A foodie fiesta.

March 15, 2011 § 9 Comments

Greetings!

Hope you’re all kicking it health-warrior style.

I’ve been feeling quite deflated, listless and sad to my soul as the horrific events in Japan continue to unfold.

As President Obama put it in a recent address, it is utterly heartbreaking to contemplate the scale of destruction and loss of life (both human, and critter) that has resulted from yet another natural disaster. I feel sick. Unsettled. What happens to them happens to all of us, because despite those imaginary borders we create with language (country, nation, race) we are ultimately one. Made of the same stuff, tied to the same earth.

I cannot fathom how people cope with such events, but I send my thoughts anyway.

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Over the weekend my friends from college and I got together to revel in our mutual lust for tasty food and culinary experimentation. I thought I’d share some pictures with you, and encourage you all to consider having your closest buddies around to bond over dinner; there is something special about dinner parties that cannot be recreated at a restaurant or club. And you might just snag an awesome recipe or two to add your repertoire!

We congregated at the completely charming abode of Jack, then enigmatic face behind The Batchelor Blog and proceeded to stuff ourselves silly.

I was a little late to the party, and was presented with this plate full of love on arrival. Pre-plated entrée? I can deal.

There are a number of different cultural influences in our class and so the three course meal contained a medley of mouth-blowing flavours and textures. Two Japanese girls made the most amazing sticky rice and seaweed condiments I have ever tasted, and there were homemade dips, german crackers, greek lentils and italian goodies galore!

Jack made an amazing ginger ale by reducing some fresh ginger and honey in a pot, adding some fizz and fresh mint for good measure! Zzzzzzzing!

Kitchen full of wannabe chefs.

Goofing around on the dimly-lit stairs.

My contribution: raw zucchini & carrot noodles with a delicious asian dressing from Gina at Choosing Raw.

Also, raw banana pie for dessert!

I layered some delectable honey-roasted almond butter on the bottom of the crock and then used some banana soft-serve as the filling.

Process 2-3 frozen bananas until creamy, and add in some extra nut butter, cinnamon and honey if your sweet tooth desires. Freeze. Get your saliva on.

This house is FILLED with character.

Posting your laundry on the interwebs, soz Jack.

Our Italian connection Alessandra, made this insanely fresh and flavourful pasta dish with broccoli, garlic and chili that is not done justice by the crummy photo.

And the grand finale! Flourless orange and almond cake. Holy Bethlehem, this was incredible.


Such a tasty evening. Thankyou, friends!

Your guide to the sugary axis of evil.

March 11, 2011 § 19 Comments

Well hello there!

Hope you’re enjoying this magnificent Friday! It’s my one day off from both college & work, so I am smushing as much as humanly possible into the waking hours. It’s glorious to have a whole day to fawn over food, stare at the sea and open random chapters in my nutrition textbook that look vaguely interesting. Not exactly efficient study, but the book and my eyes are simultaneously open so that’s a win, right?

You know what else fat-ass nutrition books are good for?

Strength training!

I am officially too cheap to fork out my spare change for a gym visit, so I’ve taken to creative strength-training in the comfort of my lounge room! Nothing will ever replace a gym sesh, and I dearly miss sweating, grimacing and grunting in front of an audience of buffcore dudes… However textbook squats, armchair leg-curls (releasing & retracting the recliner foot-rest) and early morning sit-ups (hauling ass out of bed) are meeting my extensive body-building needs nicely.

Moving on from my rippling biceps, I thought i’d stun two birds with one stone (no animals were killed in the making of this cliché) and write a post on sugars and artificial sweeteners that may also help me cement it in my tiny walnut brain!

Y’all already know my opinion on artificial anything. If it’s powdered, processed or packaged, it probably won’t vibe with your insides. Your body doesn’t recognise number 950 or colour 245 or white powdery flour, so it will either react, store it in some unpleasant way or alter its physiological function to cope.

