Friday, January 31, 2014

weekend reading

(so many of these babies in our garden some have turned red. nature's perfect snack)

For all you mamas who sent your first little one off to school this year, big hug to you, well that's how I felt when River started school! It took me a good six months to settle in to being a school mum. Jodi has written a fantastic post about this topic. Congrats Jodi you and Che made it through your first year and judging by your post have both learnt a lot!

Speaking of school, Georgia's post on packing nourishing lunches - even for fussy eaters - is a must read.

And just in case you haven't replaced an old lunchbox from last year and are looking for a new one the range at biome eco-store has every possibility and budget covered.

For those of us still enjoying summer days, how good do these blueberry jelly tip dairy free ice 'creams' look?

I've been hunting around this week for a good cake recipe that is egg, spelt, wheat and walnut free and came across this incredibly rich and amazing sounding Mexican chocolate cake complete with cayenne pepper kick - it is gluten free, egg free and refined sugar free. (If you have any recipes for egg, spelt, wheat and walnut free cakes I'd love a link in the comments)

If you're looking to discover a blog to love, one about real food, photography, simple living try Soul Aperture, if food, fashion, motherhood by an American mum and writer are more your style visit Jo at A Cup of Jo.

Glennon Melton's writing on motherhood will speak to volumes to you I promise, read her article 'The Questions that will save your relationships' she puts a very thought provoking spin on "How was your day?"

Ok I better get back to doing some paid work now! Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Stay cool or warm depending on where you are in the world and I'll 'see' you back here next week for step# 5 in the wholefood series. Thanks by the way for the great feedback on that series I'm glad you are enjoying it and that it's helpful. Happy weekending xx

Thursday, January 30, 2014

thursday recipe: fried green bean, breadcrumbs and pistachio salad by Rachel Pitts

A big thankyou to hungry girl recipe writer extraordinaire Rachel Pitts for sharing one of her salad creations with us today. Some of you may remember Rachel from the wholefood mama interview she did last year where she shared another beautiful recipe for peanut and celery salad.

Green beans are in season here in Australia and this is my all time favorite green bean salad recipe, the recipe comes from volume 2 of The Hungry Girls' Cookbook series which by the way are on sale!! (I am not an affiliate just a fan). Normally $25 the girls are taking $10 off each book. For those who don't know their story, Rachel, Leah and Katherine are a trio of talented friends who got together and created three beautiful handmade cookbooks. Rachel writes the recipes, Leah takes the beautiful photos and Katherine takes care of the design and illustration and then with a team of helpers they sit around, drink tea, eat cake and hand stitch up the books. Well, I don't know for certain if there's tea and cake involved but I'm guessing there's a good chance.

Let's get into the recipe. I am not one to stick to recipes, I tend to do a lot of substituting based on what I have on hand and what needs to be eaten. I have made this recipe many times true to Rachel's original and other times I have used different herbs or nuts such as almond or pecans, I preferred the almonds over the pecans. Sorry Rachel! I'm not messing with your recipe just want people to give it a go and not be held back if you don't have pistachios in the cupboard. (that's why there is pecans in the picture above not pistachios)

As most of you know I am big on involving kids in cooking meals rather than just including them when we bake. I made this salad recently and set Sol and River up to top and tail the beans and cut them in half, kept them quiet for almost half an hour and while they weren't keen to eat a whole bowl of the finished product they were both happy to try some beans. Encouraging children to at least try a variety of vegetables is key to raising healthy eaters and if they are involved in the cooking process this is more likely to happen.

Enjoy this recipe, it is super delicious. Thanks again Hungry Girls.

Fried Green Bean, Breadcrumbs and Pistachio Salad

"This dish came about with some stuffing leftover from Christmas and a heap of beans picked from the garden. It's packed with flavour, so serve it with something simple, like a piece of plain grilled fish and some lemon wedges. The only thing you really need to prepare in advance is the breadcrumbs."

80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
Handful sage leaves
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
700g green beans, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup grated parmesan
1/3 bunch parsley, chopped
1/3 teaspoon salt
black pepper

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add the oil, onion and sage.

Fry until the onion is soft and browning at the edges.

Add the garlic and beans and turn the heat to high.

Fry, stirring regularly, for around 5 minutes, until the beans are almost cooked.

Add the pistachios, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.

Fry, stirring constantly, for a few more minutes until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Some will clump together with the parmesan. Keep scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure the mixture isn't burning, although a little bit of sticking makes for good crispy bits.

