Monthly Archives: March 2013

It’s spring people! Let’s eat healthy cake and go running!

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Hi everyone, I’m looking for a running buddy for morning runs on weekdays. Anyone interested please leave a comment at the bottom of the page or email me. Would be great to hear from you :)

I know… It doesn’t feel like spring yet. But it is here and with it comes the urge to get those legs fit and looking good for summer. When the sun dares pointing the tip of its nose out here, I can assure you nothing beats a riverside run. Happy times coming ahead!

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Clockwise from top left: On my running route, pub with rooftop terrace overlooking the river, a happy runner in red, Hammersmith bridge in the distance, and a seagull feeling the breeze.

Let’s go!

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My 1st low carb and low sugar sweet treats

Coconut flour muffins

Coconut flour muffins

Is it possible to eat healthy cakes? I am so happy to say the answer is yes!

In my opinion, if you have to choose between sugar and fat in order to reduce calories, get rid of the sugar! Fat has health benefits but caster sugar really doesn’t. And let’s face it, a low fat AND low sugar cake would not taste good!

These cakes do taste good and are nutritious and almost totally guilt free! Enjoy :-)

1. Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

Recipe found online at http://www.taste.com.au/recipes. There was a little bit of coffee in the initial recipe but I left that out. I also replaced most of the sugar with stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener coming from a plant that grows in Paraguay and contains almost no calories. Powdered Canderel stevia is a good brand to use for baking because 1 spoon of it = 1 spoon of sugar, making it easy to measure.

Suitable for people with gluten intolerance!

Ingredients:

  • 200g butter
  • 180g dark chocolate (I suggest Lindt Excellence Dark, 70% or 85%)
  • 2 tablespoons coco powder. Try to find one without added sugar (I used Cadbury’s Bournville).
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar and 3/4 cup Canderel Stevia
  • 2 cups ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) or 160 degrees fan oven (320 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease a round cake tin.

2. Place butter, chocolate and coco powder in a saucepan on low heat and stir until melted. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

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3. Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick.

4. Beat egg whites until peaks form.

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5. Add the chocolate and almond flour to egg yolk mixture and stir. Gently add the egg whites to the mixture. Pour into cake tin and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

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5. Cool cake in tin then place on serving dish.

Flourless chocolate cake

2. Simple coconut flour muffins

Coconut flour muffins

I found this recipe on thecoconutmama.com. These muffins don’t have the texture that you would expect of a muffin but given that gluten is the ingredient that makes cakes rise, it was inevitable that these would be more dense. The recipe suggested you add chocolate chip or sultanas to personalise them. I wanted to make plain ones for a first try but to be honest they were a bit dry. Next time I will add blueberries. Blueberries in cakes are great because they burst and bring moisture, acidity and sweetness as well as colour. I also replaced the sugar with stevia.

Suitable for people with gluten and dairy intolerance!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup Canderel Stevia (instead of honey)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dried shredded coconut for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. In a small bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

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3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and mix in melted coconut oil and vanilla.

4. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Let sit for 3-5 minutes or until the coconut flour has absorbed the liquid.

5. Scoop batter in muffin cases in muffin tray.

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6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let muffins cool before serving. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

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What should I eat when studying for exams?

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Exam period is starting and before digging in the bag of sweets, let’s try to make smart decisions.

Best news this week: Eating chocolate improves learning ability (and mood)! However, I’m not talking about Cadbury’s dairy milk I’m afraid. It’s the flavonoids in chocolate that are responsible for improving learning and memory. The darker the chocolate, the better. Dark fruits also contain flavonoids, so go for it!

Another memory superfood is…. Omega-3 fatty acids!

Last week I attended a lecture about diet and mental health. The first thing I learned was that Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by our body so it is essential we get them from our diet. Why? Because we need them for brain cell formation. According to Dr. Sandrine Thuret (King’s College, London), studies have demonstrated that Omega-3s can be associated with prevention of cognitive decline and that fish eaters experience up to 4 times less cognitive decline than non fish eaters.

Ok, so we need to eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements. If you want to buy supplements, you should pay attention to this: There are 3 types of Omega-3s: ALA, EPA and DHA. When buying fish oil supplements, you should look for EPA and DHA, simply because ALA cannot be precessed by our body.

EPA and DHA, through the building of new brain cells, increase our learning ability. They also help us cope with stress! When under stress, we produce cortisol, which can cause cell death. But cells that were fed EPA and DHA can resist to cortisol better than normal cells.

All great news then. Now what do we need to eat to get our daily fix of EPA and DHA and how much of it?

Recommendations for supplements vary between 300mg to 800mg per day. But to give you an idea of what these quantities represent, here is a list of foods in which there is 1g of EPA/DHA:

  • 85g salmon (or mackerel)
  • 255g tuna
  • 10 eggs
  • 3kgs beef (good luck with that)

In conclusion, eating a portion of oily fish a day during revision time should help us learn and memorize, even under stressful conditions.

Above all, remember to keep eating a varied and nutritious diet for optimum health :-)

And  G O O D   L U C K  ! ! !

