Ginger and sesame mini cheesecakes (no refined carbohydrates)

Ginger sesame mini cheesecakesI have been experimenting with sesame flour lately. Sesame flour is very simple to make, not too expensive and is low in carbohydrates To make sesame flour I simply process sesame seeds into a coarse flour texture. Sesame flour has a nutty taste. I have not done a lot of baking with sesame flour but I have found that the texture works well in bases of cheesecakes and slices.

Sesame flour was the perfect ingredient to use for the base of these Asian inspired Ginger and sesame mini cheesecakes. I used a combination of sesame flour and coconut flour for the bases, along with erythritol, ground ginger, tahini and coconut oil. I used more ground ginger, tahini and sesame seeds in the cheesecakes, as well as low fat cream cheese, low fat coconut milk and 1 egg.

Ginger sesame cheesecakes 3The ground ginger adds spiciness while the sesame seeds and tahini add a delicious nutty flavour. Very tasty, low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fibre. The sesame seeds are quite nutritious too, as they are rich in a range of minerals, including copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and zinc. So eat up!

Ginger and sesame mini cheesecakes

Makes 6 mini cheesecakes

Ingredients

Base

½ cup sesame seeds

½ cup coconut flour

1 tablespoon erythritol

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon tahini

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Cheesecakes

2 x 250 gram tubs of low fat cream cheese

1/3 cup low fat coconut milk

2 teaspoons ground ginger

¼ cup erythritol

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 egg

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor

Mixing bowl

Spoon

6 pan muffin tray

Baking paper

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  • To make the base firstly add the sesame seeds to a food processor and process until they resemble the texture of coarse crumbs. Tip the sesame flour into the mixing bowl.
  • Add in the coconut flour, erythritol and ground ginger and mix well to combine.
  • Add the tahini and coconut oil to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  • Line the pans of a muffin tray with baking paper. Divide the base mixture between the lined muffin tray pans and press down with wet hands until it is firm and even.
  • Bake the bases for 15 minutes at 150°C.
  • While the bases are baking prepare the cheesecake mixture by adding the low fat cream cheese, coconut milk, ground ginger, erythritol and tahini to the food processor.
  • Process until the mixture is even and smooth.
  • Add in the sesame seeds and egg and process until combined.
  • Remove the bases from the oven and although them to cool.
  • Pour the cheesecake mixture over the bases and smooth them out with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake the cheesecakes for about 40 minutes at 150°C.
  • Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature before removing them from the muffin tray using the excess baking paper.
  • Chill the mini cheesecakes completely in the fridge before serving.Ginger sesame mini cheesecake 2

Healthy Rocky road ice cream

Healthy rocky road ice creamWhat’s not to like about Rocky road? It’s got milk chocolate, sweet marshmallows and sugary glacé cherries combined with nuts and coconut. Yes Rocky road is delicious, but it is not particularly healthy with all that sugar combined with fat. However, I have created a healthier version of Rocky road – in an ice cream form.

I made my own marshmallows with low fat coconut milk, erythritol, vanilla bean paste, Greek yoghurt and gelatin. The ice cream is made with frozen coconut milk and Greek yoghurt blended with cocoa powder, erythritol, more vanilla bean paste and some peanut butter. I added in desiccated coconut, walnuts and frozen cherries for some delicious chunks. My version is far lower in refined carbohydrates and calories than any store bought Rocky road.

There really was not too much effort involved. I quickly blended up the marshmallow mixture last night and added the coconut milk and Greek yoghurt to the ice cube trays so that everything would be ready when I got home tonight. I then only had to add all the ingredients into my food processor and the result was this delicious dessert. Although it is not the most attractive looking dessert I can assure you it was tasty and won’t leave you feeling stuffed or on a come down after a major sugar rush. It was a perfect dessert before a 14km trail race I have on tomorrow morning. A little bit of carbs to top up my glycogen stores but not loaded with sugar so that I have trouble sleeping. This healthy Rocky road ice cream is also easily digested so I’m not running with a full stomach in the morning.

