Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Back!

The jetlag is gone, I've cleared my inbox of 20 bazillion invitations to become 'the man of her dreams' (really? do people fall for this?), submitted a bunch of uni stuff, shipped off a pile of orders to my oh-so-patient Sana customers, and now lunch is in hand and I have a little blogging time before settling down to a couple of hours thesis research.

Today I thought I'd just show you my lunch and then a few travel pics that haven't already made it to Facebook:


So, we were away five weeks. It was wild.  The schedule was:

Rome



and just to prove it wasn't all pizza...

Florence

That's me in the middle

Certaldo


This is where we stayed. It's an old monastery: Fattoria Bassetto

Milan
Having issues with the self-timer

Liechtenstein
Lots of time with our crazy family
France (Colmar)
Gorgeous little town, with some quirks


Germany (Rust - Europa Park)

We stayed in the park in a theme hotel (back in Italy? not quite)

That's me screaming my face off. Miss J is beside me with the face paint on.

Switzerland (Dornach)

The Goetheanum. A cool building designed by Rudolf Steiner. It was completed after his death.



Then back to Liechtenstein for a few days before jumping on a plane to England

Bath

Where there are, indeed, ancient Roman baths.


We did tea in Bath

Cornwall
And Cornish mead in Cornwall, cheers.

Lunch at the cutest little pub near Cothele House

Tintagel castle ruins (legendary birthplace of King Arthur)

Exeter

Very nice digs in Callington (Cadson Manor). This is a family home and the hosts were the nicest people in the world, also very good cooks.  You know it's greatness when the little tray of freebies in your room includes a pretty glass bottle of sherry, and two fancy glasses.

That's our hire car. I didn't want to give it back.

and back to London

I think everyone's seen London pics... here's something different: 
the smoothie stand at Camden Lock.

Any questions, comments, funny stories about what happens when you drink real Cornish mead? :-/

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hello from Europe 2

Well, the android blogger app, on which I just painstakingly tippy tapped the first version of this post, decided to discard the words and post only the pic...

So, as I was saying, Jason and I are currently wafting around Europe, seeing things and eating lots ;) I had planned to blog while travelling but my laptop did not survive the trip :( and blogging on the tablet is more than I, or anyone sane, can take.

Therefore, just like me, Fit to Blog is on hiatus until 25 October. If you'd like to follow along, please find me on Facebook (email sara.lake AT gmail if you can't find me).

X
Sara

Hello from Europe

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No-Bake, Vegan Chocolate Marble Cheesecake


Click Here for Printable Recipe

I really shouldn't use the 't' word, should I?  If I slip up again, it's best to remember that, in my world, 'tomorrow' might mean 'the next day' or it could be interpreted as 'sometime soonish'. Sometimes the requirement to make money just cuts into my blogging time (I know! So unfair...). 

I also took a night off to see The 100 Foot Journey, which is definitely worth a look.  A reviewer described it as 'feel-good food porn', and that's pretty accurate. The food shots fired me with a passion for French cooking, and Indian. Why did they have to ruin it with  *spoilers!* a depressingly predictable bit where the oppressed Indian boy gets propelled to greatness by a rich, white French woman (of course he did)?

Without further waffling on, below is the recipe for my Vegan Chocolate Marble Cheesecake. The next post is going to address how to fit such treat foods into a healthy eating plan. There is so much crazy around this issue right now, that it deserves a blog work up before my brain seizes from trying to process an unprecendented influx of irrationality.

For now, just let me confess that I do eat treats like this, about twice a week, smallish serving.  I love vegan desserts, but it's not for moral reasons. I personally think that vegan desserts are just the best. They deliver on taste, keep very well in the fridge or freezer, are often no-bake and easy to make, present few worries about food poisoning, and as a welcome side-effect, are often (but not necessarily) more healthful. Here ya go.

