Superfoods Christmas Recipe

I am a self-confessed food-aholic. 

I love and am totally addicted to good food. Cooking. Eating out. Traveling and letting my tummy guide my explorations; from Michelin star restaurants to road-side sticks on plastic crates – I love it all.

Nowadays, I practice ahimsa. Which is the Sanskrit word for Non-harm. That means I eat consciously. For now, I’m a vegetarian.  I choose to not consume dairy or gluten becuase that makes me feel better. What I do may not suit you and your lifestyle. But one this is hard to argue with – chocolate is amazing. Since choosing to be dairy free I’ve experimented with many dairy recipes. And love sharing my sucesses, so read on if you’re keen to learn about cacao and for my Vegan Chocolate Mousse recipe.

I believe in eating to nourish. Although sometimes I over nourish – especially at this time of year!

The fuel we give our bodies ultimately gives us the energy we need to perform physically and mentally.

What is all this who-ha about superfoods – what exactly are they?

Superfoods are just that – foods that contain significantly higher quantities of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other health-boosting, anti-aging, disease-fighting goodness. Some are everyday whole foods that you’ll likely be eating already (broccoli, blueberries, chia).  Others are more exotic and grown in the rainforests of Peru.

My favourite, cacao….

BENEFITS OF CACAO 

  1. The highest source of plant-based iron. If you’re on a plant-based diet and looking for iron, look no further.   Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron known to man, at a whopping 7.3mg per 100g.  Beef and lamb are at 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg per 100g.
  1. 40x more antioxidants than blueberries – that’s a bucket load of free radical fighting goodness.
  1. A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant. Cacao is a great source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine.  These neurotransmitters are associated with feeling happy! And can even alleviate depression. It also contains theobromine – a substance like caffeine. A natural, healthy, delicious (and legal) way to get your buzz on. I’m not arguing with that.

Here is my favourite Vegan Chocolate Pudding – you can make this at Christmas adding a few goji’s or mint on top for a splash of colour. It literally takes 5 mins to blend, taste and pop in the fridge. This is refined sugar-free and 100% fuss-free. Enjoy.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSE

I love love love making this recipe. It literally takes five minutes to blend. And even non-vegans love it. I take it to family gatherings and make it in replace of ice cream on the weekend. It’s dagerously good and super easy – so you’ve been warned if you become addicted like I am.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ – 1 ripe avocado (depends on size)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ½ can of coconut cream (shake it up)
  • ¼ cup cacao powder more if you like it super chocolatey
  • 1 tbs of Macca Powder if you’d like some extra superfoody caramelly goodness.
    • This superfood is great to balance hormones (both males and females) and is a natural energy booster too. Not to mention it just tastes amazing! Here is somemore details on this superfood if you’re interested: https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/11/21/maca-powder-benefits-nutrition-and-uses_a_23284913/ 
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Dates or Maple Syrup are optional if you like it a little sweeter. Good for vegan chocolate mouse virgins or the sweet tooths amongst you.

METHOD

  • Pop all the liquid into the blender first
  • Then cacao
  • Then add the banana and avocado.
  • Taste before you pour it out into your serving vessel. You may need a little more sweetness or fluffiness.
  • Add to a big bowl, (or a few little dessert glasses – this should make three or four) and place in the fridge for at least one hour to set. Two hours is ideal but not necessary.
  • If it’s too sloppy once you’ve finished blending option to add chia seeds or psyllium husks to bulk it up – I suggest two tablespoons. You’ll need to allow about 20 mins for it to work its magic and do this step as soon as you pop it into the fridge, don’t worry it wont change the flavour just firm up your texture.
  • Enjoy!

Treats! Bliss Ball Recipe

I am a self-confessed food-aholic. I love and am totally addicted to good food. Cooking. Eating out. Traveling and letting my tummy guide my explorations; from Michelin star restaurants to road-side sticks on plastic crates – I’ve tried it.

I believe in eating to nourish.

The fuel we give our bodies gives us the energy we need to perform physically and mentally

As a yoga teacher and small business owner I’m always on the run and I need my fix of sweet snacks.

Packed with super-food goodness these treats are simple, healthy and delicious snacks.

