Cauliflower seems to put people into one of two camps—those that love it and those that hate it.

A few years ago, I was in the hate camp; then, I decided to get sneaky and add it into my diet in unusual ways. Not only did that pay off, but I also think it’s a pretty awesome vegetable.

Cauliflower – A Nutrient Powerhouse(I)

One cup of cauliflower is loaded with nutrients like Vitamin C, as are all the veggies found in the cruciferous family (i.e., kale, broccoli, cabbage). But, unlike the rest of its family, it’s not green. Besides Vitamin C, you also get fibre, Vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus and a range of vitamin B’s. In addition, as cauliflower needs boron rich soil for healthy growth, you can also be sure that it has the lesser-known but still essential trace mineral boron.

You may be remembering an article or something you have read about avoiding white foods. Generally, white foods are highly processed (bread, crackers, cereals, baked goods, sugar) and have low nutrient values, which is an excellent reason to avoid them. Cauliflower is the exception. The leathery leaves surrounding the cauliflower protect it from the sun and hinder the chlorophyll development, which is why, unlike its cousins, it’s white.

Cancer(ii), Hormones(iii) & Plastic(iv)

Cauliflower contains glucosinolate compounds shown to assist in the elimination of carcinogens. Most notably, indole-3-carbinol, sulforaphane, di-indolmethane, and isothiocyanates have been the focus.

Indole-3-carbinol has also been found to assist in regulating estrogen activity and metabolism.

This is significant considering the issue we have with so much plastic in our food chain and home environment. Plastic chemicals mimic hormones (in particular estrogen) in our body and act as hormone disruptors. While we now have the option to purchase BPA free items, the hormone disruptor effects remain.

I’m not sure why cauliflower isn’t considered a superfood, but perhaps that’s a good thing. But unfortunately, it seems superfoods come with a hefty price tag, and we don’t want that to happen to this gem.

Stinky Cauliflower

Healthy food sometimes gets a bad rep as it can be a little bland or be on the opposite side of the scale and have a strong flavour that isn’t always pleasant. Raw cauliflower can potentially fit into this category as there is a slight bitterness to it, and let’s not talk about that faint pong that can smell like you know what.

That smell is from sulforaphane which is a potent antioxidant. You are smelling sulfur in less technical terms, which may have made your mind jump brimstone. (If it didn’t, then it is now, sorry). The smell can be a little offputting, but it’s part of what makes cauliflower a nutritional powerhouse. Sulforaphane or (1-isothiocyanato-4-methyl-sulfinyl butane, SFN) is essential to health and is a big part of nootropics. 

Nootropics – drugs or supplements related boosting brain health and memory. Can also be referred to as smart drugs.

Selecting, Storing and Prepping Cauliflower

Cauliflower is readily available all year round in most parts of the world. If you want to purchase seasonally correct produce, autumn would be the time. Cauliflower also does not just come in white. You may find bright green and purple variations as well. Whichever colour you get, here are some guidelines to selecting the best one:

  • The head (aka. curd) must be firm and compact
  • The colour should be vibrant
  • The leaves should be crisp and not rubbery
  • Avoid cauliflower with brown spots and loose florets (aka. buds)

Storage is important and can help keep your cauliflower fresher for a little longer. When you get home, be sure to

  • Store your cauliflower in the refrigerator
  • Wrap the curd in a cloth napkin or place it in a paper bag. This will minimize the moisture and help keep the brown spots away.
  • Store it with the stem side down
  • Use it within 3 – 5 days
  • Loose florets or buds along with cooked cauliflower should be used within 1 – 2 days as they spoil quickly

When preparing your cauliflower, be sure to

  • Rinse well under cold running water
  • Use a vegetable brush to brush off any dirt or impurities lightly
  • The stem and leaves are edible and are a great addition to soups, stews and smoothies
  • Trim off any brown or discoloured parts
  • Cut florets off close to the stem or use the whole curd/head as a dish
  • Keep cooking time to a minimum to ensure maximum nutritional value and crispness
  • Cauliflower may react with iron cookware and become brownish but is still edible.

The Many Ways to Enjoy Cauliflower

You can make so many things with cauliflower; it truly is a versatile vegetable. Here are some ideas:

  • Cauli-rice: grated, raw and flash fried, it makes an excellent substitute for rice
  • Cauli-pearls: raw stems, chopped into small pieces, lightly steamed make an excellent substitute for pearl barley
  • Cauli-mash: entire cauliflower (not the leaves), broken into chunks, steamed, add spices and your favourite milk/mylk, and mash it
  • Cauli-sauce: entire cauliflower (not the leaves), steamed, add favourite spices, a dash of lemon and olive oil, your favourite milk/mylk blend well, and you have a dairy-free white sauce
  • Cauliflower: lightly steamed cauliflower with some spices or your favourite sauce over it is also great; no need to be fancy all the time.
  • Frozen  Cauliflower: lightly steam the florets, then lay loosely separated on a tray and place in the freezer. Once frozen, you can bundle them up into a tightly sealed container for use in soups, stews, smoothies and more
  • Zero Waste: the leaves are edible and can be added to stir fry and enjoyed with other greens. All cauliflower scraps can be added to stews and vegetable broths

You will have noticed I mentioned smoothies a few times. Try this Blueberry Smoothie and prepare to be amazed. If you are looking to go dairy-free or just up the nutrition in your smoothie, then cauliflower is the way to go.

It’s official – I dare you!

References:

Try this recipe


Blueberry Smoothie
Creamy, delicious and packed with a super nutritious secret ingredient 😉

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apples across a table top with a banner saying apples across the image

Selection of spices on wooden spoons

How long have your spices been in your cupboard? How confident are you at experimenting with spices? If you find spices a little intimidating, let me share a few spice essentials like selecting spices, storing, and some cooking methods to get the most out of them.

Spices are powerful. In ancient times epic battles were fought, and empires were won or lost because of them. Spices shaped the essence of cultural foods by the way they were combined and used. With such a rich (and violent) history, we can be grateful that spices are more readily available in the modern World. Spices brought about humanity’s first taste of globalisation and with it the influence that a remote part of the World had over what others ate on opposite sides of the planet. That globalisation and availability mean if you are looking for a fiery Thai dish or warming Chinese broth, you will most likely not have to look far to find the ingredients.

Spices are intimidating. At least they were for me when I began experimenting and learning to cook. I loved buying them, smelling them and thinking of all the fantastic dishes I could make, but when it came to putting them together… panic! Salt (not actually a spice, but a mineral) and pepper was the default when in doubt.

Spices are magical. When you get the blend right, and it compliments your food, it can make a meal magical and memorable. This is because spices can trigger all our senses. The bright colours, the pungent smell, the burn on your lips, the sound of seeds being ground all activate the very first phase of digestion – the cephalic phase.

Let’s step aside from spices for a bit and understand how powerfully they can affect us by looking at the cephalic phase:

Cephalic Phase of Digestion

Many believe chewing is the first part of digestion. While vital, the cephalic phase is the underappreciated first step. It has to do with activating our medulla oblongata, found in the brain.

