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?

 

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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? 😉

Vegan Anzac Cheesecake

How the heck did I come up with this one?

Easy, really. While searching for a traditional Anzac biscuit recipe earlier in the week, I came across a recipe for an Anzac Cheesecake… a traditional, cheesy cheesecake. Since I love the raw cheesecake phenomenon, I instantly mulled over what ingredients I would use, to get the flavour of an Anzac biccie.

And what better tribute on this, the 100th Anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli? (For anyone outside of Australia or New Zealand who may not know what this means to us, take a look at this postFood Fervour

So where to start? Well, the traditional biscuits are primarily comprised of oats, flour, sugar, desiccated coconut, golden syrup (‘treacle’), butter and the result is a wonderful ‘caramel’ flavour. I could envisage the oats & desiccated coconut in the cheesecake base (sorry, this isn’t gluten free people: but you could easily substitute almonds or buckwheat instead) but what about the cheesy filling?

Well, raw foodies know that nuts can make great dairy substitutes, and almost every raw cheesecake recipe you find will use cashews for the filling. I like to buck trends sometimes. And this HAD to be an Aussie recipe. There was no better option than our native nut, the macadamia. Coconut cream and/or oil would work because coconut figures in the original biscuit recipe. The ideas flowed from there…

There are three stages to the cheesecake’s creation, and since one does involve cooking, I can no longer claim this as ‘raw’. Firstly, I made a salted caramel sauce (recipe sourced from Quirky Cooking – see here) then created the base, and finally the macadamia/coconut cream/salted caramel filling. And I was blown away by the result!food fervour

Please note: using a standard springform cake tin, I found that my cheesecake was rather flat which indicates I my quantities were too few. Having said this, I’ve decided to supply my original amounts anyway but I highly recommend you used a smaller dish… or double all the ingredients! (If you do that, can you let me know how it works out please?)

For the caramel sauce I used 50gm coconut sugar, 50gm coconut cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract & a good pinch of Himalayan Salt.

I put all of these in the Thermomix for 3mins @ 100º, speed 2. For those without this piece of equipment, I apologise but I can only guess that you would add all the ingredients into a small saucepan and stir continuously (probably for more than 3 minutes I imagine) until the mixture thickens. (Be careful you don’t let it go too long, it will burn quickly. But then, burnt caramel is another flavour in itself, and maybe it could work?!) Empty into a jug or cup and set aside.

For the cheesecake base I blended 1 cup of dates, ½ cup oats and ½ cup of desiccated coconut until fully granulated (Thermies up to 15 seconds, speed 9-10). Grease your dish with coconut oil, tip the base mixture in and using a spatula (or clean hands?) press firmly and evenly across the base. Place it in the refrigerator.

For the filling I played around a fair bit! But in the end I used: ¼ cup of the prepared salted caramel sauce (that’ll be almost the whole lot), 1 heaped cup of (approx. 250gm) macadamia nuts, ½ cup coconut cream, ¼ cup coconut oil.

Firstly, I milled the macadamias (Thermies 10sec, speed 9-10) then added the sauce, blending for about 10secs, from speed 5 increasing to 9) Next add the coconut cream and Thermomix or not, you’ll need to blend a few times, stopping to scrape down the sides. My thought was, the more you blend, the better the aeration of the coconut cream, as well as further milling the macadamia particles. Finally add the (liquified) coconut oil, and I let this one go at speed 9 for almost 40 seconds.

Pour the thick filling into your prepared base dish, then simply freeze. I left mine overnight so I would highly recommend you leave it for at least one hour. It may stick fast to the base of the dish so gently warm the base (melting the coconut oil you greased the dish with) and it should come out with a little more ease.

food fervourI garnished the finished product with a crumbled Anzac biscuit (I also make vegan versions of those) but leftover salted caramel sauce drizzled over the top is divine!

 

 

Asparagus & Sprouted Lentils with Avocado Sauerkraut Mash

The key to healthy eating is experimentation. Really, it’s not that hard, with the bottomless supply of information available at your fingertips on the net. I reckon I search for recipes (food ideas) pretty much every day of the week.

