Macadamia Banana Creme

I have nothing against cream. I love real dairy cream, but I rarely buy it. So when I feel like some, especially for ‘sweet’ occasions, I usually turn to yoghurt … of which I always have a plentiful supply.

Yoghurt however doesn’t always cut it. I love it, it’s SO good for my gut BUT… it’s tangy. That’s the only problem. Tangy works with fruit salad, even fruit flavoured cakes, but not chocolate.

I tend to think of avocado as ‘nature’s butter’ or ‘cream’ but its flavour isn’t easily disguised, and neither is its colour! Cacao (or cocoa) seems to be pretty much the only thing with the flavour and colour intensity to use with it. (See my Cacao Avocado Mousse recipe.) Nut creams (like my Vanilla Brazil nut Cream for instance) are easy as well but, like the avocado option, they also require added sweeteners, even if only a little.

Having played around with banana before (we all know you can make dairy free ice cream with it, and even grain free pancakes) particularly as a whole food sweetener, I struck upon the idea of combining it with finely milled nuts. Guess what? It works!

The only downside (which isn’t really an issue) is that it’s better made and eaten fresh, since the blending process causes oxidation that will turn the creme ‘brown’ (see pic below). Fresh is best anyway, right? (…for nutritional content.) Also, the thicker you make it, the more likely it is that it’ll be ‘grainy’ but if you’re pedantic about it being smooth, simply press through a sieve or squeeze through loose weave muslin cloth (or nut milk bag).

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Oxidation causes changes and you can see the creme on this cake has ‘browned’. It didn’t affect the flavour at all 😉

 

All you need is a high powered blender, 100gms of macadamia nuts, 1 banana (the riper, the sweeter) and your milk of choice to alter the thickness of the creme… (I used 1-2 teaspoons (5gm) to make the spreadable creme for the cake above).

Firstly, mill the nuts (Thermies: 10 seconds at Speed 7-8). You may want to scrape down and repeat.

Scrape down before adding the roughly chopped banana and milk. Again, blend again at Speed 7 for 10 seconds, scraping down and repeating if you wish (I did).

Voila, you’re done! It’s ready to go. I’d love to hear what you think and the creative ways you use it. 🙂

 

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Banoffie Berries

There’s no question I’m a Sweet Tooth. For some reason, I usually want some dessert after dinner …even if I’m full. But it’s always a healthy option; usually fruit & nuts with yoghurt.

Tonight however, I had some leftover cream in the fridge. And an overripe banana in my fruit bowl. Now, although I’ve never eaten much of it, I love Banoffi Pie. Cream + banana = Banoffi  😛

This is basically a pimped up version of Strawberries & Cream: that was the original plan until I spotted the banana and the cogs began turning. The best thing about this is that the natural sugars in the overripe banana mean no added sugar is necessary in the cream. This dessert is super quick, easy and created from just four whole, natural ingredients.

Food FervourNB: I used a specific brand of cream that is naturally very thick (Maleny Dairies) so I can’t vouch for how well this may work for ordinary supermarket brand creams.

All you need for a single serve is: approximately 2 tablespoons of cream, 1 small overripe banana, fresh strawberries and a handful of fresh blueberries.

Finely chop the banana then simply mix vigorously with the cream, using a fork. (It might seem like a bit of work but using a blender could result in banana butter if you’re not careful. Besides, who wants to add a blender to the washing up?) Being overripe, the banana should break up pretty easily.

Simply chop your strawberries, top with the ‘Banoffi’ mix, toss over the blueberries and devour. Deeeelicious!

 

Blueberry Broccoli Leaf Smoothie

I have to admit that my broccoli plants here at home are a little bit of a disappointment. They haven’t really ‘performed’ yet – I’m still waiting for a ‘crop’. Sure, a few florets have popped up here and there, but they’re hardly enough for one meal.

So in the meantime, I’m culling the foliage (…um, also because I’m fighting a seemingly never-ending battle with aphids…) and rather than discard these nutrient dense leaves I try to find ways to get them into my body. Most people wouldn’t consider using broccoli leaves, but they are actually quite healthful: think kale. They’re very similar in texture (they actually belong to the same plant family – Brassica) …and like kale, one of the easiest ways to consume them quickly is to break ’em down in a blender.Food Fervour

Unable to find any exciting smoothie recipes that specifically included broccoli leaves, I ended up tweaking one I found on the site Pop Sugar, that asked for the vegetable itself. (Take a look here if you’re curious.) I substituted blueberries for the strawberries and completely forgot about adding yoghurt …but I think that was a blessing in disguise. The kicker was the peanut butter: I’ve never used it in a smoothie before, but …wow. I totally think it made this drink. One hundred percent.

Besides your trusty blender, you’ll need 1 frozen banana (chopped into chunks) 2 heaped teaspoons of peanut butter, ½ cup frozen blueberries and about 8 broccoli leaves (I used more because mine varied in size).

Throw it all in the blender with at least 1 cup of cold water (I added more after the first mix) then guzzle with glee.