When our senses are triggered by food, it activates our brain, sending neurological signals to the digestive system. We then start producing digestive juices in our mouth and gastrointestinal tract to prepare that food. The cephalic phase triggers up to 20% of these digestive juices.

We more commonly recognise this as the mouth-watering reaction to food. This process is severely hindered when we eat while working, driving, watching TV or any activity where we are not relaxed. Being present and aware when eating is an essential part of digestion; if you suffer from indigestion, benefit significantly by applying mindful eating practices at mealtimes.

Rocking Your Senses

Spices have a way of rocking our senses and bringing us into focus. They are just so vibrant and hard to ignore. There is, however, a fine line between just right and too much, which will differ from person to person. I love rich smells and tastes and a healthy dose of tang (sour) or zing (burn); others find it overpowering and off-putting. The magic of spices is such that you can control the intensity.

Try experimenting with this recipe Creamy Chickpea Curry. Use different types of curry blends and see how drastically it can change a dish.

Figuring Out What Spices To Use

Mixing and selecting the right spices, while amazing, is also what makes them so intimidating. However, if you are working toward making all your food from scratch, it will eventually include your spices, purchasing them in a whole form and then making your own blends.

The problem here is – spices are pricey. Making a mistake can be costly, and if you find you don’t like the spice, it will inevitably live the remainder of its days at the back of the spice draw. So you may not want to toss it out if you have just spent a fortune on it.

This is one of the rare times that buying pre-made is the way to go.

Luckily, you can follow a few guidelines to get the best use out of your spices, and buying pre-made is part of that.

Are Spices Healthy?

We use such small amounts; you might be wondering if they even count when it comes to a healthy diet? The saying – ‘dynamite comes in small packages could not be more apt. Those tiny seeds and powders are potent. While culinary and medicinal uses require different concentrations and extractions, the fundamental health components remain and strongly complement a diverse and healthy diet. For example, spices have flavonoids in them that help our bodies with everything from destroying free radicals, reducing inflammation, allergen reducing, digestive aids, and so much more.

So, are they healthy? Most definitely!

ORAC Values

ORAC: Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.

Spices have some of the highest levels of antioxidants on a gram for gram comparison. If you are interested in seeing just how much take a look at this document prepared by the USDA (U.S Department of Agriculture), specifically pages 10 – 13.

Western Vs. Traditional Medicinal Uses

Those living in the Western World are accustomed to taking pills, powders, and syrups to deal with their ailments. We associate this with manufactured, scientific and clinical practices, i.e., doctors rooms, chemists, hospitals.

It is easy to forget that many of those prescriptions originated from plants like herbs and spices. So the World Health Organisation initiated a Traditional Medicine Strategy for 2014 – 2023, which effectively “will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy”. They also published a booklet on Traditional herbal remedies for primary health care (which is well worth reading). Medicinal uses of herbs and spices lie in every culture across the planet, and scientists often explore the plant kingdom for new compounds that they can synthesise and patent in modern medicine.

“Foolish the doctor who despises the knowledge acquired by the ancients.” – Hippocrates

It is safe to say that spices are a healthy addition to our diets. But how do we use them for the most significant benefit when cooking? The answer to this lies in the selection, storage and preparation.

How To Select Spices

As mentioned, if you are entirely new to spices, you might want to start with a selection of spice blends, rubs or pastes. If you end up buying a BBQ rub every week, then it will be worth your while to explore making that from scratch and in bulk. If you are using it often, then making your own bulk mix will most likely be cheaper than the ready mix.

Whole spices are essentially the dried barks, roots, leaves, seeds, fruit or flower of a plant. When whole spices are ground up, they become the powdered spices we see on our shelves. Therefore, when selecting your spices, be sure (wherever possible) to:

  • Purchase whole spices (seeds, berries, buds, sticks, bark, etc.).
    Whole spices will keep their flavour, fragrance and nutrients longer.
  • Purchase locally sourced spices.
    Spices have some of the longest food miles, meaning the time and travel between harvest and landing in your kitchen can range from months to years.
  • Fleshy spices like ginger or lemongrass taste different in dried form than fresh ones.
    Keep this in mind when selecting these spices or when you do substitutions.
  • Purchase from reputable sources.
    Spices are prone to fraud and adulteration. Unscrupulous suppliers will add fillers and additives to bulk or mimic a spice. Here is a video about adulterated oregano that gives you a glimpse into how these scamsters operate.
  • Select non-irradiated spices.
    Irradiation is a controversial subject as it is considered a safety measure. It is meant to kill off harmful bugs and ultimately make the spices more stable and longer shelf life. However, it also kills the good bugs and nutrients. If your intent is a health-promoting diet, then irradiated spices aren’t a good choice. This article sums it up nicely.

How to Store Spices

How we store spices has a significant impact on retaining their flavour and nutritional value. I often joke in my classes that most of us have spices from the first divorce, and it’s funny because it’s true. Before I knew better, I had kept some of my spices for ten years or more. (Perhaps somebody will do a study on that one day because it seems to be a ubiquitous thing).

But the reality is spices are organic and, like your veggies, wilt away in the fridge, so spices lose their potency and effect. It might not happen as quickly as with herbs, but they have a shelf life and are affected by the environment.

Here are some tips about storing spices:

  • Containers
    What you store them in is essential. Glass is ideal, with stainless steel the next best option. Plastics and foils should be avoided due to the volatile oils. As the spices age, the volatile oils are being released and can cause leaching of plastics and foils. Both these materials have been associated with health issues and, as a precaution, should be avoided.
  • Sealed
    Whichever container you choose, ensure that they are sealed tightly. Air comes with moisture, and there is nothing worse than opening a bottle and finding a solid clump of spice in it.
  • Heat
    Heat encourages the release of volatile oils, so storing your spices near a heat source should be avoided.
  • Light
    Any foods exposed to natural or artificial light causes photodegradation (degradation due to photon exposure). It’s the reason your oils are sold in dark bottles. Likewise, to keep your spices fresh and long-lasting, be sure to keep them out of direct light when in storage.
  • Whole vs Powder
    Whole spices last longer (up to 3 years) if stored correctly. So if you are looking for longevity, then whole spices are the way to go. Powdered spices can last anything between a few months to a year.
  • Fridge or Freezer?
    This is a personal choice. I don’t store spices in the fridge or freezer. However, many swear by it. If you choose to keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, be aware that if you live in a hot climate and don’t return them directly to the fridge after use, there will likely be some condensation from the container. This can cause clotting and bacteria.

How do you know when to throw them out?

There is no hard and fast way to tell, but if they have been in your cupboards for ever (you know what I’m talking about), then that will be your first clue.

If their colour is faded and they are looking dull – they should probably go.

The most obvious is smell – spices are pungent and if they have no smell then it is definitely time to toss them.

Cooking Methods for Spices

Now for the fun part! A few techniques help get the most out of your spices, especially when you are working with whole spices. The goal here is to release as much flavour and nutrients as possible into your dish. You might think of spices as dry as we mostly see them in powder form, but they are oil-based. These volatile oils (essential oils) contain concentrated forms of nutrients, aroma, and flavours. These techniques are often listed in recipes but not explained why.

For example, you might have read a recipe that calls for blooming, roasting, or infusing the spices. I used to think it was simply a chef with far too much time on their hands or trying to be fancy, but it turns out they are vital to the preparation and use of spices. Let’s look at some of the more common techniques:

Method 1: Dry Roast

A popular method used in Indian cuisine.

Method:

  • using a small heavy-based pan over medium heat
  • you can allow the pan to heat up first or place your spices in the pan immediately
    • if the pan is already heated, allow the spices to heat for 30-60 seconds, they may begin to crackle a little
    • if the pan has to heat up, let the spices heat for 1 – 2 minutes
  • stir frequently and remove as soon as you can smell the aroma of the spices is released
  • remove from heat and grind or use as per the recipe

Method 2: Blooming

Also known as oil frying or tempering. A popular method used in Asian cuisine.

Method:

  • add oil (butter, ghee, olive, coconut, etc.) to a small heavy-based pan over medium heat
  • once heated, add the spice/s and allow to gently fry and release the aroma
    • depending on the heat, this can take 30 – 60 seconds
  • Blooming can be done with water; however, as the spices are oil-based, using oil allows for a better release.
  • While cooking, the process can be done by creating a well in the centre of your pan, adding a little oil, then your spices and allowing them to heat and release, then blending with the rest of the ingredients before adding broths or liquids.

Method 3: Grinding

Powdered spices have already been ground. Whole spices can easily be ground at home.

Method:

  • mortar and pestle – this is a slightly more laborious way, but very rewarding
  • grinders – before splurging on a dedicated spice grinder, know that some coffee grinders can do the job just as well. Just be sure to clean it properly before and after.

Method 4: Grating, Bruising and Crushing

Fresh spices, seeds and more fibrous spices can sometimes not be ground. In these cases, using a fine grater, crushing or bruising with your knife or a pestle will help release the good stuff.

Shredding and chopping can also be added here, as your knife or blender can be used.

Method 5: Infusing

Some spices need to be infused, like saffron or tamarind. Soaking them in a little warm water or milk for a few minutes allows the flavour and the colour to be released.

Method:

  • place saffron strands in a little warm liquid for 3 – 5 minutes and then use both liquid and strands.
  • place tamarind pulp in a few tablespoons of warm water and leave for 5 – 10 minutes. Then, strain the juice to use in your recipe and discard the pulp.
  • **infusing oils, alcohols, vinegars and honeys with spices is a story all on its own – there will be an article on this in the future**

Interesting facts about spices

Justfunfacts.com have a whole lot of exciting tidbits about spices, but here are some I thought you might find interesting:

“Saffron, the World’s most expensive spice, is costly because only a small part of the saffron flower — the stigmata — is actually used for the spice. More than 225,000 stigmas must be hand picked to produce kilogram 0.45 (1 pound).”

“fresh vanilla beans have no taste or aroma. They must undergo an extensive curing process that results in the release of vanillin with its distinct aroma and flavor. The traditional method begins with subjecting the harvested beans to a process of nightly sweating and daily exposure to the sun for about 10 days, until they become deep chocolate brown in color. This processing and the need for manual pollination make vanilla the second-most expensive spice after saffron.”

“Nutmeg is highly neurotoxic to dogs and causes seizures, tremors, and nervous system disorders which can be fatal.”

Remember, experimenting in the kitchen is how we learn. Your apron is just a lab coat in disguise!

Best,

Dawn

Resource Alert


Spice Mixes From Around The World

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Download it, Print it and use as a reference or wallhanging in your kitchen.

Subscribers – click the link below and use your password to access the free stuff portal.

Not A Subscriber Yet?– Click the link below, sign up and you will be sent the access info, free to use at any time. 


The downloadable document is presented in black and white in a light wood frame. Just below the frame is a light wood shelf with small vases and green spikey plants in them



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Opened canned food

Canned food, lifesavers in a pinch! BUT, are they a can of goodness or not? Luckily for us, not all canned food is created equal, which means that some can be part of a nutritious diet and others we need to avoid. There are just a few things we need to keep in mind and look out for before we purchase…

Is Canned Food Healthy?

By now, we all know that there are some serious problems with the masses of shelf-stable, highly processed food available to us. Unfortunately, the process of getting our food so durable and long-standing on our shelves requires that a lot of what makes it good and nutrition is processed out of it. Added to that, there are a lot – and I mean A LOT – of preservatives, stabilizers and chemicals used, which counterbalance the convenience.

A noble effort for sure, but at what cost? That’s a discussion for another day, though; the question is really – does canned food fall under the same category as processed food? As usual, the answer is ambiguous, making it a firm yes and no. Frustrating, I know, and I will try to explain in the shortest way possible.

Here’s what’s great about canned food

  • In the absence of a steady supply of fresh foods, canned food is an excellent alternative.
  • Often canned foods are cheaper than their fresh or frozen counterparts.
  • Canned food helps a great deal if you have limited time to cook and prepare.
  • You can keep them for what seems like forever.
  • Some canned foods are healthier due to the heating processes used before canning. (While the cooking process may destroy some nutrients, other phytochemicals become more available according to this study)

You may want to read this article where Sharan Kafoa, Hormone Health Coach, talks about her journey with raw vs cooked foods.

What’s not great about canned food

  • Not all canned food is equal; many have a ton of additives that make them as bad as their highly processed and preserved shelf neighbours.
  • The tins they are canned in are often lined with plastic; this means the longer they are sitting there, the more BPA (bisphenol-A) is leaching into your food. (The environmental impact is a story on its own)
  • They often have added salt and sugar, which play havoc on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and overall wellbeing.
  • Labelling. This could be anything from mislabelling/omitting an ingredient that might be an allergen to health washing. Packaging and label wording plays a massive part in how we select products.

As you can see, there are pro’s and con’s here. The good news is that some of the not-so-great things about canned food can be bypassed or avoided. It all comes down to the selection and storage process.

How To Select The Right Canned Food

There are  a few guidelines you can follow to get the best option available:

  • select cans with a single ingredient;
  • always read the label and make sure there isn’t a long list of things you don’t know or can’t pronounce;
  • make sure the can is BPA free and not lined in plastic;
  • where possible, make sure the ingredients are organic;
  • opt for items canned in their own juices or water;
  • avoid cans that are rusted, damaged or bulging;
  • avoid brines (salt), syrups (sugar), or vegetable oils (trans fats).

