April 23, 2015
It seems fitting to make some yummy ANZAC biscuits for this year’s ANZAC Centenary on April 25th. I’m hoping to make it to the Dawn service this year too, to pay respects to all our Kiwi and Aussie soldiers who fought and died in Gallipoli. I remember our dear old Uncle Reg, and all his dusty war medals displayed in old jewellery boxes. He was the most gentle soul, he never spoke about the war.
ANZAC biscuits weren’t actually eaten by the ANZAC’s themselves, they had a raw deal actually – a rock hard tooth breaker also called the Ship’s Biscuit, according to the National Army Museum. They were in fact baked and sold back home, raising funds for the war effort.
The traditional recipe included basic ingredients – rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup. They became so popular and raised so much money that they became world famous in Australia and New Zealand, and they’re still a favourite, 100 years later.
However – those basic ingredients can most definitely be improved on – or health-ified as I like to say.
Brown Rice + Quinoa Flour
Instead of using white flour, I’ve used a mixture of whole grain, gluten free flours. Brown rice flour has a neutral taste, with a slight gritty texture, while quinoa flour has a quite distinct nutty flavour. Quinoa flour has the added benefit of being high in protein. Oats do contain gluten, however, it is a slightly different protein to the gliadin found in wheat. If you are celiac it is best to avoid them, but if it is just a sensitivity you have, you could try and source uncontaminated oats – that just means they haven’t being contaminated with any gluten containing grains during production.
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is an alternative to using castor sugar like the traditional recipes do. Brown rice syrup is a complex carbohydrate and releases energy slowly. It does not contain any fructose, a simple sugar. Fructose can’t enter the body’s cells like glucose can, and instead, has to be metabolised by the liver. It then enters pathways that provide glycerol – the component that makes up the backbone of triglycerides – ie, fat. I don’t see anything wrong with using other natural sweeteners (that do contain fructose – it occurs naturally in plants) in small amounts – but if you are sensitive to sugar then this is the way to go. As an alternative – try coconut sugar – although you may find it makes the biscuits brown very quickly.
Coconut butter is always my go-to when substituting regular butter in a recipe. It is full of healthy, plant based saturated fats, and much more stable when heated at high temperatures. It also has a beautifully sweet taste.
Finally, a little bit of cooking chemistry here, apple cider vinegar is an acid – acetic acid – and when mixed with an alkaline or basic substance such as baking soda, it causes a chemical reaction. You’ll notice gas and bubbles start to form when you combine them – this is what aerates the biscuits and helps them rise (just a little) and expand while they cook – hence you have to keep them a small distance apart on the baking tray.
Hope you enjoy these, I can promise you that they taste amazing! (Comment from the boys: can you please make these again, but triple the recipe?).
“I hope that people will finally come to realise that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.”
– Margaret Atwood
Healthy ANZAC Biscuits – sugar free
| makes 10 large or 20 small |
- ¼ cup (40g) brown rice flour
- ¼ cup (35g) quinoa flour
- 1 cup (95g) rolled oats
- ½ cup (45g) coconut, desiccated
- Pinch of fine Himalayan rock salt
- 80g coconut butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (90ml) rice malt syrup
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla (I prefer vanilla paste over extract)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) boiling water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 160˚C and line a baking tray with non stick baking paper.
- Combine the brown rice flour, quinoa flour, oats, coconut and salt in a mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre.
- In a small pot, gently melt the rice malt syrup, coconut butter and coconut oil over a low heat.
- Add the apple cider vinegar and vanilla.
- Dissolve the baking soda in the 2 tablespoons of hot water then add to the wet mixture, stirring to combine.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix till well combined.
- Use 2 tablespoons of mixture if making large biscuits, or 1 tablespoon for smaller ones, roll into a ball then pat flat into a circle on the baking tray. Leave a gap between biscuits as they expand a little while cooking.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Be careful with the larger size biscuits when you transfer them straight from the oven, so they don’t break or crack. Store in an airtight container.
April 16, 2015
About 6 weeks ago I prepared a herbal infused oil, with organic olive oil and dried comfrey leaf and root. Today, I’m sharing how to turn that lovely, rich green infused oil into a healing, antibacterial, antiseptic salve to keep in your home apothecary.
Health and wellness extends far beyond the diet, so I love to make these simple, natural remedies free from parabens and other nasties, so I’m not adding to the toxic load on the body. Sometimes there are things that are hard to avoid – pollution, bus fumes and the like, but at least we can be mindful of what we put in our bodies, on our bodies (eg. organic and natural clothing rather than synthetic), and on our skin. What we put on our skin is particularly important – it is our largest organ after all.
