Santa’s on his way!

I’m sitting here wearing four layers, a hat, a scarf, two pairs of socks, I’m blaring the heater and I’m still cold. It’s December. It’s supposed to be 30 degrees, sunshine, BBQ and picnics every day.

I have to keep reminding myself I’m not in the Southern hemisphere anymore… it just still feels so weird to have a cold Christmas. We still had all those “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” songs, and almost all of the ‘Christmas marketing” used snowy weather for Santa’s sleigh, (although his sleigh is perfectly capable of landing on the beach, trust me, I know), but our Christmases were almost always hot and sunny.

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In my family, Christmas lunch is always a barbeque which we eat on the lawn picnic styles. When we were growing up my extended family on mum’s side would come over and we’d all go biking, skating and scootering, play cricket or our Grandma’s favourite croquet or sit around and chat. Of course things have changed now we’re all grown up, and we don’t usually get together for Christmas anymore, but the BBQ lives on. Last year we had a small family BBQ for lunch with my immediate family and then had a bigger Gluten Free/Vegetarian/but also Carnivore friendly BBQ with my little sister’s fiance’s family which was great. I love Kiwi Christmases.

This year is going to be very different. It’s cold and I’m now on the other side of the world. I’m also heading off to take a very cold tour around a few top Europe destinations – Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Berlin. I’m insanely excited to see these places and have been counting down the days for months! Everyone keeps telling me I’m going to freeze my fingertips off which is highly possible but hopefully the amazing experience will be worth it! If anyone has any hot tips for any of these places, I’d love to hear them (particularly when it comes to food!) YAY travel!

I will miss my Kiwi Christmas though, the BBQ and being surrounded by my family, but being young for me is all about adventure and exploring and I’m looking forward to doing just that!

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I do love the way London town is lighting up this year. Getting into the Christmas spirit. The wreaths and the holly. The Christmas displays and the Christmas music everywhere you go. I’m a sucker for it. I really do love Christmas. I loved living in America and seeing the city come alive with the holiday season. The Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Christmas Markets…. The holiday treats and the Christmas Carollers.

Does your town do something special to mark the holiday season?

Don’t forget this Christmas to be mindful. Live in the moment and enjoy what’s happening right now, in the present. Sure take a few snaps to post online later, but don’t spend your whole day thinking about your future actions, and don’t spend any of your day dwelling on your past. Use your day to be thankful for good things in your life. The people, the relationships, your pets. Think about what you’re grateful for and focus on that. It’s the perfect time to tell those close to you just how much they mean to you.

I hope you all have a truly wonderful day, that Santa is kind (and no it’s not all about the gifts!), and that you don’t find yourself slipping into too deep of a food coma at the end of the day!

What are you all getting up to this holiday season?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!

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Bluenana Balls!

I love banana based anything. Ironic really. When I was seven my best friend told me bananas had spiders in them. I didn’t eat bananas for over ten years after that. I kid you not. I’m not sure what it was that allowed me to bring bananas back into my diet and even more to LIKE them. I mean, I was extreme. I wouldn’t eat anything with banana in. I don’t think I even ate banana cakes. Madness right? Bananas are so great.

banana berry ballsAnyway, I’ve been experimenting with a few banana based recipes and combinations with other FODMAP friendly fruits. You know what goes well with bananas? Blueberries! They seem to be my other favourite fruit this year. My partner is a big fan of baked goods. He loves cakes. I swear that’s the only reason he was interested in me in the first place because I baked so many damn cakes!

Anyway, he tags me in multiple posts of cakes and other baked goods each week on Facebook that he wants me to bake for him. That’s all fine, but what if I want to eat them too? I’m not going to eat that refined sugar filled Mars Bar and Nutella cake… it’s just not going to happen.

balls cooked2So for the meantime he’s going to have to make do with today’s invention. Blueberry and banana balls! (Yes, balls.) I was going to make them into a loaf, and then muffins, and then I realised the mixture had turned quite thick so why not make them into balls! Huzzah! Let’s just say they disappeared really fast.

