Quinoa and millet porridge with cinnamon

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With the weather starting to turn a little colder now, a warming bowl of porridge for breakfast is beautifully nourishing and wonderful for your digestion.

Soaking your grains assists in improving their digestibility and nutrient content (Arneja et al, 2015; Ahmed et al, 2013). If you soak whole quinoa overnight, then drain and leave in your strainer over a bowl, covered, in warm conditions, you can see little tails appearing from the sprouting process, which indicates it is germinating, and is much easier to digest this way.

In Western countries, dietary guidelines often tell you “what” to eat, but not how best to eat to support digestion. Having the right balance of ingredients in your meal, a moderate quantity of food, and eating foods cooked and warm, all assist with digestion. It is also important to eat regular meals. Having a warm, light, easy to digest breakfast, and not rushing it down as you run out the door, but rather sitting down and enjoying and chewing your food properly, will result in much better digestion. This is often forgotten in our modern, busy society!

Try this breakfast when you have time – it could also be prepared the night before, and then heated up when needed the next morning. Don’t forget to enjoy it.

Recipe

Ingredients per person:

  • 1/4 cup of a mix of quinoa and millet flakes (I use about 3/4 quinoa and 1/4 millet. You could also use brown rice flakes in your mix, or use whole quinoa and millet, ground in a small spice grinder. You may need more water with this.)
  • 1/4 cup of your preferred milk – e.g. organic, non-homogenised whole milk, goats milk, unsweetened almond milk etc
  • handful of organic raisins
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Optional, to serve – organic, whole milk, unsweetened yoghurt, and/or ground linseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (these can be freshly ground in a small spice grinder for the best nutrient content, and should be stored in the fridge), extra ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Soak your quinoa and millet overnight (or around 8 hours) in water, with a dash of apple cider vinegar if you have some, or just in plain water, covered, if possible. It is best to rinse the quinoa before soaking to reduce bitterness.
  2. Place your quinoa and millet in a small saucepan (if soaked, drained).
  3. Add in your raisins.
  4. Cover with water, around 1/2 cup per person.
  5. Bring to the boil over moderate heat, covered, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Add extra water as needed, keeping a porridge consistency.
  6. Add your preferred milk and the cinnamon, and warm through, continuing to stir.
  7. Pour into your favourite bowl, and if you like, top with 1 tbsp yoghurt per person, an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, and a tsp of ground linseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  8. Enjoy with a cup of your favourite hot beverage!

 

References

Arneja, I., Tanwar, B. & Chauhan, A. (2015). Nutritional Composition and Health Benefits of Golden Grain of 21 Century, Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa wild.): A Review. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 14 (12): 1034-1040.

Saleh, A. S.M., Zhang, Q., Chen, J. and Shen, Q. (2013), Millet Grains: Nutritional Quality, Processing, and Potential Health Benefits. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 281–295. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12012

 

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A fresh start to the year with a salad full of rainbow colours

 

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Sometimes our own bodies are our best guide to what is good for our health. At this time of the year, after the season of socialising and eating out, our bodies often crave fresh, light, clean, vibrant foods. A salad full of rainbow colours fits the bill. Bright colours in vegetables, fruits and salads often indicate high  nutrient and antioxidant content, and apart from that, look appetising – enjoyment of eating food forms part of the promotion of good health.

The author of the latest cookbook I’ve been reading is a woman after my own heart. She suggests that making greens the foundation of the plate can be used as a daily strategy for increasing vegetable intake (Kelley, J. (2012) “Salad for Dinner”, Rizzoli International Publications, NY, USA). As I’ve mentioned before, and as Kelley points out, the preparation of a salad is an art, requiring balance of colour, flavour and texture. Salads don’t need to be all raw, they are lovely with a balance of cooked and raw vegetables, protein foods such as chicken, fish or eggs and additions such as avocado and olives. They don’t need to be complicated – but an oily dressing is essential, around 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or lemon juice. Good quality oil is another essential – I  recommend fresh organic extra virgin olive oil from Australia, and/or Udo’s organic 3:6:9 blend, which should be kept refrigerated. Oils promote absorption of nutrients from the salad ingredients, good digestion, brain and hormone function, amongst other things.

