An Introduction to Superfoods – Part 2

Maca

Archaeological evidence shows that maca was domesticated over 2,000 years ago by the predecessors of the Incan people.

maca

Often indigenous tribes would bring cacao nibs and beans (raw chocolate) up to the Andes from the jungle and in exchange maca would go down from the Andes into the jungle. Both cacao and maca were used as money by ancient indigenous peoples, which says a great amount about how much it was revered.

Maca is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s systems, such as the cardiovascular system, nervous system, musculature and lymphatic systems. Adaptogens also boost immunity and increase the body’s overall vitality by 10-15% according to most studies.

Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and iron, and contains trace minerals, including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica, as well as vitamins B1, B2, C and E. Containing nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids, Peruvian research claims that maca improves memory, increases oxygen in the blood, improves the function of neurotransmitters and increases libido.

Maca is excellent in smoothies, desserts and chocolate. It has a wonderful synergy with cacao due to its hormone balancing properties. It has a beautiful and powerful malty caramel flavour, but beware it is strong, so use responsibly! I have experienced excellent benefits to energy levels when I have maca and found it has also helped when endurance is required such as in sports training or exercise.

Carob

The carob plant bears fruit known as carob pods. 

carobThese pods have been used as food for more than 5,000 years. Carob powder comes from carob pods.Carob powder is an alternative to cocoa powder, having several distinct advantages.

Unlike chocolate, carob contains neither caffeine nor theobromine. Caffeine, and to a lesser extent theobromine, are both stimulants, making you more alert and giving you a boost of energy. However, they can also make you restless, anxious and irritable.

Too much caffeine can lead to headaches and even abnormal heart rhythms. For many people who consume caffeine on a regular basis, stopping consumption leads to symptoms of withdrawal. If you like a taste similar to chocolate, but without the stimulating effects, carob provides a suitable alternative.Carob contains calcium, which is important for proper bone and teeth formation and about 100g of carob provide almost half of the average person’s daily calcium requirement.

It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. It is also a good source of fibre and protein. In addition to being naturally cholesterol-free, carob also contains pectin, which lowers cholesterol levels and decreases your risk for heart disease. In a study by Zunft et al, carob pulp was shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients.

Carob is a great addition to raw desserts and works really well in smoothies. Use as a great alternative to cacao for that energy boost without any stimulant effects. I love the beautiful malty flavour. It is a wonderful natural sweetener. I especially love putting carob in chocolate as it adds another dimension of flavour.

Lucuma

Lucuma is a subtropical fruit of Andean origin. Its flavour is similar to a cross between maple and sweet potato. It has been called the “Gold of the Incas”.

lucuma-giant

Lucuma is an excellent source or carbohydrates, fibre, carotene, vitamin B3, and other B vitamins. It has remarkable concentrations of beta-carotene, an immune system boosting vitamin and also contains niacin and iron with significant amounts of calcium and phosphorus.

The level of complex carbohydrates, minerals and fibre make it an excellent low glycemic addition to desserts and recipes.

Lucuma can be mixed into smoothies, used to make ice cream or can be used as an excellent sweetener replacement, due to its low GI score. It provides a delicious caramel-like flavour. I love adding lucuma to sweeteners and have recently discovered a wonderful recipe for raw caramel, which includes lucuma, maple syrup, coconut oil and ground almonds.

Please do contact me if you’d like anymore advice on Superfoods! 

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

p.s I highly recommend a Fermentation Master Class that I will be attending, taught by Amy Levin – you can find out more details and book your place here.

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Eating Seasonally (Part 2)

So I decided for this blog to pick out another delicious food that is very suited to being enjoyed at this time of year – butternut squash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut squash is a winter squash, and is actually a fruit, as it contains seeds. It has a lovely nutty flavour and is packed full of antioxidants and phtyonutrients. It is low in fat and high in fibre, making it great for the digestion and also for the heart. It is also high in potassium, which helps support healthy bone growth.

