Super Simple Berry Crumble

I can’t deny my sweet tooth. So I try to work with it, by creating as much as possible without adding processed sweeteners. And by that, I mean even the least processed sweeteners that would be considered ‘better choices’ …like pure maple syrup and raw honey, for example.

food fervourSince it’s berry season here again (and damn, if berries aren’t some of the best fruits you can eat, not just for their lower natural sugar content but also for their prolific nutrient value) but also still technically Winter, I have been playing around with Crumble recipes for a healthier, warm dessert option (but believe me, they are certainly highly edible straight from the fridge and cold the day after) and I’ve arrived at the ideal result …for me.

You see, it definitely won’t be as sweet as many of you would expect or desire …so you may want to add sweetener yourself. If so, I’d leave the berries/berry element alone and add something (rapadura or maple syrup) to the crumble mix, if you have to. The other alternative is to serve the dish up with my Macadamia Banana Creme coz it’s naturally sweeeeet!food fervour

You will need a food processor, powerful blender or …a Thermomix (!) and the following ingredients: 150gm blueberries, 100gm roughly chopped strawberries, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 30gm almonds, 60gm oats, 10gm shredded coconut, 50gm coconut/macadamia oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease the base of a small casserole dish (I used a 16x16cm square container) with a little coconut/macadamia oil.

Add 50gm blueberries, 30gm strawberries and vanilla essence to your blending appliance and pulverise these into a sauce. (Thermomixers blend for 10 seconds at Speed 5-6.) Place the remainder of the berries into the casserole dish and thoroughly mix the fresh berry sauce through.

Without rinsing out your processing appliance, throw in the almonds, oats, coconut, coconut oil and vanilla paste (as well as any additional sweetener you may wish to add) and blend briefly: 3 or 4 pulses in a blender or food processor or the Turbo function in a Thermomix. The oil and vanilla paste moisture may make the crumble sticky, but it should be pretty easy to break it apart to spread it evenly over the berry mix.food fervour

Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, decide what you want to add to it – cream, custard (see left), ice-cream, Macadamia Banana Creme –  and be ready to devour it as soon as it’s done. 😛

 

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!

 

Berry Protein Shake

What do you do when you have a heaps of berries you’d prefer to use up before you head to the farmer’s markets the next morning?

And what if you’re needing a protein injection because you’ve just performed a resistance (weight-training) session?

And you’ve just created a new batch of yoghurt from some Maleny Dairies milk, so your Thermomix is already ‘soiled’?

Well. Here’ what I did:

Food FervourI threw 20gms almonds in and milled them (Speed 10) for about 4 seconds, then added 150gm of the amazing full cream Maleny milk, about 40gms of frozen custard apple flesh (this is of course optional but I highly recommend it to thicken and sweeten the shake) and an unknown quantity (…but it was lots…) of strawberries and/or blueberries, firing it up to Speed 10 for 40 seconds. I certainly didn’t feel hungry after that.

NB: If this doesn’t seem like enough protein to you, simply mill a greater quantity of almonds: their protein content ratio is higher than that of the cow’s milk (but so is the fat content if you’re concerned about that). And if you’re not a dairy consumer, this is good news for you: you ain’t missin out. 😉

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!

Lychee, Lime & Mint Water

I’ve noticed that Fruit Water is starting to trend a little more now… and I mean fruit water beyond just lemon or lime or mint floating around in your glass: large jugs or urns with anything from cucumber to peach or mango flesh lolling around the bottom. This is meant to impart a tinge of flavour to make water consumption more tolerable to those who just don’t like drinking it.

I have no problem drinking water at all, but lately I’ve begun saving the water used when I’ve steamed veggies (knowing that some of the nutrients lost from the vegetables in the cooking process end up in the water) …and it’s not really enjoyable to drink straight. The I Quit Sugar gang suggest saving and using it in your smoothies. That’s a fantastic idea, but… I don’t consume smoothies often enough to use up all the water within a few days. So I needed to conceptualise some way to use larger quantities of the water in a single serve.

It wasn’t a complex idea, combining the ‘whole-fruit-in-water’ concept with the ‘nutrient-dense-steamed-water-for-smoothies’ notion, but I didn’t know if it would work. I mean, would it actually taste nice? There was obviously only one way to find out…

Food FervourMy first attempt involved fresh blueberries. And it shocked the pants off me. (Not literally.) It was delicious. Unfortunately I didn’t note the quantities, but I do recall using a decent handful of blueberries and perhaps 1-1½ cups of cold (veggie) water. And it really was this simple:

Water + whole fruit → blended = natural cordial.

