Friday, March 30, 2012

bloomin' lovely

These blooms have graced my benchtop this week. The bunch was put together and delivered to my door last sunday by the very talented Melanie Stapleton whom I hadn't seen for five long years! Once upon a time Mel and I shared a house or two. It was lovely to see her in my neighborhood. The flowers too are lovely so I wanted to share them and a link to Mel's beautiful world of flowers at Cecilia Fox


I do miss sharing a house with Mel and coming home to find impromptu displays of flowers all over the house - including the bed side tables of all housemates, what a treat to find fresh flowers by your bed!

From flowers and friendship to ...chocolate cake. Of course. I am dreaming of baking this chocolate cake this weekend, in fact I can feel a whole post dedicated to favourite chocolate cake recipes coming up.

Any baking happening in your house this weekend? Or Easter creations? Time to pull out the Easter bun recipes. More about that next week. Until then, happy weekend to each of you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

parenting 101

Its true babies do not arrive with instructions. The further I get into this parenting gig though the more I think adherence to old fashioned values/rules are the best approach for me and my family.

Last night after dinner River and I spent a very enjoyable creative hour crafting a hat for him to wear in the Easter bonnet parade at school (I have a whole new respect for milliners). "Time for bed" I announced when we'd finished and with that River decided he was hungry and wanted to know what he could eat. I listened to myself say, "You know the rules, there's nothing to eat now you said you'd had enough at dinnertime so that's it til breakfast." And that is the rule in our house, eat what is served for dinner, if the boys are still hungry when they finish they can eat more but if they choose not to eat at dinner time there is nothing else until breakfast. Some friends think this is harsh because it means that some nights our boys may go to bed feeling hungry, I am ok with that though because I do not want to raise children that are allowed to be fussy and demanding. My words "you know the rules" rang in my ears because as the boys get older it feels even more important for Pete and I to be clear between each other exactly what the rules and values in our family are and to then be really clear with the boys what they are and what our expectations are.

Today I share my/our current parenting 'strategy' (a work in progress) and I would LOVE love love to hear what's working/not working in your house.



Strategy (a work in progress)

write down your family rules/values, refer to them often and re-assess to keep them age appropriate.

delay gratification - in our instant gratification world I think this is one of the best teachings we parents can give our children. If you have a tendency to say yes too easily (for peace, because you're tired, because they're tired/hungry etc; and haven't we all?) then practice delaying gratification. This is different to a flat out no, which is a necessary part of the job too, but delaying gratification teaches children patience and ultimately I believe teaches them to appreciate all that you do, give and share with them. In my book, patience and gratitude (graciousness) are two qualities well worth fostering. Whatever children want NOW, teach them how to wait.

begin with the end in mind - the opening line in Ian Grant's book 'Growing Great Boys' is "Growing boys is better than fixing men". I couldn't agree more. Imagine your son or daughter grown up, what qualities do you want to foster in them as children that will carry them into adulthood and through their life. In his book he writes about expecting great things from your children, this is not about achievement rather about great personal qualities.

practice saying no and seeing it through this is similar but slightly different to delaying gratification in that this is a flat out no. This is one I have had to teach myself to be better at because I thought I was already doing it until I realised I could be doing it more often. Toddlers and young children will often respond to 'no' with tears and sometimes tantrums (ok, older children too) standing your ground is important at this point and I've found that the frequency and intensity of the tears lessens as they learn quickly that your no means no.


I follow Gabrielle Blair's blog DesignMom and read with interest her experiences as an American parent living in France and noticing the differences between American parenting and French parenting. American author and mother living in France who has written about her observations and experiences parenting in France is Pamela Druckerman in her book 'Bringing up Bebe'. This article written by Druckerman is informative and entertaining where the mother of three shares the lessons she has learned such as teaching patience and saying no with authority.

Reading list


'Toddler Tactics' by Pinky McKay
'Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves' by Naomi Aldort
'Raising Boys' by Steve Biddulph
'Growing Great Boys' by Ian & Mary Grant
'Growing Great Girls' by Ian & Mary Grant

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the best banana smoothie


I was visiting a friend recently and her fruit bowl had a good number of brown bananas that she planned to turn into a cake. I casually suggested she could freeze some for banana smoothies. This idea was a revelation to my friend one that she felt worth me sharing here. I am reminded that just because something is obvious to me doesn't mean it is obvious to everyone.

The photo of Sol drinking one of the best banana smoothies was taken at Brunswick Heads Health Food Store in New South Wales, where my friend Dave who owns the store introduced me to freezing the fruit first whether it is banana or mango (probably works with berries too but haven't tried it). The effect of freezing the fruit first means that depending on how much milk you use the smoothie becomes like a thick shake or with even less milk borders almost ice cream. This simple step of freezing the fruit (peel it first) will elevate your smoothies from good to memorable.

My basic recipe is banana, rice milk, a splash of vanilla essence, sometimes natural sugar free yoghurt in the blender it goes and then a sprinkle of ground nutmeg on top.

Other optional ingredients (not all in the same recipe) are: honey, spirulina, walnuts, cinnamon, lecithin, raw egg.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

did you say 'chai-rista?'

My husband has coined a new term - chai-rista - because according to Pete, baristas cannot make a great chai to save themselves and he adds cafes need to employ chai-ristas to perform the task.