How To Store Canned Food

We tend to think of canned food as invincible food. Watch any apocalyptic movie, and you get the impression they can survive anything. But there are some guidelines you should follow to ensure you are getting the best out of your cans:

  • Store cans in cool dark places. Avoid high heat and direct sunlight
  • Rotate your stock, and be sure to use the oldest cans first
  • Take note of the USE BY date and be sure to use them
  •  If the label is loose or falls off, use a marker to write on the can – you won’t remember a year from now, I promise.
  • Once opened, decant any leftover into an airtight container, refrigerate and use within a few days

Donating Canned Food

Canned food and other non-perishables are favourite items when making food donations. Homelessness, poverty and disasters of all kinds are a reality we cannot hide away from and doing our bit to help can go a long way. That being said, there are some things to consider when making canned food donations.  Some of these pointers may seem silly, but they do come up and still need to be avoided while done with the best intentions.

  • Do not clear out all your expired, damaged or rusted cans and drop them off at a charity or give them to someone less fortunate.
    These people are already at a disadvantage and without resources to seek medical assistance in the case of eating food that has gone off.
  • If possible, donate cans with easy-open lids.
    We forget that many people who receive these cans might not have a kitchen, let alone a can opener.
  • Avoid exotic foods.
    It might seem like a treat, but exotic foods are generally quite niche and may not be enjoyable to kids.
  • Do not donate opened cans.
    Charity organisations have to adhere to a health code and dispose of open food.
  • Contact the organisation or chat with the person directly and find out what they need.
    Donations are made ad-hoc and sporadically, which means there might be an excess of one type of food and a shortage of another. By contacting the organisation directly or chatting to the person directly, you can get them what they need.

Let’s not forget our furry friends…

All of the above applies to animal food. So be sure to check those cans and their ingredients before you buy them.

Now to experiment with those cans…

Dawn


Try this recipe



Bean Salad with Tangy Apricot Mayonnaise
Delicious heart and gut-healthy dish with a little tang to get the digestive juices going
Make Me

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Opened canned food

Bean salads are hardly a new thing, and we often overlook them when searching for a healthy side to a meal. However, partnering the beans with this tangy apricot mayonnaise gives it a slight upgrade both nutritionally and taste-wise. This bean salad with tangy apricot mayonnaise is excellent as part of a meal prep menu as the flavour gets better the longer it’s in the fridge.

Bean Nutrition

Beans and legumes are loaded with fibre (which is sorely lacking in modern diets), great for heart health and an excellent source of plant-based protein. There is also a wide selection of dishes you can use them for, anything from savoury to sweet dishes.

For the carb-conscious green beans and black soybeans are relatively low carb and can be incorporated into keto diets But, as a rule, beans contain a fair amount of carbohydrates. Their high fibre is what makes it a slow-releasing complex carb and therefore does not cause sudden spikes in sugar levels, in fact – quite the opposite.

Types of Beans

For this recipe, I selected three different types of beans:

Red Kidney Beans:

A mild flavoured bean with a slight sweetness to them. They are also shaped like a kidney hence the name. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, they help with kidney disease, but little science supports this. However, they are considered beneficial in managing blood sugar levels, taking a bit of pressure off your kidneys.

It goes back to that high fibre content I mentioned above. The fibre content also lends itself to potential cancer-fighting qualities, especially colon cancer.

NOTE: Raw kidney beans can be toxic and should always be cooked and rinsed well before consuming.

Cannellini Beans

It is a large white bean with a slightly nutty flavour, popular for use in stews and soups as they are firm and keep their shape and meatiness when cooked for a long time. Like kidney beans, they are toxic when raw. A best practice is to boil them for a long time, this kills off the toxic lectins, and just the nutritious bean remains. Cannellini beans are full of polyphenols (effective anti-inflammatory agents and fight cell damage).

Black Beans

Black beans have a mild flavour and are often used in vegan desserts due to their soft texture and neutral taste. They tend to absorb the flavours of whatever they are mixed with, so soaking in a marinade can help pack a punch of flavour in a salad.

Tangy Apricot Mayonnaise

This is where the magic happens. I was looking for something with a bit of tang and sweetness. Apple cider vinegar was an obvious choice, with the mother strands swirling at the bottom and the sharp smell it gets your taste buds woken up asap!

Dried fruits have concentrated sugars that add sweetness without adding additional processed sugars. (In this recipe, apricots carried their flavour through the best, and other dried fruit did not seem to work as well).

Apple Cider Vinegar

Also fondly referred to as ACV, it is well known for its health benefits. Some even knock back a neat tot of it. Unfortunately, while I love the vinegar, I haven’t been able to bring myself to swig it back neat.

Its medicinal uses date back to 400BC, when Hippocrates would use it as an antibiotic. ACV helps with digestion by adding to the stomach’s natural acidity. Many of us suffer from indigestion, not because of too much stomach acid, but rather from too little. This means the food sits in the stomach far longer than it should

Garnish

You can go in many directions with the garnish – anything from seeds to grated apple would be great. However, if you want to maximise nutrition, then I suggest one of the following:

Parsley or Coriander

Whichever you choose, they both pack that same incredible health factor. They protect us against the accumulation of heavy metals in our bloodstream and organs. So, indeed, those inane little garnishes you’ve been sending back on your plate all these years are actually pretty awesome. And, depending on where you’ve been eating, probably the healthiest thing on the plate – just saying.

Flavonoids

Red onion, tomatoes, and colourful beans all have a common flavonoid called Anthocyanins. (Foods with a dark red/blue/purple hue indicate this potent antioxidant).

Anthocyanins are considered more potent than the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and are rich in Vitamin P or Rutin (discovered by the same scientist who discovered Vitamin C). Studies have shown benefits in fighting heart disease, arthritis, skin issues and many more due to its high antioxidant values.

If you want to know more about canned food, then read: Canned Food: Cans and Cants

Now let’s get to eating…

Bean Salad with Tangy Apricot Mayonnaise

This heart healthy and gut supporting bean salad is rounded off with a homemade delicious tangy apricot mayonnaise that is so easy to make.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Soaking Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: dairyfree, eggfree, glutenfree, heart healthy, lowgi, nutfree, soyfree, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 6

Ingredients

Apricot Soak

  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ Lemon juiced
  • 100 g Dried Apricots

Sauce Mix

  • ¼ cup Olive Oil extra virigin
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 1 clove Garlic minced
  • 1 sml Red Onion roughly chopped

Bean Mix

  • 1 can Black Beans drained
  • 1 can Red Kidney Beans drained
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans drained
  • 1 can Green Beans drained

Instructions

Apricot Soak

  • In a sealable container add the apricots, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Cover and set aside to soak for at least 2 hours. (If you have the time, prepare this the day before and leave in the fridge to infuse).

Mayonnaise Mix

  • Add the soaked apricots to a blender along with the olive oil, water, garlic and onion
  • Blend for 1 - 2 minutes until a creamy, smooth mayonnaise is formed. (The strength of your blender will determine how long you need to mix it for).

Bean Mix

  • Add all the drained beans to a single large bowl
  • Add the blended mayonnaise and gently toss the mix until the sauce has complete coated the beans. (For a less juicy salad, simply use less mayonnaise. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days).

