Raw Bliss Balls

Roll up, roll up, these bliss balls are super delicious and the perfect treat or post training recovery snack. All you need is 10 minutes and a blender.

 

Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

1 cup pistachios

1 cup almond or hazelnut meal

2 heaped tbsp cacao

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

1 tbsp chia seeds

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture is not sticky enough to form balls, add a very small amount of water and process again.

Using a heaped tablespoon of the mixture form into balls and place into an airtight container and refrigerate until firm.

Soup – a simple way to warm up this winter

In my mind, chilly days signal the start of soup season. It’s time to get the soup pot out and fill it to the brim with winter vegetables, tasty stock and other goodies that make soup so delicious and warming. Once you have made this magical soup – it is a super easy and quick lunch, dinner and sometimes a snack too.

As additional benefit – the beauty of soup is that it can be a truly effective way of getting a ton of vitamins, minerals, fluid and fibre into your daily intake.

The thing is, although soup is an easy meal to prepare, the fact is that time does not always allow us to make a batch every week.  Enter the ready to eat options.

Have you been down the soup aisle of the supermarket lately??  It has most certainly grown over the past few years.  No longer is this section stacked with can after can of reheat and eat.  The packaging is now rather glossy and sleek and although packets and cans of soups still adorn the shelves, the newest kid on the block is the soup pouch.

During my most recent supermarket tour (ask me for more information on these if you are interested in the next one), I was actually really surprised at the sheer volume of variety.  Given all this choice, it seemed incumbent upon me to review some of these soups because lets face it – ‘ready to go’ can be vital on some days, especially if no-one wants to get hurt in the process.

All of the soups I tested are available on the shelf and do not require refrigeration – hence the perfect meal to store in the pantry or desk drawer at work. Heating time was on average 2.5 minutes, so they are definitely classed as fast food – in a good kind of way.

Nutrition 

When looking at food products in general, it is important to check the fat, sugar, salt and fibre content of the food.  Try and choose food that includes the following:

Fat – less than 8g per 100g serve

Sugar – less than 10g per 100g serve

Sodium (salt) – less than 400mg per 100g serve

Fibre more than – 5g per 100g serve

As you can see from the summary below, the four varieties that I tasted all fit the criteria for fat, sugar and salt but all are lowish in fibre.  The soup that you prepare at home is likely to be much higher in fibre due to the quantity of vegetables that you are most likely to add but you could bump up the fibre of these sou

p pouches by adding a slice of grainy toast or bread.

La Zuppa is particularly low in calories for a meal – it is more of a clear soup, so in this case adding some bread would round things out a little.

Taste

My favourite was the Split Pea, Carrot and Kale soup by the Australian Organic Co. – it was super tasty and filling and the texture was pleasant. I thought the Heinz soup had an overwhelmingly tomato flavour, although the La Zuppa was very tasty and did actually contain chicken. The Coconut and Pumpkin soup by Hart and Soul had a lovely flavour but sligh

tly bizarre long stringy pieces of coconut and (and perhaps onion) throughout the soup.

Cost

Of course, the one I enjoyed the most was the most expensive!  A bit like clothes really.

I have noticed that many of these soups are discounted on a regular basis across most supermarkets and are often available at around the $2 – $2.50 mark per pouch. This means that packaged soup in pouches can be a super cheap meal, especially in comparison to buying lunch.

And what about you – have you tried some of these or is there a packaged soup that you enjoy and would like me to take a look at?

 

 

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

This recipe for meatballs is one of the quickest you could ever hope to make and perfect for a week night when you really need to hustle along! A good source of calcium, protein and deliciousness and loved by kids and adults alike.

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

500g chicken mince

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

200g cottage cheese

½ cup snipped chives

400g can mushroom soup

½ cup natural yoghurt

Method

Mix chicken mince, breadcrumbs, cottage cheese and chives together in a bowl.  Roll into meatballs and cook for 5 minutes on each size in a lightly oiled frypan.

Mix soup and natural yogurt together and pour over meatballs.  Return to a low heat for 10 minutes.

If you are not a fan of mushroom soup, you can always sub in another flavour. 

To see this recipe in action click here for the video.

 

Pizza Perfection

 

It is rare to find someone who doesn’t like pizza isn’t it? 

Friday nights in our household are sacred pizza nights. It’s pretty much a religion and on the odd occasions it is just not possible – there is every chance a riot can ensue.

We do have an enduring love affair with Italy and we constantly strive to make pizza in the Italian way.  I say the royal ‘we’ but my role in the pizza making is solely to prepare the dough.  It is a very important job though!

It is actually my husband who is the expert chef and he produces simply delicious pizza from scratch. Right now, Friday night is imminent and perhaps you too have a tradition like mine.  Maybe you don’t but you would like to.

So, I am sharing the love – our family pizza dough recipe is coming right up so that you can experience the Friday night pizza religion too.

