It’s been a while since I last made beet kvass. Every few months, I get the urge to make some and this month of May was one of them. It must be my body telling me I’m in need of something therapeutic. Beet kvass, which is thought to have originated in the Ukraine a long time ago, is a probiotic drink that is chock full of health-giving properties and made using the humble beetroot.
Kefir has been such an integral part of our lives for so many years now, that I’m always a little taken aback when people either don’t know what it is or have never tried it. So I thought I’d knock up a post for the benefit of those not in the know about kefir and tell you what it is, how to make it and what to do with it.
One of the many fascinating things about food is that there are so many ingredients and combinations in the world, that providing we are able to access them, the adventure never ends. Here are some of the food products that have landed on the kitchen counter at Tin and Thyme recently.
The coconut revolution is truly upon us. I remember when we first started buying cold-pressed coconut oil over a decade ago. It was hard to find and very expensive. Now the food world has realised the wonders of coconut and I’m very glad to say not only is coconut oil cheaper and easier to find, but there is a wealth of other coconut products out there to choose from.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am having such fun with my Froothie power blender. Mostly, I’ve only used it so far for making smoothies, but smoothies I’d never have been able to make in my old blender. I’ve already posted about my kefir raw cacao and goji berry smoothie. Today I thought I’d try a spring tonic nettle smoothie.
The combination of avocado and chocolate is my no means a new one. It is seen as a fruit in many parts of the world and treated as such, with chocolate sauce often smothering it. However, it’s a completely new combination to me. I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time now, but was finally spurred on by Louise’s recipe for chocolate mousse that she posted earlier this month.
Coconut oil seems to be the new superfood that everyone is raving about. I have been using it now for many years, mostly as a skin moisturiser and eaten in its raw state spread on toast. Occasionally I’ve used it for making raw chocolates or cooking savoury dishes. However, it was not until The Groovy Food Company sent me some of their organic virgin coconut oil to try did I think about using it in baking. Ahh, now that got the brain cells firing. But as soon as the many possibilities started to emerge, I changed my mind; I decided I wanted keep it in its raw state. Something quick and delicious that was truly healthy and 100% organic was in order – not something I achieve very often.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so can easily be used as a spread or body butter. It melts very quickly and has a high heat threshold making it ideal for stir fries in particular. It contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are a healthy fat quickly transformed by the body into energy and are not stored as body fat. For maximum benefit, coconut oil is best used in its cold pressed state. It is said to help reduce abdominal obesity and protect against insulin resistance thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is also said to benefit digestive disorders and boost the bodies immune system due to the high percentage of lauric acid contained. Used on the face and body, it acts as a good moisturiser and has many purported benefits including protection from UV radiation from the sun.
On opening the jar, a powerful aroma of coconut was released and I couldn’t resist tasting some. It was both sweet and unmistakably coconutty which is more than can be said of some I’ve tried.
I was also sent a bottle of The Groovy Food Company’s organic premium agave nectar, which is often used as a low Gi sugar substitute. I am an occasional user of agave nectar, but this gave me an opportunity to try it out in a few more things. I tried it out in my matcha smoothies as a substitute for the honey and it worked very well, proving a lot easier to handle than honey as it less viscous.
So, what I wanted to make was a healthy version of that children’s classic rice crispy cakes. My first task was to find some sugar free crunchy cereal, not something I thought was going to be particularly difficult. So I was truly shocked when I went to my local Co-operative, only to find they sold no sugar free cereal at all except for oats. I trekked off to our local health food shop and found the last bag of unsweetened cereal they had in stock – luckily it was puffed rice, which is what I’d been hoping for.
This is how I made:
Vegan Chocolate Puffs
- Melted 1 heaped tbsp cold pressed coconut oil in a pan over low heat.
- Added 50g 100% cocoa chocolate.
- Stirred in 1 tbsp cashew nut butter (any nut butter would be good, but that was the one I had to hand).
- Added 3 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tsp raw cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract (homemade) and a pinch of Himalayan pink rock salt.
