Goji Protein Balls

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I was going to be picking up my nephew from kindy, and I was looking forward to it. He goes to the same primary school I went to, which I remember with fondness as I had spent a good 6 years of my childhood there. My brother told me that when his grandmother picks him up from school, they have a little ritual where she gets a donut for him. This aunt didn’t want to be outdone, so I racked my brains for what treat I could bring for him. It was hard, as adult paleo foods (liver, grass fed jerky etc.) don’t seem to hold much appeal for kids for some odd reason. But I eventually came up with an idea which I thought would work. My nephew is fascinated with spiders and stick insects, so I thought of making spiders out of protein balls and making the legs out of a paleo cracker recipe I found on the web. Using the rest of the dough, I would pipe irregular blobby sticks to become stick insects.

Things didn’t start off too well. The balls themselves tasted great but when I tried to insert the legs into the spider body, the balls fell apart, so I had to attach the legs with melted white chocolate. The stick insects didn’t look like much, but I bargained on the power of imagination to fill in the gaps.

After all that, it was time to leave and join the throng of parents collecting their spawn. We had a fun walk home, with the promise of ‘spiders’when we got back. Alas, my attempts at marketing to children didn’t go down well; my nephew found the prospect of eating spiders and stick insects repulsive and refused to have a taste. Not to mention that there was also a tube of Pringles being offered, my little protein bliss balls were no competition for the bliss point engineered by Big Food. So we ate the protein balls ourselves, and they proved to be very sustaining as we chased our nephews in the park and played at being zombies.

Goji Protein Balls

Makes 16-18

  • 1 cup of nuts (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia etc.)
  • 4 dates, pitted, finely chopped
  • 4 prunes, pitted, finely chopped (if you don’t have prunes, omit and use 6 dates in total)
  • 2 Tbsp goji berries
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp Mayvers Hazelnut & Cacao Spread
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil, cocoa butter or ghee, melted (+ 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, optional)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp honey (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp protein powder (I used whey isolate)
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Water, to bind, as necessary
  1. Process the nuts until a meal forms. Use whatever nuts you have on hand or takes your fancy. I used the Omniblend and it was very quick, only took a couple of seconds. Be careful not to overprocess them otherwise you will have nut butter.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients up to and including the protein powder, add a teaspoon of water and process until combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  3. Add the pumpkin seeds and process briefly, to break them up a bit without pulverising them. This is because I wanted to be able to see the pumpkin seeds in the balls, but if you don’t mind, you can process it with the other ingredients.
  4. Tip the contents out into a bowl and squish a little bit together with your fingers to test whether the mixture is moist enough to form balls. If the mixture separates easily, add a little water sparingly until the mixture is sticky enough to form balls. Form into balls, pressing the mixture together firmly in bite-sized portions. Can be eaten immediately or refrigerate for a firmer ball.

Optional: Drizzle balls with melted dark chocolate.

Paleo Heaven: The Australian Meat Emporium

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I want to share with you one of my favourite places, The Australian Meat Emporium in Alexandria, who supply us with meat. It is a wholesale butcher which is also open to the public. The way it works is that you clear out a large space in your freezer, then hop in the car and make your way to O’Riordan St, Alexandria. From the carpark, head for the big glass sliding doors, don a parka (a must if you want to spend more than 1 minute shopping), grab a trolley and enter paleo heaven. The shop is basically a giant coolroom and the other folks you see in fluro parkas are mostly customers although the staff also wear similar parkas. After you have thoroughly chilled yourself and filled your trolley with meat, breathe a sigh of relief as you exit, hang up your parka on the rack and mosey over to the checkout, which is mercifully warm. There is also a deli onsite and a wide range of condiments. Once you’ve paid, take your meat to the friendly butchers if you would like your meat cut up. They can vacuum pack your meat into smaller portions ($1/bag).

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One thing I appreciate about The Australian Meat Emporium is that the meat is labelled grass or grain-fed, and there are different ranges to suit various price points. There is also an incredibly wide variety of cuts including cuts which are hard to find elsewhere such as beef cheek; I am always finding new things here. Most of the meat is fresh, but there is a bank of freezers along the wall selling frozen meat. Here I found some interesting bags of pork bones containing tails, among other things, and organ meat. Look out for the purple labels, these indicate great discounts on meat nearing their best before date. On my last visit, I came away with a tray of diced goat meat, lamb ribs, scotch fillet and salami.

The prices are terrific in comparison to retail butchers (eg. $5.99/kg for grass-fed beef mince) and you don’t necessarily have to buy a big bulk pack, many of the cuts are available in smaller quantities as well. Plus – and this is a big plus – you can buy crackling by itself, or rather, slabs of pork skin which you turn into crackling.

If you are in the area, some other places worth a visit are:
The Nut Shop, wholesale outlet, 20-26 Allen St, Waterloo, Ph: (02) 9319 6574
Victoria’s Basement, Cnr. McEvoy & Harley Sts, Alexandria

The Australian Meat Emporium
29-31 O’Riordan St, Alexandria
Monday-Sunday 7am – 6pm
meatemporium.com.au

Roasted Taro

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In an impulsive fit, I bought a taro the other day and it languished in my fridge for days as I didn’t know what to do with it until I came across a recipe on The Paleo Mom for savoury roasted taro.

If you’ve never seen taro before, it looks very much like something you could imagine your prehistoric ancestors digging up, and then grunting excitedly to each other. Here’s one:

It is available from asian grocers and is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking and desserts, although I personally never understood the appeal of taro-based desserts. There is even a taro dim sum (it is the shape of a giant rice bubble, deep-fried with a brown lattice shell). They taste bland and starchy with a similar texture to that of potatoes except drier. Some people extol taro’s “complex flavour”. In terms of their nutrient profile, they are higher in carbs than potatoes (taro has 26g total carbs per 100g vs 17g in potatoes), 112 cal (taro) vs 77g (potato), higher in potassium, fibre and calcium. Taro has a similar profile to potatoes for iron, Vitamin B, magnesium, protein and sugar.

I chopped up my taro into quarters, leaving the skin on for the time being and cooked it in the pressure cooker using the steamer basket for 7 minutes. It could also be conventionally steamed for 10-12 minutes. You don’t want to overcook it otherwise it crumbles, so I cooked it until it had a texture similar to firm potatoes. Once cooked, the skin peels off easily. I chopped it into smaller pieces and tossed it in a large bowl with melted fat left over from roasting chicken (really tasty). Sprinkle with salt and put under the grill (broiler) for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until nicely browned. The edges crisp up deliciously. My favourite parts were the little chunks of taro which had broken off as they ended up uber-crunchy.

So would I eat them again? Maybe. If you can’t tolerate potatoes, taro is a good alternative. It would probably work better in a stew-type preparation as it can absorb the flavours.