Naturally this may only work with certain kinds of fruit …especially when you are already using steamed vegetable flavoured water… fruits that are naturally sweet and easily blended. For example, oranges may be too tart and fibrous – unless you can be bothered to remove the membrane and seeds from each segment…

Lychees are a naturally sweet and juicy fruit and I happened to have a bunch of them in the fridge. But because they’re also subtle in flavour, I thought I’d better add something else, to ensure I’d disguise the water’s taste. Since lime (like lemon) is well known to help intensify flavours (of other foods, besides themselves!) and I happened to have half a lime in the fridge, I opted for that and, in case that wasn’t enough, I added mint as well: another strong flavour and perfect compliment to both lychees and lime (…and very Asian…)Food Fervour

So for my single serve, this is what I used: 300mls water, the flesh of 6 lychees, a hand-squeeze of fresh lime, 10 or so mint leaves, 6-8 ice cubes.

Blend simply for as long as you wish, and serve immediately.

It’s a light, very refreshing bevvy, perfect for hot days like those we’ve been experiencing lately on the Gold Coast (…gotta love summer!) but just remember that unlike pure water, this beverage contains calories, so despite it being a far better option than juice, cordial or soft drink, it wouldn’t be such a great idea to chug down gallons of it on a daily basis either. Treat it as… a treat! Enjoy …and let me know what other fruit works if you feel adventurous!

 

French Toast Sandwich aka Cheat’s Pancakes

I usually opt for pancakes for Sunday brunch but today I was feeling a tad lazy (hey, I’ve been up since 5am surfing, cleaning & gardening… I’m entitled!) so what to do if you feel like pancakes but you can’t be bothered to make the batter and cook them?

Grab two slices of bread and an egg. French toast is dead simple and much quicker and easier to create than pancakes. All I needed to add was some elements for extra flavour, nutrient density and excitement…

So this is how it came together:

Since I keep my (variety of) breads in the freezer (pre-sliced) I had to pop two pieces in the toaster to thaw for a few seconds, so in the meantime, I set the frying pan on the stove on a medium-low temp, adding a splash of coconut oil. Setting the bread slices aside I then created the French toast batter by whisking together an egg, a dash of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla paste and a decent sprinkling of cinnamon in a cup.

Placing the two bread slices in the pan, I carefully poured about half of the egg mixture (that’s a quarter for each slice of bread) as evenly within the bounds of the crust of both pieces as possible, and after about a minute, turned them over with an egg slide to cook. Note: this method is actually a tad more difficult than your typical French toast procedure: normally you’d empty the egg mix into a shallow dish and soak the bread pieces before putting them in the frypan. My fiddly method keeps your crusts ‘crunchier’…

Next I grabbed a handful of hazelnuts, a dash of maple syrup, some more (rice) milk and cacao powder to make my hazelnut choc sandwich filling. Some minutes in the Magic Bullet – stopping regularly to check consistency and scrape down the sides – and that was done. Ready.

Returning to the pan, I divided the remaining egg mixture carefully again over the (other sides) of the bread slices, spreading the dregs of the mix (chunks of vanilla bean at the bottom of the cup) over the toast as well (waste not want not and …extra fibre!) before turning them for the last time.

While the second side cooked I grabbed my plate, then the tub of greek yogurt  and some fresh blueberries from the fridge…. ready to rumble! Once the toast was browned enough on the second side, I popped it on the plate, smearing a nice thick layer of the hazelnut choc mix onto one piece before topping it with the other slice. Dropping a couple of large dollops of yoghurt on top of the ‘sandwich’, I scooped the rest of the hazelnut spread on top and swirled them together with the end of the fork. Then it was simply time to pile on the blueberries, and get stuck in! Mmm, craving satisfied.Food Fervour

It was so rich that I know I won’t be able to eat again for many hours. To be honest, I think coconut cream (even though it may melt due to the meal’s warmth) may taste better than the yoghurt: while it’s good for some tartness (and probiotic qualities!) it’s somehow not quite complementary. If you decide to give this creation a go, let me know what you used and how it turned out 🙂

 

Raw (aka Clean) Chocolate

I’ve never really been a choc-a-holic, but strangely that changed when I learnt that dark chocolate was considered to be somewhat healthy (in small amounts, of course). Oh, and when I realised how easy it is to make at home.

My initial love affair with Lindt 70% and 80% chocolate gave way to instant gratification in the comfort of my own home, as well as feeling uneasy about the other 20-30% of the Lindt ingredients (one of which I’m dismayed to discover is palm oil) 😦

food fervourRaw chocolate recipes weren’t as prolific a few years ago, but I found one on Lee Holmes’ site ‘Supercharged Food’ (link here) and was super surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Luckily a friend had presented me with a packet of organic cacao powder, so I could instantly ditch the more processed-therefore-less-clean cocoa powder in favour of extra nutritional benefit in my ‘treat’.

