Thursday, 29 August 2013

Healthy Fruit Leather (a.k.a rollups)

Growing up I thought my mother was irrationally strict. I was the child that was forced to do swimming squad in the midst of a freezing winter, who was never allowed to watch cartoons before school and who was banned from consuming artificial colours and flavours. Red fizzy drinks, lollies and most pre-packaged lunch box snacks were out of the question. School birthday parties or afternoons spent at friends houses were a luxurious escape for me, where I could indulge in sugar-loaded Fanta and 100's and 1000's smothered fairy bread without my mother's knowledge... oh how sneaky of me! I would smugly return home thinking how clever I was for fooling her.

But somehow she always knew... Oh yes, a mother always knows.

My earlier indulgences were given away by my hyperactive and manic behaviour upon return. Bouncing off the walls on a fructose driven sugar high while screaming and crying at my poor defenceless parents was hardly hide-able.

Of course now when reflecting on my childhood I realise my mothers actions were for my own benefit. As a child that was sensitive to artificial colours/flavours and excess sugar she acted in my best interest. However try telling an 8 year old that!

During school recess I was particularly envious of my friends whose lunch boxes contained 'fruit' roll ups. Realistically they are a chewy lolly marketed as a 'healthier' lunch box alternative to ordinary confectionery. As a child I couldn't understand why my mother wouldn't let me eat these!

Now I simply need to look at the list of ingredients to understand why.

Roll-Up Strawberry Flavour Ingredients: MALTODEXTRIN (MAIZE OR  WHEAT), CONCENTRATED FRUIT PASTE (25%) [APPLE, STRAWBERRY (1%), RASPBERRY, BLUEBERRY, BLACKCURRANT], MODIFIED STARCH (1412)(WHEAT), DIETARY FIBRE (INULIN), VEGETABLE OIL [EMULSIFIER (LECITHIN) (SOY), ANTIOXIDANTS (304, 306)], APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE (2%), SUGAR, NATURAL FLAVOUR, EMULSIFIER (471), FOOD ACID (CITRIC, MALIC), NATURAL COLOURS EXTRACTED FROM FRUIT, VEGETABLES AND PLANTS (ANTHOCYANIN, CARBON BLACK, TURMERIC), VEGETABLE GUMS (410, 415).

Emulsifier 471 for your information is a fatty acid that can be from either plant or animal origin.

For something marketed as a strawberry fruit product it is a little shocking to see that only 1% of the product actually comes from strawberries... actually its disgusting!!!

So here I offer you a healthy alternative to the commercial roll-up. Homemade fruit leather that does not require a dehydrator to make!

Basically you can use whatever fruit you would like! 3 cups of puree will roughly be enough to cover one large baking tray. Play around with whatever fruit/flavours you like and add whatever spices you like :) I chose to use apples, strawberries and ruby grapefruit with a pinch of cinnamon!

Not only do these NOT contain any of the nasties that commercial roll ups contain, but they are pretty much PURE fruit! Say no to artificial crap and yes to real food!

Healthy Fruit Leather (a.k.a roll ups)
Makes 10 strips

Ingredients

2 apples, finely diced
10 strawberries, diced
1 ruby pink grapefruit, diced
Stevia/rice malt syrup to sweeten if needed
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/4 cup water

Instructions

1. Place the fruit in saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the fruit is soft and the liquid has been reduced. Stir through the cinnamon and salt.

2. Transfer the fruit to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and if required add a sweetener. The grapefruit can be quite tart and while suitable for adults children may not appreciate this. If you would like a sweeter roll up than I suggest adding some sweetness to balance out the sourness. If a sweetener is added blend again until combined. You should end up with 2-3 cups worth of pureed fruit.

3. Heat oven to 120-150°C (250-300F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper (if your baking tray is not very large you may need to use two smaller sized trays). Pour the mixture onto the tray and spread it out thinly by using the back of a spatula. You want it to just cover the baking paper's surface without leaving any gaps (the thinner the better!). Place the baking tray in the oven on the lowest shelf availiable and bake for 8-12 hours. I left mine overnight baking at about 130°C for 9 hours. Remove the tray from the oven and using a sharp knife cut the fruit leather into strips. Let it cool completely before peeling the fruit leather off the baking paper. Roll up if desired and store in an airtight container for up to a week! Enjoy :)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Healthy Nutella- Dairy and Refined Sugar Free


There is something about nutella which goes beyond it being a delicious chocolatey spread.

An emotional attachment of a certain sort exists between nutella and a lot of women, with the heavenly hazelnut tub an emotional crutch to aid you through the darkest of times. No matter the situation, it always so nice to know, that at the end of a horrible day you can crawl back into bed with your spoon and nutella jar, emersing yourself in chocolate comfort.