I agree finding a good chai when out and about is not an easy task, but as with the cult of coffee being what it is today in Australia, these things happen over time.

So, first of all dear Pete there already exists an equivalent term to the barista for the person who makes  chai and that is a chai walla as they are known in India. Not that I've been to India and enjoyed chai there but the whole westernisation of chai I'm sure is vastly different to the real thing.

For starters what we in Australia refer to here as chai is actually masala chai, spicy tea. The word chai literally means tea. I digress though, this post didn't start out as a crash course in the origins of chai, what we are in search of here is cafes and restaurants who honour the delightful cup of chai not by pouring hot milk into a powder or syrup - eeeek! - but rather by brewing a pot of spicy tea, perhaps even grating in some fresh ginger.

Where o where is this done in Melbourne? Sydney? Brisbane? city or country town....please share your favorite chai spots. One of my favorite places close to Melbourne is The Elwood General Store (5 Ormond Road Elwood) and on the Peninsula, The Peninsula Pantry (43a Wondaree Street Rye) serve Calmer Sutra chai a blend you can be confident equals a quality brew. Where is your chai of choice served?

Monday, March 26, 2012

secret to a long life

I am so happy to have come across this video by Julia Warr (it was posted on simply lovely). It is indeed simply lovely.

"Shot in Fire Island, New York, this film captures the secrets of eternal youth as Maia Helles, a Russian ballet dancer turns 95 but still remains resolutely independent, healthy and as fit as a forty year old. Made by Julia Warr, artist and film maker met Maia on a plane 4 years ago and became utterly convinced by the benefits of her daily exercise routine, which Maia perfected, together with her Mother, over 60 years ago, long before exercise classes were ever invented."


Look for the wholefood moment when Maia is serving lunch, "some yellow and some greens" :) made me smile. Hope it makes you smile too.





sky, sand and sea










rut busters

Monday seems a good day to tackle a topic that I have a couple of friends dealing with at the moment. That is, that irky horrible place that we all pass through from time to time when we are - in a rut. This topic may seem a little left of centre to what I normally post about, however I figure I began this blog to inspire readers to live healthy, happy, creative lives so this fits with that. And who doesn't know a mother who hasn't felt like the sentence 'another day another dish to wash' sums up their life!

I'm hoping my list of rut-busters starts the conversation with you dear readers to share what works for you.

Before we begin, I did a search on being stuck in a rut and found this definition that fits with what I'm talking about:

"It is when your life is the same all the time and nothing much is changing or happening. A rut is like a channel that would have been worn into the ground in the same place by a stage coach or car or any vehicle going over and over again. It becomes so worn, that it is hard to get out once something goes in. Life can be like that at times. So that is what they mean by being stuck in a rut." Taken from Answers.com


And this at the top of the Google results page, which I found hilarious:



rut/rət/

Noun:
  1. A long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles.
  2. An annual period of sexual activity in deer and some other mammals, during which the males fight each other for access to the females.

So, assuming your rut involves feeling like you are getting nowhere rather than anything involving deers here are some ideas to get you skipping along...


1. Stop. Stop repeating over and over what you have been doing, saying, thinking. As the adage goes, continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is akin to madness.


2. Stop. I'm repeating that because it is so important. If you stop, you may not like what you see or feel but it is the first step in making change. Stop and breathe, clear your mind and allow what you truly feel or think to come to the surface. Then feel it.


3. Clarity. By stopping you give yourself the chance to get clarity about what it is that is not working for you, with clarity you can chart your new direction. If you have ground your way into a deep rut you may need professional help to do this.


4. Seek help. Seek inspiration, new direction from friends, family, books, music, blogs whatever you can find to set you in a new direction. Sometimes if you have really ground those wheels into the same old groove there is no way you can change track on your own. Don't fool yourself. Even if you feel embarrassed, frightened, nervous ask for help, you may need professional help.


5. Seek good professional help. There are plenty of counsellors, doctors, nutritionists, trainers, accountants etc; out there but not all of them good at what they do. Ask your friends for recommendations.


6. Think progress not perfection. Be very kind to yourself, making change in your life takes courage and commitment. Most importantly be honest with yourself.


7. Remember the words of my wise nan 'attitude is everything'. If yours needs changing, then writing, saying and thinking affirmations is a great place to start. May seem cheesy if it isn't something you have done before but it works. Replace the negatives with positives. The word affirmation literally means - to make firm, and that's what is best for our health positive thoughts about ourself that are rock solid. A good book on this topic is 'Affirmations' by Stuart Wilde.


8. Know that every person (mother) has a bout of the 'I'm not good enoughs', even the most seemingly successful, confident people you know experience self-doubt from time to time. The difference is they don't buy into it, they don't let it stop them from doing what they believe in. So if it shows up say thanks for that and keep moving with the changes you are making.


9. From little things, big things grow. Aside from being one of my favorite Paul Kelly songs this adage is true in both the positive and negative directions. A string of small negative thoughts can overtime grow into a big ugly mess of negative thoughts and behaviours so when you notice them be quick to change them. On the positive flip side, a few small positive changes can reap huge feelings of personal satisfaction. Things as simple as drinking more water, getting more sleep, exercising more, cleaning out that drawer you've been avoiding, soaking in the bath; string all those actions together and chances are you'll feel brand new.