Healthy rocky road ice cream 2Healthy Rocky road ice cream

Makes 2 serves

Ingredients

Marshmallows (prepare the day before or morning before you plan to make the ice cream)

200ml (1/2 a can) low fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon erythritol

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

4 gelatin leaves in ¼ cup of water

Ice cream

200ml low fat coconut milk frozen in ice cube trays

1 cup Greek yoghurt (low fat or full fat) frozen in ice cube trays

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons erythritol

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 tablespoon peanut butter (tasty but not necessary)

¼ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup walnuts

½ cup frozen cherries

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor or high-speed blender (I use an Omniblend – buy yours here (http://www.omniblendaustralia.com.au/ref/54/)

Spoon

Small microwave safe mixing bowl

Rectangular container

Baking paper

Knife

Chopping board

Method

  • To make the marshmallows add the coconut milk, erythritol, vanilla bean paste and Greek yoghurt to a food processor. Process until combined.
  • Place the gelatin leaves into the small mixing bowl and cover with the ¼ cup of water. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Mix the dissolved gelatin with a spoon and microwave for a further 1 minute until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  • Add the dissolved gelatin to the food processor and process until it is combined into the coconut milk mixture.
  • Line the rectangular container with baking paper and pour in the marshmallow mixture. Chill until the marshmallow mixture is set (at least 8 hours).
  • To make the ice cream gradually add the cubes of frozen coconut milk and Greek yoghurt to the food processor. Process the frozen cubes as you add them until the ice cream is completely smooth.
  • Add in the cocoa powder, erythritol, vanilla bean paste and peanut butter (if you are using it). Process until completely combined.
  • Add the desiccated coconut, walnuts and frozen cherries to the food processor and process until the walnuts and cherries are roughly chopped and mixed through the ice cream.
  • Divide the ice cream into two bowls.
  • Once the marshmallow mixture is set pull it out of the container using the baking paper.
  • Slice the marshmallow mixture into small square chunks and add half to each bowl of ice cream.
  • Mix the marshmallows through the ice cream and enjoy your tasty, healthy version of Rocky road ice cream.

Is açaí really so healthy?

AcaiBowlI’ll admit that I enjoy the occasional açaí bowl – and not just to look trendy. I find them very tasty and refreshing, and with such a vibrant colour I assumed they must contain some compounds that have health benefits. However, I am always dubious of so-called ‘superfoods’. The scientist in me had to dig deeper into this açaí phenomenon that has swept over all the cafés in my local area. I wanted to know if it was actually worth spending $12.50 on a small bowl of blended purple mush with some chopped fruit and coconut on top. So I went to the scientific literature and had a look at the actual studies that have been conducted on açaí.

What is açaí?

Firstly, what exactly is açaí? Açaí, or Euterpe oleracea Martius to be precise, is a slender, multi-stemmed palm plant that can reach over 30 meters. It is widely distributed in northern South America and is particularly abundant and important in the flood plains of the Brazilian Amazonian state of Pará (1). Each palm tree produces 3 to 4 bunches of berry-like fruit, each bunch having from 3 to 6kg of fruit. These round-shaped fruit start as green clusters but ripen to a dark, purple-coloured fruit that ranges from 1 – 1.5cm in diameter. The seed makes up most of the fruit, which is covered by thin fibrous fibers. There is a small edible layer under these fibres. Only 17% of the fruit is edible. Açaí berries are not eaten fresh. A juice can be made by crushing the edible pulp. This is known as açaí pulp. It is very perishable and must be frozen for export.

