Sweet potato truffles

I absolutely adore sweet potatoes. They are one of the most versatile vegetables – easily used in both savory and sweet dishes, much like pumpkins.

Sweet potatoes can be prepared in the same way as normal potatoes yet are a more nutritious option. Some sources such as Whole Foods consider sweet potatoes one of the healthiest vegetables to eat, particularly due to their vitamin A content. Just 1 medium sized sweet potato provides all the vitamin A for the day. Like carrots and other foods rich in beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), it is essential to always eat sweet potatoes with a fat sources, like a little oil, nuts or seeds.

If you have some leftover sweet potato, you might want to experiment with this easy, healthy truffle.

Sweet Potato Truffles

1 medium sweet potato (cooked) – peeled and mashed

3 tbsp oil (preferably melted coconut oil)

2 tbsp coconut cream or milk (the most solid part)

1 tbsp coconut flour or ordinary flour

a pinch of salt

a dash of maple syrup or honey

Spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg if desired

Method:

Mix everything together with a fork until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then make balls and roll in sesame seeds or grated coconut. Store in the fridge.

Truffle

Eating away from home

This weekend was my birthday (33 already!) and I spent a few beautiful days in the south of France.

Of course, this involved quite a bit of eating out, making this the perfect time to share my eating away from home philosophy:

♦ If it is a special occasion, enjoy it and enjoy the company instead of obsessing about the food. Remember that 80% is perfection – but also that being with people you love and having a great time is just as important for your health as what you eat.

♦ As a general rule, try to make the healthiest choice possible in the context you are in. Regardless of where you are – in a restaurant or at an airport for example – cultivate the habit of always choosing the most healthy (or least unhealthy) choice available. Don’t let yourself off the hook just because there isn’t anything you would classify as really ‘healthy’. There is always a ‘healthier’ option and this can actually end up making a big difference in the long run, especially if you eat out a lot.

♦ Don’t be afraid to ask for changes to an order – such as vegetables with steak instead of fries. Restaurants are surprisingly flexible about this and if they can’t do it, they’ll let you know. No harm in asking!

Share! My mother used to say ‘Calories shared are calories halved’ and this is the philosophy I use particularly with desserts.

Stop eating when you are full. We tend to associate an empty plate with being full, but if you listen to your body’s signals, you might actually feel full before that. Despite what you might have heard as a child, you ARE allowed to leave food on your plate.

♦ I also like to bring some of my own food, in case we don’t have time to stop for a meal or need a snack. For this trip, I made the chia bread below based on this recipe.

chia bread

 What about you, do you have any other tips for eating out?

Do you think these foods are healthy?

When eaten in moderation, I don’t think any food is ‘unhealthy’ since 80% is perfection. However, there are some foods and drinks that may not be as healthy as we think they are. Here are my top 5 ‘I can’t believe it’s not healthy’ foods and drinks:

 

1. Rice crackers

Rice crackers are touted as a healthy ‘diet’ food but the reality is that they are not filling at all, so it is easy to eat too many of them. They also rapidly spike insulin levels, which can lead to overeating, weight gain and chronic disease.

A healthier alternative:

100% brown rice or quinoa crackers without any added sugar or salt.

A handful of nuts and/or seeds as a snack.

 

2. Fruit juice

I am not saying to never drink fresh fruit juice, but without the fiber that is naturally present in the whole fruit, fruit juices spikes blood sugar levels considerably. According to Dr Weil, there is little difference in the way the body processes a glass of filtered, pasteurized apple juice and a glass of soda!

A healthier alternative:

Fresh vegetable juice with a majority of vegetables

Smoothies, as the fruit is intact

 

3. Margarine

Margarine is still sometimes seen as a ‘healthier’ substitute to butter but it is a man-made product that is a very unhealthy fat source. 

A healthier alternative:

Butter – it is a natural food which contains vitamins A, E, D and K. Try to buy organic, unpasteurized butter – or at least butter from cows who ate grass as this really does make a difference in the health benefits. Read more about the health benefits of butter vs. margarine here.

 

4. Low fat products, particularly skim milk

When the fat is removed or reduced, gums, sugars and starches are usually added to improve the taste.

A healthier alternative:

The original, full-fat version, even if this means eating a little less. This shouldn’t be difficult as full fat products are more satisfying anyway.

 

5. Fruit yoghurts

Fruit yoghurt or yoghurt drinks or shots often contain artificial coloring, a high quantity of sugar or artificial sweeteners and thickeners like gelatin, corn starch, milk protein concentrate.