Pizza Dough (makes 6 large)

Ingredients

2.5 cups OO pizza flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

200ml water

Pasta or other tomato based sauce

Method

In the following order place the water, flour, salt, oil and yeast into the basin of a bread maker or Thermomix and put on Dough Setting.  This process takes around 90 minutes depending on the equipment you are using.  You could mix the dough by hand and leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen (whether it is in a bread maker or otherwise) divide into six equal portions. Using a heavy rolling pin (we use a marble one) to roll and shape into a base the size of a large dinner plate. Spread each with four tablespoons of pasta sauce.

Our favourite toppings include:

  • Tuna, onion + grated cheese
  • Olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt (the delicious image above)
  • Thinly sliced cold roast beef or lamb + mango chutney
  • Prosciutto + artichokes + sliced mushrooms
  • Ham, pineapple + grated cheese (apologies to all the Italians as this is NOT the Italian way but it is the kids way)
  • Salami + capers + grated cheese

Don’t forget – the golden rule is simplicity and keeping the toppings to a minimum.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

How to make your salad sing

 

I love to cook but my motivation is at all time low right now.  I want the ingredients to get themselves together and just make something already. You know what I mean? Enter salad.

Salad vegetables (and all kinds too of course) are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, which all help our mind and bodies working day-to-day and reduce our risk of chronic disease.

That said, getting enough of those vegetables does become a little tricky if you leave your daily dose to one meal like dinner, so spreading the vegetable love across the day is key. Of course, you can tick off  a bunch at breakfast by adding mushrooms, tomato, spinach or baked beans to a poached egg and then gather speed by adding a crisp, crunchy salad to lunch.

We can most certainly make salad fancy but the question is, do we need to? 

Just like a coordinated wardrobe, there are some easy ways to mix and match colours and ingredients to put together a salad that everyone around you will be wishing they had too.

For an all seasons salad mix any of the following:

+1…Go Green – baby spinach leaves, crunchy Cos lettuce, beetroot leaves or tatsoi for a fibre, magnesium and folate boost
+2…Orange all over – roasted warm chunks of orange sweet potato, pumpkin or carrot, all excellent sources of the powerful antioxidant carotene.
+3…Go Fast Red – cherry tomatoes, sliced ripe Roma tomato

And don’t forget to add Exceptional Extra’s like – crunchy cucumber, baby roasted or canned beetroot, sliced mushrooms and crunchy combo sprouts.

Toss your choice of salad ingredients and add:

  • Protein Power – lean chicken, sliced cold leftover lamb or beef, lean ham, boiled egg, small tin of 4 bean mix/chickpeas or lentils.

Quick Salad Ideas

  • Lentil, Ricotta and Beetroot – combine 220g canned, drained lentils with 3 baby beets, a handful of baby spinach and 100g low fat crumbled ricotta
  • Orange, capsicum and avocado – toss a handful of mixed salad leaves with 1 orange peeled, segmented and sliced, ¼ of a sliced avocado and ¼ medium red capsicum topped with 40g crumbled low fat feta

Along with the rest of the world, the distinct green leaves of kale have been one of my favourites for a while. Kale going solo does lack appeal but in this recipe – kaboom!

Try my fave healthy Kale Caesar Salad recipe below and you will see what I mean.

Kale Caesar Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients
½ bunch curly or Tuscan Kale (washed, dried and leaves trimmed of stalks)
4 slices proscuitto (fat trimmed), grilled
4 slices sourdough bread

Dressing
½ cup low fat natural yoghurt + 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil + 1 large garlic cloven + ¼ cup lemon juice + 2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese

Method
Once trimmed, roll up kale leaves, slice finely and place in large salad bowl. Break the grilled proscuitto into small pieces and scatter over the kale leaves.

Tear the bread roughly into 1 cm pieces, place on a baking tray and spray with cooking spray. Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 10 minutes until crispy.

For the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a shaker or jug and pour over kale leaves. Using your hands, mix the dressing through the salad and serve.

 

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!

Incredible Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Some of my favourite childhood memories of food involve the humble cauliflower. The smell of this delicious vegetable baking in the oven smothered in a cheesy sauce, takes me straight back to my mum teaching me the basics of cooking. Of course, I know now that cauliflower is so much more than a friend to cheese, plus there are so many incredible health benefits to eating this tasty vegetable.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family and close cousins to broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In the nutrition world, they pack a punch and can truly enhance your health and well-being.

Bring on the incredible benefits of cauliflower.

Fighting the Free Radicals

Cauliflower is a rich source of a particular group of antioxidants known as ‘indoles,’ which are linked to the prevention of a number of cancers including bladder, breast and colorectal. These antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues. This damage is caused by free radicals which are produced in the presence of cigarette smoke, radiation, inflammation, UV light and extreme exercise. The indoles in cauliflower gobble up the free radicals and reduce damage to your cells and the risk of cancer. Although antioxidants can be found in supplement form, they are much more effective in whole food like cauliflower.

A Date with Detox

The human body is very clever but sometimes it needs a bit of help. Our natural detox system usually ticks along all by itself but we do need to give it adequate nutritional support. If unwanted toxins come sailing in and less than ideal choices are being made in the dietary department, we put ourselves at an increased risk of damage to our cells and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease and cancer.

