Friday, 21 November 2014

Blueberry Topped Baked Sweet Potato (AIP, Paleo, Vegan)

This is the stuff mornings are made of. 

Ever fancy sticky-sweet, vanilla-scented blueberries? I do. 

Bolstered by my first experience with sweet-toppings for a baked sweet potato (Caramelised Apple and Cinnamon) I started to consider other sweet toppings that would work. And I couldn't get blueberries out of my head. And now, I can see what my brain was trying to tell me. 

The colours are enough to make me happy: bright amber sweet potato flesh, with dark, rich blueberries and their stained juices rippling through the coconut yoghurt. But the flavours - there's a touch of vanilla extract (it's ok on AIP because it's cooked) that makes this feel a bit like a fairground treat. There's sweetness from the blueberries, maple syrup and the potato but then a nice tartness with the coconut yoghurt that contrasts it all beautifully. Need another reason to make it? You get the good starch and beta carotene from the sweet potato, powerful immune-boosting phytochemicals from the blueberries and wonderfully good bacteria and fats from the coconut yoghurt. 

I've said enough. Don't take my word for it, make it yourself. This dish is vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, autoimmune protocol friendly, paleo and primal. 

Blueberry Topped Baked Sweet Potato
Serves 1.
1 sweet potato, scrubbed and pierced all over a few times with a sharp knife
1 handful blueberries (I used frozen)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp coconut yoghurt

First, preheat your oven to gas mark 7/220ºC/425ºF. Line a baking tray with foil and place the sweet potato on it (I usually bake two or three sweet potatoes seeing as I'm having the oven on. This means I have soft sweet potato waiting for me in the fridge to reheat, without having to cook it first). Bake the sweet potato(es) until tender, about 40 minutes. 

Once the sweet potato is soft in the middle (test it with a sharp knife), get on with the blueberries. In a small frying pan, heat up the blueberries on a medium, fairly gently heat. Trickle in the maple syrup and the vanilla extract and allow it all to heat up and come to a gentle bubble in the pan. The juice from the berries will leak out as they cook, making a lovely sticky blueberry sauce. 

To serve, place the sweet potato on a plate, split down the middle and dump a tablespoon or two of the coconut yoghurt in the centre. Finish by spooning over the warmed, sticky blueberries. Eat while hot, with a spoon. 

What are your favourite sweet potato toppings? 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Chunky Tapenade

Something has been bugging me for a little while. 

For a few months now, I've had a feeling there was a really obvious recipe that I'd been missing, that was naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and suitable for the paleo and autoimmune protocol diets. 

And when I picked up a tin of black olives in the shop, it suddenly dawned on me what it was. Tapenade. 

Tapenade is a mixture of olives, capers and some other bits and pieces, and you can serve it at parties, on crackers (or slices of cucumber) - or mix it up in a salad (it's awesome with tuna). You can also pile it up on your burgers, if you like for added umami flavour. It's supposed to originate from the south of France, and chances are, if you buy it in the shops, it'll be smooth and purée-like. Well, I like mine chunky. 

You could add a little bit of raw, grated garlic into the tapenade if you like, or chop up a spring onion and toss it in, but I wanted to keep this FODMAP-friendly, too, so didn't include it here. I actually prefer making this chunky tapenade than the smooth, food-processor version because a) you only need to wash up a board and a knife afterwards and b) you get a lot more 'hands on' with the ingredients. The sweet, aniseed flavour of the basil rises up from the board with salty, briny olives, anchovies, capers and citrussy parsley. Chopping that lot equals food therapy, that does.

Chunky Tapenade
Serves 1-2 or more if spooned onto crackers as a starter or party nibble
12 black olives, pitted
7 capers
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp basil, chopped
2 anchovy fillets, from a tin
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

With a sharp knife, chop up all the ingredients and stir together in a bowl, adding enough olive oil to bind the mixture and create a salsa-texture. Spoon onto crackers or cucumber slices - or scatter into your favourite salad. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Why I'm Bored of People Slamming The Paleo Diet

I'm getting a bit bored of people slamming the paleo diet. BOOOORRRRING.... *rolls eyes*

And here's why. 

