Healthy interest in hormones

The Happy Balance, by Megan Hallett and Nicole Jardim, White Lion Publishing, RRP $45.
The Happy Balance, by Megan Hallett and Nicole Jardim, White Lion Publishing, RRP $45.
Two women's mission to reclaim their own health has led them to write a book to empower other women to do the same.

Megan Hallett and Nicole Jardim had hormonal problems and set out to find ways to improve their health through diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Jardim describes the book as the ''lifeline'' she was searching for when she suffered the symptoms of hijacked hormones - period problems, skin issues, weight gain and low energy and sex drive.

Hallet, a Londoner, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), trained professionally in nutrition to help women in similar situations to her own.

''Today, I've managed to soothe my symptoms by nurturing my body through nutrition and lifestyle changes, from stress management to options for real, whole foods.

''I'm a big believer in taking matters into your own hands and working proactively to balance hormones.''

She admits to becoming ''hormone obsessed'', but hopes the book will help get women thinking about their body as an orchestra, perfectly in sync with them as the conductor.

''A good conductor takes time to practise, so it may take some time to find what works for you. But you will get there, and your music will be beautiful.''

To do this, the book is broken down into chapters on the basics of a hormone-healthy lifestyle, another on gut health and reducing exposure to toxins and pollutants, and then gets into nutrition based on tuning in to the body's cycle.

The recipes are plant-based and cover breakfast - smoothies, juices, granolas and porridge - lunch and dinner with salads, soups and baking featuring beans and grains, and finishes with snacks and sweets involving nut milks, matcha, nourish balls and even a ''donut''.

There is also a basics section and a handy meal guide.

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
Chocolate peanut bars

I wish I could tell you that I've got my peanut butter addiction under control, but in all honesty, life is too short to be weighing out your PB, so eat up!

Luckily, peanut butter can be a fabulous hormone-healthy ingredient. It's healthy, fat-packed and high in plant-based protein. Add dollops to smoothies, spread it thickly on warm homemade bread and blend generous amounts into chocolate-coated raw treats.

I love this recipe because each individual bar is ridiculously gooey, with whole roasted peanuts adding the most amazing crunch.

Makes 6

Prep: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking and 2 1/2 hours chilling

12 medjool dates, stoned (soaked for 1 hour in warm water)
4 generous tbsp peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
2 Tbsp maca powder (optional)
150g roasted peanuts
150g good-quality 85% solids dark chocolate
sea salt and a handful of crushed peanuts, to top

1. Place the dates, peanut butter and maca powder in a food processor or blender and blend until completely smooth, gradually adding in a touch of the date soaking water as needed to help blend. It should be thick with no lumps.

2. Add half the roasted peanuts, pulsing for a couple of seconds until slightly broken up, before folding in the rest with a spoon.

3. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and pour in the mix. Smooth it down using the back of a spoon, making sure the mix is level and spread equally. Transfer to the freezer for at least 2 hours to set.

4. Once set, remove from the tin and slice into roughly 5cm thick bars, or smaller bite-sized squares if preferred.

5. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Completely submerge the frozen bars in the melted chocolate I find using two forks helps. Place on a board lined with fresh baking parchment, sprinkle over a few extra crushed peanuts and sea salt before placing the fridge to further set for 30 minutes.

Jewelled wild saffron rice

Sometimes we simply cook up a batch of rice and plop it down on the side of our plates without giving it a second thought. It's typically an understated accompaniment to the main part of your meal.

How about instead, we make it the star of the show? This tumble of wild rice with sweet flaked almonds, chewy dried apricots and wonderfully warming spices will not just look magical sitting on your table, it will taste glorious too.

Pair it with stews, curries or simply pick away at it on its own.

Serves 4

Prep: 15 minutes, plus 4 hours soaking

Cook: 30 minutes

200g wild rice, (soaked, ideally for at least four hours in cold water)
1 Tbsp coconut butter
a generous pinch of saffron threads
40g flaked almonds
40g roasted pistachios, finely chopped
10g parsley, finely chopped
10g coriander, finely chopped
40g pumpkin seeds, toasted
100g pomegranate seeds
10 dried apricots, finely chopped
a light pinch of ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

1. Start by placing the rice on to boil for about 30 minutes. About half way through the rice cooking, place the coconut butter in a small saucepan with a dash of boiling water and the saffron threads and melt over a gentle heat for five minutes . Thoroughly mix until a paste is formed and set aside.

2. Once cooked, drain and rinse the rice with cold water. Place in a large pan over a low heat and fold in the saffron-infused coconut butter to coat the rice.

3. Transfer to a large bowl and toss through the chopped nuts and herbs, before topping with the pomegranate seeds, dried apricots and cinnamon.

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
Roasted carrot, pearled spelt and orange salad

I'm a huge advocate for soaking your grains, seeds and nuts. Mostly because doing so takes a little pressure off the busy body that is your digestive system.

Soaking also aids the breakdown of phytic acid, which can mess around with the absorption of minerals in the body, such as zinc. We want to grab hold of the zinc in our bodies for dear life, as its a key mineral for hormonal balance and especially essential if you're having issues with your skin.

For this recipe, soak your spelt overnight ready to eat the following evening. Perfect eaten warm, this salad also keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, so save those leftovers for weekday lunches.

Serves 2

Prep: 10 minutes plus soaking overnight

Cook: about 30 minutes

1 red onion, chopped
300g baby carrots, greens in tact
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
200g (1 cup) dry spelt (soaked overnight in cold water)
1 medium orange
2 generous handfuls of kale, finely shredded
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
6 whole dried figs, finely chopped
a fistful of crushed roasted hazelnuts
sea salt and cracked
black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 200degC.

2. Place the red onion on a baking tray with the carrots (greens removed and set aside) and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes.

3. Once the carrots and red onion have gone into the oven, thoroughly rinse the soaked spelt and boil over a medium heat for 20 minutes as well.

4. Grate the zest from the orange and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the orange.

5. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl along with the 2 tbsp of olive oil, apple cider vinegar and orange juice, massaging it into the kale for 5 minutes.

6. Add the cooked spelt, roasted carrots and onion and carrot greens to the bowl with the kale.

7. Toss in the orange zest, finely chopped dried figs and crushed hazelnuts. Give everything a good mix and feel free to season further with cracked black pepper and sea salt, before drizzling with a little extra olive oil.

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