Friday, 21 December 2012

Almond and coconut balls - Ferrero Raffaello style!

I used to absolutely love those little balls of pleasure, Ferrero Raffaello!  So moreish though - it was always hard to stop at one.  Well, who am I kidding?  I never stopped at one!

Until, of course, I was diagnosed Coeliac, and sadly these delightful little treats moved across to the 'no go' list, which my hips were probably relieved about, but I did miss them!

So when deciding this year what I was going to make for the various Christmas related gatherings and presents, the flavour of the Raffaello popped into my mouth, as did the thought of pretty little 'snowballs' gracing the top of my Christmas cake and being placed in little packages for kinder teacher presents!  I took to work in an attempt to replicate the flavours of the Raffaello, but home style, and of course gluten free! (they could be dairy free too with a few ingredient changes as noted in the recipe below)

A tasty way of decorating your Christmas cake (try my Kahlua version!)
These are nice and easy, the kids can get involved in the chocolate coating and coconut rolling (although the yield may go down considerably!), and you'll be sure to impress taking these to any festive function.

You will need some kind of high speed processor to turn the shredded coconut into a paste.  I obviously use my Thermomix however I am sure food processors (particularly smaller ones) would work just as well.  This is probably the most tedious part of the recipe but believe me, the results are worth it!

As an aside, have a look at the ingredient list below for Raffaellos, and then compare to the ingredients in my recipe below.  Nice to think of the good quality natural ingredients you'll be passing onto your loved ones!
Oh and I found I could use minimal sugar (40g rapadura divided into 30 balls - you do the math!) as the almonds and coconut bring a natural sweetness of their own, and of course the white chocolate adds a fine coating of sweetness to each mouthful, making them perfect to have with a coffee, or even a nice sweet digestif!


Ingredients: Desiccated Coconut (23.5%), Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Skim Milk Powder, Vegetable Fats, Whole Almond (8%), Wheat Flour, Whey Powder, Flavourings, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Rye Flour, Raising Agent (Sodium Bicarbonate), Salt.

Almond Coconut balls - Snowballs (makes approx 30)


200g organic shredded coconut (I used macro brand)
40g rapadura sugar (coconut sugar or brown sugar could also be used)
1 tbs organic coconut oil
65g raw almonds (or almond meal if not using a Thermomix)
60ml cream (use coconut cream for dairy free version)
250g good quality white chocolate (use dairy free chocolate if required)

Method - Conventional 

  1. Place 150g of the shredded coconut and sugar in the food processor.  Process to a paste.  This will take a bit of stop/starting and scraping down the sides but hang in there, the oils will release from the coconut and it will happen!
  2. Add the almond meal, coconut oil and cream and process again, scraping the sides until thoroughly combined.
  3. Place mixture in fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Meanwhile, place remaining 50g coconut into a bowl.  Set aside.
  5. Melt the chocolate according to directions on pack.
  6. To assemble, roll mixture into small balls, approximately the width of a 10 cent piece.  Dip into melted chocolate (I coated them using two spoons) using just enough for an even coating then roll and coat in the shredded coconut.  Set aside and repeat until all balls are coated.
  7. Store in fridge but leave out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Method - Thermomix

  1.  Place 150g of the shredded coconut, coconut oil and sugar into the TM bowl.  Blend on speed 5-6 until a paste forms.  This will take a bit of stop/starting - when you hear the blades no longer hitting the mixture scrape down the bowl and start again.  Be patient though - it does happen!
  2. Add the almonds and process for a further 20 seconds on speed 7.
  3. Add the cream and process for a further 20 seconds on speed 6 until well combined and relatively smooth.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and place in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes or until firm.
  5. Follow steps 4-7 above.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gluten free Kahlua Christmas cake

You may already have a special Christmas cake recipe in your family that has been handed down from generation to generation.
The hand written recipe having been, at some point in time, penciled over with metric conversions, splattered with butter and spice, torn, worn, paper yellowed, and yet with so many memories dancing off the page, the paper is pulled out of storage once a year, marking the start of another season of celebrations.

Funnily enough that was not the case in our family.  Actually I don't remember traditional Christmas cake ever gracing the table in our house.  Mum was the only family member who even liked it and because our family is very small, we tended to celebrate Christmas either with a seafood BBQ or even going out for Yum Cha at Little Bourke St, Melbourne city!

But I have this new found urge to create a new tradition for my own little family now, and that is to perfect a Christmas cake recipe that hopefully will be loved and remembered by my boys as something to look forward to each festive season.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

STEPS 7 - Detoxify your diet

And by that title I certainly do NOT mean the latest lemon detox or broth only diet!!  Surely you know me well enough now to know I would not be leading you down that garden path??!!

What I do mean for this task is to wave a magnifying glass over the commonplace food items in your pantry/fridge/freezer and have a real look at what exactly you are eating and feeding your family.

This, for me, really became a focus with the arrival of the Thermomix into my kitchen in 2012.  A friend had given me a book on artificial additives and preservatives a few years before and to be completely honest, I graciously accepted it and, though it did catch my interest at the time, obviously not enough as I never really read it and instead it fell onto a bookshelf never to be opened again.     

But with the Thermomix and a series of other recent events leading me down this learning trail, wow!  The passion, invigoration, enthusiasm and belief for where I am heading with this is the exact reason why I have made it one of our STEPS to the greater goal of wellness and happiness!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Roast vegetable and brown rice slice

 There a few things I like about this dish.
1.  The versatility.  We had this slice for dinner, though it would be just as ideal for lunch, picnics, brunch, and even sliced into bite sized pieces and served as an hor d oeuvre/appetiser.
2.  Loaded with veg.  The latest task in the STEPS program is 'pumping up' your fruit and vegetable intake, and this dish is a great way of eating lots of veggies in a delicious and filling way!
3.  Easy to make.  Whilst it isn't a dish that would feature on 'Jamie's 15 minute meals', the processes are not difficult and would even be a great dish for the kids to make for you when you need a break from cooking!!  (Do I need a disclaimer here to point out the possible need for supervision of knives and heat processes??)
4.  Good meal for vegetarians.  Given there is tofu, a rainbow of vegetables, brown rice, cheese and eggs in this dish, vegetarians are ensuring a balanced intake of protein, fibre, vitamin B12 and a multitude of other complementary vitamins and minerals.  This recipe is also gluten free and could be dairy free by either omitting the cheese component altogether or using your favourite dairy free cheese.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

STEPS 6 - Pump up the fruit and veg


Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or perhaps even a boulder for the last few years, you would have heard the old slogan, 'eat 2 fruit and 5 veg a day'.

And yet sadly only 15% of Australian men and 13-14% Australian women actually achieve this target*.  When I ask myself why the stats are so low, I think, is it taste? Cost?  Meat and carbs portions taking greater share of the plate?  The influx of 'snacks' on the market taking away share from good old fashioned fruit?.....

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Basil, spinach, zucchini, macadamia and feta pesto

Pesto is a funny thing.  Most people buy it in a jar these days, and yet at the same time it is seen as quite a 'gourmet' meal.
Maybe its the Thermomix that makes me wonder why you'd buy it in a jar, and why anyone would consider it 'gourmet'!
This dish is what I would call 'fast food'!  Perfect for those nights when you have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table.  And yet it is so so nutritious - bursting with vitamins and minerals, enhanced by minimal cooking.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

STEPS 5 - Reduce added sugar

C'mon, you knew it was coming didn't you??!!
And yet for most of us this one is probably already creating anxiety.  How am I going to be able to do this?  How can I possibly live without my chocolate or ice cream fix each night after the kids go to bed, bikkie with a cuppa at the office, two sugars in a latte to kick start the day.....

OK, I want to start this conversation with my personal experience with sugar.  Because before it, I don't think I really understood or believed the power sugar has on us.  I actually do think it is an addictive substance for many of us, and its not until you make the effort to 'get off it' that you realise the hold it had over you.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

STEPS 4 - Make one dinner a week meat free

Originally launched during World War I in the States, revived in 2003, and since then developed into a global movement, Meatless Monday has taken the world by storm, including Australia who has set up a not-for-profit initiative, Meatless Mondays Australia.

Have you heard of it?

