Have a Healthy Holiday

You can have a healthy holiday season! I love to indulge over Christmas – there is just so much good stuff to try! But I also love knowing that my New Year’s Day isn’t going to be filled with regret and too-tight skinny jeans. This holiday season I am striving for balance. Balancing cookies with smoothies; nights on the couch with hot yoga or massive walking sessions with my sister; and long ‘to do’ lists with periods of stillness.

Let’s all have a happy, healthy holiday this Christmas 2014 and get 2015 off to a nourished start!

smoothie ingredients

Keep it healthy when you can: FOOD! Glorious FOOD! It is everywhere at this time of year, and you just know that I love me cookies of all kinds, candy canes, whipped cream on pretty much everything, and big scoops of ice cream to help beat the heat. From the office to the shopping centre to parties and everywhere in between this time of year is all about the food. I am okay with that. When I can though I keep it super healthy: yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, big salads for lunch and dinners when we are at home, and minimal snacking. That way when I do indulge I can enjoy it and know that I am going to be back on track at the next meal.

Make it about something other than food: I know what I just said above, but sometimes all the FOOD gets to me and I need to remember that there are so many other things to enjoy about this season: time with family, visiting people’s Christmas displays, more time for reading, seeing friends – there are so many other things to focus on other than the food. Put in some quality time with the ones you love and leave the cookies alone for a while if you need to.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Let yourself indulge: When you do indulge, absolve yourself of guilt. Don’t even let it in the door. The best way to ruin a Christmas get together with friends and family is to worry about how many calories you are going to eat, and how you are going to burn them off. Trust me – I’ve been there, and worrying about food is the best way to trigger a binge and suck all the fun out of the indulgence of the season. Take a deep breath. Let yourself enjoy the yummy things your friends and family have created to enjoy with you. Eat your favourites, try something new and delicious, and rest assured that you can indulge without getting off the rails.

run christmas

Get a Quick Fix: I love long walks on the beach while I’m away, but I also need to work up a bigger sweat sometimes in between cookie, wine, or cheese consumption. HIIT is the perfect answer for holiday workouts that really deliver results. For an at-home workout I write down a list of 10 exercises – a  mix of weighted exercises (like squats with shoulder press) and cardio (skipping or step-ups onto a sturdy chair) and then run through it for 15 minutes without stopping. Rest for a minute and repeat. 30 minutes later I am sweaty and happy!

Try something new! I love trying out new types of exercise with my sister. We are both totally uncoordinated and willing to laugh at ourselves (and each other) so working up a sweat becomes a laughing session as well – it must burn some extra calories! We just finished up a free trial of some gym classes and this summer we are going to work on our balance with some hot yoga classes. Hilarity shall ensue. Find a friend, find a class that you haven’t tried and work up a seasonal sweat! You’ll be ahead of the game when the new year comes around – and you might have just found an exercise buddy to keep you motivated well after January 31st.

walks with storm and Jess

Check yourself before you wreck yourself: I am the queen of stress, the empress of loading myself down with way too many things to accomplish. I have learned (with a lot of help from Chris) that I need to check in with myself and ask myself whether all the things on my ‘to do’ list are necessary. Will people be disappointed because I only baked cupcakes and didn’t get time to do the cookies? Or am I better off making the cupcakes and enjoying myself, and leaving time to watch ‘West Wing’ with Chris? I’m learning that I cannot do it all, and that’s okay. So take a red pen to that ‘To Do’ list and cross out the overload.

Take some time to breathe: Further to my point above – take some time out of the shopping, baking, wrapping, visiting – and just spend some time on yourself! Find the quiet corner of a cafe, order a seasonal beverage and let yourself get lost in a book; schedule a massage and let the therapist work out the seasonal tension from your body; line up your favourite snacks along the side of the couch, make yourself a cup of tea, pop in a Christmas movie, and settle in for the slow down; pop in your headphones, turn up the Mariah Christmas album (you have it, everyone does) and walk until you have zoned out. Just find an activity that makes you feel nourished inside, away from the hustle and bustle and unnecessary pressure.

Pool day

Take time to enjoy the moment: The most important part of the season is family and friends. Stop, look around, and realise how many hearts touch yours and how many people you have to be grateful for in your life. Be in the moment with those loved ones, and carry that gratitude in your heart all year long.

Okay folks, these are my tips for a healthy Thoroughly Nourished Life holiday season! What are your tips for staying healthy and happy over the festive season?

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free

These brownies are what I imagine it would taste like to be caught inside your house during a snowstorm with a mug of hot chocolate and a candy cane in hand beside a crackling fireplace. Candy cane and white chocolate pieces sprinkled throughout the batter, a thick coating of fluffy chocolate frosting, and a shower of candy cane pieces make these brownies into a festive treat sure to please the sweetest of teeth.

