Cheers for Chia!

Image

My mother’s chia pudding

I’ve been meaning to use more chia seeds but somehow have never got around to it. So I’m determined this week to try to include more in my diet, I’ve been looking around online to find different ways to include them so I thought I’d share with you what I have found so far. First of all I’ll give you a bit of an explanation as to what chia seeds are.

Chia seeds are amazing; I don’t know why they’re not used more! Just a tablespoon of chia seeds contain more protein than a glass of milk and is packed full of Omega -3 fatty acids. A serving of chia seeds has 18% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which puts you well on your way to maintaining bone and oral health, and preventing osteoporosis. There are so many more reasons to include chia into your diet.

Chia is so easy to include into your meals and there are some great recipes out there where chia is the main ingredient. Try adding them to smoothies, porridge and yogurt. You can grind the seeds and mix them into pancake mixture.

To make Chia pudding simply mix with almond, soy or coconut milk, a few raw oats, sultanas, goji berries and vanilla xylitol or other sugar free sweetener.

They don’t have to just be used for sweet foods as well. You can put them in to breads, soups, stews to thicken and mixed into stir fry and pasta dishes.

They’re so versatile; you can add them to pretty much anything. I’m looking forward to experimenting over the next few days to see what I can come up with.

Advertisements

Quick get me a coffee… STAT!

coffee

One thing we seem to be trying to get in our lives is more energy; we talk supplements, drink coffee, have energy drinks and are constantly looking for ways to get more.  I thought we’d look at a few different ways to get some energy with having to resort to calorie, sugar laden energy supplements. As I was researching for this I came across a website that was talking about an energy boost called “sugar rush” It was simply 18 Jelly Belly Jelly Beans blended together! Oh my goodness! That is certainly not the way to get long lasting energy!

Sometimes 8 hours of solid sleep is not enough to keep us going all day as we lead hectic fast paced lives, rushing from one to the next. Then we get worn out and look for something to give us a boost. Without thinking a lot of us will reach for coffee, energy drinks and snacks high in calories, sugar and carbohydrates. While tired you’re more likely to snack and look for these foods than choose something like fresh produce or nuts. Sugar and carbs, although these provide energy and fast, it is often very short lived, causing you to consume even more.

If you find yourself reaching for that snack why not try a banana or an apple with some peanut butter. The fructose takes longer to metabolise in our bodies than processed sugar and the peanut butter provides a longer lasting form of energy.

Not all carbs are bad; some complex carbohydrates like whole grains and beans are some of the best long lasting energy boosters out there that make you feel full at the same time. Try some whole grain crackers with some hummus.

If lacking energy leads to crave sweet things, avoid the sugar which gives you a short time high but an awful sugar crash and swap it for something like Greek yoghurt, muesli and berries. A small serving of this will cure those sweet cravings and supply you with long lasting energy and leaving you feel satisfied.

Eggs are fantastic! A boiled egg in the afternoon help you stay awake is a good idea! Eggs are packed full of protein and offer nearly the same benefits as lean meat, including B vitamins, iron and protein

Sometimes all you need is to move. A brisk walk outside will give you a boost in energy and a fresh air to blow away the cobwebs that start forming in your head when you get tired. Finally, try a glass of cool water with a slice of lemon. Dehydration can lower your metabolism and your energy levels. The lemon provides some vitamin c, or you  can try coconut water which has extra electrolytes and potassium.

So next time you’re looking for an energy boost, why not swap the energy drink for something more substantial and sustaining!

Creamy Goodness!

Have you ever thought about how great natural Greek yogurt is? I use it as alternative to lots of things and it’s super versatile, you can use it for sweet or savoury dishes. I often use it as an alternative to sour cream and mayonnaise. Greek yogurt has more protein and less sugar and lactose in it, so it’s great to use for some people who are lactose intolerant. Not only is it great as a snack on its own but here are some other ways you can use it.