The reasons for 'meatless Monday' center around environmental reasons (high greenhouse emissions associated with livestock production), animal rights, and health benefits associated with a reduction in meat and consequently an increase in consumption of legumes and vegetables.

So why am I making this a part of our STEPS program?  I actually think meat serves a very important purpose in the diet, however I agree that we do eat more than we need to, and our serving sizes typically are much larger than they need to be too, reducing the amount of veggies on the plate.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Healthier nutritious homemade breakfast cereals

For a meal that is now widely known as the 'most important meal of the day', many food companies out there aren't really doing a great job of providing breakfast options that give a healthy start to the day.  For some reason it is actually quite difficult to find cereals that don't contain a high amount of sugar (and highly processed sugar at that), a multitude of 'numbers' (additives and preservatives), and a whole heap of over processed grains that need stuff added back into the mix to make it look healthy.

Actually I would say that apart from Weetbix, plain porridge, and maybe one or two others, the rest of the breakfast cereal aisle should be picked up and dropped into the confectionary aisle.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

STEPS 3 - Add 2 tablespoons of seeds 5x p/wk

OK so we have good hydration sorted, and regular fish consumption well on the way.  So, what do I think is another important addition to our Small Tasks Equal Permanent Success plan?......
Yes, these nutrient dense powerhouses will really pack a punch to your vitamin and mineral intake, and with such little effort!  Just a couple of tablespoons on most days of the week is all that you will need.
There are so many ways to use 2 tablespoons, but lets first briefly go through a few seeds and their nutrition benefits..

Monday, 1 October 2012

Breakfast loaf - gluten, nut and dairy free

After fasting for 10 or so hours, our body is craving fuel, and what better way to satisfy that craving than by a nutrient packed brekky?!  It is not only beneficial physically, but emotionally, having a good breakfast tends to pave the way for better food choices throughout the day. 

I have raved before about the base of this recipe in a previous post where I made it into a cheese and herb loaf, although you may notice a slight colour difference this time around??!!!  Cyndi O'Mearas Gluten Free Bread recipe, featured in the Thermomix GF recipe book, is the recipe I use exclusively now to make my weekly loaf of bread.  It is so easy and I love that a large percentage of the ingredients are freshly milled at the time of making the loaf.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

101 nutritious, easy and tasty meal ideas using canned tuna (well, not quite 101!)

So the second task in the STEPS program has been all about getting more fish into your diet!  For some that will not be an issue, but for others, fish is rarely if ever eaten in the home.  The reasons for not incorporating fish into your regular eating plan may be financial, lack of availability, dislike of flavour, or lack of knowledge or confidence in preparing and cooking fish.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

STEPS 2 - Eat fish (or substitutes) at least once a week

I know a lot of people may want to turn off when they see this task - either due to having an allergy to fish/shellfish, or just disliking the taste.  Well, don't despair if that is you! I have alternatives that offer similar nutrition benefits, and for those of you who just don't like the taste of fish, hopefully over the next two weeks of the task, I can provide you with recipes and tips that will have you enjoying fish like never before!

So why do I think this task is important enough to include in the STEPS program?  Well, obviously the nutrition benefits are bountiful, some of which are these:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

STEPS 1 - Increase water intake

Did you know our body is made up of 55-75% water??!  With that fact alone it is easy to see how important it is to maintain our bodies hydration!

Most of you would have heard that you can go without food for up to a number of weeks, whereas water, well you're looking more around a few days, in normal conditions and health.

We get a fair bit of fluid from the food we eat, however it is not enough for our bodies to function correctly.

Our body doesn't store water so it needs a fresh supply every day.  Most mature adults lose between 2.5-3 litres of water every day, increasing in hot weather and with increased exercise.

Dehydration can be deadly, and did you know that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already experiencing a level of dehydration?

Some times when you think you are hungry, it may be that you are actually thirsty!  Have a glass of water before deciding whether you really need that extra snack!!

Water is imperative for many reasons, including the following in this diagram:

So as you can see, drinking water daily is fundamental to our health, and hence why I chose it as our first task in the STEPS program.
The task is this.....

Each day, aim to drink between 6-8 standard glasses of water.  

This will provide your body with roughly 1.5-2 litres of water.  Depending on how much you drink at the moment, you may find you are needing to go to the toilet a lot in the first couple of days, however as your body adjusts, this will ease - so don't give up just because you can't be bothered rushing to the toilet a few times a day!!

For those of you who either don't enjoy water, or don't currently drink much of it for one reason or another, here are some tips to achieve this first task.

  • Fill a drink bottle and have it with you wherever you go.  At your desk at work, in the car, in your bag.  If you have a 750ml-1Lt drink bottle, aim to finish it before lunchtime, and then again before dinner.  That way you won't be waking during the night needing the toilet!
  • If you don't enjoy drinking water, try squeezing some lemon, lime or orange juice into the glass.  Herbal teas and mineral water also count.
  • Keep track of how many glasses you and your family members have drunk by making a fun chart and placing it on the fridge, placing a sticker or stamp on the chart each time a glass is finished.  For little kids, it is imperative to keep their fluids up, so this is a fun way to achieve this.
This will be your focus for two weeks, starting today.  Keep in touch via Facebook and let me know how you are going!

For more interesting information on the importance of drinking water, read this informative article.


Come make STEPS with me!

The overwhelming response I have had from my blog so far have been the little changes that you are starting to think about to improve your and your families eating habits.  From adding chia seeds to your baked goods, to reading food labels and developing an awareness for brands that contain less additives.

However on the flip side, I know old habits die hard, and changes, although desperately wanted, are often not achieved. Why? Well the answer to that varies from one person to the next, but there seems to be one overarching factor. Too many changes at once!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Pantry essentials for making healthy changes

If you're anything like me, you need practical, hands on advice/tips to help make changes in life.  Its an enabler to take me from thinking, 'yeah, I want to do that', 'thats what I want to incorporate into my life' to actually taking the steps and making the changes.

If you are in the situation whereby you read blogs like mine because you want to follow an actively healthy lifestyle, but months on you are pretty much eating the same foods, cooking the same way and exercising the same amount, then we need to shake things up a bit!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Perfect with a cuppa - Apple Hazelnut cake

I should be trying to tie this post into Fathers Day, shouldn't I?  Hmm, well I haven't perfected my Bourbon soaked shanks recipe yet and I'm not sure an apple tea cake would be at the top of every dads wish list for Sunday!!  Gee, that was a bit sarcastic and stereotypical wasn't it?!  My hubby actually doesn't mind apple tea cake, and quite liked this cake too!

The apples I'm now getting from Petty's Orchard are so tasty at the moment.  When I made another batch of my brown rice and quinoa baby rusks recipe the other day, I actually didn't even need to add sugar as the half apple that you add to the flour was so flavourful and sweet that sugar wasn't needed.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Steamed choc caramel puddings

This weather just doesn't seem to be warming up quick enough for my liking!!  But then, I know I could quite happily live in a climate that wouldn't ever dip below 25 degrees. I'd be as happy as a pig in mud!

But, living in Melbourne, that will never be the case so I may as well make the most of the cooler days while they last, and for me that means comfort food.  And when we have visitors or go visiting, that can mean a little indulgence with the comfort I reckon!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sweet potato, chickpea and chia burgers - Tasty, healthy, oh and did I mention tasty?!

Burgers really are a great comfort food aren't they?!  They are the perfect culinary answer to so many situations - quick meal out with mates, summer picnics in the park, casual meal out with the kids (where you don't generally have to worry how messy they get!), 'refueling' after a big night out on the town, and many more.

Up until a few years ago, burgers were found at either the local fish'n'chip shop or of course at McD's, and were pretty one dimensional - low grade meat patty, bit of lettuce and tomato maybe, white bun and, what am I forgetting???  Oh yes, the quintessential accompaniment, tomato sauce (or ketchup if that's speaking more your language!).  In more recent times, various gourmet fast food establishments have arisen and taken the humble burger to a new level, and consequently reinvigorated our interest.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Healthy grain cherry macaroon cake (coincidentally gluten and dairy free!)

