Raw cauliflower sushi

Raw cauliflower sushiI am aware that cauliflower sushi is not new, however, I have never really been bothered to try it. Given my recent injury (a sliced tendon in my right thumb – read about how it happened here) I had a little bit of extra spare time with less training and time off work. So I had a go at making Raw cauliflower sushi.

I put my own spin on this recipe by using a few good tablespoons of tahini to help the cauliflower ‘sushi rice’ stick together. The tahini also gave it a nutty, smoky flavour. I roasted some thin strips of pumpkin in a drizzle of sesame oil and soy sauce to use as a filling, along with baby spinach, carrot, cucumber, red capsicum and avocado. The dipping sauce consisted of soy sauce, tahini, rice wine vinegar, some ground ginger and a touch of erythritol for sweetness.

So what is the verdict? Pretty damn tasty and not too difficult to prepare either. I just threw the cauliflower into the food processor along with the tahini, as well as some rice wine vinegar and a touch of honey, and processed it until it formed almost a thick paste. I spread this onto my nori sheets with wet hands and prepared it in exactly the same way as preparing normal sushi. I was quite impressed with this low carb version of sushi.

Raw cauliflower sushi

Makes 4 rolls

Ingredients

Cauliflower ‘sushi rice’

1 small head of cauliflower or ¾ of a large head, broken up into florets

4 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (swap with another sweetener for a vegan version)

 

4 nori sheets

Fillings – roast pumpkin, spinach, thinly sliced carrot, capsicum, cucumber and avocado (or any other fillings you like)

Utensils

Food processor

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Measuring cups and spoons

Sushi mat

Cup of water

Method

  • Add the cauliflower florets gradually to a food processor and process until the cauliflower resembles the texture of rice.
  • Add in the remaining ingredients and process until the cauliflower rice starts to form a thick paste.
  • Lay one nori sheet on to the sushi mat. Spread out the cauliflower ‘sushi rice’ using wet hands on two thirds of the nori sheet.
  • Place the fillings at the end of the nori sheet covered with the cauliflower sushi rice (if you are unsure how to prepare sushi Google it).
  • Wrap up the sushi roll using the sushi mat. Seal the nori with wet fingers. Chill in the fridge while you preparing the remaining rolls of sushi.
  • Slice the sushi rolls into bite size pieces with a sharp knife and serve with dipping sauce.

Blueberry, lemon and coconut cupcakes with Maple cream cheese icing

Blueberry lemon coconut cupcakesThe best part about these healthy yet tasty Blueberry, lemon and coconut cupcakes, which are high in dietary fibre and made without refined carbohydrates, is the Maple cream cheese icing. The icing is made with coconut butter, low fat cream cheese and maple extract and is sweetened with erythritol.

You can easily (and cheaply) make coconut butter by adding a few cups of desiccated or shredded coconut to your food processor and processing until a smooth, creamy butter forms. The texture of this icing is just like a butter icing, however, it contains no added sugar or butter. The coconut provides dietary fibre and contains medium-chain fatty acids. As I have mentioned previously on this blog, the scientific literature shows that medium-chain fatty acids are metabolized more rapidly than long-chain fatty acids, meaning the fat in coconut may have less of an impact on weight gain compared to other fat sources. So enjoy 1 (or 2) of these cupcakes as a low carb treat.

Blueberry lemon coconut cupcakes 2Blueberry, lemon and coconut cupcakes with Maple cream cheese icing

Makes 6 cupcakes

Ingredients

2 cups shredded or desiccated coconut, processed into coconut butter (makes about ½ cup)

1 cup coconut flour, sifted

½ cup shredded coconut

2 tablespoons erythritol

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Juice from 1 lemon

Zest from ½ a lemon

2 eggs

1 cup coconut milk

Icing

¼ cup of the coconut butter

200 grams low fat cream cheese

1 – 2 tablespoons erythritol (depending on how sweet you like your icing – I went with 1 ½ tablespoons)

1 teaspoon maple extract

Utensils

Food processor

Measuring cups and spoons

Mixing bowl

Spoon

Small grater (for lemon zest)

6 pan muffin tray (I used a silicone non-stick muffin tray)

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  • Add the shredded coconut to a food processor and process until it turns into coconut butter, scraping the sides of the food processor as necessary (5 – 10 minutes).
  • Add the sifted coconut flour, shredded coconut, erythritol and frozen blueberries to a mixing bowl. Mix well to combine.
  • Add in the lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs and coconut milk. Mix well. Add in ¼ cup of the coconut butter and mix this through well.
  • Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray. Bake in the oven at 150°C for 40 minutes.
  • To make the icing, add the cream cheese to the remaining coconut butter in the food processor (no need to wash up). Add in the erythritol and maple extract.
  • Process until the icing is smooth.
  • Smother the cupcakes with the icing once they have cooled completely.

