Friday, 23 March 2012

Chocolate Mousse - Too good not to share!!

I am on a mission! All too often, I am met with a resounding “oh your diet must be SO boring”!! To which I say “Au contraire mon ami, au contraire!”  As I enjoy my glass of red wine (I’m only human) on this cool autumn eve, I write this post to enlighten you on the joys of experimentation (with food, for now). Really, if we are being honest here, I’m out to prove a point – that you CAN eat a 100% clean, nourishing diet that still tastes good, nay, amazing! 

Note: Chocolate Mousse tastes better than it looks!!

I, like many people, love chocolate! Unfortunately, most of the chocolate available does not contain much actual chocolate, but just some dregs of chocolate along with a vast array of other damaging ingredients. So while you may be convincing yourself that the chocolate you are eating is good because it contains anti-oxidants and all that jazz, do yourself a favour and check the ingredients label. If it contains any of the following, put it down and walk away:
  • Sugar (as sugar, fructose, maltose, dextrose, agave, corn syrup, rice syrup – this baby could seriously have a thesaurus to itself)
  • Wheat (or any other gluten-containing grain)
  • Soy (including soy lecithin)
  • Vegetable oil – these are incredibly damaging to your health! Get them out of your life! Now!!
  • Milk solids – the milk used in most products is processed to death. Literally. There is no life in the milk we are sold. Real milk, which contains an abundance of nutrient-providing enzymes and beneficial bacteria is illegal for sale for human consumption. Go figure. 
What to do then?? Make your own and reap the benefits of this super-food!

‘Super-food’, you say? Tell me more!! 

Okey dokey! Cue list of benefits of organic cacao (read – “real chocolate”):
  • An anti-oxidant content that blows acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry and other hyped-up super-foods out of the water
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves circulation
  • Improves insulin sensitivity and aids in weight loss
  • Healthier arterial function (read – “better cardiovascular health”) and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Lowers LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and increases HDL (“good cholesterol”) while reducing the oxidation of LDL (which is one of the real causes of atherosclerosis, rather than just having high levels of LDL)
  • Joy. I don’t know about you, but chocolate makes me happy!
Alrighty then, so we have established that chocolate, in its raw, unadulterated form, is really good for you! If, however, you want to get your geek on a little more, Mark Sisson wrote an excellent post (backed by scientific evidence) on the benefits of dark chocolate which you can find here. 

Where to next? The recipe of course! I have made this Chocolate Mousse 3 times in the past week (not all for myself) and it has been extremely well received by all involved, including “real” people (as opposed to “freaks like me”):

The goods (makes around 4 non-greedy serves)
  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed (OR the flesh of 1 young coconut)
  • ½ cup raw organic cacao powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean powder (not vanilla extract/essence)
  • 1/3 tsp stevia
  • 1 dessert spoon raw honey
  • ½ cup water (OR coconut water from a fresh young coconut, not bottled)
  • 1 tbspn coconut oil
  • ¼ cup dates (around 4 dates) finely chopped
The process: Throw everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place mousse into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1-2hrs. Serve with fresh berries and coconut cream (I actually prefer it without the coconut cream, but Az preferred it with).

Now I’m sure you don’t need any more convincing to eat this, but if you are after some more benefits to shove in the face of your health-conscious friend, here goes:
  • Avocado – excellent source of healthy fats; good source of Vitamin B6 (helps make red blood cells and serotonin to keep you happy!); high anti-oxidant and fibre content
  • Cinnamon – anti-clotting properties (help prevent stroke); anti-microbial activity (prevent Candida/yeast/fungal infections); improve insulin sensitivity and normalise blood sugar levels; boosts brain function (via the scent)
  • Vanilla bean powder – a healthy substitution for sugar; contains traces of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc; anti-cancer properties
  • Raw honey – improves blood lipids, lowers inflammation, and has minimal effect on blood glucose levels; anti-bacterial activity; read more here. 
  • Coconut oil – this is THE super-food that everyone should be consuming on a daily basis, and no, it will not make you fat. If anything, it will help you lose fat. The benefits are numerous. If you are interested, check out this site. 
  • Water – self explanatory
Is there anything negative about cacao? Yes, actually. It has quite a high caffeine content, so if you are sensitive to caffeine (or if you are a small child), maybe this isn’t the treat for you. Also, raw cacao does contain phytic acid, which can bind to minerals and prevent their absorption, so don’t go crazy – have this as a treat 1-3 times per week and ensure the rest of your diet is from whole, natural foods.

So there you go. Now you can wow your friends (if it makes it out of your house) with an insanely tasty AND nutritious dessert. 

