Tag Archives: gluten free

Crispy oatcake crumb

Salmon Sweet Potato Fish Cakes

Fish cakes are a wonderful thing.

They are easy to make, easy to cook, great to prepare in advance and, if done right, mighty healthy. Fish cakes (and other items crumbed and fried) also seem to be a way of enticing picky eaters to try something a little different. If you or any of your family are not keen on fish, then this is a recipe for you.

While regular shop-bought fish cakes can fill the gap – you never really know what goes into them. Making them at home couldn’t be easier and this recipe uses whole food ingredients high in fibre, antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.

Omega 3: the godfather of good fats

Omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs) as they cannot be manufactured by the body – therefore we must get them through food. There are two types of EFAs – omega 3 and omega 6.

Most people probably have heard that omega 3’s are good for you. Over the last few years they have been added to products from infant formulas to breakfast cereals, and it’s not just hype – the word essential gives you a clue to how important it is to include omega 3’s in our diets.

There’s not much of an issue getting in enough omega 6 – they are found in many foods and, in fact, most people take in too many. The ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 should be in the region of 1:2, but many people eating western-style diets have a ratio of up to 1:20! As omega 6’s are generally more pro-inflammatory, it’s important to ensure we eat enough omega 3’s to keep in balance.

Current studies have shown the following in relation to omega 3’s and our health:

  1. A large body of scientific research suggests that higher dietary omega-3 fatty acid intakes are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk.
  2. Low levels of DHA (a type of omega 3) may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
  3. Increasing omega 3 intake may be beneficial in individuals with type 2 diabetes, especially those with elevated serum triglycerides.
  4. Randomized controlled trials have found that fish oil supplementation reduces the requirement for anti-inflammatory medication in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
  5. The brain’s gray matter contains high proportions of essential fatty acids, suggesting they are important to central nervous system function. Animal studies have shown that depletion of DHA in the brain can result in learning deficits.

The best sources of omega 3’s are oily fish – about 2-3 times per week. Remember the handy acronym SMASH: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring (aka kippers) and always aim to buy wild fish (rather than farmed) as much as possible. You can also get omega 3’s from vegetable sources such as seaweed, flax/linseeds, chia seeds and walnuts, but they are not as bioavailable as animal forms.

The problem is, not everyone likes fish. So, getting the required amounts of good fats can be tricky. Enter, the sweet potato…

Orange is the new white

I’m not a white-potato-hater. I love them, they are comforting and delicious. However, white potatoes need a bit of a break – we eat too many of them and they are often fried in seed oils (high omega 6!).

Sweet potatoes bring a new dimension to potato eating. They have a similar texture, but add a sweeter taste to the plate and have a much lower glycaemic load. This means that they release sugars much more slowly into the bloodstream – keeping you fuller for longer and your blood sugar balanced.

Sweet potatoes are also full of vibrant antioxidants and excellent sources of vitamin A (immunity, growth), vitamin C (immunity, antioxidant), vitamin B6 (brain function, energy production) and vitamin E (nervous system, heart health).

Taste and Texture

In this recipe, the sweetness of the sweet potato is a useful flavour for those who struggle with the fishy flavour of fish. But don’t stop there. If you like something a little more exotic, add in a few teaspoons of Thai or Indian curry paste, smoked paprika or loads more ginger, garlic and herbs.

I’ve used oatcake crumbs to bind and coat the mixture. I like them as they are full of fibre, B vitamins, beta glucans and are gluten-free. However, if you don’t have any to hand, you could also use other types of crackers.

Go on. You don’t only deserve it – your body needs these fish cakes!

Superfood fish cakes

Salmon and Sweet Potato Fishcakes

Makes 4 large (or 6 medium) fishcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 fillets salmon (ideally wild / line caught)
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup oatcake crumbs (about 10 oatcakes)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Big bunch of chives or three spring onions*
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs coconut oil

*If your child doesn’t like to see anything green, replace with a shallot or finely chopped red onion.