Cherry ripe ‘ice cream’ (no refined carbs, vegan) and can cherries help with recovery from exercise?

Cherry ripe ice creamFrozen cherries are a convenient and delicious ingredient to use in making healthy desserts. And they come pitted so you don’t have to attempt to cut open each cherry and systematically remove the seed! But what I didn’t realize about cherries is that they have recently received attention as a ‘functional food’ due to their high levels of bioactive compounds, including the antioxidants melatonin, carotenoids, anthocyanins and the flavonol quercetin (1). I am wary of this term ‘functional food’ as there is not always sufficient scientific evidence to support this claim, however, the phytochemicals in cherries seem to have some potentially beneficial effects.

The antioxidants found in cherries have been shown in studies to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, reduce pain and inhibit uric acid production, which may contribute to the development of gouty arthritis. These studies were mostly conducted in animals. One randomized clinical trial conducted in 2011 looked at the impact of tart cherry juice on osteoarthritis of the knee in 58 patients (2). While the patients in this study consuming the cherry juice did not report improvements in pain, stiffness and function compared to the patients consuming the placebo, there was a reduction in the levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in those patients consuming the cherry juice. hsCRP levels are elevated in patients with knee osteoarthritis and associated with worse outcomes.

As an endurance athlete I was more interested in the studies conducted on cherry supplementation and its effects on recovery from exercise. Tart cherry juice supplementation has been found to reduce the symptoms of muscle damage in subjects performing contractions of the elbow flexors (3), in subjects performing knee extensor exercises (4) and following marathon running (5).

Exercise increases the production of reactive oxygen/nitrogen species (RONS), commonly referred to as free radicals. The production of these free radicals can result in a reduction in physical performance and cause muscle fatigue. A moderate increase in oxidative stress may actually be beneficial to the exercising muscle, however, excessive levels may reduce muscle function. Because of the antioxidants present in cherries, supplementation with cherry juice has been investigated for its influence on oxidative stress following exercise. The study I mentioned earlier looking at the effects of cherry juice supplementation on recovery from a marathon (5) found that participants who consumed tart cherry juice twice per day for 5 days prior to a marathon and 48 hours following a marathon had lower levels of markers of oxidative stress compared to participants consuming a placebo. However, this study included only 20 participants.

So there is some evidence that cherry juice supplementation can counteract the oxidative stress induced by exercise and the proposed mechanisms for this action include: (a) free radical scavenging; (b) the formation of DNA complexes that are resistant to oxidative stress; and (c) the activation of protective responses, such as our body’s own antioxidants (6). It is not clear which of these mechanisms is responsible, or if it is combination of all three.

In addition to the potential recovery benefits provided by cherries, frozen pitted cherries can be used to make incredibly tasty and easy desserts, such as this Cherry ripe ‘ice cream’ made with shredded coconut, frozen coconut milk, cocoa powder and sweetened with erythritol. I added in some walnuts for extra crunch. Enjoy this as a treat after a hard training session, or just as a healthy dessert on a Friday night.

Cherry ripe ‘ice cream’

Makes 2 serves

Ingredients

1 cup shredded coconut

Ice cube tray filled with coconut milk, frozen

Extra ¾ cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon erythritol

¾ cup frozen pitted cherries

¼ cup walnuts (optional but adds a nice crunch)

Utensils

Ice cube tray

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor or high-speed blender

Spoon

Method

  • Freeze the coconut milk in an ice cube tray at least 2 hours in advance.
  • Add the shredded coconut to a food processor or high-speed blender. Process/blend until the coconut becomes a firm paste. Scrape the sides of the food processor/blender during this process (you don’t want the coconut to get to the consistency of coconut butter – leave it firmer for a better texture).
  • Add in the frozen cubes of coconut milk and process/blend until the mixture is fairly smooth.
  • Add in the extra coconut milk, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and erythritol and process until all the ingredients are combined well and the ‘ice cream’ has a smooth consistency.
  • Add the frozen pitted cherries and walnuts and process for 1 – 2 minutes until the cherries and walnuts are roughly chopped.
  • Divide the ‘ice cream’ between two bowls and freeze for 30 – 60 minutes before serving.
  1. McCune LM, Kubota C, Stendell-Hollis NR, & Thomson CA (2011) Cherries and health: a review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 51(1):1-12.
  2. Schumacher HR, et al. (2013) Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Osteoarthritis and cartilage / OARS, Osteoarthritis Research Society 21(8):1035-1041.
  3. Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, & Sayers SP (2006) Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British journal of sports medicine 40(8):679-683; discussion 683.
  4. Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, & Mileva KN (2011) Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 43(8):1544-1551.
  5. Howatson G, et al. (2010) Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 20(6):843-852.
  6. Traustadottir T, et al. (2009) Tart cherry juice decreases oxidative stress in healthy older men and women. The Journal of nutrition 139(10):1896-1900.

