I have a new oven. Not a brand new oven, but the oven of my dreams nonetheless! A lovely, big, commercial, 900mm wide, 6 burner, gas, cooking machine! It's actually been sitting downstairs in the garage for about six months, after we bought it off Trade Me last year for $450 - SUCH a good score we got. And it's been sitting in storage as we WERE going to wait until we totally renovated our kitchen before getting it all installed - gas and all. Because that makes sense right? Right after we've renovated two bathrooms, fixed the basement bathroom, replaced the roof, insulated the house, painted the house....
Turns out the house had other plans for us, and the original oven gave up the ghost last week. Granted, it was falling apart. I had to jimmy the door so that it stayed shut, and only two elements worked (one blew up when I turned it on!), and it was just the ugliest thing. Such are the joys of buying a totally original 1960s home to renovate. So anyway, the oven went kaput, RIGHT in the middle of a food styling job!! Cue urgent calls to a gas fitter and electrician to disconnect the old and connect the new. Thankfully we'd started demolishing part of the kitchen pantry last year, so our new, larger oven could actually fit - phew!
Naturally, after finishing my food styling job, I was chomping at the bit to have a good cook inside this new oven of mine. My parents plum tree was overloaded with ripe, juicy plums just begging to be made into something delicious. Mum had been busy bottling and preserving but couldn't keep up with the overload of produce. There's definitely been an abundance of home grown fruit all around the region this summer with the unusually warmer temperatures. I picked a bag full of plums and went to my pantry to see what I could whip up.
I'm all for ease when it comes to cooking. Not because I'm time poor (which I kind of am, but I digress), but because anything to simplify life in any way is a good thing in my opinion. My husband and I also started a new "diet" on New Years day. Uh huh. I said diet. On New Years day. We thought we'd give Keto a go, due to the success my Dad has had losing a lot of weight, and reversing his diabetes, and more recently being inspired by my sister in law and her husband who we saw after Christmas - who was just GLOWING. I've always wanted to glow. And both my husband and I do need to shed a few kilos. This past year I've become so sluggish and tired, I can't fit my clothes anymore, and as I approach the age of 40 (!!!!!) this year I felt I really needed to do something about my health. It's always seemed to take a back seat while my children's health has been always my primary focus. Time to think about myself for once - after all we only get one life and one body and I'm halfway to eighty!
So we just jumped straight into it. No real planning, just decided on New Years eve that we wanted/desperately needed a change in lifestyle and to get rid of some very bad eating habits, and on New Years day we just dove straight in - following a 30 day plan as a guide. I think the crazy amount of water I needed to drink made me instantly glow. That's always been something I've seriously lacked. I could literally see the pores on my face bursting with radiant hydration! About time, my poor, dehydrated, neglected pores!
So the first few days were actually okay. I did experience major sugar withdrawals and had headaches and generally felt lousy. I'm a sugar addict from way back, and I think I literally ate a years worth of sugar in December alone. I'd sit and watch a movie after dinner and eat an entire block of creamy milk chocolate in one sitting - just terrible! But after five days I was through that, and I was starting to feel more energetic, and alive. The following week I did experience what's called Keto Flu - not like the flu, but when your body is changing from utilising glucose for energy to ketones because you now lack glucose - it can do some pretty crazy things! One entire day I could barely move I was just soooooo lethargic. But then I got through that, and also the eating was totally fine - lots of meat, veges grown above the ground, and good fats. Oh, thankful for the good fats. They really do keep you satiated, and I love having my lunchtime or mid afternoon fat bomb berry smoothie or mocha frappe or bulletproof coffee! Yes!
In the third week we started intermittent fasting - something I never thought I'd be able to do, but I thought gosh if my Dad can do it (and he loves his food) - so can I. So basically we ate (and still eat now) between 12pm and 8pm, and fast for the other 16 hours, making sure we fill up on good stuff and healthy fats to keep us well satiated until lunchtime the next day. This was actually easy for me, believe it or not. I've never been a morning eater - my stomach just couldn't tolerate eating first thing - so extending that out for a few more hours was no problem. When I read about the benefits of intermittent fasting I definitely saw how it could help me in more ways than one.
That said, the whole time while doing strict keto my muscles felt terribly fatigued, and it just didn't seem right. I knew I had to listen to my body and not push it places it really couldn't go. After a bit of research, I realised my body may have been starting to use up the glycogen stores in my muscles, due to the lack of carbs, (maybe, could be something else though!) and so in week three I decided to transition to more of a low carb, high fat diet, rather than strict keto. Oh how my muscles thanked me! I had been struggling just walking up the stairs (and that's not right!!), so listening to my body in this instance, even if it meant "failing" at keto, was the best thing. After all, bio-individuality yeah. My food philosophy has always been eat what you love, and what loves you in return. Something wasn't loving me. Physically and mentally I was feeling amazing - except my poor legs. I had that clarity of mind everyone goes on about, and never in my life have I woken up feeling refreshed and clear headed and invigorated - even though I only get about six hours sleep per night. It was just my legs that were struggling - it felt like they were dead weights.
Changing up to more of a low carb diet, with intermittent fasting, and being flexible about this as well, has been the best thing for me. My husband has had no problems doing strict keto and he works out every morning, no problems. Males aye?! But he eats whatever I cook and give him, so he's not strictly keto anymore either. He's still dropping the pounds (three times faster than me - men hmmmm) and has loads of energy which is great - as I was getting worried about his "falling asleep standing up" habits.
All in all, the best thing about having started this diet is the fact that I've been incredibly mindful about what it is I'm putting into my body. And to me it's not a diet, it's a little change of lifestyle and mindset. I've gone GF, DF, paleo, gut healing, low fat, raw - you name it - before, but nothing's ever stuck as it was very prescribed, and as a passionate foodie and food stylist it was torture! So we'll see how we go with this new lifestyle and change of eating habits. Because I really do like to have my cake and eat it too - literally.
And with that, here's a very simple yet delicious recipe using the plums from Mum and Dad's tree, lemon and a handful of wholesome ingredients. What's more, you just put the whole lot in the blender (or food processor) and blitz it - effortless! I've said prep takes five minutes, it's probably more like two minutes, depending on how long it takes you to walk to the pantry to retrieve the ingredients. The nutrition values are based on using butter and sugar (refined or unrefined), but you can substitute the butter for coconut oil for it to be dairy free, and the sugar for granulated sweetener such as NatVia. Gluten free, dairy free (if using coconut oil), paleo, and faaaaairly low carb! Best served warm, with a dollop of cream or yoghurt. Enjoy xx.
A delicious gluten free, dairy free cake (if using coconut oil) with a beautiful balance of tart and just the right amount of sweet.
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 35 min
2 cups almond meal
3 Large eggs
1/4 cup sugar/granulated sweetener of your choice
100 grams melted butter
1/2 a lemon - skin and flesh
1 tsp baking soda
10 plums - pits removed, halved
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
Grease or line a 20cm cake tin.
Put all ingredients except for 6 of the plums into a high speed blender or food processor (including lemon with skin) and blend until smooth.
Pour batter into the cake tin. Place the rest of the halved plums evenly on top of the batter, flesh side up.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into middle comes out clean.
When cooled, transfer from cake tin to a serving plate.
Dust over 1 tsp of icing sugar using a sieve if desired.
Serve warm, with cream or yoghurt!
This cake will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days, preferably in the fridge in warmer weather.