Cooking Up A Storm – A Vital Skill Set

Given what I do for a living, it is probably not a surprise to hear that cooking is a rather large part of my life.  I seem to spend many hours in the kitchen dreaming about what I will make, hatching plans and then whipping something up.

As a kid, I learnt to cook by simply being in the kitchen and watching my mum or my Nan whip up all kinds of delicious meals and baked goods.  Licking the beaters after butter and sugar had been creamed, was one of my top skills in the early days. It was an important job but thankfully I have progressed.

Cooking Up That Storm

Cooking is such an important skill and one that absolutely everyone needs.  If you can cook, you can look after yourself, save money and be in control of your health and well-being. I am very passionate about Australian kids cooking, both at home and in school. The hugely positive effects of learning this skill lasts a lifetime.

With recent changes to our collective lifestyles, it is heartening to see many people have embraced cooking in their everyday routines.  

Baking bread, vegetable growing and whipping up cakes have been huge topics of conversation across social media channels. This all makes my heart sing.

Staying Well

Recently I teamed up with HBF to produce several short cooking videos, which was a lot of fun.  The short clips feature pizza scrolls, granola cups, blueberry chia jam and a smoothie.  If you would like to check them out, just click here

What Are we Doing When We Aren’t Cooking?

There are some interesting food trends that have occurred while Australia has been in lockdown.  Yes, we have been cooking more but we have been supporting local cafes and restaurants too.

Deliveroo, the online home delivery food service, have released some stats that reveal some of our eating habits as a nation while in isolation. There are other delivery services like Uber Eats but one would expect similar patterns to be reported.

Australia’s official crisis meal is Fish and Chips.  This iconic meal has seen a 597% increase in orders. Wowzers.

As a nation, we have been ordering food in on Friday nights, rather than Saturday nights. Saturday night was previously the most popular evening to order takeaways.

Ice-cream has hit top of the charts too, with a 139% increase in orders reported.

Some of these figures and trends really surprise me.  I was expecting pizza and burgers to hit the top of the charts and felt stressed at the thought of that ice-cream melting before it arrived!

What about you?  Have you been cooking more, ordering in more or mixing it up? 

 

 

 

Boosting Immunity With the Goodness Of Lupin Flakes

Every one of you reading this right now will agree that our current world of stress, anxiety and uncertainty is unsettling. 

Good news though – the one thing you CAN control is how you look after yourself – what you choose to eat, how to move, when to get some shut-eye, how to deal with an overload of stress and remembering the good old mechanism of breathing – remember that one?

In the food and nutrition realm, you will see some crazy coo-coo claims being made about what you should do to prevent or cure you from a viral infection. 

You may have also read about foods that boost immunity and they are usually foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals.  It is absolutely true that these nutrients assist our immunity.

Enter lupin flakes. These little yellow flakes of goodness tick many of these boxes in the vitamin and mineral department. They also have some unique superpowers in the boosting immunity department that other foods simply do not.

Lupins are a unique legume that contain 40% protein plus 40% fibre with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and are completely gluten free.

The Super Boosting Immunity Powers of Lupin Flakes

Good Gut Health

The intestinal tract or gut is a very busy place. There are around 500 species of bacteria hanging out in your gastrointestinal tract, mostly in the large bowel.  Not only do they live there in peaceful coexistence with us, they may actually help. These bacteria keep out disease-causing bacteria and viruses, keep our immune system healthy and maintain the lining of the bowel.

Under some circumstances, the normal mix of these bacteria gets disrupted. Not surprisingly, stress is a major factor that upsets this balance.

Our gut wall houses around 70% of the cells that make up our immune system, so gut function is super important.  This is where probiotics and prebiotics start to shine.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are naturally found in our gut and in some foods. They improve our health by reducing the number of harmful bacteria that may survive in our gut. 

Prebiotics on the other hand are very different. They are mostly soluble fibres and resistant starches that act as fuel for our good bacteria in the large intestine. They get the party started by being fermented by gut bacteria and boosting the balance of our microbiome to be healthier.

Hello lupin flakes. Lupin flakes are a rich source of prebiotics due to their high content of resistant starch. This means they are super powerful bacteria and rather clever at boosting immunity.

Power Up With Protein

Did you know that protein is essential for the repair and regeneration of cells and one of the front-runners for fighting viral infections?

