Sweet Treat

#gamechangers // Balance by Monica

#gamechangers // Balance by Monica

Blogger, recipe developer, teacher, and nutritionist - this lady does it all! I'm so excited to introduce you all to Monica, of Balance by Monica, our #gamechanger for this month. She has been kind enough to share her story with us and the recipe for a delicious Chocolate Olive Oil Cake!

Chewy Wholewheat Choc Chip Cookies // Recipe ReDux February 2018

Chewy Wholewheat Choc Chip Cookies // Recipe ReDux February 2018

Chewy chocolate chip cookies are just the best, particularly when they're fresh out of the oven and ready to be dunked into a cold glass of milk mmmmm. After a few failed attempts at baking bread this past month, I decided to resort to this amazing recipe that never disappoints! I'm so excited to share it with you...

Cinnamon Nut & Seed Sprinkle // my favorite sweet dukkah

My Take on Dukkah

Dukkah is a traditional Egyptian condiment that normally consists of a mixture of herbs and spices, nuts, and seeds, and is usually served with bread and olive oil (or hummus, yum!), with fresh veggies as a starter, or as an aromatic coating for meats before roasting or grilling. There are countless recipes for dukkah out there, and everyone seems to have their own take on the mix. Savoury dukkah is normally prepared with cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds, but some might even include things like mint or marjoram. I will be sharing my recipe for a simple savoury dukkah next week, but for now, I want to share this yummy Sweet Dukkah mix that has been gracing my bowls of warm porridge, yoghurt with fruit, and even as a topping for my peanut butter-stuffed Medjool date snack over the past couple of weeks :)

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Seed & Nut Goodness

Nuts and seeds are definitely unappreciated 'superfoods' (I've spoken a bit about almonds here before). They are nutrient-dense wonders, comprised of complex matrices of fat, fibre, protein, minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, phytosterols, and phytonutrients [1]. Large epidemiologic studies have associated daily nut consumption with a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes, and some evidence has shown that in the context of an overall healthy diet, nut intake may have beneficial effects on inflammation, oxidative stress, and vascular function [1]. Seeds are also nutritional powerhouses, for example, the sesame seeds that I've included in this recipe are one of the highest plant-based sources of calcium. Including sufficient good-quality fats as part of whole foods, such as nuts and seeds, is great for our overall health! 

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Let's Get Creative

I'm repeating myself a bit here, but there are so many delicious ways that you can enjoy this slightly sweet cinnamon nut and seed sprinkle :) Here are just a few of my favourite suggestions:

  • Top your morning bowl of porridge with a handful of this dukkah, a drizzle of honey, and half a chopped up apple for a warming breakfast
  • For warmer weather, enjoy this sprinkle as a topping for a bowl of plain yoghurt with fresh fruit
  • Add some extra crrrrunch to your peanut butter and banana toast with a tablespoon or two of this dukkah sprinkled on top
  • Stuff one Medjool date with a teaspoon of peanut or almond butter, place some of this sprinkle on a small plate and roll the open (stuffed) end over it so that the nut butter sticks to the dukkah (such a delicious snack)
  • Or better yet, just enjoy a handful of it as a mid-afternoon snack :)
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Recipe Time

Total time: 40min

Ingredients

  • 200g hazelnuts
  • 200g almonds (or any other nuts)
  • 200g sunflower seeds
  • 200g sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 110˚C.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop up the hazelnuts and almonds (either by hand, or using a food processor) and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the sunflower and sesame seeds, along with the cinnamon, olive oil, and honey to the bowl.
  3. Mix everything together well to combine and spread over a lined baking tray. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, removing the tray and mixing the sprinkle around halfway.
  4. Allow to cool completely after removing from the oven. Break up pieces that have stuck together and store in a clean, airtight, glass jar for up to 2 weeks.

References

[1] Ros E. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients. Jul 2010;2(7):652-82. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257681/

#WednesdayWisdom Series // Healthy Snacking

#WednesdayWisdom Series // Healthy Snacking

To snack or not to snack? That’s the question. Although some advocate for regular snacking to ‘boost your metabolism’, the evidence doesn’t actually support this. In fact, meal frequency hasn’t been shown to have any significant effect on how many calories your body burns on a day-to-day basis

#gamechangers // Wooden Spoon Kitchen

Although I have been following her Instagram page since about January this year, Ankie from Wooden Spoon Kitchen and I first met in person in July when she decided to attend my gut health workshop (read more about that here). Since then it has been great to get to know her a bit better and learn more about her 'third child', Wooden Spoon Kitchen, which aims to inspire others through enjoying real food and healthy cooking. Her blog is filled with beautiful food photography and some mouthwatering recipes that anyone can master. One of my favourites is this recipe for this Pear and Rosemary French Toast, the perfect breakfast recipe for a slow Sunday morning :) I am so excited to feature her here in this #gamechangers post, and for each of you to get to know her a bit better.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself, and what you do.

I am a wife and mother of two (three) if you count Wooden Spoon Kitchen as one of my babies. I love cooking, sharing food knowledge and cooking skills. I am a creative soul and love the creative side of my business being a cooking teacher but also to play with food, props and designs gives me immense satisfaction.

 

What is your favourite thing about teaching others to cook?

I get to inspire and transfer life skills. It really is amazing to see how people grow in confidence once they realise it is not that hard to cook.

 

When and why did you start your Instagram page and blog?

I knew my social media was not great two years ago and had great aspirations for my business so I attended the Pink party workshop by Anzel van Biljon. It was all about branding and social media and gave me a great kick-start to get my branding sorted. I started my Instagram account last year March and my Facebook account in 2014. Social media is your greatest tool to network and get your name out there. It is hard work and I don’t always get it right but it has connected me to so many interesting people and companies. It is a source of inspiration for me every day.

 

What is Wooden Spoon kitchen all about?

Wooden Spoon Kitchen is firstly a cooking school for young and old where we cook with real food. Here we learn to make every day healthy food and the occasional special recipes. It is for people who love to cook but also for the ones who can’t and won’t cook. I am a keen food stylist and recipe developer and find it very useful for my blog and social media. I also offer real food parties for children and I am very excited about my first supper club running in October where we will be cooking and eating together and introducing some special food brands every month. But overall I just really love to cook and share my passion for food.

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What started you on your personal journey with food, health, and nutrition?

I have always known that food is important to keep you healthy I just did not realise how important. I struggle with a very rare disease called Achalasia, basically the muscle of my lower oesophageal sphincter prevents relaxation and peristalsis. I had an operation 10 years ago but it is not something that can really ever be healed. I also recently learned that it is an auto-immune disease and you can easily develop more than one auto-immune disease. So I am trying my best to take care of my health through nutrition and good healthy habits.

It is very ironic that the person, who loves to cook and eat, can’t always eat because my food gets stuck. When I used to be a Home Economics teacher I realised that there is a great need amongst children to learn cooking skills and develop healthy eating habits and I love being able to share my knowledge.

 

What resources have been valuable as you have learned more about cooking, and healthy eating and nutrition?

I have a good understanding of nutrition from my studies, but a lot more research has been done since then. I attended a twelve-week nutrition course hosted by Ian Graig from The Nutritional Institute (http://www.thenutritionalinstitute.com/) that has given me a much better understanding of nutrition and our relationship with food. I also get a lot of recipe ideas from social media and the internet. I just love Pinterest and my favourite bloggers and food personalities include the Hemsley and Hemsley sisters, Deliciously Ella and Jamie Oliver.

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What are some of your favourite Proudly South African food products and companies?

