Category Archives: Recipes

How to make chia eggs (and what to do with them)

If you are allergic or intolerant to eggs, chances are you’ve been missing out on some of your favourite dishes.

Fortunately, nature has provided a workaround in the form of chia and flax seeds. Once soaked, these seeds become gelatinous – similar to egg white. This means that they are a good substitute in recipes which need eggs to bind ingredients together.

Now, it is important to know that chia or flax eggs will not always work in all traditional baking recipes like sponges or custards. They are a decent stand-in, but cannot completely fill all the roles of the egg.

Ground chia and flax seeds are useful alternatives for those following a gluten or grain-free diet as they can be used to substitute traditional foods that ‘hold’ ingredients together. For example:

  • Thickening sauces and gravies instead of wheat or corn flour
  • Making grain free crackers (their gelatinous consistency when soaked holds ingredients together, much like psyllium husk)
  • A substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs or fishcakes
  • Chia puddings (chia seeds only)

I’ve included a list of chia-egg recipes from around the internet (and my own blog) below the tutorial. I recommend trying a recipe you feel most comfortable with and be open to experimentation.

STEP 1: Choose your seeds: 1 tablespoon for 1 egg. You can use whole or ground chia seeds, but flax seeds must be ground.

Seeds

 

STEP 2: Soak for five minutes. 3 tablespoons water to 1 tablespoon seeds. Soaking seeds

 

STEP 3: Get cooking. Your egg substitutes are now ready to be added to your recipe. 3 Soaked seeds

 

Recipes using chia or flax eggs

Egg-free Banana Bread

Cherry Coconut Chia Pudding

Black Bean Chocolate Cookies

Walnut and Date Cookies

Egg-free Almond Pancakes

 

 

 

 

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Coconut chia pudding with cherries

Cherry Coconut Chia Pudding (dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

Cherries are currently in season in Europe and I get a little over-enthusiastic about them every year. Growing up in South Africa in the 80’s and 90’s, only glace cherries were available. Once I moved to Europe and experienced fresh cherries for the first time I was hooked!

Cherries are as versatile as they are delicious – their sweet, but complex flavour lends them to all types of dishes, sweet and savoury. And, of course, they are full of goodness, bursting with nutrients!

Broadly, there are two types of cherries: sweet and sour. It’s the sweet ones we see on our supermarket shelves and the sour ones tend to be used for juices etc. Both are full of nutrients, however the sour cherries, appear to have a slightly higher concentration of vitamin C and some phytochemicals.

Three Cheers for Cherries

These vibrant berries are well known for their vitamin C and fibre content, but the real potent, health-giving properties appear to come from their rich abundance of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Think of how lemon juice prevents apples from going brown – that’s the antioxidant in the lemon juice preventing the air from oxidising the apple flesh. We need the same process to happen in our bodies, so it is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are measured by their ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – the higher the better. 1 cup of sweet cherries has a score of 4,873 while a medium banana has a score of 650. You can read more about oxidation and antioxidants in this post.

Cherries are full of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with strong antioxidant potential. Flavonoids are being researched in relation to numerous health conditions, including cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, in laboratory studies, ‘anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting healthy cells. These compounds also show anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant effects1.

When it comes to cherries in particular, studies have shown that they can be helpful for three common ailments:

  1. Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the joints. It can be painful and debilitating, and affects around 400,000 people in the UK. Cherries appear to help symptoms of arthritis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the anthocyanins.
  2. Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This can result extremely painful inflammatory arthritis if the uric acid crystallises in joints. Joints of the foot, knee, hand and wrist – especially the big toe are most affected. Studies have shown that cherries can lower uric acid in the bloodstream and could reduce gout attacks by 35%.
  3. Insomnia: Insomnia needs no introduction – most people have experienced it at some point, and some suffer from chronic inability to get a good night’s sleep. The hormone melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm, allowing for a restful sleep. However, things like bright lights, poor diet, jet lag and device screens can interfere with melatonin balance. Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, so including them in your diet may help improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

C4: Cherries, Coconut, Chia and Cocoa

This recipe features four powerful foods, each providing nourishment for your body: cherries, coconut, chia and cocoa.

You now know all about cherries and you can read more about chia in this post. Chia seeds form the basis of this dish and the dairy-free coconut milk binds all the lovely flavours together in a creamy ‘mousse’. You can substitute the coconut milk for almond milk or water if you like, but I recommend the coconut milk for its good fats and the level of satiety it brings to a breakfast dish.

