Almost paleo banana berry bread

almost-paleo-banana-berry-bread2I’m pregnant at the moment and have been craving banana bread. In an effort to come up with a recipe that’s tasty AND nutritious I’ve been experimenting with different ingredients and have landed on the following which I find works well. It’s gluten, dairy and refined sugar free so great for those with food intolerances.

Health benefits

I use a good portion of freshly ground linseeds/flax seeds which are extremely high in omega-3 essential fatty acids (higher than any other plant-based food) and are excellent for cardiovascular health. Linseeds are rich in lignans which are fibre-like compounds that have been credited for helping reduce the risk of cancer, in particular breast cancer. Linseeds are also considered to be particularly beneficial for the digestive tract thanks to their mucilage (gum) content.

In place of gluten-free flour I’ve used amaranth which is an ancient Aztec seed with similar properties to quinoa. Amaranth is relatively high in protein and contains the amino acid lysine rendering it’s protein a “whole protein” which is particularly beneficial for vegetarians. The peptides in amaranth contain anti-inflammatory properties which are thought to help those suffering from conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and stroke. Amaranth contains rutin which has been linked to strengthening capillary walls and helping to protect against varicose veins.

For a great flavour boost I use almond meal. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, healthy fats, minerals and antioxidants and have been proven to help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

In place of butter I’ve used coconut oil which is nature’s richest source of saturated fat. Contrary to conventional medical advice, the saturated fat in coconut oil is thought to help the body lower bad cholesterol and increase the levels of healthy cholesterol and therefore promote cardiovascular health.

Bananas are a good source of potassium which helps the body maintain normal blood pressure and berries are low in sugar and high in antioxidants.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 ripe bananas (if they’re small I’ll use 3, if they’re large I’ll use 2)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70g/half a cup of ground linseeds/flaxseeds*
  • 70g/half a cup of amaranth flour
  • 60g/half a cup of almond meal
  • 30g/quarter of a cup of tapioca flour/starch
  • 125ml/half a cup of coconut oil, melted
  • 80ml/one third cup sweetener of your choice (maple syrup, coconut nectar, honey, dark agave)
  • 100g/1 cup mixed berries (I use frozen berries if fresh aren’t in season)
  • 1 teaspoon good quality baking soda (choose aluminium free)

*I like to grind the linseeds/flaxeeds myself (I use a coffee/spice grinder) to ensure that they are fresh as their fats oxidise over time.

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Grease your baking tin
  3. Add the ground linseeds/flaxseeds, amaranth, tapioca and baking soda to a mixing bowl
  4. In a food processor (you can use a blender if you don’t have one) mix the eggs, sweetener and ripe bananas and coconut oil for a minute or so until smooth and fluffy
  5. Add the banana mixture to the dry mixture and mix well
  6. Fold in the berries
  7. Add to the tin and bake for 40 minutes. Insert a skewer, if it comes out clean remove from the oven. If not allow to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
  8. Once removed from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool

 

Activated Pepitas/Pumpkin Seeds

activated-pepitas-pumpkin-seeds

I’ve been experimenting with activating pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds) recently. According to Weston Price Foundation the process of soaking nuts, seeds and grains and legumes neutralises phytic acid which can be hard for the body to digest and makes the nutrients more readily available to the body.

Health Benefits of Pepitas

Pepitas/pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals including manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, copper and zinc and have long been valued as a good source of dietary zinc. They are a good source of a diverse range of antioxidants, the combination of which is not commonly found in other food sources. Similarly, they contain vitamin E in a variety of forms which is thought to increase its bioavailability.

Pepitas are also rich in omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids and contain the amino acid tryptophan which is sometimes used to treat chronic insomnia.

It’s great to rely on a variety of food sources to meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. Try out my paleo honey nut bar recipe which is a great way to get kids to eat pepitas with other nuts and seeds. They also make great additions to salads.

Ingredients

  • As many pepitas as you would like to activate
  • Plenty of filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Method

  1. Cover the pepitas in plenty of filtered water (allowing for the fact that they will expand) and add the lemon juice/apple cider vinegar
  2. Soak for 6 hours
  3. Drain and pat dry
  4. Place in a food dehydrator according to instructions for 12 hour or roast in the oven in the lowest temperature for the same amount of time

Once complete, allow to cool and store in an airtight container. If you don’t eat them very often or have made a large batch, it’s a good idea to store them in the fridge.

Activated walnuts

activated-walnuts-portraitIf there’s a nut worth activating, it’s most certainly the walnut. The process of soaking walnuts then slowly dehydrating them renders a beautiful, crunchy texture to the nuts and in my opinion improves their flavour by reducing the bitterness of the skin.

