October 30, 2011

Grain-free ratatouille tarts


I love the serenity of Sunday mornings. I am always up early, go for a long power walk, have a big breakfast and more often than not, prepare something to have later in the day for lunch or afternoon tea. These irresistible ratatouille tarts have been my recent favourite for a weekend lunch. In the past I've made them with a normal spelt flour base and topped them with goat or feta cheese, but after cutting down on grains, this almond crust is just perfect. I've left the cheese out this time too, but feel free to crumble some on, if you wish. You can play with the ingredients as well, try wild mushrooms or other seasonal ingredients that are available in your corner of the world.


Grain-free ratatouille tarts
(recipe inspired by Pirkka)
(makes 4 small tarts)

Base

200g almond meal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg (organic, free-range)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
pinch of sea salt

Filling*

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil or olive oil
1 medium sized (400g) eggplant, chopped into cubes
1 medium sized red capsicum/bell pepper (250g), chopped into cubes
2 zucchinis (200g), chopped into cubes
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dry oregano
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

 *Any left-over filling is delicious with a bowl of quinoa!

1. Start by making the filling. Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan and add the eggplant. Cook for a few minutes or until just starting to soften. Place the eggplant on a plate and set aside.

2. Add the other half of the oil into the pan and add capsicum, zucchini, tomatoes and onion. Cook for a few minutes, then add the eggplant back into the pan. Season the vegetables with oregano, black pepper and sea salt. Cover the pan and let simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. Set aside and leave to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease 4 (13cm) pie dishes.

4. To make the bases, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and lightly knead to mix thoroughly. Divide the dough into 4 portions and use your fingers to press the dough on to the bottom and sides of each pie dish. Refrigerate the bases for 10-15 minutes.

5. Bake the bases for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and top each crust with the filling. Continue to bake for a further 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before removing from the cases and serving.


October 27, 2011

Tempeh with beluga lentils

 

I am on a deadline today. Had you been a fly on my ceiling, observing my day, you would've thought I was truly busy with very small tasks - like polishing the kitchen sink, folding and refolding laundry, carefully examining my growing tomatoes and herbs, and browsing ideas for my next sewing project. All important tasks, of course, but what about the deadline? Yes. Admittedly I was procrastinating to a point where it seemed impossible to procrastinate any further. Oh wait. It was time to break for lunch.

I had beluga lentils. Those shiny black little pearls that look like caviar. I had tempeh too, my number one choice of protein these days. And combined with spices like pink peppercorns, mustard seeds and sumac, these two simple ingredients made the most enjoyable meal that almost made me forgot I had a deadline to meet. Perhaps one more thing before I head back to meet my deadline. Share this recipe with you. And maybe clean up in the kitchen.
 
  

Tempeh with beluga lentils
(serves 2)

1 cup (230g) beluga lentils
 2 cups (500ml) water
1 packet (300g) tempeh, sliced
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
pinch of sea salt
1/4 lemon, juiced
fresh coriander, to serve, optional

1. Rinse the lentils and put in a saucepan. Pour in the water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until just tender. Stir with a spoon every now and then. 

2. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they start popping, add the sliced tempeh. Season with peppercorns, sumac and a bit of salt and cook on both sides for 2-3 minutes. 

3. Drizzle the lemon juice in the lentils and serve with fried tempeh. Add chopped fresh coriander, if wished.
 
 


October 25, 2011

Sweet potato spelt muffins

 

Hi friends,

It's the start of week 4 in my sugar-free challenge and so far things are going great. I love how this challenge has not only got me to pay even more attention to what I cook and eat, but also think creatively and research alternative ways to cook and bake without sugar. Along all the sugar, I have also been cutting down grains in my diet. Not altogether, however, but on a daily basis I have had maybe one serve or no grains at all. I've also been strictly off all yeast products during the challenge. All this, I'm sure, has made me feel even better.

I've experimented with brown rice syrup in this recipe. Brown rice syrup is a great alternative to honey and agave, but make sure to check there are no added nasties in the product you choose. The only ingredients listed should indeed be rice and water! These muffins could just as easily be baked into a loaf, but I really love the simplicity of muffins - perfect portion size, easy to pack as a snack, easy to freeze. What's there not to love?