10. And last but definitely not least, at times like this I love to quote 80's rock god Jon Bon Jovi and remind each of you to 'Keep the Faith'.


Believe it or not - the best is yet to come.


Happy Monday to you I'm off to wash the dishes :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

the name game

Being a first time blogger is akin to my experiences of learning a foreign language and then attempting to speak it with the locals. It's very much a learning by doing process, there's no easy way and you can't wake up one morning having mastered it without trying it out and risking ending up on the wrong side of town or ordering guinea pig when you wanted fish. My experience of 'speaking the language' in France and South America was fun, frustrating, entertaining, embarrassing and required patience and practice all these words in my experience apply to blogging.

So, after six months of 'having a go' I've decided to change the name of this blog to something that says more clearly what I'm about. 'Word for Word' got me out of the starting block but is non-descript in terms of content. The new title.....'The Wholefood Mama'.....for me is a more accurate heading. There's some new design work going to and fro and down the track a new address waiting to be filled (I have the same apprehension about moving web address as I do the thought of moving house!) The content though will remain much the same: real food, motherhood and inspiration and information for living a happy, healthy, creative life.

Thanks for reading and if you have any feedback I'd love to hear so leave a comment or email me nikkifisher@iprimus.com.au

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book review: Eating for the Seasons - cooking for health and happiness by Janella Purcell


If you are looking for inspiration either for your cooking repertoire or for improving your health,
'Eating for the Seasons' is a great place to start.

You may recognise Janella as the 'Good Chef' from the TV program 'Good Chef Bad Chef'. With her impressive list of credentials: naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist, iridologist - Janella's food as medicine approach is my style of cooking.

This is her third book, (she has a fourth in the pipeline 'Janella's Wholefood Kitchen' due for release October this year) and as the title suggests it follows the seasons with a chapter dedicated to each. There is a really easy to understand introduction to each season that outlines some Chinese medicine principles, then a list of what's in season.

Recipes are divided into breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides & dressings, sweet things and drinks. I like the added value a list of variations beneath each recipe adds to the book. The recipes and techniques are not complex, the list of variations offers flavour twists and combinations you may not have considered or options if you don't have exact ingredients on hand.

The recipes range from a simple summer breakfast of baked sweet ricotta with mango cheeks, to a  cleansing spring lunch of clams with quinoa, heartier winter dishes include brown rice spinach pie with feta and black olives and an excellent version of vegetable lasagne that is not overloaded with oil and cheese.

Some autumnal options on my list to try are fennel and pomegranate salad - any excuse to use pomegranate molasses -, broccoli egg-lemon soup sounds just right to me, and a dish I have made before and look forward to making again is Loobia, a traditional Lebanese dish made with green beans and a spice blend of cumin, coriander, black peppercorns, sweet paprika and ground ginger.

My standout favorite sweetie in this book a vegan chocolate cheesecake made with silken tofu and dark chocolate - it is heaven! Really. A recipe I didn't have as much success with (or win as many fans at home) is a chocolate almond 'mousse' made with agar agar. Admittedly I was missing an ingredient - carob molasses - and I tried substituting it with straight molasses which was totally overpowering. So there's a tip, that is one ingredient for which there is no substitute! I'll give it another go.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

textiles

Before committing myself to one true love - writing - I flirted with many creative pursuits/enterprises, sewing vintage fabric bags being one of them. It all started with a set of bamboo handles purchased at a garage sale and a piece of vintage turquoise silk from my nana's fabric cupboard. My nan is exceptional at sewing and pattern making and in my mid twenties I decided it was high time I learnt some of her craft and asked her to teach me to sew, starting with bags. I learnt a lot and together we created many one of a kind bags that I sold at various markets around Melbourne.

There came a point though where I felt I was spreading myself a little too thin and that I wasn't allowing myself to be really good at one thing, so I decided while the writing work was coming in it was time to put my energy into that and I'm glad I did because a string of experiences and opportunities came my way that may not have if I hadn't been fully focused.

Now however there's a new sewing project/enterprise calling and while I'm not quite ready to reveal what that is I just had to share something of where the research has taken me. I have revisited one of my favorite suppliers from my bag making days The Dancing Queen .

Lisa who owns The Dancing Queen has been helping me out with some research for my new sewing venture and sent me the links below, even if you don't sew but you have a thing for textiles as I know some people do, enjoy taking a browse...

Bima Wear traditional hand printed designs - fabrics, clothing and linen - by the women of Bathurst Island Tiwi Islands.


At Ink & Spindle hand screen printed textiles, ethical, sustainable and organic printed in Melbourne.

Earthgirl Fabrics check out the tea towels (I have a penchant for screen printed tea towels I have to keep in check)

And while I'm on about all things textiles I do enjoy peeking in to see what's happening at Harvest Textiles in Melbourne so enjoy that too! I haven't visited there for a while and tonight I see my friend's cousin appearing in the Harvest Workroom - nice work Fran. Hi Lucy if you're reading :)

This one too, I found via Soulemama, Mona Luna fabrics. I think the description of the designer, Jennifer Moore's life "...where her work and home are both informed by her love of beauty, nature, art and creative projects' are words many women can relate to, that either they are living this or would like to be living this. 

More food words soon. Happy dreaming, creating, cooking.