Today’s lunch was no exception. I checked out what I had in the fridge – paying particular attention to the veggies that needed to be used up first – and dived right into Google (the best thing since sliced bread….if you want to call that the best thing…)

Asparagus and sprouted lentils were first up. I found an appealing recipe (5th from the top of the first results page). But my (OCD!?) desire for nutrient density meant I had to search further. So I entered avocado & sauerkraut (just getting into sauerkraut for the first time in my life, so am kind of at a loss as to what to do with it) and found this interesting little recipe…

Envisaging how the two separate dishes may just compliment each other, I set to work, and produced this:food fervour

So, what’s in it? And in particular, what the hell is that stuff on top? It kinda looks like refried-beans-but-not? It’s actually avocado & sauerkraut.

I found the Sprouted Lentils with Asparagus recipe here, on the blog ‘My Own Private Kitchen’ and I altered very little: apart from the amounts (I’m ONE person) I omitted the basil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and I cooked in coconut oil instead. Oh yeah… and a lazy thing: I caramelised the onions in my Thermomix, per a recipe in Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking cookbook (making extra for later use, coz I LOVE caramelised onions).

The Avocado Sauerkraut Mash – on the website purelytwins.com – intrigued me. It’s so simple …but I found it needed something extra, and that extra was a dash of apple cider vinegar (lemon or lime juice might also do) for more, slightly sweeter, acidity. (I might’ve needed the added ‘oomph’ because my sauerkraut is homemade so could taste completely different – milder – than the stuff the twins use/d.)

To describe the processes super-briefly (for those who can’t be bothered visiting the links) here’s how it all came together:

Firstly I set the Thermomix to work on caramelising the onions for me (this takes about 20 minutes, the same amount of time as doing it yourself in a frypan) so I had time to prep my capsicum & asparagus. Frying them in coconut oil, over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, gave me time to make the ago mash simultaneously: halving an avocado, mashing & mixing it with 2 heaped tablespoons of sauerkraut. I pulled the veggies off the heat (leaving them in the frypan to ‘rest’) then mixed the (dash of) apple cider vinegar through the mash mixture and laid the bed of baby spinach on my plate. I added ½ cup of sprouted lentils straight into the frypan with the cooked capsicum & asparagus and stirred them through to warm. When the onions were done, I added about ¼ cup of them to the frypan, again mixing up the contents before placing them on top of the baby spinach. I scraped out every last bit of the avo sauerkraut mash from the mixing bowl and sat it on top of the lot.

It creates a visual feast, but you have to mix it all through when it’s time to consume: the sweetness of the onions and the capsicum counters & compliments the tang of the mash and there’s definitely one helluva lot of texture in the meal. You could also add a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon juice if you prefer more moistness.

Raw Passionfruit Avocado Cheesecake

I’ve been admiring (& occasionally enjoying) the variety of raw cheesecakes that are slowly becoming more readily available at cafes and eateries, but had not bothered trying to make one even though I’ve been told many times that it’s ‘piece of cake’ (excuse the pun).

food fervourMy love of avocado has extended beyond its nutritional value because I’m now aware of its other ‘superpowers’! My first experience came with a green smoothie recipe. My how stuff ‘thickens up’ when you add this little dude to the mix! I noticed raw mousse recipes relied heavily upon avocado as well. That got me thinking about the texture and consistency of cheesecake.

Now I’m certainly by no means a pioneer in the avocado cheesecake world, but I can say it’s hard to find many raw cheesecake recipes on the net that employ ‘avos’ as the primary ingredient, which would indicate there’s heaps of room for experimentation. The vast majority use blended cashews as the ‘cream cheese’ base. I thought avocado would work because it’s naturally bland on the palate, but the PERFECT creamy texture.

Passionfruit isn’t necessarily a real favourite of mine, but they have been in season and moreover, they have a strong flavour …and a ‘tanginess’… which is what you find in an ordinary cheesecake. So I grabbed me some of ’em and got crackin’.

All 3 attempts were well received by a variety of tasters, but the last version was the best and it’s simply because I upped the amount of passionfruit. The stronger the fruit flavour, the better. But if you are going to play around here, I’ll just remind you that the more fruit, the more ‘wet’ the mixture = the less well the final product will set or hold together. (Think of fruit with maximum flavour, minimal moisture…)

I used macadamia nuts for the base (borrowing from a recipe from Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking blog) because I always associate them with the tropics (and passionfruit’s definitely tropical) but almonds worked fine in my initial experiment so be creative if you like!food fervour

For the Base you will need: 130gm macadamias, 70gm desiccated/shredded coconut, 8 dates & a pinch of Himalayan salt

Simply blend everything thoroughly in a high powered blender (Thermomixers 20 seconds @ Speed 9) then press the mix over the base of a well-oiled (coconut oil is best) springform cake tin. Note: this will make a thin base – if you like thick cheesecake bases I recommend you double the ingredients. Set aside (or refrigerate in warmer climates).

