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Fruit crumble with whipped cream in a pudding bowl
Desserts, Recipes

Nectarine Crumble

Nectarines are so delicious. Some may have a not so great experience with nectarines – going by the imported nectarines that we see in our supermarkets every summer. They tend to be a bit tasteless, and boring. They are picked before ripe, kept refrigerated, and sent half way around the world. Somewhere along the manipulated road to creating the perfect fruit, there has been a massive loss in flavour.

Old fashioned nectarine varieties are completely different, especially when picked fresh from the tree, ripened to a deep red by the sun and so juicy that the sweet liquid runs down your hand and chin.

It’s a bit like comparing a mini to a SUV. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but it makes my point plain.

We are blessed with an old fashioned nectarine in our backyard. It’s fraught with issues. It is prone to leaf curl. The main tree long since passed it’s use-by date and was chopped away. The tree we have now is a shoot from low on the main trunk and has grown into a tallish, slender tree – a small version of what it once was and yet it still produces a ton of fruit. That’s even after the fruit thinning which the cats do. Seriously. They pick off blossoms in spring with their mouths and in summer they knock the young fruit off with their paws. Who knew nectarines were such great cat entertainment?

The other problem is the narrow window in which the nectarines are ripe enough to pick before they start to rot on the tree in the late summer heat. We end up picking our nectarines when they are only a little red. We’d rather that than risk the whole crop going rotten overnight, which has happened before due to a humid night. Having a large chest freezer is a MUST. Every year we bag up quantities of nectarines, simply halved and de-stoned, and then popped in the freezer. We have access to nectarines all year through and they are just as delicious then as when plucked warm and sweet from the tree.

This recipe below was an essential create for me. Crumbles aren’t hard to make and I used to regularly make individual sugar-free crumbles through the winter months. However, now we have given up grains – including the rolled oats I once used to make my crumbles – I needed a new “go to” that ticked all the right boxes.

This crumble could be used with any fruit, but I’ve written it for nectarines. Fruity, nutty and delicious. Although I have been making this one in a larger casserole dish, it could just as easily be made in ramekins for individual serves.

So are you ready to read my crumble recipe. Here we go….

Nectarine Crumble

Makes 4-6 serves

♥ Ingredients ♥

Fruit
1.5-2 C nectarines (or other fruit of choice)
1/2 t vanilla essence
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t mixed spice
1/2 t Xanthan gum
2 T Erythritol/Stevia blend or equivalent in sweetener of your choice

Crumble Topping
1/2 C roasted almonds, finely chopped
1/4 C coconut flour
Pinch salt
2 T Erythritol/Stevia blend or equivalent in sweetener of your choice
1/4 C desiccated coconut
3 T butter, melted

♥ Method ♥

Place fruit in a pot and cook until it is soft and beginning to break down. Alternatively use a microwave oven.

Cooked Nectarines
Nectarines cooked

Add vanilla, spices, Xanthan and sweetener to the cooked fruit and mash it all together. Avoid turning it into a puree, leaving some parts of the fruit in small pieces.

Mashed nectarines for the base of a crumble
Mashed nectarine mixture

Pour fruit into an eight inch casserole dish or divide between individual ramekins. Set aside.

Finely chop the almonds with a knife or food processer. If using a food processor, take care not to turn it into almond flour. Aim for some nice crunchy texture.

In a small bowl melt the butter in a microwave oven.

Add prepared almonds, flour, salt, sweetener, and coconut in with the butter and stir well to combine.

Sprinkle over top of the fruit in an even layer.

Nectarine crumble ready to cook
The nectarine crumble is assembled and ready to cook

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for around 20 minutes or until the top is golden and the fruit bubbling. Individual ovens vary in temperature/effectiveness so adjust accordingly.

Remove from oven and leave for 10-20 minutes before serving.

Nectarine crumble cooked
Nectarine crumble cooked and ready to eat

Serve with your choice of topping. We prefer whipped cream.

Fruit crumble with whipped cream in a pudding bowl
Nectarine Crumble served with whipped cream

Mmmm, fruity desserts are a nice winter treat with the fire twinkling in the corner keeping the cold at bay. They are just as good in summer, too, though. If there happens to be leftovers I place a tablespoonful on top of hubby’s yoghurt to take to work.

I hope you enjoy.

Happy and healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

 

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A plate of Tuna Salad Bites ready to eat
Lunch or Light Meals, Recipes, Salad based Dishes, Seafood

Tuna Salad Bites

Lunch! I find lunch can be the hardest meal to prepare as I often have no idea what I want to eat. Leftovers are always a great aid to this dilemma. It takes all the hassle and thought out of it. Just heat and eat, or sometimes depending what it is, just eat cold. There are days where this doesn’t work. The leftovers were used up in preparing my husband’s lunch or there were no leftovers at all. I make my husband’s lunch for work every morning, whether that be from scratch or putting stuff (i.e. leftovers) into containers to pop into his backpack. If I’m working that day, then it’s two of whatever.

On the days I am not working, by the time I get to lunchtime, I may not exactly feel like doing much in the kitchen; especially when options become limited through lack of stocks in the fridge. Putting the oven on in the middle of the day just to cook myself some lunch seems wasteful.

That’s why I love having tinned fish in the pantry. Salmon of any sort, smoked fish, and tuna – preferably in brine or springwater – are little containers of meal saving grace. Once upon a time I’d open up a tin and slap it on bread, or toast, or a bagel. Not any more.

So I came to a day recently where I had exactly that indecision and lack of enthusiasm about what to have for lunch. Nothing was inspiring me from the fridge. I had salad ingredients but was kind of overdosed on salads. I NEEDED a change. To the pantry for a quick scan, and there my little stack of canned fish was the perfect answer. But what to do with it? I didn’t want to just dump the contents of a can on top of a salad – which is a great option usually. I just didn’t want to go that route on this particular day.

