Keto Diet Diary: Week 1

So I’ve decided to try the Ketogenic diet. It’s a bit of a dramatic lifestyle change, but I wanted to do it for a number of different reasons. The first is getting rid of that stubborn bit of fat that seems to be clinging on to my hips and thighs. Despite exercising daily (mixing HIIT, cardio and weights) it doesn’t seem to want to budge. Secondly, I want to stop feeling so freaking hungry all the time! People often joke about the number of snacks I take with me everywhere (hey, it’s hard being Coeliac!) and I find myself constantly thinking about my next bite of food. My unhealthy relationship with food needs to come to an end. My third and final reason, I often experience that dreaded afternoon ‘slump’ or lethargy especially after I eat, so I’m hoping the Ketogenic diet will make me feel more energized and therefore able to concentrate better – here’s hoping!

Before starting the diet, I did a bit research (listening to podcasts and reading articles) just out of sheer curiosity. My friend recently started the diet and experienced pretty positive results after just 3 weeks (weight loss, feeling fulfilled after a meal, able to concentrate better etc) so I decided to bite the bullet give it a go myself. We’ll get to that part soon!

Most fruit are a no-go on Keto

If you’re looking for an easy, maintenance-free diet, then the Ketogenic diet probably isn’t for you. It’s tough. The principles of the Ketogenic diet are to aim to eat around 20g – 50g of carbs a day (depending on your goals and body type). The more you investigate different food types, you begin to realise that there’s hidden carbs just about everywhere. Fruit, veggies, drinks – it’s much like living gluten-free with your constant, meticulous label-checking and recipe-modifying. It’s a real commitment for sure!

The Ketogenic diet (or Keto for short) is a strict, low-carb diet which makes your body run off fat rather than carbs. By limiting the number of carbs you consume and maintaining/increasing your intake of fats, your body is forced to use fat for fuel instead. Since your brain can’t run on fat itself, the liver breaks down fat into Ketones which are then released into the bloodstream for energy. This then reduces your insulin levels and increases your rate of fat burning, including those lovely bits of stored fat around your body. The diet has not only been proven effective for weight loss. People often comment on how they feel fulfilled after meals, no longer feel the need to snack and feel more awake, alert and energised. Sounds good, right?

More energy sounds great!

DISCLAIMER: Obviously, I’m not a doctor (I mean, Dr. Kendrick sounds cute though!) If you want to change your diet dramatically, always speak to your GP or healthcare professional first. The Keto diet isn’t suitable for everyone – for example it is NOT recommended for those with Type 1 Diabetes or pregnant women. Make sure you’re suitable for the diet before making any changes.

The weekend before I was due to start the diet, I decided I would go on a bit of a carb-binge. I bought chips (crisps in my British accent), chocolate, chocolate muffins and since Sunday was Father’s Day here in Australia, my boyfriend’s parents came to visit and supplied me with an array of gluten-free goodies including a loaf of freshly baked bread and a loaf of raisin toast, along with 2 packets of cookies (argh!) I decided it would be best to slice and freeze the loaves of bread (to resist temptation) and the cookies had a long expiry date so they’d survive in the back of the cupboard *cries inside*. I couldn’t eat all of the crap I bought, so most of it was left in the cupboard much to my dismay (and my own fault entirely). So it would be an extra test for me to resist snacking on these delicious items whilst on the diet.

Throughout the week I used the MyFitnessPal app to track my nutrition and macros. This is a great way to keep track of how many carbs you’re consuming, however it never seems to be 100% accurate so I’d use this as a guide only (EDIT: the app is only good if you’re able to scan the barcode on the items you eat, it’s hard/pretty inaccurate if you cook a meal with multiple ingredients or eat out!)

Here’s a quick breakdown of my first week. I ain’t going to lie, it was pretty hard!

The egg venture begins!

DAY 1 – Monday (in the office):

Breakfast: Gluten-free egg crepe with scrambled eggs, halloumi and kale (Pando Cafe, Brisbane)

Lunch: Baby cos lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, bocconcini, cured ham, pesto.

Dinner: Sirloin steak with a side of broccollini, peas and kale sauteed in butter with a cream cheese sauce.

Snacks: Roasted unsalted almonds, stuffed dates, celery sticks and shop bought guacamole dip.

Exercise: HIIT Session after work (very tired/lethargic after this!)

TOTAL Carbohydrates 25g (rough guide)

Notes: I sorely missed my sugary chai latte in the morning, though supplemented with a tea and natural Natvia sweetener. By late afternoon I really started to suffer and the urge to snack was at its strongest. I usually have a snack after dinner but I fought through and had a herbal tea and went to bed feeling reasonably satisfied. I also later found out that dates are FULL of sugary carbs, *cries*.

Meatloaf doing anything for love.

Day 2 – Tuesday (working from home):

Breakfast: Slender Blend Chocolate protein shake with strawberries.

Lunch: Spanish style scrambled eggs with chorizo, bacon, tomato, with guacamole on the side.

Dinner: Eggplant parmigiana (eggplant, tinned chopped tomatoes, bocconcini, basil, black olives).

Snacks: Roasted unsalted almonds, bulletproof hot chocolate, celery sticks with guacamole, another date!

