Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tangy Turmeric and Garlic Hummus

Hummus has got to be one of the best snacks there is, and did you know that when it is traditionally prepared it is incredibly healthy too?



Homemade hummus has a great macronutrient profile, being abundant in protein, good quality fats and low GI carbohydrates. It is also high in calcium from the sesame seeds in the tahini. This particular recipe is also abundant with therapeutic herbal actions too thanks to the inclusion of some great spices.

Unfortunately, most store-bought hummus has been made with the two main principles of the processed food industry guiding the procedure - make it fast and make it cheap.

By making hummus "the fast way", manufacturers neglect the crucial process of soaking the chic peas prior to cooking and end up with a very nutritionally inferior food. By making it cheaply, they substitute a quality oil like extra virgin olive oil with denatured, industrial garbage like canola oil. Don't even get me started on the health implications of this particular switcheroo. That's a topic for another post.

Chic peas, like all nuts, grains, and legumes, must be soaked before they are cooked for optimal nutritional absorption. That is because the raw product contains phytates such as phytic acid and oxalic acid which inhibit nutrient absorption by mimicking digestive enzymes and binding to the vitamins and minerals in your food so that they cannot be digested. And just what is the point of sourcing beautiful, organic ingredients if you are going to eat them alongside a food that is going to guarantee that your assimilation of the nutrients in that food is going to be poor? Phytic acid also can cause moderate to severe digestive upset in some individuals, and is responsible for the bloating and gas people feel when they consume tinned or non-soaked legumes. Oxalic acid is one of the principle elements in calcium oxalate - the most common material that makes up kidney and gall bladder stones.

Removing as much of these poisons from the diet as possible is imperative.

Some people go as far as to remove grains and legumes completely from the diet, but I believe that is extreme and unnecessary when the proper care and preparation is taken. Many traditional societies enjoyed excellent health without cutting these foods out, they simply took the time to prepare them correctly.

So how do you soak your grains, nuts, and legumes properly? Each food is a little different and requires a different soaking time and soaking medium.

All you need to do for the chic peas in this recipe is empty them into a bowl that they no more than half fill (as they will expand significantly), and cover them with the juice from half a lemon and some warm water. Cover the bowl with an upturned plate or some cling wrap and let the chic peas soak for 24-36 hours. You will notice a lot of bubbling, putrid scum rising to the top of the bowl. This is exactly where we want it, rather than trapped in the chic peas and then being ingested. After the 24-36 hours, rinse the chic peas thoroughly and then bring them to the boil in fresh water on the stove. Cook for approximately 90 minutes until they are tender.

That's it! Although the process takes a few days, it literally takes a total of maybe 10 minutes of you actually being in the kitchen doing stuff. So I'm calling BS on anyone that says they are "too busy" to prepare legumes the traditional way.

Suffice to say, this hummus recipe is prepared the traditional way. It is a lot more tangy and flavoursome than most hummus recipes, and that is what I love about it. I am big on spices, for both their flavour and medicinal value, so they feature strongly in this recipe. Raw garlic is hypolipidemic (lowers blood lipids and cholesterol), antimicrobial, and anti-coagulant. Turmeric is the king of spices: it is hypolipidemic, antioxidant, anti-platelet, anti-metastasis (the spreading of cancer), anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerative, immune modulating, depurative, and hepatoprotective (protects the liver cells from oxidative damage). The. King. Of. Spices.

Anyway, enough nutrition talk... let's get to the recipe.

Tangy Turmeric and Garlic Hummus

2 cups soaked and cooked chic peas (measured after cooking)
1/2 cup tahini
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves crushed garlic (I processed mine in the coffee grinder)
1/6-1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (depending on how tangy you like it. I used 1/4)
1 tsp Himalayan salt or genuine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

Simply process everything together in a food processor until it is smooth. Drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley or coriander to serve.



This is great as a snack with some raw vegetables and grass-fed cheese, or as I had mine today - a side dish for grilled chicken thighs and rocket salad.

Now get to soaking your chic peas so you can eat this beautiful dish on the weekend!

FFxx

Grain-free, sugar-free, high protein, raw vegan granola

I have discovered what is quite possibly the ultimate breakfast and snack recipe. The same basic, 10 minute recipe can either be chilled and crumbled over unpasteurised yoghurt or almond milk as a beautiful raw granola, or it can be rolled into bite sized spheres to create the most blissful of bliss balls for snacking.




And no, there is genuinely no way yet discovered by man to photograph bliss balls without making them look like poop. My apologies.

Anyway, this recipe is loaded with good, natural fats from the activated nuts, seeds, and coconut oil, and an extra protein kick from the optional addition of Sun Warrior protein powder - the ONLY protein powder I touch as it is made from sprouted brown rice and stevia and contains no denatured and unhealthy ingredients. This recipe contains lots of bioavailable calcium and magnesium in the form of activated almonds and raw cacao. Calcium is so important that the body will leach it from the bones and teeth in order to maintain optimal blood Ca+ levels if dietary intake is inadequate. Magnesium is especially important for muscle relaxation and is great for the ladies and gents who train hard or suffer from any niggling aches and pains. There are loads of antioxidants in this dish too, mainly from the raw cacao, goji berries, maca powder, and chia seeds. We've also got some good carbohydrates from the dates, with an impressive enough mineral profile (and not to mention the fact that it is paired with plenty of protein and fat) to keep this breakfast low GI and not drastically spike blood sugar levels first thing in the morning.

This recipe is grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, raw, and vegan. I tend to serve my granola crumbled over some Alpine unpasteurised goat's milk yoghurt with a handful of fresh blueberries, but to keep the recipe vegan it could easily be crumbled into some almond milk instead of the yoghurt. For optimal nutritional and probiotic profile, I would always recommend the yoghurt.

All you will need for this recipe is a food processor, a coffee grinder (optional) and a small slice pan.

Let's do this.


Raw Granola


2 cups activated almonds (I make my own at home)
¼ cup seeds (I use chia seeds, linseeds, and sesame seeds) pre-ground in coffee grinder (this step is optional but will make the seeds more easily digestible)
2 Tbs tahini
3 generous Tbs nut butter (I use hazelnut butter)
1 scoop Sun Warrior Protein Powder (optional - I used Vanilla)
¼ cup goji berries
¼ cup shredded coconut
6 juicy medjool dates (depending on the size you may need more – use as many as needed to make the mixture come together)
2 Tbs coconut oil
2 Tbs dried rose petals (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I do mine fresh in the coffee grinder with the seeds)
1-2 tsp maca root powder (optional, loaded with Vitamin C)
2 Tbs raw cacao powder
½ - 1 Tbs orange or lemon zest (optional)
1 pinch Himalayan salt

¼ cup Loving Earth Activated Buckwheat
1 Tbs raw cacao nibs

Process all ingredients except for the activated buckwheat and raw cacao nibs in your food processor until it starts to come together. Then, stir in the buckwheat and cacao nibs and either press the mixture into a baking tray lined with cling-film for the granola, or roll into bite-sized balls for a snack! Keep refrigerated and simply crumble the granola over yoghurt, milk, pancakes, or fruit salad when you are ready to eat it!