- Stirred until smooth, then removed from heat.
- Weighed 100g 100% puffed rice into a bowl, then poured over the chocolate mixture and stirred until all of the rice was coated.
- Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into mini muffin cases and pressed the rest into two silicone moulds.
- Left in my cold kitchen to set, but would normally put them in the fridge.
|My attempt at a butterfly|
These were so damn delicious, I polished off rather more than I should have done as soon as I’d taken the photographs. They were light and crunchy and the chocolate coating had a lovely smooth mouth feel. They tasted sweet and chocolatey and the blend of cashew butter and coconut oil gave a nutty and fragrant quality redolent of the tropics.
Now I’m away to ponder exactly what bake I want to try with the coconut oil.
The Groovy Food Company products can be found at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose amongst other places.
I’m entering these into Breakfast Club, founded by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by Gill of Tales Pigling Bland who has chosen rocket fuel as the theme with a view to help her run the London Marathon. I reckon these would make a very tasty rocket fuel for breakfast that isn’t going to sit heavily on the stomach, but would provide plenty of energy and nutrients.
Since CT first bought some matcha back from Japan a few years ago, I have been in love with the stuff. Matcha is a Japanese green tea, very finely ground and stirred into hot water to make a beautiful bright green beverage. It also works wonderfully well in baking, where it not only gives a lovely colour, but acts as a good foil for all that sweetness. Here are some of the ways I’ve already used it:
- Matcha and white chocolate cupcakes
- Triple layer matcha chocolate cake
- Chocolate and matcha battenberg
- Matcha chocolate roll
- Rhubarb, matcha and chocolate marble cake
When I was sent a packet of ceremonial matcha to try recently from Matcha Factory, I got very excited. It’s been a while since I had any to drink and even longer since I did any baking with it. Tea is a serious business in Japan and ceremonial matcha is the finest grade available, made from the youngest and sweetest leaves. It is thus the most expensive; this 50g packet costs £18.95. If you are interested in using matcha for baking purposes only, then a coarser and cheaper version would be fine.
The tea gave me the opportunity to try out the two new glasses I recently picked up for 40p in one of our local charity shops. The tea itself has a unique and distinctive flavour which I took to very readily.
Matcha is a bit of a wonder and guess what? It has achieved “superfood” status. It is reported to have 137 times the antioxidants of normal green tea and is said to increase the metabolism, boost the immune system, improve concentration and help the body fight cancer.
Given these wondrous properties, the shortbread biscuits I made with it, are ideal fare for the leaner, meaner, healthier month of January. Yes there is some sugar in them, but for biscuits, it’s a relatively small amount and it’s balanced by all the matcha health benefits. I’ve used half wholemeal spelt in the mix and wholewheat semolina rather than white. Cocoa nibs are packed full of another set of health giving properties and the matcha element has already been covered.
This is how I made matcha cocoa nibbed shortbread
- Creamed 75g vanilla sugar (caster) with 150g salted butter until light and fluffy.
- Added 1 tbsp matcha and creamed some more.
- Sifted in 100g wholemeal spelt flour, 100g white flour and 50g wholewheat semolina.
- Stirred to combine until a sandy mixture was achieved.
- Halved the mixture and pressed into two 6″ (15 cm) tin foil flan cases.
- Pricked all over with a fork.
- Baked at 150C for 25 minutes.
- Dusted one with vanilla (caster) sugar and cut into triangles and turned the other one out onto a board before dusting with sugar.
Oh my, this shortbread was good. It was lovely and soft and melted in the mouth with added textural interest being added by the chewy cocoa nibs. The flavour was perfect for me, not too strong but well defined and of course, I adore the colour. If you prefer something a little sweeter, you could substitute the cocoa nibs for the chocolate of your choice chopped into bits or even leave out the chocolate element all together.
If you need some help to enter using Rafflecopter, here’s a quick clip to show you how.
