Gingerbread Granola

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Americans always have funny names for things don’t they? Biscuits are “cookies”, soft drink is “soda” and lollies are “candy”! I soon learned that what the Americans call “granola” is what we Aussies call “toasted muesli”! Well, wherever you’re from and whatever you call it, we can all agree that granola tastes amazing!

I have to admit, granola is not something I generally eat because the store-bought stuff is usually super high in sugar and fat and let’s face it, I eat enough sugar and fat in one day so I don’t need any extra at breakfast. But I love the stuff! I’m a big fan of anything crispy, crunchy, cereal-y and nutty. Luckily, I came across a post on Pinterest of gingerbread flavoured granola and I knew I had to try it! Everything ginger reminds me of being a kid and visiting my favourite Auntie and Uncle who would always have a container of Arnotts biscuits waiting for us when we arrived – my choice was of course Gingernuts! I also love chocolate-covered ginger, ginger cake and I always make gingerbread for Christmas. So I was very excited to add one of my favourite spices to a long-lost breakfast love!

As this was my first time making granola, I wasn’t sure of exact measurements and wasn’t fussed with making it super healthy. Consequently, I just threw everything in a bowl and made use of whatever ingredients I had to make this batch. Next time I will probably substitute the golden syrup with rice malt syrup or honey and add a variety of different nuts, this is just what I had on hand. Feel free to use whatever you like! And if you like ginger as much as me, you may want to add more spices to this recipe (including more ginger and mixed spice) as mine didn’t come out quite as spicy as I would have liked!

Anyway, have fun making this granola or any version you like with added dried fruit, peanut butter or shaved coconut. The possibilities are endless! I plan to enjoy this for breakfast with greek yoghurt and some baked peaches 🙂

 

Gingerbread Granola (makes about 4 cups)

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups mixed nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)

1/3 cup golden syrup

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

 

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and spread on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper or a silicon cookie tray. Bake for about 15 minutes at 180 C, mixing several times (depending on your oven, just check to see how brown the granola is getting).  Don’t be too worried if mixture looks a little wet when you take it out, it will dry up as it cools down. Then eat!

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The Perfect Diet

Atkins, candida, low-fructose, raw food, gluten-free, high protein – I wonder, how many different types of diets exist and which one is perfect for everyone? Some of us have probably tried one, two or all of these diets in a bid to make a change in our health, whether it be for weight loss or to battle illness. Personally, I have dabbled in at least three of these diets over the years and have not found complete success with any of them. But just take a look online and you can be sure to find thousands of people who can advocate for the benefits of each one. At the same time there are thousands of people who claim that none of these diets work. With so many mixed messages, how is someone like me meant to figure out what’s best?

Over years of experimentation with raw food, low carbs, gluten free and the like, I have discovered that there is no popular diet that is perfect for everyone.  While one diet is perfect for one person, it may be harmful for the next. The problem is, there are so many diets now accessible online that people simply download a plan, follow it exactly and expect results. And they may get those results. But there are always those who don’t and that is because if a diet is not personalised, it is likely to fail. To find the perfect diet for you, it’s about being conscious of how your body responds to certain foods. I discovered early on that dried fruit was a no-go for me when I ate half a bag of dried apricots and ended up doubled over in pain from bloating and gastrointestinal issues. The same thing happens to me when I eat grapes and too much ice-cream. Both dried fruit and grapes are very high in fructose while ice-cream is high in lactose so I put two and two together and decided that I probably have some sort of sugar intolerance. As a result, I  avoid the kinds of sweet foods which lead to those gastrointestinal issues.  Interestingly, I have no problems drinking freshly squeezed juice, eating wheat and various other high-sugar fruit and vegetables which may have negative effects for others following a low FODMAPS diet. So it’s really about discovering what works for you.

As a general rule, fresh, unprocessed foods and plenty of water is the foundation of a great diet. From there, it’s all about experimentation to find out what foods and meals work best for your digestive system, energy levels and palate! Recording how your body responds after each meal is a fantastic way to pinpoint some of the foods that could be potentially contributing to great health or ill health. And my final tip: the perfect diet is the one that makes you feel good on the inside and look good on the outside! x

Mini Coconut Brown Rice Puddings with Fig

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Before a few months ago, I had never eaten a fig. Fresh, dried or otherwise, this fruit always seemed to elude me. I had never seen it in a grocery store until recently and at the occasional time I saw it on a menu, I would ignore it in favour of fruits like pear or apple – safe and delicious! However, I was forced to finally try figs when I went out for breakfast with the BF one day to a hip, little backyard cafe called Cafe Komodo. The fruit from the “pancakes with fruit” I ordered turned out to be dried figs, served with cute pikelet-sized pancakes, maple syrup and a small scoop of ice cream. Granted, it wasn’t the healthiest breakfast I had that week but the dried figs were a perfect addition and from then on, I decided to give figs a fighting chance!

Unfortunately, fresh figs are pretty uncommon in my local grocery stores, so when I found a packet in Woolworths I had to snap it up! I thought my first time trying a fresh fig would be amazing. It was bland and boring! I’m not one to waste though, so I set about discovering all the ways I might cook up the six pint-sized figs before they shrivelled up and died.

So here’s a simple dessert recipe using only a few ingredients! I adapted the recipe from [http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2011/08/recipe-gluten-free-fig-gateau-de-riz.html] – I swapped the brown sugar for rice malt syrup as I am trying to reduce my fructose intake and I used silicon moulds to bake the puddings in for portion control. I also used a steamed sachet of brown rice which only took 90 seconds to steam in the microwave. This takes all the hassle out of cooking rice on the stove if you’re in a hurry! This recipe would probably work with quinoa and chia added in to the rice as well. Overall, these mini desserts are low in fat, sugars and GI and so make a perfect treat for the health-conscious. They are not terribly sweet so I would suggest drizzling a bit of rice malt syrup over them to serve. Hope you enjoy!

Mini Coconut Brown Rice Puddings with Fig (makes 7 small puddings)

Ingredients

1/2 can of full-cream coconut milk

250g cooked brown rice (I used Sunrice Organic Brown Rice Steamed Rice Sachet)

2 eggs

1 tbsp rice malt syrup

2 small figs, sliced into 7

Directions

1. Steam your rice in the microwave if using a rice sachet. Otherwise, just put your cooked brown rice in a bowl.

2. In another bowl, mix the coconut milk, eggs and rice malt syrup until well combined.

3. Pour milk mixture over cooked rice and stir.

4. Pour rice batter into 7 silicon moulds (sit the moulds in a muffin tray) and top each with slice of fig.

5. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180 C until golden brown. Let the puddings cool down slightly and set a little in the tray.

6. Eat hot from the moulds if you like or let the puddings cool down completely and slip off the moulds, pop the puddings on a plate and drizzle with rice malt syrup to serve. Enjoy!

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Chewy Choc Peanut Slice (Gluten, Sugar & Dairy Free!)

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I posted this recipe up on my Facebook and Instagram and I was bombarded with comments and requests for the recipe! I don’t blame y’all – this sweet treat tastes even better than it looks! The texture is a mixture of chewy, soft and crunchy thanks to the addition of chia seeds. Seriously, it’s the best thing EVER. For my overseas readers, you may not be able to get the Mayver’s products however you can just substitute with whatever brand you like. Go make it now! You won’t regret it! 

Chewy Choc Peanut Slice (makes 16 bite size pieces)

Ingredients

6 heaped tbsp chia seeds
6 heaped tbsp cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
1/3 cup natural peanut butter 
1 heaped tbsp Mayvers peanut cacao spread 
1 tbsp PB2 (if u don’t have this just add another 1/3 c of peanut butter) 
1/4 c honey
Roasted nuts, chopped (I used almonds)

Method

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a sticky paste. Spread the mixture into a thin slice tin lined with baking paper and top with nuts. Refrigerate until firm (a few hours should be fine) and slice it up into bite size pieces. Easy! 

Note: You can also use the same mixture to make bliss balls, just roll into small balls, coat with crushed nuts or coconut and refrigerate.

Mini Bento Boxes

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After my recent Asian grocery haul, there are a bunch of foods in my pantry and fridge that are perfect for creating dishes inspired by Korean and Japanese flavours. So tonight I decided to create a mini bento box-type meal combining korean sweet brown rice, boiled egg, spinach and kimchi. It’s a very simple and quick way of putting a meal together which is perfect when you don’t have a lot of time for cooking! Generally I’m not a fan of brown rice but this Korean variety has great flavour and despite what I had heard about how hard it is to cook, it turned out really well in the rice cooker! It’s surprising how filling this meal is, despite the small amounts used. The great thing about these boxes are that you can use whatever you like! In another box, I’ve gone with a more Japanese style using the same brown rice with pickled ginger, wasabi and miso flavoured egg. The possibilities are endless! A great tip I picked up was to use silicon cupcake pans to separate the different ingredients in your container 🙂 Hope you give these great mini meal boxes a try!

