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Perfect Chocolate Sponge Cake

Perfect Chocolate Sponge Cake

Laini Oldfield | June 25, 2019

I made this sponge cake for my dad’s 70th. It was so good that everyone asked for it again for my mum’s birthday the week after! 

It’s quite simply a perfect, light and s-p-o-n-g-e-y chocolate cake for any occasion.

And topped with fresh berries… that’s next level.

 

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups white spelt flour (I’ll test with wholemeal spelt flour soon)
1/2 cup cacao
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (bi-carb soda)
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk (any milk is fine)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup super hot  / boiling water

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Grease 2 x cake tins with butter (I used 2 x square silicone cake pans).

3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.

 4. Add sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.

5. Beat eggs with electric hand mixer for 10 mins (yep, 10 mins! I was able to configure the bowl and mixer to balance there doing it’s thing while I walked away. You could always enlist the help of the little people who will help eat this cake, or use a stand mixer)

 5. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla to flour mixture. Whisk well to combine until lump free.

 6. Add super hot / boiling water and whisk to incorporate.

 7. Pour batter into cake pans.

 8. Bake for around 35 mins (or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean).

 9. Cool for 10 minutes then turn out to wire tray cake coolers.

 10. Cool completely before frosting. I used a chocolate cashew coconut cream icing in the middle (cos’ that’s where I could get away with it), and simply thickened cream and berries on top (my kids don’t like coconut cream)!

The Scientists Have Spoken. Let’s Eat Chocolate (especially Cacao Nibs)

The Scientists Have Spoken. Let’s Eat Chocolate (especially Cacao Nibs)

Laini Oldfield | June 25, 2019

Ever tried cacao nibs?

Chances are you didn’t like them by themselves! (They’re bitter. Unless you get these ones that our daughter Rosie is eating below).

But when you know how to use them, and WHY you’d want to…. they become verrry appealing indeed.

I’ve included a bunch of recipes below, and here’s a taste of the awesome facts to come…

A review of 14 studies in over 500,000 people showed that intake of 2 servings of chocolate per week was associated with a 25% reduced risk of diabetes (source).

First Up, Let’s Get This Straight.

The words cacao and cocoa are sometimes confusing, right? In order of processing, here’s the low-down.

Cacao Beans = The entire bean from the cacao pod, harvested from the cacao tree.

Cacao Nibs = Small pieces of crushed cacao beans that have a bitter, chocolatey flavour. The beans are dried, fermented and cracked into little pieces.

Raw Cacao Powder = Cacao beans that’ve been sun-dried instead of roasted (keeping the temperature under 42 degrees), and ground into a fine powder. Raw Cacao retains maximum nutrition compared to cocoa and dutched cocoa.

Cocoa = Cacao powder that’s been heated and processed. It’s usually less bitter, a little more desirable in baking, but… has less health benefits.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder = Sometimes called European or alkalised cocoa. It’s been washed in a potassium solution that neutralises it’s acidity. It gives it a much more mellow, smoother flavour, but looses up to 60% of flavenoid content! (That’s real good stuff, as you’ll see below). See note below on how to use Dutched Cocoa.

It’s Super Power…

Cacao Nibs have more antioxidants than blueberries…. and green tea, red wine and even goji berries!

And we know that when the antioxidants we eat outweigh the free radicals in our bodies, our bodies pretty much get super powers 😉

Cacao is super rich in antioxidants called Polyphenols (and Flavenoids). In fact, it’s one of THE richest sources.

And what are Polyphenols and Flavenoids good for? A few things actually… (source)

  • Reducing inflammation (cacao is a potent help for this)
  • Strengthening immunity (but choose a recipe / chocolate low in sugar if that’s your goal)
  • Increasing blood flow
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Recruiting and activating stem cells- Improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels (cacao nibs are particular good for this)– Lowering rates of certain cancers, and mental decline (source)

Want Help with Focus / Alertness / Mood?

Cacao increases focus and alertness, while also keeping you in a great mood.

Cacao also contains a natural antidepressant called phenylethylamine (PEA), andone of the chemicals your brain produces as you fall in love – tryptophan!

Now, tryptophan has a few jobs to do. One is to increase serotonin – our feel-good hormone!

Now THAT explains a LOT. Doesn’t it?!

May Improve Immunity & Reduce Food Allergies

Research shows that cacao helps our immunity too.

For example, cacao flavonoids help decrease inflammation, which can help improve overall immune response (source).