Image

I use Farmer’s Union Greek Yogurt

For a frozen dessert; instead of using cream or fruit juices to make popsicles, use Greek yogurt mixed with honey, frozen or fresh berries and some lemon. It’s contains less sugar than most fruit juices and not to mention the extreme health benefits of honey (particularly raw honey), berries and lemon!

Use as an alternative to mayo, it adds extra protein and calcium and saves on excess calories and saturated fats.

I haven’t tried this one myself but apparently you can use it in a cheesecake. You substitute half of the cream cheese for plain Greek yogurt. There are quite a few recipes online that show you how to do this.

I often use it to add creaminess to a dish without feeling guilty. Instead of using cream or sour cream to a dish, I’ll use Greek yogurt!

I also use it instead of butter for mashed potatoes. It adds creaminess and lightens the mash without compromising flavour.

The easiest one is to make tsatziki, simply diced some cucumber and add some dill and salt! Super quick, super easy and healthy too. Can’t get better than that!

It’s great to use as a salad dressing, I combined a bit of yogurt, some water to thin it out, herbs and spices to make a quick and tasty dressing.

Try using it as a marinade for chicken or fish. Combine with lemon zest, salt and pepper and some herbs. Yum!

These are only a few uses for it, just experiment and most of time it turns out fantastic! Do you have any uses for Greek yogurt?

Easy, budget friendly rice meals!

Tonight I’d thought I’d show you two simple rice dishes. The first one is mushroom garlic rice. This was the first time I’ve made it and it turned out pretty well. It made a great side dish and if you wanted it for a main, I’d probably add some bacon or tofu for a vegetarian option. The second one I just stumbled on the other day when I forgot to make lunch for work and just threw some stuff together!

What’ll you need for the mushroom garlic rice; 8 roughly chopped mushrooms, 2 diced garlic gloves, 1 thinly sliced spring onion, 2 to 2 ½ cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of rice and fresh parsley, salt and pepper. I used a packet of pre cooked microwave rice with a quarter cup of uncooked rice. I didn’t have enough uncooked rice, but it turned out perfect.

Roughly chop the mushrooms and dice the garlic

Image

Melt some butter in a pot over medium heat; add the mushrooms, garlic and spring onion to the pot and cook until soft and the liquid has evaporated.

Image

Stir in 2 cups of chicken stock and rice. As it cooks you may want add more stock if it gets too dry.

Image

Add the chopped fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Image

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s done because it will be thick and the rice will be soft.

Image

The second one is a very quick one! You’ll need: Spring onion, garlic, capsicum, 1 cup of frozen peas and corn, 1 packet of precooked microwave rice, oyster sauce, kecap manis and soy sauce.

Thinly slice spring onion, finely dice garlic and capsicum and add to large bowl.

Image

Add frozen peas and corn and rice and stir to combine

Image

Next drizzle over oyster sauce, kecap manis and a small splash of soy sauce and mix to combine.

Image

I keep it in the bowl and cover with glad wrap and place in the fridge. The next day (or whenever, because I take it to work for lunch) put in Tupperware container and when it comes to eat, just microwave for 1.5 minutes and it’s ready to go! See easy!

I cooked these because this week was on a super tight budget, you can get about 3 servings out of each dish and spend less than $25 all up. Do you have any quick and easy rice dishes, please share them with me!

Meow!

I’m sitting here with a drink reflecting on an awesome weekend with some great friends, food and drink. Most memorable bit was when Cameron went to light the BBQ and it was out gas (despite me asking a few hours earlier if the gas bottle was full), we could have cooked everything on the stove, but his solution was to take the massive gas cylinder that supplies our stove and hook it up to the BBQ. Problem solved! 😀

I thought I take you through the cake that I made which was a much better improvement than the Oreo cake last year for my friend’s birthday. This year’s theme was Crazy Cat Lady; the room was full of cat decorations. I made a basic vanilla butter cake with a caramel chocolate frosting and then covered in fondant. The actual cake was rainbow and shaped into a couch with a lady sitting on it with lots and lots of cats!