Munching mongoose, Faithful to nature, Yuppiechef and Wazoogles. The list really is endless.

 

What are your top tips for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally?

I try to sleep at least 7-8 hours every night, otherwise I get really cranky and emotional. I also try to exercise at least three times per week. I don’t go to the gym but rather go for a run or do some interval training at home. It really makes such a difference to my emotional state if I exercise regularly. I also love to spend time with friends and family and feeding everyone that makes me really happy. I also drink a lot of water and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables every day. But I try not to be too hard on myself because every day is different and we have so many demands so not every day is a perfect ‘healthy’ day.

 

What is your favourite go-to meal after a busy day?

Avo-toast with egg and chilli flakes is always a good meal.

 

What is your all-time favourite special treat?

I love croissants from a good baker.

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I hope that you all enjoyed that Q&A. I absolutely love learning a bit more about #gamechangers like Ankie, who really have such an amazing role to play in encouraging others to cook food from scratch, learn to love wholesome ingredients, and inspire us through beautiful photography and innovative recipes. Ankie has been kind enough to share this delicious recipe for her very own nutty bars with us. I hope that you enjoy them! But before I share, be sure to follow her:


Recipe

Nutty Bars

Yields: 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of mixed nuts (pecan, almond, cashews, macadamia)
  • 1/2 cup flaxseeds
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 150g dates (+ water to boil)
  • 2 tbs raw Honey
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 Tbsp any nut butter

Method

  1. Place nuts, seeds and coconut in a baking tin and roast for 10 minutes at 180˚C. Check the nuts and turn them often until they are golden brown.
  2. Place dates in a small pot with 500 ml water and boil for 5 minutes until soft.
  3. Pulse the nuts and seeds in a food processor into smaller chunks. Make sure all nuts are broken into smaller pieces, but are not completely broken down.
  4. Drain water from dates and blend in food processor until a smooth paste forms.
  5. Add cinnamon, vanilla, honey and nut butter. Process again.
  6. Add the sticky date mixture to the nuts, coconut and seeds. Stir and then mix with your hands until you have a sticky, cohesive mixture.
  7. Press into a 29cm x 19cm tin. The tin size will depend on how thick you want bars.
  8. Place in fridge for at least 3-4 hours. When ready, cut in bars or squares. Store in fridge

#gamechangers // Inspiration from The Little Table

Meet The Little Table...

Get ready for some beautiful photographs, a delicious recipe, and words of wisdom from someone who has recently embarked on a journey of holistic health, using food as medicine and changing lifestyle habits one at a time. I first came across The Little Table on Instagram a month or two ago and absolutely fell in love with each and every beautiful photograph that was shared. A couple of weeks ago I reached out to her to ask if she would like to be featured in the Taste & See #gamechangers series and lucky for us she was more than happy to share a bit about her story with us, as well as a yummy recipe for rhubarb and strawberry crumble.

After discovering that she needed to make some changes after being diagnosed with PCOS, The Little Table started her Instagram account as a way to document her health journey and share inspiration along the way. Although she is at the beginning of her journey in health and wellness she has a whole lot of tasty recipes and nuggets of wisdom to share. Grab a cup of tea, find somewhere comfy to sit, and enjoy reading our Q&A here on the blog. Oh, and don't forget to check out The Little Table's Instagram page afterwards, it's amaaaaazing! 

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Tell us a bit about who you are?

I'm a 26-year-old, freckled brunette that loves travelling, going for bike rides and cooking. I currently work as a freelance graphic designer.

 

When & why did you decide to start your Instagram page?

I started my Instagram account about a month ago as a way of motivating me to keep my health journey on track. I also enjoy playing around with photography so I thought it would be a nice way to combine the two.

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What triggered your personal journey with food, health, and nutrition?

I recently found out that I had PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome), which meant I had to start making some changes to my lifestyle and include a lot more healthy food and exercise to manage it. Along with that, I discovered that I have some gut and digestion-related issues which I can only manage through eating gluten-free foods and minimising my dairy and sugar intake. It felt like a double-whammy at the time but I'm slowly learning how to change my feelings and habits around food and turn it from a negative into a positive.

 

What resources have been valuable as you have learned more about cooking, healthy eating, and nutrition?

I have been finding LOTS of health bloggers from around the world whose stories and recipes are really motivating. I'm a huge fan of Jessica Sepel because she teaches you so much about nutrition and how everything is really interlinked with regards to food, exercise, stress and all that you surround yourself with. Her recipes are freaking fantastic too! I've also really enjoyed reading Amelia Freer's books as well as Xochi Balfour (The Naturalista). All of these women are great sources of healthy inspiration for me for pretty much the same reason in that they talk more about a holistic approach to living a healthy lifestyle, one that doesn't only centre around food.

 

What are some of your favourite Proudly South African food products and companies?

Soaring Free Superfoods is definitely one of them because they've opened up a world of delicious ingredients to me that I never even knew about. I'm also a huge fan of UCook. Their recipes are so tasty and they make cooking dinner so easy when you feel like you have no time on your hands.

 

What are your top tips for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally?

I feel like I'm still trying to figure that out myself :) But I would definitely say that having a good support structure has made everything a lot easier for me. Also, not being so hard on yourself. I feel like we can spend a lot of time and energy criticising ourselves rather than embracing out unique minds and bodies. It's a hard road, and one I'm still at the beginning of.

 

What is your favourite go-to meal after a busy day?

Paneer Korma all the way!

 

What is your favourite recreational activity, or rather what do you enjoy doing to wind down?

Riding my bike and baking! We live in a really lovely neighbourhood with a street lined with rows of trees and a great park so riding our bikes in the area really feels like a bit of an escape.

 

What is your all-time favourite special treat?

Maynards Gummy Bears :) They taste like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - well to me at least :)

Recipe time!

Now this is the best part of today's Q&A: The Little Table has been sweet enough to share a recipe for her gluten-free, dairy-free rhubarb and strawberry crumble :) YUM! I can't wait to try it, in fact, I am off to buy ingredients right now to make it sometime over the weekend.

*All images shared belong to The Little Table


Recipe

Total time: 1h

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chopped rhubarb and strawberries
  • 3 tbsp rice malt syrup (or maple syrup)
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C and grease a large enough baking dish with some coconut oil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped fruit and rice malt syrup and mix till well incorporated. Pour this into your baking dish.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, almond flour, chopped almonds, coconut sugar and coconut oil. Mix thoroughly with a fork so that the coconut oil is evenly distributed among the rest of the crumble ingredients.
  4. Top the fruit with your crumble and bake in your preheated oven for roughly 45 mins until golden and crisp. Serve with some dairy-free ice cream.

Notes

  • Enjoy with some dairy-free ice-cream or whipped coconut cream :)

 

Small Bite Desserts // Time to Celebrate

This month is the Recipe Redux's 6th birthday, so it seemed fitting that the theme for the month was all about celebration and small bite desserts:

“In honor of our 6th birthday, we’re celebrating with cake…or another small bite dessert that fits your fancy. Show us your healthy small bite dessert creation.”

It has been a really busy month for me with exams, starting up Wholesome Kitchen, planning the first Taste & See workshop (more on this in the coming week), and a few other time-consuming (but exciting) things taking up a lot of my time. I had been working on the most delicious small-bite dessert for this post and had perfected the recipe and earlier this week I planned to make my creation and photograph it, however, in all of my rushing around I managed to create a BIG FLOP! Needless to say, I wasn't able to take nice photographs or share the recipe in time for this month's theme.