Serving Suggestions

  • Can be served immediately at room temperature or left in the fridge overnight
  • Garnish with your favourite seeds (sesame, pumpkin) or greens like parsley or coriander.
  • Serve as a side salad with your main dish, top off your nachos or tortilla for extra flavour. Add to a green leafy salad.

Notes

Leftovers: Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Store leftover mayonnaise for up to 5 days in tightly sealed container.
Serving Size: Roughly 1 cup per person 
Variations: Use your favourite beans instead, add some spices like paprika or chilli for a little kick
No Lemon: Use a lime. You can leave it out for a less tart flavour
Budget Version: Make the beans from scratch 

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I’ll be upfront with you here. I come from your average Anglo background, where my mother (who was an awful cook, bless her) cooked meat and 2-3 veg every night. Mum’s idea of curry was using Keen’s curry mix and adding in pineapple and sultanas. Her brussels sprouts were cooked beyond all recognition and could be hurled as weapons at my annoying younger brother!

Up until a few years ago, a green smoothie, to me, was to be avoided (I mean, who puts spinach or avocado in a smoothie??) and raw food? That was just salad, wasn’t it? Thankfully, I’ve come a long way with my food education since then!

How Long Has Raw Food Been Around?

If you think about it, raw food has been around for centuries, since our prehistoric days, but has really only become popular in modern day since the 1930’s. It became even more popular when celebrities such as Woody Harrelson and Miranda Kerr became known for their raw food lifestyles. It’s also become popular with people who choose to eschew animal products, with vegan and plant based diets becoming popular, often incorporating a large element of raw food.

What Is Raw Food Exactly?

So, what is raw food? Pretty much any raw vegetables, fermented foods, fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs and fresh juices. It can also include raw meat, fish and cheese. Think uncooked and unprocessed, cold or warm, as long as it doesn’t go above 47°C. But is it healthy, and is it beneficial for your digestion?

All Raw, All The Time?

There is the question of whether or not cooking does destroy nutrients, and a lot of proponents of raw food diets will point to this as a justification for eating raw food. It turns out that not all food is better for you raw.

Foods high in beta carotene (e.g.: sweet potato) which the body needs to produce vitamin A for example, need to be cooked in order for them to release their bountiful goodness, as do tomatoes in relation to the antioxidant lycopene. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflowers and broccoli are better for you steamed, especially if you have any thyroid issues, as they can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones if raw. Spinach, when cooked, has more magnesium, iron and zinc that’s available for absorption than when raw.

It’s About Digestion

The whole process of cooking food breaks down some of the plant fibres, which make it easier for your body to digest, and to absorb nutrients. It also improves the taste and aroma of food. The smell of food cooking often kick starts your digestion process by triggering the stomach to make digestive juices.

Overcoming Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

As someone who has had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and who has other health challenges, a completely raw food diet is not something I think I’d do well with, but I do like the idea of incorporating elements of it into my day to day routines.

For me, it was important to find ways that made it easy, tasty and I didn’t have to think too hard about it. Whipping up a batch of bliss balls to keep in the fridge solved the midmorning snack challenge, and some hummus (whilst technically not raw but I include it in my version) and carrot sticks take care of any afternoon nibbles.

A raw slice is also something of a delight, giving you a sweet hit without all the loaded processing that normally goes into the food we eat. A word of warning though. Raw food slices and bliss balls do have a number of benefits, however they are also very energy dense, and, as they are hard to resist, can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Raw Slices are made up of whole food plant-based natural ingredients blended together in the food processor to form a sticky dough that gets transferred to a bread loaf pan, put in the freezer, and later cut into slices.
Goodie Goodie Gluten Free

Bio-Individuality

Ideally you will work out which diet, or way of eating, suits your body, your lifestyle and is one that is easiest for you to maintain.

Here are some quick and easy ways to add a bit more ‘raw’ into your life:

  • Whip up a guacamole and dip into it with carrot and celery sticks;
  • Have avocado and greens with your meals;
  • Try a smoothie for breakfast or lunch. It’s a great way to add in extra fruit and vegetables, and gives your digestion a bit of a rest;
  • Try making bliss balls – you can make them using dates, apricots, cashews and coconut, but it’s really up to you;
  • Try making an avocado chocolate ganache or mousse – it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be and tastes great!

Your body will love you for dropping the processed stuff, and reward you with more energy and vitality, healthier skin and better digestion, which is, frankly, what we’d all like!

 

Who Is Sharan Kafoa?

I am an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach specialising in those pesky hormones that can cause such havoc in our lives.

Before that, I was a corporate worker bee, grinding it out. It was so very easy for me to destroy my health without even realising it, as all I was doing was living a “normal” life, doing what everyone else was doing. The consequences of not being aware, of not paying attention, were that for the past 20 years, I’ve dealt with weight, adrenal, thyroid, fertility and menopause-related challenges.

There’s a lot of information out there. Anyone can Google what diet should I be on? Why is my tummy bloated, and what can I do about it? How do I lose these kilos that have suddenly appeared? And they’ll be swamped with information! It’s confusing, scary, and you don’t know where to start. That’s where I come in.

I was inspired to start coaching because of purpose. I didn’t want to accept that all that I’ve been through has been for no reason and that I needed to go out there and make a difference in women’s lives!

My goal is that women everywhere get the information they deserve and need, make the best decisions for themselves, and help them figure out how to make health work for them daily.

www.preservethegoddess.com

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Opened canned food

Inspired by butter and korma curries, this Creamy Chickpea Curry is not only quick and easy to prepare but has loads of flavour.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) are a good source of plant-based protein, especially when combined with quinoa or high-quality grains. The high fibre content is also great at helping lower cholesterol and improving blood sugar levels. Chickpeas are therefore an excellent addition for those with diabetes or insulin resistance.

Ginger

To keep this creamy chickpea curry as basic as possible and not compromise on flavour, there simply had to be ginger. Although it is known for its aromatic and culinary properties, ginger has long been revered for its medicinal value. As far back as 2000 years ago, ginger has been used to alleviate gastrointestinal stress.

Curry Powder

Be sure to use fresh curry powder. Spices contain volatile oils that leach out over time (which is why they lose their aroma and taste). It also means they are losing much of their health benefits. Fresh is best with spices.

A Note About Spices

  • Consider visiting your local spice stores or ethnic markets. You can usually purchase by weight, which means you buy what you need, so no waste. They are also turning over stock frequently, so it’s fresher.
  • Purchase whole spices and grind them yourself. Grinding releases those potent health-promoting volatiles oils quicker, so if you want your spices to last longer – get them whole.
  • Avoid buying bulk spices unless you are using them often. You may just end up throwing most of it out, and that’s a pretty expensive exercise.
  • If spicy food is something you avoid but would like to try, then this is a great beginner recipe. Use a milder curry powder and build up to something spicier as you become more accustomed. The coconut cream helps tone down the heat and make the creamy texture of the sauce have a good mouthfeel.

To read more about Spices, read: Spice Essentials

Now enough talk, time to get cooking.