Animal studies have also shown that cacao may have protective effects against food allergies by positively impacting the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue) – an important part of the immune system found throughout your intestines. The GALT contains approximately 70% of all immune cells in your body! (source)

And scientists think this may have positive effects against food allergies too.

Cacao-enriched diets have been shown to decrease sensitivity to oral antigens — toxins and allergens — by enhancing the function of a special layer in your intestines that helps protect against food allergy and maintain gut health (source 12).

Bring on more research in this field I say!

But What Happens When You Process It?

When you process and heat raw cacao, it looses some of it’s benefit.

In fact, often it’s treated with alkaline to reduce it’s bitterness. And that results in a 60% drop in flavenols! (1)

That includes cocoa, dutch-processed cocoa, and most commercial chocolate bars.

Noooo!

So what that means is that while cacao is a great source of polyphenols, not all products containing cocoa will provide the same benefits.

So the less processed the cacao bean, the more nutrients you will gain from it.

And THAT is a great case for reaching for the raw cacao, and cacao nibs my friend!

So What ARE Cacao Nibs?!

Some cacao nibs are roasted, some aren’t. Those that aren’t roasted are called raw cacao nibs (like those at TWC).

Even though they’re small, cacao nibs are packed with an impressive amount of nutrients.

They’re a good source of fibre, protein and healthy fats.

They’re rich in many minerals, including:

  • Iron (to supply oxygen to your body)
  • Magnesium (needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in your body but lacking in many people’s diets)
  • Phosphorus (vital for healthy bones)
  • Zinc (needed for sooo many things including immunity and wound healing)
  • Manganese (vital for healthy bones)
  • Copper (to supply oxygen to your body)

A Word of Caution

Cacao nibs contain stimulants that may cause adverse effects if consumed in excess. You should also use caution or avoid cacao nibs if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or sensitive or allergic to chocolate. Don’t give excess amounts of cacao to kids. You could consider carob powder instead.

Ways to Get Them In

Blueberry Compote with Vanilla Maple Granola

Sprinkle roasted cacao nibs on top of yogurt.

Toss cacao nibs into your favourite smoothie to give a boost of nutrition and taste.

Use them in baked goods like muffins and breads.

Organic Wholefood Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Blend cacao nibs into homemade nut butters.

Blend them into hot chocolate or homemade nut milks.

Incorporate cacao nibs with coconut, almond butter, and puréed dates to make healthy energy balls.

Mix them with nuts and dried fruit for an energy-packed snack.

Chocolate Granola

Use them in place of chocolate chips in granola recipes.

Stir them into your morning oatmeal.

Cacao Nib Recipes!

Let’s get inspired! Here’s a bunch o’ recipes you can add cacao nibs to.

When I’m baking for my kids and I want to swap out chocolate chips for cacao, I use half cacao nibs and have dark chocolate chips, and they don’t even know there’s added goodness in there. There’s a tip to take home.

Triple Choc Fudge Cookies

Healthy Cacao Bubble Bars

Chocolate Muesli Protein Slice

Healthy ANZAC Biscuits

Healthy No Bake Muesli Bars

Pink Chia Pudding

Almost Raw Cookie Dough Balls

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Wholefood Chocolate Chip Cookie

No Flour Black Bean Brownies

How to Cook Quinoa

How to Cook Quinoa

Laini Oldfield | June 19, 2019

 

Quinoa. Keen-wah. Kee-noa. Kwi-noo

 

However you say it (it’s keen-wah by the way), it’s a fancy word but it doesn’t have a fancy cooking method.

At all.

It’s cooked just – like – rice.

Yep, it’s that easy.

However, you cook rice, cook your quinoa the same way.

Note: 1 cup of uncooked quinoa makes 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

 

How to Cook Quinoa

Directions:

For pre-soaked quinoa:

Go you! Your quinoa to water ratio is 1:1.

For un-soaked quinoa:

Your quinoa to water ratio is 1:2.

1. Add quinoa and water to a pot and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes with the lid on.

3. You’ll notice the quinoa seeds will sprout ‘tails’ and become somewhat translucent. It’s then you know it’s all done!

4. Remove the lid and leave to sit until all liquid is completely absorbed.

5. Fluff the quinoa lightly with a fork.

 

So now you know how to cook it. Did you know it’s soooo much better for your health (and the taste of the quinoa) if you rinse and soak it first? Check it out…

Why Rinse Quinoa?