The activated buckwheat and raw cacao nibs add crunch to this meal, but please omit the cacao nibs if you plan on eating this for dessert and are sensitive to caffeine, as they are quite high in it.


Enjoy, foxes. xx

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is self-acceptance really such a radical idea?

Hello my foxes.

I want to talk about a few issues in this post that I think are reaching epidemic proportions in the health community and having some pretty unhealthy flow-on effects into society at large. These issues are superficial idealism, delusion, body-shaming, stress, self-rejection, and ultimately - hopefully - self-acceptance.

I'll try to keep it brief.

The "thin ideal" has been a large part of our society since roughly the early 1920's and no doubt has effected how many women - and men - view their own bodies and those of others. This has led to a fairly insidious belief by those who are naturally thin that those who are not are morally deficient in some way - they are lazy, they have no self control, they are greedy, or they are failures. While traits such as a lack of self-control can contribute to a whole range of poor life choices, projecting them onto those who you may view as overweight without actually bothering to learn why their body may be different to yours is unhealthy and unproductive.

It is unhealthy and upsetting for those who are on the receiving end of the judgement, and it is also unhealthy and damaging for those who are delivering it. It is fairly well-accepted that feelings of self-love and positive self-regard have the beautiful flow-on effect of higher levels of tolerance and acceptance towards others.

Badgering someone else about their physical appearance and being intentionally cruel only shows your own poor relationship with yourself.

In many ways, the "Strong is the new Skinny" movement has been celebrated as a return to healthy ideals and a rejection of a skinny ideal, now deemed "unhealthy". But is replacing "skinny" with "strong" actually a meaningful switch when we think in terms of true health and self-acceptance? If the switch is simply made without actually challenging the dichotomy or the immense sense of body judgement and shaming innate in its catch-cry, then I'd say not.

Don't get me wrong, if for you, your natural body type in its peak state is strong and muscular, then I applaud you for rejecting the ideology that skinniness is the ultimate sign of attractiveness and embracing your own body type as it is. That is exactly what I would love everyone to do, and the whole point of this post. IF, however, you are simply doing the old switcheroo with the two ideals, and believe that in order to be healthy and ideal, EVERYONE should be well-muscled and lean as you are, and engage in shaming those who are not - either publicly or privately - I'd say your self-congratulatory slogan and meme generating is a little premature.

Let me explain.

Some people are naturally thin. When they eat well and do plenty of an exercise they enjoy, they are lean with possibly not an enormous amount of muscle mass. This is their build. Some people can also eat incredibly well and engage in a lot of exercise they enjoy and become extremely muscular. Some will retain a significant amount of body fat, others won't. Some people's fat deposits in different areas that others. This is largely due to genetics and our natural build and predispositions (of course genetics are not everything and our choices do influence gene expression, but some things are genetically determined). Choosing ANY one body type expressed as one group of people's 'ideal' and projecting that onto all of humanity is another illogical judgement call and will inevitably result in the "us and them" mentality which so often leads us down the path of body shaming.

I know personally what my body does and what it looks like when I eat well and train enough.

Again, 'well' and 'enough' are fairly subjective measures. Eating 'well' for me starts with a basis of whole, unprocessed, mostly organic foods without any universal macronutrient restriction and requires a lot of personal experimentation, patience, and listening to one's own body and learning which foods are well-tolerated and which foods are not. Sometimes, you may need the help of a professional to fine-tune exactly what works for you and to learn how to listen to your body, but ultimately it is a personal and individual process. Exercising 'enough' for me involves training at least 5 times a week in something I love - for me this is krav maga, sparring, sprints, cross-fit, and yoga. I say 5 times a week is 'enough' because it is when I feel my most energised and radiant, and it is not too much to result in any negative outcome from overtraining such as injury, fatigue, or unhealthy (for me) weight loss. If I have a whole lot going on in my life, exercising 5+ times a week will result in injury or fatigue because I am not listening to my body's request for rest. I still fail to listen to my body asking for rest sometimes and suffer the consequences, and sometimes life gets in the way of these perfect practices. I am speaking about ideals here, and they are of course completely individual and subjective.

But here's the nifty thing,

What my body does when I treat it like this - like a deserving friend - is nothing short of amazing. 

It digests food well and produces plenty of energy. It produces the perfect levels of hormones for me without assistance - enough to keep me happy, alert, sleeping soundly, and having healthy, regular menstrual cycles free from side effects. It flushes toxicity from my system efficiently. It circulates blood and lymph effectively, thereby oxygenating and detoxifying my tissues as it is supposed to. It keeps my bones and teeth dense without the need to demineralise and feed a mineral-starved body. It fights off infection, renews cells quickly and keeps inflammation at bay.

In my opinion, that is what eating well and exercising should be about. And for a lot of people, it is. Hooray!

What my body LOOKS like when it is functioning in this state is muscular and strong with the softness of my natural curves retained. It doesn't look muscular with the absence of body fat - far from it. It doesn't look skinny. It doesn't look perfectly soft, feminine and hourglass-esque either. Actually, it doesn't fit perfectly into the main three ideals that I have come across of "Skinny", "Athletic", or "Curvy" - each with their own cult-like following, rejecting other body types as unattractive or "wrong".

But it is ideal. For me. Your ideal body type may fit into one of the common ideals above, or it may not.

So given that this is what MY body does when it is happy, would it be fair for me to form a community with other women whose bodies also react to healthy practices in a similar way to mine and engage in shaming other women whose bodies do not? Would it be fair for me to call these other women 'too masculine', 'too skinny', 'too fat', 'too toned', 'not toned enough', 'unhealthy', 'not real women', or anything else?

Of course not. It not only wouldn't be fair, but it would be completely counter-productive and cruel for me to do this. After all, don't I work in the health industry? Don't I want to spread and promote health above all else? So why am I wasting my time and energy spreading negativity and stress instead?

Engaging in this kind of behaviour is amusingly illogical at best, and extremely damaging to yourself and those around you at worst.

Once you can accept your own self as a whole, the practice of shaming and ridiculing others may not seem as appealing or as satisfying. Accepting and even praising how amazing your body is has to be one of the most positive health choices we can make in our lives.

Of course, there are times when our bodies, minds, and spirits are simply not healthy and we do need to work to change that, for our own sake. Accepting that health needs improving and committing to doing that for yourself should still not involve shaming or hating yourself the way you are. It should - in my opinion - involve loving yourself enough to do what it takes to feel the absolute best that you can.

Loving and accepting your body no matter what is called "radical self-acceptance" in psychology circles. What I want to ask after all of this is this: is self-acceptance really such a radical idea? Can you invite change in your body's health without inviting some level of self-rejection? Let's talk.

FF x



P.S. I deliberately didn't include any images in this post as examples of the various body ideals I mentioned because I don't want to invite shaming of any of the body types in any way, shape (ha), or form.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sattvic rice pudding

This rice pudding is the business.