Here are just some of the comments I have received thus far in response to this delicacy:

“F#@king amazing!!!”
“Give me the recipe….NOW!!”
“Do you have to give it to her? Can’t we keep it” (this was my husband’s response when I told him he couldn’t have the 3rd batch I made as I was taking it to my friend in hospital)

Now go forth and spread the joy!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A simply delicious and deliciously simple recipe

Holy moly it has been a busy week. I really should have appreciated my uni holidays more. Apologies for the delay in posting this blog (I was trying to establish some sort of regularity, in case you were wondering). Due to my lack of time to even scratch myself, I have found an ever increasing need for fast, yet delicious recipes. I’m talking 10-30mins all up, friends. So without further ado, I give you (drumroll please)……

Marvelous Mince - Makes 4 serves
  • 1tbspn extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 500g organic grass-fed beef mince
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2tbspn tomato paste (depending on how tomatoey you like your food)
  • 2-3 splashes balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • Bay leaf

Optional extras
  • Mushrooms, chopped
  • Kale (or silverbeet), washed and chopped
  • Zucchini, chopped
  • Curry powder (around 1tbspn)
  • Herbs and spices (e.g. basil, oregano, rosemary – get creative!)

  • Heat oil in pan (med-high heat) then sauté onion and garlic until just tender.
  • Add in mince and balsamic vinegar. Stir together with onions and garlic until meat is slightly browned.
  • Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, herbs and spices and carrot. Stir together and turn heat down to medium and allow to simmer. Now is also the time to add in your optional extras and allow to simmer until vegies are cooked to your liking.

I generally just serve this with steamed veg, however you could definitely go all gourmet with your side dishes if you so please.

Not only is this a fabulous, healthy and simple dinner recipe, it also makes a great lunch and even better breakfast (it’s actually better the day after cooking). I love to add some poached eggs and avocado to really score some brownie points! I am yet to come across someone who doesn’t like this meal - even my 2 year old niece helped herself to THREE servings!! She’s such a little trooper. It's also just as good cold, so pack it in your lunch box and you are good to go!

Hopefully you also noticed that I stated to use “organic grass-fed beef”, for reasons which I have previously stipulated. And if you need another reason not to buy shoddy supermarket meat, check this out:

If you are one of those “I read/listen to/watch the news every day and scientists say that red meat is going to kill me”, and if you feel like nerding it up big time, check out this witty, yet objective and informative article posted by Denise Minger over on Mark’s Daily Apple. If you can’t be arsed getting your geek on with that much sciency information, I will summarise for you: red meat will not kill you. Ta da!!

I hope you enjoy the recipe! Feel free to make your own tweaks and changes – I would love to hear what does/doesn’t work! Stay cool peeps. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

My week without nuts

First of all, before you get all “don’t you dare take my nuts from me, girl!”, let me start by ensuring you that I am not entirely anti-nut. I love them! They are my go-to for a healthy snack or tasty addition to an otherwise sub-par meal. So then – why did I cut these glorious little morsels out of my life for a week? Well, it was an experiment of sorts….

A while ago, I read an interesting article by Chris Kresser on the potential negative effects of nuts, namely their phytic acid content, which can bind to minerals (such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium) in the gut and prevent their absorption, hence leading to possible nutrient deficiencies. So I cut down my nut intake a little, but did not remove them entirely from my diet.
More recently, Emma Sgourakis wrote a blog on the perils of nuts, very similar to Chris’s. Now what I wanted to do was ignore them both and scream “They CLEARLY don’t know what they are talking about!!” but I didn’t, because they do. They are both very clever cats when it comes to nutrition and I respect their opinions. That and I checked out the studies they mention and they seem pretty legit.

So a week ago, Aaron and I decided to ditch the nuts and see if we noticed any difference. This was not an easy task, so we made a competition out of it (whoever breaks before a week loses) and we hid the nuts out of our sight. Did someone say addict? At least we weren't this bad:

The first couple of days were hard – what would we eat now? Well, it turns out there are a lot of options! Who’d have known!? Here’s a little run down of breakfasts:

  • Leftover dinners (lamb curry and beef mince)
  • Berries & Coconut extraordinaire without the nuts
  • Smoothie made with berries, banana, cinnamon, raw honey and goat’s milk kefir
  • Coconut pancakes with berries and chocolate sauce (definitely the highlight)

As you can see, we survived and in fact thrived on a variety of different meals!

