Kitchen

7 Energy-Efficient Cooking Tips

Going green can often seem like a daunting task, but the easiest and most efficient way to go a little greener, is to start at home. This doesn’t necessarily mean investing in new energy-efficient appliances or solar panels, although these are great ideas. Small changes in your home encourage daily practices and one place to start is in the kitchen.

 

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Making the following changes can help you to save electricity without having to invest in new appliances:

  • Match your pot or pan size to the size of the stoveplate. This ensures that the plate is not wasting energy by heating up the air around the pot. Similarly, avoid using a pot or pan that is too large for the plate.
  • When you use the stove or oven, turn the heat off slightly before the food is ready to allow the heat remaining in the pot, stove plate or oven to finish cooking the food.
  • Use a kettle to heat water. It requires only half of the electricity as boiling water on the stove. Ensure that you don’t boil more water than is needed, that the element is always covered, and that the kettle is turned off when it starts to boil.
  • When you cook legumes, such as beans and lentils, let them soak overnight to soften up first and save on cooking time.
  • Regularly check that the rubber seal on your oven is intact. Perished seals can allow heat to escape, which results in increased electricity usage.
  • As a general rule, use the smallest appliance that you can for your cooking needs to save on energy and always check the energy efficiency ratings.
  • Defrost frozen food overnight by leaving it in the fridge rather than using a microwave to defrost it.

 

For more tips on how you can save energy and costs every day,

DOWNLOAD THE NEDBANK GREEN LIVING GUIDE HERE

Chocolate Granola With Coconut Cream

Store bought granola is often laden with hidden sugars and unhealthy fats. That is why I always prefer to make my own at home. This recipe reminds me a little of Coco-Pops (if you are from South Africa you will definitely know this) as it turns your milk chocolate brown. I use many seeds in this recipe to ensure a great balance of healthy fats. Hope you love this one as much as I do!

Chocolate Granola

  • 1 cup coconut pieces
  • 1 cup oats
  • ¼ cup cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup linseeds
  • ¼ cup sultanas/goji berries/chopped dates
  • ¼ cup coconut oil melted
  • 4 TBSP maple syrup/xylitol/raw honey
  • 1 TBSP cacao powder

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 180⁰C

2. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine well

3. Line baking sheet with tray baking paper and cover with granola mix.

4. Bake in the oven for 25 - 30minutes until crisp but not burnt

5. Serve topped over ½ cup of unsweetened Coconut Cream

Eat, Drink And Don't Be Sorry These Holidays

Year-end functions, office parties and the overload of festive events can play havoc with your waistline and your health. The coming weeks therefore require some guerrilla tactics if you don’t want to enter the New Year wearing what you ate at Christmas!

Patrick Holford has worked with people for over 35 years, helping them to balance good health while still enjoying life. He has some simple tips to keep weight in check, not compromise long-term health and still enjoy the pleasures of good food, drink and company this holiday season.

1. Always Eat Protein With Carbs

Combining protein with carbohydrate works because protein, being made of amino acids, makes the digestive environment more acidic, and this slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates. So, the food spends more time in your stomach, making you feel fuller for longer.

2. Add Lemon Juice And Vinegar

The old wives’ tale about cider vinegar and weight loss is true! By increasing the acidity level of your food by adding lemon juice (citric acid) you can lower the glycaemic load (GL) of your meal. Similarly, adding vinegar (acetic acid) to your meal will also result in fewer high blood sugar spikes. In practical terms, this means eating a salad with a vinegary salad dressing, drinking a citron pressé (minus the sugar) with food, adding balsamic vinegar for flavour to a meal or if you have to have chips, make sure you add lashings of vinegar. Research has also found that adding lemon juice or vinegar while cooking reduces the formation of ‘anti-glycation end-products’ (AGEs), the harmful oxidant compounds that are formed when food is cooked.

3. Load Up On Soluble Fibre And Chew, Chew, Chew

Fill yourself up on soluble fibre, found in oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots. Foods containing soluble fibre fill you up for longer, and lower the GL of a meal. Make sure to eat slowly and chew your food well as this means you take longer to eat your meal and will therefore eat less.

4. Wait 20 Minutes Before Eating Dessert

This allows your ‘appestat’ (your internal appetite gauge) to kick in, which may stop you from overdoing it. Even better, go for a stroll in the garden (or a spin on the dance floor!) after your main meal, then have your dessert afterwards. This helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and if you eat immediately after exercise, your body burns it off faster.