Exercise: 50 mins cardio gym session in the morning. Struggled to complete full 50 mins, felt very exhausted.

TOTAL Carbohydrates 30g (rough guide)

Notes: Throughout the day at home, I felt the urge to snack a lot more than at work where I am completely restricted – I found it especially hard to resist snacking on the bags of chips and gluten-free biscuits in the cupboards! However, the meals I did eat were filling and didn’t leave me feeling lethargic afterwards (although I generally felt pretty tired throughout the day), though I still felt the need to listen to my chocolate cravings and treated myself to a bulletproof hot chocolate in the evening. Damn those dates!

Oh here they are again, them pesky eggs!

Day 3 – Wednesday:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, homemade guacamole, cured meats, baby gem lettuce.

Lunch: Leftover eggplant parmigiana.

Dinner: Bacon wrapped meatloaf with broccollini, kale, peas and cream sauce.

Snacks: Roasted unsalted almonds, celery sticks with beetroot dip, few slices of cheese.

TOTAL Carbohydrates 29g (rough guide)

NOTES: Another day working from home, but without the feeling of dread. I had leftover dinner ready for my lunch and was mentally prepared to reduce my snacks. Dinner was pretty high in fat and protein, after all it was pretty much just a slab of meat slathered in more meat and cream (I’m not sure how accurate the MyFitnessPal app was here as everything was homemade, but it seems pretty high!) I felt pretty hungry throughout the day, which is why I opted to cook breakfast rather than having a shake, though it feels strange eating so many eggs all the time (you’ve heard the rumours about too many eggs!)

Konjac Fettuccine with Pesto

Day 4 – Thursday:

Breakfast: Homemade Keto banana bread muffin with 1/2 cup strawberries and half YoPro protein strawberry yoghurt.

Lunch: Pre-prepared konjac fettuccine with pesto, cream, kale, olives, cheese and bacon.

Dinner: the rest of the fettuccine as couldn’t be bothered to shop!

Snacks: YoPro protein yoghurt, tea, few slices of cheese, low cal hot chocolate with water and coconut milk.

TOTAL Carbohydrates 26g (rough guide)

NOTES: On Thursday I was back in the office so made sure I had lunch and snacks at the ready. I quickly rustled up a dish with some konjac fettuccine and bought a YoPro protein yoghurt to snack on in the afternoon. Throughout the day I found that the food I was eating was satisfying and I didn’t experience that afternoon slump like I usually do. Wahoo it’s finally working!

I made it to Pizza Friday!

Day 5 – Friday:

Breakfast: Homemade banana bread muffin with 1/2 cup strawberries.

Lunch: Sauteed kale and mushrooms with 2 scrambled eggs and feta.

Dinner: Protein Bread Co. pizza base topped with olive oil, pesto, capers, pizza cheese, bacon and fresh rocket.

Snacks: Few slices of cheddar cheese, celery sticks with beetroot dip, green tea.

TOTAL Carbohydrates 23g (rough guide)

NOTES: Yay I’d made it to Friday! I finally started to feel the benefits of the diet – feeling more full and satisfied after meals, a reduced need to snack and less time spent thinking about food, and missing that afternoon slump that I usually suffer from. I only snacked on a few slices of cheese and celery sticks which was amazing! I was also excited to try my new pizza bases from Protein Bread Co. to replace my usual Friday pizza treat. Positive vibes all round!

On Friday, I tested my ketones by peeing on some Ketone strips (Keto-Diastix) that I got for around $7.00 from Chemist Warehouse (my fave place). On Friday I was super deep purple, meaning I was fully into Ketosis and was very pleased with myself. I found the weekend pretty hard going, especially since this is usually my more relaxed dietary time of the week (I don’t go crazy but I don’t normally restrict myself so much).

Overall, week 1 was tough but ended with a positive result. After a whole week I lost 1kg in weight and an inch off my thighs, hips and belly respectively. Let’s see how the next week goes!

I can’t take all the credit for these delicious meal ideas. Thanks to Diet Doctor for providing much needed inspo throughout the week and Protein Bread Co. for their delicious Pizza Base!

Have you started the Keto diet recently or are you a Keto veteran? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy eating 🙂

Gluten Free Lemon Cake

As much as I’m enjoying experimenting with my low-sugar recipes, sometimes life just calls for a bit more of the white stuff (the legal kind). So I made this lemon cake with normal caster sugar and tried my hand at buttercream frosting using some very clever tips from a few YouTube videos (thank the Lord for the internet!) The result? A light, yet indulgent lemon cake with a tangy, fluffy buttercream to top it all off – perfect with a good English cuppa. I even made some fanciful candied lemons for an extra bit of pizzazz!

Beautiful if I may say so myself!

TIPS: If you want to add the candied lemons, you can make these in your sugar syrup and then use the leftover syrup to drizzle over your cake. I’ve included separate cooking methods just in case you don’t want to add the candied lemon slices to your cake (it is extra effort after all). Either way, the sugar syrup adds an extra bit of moisture and sweetness (especially when it gathers at the bottom of the cake *licks lips*).

