My real food reading essentials

My Real Food Reading and Cookbook Essentials

”People always ask me what I eat to cheat, and this is just such a weird concept for me.  I don’t negotiate with myself over food anymore.  I thoroughly enjoy eating real food and it almost feels like the strangest, nonsensible thing to eat nasty food and then feel empowered by it.”

Ine Reynierse

Whenever we see a challenge ahead, it always makes a difference when we’re surrounded by people who inspire us. Their struggles, both their successes and their failures and the way they deal with them can make us feel supported and allow us to go for it, to grow ourselves.

Here are the resources that challenged my way of thinking about food and eating. These have inspired me towards change and they’ve brought a lot of exciting new ideas and a variety of recipes to my dining table.

 

Michael Pollan

https://michaelpollan.com/

I love his witty texts with a scientific approach to food-related issues. The key points he highlights and deals with in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto inspired me to reassess my relationship with food and, inded, do better.

 

Ine Reynierse – Low Carb is Lekker

https://www.lowcarbislekker.co.za/

I would have probably given up on the low-carb lifestyle before I even got the chance to see its benefits if it were not for this book. I came across Low Carb is Lekker by accident and what called my attention was the quote that I’ve placed at the beginning of this post. There it was, what I had been thinking and feeling, put into words. The comment continues: ”I eat mindfully, trying to keep hormones happy, hunger at bay and cravings on the side of non-existent. Also, I live by the principle of creative ‘decarbing’ . If I miss it and it is worth it, I need to ‘decarb’ it so I can mindfully enjoy it!  (I know it does not sound quite normal, but this is my personal little strategy of feeling completely content.)”

 

Sarah Britton – My New Roots 

https://www.mynewroots.org/site/

My New Roots is a blog where I see posts that always combine personal insight with valuable information about ingredients, their health benefits and the best ways to use them. I find her posts sincere and authentic as she shares how she goes through the constant process of change and adaptation. Her recipes are not only colourful and exciting but also nutrient dense. 

 

Megan May and Little Birds Organics

https://littlebirdorganics.co.nz/pages/megan-may

I only found about Megan when I visited her cafe in Auckland. The delicious food served there was what instantly won me over and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. When I saw a couple of cookbooks on this cafe’s shelves, I didn’t hesitate to get them both and bring them back home. What I loved was the amazing and inventive vegan recipes and her focus on the preparation to achieve not only great taste but also the healthiest benefits.

 image no. 3  from My New Roots web https://www.mynewroots.org/site/cookbooks/

all the rest of the images are photos of original books’ covers 

photographed by Mili

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Coconut love sequence 3: Coconut toast bread

Coconut Love Sequence – 3. Make coconut toast bread 

I never used to eat bread until I moved to Spain and tried a “tostada con aceite y tomate” (toast with olive oil and tomato). It ended up being one of my preferred breakfast items. My favorite toast was made from a multigrain bread with seeds.

In search of something that would allow me to enjoy this tostada on a low carb lifestyle, I made this “integral” bread by slightly modifying the fantastic recipe for Four Seed Bread by Ine from Low Carb is Lekker. I’ve been eating this bread ever since I started my low carb journey. This and other recipes from Ine’s cookbook made the low carb lifestyle sustainable for me in the long term. Thus I will always be grateful for having discovered her work. Naturally, after getting used to low carb cooking and baking, I slowly started finding some inspiration and gathering the courage to try new things such as altering recipes and then even creating my own. 

Even though the original recipe is delicious and satisfying, I found that by making small alterations it works much better for me. My new coconut bread, when toasted, reminded me so much of this bread from the “previous”, carb-loaded life. The most significant advantage for me is that by using the coconut milk leftovers I close my sequence cycle without generating any waste and, at the same time, omitting store-bought flours. Not to mention that coconut is a much cheaper alternative to nut flour, especially if homemade.

I hadn’t thought about my “innovation” being mentioned or posted anywhere until I had several friends asking me to share the recipe and explain how to do it so that it would become available to others. Then I decided to accept a bigger challenge: I would try to make it vegan. I did succeed and tastewise the final product is still good. However, it is a bit moister and more compact than I would like, which means I have a new challenge to work on. If you are not vegan, it might be better for you to stick to the original recipe (with egg).  