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeThe idea for these brownies came to me last week while I was completely uninterested in actually eating food, but still of course dreaming about food! Mint and chocolate is a classic Christmas combination, and what better way to combine the two than in a brownie – with frosting and candy cane sprinkles!

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeThese brownies are based on my Melt and Mix Chocolate Brownies, but this time they are gluten free and all gussied up for Christmas. You will love these brownies for the following reasons:

  • they are full of chocolate (white and dark) goodness,
  • you can taste the peppermint in each bite,
  • they are a contrast of chewy, under-cooked brownie and fluffy sweet frosting, and
  • you can put them together quickly (only one bowl required) so that you have more time for all your other Christmas tasks – Santa’s not the only one who has a list!

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

I made these brownies for the people who run the farmers market coffee shop. Every week rain, hail or shine they are there making us perfect cups of coffee and bringing warmth and caffeinated cheer. There were eye rolls of pleasure as they bit into the chewy brownies and licked my best fluffy chocolate peppermint buttercream off their fingers. Some of my colleagues saw the photo on Facebook and were most disappointed that there weren’t any left to share! Never fear guys and girls, there are plenty of treats coming your way this week!

Frosted Peppermint Brownies 6

You are going to love how easy these are to make. One bowl, one spoon, one pan to bake it all in! Wash your bowl and spoon and use them to make the frosting once your brownies have cooled down. The less extra mess in the kitchen this December, the better.

You are also going to love the chewiness here. The small amount of gluten free flours in ratio to the chocolate, butter, and eggs makes for chewy, dense brownies – the kind that are so rich that one should do, but never does. Add crushed candy canes, white chocolate bits, and a cap of peppermint frosting and the Christmas flavouring is complete!

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Frosted Peppermint Brownies

Gluten Free | Makes 16-20 (depending on how big you cut them) | Store for up to three days in the fridge

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 8 medium candy canes
  • 125 grams dark (60-70%) chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 grams butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 40 grams hazelnut meal
  • 40 grams buckwheat flour
  • 40 grams white rice flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

To frost and decorate

  • 100 grams butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar (ensure this is gluten free)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C (320F) and line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Place candy canes into a plastic freezer bag. Place bag inside a doubled over tea towel. Use a rolling pin (or meat tenderiser) to crush candy canes into small shards. Divide into two even piles and place aside until required.
  3. In a large saucepan melt butter and chocolate together over a low heat. Stir until smooth.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in all remaining ingredients. Reserve half the crushed candy canes for decorating the top of the brownies.
  5. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. This should take about 30-35 minutes.
  7. Allow brownies to cool completely before frosting and decorating as desired.
  8. To make the frosting: place butter in a large bowl and use a handmixer or wooden spoon (earn those brownies!) to beat until smooth and light. Add icing sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla essence, peppermint extract and 2 tablespoons milk. Beat until smooth. You may have to add the extra tablespoon of milk if your frosting is too stiff.
  9. Spread frosting over cooled brownies and sprinkle with remaining crushed candy canes.
  10. Slice into pieces as desired and serve.

Frosted Peppermint Brownies | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

For more peppermingoodness try these:

Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Fifty

Our house currently smells like Christmas. The scent of Frosted Peppermint Brownies is mingling with Spiced Almond and White Chocolate Blondies (both coming up soon, and both the perfect quick-mix solution to last minute holiday sweet requirements – enough advertising) and I am lying in fresh sheets just enjoying feeling hale and hearty again while watching Mr Stephen Colbert do his hilarious thing. Of course, the most important thing about this moment is that Chris and I are both recovered from our mysterious virus and ready to continue the festive season in a healthy spirit. Here is my Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Fifty:

Monday: Today started with Chris very unwell. We waited for the doctors to open, got Chris some metoclopramide (anti-vomit wonder drug) and then shuffled him back to bed for the day. I was grateful when I came home from work that he was looking a lot better, and grateful to the doctors for taking such good care of him.

cherry cake

Tuesday: With fifteen people in the meeting room today I had a busy one on my hands, and I was grateful to my workmates for helping me keep everything running smoothly. After work I had a much needed stress-busting run and Chris took me out for a sushi dinner at a new restaurant that is sure to become a favourite (so many vegetarian coeliac options).

