Time to re-think our 'comfort food'

 It’s time for us to re-think our comfort foods  - and by definition Comfort food  is ‘those foods that we choose to eat at times of chaos or happiness or sadness or stress'. There’s a huge difference between tapping into a food's inherently calming properties and using any food as a kind of emotional release. That kind of eating may buy us a temporary sense of calm, but it's a quick fix that wears off way too fast. I think we’ve all been guilty of it…..But where does it usually leave us?  I reckon -  Overfeed and undernourished!

Stressful events—and they don't even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life, that time of the month—cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol, a hormone is made in the adrenal glands and it contributes to our food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially simple carbs found in highly processed foods or sweet foods. The more we eat, the worse our mood actually gets! damn it!! 

So when I talk about calming foods, I don't mean so-called comfort foods. I mean meals and snacks that will truly soothe and calm you. Whether it's because of the specific nutrients they provide us with or the steady, reliable source of energy they give us, they'll get us through the day feeling focused, even, and balanced—so we have the ability to conquer anything.

There are many ‘calming’ foods and I guess it’s not surprise that it’s all whole foods that are on the list below.......

By now you may have figured out my passion is snack foods and so the ‘calming foods’ that i'm going to write bout are based around using them in snack recipes or as a simple snack  themselves.

Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins which are important for healthy nerves and brain cells. Bonus! They're also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Technically they are a fruit however I always see them as a fat so it’s important to remember that for portion size. Avocado is a great alternative to butter in cookie recipes or an addition to your smoothie to make it thick and creamy like the thickshake you just might be craving! My favourite is to make a smoothie with avocado in it, make sure it’s thick and then pour it into pop molds and freeze. Smooth creamy calmness in no time.

Blueberries may seem small, but just a handful pack a powerful punch of antioxidants and vitamin C, making them mighty stress-busters. When we’re stressed, our bodies need vitamin C and antioxidants to help repair and protect cells. While blueberries are tasty all by themselves (tip: freeze them for a cold berry snack), there’s no better way to boost the nutrition in a serving of yogurt or porridge or cake or cookie.

Almonds - Get some stress-relief munching on almonds, which are rich in vitamins B2 and E. Both of these nutrients assist the immune system during times of stress. Just a quarter cup of almonds each day does the trick. These awesome power house nuts are the easiest to incorporate into a healthy calming snack – by themselves of course but what about spreading some almond butter on apple slices or whole wheat crackers.

Oranges - There's a reason orange juice is said to be part of the breakfast of champions: Vitamin C is another vitamin known to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. For a quick burst of vitamin C, simply peel & eat a whole orange. Whole oranges ensure that the fibre helps to slow down the natural sweetener within the fruit. Throw whole oranges into a cake to really grab all the whole goodness for a natural calm  

Spinach - Make like Popeye and fill up on spinach. Leafy greens may not be your idea of comfort food, but spinach can have a comforting effect. Spinach is packed with magnesium, the mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of wellbeing. Baby spinach has so much goodness and the ideal green to add to sweets because it doesn’t have an overpowering flavor. Easily add it to green muffins, breakfast muffins or your smoothies.

Oats or Oatmeal is another food that helps get the calm-inducing hormone serotonin flowing. Use lots of whole oats where possible, full of fibre they take longer to digest meaning the calming effect actually lasts longer.  Oat flour is a great alternative to almond meal in some cookie recipes, throw oats into your smoothies to aid in slowing down the fructose or if making pops, oats add a creaminess that my kids love.

Cashews seriously I love all nuts but these ones…hmmm They're great snacks, and because they are crunchy and naturally sweeter, they cure many cravings. For those trying to lose weight, they're such a potently satisfying combo of protein and fat. (You do have to watch portion size though, since they are high in calories.) Cashews are an especially good source of zinc -  Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it's important to get some every day. Cashews with their natural sweetness plus a few Ommmms will see you calm throughout your day.

Basil is a natural immune-boosting herb, high in nutrients that improve overall cognitive function and can help reduce high amounts of stress add to savoury muffins or crackers. Top your storebought crackers.

Nutmeg is a relaxant spice, used in folk medicine to relieve anxiety and depression. A little o this spice goes a long way, so don’t overdo it, a pinch here and there is all you need.