If you are curious about starting a sugar-free challenge, this e-book is a great way to get you going!


Sweet potato spelt muffins
(makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf)

1 large sized sweet potato (should yield to about 1 cup cooked and mashed)
50g organic butter or coconut oil (alternatively, use 60ml olive oil)
2 large eggs (organic, free-range)
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup*
125ml milk
150g whole-grain spelt flour
30g flax meal
20g chia seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

* Brown rice syrup is available at most health-food stores. It is a low glucose alternative to other sweeteners, like raw honey. You can leave this out altogether, if you prefer.

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

2. Peel and chop the sweet potato and cook until fully tender. Mash with the butter, coconut oil or olive oil into a smooth purée.

3. Whisk together the eggs, milk and brown rice syrup.

4. Mix together the dry ingredients.

5. Whisk the egg mixture into the sweet potato purée. Fold in the dry ingredients.

6. Scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm to touch and a tester inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.

7. Store in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze.

 

PS. Remember my little balcony make-over?  Well, the wait is finally over! My balcony (and me) is featured in Don Burke's new Organic book (2nd edition), available now!

October 22, 2011

Quinoa with asparagus and toasted coconut


Thank you all for the lovely words on my previous post - I knew you'd understand! I couldn't help myself but drop in to share this tasty spring recipe with you. We have had some wonderful spring weather here in Sydney too and I've been sitting on my tiny balcony, surrounded by all the herbs, reading and enjoying lunches and numerous cups of tea. This quick and easy lunch has everything I love - quinoa, asparagus and coconut flakes which have become my best friend after quitting sugar three weeks ago. It is perfect to whip up, scoop into a bowl and savour outside in the sun.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend too!
 
 

 Quinoa with asparagus and toasted coconut
(serves 2)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
2 bunches asparagus
handful (1/2 cup) unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Place the quinoa in a saucepan and pour in the water. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes. Cover the pan with a lid and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the coconut flakes on a dry frying pan until golden. Set aside.

3. Chop the woody ends off the asparagus. Cut the remaining stems into 1 cm pieces, and leave the tips untouched. 

4. Add a splash of water in the frying pan and steam cook the asparagus stems until just tender. Set aside. Steam the tips in the same pan with a bit more water added in.

5. Fluff the quinoa and season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add in lemon juice and olive oil, and the cooked asparagus stems. Toss to mix and scoop on a plate. 

6. Top the dish with the asparagus tips and golden coconut flakes. Enjoy immediately.




October 19, 2011

Slowing down - Cauliflower and goat cheese soup

 

After leaving my previous job six months a go, I didn't know what I'd end up doing and how things would turn out. I knew I needed a change so I decided to take the leap and see where it takes me. Not long after, I landed in my new role and I was busier than ever with new and exciting projects.

I am so happy I took that leap and I am loving my new career, but for a while now I've felt like I am trying to do a little bit of everything without really getting anything finished. I realise it's now time to slow down and re-set my concentration again. I am heading towards even busier times with only a few weeks left until we move into our new home, and after that it's time to start planning the wedding.

I'm sure you understand and appreciate just how much time and effort each blog post takes to make. For this reason, in the future, you'll be seeing a little less frequent posting here on Scandi Foodie. This will hopefully not only give me more time to concentrate on other projects, but also result in better quality posts for the blog.

So for now, I'll leave you with this cauliflower and goat cheese soup - silky, creamy and comforting.

I'll see you soon!

 

Cauliflower and goat cheese soup
(serves 4)

1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5-6 cups water or vegetable stock
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
50g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
150g goat cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add rosemary and cauliflower florets. 

2. Add in the water or the stock and bring to boil. 

3. Add the oats and season the soup with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer until the cauliflower is fully tender. 

4. Turn off the heat, add the goat cheese and purée the soup with a hand blender. Serve warm.



October 17, 2011

Activated, spiced nuts


"Patience is a virtue", "Patience is a virtue" - I think I should be meditating to this mantra. Truth be told, most of the time I enjoy nuts and seeds unsoaked, unactivated, on their own. I just don't have the patience to soak, roast, activate. After making these spiced nuts a few times now, I am starting to realise why I should be activating nuts every time - not only they taste better (they really do), but they are also easier for my digestion and therefore better for me, right? 