5. Guerrilla Tactics For Eating Out

Make sure that you don’t arrive at your dinner function starved and lacking inhibitions. This will likely lead you to pig out on the most dangerous of festive snacks. Have a healthy (fibre-rich) snack before you go out to help curb your cravings. If you are eating in a restaurant, send back those tempting slices of ciabatta and instead request a bowl of olives. Hydroxytyrosol – an extract from olives – is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory agents.

6. Drink ‘Dry’ And Limit Juice

More and more evidence is linking regular consumption of both sweetened soft drinks and even ‘natural’ fruit juices with increased weight gain and diabetes risk. This is because fructose, while low-GL, rapidly converts into fat if taken in excess. For alcohol, choose the driest drinks – for example, a dry red or white wine or champagne. If you don’t like wine or champagne, then clearer spirits like vodka, gin and whiskey are also lower in calories, if you drink it with a tonic, water or soda water as a mixer. Alcohol is an ‘anti-nutrient’. Although some forms of alcohol (such as stout or red wine) do deliver a few nutrients, alcohol itself is a potent destroyer of these same nutrients. I therefore suggest that if you want to drink, to do so moderately, sticking to less than one drink a day.

7. Take Detoxifying Supplements

To assist your gut and to combat the host of “incorrect” foods and drinks consumed during the holidays, I recommend supplementing to assist with properly digesting all foods: probiotics to ensure the correct essential beneficial bacteria are present during times of gluttony, and glutamine as a defence from toxins. He also suggests an all-round antioxidant or liver support formula. And if you know you will be indulging a little more than usual this festive season, be sure to increase your intake of B vitamins, Vitamin C, magnesium and zinc.

Raw Red Pepper And Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

This is a great dip to put out with crudités and crackers, it's healthy, delicious, and sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Raw Red Pepper & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

  • 2 baby marrows or half of one large one (zucchini or courgette if you come from outside of South Africa)
  • 1 baby red pepper
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked at least 10 minutes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • dash of cumin
  • salt to taste

Directions: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

Sugar Alternatives: The Good, The Bad, And The Tasty

We all know that sugar is bad for you in excess. But, there are occasions when you want some so which alternative sugars are best? Also some foods containing healthier sugars are actually better for your blood sugar control than foods that say ‘sugar free’. So, how do you know what’s good, what’s bad and how much you can have?

Firstly, it’s worth understanding how sugar works. The sugar our bodies run off is glucose. The body is designed to break down natural sugars into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream to power all cells. Most fruit provides fructose. This has to be converted into glucose by the liver, making it more slow-releasing with a low ‘Glyceamic Index’, with a GI of 23, which is the speed at which a sugar raises blood glucose levels. Glucose, by definition, has a GI of 100.

Nature never provides fructose, found mainly in fruit but also extracted from corn, without fibre. So, when you eat the whole food your liver gets drip fed fructose, which it converts to glucose. However, if you have a direct and excessive supply of fructose it both taxes the liver and can be directly turned into fat. The cola companies love it both because it is cheaper and also people will drink more before the glucose ‘appestat’ kicks in and says you’ve had enough sweetness.

So, any source of refined fructose, not in whole fruit, from fresh juice to agave, is best limited.

Sucrose, white sugar, is a glucose and a fructose molecule, with a GI of about 70. Faster than fructose, slower than glucose. Honey, molasses and maple syrup have a similar GI to regular sugar – brown or white, as does Sucanat. Milk sugar is lactose, made up of a unit of glucose and a unit of galactose. It has a GI of 46. Worse than fructose.

Then, there are sugar alcohols. (They don't get you drunk!) These usually end in ‘tol’ – maltitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, also isomalt. Some, like xylitol, are naturally occurring, others, like maltitol, are man-made. They are sweet but have a fraction of the calories and a fraction of the effect on blood sugar and are therefore very low GI. The synthetic sugars sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, erythritol all have very low GI scores, below 10, and are often used to sweeten processed foods. You’ll find sorbitol, for example, used in children’s chewables. While not ‘natural’ the only real side-effect of sugar alcohols at high dose is the potential for loose bowels.

Xylitol is the best natural sugar alcohol with a GI of 8. That means that 9 teaspoons of xylitol would have the same effect on your blood sugar as one teaspoon of regular sugar. The only problem with xylitol is that it won't caramelise, so don't try it for crèmebrulée or dishes where the sugar has to melt, and it also has a slightly cooling after taste so it’s not the best in, for example, chocolate. It is good for cakes, jams, added to cereal or teas. It is also solid, not liquid. Probably the best liquid sugar is agave, but this varies in quality and is effectively fructose.