Cocoa is a great source of iron and magnesium as well as the powerful flavanol antioxidant. Everyone knows that cherries and chocolate are best friends, however, the chocolate is optional in this recipe. If you want a fruitier flavour, feel free to leave out the cocoa powder.

Chia pudding with cherries and coconut

Pudding for Breakfast   

So, if you are looking for fresh breakfast ideas, then this is one to try. If you’ve never tasted chia pudding before, then expect something between that is rice pudding and chocolate mousse in texture. I like to grind the chia seeds for a smoother pudding, but some do prefer the texture of the whole seeds (more rice pudding than mousse!).

I also think that it’s important to try and get a bit of crunch into the final product. I use fresh shaved coconut and fresh fruit, but dessicated coconut, nuts and/or seeds will do.

The good news is that you can make this pudding with other berries too (try blueberry or raspberry). If cherries are out of season, 30-40ml of CherryActive* concentrate will give you the cherry flavour with most of the nutritional benefits. You should be able to pick it up at your local health store in the UK and ROI and, I believe, they do have stockists in South Africa, Australia and parts of Asia.

 

CHERRY COCONUT CHIA (CHOCOLATE) PUDDING

Serves 2 for breakfast and 3-4 for dessert/snack

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole fresh cherries (or 30-40ml cherry juice concentrate)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (optional)

For serving:

  • Fresh cherries
  • Shaved fresh coconut, toasted

Method

  1. Put the chia seeds into a coffee/spice grinder and grind into a powder. This step is optional – you can use whole chia seeds.
  2. Remove the stalks and stones from the cherries and place into a liquidiser or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until combined. You can also use a hand-held stick blender.
  3. Scrape the mixture into a container or individual bowls/glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container for a breakfast or snack on the go.
  4. Serve with fresh cherries and toasted coconut shavings (or anything else that gives it a crunch: toasted and chopped nuts, muesli or seeds).

Cherry and chia pudding to go

*This post is not sponsored by CherryActive, nor am I affiliated with them. I have personally tried and tested the product and I think that it is a viable alternative if fresh cherries aren’t available.

 

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Healthy fruit, nut and seed breakfast

Pineapple and Coconut Breakfast Bowl

This is a quick, tasty and nutritious breakfast that will give you a boost in the morning.

Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and good fats, this tasty breakfast bowl will keep you energised all morning.

Coconut and pineapple is a classic combination – and this breakfast gives you the taste of a pina colada, but with a much better nutrient profile!

Pineapple is the most summery of summer fruits. It smells, tastes and looks like a fiesta! This lively fruit is also packed with great nutrients. It is full of vitamin C and fibre – the benefits you can only enjoy if you eat the fruit whole. Pineapple juice might feel healthy, but the fibre is removed and, if not 100% fresh, the vitamin C will be reduced through pasteurisation and exposure to oxygen.

The blueberries in this dish add an extra dash of phyto-nutrients (thanks to the dark skins) and additional vitamin C.

Nuts for coconut

I’ve used fresh coconut in this recipe, as my local supermarket has had a stock of them for the last few months and they are generally reasonably priced. Yes, there is a bit of work opening them and slicing out the flesh, but I don’t mind – the ‘packaging’ is all natural and the flesh can be used for so many sweet and savoury dishes! Chunks of coconut are also excellent for snacking.

Coconut flesh is full of the healthy fats capyrlic acid, lauric acid and capric acid. These are known as medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and there is increasing evidence to show that they are beneficial to our health. Among the cited benefits are:

  • They are anti-microbial and anti-fungal
  • Due to their size, the body uses them easily for immediate energy
  • They are great for building muscle

Best of all, coconut tastes delicious. If you can’t find a fresh coconut, feel free to substitute with desiccated coconut in this recipe.

Pineapple and Coconut Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ¼ fresh pineapple, cut in wedges
  • ½ cup fresh coconut, cut into small pieces (or shaved with a potato peeler)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and gently toast the pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts.
  2. Mix with the remaining ingredients and serve.

If you’ve never opened a coconut before, here is a YouTube video that will help you get started. Remember to keep the coconut water to drink!

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Heart healthy beetroot hummus

Beetroot Hummus (and why you need to eat it)

Escalate hummus to a vibrant, earthy treat with the addition of beautiful beetroot.

Hummus is one of my all-time favourite foods. It is a simple Middle Eastern staple that is both delicious and super-nutritious at the same time. A winning combination!

Made from chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (sesame seed paste), hummus (or houmous), has become increasingly popular in the last decade with tubs available at most supermarkets, corner shops and delis.

The good stuff

Besides being absolutely delicious, hummus is a popular ‘go-to’ food for nutritionists.

Here are five reasons why hummus should be a fridge staple.

