Sunday, 17 October 2010

Lightbulb moments - don't you love them!

Try as I may, I haven't been able to write down a menu plan that I am happy with - or that I can stick to! It's been driving me bonkers and I was almost ready to throw in the towel and declare 'I cannot do this!' when God pushed aside my frustration and popped a very simple answer into my mind.
Let me backtrack just a bit.
All my life I have loved lists, plans, strategies, instructions...when I was 8 I had every article of my clothing itemised on a list inside my wardrobe door and a schedule next to it with what I'd be wearing on each day for the next week.
When I was 9 I organised my own library - cataloging all my books in alphabetical and subject order, adding a library card to the inside sleeve (remember when all libraries did that? Before the techno age?), and making myself a library card book where I would 'make record' of the books I loaned myself each week. I loved the structure of planning, and implementing those plans!
Back to my menu planning. 
Most of my adult life has revolved around a plan of some sort. As a homeschooling parent who gathered together her own curriculum I was daily making plans for each subject for each child, with an overall scope & sequence for each term. Oh, how wonderful that was! I was in my element. :-) 
Added to this I had a 6 week rotating menu plan that kept me on track with meals and shopping, plus a house cleaning planner that had each room attended to on a certain day of the week, with a 'deep' clean list once every school holiday break. 
When the kids finished homeschooling and my design work 'took off', after we'd moved cross country yet 'again', after menopause hit with a vengeance - well, all those plans just dwindled away and my daily menu/cleaning/planning systems all fell apart. 
To be honest, this has its good points as well as the obvious bad ones. The good point is that I am more open to the unexpected and to change...I wake each day wondering 'what today, Lord?', and that makes my time more accessible to Him.
So the other day as I was agonising over a good menu plan, He spoke into my thoughts with this idea.
Instead of making a menu plan as I had done in years past, I should give each day a 'core ingredient' based on who will be having dinner at home that night.
For example, my 17yo has 'pizza and movies' every Tursday night with his best mate. This son doesn't like tuna, but the rest of us do, so Tuesday is now Tuna Night! I have made a list of tuna based meals, and each Tuesday night I choose one of them to cook for the rest of the family. Easy!
Monday is pasta night, so I have a *long* list of pasta meals we all enjoy and I choose one of them to make. 
And so my week continues with 'Rice', 'Potatoes', 'Seafood', and 'Vegetarian' nights. I have one night free - Saturday. That's because my husband has, after 19 years of marriage, decided to learn to cook. We go shopping together on Saturday morning and choose a main ingredient, then we go home and look through all my cook books until we find a simple recipe we can make together. I am loving this!!

Yesterday we chose to purchase green prawns. It was just $7 for 1/2 kilo, and we made a truly delicious dinner from one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks, plus a carrot and orange salad from another of J.O.'s books.
Marinate the green prawns (hubby peeled them for me) in lime zest, sunflower oil, and grated ginger for a few minutes...
...then stir fry quickly for just 2 minutes. Put aside for 30 seconds to cool a bit.
In a bowl add lime juice, chopped fresh chilli, and freshly chopped coriander leaves.
 Pour this over the prawns and serve with the carrot salad!
Carrot Salad: Grate carrots, add a good lug of olive oil, 1/2 cup orange juice, and a dash of red wine vinegar. Delish!
In the coming weeks I'm going to make myself a good menu folder with 'core' food sheets for ideas and recipes. If you like I'll share them with you. :-)
Now to enjoy some morning tea with my family - Sultana & Orange Muffins.
Healthy Hugs

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Life Expectancy

I've been 4 weeks without caffeine now. 
The first week was torture, but after that I changed my focus from 'desperately missing' my cappuccino to rejoicing in how much better I felt. I was falling asleep easily each night (and staying asleep), my brain wasn't racing on overdrive all day, and the pains in my chest disappeared.
We've had some major stress issues the last month and I am very aware that I handled them with greater peace of mind simply because I had no caffeine in my body. Even though I wasn't eating as healthily as I had been previously, that one simple thing of tossing away the coffee and tea helped me cope.
My hot beverage these days is Dandelion Tea, which is a wonderful liver tonic first thing in the morning...
...and once a day I make myself a Red Clover Tea because it's so helpful in aleviating my menopausal hot flushes.
Cow's milk has also been avoided as much as possible. I changed to soy milk (also to help with the hot flushes) and had a hard time adjusting at first, but now I am hooked. As long as I have one glass morning and night I can keep the flushes down to 5-8 per day - a huge improvement on the 20-30 I had been having previously.
Lots of green salads are back on the daily menu...
...and a fresh vegetable juice is my morning tea. 
In 2006 I spent the entire year as a vegetarian. I can honestly say that was the healthiest I had ever felt, so guess what? I'm going to retrace my vegetarian journey and get this 51 year old body back in good shape again. I also think the vegetable juices are having a definite effect on reducing the flushes. 