I think that over the next week I am going to have to slow down a bit, take some time to sit and be quiet and prioritise tasks and 'to-do's' according to their importance as well as the joy that they bring me and those around me. This world is SO busy and it can be a bit overwhelming at times, but in the midst of chaos, noise, and things to do I am so grateful to find peace when I need it most:

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.
— Psalm 62:5-6

Some DELICIOUS small-bite desserts

Anyway, enough about that. I thought that instead of sharing my own small-bite dessert recipe, I would share a few of the recipes shared by other Recipe Redux members that have caught my eye. Oh, but be sure to check out all of the recipes by clicking on the link in the Recipe Redux picture at the end of the post :) There are SO many delicious looking healthier treats that have been shared. If you want to take a look at some of my previous creations, head over to this link and let me know what you think :)

1. Grain-Free German Chocolate Bundt Cakes

Gretchen does an amazing job of turning the classic bundt into a chocolatey, grain-free, miniature version that will make you want to whip out your baking hat and get in the kitchen ASAP. You might as well check out the rest of Kumquat, Gretchen's blog, whilst you're over there. She is a registered dietitian who has become a recipe developer, food stylist, and cookbook author. Her blog has some wonderful gluten-free recipes that satisfy the taste buds, each with some beautiful photographs that satisfy the eyes.

 

2. The Best Banana Pudding

I know that I've mentioned it here on the blog before, but I used to HATE bananas. I am now a huge fan of bananas in things like smoothies, oats, baked goods, and desserts, but still struggle to think about eating a whole banana straight out of its peel. Anyway, these little banana puddings made by Kaleigh of Lively Table look absolutely divine, and I'm sure I'll have to give them a try sometime soon. Kaleigh made the banana pudding in individual mason jars, making them adorable and perfect for serving at parties. While you're checking out this recipe take a look at some of her other posts including this one, and this one. She is "...on a mission to make healthy eating indulgent. [She's] a firm believer in the power of a good meal, and [she] wants you to be too!".

 

3. Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups with "nice" Cream

Next up we have a healthier twist on an American classic, the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, which is made with "nice" cream instead of ice cream. The ice cream sandwich is one of my favorite indulgent desserts, so this recipe is a great healthier alternative (especially with the peanut butter flavoured banana "nice" cream, YUM!). This recipe can be found at FitLiving Eats along with a whole lot of other delicious looking recipes :) The blog is run by Carly, a health coach, wellness advocate and aspiring home cook who is on a continuous journey of learning new and exciting ways to live a vibrant and healthy life. Go check it out if you have some time.

 

4. Maca Almond Balance Balls

This recipe by Karlie from Karl Cooks is an interesting one. Karlie has taken the energy ball craze and included an interesting ingredient called maca, which has the ability to act as an adaptogen. This means that it has the unique ability to help the body adapt to whatever imbalances it is experiencing (for example hormonal imbalances) and helps to bring it back to homeostasis. I'll definitely be doing a bit more research into this interesting ingredient in future :) These yummy looking snack balls are full of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and maca, and Karlie has named them balance balls because they were created to balance your hormones and support all of your bodily processes.  Oh while you're on her blog why not check out this page for a cool 'getting started' resource for if you're keen to try out a more plant-based diet approach.

Ok enough tasty dessert recipes for today :) Take a look at some of the other yummy Recipe Redux posts by clicking on the link below if you're keen to see what other delicious creations were developed this month.

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Hot Cross Bun Cookies

If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.
— Shauna Niequist

This week I'm on a week-long break from university (thank goodness!). I'm looking forward to having a bit of time to slow down, tick things off of my to-do list, and enjoy resting before the start of a new quarter. The Easter weekend is coming up, and I'm looking forward to spending some time with good friends and dear family reflecting on and celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I cherish times that are spent with loved ones around the table, sharing a meal prepared with love and purpose.

One of my favourite authours, Shauna Niequist, writes in her book Bread and Wine: "If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health”. As a newlywed, I am slowly discovering the truth of this in my home. The dining room table is a place where dreams are shared, where both bodies and souls can be nourished, and where hospitality can be practised in love. It is a place where strangers are able to become friends, where forgiveness is cultivated, and where we most often make memories with others. There is another sentence from this book that has also stuck with me since reading it: "The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment”.

Hospitality is all about creating a place for others to feel safe, loved, and heard. It is not about creating perfect meals, having the most beautiful crockery, or even about having the most well-kept home. Hospitality is about being open, honest, willing to allow others into your space so that they can open up in return. As the Easter weekend arrives let us be more willing to invite others into our space. Let us prepare a meal for friends, family, or even neighbours who we have never met, and share it with love. 

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Hot cross buns are served in many countries throughout the world to mark the end of Lent, Good Friday, and Easter as a whole. Different parts of these tasty buns are said to have specific meanings, with the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the spices used in the dough signifying the spices used to embalm Him before His burial. 

This week's recipe is such an easy one to make. I have wanted to create something inspired by the delicious flavour of hot cross buns for a while now, just in time for Easter. I played around with a yummy spiced chia pudding recipe but just can't seem to take nice photographs of it (anyone knows how to make chia pudding look pretty???!). As an alternative, I created these really simple cookies that taste a whole lot like hot cross buns, with nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest, and raisins. They make for a delicious treat that can be enjoyed with a cup of tea, or even as a quick and easy breakfast. Their sweetness comes from the ripe bananas and raisins. Although they aren't quite as light and fluffy as real hot cross buns, using oats as a 'flour' makes these cookies a good alternative to regular hot cross buns, as they provide a more sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream. You can read all about bananas and oats, two of my favourite staple kitchen items in the Taste & See Pantry.

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So if I were you, I'd get my hands on some bananas tomorrow so that they'll be nice and ripe in time for you to make a batch of these cookies by the time the weekend arrives. Please let me know if you do try them :) Tag me on Instagram or Facebook, or use the tag #tasteandseeblog. I absolutely love seeing your recreations of my recipes! 


Recipe

Total time: 40min

Yields: 12 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 medium bananas, ripe
  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins/currants
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil/olive oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp lemon/orange zest
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees C.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Scrape down the sides if necessary.
  3. Scoop the mixture out of the bowl of your processor and shape into 12 balls of equal size. Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and flatten slightly.
  4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cookies have a golden-brown tint. They should still be nice and soft on the inside.
  5. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

Notes

Store in an airtight container once the cookies have cooled down. Keeps for about 7 days in the fridge.

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta

I asked for some feedback from readers sometime during the course of the last two weeks, and one of the suggestions that came up was to share more health(ier) desserts on the blog. Needless to say, since reading that feedback I have been dreaming of better-for-you sweet treats that I can share with all of you. Last week Friday I offered to make dessert for dinner that night with friends, and this was the result. An idea popped into my head after I looked through what we had available in the pantry and fridge, and thankfully the result of my kitchen experiment was good (great actually). I think I have discovered my new favorite dessert ;)

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I know that salted caramel is so 2016, but it is still one of my favorite flavour combos. A few years ago a good friend of mine opened up my eyes to wonderful dates, an ingredient that can be easily made into the most wonderful sweet paste that can be used as a substitute for refined sugar in many different recipes. Dates are nature's caramel, so when they are paired with a pinch of salt and blitzed up, they make the most amazing paste that is a pretty good salted caramel alternative. Coconut milk has become a staple pantry item in my home, so I used it as an alternative to cream, which is usually used to make panna cotta.It gives the dessert the most delicious, creamy mouthfeel. I absolutely love coconut milk.

