Carol’s in Mexico!

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Carol and her family are enjoying some R’n’R in Mexico, and they are relishing the delicious food on offer there. Here’s an easy recipe to cook at home for a  Mexican style treat!

Baked Coconut Prawns

INGREDIENTS

24 large prawns peeled and deveined shrimp-1523135_1920

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconutclose-up-coconut-food-221074 (1)

olive oil

Mayonnaise

1/4 of a lime

Few coriander leaves

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 180C fan forced. Grease a baking pan and place a baking sheet on top.

Mix flour and spices in a bowl and place on your bench, then beat eggs in another bowl and finally combine breadcrumbs and coconut in a third bowl.

Dip prawns in small batches in the flour mixture then the egg mixture (shake off excess) and then coat in the coconut/breadcrumb mixture.

Place the prawns on the baking sheet in a single layer. Lightly spray with olive oil. Bake for around 10 minutes until they are golden on the outside and opaque in the centre.

Photo by Estaban

Serve with mayonnaise which has a squeeze of lime and garnished with coriander.

 

 

 

Happy Lunar New Year! Gong xi fa cai!

Year of the Pig

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Lunar New Year celebratory almond cookies

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Ingredients

Makes 24 cookies

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 egg whisked
  • 2 teaspoons almond essence
  • 100g (1/2 cup) almond meal
  • 155g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 24 almonds

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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 ºC (fan forced).
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg, almond essence and almond meal, and mix until combined.
  3. Stir in the baking powder and sifted flour, small portions at a time until well blended. Roll the mixture into balls of 2cm in diameter, 3cm apart, on baking trays lined with baking paper.
  4. Press the the cookies down with a fork to create ridges on the cookies.
  5. Press an almond down onto each cookie. Bake 7 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until cookies are lightly coloured.
  6. Leave to cool on tray.

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The Magic of Macadamia Nuts

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The mild buttery flavour and a soft crunch gives Macadamia nuts a top spot in cookies, cakes and salads. Paired with white chocolate and raspberries they add a super indulgent deliciousness to sweet treats.

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These native Australian nuts have an unusual and unique nutritional profile. A 30g serve, provides our total daily requirement for vitamin B1 (Thiamine), a fair amount of B6 (pyridoxine), and about 20% of our daily requirement for iron and fibre.

The unusual feature of the Macadamia nut is the quantity of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that form a key part of the heart healthy Mediterranean diet. Like olive oil and avocados, Macadamia nuts are particularly rich in the MUFAs palmitoleic and oleic acids. These fatty acids are thought to promote a healthy lipid profile by reducing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol whilst maintaining levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. They may also improve blood vessel function and insulin sensitivity.

Macadamia nuts are best stored in the fridge or freezer, these precious fatty acids are prone to oxidation (going rancid).

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Plenty of MUFAs means plenty of calories. The Mayo Clinic advises that we should eat MUFA rich foods instead of other fatty foods, not in addition to them.   They are excellent for people with low appetite who need energy dense snacks, but for most of us, it’s Macadamia nuts in our salad or avocado, but not both! Here’s a link to the delicious salad pictured below Baby spinach, orange and macadamia salad

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Salad image: Steve Brown

Banana and Macadamia Nut Loaf – Perfect for Picnics

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With the Australia Day long weekend less than a week away, and picnics being planned, this deliciously golden and easy-to-make loaf is perfect to pack as a sweet treat. Full of all Australian goodness!

 

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Ingredients

50g Australian Macadamia nuts – roughly chopped

70g softened butter

Grated zest of one small lemon

190g/1cup soft brown sugar

2 eggs beaten

2 large ripe bananas mashed

200g/1½ cups self-raising flour

 

Method

Line and butter a loaf tin, 22cm by 12cm.

Heat oven to 180 C.

Cream butter, lemon zest and sugar together.

Add egg, half at a time, beating in between.

Add mashed banana, mix well.

Sift in flour, add chopped nuts, fold in carefully.

Pour into loaf tin.

 

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Bake in oven on medium shelf for 45 minutes. Loaf should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool in tin. Remove to serve.

Delicious and moist. Totally moreish on the day it’s made, if it isn’t finished, serve with natural yoghurt or spread with butter for a treat.

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The Many Benefits in A Cup of Tea

Reading ‘a cup of tea’ is enough to induce feelings on contentment.  Just the thought of it is calming.

We’re mostly concerned with Camellia sinensis – your regular tea bush that has numerous varieties.  It can produce small leaf green teas, large leaf fermented black teas like Assam and hybrids like Darjeeling.

You can add milk, lemon or sugar to taste and the benefits stay the same.

    

But what is so great about a cup of tea?

Polyphenols – they give tea the astringent taste. They include antioxidant catechins, the one most prevalent in tea is epigallocatechin gallate shortened to EGCG and regularly mentioned as a strong antioxidant.

Stimulants  – such as xanthenes and theobromines.

