Don’t want to feel awful on Monday? Glastonbury is easily one of my favourite long weekends of the year. It’s not just the headliners that have had me rebooking for the last four years, it… More
Where does chocolate come from?
Chocolate originates in Mesoamerica (South America area) where it was consumed as a drink among the Aztecs. In the absence of sugar, corn and spices were added to flavour the “xocoatl” drink. Chocolate was not developed into a bar in England until the 1800s. Since then we have been adding sugar, cacao butter and all sorts of flavours to our chocolate. What was “xocoatl” and what we know as chocolate, are two very different foods.
What on earth is the difference between cacao, cocoa and chocolate?
Cacao pods grow on Theobroma Cacao trees and produce cacao beans. These raw beans can be fermented, dried and shelled to produce cacao nibs and pressed to make cacao butter.
Cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and cocoa powder are produced from ROASTED cacao beans. After the cacao beans are fermented and dried they are roasted at 130 degrees Celsius. Some of the antioxidants and nutrients are lost in exposing the beans to heat.
Cacao nibs or cocoa nibs are conched (grounded and stirred), until they produce a liquid. Chocolate makers add sugars, milk powder, cacao butter and other flavours to this liquid. The mixture is solidified to make chocolate.
So what’s raw chocolate?
Raw chocolate is made from raw, unroasted, cacao beans. There is no legal definition for “raw”. Hence “raw chocolate” makers use raw cacao beans and then temper their chocolate. Tempering involves heating the chocolate to 34 degrees Celsius in order to improve texture. So if the chocolate is tempered, it’s not actually raw. Nutrients from the raw cacao can be lost at the tempering stage so double check with the supplier that there has been no heat exposure.
Is chocolate good for you?
It is is one of the highest whole food sources of magnesium which happens to be one of the most deficient minerals in the modern diet. Moreover, it is also a great resource of iron for all my fellow anaemics out there (more than spinach!).
Even better, antioxidants actually make up 10% of the weight of raw cacao! Antioxidants repair damage caused by free radicals and supposedly reduce the risk of some cancers. Raw chocolate has even more antioxidants than acai, goji and blueberries!
Sounds great right? Pass me the family size Galaxy!
Unfortunately processed chocolate exposed to high temperatures and chocolate with added sugar, milk powders, stabilisers do not contain the same amount of nutrients. So if you’re looking for healthy chocolate, look out for:
– raw chocolate (check that it is not exposed to heat even at tempering stages)
– no added refined sugar
– a small percentage of milk powder i.e 70% cacao
– no added scary ingredients like E470b !!! Like what even is that..
Or grab yourselves some cacao nibs (not cocoa nibs)
How can I make my own healthy chocolate?
Check out my next blog post! Don’t forget to subscribe to the Super Lucie blog or follow me on Instagram @iamsuperlucie (link below on the right).
When I told my mum that I had developed a new addiction whilst travelling around South America, she prepared herself for the worst. PLANTAINS MUM! I cannot get enough of my yellow friends. Plantain crisps, fried plantain halves (for breakfast, lunch & dinner), plantain flour pancakes.. they´re everywhere! I am certainly not complaining.
Despite their association with the Caribbean and Latin America, plantains originated in Asia. They became popular in Latin America centuries ago when they were harvested and consumed by slaves. Nowadays plantains feature in almost every plato principal on the menu del día in Colombia and are often served for breakfast with rice and eggs across Latin America.
Delicious and nutritious, plantains are a good source of vitamin B6, magnesium, iron and have more vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium than their closely related friends, bananas. Plantains are a fibrous alternative to other carbohydrates such as potato or white rice.
So I went on a mission to make myself some delicious plantain containing food for breakfast lunch and dinner. When I whipped this plantain lasagne out of the oven in the hostel, there were a lot of envious hungry travellers!
R E C I P E S
Here are three recipes for..