In these pictures the panna cotta is served in a jar, but when we enjoyed it with friends I set individual desserts in a lightly oiled silicone muffin mould for the perfect little servings. We topped the panna cotta with a little pinch of sea salt and toasted coconut chips to serve.

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Recipe

Serves: 4

Total time (including refrigeration): 3h 20min

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 tsp gelatine powder
  • 400 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • Toasted coconut flakes, to serve

Method

  1. Pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine powder over. Set aside and allow to bloom for 10 minutes.
  2. After setting the gelatine aside, place the chopped dates in a small bowl and just cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 5 minutes. Once the dates have softened drain the water and add them to a jug. Add 1/4 cup of coconut milk to the jug and blend using a hand blender until the mixture is nice and smooth.
  3. Place the remaining coconut milk in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the date paste to the saucepan after straining it through a sieve. Add the salt and whisk well to make sure that no lumps remain. Bring to a low boil and leave to thicken for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent burning on the bottom of the saucepan.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the gelatine mixture and the vanilla extract/essence. Whisk together until all of the gelatine is fully dissolved.
  5. Pour the mixture into a lightly silicone muffin mould, or into individual jars.
  6. Place into the fridge and allow to set for at least 3-4 hours.
  7. When you are ready to serve, either carefully remove each panna cotta carefully from the silicone muffin mould or serve in their individual jars. To serve, sprinkle with a little bit of salt and top with toasted coconut flakes.

Notes

For a vegan version, you can try substitute with agar agar. The texture will not be exactly the same, and the amounts may differ, but I am sure that it will work well enough.

#gamechangers // Mpho Tshukudu

In some cases, scars have become phobias. Perhaps the medical profession has suffered from the same aversions, stressors and phobias. Whatever the reason, it has not made enough of an effort to promote the nutritional benefits of traditional South African ingredients, cooking methods, recipes, and food practices...Not everything grown, cooked and eaten in the past was healthy or delicious - but many traditional foods were both these things.

When delicious, healthy, beautiful food and culture collide...

Sometime during the course of last year, I had the opportunity to listen to an interview that caught my attention during Azania Mosaka's show on Talk Radio 702 whilst driving home from university. Azania was interviewing Mpho Tshukudu, who was sharing her vision behind the book Eat Ting that had just hit the shelves of bookstores in South Africa. Mpho, a Registered Dietitian, wrote the book in collaboration with Anna Trapido, a food anthropologist, with the intention of helping readers fall in love with timeless African flavours and traditional ingredients whilst improving their overall health and wellbeing through learning about healthy eating principles. Eat Ting is not a diet book, but rather one that offers healthy eating solutions based on traditional South African recipes and eating principles.

Culture plays a huge role in our taste preferences as we grow up. The types of ingredients, recipes, and food-related behaviours that we grow up experiencing as normal stay with us in our adult years - some healthy, and others that are counterproductive to health and wellbeing. As a white, English South African who grew up in the leafy suburbs of Irene, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Africa's post-apartheid situation and the specific stressors and realities facing many urban black South Africans trying to maintain a healthy weight in the face of urbanisation, acculturation, and newfound abundance. The first six chapters of Eat Ting take a unique look at these problems, as well as ways in which they can be overcome through looking at traditional ways of growing, preparing, and enjoying traditional food.

As a dietetics student and nutrition nut, one of my favourite parts of the book deals with wisdom and guidance gathered from 'the grandmothers' - ancestors of modern black South Africans who grew, cooked and ate food in ways that we can all respect and learn from. Believe it or not, the grandmothers were raising free-range meat long before 'free-range' and 'organic' became a buzzword. Likewise, many traditional South African recipes used fermentation (before it was cool) to prepare grains and dairy products; a technique that has been shown to increase their nutrient profiles and digestibility significantly.

As a foodie I fell in love with ingredients I had never encountered or been brave enough to eat before reading Eat Ting, such as amadumbes, millet, thepe (amaranth leaves), and amasi (soured milk). The 60+ recipes included in the book are accompanied by mouth-watering photographs and step-by-step instructions to guide even the most hopeless of home-cooks, making it a must-have for any kitchen.

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I was so excited when Mpho agreed to be featured here on Taste & See as the #gamechanger for March. So excited, in fact, that I jumped out of my seat in excitement when I read her response to my email. She has so much wisdom in her field of interest and a passion for nutrition and culture that all of us can learn from. As a bonus, she has been kind enough to share a delicious recipe from Eat Ting for all of us to try at home. Make sure to read this post right to the end for the recipe. Ok, before I say more let's get started with the Q&A and allow Mpho to share a bit about who she is, her journey with food and nutrition, and her tips for living a happy, healthy life.

 

Tell us a bit about who you are.

I am a registered dietitian with an interest in African Foods and Culture. For me, a healthy lifestyle comes very easy. I function better when I eat well, exercise effectively and get good quality sleep.

 

What triggered your personal journey with food, health and nutrition?

I loved science in school and have enjoyed cooking from a young age. My favourite topics were digestion and how the body uses foods to keep healthy, prevent and treat diseases. Then I found out you can get paid doing this fascinating job...the rest is history.

 

Has your journey inspired you to do anything you didn't ever expect to do?

While studying Functional Medicine and Nutrigenetics, I started asking questions about indigenous foods and food practices in Africa. It has been a beautiful journey of discovery and learning, from a lot of different people and especially older people who tell their undocumented stories with pride and beam with pride when I relate how some of those are similar to what we learn in science

 

What areas of nutrition and dietetics interest you the most?

I am interested in how food relates to culture, heritage and tradition. Asking these questions reveals a lot about history and shows that food trends like foraging, fermenting, veganism and eating organic are not new, but were practiced as daily norms. It is like going back to the future.

 

Have you furthered your education in any way since finishing university?

I have studied Nutrigenetics, Functional Medicine and First Line Therapy. They all look at how our genes interact with our lifestyle, such as food and exercise and how we can optimise our health. They look at the root cause of the disease than treating the symptoms, which conventional medicine does. It has taught me to pay attention to the patients’ story and look for patterns and identify possible triggers of symptoms and disease.

 

Tell us a bit about your book. What inspired you to write it, and what is it all about?

Eat Ting is a funny health, weight-loss and self-discovery book, with South African roots and a blossoming international audience. This modern cookbook is co-written with my food hero and food anthropologist Anna Trapido. The book features simple cooking and plating perfection using indigenous South African foods such as sorghum, millet, morogo, African horn cucumber, amadumbe, mulberry, figs and offal. Eat Ting deliciously reveals to food fashionistas that South Africa has what all the best international food magazine are touting such as foraging, organics, free range, food combining, fermenting and low carb living.

 

What are your top tips for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally?

I practice self-care, daily. This is a fusion of sleep, exercise, eating healthy and being mindful of my thoughts and actions, listening to the body, especially when life and work are too busy.

 

What is your favorite go-to meal after a busy day?

I make smoothies for dinner. My main aim was to reduce my meat intake and increase vegetables and healthy fats. I find that I am able to use ingredients like seeds, moringa, baobab, coconut, turmeric, cinnamon and make amazing smoothies – sweet and savoury versions.

 

What is your favorite recreational activity, and what do you enjoy doing to wind down?

I love food and eating. So in my spare time I visit food markets and food producers. I sample a lot and take more to cook at home. I love trail walking in around Harties (my hometown), find that exercise such as yoga and pilates are my moving meditation.