Activating nuts is a long process, but the good thing is you don't really have to do much - just wait. I've tried soaking these nuts for 8 hours, then almost 24 hours, and it certainly seems that the longer you soak, the better they'll taste. I swear by the healing properties of spices, and so I've used a mix of spices (I believe) are good for me and also taste great. 

After soaking comes the tricky bit. You are supposed to roast these little babies, in a very low heat, over a period of 24 hours. Now, I believe that it's the soaking bit that actually activates the enzymes (please correct me if I'm wrong), so I've only roasted these for a couple of hours (I obviously still need to work on that patience bit). They taste amazing - so light, but crunchy and warm with spices. Want more crunch? Chuck them in the freezer and snack straight from there. They are tasty either way.


Activated, spiced nuts
(makes 2 cups)

1 cup (170g) almonds
1 cup (130g) walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes (or to taste)
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the nuts in plenty of water for 12-24 hours. See my note above, soaking them for longer gives you a better result, so be patient!

2. Turn the oven on for the lowest setting (below 100C). Drain the nuts and toss in the spices. 

3. Spread the nuts on a baking tray (no paper, no oil). Roast in the oven for up to 24 hours on the lowest possible heat.

4. Store in an air-tight container. You can also store these in the freezer.

October 16, 2011

Sugar-free rhubarb macaroon slice


As I am entering week three in my sugar-free trial (read more about it here and here) , I realise that I am starting to forget that there even are foods I'm not eating any more. In the beginning of the diet, what felt like something was missing ("if no fruit, then what can I eat??"), is now something I'm not even thinking about. Some say it takes 21 days to break a habit, which in my case would mean another week, so I definitely feel like I'm on a good path here!

What has changed? Well not much after the first week to be honest, and I still feel less bloated, I feel calmer, I feel like I have more patience (although my fiancé could still argue I need to work on this) and I feel like I have more energy. I am really curious to see what the next few sugar-free weeks will bring with them!

In the meanwhile, this little treat is something that kind of grew on me. In the past (and this is obviously a while a go), I wasn't a big fan of coconut at all. I always thought it was way too sweet, which, I now realise, was probably because of all the added sugar in the coconutty foods I had tried. Once you've been off sugar for a while, and your taste buds have readjusted, you'll realise that coconut - in its natural form - is actually sweet enough on its own. 

Sugar-free rhubarb macaroon slice*

Base

100g quinoa flakes

50g coconut flakes (no sugar added)
50g rolled oats**
1 tablespoon raw pure cacao nibs (total sugars 3.6g/100g)
80g virgin coconut oil
2 large egg whites (free-range,organic)

Filling

200g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm slices
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pure, ground vanilla

Top

3 large egg whites (free-range, organic)
50g fine desiccated coconut (no sugar added)

*If you're not on a sugar-free diet, don't expect this treat to taste very sweet. Those who are used to less sugar, will probably find it just satisfying enough, it all its natural sweetness.

**You could make this totally gluten-free by using uncontaminated oats, or simply replacing the 50 grams of oats with more quinoa flakes.

1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a 25cm x 15cm baking tray with baking paper.

2. For the filling, place the rhubarb, ground cinnamon and vanilla, along with a dash of water (a couple of tablespoons) into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil, then let simmer while you make the base and the filling. Stir the mixture every now and then and just let it cook until quite thick. Set aside to cool.

3. For the base, place the quinoa flakes, coconut flakes, oats and cacao nibs into a food processor. Grind the ingredients into a fine-ish mixture, then add the coconut oil and grind until the mixture comes together. Beat in the egg whites. Spoon the dough in the baking dish and, using your hands, spread on the baking sheet into a 1-2 cm thick base.

4. For the topping, beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until thick. Carefully fold in the coconut. 

5. Spread the rhubarb filling on the base into a thin layer. Spread the coconut 'meringue' on top.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool completely before cutting. This is best eaten within 2 days. The top doesn't freeze very well, so I recommend eating it while fresh.