Real food

Often, artificial sweeteners cause the body to respond in ways that oppose our original intention. You may buy a diet soda with zero sugar to save on calories, but because your body is receiving a substance without an energy pay-off you may end up eating more later to ‘compensate’. Not to mention many artificial sweeteners have a questionable safety status. If something is a potential neurotoxin and causes rats to grow ears on their toes, I sure as hell don’t want anything to do with it. No thank you, huge-junk-food-corporations-who-are-funding-their-own-scientific-studies. No. Thank. You.

Axis of evil board of directors:

  • Aspartame (number 951)

Aspartame is made through the combination of two amino acids, Phenylalanine and Aspartic acid, with methanol. It is commonly used to sweeten drinks, desserts, chewing gum, cookies and bakery goods. Nutra-Sweet and Equal are brand names for Aspartame. It has around 4kcal/g which is the same as sucrose, however it is 180-200 sweeter and thus less needs to be used. From the website of Dr. Mercola, “Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death.” Mmmmm tasty. People with PKU (a genetic disorder in which individuals cannot metabolise Phenylalanine) must also avoid this sweetener, and the rest of us would be wise to as well. Studies have linked it’s consumption even at ‘safe intakes’ to an increase in incidence in lymphomas and leukaemias in rats, not to mention the fact that when combined in the small intestine with the enzyme chymotrypsin, methanol is released and breaks down into formaldehyde (that’s a neurotoxin FYI!). I could go on, but I think you’re getting the idea.

More real food!

  • Acesulphame-K (number 950)

Also known as Sweet ‘n Safe (how benign) and is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. It is usually combined with Aspartame to give a more palatable flavour and contributes no calories as it is not digested by the body. It the U.S, it is approved for use in yoghurts, chewing gums, gelatins, drink mixers, puddings, baked goods, candy, lozengers etc. Concerns have been raised about it’s status as a possible carcinogen (linked with lung and breast cancer especially) and negative effects on cholesterol levels. This was a nice little tid-bit of information I found; “To add to the supposed Acesulfame potassium dangers, its manufacture consists of several substances and one of them is Methylene chloride. This very agent is employed in industries as paint stripper and as a de-greaser or propellant agent.” Doesn’t that just make you want to throw back a cold diet bevvo?

  • Cyclamate (number 952)

It is 30-50 times sweeter than sugar, but is often used synergistically with other sweeteners for a more appealing flavour. Regularly used in cordials and soft-drinks, it is currently banned for use in the US (but 55 other countries still approve it as an additive). Studies linked it’s consumption to increased risk of bladder cancer in rats, however an appeal has been lodged by manufacturers to lift the ban as they have been unable to reproduce the negative effects in subsequent trials. Funny that.

My kinda schweet

  • Saccharin (number 954)

Saccharin, also known as Sweet and Low, is the oldest alternative sweetener and is approximately 300 times sweeter than sucrose. It is made from crude oil (are you drooling?) and has similar properties and effects to Cyclamate (which is banned, remember?). Studies have also linked it to an increased risk of bladder cancer, yet they were later labeled ‘weak’ and ‘inconclusive’. Inconclusive does not buy my trust, paid-off pseudo-scientists! It is generally used as a table-top sweetener as is becomes bitter through heating.

  • Sucralose (number 955)

Sucralose is what we know as Splenda, and is over 600 times sweeter than sucrose! You’ll find it in all the usual suspects; drinks, chewing gum, jams, frozen dairy desserts, sauces and syrups. It is at least based upon a recognisable substance (sugar which has been chlorinated) however it has possible implications for the thymus and many believe it has not been adequately researched as it is seen as more ‘natural’. I found this about it’s absorption in the body; “The absorbed sucralose has been found to concentrate in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract. According to The Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, sucralose is broken down “into small amounts of 1,6-dichlorofructose, a chemical which has not been adequately tested in humans.” A big fat hmmmmm.


I’m going to leave it at that today, as these are the main baddies in that big mouth-puckeringly sweet charade. That, and my font has gone bananas and I can’t fix it. Yikes.