(disclosure - since buying fabric from The Dancing Queen I have also done some paid PR work for the store. I am not however being paid in any way shape or form to mention them here).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

raw milk


A number of my friends are members of covert raw milk buying groups. They bathe themselves and their children in the milk :) because they’re not legally allowed to drink it.

The only milk in my fridge is rice milk. A year ago the only milk I drank was soy. Fifteen years ago the only milk I drank was pasteurised homogenised cows’. I gave up cow’s milk and most dairy foods in my early twenties after a naturopath suggested quitting dairy as a way to end the series of debilitating sinus infections I was having. I haven’t had a sinus infection since. My raw milk drinking friends tell me pasteurisation kills enzymes, vitamins and beneficial bacteria. So, it is not milk they argue, that causes allergies but rather what is done to the milk.

(I can hear some readers asking ‘If you’ve given up dairy, what about calcium?’ The quick answer is I drink calcium fortified rice milk, and get calcium from other food sources such as tahini, natural yoghurt, parmesan, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and almond spread).

What is raw milk?
Raw milk is real food, straight from the cow in its natural state, it has not been pasteurised or homogenised. The term raw milk makes me giggle a bit because I’ve not heard of anyone asking for a litre or two of cooked milk but basically that is what pasteurised milk is.

What is pasteurisation?
Pasteurisation is when milk is heated to approximately 72 degrees celcius for 15-20 seconds. The reason milk is treated in this way is to kill all disease-causing microbes.

What is homogenisation?
Basically homogenisation keeps the components of milk together. That is the cream, the fat, does not rise to the top as it did in an old-fashioned bottle of milk. 

So, regardless of how I explain pasteurisation and homogenisation, the bottom line is the milk sold today is processed. It is not natural food as it occurs in nature.

In his book The Untold Story of Milk – The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s perfect food: raw milk from pasture-fed cows American author and naturopath Ron Schmid tells a remarkably thorough story – 19 chapters, 407 pages - of how and why pasteurised homogenised milk sold today is stripped of nutrition and more than that is contributing to ill health of those who drink it. Chapters that stood out to me in this book are: 'Milk in the Lat Traditional Cultures', 'Lactose Intolerance and Modern Milk' and 'Raw Milk Today - Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Contentious Issues'. I came across this book at my local library. If this is a topic that interests you it is worth seeking out.

Another interesting aspect of this debate is that in Australia where it is illegal to sell raw milk for consumption, hundreds of tonnes of raw milk cheeses are imported into Australia from Europe each year. Where is the government support for our artisan cheesemakers?

Given that it is legal to eat raw meat, raw eggs and raw fish it seems curious to me that raw milk is singled out. Advocates of raw milk are not asking authorities to risk public health, they are promoting the  fact that milk in its natural state is nourishing in a way that pastuerised homogenised milk cannot be. 

This debate brings into clear focus the importance and power of knowing where food comes from, the conditions under which it is produced and the environmental significance of organic farming and buying locally produced food. 

Do you drink raw milk? What are your thoughts on the issue?

If you'd like to read more visit these links:

Monday, March 19, 2012

shop at CERES

Before making my seachange I lived in the heart of Melbourne, a hop and a skip from CERES Community Environment Park where it was a great pleasure to shop each Saturday morning for organic fruit and vegies and supreme sourdough bread. I miss shopping at CERES!

I'm writing about CERES today in a bid to help clear up the mud regarding the safety of the food grown and sold at CERES.

On March 4 in The Sunday Age, journalist Steve Holland reported that CERES was selling produce grown in lead contaminated soil. You can read the full story here. Information in that story has since been proven to be untrue. The damage though to the trust CERES has built with its community has been shaken and as a result CERES market is quieter and orders are down for their Fair Food organic delivery service.

The results of further testing carried out in January of this year shows no produce sold was contaminated.

An attempt to set the record straight and restore customer confidence was printed on March 11 in The Age written by journalist Mark Russell. This quote is taken from Russell's story:


Peter Brown, chief executive of Moreland City Council, which leases the Brunswick site to CERES, said a council investigation and Environment Protection Authority advice led the council to ''understand that the levels of contamination are similar to what is found in most suburban backyards''.
''The Department of Health has also examined the test results and has advised council that the produce poses no significant or immediate health risks or concerns.''

You can read the full story here.

Today I received an email containing a letter written by CERES Fair Food and Organic Farm Manager Chris Ennis. Chris details the facts and timeline of misinformation presented in the media and explains the direct impact being felt by CERES.  

You can read Chris' letter here.

If you have never been to CERES (and live close enough to do so) make the trip, it is well worth it and your support will be especially valued at this time. And if you are a long time fan or one who hasn't visited for a while now is the time to make the effort and get there. I live two hours drive from CERES but I have such fond memories of going there that I plan to make a trip I'll take with River and Sol this school holidays.

Show your support to CERES and forward this to family and friends who it would interest.

mullumbimby farmer's market

One of the many reasons I love the Northern Rivers Shire is because each week there are 4 farmer's markets, I said 4! all held within 20-30kms of each other.

Tuesday: New Brighton, 8am-11am, River Street, New Brighton.
Thursday: Byron Bay, 7am-11am, Butler Street Reserve, Byron Bay.
Friday: Mullumbimby 7am-11am, Mullumbimby Showgrounds, Main Arm Road, Mullumbimby.
Saturday: Bangalow, 7am-11am, Behind Bangalow Hotel, Bangalow.