The first step in making a herbal salve is to prepare a lovely, rich, herbal infused oil. In this process, the constituents of the plant are passed on to the oil, we then discard the plant material and make our salve.
Making the infused oil can be done by what is known as the short or long method. An example of the short method can be seen in this post here;
It involves heating the plant material in your oil over a double boiler, for a minimum of two hours. In a way, I consider this the long way really – because you have to stand there and babysit the oil as it simmers.
The long version involves filling a jar with your chosen herb, then covering it with oil, and leaving it to infuse for six weeks. But when you think about it, all you do is prepare your herbs and oil then leave it to do its thing, so if you’re good at planning in advance, this is such a simple way. For a step by step, read Part 1 here.
I was really happy with how the final product came out – I also added a few drops of essential oils (which you must do once the salve has cooled slightly – they evaporate with heat). I only had tee tree on hand, but lavender is equally as nice. Tea tree oil has a broad spectrum antibacterial activity, it is a great antifungal and also useful for acne and cold sores .
So, what to do with your comfrey infused oil?
Once it has infused over the course of six weeks, uncap the jar and pour the entire mixture into a fine cheesecloth bag, or similar, resting over a bowl or jug, then press the plant material as best you can to get all of the oil out. You really need a little muscle here, herbs get thirsty and absorb a lot of the oil. For this reason, you’ll notice you don’t get as much of the finished product out compared to the amount of oil you started with. That’s totally fine. You might like to repeat this straining process, sometimes a little gritty residue slips past, not ideal if you want a nice smooth salve. Discard the plant material when you’re finished. Right, you’re good to make that salve now!
For minor cuts, grazes, burns, bumps, sprains.
- To make things easy, use one cup infused oil
- 30g shaved organic beeswax (or beeswax pellets)
- ½ teaspoon vitamin E oil
- 10 drops tea tree or lavender essential oil (optional)
- Melt the beeswax over a double boiler
- Warm the infused oil gently so it is just warm to touch
- Pour the melted beeswax into the comfrey oil and stir well
- Remove from heat and let cool till it is warm to touch again
- Add the vitamin E and your choice of essential oils (vitamin E is a preservative)
- Pour into glass jars and leave to set
- Date and label, ready for use!
- Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and Practices of Phytotherapy (2nd ed.). China: Elsevier.
March 31, 2015
Holy sheeshkabob. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free Hot Cross Buns. I don’t normally eat bread, mostly because there are far healthier options (gluten free whole grains like quinoa, cooked simply in a little vege stock – yum!). But it’s Easter. And there are buns galore. And I want one.
So, disclaimer – as you can see – these buns ain’t no oil painting, they cracked a little on the surface, and, they only taste good the next day if you slice them and toast them up, but they smell like heaven and they taste pretty damn amazing considering they aren’t made with any of your usual suspects.
It took four goes to get these to a good place. Four. The first time I made it, I started with a standard vegan hot cross bun recipe from the internet and subbed out the regular flour for a store bought all purpose plain GF flour mix. They were so terrible – hard as rocks. The boys sampled them – laughed at me – then shouted ‘more raisins!’.
Round two I changed a few things around and used quite a bit of apple sauce in place of eggs, an old favourite trick when you’re after a plant based alternative in baking. But, they were also terrible – doughy as all hell and wouldn’t set. They boys sampled them again and still kept shouting ‘more fruit!’.
Round three was made predominantly with quinoa flour. I thought I was getting all cool adding in a whole grain, protein rich flour. Again, terrible. Quinoa has a really strong earthy/nutty flavour that just didn’t do the recipe any favours. And yes, still the boys still wanted more fruit.
Round four, I made my own gluten free flour mix – a mixture of brown and white rice flour with tapioca starch. I’m not making a song and dance about the white rice or the tapioca flour as they are refined, but in the context of making a yummy tasting treat I think they’re ok. I also cut way back on the apple sauce and went crazy with the amount of spices. The boys were happy this time, no words, just scoffing. That’s a good sign. We’re up to a whole cup of raisins now, so if you want to go easy on the sugars cut it down to half or even ¾ cup.
If I had time I’d make this one more time – the recipe is absolutely delish – especially with lashing of soft coconut butter – but I think next time I will experiment with a leavening agent – I didn’t have any aluminium free baking powder in the cupboard to use for these as I don’t really bake.
Enjoy the fruits of my labours these last few days!
P.S: If you’re after some more healthy Easter treats, the following recipes are all raw, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free – and all are available on my Raw Desserts App:
- Celebration Cake (Chocolate, Orange, Hazelnut ice cream cake)
- Hot Cross Chocolates (raw chocolate with a hot cross bun filling – yes!)