    1. Hummus is high in fibre. Chickpeas are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Most western diets do not include good levels of fibre which is necessary to keep your cholesterol in check, balance your blood sugar levels and keep your hormones in harmony.
    2. Hummus is high in protein. Chickpeas are rich in the amino acids lycine, isoleucine and tryptophan. This makes hummus an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Amino acids are the building blocks of our cells, so it is important to include a variety of sources in our diets.
    3. Hummus keeps your blood sugar balanced. In order to avoid peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels, I always recommend that snacks should contain an element of fibre, protein or fat (as these slow down the release of sugar into your blood stream). Swapping sugary snacks for wholesome alternatives like hummus will help you maintain your energy levels and help you manage sugar cravings.
    4. Hummus is rich in phytonutrients. Garlic, chickpeas and the sesames in tahini are a holy trinity of superfoods. Your heart and liver will be jumping for joy. Garlic’s medicinal benefits have been recognised for decades. Its compounds have been shown to decrease the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, help with inflammation and enhance the immune system. Sesame seeds and chickpeas are rich in a group of phytonutrients called lignans.  Lignans have mild oestrogenic properties, which is why lignan-containing foods are recommended for women moving into menopause or for those with hormonal imbalances. Lignans have also been associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
    5. Hummus is convenient. Hummus is portable, so makes a great snack on the go. A tub in the workplace fridge will last a few days and, paired with an oatcake, carrot sticks or some rye bread will provide a quick, easy, filling snack.

Homemade beetroot hummus

Beetroot Boost

This version of hummus incorporates the marvellous superfood beetroot. Its vivid colour is a tell-tale sign that this vegetable is packed full of health-promoting nutrients.

Besides gifting this hummus dip with its awesome colour, beetroot also lends a slightly earthy taste to the recipe, as well as additional fibre and antioxidants.

Studies have shown that beetroot may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, the prominent phytonutrient in beetroot, betaine, protects cells and enzymes from environmental stress and fights inflammation. Beetroot also supports Phase 2 liver detoxification.

So, while hummus is excellent in its traditional form, adding beetroot takes it to another level.

Enjoy this delicious dip with a virtuous smile on your face. It is also a great way to get children’s lunchboxes healthy and bright.

The ultimate healthy snack

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 250g cooked beetroot (about 2 medium beetroot), peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 250ml water (approx.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Put the chickpeas, beetroot, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and half the water into a food processor and blend, scraping down the sides with a spatula a few times.
  2. Continue blending and slowly add the rest of the water until you have the consistency you desire – you may need to add a bit more.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and give it a final whizz.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Serve as a snack with oatcakes or vegetable batons, on rye toast for breakfast or lunch with avocado and pumpkin seeds or inside a pita with salads. This beetroot hummus pairs well with horseradish, mint and halloumi (not necessarily all together!).

 

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South African low carb rusks

High Fibre Rusks (dairy-free, grain-free, low carb)

Gluten Free Rusks (grain free, high fibre, low carbohydrate)

Rusks are a very South African thing. In that sunnier part of the world, rusks are a real comfort food, and packets of the dunkable delights inevitably find their way into expat care packages. And, it is important to note – they are enjoyed by young and old alike.

Alas, rusks are a hard sell to any adult in the UK and Ireland, where they are only found in baby aisles and associated with teething. Pfft!

Rusks are basically thick, wholesome cookies – what’s not to like? Biscotti is not treated with such disdain…

The traditional, commercially available rusks in South Africa tend to be made from flour, sugar, buttermilk and eggs. They are baked until cooked through, then sliced and cooked further to dry out. These are the ones most locals will remember fondly dunking into tea or coffee morning, noon and/or evening. However, homemade rusks have always been better than the store-bought versions.

I’ve had my eye out for a decent gluten/grain-free version for a while and I was delighted when my mum introduced me to a gluten free recipe. We adapted it slightly and the result is happily very close to the traditional South African homemade rusks.

Gluten free, high fibre biscotti-style snacks

A bit of Sweet

The recipe calls for xylitol, which makes these rusks perfect for any one with blood sugar imbalance (but you can substitute with maple syrup if you like). I’m not a huge fan of processed sweeteners, but I do find that xylitol is the most palatable.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance found in the fibres of many plants. It is widely used to sweeten sugar-free chewing gum and mints. In the last few years it has been increasingly marketed as a sugar alternatives to diabetics – it has fewer calories and does not raise blood sugar levels.

However, there are a few watch-outs when using xylitol.