My very first attempt at raw chocolate comprised cacao powder, coconut oil and dextrose (back in the day, I was seriously anti-fructose… I’ve eased off that a bit now… opting for less processed ingredients over fructose content.) In fact it was scary how quickly you could make it: almost less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the shop for the mass-produced, sugar- (and god knows what else-) laden crap. I was so bloody excited about how easy it was to make that I posted a recipe on my first (other) blog, A Life in WordsHere’s the direct link to that if you’d like to take a squizz…

I finally looked into the cacao butter Lee uses only a little of in her recipe: I’d previously thought it was just a body moisturiser. Well, it is the BOMB. Being cacao fat, it tastes like …chocolate. Not coconut, surprise-surprise! And unlike coconut oil, cacao butter won’t liquify at 20 degrees, so you won’t have to drink the chocolate from your hands in summer.

It is seriously as easy as this: one part cacao butter to one part cacao powder. Then add your choice of sweetener to taste. In fact, I have found that if making “fruit’n’nut” chocolate, I don’t need any sweetener at all thanks to the natural sugar (& fibre) content of the sultanas.

Let’s start with ½ cup of cacao butter and ½ cup cacao powder (so if anything goes wrong, you don’t end up wasting too much of these quite costly ingredients). I now prefer to use maple syrup for a sweetener, finding honey too viscous and coconut sugar takes too long to dissolve.

food fervourHow do you know you have half a cup of cacao butter when it comes in ‘chunks’? I kind of solve this in the choice of equipment I use for the first part of the recipe method: Place a small saucepan of hot water (only about 2-3cms deep) on the stove over the lowest heat possible. Place the cacao chunks in a (tempered) glass measuring jug (I use ‘Pyrex’ brand) and sit the jug in the saucepan. Wait for the butter to liquify.

Simply add the equivalent amount of cacao powder and your choice of sweetener, to taste, mixing well (I use a small spatula, to press out any lumps of cacao powder). If you want to add any flavours (spices like vanilla, or essential peppermint oil) you’d do that now as well. A lot of recipes ask you to whisk the ingredients… I’ve been too lazy to try that!

The final step for ‘plain’ chocolate is to decide how you’d like to set it. I sometimes use silicone ice cube tray moulds for individual chocolates or, if very lazy, I’ll lay baking paper down on a plate and just pour out the chocolate onto it so that it it will form one big block (that you can break into pieces once set). Once you’ve made your decision, pop the chocolate in the freezer for about half an hour, or the refrigerator if you don’t’ need it for a few hours….

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fruit’n’nut sticks and blueberry hearts

You can experiment to your heart’s content with this: here are some of my  favourite variations:

Blueberry Hearts: I pop some frozen organic blueberries into silicone heart moulds before pouring in the chocolate… same goes for whole Macadamias

Fruit’n’Nut: I put sultanas & peanuts in moulds before I add the chocolate mixture…

Chocolate Bark: I pour the chocolate onto baking paper on a plate, or into a dish ‘oiled’ with coconut oil then sprinkle anything and everything into it, like: chopped nuts, seeds, goji berries, shredded coconut, amaranth puffs… go nuts!

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Chocolate ‘Bark’

Milk Chocolate: I recently decided to try adding (organic) milk powder to a chocolate mix and I thought it was so good that I pretty much ate the whole test batch in one go! (This is not to say everyone will agree.) Add approximately half the amount of milk powder to the fresh chocolate mix (so ¼ cup or two tablespoons per the measures I provided above, and mix VERY well (it will thicken quickly) to dissolve the powder as well as possible, then set or add stuff as you wish.

Please feel free to share any amazing combinations you concoct!

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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate

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 🙂

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!

 

Coconut Chia Dairy Alternative

Breakfast on this fine Sunday morning has been both easy & decadent in the same breath. How good does this look?food fervour

While contemplating cooking a hot Sunday breakfast, I came across a container of soaked chia seeds I had forgotten I’d prepped earlier in the week. Bang! Instant gratification.

I could forget about the frypan or Thermomix now: I had organic blueberries & strawberries, banana and the ultimate (rare) decadence – some fresh cream. (Clearly I’M not vegan, but I sometimes prefer vegan meals…) That’s all it took to make my brekky. Minimal dish washing means more time to hang out my linen and wash my car. Yay :/

Had I not had the chia prepared, this breakfast wouldn’t’ve happened. Well, nowhere near as ‘instantly’. This is a perfect example of how a little bit of preparation can help you avoid “poor food choices” when you’re in a hurry, or simply just too impatient (“Need food NOW!”).

Chia seeds soaked in coconut cream (or milk) make a perfect vegan alternative to yoghurt or cream. And it’s ridiculously simple. The ratio is usually about 1 part chia seeds to 3 or 4 parts liquid, depending upon how ‘solid’ you like your yoghurts/creams. It’s as simple as mixing them together in a container (I always use glass) sealing and refrigerating for perhaps half an hour (or 2-3 days…how hungry are ya?!) Bob’s your Uncle.

The calcium, protein, Omegas in chia seeds make this just as good, if not better than the dairy alternatives. You can also play with this basic concoction in numerous ways, adding spices (vanilla, cinnamon for example) cacao and added natural sweeteners (if you HAVE to!) For more ideas Google ‘Chia Pudding’ and you’ll find a whole host of recipes.