Creative Alternatives

Nowadays, we see everywhere food is served: ‘the alternative option’. There are so many different ingredients finding their way into our lives- for health reasons, intolerance reasons and hey, mixing it up for the sake of some new flavour flave.

There are blue algae + beetroot lattes, GF brownies using avocado, kumara + coconut flour, vegan eggs and about 50 different non-diary milk. Your grandmother would feel like a foreigner in most city cafes.

Let’s go through some simple alternatives that you might see around or better yet, can try at home. Whether for healthy or creative reasons, there are some fantastic ways to change up your ingredients. Maybe you’ve tried some and maybe I just made some up – you judge… after you have tried them 😉

GLUTEN FREE IDEAS

Black Bean flour: drain, rinse + puree to create 1 cup black beans and swap out 1 cup wheat flour. They make the densest, richest GF chocolate brownie without an expense. Plus you get the added bonus of fibre, protein + vitamin B1. I used to make GF chocolate brownies with black beans in the café I ran in Thailand – met my husband the same week I started making them. Magic beans? I think so.

Nut + seed loaf: many of us love some fresh beautiful bread and to be honest most commercial gluten-free bread just don’t cut it for me. And while Nut + Seed Loaf is a dense and different ‘toast’ experience. It definitely fills the gap that cardboard gluten free bread does not. Try the Midnight Baker, a beautiful boutique Auckland company or attempt your own with this recipe.

Zoodles + Squash: Heard of spaghetti squash? God bless the New World produce buyer who decided to start stocking it in NZ. I LOVE spaghetti squash, a melon-shaped pumpkin that as you roast, its flesh becomes similar to… well… spaghetti! Oh it’s fabulous- works well in place of Hokkien noodles in a stir fry too. Lower carbohydrate, no gluten, low calorie, high potassium, folic acid AND vitamin A! What a superstar! As for spiralized courgette – same awesome concept replacing those big pasta dish bowls. Handles perfectly (much better than carrot or parsnip spiralized!). Try with a creamy avocado dressing for a beautiful fresh feast.

Lasagne: See my gluten free lasagne idea in the LOWER CARB SECTION.

SALT FREE SAVOURY OPTIONS

Nutritional yeast: Yeast never sounds that appetising right? Bu hello, this inactive yeast grows on molasses + gives a beautiful savoury kick to so many meals. You can totally omit additional salt. Good Vitamin B12 (get on it my vegetarian + vegan pals!), zinc and selenium. There’s no added nasties or sugar. It goes well as a seasoning, as a hot cup in the morning (like a soup/broth!) or sprinkle it on popcorn with paprika.

Seaweed: okay so technically there is sodium going on, but compared to salt? 1g salt is 380mg sodium while seaweed is about 4mg sodium. Enough said. The flavour takes some getting used but is a great snack or sprinkled over Asian dishes, veggies or salad and you’ll be the coolest neighbour at the BBQ. High iodine, potassium and iron this darling of the ocean is worth giving a go.

LOWER CARB IDEAS

Rice: No doubt you have heard of the cauliflower rice craze – well it’s awesome! How about you try with a purple head of cauliflower or broccoli? Maybe mix with one-third portion of wild rice to really create a beautiful looking dish. You lower the GI (Glycemic Index) of the dish dramatically, plus the carbohydrate + calorie content.

Lasange: Your grandma makes a classic lasagne doesn’t she? Well, want to make it a modern + lower carb hit? Try using rice paper roll sheets and seaweed nori sheets between the layers of your meat or meat alternative sections. You still get that delicious, comfort meal inside your belly but with added nutrition of the seaweed and it’s gluten free too!

DAIRY ALTERNATIVE IDEAS

Once you stop picturing almonds having nipples, you will open your mind up to many different dairy alternatives that satisfy + are wholesome.

Nut cheese: A good friend showed me how to make a soft cashew cheese with nutritional yeast and it was mind blowing. That decadent savoury desire we have for cheese is well satiated with this alternative which has lower salt, low saturated fats and no dairy. Let all the lactose intolerant people rejoice. I have a recipe. You’re welcome.

Almond milk (pretty much every nut milk): Okay, I know it’s an obvious one – BUT MAKE YOUR OWN! If you look at the ingredients on the back of most commercial UHT almond milk – you will see between 2-8% almond content. Ahem, that is NOT almond milk, but water that some almonds fell into. All you do is blanch almonds, remove their skin and whizz them up with water (at a much better ratio!) a pinch of cinnamon and you have a creamy beautiful ‘milk’ please note that whilst dairy + soy milk give a good dose of calcium, almond milk does NOT. It is wise to ensure children and women are getting good doses of calcium per day so do not use this as the only dairy alternative.

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN IDEAS

Yes, there are tofu, lentils and chickpeas. There is also seiten, tempeh + edamame – all soybean-based products. Soy is awesome when it’s delivered to you un-GM-ed. Great vegetarian protein source + can be fabulous for hormone balance…

Mushrooms make great burgers OR even ‘buns’ they are so rich in flavour + health properties that you hardly feel like you’re missing a meat.

BINDING/BAKING IDEAS

Can’t do eggs? Try Psyllium Husk, Chia seeds, avocado or banana for binding. Psyllium + Chia expand/congeal with liquid – they set brilliantly. Avocado + banana? Well you can put these nutritious powerhouses in literally hundreds of baking + cooking dishes. You can make cakes, mousses, ice creams, breads… yeah… just do it.

SIMPLE SWEET IDEAS

Date Puree: Sure there’s sugar in dates. But they also contain fibre, iron, potassium + calcium so a much more nutritious option in your baking.

Dates + grapes: How about you just freeze them and eat them as a sweet treat/dessert? We all need some sweetness time to time right? If you are a long distance runner, a frozen date/grape in your zip up top is the perfect glucose hit at the 60minute mark.

Dessert: The easiest dessert EVER is a frozen banana, cinnamon, peanut butter whizzed together to make banana ‘nice’ cream. Three ingredients, no added sugar, tastes amazing.

Got any other alternatives? I would love to hear them!