3 tips for staying healthy around Christmas time, and the not so healthy “health” foods

To read about my 3 tips for staying healthy around Christmas time and my list of the not so healthy “health” food that abounds, check out my interview here with Vie Active – luxury, high-performance activewear brand based down the road in Bondi.

Happy holidays and get some sun, sea and surf!

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Banana Date Walnut Loaf

IMG_3652What to do with 3 ripe bananas that will not be eaten and dared not be tossed away? Or looking for a loaf-type nutritious snack or dessert that you can smear an inch thick of butter onto (now that you’re not eating much, if any, bread….)? Or craving a cosy and comforting Christmasy treat? Try this easy recipe. Kids will love it and I like that it contains no concentrated sweeteners at all- just dates and bananas. Plus it’s gluten-free (and grain-free if you consider that buckwheat is technically a fruit and not a grain). Because the ingredients are so nutrient-dense with no empty fillers it is very filling and, as with all my cake and dessert recipes, a little goes a long way.

If you’re like me and don’t have much of a sweet tooth, then reduce the amount of dates used.

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas (approx 300-400g, weighed unpeeled)
125g butter or coconut oil
225g (1 1/3 cup) activated cinnamon buckwheat
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup, 230g, approx 14 medjool dates (weigh with seeds in then remove), roughly chopped (I pull them apart with my hands).
1 cup, 95g, roughly chopped activated walnuts (I break them apart with my hands) plus extra for decorating

IMG_3653Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.

Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil and line it with baking paper on the base and all sides.

Process activated buckwheat in a nut grinder (or thermomix) until it resembles a fine flour. I do this in 2 batches in my nut grinder.

Add eggs to food processor and process well until very well beaten – their colour will change from yellow to almost white. Add all other ingredients to food processor other than dates and walnuts and process until mixture is smooth.

Pour batter into a large bowl and add dates and walnuts. Stir well to combine.

Pour mixture into the loaf tin and decorate the top with a scattering of walnuts.

Bake at 120 degrees Celsius for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. If the top is not brown enough to your liking after 1 hour, turn the temperature up a little and bake for another 5 minutes or so.

When cooled somewhat remove from tin (it should slide right out with the baking paper) and place onto a serving platter or cutting board.

Serve as is or toasted under the grill element and then smear with butter if desired.

Keeps a couple days out of the fridge then refrigerate.

This is the first of a series of loaf recipes I will be making. Others will include an orange peel and spices, a savoury Cypriot olive and mint loaf,  and a basic buckwheat bread loaf. 

Xmas trading hours and my grown-up Xmas wish list

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While the kids and I will be away visiting family from 23-31 Dec, my assistants will be manning the fort in my absence. Just text me any orders and I will co-ordinate with them for you to collect from my workshop in Waverley.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all my clients, customers, retailers and followers of my blog for all your wonderful support over 2014. It has meant that I have been able follow my passion and do what I love to do: make nutritious and delicious food, share it, talk about it, show you how and why to make it, debunk the confusion surrounding nutrition and help you on your journey towards robust health.

2015 is set to be an exciting year with the launch of some new products, getting my cookbook off the ground, expanding to further shops and conducting regular cooking classes on some new topics as well as the golden oldies.  My aim is to focus more on food coaching and to that end I am working with a holistic GP (Dr Min Yeo) and naturopath/herbalist (Anthia Koullouros) so that our mutual clients are provided with an integrated service with my focus being on culinary/dietary support and nutritional theory /myth-busting. To that end, if you’re confused about what on earth you should be eating, how to shed some extra kilos, what to eat for fertility and lactation, how to perform your best if you’re an athlete, how to overcome fussy eaters, have digestive or gut issues, want to curb your sugar (or other processed food) addiction,  or need help with meal planning or sourcing wholefoods at the most affordable prices, I encourage you to come and see me. Click here for more information.

My wish for 2015 is a place where:IMG_1986

  • school canteens offer healthy, nutritious and delicious food for growing bodies so our kids can function properly and perform their best
  • kids are not offered junk food as a reward or treat from teachers or well-meaning adults
  • hospitals offer nutritious food to enable speedy and robust recovery of patients
  • schools offer kids the choice of standing or sitting at their desks (this has started with one school in Melbourne)
  • kids are encouraged to spend most of their play-time outside in sunshine in nature
  • more people walk or cycle to school, work or shops
  • people are fully aware of what they are eating and the effect it has on their body so that they can make an informed choice
  • people understand that the health of our food starts with the health of our soil and oceans
  • farmers who are committed to ethical and sustainable farming practices are paid and revered like rock stars

Granted, the above is a pipe-dream that I probably won’t ever see realised in my life time let alone 2015 but I like to dream big and maybe, just maybe, if we work together small yet meaningful increments can be made.

