za'atar baked shakshouka eggs - to her core

One of the best things about having a food blog is that it pushes me to constantly try not only new foods but also new cooking and food preparation techniques. I’m sure you would all find it boring if I posted the same thing all the time, and I would no doubt find it boring to eat the same food all the time. Not only is it more interesting to eat different foods and find new flavours to enjoy, its also an extremely healthy to eat a wide variety of foods.

A few years back I had what I considered at the time to be quite a healthy diet – my breakfast was nearly the exact same thing every day – oats with yoghurt, banana, cinnamon and crushed nuts. In summer I’d let it sit overnight a la bircher muesli and in winter I’d cook it and eat it warm. Lunches and dinners were a little more varied, but still usually consisted of mostly the same food – sushi, pasta, soup, veggie stir-fry with tofu and garden salads with canned tuna. While these meals weren’t overly unhealthy – there was nothing deep-fried and nothing overly processes, it was just that they were, well, quite monotonous. In terms of taste and in terms of the nutrients they provided. I was eating some nutrient dense foods like vegetables, and fruit to snack on, but it was the exact same vegetables and fruit every time. And I was also eating a lot of pasta, bread, rice and other commercially-produced food that was lacking in nutritional quality. When we don’t eat a wide variety of different foods, we risk not consuming the wide variety of vitamins and minerals that our bodies require.

Za'atar baked eggs - to her core

Food is an energy source. It’s meant to provide us with the energy and nutrients we need to grow and function. But this does not mean food needs to be boring. It just means that we need to be creative with nutrient dense wholefoods so that we can enjoy these foods more. And one of the best ways to do this is to eat seasonally, and to experiment with different ways of cooking food to discover new tastes we like. When we eat seasonally we are forced to eat whatever is in season and not just get the same thing that we are familiar with over and over again. It forces us to get creative and think outside the box. It also allows us to consume different foods and therefore different vitamins and minerals than what we may otherwise be getting. Of course, we are talking here mostly about plant-based wholefoods, and not other “seasonal” foods like ice-cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter. While by all means you can go ahead and have a little treat if you want it, to get the goods your body needs you need to be making sure you mix up the ingredients in your meals from time to time.

Za'atar baked eggs - to her core

But – this doesn’t mean that you need to go and spend a fortune on “superfoods” or spend hours slaving away in the kitchen. A great way to change a dish up is by cooking it in a slightly different way or switching out a few ingredients. Try using different vegetables in your standard stirfy, or switch out the rice you serve it with for cauliflower couscous. Roast or lightly fry vegetables to change up your standard salad. Use vegetables to make noodles. Add different spices, herbs and condiments to really add a different flavour to your favorite dish.

This brings me to this eggy dish, which is the perfect example of how swapping out a few ingredients and adding a few others can completely transform a dish. We make my shakshuka for a weekend breakfast once a month or so, and one of the last times I made it I decided to change up the recipe a bit. I had a whole bunch of kale sitting sadly in the fridge begging to be turned into something delicious so I added that to the mix, and also a generous spoonful of za’atar which is a Middle Eastern spice mix that I have been adding to everything lately. Using fresh herbs and spices is such a fantastic, easy way to transform any dish. And this spice mix in particular is incredibly simple yet has a wonderfully complex flavour from the toasted sesame seeds, subtly sweet sumac and earthy thyme. Once you’ve toasted your sesame seeds in a dry pan for a minute or so, the spice mix comes together in a flash. I use a mortar and pestle to make mine, but you could also use a spice grinder or food processor/blender, or if you don’t have any of these, buy the herbs and spices crushed and just mix them together in a bowl. 

 This dish also comes together a lot more quickly than the normal shakshuka, with the preparation and cooking taking less than half an hour from start to finish. A great (quick) way to start your next Sunday morning.

Za'atar baked eggs - to her core

Za’atar baked eggs + why it’s important to vary your diet

Za’atar baked eggs + why it’s important to vary your diet

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 mushrooms (100g), quartered
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp za'atar spice blend

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C || 390 F
  2. Heat a fry pan over medium to high heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic until it is fragrant, around 30 - 60 seconds- be careful not to burn, it should just be starting to brown.
  3. Add the vegetables, sumac, paprika and cumin and cook until starting to soften, around three to four minutes.
  4. Lower the heat and use a wooden spoon to create four wells in the vegetable mix. Crack and egg into each, and sprinkle with half the za'atar.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolk.
  6. Remove from the oven, and enjoy immediate.
http://tohercore.com/zaatar-baked-eggs/

dairy-free cheese collage - to her core

I am always looking for new and interesting ways to use wholefood ingredients, especially ones that minimalise waste. I recently discovered macadamia nut milk which fast became my favorite nut milk – it’s smooth, creamy and has a lovely subtle flavour which isn’t as strong as other non-dairy milks meaning that it works wonderfully in places where other milk substitutes hold up poorly. It also means that I have been making copious amounts of the stuff which has left me with lots of nut milk pulp.