This creation actually came about not from an abundance of seasonal produce being put to good use, but from my next favourite option, frozen stock!  The great thing about buying frozen fruits (or freezing your own home grown crops) is not just the bleeding obvious, being able to eat them all year round, but the nutrition status can often be better than their fresh siblings due to being snap frozen only hours after picking.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Fig, nut and puffed rice bars

I am constantly trying to think of new and tasty snack ideas for the family that ticks all the boxes - providing nutrition whilst at the same time being something that is enjoyed and not eaten 'just because its healthy'!

Although my boys are a little way off school yet, I know it is such a difficult thing for parents to come up with lunchbox fillers day in and day out.  Not only that but many schools now have 'no nut' as well as minimal packaging (nude food) policies, further reducing the options available.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Espresso, hazelnut and cinnamon ice cream

When coming up with flavour combinations, for me it is often the coming together of imagery, to the point where I can pretty much taste it.  Sometimes its from the senses of smell and touch, and often it stems from an ingredient I have in my kitchen that I want to play with.

Obviously it is underpinned from years of trawling blissfully through glossy food magazines, walking past cafe and restaurant windows with one eye on whats on offer, watching endless food related tv series, and even learning on my travels, where the focus for me is always on the local flavours!

And so when I noticed a tub of cream in my fridge coming close to the expiry, the wind howling and rain coming down hard and fast outside, it seemed to suddenly come to me that the warming flavours of cinnamon, coffee and toasted hazelnuts would excuse, and maybe even warrant the need to make up another batch of ice cream - specifically in celebration of these final weeks of the cold! (Those who know me know that ice cream is not a seasonal treat in this house - its a year round indulgence!)

Tonights dinner is all wrapped up! (Thai salmon parcels)

I have to say, this way of cooking ticks a lot of boxes for me.  I first came across it in one of the first Jamie Oliver cookbooks some years ago and it has since graced our dining table many a time - and not, as you might imagine, in a gourmet setting, but rather marking the result of a rushed and chaotic day!

The beauty of cooking in a parcel is multi layered, in that it can be extremely nutritious, needing very little added fat to achieve a tender and moist result every time due to the steaming effect the parcel creates.  And yet given the parcels are baked, some degree of caramelisation still occurs giving such a beautiful flavour.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Fats in the diet - friend or foe?

When you complete your studies in something, anything, the teachings you learn become ingrained in you.  It gives you a lens to which you see everything through.  And whilst you do build greatly on that in the years following, the foundations are set early and are the reference point to which you always return.

Studying science has been a learning curve for me not just from the information I have learnt over the years, but also by forcing me to be someone open to and accepting of change.  I found this was something personally I wasn't too comfortable with - a creature of habit you may describe me as!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Gluten free profiteroles - with or without the Thermomix

For some reason the profiterole, and choux pastry in general, has fear factor written all over it for many home cooks.  This fear makes the elusive croquembouche a task most just won't even attempt, seeing it more as the ultimate Masterchef challenge handed down by the 'all things sweet' p├ítissier master himself, Adriano Zumbo!

Well, quite a few years ago now, when I was making gluten free wedding cakes 'on the side', I decided to try conquering not only choux pastry, but gluten free choux pastry!!!  From memory I had even written it off as a failure before I began, assuming it would be just one of those things that could not be replicated as gluten free.

Friday, 20 July 2012

After dinner treats for when you're told not to bring a thing!

Been invited over for dinner lately and told to bring nothing?!  I've been on the receiving end just as much as telling my guests the same thing.  Its a common conundrum we have all faced at some point and whilst the host has the best intentions and in most cases (certainly mine!) truly means 'don't bring anything', the guest either really wishes to contribute to the nights feasting, or feels obliged to not turn up empty handed.

Either way, the marketing and advertising teams down at Cadbury no doubt had some clever insight into this situation when they launched the Cadbury Favourites 'What to bring when you're told not to bring a thing' campaign!!  I know that slogan has run through my head on multiple occasions prior to a night out at a friends place!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Gluten, dairy, egg and nut free chocolate cake, although you wouldnt know it!

I felt totally chuffed when a friend of mine asked if I would make her daughters 1st birthday cake recently!  What an honour.  Then she listed the provisos and I must say it stopped me in my tracks for a minute!!  As her daughter has been reacting to certain foods, it has restricted what she can feed her until she can get further tests done.

Being Coeliac myself, and for a time was fructose intolerant too, I am quite aware of the limitations and frustrations of living with food allergies and intolerances, however this challenge was a real eye opener for me to see just how difficult it must be for parents with kids on restrictive diets.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

My food journey thus far and the most recent road taken....

My journey with food so far has been an interesting one.  Looking back, stages of my life have been coupled with a certain way of eating.  Trends have come and gone, and yet other learnings have stayed with me and shaped the way I view food today.

Growing up I remember being so jealous of friends lunchboxes at school.  They would have 'delicious' packs of potato crisps, lollies, white bread sandwiches etc whilst I would have the choice of a wholegrain sandwich, an apple and maybe if I was lucky a muesli bar.  There was only ever soft drink in our fridge if we had a party on, and Mum never had lollies, chocolate or chips in the cupboard for everyday eating.  That's not to say that we ate textbook style.  We got our fair share of treats, especially as we got older, but the underpinning of our diet was always good quality, whole foods.  Back then I didn't appreciate it.  Now I owe so much to the upbringing that my parents imposed on me.  

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Gluten Free Chicken and Vegetable Pie

Gluten free and pastry don't generally go together very successfully - anyone on a gluten free diet could attest to that.   I've been diagnosed for about 12-13 years now, and let me tell you, being a Coeliac now versus the early 2000's is so so much easier.  For those diagnosed many years earlier than that, I take my hat off to you and wonder, truely, how you managed to eat!  Things have changed in many ways.  Restaurants, cafes, and other eating places outside of the home have not only become aware and accommodating, but many have actually embraced it by offering gluten free menus, or even creating a whole establishment dedicated to gluten free dining.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Party time - healthy style!

It's been a longer time between posts than usual for me and this is the reason why!  I have been sitting on this one for ages feeling not quite right about it but couldn't put my finger on why.  Well, then it suddenly came to me and I realised that the tone of the post was quite negative and anyone that knows me knows I don't like negativity!  I'm defaulted to a glass half full person. 

Situations that have occurred in my life have made me that way and ironically even though they have been tragic events, I am thankful for the lessons I have learnt from them.  Anyway, that is soooo far off the point!

So originally the post was all about the horror of artificial preservatives, colours and flavours and copious amounts of fat, salt and sugar in all of the traditional party foods.  But it was weighing me down.  We all know that but what I decided you would benefit more from is being provided with tasty alternatives, plus a few recipes to get you started! 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Chestnut, cacao and pomegranate multi-purpose mix!

I would say that chestnuts are the complete package.  They have a great nutrition profile, and they also lend themselves beautifully to both savoury and sweet dishes and are even a great idea for a snack.  They have a delicate, slightly sweet flavour and a lovely smooth texture.  Unlike other nuts they are quite starchy,  often used as a substitute for potatoes in some European and African countries.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Feeding the family on a budget

This is one of the most popular questions I get asked and believe me, if your food shopping bill is growing at such an expeditious rate as ours is, I can see why!
When I'm scouting the aisles of the supermarket I have discovered two little voices in my head arguing!  One could be visualised as a dollar sign, reminding me that with each new entrant to my trolley, the total bill is climbing.  The other could be visualised as, well, me!  Wanting the best health and nutrition for my family, but without the premium price tag!   So which one wins out?  Well, here are some ways to achieve them both!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Gluten free cheese and herb loaf - perfect accompaniment to winter soups!

By reading my earlier post on ice cream I'm sure you would think I was living in Far North Queensland (I WISH!).  But sadly I'm braving yet another chilly winter down here in Melbourne, and although there are few things I actually like about the thermostat plummeting, I must say that soul warming soups and rich, slow cooked meat dishes are something I look forward to.

I tend to find a soup each year that quickly becomes a favourite and this year I have already found one that the whole family enjoys, Quirky Jo's creamy chicken and brown rice soup.  This soup is like a blanket, wrapping itself around you and warming you through to your core, whilst lifting the soul!

Fresh mint and raw cacao ice cream - no fuss!

