Strawberry, date and almond puddings


These delicious little bites were created this morning out of our abundance of strawberries.

Thank you local markets!!! 15 punnets for $8. We have several punnets in the fridge, I hulled 6 punnets and froze them for smoothies and baking and used several punnets for some yummy jam …. and there was still more.



  • 250g strawberries, hulled
  • 6 medjool dates, seeded
  • 1 tbsp tasteless coconut oil/vegan butter
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice (unsweetened vanilla almond milk is awesome here!)
  • 2 tbsp aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chick peas)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (Straight switch for GF flour here)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal (or seed meal for nut free)
  • 1.5 tsp GF baking powder

Place dates, strawberries and oil/butter into thermal cooker, and set on 90C, speed 2 for 6 minutes.  (Or in a saucepan in a stove top, stir regularly)

Process on speed 4, gradually up to speed 6 for about 15 seconds, or until quite smooth. (Transfer from stove top to blender or processor)

Add in milk and aquafaba and mix again until well combined (Speed 4, 8 seconds).

In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently until just combined


Pour into lined muffin tins and place into a preheated moderate oven for about 25 minutes or until they spring back from a gentle touch.


Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating.


These are delicious warm, or cold – they set more and become more ‘cakey’ and less ‘puddingy’ as they cool.

Makes 16 small muffins.




Strawberry, apple and chia jam


Yesterday I did our markets shopping was seriously delighted to find a tray of strawberries for $8.


15 punnets of those bad boys – that’s a lot of berries!

We have several punnets in the fridge, I hulled 6 punnets and froze them for smoothies and baking and use another punnet in my morning muffins …. and there was still more.

So … jam it is – why not get a head start on teacher’s Christmas gifts?!

I’ve never made a preserved jam in my Bellini (Thermal Cooker before) so this was my first go …. and it so very easy!!

Now – this is lower in added sugar than most jams, and it is unrefined sugar – but it is still a lot of sugar… so, you know – be sensible😉

  • 600g punnet strawberries, hulled
  • 400g sugar of choice (I used coconut sugar)
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 green apple, chopped (skin on)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

Place the strawberries in the bottom on the machine, then add all the other ingredients, except the chia seeds.

Set the machine to 100C, Speed 2 for 15 minutes.

Then turn the temp up to ST (Steam Temp), but the speed down to 1 for a further 15 minutes.

Add in the  chia seeds and and cook on ST, Speed 2 for a further 8 mins.

Check that it is ready (Check out these tips from Taste on checking for setting point)

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

*If you don’t have a thermal cooking machine, check out my Mulberry jam post for a traditional jam making method*



Salmon and Zucchini Tart


A long time ago (and it may as well have been in a galaxy far far away!!), before kids and before food allergies, Libby made us a delicious salmon tart. Goodness it was wonderful but since it was full of sour cream and egg whites it has been off our menu for 8 years.

Then I made some Pumpkin Tarts for my Mum’s birthday and the filling for them gave me an idea!!!

So I set to work to try and re-create Lib’s amazing Salmon Tart and we ate the results tonight. Result – amazing!!!!!! The texture and flavour were SO similar and everyone loved it (well, ok, except my little miss … but … really, if I only cooked what she loved, we’d live on sausages!). Peter ate seconds and thirds, Harry gave it 99%, Will licked his plate clean and asked for it in his lunchbox and George demolished it (but to be fair, he does that with almost everything).

I’m so excited to have little versions of these that I made with the left overs for lunch tomorrow!

  • 300g silken tofu (medium firm)
  • 3 tbsp hummus
  • 2 tsbp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp pink salt
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp rinsed and chopped capers
  • 400g tin of salmon, skinned and boned
  • small zucchini, grated and squeezed of its liquid
  • 1/3 cup aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chick peas)
  • 1 sheet of shortcrust pastry*

*today I made a spelt pastry by pulsing together 200g flour, 1/2 tsp pink salt and 120g cold vegan butter into a crumb. Bring it together to a disc, cover and place in the fridge for  half an hour. Roll out to dish shape/size on a floured surface and then blind bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the tofu from it’s package, drain and pat dry.

Into your blender/food processor/thermal cooker place the tofu, hummus, nutritional yeast and salt. Process until smooth (Speed 4, 20 seconds).

Add in the salmon, dill, pepper and capers. Process until smooth (Speed 4, 20 seconds).


Pour into a large bowl and stir through the zucchini.