1. Gluten Free Plantain Pancakes
2. Plantain Coconut Rice
3. The Famous Plantain Lasagne
GLUTEN FREE PLANTAIN PANCAKES
Ingredients (one person)
1 big yellow plantain
1 cup maize flower
Coconut oil / olive oil
Vanilla essence (optional)
Honey to put on top! (optional)
1. Cut the ends off the plantain (but keep skin on) and boil in plenty of water for 20 minutes. Leave to cool until you are able to peel the skin off.
2. Mash the plantain and add a beaten egg to the mixture. Mix them until you have a liquid consistency batter.
3. Pour in the flour and mix thoroughly.
4. Heat up the oil and pour in enough mixture to make a fist sized pancake.
5. Flip and huzzah
PLANTAIN COCONUT RICE
A filling delicious lunch or dinner.
Ingredients (one person)
1 cup of rice
1 bell pepper
1 handful of green beans
Aji / spicy pepper
Coconut oil/ olive oil
1. Cut the ends off the plantain (but keep skin on) and boil in plenty of water for 20 minutes. At the Leave to cool until you are able to peel the skin off.
2. Boil more water for the rice and simmer for 20 minutes
3. Chop the onion finely, cut up the pepper and green beans.
4. Fry the onion for 2-3 minutes in the oil then add the pepper and green beans. Keep stirring the vegetables until cooked between 10-15 minutes later
5. Meanwhile they’re cooking, cut half of the plantain up into bite size pieces and the other half slice laterally.
6. Add the bite size pieces to the pan and the other larger circles brown off separately.
7. Strain the rice, put it back into the pan, mix in the coconut milk and cook gently for two minutes on a low heat.
8. Add the vegetables to the rice pan and add paprika and aji.
9. Serve the rice with the larger pieces of plantain on top. Ta- dah.
Ingredients (3 people)
4 yellow plantains
500g minced meat
1 tbs tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees
2. Cut the ends off the plantain (but keep skin on) and boil in plenty of water for 20 minutes. At the Leave to cool until you are able to peel the skin off.
3. Chop the onions, tomato, carrots
4. First fry the onions for 2 minutes in oil, then add the chopped carrot and tomatoes. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile slice the plantains into roughly 5mm strips. Cover the bottom of a 20 inch baking tray with the slices, making sure to leave enough plantain for 2 more layers.
6. Stir the vegetable mixture and in a separate pan cook the meat for 5 minutes
7. Pour the beef into the tomato mix and add the paste , aji and seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes.
8. Pour half of the mixture on top of the plantain layered baking tray, top with another layer of plantains, add the remaining mixture then finish with a final layer of plantains. For a final touch whisk an egg and pour over the top covering all of the plantain.
9. Bake for 45 minutes.
Enjoy the plaintain madness!!!!
How to breakfast healthy whilst backpacking around South America
Good news: free hostel breakfast
Bad news: it’s cake and squash..
..Oh and no blender, juicer, nutribullet, working oven.
Whether you’re going from hostel to hostel like me, or hotel to hotel, breakfast can be be tricky. On one hand you want to take advantage of what’s on offer for FREE, on the other hand, what is actually on offer is often unhealthy, sugar spiking and wheat/dairy filled.
Travelling across Brazil and Argentina this past month, I have found the most popular morning options to be cake, bread, processed ham and cheese, cereals, milk and, fruit-wise, watermelon, melon, papaya, apples and bananas. Occasionally I have been lazy and tempted but the result is bloating, bad skin and dark circles. It’s just not worth it. AND there is no need.
Here are 5 quick fixes for a healthy gluten and dairy free breakfast:
1. Cheap and quick chia seed pudding
No kitchen needed
Chia seeds are a great source of Omega 3 and fibre. The great thing about travelling South America is that they’re so much cheaper to buy here than the U.K or U.S (about £2 for 500g). Health shops are common in city centres and here almond milk is readily available. Failing that coconut, soya and lactose-free milk are stocked in most supermarkets. Altogether you’re looking at about an extra £5 per week for a delicious and nutritious breakfast which will stop you splashing out satisfying sugary cravings later in the day. Prepare this the night before so there’s no need to miss out on socialising with others at breakfast.