I know I know, it STILL isn't the right weather for ice cream!  But you know, somewhere it is, and I'm going there tonight!!  Coming with me?
So as you saw in my last blog entry, I have recently been introduced to the world of raw cacao and have been busily 'playing' around with it, making custards, drinks, raw bliss balls.... but when I noticed the other day that my mint had been quietly getting away from me and invading my other herbs, a flavour invaded my taste buds... choc mint ice cream!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Rapadura, raw cacao nibs, Crio Bru.... yes, I'm speaking English!!!

I am absolutely loving whats happening at our place at the moment!  Since our newest member of the family came along, the Thermomix (!!), my passion for food and cooking has been reignited and my eyes have been opened to some fantastic ingredients, and a way of cooking that is bringing us right back to the most unprocessed foods possible.

Obviously a food is at its peak nutritionally when it is just picked from the vine, pulled from the earth, milked from the cow.  But we are all not lucky enough to have access to that in this day and age, so the aim should be to look at everything that we eat and see how fresh and unprocessed we can get it. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

No Boil Easy Whole Orange and Almond Cake

My eldest son, Liam, is nearly 4 now which for him seems soooooo old yet for me I still see my little boy and can't believe we have had him in our life for nearly 4 years now!  He surprises me all the time with things he says, the way he has thought about things and how he pieces different bits of information together to form his own ideas.  Its such a nice age to see them forming their own thoughts and perceptions.

So when we were thinking about what to cook the other day he said to me 'mum, what about we use the orange in the fruit bowl and whizz it up in the Thermomix to make a cake'?  'What a great idea' I said and my mind started ticking as to how I would make this idea of his work in a recipe.  Obviously there are many orange cakes around that use a whole orange but the whole notion of boiling it first for an hour didn't appeal to me and I knew the kids wouldn't have patience for it either!!

Friday, 1 June 2012

I'm going wild for puffs!

Puffed rice and puffed corn seem to come in and out of my pantry.  At different times I have rediscovered and found new uses for these foods and then just like that they go again.  Well, they are back now!  The reason this time was my quest to find more healthy snack solutions for my kids (and us!), a quest that seems to be both never ending and much more scarce than the junky alternatives.

In the last few days I have found just how versatile these two products are!  There are other grains that you can purchase in a 'puffed' format (millet, kumut, amaranth, quinoa, wheat) however these two are probably of the mildest in flavour and therefore are a good place to start with kids.
Nutritionally they tick a lot of boxes and don't have any salt, oil or sugar added!  In fact nothing is added!

They contain varying amounts of fibre, protein and potassium and only trace or small amounts of naturally occurring fat and sodium.  
Oh and by the way, I am in no way endorsed by this company!  They are just the packs I use that can be found in supermarkets but I'm sure there are many other options, including those in health food stores.
So what can be done with these products??  Well I am getting the sense as I start to play around with them that it is limited only to your imagination!
  • Meatballs can be made, rolled and coated in puffed rice (or puffed quinoa or amaranth) then pan fried.  A crunchy, fun and nutritious addition to meatballs (a puffed take on the traditional 'porcupines'), and could even be applied to veggie burgers too.

  • They can be eaten just as is, or make a snack mix by adding some dried fruit like sultanas or apricots and even seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Young kids especially seem to love them (but I probably wouldnt give them to kids much younger than one year old due to choking risk).
  • Instead of those sugar and colour laden lolly bracelets and necklaces that are often given at parties, thread the puffed corn onto string and make your own jewellery to add to party bags.
  • Any recipes you have using rice bubbles can be substituted with the brown rice puffs which will reduce salt, eliminate additives (from the bubbles ingredient anyway) and increase fibre and other nutrients.  
Ok, so these two recipes are ones I have made this week and have been a big hit with the kids (and us big kids too!).  They are from another blog that I have much respect for - and I have also added some variations I think would be fun to try out.  They are egg free, dairy free and gluten free and yet full of flavour.  For those on a fructose free diet, just substitute maple syrup for the honey in the second recipe.

The first one comes from Natural New Age Mum and are Chocolate Crackles!   Obviously still a 'sometimes food' but much better for you than the traditional ingredients!!
I have written the recipe below as I made it but just click on the link to see the original recipe.  This is what I would consider to be a  'recipe renovation' too!  The traditional chocolate crackles are filled with copha (hydrogenated coconut oil - hydrogenated being the process that forces hydrogen gas into oil at high temperature and pressure, causing the fats to become trans fats - BAD BAD BAD!!!  Stay away from any hydrogenated fats!), icing sugar (containing no nutrients other than highly processed carbohydrates), and rice bubbles (highly processed with added salt and sugar).  Hmmmm, yes a recipe that could do with improvements indeed!!!  

Chocolate crackles


2 cups brown rice puffs
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (organic coconut generally means no sulphites which some people react to)
1/2 cup sugar (rapadura is my sugar of choice now due to the minimal processing and therefore maintenance of nutrients but otherwise use brown)
3 tablespoons of cocoa (I am now using raw cacao nibs which for this recipe I just blended in the Thermomix until it was a powder consistency)
125g virgin, organic coconut oil (you can now find this in Safeway stores in the Asian section.  Its in a jar and is white in colour.  Much better for you than the hydrogenated stuff!)


  1. If you dont have a Thermomix, mix rice puffs and coconut together in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, cocoa and oil to a small saucepan and gently heat just until oil is melted and ingredients are well mixed.  Pour over the puffs and mix thoroughly.  Divide mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.
  2. If you have a Thermomix, pulverise the sugar for 5-10 seconds on speed 5.  Add the oil and cocoa and heat for 2 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2.  Add puffs and coconut and mix on REVERSE/speed soft for 1 minute.  Then divide the mix immediately into 12 paper patty cases and place in the fridge until set.

Now this second recipe is from the same blog, Natural New Age Mum (who got it from a book written by Julie Maree Wood called 'Feeding Fussy Kids').  It is a recipe for gluten free cereal although in typical Mel style, I have tweaked it and have the amended recipe below - finding it quickly became more popular as a snack in this house than a cereal with milk!  I added nuts and changed the apple juice concentrate to honey just because I didn't have the concentrate and figure honey is probably an ingredient more of you have on hand.  Once cooled you could add dried fruit, seeds such as flaxseed and chia, or even for those of you who aren't Coeliac, you could add oats to the mix as well!  Below the recipe is a savoury idea too!

Crispy Corn and Rice cereal


1 1/2 c puffed corn
1 1/2 c puffed brown rice
1/2 c shredded or dessicated coconut (preferably organic)
1/4 c slivered almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs virgin organic coconut oil
2 tbs honey (or maple syrup if avoiding fructose)


  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix together corn, rice, coconut, almonds and cinnamon.
  3. If you have a Thermomix, place coconut oil and honey in bowl and heat at 50 degrees/speed soft for 2 minutes.  If you dont, do this in a small saucepan and heat gently until oil has just melted.
  4. Pour oil mixture over puffs and mix thoroughly to ensure all dry ingredients are coated.
  5. Spread mix over the lined tray and place in oven for 10 minutes, taking care not to let it burn!  They should be crunchy and will get more crunchy once cooled.  
  6. Allow to cool before placing in an airtight container.

 A savoury version of this recipe could be great as a 'nibbly' with drinks or even as a healthy snack to eat at your desk at work!  Just omit the coconut, honey and cinnamon and add 1/4c raw peanuts, a tablespoon of brown sugar or rapadura (you can cut this back if you want the mix to be more savoury than sweet), and 2-3 tsp of mixed ground spices that take your fancy (try cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika) and season with salt and pepper.  Add an extra tablespoon of the coconut oil.

What versatile, healthy ingredients they are!  Stay tuned for more........

Friday, 25 May 2012

Healthy, fast, no excuses!

One of the biggest reasons I hear for not eating healthy or for eating take away is that cooking takes too long or is too hard.  You know what I'm going to say to that - nothing could be further from the truth!!!
Yes the Thermomix has made things even quicker for us here but even without it, there are some really quick ingredients and cooking methods that make eating healthy a breeze.  And obviously like everything, the more you do it, the quicker it becomes.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Eat with the seasons - Pomegranate and Quinoa salad

Going back a few years, I would think nothing of driving around Melbourne in search of an ingredient that was out of season and therefore hard to find, but for a recipe I desperately wanted to cook.  And I guess that was a sign of the times - trends were more about impressing with ingredients that weren't readily available.

Yet now things have turned full circle, mimicking an age where communities were smaller and more self sufficient.  They didn't travel for days to find a certain species of mushroom.  Greenhouses weren't used to grow strawberries out of their natural season.  Food was grown in season, locally, and diets were seasonal, reflecting the produce available naturally at that time.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Quick, no mess, gluten free flatbread - it will change lunchtime!

A lot of you who know me, especially my 'Coeliac friends', will already know this recipe, and use it regularly!  And you don't have to be Coeliac to get the benefits.  Just change the flour to regular self raising wheat flour and keep an eye on the liquid (you may need more) and you too can kiss boring sandwiches or dry wraps goodbye!

The beauty of this flatbread recipe is that all you need is a flat sandwich maker (see pic #2 below) and about 2 minutes of time spare and you will have a fresh, tasty, bendable (rare yet highly sought after in the Coeliac world!) flatbread that you can totally customise to suit your (or your kids) tastes.
I usually just throw these ingredients in a bowl and go by eye, but today I measured them out (roughly) to give you at least a guide for the basic recipe which then is only limited by your imagination to where you can take it!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Are you aged 0-100? Then this is for you!

Having a birthday this week has made me reflect on where I've been and where I'm going.  What was important to me years ago and whether its the same now.  How my body is holding up as it gets another year older and what my changing needs are as a mid 30's chick!  And whilst, yes, I am still young (and feel even younger at heart by the way!), the 40's are knocking ever so faintly on my door. 
This actually (surprisingly) doesn't bother me all that much.  I feel I am a more settled, wiser (laughing), grounded, self confident person than I was in my 20's and for that I am enjoying ageing!  But on the flip side, I also know that more work needs to be done as we get older to maintain a healthy weight, a healthy mind, and attention needs to be given to our body to keep it firing on all cylinders (oh dear, Dans love of cars is rubbing off on me isnt it?!).

Monday, 7 May 2012

Kids snacking ideas

If your kids are anything like mine with an insatiable appetite, you probably feel like you never leave the kitchen!  I am always trying to think up new ideas for snacks - a balance between my desire for a healthy solution and a taste the boys will love!
Equally if you have kids that don't eat a lot and have little interest in food, no doubt you too would be searching for something that will bring their little taste buds out of hibernation!

I know not everyone enjoys cooking and lack of time sometimes also stops us making snacks at home, and for that reason I have put a list together below for store bought snacks that meet the following criteria:
1.  Minimal fillers, additives, 'numbers'.
2.  Low fat, sugar and salt
3.  Minimally processed

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Do food labels speak to you in another language?!

Ever found yourself standing in front of a wall of products at the supermarket trying to work out which is the best pick for you or the family?  Whats going through your head?  This one says high fibre but this one says low fat.  Is the high fibre one also low fat?  What about the sugar content?  Hang on, whats carbohydrates?  Is that sugar too?  Oh and this one is Australian made, well that's good!  But it also has lots of 'numbers' in the ingredients list that I don't like the sound of.  And what about the price difference per 100g and and and.....!!!!!
Or is that just me?! Perhaps for some it is about the prettiest packaging or the deepest price cut?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Fudgy chocolate beetroot cake

Ever made red velvet cake?  All the recipes I have seen vary from 1-2 tsp of red food colouring to 1-2 TABLESPOONS!!!!  Deary me.  Well to me this is screaming out to be 'renovated' and yes I couldn't resist the obvious opportunity to add some nutrition in there too ( ;
So here is my renovated red velvet cake - made with beetroot!!!!  Actually, as the story goes, these cakes were originally made with beetroot, before food colouring made their appearance!  The magic about this recipe is that you don't specifically taste the beetroot flavour, but what it adds is a depth of flavour (the earthiness of the beetroot pairs beautifully with the earthiness of chocolate) and a beautiful moist cake that will keep for days (if of course it can be resisted that long!).

Friday, 27 April 2012

Herbs to lift, repair and revitalise

Herbs seem to be scary and foreign to a lot of people I talk to.  Which ones go with what foods?  Dried?  Fresh?  How much complements a dish but doesn't over power it?

I used to be a bit like that too!  And hey I am still no herb connoisseur, that is for sure, but since growing a herb garden of my own, I am a little more adventurous and am finding out what works (and doesn't) and enjoying the satisfaction of stepping outside, picking a few sprigs of this and that, and finishing off a dish with the freshest flavours, homegrown!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Renovate your favourite recipe! - Starting with ANZAC biscuits

First of all I want to say thank you so much for all the lovely feedback and comments I have been receiving thus far for my blog!  It is exciting to think that small changes are being made from this forum and not only changes to your lifestyle, but I too am reaping the benefits from hearing your comments and sharing your way of thinking.  I hope we can continue to inspire each other!

So this post brings me back to cooking, my love!  Cooking for me, well, the picture below says it all!  I found this in a small shop the other day and it just reached out and grabbed me because it sums up (in a lot less words than I would probably use!) exactly where cooking sits for me.

I'm not much of a trinket person but this needed to be in my kitchen!

As you know cooking with my boys is one of my favourite things to do.  Yeah the mess is sometimes a little out of control (but then if you asked my husband he would probably suggest its not all that different to when I cook by myself!) but all the things they are learning every time is really so much more than just mixing a few ingredients together and throwing them into the oven.  Tastes, textures, maths, sharing, fine and gross motor skills, following directions, consequences and the list could go on and on.

Though when you do a lot of cooking with your kids, like me, making their favourite cup cakes, biscuits, cakes etc can start to get a bit much for everyday eating.  But dont despair, I am not a total stick-in-the-mud!!  If we just 'renovate' some of these recipes, you can achieve both fun and learning in the kitchen, as well as boosting nutrition along the way!

So here's what I am putting to you - and I'll start you off with a recipe I have included below.  Send me (either in the comments section below or email me at your or your kids favourite recipe that you know isn't the greatest nutritionally, and I will renovate it to add some nutrition into it without compromising the taste too much (and hopefully even improving it!).  Whether its the artificial ingredients that you want more natural alternatives to (ie - red velvet cake that has about 1/2 lt red food colouring in it!!) or a high fat or sugar content etc, I'll show the before and after recipes on a post for everyone to benefit from.

There is no time limit to sending them through, I'll just post them as I get them.

So what do you think?  Do you see this as something of interest to you??  Remember, these little changes all add up to greater things!

So, lets kick it off with a recipe that is relevant to not only us Aussies, but to this week and in particular, tomorrow, ANZAC BIKKIES!  Mmmmmmmmm, who doesn't love the smell of these cooking in the oven, and the crisp, almost toffee flavours hitting every taste bud in your mouth?!
These Aussie favourites get a head start in the nutrition department over many other bikkies due to the key ingredient used, rolled oats.  Oats are great in so many ways:
  • they are high in fibre, specifically a soluble fibre called beta-glucans (found in many studies to assist in the lowering of cholesterol levels in the body)
  • they are a whole grain which means all the parts to the oat (germ, endosperm, bran) are kept intact and the grain is merely rolled flat (quick cooking oats are just the rolled oats cut into smaller pieces to shorten the cooking time).
  • they are low GI (glycaemic index) which means they help keep you fuller for longer - helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and even assist in weight management.
Porridge is obviously such a great breakfast food for all ages to kick start the day, but oats are such a versitile ingredient that you could incorporate them into so many other dishes - breads, soups, granola, casseroles and of course, bikkies!
So when you whip up a batch to celebrate ANZAC Day tomorrow and all it stands for, give this recipe a go......