- Chocolate Log
- Hot Date Brownie
- Coconut Lavender Truffles
- Black Forest Slice
- Chocolate Maca Buttercups
Gluten Free, Vegan Hot Cross Buns
- 200g brown rice flour
- 150g white rice flour
- 150g tapioca starch
- 1 cup warm hemp milk (or oat, almond)
- ½ cup maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 tablespoon active dry gluten free yeast (equivalent to 1x 7g sachet)
- 2/3 cup applesauce
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon clove powder
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Zest of one orange and one lemon
- 1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons of the brown or white rice flour and enough warm water to mix into a paste, then pipe over the buns before they go into the oven.
Dissolve 1 heaped tablespoon coconut sugar in boiling water then brush over the top of buns after they’re cooked.
- Pre heat oven to 180˚C
- Mix the warm milk (body temperature is warm enough), maple syrup and yeast in a bowl and leave for five minutes
- In a large bowl, combine apple sauce and coconut oil. Then add the yeast mixture and whisk well
- Add the GF flour mix, spices, zest and raisins
- Kneed into a dough, adding a little water or flour if needed
- Dust a board with GF flour
- Pat dough into a rectangle then divide into 10 equal portions
- Shape them further into a bun and arrange them close together in a rectangle again
- Cover with a tea towel. Let sit to rise for at least an hour, although, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of rising action happening (perhaps with a leavening agent?)
- Mix up the paste for the cross then pipe over the buns
- Bake for 15 to 20 mins
- Once cooked, brush with the glaze.
March 11, 2015
Some of the best remedies come from common weeds. I have a weed called Comfrey growing in my garden – she’s actually quite a beautiful plant – large, soft fuzzy leaves, and purple flowers that curl into a spiral. Comfrey is also called knitbone or boneset – giving away one of its therapeutic uses – helping broken bones to heal!
Comfrey is an amazing healer. It contains a chemical called allantoin which helps the body’s cells to replicate and seal over wounds and scrapes. It is so effective at doing this, that you must be careful not to use it on deep wounds, otherwise the surface will heal up and the wound will still be open below. Comfrey should only be used externally as the plant chemicals it contains can be toxic to the liver.
I’m making an ointment with comfrey specifically for minor scrapes, cuts, bumps, bruises and sprains. I thought I would do it in two parts so that you can buy some herbs and make it with me. I think its really lovely being able to make your own natural remedies from scratch to keep in your home apothecary – especially if you are able to grow your own herb to use in the preparations. It makes me feel so chilled and connected to nature doing this – it’s a little bit magical don’t you think?
Even thought I have comfrey in the garden, it is still quite a small plant so for this preparation I bought some dried comfrey leaf online and went from there. You can use both the leaf and root for this ointment – the root has much stronger alkaloids in there.
Where to get the herbs
If you are lucky enough to have your own growing, make sure you are able to correctly identify the plant before you harvest, then dry the leaves till there is no moisture left – if it isn’t completely dry, you may find your oil ferments.
Finally, to keep this simple, I’ve only used the one herb in this infusion, but two others that will go particularly well as an ointment to heal minor bumps, scratches and wounds are Calendula (Calendula officinalis) and Plantain (Plantago major). Plantain is common and grows all over the world – earning the nickname ‘white man’s footsteps’ as it spread so rapidly. Both plantain and comfrey are also really good at drawing out splinters – my Dad recently got a large, deep splinter in his finger, that we just couldn’t pick out. He was going to go to the doctors to get it removed! I picked a comfrey leaf from the garden and made it into a simple poultice – I tore it up and gave it a bit of a grind in the mortar and pestle till the juices were flowing, then popped it over the splinter and covered it with a bandaid.
We changed the poultice a couple of times but eventually it softened the skin and drew out the splinter. Clever little plant!
Comfrey (Symphyton officinale) Infused Oil
This will be your base for the Comfrey Ointment.
1x 500ml glass jar with an airtight lid
Dried comfrey leaf and/or root, enough to pack the jar with (I think I used close to 50g)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could also use almond, or coconut – liquify the coconut oil first), enough to fill the jar (I think I used just under 2 cups)
- Pack your dried herb into the glass jar, filling it right to the top.
- Pour your oil over the top, again, right to the very, very top.
- Tap the jar on a hard surface lightly – this is just to remove any air bubbles, then screw the lid on tight.
- Clearly label the jar with the herb and date, then place in a cool dark place for 6 weeks to let it infuse.
- Every couple of days or even once a week, give the jar a good shake up to make sure the oil is getting through to all of the dried herb.
