Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coconut and Lime Cakes And Some Tips For Cooking With Coconut Flour

Unless you have been living under a rock you would have noticed that coconut and its myriad of forms is increasingly making appearances in ‘healthy’ recipes. The latest is coconut flour.  But baking with coconut flour is not as simple as substituting a cup of wheat, spelt or buckwheat and turning out a batch of high-protein, nutritionally-rich and mouth-watering delish muffins that will impress all your friends. This stuff is different and you will have a lot more success if you arm yourself with some info and adjust your expectations.

A few important observations about Coconut Flour
-       You can’t substitute coconut flour in equal amounts of wheat flours: roughly 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut to 1 cup of grain based flour
-       Coconut flour is extraordinarily absorbent so you must increase your wet ingredients: generally 1 cup of coconut flour will require up to 6 beaten eggs and 1 cup of liquid
-       Coconut flour is very clumpy. To produce a fine texture beat thoroughly with other ingredients. Dont use it if you are after the light, fluffy texture of say a sponge
-       Coconut flour is expensive however you won’t be using the quantities of the cheaper grain-based flours so it is relatively affordable
-       Coconut flour has a distinctive coconuty flavour which will change the taste of the end result. Be realistic – if you hate coconut this flour may not be for you.

Coconut and Lime Cakes

3 eggs
1/3 cup of coconut flour
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup of Rice Malt Syrup
Juice of 1 Lime
½ cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tbsp Rice Malt Syrup
½ cup of Mascarpone

1.     Beat the eggs and Rice Malt Syrup for one minute.
2.     Add Coconut Oil, juice and almond milk and beat for further one minute.
3.     Sift baking powder and coconut flour into wet ingredients and beat for one minute
4.     Spoon into muffin cases or greased pattycake tin
5.     Bake in 200 degrees Celsius oven for 30 minutes
6.     Once cooled mix the mascarpone and Rice Malt Syrup and add to the top of cakes. The icing will hold up for a few days if refrigerated but for best results ice close to serving time.
- quantitity and cooking time may vary depending on size. My recipe makes 8

Are Peanuts Bad For You?

Two peanuts were walking down the street and one was a salted.
This had me descending into laughter which caused me to ponder the old adage, do small things amuse small minds? Another thing I have been pondering lately -  are peanuts bad for you?
It seems peanuts and offspring, peanut butter, are copping some flak from the ‘clean eating/paleo’ world. I like peanuts and I LOVE peanut butter so I would be mighty concerned if they were proven beyond reasonable doubt to be unhealthy.
As per usual when a food gets the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ tag the reality of the situation is neither so gloomy nor so rosy.

Here are the issues
1.     Usually roasted and salted
2.     Commercial peanut butters are full of all kinds of nasties
3.     Peanuts often have high levels of Alfa toxins (mould) which are carcinogenic (cancer causing). This has a lot to do with sanitation of crops and manufacturing processes.
4.     Peanuts are high in Omega 6 fatty acids but contain minuscule amounts of Omega 3 (remember the ratio is important when we are talking about inflammation and disease?).

The Good News
1.     Decent source of Thiamine, Niacin, Folate and Magnesium
2.     A good source of CoQ10
3.     Tasty
4.     Versatile

Some Perspective

Peanuts (like many nuts) are tasty and nutritionally dense meaning you don’t need many to reap their benefits. Problem is they are the type of food that is easily over-consumed. Nuts are convenient and tasty so we can eat far too many without effort or thought. Peanuts are not bad for you in the same way a donut is but should probably be considered a sometimes food rather than a diet staple.

What do you think?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza base. Oh Yeah!!

This is not my recipe. It is in fact one of those experiments where one tests a somewhat unbeliavable concept. AND just so we are clear, a pizza base made from half head of cauliflower certaintly stretches my culinary imagination.

BUT turns out, unlike the time I tried to make chocolate mousse from avocados, the cauliflower pizza base thing is a winner!

A few things to note:

- cauliflowers have a lot of water in them so the 'squeezing out' step is vitally important to the end result
- after trial and error I have chosen to add almond meal to the recipe. It helps with the texture and doesn't seem to impact the flavour
- the finer you chop/blend your cauliflower the easier it is to work with and the more it will resemble the pizza base we are all familiar with

Chopped and blended cauliflower - looks a bit like rice

1/2 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup almondmeal
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Chop up and preferably blend your cauliflower into very small chunks (see picture above).
2. Place your cauliflower onto a clean chux or strong paper towel. Cover with towel and squeeze. You will need to do this a few times to soak up as much as the moisture as possible.
3. Once your cauliflower is moisture free add it, a beaten egg, the almondmeal and the cheese. Add a few good pinches of salt and some cracked black pepper. Mould the mixute in a dough and place the ball on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out.
4. Cook your pizza base without topping for 12-15 minutes in moderate oven.
5. Once pre-cooked add desired topping and cook for further 10-`15 minutes.

Slice and eat - yummy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What's Her Secret?

courtesy of Burning It Off

In the diet and fitness world we are bombarded with sensation: lose weight on holidays, get fit in a week, get killer abs in a weekend! There is no end to the ridiculousness of the claims. The sensation is part of the reason I write what I do. It is an industry that feeds on our desperation to be thinner, healthier and have better bodies. Yet anyone who has successfully conquered their weight and can boast a better body (and has had truth serum) will tell you that stories of 'instant' results don't exist. One such success who I did not need to give any truth serum is Christine, author of the blog Burning It Off. It hasn't been a quick journey for Christine nor has it always been an easy one but it has been vehemently honest. If you are a regular visitor to my blog then you will know I love to chat with girls who are have successfully, and on their own terms, won the battle of weight, fitness and body image.

Holly: You got fed up a few years ago and made the commitment to finally get the body you wanted. Looking back where do you think that motivation came from?

Christine: I think it had less to do with motivation and more to do with finally figuring out a weight loss method that actually worked. I tried to lose weight many times in the past and even though I was motivated, I always gave up after a few months because it seemed like my efforts weren’t making any difference – why continue to deprive myself of foods I love and slave away on the treadmill when it wasn’t getting me anywhere? Finding a form of exercise I enjoyed, realising I didn’t have to eat perfectly to lose weight and actually seeing results motivated me to keep going.  

Holly: Congratulations on losing the weight and more importantly finding a way to maintain it. What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself in the process?

Christine: Thank you! Honestly, I don’t really consider my weight loss a huge accomplishment because I only lost a bit of vanity weight. I am, however, proud of myself for improving my level of fitness as much as I have. Growing up, I never saw myself as an athletic or physically fit person (I used to get winded after a minute or two of light jogging) and didn’t think I had it in me to become one. I’ve learned that I’m tougher and more capable of change than I thought.
Holly: How did you educate yourself on diet and fitness?
Christine: I learned a lot from a friend of mine who’s an athlete and personal trainer. Her key recommendations – count calories and strength train – really worked for me. Beyond that, I read a lot of fitness websites, magazines and a couple of books on the subject. I found Tom Venuto’s Body Fat Solution very helpful starting out – even though he comes from the bodybuilding world, he doesn’t advocate gimmicks or restrictive diets and his advice is pretty straightforward. He also has a lot of helpful chapters on motivation and setting goals.     
Holly: Do you feel external pressure to be thin?

Christine: I think it’s almost impossible not to given how our society reveres thin women. I’d like to say I’m not affected by it, but the truth is, I started eating better and exercising because I wanted to achieve a certain physique, not necessarily because I wanted to become healthier (even though I’ve since come to appreciate the other benefits of healthy living).
Holly: I know you write a blog and have a passion for health, fitness and looking good but do you feel like you spend a healthy amount of time worrying about your looks?

Christine: Today, I would say yes but there was a point when I was so focused on my weight and body composition that it started taking precedence over other areas of my life. It’s not healthy to feel anxious about social events or family gatherings because they might derail your diet or exercise plans for the day. It’s not healthy to spend all day thinking about your next meal or workout. When it gets to that point, you definitely need to take a step back. I’ve thankfully reached a point where I’m no longer obsessed with changing or maintaining my figure. I still enjoy working out and reading about health and fitness but it’s just one of many hobbies that compete for my time and energy and I think that’s how it should be.
Holly: Are there any products you have found particularly helpful during this journey?

Christine: It’s not really a product but I love Les Mills fitness classes. I hated working out before I discovered them but they completely changed the way I felt about exercise. I don’t think I would’ve made it through those early days when I was really out of shape if the classes hadn’t been as fun and welcoming as they are.
Holly: What have you found are your own personal hurdles to achieving your goal?

Christine: Like most people in their 20s, my social life often revolves around food and drink and unfortunately most of what you consume in social settings isn’t the healthiest. I used to deal with it by giving myself one or two cheat meals a week but then I’d often overdo it and spend the rest of the week trying to eat perfectly to compensate. Eliminating 'black or white' thinking has helped a lot – I no longer try to eat perfectly on a day-to-day basis, which makes it far less tempting to go overboard on weekends or special occasions. I still give myself permission to eat whatever I want when I’m out with friends and family but I no longer use that as an excuse to go balls out every time. I’m not perfect at the whole moderation thing but I’m getting better at it.