 

Strawberry and coconut ‘ice cream’ with low carb coconut cookie dough chunks

Strawberry and coconut ice creamThis dessert is soooo good, yet healthy too. What makes this dessert healthy? Well, my friends, this ‘ice cream’ is made with only frozen strawberries, coconut milk, shredded coconut and is sweetened with the low-calorie sugar alcohol erythritol (read all about why this is my sweetener of choice in my recent post “Which sweeteners are the healthiest to use?”).

This ingredient list means that my version of ice cream contains no refined carbohydrates, contains dietary fibre and has medium-chain fatty acids, which, according to the scientific literature, are metabolized more rapidly than long-chain fatty acids.

But the best part about this dessert is the chunks of delicious low carb coconut cookie dough. Again this cookie dough contains no refined carbohydrates and is high in dietary fibre.

Dietary fibre is important as it helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. A recent study conducted by the husband and wife research team from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, Erica and Justin Sonnenburg, showed that a diet low in dietary fibre, or Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs), decreases the diversity of the gut microbiota in mice. Reintroducing MACs in to the diet can reverse this loss in diversity. However, after multiple generations, this loss in diversity could not be recovered by diet alone (1). So what does this mean? The Sonnenburgs speculate that generations of a highly processed, highly refined, low-fibre modern diet are contributing to the loss of diversity in the human gut microbiota and may be responsible for the increase in many preventable health problems that are common in today’s society. You can attempt to stop this by eating more whole foods, which retain their fibre component.

You will have to freeze the strawberries, coconut and cookie dough a few hours in advance, so be prepared if you want to make this dessert. I believe it is worth the preparation. Your taste buds and your gut bacteria will be happy!

Strawberry and coconut ‘ice cream’ with low carb coconut cookie dough chunks

Makes 2 small serves

Ingredients

Strawberry and coconut ‘ice cream’

1 cup of strawberries, washed, tops removed and frozen

1 cup coconut milk, frozen in ice cube trays

Extra ½ cup coconut milk

½ tablespoon of erythritol (I use Natvia which is a blend of erythritol with a small percentage of stevia)

½ teaspoon coconut essence

3 tablespoons shredded coconut

Low carb coconut cookie dough

1 cup desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons coconut milk

2 tablespoons coconut flour

½ teaspoon coconut essence

½ tablespoon erythritol

Utensils

Ice cube trays

Sharp knife

Chopping board

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor

Cling wrap

Method

  • Freeze the strawberries and coconut milk for at least two hours.
  • Add the frozen strawberries, frozen coconut milk, extra coconut milk, coconut essence and erythritol to the food processor.
  • Process until the ‘ice cream’ is smooth and has a fairly even consistency.
  • Add in the shredded coconut and process briefly to mix through. Divide the ice cream between two bowls and freeze for 30 – 60 minutes before serving (don’t let it get too hard).
  • For the cookie dough, add all the ingredients to the food processor and process until a firm ball forms.
  • Lay a sheet of cling wrap onto a chopping board.
  • Remove the ball of cookie dough from the food processor and place it onto the cling wrap.
  • Roll the cookie dough into a long, thick log with your hands.
  • Wrap the cookie dough in cling wrap and freeze for at least one hour.
  • Chop the cookie dough into chunks and place on top of the Strawberry and coconut ‘ice cream’
  1. Sonnenburg ED, et al. (2016) Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature 529(7585):212-215

Spanish cauliflower rice

Spanish cauliflower riceHere is a tasty, low carb, whole food side dish to serve with a Mexican style meal. I had this with some chicken, kidney beans and vegetables cooked with garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, chilli and tomatoes and drizzled it all with a Lime yoghurt made by simply mixing Greek yoghurt, lime juice and salt.

Spanish cauliflower rice

Makes 2 serves

Ingredients

½ a head of cauliflower, broken into florets

1 vegetable stock cube

1 clove garlic, finely minced

½ teaspoon onion flakes (or use 1/2 a red onion finely chopped – I didn’t have any onion on hand)

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon dried chilli

½ a tin of crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt

Pepper

Utensils

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Food processor

Non-stick fry pan

Wooden spoon

Measuring spoons

Method

  • Crumble the vegetable stock cube into a non-stick fry pan and add about a ¼ of a cup of water.
  • Process the cauliflower florets in batches until it resembles the texture of rice. Add the cauliflower rice to the non-stick fry pan and begin cooking it over medium heat.
  • Add the remaining ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking while stirring until the cauliflower is soft and the tomatoes have reduced (about 5 – 6 minutes).

