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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dilemmas

You know on my sidebar where I wrote, "By the way, don’t worry about that ruckus and catterwailing in the background. It’s just my family. They've noticed the new revamped pantry contents. Did I mention I am dragging the husband and teenagers along with me….? 
It wasn't a joke. This is exactly what the last month has been like. 
This past week it really got to me and I went and hid in my cave and let them eat what wanted...it was not good. 
A week of reflection for me, however, was good.
Knowing something is healthy and beneficial to our bodies is one area that the family members DO agree on, but the application of that knowledge transferred to the food I feed them is quite another thing. 
You see they agree in theory only...their tastebuds do not want to comply.
Do I have the right to insist that my 16yodd, 17yods, and 44yo husband eat what I believe to be best for them, even though they hate it?
No. 
So where do I go from here? That was my week long dilemma. Finding a middle ground seems to be the only avenue open to us - there will still be foods that I will prepare and eat alone (my choice is important too), but there are other options I can prepare for the family as a whole which offer nutritional value albeit not as naturally as I'd prefer. 
They are not excited about these options, but they ARE giving them a go.
To gain the most nourishment from some foods I bought a crock-pot last week...
Slow cooking is a wonderful way to serve stews and casseroles, soups and broths. Yesterday I put a whole lot of wonderful things in the crock-pot for tonight's dinner, using a recipe in this book...
Jamie Oliver has always promoted FRESH foods, and once he became a dad he wrote this book about really eating as natural and organic as possible - since then he has bought a farm, grows his own vegetables organically, and is a promoter of healthy eatng for all children in the schools of England.
My family love to watch Jamie cook (we have many of his DVDs), and they are ok about us trying out more of his recipes. This is a big plus for me to work with.
I also made some desserts to please them, but made sure I added fruit and vegetables for more nutrition.
Orange and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (I used less icing sugar than the recipe so it's not so sweet)...
...and Blackberry Swirls (I served these with freshly made custard from organic milk).
It's school holidays so I'm getting into the habit of making everyone thick salad sandwiches (they insist on white bread, though - I make mine with wholegrain sour dough) and fresh fruit each day...
While they enjoy white rice or pasta, I try to avoid too many grains on my own plate. I scatter stir fried meat over fresh salad and herbs, and scatter nuts and seeds across the top - they won't try this yet, but it's not difficult to prepare the same proteins and serve them differently. Maybe one day they'll think "Gee, that looks tasty..." and give it a go. Maybe not.
I'm also working my way through this book...
I am hoping to incorporate some of the ideas into meals for the family, but for now a lot of it is used by me alone.
Really, I need to remind myself "don't give up". I may buy this poster and hang it in the kitchen to help my resolve on the nights they complain about the meals...
It speaks to my British roots.
Yes, I think I shall indeed buy the poster.
How are you going with your own family and choosing healthy foods?
Healthy Hugs,
Jenny
xxx

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My late night surprise!

This is whate greeted me at 10pm Friday night when hubby and I came home from a wine tasting night at the school. 
When I left at 7pm my sour dough was bubbling happily, about 1/2 way up the side of the 2 litre (2 quart) jar...but 3 hours later (and only 48 hours since I began the starter) it had erupted all over the kitchen counter! It seems our very warm winter days in the tropics will be yielding very fast culturing. 
Once I had cleaned up the bench, I salvaged what I could of the starter and used half to knead some bread dough for the next day, and the other half I put in a clean jar and fed more rye flour.
The following morning I had a sour dough focaccia bread ready to bake....
...which was YUM! 
We enjoyed it with fresh Quark cheese I had bought that day at the health food store in town. 
It's 44 hours since the bubbling over of the starter, and already the little I saved to begin a new batch of sour dough starter is bubbling near the top of the jar again! This time I'm on top of things and will knead it tonight into a loaf for tomorrow's lunch. At this rate I'll have fresh sour dough bread every second day - just perfect! 
~~~~~
Remember I decided to make my own buttermilk? It worked!!
Only 18 hours after I started I had a thick layer of 'creme fraiche' on top of the new buttermilk. It smelt wonderful, and today I used 3/4 of it to make buttermilk scones, and the rest I have used to culture the next batch of buttermilk. 
Can you see the thick layer of 'creme fraiche' on top?
This weekend I also made a double batch of fresh chicken stock. Half was used last night in my Chicken and Lemon Pilaf, and the rest will be used tonight for a big pot of Chicken Noodle soup. We still have a little bit of sour dough Foccacia to eat with it.
I am really encouraged by the amount of money we are not spending - all due to making as much of my own food items as possible. It means that when I do need grocery items I can purchase the best quality organic available in our small town. 
How are you going with your own dietary overhaul? What things would you like to learn about to help you along the path of healthy, nutritous meals? 
~~~~~
In the next few days I am going to show you how to make a really beautiful baked breakfast using freshly juiced apples, and organic oats. It's so nice you can also serve it for dessert with cream or custard. :-)