Holly: What would you say is the most challenging thing about trying to lose and maintain weight?

Christine: I think our whole culture makes it extremely challenging to keep weight off. For the average person, there aren’t many opportunities to be active in a typical day yet food is easily accessible and available in abundance at all times, plus portion sizes are huge. It’s an uphill battle.

Holly: If there were no calories in food what would you eat a lot of?
Christine: Treats! I usually enjoy a small serving of chocolate everyday but in an imaginary world where calories and nutrients don’t exist, sugar would be the mainstay of my diet. 
Holly: How important do you think calorie counting is to losing weight? Is it 100% necessary?

Christine: No but it is necessary to create a caloric deficit that’s big enough to result in weight loss yet not so big that you’re under eating. If you’re able to find that sweet spot without counting calories – say by listening to your hunger cues or making small tweaks to your daily eating habits – that’s great. For me, it was and continues to be helpful to know how many calories I need in a day and approximately how much food that amounts to. If I stick to that ballpark figure most days, I find it’s pretty easy to maintain my weight without being too uptight about what I’m eating. Ultimately though, you have to do what works for you and for some people, calorie counting is too time consuming.  
Holly: If you could give someone wanting to lose weight and change their body one piece of advice what would you tell them?

Christine: The most effective weight loss method is one you can happily stick to for life. If what you’re doing is making you miserable, anxious or obsessive, change it up – being skinny at the expense of your quality of life is not worth it and you probably won’t be able to maintain it in the long term. You have to find a way to eat healthy and exercise that’s compatible with your own personal preferences, goals and lifestyle. Consistency is key when it comes to weight loss and it’s hard to be consistent when you’re in a constant state of stress and deprivation. Don’t get too caught up in the latest diet and exercise fads because the ‘experts’ seem to change their minds every week. Instead, determine what works for you and stick to it.  

The lovely, fit and real Christine!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Is Clean Eating Just Wanky Nonsense?

courtesy of Favim
This post has been coming for awhile. I feel like so called 'clean eating' has taken on a life of its own and it has been occupying my thoughts quite a bit lately as have cupcakes. 
Food intrigues me. The very fact that it can evoke a myriad of responses and effects means we should ALL probably pay more attention to what goes in our mouths.
I have always danced between catering for health and weight loss goals and for pleasure. The 3 rarely coexist peacefully. I mean cupcakes don't fit into many diet plans but they most certainly do not make it onto the list of 'acceptable' food choices for a clean eater. Diet phenomenons come and go, some leave an indelible mark, others just surface at second handbook stores much later: forgotten and outdated.
The latest, clean eating, is the concept of eating food in its most natural form, free of chemicals, unprocessed and full of the goodness nature always intended. Sugar and flour are struck off the list hence no cupcakes. In theory 'clean eating' has my vote. But theories have a way of getting blurred in practice which brings me to the problem with clean eating.

Let's start with the name: does terming something clean not indirectly suggest that everything else is in fact, dirty? With all the psychological issues we know are ingrained in our food choices is it wise to make such a distinction? At one end of the spectrum we have people struggling with obesity, consuming boxed meals full of things linked to lifestyle diseases and at the other we have puritans grazing on nature's gifts. Is it really okay to label food good and bad, clean and dirty? There is an underlying inference that the pursuit of 'clean' somehow makes you superior as though the act of choosing an organic tomato makes you a better person. Are we comfortable with making food, a necessity for every human on earth, a symbol of good versus evil. Do we not already have enough labels, enough expectations to live up to, enough guilt in our lives?

Irritating too is that so many of those choosing the clean food are not going about it humbly without fanfare. You see eating clean seems to go hand in hand with social media commentary of the accomplishment. If a tree falls in the forrest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound? Similarly If a clean eater consumes grass fed beef and doesn't tweet the activity was it just a meal? Should choosing to commit to better choices not be born form the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the best you can for your body rather than the accolades your clean eating fraternity provide when you post your dinner on Instagram?

If that wasn't enough clean eating is for many of us an unachievable ideal. Even if you are committed to eating clean there are a number of obstacles that make it difficult for most and impossible for many. We can't pretend food is not an industry. For it to exist someone has to grow it, rear it, harvest it and because most of us have jobs it isn't going to be us. To provide food without using chemicals and still being competitive is a monumental feat. I'm not suggesting we accept defeat and don't bother looking at better farming practices but thinking we can shift an entire industry instantly is pie in the sky stuff. Cost too is a huge consideration. Ask any mother about grocery bills and you will understand that clean eating is a lovely concept that exists someplace with unicorns and fairies not in a shopping trolley and certainly not in family kitchens. Pursuing a lifestyle that challenges your budget, availability and sanity is likely to be a rocky ride.

Even if industry could support this type of food are we in a position to eat this way? I mean think about it. One of the big reasons we are in the crummy situation we are when it comes to food is our want and need for convenience. Clean eating and convenience don't go together. It takes time to grow, harvest and cook vegetables. Equally it takes time to track down organic farmers, check the conditions of livestock and read every label. There is a reason why cereal is popular and it is not just because of million dollar advertising campaigns or the sweet taste: that shit is easy. After all is stress not an accepted cause of lifestyle diseases, family breakdowns and general ill-health? Green smoothies are not doing you much good if you have to have a mini meltdown just to get the concoction in the glass. Many clean eaters can't escape the need for convenience which is why you will find protein powder in their pantry. Something which they gathered under a bushel while hunting for a wild buffalo no doubt.  

Even if we had a world that supported this type of eating does it deliver on all of its promises? There are many: eating clean will see you lose wight and have your skin glowing like a model in a makeup campaign, you will  live longer, be free of disease and have lots more energy.
To accept food is a like a drug and that your choices can have huge, positive, impacts on chronic pain, disease prevention, and mood is responsible, to suggest it can turn you into Miranda Kerr is ludicrous. We all have unique genetics that dictate so much of  who we are and what we look like. Sure we can put our best foot forward with the best food choices but Kale isn't going to clear up a face full of acne any sooner than it is going to make pigs fly.

I understand why we buy in to clean eating the way we do. For every struggle we hope to find an answer. If it is a chronic disease or a terminal prognosis we are at the mercy of cures that are yet to be found. If we are young women battling body image we are believing of any tool that can make the outside look better in order to ease the insecurity inside. If we are nearing middle age and mortality is softly knocking on our door then we are all ears for any possibility of age prevention. Unless you are a kid food is the one thing you can control. Prayer, hope and spare change may be the only things you have to offer global studies on cancer cures and you may  be 'just waiting' when it comes to western medicine but food, oh yes, this is where you have control. To control your health and looks by what you put in your mouth is empowering, but is it realistic?

The problem with so many of the paths we start down in relation to diet and fitness is that we are looking for one nice little packaged answer. We like cause and effect and we like obvious tangible results. I'm not suggesting that eating clean can't vastly improve your skin, your mind and your body. But I am willing to bet a fair chunk of cash that even if you see some results they won't be infomercial-worthy nor will they be delivered in 8 short weeks. Improvement might be good but it doesn't impress others and unfortunately it doesn't impress ourselves. 

Any idea you take on in regards to the food you eat has to be yours. It has to be born of your own beliefs and convictions because total body transformations and complete cures are the stuff glossy magazines are made of: they aren't real. 

Am I dogging on clean eating because it is a way of life that I haven't been able to commit to? Am I envious of those who manage to tread the pure path? Perhaps, but I'm no stranger to the big claims that the diet industry make. I have quit sugar for 12 weeks, followed the liver cleansing diet, quit diet soft drinks and many crazy regimes in between and while I don't doubt they did me some good there was no glowing skin, no amazing transformation and no light bulb moments. 

What is much hard is quietly and consistently making better choices even when nobody is watching. 

Please don't misunderstand me, if you have the commitment and drive to cut sugar from your diet completely and never let a preservative or additive pass your lips then make no mistake I applaud you. I thank you too because it those of us who demand more from industry  who will eventually bring about the change in food manufacturing and production we most certainly need to have. But if you are like me - just making better choices within your own personal constraints - then I applaud you too. Because ideals are nice and perfection is admirable but making the small changes that suit me and giving up the notion that I can be a superior, pure human being simply by the diet choices I make is hugely freeing. And you know what? I really love the idea and practice of nourishing myself with as many nutrients as I can and being conscious about my diet, but cupcakes are pretty freak'n great!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Tell Me My Thighs Aren't Bulking Up Because My Eyes Say Otherwise!

