Granola bites

Granola is one of those dishes that is so easy to make healthy.  

There is no need for sugar, gluten or dairy and the end result is as tasty (if not tastier and miles better for you) than store bought granolas often packed with sugar and polyunsaturated fats.   Most ingredients that make a granola are very sweet anyway (dates, apricots, berries etc) and adding a bit of honey or maple syrup makes one very sweet snack. 

Thanks to all the nuts and seeds, granola can also be a very good source of protein. There are no "correct" ingredients - you can use any nuts, seeds or berries that you have to make a tasty (and healthy) granola. 

1 cup oats (I use gluten free oats)
½ cup flaked almonds
1 cup pecans
2 TBSP sunflower seeds
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dates
3 TBSP coconut oil
3 TBSP maple syrup (or honey)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend into a coarse paste.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, spoon on the mixture, and press and spread evenly. Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven, 150 degrees.  When you take the granola out of the oven it will still be soft but will eventually harden.  Score with a knife while still warm , and once cool,  break up with your hands. We ate ours for breakfast with yoghurt and pomegranate, then snacked on it over the next couple of days.


Pumpkin pie

It's winter squash season and varieties such as pumpkin, acorn and butternut are great roasted,  steamed, or made into mash or soup. 
However, today is Halloween and I'm making a pumpkin pie, a great dessert through all the season's holidays.

We are going to my friend Nic’s house and her boys, Charlie and Jesse, are taking Mae trick or treating.  She is super excited and will be dressed like a cat in a tutu. The plan is to feed the children dinner and the pumpkin pie so that they will not want to eat any other sweets. Mae’s never had candy and I am hoping it will stay that way for a while. We can try anyway.

100g coconut flour or flakes
125g pecans
100g gluten free flour
1 TBSP of cinnamon
3 TBSP of coconut butter
1 TSP of xanthan gum (or gear gum)
4 TBSP honey

450g of cooked pumpkin (can use canned)
2 eggs
2 TBSP coconut cream
1 TBSP of lime juice
2 TBSP gluten free flour
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 ½ TSP of cinnamon
1 TSP of xanthan gum
1 TSP ground ginger
½ TSP ground nutmeg
a sprinkle of allspice
100ml nut milk
4 TBS maple syrup

Cut your pumpkin in pieces (no need to remove the skin at this point) and roast in the oven with some coconut butter for 30mintues or until the pumpkin is soft.  Peel the skin off and blend until the texture is smooth. Alternatively, you can use tinned 100% pumpkin. It will make this cake much easier and quicker to make…

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

First, make the crust by blending all the ingredients in a food processor until fully blended and coming off the sides. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and spread out evenly with your fingers. Bake for 5 minutes, then rest whilst you make the filling.

For the filling put all the ingredients in a high speed food processor or blender and blend for couple minutes until your texture is very smooth. Spoon out and distribute over your crust.

Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Happy Halloween!


Bone broth

Ok, this recipe is not pretty. And I do feel like I need to apologize to vegetarians, but bone broths have a high nutritional value. They are high in minerals, calcium and phosphorus, essential in maintaining healthy bones. 

Not all of us are able to utilise and absorb minerals in supplement form. More and more people have digestive disorders which means that the absorption in the gut is compromised.  For people with food intolerances, the immune system is under heavy stress.  It is constantly trying to attack the harmful substances causing their allergy. This means that it can also attack beneficial substances and nutrients.  Bone broths, especially those rich in collagen (like knuckles), ensure that the gut is well lined. This way the absorption of nutrients is increased. Consuming collagen also helps maintain and support connective tissues and joints.

If making beef broth, try to include some bones rich in marrow. Marrow is the part of bone where white and red blood cells are created,  a good source of iron as well as protein.  In Chinese medicine, bone broth nourishes kidneys and blood chi (essence), which in turn nourishes our adrenals and hormonal functions.

Make sure your bones come from a good source. I always I get my bones from grass fed cows or organic free-range chickens.  This will ensure that the nutrients in the bones have good nutritional value and the fat contained in the marrow and tissues is not inflammatory. You can use leftovers from your meats carcasses, chicken, beef, fish, venison etc. The trick is to cook them for as long as possible, between 12-72 hours. This will ensure that all nutrients and collagen have left the bones.

Brown the beef bones in the oven for 30 minutes, otherwise for all other animal carcasses,  I put the bones directly in a pan with water, bring to a boil and then simmer. If your bones have meat on them, take it off after its been cooked (probably after 15mins, chicken will take less time than beef so it depends what bones you are cooking). You can use the meat in your other recipes or add to your broth when it’s done.  I add 3 TBSP of cider vinegar which helps draw out the nutrients from the bones.  I leave it to simmer the whole day and leave outside in the garden (with the lid on of course) overnight. You can put in the fridge, but if you use a big pan like me it might not fit. The next day I take it out and simmer again, this time adding any vegetables I have – I often use celery, carrots and onions.   If possible cook the bones for another 12 hours.  You will notice that on the first day the smell of bones is quite strong. By the second day, the bones develop a much nicer smell and your house and your washing will not suffer.

Strain and leave to cool overnight. Once the broth has cooled down you can scoop some of the fat that is now sitting on the top and depending on what kind of bones you have you might have a fair amount. I usually don’t remove the fat from the chicken stock, but beef bones can be very fatty and so you will probably want to remove it.

Finally, after you refrigerate the broth, you will notice that it will become like jelly. This is good! You can also freeze the broth in small batches and use for your stews and general cooking needs when needed.


Nut milk

As you probably know by now, I am not the biggest fan of cow’s milk.  There are reasons for this but the simplest one is that I don’t believe that cow’s milk is suitable for humans. Cows make it for their babies so that they can become big and strong cows.

Cow’s milk is mucous forming and can slow and hinder absorption in the gut. Having said that, I do think that raw unpasteurised milk has some benefits (for some people, especially children) as most of its goodness has been preserved in the form of good gut bacteria and enzymes.

The milk that we consume and buy in shops is pasteurised and homogenised which means that most of its goodness is lost. It is also often produced by cows that are not grass fed, live in poor conditions and are heavily medicated with hormones so that they can produce more milk for our increasing needs.

When Mae was 14 months I stopped breastfeeding her. I made almond milk for her to drink every day. Nut milk is in no way a substitute to mother’s milk, but I felt that the combination of nut milk,  bone broths and essential fatty acids gave her more nutrients than an infant formula would.

For those of you who worry that they their bones will stop growing if you don’t consume enough diary, a glass of almond milk contains the same amount of calcium as does cow’s milk.  It is also a great source of fat soluble vitamins, A, D and E. Vitamin A and E are powerful antioxidants and vitamin D is essential for strong bones and immunity. Almonds are also a rich source of Magnesium which is another mineral essential in preserving healthy bones – without it Calcium cannot be held in bones. And finally, almond milk is a good source of protein, the body’s building blocks.

In the beginning I only made milk from almonds, but now I add other nuts to it, like hazelnuts or cashews. Almond milk is dead easy to make, all you need are almonds, water and a good blender. Some use milk makers, but I found that they tend to heat milk to high temperatures which is not good for maintaining the stability of its natural oils.

All you need is:

100g almonds
50g of hazelnuts (or almonds only if you don’t have or like hazelnuts)
1 L of water

Soak the nuts in water overnight.  Drain and add to the blender with 1L of water. Blend for a few minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth or muslin cloth – this will ensure the milk is smooth and there are no bits.

Mae always had her nut milk neat and unsweetened.  But if you like it sweeter, add couple of dates when blending, which will ensure the milk has a deep sweet flavour. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cacao, orange zest, rose water, honey, coconut oil or anything you like or think would work. 

It will last in the fridge for a few days and can also be frozen.
I use nut milk in most of my baking recipes as a milk substitute - cakes, breads, biscuits, pancakes etc. I also try to reuse the leftover almonds, which i add to cakes (see my cheesecake recipe).


Blueberry & Orange Cheesecake

This kind of vegan 'no cheese' cheesecake has been around for a while, and whilst there are many variations on flavour, most rely on a nut/date base and cashew top.  The good thing about this cake, apart from it tasting delicious, is that it’s impossible to get it wrong as long you follow the measures. I am using blueberries. They are in season for a few more weeks and it is a classic combination. But if you are out of blueberry season, use any other berries you can get.  Mango works really well, and also chocolate or vanilla.  You can use frozen berries, but make sure they are fully thawed beforehand.

250g cashews
80g almonds
80g pecans
150g dates
3 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP of maple syrup (or honey)
120g blueberries
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon

Soak the cashews overnight or for at least 5 hours.

Whizz almonds, pecans and dates in a blender for few minutes or until the mixture is easy to mould between your fingers. It can be as coarse or smooth as you like. I prefer to see more nut bits so that it’s crunchier.
Scoop the mix out and press on the bottom of the spring form cake tin.

For the ‘cheese’, drain cashews and put in a high-speed blender together with coconut oil, maple syrup, orange and lemon juice and the zest. Blend for few minutes or until very smooth. Take half of the mixture out of the blender and spread evenly over the crust.

Add blueberries to the remaining cashew mixture and blend for 30seconds. Scoop it out and cover as the third layer of your cheesecake.

For the best result, put the cake into the freezer for 30mins, Take out and wait for 5mins until removing the spring and serving. This cake tastes best (to me) when cold and should keep in the fridge for few days.


Eating in Season

Not too long ago people only ate food that was close to them, within reach and in season. Nowadays, a stroll through a supermarket isle does not reveal which season we are in. Fruit and vegetable sections look identical, be it January or July. Tomatoes, mangoes, strawberries, cabbage are all proudly displayed, any given time, all looking shiny and completely without faults. With new technology and transport means, we can have any food we want (or that supermakets want to sell to us)  any time we want it – tomatoes in January, watermelon in March, peppers in December. But this doesn’t come without its flaws. Not only is eating fruit and vegetables out of its growing season not good for us, it is also bad for the environment.

In my local supermarket right now (end of September) they are selling apples that are imported from New Zealand. These apples that have travelled thousands of miles were picked green. They were also, most probably, heavily sprayed with pesticides. Fruit and vegetables, like tomatoes, bananas and pears, are picked so green that they need to be ripened using Ethylene gas before being displayed on supermarket shelves. Most were sprayed with pesticides and preservatives in order to make them look fresh and appealing. These fruit and vegetables have been handled very harshly and they are harsh for our bodies too. Pesticides are not good for us, that much everyone knows. Out of season food doesn’t have the same nutritional value as the in season food. Grapes that have been picked unripened, as well as heavily sprayed, don’t have the same antioxidant value as those that grow in season. Spinach loses much of its goodness, found in the form of folate and carotenoid, after being stored. Levels of vitamin C found in broccoli are twice higher when eaten in season. And so on...

But most importantly, there is a reason why we eat certain foods in their seasons. Our bodies need different foods, depending on time of the year. According to Elson Hass, author of Staying Healthy with the Seasons, "the basic message of seasonal nutrition is to balance and protect ourselves from the external climate. When it is cold, we are naturally attracted to warm drinks and food, focusing on cooked meals.. During hot weather, it is the opposite... Spring is the cleansing and healing season…"  Eating melon in winter, which is a summer fruit, is not only unbeneficial because of its reduced nutritional value, but also it can become stressful to the body's digestive system.

Fruit and vegetables that were picked out of season are not good for our bodies – and also have a massive impact on the environment. Eating seasonally supports local farming communities and in turn the local economy,  and is good for the environment.

for the interactive version of this map go to:

Autumn is the harvest season and the season of plenty. It is a time to prepare for the coming cold winter by supporting and building up the immune system. The cooling temperature will call for more complex protein like grains and beans combined with root vegetables. Berries, such as blackberries and blueberries, provide a good source of antioxidants for the upcoming winter months.

This is the time of conserving energy, of warmth and reduced activity. There is less available at this time of year.  The focus should be on root vegetables and cooked stews with bone stocks. This kind of food takes longer to digest which in turn keeps up the body temperature warm and the blood sugar stable.

Spring is the season for awakening and cleansing. It is a time to cleanse toxins accumulated over the winter months.  Newly green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, have the strengthening effect on the blood and are cleansing for the liver. We should be eating light and green.

Food consumed during the summer months should cool and hydrate the body, as this is the time when our physical activity is increased. Eat lighter, drink lots of freshly prepared juices and water and avoid caffeinated drinks that have a dehydrating effect on the body.


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