I just did a 'biological age' test HERE at Blue Zones. Being that I do not drink, smoke, or have any diseases, walk a fair bit, and normally eat a very healthy diet, the test results gave my biological age as 46 (yay! 5 years younger that my actual age!), and my life expectancy as 90!
My disease free life expectancy was 82. I have to tell you that these results have certainly inspired me to stay the course of a healthy life, but there were some negative issues the test brought to light - my BMI is high, and (usually) I tend to feel anxious or stressed for at least half the month.
For years I have had an ongoing battle to remove the Cortisol Hump at the base of my neck. A friend of mine is a wonderful masseuse and she completely removed the hump in 2007 with a 2 hour 'hot rock' massage just over the neck and shoulder area, but since then it has returned. A Cortisol Hump is caused by too much cortisol in the body which equals too much stress. That same over abundance of stress induced cortisol causes excess tummy fat as well. 
If you cut way down on animal proteins and fats you can reduce cortisol production, so another 'tick' in my plan to go veggie once more.

I just bought a Tai Chi DVD to help with slow movement, stretching, and calming my mind. Prayer is my greatest mental calmer, but I still feel 'stress' in my muscles and neck most of the time, and my mind can wander a lot to 'what ifs'.
I also need to work on the weight loss to lower my BMI. I have about 13 kilos to lose, and once lost that would put me in the upper percentage of 'healthy' weight for my height and age.

Why don't you do the Blue Zones biological age test, too? Sometimes we just need to see where we are with our health to inspire us to change our direction or keep on a healthly path.

Healthy hugs

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Wow - I really did miss September!!

I can't believe its been so many weeks since I last posted here, but then again, life sure was full of so many things in the background - all those things that just don't get shared on your blog. ;-)
I'm going to make a confession. I am an emotional eater.
When life's boat is tossing wildly on the ocean of my world I tend to turn to food as I ponder the answers that will rescue my mind from it's incessant search for *the* answer to make all things right once more.
Scotch Finger biscuits put their hand up as my September food addiction and after losing 3 kilos in August, I painfully welcomed most of them right back in September!

Fortunately these times of high intensity need do not last forever.
Over-filling my roles of mother, mentor, comforter and encourager last month took a lot of time, prayer, and face-to-face hours. I ached for those who were hurting, and found my love of healthy living just didn't seem to be as important at the time. I think we all have times in life when some things, some people in particular, need so much of us that order diminishes and we just want to *be* there for them. Everything else can wait.
Bit by bit, day by day, my loved ones are healing. They are not there yet, but they are in a better place than they were a month ago. 
Now I am noticing that our bodies are starving for nutrients we've been avoiding - it's time to throw that last Scotch Finger Biscuit wrapper in the bin, clean out the fridge and pantry, and go shopping in the fresh food aisle once more.
Hmmm...a menu plan will be needed too. I'll do that this afternoon. 
See you soon with a replenished arsenal of God's lovely fresh pleasures,
PS: If you've fallen off the wagon like me, let me know and we can help each other shake off that extra weight added on by unhealthy eating, and embrace fresh, life-giving goodness once more.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Blue breakfast...

I know it's not Christmas yet, but inside this bowl... something just as wonderful.
Blueberry, Apple and Orange Crumble
I made it for last night's dessert...
 ...and finished it for breakfast this morning with some freshly made yoghurt. Yum. 
3 cups frozen blueberries
1 grated Granny Smith apple
grated rind of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange

Combine in a pudding bowl.

Mix together:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup flaked almonds

Crumble it over the blueberry mix, and press down to form a sort of crust.
Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.
Drool and indulge. :-)