The process of “activating” nuts has become popular in recent times as an increasing number of people embrace eating whole foods. However soaking grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is an ancient art of food preparation that helps improve digestibility by neutralising harmful phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that bind to minerals in the digestive tract including (including calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium) – limiting their absorption within the body.

Walnuts are often labeled as superfood for good reason. They are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids and are a good source of vitamin E. Studies have credited walnuts for supporting heart health, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and for their ability to help the body fight cancer, particularly prostate and breast cancer.. The world’s healthiest foods website has a great overview of the health benefits of walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg walnuts (more or less, depending on how many you have available)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Plenty of filtered water at room temperature (or slightly warmer)

Method

  • Place the walnuts in a large bowl (preferably glass or ceramic)
  • Cover with plenty of filtered water so that there’s ample when the nuts swell (make sure it’s at least room temperature, or just a little warmer)
  • Add the apple cider vinegar and mix through well
  • Soak for 6 hours
  • Drain well and pat dry
  • Place in a food dehydrator on the lowest temperature for 19 hours or place in your oven on the lowest temperature and roast for 14 hours. Check a couple, allow to cool and if not crunchy allow to dehydrate for another 5 hours
  • Once ready allow to cool and enjoy

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container or in the fridge or freezer

Paleo honey nut bars

paleo-honey-nut-bars
These paleo honey nut bars make a delicious sweet treat that the whole family will love. They’re loaded with nutrition, provide a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians and are a great way to incorporate a variety of nuts and seeds into the diets of children and teenagers. Scroll down to read more about the health benefits of the various ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups nuts – I use 1 x cup raw/activated almonds, half a cup of raw cashews and half a cup of raw/activated walnuts but you can use whatever you have available or like best
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds/pepitas
  • Half a cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Quarter of a cup of honey/1 third of rice malt syrup if vegan (noting that honey tastes best in this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil/butter plus a little extra for greasing (or other oil of your choice, noting that coconut oil or butter work best)

Optional additions:

  • 2 dates, finely chopped OR
  • 12 dried sour cherries, cut into quarters OR
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried fruit of your choice OR
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line an oven proof baking tin (i don’t have one at the moment so use a small lasagne dish) with greaseproof paper and grease the paper with a little coconut oil (or any other oil will work)
  3. Roughly chop the nuts or place in a food processor with the shredded coconut and blend for around 10 seconds, ensuring that the nuts retain a nice chunky consistency
  4. Transfer to a bowl and add the sesame and pumpkin seeds plus the dried fruit/cacao nibs if including them
  5. Place the honey/rice malt syrup and coconut oil/butter (or other oil if you’re using something different) in a small saucepan and heat over a very low heat until mixed and runny
  6. Pour the sweet mixture over the nut and seed mixture and stir through well
  7. Transfer to the oven proof baking dish that you prepared earlier
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes
  10. Transfer to the fridge and allow to cool for at least half an hour before slicing

Serves 12-18

I make 18 small honey nut bars from this recipe but you could opt for a smaller number of larger bars

Health benefits

Almonds are a superfood in themselves. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, regular consumption of almonds helps the body fight heart disease. They’re rich in monounsaturated fats which have been credited in numerous studies for helping reduce the risk of heart disease and have been linked to helping the body fight LDL (bad) cholesterol. Almonds are rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, particularly when consumed whole (with the brown coating in tact). They’re also a good source of magnesium and potassium.

Like almonds, walnuts are a good source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, however they are higher in Omega 3 essential fatty acids. A single serve (30g or a quarter cup) contains 113% of the recommended daily intake of Omega 3. Much research into walnuts has been around they’re positive effect on the body’s cardiovascular system – like almonds they’re also more nutritious when eaten with their skins in tact.

Sesame seeds and cashews are both excellent sources of copper, which the body uses to fight free radicals. Copper has been credited for reducing some of the pain and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Pumpkin seeds/pepitas are high in minerals, particularly manganese, phosphorous and copper and zinc.

While I try very hard to limit the amount of sugar in my diet, I use raw honey in this recipe as it adds a wonderful flavour and helps bind everything together. Honey has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant qualities, and the consumption of raw honey made locally is said to help those suffering from seasonal allergies, due to repeated exposure of local pollens.

Baba Ghanoush

baba-ghanoush
Baba ghanoush is a smoked eggplant/aubergine dish popular throughout the middle east. This particular style of baba ghanoush – made with tahini, garlic and lemon juice has its roots in Egyptian cuisine and is served with bread, however I love to eat it as a dip with fresh vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and capsicum.

Eggplants are high in phytonutrients and have powerful antioxidant qualities. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, eggplants contain significant amounts of chlorogenic acid which is credited for its cancer fighting properties and is also said to lower bad cholesterol and promote antiviral and antimicrobial functions within the body. Tahini is rich in minerals – particularly calcium and is said to aid the body with liver detoxification.