That’s it for now! There is a second, shorter method for infusion, but I’ll cover that off with Part 2 of this post. So if you’d like to follow along, order some herbs and prepare your infusion, and see you in six weeks!
March 7, 2015
It’s been one of those full on weeks and I’ve been feeling a little bit less than great lately thanks to an annoying viral infection. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m not a superhuman… Funny how such a small critter like a virus can humble you! It’s just a signal to slow down and amp up the self-care really.
So I may not be superhuman, but Mother Nature most definitely is, and I’m going to share a potion I whipped up to kick that annoying virus’s hairy butt.
I learned this on my Herbal Apprenticeship actually, we spent the weekends in the bush, and one Saturday, our Herbal teacher had hauled an absolute mountain of dried olive tree (Olea europea) branches into the cottage. She had harvested them from a lovely clean area of lush bush out in the Waitakeres.
We took a pair of garden scissors to it and cut the leaves, twigs, and thicker branches into small pieces, and then made a lovely rich infusion with it. We also took bundles of the herbal gold home, so lucky for me I still had some in my cupboard to use this week.
Olive leaf is one of the best natural anti-viral and immune boosting herbal remedies we have access to. It is able to prevent the virus from replicating in the body and is a general tonic to the immune system. In fact, you will most likely find it sold at the health food store as a syrup, and it can get quite expensive.
It isn’t just the leaf that has therapeutic benefits though, the branches are also therapeutic. So if you can find yourself a nice olive tree growing in an area free from pollution and any sprays, then this is what you do…
Take a sturdy pair of garden scissors and cut a few big branches off. Snip, snip, snip the olive leaves and branches into small pieces (about an inch or so) – sometimes the branches will be quite thick and strong so you need to put a little muscle in it.
From here, you’ll be making an infusion on the stove top to sip throughout the day. Fill a pot with hot water, bring it to a boil and add all of your plant material. Let it simmer for quite a while – I left mine for over an hour. A more accurate term for this would be a herbal decoction rather than an infusion – infusions are best suited to plant material that is more delicate such as petals and leaves, whereas a decoction, or, a longer infusion, is one that will allow the constituents in the harder plant material (such as the branches or root) to be extracted into the water.
I sipped on this infusion throughout the day, perhaps two to three cups’ worth. Olive leaf has a really pleasant taste – quite distinct – and preparing it as an infusion this way tastes simply like a less processed version of the store bought syrups (and free!). I guess it is perhaps just a little bitter.
One nice practice to consider when you go to harvest, is to ask the plant permission before picking it (you can just do this silently in your head), and only ever take what you need. If you like, you can take a small offering to exchange with the plant for her medicine.
If you want to harvest a larger amount and save this for later, you can dry it then store it in a paper bag. As long as it has no moisture left in it, it will be fine like this for quite some time.
So there you go, a super delicious and immune-boosting virus-busting homemade infusion that will cost you nothing to make!
Well, that was a bit of a digression, but now we’re onto the recipe for the week, Avocado and Herb stuffed Mushrooms.
In keeping with theme, mushrooms are actually incredibly valuable for the immune system also.
Many of the medicinal mushrooms in particular (reishi, chaga) nourish the immune system, and are classed as adaptogens in Herbal Medicine as they help the body to better adapt to the stressors in life. However, the humble common edibles have plenty to offer themselves. Mushrooms are a great source of minerals and B vitamins, and are perhaps the only known food source to contain vitamin D, albeit in small amounts.
This recipe is very easy to prepare and amazing served with a giant salad and a side of plant based protein – tempeh, lentils, beans.
Drop in again to check the blog later in the week, I’m sharing how to prepare another simple herbal remedy for your home apothecary. This time we’re making a comfrey ointment that is used topically for bumps, sprains, bruises and minor scrapes. The first step is to make a herbal infused oil which will become the base for the ointment/salve, and this is what I’ll be showing you first up, so we can make it together!
Avocado and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms
4 large Portobello mushrooms
½ a large avocado
2 slices gluten free bread (brown)
Large handful of fresh mixed garden herbs – rosemary, parsley, mint, oregano, sorrel, thyme
½ small red chilli
Zest of one lemon
Olive oil + balsamic vinegar
- Pre heat the oven at 180˚C.
- Slice the avocado and place two slices of each within each mushroom (as in one of the above photos).
- In a food processor, tear the bread up and blitz with the herbs and chilli to make the crumb stuffing.
- Fill each of the mushrooms with the mixture and sprinkle lemon zest over the top, drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until done.
- When cooked, drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Great served with grilled tomatoes and rocket salad.