There seem to be quite a few articles and infographics that keep getting published and shared on social media, saying that the paleo diet is a 'fad' - it's 'unhealthy' - and, according to one I saw recently, "experts stated they took issue with the diet on every level." 

Last week Michael Pollan was quoted as saying that humans could survive on bread alone. I respect Pollan as an author and for his enthusiasm for things like the American Gut Project but I don't get it. Why are governments telling us to eat more veg if bread alone will give us all our nutritional needs? And he attacks the paleo diet as he says we can't really replicate the 'caveman' diet anyway, in this modern world. But, as I've said before, that really isn't the main point of the paleo diet. It's to eat food that's unprocessed and nutrient dense, not just to eat what Palaeolithic people ate, which I agree would be pretty much impossible because of the evolution of plants, grains and animals over thousands of years.

I often wonder if it wasn't given a name, whether it would be more acceptable. I always find that as soon as you give a diet a name ("Atkins", "the 5:2", "Dukan") you're already admitting it's going to be over in months before someone finds something terribly wrong with it and decides it was probably best avoided in the first place. 

I wonder if we re-named it "the get lots of sleep, eat loads of veggies and get regular exercise" diet, if we might get a few more doctors on board. Worth thinking about that one. I might trademark it, just in case. 

The way I see it, the paleo diet, to me, makes perfect sense: 

  • You eat when you're hungry
  • You don't eat refined sugar, which messes with your hormones and appetite
  • You eat lots of vegetables
  • You get lots of sleep (go to bed early)
  • You aim for unprocessed, good quality meats, seafood and fish
  • You cut anything out that doesn't agree with your personal digestion - some paleo people eat dairy, while others reintroduce occasional grains.

Doctors, surgeons, archaeologists - all debate the whole point of the paleo diet - whether man evolved eating mostly meat or berries - whether they hunted or scavenged meat. And I read things like this, and they interest me a bit, but then I feel like they're all missing the point. We didn't evolve eating pizza, rainbow-coloured cereal and chicken nuggets, we all know that. As Chris Kresser recently said: "I adopted a diet and lifestyle that more closely matched what my body is designed for." Natural, unprocessed foods. I don't think you can argue with that. 

I think it's the cutting out of food groups that gets doctors worried. But then, what if you decide to become vegan? Or gluten free and vegan? But because we're deciding to cut out relatively new foods like refined sugar and gluten we're damaging our health? Come on.

And these experts who "take issue" with the diet "on every level". EVERY LEVEL. You sure? Like eating lots of different-coloured veggies every day? Getting lots of sleep and exercise? Reducing intake of refined sugar? If you didn't know better, you'd think that all doctors and anyone with a PhD universally hate the paleo diet and think that it's incredibly bad for you. Hmm. Let me have a think: 

"Thoroughly researched and self-consistent in its overarching principles, a Paleo Diet is a sustainable way of eating to achieve our best health. Even more, it is a comprehensive approach to health that is steeped in solid science. And best of all, it has worked wonders for me." - Dr Sarah Ballantyne (The Paleo Mom)

"A PD (Paleo Diet) has a greater beneficial effect vs an NNR (Nordic Nutritional Recommendations) diet regarding fat mass, abdominal obesity and triglyceride levels in obese postmenopausal women." C Mellberg et al, The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (March 2014)

"Through his research, he has concluded that mimicking many aspects of the caveman lifestyle and diet, one that the human body has adapted to over millions of years, may have the greatest potential to fight obesity and chronic disease." From the website of Colin E. Champ M.D.

"I firmly believe that nutrition should play a central role in the treatment of any chronic condition, and hopefully I can convince you of this as well!" Erin, SCD, GAPS and paleo blogger at Pure and Simple Nourishment and M.D. by day

So that's it. 

I'm off to start my next book: "Good Comforting Food On The Get Lots of Sleep, Eat Loads of Veggies and Take Daily Exercise Plan™".  What do you think? A bit wordy?

Edited to add: I just had the perfect response to this blog post by @schoolbalance on Twitter. I wanted to share it here, because it basically sums up exactly what I am trying to say: 



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