Each one has its own personality and I wake up on market mornings excited to set off with River and Sol who love the markets (read love eating market food) as much as I do. On this most recent trip I am regretting not getting to the Byron farmer's market for some of Faith's fabulous panforte (I posted about that last Christmas).

Mullum on Friday was the market the boys and I and Uncle Dave made it to (sadly without Ruth and the twins as they had a cold. Boo hoo, their first cold at 5 months). The weather was exquisite as was the produce. These markets happen rain or shine, so if you are visiting and the rain is falling get along  anyway.

First stop for River was to have a sugar cane juice mixed with ginger, it is cool, sweet and spicy. He followed that up with a pure mango ice block where there were also some magnificent pink dragon fruit.


Dave and I were ready for coffee from Nashua coffee and then I headed to one of my favorite bakers, Heart Breads.

Their wood fired corn bread is one I always buy, it is dense and slightly sweet. River and Sol are fans of their chocolate brioche and on this day I couldn't resist a cinnamon and macca sweetie which is essentially a scroll of brioche filled with a decent smudging of cinnamon and macca. Here are some of their fine goods:


A slice of corn bread toasted and topped with a wedge of Barambah Organics cheddar cheese (not sold at the market), a good pinch of Ruth's alfalfa sprouts, (which are sold at the market along with sprouted lentils, mung beans, fenugreek, blue peas, soaked almonds to name a few) plus baby spinach leaves was our post farmer's market lunch.


Ruth's sprouts


Lunch!

Once home the boys ate filled the tiny space left in their tummies with juicy blueberries from Blueberry Fields farm:



One of the rare non-food items sold at the market are Happy Flame beeswax handmade candles. Available in an array of colours, shapes and sizes I only wish there was the technology to send the sweet honey smell to you along with this picture. 



my market friends, Sol, Dave and River.

The farmer's markets alone are reason enough for me to want to move to the Northern Rivers Shire let alone the beaches, the climate, the community...Have you been? What do you love about the Northern New South Wales coast?




Friday, March 16, 2012

gluten free in sorrento

As promised here is a gluten free sweetie. Thanks to Helen and Nina at Stringer's cafe in Sorrento for sharing their recipe for Zarbo slice, a super sweet gluten free treat comprising a biscuit base topped with a mix of walnuts, shredded coconut, chocolate, chips and sultanas. If you don't want to bake it yourself, drive to Sorrento and visit Stringer's for a slice and a well made coffee and enjoy the view looking down the hill to the pine trees lining the bay. Every day has that holiday feel with views like this.

Stringer's Stores are located in a 100 year old limestone building at:

2 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento. Ph: 03. 5984 2010

In their grocery store you will find plenty of Mornington Peninsula produce including beautiful artisan cheeses from Red Hill Cheese and goat's milk cheeses from Main Ridge Dairy. The cafe offers a delicious range of packaged sandwiches and salads ready to go, great for a picnic on the beach or at the nearby Sorrento Historic Park, plus hot food such as homemade soups in winter, sausage rolls, lentil and vegie pasties and ever popular mini savoury tarts with spinach and cheese or egg and bacon tart for breakfast. All food items including the wide selection of cakes, biscuits and slices are handmade in the kitchen upstairs.

It's been a while since I've posted some beachy pics of my Sorrento/Blairgowrie neighborhood, so here's the recipe followed by some shots of Stringer's and then sand and sea.




This is Stringer's adaptation to make it gluten free of a recipe from the Zarbo Café in Auckland that published it in their cookbook.


The original recipe ‘Hello Rosie Slice’ in their cookbook used 250g crushed malt biscuits and 100g of butter melted to make the base. Stringer's adapted that to use gluten free rice cookies but then they stopped making those cookies completely gluten free so they started making their own pastry base with gluten free flour.

SIZE
20x30 cm slice tin (cuts to 18 slices)

Sweet short crust pastry – can be done in mixer or by hand
200g unsalted butter
100g pure icing sugar, sifted
2 free range egg yolks
250g gluten free flour
1 free range egg beaten

Chill in fridge until firm, press out into lined baking tray and then blind bake at 160 degrees until brown (circa 20 mins)

Topping - Mix in bowl

2 cups walnut pieces
1.5 cups dark chocolate buttons chopped
1 cup sultanas
3 cups long thread coconut
500g sweetened condensed milk

Top pastry with mix and bake again until top is brown, approx. 10 minutes, the finished product should be slightly moist and sticky. Cut when cold.







Thursday, March 15, 2012

gluten-free breakfast

I've performed a magic trick. No I can't make a dove fly out from under a handkerchief, I can though present to you a gluten free breakfast cereal that you'll want to eat whether you have a gluten intolerance or not.

Ta da.....Flip Shelton's 'the one that's gluten free' muesli. 

I spent my uni days listening to RRR radio station and that is where I first heard Flip share her recipes and passion for good food on her segment on The Breakfasters.

Then during my time writing for Epicure I was commissioned to review her muesli range released in 2006. So, that's how Flip's muesli range came to my attention.

