Are you looking for a way to celebrate and stay healthy on Australia Day this year?

Alice Nicholls is a Nutritional Med student, Certified Holistic Health Coach and Life Coach who wants to see you nourish yourself and your life from the inside out. As part of her plan, she creates delicious recipes and recreates classic meals with a healthy twist.

“I want to see all people move from an existence of always wanting something that only exists in the future – skinny, happy, acceptance, love – and feel fulfilled in their journey today,” she said. “I want to support people to feel well and nourished in themselves and their lives. I’m exceptionally passionate about sharing the tools to achieve that.”

In preparation for Australia Day, Nicholls has whipped up a gluten and refined sugar-free recipe for that old favourite, the lamington. We were curious about a few things, though, so we pinned the busy lady down for a quick chat.

What foods do you think of when Australia Day pops into your head?

Firstly, I think about the native Australian people, the Aborigines. They are known to be the oldest tribe of all of mankind and deserve to be considered. I like to think of Australia Day as a day to connect with our loved ones and for us, that typically involves a table filled with lots of yummy food and great conversation. Oh, and the Triple J Hottest 100.

Why did you decide to recreate the lamington?

My stance on food is that it should be ‘real’ and it should nourish us and taste delicious. I’m a firm believer in baking and creating from scratch in the home as a way of connecting more to what we eat and making meals that support our health. I happened to pick up a pack of lamingtons for interest sake in the supermarket and was horrified by the list of chemical ingredients in them. It spurred me to get home and into the kitchen. The results of which were amazing (if I do say so myself!)

Have you tested this on anyone yet? What has been the response?

Yes! My kids and husband are my chief taste-testers. My husband is a man of few words, however he sat there chewing and smiling and gave me two thumbs up. He later wrote a comment underneath my Facebook post of them that said “I can confirm these are EPIC”. That’s a definitive confirmation right there.

How healthy do you think typical Aussies are? And how much of illness is connected to what we eat?

I think the typical Aussie has a way to go before we tip the scales towards being a healthy culture. We now have one of the highest obesity rates in the world and for those over 40 years old, there is an 80% chance of dying from one of four metabolic diseases that do not affect those cultures not influenced by our style of western diet.

This statistic can be completely shifted if we eat for nourishment and preventative health, however we need to be better at educating Australians on how to buy, cook and understand what healthy food is. Gen X is the first generation in history that is tracking to have a shorter lifespan than those before us. This is unacceptable – and the reason is that the advancements in medicine can’t keep up with the rate we are degenerating our health with negative-nourishment foods. It begins in the kitchen for prevention, not in the Dr’s office to try to bandaid a solution. WE are the solution.

Can you share some tips on how to eat and cook and create magic in the kitchen in a more healthy way? (but that is also budget-friendly and easy to achieve even if you’re not a chef).

Absolutely. It’s about sticking to the basics. Buy food that is obviously ‘real’. As many fruits and vegetables as you can, any that you enjoy. As well as good quality animal products if you eat them. Your plate should have a larger portion of any vegetable, baked, stir-fried or steamed and then your protein of choice as the smaller portion. The number one thing we can do to make sure we eat real food is to look at ingredients labels (or buy food that doesn’t need them). Try not to eat foods that have numbers in them, or words you don’t know.

Get comfortable with creating recipes with minimum ingredients. Use a slow-cooker in winter and fill plates with salads, avo and seafood in summer. Probably the easiest meal we love is under $1 a serve. Get 1/2 a sachet of Mae ploy curry paste (this has no harmful veg oil in it), put it in a saucepan with 1 tin of coconut milk, some chopped vegetables and a tin of chickpeas and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

What are your plans for Australia Day?

I’ll be cooking up a big open family lunch and spending time with the ones I love.

Anything else we should know?

Investing in learning about our health from a gentle and holistic approach to boost our enjoyment and fulfillment in life is one of the most important things we can do to support this and our next generation. Keep an open mind and make 2015 the year that you begin to nourish your life.

Enjoy the recipe!

Ingredients:

Lamington Sponge

250ml melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod
160g coconut nectar syrup (honey would make lighter coloured and flavoured lamingtons – so will look more like a traditional sponge. You can see mine are a little more golden brown.)
8 free-range eggs
2 tsp baking powder
130g arrowroot flower
170g almond flour

Note - You will need 3 tbs of raspberry jam for the inside of the lamington. I have used a ‘hack’ for the jam and used a brand called ‘St Dalfour’ which you can find in the jam section at the supermarket. It is a 100% fruit jam with no added refined sugar. They do a good jam. If you have time you can make 100% fruit jam with no added sugar if you google recipes.

Chocolate icing

160ml melted coconut oil
120g raw cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
125ml coconut
4 tbsp honey
120g desiccated coconut

Method:

Method for lamington sponge

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Grease a 25 x 35 cm cake tin Swisse roll pan) witha bit of coconut oil (I use my fingers) and then line with baking paper. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl for around four minutes or more, until they’re thick and foamy. In another mixing bowl, whisk the melted coconut oil, coconut nectar (or honey) and vanilla bean paste until they are well combined and slowly pour into the eggs with the electric beaters going. In a dry bowl, combine the arrowroot, baking powder and almond meal and then gently (gently, gently) fold it into the egg and oil mix.

Pour the mixture into your baking tin and bake for 25 minutes, or until the center of the sponge springs back lightly when touched. Allow to sit for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

Using a sharp bread knife, trim the edges and then gently slice in half so you have two equal slabs of sponge.

Spread a thin layer of jam on one side of the sponge and then place one slab on top of the other, like a jam sandwich. Slice into sqaures with a bread knife.

Method for icing

Whisk the coconut oil, cacao, vanilla bean paste, coconut milk and honey together in a small bowl until it thickens and is completely combines. Dip the the sponge cakes into the chocolate and coat evenly with the desiccated coconut. Allow the icing to set, around one hour and serve.