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 :)


ingredients
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

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

method
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. 

variations
- 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.

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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.

ingredients
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

method
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, (www.abc.net.au/news).  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 (www.cfs.gov.hk). 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 . . .


ingredients
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

method
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, (www.whfoods.org).




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!!


ingredients
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)

method

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 :)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Spelt hot cross buns

First up, apologises for the late post as ideally you should have had this recipe in time for Good Friday . . . but life is never ideal is it? Easter is almost done and dusted for 2013, but you don't have to stop eating hot cross buns just yet do you? (in moderation of course, plus they freeze really well). I have been making my own hot cross buns at Easter for years, although originally I didn't use spelt flour and would use my bread machine to knead and prove the dough. I completely avoid the commercial varieties, not just because of all the additives and other synthetic ingredients, but because once you've had homemade you just can't go back can you? My crosses may not be as white and perfect as the store bought ones, but that's by choice . . . I choose the rustic look over bleached flour and hydrogenated oils any day!

My family look forward to enjoying their hot cross buns straight from the oven at Easter time, and I also use this same recipe to make a fruit loaf all year round . . but isn't there just something special about eating them in the form of a bun :) The enjoyment we all get out of sharing them over brunch or lunch (depending on how late in the day I started making them), definitely makes it worth the extra effort to fuss over their presentation at least once per year. I like to make a double batch of the dough, one batch after another and combine the dough in a bowl to prove. I must confess that I haven't tried the EDC recipe, even though I have heard great things about it, but that's just because I can't quite get past my own recipe . . . when you're onto a good thing you stick to it right? :)



ingredients
330g filtered water
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
500g spelt bakers flour (use all white or half wholemeal) - use normal strong bread flour if you can't find spelt bread flour. 
3 rounded tsp cinnamon
2 rounded tsp mixed spice
3 tsp rapadura or raw caster sugar
1 tsp Himalyan salt
20g avocado or macadamia oil
1 1/2 cups dried fruit of choice (sultanas, raisins, currants, dried apricots, apples, cranberries etc.)

glaze
3 tbsp filtered boiling water
2 tbsp sucanat or raw honey
1/2 tsp mixed spice

flour paste
80g white spelt flour
100g filtered water
1 tsp oil (optional)

method
1. Line a shallow rectangular tray or dish with baking paper. 

2. Add 330g filtered water to the TM bowl and heat 1 minute at 90°C on speed 1.

3. Add remaining ingredients (except the dried fruit), and mix for a few seconds on speed 7
Then, set dial to closed lid position and knead for 2 minutes on interval setting

4. Add dried fruits and mix on speed 5 for about 10 seconds. Transfer the dough onto your thermomat and wrap up (or into a large, floured stainless steel bowl and cover).

5. Place the dough in a warm place for 1.5 - 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size. I like to place in a 40°C oven, covered with a damp tea towel. I've heard another great place is inside your car in the sun . . not that I have this option available to me in Hong Kong!

6. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured benchtop or your thermomat. Divide into 12 pieces of equal size (or 24 if you have doubled the recipe). I'm a little pedantic here I must confess, I use a scale to measure pieces of dough at about 90g each :)  Shape each piece into a smooth ball, then place smooth side up into your prepared tray or dish and brush the buns at this point with a lightly whisked egg or milk (this is optional as I didn't do this for the batch I made in the photo, but it will help your buns to brown a little more).

7. Cover the tray of buns loosely with the damp tea towel or your thermomat, and leave in a warm place (or return to the warm oven) and allow them to expand to just fill the pan (about 15-20 minutes). Next, preheat oven to fan-forced 190°C. 

8. Meanwhile, to make the flour paste for the crosses, place all ingredients in the TM bowl and mix to combine for about 20 seconds on speed 4. Pour into a small ziplock bag and snip off the very corner with scissors (or use a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain piping tip) and pipe the paste in one continuous line down the centre of each row of buns and then crossways to form crosses. 

















9. Place buns in preheated oven and cook for about 15 minutes until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped. 

10. To make the glaze, combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to dissolve the honey or sugar. You can use cold water and combine all ingredients and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave if you prefer. Brush the hot cross buns with the glaze while still warm. Serve as is or with butter. They are also lovely with lemon butter. These buns are so moist I often skip using any spreads. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ginger, cinnamon apple chips

My Excalibur deydrator is almost 2 months old now, and in my own tradition of getting the most out of all kitchen gadgets bestowed onto me, (although I must admit that some have gone into retirement since my Thermomix came along), my dehydrator has been working very hard indeed!. . .  I have been busy soaking, activating and/or dehydrating nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables and making my own raw crackers, sweet biscuits, granola, fruit leathers and so on :) Of course, a bit of trial and error has been involved, but this is an evolving list as I experiment with and become more familiar with my machine and all it can do . . sound familiar? :) But what a team my Thermomix and Excalibur are making so far! Here is a quick and fun recipe which highlights this relationship. If only my thermomix could slice the apples too! Aren't they pretty?! 















