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

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

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

Buckwheat Baller: Raw coconut lemon

I did a previous post on buckwheat and its nutritional benefits.  The recipe within was inspired by Coco Pops (in the US I believe they’re called Cocoa Krispies) breakfasts of years gone by.

Now turns out I sprouted a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle bit too much.  What do do with an oversupply of sprouted buckwheat groats?  I already scattered a few handfuls over lunchtime salads to give them an extra crunchy protein boost.  Then my sweet tooth beckoned – without fail – around 3pm.

So after much rummaging around in the pantry, I decided to make buckwheat balls mixed with two tried and tested flavours: lemon and coconut.

coconut + lemon buckwheat balls

coconut + lemon buckwheat balls

Raw Coconut Lemon Sprouted Buckwheat Balls

1 1/2 cups sprouted buckwheat groats
1/4 cup oat pulp
zest and juice of 3 large lemons
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbs coconut oil
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped and soaked dates (reserve soaking water)

Now, these measurements are estimates.  Use your judgement and check the texture and taste as you go.

Place soaked chopped dates, coconut oil, vanilla essence, zest and lemon juice in the food processor.  Whizz until combined.

Add the rest of the ingredients and process again.  If you find the mixture isn’t coming together, add coconut oil – this acts as a binding agent.  Taste-test to see if it needs more sweet date water.  If it’s too wet, add more shredded coconut or oats.  If it’s too dry add either date water, lemon juice or coconut oil.

Scoop one tablespoon at a time and roll into balls.  Store in the fridge.

The lemon zest makes me feel like I’m taking a breath of fresh mountain air every time I pop one in my mouth.  At least… that’s what I tell myself!

Enjoy!

P.S.  I had leftover oat pulp from making oat milk.  I’m sure rolled oats will work just as well.