Enjoy this dish as a starter or a snack with fresh vegetables and you’ll be loading your body with vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large sized eggplant
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic or 2 large cloves of garlic
  • juice of one lemon (should be approximately 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Method

  • Heat a BBQ, chargrill or regular grill on your oven to a medium to high heat
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Take a fork and make incisions throughout the eggplant (around 10). This is a critical step – I’ve forgotten to do it one time and the eggplant exploded in my oven
  • Place the eggplant/aubergine on the bbq/chargrill or under the grill on your oven and allow the skin to blacken and wrinkle all over – this should take around 15 minutes
  • Place the eggplant in the oven and roast for 20 minutes until soft
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then peel (the skin should easily lift off at this stage)
  • Place the eggplant flesh and other ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth

Enjoy as is or drizzle with a little olive oil and some chilli.

Coconut Berry Jelly

Coconut-berry-jelly
Looking for a light and healthy start to the week?

This coconut jelly takes just a couple of minutes to prepare and is a totally portable healthy breakfast or snack.

Made with good quality gelatine, it’s wonderfully nourishing for the digestive tract and contains 18 amino acids – including each of the essential 8 amino acids. Regular consumption of good quality gelatine can help restore the body’s mucosal stomach lining which is particularly beneficial for those with leaky gut syndrome, food intolerances, allergies and inflammatory conditions.

Gelatine is also a great source of absorbable collagen which promotes healthy hair, skin and nails and is beneficial for the joints and those suffering from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

Ingredients

• 1 cup/250ml/9 fluid ounce of drinking coconut milk or almond milk
• 2 teaspoons of powdered gelatine
• ½ teaspoon of natural vanilla essence
• ½ teaspoon of stevia
• ¼ cup of fresh berries (I choose around 4 strawberries and 6 blueberries but if it’s winter you can use frozen berries or substitute with juicy citrus fruit such as navel orange)

Method

Chop the fruit and place in a small glass container such as an old jam jar.

Add the gelatine and half the milk to a small saucepan and heat to a low heat until the gelatine has dissolved, then add the rest of the milk and mix well then pour over the fruit and place in the fridge until set.

Eat alone or top with some linseed, sunflower seed and almond mixture (LSA). For LSA combine a teaspoon of linseeds, a teaspoon of sunflower seeds and approximately 15 almonds in a high powered blender, food processor or coffee grinder and blend until it forms a powder, then sprinkle over the jelly.

Serves 1

Salted Caramel Bliss Balls

salted-caramel-bliss-balls
I have a thing for salted caramel, which is typically something you’d avoid on a detox.

However, I was recently at the Healthy Living store in Bondi and had a delicious paleo salted caramel cookie so decided to experiment with bliss balls.

I’ve landed on 2 different recipes and really can’t decide which one I like the taste of best so am putting them both on this page. Option 2 is particularly good as the sweet taste of the dates is balanced with the bitterness from the tiny pieces of dark chocolate plus a hint of salt. However Option 1 is so simple and easy (and equally delicious) that I’ll definitely be making those over and over too.

Option 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashews
  • 5 medjool dates
  • 1 teaspoon good quality natural vanilla essence
  • ¼ cup of desiccated coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon of good quality salt such as Himalayan

Method

  1. Remove the pits from the dates
  2. Place the cashews, dates, vanilla essence and salt in a food processor
  3. Blend until mixed but not completely smooth – you want nice little chunks of cashews to remain
  4. Form into small balls and roll in the coconut

Makes around 10 small bliss balls

Option 2

Ingredients

  • Half  a cup of unsalted macadamias (raw, roasted or activated all work well)*
  • Half a cup of raw, unsalted cashews*
  • 6 dates
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (hulled or unhulled)
  • 1 teaspoon good quality natural vanilla essence
  • ¼ cup of desiccated coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon of good quality salt such as Himalayan
  • 20g of good quality dark chocolate (I make my own or use a store bought variety that is very high in cocoa – ideally 85%, and low in sugar)

*If you prefer you can use either a whole cup of macadamias OR a whole cup of cashews

Method

  1. Remove the pits from the dates
  2. If using chocolate, chop into small pieces – around quarter of the size of a standard chocolate chip
  3. Place the nuts, dates, tahini, vanilla essence and salt in a food processor
  4. Blend until mixed but not completely smooth – you want nice little chunks of the nuts to remain
  5. If using chocolate, mix this through the bliss ball mixture by hand
  6. Form into small balls and roll in the coconut

Makes around 12 bliss balls.

Both should be stored in the fridge and will keep for several weeks.

 

Edamame

Edamame
If you’re on a detox, cutting out sugar or trying to loose weight, the shift to healthy eating can often leave you wondering what to snack on.

Nuts are great but can be really hard to consumer in moderation. Given the vast majority of the population needs to consume more vegetables, edamame – or soy beans, are a fantastic option as they’re quick to cook and loaded with nutrition.

