Homemade stevia extract.

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Sam’s been growing stevia in the garden. It’s supposed to be a really great sweetener that isn’t sugar and is completely natural. Read more about stevia here. I thought I’d give making stevia extract a go to use in cooking. Here’s what I did:

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  1. Collect lots of stevia leaves. Wash and dry them.
  2. Chop the leaves up and place in a large glass jar.
  3. Cover with enough vodka to cover the leaves.
  4. Put the lid on and place somewhere you’ll see it.
  5. Leave the jar for 36 hours, shaking occasionally.
  6. After 36 hours (don’t leave it too long, or it will become bitter), strain the liquid into a small saucepan.
  7. Heat the liquid on low and bring to a simmer. Make sure you don’t boil it, or it will become bitter.
  8. Simmer for about half an hour, stirring constantly.
  9. Remove from heat and cool before pouring into small glass jars.
  10. Store in fridge for up to 3 months.

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I got the recipe for this here. Use it instead of sugar in recipes like this chocolate avocado mousse, or this dairy-free ice cream, and this lemon tart (you will have to change the recipes a bit – I’ll post some new recipes sweetened with stevia soon).

 

Water Kefir… What’s that?

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Tibicos, also known as tibiwater kefir grainssugar kefir grainsJapanese water crystals and California bees, and in older literature asbébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger beer plant, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees, are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharidebiofilm matrix created by the bacteria… The microbes present in tibicos act in symbiosis to maintain a stable culture. Tibicos can do this in many different sugary liquids, feeding off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol, and carbon dioxide gas, which carbonates the drink. (Wikipedia).

I’ve been experimenting making water kefir for the last few months. It’s such an easy way to consume probiotics, and as well as that, I like the taste. It’s a nice refreshing drink that you can flavour anyway you like. Here’s what I do:

In a clean glass jar add:

  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1/4 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 rounded tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 organic dry fig (or any dried fruit)
  • slice of unwaxed lemon
  • pinch of bicarb soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of water kefir crystals

Next, cover the jar with a clean hanky and rubber band, then cover the whole jar with a tea towel to keep the light out.

Leave it for about 48 hours before straining the crystals out of the liquid.

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I’ll usually add a bit of fruit juice, some chopped ginger and sugar, some vanilla extract or some frozen berries to the liquid before I bottle it. Then leave the bottle out on the bench to ferment a second time before refrigerating before drinking.

I reuse the water kefir crystals again and again, which gives me a never-ending supply of bubbly, tangy, sweet beverages.

Speaking in accents.

Are you good at speaking in different accents? I’m not. I really love Irish and Scottish accents best!

Here’s a great video of Amy Walker speaking in 21 different accents from around the world. Isn’t it amazing!

And here’s her tip on talking like an Aussie!

Haha!

And this is a great video giving us a tour of American accents.

She is just so clever. I guess I’ll just stick to my boring Australian accent. What’s your favourite accent?

Homemade spaghetti bolognese.

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This is my trusty recipe for making a tasty, healthy spaghetti bolognese. I make a big batch of it, and freeze it in portions. It’s great for those nights where you just don’t feel like cooking, but still want to eat something good. It’s also super easy. Here’s what I do:

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Ingredients: 

  • 1 kg beef mince 
  • 1 500 g packet of red/yellow lentils, soaked overnight
  • 2 brown onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 2 red/yellow capsicum
  • 2 cans chopped tomatos
  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatos
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock/bone broth
  • large handful of herbs: fresh parsley, oregano, basil

Method: 

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  1. Chop veggies. I usually start with garlic and ginger because I like to sauté them first.
  2. Sauté veggies in some olive oil. I start with onion and garlic, then add the rest of them until they’re soft.
  3. Add mince beef and cook until browned. Then cook for 20 minutes longer (I think that makes it taste better).
  4. Add lentils, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, stock, sugar and seasoning and let simmer for 1-2 hours, or until there’s not too much excess liquid.
  5. Pour into containers and freeze.

IMG_20121017_165127If I feel like a gluten-free spag-bol, I use a vegetable peeler to make strip of zucchini that I use instead of pasta. I peel them into a saucepan of hot bolognese sauce, mix them around for a few minutes till they’re ‘al dente’.

Why I cook.

You might have guessed that I love cooking. I find it completely relaxing and yet stimulating at the same time. I enjoy planning what meals I’ll cook each week, and shopping for the right ingredients. I love adding herbs and spices to plain food, and noticing what a difference they make. Spending time eating the food I’ve cooked is also so much more satisfying and enjoyable. Especially when shared with friends and family.