Enjoy!

Creamy Chickpea Curry

Chickpeas are a great source of plant based protein. Add the warmth of fresh ginger and curry spices, round it off with a bit of creaminess, and you have yourself a healthy and delicious comfort food.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: 30 minutes or less, dairyfree, dinner, easy, lunch, nutfree, onepan, soyfree, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

Spice Paste

  • tsp paprika
  • tsp curry powder medium heat
  • 1 tsp sea salt adjust to taste
  • tsp olive oil extra virgin

Onion Mix

  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 225 g onions (±2 onions) yellow, chopped
  • 14 g garlic (±2 cloves) minced
  • 24 g ginger (±2cm) fresh, grated or minced

Sauce Mix

  • 90 g tomato paste
  • 550 g diced tomato canned
  • 550 ml coconut cream canned

Protein

  • 550 g chickpeas canned, drained

Instructions

Spice Paste

  • In a small bowl add the curry powder, paprika, salt and olive oil
  • Mix into a paste and set aside

Onion Mix

  • On medium heat, add olive oil to a large pan/skillet and allow to warm
  • Add onions and sauté until they begin to soften and brown
  • Add garlic and ginger and stir

Sauce Mix

  • Turn heat to low and create a small well in the center of the pan
  • Add the spice paste and allow to warm until fragrant (±30 seconds), then stir in with the onion mix
  • Return heat to medium and add the tomato paste and diced tomato. Stir gently and deglaze the pan
  • Add coconut cream and stir until well blended

Protein

  • Add the chickpeas (or protein of your choice)
  • Bring pot to simmer and stir occasionally for 5 - 10 minutes (adjust cooking time according to your protein of choice)
  • Divide between bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander/banana and enjoy

Notes

Protein Alternatives: Use your favorite bean or lentils to keep it plant based. If you prefer to add an animal protein, consider the cooking time and if necessary brown or par cook before beginning the recipe. 
Curry Powder: I used a mild blend, but use your favorite brand or mix. This will keep the base curry profile familiar to what you and your family are accustomed to. 
Serve with: Rice, Cauli-rice, Quinoa, Naan  
Additions: Add extra vegetables like cauliflower, spinach or peas.
Leftovers: Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up 3 days. Can be reheated or eaten cold according to personal preference.

Resource Alert


Spice Mixes From Around the World

Download and print this for reference or to hang it on your wall. Follow the link below to sign up or log in to access
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(PS: you are welcome to unsubscribe once you’ve done the download, no hard feelings)


A wooden frame just above the same colour shelf flanked by small white vases with spikey green plants. The frame holds a chart with spices mixes from around the world in black writing with a white background

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apples across a table top with a banner saying apples across the image

With all the lockdowns we have endured, it seems it is the time for home cooks – everyone’s doing it! Well, maybe not everyone, and maybe cook is a strong word. With all the sourdough and banana bread pics on social media, perhaps home bakers is a better word (just saying).

Regardless of whether you plan to use your apron as a lab coat or a festive accessory, this is the time of the year we tend to overdo it in the eating department. It’s almost impossible to avoid. The best thing to do is have a few strategies in place.

Please look through some of these ideas and give one or two or all of them a try.

1. Hara Hachi Bu

SAY WHAT NOW?!
Hara Hachi Bu is a Japanese adage used by some of the oldest healthiest people in the world. They say this just before starting a meal as a reminder. So what is it?

Loosely translated it means – Stop Eating When You Are 80% full.

2. Space Your Meals

This ties in with Hara Hachi Bu. Our bodies take a bit of time to sort through what we have eaten. It can take a while for you to actually begin to feel full.
Try to space meals about 20 minutes apart.

3. Eat A Veggie-Heavy Starter

You’re thinking – “I thought we were supposed to eat less not more?”

Well here’s the thing, eating a small veggie-heavy starter will not only get the healthy stuff in first, but it will also get you feeling satiated a lot sooner.

4. Don’t starve yourself

Starvation and a spread of delicious food are not a good combo. It lowers your resistance and increases your chances of binging. So unless you were recently given Sainthood for your denial of temptation abilities, best to have a small snack before the festivities begin. Maybe that means eating a decent breakfast, a snack before you leave home, or a starter before the main course.

5. Defer, defer, defer

No, I haven’t confused this list with a courtroom drama. I’m talking about ‘that’ person who’s always insisting you have more. Everyone is eating, drinking, talking, laughing and the host is loving it. They insist you have that extra helping and you feel bad saying no – so don’t. Don’t say no, just say later. By the time later comes everyone has moved on and forgotten about it, hopefully. If not, then ask if you can take it home.

6. Make water great again!

Let’s face it, not only are cocktails and drinks fun they can look pretty appetizing. So asking for a glass of water when your friend is sipping on a Mojito can make you look like a bit of a buzz kill. Well, water doesn’t have to be boring. Make some flavored water, use sparkling water with fresh fruit and herbs for a snazzy and attractive drink.

7. Slow Down

You have most likely spent the whole year guzzling your meals in front of a computer, the TV or under stress. Meeting up with friends, family, or those closest to you is about enjoying their company the environment and cherishing the moment. So no need to rush. Take time to notice the food, chew properly and pause between bites. Savour not only the food but the moment.

8. Get Active

Take your yoga mat with you to lunch – Just kidding!

You will need to do 1 of 2 things here, or maybe both. Let go of your inhibitions a little or get creative. If there’s music then get your groove on and bust a few moves on the dance floor. Maybe it’s time to revive that sprinkler move you had in high school. If there’s a swimming pool and everyone’s in it, don’t be a wallflower – get in and have fun.

If there’s a nature walk or beach nearby, go for a post-meal stroll to ‘make space’ for dessert. Look around, get creative.

9. Avoid the dinner plate

Dishing up a small serving on a big plate is soul-destroying. It looks terrible and you get the distinct feeling of missing out. Why not get a side plate and fill it up. You might even want a refill, but it’s highly unlikely you will go for a 3rd round.

10. Let Go Of The Guilt

Here’s the thing, meals connect people. Great meals make memories.

Suppose your mom made a 12-course meal and spent two days making it – enjoy it! You don’t eat like this every day, and breaking out from your norm isn’t going to destroy you.

The purpose here isn’t about not eating the triple chocolate trifle. It’s about enjoying the moment and avoiding, (or minimizing), the extreme excess we often fall prey to. Whether you’re attending year-end functions or spending time with family, it can become a stressor. Using one or all of these strategies can help relieve some of the stress.

Don’t forget to take a little time out for yourself. Balance all the hype with a bit of quiet time and recharge.

Take care friends and don’t just give presents, be present.

Dawn

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You may have noticed a logo in my web page’s footer saying ‘The Ethical Move” and wondered what it’s all about. Well, instead of guessing, I thought I should take some time and tell you a little about it, as it is very important to me.