A healthier alternative:

Natural, full-fat plain yoghurt without added sugars or artificial sweeteners. You can always add in your own fruit or a little honey or maple syrup if you want.

Are there any major surprises for you here? What other foods would you label as less healthy than you would think?

Zoodles (Zucchini noodles)

Zucchini spaghetti

I mentioned my spiralizer, the latest addition to my kitchen in a previous post (which I ordered here). A spiralizer works a little like a pencil sharpener – you put the vegetable in it and turn it around, creating a spaghetti like result. I have tried it with carrots and zucchini and both work really well. The wider the vegetable, the better it works.

I wanted to put it to the real test: To taste whether zoodles (zucchini noodles) could actually replace spaghetti with a normal tomato sauce. And I am happy to report that both my husband and I thought it tasted as good as the real thing because the taste really comes from the sauce anyway! So here is an alternative to noodles or spaghetti if you are trying to avoid gluten, eat less white flour or simply wanting to add more vegetables to your diet.

Method: 

1. Make the zoodles, then steam or boil them for just a few minutes so they are a little softer.

2. Cut vegetables – I used shitake mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper and carrots. Boil or steam the veggies.

3. Fry onion and garlic in a little olive oil, then add the tomato sauce. Salt, pepper and add herbs to taste (I used dried oregano).

4. Add the vegetables to the tomato sauce.

5. Serve over the zoodles.

BTW – Tomato sauces are always a good place to sneak in more vegetables. Even using onion and garlic can make a difference nutritionally!

Here are some ‘making of’ pics of the zoodles!


photo-14

photo-15

Morning rituals + 2 easy breakfasts

I really believe that the way you start your morning massively influences the rest of your day. If you wake up with an angry alarm going off and then rush through your morning, eating breakfast on the run and running to catch the bus to work – how do you expect the rest of your day to be? And because your every day eventually becomes your life, changing your relationship to mornings can make a massive difference to how you live.

I know a lot of people don’t consider themselves morning people. I do not consider myself a morning person, yet my morning routine has now become such a vital part of my day that I feel something is off when I don’t do it.

Morning routines can involve meditation, exercise, yoga, writing or being in nature. The key is to do something only for yourself, even if it involves waking up 10 minutes before everyone else at home to have this time for yourself.

How about trying to make just 5 minutes of me-time first thing in the morning this week, just to see if it makes any difference?  

Another vital part of mornings, is of course, breakfast. Most of the people I work with have packed lives and often end up eating out for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is the one meal they can really control, so we put in that extra effort to make sure it is healthy since it influences 30% of the day’s nutrients. Even more importantly, recent research quoted by Dr Andrew Weil shows that a healthy breakfast

…improves your metabolic response to subsequent meals throughout the day. This means that one consequence of eating a healthy breakfast is that no matter what you choose for lunch (and possibly dinner), your body will handle it a little better than it would have if you ate something made of processed grains and sugars, or skipped breakfast all together.

I already shared my current smoothie obsession which is a very versatile breakfast option, and here are two even quicker options. They are both made using whole grains which are a much better option to the typical, processed breakfast cereal. You can also make a bigger quantity and keep it in the fridge to eat over several mornings.

soaked buckwheat goodness.001

 

5 minute overnight oats

What about you, what is your morning currently like? Are you willing to try waking up just 5 minutes early this week to create your own morning ritual? 

PS – If this blog post left you hugging your sweetened cereal box, refusing to let it go, read this article :)

 

Spring pesto (vegan)

 

Spring Pesto

I have a confession. This was the first time that I made pesto. Ever. And I was really surprised and how easy something that tastes so sophisticated can be!

Pesto is normally made by blending together pine seeds, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic and olive oil but I wanted to try making a version without cheese.  My husband had the idea of adding in sun-dried tomatoes (which he loves) and I thought of adding some leeks and wild bear’s garlic which are currently in season. The dried tomatoes are already quite salty, so there was no need to add any salt. Exact quantities depend on taste, so you just need to keep tasting and adding ingredients until you are happy!

The result? A delicious pesto which can be used as a sauce in several ways.

IMG_0111-4

Here are the two ways I served it:

Day 1: Salad leaves, quinoa and zucchini noodles topped with spring pesto, grilled chickpeas and spring onion.

IMG_0096-1

The zucchini noodles were made using the latest addition to my kitchen – a spiralizer (thank you, Julia)! It feels like you are sharpening the zucchini, creating very long, curly pieces which have the feel of spaghetti.

