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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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

3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was …kind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in   desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut…. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!) gluten free cake that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations: waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

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‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result… Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so… stay tuned for that!

The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me. Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years, but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the still-partially-frozen Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)…. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight! 😉

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.

Green Smoothies Don’t Have to be Green…

Take this for example:food fervour

In fact, I’d say most of the green smoothies I make are brown. Because I LOVE cacao. Why not have a chocolate flavoured smoothie if you have the choice?

Cacao is the raw form of cocoa and therefore even more nutrient dense. And its (delicious) strong flavour helps disguise the bitterness that many kale varieties posses. The smoothie I just made (pictured) had 4-5 kale leaves in it and it only took 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (oh ok, and the dates) to camouflage the acrid (but oh-so-healthy) green.

You really can have a lot of fun experimenting with green smoothies. If you are new to them, work off the ratio of 60% fruit to 40% greens until you acquire a taste.

For this particular smoothie (it made enough for two, by the way) I threw 2 bananas in the Thermomix, with 4-5 de-stemmed kale leaves, about 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder, 4-5 dates, a handful of (frozen) blueberries and approximately 300mls coconut water and blended it all on for about 40 seconds on Speed 9. For non-Thermies, blend for as long as you need to on the highest speed (to really break down the dates and kale).

I shouldn’t have any muscle cramps for the rest of the day, with the amount of magnesium (thanks to the Cacao & coconut water) in this drink. 😉