Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Health Benefits of Passion Fruit

I am excited to say we have tasted our first home-grown passionfruit this week - just in time before heading back to England for a couple of weeks.

I was very fortunate in that one of my Food as Medicine classes gave me a gift voucher at the end of their season of classes and so I bought some edible plants for our garden - including our passion fruit vine.

The vine has thrived and the fruits are just ripening now.  They fall off the plant, all round and solid looking but then you have to leave them at room temperature to wrinkle and ripen further.  They are larger than any passion fruit I have ever seen for sale.

Freshly picked on the left, and two day wrinkles on the right!

It was tricky waiting for the first one to wrinkle....but we did! Then I cut it in half one morning and put the seeds on my homemade granola.  So sweet and full of flavor.

We are just eating them 'as is'. No need to do anything at all with them - just enjoy them, full of exotic flavors.

However the biggest fan in our house has to be Harold, our parrot.  He just adores passion fruit.  I put the nearly empty half in his cage after I'd eaten most of it and left just a couple of seeds - oh, he was ecstatic!!! All you could hear were little crunches and happy noises from him!   We've left strict instructions with his pet sitters to give him treats of his passionfruit while we are away!

Unripe passionfruit
Passionfruit are basically just seeds with a gelatinous pulp coating.  This means that they are are great source of fiber - so don't strain them just for the juice - enjoy the crunch too.  Passion fruit also contain high levels of carotenoids - at least 13 different carotenoids - which are particularly good for our vision and skin.

They are also rich in vitamin C - an antioxidant - especially when freshly picked and the nutrients are at their peak level.   Surprisingly, they are also a good source of iron and have a somniferous properly, so if eaten before going to bed, help us relax and get a restful night's sleep.

No wonder Harold had a nap after breakfast!!!

I also love that its a winter/late fall fruit when most other things are all done with fruiting!  So get out there and grown a passion fruit - or buy some now from the farmers market or supermarket , while they are in season.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baked Oatmeal to go

I often hear people tell me that they eat oatmeal some mornings for breakfast but when they are in a rush, they often choose something less healthy and sustaining.  "Why not try baked oatmeal?" I say - so today's recipe is an easy grab and go baked oatmeal.  Make it at the beginning of the week and you have nearly a week's worth!

This recipe was also good timing for me as we leave today to go back to England for a couple of weeks.  I always take my own food on the plane so I have been thinking what to take for my in-the-air breakfast. I figured if  I baked my oatmeal in muffin cases, they would work perfectly!

And voila!  I also used up some of my quince puree too before we leave - but if you don't have quince, you can use unsweetened applesauce instead.  This quince oatmeal to go is gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and with no added sugar or fat.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 banana broken/chopped into little pieces
1/8 cup flaxseeds (whole or ground)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tbs cardamom powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup non dairy milk
1/4 cup quince puree or apple sauce/puree

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Spoon into 7 muffin cases in a muffin pan.  Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.

To serve - just grab and enjoy if you are on the go or if you do happen to be at home, you can break one up in a bowl and pour over some extra warm non-dairy milk. Store in the fridge.

(Bet you end up having them not just at breakfast time!!! I've got to make sure I don't eat them all before I fly off.)
Sunday, November 17, 2013

Superhero in San Francisco

Did you see Batkid hard at work in San Francisco this week?  I wish I had been there.

Read this lovely story about superhero Miles and the make a wish foundation :

So many people got involved with this - it was heartwarming to hear about people getting together and making a difference.  A fitting celebration for Miles being in remission of his leukemia.
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Everything is tickety-boo

Lots of lovely things this week have made me feel that everything is tickety-boo:

Happy Birthday Chui!

  • A birthday for Chui and two friends this week! 
  • singing at the beautiful, moving, and touching British Legion service for Remembrance Day and Veterans day at Grace Cathedral.  Lots of bagpipes and then red poppy petals floating down from the ceiling of the cathedral as we sing Abide with me.  
  • buying Xmas presents ready to take back to England with me
  • meeting a friend for lunch
  • book club - discussing the sweet book "Mrs Queen takes the train"
  • a fun Food as Medicine class - the photo below is from our Tuesday group, just before we tucked into the fruit of our labors: Green Tea Buddha Bowl, pumpkin gnocchi with sage and cranberries, 'cream' of mushroom soup, followed by Rosehip truffles.
  • getting excited about our trip back to England
  • planting some new veggies in our garden ready
  • eating our first home grown passion fruit
  • continued sunny days
  • A sweet card from my sister
  • hearing about Batkid in SF - so heartwarming

I do hope you are feeling tickety-boo too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quince and Matcha smoothie

The classes I have been teaching this week have been focusing on the immune system and sustained inflammation in the body.  One of the foods that is important in this area is Green Tea.   Green tea consumption can lead to an increase in the production of  Treg cells which stop inflammation, and act as an off switch to the killer T cells and B cells in our immune system which cause inflammation.  While we need those killer T cells and B cells at certain times - it is when they become out of balance and dysregulated that we get immune issues and sustained/chronic inflammation that leads to disease.

However,  I personally don't like the taste of green tea, and so I use it in cooking, instead of brewing it for a drink.

Today's quince recipe uses Matcha - which is ground green tea - in a smoothie.  Matcha a great source of green tea as you eat the powdered leaves -  so its not just a steeping of the leaves.  It is a little pricey,   but a little goes a long way so my jar has lasted a long time.

Here is today's breakfast smoothie that I am enjoying as I type:

Quince and Matcha Smoothie:

1 cup quince puree  (preparing quince blog post & after roasting, blend with a little water in a blender)
1 cup water
1 banana
3 handfuls of spinach
1 teaspoon matcha powder
2 tablespoons hemp hearts

Blend the ingredients together in a Vitamix or powerful blender and add more water if you prefer runnier smoothies!

Its a great way to start the day - omega 3 fats from the hemp hearts, and plenty of catechins from both the Matcha green tea and the quince - never mind all the phytonutrients in the spinach and banana.

As I was thinking up this recipe, lying in bed last night - an old song came into my head.  I wonder if you know it.  I was thinking about the colors in the smoothie ... "green and yellow, green and yellow, Mother come quick....."

Did any of you sing it as kids?  Its not a nice song and I hate to associate it with a delicious smoothie but as all the ingredients are green and yellow, its tricky not too!  I can bet my sister is singing it as she reads this however!   The song is all about this little boy Henry, who doesn't feel well and has been eating worms. His mother asks what color were the worms - "green and yellow"!  We used to sing it in the car as we were travelling somewhere - with a few actions too!!!  But this smoothie won't make you feel ill like green and yellow worms do - I can assure you,  so try it and enjoy it!
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola

What a combination: Rosehip, quince and cloves!  It tastes so rich and full in the mouth.  And this granola  - while it has these three great healthy and yummy ingredients - is also happily lacking in 3 not-so-great ingredients - it doesn't have gluten, added oil nor added sugar.

Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola served with
almond milk, pomegranate seeds and homegrown passion fruit

A healthy, spicy, rich granola - perfect for fall and winter.

For this recipe, I took some of the roasted quince that I described in Monday's blog and pureed them in a blender with just a touch of water.

The recipe for the granola is as follows:

2 cups of grains (- I used 1 cup GF rolled oats plus 1 cup of GF unsweetened puffed brown rice)
4 tablespoons rosehip powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pureed quince

Mix all the ingredients together and then place on a baking sheet or shallow dish.

Bake at 375F for 10 minutes then remove and stir well.  Put back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes until dried and starting to go crunchy. You need to keep an eye on at it during this time to check the outside parts aren't over cooking.

Remove from the oven and enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

You can add nuts and dried fruit to this recipe too. Add the nuts before cooking but add the fruit after cooking.

What a great start to the day: Serve it with non dairy milk/yoghurt and we get the fiber and catechins from the quince; more fiber from the oats and brown rice; anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects from the cloves, quince and rose hip; and plenty of vitamin C from the quince and rosehip.

And all that with NO added sugar, oil, salt and no gluten.

You will love the combination of rose hip, quince and clove.  When are you coming over for breakfast?
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Cashmere Sweater Cocktail.

I don't have cocktails very often, but I have to confess that in quince season, I am more tempted! You see I have a wonderful quince and clove cocktail that just feels, and tastes, so good in the fall and winter time.

You know those days when its dark when you get home, its a little chilly, you want to feel cozy and relaxed....well, I make myself a quince and clove cocktail!  It hits the spot, I have to tell you.  Its like putting on a luscious cashmere sweater and feeling all warm and cuddled.  Thus it is my cashmere sweater cocktail

When I was in England last winter, I bought some clove cordial.  It is alcoholic - not just a fruit cordial!  But its only 5% alcohol - so less than wine.  If you get some, be prepared - it is very pink as the name "Pink Cloves" describes!

To make the cocktail, basically, you take the roasted quince that I described in yesterday's blog post and puree it in a good blender like a vitamix.

Take some of the puree, add the Pink Clove cordial and then top up with sparkling water or tonic water. For rough quantities - see the photo below.

And voila - a pretty peachy colored cocktail -  which isn't very alcoholic - but cuddles you like a luscious cashmere sweater!   If you want more kick, you can also add gin to it - so I hear!!!

What is your version of a cashmere sweater cocktail?  I think another for me would be a whisky mac. That's more a rainy day or snowy day one however.
Monday, November 11, 2013

A week of Quince - and its health benefits

This week I've decided I'll focus my blog posts on quince - that wonderful fruit that many people don't even know what it looks like, never mind what it tastes like.  Well, if you are one of those, you are missing out!  It is a great fruit and really is quite simple to prepare.  I'll take you through the stages today and then share some recipes on using the cooked quince throughout the week.  Yes, it is a fruit that needs to be cooked before you can enjoy it.  It is very tough when picked off the tree and too astringent to eat raw.

It's been a wonderful year for my quince tree again - with so many fruit. I've actually been keeping up with them better than before as I've perfected my cooking routine - and I've had a little help from my friends too, who took some to eat.

If you search for quince recipes, I bet every one - apart from those on this blog - will include plenty of sugar.  It seems all quince recipes involve baking the quince in a sugar syrup.  Well, I have to tell- it doesn't need any sugar at all!

How I cook mine is that I take the whole fruit, and use a vegetable peeler to get most of the peel off.

Then a put a few in a roasting dish and add some water and sprinkle some cloves over the top - or else add a couple of chai rooibos tea bags to the water to impart their flavor.

Then I put them in the simmering oven of my aga and let them roast for a few hours.  In fact, I once forgot them and they roasted overnight and were still delicious.

You can also roast them faster in a hotter oven - but as I have my aga - I love the slow roast method - often about 8 hours.

So put it in the oven and leave a note for yourself that they are in there and get on with the day. If you leave the house - you'll be greeted with a wonderful aroma of clove and quince spices as you come back in the door. "Smells like Christmas" as my husband would say - but anything with cloves smells or tastes like Christmas to him! (I try to tell him that cloves are for more than Christmas day!!!)

When they are cooked, just let them cool and then cut off the fruit from the core and either slice or puree in a blender and use in many different ways as I'll show you throughout the week.

And the health benefits of quince?

Quince is a low calorie fruit with good amounts of fiber.  There is a certain grittness in the pulp which comes from the tannins catechin and epicatechin. These are the same chemicals in green tea that contribute to its health benefits. These chemicals bind to cancer-causing toxins and chemicals in the colon and protect the mucous membrane from inflammatory bowel disease, cancers and diverticulitis.

It has many phenolic compounds in it which gives it a unique fragrance.  And has high concentrations of Vitamin C so helps boost immunity, reduce viral episodes and inflammatory conditions.

It is also a good source of copper, iron, potassium and magnesium, along with B vitamins.

So not only does it taste good - it is good for you!

As my friend just told me this week after she tried one of our quince:

"So much better than even the best baked apple I've ever eaten. What a treat, and  a happy discovery"

Get discovering for yourself and I'll share some recipes throughout the week!

It's quince time!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Everything is tickety-boo

Here is this week's list of things that made me feel like everything is tickety-boo:

  • I saw the movie About Time and so got to watch Bill Nighy for two hours!  I  love Bill Nighy- definitely something about him - but I also enjoyed the movie.  The conclusion of the movie is that everything is tickety-boo.  It is my perfect movie!
  • I bought a new coat and absolutely love it.  Really unusual.  Not really practical at all - its linen, not that warm, not waterproof - but just one of those items that you love :-D
  • the Northern California fall - we are still in the mid 70's in the afternoons, the rains haven't started, the vineyards are golden and red and brown and it is just gorgeous.  I'm making the most of it as next week I go back to England.
  • laughing at Harold, our pet parrot, who has had trouble adjusting to the clock time change this week.  His "cocktail hour" - when he gets a cashew nut everyday and we come in to be with him - is always at 5pm and he just didn't get why we were keeping him waiting an hour!  We've had a few noisy hours between 4 - 5pm this week but hopefully he is slowly adjusting!  His internal clock is just too good!!!!
  • Having a great final Food as Medicine class with lovely ladies.  We've been meeting for 9 months and its been wonderful to get to know them and see the amazing changes they have made.  I'll miss them - we've had a lovely time.  They are all inspiring.
  • having the neighbors round - albeit for a "water" meeting as we share the same well - but still, it was nice for us all to get together and catch up on more than our water system!
  • eating gnocchi for the first time and loving it
  • the smell of roasting quince and cloves permeating the house
  • eating the last of this years pears...they've lasted so well and are still so delicious.  Only one left..
  • enjoying a new truffle recipe - rosehip truffles.  

 I hope your week has been tickety-boo too.  Keep looking for those positives!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Rosehip truffles revisited

I made a second batch of rosehip truffles as we have friends coming around today.  Thursday I posted the recipe - and it was one of the few recipes written by someone else that I didn't tweak and change anything on - as it seemed perfect.

However, today I did do something different and I prefer it - so you may want to give it a try - or not.  I still think both versions are great.

It was just in the dusting part. Instead of mixing the rosehip powder with cocoa powder and dusting the truffles, I just used the rose hip powder.

2 reasons:

  1. I like the color of the rosehip powder showing on the outside. Its a different color - yellowy, orangey, peachy - and will attract people to them, wondering what it is.  It sets you up for it being  a more fruity taste of truffle rather than a rich chocolate truffle
  2. We don't need chocolate or cocoa to be in all our truffles. I like the idea of these being chocolate free and more fruity and spicy instead.
Here's the recipe again in case you missed it:
Makes 20 truffles:

3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup unsulphured dried apricots
4 tbsp ground rose hip powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For Dusting - 2 tbsp rose hip powder

Process the nuts in the food processor to finely chop them.  Then add the rest of the ingredients, (except for the dusting rose hip powder).  Process for approx 1 minute until it forms into a ball and starts to stick together.

Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and divide into 1/2 tablespoon balls.  Roll the balls in your hands, compacting the mixture as you roll.

Roll the balls in the dusting mixture and then refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New food of the week: Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi

Continuing from this morning's blog post - my pumpkin gnocchi are delicious.  Who cares if they aren't the same texture as one's you have had before!  They are my first taste and I really like them.

I boiled them in water and then browned them in just a tiny bit of coconut oil with fresh sage from the garden and dried cranberries.

It's lovely to split them with a fork and see the orange pumpkin color peeking through.

And made from garbanzo flour and psyllium husks, they are a wonderful source of fiber.

As I always tell my students - try a new food every week. You never know what is out there that you will really love.  It's worked today, for sure......and yesterday actually with those rose hip truffles....time to make more of those for friends coming around tomorrow.

Have a great weekend and try something new!

Making Pumpkin Gnoochi - how should it taste?

I'm making pumpkin Gnocchi!  Its fun to make and fast but I do have one problem.

I've never eaten gnocchi before!  So what does it taste like? What should I be looking for in texture?  You see gnocchi is made with wheat flour - even potato ones have wheat in them and as I can't eat gluten, I've never tried them. In England, I've never even seen them on a menu....maybe they are nowadays, but not when I lived there.  Today I've made some with garbanzo bean flour and pumpkin!

They were quick and I loved rolling, cutting and marking them with a fork.

I guess if I like the taste, that is all that matters...but if you have any tips on the texture I should be going for - let me know!  Can't even ask my hubby as he has had potato gnocchi before but hates pumpkin so wouldn't want these!

I'll be cooking them for my lunch with some fresh sage!  I need some sage advice!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rose Hip Truffles

I made a fabulous truffle recipe today from Green Kitchen Stories. It was for Rose Hip Chrismas Truffles.  Well, its definitely not Christmas yet but they still seem perfect today!

I ordered some Rose Hip powder from Amazon and was away!

They are delightfully spicy - a real kick to them from the cayenne.  They are sweetened only by the  dried apricots. The rose hip powder has high levels of Vitamin C - they are in fact one the richest sources of Vitamin C available.  They also contain lycopene, flavonoids and are anti-inflammatory. All that in a yummy truffle with a kick!

I only wish I had some rosehips to photograph them with - but alas - only roses as we are too efficient in dead-heading our roses!

Here is the recipe:

Makes about 20 truffles:

3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup unsulphured dried apricots
4 tbsp ground rose hip powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Rolling/Dusting mixture:
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp rose hip powder

Process the nuts in the food processor to finely chop them.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.  Process for approx 1 minute until it forms into a ball and starts to stick together.

Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and divide into 1/2 tablespoon balls.  Roll the balls in your hands, compacting the mixture as you roll.

Roll the balls in the dusting mixture and then refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.

Get ready to wake up your taste buds!

I think I'll be using this recipe in my classes next week, and make some when I go back to England in a couple of weeks and.......

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