Product review: Peak Chocolate Bar by True Protein

Yes, this is a chocolate bar sold as a fitness supplement. This is the sort of thing that gets my coach fired up about the money-driven fitness supplement industry, but I could not resist and had to try it as soon as it got released. Given the ingredient list (80% dark choc, creatine monohydrate, BCAAs, organic caffeine, and Himalayan rock salt), I expected it to be at the very least a decent chocolate bar, even if it didn’t accelerate muscle growth and increase energy as promised.

Peak chocolate bar

Nutrition wise, each 25g serve (1/2 bar) provides 2.5g protein, 4.7g CHO (of which 3.6g are sugar), 70mg caffeine, 1.5g creatine monohydrate and 1.0g BCAAs. The bars sell for $5.90.

Peak chocolate bar NIP

So I gave it a shot pre-workout on 4 consecutive sessions. I loved the flavour and texture, which reminded me of other raw chocolate bars such as Loving Earth, but lacked the fruitiness of my favourite (Alter Eco 85%).

Sadly, I did not seem to get any of the advertised fitness benefits. Maybe I didn’t have the right dose, maybe I’m too old for these things to make a difference, or maybe I suck so much the difference was not significant. Either way, the chocolate was enjoyable as a snack.

Click this link to buy Peak chocolate bar. If you’re not sold on the idea of the choc bar, at least give their protein powders a shot; we use them regularly and can totally recommend them.

Product review: Kooee! jerky

Jerky and macadamias are my go-to snack when I need something nutritious and portable. My favourite macadamias are Hand’n’Hoe (I buy them at the Eveleigh farmers market) but I’m still looking for the “perfect” jerky.

I was researching some things (read: wasting time) on the net when I came across Kooee! jerky, which caught my eye thanks to their short list of gluten-free, refined sugar-free ingredients. This jerky is made in Tassie using top quality Cape Grim grass-fed beef.

Smoked chipotle, sesame ginger

The current flavours are smoked chipotle and sesame ginger. I love the packaging, both visually and functionally. The serve is not huge but you can reseal the bag in case you don’t finish all the jerky in one go. The jerky pieces are the right size (don’t you hate when you get a long strip that is impossible to break down with your bare hands?) and, most importantly, very thin. This means that they are easier to chew and, in the case of the sesame ginger, crunchy. I absolutely loved both flavours but if I had to choose, I would pick the smoked chipotle, which was not very hot.

Smoked chipotle nutrition facts

Sesame ginger nutrition facts

I also got a sneak peek of new flavours that are in the pipeline: habanero and mountain pepper.

Habanero, mountain pepper

The habanero flavour is H-O-T, even for me. The heat overpowers the flavour if you eat these by themselves but I can imagine they would make a great vehicle for guacamole, for example. The mountain pepper was nice, with a more familiar jerky flavour.

Habanero nutrition facts

Mountain pepper nutrition facts

Out of the four flavours I sampled I preferred the two that are currently on the market (sesame ginger and smoked chipotle). A huge thanks to Andy for sending me the samples, and, most importantly, for his excellent customer service. I have found my favourite brand of jerky.

Head over to Kooee!’s website to learn more about this great beef jerky.

Cookbook cook-up: AltShift recipes by Sheryl Seib (week 1)

After ~3 months of doing the AltShift experiment I finally got to try some of the recipes in the book, developed by the author’s wife Sheryl Seib. What took me so long was a slight apprehension to introducing too much dairy into our diet, since both Alvaro and I get some respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms when consuming dairy. There are a few dairy-free recipes in the book but I must admit the dairy-full ones look more appetising. Here is what we tried on week 1:

Hamburger Soup: A dairy-free, super easy and comforting recipe. The hardest part was making the zucchini noodles, so go figure how easy it was to make.

Hamburger Soup

AltShift Mayonnaise: People in the Facebook group rave about this recipe. It features whole eggs instead of yolks, and more oil than I normally use. For that reason (and the fact that patience is not one of my strengths) I was afraid it wouldn’t work, but it did! It was super tasty despite the green colour due to the avocado oil.

AltShift Mayonnaise

Baked Salmon: The hardest step in this recipe was walking to Marrickville Metro to buy salmon. Really. Apart from easy, it’s dairy-free, delicious and healthy. It’s good straight out of the oven or cold as leftovers.

Baked Salmon

Sweet & Sour Sauce: This is a very simple Cantonese-style sauce. The recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze in portions for later.

Sweet & Sour Chicken: This is possibly the simplest recipe in the book, provided you have already made the sauce. We ate the chicken with steamed carrots and zucchini, and I imagine it’d taste great with rice, too.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

AltShift Lasagna: This recipe is (low fat) dairy-full and requires a bit more work than the others but wow! This stuff is crack! Part of the work was to find suitable ingredients… it calls for non-fat cheeses which I wasn’t able to find, so I got low/reduced-fat ones.

