Sunday, 24 November 2013

Banana Date Loaf

This recipe originally came from my good friend Hannah (thanks Hannah!) and I've adapted it slightly. This is what I call an impossible cake, because it doesn't contain any of the usual cake ingredients- no butter, sugar or eggs! It's egg and dairy free and substituting the wholemeal flour for a gluten free mix would also make this cake wheat and gluten free. And if you're not into dates, don't worry, they disappear into the cake and really just provide some great sweetness.

It's simple and a great alternative to banana bread, a perfect mid-morning snack and could also be baked as muffins! Full of fibre from the fruit, nuts and wholemeal flour, omega-3 fats from the walnuts and linseed in the LSA, and none of the refined sugar and saturated fat that usually accompanies a banana bread.

Banana Date Loaf
1C ripe mashed banana (you'll need around 2 bananas)
1C water
3/4C pitted dates, chopped
2C self-raising wholemeal flour
¼ C walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp almond meal
2 Tbsp LSA (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds and almond meal)
2 Tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp honey 

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
2. Place water and dates in a saucepan over medium heat for ~5-8mins or until the dates soften and start to break down.
3. Take off the heat, allow to cool slightly, then stir in flour, banana, vanilla, cinnamon and nuts (you may need some extra water to get it to a thick cake batter consistency).
4. Place into the loaf tin. Sprinkle with almond meal, LSA and crumbed walnuts, then drizzle with honey.
5. Bake for 45-60mins, or until set (it may take longer than this, depending on your oven).
6. Serve fresh or toasted, on it's own or with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

4 pantry staples, 17 meal ideas!

So many people adapt recipes to suit what they already have in the house. So a well stocked pantry can make planning dinner a whole lot easier (if you have a few good ideas on hand!)...

I've developed a (by no means extensive!) list of some pantry staples and ideas of meals you can use them in for the next time you're stuck staring at the pantry trying to decide what to cook for dinner:

Canned diced tomatoes- Go for no-added-salt versions

Use use diced tomatoes mixed with onion, garlic and herbs as a substitute for pre-made pasta sauces.
  • Spaghetti Bolognaise (Just add lean beef mince, onion, garlic, oregano, grated carrot and zucchini, tomato paste and a splash of red wine. The longer you simmer, the better the flavour. Serve with pasta and a green salad)
  • Tomato, capsicum and red kidney bean chilli (Saute onion, garlic and mexican chilli powder, add red capsicum, diced tomato and red kidney beans. Serve with brown rice or pearl cous cous, or pour into individual ramekins, crack an egg in the centre and cook in the oven like a baked egg!)
  • Minestrone soup (Simmer with beef stock, cannellini beans, ham, small pasta and assorted veg and serve with crusty bread)
  • Chicken enchiladas (Cook a 'tomato sauce' with the diced tomatoes, onion and garlic. Combine half of this mixture with shredded chicken, red kidney beans, grated carrot and zucchini. Fill into wholegrain tortillas and bake topped with extra 'tomato sauce' and reduced fat grated cheese. Before serving, slice avocado onto the top of the enchiladas)
  • Beef and spinach lasagne (Add diced tomatoes to lean beef mince, onion, garlic and herbs. Once cooked and thickened, layer with lasagne sheets, baby spinach and a white sauce made of ricotta, basil pesto and milk. Top with parmesan, bake, and serve with a green salad) 

Canned beans- Go for no-added salt versions

Try red kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini (white) beans, or four-bean mix. The small 125g cans are perfect for meals for one!
  • Tacos (Simmer red kidney beans with lean beef mince, onion, tomato paste, mexican chilli powder and fresh chilli. Fill tacos with beef mixture, avocado, reduced fat grated cheese, tomato and lettuce)
  • Stuffed capsicums (click here for the recipe)
  • Bean based vegie patties (Mash chickpeas or four-bean mix with pumpkin or sweet potato, garlic, chilli, spring onion, breadcrumbs and lemon juice. Shape into patties, coat lightly in more breadcrumbs and refrigerate before baking in the oven. Serve on wholegrain rolls with tzatziki and salad)
  • Grilled fish and white bean mash (Mash beans with a little olive oil, garlic and pepper as an alternative to mashed potato. Serve with grilled fish, roast veg and lemon)
  • Roast veg & chickpea salad (Combine roasted veg- think pumpkin, capsicum, red onion- with chickpeas, baby spinach, fetta and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar)

Rice- Go for brown rice or low GI white rice such as doongarra or basmati

Rice is great both as a side dish or as the base of a main meal. It can suit so many different cuisines- think Asian, Indian, Spanish or Mexican!
  • Cashew nut beef stir fry (stir fry beef, onion, veg and cashew nuts with garlic, soy sauce and chilli jam. Serve with steamed rice)
  • Mexican rice (Saute onion, garlic, chilli, paprika and cumin. Add rice, chicken stock and tomato paste. When rice is nearly cooked add red kidney beans and parsley. Serve with chicken and capsicum skewers and salad)
  • Chicken curry (Use Thai red or green curry paste and Carnation Light and Creamy Evaporated Milk as a base for a chicken curry. Make sure the curry has plenty of veg in it and serve with steamed rice)
  • Healthy fried rice (Cook finely diced capsicum, mushrooms, zucchini and carrot with onion, garlic and ginger. Toss with ham, cooked rice and soy sauce. Top with a chopped plain egg omelette and spring onion)

Stock- Go for reduced salt versions

Chicken, beef or vegetable stock can add an extra dimension of flavour to many dishes.
  • Hoisin chicken with vegetables and egg noodles (Cook thinly sliced veg with dried egg noodles in chicken stock. Meanwhile grill chicken marinated in half a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry and ginger. Drain some of the excess stock and stir through remaining sauce mixture. Serve in a bowl topped with grilled chicken)
  • Slow cooked lamb ragu (Saute onion, garlic, carrot, celery and zucchini. Add browed diced lamb, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and beef stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 1-2 hours (alternatively, cook in a slow cooker). Serve with green beans and pasta or pearl cous cous)
  • Chicken, mushroom and spinach risotto (Saute onion, mushrooms and diced carrot. Add aborio rice and white wine and stir to coat. Add one ladel of chicken stock at a time, stirring until nearly absorbed. Once rice is cooked, add baby spinach and parmesan and stir though pan-fried chicken pieces)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Berry Yoghurt & Coconut Balls

These yoghurty balls of goodness are a yummy surprise. Based on yoghurt, crushed All Bran, dried cranberries and coconut, these are light and a great snack (but their sweet and creamy taste will fool you!). The best part is you can vary these using different flavoured yoghurts and dried fruit. Chia seeds are currently enjoying their time in the spot light, no longer confined to health nuts like me! But they can still be expensive, so this recipe works just as well by coating the balls in plain coconut.

I used Yoplait Forme Greek yoghurt...
no fat and no added sugar, but still thick and creamy!

2 x 150g tubs Yoplait Forme Greek berry flavoured yoghurt (or other low fat berry flavoured yoghurt)
¾ C All Bran (crushed) OR ½ C oatbran
½ C desiccated coconut
½ C almond meal
2 Tbsp dried cranberries, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

To coat:
3 Tbsp desiccated coconut
2 Tbsp chia seeds

1.     Place All Bran in a large snap lock bag, seal and crush with a rolling pin until fine.

Avoid the mess and crush the cereal in a snap lock bag

2.     Combine All Bran with coconut, almond meal, yoghurt, cranberries and vanilla. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

3.     Combine remaining coconut with chia seeds. Roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and drop into 
         chia seed and coconut mix.

4.     Refrigerate for at least 30 mins before serving.

Note: Makes ~45 balls. Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Small changes that can add up to a big difference to your weight!