Wednesday: Today started with a 2am drive to our local emergency room (they are getting to know us down there…). Once again I am floored by the care and concern and love this man shows for me. The universe has given me a gift that I am grateful for everyday. Chris took such good care of me today, and even when all I wanted to eat was oranges, he rushed out to procure them so I could finally put something in my belly. He definitely deserves his Christmas presents this year!

grey sky walk

Thursday: Thanks to the wonder of doctors and drugs I was back up and at ‘em today and off to get stuff done at work. I was grateful for my workmates keeping everything running smoothly while I was away, and when I started to flag in the afternoon I was grateful when they sent me home to rest so I could be back on my feet sooner. Chris and I even managed to make it out for a quiet dinner – and I got to eat something real for the first time in two days! It was the best pasta I have ever tasted. Actually, I’m thinking of re-creating this simple, veggie and herb filled pasta sauce in the new year…

Friday: Today we sent off the trailers that we have been working hard on for the Army for the last year and a half. We stopped for a group shot of all of us celebrating this important milestone. I was grateful to see the physical product of what, to me, is mostly paperwork and editing marks.

apricots

Saturday: My weekend got off to a nourishing start with a market breakfast date with Mum and Jess. We talked about Christmas plans (family dinner, sleepover with my sister, and family breakfast – yay!) and I bought a massive watermelon (just can’t get enough at the moment). Tonight Chris and I headed off to join my workmates at our annual Christmas party! Our company is so lovely as to book out one of the best seafood restaurants in Brisbane (happy Chris) and pop endless bottles of champagne (happy Amy). We had an amazing night hanging out with our friends Jess and Bruno and followed up the Christmas party with a little dancing, and a sleepover at their house. I am grateful for the friends that this job has brought to me.

Dad birthday

Sunday: Today Jess drove us home (thanks Jess) so Chris and I could join Mum, Dad and (sister) Jess to celebrate Dad’s birthday with morning tea. I am grateful for my Dad, who is both father, friend, teacher, inspiration, and (loving) tormentor. With every birthday that passes I am grateful for everything he has sacrificed for my sister and I, all the work he did to make sure that we never went without, and all the love that he has shown us every step of the way. Love you Dad. This afternoon I walked off my chocolate cake breakfast (you just gotta do it sometimes) and baked some blondies as a Merry Christmas to some of my co-workers.

Also this week:

  • I couldn’t get enough of this cake last weekend – you need to make this one, trust me!
  • My sister made my Gingerbread Cupcakes for her workplace and they loved them (secret thrill when I hear this!)
  • I may be getting one of these for Christmas, and I may be just a little (okay, a lot) excited…

Tell me, dear readers, what are you grateful for this week? Also, I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to your comment yet, I was out of action for a few days and I’m still catching up!

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free

Sweet seasonal cherries are baked beneath a cardamom and ginger scented cake and then flipped over to magical effect. This upside down cake makes the most of summer produce – generous slices would be perfect for a Christmas Eve breakfast or as a dessert to share at your next festive get together.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life ‘Tis the season for glorious stone fruit; heaping piles of jewelled offerings on display at the farmers markets, roadside stalls, and produce aisles. Peaches soft as baby skin, nectarines brightly painted like parrots, tiny apricots as small as the top of my thumb, and there, shining like dark rubies, the sweetest of cherries.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeI have been eating these sweet seasonal beauties by the handful, plucked out of the fridge after a gym session, stolen bunches while I’m making dinner, and long lazy afternoon reading sessions with an abundant bowl beside me that soon becomes nothing but stalks and pits. I have never cooked with cherries before, but they are a festive food in our household. My grandmother makes a Danish dessert for Christmas some years called risalamande, which is essentially an almond flavoured rice pudding dish served with hot cherry sauce. I was never a fan as a child, but when I kept eating handfuls of cherries this season, these memories inspired me to try a baked good to celebrate their passing seasonal presence.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life I combined memories of sweet cherries, with the spices that you know I love oh so much, and baked them into a fluffy cake bottomed topped with jammy baked cherries. We enjoyed thick slices for breakfast at the markets on Saturday, and I continued snacking on it all weekend until there were only crumbs left – thank goodness there were some runs to break up the cake!