October 14, 2011

Spinach omelette roll with quinoa, chickpea and feta filling


Hi friends, hope you've had a nice week so far?

I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you, and I truly hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do! Oven baked omelette rolls are quite popular in Finland, but breaking the tradition I have used a quinoa filling with chickpeas, fresh mint and feta cheese. This is such a protein and nutrient rich dish and, apologies for saying it myself, so darn tasty I could've finished the whole roll myself if my stomach would've allowed me. Please don't let the few steps in the recipe scare you from making this, the process is simple and well worth it. 

Have a lovely weekend!


Spinach omelette roll with quinoa, chickpea and feta filling
(The omelette roll recipe is adapted from Kotiruoka book)

600ml milk (I prefer low-fat organic)
110g + 1 tablespoon wholegrain spelt flour
150g defrosted spinach, chopped*
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper or ground white pepper
3 large eggs (I prefer free-range, organic)

Filling

1 cup (180g) quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed**
150g feta (I used one with 13% fat), chopped into small cubes
a small handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

* I used English spinach I had blanched and frozen. You could use shop-bought frozen spinach or quickly blanch fresh spinach.

** Of course you could use raw chickpeas, soaked and boiled until tender, as well.

1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a 35cm x 29 cm baking tray with baking paper. 

2. Put the milk and the flour in a heavy-based saucepan and bring the mixture to boil, stirring constantly. Let simmer for a couple of minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

3. Add the spinach and baking powder mixed with one tablespoon of flour into the milk mixture. Stir well to combine.

4. Whisk in the eggs one by one. Season the mixture with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper or ground white pepper (to taste). 

5. Pour the batter on to the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm to touch and browned underneath. 

6. Turn the omelette onto another (clean) sheet of baking paper, remove the baking paper you used to bake the omelette on, and leave the roll to cool slightly.

7. While the omelette is baking, prepare the filling. Place the rinsed quinoa, along with 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let it sit for a further 5 minutes.

8. Add chickpeas, feta and mint into the quinoa and season the filling with pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice. 

9. Spread the filling onto the omelette and using the baking paper, roll the omelette into a quite snug roll. Leave to cool down completely before cutting. You can also chill the roll in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, this makes the cutting easier.

October 12, 2011

Cauliflower with mung beans and spiced sunflower seeds


A couple of weeks a go I tweeted about a little victory I had regarding the role of red meat in my kitchen: No more! My fiancé has (quite happily) agreed that I won't cook any red meat at home any more. If he wants to eat it, he'll have it when he's eating out, or in the (very) unlikely case, he'll cook it himself. This is definitely a breakthrough, as for the past five and a half years I've been cooking red meat for him a couple of times a week, whilst making a vegetarian meal for myself. I have been an on and off vegetarian/pescetarian for the past 10+ years, and cooking red meat never inspired me nor I enjoyed it. We've agreed that I will still cook poultry for him a couple of times a week, otherwise it'll be seafood and all-vegetarian meals only. Yeehaw!

 

As long as the vegetarian meals provide enough protein, my other half is happy to have them. This seems to be the case with most males (or females) thinking they won't be able to have enough protein (or iron) from a vegetarian meal. Often it's a simple fix of throwing in an extra egg or some chickpeas/beans/tofu/tempeh/dairy. The choices are endless! I love how creative one can be with veggies, I've never felt the same about cooking meat.


This meal, inspired by the contents of my fridge and pantry, is an easy throw-together dinner. If you want that extra touch of protein, add a couple of eggs (soft/hard/grated/scrambled/poached/fried). I love the crunch of spiced sunflower seeds and I like to leave the cauliflower and the mung beans a little bit crunchy as well. I like to make a bigger batch of toasted sunflower seeds, store the left-overs in a container in the fridge, and use in salads or on top of scrambled tofu. Enjoy!


Cauliflower with mung beans and spiced sunflower seeds
(recipe inspired by Heidi Swanson and my fridge)

200g mung beans
100g sunflower seeds
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets, stems cut into smaller pieces
10cm piece of leek, thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the mung beans in plenty of boiling water until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Toast the sunflower seeds, lemon zest and spices on a dry pan for a few minutes. Keep stirring constantly. Set aside.