Mini Bento Box (Korean style)

Ingredients

Korean brown sweet rice

2 large handfuls of baby spinach

1 egg

Kimchi

Sesame seeds

Gochujang + Honey + Sesame Oil for the sauce

Method

1. Cook up some brown rice in a rice cooker (or on the stove if you know how!)

2.  While the rice cooks, boil some water. Cook an egg for a few minutes until it’s hard boiled.

3. Combine gochujang with honey and a drizzle of sesame oil to your taste.

4. When egg is cooked, remove it from boiling water but do not turn off the stove. Add your spinach and let it cook for a minute or so. Take the egg, cool it under some cold water, peel off the shell and slice in half. Drain the spinach and pop it in some cold water to stop it from cooking further. Squeeze out the extra water with your hands.

5. Assemble your bento box! Add rice first, then pop some silicon cupcake pans into your box for dividers. Fill the pans with the kimchi, and spinach topped with egg. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice and add a dollop of sauce. Eat!

To Juice or not to Juice?

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I know I’m a little late to get on this bandwagon but, how good is juicing?! A couple days ago, I was introduced to a juicer and I’ve been going mad pulverizing every kind of fruit and vegetable I can find. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how I can turn a whole apple, 3 carrots and a bunch of spinach into a small container of colourful liquid goodness, just like that! I feel like David Copperfield!

In my internet travels, I’ve read a whole lot of “don’ts” for juicing. Since when is making juice so complicated? I didn’t know there was any more to think about than throwing the food in the machine and drinking whatever comes out! But if you want to get the most out of your juice, there are apparently a few things you need to consider. Let’s see if we can separate some fact from fiction first.

1. Don’t drink juice with food – TRUE

When you take a tablet with food, the absorption of that drug is reduced as the tablet passes more slowly through the stomach and the surrounding acids destroy some of its effects. The same goes for drinking juice with food. So if you want to absorb all the nutrients from your juice, the best idea is to drink it separately from your meals, like first thing in the morning!

2. Don’t throw away the pulp – THIS DEPENDS!

When you juice fruit, the solid of the fruit becomes separated from the liquid. The solid is made up of fibres which are the undigestable components of food that pass through your bowel, keeping you “regular”. Fibre also keeps you full for longer. Anti-juicers would say juicing is not beneficial because you are throwing away the fibre, however, all the nutrients are contained in the juice and being in liquid form, are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Obviously it’s great to have fibre AND nutrients, but it’s still beneficial to drink only the juice if you want a quick vitamin/mineral hit. My advice is that juicing should not be a total substitute for eating whole fruits and vegetables, it should be a supplement to your current intake.

3. Don’t mix fruit with vegetables – FALSE

Well, in my opinion, this guideline lacks evidence. The reasoning behind not mixing fruit with vegetables seems to stem from the idea that whole fruit and vegetables are digested by different enzymes. Consequently, when you eat them at the same time, your gut goes a little crazy and has problems trying to digest both, leading to gas and bloating. Whether or not this actually occurs, it doesn’t seem relevant to juicing because juice does not require digestion. As explained above, juice is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and therefore that whole digestion process is removed. In my own experience, I have never had any gut issues drinking fruit and vegetable juice, even when drinking two glasses of juice day. But everyone is different – listen to your body and if something doesn’t make you feel good, experiment with different food combinations! I usually juice 1 fruit to 3 vegetables as a general ratio.

4. Don’t drink juice later – TRUE

When juice comes into contact with air, the nutrients and enzymes within the juice are gradually destroyed. Therefore it’s best to drink your juice immediately or pop it into an air-tight container to freeze. Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice though!

So there you have it! Whether you make juice, drink smoothies or simply eat the whole fruit or vegetable, they are all practical and delicious ways to incorporate more nutrition into your diet.

What’s the deal with sugar?

Well, hello Lover!(Chocolate Brownie by Kosal)

Well, hello Lover!(Chocolate Brownie by Kosal)

I truly admire those who have committed themselves to a sugar-free lifestyle, but for the rest of us who have taste buds that are still functioning like ordinary people, a bit of sweetness is a necessity. Just jokes guys, you sugar-free people are ordinary too…but maybe more like, EXTRAordinary!

Sugar has got a pretty bad rap, and for good reason. It’s nutritionally equivalent to eating a cardboard box. It provides no nutrients. But when it comes down to choosing between a cardboard box and a teaspoon of sugar for lunch, I’m pretty sure the sugar is going to win, and not just because it is an actual food source. LOL.

Sugar makes your mouth say “yay!”. It’s the difference between throwing your cereal in the bin and being so addicted to it that you eat it from the box without any milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner (guilty!). So yes, it can be a little dangerous. Especially because, unlike cardboard, it contains calories which, in excess, lead to weight gain and a variety of related health problems. Don’t even get me started on what it can do to your teeth! There’s a reason it’s “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and not a teaspoon of sugar. Yep, Mary Poppins knows her stuff. The value of sugar lies in its ability to increase the palatability of not just medicine, but anything!

While I do like to eat food that tastes good, I, like the rest of you, are probably interested in how we can reduce the negative health effects of sugar. Years ago, the variety of sugars on the market were pretty standard (white, brown, artificial sweeteners like Equal), however today there is much more on offer and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is the best to use. Let’s take a brief look at what sugars are currently on the market and if there really is any difference health-wise between the different types.

First of all, we can sort the sugars into three major categories: processed, artificial, natural.

Processed sugars are the refined sugars you see sold in bags or paper parcels such as white sugar, caster sugar or brown sugar. They have undergone some kind of chemical processing or refining and will have a medium GI rating (65), i.e. these sugars will cause a moderate rise in blood sugar levels and are quickly digested. The exception is with the sugar alcohols which have almost no effect on blood sugar, therefore have GI ratings of 12 or less.

Other types: Demerara or Turbinado sugar (partially refined), Sucanat (sugar cane), Stevia, “raw” sugar, Xylitol & Sorbitol (sugar alcohols).

Artificial sweeteners are chemical compounds sold in little sachets, in boxes or tablet forms and include brands such as Equal & Splenda. The reason they are so small in volume is due to the fact that artificial sweeteners are sometimes over 100 times sweeter than regular sugar, so less of it is needed to recreate the same amount of sweetness. They have no effect on blood sugar levels and are therefore useful for diabetes sufferers, as well as very low in calories.

Other types: Sweet N Low, Nutrasweet, Sugarine.

Natural sugars are those that are derived from natural sources and have undergone no processing, such as raw honey, maple syrup or agave. They generally have a medium to low GI rating (54 or less).

Other types: Palm sugar, rapadura sugar, coconut sugar.

Now I’m not going to go into every type of sugar and tell you what it’s good for or if it’s not good at all. The general idea here is that the more processed a sugar is, the more it will cause blood sugar levels to rise (which is not cool for people with Diabetes) and also means there are greater amounts of nasty chemicals involved. Therefore, naturally (no pun intended), it would be logical to choose a sugar that is less processed.

However, before you throw all of the white sugar out of your house, keep this in mind:

  • Processed sugars have a medium GI rating, not high. In fact, wholemeal bread has a HIGHER GI than sugar. So if all you’re worried about is your blood sugar, you’d be better off worrying about how much bread you’re eating, rather than how much sugar you’re eating. Especially since the amount of bread people eat daily is much greater than the amount of sugar they consume (you would hope!).
  • Natural sugars do have nutrients, as opposed to processed sugars, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much as opposed to eating other nutrient-rich foods. It’s still a better alternative to processed sugars, but it’s not going to make a huge difference in your overall nutrition. You should make sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables if nutrients are your concern.
  • Stevia, although being touted as all-natural, IS processed. That is, unless you are using the leaves or have found a 100% natural source of it on the shelves. Always check the labels! However, I still rate it as a good sugar because it is low in GI and calories. And the Japanese have used it for centuries – you know it’s good if the Japanese use it!
  • The sugar alcohols like Xylitol can have some nasty side effects with overconsumption, such as diarrhoea. I don’t know about you, but any product which lists “laxative effect” as a warning isn’t getting my vote.

My conclusion is: as Mary Poppins so melodically recognised, “sugar helps the medicine go down” – its main use is for palatability, not nutrition. So when it comes to choosing which sugar to use, make your decision based on which flavour you prefer but also, it’s always a good idea to choose natural forms of sugar because you can avoid all the added chemicals. And look at what you are adding the sugar to – adding a couple of teaspoons of sugar to your oatmeal is very different to adding the same amount to a batch of chocolate chip muffins. If weight control is your concern, then artificial sweeteners may be a good choice in the short term. Essentially, if you are consuming sugar in limited to moderate amounts and combining it with other nutritious foods, you can avoid any health repercussions and still lead a sweet existence!

What do you all think?