I think this cake would make the perfect breakfast on Christmas Eve, or even a dessert (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream of course) for a family Christmas dinner.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeA note on pitting cherries. My Mum has an awesome cherry pitting tool (also useful for olives I believe) however, in my current kitchen the options were limited. I found this method using a metal piping tip from Chatelaine that very easy, and while not all of my cherries made it through intact, they were tightly squished together in the base of the pan so it didn’t matter too much, any that were a little too damaged for the cake were a tasty baker’s reward.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Gluten Free | Serves 8-12 | Leftovers will keep well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams (1 pound) cherries, pitted
  • 100 grams buckwheat flour
  • 50 grams white rice flour
  • 50 grams brown rice flour
  • 100 grams almond meal
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (22.5cm) round cake tin and line bottom with baking paper.
  2. Place pitted cherries in the bottom of the tin in a single layer. Set aside
  3. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
  4. In a large mixing bowl using handheld beaters, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, maple syrup and extracts until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
  6. Turn the mixing speed to low add half the dry ingredients, beating until just mixed. Add milk and beat well – mixture may look curdled, don’t worry this is normal. Add remaining dry ingredients.
  7. Spoon batter over cherries in prepared tin and smooth the top.
  8. Give the tin two small taps on the counter to get rid of air bubbles around the fruit.
  9. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin. To serve, place a plate on top of the cake tin, and carefully invert the cake so that the tin is on top and the plate is on the bottom. The cake should slide easily out and onto the plate. Remove baking paper from the top and serve.

Cherry Upside Down Cake | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

 

Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Forty-Nine

Dear Week Forty-Nine 2014, you were very intense, let’s not do that for a while, m’kay? Still, you contained a lot of good things too, and coming to the end of the year there is so much to be grateful for. While I eat a massive bowl of watermelon (yay summer!) and watch a documentary on sharks, let’s take some time to reflect on what happened and all there was to be grateful for in my Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Forty-Nine.

wall hanging

Monday: The first day of the month! I was grateful for a reminder from Leonie Dawson that we still have a month left of 2014 and the chance to make it a perfect one. Not perfect as in everything will go right and all events tied with a big red holiday bow, but perfect for  practicing gratitude and trying to spend more time with family and friends.

Tuesday: Today I was grateful to wake up early for a workout. I always feel better when I start my day with my heart beating loud and summer sweat dripping off my face. It makes sitting in an office for 9 hours a lot more tolerable too!

run happy

Wednesday: Today was a long one at work. 13.5 hours long to be exact. When I got home from work I was grateful to see Chris. I was also incredibly grateful that he got dinner for me, and tucked me into bed when I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I am grateful for this man who steps up to the mark when work demands are high.

Thursday: Another long day that I won’t bore you with, but I was grateful for my colleagues today. One of the guys in the logistics department treated me to a cup of coffee for helping out their team, and one of the other ladies in the office stayed behind to help me to get out some files that were rushed last minute at the end of the day.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeFriday: When I woke up this morning I just didn’t feel right, and after two days of hard work my body just needed a rest. I was grateful for a day of pottering around the kitchen, feeling the spirit of the season starting to come to life.

linzertorte

Saturday: Today I joined Mum and Jess at the markets for breakfast and fitted in an intense run before heading to lunch with my family to celebrate my Mormor’s 80th birthday! I am grateful to still have her in my life, and to be able to learn from and listen to stories from her life in Denmark, as a newcomer to Australia, and as a single mother to three little girls in the 60s and 70s. She has taught me so much about being a person in the world and striving for the best you can do, but enjoying what you have while you are working hard for your dreams.

Sunday: This morning Mum and I finished making Christmas cards, Dad finished decorating the outside of the house, and I snuck a slice of Linzer Torte for breakfast. I was grateful for a Christmas filled morning with Mum before visiting the gym and snuggling inside the house to finish decorating our Christmas tree with Chris.

Christmas treeAlso this week:

  • This week got off to a sweet and spicy start with my gluten free Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
  • I adapted my Mum’s family recipe for Linzer Torte to a gluten free friendly version and we were all second-slice happy with the results.
  • Christmas calls for some time with my favourite authors, including Nora Roberts, I stole, ahem, borrowed The Witness from Mum and I am really enjoying it.

Tell me dear readers, what are you grateful for this week? How are your Christmas or holiday decorations and plans coming along? 

 

 

Linzer Torte | Gluten Free

Linzer torte is a simple and elegant jam-filled almond pastry tart that takes the simple and makes it special. This gluten free version is a treat that everyone can enjoy. Perfect for family gatherings, or as a contribution to a festive meal with friends. 

Linzer Torte | Gluten Free

I have a memory caught in my mind of my mother standing at the kitchen counter rolling out the dough to make linzer torte; long elegant fingers delicately handling the dough into the tart pan and trimming the excess and handing the scraps of dough to me to greedily devour, the almond taste new, strange and welcome to my learning taste buds.This is the way memories come back to me: the taste of something unwinds a memory that focuses on snapshots, still frames of sun-stained moments. A childhood memory of watching Mum spoon apricot and raspberry jam between perfectly cut lines of pastry atop a torte, the snapshot of her handing out the scraps for me and Jess to devour from our perches on chairs backed up the kitchen bench.

