Pesto perfecto: Kale and Walnut Pesto

I won’t claim credit.

This is a raw pesto dish hubby made for me one evening.

Served on a bed of raw zucchini noodles, it was one of the best homemade dinners I’ve had in a while.

Kale & Walnut Pesto

leaves from 1 bunch kale
1/4 cup walnuts
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon – juiced and zested
sea salt and pepper

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

If you want a runnier pesto, add more olive oil.  If you like it thick, it could also serve as a dip for vegetable crudites.

Quirky fact:  Did you know walnuts have been revered since ancient times as a symbol of intelligence.  It is attributed to the similarity of their kernels to that of the human brain.  Enriched with health-benefiting nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids (a 25g serving provides a whopping 90% RDI), it’s an apt correlation.

It could also be called the ‘beauty’ nut, containing about 21g of Vitamin E per 100g (that’s 140% of your daily required levels!)  

P.S.  Walnut and kale is used here, as this is what was in our fridge.  I don’t see why these ingredients couldn’t be substituted for similar items.  Cashew and spinach pesto, anyone?

pretty pesto

pretty pesto

Magnifique Matcha macaroons, Oh mon Dieu!

Look what came in the mail for me today.

kawaii kenko

kawaii kenko

How cute is that?  It’s right up there along with giggling infants, dimples, Mini Coopers and baby pandas.

It was sent by Melbourne-based Kenko Tea, a premium matcha online retailer.  I’d used matcha in a past post whereby I concocted a raw vanilla cheesecake using a mung bean crust.  However only a dusting of matcha was used – it was not the centre of attention.

I did a lil more digging around and discovered there’s matcha.. and there’s MATCHA.  Let me explain.  Like any fruit or vegetable, the more vibrant the colour = the more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains.  Makes sense.  Who’d want a light mauve eggplant over one a fetching deep shade of royal purple?

I took the photos below to illustrate the varying grades of this wonder powder.

gorgeous green

gorgeous green

Yeah, this is mine… all mine.  Note the intensity of the hue.  And the smell when I popped open the container was just wow.  Pure freshness in a can.  Eau de fresh!

not so green

not so green

Yeah, the above pic is not my matcha obviously.

I was keen to do two things:  brew myself a well-earned cuppa matcha.  Check.  Experiment with Kenko Tea’s premium matcha in the kitchen.  A ha…

This is what transpired.

Raw Magic Matcha Macaroons

2 tbs matcha green tea powder
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried coconut
3-4 tbs tahini
3-4 tbs cup agave
¼ tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: carob nibs, orange zest

Food process the coconut and sunflower seeds first until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Food process everything else and shape into cute macaroon-esque balls.  Done.  Haha, short and sweet right.

If it’s too dry, gradually add more tahini, vanilla extract or agave.  Conversely, if you went overboard on the liquid, add more dried coconut bit by bit.  I had carob nibs in the pantry so threw them in there for an extra crunch factor.

Shape into macaroons and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes.

matcha macaroon heaven

matcha macaroon heaven

I was interested to find out more about the Man behind the Matcha.  This is what I discovered….

Sam James, 27, has called the kitchen a second home ever since embarking on a chef apprenticeship at the age of 16.  He works on Kenko Tea during the day before working the evening shift at a Melbourne restaurant. 

Kenko Tea creatively fuses together his passions for quality ingredients, health and funky packaging.

Why did you start Kenko Tea?

I decided to start my own project as after living in Melbourne CBD for the last few years, I’d noticed the specialty coffee culture in Melbourne explode.   I’ve always had an eye for food trends and first came across matcha online when researching its health benefits and high levels of antioxidants.

I couldn’t find any GOOD matcha in Melbourne.  I read about matcha being an amazing, sweet, fresh and bright green super tea that whisks up a layer of crema.  The ones I tasted were horrible unless mixed with loads of sugar and milk. So that’s why I started Kenko Tea, to bring high grade matcha to Australia.

What prompted you on the health and wellness path?

I’ve had a growing interest in nutrition, food and health for a few years now. I was miserable in my early 20’s – the lifestyle that comes with working in kitchens is characterised by long hours, high stress, bad diet, no social life.

I started searching for healthier ways to manage stress. This led me down all sorts of paths – meditation, yoga, martial arts, gym, cutting out sugar/processed foods etc.  These days I notice straight away if I haven’t exercised for a few days or go back to eating junk.  I am still learning what works best for me.

Why the interest in matcha?

Besides the health benefits, it was the intense colour that appealed to me.  It was something new and exciting, an ingredient I’d never experimented with.  It’s incredibly versatile – to drink on its own as a tea, made into a green smoothie, or added to desserts and sweets.

The history behind matcha is fascinating.  It was used by samurai and Zen monks for meditation and the stone grinding production methods are the same methods they’ve used for centuries.  The more I learn about matcha, the more I Iove it.

How matcha benefits me:

Matcha makes me feel energized, refreshed, alert and focused without the jittery or wired feeling of coffee.  Matcha’s high levels of L-theanine which when combined with caffeine, delivers caffeine to the bloodstream over a longer period, so you feel calm and alert for 4-6 hours without coffee’s massive ups and downs.  I receive emails constantly from customers saying exactly this regarding their energy levels.

Describe a typical day for you: 

Wake up 9am, make a matcha smoothie, check emails, pack any orders and go to post office, check emails, write more content for my website, experiment with matcha recipes, send out any more orders before post office shuts. Then I head to work.

Life motto:

If you don’t design your own life someone else will happily do it for you.

The Kenko Tea Co in 5 years’ time: 

Matcha is the superfood of superfoods.  It’s the next gojiberry, acai berry, maca, cacao and spirulina all rolled into one. Kenko Tea will be the number one source of high grade, artisanal matcha green tea in Australia, and the world.

my matcha

my matcha

Raw. Decadent. Thick. Pudding. Psyllium?

Spot the odd one out.  Psyllium… first off, what is it?

Psyllium is usually sold as psyllium husk in powder form. You can find it in health food stores, and its stocked in IGA, Coles and Woolies too.  Its often marketed as a colon cleanser, a reliable and natural remedy for constipation.  So sexy – not.

This recipe came by accident.

My intention was to make chia pudding, but instead of reaching for the chia seed container I poured in psyllium husks instead!  D’oh!  My mistake turned into a discovery… pysllium has the same effect as chia seeds poured into liquid, mixed and left to set.  Thickens to a pudding or jelly very nicely!

Why I didn’t realise this earlier I don’t know.  I’d known about psyllium for quite a number of years, but the usual M.O. of taking psyllium is mixing a tablespoon with water or juice, or sprinkling it over cereal.  As I’d never had a problem with *ahem* regularity, I didn’t investigate further uses and applications.

At a fraction of the price of chia seeds, I’ve found a new egg (1 tbs psyllium + 2 tbs water) and agar-agar replacer for raw treats.  Win!  For my gluten-intolerant bakers, you can morph baked goods into gluten-free versions by substituting psyllium for regular flour.  I imagine it would give an extra ‘lift’ when baking.  Taking advantage of its thickening ability, it could be added to soups and stews to generate a creamier consistency too.

psyllium pudding

psyllium pudding

Important notes:  make sure you drink extra water to ensure the psyllium can move easily through the colon. Its fibres absorb waste in the stomach and carry it out from the colon.  Psyllium should be taken on an empty stomach.  Regular intake is said to promote weight loss as it shifts stubborn built-up body toxins.

Without further ado, here’s a pudding recipe even a man can’t stuff up.

Raw Cacao Coconut Pudding

1-2 tbs psyllium husk (start with 1 tbs if you’re not accustomed to taking psyllium)
stevia or agave, to taste
2-3 tbs raw cacao powder
2-3 tbs shredded coconut
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat)

Mix ingredients into a large mug or small bowl.  Let it thicken – leave for an hour or so.

As it was a blistery cold and windy night, I heated the oat milk and poured it in.  The heat enabled it to thicken instantly.. probably less than a minute of stirring it.

I had a thick rich gooey chocolatey treat – minus the guilt!

What other flavour variations can you come up with?

Hope you’re staying warm and toasty … till next time.

pudding in a cup

pudding in a cup

Anti-Aging Vitamin A: Raw Creamy Carrot & Pumpkin Soup

Given the chilly, wet weather of late I have been feeling like soup most days.  Not to mention I have been lazy as!  Blenders are a God-send in these situations.

This soup is rich in Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that also moonlights as retinol.  Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy teeth, skin, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes; and aids immune function by providing a barrier against infections of the skin, lungs and mouth.

It comes from two main types of foods:  retinol and carotenes.  Veges such as carrots, sweet potatoes and rockmelons are orange-coloured due to their carotene content. 

raw carrot + pumpkin

raw carrot + pumpkin

Slurp this up regularly and you’ll have glowing skin without the pricey moisturisers and exfoliators!  The vitamin A neutralises the adverse effects of free radicals, the number one culprit of age-related degeneration and disease.

Vitamin A Anti-aging Soup

2 carrots, chopped
2 cups butternut pumpkin, chopped
handful of raw cashews (soaked the night before)
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3-5 dates (soaked the night before)
sea salt and black pepper
1-2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a powerful blender and whizz until it becomes thick and creamy.  Add more or less water depending on how thick you want the soup to be.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Best eaten immediately.

vitamin A power

vitamin A power

Raw Vanilla Matcha Cheesecake with Sprouted Mung Bean Crust

This is by far my most experimental creation yet.  I must have been channeling Heston Blumenthal in a serious way!

I love my raw cheesecakes as much as anyone else, however the generous use of nuts in both the crust and the filling leave me feeling a little heavy.

I wanted to maintain the slight crunch factor characteristic of crushed nuts and thought sprouted mung beans would be a good substitute.

Mung beans are a common dessert in Asia, able to be served hot or cold and usually accompanied with generous lashings of sweetened coconut milk.

In keeping with the Asian influences, I opted for a regular vanilla filling using silken tofu, and sprinkled matcha powder on top.

For those that don’t know, matcha is finely milled or finely ground Japanese green tea.  The difference is you are consuming the whole tea leaf, not just the liquid from steeping it.  Therefore its nutritional benefits far outweigh traditional green tea (10x more in fact).  Here’s a concise matcha article which is quite informative – on a bodybuilding website out of all places!

In short, matcha….

  • Is packed with antioxidants including the powerful EGCg
  • Boosts metabolism and burns calories
  • Is a natural and effective detoxer
  • Mood and concentration enhancer
  • Rich in fibre, vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
  • Fights against viruses and bacteria
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

Raw Vanilla Matcha Tofu Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups sprouted mung beans
1 tbs coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped soaked dates (reserve liquid)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

protein-rich mung bean crust

protein-rich mung bean crust

Filling:

250g silken tofu
2-3 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs vanilla essence
3 tbs agave
reserved date liquid (to taste)
1 tbs lemon juice

To make the crust, simply food process all the ingredients until they come together.  Press the resulting paste into a springform pan and put in the freezer to harden while you make the filling.

Blend or food process the filling ingredients.  Taste test and adjust seasonings.  If it tastes a bit “tofu-ish” add more lemon juice and agave.

Once you’re happy with the taste of the filling, spoon it over the prepared crust.  Leave in the freezer to firm up, approx 1-2 hours.

Sprinkle with raw matcha powder for an antioxidant hit!

P.S. I mixed then froze leftover filling and mung beans… it’s like mung bean vanilla icecream!

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake