Saturday, 26 February 2011

Be Natural Cashew, Almond, Hazelnut and Coconut

I always get excited when I see a new cereal proudly proclaiming it's low GI status. I'm much more of a cereal for breakfast gal than a toast for gal breakfast. I'm often quite happy to eat the one cereal for years, but I will certainly try a new one (there is always the hope for the next best thing).

So I was quite excited to spy the new Be Natural range lurking on the supermarket shelves. Recycled packaging, a promise to support Landcare. All very good and responsible corporate citizenship designed to appeal to people like me.

But what of the cereal itself? Flakes made from five whole grains (wheat, oats, triticale, barley and rye,  indeed whole grain cereals make up 49% of the ingredients), mixed with  cashew, almond, hazelnut, coconut, and clusters made from linseed, pepita (pumpkin seed), and amaranth (a newish food to me, a grain touted for it's high protein content). It all sounds Frightfully Good For You, but is it?

It is Low GI. This is proudly proclaimed on the front of the pack, but I can't find the actual GI rating amongst the maze of fine print all over the sides of the pack. It is hidden on the website. 54. So just sneaking in as Low GI, but still low GI all the same. The ingredients are all recognisable food substances. There are no numbers. Which is fabulous.

Given that there's a fair amount (11%) of nuts in the cereal it isn't exactly low energy. 1790kJ per 100 gram, with 13.4gm of fat per 100gm. It is quite low in sodium (190mg per 100gm), and one serve provides only 4% of an average recommended daily intake.

But how does it taste? Well, it's ok. I'm not the greatest fan of flake type cereals, corn flakes for instance. And the flakes here a bit cardboardy. The clusters are quite tasty by themselves, but there's  not quite enough of them to drown out the cardboard quality coming from the flakes.

It is quite edible when smothered with blueberry and banana- but then what isn't?

I will probably try the apple version of this cereal at some stage, and they have a low GI mixed grain porridge that I will try when the weather turns cooler- which can't be too far away, I'm already noticing some red and yellow highlights to the trees.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Oops, Figs

I probably should have checked the GI of figs before I bought a whole tray. But I didn't.

There's a lot of figs in a whole tray
Turns out fresh figs have not been tested for GI level. Dried figs have a medium GI of 61. Most fruits seem to have a higher GI when fresh than when died, so I presume that figs are higher than 61, and so high GI. Ooops. But they are sooo delicious. And in season for such a short time. And I haven't bought a tray in a few years.

All perfectly justifiable really. They are good for the disposition of course, and that can use a bit of help most days. Figs are also frightfully good for you- with lots of fibre, calcium and antioxidants. They're probably just a bit high GI.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chia Seeds

What is it with Bolivia these days? Seems all the hot foods are from Bolivia- not a country that we usually think about all that often in Australia. Quinoa was everywhere in 2010. And now we have chia seeds for 2011. A few months ago I'd never heard of chia seeds, and then suddenly they were everywhere in the blogosphere. Understandably I was keen to get my hands on some, and give them a go. Imagine my surprise when I found some in my small town supermarket on a quiet Sunday morning! Such great excitement. But then I had to work out what to do with them.

First to work out what they are.  Chia are the seeds of a flowering plant (Salvia Hispanica), which not surprisingly is commonly known as Chia. It is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. My packet were grown in Bolivia, but Wiki says that Australia was the worlds biggest producer of chia in 2008.

So what do you do with it? I started off rather unadventurously with sprinkling it on salads with some sesame seeds, and also on my morning cereal with my breakfast boost. It wasn't bad, but not wowing me either.

I'm starting to see chia added to more products about the place too. A smoothie at Energize- banana and strawberry smoothie with LSA (Linseed/Sunflower/Almond) and (optional extra) chia. It was slightly gritty, but I suspect that was from the LSA rather than the Chia.

And today I bought a loaf of Wholemeal Chia bread at Baker's Delight (their website doesn't mention the GI value of this loaf, but one of my favourite information sources GI News gives the white chia bread a medium GI rating of 63). They had both a Wholemeal Chia loaf, as well as a White Chia loaf. I hadn't seen them before.

