Tuesday, July 31, 2012

roasted broccoli pesto

I'd always considered pesto to be one of those luxury items - It’s not cheap, but I know my fridge feels a lot happier when it’s perched on the top shelf. So I decided I should master my own pesto recipe. I've been experimenting and as it turns out, it's one of the easiest things to make – chuck everything in a food processor, turn switch on, turn switch off, DONE!

On top of that you can’t really go wrong with pesto. There are many different flavour combos you can play with. Below is one of my favourites out of the 101 batches I’ve been whipping up in my kitchen as of late.

Let’s not forget, that this kitchen I speak of is currently located in Korea. Korea is no doubt home to some delicious cuisine, however something this country hasn’t quite mastered is cheese. When I found a very small $17 wedge of Parmesan imported from halfway across the world, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase it - my wallet was dry and the parmy had to suffer.

So I tried making pesto without Parmesan and it ended up working in my favour. See, I’ve been trying to create some delicious dishes that are food-friendly for everyone. This recipe is dairy-free but still has that super rich dairy like quality that I know so many us love.

And then there’s the broccoli. A while back when I was roasting some vegetables, I had a side of broccoli on the go to steam. One ninja floret snuck its way into the roasting dish and what came of it was an out-of-this-world food experience! Roasted broccoli takes on a whole new flavour. It’s crunchy, nutty and… cheesy! That’s right, it has a yummy rich cheese-like flavour I can not stop eating.

Combine this taste with my latest pesto obsession and you’ve got yourself one kick-ass pesto recipe that I eat with just about everything. I’ll have it on crackers, with vegetable sticks, mixed through zucchini pasta (recipe to come), added on top of any salad, spread on toast with a poached egg, and… Yes, straight off the spoon from the jar on the top shelf of my very happy fridge. 

roasted broccoli pesto

1 large head of broccoli - cut in to small florets
1 clove garlic 
1 cup of raw almonds* 
1 handful of spinach 
juice of half a lemon**
1/2 Tsp of salt or more to taste
1/2 Tsp freshly milled black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Arrange broccoli florets on a very lightly olive-oiled roasting pan or baking dish (the florets need surprisingly little oil to roast). Bake in the oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes or until broccoli is crispy to bite and has dark golden edges. Don't be afraid to let them really brown up. Turn florets once during cooking. Set aside and leave to cool.

Dry toast your almonds in an oven for approx 12 mins on bake at 180C or 8 minutes on grill, turning once. You will know they are done when you bite into one and the centre colour has turned a lovely golden. Set aside to cool before continuing to the next step. 

If you have a food processor that is capable of finely chopping garlic, first add the garlic and blend (otherwise you may have to finely chop by hand first). Add the almonds to the food processor and pulse till they are broken up but still a little chunky. 

Add all other ingredients except the olive oil and turn processor on. Once everything begins to come together pour in oil while continuing to blend. You may need to stop it and help things along by giving it a stir. If you like a runnier pesto, add a little more oil or water. Season more to taste if you like.

Store in a container in the fridge, drizzling a little olive oil on top to prevent it from drying out. This pesto ages beautifully - after a day or two see if you can notice the flavours intensifying. Yum and Done!

Note: I'm working with an unusual little oven in my apartment here in Korea. I definitely had to adjust my usual cooking times and temperatures. So, just keep an eye on the almonds and broccoli when toasting and roasting!

* To keep things a little more affordable feel free to cut down on almonds by 1/3 - 1/2 and replace with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or another nut of your liking.

** I like my pesto with a real lemon punch and use the juice of a whole lemon. You can always add the juice of a quarter or half to start if you think it will be too strong.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

chocolate pudding truffles

As promised here is another healthy sweet treat. It’s raw, it’s chocolate, it’s creamy, it’s nutty - its one wee nugget of goodness. They are chocolate truffles and they are good for you. I tell no lie. Here is the nitty gritty…
I've named these 'chocolate-pudding-truffles' because although they have the appearance of a classic truffle, their insides resemble more of a yummy, rich, cake-like batter. The richness is balanced with a boost of nuts and dates so that they aren't too full on and have an element of 'lightness' like a chocolate pudding.

Raw Cacao – When you hear claims that chocolate is actually good for you, what’s not being said is that the sugars, refined oils and various other ingredients that make their way inside the wrapper are most certainly not. There is however some truth behind this ‘healthy chocolate’ idea. You just have to take a few giant leaps backward to where chocolate finds its roots in the dark cacao bean. The raw cacao bean is extremely rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a vital mineral our body needs to assist in healthy heart function, nerve and muscle stability, circulation and bone strength. Raw cacao is also loaded with antioxidants, beating blueberries, red wine and green tea. Wowza! All I’ve ever really known about green tea is that it has whopping antioxidant levels. Cacao quadruples it!