PEANUT BUTTER POWER BAR

These little power bars are full of nutritious ingredients, protein, and sweetened by the humble date. They are easy to make and store really well in the fridge or freezer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ cups of pitted dates to become paste (soak them in warm water for 15-30mins then drain and mash or blend)
  • ½ cup of your choice of dried fruit (goji, figs, sultana’s work well in my experience)
  • 4 tbsp of natural peanut butter
  • ¼ crushed peanuts or slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp of sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup of gluten free quick oats or quinoa flakes
  • Pinch of cinnamon

METHOD

  • Soak the dates in warm water for at least 15 mins then drain
  • Place dates in food processor or mash with the back of a fork until it becomes a creamy paste. I often make a few cups of these at a time and store in the fridge with a little vanilla essence for up to two weeks to add to smoothies etc.
  • Set the dates aside for a moment
  • Place oats or flakes into the processor – blend until the oats are small pieces. Mix in cinnamon
  • In a mixing bowl add the oats, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. Mix it all together.
  • Then add your date paste and peanut butter
  • Use your hands to mix it all together – don’t be shy.
  • Cover a baking tray or square container with baking paper
  • Scoop mixture into the container or tray and press the mixture down to make an even layer. I user another sheet of baking paper and the back of the cup measures for a smooth, even finish.
  • Place in the fridge (or freezer for speed) for 15 mins then cut into bars
  • Store in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer.

TAHINI BLISS BALLS

I just love the blend of tahini with a little sweetness and cacao. Tahini is one of the best plant-based sources of calcium. It’s also high in protein, packed with magnesium, iron and vitamins.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup of tahini
  • ¼ – ½ cup of maple (depends how sweet you like it)
  • ½ cup of almonds (or peanuts) broken into small pieces (I use a food processor)
  • ½ cup of almond meal
  • ½ cup of organic shredded coconut
  • ¼ sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ¼ -½ cup of organic raw cacao (depends how bitter you like it)
  • ¼ cup sultanas
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt

METHOD

  • In a mixing bowl add all the dried ingredients and mix them well
  • Slowly add the maple syrup and then the tahini – mixing consistently
  • Then use your hands to mix it all together.
  • You can adjust the sweetness and chocolatey-ness by adding more maple and cacao. If it becomes too wet, you can add a little more coconut but remember once the mixture goes to the fridge the moisture will dry off
  • Set for a minimum of 15 mins (or if you’re like me and you can’t wait, enjoy them right away).
  • These store best in the fridge for up to one week.

Food glorious food.

I am a self-confessed food-aholic. I love and am totally addicted to good food. Cooking. Eating out. Traveling and letting my tummy guide my explorations; from Michelin star restaurants to road-side sticks on plastic crates – I’ve tried it.

I think about food all the time. Sometimes that means that my relationship with food is overindulgent. Especially when I’m stressed – my go-to comfort food; something sweet and nutty.

Knowing your imperfections doesn’t mean you have to give them up. Knowing our weaknesses can actually be a great strength, for me that has meant mastering the art of healthy vegan treats.

I follow the basic principles of Ayurveda, some of which are described in a previous article.

Put simply all life forms rely on food to live, food gives (what yogi’s call prana life-force or) vitality.  For this reason, food is celebrated! Yay – another reason to love yoga.

Yogi’s believe that food can nourish on three levels;

  • The physical body – experienced through the energy we need for each day
  • The emotional body – experienced through the senses and the mind
  • The spiritual body – experienced through the ability to have a clear consciousness.

One Ayurvedic guideline is practicing non-attachment. When it comes to food that means quantity. When something tastes amazing, this can be a real challenge! So we try to eat what we need and eat mindfully. That’s not to say we shouldn’t indulge in treats…

In fact, one of the most revered ingredients in Ayurveda is the humble date.  They are believed to balance all dosha types and to promote immunity and energy when consumed in moderation.

Dates are high in vitamins, antioxidants and dietary fibre. They are rich in selenium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron to name a few minerals. Interestingly, selenium is a trace mineral that plays an important role in thyroid and immune system function as well as sperm production.

Dates are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, the B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6) and folate. But, they are also high in sugar (especially fructose) so should only be eaten in small amounts.

