Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Even better Paleo Chocolate Cherry Cake

Even better Paleo Chocolate Cherry Cake
 
So, I jumped the gun and got excited too soon. After making my original Paleo Chocolate Cherry cake, I found myself volunteering my cake making services to make a birthday cake for my friends next birthday only to realise a few hours later that his birthday was in 3 days time!
Straight away.. the pressure was on. While I was super happy with my original Chocolate Cherry Cake, immediately I started wondering whether its good enough to serve to a party full of non-paleo (and potentially not-healthy-at-all) people, some of whom I have never met in my life. I realised that I would need to get back in the kitchen. First of all to make sure that the recipe is replicable and also to test out my theory that loads of fresh cherries through the batter would give it something extra ordinary.
 
Behold........
The new and improved recipe!
 

I made this one as a single layer as it was simply to test the texture and taste of the cake. I also made it in a larger cake tin (this time springform) and basically doubled the ingredients.

Even better Paleo Chocolate Cherry Cake
Ingredients
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tsp baking powder
4 tbs natvia
1/2 cup apple sauce
7 fresh medjool dates pitted
2.5 cups fresh cherries - halved and pitted
2 tbs black cherry jam (100% natural) - can also use raspberry or blueberry 100% natural jam.
2 tsp vanilla essence                                     
8 eggs



 
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius
 

Combine cocoa, coconut flour, baking powder and natvia in a large bowl
 
Combine apple sauce, 1/2 cup cherries, dates, jam and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth
 
Add processed mixture and whisked eggs to the dry mixture
 
Beat with cake beaters until smooth
 
Fold through the remaining cherry halves (2 cups)
 
Pour into a lightly oiled (with olive or coconut oil) cake pan - springform is easiest - and place in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
 
For a double layered cake simply repeat the whole process with another lot of ingredients.
 
This cake is topped with a chocolate ganache that I made from 70% dark chocolate and coconut cream. I combined the two on the stove on low heat and then ran the mixture over the cake (I used more coconut cream than usual) rather than spreading as I normally would which allowed it to dry in a nice thin layer. I do think that when making a layered cake though, I will make a thicker ganache and spread a layer in the middle.
 
You could also spread some 100% natural black cherry jam between the layers to keep with the cherry theme! 
 
UPDATE!
See below the results of the birthday cake I made for my friend last night!
The best cake I have ever made :).. which was a relief because I was unable to taste it before I gave it out to people like I usually do! Extremely rich and chocolaty and sweet - super happy!
 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Coconut Milk mint chocolate chip ice cream

Paleo Friendly, dairy free and 100% sugar free with the goodness of coconut and fresh mint leaves!

After wanting an ice cream machine for SO long, I finally bought one with a voucher I was given for my birthday. I knew EXACTLY what I would first make and was devastated when I realised that I would have to freeze the bowl completely before making my first batch!

So.. I prepared the mixture in the evening, chilled it over night and it was not until I got home from work the following day that I could churn my ice cream! : ) The drive home could not have been more exciting.



 
By using fresh mint in this recipe rather than mint flavouring, not only does the ice cream have a beautiful fresh and real flavour, but we recieve all of the wonderful health benefits of this delicious herb. Mint leaves can aid digestion by soothing the digestive tract, eliminate toxins from the body, aid settle skin irritatations as well as being a good cleanser for the blood.


Coconut cream, coconut milk and I only recently became friends. It was not until I did a lot of my own research regarding the benefits of these products and the truth about the saturated fat contained in them that I have become comfortable with eating them liberally. Known to be high in saturated fat, and due to the widespead vilification of saturated fat in the distributed modern day nutrition data, of course someone wanting to be heatlhy would cut out coconut products. Saturated fat is the worst thing you can eat right? Wrong.

I will compile what I have found in a separate post very soon for those of you interested in looking into it, but in the meantime... eat this wonderful ice cream. Its 100% natural and its good for you and thats all you need to know... really : ).

I adapted this recipe from a recipe by Kristen from The Endless Meal! In her recipe she uses dairy cream, whole milk and sugar which I replaced with coconut cream, coconut milk and stevia. I don't think my measurements are the same for the milk and cream simply because I worked in "cans" rather than in "cups". It turned out just fine but the wonderful instruction on how to infuse the mint into the milk through heating and leaving to stand then straining was invaluable so I will follow the same method here!

