How to Make Healthy Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

The truth is, its hard to avoid all the Easter chocolate isn’t it? Despite the deliciousness, I do know that Easter eggs are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one, especially the little teeny tiny ones.

Enter the Easter Chocolate Bliss Ball. The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe. The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called ‘healthy and natural’ treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories and are not actually healthy.

Todays recipe is my own for Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls and a modification on my Festive Chocolate Balls (which may contain a little alcohol…). These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Easter chocolate gift. If there are any left of course. These balls are high in fibre and a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants too.

Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

Ingredients
10 Medjool dates + 8 dried apricots
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 cup raw hazelnuts or mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) or
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Method
Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined and sticky. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls, roll in extra shredded coconut and enjoy.

Wishing you all a safe and hoppy Easter!

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne aka Lasagne

Lasagne gets me thinking about Italy, cheesy sauce, accordion music and red and white checked tablecloths. You might not have exactly the same vision but lasagne is a true crowd pleaser and one of those dishes that just makes you sigh with happiness doesn’t it?

Traditionally, lasagne can be loaded with béchamel sauce (delicious yes but high on the fat side of things), sheets of pasta and cheese upon cheese.
That might seem like a good thing (and as an occasional food, it really is) but for an everyday kind of dish, a few tweaks is all it takes to bump up the protein and reduce the fat, to tick the nutrition boxes and turn it into the ideal recovery meal post exercise.

Perfect timing because there is a new protein rich kid on the block, which packs a serious nutrition punch. This little goodie is the humble lupin – a unique legume that contains 40% protein, 40% fibre with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and is completely gluten free. 85% of the world’s crop of lupins is grown in Western Australia which is pretty cool. Yay for the sandgropers.

So after a bit of experimenting, I have concocted Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne and it tastes fantastic! This recipe is high in protein and fibre and is packed full of vegetables and flavour. It uses lupin flakes produced by The Lupin Co. which are so versatile and have so much to give our bodies, including a protein punch.

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne

Ingredients
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 x cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin canned, diced tomatoes
20 basil fresh leaves
500g lean chicken mince
1-cup chicken stock
1-cup lupin flakes
1kg reduced fat ricotta cheese
150g baby spinach leaves,
2 eggs, beaten
5 x fresh lasagne sheets
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method
Cook the onion and garlic together in the oil until golden brown and then add the chicken mince and stir until cooked through.

Add the carrot, zucchini, tomatoes, chicken stock and basil, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is reduced a little. While the mixture is simmering, cook the lupins in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes and then drain and rinse in cold water. Just before you take the chicken mixture off the heat – add the cooked lupins and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the spinach leaves in a microwave proof bowl into the microwave and cook for 1 minute until wilted slightly. Once cooled, squeeze out excess water and add to the ricotta along with the beaten eggs. Stir the ricotta mixture until smooth.

Spray a large lasagne dish with cooking oil and place some of the mince mixture on the bottom of the dish followed by lasagne sheets to fit and then half of the mince mixture on top of this followed by half of the ricotta mixture and repeat these steps once more finishing with the ricotta layer.

Cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Nutrition Per Serve:

Energy 312 calories, protein 27g, fat 12g, carbohydrate 19g, fibre 8g

This Lupinsagne is perfect for an everyday dinner and also a great recovery meal post exercise.

Watch this space for more lupinlicious recipes.

Buon appetito!

Lemon and Coconut Slice – a delicious makeover

There are some recipes that just about everyone loves and I think that the good old Lemon and Coconut Slice is one of them. It is the perfect marriage of buttery biscuit base with a zesty lemon topping scattered with coconut. This delicious slice can often be seen making its entrance at afternoon teas, bakeries, high teas and grandparents abodes.

Of course, this moorish treat is not something one should eat every single day but imagine if there was a healthier alternative that tastes just as delicious but is low in sugar, full of healthy fats and has a secret anti-inflammatory ingredient. I’m not teasing because I have just the thing that ticks both the nutrition and taste boxes. Really.

Lemon and Coconut Slice

200g raw unsalted cashews
100g desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons turmeric
Juice and rind of one lemon

Place all ingredients into a food processor and whiz together until well combined. Press into a 15 x 20cm lined container and chill overnight. Cut into 12 pieces and serve.

If you would like to see me making this slice in action just click here now.

Turmeric might seem like a strange ingredient to add to a sweet recipe but because it doesn’t have an overpowering flavour, it works. Turmeric is a very distinctively coloured spice that has been around for thousands of years and is right up there in the ancient stakes. Although traditionally used in curries and savoury dishes, in recent times turmeric has found a new place in golden hued lattes, teas, tonics and smoothies in many cafes around the globe. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and it’s this compound that has been linked to many health benefits including:

  • Natural anti-inflammatory properties which can assist with inflammatory related disease
  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Possible breakdown of the amyloid plaques in the brain that contribute to dementia and Alzheimers Disease
  • Some research shows that curcumin may help to prevent some cancers by reducing the size and number of tumours
  • Helps to fight colds and flu’s
  • Assists with digestion by increasing the production of bile
  • Possible decrease in blood sugar levels in diabetics

In it’s natural form, turmeric is a root from the ginger family (and does in fact look very similar to raw ginger) and the roots and bulbs are generally boiled and dried to make the powder. The root can also be grated like ginger and added to food or taken as a supplement in the form of capsules, drops or fluid extract.

The other great thing about this Lemon and Coconut slice is the healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and the bundle of resistant starch that comes with the cashews. It’s no surprise that as the name would suggest, resistant starch is resistant to digestion and nourishes our gut bacteria, which naturally helps us to maintain our intestinal health. But that topic is another story for another day.

