Saturday, 2 May 2015

Banana, nut & seed loaf (grain & dairy-free)

I'm back!! It has only been just over a year (oops!) since I posted a recipe on this blog . . have you missed me? A lot can happen in a year and has! I could offer up all sorts of excuses but I'm sure you're more interested in some new recipes right? I am very conscious that I haven't been holding up my side of the deal with new Likes to my Facebook page for this blog, dribbling, sometimes pouring in weekly (thank you!) as Thermomix users stumble across my recipes here on Mixing it up HK for the first time. 

To share a little with you of what I've been up to, the 'HK' part of my blog title hasn't been strictly true since December last year. I have returned to my home country of Australia, and to a very beautiful part of the world situated on the surfcoast in Victoria. As my husband still works in Hong Kong commuting home to be with us as often as he can each month, I feel very lucky to still have a link to this vibrant city (and my cherished friends) where I spent 14 years of my life, with an opportunity to visit several times a year. My own work also keeps me connected with Hong Kong which I enjoy. 

Here in Australia, my girls have settled in better than I could ever have hoped for at their new school, and have already established some beautiful friendships. Like any other mother, I'm performing a bit of a juggling act of work (my new nutrition & health coaching business here), home duties, and just being mum (sometimes dad too) to my two girls. I also make it a priority to incorporate fitness and 'me' time into my week. Whether this is my regular pilates class, a stroll on the beach, a bike ride to the local shops and farmers market, or getting to know new friends and catching up with old ones at a real food cafe . . . I'm a better parent and a happier, more balanced individual for doing so. There's too much stress to contend with in our daily modern lives, and as a health coach, I understand the negative impact this can have on the body. However, scheduling in some blogging time, something I really enjoy, needs to make it back onto my 'me' time list! So that's why I'm here. Hopefully you're happy about this too :) 

And now for the recipe . . . this grain and dairy-free loaf is perfect lightly toasted for breakfast with ripe avocado smashed or sliced on top, or simply enjoy with a thick lather of organic butter. I have to confess that it's also lovely topped with my mum's lemon butter, which I make with coconut oil these days, as a treat. The loaf has a mild banana flavour with a nuttiness and rustic texture that I adore. I love that it's extremely satiating and nurtures my body with minerals, healthy fats and a good dose of protein in the process. It's also the perfect way to use up almond pulp leftover from making my regular batch of almond milk. I simply dehydrate the pulp for about 6 hours at 47C before using in this recipe. You could also do this in a low oven. In place of almond pulp you can opt to use commercial almond flour or preferably finely ground almonds made in your Thermomix. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do X

Banana, nut & seed loaf (grain & dairy-free)

40g flaxseeds (linseeds)
110g dehydrated almond pulp, almond flour or finely ground raw almonds
70g raw cashews
2 ripe bananas, cut into quarters
4 large organic, free-range eggs
½ tsp bicarb of soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey or coconut nectar (optional)
100g walnuts, roughly chopped & optional - see variation below
100g tapioca flour/starch
30g chia or hemp seeds
40g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
30g sunflower seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. My tin is 19.5 x 9.5cm. 
  2. Grind flaxseeds for 10 seconds on speed 9. 
  3. Add dehydrated almond pulp (or raw almonds) and cashews and grind into a flour or very fine meal on speed 9 for 10-15 seconds. Set aside. 
  4. Add the bananas, eggs, bicarb, baking powder, salt, apple cider vinegar and sweetener (optional) and mix on speed 4 for 15-20 seconds until bananas are mashed well and mixture is frothy. 
  5. Roughly chop the walnuts by hand. Add to the TM bowl (or save some to sprinkle on top of the loaf) with the ground flaxseeds and nuts mixture, tapioca flour, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Add your flavour variations (below) at this step. Mix on reverse, speed 5 for a few seconds to combine. The mixture will be quite thick and stiff. 
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and spread evenly with spatula. 
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Slice and store in a ziplock bag in the fridge or freezer. 
Please note that it is preferable to use activated nuts and seeds for easier digestion and improved nutrient uptake by the body. To incorporate this extra step you need to plan a day ahead . . . simply weigh out the almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds and soak in filtered water overnight. Cashews only require a couple of hours soaking. The next day, drain the water from the nuts and seeds and dry on trays in a 50C oven or in a dehydrator until crisp. 