It is sweet, well-spiced, creamy, beautifully satisfying, and full of superfoods and medicinal spices. In Ayurvedic understanding, this would be considered to be a very grounding recipe and perfect for the chill in the unpredictable weather we are experiencing in Sydney at the moment. It is also incredibly easy to digest. I'll explain why.

As you may or may not know, I am not a big eater of the old grains. 

I eat them, certainly, but I have a grain threshold. As do many people. 

If I eat too many grains I feel bloated, sluggish, and - believe it or not - a little edgy and depressed. The fact that over 80% of our neurotransmitters are created in the gut, and that our gut flora create some very powerful substances that do cross the blood-brain barrier (such as various opiates), it is no surprise that the food we eat and how well we digest it can influence our moods and mental health so greatly. A nutrient deficiency can also cause lethargy and sluggishness, and eating too many grains that are not properly prepared to minimise their phytate content can inhibit nutrient absorption significantly.

For those who don't know, when I refer to properly prepared grains, I am talking about sprouted, fermented, or soaked grains. The reason these traditional methods of grain preparation used by our ancestors are so important is that grains contain a high amount of phytates, which can cause inflammation and digestive upset in excess. They also interfere with nutrient absorption by binding to certain vitamins and minerals in the gut. Soaking the grains in warm water with some lemon juice for 12-24 hours will significantly reduce the phytate content, as will natural fermentation (such as when we create genuine sourdough), or sprouting the grain.

If you, like me, have a grain threshold, take it seriously. You will be amazed at the difference it will make to your digestion, your energy, and yes - even your thoughts and feelings.

This recipe contains basmati rice - a very digestible grain when prepared correctly.


Enough talk.

Ingredients:



¾ cup basmati rice, soaked for 8-12 hours 
1 can (2 cups) organic coconut cream
2 cups water
2 cardamom pods
4-6 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
1 vanilla bean, scraped
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch Himalayan salt
¼ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup goji berries

Method:


1. Place all ingredients except for coconut sugar into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. 
2. Turn down to a low heat and cook until the rice is tender and has absorbed the majority of the liquid (about 20 minutes). 
3. In the last 5-10 minutes, add the coconut sugar and stir through.
4. Remove cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon quill just prior to serving.
5. Garnish with extra powdered cinnamon or nutmeg and serve warm.



xx

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Herbal Highlight - Bacopa monnieri



I want to start a new category of articles on this blog which discuss herbal medicine and regularly highlight some great, safe remedies that we can use to combat every day ailing health, depletion, and stresses.


I'd like to start by saying that NO herbal remedy - no matter how beautifully crafted by an extremely educated and experienced practitioner - can replace a healthy diet and good lifestyle practices.


Let's take a beautiful anti-inflammatory herb like Zingiber officinale (common ginger) as an example.


If you have chronic and systemic inflammation of the joints, ligaments and mucous membranes due to a poor diet full of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids such as those found in processed vegetable or seed oils, phytic acid from improperly prepared grains and legumes, and an excess of processed sugar, ginger may seem like a godsend. And in many ways, it is. Its strong anti-inflammatory actions are incredible, even at relatively low doses, and it can be used topically or internally, as an infusion, succus, or a more concentrated ethanol-based extract. It is such a beautiful, multi-action herb that it will definitely be featured in a Herbal Highlight article soon. However (and here's the kicker for all of you who love a quick fix), even though ginger is a perfectly natural, harmless, and highly effective anti-inflammatory, on its own, it will do nothing to cure the cause of the inflammation. 


All herbal remedies must be prescribed with a complementary food and lifestyle plan so that the underlying imbalance may be holistically addressed and true, long-term healing may take place. Even though ginger may provide fantastic short-term relief to inflammation and its associated pain even without making any other changes, it can only do so much on its own.


This is a really important point to make. Herbal medicine and Naturopathy do not only use different substances to Western or allopathic medicine, they use a completely different philosophy. Rather than symptom management or symptom masking, we aim to treat the cause of illness holistically, whether that means adjusting the diet, the lifestyle, the type of exercise a person is taking, the quality and quantity of sleep, or prescribing supplements and herbal medicine (usually it means a combination of all of these things). We create a longterm plan for holistic, allostatic health in collaboration with the patient. The patient is not a passive recipient of our knowledge or care, but is involved 100% in their own recovery. After all, the latin meaning of doctor is 'teacher', and that is what we aim to do. To teach and empower. Nobody can heal you if you do not wish to be healed.


I can tell I'm losing you, so I will get onto the discussion of Bacopa monnieri in just a moment. The point of the long intro is to avoid having anyone finish reading this article with the impression that a single herb is going to solve all of their problems without addressing the factors that could be causing their illness or speaking to a qualified practitioner about creating a synergistic herbal formula that contains many different herbs for maximum benefit.


The herb I would like to showcase this week is Bacopa monnieri, more commonly known as Bacopa or Brahmi. I recently conducted a brief literature review for uni on Brahmi as I included it in a memory boosting and relaxation promoting infusion that I created as part of a Herbal Manufacturing project. The information in this article is my own research and work, and has been fully referenced for those of you who fall in love with this herb and wish to research further!


Let's get to it.



Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi)




According to ancient Ayurvedic practices, Brahmi improves memory, longevity, and all aspects of consciousness and mental functioning (Paranjpe 2001, p 54).


Brahmi has many active constituents, such as the alkaloids brahmine and herestine, D-mannitol, beta sitosterol, stigmasterol, stigmastanol and bacoside A and D (Paranjpe 2001, p 54). 


There are other active constituents which can be extracted from Brahmi in ethanol, however as only water was used to prepare the infusion I created (and a water-based infusion or concentrated dried plant material will be all you will legally have access to without seeing a qualified herbalist), those listed above are the most relevant constituents for this discussion. The bacosides in particular have been shown to have a positive effect on mental functioning:


“Bacosides, Brahmi’s active principles responsible for improving memory related functions, are attributed with the capability to enhance the transmission of nerve impulses, thereby strengthening memory and cognition.” (Prasad et al 2008, p 100)

The antioxidant effect of Brahmi has also recently been shown to improve mental functioning by both chelating heavy metals and also by preventing and even reversing the depletion of acetylcholine in the blood. (Nathan et al 2001, p 345-346)

Heavy metals such as mercury and aluminium have a neurotoxic effect and an excess of these in the body directly and negatively impacts brain function. Brahmi's ability to chelate heavy metals shows this plant has a fascinating dual action of both cleansing the body of substances which may be inhibiting cognition, and also strengthening the neurological mechanisms for memory and cognition in the healthy brain.

Brahmi has many other actions throughout the body, including but not limited to anti-ischemic (which protects the heart from ischemia or heart attacks), anti-carcinogenic (due to the impressive antioxidant profile), and stimulating to the thyroid gland (which would make it contraindicated in anyone with an overactive or 'hyper' thyroid, but beautifully therapeutic in those with a sluggish or 'hypo' thyroid).

In my infusion blend, I added other dried herbs with known mood-brightening and relaxing qualities, and also an anti-inflammatory herb. I did this because conditions involving memory decline (such as Alzheimer's Disease) are often co-morbid with inflammatory conditions, particularly in the elderly. Inflammation and pain can also effect mood and therefore cognition so for me, it was important to combine these herbs together to synergistically cover as many therapeutic actions as possible.

As a full-time student who is also working two jobs, (slowly) learning to fly, and providing regular nutritional and lifestyle consultations to clients, Brahmi is manna from heaven. I grow it in my garden and add it fresh to salads as well as taking the dried herbal material in tablet form daily.

I take Brahmi as part of a holistic strategy created by myself and my own Naturopath along with other herbs, medicinal foods, and an ancestrally inspired wholefoods diet.

We are all different and have different needs when it comes to our herbal and nutritional medicine. For this reason, I would strongly recommend seeing a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist and getting the holistic care needed to support the entire body, not just attempting to address poor cognition by taking Brahmi alone. Having said that, I can say from both my research and personal usage experience that Brahmi is an excellent cognition booster and a safe and beautiful alternative to the mainstays of many students who need to cram at exam time - sugar and caffeine. Sugar and caffeine may provide short-term spikes in energy, but they deplete the body over time by inhibiting nutrient absorption, promoting inflammation and pain, depleting the muscles of minerals (the deficiency of which can cause painful involuntary contractions and spasms), and depleting the adrenal glands which can eventually cause persistent and even chronic fatigue. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sugar and caffeine, but maybe that is a topic for another post all together.

Please note that, like most herbal remedies, Brahmi needs time to take a significant and profound action in the body. If you are approaching a time of high stress or need to study hard and retain a lot of information, it is recommended that you start taking Brahmi at least 2-3 months beforehand to notice a marked improvement. For dosage information, speak to your Naturopath or trained staff in any Healthfood store that sells the dried plant material from Bacopa monnieri.

Never take any herbal medicine in the first trimester of pregnancy, or the remainder of pregnancy or lactation without first consulting a herbalist or Naturopath who specialises in female reproductive health. As ever, consult your own trusted health practitioner before embarking on any changes to supplements, diet, or herbal medicine regime.

FF xx



References:


Nathan, P.J, Clarke, J, Lloyd, J, Huthcinson, C.W, Downey, L, Stough, C 2001 ‘The acute effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy normal subjects’, Human Psychopharmacology, vol. 16, pp 345 – 351. Viewed: http://jerrycott.com/user/brahmiacute.pdf

Paranjpe, P 2001, Indian Medicinal Plants, Forgotten Healers, A Guide to Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine, published by Chaukhamba Sanskrit Oratishthan, Delhi IN.

Prasad, R, Bagde, U.S, Puspangadan, P, Varma, A 2008 ‘Bacopa monniera L.: Pharmacological Aspects and Case Study Involving Piriformospora indica’, International Journal of Integraive Biology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp 100 – 110. Viewed:  http://ijib.classicrus.com/IJIB/Arch/2008/1074.pdf

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chocolate cherry slice - gluten free, grain free, sugar free.

It's always a good sign when after one bite your boyfriend looks at you seriously and says, "this is what I want for my birthday cake in three months".


The almond meal slice is like delicious vanilla cookie dough, the middle layer tastes like melted cherry ripe but better, and the creamy chocolaty icing is to die for. For anyone who has never used avocado to make a chocolate mousse or icing, don't be afraid. You really cannot taste the avocado at all and it makes for a beautifully creamy consistency - trust me, I fed it to a 9 year old and he absolutely adored it.

Aside from being obscenely delicious, this slice is jam-packed with protein, good quality fats, and antioxidants. If you want a great high-protein snack for hiking trips, simply omit the icing! It's filling and very energising.



Let's do this.

Chocolate, cherry and coconut slice


Slice:

2 cups almond meal
2 eggs
½ cup coconut sugar
50 grams butter (preferably raw)
1 Tbs coconut oil
½ tsp Loving Earth vanilla bean powder
pinch salt

Filling:

1 Tbs coconut oil
1 Tbs butter (preferably raw)
¼ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup coconut sugar
2 Tbs raw cacao powder
pinch Loving Earth vanilla bean powder
Organic dried cherries (sulphur-free)

Icing:

1 small avocado
1 Tbs crème fraiche or sour cream (preferably raw)
½ Tbs coconut oil
2-3 Tbs raw cacao powder
½ tsp Loving Earth vanilla bean powder
2 Tbs coconut sugar
1 Tbs raw honey
Splash balsamic vinegar (added to any chocolate recipe, balsamic adds richness and depth)

To decorate:

Desiccated coconut
Organic dried cherries (sulphur-free)
Raw cacao nibs

Extra butter for greasing the pan

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (375F) and grease a loaf tin with plenty of butter.
2. Mix all of the ingredients for the slice together and add half of the mixture into the greased loaf tin.
3. Melt the coconut oil and butter for the filling in a pan over very low heat and then mix in the other components of the filling.
4. Spread the filling gently over the bottom layer of slice, and then evenly spread the dried cherries on top of the chocolate filling.
5. Spread the remaining half of the slice mixture over the chocolate and cherry filling, making the surface as even as possible. This is a slow process as the batter is very doughy and needs to be pressed to ensure it is even and thus cooks evenly.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven.
7. Allow the slice to cool completely before removing gently from the loaf tin.
8. Mix all icing ingredients together in a food processer or blender and spread over the top of the slice.
9. Decorate at will! I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make coconut hearts which I then bordered with sliced dried cherries. I’m no cake decorator, so you can no doubt do better. This would be beautiful decorated with some raw cacao nibs also, but since I was making it for a 9 year old child, I omitted them as they are extremely high in caffeine and I didn't want to have to deal with that fiasco.



Enjoy, my foxes! x

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grain-free chocolate cake with espresso buttercream frosting

This is not a health post...



See?

Although this rich, chocolatey cake is grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and processed frankenfoods-free - it still probably isn't a dessert you could eat for breakfast and feel fueled and invigorated for the day, like my Grain Free Spiced Pear and Apple Pie. But I am convinced it is THE perfect dessert.

Am I the only one who can find buttercream frosting sickeningly sweet and impossible to eat much of? I get so irritated when I eat it as I always feel like the mounds of icing sugar completely overpower the subtleness of the butter (which is probably the idea when using cheap, factory farmed butter or worse - margarine). I made sure this frosting was different - still satiny and smooth but with a rich and almost caramelly sweetness that compliments the butter, rather than competing with it. I've perfected the base recipe over the years and am always very happy with how this one turns out. It is incredibly rich, chocolately, and satisfying!

I said it wasn't a health post, but I can't resist telling you just a LITTLE about the ingredients we're using in this cake...