While it is a very handy sugar alternative, at the end of the day, xylitol is a highly processed substance. It goes through a process of sugar hydrogenation and much of the commercially available xylitol is made from corn which may be from genetically modified sources (i.e. check the label before buying).

Also, if you are following a low FODMAP diet, you’ll need to avoid xylitol as it could lead to bloating.

For those reasons, I only use it very sparingly when it’s absolutely necessary. I generally prefer to use raw honey or maple syrup (unprocessed natural sweeteners). However, there are some people who cannot take these simple sugars and xylitol is, in my opinion, the preferred natural alternative out there. For me, sweet treats are just that – treats. I’m not expecting people to be ingesting large amounts of xylitol, so a little in your baking it perfectly fine.

 The Good Stuff…

All in all, this recipe turns out particularly nutrient-dense snacks. They are high in fibre, protein, vitamin E, zinc and good fats.

I have made this version dairy-free by using coconut milk, but you can substitute with organic cream or buttermilk.

These nuggets of home comfort are easy to make (great for kids to help out), but require a little patience. Like their Italian cousins, biscotti, they need time to dry out to crunchy perfection. They are worth waiting for – full of wholesome nuts and seeds, they are a guilt-free mid-afternoon snack, or a few will do you for a breakfast on the move.

Drying rusks

Ingredients (makes 28 rusks)

  • 120g coconut oil (or organic butter), melted
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1 cup milled flaxseeds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds (optional)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons aluminium-free baking powder
  • ¼ cup xylitol or ¼ cup maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Whisk the butter, coconut milk and eggs together in a large bowl. (TIP: shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly before opening)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well
  3. Scrape the mixture into a greased 1kg loaf tin (or two smaller tins) and bake at 1800C (or 1700C fan) for 35-40 minutes until golden and firm (slightly less for smaller tins)
  4. Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack
  5. Once the loaf is cool to the touch (but not completely cold), cut into 1cm slices and then cut in half again, across the crease. Set the oven to 50-700C.
  6. Arrange the rusks on a baking tray (or directly on the wire oven shelf) and leave to dry for 6-7 hours or overnight
  7. Store in an airtight container. Delicious with a traditional rooibos tea!

Leftover coconut milk? You can use it in this recipe

 

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Immune-boosting paleo cauliflower fried rice

Immune Boosting Cauliflower Fried Rice

This is a brilliant comfort-foody dish that you will love!

Made from scratch, it won’t take you much longer than 30 minutes to from start to finish and it is sooo tasty!

Cauliflower rice is very chic these days. Whether you’re trying to avoid carbs for weight loss or need to avoid grains for health reasons, the net outcome is that replacing rice with cauliflower will not have a negative effect on your diet. In fact, it will super-boost your vegetable intake without even trying. This dish is all vegetable with some egg (and optional meat/fish) for a bit of protein.

A vegetable super hero, returned

In 2010, a study showed that UK sales of cauliflower had fallen 35% in 10 years. This was driven mostly by a younger generation perceiving cauliflower to be old fashioned and not versatile.

However, cauliflower has had a bit of a comeback in the last few years thanks to the increasing popularity of the paleo diet and the increasing number of people looking for gluten-free alternatives to their favourite dishes.

New ways of thinking about cauliflower have proved that it is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. From pizza crusts, tortilla wraps, rice, mash and steaks (yes, steak, that’s not a typo), the cauliflower revolution is well under way and, I for one, am so pleased.

The good stuff

Cauliflower is not the most glamorous looking vegetable and, it doesn’t have the green colour that gives it’s brothers and sisters in the brassica family their healthy street cred. But looks can be deceiving…

Did you know that one cup of cauliflower will provide you with 77% of your RDA of vitamin C? It’s also particularly high in folate, vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Being a member of the brassica family, it also contains glucosinolates which  are showing positive anti-cancer effects in studies. These compounds are also great for balancing hormones, so eating a daily portion of brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale etc) is important for all women.

Immune Booster

This fried rice dish is chock full of fresh, tasty ingredients that are particularly good for your liver. Even better, a bowl will provide you with an army of immune-boosting nutrients: cauliflower, peppers, chilli and spinach all contain good amounts of vitamin C, and, the supporting team of ginger, garlic and mushrooms all contain brilliant anti-flu, pro-immune compounds. It’s an alternative to chicken soup!