Topping ideas:
  • Add desiccated coconut in place of the roughly chopped extra nuts
  • For a chai flavoured bread, add 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamon, 3/4 tsp ground ginger, 3/4 tsp allspice and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Friday, 4 April 2014

Supergreens with quinoa & pistachio pesto

Mmmm a yummy way to get your greens in . . . I'm always on the lookout for one of those! Greens are so wonderful for your health, in particular the cruciferous greens like kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli and spinach . . . but many of us struggle to get our daily quota especially when boredom or monotony sets in. Don't let this happen to you or you'll be missing out on an amazing assortment of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, not to mention their powerful anti-cancer, detoxifying, immune strengthening, anti-inflammatory and heart healthy benefits. A good tip for your health is to include two servings of cruciferous greens per day and to enjoy at least one of those raw. 

There really is no excuse not to enjoy your greens . . . you've just got to dress them up occasionally (or all the time)! I love to mix up the way we eat our greens so that tedium is never an issue at our house, this is because greens always feature on our daily menu in one shape or form. We do all the regular things with greens like making green juice or smoothies, incorporating them into dishes such as quiches, savoury slices, stir-fries and even green eggs! We stir them chopped or blended through sauces, or serve them as a side dish sautéed or lightly steamed . . . but fresh homemade pestos and leafy salads with flavoursome dressings have to be my favourite green distraction at the moment. 

This salad features a gorgeous basil & pistachio pesto made with the zest of a lemon. It is times like these when I wish my small lemon tree on our balcony was a little more mature and forthcoming with the good stuff :( It is difficult to source organic lemons in Hong Kong. When I visit Australia, I am lucky to have a wonderful neighbour, sister and mother-in-law who help to support my organic lemon addiction so I can bring a supply back to HK with me in my suitcase. So, if you are lucky enough to have a productive lemon tree in your garden I am hugely jealous! ;)

I first enjoyed this lush green, fresh & fragrant salad, brimming with superfood goodness at a family dinner prepared by my mother-in-law over our Christmas 2013 break in Australia. I must say that my mother-in-law has a real flair for unearthing quality dishes. She is also very accustomed to me by now making a request for her yummy recipes. Lucky for me, my appeals are always graciously accepted . . and also I hesitate to say . . .  lucky for you! ;)

Looking over the original recipe, I could very quickly see how I could adapt it for the Thermomix. Plus of course I have tweaked the recipe slightly to improve nutritional quality. . . that goes without saying really! 

Supergreens with quinoa and pistachio pesto

500g filtered water
1½ tbsp TM vegetable stock paste
80g red quinoa
80g white quinoa
170g broccolini, trimmed
100g frozen baby peas
100g baby spinach leaves
100g rocket leaves (arugula)
1 ripe avocado, stone removed, sliced
150g fetta cheese (omit for DF)
80g pepitas (pumpkin seeds), raw or lightly toasted

pistachio pesto
60g raw pistachio nuts
good handful of basil leaves
1 lemon, juice + zest (preferably organic)
50g extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic

1. Add 500g of filtered water to the TM bowl with the stock paste.  Place the basket inside the TM bowl. Weigh both types of quinoa into a fine mesh sieve on top of the TM bowl (zero the sieve using the scales first). Rinse the quinoa with water at the sink before tipping out of the sieve into the TM basket. Secure the lid and Varoma dish on top ready for steaming the broccolini. Cook the quinoa for 12 minutes at 100C on speed 4. TIP: Soak the quinoa overnight for increase digestibility. 

