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November 14, 2018

Lentil, Vegetable and Mushroom Lasagne

This dish – Lentil, Vegetable and Mushroom Lasagne – ticks a lot of boxes for me – it’s delicious, loaded with hidden vegetables, has my favourite puy lentils to provide protein and fibre, and gets the thumbs up from the family.

You might be aware than many Australians are not eating enough vegetables and are not even getting close to the recommended 5 serves a day of vegetable and legumes. This dish, all on its own, provides your 5 serves, and if you add a salad and some other vegetable throughout the day your body will thank you!

There is a little preparation required but once the lentil, vegetable and mushroom sauce is simmering away, the rest is easy. The Cauliflower Bechamel is so easy to make and again provides more vegetables.

Lentil, Vegetable and Mushroom Lasagne

Ingredients

1 cup of Puy Lentils

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

1 carrot, washed and grated

1 zucchini, washed and grated

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)

400 gram tin of diced tomatoes

250 grams of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

400 ml vegetable stock or water

Sea salt and black pepper,

2 cups of fresh spinach or silverbeet and herbs (parsley, basil), washed and  chopped

1 packet lasagne sheets

Bechamel Sauce

1 large head of cauliflower

50 grams grass fed butter

Splash of milk of choice

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Preheat your oven to 180℃ / 350℉. Soak the lentils overnight or for a few hours if you can. Chop and grated vegetables. Heat a large pan on low heat, add olive oil and then chopped onion. Saute onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add celery, carrot and zucchini and saute for another few minutes. Now add lentils, tomatoes, water/stock and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add mushrooms and keep simmering for another 10 minutes. The lentils should be holding their shape but soft enough to eat. Season with salt and pepper. Now add the fresh spinach/silverbeet and herbs and mix through for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

The cauliflower bechamel can be made while the lentil sauce is simmering away. Wash and cut up a head of cauliflower. Place in a saucepan with a about 10 centimetres of water. Put the lid on and cook cauliflower for about 10 mins until tender. Place cauliflower in a food processor with leftover cooking water, butter, salt and pepper. You can add a splash of milk here but be careful not to add too much. Blend until the cauliflower becomes a thick sauce like consistency.

Grab a big lasagne dish (mine is about 34 x 18 cm) and rub with olive oil. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on the bottom, then add the lentil mix, add another layer of lasagne sheets, then add the bechamel. Top with parmesan cheese if desired. Place in the over for 30 mins. Serve with a salad.

July 6, 2018

A traditional Dutch tart

One of the bonuses of being married to a Dutchman is that we make a trip to Europe every couple of years to visit family (and have a holiday of course). Mostly my husband is very happy for the beautiful food and produce we eat at home in Australia but he still needs his Dutch dairy fix every couple of years!

Dairy plays an important role in the economy and cuisine of The Netherlands. For the Dutch, cheeses, milk, yoghurts and other dairy products are not only staple foods but national cultural symbols, and a key agricultural export. While you may be familiar with Dutch cheeses like Gouda and Edam, dairy products like kwark are just as delicious and commonly eaten.

Kwark (also known as Quark and common in most northern European countries as well as eastern Europe) is a fresh, soft cheese. It is made from warming soured milk until it curdles, then adding lactic acid bacteria and finally straining to produce a firm soft cheese. It is used widely in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Kwark is high in protein and it also contains good amounts of fat, calcium, phosphate and a small amount of natural sugar (lactose). It is also very low in salt (usually much lower than other cheeses).

In The Netherlands, Kwarktaart is a traditional recipe and often the choice for celebrations. It’s also strawberry season so I’ve combined fresh, in season strawberries with kwark to make a traditional tart. Kwark (quark) can be found in supermarkets and specialist stores in Australia. The brand I like the best is Barambah Organics. I hope you enjoy this Dutch specialty!

Recipe

Base

100 grams rolled oats (choose gluten free oats for intolerances)

100 grams almond meal

5 medjool dates

2 tablespoons coconut oil

pinch salt
Filling

600 grams kwark/quark

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup milk of choice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

zest of one lemon

5 sheets of gelatine

3 tablespoons of raw caster sugar (or preferred sweetener eg raw honey, maple syrup)

fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom of a springform pan. Place ingredients for base in a food processor and blend until broken down and sticking together. Press the base mixture into the base of pan and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Squeeze water out of gelatine sheets and add to saucepan with milk. Gently warm the milk and stir frequently to dissolve the gelatine. Stir 3 tablespoons of sugar (or other sweetener), vanilla, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and zest from one lemon into quark, and then add cooled gelatine mixture to kwark mixture. Pour this into springform pan. Cover and place in fridge for at least 6 to 8 hours.

Top with fresh strawberries, invite friends over and serve with your favourite tea or coffee!!

June 4, 2018

Managing stress

This week’s article is about stress because to be perfectly honest I’ve had my fair share in the last few weeks. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours in a Restorative Yoga workshop on Saturday and it helped me to reflect on how I managed the recent stress in my life.