For now, spend the grand total of five minutes that it takes to make this Lemon and Coconut Slice with the added benefits of turmeric and sit back and listen to the ooh’s and aah’s of everyone that samples it.

Festive Chocolate Balls

One of my favourite treats at Christmas time is the good old Rum Ball.  Despite their deliciousness, I do know that they are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one.  The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe.  The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called healthy and natural treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories. Let’s face it. It’s hard to stop at one isn’t it? This is my take on the traditional Rum Ball – except that I prefer Marsala. These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Festive gift.

Festive Chocolate Balls

Ingredients

9 Medjool dates 3 tablespoons Marsala

2 tablespoons cacao powder

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

handful raw hazelnuts

1 tablespoon chia seeds

 

Method

Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls and enjoy.

How to make Pumpkin Damper

Pumpkin Earlier this week over at Kale and Co., I wrote about the ‘it’ vegetable that we should all be eating – super versatile, orange in colour and so easily paired with both sweet and savoury ingredients. The humble pumpkin is one of my favourites and this scrumptious vegetable has certainly been making itself known over the past few weeks in the lead up to Halloween. You can read more about my friend the pumpkin over at Kale and Co., who do delicious things with the orange one such as – pumpkin almond ‘burgers’ with red rice and herbs or roasted pumpkin with cinnamon and paprika – both of which are a taste sensation. One of my go to recipes featuring pumpkin has been with me for years – moved across the country on a little piece of paper and yet is still firmly glued into my recipe collection. It’s too good and too easy not to share – full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fibre, pumpkin damper is a great friend to soup or a side to salad. The kids can help too and love kneading that dough!  

Pumpkin Damper 1-tablespoon poly or monounsaturated margarine 2 teaspoons sugar 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup reduced fat cheese, grated 2 tablespoons chopped chives 1 ½ cups cooked, mashed pumpkin 1½ cups of self-raising flour

Mix margarine and sugar together and add beaten egg. Add cheese, chives and pumpkin. Add flour until dough is formed and knead into a round shape. Cook in a moderate oven (160 degrees fan forced or 180 degrees regular) for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked.

Take a look outside

Fiona Wood

Dr Fiona Wood is a woman of many talents and maximises every possible opportunity to put them to good use. She became instantly known worldwide when the tragic events of the 2002 Bali bombings unfolded, with her team working day and night to care for badly burned victims.  It was during this time that the “spray on skin” cell technology pioneered by Dr Wood was used extensively and, in recognition of this work with the Bali bombing victims, Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003. Understandably, she describes this time in her life as brutal, with the workload, emotional toll and the travel hours extreme. For Fiona, in her line of work, the external environment of care could vary widely from a bombsite to a hospital bed to the scene of an accident at the side of the road.

When contemplating making changes to your own health behaviour, assessing your own external environment is crucial to success. Although your environment may not be as extreme as those that Fiona Wood finds herself in, it can change many times over a day or week and being aware of each scenario means that you can adapt and plan accordingly. Take a look at what is going on around you and think about the things that impact on your ability to lead a healthy lifestyle such as:

Do you work too much or do you need to change the way you work?

Identifying the ‘stuff’ that stresses you out and figuring out a way to reduce or eliminate it.

Do you get rave reviews when you cook or do your skills need a little fine-tuning?

Do you have food in the pantry or is the cupboard bare? Being organised with a shopping routine makes it easier to eat well. If you don’t have time to get to the shops (or even if you do), spend a fraction of the time doing it online and avoid all the temptations that are costly to your wallet and your body.

Have you got somewhere to exercise? Access to facilities, clothing and equipment to enable exercise are going to be pretty important for a successful fitness bid.

Are you racking up enough zzzz’s? The quality and quantity of your sleep routine can dictate the outcome of whether you exercise, what and how much you eat and how productive you are during the day.

Financial health – your income and budget can impact some aspects of leading a healthy life but sometimes its more about prioritising  how we spend our money.

The weather – we all know that rain is plain old water but factoring it into your exercise plans removes another barrier.  Perhaps you don’t want to get onto your bike in the pelting rain but Plan B might be the gym or weights at home for some strength training. Conversely, it is usually too hot to run during the day in summer (in Australia at least) but early mornings are too good to miss.

Skill power – are you aware of the skills required to steer your health in the right direction? How will you find out what skills you need? If you don’t possess these skills, how can you get them?

Looking after the environment in this case means your own patch of well-being.  Does it mean engaging a personal trainer or finding an exercise buddy, seeking out help from health professionals such as your GP, Dietitian or Psychologist? Upskilling of self by learning meditation, taking cooking classes, shopping online, doing a short course or further studies? Information is only a click away and it is yours to access.

Improving the quality of your life and reducing your risk factors for chronic disease or having enough energy to play with the kids after a hard days work are all worthy outcomes.   Of course, let’s not forget feeling good about yourself, being happy with your body and feeling fit and strong. These are great results not only for yourself but also for your loved ones.  Take a look around and see what you find.

 

Pasta Power

Its time for our Friday taste test of our third $2 meal.  I do love pasta but I really try and avoid the creamy sauces as I know they are not the best for my heart or my hips. The recipe today originates from one of the very first cookbooks designed for athletes, written in 1993 and titled ‘The Taste of Fitness’. The authors  are Helen O’Connor, highly respected Sports Dietitian and Donna Hay, before she became as famous. I have used this book many times whilst teaching people to cook, and the recipes are ideal for the everyday person and athletes.  Easy, quick, tasty and great source of energy. Ticks all my boxes. Continue reading “Pasta Power”