A Plastic Free Platter (Vegan too!)

On my quest to live a life free of plastic I found myself wondering if having friends over for light nibbles would ever be an easy affair again. Have you ever seen a dip that isn’t found in a plastic package? Occasionally you find them in fancy glass jars but if you are on the run it can be virtually impossible. But – in keeping with all my learning’s from Plastic Free July – I have found that avoiding plastic can send you down the most interesting and delicious of pathways!

The challenge: a plastic-free platter that doesn’t break the budget and can be thrown together in an hour. Impossible you say?

Well I say “Get your sunglasses out because you are about to be dazzled!”

Dip #1: Zesty Guacamole

Fresh ingredients, ready to be mixed

  • 3 x Avocado
  • 2 x diced tomatoes
  • 1 x diced red onion (small)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ Cup Coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 x red chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional – 2 x spring onions

Method

  1. Cube the avocados in a bowl
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together
  3. Garnish with coriander

10 minutes down… we’re on a roll….

Dip #2: Hummus

  • 600g canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed thoroughly (until the water doesn’t look bubbly)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2 if you like it zesty… i do! Highly recommend!)
  • Optional: Smoked Paprika and or toasted pine nuts to garnish

Method

  1. Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini paste, cumin and lemon juice in a food processor and process until combined.
  2. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) of water and process again until quite smooth.
  3. Place hummus in a bowl and dust with smoked paprika if you have it or toast some pine nuts and sprinkle on.
  4. Swirl with some good quality olive oil when served.

 …booyah! that one only takes 10 minutes too…

Dip #3: Fresh Herby Salsa

And mix it! Nom!

  • 6 tomatoes (or 500g cherry tomatoes)
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • ½ Cup coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 2 limes

Method

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Then dice the flesh.
  2. Gently mix with the spring onions, coriander, mint, chilli, ground coriander, cumin and lime juice.
  3. Stand for 30 minutes (to give the flavours some real zing)
  4. Note: If you like your flavours punchy then add more lime and chilli!!!

 … with some cheating with my food processor that one is down in 10 minute too… half an hour so far and we are almost done…

 Serve With…

If you can, get to a local bakery to get two big Turkish loaves – that way you can specify for it to be wrapped in paper. It is hard at other shops to find it in anything other than plastic! Then when my guests arrived I toasted the bread and sliced it up. The smell of fresh bread was gorgeous and got everyone ready to tuck in. And you thought I couldn’t do it??? This only took me 30 minutes and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all – even the dedicated carnivores. I even got excited and made my own plastic free Ginger, Mint Lemonade to go with it! Best thing was it only cost me $35 and I had enough salsa and hummus to last until the next day when we had more friends coming over.

MYO Cordial – Sugar free!

This is a platter that is utterly brimming with nutritional benefits, is free of the 3 p’s (packaging, palm oil, preservatives) and is all vegan! If you would like to make the trio of dips together I have added a little shopping list below;

Shopping List for entire platter

Fruit and Veg

  • 3 x Avocados
  • 8 x tomatoes
  • 1 x red onion (small)
  • 3 limes
  • 2 x red chilli
  • 1 x lemon
  • Bunch of spring onions
  • Bunch of Coriander
  • Bunch of Mint
  • 3 garlic cloves

Aisle

  • 600g canned chickpeas
  • Olive Oil
  • Tahini Paste

Deli Stores that Allows Bulk Buying – take your own container! 

  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Coriander
  • Pine Nuts – optional

Bakery

  • 2 x loaves Turkish Bread

Voila…

Why Should I Activate My Grains?

Buzzwords are pretty fascinating to watch – especially within the realm of health trends. Out of nowhere they creep into the daily vernacular and ceaselessly poke us and prod us until we finally cave in and ask the goddamn question –How the hell do you pronounce Açaíand why should I give a damn?! And then before you know it everyone is asking the question and all of a sudden it is mainstream. The latest craze to cross this threshold would have to be ‘Activation’ specifically when referring to food preparation. I bit my lip… I ignored the ‘activated’ products in health food stores… but finally it got me… I had to ask… what the hell is food activation?! Short answer?… Activation is bloody complicated. I found very scientific explanations (like this one) and after reading it a couple of times dumbed it down for myself. Here’s the deal…

The Great Grain Debate

The whole process of ‘activating’ foods comes back to the Great Grain Debate: are they good for us or not? Grains are packed full of nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals which – at surface level – qualify them as healthy option. BUT on the other side of the fence, grains also contain antinutrients (like Phytates, lectins and gluten) which bind to vitamins, minerals and enzymes and make all those aforementioned nutrients impossible to absorb or digest.

I think of it a bit like getting a beautiful, organic floret of broccoli and then deep-frying the hell out of it! Sure, it started healthy but the process that we have used to consume it renders all those valuable nutrients utterly useless. The same argument applies to legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs – which is why these little superfoods are sometimes wrongly considered the pariah’s of wellbeing.

So what does ‘Activating’ have to do with it?

The antinutrients found in grains and nuts are basically Mogwai’s – they are allergic to water! When we soak these foods before consumption we can dramatically reduce the amount of antinutrients in them and improve their digestibility. This is how many traditional cultures (like Indian) have prepared their grain for centuries – a culture that has far fewer of the dietary ailments and diseases of Western Cultures. Look at the below Global Obesity Map, compare India (still using traditional activation methods) with Australia or the US (do not activate foods) and make up your mind on whether grains and legumes are the problems or just the way we consume them…

How to activate

Easy. Soaking your grains/nuts/legumes for 12 – 24 hours is the first step to activate the food. In the case of grains though, they are covered in an insoluble fatty layer which make is very difficult for water (on its own) to penetrate the surface and dissolve all the nasty phytic acid. To counteract this it is important to add a mild acid to penetrate this layer. The best type of acid to use is Citric (lemon juice!) but acetic acid (vinegar) or lactic acid (whey or yoghurt) can work too.

Example: Activating Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has the most protein out of any other grain. That’s not it’s only asset – these little babies are packed full of nutrients like iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, zincmagnesium, fibre, vitamin B6 and the antioxidant Vitamin E. They also contain over sixteen triterpine saponins – translated to cancer fighting superheroes!

Basically, with all these beneficial vitamins I wanted to ensure that I am absorbing as many as possible – get some bang for my buck! Being pregnant has also made me super-vigilant that what I put in my body doesn’t only affect me anymore. So here is how I activate it;

  • Get 200grams of Quinoa and rinse thoroughly
  • Place into container and cover with water
  • Then add 2 tablespoons of Acid. I always use 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice but you can use Whey, Yoghurt or Vinegar (go for unpasteurised Apple Cider if possible). Stir the acid gently through your Quinoa.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Ideal would be 24!
  • After it has soaked rinse and then cook however you like. I cooked mine in vegetable stock and then mixed through chopped vegetables, mint and coriander. Threw in some sultana’s and (activated) cashews for good measure.

I hope this has helped shed some light on why we should activate grains! When I hear the word ‘Activation’ I don’t just roll my eyes and think of the utterer as a health nut… I get it… and I dig it baby!!! If you want to read more about it I found this article really useful too. Happy soaking!

Raw Fruit and Nut Chocolate

Vegan – Sugar Free – Gluten Free – Paleo

 Preparation – 10 mins; Freezing time – 1 hour

Makes a massive block! 

Insanely yummy!

And just like that… my life will never be the same again! Everyday, bang on 2pm, I find myself with an all-consuming urge to seek and destroy all chocolate products within a 5km radius. Instead of denying myself though I wanted to try and make my own healthy version. Then I was reading a post on the Wellness Warrior’s blog where she provided a super simple chocolate recipe with just 5 nutritious ingredients and 6 easy steps. Surely it can’t be so simple? Well… IT IS. This is the best stuff I have ever made and both my husband and I took stashes into the office to experiment on our colleagues. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Woot woot! This will only take you a few minutes and is so deliciously indulgent that I can guarantee you will be hooked as well!

Where To Buy

If you can do a regular shop at a health food store or one that allows the bulk purchase of things like grains and flours then you will find all the ingredients you need in the one place. It’s also great for you to take your own container and go plastic free! Otherwise you can check out these alternatives…

  • Dates, Almonds and Maple Syrup – can all be found at supermarkets and grocery stores.
  • Coconut Oil – I have recently heard that Coconut Oil is available in supermarkets  in the Asian food section.
  • Raw Cacao Powder – I have only seen this at health food stores or bulk style shops.

Ingredients

  • 110 grams raw almonds
  • 170 grams coconut oil (try cold pressed, virgin if possible)
  • 4 tablespoons raw cacao
  • A handful of medjool dates, chopped (I will use more next time… probably 15. But I LOVE dates at the moment).
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (make sure it’s 100% pure – not just flavored syrup)

Method

1)   Line a baking tray with baking paper or alfoil and place in the freezer to chill.

2)   Grind almonds in a blender / food processor until they are finely chopped (not quite a powder though).


3)   If your coconut oil is solid, gently warm in a saucepan until it is all liquid (do not boil!).

4)   Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients; almonds, raw cacao, dates and maple syrup.

5)   Pour the mixture onto your tray and spread it out evenly then put into the freezer until it has set. This won’t even take an hour!

6)   Chop the chocolate into chunks or rough squares. For Christmas pressies I am going to try and set the chocolate using cookie cutters shapes too!

NOTE: You’ll need to keep this stuff in the freezer between snacks. That is if you can hold out on the nom nom nom…

NOTE: That is a pregnant belly… not a chocolate belly!!!

 

Fluffy Coconut Pancakes (Grain, Gluten and Dairy Free)

Dairy Free – Gluten Free – Grain Free – Sugar Free

Preparation – 10 minutes; Cooking Time – 10 minutes
Serves 2 – 4 (my husband and I shared and I was really really  full!!!)

In my last recipe post – which was for a grain-free pizza crust – I rabbited on about Coconut Flour being a wonder ingredient. But that is very vague so here I will list of a few of the amazing health benefits of coconut flour.

Gluten Free: I heard the other day that most people of Anglo-Saxon decent are at least a little gluten intolerant and after paying attention to how my body reacted after gluten and I think I fall into this category. Gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body which is not conducive to good health (can lead to organ damage or arthritis). Coconut Flour is free from gluten and is therefore a great substitute!

High in Fiber: We need fiber to keep our gastrointestinal tracts healthy. For every 100g serve of coconut flour we get 39 grams of fiber which is more than most grain based flours. Studies show that a high fiber diet offers protection against chronic diseases such as diabetes, colon cancer and cardiovascular problems.

High in Protein: Coconut Flour has 19g of protein per 100gram which is more than the equivalent amounts of anchovies (14.5g), bacon (15.9g), eggs (12.5g) or pork sausages  (13.9g). I was surprised to see that coconut flour is only just behind fillet steak in terms of protein (20.9g)!

Waste Product = Environmentally Friendly: Coconut flour is a raw material made from a waste product of coconut milk production!

So all in all… a great ingredient. Especially when you miss ‘grainy’ treats like pancakes. I found a similar recipe on the aptly titled Paleo Pancake blog. Enjoy…

Ingredients

  • 4 free-range, organic eggs
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Coconut oil for cooking fat (only oil you should cook high heat! More on that here)

Method

Preheat frying pan on medium-low heat.

In a bowl, mix eggs together well until frothy.

Mix in coconut milk, vanilla, and honey.

In a your measuring cup combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, sea salt) thoroughly.

Sift the dry ingredients into your egg mixture.

Mix well until it is a nice, smooth batter.

Heat coconut oil in the pan. Pour batter to form pancakes. (Mine were about 10-15cm diameter). Cook until edges start to dry and firm then flip and cook through.

Top with real maple syrup, honey, fruit or nice natural jams. DELISH.

How cute is my happy husband…

Paleo Pizza Crust (Grain, Gluten and Dairy Free)

Dairy Free – Gluten Free – Grain Free

Preparation time – 10 minutes; Cooking time – 45 minutes

Makes 1 Large or two Medium-Small Pizza’s

When I first heard of the ‘Paleo Movement’ I was dead set against it. It just seemed like a big excuse to eat a shitload of animals to me. But now that I have looked into it there are a lot of elements that I really agree with. For example, grains are not great for you (with the occasional exception like quinoa), that all calories are not equal (a Mars Bar has less calories than an avocado) and that we should all try and eat an organic, whole diet where we can, chock-a-block full of leafy greens. The diet – scrap that – lifestyle is still more dependent on meat than I agree with but the more I look the more I find that Paleo and Vegetarian philosophy’s can coexist. You can read all about being Paleo here and then adapt them to your Vegetarian/Vegan with recipes like the ones found here. I have also noticed that my fave wellness blogger (aka The Wellness Warrior) is basically a living example of vegan paleo. Check her amazing blog for constant healthy inspiration.

Cut a few of those proteins out and you’ve got a very healthy vego diet.

Anyway… if you make some Paleo adaptions in your life you will surely notice that Coconut (in every incantation) is the hero!  Coconut oil and coconut flour particularly. Coconut Flour is actually made from the left over flesh of the coconut which would usually be discarded as a waste product: a great eco-incentive to use it. What this also means is that it is full of protein and low on carbohydrates. It is also has more fiber in it that 4 times the amount of oat bran, 2 times the wheat bran and 3 times the ground flaxseed. It also has a subtle coconut taste that is perfect for baking sweet or savoury goodies. One drawback is that it is very dry so do not go 1:1 with your standard flours.

Anywho… here is my grain-free pizza crust made with coconut flour. My hubby and I shared half a pizza each and were perfectly full after it without feeling heavy and sluggish. Great success.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 1 cup of dairy free milk – coconut, rice or almond milk (whatever suits you!)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary (finely) chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Equipment

  • Baking paper (or you can use oil)
  • Baking tray or pizza stone
  • Rolling pin (or in my case… old jar!)

Method

1.  Preheat your oven to 170 C (or 375 F)

2.  Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix until smooth and well bound. It is quite a wet dough mixture. Roll into a bit of a ball with your hands.

3.  Now I didn’t do this… and it made removing my delicious cooked pizza very difficult! Place a sheet of baking paper on tray or stone and brush it with oil (the Paleo oil of choice is coconut).

4.  Put onto paper and roll out to be quite thin. If you prefer it a bit thicker that is fine but it will be a ‘cakier’ base. My husband and I quite liked it though and didn’t feel too full after eating it.

5.  Bake in your heated oven for 20 minutes. Test that the base feels dry and springy.

6.  Remove and top with your fave toppings. Mine was full of mushrooms, jalapeno’s, capsicum, sundried tomatoes and goat’s cheese.

7.  Bake for a  further 10 – 15 minutes until pizza is golden. Cut and then nom nom nom.