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My Homemade Healthy Rusks

There’s something special about homemade rusks and there’s certainly nothing more heart warming than the aromas of rusks slowly baking in the oven on a cold winter’s day. The humble rusk is easier to make than you think!

For the sake of full disclosure, the process of developing this recipe was not without a few bumps. You see, rusks weren’t designed to be sugar or fat free. They were engineered to be packed with just about as much sugar and butter you could find in the house. So, of course, removing the essence of rusks would prove to be a bit tricky. Nonetheless, they turned out pretty darn delicious!

This recipe is loaded with fibre – from the digestive bran, oats and all bran flakes. The mixed seeds provide a good dose of healthy unsaturated fats. The rusks are relatively low in saturated fat (that’s the bad one!) too – all dairy products chosen were fat free, and margarine was chosen over butter.

You know I always like giving some variations, so here goes… Think cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed, dark chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruits, orange rind, coconut…

Of course if you are diabetic, swap out the sugar for sweetener. And if you’re feeling adventurous, swap out the self raising flour for bran rich self raising flour for an extra fibre kick!

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Ingredients (Makes: 35 rusks)

  • 500g self raising flour
  • 30g digestive bran63639355_324577131794374_1598725417575907328_n
  • 15ml baking powder
  • 5ml salt
  • 2 cups all bran flakes
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 ½ cup mixed seeds
  • 45g margarine
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 270ml plain fat free yoghurt
  • 60ml fat free milk
  • 10ml vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and spray a baking tray with spray n cook.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the margarine and sugar in a pot. Stir until dissolved. Add the margarine sugar mixture to the dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, using a whisk beat the yoghurt, eggs and milk together. Add to the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined. Don’t be alarmed, it is quite a dry mix!
  5. Press the dough into the baking tray. (HINT: wet your hands to ensure the mixture does not stick to your fingers when pressing down!).
  6. Using a knife, mark the rusks lengthwise and in width to your desired size (I did about 5cm x 8cm).
  7. Bake the rusks for 1 hour and remove from the oven.
  8. Turn the oven down to 110 degrees.
  9. Using a sharp knife cut through the rusks on the marked lines and place onto a baking sheet.
  10. Place the rusks back in the oven for 1 hour or until dry and crunchy.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.
  12. ENJOY!

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These rusks are seriously good… especially when dunked in some tea or coffee!

Have I convinced you to make your own rusks yet?

Keep warm and enjoy the long weekend,

Shani

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Master Meal Prep Sunday

Mastering your Sunday prep is one of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful week- a week that involves less stress and more productivity (and happiness!). It is no secret that meal prepping in advance can help us stay on track with our health goals. Not only does it help deter us from grabbing a ‘not so healthy option’ snack but it also eliminates the nightly ‘what should I eat for dinner’ dilemma. Without having to worry about breakie in the mornings, the kids will get to school on time and you’ll nail that morning work meeting. Without having to cook up a storm after work (and then clean up all the dishes after), you’re going to be able to enjoy quality time with your kids after school and not put them to bed late at night (besides, it is easier to get them to eat broccoli when they’re wide awake, I promise).

Meal prepping can be overwhelming. Here are some fool proof ways to make Sunday the day you ready yourself for a nutritious week ahead:

  • Plan your meals. It begins before you head to the grocery store. Make a grocery list by asking yourself the following question: What does my schedule look like this week? This will usually guide you on the meals that need to be prepared and how much of it. Otherwise, you will be left with a fridge full of rotten produce. Don’t forget to scan your pantry and fridge for items you already have on hand and plan meals around these ingredients to save costs too. Pick 2-3 different proteins, at least 3-4 veggies and 2 starches. Then combine them in different ways so you keep each meal unique. This will help to keep variety on the week’s menu but also save some space in the fridge.
  • Wash and Chop. You’d be surprised how much time a dirty bunch of spinach or a broccoli head can hold you up by. Wash and bag all of your greens and fruit on Sunday so they’re ready to be added into any dish. And, pre-chop anything you’ll be able to grab to throw in a salad or for a snack, like carrots and celery. You can also roast veggies in bulk and have them ready alongside raw ones (see my one pan recipe here: Rainbow Roasted Veg). Your fridge will look pretty and organized and you will feel in control of the week ahead. Don’t forget, you can also freeze veggies for the following week.
  • Stock snacks. Besides for the veggies sticks, prep other snacks to grab on the go – whether it be a boiled egg, bagging some nuts or portioning out some biltong.
  • Cook your grains. Make big batches of brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta or any other healthy grain to keep in the fridge so you have a base for different dishes to assemble throughout the week.
  • Prepare your protein. Fish probably doesn’t hold up so well in the fridge for a long time, but chicken breasts, lean mince, beans or lentils and eggs do. Store them to add to salads and grains later.
  • Plan for leftovers. Think big. Make a lasting dish that’s bound to end up in leftovers, like a big pot of veggies, a hearty soup (see my delicious butternut soup recipe here: My Meatless Monday Winter Warmer) or some lean bolognaise.