There are many uses for nutmilk pulp – it can be dried and then blended into nut flour, mixed into cookie and bliss balls, mixed with some spices to create a tasty dip or rolled out and baked at a low heat to make savoury crackers. But by far my favorite way to use up nut milk pulp is to turn it into delicious savoury cheese.

orange + hazelnut vegan cheese - to her core

dill caper dairy free cheese - to her core

orange + hazelnut dairy-free cheese - to her core

I am a huge lover of most things cheese, but I try not to include too much dairy in my diet as I’ve noticed that it aggravates my skin when I’m eating too much if it. I have a condition called dermatographic urteria, which means that my skin produces histamine without necessarily having an antigen to set it off, which basically means that my skin gets quite itchy and marks easily. I use antihistamine tablets to control the symptoms, which have been lessening over the past few years. Over the Christmas period however, the symptoms got worse and I had to start taking the antihistamines more frequently. The only thing I could think of that had changed was that I was having more dairy – I went to a food fermentation course late November and was given some milk kefir grains which I was using to make milk kefir which I turned into breakfast smoothies a few days a week, plus I had started eating a lot more cheese. You may have noticed an increase of cheese-related recipes here leading up to Christmas which was reflective of my diet – Baked Ricotta, Haloumi Stir Fry,  and lots of sneaky blue cheese going on. 

I normally wouldn’t have had any inclination to overshare my odd skin condition here – it’s something I consider to be very minor and doesn’t really affect my day to day life at all – it normally isn’t visibly noticeable and these days creates only a little discomfort (the odd itching) until the recent flare up, however after realising how dairy affected it I assumed that this may be something that other people had come across, yet a quick Google search revealed nothing of the kind. So I guess part of my sharing this with you is to highlight how some foods that we perhaps wouldn’t suspect can aggravate other conditions, not necessarily in an overly obvious way (by which I mean I show no signs of being dairy intolerant).

So in the best interest of my skin – and my mind (anyone who has suffered itchy skin conditions will know exactly what I mean here!) we’re steering clear of dairy for the moment and embracing non-dairy alternatives. 

hazelnut + orange dairy free cheese - to her core

vegan cheese dill - to her core

lemon dairy free cheese - to her core

Gone are the days when those who couldn’t consume dairy (or chose not to) had to live off commercially made soy products only. There are so many options these days, including grain and legume options, as well as nut and seed varieties which I tend to favour. I actually made a quick video of how to easily make your own nut milk at home, but it’s incredibly over exposed so I may have to have a second crack at it I think, and in the mean-time I’ll point you in the direction of Tasty Yummies’ guide to nut milks which gives you a step by step guide on how to make nut milk plus four delicious flavouring options. And once you have made your nut milk and are left with just the pulp, you can go ahead and use it to make some of this yummy dairy-free cheese. This cheese is most similar in taste and texture to ricotta, and as with ricotta, is quite bland on its own so needs a little extra flavouring to really make it shine. I’ve given you three flavouring options here, but you really could play around with the base recipe to add in whatever flavourings you like. if you do experiment and come up with anything that really impresses, be sure to let me know in the comments below so that I can try it out myself! 

dairy-free cheese - to her core 1

dairy free cheese three ways - to her core 1

 

 

Dairy-free cheese, three ways
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Dairy-free cheese base
  1. 1 cup nut milk pulp
  2. 1 Tbsp nut milk
  3. 2 Tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  5. 1 tsp salt
Zesty mustard + toasted sesame
  1. 1 heaped tsp lemon zest
  2. 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  3. 1 Tbsp mustard
  4. 1/4 cup sesame seeds
Roasted hazelnut, orange + smokey paprika
  1. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  2. 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  3. 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 1 heaped tsp finely grated orange rind
  5. 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  6. Caper, lemon & dill
  7. 2 Tbsp chopped capers
  8. 2 tsp lemon juice
  9. 1/4 cup chopped dill
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 C || 390 F
  2. Add the hazelnuts to a baking tray and place in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes until starting to brown and smell fragrant. Remove, and allow to cool, the crush roughly in a mortar and pestle (or alternatively chop with a knife).
  3. To toast the sesame seeds, heat a fry pan over medium to high heat and add the seeds. stir with a wooden spoon until lightly toasted - this will only take a minute or so. Remove immediately from the hot pan so that you don't burn the seeds.
  4. To prepare the cheese base, add the pulp to a bowl and then mash in the olive oil, lemon juice, nut milk and salt until well combined.
  5. Choose a flavouring and mix in all of the ingredients listed except the bottom ingredient (ie the sesame seeds, hazelnuts or dill). Roll the mixture into 3 or 4 balls (roughly golf-ball sized), and then roll in the bottom ingredient for that flavouring list.
  6. Chill in the fridge before serving. Lasts around three to four days in the fridge if you wish to make ahead.
Notes
  1. The amounts for the different flavourings are what you'll need for the whole amount of the cheese base (ie 1 cup nut milk pulp). If you want to divide the base mixture to make all three flavourings as per the pictures, you'll need to divide the amounts of the flavourings by a third.
http://tohercore.com/

Australia day - to her core

This coming Monday is Australia’s (official) National Day. For my non-Australian readers, the date (January 26th) is the anniversary of the arrival of white European settlement on Australian soils back in 1788, though Australia was inhabited long before this time by Indigenous Australians, and Australia as a nation was not established until over 100 years later. 

