Find out if superfood Maca helps your stress levels

We all know that nature still has many medicines still awaiting discovery.

We read names like cat’s claw, rhodiola or horny goat weed and consider with fascination the possible power of these plants.

maca powder

Maca – one of Nature’s healers

Some of them are within reach right now. Take Maca for example. People link the superfood to solutions for prostate problems, allergies, even fertility. What is widely reported is that maca can help with stress and the effect of stress on the body, particularly when it comes to symptoms of the menopause.

GoodnessDirect are trialing packs of maca at the moment so, for your inspiration, here’s some maca recipes to inspire you.

Don’t forget that GoodnessDirect prepack hundreds of everyday and exotic ingredients for you to use in your healthy cooking.

10 tips for baking a moist gluten-free cake

Announcement: The Great British Bake Off begins next Wednesday 6th August on BBC1.

Happy baking in the kitchen

Gluten-free baking is a challenge but it’s exciting

Is it okay to be wildly excited?

During the last series my friend, Naomi, started making notes and experimenting with baking gluten free cakes. Now, she hasn’t brought any of her cake into the office yet (hint, hint) but she has supplied me with her notes which I thought might be helpful to you. So here are Naomi’s…

Ten tips to get you started with gluten free baking

(…or how to get a moist gluten free cake…)

1) Sort out the flour! I’ve found, and I’m sure you have too, that single flour replacements can lead to a dry, crumbly texture, so always use a blend of various flours and starches.

There are some good blends of gluten free flour mixes out there, for example, Doves. But I always like to make my own.

To make your own flour mix I have always been told to follow the 50:50 method: For every oz of flour add a oz of starch and to always keep them as equal and accurate as you can. However, this never really worked for me and left me bewildered about which flours to use with which starch. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites available where the flour blend is suggested in the recipe. (Christine Bailey‘s books are useful for this as well.)

Some helpful bloggers also give their favourite/most used flour blends, such as the blog Glutenfreeonashoestring where the writer suggests four easy blends for either cake, pastry, bread or cookies.

A few examples of gluten-free flour includes: rice flour, sorghum flour, amaranth flour, quinoa four, millet flour, buckwheat flour, teff and bean flours, coconut flour, nut/seed flours, soy flour.

For your gluten-free starches keep a look out for: arrowroot, tapioca, potato starch, cornstarch. It is the gluten proteins that give gluten food their structure and stability, so use high protein flours for breads. However, it is recommended to use low protein flours for cakes.

Here are a few examples of high protein gluten-free flour: quinoa, millet, buckwheat, nut flours.

2) Resist the urge to add more flour!
Don’t be alarmed if you have to add less flour when converting a ‘normal recipe to a gluten-free recipe. But I do suggest that you always test the recipe first before altering it.

Often gluten-free mixtures converted from ‘normal’ recipes make a much more runny mixture, but that doesn’t mean it will rise to an appropriate amount. If you attempt to thicken the mixture you will more than likely to cause the cake to become really dry. I find that my bread dough resembles a thick cake mixture yet it rises well by the end of it.

3) Aerate the mixture
Gluten creates air gaps in cake and bread mixtures which gives gluten bread and cake their lightness. Therefore beat your mixtures well to aerate them and manually make these air gaps. Because there is no gluten to worry about, you can beat your mixture for longer periods of time, I always suggest longer then 5 minutes.

Also, to save time, you can add sparkling water to batter to help give an extra lift – I use lemonade in scones for a less dense final result.

4) Xanthan gum is vital!

5) Add moisture
Add moisture to your mixtures by adding extra fruit juice, milk or liquorice.

6) Retain that moisture
Use brown sugar rather than white as it helps to retrain more of the moisture in your cake. Also, when converting a normal recipe into a gluten-free recipe, I tend to add a bit more sugar as it makes the cake more tender and with a finer crumb.

Again, resist the urge to add without testing the recipe first – before you make the adjustments.

7) Add more flavour
The flavour of gluten-free cakes can sometimes be disguised by the dryness of the cake. To gain some more flavour, replace part of the liquid for coffee or fruit puree for an added richness.

8) Stick to certain types of cakes
If all else fails, avoid naturally dry cakes such as victoria sponge and go for the moist cakes such as carrot cakes – you can’t really go wrong there!

9) Hasty is best
I’ve always told to slow down in my cooking but when it comes to the timing of getting the gluten-free cake out of the oven – it is best to take it out as soon as it is baked even if it doesn’t look golden. Every minute it stays in the oven, the dryer it will get. And while cake doesn’t last long in my house anyway, gluten-free cake is best eaten fresh! Which is good news to most of us! Unlike normal cake, gluten-free cake doesn’t last for very long so enjoy it while its freshly baked!

10) Try and try again – don’t give up, and always be up for an experiment.

5 reasons to love dairy free Macadamia Milk

dairy free organic vegan macadamia nut milk

Macadamia Nut Milk – you’ll love it

Perhaps I should get out more?

The thing is I’m genuinely excited about macadamia nut milk.

It’s not because I’m on some sort of paleo health buzz. It’s because, if you’re into non-dairy alternatives to milk, and that means a lot of lactose intolerant children, people who suffer from eczema, vegans and many more,  then macadamia milk is probably the best tasting milk out there. Some would say it’s far more delicious. We are talking about the most heavenly tasting nut on the planet after all.

So here are my reasons for trying macadamia milk

 

5 reasons to try dairy-free macadamia milk

1. It’s delicious! The milk from macadamia nuts is creamy and buttery, it’s like full fat milk. Can you think of any other dairy free milks that can do this? Okay, some will say cashew milk, but try both and see which you prefer.

