Chocolate is an addiction of mine that I’m certain I can blame on my genetics. Both Mum and Dad love their chocolate and I have been coerced into a number of chocolate binges with Mum over the years. I figure that there is no point fighting nature and assure myself that chocolate IS a nourishing super food after all. In fact, I am actually doing my body a favour giving it a daily dose. The best type of chocolate, in my humble opinion, is raw chocolate. sumptuous and silky, it has a melt in your mouth texture that will certainly have you going back for more.
If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
One of my most popular recipes on the blog is my coconut flour banana bread. It is one of our staples at home and whenever we have browning bananas in the fruit bowl I will get a request from the Boy to bake it. Since I first published the recipe in early 2013, I have progressively made some tweaks to improve it whilst not taking away from its purpose of being somewhat healthy.
I found that by adding in chia seeds to my original recipe along with beefing it up with a few more eggs, the end result is banana bread with much improved texture without any of its predecessors crumbliness. This banana bread toasts beautifully and with the increased fibre content of the coconut flour it can be quite filling.
Last year I ran a weekly series for six weeks inspired by the Meatless Monday movement. At that point in time the Boy wasn’t a vegetarian and I wanted to show him that this lifestyle change didn’t have to mean just eating boring lettuce and tomato salads. Since then we have both changed a lot about our eating habits; eating mostly local produce, organic where we can and definitely with a much lower focus on meat.
I was recently approached by Belmont Forum to help them create a couple of recipe cards to put in their new Fresh Food Mall in the centre. After visiting the centre to check out what was on offer, I was impressed with the amount of gluten free and organic food available in their health food store and was inspired to recreate this zucchini noodle dish from my Meatless Monday series. It is so easy to make, surprisingly satisfying and full of nutrients.
Following a gluten free diet has become second nature to me. Ingesting just a tiny crumb of gluten has such a profound effect that there is simply no point me risking a reaction. Our whole household is gluten free to avoid any contamination and the Boy is more than happy to eat a gluten free diet with me.
In contrast, my sensitivity to eating dairy products is not so black and white and I can tolerate small amounts. Being able to eat a little bit now and then leads me into a false sense of confidence as it isn’t something I have to avoid totally like gluten, I just try to minimise my intake. I have never been good at minimisation and generally prefer to take the all-or-nothing approach with most things in life, especially food. Progressive day to day carelessness in restricting my dairy intake is generally brought to a grinding halt after one of my hedonistic cheese binges. These joyous cheesy evenings always result in my skin becoming so inflamed and sore that I can barely stretch my fingers fully open. Consequently I have learnt to try to only eat dairy on special occasions.
I realise everyone has their sad story to tell at some point in their life but I have to be honest with you, this past fortnight has been really tough going for me. One of my friends was tragically killed in a horrific car accident at the tender age of 27 years. She was a head strong and outspoken girl, much like myself at times with a heart of gold. She was also a fervent lover of animals and we totally connected on these two levels. She cared for her fur-kids with the utmost level of love and attention and her death left many of us feeling numb in disbelief. It wasn’t until her funeral that it finally sunk in for many of us, we would never see her smiling face again. As I watched my dear friends pluck up their courage to give their eulogies before hundreds of mourners, it was as touching as it was heartbreaking.
The Gascoyne region in the north-west of our State is sometimes called the “food bowl of Western Australia”. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef where you are able to swim in the sea alongside the majestic whale sharks. The climate is warm all year round with average temperatures ranging from around 25- 30 C allowing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to be cultivated including bananas, mangos and tomatoes.
The region is also well known for its freshly caught seafood which includes snapper, mullet, whiting, prawns, scallops and crab. I am really looking forward to our travels up North for the WA Signature Dish regional final in early May as I know I will be literally living on seafood. After a whole month of Eat Drink Perth overindulgence my heart and liver will surely be thanking me.
I recently attended a cooking demonstration by gluten free chef Rebecca Kerr as part of the Eat Drink Perth Festival. Like many others on a strict gluten free diet, she has longed for an easy, reliable bread recipe that produces something that tastes good. Gluten free bread is a temperamental food to bake and can often end up tasting too heavy and doughy or worse it ends up like a crumbly savoury cake. Commercially made gluten free bread often has a long list of ingredients many of which include sugars, artificial additives and preservatives. Rebecca discovered for herself a type of flour used in South American and Mexican cooking called masa lista. This is a particular type of flour made from corn by a process called nixtamalization were the corn is pre-cooked in an alkaline solution before being ground. This process releases the glue-like substance from the corn’s cell walls. This resultantly gives the flour an almost gluten-like property whilst still remaining totally gluten free. Basically all you need to do is mix the flour with water, knead it for a few minutes and hey presto; you get a workable dough that can be used to make flat breads.