In terms of how we felt, we both noticed our “digestion” (code word for poop) was significantly better. This may seem trivial to you, but do not underestimate the information you can obtain from what’s in the bowl (yes, we are a little odd). Consistency, shape, size and regularity can all be key indicators of how well you are digesting your food and therefore, how many nutrients you are actually getting into your body. You see, we need to remember that eating a food is not the same as absorbing the goodness. If your gut integrity is compromised, or if you are eating foods which may prevent absorption, chances are you are not actually reaping the benefits of the foods you put in your mouth.

So are we going to stay off nuts for good? No. But we are going to cut down substantially and we are going to try and only consume activated nuts, which have a lowered phytic acid content (more on this later). 

It is also important to understand that all whole foods have some sort of defense mechanism to protect them from consumption. That’s right vegetarians, just because they don’t have legs, claws or teeth doesn’t mean your vegies want to be eaten! We clearly cannot avoid all foods. That’s just idiotic. But we do want to minimise our intake by varying our diet and also weighing up the cost/benefit ratios. For example, yes nuts may have some anti-nutrients and the omega 6 content may be a little high, but if prepared properly and enjoyed in moderation they can be an extremely nutrient dense food:
  • High amounts of protein and good fats
  • Dietary fibre
  • Vitamins (such as folate, vit E, niacin, vit B6
  • Minerals (copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc)
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Studies also suggest intake is correlated with lowered risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers

On the other hand, if we take something like grains, the costs far outweigh the benefits:
  • Costs: High levels of anti-nutrients including phytates, lectins, gluten and saponins (more on these another time) which not only bind minerals and prevent nutrient absorption but also damage the intestinal lining and cause systemic (whole-body) inflammation, which can lead to many chronic diseases. 
  • Benefits: contain some vitamins, such as B vitamins, however these are required in higher amounts in order to digest the very grains eaten (less grains eaten = less extra B vitamins required) and they are available in higher quantities in other foods, such as meat; other vitamins and minerals which are added in synthetic form and not as easily digested. 

If nothing else, this experiment has encouraged us to add more variety to our diet and so, instead of buying 4-6 bags of nuts per week (no joke), we will probably stick to 1 or 2. 

Should you give up nuts? Well that depends on who you are and what is going on inside your belly! If you suspect you may have any “digestive issues” (these may manifest as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, excess gas, skin problems, or low energy, among many other symptoms), then it wouldn’t hurt to try a couple of weeks to a month without them and see how you go!

As a final note, if you were wondering which nut is best? It’s the macadamia nut, mainly due to the lower omega-6 content than other varieties. And the worst? Almonds, with the highest omega-6 levels.

Now I’m pretty sure that ever since I mentioned it, you have been thinking about the Coconut Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce and so here is a picture for you to drool over…..

And my plate afterwards.....

And what a small child would look like after eating said pancakes......

                                                             Image source:

And finally the recipe…..adapted from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson:

Makes around 12 small pancakes:
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tbpsn coconut oil
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ¼ tsp organic vanilla bean powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • Extra water/coconut milk – around 1 cup

Instructions: in a bowl, whisk eggs, melted oil, coconut milk and honey. In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients then stir in wet ingredients until smooth. You will probably need to add the extra water/coconut milk to get the consistency right – add SLOWLY until you are satisfied with the consistency. Heat some coconut oil or organic ghee in a pan over med-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add batter (make small pancakes – easier to flip) and cook until browned on both sides. Place cooked pancakes on a plate ready to serve (if you want to keep them warm, pop them in the oven on low heat while you are cooking the rest).

Chocolate sauce:
  • 4 tbspn coconut oil
  • Organic cacao powder (1-4 tspn depending on how chocolatey you want it)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions: in a small pot, on low heat, melt the oil and stir in the cinnamon. Add the cacao powder 1 tsp at a time until you reach your desired flavour (careful to cool the chocolate a little before you taste it – I learnt this the hard way).

Warm berries:
  • 1-2 handfuls of frozen berries per serve (we used blueberries and raspberries) melted in a pot over low heat.

To serve: On a plate, stack 3 pancakes. Scoop over some berries and drizzle over some chocolate sauce. You may want to drizzle over some coconut cream as well!


As a side note: You may think we are quite strange, experimenting with our food and eating patterns, however, the profession we work in entails us providing nutritional advice to clients on a regular basis and we feel more comfortable trying things out on ourselves before suggesting our clients alter their diet. This way, we have a better understanding of what the client can expect and if they will benefit from such alterations! 

  • Ros, E. et al. (2006) “Nuts: nutrition and health outcomes” in British Journal of Nutrition, Vol.96(suppl. 2), pp.S1-S2
  • Sabate, J. and Ang, Y. (2009) “Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence” in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 89(suppl), pp.1643S–8S