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.

Chewing the fat

 

Ros Thomas Chewing the Fat

A clever friend of mine writes a very entertaining column in the West Weekend Magazine each Saturday and a recent edition was too good not to share.  It is below in its entirety but you can also see more of Ros’s insights here.

 

Ros Thomas, The Weekend West Magazine, Published February 2, 2013

A few weekends back a girlfriend and I were at the beach for our first swim of the summer. It was an overcast morning and the water looked dark. We were trying to stave off the inevitable shock of cold water by discussing our chances of getting eaten by a shark. She turned to me and said: “Any self-respecting shark would take one look at me and say: Geez, I’m not that hungry.”

A real friend doesn’t lie about her weight. A real friend understands that a woman’s weight can be central to her mood: thin = happy, not thin = grumpy. My bathroom scales are an electronic slab of nastiness hell-bent on destroying my morning.

A nutritionist once told me: ”Do not weigh yourself every day, it’s bad for your mental health.” But most mornings, I roll out of bed, skip to the loo and then step daintily onto my scales. It takes about three seconds for them to calculate how many squares of cooking chocolate I had the night before and deliver up the numbers that have me inwardly cursing (and outwardly cranky) for the next half hour.

If the figure is really offensive, I move the scales around the bathroom floor, hoping a second (or third) try will give me a more considerate read-out. Sometimes I hold onto the door frame and voila! I weigh the same as I did when I was 18. Self delusion makes me thin.

When I ring a girlfriend to say: “Good morning, I am a circus tent” she doesn’t reply: ‘Hey, I’ve lost three kilos and I’m back to what I weighed on my wedding day.” Instead she sympathises: ”I weigh the same as the day I gave birth to my third child.”

My Adonis does not realise that all nearly all women obsess about their weight, usually to their partner’s detriment. (The fatter we feel, the thinner our libido.)

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not so shallow that our weight is all we care about. We have discussed at length our disappointment that even the head of the CIA can’t have an affair without getting caught. We worry Julia Gillard was talked into becoming a redhead by her hairdresser boyfriend. And then we go back to our weight, because society demands that the female of our species should always be pert and thin. Any woman who has had children or is within fifteen years of menopause knows pert requires surgery and pert andthin is a pipe dream.

I have two lovely pals who meet with me every Friday morning. Our husbands think it’s a weekly discussion to exchange housekeeping tips, and how to serve up more marital happiness. But really those girlfriends come to my house to find out what the scales of injustice say. Having starved ourselves all morning for ‘weigh-in,’ the more sensible one of us records the offensive number of kilos in her diary. Then we put the bad news behind us and get down to the more important business of tea and cake.

I wouldn’t miss those Fridays for quids. They began five years ago when we decided one of us might need a weekly catch-up to help her endure the horrors of chemotherapy. (We didn’t need to weigh her to know she was thin.)

Since then there has been a wonderful survival story, one last baby, two husbands’ vasectomies, two new places to live, one new career and several sets of hateful scales. Cancer free and in perfect nick, the most disciplined of our threesome now sympathises with the two of us whose blasted weight has stayed more or less the same, always five kilos too many.

We still de-brief every Friday, except now we use ‘weigh-in’ as an excuse to check up on each other and restore some girly equilibrium.

What Friday weigh-ins are good for is motivation. The three of us come away hardened with steelier resolve to be Elle McPherson pure about what we eat. (Usually sabotaged by Troy Buswell self-control.) On occasion our iron will has lasted a whole week – the record is three months -but usually we’re texting each other by Friday night: “Do organic brownies count?” (Apparently, if they came from the health food shop, they have no calories.)

For me, trying to lose weight at this time of year is hopeless. And pointless. There are too many good things to eat. So I’m going to move those scales around the house until I find that elusive G-spot  – G for gravity. That’s the spot where a slight incline confuses the scale’s pea-sized brain into thinking I’m three kilos lighter. I have high hopes for that bit of the kitchen floor that dips as it merges with the pantry. If my plan fails, I’ll just use the stupid scales as a step-up to reach the top shelf. I’m sure that’s where I hid the last of the cooking chocolate.