This salad is equally delicious hot or cold.

Serves 6

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: #4 fats & oils

Sorry I am a day late with this post, I got lost in the long weekend!

I planned to write today about coconut oil to keep things simple but I have decided to break my own rule and cover the whole topic of cooking fats and oils. Because if I just focus on coconut oil, I feel like I am not telling you the full story - ie. the fats and oils to avoid and the other fats and oils to include alongside coconut oil. 

I promise to still keep things straight forward and give you at least one small change you can easily make this week on your wholefood path.

Why we must eat fat

Let's start with the fact that good quality fats and oils are essential for a healthy brain (especially in developing children), healthy nervous system and hormone production. Pretty good reasons to include good fats in your diet. Added to this, eating a little bit of good quality fat (avocado, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, to name a few) satiates us, or in simple terms - it is satisfying and doesn't leave us looking for more food. 

Which are the best fats and oils?

This is a very detailed topic but basically the way I think about this is to think about fats and oils that have been minimally processed, it is the processing where the problems begin because heat and chemicals are used in the processing, changing the chemical composition of the food making it harder for our bodies to recognise, digest and put to use. Our bodies were not designed to function at their best on heavily processed foods. 

Unfortunately all fats - processed and unprocessed - get lumped in together and promoted as the enemy mainly as the causes for obesity, high cholesterol and heart disease. As explained above, fat is important and necessary for our health, I don't believe cutting it out completely is the way to go instead go for quality over quantity, traditional over modern man made.

In my kitchen I use organic butter or coconut oil to cook with and for salad dressings I use organic extra virgin olive oil, this keeps things nice and simple. When the budget allows there might be a bottle of nut oil such as macadamia or walnut in the pantry that I use on salad.

I remember as a child watching my great grandmother Emily slice butter and place it on bread like it were slices of cheese. My great grandmother lived until she was 86, I am grateful she taught me to make pastry from scratch using butter and that she fostered in me a love for cooking and real food. I digress. A worthy digression :)

A year or so ago I was in the habit of making ghee which is very nutritious and delicious and can be used for cooking or spreading as you would butter. Ghee is basically clarified butter, that is butter that has had the milk solids and water removed. It is expensive to buy organic ghee but if you are feeling like making your own, give it a go using these directions. 

The reason I don't use margarine or vegetable or seed oils like canola or sunflower, is because they are heat treated and/or chemically processed. These plant seed oils became popular when the saturated fats that our grandparents grew up on (butter, lard, meat fat) were demonised for causing heart disease and raising cholesterol. Given that fats are essential to brain health, hormone function and a healthy happy nervous system I prefer not to feed my cells damaged versions.

And while we are on damaged fats, trans fats are the big ones to eliminate. Trans fats are found in commercially produced baked goods - biscuits (sweet and savoury), cakes, donuts, pies, pastries - look out on labels for 'hydrogenated vegetable oil' or 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oil'. These fats are in no way supporting your health or your family's. It is really best to bake at home yourself using butter or coconut oil, or if you do buy baked goods in a cafe or bakery find one that uses real food ingredients - butter, not margarine or plant seed oil.

How much fat should I eat each day?

I'm not into calorie counting and weighing out food portions but I do believe in mindful eating. As I mentioned in the step-by-step post about salt, just because you are choosing a quality salt or in this case fat it doesn't mean you can eat it in unlimited quantities. From the range of pages I've looked at, 2-3 tablespoons of fat per day seems the consensus, of course you have to take into consideration your activity level. For more detailed information about this go here.

I am going to leave this topic alone for now because the whole aim of this series is not to overwhelm you!

This week to get some real food fats and oils into your kitchen you can do one or all of these:

- give coconut oil a go
- look for cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil (this means they haven't been heat or chemically treated)
- say goodbye to margarine and plant oils and switch to butter
- try making ghee
- start reading labels and find out which foods you are eating that contain trans fats, then make a switch.

Are you still with me? Overwhelmed? I hope not! Tell us in the comments your preferred fats and oils.

Further reading

Georgia Harding is a naturopath who writes a fantastic blog called Well Nourished you can read her great post about fats and oils here

Sonia from Natural New Age Mum has written this fantastic post A Beginner's Guide to Coconut Oil

A great chart about fats and oils I found on Claire's Real Food Real Change facebook page

Natalie over at Digestible Kitchen is not scared of fat! Visit her beautiful site for information and inspiration.

And if you really want to read up seek out David Gillespie's books Big Fat Lies and Toxic Oil

* disclaimer: I am not a doctor, scientist or health practitioner, this information is based on research and personal experience please consult a health practitioner if you have a health concern.

Friday, January 24, 2014

weekend reading

Have you made the mango sorbet yet that I posted on the blog last week? You really should. So easy and so well, yum!

I had some new business cards printed from Moo (in the pic), first time I've used Moo and I'm pretty happy with the result. 100 cards $35 all pretty easy to design.

Dare I utter the lunches...sssh! Sorry, but time to face facts school is going back all too soon and if you are in the market for new lunchboxes look no further than this lunchbox review post from none other than The Organised Housewife.

And while we're on lunchboxes when you're stuck for ideas as to what to put in the boxes check out Sonia's 30 super healthy lunchbox snacks (thanks Sonia for including my carrot hummus!)

Raw pistachio & almond coconut crumble with juicy nectarines from Petite Kitchen. Enough said.

If though you've overdone desserts, ice-cream, pizza and everything else that comes with holidays, then Georgia's very down-to-earth approach to cleansing and detoxing might be just the read for you.

Gosh that Bron over Maxabella loves has been busy posting great post after great post such as 52 cool things for families to do in 2014 and her great series '25...' features so many ideas to help you keep the kids entertained over the last couple of weeks of the school holidays. How does she do it with her three on school holidays?!

Let's talk social media for a minute, if you haven't already you can like The Wholefood Mama on facebook and I've recently joined all the cool kids over on Instagram @wholefoodmama. Now that I've caught up some new social media platform will pop up any second. I'm a bit slow on the up take.

Ok, excuse me now while I go and watch the Australian Open with my husband who is threatening a blogging curfew this year to put an end to my midnight computer sessions!

Have a great weekend see you back here next week. xx

Thursday, January 23, 2014

thursday recipe: crumbed chicken and salsa in pita by Emily Rose Brott

Today's recipe comes from mother of four and cookbook author Emily Rose Brott. I hope you've had a chance to try Emily's mango sorbet recipe from last week. There were actually squabbles in our kitchen last week over who got more in their bowl as we finished off the last of the sorbet, sound familiar? (sighs). Anyway, back to today's recipe, this one also comes from Emily's latest book Healthy Home Cooking for Kids and what I like about it is that it does that clever thing of combining the foods parents want their children to eat (vegetables) with foods that kids want to eat (crumbed chicken). It ticks the healthy, nutritious, tasty and fun boxes. 

For those on a gluten free diet you can substitute the bread crumbs with home made gluten free crumbs made from gf bread, if you've never made your own bread crumbs it is soooo easy just whizz some gf bread up in a food processor or blender and voila you have breadcrumbs. Or, you can use gf ricecrumbs. And in place of the pita you could roll this up in a gf wrap.

What do you think? Think your family will go for this? 

Thanks Emily for sharing your recipe with us, it is much appreciated! Saves us from thinking what to cook!

Crumbed chicken and salsa in pita

Serves 4
crumbed chicken
2 chicken fillets, butterflied
1 and a half cups wholemeal (wholewheat) breadcrumbs 
1 teaspoon mild paprika

1 avocado, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 and a half tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 wholemeal (wholewheat) pitas

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) fan-forced.
Slice chicken into nuggets, approximately 4 cm long. Place breadcrumbs, paprika and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix (for preparation of breadcrumbs, see cooking tips, page 8).
Dip chicken nuggets into breadcrumbs until coated. Line a baking tray with foil and place nuggets on tray.
Cook for 25 minutes.
To prepare salsa, gently combine avocado, cucumber and tomatoes in a bowl. Toss with lemon juice, oil and salt to taste.
To warm pitas, wrap in foil and place in oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve, slice the pitas in half, spread some mayonnaise over the base of the pita, and top with chicken nuggets and salsa.

Monday, January 20, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: #3 filtered water

Fourteen years ago when I was starting out as a food writer I met with the owner of an organic foodstore in Melbourne, she talked me through the housemade soups and take home dinners prepared in their store, "We had a water filter installed into the plumbing" she explained, "there's no point cooking with organic ingredients if you're not going to use filtered water when making soup and stock and so on." I have to admit, until that moment I hadn't given the composition of tap water too much thought.