Trying to lose weight isn't easy. There's no quick fix. It will be hard and it will take time.

Trying to tackle the issue of weight loss is hard enough without having to make lots of big changes all at once to your diet and lifestyle. No wonder so many people fall off the band wagon! You are much more likely to stick to your goals if they are:

               SMART (specific, measurable, acheivable, realistic and time-based)

Start with small changes and you will find them a lot easier to stick to and rewarding when you can actually acheive them!

I've put together a list of mini goals to help you get started on some of the weight loss basics. These are small changes that can add up to a big difference to your weight...

Reduce your portion sizes
  • Use a smaller plate or try not to make the meal spill out onto the rim of the plate
  • At dinner-time, fill half your plate with vegetables or salad first, before adding the rest of the meal  - this will automatically reduce your meat and carbohydrate portions while still satisfying you with the same volume of food
  • Serve out meals in the kitchen and pack leftovers away in a container in the fridge before you eat, to make it more difficult to go back for seconds
  • Opt to downsize rather than upsize when ordering out: go for a small cappuccino or juice instead of a regular; skip the meal deals and you'll avoid the extra kilojoules in the softdrink and fries
  • When eating out, ask the waiter to 'doggy-bag' what you don't eat (this way you won't feel like you have to finish it in the restaurant) 

Don't miss out on all you enjoy: everything in moderation
  • When eating out, share an entree or dessert
  • Don't be afraid to ask for sauces or dressings on the side
  • Practice mindful eating: when you have a craving for something unhealthy, such as chips or chocolate or softdrink, wait 10 minutes and if you still want it, take a small portion (such as 2 squares of chocolate) and make a point of eating if very slowly, and actually savour and enjoy it. You'll find you are satisfied even after that small amount
Reduce the amount of takeaway and fast food you eat
  • Bake double batches of meals like Bolognaise, soup and casseroles and freeze the remainder in individual or family-sized portions for those night's you're too busy to cook (then you'll have no excuse for grabbing takeaway on the way home from a busy day)
  • Utilise leftovers- they make great lunches
  • Keep a supply of lunch ingredients at work (such as tinned tuna, wholegrain crackers or wraps, four bean mixes, salad dressing and a few salad items)
  • Make home cooking fun and keep it interesting by searching for new recipe ideas and let each family member choose a new (healthy) recipe to make (or help make) one night a week
  • Always carry a healthy snack with you (such as a muesli bar, piece of fruit or snap lock bag of trial mix) to prevent those bad hunger decisions
  • Take turns with friends to have dinner at each others houses to catch up instead of eating out (bring back the good ol' fashioned dinner parties I say!)

Reduce the amount of high kilojoule/calorie foods that you eat
  • Swap full cream milk to reduced fat milk (and the same for all other dairy foods)
  • Swap regular mince to lean or heart smart mince and trim fat off meat before cooking
  • Swap juice for fruit
  • Swap softdrink for sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon
  • Base your meals and snacks on vegetables and fruit, lean meat, low fat dairy and wholegrain breads and cereals
Become more aware of what you eat
  • Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat (including amounts). You'll be amazed at how much this can change you're eating habits because you don't want to write it down and become accountable for it!
  • Eat regular meals and where possible have set meal times (for example, breakfast at 7am, morning tea at 10am, lunch at 1pm, afternoon tea at 4pm and dinner at 7pm). This way you don't get famished if a meal is late and eat twice as much
  • Plan your meals for the week, write a shopping list, and stick to it!
  • Be aware of your body's hunger and fullness signals- eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are around 80% full

Increase the amount of exercise you do
  • Meet friends for a walk instead of a coffee
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walk to a colleagues office instead of sending an email
  • Stand up or walk around while speaking on the phone (even standing burns more kilojoules than sitting and has been shown to reduce our disease risk)
  • Park a bit further away and walk the rest (it will also solve your issues of finding a park!)