Paleo friendly strawberry and coconut muffins

almond-strawberry-paleo-muffin
I’ve been playing around with paleo muffin recipes trying to find something that tastes good but is relatively low in sugar.

Rice malt syrup (also known as rice syrup and brown rice syrup) has become popular in Australia over the last few years thanks to the I Quit Sugar program.

According to the Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life, rice malt syrup is “a relatively slow-releasing sweetener so it doesn’t dump on the liver as much as pure glucose”.

The challenge when cooking with rice malt syrup is that it’s not as sweet as regular sweeteners so does take a little adjusting to if you’re just starting out on the path of sugar reduction. In this recipe, I’ve given the option to substitute with a little honey if you prefer or are strictly paleo.

In place of regular flour I use almond meal which is delicious but can be a little heavy so to balance this and make the texture of the muffins as light as possible, I whisk the egg whites separately and fold them in at the end. Be sure not to skip this step.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 220g/7.75 oz/2 cups almond meal
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz rice malt syrup (if you prefer a little sweeter, substitute 2 tablespoons of rice malt syrup with 2 tablespoons of honey) OR for strictly paleo use half a cup of honey instead of the rice malt syrup
  • 125 ml/4.25 fl oz/half a cup of coconut oil
  • 60g/2oz/half cup shredded coconut
  • 4 tablespoons coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda (or I use substitute with half a teaspoon of bicarb of soda and quarter of a teaspoon of cream of tartar)
  • Couple of drops of natural vanilla essence
  • 12-16 strawberries (depending on the size)

Method

  1. If the coconut oil is solid, place the container over a pot of hot water until the oil becomes runny
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius/340 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Trim the tops from the strawberries and cut into quarters (or more if using large strawberries)
  4. Separate the eggs and place into two separate bowls
  5. Add the rice malt syrup to the egg yolks and beat for 2 minutes at a high setting, then add the almond meal, baking powder (or substitute), cinnamon, shredded coconut, coconut oil and coconut cream and blend again until mixed well
  6. Stir through the strawberries
  7. Separate, whisk the egg whites for a couple of minutes until peaks start to form
  8. Gently fold the egg whites through the muffin batter mixture and pour into paper muffin cups (you’ll need about 12 large muffin cups)
  9. Bake for 35 minutes then test – if firm to the touch, insert a skewer and if it comes out dry remove from the oven. Otherwise bake for an additional 5 minutes or so until cooked through.

Makes 12 large muffins – suitable for freezing

Sesame crusted tuna salad with tamarind dressing

sesame-crusted-tuna
This tuna salad is another one of my mid week staples.

It’s light, tasty and can be made in around 15 minutes so is perfect as a healthy after-work meal when you have little time or energy to cook.

Fresh tuna is rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids which promotes heart health and is particularly beneficial for those with high blood pressure. It’s an excellent source of high quality protein and contains selenium – an essential mineral that plays an important role in supporting the body’s immune system. Sesame seeds are loaded with minerals and also contain a good amount of selenium, making this a great dish to help the body maintain optimal health.

I’ve paired it here with a light salad and tamarind dressing but it also works well with a garden salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized fresh tuna steak
  • 4 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 3 cups mixed lettuce
  • 1/2 avocado
  • generous handful of coriander/cilantro leaves
  • 1 lebanese cucumber
  • generous handful of cashews

Tamarind dressing

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (should be about the juice of one lime)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoon rice malt syrup
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind puree

Method

  1. Make the salad dressing by adding the ingredients to a small glass jar with a lid and shaking well
  2. Place the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and keep the cashews set aside
  3. Mix the sesame seeds on a plate and season with a little salt and pepper then coat the tuna steaks with the mixture
  4. Bring a heavy based stainless steel frying pan to a high heat and add the olive oil
  5. Fry the tuna steaks for a couple of minutes each side so that they are seared. If you prefer your tuna cooked through, cook for around double the time but keep an eye on the fish as cooking time will depend on the thickness of the tuna steak and you don’t want to over-cook
  6. While the tuna is cooking, pour the dressing over the salad (you may not need the whole lot so be careful not to overdo it) then split between two bowls and sprinkle the cashews over the top
  7. Once the tuna steaks are cooked to your liking serve immediately

Serves 2

Note: as tuna is a large fish, it’s generally recommended to not consumer more than two serves a week due to the potential risk of mercury contamination.

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

Easy paleo banana pancake

easy-paleo-banana-pancake
If you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet and avoid processed foods, breakfast can be a challenge if you’re not well organised.

This banana pancake recipe is so simple and easy, I’ve almost always got the ingredients on hand. It’s super quick to prepare and doesn’t take long to cook. The other thing I love about it is that the cooked bananas are deliciously sweet so there’s no need to drizzle with maple syrup or any other sweetener.

Nutritionally, bananas make a great start to the day. According to the world’s healthiest foods, they are digested slowly by the body thanks to their high fibre content and the presence of a unique balance of pectins. This is in spite of their relatively high sugar content (compared with other friuts). They’re a good source of potassium – which the body uses to normalise blood pressure, and contain fructooligosaccharides (FMOs). FMOs are not typically broken down in the digestive track, instead they’re metabolised by bacteria in the lower intestine which helps the body maintain a balance of healthy bacteria.

Combined with an egg – which is a great source of high quality protein, plus cinnamon which both enhances the flavour and helps lower blood sugar levels, this dish makes a simple and healthy start to the day.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • quarter teaspoon of cinnamon
  • coconut oil/ghee for cooking

Method

Mash the banana with a fork. Beat in the egg and mix well, then add the cinnamon and mix again.

Bring a small frying pan to a medium heat, add the coconut oil/ghee (or whatever you’re using to grease the pan) and allow to heat then add half the pancake mixture and cook for around 4 minutes until set, then flip and cook for a couple minutes on the second side. Repeat.

Serve topped with some fresh fruit. If I have it on hand, I sometimes drizzle with coconut yoghurt or buffalo milk yoghurt.

Serves 1  (2 pancakes)

easy-paleo-banana-pancake-2

Red Grapefruit Green Smoothie

red-grapefruit-green-smoothieGreen smoothies are such a great way to start the day, your body and mind will love you!

Prepared in minutes, there’s really no easier way to consume a day’s recommended intake of green vegetables than by blending them together into smoothie.

I’ve played with dozens of recipes and this one is a clear winner in terms of taste and nutritional value.

  • The baby spinach and kale are loaded with Vitamin K, A, antioxidants and minerals
  • The kale and grapefruit are excellent sources of vitamin C
  • Red grapefruit is rich in lycopene which has been credited for its cancer fighting properties
  • Cucumber and coconut water are both alkalising and provide a delicate flavour
  • The avocado adds creaminess to the texture and its fat content helps your body absorb the high contents of vitamin A & K from the vegetables

My litmus test as always – I tested on my fiancé (who is driven by flavour over nutritional value) and it got his tick of approval so it’s a winner in our household.

Ingredients

  • 4 large kale leaves = approx 150g or 5 1/4 oz (leaves trimmed from stems)
  • 1 cup of baby spinach leaves (approx 80g / 2.8 oz)
  • 1 red grapefruit (you can substitute for yellow grapefruit if more readily available)
  • half a Lebanese cucumber or around a quarter of a telegraph cucumber
  • Half an avocado
  • 300ml / 10 fl oz coconut water
  • 200 ml / 7 fl oz water
  • quarter cup of ice

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth (depending on how powerful your blender is, this should take anywhere between 15-45 seconds).

Don’t stress if you don’t have the exact amount of greens, if I run out of spinach I’ll make with kale alone, or if I’m short of kale I’ll use extra spinach. Similarly, if cucumbers are abundant I might throw in a whole Lebanese cucumber. You can also experiment with different greens.

The smoothie is best consumed reasonably quickly as the ingredients gradually oxidise once blended.

Serves 2

Velvety smooth raw chocolate

IMG_7165
I’ve been making a very basic raw chocolate with coconut oil for a while now. I find it cures my craving for chocolate and its bitter flavour means I don’t go crazy on the stuff.

Recently however I’ve developed a thing for Pana chocolate. It’s hand made, tastes delicious and is velvety smooth. I’ve been experimenting with recipes to see if I could make something similar and I think I’ve landed pretty close.

Sweeteners

RICE MALT SYRUP

I was hoping I could get the flavour right with rice malt syrup (I use Pure Harvest organic rice malt syrup which is made from brown rice, is fructose free and low in glucose and maltose). According to Sarah Wilson in her book I Quit Sugar for Life, rice malt syrup is a “relatively slow-releasing sweetener so it doesn’t dump on the liver as much as pure glucose does.”

It worked out ok in this recipe (I happily ate a whole batch) but the texture of the chocolate wasn’t quite as velvety smooth as I was looking for.

HONEY

Next I tried making a batch with some honey made right here in Bondi by a good friend. The flavour was delicious but I found that the honey didn’t mix through evenly meaning that when I poured the chocolate into the moulds there was a disproportionate amount of honey concentrated in a few squares which rendered them sickly sweet. Also, I found I could taste the flavour of the honey in the chocolate which whilst good was not what I was looking for.

MAPLE SYRUP

Maple syrup worked quite well – thanks to its runny texture it mixed through the chocolate really well and the flavour was good too.

COCONUT NECTAR

Coconut nectar was the clear winner. Although not as runny as maple syrup it mixed through the chocolate really well and imparted a delicious smooth flavour. The first time I added 2 tablespoons but this was a little sweet for my liking so the second time I used 1.5 tablespoons and that worked better for me – particularly because I added small pieces of dried sour cherries as filling which lent extra sweetness.

AGAVE

I didn’t try agave but because this is runny it should also work well. I can see that Pana Chocolate uses agave in some of their varieties.

Ingredients

  • 50g/1.75oz cocoa butter
  • 30g/1oz good quality cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut nectar, maple syrup or agave (see notes above, alternatively you can use honey. If using rice malt syrup you’ll probably need to add extra as it’s not as sweet as coconut nectar, maple syrup or agave)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of good quality cinnamon powder
  • 2 drops natural vanilla essence
  • pinch of good quality salt (I use Himalayan crystal)

Filling

  • Around 7 dried sour cherries, cut into small pieces OR
  • Around 6-8 activated or roasted almonds, finely chopped OR
  • 1 medjool date cut into small pieces OR
  • Any other filling of your choice

Note: you will need chocolate moulds for this recipe. If you don’t have them, try my basic raw chocolate recipe.

Method

If you’re using a filling, make sure whatever you’re using is cut into very small pieces and sprinkle throughout the chocolate mould(s).

Place the cocoa butter in a glass or heat-proof bowl and place the bowl over a pot of hot water on a very gentle heat and allow to melt slowly. Separately, melt the coconut oil the same way until it’s runny but not overly hot.

Once both the cocoa butter and coconut oil are melted, mix them together then add the coconut nectar (or other sweetener) and vanilla essence and mix through well.

Sift in the cocoa powder and cinnamon into the wet mixture and mix through well again.

Pour the mixture into the chocolate moulds then place in the fridge. Allow to set for 15-30 minutes.

Serves

Makes approximately 150g or 5.25 oz of raw chocolate (including filling). Will keep in the fridge for at least 6 weeks.

 

 

Delicious Activated Almonds

activated-almonds

It took much trial and error for me to get activated almonds right. The secret lies in soaking for the almonds for around 12 hours (you don’t have to be exact but try to be close to this mark), then dehydrating for 36 hours in a food dehydrator. You can also choose dehydrate your almonds in the oven, however you’ll need to monitor and assess from 24 hours to ensure they don’t overcook.

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5kg almonds (choose pesticide free, preferably organic)
  • Juice of half a lemon/1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality salt – finely ground (optional)

Method

Rinse the almonds then drain and add to a large bowl. Cover in plenty of water – ideally you should have a ratio of at least 3 times water to almonds. Add the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (this will help neutralise the phytic acid in the almonds and make them more easily digestible). Soak for 12 hours then drain and pat dry thoroughly. If you’re using salt, mix through the almonds little by little evenly distributed.

Add the nuts to the food dehydrator and cook at 75 degrees celsius/165 degrees Fahrenheit for 36 hours. If using an oven, choose the lowest setting on your oven (mine is 50 degrees Celsius) and check after 24 hours to see how the nuts are. Depending on the strength of your oven you may not need to go the full 36 hours.

Once your nuts are cooked (they should be delicious and crunchy) allow to cool completely then store in glass jars.

Simple sugar-free Thai salad

thai-salad

If you love Thai salads but prefer not to use processed sugar, this recipe is a great option that doesn’t compromise on taste. The dressing is made with rice malt syrup which is fructose free, and if you choose a high quality fish sauce – naturally fermented and without sugar – you can’t go wrong.

For the salad itself, I’ve suggested ingredients that work well for me but play around with whatever you like and what’s on hand at home.

Dressing

  • Juice of 1 lime (around 3 tablespoons)
  • 1.5 tablespoons fish sauce (choose a good quality, unsweetened variety – Red Boat 40°N from Vietnam is wonderful if you can find it)
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice malt syrup

Place ingredients into a small jar, seal and shake well. Set aside.

Salad

  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 medium size carrot
  • 6 snow peas
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • 4 medium sized button mushrooms
  • handful coriander leaves
  • handful mint leaves
  • half a cup of cashews

Method

Peel and julienne the carrots (cut lengthways into sticks that are around the size and thickness of two matchsticks put together). Similarly, cut the cucumber lengthways into pieces a little bigger than the carrots. Peel and chop the mushrooms and add to a salad bowl with the other vegetables and beansprouts. Tear the mint and coriander leaves and add to the vegetables then stir through the dressing (you’ll only need a third to a half – the rest will keep in the fridge for several weeks). Just before serving, sprinkle with the cashew nuts.

This salad is lovely topped with garlic prawns or with some poached or roast chicken.

Serves 2

Chicken Souvlaki

chicken-souvlaki

This is one of my fiancé’s favourite home cooked meals. Succulent chicken skewers served with a fresh salad and plenty of tzatziki. It takes only around 10 minutes to prepare and marinate the meat then another 25 minutes to prepare and cook

Note that this dish needs to be cooked either on a BBQ or in a grill pan.

Ingredients

  • The marinade will suffice for up to 8 good size boneless chicken thighs (choose organic or free range, if using organic they’re generally smaller so you may like to use a little extra)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (I find this usually makes about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic or 2 good sized garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 – 8 skewers (I use bamboo but if you have stainless steel skewers these are great too)

Marinating the Chicken

You’ll need to marinate the chicken – preferably in a glass dish, for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight (the longer the better really).

Juice the lemon and add to the marinating dish along with the olive oil, oregano and garlic.

Trim the fat from the chicken thighs and cut into even size chunks around 2cm/1 inch square or a little larger if you like. It’s important to try to cut the chicken into roughly even size chunks so that they cook evenly.

Add the chicken thighs to the marinade and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

To Cook

Preheat the BBQ to high for around 10 minutes. If using a grill pan I usually find it only needs to be heated to a high heat for around 5 minutes.

If using bamboo skewers, most recipes will tell you to soak them in water for a couple of minutes before placing them on the BBQ to prevent them from burning or catching alight, however I’ve never really found this necessary.

Skewer the meat into even size skewers. Depending on how much meat you marinated you should have at least 5-6 skewers, if you like smaller size skewers or are serving more people you can stretch to 8 skewers.

Place on the BBQ/in the grill pan. I find it usually takes around 15 minutes to cook. Start with around 5 minutes on one side then turn and cook for around 5 minutes on the other side then a couple of minutes each on the other sides (I like to cook my meat on all four sides as we love the char grilled flavour and of course it’s imperative to cook chicken through).

While you’re cooking the meat, make your tzatziki. Serve with a Greek or garden salad.