In a stand mixer place the aquafaba in a small, clean bowl and mix on highest speed for about 4-5 minutes or until you get soft peaks (not as stiff as for a meringue).

Tip the whipped aquafaba into the salmon mix and gently fold through until incorporated – go gently, you don’t want to lose all of that lightness.



Pour the salmon mix into the blind-baked pastry and return to the preheated oven for 35 minutes.



The filling will still be quite soft on removing from the oven, but will firm up more as it cools.


Slice and serve with salad or veg.

It does well being reheated and last a couple of day in an air tight container in the fridge.


Roast pumpkin tarts


My wonderful mum – who has been the inspiration for much of my baking, and certainly gave me her love of cooking – recently turned 60.

With my Mum, my Nanna and my little miss – all frocked up to celebrate.

She had a most delightful High Tea at her home to celebrate and I was asked to do the baking for those with special needs. So much fun to make little treats!


One of the ‘normal’ foods that was served was quiche. Quiche is delicious, no question, but normally full of gluten, egg and dairy – So I came up with my version and it was really well received …. even my carnivorous husband who knew what was in them!

The filling for the tart was based on this one from Minimalist Baker.

  • 2 handfuls of diced pumpkin
  • garlic olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp pink salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper.

Preheat your oven to 200C, brush the pumpkin with the oil and sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and roasted.


  • 2 sheets ready bought puff pastry (that fits your diet)
  • 300g silken tofu (medium firm)
  • 3 tbsp hummus
  • 2 tsbp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp pink salt

Remove the tofu from it’s package, drain and pat dry.


Into your blender/food processor/thermal cooker place the tofu, hummus, nutritional yeast and salt. Process until smooth (Speed 4, 20 seconds)


Cut the pasty and place into greased muffin tins.

Spoon the tofu mixture into the pastry cases.

Top with pumpkin, pressing it down into the mix, and add some pine nuts if your diet allows.


Place into a preheated moderate oven and bake for about 25 minutes.


Serve warm or cool. These also reheat well and will last 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

You can make a bigger version too – blind bake your pastry in a pie dish, add in your desired veggies (I added spinach to this version)  and then top with the tofu mix.




Coffee (and chocolate) Syrup


One year for Christmas when my brother and I were about 10 and 12, Mum and Dad gave us joint presents. A milkshake maker, an air popped popcorn maker and a recipe book for kids.

What an awesome summer that was – we ate a lot, and we ate well!!

20… ahem… something years later, the popcorn maker still features regularly, now for my children. In fact we used it today for our Friday movie🙂


I’m not sure what happened to the milkshake maker.

I suspect the recipe book is still hidden in my Mum’s recipe cupboard … But I really don’t need it anymore, since the ice coffee recipe from it is firmly cemented in my brain (along with the reminder inscribed on the inside from Mum to clean up after we cooked!!). I would make it for mum ready when she got home from work on a really hot summer’s day. Or at the weekends when my parents had been hard at work in the garden.

Now it is my husband who is the fan… and Will requests it in decaf form!! We’ve cut back the sugar and converted it to an unrefined form.

See below the recipe for a chocolate syrup.

  •  1.5 cups Instant coffee (whichever brand you enjoy, but it must be instant)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar/raw sugar/rice malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1.5 cups boiling water

Mix together all ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Simmer gently, stirring regularly, for about 10-12 minutes. (Or 100C, speed 2 for about 12-14 mins).

Pour into glass jars and seal.



To use the syrup mix a tablespoon with a glass of cold milk of your choice and some ice blocks blocks in a blender/Nutribullet/food processor/thermal cooker.

It is certainly a much cheaper option to make this at home if you are a regular buyer of the in store or cafe variety!.

If you like different flavoured coffees you can replace the vanilla with an essence of that flavour (hazelnut is particularly nice!).

During my university years I became (just slightly) coffee reliant and one of my very favourite drinks was a (large, eek!)’Very Vanilla Chiller’ from a certain popular coffee chain. There’s no way I could drink one now without feeling ill, but I have discovered that this syrup together with a handful of ice blocks and very cold unsweetened vanilla almond milk, makes a very close approximation!! Yum!

You can also use a splash of this syrup in plain buttercream icing to turn into into coffee icing for Banana cakes etc.

To make a chocolate version of this syrup follow the same method, but use:

  • 1 cups Cocoa
  • 1.5 cups coconut sugar/raw sugar/rice malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1.5 cups boiling water

This version is great mixed with ice blocks and milk of choice for milkshakes or stirred through hot milk for decadent hot chocolate … make sure you add some mini marshmallows😉


Choc Chip Cookies


Together with the apple crumble that I’ve posted about before, these cookies (in their original form) were sustenance for my husband during exam time at uni … and he says, convinced him to marry me!