OK, now that we are clear on what açaí is let me tell you what I found in the scientific literature. There has been 186 studies published on açaí. One of the first studies was in 2004 published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This study analysed the anthocyanin and polyphenolic compounds in açaí and the contribution these compounds have to its antioxidant capacity. It was shown that açaí pulp had a high antioxidant content compared to other anthocyanin-rich fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. In fact, açaí pulp had 10 times the antioxidant content of blueberries and double the antioxidant content of raspberries (2). Why is this beneficial for your health? Briefly, the production of reactive oxygen species or free radicals have been implicated in contributing to a number of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The brain is particularly sensitive to reactive oxygen species. Dietary antioxidants, such as polyphenols, may help prevent these diseases.

A complete nutrient analysis of freeze-dried açaí found that it contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (32.5%), amino acids (7.6%) and sterols. Plant sterols are compounds that have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol. Açaí is actually quite high in calories due to the presence of the fatty acids and is a complete meal containing fats, proteins and a small amount of carbohydrates (3).

Açaí is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and vitamins E and B1 (3). In addition, freeze-dried açaí was shown to have the highest reported antioxidant activity against the peroxyl radical (a reactive oxygen species) out of any food (4).

Another set of compounds, known as lignans, have been identified in açaí (5). The lignans from açaí contribute to the antioxidant activity of this fruit. The lignans from açaí were shown to kill human cancer cells – but remember this was done in the laboratory and not in actual human subjects (6).

Human studies involving açaí consumption

Studies conducted in animals have shown potential positive health benefits from the consumption of açaí including improvements in cholesterol levels of hypercholesteremic rats (7) and rabbits (8), protection against the characteristics of metabolic syndrome in mice (9) and a reduction of colon cancer in rats (10). Cell-based assays have found that açaí can protect human red blood cells and white blood cells from oxidative damage (11), reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in brain cells (12) and has an anti-inflammatory effect on mouse immune cells (13, 14). However, there have been very few clinical trials involving human subjects consuming açaí.

A study from 2008 found that the levels of serum antioxidants increased in human subjects 1 hour and 2 hours after they drank a juice blend containing mostly açaí when compared to subjects drinking a placebo (11). A study from the same year showed that anthocyanin concentrations in plasma increased after human subjects consumed açaí pulp or juice (15) (remember anthocyanins are one of the major antioxidants in açaí). Anthocyanins levels peaked at two hours and were higher after consuming açaí pulp compared to juice. This tells us that the antioxidants found in açaí enter the human circulation following consumption.

Another study looked at the effects of consuming açaí pulp (100 grams) as a smoothie twice per day for one month in overweight subjects who were at risk for developing metabolic syndrome. Consumption of açaí reduced total cholesterol levels, LDL-cholesterol levels and fasting glucose and insulin levels, however, consumption of açaí had no effect on body weight, blood pressure or levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation (16).

An analysis of cardiovascular parameters in healthy human volunteers following açaí consumption found no impact on blood pressure, heart rate or electrocardiogram endpoints. However, they did find that açaí decreased the standing systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo (17).

I came across a study that was of interest to me as an endurance athlete. This study looked at the effects of supplementation with açaí juice on the blood antioxidant defence capacity in junior hurdlers. Why did these sports scientists investigate this? Well, it is accepted that strenuous exercise is associated with increased production of free radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS). Antioxidant supplementation in athletes may prevent exercise-induced tissue injury and assist recovery. These ROS/RNS are also important in muscle adaptation to exercise. So too much ROS/RNS can cause damage but at the same time they are required to signal to our muscles causing adaptation.

In the study I mentioned above elite junior hurdlers drank 100ml of an açaí juice blend daily for 6 weeks. The açaí juice had no effect on performance as assessed by 300m running times, however, it did cause increases in the antioxidant capacity of the plasma of the hurdlers. It also improved the lipid profile by reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These young hurdlers were within normal ranges at the start of the study anyway, but these values improved over the 6 weeks. Supplementation with the açaí juice also lowered the levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase post-exercise. These enzymes are markers of muscle damage. This means that supplementation with açaí may help recovery after training.