2. Add the trimmed broccolini and frozen peas to the Varoma tray and steam 
for 5-6 minutes at Varoma temperature , speed 4 or until just tender. Immediately remove the green veg from the tray and plunge into icy cold water to prevent further cooking and to retain the vibrant green colour. Remove the cooked quinoa to a large mixing or salad bowl. Rinse out the TM bowl with hot water and dry with paper towel ready to make the fresh pesto. 

3. To make the pesto: peel the zest from the lemon in strips and add to the TM bowl with the pistachio nuts, garlic and basil leaves and finely chop on speed 7 for 5 seconds. Then add the olive oil and lemon juice and combine on speed 3 for a few seconds. 

4. Add the steamed greens to the quinoa, then add the baby spinach & rocket leaves and sliced avocado. Sprinkle with crumbled fetta and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with pesto and toss. Enjoy!

Nutrition tid bit
Although the leafy greens have the highest overall nutrient density of all vegetables, meaning they contain the most micronutrients per calorie, it is important that you eat the rainbow, that is fruits and vegetables of every hue to benefit from an even wider range of nutrients that work in synergy to boost your health. So keep this in mind when you take this salad to a family gathering and dig into every colour of the rainbow (and I'm not referring to the bowl of m&m's . . . LOL:)

Original recipe here. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Slow cooking, stovetop cooking, thermomixing and Lamb ragu . . .

Slow-cooking to the non-Thermomix owner, probably looks like a convenient way to feed your family a nutritious meal. You just need to prepare your ingredients in the morning, throw them in the slow cooker and allow them to cook all day until you are ready to eat your meal at night . . but hold on, does this sound nutritious to you? To me it sounds more like a slow death to nutrients!

Although both a slow-cooker (and also a Thermomix), typically cook food at less than the boiling point of water, which is considered a healthier way of cooking . . . surely the prolonged heat exposure to vegetables in particular, as a result of hours and hours of slow-cooking, has to put the integrity of the more unstable water-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients at unnecessary risk? Of course, there are always exceptions, such as the antioxidant lycopene, a red pigment carotenoid, which actually becomes more bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked. But shouldn't we also be concerned about the other more fragile micronutrients in tomatoes? 

As a general rule, the longer a food is exposed to heat and the higher the cooking temperature, the higher the subsequent nutrient loss. Preserving nutrients as best you can using cooking methods is definitely a tricky science, especially on the stovetop where timing is crucial if you wish to preserve the nutrients in the foods you are cooking. 

Steaming has long been recommended as the most favourable method of stovetop cooking to reduce nutrient loss and thankfully we can look to our trusty Thermomix to help us out with this method of cooking in the Varoma. But rest assured, we can also look favourably at the TM bowl method of cooking in comparison to stovetop cooking methods such as simmering, boiling and frying which all expose foods to higher temperatures which are difficult to control. This is just another way that the Thermomix comes into it's own, not only are foods cooked quickly (less time) and at comparably low temperatures which are preset and controlled, they are cooked to perfection if you follow well-tested recipes, ensuring that nutrient loss is kept to a minimum.  In terms of nutrition, quick methods of cooking at low temperatures has to be more superior, and any Thermomix owner understands the concept of 'fast' in comparison to other methods of cooking. 
Traditionally a lamb ragu is slow cooked for hours to develop flavours and tenderize meats. Using a heavy based pan and my thermie, I believe that I have achieved that lovely richness of flavour and melt in the mouth texture to the lamb in much less time, preserving more of the nutrition in your lamb and vegetables :)

lamb ragu
700g diced lamb
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tbsp organic butter or ghee
2 large cloves garlic
1 onion, halved
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
20-40g extra virgin olive oil
50g tomato paste or concentrate
1 tbsp TM vegetable stock paste
400g can BPA-free tomatoes (or your own TM cooked tomatoes)
100g tomato passata or sauce
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves only
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves and/or parsley
1 dry bay leaf
1/2 cup dry red wine


1. Make a spice rub for the lamb by combining the coriander, fennel and cumin in a small bowl with the diced lamb. Mix well to cover and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. TIP: It does pay to freshly grind your spices from the whole variety so that your finished dish will be more fragrant and flavoursome. Also, your lamb should be evenly diced for successful shredding later. 