Bluenana Balls

4 over ripe mashed bananas
1/3 C butter, ghee or coconut oilballs cooked 3
¾ C coconut flour
1 C frozen blueberries
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C on the bake function
  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl then add and mix all ingredients.
  3. The mixture should be thick enough to shape into balls (or put in muffin tins or a loaf tin, whatever you feel like)
  4. Place 2cm apart on a baking tray covered in baking powder.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes then remove from the oven and set to cool. They firm up slightly once out of the oven
  6. Eat your heart out!

Deep Dark Chocolate Tart

urlI’m currently in Belgium, checking out the incredible Christmas markets and sampling as much Belgium chocolate as I possibly can. So I really, really have chocolate on my mind. Belgium chocolate… oh so heavenly. It takes me back to my 21st birthday where I had a Belgium chocolate fountain with fruit and marshmallows to dip in. At the end of the party a friend of mine filled a jug with the left over chocolate and brought it back to my house claiming we’d paid for the delicious chocolate, we might as well make the most of it! My family and I were making hot chocolate’s out of that Belgium chocolate for the next two weeks!

I was fourteen when I met a nine year old girl who didn’t like chocolate. In fact I think she was the first person I’d ever met who didn’t like chocolate. I was convinced she was kidding. Who wouldn’t like chocolate?! Well…. She genuinely didn’t. It still baffles me. I’m 100% a choc-o-holic. Though my tastes have changed over the last ten years. I can’t stand white chocolate, I prefer not to eat milk chocolate… it’s all too sweet. I far prefer the deep dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa.

However, one thing I can never look past is a good chocolate cake or more specifically a chocolate tart. Oh crunchy goodness, oh sweet soft filling. So much goodness. SO. MUCH. GOODNESS!

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I’ve been wanting to develop a chocolate tart for ages. One that has no dairy, no gluten, is low-FODMAP and paleo. It took me a couple of tries to get it to the standard I’d expect in a really GOOD chocolate tart. (I’m so sorry about the CAPS, I’m really excited about how delish this tart is!) And, with Christmas coming up, this is the perfect dessert to take along to all those pre-Christmas parties and even Christmas dinner!

I’m really fussy when it comes to my chocolate based cakes and tarts and IMG_2956this was no exception, I promise you. I needed my chocolate tart recipe to have me sitting back in my chair and say “oh my goodness… that was amazing”. It took me a while but I got there. AND it wasn’t just me. My other half and both of my parents said the same thing when they tried it! Woohoo, seal of approval!

I will say though, this is a dark chocolate tart. (The best kind!) So if you’re expecting a Galaxy-Cadbury Dairy Milk – Hershey’s–esque chocolate tart… I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. BUT I suggest you give it a try anyway. It’s yumyumyumo!

Deep Dark Chocolate Tart

Base

1 ¼ C desiccated coconutIMG_2973
½ C coconut flour
1 ½ T cacao powder
½ C coconut oil (melted)
2 T maple syrup (pure/real Canadian)

Filling

¼ C coconut oil
¾ C coconut milk (preferably full fat)
4 T maple syrup
2/3 C cacao powder
1 t vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, I’m just obsessed with cinnamon and love adding it to everything!)

Method

  1. Start by making the base. Add desiccated coconut, coconut flour and cacao powder in a bowl then add melted oil and maple syrup.
  2. Mix the ingredients together until the consistency becomes ‘dough-like’.
  3. Press into a 9 inch (23cm) flan/tart tin, ensuring the mixture goes up the sides.
  4. Place the base into the freezer for 15 minutes to set.
  5. While the base is setting, make up the filling. In a saucepan, add the coconut oil, coconut milk and maple syrup.
  6. Mix over a low heat until all the ingredients are melted together. Do not overheat and don’t let the mixture boil.
  7. Remove from heat and add the cacao, vanilla and cinnamon (if using).
  8. Mix together and once all lumps have been eliminated allow to cool for a few minutes.
  9. Remove the base from the freezer and pour the filling mixture into the tin on top of the base.
  10. Set the tart into the fridge and allow to set for a minimum of 5 hours (overnight is best!)
  11. Garnish with berries, shaved chocolate, cacao powder or whatever else tickles your fancy. Enjoy!