Coconut Milk mint chocolate chip ice cream




Ingredients

2 x 400ml cans of coconut milk (See note below)
1 400ml can of coconut cream
5 egg yolks
1 bunch (approx. 2 cups worth) of fresh mint leaves - washed and removed from stems
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup natvia (brand of stevia) - more or less to taste (note: the mixture will be less sweet once frozen)
50g VERY dark chocolate - chopped finely (I used Green and Blacks 85% Organic Dark Chocolate)

Method

Heat 1 can of coconut milk and the can of coconut cream in a saucepan with the mint leaves until steam appears. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let the mixture stand for approximately 1 hour so that the mint flavour infuses through the milk.

Strain the mixture into a bowl, and using the back of a spoon against the mesh squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the mint leaves.

Return the mixture to the saucepan, add natvia and heat until dissolved (should not take more than 1-2 mins)

Beat egg yolks in bowl and while continually whisking, pour mixture back into the bowl

Return entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over low heat until it begins to thicken. Stir regularly in order to prevent the egg yolks burning to the bottom and after about 10 minutes, strain mixture, place back in bowl and refrigerate.

Refrigerate overnight or until the mixture is chilled as this will produce best results when placing in ice cream maker. Once chilled, follow your ice cream makers instructions to churn ice cream. ...and Voila! 

Notes:

Full fat coconut milk and cream will give you a creamier consistency and is less likely to contain artifical fillers to stabilise the product. Low fat or "light" versions may not be 100% natural but will also be lower in Kilojoules/Calories - so it really depends on your personal health focus. (Personally, considering the benefits of the fat in the full fat product, I would recommend using these and avoiding the artificial additives).

Dont throw away your egg whites! When I made this and any other time I only use the yolk in a recipe I have an egg white omelete for breakfast the next morning. A 5 x egg white omelette with avocado, boiled sweet potato and broccoli is one of my favourite mixtures! : ) 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Paleo Chocolate Cherry layer cake

*Follow this link for a new and improved version of this cake (trust me).



Hey everyone!
As the weekend draws to a close, I have some deliciousness to report about! By slightly tweaking my recipe for Paleo Chocolate Orange muffins, I have managed to create a very food porn-ish cake (i believe :D).

Paleo Chocolate Cherry layer cake to be precise!!
  


This image is something I have had in mind for a long while.. and I have also been waiting for a long while for cherries to become available! Today was the day. While I have had cherries in the fridge for quite a few days now, I had not yet had time to even think about what to do with them. Even now... by the time I got to making this cake, I had eaten probably almost half of the cherries I had, just in passing. Now, I was left with not quite enough cherries to use in the cake batter but instead got to test out my new all natural, sugar free Black Cherry Jam! Next time.. the cake will be FULL of cherries.. and will hopefully surpass this already amazing kind of paleo blackforest cake : ).




Ingredients

Note: This list of ingredients makes ONE of the layers. I baked each layer seperately one after the other but it would be possible to simply double these ingredients, make one cake and if you still want the layer of ganache in the middle - slice the cake in half. I dont believe that slicing the cake perfectly even would be overly easy though : ) - hence my baking the layers seperately.

Cake

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1.5 tsp baking powder
4tbs Natvia (brand of stevia)
4 eggs
1/4 +3tbs apple sauce
2tsp vanilla essence
5 fresh medjool dates pitted
1.5 tbs black cherry jam
Approximately 10 fresh cherries - seeds removed and chopped into spall pieces
Some extra jam to add when serving

Ganache

150g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa with the least sugar possible - aim for a naturally sweetened product)
4tbs coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla essence



Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
Grease (with olive or coconut oil) and line round cake tin with baking paper
Combine coconut flour, cocoa, baking powder and natvia in one bowl - combine
In a separate bowl whisk eggs
In a food processor add dates, apple sauce, jam, vanilla essence and process until mostly smooth
Add to eggs and combine all wet ingredients togetherAdd wet ingredients to dry ingredients and beat with cake beaters until smooth
Pour batter into cake tin and place in pre heated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes or until firm to touch and a cake tester comes out clean.

Repeat for second layer and let both layers cool.

To prepare Ganache

Gently melt chocolate in a saucepan over low heat
Add coconut cream and vanilla essence
Stir to combine

Assembly



Place bottom layer on serving plate and spread a layer of ganache on top
Sprinkle with half of the chopped cherries and add some dollops of jam as desired
Place second layer on top and repeat ganache, cherries and jam

All that is left now is to slice a piece of and EAT! : )

As with the Paleo Chocolate Orange Muffins, I recommend trying a slice of this cake after refrigeration! The ganache will set and something happens to the batter to make it amazingly delicious.