It did occur to me that those with peanut/nut allergies could try substituting with tahini but having a much stronger flavour, I’m not sure if it would end up as tasty. If anyone decides to give it a go however, please let me know what happens!

Monkey Bread Breakfast

While Sunday seems like the right day for decadence, I’m really not sure my breakfast this morning fits the bill. It’s so ridiculously dessert-like that I’m… I’m almost feeling… guilty.Food Fervour

You see, yesterday I decided to try a recipe for something I’ve never (to my knowledge) eaten before: Monkey Bread. I’d been preparing my spelt sourdough from Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking, when on a whim, I decided to keep on cooking …I had the time and the ingredients (kind of)… and I chose her to try her monkey bread.

As with many of my yeast-based bread attempts, it didn’t seem to turn out the way it should have …according to photos of other Monkey Breads I’ve seen. But then, I did make a couple of small adaptations: I halved the quantities (that shouldn’t’ve mattered) added cinnamon to the dough (this neither) and finally used maple syrup in the ‘butter sauce’ instead of solid sugar granules (like rapadura or coconut sugars). That most certainly could have had some effect on the outcome. But I tell you what, I don’t regret it because I had a bit left over, and it was an integral element of my wicked breakfast today.

Suffice to say, it still tasted good (and I only ever throw out totally inedible foodstuffs) so after it had cooled right down, I cut it into slices and shoved it in the freezer for future consumption. No surprise that it ended up on my mind this morning. At first I envisaged trying to make French toast with it but laziness kicked in, and I opted for super simplicity: toasting (in the griller). No frypan to wash up, you see. 😉

It came together with just the following ingredients: two slices of monkey bread (you could use banana bread or slices of some other sweet loaf) one banana, a ‘scattering’ (small handful) of macadamia nuts, 2-3 heaped tablespoons of Greek yoghurt and about a tablespoon of the leftover vanilla-butter-maple syrup sauce (you could of course substitute with straight maple syrup, but you definitely will not need a whole tablespoon; try 2 teaspoons) (FYI, the ‘black bits’ in the sauce in the picture above are fragments of vanilla bean from my homemade vanilla paste.)

Toast the bread in the grill, whilst slicing up the banana. Break the toasted bread into chunks in your bowl, scatter over the banana slices and macadamias then top with the yoghurt. Finally drizzle over your sauce/syrup. You could scatter some berries on top as well for a burst of freshness (this came to me after I’d emptied the contents of the bowl into my body, dammit!)

If you give this a go, please let me know what you think: breakfast or dessert? 😉

Cacao Blueberry ‘Ice Cream’

food fervourIn case you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a bit of an ice cream fan. I used to be crazy for it and, while I can still ‘slide’ back into the habit of buying commercial stuff (whether it be a small tub from the supermarket, or a few scoops from a gelati shop) on the odd occasion, I’ve become pretty well disciplined to experiment at home when the desire arises.

It’s actually quite surprising how easy it can be. If you have nuts (& a range of spices) in the pantry, a heap of ‘stuff’ in the freezer and a very powerful blender (mine’s a Thermomix) you can have ice cream in minutes; ice cream will be way better for you than any mass-produced product out there and that should easily satisfy a ‘craving’.

I’ve come across a wide variety of recipes for ‘alternative’ ice creams with the help of Google, so if you want to experiment further do a little research on the net. The most astonishing recipes I came across were for vegan ice creams made entirely from nuts… which really did work! Fat is the key to ice cream however, having said that, some fruits (particularly banana and mango) when frozen thicken beautifully in the blending process.

Drawing on these ideas, along with some others I’ve gained through the Thermomix community, I created this no-added-sugar “ice cream” with a handful of all-natural – mostly frozen – foodstuffs. I have an almost permanent store of frozen fruit and yoghurt cubes in my freezer, which means I’m well prepared to make ice cream at the drop of a hat. Now, if you don’t like yoghurt you can try freezing cubes of coconut milk (vegan option) or perhaps even ordinary cow’s milk (I’ve never tried this), but creams (dairy especially) tend to split when frozen so they’ll affect the texture of your finished product.

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ready-to-freeze yoghurt

Forewarning: don’t expect the smoothest ice cream texture (because of the extra, natural, ‘great-for-your-gut’ fibre in it) and it definitely isn’t as sweet as your commercial counterparts…

Armed with 20gm hazelnuts, 4 dates, 1 frozen banana (cut into chunks), ½ cup frozen blueberries, 100gm frozen yoghurt cubes (approx 8) 1 heaped tablespoon of cacao powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional) I created a taste sensation that could have served 2 people… but I ate the whole lot!

Place the hazelnuts and dates (try more than 4 if you are a real sweet tooth) in a high powered blender and blast until the nuts become ‘meal’ (Thermies: 10 seconds, speed 9-10)

Scrape down the sides of the jug/bowl then add the rest of the ingredients: banana, blueberries, yoghurt/milk cubes, cacao & (optional) vanilla. Blend until smooth. This may take 2-3 rounds: repeat blending, stopping, scraping down and mixing a little by hand. (Thermies: I started around Speed 5 and worked my way up to Speed 9 over a 30 second period, stopped, scraped down & mixed then hit it again at Speed 9 for another 30 seconds)

It should be solid enough to dish out in balls that look like huge scoops of ice cream. I topped mine with cacao nibs (coz I love chocolate chip ice cream) and devoured it in a matter of minutes.