Since writing the review, from time to time I still buy 'the one that's gluten free', not because I follow a strict gluten free diet but because I enjoy the muesli. Dried apricots and cranberries mean it is not cloyingly sweet as some mueslis that are filled with sultanas tend to be and mixed with the smattering of dried fruit I enjoy the varied texture of the rice flakes, rice bran sticks, buckwheat, rice puffs, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds,  amaranth, coconut and sesame seeds. It is a unique blend that delivers taste, texture and nutrition. You can order the muesli online here.


My next gluten free offering is far from healthy but if you like chocolate and coconut as a combo tune in on Friday for a recipe. And more Byron love soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

on tour: first stop brunswick heads











the flight was smooth apart from Sol pinching his finger in seat belt as soon as we sat down and crying for the first 15 minutes on board.
A smile and a band aid from a rare friendly JetStar flight attendant soothed his pinch and he settled in to 2 hours of sleep.
After dropping our bags and meeting the twinnie babes we headed to Brunswick Heads for supplies and lunch at Brunswick Heads Health Food Store, owned by our lovely friend and host for the week Dave Shaw.
Which was better, the kale salad or mango, chickpea, chilli, garlic and coriander salad? I ate it three days in a row and still can't decide.
The photo of the lush vegie garden is taken at Brunswick Heads Primary School - lucky kids!

There's much to love about Brunz as it is affectionately known. It is 20 kilometres north of Byron Bay and is situated on the Brunswick River. There are two playgrounds for children to explore, there's fishing to be done off the breakwall and when the swell is right there's good surf to be had.

Compared to the commercialism and tourism of Byron, Brunz is Byron's laid-back sleepy sister. This town has charm and is much quieter with less cars and people than Byron. You won't find a chain store here, instead you'll find boutiques such as Oh My Goddess and Mimi & Flo, cafes and restaurants aplenty ranging from nourishing wholefood fare at the health food shop to European style brekky and lunch spot The Conti, for good Indonesian take-away (or eat in) visit Rice, the best calamari and chips is at Starfish and for pizza the amusingly named Sticky Fingers.

Local real estate agents Swicki and LJ Hooker are the best places to source holiday accommodation.

Families with young children not ready for surf beaches head to Torakina Beach in Brunz. This protected short sandy stretch of beach is at its best at high tide. Not to alarm you, on this trip we had our first encounter on this beach with a brown snake! There is an area of scrub that borders the back of the sand and just as Sol decided to throw his t-shirt into the scrub and wander in after it a metre long brown snake decided to slide past right through the spot where Sol had been standing before a man on the beach alerted all on the sand and I swiftly moved in picked up Sol and walked through the scrub onto a grassed area adjacent to the beach. Phew! First time I've seen a snake up that close. A local mum later told me that the snakes like to sun themselves on the rock wall. Don't let any of that story deter you from this beach though it is a perfect place if you are not a fan of swimming in the surf.

Start planning, or at least dreaming of a Brunswick Heads holiday soon.



coeliac awareness week march 13-20

The boys and I are back on the coast in Blairgowrie and this week in addition to bringing you posts celebrating all that I love about Byron Bay and surrounds, I've decided to join those bringing awareness to coeliac disease, a debilitating disease that affects 1 in 100 Australians.

What is coeliac disease?

Sufferers of coeliac disease are unable to digest gluten; a protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. The disease results in damage to the small intestine which is responsible for nutrient absorption.
Left untreated, coeliac disease can lead to depression, infertility, malnutrition, osteoporosis and a small increased risk of certain cancers.

Symptoms


anaemia
stomach cramps
nausea and vomiting
bloating and flatulence
diarrhoea and constipation
tiredness
irritability
bone and joint pain
easy skin bruising
weight loss or gain
failure to thrive in children

Diagnosis


Symptoms of coeliac disease are sometimes confused with that of irritable bowel syndrome, wheat or other food intolerances. According to the Coeliac Australia website accurate diagnosis of coeliac disease involves blood tests and a small bowel biopsy.

Going gluten free

In recent years the availability of good quality gluten free foods has improved, with more restaurants and cafes being sympathetic to customers eating a gluten free diet.

There is one myth I would like to dispel and that is, just because a food is labelled gluten free it does not necessarily mean it is healthy or good for you. Sure it may not give those sensitive to gluten a stomach ache but often processed gluten free foods are packed with sugar, salt and fat. So, read the fine print and whether you are gluten intolerant or not making your own biscuit, dessert, cake whatever it may be is always preferable to something made in a factory.

Gluten free dry biscuits are one food I understand you wouldn't want to make yourself, a couple of brands I have tried and would recommend are: Mary's Gone Crackers and Yarra Valley Produce Company potato crackerthins.

Mary's Gone Crackers are pricey both on the dollars and carbon footprint as they are organic and made in America. If that doesn't put you off, in taste they are nutty and in crunch they are brittle, they go well with any dip or cheese.

The Yarra Valley Produce Company crackers are made in Victoria, Australia and being made from potato they are not unlike thick, flat potato crisps both in crunch and flavour, minus the saltiness.

I'll bring you more gluten-free products I've tried and enjoyed this week. Until then, happy days to you.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

double happiness

My grand plans for sharing the beauty of the Northern Rivers Shire with you via photos and stories of the landscape and whole food loving people were cut short, no not by little people requiring lots of attention, no, by my computer having to visit the laptop doctor coupled with the internet connection where I'm staying being in and out of action.

For now, here is my love list of why my heart sings to be back in the Bay...

*seeing my gorgeous friend Ruth shine in the joy of being a first time mother to twins
*watching my boys so taken with the twin babes, 'can we hold them again?' 'can we??'
*swimming at Torakina beach with River and Sol, watching River splash out his first strokes of freestyle
*the sunshine, humidity and flashes of rain
*the mountains
*the endless blue stretches of sky
*the light
*different bird calls in the morning to the ones I hear on the Peninsula
*cooking spinach, fetta and camembert pie for my friends
*mango, chilli, garlic and coriander salad at Brunswick Heads Health Food Store (BHHFS)
*the generosity of our friend David (owner of BHHFS)
*an afternoon coffee for me and ice cream for the boys
*taking the path of least resistance when Sol declares he is not having an afternoon nap and half an hour later him falling asleep in my lap :)
*Goanna Bakery corn bread
*the Mullumbimby farmers market

....
 Have you ever fallen in love with a place? It was love at first swim for me in the Byron Shire seven years ago. Yes I know people tell me Byron's changed its too commercial, too touristy. The centre of Byron town is what it is but to the left and right and up the road, in Bangalow, Broken Head, Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads and pockets in between there's magic for me. More soon...

Monday, March 05, 2012

you can travel with children



Boarding a plane tomorrow with River age 5 and Sol age 2 prompted this post. Each year we are fortunate to spend our winters in Byron Bay. Pete and I have been doing this since we met seven years ago. This year River, Sol and I are making a trip early in the year to spend a week with our friend Ruth and her twin babes who are just 5 months young.

When our first babe arrived we continued to make road trips for short-ish distances and fly for longer distances, and didn't stop when second babe arrived. Having children doesn't mean staying home. I can’t understand why it would. Sure flying the family first class to Cuba isn't within our budget but there are plenty of great trips to take that don't require stacks of cash.

There are some simple ways to make travelling fun for everyone. Here are some tips that work for us, some may sound obvious but can be easy to overlook.

  1. Be realistic. If your children are babies and toddlers a trip to Europe to eat in fine restaurants is not in my opinion a realistic expectation. Plan a trip that is age appropriate. That goes for the ratio of distance travelled to time available and activities when you get there.
  2. The same rules - don't let them get overtired, hungry or thirsty - apply equally on the road as they do at home. Where possible stick to the eating, sleeping pattern you have at home. Be a bit flexible though, a missed nap here and there might not make a difference or a couple of late nights, but reducing the amount of sleep everyday could be a recipe for tears and tantrums - yours and theirs!
  3. Underschedule rather than overschedule. Rather than visiting 10 places, be they countries or tourist attractions in the space of a week, do less. You will enjoy it more. This is especially relevant if you are a city slicker who is used to go, go, go. For some people slowing down is a learned way of being and travel is the ideal time to practice.
  4. Car and plane travel with children is made all the more enjoyable if you are well equipped with appropriate entertainment and snacks. On the road I'm an old fashioned believer in endless games of 'I spy', telling stories, singing and audio books. For generations families took road trips without DVD's and I'm keeping it that way in my family. If your electronic games are part of your child's life then they will undoubtedly be their entertainment of choice while traveling. Again, be realistic about the distance you are going to cover depending on the age of your children. Plan for regular stops, some short some long. Cheesy but true, it is about the journey not just the destination. My nan used to make a 'showbag' for my brother and I when we were children and going on a plane to visit relatives interstate. We loved these showbags filled with colouring books, pencils, some snacks and small toys. They were not costly to put together but they were items we hadn't seen before so the novelty factor was high and the love they were put together with was felt and appreciated. Mini photo albums filled with photos of family and friends have been great entertainment for our boys on car trips, they don't need to be read and the boys enjoy showing each other the pictures.
  5. I am still working on mastering the art of packing but I definitely recommend taking less than you think you will need. That goes for clothes, shoes, toys, baby equipment. I think it is good for children and adults to improvise, to make do. If you pack every item you have at home you may as well stay at home! I take great satisfaction in being able to travel with children for a week just with one small carry on backpack each. A sarong or two is an essential item, it works as a curtain, sun shade, towel, picnic mat. Another must pack item is a medicine kit with bandaids, children's paracetamol, any homeopathic remedies, essential oils you may use or other medicines. Last year when we went to NSW River woke with an earache in the night from flying and swimming and I had to knock on the neighbours door to borrow some pain relief, we were lucky they had some as we were in a small town and it was late. It would have been a long night or a long drive otherwise.
This list is a beginning. If you want to read tips and ideas from others:

See what Lonely Planet has to say about traveling with children.
My Little Nomads is an informative and entertaining blog written by a Canadian dad who since his early retirement from working as an Assistant Vice President at a Fortune 500 company has time and money to travel with his family and share his travel stories and tips.

The most important thing to do is go! If you'd like to know more about my experiences traveling with children ask away. And if you have tips to share please do.

I look forward this week to sharing more about one of my favorite destinations, Byron Bay.

(excuse that number 1 below - formatting gone haywire won't let me delete).