Fast forward to my tiny kitchen today and our Nikken pi mag water filter takes pride of place on our limited bench space (my tiny kitchen tour coming soon). Before we made the $400+ investment in this filter system we used to have a Brita jug with a replaceable carbon filter which worked well and is certainly a cheaper option. We decided to upgrade after a trip staying with our friend in Byron Bay who has a Nikken and we loved the clean taste of the water so much.

After almost a decade of drinking filtered water at home I have become very sensitive to the taste and smell of chlorine in non-filtered water. When I go out I miss my water filter! You can see in the photograph at the very top there is a coppery brown colour on the filter. That filter starts out as white and over about a 3-4 weeks it gets browner until the water is filtering through so slowly I wipe the filter clean with a cloth. I think part of the reason for this is that we live in an old house with the original plumbing, filtering the water gives me piece of mind that the water is as clean as possible, plus it filters out the smell and taste of chlorine.

Why drink filtered water?

Given that just about every single process that happens in our body takes place in water it makes sense to ensure that the water we drink is as pure and free from chemical contaminants as possible.

Flouride and chlorine are added to our water supply here in Australia. The chlorine is added to ensure that bugs do not survive in the water - this is a good thing! - but how much chlorine is safe and the long term effects are up for debate. Flouride has been added to the water since the 1960's originally to minimise tooth decay, today most toothpaste contains flouride so there is some belief that we may now be getting too much flouride.

This detailed report on water filters and contaminants by Choice magazine provides a good explanation of reasons to get a water filter and the different kinds of filters available.

If you have your own water supply such as tank or bore water it is imperative to have your supply regularly checked for contaminants, you probably already knew that though right! I made myself nicely sick drinking contaminated tank water when I was pregnant with River, frightening and not fun at all.

What about bottled water?

The main reason to steer clear of water sold in plastic bottles is the environmental problems associated with producing and transporting bottled water as well as disposing of the plastic bottles. You can read a list of convincing reasons not to buy bottled water here.

And then there is the issue of plastic leaching into the water. There are various types of plastic used to make single use and reusable drinking bottles. Unless it is a matter of dehydration I'd say steer clear of single use bottles and instead buy a reusable stainless steel, glass or BPA free bottle and don't leave home without it.

My main reason for writing about water today is to reinforce the importance of drinking the stuff! Filtered is definitely my preference but even if you decide buying a water filter has to wait a while on the priority list, if you do one thing for yourself and your family this year it would be to quit soft drink, prepackaged juices, flavoured milks and switch to drinking a good amount of water each day. The amount will vary depending on age, activity level and climate you are in but the general guide is 2 litres per day for adults and for children aged 5-8 1 litre, aged 9-12 1.5 litres and aged 13+ 2 litres.

Squeezing a splash of fresh lemon or orange juice can make the water more appealing if you are not used to drinking much and the citrus also aids absorption. One of the best ways to ways to kickstart your daily water intake is with a glass of warm water with lemon juice first thing in the morning before breakfast or tea or coffee, the lemon water is cleansing for your liver and means you start the day hydrated. Another easy step!

Do you have a water filter to recommend? Or a favorite reusable water bottle? Tell us in the comments.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

thursday recipe: mango sorbet by Emily Rose Brott

I'm typing quickly because the keys on my computer may melt. It is 41 degrees celsius here in Victoria today!! Never a better time for a beautiful mango sorbet recipe. My plan this year is to post a recipe for you every Thursday. 

Today's recipe comes from Melbourne mother of four and cookbook author Emily Rose Brott. 
Emily's first cookbook Have Your Cake came about because she began experimenting with baking healthier, wholefood versions of her kids (aged 6-14) favorite treats. Chocolate chip biscuits were the first test recipe made with real dark chocolate and no trans fats or artificial additives, just real food. The biscuits were a hit with the kids and all their friends, soon mums were asking Emily for recipes and her book was born.

In her recently released second book Healthy Home Cooking for Kids Emily shares delicious lunches and dinners in addition to sweet favorites such as this summer sensation: mango sorbet. The recipes in Emily's books are made without refined sugar, white flour, or butter due to Emily and her son being lactose intolerant. 

I had a chat with Emily last week and asked her how she handles any requests from her kids to eat processed foods. Emily explained that she involves her children in cooking at home and talks to them about the difference between real food ingredients and what additives, preservatives, colourings etc; can do to their bodies and behaviour. So, when her daughter came home from school and asked if she could have a particular lunch box snack that her friend had Emily and her daughter took a look at the ingredients next time they were at the supermarket. "I read the label and it had so many additives in it I physically couldn't put it in the trolley", Emily told me. Her daughter said, "It's ok mum, I understand why you can't let us eat that sort of food". Pretty cool huh? 