Healthy whole orange, chocolate and almond cake with Ricotta orange cream (no refined carbohydrates)

Healthy whole orange chocolate almond cakeTypically whole orange and almond cakes are loaded with sugar. What a shame to ruin what could potentially be a healthy, fairly low carb treat. So I modified the recipe.

I figured that the cake would already be sweet due to the oranges, thus I cut out the sugar and added some stevia. I reduced the calorie content by substituting some of the almonds with coconut flour and by reducing the amount of egg yolks. I also made a delicious Ricotta orange cream to drizzle over the top. The result was a moist, subtly sweet cake with a hint of chocolate flavour.

Healthy whole orange chocolate almond cake 2Healthy whole orange, chocolate and almond cake with Ricotta orange cream

Ingredients

2 whole oranges, washed

1 cup almonds

½ cup coconut flour

¼ cup stevia

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

2 eggs + 3 egg whites

¼ teaspoon almond extract

Ricotta orange cream

½ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup Greek yoghurt

½ tablespoon orange juice

¼ teaspoon orange rind, finely grated

1 tablespoon stevia

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Utensils

Saucepan with lid

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Food processor

Measuring cups and spoons

Large mixing bowl

Spoon

Round cake tin

Baking paper

Small mixing bowl

Method

  • Wash the oranges and place them in the saucepan. Cover the oranges with water and bring the water to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the oranges, covered, for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Drain and allow the oranges to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Add the almonds to a food processor and process until they form a coarse flour. Tip the almond flour into the large mixing bowl. Add in the coconut flour, stevia, baking powder and cocoa powder and mix to combine.
  • Chop the oranges into quarters and remove any seeds. Place the chopped oranges into a food processor (including the skin). Process until a smooth puree is formed. Add the orange puree to the dry ingredients along with the eggs and egg whites and the almond extract. Mix well to combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  • Line the round cake tin with baking paper and tip in the cake mixture. Smooth out the mixture with the back of a spoon. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes r until the cake feels firm the in centre (you may need to bake for up to 1 hour depending on your oven). Allow the cake to cool briefly before removing it from the cake tin using the baking paper.
  • For the Ricotta orange cream combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Drizzle over slices of the cake once it has completely cooled.

Cauliflower bruschetta

Cauliflower bruschettaOh cauliflower – is there anything you can’t do? I have used cauliflower to make rice, pizza bases and even tortilla chips, and now I have used it to make a base for bruschetta. This bruschetta makes a light and healthy entrée for two or it could be a meal for one if served with a salad. My only recommendation is to eat the bruschetta immediately after making it as the vinegar can make the cauliflower base slightly soggy; so don’t waste time taking photos of your meal – just eat it. If you have a craving for bruschetta but don’t want the refined carbohydrates and excess calories then this recipe is for you.

Cauliflower bruschetta 1Cauliflower bruschetta

Ingredients

Cauliflower base

¾ of a head of cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 clove garlic

1 egg

¼ cup coconut flour

Salt, to taste

Topping

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

½ red onion, diced

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Utensils

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Food processor

Large microwave safe bowl

Spoon

Measuring cups and spoons

2 Chux cloths or any open weave cloths

Pizza tray or large, flat baking tray

Baking paper

Mixing bowl

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. For the cauliflower base, add the cauliflower florets in batches to a food processor and process until the cauliflower resembles the texture of fine couscous. Add the garlic clove during the processing. Tip the processed cauliflower into a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for 5 minutes.
  • Tip the microwaved cauliflower into the centre of the two cloths laid on top of one another. Wrap up the cauliflower and squeeze out the moisture. You may want to allow the cauliflower to cool before you do this as the moisture that you squeeze out will be hot after microwaving, or wear gloves (or just put up with the burning as I did). I suggest using 2 cloths as all this squeezing can cause the cloths to tear.
  • After squeezing out as much excess moisture as possible, tip the cauliflower back into the large bowl. Add in the egg, coconut flour and salt to taste, and mix well to combine.
  • Tip the cauliflower dough onto a large, flat baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread the cauliflower dough out evenly with wet hands to a make a large circle about 1cm thick. Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C or until the edges begin to turn golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, add the diced tomatoes, red onion, dried basil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Let that sit while the base is baking.
  • Once the cauliflower base is baked, allow it to cool briefly. Transfer the base to a chopping board, cut it into quarters and spoon the topping onto the sliced base. Eat immediately.