Friday, March 02, 2012

sweet poison

Last year Pete and I gave up sugar in all its forms for 12 weeks (also gave up caffeine, wheat, dairy, alcohol and fruit). The first month saw me become one very irritable on edge mama. I surprised myself. I had no idea how addicted I was to my sugar treats. Being a wholefood kinda gal, my sugar treats were not in the form of lollies or bakery cakes, they were things like dried fruit, date rolls, chai with honey, rice cakes with tahini and honey - sugar none the less. Giving them up cold turkey gave me a tiny glimpse of what it must be like to give up a drug. I did feel remarkably clear minded and instead of my four o'clock energy slump I still had energy at seven o'clock when normally I'd be half asleep putting the boys to bed.

Now that I've had the experience of being clear of sugar and all the other items listed above, I am even more deliberate about what I choose to eat than I was before. Honey and dried fruits are now too sweet for my new sugar free taste buds. Raw chocolate is my new treat, and most weekends we choose a sweet creation that I enjoy baking with the boys. Most often that is flourless chocolate cake!


During the sugar free time I discovered a book that has been in the media a fair bit, Sweet Poison  is the title, written by David Gillespie. David describes himself as a recovering corporate lawyer. He is the father of six young children (including one set of twins) and was 40kg overweight. That is until he set out to research why he and so many in his generation were fat. The result of his research is losing the extra weight and a best selling book. For me Sweet Poison wasn't an easy read, it is very textbooky, the charts and science took some concentrating for my brain. A worthy read though for anyone interested in the effect of sugar on the body and ways to reduce it in your diet.

This Sunday March 4th on Channel 7 program Sunday Night there is a story about sugar and the latest research and science about its effects on health. Former rugby player Peter FitzSimons shares his experience in the story of quitting rugby, gaining weight and then quitting sugar and losing weight and gaining good health. I'm not in the habit of recommending commercial TV but I thought anyone interested in the sugar debate would appreciate the heads up. I take no responsibility for the quality of the reporting!

Giving up sugar is not about deprivation. It is about making better informed choices. Some friends think I am a bit extreme in my approach to food (of course I don't see it that way!) I say many people don't really take account of what they are eating and how much. Many of my friends like to say 'everything in moderation' or 'middle way' but one person's moderation is another person's extreme. So if you're up for raising your awareness I suggest for one week keep track of the amount of sugar you and your family eat. Every time you eat or drink something sweet stick a sticker on a piece of paper or draw a star or whatever marker you choose. At the end of the week (or month would be a better time frame) you may be surprised at your sugar intake. Once you have a really accurate picture of what you are eating you can then make changes or say confidently and truthfully I'm really happy with what we're eating.

If you're interested in reading more about quitting sugar read Sarah Wilson's blog , she has also written an ebook 'I Quit Sugar'  (I haven't read it) and Maria Hannaford writes about her experience of giving up sugar on her blog Econest . David Gillespie's blog Raisin-Hell can be found here.

Next week the boys and I are heading to Byron Bay to spend a week with dear friends who became parents to twins five months ago. While we are away I have great plans of sharing all that I love about Byron with you, we'll see how that pans out between cups of tea, enjoying babies and entertaining four children under 5.

Happy weekend to you.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

what's in season?

Autumn is here. The tomato vines in our vegie garden are feeling the beat of the rain falling hard on them today. I plucked the last of the cherry tomatoes yesterday and we have gone from giving away bags of them, to treasuring each of the last ones as if they’re rare and precious gems.



I stopped at the local farm this morning and filled my eco-bag with parsnips, potatoes, onions, eggs, coriander and ginger. Pete pulled a pumpkin from our garden that will be chopped up and added to a pot to meet with the ingredients from the farm (minus the eggs) and become pumpkin soup. I love chopped fresh  coriander scattered across pumpkin soup.

This morning on his way out the door Pete requested more dahl, so I’ll make a pot of that too another good match with the coriander.

And with so much silverbeet in the garden my version of quiche is on the ‘to cook’ list this afternoon. I never use cream to make a quiche it’s too rich for me, I’ll use some fetta and ricotta and post the recipe and photos here another time soon.

Back to celebrating autumn. I like to honour the change of seasons. It is one simple way to reconnect or stay connected with nature. After 5 years of being part of the Steiner community here on the Peninsula, the honouring of the seasons was something I enjoyed about the Steiner philosophy (I’m by no means a strict follower of all the Steiner ways, but taking River to Steiner playgroup and kinder was a perfect way for me to meet like minded folk).

A simple way to acknowledge the seasons is to have a nature table in your home decorated in the colours of the season and with some of nature’s treasures, the most obvious one for autumn of course being leaves in all their varying colours. And perhaps some fruits and vegetables of the season.

Autumn is the season for these fruits and vegetables...

This list is a compilation from here , here and here .

Fruit

Apples, bananas, pears, Valencia oranges, figs, grapes, melons and strawberries.

Vegetables

Beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chillies, corn, cucumber, eggplant, leeks, onions, parsnip, peas, potato, pumpkin, silverbeet, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips and zucchini.

On this rainy afternoon a crafty idea to do with children (or for grown-ups feeling arty) is to make a seasonal produce poster and stick on your fridge. Write or print out the list of fruit and veg in season then cut out pictures of fruit and veg from magazines or draw and colour them in.

For further seasonal produce information and inspiration visit The Melbourne Foodie, The Foodies’ Diary. The Foodies’ Diary takes over from The Seasonal Produce Diary the first one written by renowned Melbourne chefs and food writers Alan Campion and Michele Curtis.
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