Paleo vegetarian cauliflower fried rice

 

Ingredients

Serves 2-3 (generously)

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, finely diced (or 3 spring onions, sliced)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 pack chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (you can reconstitute dried shiitake if you can’t find fresh)
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (or ½ fresh chilli)
  • 1 small head cauliflower (or ½ large head), cut in florets
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce / tamari)
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Optional extras: peas, finely sliced carrots, bean sprouts
  • Method
  1. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over a med-high heat. Add the eggs and cook into a thin omelette. Remove from heat, slice into thin ribbons and set aside
  2. Heat the remaining oil in the hot pan and sauté the onions until tender.
  3. Add the red peppers and fry for another 1-2 minutes
  4. Add the mushrooms and fry for another few minutes until soft, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes
  5. While the vegetables are frying, whizz the cauliflower in a food processor until you get coarse, rice-sized bits – avoid over blending. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the cauliflower
  6. Add the cauliflower rice to the pan and toss with the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 6-7 minutes until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
  7. Add the fish sauce and spinach and toss well.
  8. Once the spinach has just wilted, remove the pan from the heat, add the sesame oil and egg ribbons and toss through.
  9. Serve on warmed plates as is, or with your choice of beef, salmon or chicken.

Keep any left overs in a sealed container in the fridge and warm up by re-frying over a medium heat.

Note: the fish sauce and sesame oil are central to this dish’s flavour – I recommend that you use them to enjoy the dish to its full effect.

Inspired and adapted from this recipe

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Bircher muesli - to go

Bling Your Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Muesli is one of those foods vastly misunderstood. Often promoted as a healthy breakfast, commercial varieties can be full of sugar and, worse, many contain trans fats. However, if made right, and eaten in moderation, muesli is absolutely a healthful food. It is also one of those dishes which acts as a vessel for many other ingredients that can provide a super-boost of nutrients for the day.

Oats are the base of all mueslis and there are generally two types: those that are roasted to a crispy crunch and the soaked kind. This recipe is all about the soaking and the method is generally described as Bircher muesli (after the Swiss naturopath who popularised the dish in his clinic).

A Quick Fix

There are plenty of nutritional advantages to Bircher muesli, but one of the main advantages is its ease. Yes, many cereals are easy, but they won’t have a touch on the nutritional value that Bircher muesli provides.

This makes it a brilliant dish for those of you who, for convenience, either skip breakfast or opt for no-cook mug varieties (not good, please switch to this recipe!).

There are many ways to prepare Bircher muesli, but what they all have in common is soaking the grains. What this means is that you can prepare breakfast the night before and lob it into your handbag (or briefcase) on your way to work. Soaking oats overnight also allows them to become lovely and creamy, without the need for dairy. Because the mixture keeps well in the fridge, you can soak a batch and scoop out what you need on a daily basis.

Soak Your Oats

Oats are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, however, they also contain phytic acid which can combine with nutrients like magnesium, iron and zinc and block their absorption.

That’s why a diet high in unfermented whole grains can contribute to deficiencies and soft bones.

Soaking oats neutralises the effect of phytic acid, so be sure to sit your oats in water for at least 30 minutes before making porridge. I recommend an overnight soak though. It means that you can have a delicious and nutritious breakfast without too much hassle in the morning.

The Good Stuff (pay attention if you’re managing your cholesterol)

Oats are full of B vitamins (particularly B3, B5 and folate), essential for energy production and overall healthfulness. ½ a cup will also provide you with 20% of your zinc and iron RDA and 35% of your magnesium RDA (if you absorb them – hence the soaking).

Oats are also cholesterol busters. A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals with high cholesterol levels experience significant reductions with frequent oatmeal consumption.

“In individuals with high cholesterol levels (above 200mg/dl), the daily consumption of the equivalent of 3g soluble oat fibre typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant, as with each 1% drop in serum cholesterol level, there is a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease1.”

So – oats are a nutrient powerhouse and help manage cholesterol – what a win. But wait, there’s more…

Oats are a fabulous source of prebiotic fibes. These feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts and keeps our digestive system healthy (which in turn keeps the rest of us healthy!).

Because all balanced meals should have an element of protein, this recipe contains ground almonds and ground seeds. Besides donating their protein content to the meal, they also provide excellent levels of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids (also excellent for heart health).

So, get soaking.

Healthy Bircher Muesli

 

Ingredients

1 Serving:

  • 1/2 cup oats (or gluten free if required*)
  • 1 dessertspoon ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax and pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon raisins

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and add enough filtered water to just cover. Cover well, and leave overnight in the fridge.
  2. Add your optional ‘sprinkles’ before serving: grated apples or berries, some more coconut and seeds – I like a bit of crunchy texture. In winter, you can add a splash of boiling water and stir through for a warmer dish.

The mixture can keep in the fridge for up to a week, so try making in bulk for a quick, nutritious breakfast.

 

*There’s no consensus on whether or not oats are gluten free. One of the arguments is that the grain is naturally gluten-free, but ends up being contaminated during processing. Some people with gluten sensitivity manage just fine on regular oats, but if you are a coeliac, you absolutely must go for certified gluten-free oats. They are a bit more expensive, but your long-term health is worth it.

 

1 Murray and Pizzorno, The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Ed. p683-684

 

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Kitchen essentials (2)

Essentials for a healthy kitchen

If you are transitioning to a diet that is focussed on fresh whole foods and light on packaged food, then you may find that preparing meals takes a little longer than you’re used to. This isn’t a bad thing – you know, ‘good things come to those who wait’…

I encourage my clients to consume 6-7 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (at least five of those should be vegetables). Don’t panic! It is possible and you don’t have to spend your day cleaning  a juicer to achieve the target. Eating clean, doesn’t have to be hard work. However, it does help to be prepared, organised and have a few kitchen tools that make preparation work a little easier.

For the remainder of this post, I’m going to list out the items that I find indispensable in my kitchen. If you are thinking of taking your cooking to a healthier level, some of these may help.

I am not promoting products on behalf of any brands. These are items that I have tried and tested and can wholeheartedly recommend. I’ve provided links to each item for visual purposes – these link to amazon.co.uk*, but you should be able to purchase most of these at any good cook shop or department store.

So, in no particular order of preference, here we go.

Microplane Fine Grater

This little guy is great for zesting citrus fruit, finely mincing garlic or finely grating chocolate or fresh coconut. I bought mine about 7 years ago with my first London pay check as a treat to myself. If you want to get delicate flavour and texture into your sauces, dips, baking and stews, this is a wonderful tool.

Food processor with liquidising jug

If there is one thing you invest in this year, let it be a food processor. It doesn’t have to break the bank and it will save you loads of time and effort (which makes eating healthier easier). I use mine almost daily to make pesto, energy balls, banana ice-cream, nut butters etc.

There are plenty of food processors to choose from. However, I would encourage you to look into one that is at least mid-range in price. Because I use mine so much, I know that a cheaper model would succumb to ‘wear and tear’. It’s a false economy to buy any electronics on the cheap, and, let’s be honest, it’s your health we’re talking about, so invest a little. This is the version similar to the one I use, but have a look, see what’s available and what you can afford. Sites like Amazon have customer reviews which may be helpful.

Kenwood food processor

 

Food processors come with a variety of attachments. I would recommend that you get one with at least a liquidiser/blender jug and grater attachments. The liquidiser is essential for smoothies, nut milks and sauces, and with the grater, you can literally whip up a healthy salad in 10 minutes – no fuss. An added bonus is a spice grinder, but you can also purchase this separately (see below).

Of course, the daddy of all processors is the Vitamix. If you can afford one, it’s a great investment, but a decent food processor will do all the key things you need.

Stove-top steamerStove-top steamer

If you want to get the best out of your veg, steaming is the way to go. I use this stove-stop steamer. I prefer it to a plastic plug-in version and it’s extremely versatile. Use it for vegetables, steaming fish or warming up meals (as I don’t use a microwave).

Spice grinder

If you don’t have a grinder attachment with your blender, I highly advise purchasing a separate spice grinder.

I use mine mostly for grinding flax seeds. They pop up in many healthy dishes and need to be ground in order to make the omega 3 oils available for absorption. You can always buy ready-ground seeds, but making your own is more economical.

Non-toxic, non-stick pans

If you’re going to go to all the effort of preparing healthy meals, ensure that your cookware isn’t leaching toxic chemicals into your food.

Cheaper non-stick coated pans, like Teflon, are likely coated with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PTFE is made from a chemical that can leach into cooking and release toxins into the air. Studies have been done to show that PTFE is not great for our health – do some research and decide for yourself. I also prefer not to use aluminum pots and pans.

There are other, non-toxic pans available on the market. I use ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron. These items are more expensive, but last much longer. I really believe that your pots and pans are a lifetime investment – if you buy good quality items they will be with you forever and have fewer ‘side effects’. I also advise buying pans that are oven-proof (very handy and less washing up!).

GreenPan

Ceramic, stainless steel and cast iron items can be pricey. So, start off with the items you use most at highest temperatures (frying, roasting etc) and replace those first. Take advantage of birthdays, wedding gifts or seasonal sales to get the most value for money.

Stick blender

If you have a liquidiser, a stick blender is technically not necessary. However, I have both and find the stick blender very useful for some tasks such as liquidising soups (in the pot), making pancakes or smaller quantities of sauces, dips and pestos.