So chocolate becomes the bad guy after it has been commercially processed and refined with a bunch of other ingredients – the big-baddy-number-one being white sugar. It’s important to note however, when I talk about raw cocao, I don’t mean its not-so-identical twin cocoa. These two were split at birth and despite their similar good chocolatey looks, they’ve grown up to become very different. Cacao waves goodbye to its nutrient-dense qualities when it’s processed, roasted and given a quick name change - Cocoa. Don’t be fooled!

Raw Cacao Powder is one of the easiest ways to use cacao in your kitchen. The journey from bean to powder goes a little something like this… After releasing the beans from the cacao pod the bean is left to dry and ferment. Next the beans are ‘shattered’ to break away the shell and form cacao nibs. The nibs are pressed to extract cacao butter, and what’s left is a cacao type ‘cake’. This cake is broken up in to the wonderful versatile powder. Keep an eye out for organic raw cocao in your health food stores. I’ll admit it’s a little pricey but because it is packed with goodness and you need surprisingly small amounts to get a chocolate power hit - it’s worth its weight in gold. I add the powder to baking, smoothies, raw energy bars, desserts and treats (hello chocolate-pudding truffles!).

Nuts – As I mentioned in my previous post, nuts are full of protein. They also provide us with Omega 3s. These are essential fatty acids that our body cannot produce on its own so it is important that we find a good food source that can do the job for us. Don’t be afraid of fat. The right types are vital for a healthy functioning body. Health issues only arise when we eat more then what our body can utilize as energy or when we fill our mouths with the wrong kinds of fat - the ‘bad’ fats. Deep-fried over-processed battered hot dog? No thank you.

Omega 3s provide us with a very efficient source of energy and support healthy heart, nerve, muscle and brain function, bone strength, circulation and healthy cell growth.

AvocadoAvocados are like the cherry on top to these chocolate truffle bundles of health. They're packed with essential nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, K and B, potassium, folate and fiber. They can help lower cholesterol, improve heart health and regulate blood sugar levels. Avocados also have wonderful anti-inflammatory qualities.

(Thank you to Ryan, my lovely truffle model)

I apologise for the lack of shots of the finished product. My (rookie) photo shoot was interrupted numerous times to taste-test and quality control the truffles. The only decent shots out of the bunch are shown above... Four truffles left out of 16. Whoops!
chocolate pudding truffles

1/2 cup raw almonds - ground*
1/4 cup dates
1 heaping Tbls raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbls honey
half of a ripe avocado
desiccated coconut for rolling

(makes approx. 16 truffles)

Remove pits from dates. In a food processor add the first four ingredients and blend till they make a fine meal. Add honey and avocado and continue to blend until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed to form a creamy paste. Roll into balls and coat in coconut. If you feel like an extra chocolate hit, roll them in raw cacao powder or cacao nibs. Store in a container in the freezer. These just taste better from the freezer. They hold together like a creamy fudge and won't set rock hard. They are ideal to whip out if you need a last minute dessert or afternoon tea. 

*If you don't have ground almonds on hand (almond meal), you can just chuck whole raw almonds in your food processor and pulse to form a grainy flour. Just be careful not to grind for too long or you'll have almond butter on your hands.

And there you have it. If you're anything like me, make a batch and then hide them in the very back of your freezer! Although it takes all my self control to not eat these in one sitting, they're even better enjoyed with friends and family. I hope you like! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

fruit and nut booster balls

A few weeks ago I put together a plan to help my Mum get back on track to a healthy balanced diet and to share with her all the wonderful things I’ve been learning about ultimate health. I devised a three-week cleanse to kick start and detoxify her body starting from the inside out. My Mum is pretty on to it when it comes to good health, but as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s really easy to slip in to bad habits and then struggle to shake them off, so I gave her a little push. It was goodbye to all processed foods and refined carbohydrates and sugars and hello to fresh, natural, mostly raw whole foods.

(one of the very few shots I had here with me in Korea of me and my mama - this particular snap is a few years old now)

A good friend Graeme caught wind of this and was keen to jump on board and give something similar a try. Check out his very cool blog here. It initially followed his progress day-by-day as he took on a 14-day cleanse challenge. To date he continues to share entertaining, interesting and motivating posts of his own journey in finding ultimate health. In fact, it’s thanks to Graeme that I finally got on and began this blog. He gave me that push I was after. I highly recommend you tune on in and have a read of his stuff on Finding Health: Trial, Error, Success, Yes! 

So a major goal of mine when creating these 'plans' is to not only provide delicious treat recipes that replace the refined processed snacks we are used to - 'MSG in a bag' otherwise known as potato chips, or 'sugar-rot' otherwise known as lollies or candy - but to source a treat that has mega health gains.

In the next two posts I’m going to introduce you to two of my favourite healthy, sweet, energy packed treats. You don’t need to be taking part in a cleanse to enjoy these bad boys. Build them into your weekly menu and start outweighing the bad treats with the good ones.