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup almond milk
Fruit (take advantage of what’s on offer at breakfast!)
Nuts (extra) – brazil nuts are about £1 / 350g
Mix the chia seeds and almond milk (and cinnamon) in a bowl or glass. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning add the fruit (and nuts). Ta-dah.
2. Great British Porridge
No kitchen needed
I am wheat intolerant I have found that I have no reaction to normal oats. Traditional porridge oats are available in most supermarkets and cost about £2.50 and lasts me about 2 weeks. If you need gluten-free certified porridge, it is stocked in most health food shops which are plentiful in the city centre. Invest in some dairy free milk as described in the above recipe. You can either prepare this in the kitchen (normally next to where breakfast is served in the hostel) or simply take your oats to breakfast and let them soak for about 10 minutes in boiling water (availble at breakfast).
Add 50g porridge oats and 350ml almond milk. Put in microwave for 3 mins or on the hob for 6!
3. Versatile eggs
They’re cheap. They’re protein. They’re versatile. Go omelette with tomatoes, scrambled with avocado, poached with spinach or fried with mushrooms. Eating fruit for breakfast is tasty and free. However avoid the morning sugar spike and mix it with protein from eggs (and fats from coconut oil!)
4. Banana pancakes
Top your hostel breakfast. Yes everyone may be enjoying the toast but up your game. They’re really easy to make, a good mix of sugar and protein and toppings provide an additional source of nutritionist.
Half an egg
Toppings (see below)
Mash the bananas till smooth and add a whisked egg. For full on gluttony add toppings. I love walnuts, peanut butter, dark chocolate, berries and more banana.
5. Acai (Brazil exclusive)
I’m afraid this one only really works if you’re travelling around Brazil. There are minimal steps to this one. Leave your hostel. Walk a maximum of 5 minutes until you find a corner shop which sells fresh acai. Spend less than £2. Enjoy.
Look forward to backpacking breakfasts!
If you’re travelling around South America on a budget, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself on a 15 hour (or more). However, there is no need to dread them! I’m a few long bus journeys down and I’ve cracked the code. Here are my best tips.
A simple A to B google search will bring up the right page to book online. However if you’re booking a bus from Brazil you will need a CPF number (a Brazilian identification number). So if you haven’t already made friends with the hostel staff, do! You can use a local’s CPF (with their permission) and then book your ticket in your name. Failing this, booking your bus from the terminal on the day is no issue. I have yet to be on a full bus, even on a Friday/ Sunday evening.
A word about TIMING. If you’ve got a 15 hour bus, don’t waste a day, choose over night. You can get a very decent night’s sleep if you choose the right seat.
There are various seat options online. From cheapest to most expensive the choices are: executivo individual, semi-cama, coche cama and promo cama ejecutivo. You’ll always want to choose promo cama ejecutivo “promo executive bed” where possible. This option is the most expensive but if you check the currency conversion, it is often only £5-10 more then economy “executive individual. Just think that you’re saving on a whole night’s accommodation!
If you are booking in advance, I have found it best to get to the bus terminal about 40 minutes before departure so you have time to brush your teeth in an actual toilet and change into some warmer clothes as the buses are often very cold, especially at night.
Essential items to bring
Pack for the artic. It is advisable that you have a couple of warm layers in your hand luggage. I get really cold so normally wear a thermal, t-shirt, jumper and a light jacket. I would also advise a blanket (I use my towel or beach sarong) and if you’re carrying a sleeping bag/ or sleeping bag liner keep that in your hand luggage too!
I have no shame in admitting that I sleep for about 9 hours on these buses! Most of the credit must go to my faithful neck pillow. I would recommend an inflatable one and always pick the softest! I also love an eye mask. The bus gets pretty light from 6am, even with the curtains drawn. Earplugs/ headphones are essential for drowning out the odd unhappy baby and general noise.