Again, there is a spectrum of blenders available to suit your needs and budget. I have a fairly cheap version which keeps me going, but you may wish to invest in a more powerful blender.

Garlic crusher

Life is too short to chop garlic.

Besides that, crushing garlic is the best way to release the activate the compound, allicin. Allicin has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, so the more you can get the better!

Invest in a decent quality crusher to make your life easier and get the most benefit from this brilliant food.

Good quality knives Good knives

Poor quality, dull knives make preparing food a trial. On the other hand, a set of quality, sharpened knives can make food preparation a pleasure. It may sound extreme, but it is true.

Please, please invest in some good knives and look after them (i.e. don’t put them in the dishwasher). For my smaller, serrated knives, I love Victorinox – my grandmother’s are still in operation, so I can testify to the quality. These are my essential kitchen knives, but ask around for recommendations:

Victorinox Parer

Victorinox – Tomato Knife 11cm

Victorinox Chefs Knife

Thin, flat egg lifter

It may sound strange to have an egg lifter on the list of essentials, but I truly couldn’t do without mine. It must be thin, so make flipping pancakes a breeze. It should ideally be of a good quality plastic to protect your lovely pans and heat resistant to avoid the inadvertent melt when left on the side of the cooker.

This is one of my favourites:

SprouterJar sprouter

Sprouts are nutrient dense and easy to grow on a window sill. They are a great addition to your weekly diet – scattered on a salad, blended into a dip, pesto or smoothie, or eaten as a snack.

If you’re starting off, a BioSnacky is a good option. Try to source organic seeds – I use this distributor.

Good set of measuring cups / jugMeasuring cups

Getting portion sizes right is key. Having a good set of measuring cups or a well-marked jug will make things much simpler for you when preparing delicious meals.

Good quality pepper grinder Peugeot pepper grinder

Believe me, buying cheap pepper grinders is a waste of time, money and adds to our landfill problem. I recommend investing in a good quality pepper grinder, such as Peugeot. It has a lifetime guarantee on the mechanism. They are more expensive than other mills, but you will have it forever.

These also make great gifts by the way.

 

Have I missed something off that you can’t live without? Leave your suggestions in the comment box below.

 

*I belong to an affiliate programme with Amazon which rewards me when you buy a product. This helps me run and maintain the blog, but don’t feel obliged to buy through Amazon. I would be even happier if you supported your local, independent kitchen shop.

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High protein, gluten free pancakes

Super Banana Pancakes (grain free, diary free, high protein)

Super banana pancakes

I love pancakes. There is something about them that is comforting and feels like a treat. Since going gluten free, I’ve struggled to find a pancake that results in the same satisfaction as the ‘full flour’ versions.

Breakfast-style pancakes can definitely be made gluten free. However, in the past I’ve found that the grain-based versions taste odd, the coconut flour versions can be too dry and others can be too runny. I also prefer to use as many wholefood ingredients as possible (gluten-free flours can be very processed).

I came across a recipe on Facebook from which these banana pancakes are based: 1 banana and 2 eggs – mix together and fry off in small batches. Brilliant – protein and fibre with a bit of natural sweetness! The result was moderately successful, but I wanted a bit more fibre and a bit more protein to make it a more rounded breakfast (or snack). I added ground flaxseeds and ground almonds to the mix – these essential store-cupboard ingredients also up the vitamin and mineral profile of of the recipe. If you are avoiding flax or nuts, the plain egg/banana version does work, but you need a good hot pan, a good amount of butter and nimble wrists to flip without splatting!

So, after a bit of trial and error, here is my offering. Even the husband likes them!

The Good Stuff

These lovely pancakes pack a particularly good nutritional punch. The eggs and protein will keep you feeling satiated (avoiding sugar cravings!) and eating a full portion will provide half* of your RDA of vitamins B2, B6 and magnesium! The high fibre and magnesium content makes these a great addition to your diet if you’re feeling a little constipated. See the end of this post for nutritional details on each of the ingredients.

This truly is a super-delicious, super meal!

Gluten and grain-free banana pancakes

Ingredients (makes about 12)

  • 1 banana
  • 2 organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1.5 teaspoons aluminium-free bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon almond or cashew nut butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Raw coconut oil or organic butter for frying

Method

All you need to do is combine the ingredients into a batter. There are a few ways you can do this:

Option 1: put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it comes together

Option 2: put all the ingredients into a jug and process with a stick blender (my preference as you can then pour the batter directly into pan (less washing up!)

Option 3: if you don’t have any of the electronics, you can simply mash the banana with a fork, then add the other ingredients and whisk together.