First up are these fruit and nut booster balls. Here is the low down. They’re quick and easy to make. They provide you with a good burst of energy from the nuts (which will also help to satisfy hunger and up your protein) and the natural sugars and carbohydrates present in the dried fruit. To top it off they are 100% raw.

When you’re sourcing dried fruit, look out for kinds that don’t have added-sugars. “Sweetened” varieties are loaded with the stuff, refined to the max, and it’s just not necessary. We’re talking about dried fruit here! They contain enough sugars in their natural form which provide us with plenty of energy that our bodies can more efficiently use.

fruit and nut booster balls

1 cup of raw almonds
1 cup of dried fruit (at least 1/2 dates)*
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbls sesame seeds
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
your choice of sesame or chia seeds to roll

In a food processor pulse almonds till ground to a chunky meal. Set aside. Next blend dried fruit to form a mushy paste. Add the fruit mush, ground nuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds to a bowl. I like to keep the pumpkin and sesame seeds whole for some added texture. 

Have a dish ready with your desired seeds for rolling as well as a container to place your finished balls. If you have kitchen cooking gloves now is a time to throw them on. Things will get messy. Using your hands mix, squidge and squelch together all the ingredients. 

Give your hands a quick wash (wet hands will help prevent sticking) and then grab bits of mixture and form into balls with the palms of your hands. Roll the balls in your chosen seed and store in a container in the fridge. I recommend leaving these over night or for at least a few hours to set together. The flavours build and they're extra delicious when chilled. 

* I LOVE Medjool dates and if I've got them I tend to use them in this recipe. But you can use any dried fruit you like, apricots, raisins, prunes - they are all delicious, just use at least half dates or prunes to ensure the balls bind together!

I love having stocks of these in my fridge - they make for a perfect snack when I get home from work and need an afternoon pick me up before dinner. If I'm on the run and know I'm going to be busy, I throw some in a zip-lock and keep them in my bag so I can grab one when I need a quick burst of energy.

Tune in next week for my second favourite sweet treat. They’re chocolatey, easy to prepare and the recipe comes choka-block with nutritional info about cocao and some seriously good reasons to eat chocolate!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

the green smoothie

I thought I’d start this blog the same way I start my morning - with a delicious, healthy, easy and very green smoothie. Korean summer has well and truly set in and waking up to this for breakfast really does hit the spot.

The seasons here are different to home. Winters are dry and extremely crisp. But once I’m rugged up, there’s not too much to complain about – there’s not one drop of rain and the continuous blue-bird days make me a pretty happy little winter bunny. Don’t get me wrong though, I do love a good New Zealand winter hit - stormy, crazy winds and getting cosy indoors while outside buckets down a series of sleet, snow, rain and hail!

When I think of the summer heat in NZ I think hot, dry, burning sun streaming from blue Central Otago skies. Although the burn is intense, a shady spot under a tree or umbrella usually does the trick so I can keep my cool and enjoy a lazy summer’s day. In Korea, on the other hand, there is no escaping the heat. It’s wet, humid and sticks to you like glue.

The contrasts are just so extreme - winter here is as dry as a Kiwi summer, and the Korean summer is wet like our winter.

Anyway, where was I going with this?? Ah yes… The sticky heat and green smoothies! As temperatures and humidity continue to rise, so do my cravings for my morning smoothie concoction. For those of you experiencing blasting southerlies and the serious winter cold however, this is no reason to be missing out. Starting your day with one of these puppies has too many benefits to count. But to name a few, it's healthy, 100% raw, full of nutrients, ridiculously easy to make and it will boost you with a good dose of fruit and veg before the day has even begun.

Why is it bright green?
I love a smoothie because you can pack in a whole bunch of food and nutrients that our bodies need and often lack. My morning fix sees me dose up on proteins, omega 3s (the good fats that our body needs to function), and, drum role please...

... Chlorophyll! 

Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their green colour and helps them convert energy from the sun (it makes sense that green vegetables grow up out of the ground - ever wondered why the top of your carrot has a little green glow?). A Chlorophyll-rich diet provides you with a whole lot of goodness. It helps the body produce healthy blood (healthy blood = healthy heart!), strengthens the immune system, encourages strong liver function, fuels new healthy cell growth and supports the body in cleaning and detoxifying itself. 

So, the first two things I chuck in the blender are spinach and celery (…yes you read it right). What may seem strange at first takes very little time to get used to and you can always start with small amounts and build up from there.

A teaspoon of Chlorella is where I get the next Chlorophyll hit. Chlorella is an extremely chlorophyll rich water grown green alga. Up your Chlorella intake and you’re taking about ten massive steps forward in looking after your body because this wee beauty does not stop with Chlorophyll! It is full of vitamins including A, C, E and high levels of B12, contains omega 3's, is a complete protein source - which is exciting to find in a plant based food - and is a highly digestible protein at that, so you don't have to worry about putting too much strain on your digestive system.  

