The Versatile Cauliflower

For the last few years people have been posting recipes using cauliflower instead of things like rice, couscous, pizza bases and mash – and I thought, hmm I like cauliflower, but really, is it going to live up to those delicious carbs? Well, in an effort to eat less of these types of carbs I decided to try it, and low and behold – it is delicious! The first dish I made using cauliflower as couscous my boyfriend took one mouthful and said – ‘This is BETTER than couscous’, I kid you not.

cauliflower

So how do you do it, and what do you do with it?

It is really easy! For ‘couscous’ and ‘rice’ it is essentially the same process – just the application that differs. Grab yourself a cauliflower – I find that half a cauli is plenty for the two of us, with some leftovers so multiply accordingly. As I have a Thermomix I cut the half into four pieces, and pulse it in two batches. The ‘pulse’ or ‘turbo’ button is handy because it blitzes it at high speed for a short burst. It normally only takes 3-4 bursts.
Cauliflower ‘rice'

Once it is blitzed it will resemble rice or couscous and from here toss it into a frying pan with some olive oil/coconut oil or butter. I also like to sauté some garlic or onion first then add the cauli, and toss through some coriander or parsley depending on what I am serving it with. Below are some ways I have used it recently.

Cauliflower ‘rice'

I have made it into ‘couscous’ and put some baked chicken and brocollini on top.
This was so easy, and delicious – the chicken and brocollini were cut up and baked for 30 minutes with lemon, five spice and garlic.

Baked Chicken with Cauliflower ‘couscous'

Next I made it into ‘rice’ (same as couscous really) and used it as a base for a stir fry..

 IMG_6631

And one of the best to date – a Sheppard’s pie – with cauliflower mash, instead of potato. The amazing benefit of this is that it stays so moist, where potato tends to go a bit dry, especially if you make enough for left overs and reheat it the next night.. mmmm.

Cauliflower Sheppard’s Pie

So how do you make mash? Cut up the cauli, put it in a pot with water to cover it, and bring to the boil. Boil for around 5 minutes of until a knife easily pierces the cauli, then strain. If you have a blender or Thermomix, throw it in there, with a few tablespoons of butter, or oil of your liking, and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a high powered blender grab your masher and do it by hand.

We made a yummy savoury mince with peas, carrots, celery, zucchini and tomato paste, covered it with the yummy mash, and some cheese and baked until golden – around 25 minutes. It was so tasty!

All of these dishes are paleo, gluten free, and deliciously healthy. They can be easily altered to add your favourite flavours or veggies as well.

Let me know if you have a favourite way to use cauliflower!

M x

My ‘Day on a Plate’ – with a difference

Ok, so there has been a lot of press this week about the ‘Day on a plate’ phenomenon due to UK ‘Juice Queen’ Kara Rosen outlining her tiny food intake, and the rehashing of Pete Evans activated nuts debacle. (They are actually better for you though, but I digress).

I thought I might share my day on a plate – but catering to two days. One I like to call ‘How I wish I always ate’ and the other ‘I am human and food is delicious so don’t judge me’.

Day 1:

Breakfast: I don’t tend to eat early, if anything I fast a little when I wake up. I do have some apple cider vinegar in water most mornings though, and then just wait until I am hungry.

I typically sauté some zucchini, mushroom, kale, onion, coriander/parsley in olive or coconut oil, normally adding in a dash of water to soften the veggies so they aren’t ‘frying’ per se. Once they are almost cooked I crack an egg over top of them, mix it around and make a veggie scramble. YUM. Some salt and pepper to season, and it keeps me going for hours. Sometimes I put it on a piece of sourdough, sometimes I have it as is. If I have left over quinoa in the fridge I might put that in.

Veggie scramble

May or may not contain kale this time.

I used to find that this didn’t sustain me, and I would add matchsticks of sweet potato or potato before the other veg – it worked really well and tasted great. Yes I know potato is one of those veg we have a love hate relationship with – but it contains good amounts of silica, and you’re not going to use much.