So I developed an idea, and came up with this little recipe. It could easily be served atop a generous leafy green salad, spread across your favourite low carb bread or crackers, or used to fill some low carb wraps, such as my savoury Soft Wraps. Or, you can do what I did and serve it atop cucumber rounds. Done this way it would make a lovely, yet humble, little appetizer for a dinner party or a sharing plate to take to a finger food luncheon/afternoon tea. I found it a fun and refreshing way to eat my lunch.

I have written the recipe up to include the way I presented these, but you could easily just make the tuna mixture and then load it onto whatever you wish to partner it with.

Tuna Salad Bites

Makes 20 bites

♥ Ingredients ♥

185g smoked tuna, drained
2 T mayonnaise
1 small gherkin, finely chopped
1.5 T red onion, very finely diced
2 t fresh coriander, chopped
fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste

To serve:
Cucumber (about 4 cm in diameter), cut into 20 slices about 5mm thick
1 medium tomato, sliced and each slice quartered
Red Capsicum, cut into thin slivers about 2 cm long

 
♥ Method ♥

Place Tuna, mayonnaise, gherkin, onion, coriander, salt and pepper into a bowl. Mix well.

Tuna Salad Bites mixture
Ingredients ready to mix

Tip: If you don’t like raw onion, replace the red onion with spring onion or lightly saute it first and let it cool before adding to the rest of the mixture.

Prepare the receptacles for the Tuna mixture.

Lay out the cucumber circles.

Slices of cucumber ready to be topped
Slices of cucumber laid out on a plate

 

I added the tomato next. If you are wanting to serve these to others, I would put the tomato on top of the tuna mixture or their might be an unfortunate parting of company between base and topping.

Tomato pieces top the slices of cucumber
Quartered slices of tomato on top of cucumber slices

 

Place a heaped teaspoonful of tuna mixture on top of each cucumber/tomato base.

Cucumber and tomato bases topped with tuna mayo mixture
Tuna mixture on top of cucumber and tomato

 

Top with the capsicum strips.

Tuna Salad Bites finished off with a short strip of red pepper
Finally, a strip of capsicum

 

I finished mine off with a grind of black pepper over the top.

These were such fun to eat. A mouthful in each one that was colourful, tasty, and nutritious. It was also very satisfying. Perhaps it may appeal to children?

I hope this has given you some ideas for a quick and easy lunch time answer. Do you have any go-to lunch meals? Leave me a note as I’m always up for some inspiration. 😉

Until next time, happy and healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiwi Nut Cake
Cakes & Biscuits, Desserts, Recipes, Snacks

Kiwi Nut Cake

Cake. Mmmmmm. Sweet, soft, tasty. I can’t resist a good bit of cake and I love that I can eat cake and enjoy it without any guilt. In fact, not only no guilt, but a complete appreciation that the cake is actually healthy! I know, who would have thought that you can indeed “have your cake and eat it, too”.

I wanted cake on the day I developed this recipe. I wanted different cake. I’d had a reasonable amount of chocolate lately after making my own Peppermint Creams and others that I have not yet blogged, plus brownies and a Chocolate Steamed Pudding. I wanted something not chocolate. Perhaps that’s a revolutionary statement for some?

I thought about making my really yummy Orange Coconut Cake. A funny thing happens when one starts writing a blog on food and recipes. I find myself always thinking about what I could cook that would be new, different, tasty, easy, and unique – something my readers might find value in.

So I sat and pondered, not getting a whole lot of inspiration until my gaze fell upon a punnet of kiwifruit. Immediately I knew I wanted to do a cake with kiwifruit. As it happens, the kiwifruit are not a very integral part of this recipe. The kiwifruit slices could be replaced with pineapple rings, sliced strawberries or feijoas (oooo, I want to try feijoas in this). But let’s stick with the kiwifruit for now.

Oh, just in case you’re wondering – here in New Zealand we say “kiwifruit”. I’ve noticed in other countries they are referred to as “kiwi”. I wonder is this a reverse of the Brazil nuts situation (as in what Brazilians call Brazil nuts in their country)? Anyways, Kiwi in New Zealand has two meanings. It is our native, national icon: the kiwi bird. It is also used to refer to us, the people of NZ. I’m a Kiwi and proud of it. Now you know why my recipe refers to “kiwifruit”.

So, down to the recipe. This is quite different to any other cake I’ve eaten. It has the soft, moist textured cake surrounding crunchy nuggets of roasted almonds and topped with tangy slices of kiwifruit (as in an upside down cake). Soft, moist, sweet, crunchy, tangy… Are your tastebuds juicing up yet?

What are you waiting for? Go make this quick to whip up (slightly longer to cook), cake. Here is the recipe:

Kiwi Nut Cake

Serves 4

♥ Ingredients ♥

2 eggs
2 T melted butter
2 T Coconut flour
5 T Almond flour
3 T Erythritol/Stevia blend (or sweetener of choice)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t vanilla essence
1 t nut-flavoured essence (I used hazelnut)
3 T natural, unsweetened yoghurt
1/3 C roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

♥ Method ♥

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Line a 6-inch casserole dish or other suitable baking dish with baking paper. Snipping around the edge of the paper helps it sit nicely in the bottom (see photo). Arrange the sliced kiwi on top of the paper.

Dish lined with baking paper and topped with kiwifruit slices
Kiwifruit slices arranged in a dish lined with baking paper

In a medium sized bowl, melt the butter. Add the eggs and beat with a fork.

Add the flours, baking powder, sweetener, essences and yoghurt. Stir well with a fork, breaking up any lumps of flour until the batter is nice and smooth.

Roughly chop the almonds. You can see the size of the pieces I did in the photo (approximately quartered each almond). You could use a food processor to chop the nuts, but avoid processing them too finely. It is important to use roasted almonds (rather than raw or blanched) for the best crunch value once the cake is cooked.

Chopped almonds being added to cake batter
Roughly chopped roasted almonds

Mix the nuts through.

prepared kiwi nut cake batter
Prepared Kiwi Nut Cake batter

Pour the batter over the kiwifruit slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the batter is set in the middle and the edges are browned.

Carefully flip the cake out upside down onto a rack to cool (so the kiwifruit is uppermost) and peel off the paper.

Cooked Kiwi Nut Cake cooling on a wire rack
Kiwi Nut Cake cooked and cooling on a rack

Cut into quarters to serve. Can be eaten warm or cold, with whipped cream or natural yoghurt.

Kiwi Nut Cake with whipped cream
A serving of Kiwi Nut Cake with whipped cream
A forkful of Kiwi Nut Cake with whipped cream
A cake fork with Kiwi Nut Cake and cream

 

Enjoy with a cuppa as a snack or dessert.

Happy, healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

 

Glasses of chia pudding and whipped cream
Breakfast, Desserts, Recipes, Snacks

Pink Chia Pudding

It’s fair to say that after an initial so-so chia start where I was unconvinced about its appeal, I am now a confirmed believer in and enjoyer of, Chia. I much prefer the seeds to be left whole than ground or blitzed. It’s also a lot easier to prepare which is always a bonus.

So far I have created three chia puddings. Apricot Mango Chia Pudding, a passionfruit one that I have yet to post and the one that is the subject of this post.

Chia is extremely versatile with flavour profiles and though it is easy to individualise on the fly, I think I will continue to present chia pudding recipes. After all, who doesn’t like a recipe that’s quick to make, can be made a day ahead of time and is tasty and filling? I hope you try one sometime. 🙂

This recipe was designed specifically for my mother. She wants chia pudding recipes and the two I have created are ones she doesn’t have the specific fruit for. So I wanted to use a fruit more readily available at any time of the year – frozen raspberries.

The sweet and slightly tangy raspberries create a lovely fresh flavour to this chia pudding and an attractive pink colour. Layered with lightly whipped cream it is pretty served in a glass or small mason jar.

Pink Chia Pudding

Serves 2

♥ Ingredients ♥

1 C frozen raspberries
1 C Almond milk (or other milk of choice)
1 t vanilla essence
1.5 T Erythritol/Stevia blend (or equivalent sweetener of your choice)
1/4 C Chia seeds

♥ Method ♥

In a microwave safe bowl, thaw the berries in the microwave and mash with a fork.

Frozen raspberries - thawed and mashed with a fork
Thawed raspberries, mashed

Into the mashed raspberries add the almond milk, vanilla, sweetener, and chia seeds. Mix well with the fork. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired.

Pink Chia Pudding ingredients mixed together
Pink Chia Seed mixture

Cover and leave in the refrigerator until serving time. The longer it is left the better it will be. I like to make mine in the morning for serving as a dessert that evening.

To serve, layer spoonfuls of chia seed pudding with lightly whipped cream into glasses or other serving dish. Alternatively spoon the pudding into small glass dishes and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Can also be served on its own for a snack or breakfast, or paired with some natural yoghurt.

Glasses of chia pudding and whipped cream
Pink Chia Pudding layered with softly whipped cream

 

Soon I will add the passionfruit recipe to the blog. It is very yummy, too.

Happy and healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

Peppermint cream with a bite out of it
chocolate, Desserts, Recipes, Snacks

Homemade Low Carb Chocolates

Most people like sweets, even those who have trained their palate to not like overly sweet things. There is a time and place for treats and lately my attention has turned toward creating some healthy alternatives to the traditional sugar-laden option. Although there are now a reasonable variety of sugar-free options available, most contain artificial sweeteners and other ingredients that we may not particularly want to ingest. They are also on the pricey side, but this can be a good thing as it helps moderate consumption.

I have worked on a couple of recipes. One is ready to share; the other needs a re-check and maybe refinement before I deem it suitable to share.

So if I say – “dark chocolate and peppermint” – does it make your mouth water? I know it has this effect on me. My favourite chocolates from the box of Roses chocolates was the peppermint ones, and I wanted to find an enjoyable replacement. The ones I’ve come up with are not the same, but they are a nice treat that satisifies the peppermint-chocolate attuned tastebuds. They have been taste tested by my husband and also by two people who are not sugar free. They all enjoyed them.

They are a bit more fiddly than my typical recipe, but not technically difficult.

My one word of advice, is to maintain control of your electric beater during their making. I lost around 2 chocolates worth of mixture (maybe more) when my beater spun the bowl right out of my grip. Mixture down the cupboard doors, across the floor, in the kitchen sink and across the bench. Ugh! Fortunately I could laugh about it.

A mess of baking mixture splattered on a kitchen counter
Mess in the kitchen – when electric beaters get the upper hand

Peppermint Creams

♥ Ingredients ♥

1/3 C coconut oil in solid form
1/3 C cream cheese
2 t peppermint essence
1 – 1 1/5 T erythritol/stevia blend
1 T Coconut flour
100g dark chocolate

♥ Method ♥

Measure out the coconut oil and cream cheese into a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Heat in 10 second bursts until the coconut oil is malleable but not melted. Time will depend on how cold/solid the oil was to start with.

Starting on low speed, use an electric beater to mix the two together, gradually increasing speed as it becomes more workable. Blend to a nice even consistency.

Add peppermint essence, coconut flour and one tablespoon of the sweetener. Blend thoroughly again. Taste and adjust sweetness as desired. The chocolate I use is slightly sweetened, so I needed to bear in mind the additional sweetness that would come from the chocolate. If you use unsweetened chocolate you may wish to add the additional 1/2 tablespoon, depending on your sweet tooth.

When the mixture is well mixed and you’re satisfied with the flavour (add more essence and/or sweetener if you wish) use 2 teaspoons to quenelle the mix into individual servings. Place onto a plate or tray that is lined with baking or waxed paper as each one is shaped. You will see that mine are not very neat. It was the first time trying to quenelle anything and it was easy enough, I just didn’t spend the time to make them perfect. In the end, it doesn’t matter, so be as precise or as relaxed as you like in shaping them. Or try other shapes or sizes. Smaller sizes would require more chocolate to coat them.

