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

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Just 21 days!

I'm sitting here sweating with runners still on but I had to get this down while the intensity was still in my head!  Bear with me, there will be a point to my story!!
I have a number of routes that I take for my run/walks, depending on the time I have basically.  This morning I got to go on my longest one thus far.  I (being quite habitual in a lot of ways) have set parts of the route that I walk and run, and they havent really changed for awhile now.  But a couple of months ago I was walking along thinking I could probably jog this part, so I did.  It was only a couple of hundred metres but I did it and was rapt that more of my route was being taken up running.  The next few times I would either forget or not be bothered, but then sometimes I did run it.  Now admittedly I havent been on that route for awhile (I'm blaming it on daylight savings) so when I took off today I was really excited.  Consumed with other thoughts for much of the run it wasnt until I got part way through running that section that I realised I had done it without even thinking about it!  It had suddenly become just one of my running sections that I dont even think about - I just do it!!!  Like the lava flowing out of Mt Etna at the moment, covering all of the mountain and its surrounds, this realisation suddenly flowed through many aspects on my life.  This small change is now a habit. I am now running for a greater section of my route. Now imagine what other habits I can form just as easily.  It was such an 'Oprah Ah Hah' moment cause I suddenly felt the power to change!  Obviously I related this straight away to many dietary changes or health related changes in general.  And I also reflected on the little changes I have made in the past to get me to where I am today.
So I am sharing this with you to say there are so many little changes that you can make on your way to be a healthier you!  Sure the change will have to be a conscious action for the first week or two but before you know it that change will be just the way you do it.  I am taken back to our 'sleep school' experience with Liam when the nurse said to me, it takes 21 days to form a habit.  And since then I have found that to be true many times.  Think about your last 21 days.  Has anything really changed?  Has it flown by before you knew it?  I know our days do!
But the real power in making a small change become a habit is not in the habit itself, but in the strength and self motivation it gives you to then enable another change, and then another.
So I made this small change, what can you do??!  Pick something right now - is it reducing the sugar in your coffee/tea from two spoons to one?  Is it walking up the stairs to work instead of taking the lift?  Is it choosing water over softdrink or juice for 4 out of 5 drinks in a day?  Is it actually drinking water each day?  Is it changing the rice you use to be lower GI (Basmati) or higher in fibre (brown)?
I dare say this post will be referred to many times throughout my blog as I share small changes I am making and those that you could do too.         
What change have you decided to make today?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Icecream in the Thermomix

I know I know.  Its no longer the season for ice cream you say.  Well, I have a sneaking suspicion there is someone out there who thinks, like me, that ice cream is a food for all seasons, not to be restricted to just a few warmer months in the year!  And its a great base for incorporating fruits and flavours of the season - quince, rhubarb, mandarin, apple, pear, caramel, cinnamon, star anise in the cooler months and berries, stone fruits, mango, lychee, lime, mint, in the warmer months.
Having made my own ice cream on and off for many years now after purchasing an ice cream maker back in my early twenties, it was always quite a process, making the custard base then having to wait for it to chill before churning it and chilling again.  Now I can be quite impatient but when my oldest son, Liam, started helping me in the kitchen (with much enthusiasm) I pulled the old ice cream maker out and suggested we make some, knowing full well his patience wouldn't stretch to cooking, chilling and then churning before he could taste the fruits of his labour!!  So it got me thinking of a more simple recipe.  I've tweaked it here and there to get it to a result I am now really happy with!  Now prior to my Thermomix purchase, I was using a blender which was giving me an ice cream that had good viscosity for the first night or so after making it but then seemed to get too hard to scoop after that, and would often crystalise.  Enter the Thermomix!!  The unmatchable power in the whipping action of the Thermomix has now provided me with an ice cream texture that matches that of any commercial ice cream, Sara Lee, Connoisseur, you name it.  And with only 4 ingredients!      
I've put the basic recipe below (and flavour ideas below that!) and although you will get to know that I generally cook by my senses rather than measurements, I have tried to quantify the ingredients for you.
Oh and perhaps now is a good time to say that I believe everything is good in moderation!  So yes you do use full fat cream and condensed milk and yes condensed milk does have sugar in it but this is something you eat a small amount of and savour it! And probably the best thing about making your own ice cream, just like anything, is that you know what is in it and you are avoiding all those nasty additives.  OK, now for the recipe!

Mels no fuss Thermomix ice cream

500ml cream (I just use the thickened stuff but I'm sure the pure cream would work just as well)
1 tin condensed milk (I tend to use slightly less than a whole tin but the sweetness level is up to you)
2 eggs (free range organic give a lovely rich, creamy colour and are obviously the more ethical choice)
1-2tsp vanilla extract

1.  Secure butterfly into Thermomix jug.  Add all ingredients and whip on speed 4 for a few minutes (2-3) until you get a thick, glossy consistency.
Keep your eye on it to avoid over-whipping and curdling it/turning it into 'butter'!
2.  Prepare your ice cream maker according to instructions and pour mixture into the machine.  Churn as per manufactures recommendations.  I have an old Philips machine which I set on the soft serve setting and let it churn until it really starts to labour (probably 10 minutes past when the light starts flashing).
3.  Work quickly to get the ice cream out into a freezer proof container and place immediately in the freezer.
It can be served immediately or leave to set even more for a few hours.