In their own words, The Ethical Move believe that:

“how we sell matters”

The Ethical Move is a group of people taking the first step in moving away from the manipulative selling techniques used in the digital world. As members, we pledge not to use particular selling and marketing techniques or to use them responsibly. The pledge focuses on seven primary elements. The folks at The Ethical Move have a pledge page explaining each element well: The Pledge.

But here is a summary in my own words…

Charm Pricing

Charm Pricing is when a seller tries to make an item seem cheaper by going a single/few digits under the higher amount. A great example is instead of saying something costs $100; they say $97.

As a member, we pledge not to use the number 9 in our pricing.

Countdowns

The “Get It Now Before This Deal Expires” Deal. You get so worried you will miss out that you rearrange your entire (sometimes limited) budget to get the deal in time – only to find that it’s still running a week/month later. Countdowns in itself is not an unfair practice, but unscrupulous parties can abuse it to create that ‘knot in the stomach’ feeling of missing out.

Yes, there are instances where an offer is limited. For example, as I prepare my online courses, I will also be running them for a limited time each year which means there will be a cut-off.

The difference – the cut off is genuine, and you will know upfront when and how often the course is running. If you cannot afford it or don’t have time for it now, you can always sign up when it runs again.

False Scarcity

False Scarcity often ties in with No.2 (countdowns) and can get you anxious. As a solopreneur, I honestly can only accommodate so many seats at a live venue or for the online course. I prefer to interact directly with my class, and there are limits.

If a course is fully automated or the offer is electronic, there is often no need to create this pressure.

Lead Magnets

Lead Magnets is a difficult one. The deal is this: I give you something free in exchange for your email address. Without it, many businesses would be dead in the water. Email lists are how we grow our client base and keep them informed. So really, it isn’t ‘free’ in the true sense of the word.

The problem is when you make this trade and then get inundated with emails, sales and promotions that may or may not include content you even signed up for.

Not all of us are marketing guru’s, and it can be difficult for someone like myself to know how much is enough and if we are still adding value – which is our primary intention.

The responsible thing to do is make sure your subscribers know they can unsubscribe at any point – no hard feelings. Their information is not sold or farmed out for profit, and you stick to what you said you would.

Bait and Switch

This one drives me crazy. You get told to take a quiz, and you will receive something personalized – or something like that.

But all you get is sales pitches and buy this to get that nonsense! I want to think I cannot be hooked by Bait & Switch, but (sigh) it still happens.

All I can say to marketers that use this – enough already!!

Woke Washing

This one is a particularly nasty element to marketing nowadays. I battled to write this paragraph without ranting. So I decided to quote directly from The Ethical Move:

Woke washing is the appropriation of ethical and progressive values with the intent to leverage image and increase sales, when behind closed doors, the actions and words don’t match the reality (when a brand donates to BLM while exploiting BIPOC in their supply chain).

– The Ethical Move

As members, we pledge to be transparent and honest about our actions and words.

Secret Recipe

Secret Recipe is something I often refer to as the Silver Bullet Solution. Unfortunately, it happens a lot in the health and wellness industry and can be very frustrating seeing a continuous stream of the same rhetoric: ‘You will get these miraculous results if you eat this and do that!’

I’m not saying some of these ‘secret recipes’ don’t work. What I am saying is that they will not work for everyone. If it did not work for you, then it isn’t your fault, and there isn’t something wrong with you. Even if a million people had success, they do not live your life, have your DNA or deal with what you deal with. You are unique and not a statistic.

There is also more than one solution to anything, and more often than not, there is no hack or shortcut.

What do we do about it?

So there you have it. Honestly, there isn’t much you can do other than educate yourself and your family around these tactics. But, as a blogger, business owner, entrepreneur or anyone with influence, you can perhaps do what I am…

I promise to uphold these values and apply them responsibly. I am grateful to have guidelines like these and honestly hope others will do the same.

Dawn

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If you haven’t read my blog about Chocolate – Healthy or Not? Then spoiler alert – yes, it is***, and I have 5 effortless chocolaty recipes for you to try.

(***All those stars mean terms, conditions, and fine print).

Sigh! I know; it would be so cool if this one single delicious ingredient a decisive nod.

It’s your prerogative

How you use chocolate in your diet is your choice, but it’s going feature in some way for most of us. So, to make the search for healthier chocolate recipes easier, I put together a little recipe round-up for you.

About that fine print, I mentioned

Treats need to be eaten mindfully and in moderation. While all these recipes are gluten-free, they inevitably use some form of sweetener (always natural). If you are experiencing issues with blood sugar or hormones, I urge you to partake in moderation.

Who’s on the list

The health and wellness community is diverse, and when I reached out to my colleagues for recipes, I was thrilled to get responses from all over the globe (Canada, Australia & South Africa). So whether you are near or far, you can enjoy what we each have to offer.

Grain-Free Chocolate Zucchini Fudge Cake 

Chocolate and fudge in the same sentence!

This gem is loaded with protein and fibre to help manage blood sugar spikes. In addition, Zucchini is a genuinely underrated fruit, and you will be surprised (and delighted) at how well it works with this recipe. Another bonus is the handy swop outs to accommodate a vegan diet – so everyone can try this one out.

Caitlin is a Certified Holistic & Culinary Nutritionist and Yoga Instructor based in St John, Canada. She is a passionate advocate of changing our relationship with food to live our best lives. To find out more about her incredible story and for more recipes, be sure to visit her site: Nourished by Caitlin Iles and follow her on social media: @nourishedbycaitlin

Website Recipe Instagram

Double Chocolate Almond Granola

https://www.mealsbytiia.com/recipes/double-chocolate-almond-granola/Tiia knocked it out of the park with this recipe.

If a chocolaty start to the day is what you are after, then her Double Chocolate Almond Granola is what you have been looking for.

Using raw cacao powder to boost the antioxidant and magnesium goodness and offer the option to add a little collagen powder. I love a recipe that manages to pack a nutritional punch and doesn’t compromise on taste. Tiia is a Culinary Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and helps her clients with meal prepping, planning and much more. For more recipes, be sure to head on over to her site: Meals by Tiia and follower her on social media: @mealsbytiia

Website Recipe Instagram

Fully Loaded GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are not only delicious but so quick and easy to prepare. So great for whipping up when guests come over or as a gift for your friends – trust me, they will thank you or have with your afternoon tea – no sharing is needed.

Sharan follows a Gluten-Free eating plan to manage her health best and does not compromise on taste. The smell alone will have you drooling.

Sharan is a certified Health and Hormone Coach based in Melbourne, Australia. Through her journey dealing with three autoimmune diseases, Sharan focuses on feeling well, living well and loving life. Follow Sharan on social media: @whysettleforordinary, or click one of the links below for more details.

Recipe Instagram Facebook

GF Dark Chocolate Torta Caprese

This is decadence at its best!

If you want to impress with an after-dinner slice of chocolaty heaven – then this is the go-to recipe. It’s like a soft pillow of chocolate.

Shoots and Leaves are an eatery based in Umhlanga, KZN, South Africa. Their food is always fresh with something new on the menu each day. Using whole local foods, their harvest table lunches are legendary and a must-try if you are in the area.