I remember making these as a ten year old for my younger brother and eating them together, while they were still warm, over school holiday movies. I must have made a hundred batches of them over the last 20 years! So the other day when my crook William asked if we could make cookies for afternoon tea, I decided to update these to make them safe for our family, and to add a few more nutrients than your standard cookie … and they are now as popular with my kids as they were with my husband, and my brother and I more than a decade ago!

Please see below the recipe for the coeliac friendly version

  • 130g Nuttelex
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour (I use Rye for a wheat free switch)
  • 1/3 cup almond/seed meal
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp flax meal
  • 2 tsp GF baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • pinch pink salt flakes
  • 3 tbsp aquafaba (the liquid drained from a can of chick peas) OR 1 whole egg
  • 4 squares of dark chocolate, roughly chopped (about 40g)


Use you blender/food processor/nutribullet/thermal cooker to quickly blitz the oats – don’t turn them into a powder though! Then set aside.

In your stand mixer, cream together the Nuttelex and sugar. (Speed 4, 12 seconds)

Mix in the vanilla and aquafaba. (Speed 4, 10 seconds)

In another bowl combine all of the other dry ingredients (except the chocolate).

Fold the flour mix through the wet mix, about 1/3 at a time. It will initially seem like too much flour, but it will come together. (Speed 4, 8 seconds, scrape down and repeat)

Fold through the chocolate (or sprinkle or sultanas). (Speed 4, 6 seconds)

To make a coeliac friendly version: This is one of those times when you can do a straight swap for a GF flour mix for the spelt. Replace the oats with rolled quinoa and 1/2 tsp psyllium flakes.

Form a tsp full into a ball and spoon onto a lined baking tray, allowing space to spread.


Cook in a preheated moderate oven for about 12 minutes.

They will be very soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. They will be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.


Makes about 20.


Lasts for a couple of days in an airtight container…. if you’re lucky!


An Itchin’ Budget?

August 2016 012

Living in this day and age is expensive.

Living in an allergy home is even more costly – regular trips to (very expensive) allergists, dermatologists and doctors, regular updates of asthma medication, epi-pens and bottles of antihistamines for every place they go. Creams, creams and more creams. Gosh it adds up quickly.

Then there’s the groceries ….. no options for $1 bags of pasta or flour. Allergy friendly options are often 8-10 times the price.

Don’t get me wrong – I am so very grateful  that my husband has a job, we actually have allergy friendly options in shops and that we are able to access the specialists we need to care well for our children. We are better off than many.

I remember a couple of years ago, following a friend do a challenge that was ‘Feed your family for $150 a week’ and it just made me giggle. Yep, no way is that ever going to happen in this house. There is 6 of us and a dozen foods that we need to avoid or substitute.

And then I started to realise that, even though I wrote a menu for a fortnight and was a pretty good budgeter, I had fallen into into the trap of ‘just popping in’ to the supermarket to pick up some extra things for baking, or things we’d run out of …. and I had suddenly spent another $50 … how does that happen?!?! Eek!

I grew up watching my Mum take out the entire grocery budget in cash once a fortnight and when it ran out, that was it, we had to wait. And my Dad had litterally sat me down with a pen and paper and taught me how to budget. What had happened to those lessons I’d learned?

So with 1 income (for the past 8 years!), 4 kids who are expensive to feed, ever increasing costs, a husband who requests meat for lunch and dinner 6 days a week and a desire to eat well with minimally processed foods, I set myself a challenge: Menu plan for a month, write my grocery list for a month, 1 big, careful shop and then that’s it – no going back. Scary Stuff! It’s been 4 months now …. and I love it!