Traditionally in the Amazon river basin açaí is used for its antidiarrheal activity. This has not been substantiated in any scientific studies.

To summarize, the human studies conducted on açaí consumption show us that the antioxidants from açaí do enter the blood stream and could potentially have a beneficial impact. These studies also show that açaí may have a cholesterol lowering effect but does not seem to impact cardiovascular outcomes, such as blood pressure or heart rate. Also, açaí may be useful for recovery after exercise and training.

Are there any negative effects from consuming açaí?

Açaí pulp is rich in the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, while the levels of copper and manganese are exceptionally high. In some parts of Brazil, up to 300mls of açaí pulp can be consumed per day. This means that the daily intake of manganese could be six times the recommended amount. This could be a problem, especially for children, vegetarians/vegans and people with anemia, as iron absorption is impaired by manganese (18).

Conclusions

Açaí certainly is abundant in antioxidants and these compounds are bioavailable in humans. There is also evidence that the juice and pulp from this fruit can lower LDL-cholesterol levels. It is also very nutritious being rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and vitamins E and B1, as well as containing unsaturated fatty acids and proteins.

OK, I feel better about spending $12.50 on an açaí bowl, and I like the findings about exercise recovery. Am I going to go out and buy açaí powder/frozen pulp? Maybe – but I would probably save it for directly after training for maximum benefits due to the cost. But remember, other vegetables and berries also contain antioxidants and various vitamins and minerals. And the benefits of regular exercise with bursts of high-intensity are key to optimal health. So don’t feel bad if you are not willing to fork out $50 for açaí powder. You can still be a healthy person in my opinion.

  1. Muñiz-Miret N, Vamos R, Hiraoka M, Montagnini F, & Mendelsohn RO (1996) The economic value of managing the açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in the floodplains of the Amazon estuary, Pará, Brazil. Forest Ecology and Management 87(1-3):163-173.
  2. Del Pozo-Insfran D, Brenes CH, & Talcott ST (2004) Phytochemical composition and pigment stability of Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 52(6):1539-1545.
  3. Schauss AG, et al. (2006) Phytochemical and nutrient composition of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54(22):8598-8603.
  4. Schauss AG, et al. (2006) Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54(22):8604-8610.
  5. Chin YW, Chai HB, Keller WJ, & Kinghorn AD (2008) Lignans and other constituents of the fruits of Euterpe oleracea (Acai) with antioxidant and cytoprotective activities. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56(17):7759-7764.
  6. Hu J, et al. (2014) Antioxidant neolignan and phenolic glucosides from the fruit of Euterpe oleracea. Fitoterapia 99:178-183.
  7. de Souza MO, et al. (2012) The hypocholesterolemic activity of acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) is mediated by the enhanced expression of the ATP-binding cassette, subfamily G transporters 5 and 8 and low-density lipoprotein receptor genes in the rat. Nutrition research 32(12):976-984.
  8. Feio CA, et al. (2012) Euterpe oleracea (acai) modifies sterol metabolism and attenuates experimentally-induced atherosclerosis. Journal of atherosclerosis and thrombosis 19(3):237-245.
  9. de Oliveira PR, et al. (2010) Effects of an extract obtained from fruits of Euterpe oleracea Mart. in the components of metabolic syndrome induced in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology 56(6):619-626.
  10. Fragoso MF, Romualdo GR, Ribeiro DA, & Barbisan LF (2013) Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) feeding attenuates dimethylhydrazine-induced rat colon carcinogenesis. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 58:68-76.
  11. Jensen GS, et al. (2008) In vitro and in vivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of an antioxidant-rich fruit and berry juice blend. Results of a pilot and randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56(18):8326-8333.
  12. Poulose SM, et al. (2012) Anthocyanin-rich acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) fruit pulp fractions attenuate inflammatory stress signaling in mouse brain BV-2 microglial cells. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 60(4):1084-1093.
  13. Xie C, et al. (2012) The acai flavonoid velutin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent: blockade of LPS-mediated TNF-alpha and IL-6 production through inhibiting NF-kappaB activation and MAPK pathway. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 23(9):1184-1191.
  14. Matheus ME, et al. (2006) Inhibitory effects of Euterpe oleracea Mart. on nitric oxide production and iNOS expression. Journal of ethnopharmacology 107(2):291-296.
  15. Mertens-Talcott SU, et al. (2008) Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56(17):7796-7802.
  16. Udani JK, Singh BB, Singh VJ, & Barrett ML (2011) Effects of Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition journal 10:45.
  17. Gale AM, Kaur R, & Baker WL (2014) Hemodynamic and electrocardiographic effects of acai berry in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled trial. International journal of cardiology 174(2):421-423.
  18. da Silva Santos V, de Almeida Teixeira GH, & Barbosa F, Jr. (2014) Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.): a tropical fruit with high levels of essential minerals-especially manganese-and its contribution as a source of natural mineral supplementation. Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A 77(1-3):80-89.