Day 2: With pasta

IMG_0132-11

The following day my Italian rooted husband wanted to try the pesto in a more traditional way – with pasta.

Pasta cooking tip: Cooking it only until it is al dente and not fully cooked actually makes the pasta healthier, because the Glycemic Index (GI) is lower. The Italians are right about this one!

So there you have it, a simple Spring Pesto. Next time, I will make a bigger batch and store it in a jar in the fridge to try with even more dishes!

Do fats make you fat?

Green smoothie2

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, fat was The Enemy, something to be absolutely avoided. I am sure many of you will remember the age of low-fat everything, and how ‘healthy’ we felt eating those foods! After all, fat makes you fat, right?

Wrong! If there is one dietary myth I think it is important for people to know, it is that we NEED a good amount of healthy fats in our diets. And while it is true that some types of fat are better avoided, it is also true that many of us are not eating enough healthy fats. I know from my own experience that I was not eating enough fats a few years ago. As a ‘muffin vegetarian’, I ate very little fatty foods, and I actually thought this was a good thing – yet I was constantly grazing between meals. Adding more healthy fats to my diet, mostly in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs and coconut products drastically changed how full I feel after a meal.

Fats have more calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, but as I have written before, it is much more important to look at nutrients than calories, and fats are absolutely essential for the following processes:

♦ Building blocks of hormones

♦ Anti-inflammatory effect, meaning healthy fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases

♦ Fats make the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K possible

♦ Fats are essential for proper growth and development, especially considering that 60% of our brains are made of fat

♦ Fats slow down digestion, helping us feel full for longer and can also help reduce sugar cravings

Here are some easy ways to up the healthy fat quota of your meals:

Add raw, unsalted nuts like almonds and walnuts to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful.

Add raw, unsalted seeds to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful. Please note that linseeds/flaxseeds must always be ground in order for the body to digest them properly.

Add avocados to a salad or on top of any grain-based meal. Make guacamole or spread on toast or crackers for breakfast or a light dinner. Avocados have a unique combination of healthy fats and despite what a lot of women fear, they do not make you fat! They are actually particularly beneficial for balancing hormones in women.

Olives and olive oil (always extra virgin and cold pressed) can be poured over or added to any meal.

Coconut products such as coconut oil, milk or flakes are also a great source of a mid-chain fatty acids which are found in few other foods. Like nuts and seeds, flakes can be added to to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie and coconut milk or cream can be used to make soups or curries or again, added to smoothies. I use coconut oil for cooking as it has a high smoke point (it can be heated without damaging the oil).

Good news for butter lovers – butter is now being considered a healthy fat when it is from grass-fed cows and eaten in moderation. I don’t think anyone needs ideas on how to use butter!

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon (sockeye), herring, sardines and black cod are good to eat about 3 times per week. If you prefer not to eat fish or live somewhere where it is not available, it is essential to take an omega 3 supplement. I take this myself since I don’t like the taste of fish, even though I eat plenty of plant-based sources of omega 3. Plant-based sources of omega 3 like walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are very healthy, but are a less efficient source as a conversion process still needs to take place in the body.

Eggs are a great source of healthy cholesterol which is essential for the body. Expert opinion on eggs have now been reviewed and it is generally agreed that they do not cause cholesterol in healthy people. Make sure the eggs you eat are organic and free range.

Meat can also be a healthy fat but again, make sure the animal ate its natural diet of grass rather than grains. This makes a dramatic difference in the ratio of healthy fats in the meat (the famous Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio).

Fats to avoid entirely:

Trans fats – theses are mostly man-made oils that are extremely toxic to the body, leading to heart disease, stroke and cancer. They are found in margarine, processed foods, candy, chips, crackers, flaky pastries, some peanut butters. If the label lists partially- hydrogenated oils, do your body a favor and absolutely avoid this food. The term vegetable oil on an ingredient list usually also means the product contains trans fats and is best avoided. Actually a note on margarine: Margarine and non-butter spreads are chemical, man-made foods which contains harmful fats. Use real butter instead.

Fried foods – make sure these are only a very occasional treat as fried food often contain trans fats.

Low fat foods – and yes, this includes skim milk and low-fat yoghurt. When fat is removed from foods, they are no longer the natural, whole food, and the body in all its wisdom recognizes there is something missing. This can manifest as cravings for sugar, for example. Also, low-fat foods often have sugar added to replace the taste lost by removing the fat.

