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Showing posts with label sugar free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sugar free. Show all posts
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Castagnaccio - chestnut cake

I recently taught a couple of classes on managing blood glucose levels.  One of the recipes we cooked together was a Tuscan dish called Castagnaccio. Its a sweet/savory cake made with chestnut flour and no added sugar.


This winter I've actually had a bit of a chestnut obsession, to be honest.  I just love chestnuts and keep finding new ways to use them.  I think I'm just going to have to find space to plant a chestnut tree.


Edible  sweet chestnuts - not to be confused with horse chestnuts, nor water chestnuts, are in the beech tree family.  They are one of the lowest calorie nuts, containing no cholesterol, very little fat (mostly unsaturated) and gluten free.  They have similar carbohydrate content as rice and wheat and are the only nuts to contain vitamin C.  We always think of nuts as being high in fat - but not the chestnut.



I throw them on my salads, add  them to lots of other dishes and now am using chestnut flour in baked goods.  You can also buy them dried and reconstitute them, and pureed, and as "chips" which you can use to make a chestnut type hummus.  See - they are so much more than just a subject of Christmas songs! Get out there and buy a jar of roasted chestnuts - or roast your own, before they are all gone!



Castagnaccio is a little different from what you imagine a cake to be. It is solid with a more unusual texture - and combines the flavors of sweetness from sultanas (golden raisins), with pine nuts and then fresh rosemary.  I love the combination - but I have to say, I haven't tasted anything else quite like it.  I've tried a couple of variations using walnuts instead of the pine nuts and regular raisins or cranberries instead of the sultanas.  And with or without the orange zest. I like them all and its a great portable food that I take with me in the car on my trips to the city.



I've never had Castagnaccio from Tuscany. Have you?  I'd love to know how this recipe compares.....

Anyhow - if you are feeling like something a little different, give it a go:


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour (I bought mine online)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 sultanas/golden raisins
1/4 pine nuts
1 large sprig of rosemary
Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Soak the sultanas in the 1 1/2 cups warm water for approx 5 minutes.  Drain - reserving both the sultanas and the water.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the rosemary leaves from the sprig.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chestnut flour and drained warm water until smooth.
  5. Place the olive oil in a pie dish and place int he oven to just a couple of minutes to warm.
  6. Pour the batter into the pie dish and swirl with a whisk to carefully mix in the oil into the dough.  
  7. Sprinkle on the nuts, orange zest and soaked sultanas.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the whole surface is dry and a little cracked.
  9. Serve hot, warm or cold.
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.)
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?
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!

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.


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.......
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coconut lemon truffles

We picked our first ripe lemon of the season from one of our lemon trees this week.  I have missed having so many lemons within easy reach.  It'll take a few weeks for us to get into full crop - but the first just had such a lovely smell and really made me salivate.


So what to make with it that would celebrate its lovely flavor....?

Lemon truffles!


And not sweet, so you can really enjoy the acidity of the lemon juice.

So here is the recipe: (makes 25 truffles)

Ingredients
1 cup almonds
Zest of one lemon (preferable just picked off your own tree!)
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened organic desiccated shredded coconut (plus extra for dusting the truffles)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp sweet freedom or coconut nectar (if you want more sweetness, you can add an extra tablespoon)
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Blend all the ingredients together (except the extra coconut for dusting) in a food processor until it starts to bind together to form a dough (1-2 minutes).

Take approx 1/2 tablespoon of dough, roll it into a small ball and then roll it in the extra coconut.  Continue with the rest of the dough to make approximately 25 little truffles.  Place in the fridge, if you can resist them, for half an hour.



Can be kept at room temperature or in the fridge.

They make a lovely gift for a friend.  Take her a couple of lemons, a box of truffles and the recipe to make her own.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Best Homemade Soy Yogurt


My life has been transformed since I successfully started making organic soy, unsweetened yoghurt!  It makes me so happy. I want to get out of bed in the mornings, just so I can eat some yogurt!  It is so creamy and delicious and only has four ingredients:
  • organic soybeans
  • water
  • organic raw cashews
  • probiotics
The "active" part of making the recipe also takes only about 5 minutes.  Then it sits and ferments for 8 hours, then goes in the fridge - and is then ready to be gobbled up!

So here is the recipe for you to give it a try.  Let me know if it changes your life too!!

Ingredients
3/4 cup raw organic cashews, soaked in water for at least 1 hour, then drained
32 oz carton of WestSoy organic, unsweetened plain soy milk
3 probiotic capsules or 1 scoop probiotic powder. I use Custom probiotics CP1 or their 6 strain powder


1. Put approx. 1 cup of soy milk and the soaked cashews into a blender and process until smooth and creamy.


2. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the remaining 3 cups of milk.  Whisk to combine.

3. Warm over a low heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture reaches a temperature of 110 degrees F (43 degrees C) or if you don't have a thermometer, until a few drops on your wrist feels slightly warm.  Remove from the heat. Don't let it go above this temperature.



4. Open the probiotic capsules and add the contents into the milk - or add the powder and whisk to thoroughly combine.

5. Pour into a yogurt maker and switch on, for 8 hours. If you don't have a yogurt maker,  leave the mixture to rest in covered jar/pot in a warm place in the kitchen, for 8 hours.  Taste to check the desired degree of tartness in flavor.  If it isn't as tart as you like it, leave it another hour or two.  Then refrigerate - it will thicken more as it cools.

6. Store covered in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks.

Notes on the recipe:
a) Most non dairy recipes are typically not very thick. Adding the cashews thickens this one nicely, without having to add any other thickeners.

b) I use an infrared thermometer (~$15) to measure the temperature of the milk.  I bought mine a few months ago and love it.  Basically nothing has to touch the food - it just shoots an infrared beam and measures the temperature from that.  No washing up!  It's also fun to play with around the house and check room temperatures, each other, draughts, etc etc!  You can of course use a regular thermometer or do the wrist heat test - but its not as much fun!


c) I haven't tried this with other milks or changed the cashew nuts for another nut.  That's because I love it as it is and if it ain't broke, don't fix it!  If you give it a try with something else, do report back and let me know how it goes.

d) The yogurt machine holds the yogurt at a constant 108F.  If you don't have one, try leaving it in a switched off electric oven with only the inside light switched on. This should give it enough warmth to ferment.  Or just put it in a warm place in the kitchen.  I've tried it both ways and even when I did it side by side, there was no difference.  If the temperature where you leave it is not that warm, you may need to give it 10 - 12 hours to ferment instead of just 8 hours.

e) The probiotic capsules work perfectly.  The company, customprobiotics sells a yogurt starter, but I've never tried it, as I had the probiotics and they work just fine. If your yogurt doesn't ferment, its probably because you have used a different probiotic that isn't "live"!

f) I have only used WestSoy milk for this recipe as it is made from only whole organic, non-GMO soybeans and water. No other ingredients.  It has a high protein level and reasonable fat content.  Don't try fat free as you need the fat to make the yoghurt thicken.


g) Once you've made your first batch, instead of re-inoculating subsequent batches with fresh probiotic every time, you can just keep approx. 1/4 cup of the previous batch of yogurt and add that to the milk and cashews. The bugs will still be alive.  I tend to do this for a few batches, but then start afresh with fresh probiotics every 6 or so times.

h) Sometimes some liquid separates slightly from the yoghurt. You can pour this off or just stir it in.  Your choice, depending on how thick you want the yoghurt.  You can also strain the yogurt and make soft cheese from it too.

i) If it doesn't set or get sour, its probably because your probiotics are no longer active. This should be a spoonable yogurt.


I start my day with my yogurt with added fruit grown in our garden - like pears and figs right now -- and then also use it at other times through the day - add it with some turmeric to steamed cauliflower, make a salad dressing with it. How will you use yours?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pickled Vegetables

I was taking lunch round to a friend's house recently so made an eggless fennel quiche and decided to accompany it with some pickled vegetables.


I don't recall ever pickling vegetables before, actually.  I make chutneys and sauces, but don't normally pickle.  So it was a fun thing to try.

As my hubby hates the smell of boiling vinegar, this was a job for outside!


I pickled pearl onions (white, yellow and red), some carrots, some radishes and beetroot.  Hands down, the onions won! They were wonderful.  But naturally, they were the most work with the peeling however!

I used a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine and the only things I changed were using coconut nectar sugar instead of white sugar and omitting the oil.

Here's the Pickled Vegetable Recipe


The recipe mentions that you do the beets last so the vinegar doesn't go red on the veggies, but actually the vinegar went red with the radish color!  The radish were my least favorite actually, as they lost all their color and just looked washed out and had lost some flavor.

So my recommendation is skip the radish and if you have the patience, do more onions!

Pickled vegetables are a good portable food, as you can put them in nice jars, and also pair really well with richer foods. They have a good crunch and the vinegar cuts through the richness of what they accompany.

And talking of Pickles, we do enjoy the comic strip Pickles - here's today's in case you don't know it:


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shrub drinks - Strawberry and pink peppercorn shrub

I've only recently heard about shrubs.  And we aren't talking plants in the garden - but shrubs that are vinegar drinks used in cocktails or just added to sparkling water.  Have you heard of them or tried them?


I was intrigued when I read about them so decided to try making my own.


I bought some super delicious fresh organic strawberries and decided to add my favorite combo spice to them - pink peppercorns.  You may recall I've made a few strawberry and pink peppercorn things in the past - my favorite being shortbread (gluten free, dairy free).


So what are shrubs? They are basically fruit  syrup sweetened vinegars that you add to sparkling water or soda water, or use as mixers in cocktails.  It's normally a fruit syrup, added to a vinegar and left for a couple of days and then strained.

The early English version of the shrub arose from medicinal cordials in the 15th century.  The drink then gained popularity in the 1680s among smugglers who were trying to avoid paying taxes.  The smugglers would sink barrels of spirits off-shore to be retrieved when no one was looking, but the sea water ruined the taste of the alcohol somewhat, so the smugglers added fruit syrups to improve the taste.


The American version started from the preservation of berries and other fruits using vinegar, as an alternative to using citrus juice.   The fruit preserves were known as shrubs and it became popular to pour vinegar over fruit and let it infuse overnight or several days, then strain off the fruit, add a little sweetener and you have a syrup for cocktails.

Shrubs seem to have fallen out of favor with the advent of refrigeration, but came back in 2011 in some American bars and restaurants.  They now seem to be spreading to Canada and London.  The acidity of the vinegar makes for a good aperitif or as an alternative to bitters in cocktails.


I made it as something to just add interest to sparkling water. We have "cocktail" hour at home at 5pm. This is the time that my parrot Harold starts getting noisy and wants his "cocktail" which is a cashew nut.  Just like Harold's cocktail isn't a real cocktail, so ours frequently aren't either - but its a time for us to stop for the day.  I like having my shrub in water at that time.  It is an interesting taste and tastes like a "special" drink, rather than water.  My own virgin cocktail.


When I came to make my own shrub, as  most shrubs use fruit syrups which are high in sugar, I decided I'd make a sugar free version instead.

Here's my recipe
3/4 cup chopped ripe strawberries
1 tablespoon coconut nectar or sweet freedom
1 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns (I ground them in a coffee grinder)
1 cup white balsamic vinegar

In a small mixing bowl, add the chopped strawberries, sweetener and peppercorns.  Toss/mash to combine and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Add the vinegar and transfer the mixture to a sterilized glass jar
Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for 2 days, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or cloth. Discard the fruit
The shrub will keep for 1 month in the fridge.
I just put a little amount in the bottom of my glass before adding sparkling water or soda water.  Its very refreshing.


Since making my own, a friend just bought me some flavored balsamic vinegars by Amphora. I got a Blenheim Apricot white balsamic vinegar and a Pomegranate balsamic vinegar.  Because they are such lovely strong fruit flavors, I'm sat here now just enjoying a dash of the apricot vinegar with my water. If you don't have a particularly sweet tooth,  I guess its the quickest, easiest shrub you can have, as long as you have good quality flavored balsamic vinegar. There are a couple of commercial shrubs available too if you want to give them a go:






Let me know what you think if you give one a go, or try making one yourself.  Try serving them at your next dinner party.


 

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