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potato into chunks and steam or boil until soft. You can leave the skin on for extra fibre.
  2. While the potato is cooking, fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the salmon filets and vinegar, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the fish to poach in the water for a further 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Blitz the oatcakes in a food processor (or put them in a bag and bash with a rolling pin) and set aside.
  4. Once the potatoes are ready and cooled to touch, mash in a large bowl with the ginger, garlic and chives/onions.
  5. Flake the fish and stir into the potato mixture.
  6. Add half the oatcake crumbs, season to taste and mix well. The mixture should be firm enough to hold together without sticking to your hands. If it is too wet, add some more crumbs.
  7. Season the remaining crumbs with salt and pepper.
  8. Form the mixture into individual fish cakes and coat in the seasoned crumbs. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. These can be made the day before.
  9. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the coconut oil. Fry the fishcakes until crisp and golden brown on each side.
  10. Serve with a side salad or vegetables.

Collage

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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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Beetroot Risotto with Walnuts and Goat’s Cheese (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Beetroot is just coming into season in Europe and this recipe is a perfect for the not-so-hot summer we are experiencing in Ireland.

Risotto’s make brilliant meals – they are extremely versatile and the saviour of those looking for gluten-free options on menus. They can be warming in winter and crisp and cheerful in summer. This recipe would work well across the seasons, so give it a try this month and save it up for those winter days when you need a bit of bright pink cheeriness in your life.

Beetroot Benefits

I’ve written about beetroot before, but as a reminder, here are 8 health benefits of eating this beautiful root:

  1. Beetroot may help lower blood pressure. It is rich in nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide, a chemical thought to lower blood pressure.
  2. Beetroot is high in fibre. This helps keep your digestive and immune systems in good nick.
  3. Beetroot is high in folate, which makes it a must for ladies who are pregnant or looking to conceive.
  4. Beetroot is a brilliant source of vitamin C – eat plenty to keep your skin healthy and your immune system supported.
  5. Beetroot is a great source of the minerals potassium, magnesium and iron.
  6. Beetroot is also a source of phytosterols – the compounds that help reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
  7. Beetroot contains betaine, which protects cells from environmental damage. Betaine has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha.
  8. Beetroot is great for liver health. The betalain pigments in beetroot support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process.

Beetroot risotto

The Whole Package

The health benefits of this recipe are pretty good, but that’s just the cherry on top. The flavours of the beetroot, walnut and goats cheese are lovely together, and the rocket adds a kick of peppery freshness to offset the earthiness of the other ingredients. A bowl of this risotto is a real treat that happens to be good for you. It’s also quite pretty (I think) and is relatively easy on the pocket.

So, banish the beige and add a bit of flair to your dinner table this week.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (1¾pints) vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250g (8oz) risotto rice
  • 125ml (3 ½ fl oz) white wine (optional)
  • 300g (11oz) fresh beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50g (2oz) butter*
  • 50g rindless goat’s cheese*
  • Rocket leaves, to serve

Method

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan, then turn the heat right down until barely simmering.
  2. While the stock is heating, toast the walnuts in a frying pan over a medium heat. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the onions.
  4. Add the rice and stir until well coated.
  5. Add the wine, or if not using, a ladle of stock. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Continue to add ladleful’s of stock, one at a time, stirring continuously.
  7. After three ladles, add the grated beetroot and garlic and stir well.
  8. Continue to add the stock in batches and stir until the rice is cooked, but still firm.
  9. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve in individual bowls and top with crumbled goat’s cheese, the toasted walnuts and a handful of rocket leaves.

* If you are looking for a dairy-free option, swap the butter for 3 tbs olive oil and omit the cheese (although some with cow’s milk intolerance can manage goat’s milk).

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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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Vegan banana bread

Banana Bread Makeover

Banana bread must be one of the all-time best comfort foods. The sweet, moist cakey bread is loved the world over.

But what if banana bread could be healthy? Not just ‘not too bad, once in a while’, but actually healthy. Like, you can eat it for breakfast healthy. That was the aim when I set out to make a wholefood banana bread. I also wanted to make a banana bread that is vegan-friendly.

So, this is the result – a nutritionally dense loaf that is naturally sweetened, high in protein and fibre and, very tasty.

Baking outside of the box (no compromises on taste)

One of my aims is to promote meals that are made with natural, unrefined whole foods. In the case of most baked goods, that means finding alternatives to refined flour and sugar. And, when you can’t eat eggs, it makes life even trickier.

This recipe does not use eggs, wheat, refined sugar or butter*. Chia seeds perform the role of eggs and the moisture comes from ground almonds and coconut milk. Naturally gluten-free buckwheat flour ensures that the final product has the springiness of a sweet ‘bread-cake’ that you’re used to.

It is the perfect baked treat for anyone with multiple food allergies.

Wholefood banana bread

Molasses: a naturally fortified sweetener

Voluptuous blackstrap molasses is today’s sweetener. Molasses is the left over component of sugar cane juice after sugar is extracted. As such, it contains concentrated levels of the vitamins and minerals that were present in the sugar cane plant. There are different types of molasses (depending on the number of boiling cycles), but blackstrap molasses has the highest nutrient content because it is the most concentrated – it also has had the most sugar removed.

Blackstrap molasses’ nutritional credentials are based on its high level of naturally occurring iron. However, it is also particularly high in vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium and selenium. This lovely sweetener also has a low glycaemic index, which means that its sugar is more slowly released into your bloodstream, stabilising your blood sugar.

Molasses is still a sugar, so while it’s a better choice, please still use in moderation. It’s a good supplement for anyone with anaemia or those looking to swap out refined sugar for a more wholesome alternative. The taste differs from traditional sugars and syrups – it’s a bit more robust and earthy, but delicious nonetheless.

The good stuff

In order to credibly promote banana bread as a breakfast alternative, or healthy snack, it needs to be nutritionally sound. That means that the final product needs to offer good levels of protein and fibre to keep blood sugar levels balanced; a spectrum of vitamins and minerals; and be naturally sweetened. This recipe delivers on all those requirements… and more!

Besides the bonus of a fortified sweetener (molasses), the other ingredients tick all the ‘healthy eating’ boxes.

The buckwheat, nuts and chia seeds provide fibre, protein and good fats (omega 3’s), while the banana brings the natural sweetness, potassium and more fibre.

Besides lending a lovely creaminess and richness to the bread, the coconut milk also contributes good levels of protein, folate, iron, magnesium and selenium.

Have fun experimenting with this new take on banana bread – there’s no compromise on taste and you really are nourishing your body with each bite!

AAIMG_3856

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs chia seeds, ground if possible
  • 6 tbs water
  • 1.5 cups ground almonds
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder (gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 180ml full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs blackstrap molasses
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs desiccated coconut (optional, for sprinkling)

Method

  • First, make your chia eggs. Grind the chia seeds in a coffee/spice grinder and mix with 6 tablespoons of water. Mix well and set aside. If you don’t have a grinder, you can leave them whole, or you can use two eggs.
  • Next, mix all the dry ingredients together: ground almonds, buckwheat flour, cinnamon, cloves, sea salt and baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, mash the bananas before adding in the coconut milk, vanilla extract, molasses and the chia eggs (they should be quite gloopy). Mix well.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir.
  • Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  • Scrape the mixture into a 1kg greased and lined loaf tin and sprinkle with coconut (if using).
  • Bake at 1800C for 25-30 minutes. When it is ready, a toothpick inserted in the middle should come clean.
  • Allow the baked bread to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before attempting to slice.
  • Eat warm, cool or toasted!

This banana bread will be darker and a bit denser than versions made with wheat flour and sugar.

Leftover coconut milk? You can use it in this recipe.