Those who don’t want to give up baked goods on a grain/gluten/carb-free lifestyle should check out Ine’s recipes. Even if you don’t have any dietary restrictions, you should try low carb bread as it is quicker to make, full of healthy fats and fibers, and it won’t leave you feeling horrible after eating it. If you follow a nut-free diet and you still want to go low carb, my version of the recipe is excellent for you.   


Step 1  Turn on the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Step 2  Mix all the dry ingredients.

Step 3 Beat the eggs with Apple Cider vinegar (in case of vegan bread, make the egg replacement before moving on to the next step since it needs 10-15 min to rest before use)

Step 4  Add the eggs to the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate.

Step 5  Pour min amount of boiling water over and add a bit more if needed.

Step 6  Work your dough into a ball or roll by moving it gently around inside the bowl. Be careful and don’t press it firmly or overwork it because it will become too compact and it won’t rise.Po

Step 7 Pass the dough onto an oven dish and bake it for min 40 min. You might want to reduce the temperature and bake it a bit more on lower for it to dry more.

When your bread is done, wait until it cools down to cut it (especially in case of vegan bread)


Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups of homemade Coconut flour*
  • 1/2 Cup of Ground Flax Seeds**
  • 3 Flat Tbs of Phsylium Husks
  • 3 Flat Tbs of Pumpkin seeds
  • 4 Flat Tbs of Sunflower seeds
  • 4 Flat Tbs of Sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • A little less than 1 flat tsp of sea salt 

Wet ingredients

  • 3 Egg whites (for vegan make the egg replacement***)
  • 1 Tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • min 1 1/2 Cups of water (I use a little bit less than  300ml) 

Optional ingredients

  •  spices: 2 flat Tbs of Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp of mixed garlic, pepper and herb spices
  •  chopped olives or sundried tomato

This recipe works only with homemade coconut flour. Using the store-bought one would probably make something that might look like bread but the result and taste would be completely different.  

** I buy whole flax seeds and grind them just before use. Because ground seeds often go rancid quickly, I recommend you do the same. Grinding your own will also save you some money. I use brown flax for “whole grain” coconut bread as this results in a bread that resembles more the one I used to like. You can also use golden flax. Experiment and discover which ones you like better. 

 

*** Egg replacement

  • 3 Tbsp of ground Golden Flax seeds
  • 8 Tbsp of water
  • 1 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinager
  • 1 tsp of baking powder

Mix the ingredients and let the mixture sit for around 10 min.

l usually double the quantities so in the end I have double the size. I then cut the bread in slices when it’s cold and I freeze half of them so that I can toast those when needed. I’ve noticed that toasting on lower intensity a few times gives the best results. If you don’t have a toaster, you can toast it lightly on a pan. You can also put them in the oven and even use them to make bruschetta. 

Ine Reynierse’s s Four Seed Bread recipe:

https://www.lowcarbislekker.co.za/recipes-1.html

Ine Reynierse’s s Low Carb cookbooks:

https://www.lowcarbislekker.co.za/cookbooks-4.html

photos by Mili

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Sustainability and coffee: Reusable DIY filter

Approaching sustainability over a pour-over: Reusable DIY filter 

For most of us, the first logical move in our effort to ‘go green’ is switching to more sustainable and compostable products. As a less harmful option compared to using polluting ones it is a step forward, still, it is buying products and using resources that could be avoided in the first place. Not to mention that most of the items we use do not go to composting or recycling.

The next-best solution would be finding a reusable replacement for a single use item. Due to us being so influenced by modern day single-use society, by all advertisement and consumerism this can sometimes feel like a “weird” idea at first. In most cases, this is as simple as going back to what people use to do/use before we introduced a single-use version. 

Ultimately, when possible we can look into completely eradicating the need for the particular product (habit). I think of it as an exciting concept, with a lot of possible benefits. Other than being utterly more sustainable, for us and the environment, minimalism and simplifying help us regain a conscious approach towards our routines and habits. 