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake:
1 cup Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Sugar or Natural Sweetener
1 cup Butter
3 Eggs
2 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Zest of 1 Lemon

For the sugar syrup:
Remember to add lemon slices if you want to make candied lemons together with the syrup!
1/2 cup Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
Water (add to the lemon juice to make 1/3 cup of liquid)
4 slices of lemon (thinly sliced) if making the candied lemons

For the buttercream:
1/2 cup Butter (room temperature)
2-3 cups Icing Sugar (sifted)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Milk (optional)

For the candied lemons (optional):
Recipe if you want to make these separately to the sugar syrup!
4 slices of lemon (thinly sliced but thick enough to hold their shape)
1/2 cup Sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Water (add to the lemon juice to make 1/3 cup of liquid)

METHOD

Perfectly browned in my new cake tin!

CAKE FIRST!
1) Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (for fan ovens).
2) Lightly line your cake tin with a bit of butter or oil.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and milk until light and fluffy.
4) Add the eggs in one at a time and combine.
5) Grate in the lemon zest and combine.
6) Sift in the flour and baking powder and combine until you have a smooth batter (add more milk if needed).
7) Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-40 minutes until nicely brown on top (my oven cooks really quickly!) Leave the cake to cool in the tin whilst you prep your sugar syrup.

Just the right cake batter consistency

SUGAR SYRUP
Reserve a few slices of lemon for the candied lemons if you wish to add them on top!
1) Juice the lemon and add into a small saucepan with the sugar and water.
2) Bring to the boil, shaking the pan every so often to combine.
3) Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes until a syrup texture has formed (this will become more syrup-like once cooled).
4) Poke holes in your still-warm cake using a skewer (all the way through to the bottom).
5) Carefully pour the syrup all over the top of the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

A glossy syrup finish!

CANDIED LEMON SLICES
Make in the same pan with the sugar syrup to save washing up!
1) Juice the lemon and add into a small saucepan with the sugar and water.
2) Bring to the boil, shaking the pan every so often to combine.
3) Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and add the lemon slices, making sure they are covered in the liquid and not lying on top of each other.
4) Gently simmer, turning the lemon slices occasionally, for around 15 minutes until the lemon slices have softened and a syrup has formed from the liquid.
5) Remove the lemon slices and place on to a plate to cool and turn sticky (make sure they don’t stick to the surface you’re cooling them on!)
6) Poke holes in your still-warm cake using a skewer (all the way through to the bottom).
7) Carefully pour the remaining syrup from the pan all over the top of the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

Try to cut the slices just thick enough to hold their shape!

BUTTERCREAM
If you want to make a more lemon-y topping, add in some lemon zest!
1) Whisk the butter in a large bowl for at least 5 minutes until fluffy and lighter in colour
(PRO YOUTUBE TIP:  use an electric whisk or stand mixer and beat on high for around 5 minutes to make the butter incredibly light and almost white in colour).
2) Carefully add in the vanilla extract and icing sugar and combine with a spoon before whisking for a further 2 minutes.
3) If your mixture is too stiff, add in a tablespoon of milk, whisk again and test. The icing should be almost like whisked egg whites in texture, soft enough to spread onto your cake but firm enough to hold its shape and not drip everywhere!
4) Once your cake has cooled completely, remove from the tin and spread an even layer of icing on top. Top off with your candied lemon slices or a twirl of lemon zest to impress any tea party.

Cake alllll day long

Delicious indulgence without that heavy, full feeling after a big slice! Lemon cake is perfectly light  and great for morning tea or dessert – and who doesn’t like lemon!

That’s what I call a crumb!

What’s your favourite gluten free cake flavour? Are you more of a fruit-loop or chocoholic?

Happy baking! 🙂

Brisbane_Noodle_Night_Markets

Brisbane Noodle Night Markets: A Coeliac Review

When people ask me why I moved to Brisbane, one thing comes to mind besides the blue skies -there’s always something to do. Even in the middle of winter (a very mild one) there’s a whole heap of festivals, markets and days out to keep everyone occupied until spring arrives.

This week, from 25 July – 5 August, the Brisbane Noodle Night Markets are lighting up the riverside along Southbank. Open from 4pm at weekends and 5pm on weekdays, it’s a great spot to grab some food and watch the sun set over the city skyline. The markets are free entry and cash-free to make queuing easier and quicker, however expect to fight the bustling crowds and wait in line for your top Asian food stall picks.

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Lighting up Southbank

Before visiting, I hopped onto the Good Food Month website to check out the stalls and see if there was any information on gluten free dining. There wasn’t. After browsing the individual stall menus, I found just 2 options which stated gluten free and to be honest I was pretty disappointed by the lack of choice. However, I still wanted to experience the foodie atmosphere and allow my non-GF partner to enjoy the sumptuous Asian flavours on offer.

Just a short walk from the Cultural Centre bus station, the smokey sky reflected the mouth watering BBQ aromas which tempted your tastebuds before you entered. Considering it was a Sunday evening, it was pretty busy with food taking 10-15 minutes to churn out.

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The hungry crowds waiting for their orders

I visited the first stall that I found on the website to have gluten free options, Zagyoza – The Home of Gyoza. With no gluten free depicted on their menu board, I asked what GF options were available and was surprised when I was told they had gluten free chicken teriyaki on offer. The website stated they only had pork gluten free gyoza…. hmm. Riled by the taste of BBQ in the air, I trusted the serving staff and ordered 6. When I went to collect, they certainly looked very different from the other gyoza orders and the server asked if I wanted teriyaki sauce on top which was also gluten free (with GF on the squeezy bottle label).