Peppermint cream centers shaped into rough quenelles
Quenelled peppermint cream mixture

Place the tray or plate in the freezer and chill until solid. I left mine for a couple of hours.

When the creams are nicely solid, break up the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring in between each, until the chocolate is nice and runny.

Using a fork, toothpick, or other method, dip each cream into the chocolate and coat, setting it back on the cold plate as each is covered. Because the plate is chilled as well as the creams, the chocolate will harden very quickly. I found it satisfying to see it happen as I worked. If the chocolate gets too thick as it cools down – the chilled creams will speed up that cooling process – give it a slight boost in the microwave and stir, then continue coating.

Peppermint creams coated in chocolate
Chocolate coated peppermint creams

When all have been coated, pop into the fridge for 10-15 minutes just to make sure everything is firmed up and set, then transfer to a lidded container. Store in the fridge. (My apologies for the fingerprint in the chocolate LOL)

My chocolates were not at all neat, and yet I think they still looked cool. It’s my first time making anything like this and with practice I’ll probably get them looking more…professional, or refined at least. They still taste good!

We find one of these with a cup of tea or coffee is the right amount of indulgent sweet treat and with those good fats, it satiates the appetite, too.

My batch made 14 chocolates, but would have made 16 (or more) if I hadn’t lost some of the mixture in my ‘beater incident’.

 

Peppermint cream with a bite out of it
Cross section of a completed peppermint cream

What is your favourite chocolate treat? I am wanting to try more flavours and create more recipes, so leave me a comment if you have a suggestion. The other recipe I am currently working on is a Coconut Cherry one (think Cherry Ripe).

 

Sweet health to you all,
Belinda

 

 

 

Other, Recipes

Low Carb Apple Chutney

We were blessed last week with a generous gift of pork. Two large pork roasts and 14 large pork chops. Everything was frozen so I left a packet of 6 pork chops out to defrost. Of the classic food marriages, pork and apple is a firm favourite. If I cook pork and don’t do apple it always feels like something is missing – and that’s because it is.

We have a very old variety of apple tree in our back yard. Named Peasgood Nonsuch, it is a massive sized cooking apple that cooks up like a dream. It literally melts in the pot into a perfect apple sauce with only the barest addition of water. The water is only needed to stop it sticking until it starts breaking down. The process happens very quickly.

The tree produces far more than we can use, and we no longer have our rabbit or our dog who used to help eat up the windfall. The two hens do their best, but their appetites tend more toward the bugs on the apples. I always have chopped apple in the freezer ready to throw in a pot and cook up.

So last night when I got home from work I thought about our frozen apple stores, but was aware of the four ‘fresh’ apples sitting in the fruit bowl that are past their best. Three little wizened apples and one medium apple with a rapidly growing soft brown patch. I didn’t want to waste them so I took the more difficult path and decided to deal to them.

Peeled, cored and chopped into thin pieces, I threw them into a pot and set to them to cook. At this point I realised how spoiled I have been to have cooking apples. Eating apples just do not react the same way – nor do they taste as good when cooked – and I was short of time to give them too long to achieve any sort of mushiness. I gave them as long as I could, tried mashing them a bit – which was partially effective. There was no way those apples were going to make any decent form of applesauce. Time to get creative! That’s how this recipe came into fruition.

Quite simple and quick, it was done by the time my pork chops and accompanying vegetables were cooked.

Apple Chutney

Quantities are totally flexible.
Use as little or as much apple as you have on hand and adjust flavourings to taste.

♥ Ingredients ♥

1.5-2 C chopped apple
water to cover
3 t erythritol/stevia blend – more or less depending on the natural sweetness of the apples and your personal preference
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t cider vinegar
1/2 t dried sage
Pinch salt
1/4-1/5 t xanthan gum

♥ Method ♥

In a saucepan, put the apple, the sage, and sufficient water to cover the apples. It will look like a lot of water. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the apple starts to soften.

Remove the lid. With a potato masher, press down to break up some of the apple. The ideal texture has some broken down apple and some chunky bits. The water will evaporate away. Add more in if too much is lost.

Add in the vinegars, salt, and sweetener, if using. Taste and adjust to suit your preference.

Sprinkle over a little xanthan gum at a time, stirring it in well. Amount will depend on how much water has evaporated during the cooking process. The end product should have a slightly jammy consistency.

Apple chutney ready to eat
Apple chutney ready to serve

 

Serve with pork roast, pork chops, or sausages.
Also lovely on an antipasto board with cheese.

I served it with the pork chops which I’d seasoned with salt, pepper and dried sage, then baked at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes (they were thick chops).

Raw pork seasoned ready to cook
Raw pork chops seasoned with salt, pepper and sage

 

Apple chutney with pork and vegetables
Apple Chutney served with pork chop and vegetables

 

Even better – we have left over pork chops and chutney for today’s lunch along with a colourful salad.

Happy and healthy eating,
Belinda

 

Digital scales with a reading
Low Carb Chat

Why I shouldn’t have

and why nobody should!

 

Anyone interested in losing weight (or gaining weight), knows the love/hate relationship that forms between human and that small mechanical or digital device known as ‘bathroom scales’. Emotions that waver between

excitement  ……. dread …………. anticipation ………… depression …. suspicion …….. fear ……….. eagerness ……… dig fingernails into the floorboards reluctance ….. pride ……….. guilt ….

Shane
Work out or eat chocolate?

 

Who else can relate to that list of conflicting feelings?

When I began my low carb lifestyle journey, we did not have scales, never having replaced our old ones that refused to work ever again after a battery change. So I spent the first eleven weeks having no idea of my progress in regards to losing weight. Bearing in mind I am doing this for health reasons first, weight loss second. Eleven weeks of living in the bliss of ignorance and knowing by the fit of my clothes that change – my body size – was happening.

Then we got scales.

Now I am sure everybody knows the golden rules when it comes to weighing yourself. The Crown King of those rules has to be “Don’t weigh yourself any more than once a week”. You know it, right? I know it. I KNOW it. Yet, my last week proves that knowing and following are two uncomfortably opposite distinctions.

Before I launch into my personal story, let’s have a refresher of the ideal weigh-in process.

Do not weigh yourself too often. Once a week is perfectly adequate.

The body naturally fluctuates in weight from day to day, and during each day, too. Fluid retention or fluid loss (exercise, dehydration etc); timing of bowel motions, and any other number of reasons. Our bodies are not machines that undertake certain tasks by a specific deadline so we can get all our numbers lined up in a correct and pleasing manner. No! Our bodies are living, organic entities that are influenced by factors so numerous it would need a super computer to track it all.

Weigh at the same time of the day.

For much the same reasons as above. I weigh in within a 1.5 hour window. It varies so widely because it depends on whether it is a work day or a home day (I only work part time). Weighing at the same time gives us the best opportunity to get a reliable benchmark of progress.

Wear similar weight clothes when weighing in, or go nude.

Eliminating variances is the important part here. The weight of our clothing can vary hugely, particularly with seasonal changes. A summer dress is going to weigh far less than a winter sweater, polo neck and singlet. Eliminating these extraneous variables will give us a more accurate and reliable picture. That’s why I weigh in my ‘birthday suit’. It’s easy, no fuss, no thinking involved.

Use the same scales and in the same location.

Scales vary widely and the differences can be alarming or overly positive. The doctor’s surgery will read differently to those at the gym, to those at the nutritionist’s office, to the ones in your home. Your regular weigh in scales are the only ones that matter, wherever they are. If required to weigh on different scales from time to time (such as at a Doctor’s request), then don’t use that as your guide. That is for their records of progress, not yours.

Also use the scales in the same location. The surface of the floor matters and can affect how the scales work. Never weigh on a soft surface such as carpet. We tuck our scales away under a seat in the bathroom. When I pull them out I line it up with particular marks on the floor to eliminate potential variances (we have an old house – almost 100 years old – with an imperfect bathroom floor).

Weighing is not about how much you’ve lost!

It’s not. Really! Weighing oneself is far more useful to determine trends in your body weight. We get so caught up in the numbers. “Oh no, I only lost 100 grams this week and last week I lost 200 grams. I MUST be doing something wrong.” This is a destructive thought process. The thing we should be noting and excited about is that the downward trend continues. It’s all good! Focus on the trends over weeks and months to get a realistic portrait of how you are progressing. Drawing up a simple line graph can be an excellent method to encourage yourself and show the real truth.

Aberrations happen.

Sometimes the scales will not be your friend. They will just show a wrong picture of how you are progressing. I believe this is particularly true for women who go through additional body changes on a monthly basis. It is easy to become discouraged when those scales brandish their bleak news in your face. Here it is particularly important to remember the trend. If the trend is going the wrong way after a month, then perhaps revisit things. Are you more stressed? Have you been out to eat more than usual, attended a celebration or been through the holiday season? Has a new food been introduced or a change of medication? and numerous other factors… Otherwise take a breath, look at your overall progress and celebrate that you’re healthier than when you first began.

 

So, let’s take a look at my first week with scales and show you how not to do things the way I did.

The image below is a chart of my first week having scales. First up you can tell: I immediately broke the biggest rule! I weighed every … single … day! (Please note I’ve dropped off the beginning of the measurements. I’m not ready to share the rest yet, if ever.)

graph

So here is how my thought process went. The bits in blue are my honest reactions and thoughts as experienced after each weigh in.

Day 1: The first time weighing in.

Hurumph. Not as bad as it could have been but still an unfriendly number.”

Given that I’d already been at this business of low carb-ing for eleven weeks, that means the number was once higher. Not a comforting thought on one hand, on the other, a smidge comforting. Ah, the complex mind.

Day 2: Down 800 grams

“Oh my gosh, wow! One day and I’m down that much! This is awesome. I knew I was losing, but oh wow. I know I’m not supposed to weigh every day and I didn’t expect a result, but having a scale is a novelty. Amazing! I feel so good right now.”

The justification for weighing myself; the overexcited reaction. Trouble brewing, but no, I’m more sensible than that. Hahaha.

Day 3: Up 150 grams

“Yesterday was so great; I’ll just see what’s happening today. Wouldn’t it be jaw-dropping if I was down even more? It won’t show anything, but I’ll just do it for interest’s sake.”

Yeah, like interest cares in the slightest. 150 grams up. Still happy. That means over a kilo down in 2 days. I was still thrilled. Okay, sensible head on: I’ve got this, no sweat. The justification continues, but the mood is okay.

Day 4: Down 500 grams

“What?! This is crazy! I’m so happy. Wow! Wow! WOW!”

All day I was saying to my husband “happy numbers” with a silly grin plastered across my face. I was literally delirious. That’s over 1 kilo ‘lost’ in 4 days. It was at this point that the line was crossed and I had hooked onto the daily weighing train. Train crashes aren’t my thing and yet I was still headed for one at full speed. Where was Keanu Reeves when I needed him? (Speed movie reference). I could not wait until the next morning to weigh in again.

Day 5: Down 700 grams

“Somebody pick me up off the floor! I can’t believe it. CRAZY!”

At this stage I was basically singing “happy numbers” all day. The grin was permanently affixed; I felt fantastic. I felt thin. LOL I was already imagining a plunging graph, a 2+ kilogram loss for the week, and reaching my goal in just months rather than years. Yep, I’d say my train throttle was stuck at full.

Day 6: up 200 grams

“Pffft. Up 200 grams? Who cares. I’m still down 1.65 kilos in less than a week.”

I was still claiming my happy numbers, though reserved them to a few quiet smiles directed at my husband. This is where a little niggle began developing in my head. The numbers I’d been experiencing – too good to be true? I had to weigh in again the next day, just to reassure myself.

Day 7: up 700 grams

“Hmmm. Okay…I guess. I’ll go to the bathroom and come back and check again. Really? That didn’t make any difference? I’m still losing overall; so that’s good. But what if it’s up again tomorrow? That’s only 950 grams lost for the week.”