One of the habits I am currently omitting only occasionally is my coffee ritual. After having tried all the delicious, inherently waste-free ways to brew coffee, I am still a pour over-lover. In alignment with my waste reduction efforts, I decided to stop buying paper coffee filters. At the same time, I bumped into a post on reusable coffee filters on Remodelista web. Excited about that product idea, I wondered come the use of fabric coffee filters had not become the standard practice already. And I realized that it was before until we all fell victims to the disposable society mindset. All these times that I’d been having coffees, I did not think about this consciously.  

After my first consumerist urge to go after the fabric filter immediately, my DIY spirit kicked in and I decided I could make one myself.

Only when I started testing the “dripping rate” with different organic hemp and cotton fabrics did I realize how bad my pour over technique was. Thus, I decided to look into those a bit more. As a result, this whole project became even more rewarding. I still need to improve the pouring, but I managed to get satisfying results using my filter. The ultimate test will be taking it to my favorite coffee place (as I never found a place with a tastier pour over) and ask their barista to make my coffee with my filter. I will let you know how it goes :).

Initially, I planned to sew and make a V60 shaped filter. Then, I remembered some folded Chemex filters I’d once bought and I thought that could be a better model to mimic. It would be much easier to make and possibly more practical as it could be used for both V60 and Chemex. Moreover, I would avoid the stitches on the usable filter area.

I’ve tested different organic cotton and hemp fabrics. I went for the hemp one as it gave me the best results when it comes to dripping rate and flavor. In addition, hemp fabric is much more sustainable to produce (compared to cotton), it is more durable than cotton and it is naturally antibacterial.

I wouldn’t be able to say precisely which combination of factors (weight and density) you should go for. I suggest you do your own empirical research, test different fabrics you have available and find one that gives you the most satisfying result.

Step 1  Cut the fabric into 15x15cm squares. 

Step 2  Boil them to remove any impurities or dust, and to ensure it will shrink now rather than when the filter is done.

Step 3  Once you have decided on the fabric you can stop at this step. However, I suggest doing at least some kind of edging at the seams. Otherwise, the fabric might unravel.

Step 4  Cut in a desired shape (optional). I decided to cut and shape my filters before edging (one in a round shape and one in a flower shape). I did this by folding it in 4 and marking the quarter of the circle by hand. Use a round shape dish or plate for more precision.

Step 5  Edge with a sewing machine or by hand.

Step 7  Boil the filter again to get rid of any leftover impurities.

all photos by Mili

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Coconut Love Sequence 2- COCONUT MILK

Coconut Love Sequence – 2. Make coconut milk 

I was extremely happy when I finally found the perfect canned coconut milk on the shelf of my grocery store. It was organic, contained nothing else but coconut and water, had great texture and tasted great. 

Soon after, I started to become very conscious of all the cans I was using, especially due to the fact that separating and recycling trash is not a common practice where I live. I was generating a lot of waste and (because I was determined to recycle all the used cans somehow) I was also accumulating it. In order to  stop this, I decided to start making my own coconut milk.

What encourages me to be an advocate for homemade vegetable drink ( ”milk” ) other than my belief that it is more beneficial it is compared to conventional shelf milk, is the facts that making it at home prevents a lot of waste and contamination. But most of all the fact that it tastes amazing. The ones who can bear testimony to this are good friends who had once told me that they didn’t like coconut milk until I convinced them to try the homemade one. In more than one case, they shifted from “I don’t like it” to “I love it” and I even got comments like “This is so good and it tastes so different.”

If, like many others, you think that making your own coconut milk is too complicated and time consuming, I’d prefer you tried it first so that you can judge for yourself. Originally, I was planning to record myself showing in a short real-time video how I do it. Then I realized that there are some really good videos already out there so there was no need for another one. If you’d like to see a video, in the ”HOW TO” section below there’s a link to the one I’ve found to be the best so far. Instead of making a video, I decided to note down a few tips I’ve gathered around that will help you get the best result. Check them out and make your own coconut milk.

1. Coconut

Of course, the taste of your milk will depend greatly on the quality and taste of the coconut you use. I always try to prepare my milk from fresh ones, though I’ve also tried some of the alternatives mentioned in the video I’ve linked. You won’t waste time and energy separating the brown part from the coconut flesh and the only difference is that the milk will not be completely white but ivory. This way, in addition, whatever solids are left will add an extra insoluble fiber content to your baked goods. In absence of fresh coconut, making the milk out of desiccated coconut is quite a quick and decent alternative. This is a great option especially when you plan to use the milk for cooking or smoothies. In this case, I soak the coconut in warm water (or hot water if I don’t have a lot of time) blend it well and, because it doesn’t need to be as smooth as for drinking, most of the times I don’t even strain it.

2. Water

It makes a huge difference if the water is filtered. Avoid bottled mineral water as some of their mineral content can alter the taste. An alternative to filtered water can be boiled potable tap water. If you’re using this water, you should boil it and let it cool down unless you’re making a latte or maybe a hot chocolate in which case leaving it warm will be better. Most of the times, I use whatever coconut water I obtained from the coconut itself and top it up with ‘normal’ water to get the needed amount of liquid for blending. This gives an additional flavor and sweetness to the milk. 

3. Additives

If your main ingredient is of good quality you don’t really need anything else as far as taste is concerned. I’ve seen people recommending lecithin as an additive to preserve the smooth, homogeneous consistency. Personally, I’m wary of any processed products (especially the ones proceeding from soybeans and sunflower seeds). I do not add any of these. In any case, if you want your milk to be smooth just shake it and the smoothness is back. If the fat has separated and it’s hardened after being in the fridge, just warm it up and blend it again and it will soften down and unify. Then you will have the perfect consistency.

Optional things that I often use:

Coconut oil – I always add it to my milk as I want it to be creamier. It will make more foam if I use it for a latte or a coffee. Also, I believe more fat is better for me to balance the natural sugars occurring in this drink and I just prefer it that way.

Salt – I use just a tiny bit of finely ground Himalayan salt or sea salt to balance the taste.

Flavoring: stevia, vanilla, cinnamon, cacao, etc. – When making lattes, smoothies or chocolate milk I usually add a few drops of stevia to make the milk slightly sweeter but sometimes I also blend in some ground vanilla beans and even cinnamon. Because coconut already has a characteristic natural sweetness, most of the times you won’t even need any additional sweetener. If anything, stevia or a bit of natural honey will do the trick. Plus, a bit of raw cacao powder mixed with coconut milk makes great chocolate milk and if you want the perfect hot chocolate just add a bit of cacao butter. With its distinctive aroma, it will give the milk additional thickness and creaminess.

4. Blending

You really need a strong blender to make coconut milk tasty. The stronger the blender you use and the longer you blend it for, the smaller the particles will be. This will allow for a fuller taste and added creaminess.

5. Straining

The easiest and fastest way to strain your milk is to get a nut-milk bag. If you’re travelling or you don’t have one, the alternatives I’ve found that work best are teabags or even gauze from a pharmacy. You will need a few large teabags to strain the milk made out of one coconut and for the gauze you will need to fold it a couple of times to adjust the cloth’s thickness and density.

6. Using the remainders (leftovers from the blended coconut flesh)

Do not dispose of whatever’s left. The best way to use it is to dry it and keep it for use in your baking goods as an alternative to a commercial nut or coconut flour. My personal favorite is using it to make coconut bread. Dehydrating it will enable you to store it for a longer period of time. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can spread it on the surface of an open dish without anything on top to cover it (maybe just a cloth) and place it in the fridge. This will prevent it from moulding and spoiling and it will also dry out due to the fridge’s dry air. I always use this technique and I’ve sometimes kept dehydrated coconut flour for weeks without it going bad.

Step 1  Cut the coconut flesh in pieces. Place the pieces in a blender.

Step 2  Add water and/or coconut water and blend it all together until you get a thick rather homogeneous mix.

Step 3  Strain the milk and squeeze all the liquid out of the flesh.

Step 4  Add any optional ingredients and blend it again.

Step 5  Keep it refrigerated for a few days.