Xylose, the precursor of xylitol, is the predominant sugar in berries, cherries and plums, so these are the best fruits to eat. Apples and pears contain mainly fructose. Dates, grapes and hence raisins have simpler sugars and a GI more like white sugar. Date sugar would be worse. The food industry exploit this by using grape juice concentrate as a ‘natural’ sugar or adding dates, raisins and banana to ‘sugar free’ bars and smoothies, but don't be fooled. Apple juice concentrate is also used, and is certainly a better natural sweetener that grape juice concentrate.

Coconut palm sugar claims a low GI of 35 but I’m suspicious. It contains sucrose and should be around 65. Same as honey. It is possible that it has other mitigating factors that slow the release, or that this score is wrong. The analysis was done in the Phillipines, where the economy is dependent on coconut products. It’s in my wait and see category. (By the way, you will see variable GI scores for foods in tables. It is measured by feeding volunteers the sugar and measuring blood sugar levels. Natural variations do occur. It is not an exact science.)

Another interesting natural sugar from a root in South America is Yacon. It is high in inulin which also helps lower blood sugar effects. The GI is unknown.

There are many man made artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, that have no GI, but there are associated health problems in excess. I avoid these. The only zero GI natural sweetener I’d eat is stevia. There’s nothing wrong with it, except the taste. Stevia has a ‘sting in the tail’ - a slightly unpleasant after-taste. If you can deal with that it’s good.

Both the most important thing is to have less sugar overall, and primarily get your sweetness from whole foods. You can wean yourself off having a sweet tooth by gradually decreasing the level of sweetness in foods and drinks. Also, combine protein with carbohydrate foods because that slows down the speed of release of sugars. While the GI of a food tells you how quickly it’s sugars raise your blood sugar compared to glucose, the Glycemic Load (GL) is a better measure because it tells you what a specific amount of a sugar does to your blood sugar. You can look up the GL of foods online at www.holforddiet.com.

Leafy Greens: Raw Apple Pie

Try this delicious Apple Pie recipe from South Africa's beloved Leafy Greens restaurant!

Raw Apple Pie

Serves up to 16 people

Crust

  • 1½ cups macadamias
  • ½ cup almonds, soaked over night
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • ½ cup water
  • pinch salt

Filling

  • 3 cups apples, finely chopped
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 4 tbs cashew butter
  • ¼ cup agave
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla pod, scraped

Method

For the crust: blend all the ingredients in a food processor until fairly smooth. Press into a tart pan, forming a thin crust.

For the filling: mix together all the ingredients. Once the crust is set, add filling. Keeps in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

The Time To Quit Sugar Is Now!

So much for Mary Poppins. All those spoonful’s of sugar are contributing to arguably the biggest health threat facing humanity – diabetes. November, being World Diabetes Awareness Month, is the perfect month to say no to diabetes, and to get to the heart of the problem – quitting sugar.

Diabetes, known as the “silent killer”, is a serious disease that causes your blood glucose to be too high. Although glucose is needed by the body for energy, an excess can create health risks. Diabetics are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or other complications, including blindness, kidney disease, gum infections and amputation.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The good news, is that type 2 diabetes (the common kind that accounts for at least 90% of diabetes) is not only preventable, it’s reversible! Both child-onset diabetes and adult-onset diabetes (type 2) are conditions caused by prolonged high blood sugar levels. Adult-onset diabetes is usually a consequence of poor eating habits (too much sugar and stimulants), often preceded by hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar levels.

For many people the first taste of sugar addiction comes from seeking something that will increase energy levels or decrease stress, depression and anxiety – all of which are most often caused by sub-optimum nutrition, a lack of sleep and working (or playing) too hard. The bottom line is that sugar is bad for you. Although a valuable fuel for our cells, it can be toxic when consumed often and in excess, causing damage to the arteries, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

Unfortunately though, the act of coming off sugar has been likened to going cold turkey on a heroin habit! This seems rather extreme, but even those who don't add three spoonful’s of sugar to their tea or coffee every morning, are probably overloading on sugar with cereals, fruits and other high-GL carbohydrates.

How To Quit Sugar, Without Feeling Sh**t!

