Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Avocado - like you've never had it before ......

I love the humble avocado.   Or Alligator Pear as they are also known.  Packed full of Omega-3 fats and Vitamin B, it is one of nature's superfoods (in my book).  It's a fruit but we don't often think of it in a sweet sense but mainly in a savoury way:  usually guacamole and chopped in salads.  However, the beauty of the avocado is, it doesn't have a very strong taste and lends itself incredibly well to being pureed into a mousse consistency and easily adopting other flavours. Last year I posted a recipe for Raw Vegan Choc Avo Mousse - a favourite recipe that my kids and I loved.  This year I've found a new delicious Avocado Dessert: 

Raw Key Lime Mousse.  

1 avo
1 ripe banana
1 lemon (2 tsp zest, 4 tbsp juice)
2 limes (2 tsp zest, 4 tbsp juice)
1/8 cup raw agave nectar
pinch sea salt

(enough for 1 big serve)

Throw it all in the blender and go for it!  Scrape the sides down & adjust sweetness as necessary.  I added a little more lime juice to make it "fizz" more.

When I first took the lid off the blender & had a big sniff, my stomach dropped:  "oh no, this is gonna taste like a guac, not a dessert ....... ".  But I still gave it a try and was exultant!  Woohoo - it was delicious! It was a thick mousse consistency (thanks to the banana & avo) sparkling with lemon & lime zing that was tempered with a little agave sweetener.  Oh yum.

This was my morning tea treat - served in a gorgeous tea cup, completely decadent.

Ate it while watching Donna Hay make a gorgeous thai chicken salad with a coconut milk dressing - gotta try that one.

And this is the face Ava made when she tried it!  haha - she didn't want a 2nd try either.  Good, all the more for me :-).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Caramel Sauce 3 ways

I have just noticed how many sweet posts I seem to do!  Hmmm ...... it's not hard to see where my interest really lies!

I seem to go through weeks where, yes, an apple will do (or a smoothee);  and then weeks where I am searching for a sweet high, reminiscent of some of my favourite childhood treats - like caramello koalas  :-).  Partly it's a challenge:  to see if I can enjoy the things I loved, while still not poisoning myself with sugar.  And, partly, it's because I still see sweet stuff as a reward. 

So, in my search for a caramel sauce replacement, I found it very difficult to find one without dairy in it.  There was some bizarre ones that I wasn't willing to try, but this recipe worked well, and although not a dead ringer for the toffee caramel sauce of old, it provides that supreme sweet hit, without the massive blood sugar slump afterwards. 

Raw Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup raw cashew butter (I used almond,brazil & cashew butter - which explains all the "flecks" in the sauce)
1/2 cup dark agave syrup
1/2 cup date paste (mejool dates soaked till softened, then processed with some of the water till smooth, don't use too much water as this will affect the thickness of the sauce)
1 vanilla bean scraped (or 2 tbsp vanilla extract)
pinch of sea salt

Put all the ingredients in the processor and blend till smooth.  I would start off with less agave syrup and adjust for sweetness at the end.  I really found this SWEET, so go easy!

The First way you can eat this is as a dip - fantastic with sliced banana, apple or even pineapple.

The Second way I had it, and I'm sorry there's no photo but it was so delicious I ate it really fast, was as a topping over grilled nectarines with toasted nuts sprinkled on top.  Worthy of any dinner party! I have also had it over my banana soft serve & over my cocolicious chocolate icecream - fantastic.  I reckon this would make an admirable substitution over a date cake too, for a much healthier version of sticky date pudding.  See here for a good maple & date cake. 

The Third way:

Coconut, Caramel Bananas

Put 1/2 cup of caramel sauce with 1/2 cup of coconut cream in a small pot and heat gently.  Add 2 sliced bananas and simmer for 5 mins till softened.  Top with toasted macadamia & coconut flakes.  This is such a decadent and delicious dessert - real comfort food.

I hope this has given you a few more options to play around with and I promise I will definately look into some more savoury recipes soon ........ ish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Made Almond Milk

Yes, I did.  And I realised something:  I don't really like the taste of almonds.

Darn it!  I should have made cashew milk.

O H    W E L L.  I wasn't gonna waste the stuff. 

Let's start at the beginning:

1 cup of whole almonds soaked for 4 hours, rinsed, then blended with 2 cups of filtered water.

Then poured into a bowl covered with a fine mesh bag, all the liquid is squeezed out by hand.