Linzer Torte | Gluten Free

The next time I look in the mirror I see a little more of my Mum there, a little something in the way my eyes tilt down and then crinkle up again when I smile, something in the planes of my face that wasn’t there when I was younger. I am still learning to handle the dough with care, to have a light touch with a rolling pin, to cut those perfect lines of pastry, and it might take me a few more trips to Mum’s kitchen to get it perfect – and there is the most valuable lesson I learned at that kitchen bench, from both my parents, perfection isn’t the goal of life, the goal is to create memories, precious sunlit snapshots of time with the ones you love. That is the best taste, the taste of love.

Linzer Torte | Gluten FreeLinzer Torte is a combination of short, crumbly sweet pastry that tastes like a shortbread cookie, but the best almond-lemon shortbread cookie you’ve ever eaten, and a generous, no, more than generous spread of the best jam you can find, thick and sweet. I recommend using a good jam for this. The kind that you bring out when you have company for breakfast. When the centre of your tart relies on sweet, delicious preserves, you need to use your favourite, good quality type.

Linzer Torte | Gluten FreeIf you are new to pastry, this gluten free, short crust pastry is very forgiving, and while the dough is quite delicate (mine tore while being transferred into the pastry tin) you can patch is without fear. The dough is based on almond meal, and the almond flavour is enhanced with almond essence and lightened with lemon zest and pairs so well with the generous amount of raspberry jam dolloped inside the tart. I topped mine with cut-out stars – it is Christmas after all! Serve slices of this on their own, or take it to the next festive level with some good quality vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Linzer Torte | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeLinzer Torte

Gluten Free | Serves 6-8 | Leftovers will keep, covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Note: I place my stick of butter in the freezer about 40 minutes before I need it. Chilled butter makes it easier to rub it into the flour without melting and helps to make the dough crumbly and rich like shortbread.
I used raspberry jam in my Linzer Torte, but you can use your preferred jam/conserve instead. Just ensure that it is real fruit made into jam/conserve, and not ‘fruit spread’.

Ingredients

  • 85 grams brown rice flour
  • 90 grams white rice flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
  • 125 grams butter, frozen
  • 120 grams almond meal
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon almond essence (depending on your taste)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup good quality fruit jam (my recommendation is raspberry)

 Method

  1. Grease an 20 cm (8-inch) removable base tart pan well and line the bottom with baking paper.
  2. Sift together brown rice flour and white rice flour. 
  3. Using a box grater, grate frozen butter into sifted flours. Stir gently with a fork and then rub butter into flours until large pea-sized chunks of butter remain.
  4. Add almond meal, caster sugar, and lemon rind to butter and flour mixture. Gently stir with a fork to combine.
  5. Beat together almond essence and eggs and add to bowl. Mix until the dough starts to come together into a large ball.
  6. Sprinkle a large piece of baking paper with rice flour. Place 3/4 of dough onto baking paper. Place another piece of baking paper on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out to a circle about 30 cm (12-inch) diameter and 0.5-.0.7 mm (~ 1/4 inch) thick.
  7. Transfer dough to tart pan and gently lift and press into tart pan. If you experience any tears, just patch them with the dough that overhangs the sides. Trim the sides to the be level with the top of the tart pan. Place tart and extra dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
  8. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). 
  9. Remove tart from refrigerator and spread jam evenly across the base. Roll out extra dough and cut out desired shapes. Arrange on the top of the tart.
  10. Bake tart for 25-30 minutes. The edges and shapes on top should start to golden and the jam should be bubbling slightly around the edges.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving. 

Linzer Torte | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Gingerbread Cupcakes | Gluten Free

Christmas in a cupcake. A fluffy, moist spiced cupcake topped with spicy-sweet cream cheese frosting combines the best flavours of the season all in each festive bite! I think I’ve found my favourite gluten free cupcake for the holiday season!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

This year I am ready for Christmas. I am ready for the time off to spend with my family, ready for the carols that I can’t help but sing along to, ready for the long hot summer days at the beach, and ready for all the tasty treats this season brings. For me, Christmas means bringing out all the spiced baked goods – I’m talking cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, all spice, nutmeg – bring on the dusky coloured jewels of the earth and tree and sprinkle them with abandon. Christmas time is here. So let’s get your baking season started with a heavenly pairing of fluffy cupcake and creamy frosting!