Almonds are loaded with calcium, magnesium, and several essential amino acids. They are a great snack for balancing blood sugar and when they have been soaked prior to use, are also incredibly easy to digest. Using them instead of grains is a great choice for anyone with grain or gluten sensitivities, candida, or gut dysbiosis as we discussed in my Paleo Pancakes recipe (which I made this morning topped with pomegranate seeds and grass-fed double cream - divine!)

Raw cacao is another high source of magnesium, which some say is why women crave chocolate during menstruation - magnesium is needed for effective muscle relaxation, and the cramping of the smooth muscles around the uterus can be extremely painful for some women. It is also high in antioxidants and a very warming, invigorating food to include in the diet in small amounts. I often start the day with a bitter spiced chocolate and almond-milk smoothie, which is the perfect kick-start for my sluggish kapha in the morning!

The berries I used for garnish are also a beautiful source of antioxidants and of course, vitamin C. I also used only natural sweeteners for a good mineral profile and a better blood-sugar response in the body. The grass-fed butter I used for the icing is loaded with vitamins A and K. Vitamin A is also called the "Beauty Vitamin" for its crucial role in developing beautiful symetrical features of the fetus in utero, and is essential for good immunity, cellular health, and good vision among many other things. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and forming strong bones, along with calcium, vitamin D, and boron (among other nutrients - our bodies are anything but simple!).

And the coffee is... well. Delicious. Let it go.

The grain-free chocolate almond cake base is moist, dense, and very rich. The espresso, cinnamon and buttercream frosting is velvety, incredibly flavoursome and doesn't have the overbearing sweetness I often find so off-putting about traditional buttercreams. The tartness of the berries cut through the heaviness of this cake perfectly, and provide a beautiful depth of flavour to the dish. I made this cake for my boyfriend's birthday last year and everyone absolutely adored it! It really is the perfect dessert.

Here's what you need to do to get this into your face...

Ingredients:


Chocolate almond cake:

½ cup raw cacao powder, sifted
1/3 – ½ cup hot water
25 grams butter (plus extra for greasing cake tin)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup rapadura or sucanet, sifted*
¼ cup coconut sugar, sifted*
2 Tbs maple syrup*
pinch sea salt
3 x large pastured eggs, separated 
*You can use any combination of sweeteners you like, I find this combination gives the cake a rich caramel tone and beautiful texture.

Espresso buttercream frosting:

200 grams butter, room temperature
1 shot espresso (don't use instant coffee. I'll know.)
½ cup sifted coconut sugar
seeds scraped from 2 inches of vanilla bean
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 Tbs raw milk

Method:


  • Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease a springform cake tin of about 22cm. Custom-cut parchment/baking paper would work even better than greasing!
  • Mix raw cacao powder, water, butter and cinnamon in a large bowl until combined, then add the almond meal, rapadura, coconut sugar, maple syrup, sea salt and three egg yolks and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the 3 egg whites until light and fluffy, but not quite with stiff peaks – usually about 1 minute.
  • Gently fold the egg white mixture into the cacao and almond mixture, being careful not to let too much of the air out of the egg whites.
  • Pour the mixture into the greased or lined cake tin and place in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool for at least another 40 minutes before attempting to remove it from the pan, and another 40 minutes (or better yet, overnight) before frosting it.
  • For the frosting, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes until mixture is smooth and almost silky.
  • Spread the frosting generously over the cake, and decorate with seasonal berries.


Enjoy, foxes! x

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mediterranean fried sardines with olives and winter veg

This dish is one of the most simple, fresh, and flavourful things I have created in a long time...


The Sicilian girl in me was craving a simple Italian seafood dish on the weekend that would provide nourishment in the cold yet a freshness reminiscent of warmer weather. Mediterranean Fried Sardines with Olives and Winter Veg is what I came up with. Naturally, sweet potato and coriander are not 100% Italian, but hey, neither am I.

In an effort to up my Omega-3 fatty acids without upping my mercury levels, I have been eating lots of small, freshwater fish like sardines and mackerel lately. These fish are seriously tasty - and with the addition of their tiny, easily digested bones - are also an excellent source of Calcium. We all know how important calcium is for bone health, but did you know that a deficiency in calcium can also cause hypertension (high blood pressure)? Calcium is implicated in may reactions in the body, including the sending of nerve impulses, and is a vital component for good health. Blood calcium levels are so important, in fact, that a delicate feedback system in our bodies will actually break down bone if our blood calcium levels even drop slightly. This is called 'bone demineralisation, and can lead to osteoarthritis.

Sicilian green olives are a fantastic source of natural Omega-6 fatty acids, which have gotten a bad rap lately due to our over-ingestion of this fat in the form of processed vegetable oils and the diseased meat of malnourished feed-lot animals. Omega-6 in excess can cause many health issues, from inflammation to atherosclerosis to cardio-vascular disease... It is however an essential fatty acid and small quantities are needed in the diet. Olives are a beautiful, natural source of Oleic Acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid.

I have used lots of red, yellow and orange vegetables in this dish for the caratenoids and Vitamin C. I have steamed some of the vegetables and roasted others, however steaming is the best way to retain the water soluble vitamins in these veggies.

Lemon zest has also proven to be very high in Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant and scavenger of free radicals in the body. Capsicum or 'peppers' are one of the highest known sources of Vitamin C also, making this dish fantastically uplifting and detoxifying.

We discussed coriander in my Warming Carrot, Coconut and Ginger Soup post, however I'd like to add here that it is also a powerful chelator of heavy metals in the system, making it an important ingredient for anyone regularly exposed to heavy metals to enjoy (read: all of you).

This delicious, Italian-inspired recipe is perfect for winter not only because of its nutrient profile, but because it is just delicious. It's really, really good you guys. So if you love fresh, simple Italian meals, read on.

This recipe serves two hungry people, and takes 20-30 minutes.

Let's get down to it.

Ingredients:


8-10 raw sardine fillets (4-5 fish - certainly NOT tinned)
1 yellow capsicum
1 red capsicum
1 cup heirloom or cherry tomatoes
1 red or spanish onion
1 small sweet potato
2 handfuls green beans, capped and halved if very long
1 generous handful of coriander
Peel of 1/4 of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 generous handful of green Sicilian olives
Plenty of organic, extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan salt

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 190C degrees. Chop your capsicum into rough chunks and red onion into rough wedges. Place on a baking tray with heirloom tomatoes (I used a flat cookie sheet for faster cooking) and coat generously with extra virgin olive oil and Himalayan salt. Place in the hot oven and allow to roast for 20 minutes. I like some bite to remain in my vegetables, but if you want them more tender, roast for 30 minutes instead.

2. Set up your steamer. Once the water is boiling and the vegetables in the oven are ten minutes away from completion, place the thickly sliced sweet potato into the steamer and douse generously in salt. 

3. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan until hot. At this point, the sweet potato should be two minutes away from completion, and the green beans can be added to the steamer. Fry the sardines for 30 seconds - one minute on each side and remove from the pan.

4. Arrange all ingredients on a plate, top with match-stick sliced lemon zest, olives, coriander, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.