Australia day falls in the middle of the summer, and therefore usually means a trip to the beach, and/or a BBQ in someone’s backyard listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. It also means a public holiday, which means a long weekend, which is always good news in my book.

In an incredibly unpatriotic move, a look through my recipe archive reveals absolutely no “Australian” recipes. There’s no meat pie recipes (seriously? On a vego health blog? ;) The desserts section sports no pavlova (is that really all that Australian anyway?) and there are definitely no Vegemite sandwiches to be seen! (Do we even need to go there?)  To be quite honest though, most of these foods aren’t ones that feature at all in my diet. Most of my recipes and cooking is influenced by other food blogs, or by my Italian background, travelling, or food I have eaten at various restaurants and cafes over the years. Living in a multicultural society here in Australia we are very fortunate to have a massive range of authentic cuisine on display in most cities, and I think that this food heavily influences the diet of most Australians. 

However, being Australia day I thought I might showcase for my overseas readers some of the uniquely Australian foods and recipes, and in the true spirit of mateship, I’m pointing you in the direction of some of my fellow Australian food bloggers to introduce you to traditional Australia tucker.

pav

Pretty Pavlova

Ah, the pavlova. A contentious dessert that – like the nationality of Russell Crowe, Crowded House and Phar Lap – Australians and New Zealanders have fought furiously over the true origins of since the early days of colonisation. This dessert, usually served at Christmas time (and on Australia Day), is a meringue case filled with whipped cream, berries and other fresh fruit.

Berry Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Wild Thyme Honey – Laura’s Mess (pictured)

Pavlova Icecream – Kinko Kitchen 

Pavlova with Rosemary Poached Rhubarb, Mango + Passionfruit - Finger, Fork + Knife

 

The (meatless) “sausage” roll

Whilst perhaps not technically a homegrown Australian recipe, you would be hard-fetched to go to any Australia Day BBQ (or kids birthday party/morning tea/afternoon tea/other social event) without at least seeing some variation on a sausage roll. I was never a huge fan of the sausage roll growing up – and obviously less so now! – so instead I’ve picked out some healthier vego options which are waayyy more my style!

Homemade Vegetarian Sausage Rolls – Veggie Mama

Pumpkin and Harissa Sausage Rolls – Delicious Everyday

 

lamingtons-sugar-and-gluten-free1

The humble lamington

Most countries have some kind of traditional cake recipe. In Australia, we have just the one – the lamington. Baked in a flat, rectangular pan, coated in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut. If you’re lucky, you may get a smathering of jam in the middle, and if you’re really lucky, perhaps a dollop of cream as well.

Lamingtons (Gluten and refined sugar free) – The Whole Daily (pictured)

Gluten-free and Refined Sugar Free Lamingtons – The Holistic Ingredient 

Gluten-free Lamingtons – Souvlaki For The Soul

True Blue ANZAC biscuits

ANZAC biscuits are the quintessential traditional Australian homemade biscuit, made up of oats, golden syrup, butter and coconut. As the story goes, ANZAC biscuits got their name as wives would send them to their soldier husbands during the First World War as their ingredients wouldn’t spoil easily. 

Quinoa ANZAC Cookies – My Darling Lemon Thyme

Vegan ANZAC Biscuits – Quirky Cooking 

Paleo ANZAC Biscuits – the Healthy Chef

tim-tam-1000

Oh my Tim Tam

Tim Tams, for the uninitiated, are Australia’s shining star when it comes to chocolate biscuits. Chocolate cream sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits coated in chocolate. It’s a chocolate overload which has families fighting over the last one, partly because they are addictive and incredibly moreish, and also because the packet contains an uneven 11 biscuits which either leaves a winner or loser, depending on if you’re the lucky recipient of the last Tim Tam or not. And if you manage to get your hands on one of these little chocolately sensations, there is a correct and incorrect way to eat them. If you take a bite like you would a normal biscuit, then you’re doing it wrong! If instead you bite off each end and dunk it in your cup of tea and suck the tea through from the other end, your doing it the correct way (and are also now covered in chocolate!)

Tim Tams – Wholefood Simply (pictured)

A Healthy Tim Tam – A Free Spirited Fish

 

Australia day - to her core