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are just like building blocks similar to Lego. Amino acids are classed as either essential as they cannot be manufactured by the body. These are only accessible through food or non-essential.

Inthe plant world, it can be truly difficult to get enough of these essential proteins. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans and other similar friends contain just 5-8% protein.  Lupin flakes boast a mighty 40%!

Lupin flakes are multi-faceted too as they can be used as an alternative to meat but do just as well as an alternative or addition to rice or pasta.  These starchy foods contain only 3-7% protein, so once again lupin flakes storm to the front. And you can actually purchase them, unlike many other foods right now!

For ideas on how you can incorporate lupins into your day and boost your immunity at the same time – check out some recipes of mine here and a ton from The Lupin Co right here.

To purchase the lupin flakes, you can check out stockists or order online by clicking here

Stay well everyone and keep in touch – I am here.

Passionfruit Cupcakes

Passionfruit Cupcakes had not entered my life until this week when I was gazing at the back of the a pack of a Devondale skim milk powder. I’m not usually someone to make the recipes from the back of packets of food but this time the words Passionfruit and Cupcakes  jumped out at me. Two of my favourite things together can only be a winning combo.

After making these delicious morsels, I posted them up on Facebook and Instagram and it seems that many people have nostalgic memories of Passionfruit Cupcakes from their childhood. Who knew.

I’m just very happy that I can spread the passionfruit love!  We do have a vine growing at home but quite honestly its not pulling its weight at the moment.  There are a grand total of two green ones despite the actual vine looking gorgeous.  Due to this low performance, I used fresh passionfruit pulp (without added sugar) that can be purchased in the jar.  If you have a vine that is actually doing its job, use those guys.

Skim milk powder is definitely the secret ingredient in this recipe (not surprising as it is from Devondale) because it not only provides a calcium boost but it makes them SO fluffy.

Passionfruit Cupcakes

Ingredients

125g polyunsaturated spread or butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup passionfruit pulp

grated rind of one orange

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 cup skim milk powder

1.5 cups self-raising flour

1/2 icing sugar

extra passionfruit pulp

Method

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in eggs, passionfruit pulp, orange rind, water and vanilla.  Mix in skim milk powder and flour.

Spoon into a 12 hole lightly greased muffin tin.

Bake at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the passionfruit cupcakes are golden. Allow to cool.

For the icing – sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add small amounts of the extra passionfruit pulp until the mixture is smooth but not too runny. 

If you live with other people big or small, hide at least one for yourself because I can assure you if backs are turned – they will be inhaled.

 

The Fourth Day of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..Four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra up a gum tree

Ahhh, Caramello Koalas.  They are so cute and tasty. Especially on the fourth day of Christmas.

Just in case you are wondering how they fare in the world of treats, one regular sized Caramel koala contains 99 calories and this includes around 1 teaspoon of fat and just over 2 teaspoons of sugar.  If you get sucked into a fundraising vortex and decide to go the Giant version, this effectively doubles the dose.  Well, maybe a bit more if you get guilted into buying the whole box.

So should you eat them?  They are quite delectable and can help you experience a moment of bliss, so they are perfectly designed as an occasional treat. But when I know that one little koala takes up some of my total daily intake, I do what I did today.  Go look at a cute image of them…. zero calories, fat and sugar but still the moment of bliss.

Some darker varieties of chocolate contains a bunch of powerful antioxidants that can do good works in our bodies. Don’t go crazy though – two squares of good quality dark chocolate will do the trick, you don’t need the whole box that you were given! 

If you are looking for something sweet but a bit more satisfying than a little koala, try these on the fourth day of Christmas.

Christmas Muffins

(Makes 12 regular or 24 mini muffins)

Ingredients

300g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

75g muscovado or brown sugar

250g fruit mince

300ml buttermilk (or 1/2 yoghurt, 1/2 milk)

80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

1-2 tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a bowl. 

Method

Stir in the brown sugar. Beat together buttermilk, oil and egg until combined, then add to dry ingredients with the fruit mince and stir until only just combined. Fill each muffin case with the mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Place icing sugar in a bowl, add enough lemon juice to form a soft icing and drizzle over the muffins.

 

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents on the fourth day of Christmas, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack, my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  

Click here for all details.

The Third Day Of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me….. Three little penguins, two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra in a gum tree.