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Believe it or not, this is a ‘kale’ (& mango) ice cream, I made from a green smoothie base. 10/10 for imagination?

Let me know how you go, and please feel free to share your variations or own personal experiments 🙂

Apple, Mint & Watercress Coconut Lassi

Glancing at my herb pots as I walked in from yoga this afternoon, I noticed how well my watercress was doing. So well that it looked like it might be beginning to suffocate my curly parsley. That’s not ideal. My mint has bounced back again too (it is temperamental sometimes) and I was suddenly struck by wonder: do watercress and mint go well together? Surely they do?

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The apple & melon lassi from one of my recipe books

Watercress, as I have mentioned before (in a previous post, see here) has been recently crowned the most nutrent-dense plant food, so I am pretty keen on getting it into mah belly as much as possible …and away from my poor parsley plant. Mint is a renowned ant-acid. And both herbs have a fiery ‘freshness’ about them.

Since I wasn’t overly hungry, I decided a drink was all I needed right now and my train of thought led me from the usual option – a smoothie – to the memory of a particular recipe I knew I had somewhere in one of my books. ‘Apple’ and ‘mint’ were swimming around my head while I checked recipe book indexes. Then I found it. A Lassi.

So I set about re-creating the apple & melon lassi recipe with my own, preferred ingredients and was totally chuffed with the result.

For one large serving, you’ll need 1 peeled, cored, chopped apple (you could keep the skin on if organic, as long as your blender is high-powered enough to break it down) 1 banana (mine was frozen) a handful of mint leaves, a handful of watercress leaves, approx 60gm of coconut cream and 200gm coconut water. (NB: fluid measures in grams because I use a Thermomix.)

food fervourSimply throw everything in and blend until smooth. (Thermies: 1½ minutes at Speed 9) It is so refreshing!

Besides your run-of-the-mill mint variety, I also have some chocolate mint growing in the same pot so included that in my ‘handful’. You could vary the concentrations of coconut cream & water to alter thickness, but I think the more cream you use, the less intense the apple & herbs flavours may be. I have considered how a nip of vodka or apple schnapps might alter the creation, but I know the truth is, it would most likely negate all the nutritional benefits of the greens…!

 

Liquid Health: Pros & Cons of Smoothies

I just gorged on cheese. I felt like some cheese on toast for lunch but thanks to my relationship with ‘instant gratification’ I started hoeing into the Nimbin Natural before my GF bread was toasted. Then I had a couple more pieces while the griller took its turn. So by the time I’d eaten, I was full as a goog (Aussie slang for “I’ve had sufficient”).

Now, with the stomach juices working hard (& loud!) I’m feeling a tad guilty about the lack of fibre & nutritional variety in that ‘meal’. Since there’s no way I could fit a whole salad in after all that (a sign in itself…) I’m going to ‘supplement’ with a smoothie.
Good old smoothies!
How did we ever live without them before? Nutrient-dense meals-on-the-run.
They are SO easy. So ridiculously easy. And they’re a blank canvas for the Creative. The one basic ‘rule’ I can ever recall hearing somewhere is:
60% FRUITS + 40% VEGGIES/GREENS

food fervourOf course, when you get used to them (that is, when you “harden up”!) you may find you can reduce the fruit component, which is a good thing for those who want to ‘control’ their fructose intake. Intensely flavoured components of a smoothie can disguise less palatable ingredients. If you have some idea of what fruits & vegetables go well together, you’re unlikely to go too far wrong. If all else fails… Google. There are literally thousands of recipes out there in the ether.

For this one I grabbed an orange, lots of strawberries & blueberries, a banana and a couple of dates and blended them with a chunk of cucumber, a stick of celery (leaves’n’all) a handful of baby spinach and some cabbage.
I blended the solids first to break them up as much as possible, then added my liquid (coconut water in this instance) for a smoother drink.

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So full… More for later!

The thing to remember with smoothies (and here I hark back to the ‘sign’ I mentioned during my cheese story) is that by liquefying your food, it’s easier to consume more than you need, plus there’s less work for your digestive system to undertake. While that can seem like a good thing  – and it can be when you are unwell and need all the energy (& nutrients) you can get for minimal effort, while your immune system is hard at work – healthy peops are likely to become hungrier sooner (despite ingesting a salad bowl’s worth of calories). Because your digestive organs aren’t really getting the ‘workout’ for which they were designed. They need the challenge of some tough fibre or dense proteins to breakdown in the same way your body responds to the fitness challenges you (should) apply to it in training!

To this end, I don’t believe smoothies should be consumed on a regular (daily) basis. After all, human evolution didn’t involve electric blenders!

For a meal on a run, yes – if you really CAN’T make the time. For instant gratification, yes, if you really CAN’T exercise self control. And heck, even for the occasional ‘nutrient supplementation’ after a very average meal (to wit: me, today) and at the expense of excessive energy intake!