Now you will notice that I haven't included Chocolate on the list today even though so many people recommend having a small amount a day. Cacao contains a natural stimulant called Theobromine(not caffeine but a stimulant anyway) and although many advocate it because of its antioxidant properties I stay well away if I’ve looking for calm. Now I didn’t say don’t have any, hell no, quite the opposite, it’s important to eat foods with antioxidants but just not when you’re looking for a sense of calm.

Try the Apple and Almond Butter Sandwich(above) - ready to go in under 2 mins!

Whip up the Almond and Blueberry cookies(first image) these take literally 12 mins to make and have you feeling a sense of calm before you know it!

Thanks for visiting Simple Nourishment blog - I'm looking forward to next time too! xx

rice paper love!

My husband introduced these to me 20+ years ago and they have been a faithful on the table ever since! 

I'd love to know how many of our children(let's talk under 10) will sit down to a bowl of raw carrot, spinach, corn, avocado and snow peas.....I'm guessing not many and let me tell you, might children don't either. However these rice paper rolls are a little bit of magic when it comes to getting the children to eat raw. 

Seriously simple to throw together at any time & yes, more of a meal than a snack but since it's so simple I knew you'd probably love them too! You don't have to use all the vegetables listed below and it's about using what you have in the fridge. The herbs I think are not negotiable and always have to be there however my little ones love no herbs so give them both a try.

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MAKES: 8-10 rolls                              PREP TIME: 15 mins         

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2      carrots - grated
  • 1         cucumber(seedless) - cut into thin lengths
  • 1         red capsicum - cut into thin lengths
  • 10       snow peas - cut into really thin lengths
  • 1          corn cob(kernals cut off)
  • 1-2      avocados - skinned and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup  mung beans
  • 1/ cup baby spinach
  • 1          handful of fresh coriander
  • 1          handful of fresh mint
  • 6         eggs - whisked and pan fried as a large flat omelette  OR 
  • 6         chicken thigh fillets BBQ'd
  • 1          @mayvers dark roasted peanut butter

METHOD:

  1. Place all vegetables on a large platter/plates
  2. Prepare a large water bath(we use a frying pan filled with tap water) for dipping the rice papers in to soften)
  3. Dip Rice paper into water until wet all over
  4. Place rice paper onto plate
  5. Using a knife spread a thin line of peanut butter 2/3 way the middle
  6. Start with carrot and follow with all other vegetables over the peanut butter
  7. Finish with meat or eggs
  8. Drizzle with sauce
  9. Fold bottom 1/6 up and then roll the side over the filling until  roll completed
  10. Prepare to stuff yourself entirely with delicious crunchy goodness!!!!

SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1            fresh lime - juiced
  • 1 cl        fresh garlic grated
  • 1            fresh ginger knob grated(about the same size as the garlic)
  • 1/4 cup Kikkoman salt reduced soy
  • 1tb        fish sauce
  • 1tsp      seasame oil
  • 4tbs     sweet chilli sauce

SAUCE METHOD:

  1. Place all ingredients in a jar
  2. Close lid tightly
  3. Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes
  4. Done!              

make.        eat.       enjoy.

Gluten Free! Nut Free! Veg Pancakes!

doesn't matter what you call it... it's damn delicious and yep!  LOADED with vegetables!!!

These are seriously on the menu at least once a week at our place & I know you can see why.

Yes they are loaded with vegetables AND the great thing is, you can use whatever you have in the fridge PLUS the besan flour(Chickpea flour) together with the quinoa flakes adds loads of protein to this super nutritious snack! It's so easy to 'upsize' our snacks in a healthy way!

Don't be scared off by the besan flour or the quinoa flakes - they do their job by holding these snacks together and they don't add lots of flavour - that comes from the herbs and fresh veg!

PREP TIME: 15 mins                 COOK TIME: 20 mins

MAKES: 20-30 pancakes depending on size

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1               zuchinni
  • 1/2 cup    sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup    beetroot
  • 1/2 cup   carrot
  • 1/2 cup    broccoli or cauliflower
  • 1              corn cob(kernals removed)
  • 1/4 cup   chopped herb(basil, coriander, parsley) *optional
  • 3             shallots(chopped finely)
  • 1/2 cup   The Source Bulk Foods Cairns chickpea flour(besan)
  • 1 cup       My Organics quinoa flakes
  • 2 tsp       ground coriander
  • 4-5         eggs
  • 1/3 cup   water 
  •                olive oil for frying                                                           

METHOD:

  1. Put all vegetables through the grating plate on your food processor(using this method means there is very little liquid that comes out of your vegetables so there is no need to squeeze any excess out)
  2. Place all grated vegetables plus chopped herbs in a large bowl and using your hands make sure they are evenly mixed(as above)
  3. In another bowl place the eggs, water, besan flour & coriander powder - whisk together until smooth
  4. Add in the quinoa flakes - mix until just together
  5. Pour the wet mix over the grated vegetables
  6. Use your hands to mix the wet ingredients into the vegetables
  7. Heat a large frying pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  8. Scoop mix and place in pan, pat down so they are quite flat
  9. Cook until golden brown on both sides
  10. Eat them hot or cold just not all at once! 
  11. Add your most fabulous topping and make them like a sandwich!

make.       eat.     enjoy.