For the Filling, you will need: 2 large (or 3 small) avocados, 4-5 passionfruit (depending upon how strong you’d like the flavour) 4 tablespoons maple syrup or coconut sugar, 4 tablespoons (approx 60 gm) coconut oil (melted), 2-3 teaspoons vanilla paste, optional 1 banana &/or ½-1 teaspoon grated ginger

Again, this is simply a blending exercise. (Even with a Thermomix I found myself stopping and starting, to check consistency & taste and scrape down the mixture) Start with the avocados, sugar/syrup, vanilla & if using, the banana/ginger. Blend well (Thermies approximately 20 seconds, Speed 5) Add the passionfruit pulp, blending until smooth (Thermies 20 seconds, Speed 5 & you may use Reverse speed so the passionfruit seeds aren’t pulverised initially). Finally add the coconut oil blending well again (Thermies 20 seconds, Speed 9 gradually)

Empty the filling over the base, smoothing off as evenly as possible, then allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (or the freezer if you can’t wait that long!) Then serve and enjoy 🙂

 

Vegan Hot Chocolate

I’ve been struggling finding hot winter drinks that aren’t full of caffeine, sugar or cow’s milk. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy. I’ve been playing around, mulling over what goes with what, and I reckon I’ve hit upon some pretty cool ideas. The current ‘Bulletproof’ (butter) coffee fad has even come into play…

This particular version of my experimental ‘healthy’ hot chocolate drinks was inspired by Nutella. Most people know that Nutella is a hazelnut based chocolate spread. So I used hazelnut milk (made freshly in my Thermomix first, via recipe in the new Quirky Cooking cookbook) and tied the ‘Bulletproof’ idea in via the inclusion of coconut oil and my choice of sweetener, coconut sugar. NB: I’m actually sensitising my taste buds by eating so ‘cleanly’ so the flavours here will be subtle, which means you may want to alter the amounts of cacao and sweetener to your liking.

food fervour

Unfortunately, I have to admit that if you don’t own a Thermomix I can’t offer you an alternative, because this recipe involves a short burst of high speed blending of hot liquid – which is definitely not to be attempted in a normal blender. (If however, you’re adept in the kitchen, I’m confident you’ll discover alternative means to create something similar!)

For a single serve you will need: 250gm hazelnut milk, 3 tspns cacao powder, 3 tspns coconut sugar, 1 tspn coconut oil (optional).

Place all ingredients in the Thermomix, cooking for 8 minutes, at 70ºC on Speed 4. At the end of the cooking period, programme 30 seconds at Speed 8 to ‘froth’ the mixture. Serve immediately.

Let your imagination run wild. This recipe is really a basic formula for any number of creations. I have used a variety of milks and come up with some amazing flavours, for example, a Spicy version to which I added heaps of cinnamon, some nutmeg, vanilla, garam masala & chilli powder! 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Orange Almond Smoothie

Eden Health Retreat has a number of citrus trees scattered around the grounds so in winter there is quite a bountiful supply of oranges, grapefruit & lemons at our disposal.

With a couple of these oranges hanging around in my fridge, I decided to make a liquid version of a gluten free favourite: the orange almond cake. I had had lunch, and was hankering for a little dessert.

Thinking about an amazing green chai coconut smoothie recipe created by Jo Whitton (Quirky Cooking), I pulled together an idea for a rich drink that didn’t require ANY added sugars. And it worked. Warning: it’s very rich so you won’t need much. The following makes approximately 500mls; enough for two people. (Unlike this one, who guzzled it all down herself…and is paying the price!)food fervour

You’ll need: 50gm almonds, 1 orange (navel oranges are naturally sweeter) with all skin and pith removed, 60-80gm coconut cream, a pinch each of nutmeg & cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla essence/paste, 200gm coconut water.

In a blender or Thermomix, mill the almonds into meal (Thermies 10 seconds, speed 9) then add all the remaining ingredients blending thoroughly (Thermies 1½ minutes, speed 9). Serve & consume immediately!

Since it’s winter here on the Gold Coast, I didn’t want to add ice, but in summer it would be an ideal addition. If need be, you could substitute the coconut cream & water with just coconut milk, but you’ll lose all the added goodness in the coconut water (higher concentration of minerals in that, than in the flesh, which is what the milks and creams are made from). You could also throw in a little fresh ginger for added nutrient value!