I read an article the other day that talked about Cooking, and the reasons we do it. This was my favourite part:

It stops me from snacking. Studies have shown that cultures that cook don’t have a snacking culture and are in check with their appetite (and are devoid of an obesity issue). Some studies suggest not cooking is the most direct obesity indicator in a society. It’s a perspective I hadn’t considered: when you cook from scratch you have to be hungry enough to be bothered. Plus, the time it takes to prepare things delays the gratification. There are many theories on the benefits of delayed gratification and how it makes us happier. I know when I’m out and hungry, I think first to what I’d like to cook. I’m in the habit of thinking this way and food on the run has become incredibly unappealing. By the time I get home, I’ve either lost my appetite or I’m very much primed to enjoy what I cook that much more.

Read the rest here.

I’ve found that this is so true. I definitely snack a lot less when I’m excited by food and cooking. And I think this is the most important reason I’m still thin. Now I want to read this book! 

cooked-coverWhy do you cook?

 

Homemade chicken soup.

As I write this, there’s a big pot of homemade chicken soup bubbling away on the stove. We eat this all winter long. It keeps up (mostly) healthy throughout those cold wet months. The long simmering of the chicken bones draws out the calcium and other minerals that we need. It’s also chock-full of gelatin and collagen which are so good for our guts.

Here’s how I make it:

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First, I make a stock: 

Put a chicken frame, some chicken necks and wings, and a whole chicken in a big stockpot full of water. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar (to help draw the minerals out of the bones). Leave it for about an hour.

Add the following to the pot, then bring the pot to the boil:

  • 2 brown onions, skin on, roughly chopped 
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks of celery with some leaves still attached, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a small knob of ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a teaspoon black peppercorns

After this has reached boiling, turn down and allow to simmer for 8+ hours. I often put mine on one afternoon and leave it go all night. For the first couple of hours some scum will rise to the surface. Skim off frequently.

In the morning, it’s time to strain the stock and make it into soup! Discard the cooked vegetables/bones but keep the chicken meat for later.

After you’ve strained the stock, it should look beautiful and yellow. Some people refrigerate and allow the fat to set on top, to scoop off, but I don’t bother with this.

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For the soup: 

Add a bag or two of lentils/soup mix/whatever you like and simmer in the stock until cooked.

Chop lots of vegetables and add to soup. I usually add:

  • 3 carrots
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • a small knob of ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • a small sweet potato
  • 1-2 zucchini
  • 1 capsicum

You can use whatever veggies you like. Sometimes I add some rice noodles too.

Simmer until the veggies are cooked, then add cooked chicken back in. Allow soup to cool then pour into containers to store. I usually fill four 4 litre ice cream containers. I keep one for the coming week in the fridge, and freeze the rest for the following weeks. We both take this soup to work for lunch in a thermos, 1 container lasts us about a week.

There certainly is a bit of work involved, but I think this is the best way to make a healthy, immune-boosting winter soup. Do you make chicken soup?

Grain-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough bites.

Want a biscuit that is grain free, has the option of being nut free, and is low is sugar? These biscuits are really good, and they’re made with a surprising ingredient… Chickpeas! 

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Ingredients: 

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry with tea towel 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 165 grams natural peanut butter (use sunflower butter to make nut free)
  • 80 grams rice malt syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • large pinch of salt
  • 100 grams dark chocolate chips

Method: 

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C. 
  2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in food processor and process until very smooth, scraping the sides of processor down occasionally.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and stir. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
  4. Roll into balls with wet hands. Place on oven tray and bake for about 10 minutes. 

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Yummo! 

I found the recipe here, and just adapted it very slightly by substituting rice malt syrup for the honey, making these biscuits low in fructose. 

Zucchini and bacon quiche.

This is my favourite quiche recipe. I got it from the book the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Cook. I adapted it a bit to suit me better. Here’s what I do:

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Ingredients:

  • 30 grams buckwheat flour 
  • 20 grams coconut flour (you can use whatever flour you like)
  • 300 ml milk
  • 75 ml cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 grams bacon, chopped coarsely and fried
  • 1 medium brown onion, chopped
  • 125 grams grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated coarsely
  • a big bunch of parsley and chives (or a mixture of whatever herbs you’ve got)

Method: 

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. 
  2. Chop up bacon and fry for a few minutes, until cooked.
  3. Pour bacon (and it’s grease) into 20cm round quiche dish. Use the bacon to oil the dish.
  4. Whisk flour and milk in medium bowl until smooth, then whisk in eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into dish. Mix with bacon in dish until combined.
  5. Bake quiche, uncovered, about 45 minutes or until filling is set.
  6. Eat and enjoy!