Some reassurance I got out of that, huh? Hoping that urinating might change the numbers – really? All manner of railway crossing alarm bells and traffic barrier engagements that I was ignoring.

I suddenly felt nervous. What if my weekly weigh in showed I hadn’t lost at all, or just a few hundred grams? I could feel the disappointment pulling at me. Doubts about myself and my ability to lose weight; fear that the scales would tell me a horrid tale the next day and hope that they wouldn’t. I spent far too much of the day with the thoughts rummaging around in my head and I couldn’t seem to throw them off the train. The health over weight loss stance was about the only thought which abandoned my train ride.

I spent the day feeling fatter. I’d tug at my clothes periodically and decide they were no looser than they had been two months ago. My energy levels and my mood dipped. I wasn’t a basket case by any means; but I could tell the difference it made to me psychologically. Even recognising it I remained unable to shake the downturn in happiness and confidence.

Day 8: (the proper weekly weigh in day) down 250 grams

“It’s a loss. That’s good. I’m down 1.2kg for the week.”

Not much of a celebration in those subdued thoughts. I definitely felt relief that the scales again moved down, and yet the stronger emotion was by far disappointment. I feel disappointed. I had seen wondrous changes and I felt like I’d done something to let them slip away. And yes, I had done something – I’d set myself up for that feeling of disappointment.

Worse, I felt like I had gained weight. I haven’t! I’ve lost 1.2 kilograms. How crazy is the mind talk? How easy is it to psych ourselves out? This is fresh; today was my weekly weigh in day. As I record this I marvel at how ludicrous it sounds to be so hung up over those numbers. Yet I know I bought fully into it, despite my knowing NOT to weigh every day. I was sure I could keep aloof of the daily numbers and treat it as an experiment. I can handle it! Yep! Ah, NO!

I didn’t handle it. I began to have negative thoughts and the old insecurities and self-criticisms were only too eager to board my train for the ride.

This is the PRIME reason why no one should weigh themselves every day. It is self-defeating, dangerous to our equilibrium and just plain misrepresents the trend of our bodily journey.

Don’t do what I did. Even sitting here typing this I am wanting to weigh again tomorrow morning. I need NOT to. I need to be strong until this train is firmly back under control and the desire no longer tempts me.

My internal dialogue still says: “It doesn’t matter if you do. You know weight fluctuates. Just see what’s happening for interest’s sake”.

I will resist. I hope you do too.

 

Happy and healthy body journey to you all,
Belinda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chocolate, Desserts, Recipes

Low Carb Chocolate Steamed Pudding

I don’t typically cook using the microwave; it’s my glorified butter melter or defroster. However there is the odd time when something cooked in the microwave meets a need. Usually that need (okay, maybe a ‘want’) is something sweet and satisfying that can be prepared and ready to eat in as little time as possible. One of my go-to recipes I used to make pre-low carb days was a ‘self-saucing spongy chocolate pudding’ made in the microwave. I wanted something similar, but what I ended up with is even better. The original took 8 minutes to cook; my healthier version takes only 3 minutes and mixing it up couldn’t be simpler.

It is not self-saucing like the one I used to make – the one that was full of white sugar, brown sugar, and white wheat flour. No, this one has no sauce, but it is incredibly moist and soft and rich and…DELICIOUS. It does not need a sauce. In fact my husband reckons I nailed the flavour in comparison with the old version.

It took me several makes of the dessert to get it right, with each trial being an improvement upon the previous effort, but still not ‘there’. I finally succeeded and in our opinion, it was a worthwhile process.

The only downside to this dessert is that it is so dark and rich, it is very difficult to photograph. Dark brown against white – not the easiest subject matter. I toyed with getting out my big girl’s camera for a mere moment, before I dove in with my spoon and in short order there remained nothing to photograph except an empty dessert bowl. *blush*

I’m too excited about this recipe so I’m just going to jump into sharing it right now.

Chocolate Steamed Pudding in a Mug

Serves 2

♥ Ingredients ♥

butter for greasing
1 large egg
1/4 t vanilla
3 T buttermilk
2 T Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 T erythritol/stevia blend (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 t baking powder
2 T Almond flour
1.5 T Coconut flour

1 t erythritol/stevia blend
3/4 t Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 t butter
2 drops of vanilla
1/4 C boiling water

♥ Method ♥

Grease an oversized cup or small bowl with some butter. Set aside.

In a small bowl beat the egg with a fork until well blended.

Add sweetener, vanilla, and buttermilk. Mix again.

Add cocoa, baking powder, and both flours. Break any lumps of coconut flour up with the fork as you continue mixing. Stir until all ingredients are amalgamated together.

Scrape mixture out into the buttered cup or bowl.

Dot the surface of the cake batter with the butter. Sprinkle the additional measure of cocoa and sweetener over top.

Chocolate pudding almost ready to cook
Chocolate pudding topped with sweetener, cocoa and butter.

Add the 2 drops of vanilla to the boiling water and gently pour it over the pudding batter. Cover the cup in microwave safe cling film and poke 4 small holes in the top.

Chocolate pudding mixture covered and ready to cook in the microwave oven
Covered chocolate pudding ready for cooking

Microwave at 100% for 3 minutes (based on a 1000 watt oven). Adjust cooking times to suit your own appliance. The pudding should appear slightly underdone – a little wet looking and not entirely set in the middle. It will firm up a bit more in between the end of the cooking time and eating it. The vessel (size and thickness) used to cook the pudding may also impact upon cooking times.

Serve with cream, either runny or whipped and enjoy.

Rich chocolate steamed pudding served with cream
“Chocolate Steamed Pudding in a Mug” served with cream

 

Please note that if choosing to use regular cocoa powder for this recipe it will not be as rich as my version. It may also have bitter notes and require a tad more sweetness to counteract that.

If you do not have buttermilk, you may substitute any other milk of your choice, but the texture will be less “spongey”.

I think I’ll just have to make this again tonight as putting up the photos has made my mouth water.

