Posts filed under ‘medicinal’

Eat your flowers

My garden is abloom with ruffles of sunny yellows and bold oranges. Nasturtiums: prettiness so good you can eat it.

orange nasturtium

The entire nasturtium plant above the ground is edible, and each part has a distinctive taste and use:

  • delicately-flavoured flowers are great in salads, wraps and smoothies. I seem to recall a trend of adding flowers to salads in the 70s or 80s; various modern and ancient dishes incorporate floral essences (such as rosewater, orange blossom water, lavender) or tiny buds (eg. violets) as a microherb;
  • the peppery leaves can be used as you would any other soft, green herb in salads, soups and stews;
  • the seeds - apparently you can use these as a substitute for capers (when pickled) and black pepper (dry). On the strength of the one seed that I at yesterday, I could imagine the seeds being used in place of pepper, but my tastebuds and imagination could not be stretched to believe that they could be caper-like in any way (and, yet, I can see myself pickling them just to see) [1].

You may be thinking ‘why…?’, and I am excited to tell you that there are excellent health reasons to consider adding nasturtiums to your meals.

Nasturtiums are high in vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, flavonoids and carotenoids [2]. They also contain an appreciable amount of glucosinolates, or mustard-like oils, which keeps garden pests at bay and explains why they make such good companion plants [3].

It is also because of its pungent oils that this showy South American plant demonstrates antibacterial and even antibiotic properties. While generally considered to be an immunity booster, a 2006 study verifies that nasturtium stems can be used, with horseradish, to directly treat upper respiratory tract and urinary tract infections [3,4]. Other reports state that nasturtiums have historically been used to variously treat liver, kidney, bladder and skin disorders – and oil from the seeds can be used to varnish furniture [5,6].

Health benefits aside, if nasturtiums didn’t taste good, I wouldn’t be eating them – and that’s why I thought I would tempt you toward these edible blooms with the awesome seasonal and superfood-ful smoothie I blended up for my family on Sunday morning.

Recipe #137: The Blooming Good Smoothie. Makes enough for 2 adults and a little person.

You will need:
► 10 nasturtium flowers
► 4 tbsp of bee pollen
► 4 tbsp of lucuma powder
► 3 tbsp of hemp seeds
► 1 tbsp of white chia seeds
► 1 tbsp of maca powder
► ½-1 tsp of turmeric powder [use fresh turmeric if you can access it]
► ½ tsp of ground cinnamon
► 1 banana, skinned
► 1 sweet orange, skin removed
► the flesh from 1 young coconut
► a handful of strawberries
► about 500mL of water kefir [milk kefir or drinking yoghurt would also work well]
► agave syrup, to taste
► just enough water for everything to combine to your desired consistency

Blend all ingredients, except for the agave syrup, together until completely smooth [this will take about 60 seconds at speed 8-10 in a Thermomix]. Taste and adjust the sweetness with agave syrup if needed, then blend for another 10 seconds. Serve topped with a nasturtium flower.

blooming good

Don’t fret if you don’t have all of the ingredients listed here. This recipe literally resulted from a 5 minute consultation with my fridge and pantry, and I encourage you to do the same. For example, if you do not have bee pollen, use honey, yacon syrup or coconut syrup. Use a handful of sunflower seeds instead of the hemp seeds. No maca? Leave it out. So long as you are using raw/whole/organic ingredients with low processing, the end result will be superb and supremely good for you.

All of this has awakened me to the fact that we are constantly surrounded by nutritious and even medicinal plants without necessarily being aware of it. Take a few moments to notice the plants growing in your garden or on your verge. You may be harbouring a superfood without even realising it.

H :)


References:
  1. Christina (2009) “Tropaeolum (aka “Nasturtium”)” on NutsaboutPlants [online]. Available from http://nutsaboutplants.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/tropaeolum-aka-nasturtium/; accessed on 16 September 2012.
  2. Osbourne, G. (2012) “Once were weeds – now superfoods” on The Sydney Morning Herald: life&style [online]. Available via http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/once-were-weeds–now-superfoods-20120823-24om9.html; accessed on 16 September 2012.
  3. Stone, B. (2011) “Benefits of Nasturtium Herb” on Healthguideinfo.com [online]. Available via http://www.healthguideinfo.com/herbal-medicine/p95793/; accessed on 16 September 2012.
  4. Conrad, A., Kolberg, T., Engels, I. & Frank, U. (2006) “Abstract: In vitro study to evaluate the antibacterial activity of a combination of the haulm of nasturtium (Tropaeoli majoris herba) and of the roots of horseradish (Armoraciae rusticanae radix)” on PubMed.gov [online]. Available via http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17260672; accessed on 17 September 2012.
  5. abbas (2011) “Nasturtiums – Edible Flowers: History, Uses and Health Benefits of Nasturtiums: How to Make Nasturtium Salad” on Herbs-Treat and Taste [online]. Available via http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/nasturtiums-edible-flowers-history-uses.html; accessed on 17 September 2012.
  6. HMYG (2009) “Nasturtium for coughs, colds, flu and hair loss” on Herbal Medicine from your Garden (or Windowsill) [online]. Available via http://www.herbalmedicinefromyourgarden.com/nasturtium-health-benefits/; accessed on 17 September 2012.

