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. 😛

 

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My Sugar Reset

Last week I had a rough week. It was rough enough to affect my appetite… I didn’t eat much at all. Not that that’s a problem. Fasting is valid, after all. But it also gave my body a chance to ‘re-set’ (that’s part of the fasting science too, btw).

What happened is that I somehow grew some Willpower. Now, I know what’s good for me when it comes to food and I eat extremely well most of the time… I’ll hardly ever part with my hard earned cash for junk food. But in my hospitality job, I’ve found it much harder to stop myself. I’ve analysed the potential reasons and have come up with two: I hate waste, so throwing out the amounts of food we have to ‘by law’ (food hygiene regulations… which really stem from the litigious fears) bothers me enough to stuff a piece of something in my mouth as I tip an untouched foodstuff into the bin (like, I’m eating this for all the Starving out there who can’t). And then there’s the much more intangible, abstract and highly subjective reason: reaction to dissatisfaction & fatigue. That is, “I’m over today and I wanna go home so I’m going to eat this food I don’t need” because ….just because. There’s really no excuse. (I developed a personal theory that ‘Time at Work’ and Willpower are inversely proportional: that is to say, my Willpower decreases the further into a shift I get.)

But really, it all boils down to Self Control. And I have that in large doses in some ways, and not – it would seem – in others.

Food Fervour

veggie-dense salad

But when I lost my appetite last week, something clicked. I’ve no doubt it was borne of my negative state and my innate tendency to be “hard on myself” but I ordered myself to do that which I always want to, and try to do: cut added sweeteners from my diet. (Not that I have many anyway: only raw honey, organic maple syrup & rapadura sugar live in my house) I decided if I wanted anything sweet (and I am the biggest Sweet Tooth ever) I was only going to allow myself fruit (I am a fruit bat after all). That’s it. So the meals I ate for the couple of days were simple veggie-packed dishes – literally salads – anyway. (This was a crucial element to my ‘success’.)

I wasn’t sure how I’d go back at work. But fortunately, I was stationed on an espresso machine, so there was no direct temptation. On my lunch break however, I didn’t go anywhere near the refrigerated cabinet in the dining room: I simply pulled my homemade fare from the communal fridge and ate my healthy stuff. This was the third day since my ‘meltdown’. The next day was significantly more challenging, since I was stationed in a food outlet. Chocolate, cookies, chips staring at me all day. But….. NUH! My Willpower had well & truly kicked in. I was not going to have (added) sugars. And I have stuck to this. I knew, I know, if I make one slip, it will open the floodgates… and there’ll be no turning back.

Sugar really is addictive, science has proven this numerous times now. The Sugar v Cocaine experiment with rats is the most well-known: the rodents were allowed to self administer both sugar or cocaine from dispensers in their pens ….and they all opted for the sugar. That’s how powerful it is. (Link to PLOS source here.)

I recall one particular experience that really rammed this home to me: a friend had given me a block of Cadbury chocolate as a gift, even though I had some of my homemade raw dark chocolate in the fridge. Deciding to have “just one” row of the Cadbury, I returned to my desk. But within 3 or 4 minutes, I was back at the fridge & into the block again. This happened 3 more times. On my fourth visit to the fridge, I opted for a piece of MY chocolate (I usually make it with a very small amount of organic maple syrup)… and the craving instantly ceased. There were no more trips to the fridge.

Food Fervour

salted caramel choccies

The biggest surprise – which is not really a surprise at all – in this ‘Sugar Reset’ I’ve experienced, is the sudden and obvious aversion I now have to sugary foods. In just 3 to 4 days, I have re-sensitised my tastebuds to Sweetness. I’ve had this experience before, but each time it happens it blows you away at how intense the changes are. The first moment I noticed it this time around was when I made some ….chocolate.

I have a favourite recipe for Salted Caramel chocolate that’s sweetened only with dates (it’s a Thermomix recipe by Jo Whitton, the link to her blog Quirky Cooking is here) so I figured I’d allow myself to make some of that if I was permitting myself to eat whole fruits. But for a little variety, I also made some totally sugar free dark chocolate (literally just cacao powder & cacao butter) and created some chocolates that combined both of the flavours …like Cadbury’s ‘Top Deck’. The ‘shock’ came when I ate one of the plain Salted Caramel choccies, followed by a combined one. I preferred the latter. I preferred less sugar.

Food Fervour

a roasted pumpkin salad I found quite sweet

I noticed it in more subtle ways as well: I made vanilla custard minus the maple syrup I usually add on top of the sugar-laden vanilla paste, and it tasted just fine. I actually felt a little ill when I made roasted pumpkin soup because the sugars caramelised in that naturally sweet veggie during the cooking process, then intensified in the thick, creamy soup. I’m even eating less whole fruit. Now that’s saying something!

The truth is, to truly give up sugar, we really need to discipline ourselves and restrict ….just for a very short period of time. Your body needs the chance to de-sensitise (and you will notice the difference). Think of your body as a spoilt child… when is the right time to finally say No?

 

Orange Salmon Salad

Gotta say, I’m pretty bloody pleased with this one. I’ve had salmon and orange together before but this will be memorable.Food Fervour

It began with my usual Google search: orange + salmon + salad + recipes. Most of the results were just marinades for salmon, not a complete meal, per se. But one in particular gave me an idea… and all it began with was orange and honey.

Now, I usually try to avoid adding sweeteners (even great natural ones like raw honey) where possible, but this marinade/dressing was going to need some, the way it was coming together in my head: orange rind can be quite bitter…

I started out by grating some rind from a navel orange (approximately one heaped teaspoon’s worth at a guess) then about the same amount of grated ginger. Cutting the top third from a navel orange, I hand squeezed the juice into a dish with the rind & ginger, then added a heaped teaspoon of raw honey, one teaspoon of tamari, and about a tablespoon of macadamia oil. After a good mix, I submerged my salmon steak in it. This began as the marinade but doubled as the salad dressing.

While the grill heated and the fish marinated, I scattered a mix of baby spinach, fresh basil & mint leaves on my plate, then grabbed some snow peas, celery, cucumber and cabbage out of the fridge. Popping the salmon in the grill, (skin side up) I set to finely chopping said veggies, then layered them over the greens.

I segmented the remainder of the orange as the salmon skin began to blacken, and after turning it over, decided to add a leftover avocado half, so sliced that and laid it on top of the salad pile. After placing the finished salmon steak on top, I scattered the orange segments and some roughly chopped up shallot greens, before dousing the whole thing with the remaining marinade. Then devouring.

It’s definitely the leaf combination and the dressing ingredients that made this dish so delicious. (I imagine a light sprinkling of crumbled feta would be fantastic too.) Whilst I haven’t provided a literal recipe here, I’d urge you to give it a go (in case you hadn’t noticed, the ingredients are all in bold typeface to give you a helping hand) because these flavours ….just amazing!

Bulletproof Turmeric

You’re probably thinking “What the..?” But I didn’t know what else to call this amazing warm bevvy. It’s possibly an acquired taste, but given it is loaded to the hilt with health-giving properties, I’ve fallen in love with it…

Food FervourMost people know by now how good turmeric is for you. It’s classified as a “Superfood” (if there is such a thing) because its active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant and has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties. I’ve often wondered how to get more of it into my diet …without having to eat curries …daily. This drink is my answer.

I’ve seen many references to hot turmeric drink recipes, but most of them involve milk of some kind (which kind of stands to reason if they happen to be named ‘Golden Milk’). Now, whilst I don’t have an issue with milk per se, I definitely find heating water much quicker, easier & cleaner than heating milk. (And what the heck; there’s also the calorie argument if it really matters to you!)

So when I read the recipe for ‘Turmeric Tea’ on Russell James’ website the Raw Chef I was keen to try it, and then I realised its similarity to the Bulletproof coffee phenomenon: black coffee blended with ‘healthy’ fat is supposed to increase satiety, reduce caffeine reactions (like jitters) and improve mental clarity. But when I tried it, I just liked the way it made the coffee creamy. And this is pretty much what happens in this drink. But the oil also, more importantly, aids in the absorption of the star ingredient, as curcumin is fat soluble.

So vegans, lactose-intolerants and lazy people rejoice: this is a super-easy, delicious, caffeine-free health-giving concoction! Just a few words of warning, however: turmeric stains. I haven’t really had a huge issue with this (maybe I’m lucky) but be prepared for some yellowing of your equipment. Secondly, and more importantly, blending warm or hot liquids can be dangerous. Never use boiling water in an airtight blender: pressure build up can cause serious injury. Thermomixes are designed to handle this kind of use so they are the best option. Hand-held (stick) blenders obviously allow airflow, but I’m not sure how effective they will be for the entire process (the first step involves pulverising the turmeric). I have made the tea successfully in my Magic Bullet, but I ensured the water temperature was below 70º and opened the container slowly (there was still the hiss of a pressure release). Whatever you opt for, please take care.

Food FervourYou only need five ingredients for this brilliant beverage: water, turmeric, coconut oil, honey or maple and black pepper (apparently a substance in this called ‘piperine’ aids curcumin absorption by 2000% Reference: Authority Nutrition)

1 cup hot water (I used ½ cup boiling water + ½ room temp, but vary according to your blender option)

1 finger fresh turmeric, (approx 4-5cm long) peeled and roughly chopped (apparently ½ teaspoon of powdered turmeric is an acceptable substitute but I’d urge you to avoid processed foods where possible!)

1-2 teaspoons honey (or maple syrup for vegans)

1 tablespoon coconut oil (my aim is to try butter and even macadamia oil myself, in future. Let me know if you do and how it goes!)

a good pinch of black pepper

and perhaps ground cinnamon for dusting

Simply add the turmeric to the hot water and blend at high speed for approximately one minute. If you’re particular about ‘bits’ in the bottom of your cup, you could strain the fluid through a fine sieve (like a tea strainer or infuser) but I actually didn’t find there was much left …so save on your washing up and just consume the ‘wholefood’.

Add the honey, oil, pepper and wazz it up again for anywhere between 15-30 seconds. Pour into your teacup or mug immediately and watch the ‘froth’ form as you dust with cinnamon. Enjoy every golden sip.

 

 

My Sore Throat Soother

I don’t get sick often. But I’m pleased that, becoming so well-acquainted with my body, I can now pre-empt an immune system crash. You truly need to learn to listen to your body…

I worked 22 hours over the weekend and could sense a composite energy pattern at play: I was stimulated by the social nature of the work (customer service…as well as entertaining my fellow workmates!) as well as the coffee I’d knocked back earlier in the day but then exhaustion was also discernible in some little mishaps (read: brain fog) and the loss of self discipline (poor food choices!) the further the shifts progressed. The physical ‘dead-giveaway’ was how dry my lips were, despite drinking heaps of water….

So upon waking with a sore throat in the morning, I’ve swapped out my usual cup of black tea (dehydrating caffeine) with the old lemon-water trick. But mine is a little different… because I (pretty much) always have “nutrient density” on my mind. It’s by no means an original idea to add honey and ginger to a hot lemon & water drink, for their flavour (honey tames the lemon, ginger’s fire combats the stinging throat) and health properties, but I have found that a little turmeric (one of the flavour-of-the-month ‘superfoods’) goes well too.
It actually happened by mistake: I’d been given a turmeric root that was very pale in colour (not the usual vivid yellow) so I kind of mistook it for my ginger bulb (I store them both in a container in the freezer). Luckily I didn’t use too much, and the result was quite palatable.

food fervourSo what I do is pop the kettle on boil, ‘shave’ thin slivers of frozen ginger and turmeric (more ginger than turmeric, for taste) and pop them straight into my mug. Pouring the boiled water straight in, the root spices have a little time to steep, while I collect and add half a teaspoon of (raw) honey, stirring to dissolve. Then I’ll cut and juice half a lemon, and it’s ready to drink (at quite a palatable temperature too, thanks to the ‘cold’ lemon juice) immediately.

Oh, the relief! Thing is, it tastes so good I sometimes opt for a mug of the stuff when I’m not feeling off-colour, and that certainly cannot be a bad thing! 😉

Caffeine-Free Spicy Chai Latte

I am totally addicted to the Chai I’ve begun making since owning a Thermomix.  I hesitate to say, I crave it more than coffee now! The problem is, it’s still relatively similar to espresso in terms of caffeine content and I’m not keen on consuming too much of that stuff. Why? Well, apart from a ‘negative’ genetic predisposition to it, I’m not fussed on the idea of ingesting too many stimulants on a regular basis.food fervour

So what to do when you’re craving a chai – or at least, a hot drink – late in the day?

Simply… leave out the black tea.

I didn’t know how it’d turn out, but… it certainly satisfied me. And being a little heavy-handed with particular spices, there was no question that it set a fire in my belly (and mouth!) and warmed me right up.

To give it a red hot go, gather together the following:

4-5 black peppercorns, 5-6 cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon garam masala, 1 heaped teaspoon vanilla paste (or essence), 1 heaped teaspoon raw honey, 300gm milk of choice (I used rice milk)

Place the peppercorns & cloves in the bowl and mill 6 seconds, Speed 9. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 7 minutes @ 70 degrees, Speed 4.

Strain and enjoy immediately. It will warm you to your toes and you’ll still get to sleep later on!

Can you guess which spices I went too hard with? Please feel free to share any variations you might stumble upon as well.  🙂

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….

food fervour

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!

food fervour

Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate