Friday, April 27, 2012

one for the weekend

Homemade pizza is a crowd pleaser around here and if you've never bothered to make your own dough here is a quick and easy recipe for you to try. Setting out the topping ingredients for everyone to top their own is fun and in my experience another great way to encourage children to eat vegetables. You'll notice in the photo there is no cheese on the table. I hand that over once the pizza makers have at least one vegetable on the base!

Pizza dough

4 cups white spelt flour
a pinch of salt
a pinch of raw sugar
1.5 cups warm water
2 teaspoons or 1 x 7 gram sachet dried yeast
1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl mix water, sugar and yeast and set aside for a few minutes of until it looks foamy on the surface.

In a large bowl combine the flour and salt.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and the oil. Using a spoon gently mix until just combined and then using your hands bring the dough together into a ball.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl and roll to coat in oil. Cover with a clean teatowel and put bowl in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in size.

Once risen punch dough down and turn back onto floured surface, knead lightly and break into balls about the size of a tennis ball or a bit bigger than a golf ball for smaller pizza makers. (When I write pizza maker I am referring to children not those machines you see on infomercials :)

The fun begins. Flour a clean surface for each pizza maker to work and give them their ball of dough to roll out with a rolling pin or if you don't have enough rolling pins a tall smooth drinking glass or bottle does the job.

Once the pizza maker is happy with their rolled out base, lightly oil a tray and place the base on and spoon on tomato puree. Let the topping begin.
Once topping placement is complete sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven 180C for around 10-12 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the dough.
Happy weekending. We're off to Melbourne for a city adventure. Hope you all fit in some relaxing time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

local happening


For those readers living local to the Mornington Peninsula, Aboriginal Elder Uncle Max Harrison is coming to Hummingbird Eco Retreat on the weekend of May 5th and 6th to facilitate a cleansing and reconciling with the land. My husband Pete worked with Uncle Max recording his story and photographing him on country to create this book.
Uncle Max is an Elder of the Yuin Nation on the far south coast of NSW. He was born by a sacred water hole and later chosen from his tribe to be taught by 5 Masters law/lore and healing, this teaching was continuous for 17 years. After seeing the marginalisation of his people and lack of acceptance of traditional teachings, he began what has become his life's work providing a way for others to understand Aboriginal culture. He encourages all people to embrace their spiritual growth while making grass roots changes in their immediate world. He is an engaging and heartfelt speaker within him is a wealth of experience, wisdom and authenticity.

Uncle Max has been consulted by governments on land rights issues and shared the podium at major events with spiritual leaders from around the world including the Dalai Lama. The weekend at Hummingbird Eco Retreat with Uncle Max has the blessing of Boonwurrung Elder Aunty Caroline Briggs.

Join us at 1.30pm on Saturday May 5th for acknowledgment to country, smoking ceremony and reconciling with the land. Followed by a sacred forest walk - seeing, feeling and hearing the land.
Pre-dinner cultural teachings.

Sunday May 6th join us for sunrise ceremony welcoming Grandfather Sun and then a closing ceremony.

Adults $120 Children (school years) $30
This price excludes meals and accommodation.

Hummingbird Eco Retreat is located at 183 Arthur's Seat Road Red Hill.
Bookings are essential:
03 5989 2504

fact or fiction

Cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, biographies, parenting books; non-fiction tends to fill my reading 'diet'. Last week though I had in my hands a book of fiction that had me reading it at the kitchen bench, in the car parked outside River's school gate and by torch light at night while Sol slept in bed next to me.

Melbourne author Peggy Frew's book House of Sticks is her first novel released late last year. I read a review of it when it was released and made a mental note to seek a copy out. It has taken me until now to secure a copy from the local library where it has been on a reserve waiting list for many months. And now I know why.
Caring for small children full time can be curiously isolating work (I say curiously because despite being surrounded by other mothers and their children it is isolating from one's self that isn't defined by being a mother) and for the past week, Bonnie the central character in House of Sticks became my companion on the motherhood line of duty. Frew succeeds in creating a captivating tale out of the ordinary happenings of family life and for me the key to that success was in the engaging characters particularly Bonnie, a stay at home mum who has put on hold being a musician to raise her young family, twin five year olds Louie and Edie and baby girl Jess.