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No Gluten Free options on the sign at Zagyoza

The filling and the sauce were flavorsome, however the gyoza dough was a little thick and stodgy on the bottom. I’ve had a bad experience with dumplings before but tried to put it to the back of my mind and enjoy the first of only 2 options I would be eating that evening. Overall, they weren’t anything worth shouting about – I understand the difficulties with replicating the dough but they still didn’t quite live up to expectations. Also, just 6 gyoza for $12 seemed a bit of a rip off – a common theme experienced throughout the evening!

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GF Chicken Teriyaki Gyoza at Zagyoza

Wondering around the stalls, I couldn’t see any gluten free options on menu boards or food signs. Considering Brisbane is a pretty GF-forward city, I was both disappointed and a little surprised by the lack of gluten free on offer. Either the food stalls didn’t want to be held liable for sickness, or they simply didn’t see gluten free food as a viable option on their menu. I’m sure others were as disappointed as I was.

My second (and last) option ended my night on a sweet note with a naughty gluten free waffle from Waffeland.

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Not advertised but all GF at Waffleland

All of their menu options were gluten free so I felt it would be a pretty safe (and delicious) choice. As my first taste of waffle, it was pretty darn good. I opted for Bangkok Night – a fresh baked waffle with warm, gooey Nutella and icing sugar, with optional vanilla ice cream on the side. For $14 ($12 + $2 extra for ice cream), I have to say it was the highlight of my evening. With Nutella all over my face and hands, I left the markets with a warm fuzzy feeling (although still a little bit hungry).

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Bangkok Night GF Waffle with warm Nutella

After getting home and eating some gluten free toast to fill the small hole in my stomach, I started to feel very sick, my stomach expanded to maximum capacity and I came to the realisation that the dumpling curse had most likely struck once more. After being very sick, covered in a red heat rash and hives, with a stomach to rival any pregnant woman’s, I went to bed thinking about how much money I’d just regurgitated into the toilet bowl (I won’t include a picture so here’s a nice one of the Brisbane Wheel instead…)

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The Brisbane Wheel glimmering at night

Morale of the story,  you should probably contact the market organizers or food stalls beforehand to understand exactly what they mean by gluten free. Let’s hope in the near future that markets such as these are a bit clearer with their gluten free options and their dedicated to providing 100% gluten free food for people who rely on their transparency (aka ME!)

Did you visit the Noodle Night Markets? How was your experience? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy reading 🙂

Gluten Free, Low Sugar Choc Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

I hate to admit it, but I’m an emotional eater. Even the slightest bit of stress triggers my sugar cravings. This is one of the main reasons behind experimenting with sugar-free or low-sugar treats – so I don’t have to punish myself or feel incredibly guilty if I do give into the cravings.

I never used to like peanut butter – I mean I still wouldn’t eat it out of the jar – but I’ve used it a lot in Asian-style cooking and decided to try baking with it too. The majority of commercial peanut butters contain a lot of crap – high in sugar, fat and oil. I decided to try a healthier, low sugar option and I found that Mayver’s Smooth Peanut Butter ticked all the boxes. It’s all-natural with no added sugar (only 0.8g of sugar per 1 tablespoon) and dairy, gluten and cholesterol free. PLUS it was the same price as most of the standard peanut butters so it just made sense!

A delicious alternative!

With my low-sugar or sugar-free recipes I replace the sugar with granulated natural sweetener (Natvia is my current preference). I feel that artificial sweeteners are a) too sweet and b) full of weird and wonderful chemicals that I would just rather steer clear of ( I also think they may be linked to many of my stomach issues in the past but we’ll leave that for another day!)

My favourite sugar alternative!

These cookies are super easy to make and bake in around 12-15 minutes. They will come out feeling way too soft, but harden up as they cool.

Boyfriend approved!

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup Granulated Nativa (or any granulated sweetener)
1/2 Cup Butter (Melted)
3/4 Cup Peanut Butter (Room Temperature)
1 Egg (Beaten)
1 1/2 Cups Gluten Free Self-Raising Flour Mix (I used Orgran)
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder (I used McKenzie’s)
Handful Choc Chips

Mix, divide, roll and bake!

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line baking tray with baking paper.
2. Add melted butter, beaten egg, vanilla essence and Natvia into a bowl and combine.
3. Add in the peanut butter and combine.
4. Sprinkle in the choc chips and mix throughout.
5. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well to form a soft dough.
6. Measure out a tablespoon of the dough and roll into a ball.
7. Place the ball onto the baking tray and press down lightly on top.
8. Repeat above until all the dough has been used – placing balls around 3cm apart.
9. Bake in the middle of the oven for around 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
10. Allow to cool before enjoying!

The end result!

Are you a fan of low-sugar or sugar-free baking? Do you feel it has helped you to manage your sugar cravings? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy baking! 🙂

Gluten Free Vanilla Choc Chip Muffins

Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding crept up on me out of nowhere and I realised I just had to celebrate somehow! Even here in Australia we haven’t been able to escape the mass media coverage of this global event (and all its dramas) but it seems the celebrations are a little less sought after on the southern side of the equator.

