Pulses Are The Star of The Show

The Global Stage 

This week marks World Pulses Day. Yes, yes I do agree there does seem to be a special day for everything under the sun. And yes, to be honest I understand that it doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to celebrate BUT believe me, these guys are severely underrated.

This global day was created to recognise the importance of pulses which includes beans, peas and lentils.

What The Heck Are Pulse’s?

It is clearly a good day when we all wake up with a pulse but in this case we are referring to the pulses that belong to the wider legume family.  This is a group of plants whose fruit or seed is enclosed in a pod.  Pulses refer specifically to the dried, mature seeds of these plants and include dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.  The term legume, includes these dried varieties as well as fresh peas and beans and is a more commonly used term than pulses. 

Everyone is familiar with the good old baked bean but there are so MANY other varieties out there. Some that you may know of include chickpeas, lentils, peas and beans like butter beans, kidney beans, cannelloni beans and soybeans.

I include legumes in my cooking at least three times a week and I don’t think anyone in my household even knows! Not that there is any need to hide pulses but they are super easy to add to almost any dish.  

If you are starting the legume/pulses journey, some easy ways to introduce these nutrition powerhouses into your day include adding a tin of brown lentils to a bolognaise sauce (as they virtually disappear once they are put into a dish) or tip them into a green salad or any kind of mince dish. Kidney or black beans are perfect for burrito bowls or wraps, chick peas are delightful when they are added to a curry and red lentils can make a rather tasty  salad.

The Nutrition Lowdown On Pulses

Legumes and pulses are truly multi-skilled and are:

  • a budget friendly source of plant based protein
  • higher in protein than most other plant based foods
  • usually low in fat
  • rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates
  • a good source of B vitamins including folate, plus iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium
  • super high in fibre – both soluble and insoluble with the added benefit of resistant starch which is fabulous for maintaining good gut health

For a bunch of there great reasons to eat them, you can read the latest post by the GLNC here too.

Then there is the newish (but has been grown for eons) protein rich kid on the block packing a serious nutrition punch. This little goodie is the humble lupin flake – 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 Australia (mostly in Western Australia) although they are available worldwide. You can try my recipe for the High Protein Lupinsagne here too.

I promise you it’s as simple as cracking open a can to get more of these pulses in your day, week or month.

While you are percolating all these ideas, it is always nice to finish on a sweet note don’t you think?  You will know what I mean when you make and bake Magic Bean Cupcakes 

You can thank me later.

 

 

 

Meat Free Week – Are You Coming On Board?

What Is This Meat Free Week You Speak Of?

Meat Free Week is right here, right now, right here, right now…..

This global movement in its 7th year, runs between the 23 – 29 September but before you start panicking about not having meat on your plate for an entire week, lets take a look at why this week exists. Meat Free Week is an international event that encourages us to start thinking about how much meat we eat and the impact eating too much has on our health, animal welfare and the environment.

It’s also about raising awareness of some worthwhile charities – including Meat Free Week health partner Bowel Cancer Australia.

I have to say straight up that I have a close affinity with bowel cancer and I am a passionate ambassador for Bowel Cancer Australia.

The Moment My World Went Wonky

Those of you who have been reading along with me for a while will know that my world was turned upside down when my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within two weeks he had 30cm removed from his large bowel and had started a gruelling regime of chemotherapy, reducing him to a shell of his former self.

That moment of diagnosis means that I and the rest of my family have an increased risk of bowel cancer. It most certainly made me have a good think about what I could do to reduce my risk in the future.

So What Can We Do To Reduce Our Risk Of Bowel Cancer?

There is convincing evidence that eating too much red meat, particularly processed meat are linked to bowel cancer. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, salami and other luncheon meats pose the greater risk. However, eating more than 350g fresh red meat every week can also be a problem.

Meat Free Week is not about pushing people into vegetarianism or veganism. The fact is, red meat provides valuable key nutrients such as iron, zinc and protein. I personally enjoy eating meat as you may remember from my thoughts on Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed beef and as someone that battles with persistent iron deficiency, I need it in my diet.

We just need to be careful about the amount, how often we eat it and the way we cook it.

Some Meaty Tips

  • Consume less than 350g of unprocessed red meat per week and avoid the processed varieties (unless you happen to find yourself in Italy for itsy bitsy amounts of time)
  • Cook meat carefully. Charred or blackened meats can damage the cells lining the bowel
  • Partly cook meat to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQ’s
  • Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning

What About The Meat Free Alternatives?

Australians rank among the top in the world when it comes to meat consumption and 95% of us don’t eat enough vegetables or wholegrains. Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer too, with 103 people dying each week from the disease. It gets you thinking doesn’t it?

As a poverty stricken uni student, I enjoyed vegetarianism for many years due to financial constraints and it very easily became a way of life (although it had to really). Over the following years, I reintroduced meat a few times each week to counteract low iron levels. Now with three kids, we do eat red meat but certainly less than 350g per week each and I am very militant about the amount of processed meat that is eaten in our household. Much to our children’s despair.