I’m not trying to convince all of you to shop for a month at a time – in fact, I know that some of you won’t have the space …. I am incredibly fortunate that my Nanna gave us her old deep freezer, which makes this process possible for us. But the general ideas I think can work for everyone – so, after being asked a squillion times for my tips, here is what works in our home:

  • Check what is in my pantry and freezer – write a list out – don’t be vague about it!
  • Write a menu (whether that be for a week, month or more), and use up what you already have for those meal plans.
  • Shops in different places for different things (obviously this will be different depending on where you live).
    • Meat, milk, honey, eggs, cheese and all fresh fruit and veg come from the farmers markets. Local, cheaper and often much better quality.
    • I buy all of my flours, nuts and seeds, salts and yeast etc in bulk (my favourite  online places are 2 Brothers Foods and Weigh N Pay)
    • Buy all packaged goods from one place (and use the rewards system to your advantage!). I currently shop mostly at Coles. For us this includes things like tinned beans and legumes, coffee, plain cereals, frozen berries, Nuttelex, oils, milks (Oat, almond, rice and soy), pasta, rice, rice crackers, dried beans, dried fruit, specialist cheese, vinegar, vegemite and all toiletries (this includes sanitary items, everything for washing, cleaning and use in the kitchen).
August 2016 012.JPG
The big shop!
Online flours, nuts and seeds

Admittedly, when I get all of this home – it takes a significant amount of time to put away!

The meat is a bit of different category – I buy in bulk for 3 months at a time. I get cheaper cuts like chicken thighs, gravy beef, lamb and beef bones and mince, then break them up into meal sized portions before freezing (usually approx 800g for thighs and gravy beef and 4-500g for mince) and I buy large joints/pieces of things like beef, lamb, pork, silverside etc and when I cook them I stretch them out over 3 or 4 meals (think roast, pies, soups, pastas, gravy etc). To make our meat meals spread further, we bulk out everything with veg, lentils and mushrooms as much as we can. Our national dietary guidelines suggest that we shouldn’t have protein as more than about 1/3 of our meal so we try not to make meat the main focus.

3 months of meat! (there are layers you can’t see!)

The things that people have told me that they ‘pop’ to the shops for are bread, milk, yoghurt and snacks for the kids.

  • Well – our dairy milk gets frozen in the deep freeze (about 14 x 3L bottles!). I get the new one out at night when required (at the same time as I get out the frozen meat for the next day) and it defrosts overnight in the kitchen sink. The UHT milk we buy (dairy and soy) is used to make our yoghurt as required.
  • And bread, we don’t eat much of it, but I bake it as we require. If you’re not into baking it…. just buy what you need and freeze it.
  • Making your own snacks is SO SO much cheaper than buying them in store. Less processed, fewer artificial colours and preservatives, less sugar and more nutrients too! Let the kids choose what kind of muffins, slices, biscuits and muesli bars they want to make with you! Freeze them ready to drop into their lunchboxes (and yours!) each day.

Fruit  and veg are the only exception to my no returning to the shops rule.

  • I buy in bulk, blanch and freeze some things when they are on special (think green beans and cauliflower etc)
  • some things, like green peas, I just buy frozen to start with.
  • I deliberately overbuy bananas and avocados to freeze ready for baking and smoothies.
  • I try to buy the veggies I need for my meals that week so we don’t waste. I work at being creative with what we have and don’t return to market for more until we have really used all we have.

Consider this fair warning …. If you shop like this, people tend to stare …. and they don’t even try to hide it. I’ve had all sorts of jokes and comments about the coming apocalypse and having a dozen children etc etc. Mostly I just smile – sometimes I tell people that it’s for a family of 6 and we only shop once a month … then they just look even more shocked!!

So where do we put it all? It goes in the fridge, freezer, pantry and …. the (now jokingly called) ‘Apocalypse shelf’ in one of our cupboards. The store of toiletries all goes in the laundry cupboards. By the end of the month, they are all pretty empty and it makes it easy to start again🙂

The Apocalypse Shelf😉

If any of you are still reading, well done, and yes, I realise, as my husband lovingly tells me, I am an organisational freak! I also love numbers so I broke down our expenditure and this is what I have discovered:

It costs us, on average, between $5.50 and $6 per day, per person to live (roughly $0.60c of that is meat). This works out to between $230 and $250 a week for 6 people. Not so bad considering the $150 a week challenge that I mentioned earlier was for 4 people ($225 for 6 people then). This cost is all of our food (every meal and snack), all of our toiletries, washing powders, gladwrap, cleaning products etc etc.

My 2 other tips for making your budget stretch when it’s tight are:

  • to grow as much as you can yourself (even if it just some fresh herbs in pots!), and
  • to arrange swaps with like-minded friends. We have swapped propagated plants and excess veg, or homemade flavoured salts and oils for honey, eggs, lemons, chillies, garlic etc – awesome for encouraging others and building community too!
Part of the Itchin’ Kitchen garden in suburban Perth – who needs grass?!

So – that’s how we do it in our family – I’d love to hear if you have any other tips for making your budget work!