When I was a child Christmas time was just SO exciting! Santa Claus came down our chimney every single year, without a sound but right on queue (it was pure magic that he knew we were sound asleep) with a sack full of presents for me and my family... and he would eat his Christmas mince pie (always leaving a few crumbs) and empty a big brown bottle of beer just to prove to my brothers and I that he really had been there! AMAZING!!
Thanks Mum and Dad xx
Then I grew up and had my own children and Christmas time was just a little less exciting but still a lot of fun (and a lot more work) creating the fantasy of Santa Claus for them.
Now my darlings have nearly all grown up and left home and while I wait (in no hurry at all) for them to start producing their offspring so I can play with the fantasy of Santa once again) I can really enjoy what I love most of all at this time of year - celebrating friends and family with love and laughter and good food.
The "good food" is at it's very best over Christmas with all our early summer harvests.
Last night we had friends for dinner and the meal was a delicious Mediterranean based bar-b-q feast with plenty of garlic and parmesan cheese, which normally would have been the prominent aroma's wafting around my house, but instead, when one of my guests stepped into the kitchen, what she delighted exclaimed she could smell was the amazing sweet heady scent of the strawberries I had bought yesterday from one of our local growers. They are divinely good right now!
Last night I served my delicious strawberries with home-made chocolate truffles (a Jamie Oliver inspiration)
These delightfully decadent and very Christmassy morsels are a fabulous gift idea. Find a beautiful little box or jar and wrap them up for the best Christmas chocolates ever!
Divine and easy Chocolate Truffles
(makes 30 or 40 or 50 depending on how big or small you make them!)
2 blocks 100g Green & Black's organic Dark 85% Chocolate
1 Block 100g Green & Black's organic Dark 70% Chocolate
(this chocolate brand is readily available in the confectionary section of all good supermarkets)
Break up all the chocolate (into roughly single square size) into a medium sized mixing bowl
Heat together until almost boiling, but DO NOT BOIL:
300mls Lewis Road organic cream (available at most supermarkets, otherwise regular cream)
finely grated zest of 1 small (preferably organic of course) orange
1 generous knob of butter
Pour the hot cream mix over the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate has all melted and the mixture is smooth.
Then, stir in a single nip of whiskey or Brandy or whatever you wish for very subtle flavouring, or none of the afore mentioned if you would prefer booze free and plain
Now scrape truffle mix into a smaller bowl, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, after which time it will be firm to handle and form into balls using a teaspoon or whatever tool you wish. Have a small bowl of Cacao powder, cocoa and/or finely chopped nuts of choice, ready to drop formed balls into and they are ready to serve.
Warning - VERY delish and VERY rich, as all good chocolate things are! So as with all good food, eat mindfully and enjoy!!
PS This scrumptious Muesli would make a superb Christmas present! There is a good variety of gorgeous air tight jars available on the market. Just be sure to give it to someone who you know will gobble it up with great joy!
Grains in our food chain are causing havoc! Gluten intolerance has been topical but controversial for awhile now but what has been more recently coming through strongly in research is that perhaps gluten is not exactly the culprit alone in many cases and that it is other molecules which are found in grain that are causing gastro-intestinal problems, IBS and even inflammation processes in other parts of our body.
There are many reasons which have lead me to understand we can live healthier happier lives grain free.
Grains are the seeds of plants from the grass family. The grains we commonly eat are wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn and rice (most people seem to be able to tolerate rice). Grains can be difficult for our bodies to digest so anyone who has anything but an absolutely perfect digestive system may very well need to give up grains entirely temporarily or permanently before they can truly heal and be well.
A good variety of vegetables, fruits and berries, nuts and seeds consumed daily gives us more fibre, carbohydrates and nutrients than grains could ever give us and we are so fortunate here in New Zealand to have a bountiful supply of these wonderful foods available all year long.
I hope as time goes on I will manage to help you realise that cooking and eating grain free is a perfectly easy and delicious way to live!
You can mix and match according to what is in your pantry/what your dietary requirements are/what you like!. This is densely nutrient rich and a serving size is 1/3 cup. I personally like it with about 1/2 cup yoghurt and an ½ a banana or orange chopped up - I find that this sustains me perfectly well through the morning. Yummy with berries or any other allowed fruit Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees C
Gently warm to melt:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup (simply omit this if you want to be sugar free)
Very roughly chop and put into a large mixing bowl:
1 cup Almonds
1 cup cashews
1 cup brazil nuts
1 cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 cup coconut threads
1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Mix thoroughly together before drizzling over the melted coconut oil (and honey) as you stir gently, until evenly dispersed through the dry ingredients.
Spread out into a large roasting pan/oven tray with low sides; place in preheated oven; stir after 10 minutes and bake for 10 more minutes before switching off the oven.
Then stir in:
1 cup ground flax seed
Leave the muesli in the oven until completely cool (this gets it really crunchy!). I like to make this after dinner is done and then leave it in the oven overnight. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Meryn Wakelin is a Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Nutrition Consultant (and passionate cook of all good food) with clinics in Pukekohe and Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand.