Friday, September 19, 2014

Dark Chocolate Chili Brownies

TGIF people. What you up to this weekend?

My friend Elisa invited me to 14ยบ Veganique/Piquenique on Sunday, a vegan picnic that's taking place in Boa Vista which is up in the mountains in Rio. It's also where Hub and I had that epic raw dinner. Everyone has to bring a vegan dish and originally I wanted to make classic chocolate brownies, but then I had a dream about Mexican chili chocolate. I woke up inspired to make dark chocolate chili brownies! I did a test batch today and they were awesome. 

my working station

  • 2 cups whole wheat spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on how much heat you like
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp chunky sea salt
  • 1 cup sweetened soy milk
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • handful of walnuts
  • handful of roughly chopped extra dark vegan chocolate, 70% or higher
Preheat your oven to 350F/175C. Line a 9x11 inch baking tray with parchment paper and grease it with a little bit of oil. In a large bowl add the soy milk and oil and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the cocoa powder, sugar and chili then gradually mix this into your wet ingredients. The mixture should be a thick chocolaty mix. 

Now combine the spelt flour, baking powder and sea salt in a bowl and gradually mix this into your chocolaty mix using a wooden spoon or spatula.

All you want to do is combine the ingredients well. Don't over beat your batter. 

The batter should be thick, sticky and heavy. Have a taste of your batter and it should be rich, subtly sweet with a hint of chili and sea salt. Mix in your walnuts and dark chocolate chips then spread evenly into your baking dish. 

Bake for 20 minutes and voila! The brownies have a dark intense chocolaty flavor and then a mild fiery kick. So delicious!

Helpful links for this post:
Which do you prefer cakey, chewy or fudgy brownies?
3 ways to make chocolate brownies
My recipe was modified from this yummy recipe

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Sardinian Wedding

Hub and I got married on Saturday, 6th September in Santa Teresa di Gallura, a small fishing village off the northern coast of Sardinia. It was the first place we went on holiday together and where we got engaged. I always dreamed of having a destination wedding and we both agreed that it was the perfect backdrop for our nuptials.

Hub and I booked 10 days in Sardinia and we invited all our guests to join us at any point for a holiday. At first we were a little anxious about hosting everyone. We really wanted our friends and family to feel welcomed and relaxed in Santa Teresa, especially since they were all travelling from England, South Africa and the US to be with us. 

We planned a few excursions for our group and at the top of our list was dinner at a mareturismo. Sardinia is known for their agriturismos, farm based restaurants that serve local traditional fare where everything on the table is produce on the farm. It's such a lovely concept and everything from the Gallurese cheese to the Sardinian digestif mirto is made right there. So when we discovered the mareturismo Locanda dei Mori in Santa Teresa, which is similar but serves locally caught seafood instead of meat and pork, we were thrilled.

the marrying of two families

That evening was amazing and so Italian! The owner Michele was wonderful and he served us a feast of like 15 dishes. It was insane and absolutely delicious!

The following day a small group of us went on a boat tour of the Maddalena Islands and their stunning little beaches.

The rest of the week was dedicated to sunbathing on Reina Bianca beach and EATING. Prior to the trip I was trying out a vegan diet (more on that later), but in Santa Teresa I indulged in seafood. I love seafood and Gallurese cuisine is so deliciously healthy - fresh seafood with vegetables cooked simply with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. I was in heaven.

Half of our guests arrived early on in the week, while the remaining joined us for a long weekend and for our welcoming lunch on the Friday. We asked the owner Maurizio of Le Marlin Pizzeria to create a relaxed buffet for our guests, but he surprised us with a beautiful display of seafood pastas, vegetarian pizzas and all kinds of tasty nibbles. It was pretty amazing!

the groom and his ushers

our church San Vittorio Parish

our picture spot at La Madonna

We have yet to receive our official photos from our main photographer Angelo, but here are a few shots taken by his partner and our friends. 

I look forward to sharing our official photos with you, the story of Hub and I and all the little details that went into planning our dream wedding.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Just Like A Dream

It's been a busy couple of weeks.

Hub and I got hitched (again) in Northern Sardinia and it was truly a dream. It's unbelievable how fast the time flew by...from New York to London to Sardinia and back round again. Now we are back in Rio de Janeiro, slowly getting into the routine of things and yet still hungover from that wonderful wedding buzz. 

I'm sorting through all the photos and details while they are fresh in my head, but I can't wait to share with you the planning and story behind our dreamy Sardinian Wedding.