I know some of you may be reading this thinking that would never happen with my kids, they would still want it! But I am a huge believer in educating our children from a young age about the ingredients in the food they eat as Emily is doing with her children I believe it does make a difference in the long run because they grow up with an awareness which is a great beginning for a real food future.

So, thanks Emily for the inspiration for all us mums who are doing our best to feed our families well in the face of so much fake food. Thanks for sharing your recipe and for taking the time to put your book together.

Tune in next week and I will post Emily's recipe for crumbed chicken and salsa in pita.

Mango Sorbet

1.5 mangoes
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 egg whites

Remove the skin and seed from the mangoes and blend until smooth (if using frozen mangoes, allow to thaw). Dissolve the honey in the boiling water and mix into the mangoes. Add orange juice
and mix.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.
Gently fold egg whites into mango mixture until combined.

Place the mango sorbet in an airtight container and freeze. Prepare the day before serving, to allow the sorbet to freeze.

Serves 4

Monday, January 13, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: # 2 salt

Welcome back for step two! As I said last week, knowing where to start with wholefoods or getting back to real food leaves many people confused and overwhelmed. I really want to help lessen that feeling through this series. One small step at a time is the best way for lasting change.

Today we're looking at salt. Poor old salt. It gets a bad rap, blamed for raising blood pressure and causing strokes and heart attacks. Who would eat it?! Oh but it tastes so good.

Well, if we delve a little deeper you'll discover not all salt is created equal and if you are going to add salt to your food there are some better choices you can make than table salt.

Before we get into the details let's consider that salt is one of the basic five tastes and that it plays an important role in how the human body functions. Salt is made up of the compounds sodium and chloride. Sodium chloride plays a role in fluid regulation, muscle contraction, pH balance and digestion. Our bodies cannot make salt on their own, we rely on getting salt from the food we eat.

I'm not an expert in that I'm not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist, but the problem with salt as I see it is the quality and quantity consumed (consult a practitioner if you are wondering about your salt intake). Real unprocessed salt in and of itself is not the problem, the problem is that refined salt is a dominant ingredient in many processed foods from breakfast cereals to deli meats. So, if the majority of the food you eat comes from packets your refined salt intake is already high and then if you are adding salt at the table overload is on the cards. This adds up to excess salt consumption coupled with the additives found in table salt. Who wants to eat aluminium? No thanks.

Different forms of salt explained

Table salt

The luminous white powdery stuff referred to as table salt is a highly refined version of the mineral that originally came from the earth. The problem with this kind of salt is that through processing it is stripped of its naturally present trace minerals and is often mixed with anti-caking agent (some of which contain aluminium). Table salt is also fortified with iodine, iodine is essential for good hormone health and vitally important in pregnancy for the development of healthy babies. You can read more about iodine on Cyndi O'Meara's site. Seaweed is a good source of iodine, but like everything it is important to get the balance right for your individual body.

Sea Salt

Sea salt can vary in colour from white to grey to pink, depending on where it is harvested. Sea salt is unprocessed, hand-harvested and free of additives. Some sea salts are moist others are dry.

The label on the Macrobiotic Sea Salt pictured above reads:

..."It is dried only by the hot summer sun and wind. It is harvested in late summer by salt farmers who delicately gather the salt from the marshes with wooden hand tools. This salt is unrefined, unwashed and free of flowing agents and additives. Because this salt is only sun dried it retains the ocean's moisture, which helps lock in many naturally occurring trace elements"

Himalayan Salt

Himalayan salt is mined in the Khewra Salt mines in Pakistan and is celebrated for being unprocessed, having 84 trace elements and additive free.

Table Salt, Sea Salt and Himalayan Salt are all forms of sodium chloride so need to be used mindfully, however it is the fact that Sea Salt and Himalayan Salt are unprocessed and additive free that sets them apart from table salt.

Another difference is the flavour. Once you stop eating table salt your taste buds adjust and flavours become heightened. To my taste, table salt is harsh.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or confused about deciding what to eat, think about your where the food you are going to eat comes from:

Would you prefer salt of the earth or salt of the factory?

And as with all foods, don't fool yourself into thinking that because something is natural or real that you can eat as much of it as you want. For me the practice of being truthful with myself about what agrees with my body is as important as the actual food.

Do you use salt? What kind? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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