2. Macadamia is great for the antioxidants which keep our body cells healthy and in order. It’s very nutritious with vitamin E, manganese and zinc.

3. Macadamias have a lot of heart protective nutrients such as omega-3, plant sterols and dietary fibre. A diet rich in macadamia should lower unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

4. Eating nuts can be good for weight loss and macadamias are rich in protein and fibre which should keep you feeling fuller for longer.

5. It’s new on the market. Provamel have introduced litre box versions of the milk, sweetened with agave. So try it on your porridge, smoothie or cocoa.

Vegan Chocolate Tahini spread – say Open Sesame!

Warning! Some people eat this stuff by the spoonful.

Sunita sesame based vegan chocolate spread

This vegan chocolate spread delights both children and adults

If you’ve never tried the combination of sesame seeds and chocolate before, prepare to be delighted (see video clip). Sunita are now bottling this magical mix in a jar and offering it to you as a spread.

But, in reality, they are only catching up with a growing movement of people who are experimenting with new nut spreads and sharing their secret with friends.

There are already lots of recipes out there for homemade vegan chocolate tahini – it’s nutritious with lots of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron and calcium; it’s delicious, try it in sandwiches, drizzled over fruit salads, or added to your morning porridge.

Sunita’s organic Sesame Spread with Cocoa is satisfyingly rich and smooth and makes a perfect vegan alternative to regular chocolate spread. It’s also gluten free and, did I mention, addictive?

Find more of Sunita’s healthy foods at GoodnessDirect.

 

For dieters: Japanese zero-calorie Konnyaku

Sometimes, writing about food can be very challenging.

zero calorie Konnyaku is great for a weight loss diet

Zero-calorie Konnyaku is a Japanese delicacy

For example: How do you describe that packet of biscuits you’ve been too busy enjoying to make any sensible notes about (it’s happened).

Or what about something you’ve tasted that is disgusting but you really need to say something nice about it? (I am diplomatically honest.)

And then there are the foods you haven’t a clue where to begin writing about…

Japanese Konnyaku or Konjac is just such an example. It’s a traditional low calorie gluten free delicacy according to one source, but not being schooled in the Japanese art of cooking I can’t imagine. Lovers of sushi will know it immediately or if you’ve been to a Wagamama restaurant you may recognise the name as it’s often served as noodles.

However, rather than try to convince you how delicious it is, I’d rather direct you to a wonderful blog (with far better pictures) written by Chichi Wang who knows exactly why Konnyaku makes such a good meal, especially if you’re on a diet.

If you’re already sold on the stuff, and the zero-calorie food must have its merits, then you’ll be eager to know that GoodnessDirect have both brown and white blocks of Konnyaku made by Yutaka, as well as Shirataki noodles, again in brown or white.

Let me know what you think. I’m off to locate a Japanese restaurant.

Good nutrition starts with muesli for breakfast

If you’re not taking multivitamins where do you get your minerals from?

Truth be told, vitamins are fairly easy to come by but, for minerals, it’s a little more tricky. Try taking this test to see how well you are doing.

I fail miserably when it comes to eating nuts and seeds which is a shame considering how plentiful source of copper and zinc they are.

Muesli is a great source of vitamins and minerals at breakfast time

Good nutrition starts at breakfast with a bowl of muesli

One solution may be for me to have a daily bowl of muesli. Take Dorset Cereal’s new Lighter Crunch muesli for example. Their new Tasty Toasted Hazelnut & Brazil Muesli comes with hazelnuts, almonds and brazils and their Tasty Toasted Raspberry and Apple includes sunflower seeds in the ingredients.

The lighter texture and crunch means you won’t spend all your time chewing; so you can munch through a bowl in the same way you would corn flakes or bran flakes.

Plus, it saves all the hassle of adding sugary toppings to your ‘healthy’ porridge. In fact, muesli is more nutritious; all you have to do is decide if you feel a little fruity or nutty each breakfast time?

BREAKFAST RESEARCH

Don’t just take my word for it. According to the research paper “Is Muesli a Healthy Breakfast Choice?” by dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton, muesli is an excellent source of key nutrients which are often too low the UK diet (particularly including iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, vitamin E and folate).

Dr Ruxton writes: “Muesli is surprisingly rich in many valuable nutrients and can deliver a veritable cocktail of vitamins and minerals to start the day. The iron content was a beneficial result as up to 40% of women in the UK don’t eat enough iron in the diet, putting themselves at risk of fatigue and poor concentration. Starting the day with muesli could be a good way to top up on iron before a day in the office or school”.

 

 

Calling all Vegans – Complete Protein sources here

If you’re a vegan, did you know that a peanut butter sandwich is a fantastic combination for a source of complete protein? (Provided you use wholemeal bread.)

Or how about rice and peas, or humus and pita bread?

Most vegans know that protein is abundantly available in lots of foods, however the real challenge is to make sure you mix up your daily menu to get the range of proteins into your diet. It’s easy to just rely on tofu but there’s lots more out there, especially if you mix and match.

Quinoa  - a vegan and gluten free source of complete protein

Quinoa is a great vegan source of  vitamins, minerals and protein

Give Quinoa a Try

Quinoa (keen-wa) is well known as a complete protein and is super nutritious, but few use it because they don’t know how to cook it properly (the secret is to rinse and soak first).

Fortunately, you can use Express Quinoa which comes ready to eat hot or cold. (For hot, simply pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.)

Naturally gluten free and organic, Alice & Oscar’s Quinola Mothergrain make both a quick-cook red & white quinoa or black & white quinoa to try – depending on how you like your quinoa to taste. They also have the individual quinoa grains available in nutty red, crunchy black or smooth white for those who know they can cook up a proper dish of quinoa without any trouble.

Discover them all at GoodnessDirect.