2. Melt the butter or ghee in a heavy based pan (cast iron and not non-stick preferably) over moderately-high heat. In two batches, sear the lamb on all sides until deeply browned, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Remove the meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining lamb. The lamb should still be rare inside. DO NOT clean the pan!

3. Now add the spiced lamb to the TM bowl and shred for 2-4 seconds on reverse speed 5 to break up slightly. The lamb will break up further as it simmers, so don't over-do this step and turn your lamb into mush. Remove to the plate. 

4. Add the garlic cloves, onion and carrot to TM bowl. Chop on speed 7 for 5 seconds. Add olive oil and sauté at Varoma temp for 3 minutes on speed 1Scrape down sides of bowl, add tomato paste and cook a further 2 mins at Varoma temp.

5. Add dry red wine to the frypan and deglaze, simmer on the stovetop until the liquid thickens. Then scrape contents of the frypan into the TM bowl.

6. Return the shredded lamb to the TM bowl and add the remaining ingredients (stock paste, canned tomatoes, passata, fresh herbs and bay leaf) to the TM bowl. 

7. Simmer the ragu at 90°C, speed soft, reverse for at least 15 minutes. . . or longer if you prefer in which case you may need to add some water. . . . just don't cook it all day :) 

Meanwhile cook your pasta or lightly steam or sauté your zucchini spirals. I like to serve with a side of green salad or steamed broccoli to ensure that we are getting our daily greens quota :)  

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Raw berry coconut & dark chocolate slice

This recipe has long been on my 'create a healthy version' to-do list, owing to the fact that my hubby is a big fan of Cherry Ripe bars and I too have fond memories of enjoying the homemade slice version growing up. I remember making homemade cherry ripe slice for family gatherings from glace cherries, sweet plain biscuits, vegetable shortening (Copha) and dark chocolate. In those days we didn't understand that vegetable shortening was bad for us, being plant-derived we thought it was all good. These days of course, we know better!

Copha is made from coconut oil, the very oil that is receiving so much positive attention these days, and rightly so . . but do not confuse this product with something nutritious . . . the coconut oil in vegetable shortening has been stripped off all it's therapeutic and preventative power during the processes of refining, bleaching and deodorising (which involves the use of high temperatures and chemicals), and then finally hydrogenation. 

Coconut oil is already largely saturated, which explains why it is a semi-solid at temperatures below room temperature. But during the process of hydrogenation, the remaining polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are flooded with hydrogen gas and their molecular structure rearranged such that the melting point of the fat is increased and you end up with a solid block of fat at room temperature. Not only is the coconut oil turned rancid during the process of extraction and refining, and vitamins and antioxidants destroyed, but trans fats are also formed. I have briefly discussed trans fats here in a recent post. 

Unfortunately sweet commercial biscuits are usually also a source of trans fats or at the very least, highly refined vegetable oils. Not to mention a source of refined sugar and flour!  One of the great things about 'baking' at home is that you control the ingredients and in this case my healthier version features genuine healthy fats with nothing to hide . . . organic cold pressed virgin coconut oil, raw cacao butter and pesticide-free raw almonds. Rather than using sweet biscuits in this recipe to provide bulk to the bottom layer in combination with desiccated coconut, I have utilised freshly ground raw almonds. 

I have also departed from using glace cherries to flavour this slice, because for me glace cherries are too far removed from the real thing, which is usually candied in fructose syrup and sugar with added colourings. Dried cherries unfortunately do not pack enough colour for the result I wanted to achieve with the base layer, so I decided to try a combination of goji berries, which always add a lovely vibrancy to my 'baking', and freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries which are beautifully red in colour and fragrant. If you can source freeze-dried cherries you could try these too!  