 

Any tips and advice for others who have an interest in nutrition, health, and food?

We all have an interest in food as humans because we all eat and the food sustain us. There is so much interesting things around food, explore, ask questions and find what you love.

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Recipe

Baked figs with marscapone

Serves: 4

From Eat.Ting by Anna Trapido & Mpho Tshukudu

Ingredients

  • 8 ripe figs
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Amasi curds // Marscapone // Greek yoghurt, to serve

Method

  1. Heat grill to medium-high.
  2. Cut a deep cross in the top of each fig and gently push open the incision so that it looks like a flower. Put the figs in a baking dish and place a small cube of butter in the centre of each fruit.
  3. Arrange the almonds and coconut around the butter. Drizzle the honey over and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Grill until the figs are soft and the honey and butter have made a sauce in the bottom of the dish. Take care not to burn the almonds and coconut.
  5. Serve with warm dollops of amass curds, marscapone or yoghurt.

To get in contact or stay up to date with Mpho, check out her website here and her Instagram feed here. If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Eat Ting, make sure to check out the following stores:

Mango Sorbet

You scream, I scream...

Ice-cream. We all LOVE it but know that even too much of a good thing isn't always great for us. The word 'ICE-CREAM' is often associated with indulgence, treating oneself, and special occasions. Fruit, on the other hand, is more often associated with being healthy, fresh, and more acceptable for everyday consumption. Well, if you love ice-cream but are looking for a healthy, affordable, easy-to-prepare alternative, look no further. Today's post is inspired by a picture that Sarah Bell Nutrition posted on Instagram sometime in December of an easy mango and lime 'sorbet'. You can take a look at this post that she wrote earlier this week with a whole lot of delicious 'nice-cream' recipes that require nothing more than fruit, a few simple ingredients, and a good old food processor. I'm going to be giving the Banana, Coconut & Cacao recipe next week. 

So although today's recipe is not my own, I've been preparing it at least once a week because it's just so delicious. I decided that I have to have it on record here on Taste & See for future use, in case I forget about it by this time next year. This gorgeous summer fruit, which is available in season in South Africa between December and April, is one of the things that I look forward to each year. Fresh stone fruits, figs, mangoes, grapes, and litchis all bring back memories of childhood holidays at the coast. Summer fruit makes me think of sunshine, sand, and sticky faces. Some of the best memories if you ask me.

Today we'll be taking a look at the main ingredient in this recipe, the star of the show - Mango. Why should you be eating mango? And what is it made up of? Does it have any proven health benefits? You'll have to read on for these answers :)

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Some Background...

Mangos are one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are a number of different mango varieties that are available around the world at different times of the year [1]. Each variety has a unique flavour, texture, and colour. In South Africa the main areas for mango cultivation include Mpumulanga, Limpopo, and Kwa-Zulu Natal [2]. Mangos were first grown in India over 5000 years ago, but their seeds travelled to the Middle East, South America, and East Africa sometime around 300-400 A.D and have been grown all over the world since [3]. The main varieties that are grown here in South Africa include:

  • Tommy Atkins, which has a thick skin
  • Kent, which is green-yellow with a sweet, juicy, fibreless flesh
  • Keitt, which has an oval shape and a yellow skin with red blush
  • Sensation, which is smaller than the other varieties

Here's something fascinating that I didn't know: mangos are related to cashews and pistachios [3]. A mango has one long, flat seed that can be found right in the centre of the fruit, with a juicy flesh that surrounds it. Mango ripeness can't really be judged by colour, as with many other fruits. To determine mango ripeness all you need to do is gently squeeze it and determine whether it gives in slightly to the pressure, meaning that it is ripe, or whether it is firm, meaning that it is unripe [3]. A firm mango will easily ripen at room temperature after a few days, but if you would like to speed up the process, place the mango in a paper bag along with a banana at room temperature [3].

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How do I cut this thing?

Peeling and cutting a mango can be tricky business. They can be super juicy and downright messy, so finding an easy way to cut a mango is a real win. I found this brilliant video that should help you cut a mango without too much hassle [1].

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Nutrition & Health Benefits

One cup of chopped mango is approximately 100 calories [3]. Some of the most notable nutritional benefits of mango include its high vitamin C, vitamin A, and dietary fibre content [3]. One cup of fresh mango provides up to 100% of the daily value of vitamin C, which plays an important role in supporting healthy gums and teeth, proper wound healing, and collagen formation in the body [4]. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants and phytonutrients inhibit the oxidation of body cells by neutralising free radicals that would normally target lipids found in cell membranes [5]. Free radical damage is associated with oxidative stress and has been linked to numerous health problems, so we want to avoid it as much as possible. Mangos, like most other fruits, are a rich source of polyphenolic compounds, which also have antioxidative and/or anticarcinogenic benefits [5]. The main polyphenols found in mango pulp (the stuff that you normally eat) include:

  • Mangiferin, a polyphenol unique to mangos
  • Quercetin
  • Isoquercetin
  • Gallic acid
  • Ellagic acid
  • Beta-glucogallin

This article takes a look at the specific mechanism of action of mangiferin, and is really worth a read if you have an interest in biochemistry and nutrition :) Another interesting article that I found whilst doing research for this post is this one, which documents a study that was done to compare the effects of dietary supplementation of freeze-dried mango pulp with the effects of a hypolipidaemic drug, fenofibrate, and a hypoglycemic drug, rosiglitazone, in reducing body fat, altering glucose metabolism, and changing the lipid profile of mice that were on a high-fat diet [6]. Although this study was not conducted in humans, the results showed that freeze-dried mango supplementation was associated with reduced body fat percentage, improved glucose tolerance, lowered insulin resistance, and improved lipid profiles in the diet of the mice fed on a high-fat diet [6].

Even the mango seed, a waste product from the fruit, has potential health benefits [7]. This review takes a look at the composition of the mango seed kernel and analyses the possibility of using it as a nutritionally beneficial component in food products. Why the mango seed? Well, this waste product, which is usually tossed in the bin, has gained a special scientific interest of late thanks to its high content of bioactive compounds, which are associated with improvements in human health [7]. More research is needed before the processing and use of mango seeds will be used as a functional component in the food industry, but who knows, it could very well be a means of reducing environmental waste whilst imparting nutritional benefits to consumers :)

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Enough about that, now for the good stuff :) As I've already mentioned, I didn't come up with this recipe myself. For the original recipe (and a number of other DELICIOUS fruit-based nice-cream recipes, check out Sarah Bell Nutrition's blog here). I have, however, made a couple of changes to this version. I always loved mango & orange juice as a child, so I enjoy adding a little bit of freshly squeezed orange juice and some orange zest in place of lime. I hope that you enjoy this! It has already got a big thumbs up from my family and husband-to-be ;)


Recipe

Adapted from: Sarah Bell Nutrition

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 mango
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 Tbsp orange zest
  • A little bit of water

Method

  1. Peel & chop up the mango. Place it on a baking sheet or in a freezer-safe container lined with baking paper. Freeze.
  2. When your mango is frozen, simply place it in a food processor along with the orange zest and juice. Process until it has a creamy texture. Add a splash of water if necessary to help the processor along.

Notes:

  • For a 'frozen yoghurt' version, add 1 Tbsp of plain yoghurt to the mix. YUM!
  • The original recipe makes use of lime zest and juice (DELICIOUS), but I've been enjoying preparing a mango & orange version. Both are scrummy!

References

[1] Mango.org. Mango 101 [YouTube video on the Internet]. 2012 November 30. Available from: http://www.mango.org/Choosing-Using-Mangos/How-to-Cut-a-Mango.