3. Add coconut oil in the (same) pan, add leek and cauliflower and sautee for a few minutes. Add in a dash of water, cover the pan with a lid and leave the veggies to steam until just tender (or to your liking).

4. Add in the mung beans, half the sunflower seeds and drizzle in the lemon juice. Season with freshly ground black pepper and an extra pinch of salt if needed. Serve sprinkled with the extra sunflower seeds.


October 10, 2011

Spiced tempeh chips


Tempeh goes in the same category with tofu - people seem to either love it or hate it. I personally love tofu (firmer, the better), but don't seem to cook tempeh often enough. These spiced chips were quite addictive, however, so I might just have to make a new batch very soon.

I only really learned to use spices when I moved to Australia. Back in Finland my taste buds were quite happily adjusted to the traditional non-spicy food, but when I started tasting and cooking food in my new home-country, I soon realised that there was a whole world of spices for me to explore. I still steer away from hot and spicy food and I think you know by now that I'm one of the biggest chilli wimps around, but I do love using other spices with a (tiny) pinch of chilli.

We all know the health benefits of spices too, and I've tried to combine some of the 'best' spices in this dish - turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, chilli (you could also use cayenne pepper), cumin and black pepper. I sprinkle cinnamon on nearly everything and it's certainly out there with my favourites spices. Dipped in creamy avocado these tempeh chips were a perfect weekend lunch!


Spiced tempeh chips

1 packet of tempeh (300g)
 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes or cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1/2 avocado and lemon juice, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 150C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. 

2. Cut the tempeh into thinnish slices and arrange the slices on the baking sheet.

3. Mix together all the spices and sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the tempeh slices. 

4. Bake for 40-60 minutes, turning the slices regularly, until they feel firm and slightly crispy. 

5. Serve the chips with mashed avocado that has been mixed with lemon juice.


You could also try: Spicy tempeh balls

October 08, 2011

Spring garden

 

What a great pleasure it was to visit a spring garden full of gorgeous produce! I could pick asparagus, lettuce, carrot, herbs and rhubarb straight from the garden and there is simply nothing better than that! Maybe one day I can have a garden like this, too.

Purple carrots

Check out the leek!
The lettuce were gigantic!

Rhubarb, picked straight from the garden and eaten straight away. Nothing beats that!


October 06, 2011

Sugar-free coconut granola


Hi friends!

Thank you all for the feedback regarding my little sugar-free trial diet. My first week of strictly no sugar (including fruit, honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc.) is going really well and although I feel more conscious about what I eat, I don't feel like I'm missing or craving anything. I suppose the change hasn't been too radical for me, as the only change I've had to make on a daily basis is to give up fruit. Instead, I've now been embracing the spring greens, including rhubarb, spinach, celery, asparagus and avocados, and enjoyed spiced herbal teas with a healthy dash of full-cream organic milk. What is there to miss when I can have all this??

For some people, going sugar-free might feel like an overwhelming thought. Taste is a funny thing, however, and we can greatly affect it by getting those taste buds used to new flavours and a new diet. Once you get used to having no sugar in your diet, you'll realise that some things you used to eat actually taste very sweet - even fruit! The excuse of "having a sweet tooth" is merely a consequence of you feeding that "tooth" with sugar and the more you feed it, the more it'll crave it. Cutting all sugar out for at least a couple of months will adjust those taste buds and chances are you'll never go back to eating as much sugar again.

This delicious coconut granola is another new favourite of mine. Natural coconut flakes combined with almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and spiced with ground cinnamon and roasted wattleseed - it's a combination that requires zero added sweetness. A good quality coconut oil is a must. I like this brand and have been using it for my skin as well.

I hope I've been able to inspire at least some of you to join me on my sugar-free experiment! I'd love to hear from you!


Coconut granola
(recipe inspired by Sarah Wilson)

100g natural coconut flakes
100g walnuts
30g almonds
30g chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground, roasted wattleseed (optional if you can't find it)
30g coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 120C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and spread the mixture evenly on to the baking sheet. 

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn everything around with a spatula. Continue to bake for a further 10 minutes or until just golden. Cool on a wire rack immediately and store in an air-tight jar in the fridge for 3-5 days. Serve with a healthy dash of full-cream organic milk, home-made brown rice milk, nut milk or coconut milk.