A handful of teeny tiny bars of chocolate recently arrived in the post. Little bars of 53% dark Belgian chocolate, but they contain a small dark secret. They are not hand crafted artisan bars featuring single origin estate chocolate, although that would be nice, no, you eat these bars for your health. Some of us have been deluding ourselves for years that this is our main reason for eating chocolate. The Ohso claim? Weighing in at 13.5g and containing 72 calories a bar, they are packed full of healthy gut probiotics and these good bacteria last three times longer in chocolate than in milk products. This means that they arrive in better shape at the part of your gut where they do their good works. Plus chocolate is well known for its antioxidants and vitamins including D and E. These are, therefore, perhaps the ultimate chocolate detox.
Packaged in packs of seven, the idea is that you have one for each day of the week, providing your daily probiotic requirement. The mini bars have 24 mini squares, which enables the bar to be savoured slowly if wished. Retailing at £3.99, these are available online at Ohso and also in health food shops and other independent retailers.
OK, so enough of the health benefits, what do they actually taste like? The bar certainly smells chocolatey, with a sweet aroma emanating as soon as the wrapper is removed. Those first impressions are confirmed as the chocolate enters your mouth. It is pleasant with fruity notes, but is a little too sweet for me and resembles some of the mainstream dark chocolate bars which are widely available.
As some of my regular readers will know, I try to ensure that most of my baked goods contain mostly healthy ingredients. Indeed they are a good vehicle for nuts, fruit, seeds and various super foods. I generally use at least half wholemeal, spelt or other healthy flours in my baking. I use organic eggs where possible and properly free ranging hen and duck eggs when it’s not. I believe organic butter where the cows have been grass fed is also nutritious (in moderation). Chocolate, it goes without saying is good for you 😉 My main concern is sugar – I haven’t managed to convince myself on this one. I use raw sugars in the main and do use other sweeteners such as Rapadura and agave syrup sometimes. But these substitutes are expensive and I do have rather a sweet tooth. I just hope, the other nutritious ingredients counteract the bad of the sugar. For more information on Rapadura and other ingredients I use see ingredients are the key – ties in very nicely with this month’s healthy theme.
But when Chele announced that the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa was healthy eating, I thought I’d go the whole hog and produce something that was properly good for you. One of my Christmas presents from CT was a packet of chia seeds. Chia seeds are said to be super healthy: they contain omega 3, vitamin B, complete protein, anti-oxidants and fibre. It is also claimed they can replace half the conventional fat in any recipe with no discernible effects on taste and texture. The secret is to soak the seeds in water for 15 minutes before using. They form a gel, which is then ready to be used. This seemed to be a good opportunity to put these claims to the test.
So for added nutrition, I rather nervously thought I’d create a muffin recipe using wholemeal spelt and oats, some of the pumpkin butter I made back along, Rapadura rather than sugar and of course, chia seeds. I also had a jar of raw chocolate and almond spread that I hadn’t yet used and thought this would be suitable for the chocolate element.
This is what I did:
- Spooned 1 level tbsp of chia seeds into a jug.
- Topped it up with water to 50ml and left to soak for 15 minutes.
- Beat 2 eggs with 120g rapadura and 35ml sunflower oil for a few minutes until well incorporated and bubbly.
- Beat in 2 heaped tbsp pumpkin butter.
- Stirred in the chia seeds (which had indeed turned to gel)
- Sifted in 200g wholemeal spelt, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Folded this into the egg mixture together with 50g rolled oats.
- Spooned this into 12 muffin cases.
- Placed a small teaspoon of raw almond and chocolate spread on top and scattered over a few oats.
- Baked at 180C for 23 minutes.
These had a nice flavour with a rich aroma of molasses, but they weren’t overly sweet. They were firm, substantial and chewy and had a crunchy top. CT’s comment was “it tastes like it’s probably good for you”. They’d be ideal as a breakfast muffin, but I think I’d feel a bit short changed if I got these as a tea-time treat. The chocolate spread was really good and I’m not sure why I haven’t used it before.
PS 18 February – Nearly one month after making these, I’ve just found two muffins hidden in one of my cake tins and amazingly they are not only still edible, but really nice – I shall have to rename these indestructible muffins!