Image

I didn’t take lots of photos of the process because I forgot and I was stressed because I left it to the day of the BBQ to make something I had never done before. For the recipe it’s self just Google a basic butter cake, there are heaps out there and very easy to do. To make it a rainbow cake, I divided the batter between four bowls (One bowl for each colour), I used yellow, red, blue and green food dye. Add the colour two to three drops at a time and mix, keep adding until you reach the desired intensity. Then after all bowls have been coloured, add then to the cake tin and bake as normal. I just poured mine in and where ever it went was where it would stay, however you can use a knife to create a swirl pattern if you like.

Once the cake had cooled completely, I made a caramel, chocolate chip butter cream. To do this I used half a tin of condensed caramel top n fill, 60grams of softened butter and 2 and half cups of sifted icing sugar. I added the caramel and butter to the bowl and used a beater to combine the ingredients, then I added the icing sugar half a cup at a time and placed it in the fridge.

While the frosting was in the fridge I cut up the cake and assembled something that looked vaguely like a couch! I took the frosting out, beat it once more and added in 2 tablespoons of shaved chocolate. I used the frosting as a glue to stick the pieces together and then cover the entire cake with it.

Image

I place it back in the fridge while I rolled out the fondant. I used store bought fondant because I’m not that clever and can’t make it myself yet. Once I rolled my fondant into a large sheet, I took my cake out and carefully laid the fondant over the top and pressed in the corners and edges and smoothed it out.

Using a skewer, I carved some lines in to make it a bit more realistic and used edible pearls to add some more detail. The cushions are just a thin slice of cake covered in fondant.

Image

Then we move onto the final bit, the cat lady and the cats. I made these a few days earlier from bakers clay, which is basically, flour, water, salt and oil. Almost like playdoh. I shaped them into the figurines, baked them and painted them with a base coat of food colouring extended with vodka. I used food colouring and vodka because these parts would touch the cake. I added detail with some non-toxic acrylic paint, those parts didn’t not touch the cake.

Image

Image

It might sound easy enough, but if I could do it all over again I’d use more frosting and fondant and pretty much just slow down and take my time. But considering it was a bit rushed, I think it turned out pretty well. Have you ever tried to make a “fancy cake”? I’d love to know!

You snooze you lose!

Image

Image from 1zoom.net

I turned 27 on Monday and am having a BBQ with friends this coming weekend and it got me thinking of course of the food that I was going to serve. BBQ’s are always easy when it comes to feeding a lot of people, all you really need to do is make a few salads to go with the meat and have some nibbles like chips, crackers, cheese and dips.

I love making dips, they’re so easy do to and most of the time, work out much cheaper and healthy than buying the ones from the supermarket no matter how tasty they are. Have you ever had one of those spur of the moment get togethers, where people come round in the afternoon for a few drinks? Most of the time you don’t have time to get to the supermarket to grab some food and tidy the house.  You’ve got two choices here, you can go to the supermarket, get some food, whip it out of the packets so it’s ready to serve and then do the embarrassed apology “Excuse the house, ran out of time.” With an awkward giggle and you know they are secretly thinking “Wow it is a mess” and then go on to enjoy yourself.

Or you can quickly tidy the house (by tidy I mean grab everything and shove it in an unused room or cupboard). Then using the food that you already have, quickly whip up some super delicious dips! I always keep tins of chickpeas, broad beans or four bean mixes in the cupboard. Using a handheld blender, I blend these into a paste with a little bit oil, and then throw in a glove of garlic, a tomato, capsicum, ground turmeric and salt and pepper. You can even add a bit of plain Greek yogurt to make it extra creamy. If you don’t have any beans don’t stress! Blend a tomato, onion, garlic, baby spinach, parsley and capsicum, if you do want it creamy try putting in an avocado.