Addendum of 19 September 2012:
Just discovered: a blog that is focused solely on nasturtium benefits and recipes! http://nasturtiums.wordpress.com/

18 September 2012 at 9:06am 8 comments

Guest Post 5: The Hangover

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Pauline, a friend who has selflessly put her sobriety on the line to test out hangover remedies just for you, and all in the name of research [thanks, Pauline!].

I am sure you will enjoy her post, and maybe even take away a few useful tips.

H :)

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The Hangover: hangover tips
or “Have you ever experienced a fabulous night out but paid the price the next day?”
by guest blogger Pauline Tarrant
bubbles, anyone?

Planning the big night out. As well as choosing what to do, where to go and what to wear an important choice is how to avoid the big hangover.

Preparing for a big night out is sometimes like preparing for a triathlon: the body is about to go through a multitude of challenges and the first step is to get hydrated. If you are not the person who remembers to drink a glass of water with every alcoholic drink getting hydrated before you go out is a good option.

If drinking lots of water isn’t your thing, then milk can help ‘line the stomach’ (as my dad says). My friends and I tried this many times with a good level of success.

Attacking the hangover. So here are the Top 4 Rescues counted down, and how they help your body:

4th place: Marmite. Marmite contains salt, which is important to help retain the fluids you have left in your body and it is a great source of vitamin B12. B vitamins are important in the fight against the Big H. Of course you may be more familiar with Vegemite but, following many trials, Marmite seems to give the best hangover relief. The B vitamins can also be replaced by Berocca – which is also great, as this ensures you are getting fluids in too!

3rd place: Bach Rescue Remedy.. In my youth I spent many a morning working in a kitchen. Luckily my boss was into natural remedies and used to give me this. The alcohol solution gives you a small ‘hair of the dog’ fix while the flower essence gives you reassurance [it reassured me that I could survive the full shift!].

2nd place: Peppermint or Ginger Tea.. Both tick some critical boxes including rehydration, soothing nausea and indigestion. Ginger also has pain reliveing properties that should help the headache. Ginseng tea is also reported to have similar positive effects but I have not tested this.

1st place: Strawberries. Strawberries offer a tasty way of replacing the vitamins destroyed by alcohol and are so juicy helping to replace vital fluid levels! More good news for this yummy berry is that it can also act as a preventative hangover measure. If you don’t have strawberries on hand, bananas are also another great cure.

science says that strawberries are a brilliant hangover cure

Smoothie magic. Even more effective than the Top 4 Rescues, the best cure I have found was recommended to me during a stay at Samudra in Dunsborough: chlorella. Just in case you can’t get chlorella in tablet form you can make an awesome smoothie, this is especially good if you are off for the second night in a row and need an energy boost as well as hangover cure and a boost to fluid levels!

>Note from Hannah: for a basic overview of chlorella’s properties and benefits, you can do a quick google or follow this link.

Recipe #128: Chlorella Smoothie.

Pop into your blender or Thermomix the following ingredients:
► 1 frozen banana
► a small handful of berries
► ½ tsp chlorella
► ½ tsp spirulina
► 1 tsp cacao powder
► 1 tsp maca powder
► 1 tsp acai powder
► 1 glass fortified soy, rice or oat milk
► 1 tbsp honey

Put the blender on high (or speed 8 on the Thermomix) for 1 minute, pressing the Turbo button from time to time.

The drink is enough for two so you can share with a friend or save some for the morning after. When you have tried the smoothie a few times, try slowly increasing the chlorella to maximize the effectiveness of this superfood!

[DISCLAIMER: This article is designed for people going out on a reasonably big session - not an all day, all night party. Sleep might be the only way to help recover from that!]