Healthy hugs

PS: Make double to quantity and have leftovers for brekkie like me. \o/

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Now that Blossom is working I have to plan breakfasts or she'll be out the door with nothing more than a small apple juice to sustain her till lunch.
She has never been big on breakfasts, but at least when we homeschooled she would have a nutritious morning tea by 10am. Her one year of formal schooling also provided a morning tea break, but at her work there is just time for a quick cup of tea mid-morning. So I have prepared a few options for her, hoping that the constant routine of an energy fuelled breakfast will become a habit fairly soon.
Due to her normal avoidance of early morning meals I chose to start with an energy drink this week....
Soy milk, banana, organic cocoa and malted milk powder are the framework for a healthy smoothie, and she loves it! \o/ It's full of goodness and energy to keep her on track till lunch - and she loves those frothy bubbles...
If I'm in a rush I make another smoothie for myself, but my usual breakfast is a bit more substantial. This is my best friend in the morning - my vegetable juicer...
I almost always make a beetroot, carrot, celery and apple juice, served with wholegrain toast (this week it is the scrumptious Pumpernickel loaf I made the other day!), and some Cashew Maple Butter...
If you'd like to make the Cashew Maple Butter, here is the recipe -

2 cups raw cashews
80g organic butter
1/4 (60ml) cup pure maple syrup

Process the cashews in your food processor until finely chopped. Add the butter and maple syrup and process until the mixture resembles a paste. Store in the refrigerator - this will keep 4-6 weeks (but it's so yummy it won't last that long!)

What are some healthy breakfast ideas you use?
Do you have a favourite coffee mug? I have about 6 favourites! But this is my husband's mug...
...he's a school teacher, you see. :-)

Healthy hugs

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Slow and Pumpernickel Bread.

 Hello friends!
I thought that I'd best update you on Blossom's special diet. The elimination time frame came and went so we started challenges. Surprisingly she had no noticeable reactions to a variety of foods, until we did milk.
She reacts dreadfully to milk and cream!
Well, you know what that means. Dairy is out.
At 16, and still a growing teenager, we now will be planning ways to keep a healthy dose of calcium in her diet. Fortunately there are a number of options there. 
My hand is still not functioning well, so simple and fresh is the best way to describe my meal preparation at the moment.
Today I visited our farmer man with the ute and trailer at the park and bought up on all his lovely fruit and veg.
 His pineapples, melons and passionfruit are the best I have ever tried, so fruit salad had to be made...
Fruit salad is the best way to help kids get their daily allowance of Vitamin C, and as both my teens have been battling chest infections and coughs this month, the coolness of a fruit salad has soothed their throats and aided their recovery. 
Today I also came across a *yummy* recipe for Pumpernickel Bread. Have you ever tried it? I have often bought it as I love heavy European bread, but have never made it myself  - never knew you could - so today I gathered the ingredients and gave it a go.
The recipe was for a hand kneaded dough, but I am unable to use my right hand with any pressure so threw caution to the wind and added all the ingredients to the breadmaker instead. 
I chose a regular small loaf cycle (it's a very small loaf actually) and though it wasn't uniform in height once baked, it was DELICIOUS!
Honestly, this bread tastes amazing home-made!
You can find the recipe in Notebook: magazine if you want to hand knead it, but if you just want to use the breadmaker like I did I'll share it here. Place in the breadmaker in this order -
It's made differently by hand, so please use the recipe in the magazine if you do it that way. :-)
Of course, I always forget the handle on the baking tin is hot...
Thank God for the pots of Aloe Vera in the garden. 
Healthy Hugs,

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Having time out while my hand heals...

If you read my sewing blog ELEFANTZ you'll know that I recently had surgery on my hand. This has resulted in my inability to cook or sew for the next little while.
Once use of my hand is restored (another 7-10) days) I'll be back posting updates on my journey back to healthy living.
In the meantime, remember this?
I was asked for the recipe, and finally I have it for you. I scanned the page in to save any more typing.
Let me know if you like's definitely on our 'repeat' dessert list once I'm cooking again! :-)

Click on the recipe to enlarge it. :-)
I used fresh pineapple when making mine. Delish!
Healthy hugs

Friday, 30 July 2010

Baby steps...

