Antioxidant-Rich “Meatballs” With Mint Yogurt Dressing

Antioxidant "Meatballs" with Mint Yogurt Dressing

I was sitting in my good friends’ kitchen the other day… our babes were sleeping, we were chatting, drinking tea (as you do in London) when I suddenly spotted a beautiful cookbook (The Sprouted Kitchen) on her shelf. As I flicked through the pages filled with beautiful food photography and mouthwatering recipes, one particular recipe caught my eye. Lentil meatballs. I like lentils… but I also have a love/hate relationship with them as I have made some serious disaster dishes with lentils over the years. In my experience, the texture can get weird and the taste get too earthy so I didn’t have very high expectations to these. But they really did surprise me and turned out much better than expected! I did tweak the original recipe a fair bit and added the delicious mint dressing, which I think pairs really well with them. They are perfect serving with a salad, in a sandwich or on their own as a quick snack. And they’re great for kids!

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Whats good about them

Black beluga lentils are my favourite type of lentil. They are less earthy in taste compared to other legumes and hold their shape really well, making them ideal for salads and stews. From a health perspective they are amazing as they are high in anthocyanins – the same powerful antioxidants found in red wine and dark berries such as blue­berries & blackberries. Anthocyanins help protect against free-radical cell damage while also offering protection from diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Like other legumes, black lentils pack an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and plant protein (1/2 cup contains 24 gm protein!). They are also great for digestive function and very high in fibre with all of 18 grams per 1/2 cup (120 mL), which explains why they are so filling!
They take only about 20 minutes to cook in a pot of simmering water until they are slightly tender, which is what you want for this recipe.

Antioxidant “Meatballs” With Mint Yogurt Dressing
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Recipe type: Main
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Serves: makes 25 meatballs
Ingredients
Antioxidant “Meatballs”
  • 2 cups cooked black beluga lentils
  • 2 organic free range eggs
  • 200 gm (3/4 cup) cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tbsp almond flour (or 1 tbsp oats)
Mint Yogurt Dressing
  • ½ cup organic Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves (fresh or dried)
  • pinch of honey (stevia for a sugar free alternative)
Instructions
  1. Place cooked lentils in a food processor and process into a thick mush
  2. Transfer lentils to a big bowl and add eggs, tahini and cottage cheese and combine well.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Leave the “meatball” mixture to set for about 10 mins.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine all the ingredients for the mint yogurt dressing whisk together well.
  6. Add salt/pepper, lemon juice and sweetener to taste. Place in fridge to rest while the meatballs cook.
  7. After resting the “meatball” mixture should be thick-ish in consistency. (if not add a bit more almond flour/oats and leave for an additional 5 minutes)
  8. Using a spoon, form small round “meatballs” and cook them on a frying pan over medium heat until golden brown. About 5-7 minutes on each side (They will firm up upon cooling so don’t worry if they feel like they’re not firm enough when removing from the pan).
  9. Serve warm on a bed of greens topped with mint yogurt dressing.

I love these “meatballs” warm, they also make a great afternoon snack when cooled and keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days. You can also mix them in with a marinara sauce and serve over pasta as you would normal meatballs.

Antioxidant "meatballs" with Mint Yogurt Dressing

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Chia Seed Sandwich Thins

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What’s life without a sandwich? These chia seed sandwich thins are perfect for those who, like me, love seeded bread and prefer it gluten free.
Sadly, your standard loaf of bread isn’t what is used to be… with most commercial breads being full overly refined ingredients, sugars (especially corn syrup), additives, preservatives and dough enhancers that can interfere with hormone balance and metabolism, I have resorted to making my own or getting some it from a good quality bakery or farmers market. While I always  keep a stash of my gluten free buckwheat and seed bread in the fridge or freezer – these sandwich thins are a lot easier when it comes to making a sandwich and bringing it on the go. And like the brea, they are free from gluten, wheat, dairy and yeast!

Nutritionally they are packed with healthy omega 3 fatty acids and are very rich in natural fibre that helps improve bowel function while also having a very satisfying effect that will leave you feeling full for hours. Additional to fibre and healthy fats, these sandwich thins are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc & plant protein.

I am a big a fan of buckwheat and usually use it as a gluten free substitute to most wheat flours. Buckwheat groats are the most common type of buckwheat and is easy to come by in health food stores and whole food super markets. Buckwheat flour is also easy to find but if need be you can easily make your own flour simply by processing the groats in a food processor until ground to a flour-like consistency. The whole groats are also super versatile and can be roasted and used in cereals, salads or cooked and added to soups and stews.

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Qualities Of Buckwheat

Buckwheat is…

  • A great source of high-quality, easily digestible proteins.
  • An excellent meat substitute and has more protein than corn, millet, rice, or wheat. It is also rich in the two amino acids, lysine and arginine, both of which are essential for a healthy heart and strong immunity to illness and tend to be scant in grains.
  • Great for the digestion, buckwheat is known to strengthen and support the digestive system.
  • Free from chemicals. Buckwheat grows so quickly that it usually doesn’t require a lot of chemicals or pesticides to grow well, making it a lot cleaner compared to a lot of other wheat grains.
  • Naturally gluten-free. Buckwheat is an excellent alternative for those with celiac disease, gluten allergies, or anyone trying to avoid gluten.
  • Low glycemic index and prevents rapid spikes in blood sugar, which is associated with inflammation, mood swings & weight gain. More over, its high protein and fiber content help normalize blood sugar levels, benefitting those with diabetes and anyone trying to lose weight.  Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also point out that a single dose of buckwheat seed extract lowered blood glucose levels by 12-19% within 90-120 minutes.
  • High in the natural flavonoid rutin. Rutin helps extend the activity and effect of vitamin C and other antioxidant nutrients.
Chia Seed Sandwich Thins (gluten free)
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Recipe type: Bread
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Serves: makes 6 sandwich thins
Ingredients
  • ½ cup chia seed
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup gluten free oats (or oat flour)
  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F)
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and combine well
  3. Add water and coconut oil and mix well until mixture thickens as the chia seedss absorb the liquids
  4. Place in an 8″ square baking tray lined with non stick parchment paper (or greased with oil)
  5. Bake in the oven for 25 mins
  6. Remove from baking tray and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown and firm (fanforce).
  7. Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack for 15-20 mins before cutting the bread into sandwich squares.
  8. Slice through the middle and serve with your favourite toppings.
  9. Keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freezes well.

The recipe is as simple as it looks and is really hard to mess up!

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Blueberry Spelt Muffins

spelt blueberry muffinsSome days just call for baking. Today was that day. My son and I got real messy in the kitchen and made a great batch of blueberry muffins… or more like he watched Tin Tin while I made muffins and then he sat on the kitchen floor and looked at them as they cooked in the oven. I love encouraging him to ‘help’ me in the kitchen. Well I know that 21 months may be a little young but I still like to think he loves it..At least he loved eating them. Meanwhile, I love that they are full of wholesome ingredients and sweetened naturally with banana, berries + a little coconut sugar. They are a great and much healthier alternative to typical muffins laden with refined sugars and flours as well as artificial flavours and colours.

spelt blueberry muffins collageIngredients + Nutrition

Spelt is a great and easy four to bake with. If you are gluten-free you can easily substitute the 1 cup of spelt flour for approx. 2 cups almond flour and bake for an additional 10 mins if needed (keep a close eye).

I use an unrefined whole grain spelt flour to get as close to “natural” as possible. Spelt is an ancient grain closely related to wheat but it has a lower gluten content and is therefore kinder to the digestive system and more easily tolerated by people with gastrointestinal issues and wheat sensitivities. It is also higher in fibre, protein and has more than twice the amount of amino acids compared to traditional wheat flours, which makes it a staple in my kitchen.

Blueberry Spelt Muffins
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Recipe type: Cake
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Serves: 15 small muffins
Ingredients
  • 4 organic free range eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas, medium sized
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • 5 tbsp natural sweetener (coconut sugar, honey, agave or xylitol)
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp unrefined whole grain spelt flour
  • 60 gm (2 oz) nuts of choice (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or almonds)
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F)
  2. Combine eggs and smashed bananas until smooth
  3. Add coconut oil and vanilla and combine well before adding all the dry ingredients as well. Mix with a spoon until the muffin mixture is smooth and well combined
  4. Add chopped nuts and lastly fold in blueberries carefully
  5. Scoop out a tbsp or two of the muffin mixture into little muffin wrappers (remember to leave a little room for them to rise) and place in a muffin tray
  6. Place muffin tray in the oven and bake at 160° C for 20-25 mins (keep a close eye on them as baking time may vary with different ovens)
  7. Remove from oven and take the muffins out of the muffin tray to cool on a cooling rack (this helps prevent them from going soggy).
  8. Serve warm

 

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Chocolate Nut Spread + Cacao vs. Cocoa Powder

DSC_6039I have loved almond butter since the first time I tried it. Then I started making my own… I loved it even more. This chocolate version is taking my love for almond butter to a whole new level. It is very simple, decadent and best of all… made from all-natural nutritious ingredients. My son and I ate this by the teaspoon after making the first batch and this second batch is even better with the addition of raw cacao nibs.

The nut blend in here is almonds and hazelnuts. I used lightly roasted hazelnuts for a Nutella like flavour, added raw cacao powder and cacao nibs for a healthy choc hit and sweetened it with coconut sugar and vanilla bean.

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Benefits Of Raw Cacao

Raw cacao powder is full of flavonoids that act as natural antioxidants. These antioxidants protect our body cells from ageing and disease and research from Cornell University in the US confirms the potency of antioxidants in cacao, deeming it one of the top natural food sources of antioxidants!! More specifically, the study revealed that cacao has nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times more antioxidant activity than green tea.
Additional to antioxidants, raw cacao is also a great source of magnesium, an energy mineral and electrolyte, as well as sulfur, which is associated with strong nails, shiny hair and a healthy liver.

The Difference Between Cacao & Cocoa Powder

Although cacao and cocoa originate from the same plant seed (namely the cocoa bean) and are often used interchangeably, they are vastly different… especially when it comes to nutrition and health benefits. In order for the cocoa bean to become a powder, the fatty part – the cocoa butter – is removed. While raw cacao undergoes cold-pressing to remove the cocoa butter, cocoa powder is heated to high temperatures to accomplish the same thing. Although the heating process is undoubtedly quicker and more cost effective – it also destroys many of the natural health benefits found in the natural cacao bean. We’re talking beneficial antioxidants, minerals & vitamins, most of which are well preserved in the raw unprocessed cacao powder. It is a bit like comparing canned pineapple with a shelf life of 3 years to a fresh pineapple full of readily available nutrients.

By looking at the ORAC score (the tool by which scientists measure antioxidant activity in any given food) cacao has 367% more antioxidant activity compared to its processed equivalent, cocoa [source]. This too explains the price difference between the two.

Chocolate Nut Spread
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Recipe type: Spread
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Prep time:
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Serves: yields 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almonds (raw or dry roasted)
  • ¾ cup lightly dry roasted hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup light dry roasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1½ tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla beans or vanilla paste/extract
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut sugar (for alternative use honey, xylitol or stevia)
  • ⅛-1/4 tsp sea salt (optional for those who love salted chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Place almonds and hazelnuts in vitamix/food processor and process for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. The nuts will first become flour-like whereafter they should start to clump together.
  2. Add vanilla, coconut sugar, sea salt & raw cacao powder and continue to process until you reach the desired consistency (I like to process mine until it is almost liquid like)
  3. Transfer to glass jar or other container and stir in the chopped hazelnuts to give it a crunchy texture.
  4. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.

This butter is divine on any bread (my fave is on a piece of healthy buckwheat & seed bread lightly toasted on a pan or on these chia seed crackers). For a light snack try adding a tsp or two to slices of banana or add a bit to your oatmeal or smoothie.

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