  1. Choose low-GL instead of high-GL foods. The sugars and starches in foods with a low GL (complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, beans and lentils) take a longer time to digest than refined carbohydrates, allowing the glucose to trickle into your blood slowly, keeping blood glucose levels even and giving you sustained energy for longer.
  2. Eat protein with carbohydrates. The more fibre and protein you include with any meal or snack, the slower the release of the carbohydrates, which is good for your blood glucose balance.
  3. Graze, don’t gorge – eat little and often. By spreading your meals throughout the day and eating five or six small meals instead of three larger ones, you won’t get hungry or have blood sugar dips that cause uncontrollable cravings.
  4. Never go without breakfast. The biggest mistake you can make is not to eat breakfast. This is when your blood sugar is at its lowest. This is the time to eat a healthy, low-GL breakfast that will level your blood sugar. A strong coffee, with a piece of toast with jam (carb plus sugar), will set you up for a blood sugar level that yo-yos the whole day.
  5. Replace sugar with xylitol. Xylitol is the most natural alternative to sugar, found in small amounts in fruits such as plums, cherries and most berries – and unlike sugar, does not affect blood sugar levels. It also contains 40% fewer calories.
  6. Make your own cereals, replacing any sugar with xylitol, if necessary. Most “healthy” granolas are packed with sugar and therefore not a good option for breakfast.
  7. Minimise caffeine and alcohol, as these both affect your blood sugar. Especially during the Christmas silly season, try to limit the amount of times a week you have an alcoholic drink. Limit what you drink. Stick to wine and champagne instead of beer and spirits as these are lower in calories.
  8. Change the way you react to stress. Whatever your thoughts on stress, the reality is that body chemistry fundamentally changes every time a person reacts to it. When a person feels stressed, they inevitably turn to sugar or other stimulants for energy and control. Spend time documenting how you react to stress and replace those behaviour patterns with healthier ones (e.g. eating fruit instead of sweets or chocolates).
  9. Drink water at every craving. Each time you have a craving, rather than jumping at the first snack that comes to mind, first have a large glass of water, then a piece of fruit with some nuts or seeds (eating protein with carbohydrate keeps your blood sugar level even).
  10. Rebalance your brain with amino acids and chromium. Amino acids, such as Tryptophan help restore a possible underlying serotonin deficiency that leads to carbohydrate cravings, and you should therefore take optimum amounts of these. Chromium helps to support blood sugar balance.

“IDF launched The Framework for Action on Sugar. The framework is IDF’s official response to exploding sugar intake, increasing rates of obesity and the rising tide of diabetes, anticipated to affect 592 million people by 2035, a 53% increase on existing cases. The Framework calls on national governments to implement policies to reduce sugar consumption and advocates specific measures to increase access to healthy alternatives such as fresh fruit and vegetables and clean drinking water, in order to help prevent new cases of type 2 diabetes. IDF estimates that up to 70% of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through lifestyle interventions."

For more information: International Diabetes Federation Framework and updated statistics on Diabetes in Africa (SA is included in this IDF Africa region).

Beat The Bloat For Good With This Miracle Morning Tonic!

Feeling sluggish, bloated and uncomfortable? Fear not! I have the perfect “antidote”. This Miracle Morning Tonic is a simple and highly effective way to cleanse, repair and energize the body. This is something that I drink every single morning as I wake up, and I absolutely swear by it! Even if I am on holiday I will make sure to bring along my special ingredients so that I can enjoy the benefits of this miraculous drink.

Although this concoction may at first glance appear to be something that you would rather not drink, like ever, I can assure you that it truly works wonders for keeping the gut healthy and happy. You will see and feel the difference within just a few days, after which you will never want to miss a morning without your Miracle Morning Tonic. The powerful combination of these detoxifying ingredients (listed below) work together to cleanse the gut, promote digestion, eliminate bloating and boost the metabolism.

So how do you make it? So simple, really! Here goes…

You will need:

  • 1 litre boiled spring water – please make sure this is spring water!
  • 1 fresh lemon – cut into slices – alkalises the system and promotes the breakdown of fat
  • 1 tbsp. oolong tea leaves (can also use green tea leaves) – boosts metabolism, detoxifies the system and contains anti-cancer properties
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper – boosts metabolism and detoxifies the system
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon – boosts metabolism and acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • 1 tbsp. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar – promotes fat loss and contains probiotics to aid in digestion
  • 1 tbsp. liquid probiotic of choice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey 
  • 1 glass jar to hold 1 litre of water

Instructions:

  1. Cut fresh lemon into thin slices and place into glass jar, add apple cider vinegar, honey, cinnamon, cayenne and probiotic.
  2. Boil spring water and allow to cool for a few minutes. Do not add water immediately after boiling as this will burn the spices.
  3. Once cooled, add water to jar, stir vigorously with a spoon to ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  4. For every serving, simply warm a mug full of the liquid in a small pot on high heat until liquid begins to boil. Please use a stove for heating, no microwaves, as these destroy all the goodness of the ingredients! Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and enjoy!