In terms of theft, i’ve personally never had a problem on any bus in South America. However, I do know people that have! To be on the safe side, I always keep all my money, cards and phone in my money belt which I wear the whole journey. I also padlock my rucksack shut and keep it by my feet.
I am confident to say I have officially aced overnight bus entertainment. It’s all about the pre download. Spotify, BBC iplayer and Sky app’s have become sacred for these journeys. Although technically speaking you cannot get access UK TV apps abroad, I have heard that you can download Tunnel Bear app, pay a monthly fee of £3 and get unlimited VPN (i.e hiding your location). You can download endless films and episodes before you leave. Before I started travelling, I was not a TV person. However I have come to realise that it is a successful way of escaping the reality of a long bus!
I also always bring a book but its often too dark to read and turning your light on tends to light up the entire bus of sleeping people. It just depends how many evil stares you can stand..
Last, but certainly not least, food for the journey. Long buses often make stops every few hours. However the food available in the service station is often wheat based, fairly unhealthy and very expensive.
Whenever I can, I prepare some food ahead. Most hostels have kitchen facilities and tupperwares are easy to find in any supermarket. I normally prepare some dinner, snacks and maybe breakfast. Not all food travels well. Including bananas. Which i found out the hard way. Here are some of my healthy faves to take on the bus.
Cooked veg (peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots)
Salad (make sure it has been cleaned with filtered water as drinking the tap water can make you ill so washing lettuce leaves in it is not to be advised)
Sweet potato fries
Quinoa with peanut butter, dark chocolate (absolute FAVE)
I’ve grown to love a good overnight bus. A couple of hours of relaxation, often no wifi and sleep.
Feet up, belly full, David Attenboroughed out, I wish you a beautiful night’s sleep!
Flavoursome organic and gluten-free food in Rio.
In my previous post I recommended some great eateries I had visited during my time in Rio. However, Celeiro deserves a post of it´s own.
You can find Celeiro (and I recommend that you do!) in Leblon. Leblon is the wealthiest area of Rio. There are plenty of restaurants on the same street offering anything from fillet mignon to ceviche.
Celeiro is a little special. For starters, everything is organic. My lunch at Celeiro has to be one of the most flavoursome I’ve had. The pesto pasta has so much TASTE. The chefs pimped the traditional basil flavour with some extra garden herbs (and nailed it). Flavours aside, no pesticides means no consumption of extra chemicals. Happy taste buds, happy tummy!
The menu offers zingy fresh juices to homemade soup. I particularly recommend the salad bar which costs around 15 brl (£4) / 100g. My favourite part was the variety of the hot gluten free options. The gluten-free quiche, croquettes and pesto pasta which I tried were phenomenal. Celeiro separates all sem gluten options from gluten containing foods so it’s safe for Celiacs. For cold options, feast upon quinoa salads, roasted pepper and homemade guacamole. If you’re looking for quality ingredients, you’ve come to the right place.
Celeiro is also diary-free and vegan friendly. You’ll be spoilt for choice. I highly recommended treating yourself at Celeiro! It has been my favourite lunch in Rio so far.
Celeiro, Rua Dias Ferreira, 199
Food in Rio, restaurant recommendations, food tips, fitness suggestions..
Wheat, meat and acai is a good three word summary of my experience of food in Rio!
I’ve been staying in hostels and the free breakfast consists of cake, toast, paquet cheese and ham BUT also fresh watermelon, papaya and melon. In the main areas like Copacabana and Lapa there are cafes on every corner where you can get a traditional chicken, rice and beans for about 20 reales (£5). Acai and coconut water are in abundance in Rio! When I stayed in Copacabana I genuinely couldn’t go more than 3 minutes without walking past a cafe that sold them.
Feijoada- one of Brazil’s most famous dishes. A hearty stew made with black beans, sausages, cuts of pork, a side portion of crackling and some orange pieces to finish it off. Really tasty!