Renovated Anzac bikkies


1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup wholemeal/spelt plain flour (wholemeal flour is available right next to white flour in the supermarket and can be substituted in most recipes - even using half half will give you some nutrition benefits.  Just be mindful that the liquid will need to be increased slightly as the wholemeal will absorb extra liquid)
1 cup desiccated coconut (sulphites are used in a lot of desiccated coconut brands so if this is something you are wanting to avoid, try an organic brand from health food shops - just check the ingredient listing, it will say there if they have used it)
1-2 tsp cinnamon or ginger (or both, to taste.  Both have been used for thousands of years for many health remedies such as anti-inflammatory, digestive, respiratory, blood sugar regulatory)  
1/4 c oil (use coconut, macadamia or grapeseed for a more mild flavour, otherwise olive oil)
1/4 c honey (check out my link for some facts on honey!)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tbs boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.
  2. Combine oats, flour, coconut and cinnamon/ginger in a large mixing bowl. 
  3. In a small saucepan, place the oil and honey and stir over low heat until mixture has warmed through and is runny.
  4. Mix the bicarb and water together and pour immediately into the honey mixture.  The mixture should froth up in the pan.
  5. Pour immediately into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.
  6. Roll into walnut size balls and place on a baking paper lined baking tray.  Press on each ball slightly with a fork.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how chewy or crispy you like them (10ish mins for chewy, 15ish for crunchy.)
  8. Place on cooling rack, cool, eat and enjoy!  (Makes approx 20)
   You could make them smaller for the kids or even as a good portion control method for yourself(!)

Gluten Free Anzac Bikkies


1 cup Loving Earth Buckinis (puffed gluten free grains/seeds such as brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa etc could be used instead.  Just be mindful that some of the grains are stronger in flavour)
1/4 brown rice  (or brown rice flour if not using a TMX)
3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut (sulphites are used in a lot of desiccated coconut brands so if this is something you are wanting to avoid, try an organic brand from health food shops - just check the ingredient listing, it will say there if they have used it)
1-2 tsp cinnamon or ginger (or both, to taste.  Both have been used for thousands of years for many health remedies such as anti-inflammatory, digestive, respiratory, blood sugar regulatory)  
1/4 c oil (use coconut, macadamia or rice bran for a more mild flavour, otherwise olive oil)
1/4 c honey or a combination of 100% pure maple syrup and honey (check out my link for some facts on honey!)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tbs boiling water

Method - Conventional

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.
  2. Combine buckinis, flours, coconut and cinnamon/ginger in a large mixing bowl. 
  3. In a small saucepan, place the oil and honey and stir over low heat until mixture has warmed through and is runny.
  4. Mix the bicarb and water together and pour immediately into the honey mixture.  The mixture should froth up in the pan.
  5. Pour immediately into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.
  6. Roll into walnut size balls and place on a baking paper lined baking tray.  Press on each ball slightly with a fork.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes.
  8. Place on cooling rack, cool, eat and enjoy!  (Makes approx 24) 

Method - Thermomix

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.
  2. Place brown rice in TM bowl and mill on speed 10 for 1 minute.  Set aside.
  3. Place oil and honey in TM bowl and heat at 60 degrees, sp 1 for 2 1/2 minutes, or until runny and warmed through. 
  4. Mix the bicarb and water together and pour immediately into the honey mixture while mixing on speed 2 for 5 seconds.  The mixture should froth up in the bowl.
  5. Add flours, buckinis, coconut and cinnamon/ginger to bowl and mix on REVERSE, speed 5 for 15 seconds or until all combined.
  6. Follow steps 6-8 above.

Gluten Free Anzac bikkies!

Until next time............

Friday, 20 April 2012

Dont fuss over fussy eaters!

How do you define a fussy eater? Is it the child who won't eat anything green? The child who will only eat when the green spoon with red stars is placed on the left side of the placemat? The child who only eats crunchy textures, or anything but crunchy textures? The child that inhales brekky, eats some lunch but locks the lips by the time dinner arrives? Is fussy eating a lifelong illness or a fad, much like One Direction (hopefully!)? Yeah ok I'm taking the lighter side but in all seriousness, kids and their 'quirky' eating habits creates such stress for parents, and mealtimes can end up resembling a battlefield rather than an enjoyable catchup on the day gone and some hearty eating.

My eldest son, Liam, was pretty much a textbook eater when he was younger. He took to food like a duck to water. I remember reading the back of a rice cereal packet before giving him his first introduction to solids. It said to start off with two tablespoons of cereal and gradually increase over time. Well he ate that straight away and was gagging for more! A few days later he was eating about a cup of the stuff!!! He ate anything served up to him and had such a diverse palate - enjoying everything from hummus sandwiches to olives to salmon and every veggie in between! Then Jake came along! Well, Jake is different to his brother in every which way and food is no exception! Don't get me wrong, he does love his food but is much more selective and has been right from word go. He refuses to have anything in his mouth that he doesn't like the look or smell of and if it does reach his mouth and he doesn't like the taste, he just spits it straight out! I hadn't experienced this before and am honestly finding it quite hard to deal with! Especially when I've cooked for the last hour or two and then he just screws his nose up and won't have a bar of it! Grrrrr. And I know he isn't even a bad case as he still eats at least a small selection of foods out of every food group. Now that's two different scenarios coming from the same household.
Remember, I'm no doctor or specialist so this post is not for kids who are literally barely eating - that is a different situation that requires medical intervention.

So what do we do about it?

'Hiding' the foods they don't like

I scoured the Internet to see what was being suggested for parents of fussy eaters and a constant recommendation was 'hiding' healthy ingredients. 'Hiding' vegies in meat dishes, 'hiding' fruit in smoothies or muffins, 'hiding' whole grains in white bread. It's a natural thought I guess - here's my thoughts on it. Before being a parent myself (and boy isn't this the case for so many different topics??!!) I would have gasped at that suggestion and said 'how ridiculous. My child will eat what's put in front of them and will love veggies'. Being a parent now and realising that what the books say and what you think you're going to do pre-parenthood, is often very different to reality. I see now that it's not that cut and dry. Especially since my experiences with Jake, and even Liam more recently.But heres the thing about hiding all the good foods.  The child doesn't then learn about healthy eating, experience different foods in their whole state, and appreciate the different textures and flavours.  If I am feeling the need to hide vegies in a meal for example (and I feel there is a place for it), I will still have veggies or salad on the table to share or put some on each plate to have them realise that this is the way we eat and I am proud of and believe in eating good food, and they should too.  'Hiding' healthy ingredients should act as a booster rather than replacing the teachings.

Change it up! Make meals fun, interactive and interesting

Make meal times fun and change it up a bit every now and then.  I started making a lot of my dinners as share plates or dinners that I would serve up at the table.  That gave the boys a bit of ownership over what they chose to put on their plate.  On warmer days we often eat outside which turns their focus to whats going on outside rather than whinging and before they know it the plate is clean!

Stand your ground for the long term benefit

 A child refusing different foods can be linked to a developmental stage where they are learning to assert their independence and say 'no'!  In most cases this will pass at some stage or move around to different foods or meal times.
Try not to make a battleground out of it.  As with lots of things kids try out, if you don't react, they get bored of it and, well, yes, try something else!  Its almost a case of battle of the wills in a way.  As all health professionals will say, no child has ever died from starving themselves and eventually they will eat.  Having said that I personally would not make alternative meals, use bribes etc.  These are short term fixes that could spiral you into a situation of even more stress and it really isnt teaching them anything other than getting their own way.
 Liam used to be obsessed with peanut butter!  He would eat it for every meal if I let him.  I used to not love the idea but chose the brand with the least salt and sugar and, well, turned a bit of a blind eye!  Then when I bought the Thermomix, I was thrilled that finally I could make my own.  Well, of course, Liam decided he didn't like it.  So since then and once the last of the store bought jar was finished, he has refused to eat the homemade stuff.  I have refused to buy any more store bought stuff.  And so the battle began.  Yesterday, I won!  He wanted to lick the spoon when I was making another homemade batch and decided, 'actually, this is delicious mum'! 

Are you eating the way you want your kids to?