My guest posts typically get lots of clicks well after they are published – because I only choose talented & interesting people to write on a very foodly diary! Check out previous guest posts via their links:

19 January 2012 at 1:10pm 3 comments

Herbal infusions

As I write this post, I find myself in the final hours of this year’s Dry July, taking slow sips from a cup of my favourite herbal tea.

cup of tea

Herbal teas are not teas in the truest sense, as they contain no actual tea leaves, hence I believe a more apt description for such brews is ‘herbal infusions’. The recipe to follow is my latest and favourite blend and, aside from its great taste, it is inherently medicinal.

Recipe #118: Hannah’s invigorating immunity infusion. Health information for the following herbs comes from The Herb Companion, The A 2 Z of Health, Beauty and Fitness and Home Remedies Web.

You will need:
► 25g mint | There are many different varieties of mint, which has long been employed for its digestive and antifungal properties.
► 25g licorice | Licorice is used to support digestion, respiration and immunity, as an anti-inflammatory, and as a hormone-balancer – and it is said to assist a plethora of specific ailments. I love its delicately sweet flavour.
► 15g astragalus root | I hadn’t even heard of astragalus until David Wolfe introduced me to it at the Samudra raw food retreat earlier this year. This incredible herb is a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, and it is known for building immunity, fighting fatigue and supporting tissue regeneration.
► 10g fennel seeds | Fennel is packed with antioxidants. Aside from treating bad breath and stomach problems, fennel seeds can be used to soothe the upper respiratory congestion – and it is used as a treatment for flatulence.
► 10g basil | I’m not going to use the phrase “packed with antioxidants” again because I am finding that basically every herb is – so take it as a given for everything on this ingredient list. The eugenol in basil makes it especially good for treating arthritis, it aids digestion, and its antiviral/antibacterial properties make it ideal for treating respiratory infections. And its high magnesium content means that it assists good blood flow.
► 10g stinging nettle | This herb is high in iron, and it acts as a diuretic and blood purifier. It stimulates circulation and is great for your skin.

To make the infusion, combine all ingredients together well and store in an airtight container.

blending the herbs

To prepare the tea, I use a stainless steel teapot. I place two teaspoonfuls of the herb blend into the strainer then pour over a little cold water to wet the herbs. I bring a kettle almost to the boil, stopping the process when I feel that the side of the kettle is hot to the touch. I feel that it gives better results if you don’t use absolutely boiling water.

I sourced most of my ingredients from The Herb+Spice+Tea Shop, a little Fremantle Markets stall crammed full of jars with exciting innards. I already had a store of stinging nettle in my pantry, thanks to a months-ago shopping expedition to Kakulas Brothers in Northbridge.

I hope you enjoy this refreshing tea, and that it leaves you feeling loved from within.

H :)

31 July 2011 at 11:39pm 4 comments

Edible soap

I feel more than a little guilty because I have sat on this recipe for about 7 months, and I know it could help others in the same way that it helped me.

edible soap

There was a time when my skin was so bad that I could not use any pre-made preparation on it at all. Soap, soap substitutes and moisturisers all made me itch painfully and uncontrollably. I literally spent hundreds of dollars on products that only worsened the problem.

In desperation, I turned to my pantry and made my own ‘soap’ using food products and Mac – and my experiment paid off. I created a soap alternative that soothed and moisturised my skin at the same time.

The recipe I am about to share does not include any soap (usually tallow, lye and other nasties). I guess that makes it ‘unsoap’. Each ingredient (raw, organic) was hand-picked, based on my limited knowledge of its properties. This makes my unsoap 100% edible and, although it tastes pretty good, I prefer to use it on my body.

Recipe #115: Beauty bar. Makes 2 x 150g bars. I used Mac, my Thermomix, but you could equally use a double-boiler and a whisk.

You will need:
► 50g cacao butter | promoted skin elasticity and healing as it is high in Vitamin E and antioxidants
► 50g coconut oil | a known antifungal and antibacterial agent used, amongst other things, to treat skin problems
► 100g honeycomb | antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal, and even purported to have anticancer properties. Honey and beeswax are also humectants, which means that they attract water
► 75g oat flour | to soothe the skin. The oat flour is an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory, and makes the unsoap milky on your skin as it melts
► 15g macadamia oil | an emollient that helps to soften skin, which is awesome for dry and ageing skin
► 10g avocado oil | rich in essential oils and sterolins, avocado is excellent for your skin
► 1 vanilla pod, chopped into small pieces | I have to confess to including the vanilla pod because I had some prescraped pods (I used the seeds in other recipes). Aside from making the mix smell delightful, vanilla nourishes the skin and the pod itself acts as a mild exfoliant.