AltShift Lasagna

Tarragon Turkey: Another comfort food recipe. This stew is easy to make, it doesn’t take too long to cook (because it uses turkey mince) and it’s a crowd pleaser. It’s dairy-free if you omit the sour cream dollop on top.

Tarragon Turkey

Turkey Sausage and Egg Whites: This is a dairy-free protein-packed simple breakfast for those dreaded 3S mornings. I don’t use non-stick pans so there was some burnt bits that stuck to the pan, but otherwise it was a nice deviation from my routine.

Turkey Sausage and Egg Whites

Day After Thanksgiving Salad: We don’t have Thanksgiving here but we do have deli turkey breast, which is the alternative meat according to the recipe. This is a quick salad to put together, very tasty but it does contain dairy.

Day After Thanksgiving Salad

Taco Sauce: This is a great sauce to have in hand if you like Mexican flavours and can do dairy. Featured in the next recipe.

5 Shift Taco Salad: A low-carb alternative to a real taco. It requires a bit of preparation (to make the sauce and cook the meat) but is easy to make and very very tasty. Not dairy-free, though.

5 Shift Taco Salad

The AltShift book is available at 30kview.com.

Product review: Bulletproof collagen bar

On our visit to Paleo Cafe Burleigh I noticed the new Bulletproof® collagen bars on sale. If you haven’t heard about the Bulletproof® diet or Dave Asprey head to his website: www.bulletproofexec.com to find out.

Bulletproof collagen bar

The ingredients in these bars are: organic cashew butter, Bulletproof® Upgraded Collagen Protein, chicory root fiber, Bulletproof® XCT™ Oil Powder, (Caprylic and Capric Acid Triglycerides sourced from coconut and/or palm kernel oil) organic cashews, organic Bulletproof® Upgraded Chocolate Powder (raw cacao powder), Bulletproof® Brain Octane (Caprylic Acid Triglycerides sourced from coconut and/or palm kernel oil), organic coconut oil, sea salt, stevia. The carb content is 15g of which 2g are sugars. Pretty good IMO.

Bulletproof collagen bar

The bar is on the dry side, which I prefer over the more chewy texture. The flavour was awesome and, while not as effective as a Bulletproof® coffee, it seemed to provide a bit of a buzz.

Bulletproof
www.bulletproofexec.com

Optimoz (Australian distributor)
www.optimoz.com.au

Product review: Chrissy’s Cuts sausages (plus recipe inside)

These paleo-friendly sausages are made with quality cuts of meat that come from ethically farmed free-range and grass-fed animals. In addition, they do not contain any fillers, flours, nitrates or additives. I love her tagline “because meat shouldn’t be a mystery”.

Pork shoulder sausages with bacon and maple syrup

The current varieties on offer are beef brisket with smuggled greens and pork shoulder with bacon and maple syrup (killer combo!). I got a pack of the latter to sample. As you can see from the photo below, the ingredients list is super clean.

Pork shoulder sausages with bacon and maple syrup

Instead of just cooking the sausages and throwing them on a pile of coleslaw (my default modus operandi), I decided to use them to make a version of a breakfast that I’ve been digging lately: Scotch eggs. I normally use pork mince and season it with herbs and spices, but these sausages made everything so much easier. This can literally be a 2-ingredient recipe (if you serve it sans dipping sauce), and works beautifully for breakfast, as party/picnic food or as a snack on the go.

Bacon & maple Scotch eggs with chipotle mayonnaise
Yield: 2-4 servings

Scotch eggs

Ingredients

To serve

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, homemade if possible
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp chipotle powder

Directions

  1. Hard-boil the eggs to your liking. Here’s my method: put in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and wait 2 minutes. Turn heat off, leave eggs in the pot for 20 minutes. Drain water off the pot, leave eggs to cool down for approximately 50 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  3. Squeeze sausage contents from the casings. Divide in 4 even portions.
  4. Extend a portion flat in the palm of your hand, forming a circle. Place an egg on top and wrap it with the meat. Make sure the coating is even and there are no gaps.
  5. Put wrapped eggs on a tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned.
  6. Mix mayonnaise and chipotle powder.
  7. Dip eggs in chipotle mayonnaise and enjoy.

Chrissy’s Cuts
www.chrissyscuts.com.au
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Product review: Lekker Tucker Biltong

I was walking past the tiny Newtown weekend market when I saw a stall selling biltong. Naturally, I had to stop and ask some questions. It turns out that the friendly French guy behind this product is very mindful of ingredient quality (the meat is grass-fed and ethically raised, bought straight from the farmer) and clean flavour.