Including more salads regularly in your diet is a beautiful way of incorporating more vegetables. Here is one of my current favourite recipes – however try creating your own with your favourite ingredients! It just takes some practice to get the balance right. Enjoy!

Tuna and avocado salad with roasted pumpkin, beetroot and greens

Serves 2

Sustainably fished tuna in oil, 180g can, drained

Avocado medium, 1/2, chopped into small pieces*

Beetroot, 1 medium, peeled, grated or sliced thinly with a peeler*

Jap Pumpkin chopped into small pieces, 1/2 – 3/4 cup, and 1 tsp organic ghee or coconut oil, to roast

4 cups mixed greens, or enough to fill two salad bowls, washed and drained

4 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil or Udo’s organic 3:6:9 oil, or a blend

1 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

two beautiful wide salad bowls

Optional – shallots and spinach lightly sauted in a little ghee or coconut oil, with water added as required, until cooked, then drained

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Grease baking dish with ghee or coconut oil. Place pumpkin in the baking dish and rub a little ghee or coconut oil over the pumpkin. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes or until soft.
  2. Make dressing – place extra virgin olive/Udo’s oil, mustard and vinegar in a small bowl or jar, and mix well.
  3. Arrange greens in the two salad bowls, then artfully place the beetroot, pumpkin, tuna and avocado and the optional cooked shallots and greens on top.
  4. Drizzle over the dressing, then season with salt and freshly ground pepper – and enjoy!

*for low FODMAP diets, reduce avocado to 1/8th medium per serve, and reduce beetroot to less than 40g per serve (which is approximately 2 tbsp grated)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macadamia nut butter biscuits with currants


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Sometimes you feel like something sweet. Something light and nourishing to have with a cup of tea and to give you some energy.

Unfortunately, many sweet tidbits are made from highly refined, processed foods, which are low in nutrients. There are many products on the market that are branded as being “healthy”, “organic” or paleo”, however, look closely at the ingredients and you often find that they are loaded with some type of refined sugar and/or other highly processed ingredients.

This recipe however is made from macadamia nut butter, which is rich in nutrients; coconut flour, which contains some insoluble fibre for bowel health and regularity; and has only a small amount of high quality maple syrup, currants and stevia for sweetness.  The recipe can be adapted to be paleo by replacing the maple syrup with extra stevia. These biscuits are just lovely, and have sweetness from the macadamia nut butter, maple syrup, stevia and currants, however do not contain the overwhelming amount of sugar that many sweet snacks do. Sweetness is one of the five elements of taste, and is considered to provide balance alongside bitter, astringent, salty and sour tastes in some traditional medicines and cooking methods, such as in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

This recipe was originally based on Lee Holmes recipe from Supercharged food, however I have adapted it and changed it to be low FODMAP and a bit less labour intensive. This biscuit is lovely with a pot of green tea with vanilla……enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

2 organic eggs, beaten

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 tbsp coconut oil, slightly warmed

1 tbsp coconut milk

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

Vanilla beans from 1/4 pod

1 tbsp currants

100g macadamia nut butter, warmed slightly

2 tbsp organic, good quality maple syrup

1/2 tsp powdered stevia

a pinch of Himalayan salt

 

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl – coconut flour, baking powder, stevia, salt and currants.
  2. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl – eggs, coconut oil, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla beans scraped from the pod, and macadamia nut butter. (The part of the vanilla pod you have used can be cut up into small pieces and added into your green tea leaves to add a beautiful vanilla aroma).
  3. Fold the two mixtures together to form a doughy mixture.
  4. Grease a ceramic baking dish with coconut oil or ghee, and preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
  5. Roll a tablespoon or so of the mixture into a round ball, then place in the baking dish. Press it down with your fingers so that you get a flat biscuit-like shape. Continue until all the mixture is used up.
  6. Bake in the 175 degrees Celcius oven for 15 minutes or so, or until the biscuits are slightly browned.
  7. Enjoy with a cup of green tea with vanilla or your favourite warm beverage!

Makes about 14-16 small biscuits.

*can be made Paleo by substituting the maple syrup with 1/4 tsp powdered stevia.