I employ the thermomix to make a lemon, ginger dipping solution for the apple slices. The natural acidity and vitamin C content of the lemon juice combined with icy cold water helps to prevent enzymic browning which will work to retain the light, bright colour of your apple slices very successfully (see photo above) . . . the fresh ginger will give the apple chips a lovely zingy taste . . . and married with cinnamon, this is a gorgeously aromatic flavour combination. 

ingredients
1kg Pink Lady apples, unpeeled (organic or soak in a vege-fruit wash & scrub well)
juice of 1-2 lemons (about 80g)
40g fresh ginger, peeled - or more if you like a strong ginger zing! 
250g icy cold filtered water
3 tsp ground cinnamon (or grind your own from cinnamon sticks!)

method
1. Add fresh ginger, lemon juice and filtered water to the TM bowl and blend on speed 9 for 30 seconds with the MC cup in place. 

2. Turn each apple onto it's side on a chopping board and with a very sharp knife (I like to use a ceramic knife), slice the apple into rounds of about 1-2mm thickness so that the core creates a star shape in the centre, (or use a mandoline if you have one). Discard the very top and bottom slices. The apple seeds should fall out when dried, so don't be concerned with leaving them in. 

3. Add the apple slices to a large bowl, and as you do so pour over a little of your lemon and fresh ginger juice at a time. Ensure that all slices of apple are fully immersed or dipped before you remove them to lay out on dehydrator trays. 

4. Lay your apple slices out on dehydrator trays and sprinkle with cinnamon. I like to use a small sieve for a finer sprinkle :) Set your deydrator to 135°F (57°C) and dry for about 24 hours or until crisp. This drying process will also generate a beautiful perfume for your home :) 

Voila! Gorgeous, wholesome, sweet and zingy cinnamon apple chips which your children will adore I promise :)

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Chicken & vegetable sausage rolls with spelt pastry

I adore this recipe, so much so I am even a little hesitant to let you all know about it :)  But it's a bit late now to be precious about my recipes!!  It does make my day when somebody leaves me a little comment down below, so please don't be shy if you are enjoying something here on my blog. . . . .

I pull out either this recipe, or my pork and beef sausage rolls for birthday parties, and they are always a hit :) I always have sausage rolls on hand in my freezer and regularly serve them up for a quick, easy and nutritious evening meal for my girls who devour them with veggie sticks or their favourite steamed veg on the side :) 

I have made several adjustments to this recipe over the years, my most recent is to add TM made stock paste, which adds a deliciously rich flavour to all of my dishes, plus I love to make my own rough puff pastry rather than use the commercial variety. It is very easy to make in the Thermomix if you haven't tried before, and it just adds something very special to a homemade sausage roll. Please let me know what you think :)





ingredients

Pastry: 
185g white spelt flour
190g wholemeal spelt flour
300g unsalted butter - I buy unsalted to avoid commercial salt then add Himalayan
1.5 tsp Himalayan (or sea salt)
150g filtered water, chilled
3 tsp lemon juice 

Filling:
1 sml sweet potato, peeled & thickly sliced (about 250g)
80g fresh wholegrain homemade bread, broken into pieces 
30g tasty cheese, cut into chunks (optional)
1 large clove garlic
1 sml handful your choice mixed fresh herbs, e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano
1 sml or half a large onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, cut into chunks
1 sml zucchini, cut into chunks
600g thigh or breast chicken, skinless, cut into 1-2cm cubes
1/4 tsp each of dried sage, cloves and nutmeg - I like to freshly grind my nutmeg & cloves
good grind black pepper
2 tbsp TM tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 tbsp TM chicken or vegetable stock paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

To finish:
1 large egg + a little water
poppy seeds, to sprinkle

method
1. First follow the EDC rough puff pastry method to make 1.5 x qty batch of spelt rough puff pastry using the proportions of ingredients listed above. Make this ahead, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. 

2. Peel and slice sweet potato into 2cm thick rounds and place in the Varoma dish. Add 400g of water to the TM bowl and set the Varoma dish into position. Steam for 15 minutes at Varoma temperature on speed 1. Set aside the sweet potato and rinse and dry the TM bowl.