We didn’t make gingerbread in my house growing up, but my Mum makes beautiful spice cut-out cookies instead (coming soon!). As an adult though, I have grown to love gingerbread, and it’s all the better in cupcake form.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeMy Gingerbread Cupcakes are the perfect combination of tongue-tingling spices and deep sweetness contributed by honey, golden syrup, and brown sugar. These sweeteners, with the addition of thick Greek yoghurt and eggs, make the crumb of the cupcakes extra moist with an almost caramelised sweetness. The fluffy cream cheese frosting echoes the spices in the cupcakes – this is my favourite frosting, and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that while making these cupcakes I danced around the kitchen to ‘All I Want For Christmas is You‘  (by the one and only Mariah, of course) with a frosting-spoon microphone and a sticky grin. Do try it at least once this season.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

The cupcake representation here on the blog has expanded over the past few months and I can attribute that to finding the secret to a moist, non-crumbly gluten free cupcake: ground chia seeds. These little gems, once ground up in a coffee or spice grinder and mixed with the liquid being used in your cupcake mixture give the crumb wonderful structure. Chia seeds provide the elasticity that is missing when you take gluten away from your baking. This simple addition means your gluten free baked goods feel more like ‘gluten-full’ baked goods! Goodbye crumbly cupcakes; hello fluffy, frosted gems!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeLuckily, I sent these cupcakes to work with Chris after treating myself to one that was greedily gobbled down in a post-baking, pre-dinner frenzy. I think they will be making another appearance at our family Christmas celebrations though – these would be a perfect contribution to a Christmas Day feast! I also have a feeling that these would be popular with workmates, or as a neighbourly Christmas offering!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Gluten free | Makes 20-22 large cupcakes | Leftovers will keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days

Note: If you do not require these cupcakes to be gluten free you can replace the buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, and white rice flour with a total of 280 grams (~ 2 cups) plain flour.

Ingredients

  • 125 grams butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 100 grams buckwheat flour
  • 90 grams brown rice flour
  • 90 grams white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • ¾ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon finally ground chia seeds (use a coffee or spice grinder)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek/natural yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line 2 12-hole muffin tins with baking cups.
  2. Place butter, honey, and golden syrup in a medium saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together buckwheat flour, white rice flour, brown rice flour, almond meal, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, and spices.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together finely ground chia seeds, milk, sour cream, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  5. Add melted butter mixture to flour mix and whisk until smooth. Then add milk mix to the batter and stir gently with a wooden spoon. It may look like it won’t combine but just be a little patient and keep stirring.
  6. Divide mixture evenly between baking cups and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed. Swap trays over halfway through baking time.
  8. Allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating as desired.

 For the frosting

  • 250 grams cream cheese (full fat is best), softened
  • 4-5 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Sprinkles for decorating (optional)

Method

  1. To make frosting: beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add 4 cups of icing sugar, spices, vanilla and milk. Beat until combined. You want a slightly stiff mixture. If frosting is too loose add extra cup of icing sugar.
  2. Spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with your choice of tip. Decorate cupcakes as desired and then sprinkle with decorations (if using). You could alternately use a knife to frost the cupcakes.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

These ones are Rudy Approved!

Tell me dear reader, what are your favourite seasonal cupcake flavours? What are your baking plans, or sweet-eating plans for that matter? Anyone else love some seasonal Mariah guilty pleasures?

Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Forty-Eight

I am just about to turn the lights off on another Sunday night. My belly is full of cookies, there are cupcake crumbs on my kitchen bench, my gym gear is finally washed and all in all I call this a very nourished week. Here is my Nourished Life Gratitude List – Week Forty-Eight:

Monday: Tonight I went in for my annual iron top-up. Because I have tricky veins it took the nurses a little while to get me hooked up to the juice, but I was so grateful for their practiced, and caring touch. They took such good care of me. Interactions like this make me grateful for the great medical staff and care that I have available to me. When I got home Chris and I had a light dinner and laid in bed watching the new season of ‘The Newsroom’. So excited that this show is back.

iron infusion Tuesday: Today I had the day off to recuperate from my infusion and I spent the day with Mum and Dad. Mum and I had coffee and did a brief stint of Christmas shopping (getting close to finished) and then we had our hair done by a dear friend before I headed home to have a quiet night with Chris. I was grateful for the time with my parents in the middle of the week – an unexpected delight – and grateful for Chris enjoying a new recipe trial for dinner. I’m always excited when I make something that he really enjoys!

christmas coffee

Wednesday: Tonight after work Chris and I went out for a walk along the waterfront before dinner. The night was warm and the sky was still light and nothing relaxes me more than talking and joking with Chris. I was grateful for the midweek boost. On the way home we drove to see some of the Christmas lights that have started popping up in our area!

