Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate Healthy Truffles

This was an experiment rather than anything else to see what kind of high protein/high mineral/high fibre snack I could make.  Really pleased with the result!  Despite the wacky ingredients, they're delicious (think chocolate cheesecake/brownie mix), not too sickly, and incredibly filling! I accidentally(!) ate 5 and may never need to eat again... They look high in fat because of the cheese and the almonds, but that also pushes up the protein and mineral content so I think is worth it, as part of a balanced diet. 

On testing these ones out on friends, it seems that people prefer a sweeter truffle, so maybe add more powder sweetener to taste.  Or even smoked chilli?  The kinako flavour overpowers the cocoa a bit, so next time I think I'll try rolling in cocoa or ground almonds...  Will update...

Nutrition Data (for 2 truffles)
Calories: 120
Protein: 5.8g
Carbohydrate: 9g
Fat: 6.8g
Fibre: 2.2g
Calcium: 118mg
Magnesium: 36.4mg
Zinc: 0.8mg
Iron: 1.6mg

100g red kidney beans
28g ground almonds
2 fresh figs (70g total)
28g grated cheddar
2 pieces iron-enriched processed cheese (30g total)
15g cocoa
1 tsp zero calorie liquid or powder sweetener
7g kinako (roasted soy bean flour), for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend as far as possible, then mash in a bowl using a fork.
  • Put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto a baking tray and spoon on 10 heaped teaspoons of mixture, flattening into rounds.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then cool on the paper on a wire rack. All you will have done is dry out the mixture a bit.
  • Roll each round into a ball and into kinako (roasted soy bean flour).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Growing Goya

So that I can find this information on growing goya again this year, this is an article I found back in May this year.  

'Green curtains' block heat, save energy

A growing number of people are turning to nature to help them save electricity this summer, creating so-called green curtains of climbing plants.
According to the Energy Conservation Center, Japan, a key element in power conservation is reducing the use of air conditioners, which consume the most electricity in homes. A green curtain helps block the sun and keep room temperatures from rising through transpiration of the plant's leaves.
Green curtains can be easily set up at home, and Tokyo's Itabashi Ward Office has been promoting them as an effective way to battle global warming.
With power shortages expected this summer as a result of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the ward office has received an increasing number of inquiries from local residents about growing green curtains.
It also received more than two applications for every spot available in a class organized by the ward office on how to grow a green curtain.
Likewise, Katsushika Ward of Tokyo distributed free goya bitter gourd seeds to residents in late April. All 500 packets were taken by the second day.
A Katsushika Ward official in charge of distributing the seeds said, "Interest is higher [in growing goya] than usual. Many people are trying to grow it for the first time."
Tsuneo Kobayashi of Itabashi Ward, 79, has grown goya since 2009. He said the plant can make a four-meter high and three-meter wide green curtain as its vines grow.
"The room with a green curtain is clearly cooler than one next to it, which gets direct sun," Kobayashi said. "Seeing green plants soothes me."
Plants suitable for making green curtains include goya, bottle gourd, morning glory and others.
Accordnig to Koichi Sugawara, secretary general of the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Midori no Curtain Oendan (green curtain cheering squad): "You can save money on electricity by making green curtains, which also give you the joy of growing and harvesting something."
Ichiro Awano, public relations director of Sakata Seed Co. in Yokohama, recommended goya for green curtains because it is easy to grow. People who want to use planters should purchase one that can contains at least 36 liters of soil, Awano said.
Goya seedlings should be planted 20 centimeters apart in a planter filled with soil for growing vegetables. It is important to fix a garden net firmly under the eaves, which goya vines could twine around. A net with a mesh of 10 to 18 centimeters should be used, Awano said.
When goya has seven or eight mature leaves, the tip of its stem should be nipped off to help lateral buds grow. Provide additional fertilizer after goya begins bearing vegetables, he added.
"If you want to make a thick leafy curtain, you should give extra nitrogen fertilizer," Awano said. "But this will result in a slightly smaller harvest."
It is now the season for planting seedlings in Japan, but the best time differs slightly by region.
"Before you actually start, you should seek advice on how to grow seedlings at the garden shop where you purchase them," Awano said.
(May. 10, 2011)

See also

Goya (Nigauri/Bitter Gourd)

I've just found this post that I started back on 15th August, but never got round to posting.  This strange knobbly looking vegetable is a goya, quite possibly one of my favourite vegetables for its fresh unusual taste and nutritional value.
I first ate this five years ago when I went to Okinawa, the southern-most group of islands in Japan.  In Okinawa, it is most well-known in Goya Champuru recipes.  It seems to be a vegetable that causes mixed reactions.  Many people say it is bitter and so they don't like it.  But paired with the right ingredients it is incredibly refreshing!  Having said that, I love it so much I eat it raw in salads and smoothies.  

It is extremely rich in vitamin C, B vitamins and many essential minerals, higher than other dark green vegetables.  It's also supposed to show improvement in psoriasis sufferers, but difficult to pin that one down!

As far as growing it is concerned, it is a very popular summer plant in Japan.  It is a climber and forms a dense mass of leaves so is known as one of the 'Green Curtain' plants.  'Green Curtains' block sunshine going into the house and so make rooms much cooler.

This year I decided to have another go (3rd time lucky?) at growing this vegetable.  Previous attempts have been abysmal, really through my own fault (too small a pot the first, planting late in the season in poor soil the second).  But this year, there was more information available on the internet on growing this vegetable due to energy saving requirements in eastern Japan after the Tohoku earthquake.

When I started this post in the middle of August, I was feeling rather discouraged...  As well as the above I had written, 'So far I have eaten 3 of my own goya, plus have another 5 currently on the plant, hopefully more to follow!  This is from 2 plants.  Don't think that's exactly a roaring success, and the leaves are rather sparce and pathetic actually, although they do block some of the heat.  But...  much better than previous years, and I pinched out the growing tips rather too late I think, taking the advice I thought I got from my goya-expert neighbour!  I'll definitely try this again next year.  Apparently, planting directly into the soil also helps get a much denser curtain but that's not really an option without a lot of planning...'

Now it's another month on, and I've been really happy with the number of goya I've got, at least for my first attempt.  In the last few weeks, the leaves have become really abundant from about a metre  and a half off the ground, and in the last week or so I've had a goya a day!  Seems to be a late starter!  I've just taken this photo today.  Thinking about the fact that the leaves were sparce at the beginning and never ended up growing at the bottom of my plant, I think I've worked out the reason for that. Thinking I was cooling it down, I sprayed the leaves as well as watered at night.  But that seems just to have killed them off.  Next year!