The love between Bonnie and her partner Pete is tested by the demands of raising young children without support from extended family and by the presence of Pete's old mate Doug whose life is defined by hard times and Pete feels obliged to extend the hand of friendship and take him on to work in his business making furniture. Bonnie's frustration simmers away as Doug takes advantage of Pete's generosity sauntering in and out of their home and Pete's backyard workshop eating their food and some days not turning up to work. Doug has an unnerving edge to him that leaves you guessing which way his actions will turn the story.

Frew writes of a fraught relationship between Bonnie and her mother Suzanne. A reluctant grandmother, Suzanne squeezes in an hour each week between her work commitments and playing bridge to spend with her daughter and grandchildren at the local pool. When Bonnie is pushed to dig deep and call on her mother for  extra help with the children she does so with trepidation. Will Suzanne come to the party?

The other relationship Frew captures eloquently is the bond between mothers shown through Bonnie and her friend Mel. They share their woes grabbing snatches of conversation when dropping their children at kinder, or over coffee and babycinos at the local cafe and via text message. Mel is the friend that every mother feels blessed to have on her side.

Frew's observations and descriptions of the subtle details of the tensions and joys of family life connected me instantly to these characters and their story. I cared about what happened to them and read each page holding hope that all would work out well for each of them. Even Doug.

I am yet to meet a mother of small children who has not felt the relentlessness of parenting and domestic tasks weigh heavily on their spirit at times, it seems to be part of the job description and I'm still working out if or how that can be different. Until I come up with that answer I find solace in reading the stories of other women's lives be they fact or fiction.

Read a review here of House of Sticks and an interview with Peggy Frew here.

Happy wednesday to you all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

vegetarian cooking

My friend Anthea who is a wonderful vegetarian wholefood mama introduced me to the vegetarian splendour to be found on veggienumnum. The photography and recipes on this blog will inspire the most bored homecooks into the kitchen to create memorable meat free meals.

Another vegetarian wholefood mama who I have been a fan of since my university days when I listened to her talk food on Melbourne's famed independent radio station RRR, is muesli maker and cookbook author (among many other talents) Flip Shelton. I wrote about Flip's book Veg In here and for this post Flip has kindly agreed to share one of her recipes from Veg In. Those of you with backyard veggie gardens may have an abundance of eggplants, and if you haven't a garden you'll find them in ready supply at your local market or vegie shop put them to good use in Flip's 'Cheat's Vegetarian Moussaka'.

Flip's recipe is made in four serves in ramekins. I made mine in a large rectangular baking dish. Below is the recipe as per Flip's book, my version in the photo includes a few roughly chopped capsicums I happened to have in the fridge and to the top I poured over the white sauce then dotted it with semi-dried tomatoes I also just happened to have then sprinkled the grated parmesan over. I increased the garlic because we are a 'one clove is never enough' kind of family and because I was making it for grown ups only I was generous with the chilli. This dish is so warming and delicious it almost makes me look forward to winter. Almost.

Flip Shelton's Cheat's Vegetarian Moussaka
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
2 eggplants (approx 400grams) diced
1 zucchini (200 grams), diced
6 button mushrooms (150 grams), cut into quarters
400 gram can diced tomatoes, drained
several sprigs fresh parsley or oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
salt and pepper, freshly ground
20 grams parmesan cheese grated

Basic white sauce
30 grams butter
30 grams (1/3 cup) plain flour
500ml (2 cups) milk
salt and pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 180C. Warm oil in a heavy-based saucepan before adding onion, garlic and chilli flakes (if using) and saute for about 5 minutes.

Add eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes or until veggies have softened.

White sauce
Over a medium heat, melt butter in small saucepan and heat until foaming.

Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.

To assemble
Divide vegetable mix into ramekins.

Add a thick layer of white sauce but don't fill ramekins to the very top as mixture can bubble over.

Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

For even more veggie inspiration these places are well worth a click:
My New Roots
Green Kitchen Stories and
The Vegie Belly 

And finally, if you're tired of recipes and reading go view the art of vegetables at Marvelous Kiddo

Happy meatless Monday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


This morning Sol sat on the kitchen bench mixing shredded coconut, flour, oats and sugar in a bowl as I melted butter to add to the batch of Anzac biscuits we were making. It was a first for Sol and I, baking without River who was at school. For me it felt like we were doing something special together without River and I felt something akin to guilt like I didn't want to be doing anything with Sol that River would be disappointed about missing out on, and at the same time pleasure that Sol and I were having time together as River and I shared when River was Sol's age. The experience made me reflective about the complexity and simplicity of the bond between siblings.