Thursday: Dark clouds crowded the sky this afternoon and just as I was planning to leave work one of the biggest storms in decades swept through our city. Hail the size of golf balls, 140 km/hour winds, and rain that felt like bullets fell from the sky. The windows and roof in our building shook, sheets of iron flew down the street like abandoned paper cups and trees were uprooted like a child picking flowers. I was grateful that my family and friends were safe, and even though there is some cosmetic damage to my car (my baby!) that we all survived with minimal harm. Nature is powerful, and I was grateful that we all made it home safe and sound.

nourished salad

Friday: Chris and I went to the gold class movies to see ‘Interstellar’ tonight. We turned up at the wrong theatre by accident, but by divine providence we made it across to the other theatre with enough time to order dinner and sit down in our supremely comfortable chairs. I was grateful for an evening of indulgence, and also grateful that even though our night started with a bit of stress, that Chris and I both handled it with laughter and ran through the shopping centre hand in hand trying to make it to our booking. I am grateful to have someone to get older with, but who (like me) will never grow up.

Saturday: Jess and I started our day with a Pump class and then headed to Mum and Dad’s for car-washing and Christmas card making. Let’s just say that I am a little more proficient at the former than the latter, although I am learning. Casey and Matt also turned up and I was grateful for the impromptu visit from two of my favourite people. In the afternoon Chris and I had a long nap in the cool of the air-conditioning and watched a film. I was grateful for a quiet, but nourishing day.

Sunday: My Sunday started with a great long walk with a friend and her pup. I was grateful to catch up with Jenny and see how her life was going and to spend some time with her precious pup Ellie! When I got home Chris was all ready to go and do some Christmas shopping and we made a quick trip past the house on our way. The house is coming along, as is our Christmas shopping! After a reward stop by Baskin Robbins (yum, strawberry sorbet) we came home so I could spend some time experimenting in the kitchen and Chris could spend time experimenting on his computer (hey, it works for us!). While we ate dinner we watched one of my favourite comedians and I had to be careful not to spray hummus everywhere because she is just hilarious. This Sunday was nourishing from start to end, and I am truly grateful.

Gingerbread cupcake

Also this week:

  • A big Happy Thanksgiving to all my darling American friends and readers! I hope you enjoyed your turkey/tofurky/Chinese takeaway and spent some time enjoying your friends/family/football and indulged in some pie! I am grateful for all of you.
  • I got a head start with my Christmas experimenting and gift making with these Maple Spiced Nuts – easy and very welcomed!
  • Chris and I are feeling seasonal with our meals at the moment and a Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing is going to be a summer favourite this year.
  • Thoroughly Nourished Life on Facebook gained so many new followers this week! I am grateful to you all! In order to meet everyone properly I updated my ‘About Amy‘ page so we could all say hello properly!

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten Free

Crisp shredded summer vegetables come together with a spicy-creamy dressing in this fresh summer salad that is the perfect side for any of your summer meals.

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten FreeSummer has firmly established its humid grasp on Brisbane and our appetites are changing in response to the longer days and warmer nights. When people in Australia talk about the weather, we aren’t just being polite and passing time. The weather here is a living, breathing entity unto itself. An afternoon thunderstorm can bloom in a clear blue sky and bring a city to its knees; the streets become canals and suburbs become islands. A long, clear stretch of blue skies and hot days with no relief cracks the land and drives stoic farmers to tears. Here in the land down under we are in tune with the weather because this wide, red land demands that we are.

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten FreeI try to live in tune to the seasons, try to tailor what we eat to how our appetites respond to the weather outside. Our thunderstorm last week heralded the beginning of our summer season. The days have been reaching for higher and higher temperatures and come nightfall we aren’t craving our usual weekly rotation of pasta, rice, and mashed potatoes. Our bodies are ready for bright summer vegetables in large quantities, we are ready for clean spicy flavours and the crunch of freshness.

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten FreeIt’s time to bring out bright, brash, bountiful salads to pair with Chris’s fish and my chickpeas and this one delivers on flavour, crunch, and substance – and it’s midweek-after-work-easy too! All things that are a must have for summer sides in our house. First you shred some carrot and zucchini (super easy with a julienne peeler), add some finely sliced capsicum and green onion, toss through roughly chopped coriander (or Thai basil if you aren’t a coriander fan – Mum…) and then anoint each portion with the spicy red onion, lime juice,and coconut milk dressing. A perfect combination of flavours, heat and spice, cool and crunchy for the stormy summer ahead.

If you are cooking for younger, or more delicate tummies you can reduce the red curry paste or just use a sprinkling of curry powder instead. If you want to make this ahead simply leave the salad and dressing separate until serving. This vegan, gluten free, clean salad is perfect for every member of the family (and bikini friendly too, ahem) and will be on high rotation in the Thoroughly Nourished house all summer long.