Soy beans are one of the richest sources of protein in the plant world and contain all 8 essential amino acids – making them an excellent choice for vegetarians. They’re high in folate, vitamin K and are a good source of essential fatty acids and fibre.

Keep them in the freezer as a go-to when you’re craving a snack or eat them like the Japanese do, before a meal.

Ingredients

  • 125g/4.5 oz/1.5 cups frozen edamame
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes (such as Maldon) optional

Method

  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add the frozen edamame and cook until they all float to the top of the water – this should take around 3.5 – 4 minutes
  2. Drain and if using salt sprinkle the whole edamame with the salt flakes then eat immediately or reserve as a snack for later. Note that I eat very few of the salt flakes find they impart a good flavour
  3. You can also experiment with chilli flakes if you like something a little hot and spicy

Serves 1

Coconut LSA smoothie

banana-coconut-lsa-smoothie

Recently, I was sorting through some old books and came across the Liver Cleansing diet by Dr Sandra Cabot. First published in 1996, it was quite a sensation and claims to have sold over 2 million copies.

Looking through it today, I question how liver cleansing some of the recipes are (particularly the banana muffins). However one recipe that I do rate highly is the LSA mix.

Made by grinding linseeds (also known as flaxseed), sunflower seeds and almonds, the powder is a wonderful health tonic.

Health benefits

Linseeds are one of the richest sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids in the plant world and are high in fibre and antioxidants. Sunflower seeds and almonds are also rich in essential fatty acids plus a range of vitamins and minerals – particularly vitamin E, copper, potassium and magnesium.

I’ve varied the ratios of the LSA mixture slightly from that provided in the Liver Cleansing diet, however you don’t have to be too strict – play with what you have on hand at home and what appeals best to your palette.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon linseeds
  • 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 small palmful of almonds (around 15 almonds)
  • 250ml / 8.5 fl oz / 1 cup drinking coconut milk
  • Your choice of fruit (eg 1 small banana / half a dozen strawberries / half a punnet of blueberries etc)
  • A little ice (optional)

Method

In a high powered blender, add the linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds and blend until they form a powder. Add the coconut milk, your choice of fruit and ice (if yore using it) and blend again until smooth.

Drink immediately.

Note

I make the LSA mix as I go as it oxidises quickly. If you prefer, you can mix up extra and keep it in the fridge but I’d suggest not keeping it for too long so as to avoid oxidation.

Serves 1

Activated Macadamias

activated-macadamias

I love macadamias – raw or roasted, but in my opinion they’re most delicious when activated.

Macadamia nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats (one of the richest sources in nature in fact), are a high source of vitamin A and have strong antioxidant qualities. Activating macadamias changes their texture and enhances their flavour and is also said to improve their digestibility.

There’s a lot conflicting information online around whether or not to activate macadamias. In my opinion, the taste alone warrants the effort and the benefit of dehydrating the nuts yourself is that they are likely to stay fresher for longer.

Through trial and error, I’ve found that the best results are achieved when macadamias are soaked for 6 hours, then dehydrated at a low temperature for between 26-30 hours.

activated-macadamias2

Ingredients

  • Macadamias – as many or as few as you like, as long as they fit comfortably in your food dehydrator or oven. I usually dehydrate in batches of around 900g or 2lbs
  • 2 teaspoons good quality salt

Method

Place the macadamias in a large bowl and cover with plenty of filtered water (you will need at least twice as much water as nuts, preferably a bit more). Soak for 6 hours then drain well. Dust with the salt then arrange in the food dehydrator so that the nuts aren’t too crowded. Dehydrate on low for 26 hours or place in the oven and roast on the lowest setting for 24 hours, turning half way through.

If oven roasting, remove a few nuts at 24 hours and allow them to cool. They should be crunchy. Allowing the nuts to cool before you try them is an important step as their crunchy texture doesn’t kick in until the nuts cool. If the macadamias are still a bit soft, roast them for a few more hours, checking every 2 hours (again, allowing them to cool each time before testing.). Try to avoid allowing the nuts to turn golden brown, as this generally means they’re overdone. Similarly, if using a food dehydrator check at 26 hours (allowing them to cool first) and if you prefer them a little crunchier allow them to cook for up to 30 hours, monitoring every two hours to ensure they don’t overcook.

Whether you’re using an oven or food dehydrator, once the cooking time is complete remove the nuts from the heat and allow them to cool completely. Store in an airtight container (preferably glass) to prevent them from going soft. If you don’t mind eating them cold, store in the fridge as this will prolong their shelf life and help prevent the fats from going rancid.

Be warned, my biggest challenge with activated macadamias is portion control – they taste so good it’s had to limit yourself to a handful of nuts a day!