Never rinsed quinoa before? Nothing tricky here. Just place quinoa in a fine strainer and wash with water!

Extra points for rubbing the seeds between your fingers.

You may be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. If you don’t wash away the thin saponin coating on this tiny seed, your quinoa will taste bitter.

 

Why Soak Quinoa?

Not everyone soaks quinoa before cooking, and even I have been known to cook it without soaking when I haven’t planned ahead properly.

But… if you want a comfy tummy and the benefit of allll that nutritional goodness then you might want to!

Because though cooked, it may not be very digestible, and this method may be downright harmful to your gut.

Soaking your nuts, grains, seeds and legumes is essential for proper nutrient absorption and optimal digestion.

It also:

  • Removes bitterness (the saponins)
  • Breaks down phytic acid so nutrients can be absorbed properly
  • Reduces anti-nutrients
    Anti-nutrients are substances designed to protect the plant from being consumed. They do this by causing digestive irritation to the one eating it! Anti-nutrients are in most all plant foods, and without proper preparation to reduce them, they can bind to and inhibit nutrient absorption which interferes in the function of certain organs.

So soak your quinoa people!

How to Soak Quinoa

 

You’ll need: 1 cup Quinoa, 2 cups Water, a pinch of Sea Salt, and 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar.

1. Combine the above in a bowl.

2. Leave overnight (or 12 – 24 hrs)

3. In the morning, add warm water and stir. You’ll see a bunch of foam rise to the top.

4. Tilt the bowl to pour out the water and foam.

5. Add more water, stir and pour out again. Repeat until the water runs clear and there’s no more foam.

You’re removing anti-nutrients and bitterness so don’t skip this part.

Wanna know some mind blowing facts about quinoa and how it can and will absolutely help your health when you eat it? Check out this POST. We’ve added some delish recipes there, too.

Quinoa: There’s No Greater Life-sustaining Food on the Planet!

Quinoa: There’s No Greater Life-sustaining Food on the Planet!

Laini Oldfield | June 13, 2019

If there was ONE food you had to survive on a deserted island with for the rest of your life, you’d want it to be quinoa baby!

Pronounced keen-wah (you’re welcome), It’s basically the most nutrient dense grain (well, seed actually) on the planet.

In fact, back in 1955 scientists declared that while no single food can supply all the essential life-sustaining nutrients, there’s no other food in the plant or animal kingdom that comes closer than quinoa.

Ummm… that’s a pretty great rap.

Quinoa (or “baby rice” as our kids used to called it) ticks all the boxes and provides me and my family with almost all the vital good stuff we need to thrive.

Seriously, the science is so good you’ll think I made it up! NASA identified it as the best food to guarantee nutritional support for astronauts in isolated conditions.

To top it off, it’s just as convenient to cook as white rice, and even easier to incorporate into basically anything you eat.

Scroll down for:

  • All the crazy ways Quinoa helps our health
  • Why Tri-Coloured Quinoa?
  • Why rinse Quinoa?
  • Why Soak Quinoa?
  • How to cook Quinoa
  • 2 tips
  • Quinoa recipes

Check it out…

Key Facts

Quinoa is:

  • Incredibly nutrient dense (scroll down for more on that!)
  • Gluten free
  • A whole grain substitute
  • A seed, not a grain
  • An easy 1:1 swap for rice

Health Helps

  • Protects against cardiovascular disease
  • Helps control blood sugar
  • Helps manage type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Inhibits inflammation (the cause of so many chronic diseases)
  • Researchers in the 2018 Beyond Celiac Symposium claimed that Quinoa is a prebiotic, and great for our guts.
  • Helps manage weight by promoting a feeling of ‘fullness’ (has a higher Satiating Efficiency Index (SEI) than wheat or rice)