Chlorella can help to stabilise blood pressure and blood sugar levels, balance the bodies pH levels (which get seriously out of whack when we're eating processed foods), literally clean your insides and give your organs that boost they need to function well. It's a great detox food too, and considering our bodies are naturally detoxing from the early hours of the morning, I love to give it a hand. 


Once you've added chia seeds and a handful of almonds and sunflower or pumpkin seeds (amazing wee gems that each deserve a post of their own, and will, in due course!), you've got even more protein and Omega 3s covered too.

And this my friends, is why a super green smoothie is my favourite way to start the day - whatever the season. Get into it!

the green smoothie
(serves one monster size glass)

one stick of celery roughly broken up
a handful of spinach
1 cup of water
1 banana - frozen*
2 kiwi fruit
1 tsp of chlorella
a handful of nuts and seeds - I usually throw in a mix of almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts (preferably soaked**)
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs chia seeds

Blend together celery, spinach and water. Once they're thoroughly mixed and the greens are well munched stop the blender and add all other ingredients. It's up to you how you like your kiwi fruit. Although I love the taste of the skins, I tend to peel them to avoid any yucky sprays if I can't source them organic. Turn the blender on and whiz for about a 30 seconds or until the texture is smooth. Add more water and blend again if it's too thick.

* Freezing bananas ensures your smoothie is icy fresh and you can buy a bunch and not worry if you can't eat them all before they brown. Here's my trick to keep things organised and easy in your kitchen. Before you freeze them, peel and chop each banana into approx 5 pieces (I make them all the same-ish size so I know when I want 1 banana I always grab the same amount). Freeze separately on a tray, and bag together once frozen (this will stop them sticking together - 'free flow' I've been told is the kitchen lingo). 

** Soaking your seeds and nuts breaks down their enzymes which inhibits our bodies from efficiently absorbing their nutrients. There'll be a beasty post with all the details to come. For now, soak your seeds for 5 -7 hours (or before you go to bed at night), and make sure they're thoroughly rinsed before you use them. If you haven't any prepared just add dried nuts and seeds as they are still filled with goodness!

I encourage you to get creative and mix up combinations. I make my smoothie with the same green veg and water base each morning. But feel free to try different fruits (pineapple is a winner), switch chia seeds for ground flaxseeds or add some dates for extra sweetness. Minus and subtract what you like from this recipe, but I ask one thing...

 Make it green!

Monday, July 2, 2012

eat it - it all starts here


The time has come for me to stop procrastinating and get on and begin this blog! I’ll get straight to it and give you a little bit of background info. 

For the past ten months I’ve been living in a very small, very isolated country town in South Korea. It’s been a crazy whirlwind experience with its mega highs and mega lows. When I first arrived my health was not in the best shape and so I decided to set aside one year to devote myself to finding ultimate health and happiness.

It's been a year without the comforts of home and strong support networks of friends and family – something I've had to seriously adjust to. But I've taken this ideal opportunity to put my health first. Health and cooking good food has been my main focus.

I've set aside one whole year! Not some crazy-fast-paced 6 week diet - no carbs this, or low fat that. Just pure foods, whole foods, REAL FOOD!
My favourite thing about Korean food is the selection of beautiful side dishes - called pancheon and namul.

Buckwheat, banana and blueberry pancakes. Some home comfort weekend cooking.


Ten months in and I feel like a very different person! Along the way a few things have become clear. First of all, after rummaging through many blogs, recipes and information on the web (thank you Korea for the fastest, most amazing internet connections in the world!!), I've learnt about a whole network and community of people out there sharing, reading, interested in and learning about whole foods nutrition. I for one am hooked! Every day that I learn something new, I've this desire to share it. And so that is exactly what I plan to do.

Next I've realised that some people are a little scared or intimidated by the idea of new foods and different cooking. So I'd like to find ways to make it easy, accessible and fun and inspire all sorts of different folk to build their own health and get cooking.

Just a few months ago something clicked quite perfectly into place for me - I’m clearly passionate about all of this, so why not make it a pretty serious part of my career. I've been researching and thinking about studying nutritional medicine and luckily New Zealand offers some great schools where I can make this happen. On my way home to the beautiful Aotearoa later this year, I’ll be taking a rather delicious trip through South East Asia, enjoying an extremely extravagant stop off in Oz to see some very special friends and then home to my roots to set up camp and make holistic nutrition a bigger part of my life. So, if you like, watch this space. I'll post and share as I learn and most importantly spread some very tasty recipe love!

Why Eat It?...

There is one simple answer to that. We are what we eat right?? So, if you want good health…Then EAT IT.

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