Lekker Tucker biltong

I bought a couple of bags in chilli and fennel flavour (I like these better than the bush spices flavour), both for $20. The ingredients in both are: premium Australian beef, organic spices, organic apple cider vinegar, brown sugar chilli and sea salt.

Lekker Tucker biltong

Lekker Tucker biltong

Lekker Tucker biltong

Making ghee in a slow cooker

Full disclosure: I didn’t come up with this idea, but stumbled across this blog post a while ago and have been using this method ever since. This time I took note of quantities and times, in case someone is interested in trying. I used 14 blocks of Westgold unsalted butter (bought in Woolies) and it took 1 hour and 35 minutes in the low setting of my slow cooker for all of them to melt.

Butter in slow cooker

What I do next is to ladle the ghee into jars through a sieve lined up with cheesecloth. The finer the sieve (or the more layers of cheesecloth you use), the better, but the more patient you need to be.

Melted ghee

How do you know you should stop pouring melted ghee into your jars? In theory, if you have a good enough straining device you should be able to pour everything because it would get filtered anyway. In practice, I always stop when I start getting more than a few drops of milk solids in every spoonful I take.

Milk solids

I always use the last jar first, because it’s the one that has more milk solids and therefore will last less. In theory pure ghee should be shelf stable for months, but I prefer to play it safe and keep my jars in the fridge.

Jarred ghee

Product review: Absolute Biltong jerky

It was a sad day when I found out that the jerky I loved and bought regularly was halal. Luckily, a quick internet search came up with an alternative that, while not being “strictly paleo” (whatever that means) is grass-fed, gluten-free and explicitly not halal.

I got a bunch of different flavours to try: venison (plain), beef (plain and pepper), emu, and water buffalo. Seasonings include GF soy sauce, red wine, a tiny bit of brown sugar, salt, spices, and tabasco.

Coming from consuming a brand with a lot less ingredients, it took me a while to get used to the bolder flavour. It’s not bad, just different. Out of the meats I tried, I found the emu too gamey for my taste, but would definitely buy the rest again. The smaller packs have the advantage that the jerky comes already chopped up.

Absolute Biltong
www.absolutebiltong.com.au

Recipe: Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo (smashed plantains, mussels and chorizo)

Last time I went to Tienda Latina to buy food for my birthday I noticed they had sliced and pre-cooked ripe plantains in the freezer. I grabbed a bag without even asking for the price and started thinking what to do with them.

Frozen sliced ripe plantain

It didn’t take me too long to decide: I wanted to make a version of majarisco, a dish from the North of Perú that features plátano majado (smashed plantains) and seafood. To keep things simple, I used frozen mussels and chorizo (also bought at Tienda Latina) for this version.

Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo
Yield: 5-6 servings

Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo

Ingredients

  • 500g frozen pre-cooked plantains (or 500g fresh plantains, sliced and cooked in fat)
  • 500g chorizo
  • 1-2 Tb fat of choice (I used ghee)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb chilli paste (I use Peruvian ají panca but any kind will do)
  • 1kg frozen mussels
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup fish (or vegetable) stock
  • 2 Tb apple cider vinegar

To serve:

Directions

  1. Smash plantains with a pestle or similar heavy object.
  2. Slice chorizo.
  3. Chop onion and garlic, cook in fat on medium heat until soft. Add chilli paste.
  4. Add chorizo, stir until completely cooked.
  5. Add plantains, stir.
  6. Add mussels, wine, fish stock and vinegar, reduce until a thick sauce is formed.
  7. Serve with greens and salsa criolla, garnish with coriander.

Product review: Ecobar raw energy bars

Shout-out to my classmate Rob who posted a picture of Ecobars on Facebook. I’ve been wanting to try cricket bars since I heard about Exo bars 1-2 years ago, but they were not available in Australia. Now we have Ecobars, made with cricket flour, perhaps the most sustainable source of protein.

Ecobar

I bought these for $3.95 each at Healthy Living. The currently available flavours are mango orange and chia spirulina. We liked both and no, you cannot taste the crickets. Maybe because the flour is not one of the top ingredients, which also means the bars are higher in carbs than protein.

Chia spirulina Ecobar

Ingredients in the chia spirulina bars are: dates, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, cricket flour, apple juice concentrate, spirulina, coconut oil, lemon extract, rosemary extract (14.2g CHO, 4.8g protein). And in the mango orange bars: almonds, dates, mango (dried & extract), cricket flour), orange juice (powder & concentrate), coconut oil, rosemary extract (14.2g CHO and 4.4g protein). Texture-wise, the bars are on the soft side, sort of cake-y. Not bad, but I prefer crunchier ones. Next time I’ll freeze them.

Mango orange Ecobar

Ecobar
www.ecobars.com.au