I’ve linked a YouTube video by Petra, Holistic Nutritionist and Chef (Nutrition Refined) that I found explains it all really well.
Coconut Milk – 3 Ways to Make It at Home by Nutrition Refined

Megan May’s books of recipes and whole food vegan basics:

https://littlebirdorganics.co.nz/products/little-bird-goodness-book

https://littlebirdorganics.co.nz/products/the-unbakery-book

I did not make the perfect milk until I went to Auckland, tried the milk made in her cafe and then followed her tips and quantities for making vegetable milks.

Nutrition Refined website:

https://nutritionrefined.com/

A website with nutritional advice and healthy recipes by Holistic Nutritionist and Raw Food Chef Petra. 

photos by Mili

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UNDOUBTEDLY FOOD

Welcome the section for food ideas and recipes: undoubtedly_FOOD 

I’ve decided to add a food section to my blog. I was looking for a space where I could offer bits of information and advice that I’ve been gathering by trial and error.

I will post some easy recipes, but mostly I will share ideas to inspire you to make a difference in your eating habits by introducing small shifts and changes. I believe that redefining the way we conceive of our diets and routines will lead not only to a better quality of life but also to a more sustainable environment. I’d say the point is to look for a lifestyle that will prove worthwhile in the long term, bearing in mind any possible resource constraints.

Having had some health struggles in recent years, I started going through different sorts of nutrition theories and trying different kinds of diets in the hope of finding the one that would suit me. I’ve been looking for the healthiest option that would both fit my lifestyle and supply me with the greatest amount of energy.

In fact, it took me a long time to figure out that most pieces of advice or guidelines out there are not only useless but also quite often harmful. After a lot of research which included due reading and experimenting on myself, I came to the conclusion that I should just eat ‘real food’.

Sounds very simple. So what’s the problem?

Well, the best answer to this I found in Michael Pollan’s work, especially in the book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. (for a shorter version you can have a look at his article in The New York Times Unhappy Meals)

In the mentioned texts, Michael Pollan explains why following his advice to ‘eat food’ is not that simple. One of the reasons, as he mentions, is because: “Once, food was all you could eat but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket.” In other words, we are virtually overflooded with highly processed products from the food industry that are meant to be food but in fact are not. These, in my opinion, should be at least banned from ever being called food. Ideally, I would have them banned from being produced and sold. Yet, here we are, eating them.

A very interesting concept that Michael Pollan has popularized in his book is Gyorgy Scrinis’s definition of the ideology or paradigm of ‘nutritionism’, which had emerged from the reductive focus on nutritional composition and the obsession about nutrients as the key indicator of healthy food. The author discusses the rise of this tendency and the consequent impact that it has had on our eating.

Many of us can see how a distinct loss of touch with nature, our surroundings and even our bodies has left us numb to our innate intuition. As we welcomed new bad habits, we abandoned valuable knowledge that had accumulated over generations. We used to be instinctively and culturally programmed to know what to eat, how much and when. What once was an easy common thing, today is wrapped in confusion and often turned into dogmas, strict ideologies or food religions. It’s funny how sharing a meal, which was something that gathered people around, became a topic of disagreements and discussions both in scientific circles and in the coziness of our dining tables.

No wonder most of us end up close to cluelessness. We are not even sure that we can tell what real food is, let alone what the real healthy choices are. I guess we need to go back to our instincts and get our cravings and food-related addictions under control. But, to do that, we need to start by becoming truly conscious and mindful of what, where, when and how we eat.

Finally, as sustainability is the leitmotiv of my blog, the one that is inspiring and binding together all different sorts of topics, I would like to touch on what I identify as the relation between sustainability and food. When thinking about food as a part of my lifestyle, these are the two main questions that come into my mind:

  1. In what way do our eating habits affect the quality of our food and our environment as well as its overall sustainability?
  2. Once we have established our values along with our desired lifestyle, how can we work around the existing constraints in order to ensure sustainability on the long term?

Firstly, we might not be fully conscious but the choices we make on our everyday routines are both directly and indirectly affecting our environment. We should never underestimate the power we have to encourage and actually support either good or bad practices (be it from the farming, production, transportation or selling sector). By choosing one product over another, we are choosing what kind of impact we are going to make. 

