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Over to you …

I’ve had lots of fun these past few months quietly setting up this blog … purely for aesthetic ambitions rather than commercial. However, I told myself I would pause and ponder when I got to 50 followers, and I am pleasantly surprised to say that number is creeping up.

I have set up a really quick survey to help me make some decisions about how to move forward with Grace and Gusto. Your help would be super dooper appreciated.  I am just curious to know what sort of information, inspiration and aspirational value people are looking for in the crowded food blogging marketplace.  If I am to shape G and G into something that continues to feed my creative outlet needs, I want to make sure I am also sharing something that adds value to you too.

So I will leave it with you … make yourself a green tea, espresso or whatever hot drink hits the spot for you, and know that I am grateful for your help with this quick questionnaire.

With grace and gusto,

kpx

P.S I have just launched Grace and Gusto on Facebook and if you are not yet subscribed by email to the blog, you can do so in the top right hand corner of this page 🙂

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Conversation can be as nourishing as food …

I just got off a phone call to my 96 year old Nana after listening to one of her regular, passionate rants.  This time it was about food.   I can only listen, amused by how similar we are – I just hope she realizes her spirit will always live on in me. I am so blessed to still have her on this earth.  She can’t quite get her head around what a blog is (she thinks I do cooking demonstrations) but nevertheless she thinks it’s important that I spread the message about eating real food that is preservative free, less expensive that ready-made meals and way more nutritious.  Noted.  Thanks Nana.

So what have I been cooking lately?  I went back to an old school classic to feed “the boys” on Origin night (I even rang my mother-in-law for advice – she served this regularly to her three hungry boys) … good old Mexican Dip was a tasty crowd pleaser – full of goodness and it fills you up.  The kids happily ate in the next day (it even traveled well to school) and I’m pretty sure there’s still some left in the fridge.  I made a couple of versions this week so I’ve decided which version I like best and it’s here for you to recreate.

Ingredients

1 x 400gms can kidney beans, washed well
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 avocadoes
half bunch of coriander, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
corn chips to serve

Method

Using a Thermomix or food processor, puree the beans with the olive oil to desired consistency.  I like it a little rustic and chunky.

Add the diced tomatoes and shallots and stir to combine.  Layer the bean mix onto the bottom of a flat-bottom dish (a quiche or pie dish works well).

Mash the avocados with a fork or blend in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved.  Stir through coriander and lime juice until well combined.  Layer on top of the bean mixture and smooth with a spatula or icing knife.

Spread the sour cream over the top and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Cover and store in fridge – will keep for 2 days.

Serve with lots of corn chips or grilled tortillas.

mexican dip

Then I made myself a raw birthday cake …. but I do have a confession to make before I tell you about this.  Throughout the day I was treated to a coffee at Sirromet Winery (where we ate cake) and then lunch at one of my favourites, Pearl Cafe (I learned today that this is not an ideal place for kids to lunch with you – the best they could do for the girls was a croissant and shaved cheddar!!). But I ate a beautiful Pear Tart after lunch.  And so I didn’t really feel like eating dinner, let alone birthday cake, but I managed both! Back to basics tomorrow.  Promise.

I made a beautiful cashew creme, choc vanilla layered cake based on a recipe by Nicole Joy.  I must admit that I preferred this cake to the other sugar-laden treats I indulged in today – mainly because I feel so good afterwards!  Try it for yourself …

Ingredients

Crust

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups macadamia nuts
1 cup almonds
12 medjool dates, pitted

Chocolate Creme

1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 6hrs and rinsed well*
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw cacao powder (a little less if you don’t like it dark)
1 tbsp raw honey
3/4 cup coconut water

Vanilla Creme

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked for at least 6hrs and rinsed well*
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 tbsp raw honey
3/4 cup coconut milk

Raspberries to serve.

Method

Combine the macadamias and almonds in a food processor or Thermomix until finely processed.  Add the coconut oil and then 1 medjool date at a time until mixture comes together.  Press the crust into a cake tin, allowing the crust to come up the sides of the pan.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

For the chocolate creme, combine all the ingredients for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Pour into the crust and smooth with a spatula.  Set aside in the freezer.

For the vanilla creme, blend all ingredients just as before.  Reserve about 1/2 cup to use as a serving cream and pour the remaining mixture on top of the chocolate layer.  Freeze for at least 8 hours.