In the car on the way home from school after dropping River off, Sol asked "Mummy, where's River?"

"At school" I replied.

"Oh. I miss him," he said.
From the moment Sol was born when River was almost three and a half years old I have marvelled at the shape the bond between them takes. I had such a close bond with my own younger brother I want the same for River and Sol and have been conscious from the start of nurturing the bond they share. Pete and I were mindful when Sol arrived to include River in everything to do with his new baby brother, mindful of the words we chose, words that encouraged River to accept Sol as his baby brother rather than resent him or feel threatened by him. And that continues today.

I sometimes think it helps that I am a first born like River and Peter is a second child and the youngest like Sol, they each have a parent that understands where they fit in the family. I'm mindful as River and Sol grow of giving them appropriate responsibilities and involving them equally in contributing to being part of the family, not to overload River with responsibilities and not to baby Sol just because he is the youngest. Even when he's 40 he will still be the youngest!

I also notice in Sol the way he completely idolises River and look back at my relationship with my 'baby' brother and think 'my brother looked up to me like that too and wow I was mean to him sometimes!'

Of course as close as River and Sol are they have their times when they try and out do each other to get Pete and my attention, and times when they squabble and snatch over belongings but I feel like their foundation for friendship is strong.

River said to me recently, "I hope Sol never loses his chubbiness. It's so cute." I love those moments.

I regularly count my blessings twice for having River and Sol in my life.

Sisters and brothers are not always born of the same parents. I'm thankful for those siblings too; such as my cosmic and courageous sister-in-law who I am truly lucky to like and love, and those friends who between us the love is deep, the laughter raucous and the tears free to fall.

Happy weekending.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

take stock

The weather is cooling. It is time to make stock. If you haven't done this before, after you do you'll wonder why you haven't. Read any wholefoods cookbook and there will be a section dedicated to the healing and nourishing power of homemade bone stock.

Wholefood chef Jude Blereau writes about stock in her excellent book Wholefood for Children:

"Bone stocks have been used by just about all traditional cultures for nourishment and healing - Dr Alfred Vogel, one of the early organic, wholefood and natural food advocates, describes their use in Europe for healing; in New York, chicken soup is known as Jewish penicillin (chicken fat contains palmitoleic acid - a powerful immune-boosting monosaturated fat); and throughout Asia, fish stock is believed to be the restorer of chi (life force), and is also a rich source of iodine."

Stock is nutrient dense and very easy to digest. One of the most nutritionally beneficial qualities of bone stock is gelatin. Gelatin is a natural anti-inflammatory and soothing to the digestive tract, it also assists in maintaining healthy joints.

The basic foundation of bone stock involves bones and water, plus chopped onion, carrot, celery and herbs of your choice such as parsley, thyme, bay leaf and whole black peppercorns. Adding a splash of vinegar or wine (I mean splash!) to the pot draws the nutrients out of the bones during the slow cooking process.

This is how I make my chicken stock:

2 organic chicken carcasses (and yes it does make a difference whether they are organic or not)
1 medium brown onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
2 sticks celery with leaves chopped
4 whole black peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
filtered water

Place all ingredients in a large heavy based pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 6-12 hours. The longer the better. You will need to add more water during the cooking process.
Once your stock is made and cooled you can freeze it in one cup portions to have on hand for soups, casseroles, risotto or as a healing, cleansing broth to drink on its own with some seasoning. Drinking a warm cup of this is an instant pick me up.

To make vegetable stock omit bones and to give stock more depth of flavour use fresh or dried mushrooms such as shitake and reduce the cooking time to 1 or 2 hours.

Do you have a variation on this stock recipe? What do you like to create with homemade stock?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

the divided heart - art and motherhood

Four years ago when River was two, with the sun was shining on us in Byron Bay our home away from home where we spend our winters, I was at my limit of being a patient mummy. Yearning for a moment of contemplation that was nowhere in sight I put River in the car and drove to Mullumbimby. River fell asleep on the way. I parked the car under a tall, sprawling limbed tree and stretched myself out across the front bench seat of our station wagon and took a nap too.

On waking we left the car in the shade and wandered into town for no particular reason. The bookshop seemed a good place to start our meandering. As River made his way to the display of children's books I scanned the covers of the latest non-fiction titles and staring back at me from the top shelf was my balm for that difficult day: Rachel Power's book The Divided Heart - Art and Motherhood. Bound between two beautifully designed covers Rachel shares the honest words of 26 Australian women who are  mothers and artists, whose stories I and many others could easily relate to. The interviews capture so well the feeling of mothers loving their children so deeply and simultaneously yearning for space of heart, head and hands to delve into their art form.

Finding this book made everything ok again that day. Not because a vast stretch of time became mine to ponder and write, no. Because reading the book transported me into the hearts and homes of artists whose work I had long admired and introduced me to ones I hadn't heard of, and because whether your art form is photography, painting, composing music or being at home creating a garden or a meal, all mothers have yearnings beyond caring for their children and it is heartening to read others experiences.

Many of you may already know and love this book, but I wasn't blogging in 2008 when it was first published and it is too good so I had to share it now.

Rachel also blogs about 'art, motherhood and everything in between' at The Rachel Papers. You can buy The Divided Heart on her blog. Seek it out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

oh kale

I once had a job in a steak house. True. In fact, that's where my hospitality 'career' began. I tended the salad and dessert bar slicing and dicing salad vegetables, concocting dressings and preparing desserts many of which were covered in lashings of hot chocolate sauce. It was here that I first touched kale. Each morning when the salad bar was set up with crushed ice, once the salad bowls were positioned in the ice kale was used as decoration to cover the ice. I was 18 years young and had no idea kale could be eaten!

Thankfully I made that delicious discovery in my mid twenties and have had a love affair with this deep green and/or purple, nutrient packed member of the cabbage family ever since.

One of my favorite ways to eat kale is as soup. I am a big fan of green soups, to me they're a bit like the cool weather version of having a green smoothie (minus the fruit), and another great way to present green veggies to children.

My kale soup recipe varies depending on what I have on hand but always starts with melting a knob of butter, dicing an onion and frying it gently in the butter with as many chopped cloves of garlic I think the family can handle (the more the better) and then in goes a chopped head of broccoli, a diced zucchini or two, the chopped bunch of kale leaves, any herbs looking to go in parsley, basil or coriander and then cover with the homemade stock I hopefully have in supply. If not, I cover with filtered water and season with Bragg's All Purpose Seasoning. Bring to boil and then simmer until all vegetables are soft, then puree or mash if you prefer it a little more textured. If I'm not keeping the soup strictly green I add in diced potatoes or a head of cauliflower.

I came across this recipe for kale and quinoa cakes on Joy the Baker (if you can't bear to read about or eat quinoa again there are plenty of distractions involving unbelievable amounts of sugar and butter to be found on this beauty of a cooking blog, such as this Best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever).

Keeping things simple, roughly chop kale leaves, lightly saute garlic in butter or olive oil add the kale and cook for a few minutes then squeeze over some lemon juice.

These kale chips are a super tasty, if pricey, way to get your greens. Or follow this recipe and make your own.

Have you cooked with kale? What are your favorite ways?

Friday, April 13, 2012

the art of independent play...

Having River home for two weeks of school holidays I've noticed each time he comes up to me in the kitchen or while I'm at the computer and asks, "Mum can you play with me?" My typical response is, "When I've finished {insert domestic task}", or "Why don't you play with (brother) Sol?" Most times River replies, "I want to play with you". Flattering perhaps. Fun to play sometimes. A tad frustrating when said tasks are mounting up, or creative writing rhythm flowing.

Is the art of children playing by themselves disappearing? Is it something that happens naturally or is it something to be taught? My husband Pete thinks us modern day folk who live the 'nuclear family' way have it all wrong, that children living in community, living in villages have each other to play with and the domestic 'load' is shared amongst the adults rather than falling to one person. True perhaps. But at this moment in my family life I think the art of independent play is both a natural occurrence and one that is taught (read encouraged).
There are a few ways I encourage independent play, the one I have most fun with is when the boys have gone to sleep I set up something for them to wake up to. That might be building a town out of their wooden blocks, setting up their toy cars, placing their teddy bears on a blanket for a breakfast picnic. I love telling them that fairies did it while they were sleeping, of course with River turning six in a couple of months he tells me "I know you did it mum". He still enjoys the fun of it though. I like doing this in the morning because it is a fun way to start the day and most times (as long as they both don't want the same car/teddy/book/crayon), it initiates them playing while I get the day started.
This article by American mum Shelly who has worked in Montessori schools and as a nanny, includes inspiring ideas for encouraging independent play - love the title: 'How to get time for yourself - Set your kids up for independent play'. 
What play is happening in your house? Best tips for keeping everyone entertained? 
Happy weekend to all. Hope there's sunshine in your heart wherever you are.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

my new loves

The sun is sparkling on the bay here in Sorrento and I have a whole two hours to myself out of the house. Deep breath. I wish I could magic up a whole two hours flying solo time for every mother reading this, it is such a joy to have uninterrupted thoughts. And then return home to my two favourite little professional interrupters :)

I had planned a post about play for yesterday but the day was swallowed up by unpacking, washing, entertaining little people, helping big people with computer questions. You get the picture.

So here I am at Daisy's cafe the newest cafe kid on the block here in main street Sorrento. I like it for its WiFi, good coffee, music and unpretentiousness. And I just thought I'd share a few of my new favorite blogs to visit, new to me perhaps not to you. Sometimes while I am supposed to be writing blog posts I spend time reading blogs. Research I tell myself. Here are the results of my latest 'research':

The Beetle Shack is the colourful, stylish creation of Emily, who in just one year of blogging (happy birthday to The Beetle Shack) has put together a space that for me is well, sunny! Visiting Emily's blog is like visiting a friend and when you leave you feel a bit brighter. Even if my house is messy and I'm in my pyjamas at 11am and the boys are squabbling over who the fishing rod belongs to I can look at the pretty, well-designed and written space at The Beetle Shack and feel better. As much as I love that looking at a blog can do that, I am still slowly coming to terms with for me the slight weirdness I feel about the voyueristic nature of the internet and relationships born of it. I guess in someways it is the modern day pen pal with pictures. Slight digression. Back to the blogs.

Jodi who pens Che and Fidel is a yoga teacher and reading her blog I feel 'yoga calm' coming off the page.

Look at this gorgeous honey bee post on Tea with Lucy

And lastly for now (my free time is almost over. oh so quick), it is not a blog created by a mama it is the result of another area of my research. As my man Pete is a photographer and not so much a fan of looking at blogs or websites (he'd rather be surfing or fishing) I love photography and looking at blogs so I do that task for him and the one recently soaking up my attention is the lovely work of Sydney photographer Tim Coulson.

What are your latest faves? Love to see more photographers work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

daily detox

I've just returned home after five days at my nans in the countryside and while all the crisp, country air was refreshing and good for me, all the 'comfort' food lovingly prepared by my nan has left me feeling a little er, uncomfortable.

So, I thought I'd write today about two of my favorite simple ways to get back on the healthy digestion track.

The first one many of you may know, particularly if you have read or followed Dr Sandra Cabot's Liver Cleansing Diet, and that is to begin the day with a liver cleansing glass or two of filtered water with the juice of one lemon, lime or orange. I like to add a splash of boiling water and drink it warm. Another tip a naturopath recommended to me is to add a squeeze of citrus juice to water that you drink throughout the day, doing so aids absorption.

The second drink of the morning I follow the lemon water with is liquid chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants. So why not eat more plants? Good idea! Do that too. Liquid chlorophyll concentrates the benefits, it is an antioxidant, aids digestion and is alkalising. (I buy the Swisse brand it has a spearmint flavour).

I feel better already just writing about these drinks :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ruth reichl

Ruth Reichl

I thank my friend Muriel for introducing me to the seductive food writing of Ruth Reichl a few years ago. (Where had I been?! Foodie readers in America may be well versed in Reichl's work as Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine and before that restaurant critic for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times).

For me, reading Reichl's memoir Tender at the Bone - Growing up at the Table it was love at first read. Reichl's love of cooking and bringing people together to share food was born almost out of both necessity and opposition to her mother Miriam's mental illness and inability to cook. It was in fact more than an inability to cook, in Reichl's words Miriam's cooking was akin to 'poison' hence the title given to her mother - 'The Queen of Mold'. Tender at the Bone has been described as a coming of age story and I agree; there are many layers to this engaging story that contains recipes interspersed throughout the chapters. Food is the thread that stitches together the stories of Reichl's childhood growing up in Greenwich Village New York, to living in a commune, to starting a collectively owned restaurant in Berkeley California.

So yesterday when I stumbled across Reichl's blog I was thrilled because I thought I'd read every book she'd written (Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table and Garlic and Saphire's: The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic in Disguise), now I have her fresh blog words to savour but I'm also excited to share her writing with you and to find she has written a fourth book in her memoir series, For you Mom, Finally.

For those familiar with Reichl's work, did you love every book? For those yet to discover her, I found her books at my local library so perhaps they'll be at yours too.

What charms me about Reichl's writing is her (seemingly) effortless way of noticing and describing the details, intricacies and nuances of food and family with great warmth, humour and most of all originality.

If the words restaurant critic put you off, don't be. Reichl defies any stereotype of elitist restaurant critic, at heart she is an original Wholefood Mama as the extract below from Comfort Me With Apples illustrates. In the extract Reichl has just landed her first restaurant critic position and she is working out how to tell the people in her life she loves and who know her as someone with grassroots values:

“I’ve just gotten the best job in the world!” As I heard myself say the words, I knew they wouldn’t do. They would be fine in San Francisco or New York, but this was the People’s Republic of Berkeley. This was the heart of the counterculture. Every single person I knew was going to disapprove.

I walked into the hallway of the peeling Victorian house I shared with my husband and five other people and waited for their reactions.

Nick, our household patriarch, was sitting in the shabby, crowded living room. He stroked the bushy beard that gave him the air of a prophet and said, “Let me get this straight.” He plunked himself into one of the tattered armchairs we had found at the flea market and began pushing the stuffing back into the arm. “You’re going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat too much obscene food?”

“Something like that,” I murmured, too embarrassed to defend myself.

He shook his head in disappointment. A devotee of millet and Dr. Bronner’s balanced mineral bouillon, Nick had done his Berkeley best to turn our household into a model of politically correct consumption. We had, at various times, been ovolactovegetarians and vegans, and we were, at all times, vigilant about the excesses of agribusiness. For a long while we grew our own food, and we even, for a short while, depended upon dumpsters for our raw ingredients. Nick had valiantly tried to overlook my forays into the world of fancy food, but this was going too far. For the first time in the many years I had known him, he became speechless.

Hungry for more? Seek out Reichl's books and blog.

Monday, April 09, 2012

say goodbye to sweet drinks

A friend recently kicked her daily soft drink habit after deciding if she wasn't going to give soft drink to her children she wasn't going to drink it either. Yay for her! Hearing this turned my thoughts to sweet drinks - soft drinks or as they're called in other parts of the world soda or pop. And fruit juice fits the same sweet drink category.

Before getting into the sugar and fizz of this topic, I want to share a snapshot of my own continuing wholefood evolution because I don't intend anything I write here to sound judgemental or induce guilt in readers for where they're at on their road to eating and living well.

I grew up in a single parent household where my mum had a real interest in cooking but like many working mothers, single or partnered, she was often exhausted and resorted to take away meals easily. She was 'doing her best'. Meals my Mum prepared and taught me to prepare could be described as Mediterranean - in warmer months Greek salad every night with fish, chicken or , in cooler months soups, stews, lasagne, and some meat and three veg. My brother and I developed a taste for garlic, olive oil, olives, fetta, calamari, spanakopita, good bread and the like at an early age. The flip side of all that goodness was sweet breakfast cereal, sweet biscuits, potato chips, fruit drink concentrate, margarine, chocolate chip muesli bars, ice cream were all brought home in the weekly grocery shop and take away dinners happened about twice a week, including the fast food variety.

Soft drink though was a no go. Our neighbours bought a crate of soft drink from the Loy's soft drink truck that drove around the neighbourhood selling bottles of the colourful, fizzy, sugar laden pop door-to-door. My brother and I were fascinated that our friends were allowed to drink it and we weren't. During my teenage years I never had a taste for coke or lemonade, I did though drink flavoured mineral water as I somehow thought that to be more virtuous than soft drinks and actually prefered the fruity flavour over the straight sweet stuff.

These days, given how widely publicised the sugar content of soft drinks is I can't understand that people still drink the stuff. And seeing a toddler in a pram drinking a can of coke is not a good look, or more importantly a good health foundation.

And if you're thinking fruit juice is a better option because its made from fruit, I'd say its time to re-think that too. Eating fruit and benefiting from the fibre is better than drinking the juice alone. Fruit sugar is still sugar.  This article highlights how fruit sugar is harmful to growing teeth. I occasionally bought organic apple juice to have at home, but since our sugar detox I have stopped buying it. If my children are offered fruit juice at a friend's house or from time to time when we are out shopping or at a cafe they enjoy fruit juice then.