I would also recommend rerfigerating this within a day or so of making (unless of course the cake is devoured before you have a chance :D) to keep it fresh for as long as possible. I find that he lack of preservatives in my baked goods causes them to spoil quicker than unnaturally sweetened and processed products.

Serving suggestion:

Try serving a slice of this cake with some freshly whipped coconut cream or some home made coconut ice cream! Mint-Choc chip coconut ice cream recipe coming soon! : )


Goodnight everyone - Have a great week!

Mel x 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Paleo Chocolate Orange Muffins

I'm back! It has been so long since I posted on here and I feel really slack but honestly, I dropped off from creating for a while! Being busy with work and other things, it is really hard to find the time to get in the kitchen and do what I love doing.. but I really missed it and in recent weeks, iv been creating some new recipes and have also had some wonderful successes : ).
Since my last post, I have found myself progressing towards an almost perfect paleo lifestyle with less and less effort being needed every day. It's amazing how sticking to paleo approved food seemed so hard in the beginning (when I already ate very well) but it has now just become the way I eat. I do admit that I loosen up on the weekends and I often have non-paleo meals and on a Sunday afternoon I might have something a little sweet :) but on weekdays, being 100% paleo is working!
The other new love that I have is Bikram yoga - a 90 minute yoga class performed in a HOT room which is also at about 40% humidity. Mentally and physically challenging to the point where it is not unusual to feel nauseous for the entire 90 minutes but once you become acclimatised the the heat and also more competent with the exercises, you are able to appreciate the amazing physical, mental and spiritual benefits this yoga practise provides. Highly recommended for anyone who is up for a challenge! Bikram Yoga is also wonderful for anyone with any musculoskeletal problems and is a known preventative tool for conditions such as arthritis in later life. Don't expect it to be easy, but I can guarantee that the feeling after your class is 100% rewarding.

TO THE MUFFINS

Iv been on a mission lately to successfully create recipes using this wonderful flour. Unlike wheat and grain flours, it is very light, contains no gluten, no sugar, is low in carbohydrates and lower in energy. Baking with coconut flour requires the use of more eggs than you would usually use in a recipe using other flours as the eggs bind the mixture in the absence of gluten. Coconut flour is very dry and requires a lot of liquid and for this same reason, a lot less of the flour is usually used. Make sure you dont try to simply replace other flours directly with coconut flour as the recipe will not work. There is a lot of information on conversions if you simply do a google search. : )
I have had many unsuccessful attempts with coconut flour... much to the amusement of my family and my boyfriend. One particular attempt ended in a bite from everyone, some screwed up faces and me mashing the "muffins" with a fork while talking about the failre. Having ths recipe turn out the way it did excites me greatly : ) and I hope you guys have the same success with it as I did! Be sure to let me know : )
Side note: I am no longer watching the calories/kilojoules as closely due to believing that they're not the most important thing BUT these came out at only 115calories per muffin!




Paleo chocolate orange muffins
(Makes 5)
¼ cup cocoa
¼ cup coconut flour
2tsp baking powder
4 tbs Natvia (brand of stevia) – add more to taste if needed

¼ cup apple sauce + 2 tbs
Juice from 1 orange
5 dates pitted
2tsp vanilla
4 eggs

- Preheat oven to 190°C (my oven is fan forced- Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl – cocoa, coconut flour, baking powder and natvia- In a food processor combine pitted dates, juice from orange and the 2tbs apple sauce to make a paste – if there are a few chunks of date left in the paste that’s okay.
- In a separate bowl from the dry ingredients add eggs (whisked), ¼ cup apple sauce and vanilla as well as the above “date paste”. Combine well.
- Add wet to dry ingredients and beat with electric beaters until smooth (approximately 2 minutes)- Separate into paper muffin cups and place into pre heated oven
- As you place the muffins in the oven reduce the heat to 160°C. This will cause the muffins to rise quicker at the beginning of their time in the oven to create a muffin top – though it will not be huge due to the difficulty of perfecting a coconut flour recipe : ). Working on it!



Notes:
-          If you don’t wish to use paper muffin cups feel free to coat muffin pan with oil of choice (olive or coconut) and bake without papers. I used papers however I’m sure the other way would work well too.
-          These would be great with a ganache icing which can be easily made by breaking up some dark chocolate (the darker the better) in a saucepan over very low heat and once melted, add a few tablespoons of coconut cream and about 2 tsp of natvia.
-          I made this into a cake a few weeks ago with a ganache icing as described above and after being placed in the fridge, the cake was amazing! I’d recommend trying these muffins cold : )

Happy baking guys! I hope you find them as delicious as I did : ).

