Ground Up Baking

{ Nicknamed ‘Betty Crocker’ in her earlier years, Kate Bradley proves you can bake your cake and eat it… minus the sugar and wheat of course. }

Melbourne-based wholefood extraordinaire, blogger and first-time author Kate Bradley of Kenkō Kitchen has discovered that life is like baking: it involves a lot of trial and error.

In the past when baking gluten free, sugar free and often vegan, Kate admits that some things worked; some things failed miserably, but it was all just learning and as long as she was in the kitchen, she was having fun.

This cook and nutritional medicine student made the transition to healthier baking in recent years simply by substituting caster sugar for stevia or coconut sugar, wheat flour for buckwheat or brown rice flour and eggs for ‘flax eggs’ or ‘chia eggs’.

Quite the contrast to baking in her earlier years when she was affectionately named Betty Crocker. Back then Kate created quirky birthday cakes designed as pizza boxes, burgers, barbeques, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. All were loaded with wheat and sugar. How times have changed.

In Kate’s first time as author, Kenkō Kitchen celebrates her healthy baking and cooking journey. This colourful cookbook is being released worldwide this month after a February release in Australia and March release in the US. Already it’s into its second print run.

Kate, tell us what we can find in your first cookbook?

A lot of my family favourite recipes and other classics with a healthy spin. There are comfort foods, traditional dishes and various cuisines all created using plant-based ingredients. It is simple food, which is packed with flavour that will leave you feeling great.

I understand your father’s side consists of grain and livestock farmers… did their love of farm-fresh produce and cooking from the garden translate into deliciously healthy baking?

My father’s mum is an unofficial CWA (Country Womens’ Association) superstar. Being on the farm she had to learn how to adapt all various recipes to just use what you have available. I still remember when we ran out of self-raising flour and she got out this book for country women, which showed them how to make their own. You couldn’t get to the shops very often so she was just a master of making do and inventing. Her recipes are still very close to my heart. My grandpa was a cereals and sheep farmer however I think he was the only farmer who never wanted to eat the meat. He is the gentlest man in the world.

Any special Croatian baked treats youve inherited from your mums side of the family?

I just made a Lemon Polenta Cake for my poppa, which was the same cake his aunty brought over on the boat from Croatia. The cake was over three months old by the time it got to Australia but my poppa still swears it was the best cake he has ever eaten.

How has your upbringing influenced your food choices today?

My family has always been a big grow-it-yourself family so this has always been important to me. This if from the influence of both sides of my family, the Aussie farmers on my dad’s side who, even though they are in their 80s still grow their own food. Also the influence of my mum’s Croatian side, who became grape farmers and had an orchard when they migrated to Australia.

Our garden contains over 100 fruit frees, whatever seasonal vegetables we can grow, various tea leaf trees and herbs. It’s beautiful to be able to pick and use food in your cooking you’ve grown yourself. I will always go to farmers’ markets when possible to get ingredients and try to stick to organic where possible. I always shop at local wholefood stores for my bulk ingredients and try and support local makers where possible.

Why did you decide to go mostly gluten free?

When I was 22 years old I was constantly lethargic, depressed, had daily migraines and had a lot of stomach issues. I didn’t know at this point I was actually suffering from coeliac disease and wasn’t diagnosed until January this year. I now am on a very strict gluten-free diet, so you won’t find any more gluten sneaking into my diet, those days are over. My daily headaches don’t exist, my stomach issues are decreasing and overall I just feel amazing.

Tell us the story behind the unique and dinstinctive name Kenkõ Kitchen?

I was always very inspired by Japanese cooking and their minimalistic approach to food and having that balance in their meals. The more I learnt about Japanese culture and macrobiotic cuisine the more thoughtful I became with my own cooking. Kenkõ means health/healthy in Japanese, so to me it just made sense; I wanted to create a health kitchen and wanted to take these Japanese principles along with me.

Can you describe what macrobiotic cuisine is for those who dont know?

‘Macrobiotic’ is a Japanese way of eating which uses grains such as brown rice as the staple for a meal then accompanied by local seasonal vegetables, seaweeds, fermented products, small amounts of fruit and avoids all processed ingredients. Macrobiotic recipes are all about balance – having the yin and yang in your food for maximum nutrition from a meal. Some of the best meals I have ever had have been at macrobiotic restaurants in Japan.

Describe your motivation for getting Kenkõ Kitchen started

When I first started getting really into my health I would test out recipes and bring in what I had made into work to eat for my lunch. I would have various colleagues asking how I made the food and how it still tasted so good without using so many ingredients. I decided to make the website to not only motivate myself to keep going with my healthy eating, but also to help inspire other young people to take a bit more notice of what goes on their plate. I wanted them to know eating healthy doesn’t mean just celery sticks and lettuce. You can have something that is super delicious, easy to make and will have you feeling great.

I understand you also teach cooking classes

My cooking classes, The Kenkō Kitchen Cooking Club, were only started last year after quite a few requests. I hope to build these up more this year and would love to be able to hold more workshops and classes.

Tell us about some surprising ingredients used in your recipes

I sneak a lot of weird items into my foods. Seaweed powders like kelp I try to hide in a lot of dishes to season my food and I will also try and turn simple ingredients like the base of a mushroom into something unexpected like a scallop. I love to use ingredients that are easy to grow yourself or are widely accessible just in a new and exciting way. I think people love to see new things – like the mushroom ‘scallops’ and find out ways they can sneak in more nutrients into their foods.

Any nutritious secrets you like to load into your dishes?

I slip plant-based protein into about two drinks a day as I know I don’t eat enough protein in my food. I also like to pop a spoon of a greens powder or other superfood powders into my breakfast or drinks throughout the day, usually if I know I’m not getting enough of something or if I am particularly stressed. Otherwise I will always just include a few cold-pressed green vegetable juices throughout my day and will try and stick to eating my fruit instead of juicing it so I still retain the fibre.


Any new health or elimination goals for the year ahead?

I plan on sticking to my strict gluten-free diet to help with my coeliac and will for a while also be steering clear of lactose and too much fructose. I know I have a lot of damage to repair after 24 years of being coeliac without realising. I also hope to challenge myself even more with my cooking and recipe development.



I will normally wake up quite early, I have three dogs who think anytime between 5.30am and 6am is when they need to be fed, so normally when one wakes up, they all wake up wanting food.

After this it is normally straight to the gym, followed by breakfast (a green protein smoothie, some gluten-free toast or homemade baked beans).

Then I will take the dogs for a walk to the park or beach. When I get home I will make a big juice and some sort of salad or quick soba dish to take with me for lunch.

I will then go to work, fit in Kenkō on my lunch break or after work, then take the dogs to the park (or beach) again then cook dinner (this changes nightly and could be anything from Mexican, a curry, soup, salads or Italian – whatever inspires me that day).

I will do some more work, read and head to bed by 10.30pm ready to do it all again the next day.

Images and recipes extracted from Kenkō Kitchen by Kate Bradley, published by Hardie Grant Books


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