Place all ingredients, except for the oat flour, into your Thermomix and stir on speed 1 for 5 mins at 37°C…

the raw ingredients

…until you get this:

all mixed up

Add the oat flour, then blend everything together for 1 minute on speed 3. Pour your mixture into bar-shaped moulds and set in the freezer for at least half an hour.

bars of unsoap

Chop your unsoap bars into single-use slices and store in the fridge or freezer. If you don’t keep the soap cool, you risk finding a melted mess when you next go to use it – and it is absolutely fine to use your unsoap that way too.

all cut up

Although there are no preservatives in the recipe, your unsoap contains multiple antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial agents, and it will last for months if refrigerated.

This may seem an expensive recipe but, when you have tried everything (and everything includes very, ridiculously expensive creams), sometimes a little love is all you need. Your skin will feel waxy after using your unsoap in the bath or shower, however the natural oils do soak into your skin as it dries and cools.

As always, I would love to know if you try this out for yourself.

Have an awesome week!

H :)

21 February 2011 at 6:37pm 35 comments

C is for Cruciferous

‘C’ was going to stand for cauliflower, then I got carried away and put cabbage and broccoli into the mix – and ended up with a superbly good-for-you cruciferous salad.

serving up the cruciferous salad

Cruciferous vegetables, which also include bok choy, radishes and kale, are cancer busters; the phytochemicals in these vegetables stimulate the breakdown of potential carcinogens, as well as being great for your body in many other ways.

Broccoli, for example, is antiviral, antiulcer and a good source of vitamin C, folate, beta carotene and calcium.

Recipe #111: Cruciferous salad with avocado mayonnaise.

You will need – for the salad:
► 1 big clove of garlic
► 1 small handful of flatleaf parsley
► ½ head of cauliflower
► ¼ large savoy or Chinese cabbage
► 1 head of broccoli
► ½ tsp salt

Chop all ingredients finely by pulsing a food processor, Thermomix or really good blender. Alternatively, you could spend a few minutes chopping everything with a sharp knife.

You will need – for the mayonnaise:
► 1 small clove of garlic
► juice of 1 lemon
► 1 avocado
► 1 tbsp honey
► 1 good swirl of olive oil
► 1 cup cashews, soaked in cold water for at least an hour
► salt, to taste

Strain the soaking water from the cashews and process/blend all ingredients together until smooth > add some fresh water if it doesn’t process easily. Taste, then add more salt, lemon juice or olive oil if needed.

You will end up with a tangy spread that tastes similar to mayonnaise, but with added goodness.

the delightfully light avocado mayonnaise

If you don’t like the thought of eating this meal by itself, the salad and mayonnaise can be eaten as a side dish or used in wraps with other fillings, like greens, sundried tomato, red onion, beetroot salad and chilli.

Delicious.

H :)

12 November 2010 at 12:01am 2 comments

Smoodgy coconut balls

This is a delicious 3-ingredient recipe inspired by Fremantle’s The Raw Kitchen [once again!] and it takes less than a minute to make in a Thermomix!

a smoodgy coconut ball

Well, it does take a few extra minutes to roll the mixture, but 1 minute of prep time is nothing to sneeze at. If you have littlies, it also happens to be fun and easy for toddlers to roll and eat.

Did I mention it’s also healthy? I probably should, so here’s a quick treatise on the benefits of each of the ingredients. [Sources, all accessed 3 September 2010: Organic Cashew Nuts; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific); Coconut Research Center; Really Raw Honey; AvianWeb.]

Raw cashews. Cashews are a great source of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, chromium, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, dietary fibre. This means they are good for your heart, skin and hair, teeth and bones, muscles, brain and immunity.

Raw coconut. What does coconut not do? It is an effective antifungal and antibacterial agent used in traditional medicine to treat a litany of illnesses, including asthma, bowel problems, liver disease, kidney stones, skin problems and typhoid.

In spite of being high in saturated fat, coconut is effective in treating obesity and weight issues by increasing the metabolic rate – so you don’t have to suffer a guilt trip every time you eat it. It really is amazing stuff.

Raw honey. Raw is the only way to reap the health benefits of honey. Processed honey is pasteurised (super-heated), which kills off most of the goodness. To borrow a line from Natural Health Ezine:

Raw honey contains 27 minerals, 22 amino acids and 5,000 live enzymes. It keeps you healthy by fighting disease and boosting the digestive system.

It is antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal, and even purported to have anticancer properties. Honey is also a humectant, which means that it attracts water. This makes it ideal for topical application to the skin for burns, ulcers and dryness.