And caffeine: 1g black tea has around 25mg caffeine and 1g green tea has around 15mg – a longer brew gives a higher caffeine content.

Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers and help to reduce the oxidative stress from pathogens and pollution.  They are thought to be protective against the inflammatory response that causes damage in heart disease and possibly neurodegenerative disorders.

But there is more to a cup of tea than chemicals.

Research looking at the role of tea in the reduction of stress found that drinking a cup of tea can:

  • Signal the end of or a break from a stressful episode
  • Gives a feeling of being cared for when someone makes it for us
  • Makes us stop and rest, we can’t drink it if we are active
  • Being hot, it takes time to drink – unlike a drink of water, there is time to rest and contemplate
  • It can be social, which is good for our soul.

B12 – How Did I Go So Low?

We’ve been a bit lethargic in our blogging lately, lost the pep from our step, fuggy headed and generally laid low.

Nutritionists don’t generally believe that a vitamin deficiency is something that can ever happen to them – but it did to me!  With hindsight, it isn’t so surprising that I’m deficient in B12, it isn’t particularly uncommon, I just didn’t see it coming.

How do people get to be deficient in B12? 

It happens gradually.

You can be vegan and get none from your diet – it’s only present in foods of animal origin.

You can have coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease and not absorb nutrients from part of the intestine

You can be on medication like Metformin for diabetes or antacids which reduce stomach acidity and these can limit your absorption of B12

Or, like me, your stomach acid is lacking.

B12 naturally occurring in food, exists bound to protein, which the acid in the stomach should release allowing the free cobalamin or vitamin B12, to be absorbed in the small intestine.

Poor Absorption can be exacerbated by a diet low in B12

I never thought that this was me – but I was probably wrong.

How much B12 do we need?

Recommendations vary but around 2.4micrograms/day

Where do we find it?

Shell fish is massive –  a portion of clams or oysters comes top with a huge 84mcg, salmon per portion is 4.8mcg, canned tuna 2.5mcg.

Meat is pretty good at 1.4mcg for a portion of beef, paler meats do less well with chicken at 0.3mcg.

Dairy is great, a cup of milk has 1.2mcg and an egg  0.6mcg

Food supplemented with B12

Many foods are supplemented with B12 and this is an interesting proposition.  The synthetic B12 isn’t bound to a protein and is more easily absorbed.

It’s not naturally present in Vegemite but is added to the low salt version and also added to Marmite.  Packaged breakfast cereals have it added.

I thought that the soya milk I use for porridge was fortified, but found that I’d switched brands and the new one isn’t – I’ve gone back to the old brand and get 1mcg B12 per cup.

 

 

Guts and Bugs

B12 is intricately involved with our microbiome. Our gut bacteria can be helping themselves to our slim intake of B12 and leave little for us, or make plenty themselves, or in susceptible individuals taking supplements, allowing acne producing bacteria to flourish.

If you are concerned about your B12 status, your GP can check it with a simple blood test. Like most deficient people, I’ve had the intramuscular B12 injection and take a supplement sprayed under the tongue to avoid digestion and happily have the pep back in my step!

 

Probiotics – what are the best bugs for our guts?

Probiotics are live microorganisms.  Consumed in suitable quantities, they are beneficial to our health.

It’s an exciting area of research.  Food and beverage manufacturers are competing to impress us with the health enhancing qualities of their products.  Possible health benefits from the consumption of probiotics include:

  • Restored microbiotica.
  • Metabolism of fatty acids.
  • Modulation of the immune system through peptides produced by bacteria.
  • Improvement of symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in some studies, but not all.
  • Relief from constipation, in some studies, but not all.

The lack of a specific nutritional advice on the use of probiotics is due to:

  • The massive complexity of bacteria, differing strains of a single species don’t produce the same effects.
  • Our own microbiotica is unique, a probiotic which is beneficial to one person may be useless to another.
  • Our microbiotica is a dynamic system, its state will alter with multiple factors such as our diet, travel, stress or antibiotics. A probiotic which works wonders at one time might have little or no effect at another.
  • Research from different populations, with different lifestyles, on different diets, consuming different probiotics, doesn’t produce a clear picture. The EU so far has rejected all health claims by food manufacturers for probiotics due to the questionable quality of the research.

 

What to do!?!

Cover our bases by choosing a quality product with at least three or four bacteria strains.  For instance, one well known range of ‘bio live yoghurts’ contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactococcus lactis and Bifidobacterium lactis.  Quite a cocktail, they might not all do great things, but they might and they’ll certainly do no harm.

Be our own expert.  If we take an expensive probiotic and don’t see any benefit, then it isn’t the one for us.  However if we do find a product that maybe in certain circumstances feels beneficial to our health, well maybe it is.

With time, more quality research is bound to immerge. This is a vibrant area of nutrition and it will be great to have more knowledge on which probiotics are most useful for which situations. Watch this space.