There are many reasons why eating a raw diet can be both healthier for you, kinder to animals and help save our ailing planet but it does take a lot of commitment and time to prepare many of the dishes. Whilst I enjoy making everything from scratch I am also very time poor. I am greatly appreciative when I find more talented people out there to do the more laborious and technically challenging components of raw cooking. I was recently contacted by Chris from Raw by Chris to collaborate and create some raw dishes that are not just gluten free but also fructose friendly. She was generous enough to deliver me a bag of raw goodies containing an assortment of different raw foods; some ready to eat and others as core ingredients to utilise with my own raw food preparation. I was inspired to utilise each ingredient to its full potential and the first creation I made was this very addictive raw vanilla coconut pudding.
Many of you may have twigged on that I’m a fan of raw food. Whilst I do not eat strictly raw I am always looking for ways to incorporate it more into my weekly diet at home. I am inspired by those take both veganism and raw food more seriously. Recently when I was out for breakfast at Harvest Espresso I tried a raw macaron made by Raw by Chris and fell in love on the spot.
A sugar free, dairy free, raw, living macaron! After devouring it eagerly I was prompted to contact Chris directly. I was interested to see if she wanted an help to formulate some fructose friendly raw sweets. Most raw food desserts are sweetened naturally with dried fruits which is a big no-no for us fructose malabsorbers. Imagine how happy I was not only was she enthusiastic about the concept, she also wanted me to be her guinea pig…..receive free raw food samples that are both gluten free and fructose friendly? How could I refuse such an offer?
Tomato bread, or as it is said in Spanish “pan con tomate” is one of the simplest but most well-loved and widely eaten dishes from the Cataluña region in the Northern parts of Spain. During my recent travels to Barcelona I found that many tapas bars would actually have bowls of tomatoes and garlic sitting out on their tables with a bottle of olive oil. As their customers took their seats, waiters would bring out freshly toasted bread to the table enabling the diners to make the bread for themselves. Unfortunately for me I found that not many of these bars offered gluten free bread thus leaving me to watch others enjoy the tomato bread in envy. Consequently upon my return to Perth I was inspired to make my own gluten free tomato bread.
Just a word of warning. This gluten free tomato bread is so easy to make yet it is incredible addictive.
My first experience of Red Hot Spatula’s cooking was at the Clandestine Cake Club last year. Yvonne made these amazing gluten free Asian cakes called Kuihs that were steamed cakes made with rice flour, green bean flour and tapioca flour. I greedily ate a number of them that day before I physically had to stop myself from over eating my welcome. In fact I loved them so much that a few short weeks later I ordered a batch of my own to be delivered to work to share with my colleagues.
Since then Yvonne and I have crossed paths at many foodie events, markets and degustation evenings and I have grown to appreciate her passion and drive for success. Her business has grown from strength to strength and it is so inspiring to see someone reap the rewards from so much hard work.
It has been six weeks and our Raw Food Meatless Monday comes to an end. It has been a fabulous learning experience for me as I had previously had no experience with preparing raw food. Whilst I realise to get more variety I need to take it further and get the right equipment like a dehydrator for example, I think I have dabbled enough in it to gain some basic understanding and appreciation. Whilst I cannot say I would be keen to go to an all raw diet, we will still continue to eat some raw food dishes beyond the conclusion of this challenge. Adapting some of the recipes to suit my fructose malabsorption has been interesting as banned ingredients like dried fruits are frequently used ingredients. Nevertheless I will continue to enjoy learning more about this more natural way of eating and hope I haven’t bored my dear readers with six weeks of it in a row!
I have a tendency to brag about Perth’s balmy weather but the reality of it is that by having great weather for most of the year many of us Perthites are poorly acclimatised for any remote resemblance of winter. We are notorious for being winter whingers when the reality of it is our winters are comparatively short and mild and we really have nothing to complain about. The Boy and I have been sticking to our Raw Food Meatless Monday for over four weeks now and both of us are feeling vibrant and our skin is glowing. Or maybe that’s still some post wedding bliss?!
However waking up in the morning when it is still dark outside and the temperature is in the single digits drinking a cold smoothie isn’t that enjoyable, no matter how tasty and nutritious it is. So prompted by this cold snap, I decided this week our Raw Food breakfast would be a raw vegan red pepper soup instead; warmed in just minutes by using my blender on high speed which then gently heats the soup with friction.