Summer food, rose colored fish steak in a wine marinade

An alternative to mashed potatoes

MASHED CAULIFLOWER ! I discovered this great recipe in The South Beach Diet book if I remember well, a few years ago. It’s so simple. Instead of potatoes, use cauliflower.

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Baked salmon fillet and mashed cauliflower

You may have noticed by now that I’m not very good with giving quantities in savoury recipes but I think you can play it by ear. Just start with a little bit (of butter, milk) and add more to suit your taste as you cook.

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  1. I steamed a whole cauliflower.
  2. I then melted butter in a saucepan (about 1 tablespoon I’d say).
  3. Added the cauliflower to the saucepan and a dash of milk (two tablespoons) and mashed it.
  4. Stirred well and added salt, pepper, grated cheddar.
  5. And served :-)

Ingredients: cauliflower, butter, salt, pepper, grated cheddar.

Simples!

P.s: And as usual, I cooked the whole cauliflower in order to freeze some and now have some home-made frozen mashed cauliflower for another day :)

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Don’t buy diet food!

I have just read a very well written, short and straight to the point blog post by Casey on her blog CASEYWILSON-THENUT.

She explains how diet food often is depleted in nutrients and loaded in chemicals that are meant to recreate the taste of real food.

No nutrients but chemicals? That’s not how I want to eat!

Give it a read, it’s really short and worth it!

http://caseywilson-thenut.com/2013/03/21/dont-buy-diet-food/

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Celebrity Chefs and Food Politics

Last night I attended a talk at a renowned university in London about celebrity chefs and food politics. I had apprehensions as I knew it wasn’t going to be all praise and love, but I did not expect so much unfounded criticism. From the moment I got there to the end an hour later, I experienced excitement, anger and finally happiness. My god I was tired after that talk!

I did not understand why one of the speakers went on and on about how people like Jamie Oliver make money out of selling branded goods as well as fighting for a good cause and that somehow, it makes them bad people. Since when providing for your family has become a bad thing?

I did not get her point. Yes she had far too many cook books on her lounge shelves (as she showed us on her Power Point presentation) (compulsive shopper?) and yes you can find Jamie Oliver foods in the supermarket and Jamie Oliver saucepans and knives in the shops but does that make his actions less worthy? No one is forcing her to buy all these products. Or maybe the point she was trying to make was that people buy things they don’t need when presented them in shops? But what would that have to do with last night’s talk? Surely you can’t blame book writers and food makers for trying to sell their products!

In my opinion, if anything, having his products on shop shelves makes him more famous and that can only have a positive outcome. The more famous the better, as the greater the impact. I mean, remember back in 2006 when he campaigned for better school lunches? Being a celebrity – with great communication skills, lets not abstract that – helped getting results! How hard did he work on that? Then in 2009, he did Ministry of Food, a program in which he went across England to try teaching and empowering people. People who took part were then meant to share the recipe they had learned with 6 other people, and so on, spreading the knowledge throughout the whole country. Would it have worked half as well had it been conducted by a regular person? It takes time to see change but last night I found out that food education will be compulsory in schools for children aged 7-14 from September 2014. And it doesn’t stop there, the aim is to get parents involved too to make sure changes occur at home. That definitely was the highlight of my day! I can’t believe I did not know about it. Where have I been?? Ah that’s right I was in France last week.

I admire Jamie Oliver for his investment for a healthier nation. I wish more people were aware of the health consequences of unhealthy eating. Maybe they would invest more in food now in order to pay a smaller price in the future.

Anyway, some people argue that his food isn’t that healthy. Well here is my response to that:
1) in his last book “15 minute meals”, he got a nutritionist to help and each recipe has a calorie count now. Changes are being made on his side too.
2) his point was always to get people who feed themselves ready meals and takeaways to cook at home. Change occurs step by step. If you ask someone who only eats takeaways to make salads everyday from now on I doubt it will work. 1st you learn that cooking is possible and can be easy, fun and tasty. Then you improve to maybe using less fat or so. Or maybe buying more veg, one step at a time.

At uni we were told that the government recommendations should in fact be 10 fruits and vegetables a day but that they could not officially declare this, as most people struggle to match the 5-a-day recommendations already. They decided that giving an aim that is too hard to achieve leads to discouragement rather than progress. Same goes with running. Ask someone who doesn’t run, to go out run a marathon, it will not work! My point being, with eating habits, it goes back to how our mothers cooked for us, how their mothers cooked, etc. I think what’s happening at the moment is pretty amazing and we should look back on it in twenty years time to evaluate the changes.

Have a look at a couple of articles on the new National Curriculum and food education below. This is all very exciting! We can be proud of the people who got involved. Jamie is not the only one of course, but his media coverage is so gigantic that it definitely got things moving. And that is why, I support 100% celebrity chefs who get active for a good cause. Go Jamie!

School Food Plan:
http://www.education.gov.uk/schoolfoodplan/news/a00221479/school-food-plan-cook-curric

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution:
http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/news-content/cookery-lessons-to-become-compulsory-in-

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Children learning to cook at Hampstead Norreys School, Berkshire, in 2008. Photograph: Frank Baron

Photo found on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2008/sep/18/recipe.foodanddrink

Healthy, tasty dinner for lazy people

Hello you! Yes, you, the one who does not wish to spend more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. I have a recipe for you today!