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten FreeShredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing

Serves 2 generously, easily multiplied | Gluten Free | Vegan

Note: I served my vegetarian portion with some chickpeas and extra macadamia nuts, while Chris suggests some panko crusted baked chicken breast.
Also, note: this recipe makes a large quantity of dressing. If you do not use the whole amount (we certainly didn’t) it will last up to four days in an airtight container in the fridge. It also makes an excellent marinade for chicken breasts.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 medium red capsicum
  • 2 stalks green (spring) onion
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts

Method

  1. Julienne (or very thinly slice) carrots and zucchini and place in a large bowl.
  2. Thinly slice red capsicum and green onions and add to bowl.
  3. Roughly chop coriander and add to vegetables. With clean hands (or salad servers) toss everything until well mixed.
  4. To make dressing: whisk together light coconut milk, lime juice, crushed garlic, and red curry paste.
  5. Pour desired amount of dressing (see note) over salad and sprinkle with macadamia nuts. Serve immediately.

Shredded Vegetable Salad with Red Curry Coconut Dressing | Vegan | Gluten Free

Do you try to keep your eating in line with the seasons? What is your body craving right now? I think mine might be a little confused by all the wonderful treats my Northern Hemisphere friends keep making because I am craving peppermint after seeing this post today!

Don’t forget Thoroughly Nourished Life has a home on Facebook now! Come and join me to talk about all sorts of yummy and inspiring things from all over this wide web world of ours.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan|Gluten Free

Prepare for your house to smell like Christmas. These warmly spiced, roasted nuts are liberally seasoned with maple syrup and all your favourite holiday spices. Use your favourite combination of nuts and share with friends, give as gifts, or devour them while watching your favourite Christmas films.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Every Christmas Mum fills a big timber bowl with nuts in the shell, and throughout December we crack open our favourites (hazelnuts and almonds for me, walnuts for Mum, and Brazil nuts for Jess) as a quick snack or couch and TV dessert. Last year she also introduced a seductively spiced and sweetened roasted vanilla cashew mix into the house. Very dangerous. So dangerous that I had see if I could make them myself. I am happy to report that you can make delicious spiced nuts at home.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

I made these nuts for a recent get-together with friends, and there were no leftovers to take home! I was happy to hear reviews from friends on the spot, and I just knew I had to share them with you all as we head into the holiday season. Not only are these nuts coated in holiday favourite flavours of maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg, they are also coated in raw sugar crystals for extra crunch, and just a kiss of salt to bring all the flavours together. Each bite is full of crackly salt and sugar glaze, spices, and the earthiness of roasted almonds and cashews.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

A note about nuts: I used a combination of cashews and almonds, but you should use three cups of your favourite combination of nuts. Hazelnuts and almonds would be perfect with this mix of spices too. Just ensure that you choose nuts of a similar size so that they roast evenly. If you choose nuts of very different sizes (say pistachios and Brazil nuts) one nut will likely burn and the other will be undercooked.

This recipe couldn’t be any easier, which makes it a perfect time-saving gift or holiday snack. You warm the nuts in the oven and roll them in spices and maple syrup. The heat helps everything to absorb into the nut. After cooling your nut mix you sprinkle it with a final coating of salt and sugar and roast it for the final time. Your house will smell like Santa’s kitchen as the cinnamon and nutmeg start to dance with the heat. Mouth-watering territory.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

I am planning on cooking up big batches of Maple Spiced Roast Nuts for Christmas gifts and party favours. Now that I know how easy (and addictive) these home made sweet, salty, spicy nuts are to make I can’t wait to try out some different flavours to share with my friends and family.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts

Makes 3 cups | Vegan | Gluten Free

Note: you can use 3 cups of your favourite combination of nuts in place of the cashews and almonds if you wish.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted raw almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F) and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminium foil.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together cinnamon, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons raw sugar.
  3. Spread nuts in one layer across the lined baking sheet and cook for 8 minutes.
  4. Remove the nuts from the oven and place in mixing bowl along with the spices. Mix well to coat nuts.
  5. Pour maple syrup over the nuts and mix again to coat nuts well in spices.
  6. Spread nuts out in a single layer on the lined baking sheet again, pour over any maple syrup and spice mixture that may have pooled at the bottom, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  7. Once nuts are cool, reheat oven to 200C (400F).
  8. Sprinkle remaining salt and sugar over nuts and roast in oven for 10-12 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before breaking up and packaging for gifts, or storing for up to two weeks in an airtight container in a cool place.

Maple Spiced Roast Nuts | Vegan | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life