It’s vibrant yellow colour is indiciative of the high levels of carotenoids, which support heart function and it also contains beta-carotene, which has been shown to help prevent breast-cancer and prevent macular degeneration. It’s levels of vitamin A also help to support healthy skin and mucus membranes and it is also very high in Vitamin C, helping to boost the immune system in those cold winter months.

Creamy butternut squash and sage mash

This mash is an easy recipe to make and is full of flavour. It can be enjoyed as it is, or can ben served in place of regular cooked mash as an accompaniment to any meal.

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled
½ cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
4 tsp fresh sage or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tsbp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tsp Pink Himalalayan salt
Pinch black pepper

• Using a vegetable chopper or food processor, dice butternut squash into very small pieces. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp lemon juice and cover in water. Soak for at least 2 hours.
• Rinse and drain butternut squash and place in blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth. Garnish with black pepper.
• The mash can ben served cold or warm. To warm, if you have a Vitamix, you can continue to blend on high, until mash reaches desired temperature. Alternatively, place mash in a pan and warm on a very low heat.

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

Creating a raw food kitchen (part one)

It is important when transitioning into a raw food lifestyle to ensure that you have the correct resources and equipment in place to ensure that you can make the food that you desire quickly, easily and with minimum hassle. In this post, I talk about 2 pieces of equipment very popular with raw foodies, the blender and the food processor and their benefits and uses. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contribute and share your thoughts!

Blender:

A good quality blender is a really essential piece of equipment when it comes to raw food making and raw desserts. It is perfect for making smoothies, sauces, soups and dips and if it is powerful enough can be great for making raw desserts too. I would recommend, if you are willing to make the investment, purchasing a Vitamix blender – one of the great pieces of modern day technology! It is so powerful and will pulverize pretty much anything, from cacao beans to frozen fruit chunks in a matter of seconds! It is fantastic, as it will break down the foods so that they are much easier to assimilate and digest.

With the Vitamix, you can achieve most of the functions of a food processor as well as a blender, being able to achieve both chunky and ultra smooth textures. It also comes with a 7-year warranty. Just so you know, I don’t sell them! I also find the Vitamix great for desserts. It is fantastic for making smooth and creamy fillings and toppings is a particularly good one to do it here, because as good as a high quality food processor is, it can often leave a grainy consistency.

It is fine if you are not willing to invest in a Vitamix and there are many other blenders that are perfectly good for create raw food.

Other good blenders if you don’t want to spend as much include:

• The Kitchenaid blender range
• Cuisinart blenders

Food processor:

Food processors are obviously very useful kitchen appliances when it comes to chopping just about any food. I find a food processor extremely useful in raw food and dessert making as well. You don’t always want your food cut too small, and the food processor is perfect for making batters, cracker and raw bread mixtures, chunky dips and sauces such as salsa and pesto and also for making cake crusts and energy bars. When you add the crust ingredients, usually nuts, dates, sweeteners, coconut oil etc. you will achieve that crumbly biscuit consistency which is perfect for the crust.

 

My recommendation on a food processor would be a Magimix, again a bit of an investment, but extremely high quality, very robust and guaranteed for 5 years. You could spend less and there are an abundance of food processors out there, but if you are using one often, it may not last that long if the quality is not great. If you feel that you will be using the machine a lot, it is probably worth going for a higher quality machine.

When shopping for a food processor, consider power, portability and functionality. They vary in size from a miniature two-cup chopper to a 20-cup professional model for bulk cooking and preparation. Buy a food processor which matches your particular needs. Most home cooks could use a medium-size food processor (approximately 8-10 cup capacity) for family recipes.

Other good food processors include:

• The Kenwood Range
• Kitchen Aid Processors

When choosing either a blender or a food processor, it is important to do your research and read reviews so as to gauge what is suitable for your needs. It may be the case that you feel it unnecessary to buy both a blender and a food processor, deciding that one of the two is enough for you needs.

In an upcoming post, I will continue to discuss what equipment is necessary to start a raw food kitchen including a dehydrator, juicer and other essentials. Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter where i’ll be sharing more raw food education, tips and recipes. Sign up here. Become a fan on Facebook and receive a FREE raw food recipe ebook. Click here.