I’d be interested to hear how many people knew about these sweeteners and their implications, as I sure as hell didn’t realise the extent of their collective eeeevil before studying it in nutrition.

Au revoir for now!

Honey-roasted Almond Butter

March 9, 2011 § 11 Comments

In the spirit of posting recipes like a champ, here is that drool-worthy almond butter recipe that I promised you. Please note the duration between aforementioned promise and delivery <one week. Win!

I also have a small confession to make…

This batch was really obstinate. After 1 hour, 200 expletives and a smoking food processor later, it STILL did not cream like the first lot. I stood over it as it skidded about in the barrel, refusing to release its precious oils, alternating between gentle coaxing ‘Come on! You can do it! Almost there!’ and explosive bursts of insults ‘You call yourself a gourmet butter!? I shoulda made PEANUT!’.

It was immune to my attacks, and I eventually admitted defeat. (Not the first time Almond butter has gotten the better of me!)

I’m pretty sure the reason for the semi-fail was to do with roasting time. Please roast your nuts properly before processing! I became much too impatient and removed this batch from the oven prematurely, and I think that spelled nutty disaster.

I know this recipe can be great, because the other day when I made it it worked a treat. So just keep yer mitts out of the oven and you’ll be cleaning almond butter from your ears in no time! (It’s a whole body affair).

Honey-roasted Almond Butter

(Inspired by, and adapted from Ashley’s Roasted Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter)

  • 3 c raw almonds (pesticide free if you can!)
  • 4 T organic honey
  • 1 T extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 t celtic sea salt

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Line a tray with baking paper and add almonds, coating with 4 T honey. Bake for ~15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Watch them like a crazed hawk as they can start to burn in an instant, if not given enough attention (high maintenance baking).

Invest in colourful, fun-sized jars; arrange casually on bench. Oh hey, camera!

Pull out your almonds, but not too soon! They will be a huge sticky conglomeration of lurrrve. Allow to cool for 10-20 minutes, or until rock solid. Speaking of rock solid, I should warn you that at this stage the nuts will be…rock solid. Grab a spatula, put your back into it, and chisel the nuts off the paper. Place in food processor and blend for around 15 minutes, until it has gone through the various stages of compliance (better explained here).

You will know when it is ready. You’ll hear a dainty little almond-like sigh of defeat, and the butter will become smooth, shiny and drippy. At this stage, add the coconut oil, salt and cinnamon and whiz to combine.

Spoon into a worthy vessel and debate whether you REALLY wanted to send this off to a friend/family-member/co-worker.

Didn’t think so.

😀

Enjoy your night! x


Happy International Women’s Day & raw banana pie recipe.

March 8, 2011 § 14 Comments

I’m generally a punctual, reliable and downright conscientious individual.

With recipes however, an evil dark side lurks. You may have observed that promised how-to’s tend to evaporate into oblivion and are never spoken of again.

It’s certainly a pet reci-peeve of mine, and thus I blog before you today with all good intentions of nipping this ghastly habit in the bud.

My peace offering:

Raw choco-banana pie!

I originally made this raw banana pie to share with my man on Schmalentine’s day, and a couple of you have since requested the recipe.

The bad news is, I decided to include a big hit of raw cacao in my newest batch to make it a rich, chocolatey affair. I’m sorry to do this to you; I understand that you may just be repulsed by such an idea…:)

Simple, pantry-friendly ingredients:

BASE:

  • 1/2 c raw almonds & pepitas, mixed together (can just use almonds if you prefer)
  • 1 T raw honey
  • pinch (~1/8th t) celtic sea salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon.

FILLING:

  • 2 medium-sized frozen bananas
  • 1 T raw cacao
  • 1/2-1 t raw honey, to liking

Place the 1/2 cup of nuts into your food processor and pulverize for around one minute until relatively fine. Then add 1 tablespoon of raw honey, salt and cinnamon to mixture and process until combined. Spoon your base mixture into a small crock lined with baking paper (mine was about 20cm in length and 10cm in diameter) and press into sides to make the crust.