Buy Sarah's Book "I Quit Sugar" : Here
 

October 04, 2011

Red lentil and sweet potato soup


My "going through the cupboards"- phase continues and whilst I was at it, I attacked my pantry and the fridge, emptying out all of the expired stuff. I generally don't like throwing food out, but every now and then I have to be brutal and accept that I had bought something or was given something I had never used up. I picked up a half-empty (or was it half-full...) packet of red lentils and decided to cook that up for lunch. At the back of the packet was a recipe for a soup which sounded just perfect for our lazy Labour Day lunch. My fiancé even kindly agreed to hand-model for me whilst he was slurping down his bowlful of thick, velvety soup. There was enough left-overs for tomorrow's lunch as well as to freeze for another time.

Red lentil and sweet potato soup
(serves 4-6)
(recipe adapted from the back of the red lentils packet)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
pinch of sea salt
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
5-6 cups water
1 tablespoon tamari
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan. Add onion, spices and salt and simmer for a few minutes. 

2. Add the lentils, sweet potato and water and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potato is tender. 

3. Season the mixture with tamari and freshly ground black pepper and puree into a smooth, thick soup.


October 02, 2011

Grain-free, sugar-free breakfast muffins


I don't usually get excited about any new "diets" that pop up in the media - there were Atkins and South Beach, now there are Paleo, Dukan, Alkaline and of course the most miraculous fad diets such as the grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet and the baby food diet. There is a difference, of course, between following a certain diet as part of a healthy lifestyle, and a fad that is supposed to last only a few days and shed all those extra kilos away.

In the past I've been experimenting with some dietary changes (like gluten-free and dairy-free) to see if they make a difference in my or my partner's health. In general, however, we both like to think that moderation is the key and a balanced, healthy diet is part of our lifestyle, along with exercise and getting enough sleep.

When I read Sarah Wilson's new e-book "I Quit Sugar", I started thinking about how much sugar I consume daily. Judging by the amount of baking I do, it may seem like I consume a lot, but in actual fact my diet is fairly low-sugar and has been this way for many years. I haven't been using "white", processed sugar in baking for quite a while now, but raw sugar, coconut sugar, agave and honey are all still sugars and count towards the daily sugar consumption. My biggest source for sugar (fructose) has been fruit and this is something I have been wanting to cut back for a while now.

Inspired by Sarah's book I have decided to see how I can benefit from a sugar-free diet. In my daily life this means eating less fruit (1-2 pieces a day) and baking sugar-free treats. These grain-free rhubarb muffins are by no mean pretty, but nevertheless make a lovely breakfast treat. Rhubarb has a low fructose content, but is perfectly sweet when baked, and warm spices make these muffins complete. Enjoyed with a cup of spiced herbal tea they are a perfect guilt-free treat.


Grain-free, sugar-free breakfast muffins
(makes 8-10)
(recipe adapted from "I Quit Sugar" by Sarah Wilson)

175g hazelnut meal
85g almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons milk/nut milk/coconut milk
200g rhubarb, washed and chopped in 1 cm pieces

1. Preheat oven to 170C and prepare a 10-cup muffin tin. 

2. Combine the hazelnut meal, almonds, baking powder and soda, salt and spices in a bowl. 

3. Whisk together the eggs, oil and milk and add this to the dry ingredients.

4. Fold through the rhubarb.

5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the muffins feel firm to touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze.

And if you want to go sugar-free...

Start by analysing your daily sugar consumption: Do you add sugar to your tea/coffee? Do you drink soft drinks? Eat sweets or chocolate? How much sugar is in your breakfast cereal/muesli/yoghurt?


Get in the habit of swapping your daily snacks to sugar-free ones: Try home-made vegetable chips (kale is great), nuts or home-made treats like these muffins.


Try mineral water (or tap water!) or herbal teas instead of sugary drinks. Roasted dandelion tea is a delicious option. Add ground cinnamon and enjoy with home-made rice or nut milk.


Read more... "Is Sugar Toxic?" - NY Times article
                     "I Quit Sugar" - Sarah Wilson

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