Water is the best option for children (& adults) and the information below shows why.

The approximate number of teaspoons of sugar in the following drinks:

250 ml tetra pack of Ribena - 9
600ml bottle of soft drink - 20
250ml bottle of apple juice drink - 7
300ml carton flavoured milk - 7
375ml bottle of soft drink - 10
375ml can of flavoured mineral water - 11

taken from Go For Your Life 

Glass of water anyone? We'll save the filtered water discussion for another day.

Friday, April 06, 2012

hot x bun recipe

I believe in eating foods in season and despite the fact I am not Catholic that includes eating hot cross buns at Easter rather than in January just because supermarkets are selling them.

Traditionally hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday, the anniversary of Jesus crucifixion, the cross on the bun being representative of this. I think its true to say in these times the majority of people who enjoy eating the sweet, spiced buns care little for the meaning behind them and more for the taste.

I began our family tradition of making hot cross buns about four years ago when River started at the local Steiner playgroup and the recipe was in the Autumn newsletter. Since then I have made them each year with River and now Sol joins in. The taste (and smell) of home baked hot cross buns is incomparable to almost any buns you can buy. And it is fun to do with children and easier than you may think even if you have never baked with yeast before.

Here is the recipe:

1.5 cups of milk of your choice
7g sachet dried yeast
1/3 cup raw sugar
3.5 cups white spelt flour
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice (you can spice them as you wish)
pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g butter melted
3/4 cup sultanas
1/2 cup currants
(you can add peel if you like it)
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-raising flour
1/3 cup water
1 dessertspoon raw sugar (optional)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp powdered gelatine


*Heat milk in a saucepan to lukewarm then remove from heat and add yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Leave to stand for 20 minutes or until frothy.
*Sift flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining sugar and dried fruit. Stir to combine. To the milk mixture, add egg and butter.
*Gradually stir milk mixture into flour until dough forms.
*Turn out on to a floured bench.
*Knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
*Punch down to deflate. Turn out on to floured surface and knead for a few minutes or until smooth and elastic.
*Divide dough into 2 pieces, then 4, then 8 and so on until you have 12 'balls'. Shape each piece into a bun shape and place 1cm apart into a greased 19cm x 30cm tray. Cover with a clean teatowel and leave to rise again in a warm place for 20 minutes.
*For the cross, mix flour and water together and place mixture in piping bag or plastic bag with corner snipped out of it. Pipe crosses onto dough.
*Cook in a hot oven (200C) for 10 minutes, reduce oven to 180C and cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Leave in tray for 5 minutes then cool on wire rack.
*Make the glaze by placing water, sugar and gelatine in saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar and gelatine dissolve. Remove from heat and brush tops of warm buns with glaze.
*Ready to eat with butter.

I wish I was posting a photo of my freshly baked hot cross buns this morning but I have come away to visit my nan and have left the battery charger for my camera at home!! Oh well better a flat camera battery, than flat Easter buns. And as for taking photos with my phone, yep I can do that but I am yet to work out how to upload them to my laptop. There I've revealed it, me and technology are on a very slow burn.

Do give it a go making your own Easter buns, the smell of cinnamon and spice filling your kitchen is worth it alone. Happy days to all of you.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Book review: The Healthy Skin Diet

If you are breaking out in eczema or acne at the mere thought of the chocolate filled days ahead this Easter I have the book for you. Easter aside, glowing healthy skin is a definitive sign of great internal health. I bought this book on a whim and it has become a favorite.

Written by nutritionist Karen Fischer, in some 370 pages Karen provides everyday guidelines for healthy skin plus specialised programs for acne, cellulite, dandruff, cradle cap, eczema, dermatitis, children's clear skin program, psoriasis and rosacea.

The only thing I don't like about the book is the use of the 'd' word - diet - in the title. It is not a diet book in the cliche 'go on a diet' sense. There is included an 8 week program to follow but is it not a calorie restriction program, Karen's recommendation is for 3 nutrient dense meals and 1 snack daily. The focus is on the nutritional quality of foods and identifies those foods that are soothing to certain skin conditions and those that exacerbate them.