Then add frozen bananas (chopped into chunks) into your processing beast and whir until ice-cream-like. Add cacao, and honey if desired. Dollop into crust.

This would be extra saucy topped with fresh strawberries, but alas none were to be had.

I lined my crock with paper, but you could definitely forego it and just eat it as is with a spoon. In fact, please do that.

Freeze for around an hour, and you have yourself the makings of a good night 😉

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You may or may not know that it’s also International Women’s Day today. In fact, it’s the 100th anniversary!

I am so incredibly thankful that I’ve grown up surrounded by strong, intelligent and inspiring women in a society in which gender discrimination is, for the most part, considered unacceptable. I have never been confronted with warped notions as to things I could or could not do as a female. I’ve been at liberty to express myself in whatever way I see fit, and enjoy the complete satisfaction of knowing my sex will never determine my destiny.

Historically women have not been so fortunate, and were forced to contend with damning scientific theories (ie. blood being diverted to the uterus for pregnancy thus lower brain capacity), marital domination, sexual atrocities (especially in times of war and unrest) and an array of painful and ridiculous fashion options (i’m thinking corsets, lead-based face powder and the modern stiletto!).

We live in fortunate times.

My mother is highly intelligent, vibrant and independent, raising the Bonne Santé gal solo – no mean feat.

Dad’s partner and my awesome step-mother, with a PhD in feminist theory, has informed my education more than any class or tut, expanding my vocabulary from the moment we met and supporting me through my awkward teenage years and beyond. Thanks to her, I am an unapologetic and empowered wo-man.

Needless to say, many amazing women exist in my life, and incidentally, the blog-world is FULL of them!

Which women have inspired you in your life? What do you like best about being a fierce and ferocious wo-man?!

 


Dietary tweaks.

March 6, 2011 § 10 Comments

Ahoy there!

Mooorrrrning has brroooooookkkeeennnnnnn!

I actually wrote this post about a week ago and it’s been sitting in my drafts giving me the stink eye ever since. It’s kinda tough because it involves some new dietary stuff, so roll with me here.

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I’m going to be extremely self-indulgent today and write a post squarely centered on myself. Oy, the spotlight.

In doing so, I’m less concerned about satisfying my engorged ego than shelling out some real-life experience that could assist others on their own road to health.

Y’all know that my fetish for all things nerdy and nutritional manifests itself in the constant revision of my diet, exercise regieme and lifestyle – I’ve always appreciated that finding a true healthy balance involves a lot of trial, error and evolution. I want to discover a way of being that satisfies not only my ideological viewpoint, but also nourishes my physical and spiritual health.

Being a self-declared fence-sitter (or perhaps just painfully open minded) means that i’m always keen to see things from a different perspective and have never wanted to lock myself into a specific diet or become caught up in dogma.

Experimenting is how I plan to eventually gain enough wisdom and first-hand experience to advise people as a qualified Naturopath/holistic wellness…person (some letters after the name would be nice!) and I’m a firm believer in the fact that not every diet works for every body.

I’m beating around some dense thicket here but basically the gist is, I’m being open minded about my health and the advice as given to me by my naturopath and other people whom I respect. This currently involves a little shift in what i’ve been known to eat.

For example:

That, my friends, is an egg. It may the the first egg to grace the halls of Bonne Santé.

Because I am writing in crazy, staccato, illogical mode right now, I’ll break it down…

Main Point: In the spirit of experimentation, I want to see how adding a few foods I previously considered to be unnecessary/sub-optimal back into my diet makes me feel.

Please note: These eggs are from a local grower who has a small-scale hobby farm and lets his hens roam freely, eat natural food and lay eggs where they wish. The carton came with a little newsletter that is written monthly to update buyers on the farm, hen-related-happenings and even the health of specific named chickens! I am confident that no harm comes to these animals and they are being treated with love and respect. That being said, I still grapple with the overriding philosophical question as to whether we are ever entitled to ‘own’ and use for our benefit, another living creature. In this sense, I cannot defend the choice to consume eggs and must sit with my internal conflict. I also wish to point out that I am in no way intending to eat meat again – I understand it’s value in a lot of diets and as always, cast no judgement, but for me I feel better energetically without it. I cannot reconcile with eating dead animals and although some may feel that eating any animal product is to be complicit in their worldwide abuse, I’ve chosen to simply see how I go.