 

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.

Healthy Mexican inspired side dishes

Healthy mexican side dishesI like cooking Mexican inspired food. I say ‘Mexican inspired’ because my Mexican dishes are far from traditional Mexican. I am often substituting ingredients to make my dishes lower in calories and carbohydrates, and easier to make. I do, however, try to use Mexican flavours, such as garlic, onion, chillies, tomatoes, cumin, lime juice and salt.

Here are a few of my healthier versions of Mexican inspired side dishes.

Healthier Chilli con queso

This dip or side dish is typically made from a blend of melted cheese, cream and chillies – delicious, yet very high in calories. So I made my own version with low fat cream cheese, coconut milk and Greek yoghurt. Now I can enjoy this side dish any night of the week. Spoon this con queso over a bean and vegetable dish or use it as a dip with carrot and celery sticks.

Ingredients

250 grams low fat cream cheese

½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup Greek yoghurt

1 clove garlic

½ red onion

½ a tin of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon minced chillies (or adjust to desired taste)

Salt

Sprinkle of paprika

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor or high-speed blender (I use an Omniblend – buy yours here and help support my blog http://www.omniblendaustralia.com.au/ref/54/)

Small saucepan

Spoon

Method

  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender.
  • Process/blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the Chilli con queso thickens.
  • Allow the Chilli con queso to cool briefly before serving warm as a dip or spooned over a Mexican meal. For an even tastier dip, leave the con queso overnight after simmering then gently reheat it before serving.

 Smoky avocado dip

Smoky avocado dipI use tahini frequently in salad dressings and sauces, but I hadn’t combined it with avocado and I’m glad I did because it worked well.

Ingredients

1 avocado

1 heaped tablespoon tahini

½ cup Greek yoghurt

½ teaspoon paprika

Juice from ½ a lime

Salt

Utensils

Bowl

Sharp knife

Spoon

Fork

Measuring cups and spoons

Method

  • Mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork.
  • Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

 Lime cauliflower rice

I do like my cauliflower rice. It has a similar texture to regular rice but is far lower in calories and carbohydrates. I added lime juice and salt for a more Mexican flavour.

Makes two serves

Ingredients

1/3 head of cauliflower

Juice from ½ lime

Salt

Utensils

Food processor

Sharp knife

Chopping board

Method

  • Add the cauliflower, lime juice and salt to the food processor. Process until the cauliflower resembles the texture of rice. Heat the cauliflower in the microwave for two minutes before serving.

How to prepare a smoothie bowl correctly (without making it full of calories and sugar)

Carrot cake flax meal bowl pourI am now affiliated with Omniblend Australia. I was quite keen to establish this relationship because I have had my high-speed 1.5L OmniBlend V for over 5 years and I use it all the time to make smoothie bowls for breakfast and tasty and healthy desserts.

Please don’t be put off by this affiliate relationship. I enjoy chronicling my whole food, refined carbohydrate free recipes and researching and writing on topics in health, nutrition and athletic performance, but this takes time. So receiving some financial support would make my blogging experience all the more enjoyable.

I consider myself a person with integrity so I will explain to you exactly why I am happy to recommend OmniBlend high-speed blenders.

Firstly, let’s get one thing clear. I believe that smoothies and smoothie bowls are a bit of a fad in the health space. You do not need to make a beautiful acai bowl everyday to be healthy. Getting regular exercise and eating a diet containing plenty of vegetables, lean meats, eggs, fermented dairy, legumes, beans and some nuts, seeds and fruits will also set you up to be quite healthy.

I personally enjoy smoothie bowls for a number of reasons, which I will describe below, but they must be prepared correctly. Smoothies can be a source of many, many calories in the form of fructose from too much fruit or honey, or in the form of sucrose (common sugar) from sweetened frozen yoghurts. People drink them under the illusion that they are ‘healthy’, however, in reality they can contain as many calories and carbohydrates as a chocolate bar. Sure there is more nutritional value in a fruit smoothie than a chocolate bar, but if you are trying to lose weight a smoothie filled with fruits, juice and honey is not the best option. Plus I find that drinking my breakfast does not leave me satisfied and I am tempted to seek out more food.

Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure that you create a lower carbohydrate, high protein, nutritional and satisfying smoothie bowl that you can enjoy on a regular basis:

  • Use minimal fruit – don’t throw 2 bananas, an apple and an orange into your blender to make your smoothie bowl. If you are going to use fruit stick to ½ cup of frozen berries or pitted cherries or 1 small frozen orange.
  • Add a serving of a good quality whey or plant based protein powder – I realize that protein powder is not a ‘whole food’ but I don’t always feel like or have the time for eggs for breakfast so protein powder is a convenient way to boost the protein content of your smoothie bowl while adding texture and flavour. My favourite whey protein powder is Glyco-Whey from Syntec and my favourite plant-based protein powder is Power Plant Protein from Prana ON. Both are fairly pricy but worth it for the quality. I like to cycle between the two as I believe too much whey may not be good for your health long term.
  • Use low fat coconut milk, coconut water, plain Greek yoghurt and/or cottage cheese as liquid – avoid using high sugar juices as the liquid base for your smoothies. Instead try the options I have listed as they are low in carbohydrates, fairly low in calories and the yoghurt and cottage cheese increase the protein content.
  • Throw in some greens – I always use frozen spinach in my smoothie bowls for extra vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre and to help thicken the mixture. If you have any other greens that are getting a bit old, such as kale or baby spinach, throw them in your blender. Avocado is another great addition (remember it is higher in calories, however). If you are concerned about the taste I can assure you that the other ingredients mask the flavour.
  • Add in cocoa powder or flavour extracts for some variety.
  • Use at least one tray of ice cubes – ice thickens your smoothies turning them into a meal that you can eat from a bowl. I mentally feel more satisfied knowing that I have eaten my breakfast.
  • Add some additional fibre by adding a tablespoon of flax meal, psyllium husks or chia seeds. A word of warning regarding flax meal and psyllium husks: both are very high in dietary fibre and will likely cause you to use the bathroom more frequently than normal if you use too much.
  • Sprinkle some coconut flakes, shredded coconut, seeds, nuts or cocoa nibs on top of your smoothie for extra nutrients and texture. Don’t go too crazy with the nuts and seeds if you are actively trying to lose weight.

So there are my guidelines for preparing smoothie bowls based on my personal opinion, as well as my many, many years of reading scientific literature on weight loss and nutrition. It is a fact that excess refined carbohydrates are detrimental to your health in multiple ways, hence why I follow a diet as low in refined carbohydrates as possible (the occasional ice cream, pizza and beer is not going to cause too much damage, especially before a big race).