Secondly, a very important aspect of leading a sustainable life is making our lifestyle work for us in spite of any resource constraints. Be those related to time, money or energy among other. We should always be able to prepare and enjoy a variety of satisfying and tasty food options either way. The key is to pay attention to our surroundings and look for those practices that will make up the habits and routines that fit our particular circumstances.

Ultimately, I would say that this matter is all about constant learning. It is a growing process. In fact, I do not have all the answers and I’m only glad I don’t: that’s what drives me to explore even further and that’s what keeps me going, generating ideas.

Here’s me hoping that some of these ideas will help you find your own way towards your own sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle. 

A book review for Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food – click here for the link

Gyorgy Scrinis’s book Nutritionism – The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice – click here or the link

Michael Pollan’s articles for NY Times:  

In Defense of Food – click here for the link

Unhappy Meals – click here for the link

 

 

 

Photos by Mili 

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COCONUT LOVE SEQUENCE 1

Coconut Love Sequence – 1. How to open a coconut 

It seems like coconut and its products have become very popular food ingredient. Chosen for the leading role in certain diets, they appear to be a sort of icon of healthy eating. 

The problem I noticed is that most people tend to buy packaged store products. Other than being more expensive, these products imply a lot of waste (plastic, cans, energy) and can often contain other unnecessary ingredients and chemicals.

The main reason I’ve heard behind this is the belief that anything else would be too complicated and time consuming. Well, yes, it will definitely take you a bit more than just getting a can or a plastic box from a supermarket shelf, but it’s much easier and faster than you think. Not to mention how much tastier and rewarding it is as well. I think the few extra minutes are a good trade off for less waste and healthier food.

Now, to be able to make our own coconut cream, milk or flour, we have to start by opening a real coconut in a quick and easy way.

I can’t tell when was the first time I bought a real coconut, but I can perfectly remember that once I arrived home I realised that I’d never thought about how I was going to open it.

So, I did some basic research on the internet. For some reason, most of the instructions I found required the use of tools or a preheated oven. I instantly thought ‘I did not give up buying coconut milk cans to now go on wasting energy to preheat the oven just to open a real coconut’. 

I’m lucky enough to have friends all over the world so my first offline resource was Joani, a close friend who happens to be from Salvador de Bahia. She taught me what I consider the easiest way to open a coconut. I’ve noticed that most people get surprised when they see me applying this coconut-opening trick. I was shocked myself when, expecting a sophisticated technique, she only told me to throw it to the floor. The best thing about it is that it has added value: it can be a fun, stress-relieving exercise 😉

Step 1  Find the softest of the three dots on the coconut by pressing on them.

Step 2  Make an opening through the shell by removing the flesh inside the softest dot until you make the hole through the full fleshy part. You can use a knife or a wine opener.

Step 3  Drain the coconut water. Shake the coconut a few times and make sure to get all the water out.

Step 4  Throw it to the floor! Some coconuts are really resistant and like to bounce back instead of breaking. In that case, I found that the best way is to aim for the part with the hole to hit the floor directly.

Step 5  If the coconut did not open but just cracked, repeat Step 4 a few more times.

Step 6  Separate the shell from the flesh. If it doesn’t come out easily, you can insert a knife in between and use it as a lever.

Step 7  Rinse the coconut flesh with clean water.

Congrats 🙂 Your coconut is ready. You can eat it just like that or you can use it to make food. 

This are the best videos that I’ve seen on Youtube for how to open a coconut:

50 People Try to Crack Open a Coconut, by Epicurious

A funny video that illustrates great my own previous experience when first tried to crack a coconut :). Than the issue is resolved with a chef’s demonstration of how to do it. He uses hammer, though. I’ve tried that one, still find my technique simpler.  click here for the video 

How to Open Coconut Without Tools, by The King of Random 

This video is very explanatory if you find yourself on a desert island 🙂 Applied to coconut with a husk. Still useful info, some of which could serve you at home cracking. click here for the video 

video by Mili

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