A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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Any-kind-of-seasonal-fruit-you-like Cake with Vanilla Cream

Peaches

I’ve made a cake that is far too delicious not be shared, and is perfect for anyone who has an abundance of homegrown fruit and is a bit over making jam 🙂  The first version I made was with nectarine, and the second was with peaches and raspberries.

The vanilla cream part of the recipe only came about when making the peach and raspberry version, this was because (a) I was looking to make an Australian themed something for Australia day and decided on a peach melba version, and (b) I actually cooked it for too long and was worried it would be a bit dry.  Turned out the cake wasn’t dry at all, but the vanilla cream (which is basically unfrozen, soft-as-you-like-it ice cream) is amazing, so this is one time when I am very glad I overcooked the cake.

Just as a side note, for those who don’t know, peach melba is an Aussie desert named after the famous Aussie opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba. A peach melba consists of peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.  I have no idea why the guy who invented this dessert went with this particular dessert, but I have to say, if this is what someone made in my honour, I might be a bit disappointed, it is not the prettiest dessert I have seen, a couple of examples below….  I’m sure it tastes really nice :).

 

But anyway, back to my delicious cake.  This recipe is for the peach and raspberry version, but you could use nectarines, plums, or apricots, and then in the winter I think it would be delicious with apples and/or pears, but with those fruits I would lose the vanilla and add cinnamon instead.

I am a huge fan of vanilla, I use it all the time, but vanilla essence from the shops has sugar, and often other unpleasant stuff in it.  In the past I’ve made my own vanilla essence, (it’s super easy – you just soak vanilla beans in vodka) but it takes forward planning as you need about a month’s worth of soaking time.  So I’m also a huge fan of the a vanilla bean grinder, which is 100% vanilla bean in a salt grinder, you can purchase them in the shops, or you could make one yourself 🙂  My recipe here uses the vanilla bean grinder, if you are using vanilla essence you will probably use about 1 tspn every time I use a few grinds.

Cake ingredients

4 large ripe peaches 

Vanilla bean grinder

2 tablespoons coconut sugar

80 grams softened butter

½ cup honey

1 large egg

½ cup sour cream (or you can use plain yoghurt)

3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour

3/4 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarb

¼ teaspoon good quality salt

What to do 

You want to “marinate” your fruit (actually, I believe the ‘technical’ term is macerate, but to me the word sounds nasty, so I would rather marinate.  You are very welcome to macerate yours).  Chop the fruit and put it in a bowl with the sugar and a few good grinds of the vanilla bean, and set it aside for at least 2 hours, but you can leave it longer.

Turn that butter into cream using an electric beater and then add the honey, egg and a few more good grinds of the vanilla bean and mix it all up.   Add the sour cream and any liquid that is at the bottom of the marinated fruit bowl.

Combine all your dry ingredients and mix them, quite gently,  into the wet stuff.  Pop the batter into a prepared cake-tin (you will probably have to use some anti-sticking stuff, I have found that just “having a chat” does not seem to prepare the cake tin enough).

Now you want to add the marinated fruit all over the top of the batter, and then kind of press it in a bit with your fingers.  Chuck this loveliness into the oven, keep it low to avoid overcooking (ahem), around 150c fan forced is good, and cook it for about 40 minutes, but check it after 30, the old clean knife trick will work. Once cooked let it cool in the tin as you need the fruit to ‘set’ a bit before taking it out or it will fall apart.  Now get making your vanilla cream.

Vanilla cream ingredients

Thickened cream – be sure to read the labels and buy the one thickened with gelatine.

vanilla bean grinder

maple syrup – to taste

Whip up your cream and then slowly add your vanilla and maple syrup until it tastes delicious.  Start with a couple of grinds of the vanilla, and about a tablespoon of maple syrup and just keep going until you are happy.

The combination of this cream and cake is magic 🙂

p.s. you may note the absence of photos of said magical cake, well that is because every time I have made it, I have been too busy eating it to remember to take a photo, and by the time I remember, there is no cake to be photographed.  So, I would be very happy if you could please take photos of yours and post them in the comments for me 🙂

 

 


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Easter Sweeties

As I have mentioned before and will no doubt mention again, I am doing my best to avoid all processed sugars and to reduce the overall amount of sugar/carbohydrates I am eating.  So this year I made all my own Easter sweeties, sans processed sugar, but super delicious and so I’m sharing the recipes at the end of this post.

But first, seeing as for most people, Easter is a massive sugar-fest, I thought it was timely to talk a bit more about sugar.

If you haven’t yet seen the the fabulous Australian Documentary “That Sugar Film”, you totally should. It’s very good.

But if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, and until you do, I thought I would pack you up with a few videos you can watch online.   I’ve put in a couple of short ones a couple of longer ones 🙂

This cute little 3 minute video from a 2012 American campaign to try to help people eat less sugar.

Nicole Avena’s 5 minute TED talk – How sugar affects the brain

A Catalyst episode from 2013 – Toxic Sugar?