So there you have it – the skinny on fats! I hope this post helped you see fats a little differently. I urge you to try adding some healthy fats to your meals to notice how full you feel in the hours after the meal. Of course, like every nutrient, the amount needed is very variable, so it is important to experiment to find the right amount for you. Above all, quality is crucial – always buy the best you can afford – cold-pressed, virgin oils and grass fed, organic animals products.

Read more about making your kitchen nut and seed friendly

Read more about making green smoothies that can be topped with healthy fats

IMG_0405-15

Sources: 1, 2, 3 

Diets are sad – and don’t work

Diets are sad

I often hear from people about their experience with diets or the fact that they need to go on one. Because of this, I thought I would write about why, based on all the research I have read, diets are not only sad – they also don’t work.

HERE ARE SOME SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT DIETING:

♦  About 41% of people end up gaining back MORE weight than they had lost from being on a diet, often leading to yo-yo dieting (source).

Explanation: When you take in too few calories, your body thinks it is starving and reacts by adjusting its metabolism to preserve energy to actively avoid rapid weight loss. This happens after about eight weeks of dieting and dates back to our cavemen days when less calories actually meant less chance of survival. Unfortunately, our bodies have not changed with modern life so when you start eating normally again, your metabolism has not readjusted and is still in ‘burn as few calories as possible’ mode.

♦ Most diets involve some form of restriction and/or deprivation. And while most dieters think this is the epitome of discipline, studies have shown that even just thinking about deprivation can actually lead to the opposite behavior. This might not be immediate: Most people manage to go through a phase of restriction or deprivation for a short period, but this is often followed by uncontrolled eating of the ‘forbidden’ food or bingeing later on. As Kelly McGonigal writes in her book, The Willpower Instinct:

From the very first forbidden fruit, prohibition has led to problems, and science is now confirming that restricting a food automatically increases your cravings for it…The more you try to avoid the food, the more your mind will be preoccupied by it.

♦ Dieting brings with it a slew of rigid rules that often lead to stress and guilt. Guilt or feeling bad about slipping up has been shown to lead to more eating in an effort to soothe oneself (source: Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct).

♦ Dieting implies an ‘all or nothing’ approach: You are either following the diet or you are not. Researchers have found that this leads to extremist decisions such as the ‘what-the-hell-effect': When dieters slip and eat a ‘forbidden’ food, they tend to think, ‘I already failed miserably at my diet by eating cake, I might as well polish the whole thing off!’ (source).

Superficial, time-limited change set diets up for failure from the beginning. Most dieters expect to have to ‘survive’ a period of restricted eating for a short while, lose weight, be fabulous, and then go back to their usual way of eating while staying fabulous. Unfortunately, when eating habits and awareness related to food haven’t actually changed, this is not going to be a long-term solution.

Above all, as stated in The Economist, dieting makes us ignore our body’s innate wisdom:

…dieting is harmful. People who diet deliberately ignore cues like hunger and satiety. As a consequence, over time, they seem to lose the ability to use them.

OK, so now that you know about what doesn’t work, next post will look into making lifestyle changes that can lead to healthy weight loss. In the meantime, eat real food but don’t diet!

 

Food Glorious Food in London

I just spent a few days in London with my husband, enjoying impressive exhibitions, dizzying shopping and of course, glorious food.

Travel is always an opportunity to try new food so I took some photos for a little culinary inspiration!

A big trend at the moment in healthy food is the Vegan Raw Food Movement where food is not cooked above 42 degrees centigrade to preserve nutrients and enzymes. I find the focus on plant-based, unprocessed foods very appealing and was curious to try a restaurant serving only raw foods. If you are interested, I share some of my tried and tested recipes for raw desserts here.

Lets start with some raw food photos:

Raw crackers made from seeds and avocado

Raw crackers create an avocado ‘sandwich’ @ 42 Raw

The Danish restaurant 42 Raw

Raw food restaurant 42 Raw

Raw noodles made of shredded carrots and zucchini instead of pasta

Noodles made from shredded carrots and zucchini instead of pasta were surprisingly good @ 42 Raw

Raw chocolate cake

Raw chocolate cake @ Down to Earth Café

 

And here are photos of some more delicious food: 

