October 8, 2017
It’s the final day in my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Today’s dinner is Black Bean Nachos, a vegetarian dish packed with vegetables and flavour. It’s also a one-pot dish and a favourite in our house!
I had never really had black beans until visiting Brazil a few years ago and really loved the traditional dishes made with them. I used to make bean nachos with red kidney beans (which works fine) but I love the taste and texture of black beans more in this dish. Black beans are high in protein and high in fibre.
I often keep the leftovers (if there are any) for school lunches, warming the bean mix and sending in a thermos.
Black Bean Nachos
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 red capsicum, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bunch coriander
1 tablespoon grated ginger
100 g sweet corn kernels
2 x 400 g cans black beans, rinsed (or 600 g cooked)
400 g tinned tomatoes (blended)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (no added salt)
1 or 2 avocados
200 g natural yoghurt to serve
Organic corn chips eg Thomas Chipman Ancient Grains
Saute the onion, garlic, chilli, capsicum, zucchini, chopped coriander stalk, ginger and sweet corn for about 5 minutes in a large pot until softened.
Add the cumin and paprika powders, tomato paste, crushed tomato and beans.
Simmer over a medium – low heat for 20 minutes until thick and rich.
Season with plenty of black pepper, stir through coriander leaves and juice of half a lime.
Serve topped with avocado, a side salad, a few organic gluten free corn chips and yoghurt.
SERVES 4 Gluten free|Vegetarian
October 7, 2017
It’s day six of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays.
After driving seven hours today, making a simple dinner was definitely on my mind. I wandered about the supermarket looking for inspiration and after picking up fresh, in-season asparagus, I saw wild caught salmon in the freezer section, I decided on oven baked fish with home-made potato chips, asparagus and beans.
Fish, when it is wild-caught and not farmed, is one of the most nutritious foods we can eat. Fish is an ideal protein source, high in Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids and also provides important nutrients like iodine, B12, B6 and selenium. Fish and other seafoods are a big part of healthy dietary patterns like the Mediterranean Diet.
Baking fish in the oven is so simple and is also very quick.
Oven Baked Salmon, Potato Chips and Greens
4 salmon fillets (125 grams each)
Handful of fresh dill or fennel leaves
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 medium potatoes
1 medium sweet potato
300 grams green beans, washed
2 bunches asparagus, washed and woody ends chopped off
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Peel potatoes and cut into “chips”. Toss in olive oil and salt before placing on an oven tray (lined with baking paper) and roast in oven for 45 mins until crisp.
Ten or fifteen minutes before the potatoes are ready place fish in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. To prepare fish, use some paper towel to dry off the fish fillets. Place in an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with fresh dill or fennel, salt and pepper, the juice of half a lemon and olive oil.
Steam beans and asparagus for about 8 minutes.
SERVES 4 Gluten free||Dairy free
October 6, 2017
The humble Greek Salad is the focus for day five of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays.
I’ve mentioned before in this blog series that when I cook (or when I prescribe foods for my clients) I always do it with simplicity, taste and nutrition in mind. One of my favourite dishes is the humble Greek Salad. It is quick to prepare and can be paired with almost any type of protein. It’s great with fish, chicken, lamb or beef. Or if you’re wanting plant protein, adding quinoa or cannellini beans works just as well.
The key to a great Greek Salad is using fresh ingredients, good quality extra virgin olive oil and good quality feta. The basic Greek Salad usually has tomatoes, cucumber, black olives, feta, fresh herbs, olive oil and red wine vinegar. However, you can make this salad your own by adding whatever salad ingredients you like. I usually add lettuce and capsicum and if asparagus is in season I throw some in as well.
Tomatoes, onions and olive oil are staples in the traditional Mediterranean diet which has amazing scientific evidence suggesting it is one of the most healthy food patterns in the world.
400 grams tomatoes (cherry or other)
1 medium red onion , peeled and chopped finely
1 cucumber, washed and sliced
1 capsicum, red or green, washed and chopped
1 handful fresh dill
1 handful fresh mint leaves
½ cup of black olives
Optional – lettuce, asparagus, steamed green beans
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons good-quality Greek extra virgin olive oil
200 g feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
Wash and chop salad vegetables. Combine in a large bowl with fresh herbs, olives, salt and pepper, and feta. Drizzle olive oil and red wine vinegar over the salad, and toss lightly. Once you’ve made your salad add a good quality free range/grass fed or wild caught protein like barramundi, lamb or chicken and you have the perfect nutritionally balanced meal.
October 5, 2017
It’s day four of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Each day I’ve promised to bring you a recipe focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).