To order your box of farm-fresh veg, wholesome frozen meals for the week or meet up with friends for a delicious lunch, check out their website: Shoots & Leaves or connect with them on social media: @shoots_and_leaves_sa

Download the recipe here with all their contact details.

Website Recipe Instagram

Chocolate Truffle Cups

This is one of my personal favourite recipes to make. From my days of following a ketogenic diet and loving the texture of smooth buttery fat bombs, it was a springboard from there. Tahini with coconut syrup is also reminiscent of the old days when I would have peanut butter and syrup.

It all makes for a deep chocolaty, buttery truffle in a bed of crispy hazelnut. A mineral-rich treat is sure to satisfy the chocolate lover in you.

Recipe

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Fennel, Apple and Ginger with a juice

Is chocolate healthy or not? Oh, if only I could shout a definitive YES! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

But to answer you correctly, I would have to ask that when you say chocolate, what do you mean? Chocolate meant something completely different to me ten years ago from what it means to me today…

Confused?

Let me explain.

Until I got really serious about my food and did a bit of research, the word chocolate would conjure up particular images. For example, my favourite chocolate bar is the silken sauce over my ice cream or the powder I used for my hot chocolate (or ate from the can, if I’m honest). The only variation I couldn’t instantly eat was the cocoa powder for baking. Many of you know (as I do) that it was also a one-way ticket to acne breakouts, a few extra kilos on the hips and a headache. But then – there was all this hype about dark chocolate being healthier, certain types of chocolate helping with blood pressure regulation, and an antioxidant? So how could it possibly be healthy and cause so much havoc in my body?

So What’s The Difference?

It turns out that there are different types of chocolate and varying processing methods differentiate them.

Type of Chocolate

You may have noticed the chocolate ingredient listed as either cacao or cocoa. I thought that was just a spelling error back in the day, but it turns out there is a bit – nay – big difference. But even though their processing methods are different, most consumers use different spellings interchangeably.

Cacao

Also known as: raw cocoa, raw cacao, superfood, vegan cocoa, true chocolate
Taste profile: strong, bitter, acidic
Appearance: dark brown, fine dust-like powder
Variations: nibs/liquor, powder
Used in: baking, drinks, sauces, desserts, cooking
Processing: Other than the initial fermentation, drying and grounding process, very little is done
Nutrition Profile: The processing is minimal and done at low heat or using friction only. The nutritional profile is mostly unharmed. Without getting into the technical stuff, the beneficial components are:

Minerals – magnesium being the most notable and useful as a relaxant
Polyphenolic compounds: Flavan-3-ols are responsible for the bitter flavour and the potent antioxidant effects.
Healthy fats: oleic acid the same found in olive oil

Using good quality dark chocolate made with raw cacao is beneficial in fighting against cardiovascular disease, lowering cholesterol, insulin resistance and much more. But, before you decide it’s all good, let’s talk about cocoa.

Cocoa

Also known as: cocoa powder, coco, hot chocolate, chocolate
Taste profile: creamy, mild
Appearance: light to dark brown powder
Variations: powder
Used in: baking, drinks, sauces, desserts
Processing: It begins with the same processing followed by cacao with the addition of being heated and most likely mixed with other components. NOTE: Most cocoa powders are mixed with fillers, anti-caking agents, sweeteners, whey powders and various other additives.
Nutrition Profile: The nutritional profile starts the same as cacao. It gets diminished by additional processing, adding of ingredients and dilution.

So how much chocolate is in my chocolate?

It appears to be anything from zero, typically labelled as ‘flavoured’ and synthetic based, all the way to 100%, which is usually found in specialized boutique shops. The only way to know is to make sure you read the label or contact the manufacturer. Alternatively, buy cacao or cocoa powder and make your own dishes. This is the ultimate level of controlling how much chocolate is in your chocolate.

Getting back to “When you say chocolate, what do you mean?”

Hopefully, you are a little less confused by that question now. Chocolate, like so many foodie words nowadays, is used very loosely. Manufacturers also use cacao and cocoa interchangeably; it can get confusing. What I have come to understand is this (based upon my personal opinion):

  • Chocolate is an ingredient or flavour (not the enemy)
  • Chocolate can be used for good (as part of a healthy eating plan), or
  • Chocolate can be used for bad (loaded with fillers, additives and miscellaneous stuff)
  • Chocolate, as it is presented to the public, is more sugar than chocolate
  • Often the statement: I need a chocolate fix, is actually a need for a sugar fix. Now that I know better, I use chocolate as a key part of a healthy diet. A chocolate treat can either help build my health or send me into a sugar frenzy…
  • Both can be made with raw cacao, whether it is the sugar frenzy or building health option.

What’s going to stop you from using cacao

Okay, so maybe you are all fired up about using the healthier version of chocolate. There are a few things that may put you off, though, so let’s deal with them quickly.

Raw Cacao is expensive

  • Maybe some of you can find a reasonably priced supplier, but here where I live, it’s right up there with buying an island. As a result, I am very selective about when and how I use it. I make it count. It is going to be rich, decadent and as healthy as possible.

Raw Cacao is strong

  • This helps with the expensive thing. Raw cacao is potent, and you don’t need as much as you would with regular cocoa.
  • If you are swopping out cacao for cocoa, try the full amount for the first try of the recipe. Then, if it’s too overpowering, reduce the amount by a teaspoon or two for the next attempt.
  • If this is a new ingredient you are trying, it will require experimentation.

Raw Cacao is bitter

  • Many of you are probably picturing a delicious cup of hot chocolate after the reference earlier but beware. This requires using a neat version of the powder, and you may be in for a little surprise. Remember those flavan-3-ols mentioned under the nutritional profile – they are strong, and as healthy as they are, they are bitter. Again, you are introducing a new flavour, and it takes time and adjustment. You cannot use it the same as common cocoa. Perhaps start with blending cocoa and cacao, and then gradually change the ratio.

Chocolate – Healthy or Not?

If you are looking at chocolate as an ingredient in the purest form you can get and afford – then the answer is an easy yes. However, what you add to it determines its ultimate level of healthy or not.

Recipes Please!

All this talk about chocolate probably has you motivated to try out a few recipes? I am way ahead of you — pop on over to 5 Effortless Chocolatey Recipes For You To Try. I added one of my own favourites and reached out to my colleagues for some recipes. They are diverse and delicious, so be sure to check them out, and don’t forget to show us. We love to see your creations #nutrichologist

CAUTION

Something I did not mention earlier is the compound Theobromine. This is one of the compounds in chocolate that makes us humans so happy when we eat chocolate. The more diluted the cacao is the less of an effect it has on us. The problem arises when we think it’s a good idea to feed it to our pets. Depending on the strength it can have a mild to lethal effect on our pets. It’s known as chocolate poisoning and causes anything from mild diarrhea and nausea to seizures and death. Dogs are particularly vulnerable. To be safe, please do not feed chocolate to your pets.

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