I like to include about two dates into my daily diet. I do that either through my morning porridge or smoothie depending on the season or bliss balls – my favourite healthy treat.

Balancing physical changes in winter

If wintertime is creating excess mucus and body weight for you and/or making you feel sluggish and depressed, then add more light, dry and high fiber foods. Consuming more high fiber foods will reduce feelings of being weighed down, stagnant or uninspired. Focus on adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your cooked meals. My favourites are broccoli, zucchini and green beans. Even adding some drying qualities to soak up some mucus can help too – think wholegrains grains, beans, millet, quinoa etc.

Nic’s wholegrain breakie porridge.

  • Cook quinoa as per the packet instructions always good to make a bunch in advance to enjoy through the week.
  • In a small saucepan, add half a tablespoon of coconut oil.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of almond meal for some good fats, 1 tablespoon or chia seeds, 1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut.
  • Add ¾ cup of water or a milk of choice – warm through. Allow the chia to become collagenous – about 10 mins, stir every now and again.
  • When its ready, add cinnamon and nutmeg (or what ever spices you like for the morning)
  • Add about a quarter of a cup of your pre-cooked quinoa.
  • Turn your pot back on for a few mins just to heat everything through again, you may also need to add a little more liquid.
  • Option to add a protein powder and or a mashed banana when you add your spices.
  • I like to top min with walnuts and sunflower seeds or pepita’s. You can also add your favourite fruit. I like to eat with my eyes, so figs and kiwi are my go to.
  • This is a really warming and nourishing breakie that will keep you full for a long time.

This is just some general advice that I’ve seen support and nourish my body. For any more information on Aryuveda, get in touch.

Winter nourishment

It’s obvious that winter is a time for hibernation. Less daylight hours, plants and trees are dormant and even animals are less frequently seen. But what we don’t often talk about is how to change our diets and lifestyles to suit the cold, dark, often damp conditions.

This three part content series will cover some tips and thinking on how to support your body through the chilli change of weather based on Ayurvedic principals.

Ayurveda, yoga’s sister healing science helps us to understand how to support our bodies to maintain vitality through the changing of each season.  According to it’s principles, winter resonates the strongest with the dosha (bio-elemental energy) of kaph. Kaph’s qualities are of cold, heavy, moist, grounded, and slow. When in balance, kapha is a source of strength, vitality, and stability to our bodies and minds. In winter kapha is prone to imbalance leading to excess mucus (cold and flu season) and excess body weight as well as a feeling of sluggishness and sometimes even a little depressive.

Tweaking our diets can help to keep the energy of kapha balanced and strong throughout winter. Over this content series you will get a simple tip and recipe per week.

  • Tip one: Keep warm internally

Our digestive fires go into a little hibernation during winter too. Eating foods with cold, wet and heavy properties, (raw veggies, frozen foods, sweets, and oily or fried foods) —weakens our digestive fires. To strengthen, drink hot or warm water (instead of cold or iced) and drink warming teas like fresh ginger or chai (these have warming spices in them as well as being warm).

Focus on eating warm, slow-cooked, slightly oily, and well-spiced foods. And you can add these spices to teas or meals to boost your digestive fire: black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, fennel seeds, licorice, cardamom, and ginger root.

Nic’s Warming Pumpkin soup

  • Roast half a pumpkin (I use butternut or jap)
  • While this is in the oven, sauté some onions or leek (or both for extra richness) as well as a fennel bulb. Fennel gives the soup an extra creamy quality. I use coconut oil to sauté.
  • When the veggies have soften, grate some fresh ginger and garlic into the pot (I use at least four cloves and about half an inch of grated ginger but please adjust according to taste). Sauté for another 2-3 mins until their flavours mellow.
  • Then add half to a full teaspoon or fennel seeds, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ to a full teaspoon of turmeric – grate some black pepper on top. Enjoy the fragrance as they stew.
  • Add about 1.5L of water to the pot and some salt (you can add stock if you wish for more flavor).
  • Add your roasted pumpkin. You can also add some cut carrot for extra thickness and sweetness. Allow everything to come to the boil and simmer for at least 15 mins. As long as your pumpkin is roasted and carrot, if you’re using, are soft then its ready!
  • Blend and enjoy.

