24 April, 2014

Paleo Hazelnut Banana Date Muffins

A chiropractor once said that to me there is no running injuries, only lifestyle injuries. Our modern lifestyles have us sitting in the most awkward positions for way too long a time, e.g. at the desk in the office, with awkward postures, e.g. bent over to look down onto the laptop, with the right arm and shoulder being overused through the computer mouse, sitting on mal-fitted chairs with no lower back support. Then we come home and slouch on the sofa. We sit too much. We move too little. We eat too much, and/or the wrong foods. We sleep too little. And our lives are too crammed with things that we think need to be done.

Our postures change through lifestyle. Imbalances are being created for which we may pay our price with stiff shoulders and necks, sore hands and arms, or lower back pain. We pay the price when we exercise and develop alleged sports injuries. The body tries to compensate the weakness/imbalance with overusing other muscles which in return may put extra stress on bones, joints and ligaments.

My lifestyle injury is a weak right hip. A very experienced South African running coach with whom I met at a mutual friends' house last week told me that. We were talking about the last running season and I mentioned that I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I used to, partly because I was forced to manage injuries while training. My weak hip causes groin and pubic bone pain after hard or long running sessions.

He made me stand up and stand straight. Or whatever I considered straight. My right foot was pointing slightly outward. Proof no. 1. He made me reach down with my arms down the side of my legs. I couldn't reach as far on the right side as on the left side. Proof no. 2. When I walked in, I carried my bag over the right shoulder like I always do. Proof no. 3. Then we sat down and started chatting about this and that. After some time, I got into my most comfortable sitting position without even paying attention to it. In fact, I am sitting in exactly the same position now that I am writing this: I pull up my left leg onto the chair and sit on it with my right thigh or butt. That way, I sit mainly on the left butt while the right one is lifted. Proof no. 4. Or rather the main reason for my hip imbalance.

While I have been doing regular core strengthening exercises for about a year now, I didn't pay much attention to possible imbalances. If I train both hips in exactly the same way, they both get stronger but the imbalance remains, especially if I don't change my lifestyle, as mentioned above.

In order to get balance back, one needs to pay more attention to the weaker side. The coach said to me that I should reverse numbers: if I can do 30 side plank hip dips with my left hip, and only 15 with the right hip, I should swap these around. Needless to say I will struggle to get the 30 done with the weaker side. In that case, I do them in batches. 15 left, 15 right, short break, 15 right.
In the same way, you can work other muscles too. My left biceps is stronger than my right one.

This is easier said than done. It's hard to break habits, especially lifestyle habits. If you keep compromising your posture for several hours every day, it will be hard work to correct it in the gym in a couple of hours per week. But it should not discourage you. As long as we pay attention to what we do and how we do it, what we eat and how much of it, how much we sleep and how rested we feel afterwards, we are on the right path.

Food plays a big role when it comes to energy levels, not only for exercise but to get through the day without big dips. These muffins will be perfect to kick start your day for breakfast or to top up energy levels before a workout. Without grains and the sugar coming from dates and bananas only, they are a nutritional powerhouse and even suitable for a paleo diet. Needless to say they are absolutely delicious too. I hope you enjoy.
slightly adapted from The Healthy Foodie

(Print Recipe)

3/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons desiccated shredded coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 very ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup pitted dates, finely chopped

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shredded coconut

Yields 6
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease or line muffin molds.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas to a smooth paste. Whisk in eggs until well combined. Stir in finely chopped dates. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine nut meal, tapioca starch and coconut flour. Add shredded coconut, cinnamon, baking soda and cream of tartar until well combined. 
Gently combine wet and dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin mold. Garnish with shredded coconut and chopped hazelnuts.

Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester come out clean.

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06 April, 2014

Green Beans with Dates and Walnuts

Spring is in the air, and I find myself making salads and light vegetable dishes instead of heavy hot soups and stews or meat-laden dinners. 
One can never eat enough vegetables, I find. I eat mountains of it. And I try and make everyone else in the family eat mountains of it too. Which has the disadvantage that the fridge is always empty after preparing one or two meals for a family of four.
At the moment we have visitors from overseas. Six hungry mouths to feed. If I don't stock up on a daily basis, the fridge is basically empty by evening.

Don't get me wrong, I love my steaks, my seafood, my eggs, my protein of sorts. But I cannot deny that a tasty vegan dish with layers of flavors, textures and colors does it for me too.

As you know, I exercise a lot and I can feel the extra nutritional needs on the days or the day after of strenuous training sessions. As long as it is clean and real food, give in to your cravings. Your body just gets what it needs. 

Like with this dish of green beans. The beans are steamed, just enough to keep the crunch, then topped with sweet chopped dates, crunchy walnuts for some more texture and to add some filling good fats and a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a bit of steam. Don't you forget the cayenne pepper!

This green bean salad has everything you need and it is filling. If you eat the whole batch, like I did several times before I managed to take a picture. In fact, any dish can be a main dish if you just add enough nuts. It's not just the crunch, it's the good fats that fill you up for a long time and that will not end up on your hips like a carb-laden meal will. I hope you enjoy!

(Print Recipe)

300g/12oz green beans, washed and trimmed
1 large bowl of ice water

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced

1.4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Serves 4 as a side, 1-2 as main dish
Steam trimmed green beans until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to bowl with ice water to stop cooking process and maintain bright green color of the beans.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add walnuts, dates and cayenne and cook until the nuts are slightly toasted, about 1 more minute.

Drain the beans, then add to the skillet. Add salt and cook for a few minutes or until heated through. Season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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