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CHRISTCHURCH, NZ – Foodie Favourite: Pure Cafe

I LOVE eating out and I know sometimes it’s a mission, especially when you’re on holiday so this is just another post of some of my favourite “Sam Friendly” places to eat around the globe.

nI3KvciNZqE4sMM6yLoM8rrzLpcXcMkNFej1gQf5LRIWhen I was back living in Christchurch, New Zealand I was solidly following the paleo diet and there was one place that was an absolute god send. In a country that is slowly opening the doors to the paleo trend but hasn’t quite managed to open many dedicated paleo cafes Pure Café was my little slice of heaven.

There are two locations – one pop up venue at 100 Bealey Ave and another café at 31 Birmingham Drive.

OuQEJ-wagZeBmDhFonONO6Som60U96BBTuxbNksNQU4Their philosophy is literally “If the ingredient doesn’t provide a health promoting benefit, we don’t use it. If the food is not nutritionally banging, we won’t make it.” With a philosophy like that, it’s definitely the right place for me!

Due to their healthy minded approach, they don’t rely on the use of sugar, salt, butter, additives, preservatives and trans fats. Or anything processed for that matter. They use fresh ingredients, plant food, nuts, seeds and lean protein sources to make delicious, healthy and nutritious foods.

And no, I’m not being paid or rewarded in 7bR-kApWeBaTTkNwROYf0baUxbx2CSuo7tY_8XHUUCoanyway to say this stuff, I promise you. I just genuinely like their food and what they stand for, and want to let anyone who plans on visiting Christchurch know they’re there and ready to feed you healthy goodness!

I first stumbled upon this little gem when I found myself working a couple of blocks away from their pop up shop in Bealey Ave. My mum worked reasonably close as well so a few times a week we’d make the walk down the road and enjoy a delicious healthy lunch before carrying on with our workday. You would never know exactly what goodies you’d find in the cabinet that day but it was always the highlight of my day to run through their daily offerings and try something new. My favourite was always the chicken mince scotch eggs.

epBwGc0_oM5MgFFXVH2rSOIzY-DGo8z2_TcVaMfxyO4When I got myself a new job on the other side of town, I desperately missed our lunch dates at Pure Cafe and was super jealous when mum still headed down there on her own. It was always a nice surprise to come home to a chicken scotch egg, or the chocolate brownie or the cacao and cardamon balls (oh man I want one so bad, they’re the best!).

After that I took any excuse to check out their other venue, where there is more space to sit down, and lots more food offerings. I remember one day popping in there to grab a smoothie with my other half and coming out with 12 different bags of treats, I kid you not. They were so delicious!

qMs7CDtOC1mRtyq-DfKFFxFwz2WQvI-sGmw2nxEmvwQIt’s really lovely to have been able to sit back and watch this really wonderful little cafe grow and gain traction in this city and even better to see more healthy options for those of us who prefer to eat clean, paleo, gluten free etc. I always found it so hard to find good places to go for lunch and eating out is often a source of anxiety for me, so places like Pure Cafe are honestly an absolute haven.

Pure Cafe have delicious salads and smoothies, full breakfasts, paleo pizzas, GF pies, yummy sandwiches and wraps as well as a revolving selection of things like hot pots, quinoa cakes, paleo chicken scotch egg and paleo sushi.

They also have a great 02MZYtubEy9Fw-JSijJI_cm-BEeFHuSFVadwzZBNqXQ,f8VCe4UE0ftT_q7HEOYMRaQ9FGT9EX7U11R8b_TLzrMselection of paleo cakes and slices. My favourite is the beetroot paleo brownie or the cacao and cardamom balls, my partner LOVES the salted caramel balls and my mum always manages to bring home GF banana and cinnamon muffins which are topped with cave crunch crumble – yum!

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If you find yourself in the broken city I highly recommend checking out Pure Café. And I promise, Christchurch is still beautiful, it’s just a little void of buildings…. But it makes up for that with its heart, spirit and innovation.

Canadian Maple Cookies

So I have a Canadian co-worker who came back from a trip to Canada with two boxes of Canadian Maple Cream Cookies. She opened the box and I kid you not, the office practically inhaled them. I took a whiff of the cookies in the box and allowed my mouth to water.