Model the behaviour you want your kids to practice.  Kids sponge everything off us as they learn (even some things we dont want them to!) so if you want your kids to eat a certain way, thats gotta come from you!  And so its a whole family, lifestyle approach. 
Funnily enough I have an example of this that happened just this week.  I sat down with the boys at lunchtime the other day with a quick salad I threw together of chickpeas, spinach leaves, beanshoots, sumac, olive oil and lemon juice.  I was eating away when Jake grew interested and came over to me.  He started feeding me with the fork (which yes did get a bit messy!) and I was saying mmm, thanks Jake, YUM!  Curiosity must have got the better of him and suddenly he turned the fork around and put the chickpea in his mouth.  He went to spit it out, I think more so due to the sharpness of the lemon juice, but then started chewing and said MmmMmm!  He ended up asking for more chickpeas once that bowl was finished!

Meet them half way

I tend to make sure that at least one part of the meal I know they will like and eat - ie rice or pasta or polenta or sweet potato slices etc.  That way I know unless they really feel like playing up (!) they will at least start eating that part which for me tends to lead to them trying the other parts of the meal - perhaps chicken with a new sauce I havent made before etc.  So its mixing the old and familiar with new.   

Enrol them in the next Junior Masterchef

Hahaha, no but really, as mentioned in my previous post about Kids and Health, get them involved in the shopping/growing/cooking process.  Foods they have helped to cook often they are more inclined to at least try.   Let them choose one meal a week that they would like to eat.  If you think this might be nutella sandwiches (!!), perhaps have three options and let them chose which they would prefer.

Ten times lucky!

I'm sure you've heard that it takes 10 or more tastes of a food before a child will accept the flavour/texture.  Just keep offering it until it becomes a familiar sight on their plate.  Jake will not eat broccoli (if given to him on its own, not 'hidden' so clearly its not the taste he dislikes!) but to this day I still put a small piece in his bowl in the hope that one day he might just give it a go!!  Have you noticed that kids love reading the same book over and over.  You, on the other hand, are sick to death of reading it, but they get so excited about whats coming next, like its the first time they ever saw it! They love routine and they love habits.  So if veggies are always on the table, bread is always multigrain, peanut butter is always homemade (!!) they will eventually realise this is how it is and this is normal!

I know this has been a long post, it is such a big topic that I could keep on going!  Hopefully you can take something from this to apply in your family and make a difference!  Remember, it takes 21 days to form a habit so stick with it and let me know how you go.  Also please comment if you have any other more specific issues with fussy eating that you would like my thoughts on.

What you may not know about honey!

Honey - the ancient wound healer

So my latest 'fascination' is honey!  Those of you who I speak to regularly probably know that due to a recent pimple outbreak (I know, ridiculous, I felt 13 again!) I went searching for natural remedies and remembered my Omi used to rave about putting honey on her face each night.  At the time I thought 'just another crazy Omi story' but I decided to look into it and due to its natural antibacterial qualities, it actually was a valid remedy for pimples! 
Finding this out prompted me to research further into what else is great about honey.  
  • Honey is essentially bee spew!!!  The foraging bees swallow the nectar which goes into their special honey tummy.  They then regurgitate this up to the worker bees in the hive and they make it into honey!!  Mmmmm ( ; 
  • Honey is a natural preservative!  So use honey instead of sugar when making homemade breads and cakes and you'll find they last longer and stay moist too!
  • Honey is sweeter than sugar so less is needed in cooking to achieve the same sweetness, hence reducing kilojoules!
  • Honey contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as copper, iron, vitamin B, manganese, calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, and magnesium, among others.  Also 'friendly' bacteria such as lactobacili and bifidobacteria!
  • Never give honey to an infant under 12 months of age, due to increased risk of botulism in their 'weakly immune' bodies.
  • Different types of honey (depending on the flowers the nectar is taken from) provide different levels of antibacterial properties.  Manuka honey has a very high level. 
  • Most commercial honey has been heat treated to stop it from crystalising and making it easier to process.  Unfortunately the heat kills a lot of the enzymes, vitamins and minerals so if all of that is important to you, buy raw honey which can be found in health food stores, or if your lucky like I was today, you may pass a little stall on the side of the road with honey taken straight from the owners own hives!!!  Now that's special! (And the boys loved my little lesson on bees and honey on the way home - well, that's my story anyway!)
Ok, I think tha'ts enough reason to make one of my favourite recipes using honey, Breakfast granola!  Why is it my favourite?  Cause I think breakfast is the most important meal of the day and with so much 'rubbish' on offer for brekky on the supermarket shelves these days, this is a way to get back to something more natural and healthy without all the processed sugar!  If this doesn't make you want to get out of bed each morning, I don't know what will!!!  Till next time......



4 c rolled oats
1 c nuts, coarsely chopped (try hazelnuts, almonds, macadamias or a mixture of these)
1/2 c sunflower seed kernels
3/4 c honey
50g butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c dried fruit (try raisins, chopped dried apricots, cranberries or goji berries)


  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
  2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  3. Combine oats, nuts and sunflower seed kernels in a bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan add honey, butter and cinnamon and stir over low heat until butter melts.
  5. Pour over oat mixture and mix thoroughly.
  6. Spread over the baking tray evenly.  Bake in oven, stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  7. Stir in dried fruit and store in an airtight container.
Play around with this to your liking.  You could mix up the grains by using a mix of rolled spelt or barley with the oats, add some of your favourite spices such as ground ginger, substitute sunflower seed kernels for any type of seeds such as linseeds, flaxseed or pumpkin seeds.
For a gluten free version, substitute the oats for puffed buckwheat, rice, corn, amaranth, and/or rolled quinoa.

Thermomix owners - nuts can be chopped on speed 4 for 3 seconds.  Set aside.  Honey, butter and cinnamon can be melted and mixed together for 2 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2.  Then add back nuts, oats and sunflower seed kernels and mix on soft/REVERSE until it all comes together.

If your mind is like mine and eager to know everything about the fascinating bees and their work, look no further than

(Original recipe from Good Taste magazine, 2007)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Veggie loaded Bolognaise - Thermomix style

Vegetable packed bolognaise - Thermomix or no Thermomix!

I have been making this vegetable packed bolognaise sauce for a couple of years now so don't turn off if you don't have a Thermomix!  But in saying that, it now takes me literally seconds of preparation with a few less dishes!  This recipe is brilliant for a couple of reasons.  1.  It is loaded with veggies that the kids wont even realise are in there (more on that in my next post on kids and fussy eating) and 2.  It tastes delicious (I'd love to hear if you think so too) and is all natural (especially when using the Thermomix vegetable stock concentrate!).  You really don't need to use those jars of pasta sauce any more!

We actually had this for dinner tonight and the stars seemed to have aligned because the boys were having a ball entertaining themselves this afternoon, so I decided to make the pasta from scratch too!!  Well, actually it sounds a lot more fancy than it really is.  The Thermomix mixes and kneads the flour, eggs and olive oil into a pasta dough in just two minutes so the most laborious part is rolling the pasta through the pasta machine, which I actually find quite cathartic!!  And what got me really excited (!!) was popping out to my herb garden to add the final touch to my sauce, freshly picked basil and oregano.  Seriously satisfying.  Oh, and when Liam gave me the 'well done Mum this tastes amazing', well, that was the definition of an awesome day!

So anyway, here is the recipe, both Thermomix and non-Thermomix methods!  I hope it becomes your 'family recipe' just as it is ours.


2 carrots, chopped in 3 for TMX or finely grated 
1 zucchini, chopped in 3 for TMX or finely grated
1 onion, peeled and halved for TMX or finely diced
5 mushrooms, left whole for TMX or finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole for TMX or finely chopped
30g olive oil
450g minced beef (or half half mix of minced beef and pork)
1-2 tbs TMX vegetable stock puree or 2 tsp commercial vegetable or chicken stock
70g dry white wine
150-200g tomato paste
1 tin tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes if you prefer)
1 handful fresh basil and oregano leaves, finely sliced  (or 1 tbs each of dried basil and oregano)

TMX Method:
  1. Place carrots, zucchini, onion, mushrooms and garlic in TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds on speed 7.
  2. Add oil and minced meat and cook for 10 minutes at Varoma temperature on Reverse + speed 1.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except for herbs (if using dried, add now) and cook for 20 minutes at 100 degrees Celsius on Reverse + speed soft. 
  4. Stir through fresh herbs if using and serve. (or place in Thermoserver to keep hot)
  5. Serve with cooked pasta of your choice.
Traditional Method:
  1. Heat oil in frypan on medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is transparent, taking care not to colour the garlic too much.
  2. Add the meat and brown, breaking up into a fine crumb.
  3. Add wine and allow to reduce slightly.
  4. Add the remaining veggies, stir through, then add remaining ingredients (except herbs if using fresh).
  5. Simmer for at least 20 minutes but the longer it cooks the richer the flavours become.  Add water if needed.
  6. Serve with cooked pasta of your choice.
 I tend not to cook with precise measurements a lot of the time but I've done my best to quantify everything here!  Sometimes I might add a stick or two of celery, you could change the herbs if you have others you prefer, red wine instead of white, or even add some chopped prosciutto when browning the meat.