Lunch:

If there are no leftovers I’ll often go to the fridge, stare for a bit, then throw together a salad. Rocket, spinach leaves, capsicum, mushroom, tomato, avocado – really whatever is in there, with some tinned salmon or tuna on top. Yes canned fish has its downsides so don’t eat it everyday, but sometimes it is better to have some fish, rather than none. If not tuna or salmon, I might add some boiled egg. If it is summer and the coconut oil is melted I’ll drizzle that over, otherwise some olive oil, and a dash of vinegar.

IMG_5567

It won’t rotate :(

Dinner:

Often a chicken and veggie stir fry with quinoa, or some baked salmon with sautéed brocollini – both super easy, nourishing and healthy.

Brocollini in a pan with coconut oil, chilli, garlic and ginger is a great side dish to almost anything. Sometimes I add in beans, or asparagus, other times bok choy. The coconut oil adds an amazing flavour as it is held in the leaves and is very satisfying.

For stir fries I’ve found that adding some chilli, ginger and garlic, along with fish sauce, and five spice can do amazing things.

I try to make sure each meal has a good balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates. However most meals are a bit more on the ‘paleo’ side generally – low carb, good fat, and quality protein. I feel great knowing that I have included vegetables in every meal, and optimised my nutritional intake.

 

Day 2: (Which tends to precede Day 1, rather than follow it :) and is typically on the weekend)

Breakfast:

We head to a cafe and I cannot help but order a bacon, avocado and feta bagel – because YUM.

Lunch:

We are bored, and don’t have any plans for the afternoon so we head across the road to the pub for a late lunch. May as well have a beer/glass of wine, and try their tasting platter. God those lamb shank empanadas were good, and the croquettes? mmmm.

We wander into town, stop for another vino at a cute bar where there is live music. So great to have lovely weather, and great entertainment.

There is a cycling event on so we stop at the food trucks – one does the most delicious ham, cheese and mustard crepes – we share one.

IMG_5881

There is entertainment all around the park so we sit and listen to the band, and have a Pimms.

A few hours of listening to music, watching the entertainment, and walking the cycling circuit pass and we find another food stand – they have lobster and shrimp rolls – on a brioche bun no less. Delish.

We grazed all afternoon, had a wonderful day, and walked home feeling slightly full, but happy. Yes I woke up the next day feeling foggy and lethargic, but some apple cider vinegar, some veggies for breakfast and a healthy lunch picked me up again, and as much as I might lament the unhealthy choices, life needs to be about moderation. As long as there is more of your Day 1, than Day 2 you are on the right track.

What do your Day 1/2 look like? Do you think these health nuts posting their Day on a Plate also have days like this where they stop being so strict?

M xx

The blog revival, and some hard hitting realisations

It has been a long time since I’ve put my thoughts into a blog, but that is not to say that I haven’t thought about blogging. I often start a blog in my head, or take a photo of a meal, and think – this would be a great topic. But when I go to write it down, the thoughts don’t flow.

I have now finished the third year of my Naturopathy degree – the catalyst for beginning this blog, and it has been a wonderful three years of learning, exploring, and deepening my understanding of the interactions between thoughts, emotions, stress, nutrients, and food, on our physiological and psychological make up.

It has brought me to a few realisations.

– Most people are happy being ignorant about what is in food, and what foods they require. And I say that without malice intended. I used to be, I thought that if I didn’t think about it, it didn’t affect me. Until it did. At some point, we all need to take responsibility for our own health.

– There is a large amount of misinformation out there regarding ‘healthy’ eating, some of it from authority figures, and trusted sources. Australia is lagging behind at the moment in regard to new evidence that is coming to light about what actually constitutes a healthy diet, despite other countries drastically changing their food pyramids, and recommendations.

– As a society we rely far too heavily on carbohydrates as our main food source, and it is making us fat, insulin resistant, and unhappy, and leading to the rise in diabetes, cancer and most chronic disease states.

– The majority of items in a supermarket are not in fact food. And i’m talking about things packaged to be eaten. They provide negative nutrients because they use up the ones you do have to process and digest them.