IMG_2862She stood their looking at me like she’d just stolen Christmas from me. “I’m so sorry, I feel so bad you can’t have any”. She said with these big ‘I’m so sorry’ puppy dog eyes.

I told her it honestly wasn’t a problem. As much as I’d love to try them, I know I would seriously regret it for the next week and a bit! But I decided right then and there that I would try and create a ‘Sam-Friendly’ version of these Maple Cookies.

I asked one of my colleagues to describe for me what she was tasting as she ate one of the cookies. Her response was a biscuit similar to shortbread with a filling kind of like icing. They’re sweet, and they’re good.

IMG_2872I nodded and started thinking about how I could best create a near replica.

They had to be Gluten and Dairy free, low-FODMAP and as close to paleo as possible (because I wanted to use rice flour to get the best texture and if you’re a strict paleo follower chances are you avoid rice flour…).

That night I ordered a giant bottle of Canadian Maple Syrup online (you know, the good stuff) and as soon as it arrived I cracked into making these little gems!

I nailed it on the second go! Woohoo! They’re really good. They don’t make a huge bunch when you’re sandwiching them together with another cookie which meant I IMG_2869refused to take my limited supply to work (Sorry guys!) but I was really impressed with how well they turned out!

It even takes me back to the (short) time I spent in Canada where Maple leaves and maple syrup was everywhere. Gosh I love that country! I hope these cookies do you proud, Canadians!

Canadian Maple Cookies

Cookies

3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup coconut oil
IMG_28662 T ghee
1/4 C maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Maple filling

1/3 C coconut oil
1 tsp coconut butter
1 ½ T maple syrup
1/8 tsp vanilla

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Add rice flour and tapioca flour to a mixing bowl
  3. Add oil, ghee, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix together.
  4. Mix in cinnamon.
  5. Place round teaspoon-full of mixture onto a baking tray and press down with a fork.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes
  7. While the cookies are baking, mix together the coconut oil, coconut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl. Once you have a smooth consistency (similar to icing) pop in the fridge for a few minutes to avoid it melting.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool.
  9. Once cool, spread the icing on the back of one cookie and press down with another, essentially making a cookie sandwich! (Think Oreo!)
  10. Voila, enjoy!

I’m drinking WHAT?!

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Seriously, I was too scared to eat this deliciousness…!

I’ve spoken many times before of the fact that since I arrived in the UK I’ve been unwell. I’ve tried everything to put my finger on the cause of my weight gain and inability to eat most foods without feeling like crap. I’ve blamed everything from bananas to chicken and at times have been so afraid to eat for fear of spending the next 24 hours in agony.

This problem has been going on for about seven months now, on and off. While I still don’t know what’s gone wrong with my digestion, and why I struggle to eat food 85% of the time, I do think I may be one step closer to the cause of my weight gain….

I’ve thought for a while that it happened so quickly and so dramatically that it must be something to do with my hormone levels. Eventually I got in touch with my endocrinologist who helps me manage my PCOS and as an extension my endometriosis. She’s an absolute super star and totally has my back on these things. She agreed with my proposal to trial a couple of months off my medication.

1280px-Pilule_contraceptive Now, I’ve been on these meds on and off for 6 years, and they gel with me like honey bees and pollen. While at times I may have blamed them for various issues, they have never actually been the cause and I’ve quite positively thrived on them.

 

A month after stopping the pills, my cycle returned (granted it returned way too regularly…. Every two weeks to be precise), but slowly my body started to change. I could eat more without feeling sick, and the excess weight I have been carrying slowly (painfully slowly) began to drop off. My bloating has started to disappear (although it flares up at the drop of a hat) and my body started to have a shape again.

Here’s the thing. It wasn’t the pills that was at fault. Not entirely anyway. And I should issue a warning here that this post is not necessarily scientifically correct. I’ve done a fair bit of reading on the topic but that still doesn’t mean I’m an expert by any means. BUT considering I had no idea about this until recently, I thought it was important to share.

water-435847_640A guy I work with casually slipped it into conversation one day that his girlfriend was studying the estrogen levels in London’s tap water. Say what? He didn’t know much about it so I did some more research on the topic. It’s true. London tap water (and after reading further it’s absolutely not just an issue in London), contains reasonably high levels of estrogen that aren’t being filtered out.