Now don't mind my bad food styling for this pic!  By this stage the boys were screaming at my feet for food so there was no time for pretty placement of noodles ( ;  If you are reading this Donna Hay, I would style it MUCH better for your magazine!!! (One can dream!)

Bon appetite ( :

UPDATE - 27th April 2012
If anyone was inspired to make fresh pasta, I just wanted to let you know I saw K-Mart (Australia) are selling pasta makers for just $15!  Not endorsing or recommending as I haven't used one but if nothing else its an affordable way of trialling pasta making in your house and if you really get into it, perhaps the more expensive Italian models will then feel more feasible!  And funnily enough, the other night I gave Dan shop bought pasta cause I only thought I had enough fresh left for the boys (poor Dan I know!) but then there was enough fresh for him to have a second serve.  He said the bought spaghetti was noticeably more salty which isnt a word he would have thought to describe it previously.  Interesting (and scary) how our taste buds adapt....  

Monday, 16 April 2012

Kids health - how did we get to this?

Jamie Oliver said it all when he visited schools in America a year or two ago and asked the kids to identify the fruit and vegies he was holding up. They couldn't. He was shocked. Did they know where butter came from? No. Did they know where eggs came from? No. Did they know that fruit and vegies came from the earth and not from cans or bags? No. What???! Really? Yeah ok that was in America but the obesity stats are very similar here and upsettingly so for kids too. Type 2 diabetes used to be very rare in kids yet now is being diagnosed more than ever before.
 When I think about why this is, I look back 20-30 years ago to my childhood and see two key differences - nutrition and activity.

In relation to activity, or lack of it these days, a few changes stand out.  Computer game consoles were not really around and certainly weren't played for hours a day, day after day.  There was no ABC2 or Pay TV for kids that ran all day long.  Play School and Sesame Street were about the only shows certainly I ever watched early on.  Also 'stranger danger' wasn't really an issue and after school and weekends were all about hooking up with the other kids in the neighbourhood and playing out in the street.

In relation to nutrition, my thoughts move around these three areas - fast food, snacks and in home cooking.  When I was little there was really only a handful of fast food options.  Obviously there are many more now, but more importantly the menu has changed from being based around just lunch and dinner to now offering breakfast and snacks for any time of the day.  Having these 'snacks' such as a chicken wrap for example, means that a child has eaten not only their three meals in the day but also a snack that contains about 900kj.  To put this in perspective, a childs RDI (recommended daily intake) for energy/kj at 7 years of age is around 4,000kj.  So nearly a quarter of that childs RDI is taken up by that one little snack.  And importantly that 900kj consists mainly of fat and protein and not a lot of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), meaning they are an energy dense food.  We could do similar sums for so many other products which leads me to snacks. 
Take a virtual tour down the aisles of your local supermarket.  What can you see for kids?  Mini packs of chips, bikkies, fruit straps/rolls/pouches/bars, muesli bars, fruit juice boxes, flavoured milk boxes, 'natural' lollies.......................  Whats really in these products? Look at the ingredients list next time you pick up one of these products.  Why cant a rice cracker just have rice, a bit of oil and a pinch of salt?  Yes oil and salt arent great but I know I would prefer seeing that ingredient list to one with a list as long as my arm of numbers and letters and fillers and flavours etc etc.  What are we putting into our kids mouths?  I make bikkies with almonds, flour, butter and sugar.  I can hear you say but they have butter and sugar in them.  My answer to that is yes but my boys dont get 10 at a time, and they dont eat them every day, but when they do, at least I know what is in them.  And they take no time to make.  The point here is there are so many more overly processed products that are nutrient dense and yet hollow, marketed at kids vs 20 years ago.

And my biggest passion - in-home cooking.  But from the perspective that kids who have parents that cook a lot in the home from fresh ingredients, perhaps grow some herbs, fruit and/or vegies, and have the kids involved in these activities, are exposed to and learn about and respect good quality ingredients and their flavours.  Yes I can already hear a few of my closest friends saying 'well I love cooking and good food yet my child wont touch a vegie if their life depended on it'.  I know that (and in some respects am experiencing it myself with my second child) but what it is still doing is immersing them in an environment that respects

good food, the environment, respecting our bodies and eating with enjoyment.  For parents with fussy eaters (which is so so common, especially in young children) think of it this way, would you say 'stuff it lets all stop brushing our teeth because little Johnny doesnt like to brush his'??  No (well, I hope not!!) you would be a good role model and continue to brush your teeth while explaining the benefits of teeth brushing.  So why should it be any different to food?  For me eating good food in our house 90% of the time is non negotiable and it always has been.  As I have been told by a paediatrician, no child has died from starving themselves because they didnt want to eat the food given to them.  I am a believer in letting them go to bed without dinner if they dont want to try it.  Each to their own but my boys have learnt that I mean business and my eldest has gone to bed without dinner as has my youngest.  I'm not saying I'm the perfect parent - my god FAR from it!  But these are my beliefs and I stick by them because I believe so strongly in them and know the importance of kids eating good food.  Anyway, I'm getting off the point!  In-home cooking has been lost in a lot of ways over the past 20 years (although the trend is turning since the popularity of shows such as Masterchef in more recent times) I suspect due in part to time pressures and to the influx of ready made meals and meal 'helpers' in supermarkets, and here in lies the answer to why the kids Jamie Oliver was quizzing had no idea of the source of foods.

I hope this doesn't all sound a bit bland.  I could write about this for days!  Don't get me wrong, I'm all about balance, and having 'sometimes foods' every now and then is definitely necessary and an enjoyable thing to do.  But the problems we face with the kids of today, balance clearly is not happening!

The thing is, we choose to have these kids, to bring them into the world.  They come into this world and we are eager to teach them drugs are bad, brushing teeth is good and good hygiene is important!  But we are also responsible for nurturing their little bodies and giving them the tools to live a healthy happy life for themselves when they are old enough to make the choices.  As kids they don't know what foods are healthy and not healthy, what foods to eat lots of and not much of.  We have the responsibility, as a parent, as a grandparent, as an aunty or an uncle, to teach, to guide, to nurture kids into young adults that have a healthy, balanced perspective on life, and are happier for it!

So my thoughts are these:
Make education about good food fun, interesting, engaging and just a part of everyday life.
Visit markets, kids farms (Edendale in Eltham, Collingwood Childrens Farm, Ceres etc) community vegie gardens etc to engage kids in food and where it comes from.
Involve the kids in cooking activities (turn a blind eye to the mess!) to get them interacting with foods. (The boys and I attempted pasta making over the weekend!  They had a great time turning the rollers and loved tasting the end result!  As you can see in the second pic, Liam wanted to decorate his with glitter dots ( :)

I'd love to hear your views on this post.  Mine are mine only but I love to hear other perspectives.  Since starting this blog a few people have asked me to talk about fussy eaters and how to get a wider variety and more healthy foods into them.  I haven't really touched on it here but will do so in the coming posts.

BTW - Jamie Oliver has obviously done some amazing work in schools around America and the UK, but there are some other great programs happening right here in Australia, such as Stephanie Alexanders Kitchen Garden Foundation, if your child is lucky enough to go to a school that incorporates it into their curriculum!  Having said that most, if not all schools now have some sort of allocation to teaching healthy eating and activity behaviours (and having policies such as 'nude food') which I think is great and ABOUT TIME!  But as with most things, it has to come primarily from the home.

See Stephanie Alexanders Kitchen Garden Foundation here  
See details about 'Nude Food Day' here