If you don't have an ice cream machine you could freeze the mixture after its time in the Thermomix and once quite firm but not frozen solid, take it out of the freezer and cut it into rough pieces, quickly blending it again on speed 7 or 8 for 20 seconds then return to the freezer. 

Flavour ideas:

1.  Any fruit, chopped roughly or pureed - your choice.  Just be mindful that due to the high water content in most fruits, a degree of crystalisation will most likely affect the ice cream.  The fruit can either be mixed through the ice cream in the mixing process or afterwards the fruit can be swirled through before placing in the freezer.
2.  Go for some texture by smashing up some nut toffee (easily made yourself) and good quality chocolate and swirling through.
3.  Apple crumble - saute some diced apples with brown sugar and cinnamon until soft but still holding shape.  Chill and stir through ice cream.  Just prior to serving sprinkle over crumble (mix oats, shredded coconut, flour, butter and raw sugar into small clumps.  Scatter onto paper lined baking tray and bake in 180 degree oven for 10 minutes or until browned.  Allow to cool then break up into a crumble consistency)   
4.  Toasted coconut and banana - Place shredded coconut on baking tray and place in 180 degree oven until browned.  Alternatively brown in frypan.  Cool.  Stir through ice cream with small chunks of organic banana.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My new best friend in the kitchen - Thermomix

So probably 6-8 months ago I went along to a good friend of mines house for a Thermomix demonstration.  I hadn't really ever heard of them before (apart from seeing it briefly on Masterchef a couple of years ago) and was pretty impressed by what I saw.  At the time I couldn't justify the price (as being on one wage makes you do) and tried not to think much more about it.  Until one day when Dan (my hubby) came home from work suddenly very interested in the Thermomix!  A big, burly, 'meat pie for breakfast' type tradie mate of his was apparently raving about the Beetroot Chocolate cake that his Thermomix had made him on that weekend!!  Over a week or so these stories went on and on until Dan suggested we get the lovely Tamara Morris (visit her blog here to come and do a demo at our house.  Well needless to say Dan was very impressed and when the perfectly smooth and thick lemon custard came out of the Thermomix after only 8 minutes and next to no preparation, he said (with a mouthful of custard) 'where do we sign?'!!!
And so began my love affair with this amazing machine!  I wont go into full details here but to find out everything you need to know about the Thermomix, visit  It has been over a month now and I have whipped up so many amazing products and meals.  And I dare say if I didn't have my two precious little boys to care for, our house may have resembled some kind of gourmet deli/cafe by now rather than the disheveled toy truck/car haven that it has inevitably become!
The best thing about the Thermomix for me is the simple transition I have been able to make to dramatically reducing the amount of hidden nasties (artificial colours, flavours, additives, fillers etc etc) in our foods.  I now make our own butter (takes 4 minutes!), bread (takes 3 minutes to knead!), flour (mills grains in 1 minute), jams, peanut butter, stock concentrate, biscuits, ice cream and sorbet, almond meal, etc etc etc!  Being a nutritionist, Coeliac and general advocate of good fresh food, there wasn't a lot of processed foods in our house anyway, but when you add all these things up we all were still digesting quite a bit of artificial stuff!

So anyway, the point to this is that a lot of the recipes I feature on this site will no doubt be 'Thermomix friendly' but will also most likely be able to be made without one, with just a little more time and effort (and dishes no doubt)!!!



Well this is it!  The first post on my blog.  Whilst I am no stranger to communicating over the internet, this blogging thing is certainly new to me but I am really excited about what it might become as it matures, and hopefully it will be of mutual benefit to both of us!
'Why 3 hats?' is obviously the first question I should answer.  It popped into my head one day when I was dreaming about one of my many business ideas and whilst it obviously plays on the aspirational and prestigious 3 hats title amongst elite restaurants of the world, it also can illustrate my three passions:
1. Food for enjoyment
2. Food for health
3. Food for the environment
And whilst these hats wont always be worn at the same time all the time, when they come together in the form of a dish or better still a lifestyle, that to me is pure joy, and an aspirational way to live!

To friends and family I am known for two things - a huge Kylie Minogue fan (since going to her first concert when I would have been about 8!) and a lover of all things food and cooking!  I get asked for advice often from friends about certain dishes they want to cook, different ingredients and of course nutrition related information so the idea popped into my head to start a blog and see if we can all help eachother out!

So my approach to this blog is indeed fluid at this stage, as I stumble in the dark towards what I hope blossoms into a great place to celebrate food, respect food and the path it took to reach the plate, and learn the fascinating health benefits of so many great foods.
My food journey is constantly bringing me joy, energy, and passion which I hope translates on this page, to you, time and time again.
Enjoy the journey with me.......