Freeze drying causes less damage to the fruit than other drying methods which involve higher temperatures, such that the flavour, aroma and nutritional content remain largely unchanged. This is also the method used to produce many of the new 'super' fruit products on the market these days that have travelled half way across the globe to make it to your table, for e.g. freeze dried powders of acai and camu berries which are readily available in speciality health stores. As a whole food product, the phytonutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are preserved and concentrated in these wonderful powders. So if your budget allows it, adding a tablespoon or so a day to your breakfast, smoothie, juice or raw dessert is a great way to boost nutrition. Now let's get to the recipe finally! I hope you like it :)

20g dried goji berries + 20g filtered water
50g freeze dried berries (strawberries, raspberries, cherries or a mix)
100g raw almonds
80g raw cacao butter, chunks
2 tbsp coconut oil
180g desiccated coconut
40g coconut flour
100g fresh medjool dates, pitted
1tsp vanilla bean paste

120g coconut nectar
2 tbsp cacao powder
120g coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (optional)

1. In a small bowl combine goji berries and filtered water. Meanwhile add freeze dried raspberries to the TM bowl and grind into a powder for 10-20 seconds on speed 9. Decant and put aside in a bowl.

2. Add raw almonds to the TM bowl and grind for 10-15 seconds on speed 7 and decant into the same bowl as the raspberry powder.

3. Add raw cacao chunks to the TM bowl and grate for 5-10 seconds on speed 7. Add coconut oil and heat for 3 minutes at 37°C or until melted, on speed 2.

4. Return raspberry powder and ground nuts to the TM bowl with the remaining ingredients, including the water soaked goji berries, and mix on speed 8 until well combined for 15-20 seconds

5. Press the mixture evenly into a lined 20x20cm square pan and set aside while you make the topping. Wash & dry the the TM bowl ready to make the chocolate topping.  

6. To prepare the topping: combine the topping ingredients in TM bowl and combine at 37°C for 2 minutes on speed 3 or until the coconut oil has melted and the mixture is well blended. Pour immediately over the base and refrigerate until set. Cut into slices to serve. 

- use 50g of a super fruit powder in place of the freeze-dried raspberries, but keep in mind that it will influence the flavour and colour of the base
- try using hazelnuts in place of the almonds

no thermomix?
Try using a powerful food processor or blender to make the base and low-heat on a stovetop, or a microwave to make the raw cacao topping.

Find me on Facebook at Mixing it up in HK 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Tomato pasta sauce packed full of veg!

I've been making this 'pasta' sauce since Miss 9 was a baby, (although it has evolved over time of course). So, I thought it was about time that I blogged it :). This tomato-based sauce is so versatile and nutritious, you can use it to create a vege-packed bolognaise or add some chickpeas, baby spinach and spices for a vegetarian meal. I have always preferred to make my own pasta sauce, so I converted this recipe for the Thermomix very early on when I could see how very simple it would make this recipe to prepare. 

If you buy the bottled kind of tomato pasta sauce, unfortunately, as with any can, jar or carton of juice, soup, sauce or vegetables you find on the supermarket shelf, the nutrition has been largely destroyed by pasteurisation or ultra heat treatment (UHT) . . . plus you'll find that some cans are lined with BPA-based lining, so watch out for this too. The Food Standards Agency requires that food is heated to produce a 'commercially sterile shelf-stable product'. This heat treatment kills food spoiling microorganisms, as well as pathogens (microorganisms that cause illness), but unfortunately it also destroys enzymes and nutrients that are not heat stabile, such as vitamin C and the B group vitamins. An exception is lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes and other red fruits which gives them their red hue. Lycopene levels are found to increase with cooking time, such that processed tomato products are an excellent source of this antioxidant, however it is also likely that other beneficial antioxidants in tomatoes are destroyed in the same process. So, it's a good idea that tomatoes feature both raw and cooked in your diet for full nutritional benefit :)

This recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but you could very easily substitute fresh . . .I would cook them first to develop their flavour (follow the EDC method). Personally, I would prepare the tomato component of this recipe from scratch if our little tomato bushes on the balcony were productive enough! Unfortunately, I don't think that the Hong Kong heat and humidity is all that suitable for tomato growing, although we might have had a better season if the recent wet and wind hadn't washed away our blossoms! Oh well, it's all part of the fun :)

This sauce has a lovely richness of flavour as well as sweetness. You can choose to blend or not to blend, depending on how your family prefers it. We like it a little chunky as you can see in the pic. This recipe makes a TM bowlful bursting at the seams. I freeze the sauce in ready-to-go portions which cover us for several meals.