Ingredients: 

For the Base: 
1.5 cups almond flour
1 cup of pitted, chopped medjool dates
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp cardamom

For the Topping: 

3 cups of cashew nuts (soaked for 3 to 5 hours)
½ cup coconut oil (melted)
½ cup coconut milk or coconut cream
½ cup maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
 2 Tbsp Raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

For the Optional Ganache:

4 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp honey, maple syrup or other preferred sweetener
1 tsp vanilla essence pinch of salt

Instructions:

For the Base: 

Mix the almond flour, coconut flour, salt and cardmom in a food processor. While it is running add the dates slowly, allowing each handful to be fully processed before adding another.

The base is ready when you squeeze it and it sticks together. Add more dates or a few teaspoons of water if not sticky enough.

Press the base firmly into the bottom of a springiform or silicone baking pan and set aside.

For the Topping:

Drain the cashews and blend them in the processor at a high speed until they are relatively smooth.

Add the coconut milk, vanilla and salt and continue to blend until the consistency is very smooth – like cream cheese.

While the processor is running, add the liquid sweetener and coconut oil. Blend until any and all nutty lumps are gone.

Drop large dollops of the mix randomly on the base Use half the mix.

Add the cacao to the remaining mix and blend. Drop the chocolate topping into the gaps left between the vanilla dollops, then swirl the topping exactly once with a knife.

For the ganache:

Melt all incredients on low heat in a saucepan then pour over the cake Freeze for at least two hours until solid, remove from the pan and let sit in the fridge for about half an hour before eating.

Nom, nom, nom.

Source

And here's a 'Berry Chocolate' version (just added berry powder and some fresh berries to the 'vanilla' part of the above recipe).





Saturday, August 02, 2014

Example Day - July (Weekend Day)

Middle of winter, glorious sunny day!  I just got back from a short walk up a slippy, muddy hill and couldn't feel better.  I hope the trees don't get confused and start to blossom.  Are they smart enough to realise this is an abnormally warm coupla days?  Nature can be whacky sometimes.

It's time for another example day.  The next one will be a working day, so you can see how it all rolls when I have to navigate the office.

Breakfast - Pancake with Berries


Pancake made with 2 eggs, a tbsp almond meal and dash of salt.

That's green tea in the cup. 

In order to get to the eating part more expeditiously, 
I tend to cook the pancake and defrost the berries simultaneously.  
Like so:

I sprinkled erythritol through the berries, but have in the past stirred some honey in.

Lunch - Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

This one came out of the freezer. Leftovers from a dinner last week.

The mysterious lump in the middle is a piece of poached white fish (terakihi).

As it didn't feel quite substantial enough, I added a tbsp of white rice left over from 
last night's Thai takeaways (it was a lazy Friday around here)


Mid-Afternoon

Green Smoothie.

Kale and WPC. Nothing else.
I'm not usually so virtuous on a Saturday, but, I felt the need for a little penance from last night. 
The reasons for this shall become clear momentarily.

Dinner - Apricot Chicken

The one hasn't actually happened yet (it's 4.30pm), so here's a pic taken previously 
and a link to the recipe.

And here's why I was slurping green goop, instead of munching my usual 85% Green & Blacks mid-afternoon pick-me-up.  

I've been working on a recipe for a vegan no-bake cheesecake and it worked out nicely, very nicely. It seduced me with promises of healthy MUFA's, cacao polyphenols and paleo-ness and then delivered with an explosion of flavour.

erm... did I just take 'food porn' to a whole new level? *blush*  


I'll share the recipe for this feisty beasty tomorrow.  You have been warned.  ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random Acts of Real Life Eating 1

When browsing the blogosphere, it's quite easy to get the impression that foodies have it sorted.  Every meal is a well presented "event" and each snack a lovingly constructed work of nutritious art.

Real life is not like this.  Reality is not a scripted cooking show.  It's more like improvised theatre. You usually have to wing it. In fact, making good choices on the fly is an essential skill of staying healthy in an unhealthy world.


Much of the stuff I eat doesn't make it onto the blog. It's way too idiosyncratic, and none too photogenic. Not only that, but it's usually thrown together in a frenzy and scoffed before it crosses my mind to take a pic.  

Here's a (possibly disturbing) insight into my 'time to eat' thought process when working from home. 

... hungry! (stomach goes grrr.. grr..)