Don’t forget to invest in some quality containers for storage.

Good luck and have fun!

Shani

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Rainbow Roasted Veg

Sheet pan dinners are a major trend at the moment. This is the easiest, simplest and BEST way to roast vegetables – perfectly tender and packed with so much flavour! It’s a one pan wonder!

I kept it simple, using fresh garlic, dried thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Best of all? I only used veggies that I like. I tend to pick out certain veggies if they are not to my liking – like mushrooms (sorry, not a fan at all!). But if the vegetables listed here are not your favourites, this recipe can easily accommodate tons of other vegetables. But remember to include lots of different coloured veg – not only because it is pleasing on the eye, but also for all the nutrients you will be receiving. Red and orange produce give you vitamin C and A, dark green gives you iron and folate, blue and purple give you flavonoids, white gives you beta glucans…all the good stuff!

Ingredients61106991_385021402104914_117970699942887424_n

  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped butternut squash
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste (try go easy on the salt)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Use spray n cook to lightly coat a baking sheet.
  2. Place vegetables in a single layer onto the baking sheet.
  3. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss to combine.
  4. Place in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until tender.
  5. Enjoy!

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To really speed things up, you can buy precut veggies. Another tip I have is to season a chicken breast and place it on top of the veggies – this way you can enjoy a full meal in just one pan! And the clean up is a breeze.

Easy peasy (excuse the pun).

Shani

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Boost your veggie intake!

I am constantly trying to make balanced nutritious meals while spending as little time in the kitchen as possible. I’m all about being realistic which includes taking short cuts like combining food groups into easy one pan or plate meals, or even using frozen foods where available.

With all the well known benefits of eating vegetables, you’d think the entire human population would be chowing down some carrot sticks and snacking on spinach leaves. But not everyone has a built in love for the fresh produce department. My advice? It’s all about being creative… perhaps you don’t like steamed vegetables but you may like a zucchini lasagna or minestrone soup?

Here is how I focus on offering enough vegetables in my diet in a fun manner without a lot of extra time involved:

  1. Eat raw vegetables as snacks and right before dinner.

On my Sunday afternoon shop, I usually buy an assortment of peppers, chop them into slices, put them in a container and into the fridge. When it’s snack time or if I’m looking for something right before dinner, I’ll munch on some peppers (usually with hummus). Other great veggies to include are carrot and cucumber sticks, celery and baby tomatoes.

  1. Add extra vegetables to your main meals like pastas, curries or stews, mince meat, rice, cottage pies etc.

This might be a no-brainer (and probably how you got your kids to eat their veggies) but sometimes you forget – like onions to sauces, carrots in stews, spinach in pasta, peppers in rice. Add mushrooms, onions and tomatoes in your omelettes. Another great idea for winter is to make soups – think carrot soup, creamy cauliflower soup, pumpkin soup, mushroom and spinach soup… the options are endless. Check out my delicious butternut soup recipe here: My Meatless Monday Winter Warmer.

  1. Choose more plant based main meals.

Start off with meatless Mondays. Think mushroom burgers, bean curries, roasted cauliflower heads – get creative! Experiment with veggie noodles. They are easy to make and a great way to get more veggies in your diet. They are also an excellent low carb substitute.

  1. Order side salads at restaurants.

Swapping out fried chips for a side salad can sometimes give you 2 servings of veggies – and a whole lot less oily fat!

  1. Buy more, eat more.

Just like chips and chocolates, the more veggies you have in the house the more likely you are to eat them. It is all about accessibility. Keep them in sight, in mind (but not the chips and chocolates part 😉 ).

There are many unique ways you can include vegetables in your diet. By making veggies a regular part of your daily diet you will significantly increase your intake of fibre and antioxidants. Eating enough vegetables is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and is also beneficial for weight loss.

