Sunday, 3 October 2010

Raw Desserts

I'm sorry about the slightly sporadic posting over the last couple of weeks, unfortunately real life got in the way. I've been lucky that I had a few posts saved up otherwise my poor blog would have been severely neglected.

The Caramelised Onion, Goats Cheese Puff Pastry Bites were made in June. Yep, I've got that many things that I've still got to tell you about, although my cooking adventures have been somewhat curtailed lately. See, I have been trying very hard to lose weight. I was never overweight in my childhood or teens, but about 6 or so years ago a change in medication caused my weight to balloon. It was a huge gain over a relatively short period of time and I've never been able to shift it.

I've tried the VLCD options, in fact it was during this shakes and bar episode that kickstarted my interest in food. I'm a very textural eater and I couldn't deal with just having shakes and bars and little else. My nutritionist suggested I have the shakes and bars for breakfast and lunch and then have a night time meal consisting of salad or vegetables and a small portion of lean protein. I started to enjoy searching for different ways to vary my lean protein and vegetables and my foodie self was born. I did lose weight on the VLCD but ultimately I couldn't maintain it and I blame the bars' texture. There were no problems with the taste, they were quite tasty in fact, but the texture was the same no matter what flavour you were eating.

Typically, once I went back to eating normally, I regained the weight I lost. I've tried food diaries, changing exercise, calorie counting and lots more and nothing has helped. I sort of hit a plateau. I didn't gain more weight but I couldn't lose it either.

In late July/early August, I caught a particularly nasty stomach bug. I couldn't keep food down at all for almost a fortnight. While it doesn't sound particularly healthy to use a stomach bug as a catalyst for weight loss, I wanted to take advantage of my shrunken and sensitive stomach and build it up using proper portion control and a larger focus on vegetables.

I thought that I ate relatively well. I mean, I always limited the amount of sweets/fats I ate and I tried to always get my 2 and 5. Really looking at what I put into my mouth made me realise that I ate way too many processed carbohydrates and I was experiencing some major portion distortion. During the years since I became overweight I have amassed quite a few diet books and one of those is This=That: A Life-Size Photo Guide to Food Serves by Trudy Williams from the Wesley Nutrition Centre here in Brisbane.

Every time I read this book it's a real wake-up call but I have never been able to stick to it consistently. I put the book away and think that because I'm aware of what I need to do that I'll do it. Of course, the whole idea of portion distortion is that my eyes are not really the best judge of my portion sizes. This time, the book is living on the kitchen table and it's making a huge difference.

What's also making a huge difference is that I'm trying to stop eating when I'm full and not to eat my feelings - it turns out that while I don't often turn to food when I'm upset, I'm a big boredom eater. I'm also looking at the types of carbohydrates I'm eating. I've substituted brown rice for white rice and have cut back how often I eat it. I love bread, but I'm sticking to loaves of rye or multigrain and I now only have one piece of toast in the morning instead of two. I'm also watching how late I eat dinner and I'm trying not to eat after 6:30pm. This has probably been the most difficult thing to stick to, as I'm not always home from work at that time but I'm trying to do it as much as possible.

In the beginning, I still had the urge to bake. I made some gloriously rich and chocolatey peanut butter chocolate brownies (post soon to come) but I restrained myself to only eating the tiniest piece and taking the rest to work. Unfortunately, the absolutely fantastic brownies didn't get eaten and a few had to be thrown away. I had another crack at baking with some soft chewy cookies made of sweetened condensed milk (post to come on those too) but again, they didn't get eaten. After that, I couldn't justify baking when the results were just going to waste, so I haven't really been cooking anything blogworthy.

That being said, it's now two months on and I've lost 13.5kg. I'm starting to feel more energetic and happier, although I have made other changes in my life that may also be contributing to the improvement in my mood. I'm thrilled that I can go digging through the wardrobe in the spare room and fit into clothes I used to wear. I'm ecstatic that my plantar fasciitis has improved so much that I can walk without always having to wear my arch supports or my ugly ugly Birkenstocks. D is joining me in this weight loss endeavour and he's also doing really really well. We both still have a way to go, but it's nice to be started on the right path.

This was a really long story to get to the point of my post, which actually is only tangentially related to the above. Sorry.