Nutrient Profile

  • Rich in protein – The only grain-like food that’s a complete protein, with all 9 essential amino acids present (making the protein present more useable for our bodies). 1 cup of cooked quinoa delivers about one third the amount of protein as one cup of steak. Pretty impressive for a plan based protein! One of quinoa’s most important amino acids is lysine. It’s vital for the development of brain cells, learning processes, physical growth, memory and reasoning. So, have a quinoa binge before sitting down to do anything important!
  • Iron. Get this… –Would you believe that we get slightly more than half the iron from 1 cup of cooked quinoa than the same volume of lamb or beef?!
  • Rich in fibre –Just one cup delivers 21% of your recommended daily fiber intake – about double that of most of grains (more than even brown rice and wholegrain wheat!). Fibre helps lower high blood pressure, as well as decrease cholesterol levels, contribute to lower glucose levels and may promote weight loss.
  • Loaded with antioxidants –Over 20 different phenolic phytonutrients have been identified in quinoa. Virtually all of these phytonutrients have been shown to provide antioxidant benefits, and many provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well. Sprouting increases their antioxidant levels even further.
  • Abundant in flavonoids –Flavonoids help reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage.
  • Good source of B Vitamins –You’ll get about 20% of the daily requirement of folate from just 3/4th cup of cooked quinoa. Quinoa also provides about 10-15% of most other B-complex vitamins in this same serving size.
  • High in both micro and macro nutrients
  • High in magnesium, which can help manage type 2 diabetes (by reducing blood pressure through relaxing blood vessels)
  • Wealth of mineral nutrients including zinc, copper, magnesium (as stated above) and phosphorus
  • Healthy mix of soluble and insoluble fibers
  • Valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats such as oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.
  • Also provides a form of vitamin E and an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Low GI
  • Low Sodium

Why Tri-Colour Quinoa?

Quinoa comes in 3 varieties: White, Red, and Black. And yep, you guessed it – Tri-Colour Quinoa is a mix of all 3!

Tri-Colour Quinoa tastes basically the same as the regular white (though slightly richer, chewier and nuttier in flavour).

And… it comes with the added benefit of bringing a variety of betalains (a group of phytonutrients) that increases the amount of antioxidants provided.

A tip I’ve learnt time and time again is that the richer the colour of the food, the richer it is in antioxidants.

Red quinoa is also packed with things that help the heart.

So it makes sense to enjoy the full spectrum of colour that quinoa offers!

Tip 1

New to quinoa? Or maybe you have resistant little people in the house?

A rice and quinoa blend is a great place to start.

It’s easy to pull off because the cooking methods are exactly the same! Just throw them together in the one pot to cook.

Why Rinse Quinoa?

Never rinsed quinoa before? Nothing tricky here. Just place quinoa in a fine strainer and wash with water!

Extra points for rubbing the seeds between your fingers.

You may be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. If you don’t wash away the thin saponin coating on this tiny seed, your quinoa will taste bitter.

Why Soak Quinoa?

Not everyone soaks quinoa before cooking, and even I have been known to cook it without soaking when I haven’t planned ahead properly.

But… if you want a comfy tummy and the benefit of allll that nutritional goodness then you might want to!

Because though cooked, it may not be very digestible, and this method may be downright harmful to your gut.

Soaking your nuts, grains, seeds and legumes is essential for proper nutrient absorption and optimal digestion.

It also:

  • Removes bitterness (the saponins)
  • Breaks down phytic acid so nutrients can be absorbed properly
  • Reduces anti-nutrients
    Anti-nutrients are substances designed to protect the plant from being consumed. They do this by causing digestive irritation to the one eating it! Anti-nutrients are in most all plant foods, and without proper preparation to reduce them, they can bind to and inhibit nutrient absorption which interferes in the function of certain organs.

So soak your quinoa people!

How to Soak Quinoa

You’ll need: 1 cup Quinoa, 2 cups Water, a pinch of Sea Salt, and 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar.

1. Combine the above in a bowl.

2. Leave overnight (or 12 – 24 hrs)

3. In the morning, add warm water and stir. You’ll see a bunch of foam rise to the top.

4. Tilt the bowl to pour out the water and foam.

5. Add more water, stir and pour out again. Repeat until the water runs clear and there’s no more foam.

You’re removing anti-nutrients and bitterness so don’t skip this part.

How to Cook Quinoa

Note: 1 cup of uncooked quinoa makes 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

For pre-soaked quinoa: 
Go you! Your quinoa to water ratio is 1:1.

For un-soaked quinoa:
Your quinoa to water ratio is 1:2.

1. Add quinoa and water to a pot and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes with the lid on.

3. You’ll notice the quinoa seeds will sprout ‘tails’ and become somewhat translucent. It’s then you know it’s all done!

4. Remove the lid and leave to sit until all liquid is completely absorbed.

5. Fluff the quinoa lightly with a fork.

Tip 2

Always want properly prepared and cooked quinoa on hand at a moments notice?

Prepare and cook your quinoa ahead of time and simply freeze it in portion sizes for later use.