Remove from the freezer about 45mins before you want to serve but make sure you cut the cake into pieces whilst still frozen – it makes life much easier.  Don’t forget to serve it with the extra vanilla creme and fresh raspberries. Yum!

raw choc vanilla cale

 

With grace and gusto

kpx


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Midweek Mushies

It’s cooling down so comfort food is my go-to for midweek dinners but tonight I didn’t feel like a heavy meal.  I always find the temptation with casseroles or stews is to eat too much.  So I opted for soup and stuffed mushrooms to up the vege intake and avoid my usual carnivorous antics.

I made a sweet potato, parsnip and coconut cream soup … recipe to follow later this week.  And the stuffed mushrooms were super quick and easy and disguise lots of good nutrition.

mushrooms collage
Ingredients (stuffing for 4-6 large mushrooms)

1 large mushroom per person you are serving
50gms baby spinach leaves
50gms parmesan cheese, grated
80gms soft goats cheese
100gms smoked proscuitto, speck or bacon
1 clove garlic
1 handful herbs (whatever you have growing – I used parsley and thyme)
30 gms butter or ghee
salt & pepper to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or you could use a grill.
Peel the mushrooms and remove the stalks.
Melt the butter in a pan and brown the top of the mushrooms for approx 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the pan and rest on a paper towel while you make the stuffing.
Combine the herbs, garlic and proscuitto in the food processor or Thermomix until finely diced (TM speed 7 for 20 secs).
Add the baby spinach and grated parmesan and blitz until combined (TM speed 5 for 5 secs).
Divide the stuffing among the mushrooms and top with crumbled goats cheese, salt and pepper.
Grill or bake until golden brown.

stuffed mushrooms
Super easy, ultra tasty and full of goodness!

With grace and gusto,
kpx


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Superfood Smoothie

If I could hook myself up to an IV of superfoods each day without piercing my skin, I would do it.  But the next best thing I believe, is smoothies.  They’re hugely “on trend” at the moment, and for good reason – it’s a very efficient way to boost your nutrient content each day.  It’s also a lot of fun to play around with various flavours.  I never seem to have exactly the same type twice, but for a quick afternoon snack that is dairy free and gluten free, I pulled together one of my favourite combinations and actually remembered to take note of the quantities I used so I could share it with you … I call it my chocolate thickshake.

superfood smoothie
Ingredients

50gms raw cashews (you can soak these overnight to reduce phytates if you’re organised!)
1 medjool date
1 tbsp raw cacao
100gms or 1 cup almond milk
1 heaped tsp maca powder
1 tsp vanilla
12 ice cubes

Method

Using a blender, Vitamix or Thermomix, mill the cashews with the medjool date until very fine – approximately 45 seconds.
Add remaining ingredients and blend at a high speed for up to 2 minutes to ensure a thick, smooth consistency.
Serve immediately.

With grace and gusto,
kpx


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More on chocolate … and a non TM recipe

Okay so I thought I could get away with posting a recipe just for Thermomix owners.  But I am pleased people are so keen to get into real chocolate … so if you don’t have a Thermomix, here is how to create your raw chocolate sans TM.

Melt your cacao butter in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water.  Don’t melt it too quickly and keep stirring as it melts. If you have an induction stovetop, you could transfer the melted cacao butter to saucepan over a low heat and add all the other ingredients, stirring for about ten minutes until it has emulsified well together.  It probably wouldn’t hurt to give it a good brisk whisk towards the end to ensure the honey is mixed through.

If you don’t have induction, you’re best to stick to a bowl over simmering water to constantly whisk in all your ingredients until tempered and dissolved.

Another tip if you think this is all too hard …

* My favourite brand of bought raw chocolate is Loving Earth – available at Flannery’s and Wray Organics stores.  The price is about $6.50 for 100gms which is pretty good considering the quality of the ingredients.  You’ll find you only want to eat a small amount at a time as it is much richer than rubbish milk chocolate.

* A friend suggested mixing in coconut milk if you don’t like it too dark.  I haven’t tried this myself but it sounds yum!!

Kakobohnen und Schokolade

With grace and gusto

kpx


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Raw Chocolate Truffles

I don’t trust people who don’t eat chocolate … that may sound like a harsh judgement, but I just believe they haven’t tried REAL chocolate.  It’s so good!  For me, gone are the days when I get excited about shovelling as much Cadbury Dairy Milk down my throat as I could with a knife and fork before someone else rolled a six on the dice (anyone else a kid in the 80s?).  These days, I am a self-confessed chocolate snob.  The fact is, you can eat chocolate every day – and I would even go so far as to say we should eat chocolate every day.  The nutritional benefits of cacao have been buried by the plethora of below average “chocolate” products available.  Let me explain what kind of chocolate I am talking about … as there still seems to be confusion over chocolate, cacao, cocoa and all its various delivery methods.