Added 2 tsp of raw dark agave nectar to sweeten a little.  Put in fridge.

This is the almond pulp I was left with.  So I decided to put it to good use and make some crackers care of Elana's Pantry.  However, I am impatient and did not leave them on a low oven and bake for 20 HOURS, I put them in a mod oven and baked them till brown & crispy.  Nice texture, but I added a little too much salt.  Not nearly as good as Betsy's Multigrain crackers.

But quite nice with a little avo, pineapple and pea shoots:

So what to do with the almond milk???  Maybe a little baking???

These Trail Mix Cookies are FANTASTIC!  Stolen from Edible Perspective who stole them from somewhere else ..... etc, etc.  Grain free  - uses Buckwheat flour, flaxseed flour & almond meal, cornflakes (instead of oats);  Sugar free - instead it uses ripe bananas, dried juice-sweetened cranberries (instead of currants), & dried apricots.  Egg free - the banana, coconut oil, flaxseed meal & almond milk all help to bind this.  And yes, I added a sprinkle of dk choc bits & the kids LOVED them, as did I.


And to go with these:

A Choc/Banana Smoothee - 2 mejool dates, 2 bananas, 2 tbsp cacao powder, 2 cups almond milk - thankfully the dates & cacao hid the almond taste of milk, so this was delicious & insanely nutritious!

Hoping I like the cashew milk a bit more ......

Monday, March 14, 2011

Theatre of Ideas (starring Nigella Lawson)

Just had the loveliest weekend in Melbourne.

I stayed at my beautiful best friend's newly built house.  She and her husband have the most AMAZING garden - fantastic veg, fruit, and the greenest grass you've ever seen.  Just gorgeous.  I was so happy to eat my fill of tomatoes, cukes, basil, and even raided her blackberry bush - YUM!

My accomplice, Samantha, & Blackberry bush

Yummy Breaky
 And I have to tell you about the fantastic dinner we had Friday night.  We went to a Vietnamese restaurant, Tien Dat , on Carrington Street, Box Hill.  Fresh, flavourful & authentic - my friends are in the know because they know the owner!

My favourite dish - "Bo La Lot" - beef mince wrapped in betel leaves, delicious.
 So much yummy food:

Red  Chicken Curry, Spicy Squid, Sizzling Chicken with garlic & ginger.

And what's more, I then got to go see more beautiful food made at The Melbourne Food and Wine Show.  I had a gold ticket to the Theatre of Ideas starring Anna Gare and the legend of all food legends:  Nigella Lawson!!  Anna Gare was very entertaining and had us cackling away while she made some delightful dishes - all of which I look forward to cooking, slightly adapting, and enjoying:  Scallop ceviche, Persian crusted Beef fillet, upside down salad (I have actually made this before) and Fruit Frangipane Tarts.

Alistair McLeod and Anna Gare
 And then the woman herself.  Nigella Lawson - *wild cheering*:

She was hillarious!  I think most of the audience was suprised at how funny she really is, and she can talk the legs off a table, she didn't stop for a second - so many stories, so much info and all delivered in a very self-deprecating manner.  The first thing she said when she came out was: " After I did the first session yesterday, I realised something about myself:  I am totally unsuited to doing a Master Class." Oh yes, she made a right mess of it at times, but it was so completely "her" that it made us feel even more priveleged to be witness to it:

Chatting with Matt Preston about Italian Cooking

Using all the KitchenAid applaicances

Coffee & Walnut Cake

Gosh I loved it, but I still left before it finished.  Only because I wanted to get in the queue early to make sure I got to meet her & get my new copy of "Kitchen" signed.

And thanks to my new friend behind me in the queue, I got a piccy too!

It was so worth the money, effort, everything.  Saw a few other food celebs there too but had to get a piccy with this man:

Me and Matt the Cravat (aka Matt Preston)
So many beautiful memories, and such a lovely time.  I was so thankful to my amazing husband who did an exceptional job minding all 4 kids while I was gone for 3 days, and my wonderful friend (and family) who looked after me so well, drove me everywhere and helped me hunt out the most fabulous pair of shoes ever:


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gonna do me some Tracking .....

I get a lot of people asking me what on earth I eat, being grain-free, dairy-free & sugar-free.  So I thought I would do a bit of meal tracking to give you an idea of a "fairly" typical week.