The best thing about these dips is you can pretty much use any vegetables that you have. As long as you season them then you can’t really go wrong. So you’ve made your dip, what are you going to have them with?  Chop up some carrots and celery to dip with, or if you have bread, squash a couple of slices flat and cut into quarters, drizzle some oil and add a bit of salt and pepper and place under the grill until golden and crunchy! Super easy and super quick!

My favourite homemade dip, which my mother makes the best, is cream cheese and hot smoked salmon. All you do is blend these two together to make the dip; if you want to get fancy you can even add some dill! Whenever my mum makes it, I make sure I place myself right in front of it and pretty much it’s a “you snooze you lose” situation. I’m eating it!

Now you can sit back and relax with your friends and have drink, hoping they don’t see the massive pile of stuff threatening to burst out of the cupboard! Do you have any recipes for homemade dips that are always a hit? I’d love to hear them!

Baby food taste test

I was at work the other day preparing food for a baby, as I opened the jar and tipped out the food into a bowl, I watched this gelatinous mush plop into the bowl. It literally plopped in, I thought to myself “ Eww that looks foul, I wonder what it tastes like.” Then it occurred to me that I should do a taste test of baby food and see what we’re actually feeding these kids. I didn’t try her food, I thought I would wait.

So I enlisted the help of my friend Amanda (She didn’t know what she had coming!), I went out and selected 6 jars of baby food. I didn’t spend much time looking at the ingredients because I wanted it to be a relatively blind taste test. I covered the labels and named them 1-6. We looked at the texture, smell and of course taste. Well we were definitely surprised, maybe not pleasantly..

Image

So here’s how it went.

Number 1: Pumpkin, Potato and Beef by Only Organic

Opening the jar we saw an orange mash that had a film of oil on top. The smell of the food was the first thing that hit us, it was like a mixture of rotten egg and a really bad fart. We braved the smell and tasted. It was awful! We picked up a strong potato taste, herbs, rice and some sort of meat. We couldn’t pick the meat but it seemed to have a fishy after taste. The texture was bad as well, it was watery and lumpy, it sounds crazy but you could definitely taste a processed flavour. We both were expecting a home cooked flavour but ended up with something that smelled like a rotten egg fart and dog food. Neither of us would feed that to another human! Rating: *

Image

Number 2: Pumpkin, Potato and Beef by Heinz 100% Natural

When we opened this jar, luckily there was no oily film but it also had that same smell of dog food. Needless to say after the first one we were very reluctant to try it. It had a much smoother texture and slightly sweeter. We could taste sweet potato and a meaty taste. It was palatable and in an emergency we would feed it to a baby. It wasn’t good but it was ok. Rating ***

Image

Number 3: Peas and Zucchini by Heinz 100% Natural

Once again this one smelled like the previous two, Amanda and I weren’t looking forward to this watery green looking one. Straight away we picked the taste of peas but could not identify the other flavours. We tossed around basil or herbs but couldn’t pick it. Neither of us tasted any meat. It was still pretty horrible and would not feed it to a baby. Rating **

Image

Number 4: Pasta Bolognese by Baby Macro

This one came in a squeeze packet, I think the best part of this one was when Amanda tried to smell it and wasn’t expecting anything to come out when she lightly squeezed it which resulted in smearing of food on her clothes.  This one had a strong smell of tomatoes and herbs. Straight away we picked up a Bolognese taste. The texture was ok and in an emergency we would feed it to a baby. Rating ***

Image

For some reason this one kept uploading upside down

Number 5: Fruit Muesli by Only Organic

This one smelt straight away of apples and cinnamon, however it looked like ground garlic! We had a slight difference on opinion on this one. We both picked up the taste of apples and cinnamon; however it took us a few minutes to pin down another flavour. The only thing we could come up with was under ripe banana. I found it had an odd after taste of plants. It had a smooth texture but had apple chunks. Neither of us picked up that there was muesli in it. Rating: Me: ** Amanda ***

Image

Number 6: Apple, Banana and Peach by Rafferty’s Garden

This one looked like custard and smelt like pears. We were so surprised with it flavour. It was divine. It has a silky smooth texture and we could taste the banana and couldn’t decide between apple or pear. Turns out it was the peach that was throwing us off. This was only one we actually finished and came to the conclusion that we would buy this for ourselves as well as any future child. Rating *****

Image

I can’t show you what it looked like because we ate it all

What did we achieve by this taste test? Having never actually tried baby food as an adult I was so curious to know what they tasted like. Would I do it again? No way! When a baby comes into my life I think I’ll be making my own food. I know people can run out of time to make it, but it works out much cheaper than buying jars of it, and frankly if I wouldn’t eat it then I’m certainly not feeding it to my child.

A huge THANK YOU to Amanda for helping me today, I think you deserve a drink! Now I know I can call on you to try all sorts of weird or wonderful foods (insert evil laugh here)! Let me know if you have any suggestions for foods that you would like me to taste test!

Mmmm bleached cotton balls

Photo by Shutterstock.

“My diet starts as of Monday!” How many of us say this on a regular basis? I’m guilty of saying every week. I think I say it now so I can gorge myself on food over the weekend, not that I ever start the diet at all.

We’ve all been guilty of dieting, mine start out all well and good and by lunch the next day I’m starving and give up.  I know I don’t stick to them because I know deep down that fad diets don’t work in the long run. They might for a little while, but rapid weight losses from these diets usually result in water loss.  Our bodies go into starvation mood when it’s denied proper nutrition and portions. This has been happening for centuries.

Back when we roamed the land to hunt for our food, food would be scarce so our bodies would go into starvation mood, which meant that it stored as much of the food as it could as fat for our bodies to feed off during famine. The problem with modern day is that we have an abundance of food in the western world yet we diet and cause this to happen. Our bodies are doing what just comes naturally to them.  When you restrict your food your body will feed off fat reserves, but when you start eating again it will replenish the fat reserves to prepare for the next famine.

This got me thinking about some of those crazy diets fads that are out there. They actually aren’t that hard to find.  The first one I found was the cotton ball diet.

Apparently you eat them before each meal as they’re meant to be high in fibre, curb cravings and prevent over eating….Seriously?  I think you have a screw lose if you think this is a viable option for dieting. I wonder about the person who tried this, did they think “mmm those bleached cotton balls are looking mighty tasty” Can you just image all the digestive issues this would cause, as well as blocking of essential nutrients being absorbed into our bodies. What about what happens when they come back out! I know I wasn’t the only one who had that thought pop into their head!

This one we’ve all heard of, The Tapeworm diet! Let’s all ingest beef tapeworm eggs so we can have a parasite growing in us to eat all the food we eat and then it can poop it back out again inside our digestive track! This one has been around since early 1900s, apparently when you’ve lost the desired amount of weight you can just take a medicine to kill the tape worm. Not only does this lead to all sorts of deficiencies but what goes in must come out. Some of these tapeworms can get to massive lengths and you’re going to have to poop that thing out!

Any sort of diet that requires long term liquid only. Seriously? Not only does it cause extra unnecessary bowel movement, but you’re going to be really hungry. Once again these work for a short period only; once you start ingesting food again it’s going to come to back.

The sleeping beauty diet, while technically we do lose weight while we sleep, I sure as hell don’t want to be heavily sedated for a few days just for the sake of losing a few kilos. All this achieves is starvation.

When looking around the net for these diets, I was quite shocked at the amount of fad diets. At the end of the day fad diets are not going to work and a majority of them are bad for you in the long run. Rather than jump on the bandwagon of the latest diet, what we need is a lifestyle change not appetite suppressants and laxatives!

Mmmmm… crackling….

I like cooking a roast. They are much easier than they appear to be. When I first started out cooking, I wouldn’t dare cook a roast. They always looked too difficult and how on earth was I supposed to know when it was done (usually when the juices run clear for pork and chicken, beef is a bit different, it depends on how you like it). Today I’m going to show you my version of roast pork. It’s always a big hit in my house.