1 red capsicum (pepper), blackened, peeled & chopped
2 sml or 1 lge carrot (about 100g), cut into chunks
120g mushrooms
1 sml zucchini (200g)
1 apple, cored & quartered
40g EVOO
1 brown onion, halved
3-4 cloves garlic
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes, BPA-free
400g tomato passata 
50g tomato paste (or concentrate)
100g wine or filtered water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano, basil or mixed herbs
2 dried bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Himalayan or sea salt, to taste
good handful fresh basil leaves

1. To chargrill red capsicum: Hold the capsicum with the stem upright and remove the core as you slice downwards to create 4 large pieces (or cheeks). Remove any membranes or seeds. Place each of capsicum pieces on a sheet of foil on an oven tray under a hot grill for about 10 minutes or until blackened and blistered. Remove from grill, fold up the sides of the foil and wrap ensuring that the steam cannot escape. Allow to cool, over which time the steam will condense and allow for the skin to be easily removed. Peel of the skin and cut into chunks.

2. Add carrot, mushrooms, zucchini and apple to TM bowl and chop on speed 4 for 10-15 seconds until evenly chopped. Decant into a bowl and set aside. 

3. Add onion and garlic to TM bowl and chop on speed 7 for 5 seconds. Add 40g olive oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes at 100°C on speed 1

4. Return chopped vegetables and apple to the TM bowl and add can or fresh tomatoes, passata, tomato paste, dried herbs, wine or water, and combine on speed 4 for 6 seconds. Add bay leaves and cook at 100°C for 25 minutes on reverse speed 2. Place the basket on top to prevent spitting. 

5. Remove the bay leaves using the spatula and add roasted red capsicum, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. Blend on speed 4-5 for 5 seconds, or to your liking.

uses & variations
  • add can tuna or salmon & serve with pasta
  • add cream cheese or cream for a creamy sauce (blend into the sauce at step 5 and heat a little further)
  • add freshly minced beef & cook up a batch of spaghetti for a quick spaghetti bol (see method below)
  • Stir through some fresh baby spinach, cooked chickpeas and serve with a little brown rice, for a quick vegetarian meal. 
  • add fresh or dried chilli (to taste) for a kick!

For a bolognaise sauce:
Add 1 x rump steak, cut into chunks,  to TM bowl and pulse on turbo 3-4 times for a chunky mince. Scrape the minced meat off the blade with the spatula, then add 20g EVOO and cook for 6-8 minutes on Varoma, reverse speed soft. Then add 500-1000g of the tomato pasta sauce (recipe above), depending on the number of people you are serving and how meaty you like your bolognaise. Add 1-2 tsp of your favourite stock paste and cook for 10-15 minutes at 100°C on reverse, speed 1-2Serve with lightly steamed spiralised zucchini or pasta of your choice. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Cheesy flax & wholegrain crackers

Here's another lunchbox creation of mine that we have been making regularly this year. Like most of my recipes it is really flexible; it responds well if you are like me and find that you have a need to play around with the ingredients :) I try to mix up the wholegrains and flavours each time I make it. Buckwheat groats work really well in this recipe if you are looking to make it gluten-free. You can shape the dough anyway you choose, cut it into sticks, squares, shapes . . . your children will never be bored of them!

There are several reasons why I choose to make our own crackers in preference to purchasing commercial varieties. You could be tricked into thinking you are making a good choice when you see such claims on labels as 'high in fibre' or 'wholegrain', but take a closer look and you'll likely find processed vegetable oils, flavours, colours, emulsifiers, even MSG and other harmful additives lurking in the finer print, not to mention high levels of sodium from table salt. Plus it's virtually impossible to avoid trans fats in this type of product where fats in this form are used because they are cheap and function to extend the shelf-life of pastry and bakery goods. Consumers trying to avoid this dangerous fat, which is known to increase  'bad' LDL cholesterol and inflammation in the body, can very easily be caught out, especially in areas where trans fat labelling is not mandatory, which is the case in Australia and New Zealand, (  In some parts of the U.S. where trans fat labelling is mandatory, a product claiming to contain 0g trans fat, is actually permitted to contain up to 0.5g of trans fats per serving! In Hong Kong, the labelling of trans fats has been mandatory since 2010, but more realistically, food products containing less than 0.3g of trans fats per 100g are permitted to be labelled as containing 0g trans fats ( A good rule of thumb is that if you see partially hydrogenated fats listed in the ingredients on a food product, you are looking at trans fats. But really, to avoid the lies and confusion (and unnatural trans fats in any dose), it just makes sense to make your own nutritious and tasty, additive-free crackers with ingredients you can trust. Plus, it's easy as can be with a Thermomix on your side . . .

100g golden flaxseeds (linseeds)
100g buckwheat groats (or kasha), oat groats or spelt grains (or a combination)
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 spring onions, sliced into 5cm pieces or 20g brown onion
1 garlic clove
70g parmesan cheese (or use vintage)
20g unsalted organic butter, cold or coconut oil (solid)
1/4 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
1-2 tsp raw honey, optional
70g milk of choice (or filtered water)
1 x egg white, to brush
poppy or sesame seeds, to sprinkle

flavouring options:  have some fun with your own flavour combinations!
- fresh herbs: rosemary leaves, basil, parsley or a mix
- 2 tsp dried parsley leaves, 1 tsp dried coriander leaves, 1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
- you can also use 1/4- 1/2 tsp each of onion and garlic powder in place of fresh

Gluten-free?  50g buckwheat groats + 50g brown rice works well
Dairy-free?  omit the cheese, add 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour, use coconut oil or ghee (if tolerated) instead of butter, use a plant-based milk

1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.

2. Grind peppercorns (if using) with flaxseeds and buckwheat/oat/spelt groats on speed 9 for 1 minute. Decant and set aside in a bowl.

3. Grate parmesan and/or vintage cheese on speed 8 for 5-10 seconds. Decant and set aside in the same bowl with the freshly ground wholegrains.

4. Add spring onions (or piece of onion), fresh herbs and garlic to TM bowl and chop on speed 7 for 5-10 seconds. 

5. Add butter, salt, baking powder, honey and return flours and cheese to the TM bowl with dried herbs of choice (if using). Mix on speed 6 for 5 seconds.

6. Add 50-70g water or milk (less if you have omitted the cheese). Knead on interval speed for 1 minute into a soft and moist dough - add more water or milk if needed.

7. Turn dough out onto a thermomat or a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly to shape into a smooth ball. Roll out to 2mm thickness. Cut into desired shape. I like to use a fluted roller cutter. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with poppy or seeds if desired.

8. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until light brown and firm. Rest on the oven tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Keep in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

nutrition tid bit
Although it's name could confuse you, buckwheat is in fact not related to wheat and like quinoa is technically the seed of a fruit! Buckwheat is a source of good quality protein, containing 8 essential amino acids. It is also rich in many of the B vitamins, as well as the minerals; phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Buckwheat is also high in flavonoids, which are phytonutrients known to protect against disease.

I like to activate my buckwheat groats for use in this recipe to increase their digestibility. You can purchase them in this form at health food stores under the name of 'buckinis'. Have you ever tried buckwheat at breakfast? . .

. . . an easy and nutritious breakfast idea of mine is to combine about 1/4 cup activated buckwheat (buckinis) with 1 tbsp freshly ground chia seeds, 1-2 diced dried dates (opt) + handful of fresh (or defrosted) berries. You could also add chopped raw nuts. Serve with biodynamic natural yoghurt, coconut yoghurt or a thermomix nut milk + a stir in a little vanilla bean paste (optional) for a delicious & nutritious, antioxidant rich, gut friendly kick-start to the day!

In case you are concerned about the effect of baking on the healthy omega-3 fats in flaxseeds, research has shown that they remain heat stable in both the whole and ground state during baking, however, the same cannot be said for flax oil when it has been isolated from the whole seed. The nutritional quality of the extracted oil is considerable more fragile, (

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Raw, superfood nut-free bites

Variants of my raw cacao treat balls occupy a permanent position in our fridge, and that's because we make them weekly . .  and as they disappear, I always make a new batch :) They are the first thing I reach for after a busy day at work . . . a super nutritious, raw cacao (aka chocolate) fix, enjoyed by my whole family. So I decided it was time I developed a nut-free version that my girls could take to school, and shaped them into little bars for something different. Of course, you can try this with any fudgy treat ball recipe, as long as it isn't too soft. A little coconut oil helps the mix to set in the fridge.   

My girls quite happily nibble on sunflower seeds as a snack so I kept them chunky, which I think looks pretty. . . you could always grind them so they disappear :) I love the little specs of pink through the fudge from the goji berries too. My girls don't like goji berries on their own, but always eat them in my treat balls. . . any way I can get goodness into them is a good way I say!  By grinding your own dry, freeze-dried or dehydrated superfruits, you can effectively make your own superfruit powder . . . I had a jar of dehydrated pomegranate seeds in the pantry which I had prepared myself when fresh pomegranates were fleetingly available in Hong Kong recently. Over this time, I also enjoyed using my Thermomix to de-seed and grind up the pomegranate 'berries', and used a nut milk bag to filter the blended mixture into a fresh juice . . . oh so yummy and nutritious!  

Oh, and if you can't get past nuts in this type of recipe, then by all means swap the sunflower seeds for cashews, almonds or walnuts (or a combination of them all). You can grind them at step 2 with the chia seeds and cacao beans or chop them roughly as I do with the sunflower seeds in this recipe at step 3. For a flavour variation, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil . . .  my girls have already requested peppermint next make :)

Enjoy the amazing burst of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients!!

50g chia seeds
80g raw cacao beans or nibs
100g dried goji berries
40g dehydrated pomegranate seeds (or your choice of dry or freeze-dried berries)
100g sunflower seeds (preferably activated) - you could also use sesame seeds
180g fresh medjool dates 
3 tbsp raw cacao powder 
1 tbsp superfood powder blend (optional) 
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
20-30g coconut oil
8 drops of peppermint or orange essential oil (optional)


1. Add chia seeds and cacao beans to the TM bowl and grind for 20 seconds on speed 9, (you can add the sunflower seeds at this step too if you don't want them to be chunky). Decant and set aside. 

2. Grind goji berries and dehydrated pomegranate seeds on speed 9 for 10-30 seconds into a 'superfruit' powder, (the grinding time will depend on the choice of fruit you use here).  

3. Return the ground chia and cacao beans to the TM bowl, and add all remaining ingredients. NOTE: If your dates are not especially soft, you may need to add a few more. Mix on speed 8 for 20-30 seconds to combine, or until the mixture come together and is squishable when you press it between your thumb and fingers :) 

4. Press mixture evenly into a medium-sized square edged tray or cake tin greased with a little coconut oil or lined with baking paper, (I used a 20 x 20cm cake tin). Allow to stiffen for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before slicing into small bars or squares. Makes 28. Enjoy! These bars keep very well in the refrigerator.

no thermomix?
You will need to employ a coffee grinder or some equally powerful device to grind up your cacao beans and seeds. You should be able to combine all ingredients using a powerful food processor. Good luck :)