I’d love you to try this recipe. Please share some feedback if you do, as I’d love to hear from you.

Happy, healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

Savoury minced beef meal
Beef Dishes, Recipes

Versatile Minced Beef

Here in New Zealand we have “mince”. I believe it’s called ground beef in other parts of the world, but I will be sticking with mince here. Our mince was always made of beef when I was a little girl. Accordingly mince, in my mind and heart, will always refer to minced beef. Chicken, pork, venison, and lamb mince are more recent, gaining popularity over the last 20 or so years.  Interestingly, turkey, which is such a big thing in America, is not what I’d call common here; and I’ve never seen minced turkey.

I’ve loved mince forever. I remember Mum making it when I was a kid and the savoury deliciousness was always a hit with me. Leftovers were common and using it up on toast for breakfast or lunch the following day was definitely a tasty bonus. Like soups and stews, the flavours only get better when it’s left to sit.

I am always surprised when I come across people who don’t like minced beef, citing it as bland and boring. I was fortunate to have a Mum who knew how to turn it into a flavoursome dish and that she taught me what she knew.

Besides it’s pure tastiness, I love how versatile mince is. Meatballs, lasagna, pasta sauce, burger patties, and more. But that is when it’s prepared from raw. It is just as versatile once cooked!

I love to make up a pot of mince and it is different EVERY time. I add, adjust, tinker from beginning to end until it’s “just right”. Recently a workmate expressed a desire to know my “recipe” for mince. Hmm! Tricky request when one never uses a recipe. How to convey a – bit of this, bit of that, bit more of this and then a dash of that to balance it?

So, I was challenged to bring the best of my flavour profiles into one simple recipe that would provide the best base for adjusting to preference or intended use.

So here I present my very tasty mince recipe base. I usually use 500g of mince, but for this recipe I’ve used a full kilogram. This gives plenty of scope for utilising leftovers in different ways and who doesn’t love having an easy meal ready to go on another day. But feel free to halve the recipe if you prefer.

It is delicious eaten as is. But it can also be transformed into other uses, some of which are given after the recipe.

∈∋—∈∋—∈∋—∈∋—∈∋

Savoury Mince

Serving sizes will vary according to how you serve it.

♥ Ingredients ♥

1 T coconut oil
1kg minced beef
2 onions, chopped
1 large stalk celery, sliced
2 t minced garlic
2 T Worcester Sauce
2 T Soy sauce
2 T sherry
1.5 C beef stock
4 T sugar free tomato sauce
1/2 t crushed chilli (this adds complexity to the dish, it does not make it spicy)
Salt and pepper
1/4-1/5 t xanthan gum*

*If you are not low carb, then thicken the gravy with a paste made from 2 t cornflour and 2 t water.

Cooking savoury mince dish in a wok
Savoury mince dish – reducing the liquid

♥ Method ♥

In a large pan or wok, melt 1 T of coconut oil. Add chopped onion and sliced celery. Stir fry 4-5 minutes until softened.

Add minced garlic (I use ready crushed garlic from a jar for speed and convenience. If using fresh you may want to adjust quantities) and stir fry for 1 minute.

Tip in the mince and break it apart as you stir fry it. When it is almost all browned, add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.

Simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle over xanthan gum gradually and mix in well to create a gravy of the consistency you prefer. Amount needed will depend on your preference and also on how much the juices were reduced to begin with. A bit more beef stock or water can be added if it ends up too thick or with not enough gravy. Season to taste.

At this stage it is perfectly tasty and can be served alongside vegetables and sweet potatoes or ladled over some low carb ‘pasta’ (zucchini noodles, finely shredded cabbage or shirataki noodles).

Or

add: vegetables of your choice and cook while the liquid is reducing. Last night I chose to add 1 C minted peas, 2 serves of frozen spinach and a 180g packet of fresh shirataki (zero) noodles. Serve piled in a pasta bowl.

Other great choices of vegetables to add are: grated carrot, grated zucchini, sliced mushrooms, shredded silverbeet, kale, or chopped green beans. It’s a fabulous way to get some more vegetables into picky eaters.

IMG_20170911_184032
Tasty mince with peas, spinach and Shirataki Noodles

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♥ Ideas for the leftovers ♥

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days. The mixture can again be eaten just as is, but why not mix it up a bit and create a tasty new meal. These options will stretch the number of servings gained and stave off culinary boredom.

♦ Option 1: To the leftover mince mixture, add 1 can crushed tomatoes; 1 T tomato paste, and 1/2 t mixed herbs. Heat through, adding more xanthan gum until desired consistency is reached. Serve over low carb pasta.

♦ Option 2: Follow instructions for option 1 and then layer with cheese and slices of eggplant in a baking dish and bake until bubbling hot.

♦ Option 3: Blanch some cabbage leaves and fill with spoonfuls of the mince mixture, wrapping up to form parcels. Top with grated cheese if desired.

♦ Option 4: Bake 4 whole sweet potatoes. Cut off the top and scoop out the flesh setting that aside for another meal. Stuff the hollowed sweet potatoes with the mince, top with cheese and heat in a 180 degree Celsius oven until piping hot all the way through (20-30 minutes).

♦ Option 5: Add additional vegetables not already in the dish. As additions can soften the richness of flavour, boost to taste with a touch more beef stock or soy sauce. Be careful not to overdo these or it may become unpleasantly salty.

♦ Option 6: Make up a low carb pizza base. Spread with a sauce of your choice and sprinkle over the mince mixture. Add sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, jalapenos and cheese. Bake 12-15 minutes. Thin 1 T sour cream with a little lemon juice, add chopped chives or parsley and drizzle over the pizza prior to serving.

♦ Options for the non-low carbers: Leftovers can be used as a filling for toasted sandwiches, baked potatoes or mixed with cooked pasta and cheese sauce then baked.

 

There are many other ways this can be doctored to suit a family’s or individual’s tastes. Play around and see what you like. If trying new ingredients, add a little at a time and taste after each addition until it tastes good to you.