  1. Ideally, leave the batter to sit for about 15-20 minutes before cooking. This will help it mature and make flipping a bit easier.
  2. Heat a knob of butter or raw coconut oil in a pan on a medium-high heat and fry off smallish pancakes (about the circumference of an orange slice).
  3. Use a thin, wide egg lifter or spatula to flip – you need to get right under them without breaking the cooked film on the edge.

Serve with a light drizzle of good quality maple syrup or honey, some organic plain yoghurt, berries or even some bacon.

These are not just for weekends. Because of the nutritional profile, they are great for a replenishing snack after sport, an after-school treat or a quick breakfast any day of the week.

Nutritional facts

This recipe is full of nutritious, whole foods. Each ingredient is particularly rich in key nutrients that contribute to a balanced diet and keep your energy levels up.

Eggs: protein, vitamins D and B12, selenium, choline,

Bananas: magnesium, potassium, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6

Almonds: high in protein, fibre, omega 3, magnesium, vitamins B2 and E, and potassium

Flaxseeds: vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, selenium, omega 3 and fibre

Cinnamon: balances blood sugar

 

*RDA percentages are estimated using NutritionData.com. Actual percentages may vary based on age of product and country of origin.

I have updated the recipe slightly from the original post – the addition of 1 teaspoon of chia seeds really helps the batter hold together well!

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Butternut soup

Autumn Spiced Butternut Soup

Growing up in South Africa, butternut was (and still is) a regular part of meals. The beautiful orange squash can be used in soups, stews, salads, sides and even baked whole (or stuffed) in an oven or over coals. I was surprised to find that this versatile vegetable wasn’t as common in Europe as I expected (I’ve been asked a couple of times how to cook it – both times lined up in the queue to buy one!). I might be biased, but I think butternut has a far superior taste and texture to other varieties of squash, which can be watery and stringy. The cooked flesh of butternut is wonderfully dense and smooth – it is brilliant just roasted or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper.  It has a slightly sweeter flavour than most squash – almost bordering on sweet potato. It marries very well with most herbs (especially mint, sage, rosemary and thyme) and spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chilli) and can also be used for sweet baking.

Put away the peeler

For the vast majority of butternut recipes, keep the skin on. Yes, on. Don’t be tempted to peel butternut, it’s not necessary for most recipes. The skin cooks to a soft texture that is easy to eat and digest (if fully cooked). Why waste all that wonderful fibre? This soup recipe is no exception – you’ll be amazed that the skin blends into a wonderfully smooth and velvety soup. It’s a great way to ramp up the fibre in a meal without any hassle or impact on flavour and texture.

The good stuff

Down to business. Not only is butternut tasty, it is full of wonderful nutrients! It is particularly high in vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and has a good omega 3:6 ratio (i.e. is higher in omega 3 than omega 6). Leaving the skin on also means this soup is a good way to boost your daily fibre intake. If you’ve never cooked with this lovely squash, take a look at my post on choosing and preparing butternut.

Autumn Spiced Butternut Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or organic butter
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger (about 1 big knob)
  • 1 medium butternut – in chunks
  • 1 tablespoon bouillon (I like Marigold)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Water (or stock, omit bouillon)
  • Ground pepper and salt to taste

To serve:

  • 1 dessert spoon pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) per serving
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Coriander
  • Sprinkling of feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil over a medium heat in a saucepan and sauté the celery and onion until the onion is translucent
  2. Add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, ginger and bay leaf and sauté until you can smell the aromas being released – be careful not to burn the spices
  3. Add the butternut chunks, stir and allow to sweat with the onion and spices for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add the bouillon and enough water (or stock) to just cover the vegetables, a good grind of black pepper and bring to a simmer
  5. While the soup is cooking, gently toast the pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts) in frying pan, tossing every 30 seconds until you can smell them become ‘nutty’. Watch these like a hawk, burnt seeds are bitter!
  6. The butternut is ready when it is soft and easily gives way under the pressure of a fork. At this point, stir in the crushed garlic and remove the pot from the heat
  7. Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup until smooth with a stick blender, or in batches in a liquidiser (allow to cool a little if using a liquidiser)
  8. Return to the heat, adjust seasoning to taste and add more water or stock to reach the consistency you like

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with torn coriander leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. You can also add a crumble of feta for a slightly saltier result. Note: Watery butternut soup is nobody’s friend. I recommend that you start off with just enough water to cover the vegetables and then add more liquid (if desired) once you have blended the soup. Butternut soup with feta This soup can be frozen for a month or so (without garnishes). Cool and freeze in appropriate containers.

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