Baked salmon fillet and stir-fried green vegetables

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Ingredients:

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • green peas
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Season the salmon with pepper and wrap in aluminium foil. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

3. Put olive oil in a frying pan, add the broccoli and peas. Cook for 5 minutes then add the spinach. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve

I like to make this recipe because it’s easy and quick. It doesn’t require any cooking skills and above all it is very nutritious!

  1. Salmon is loaded in Omega 3 fatty acids, good for heart health.
  2. Spinach is rich in folate, known for its mood enhancer.
  3. Broccoli has vitamins A, C and E. A and E are fat soluble vitamins, therefore, good to eat with oily fish. Vit E and vit C are antioxidants, which are good for fighting free radicals.
  4. Peas provide slow-release carbohydrate, protein and contain vit A and E as well as other good stuff (magnesium, potassium, zinc, etc.).

Definitely this week’s winner dinner!

Back home to Lyon for a family reunion…

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… and the kitchen is already full of food!

(Thursday)

I arrived from the 11am Easyjet flight this morning. The pilot said it was raining in Lyon but when we landed the sun was shining and dad was waiting for me in the arrival area. We drove home to find mum in the middle of feeding lunch to her grandson, my lovely 2 year old nephew. After his afternoon nap, we all went grocery shopping for the weekend. You see, this weekend we are reuniting for the 1st time since a year ago: my parents, brother, sister and her two kids and me, all together at the same place at the same time. It’s a miracle!

There is a reason why we managed to get this organized: we are celebrating our birthdays. All of our birthdays! We were all born in February, March and April (except dad, but he will get his own special celebration later this year).

I am loving the atmosphere here today. I can feel there is something special in the air. My brother will land tonight from Vancouver and we are going to meet his girlfriend. My sister will arrive tomorrow with her eldest, who does miss his uncle Charles a lot. I can tell my parents are excited even though they are not making a fuss.

It is going to be a good weekend!

But – there is a but – I have been doing so well on my New Year’s resolutions (see the ‘About’ page) that I am getting a bit nervous about how it’s going to go here. Canapés, cheese, bread, cakes, wine, etc. It all looks so good and smells so deeeeelicious! We got the bread from a local traiteur that make the best country style bread in town. It smelled so good in the car on the way back!

Anyway, all I’m saying is I am a little concerned about this weekend going a bit overboard if not totally, but I just remembered: “When you have healthy habits, indulging every now and again won’t make a difference on your health”.

Therefore, I am now ready to enjoy this long waited for reunion, sharing good food and wine and our stories of the past year.

(Saturday)

Last night dad cooked! It’s a “once-a-year” event!! His favourite and very own recipe is stuffed tomatoes. He makes them with love and it’s always a success. Check out the recipe on my recipe page.

Stuffed tomato and rice

Stuffed tomato and rice

(Monday)

Oh dear! I just read that and I see all I was worried about was me eating too much. Well, I’m an optimist, what can I do?! Sure I ate and drank too much this weekend but honestly it’s no big deal.

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Pain au chocolat, croissant, baguette, brioche and bugnes

Kids and their mummy have just gone and the house is quiet again. It feels strange. As if something was missing. They are loud but it’s so much fun to have them around. However I must say, four days with brother, sister, nephews who fight and cry (not all the time, thank god!), and grand parents is a bit overwhelming. But hey, that’s family!

I will go back to London tomorrow feeling refreshed and ready to face revision period, yes, even immunology. I’m ready!

That’s what family does to me. I am glad we are a strong loving family and looking forward to seeing them again.

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Family working hard in the kitchen

Dad’s Stuffed Tomatoes

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Serves 8 (two stuffed tomatoes each)

  • 16 big tomatoes
  • 900g sausage meat
  • 1 onion
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • parsley (as much as you want)
  • 1 to 2 slices of bread
  • a dash of milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

1.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2.  Slice the top off the tomatoes and empty the flesh into a bowl. Save for later.

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3.  Roughly chop the onion, shallot and garlic and put in a mixer. Add the parsley and mix.

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4.  In another bowl, tear the bread up and add the milk.

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5.  Add the sausage meat and the chopped onion and parsley to the bread bowl and and mix well.

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6.  Put the stuffing into the tomatoes.

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7. Add a drizzle of olive oil and cook in the oven for about an hour.

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8.  Meanwhile, drain the tomato flesh and heat in a saucepan with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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9. Serve with rice and home-made tomato sauce.

Stuffed tomato and rice

Stuffed tomato and rice

Enjoy!

The Simple Things

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It’s when you get home from the airport on a cold night and find your flatmate in the kitchen preparing a plate of orange slices with cinnamon, or “How Monique turned an orange into a warm welcome back”. As she offers to share her dessert, taking out a couple of forks, we sit in the kitchen for a quick chat and catch up.

Good times and healthy food :)