The fruit of the cacao tree has a small bean in it which is where all chocolate comes from.  This bean contains energy-boosting nutrients rich in magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium copper and manganese.  The Aztecs and Mayans first used the cacao bean for medicinal purposes and created a ritual drink which was used to celebrate marriage – this is the first known link between chocolate and romance.

Cacao tastes quite bitter.  Sugar is so often added to sweeten chocolate products, and this is why chocolate is perceived as a “junk food” because the level of sugar often outweighs the nutritional value of cacao once it has been processed into the end product.

Cacao nibs are simply the shelled and crushed beans.  Raw cacao powder is what you end up with when you cold press the unroasted beans and remove the fat (this is cacao butter).  This keeps all the enzymes alive and the nutrition intact.

Cocoa looks just like raw cacao powder but its quite different – it comes from the beans that have been roasted at high temperatures.  This process removes the valuable enzymes and kills off many nutrients.

Research has shown that raw cacao lowers insulin resistance, lowers blood pressure, reduces your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, slows down the aging process, shield your nervous system from damage, guards against toxins and boosts your mood!  So hopefully this gives you enough reasons to investigate how you might be able to squeeze some raw cacao into your daily diet.

Here’s a few suggestions:

* Smoothies
* Sprinkled over breakfast or in your porridge
* In your baking or raw desserts

These are the easy ones … and I made some truffles you can try.  I made these to serve after dinner with coffee and it was easy to make extra to have on hand as a lovely little pick-me-up throughout the day – straight from the freezer!

choco trufflesd

Raw Chocolate Truffles – Thermomix Method

Ingredients

200gms organic raw cacao butter
50-60gms raw cacao powder (depending on how dark you like it)
pinch good quality fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
80gms raw honey

Method

Grate the raw cacao butter in the TM bowl on speed 8 for 15-20 seconds.
Melt the butter on speed 2 at 37 degrees for 10 minutes or until fully melted.
Add remaining ingredients to the TM bowl and cook for a further 10 minutes at 37 degrees, speed 1.
Mix for 10 seconds at speed 5 to ensure the honey is fully emulsified.
Poor into little heart moulds or similar and store in the freezer.  If you have any left over, pour onto a square, shallow plate and freeze before breaking into shards to eat!

Tip: Before pouring the chocolate into the moulds or onto the plate, pop a macadamia nut, almond, goji berry or some shredded coconut in first to create different flavoured truffles.  Would love to hear any other variations you have tried!

With grace and gusto,
kpx

chocolate2


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Porridge and Fennel …

… not together, I promise!  These two favourites in our household are perfect for winter (if we ever get a winter that is!).   We’ve always been big fans of oats for breakfast, but because we have it regularly I am always experimenting with different variations.  My latest is Spiced Coconut Porridge which incorporates some anti-inflammatory spices into the mix, and replaces the milk or water with coconut milk and coconut water.  You need very little sweetener as the coconut water is quite sweet on its own.  The result was yum!

Spiced Coconut Porridge – serves 4

Ingredients

200gms traditional rolled oats
1 x 440gm can organic coconut milk
1 cup organic coconut water
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp pure maple syrup or raw honey

Method (I use a Thermomix but you can easily cook on the stovetop, ensuring you stir regularly)

1. Add all the ingredients to the TM bowl and cook at 90 degrees for 11 minutes on speed 2.
2. Watch the porridge for the last two minutes – you may need to add a little more coconut water if its too thick.
3. Serve with walnuts, macadamia nuts, shredded coconut and almond milk.

spiced coconut porridge

I love fennel in salads during summer, but I think it’s a new favourite winter vegetable.  It’s super easy to prepare and really offers a nice change from your usuals.  I’m all for getting as much variety as possible in our fruit and vegetable repetoire, so add this one in and tell me what you think!  Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains phytonutrients that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidants and anti-cancer.  Apart from all this great stuff, it tastes amazing!

Baked Fennel – serves 4-6 as a side

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pure full fat cream
salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Cut the base of the fennel off by about 1cm and trim the tips.  Cut into 2-3cms slices, lengthways.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the slices of fennel for 10 mins or until they’ve softened.
3. Drain well and lay the fennel across the bottom of a baking dish.  Top with the cream, cheese and salt and pepper and bake for 15mins at 180 degrees fan forced or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.