Saturday, January 19, 2013

Waste not, want not

Like most people, I really hate wasting food. But you know, there are those weeks where you buy fresh ingredients with every intention of using them, but it just doesn't happen. You unexpectedly go out for dinner, you get home too late to make that complicated recipe you meant to try, or you just forget about those corn cobs in the bottom of the crisper. Then shopping day rolls around again and you sadly dispose of over-ripe or mouldy fruit and veg to make way for fresh stuff.

I've been determined not to have this happen again, and yet... this morning, I rummaged in the fridge and pulled out half a butternut pumpkin with mould spots all over the cut surface, two zucchini that had gone a bit soft and a peach that was so ripe, it was at risk of bursting from just picking it up.

Instead of throwing them in the bin, I decided to salvage them. I turned on the oven (thank goodness it isn't 40ยบ here today!) and got started. The pumpkin was easy - I sliced off the top few millimetres, scooped out the seeds, cut it into four big chunks and chucked it on an oven tray. Having baked pumpkin in a container in the fridge is always handy - I use it in pancakes, or just add it to grilled meat and steamed veggies for a balanced lunch.

The peach was a cinch too. I had a small amount of ricotta left over that needed to be used pretty quickly, so I cut the peach in half and baked it for ten minutes, then crammed ricotta on top of each half, sprinkled chopped walnuts on them and added a little maple syrup. Instant dessert! Or in today's case, lunch...

Normally, I turn over-ripe fruit into fruit compote, but I didn't want to spend time slicing a big pot of fruit up at that particular moment.

That left the zucchini. What to do with that? Fritters, frittata....nope, I was on a sweet roll here. So I created a zucchini chocolate cake, with spelt flour. It turned out pretty good, really light and moist, but could use more sweetener. Two tablespoons of agave syrup, one of a stevia/erythritol blend and some apple sauce aren't quite enough, as it turns out. I'll revisit this one and blog the recipe when it's right.

We also had half a punnet of cherry tomatoes that were going soft and a bit wrinkly. Those were called into service last night for pizza topping.

Bike Boy is a whiz at making pizza dough, and he cooks them in our charcoal-fired barbecue  giving them the best flavour. I topped mine with bocconcini, mushrooms, prawns, the aforementioned cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

It was magnificent. But not wheat-free ...I'm a total failure at my 30-day challenge. *hangs head in shame*

Anyway, I'm pleased to have not thrown one single thing out this week. Just call me Captain Frugal. I'm interested in any other brilliant ways to use up limp veggies or squishy fruit. If you have some, feel free to share.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Recipe Alert! Coconut pancakes


I promised to blog my recipe for coconut pancakes last week, but I wasn't entirely happy with it. So I tweaked it a little and whipped up a test batch tonight and - I have nailed it!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Coconut yoghurt redemption

Ever since Sara posted instructions on how to make coconut milk yoghurt, I have been keen to give it a go. Two of my favourite things, coconut and yoghurt, combined in one delicious creamy package.

I made a batch a few weeks back and was thoroughly disappointed at the result. It took AGES - I mean literally four or five days - and whilst the end product tasted yoghurty, it was still runny; really about the consistency of normal coconut milk. I like my yoghurt super-thick (which is why I have a preference for Greek style) so I wasn't thrilled with my first attempt.

I wasn't deterred however, and this week I gave it another go. The result:

I took Sara's instruction to "stand in a warm place" to heart and placed my container in the garage, where it was a toasty 30C. Twelve hours or so in there and then a stint on the kitchen bench overnight, and it was ready in about a day and a half. Where did I go wrong last time? We were in the middle of a very cool spell and I just think it wasn't warm enough to begin with. By the time I realised and warmed things up, it was too late - my probiotics were past their best.

Next time I make this in cooler weather, I'll pull out our trusty EasiYo yoghurt maker to get things happening.

In other news, it's back to work on Monday (boo!), so we've made the most of our last week of holidays with a few activities. Thursday's choice was a drive around the Yarra Valley, visiting not wineries, for which the area is most famous, but boutique breweries. I don't drink beer at all, but Bike Boy loves a craft brew, so he was in his element. For me, it was a pleasant day out with gorgeous scenery along the this:

From the road above Yarra Glen, looking across the valley to the Dandenongs
We both agreed that we should do this more often. Yarra Glen is barely a 40 minute drive from home, so we really have no excuse. But next time, we'll visit some wineries and someone else can drive. ;o)


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The big screen - and the small one

This is a completely non-fitness and food-related post.  - Just a heads-up for those who aren't interested in anything else. ;o)

Yesterday we saw Life of Pi and it did not disappoint. The film managed to stay true to Yann Martell's Booker Prize-winning novel without stretching into a ridiculous three hour epic. The CGI and other special effects were mind-blowingly amazing. That tiger was so real, I felt as though I could have reached out and stroked his fur. If there's not an Oscar in it for that alone, I'll be very disappointed.

I can't really say much about the story without introducing spoilers, but I will say this: The movie has a PG classification for a reason. We were disturbed to see a number of family groups with young children in the four to ten age group file into the cinema. Seriously, parents? Don't you do a little research before picking a family-friendly film? There's no bad language and the violent scenes were shot without any unnecessary gore, but there are scenes that would be upsetting for kiddies. Hey, I shed quite a few tears, and I knew what was going to happen.

Anyway, don't miss this! Go see it, in 3D and on the big screen - but leave the kids at home, OK?

On the smaller screen, we've been ploughing through some excellent TV series and I thought I'd share a couple of new favourites. In case anyone's run out of stuff to watch, you know?

The Hour - brilliant series set in England during the Cold War, behind the scenes of a BBC investigative news program. It stars Dominic West (of The Wire fame) and Ben Whishaw, who is my new young man crush. I think he's just edged out Robert Sheehan...

The Killing - we've only seen one episode of this crime drama, but it is bloody awesome. Based on a Danish series, this American version is set in Seattle and stars nobody I've ever heard of before. Excellent acting, scripting and the rainy countryside is shot beautifully.

Sorry, no food photos today, I've been quite lazy. I am going to blog my coconut pancake recipe though, I promise. Just need to get around to it.


Monday, January 07, 2013

Pancakes and Pi

No, not P.I.E. Sorry if I got your hopes up. Hehe.

It's forecast to be pretty hot today, so we're off to the movies to see Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Both Bike Boy and I loved the book, and we've been busting to see the film ever since we heard it was coming out.

Boy, I love being on holidays. :)

One of the great things about my 30 day no-processed-food adventure is that I'm forced to be a bit creative with my meals. Of course, sometimes it's easy to just chuck whatever's in the fridge into a bowl and call it lunch:

Yummy goodness!
Thank goodness my fridge usually has some sensational stuff in it. This lot consisted of leftover cooked salmon (quickly nuked to heat it up), baby spinach, alfalfa, assorted coloured cherry tomatoes, avocado and a single baby bocconcini, sliced up. I dribbled some extra-virgin olive oil over the top, squeezed in half a lemon, sprinkled Murray River salt flakes and ground some black pepper over and it was ready in about five minutes flat.

But sometimes you need to go to a little more effort. This morning I sat and drank my coffee and pondered what I should have for breakfast. Life's big questions, you know. Eggs or fruit and yoghurt? Hmm. I couldn't decide. Eventually though, I got off my lazy butt and foraged in the pantry and within about fifteen minutes, I'd created these delish delights:

Coconut protein pancakes. Yum!
While my pancakes were cooking, I quickly scribbled down the ingredients and quantities. I have a bad habit of forgetting what went into my creations. These were excellent, although...I used half coconut flour and half buckwheat flour. The buckwheat flavour was somewhat overpowering, so I wouldn't use it again. Rice flour or some other bland-tasting type would be better.

I'd also eaten all of the bananas and mangoes (piggy!), so had to settle for fresh apricots with these today. Not my ideal choice, but still good.

I shall blog the recipe later. Right now, I'm getting organised to go sit in air conditioned comfort with my 3D glasses on and enjoy the movie.


Sunday, January 06, 2013

Gorgeous Skin - The nuts & bolts

The Gorgeous Skin 30-day plan includes a detailed daily menu, which is awesome...if you like that kind of thing. Me, I start following a set plan and fairly quickly find myself feeling constrained and restricted - no matter how amazing the food might be. And those feelings spiral into thoughts of "I can't have..." and "It's not fair..." and we all know where that leads, right? Off-plan eating, sneaky little bites of this and that (which I manage to kid myself don't count) and a rapid road to chucking in the towel.

So I'm doing my own thing and just following the principles of the plan, with selected recipes from the book that take my fancy. This morning's brekky of choice was good old porridge, served up with some of my home-made fruit compote (ingredients: seasonal fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg), a blob of Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Hello, awesome breakfast!
Basically, the nutrition plan is packed with fresh veggies, fruit, lean protein (mainly chicken and fish), good fats and small serves of the more nutritious starchy carbs, usually only once a day. There's a huge emphasis on fat consumption - from fish, nuts, seeds and omega-3 supplements. I like this part. :) I know how crappy my skin goes on a low-fat diet. The plan allows for three main meals plus up to three snacks daily. Big tick from me on that one too. A minimum of eight glasses of water daily are prescribed, with herbal or green tea as well. Yep, all good. In fact, there isn't really anything I dislike about the food side of things. 

The recommended supplements include quite a long list of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and so on. Meh. I take my supps, but I'm not about to go spend a fortune on a whole lot more with dubious credentials. For now, I'm sticking with this lot:
  • Fish oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Vitamin D (Yes, I have a medically diagnosed deficiency - don't self-prescribe this stuff, folks)
  • L-glutamine
  • BCAAs on weight training days. If I remember to mix up my workout drink before I head to the gym...
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • CoQ10 - this is the only new one I've added. I'm curious...

Exercise is part of the deal too (yay!) and while the book doesn't specify an exercise program as such, it does recommend resistance training and cardio on alternate days, with a rest day once a week. I'm good with that as general advice, but once again, I'm doing my own thang.

Today's exercise included a gimpy weights session at the gym, some moderately strenuous gardening and endlessly climbing up and down a stepladder, slapping a final coat of sealer on our monster set of bifold doors.  

Sexy footwear, no? 
I thought finding a wheat-free bread would be a piece of cake bread, but I was wrong, wrong, WRONG. Our local supermarkets stock a wide range of rye breads, but every single one contains massive amounts of wheat flour too. I know, because I spent ages in the bread aisle, peering at every damn label on every damn package.

I briefly thought about buying a gluten-free loaf, but they're all like bricks. Nuh-uh, I'm not settling for that rubbish. So the quest is on for the perfect loaf. Ideally, I want a sourdough rye that has no freaking wheat in it...but I'm exploring other options. The lovely Michelle Koen of Healthy Helpings fame came to my rescue yesterday with an easy recipe for spelt focaccia.


Spelt focaccia with sea salt & rosemary. Awesome!

The search continues for a sourdough rye loaf though. Does anyone out there have a fabulous recipe that's free of the dreaded wheat?


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Gorgeous Skin - let's go!

Yesterday was the final day of my three-day detox and it seemed to drag on forever. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms had abated, although I was still tired and achey; but that wasn't the real issue. I was B.O.R.E.D. A diet essentially consisting of fruit juice, veggies and broth was always going to be challenging for me, since I love variety in my food. I signed up for this because I knew I could get through three days, but wasn't prepared to endure a longer period of restrictive diet. It was still tough.

It was an interesting experience, however. I loved the fresh juices and will continue to have them some days - I need to experiment more with veggies though. I used cucumber, celery, carrot and herbs, but couldn't quite bring myself to juice a sweet potato, for instance. I did find this great resource, with 30 different juice recipes, so I have plenty still to try.

The detox was successful in my opinion, not least because it confirmed that I have food intolerances. The nasty withdrawal symptoms, which I've experienced before when I've cut out wheat or tried an elimination diet, are proof enough for me. This was the not-so-fun part:

  • Severe headache, which analgesics do nothing to alleviate (but I know from a previous experiment half a slice of bread will cure within 15 minutes).
  • Extreme irritability 
  • Lethargy
  • Mild nausea
  • Joint and muscle aches

Of course, lethargy and irritability can also be a result of low blood sugar, but given the amount of fruit I was chowing through, I doubt that was the cause. Anyway, I have observed that when I (stupidly) overdo consumption of wheat-based foods, I have the same symptoms. I've only recently realised that waking up with an aching lower back in the morning simply doesn't happen when I cut that crap out of my diet.

The joint and muscle aches are interesting. All of my troublesome parts - left sacro-iliac joint, left ITB, thoracic spine, right shoulder and elbow - are giving me hell this morning and caused my sleep to be disrupted. The hip and leg haven't been an issue for months and I've done nothing physical that would cause a flare-up. Based on past experience, I expect the pain to abate over the next couple of days. I'm hopeful that symptoms will reduce or even disappear if I can just stay away from foods that disagree with me. It may take a little experimenting to figure out what some of those foods are, but wheat is definitely off the menu.

If you're interested in the whys of intolerances and withdrawal symptoms, I found this article, which includes a simple explanation of how food intolerances affect us and why we often crave those foods that are doing us harm. Scroll down to the sections on General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) and Withdrawal Symptoms.  Disclaimer: I didn't watch any of the videos or read the parts about testing, so I have no opinion about any of that...

In summary, it was a worthwhile experiment, but am I glad it's over? You betcha! I was ridiculously excited to sit down to this for breakfast this morning:

Blackberries, boysenberries, strawberries, Greek yoghurt, walnuts, flaxseeds. Heaven!
Today is Day One of the thirty day Gorgeous Skin program, and I'm raring to get on with it. I'll explain more about the nuts and bolts of the nutrition plan over the next few days.

Now I'm off to find some old clothes suitable for painting. We have some outdoor maintenance which we're planning to do in between searing hot days. Today's forecast is for a mild 25C, so we're taking advantage of the respite from 40-ish temperatures and making like busy little bees. I'm fuelled up with real food again, so I'm good to go.