And lastly another TEDx talk, this time by Dr Robert Lustig called Sugar – the elephant in the kitchen.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that our daily intake of food should include no more than 10% from sugar, and that a reduction to 5% would provide additional health benefits.  5% equates to around 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, current statistics show the average australian is having around 30 teaspoons per day.  Imagine how many teaspoons that increases to over the Easter long weekend!

One of the main reasons for the high sugar intake is the result of added sugars in the foods we buy from the supermarket.  It is currently estimated that 80% of all supermarket-bought foods contain added sugar, and in most cases this is refined-sugars.  Refined sugars, as I am sure you are already aware, contain no nutrition for the body and in many forms are actually quite toxic, one well-known example being our not-friend – high-fructose corn syrup.

As I have mentioned a number of times before, I have a mouth full of sweet teeth, and I am definitely not at the stage of giving up sweet foods completely.  I figure that, given there are a number of sweeteners provided to us by nature that do contain nutrition, I must be meant to eat them 🙂

So, as I mentioned, this Easter I made all my own Easter chocolates.  For the record, making my own was as much about making sure I had chocolate to eat this Easter, as it was for any other reason 🙂

Without question, my favorite natural sweetener is maple syrup. Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, which is heated to remove some of the water content so that it creates that lovely syrup.  Maple syrup contains small amounts of vitamins and almost all minerals, which means our body knows what it needs to do with it.  Just don’t eat too much of it, because when you eat too much sugar/too many carbohydrates, your body knowing what to with it = adding it to your fat cells.

Ok, enough of that, let’s get to the good stuff, here are the Easter sweeties I made this year, each of them super easy and super delicious.

Chocolate Almond Crunch Recipe

Up till this recipe I had been making all my own chocolate from coconut oil, this was first go with cocoa butter and I don’t think I can go back.  It is very delicious.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cocoa butter
  • 1 cup of cocoa
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup of almonds

What to do:

Melt the cocoa butter in a saucepan over low heat, then stir in the cocoa and maple syrup.  Scatter the almonds on the bottom of a non-stick tray and pour over chocolate mix.  Freeze.  Eat.

These are best kept in the freezer but you can keep them in the fridge but they will be more of a chocolate almond chew than a chocolate almond crunch 🙂

Chocolate Rough Type Things

My comment above about never going back was a bit hasty, I had no trouble going back to these.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (more or less to taste)
  • 2 cups shredded coconut.

What to do:

Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat then add the cocoa and maple syrup to taste.  Put the coconut into a bowl and stir through the chocolate concoction.  Place smallish balls of the mixture onto a non-stick surface and freeze.  Now eat.

Carrot Cake with cream cheese or “cream-cheese” icing

Adapted from Donna Hay

For our family celebrations I put my hand up to make an Easter themed dessert, I didn’t want to do anything chocolate as there is always plenty of that around so I decided on a carrot cake, themed so as the Easter bunny eats carrots.  This cake has the added benefit of being grain free to help keep you under your daily carbohydrate limit 🙂  The smell of this cake whilst it was cooking was amazing, and it is without question the tastiest carrot cake I have ever eaten.

IMG_0076

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 -1½ cups maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 3½ cups almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon aluminium-free baking powder
  • 400g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sultanas

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to around 160 degrees celsius.  Beat the eggs and maple syrup and vanilla with electric beaters until the mixture becomes thick and basically triples in size, this can take a while, took me around 10 minutes.  Combine all other ingredients into a separate bowl and then fold through the egg mixture.  Pour into a springform non-stick tin and bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Cake is ready when a knife/skewer comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let the cake cool completely in the tin and then refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours.

Top with either cream cheese icing, or if you are avoiding dairy (like me at the moment), this “cream cheese” icing which is what is on my cake, and is surprisingly good:

Coconut Cream Cheese Icing 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup maple syrup (more or less to taste)
  • water

What to do:

Using a stick blender whip all the ingredients, excluding the water, until you have a lovely, fluffy mixture. Add water/coconut oil as required to adjust the thickness.  Add apple cider vinegar/maple syrup as required to adjust taste.

Slap the icing on the cake.  Eat the cake.

That’s enough sweet treats for today 🙂


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Make it From Scratch – Apple Oat Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

 

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When I made the decision to remove sugar from my diet last year, at no point did I ever consider giving up desserts or sweet foods.  I don’t have A sweet tooth, my whole mouth is full of them. For me, the main course is simply a formality to get to the real main event, and I have never understood why people want to order an entrée as this simply increases the amount of waiting time before eating dessert.

So when giving up sugar I immediately took to finding recipes for delicious sugar-free sweet things,  and I found plenty.  In fact there is one particular recipe that is hands down the tastiest dessert I have ever tried, but I’m going to keep you hanging and give you that recipe another time :).

At this point I should probably clarify my use of the word sugar. I haven’t actually given up sugar, I have given up refined sugar. Refined sugar is the sugar that is mostly used in processed foods and eating-out type establishments.

The list of sweeteners below are all highly processed:

  • Cane sugar – white sugar, raw and brown.
  • icing sugar,
  • maple flavoured syrup
  • honey (if it is not cold extracted)
  • brown rice syrup (also called rice malt syrup)
  • dextrose
  • molasses (this is actually the byproduct of refining sugar)
  • fructose (unless you are just eating it in a piece of fruit)
  • agave syrup
  • maltose
  • and of course high-fructose corn syrup
  • Splenda (this artificial sweetener/chemical has is actually a processed form of sugar)

Refined sugar is not your friend. There are so many reasons why refined sugar is not your friend, but today the main event of this blog is the desert recipe below (and I am as keen to get there as I would be if I was eating it), so I am going to keep this part brief.  But basically unrefined sugars, that is sugars the way nature made them, contain nutrients which enable our body to process them.  Refined sugars do not, and this means that in order for your body to process them it has to draw on the ones that are already in your body, and your body doesn’t keep some spare vitamins and minerals lying around the place just in case you eat some food that is missing some, and so it has to take them from other parts of your body that are actually using them, need them. If you do this to your body every day (and keep in mind that, maybe apart from fresh produce, the majority of foods you purchase from the supermarket will have some form of refined sugar in them), this will totally mess with the balance of your whole body, and unbalanced bodies have a hard time coping.  Coping-less bodies result in us feeling unwell.

In many cases refined sugars are so far refined they have become chemicals (high-fructose corn syrup and splenda are two examples), so your body doesn’t even know what to do with them.  There are many experts who believe that sugar is the greatest threat to human health.

Well on that happy note I’m going to leave that there today, but I will undoubtedly be talking a lot more about sugar.  If you want to read some now, here is a comprehensive  article from the Global Healing Centre Website on the impact of refined sugars on our health.

But luckily nature has provided us with plenty of sugar so we can make plenty of sweet food options that our body can deal with. (although we probably shouldn’t make plenty, just sometimes as even though natural sugars contain the nutrients to help us metabolise them, sugar is still sugar and moderation is a good idea.  If you eat too much you will probably end up wishing you hadn’t 🙂 ).

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So here is a list of the unrefined sugars I use.

  • Dates (did you know that you can make caramel from dates? And I’m not talking about a some kind of healthy caramel option that doesn’t really taste like caramel, I mean proper caramel. I’m think I’m going to dedicate an entire blog to caramel recipes made from dates)
  • Coconut sugar
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • 100% pure maple syrup
  • Organic, cold-extracted honey

After making my fair share of refined-sugar-free sweet treats I realised that you can pretty much take any recipe and adapt the ingredients to be much healthier and to exclude refined sugar.

With substituting sweeteners the basic principles are:

  • Coconut sugar and evaporated cane sugar have 1:1 ratio with sugar
  • Honey is sweeter than sugar and has a stronger flavour so you want to use about 3/4 the amount of honey, so if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar  you can substitute it with 3/4 cup of honey.  For baking you also want to reduce your other liquids by about 2 tablespoons for 3/4 cup of honey.
  • Maple syrup I use 1:1 ratio too, and for baking you will need to reduce your other liquids by about 3 tablespoons for every cup of maple syrup.

You can also substitute other ingredients to make things a bit healthier or to meet dietary requirements.

Below is the apple cake recipe I found on food.com

  • 1 Cup plain flour
  • 1⁄3 cup rolled oats
  • 1⁄3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons natural set low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 small eggs (or 1 jumbo one)
  • 500 g red apples, peeled cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable oil cooking spray

And here is what I ended up making

  • 1 Cup organic wholemeal spelt  flour
  • 1⁄3 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1⁄4 cup organic honey
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon (yep I got me some organic cinnamon, it’s very good)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch Himalayan pink salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1 small containers of organic apple and berry puree (Woolies sell these now)
  • 1 teaspoon of organic vanilla essence (this is homemade – I’ll pass that recipe on soon)
  • 2 small eggs (or 1 jumbo one) – organic
  • 500 g green apples, peeled cored and diced

To make the cake you combine all the dry ingredients into a bowl and then stir in the wet ingredients, folding in the apples at the end.  Bake at 180 degrees celsius for around 30 minutes.  Easy.

Here’s my little beauty.

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This cake is delicious, it tastes like apple crumble, and the original recipe actually has an crumble topping you can make, but if you read the title of this blog you already know I put cream cheese icing on mine.  This cream cheese icing is super simple, and I also reckon it is the tastiest around which is why I just had to put it on this cake.

Cream Cheese Icing recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tub of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon + honey

You just mix the 2 ingredients together until you have yummy creamy icing.  Start out with the tablespoon of honey and then just keep tasting it till it’s just right, but be very careful not to “taste” the lot you could absolutely eat this icing on its own with a spoon. It is that good.

And here she is with icing (a slice may or may not have been eaten prematurely due to amazing smells produced whilst baking).

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I have also made this icing with just maple syrup, and also with maple syrup and cocoa.  All of them equally delicious.

I am always on the lookout for new refined-sugar recipes so post your favourites in the comments below  for me 🙂