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Immune Boosting Japanese Soba Noodle Salad

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It’s hard to believe it’s still winter here in Sydney. The weather has been just amazing with sunny blue skies and temperatures of 24 degrees! There are, however, still lots of flus and viruses going around and some crazy cold winds and even hail are apparently coming tomorrow, so it’s not summer yet! Now with this cold weather coming I don’t want to get sick and when you are around young children like I am (I teach preschool children) you need to make sure your do as much as you can to keep your immune system up and running! If I want a smooth sailing to summer too I need to do just that.

 As you are probably aware (or should be!) food is the one of the first ways to affect our health and if we eat the fresh organic variety it can have a positive effect, supporting a strong immune system. It is from good quality, nutritious (preferably organic) food that we get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for a strong constitution.  So yesterday, with this in mind, I made a dish that compliments this great warm weather but still gives an immune boosting punch! Read the rest of this entry

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Chocolate Therapy

cacao

So I am doing the city to surf tomorrow! For those of you not from Sydney this is an annual 14 km running race that starts from the CBD and ends at Bondi Beach. I am totally unprepared as I signed up only 2 weeks ago and I have never run this far in my life! I am more of a swimmer than runner. The longest distance I have run is 8km and in the past year I have gone for a run probably 5 times, 4 of which were in the last 2 weeks lol! But hey, it has been on my bucket list for years and it just felt like the right time to do it! I’m not in it to win it, just to have some fun. It’s a bit late for tips for tomorrow but if you have any please share as I plan to do the bridge run in September (thankfully this is only 9km). How do you prepare for a relatively long run?

Now you’re probably wondering what has running got to do with chocolate? Well there is one more set back. This week I hurt my calf while running and I still do not seem to be able to run. Jog maybe but not for long. So it looks like I may be walking all the way to Bondi! And no I do not mean I have been drowning my sorrows with chocolate but it has played a role in my attempt at recovery.

So how do you help calf muscles recover? My wonderful trainer at Enliven Fitness gave me some simple yet valuable advice to rectify a calf injury: rest, stretch, heat, hydration and diet. Rest means I have not run but kept it moving with my walks to work. Stretching means I have stretched it out every night and lay my calf on my lacrosse ball to really release the localised pain in my calf muscles. Heat means I have applied heat with hot baths with Epsom salts and deep heat at night. Having a bath before stretching is especially helpful too as it warms the muscles up, allowing for deeper stretches.

My trainer advised that staying Hydrated is also very important which I am doing by drinking 2.5 L of water per day with a pinch of Celtic sea salt to aid absorption and drinking fresh coconut water after training. For my diet I should be increasing my magnesium intake by taking a magnesium supplement but I have run out. I remembered though that cacao is high in magnesium, which upon researching online I found that I was right. So whoopee!!! An excuse to eat chocolate! No seriously while it does sound tempting to eat chocolate every night this is not what I did, as chocolate also contains lots of sugar! Which we all know is not good for you.

The highest level of magnesium is found in raw cacao, however on its own this is very bitter and astringent. So I thought up some simple ways to eat raw cacao but still enjoy it. All of the recipes are gluten, grain and processed sugar-free and if you omit the dairy they are vegan and paleo-friendly too.
Every morning I made a delicious hot cacao drink instead of a coffee. This was great to have with my breakfast or for morning tea and with the coconut milk it is vegan and paleo-friendly. It is so simple too:

hot cacao

Just heat my choice of milk (full fat dairy or coconut milk are my choices) and whisk in 1 tbsp. of raw cacao. Pour it into a milk frother, froth it up or just pour it straight into the your mug. I like it like this but if that’s too bitter, you can sweeten it with cinnamon and/or maple syrup, or honey.

Now through my research I did find that the best combination for magnesium and hydration is coconut and raw cacao, so I also made my coco-berry power smoothie for breakfast, using the cacao variation. With the coconut water this is extremely hydrating and is paleo-friendly too! For a cheeky dessert I made a simple yet delicious raw coconut chocolate mousse. This is a paleo and vegan friendly dessert, so enjoy without the guilt!

See below for recipe:

 mousse

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 can of coconut milk, refrigerated over night
4 tsp. raw cacao
2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
Raspberries, mint and/or bananas to serve
Toasted shredded coconut and/or cacao nibs and mint leaves to garnish

Method

1. Take coconut milk out of the fridge and do not shake it. Open the can and scoop the separated coconut cream from the top into a separate jar and pour the remaining liquid into another jar.

2.Measure out 8 tbsp. of the cream into small bowl.

3. Add raw cacao and 1 tbsp. of the coconut liquid to the coconut cream and mix to combine. Add the maple syrup if you are using it (I don’t use it but for some people it is a bit too bitter without it). Add more liquid if the mousse is too dry or more cream if it is too runny.

4. Return to fridge for 1 hour.

5. Serve mousse with fruit and garnish of choice.

Variations

Mix some crushed raspberries and lime zest through the mousse.

Drizzle some raw chocolate through the cold mousse that has been in the fridge. Chunks should form throughout the mousse.