Stay tuned for my next post – a simple one pan roasted veg recipe!

Shani

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Dear Chronic Dieters…

Dear Chronic Dieters,

I hear you. You’ve had success with weight loss diets but you think about food all the time. You’ve had success with diets but it has made eating the foods you enjoy cause feelings of guilt and shame. You’ve had success with these diets but you are miserable because you eat different foods than your family. You worry about attending birthdays, weddings and business meetings because of the food. You’ve had success with your diets but the weight loss has never lasted. Considering all of this, can we really call these weight loss diets a success? This type of success comes with huge sacrifice.

The problem with these diets is that they cause you to lose so much more than weight. The things you lose along the way don’t bounce back as fast as the weight does. You regain the weight but the guilt and restrictive thoughts stick around.

Dieting is an easy trap to fall into. It can become a vicious cycle. Diets are advertised to us everywhere. They promise us results. They promise a new you. They promise happiness. They promise you that you wont fail. Which is true – you don’t fail on these diets. But these diets fail you.

So, now what? If these restrictive diets don’t work in the long run, then what? If not dieting, what do you do? Nothing?

Even as a registered dietitian, it is quite a challenge to keep up with healthy eating trends and the newest diets on the block. There’s always a new one right around the corner that promises to solve all of our problems. Most of these diets restrict certain foods (or entire food groups) as a way to lose weight, improve your health and make you ‘feel your best.’ Cut this food out, eat at these specific times, take these supplements and you’ll be on your way to eternity.

I am certainly not here to tell you that it is wrong to want to lose weight. However, spending a lifetime hopping on and off different diets just doesn’t work. I think deep down everyone knows that. Yo-yo dieting leads to weight cycling, which may contribute to chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. In other words, dieting probably isn’t great for your health, physical or mental. In my experience, restrictive dieting also leads to stress, increased risk for disordered eating and feelings of poor willpower when dieting goals are not met.

Focus on health. Focus on moving your body, not to expend calories but to make your body feel good. Focus on giving yourself foods that energize and nourish your body. Give yourself permission to eat all foods, even though they might not fit into the category of ‘healthy’ foods. Don’t label any foods off limits (unless medically indicated). Am I going to eat a cupcake everyday for breakfast? Probably not, because I prioritize healthy eating most of the time. It is always about striking a balance between nutrition and pleasure.

Broaden your definition of health to include physical, social, spiritual and emotional health. Focus on healthy ways in which to deal with stress and emotions, ways that do not include food.

Everyone’s needs are different – and that goes far beyond nutrition. LIFE HAPPENS, and you may be going through loss, pain, joy, hormonal fluctuations or celebration. Often times, these things influence our food choices and that’s okay. There isn’t one way to eat forever. It’s important to allow room for flexibility. And although this may sound like rainbows and butterflies, it is actually hard work.

A healthy weight is dependent on a number of factors and is very individualized. The scale is not the best or only indicator of your health. Getting rid of the diet mentality is a process, so try to make incremental changes and progress at your own speed. Getting to the ‘why’ of your dieting and eating behaviour can be a great first step. Take your time.

Shani

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Matzah Pizza – The Healthy Way!

Personally, I’ve always thought of the no bread thing as the eleventh plague – since to me a week without biscuits, bagels, cereal and pasta is something wacky. Beyond the unbearable cravings, a stomach full of matzah, eggs, potatoes and oil is rarely a happy one. But I’ve learned that Passover doesn’t have to be so stressful on the body. In fact, Passover offers a great opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Find new easy, healthy and tasty recipes that meet kosher for Passover criteria.

One of my fondest food memories as a child during Pesach is without a doubt matzah pizza! Problem was…I could not ever just stop at one… it has never seemed to be quite as filling as I’d like it to be. And the more pieces of matzah I topped with tomato sauce and cheese, the more calories piled on too.

Eliminate the grains entirely and opt for this lower calorie cauliflower based creation. Use a cheese grater to shred the cauliflower into small crumbles (or buy pre-prepared raw cauliflower rice) and mix with eggs, cheese and spices. Top with your favourite toppings and voila – a vegetarian and kosher for Passover concoction! This recipe also scales back on the large amounts of cheese and oil – it has just the right amount of ooey gooey cheesy goodness.