The back section of the book is dedicated to recipes ranging from smoothies, breakfast recipes such as french toast with berries and almonds, mango and buckwheat crepes, vitamin E muesli; for lunch and dinner there's a delicious 'anti-ageing broth', vitamin A and C apricot chicken, herb and garlic chicken casserole, creamy chickpea curry, beef and barley soup to name a few. The recipes are simple enough in technique, it is the fabulous combinations of herbs and spices that mean they are so full of flavour. Wholesome desserts include stewed pears with vanilla soy custard and rhubarb crumble made with far less sugar than traditional recipes and the addition of flaxseeds. 

Whether you have healthy skin or a skin condition this book is an excellent resource. It offers inspiration to look after yourself and great information, with simple tips to increase the nutrient dense ingredients in your cooking. 

Karen is also a mother and the author of two books aimed at making vegetables more appealing to children and families - Don't Tell Them It's Healthy and Healthy Families, Happy Families. See her website The Vegie Whisperer.

The Healthy Skin Diet by Karen Fischer, Exisle Publishing, $29.99.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


I think I have worked out the recipe for happy school holidays. And that is, fill the boys with as much fresh air and physical activity as possible for the first part of the day so as to tire them out, then spend the afternoon at home playing quietly, follow that up with an early dinner and be very thankful daylight savings is over and night falls earlier and they go off to sleep leaving the evening free for me to write. 

We're only up to day 3 of the holidays but so far so good with that recipe. Yesterday morning was spent in the glorious autumn sunshine bike riding along the foreshore at Rye.

I am SO thankful to live near the beach. I like to share beachy photos especially for those of you who love living in the bush or the city but miss the beach. If school holidays are yours at the moment I hope you are enjoying!

(incidently this is for sale)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

fast food slow craft

This salad is my idea of fast food. Made with Ceres Organics super grain mix - white, red, black quinoa and amaranth - it is lunch on the run worth sitting down for.

When I'm in a quinoa mood I cook enough for a few serves and keep it in the fridge, then I can have it as a quick porridge for breakfast or as the base for a salad at lunch or dinner.

The salad above goes like this:

Quinoa amaranth mix
Avocado roughly chopped
Cherry tomatoes halved
A tin of tuna
Fresh basil
Dulse flakes
A simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil

Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss until dressing is evenly distributed. So quick! I vary the ingredients with whatever is in the fridge or garden, carrot sticks or sometimes grated carrot and beetroot, spring onion, get the picture. I made one for dinner last night with vegies roasted in cumin and then made a garlic, lemon juice and olive dressing with just a smidgen of fresh chilli.

With all that spare time (ha ha) you have from making a quick nutritious lunch, you can spend the afternoon doing Easter craft.

You'll find a whole list of inspiration from felted chickens to decoupaged eggs in the right side bar on DesignMom.

On the Angry Chicken blog you'll find these gorgeous coiled fabric baskets.

And for some local Aussie crafting talent and inspiration visit Handmade Life. Even if your idea of Easter craft is rolling the coloured foil from all the chocolate eggs you've been eating into balls and you can't see yourself creating paper mache egg decorations, do take a look for the visual satisfaction.

Hop to it. Sorry. I wonder if I can come up with an Easter related pun each day this week :)

Monday, April 02, 2012

good eggs

With Easter only days away and chocolate eggs on the minds of every child I know, I thought it timely to begin the week with a post on eggs. Good eggs from happy hens such as the ones in the photo above, those eggs are from our local organic farm. We buy them at the farm gate and visit the chickens who roam truly free range with lush grass to peck around in and organic feed to nourish them.

I understand the basic facts of supply + demand but still it is beyond my comprehension why people buy 'cage eggs'. I wonder if they were labelled 'from chickens in cages' with a photograph of the chooks living conditions on the box, a bit like the photos on packets of cigarettes, I wonder if then they would sell?

As for 'free-range' eggs, well still there is the problem of the very loose definition of what it is to roam free and whether the birds have endured mutilations such as beak trimming, toe trimming or de-snooding. On the Animal Welfare Labels website there is a useful guide to brands of free range eggs and the criteria of each brands definition of free range.

I've decided that part of my Easter gift giving will be to encourage anyone I know who buys cage eggs to encourage them to make the change and only buy eggs from farmers that look after their chickens well. Perhaps you too could convince friends or family to consider where the eggs they buy come from and do they really want to eat eggs from chickens in cages and support this farming practice?

Go on. Get cracking :) I couldn't resist.
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