Wholemeal bread isn't my favourite type of bread, by any stretch. I'd much prefer a multi-grain normally.  This one is ok. The crust has a fine crackle/crunch to it that is vaguely disconcerting.

And why is there all the current buzz about Chia? There are a lot of purported health benefits. It is a good source of omega 3 fatty acid, fibre and many micronutrients- calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. Chia is mucilaginous (it makes a mucusy substance when in contact with liquid), which is postulated to help slow digestion of carbohydrates, and so may help lower the GI of food. I'll be experimenting further with chia- the chia gel sounds intriguing, if not vaguely gross as a concept, and sprouting chia sounds like fun.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Lychees- almost Low GI

I recently discovered fresh lychees for the first time! One of those great moments of serendipity. Shopping with my son, for some reason he was keen to buy some lychees- he wanted to try them. Of courese he didn't like them for some reason. Lychees would seem a kids favourite- sweet, mildly flavoured jelly like fruit- what's not to like?

Lychees are almost low GI (GI value 57, which is medium GI, whereas low GI is <55). They have lots of health benefits besides their delicious taste. High in Vitamin C (just 9 would supply an adults daily requirement), trace elements and cancer fighting compounds.

Canned lychees tend to be packed in sugar syrup and are high GI, and so to be avoided. Another reason to tuck into the simple beauty of the fresh fruit.

And just a quick google for lychee recipes provides a wealth of cocktail recipes! They definitely look to be worth exploring.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Coriander and Lime Hummus

I've been having a bit of a hummus revival the past few weeks! I've been soaking and cooking chickpeas for the first time in at least 20 years, and greatly enjoying it. I've learnt that cooking a whole packet of chickpeas is really a bit much when you just want enough for a 400gm tin. Half a pack is enough for that, and you still have some left overs for adding to salads, without having to eat chickpeas twice a day all week.

I've long wanted to try flavoured hummus but never really got around to it. I've made this recipe twice. Once using lemon juice and tahini, the second time using lime juice and peanut butter. Both were good. But the lime version was greener, punchier, much more tasty, and absolutely delicious. And will keep the scurvy at bay....

With some pita crisps or crudites it makes excellent nibblies for friends or a great work lunch.

Coriander to Australians is what Americans would call cilantro. I absolutely love coriander- can't get enough of it. I pile it thickly in a layer on sandwiches, and particularly love it in combination with avocado and sweet chilli sauce. I've never understood why some people seem to dislike it- I always thought that they were just strange! But this recent article in the New York Times helps explain why some poor people just can't eat it! I must say I would almost find that to be a disability.

Coriander and Lime Hummus

The leaves from a good sized bunch of coriander (about 1 cup firmly packed fresh coriander leaves)
2 cloves garlic, quartered
400g cooked chickpeas, drained (or 400gm tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained)
2 tblsp (40ml) olive oil
1 1/2 tblsp (30ml) lime juice
1 tblsp (20ml) peanut butter
3 tsp sweet chili sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Process the coriander and garlic until finely chopped.

Add the remaining ingredients; process until almost smooth. Season to taste.

Adapted from a recipe in the Australian Women's Weekly November 2010. The recipe originally had lemon juice and tahini, but I had a heap of limes in the vegie crisper and thought it would be interesting to try that, particularly in light of my recent Peanut Butter Hummus Triumph. The lemon/ tahini version was nice, but didn't quite sing as much as the lime/peanut butter version. The lime version was also moister than the lemon one, not sure why. With the lemon one I had to add a bit more oil and lemon juice, and still got a relatively dry consistency. This one was perfect as is.

Lemon tahini coriander hummus

The original recipe had 2 tsp of sweet chilli sauce, which wasn't quite enough. I tried 3 tsp the second time I made it. Still not quite there. I'm nearly out of sweet chilli sauce at the moment. But after I replenish stocks, next time I'll try a tablespoon, to give it a bit more zing.

I will only eat one brand of sweet chilli sauce, which sadly isn't available in my patch of small town Australia. I'm looking forward to stocking up on an upcoming trip to Sydney.