In the words of the Dalai Lama…..dalai lama quote

Here is a 2 minute video I whipped together showing the culinary highlights of star anise organic wholefoods in 2014- I hope you enjoy it!

http://flipagram.com/f/NGOYO1HWSh

Wishing you all happy holidays, much love soulla x

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new happenings in the wholefood scene in Sydney and beyond…

Thought all you clean-living folk out there might be interested to know that…

  • The Canadian Way is now stocking their 100% wild salmon, tuna and other products at Kingsley Meats in Rose Bay and at All Good Things Organic Market in Wollongong. Did you know that this salmon is the only 100% guaranteed wild (not farmed) salmon in Australia? It has an omega 3 to 6 ratio of 10:1 so highly anti-inflammatory. The salmon comes in frozen fillets, tails, smoked and salmon roe. Also try his tuna (even higher in omega 3 – I made a lovely tuna ceviche today – pictured below), halibut and black cod. Check out his list of stockists for a location closest to you. Still not sure about the wild versus farmed thing? Contact me.

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  • a gorgeous organic store has opened up in Maroubra called Coco’s Wealth of Health selling premium quality products including Cleos dairy, pastured meats and my activated nuts.

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  • Nelson Road Tuckshop on Bronte Road, Bondi Junction (near Westfield)  is an organic cafe which opened up earlier this year. I haven’t eaten there but the menu looks good, the staff were friendly and happily answered my pesky questions. They only use olive oil in their salads, have a couple of different sourdough breads including gluten-free one (wild rice and quinoa) and eggs for brekky are soft-boiled. Another good eating out lunch option when you’re in the junction near the Westfield end.

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  • Sprout Wholefood Grocer opened up in April this year  stocking a wide range of wholefood products including certified organic produce, Cleos dairy, Green Cow Organic meat and poultry, and my activated nuts and some of my other products. It comes complete with a movement studio upstairs, a herb garden, and a cafe (7am-4pm).

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  • Thr1ve have recently opened a new store in the Brisbane CBD. This is in addition to their stores in Sydney CBD (x2), ACT and Melbourne. Well done Josh! You can buy my activated almonds and macadamia nuts there.

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  • Woollahra Artisan Market has opened up on the corner of Moncur and Queen Street every Sunday (8:30am – 2:30pm) in the car park next to Zigolinis. Who’se been there? I’m keen to check it out this Sunday.

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If something wholefoodie has opened up near you I’d love to hear about it. Please share. 

If you would like to follow me on Twitter or Facebook  just click on the hyerlinks or on Instagram search “soullachamberlain”.

2-ingredient mango jelly!

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Super easy to make. Super delicious. Super nutritious. No added sugars. Perfect summer dessert. Kids love it (big ones too!).

There’s 2 things you need to know about making jelly:

1. using a quality source of gelatin powder is important. Gelatin is what makes the mixture gel or congeal. (It’s naturally found in the bones of animals and hence what makes a good bone broth look like jelly and stand on a spoon!). In terms of ready-made gelatin powders, I recommend Bernard Jensen or Great Lakes in the red container. I used the latter in this recipe.  Their beef gelatin powder is pure protein derived from the selective hydrolysis of collagen from the skin, connective tissue and/or bones of grass fed, free range beef cattle. This is the real deal. Just one ingredient: ground up collagen from pastured cows. No need to ever buy cheap processed imitation gelatin crap full of flavours, colours and preservatives from the supermarket again. Major brands will go unnamed.

2. using the right amount of gelatin powder is important – and is a painstaking process of trial and error. Not adding enough makes a watery goo. Adding too much produces a hard rubbery texture that you could bounce a ball off (unless of course you’re after gummies or you could always simply say “Well, I intended to make gummies, of course”).  My mate Monty tells me that the consistency of jelly is all about tongue action. And then proceeded to give me a 10 minute explanation of how the tongue needs to be able to break the jelly apart with the right amount of effortless force. Indeed. Fortunately my mango jelly passed his test. Relief! But if you feel that the consistency of the jelly using my recipe is not to your liking (if your tongue just aint happy), then simply experiment by increasing or decreasing the amount of gelatin powder used.