Lemon Chicken Soup

Have you ever had chicken soup when you are feeling sick? If you have, you may well have been on to something. While the idea that chicken soup cures the flu has its roots in folklore, modern research has proven that bone broths do actually help to prevent and cure infectious diseases. This can be attributed to their rich mineral content in the form of easily absorbed electrolytes and the presence of gelatin and cartilage, which both support the body with a range of functions and disease fighting properties. With the added benefit of vitamin c from the lemon, this soup is the perfect remedy for when your feeling sick, tired or rundown but also a great addition to your weekly meals to help boost your immune system and general overall health. Oh and it is super easy and tastes great too!

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Recipe

Serves 1

Ingredients

500 ml home-made chicken stock*

1 egg, whisked

5 leaves of kale, shredded ( keep the stems in but you can remove them by slicing each side of the leaves off)

Handful of shredded chicken meat (optional)

1 lemon, 1/2 juiced and the other cut into wedges

1/2 small handful of parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

1. Heat chicken stock in a medium sized saucepan and bring to simmer. Add kale and bring back to the simmer.

2. Whisk in egg and simmer until egg is cooked through, continuing to whisk so the egg breaks up through the soup.

3. Add chicken (optional), lemon juice and stir to combine. Bring back to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with parsley.

4. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.

Recipe notes

* It is very important to use a real homemade stock for this recipe. This means making one yourself or buying one from a reputable source. Please don’t use one from the supermarket as all the nourishing qualities of a home-made bone broth will be reduced dramatically if not lost all together. If you live in Sydney Australia you can buy great home-made stock from here, which is where I buy mine from when I don’t have time to make it myself.

Want to make it a bit more substantial? Serve with some crusty bread and butter or add a handful of cooked rice to the soup before serving.

Bitter-Sweet Vegan Chocolate Truffles

If you follow me on instagram, you would have seen some experimenting going on in my kitchen last night. I was working on a healthier version of the sweet potato chocolate truffles I made earlier this year. The older version was a a bit of a cheat as it used chocolate, which had processed sugar and some milk solids in it. They were delicious and I don’t mind eating chocolate as a treat but  I wanted to challenge myself to make a true vegan and paleo version. I guess just to see if I could but also, of course, for the health benefits. I didn’t use any recipes so this was a true experiment! You can use the ganache` mixture to make truffles or as icing for a cake, like my paleo chocolate cake. For this deliouse ganache`  I used cacao butter, cocoa, dates, coconut flour and sweet potato and boy are the truffles made from it delicious! A great addition to the end of a meal or to accompany a coffee, tea or a nice glass of full-bodied red wine. I hope you enjoy them.

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Recipe

Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato

120 g raw cacao butter

4 tbsp cocoa, plus about 1 cup extra for rolling the truffles in

3 medjool dates, roughly chopped

1 tbsp coconut flour

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Bake sweet potato whole with skin on for 30-40 minutes or until it is soft and squishy to touch. Set aside to cool enough for you to peel it.

2. Place cacao butter in glass or metal bowl set over a small pot of boiling water and melt gently. Once it is melted, whisk in the cocoa.

3. Peel the sweet potato and place the flesh in a food processor with the dates. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the warm cacao butter mixture and pulse to combine.

4. Pour mixture out into a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle over the coconut flour. Mix together and if using as icing on a cake spread over the cooled cake. If using for truffles, set aside for 10-15 minutes to cool and start to set.

5. To make the truffles, place the remaining cocoa on a plate for rolling the truffles in. Roll the truffles into small bite sized balls and then roll in the cocoa. Place in a container or on a plate large enough to let all the truffles sit flat. Leave covered in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set.

6. Serve straight from the fridge with your chosen beverage or as a dessert plate with some bliss balls.

Prawn Ceviche`

This is a delicious combination of prawns, roasted capsicum, coriander and lime. Ceviche` usually uses raw seafood that is cured in citrus juice. However for this recipe I have used cooked prawns. Enjoy as is in a bowl or with some crisp lettuce cups to scoop it up in. You can also serve as some delicious nibbles for a party by spooning the mixture into small lettuce cups and serving on a platter with small wedges of lime. I call these prawn tacos! For those eating grains a mix of wild and brown rice goes nicely with it too.

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Recipe

Ingredients

1 kg cooked, peeled and deveined prawns (shrimp)

1 red bell pepper/capsicum

1 orange bell pepper/capsicum

1 yellow bell pepper/capsicum

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp jalapeno slices, finely chopped

1 Lebanese or continental cucumber, seeds removed and diced

Dressing

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

1 shallot, finely diced

1/2 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves and stem finely chopped, plus 2 extra tbsp of chopped leaves to serve.

To serve

4 tbsp of roasted macadamias, roughly chopped

Cos lettuce leaves removed and washed

1 cup mix of cooked brown rice and wild rice

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place capsicums (peppers) on a baking tray and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, making sure they are covered. Place in oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the skin starts to bubble and comes away easily from the flesh.

2.Meanwhile chop prawns into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a large bowl.

3. When the capsicums (peppers) are ready remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Peel all the skin off, and remove the seeds. You can discard these. Chop the flesh into a small dice and add to the chopped prawns along with the cucumber and jalapenos.

