Chocolate chickpea mousse (high fibre, low calorie, vegan)

Chocolate chickpea mousseThis is a healthy dessert that is quick and easy, yet still tasty. What makes it healthy? Well, it is high in dietary fibre, thanks to the chickpeas, and is far lower in calories and refined carbohydrates compared to any traditional chocolate mousse.

Don’t be put off by the chickpeas. They contribute only a subtle nutty taste but create a smooth and creamy texture. It happens to be vegan too. You could use any sweetener you like. I choose to use the low calorie sugar alcohol erythrtiol.

You could top this dessert with blueberries, frozen cherries, some shredded coconut or some crushed nuts – or all of these options if you feel like it. The pink umbrella was my attempt to make this dessert look pretty. I really suck at food photography!

Chocolate chickpea mousse 2

Chocolate chickpea mousse

Makes 2 small serves (or 1 big serve if you are hungry)

Ingredients

1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon erythritol

¼ cup apple sauce

¼ cup reduced fat coconut milk

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor

Method

  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until a smooth, even consistency is achieved.

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.

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

Healthy Chocolate orange cheesecake ‘ice cream’ with Coconut butter chocolate and walnut fudge

Chocolate orange cheesecake ice creamHow could a dessert with such a decadent name be even remotely healthy?? Simple. This ‘ice cream’ is made with frozen low fat cream cheese, frozen coconut milk, fresh frozen orange, cocoa powder, stevia and vanilla extract. It is lower in calories compared to any traditional ice cream and is made with no refined carbohydrates.

And I topped it with chunks of delicious Coconut butter chocolate and walnut fudge. This fudge is an ideal treat for those following low carbohydrate, high fat diets as it is made with desiccated coconut processed into coconut butter and sweetened only with stevia.

You must plan a little bit ahead with this dessert as the ingredients require time to freeze, but it is absolutely worth it to enjoy this tasty and healthy treat.

Chocolate orange cheesecake ‘ice cream’ with Coconut butter chocolate and walnut fudge

Makes 2 serves of ‘ice cream’ and at least 4 serves of fudge

Ingredients

Chocolate orange cheesecake ‘ice cream’

200 grams low fat cream cheese, frozen

1 ice cube tray filled with coconut milk, frozen

1 orange peeled and cut into quarters, frozen

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon stevia

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut milk

Coconut butter chocolate and walnut fudge

2 cups desiccated coconut

½ cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 ½ tablespoons stevia

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup walnuts

Utensils

Ice cube tray

Sharp knife

Chopping board

Measuring cups and spoons

High-speed blender (I use an Omniblend)

Food processor

Baking paper

Rectangle plastic container

Method

  • Place the frozen cream cheese, frozen coconut milk cubes and frozen orange into a high-speed blender.
  • Add in the cocoa powder, stevia, vanilla extract and coconut milk. Blend until the ‘ice cream’ is a smooth, even consistency. This takes around 5 minutes and will require the use of a stirring stick during the blending.
  • Divide the ‘ice cream’ into two bowls and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.
  • For the coconut butter fudge add the desiccated coconut to a food processor and process until a smooth, creamy butter is formed. This takes between 5 – 10 minutes. Scrape the sides of the food processor as required.
  • Once the coconut butter has formed add in the coconut milk, cocoa powder, stevia and vanilla extract and continue processing until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Add the walnuts and process briefly to roughly chop the walnuts. Pour the fudge mixture into a rectangle plastic container lined with baking paper. Place the fudge into the freezer until it is completely firm (at least 2 hours). Coconut butter chocolate walnut fudge
  • Chop the fudge and add some chunks into the ‘ice cream’. Enjoy this delicious yet healthy dessert.

Frozen Piña colada slice (no refined carbohydrates, vegan)

Frozen pina colada slice

Drinking cocktails is not exactly conducive to training for a 48-hour adventure race in June with several shorter races before hand, which is what I am doing at the moment. So this delicious slice made with the flesh from a young coconut is my way of enjoying a cocktail without the booze.

I have previously talked about the benefits and properties of coconut water (read here) and my favourite way to consume this refreshing, hydrating drink, especially after training sessions, is from a fresh, young coconut. Search YouTube for videos on how to open the young coconut. Once I have drank the coconut water I will scoop out the flesh with a strong metal spoon and eat it. However, I have found a new way to enjoy the flesh. I scoop it all out, freeze it, then blend it in my high speed Omniblend to make a frozen dessert. This Frozen Piña colada slice is one example. Make sure that you do not scoop out any of the hard inside of the coconut along with the flesh otherwise you will have some unpleasant crunchy bits in your dessert.

Frozen pina colado slice 2The base of this slice contains no refined carbohydrates and is made with coconut flour, almond meal, shredded coconut, stevia and coconut oil. The topping is made with young coconut flesh blended with coconut milk and fresh pineapple. A teaspoon of rum flavouring essence gives it the taste of a real Piña colada. Allow the slice to thaw slightly before you serve it and sprinkle it with some coconut flakes for a delicious and healthy refreshing dessert.

Frozen Piña colada slice

Ingredients

Base

1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted

½ cup almond meal

1/3 cup shredded coconut

1 tablespoon stevia

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup coconut milk

Topping

Flesh from one young coconut

1 cup coconut milk

½ a fresh pineapple with the core removed

1 teaspoon rum flavouring essence

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon stevia

Coconut flakes to sprinkle on top

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

Large mixing bowl

Spoon to mix

20cm x 20cm or round baking tray

Baking paper

High-speed blender (I use an Omniblend)

Method

  • Add the coconut flour, almond meal, shredded coconut, stevia and salt to a large mixing bowl. Mix well to combine.
  • Add in the vanilla extract, coconut oil and coconut milk and mix well. Press the base firmly and evenly into a baking tray (square or round) lined with baking paper using wet hands.
  • Place the base in the freezer while you prepare the topping.
  • For the topping, add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour the topping over the base and freeze the slice for at least 4 hours.
  • Allow the slice to thaw slightly before serving (about 2 hours in the fridge) and sprinkle with coconut flakes.

Olive and Sriracha hummus

Make this tasty hummus as spicy as you like by varying the amount of Sriracha chilli sauce.

olive sriracha hummus

Olive and Sriracha hummus

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ a 350 gram jar of pitted kalamata olives, drained

1 heaped tablespoon of tahini

2 tablespoons coconut milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, roasted

Salt

Pepper

1 tablespoon Sriracha chilli sauce (vary this amount depending on your taste)

Utensils

Strainer

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor

Spoon

Method

  • Add the chickpeas to the food processor and process until they are roughly chopped.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and process until the hummus is smooth (some lumps may still remain). Scrape the sides of the food processor as necessary.
  • Taste and add more Sriracha chilli sauce to achieve your desired spiciness.