This can be especially challenging as we love all things Italian and their penchant for prosciutto, salami, ham and every processed meat other imaginable. Preparing meals without meat certainly requires a bit more thought and design simply because it not a simple matter of removing the meat and leaving the salad or vegetables to fend for themselves. It is important to include quality protein in your meal and this can be challenging if you have become accustomed to having red meat as a staple item.

The great news is that the wealth of recipes available to us all is unlimited. Some sites that you might like to take a peek at include Meat Free Mondays or  Sanitarium.

Do you have any fave recipes or ideas on how you incorporate some meat free days in your week that you would like to share?

 

Fake Chicken – The Real Deal or Fake News?

This week, fake chicken has made an appearance in my life and to be completely honest, everything about this product was quite a surprise.

Trying the fake chicken became a thing after a listener called into 6PR 882AM Morning Show a few weeks ago, asking about the nutritional value of some of the vegan/vegetarian ready to eat products.

To Be Or Not To Be Fake Chicken?

I trawled the chilled section of the supermarket on the hunt for some fake chicken and I was rewarded by finding the Chick’n Schnitzel made by the Unreal brand.

If I were to judge a book by its cover (as I keep telling my children that is not what we should be doing), it didn’t grab me. However, I was on a mission. Luckily, there was a 20% discount on the product, which lessened the pain I felt might be coming.

I was finding it hard to imagine enjoying this product, so based on this I decided to make it into a chicken parmigiana. I imagined this ‘chicken’ topped with a couple of tablespoons of pasta sauce and for a lovely finishing touch, some grated vegan cheese which I also purchased.

The ingredients were all set to get this fake chicken on the road. Mind you, wrestling the cheese out of the packet was an extreme sport and once freed from the packaging the aroma nearly overcame me. I soldiered on.

Once assembled, the fake chicken now newly reinvented as Chicken Parmigiana, baked in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.  Unfortunately one can’t use baked until ‘golden brown’ as an alternate guide to time as the cheese didn’t melt and there didn’t seem to be any colour change to my fake chicken at all. Just set your timer ok?

Taste Test 1,2 3

Once done, I rushed that Chicken Parmi straight to radio where Gareth Parker and I taste tested live on air.

Well.  We looked at each in total surprise.  This Chick’n Schnitzel made into Chicken Parmigiana was actually tasty and it had a very similar texture to chicken.

As you can see below, the nutritional breakdown of the product ticked boxes across the fat, sugar and salt categories and it has some fibre too.  This makes sense as it is a plant based product and the real Chicken Parmigiana is mostly protein with a minuscule amount of fibre in the crumb only.

For those still not convinced just yet, you can check out my meaty version of a Chicken Parmigiana  here.

So, I will admit that I was wrong (ouuuccchhh) in assuming the Chick’n Schnitzel was going to be gross.  I was correct in my assumptions about the fake cheese though.  Just no.

Meat Free Week Coming Right Up

The timing of the Chick’n Schnitzel tasting and revealing fits very nicely into Meat Free Week which runs from next the 23-29 September.

Meat Free Week encourages you to challenge yourself, your friends, your family and your colleagues to try a plant based menu and raise funds for a great cause – the prevention of bowel cancer.

I will write more about Meat Free Week next week but let’s be clear that this is not about abolishing meat from our diets – it’s about eating more plant food.

 

 

Being a Vegan in Sport and A Side of Intermittent Fasting

There are so many hot topics in the world of sport and nutrition and two of them right now are the vegan diet and intermittent fasting.

Recently Mark Arnot over at the Train Smarter with Science podcast series, interviewed me on both of these topics and today I am sharing our chat with you all.

Sit back relax, have a listen and if you have any questions on either the vegan way of eating or intermittent fasting – I’m ready.

 

 

How to make an easy Ancient Grain Salad

ancient grain salad I do love the discovery of a good salad and this one is a beauty! Full of lovely colour, fibre, protein and Vitamin C and the perfect lunch or side for dinner. Ancient Grain Salad with Pomegranate You’ll need: 1 Cup freekah (green cracked wheat, pronounced freak-ah) ½ cup puy lentils/French green lentils – dry A small handful each of pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds and pine nuts, roasted in oven ½ cup (75gms) currants Large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and coriander leaves– coarsely chopped ½ Spanish red onion – finely diced 40gm or 2 tablespoons baby capers (drained and rinsed) Juice of 1 large lemon Dash of good quality extra virgin olive oil Salt and cracked black pepper to taste Mix together the following for your dressing: 1 cup Greek style natural yogurt 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (feel free to freshly grind if you like) 1 tablespoon of honey 1 fresh pomegranate To make the salad: Put lentils and freekeh on the boil in two separate saucepans. Bring freekeh to a simmer and cook for about 30mins till tender but still a little of a bite to it. Lentils won’t need quite as long – bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain and cool both when cooked respectively. Chop up herbs coarsely, onion finely and mix through lentils and freekah when cooled. Squeeze lemon juice on top of salad and fold through gently. Fold through ¾ of the seeds, currants and capers just before serving, reserving the rest of the seeds to decorate. Season with pepper and salt. To serve, put half of the dressing on top of the salad, garnish with remaining seeds and fresh pomegranate seeds. Remaining dressing can go into a small bowl with a spoon to serve.