Cameron loves roast pork and in particular pork crackling, so when his dad came for a visit what better way to feed them on a cold night than with a roast pork!

If you want good crackling dry the skin of your pork with paper towel

Image

Score the skin. (It doesn’t have to be very deep)

Image

Drizzle oil, sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper (more salt than pepper), I also added dried mixed herbs as well.

Image

Place in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for the first 10 minutes and then turn down to 180. Depending on the size of your roast will depend on the length of cooking. Ask your butcher how long to cook it for.

Butchers are great when it comes to how to cook the meat. Just ask them, don’t be embarrassed to ask either. They’re usually more than happy to help and are a great source of tips and tricks! If in doubt however, low and slow is a good choice.

Halfway through cooking (about an hour for me), prepare your vegies. I used carrots, onion, potato and pumpkin. Peel, chop and place in baking tray.

Image

Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and place in oven for final half of cooking.

Image

By this stage, I had forgotten to continue to take photos, but once the meat as finishing cooking, allow it rest. While it is resting, remove the skin and place back into the oven for 5 minutes to create the perfect crackling. I did need to increase the temperature back up to 220 to achieve this.

Once the crackling is done, then it’s time to serve and enjoy your fantastic roast! Well done, I told you it wasn’t that hard!

It’s itchy knitted jumper time!

Image

We’re coming into winter now and you know what that means! It’s time to bust out the old itchy knitted jumpers! No? It must be cold and flu season then! Yay sick days…. Hmm… maybe not.

I can pretty much guarantee that come change of seasons, I’ll get a cold. I’m always looking for a home remedy before I turn to antibiotics. There is one thing I always do as soon as I feel something coming on and that’s taking some olive leaf extract.

While for me it doesn’t stop it in its tracks, it does lessen the length and severity of the cold. I had a look online at some more home remedies and here are some I came across.

Echinacea is said to have antiviral and antibiotic effects as well as boosts the immune system, relieves pain and reduces inflammation. Like Olive leaf extract, Echinacea should be taken at the first signs of a cold or flu. I have tried Echinacea in a liquid form before and I thought the taste was pretty foul, so I didn’t take it again after that. Olive leaf extract does the same thing, but when mixed with water is a bit more palatable.

Gargling a mixture of water and salt is said to help anything from a tickle in the throat to a sore and swollen throat. It helps to disinfect the throat membranes or moisten a dry sore throat. While also not very tasty, it does help.

When going to bed with a stuffed nose or chesty cough, try sleeping with an extra pillow or elevating your head. I do this and found it really helps. Working in childcare, we do this for kids who come in with coughs and colds. It helps to keep sinuses and chests from “filling up”.

An old one but a good one is hot tea with lemon and honey. The warm tea helps to soothe a sore throat and warm you up when you have the chills. Honey and lemon are both great for soothing and disinfecting a sore throat. The mixture is pack full of antioxidants and helps to fight the virus. I love this when I’m sick, I find added extra lemon helps to numb my throat as well.

Garlic and ginger are also great. Garlic help to boost your immune system and ginger helps to tame nausea. These can be added to chicken soup which everyone loves when they’re sick. This to helps when suffering from a cold or flu. The salty broth helps to thin mucus and the chicken contains protein to boost your immunity and produce disease fighting antibodies.

Then there is the tried and tested, steam. I always feel better after a hot shower when I’m sick. Steam helps to shrink mucus membranes and encourages them to drain. When I have the chills, I’ve found a hot shower helps to relieve it.

So what doesn’t work? Antibiotics attack bacteria and colds are viruses, so these don’t help.  The only reason you would take antibiotics for a cold is if it turns into an infection. You can take panadol or ibuprofen can help to provide short term relief for the symptoms of a cold and reduces a fever.

At the end of the day it’s best to try to avoid colds but maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle. This means regular exercise, healthy eating and maintaining decent hygiene, especially washing your hands!

Stay warm!