D and I have recently started visiting the Northey Street Organic Markets after I developed a taste for Healthy Friend Almond Rice Bites (like this, but with almonds and puffed rice, obviously) and this was the only place I could find them again. I know Flannerys sell them now, which is handy to know. I fell in love with the markets, there were stalls upon stalls of beautiful produce some of which I had never actually seen in person before. I've mentioned before that I like Masterchef Australia and it was very cool that Skye Craig's business Wild Sugar had a stall there.

I say "had" as Sunday 26 September 2010 was Wild Sugar's last stall at the Northey Street Markets. I had always looked over her stall while browsing through the markets but I had always been too shy to go over and buy something. Since this particular Sunday was the last day I could do so, I was determined to overcome my social anxiety and try at least one of Skye's desserts. I bought a glorious pink and white delicacy called "You Make Me Blush". It's a raspberry cream with macadamias and it's dairy and gluten free and organic.

It was also incredible. It was smooth and silky and creamy and rich. The chunks of macadamias contrasted perfectly with the raspberry cream and after I finished eating it I regretted not buying more. I also regretted that I had waited until the last stall to try one!

On her website, Skye has posted her recipe for Chocolate Avocado Mousse which may or may not be the same mousse she made for the Signature Dish Challenge on Masterchef Australia. After I frantically scoured the internet for some sign of where or when I could find Wild Sugar desserts again with no luck, I turned back to this recipe. Somewhere in my head I was telling myself that I had some extra avocadoes, I could make this. Of course, I had no idea what agave nectar was or what cacao powder was. I knew what coconut oil was, in fact I had some in the pantry, but I had been using it to treat my wooden chopping board and thought that I probably shouldn't switch to using it as food.

Although the internet could not tell me where I could satisfy my Wild Sugar craving, it did tell me what agave nectar and cacao powder were. I filed the information away for the following weekend when I could next make it to a health food store. Then I started clicking on the links that Google suggested would have recipes using agave and cacao. Some 50-odd delicious bookmarks later, my knowledge of raw food and gluten free/vegan options had increased exponentially. Unfortunately, so had my shopping list. Luckily, it turns out that 2 out of 3 of the health food/organic food stores I visited this weekend had specials for the first weekend of the month. It was still quite an expensive shopping expedition and I still don't have everything on my list.

I did have the ingredients to make Skye's recipe, so this afternoon I gave it a try. D wasn't confident that the mousse would be a success, so I quartered the recipe. This turned out to be a mistake, as my macadamia base was too small for my little food processor and in a fit of frustration I threw the whole unit in the bin. My little food processor was already on his way out, the spring that sits inside the blade attachment wasn't attached anymore and had to be watched carefully as it had a tendency to fall out into the food and due to its small size it could be quite difficult to find. The plastic seal for the top of the blade attachment wasn't attached anymore and had to be manually held until the top of the unit was on or it too would fall out into the food. There was also a crack in the base, but so far it hadn't showed signs of leakage. It was only $19 when it was new, but I was still a little bit hasty in throwing it out.

After my little tantrum, I transferred the macadamia base to my blender. Unfortunately, one quarter cup of macadamias and 1 tbs of agave nectar was also too small for my blender. Adding more macadamias didn't seem to make a difference. I ended up having to add some water to get the volume of the mix up to where the blades were. By that stage, I was out of macadamias and my base was quite runny. I added some almond butter (because it just happened to be in front of me on the bench) but it didn't really help. My macadamia sludge tasted great though. Since it wasn't the smooth paste I was supposed to be aiming for, I put it in the freezer hoping I could get something vaguely soft serve like out of it. I'll keep you updated when I take it out.

The mousse was much easier to pull together. I was surprise at how rich and chocolatey the cacao powder was. It tasted like the most incredible dark bitter chocolate. After making the recipe as directed, I added a bit more cacao powder and a lot more agave nectar to get a nicely rich mousse that wasn't too bitter. Skye says that you shouldn't be able to taste the avocado and you really can't. I could taste the coconut milk and that flavour was a little distracting to me. I wonder if it had something to do with the brand I used?

My mousse is currently chilling in the fridge as my freezer is too full to accommodate some frozen desserts. I plan to try and assemble tomorrow. I'll take more photos and let you know how it goes.

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