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Paleo Diet Plan

A typical day of Paleo/Primal foods

Example 1
Breakfast
2 eggs fried in olive oil with mushroom, zucchini, baby spinach leaves and avocado
Morning Snack
15 raw almonds, handful of organic sultanas (check ingredients for additives)
Almond Milk Flat White (yes, I bought almond milk and the cafe at work now keeps it handy for my daily coffee* :D)

Lunch
Baby spinach leaf, strawberry, avocado, tomato salad with sliced beef scotch fillet

Afternoon Snack
Apple OR Fruit and Vegetable juice (try and limit to one fruit and include as many vegetables as possible. I recommend: Pineapple (or apple), spinach, beetroot and carrot juice. - Many juice bars make these fresh.

Dinner
Oven roasted atlantic salmon fillet with oven roasted asparagus, cherry tomato and lime salsa served with a side of sweet potato, cocoa and walnut mash (courtesy of my gorgeous boyfriend after a long day at work early this week!)

Dessert
VERY dark organic chocolate (75-80% cocoa or more preferrably - to limit sugar as much as possible while recieving the benefits of cocoa)
OR
A delicious paleo creation such as a dark chocolate berry pie on an almond meal base like the one my boyfriend made last week (a version of which will be posted soon). Check back for new paleo posts in the coming weeks.

*Coffee is sometimes avoided on a paleo diet, as with chocolate and alcohol. I believe that it is up to the individual to decide exactly what they will include and exclude. At this stage, having a morning coffee at work (simply, for the habitual and social aspect - not the stimulant effect) is helping me to stay on  track. Using organic almond milk keeps it as paleo as possible and really... coffee does come from nature.

Example 2
Breakfast
2 boiled eggs with leftover diced chicken breast from last nights lunch prep + stir fried zucchini and leftover sweet potato, cocoa and walnut mash

Morning snack
Almond milk flat white
Coconut date slice (recipe coming soon)

Lunch
Oven roasted vegetables cooked in olive oil with herbs + lean beef scotch fillet OR tinned tuna/salmon OR Stir fried chicken breast pieces

Afternoon Snack
Apple OR one of Emma and Tom's "life bars" - a new find: easy to grab (found in woolworths health section) all natural, raw bars.

Dinner
Nori rolls - Nori (seaweed) sheets filled with canned pink salmon and avocado or roasted beef/chicken with roasted vegetables. YUM

My Paleo Diet - Week one

The verdict:

It has been almost a week since I took on my new eating plan which is the Paleo Diet! Quickly increasing in populatiry, in a nutshell, the Paleo diet focus' on consuming only foods that are naturally produced from the earth and nothing refined or produced by humans. Often referred to as "primal" foods or the "hunter-gatherer" diet, it involves reverting back to the time of our primal ancestors and eating only foods that would have been available to them.


General guidelines of the Paleo diet include;
Lots of Meat, Fish, vegetables and eggs
Some fruit
Some nuts and seeds
No refined sugar, salt grains or legumes

Following this eating plan would be easier for some than others. Depending on your current diet, opting to follow the paleo diet plan could either be a big change or making small alterations.

Preparing to be Paleo

I decided that after reading a lot about the Paelo Diet, I was interested in the idea and was keen to see how my body reacted and how I felt while following such a plan. My diet already consisted of high levels of vegetables, though I did not eat a lot of meat and regularly enjoyed grains such as quinoa, cous cous, lentils, chickpeas and oats. Other things that I would consume that are not included in a Paleo diet plan are light cows milk or (more recently) soy milk, the occasional multigrain or wholegrain foccacia or wrap and my beloved Acai bowl!

There are also some foods that are included in the Paleo Diet plan that until now, I would have seriously avoided eating. Aside from the increases to meat that would inevitably occur, many Paleo dishes use coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut milk or coconut cream. Up until recently, these products have been on the "DEFINITELY NOT" list, because of their high saturated fat content. I have done my reasearch on this one and much to my surprise (and upon thinking about it logically, it really isnt all that surprising) based on trusted literature, the saturated fats in coconut products are not dangerous to our health like the saturated fats from animal products.

The length of the chains in the structure of saturatred fatty acids (SFA's) coming from coconut products differs to the structure of animal products SFA's. For this reason, SFA's from coconut products do not store in our bodies; instead they promote the use of fats as our bodies primary energy source which as pro-paleo foodies claim is the way our bodies were originally designed to function. It is only through continuous consumption of grains and legumes such as those listed above, that our bodies have converted from fat burning machines to carbohydrate burners. Essentially, it appears that we need to consume fat in order to efficiently burn fat!