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Fudgy Trail Bars - NF, DF

Oh yeah - these are really easy to throw together and they've full of really healthy fats & protein.

I"m a big fan of good fats and keeping them in your diet even when you are looking at dropping some weight - here's why: Fats are needed to build cells, transmit nerve impulses, maintain skin health, insulate the body and organs, provide an energy store(think famine or emergencies) plus, fats are important for the production of most hormones... So you see, busy little buggers are the fats!    And let's not forget Protein - super important to eat on a regular basis as our bodies do not store it like carbs and fats.

So you can see why I'm excited about not just the deliciuosness of these super bars!

DF, GF

MAKES: 8 bars

PREP TIME: 10 mins          COOK: 175 deg  FF oven           TIME: 20 mins

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup      @myorganics raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup      dates
  • 1/3 cup      @naturallygoji goji berries or sugar free cranberries
  • 1/3 cup      @myorganics sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup      @myorganics pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbs          70% Lindt dark chocolate
  • 1 tbs           @bulksourcefoods carob powder or protein powder
  • 2/3 cup      milk of your choice
  • 1                 egg
  • 1 tsp           honey 

METHOD:

  1. Line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper
  2. Place nuts, dried fruits, seeds and choc into food process and break up by pulsing
  3. Place milk, honey, egg and protein powder into a bowl and whisk until a smooth liquid forms. (you can use a stick blender too)
  4. Pour wet mix onto the dry ingredients and stir until well coated
  5. Yes, this is a wet mix so you are on the right track
  6. Pour mix into lined baking tin
  7. Place into the oven for 10-12 mins, check and turn tin around
  8. Bake for another 8-10 mins until mix sets
  9. Once baked, allow to cool completely before cutting and moving to an airtight container                

EXTRAS: these freeze well in an airtight container

make.        eat.       enjoy.

Choc Espresso Squares with Hazelnuts!

There's lot to love about these fudgy squares & it's hard to tell which trumps the other...

Is is the:

  • Big chocolate hit?
  • Textured crunchiness of the figs?
  • that slightly bitter crunch from the roasted hazelnuts?
  • the smooth underlying coffee taste?
  • or is it that all over satisfaction??

I actually really LOVE the flavour of coffee but don't like the caffeine hit & I get lots of crap given to me about this preference and by none other than my lovely man!  Bugger it, I'll continue to make snacks/treats with decaf coffee anyway but feel free to insert REAL coffee at any time. 

I did tell you these are delicious but if coffee is not your thing - sub some orange rind and orange oil in place of the coffee and it yep! it's another delicious little treat/snack that can hit  that 'craving' out the park!

MAKES: 10-14 pieces          MAKE TIME: 15 mins                  SET TIME: 2 hrs                   

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 cups   dried figs
  • 2 Tbs     cacao powder
  •  1 Tbs     espresso powder(I use decaf as my children LOVE the flavour of coffee & and me too!)
  • 2 Tbs     coconut oil
  • 2 Tbs     almond butter or cashew butter
  • 1 Tbs      maple syrup(optional)
  • ¾ cup    roasted hazelnuts – chop roughly

METHOD:

  1. Line loaf tin with greaseproof paper
  2. Place figs in a bowl and cover with boiling water & 1/2 Tbs espresso powder for 2-4 mins to soften – drain well before using
  3. Place figs, cacao powder, espresso powder, coconut oil, nut butter and half of the hazelnuts into food processor
  4. Process until well combined
  5. Take of the left over hazelnuts and fold through mix by hand
  6. Place some chopped hazelnuts on the base of the loaf tin and press mix on top
  7. Place remaining hazelnuts on top of mix – press down slightly so they don’t come loose
  8. Place in the freezer for 2 hours
  9. Cut into squares as big or as small as you like
  10. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container

make.    eat.     enjoy.