Uses

Quinoa is incredibly versatile and can be used

  • As a side in place of anywhere rice would be. Serve with stir fry, curry, casseroles, just about anything!
  • In salad
  • In soups
  • Boost your rice based sushi with some quinoa!
  • As porridge
  • Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.
  • In your apple crumble crumble 🙂

Recipes With Quinoa

Satay Vegetable Curry with Quinoa

Winter Quinoa Protein Porridge

Quinoa and Nectarine Salad

Spicy Carrot Kimchi Salad

Sunshine Sushi

Benefits of Dates & Hot Tips to Get More of Them In!

Benefits of Dates & Hot Tips to Get More of Them In!

Laini Oldfield | June 13, 2019

Frankly, I know that above looks like… well, poop. But we’re actually talking about…

dates dates dates!

They’re heavenly things.

Sweet, chewy, caramely pockets of goodness. Don’t you think so?

Scroll down for:

  • why dates are such a powerful force for health
  • ways to use them
  • recipes
  • hot tips

But first, you gotta learn a thing or 2 about these bad boys…

Dates are the fruit of a date palm tree.

Seen one of those before? Me neither. Here you go.

They’re high in some important nutrients and you can use them in so many ways!

Don’t believe me? Check out the infographic we made for you above.

And – this sweet little info-morsel below blew-my-mind….

Did You Know?

Not getting enough fibre (combined with having too much processed sugar) creates inflammation, which both:

a) stops your body from producing enough serotonin (our feel-good hormone)
b) blocks the serotonin receptor in our brain, so the serotonin our body doesmanage to make, barely even registers!

So… getting enough fibre [hello dates!] helps us feel gooood, and lowers our risk of depression.

Thank you to Dr David Perlmutter for that amazingness.

And that’s not all! Let’s talk Antioxidants.

Dates appear to have the highest antioxidant content of similar types of dried fruits.

And antioxidants?

They protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may cause harmful reactions in your body and lead to disease.

Think heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

So that’s a good thing.

These 3 antioxidants found in dates are to thank.

  • Flavonoids: Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.
  • Carotenoids: Carotenoids are proven to promote heart health and may also reduce the risk of eye-related disorders, such as macular degeneration.
  • Phenolic acid: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, phenolic acid may help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Functional food

Because of the minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals found in dates, along with their high fibre content, they’re classed as a ‘functional food’.

(‘Cos they “serve a function” in our bodies. Cool concept huh.)

High in fibre, they also have high levels of selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and moderate levels of manganese, iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

Winning!

A word on Alzheimer’s

Dates may be helpful for preventing plaques from forming in the brain, which is important for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Pregnant?

Dates may promote and ease natural labour when eaten during the last few weeks of pregnancy. The role dates may have in pregnancy is likely due to compounds that bind to oxytocin receptors and appear to mimic the effects of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that causes labour contractions during childbirth.

Not only that, dates contain tannins, which are compounds that have been shown to help facilitate contractions.

They’re also a good source of natural sugar and calories, which are necessary to maintain energy levels during labour.

A final word before… the Recipes

It’s important to remember that although dates are high in fibre and nutrients, they’re still fairly high in calories and best consumed in moderation.

Hot Tips!

Replace the more expensive Medjool Dates with Pitted Dates in most recipes by doing this

Just soak ’em in hot water for a few minutes, and they’ll be super soft – ready to blend up easily for bliss balls or a variety of desserts.

How to Make Date Paste (a healthier sugar sub)

Date paste is a highly nutritious substitute for refined white sugar (we know regular sugar does our body and mind NO favours!).

Turning dates into a paste sounds like quite a task but it is as easy as soaking them in water and blending them up the next day. Date paste stores well and is easily added to anything that requires some extra sweetness.

Curries, smoothies, cereal, overnight oats, as a bread spread or in date bars.

Use as a 1:1 replacement for a granular sugar. Cookies will come out a little softer and cake-like, but still amazing.

When replacing maple syrup, use double the amount of date paste than syrup that the recipe calls for.

Directions

  1. Fill a jar with very tightly packed dates, and just cover with water.
  2. Soak for 30mins to 8 hours.
  3. Empty jar into a food processor.
  4. Optional: Add a pinch of salt and a little vanilla.
  5. Blend until paste is creamy. This can take 7-8 mins. (It might be tempting to stop after a minute or two, but don’t. While the taste will be the same, the texture will improve!)

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