Friday, January 04, 2013

Detox - Day 3

I was expecting to experience withdrawal symptoms today, but ...SURPRISE! They snuck up on me a day early. Yesterday afternoon was hell, with a massive headache, mild nausea, irritability and lethargy. Yeah, fun times. Good thing I'd planned to do nothing.

I dragged myself out for a walk around 8:15pm, just before sunset. I didn't really feel at all like it, but turns out it was worth it....

Sorry fellas, didn't mean to startle you.

No clouds, so not a spectacular sunset, but still worth a shot.

Golden light on the river redgums - pretty.

I was concerned that today would be even worse on the withdrawal front, but I've woken this morning feeling reasonably OK. I even slept pretty well, after resorting to a couple of Panadol before bed.

One more day to get through, and then my 30 day challenge starts. No wheat, no sugar, no alcohol, no artificial anything for a month. Apart from missing my treat meals (which are always chocolate, pudding or cake. Duh, of course), it shouldn't be too difficult.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Detox - Day 2

Planning to do this whilst I'm on holidays was a stroke of genius. No responsibilities, no rushing around, no need to use my brain much at all.  :)

Day one was a breeze, as I expected. I wasn't even particularly hungry until the evening and a bowl of veggie broth, a cup of tea and a handful of cherries took care of that. Yes, fruit is supposed to be juiced, but I couldn't be bothered cleaning the juicer again, so figured what the hell...

Four litres of water was consumed - I was surprisingly thirsty. Of course the extra liquid and the lack of starch in my food resulted in a million trips to the bathroom as my body dumped excess fluid like nobody's business. And as expected, there was an overnight weight drop of about a kilogram.

My day spa session was wonderful, of course. My muscles feel less spazzy and twisted and my face all smooth and refreshed. I wish I could do that every week, but alas, the bank balance wouldn't stand it.

I spent the afternoon lounging on the couch with season 2 of The Tudors and some cranberry and pomegranate fruit tea.  There may have also been napping.

Everyone knows that tea tastes better in a pretty cup.
Today's agenda includes a way overdue hair appointment and then another quiet afternoon immersed in the world of Henry VIII. So far I feel OK, although I didn't sleep well. Definitely something going on there. :/

This morning's juice ingredients: apple, kiwifruit, grapes, cucumber, pineapple, spinach & mint.

I expect tomorrow to bring some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (oh wheat, why do you hate me?), so am planning to go exactly nowhere.

By the way, I get a lot of my kitchen inspiration from foodie magazines - if you're looking for some new meal ideas, this months Good Taste magazine has some ripper healthy summer recipes. (No, not the iced vo-vo slice on the cover...) Rosemary Stanton has a great juice recipe (yay!) and there are salads galore, delish fish recipes and a chicken poached in coconut milk that I am so going to try.

I'm skipping over the cake and dessert section. No need to torture myself. ;)


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Detox - Day 1

My pre-Gorgeous Skin detox is off and running. I prepared well by drinking an extraordinary amount of wine last night. Yeah, that was a great idea. Moving right along...

The program goes something like this:

Breakfast: Freshly squeezed juice
Snack: Protein shake
Lunch: Steamed veggies
Snack: Protein shake
Dinner: Vegetable broth (made this yesterday) & more fruit juice

The juice du jour: Mango, lime, kiwifruit & melon with coconut water.

Exercise during this phase is limited to a brisk walk, a bike ride or similar - nothing too strenuous, as I'm likely to be feeling more than a bit crap. Thank goodness it's only three days; by then, I suspect I'll be going quietly insane.

To make up for the lack of fun in my food and training, I've planned a relaxing and indulgent day for myself. This morning I'm off for a one-hour aromatherapy massage, followed by a ninety-minute facial. It's a tough life. :)


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Bye-bye 2012

2012 sucked a little bit, so I'm not doing one of those "year in review" type posts. I'm just waving that sucker goodbye and moving forward.

One of the things I particularly wanted to achieve over the past year though, was to be more consistent about getting out and about with my camera, and to improve on my photography, especially my landscapes. I think I nailed that one.

Sun was setting over my left shoulder. Gorgeous golden light on the gum trees.

Overcast summer morning.

Sunny mid-afternoon, Christmas Day

Sunset again.

Brilliant morning on Boxing Day

Late Spring, I think...

Winter, late afternoon.

If you look closely, you'll see that four of these photos are of the same scene. It's Mount Disappointment in the Kinglake National Park, viewed from just up the road from our house. Different months, different weather and different times of day make an enormous difference to the colours.

I'm very lucky that I don't have to go far to find landscape subjects - all of these were shot around my neighbourhood, either on a walk or a bike ride.

I've found so much inspiration and encouragement on Instagram; there are some truly talented photographers over there. I've also loved doing Fat Mum Slim's Photo-a-day challenges.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone does in 2013. :)