Why? : Ever since I did my raw experiment at the end of last year, I haven’t been feeling so great. Not that I attribute this to the diet in any way; merely to illustrate a time frame. Apart from being hard-pressed to shake a recurring throat infection, I also find myself snacking like a deranged beggar (esp. after dinner), irritable/moody/heinously wench-like and displaying some worrying patterns of un-healthy thinking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Enjoying optimum health sometimes involves not thinking too hard about it, and I don’t want to become so rigid in my eating that it defeats the original purpose – to seize life by it’s man parts and enjoy the hell out of it.

I also want to eat mindfully (both in the not under/over eating sense, and ethically) and give my body what it truly needs so that I can squeeze the most out of every day. If this means incorporating some chicken menses a few times a week, then so be it.

UPDATE: One week later, and I’ve chowed through some happy hen-offerings and mulled things over. I appreciate that eggs are an amazing source of many essential vitamins and nutrients, not to mention a complete protein source and a convenient snack, however they’re still something I’m debating bringing back into my diet. They taste SO RICH to me now, and it’s not necessarily a flavour or sensation I crave. A big HMMMMMMMMMMM to the yolkers.

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In other news, Notella has officially been usurped. Ousted. Replaced.

Meet my new lickable lover – honey roasted almond butter.

Holy butterballs.

I made a variation on Ashley’s Maple Roasted Cinnamon Butter, and my life will never be the same.

Then I took it up a notch by investing in some blindingly white and criminally crusty jewish sourdough to act as a vehicle for this obscene specimen of butterisation.

I eat bread rarely, but when I do, it’s gonna be freshly-baked, doughy decadence.

MORE INFO ON ALMOND BUTTER TO COME!

Now, I leave you with some pictures from my weekend antics. Mardi Gras themes – parental supervision required.

Peace and man-thongs to you all! x

Transylvanian mixed-bean stir-fry.

March 4, 2011 § 4 Comments

Aloha friends,

I’m currently out getting my Friday night on at a Mardis Gras spin off – Drag queen racing (fo’ real) which is an awesome, light-hearted and potentially hilarious Olympic gay event! I’m especially looking forward to the dainty dune dash and handbag discus!

So in honour of all things colourful, flamboyant and downright kooky, I’m leaving you with a delicious recipe for Transylvanian mixed-bean stir-fry, because beans are frankly more exciting when they’re all dressed up 🙂

Dressed-up in drag mixed-bean stir-fry

Assemble:

  • 1/2 cup brown rice (cooked in 1 cup water ~20 mins)
  • 1 cup mixed beans (I used canned – kudos if home cooked!)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 petite white onion (or 1/4 regular sized), diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T shoyu (or tamari)
  • 1 T organic honey
  • 1/2 t chilli flakes
  • 3 mushrooms
  • chopped veggies (I used kale, broccoli, carrot, zucchini) with 1/4 c water for steaming

Add rice to saucepan with water, bring to boil & reduce to simmer until liquid is absorbed (~20 minutes). Meanwhile, dice garlic, ginger, onion, mushroom and mountain of veg. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add garlic, ginger, mushroom, onions & cook until translucent/slightly golden (~3 minutes). Add remaining vegetables, wilt and add 1/4 c water and place lid over top. Steam for a few minutes to soften, and allow water to cook off. In a small bowl or cup, mix shoyu, honey and chilli and set aside. When the rice has finished cooking, add your beans to the same saucepan to heat through, and throw in steamed vegetables from the frying pan. Pour over sauce and stir to coat. Serves 2. (I usually add more shoyu while i’m eating, for extra saltiness!).

Bonne Friday to you all!

x

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