It just makes sense doesnt it? Eat foods that the earth provides. Foods that have never seen the inside of a lab and do not come in packaging, but wholesome natural foods that mother nature designed and provides for us to eat. If coconuts were so bad for us, would they really grow in nature? -This idea suits me perfectly as I am TOTALLY looking forward to making a nice clean, natural home

I want to point out that I do not, by any means reject the claims that foods such as oats and quinoa are wonderful sources of nutrition. Up until now they have commonly appeared on my plate and one day I will return to eating them. I am interested however, to see how I do feel while following a diet purely containing natural, unadulterated foods.

So, how do I feel after week one?

Well, somewhat unexpectedly and completely unintentionally, after eating more meat than I have in years and incorporating coconut milk and coconut into my diet (along with the occasional feast on 85% dark chocolate) I managed to lose 1 kg in 4/5 days. I feel leaner around the middle and I feel... clean! Id like to note that while a 1kg loss for a larger person would not be a big deal, I do not have much weight to lose.. and to lose it with very little effort is a big deal.

I did notice on a few mornings over the last week that after my breakfast and then after my almond and sultana snack, I have felt a little sick in the stomach. Nothing major, but at this stage im attributing this to the increased fat content of my daily intake. While previously my breakfast might have been a low fat concoction of either oats or egg whites + fruit, it has now more likely to consist of whole eggs with vegetables and even sometimes meat. Having a snack of roughly 15 almonds with a handful of sultanas approximately an hour or 2 after breakfast is what left me feeling a little off. The combined (good) fat from the egg yolks and the almonds is something that I have not previously consumed. I was aware before beginning my paleo plan that it is normal to feel different and sometimes even a little sick in the early stages, but for the most part, I feel lean and healthy. I am also confident that my body is loving me as I have put nothing but good wholesome food inside it for a whole week.

For a summary of what a typical day in the life of Mel on the Paleo diet, see my diet plan here.

I will hopefully be posting some yummy paleo recipes in the near future, but I hope that this might inspire some of you to explore your options when it comes to what you're putting in your bodies. My adoption of the paleo diet began as an experiement to see how my body would react. So far so good, with the occasional difficulty of what to eat on the weekend - ended up in a food court where all food options were either wrapped in bread or coated in dressing - went hungry for a little while. The end of my Paleo month seems so far away and honestly I would love a tub of yoghurt right now.. but I think I can do it : ).

-Mel

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake - SUCCESS!!

I have to say... this is the most decieving dessert I have ever eaten. For something that tastes so incredibly sinful - I cant believe how nutritious it is, not to mention easy to make. Probably even good enough to have for breakfast, dare I say! :O



In the last few months, I have been on this constant mission to either find a recipe for or develop a dessert dish that resembles a tart or a cheesecake – mainly for the texture. In my mind the dessert iv been looking for is something that would be served chilled (or frozen) and would have a crust with a creamy yet firm filling. I visited a wonderful raw cafĂ© in Sydney a month or so ago for breakfast and when we were leaving I noticed the range of raw desserts they had in the window. Mum and I got some to take home for later and they were among the most delicious desserts I have ever tasted – not a surprise to me but that could be a surprise to others who are resistant to or unaware of the benefits of (and the incredible satisfaction that can come from enjoying) a raw food diet. I think it might be safe to say that this is where my mission began.

During my 'research' I found that many raw desserts that fit the description of my perfect dessert contain either coconut oil, coconut butter or both. Since then, I have extensively researched and found many benefits of coconut, coconut oil and coconut butter despite the high saturated fat content. The alleged nutritional benefits are extremely extensive and I have to say that all of the scientific information I read regarding the benefits makes total sense. Coconut does contain high levels of saturated fat which is commonly known to be very bad for us, however it is believed that due to variations in the chemical structure of the saturated fatty acids in coconut compared to animal products, coconut saturated fat is neither detrimental to heart health nor weight management*. Unfortunately, it is taking me a while to adjust to the idea of filling a dessert dish with oil or something reffered to as "butter" and calling it healthy even while being aware of the favourable evidence. One day I am sure that I will use both coconut butter and coconut oil, but in the meantime, I was determined to develop a recipe that used something that would give a similar texture without the high fat content. Ricotta Cheese! I have mostly used Ricotta Cheese in savoury dishes in the past - maybe to top a vegetable lasagne or to add creaminess to a vegetable stack, but the mild flavour of the ricotta was easily masked by the other ingredients and acted as the perfect base for my Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake.

Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake




What makes this decadent Chocolate dessert so good for you?

I put this together feeling that there was a biiiig chance it would be only mediocre. Thinking about the ingredients I was using compared to what would typically be used in a cheesecake dessert recipe made me a little bit doubtful that it could be as amazing as I was hoping. This means that I was SO pleasantly surprised when it came out SO much better than I expected and after calculating the nutritional breakdown (which can be found below), I was all smiles.

Ricotta Cheese which is actually defined more as a cheese by-product (made from the whey that is drained off during the production of mozarella and provalone cheese) than an actual cheese, is a good source of calcium to the diet which has a known link to the health of our bones and teeth. Whey (mentioned above) is a great source of protein, making ricotta cheese a wonderful addition to the daily diet when increased protein is the goal. High protein foods are known to maintain fullness for longer and also aid in muscle groth and repair. Alongside Cottage Cheese, Ricotta Cheese is lower in fat than many other cheeses and has a fairly mild flavour which is handy when pairing with both sweet and savoury foods!
Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) is actually fairly low in energy (63kilojoules/15 calories per tablespoon) so without being accompanied by the typical ingredients that are mixed into many chocolately desserts (eg butter, cream, sugar), cocoa doesnt have to be the enemy - especially if a dessert like this ^ curbs your chocolate cravings and saves you from eating something that doesnt fit with your healthy eating plan. Cocoa is also known to contain antioxidants which fight free radicals and consequently can be linked to a reduction in heart disease incidence. Unfortunately this does not mean that 'chocolate' is not of potential detriment to heart health as the additives to the cocoa to create chocolate can sometimes override the benefits of the cocoa in its natural form - worst news ever.
Natural Sweeteners. The natural sweeteners used in this recipe are dates, apple sauce, natvia, vanilla essence and honey. There is no denying that these each contain some amoung of 'sugar' however one of the most important things to note when using natural sweeteners is that each of the above mentioned provides significant nutritional benefit while sweetening our food. In contrast to using refined sugars, our bodies have something to gain from using natural sweeteners, whether it is the high vitamin, potassium and fiber content of dates while they manage to be completely fat and sodium free or its the alleged natural medicinal benefits of honey (antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties). I know personally that I would much rather get my daily sugars from something naturally grown in nature that not only adds sweetness but a wonderful flavour to whatever it is that you're creating.

Ingredients (Serves roughly 8 slices depending on size)

Crust
1.5 cups (115g) Wholegrain rolled oats (ground into a "flour")
1tsp cinnamon
1tbs cocoa
3 fresh medjool dates (remove seeds)
2 tbs apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla essence

Filling
250 low fat ricotta cheese
2 tbs cocoa
1tsp cinnamon
1 tsp natvia (brand of stevia - natural sweetener)
1tsp chia seeds
1 tsp apple sauce
2 fresh medjool dates (seeds removed)
1tsp honey
1tsp vanilla essence

Preparation

Place oats in a food processor and process into a fine flour and add dates to process together until dates are broken up (if small pieces of date are still visible, that's ok)
Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until combined. As can be seen below, the mixture should not be smooth - it should simply be wet enough to press together into a firm crust.


Once combined, thinly spread mixture into a pie dish and aim to spread it as evenly as possible. The crust should be fairly thin and it should be spread as far up the sides of the dish as possible.




Place pie dish in the fridge to begin chilling the crust.

Now for the filling!

Once seeds have been removed from the dates, simply place all filling ingredients in the food processor to combine! Remove pie dish from the fridge and evenly spread the filling into the crust! As the ricotta might be a little soft due to processing and the little heat that might have been produced, I would suggest placing the cheesecake back in the fridge to chill before serving, however you could probably serve immediately if you're extra desperate : ). 


I actually made mine a day in advance as I was making it for mine and my boyfriends 9 month anniversary the following day : ) - it was very difficult to wait, I can assure you. I was worried that the cheese would separate and become watery on top but thankfully this didnt happen and it was still in perfect condition two days after it was made - im sure it was okay for longer but there was none left to test that theory : ).



Now for the specifics!

Nutrition information (per slice - based on a yield of 8 slices)
Energy:            583.8 kilojoules/139 calories
Total Fat:         3g
Saturated Fat:  1g
Protein:           7g
Carbohydrates: 20g
Sugars:             7g
Potassium:        7g
Dietary Fiber:   3g
Sodium:           40mg

 
*Based on my reading (and im happy to be corrected);
Coconut Butter - A blend of both the meat of the coconut and the coconut water (the liquid within the coconut)
Coconut Oil - Extracted from the meat of the coconut meat.