Ok, let’s do it!

IMG_3297 Ingredients:

350ml mango flesh (1 large mango), plus additional for decorating
½ tablespoon (2 tsp) gelatin powder

Directions:

Puree the mango flesh with a hand held blender. I do this in a measuring cup to determine the correct volume of mango.

Place pureed mango plus gelatin powder into a small saucepan over medium heat and mix ingredients with hand held blender until gelatin is dissolved and the ingredients are mixed well (this will only take a few minutes). The mixture should be warm – do not allow to simmer or boil. Pour into small vessels or a glass rectangular container and refrigerate until set (this only takes a couple of hours).

To serve:

Top with additional sliced mango segments and, if desired, thick mud cream or creme fraiche.

Serves approx 4.

IMG_3296Variations:

  1. For a creamier version (akin to panacotta), add 100ml of cream to the saucepan. Experiment with volume of cream to obtain your desired creaminess; and/or
  2. Add cubes of mango (and/or well-ripened pear) into the vessels/container after pouring in the mixture.

Health benefits:

Beef gelatin:
* Promotes healthy skin & hair.
* Improves joint & bone health.
* Improves quality of sleep when taken in the evening.
* Enhances digestion by strengthening the intestinal lining.

Adding a quality protein or fat source to fruit also helps to slow down the release of the fructose naturally found in fruit, avoiding the sugar high then crash.

I’ll be writing a post in the future on the difference between the Green and the Red containers of Great Lakes gelatin powder as I am asked about this frequently.

Clean Eats: My favourite places to eat out in Sydney for brekky, lunch and dinner

I am often asked for recommendations on where to eat out for breakfast lunch and dinner. I’m not really into fancy foams and overpriced menus that pay for Sydney views. I’m into clean wholesome fare that’s ethically sourced and minimally processed. The big considerations for me are (a) pastured meats, poultry and eggs; (b) wild (as opposed to farmed) seafood; and (c) no manufactured/ processed /industrialised seed oils (eg vegetable, canola, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, peanut etc). Chemical-free produce is a bonus but I’m not going to die in a ditch over that as I think its toxic load is less than what grain-fed meat, farmed fish and industrialised seed oils carry. It’s mighty rare to find places that tick ALL of these boxes. More often than not it comes down to negotiating the menu and the art of picking and choosing the cleanest dishes.

Even though I don’t often eat bread (I try to avoid gluten as much as possible but occasionally I have a piece of sourdough bread slathered in butter if i feel like it when eating out) I have noticed over the years that there’s a direct correlation between the quality of a restaurant and the quality of its bread. So, somewhat paradoxically, I seem to select restaurants based on the quality of their breads. It comes down to this: a restaurant that goes to the effort of understanding and sourcing sourdough bread or making their own bread appreciates quality.

So without further a-do, here’s THE LIST of my  favourite clean eats for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner (I have blogged about some of these place before). I have tried to limit each category to my top 3 or 4 places:

Breakfast:

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen (Alexandria)-  I love their biodymanic eggs with greens, tomato, sourdough bread with loads of butter and sides of kim chi and grilled halumi. Wide selection of teas, coffees and probiotic drinks all in a super colourful delightful setting decorated with all manner of fruits, vegetables and yummy treats. Communal tables. Housed in a big warehouse shared with Campos coffee and a sourdough bakery.  Walking into this place always makes me feel perky and smiley.

Egg of the Universe (Rozelle)- great selection of traditional wholefoods properly prepared including kombucha, sauerkraut, and activated buckwheat pancakes. Felt like I was in my own kitchen with someone else serving me.Meals are only cooked in coconut oil as their fat of choice, and filtered water is used and served. Large kid-friendly outdoor area. Yoga studio attached.

Bitton Cafe  (Alexandria) -Opened 14 years ago by the charismatic Frenchman David Bitton, his French flair comes through in his menu. David uses only Pepe Saya ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oils as his cooking fats. No processed oils at all. The chickens and eggs are organic. It’s also open for lunch and dinner.

 Three Blue Ducks (Bronte) – I just love their black pudding (blood sausage) with eggs breakfast meal (great to see some organ meats on a breakfast menu!).

Lunch:

Kitchen by Mike (Rosebury)- Great guy, great food, great open large warehouse shared with über stylish Koskela interior designs.