The benefits of mindful movement

As the winter chill starts to thaw and workplaces ramp up in the lead up to Christmas breaks. Sydney-siders find themselves out and about more and stuck at the office more – leaving little time for their bodies and minds to unwind.

Our bodies suffer from increased hours at the desk, busy stressed minds, tight shoulders and necks, sore hips – that coupled with going out more and letting go of our routine can leave us feel exhausted and stressed.

What surprises me most about my yoga practice is just how much I can apply it to other areas of my life and the enormous difference it makes for me.

In my personal experience, by taking time each day to focus my attention on simple movements coupled with controlled breathing, even for a just a short period of time, I have found that I can dramatically increase my ability to handle more mental stress and calm my nervous system.

Cortisol levels elevate under stress, whether that’s stress at work or from a hard work out at the gym – the body doesn’t distinguish the difference – stress stimulates our flight or fight mechanism and in modern day life this gets a good work out. A mindfulness or yoga practice encourages our para-sympathetic nervous system to step in. And the way we do that through yoga is deep breathing.

The primary intention behind a yoga practice is the alignment of a series of movements with the coordination of the breath. Beyond the poses, aside from the stretching, and without regard to the brand of clothing you choose to wear or the space in which you practice, it is the synchronisation of movements with focused and controlled breathing. That is the essence of yoga.

The goal of starting a mindful movement practice is in taking this basic principle and applying it to other areas of your life – that may be at work during increased periods of stress or during challenging activities like a sport game or adventure activity.

I understand yoga is not for everyone. Personally, I love the stillness in my mind, the dance of a well-sequenced vinyasa flow and sivasanna – the deep rest at the end. If you’ve never tried yoga or mindful movement – it’s well worth a try. Contact Nikki for her up to date schedule of yoga classes.

DIY – gooey, chocolatey goodness.

It’s that time of the year again where our healthy habits can easily go down the rabbit hole as we indulge in that all-too-good chocolate goodness. But who’s going to stop us? Easter gives us an excuse to treat ourselves all long weekend. But treating yourself can come in many forms! Family. Friends. Self-care – like hot baths and walks outside in nature.

But let’s get real, there will be chocolate. And loads of it. So since you’ll have time over the weekend, why not try your hand at making your own Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free treats? It’s nourishing because it uses whole-food ingredients – and even non-raw/vegan/DF/GF/etc family members LOVE IT.

I’ve been making my own for over a year now and I swear it’s better than any store bought raw variety.. I may be biased towards my own cooking. It’s dangerously good and once you’ve perfect your recipe you’ll be making it weekly. Trust me. Enough of the reasons why you should DIY – here is the recipe…

Ingredients
200gram (1 cup) raw cacao butter or coconut oil (or a combination of 100gram of each which is my favourite way to do it), melted
30grams (¼ cup or more if you like thick dark chocolate) good quality organic cacao powder
2-4 tablespoons  maple syrup/brown rice syrup (you can adjust the sweetness to your taste)

Himalayan (or good quality) rock salt to taste

**Optional ½ teaspoon of cinnamon if you want a richer nuttier flavour.

Method

Simply melt the cacao butter or coconut oil over a very low heat, either in a small pot until just melted. Cacao butter melts faster than coconut oil and can burn so watch it carefully.

Add the cacao powder and rice syrup and salt if you’re using, mix until well combined. Taste it. You’ll know if you’re onto a winner. Adjust salt/sweetness until you’re satisfied.

Pour into chocolate moulds or mini-cupcake baking cups or even a rectangular cake tin lined with baking paper to make a block.

I like to add a few more grinds of salt to the top for extra crunch – but I’m a salt fiend so go easy J you can also sprinkle with goji berries or nuts or whatever your heart desires.

Place in the freezer immediately to set.  Once set, keep in an airtight container in either the fridge or freezer. It will last a week or more in the fridge or freezer, but if you’re anything like me it’s all over and done with in about 5 mins.

Final tips

If you’re taking it to an Easter picnic make sure to store in an airtight container sitting on an ice brick until you’re ready.