Cauliflower does come to the rescue here as it is bursting with phytonutrients known as glucosinolates that help activate our detoxification system. They are the sulphur containing compounds that give cauliflower its distinctive aroma and taste and they also act as natural anti-inflammatories.

Come in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for skin and brain health and is a powerful antioxidant to boot. Many people think oranges and berries when looking for Vitamin C but cauliflower has hidden talents in this area. Half a small cauliflower contains almost 60mg of Vitamin C compared to 69mg in a medium orange, 32mg in 1-cup raspberries and 14mg in 1-cup of blueberries. Being the brightest doesn’t always mean the best!

Low calorie friend

Having low calorie snacks and meal ingredients on hand makes eating healthy food so much easier. The beauty of cauliflower is that it is extremely versatile and can be the base of a delicious soup or curry, an accompaniment to any meal and even a tasty substitute to rice or pasta in the form of the popular cauliflower rice. Versatility aside, one of the incredible benefits of cauliflower is that there are just 48 calories in 1-cup.

Fill up on Fibre

Research shows that fibre is vital to our gut health. It is also one of the keys to fat blasting as fibre does a great job of filling you up and therefore reducing your intake of high fat and calorie foods.

Fibre helps reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels plus it helps to keep us regular. Fibre keeps the system moving by feeding the healthy bugs in the large bowel and speeding up digestion, which helps protect against cancer.

A healthy gut is strongly linked to mood and mental health, so it is great news that cauliflower contains over 5 grams of fibre in every cup.

So what are you waiting for?

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!

Going Nuts

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into the home of one of my dear friends to be greeted by the wafting aroma of something delicious baking in the oven. Not only was she baking a cake for afternoon tea but being super organised, she had modified the recipe to: reduce the fat content but include more unsaturated fats, increase the fibre content by adding more fruit and lower the sugar content. And last but certainly not least, this friend of mine had taken the photo required to post it all on social media! This girl is a keeper.

Needless to say the cake delivered all that the aroma promised plus the inclusion of ground and slivered almonds fitted rather nicely into the Nuts for Life #nuts30days30ways campaign. In Australia, we are very much under performing in the nuts department by consuming on average just 6g per day, which is well below the recommended 30g daily handful.

Eating nuts every day can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes but can also help manage cholesterol and body weight. That might sound contradictory as nuts do contain fat (albeit the healthy kind) but these little morsels can actually help you manage your body weight. Nuts also contain much needed protein which helps regulate appetite and prolongs the feeling of being full – meaning that you don’t feel the need to pounce on anything that isn’t nailed down every 5 minutes.

Nuts of all kinds are such a great addition to a meal or a handy, portable snack that you can keep in your bag or desk.

Grinding nuts into meal to use in cakes, biscuits, protein balls or smoothies does not result in any nutrient loss and is just another easy way to get nuts into your day. Of course, eating cake every day is not as nutritious as eating a handful of nuts – but it is important to include some luxury items into your diet too!

This Apricot and Almond Cake is a great source of nuts, beta carotene, fibre and Vitamin C courtesy of the apricots and nectarines and is low in saturated fat. Of course, it is an excellent source of deliciousness too.

Apricot and Almond Cake

Ingredients

160ml olive oil
200g SR flour
150g ground almonds
180g raw sugar
150 ml milk
3 large free range eggs beaten
3 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
6 ripe apricots (or tinned apricot halves)
I used 2 sliced nectarines as well!
1 tblspn runny honey
50g slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan forced.
Grease and line a square cake pan with baking paper.

Place all dry ingredients into a food processor or thermomix and whiz together. Add the wet ingredients – oil, milk, eggs, vanilla – as well as the lemon zest and whiz again until all combined.

Pour the mixture into the tin.

Place apricot halves and nectarine slices in a random order on top for a rustic effect. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for 1 hour, then set aside to cool in the tin for 20 mins.

Serve just as it is or with Greek yoghurt.

How to make the best cheese scones

Home made cheese scones on table cloth I love a good scone, especially when they are paired with a chunky berry jam and a little whipped cream. Sometimes though, tasty cheese scones waft across my memory bank, courtesy of my Nan who often whipped up a batch.  Nan is not here to ask, so I set about creating my own and I hope that you are as pleased with the result as I am (and the rest of the taste testers). This recipe for cheese scones could not be easier. Substituting the evaporated skim milk for cream and grating the cheese reduces the fat content whilst injecting a healthy dose of calcium into these babies. Thanks to Nan for the inspiration.

Cheese Scones Ingredients 4 cups self-raising flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder 1 cup grated cheese (I used 1/2 reduced fat cheddar and 1/2 parmesan) plus a little extra for topping 1 cup soda water 1 cup light evaporated milk Method Mix all ingredients gently together in a bowl with a bread knife to form a dough.  Knead dough a little on a floured surface and roll out to approximately 5cm in height. Using a scone cutter, cut out as many as possible (mine made around 12-15 scones), place on lined baking tray and top with a little extra grated cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm and you will be eternally popular with all that eat them. Also perfect for the lunchbox.