Updated Recipe:

I have since modified the recipe to increase the carbohydrate content. I now use 1/3 cup maple syrup, (or 1/2 cup if you like them very sweet), and I leave out the stevia. Because of the extra moisture from the maple syrup, you can leave out the coconut oil and coconut milk, and you may need to add extra coconut flour. I have also changed the currants to raisins and use a couple of big handfuls.

Ingredients:

2 organic eggs, beaten

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

Vanilla beans from 1/4 pod

2 handfuls of raisins

100g macadamia nut butter, warmed slightly

1/3 cup organic, good quality maple syrup

a pinch of Himalayan salt

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl – coconut flour, baking powder, raisins, and salt.
  2. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl – eggs, maple syrup, vanilla beans scraped from the pod, and macadamia nut butter. (The part of the vanilla pod you have used can be cut up into small pieces and added into your green tea leaves to add a beautiful vanilla aroma).
  3. Fold the two mixtures together to form a doughy mixture.
  4. Grease a ceramic baking dish with coconut oil or ghee, and preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
  5. Roll a tablespoon or so of the mixture into a round ball, then place in the baking dish. Press it down with your fingers so that you get a flat biscuit-like shape. Continue until all the mixture is used up.
  6. Bake in the 175 degrees Celcius oven for 15 minutes or so, or until the biscuits are slightly browned.
  7. Enjoy with a cup of green tea with vanilla or your favourite warm beverage!

Makes about 14-16 small biscuits.

 

 

 

 

 

A spring omelette with greens and the Paleo diet

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Here on the beautiful Australian coast it is starting to warm up, and greens are springing up everywhere. It is this time of the year when you feel like eating lighter, energizing foods, and cleaning out your system to be ready to go out and enjoy the great weather.

There are many different points of view about what to eat for good health. The Paleo lifestyle has become a worldwide phenomenon, with many passionate followers who say they feel so much better, and more energized, when eating the Paleo way. I wonder if one of the reasons why so many people feel better when avoiding grains and legumes is that these can be quite hard to digest. For example, the outer layer of wholegrains need to be first broken down to access the starch on the inside. The starch then goes through multiple steps to be broken down by enzymes and absorbed in our small intestine. Legumes are generally high in FODMAPS which are commonly malabsorbed in the gut, causing significant gas production and bloating. Legumes and wholegrains also often contain enzyme inhibitors and other substances that reduce nutrient absorption such as phytic acid. Stress can cause significantly reduced digestive function, and if this is the case and grains and legumes are not digested properly, they will cause bloating and gas, and their nutrients will not be properly absorbed, resulting in fatigue.

Following the Paleo diet also means avoiding refined sugars and processed food. Whilst refined carbohydrate foods such as white breads and sugars can be more easily absorbed, they also lack the vitamins and minerals that wholegrains, fruit and vegetables contain. However, people with impaired digestive function will likely not absorb the nutrients from wholegrains properly. The nutrients from fruit and vegetables may be more easily absorbed, depending on the preparation and cooking method, and type. Whilst wholegrains are recommended as significant sources of the B vitamins, there are many other sources of these including eggs, meat, leafy greens, and nuts, which are all included in the Paleo diet.

Whether a person obtains adequate nutrients on a Paleo diet would depend on what food choices they make, and how well their digestive tract is functioning. It may be worthwhile to have a professional assessment of this if you are planning on following the diet in the long term.

Meanwhile, this light omelette recipe is sure to give you energy and bounce to get out in the sunshine, and is not likely to cause bloating as some other heavier grain based breakfasts may do. Enjoy!

Recipe – Spring Omelette with Greens

Serves 1

Ingredients:

2-3 Organic free range eggs

1-2 tsp organic ghee or coconut oil

1/2 cup chopped shallots, green parts only

3 large leaves of perpetual spinach or chard or silverbeet, stalks removed and torn into bite size pieces, or 1 cup English spinach leaves or sweet potato leaves, washed

Handful of fresh rocket for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat a small fry pan to a medium heat, such as the Neoflam 8 inch, and melt the ghee or coconut oil.
  2. Add the chopped shallots, and cook for a few minutes on low heat until soft.
  3. Add in the greens, and cook for a further couple of minutes until soft, moving the greens around with a wooden spoon.
  4. While the shallots and greens are cooking, whisk the eggs in a small bowl.
  5. Once the shallots and greens are cooked, turn up the heat to medium and pour in the beaten eggs. Keep tilting the pan until the eggs are evenly spread across it and the eggs are cooked through.
  6. Gently slide out onto plate using a wooden spatula.
  7. Garnish with the rocket, salt and pepper and enjoy with your favourite hot morning beverage – try green tea or a beautiful organic decaffeinated coffee….(I like the decaffeinated Bun Coffee or Noego Coffee)!

Optional additions:

  • sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes (to add some B vitamins!) and squeeze over some fresh lemon juice
  • add in some chopped organic ham or bacon when cooking the shallots for added flavour and protein
  • add in some finely sliced fennel or grated celeriac when cooking the shallots for added fibre and flavour

Lemon, ginger and apple cider vinegar tea

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I get up early. To surf. In summer, getting up well before sunrise here is very early, some may consider it the middle of the night…..but it enables you to catch some rare quiet moments in the water around the time the sun is coming up. So you can see my lemon, ginger and apple cider vinegar tea that I have every morning after getting up by the light of my Himalayan salt lamp in the darkness of the early hours. This recipe is a morph of the Ayurvedic honey, ginger and lemon tea recommended in this tradition after getting up in the morning to assist in promoting digestion. I tried adding apple cider vinegar for an experiment, and enjoyed it so much that now I don’t enjoy my brew without it! It is beautiful with organic raw honey. Stevia can also be used to sweeten it if you are avoiding all sweeteners. Choosing a good quality apple cider vinegar will make a difference to the taste of your brew, I use the well-known Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, which has a lovely depth of flavour. I find this tea warming, gently stimulating for the digestion and body – a lovely and refreshing start to the day – I hope you do too.

Recipe:

Serves 1

Approximately 1/4 – 1/2 tsp freshly grated organic ginger, or to taste

Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 small-medium lemon 3 capfuls of apple cider vinegar (I use the Bragg’s apple cider vinegar bottle cap)

1 tsp organic raw honey or liquid stevia (I use four drops of Nirvana liquid stevia) – adjust quantity to your taste

1. Grate your ginger into a small ceramic cup. (Treat yourself to a beautiful cup with a fine rim – there are some beautiful Japanese ceramic tea cups available.)

2. Pour in your freshly squeezed lemon juice.

3. Add in boiling water, to a volume of approximately 140mL.

4. Add in your 3 capfuls of Apple Cider Vinegar.

5. Add in your liquid stevia or a little organic raw honey. Stir, and check the taste, adding more sweetener as necessary.

6. Enjoy and have a wonderful day!

Ayurvedic palak paneer inspired eggs

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I had a craving for something different for breakfast. Something easily digestable. Browsing through my recipe collection from different cultures around the world, I came across my Ayurvedic recipe for Palak Paneer, spinach with home-made cheese, which I have made and loved in the past. Wondering about a breakfast option which was dairy free, I thought of the idea of substituting the cheese with poached eggs. The result was beautiful – nourishing, easily digestable, and a lovely experience to have a warming bowl of goodness at breakfast when following a grain free,  dairy free diet. This recipe takes a little more time to prepare than my quick frittata, ideal for leisurely weekend mornings with a newspaper…..

Recipe:

Serves 1

1 tsp ghee

2 fresh organic eggs

1 tomato, diced

1.5 cups chopped Swiss chard/curly kale/English spinach

1 shallot, diced

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

1 tsp freshly grated turmeric

pinch of nutmeg

handful of fresh mint, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1/4 small lemon

Pinch of sea salt

1. Blanch the Swiss chard/curly kale/English spinach in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, so it retains its’ bright green colour. Remove from the boiling water using a slotted spoon, and place in a food processor or stick blender container. Let the remaining water in the saucepan cool while you make the other part.

2. Heat the ghee in a small non-stick frypan, and add the shallots and tomato. Fry for a few minutes, then add  the cumin. Fry for a few more minutes, then add the ginger, turmeric and nutmeg. Cover and let simmer while you purée your greens. Keep an eye on it, and add some of the leftover water from blanching the greens if it starts to dry out.