So, a less extravagant way to celebrate is by baking of course! And who doesn’t like choc chip muffins? I decide on plain vanilla muffins with the choc chips as I wanted to top with some colourful icing, so I didn’t want the muffins to be too sweet (but not too plain either!)

The result after baking (a bit browner than I’d like!)

This recipe should make 10-12 smallish muffins (or large cupcakes) however it depends on how generous you are with the portions and how much of the batter you eat during the baking process (oops).

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 Cups Self-Raising Gluten Free Flour (I used Coles brand)
1/2 Cup Almond Meal/Ground Almonds
3/4 Cup Caster Sugar (you can replace with natural granulated sweetener)
180g Butter (softened)
1 tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Handful of Chocolate Chips, dark, milk or white (I used Coles brand milk chocolate buttons)

TIPS:
Always check the ingredients when buying for gluten free recipes. Make sure they are 100% gluten free as you don’t want to poison yourself or others!

METHOD:
1) Cream together the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
2) Combine the eggs one at a time.
3) Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, adding the chocolate chips in last.
4) If you’re using a muffin tray, line the tray with a bit of butter or light cooking oil. Otherwise spoon your mixture into muffin or large cupcake cases.
5) Bake in the middle of the oven for around 12-15 minutes at 180°C.

TOP TIPS:
1) I always taste my batter. No, I don’t recommend that you do this since we are now encouraged to steer away from raw eggs, however I think it helps when you’re unsure if you’ve missed something or added in too much/too little of something.
2) Gluten free cake batter needs to be more moist than your standard cake batter. This is to ensure the cakes aren’t too dry and crumbly after baking. If your batter feels too thick, loosen it with a bit of milk. It should be a slightly thick batter but not too dry.
3) Fill your muffin/cupcake cases/trays to just over half-way if you’re planning on decorating your muffins. Filling to half way will ensure an even rise with a relatively flat top, perfect for icing!
4) Don’t add too much baking powder as the muffins may over-rise!
5) Bake in the middle of the oven. I find that even in fan ovens the top of the oven gets way hotter than the bottom. Cook in the middle and keep an eye on your muffins to make sure you don’t over-bake them (I always get distracted!)

TO DECORATE:
The main reason I didn’t make these muffins sugar-free was because I wanted to decorate them with icing and I haven’t quite mastered the sugar-free icing yet (to be honest I haven’t mastered the standard one either!)

Not too bad for a first attempt!

INGREDIENTS:
2-3 Cups Icing Sugar
1/3 Cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Drop of Natural Food Dye (I used blue and red)
Splash of Milk (if icing is too thick)

METHOD:
1) Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and combine with butter and vanilla extract.
2) Separate the icing into separate bowls and add food dye (I had a bowl of the basic white icing, a bowl of blue and a bowl of red).
3) Add the nozzle into your piping bag, then add your different coloured icing into sections, depending on how you want your icing to look. I did a stripe of white, stripe of blue and stripe of red (trying to keep the white in the middle to avoid purple!)
NOTE: You want your icing to be quite stiff to hold its shape!
4) Make sure your muffins are completely cooled then decorate your muffins as desired!

Try to keep your colours separate!

I made my icing way too soft so it didn’t hold its shape well at all! Try and make your icing quite hard if you want it to stay in shape on top of your muffins. Otherwise, the end result wasn’t too shabby and they tasted delicious!

My attempt at Union Jack icing!

Hope you all enjoyed watching the Royal Wedding! We certainly did 🙂

If you’ve got any top icing tips I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Happy baking! 🙂

Annoying Misconceptions about Coeliac Disease

Being “gluten-free” and having Coeliac Disease are two completely different distinctions that people often fail to comprehend. Here’s some more annoying misconceptions about Coeliac Disease.

1. You’re on a ‘fad diet’.

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Yes I’m eating gluten-free. No it’s not by choice – why would it be?! All these people following a ‘fad’ diet that excludes gluten (without medical reasoning) have somewhat ruined the experience for those of us who don’t have the choice. Many food establishments that advertise ‘gluten-free’ aren’t Coeliac-friendly, because we’re just on fad diets too yeah? Erm NO!

2. Just a little bit won’t hurt.

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If I punched you just a little bit it won’t hurt, right? I can’t even count the amount of people that have said this to me, even my own family. Coeliac suffers shouldn’t be subjected to even the smallest amount of gluten, not even a crumb. Even if we don’t experience any immediate physical symptoms, the smallest traces of gluten can cause months of untold damage to our guts. Coeliac Disease is an immune response to gluten – yes, our immune systems literally attack our own guts if we eat gluten. The gut can then take years to fully repair itself which is why it’s so important for sufferers to remain on a strict gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives.

3. Getting ‘glutened’ is just like getting food poisoning.

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To the untold eye, yes. When a Coeliac consumes gluten they will appear to have the same symptoms as food poisoning, but it’s actually whole lot worse. Symptoms can differ from person to person, but usually consist of nausea shortly followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, horrific abdominal cramps for hours on end, followed by ‘brain fog’ and a general feeling of being completely worn out. As before, it’s a rapid immune response which can leave you susceptible to minor illnesses for a weeks after – not something that just disappears within 48 hours!

4. We ‘enjoy’ the gluten-free label.

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No-one enjoys having Coeliac Disease and not being able to eat gluten. There’s so many things we miss out on, so many times where we’ve been unable to find anything to eat or been caught out by something we thought was gluten-free. Speak to anyone with Coeliac Disease and they will name 5 things they miss about not being Coeliac in a microsecond. That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy life, enjoy food and have fun – it’s just a lot more difficult for us. We don’t enjoy being the awkward one at parties, or the one everyone feels sorry for when the restaurant doesn’t have any gluten free options. It’s not what you call ‘fun’!

5. Eating gluten-free is good for you.

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Well, it depends. If you eat gluten-free food and don’t include the gluten-free alternative products, I imagine the diet would be reasonably healthy. I mean, especially if you subtract all the takeaway meals and fast food stops you can no longer enjoy. However, many of the gluten-free alternative products are packed full of fat, sugar and oil (especially palm oil) to make up for taste and texture often lacking in gluten-free food. Next time you pick up a packet of gluten-free biscuits, check for yourself. Just because they’re located in the ‘health food’ isle, don’t make them healthy!

6. you’re gluten free? me too!

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Nah, don’t even. If you choose to eat gluten-free, we are definitely not on the same page. Not only do people with Coeliac Disease have no choice, we can’t just stroll into a restaurant claiming to be gluten-free and just happily sit down and eat. The same goes for the gluten-intolerant or wheat-intolerant who aren’t as sensitive to gluten and don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. What really grinds my gears is when a gluten-intolerant person complains about the lack of gluten-free options, then decides to eat gluten anyway and just ‘suffer the consequences’ for the sake of a doughnut. Go away!

7. We’re just being fussy

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OK, if you think that eating the slightest crumb doing untold damage to your gut is being fussy then see ya! Trust me, if we had a choice not to be ‘fussy’, we’d take it!

8. Eating gluten-free is expensive

via GIPHY

Yes, many of the gluten-free alternatives you find in supermarkets and specialist stores are more expensive, but eating gluten-free doesn’t have to be expensive. Compared to when I was diagnosed back in 2011, the price of gluten-free food has come down considerably. Many supermarkets now have an excellent range of own-brand gluten-free foods at half the price of other brands. Some supermarkets have better choice than others so it’s always worth shopping around and making the most of any special offers!

Life isn’t always a breeze, but we make do! What misconception about Coeliac Disease annoys you most?

Happy reading 🙂

Restaurant Review: The Wolfe, East Brisbane

Looking for a more decadent, celebratory fine-dining experience? The Wolfe is the ideal place!

Located on Stanley Street East, nestled in-between aged buildings, anyone would walk straight past this restaurant without even realising. Inside, however, The Wolfe’s dark wooden decor certainly makes an impact. Since we left the booking a little late, we were seated in the outdoor courtyard towards the rear of the main dining area. We were happy to be seated outside with the cooler air making for a more pleasant experience, even with the mosquitoes attacking my legs. Decorated with leafy greens, the courtyard was just as elegantly designed as the dining room, making you feel no less important that the interior diners, including the continual dedicated service throughout the evening.

Un petit appetizer

Since we booked and arrived at a later time, many of the menu items were already sold out (which shows just how fresh the produce is) including the oysters, much to my friend’s disappointment. However, we were greeted with some delicious (and dainty) appetizers whilst we scoured the menu. Many of the menu items were gluten-free, much to my delight, making my decision a lot more enjoyable – opposed to the usual experience of just choosing whatever is gluten-free! The menu is changed on a monthly basis, so don’t expect to find the same items I ordered below on the current menu!

I opted for the quail ballotine with red grapes and woodear mushrooms to start, wanting to experience new dishes that I could actually enjoy on my strict gluten-free diet.

Starter: Quail ballotine with red grapes woodear mushrooms

My first time eating quail, it was perfectly moist, tender and perfectly matched the red grapes and woodear mushrooms…and that sauce! Lately, I’ve been opting for more raw dishes to start, so having a cooked entree was a good choice to mix things up a bit. Next up, my main was another first for me – wagyu beef (and a sizeable portion of it too!)

Main: Wagyu beef with enoki mushrooms

When my main first arrived, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t ordered a side to go with it, but half-way through my plate I realised that it simply wasn’t needed. Once again the combination of flavours and the perfectly cooked steaks were to die for, leaving me wondering if I’ll ever be able to enjoy another steak again! And for dessert…

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse with Berry Sorbet

Anything chocolate is a winner to me, but this was just the most divine way to top off an amazing meal. The richness of the chocolate mousse was perfectly balanced by the tartness of the berry sorbet and the crunch of the white chocolate shards. Once again what looked like a small portion turned out to be just the right size for the dish. Whilst the dishes took a little while to arrive, it allowed time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere and good company. Unlike most restaurants, we weren’t rushed out at the end of our meals and the table service throughout deserved a 5 star alone.