Vegetarian Pad Thai at Wagamama

Vegetarian Pad Thai @ Wagamama

Grilled vegetarian dumplings at Wagamama

Grilled vegetarian dumplings @ Wagamama

Quinoa with a Halloumi cheese and pepper pie

Quinoa with a Halloumi cheese and pepper pie at Down to Earth Café

A healthier English breakfast

A healthier English breakfast at Down to Earth Café

Sweet potatoes Indian style at Chakra

Sweet potatoes Indian style @ Chakra

In addition to eating well, we also explored Whole Foods Market, the American health-mecca, and Borough Market, one of the best food markets I have ever been to. Here are some photos of Borough Market:

Borough Market

Borough Market

Wheatgrass about to be juiced

Wheatgrass about to be juiced

Pumpkin & squash

Pumpkin & squash

Different types of onions

Different types of onions

Fresh fruit and veg

Fresh fruit and veg

Love this old sign

Love this old sign

Healthier Hummus, No Bread

hummus recipe and ingredientsI love hummus but in an effort to create an even healthier hummus, I wanted to find a way of replacing the traditional pita bread or flat Arabic bread that is traditionally eaten with it.  That’s because most of us eat waaaay too much of is bread and baked goods. Considered a staple by many, it is easy to eat a bread-like food at every meal – for example toast in the morning, a sandwich for lunch and a pizza or quiche for dinner.

And while bread seems innocent enough, bread made from refined flour is harmful to our health, weight and well-being. A good rule of thumb is to try squashing a piece of bread to the smallest possible size – the smaller it becomes, the less healthy the bread. Bread made of real grains does not lose volume like fluffy white bread does.

Using vegetable sticks (raw or steamed) is a delicious way of dipping into hummus, adding more veggies into your diet and getting rid of the bread.

1. Cut veggies into sticks and steam or boil for a few minutes so that they are still crisp. You can also use raw vegetables like cucumbers and celery and add tomatoes and olives which go well with humus too.

2. Rinse a can of chickpeas. If you have trouble digesting chickpeas, you can rub them between your hands to remove the skin – this makes them easier to digest.

3. Put the rinsed chickpeas in a food processor or blender and add:

– about 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)

– juice of 1 lemon

– a dash of unrefined salt

– 1-2 cloves garlic

– a little water and olive oil, depending on how liquid you would like it.

– a dash of cumin or paprika

4. Blend everything, adding more water if needed.

5. Serve with the vegetables.

How about removing the bread or baked goods in just one of your meals? 

And  if you want to jazz up your hummus, instead of chickpeas, try using any of the below: 

Hummus Original Ideas

 

 

Embracing Spring

Spring

Spring is about birth and rebirth and the hope that comes with new possibilities. All around us, nature bursts into life again after ‘resting’ during the winter, reminding us we can always start over or bring newness into our lives.

A key aspect of welcoming the new is removing what no longer serves us and Spring is associated with ‘detoxing’ the body and ‘spring cleaning’ the home. As a key organ of detoxification, the liver is particularly associated with Spring and taking special care of it this season will help us feel lighter and more energetic.

SPRING’S NATURAL RYTHMN: DETOXING

During the Winter, we tend to eat sweeter, heavier and more fatty foods which can mean a more sluggish digestion and metabolism. This leads to toxins being ‘stored’ in fat reserves and results in more toxins being accumulated in Winter than any other season. And while our bodies are naturally able to detox, they sometimes need a little help, especially at the start of Spring.

Without doing a full detox, here are some ideas you could try this Spring to help support your body’s natural detox pathways:

♦ For at least 1 week, avoid dairy, fried and processed foods, alcohol and caffeine, white sugar and white flour. 

♦ Drink a glass of warm water with either 1/2 lemon squeezed in or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. This simple act helps stimulate the liver and kidneys while while flushing the digestive system. If you try nothing else, try this!

♦ Before breakfast, mix 1 tablespoon of psyllium seed husks, chia seeds or linseeds into a glass of water and drink, following by a second glass of water. These seeds act like brooms for your intestines, helping to ‘move things along’ and getting rid of old waste.

♦ Exfoliate your skin by dry brushing your body before you shower using either an exfoliating glove or a natural soft brush.

♦ Finish your shower with cold water to stimulate your lymphatic system which is involved in elimination/detoxing.

♦ Add movement into your life that allows you to sweat. Sweat is a great way for our bodies to release toxins.

♦ Get enough sleep and go to bed before midnight: The liver does its work of detoxing when you are sleeping, particularly between 1 and 3 AM.

THINK GREEN

The color of Spring is green – a color linked to healing and vitality, balance and renewal. Revitalize yourself after the long winter by being in nature as much as possible.

Food-wise, add cleansing foods into your diet, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables that are raw or steamed. Try in particular to include green vegetables like spinach, asparagus, artichoke and arugula. The bitterness of these foods helps support the liver.

As foods that hold the potential for new life, sprouts and seeds are also a great addition to your diet during this season.

LETTING GO TO START ANEW

New beginnings imply letting go of what no longer serves us. Take a look at your life: Are there any thoughts, people or activities that are holding you back?

How will you reinvent yourself this Spring?

Source:

Sara Avant Stover, “The Way of the Happy Woman”

How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie

photo-7An indispensable skill in any healthy living repertoire is knowing how to make the perfect green smoothie. Not only is it delicious and healthy, it is also quick to prepare and clean up after.

The best part is that there is no wrong way to make a smoothie and no limit to what you can experiment with. You can sneak in healthy ingredients like green leafy vegetables and superfoods without influencing the taste – it somehow always manages to taste good! Or you can make a much simpler version with just a few ingredients. Get curious and experiment!

All you need is a blender and some of the ingredients below. I often include 1/2 banana per person to ‘camouflage’ the taste of the vegetables. I also often include seeds and nuts as the protein they provide helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which is linked to avoiding energy crashes throughout the day and maintaining a healthy weight long-term. They also help make the smoothie more filling.

Here is a step by step guideline to make the perfect green smoothie.

How to Make a Green Smoothie.001


 

Upgraded Oatmeal Cookies

healthier oatmeal cookies

Oatmeal cookies have always been my favorite cookie. I think it’s something about the nutty taste and crunch mixed with the sweetness of raisins that I really love…

The original recipe I grew up with calls for the usual suspects: Butter, sugar, white flour, eggs. But in the spirit of upgrading I came up with this recipe which is free of refined sugar, refined flour, eggs and dairy AND includes healthy ingredients such as whole grains, nuts and seeds. The best part is how versatile and easy it is – you can change or experiment with the ingredients according to your mood and what you have in your cupboard!

Ingredients

1 cup wholegrain oats or any other wholegrain cereal flakes (can also be a mix of both oats and other flakes)

1 cup whole wheat flour, rye flour or a mix of gluten-free flours such as brown rice, buckwheat, coconut etc

1 cup ground almonds or hazelnuts or a mix of both

½ cup shredded coconut

½ tsp. unrefined salt

1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates

½ cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup

½ cup oil (such as olive oil, canola or coconut oil)

Some additional sprinkles for added taste and health benefits such as chia seeds, amaranth, wheat germ, sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. You can also add spice such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Mix the wet ingredients and stir into the dry ingredients.

4. Form small balls and place on a cookie sheet, pressing the balls down with your fingers. The flatter, the crispier.

5. Bake for 12 minutes or until crispy.

photo

Making friends with bacteria

I have wanted to try making my own fermented food for a while, but never dared to try what seemed like a daunting experiment.

Which is why I was delighted when Aletta, who did the same training in Health Coaching I am currently doing, organized a class in Basel with other IIN students this Friday.

Why exactly would we want to ferment our food is probably the first question crossing my dear readers’ minds?

The latest research shows that about 80% of our immune system is actually located in our gut, making it the best place to start improving general health, immunity and even psychological health.

According to Sara Britton of My New Roots,

When we eat fermented foods, we eat the beneficial bacteria – the probiotics – that the food contains. This is important because we need a diverse population of bacteria in our digestive system for optimal health. To name just a few of their functions, probiotics are responsible for promoting regular bowel movements (helping to relieve diarrhea and constipation), improving digestion, enhancing immune function, producing antioxidants, normalizing skin conditions, reducing cholesterol, maintaining bone health, and managing blood sugar levels.

In addition to all this, a lesser known benefit of probiotic food is its role as a detoxifier, helping the body get rid of toxins and heavy metals.

What’s fascinating about fermented foods is that most cultures have traditionally prepared foods in this way for conservation reasons. Traditional cultured or fermented foods include: Plain yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, sour cream, chutneys, pickles, olives, cheese.

Unfortunately, when these foods are bought in most stores, they have usually been pasteurized or had a lot of sugar or salt added to them, leaving little probiotic benefit. So in order to really get the benefit of probiotic foods, the ideal solution is to make them yourself.

Here are some photos of our Probiotic Power afternoon where I thoroughly enjoyed making new friends – both with the other students and the friendly bacteria. Now I just need to make sure I don’t kill off the samples I brought home to continue fermenting!

