Thursday, April 30, 2015

thursday recipe: Lee Holmes red capsicum and hazelnut pesto & basil pesto

Lee Holmes' blog Supercharged Food is one of the first wholefoodie blogs I started reading when I discovered blogs about four years ago. 

I bought Lee's ebook Supercharged Food for Kids and have been following along ever since.

In recent times Lee has produced a collection of beautiful cookbooks all aimed at those looking for deliciousness to go with their nutrition. And today I have not one but two nutritious, delicious recipes to share with you from Lee's book 'Supercharged Food Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian'.

Before we get to the recipes, let's talk about the book. Well, as you can see it is beautiful to look and Lee is the picture of health so we're off to a good start! Between the covers you'll find an introduction that is supercharged in itself, it is jam packed with nutrition information, cooking tips, seasonal veg guides, great tips for getting more veggies into your diet, shopping list and meal planner.

The 120+ recipes are divided into chapters: Drink Your Vegetables, Breakfast, Salads & Soups, Main Meals, Desserts, Sides Dips Snacks & Nibbles, and Dollops Dressings and Sauces.

Chai chia breakfast pudding sounds like a great way to me to start the day. Moving on to lunch I'll have the eggplant, pomegranate and minted quinoa salad please. Throughout the recipe sections there are 'supercharged tips' and 'health benefits' explained, so if you are new to wholefoods and don't know your chia from your quinoa don't worry!

Fudgy black bean biscuits have me intrigued and worried at the same time, black beans in a biscuit? How is that texture going to work out? Tell me if you've given them a go.

For anyone transitioning to a wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free or vegan diet or who is already eating this way and wants inspiration this is the book for you.

Thanks to Lee and her publisher Murdoch Books for sharing not one but two recipes from this book, red capsicum and hazelnut pesto, and everyone's favorite basil pesto minus the pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Whip them up for an after school snack with veggie sticks or crackers, as a great healthy spread on toast, to have with grilled or roasted meats, on pasta if you're still loving pasta...there are lots of ways to enjoy these yummy, good for you, pestos. 
Let me know your favorite.

Published by Murdoch Books $34.99

Red Capsicum and Hazelnut Pesto
WF  DF  GF  SF  VEG  VG          Makes 2 cups
Homemade pesto is so easy to whip up yourself, that you’ll soon be waving goodbye to the citric acid, preservatives, additives and the high-sodium hit that can accompany a large proportion of supermarket varieties.

11/2 red capsicums (peppers), seeds and membrane removed, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2/3 cup basil leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
135 g (43/4 oz/1 cup) lightly toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons cold-pressed extra virgin
olive oil
pinch of Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until it reaches the desired consistency. This pesto will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Supercharged Tip
For a delicious variation, try substituting the hazelnuts with blanched almonds, or sunflower seeds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

Basil Pesto
WF  DF  GF  SF  VEG  VG          Makes 1 cup
My man loves this recipe — he calls it pesto with a twist. Basil is packed with iron and magnesium, which improves circulation, and the essential oil eugenol provides anti-inflammatory effects similar to that of aspirin, making it as good for you as it is delicious.

160 g (53/4 oz/1 cup) blanched almonds
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
small pinch of Celtic sea salt

Place the almonds in a food processor and whizz until fine. Add the garlic and pulse, then add the basil and whizz again. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have the desired consistency, then add the lemon juice, yeast flakes and salt.

This pesto will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week and can be refreshed with an extra splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

thursday recipe: Leilani Wolfenden's cianfotta

(photos by Peter McConchie)

Today I have a beautiful recipe for you from the humble and talented chef Leilani Wolfenden who heads up the kitchen at my favorite local bistro here in Sorrento, Cakes & Ale.

At the end of 2013 the Cakes & Ale team set about transforming the neighborhood Chinese restaurant on Sorrento's main street into an understated but inviting space to house their bistro.

The nosey journalist in me was immediately intrigued. What was this new place all about?
Would they survive the pace and attitude of summer in Sorrento? (Strange phenomenon happens here in summer, crowds of holidaymakers descend upon the town and despite the fact that they are on holiday they can be impatient and demanding!)

I snuck in for a coffee on Christmas Eve they'd been open just a few days, to scope it out and let's be honest have an extra half an hour to myself away from my darling family. There was an air of friendly confidence about the place that said the people behind it knew what they were doing. I was relieved for them and excited for me.

I love living on the Peninsula, I love that it is not the city, that the ocean beaches are wild and deserted for most of the year but there are many times that I yearn for a local cafe or restaurant with at least a pinch of the sophistication and personality found in Melbourne. Not to mention, a place that offers honest, skilfully prepared food, full of flavour and locally grown ingredients.

A year on, Cakes & Ale have settled into the neighborhood making friends with locals and weekend visitors. I've donned my PR hat and now work on the marketing and media of Cakes & Ale, which is easy because I was already a fan. And in case you're thinking this post is just a marketing ploy I think we know each other well enough by now to know I only write about things I actually use or would be happy to spend my money on. Also, I've been planning a series on 'wholefood' cafes and restaurants because the good ones are hard to find and I figure I might as well put to use my reviewing and food writing skills to share with you what I find.

Back to the story. My first inklings were correct, the team behind Cakes & Ale do know a thing or two about the restaurant game. Owner James Langley, Manager Mathew Guthrie and chef Leilani Wolfenden made a seachange from Melbourne where James set up Panama Dining Room and St Jude's Cellars, Mathew worked as manager at both, and Leilani honed her skills at notable restaurants including Est Est Est, Ondine, Comme, Petrus (London), The Square (London) and her own venture in Northcote, Next Door Diner.

They all grew up in the country, then after years of restaurant life in the city have come full circle returning to all that they enjoy about being out of the city. The slower pace, the proximity to local producers and growers, and being able to grow food themselves. James has established a kitchen garden up the road from Cakes & Ale to provide specialty or hard to find herbs and vegetables, this season roderique shallots, ciccio sprouting broccoli, rock samphire, broad beans and lots of green manure crops to help improve the sandy soil are being planted.

Thursday night at Cakes & Ale local seafood is a feature, Leilani creates beautiful classic bistro seafood dish for $20 from the catch of the day caught by White Fisheries who fish Port Phillip Bay. The fish caught that day arrives by ferry at Sorrento pier in time for dinner.

Tell me some of your favorite wholefood cafes and restaurants in the comments. Cafes and restaurants that are cooking for real, creating menus using locally grown and sourced produce. 

Enjoy Leilani's recipe!

Cakes & Ale
100 - 102 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
for bookings ph: 03. 5984 4995

Leilani Wolfenden’s Cianfotta

100ml olive oil
1 aubergine, cut into 2cm chunks doesn’t have to be perfect
2 kg ripe tomatoes cut into 2cm chunks, again doesn’t have to be perfect
1 large brown onion finely diced
½ head of garlic, finely sliced

750ml vegetable stock

1 yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini
Slice zucchini on the angle 2mm wide
2 or 3 leaves of silverbeet and or black cabbage, slice thinly
Handful green beans, slice on diagonal into 4 or 5 pieces

100 gram green split peas
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
500 ml vegetable stock


In a heavy based large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Reduce to low heat, cover with lid and stir occasionally until transparent.

Add aubergine and stir. Put lid back on and cook until aubergine is a smooshy mess (approximately 45 minutes).

Add the tomatoes, season.

Add zucchini and leave the lid off and cook until the majority of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated, check seasoning and set aside.

In a separate pot, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic, cook in the same way as above.

Keep on a low heat and add split peas. Make sure the peas are coated with onions and garlic before adding the veggie stock a ladle full at a time replacing the lid each time and allowing to cook slowly like making risotto (45-60 minutes).

When all the stock has been absorbed and the split peas are cooked, remove from the heat and set aside.

To serve

Saute beans, zucchini, black cabbage and silverbeet in olive oil, seasoning generously.

When vegetables are starting to wilt add 4 tablespoons of eggplant mix and 1 cup of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and check if it needs seasoning.

In a serving bowl put 2 or 3 tablespoons of pea puree – cold is fine – it all gets mixed around.

Pour bean and zucchini vegetable mix over the top and scatter with fresh oregano leaves and a few fresh basil leaves.

A few drops of olive oil over the top won’t go amiss.



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

happy belated easter. no secrets, ok?

Happy belated Easter everyone.

I hope you've all recovered from the chocolate and hot x bun overload, not to mention daylight savings ending coupled with school holidays. I know, sugar high plus sleep deprivation what a combo.

Whether your eggs and buns were sugar loaded or spelt or paleo or fairtrade or organic, the main thing is I hope you all spent some good time with people you love because really that's what holidays should be about.

I've been pondering some things this Easter to do with parenting and food, I can actually give myself a headache thinking about this sort of thing so I thought I'd throw it over to you and get your thoughts and insights.

It all started with cheese balls and coke. Yep. Cheese balls and Coke, words I bet you never expected to read here.

My oldest son is 8 going on 9 and I can see his curiosity growing about many things, including food, how other families do things, their rules, what other kids eat and so on.

We spent some time with friends from Melbourne one day on the holidays and after a morning at the skatepark the three boys were hungry. I didn't have my usual snacks of dips and rice crackers with me so we walked to the nearby supermarket.

My friend who we were with has a different approach to food with her boys than we do with ours in that as long as her boys eat fruit and vegetables, they're allowed to eat a bit of 'junk', processed food.

My approach generally is that even the 'junk' has to be a good version of junk. I was curious as we entered the supermarket as to what the boys would go for. A packet of chips was the request.

Usually I would head for the 'health food' aisle and my boys could choose veggie chips or organic plain potato chips.

On this day we left the supermarket with cheese balls. I didn't look at the ingredients, I didn't make a big deal about it, I let them make their choice all the while knowing that they knew it wouldn't be something that we'd ever regularly do.

You see, I don't want to always say no. I don't want to set up a 'good' and 'bad' food battle that can later be used against me. At the moment with our boys aged 5 and 8, Pete and I are instilling our values in our them, guiding them, educating them. But when it comes down to it, they will grow into who they are and make their own decisions and I'm becoming more thoughtful about ways to raise them so that they do not make decisions out of defiance secret. Secrets = shame. (Unless the secret is a surprise party or a gift of course, that = fun!)

Over Easter I took the boys to Melbourne and we went out for lunch to a cafe. We ordered our meals and then my oldest boy asked, "Can drinking one coke make you sick?" I explained that Coke has a lot of sugar in it so if you're not used to having a lot of sugar it might make you feel sick in the tummy but it wouldn't make you really, really sick (he was meaning like heart attack or cancer sick). To my surprise he then asked, "Can Sol and I share a Coke?" I laughed. I thought he was joking.
But he wasn't. He explained in all seriousness that he wanted to taste Coke and could they have one.

This raised lots of questions in my mind. Will my boys feel like they have to hide junk food from us if they want to eat it when they are older and have their own money to pay for it?

Food is about so many things, not just health and nutrition. There is the emotional and social aspect and unfortunately for children and teenagers being raised to not eat processed foods, they can feel like the odd ones out. While this isn't a reason to just start eating processed food, to 'fit in', it is something I'm aware of and the challenges it can present to young people when all they want to do it fit in and be like their friends.

River and Sol didn't drink Coke that day, they had water with their lunch. I explained to River that I understood he was curious about Coke and that one day if he wanted to taste it he could but it wouldn't be today. He persisted, "Why not today?" So I added that along with all the sugar, Coke also has caffeine in it and caffeine isn't good for children. Thankfully he was happy to leave it at that!

At the Easter hat parade at school on the last day of term I was chatting to one of the teachers about all the Easter eggs being passed around, the teacher said "The kids who eat things like this all the time aren't fussed about them, the kids who don't get much of this sort of thing go crazy for them."

I'm interested to hear your thoughts and experiences. How do you handle requests for junk food?
Are you concerned that your child feels like they need to sneak or hide junk food because they know you won't approve? I'd love to hear and I'm sure others would too. Tell us in the comments.

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