Morning:  Hot water with juice  (family had fried eggs on toast)

Morning Juice: Apple & Pineapple & Ginger

Morning Tea:  Apple on way out to Kalbar (near Boonah, to visit friends)

Lunch:  (brought it with me)  Frittata made from eggs, Crunchy Chicken Wings (My recipe:  1/4 cup cornflour, 3/4 cup almond meal, 3 tsps cajun spice mix, S & P - shake up in big glad bag, add in wingettes (I dissect my own organic chicken wings) and shake thorougly to coat well.  Put on oven trays covered in baking paper & bake in mod oven till brown & crispy, makes a heap & they are very more-ish) and a big salad.

Arvo Tea:  GF Fudge Brownies from Gluten Free Fix - these are totally decadent, I use coconut oil instead of butter, and agave syrup instead of honey.  Also had Sea Salt crisps.

Dinner:  (sooo tired, family had toasted Sandwiches back home)  I had veges and hommous dip.

After:  Cuppa with some Lindt Sea Salt Chocolate 


Morning Juice:  Apple, Pear & Banana in Blender (tastes as it sounds, very unexciting)

Morning Tea:  Apple

Lunch:  2 slices of Roar Food Pizza base (raw,vegan) - topped with my homemade s'dried tomato pesto (s'dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, macadamias and olive oil), sliced avo, tomato, capsicum, cucumber, rocket and basil.  So delicious & so filling.  (Also had supplement w/100% juice)

Arvo tea:  coffee, some quinitoes (quinoa snacks flavoured with cacao & a little sugar, heavenly)

Dinner:  (family ordered pizza) 3 egg omelette (no milk, just add a little water) with sauteed chilli, garlic, & shallots.  Big salad on the side - pea & radish shoots, rocket, carrot, tomato, red onion, dukkah sprinkled on top with lemony, garlic viniagrette.

After:  Cuppa tea


Morning Juice:  Apple, Pineapple, ginger, lime juice (nice and refreshing)

Morning Tea:  1/2 an apple, few pineapple pieces

Lunch:  5 Buckwheat Crispbread spread with s'dried tomato pesto and loaded with rocket, capsicum, pineapple, cucumber, avocado.  (Also had 100% juice w/supplements)

Afternoon Tea:  Banana soft serve (frozen bananas blended in food processor with a little water till soft serve consistency, kids love it) with Chocolate by the Spoonful (cacao, coconut oil & agave) drizzled over top.  (& coffee)

Dinner:  (heading to movies) Some of 'Betsy's No-Grain Multigrain Crackers  with my home-made hommous dip: 1 tin of drained chick peas, some chargrilled veges (caps, eggplant), lemon juice, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tbspns of tahini/ peanut butter, salt, pepper & cayenne pepper, and enough oil/water to get the right consistency.

During Movie: Thomas Chipman's Beetroot Chips - love these! Only 3 ingredients:  Organic Beetroot, Organic vege oil (non-gmo) & sea salt.


Morning Juice:  Banana & Frozen cherries & sprinkle of cinnamon (definately a favourite so far, filling & sweet)

Morning Tea:  Didn't need any, seriously filling smoothee!

Lunch:  Huuuuuuge Salad:  Rocket, pea & radish shoots, avocado, grated zuchinni & carrot, sliced beetroot & pineapple, sliced capsicum & cucumber, walnuts & my s-dried tomato pesto drizzle over top. (Supplements in glass of juice)

Arvo Tea:  Yummy, yummy treat:   Peanut butter Choc Chip bars, again from Gluten Free Fix.  I use agave instead of honey and instead of normal choc chips I use 70% cocoa dark chocolate. I use less sweetener and chocolate and add in some nuts as well so as not to "overdo" the whole sweet thing! (& coffee)

Dinner:  Apricot Chicken - brown off chicken pieces in coconut oil, remove, then add onion, garlic, ginger, sliced celery & julienne carrots to saute.  Add 1cup home-made chicken stock and simmer till veges cooked, season, add 1 tin of baking apriocts (they pack more into them, and less of the sugary juice) & add chicken back in, mix well.  Sprinkle with toasted cashews or almonds & chopped shallots.  (Rest  of family had it with brown rice, I had it without)

After:  Cuppa Tea 


Morning:  Hot water with lemon juice

Morning Juice:  Banana and frozen cherries, cinnamon - Again - LOVE IT!

Morning Tea:  nothing

Lunch:  6 Buckwheat crispbread again with pesto and salad. Juice with supplements.  2 pieces of peanut butter slice.

Arvo tea:  1 crispbread with tomato & salami (tsk), coffee.

Dinner:  Home-made Burgers - beef mince (about 750g), finely processed onion, carrot, celery & zuchini (about 3/4 cup worth), 2 eggs & 1/4 cup almond meal, bbq'd - YUMMO!  Family had them on rolls with loads of salad & beetroot & cheese.  I use lettuce leaves as my burger bun and load the meat patty up with carrot, tomato, cucumber, beetroot and fried onion.  Totally divine, had about 3!!!!!

After:  cuppa tea, 2  pieces of peanut butter slice - all gone :-(


Morning Juice:  Frozen raspberries and freshly cut open rockmelon - not sweet enough.

Morning Tea: Pineapple

Lunch:  Out for lunch at Cafe Republic with my hubby & 2 youngest.  I LOVE ordering the chicken burger without the burger!!  Beautifully marinated chicken fillet, lots of salad, some crispy bacon (tsk) & half an avo sliced, some mayo on the side (I do leave the cheese behind).  With a short black.

Arvo tea:  Fruit smoothee with coconut milk, cacao, banana, frozen berries & some avo.  (with supplements), some vege chips.

Dinner:  Leftovers on organic rye pizza bases for the family, I just had the leftovers:  burgers with salad.

After: cuppa tea

AND I'm off to Melbourne tomorrow so may just have to leave it at that!

Things to note:

* I would give up if not for my own homemade pestos & dips - these are the backbone to most of my lunches & some snacks.  They are easy to grab and taste great with veges, on crackers or drizzled over salads.  My favourites:  Sundried tomato pesto, Hommous (with chargrilled veges, or beetroot) and Avocado guacamole (Avo, lemon juice, little red onion, seasoning)

* For a df, sf girl I do still imbibe in chocolate occasionally.  I have actually noticed that when I do have a few squares of choc at night before bed, I will wake up a bit phlegmy.  I don't always cook very chocolatey treats for me or the kids but will do so if we are having visitors - so I am NOT ALWAYS, overstepping that mark.  However, I am very fussy with my chocolate - only 70% cocoa dark choc (very minimal sugar & milk) will do.

* I try to keep quite a bit of frozen fruit in the freezer:  cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and sliced bananas so as to always have fruit on hand when desperate.

* Eggs are my go-to when desp for a quick, healthy, tasty meal:  frittatas, omelettes or just fried eggs with a big serving of salad on the side.

* This week I lost 1.5 kgs!!!!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let's have a bowl of controversy for Breaky .....

Just finished reading a great book.  Here 'tis:

It's verified, qualified, certified and totally emphasised my belief that:  Breakfast ain't no good for ya!

"What?  No Breakfast?  That's ridiculous:  Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day.  All the experts say so!"

I get this reaction almost everytime I mention this to people.  And that's OK.  It's a hard thing to swallow because it is the message we get fed from every nutritionist, health expert, diet plan, and weight loss guru around.  It's been ingrained into us that if we don't have a good, filling breaky, we will lose all self control and pig out for the rest of the day, stack on weight and be seriously much worse off.  If we don't eat breakfast, chances are slim of us becoming slim.

I do need to qualify my statement slightly:  Breakfast ain't no good for ya, if it's not JUST FRUIT! So, no, you don't have to feel like you're starving yourself, you can actually eat as much fruit as you want all morning, up until midday.  It's called detoxing!  And it can (and should) happen for you DAILY!  It's the body's Natural way of helping us get rid of all the junk in our bodies and cleansing it, readying it for when it is the right time to take in food and utilize it.  I've mentioned it before, but here are the body's natural cycles:

noon to 8pm - Appropriation (eating and digestion)
8pm to 4am - Assimilation (absorption and use)
4am to noon - Elimination (of body wastes and food debris)

Now, when we are sposed to be having breaky, our body is actually trying to eliminate all the waste and residues in our bodies. Instead, the first  thing we tend to do when we get up is chug-a-lug some whole grain porridge, a couple of slices of wholemeal bread, a big bowl of porridge, some yoghurt or (heaven-help-you) a lumberjack's breaky of bacon, eggs, sausage & toast.  In the scheme of things, there is essentially nothing wrong with any of these choices (unless you're grain-free like me) it's just they're being eaten at the wrong time of day.  Do you know what these foods require to be digested:  energy, and heaps of it.  Your body, however, needs that precious energy to finish it's eliminating job properly, otherwise the toxic residue that remains from improper digestion does not get eliminated, and there is going to be a buildup of the excess.  That translates as overweight.

"In other words, we have been taking food in (at a record pace!), we have been using what we need from that food, but we have NOT been getting rid of what we can't use.  Since so many Americans eat a hearty breadfast, a hearty lunch, and a hearty dinner, far more time is spent appropriating than eliminating.  Is it any wonder that so many of us are carrying around so much excess weight?"  ("Fit for Life" p 22)

So, why eat just fruit?

Our bodies are 70% percent water, so ideally our diet should consist of 70% water so it can be replenished on a regular basis.  Your body is craving this essential of life, but even though drinking water on it's own is helpful, we also need high-water-content food that will nourish and cleanse our  bodies at the same time.  All our nutritional requirements (vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes, carbs, & fatty acids) are to be found in fruits and veges (*) and the nutrients are carried by the water in those f & v into your intestines, where ALL is absorbed.  Because of it's high water content, it takes barely any energy or time for these f & v to be digested, so it does not hinder the eliminating process at all, in fact it can help in moving it all along.     Also, when eaten on an empty stomach, fresh fruit can have only a positive effect;  it accelerates weight loss (**).

And this, dear readers, is where my personal experience is testament to that.  I lost 20 kgs over a year and I always wondered why this time, my work had actually paid off and why I've never felt it a struggle to keep it off.  I may not have understood this principle completely at the time, but the fasting or "fruiting" until noon was something that resonated in me as soon as I heard it (a year ago), and as soon as I tried it.  However, that doesn't mean I compulsively stick to this day in and day out, but if I  do fall off  the wagon for a couple of days, it is actually the easiest thing to reinstate straight away.  I can tell you, though, that sometimes, that fruit detox first time round can certainly bring about some feelings of uncomfortability (read:  diarrhoea, some headaches, tummy pains) for the first couple of days.  But, that's only because it's getting rid of that toxic residue. 

I am not saying that people cannot lose weight and keep it off through other means (***).  This "Natural Hygiene" approach just seems to make so much sense to me as being the safest and most common sense approach.  Believing in a God who created us all so intricately and wonderfully, always made  me wonder why we always struggle to lose weight, stay healthy & live a vibrant life.  I believe health is our birthright, and having read this book, I now realise that God did create our bodies to always strive for health and that it achieves this by continuously cleansing itself of deleterious waste material.   

So how does this work for me?  I start the day with a Blender juice - very refreshing!  Then I drop the kids at school, and if I am heading anywhere I take something easy with me like a banana or apple.  Sometimes I'll make a nice thick smoothee later on in the morning to share with the kids with avocado or banana, sweetened with frozen berries (very filling).  If you are really struggling there is nothing to stop you scooping out half an avo for a snack with a squeeze of lemon juice on it, having a few bananas or mixing up a colourful fruit salad.  If you're craving a hot drink - some warm water with lemon squeezed in it can actually become quite pleasant.

For my kids and hubby, it's a bit harder as they are quite set in their ways already.  However, I have made a few adjustments to the morning routine:  1.  As soon as I get up or when I return from gym I cut up some fruit for all the kids & hubby to share (normally around 6:30am)  2.  After waiting 1/2 hr for it to digest, I let them have some toast or porridge as this is what they are used to.  3.  They always pack fruit for their brain food snack at school/kindy which is around 10 - 10:30 which is perfectly in line with the waiting 3 hrs to have an empty stomach again.  This is not perfect, but nothing much ever is.  However, I know that they get at least 2 good doses of fruit in the morning on an empty stomach, and that's good enough for now.

Well, I'm always interested in your comments and I hope some of you give it a go - please let me know! :-) 

*  All other foods are concentrated foods as they contain little or no water - that includes all processed foods, grains, meat, dairy and even tinned fruit and veg.

**  To ensure an empty stomach when eating fruit, eat only 3 hrs after any type of concentrated food, and then wait 30 mins after eating fruit before eating anything else.  I think its just easier to start the day with fruit and eat it all morning and then not really think about it for the rest of the day. 

***  I'm also not saying that excercise is not integral to the weight loss process, because IT IS!  Also, do not assume that you can eat what ever you want for the rest of the day - don't overload your poor body and make wise food combinations.