Recipe #108: Smoodgy coconut balls. Makes 16+. I recommend using a food processor or Thermomix to make these.

You will need:
► 280g raw cashews [or cashew pieces]
► 280g raw coconut, dessicated
► 190g raw honey

Start by grinding the cashews into meal > this takes up to 15 seconds in the TM on speed 7.

Next, add the coconut to the cashew meal in the processor/TM and grind together (in the TM, this is will take up to 10 seconds) and check the result. If you think it could be finer, pulse the mixture a few times and check again.

Finally, add the honey to the processor/TM and mix (TM: speed 5 for up to 30 seconds). And voila – you have a white version of the pastry mixture from my pretty little raw petit fours!

Take heaped teaspoonfuls of mixture and form into balls. I roll these around on the chopping board to make them extra smooth. From here, you can either serve the slightly squishy balls immediately, or you can chill them for an hour.

I like to eat mine chilled, then in slices; it makes me feel just a little more dainty and ladylike.

ladylike slices

I think that next time I will roll these in some black sesame seeds for a cool black-and-white effect.

Enjoy!

H :)

3 September 2010 at 8:00pm 14 comments

It’s all about the chocolate, Part 3

I am a little bit in love with myself right now [yes, again, I know!]. I made raw chocolate from scratch and, while I still have much to learn, it is very, very good.

stack of chocolate

Here’s how I did it, and my method is very simple to replicate. With no sugar, gluten or dairy (or other animal products) in this recipe, my chocolate is suitable for vegans and coeliacs :)

Recipe #92: Raw chocolate. All of my ingredients were raw and organic. Note that the methods for batches 1 & 2 are detailed for illustration purposes only and should be avoided if one is serious about making smooth and very delicious chocolate.

Setting up:

► Buy a packet of teeny tiny chocolate cups and set them up on a large platter or two. You’ll need around 55 cups for this recipe.

cases at the ready!

► Clear a space in the fridge that is big enough for the platter(s). Make sure that the door compartments (or anything else) does not butt into this space when you close the fridge door.

► (optional) Place a thin layer of chewy/crunchy bits in the bottom of each cup to add texture to your chocolates. I used goji berries, crushed macadamia nuts and bee pollen.

goji berries and crushed macadamias

The ingredients:

► 170g cacao butter
► 10g coconut butter
► seeds of 1 vanilla pod [split the pod, then scrape the seeds from the middle with a sharp knife]
► 95g agave syrup [or you could use honey]
► good pinch salt
► 1 heaped tbsp maca powder [Maca Magic and Fran's experience give more information and different viewpoints on this supplement/superfood]
► 120g cacao powder [or, if you prefer a more "milk chocolate" flavour, use around half of this amount]

the base ingredients

These ingredients are fairly pricy – I spent $34.95 on 500g cacao butter and $19.95 on cacao powder alone – so I would recommend shopping online. I am just about to start using Raw Power and Loving Earth for my supplies.

Prepare the cacao butter by chopping it into little pieces. This will help it to melt faster.

cacao butter in bits

The methods:

Batch #1 – Melt the fats in the Thermomix, followed by everything else.

When I sourced the ingredients for my raw chocolate, at first blush I was struck by how expensive it is. This is especially true if you seize your chocolate, as I did for Batch #1. My Thermomix theory was sound, I think, but it took me forever (20 minutes) to melt the cacao butter, coconut oil, salt and vanilla at 37°C. I sifted in the maca and cacao powders, added some agave syrup, mixed it all up, and all went swimmingly [see the "before" photo, below] – until I decided that my chocolate needed a touch more sweetness.

Batch #1

Adding that smidgeon more agave syrup (or it could have been a drop of moisture from the Thermomix lid) was the seizing point and the point at which I became very miffed at myself for about half an hour. I tried to revive my grainy mess with more coconut oil; alas, it was a lost cause.

With two ziplock bags full of tasty but seemingly useless brown sludge, I continued on to Batch #2.

Batch #2 – Everything in the Thermomix together, a method inspired by this post in the Quirky Cooking blog.

This didn’t work so well on account of the fact that cacao butter is very hard, not easy to cut through like coconut butter/oil. My Thermomix [incidentally, his name is Mac] got a little caught up in the slow meltage of ingredients and had to stop for a break every few seconds. After about 5 minutes of stop-starting, I poured everything into a double-boiler and whisked vigorously as I melted the mixture down the good old fashioned way.

The end result wasn’t bad. The chocolate was airy and not as smooth as I would have liked, but I really liked the flavour, particularly with the goji berries.