Orchard Street (North Bondi) – renowned for its juices in its original Macpherson Street Bronte appothecary, Orchard Street has opened up a new large eat-in or take away store in North Bondi. Owner and natropath Kirsten Shanks has created this new store that reflects her beautiful style and energy. Clean food, gorgeous atmosphere and kombucha on tap!

Henleys Wholefoods (Bondi Junction) – tucked away down the stairs from Oxford St, this little gem provides lovely meals and smoothies.

Thrive (CBD) –  Grab a takeaway meal, sit in the Domain in the sun and enjoy a respite from office confinement.

Side Door (Vaucluse) – situated next to the butcher shop GRUB (with the food coming from there), the Side Door reopens again on Wednesday December 10 2014 from Wednesday – Friday 12.30-8.30pm. Everything on the menu has Paleo and Gluten free options.

If you want a fancier /more exy lunch then refer to any of the places listed under Dinner below.

If I’m at a pinch at Westfield or some other shopping centre the best bet is to grab 1/2 dz oysters at the seafood counter in DJs Food Hall with a small selection of local or imported cheese from the cheese counter – look at what cheeses are on sale to make it more affordable. No need to ever step foot into a food hall. Many people think that sushi is really healthy. The issue here is the cheap farmed fish often used in sushi and the fact that it isn’t very high in saturated fats which leaves me unsatiated and hungry within 30 minutes.

Dinner:

Bei Amici (Darling Point): the high water mark in clean foods dining. Home-made Northern Italian fare using the best ingredients. Pastured meats from Feather & Bone, organic produce, home-made bread and organ meats adorn the menu including pate and tongue. Not that they wouldn’t be welcome, but I personally wouldn’t take kids here because its small, intimate and high-end.  Take the rare opportunity to masquerade as adults.

4 in Hand Dining Room (Paddington): I love the organ meats that feature on the menu and the slow cooked lamb or pork for 2. There is also a suckling pig to share if you can gather a group of 10 friends together. Grass fed meats, gorgeous cosy ambience, and excellent friendly service.  Chef Colin Fassnidge never disappoints. Organic veggies from Martin Boetz’ farm. Butter or olive oil are the fats used for cooking except for deep-fried food. The gratuitous appetiser of smoked white fish with citrus and basil is a nice touch. Any restaurant that has butter and unrefined salt in a marrow bone on the table has already won me over. And I love the enormous triptych of the squid that hangs on the wall. This is my kind of place.

Seans Panaroma (Bondi): similar ambiance to Bei Amici- small, cosy and intimate. Book a babysitter and don’t even think about taking the kids. Enjoy the gorgeous food in peace.

Porteno (Surry Hills) – traditional Argentinian (but need to carefully navigate the oils used in the menu). Big, fun, noisy and kid-friendly.

Felix French bistro (CBD) –  they often have organ meats on the menu. Despite its massive size, it still feels cosy and manages to keep great service. Extensive wine list. Very popular with the CBD bankers and finance crowd. Wear a suit and frock up.

Alfie & Hettie (Glebe): elegant dining-room in a heritage-listed terrace which changed owners 3 months ago. Despite a bad experience with service (which I will put down to an aberration rather than typical) the food was exceptional. Slow cooked meats for 2 including 18 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder and 2 day slow cooked short ribs. Amazing. Who cooks dishes for that long nowadays?

LP’S Quality Meats (Chippendale): opened several months ago, ex-Tetsuya head chef Luke Powell has created a no-fuss American style diner featuring pastured meats, Thirlmere pastured chickens and pork from Vic Meats. No vegetable oils are used other than canola oil for the chicken. So watch that. The smoker is one of a kind in Australia imported from Tennessee. The staff are super friendly. We had the 10 hour beef short ribs (a bit too charred for me), pate and sardines and lambs belly.

Tea, coffee and a snack:

Ovvio Organics (Paddington)- the best quality tea in Australia bar none. No one is fussier than Anthia Koullouros in the source and processing of her teas and spices. It’s one of the few places in Australia I can walk into and not have to ask about the provenance of the products nor examine the ingredients list on the products that line the shelves.

Bondi Wholefoods (North Bondi) – kid-friendly courtyard.

About Life Marketplace (Bondi Junction)I like their drinks menu esp raw cacao spicy chai

Formaggi Occello (Surry Hills)cheese heaven.

