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

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Nut-free Raw Noodles Gado-Gado style

I was yearning for the Indonesian salad ‘gado gado’.  Come to think of it, not the salad itself but rather the sauce this dish is renowned for.  Gado-gado is arguably the Western equivalent of a house salad, available at high end restos or streetside food carts around the nation.  Traditionally consisting of vegetables boiled within an inch of their lives and generously coated with peanut sauce, it’s devoid of any nutrition!  Typical blanched veges range from cabbage, spinach, bean sprouts, carrot and corn.  Toppings are raw sliced cucumber, deep-fried sliced tofu, deep fried tempeh, sliced boiled potatoes and sliced boiled eggs.

My sauce is much thinner than the authentic version, as I didn’t fancy my raw noodles becoming gluggy and limp.

Yep, been on a South East Asian trend lately.  I must be homesick.

beautiful bali

beautiful bali

Nut-free Gado Gado Salad

Raw noodles

1 spiralised zucchini (you could use carrot or beetroot too!)

Sauce

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbs palm sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbs lime juice
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
2 cups hot water

Use a spiraliser to shred zucchini into noodle-like strips.  If you haven’t got one, use a veg peeler – your noodles will be thick a la fettuccine.

In a food processor, blitz all sauce ingredients until a saucey texture is achieved.  Taste and tweak seasonings if necessary.  You won’t use all the sauce in one go.  Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

Arrange noodles on a plate and pour over as much sauce as you like.

Now… does anyone have any raw pad thai recipes to share?  And I am yet to think of a way to ‘uncook’ Vietnamese fresh spring rolls too.  Any ideas?

Happy Friday everybody, have a great weekend!

gado gado inspired noodles

gado gado inspired noodles

Try a Tantalising Thai-inspired Salad Tonight

With Spring less than 2 weeks away in good ol’ P-town I was craving salad for lunch.  Furthermore, most of Monday (today) has been blessed with mucho quantities of sunshine, fresh breezes and chirping birds.  It makes the first day of the working week just that much more bearable.

This is based on the classic Thai ‘som tum’ salad.  I couldn’t for the life of me find any green papaya so made do with the contents of my veg crisper.

Take it from me – the dressing will take the veggies you use to a whole other level.

Raw Thai Salad

Dressing:

2 red chillies (sliced thinly)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
4 tbs tamari or nama shoyu
4 tbs lime juice
4 tbs sweetener (I used rapadura sugar)

Salad:

handfuls of sliced purple cabbage, zucchini, fennel, sprouted mung beans
unseasoned cauliflower rice (I had a batch the night before so threw this in there to bulk it up)

NB: Cauliflower rice?  Dead easy.  Blitz chunks of cauliflower in a food processor until crumbly.

To make the dressing put all ingredients in a blender and press ON.  Done!

Serve salad onto plates and drizzle with dressing.  Top with chopped raw nuts or seeds (I used cashew and sunflower seeds).

Bask in the sunshine while eating.  Daydream you’re lazing on a beach in Koh Samui getting massages and sipping cocktails.

P.S.  Want to up the protein content?  Add chunks of tofu or tempeh.

P.P.S.  If you have a low tolerance for heat, remove the seeds or just use one chilli.

Till next time!  Hope you all had a good start to the working week.

tasty thai

tasty thai

 

Sugah, sugah.. can it be good f’yah? Raw Blueberry Crumble

OMG.  Was that the title I came up with?  Obviously I was never destined for super stardom as a rapper.  Yep, hanging up those pimp mamma boots up as we speak.

Moving right along!  There has been widespread vilification of sugar.  Sugars come from a variety of sources, not all of which are as bad for you as reported.  Repeat after me.  Refined sugar, bad; natural sugar, good.

Being a health conscious vegan, I’ve used a variety of sugars and sugar substitutes.  These range from:

  • Beet sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Maple sugar / syrup
  • Agave nectar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Fructose fruit granules
  • Molasses
  • Irish Moss
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Yacon syrup
  • Stevia
  • Succanat or turbinado sugar
  • Rapadura sugar

The ones in bold are said to be the ‘healthiest’ of the bunch.

Cyndi O’Meara (nutritionist, author and self-confessed health nut) of Changing Habits sent over a bag of Rapadura Sugar for me to use.

Rapadura sugar is sugar cane which has been juiced and dehydrated. Unlike refined sugar which has zilch nutritional value, rapadura retains cane juice’s vitamins and minerals. Containing a natural balance of sucrose, glucose and fructose, it’s known as a healthier sugar as its easier to digest and metabolise. Changing Habits’ rapadura is produced organically, free of chemicals or anti-caking agents.

The knowledgeable Cyndi further educates us about sugars:  “’Raw’ sugar is not really raw – it has been heated at high temperatures and a lot of the minerals and vitamins are gone. It’s better than refined sugar because it has a little of the molasses still clinging to it. Some sugar is sold as ‘organic’ raw sugar, and people think this means it’s unrefined – all it really means is that it’s grown with organic agricultural methods, then refined as usual… the juice (molasses) has been mostly removed, and there’s not really much goodness in it.”

Hey, any nutritionist who believes chocolate can be good for you must know what they’re talking about!

I’d heard from friends that kefir grains and kombucha SCOBYs love rapadura.  I replaced my usual raw sugar for this.. and holy moly!  My kefir grains trebled in size.

Rapadura sugar is also easy to use in raw desserts which don’t need a binding agent.  Like the raw blueberry crumble below!  You can use a ratio of 1:1 when substituting rapadura for the regular white stuff.

crumble central

crumble central

Raw-padura Blueberry Crumble

Crumble:
2 cups walnuts (soaked the day before then dried)
1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup Rapadura sugar
1-2 dates (chopped and soaked the night before)

Filling:
1 cup pitted dates
1/3 cup water
2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
2 cups fresh blueberries (or more frozen blueberries, thawed and drained)
1 tbsp lemon juice

To make the crumble, combine all dry ingredients in the food processor.  Blitz until fully ground, coarse and “crumbly”. Add the dates to the ‘crumbs’.  Process until it comes together. Stir in sugar evenly, remove from food processor bowl and set aside.

To make the filling, combine dates and water in the food processor – hey presto, date paste!

Add 2 cups frozen blueberries, lemon juice and process until smooth.  Now hand mix the fresh blueberries or additional 2 cups of frozen blueberries.

Assembly goes a lil something like this:  spread approximately 1/3 of crumble in a pan or glass dish.  Spread half the blueberry mixture on top, then layer the remaining crumble on top of the blueberries.  Top with other half of the blueberry mixture.  Garnish with coconut flakes or serve with cashew cream.

I prefer my blueberries still frozen as I love the crunchy sensation mixed with the crumbly oat / nut mixture.

Hope you’re all having a happy, healthy weekend!

Don’t limit yourself to blueberries.  What other fruits would you use in a raw crumble?

crumbs'n'blueberries

crumbs’n’blueberries

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