– Most conditions – whether it is acute or chronic, serious or not can be greatly improved through diet. When studying the top conditions that cause hospital admissions, and death recently, the main advice consisted of: Eat more fruit and vegetables of all colours and shapes, eat less or no refined foods, eat less sugar, eat more fish, and healthy oils/fats, drink more water. Seriously. Just eat real food.

– One of the mainstays of naturopathic philosophy is that prevention is better than cure. And there are so many diseases and conditions that could be prevented and treated with nutritional and herbal medicines. Even if they need to be medically managed we can work alongside to manage any symptoms from pharmaceutical medicines, or improve their efficacy.

– Our gut health is so intrinsically linked to almost all other aspects of our wellbeing. It can affect mental, and emotional health, it can lead to an increase in allergies and intolerances, it can affect skin conditions, and is implicated in some of the autoimmune condition severity – not just those linked to the gut like coeliacs, but MS as well. Sometimes healing the gut is not as simple as taking probiotics, but that doesn’t mean its not possible, nor extremely worthwhile.

– Lastly, we really are what we eat. Our cells are a reflection of the ‘ingredients’ they have available to them when being formed. The outer layer of all of our cells are made of essential fats and influence how well the cell functions, and communicates with other, the inner requires different proteins and nutrients to build enzymes and power our mitochondria – where we make energy, and therefore, a diet deficient in any required nutrient will impact somewhere in the chain.

I will endeavour to expand on all of those points over the coming weeks – however if you have any questions please do not hesitate to comment.

It won’t be as long between blogs anymore I promise :)

 

M xx

Are you what you eat?

I feel like people are disconnected with what happens when they eat food. It seems like they believe that the food goes in the mouth, gets churned up in the tummy, goes through our intestines, and is pooped out again with no consequence to the rest of our system. In a sense this is true – the gastrointestinal tract is a ‘closed’ system that is in a way ‘outside’ of the body – it is open to the outside world, and closed to our other organs. We do however absorb a lot of what goes through it across the mucosal linings of our mouth, stomach, and intestines. We absorb our water, and fat soluble nutrients, our protein and fats, and lots of toxins that come along with most processed food.

I also feel like people think the body is what it is and doesn’t change. But each and every cell in our body is constantly renewing itself, and it can only do this with the building blocks we give it. So if we are putting junk food, alcohol, cigarette smoke, pesticides and other toxins in – what are our cells going to be make off? If we are not eating enough protein for synthesis of new cellular material what will happen? If we are ingesting trans fats and harmful oils like canola, and vegetable, what oils will the body use to make up our cellular membrane?

At the most basic level we truly are a reflection of what we eat.

So would you rather be full of energy, full of antioxidants, full of nutrients? or full of fat, full of refined carbs, lacking nutrition, lacking energy, lacking the building blocks for a healthy body?

Our bodies don’t go on forever. Yes we can push them hard in our youth and they bounce back, but over time if those habits don’t change one day we will find ourselves with one of the many serious diseases clogging up our hospitals (and arteries). Recent studies have shown that 70-90% of many diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Stroke, Colon Cancer and Coronary Artery disease could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes. Scary huh? Surely the effort to prevent something like this much outweighs the consequence of not doing so.

Eat well. Exercise. Be happy. Appreciate this wonderful life.

Prevention really is the best cure because disease isn’t caused by a lack of pharma drugs.

Vitamin deficiencies are real and for some reason most of the public think it is ok to fix them with pharmaceutical drugs.

We are all happy to admit that anemia is a deficiency of iron, however when other illnesses crop up most go straight to their GP without looking at the way they are treating themselves.. We really are what we eat. Our food is what contributes to our cellular makeup, our bodies ability to make energy, its ability to protect itself from pathogens, our bone health, our mental health, our gastrointestinal health, our cardiovascular health and pretty much every single part of our being. Now i’ve banged on before about the foods we should and shouldn’t be eating, but this post is simple.

Image

Courtesy of some awesome person on twitter or facebook

You wouldn’t think of treating microcytic anemia with something other than iron so why do we treat so many other disorders with drugs, before looking for the root cause?

A brilliant mind said “Illness is not caused by Drug Deficiency” – do any of the below seem like they are caused by a lack of metformin? a deficiency of Lipitor? a deficiency of statins?? I didn’t think so. Is a headache caused by a lack of panadol? These drugs might help to manage conditions but until the cause is identified and healed, that drug is only going to maintain you whilst most likely causing horrendous side affects.

For example corticosteroids have been shown to lead to osteoporosis – which will surely be treated with other steriodal drugs or crazy injections to manage the pain.. craziness.

Below is a list of actual deficiencies that can be treated by vitamins and minerals. If caught early enough.

Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, immune deficiency, eye dryness, those spots on your arms, impaired sperm production, and spontaneous abortion.

Vitamin B deficiencies leads to a multitude of fatigues, mental issues, skin problems, decrease in ability to deal with stress, poor memory, weakness, depression, risk of cardiac disease, insomnia, indigestion, thyroid issues, macrocytic anemia, and neural tube defects.

Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, bleeding gums, decreased immunity, bleeding, bruising, fatigue, anemia, edema, depression and teeth falling out!

Vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets and osteomalacia (spongy bones!), generalised pain (everywhere!), poor calcium absorption, decrease male fertility, decrease immunity, fatigue, depression etc etc..

Vitamin E deficiency can cause infertility in males, reproductive issues in females, clots, increased risk of cancer, lots of oxidisation – especially in those who are overweight, and hardening of the arteries.

Are you getting the point?? A lot of things can happen in you don’t eat well! Lets keep going..

Vitamin K deficiency leads to clotting issues, bleeding, bruising, and an increased risk of osteoporosis..

Then we have the minerals.. Magnesium deficiency will lead to cramping, eye twitches, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, nausea, heart spasms and myocardial ischemia..

CoQ10 deficiency leads to congestive heart failure, fatigue, high blood pressure, and impaired immunity

Zinc deficiency leads to male infertility, impaired immunity, impaired taste, depression, skin problems..

So do you see??? There are so many diseases that are created the general populations inability to eat well, or look after themselves, and not their lack of pharmaceutical drugs or antibiotics..

None of these deficiency examples are by any means a complete list, which just points out how important food is. It is what we eat every day and if we can get our nutrients from it without needing supplements thats amazing. If we need a little top up thats ok too..

The quote comes from a fascinating article by a former pharmacist which can be found here and I am happy to provide any extra info on each vitamin/mineral. Most of the info is sourced from my studies however here is a table that is a quick way to check each nutrients benefits and deficiencies.

I’m not saying all pharmaceuticals drugs are bad, nor that they don’t have their place. They are just extremely overprescribed for conditions that could be easily prevented, or treated with proper nutrition.

M.

Navigating the supermarket and avoiding the devil (sugar).

Oh my gosh! Uni, exams and a trip to Fiji have meant this blog has been severely neglected. But I was sent an interesting article today by a reader that spurred me to add some of my own tips.

Heaven!

Heaven!

The article is here and outlines how to navigate the supermarket, some common food myths, what to, and what not to eat, and simple ways to get around this.

I like it because it is what I live by, and is also correct. So many articles and advice provided by nutritionists advocates things like margarine – which I wrote about and explained here, and also advise the use of low fat dairy which is basically sugar.

One of the main discussions lately has been about the detrimental effects of sugar – and that if we had had a low sugar craze rather than low fat the world would be a much better place. A great video that will explain it is Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It is not short but outlines the way sugar is digested, and how easily is turns to fat, and discusses how fructose is metabolised like alcohol and causes issues with the liver. Just the name triglycerides gives away the fact that most stomach fat is sugar – glyceride from glucose. Another great resource if you are looking at giving the No sugar diet a try is Sarah Wilsons, I Quit Sugar – she has multiple books and recipes available, and has a great Facebook page with lots of info. If you do need to buy products with added sugar, be aware that glucose is much better than fructose/sucralose/aspartame etc, and remember that 5gm equals one teaspoon of sugar. If something has 20gm sugar in it, would you be happy eating 4tsp of sugar??

Now getting back to the article, my lovely reader asked if I had any extra tips – and the one I sent back was the 80:20 rule – which I’m sure I’ve spoken about before. Aim to be good at least 80% of the time, and the other 20 will keep you sane, is how I see it. Don’t become so pedantic about what you eat that the stress of it is causing more issues by releasing too much cortisol! (which will lower your immunity and put you in an oxidative state).

We buy and make all of our food from scratch (apart from some basics of course), and a lot of people are baffled at how we do that. Once you start you will see how easy and often cost effective it can be.

Some other easy supermarket tips to help avoid sugar and processed foods include:

Cooking your own simple pasta sauce. I don’t mean slaving away in the kitchen for hours, nor making a bolognese. I mean cooking a tomato based sauce in a few minutes like the ones you would buy in a jar with an essay worth of ingredients.

Just grab some tinned tomatoes or pureed tomato passata, put it in a pan with some sauteed onion and garlic, add some chilli if you like spice, and some basil – viola! Its probably cheaper than a ready made sauce! And to that I would normally add some veg like zucchini, mushroom, kale etc. You could add ricotta and spinach, oregano, parsley,  bacon (part of the 20% sorry), mince of course, or chicken. A dash of cream if you like it a bit richer and you have a meal in under 30 minutes.

Ready made stir-fry sauces in foil made by Maggi etc are another thing I refuse to buy – of course some of the basics are already processed like soy, oyster, fish sauce, and hoisin, but find one that is the least offensive/organic, or just use chilli, garlic, ginger, and five spice like I do. Simple, cheap, fresh and delicious. If you store ginger in the freezer it is really easy to grate and adds such a great flavour.

Another one that frustrates me is pancake mix. It is so so simple to make pancakes from scratch and has 1/10th the ingredients. One egg. One cup of flour. One cup of milk. That is it. If you want to feed more people, double/triple it. Will make about 6-8 depending on how big you like them. Just mix it all up, let it rest a few minutes and ladle into the pan. If you like them fluffy rather than thin, use self raising.

That goes for cake/muffin/cupcake mixes too – they drive me crazy and taste so artificial. Recipes with butter, eggs, flour and milk are everywhere, and we have most of these things in our cupboards. I am not vegetarian as you can see, but these can be substituted for olive oil, flax ‘eggs’, spelt flour, and soy/rice/almond milk etc.

One question my reader found hard to comprehend in the article was how bad breakfast cereals are. They are so processed that the grain portion, whether it is wheat or corn or rice, breaks down in the body so quickly and converts to sugar as there is no fibre or protein left to sustain it. And when eaten with low fat milk that has had the fat removed (but would  slows the absorption of sugar/carbs and lowers the GI) it is going to make you hungry by 10am. I always have protein for breakfast, after a nights ‘fasting’ you need to eat it or your body will start taking it from muscles. And the heart is a muscle so this is important. I have eggs, or sardines on toast, or quinoa porridge. I try and make sure I get my 20gm of protein at breakfast time. Milk and yoghurt provide some, but not normally enough. If you like oats have then with milk and nuts.

To be honest I’m finding it hard to write this post as this is just what I do, and have done for many years, so to think about what people buy processed and don’t know how to make from scratch is tough! I would love you to add comments and ask questions so I can add more tips and recipes!

I will expand on these topics in upcoming posts as well :)

Mxx

Barley Risotto with Roasted Veggies and Spinach..

Last night I made a barley risotto, and after I’d started cooking I turned on MKR  (My Kitchen Rules) to find they were making it in the grand finale.. Sixth Sense???

The reason I made it had nothing to do with MKR and more to do with Alcohol Free April – which turned into Alcohol Free 3 weeks. We were strict 99% of the time, however after 3 weeks I guess we thought we would see some results. So far all we had noticed was that it was easier to get up on a Saturday and Sunday morning! We went for early walks, we enjoyed sitting at local cafes having a leisurely breakfast, and ate very healthy food – as that’s what we craved. The one upside I had noticed was that I seemed to have lost some of the pudge around my middle that was hard to shift.. a few centremetres of bloat, just gone. Amazing.

So how what did all this have to do with barley risotto? This last few days we decided that we had done what we had wanted, we had proven to ourselves we could do it, we had given our bodies a break – and we decided, being ANZAC day it was right to honour my grandfather, and those who fought, with a beer at the RSL. And some red wine with dinner. Friday was a tough day at work for my amazing boyfriend so the rest of the red went well with our chicken and salsa wraps. Saturday turned out to be an amazing day weather wise so we celebrated our return to alcohol with some beer on the  balcony. And this brings me back to my point. Today we woke up feeling crap. Our usual walk was questioned – but we dragged ourselves out knowing it would help. We were drained and sluggish and when dinner rolled around all we wanted was  something simple, full of vegetables, fresh, healthy, and tasty.

We had Arborio rice but for some reason I wasn’t sold.  I went through our pantry in my mind and remembered I’d bought biodynamic barley at the beautiful shop around the corner from uni (Spelt Quinoa – Fitzroy). I googled to see what quantities to use with what and made it up from there!

It was everything I had hoped, warm, comforting, healthy, and filling and the added benefit was that it was light.. sometimes risotto can be a bit dense and heavy, but with barley, whilst it was less cohesive, it still had the creamy texture with the added benefit of being full of whole grains.

Barley is full of fibre which helps us metabolise fats, reduces cholesterol in the blood due to its beta glucan content, reduces the risk of colon cancer, and makes short chain fatty acids which are an important fuel source for our cells. It is also a good source of selenium and other vitamins and minerals.

Barley Risotto with Roast Veggies and Spinach

  • 1 cup Barley
  • 4 Cups of stock
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine/Verjuice
  • Herbs/spices – I used cumin, oregano, basil and parsley
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 capsicum
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 spring onions
  • parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • Handfull of spinach
  • 2 large mushrooms, chopped
  • labne – optional

Start by chopping all of your veggies into cubes and preparing them for roasting with a drizzle of olive oil, and some cumin sprinkled on top. You can use whichever veggies you like – I just raided the fridge. Pop them in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for around 30 – 50 minutes depending on your oven, your roasting tray and veg size.

Veg in oven

Once the veggies are underway grab 2 pots, fill one with the stock and add  the chopped garlic and onion to the other with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil. Allow the stock to boil and then reduce it to a slow simmer.

onion

Soften the onion and garlic until slightly translucent, and throw in a bay leaf and some herbs – as mentioned I used dried basil, parsley and oregano, but would have loved to add thyme or rosemary if i’d had some available.

Barley

Add the barley to the onion/garlic/oil mixture and stir for 2 -3  minutes allowing it to become coated and warmed. Pour in the white wine or verjuice (great non alcoholic alternative) to deglaze the pan and then its’s time to start adding the stock!

Simmering

The process is the same as with arborio rice – add in a ladle full of stock at a time and allow it to be absorbed before adding the next ladle. The benefit with barley I found was that it was less likely to stick and didn’t need constant stirring. I added a few more herbs after a taste test, and some salt and pepper – just go with what you feel is right. When the barley is almost at your preferred texture add in the mushrooms and spinach and allow to wilt slightly.

mix together

When the veggies are roasted, and the barley has softened to your liking add it all together in the pot with some spring onions and parmesan cheese, stir, and serve! I found that it took around 40 minutes to get the barley to the consistency we wanted, however I probably could have had it on a higher heat – possibly reducing the time. I would also like to try it in the thermomix as that produces wonderful risottos..

voila

Viola! I gave it to the boyfriend and he said ‘Oh, Yum!’. We didn’t have any leftovers. If you were making this as a main dish for more than 2 people I would increase the amount of Barley. I wish i’d made enough to have some today but alas… I’m sure we will be making it again soon.

The reason the labne is optional is because I forgot to add it at the end. I went to the trouble of draining some greek yoghurt and then left it on the bench! I did stir a bit through when having seconds and it was divine, it added a creaminess that I will certainly remember next time..

I love experimenting with new recipes – and this base can now be used for so many other risott0 combinations – what should we try next??

M xx