It's OK. We have all been there.

Most women however will grow out of this unhealthy habit once they develop a sense of emotional stability, or in the alternative, they discover wine.

Despite growing out of the eating nutella straight from the jar phase, I am still sentimentally triggered when I pass my former friend displayed prominently in isle 5. Even though I would never eat sugar loaded nutella today, I can't help reminisce about times past and the delicious spoonfuls that comforted every broken heart.

Fundamentally nutella is a sweet hazelnut butter that contains milk. Replicating it is SO easy and implementing little tweaks to make the occasional spoonful a little less naughty is very simple. While I don't encourage this to be eaten on a daily basis, this nutritious version is still a great treat alternative, which will satisfy any emotional craving and help make any life adversity, a little less hard.




Healthy 'Nutella'
Makes enough to fill 1 small jar.

Ingredients

1 cup hazelnuts (125g)
6 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
4 tbsp honey (or 4 tbsp rice malt syrup for a fructose friendly version or 4 tbsp granulated stevia for a sugar free version)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

1. Place hazelnuts in a food processor. Blitz on high for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture resembles a crumby paste.

2. Add all other ingredients. Blitz on high again until smooth. Depending on how thick you want to spread to be you can add more milk if a thinner consitency is desired.

3. Pour the contents of the food processor into a glass jar or container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Try not to eat it all at once.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Best Low Carb Blueberry Muffins

The humble muffin. A sweet, yet not overly so, baked good that generally contains fruit, nuts, spices, chocolate or a mixture of the above. Muffins are a staple of the western diet, viewed as a healthier choice to cake and pastries, with every cafe, supermarket and bakery displaying abundant varieties, fueled by consumers eager to buy them.

But why the allure of the basic muffin? Well let me tell you a story about my first-year at University. I was 20 and considered myself a health conscious young adult. I would eat a 'healthy' diet, drink 'moderately' on the weekends and exercise regularly. However despite this, first-year university me was puzzled on why my weight never shifted! I mean, my diet was not that bad right?! Right?!

Well....along came a muffin.

Putting my other terrible dietary habits at the time aside, (hello binge drinking and sugar addiction), I was completely clueless to the calories and sugar that were found in cafe and shop bought foods. You see I had this ritual, every Monday morning at uni during my 1 hour break I would journey to the campuses 'healthy' food eatery and buy myself a ginormous blueberry muffin. It was my treat to myself for being such a dedicated university student that used my brain so hard. This ritual continued for nearly the entire year, until one day health conscious me thought I should look into the nutritional contents of my morning muffin treat. A quick look at the eateries website left me feeling sick. My 'humble' muffin contained a shocking 543 calories, 65grams of carbohydrates with 19g of that being sugar. As you can imagine I just wanted to cry. No wonder I was not losing weight.

This brings me to my point. Muffins are alluring because they appear as a 'healthier' treat alternative which induces people to be more likely to consume them. But in reality they are as calorie and sugar dense as cake. Food suppliers that call themselves 'wholefood' stores, and sell these mega calorie muffins are also to blame for the false imagery of muffins (among other foods). This same 'wholefood' store at my university also sells a Cocoa Cardomom Muffin which contains a scary 697 calories... yes you heard me right... and which also has 88g of carbs. That is more then what a McDonalds Quarter Pounder contains! How on earth is anyone expected to be healthy in a world full of false advertising and misguided information?

Four years on I can tell you I have never eaten another store or cafe bought muffin since. I pack my own lunches and bake my own versions of morning treats. I still eat blueberry muffins. Just a different kind and in more appropriate portion sizes.

These muffins are small, but moist, flavorful and bursting with ripe juicy blueberries. Each muffin contains 116 calories, 5 grams of carbs with only 2 grams being naturally occurring sugar, 6 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat. After many experimentations, I can honestly say this is the best blueberry muffin recipe I have tried, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do, and feel you never have to eat another store bought muffin again!



The Best Low Carb Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6

Ingredients
3 eggs
1/2 cup premium quality coconut milk (I used Ayam Brand)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla essence
20 drops vanilla liquid stevia (or regular)
2 tbsp granulated stevia
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup frozen blueberries

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 180 (350F) and line 6 muffin holes with paper cases.

2. Mix the coconut flour, chia seeds and the baking paper in a large mixing bowl and put aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, vanilla essence, lemon zest and stevias, until well combined. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, gently folding the ingredients together until the mixture appear smooth and uniform. Once done, gently fold through the blueberries.

4. Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin holes and bake for 25 minutes or until the top have turned a rich golden brown. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before removing and eating. Yum!