Monday, March 7, 2011

Tahini tutorial.

So as promised I'm doing a tahini tutorial. Making home made tahini is really very easy, there is only one tricky past (but we'll just cross that bridge when we get there.)

So to start of you roast the sesame seeds. Apparently you can make "raw" tahini, but it is MUCH more bitter then the average kind. This is actually the most difficult part of the whole tahini making process, because you need to find the perfect roasting time - on most sources I've found it was 15 minutes on 170 C. I didn't use a timer (ignorance is bliss) and although the seeds were only slightly browned, after a few minutes of blending they ended up looking like this.

The smell was overpowering burned as was the flavor. So I ended up trashing that batch and starting from scratch. Moral of the story, it's better to under-cook then overcook the sesame seeds.

Alright, so you take your roasted sesame seeds and you stick them in your food processor or vita-mix (a powerful hand blender worked for me).

Blend, blend, blend

After about 10 minutes (the time will vary depending on what you are processing the seeds with) it will start to look like this.

Keep blending until its drippy and looks something like this.

I've found tahini to be a tad too bitter for me on it's own ( perhaps I under-roasted the sesame seeds) but I was able to make the most amazing hummus with it.

Not my picture, but it looked EXACTLY like this...

And if you're wondering why go through all this trouble to make something you might not even like, here is some encouragement:

Health benefits of sesame seeds:
  • A high source of mono and polyunsaturated fats, sesame seeds help in maintaining a healthy cardio-vascular system. In addition to this, these seeds have significant amount of saturated fats as well.
  • The magnesium present in the seeds helps prevent asthma, by lowering airway spasm, controlling high blood pressure and restoring the normal sleeping pattern in women suffering from the symptoms associated with menopause.
  • Magnesium also aids the body in preventing the spasm of the trigeminal blood vessels, which is the main triggering factor behind migraine attacks.
  • Sesame seeds also have a high copper content. This mineral is essential in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems and therefore helps relieve the pain and swelling associated with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis).
  • The high levels of calcium and magnesium present in these seeds help build bones, enhance bone density, lower the risk of osteoporosis and also regulate the body metabolism.
  • Sesame seeds are especially high in dietary fiber and proteins. Hence, they provide the required protein levels to the body and also help add roughage in the intestines.
  • The mineral iron, present in these seeds, is very essential in the process of respiration, at the cellular level. It helps carry oxygen to the cells, by synthesizing hemoglobin in the body.
  • High in zinc, sesame seeds help in healing wounds and strengthening the immune system of the body.
  • The dietary fiber, along with the phytosterols, present in these seeds lowers the LDL levels in the blood and helps maintain blood glucose levels.
  • Sesame seeds contain lignans (the plant compounds), which are essential antioxidants that act against cancer, by reducing the cell damage caused by free radicals.
  • 1/2 a cup of sesame seeds contains 3 x more calcium then a cup of milk.

So try it, you just might like it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Love the fat

As someone recovering from an ED my biggest fear used to be fats. I didn't understand the concept that fats didn't make you gain weight (not that I couldn't have afforded to anyway) and the whole calorie input/output ratio. I avoided anything with the slightest amount of fat like it was the plague, and tried my best to suppress my nut cravings (my body's way of crying out for fats). When that got out of hand I would find myself eating nuts by the handful and not being able to control myself. It was the most frightening feeling.

But I've learned a better way to live – just give your body the fats it desperately needs. I still struggle with this concept a bit, but I am slowly learning to embrace my love of healthy fats to the full.

Oh yes, fats are HEALTHY. In today it's all about the low-fat this 'n' that, and products that have a reduced amount of fat commonly find their way into the shopping carts of people who are a) trying to lose weight or b) eat healthy. But is low-fat really healthy?

Most people are aware of the fact that fat is essential to the body functioning properly. It is needed for energy, healthy skin and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Of course most people think of these benefits in context with the so-called “good fats” – mono -saturated, polyunsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids . The truth is however, that these saturated fats are also a needed part of an every day diet. Cell membranes are made up of both unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, which means the body needs a variety of fat sources. Without saturated fat, they would lose their stiffness, and be unable to function properly. We should eat foods with saturated fat so our body can absorb and utilize other essentials. In addition saturated fat contributes to brain health and immune health.

Of course the key is moderation and ideally only 10% of our total energy intake should come from saturated fats. But I thought it was interesting to point out the animal fats are not all bad. So go ahead and eat:

It won't kill you (I'm preaching at myself here as well)

Recently my healthy living goal has been to include more fats into my diet – particularly the plant based kind (I already eat my fair share of cheese and eggs). This means nuts, nut butters, avocados and olive oil. One problem with this most recent venture of mine is that 100% nut and seed butters are extremely expensive. So I've decided to make my own. Armed with my trusted hand blender we set out to take over the world, one nut butter at a time.

Yes it's just a hand blender, but it has some amazing power to it :P. Although I'm sure a food processor or Vita-mix would do the job much better, we work with what we've got.

So far I have almond, coconut butters under my belt, as well as tahini (I'll be doing a tutorial on this one, so stay tuned). Looking forward to some yummy nutty snacks ahead.

My success stories :P
Coconut butter

Raw almond butter


I still have yet to find new and creative ways to use my newly acquired nut butters. Although this has been my favorite combo so far – raw almond butter on a cracker topped with banana.

And speaking of healthy fats let's not forget my green little friend – Mr. Avocado.

I love eating him on toast with a sunny side up egg, plain with lemon and salt, or in a white bean spread. Delish!

So don't be afraid to enjoy your fats everyone. It tastes good AND it's healthy. What more could you want?

(If you haven't been getting a lot of fats in your diet I've found from personal experience it pays to go slow and give your body a chance to adjust. There have been times I've overdone it a bit and ended up with extreme nausea and stomach pain.)

What's your stance on fat?

Got any tahini, almond butter, coconut butter recipes to suggest?