What shall I have? (looks in the fridge, sees the leftover bits of pumpkin pie cake that weren't pretty enough for the photoshoot).  That'll be fine.


But.. it needs something else.  What?

I feel like...... (opens the freezer), ah! Blackcurrants! Yay for antioxidants.

..but they're frozen. :(

What's the quickest way of defrosting them?  Frypan. There we go.

Better put some water with that or it'll burn.  I wonder what it would be like with chocolate? (throws in a couple of spoons of raw cacao powder).

Mmmm.... probably too bitter now (add a few spoons of erythritol.. taste test... good... dash of salt).


Ok, good enough.

Splat.


And now it needs some.....? (looks in the fridge).  

Yogurt.  Buffalo or Sheep's Milk?

Buffalo is already open.  That one.

 Done.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Protein Pumped Pumpkin Pie Cake - sugar-free, grain-free

I read a study recently, where hidden veges were used to secretly get people to eat fewer calories.  They didn't even know that their mac'n cheese had been spiked with vege pulp. Sneaky little researchers!

Today's recipe is a little more overt than that, because the main ingredient is clearly pumpkin, and it's called "Pumpkin Pie Cake", which is a glaring clue. However, it's still a deceptively tasty way to get a healthy dose of veg.  


Although grain-free and sugar-free, this recipe does contain protein powder.  That's not exactly ancestral nutrition, but if you are ok with it, then it's good way to pump up the protein of baked goods.

In this 'pie-cake' thing, I've used Sana unflavoured protein, but you can make it with a vanilla flavoured one and leave out the erythritol and stevia. The result is usually firmer as the thickeners tend suck up a bit of moisture. The vanilla recipe was in the last Sana newsletter.


Ingredients

I've linked up the Sana products below, but you can use whichever brand is available, just check for additives.  The stevia particularly is quite difficult to get without freeflow agents added.

3 cups loosely packed pumpkin flesh
1 cup unflavoured whey protein concentrate
Optional: 1/4 cup coconut flour (this makes the cake much more firm)
3 eggs (or 2 eggs, 2 eggwhites)
1/4 cup erythritol
1/2 tsp stevia (no fillers!)
cacoa nibs to sprinkle on the top
tsp cinnamon
tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix everything in a food processor.  I have noted that, if you leave out the coconut flour, and aren't afraid of raw eggs, the mix makes a nice eggnog... just saying.

Pour into a baking pan (I used a square silicone one), sprinkle with cacao nibs and bake for 20 minutes at about 160C. When done it should be bouncy to the touch.

Turn out while still warm and let cool on a rack.

I often eat this for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt, but it's also good for mid-afternoon or post-dinner munchies.

Ok, back to the kombucha! I'm experimenting with a 'second ferment', this time by adding kiwifruit for 24 hours after removing the 'shroom. It adds a certain exotic fruitiness.  I wonder what else would work?  Berries?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grain Free Apple Dessert Ideas

Here are a couple of grain-free apple desserts. They're not fancy looking,  but hit the spot for a light end-of-meal treat.

The first one was supposed to be an 'Apple Tart without Dough' from French Women don't get Fat (recipe on the link). As you can see, I'm not really an apple-peeling kind of girl, so it lacks the beauty of, say, this one here, and I used erythritol instead of sugar.  


The second dessert was an emergency Friday nighter. An experiment.

Into a loaf dish I layered:

Apple slices
Chia seeds
Blobs of coconut oil
Nut butter
Dark Chocolate
Walnuts
Sprinkles of erythritol, cinnamon powder and a little cardamom powder.

The last flourish involved dousing it all in a little maple syrup, after which it was popped in the oven for 15 minutes, until the apples were soft.


I then pressed it all down with a fork and let it cool a bit. It firmed up and became a glorious, sticky mess.  Like a spicy, fruity, chocolatey pudding.


It was a sticky, delicious mess that went amazingly with a blob of coconut cream on top.  


Happy tastebuds. ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Venison, Blue Cheese and Pear Salad with Balsamic Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a meal I had recently at the Fox and Ferret. I wanted to recreate it, but better. It was practically begging for a berry sauce.

What makes the recipe great is that it's no-fuss, but full of interesting flavours and looks quite flash. The only part that needs any real attention is the sauce, and that's minimal attention. It won't burn in 30 seconds if you take your eyes of it.

Instructions:

Start the sauce / dressing early (it takes 15-20 minutes to reduce)

Ingredients:

1 Shallot (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp berry jam
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme

Method:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil.

Sautee the shallot until slightly translucent.

Add all other ingredients.

Keep the heat high until the sauce is boiling, then turn the heat down and let it simmer, uncovered, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

Here's one I prepared earlier...


While the sauce is reducing, assemble a plate of green salad.  Mine contained mesclun, 'micro greens', sliced onion and a few random herbs and flowers from the garden.

On top of the salad sprinkle blue cheese (I use 'grotta' from Emilio), and sliced pear.

When the sauce is nearly ready, pan-fry some venison, about 100g per person. I use Silver Fern venison - 'stirfry' version is good, but I've used diced and also venison roast. Don't overcook it. Venison should always be rare.

Add the venison to your salad, and then dress it all up with the sauce.  


Obviously, if you're dairy or sugar-free, you can adjust accordingly by leaving off the cheese and tweaking the sauce.  I made a paleo version of the sauce when I was on the autoimmune diet.  I used fresh berries instead of the jam, apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic, and added a tsp of honey.

These days I'm a bit relaxed. The sauce is such a small part of the dish that I'm not concerned about the tiny bit of sucrose in it.   I'm living dangerously.  On . the . edge.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

New Zealand Ancestral Health Symposium - Part 3

Hello! this is the third, and last, installment of my NZ Ancestral Health Symposium recap.

For Part 1: Click Here
For Part 2: Click Here

Kate Callaghan - Nutritionist
Kate's blog:  Against the Grain Nutrition Kate's twitter: @ATGnutrition
The Ancestral Woman in a Modern World: Strong, Sexy and Fertile

Kate is rather gorgeous, inside and out.  She walked on stage looking the picture of health, promised that her talk would feature boobs, and then offered to hug anyone, anytime. Also..that dress!! I want it

Starting with herself as a case study, Kate described the situation in which many of us (myself included) have found ourselves when striving for the perfect bod.  A few years ago, Kate was a fitness instructor, exercising many hours a week and dieting. She looked fit, with chinky abs and modelesque thighs, but underneath, all was not well: she had symptoms of hormonal disruption - missing periods, low energy, sleep disturbances and premature greys.  

Kate's talk was very female focused. She approached the concept of 'Ancestral Health' holistically, as a lifestyle which can keep women healthy, sexy and fertile and restore these things if modern life has robbed us of them.  Kate identified the following concepts as cornerstones of female health:

* Hormones: she got sciency, talking about the HPA axis and the pregnenalone steal - a system whereby the body will divert pregnenalone toward cortisol, rather than estrogen/testosterone production when under stress.

* Nutrient dense foods: organ meats, eggs, blood/bones/connective tissue, seaweed. Eat enough! Many women restrict their calories below that needed for health.

* Intelligent movement: think hunter/gatherer days - lots of wandering / slow movement interspersed with occasional predator-evading sprints and lifting heavy things. One thing ancestral man probably didn't do is hours of cardio. Chronic cardio is the best type of exercise if you want chronically elevated cortisol (hint: you really don't).

* Female bonding: I loved this.  Hanging with girlfriends, and doing stuff together, sharing resources is not just good for our mental health, but can actually help hormonal regulation. Kate spoke about how dysfunctional female relationships have become: we compete with, rather than support each other. Let's not do that, hey?  


Julianne Taylor - Nutritionist
Julianne's website and blog: Paleozone Nutrition Julianne's twitter: @juliannetaylor
Ancestral Principles in Managing Autoimmune Disease

Julianne is not only a fellow Massey postgraduate nutrition student with scary intelligence, but was also my houseguest for the weekend.  It was great to have her visiting and we did talk rather a lot about all things nutritional (so good for the soul). My cats loved her, and that's a sign of someone exceptional.

Julianne's talk was about something close to my heart: autoimmunity. For those at the back, I have an autoimmune condition (ITP) and am slowly nailing down which aspects of diet and lifestyle affect it, one way or the other.  