For the best results, make sure that you drink your Miracle Morning Tonic as you wake up, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. I like to make a 1 litre jug which lasts up to 4 days if refrigerated and stored in a glass jar. Allowing these healing ingredients to soak in the water for a good amount of time is even more beneficial, as all their healthful properties are absorbed into the water. And voila! There you have it. Your metabolism boosting, bloat curing, gut cleansing, body detoxing Miracle Morning Tonic! Go on…try it out..a new morning ritual that will do you wonders!

Going Green: 4 Appliance Tips

Washing Machine:

Set your washing machine to 30°. Go and have a look at your washing machine. No rush, I’ll wait … Any idea what all those dials and settings mean? No, me neither. If you’re anyone other than an R&D specialist for one of the big washing machine companies, I’m prepared to bet that apart from some early fiddling when you first got the thing, you just leave your machine on one setting and be done with it. So if you’re going to leave it on one setting, it may as well be a green one. Modern washing powders are such that you can get away with washing clothes at much lower temperatures than was needed in the past. A whole movement has sprung up in Europe encouraging people to set their machines to wash at 30°. This simple act should save around 40% of the energy used to wash your clothes.

Dishwasher:

Only run dishwashers when full. Your dishwasher is actually an energy- and water-saving device provided you only run it when it’s full. Then you’re deriving maximum benefit as it uses the same amount of water and energy whether you’re cleaning the detritus from a debauched dinner party or just one tea cup. And limit the amount of rinsing you do before you pack the dishwasher (you can see a husband is writing this, huh?). I’ve seen plenty of very sweet, well-meaning little old ladies who insist on just about polishing plates until they glow before popping them in the washer. If you’re going to do that, you may as well cut the washer out entirely and do your dishes by hand. Dishwashers are actually pretty good at what they do, provided you pack the stuff properly. Let them do their work.

Refrigerator:

Don’t overload your fridge The more stuff in your fridge, the harder it has to work at keeping everything cold. Don’t pack your fridge with bottles and jars that haven’t been opened yet or scraps of food and leftovers that you know you aren’t going to eat. Rather than waste the energy required to keep it cold, be honest with yourself about the stuff that you know is going to land up as compost and direct it straight to the earthwormery without storing it lovingly for four days first. On that note, allow food to have cooled naturally first before refrigerating it. All you’re achieving by putting warm food into the fridge is forcing it to work a bit harder and running the risk of cracking any glass panels, as the shelves try to expand from the heat and contract from the cold at the same time. Also, leave space between items in your fridge to allow efficient cooling. The more spread out everything in your fridge is, the more efficiently it’s cooled, thus saving you power. This is also true of leftovers. Rather than keeping food in a narrow pot that will be difficult to cool, decant food into a thinner flatter Tupperware, which will retain less heat and probably be easier to store too.

Small Appliances vs. Your Stove

Use small appliances rather than your stove whenever possible. If your recipe calls for boiling water, it is much more efficient to boil the water in your kettle and then transfer it into your pot on the stove rather than to boil water from scratch on the hot plate. Using smaller appliances rather than larger ones will save you energy. Boiling using a kettle, reheating small amounts in the microwave and blending or liquidising using a hand-held mixer are all better than using large appliances for the same functions.

Strawberry Surprise

What could be more fun than biting into a chocolate brownie and finding a fresh strawberry filling?

Strawberry Surprise

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 3-4 Tb raw cacao powder (depending on how much of a chocoholic you are)
  • pinch of vanilla bean powder
  • pinch of Himalayan salt
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • strawberry filling (see below)
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced

Instructions: Blend all brownie ingredients (except the strawberry filling and strawberries) in your food processor until they form a dough. Press some of the dough into a muffin pan, lined with plastic wrap (I like individual silicone muffin cups, they’re easier to work with). You want to press the dough up along the sides of the muffin tin, so that it makes a cup shape. Then press some of the dough flat on a piece of parchment paper, and cut out circles (use a cookie cutter, the top of a glass or even a knife) the same size as the top of the muffin cup. Place a few slices of strawberry in the brownie cup, then fill it with strawberry filling. Place the flat brownie dough circle on top and press the plastic wrap over it. Chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Strawberry Filling

  • 220g strawberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 3 pitted dates
  • pinch of vanilla bean powder
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp psyllium husk powder

Instructions: Blend all ingredients in your blender, until smooth. Enjoy as filling for the Strawberry Surprise or on its own!

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