Enjoy! xx

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Warming carrot, coconut, and ginger soup

It is very important to consciously change the diet with the seasons. And you may as well make it delicious while you're at it.



When Weston A Price studied healthy indigenous populations around the world, he discovered that all traditional cultures with radiant health learned to eat with the seasons, and change their diets according to the evolving needs of their bodies in relation to external changes. Many cultures upped their probiotic intake in winter in the form of fermented dairy and vegetables (such as kefir and sauerkraut) to ignite digestive fire and aid in the breakdown of complex foods such as red meat. Many also increased their caloric intake - of fats especially - to raise their basal metabolic rate and increase their resting body temperature to promote the movement of energy in the body.

In Ayurveda, it is said that Vata and Kapha can easily become aggravated in winter. Vata imbalance symptoms are numerous, but given that it is the dosha governed by air and ether, some that you may experience in winter are dry skin, dry and painful joints, increased pain in general, localised numbness, cold hands and feet, and a dryness of the eyes and mucous membranes. If your Kapha gets aggravated in winter, it is easy for you to succumb to cold, wet conditions such as chest infections, sluggish digestion, sinus infections, weight gain, skin congestion and a continually runny nose.

While one set of symptoms are 'dry' and the other 'wet', both share the common quality of cold, so it is easy to see how these symptoms can become aggravated in the wintertime. If you do tend to have an increase in either of these qualities during the colder months, it is extremely important to consume warming foods that promote hydrochloric acid production in the stomach and ignite 'agni' or digestive fire. With less fresh produce historically available in winter, it is particularly important to take extra care to invigorate digestion in the colder months using a variety of medicinal and culinary herbs and preparations.

Ginger is a fantastically warming spice and can increase peripheral circulation as well as aid in the digestion of dense meals. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which is important in times of cold when the joints can become dry and inflamed. 

Cumin is considered 'tri-doshic' in Ayurveda, which means that it is balancing and soothing to all three dosha's - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is also known to ignite 'agni' or digestive fire, which is very important in winter. Cumin is generally invigorating, and helps the body to flush toxins, which can become stagnant in the system in colder months. This winter stagnation is why many traditional cultures used the bitters of early spring (such as dandelion) in conjunction with a brief fast to cleanse the body of the toxic build-up and to reinvigorate the system.

Vitamin A is extremely important throughout winter as it is a fantastic promoter of immunity and also an excellent blood purifier. The vitamin A found in carrots (and all plant sources) is not true vitamin A and actually a caratenoid (beta-carotene in the case of carrots). The healthy gut is able to convert beta-carotene to true vitamin A, however if there is any kind of gut dysbiosis or amino-acid deficiency, this conversion often does not take place and the caratenoids are not utilised. For this reason, it is important to include plenty of true vitamin A in the diet alongside the caratenoids, particularly in winter. True vitamin A is only found in animal products, and is richest in egg yolks and liver.

Coconut is generally considered to be cooling and even aggravating to Kapha, so if you feel your kapha is already aggravated then perhaps leave out the additional coconut cream for garnish of this recipe (as I would). Although its "cool and wet" properties have led many to believe that coconut cannot be consumed by kapha-types, coconut oil has actually been shown to raise metabolism and assist in thyroid function, making it an important part of the kapha diet in moderation. It is also a very helpful oil for the other doshas as it can pacify pitta and provide the necessary comfort and oileation for vata.

Coriander is generally considered to be mildly cooling, however it is a fantastic remedy for colds and flues so should not be avoided in winter. Also, it tends to flourish and be in season in winter and so I believe this is probably a good time to eat it, in spite of its cooling properties. Nature does not make mistakes!

I probably don't need to explain why chili is warming - I think everyone has experienced its effects! As with many of the warming spices, it is very anti-inflammatory and can soothe joint pain which can become unbearable for some in winter.

Garlic and eschallots are wonderful for the respiratory system and should be used generously throughout winter to prevent coughs and upper respiratory infections.

Bone broth. Ok. Anyone who knows me knows that I am mad about bone broth. It is absolutely life-giving and loaded with many minerals that it are very difficult to find in adequate amounts from other dietary sources, such as iodine. It is also loaded with collagen, elastin, and glucosamine which help to rebuild our own connective tissue and can be extremely soothing for dry, aching or inflamed joints. It is also rich in gelatin - particularly if the animal's heads or feet are added - which is a fabulous digestive tonic and draws enzymes towards itself, making it a wonderful aid to digestion and necessary for anyone with depleted hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. Gelatin also coats the lining of the stomach, making it a vital healing tool for those with leaky-gut syndrome. It is considered that a good broth can "raise the dead". It is very easy to make and simply involves bringing bones, vegetables and vinegar to the boil in enough water to cover them, skimming the scum from the surface, and then adding some woody herbs and allowing to simmer on very low heat for anywhere from 12-36 hours. Then you simply strain and allow to cool before refrigerating.

I think I have rambled for long enough about the nutritional merits of this dish... hopefully you can appreciate why this recipe is the perfect warming winter recipe - both grounding and uplifting at the same time. The liberal use of broth in this soup makes for a smooth, creamy texture and the fact that the carrots are roasted adds a beautiful richness to the soup that you simply couldn't achieve with boiled or steamed carrots. The heating spices add a wonderful aromatic quality to this dish and the coconut contributes to the subtle sweetness imparted by the carrots. This really is one of my favourite winter soups, incredible simple and seriously tasty.

This recipe serves four people.

What you will need:


4  large carrots (unpeeled - the majority of minerals are in the skin)
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp cumin
2-3 large eschallots
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 tsp hot chili powder
2 tsp freshly grated ginger (1 tsp cook with everything, one add right before blending so it is still fresh)
2 cups homemade chook bone broth (must be homemade)

Optional:


Coconut cream, to serve
Coriander, to serve

Method:


  • Chop the carrots into finger-sized pieces and roast in a 180C degree oven with the honey and cumin for 35-45 minutes or until they are tender but not overly soft.
  • Fry the eschallot, garlic, chili and 1 teaspoon of the ginger in the coconut oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Once the eschallots, garlic and spices are fragrant and translucent, add the carrots and allow them to be coated with the oil.
  • Add the bone broth and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  • Turn off heat, add remaining ginger and blend with hand blender or in food processor.
  • Serve with additional coconut cream and coriander if desired.

Enjoy! xx


NB. I did not photograph my soup as I figured y'all knew what carrot soup looked like. The above is a stock photo but looks identical to this recipe :) x


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Paleo Pancakes



Many people have difficulty digesting grains and find that they need to eliminate them from the diet for a healing period (some say forever) in order to heal the gut and improve digestion. The GAPS, or "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" diet is fantastic for anyone who suspects they may have underlying gut issues, or anyone plagued with the various auto-immune conditions that ultimately begin in the gut such as psoriasis, eczema, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. The GAPS Protocol also addresses many neurological or mental issues caused by improperly digested proteins being absorbed into the blood and in some cases (such as with the morphine-compounds formed during the breakdown of gluten and casein) crossing the blood-brain barrier and eliciting a neurological and mental effect.