Apparently the problem is bad enough to cause up to half the male fish in the lowland rivers to change sex. Seriously. They’re turning hermaphrodite. The Environment Agency also say the entire fish stocks in some parts of the river are permanently affected. Tests done of a number of fish from different rivers around London found that half of male fish had eggs in their testes, a tenth were sterile and another quarter had damage to their sperm.

Experts now believe the levels of estrogen in the water can be especially dangerous for men as it can pose a problem for their reproductive functions.  In fact, one study by the Medical Research Council found that men born since 1970 are 25% less fertile than those born two decades earlier. In fact, they believe fertility is dropping by 2% each year. Of course this can’t be the only contributing factor but it’s almost certainly one of them!

glass-475446_640For women, well it can make them gain weight around their hips and thighs for a start. But for someone like me who has PCOS and already is on pills to boost estrogen levels, getting a double dose by simply drinking the tap water isn’t ideal. The double dose easily would make me gain weight and as you gain weight you produce more estrogen. It’s like the cycle of doom…

So how does it get into our water? Well for a start, it’s said every glass of tap water you consume has been drunk by seven people before you. (ahem, creepy). So imagine that those seven people that drunk that water before you were all females who took a regular contraceptive pill. Some of the hormones from that pill then came out when the water went out the other end, and because there is no system in place to filter out hormones entirely, the hormone levels continue to build up and up and up. There is a chemical in the pill called ethanol oestradiol. It’s great at preventing pregnancies and whatnot, but it is also between 50 and 100 times more powerful than natural estrogen…. And that is what is ending up in our water. The water industry say there is no evidence of a risk to our health, but to be honest, I’m not inclined to agree.

It is true there has been no scientific proof at this stage that says the hormones in the water are a risk to human health, but as toxicologist Professor Richard Owen of Exeter University says, “That does not mean we will not find impacts in the future. But do we want to wait until we see effects in humans, as we did with thalidomide and BSE, or do we act before harm is done?”

carp-364849_640Given the impact it’s having on our fish, our environment and our bodies, you’d think people would be making a lot of noise to get the problem fixed. So what is being done about it? Not a huge amount at the moment…. In order to clean up rivers, streams and drinking water supplies that have been contaminated by synthetic hormones, Britain faces a 30 billion pound bill. So you can imagine there’s been all sorts of arguments about who is going to pay that bill.

Owen says, “The question we have to ask ourselves is straightforward. Are we willing to pay up or would we rather settle for environmental damage associated with flexible fertility? It’s also not necessary that the public should pick up the tab. The pharmaceutical industry makes billions out of the drugs and treatments it sells. If these pollute the environment, what is wrong with making them pay to have it cleaned up?”

I go out of my way to avoid drinking the tap water in London. I buy bottled water (which isn’t always fool proof in itself due to phyto-estrogens), and although I doubt my filter water bottle will filter out estrogen it’s better than nothing. However I can’t avoid it completely. I cook in it, I drink it when I’m at a restaurant and really thirsty (and too cheap to buy their overpriced mineral water…) and I use it to brush my teeth. But coming off the pills and avoiding the tap water where possible has really made a difference. I don’t seem to be overrun by an overdose of hormones anymore.

As I said, this post isn’t formed of scientific studies or opinions as to be honest there aren’t a lot of them around. But I’ve said from the start I just want to inform you all of what I come across in my journey and the new things I’m trying just in case, maybe, they might help you.

fountain-197334_640I’m no expert, but I am passionate about what I put in my body. I like to know what my body is reacting to, whether it be positively or negatively and I feel we deserve that right. I understand it can’t be easy to find a way to monitor everything, to filter out everything that could potentially do us harm, but a little more transparency would help immensely. I don’t know for certain that this is the cause of the problems I’ve had this year, but even if it is a contributing factor, no matter how small, it would have been really good to know.

What about you? Have you heard of the whole ‘estrogen in our water’ thing before? Do you think it has the potential to affect us?

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