Yep, baby steps is what it is like wading through this Failsafe elimination diet. Sometimes Blossom watches me in the kitchen for hours on end and says quietly, "Mum, you don't have to do this...I can keep going without it". Bless her. 
She's feeling guilty because of all the effort it requires to make foods she can eat - but she is so much more to me than time spent in a kitchen. She is a precious young woman who feels like crap most of the time because her body is struggling with the foods she eats, even healthy whole-foods. 
Finding ways to prepare Failsafe foods that keep her nutritionally balanced, satisfied in both appetite and taste, and free from physical and emotional reactions, will get easier with the passing of time and the more information and recipes I gather.
I bought this cute notebook yesterday to keep my recipe notes, and to mark down any reactions she seems to be having...
She is keeping her own daily food diary for the doctor.
Yesterday we went into Townsville to arrange my hand surgery with the ortho-surgeon, and we took with us a long list of grocery items to purchase; Failsafe things that we cannot source in our little town.
It certainly will make life easier because the range of safe foods are increasing in our pantry.
Even sweet treats like soy carob buttons and plain white Pascall marshmallows...
Last night I made chicken nuggets using rice crumbs, and we served them with Pear Chutney and green (allowed) salad veggies.
This morning I made a chick pea dip, which is like hummous, but without yoghurt and tahini. It's actually much nicer (and we LOVE hummous!)...
The recipe is simple - chick peas, garlic, sunflower oil, small dash of water mixed with citric acid, and some pureed tinned pears. Delish!!
Blossom loves Anzac biscuits so I made them today as well...
For the family's dessert tonight I made a dairy-free carob ring cake with mock lemon icing...
I took a favourite chocolate cake recipe and substituted Failsafe ingredients. Not sure how it will taste, but it looks good! 
Dinner tonight will be Roast Lamb with garlic, duchess potatoes, and green beans. Simple, but safe for Blossom. 
As I have said previously, I am doing this with her and I wanted to let you know that I already feel the positive effects. It's amazing really - and quite a surprise to be having success so soon into the program. 
One thing we found on the Failsafe list that we cannot tolerate though, is instant de-caff coffee. I bought a jar for convenience to make Iced Coffees (with rice or soy milk) and we had one last night - I had dreadful chest pains, and Bloss had stomach cramping. 
Today we are back to the lovely Lavazza de-caff ground coffee and having no problems at all. 
I am having surgery on my hand next Friday, August 6th, so the week ahead will be full of cooking and freezing as I'll be limited in what I can do for two weeks after the surgery.
This new cookbook from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's Allergy Unit is helping enormously!
Between both Failsafe cookbooks I am able to plan a bigger picture of menus. Phew. 
Healthy Hugs

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Menu planning just got a whole lot harder

Just as I was getting right back into the swing of things after our house move, a new dietary challenge begins.
Blossom (16yo daughter) has had some niggling health issues over the last two years. Our previous doctors always said, "She'll grow out of them..." and so we tried their few suggestions, but no relief. Now here we are years later and finally, a doctor who listened to every symptom Blossom had written down. \o/ She didn't just listen, she asked questions, arranged numerous blood tests, AND believes that all/most of Blossom's symptoms are caused by food intolerances - dairy is one we were pretty sure about all along, but now we're looking at salicylates and amines, preservatives and artificial additives. 
Our doctor has put Blossom on the Failsafe Elimination Diet. This is no easy diet. It is a very restrictive menu, and requires me to spend a good portion of my day preparing meals with the allowed food items - but I am so grateful to find a course that may bring Blossom's health back. 
You can read all about the Failsafe program HERE.
 Here is a rough picture study of what she can use in meals...
The only fruit is peeled soft pears, or tinned pears in syrup. The only vegetables are those shown above, plus thickly peeled potatoes. She can eat skinned chicken...
...which I marinate in garlic, shallots, maple syrup and sunflower oil. 
Fortunately she can eat rice and pasta, so we made a fried rice with last night's chicken. The 'sauce' is made with golden syrup and water. Bizarre, I know, but not bad to taste.
I have made Pear Jam, Pear Chutney, Pear Ketchup. These are her only condiments. In place of peanut butter (not allowed) I made Cashew Maple Butter, which tasted 'better than peanut butter' according to her, and I agree. 
The only drinks are water, decaffeinated coffee, soy milk, and 'magic' cordial - this is made with citric acid/sugar/water and is used diluted with water (or soda water for a sparkly drink).
Fortunately she can still have flour and eggs, so I made pancakes for breakfast, and pear muffins for snacks. 
Because we are a family, and also because some of us share the same physical symptoms that Blossom has, I am on the Failsafe Elimination Diet with her, and my husband is going to try and stay as close to it as possible. This is great because I can make most meals to suit everyone, just need to tweak them to conform with the Failsafe menu items. My 17yo son isn't keen, but he's not complaining about the meals so far. I even managed to alter a lemon syrup cake recipe to please everyone's palate - and it doesn't even have lemon in it! 
I used some citric acid with sugar and water - boiled in down to 1/2 and poured it over the cake. Wonderful! 
As long as the sweet tooths in the family can have their dessert fix, they will play along. 
Tomorrow's breakfast is rolled oats with soy milk and brown sugar, morning tea will be rice cakes with cashew maple butter, then chicken/lettuce/egg salad Mountain bread wraps for lunch. After that? No idea!! 
Have you ever tried Failsafe eating?
Healthy Hugs