Each one of us deals with some kind of stress on a daily basis. It can be emotional, physical, environmental or even nutritional. It may be an acute stressful event such as an exam, an argument or a job interview, or it may be the ongoing challenge of raising kids, illness or financial pressures.

A little stress is healthy. Our bodies are designed to handle acute stress and survive stressful situations. Instinctively our bodies react to stress with a fight or flight reaction.

But when the stress is constant so too is the stress response. Our adrenal glands respond by producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and these hormones affect all aspects of wellbeing including the capacity to digest food, immune system function right through to cognitive function like memory.

Stress can be an underlying factor behind many health conditions, and can present itself in many different ways. Symptoms of acute or current stress include: low energy, difficulty sleeping, poor memory and concentration, mood changes, and digestive disturbances. Long term stress may lead to hormonal and thyroid imbalances, obesity, chronic fatigue states and a weakened immune system.

I always ask my clients about the stress in their lives. I connect the dots and empower my clients with information so they can understand all the drivers (not just stress) and how to make some changes. We usually can’t make all the stress go away but there are lots of things we can do to help reduce the effects of stress and help manage life’s challenges.

It’s not always easy to pause and think about stress management in a stressful time but if you can create some regular “stress busting” habits then these will be supportive in your time of need.

These simple strategies helped me keep on top of my stress.

  • Eat whole foods with loads of fresh vegetables and other plant foods
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugary foods
  • Limit coffee and alcohol
  • Enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate
  • Enjoy exercise and physical activity most days
  • Engage in activities that make you happy
  • Try yoga, meditation/mindfulness and deep breathing
  • Spend time in nature

May 25, 2018

A real story about turmeric and arthritis

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was reminded about how powerful food and lifestyle changes can be to health and wellbeing. I was in Sydney to attend the Mindd Practitioner Training for three days where I brushed up on my knowledge on everything to do with our microbiome (from the mouth all the way to the end!) as well as gut health, worms, how to treat common infections with herbs and nutrients, and reducing our exposure to environmental toxins. It was a fascinating and very informative three days with GPs, paediatricians, dentists, naturopaths and nutritionists, all leaders in their field, sharing the latest research and clinical application.

But the one thing that really stood out was a conversation I had with an older man of Malaysian and Indian heritage. He wasn’t attending the conference. He was an Uber driver and we had a great chat on my way home one evening.

He was excited to tell me his story of arthritis. A few years ago he started to have severe pain in some of his joints and went to see his doctor about it. His doctor (with Chinese heritage) explained that he could give him medication and it would give him relief for a little while but slowly the pain would return as the medication effects lessened. Instead, the doctor recommended the man do what many cultures have done for thousands of years and use food as medicine. He advised the man to drink a warm milk with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and honey daily. He also talked to the man about doing regular movement and eating lots of fresh, whole foods. The man told me this resonated culturally and that within weeks of starting this daily drink, his pain started to ease.  He no longer has any arthritic pain. He took on this advice wholeheartedly and continues to eat a plant based diet and does exercises every day.

This is the ultimate practice of using food as medicine, and this is what I do with my clients every day. I help my clients understand that food can nourish the body into health and repair damage. Lifestyle changes are just as important and sometimes extra nutrients are also needed to make improvements to health.

I often recommend to my clients the very same drink this man has daily. The herbs, spices and plants we have access to are very powerful and they have been used traditionally in most cultures for thousands of years. It is also so easy to incorporate them into our meals.

The key ingredient in this drink is turmeric, also known as a Curcuma longa, which is traditionally grown in India and other Southeast Asian countries. The dried root of the Curcuma longa plant is ground into the distinctive yellow turmeric powder. Thousands of scientific studies have been done with this plant and while there are many beneficial compounds in the plant, curcumin is the most well known and studied. It’s best known for its anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects. It’s safe and not only does it provide nutrition when consumed regularly, it can also provide amazing health benefits.

Here is my recipe for those keen to add a warm, nourishing drink to their daily routine!

Serves 2

2 teaspoons ground turmeric (organic, best quality possible)

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

¼  teaspoon ginger powder or fresh ginger grated

Grind of black pepper

2 tsp coconut oil

2 cups coconut milk

Raw honey, to serve, optional
Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring the boil, allow it to boil for a few seconds before removing it from the heat, give it a good whisk to settle the bubbles, then return it to the heat again. Repeat this process three times, pour into mugs, sweeten if desired and enjoy!

November 24, 2017

Don’t believe the marketing hype on packaged foods

I came across a great article from Aussie journalist, author and x-rugby union player Peter FitzSimons today which resonated deeply with me. He critiques the Health Star Rating System (HSR), which if you’ve heard me talk about this you’ll know I don’t think highly of it at all.
 