*p.s. I don’t have a problem with eggs or butter, but they’re no good for vegans and folk who are sensitive to them. Feel free to replace the chia eggs with regular eggs (organic if possible), but you can’t directly replace butter for the other ingredients in this recipe.

 

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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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Broccoli and Fennel Soup with Almonds (vegan, gluten free)

Creamy broccoli and fennel soup

This soup was thrown together in an attempt to use up a glut of vegetables in the fridge.

I had bought some fennel on a whim in the week, so I knew I needed to use it. I wanted something warm and hearty, so a soup seemed like a good idea. I wanted an element of protein, but didn’t feel like adding legumes – so almonds came to the rescue. I was going to call this soup ‘The Kitchen Sink’, but after tasting it, I thought that would do it a disservice.

It tasted good, so it’s made it onto the blog. Also, the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realised that together the ingredients are a brilliant tonic for a number of ailments. This is the soup you want to make if you are feeling a little under the weather (great immune boosting qualities), but would be equally good for ladies who need to balance their hormones. Here’s why.

Fresh fennel bulb

Fennel

If you’ve eaten fennel before, you’ll know that the stylish white bulb with feathery leaves has a subtle aniseed-y flavour that adds both depth and freshness, depending on how it’s cooked.

Medicinally, fennel’s properties are widely known. Fennel has been used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation and increasing libido – these possibly linked to the subtle oestrogenic effect of some of its constituents. But it is as a carminative where fennel is particularly effective. It’s been used for centuries to soothe gas and bloating in both adults and infants.

Fennel has also been shown to be effective for respiratory problems – so there’s no harm in getting in a good dose if you’re fighting off a chesty cold.

Nutritionally, fennel bulb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and folate.

Broccoli

One of my favourite friends. Broccoli has so many excellent nutritional properties, I could write a whole blog post on it alone. In the interests of brevity and to stay on topic, I’ll summarise as follows:

    • 100g provides almost double the amount of vitamin C than an orange
    • Broccoli contains glucobrassicin, which is broken down to indole-3-caribinole (I3C). I3C improves oestrogen metabolism and is particularly effective on ‘bad’ oestrogen (16-alpha-hydroxysestrone). I3C also seems to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus (the one that gives you cold sores).
    • Broccoli is a sulphurous vegetable. This means that it provide excellent support to the liver
    • There are a good number of studies showing convincing anti-cancer properties of broccoli
    • Broccoli is very high in antioxidants
    • Broccoli contains sulfophane, which is anti-inflammatory

The support team

Onion, ginger and garlic are well known for fighting colds. They have excellent anti-microbial properties and provide your body with extra immune-boosting compounds. Onions and garlic are also great for your liver, so therefore good news for hormone metabolism.

Coconut oil, also has anti-microbial properties, so definitely use this if you’re under the weather.

Now, don’t let the thought of almonds in a soup put you off. The almonds provide a wonderful creamy texture without a particularly nutty taste. If you are struggling with a chesty cold, dairy can sometimes aggravate symptoms, so almonds are a brilliant alternative to a dairy creamer in your soup or stew. They also provide a good amount of protein and fibre to this dish to ensure that it keeps you fuller for longer. It is better to soak the almonds before using them in the soup, so remember to prepare them at least an hour before you start cooking – you could really soak them all day.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or organic chicken)
  • 1 medium head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Heat a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, fennel and ginger in the oil until soft
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  3. Lower the soup to a simmer and add the broccoli and garlic. Simmer until the broccoli is just cooked and remove from the heat.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the almonds and place them in a liquidiser with ½ cup of the soup broth. Blend until the nuts break down.
  5. Add the rest of the soup to the liquidiser jug and blend until smooth. The soup may still be quite hot, so blend in short spurts and open the lid after every blitz to allow steam to escape. Hold the lid of the liquidiser down with a tea towel to protect your hand. You could also use a stick blender for this step.
  6. Return the lovely creamy soup to the saucepan and test the seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste.
  7. Serve in warmed bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

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