Knowing that I could and would do better, I looked to Batch #3 for results.

Batch #3 – Slow addition ingredients over a double-boiler. Proven method. Awesome result.

I melted the fats with the agave syrup, salt and vanilla over a double-boiler. When this was well and truly melted, I sifted in the cacao and maca powders a little at a time, whisking vigorously and constantly scraping the remnants from around the edge of the bowl. The end result was smooth and delicious.

Batch #3

Setting the chocolate:

I used a dessert spoon to fill the tiny chocolate cups, then I placed the tray of chocolate into the fridge for around 30 minutes to set. I am storing the chocolate in layers separated by baking paper.

goji berry chocolate

Next time, I will make my chocolate with cacao butter alone. I just know Batch #4 will be brilliant; check in with me again soon for a refined recipe!

I included this pic so that you could see what the inside of the chocolate looks like :)

…and what of my seized chocolate (Batch #1)? That’s definitely not going to waste. You’ll have to read my next chocolate post to find out how that chapter ends!

For my earlier adventures in chocolate, look to:

Thus continues my penchant for raw chocolate, which is full of tryptophan, antioxidants and a host of lovely minerals (like magnesium, calcium and zinc).

delectable bite-sized morsels

I had so much fun running my latest chocolate experiments. Thanks for reading – and I hope you are sufficiently inspired to make your very own chocolate!

H :)

5 July 2010 at 10:30pm 2 comments

It’s all about the chocolate, Part 2

A post on chocolate just in time for Easter :)

dark chocolate macaroons

After two chocolate cooking classes in one week, I had one killer of a chocolate hangover.

The first class I attended was on raw chocolate making, run by food-coach Marion Egger in her home on 20 March; the second was a chocolate cooking class by renowned pastry chef Rochelle Adonis, held in the working kitchen of her Brisbane Street studio on 25 March. I thoroughly enjoyed both classes, which were incredibly different and special in their own ways.

My close friends will be able to tell you that I don’t generally follow recipes when I cook – except when it comes to desserts. I am scared of them; any deviation from quantity or method can result in massive failure. So I decided that I needed to learn direct from the experts in order to get over my fears.

At the outset I will tell you that there are no recipes here, out of respect to the artistes. I would encourage you to attend Marion & Rochelle’s classes if you would like to know specific quantities and methods. That said, I will post my own recipes as I build the confidence to experiment with sweet things.

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Marion and her raw chocolate. Thank to Marion, I can now say that I have made chocolate from scratch – though it isn’t exactly as I had originally envisaged. Her class opened my eyes to the health benefits of raw cacao, which I began investigating in a very basic way within my post of 17 April 2009 [I can't believe it has taken me nearly a year to write the sequel to this post!].

The benefits of raw cacao include [sourced from Natural News Network]:

  • it is a rich source of antioxidants;
  • its anandamide levels give a natural high; and
  • it is high in minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc.

Raw food guru David Wolfe further summarises the benefits of raw cacao in this YouTube clip, in which he also talks about cacao’s tryptophan content [tryptophan converts to seratonin, the body's de-stressing neurohormone].

raw cacao nibs

In attempting to write a balanced post, I should also recognise that raw cacao has its detractors. Some experts, including Paul Nilson via Living and Raw Foods and Dr Doug Graham via vegsource.com, purport that cacao is a harmful and even toxic substance. I am finding that there are arguments mounted against many compelling superfood claims, and I encourage you to do your own research and make up your own mind.

And here I harken back to my ‘everything in moderation’ mantra. Most substances seem to have a point at which they are beneficial for the body and a point at which they become toxic. This is true of even of carrots and watermelon, which proves that you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

Anyways, back to the hands-on raw chocolate making.

Our base comprised cocoa butter, coconut oil, a little salt & soy lecithin, and vanilla scraped from the pod. All of this was melted over a double-boiler on low heat.

the raw chocolate base

Then the raw cacao powder was slowly stirred in.

adding the cacao powder

Next, we sweetened the chocolate liqueur with unprocessed honey and agave syrup [unrelated fact: agave is the base ingredient for tequila]. I actually like the taste of the nibs by themselves and thought the chocolate was divine without the sweeteners…

in with the honey and agave

We poured the finished chocolate into little patty pans over various goodies, including crushed macadamia nuts, almonds, bee pollen, cacao nibs, and rehydrated goji berries mixed with spirulina powder.

added texture

The chocolates were set in the freezer within an hour (ie. ready to eat – though they are best eaten the next day), after which point they were transferred to the refrigerator. Their low melting point means they must be stored in the fridge.

one of the goji-spirulina chocolates

Goji coconutty delicious!