5-10 mins to prepare. 15-30 mins to freeze. I like to let mine thaw for about 5 mins if I freeze. If you’re using lots of cacao butter the fridge is fine and its then perfect to eat immediately. Suggest you freeze 100% coconut oil.

Enjoy!

Frustrations with flexibility – some helpful tips

Some days I wake up and I can flatten my hands on the floor. Other days my hamstrings are so tight I can barely get my finger tips to touch my toes!

Have you ever tried routine stretching and never got anywhere and thought what’s the point, I’m so inflexible?!

Gaining flexibility isn’t easy. Especially with todays sedentary lifestyle. And if you’re anything like me – sitting for long periods at a time, doing explosive exercise like circuit training then sitting for hours again, it’s tough.

I’ve got some tips that might just help you out though

1. Breath

Our muscles take time to respond, usually about 40 seconds. A muscle under load sends a signal to that brain, it take about 40 seconds for the brain to assess if the muscle (and tendons) are safe before it releases to the full range. I suggest holding a pose for 60 seconds or about 8 rounds of breath to really experience a deep juicy stretch.

2. Stretch warm

You may have noticed the difference in your flexibility from the beginning of a yoga class versus the end. That’s because the entire body gets warm and muscles have time to activate, respond and stretch into positions. If you want to stretch first thing in the morning I suggest a few rounds of cat and cow to help warm the spine and some gentle down dogs peddling out through the back of the legs. Otherwise, immediately following your cardio or resistance workout is perfect.

3. Be patient and practice
☺

We aren’t all born bendy ballerinas. Flexibility takes time and practice. Our bodies are different each and every day. And what works for us one day may not work the next. Be honest with where you are each day. The key is to practice consistently without attachment to the results. Just enjoy the stretch and be grateful for the time you’ve taken to nourish your body. 

4. Create a routine that you can stick to

Having a little routine you can whip out without thinking and can complete in 5-10mins – whatever time you can spare for stretching – is key. Target key muscles groups you want to work on (or have just worked). My favrourites at the moment are;

  • Chest opener to stretch the Pec minor and Pec Major – this deep stretch can be done lying down or up against a wall. Brilliant if you’ve been doing loads of push-ups or vinyasa.
  • Lizard lunge or yogic squat – to target tight adductors and groin muscles. This is the problem area that I’m working on for flexibility.
  • Grabbing a strap to help with a hamstring stretch with one leg raised the other stretched out in front, then crossing it over our body just a little to target the ITB followed by full supine twist where the leg comes to rest on the floor. So lush.

If you want some tips designing something right for you, then get in touch or grab me if you see me at the gym.

Best breakie ever! – Shenkin, Surry Hills

Favourite new café alert. If like me you love food, but are often disappointed with what Sydney dishes up then never fear!! I’ve found somewhere that packs-a-punch in the taste department, has great customer service and can cater for group orders in a timely manner. And wait for it, the kicker…. Does good. I mean really good breakie.

Breakie (brunch on the weekends) is so important to me. I cook my breakfast every damn day. And I mean eggs and vegies every day for breakie. I love it. It’s the meal the sets up your eating for the entire day and I love eating a rainbow at every meal. I just found somewhere that does the best breakie. Trust me, I don’t say that lightly and I can’t remember the last time I actually said that. And it wasn’t just my dish, because I made sure to try all my friends’ dishes that morning – just to be sure.

Welcome to Shenkin in Surry Hills. This little family owned and run business has a couple of outlets across town; Erskinville, Enmore and Newtown. They specialise in Israelie cuisine. Expect full-flavour country. We tried; Shakshuka eggs – served with many choices The eggs are baked in a rich tomato sauce that is smoky from paprika. Mmm. (If you’ve never had Shakshuka eggs it’s a must!) An avocado falafel, homemade pita bread, great omelets, creamy hummus, tahini coated eggplant and chicken. Everything was delicious. AND FRESH!

Service was great, not too attentive, but attentive enough, everyone was smiling and happy – unheard of! Food came out pretty fast even though we had a group of six. The only minor complaint I could make is that it was pretty load inside, but hey it was a packed Sunday morning. And it was about $23 each for breakie and a coffee. Hard to fault.

If I was into star ratings I’d give 5 out of 5. Definitely worth checking out.

cafeshenkin.com.au