Do you get very sleepy after consuming a meal containing wheat or dairy? If so, you might want to consider gut repair, as it is very likely that you are not completely breaking down gluten (wheat protein) and casein (milk protein), and are absorbing them through the intestinal wall when they have degraded to gluteomorphine and casomorphine respectively (compounds with an opiate effect). The formation of opiates is a normal stage of gluten and casein digestion, but for those with a balanced gut, the proteins are further degraded and dismantled before they are absorbed and do not have an opiate effect. Having a 'leaky gut' that absorbs partially digested nutrients has enormous long-term health ramifications, and should be taken very seriously and addressed quickly.

For people who do not experience such severe symptoms, a regular break from grains or even simply a reduced grain intake can greatly reduce the impact of niggling autoimmune conditions as well as improve their moods, energy, and mental clarity.

I am definitely one of those people!

The problem is, many grain-based foods are just too damn delicious. Like pancakes. Complete deprivation of something that gives you joy is not good for the soul, and simply is not a long-term solution. The solution IS making some healthy, incredibly satiating (and I would argue more-tasty-than-usual) paleo pancakes!

These pancakes do not taste overly heavy, but you will notice you simply cannot put as many of these away as you could with regular, white-flour pancakes. The taste is rich, nutty, and sweet and the texture is moist due to the high fat content in the almonds and coconut oil. They are also surprisingly fluffy given the relative density of their ingredients. They tick all of the boxes - sweet, satisfying and seriously nutritious! There is no way around it, these are delicious and you simply have to make them.

Anyway... let's cut to the chase.


Here's what you'll need for two pancakes (enough for one person):


1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tbs coconut oil
1/4 cup buttermilk (you can use homemade almond milk if you are sensitive to dairy or on the GAPS introductory diet)
2 eggs
1 inch of scraped vanilla bean
1 teaspoon coconut sugar or a few drops of stevia
1 pinch of Himalayan salt
Extra coconut oil or ghee for frying


Method:

Gently melt the coconut oil for the pancakes and mix all ingredients together. Heat the remaining coconut oil or ghee in a medium-hot frying pan until very warm. Pour half of the batter into the frying pan and wait for small bubbles to start rising through the batter. At this point, flip the pancake with a spatula and fry until springy (usually only a minute or so). Repeat with the remaining batter and serve with raw butter, cream, nut butter, berries, maple syrup, honey, shredded coconut, or anything else that you enjoy with pancakes!


Boom.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grain-free spiced pear and apple pie

A beautifully sweet, creamy pear and apple pie that is nutritious enough to eat for breakfast. Yes, this could be your breakfast.


I have been absolutely craving cinnamon lately - and it is always a good idea to listen to what your cravings may be telling you. Even when we crave absolute junk, there is often a very good reason for why we are craving that particular type of junk food. Once the body is more nourished, its cravings will become more refined, but if your body only knows it can get essential fatty acids from a big mac, or magnesium from a block of cadbury's chocolate, then your cravings will follow suit. Once you start providing your body with more satisfying and bioavailable nutrients, your cravings will evolve and become more reliable indicators of a deficiency.

Anyway, back to cinnamon. Cinnamon is generally considered to be a 'warming' spice as it increases peripheral circulation. It also has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels, so is a great addition to any sweet dessert. It is well-known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, and its constituents cinnamaldehyde and eugenol even have an antimicrobial effect, making it a culinary must for those suffering from any kind of gut dysbiosis (a great many people).

This dessert is a fantastic way to get your cinnamon fix.

With a bit of preparation, this nutrient-dense pie is also surprisingly easy to make and incredibly satiating and delicious. This recipe can be easily modified to be vegan if that floats your boat - even raw vegan.

The nut and seed base is crunchy and slightly sweet, the vanilla cashew filling is thick and creamy, and the spiced baked pear and apple topping is sticky, sweet, and beautifully warming in this weird, changeable weather we have been having lately.

The liberal use of natural fats in this recipe (have we met?) means that in spite of the fruit and natural sweeteners, this dessert provides a slow-release of energy and is therefore perfect for diabetics or those with insulin sensitivities.

If you still believe that low-fat desserts are the way to go and cling to the "fat makes you fat" notion, then I urge you to read the plethora of studies emerging that show that it is in fact refined carbohydrates, not natural fats, that cause weight gain and ultimately disease. Including a bounty of natural fats from grass-fed animal sources, seafood, organic nuts, seeds, coconut, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado in your diet will pay serious dividends on your health by providing your cell membranes with strength and therefore greater immunity, supporting your heart, protecting your brain and nervous system, giving you glowing skin, improving hormonal issues (as many hormones are fat soluble), and stabilising your blood sugar - which will ultimately stabilise your moods, emotions, and sleeping patterns also.

Here is the recipe - it takes a little bit of pre-thought and planning in terms of soaking the nuts, but for actual time spent in the kitchen, this pie is a cinch!


Ingredients

The fruit topping

1 x granny smith apple
1 x pear
2 x Tbs organic coconut oil or butter (obviously if you wish to keep this recipe vegan, opt for the coconut oil)
2 x Tbs evaporated coconut nectar (a natural, low GI sweetener also called "coconut sugar") or rapadura
1 x tsp cinnamon
1 x tsp freshly grated ginger (don't use the stuff in the jar. I'll know.)
The zest of one orange

The creamy centre

2 x cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dark maple syrup (if you wish to keep this dish raw, use raw agave nectar or raw honey. Honey is not vegan, but I would recommend it strongly over agave nectar, the health status of which is questionable at best)
1 x vanilla bean, scraped
1 x Tbs coconut oil

The crunchy base

1 x cup activated almonds (to activate almonds, soak in warm salty water for 24 hours, and then dehydrate in a 60C oven for 24 to 36 hours. This releases enzyme inhibitors and makes the nutrients more bioavailable and easily digested)
4 x organic medjool dates (non-organic dried fruit usually contains sulphur. Buy organic dates)
2 x Tbs desiccated coconut
2 x Tbs chia seeds

To decorate

Fresh blueberries


Method

Preheat your oven to 180C and gently melt butter or coconut oil in your roasting pan as the oven heats. Once melted, add in the coconut sugar or rapadura (coconut sugar if you wish for this to be a raw food dish), cinnamon, ginger and orange zest and stir together. Slice the apple and pear into pieces about half a centimetre thick and thoroughly coat in the sweet cinnamon mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, this will render them tender but with some bite remaining.


NB – if you wanted this dessert to be raw vegan, simply use a combination of berries and soft stone fruit such as peaches, and marinade in the above mixture for a few hours at room temperature and then follow the rest of the steps below.

In your food processor, pulse together the constituents of the crust until it is sticky and begins to hold together – this takes about 30 seconds in my kitchenaid food processor. If you blend the base for too long, the nuts and seeds will release their oils and create nut butter, which although delicious, is not what you want for this recipe.