I have a tendency to often bite off more than I can chew. This habit applies not only to my constant overeating but to many other aspects in my life. Working under pressure seems to bring out the best in me however this can sometimes lead to being in the position where there is so much to do that it’s almost overwhelming. Being a persistent and determined person I always seem to get through it all, often with success which only serves to drive me to do it all again. Earlier this year the rambunctious Amanda from Chew Town told me all about her project of The Sweet Swap over an oversized second breakfast at Miss Kitty’s Saloon. It sounded like such a great idea to me. The best way to describe The Sweet Swap is it’s kind of like a food bloggers Kris Cringle but not at Christmas and the presents are all edible.
A number of you dear readers who have been following my Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge have suggested to me that I make some raw food desserts. I wanted a raw dessert to serve us for our Monday night dinner that could actually pass off as our main meal. It needed to be nutritious, filling and not too sweet. To complicate my requirements furthermore, it had to comply with my fructose malabsorption (FM) restrictions. Many raw food desserts contain dried fruit which are completely off the menu for a FM so I had to delve a bit deeper for something more interesting.
To kick start our day, I created a savoury green smoothie which is low in calories yet full of nutrients. Unlike last week’s smoothie, this one is light on the stomach and easier to drink. For dinner I have made use of some organic chia seeds I recently received from the generous guys at Cheap Superfoods. The chia seeds are raw and unprocessed meaning that all their antioxidant and essential fatty acid content remains undamaged. The berry cinnamon chia pudding is dairy free, gluten free, raw, fructose friendly AND it tastes AMAZING!
They say it takes us on average around 21-28 days to form a habit. The Boy and I are only entering into the beginning of Week Three of our Raw and Meatless Mondays and I am finding that our vegetarianism stretches to encompass most of the week. Last night we ordered some take out from our local Thai restaurant Little Ying and the Boy insisted that I only order vegetarian dishes. He has embraced this new approach to eating with much more gusto than I anticipated. I ordered some Tom Yum Goong for us and I even saw him scoop out the prawns and plop them into my bowl.
With memories of Thailand still fresh in my mind I was inspired to create this highly addictive green smoothie for our Monday morning breakfast.
I admit sometimes I completely underestimate my dear husband. I thought that after the first week of our Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge his enthusiasm levels would start to wane. This is a man who used to eat a whole roast chicken in one sitting. I’m not saying that I don’t have faith in him changing his eating habits, but I didn’t think it would happen easily.
The following Monday arrived and to my astonishment he bounced out of bed all excited and ready for his next smoothie to try. He is not a morning person and seeing him with this much energy first thing in the morning was a little out of the ordinary. Knowing how much he loves his pink drinks it was logical that this would be the colour of his next smoothie to taste test.
Over the past few years, the Boy and I have made a natural progression to eating a more vegetarian based diet. Whilst not completely giving up eating meat all together, our intake has been dramatically reduced such that our initial goal of a Meatless Monday has now extended into several days a week.
Our reasons for vegetarianism are twofold.
Our first reason comes back to being compassionate human beings. Can we truly justify the way we farm production animals? Housed in completely unnatural environments with cramped stocking densities and fed highly processed foods such as pellets and other animal proteins? Worst still, how can we know that every animal that is slaughtered for our consumption didn’t suffer in the process? Many of you may have seen Animals Australia’s shocking footage of our live export cattle in Indonesia abattoirs last year. We were all left outraged and distraught at the horrific treatment of these innocent beasts. But these events are by no means isolated and happen all around the world every day. While I understand that sometimes brutal death is a part of life in the natural world, I am certain a lion hunting a gazelle in Africa doesn’t stop to consider her prey’s welfare before she kills it. But unlike these majestic big cats, we humans choose to slaughter animals to eat on a much larger scale than is necessary for our own survival.
The Boy and I initially got into juicing back in late 2011 as a result of watching Joe Cross’s documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. This period marked the beginning of a long overdue quest for finding better health by dramatically increasing our vegetable and fruit intake. We have slowly gravitated away from eating meat as the predominant ingredient in our meals to it being a small component if at all. The Boy bought us the latest whizz-bang juicer and was so enthusiastic with his juicing that he managed to burn the first one out in just a week. He stuck to his guns however and returned to the shops to get a replacement juicer. Over the following nine months he lost over 20 kg in body weight. He was well on his way to become a picture of health and this was all just in time for our wedding.