As Peter says in his article there is something wrong with a system that gives milk four stars but gives Up & Go – which is highly processed and has four sources of added sugar – four and a half stars! Plain natural Greek yoghurt gets one and half stars while some chips get four stars! A supermarket beer-battered frozen steak house chips get four stars. Milo, which is just under half sugar, gets four and half stars. Nutri-Grain, which is about a third sugar, gets four stars.
 
Please don’t be fooled by this system and marketing from processed food manufacturers. Remember they just want you to keep buying their products and have no real interest in your health. Reading the label and looking at what ingredients are in a product will give you much more valuable information then the marketing claims on the front of the packet. If you want some help learning to do this, let me know (I do group workshops and one-on-one sessions on this topic).
In the words of Dr Kieron Rooney, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney: “The HSR is not much more than a marketing tool for industry. Check out the blurb on the side of an Up and Go, which proudly coerces one to consume on the basis of its 4.5 stars….This is an ultra-processed industrialised product and not as the HSR and marketers would have you believe – a healthy alternative to eating a simple, unprocessed breakfast.”
 
With epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases impacting people of all ages, we all need to make better choices for our health.
 
Instead of buying Up and Go, make your own!

CHOC MINT SMOOTHIE

1 frozen banana

2 teaspoons raw cacao

1 cup of greens (eg baby spinach, mint, parsley)

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon raw honey

1 ½ cups cold milk of choice (diary, coconut or almond)

3 tablespoons coyo yogurt or natural pot set yoghurt

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into a small thermos or glass bottle for on-the-go drinking or add to lunch box with an ice pack to keep it cool.

November 10, 2017

Do you have IBS?

Most of us suffer from stomach discomfort, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea occasionally but for those experiencing these symptoms regularly (for days or even weeks at a time, with considerable pain and discomfort) Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a likely diagnosis. This extremely common gastrointestinal disorder can make life very difficult with symptoms causing embarrassment, inconvenience and distress. For many, it has a significant impact on their emotional well being and quality of life at home and at work.

In addition to abdominal pain, bloating, and abnormal bowel movements, IBS adversely impacts brain function and has been linked to anxiety and depression.

It is estimated that between 10 and 25 percent of people in developed countries suffer from IBS. According to The Gut Foundation, of all Australians who experience IBS: one in five will have extremely debilitating symptoms; two in five will have moderate symptoms which may impact upon social activities and work; one in three will spontaneously get better; and the remainder will experience symptoms that will fluctuate and come and go through their lives.

Despite being a common condition, we still do not fully understand what causes IBS, however, it is clear that the symptoms arise as a result of the abnormal functioning in the small and/or large bowel.

Recent research shows that people with IBS have an altered gut microbiota compared to healthy individuals. These findings now point to a significant relationship between the health and function of a person’s microbiota and the role the microbiota plays in triggering and managing IBS.

Research shows that in people with IBS, the amounts of specific bacterial groups are altered and the diversity is reduced. Things like processed diets, low fibre diets, stress, infections, food sensitivities and certain medications can impact the health of the microbiome.

More research is needed but the evidence strongly supports managing IBS by focusing on gut health and the factors that influence it including dietary changes, prebiotics, probiotics, healthy lifestyle habits, and stress-reduction strategies.

An evidence-based and proven approach to dietary change for IBS is the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are found in many of the foods we eat and refers to a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAPs is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides), Disaccharides (eg. Lactose), Monosaccharides (eg. Fructose) and Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt).

Sometimes these FODMAPs are poorly absorbed by some people. When they are are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the digestive tract, they continue along their journey in the digestive tract, arriving at the large intestine, where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. The bacteria then digest/ferment these FODMAPs and can cause digestive upset symptoms.

Before trying this dietary approach, it is advisable to talk to your GP or qualified nutritionist to make sure this is safe for your particular case and that other conditions have been ruled out.

The low FODMAP diet is restrictive, and like all restrictive diets, needs professional guidance to ensure there is adequate nutrition and the person is not at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

This is not a forever diet. It is designed to be followed for 4 to 6 weeks and is essentially a tool intended to help heal the gastrointestinal system and identify trigger foods to help with management of the condition.

When combined with a focus on fresh foods and avoidance of processed and refined foods, supplementation of probiotics, and stress management strategies, this protocol results in improvement of symptoms for most people.

If you are suffering from digestive and bowel issues, and you are looking for someone to help you identify what’s going, send me an email or phone me now to make an appointment.

I use a combination of dietary strategies and testing to help identify the cause, empower you with knowledge and create a personalised plan to reduce and manage symptoms.

October 8, 2017

Dinner Inspiration – Black Bean Nachos

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)

Black pepper

½ lime

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

Dinner Inspiration – Oven Baked Salmon

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

½ lemon

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

Dinner Inspiration – The humble Greek Salad

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.

Greek Salad

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

sea salt

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

Dinner Inspiration – Middle Eastern Mezza

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.

Lamb Koftas

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.

Hummus

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

30ml water

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, crushed

Pinch salt
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.

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