You could try one of these flavourings:

  • Curry powder or curry paste
  • Hot sauce
  • Crushed/grated ginger, fish sauce and fresh coriander
  • Tinned pineapple with juice

This is certainly a dish that lends itself to experimentation and can be given a number of different flavour profiles. I would love if you gave it a go and to hear of any of your own variations that you may make. I’m always up for something new.

Thanks for reading and my wishes to you for
Happy and healthy eating,
Belinda

 

 

 

Chicken stir fry served with fresh coriander and crispy chicken skin
Chicken, Recipes

Chicken Stir-fry with Crispy Skin

In my first week of changing to a low carb lifestyle a friend asked me what I knew of Konjac noodles. At that time I had never heard of anything like it and I quickly did some research. They sounded interesting, for sure, and I really wanted to try them. For those, like me, who have not heard of these, they are also called Shirataki Noodles or Zero Noodles. Some brands give them a brand specific name. They are made from the Konjac root, which I gather is a type of yam. They have loads of water soluble fibre but are 0 carbs, 0 sugar, 0 protein. As such they are a weird food, and one that probably fits best as a sometime food rather than a regular. It is necessary to gain nutritional benefit from the foods we eat.

It took me several weeks before I found some in a shop – an Asian foodstore here in New Zealand called Kosco. I had to ask at the counter as I had looked all through the dried noodle section. I was not expecting them to be sold in water filled sachets and stored in the refrigerated section. They had three types. Sheets (think lasagna), and noodles in black and white. I chose a packet each of the black and white noodles.

Two packets of Shirtaki noodles, one of white and one of black
Two packets of Shirataki Noodles

My next decision was how to use these weird and wonderful things. The labelling was entirely Asian – no help there for my monolingual self. No idea on their shelf life either, so I thought I better use them sooner rather than later, just in case.

From my research I was forewarned that these possess no flavour of their own and need something tasty to imbue them with any flavour. So that was my goal – to create a tasty dish which would both suit the addition of noodles and provide enough flavour.

I created this dish which contains juicy bites of tender chicken and plenty of salty/sweet/sour sauce to coat the noodles in flavour, and with loads of healthy veggies to see to the nutritional needs. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy eating…read on. 🙂

 

Chicken Stir-fry with Crispy Chicken Skin

Serves 2-3

♥ Ingredients ♥

1 T coconut oil
2 skin-on chicken breasts
Salt
2 T soy sauce + 1 T extra
1 t crushed ginger
1 t crushed garlic
1/2 C water
1 T Oyster Sauce
1 T Cider vinegar +1 T extra
225g can of pineapple pieces in natural juice
1 C small broccoli florets
1 stalk celery
1 red capsicum
1 onion
2 T fresh coriander
180g packet Shirataki noodles
1/2 t xanthan gum
sesame oil

♥ Method ♥

Remove the skin from each chicken breast and chop the flesh into even-sized cubes of about 2cm.

In a medium sized bowl mix together the first measures of soy sauce and cider vinegar with the ginger, garlic, water, oyster sauce, and juice from the can of pineapple.

Add chopped chicken, mix thoroughly and set aside.

Cubed raw chicken being marinated
Cubed chicken marinating

Open the noodles and tip into a colander. Give them a good rinse in cold water which gets rid of the funky smell they have straight out of the packet. Leave to drain.

Prepare the vegetables – cut broccoli into small florets; slice the celery diagonally; cut the onion into small wedges; de-seed the capsicum and slice it into thin strips of 2-3cm long; chop half of the coriander (stalks and leaves), reserving half for serving.

IMG_20170909_175052
Vegetables prepared for the stir fry

Heat a small frypan over medium heat and place in the chicken skin stretched out flat. It will bunch up a bit as it hits the heat. Sprinkle a little salt over the surface of the skin.  I use a copper frypan which needs no addition of fat, but your pan may need some coconut or olive oil to prevent the skin sticking. Quite a bit of fat will come out of the skin. Turn it over every now and then and press down occasionally. The skin is ready when it is golden brown on both sides and crispy. Mine was conveniently ready at the same time as the main dish.

Cooking chicken skin until crispy
Cooking up the chicken skin

Melt the coconut oil in a wok and stir-fry the marinated chicken in batches until it is browned on all sides but not cooked through. As each batch is browned, remove from the wok with a slotted spoon and set aside in a clean container/bowl/plate. Continue until all of the chicken is browned. Try to leave as much marinade as possible in the bowl for use later on in the recipe as it forms the base of the sauce.

Browning off marinated chicken in a wok
Browning marinated chicken in small batches

If needed, add a little more coconut oil to the wok. Add the onion and celery and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Toss in the remaining vegetables and stir fry another 2-3 minutes.

Pour the marinade liquid over the vegetables. Add the chicken back to the wok with one tablespoon of chopped coriander. Stir fry until chicken is cooked through. The chicken should still have some give to it when done. If it is overcooked (and dry) it will be firm and rubbery. Cut a piece or two in half to check the chicken is cooked through.

Thicken the sauce if necessary with xanthan gum, sprinkled over gradually and mixed in well. Add pineapple in the last minute or two along with the drained Shirataki noodles and additional measures of soy sauce and cider vinegar. Mix through.

IMG_20170909_181445
Pineapple added

 

IMG_20170909_181623
Noodles Added

To serve: pile into bowls, sprinkle with reserved coriander. Drizzle over a light touch of sesame oil; place chicken skin on top. Note: slice the chicken skin into strips once cooked if needed for more than two servings.

My husband and I enjoyed a generous serving each with leftovers enough as a lunch for one.

IMG_20170909_184359
It was THIS yummy!

I was very pleased with this dish, and with the noodles. Some say they find the noodles rubbery and hard to chew, but my husband and I both enjoyed their texture. They are gelatinous and chewy, for sure, but we liked this unique quality.

Have you had Konjac/Shirataki noodles? How do you like to use them?

As always, happy and healthy eating,
Belinda