[2] South Africa Travel Online. South African Mangos [Internet]. [date unknown] [cited 14 Jan 2017]. Available from: http://www.southafrica.to/nature/flora/mango/Mangoes.php.

[3] Mango.org. Mango Facts [Internet]. 2017 - [cited 14 Jan 2017]. Available from: http://www.mango.org/en/About-Mangos/Mango-Facts.

[4] Mango.org. National Mango Board Nutrition Messages [Internet]. [date unknown] [cited 14 Jan 2017]. Available from: http://www.mango.org/Mangos/media/Media/Documents/Research%20And%20Resources/Downloads/Industry/Market%20Support/Nutrition_Messages_Eng.pdf.

[5] Masibo M, He Q. Major Mango Polyphenols and Their Potential Significance to Human Health. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2008 Oct;7(4):309-19.

[6] Lucas EA, Li W, Peterson SK, Brown A, Kuvibidila S, Perkins-Vaezie P, Clarke SL, Smith BJ. Mango modulates body fat and plasma glucose and lipids in mice fed a high-fat diet. Br J Nutr. 2011 Nov;106(10):1495-505.

[7] Torres-Léon C, Rojas R, Contreras-Esquivel JC, Serna-Cock L, Belmares-Cerda RE, Aguilar CN. Mango seed: Functional and nutritional properties. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2016;55:109-17.

Paula Smit - For the Love of Food

It's that time of year where most of us get to slow down a bit, appreciate quiet moments with family and friends, reflect on the year that has gone by, and set goals for the year ahead. Some of us don't get to experience quite as much slowing down as others, having to work throughout the Christmas & New Year period. If you find yourself in this situation my wish and prayer for you is that you will find small moments of solace and reflection in between the craziness of everyday life.

Meet Paula

If there's one person I know who knows how to see the beauty in small, seemingly ordinary things, and is able to find peace and rest in most situations, it's my dear friend Paula Smit, whom I will be introducing to you today. Paula messaged me about a month ago to share the exciting news that she managed to create the most delicious muffins out of red kidney beans. I thought to myself that I better ask if she would like to share her recipe with all of you, and thankfully she was super keen to do so. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Taste & See Blog's #gamechanger for December :)

I’m excited for the future of food science, not to invent the fastest machines that mass produce cheese, or to mimic the taste of salmon in artificial flavouring, but rather to celebrate, sustain and creatively use nature’s gifts to nurture the nation!
— Paula Smit

Tell us a bit about who you are?

As a little girl, I used to demand a bowl of cooked white rice with a nub of butter, or a melted cheese sandwich - with the crusts removed, please. My dear mother tried all the tricks to get some nutrients into this system. Today, some years later, I am a curious food fanatic who just about eats the entire rainbow of fruits and vegetables (that is what our small boere (farming) town Moorreesburg can offer on a good day...). Guess I'm subconsciously catching up on all the fun I missed out in my younger years! My dad is a wheat farmer, my mother got caught by the corporate world and my little bro likes to lift heavy things in the gym :) They, together with the man I'm unashamedly in love with, are the guinea pigs who get fed all my concoctions. 

Hi, I'm Paula.

 

What inspired you to study food science? And what are your future hopes and aspirations in the field?

Ah, the inevitable decision one comes across at the end of high school - "What are you going to do with your life?" (a.k.a. - "how are you going to make money?"). I figured that everyone on earth has to eat. Hence my current profession as a fourth-year BSc Food Science student at the University of Stellenbosch. I'm hopeful that this never-ending story of food production will someday become my muse, and not a greedy money making business. I'm excited for the future of food science, not to invent the fastest machines that mass produce cheese, or to mimic the taste of salmon in artificial flavouring, but rather to celebrate, sustain and creatively use nature's gifts to nurture the nation!

 

What are your top tips for staying healthy (physically, emotionally, and mentally), especially as a busy student?

  • Take the stairs, always. 
  • Wake up 15 minutes earlier to stretch before you conquer the day.
  • Resist falling into series addiction, rather spend quality time with a neighbour. 
  • Challenge yourself to remember things without a list (okay, this usually causes havoc).
  • Read, a lot. About a lot of things. 
  • Sometimes, when all else fails, it is okay to call mother and rage.
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What is your favourite go-to meal after a busy day?

Crunchy green apple slices dipped in peanut butter, and plain yoghurt with sesame seeds dusted with cinnamon, often carries me through between meals. A mouthful, yes. A soft poached egg and perfectly ripe avocado can also lift me out of any kind of predicament... 

 

What is your favourite recreational activity? What do you enjoy doing to wind down?

I read cookbooks to clear my mind (just to fill it with crazy ideas for new recipes again). I enjoy exercising, especially outside, and even more so when it's raining! A cup of common English breakfast tea, alongside my mother in her garden - this is my happy place. 

 

And tips and advice for those who are interested in studying food science?

Food Science is an interesting field of study that very few people know about. This is funny because every single person who purchases food or beverage items at any retail store is relying on food scientists make sure that their food doesn't make them sick! And have you ever thought about how the milk from the udder of a cow made it into the bottle you buy from the shops? As food science students, we do not learn how to debone a chicken, nor how to cook pasta to perfection. We actually learn how to preserve foods, at what temperature lethal bugs get killed, how to improve the shelf life of products, and let me tell you in real life, the people in charge of quality and safety have a lot of paperwork to do! There is also the new product development side of things, where interesting flavours, textures, sweet replacements (hello sugar tax!) and any kind of flashy food product that'll attract mamma's eye on the shelf are created. I believe, however, that the science of food stretches far beyond just that. I'm truly excited to see where this field of study will take me.

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What inspired you to create this recipe?

I have a bit of an obsession with beans (well, actually an obsession with food in general...). The bean is such a versatile, nutrient-packed little champ and is surprisingly affordable for my wally! The student budget sometimes gets me down. Ai man, why is tahini SO expensive?! Beans effortlessly create texture and flavour, and are very filling. I like to tamper with traditional recipes, which are often not too kind to the waistline, and try to make them a little bit healthier. The look on people's faces when they taste a creamy, cacao moose made from avo. "Wait, what, there's green stuff in here?".

These recipes were inspired by my bean obsession and a love for indulgence. Cupcakes, muffins, and pancakes are all proven to satisfy the soul (hello comfort food!). Sadly, these munchies are typically not very nutritious and often eaten in excess. Life is way too short not to indulge. Stuffed butter bean pancake for lunch anyone? (This recipe will have to be shared in another post sometime soon!). So how about a too-good-to-be-true red kidney bean cupcake? My brother, Frikkie will wholeheartedly answer, NO. Well, what he doesn't know will only do him good! Honestly, the bean substitute can hardly be recognized in the cupcakes and hey, nowadays one can just mention "HIGHER IN PROTEIN" and most people will pay attention :)

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A few final words...

When you struggle to sleep at night because you decide how to spice up yesterday's leftovers to create a new dish, then you know, you're passionate about food ;) Food brings people together. Stories and troubles are shared around the dinner table. Every meal you get to share with your loved ones is a gift. I truly appreciate this small pleasure God created for mankind - food. I'm proud to say I'm a friend of this lovely lady, Kirstin Mapstone and very excited about her blog, Taste and See. I dream of blogging someday myself. I urgently need to share the wonderful things that keep me awake at night with the world! :)

Ok so now it's time to share the recipe! If you give these a try please tag @tasteandseeblog so we can see your pics :) 


Recipe

Red Kidney Bean Muffins

Total time: 40min

Makes: 4 muffins

Ingredients

Dry ingredients:

  • 50 ml Whole wheat, stone ground flour
  • 50 ml ground flax seed
  • 50 ml quinoa flour
  • 50 ml good quality baking cacao (I used NOMU)
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • A handful of chopped nuts (I used almonds)
  • * Optionally, add 50 ml fine beetroot to the mix. I had pulp leftover from the juicer and decided to add it for extra moisture and colour!