Press the crust into your pie tin, and then blend the cream filling ingredients together in your blender – I do not have a commercial blender, so first blended in my kitchenaid food processor, and then used my $30 hand blender to pulverise any lumps.


Evenly spread the creamy filling over the base, and then top with the baked or marinated fruit. I added blueberries as a final garnish, but any berry, some shredded coconut or additional citrus zest would be a great garnish too.

Now eat!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tough love



It's a short post today, but it's about something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

Honesty, denial, and tough love.

We all deserve honesty, from our relationships, from our workplace, from our government, our doctors, and from ourselves. I could talk about this honesty and transparency for hours in terms of the processed food business and their deceptive labeling shenanigans (like how it is not always required to label MSG, and how when it is required, MSG conveniently has over 30 common names to choose from), but I will save that for another post. I want to talk about what it means to be honest with yourself when it comes to your health.

There are obviously genetic, socio-economic, and environmental aspects to all of our health which go beyond simple nutrition. But here's the thing. If you do not give your body the absolute best that you can in terms of diet and nutrition, you will never know how many of those recurrent issues you have come down to poor eating habits. I am willing to bet a lot of issues for a lot of people would disappear if they simply made the step to eliminate processed foods from their diet. When Dr Weston Price travelled the world to find the healthiest populations, he found that those who completely eschewed processed foods and embraced full fat, natural nutrition enjoyed the best health in terms of fertility, lifespan, resistance to disease, bone and dental structure, and mental development. Price found that when these healthy populations abandoned their traditional diet for the convenience of modern food, their health quickly deteriorated and they found themselves plagued with many diseases that we are all too familiar with, such as dental deformity (overcrowding and undercrowding), dental cavities, bone deformities (such as 'x' or 'o' legs), infertility, difficult childbirth, lowered immunity, and increased incidence of life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Dr Natasha McBride has also done some amazing research into what she terms "Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome", which links what we eat and the subsequent state of our gut flora from a very young age through to adulthood to a wide host of auto-immune, physically degenerative, and many so called "mental" problems. (Resources listed at the end of the post).

The way I see it, if you find yourself complaining of various recurring "undiagnosible" illnesses, aches, pains, and allergies as often as you find yourself raving about that delicious fast-food or packaged, processed garbage you just ate, then it may be time for some tough love.

Take a look at what you actually eat every day for a week, and be brutally honest. How much of it was homemade? How much of it can you be certain of the origin (the farm or at least region it came from)? How much of it was likely genetically modified by insertion of a gene from carcinogenic pesticide "Round-Up" (like most commercial wheat, corn, and soy)? How much of it was factory-farmed meat, eggs, or dairy with not only a questionable ethical origin but an abysmal nutritional profile? How much of it came from a packet or a can? How much of it contained the known neurotoxins of MSG and aspartame?

The point of doing this isn't to make everyone feel terrible about themselves and their choices, but just to honestly assess the situation before looking at a current poor health profile and saying "but I've tried everything". Saying that when you have not truly looked at your diet is severe denial, and completely self-defeating. Would you tolerate your partner, sister, or boss constantly lying to you? There is no reason to tolerate this behaviour from yourself either.

Once we honestly can see where our weaknesses lie (maybe we skip breakfast, get takeaway for lunch, but we make a nutritiously dense dinner most nights), we can realistically see what needs changing, and take small steps towards doing that. I say small steps, because overwhelming yourself in the beginning is a sure fire way to become despondent, exhausted, stressed, and ultimately give up. For the situation I just mentioned, two simple changes to start straight away could be preparing double the amount for dinner, so that you always have a nutritious lunch to take to work, and get up 20 minutes earlier than usual and make time for a decent breakfast. If you immediately go into your pantry and get rid of anything and everything from a package, stop drinking caffeine, eating sugar, using vegetable oils, and smoking all in the same few days, chances of burn-out are high. I think another merit to the "softly, softly" approach is that it gives you time to educate yourself on why you are doing this. The more you learn about traditional nutritional wisdom and also the many diseases that we can lay at the doorstep of modern food processing techniques, the stronger your resolve will be and the more likely it is that you will never, ever look back.

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with likely infertility, an underactive thyroid, adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, and later with oestrogen dominance (I will do an in-depth post about this and how I banished it one day - yes, I am completely rid of this cocktail of so-called uncurable imbalances). I was told that these conditions were life-long, with no known cure and that the only option was symptom management through a range of pharmaceuticals with many known and harmful side effects. I did change my habits quickly, because I was extremely motivated by the possibility of being permanently unwell and not being able to have children, but even so I still did not change every single thing overnight. I am still changing things, and obviously still learning more which will never stop.

Being honest with yourself about your current situation, habits, and issues is the first step towards correcting them. It is called tough love because it still is an act of love, and that's how the process should start. With love and with patience, not with excuses and denial.


Two simple changes to make today:

1) Remove anything with the label "low-fat" from your diet, and replace with the most natural version of that product possible. For example, replace low-fat strawberry yoghurt with a full-fat, organic, unsweetened yoghurt and then add real strawberries and dark maple syrup or raw honey yourself. If you are still afraid of fat and feel that low-fat eating is a safer option, then I recommend you to read the work of Sally Fallon, Dr Weston A Price, Dr Mary Enig, Dr Natasha Campbell McBride, or the many other pioneers in this field. If you would like more resources, please just ask me in the comments section and I will happily provide.

2) Buy and begin soaking some dried legumes. Legumes are nutritionally dense, extremely affordable when purchased dried, and also wonderfully digestible when soaked and prepared in the traditional way. You can easily make a big batch of hummus from soaked and cooked chic-peas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and then take that to work each day as a healthy snack with some carrots and even a good quality cheese if you tolerate dairy. Legumes from cans are not soaked prior to cooking, and therefore have high levels of phytic acid (which is released with prolonged soaking), which aside from causing gas and indigestion, also inhibits vitamin and mineral absorption in the gut. Foods high in phytic acid are wasteful to include in a nutrient-rich diet, as the phytic acid will literally grab hold of those nutrients and transport them out of your body undigested, rather than allowing them to be absorbed by the gut. Canned goods are also questionable in nutrient value due to the high-heat processing which obliterates many nutrients while denaturing others. Also, most cans are lined with the known endocrine-disrupter, BPA. BPA has been implicated in a wide range of hormonal disorders, which predispose us to infertility, cancer, and poor health in general.


For anyone interested in reading more about the effects of processed foods on health, the traditional nutritional habits of healthy people, and how to prepare delicious and nutrient dense food on a budget, I recommend:

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A Price
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr Natasha Campbell McBride

There are many other great resources out there, so don't limit yourself. The above literature was particularly relevant and helpful to me personally as I was definitely stuck believing the prevalent "low-fat" nonsense before I was exposed to this information, and truly believed my habits to be that of a healthy eater (note to self - healthy eaters do not suddenly develop predominantly nutritional and lifestyle diseases like PCOS and insulin resistance). These books, along with my own studies in Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine, and of course the guidance of my own Naturopath and Nutritionist, helped me immensely. I hope they, and many others, help you too.