At the end of the day, I must say that the purity and simplicity of the production of these two products has me confident that the benefits of coconut and everything that comes from it are legitimate. For me, converting from using ZERO oil and ZERO butter in recipes to using the above coconut products liberally might never happen. I do believe that the "everything in moderation" rule still applies, even with natural products such as this, but I daresay, I will look at using coconut products in the future for the many nutritional benefits they do seem to provide. More information about coconut products and the scientific reasons why the saturated fat contained within them is not dangerous like the saturated fats in unhealthy, processed foods and many animal products, can be found here.

"Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food." -Coconut Research Centre

I really hope that some of you have the chance to make this and realise how unexpectedly wonderful these ingredients are together. This result gives me so much confidence in healthy food and its ability to replace the things that contribute to the terrible health issues surrounding obesity and related comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease - which are often partly traced back to food consumption. If you like it, please spread it around : ) - I would love to encourage as many people as possible to feel motivated and equipped to enjoy delicious food while enjoying a long and healthy life.

One recipe at a time : )

- Mel

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Curried Salmon Patties with Oven Roasted Sweet Potato "fries"

So, every night I come home and (sometimes more enthusiastically than others) put something together to take to work for lunch the next day. The last few days have been fairly basic with me not having much more than vegetables to play around with. It was during this time that I realised how much I rely on baby spinach leaves to make up the bulk of my lunch. They're so amazingly versatile and I find that I use them in almost any savoury dish - salads, stir fries, soups, scrambled eggs, smoothies and so on. This post isn't about baby spinach leaves though, even though they do feature in tomorrows lunch - it is in-fact about my spontaneous decision to make Curried Salmon Patties and Sweet Potato "Fries"! I say "Fries" because they are really oven roasted sweet potato pieces but.. we all know how yummy oven roasted vegetables are.




Curried Salmon patties

I put these together on the spot with no real direction but they came out really good! After working out the nutritional breakdown of them, I realised how wonderful they actually are!

Salmon contains Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (healthy unsaturated fats) which is something that many people don't eat enough of. These fatty acids are mostly found in fish (salmon and tuna), flaxseeds which are often used in bread and other baked goods and walnuts among some other things. Salmon is said to have contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, improved brain function, lowered risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's) and improved bone strength (plus some).

Salmon is also exceptionally high in Protein (as can be seen below) which is great for muscle growth and repair - for this reason is it commonly consumed by people adopting a high protein diet to compliment a strength training regimen. Since protein is a complex molecule and takes longer to break down that Carbohydrates, it supplies a longer lasting source of energy and keeps us fuller for longer - often aiding in weight loss programs.




Salmon is also a source of Calcium which is essential for healthy bones and teeth and when combined with impact exercise can contribute to the prevention of Osteporosis and other related conditions. 

Ingredients

57g tin of Salmon in Springwater (I used the John West brand)
10g low fat ricotta cheese (I used Perfect Italiano light Ricotta)
1 tsp buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp mixed dried herbs

Method

-Drain the Salmon and combine thoroughly with all other ingredients in a bowl - I used my hands : )
-Shape mixture into a small ball and flatten slightly before putting in a pre heated pan that has been sprayed with a small amount of olive oil
-Cook on each side for 3 or 4 minutes and they're done!



Coming in at only 336 kilojoules/80 calories per patty, these provide an amazing amount of goodness and would be a wonderful inclusion into a low calorie diet. For those of us not on a low calorie diet - eat many : ). See details nutrition values below:



Sweet Potato "fries"

Sweet Potatoes are a great source of Vitamin C and just a 1 cup serving of the vegetable contains 65% of the minimum necessary daily amount. Sweet Potato also contains great amounts of Calcium, folate, potassium, dietary fibre, antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals. Sweet Potatoes are a low Glycemic Index food (lower than white potatoes) which means that they cause a slow release of energy into the body preventing the rapid spike in blood sugar that is seen when consuming sugary and processed foods. This also means that this vegetable is likely to keep you full for a significant length of time.

How did I make them? SO simple.

For one serving of sweet potato fries, you will need:

1/2 sweet potato
spray olive oil
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
Peel the sweet potato and cut into pieces in the shape as seen in the above photos
Place in a large bowl and toss with the oil and herbs to coat
Place on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until softened.

THATS IT :D

Now that my meal has been transferred into the not-so-glamorous container that I will take to work tomorrow, im ready for a good nights sleep : ).




Goodnight everybody!

-Mel





Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Turkey and Vegetable Quinoa Stir-Fry

Converting the masses with this amazing super-seed! .... Maybe not quite the masses but definitely my Mum : )

When I told my Mum that I had started a blog where I would be posting some of my recipes, she specifically asked whether I was going to post "that quinoa thing" I made because "that was good!". Thanks Mum :). I have to say, one of the most satisfying things for me about cooking healthy food is cooking for other people who are unfamiliar with the ingredients and having them thoroughly enjoy it - especially when I know how good it is for them. Its like I get to share a little bit of what I love about being healthy with them - feeling great about yourself after eating a tasty meal and enjoying food for not only the taste but the amazing nutrition it provides!

I have recently started experimenting with Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and I definitely agree that this one tasted amaaazing. This special little seed has gained recent popularity, mainly because it is a great source (and the only plant based source) of complete proteins, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids. This makes Quinoa a great option for people who enjoy a diet free of animal protein as well as the health conscious who are potentially practicing a high protein diet for either weight loss or muscle development/repair purposes. Even for those who haven't eliminated animal protein, Quinoa boasts a range of other beneficial health effects such as high levels of magnesium which aid against migraines as well as improving the elasticity of our blood vessels, reducing the change of cardiovascular complications and many more. What does Quinoa taste like?Quinoa is comparable to rice or cous cous in texture and does not have much taste by itself other than a slightly nutty flavour. Nutritionally, quinoa is higher in protein (and contains a more useful protein structure) than both rice and cous cous as well as being lower in carbohydrate than the two.

Turkey and Vegetable Quinoa Stir-Fry



Ingredients (Serves 4 people)

1/2 cup uncooked Quinoa (cooked to packet instructions)*
250g lean turkey mince
1/2 medium sweet potato chopped in 2x2x2cm cubes
1/2 onion, diced
1 small red chilli
2 cloves of garlic
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 small eggplant sliced (or use a larger eggplant and only a few slices)
1 handful green beans, cut into 5cm pieces
4 mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cups of baby spinach leaves
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
1tbs kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1/2 tbs macadamia nut oil (or your oil of choice)

*Quinoa can be cooked in low sodium vegetable stock if desired, which will add extra flavour.


Method

Place chopped sweet potato in a saucepan with water and boil until soft (do not overcook)
Saute onion, garlic, chilli and oil in a large frying pan until onion has browned
Add turkey mince and stir fry until cooked through and then add all of the vegetables except spinach and basil - stir fry until vegetables are softened.
Add spinach, and basil and stir fry for 2 minutes until adding the sweet potato and kecap manis at the very end.
Once spinach has wilted and sauce is spread throughout the meal, serve immediately into individual bowls!

Now sit down and enjoy your tasty and super healthy dinner! : )

Note: Feel free to experiment with whichever vegetables you desire. Its not just about following the recipe but about finding the foods that you love and enjoy and finding the recipes that they suit best! Personally, I think ANY and ALL vegetables fit in any and every dish : ).

-Mel

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Acai Bowl

The Acai Berry



I feel that it is absolutely necessary to post this amazing purple deliciousness very early in the life of my blog due to it's importance in my life! I would say that 99% of people who have eaten this food would understand how addictive it is! ACAI (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a purple berry that grown in the amazon (in Brazil) and is disrubuted in many forms including powders, syrup, tablets and as a frozen pulp puree. The latter is without a doubt the most delicious and satisfying HEALTHY food I have ever come across. The reason Acai is available in the above forms and not in its original berry form is due to the difficulty of maintaining freshness during transportation from the amazon. It is stored in the above ways to maintain the nutritional goodness that it contains as much as possible. Acai is commonly referred to as a 'Superfood' and it gains this status based on its nutritional value which includes being very high in antioxidants and containing large amounts of heart healthy fats. The best thing about Acai though is definitely it's taste. Tasting like a combination of berries and CHOCOLATE, it is so amazingly satisfying and I have to admit that my boyfriend (whom once again is the reason I came across this food in the first place :D) and I are way more than addicted.

How to eat Acai

Commonly Acai is eaten for breakfast or even dessert - our favourite way (and the traditional way) to serve Acai is in a bowl topped with fresh banana, strawberries and muesli (granola is commonly used).




Where to buy acai

We're in Sydney and we buy our Acai either from The Berry Man or Manly Freezers. I know though that on the Amazon Power website you can locate a stockist near you!

TRY IT!! But beware: you will become addicted...

- Mel