Lots of Love,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I got beef with The Big Fat Surprise

On Sunday I came across a review of this new diet book called The Big Fat Surprise and immediately became engrossed by Nina Teicholz's arguments that butter, cheese and steak are part of a healthy diet. I was completely floored by her interviews and some of the excerpts from her book in a few different reviews. I know you might think that I'm biased against things like butter, cheese, and steak because I personally try to avoid them;  but my problem with the overall message behind The Big Fat Surprise is that it seems to mislead the public into believing that a t-bone steak topped with a nob of butter is a healthful food. It's not. The book is already a New York Times best seller and it's about to launch in the UK. I was in such a frenzy the other day over Teicholz's arguments that I knew it was something I had to share with you guys. So here are a few things I got beef with. 

On Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and Heart Disease

The DailyMail shared the following excerpt, 'The original hypothesis was that saturated fats raise your total cholesterol and cause heart attacks. This is not true. Saturated fats do cause total cholesterol to go up but your total cholesterol is not a good predictor of your heart attack risk.' 

First, there are two types of cholesterol (good & bad) and our bodies naturally produce both types, which is important for healthy function. Our bodies also produce all the cholesterol it needs and the only other way that cholesterol gets into your body is by eating things like dairy, meat, poultry, eggs and seafood. Vegetarian foods do not contain ANY cholesterol so you can't add cholesterol into your body through grains, legumes, veg, fruit, etc. If you consume too many foods that are high in cholesterol you put yourself at risk for developing high blood cholesterol, which puts you at risk for heart disease (AKA heart attack). This quote is misleading because saturated fats alone and total cholesterol may not be a predictor of heart attack risk, but eating a diet high in animal foods (which naturally contain saturated fats, even the lean kind) does put you at risk for developing heart disease.  

On the Opposition

In this interview with Paleo Magazine Conversations Teicholz says that there is a lot of evidence that suggests a high fat low carb diet is better for health and "if somebody were to show me contrary evidence to that, I would have to consider that. I think any of us would."

Okay, why hasn't she considered the work of Dr Mark HymanDr. Dean OrnishDr. Neal BarnardCharlotte Gerson, or Dr. Joel Fuhrman, to name a few, who have all proven that by limiting/removing high fatty animal foods from a diet improve diseases? Teicholz is promoting a diet high in saturated fats through animal products (butter, cheese, steak); however, there is a large body of evidence that suggests a diet high in these kinds of foods can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and more. And when asked about Colin T Cambell's The China Study, a respected nutritional study whose findings contradict her own opinions, she tries to disqualify it. She argues that the study shows an association between animal foods and diseases like cancer and heart disease, but does not prove that animal foods cause diseases. I would argue that perhaps there isn't proof to suggest causation, but Americans are eating more animal proteins then ever before. Ever since the Atkins revolution, high protein diets are commonplace and yet we are getting sicker and fatter. Why? 

On Fiber

In the same interview, a viewer asked Nina about the importance of fiber in a diet and how a low carb diet leads to insufficient fiber. She basically said she supported Gary Taubes conclusion that "the science doesn't exist to show you need fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains to be healthy."

WOW... I almost fell out of my chair on this one. This statement is completely misleading, it mislead me! It reads as if she's suggesting that fiber isn't essential to butt health. There have been several studies on the affects of fiber on colon health, especially with regards to colon cancer, and the results have been mixed. There are several reasons for this, but one of the biggest problems is that these studies test fiber alone as oppose to whole fiber-rich foods like wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Dr. Joel Fuhrman said it best here:

"It is not the fiber extracted from the plant package that has miraculous health properties. It is the entire plant package considered as a whole, containing nature's anti-cancer nutrients as well as being rich in fiber. High-fiber foods offer significant protection against both cancer (including colon cancer) and heart disease. I didn't say fiber; I said high-fiber foods. We can't just add a high-fiber candy bar or sprinkle a little Metamucil on our doughnut and french fries and expect to reap the benefits of eating high-fiber foods.".

In the end...
I think I'm going to have to buy this book. Like Nina, I too believe it's good to read what the opposition is saying even if I absolutely disagree. I completely understand if people are not willing to give up summer BBQ chicken or French brie, because it's hard. It was hard for me and I've been on this gradual journey towards vegetarianism since 2005, but it's not been without hurdles or regression. I was also raised in a Latin home where food is deeply rooted in tradition and that's hard to shake. However, there is compelling evidence out there that eating a high protein diet, especially in rich foods like steak, bacon, and cheese, is dangerous to health and omnivore Michael Pollan said it best, "eat food, not too much, mostly plants." 

Helpful links for this post:
Nina Teicholz's presentation @ TEDxEast
Just what killed Dr. Atkins?
Abolishing heart disease
The optimal diet for preventing and treating diabesity
How you can prevent and reverse heart disease

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bemvindo ao Leme!

Welcome to our new digs! We finally got round to unpacking and the other night we invited our friends Shanna (of 360fit fame), Ky and their new baby girl Gisela Sky over for dinner. So the place was nice and tidy. I'm always curious to see other people's homes and wanted to share with you what an apartment in Rio looks like and our new neighborhood Leme. 

We made peanut butter pad thai for our friends, which was excellent.

I picked this up on my trip to Lima

my vintage vanity

Here's a short walk-through of our space.


Little GG conked out just after dinner...

but was up again an hour later.

radiating broodiness

Our view of down below and a little tour of Leme beach.

Sorry about the sound of the wind.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Have you seen the documentary Food Matters?

I discovered the documentary Food Matters through research and it unveils the problems with modern day medicine and reinforces the important relationship between nutrition and disease. I found this film inspiring and it got me to question myself, question what a healthy diet should look like, question medical research that I read and question my experiences with doctors. I don't know if that's enough to motivate you to watch this film, but here's the trailer and a few compelling quotes that really got me thinking.

Less than 6% of the graduating physicians in the USA receive any formal training in nutrition

"26% of patients who are discharged from hospital are more malnourished than when they went in. The reason they go in, in 80-90% of cases, is related to their poor state of nutrition."
Ian Brighthope, Prof., M.D., M.B.B.S., D.Ag.Sci

"You cannot heal can't heal one disease and keep two others. It's impossible. When the body heals, it heals everything"
Charlotte Gerson, Founder of the Gerson Institute

"In fact about half of all deaths are of cardiovascular disease and in half of those deaths, the first symptom is death"
Jerome Burne, Medical Health Journalist

"By restricting cancer research and therapy to basically drug, surgery, radiation approaches, and not consider nutrition seriously, we've done a terrible disservice to all these people"
Andrew W Saul, Ph.D, Therapeutic Nutrition Specialist and Author

It is illegal in most countries around the world to treat cancer patients with nutritional therapy

"The perfect drug from the point of view of a drug company is one, first of all, that doesn't cure people because people need to take the drug for a long period of time in order for it to be profitable."
Jerome Burne, Medical Health Journalist

"Short term [medication], lifesaving, fine. I abhor having patients on any long term medication and there is almost no medication in the world that you can't get patients off of."
Dr. Dan Rogers, Medical Doctor and Naturopath

"If all you do is treat symptoms, you are never going to cure the disease"
Dr. Dan Rogers, Medical Doctor and Naturopath

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tango City

This was a great trip and it always amazes me how time flies after a good holiday. Feels like just yesterday I was shovelling empanadas in my gob and guzzling Malbec. Although the purpose of this trip was to collect our super duper viper visas, it was a week of relaxing, indulging and gazing. I love the city of Buenos Aires and let me show you why.

I love the people in Buenos Aires, they've got lots of character. They're quirky, arty, grungy and very friendly.

And they also have no qualms about riding a horse and pony in the streets.

One afternoon Hub signed us up for wine tasting with Anuva Wines, a company that supports small wine producers that create beautiful wines in limited quantities. This was a big highlight for me and in true Lisa fashion, I took notes. I learned that fine quality sparkling wine has fine beading bubbles that flow straight up, the best Torrontes wines are from Salta,  and Argentina is the only country with original French Malbec vines. My favorite wines were the Hom Sparkling Wine, the San Gimignano Malbec Roble and the Laborum Single Vineyard Torrontes and you can order them here.

Our wine tasting also involved a little food pairing, which was a nice touch to the whole experience. We had light cheese and sorbet with our whites and dense cheeses, an empanada and chocolates with the reds.


Another foodie highlight was exploring the city's top restaurants especially parillas or steakhouses. Although I happily refrained and enjoyed some amazing vegetarian pasta dishes, Hub was on a meat mission.

Like Don Julio in Palermo Soho, which was classic. 

I was on a mission to find the best vegetarian empanada. This one from La Hormiga was lovely and stuffed with eggplant and baked in a coal pizza oven. Delicious.

One of my favorite restaurants on this trip was Aramburu, which serves a 14 dish tasting menu based on molecular gastronomy. 

Hub in laughter.

Happy Hub

Our final day was spent in Boca, my favorite neighborhood in Buenos Aires. I loved the colorful quarters of El Caminito, but the surrounding streets were equally striking. The area is very poor, but beautifully broken.

Afterwards we headed to El Obrero, which was in the middle of nowhere in Boca. I adored this place. It was a real Buenos Aires gem and the atmosphere was buzzing, the baguettes were big and soft and the pasta freshly made.

Thank you Buenos Aires for the good times. Until next time, besos.

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