3. Add fresh bread, tasty cheese (optional), garlic and fresh herbs to the TM bowl and chop on speed 7 for 5 seconds. Decant into a bowl. 

4. Add onion, carrot and zucchini to the TM bowl and chop on speed 5 for 5-10 seconds or until evenly  chopped.

5. Return the breadcrumb cheese and herbs mixture and add the cubed chicken, sweet potato and all remaining ingredients to the TM bowl and chop on speed 6-8 until finely minced and well combined. You will need to use the spatula to assist. Stop mixing to scrape down the bowl once or twice. 

6. Remove the slab of puff pastry from the fridge and slice in half, then in half again so that you have four equal sized pieces. Keep aside one quarter and return the remaining pastry to the fridge to keep cold. Roll out the pastry piece on a floured surface or your TM mat, to a rectangular shape of about 15 x 45cm, and 2mm thickness. 

7. Spoon a quarter of the mixture along the centre of the pastry. Turn one side over the filling and roll, seam side down, brush the edge with a little milk or water to seal. I like to then cut each roll in half and then lift each piece off the TM mat onto a chopping board, so that I can use a serrated knife to carefully cut each roll into 6 equal pieces. This creates a clean cut which doesn't flatten your sausage rolls as you cut which can happen if you use a blunt knife, (or use a butter knife on the mat so you don't slice it up!) 

8. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes into the tops of your little sausage rolls, glaze with a whisked egg and water wash, then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling, making 48 sausage rolls in total.

9. When you're ready to cook the sausage rolls, pre-heat oven to 220°C and bake on prepared oven trays for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with Thermomix tomato sauce (ketchup). If freezing to reheat later, cook until the pastry is just cooked through or lightly golden, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. I like to freeze the sausage rolls in a single layer and when frozen solid, later transfer them to ziplock bags for easy storage. 

You can reheat your chicken & vegetable sausage rolls straight from the freezer. Just preheat your oven to 180°C and cook for 15 minutes or until piping hot. 

variation ideas
  • for a nutritional boost use chia seeds in place of about half of the fresh bread or add some to the puff pastry!
  • I usually mix up my fresh herbs according to what I have on hand. I'm really enjoying growing our own thyme, basil and rosemary quite successfully on our balcony these days . . . I love just thyme in a sausage roll and rosemary goes really well with it too!
  • If you have Quirky Cooking's chicken stock paste on hand, this is the better stock paste choice for any chicken dish in my opinion. Thanks Jo! :)

no thermomix?
Prior to owning a thermomix, I would make this recipe using my food processor. I would buy ready-made puff pastry but no more! All pastries I have made in my thermomix turn out amazing, so I will never look back :)

Find me on Facebook at Mixing it up in HK

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Not just pumpkin soup!

I'm back in Hong Kong after spending our Christmas break 'home' in Australia, and we are having some cool days right now, yes Hong Kong does get cold! So homemade soup is back on the menu! I've been making this pumpkin soup for as long as I can remember and before I was making it my mum was! This is an adaptation of mum's recipe and it's always a favourite when I serve it up for friends and family, so I thought I'd better thermi-fy it and blog it :)

I call this one 'not just pumpkin' because it's not your typical pumpkin soup. I toss in some extras along with the usual suspects plus a bit of spice . . . coriander and cumin which go so well with pumpkin, and it makes for a very flavoursome twist on the common favourite which is thick and very wholesome. I hope you like it!

As I have discussed before on this blog, soup-making is a joy when you own a Thermomix . . . . so easy and fun! It is so simple to adapt your favourite soup recipes. There are some great tips in the Everyday Cookbook for those of you who may be new to soup-making Thermomix style. So there's no excuse not to convert your favourite soup recipe :)



ingredients
1 large brown onion, halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
20g olive or coconut oil
½ butternut pumpkin (about 500g), peeled & cut into large chunks
1 med-large sweet potato (about 300g), peeled & cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
½ large or 1 sml zucchini, cut into chunks
1 stick celery, cut into chunks
3 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp TM vege stock concentrate
approx 500g filtered water
200g full-cream organic milk (or plant-based alternative)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
handful fresh coriander leaves (optional)
a little natural yoghurt

method

  1. Place garlic and onion into TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds on speed 6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula.
  2. Add olive oil and sauté for 3 minutes at 100°C on speed 1.
  3. Add pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, celery (the bowl will be almost full) and chop for 10-15 seconds on speed 5. Use the spatula to assist if necessary so that the vegetables are chopped fairly evenly.
  4. Add the spices and TM vegetable stock concentrate and filtered water (do not fill above the 2L mark on the bowl). Cook for 25-30 minutes at 100°C on speed 1 or until vegetables are tender. You'll need to place the basket on the lid to prevent a mess :)
  5. Add a handful of fresh coriander leaves and season with freshly ground black pepper. Puree by gradually turning the dial to speed 7 and blending for about 15 seconds (with the MC cup in). 
  6. For a creamy pumpkin soup, add 100-200g of milk and heat for a few minutes further at 100°C on speed 1 or simply blend on speed 3 and serve. 
  7. Ladle into bowls to serve and garnish with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a sprig of fresh coriander. Enjoy!

nutrition tid bits
The pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot in this soup are very good source of carotenoids which are a group of brightly coloured pigments responsible for the orange colour of these vegetables, but also the red and yellow colours of others, including some fruits. Beta-carotene is a well-known pigment from this group which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Carotenoids are potent antioxidants, which when eaten in their whole food form protect against cancer and other degenerative diseases. 

For the most part, vegetables rich in carotenoids are best eaten raw or lightly steamed or sautéed to preserve their carotenoid content. That's why you should only cook your soup vegetables until 'just tender'. Tomatoes are an exception to this rule as their carotene content is intensified as a result of cooking. So your Thermomix tomato ketchup, tomato paste, pizza sauce and any other cooked dishes which contain tomatoes are a great source of the carotenoid lycopene. Other fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids include butternut squash, apricots, mangoes, oranges, papaya, watermelon and the less obvious leafy greens including spinach and kale.

Did you know that carotenoids are fat-soluble and should therefore be consumed with healthy fats to be absorbed by the digestive system? So don't attempt to make this soup fat-free and do make your own oil-based salad dressings from healthy oils like olive, avocado and macadamia nut oil, or add fresh avocado and a sprinkle of nuts and/or seeds to your summer salads to ensure that you are not missing out the health benefits of carotenoid-rich foods. 









Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Instant, dairy-free, raw cacao mousse with chia!

I just had to share this quick one! An instant and nutritious, rich chocolate dessert fix . .  . if you're thinking of reaching for some chocolate you must make this instead! So easy and soooo great!! I get to enjoy this dessert all to myself tonight . . .I promise I won't eat the whole lot :) . . but I'm sure it will be a hit with my girls too. The ground chia goes to work to provide instant thickening power for this recipe, owing to the gelation properties of the soluble fibre contained within the seeds which is released immediately on grinding. 


ingredients
4 tbsp (50g) chia seeds
1 can organic coconut milk (choose one which is additive free & avoid low-fat)
5-6 fresh dates, pitted
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 drops liquid stevia (or to taste)
4 ice cubes 

method
1. Add chia seeds to the TM bowl and grind on speed 9 for 20 seconds into a fine powder.

2. Add remaining ingredients and blend on speed 9 for 30 seconds or until smooth, with the MC lid in place. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. . . and there you have it! Guilt-free, rich, chocolate-y deliciousness! 


Serves 2-4 depending on your appetite :)

This chocolate dessert will even keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. It retains it's mousse-like texture very nicely :) 




variation ideas
  • add a few drops of orange or peppermint essential oil for a choc-orange or choc-mint flavour
  • grind some hazelnuts with the chia for a 'Baci' inspired flavour
  • add 1 tbsp of a superfood powder blend for an antioxidant boost
  • if you have a sweet tooth add a couple more dates or another drop of liquid stevia :)
  • don't try flaxseeds in place of chia for this recipe, they have a stronger taste

nutrition tid bits
There's nothing better than the feeling you get from satisfying that chocolate craving, whilst fueling your body with a nutrient dense treat! This dessert is packed full of nutrition from chia and raw cacao in particular, which combined provide you with a high-quality dose of omega-3 fats, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein and a range of beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants. 

You'll also notice how just one small bowl of this dessert fills you up very nicely :) This is the fibre in chia working to absorb liquid and gel up, not only in your bowl of chocolate goodness, but also in your stomach. Of course, the fibre in chia also helps with your digestion and even slows the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose, reducing blood sugar spikes. All in all, there are many reasons to treat yourself with this dessert every night :) Why not? I say. 

no thermomix?
If you don't own a Thermomix, you'll need a coffee grinder to grind up the chia seeds and a good blender to do the rest :)

source: unfortunately I can't take full credit for this amazing recipe . . . Erin from Earth Energy Yoga is the miracle worker. I have simply made a couple of tweaks and adapted it for the Thermomix. Thank you Erin! Thank you also to the lovely Thermo Bel for sharing this recipe with us on her Facebook page.