Now let me tell you why I enjoy smoothie bowls. Firstly, smoothie bowls are quick and easy to prepare. I am up between 4:00 – 4:30am most mornings to train before work, be it running on the trails, hill training, running intervals, mountain biking, road biking, strength training or paddling. I then need to quickly fuel myself, while checking emails or social media, to prepare for a minimum of 8 hours in the lab. My work day involves designing and executing experiments, not only for myself but also for students, meetings with my boss or other work colleagues to discuss data or new ideas, collating data and writing scientific papers. In other words, I’m pretty busy. Making a smoothie bowl for breakfast allows me to quickly throw everything into my OmniBlend, blend for 5 minutes (I’m usually making coffee during this period), pour it into a bowl and eat with a spoon.

Secondly, I can make smoothie bowls very nutrient dense. I can throw in a combination of spinach, kale, flax meal, coconut milk, cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, berries, nut butter or cocoa powder, along with ice and a good quality whey or plant based protein powder and I end up with a mixture of protein, good quality fats, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Finally, I quite like the taste and texture. A delicious cold smoothie bowl after training, especially in summer, loaded with protein and some fat is a great way to recover.

My relationship with OmniBlend means that if you purchase an OmniBlend product through my affiliate link (http://www.omniblendaustralia.com.au/ref/54/) I will receive a small commission. The price of the 1.5L OmniBlend V with a 7 year warranty and free shipping is $379AUD. All OmniBlend machines have a heavy duty 3HP/2238 Watt motor, full stainless steel 6 blade assembly and a BPA free jug. If we compare this to the 1.2L S30 high-performance blender from Vitamix, which has only a 790 Watt or 1HP motor, it has a recommended retail price of $845AUD. That is a significant difference in price and I believe the OmniBlend is the superior machine. After 5 years of use I replaced the blade in my OmniBlend for $59AUD with free shipping and it is working better than ever. I apologise for turning into a salesperson but I honestly believe in this product and am happy to promote this brand, not only for making breakfasts, but also for making frozen desserts, dips and nut and coconut butters.

OK, enough promoting the OmniBlend. Here are some smoothie bowl recipes I have recently used my OmniBlend to make.

Chocolate raspberry smoothie bowlChocolate raspberry green smoothie bowl

This smoothie bowl is a tasty combination of chocolate and raspberries with frozen spinach for extra vitamins and minerals.

Makes 1 serve

Ingredients

½ cup frozen raspberries

1 cup low fat coconut milk

¼ cup Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

4 blocks frozen spinach

1 tablespoon psyllium husks or flax meal (for extra fibre)

1 tray of ice cubes

1 serve of a good quality whey or plant based protein powder (vanilla flavour)

Nuts, seeds, coconut, cocao nibs or anything nutritious to sprinkle on top

Utensils

Measuring cups and spoons

High-speed blender (I use an Omniblend – buy yours here)

Method

  • Place all the ingredients into a high-speed blender. Blend on medium to high for at least 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth and of an even consistency. Use the tamper (the mixing stick I guess you would say) to stir during blending.

Carrot cake flax meal bowl

Carrot cake flax meal breakfast bowl

This is an interesting concoction I came up with. It tastes like a smooth creamy, spicy carrot cake without all the calories and refined carbohydrates. The flax meal adds a decent amount of dietary fibre while the cottage cheese provides some protein. Top this bowl with some nuts, seeds and/or coconut to make it more satisfying.

Makes 1 serve

Ingredients

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons flax meal

½ cup cottage cheese

½ cup low fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon erythritol/stevia blend (I use Natvia)

A few drops vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Utensils

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Measuring cups and spoons

High-speed blender (I use an OmniBlend – buy yours here)

Method

  • Place all the ingredients into a high-speed blender. Blend on medium to high for at least 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth and of an even consistency. Use the tamper to stir during blending.