We know that penguins love a cold climate but when in Australia they will need some assistance with generating some frosty feelings.  On the third day of Christmas, author Heath McKenzie depicts the three little penguins getting stuck into some icy poles.  I do love icy poles but try not to eat too many as they can be high in sugar.  

Watermelon and Lime Ice Blocks are a refreshing and somewhat healthier (contains fibre and Vitamin C) alternative worth a try. Perfect for summer and simple too. Watermelon is one of those foods that makes me genuinely happy – find out why here.

Just remember not to get your tongue stuck on them like the three little penguins.

Watermelon and Lime Ice Blocks

1/4 cup caster sugar

125ml water

1 vanilla pod

600ml watermelon juice (blend watermelon)

Juice of 2 limes

 

  1. Put sugar, water and vanilla into a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.  Chill until really cold.  Stir in watermelon and lime juice.
  2. Pour into 12 icy pole moulds (anyone got a mould like this one?) or multiple ice cube trays and freeze overnight.

 

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack, my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  

Click here for all details.

Egg Goodness – It’s World Egg Day

Happy World Egg Day! It’s time to bring out the balloons and streamers because today is the day to celebrate  and be reminded that the humble egg is an amazing source of energy and vitality.  These little goodies contain just 300 kilojoules each and quality protein plus 11 different vitamins and minerals including iron, selenium, iodine, Vitamins A, D, E, folate and Vitamin B12. 

This nutrition all rounder has suffered from an undeserved bad boy reputation over the years, mostly in the area of cholesterol. Egg yolks do contain a mixture of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fat. However, research conducted over the past 50 years shows that egg consumption has only a negligible effect on raising total blood cholesterol levels in healthy people.

For most people, eating an egg every day is a healthy addition to a diet that includes wholegrain cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Of course, it is a different story if you are frying eggs every day and eating them with lots of bacon! 

An egg can be a great snack or meal full of protein and is the richest source of choline, which is essential for the manufacture of neurotransmitters in your brain. They are recommended daily as part of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

I grew up with chooks around my feet and I loved finding an egg hidden in my cubby house amongst my dolls and blankets.  Our chooks were very much free to range wherever they felt like it. Cubby, chook pen, prams – you name it. To be honest, these feathered birds (and all others for that matter but that is another story for another day) completely freak me out BUT I do so appreciate their produce!

You can check out some interesting and fun facts about the little egg plus some fabulous recipes at World Egg Day.

Eggs would have to be one of the easiest foods to prepare but for some weekend eggpsiration, you might like to try my Noodle Omelette.  This recipe is in my recipe e-book, ‘eat, energise, repeat’ which can be downloaded for free right here.

Noodle Omelette (Serves 2)

Ingredients

2 cups (already) cooked noodles or spaghetti (any small shaped/sized pasta that is leftover)

4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

80g grated reduced fat cheese

1/4 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 large zucchini, thinly sliced

1 whole tomato, thinly sliced

Method

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with cooking spray and arrange onion, zucchini and tomato in layers in the pan. Top with noodles, distributed evenly over the vegetables and pour over egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook over low heat until egg starts to set at the side of the pan and then place fry pan under grill to finish the top of the omelette and brown the cheese.  Cut into quarters and serve with your favourite salad.

Serves 2 adults or 4 kids under 12              Cost = $1.90

 

 

 

Pesto Power – How to Make Pesto the Italian Way

Pesto is one of those delicious combinations that you can almost taste just thinking about it. Think pungent garlic, pine nuts, fresh aromatic basil, parmesan cheese and olive oil. This combination can be combined to create a pesto that can be added to pasta, gnocchi, soups or slow cooked delights.  I’m not sure whether the Italians add pesto to the same things that I do but it just adds so much flavour!

I am about to head over to Italy in a few weeks to run my annual Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, so pesto has been on my mind. To be honest, food is often on my mind but that is a career hazard I’m afraid!

My favourite recipe for pesto is straight from the “Food for Thought’ cookbook (which is only available when you come to Italy with me) by Yoga in Italy

This recipe uses basil as most pesto recipes do but at the moment, my garden has been completely overtaken by Italian parsley. I try to throw it into anything and everything but I just can’t use it all.  This got me thinking about whether parsley would work as a substitute for basil.  It does.

Parsley is full of fibre, Vitamin C and has a handy knack of freshening ones breath.  However, once you add the garlic into the mix, scratch that benefit!