I highly recommend the Wolfe for an evening of decadent dishes for a special occasion. Remember to book well in advance as the dining room fills quickly and perhaps book a little earlier in the evening to ensure you don’t miss out on some of the delicious fresh produce.

Happy eating! 🙂

Mount Barney Lower Portals Trek

This weekend we decided to embark on a slightly more intense trek and found that Mount Barney National Park had a range of different tracks on offer. Considering the drive to Mount Barney was going to take nearly 2 hours, we decided to embark on the 3 hour Lower Portals track and set off before 8am (we are still beginners after all!)

Driving down from Brisbane we planned to stop for our ritual pre-trek breakfast at Rathdowney on the Mount Lindsay highway. Just outside of the town centre is Rathlogan Grove with its very own Hilltop cafe nestled amongst the olive trees. The cafe is quite charming with its rural surrounds and small store selling a range of goods from country kitchen wares and boutique skincare to their very own olive oils and dressings (of which we purchased a few). Although their menu didn’t clearly state gluten-free options, they were more than happy to provide gluten-free bread which turned out to be of the best handmade variety.

Breakfast & Views from Hilltop Cafe, Rathlogan Grove

After fuelling up, we made our way to the start of the trek at the Lower Portals car park in Mount Barney National Park. As Upper Logan Road steadily transformed into a dirt track, we were baffled as to where the Lower Portals car park actually was and ended up at Yellow Pinch Reserve.

Upper Logan Road towards Mount Barney

At this point in time we had both lost mobile signal so we were without navigation. Luckily for us, there were some handy (though no very detailed) maps at the Yellow Pinch Reserve notice board and we discovered we’d somehow driven past Lower Portals road.

Mount Barney National Park Map

We eventually found Lower Portals car park (the sign for Lower Portals Road was obscured by a sign for Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages!) put on our hiking boots and headed out on the track. The Lower Portals track is a class 4 track (based on Australian standards) with a distance of 7.4km return – taking around 3 hours in all.

Lots of creeks and rocks to climb over

The track itself had a mixture of terrains, with some very steep inclines and a small amount of rock climbing at points. What started off as a fairly cloudy and cool day quickly turned into a very hot and humid one – add steep and uneven tracks in the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a sweaty hike!

We were already worn out by the time we reached the first creek

Despite the intensity, there seemed to be a great mixture of people attempting the hike including young children and some elderly folks (who we were unsure were going to make it to the end!) Matt described some parts of the track as an ‘arid hellscape’ with the red-orange rocks and tree roots engulfing the steepest inclines. It was certainly a step up from our trek at Lake Wivenhoe!

Amongst the flora and fauna

After around 1 hour and 20 minutes of ups and downs we reached the creek at the end of the track (hurrah!). I was surprised that the creek was so clear and clean and began to regret not taking any swimwear with me (I was pretty hot and sweaty by this point!)

The first point of the creek – the water is so clear!

Although you can swim at the first point of the creek (the first part is surprisingly quieter), you have to jump over the stepping stones and clamber over some rocks on the other side to reach the more popular swimming holes.

The more popular swimming holes & sunbathing spots on the other side of the creek

Here we found congregations of families and friends eating picnics, enjoying a swim and sunbathing on the many rocks. After removing socks and shoes and dipping our feet into the water, we both decided that we probably wouldn’t have been swimming after all – the pool was freezing cold even despite the heat! Despite the large amount of people there, the creek had a rather relaxing vibe to it. We even saw a wild turtle milling around in the water, keeping its distance from the splashing children.

Well worth the trek!

Overall, the trek was quite intense in terms of the steep inclines, high humidity and temperatures, but thoroughly enjoyable all the same! The track provides an array of different scenery and terrains meaning you’ll never get bored of repetition and the creek at the end is just an added bonus! Ensure you take plenty of water, optional swimwear and perhaps a picnic to enjoy once you reach the creek. Expect to be out for at least 4 hours so remember your sunscreen and protective gear. Oh and bear in mind there’s little to no mobile phone signal so make sure you download your offline maps beforehand.

Have you recently completed a Mount Barney trek? We’d love to hear from you!

Happy hiking! 🙂

Trekking at Lake Wivenhoe

Determined to make the most of the weekends, I’ve been on a quest to find interesting treks and places to visit just outside of Brisbane city. This weekend, we decided to trek around Lake Wivenhoe and discover the nearby historic town of Esk.

Esk is a small countryside town north-west of Brisbane city, on the edge of the rather grand Lake Wivenhoe. Known for its charming cafes and antique stores, Esk reminisces of a by-gone era. Driving from Brisbane, we took the M2 then A17, the latter providing incredible views of Lake Wivenhoe as we made our way to Esk.

We decided to stop in Esk for breakfast before heading back to our trek (which we’d already driven past). We stumbled across Nash Gallery and Cafe, drawn in by its historic colonial architecture.

Nash Gallery & Cafe, Esk

The cafe had a few gluten free options on the menu but I got distracted by the mouth-watering fresh gluten-free cakes on display at the counter.

Nash Gallery & Cafe Lunch Menu

I opted for a flourless, gluten-free chocolate cake and a chai latte with almond milk since I wasn’t overly hungry. The flourless cake was decadent, chocolately and moist just as it should be. They also had gluten-free chocolate brownies and a pear and pistachio cake amongst others!