If you would like more information on this or other cooking classes, contact Marion directly via her website: www.foodcoaching.com.au.

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Chocolate cooking with Rochelle Adonis. This class was intimate (12 participants) and great fun as well as a valuable learning experience. It is just as well this was an observational class – I took so many notes that I wouldn’t have had time to cook!

Warning: you will have a chocolate hangover the next day if you eat everything on the night. Aside from the treats created from the recipe sheets, you may even end up with a couple of other experimental goodies…

Creations from the night:

  • milk chocolate icecream – this was moulded and dipped in Rochelle’s own version of Ice Magic to create a Magnum-like treat (only much, much better!). Look out for these in the studio soon – they are absolute bliss;
  • white chocolate cherry slice – a cherry version of the ‘blondie’ slice from the studio;
  • Valrhona chocolate mousse – this rich mousse was my favourite creation of the night;
  • liqueur chocolate truffles – the best I have tasted. So worth the effort; and
  • dark chocolate macaroons.

I was so inspired by the ease and simplicity with which Rochelle, Rix (Head Chef) and Jade made the macaroons that I knew I had to try them for myself.

My first attempt was abysmal:

macaroon feet, close up

After discovering the perils of macaroon feet first-hand [tip: you should aim for a slight rise, known as the 'skirt'. Skirts that spread are known as 'feet' - and feet are very, very bad], I decided that further research was needed – and this extra work made all the difference.

These are the sites that helped me on my way to better quality macaroons:

  • Serious Eats – for a history and deconstruction of the perfect macaroon;
  • My Food Geek – including a recipe for ‘almost foolproof macaroons’ that results in very fabulous-looking macaroons;
  • David Lebovitz – hints from a talented Parisian pastry chef; and
  • Tasty Trifles – for a fuller description of a ‘foot fail’ and more excellent links to helpful sites.

Still using Rochelle’s recipe, my second batch was far more successful – but I have much to learn before I have a result of which I am truly proud.

still a lot to learn, but my second batch was infinitely more successful

I glued similarly-sized cookies together with a fine chocolate ganache that included a little unsalted butter for added fun.

filling the macaroons

The delicious result ended up on my sister’s dining table as an offering toward her Easter brunch.

a plate of delicious dark chocolate macaroons/macarons

Learnings:

  • If you’re purchasing pre-ground almond meal, regrind it in a food processor to make sure it’s superfine. Do you see the tiny bumps on the surface of my second batch of macaroons? They are there because I didn’t get the almond meal fine enough.
  • Don’t over-grind the almond meal – it turns into paste. And if you do overgrind the almond meal, don’t use it in the macaroons; start with a fresh batch of blanched almonds or meal [see photo from my first batch of macaroons if you need a reason as to why...].
  • Strain all the dry ingredients through a fine chinois. It really does make a difference to the texture of the finished product.
  • Pipe with a large, round nozzle. The nozzle I used was too small, resulting in the Hershey Kiss finish you see in the photos.
  • Know your oven. I needed to cook my macaroons for close to 15 minutes, rather than the 10-12 minutes indicated in the recipe, and I also had to turn my tray half way through the baking process.

Rochelle’s cooking classes extend far beyond chocolate. Check out her website for contact details: www.rochelleadonis.com.

*

I hope my experience has inspired you to research and cook more chocolate for yourself – and, if you have your own tips for awesome macaroons, I would love to hear about them!

Wishing you a safe and happy Easter break,

H :)

PS. Oh, and here is a picture of one of the gluten-free chocolate fondant puddings I baked on 26 March [base recipe from Pease Pudding]:

a mini gluten-free chocolate fondant cake, served with double cream

They were scrumplicious.

PPS. As a completely random aside, I found that taste.com.au details a handy grams-to-cups conversion table for Australian recipes. Beware of the fact that most other online conversion tools are for US measures and won’t be accurate for Australian recipes.
> US cup=236.6mL; Aust cup= 250mL


Addendum of 16 April 2010: Before I forget, here is a picture of a sample from my 3rd batch of macaroons [my birthday macaroons were my 4th batch].

the third batch of macaroons

This batch was much paler than my prior attempts; I have used a different method each time I have made these sweet treats and have liked them all in their own way. I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of macaroons, and they’re not as scary as I first imagined.

3 April 2010 at 4:20pm 10 comments

A different kind of prescription

making the tea

Those who know me well will be aware that I am not a huge advocate of the medical profession – unless your medical condition involves a broken limb or an advanced form of some heinous disease. Or if you need a medical certificate. It’s really nothing personal; I have just been misdiagnosed and over-prescribed so many times over the years that I have been left with trust issues.

[Incidentally, why is it that so many GPs still insist on prescribing antibiotics when they are convinced you have a virus? It's like they're in league with the pharmaceutical companies - or the superbugs.]

My favourite misdiagnoses over the years include:

  • contact dermatitis, when I actually had a zinc deficiency;
  • chicken pox, which turned out to be ringworm; and
  • pregnancy when, as a virginal 14-year old who looked like a 10-year old [I was a late bloomer], I had sunstroke. I had been at a swimming carnival in full sun on the previous day.

Stepping off my soapbox, maybe you now understand my apprehensions. You may also share in my surprise when, after a recent visit to my local GP where I expected no more than a medical certificate, she turned to me with, “Yes, that sounds like the virus that’s going around at the moment -” (but that wasn’t the surprising bit, this was:) “would you like a natural remedy?”

“Y-yes,” I stammered, taken off-guard. With that, she started writing out a different kind of prescription.

my prescription

“You can add some honey if you like, for taste,” she added as I walked out the door. So I thanked her and I went home and I made it.

As the good doctor suggested, I used the blend as an inhalant first, then drank it as a tea once per day for three consecutive days. It was sweet and clean-tasting. Quite delicious really, even without the honey. And I believe that it actually did my mind and body good.

So what are the health benefits of coriander seeds and ginger? Among other advantages, both spices have properties that strengthen the immune system.

Coriander seeds. I discovered that these seeds have a positive effect on basically every ailment. Health Diaries distills much of the information available on other sites into a simple list of benefits, which include:

  • great for skin & aiding digestion;
  • high in flavinoids, phytonutrients, iron & magnesium – magnesium is essential for dealing with stress;
  • an effective treatment for nausea & high cholesterol; and
  • a natural barrier to salmonella poisoning.

Ginger. I first introduced ginger as an antimicrobial in my post of 13 April 2009. Since then, I have discovered that ginger is also anti-viral, anti-toxic, and anti-fungal – which means it is also a useful cure for colds & flus (source: suite101.com).

Kitchen Wisdom is a helpful reference to the health benefits of certain foods, including ginger.

 
Thank you, Dr G, for restoring my faith in GPs and for my natural remedy.

24 November 2009 at 10:00pm 2 comments

Mum’s cold & flu remedy

I am fending off the flu and have fortunately had my mum here looking after me for the last couple of days. I say ‘fortunately’, but I am sweating pure garlic as a result. You see, mum swears by garlic – truckloads of raw garlic – to kill off the dreaded lurgy.

This was yesterday’s brunch, courtesy of my loving mum:

its innocent appearance belies its dark secret...millions of garlic slices concealed within...

Brunch comprised a garlic, tomato and parsley sandwich, accompanied by a Thermomixed salad of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, parsley, garlic and cashew nut mayonnaise [= cashews + water + lemon juice + salt]. Surprisingly delicious, even if the garlic was a little burny on the throat :)

Googling ‘garlic cold remedy’ today revealed 66,800 search results, which goes to show that there is plenty of support for mum’s cold & flu cure.

A less offensive fix I have always stood by is the old faithful honey & lemon in boiled water, which is also a good way to keep your fluids up when your body needs them the most. Taking vitamin C and/or zinc (in fruit/veg or tablet form) combats symptoms and boosts immunity; ginger and chilli are also helpful when you’re fighting fever.

When I had the flu a couple of years ago, a project team member shared their failsafe method for kicking a cold or flu: pour a standard glass of wine and top it up – all the way to the top of the glass – with brandy. I didn’t try it, mostly because of the obvious holes in this method:

  1. Size of glass? Wine glasses can vary considerably in size. I used to own 750mL wine glasses…;
  2. Size of person? The team member who shared this information was male and considerably larger than I; and
  3. How was it supposed to work? Was it supposed to knock me out, or just get the germs drunk? Prior reading about alcohol tells me that it destroys vitamins B & C in your body and causes dehydration…

I am thinking that an infusion of garlic, ginger, chilli, lemon and honey will work best for me. In fact, I am off to try it now – via tom yum gai, which pretty much embodies these elements [just substitute lime for lemon, palm sugar for honey].

As always, I am keen to hear from you: What cold & flu remedies have worked for you? What ‘cures’ have you heard about but are just not game enough to try?

29 July 2009 at 9:15am 3 comments


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