How about you, do you have any experience with probiotic or cultured food or does this all sound very strange to you? 

photo-12

Preparing kefir – the granules are added to raw (unpasteurized) milk and left to ferment.

photo-11

Kombucha – fermented tea which has a lovely sparkling taste – the strange looking thing on top is the scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).

photo-10

Making kimchi – the key to both kimchi and sauerkraut is to really massage the all the ingredients together so that the cabbage releases it’s fermenting power.

Kimchi - Korean style mixed vegetables (left)- and sauerkraut (right) - fermented cabbage.

Kimchi – Korean style mixed vegetables (left)- and sauerkraut (right) – fermented cabbage.

Upgrade your tastebuds!

In my own experience and working with people to create healthy change, there is always that one food that you absolutely cannot touch. Common DO NOT TOUCH foods include cheese, chocolate, chips and Nutella.

Instead of trying to reduce or eliminate them, what about upgrading the quality? If your DO NOT TOUCH food is cheese, buy only organic, high quality cheese. If it is chocolate, upgrade to at least 70% dark chocolate. Chips? Look for chips that are baked instead of fried, vegetable chips or chips that fried in a healthier oil and use unrefined salt instead of table salt. Even Nutella has healthier versions that can be found in organic food stores.

When you buy only the best quality of your DO NOT TOUCH food, something wonderful happens: You naturally start eating less of it, and take more time to really savor the taste.

An even better upgrade is to make it yourself. This weekend I made my own DO NOT TOUCH food – chocolate – using cacao butter, raw cacao powder, dates, sea salt and a pinch of lavender (recipe here). It was divine!

About 5 years ago, I was an M&M’s and Maltesers addict. Now my tastebuds have been upgraded to the point where I don’t think I could ever eat them again!

What about you, have you upgraded any of your DO NOT TOUCH foods?

IMG_0345-6

Kitchen Organization: Tip #1

I am not the most organized person in real life, but when it comes to the kitchen, I have become freakishly organized.

I realized early on in my health journey that I will always have the same number of hours in a day and that it was up to me to use my time wisely and to give priority to what matters most. And while this may seem obvious to people who are naturally organized, planning things actually saves time in the long run!

Something simple to try is:

Cook once, eat several times.

There are several ways to do it:

Make more than planned of the entire dish and eat over the next few days.

For example, I made a huge pot of vegetable soup last night, and brought the leftovers to work to eat over the next two days.

When eating leftovers, make it a rule to always ‘jazz things up’ by adding in a new ingredient.

I often sprinkle seeds on top, add a new spice or chop up fresh herbs to add to the leftovers. Often I will also add avocado which seems to go well with everything!

Make more of only one part of the dish.

For example, when making a quinoa or brown rice stir-fry, make a larger amount of unseasoned quinoa or brown rice and store in the fridge for future use. This can then be reheated with milk, spices and raisins as a breakfast porridge or the quinoa can be ground to make healthier versions of brownies. That way, you get new dishes with less work.

Make more of the whole dish or part of the dish and freeze.

If you are making a time-consuming dish like lasagna, you can always double the quantities and freeze the dish. This will come in handy when you don’t feel like cooking and is a much healthier alternative to the frozen food you can buy in supermarkets. It also works well with ingredients like pumpkins – if you don’t want to use the whole pumpkin straight away, you can chop it up into cubes and put in the freezer to use in the coming weeks.

What about you, do you cook or prepare food once and eat several times?

Brownies, reinvented

Normally, when thinking about brownie ingredients, we think sugar, butter, flour, eggs and of course, chocolate.

But what if you could have the taste and yumminess of brownies without any of these ingredients? What if brownies could be reinvented to the point where they could even be considered healthy? I’m not sure you will believe me before trying out these recipes yourself!

The basics for both the recipes below are the following:

Dates – bring the sweetness without needing to add sugar. Ideal is to use medjool dates, but I have also used normal (organic) dates and they work well too.

Cacao powder – as always, full fat and raw, without added sugar.

Sea salt – I find mixing flavors – in this case sweet and salty – gives a more sophisticated taste.

The final ingredient differs – ground walnuts and almonds or ground cooked quinoa, depending on the recipe.

For both recipes, you will need a good food processor to grind everything into a smooth paste.

RECIPE 1: RAW BROWNIE (recipe here)

This is delicious and doesn’t even need to be baked!

RECIPE 2: BAKED BROWNIE

The main ingredient here is quinoa, a super healthy seed that is cooked and eaten more like a cereal. I actually can’t believe I haven’t done a post on quinoa yet with the amount I eat – especially after the United Nations declared 2013 the Year of Quinoa!

Because the brownies here are baked, they feel much closer on a sensory level to the real thing. Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cooked quinoa or 3/4 cups dry quinoa

2 cups pitted dates

½ cup cacao powder

pinch of vanilla

pinch of sea salt

4 tbsp melted coconut oil (or other oil)

METHOD:

Soak, then cook the quinoa according to instructions. In a food processor, pulse the quinoa until it is mushy. Add the dates, one by one, until a paste is created. Add the cacao powder, vanilla, sea salt and melted coconut oil. Pulse until everything is consistent.

The batter should be stick – scoop it out into a small baking tray and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 – 25 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Let me know your thoughts if you give these a try – I can guarantee you won’t miss the ‘real’ thing!

 

Superfood Salad

I threw together this simple salad at the last minute the other night and realized only later that most of the ingredients are worthy of superfood status. Here’s why:

BEETS: A good source of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, iron, vitamin C, manganese, zinc and copper. They are also loaded with antioxidants and are currently making a comeback as a superfood.

ONIONS: Not very exotic, but onions are super healthy, containing a combination of flavonoids and sulfur. Onions are anti-inflammatory, boost the immune system and are very potent in cancer prevention among other benefits.

AMARANTH: I sprinkled a little of this tiny seed for some added protein and calcium. Amaranth is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese.

WALNUTS: Walnuts are the only nut that contains omega-3 fatty acids and they also contain twice the antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other nuts. I keep walnuts in my desk drawer at work and snack on a handful almost every day.

GOJI BERRIES: These small, dried berries are powerful antioxidants and may help prevent cancer, heart disease and boost the immune system.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR DRESSING: In its unfiltered, unpasteurized state, Apple Cider Vinegar (or ACV to its friends) is a great alternative to other salad dressings, particularly to help digestion and detoxifying. Other benefits of ACV can be found here.

SALT, PEPPER AND OLIVE OIL TO TASTE. 

IMG_0297

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carob Chia Pudding of Love

In health food circles, carob is often seen as the poor cousin to cacao – touted as a a caffeine-free substitute but not much else.

Carob deserves to be known and loved in its own right, both for the taste and health benefits. I think I feel this kinship to carob powder because we are both originally from the Middle East – only carob grows on the pods of trees.

Carob is very soothing to the stomach and is a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber and protein. It also contains vitamins A, B, and D. You can buy the powder in any health food store  – I add it mostly to smoothies but it can also be used in desserts such as the Carob Chia Pudding of Love I made for my husband on Valentine’s Day.

RECIPE:

Put 1 cup almond or coconut milk

1/4 cup chia seeds

1-2 tablespoons carob powder

5 medjool dates (pitted)

A sprinkle of vanilla powder (optional)

 

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse, then pour into glasses and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1-2 hours. Top with cacao nibs for some crunch before serving.

IMG_0305

Roasted Winter Vegetables – Step by Step

Roasted Winter Vegetables

This is a tasty and healthy addition to any main dish and a great way of using winter vegetables, even if they don’t always seem very approachable at first glance!

Choose root vegetable such as sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, black salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, celery root, beets, potatoes etc. You can use them without even knowing their names! You can also add squash or pumpkin and roughly chop a few onions to add more taste.

Roasting these vegetables is a great way of bringing out their natural sweetness and giving them a more complex flavor that even people who don’t normally eat vegetables will like!

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Wash/scrub, peel and dice the veggies into similar size cubes. Some varieties of squash like butternut squash or winter squash (potimarron) don’t need to be peeled.

3. Put all the vegetables in a bowl and add olive oil, some unrefined salt and any spice or herb you like. I usually add a mix of turmeric, cayenne pepper and paprika. Use you hands to really get in there and coat all the vegetables evenly. If you have time, leave the vegetables to marinate so they take on the taste even more. If you prefer, you can add fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary or thyme instead of spices. You can also add some whole or crushed garlic to the mix.

4. Pour the vegetables onto a lined baking tray or large oven dish and separate them out so they are not too close together.

5. Place tray or dish in the middle of the oven.

6. As they are cooking, stir the vegetables around a few times so they cook evenly on all sides. Total cooking time should take about 15-25 minutes, depending on the vegetables used and the size of the cubes. Just before they are done, you can also add some pressed garlic and stir.

That’s it! Enjoy while still hot as a side or light meal.