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The humble cauliflower is actually an extremely versatile vegetable. It can be used in a number of ways because of its mild flavour – it takes on the flavours of whatever you mix it with. Cauliflower is packed with powerful phytochemicals and antioxidants that help prevent diseases like cancer or cardiovascular disease. It also has an impressive array of vitamins and minerals beneficial for your gut, skin and and muscles like fibre, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, manganese and choline.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 1 large egg or 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup shredded Kosher for Pesach cheese
  • 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 230 degrees
  2. Remove the outer leaves form the cauliflower and cut into florets. Place them in a bowl of a food processer and pulse until the cauliflower is finely chopped and looks like rice.
  3. Transfer the cauliflower to a microwave safe dish or bowl. Cover and cook in the microwave for 10 minutes (you can also steam or bake it in the oven)
  4. When the cauliflower is cool, transfer it to a bowl lined with a kitchen towel. Bring the ends of the cloth together and squeeze as much liquid out of the cauliflower as you can.
  5. Transfer the cauliflower to a mixing bowl and add the egg, mixed herbs, 1/2 cup cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Mix to combine.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form the dough into a rectangle of about ¼ inch thick.
  7. Bake in the oven 15-20 minutes until cooked. Remove the baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining cheese (and pizza sauce if you’d like) over the top. Bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

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Don’t forget about the toppings! Fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, olives, avocado… the list is endless. You can serve it as pizza slices, or cut into long breadsticks!

So, instead of the usual chicken and potato dinner, give this one a try. It is a great way to get in your veggies for the day, AND it’s a nice activity for the kids to get involved in choosing their own toppings and baking their own dinner!

Chag Sameach!

Shani

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Healthy Cooking off the Grid

Wow, wow, wow. This past week (and Eskom) has thrown a serious curveball at some of my patients… Healthy eating in the dark? Is it possible?

While candlelight and silence may be the makings of a romantic dinner during a power outage, a bowl of cereal is an instant mood killer. There’s no need to order a pizza delivery, or google ‘restaurants open during load shedding.’ Here are some of my top tips to cook off the grid, shed some weight (if that is your goal) and still manage to eat nutritious meals.

Whilst we may be short of electricity, one thing South Africans are definitely not short of are our braais! They allow for some seriously versatile and creative dishes to be put together. Meat, chicken, fish, mielies and baked potatoes to name a few. Fresh ingredients can make for the most satisfying side dish to your braai meat. Apples, avocados, citrus fruits, carrots, green beans, peppers, snap peas and tomatoes are fresh foods that can be eaten raw and can be kept fresh for days unrefrigerated, so consider stocking up on some of these. For some more braai tips, check out this article: Tips for a LEKKER Braai day!.

Peanut butter sandwiches get old after a while. So, it’s time to come up with some interesting and healthy ways to combine the foods you’ve stocked up on… no cooking required of course. Here are some ideas:

  • Planned outage in the morning? Don’t know what to do for breakfast before school and work? My first suggestion (and one you’ve all heard of before), overnight oats! Here’s my recipe in case you haven’t seen it before: OATS OH SO EASY!.
  • Feeling peckish? Snack on some nuts for a good dose of healthy unsaturated fats!
  • No power during lunch? A good old fashioned salad (from the ingredients I’ve already mentioned) will do the trick. Add in a protein like tinned tuna or tinned chickpeas (remember to drain the salt water). Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you’re all set to go.
  • Veggie noodles have the wonderful ability to transform your favourite pasta dish into a low carb meal, and they do not require boiling water. Carrots, cucumber and beets can be spiralized into noodles or cut into ribbons with a veggie peeler. Toss with some seasoning like oil, vinegar, ginger and herbs for a no cook pasta dish.

In dark times like these, it is necessary to understand food safety and take the necessary precautions. Avoid buying a lot of food that needs to be frozen or refrigerated. Keep the refrigerator door closed to help prevent the food inside from spoiling. Your food will remain fresh and safe in your refrigerator for about two hours. A full freezer can keep food frozen for up to 48 hours if the door is kept shut. Foods that have partly defrosted but remain 5 degrees or less can be refrozen, otherwise should be discarded.

Have your candles ready and your torches nearby. Turning on your stove is not a requirement for a delicious healthy meal at home. So, while Eskom might not always supply you with electricity, I hope I’ve supplied you with some inspiration to make some delicious nourishing electricity free meals.

Shani

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