But whatever restaurant I land at (and let’s face it we don’t always get to choose!) these are the strategies I employ:

  • ask for my meal to be cooked in butter or olive oil instead of any industrialised seed oils (most restaurants can accommodate this other than Mexican restaurants or cheaper Asian restaurants. Anyone feeling entrepreneurial?? And while you’re at it open a clean fish and chips shop…..there’s nothing wrong with dreaming BIG!!)
  • or opt for a dish that isn’t cooked in any fats or oils at all eg grilled fish or roast meat or casseroles tend to be cooked in their own fat
  • avoid salmon and ocean trout on menus in Australia as these fish are ALL farmed (and fed some really nasty stuff including antibiotics, soy pellets, colour dyes etc) and are not wild
  • avoid sauces or ask that they are put on the side if I think that they will contain vegetable oils eg hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce are typically are made with canola oil as the base
  • avoid any deep-fried food (as they are almost always cooked in cottonseed oil even at the cleanest of restaurants), legumes or grains (other than sourdough bread if i feel like it) but a small amount of legumes or grains even if not properly prepared won’t kill you (unless your celiac, have leaky gut, auto-immunity or other major digestive issues then it’s just not worth it)
  • I rarely have dessert (I’m content/full with an entree plus main though I’m always happy to share a cheese platter sans the crackers).

And more importantly if you’ve made a decision to eat somewhere (whether it’s your choice or not) just enjoy the social experience and don’t stress too much about it! And if you see something on the menu that really takes youre fancy then as I’ve blogged about before if you crave a food then for God’s sake just eat it. As my guru Chris Kresser is fond of saying “It’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude, than the right food with the wrong attitude!” Short of having food sensitivities or digestive issues (eg celiac, leaky gut, or some auto-immunity etc),  the emotional nourishment you get from sharing a meal and a glass (or more!) of wine with loved ones will normally outweigh any physiological damage that the food/drink might do to your system. So better to just relax and enjoy the experience than wring your hands in distress. Obviously if you have food sensitivities, leaky gut, auto-immunity or the like,  or if you are like me and are deeply concerned about the provenance and processing of what you eat, then take initiative and choose the restaurant if you can (pick up the phone and make enquiries of the kitchen staff ahead of time) or pick and choose from the menu wisely as I’ve set out above and then…. ENJOY!

Have you been to any of the above places? What did you think? What are some places that you rate that I have not mentioned? I’d love to hear from you. 

Photo gallery below:

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Greek Rice pudding (Risoyalo)

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Always a favourite dessert of mine growing up, I have fond memories of my mother frequently whipping up rice pudding dusted with cinnamon powder. I took her age-old recipe and made the necessary wholefood modifications to it and, after a few reiterations, I feel that I have nailed it and it’s ready to be shared. My kids can’t get enough of this one and have been taking it for morning tea to school. Just a warning, for anyone who loves a creamy comfort food, this is highly addictive!

Risoyalo is delicious served warm or, to take advantage of the resistant starch properties of cooked and cooled white rice, serve at room temperature or cold from the fridge.  I recently wrote a blog post on benefits of resistant starch which you can read here. So this is yet another way to incorporate it into your diet. I know, what a hardship.

Ingredients:

1 cup (200g) med grain white rice, soaked in 2 cups of water overnight on benchIMG_3157
2 cups water (additional to the above)
the rind from ½ a lemon (slice off with a knife)
2 cups full fat milk
1/2 tablespoon (2 tsps) vanilla essence
¼ cup raw honey (or a combination of honey and maple syrup. I like using half and half)
cinnamon powder for dusting
4 egg yolks (optional), for extra nutrient-density

IMG_3156Directions:

Strain soaked rice and rinse in water.

Add 2 cups of water, rice and lemon rind to a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil (should only take a few minutes). Lower heat, stir then recover and allow to gently simmer until rice is cooked and all of the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally (approx 8 mins). Remove lemon rind with tongs.

Add milk, honey and vanilla. Stir occasionally, uncovered, on a gentle simmer until mixture thickens and most of the milk has been absorbed (approx 20 mins). Turn off heat and stir in egg yolks until well mixed.

Pour into individual ramekins or vessels and dust with cinnamon powder.

IMG_3159Keeps in refrigerator for several days.

Makes approx 10-12 x 100g servings.

You can not taste the addition of the egg yolks (something that was not in my mum’s traditional recipe). If anything, the texture is more rich and creamy with the yolks. They do give the pudding a yellow tinge instead of its usual white though!

Although I haven’t tried it, for a  dairy-free version I suggest using 2 cups of coconut milk instead of cows milk. If you try this coconut milk version let me know and next time I will make it with coconut milk and report back.

 

 

 

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