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 15 ml honey, in a runny form
  • 1/2 can (± 200 g) red kidney beans, with the brine

For the optional frosting:

  • Cream cheese
  • Honey
  • Strawberries

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Coat your muffin pan with coconut oil, or line with baking paper.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. In a blender mix together the half can of beans, with the brine, together with the eggs and honey until well blended. The optional beetroot can be added in this step too.
  5. Carefully fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the nuts, mix for a turn or two.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25 min
  7. Remove from the oven when done and allow to cool before eating

To make into cupcakes:

  1. Mix cream cheese in a bowl, swirl in honey to taste.
  2. For some variety, blend fresh strawberries in with the cream cheese.
  3. PASTE the muffins with frosting to make delicious cupcakes.Don't be stingy!

Notes:

  • If you can't get a hold of quinoa flour, add more wheat flour.
  • If you aren't able to tolerate gluten/wheat, substitute the wheat flour with a gluten-free alternative. If you give this a try please let me know so that I can update the recipe accordingly :)

Apple & Blueberry Crumble

Spring has arrived here in South Africa. The warmer, sunnier weather brings about lazy weekends spent outdoors, and afternoon braais with family and friends. The change in season also brings about new fruits and flavours to incorporate into our food. Although it's still a bit early, blueberries will be in season in no time at all, and when the time comes you're going to want to give this recipe a try. This wholesome, healthier take on the classic apple crumble makes use of fresh fruit, with a little bit of 100% fruit juice for sweetness, and the crumble topping includes oats, nuts, and honey. You'll end up with a soft filling with the most delicious golden crust. In fact, you can keep the leftovers, if there are any, and enjoy them with plain yoghurt for breakfast the next day :) Before I share the recipe, here's a little bit of info about two of the main ingredients. 

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Blueberries

The antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables became an area of ever-increasing interest following numerous studies that have shown a relation between an increased fruit and vegetable intake and a lower risk of developing a number of degenerative diseases [1]. This protective effect of plant foods has largely been attributed to their phytochemical antioxidant content, and their ability to protect biological systems (such as our bodies) against damage that can be caused by oxidative stress [1]. Our bodies are able to produce their own antioxidants to protect us against inflammation, infection, premature ageing, and heart disease, however, we still need to give them a bit of a boost by eating antioxidant-containing foods [2]. An increased intake of antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables has been shown to benefit heart health,  improved eyesight, and better memory [3].

So how does this relate to blueberries? Well, when compared to many other fruits and vegetables, blueberries have been ranked as one of the best in terms of antioxidant content [3]. Despite many years of research, the role that blueberry phenolics play in antioxidant defence within the body still remains unclear, however, there is still much interest in determining the exact role that this berry plays in promoting health and preventing disease. In addition to beneficial antioxidants, blueberries provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, and copper [3]. One cup of blueberries can provide 31 percent of the DRI for vitamin C, 16 percent for dietary fibre, and 7 percent for vitamin E [4].

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Blueberries were traditionally dried and used to combat diarrhoea and food poisoning from as early as the Middle Ages [2]. Today, medical research has shown that such remedies have a scientific basis, as blueberries contain anthocyanins, which act as antibacterials against bacteria such as E. coli, which cause of many gastrointestinal disruptions [2]. Furthermore, blueberries may help combat recurrent cystitis, which is caused by bacteria that travel up the urethra into the bladder, causing inflammation and infection that can be incredibly uncomfortable [2]. Blueberries contain substances that prevent infectious bacteria from adhering to the mucous membranes of the urinary tract, stopping them from travelling up the urethra and into the bladder, thus preventing infection [2].

On the culinary side, blueberries are naturally quite sweet, and thus do not need to be cooked with lots of sugar to make them tasty to eat, unlike many other berries that can be incredibly tart and hard to eat on their own [2]. Blueberries are small and firm, with a blue-black skin and a light interior [5]. They are delicious when eaten with some fresh plain yoghurt and homemade granola, in smoothies, in baked goods, and even as an addition to a fresh salad.  If you want to watch a cool video about some more interesting ways that you can use blueberries, check out this link.

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Apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Have you ever wondered why this old saying rings true? Depending on the freshness and variety, apples are a good source of vitamin C, which plays a role as an antioxidant in the body and helps to keep your immune system in check [2]. Apples have been recommended for ages as a remedy to combat constipation, thanks to their  dietary fibre content, containing both soluble and insoluble fibre [2]. Numerous studies have been done on apples and have associated them with reducing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, weight management, preventing the development of heart disease, promoting gut health, and managing cholesterol levels

An apple is one of the best healthy snacks. Although experts agree that excessive consumption of sugar is one of the major contributors to obesity, and low-carb dieters everywhere are actively avoiding eating fruit at all cost, I don't believe that whole, fresh, unprocessed fruits should be placed in the same category as sweets, fruit juice, and sugar-sweetened beverages. As explained in this New York Times article, fruits contain a bounty of beneficial antioxidants and healthful nutrients, and their cellular structure, which is largely composed of what we know as dietary fibre, makes us feel full, helps to maintain healthy bowel function, and provides numerous metabolic benefits [6]. In fact, the fibre that makes up the bulk of a fresh apple helps to slow down the absorption of the sugars contained in the fruit, giving the body more time to metabolise them than if you consume processed fruit juice [6].

Apples are one of the most abundant fruits and can pretty much be found on supermarket shelves and at farmer's markets at any time of the year. Apples are convenient, flavoursome, versatile, and affordable, making them one of the most commonly appreciated fruits out there [5]. Apples can be eaten raw or used in a variety of different cooked and baked dishes, such as this crumble. It's always a good idea to wash apples just before consumption or use to remove any pesticide residues that may be present, but don't peel them as their peels contain a lot of beneficial dietary fibre.

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Ok, so now it's time to share the recipe :) It's served me well at a number of braais and get-togethers with friends, so I hope that you enjoy it! If you give it a try remember to tag @tasteandseeblog or use #tasteandseeblog so that I can check it out :)


Recipe

Serves 8

Total time: 1h 15min

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 6 medium sized apples (pink lady, golden delicious, or granny smith are great)
  • 1 cup 100% apple or pear juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (adjust to taste)
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

For the crumble topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats (look for certified GF if sensitive to gluten)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans or almonds, roughly chopped

Method

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C

For the filling:

  1. Wash the apples before chopping them into large wedges, removing the core, and leaving the skin on.
  2. Place the apples into a large pot, along with the apple juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Cook over a medium heat for 25 minutes. Leave the lid on the pot for the first 10 minutes to allow the apples to 'sweat' a bit, and release moisture. Stir the mixture occasionally. Remove from the heat as soon as the apples become soft and start to collapse.
  3. Add the blueberries to the pot to the apple mixture after removing the pot from the heat. Mix together before transferring to a suitable sized baking dish.

To make the crumble:

  1. Combine all of the crumble ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. If you don't have a food processor, just mix everything together until nicely combined. Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the filling.
  2. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and crispy on top.
  3. Remove from the oven and serve whilst warm with some ice cream, yoghurt, or cream :)

References

[1] Kalt W, Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B. Blueberries and Human Health: A Review of Current Research. J Am Pomological Soc. 2007 Jul;61(3):151-60.

[2] Clasen L, Kramer P, McWhirter A, editors. Food's That Harm, Foods That Heal. 2nd ed. South Africa: Heritage Publishers (Pty) Limited; 2000. 400 p.

[3] Payne TJ. Formulating with Blueberries. Cereal Foods World. 2005 Sep/Oct;50(5):262-4.

[4] New World Encyclopaedia [Internet]. Blueberry; 2016 Jun 14 [cited 2016 Oct 2]. Available from: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Blueberry#Culinary_uses_and_health_benefits.

[5] Labensky SR, Hause AM, Priscilla AM. On Cooking. 5th ed. UK: Pearson; 2015.1219 p.

[6] Egan S. Making the Case for Eating Fruit. The New York Times. [Internet]. 2013 Jul 31 [cited 2016 Oct 2]. Available from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/making-the-case-for-eating-fruit/?_r=0. 

Banana & Pecan Muffins

If I told my younger self that I would eat bananas someday, she would think I’m being a bit crazy. I used to absolutely HATE bananas. Just the thought of having to touch one, or even worse, open one and be subject to its smell, would make me gag. Although I’m not quite at the point where I can unwrap a banana and eat it just as it is, I am a big fan of including this magnificent fruit in many different recipes. I love mashing banana and adding it to a hot bowl of oats, along with cinnamon, vanilla, and nuts. Bananas make smoothies super creamy, and they add moisture and natural sweetness to baked products, so they are the perfect ingredient to include in muffins, cookies, or breakfast flapjacks (my recipe for the last item on that list should be on its way to the blog soon).

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake. Making it in a muffin form is pretty great for helping with portion control :) My tummy doesn’t like wheat very much, so pretty much all of the foods I bake have to be wheat-free. This recipe makes use of coconut flour, which can be quite a tricky substitute to use as it absorbs up to four times as much water as regular flour, but after a bit of experimenting, I managed to get the ratio correct for these muffins. These are the best afternoon snack, especially when topped with a teaspoon of nut butter or tahini (which is basically sesame seed 'butter') and accompanied by a nice cup of tea.

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Bananas

Bananas are nature’s most amazing packaged fruit. Bananas don't actually grow on trees, but on plants that are actually classified as the world's largest herb. Bananas are generally picked when they are still green and begin to ripen during transportation, storage, and when on display in the shops. When purchasing bananas, base your choice on when you intend to consume them. Green bananas will take longer to ripen than those that are yellow. Bananas should be allowed to ripen at room temperature, as putting them in the fridge can halt the ripening process entirely. Should you wish to speed up the ripening process, add bananas to a paper bag along with an apple, and allow to sit for a day or two. 

Bananas are a great source of potassium, which is essential for proper nerve and muscle function, which includes cardiac muscle function [1]. Potassium also plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure [1]. One medium-sized banana contains approximately 3 g of fibre, which plays an important role in regulating and maintaining regular bowel function, preventing constipation, and helping you feel fuller for longer [2]. Make sure to eat ripe bananas though, as unripe bananas contain ‘resistant’ starch, which can’t be digested in the body properly and often ends up being fermented by bacteria in the colon, resulting in gas and bloating [1]. 

Bananas are a great energy-boosting food. They contain carbohydrates in the form of fast-releasing sugars that your body is able to use for energy, making them especially beneficial as a pre- or post-workout snack [2]. Having mentioned this, I can’t fail to mention that although they are a great source of potassium, energy, fibre, and more, bananas are not the best choice for some people, including those with insulin resistance or diabetes. Because of the fact that bananas contain quite a significant amount of natural sugars and carbohydrates in the absence of fats and proteins, they are able to quickly spike blood sugar levels, and thus have a high glycaemic index [2]. If you are a diabetic, struggle with insulin sensitivity, or have trouble managing your blood sugar levels, it might be a better idea to stay away from bananas, but if you are an active, otherwise healthy individual, don’t be afraid to add them to your diet. For a whole lot more banana info, check out this page. For some really random facts about bananas, check out this website :)

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is a great gluten-free, low-carbohydrate flour that can be used in many different baked goods. Not only is it high in fibre, good healthy fats, and protein, but it is relatively low in total calories and has a low glycaemic index [3]. It also gives baked products a subtle ‘coconutty’ taste, which adds a yummy dimension to their taste. How is it made? Well coconut flour is simply dried, ground coconut meat (that’s the white stuff attached to the inside of a coconut’s hard outer shell). Why exactly is coconut flour such so tricky to work with, often ending up in a very dry product? As mentioned earlier, coconut flour absorbs a whole lot of liquid, and it does this because of its very high fibre content. Here’s a bit of a comparison between coconut flour and typical refined white flour to put the nutrient profile of coconut flour into perspective [4].

2 Tbsp coconut flour

  • 62 kcal
  • 5 g fat
  • 8 g carbohydrates (all from fibre)
  • 1 g sugar
  • 4 g protein 

2 Tbsp refined white flour

  • 55 kcal
  • 0 g fat
  • 5 g carbohydrates (0 from fibre)
  • 0 g sugar
  • 1 g protein 

As you can see, coconut flour has a lot to offer. It is high in nutrients, high in fibre, and is very unlikely to cause any digestive or autoimmune responses like many other grain flours [3]. If you’re interested in reading up about the benefits of coconut in relation to health promotion and disease prevention take some time to read this study.

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Recipe

Makes 12 muffins

Total time: 1h 30min

Ingredients

  • 400 g (very) ripe bananas
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste/extract/powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (see notes)

Method

  1. Set your oven to preheat on 160 degrees C (150 degrees C for a fan-forced oven).
  2. Place the bananas, eggs, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecan nuts, coconut oil, and baking powder in your food processor or blender. Blend until well combined.
  3. Add the coconut flour and chia seeds and mix through by hand. Allow the mixture to rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the coconut flour and chia seeds to absorb moisture.
  4. Lightly oil a muffin pan that can make 12 muffins and line with baking paper Divide the muffin batter between the muffin tins, top with some chopped pecan nuts, and place in the oven.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a skewer comes out of the centre clean. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving. Store in the fridge (not at ambient temperature) for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • The 1/4 cup chia seeds can be replaced with 1/8 cup chia seeds and 1/8 cup ground flaxseeds to decrease the overall cost of the recipe.
  • I generally use a silicone muffin 'pan' that is lightly oiled so that I don't need to use baking paper in each of the muffin holes.
  • If the muffins are over-browning but are not yet cooked through, cover with tinfoil and continue baking.

References

[1] Clasen L, Kramer P, McWhirter A, editors. Food's That Harm, Foods That Heal. 2nd ed. South Africa: Heritage Publishers (Pty) Limited, 2000. 400 p.

[2] Axe J. Banana Nutrition, Benefits, Concerns & Recipes [Internet]. [cited 31 Aug 2016]. Available from: https://draxe.com/banana-nutrition/ 

[3] Axe J. Coconut Flour Nutrition, Benefits & How to Use it! [Internet]. [cited 31 Aug 2016]. Available from: https://draxe.com/coconut-flour-nutrition/

[4] Hill M. Coconut Flour Crepe-cakes [Internet]. 2013 [cited 31 Aug 2016]. Available from: http://nutritionstripped.com/coconut-flour-crepe-cakes/