The recipes I’m sharing this week are favourites in my house. My kids (teenage son and almost teenage daughter) are what I would call good eaters but they still have their likes and dislikes. They complain if I try to put more vegetables on their plates, one doesn’t like onion and the other does, both love broccoli, one likes raw tomato and the other doesn’t. Sound familiar?
I often hide vegetables in a dish to boost the amount we eat but I also like to find ways to present it differently or get the kids involved. Making a middle eastern mezze style of dinner keeps it interesting. Mezze means small plates (of yummy foods)!
The forth recipe is my version of a Middle Eastern Mezze.This is one to get the kids and partners involved in. Lamb and chickpeas provide protein, salad vegetables and chickpeas provide carbohydrates (and loads of vitamins and minerals) and olive oil and tahini provide the healthy fats. My Mezza tonight is made up of Lamb Koftas, Hummus, Salad of lettuce, spinach and toasted pine nuts, Tomato and Red Onion Salad with a Tahini Dressing and Carrot Salad with Black Sesame Seeds and Lemon Olive Oil Dressing. Place all dished on the table and enjoy this little middle eastern feast.
500 g lamb mince
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons mild paprika
Salt and pepper
1 tbs dried currants (optional)
2 tbs pinenuts
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Shape mixture into small balls and place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Cook in oven for approximately 20 mins until cooked through.
1 x 400 gram tin of organic chickpeas (rinsed)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
2 tablespoons natural pot set yoghurt
Juice of ½ lemon
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Salad of Lettuce, Spinach and Toasted Pine Nuts
1 lettuce of choice, washed and chopped
100 grams spinach, washed
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Combine ingredients in bowl.
Tomato and Onion Salad with a Tahini Dressing
1 tub cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
40g hulled tahini paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
Combine cherry tomatoes and red onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, mix tahini, water, lemon juice garlic and salt together until a smooth consistency. Pour the Tahini Dressing over the tomato and onion, and stir carefully to coat.
Carrot Salad with Black Sesame Seeds and Lemon Olive Oil Dressing
2 or 3 carrots, washed a grated
1 tbs black or white sesame seeds (no sesames, add almonds or cashews)
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
Place grated carrots and sesame seeds in a bowl. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour over carrot salad and mix to coat.
October 4, 2017
It’s day three of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Each day I’ve promised to bring you a recipe focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).
I love food and I love cooking but I’m also a busy mum with a couple of jobs, and a husband, two children and a dog to look after! So most meals I prepare are simple. I love dishes I can make in one pan or one pot or the slow cooker.
The third meal I’m sharing is the one of the easiest I make – Chicken and Vegetables roasted in one oven dish! It takes a few minutes to prepare and then while it’s cooking you can relax, help with homework or go for a walk!
I’ve suggested vegetables but again you can use whatever vegetables you love or are in season.
One Pan Chicken and Vegetables
8 free range/grass fed chicken drumsticks (you could also use Marylands or thighs)
4 potatoes, washed and cut in half or quarters
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into quarters
2 carrots, washed and chopped into quarters
2 zucchinis, washed and chopped into quarters
2 red onions, peeled and chopped into quarters
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh or dried thyme
Salt and pepper
Salad or greens (eg beans, asparagus) to steam
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Combine chopped vegetables, chicken, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in large bowl and toss to combine. Line an oven dish with baking paper and then add chicken and veggies. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and place in oven for 45 min to 60 mins until cooked. Serve with a salad or steamed greens of your choice.
SERVES 4 Gluten free|Dairy free
October 3, 2017
It’s day two of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Each day I’ve promised to bring you a recipe focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).
The second recipe is my version of Spicy Potatoes, Vegetable and Chickpea Hash, which is a common meal in the Mediterranean cuisines. It’s cheap, nutrient dense and a great way to boost your vegetable intake.
This is a one pot dish and will take you 10 mins to prepare and 20 to 30 mins to cook. Chickpeas provide protein and fibre, vegetables provide carbohydrates (and loads of vitamins and minerals) and olive oil provides the healthy fats. I’ve suggested vegetables here but really you can add any vegetables, just choose the ones you and your family love.
Spicy Potatoes, Vegetable and Chickpea Hash
¼ cup olive oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 red onion or 5 shallots
1 tbs of grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp salt
1 can of organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 zucchini, washed and diced
500 grams cauliflower, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cups of chopped greens (eg spinach, kale, parsley, coriander, bok choy)
4 eggs (optional, if you want to boost protein)
Heat half olive oil in large frying pan/skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions and saute for a couple of minutes. Add ginger, spices, salt, zucchini and cauliflower, and stir occasionally. You may need to add more of the olive oil now to prevent sticking to pan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas and chopped greens and cook for another 5 minutes. The dish is ready when potatoes are crisp and cooked. If you want to boost the protein add eggs now or fry eggs in separate pan.
SERVES 4 Gluten free|Vegetarian|Dairy free
October 2, 2017
So the school holidays are over (in Queensland anyway) which, for many of us, means getting back into the routines of preparing and cooking school lunches and dinners for the whole family. I was inspired by my friend Emma to share some dinner recipes to make it easier to get back into routine. I’m going to share a recipe each day for the next 7 days focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).
The first recipe is what I’m calling Coconut Chicken Meatballs with Brown Rice Noodles and Salad. This will take you less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. It’s perfectly balanced with chicken providing the protein, brown rice noodles and salad providing carbohydrates and avocado providing healthy fats.
Coconut Chicken Meatballs with Brown Rice Noodles and Salad
Your choice of lettuce, washed and chopped
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, washed
1 cucumber, washed and sliced
100 grams snow peas, washed and sliced
1 avocado sliced
Brown rice noodles (200g packet, eg Nutritionist Choice brand)
coconut oil, butter or ghee, for frying
500 g organic free range chicken mince
1 carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
handful coriander or flat leaf parsley leaves, to taste
For meat balls, put all ingredients (except the oil) in the food processor and blend until smooth. Using your hands, form small balls (smaller balls cook quicker). Heat several tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot enough that a meatball sizzles as soon as it hits the pan, put the meatballs in. Cook for 2 minutes, then roll the meatballs over and cook 5 minutes more. Put a lid on the pan and cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare salad and and cook brown rice noodles per instructions (usually only for a couple of minutes). Serve meatballs with noodles, salad and a wedge of lime and soy sauce for dressing. SERVES 4
September 27, 2017
I’m putting the spotlight on calcium in my blog today for a couple of reasons. Calcium is an essential nutrient in all stages of life, and while it is essential for bone health it is also very important for our heart, nervous system and muscles to function properly.
However, many people are not getting enough calcium on a daily basis mostly because they have removed or restricted dairy, and/or are not eating a varied diet. Reasons for removing or restricting dairy include medical and health reasons (eg lactose intolerance, FODMAPs issues, IBS) as well as ethical reasons. Dairy has been the major source of calcium in the Western diet so when dairy is removed from the diet calcium intake will be significantly reduced.
Our bodies don’t make calcium so we need to consume it through our food on a daily basis to make sure our bodies have adequate supply. For example, if you don’t have an adequate supply your body starts to remove calcium from your bone stores, and if you don’t replenish these stores bone health is at risk with bones becoming weak and brittle.
The good news is that dairy is just one source of calcium and there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods available to most people. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, like collard greens and kale, beans, nuts and seeds, dried fruit and fish with edible bones.
Knowing how much calcium you need is also important. The amount required varies based on your age, gender and life stage. For example adult men and women (18+ years) require 1000 mg calcium per day; while women over 50 years and men over 70 years require 1300 mg calcium per day. Teenagers also need 1300 mg calcium per day and children require less calcium than adults but still require daily intake.
With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to make sure you get enough calcium each day.
Here’s a nourishing and nutritious smoothie recipe to boost your intake. The tahini, almonds and dates in this recipe provide approximately 400 mg of calcium in just one glass!
Banana, tahini and date smoothie
3 medjool dates (50g), pitted
½ cup boiling water
40 g tahini (generous 2 tbs)
500 ml of unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup of almonds (preferably soaked for a few hours)
5 ice cubes
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place dates in heatproof bowl and pour in boiling water to soften (about 15 minutes). Place dates, soaking water, tahini, almonds, almond milk, banana, maple syrup, vanilla and ice cubes in a blender and blend until smooth. Put into two tall glasses and enjoy! SERVES 2.
August 29, 2017
Recently I was driving and listening to ABC Radio (which happens to be my main source of news, current affairs and popular culture these days) when I heard an interview with Science broadcaster Robyn Williams and Australian researcher Nural Cokcetin about her research into the benefits of Australian raw honey on gut health.
I was so excited – an interview on a topic combining two of my passions – gut health and food as medicine.
Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and more recently there has been a lot of research identifying why honey is thought to be medicinal and what makes it so. New Zealand’s Manuka Honey has been well researched for its unique benefits and now we are starting to see research on the properties of Australian honey as well as clinical trials delving more into some of the potential medical uses.
In Nural Cokcetin’s research she tested 25 Australian honeys to see if there was any science behind the popular theory that honey could help digestive issues.
She wanted to see if the complex sugars in honey acted like other prebiotics in the gut so she tested honeys first in an artificial gut she built, and then in a clinical study with 50 volunteers. She found that all the honeys boosted populations of beneficial bacteria and altered harmful bacteria to produce protective compounds.
These changes were achieved with just 20 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of honey consumed daily.
This is great news as many people are suffering from conditions directly or indirectly related to gut health. A simple food as medicine intervention like this could help to make a difference.
This research builds on other clinical studies showing that honey can help heal intestinal inflammation, be effective against resistant Staph infections, and improve wound healing, sore throats, gingivitis and periodontal disease to name a few.
When buying honey to supplement your diet as a health food, you need to look for a quality honey, preferably local and one that is raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. Many honeys today are processed which means they have been heated and filtered since being gathered from the hive. Raw honey retains it nutritional value and medicinal properties whereas a processed honey loses all of those benefits.
A raw unfiltered and unpasteurized honey is generally a rich source of: amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Some honeys, like Manuka honey from New Zealand, have been studied for their medicinal properties. Manuka, for instance, has significantly higher levels of enzymes than regular honey and it is these enzymes that give Manuka honey it’s potent antibacterial effects. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is the global standard for identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of Manuka honey which means the UMF identifies the honey as being genuine and of medicinal quality. Look for a minimum UMF of 10+ if you are looking for antibacterial activity.
Your local farmers’ markets are likely to sell local raw honey for sale, as will health stores or you could cultivate and harvest your own! This gorgeous photo is from my friend Shannon Garson’s first harvest from her backyard beehive!
Don’t forget that honey is essentially a sugar so while eating it in moderation for health benefits gets a big tick, eating large quantities will be pushing up your daily sugar intake.
If you need help addressing your health concerns with a tailored, holistic approach or would like some advice on how to eat for health, please give me a call to book a consultation soon.
May 30, 2017
Using food as medicine is something I am passionate about and I was reminded this week by a friend just how many of our food traditions are “medicinal foods” and how intuitive our ancestors were with food.
Before the industrialisation or commercialisation of food became the norm, our society was a lot more connected to food through practices of storing and prolonging the life of the food, or passing down accumulated wisdom about foods and health or healing.
To stop foods from spoiling and give them a longer “shelf life”, milk (from cows, goats and sheep) was cultured into yoghurt or buttermilk while vegetables and fruits were fermented or preserved in different ways. These food practices created natural probiotics (or live bacteria) and by consuming them regularly people were looking after their gut health without understanding the health benefits and science behind the practice.
My friend mentioned she’d made stewed apple and I remembered how this was offered to me by my mother and grandmother at times when I was unwell or recovering from illness. This is another example of food wisdom passed down through generations and is a fantastic example of how our ancestors used food as medicine.
Apples have some extraordinary health benefits and when you look into what we know about the nutrients and medicinal compounds contained in apples, it makes perfect sense that we would use this food in times of illness and digestive upset.
Apples are high in fibre – over 4 grams in one apple – and a diet high in fibre helps to decreases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. Fibre plays a role in helping our gastrointestinal environment stay healthy by providing food for our friendly gut bacteria, helping modulate the different species and keeping a healthy balance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria, and improving our stools.
Pectin, the soluble fibre found in apples, regulates the body’s use of sugars, helps keep you regular and also helps with the elimination of toxins and cholesterol.
Apples also contain compounds called antioxidants, like quercetin and catechin, that help to prevent oxidative stress in the body which can over time damage cells and DNA. Apples also provide anti-inflammatory benefits with the polyphenols they contain protecting our gastrointestinal wall from inflammatory damage.
Raw and fresh is an excellent way to consume apples but you can also make delicious stewed apple and enjoy it as part of your diet or as a “medicinal food”. Have a couple of tablespoons daily if you need to boost your immune system, relieve digestive symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating or if you’d like to keep your gut health in top shape!
(Please note some people are allergic to apples, or may be sensitive to the fermentable sugars – FODMAPs – contained in apples and some other fruits and vegetables. It’s important to seek help from a qualified practitioner if you think you have food sensitivities and get some help working out the cause of your symptoms.)
Stewed Apple Recipe
6 cooking apples (Choose organic apples such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious. I buy organic juicing apples as they are cheaper.)
1/2 cup water (or more)
2 tsp. cinnamon
Wash, peel and core the apples. Take two of the peels, chop into pieces and add to saucepan (the peel is high in soluble fibre pectin). Chop the apples into small evenly sized pieces. Add the apple, water and cinnamon to heavy-bottomed pan, put the lid on and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add a little bit more water if pan becomes dry. Cook until soft and the colour should be a golden brown.For more just double the quantities. The stewed apple will store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Eat two large dessert-spoons daily as a medicinal food.