Traditionally, pesto is made using a pestle and mortar, which avoids bruising of the herb leaves but if you don’t have time to do that, use a stick blender instead.

Ingredients

50g fresh parsley (or basil)

90g parmesan cheese

30g pine nuts

1 fresh garlic clove

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Rinse and dry and fresh parsley gently. Remove the larger bottom part of the stalks if you don’t want to be blending the pesto for 10 years.
  2. Put all ingredients except the oil into a large mixing bowl and at low speed start blending, stopping often to avoid overheating the ingredients.  Slowly add a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  3. Spoon mixture into an airtight jar and cover with a thin layer of oil before sealing with a lid and storing in the refrigerator.
  4. Pesto is best eaten fresh but can it can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for use later.

 

 

Scroll up – the best recipe for the best dough

Scroll, scroll, scroll

The scroll situation is limited only by your imagination – think pizza, cheeseymite, banana and nutella, strawberry and ricotta, chicken and sweet chilli sauce or bolognaise sauce and cheese.

I have always loved the symmetry of the scroll and the deliciousness too.  The thing is, very often the scroll is made using pastry and the high fat content really prevents it from being a food that can be eaten regularly.

You can also find a good scroll at the local bakery but these guys can be quite large and sometimes the cheese and bacon are taking up a lot of space (I know that might seem like a good thing!).

Fortunately I have the solution with just two ingredients. Flour and yoghurt.

The Best Recipe for The Best Dough

Ingredients

2 cups self raising flour

1 cup natural or plain Greek yoghurt

Method

Place both ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl and using a butter knife, mix until dough comes together.  If the dough seems a little dry, add a small amount of extra yoghurt but be conservative as too much will make the dough too wet and sticky.

Flour a pastry sheet or large chopping board and knead the ball of dough until smooth (shouldn’t take too long and don’t overdo it). Using a heavy rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular shape approximately 50cm by 30cm.  This is the basic dough and now you can decide what you are going to put in your scroll.

The Combo’s

You can choose from any of the following combinations or make up you own (and then let me know!).

Pizza – spread the dough with 1/2 cup of your favourite pasta sauce and top with 1 cup grated cheese

Cheeseymite – spread the dough with vegemite to taste (more is better for the flavour even if you are not a fan like me) and top with 1 cup grated cheese

Banana and nutella – spread the dough with 1/2 cup nutella and top with two small thinly sliced bananas

Strawberry and Ricotta – spread the dough with 3/4 cup ricotta and top with 10 thinly sliced washed and hulled strawberries

Bolognaise – spread the dough with 3/4 cup leftover bolognaise sauce (drain as much liquid as possible from the sauce) and top with 1 cup grated cheese

It’s Time to Rock and Scroll

Once you have decided on your filling and assembled all that you need, you can get cracking but remember to leave about 1cm around the edges so that you don’t end up with an exploding scroll!

To get things moving, start rolling from the long side and keep tucking and rolling until you reach the end, leaving that under the roll.

Using a well floured seated knife slice the roll into 2cm pieces and then place flat side down onto a lined baking tray.

Bake in a moderate oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

All you need to do now is enjoy but I dare you to be able to stop at one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw Bliss Balls

Roll up, roll up, these bliss balls are super delicious and the perfect treat or post training recovery snack. All you need is 10 minutes and a blender.

 

Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

1 cup pistachios

1 cup almond or hazelnut meal

2 heaped tbsp cacao

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

1 tbsp chia seeds

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture is not sticky enough to form balls, add a very small amount of water and process again.

Using a heaped tablespoon of the mixture form into balls and place into an airtight container and refrigerate until firm.

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

This recipe for meatballs is one of the quickest you could ever hope to make and perfect for a week night when you really need to hustle along! A good source of calcium, protein and deliciousness and loved by kids and adults alike.

Easy Chicken Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce

500g chicken mince

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

200g cottage cheese

½ cup snipped chives

400g can mushroom soup

½ cup natural yoghurt

Method

Mix chicken mince, breadcrumbs, cottage cheese and chives together in a bowl.  Roll into meatballs and cook for 5 minutes on each size in a lightly oiled frypan.

Mix soup and natural yogurt together and pour over meatballs.  Return to a low heat for 10 minutes.

If you are not a fan of mushroom soup, you can always sub in another flavour. 

To see this recipe in action click here for the video.