courtesy of Favim

There seems to be a great divide between the fitness industry and my eyesight. I would think it could have something to do with eyesight failure except that many other women have told me that their eyes have seen the same thing. Also I seem to be able to see the rest of the world with perfect clarity so more evidence it isn't my eyes.
You see I have heard on a great many occasions, fitness professionals waving away concerns that exercise and in particular weight training can make a woman bulk up. In fact I would go as far to say that there is a trend at the moment to go out of their way to send us the message that this belief is a complete furphie and that you and I can exercise as much as we want without any concern of 'bulking.'
And I would be okay with these claims except that my eyes and thighs are telling a very different story! 
Perplexed I decided to seek clarification.
Meet Nik Stojsavljevich, leading personal trainer and founder of Stoy Fitness. In short Nik is awesome. Even more awesome is that Nik is only too happy to answer our questions and help explain the science and studies behind the advice. Go Nik. 
So I said, "Nik what is the story? Once and for all can you shed some light on this myth about bulking?"
To which Nik responded:

First of all, "myths" will always have some truth to them or else they 
would never have been thought of in the first place. The only issue is 
that most people exaggerate the true story making them a "myth."
With regards to your question, sure women can look "bulkier" by weight 
training, but we have to define what "bulking" actually means and 
consider who has the potential to do this. Lets keep the following in 
1) I think we can all agree that most women will have a hard time 
gaining large amounts of muscle mass. This is due to a few things 
including the fact that their androgen levels are much lower, their 
frames are much smaller and they are usually not strong enough to lift 
the necessary amounts to make very noticeable gains compared to men.
2) Remember that bulking is usually referred to as a period of time during which someone tries to gain as much muscle as possible regardless of fat mass gained. This is very important to consider since muscle is much more dense and takes up less space than fat. Gaining 5 lb (approx 2.2 kg) of muscle will not make someone look as different as someone who has gained 5 lb with an additional 5 lb of fat. This extra fat is responsible for that bulky look, NOT the muscle. Moreover, when done correctly, a female or male will lose 5lb of fat while gaining 5 lb of muscle which would actually make them look SMALLER with clothes on. More solid albeit, but smaller to the untrained eye.
3) Without seeing what a person is eating, they might be driving fat accumulation by eating to many carbohydrates, especially post workout, because they think these will not be stored as fat. Calories are one thing, but the effects of insulin could be causing a "bulky" look, especially if you are genetically prone to high blood sugar levels and fat deposits around the waste.
4) Genetics do play a role, but few women will win this lottery. This is why we don't tend to see too many females who are built like trucks in your average gym. And if they are, you might see some other male characteristics on them as well.

So how should females train to look stronger, healthier and leaner without the bulky look?

1) Make sure to train hard and as heavy as you can with good form to complete 6-12 reps for most sets.2) Stick to large compound movements using free weights making sure to perform unilateral and dumbbell training to prevent imbalances from holding you back. Exercises such as squats and deadlifts will build larger glutes, but they will only appear larger from the side, not in front, because of the way these fibres run. Nevertheless, those who fear a larger, firmer behinds can stick to single legged exercises such as Split Squats and step-ups.3) To get stronger without gaining muscle size stick to 3-6 reps, but realize that training this way will not help you get leaner, but only prevent metabolic changes. This means higher body fat levels.4) Eat a good serving of protein at each meal. Surround that with vegetables and smart fats for most meals and keep carbs to 1-2 servings/daily of berries, apples and or starches like sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa.
More muscle and less fat should be anyone's approach to a healthy and lean looking body. Not only will it make you look LESS bulky. It will keep you healthy and strong into old age.

Well thank you Nik!! I hope you found that as informative as I did. You can hear more from Nik 
on Facebook or at his website or on Youtube or via his Tumblr blog

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chocolate Protein Muffins

I feel like an easy, convenient, low-carbohydrate, high protein muffin recipe is something that every gal should have in their bag of tricks along with Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, wet ones and a nail file. If the muffin recipe is missing from your bag than allow me to provide you with a doozy.

Before you get to the recipe below I will say that to date I have only used one brand of protein powder so I can’t advise on substitutions. I will also point out that it isn’t an easy supermarket brand protein powder either. Sorry! If you do get experimental with other brands please let me know the results
The Protein Powder I use for this recipe - BNRG Choc Proto Whey

Chocolate Protein Muffins

Ingredients Per Muffin

2 scoops of protein powder (I use BNRG Choc Proto Whey)
2 egg whites
25 g almond meal
A touch of low-cal sweetener like Stevia or Equal if you need them to be super sweet

Combine all ingredients multiplying the quantities by number of muffins you wish to make. Place muffins in muffin liners in muffin tray and bake in 150 degree Celsius oven for 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Keep some in your freezer for on the go snacks!