Delicious flourless gluten-free chocolate cake

We then headed south to Lake Winvehoe for the Wivenhoe Hill trek. The trek consists of 4 trails: black, blue, red and white. We decided that a 9km trek would be sufficient for the day, so we started on the blue trail, planning to make our way back to the car park via the black trail.

Map of the Wivenhoe Hill trails (taken at the end of the Blue Trail)

The beginning of the Blue Trail was a little odd – a seemingly abandoned tarmac road that eventually looped back on itself – turning into a dead end. We then realised that the trail continued up and away from the road and into dense bushland.

Beginning of the Blue Trail from the car park

This is where the Blue Trail got a bit more difficult. You could definitely tell that the trail we really designed for people on horses more than people on foot but it made for an interesting trek all the same.

This is more like it!

Overgrown trails, an array of wild birds and a challenging route proved for an interesting trek on the Blue Trail. The only disappointment was the lack of views over Lake Wivenhoe. The trail got so close to the waters edge and yet the views of the lake were constantly hidden by foliage. If you’re looking for picturesque views of the lake, this trek isn’t for you!

The only view of Lake Wivenhoe from the trail

The Black Trail returned to the abandoned tarmac road which made for a rather hot return journey. Although the majority of the Blue Trail was under the cover of the trees, the Black Trail was open to the elements and the harsh heat of the midday sun – remember your hat, sunscreen and water!

Driving over the dam at Lake Wivenhoe – finally, views of the lake!

If you’re looking for a challenging and quiet trek, the Wivenhoe Hill trails are a good start, with an array of different trails and distances to mix and match. Just bear in mind the lack of facilities and the difficult nature of some of the trails. If you’re simply after an enjoyable day out not too far from Brisbane city, we highly recommend visiting Esk and Lake Wivenhoe, even if its just for the views.

Have you recently been on any other treks around Lake Wivenhoe? I’d love to hear any recommendations!

Happy reading! 🙂

 

How does your routine affect your diet?

Recently I’ve started working from home for 3 out of 5 days of the working week. At first, I thought this was amazing. I thought I could go to the gym as normal in the morning then workout in-between emails, with my weights and yoga mat by my side all day and eat nothing but healthy, wholesome food. Yeah… that didn’t happen. I started going to the gym a bit later (if at all) to avoid those 5:30am alarms and when I got back all I wanted to do (and still want to do) is eat. I sometimes remember to do a bit of exercise in my living room when it gets quiet, but it mostly consists of about 5 squats, a 20 second plank then 10 minutes spent pondering whether I’ve already eaten lunch or not. I mean, I know I don’t have to be permanently exercising, but I thought I would most definitely be incorporating more exercise into my daily routine with the freedom of working from home.

There’s something about being stuck at home – that is, being confined to the four walls of your home because you are, after all, meant to be working – and being permanently hungry. Especially when the weather is as miserable as it is today….

A miserable outlook over Brisbane today

Maybe it’s just a British thing, but seeing those dull, grey skies teaming down with rain makes me want to grab a nice, steamy cup of tea and eat a slice of cake (I did make a sugar-free, gluten-free orange cake recently). Thankfully, in Brisbane, the rain is more of an anomaly than a recurrence, so this doesn’t happen often. However, when I am working from home I’m completely missing my routine, more simply because I am my own decision maker. I decide when I get out of bed (to an extent) and when I eat lunch and even when I get dressed (today I only got dressed because someone was meant to be coming to check the fire alarms). In your standard office environment, you are expected to turn up on time, eat lunch around, well, lunchtime and you aren’t accompanied by your fridge or food cupboards.

Gluten-free & sugar-free orange cake (presentation in progress!)

Some office environments come with their own temptations, such as the glorious office biscuit stash, however I’m not subjected to this torment as I can’t eat them unless I buy myself gluten-free ones (yes, I usually order the office supplies). Then there’s going out for lunch and walking past all those delicious smells and people scoffing burgers and fries right in front of you. Well, again, I can’t eat most of those things so it’s not an issue. A bigger issue for me is living above a supermarket, one that I often walk past on the way back from the gym and go ‘oh I need something’ then coming back with 20 things I didn’t actually need – especially if I see gluten-free items on special as they’re usually so damn expensive.

Today’s lunch: Sweet potato hash, egg, halloumi, rocket & basil oil dressing

On my ‘office days’ I’m usually pretty good. I get up at 5:30am and go to the gym, I prep a healthy lunch and take healthy snacks. I even sometimes fit in a 20 minute workout when I get home. This sounds more manic but it actually makes me feel more energetic, more switched on and I can sleep easier at the end of the day because I’m physically and mentally tired. Currently, this type of routine isn’t happening on my days working from home. My timings are all over the place and it’s not doing my body or mind a lot of good. It’s also confusing the cat, a lot (she gets grumpy because I eat lunch without her).

So, my plan is to map out a routine for my days at home. Set regular times to go to the gym, eat breakfast and lunch etc and continue to prep my food so I’m less liable to snacking. I may even to bake a few healthy treats if I spare myself some time.

Do you work from home? Do you find a set routine helps with your eating habits and motivation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy reading 🙂