This talk was packed with information, from the etiology of autoimmunity and leaky gut, to issues with gluten, to the specifics of an immune-balancing lifestyle.  Julianne also introduced epigenetics and the complicated interactions of factors that must be present for an autoimmune condition to flourish.  An example that stuck in my memory (I think Julianne was referencing a case study from her nutrition practice) is that of the HLA-B27 gene, which is linked with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). For a start, although there is a correlation, you can have symptoms of the disease without having the gene, and you can have the gene without developing AS. Along with the gene, there are two other factors which affect AS symptomology: dietary starches, and the presence of kleibsiella bacteria. Kleibsiella metabolises starch, so it could be that the problem is actually the bacteria, and that starving it is what creates the AS improvement, rather than it being an issue with starches per se.  Interesting, yes?

Julianne talked about zonulin, and presented the work of Jean Seignalet as compulsory reading for anyone interested in autoimmunity.  He is quite possibly the only physician to have tested a paleo diet on his autoimmune patients and recorded the results. Click here for Julianne's blog about Dr. Seignalet.

Julianne's lifestyle tips for autoimmunity:

* Gut healing diet: paleo, remember to eat your gelatin/collagen and organ meats. Avoid gut irritants.

* Sleep and circadian rhythms: Get your 7-9 hours and try to respect natural light/dark cycles.

* Sunlight:  Sunlight seems to have an immune balancing effect, and it's not just to do with vitamin D.

* De-stress.

* Movement: slow movement with bursts of speed.

* Community.


Dr. Anastasia Boulais - Medical Practitioner
Anastasia's blog: News at the AHS site Anastasia's twitter: @primalmeded
Sunlight: Friend or Foe? Skin Cancer Controversies

Anastasia had the difficult 'last speaker of the day' slot but managed to hold my attention for the entirety of her 30 minutes.  As I have the attention span of a kitten, that means she nailed it.

Anastasia talked about sunlight, which we in NZ (and Aussie) are warned to avoid at all costs. It causes fatal melanoma, we are told.  While acknowledging that skin cancer is indeed an issue, Anastasia clarified things somewhat. For example, the majority of skin cancers are not melanoma, and if caught early are quite easily treated. Not only that, but melanoma, when it does occur, is more common in indoor workers and on skin that is not often exposed to sunlight.  How about that?

Delving quite deeply into the differences between UVA and UVB rays, Anastasia explained that common methods of sun avoidance such as being indoors and using sunscreen primarily reduce exposure to the shorter wave UVB rays. UVB's are the ones that stimulate vitamin D production, and protective skin adaptation (skin thickening, synthesis of melanin). UVB has been targeted because it is the one that causes burning and direct DNA damage.  UVA, which is barely affected by sunscreen, and can pass through glass, is also damaging, but by more indirect methods (primarily oxidation). Interestingly, UVA can actually break down vitamin D.  UVA is the one you'll get from a sunbed, and sunbed use is positively correlated with melanoma.  Don't tan in a sunbed.  

There was a lot more to Anastasia's talk than I've summarised here - which is just one of the many reasons why you should try and get yourself to the next AHS, which will be in Wanaka, 25th October this year. However, the take home message seemed to be that sunlight is good for humans, you just have to be smart about it.  Sitting for hours with a reflector pointed at your face is just asking for trouble (and wrinkles, nobody wants those!).

************************************

That's it!  

What impressed me most about the whole symposium is that it had a truly holistic feel to it, and everything presented was down-to-earth and doable.  There wasn't a hint of woo-woo, weirdo paleo dogma. Nobody was wearing sandals, sporting an unruly beard or trying to lead a 'grains are evil!' chant.   

In addition, no presenter bashed the audience with macronutrient ratio's, encouraged use of diet-tracking software, or approached the paleo diet as a method of attaining the 'thin ideal'.  The emphasis was on vigorous health, good food and a sense of community. It was a superb effort for a first conference and I hope to attend the next one, although I return from Europe the preceding day.  I'm not sure paleolithic man had to contend with jetlag....