Delirio Tropical- came recommended from a friend who used to live in Rio. It’s a small Brazilian chain with a salad buffet and gluten free options! (Maize pasta, quinoa..) Also the best chocolate cake I think I have ever had in my life. (£6) for plateful of three different salads. They also do takeaway! 36 Ria da Assembleia, Centro
Carretao- a local recommended this restaurant in Copacabana for Brazilian BBQ- all you can eat meat and salad! Fill your plate with a variation of roasted vegetables, Israeli salad, beetroot and all other kinds of greenery. Waiters come round with all different kinds of tender meats. My favourite meal in Rio so far. (£25) with wine. 23 Ria Siquiera Campos, Copacabana
Acai and coconut water on every corner. Make the most of the (£2) acai and (£1 )coconut water fresh out of a coconut! ** Watch out for the sugary granola toppings and that the Acai doesn’t come with “xarope” syrup as it will be overly sweet.
O Quintal Zen- EVERYTHING wheat and dairy free. It’s a five minute walk from Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and the food is delicious. I had a wheat dairy free pesto pasta with complementary lavender water and a brigadeiro (typical Brazialian dessert). The dessert is normally made with dolce de leche and cocoa but this one was refined sugar free made from the banana root and raw cacao.
A refined sugar free, gluten free and dairy free brigadeiro
Nutrition? Pimp your meals! Mix up a container of superfoods before you come. You can add extra nutritents to all your meals. Mine is made up of chia seeds, almonds, cocoa nibs (interesting on savoury food), linseeds and sunflower seeds. I sprinkle it on everything, sweet potato omelettes to peanut butter covered bananas!
Avoid refined? White rice comes with most dishes but “arroz integral” (brown rice) is easy to come by in the supermarkets.
No sugar? Watch out for the Caipirinha’s. As delicious (and alcoholic) as they may be, about 5 tablespoons of white sugar goes into them. Vodka and soda is available in most bars but you will pay extra (£7 instead of £4)
Budget? Snack on bananas (20p) with some peanut butter to balance the sugar . I brought Pip and Nut sachets with me but there are plenty of health food shops around which sell a good quality nut butter. Failing this peanuts are (£1) for a bag in the supermarket.
A peanut butter covered banana with my own nutritious toppings
1. Hike up to Christ the Redeemer. Expect a tough 2 hour hike up to the top including parts where you climb up using metal handles built into the rock. I felt like I’d done an hours spin class under hot yoga conditions. Incredibly rewarding when you get to the top.
2. Hire bikes to explore the city. We biked down Copacabana beach, to Ipanema beach, then around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas stopping off at Parque Lage and the Botanical Garden, back through Leblon (wealthy area of Rio) to Copabacabana. Great work out.
3. There are outdoor gyms at every 50m of Copacabana. Test your press ups, chin ups and sit ups! Most parks around the Copacabana area also have outdoor cross-trainer style machines and arm presses.
My travelling companion Lydia getting in some pull ups on Ipanema beach
***Not all supermarkets take credit card (Revolut/ STA travel card). We found this out the hard way.. Pão de Açúcar takes credit card but others do not!
Daunting. To leave local shop shelves stacked plentifully with wheat and dairy alternatives was no easy decision. Neither was saying goodbye to my nutribullet, juicer, steamer and cupboard full of ingredients.
I get a lot of enjoyment from cooking. Whether it’s whipping up a gluten and dairy freequiche or some raw brownies. I appreciate great tasting food (which is always that little bit more delicious if you’ve made it yourself). Even more important still, is the satisfaction of filling my body with maximum nutrition and avoiding those foods which do not agree with me (wheat, dairy, onions, apples..). The last few years I have relied on my diet to keep me in good mental and physical health following personal illness. Although my diet is important to maintain, it shouldn’t stop me from travelling around South America!
In fact many packaged “superfoods” we see on our shelves are from in South America. First stop Rio, home of coconut water and açai!! Looking forward to trying some Yucca and cupuaçu.