4. For the dressing, combine the oil, coriander, shallot and lime juice in a jar and shake well to combine. Pour over the prawn and capsicum mixture.  Mix the mixture with your hands to cover everything in the dressing and adjust the dressing as needed. Use your own judgement. You might want more lime juice or coriander. You shouldn’t need any salt as the prawns will have quite a bit in them and there is a lot of flavour from the jalapenos, lime and coriander. But if you feel you do, add it!

5. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes. Before serving sprinkle over macadamias and some extra chopped coriander. Serve as is or with lettuce cups. If you are using rice, mix it into the ceviche` before serving.

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Apricot and Coconut Bliss Balls

This recipe comes straight from the cookbook “wholefood for children” by the amazing wholefood chef Jude Blereau. This is a regular creation in my kitchen so I just had to share it with you. I’ve renamed them because they are absolutely bliss! But the recipe is exactly the same a Jude’s. These bliss balls are best eaten nice and cold and are a great afternoon pick-me-up or a nice addition to a sweets plate for a party. I usually make a combined tasting plate of these with my paleo chocolate cake and sweet ‘chocato’ truffles. The only sugar in these balls of bliss come from the dates and apricots, and the fat from the coconut fills you up and gives you slow released energy too so you don’t get that crash like you would from a processed sweet. Dates and apricots also provide you with a variety of vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fibre all of which you would not get from a candy or a chocolate bar. So if you are going to have a sweet treat try these little balls of bliss!

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Recipe

Ingredients

95 g dried apricots (preferably sulphur-free), roughly chopped

55 g dates, pitted and roughly chopped

185 gr coconut butter* (spread)

1 tbsp coconut oil, melted, if required

25 g desiccated coconut

Method

1. Process the apricots in the food processor until they are finely chopped and beginning to come together.

2. Add the dates and coconut butter and process until combined.

3. Scrape down the sides, if needed and continue to pulse again. If the mixture does not come together, add the coconut oil and pulse again.

4. Roll mixture into small balls and then roll them in the coconut and place on plate.

5. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

6. The balls will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

*Coconut butter is the coconut flesh ground into a paste. It is also sometimes called coconut manna. Do not mistake coconut oil for the coconut butter you need for this recipe, as some coconut oils call themselves ‘butter’. You must use the true coconut butter made with the whole flesh in this recipe, otherwise the balls will fall apart. So make sure you check the ingredients that it is made with the whole coconut flesh.

Bitter Sweet Sicilian Salad

Bitter Sweet Sicilian Salad

I love the combination of orange, fennel and onion in this salad which often take people by surprise, especially when they find how good they taste together. I adapted the recipe from a classic salad I used to eat when I lived in Sicily on student exchange. My year in Sicily was an amazing experience that has influenced my cooking and has stayed with me even after 17 years has passed.  Food in Italy is a strong tradition that is a respected and celebrate part of home life. It is generally not outsourced to food chains or takeaway restaurants. The best food I ate there was in the home and believe me it was like eating at a high quality restaurant! It was ALWAYS handmade from scratch. No boxes or jars of meals there! For birthdays and christenings the women would gather together and make fresh pasta, gnocchi or pizza from scratch and for the staples, every year my family would buy the over ripe tomatoes from the passing vendor in his truck and cook up their years supply of ‘salsa rossa’ (red sauce) and they would send in their olives from their patch of land to be pressed into olive oil. Bread was also always crusty and warm, bought fresh from the baker every day. There were barely any supermarkets, as everyone shopped from the small green grocer, baker, butcher or convenience store. While of course it was not paleo or grain free, it was fresh and hand-made. No industry was involved only the home or small business so there were no need for preservatives and the life force was still in the food.

I was in Sicily a couple of years ago and I am pleased to say these traditions were still being followed, although there were some large supermarkets creeping in. I know these days I wouldn’t eat the fresh bread, pizza or pasta but I still firmly believe in this respect for food and the need for it be fresh and as close to nature as possible.

This salad respects these principles as it is fresh and simple to make with no grains in sight. It is great as an appetizer, as a side dish to roast chicken, pan-fried salmon or veal schnitzel or as a light meal with some avocado and shredded chicken or tinned tuna. I’d be interested in knowing how you find the flavours or maybe you have your own combination of fruit in a savoury dish? As always you can leave a comment in the comments section below.

In good health. xx

Recipe

Ingredients

3 navel oranges, segmented and juice squeezed from pulp into a bowl

200g baby english spinach, washed and dried

2 small bulbs of fennel, cut in half, core removed and thinly sliced

1 white onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup Red wine vinegar

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil

Celtic Sea Salt to taste

Method

1. Combine orange segments, orange juice and onion in a bowl and leave for 10 minutes. You want the onion to soak in th juice to take some of the strong onion taste away.

2. Combine spinach and fennel in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.

3. Just before serving pour onion and orange mixture over the spinach and fennel and toss to combine.

4. Pour oil over salad and toss to combine.

5. Pour the vinegar over the salad and a sprinkle of salt and toss to combine.

6. Serve immediately

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