3. Purée your blanched greens using a food processor or stick blender, adding a pinch of sea salt. You will need to add some of the leftover  water from blanching your greens – just add enough to form a smooth purée. Start by adding 2-3 tablespoons, then blend. If the purée doesn’t form easily, add in more gradually until you can blend the greens to a smooth purée.

4. Add the mint and coriander to the tomato and onion mixture, stir, then add in the green purée, stirring again. Bring to a simmer, then crack the two eggs one by one into separate spots in the simmering sauce.

5. Cover, and simmer until the whites of the eggs are cooked, and the yolks still runny (or you can cook longer if you prefer  your eggs fully cooked).

6. Using a spatula or flat wooden spoon, gently slide the cooked dish into a medium sized serving bowl. Squeeze the lemon wedge over your cooked dish, and slowly savour this nourishing bowl of goodness with your favourite hot beverage!

*If you eat dairy foods, a dollop or two of natural yoghurt would be a lovely addition to this dish.  If you eat grains, a side of buttered toast or roti or flatbread or rice would make this meal more substantial.

This could also be a good option for a light lunch or late night light dinner…

Food for friends- roasted chicken with thyme; cos, Egyptian spinach and red capsicum salad and roast pumpkin salad with tahini dressing

Good friends are so wonderful. People who you can spend time with and come away feeling nourished and loved. They are respectful, are there when they say they will be, and getting together is an exchange of mutual updates and sharing of ideas. Person to person relationships that are so valuable in this day and age of social media.

I like to extend hospitality to my friends, perhaps is is from my Italian cultural background, providing a spread of beautiful food to sit down and share together. This can be challenging if it involves people following particularly dietary regimens. I recently held a gathering and made organic roasted chicken with thyme; a cos, Egyptian spinach and capsicum salad with a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing, and a roast pumpkin salad with tahini dressing. I also made simple steamed basmati rice as an accompaniment. I got the ingredients fresh from the local organic markets that morning, and had pre-purchased an organic chicken from my local butcher. The lunch was lovely, with everyone serving themselves from platters in the middle of the table,  and the choices suited everyone’s dietary needs, be they vegetarian, grain free, low fodmap and/or sensitive digestion.

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Recipes for four people:

Roasted organic thyme chicken

1/2 an organic 1.2kg chicken, jointed (For the technique on how to do this, see this website

sunflower oil

Fresh thyme, 3-4 sprigs (or dried thyme, 1/2-1 tsp)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius.

2. Place the chicken pieces in a small baking dish. Drizzle over some sunflower oil, enough to rub over the chicken. Put the fresh or dried thyme in with the chicken and rub the oil and thyme into the chicken. Push the fresh thyme sprigs into any cavities.

3. Place in the oven and roast for around 30 mins, turning the chicken every 10-15 mins. Insert a knife to check for doneness – continue cooking if there is still any pink flesh. If you need to continue cooking, turn the oven temperature down to 180 degrees Celcius and roast until the flesh of the chicken is all white, this may be 10-30 mins, keep checking it every 10 mins to avoid over cooking.

4. Remove from the oven when done, and cover with a lid or alfoil to keep it moist. Place baking dish on the table (placing a heat safe mat under it if still hot) and serve straight from the dish.

 

Cos, egyptian spinach and red capsicum salad with red wine vinegar dressing

1 small cos lettuce

1 small bunch of egyptian spinach (I got this from the local organic farmers markets, substitute with baby spinach)

1 red capsicum

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

 

1. After washing the lettuce and egyptian spinach and draining off the water, tear the cos into bite-size pieces and place in a large salad bowl.. Take the egyptian spinach leaves off the stalks and place into the bowl, and mix the leaves through.

2. Cut the red capsicum into strips and place decoratively over the leaves.

3. Mix the oil and red wine vinegar in a jar and shake to mix.

4. Place the salad bowl and the dressing on the table for guest to serve themselves.

 

I also made Yottam Ottolenghi’s beautiful Roasted butternut squash & red onion salad with tahini & za’atar

 

Enjoy the company of your friends!