Healthy Hugs
Jenny
xx

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A whole lot of culture in the kitchen!

Are you constantly amazed at how easy it is to make various items that you would normally purchase at the grocery store?
With a number of cultured foods on my 'to-make' list I was googling for a wider range of methods, and along the way I came across THIS method for making my own buttermilk. 
Fortunately I could buy the proper buttermilk here in town so I followed the method and left my own buttermilk to culture over the following 24 hours...
It's only another 6 hours until it's ready and already I have creme fraiche sitting on top of the buttermilk. Very exciting, this is! :-)
Last night I also prepared for breakfast, bread, and morning tea. I soaked my tapioca in a coconut milk/water mix, started a new batch of sour dough mother, soaked my nuts in whey and water, soaked my flours in buttermilk, as well as starting my buttermilk culture...
To  make the yummy tapioca breakfast cereal I had today you first need to rinse 1/2 cup of tapioca (sago) under running water, 
 then soak the grains in 1 cup of organic coconut cream and 1 cup of filtered water overnight.
Next morning bring it all to the boil on the stove, then drop to a very low simmer. Stir constantly for around 15 minutes until all the grains become translucent...
Put aside to cool.
In a bowl add a mixture of fruits, nuts and seeds - any choice you like. I used the pecans I had soaked last night (after rinsing), a grated apple, blueberries, and freshly ground flaxseeds (linseeds). 
Add this to the cooled tapioca along with 3 tablespoons organic natural yoghurt, and a splash of maple syrup or honey.
Delish!! This will serve 3-4 people, and is even lovelier the next day after it has 'set'.
The basic recipe is from Cyndi O'Meara's book...
~~~~~
After soaking my flour in buttermilk overnight I decided to experiment with baking it into a cake. I added some butter, eggs, mashed banana, dates, and muscovarda sugar. Silly me, though, I forgot the bi-carb (baking) soda! This prevented the cake from rising.
I scattered the remaining soaked pecans and some organic cocao nibs on top and baked in a slow oven for 55  minutes.
Even though it did not rise as a regular cake would, it still tasted wonderful - it is very moist, and more like a loaf than a cake.
Never mind, cooking good food is all about experimentation. So far I'm thrilled with what I am learning about soaking, culturing, and fermentation, and how much better the food tastes.
Tonight I have Osso Bucco cooking slowly and the smell is amazing through the house. Wish you could come for dinner. You'd be most welcome! :-)
Healthy Hugs
Jenny
xx



Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Lessons I am learning...

The *lightbulb* moment this week has been that I am not often hungry. 
My diet of wholefoods is so satiating, and takes so long to work through my body, that I no longer look for snacks through the day, and often forget about lunch because my breakfast was so substantially nourishing. 

Today I had one leftover apricot scone (from Monday) around 9am, and nothing more...I have been grocery shopping, washing, cleaning, ironing and baking all day long and it's 5pm and I am still not hungry. How different that is to the days of quick and convenient foods?!

I feel much better than I have in such a long time - no bloating, less migraines, clear thinking, more energy, and real physical tiredness at night which gives me a far more restful sleep. My skin looks wonderful, and my eyes are bluer than ever - the only negative is the increase in menopausal hot flushes. However, I read recently that the more hot flushes you have the healthier your body is. After all, menopause is not an illness...it is a natural progression from one stage of life to another. It comes with physical 'signals' that can be of concern to some women, but I wonder if they would be better tolerated if we ate a wholefoods diet and did not rely on so many prepackaged and refined foods? 

On the food side of life I have enjoyed an old favourite this week. I took plenty of step by step photos and they nearly all disappeared, so you'll have to be content with the before and after shots - sorry!

~Corn Fritters~

Remove the kernals from 2 cobs of corn and add them to a large bowl...
Into the bowl add -
1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped spring onions (scallions)
1/2 cup chopped feta cheese
1/2 cup organic plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
celtic sea salt, a pinch
good grind freshly ground black peppercorns
enough water to give you a pancake consistency

Mix the corn fritter batter until you have the pancake consistency, then leave to rest for 1/2 hour.
After heating a tablespoon or so of olive oil (or organic butter) in a frypan, drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan. As soon as bubbles begin to break through the surface flip over and cook the other side for 2 minutes. 
Serve with a fresh salad. This mix makes 6 decent sized fritters.
~~~~~

The culture kits for my Nourished Kitchen course arrived yesterday from the US. I'm looking forward to the sour dough baking lessons this week because although I have been making my own sour dough bread from scratch for the last 10 years, I am really interested to use the starter kit method and compare.
Sour dough bread is my absolute favourite loaf!
 Today was grocery shopping day and I was excited to see strawberries in the fruit section! It's been a while since they have graced our palate, so I decided to surprise the family with a favourite dessert tonight - Strawberry Shortcake.
I have some lovely yellow cream to dollop on top! You can find my recipe HERE.
I also made a double batch of Anzac Biscuits (cookies) for my husband. Years ago I would make a batch every week for him, but when sewing became obsessive in my life I began buying them instead. All that has changed now and his big cookie barrel is once again filled with these oaty delights, straight from his loving wife's hands. (He never, ever complained...but when I see his smile after I have been baking for him I know how much he missed this)
~~~~~
Tonight I will be soaking Sago (tapioca) in organic coconut milk and water to cook for breakfast tomorrow. It's a scrumtious recipe so I'll be sure to take photos and not let them disappear, ok?

Healthy Hugs
Jenny
xx

Monday, 14 June 2010

Soaking grains...

I'm enjoying the Nourished Kitchen online course. Where before I just dabbled in soaking my grains before baking, (but have for a long time soaked my grains before eating raw or dehydrating), now I am soaking them all the time.
I soaked rice and almonds all day Saturday in water and whey, before cooking them that night for the Pilaf recipe in the course. I had made fresh chicken stock that day as well for the cooking liquid. Rice has never tasted so good! It was almost silky in texture...and even on Sunday after heating up the leftovers I found this just as lovely. 

It's a very bland dish, in the sense that we usually eat spicy foods, but I really enjoyed that aspect of the meal. I really *tasted* the rice, and it was truly delicious. After cooking I tossed through some shredded chicken breast and freshly chopped coriander (cilantro).
The next day I added some leftover baked pumpkin (from THIS meal) and a chopped tomato. Totally different tastes now, but equally as satisfying.
Next time I'll use organic brown rice. This one was made with Basmati rice.
~~~~~
Spelt flour was soaked overnight with whey, yoghurt and water, then used to make the silkiest pancakes on Sunday morning...
The thing I am discovering with regularly soaking grains is the softness (silkiness!) of the end product. It's amazing! 
Last night (Sunday) I soaked wholemeal wheat flour with whey and water to  make another of the Nourished Kitchen course recipes, Scones. Now, I make amazing scones the traditional way - it's a signature recipe of mine (see HERE) - but I wanted to give this new way a chance to impress me.
The method is quite different, and I did change it a bit because in America they make scones more like their 'biscuits' with a flaky texture, but in Australia (and England) we make them fluffy and soft. This meant I added more liquid to my mix than the Nourished Kitchen recipe. I also added some honey and dried apricots as the recipe required a sweetener and fruit, and those two were on hand.
I just pulled them out of the oven and had them for lunch...verdict? 
Delicious. 
They won't take the place of my regular scones for a Devonshire Tea, but as a fruity replacement treat with lovely yellow organic butter, they are going to be made often!
~~~~~
It's mandarin season in Australia and as they are one of my favourite winter fruits I tend to stock up with every visit to the shops to avoid running out. We do not have a fruit & veg store in our little town, just the supermarket, so I am only able to buy what they have on the day. Mandarins are small and shiny when purchased this way, BUT, my son was visiting his mate yesterday and his mate has a large mandarin tree. Guess what he brought home for me?

I think you can tell which ones came off the tree? They taste soooooo much nicer than my little supermarket ones. 
~~~~~
Do you soak grains, nuts and seeds before using?
Healthy Hugs
Jenny

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Making Balsamic Syrup for a delicious dinner!

Balsamic Syrup (or Glaze) is very expensive here - around $7 for 200 ml. I had a lovely dinner in mind for my hubby and I on Friday night and I really wanted that Balsamic syrup, so I decided to make my own. Apparently it is quite simple, and as I am loving being in the kitchen these days I decided to give it a go.
It cost me $3.30 for 500 mls Italian Balsamic Vinegar...
All you have to do is pour it into a saucepan, bring it to the boil, then simmer on a very low heat until it has reduced by half. This took just 15 minutes...
...and when it was cooled I poured it back into the bottle, and relabelled it...
I had 250 mls Balsamic Syrup for just $3.30 and 15 minutes of my time. :-)
Now to the recipe!

Cut a pumpkin into 1 inch cubes, and toss the cubes in olive oil and a little Celtic sea salt...
Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes, toss in the baking pan and bake a further 10 minutes. 
Meanwhile prepare the rest of the ingredients. Sun dried tomatoes, fresh greens, pine nuts, and haloumi cheese...
Dry roast the pine nuts in a hot pan for a minute or two, then slice the haloumi and dry fry it in the same pan until each side is golden (about 30 seconds each side)...
Layer the plates with the salad greens (I used rocket and spinach), then scatter the baked pumpkin cubes on top, followed by the sun dried tomatoes, haloumi and pine nuts. (I also added some shredded chicken for my husband). 
Drizzle with some Balsamic Syrup...
and serve with some freshly baked crusty bread!
Dessert was made to keep the sweet tooth fanatics happy. After all, change needs to be made gently when dealing with non-responsive family members. 
A lovely slice made from organic rolled oats, with a fruit-only jam sandwiched in the middle of the two oaty layers, and a spread of chocolate across the top...
The slice is called 'Matrimony'. Can you see why?

Healthy Hugs
Jenny
xx

Friday, 11 June 2010

Basic Fermented Blueberry Muffins....

This post is being typed over a night and morning so as not to stress my finger (read HERE), but I need to keep sharing what is happening in the kitchen. The point of this blog is to keep me accountable, and especially now I am back on track I want to stay that way. 
So not much chit chat while my hand heals, but photos and step-by-steps in abundance. :-)

I'll share some simple breakfasts today - mostly because this is the one area my family neglect and I'm working at building up an interesting repertoire of healthy morning options.

Wednesday night I soaked 3 cups of organic spelt flour in 2 cups of filtered water that had 2 tablespoons of whey and yoghurt added. This needs to be left to ferment for 24 hours, covered, at room temperature.
After 24 hours bubbles have appeared (this will be more evident in summer but it is winter here)...
After the 24 hours have elapsed, add to the fermented flour:
2 lightly beaten free range eggs
1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey, or molasses)
2 teaspoons baking (bi-carb) soda
1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence
3 tablespoons melted organic butter
grated rind of 1 lemon
...and blend well. It looks and feels like a runny bread dough. 
Pour into well greased muffin trays (I make 18 from this recipe), and scatter blueberries across the top.
Bake at 160C (325F) for about 35-45 minutes. When firm to touch they are done.
These muffins are not sweet, but they are moist and luscious.
When cool split them and top with a little organic butter, and some honey from your local natural apiarist.
NOTE: You can use wholewheat flour if you don't have spelt. You can add any fruits you like...be creative.
(recipe sourced through Sally Fallon's 'Nourishing Traditions')

For a very quick and simple breakfast try this.
1/4 cup organic rolled oats
1 grated peeled apple 
tablespoon dried organic blueberries
1/2 cup filtered water
Mix together....
...and cook in your microwave for 3 minutes on high.
Serve with maple syrup and almond milk (or organic milk).
I'm off to enjoy my muffins this morning, with a large pot of Irish Breakfast tea.
What are you having?
Healthy Hugs
Jenny
xxx