not only just as delicious, but also one hundred times better for your heart and waistline. It’s packed full of nutrient-rich nuts, chia seeds, oats and toasted quinoa, lightly wrapped in homemade honey almond butter. Interested? Well, read on. Then keep reading, as I’ve compiled enough nutritional information about nuts, seeds and metabolism in this post to sink a ship (full of very healthy people, should they have applied what they’d learnt).

Honey Chia Muesli Slice

Makes around 24 pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups wholegrain rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white royal quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup white or black chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I use raisins, chopped dates & chopped apricots)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave syrup (probably add a little less agave initially, then adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup natural nut butter (see recipe below)
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Line a square baking pan (about 8 inch/20cm) with greaseproof paper and set aside.

Combine the oats, nuts and seeds. Tip them onto a baking tray, spreading them out evenly before toasting them for 15 minutes in your preheated oven. Meanwhile, combine your honey, nut butter, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When smooth & well combined, remove from heat & allow to cool slightly.

When your oat mixture is pale golden, transfer it to a large bowl and add your dried fruit alongside the nut butter mixture, stirring to incorporate. The mixture should be adhesive (sticking together in clumps); if it appears to still be quite separate, add in a little extra nut butter. Once at your desired consistency, spread the mixture in the prepared lined pan, using the back of a wooden spoon or bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture together firmly. Ensure that it has a smooth, even surface with no cracks.

Bake your slice for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden and crisp round the edges. Remove from the oven and allow the to cool completely in the pan.

To serve: When cool, remove from the tin and lift onto a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut the sheet into one-inch wide bars. Next, cut the series of bars in half, lengthwise. Store in an airtight container.

  •  Feel free to substitute any dried fruits, nuts or grains into the above recipe, as long as the total fruit/nut content equals around 3 1/2 cups.
  • If you don’t have natural nut butter, feel free to substitute with store-bought nut butter (preferably low salt, low sugar). Macro wholefoods make a pretty delicious natural almond butter, cashew butter, organic peanut butter and unhulled tahini that you can buy online or from your local Woolworths supermarket.
  • You can also substitute 50g melted dairy butter, or about 1/4-1/2 cup applesauce for the nut butter, reducing the amount of honey or agave to accommodate the natural sweetness of the apples. If you use applesauce, please also be aware that your bars will be soft and chewy due to the increased moisture content.
  • Make sure you let the bars cool completely in the tin before cutting them, as they’ll be soft and fracture when straight out of the oven.
Homemade Nut Butter
Makes about 1 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted nuts
  • A couple of pinches of salt to taste
  • Raw honey to taste
  • Pure nut oil (macadamia or walnut oil work well)

Place your nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, then grind until the nuts until the mix starts to form a coarse paste around the blade. Scrape down the sides of your food processor bowl, then process again until the mix starts to become smooth and creamy. If necessary, add a couple of splashes of nut oil to aid the process (start sparingly, as you can always add more oil but trying to save oily nut butter is… well, almost impossible).

Taste, then add salt and honey as required. Process again until the mixture reaches the consistency you like. I prefer a bit of texture to remain as you can see in the photograph, but if you prefer yours smooth, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Do a final taste test, then pulse one final time. Store your nut butter in sterilized jars in the fridge (see notes) for up to two weeks.

  • As there are no preservatives you will need to keep this nut butter in the fridge to prevent the natural oils from going rancid. Prior to eating, leave it out of the fridge for 15 minutes or so, or place a couple of tablespoons on a plate and microwave it on low for 20 seconds.
  • You can use the recipe above to make any nut butter, just make sure that your nuts are toasted prior to processing for maximum flavour and colour. My favourites are honey peanut butter, spiced cashew butter (with honey, some organic cinnamon & cardamom pods crushed to a fine ground) and chocolate hazelnut butter (add in grated dark chocolate for an instant grown-up version of nutella… delicious).

Some facts about nuts, seeds & metabolism (and fat)*:

Various people I know seem to think that if they drop their total caloric intake for the day as low as possible (eg. by skipping meals or eating plain lettuce) they will automatically lose weight. This is not essentially true, and in fact, it can cause the metabolism to slow down by sending the body into ‘starvation mode’ (this basically means that your body will burn food slower, and potentially store it as fat just in case the next meal never arrives. Clever body, huh? But not helpful for losing weight).

A more sensible option is to adjust your diet as follows:

  • Choose foods that are rich in essential nutrients to a total of the recommended caloric intake for your gender and size, whilst also factoring in your activity level (sedentary, light activity or very active).
  • Even if you’re aiming to lose weight, don’t drop your total caloric intake lower than 1,000 per day (this will avoid putting your body into ‘starvation mode’ whilst also ensuring that your brain and organs get enough essential energy. Weight loss diets recommend an intake of around 1,200 calories per day).
  • Split your planned food for the day into lots of small meals, rather than three large ones. This keeps your metabolism alert and constantly working, boosting your digestive process whilst also stabilizing blood sugar levels to fuel muscles and organs.
  • Choosing foods that are naturally harder for the body to digest naturally means that the body will use up more energy in the digestion process. This in turn increases the metabolic rate, boosting your metabolism.
  • Foods in this category include those rich in protein and fibre, such as chicken, fish, egg whites, leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, oats, nuts and seeds. Many of these foods also have a low glycaemic index whilst being rich in essential vitamins, minerals and fats.

So… more about nuts and seeds. You may have noticed that I’ve been sneaking them into every recipe possible in either their raw form or toasted to golden, crunchy perfection. They’re slowly multiplying in every corner of the kitchen; the state of my pantry is ridiculous. All you have to do is open the door and some variety of embryonic plant will hit you in the face.

So why the obsession? Well, a big factor is that they’re just darn delicious… buttery, crunchy, and full of savoury goodness. The secondary major benefit is that they’re incredibly good for you, with health benefits as follows:

  • Protein: both nuts and seeds are a rich source of plant protein, containing on average 18.9g of protein per 100g.
  • High in good fats: meaning the mono- and polyunsaturated varieties alongside protective flavonoids, all of which are essential for managing inflammation, maintaining normal cell structure and lowering risks of heart disease
  • High in energy: this basically means that they have lots of calories. Yes, too many calories without activity can lead to weight gain, but otherwise, calories can be a good thing. They help to fuel the brain and muscles, whilst complementary plant protein assists with the building of lean muscle mass.
  • Manages hunger: almonds and sunflower seeds are active in the suppression of ghrelin, the hormone that tells you you’re hungry.  Basically, this means you’ll be satisfied for longer.
  • Minerals: nuts contain magnesium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus needed for bone development, immunity and energy production, alongside essential B vitamins and vitamin E for healthy skin.

In terms of obsessions, I’d say that this is probably one of my healthier ones to date. In comparison to my previous (ok, current) addictions such as chocolate and ice cream I’m getting a lot more nutritional benefit and lasting energy in every bite.

That’s definitely a worthy reason to be squirreling away honey chia bars, muesli and raw almonds in my desk drawer, right? I’m gonna say a big, healthy yes.

Above: organic white, red and black royal quinoa. Amazingly good for you, and darn delicious.

*Please note (get ready for an anal disclaimer): I am neither a dietitian or a nutritionist. All of the nutritional information included in this post has been shared in good faith with reference to various books and websites such as Livestrong and Metabolism Boosters. For good results, a solid diet must be combined with regular exercise (no, not walking from the sofa to the fridge and back). If you have any individual health or dietary concerns, please consult your local General Practitioner or a qualified dietitian.

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