Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I am in the middle of some annual leave (3 days out for 10 days off, consecutively? I can't believe the whole of Australia isn't on annual leave!), and although I love it, my brain is having a mini fit of thinking.

Why, oh why, must my brain constantly think? I really need to start practicing meditation again. I did reach a beautiful place once, (only once! It was a lot of work to get there), where my brain had nothing in it. As soon as I realised it had happened, it went away and I felt like my head was going to explode from the constant stress it came back under which always seemed like what 'normal brain state' felt like, until I experienced that, experience, whilst meditating. Anyway, story for another day (just quietly, if you meditate but have never reached that place, I promise it's worth it).

This first thing is that I've been treating my body quite terribly, and the universe is trying to send me this signal in every way it can. Cue 4th course of antibiotics and still not ridded of this darn infection! So, inspired by my own extreme passion for studying nutrition, and the amazing Amanda at Me vs. the Bulge, I am going to start eating like I used to, eating to keep my body in peak condition, eating like a nutritionist. It's not as hard is it sounds, it's just going back to balance and running far away from extremes. It's not for weight, it's for health. I feel gross.

Whole foods with a big focus on vegetables is what my body responds best to.

The second thing is my mind. My brain is constantly working on everything from problems at work, to what I'll cook for dinner tomorrow night. I need to learn to stop thinking. I plan on doing this by returning to meditation and trying to still my mind at least once a day, even if it's only for a few minutes. Everything starts with simply deciding to do something. Right now, I am doing nothing.

Beautiful, but my favourite place to meditate is on a surf beach.

I spent some more time on the coast over the weekend, (Barwon Heads), and again it was mentally spelled out to me in giant writing on massive brain billboards how much I want, (can I say need?), to live there for at least a few months, preferably an undefined amount of time. My entire body is happier at the beach. My energy is higher, my mind occasionally stops thinking without meditation and I sleep a lot better. Most of my spare thought space is currently spent trying to think of a way I'd be able to do this. The breaking factor is that I wouldn't go where M wouldn't, and he works in the CBD.

How could you not want this 5 minutes away every sunny day? It's just as beautiful in Winter.

I need change in 100 other ways, but I'm planning on actioning it and will discuss when ready.

I'm also trying desperately to get through to a man who I believe will help me to be able to do a Bachelor of Nutritional Therapy part time, on campus, around full time work. I'm super struggling to get in touch with him. (I had a chat to 2 nutritionists who both told me I'd be better off with the degree rather than the diploma. Glass roof factor).

I'm not happy and must change things, so I'm going to.

Have you decided on any changes lately?
I hate to admit it, but I think this was all triggered by the book, "Eat Pray Love". I'm on the band wagon and I love it.

Stay well,
Nat x

Photos, except beach, from flickr.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vegie Pasta

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but the past two weeks I've been unwell with an ongoing infection, it's also resulted in a complete loss of my appetite (yes, really!).

Last night I decided to make my vegie pasta, one of my favourite things ever to eat, in an attempt to get my appetite back.

Nat's Vegie Pasta

Sautee garlic (2 large cloves/3 small-medium), in a little olive oil. Add a can of cubed tomatoes, a can of water and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.

Then add;
1/2 a zucchini, diced
1/3 of a large eggplant, diced
1/4 of a red capsicum, diced
1-2 button mushrooms, sliced
12 stuffed green olives, halved
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
pepper to taste

Cook for 1-2 hours, or until reduced by 1/4-1/3 of it's original volume.

Top with parmesan, will serve 2.

You can add chilli or capers - anything you like really. Basil or marjoram works as well. Sometimes when avoiding pasta for whatever reason, I just put some chickpeas through it and eat it like a stew. I had it with thick, white pasta last night as I wanted some thick pasta and had none in wholemeal. This infection has really ruined my carb at night avoidance.

If you want to give it to kids, try grating the vegetables and sauteeing them with the garlic, leaving out the olives. You could puree the sauce as well, or cook the vegies separately, puree and add to the sauce.

Unfortunately, it did not work to induce an appetite, but I ate a giant plate anyway.

And what did M eat?

I made him sticky pork ribs.

What did you eat this Saturday?
And have you ever had a kidney infection? Ouch!

Stay well,
Nat x

Friday, April 15, 2011

Substitution; Pancakes

After I wrote that title, I really want to call it 'Destination; Pancakes'. Then started singing that Destination Unknown song in my head, (complete with trumpets). This is irrelevant.

A big thing in my life and with how I eat is just replacing unhealthy things with healthy alternatives. Things like doing a creamy sauce with 1/3 cream 2/3 milk and cooking it longer to reduce the fat, putting Greek yoghurt on your pumpkin soup instead of sour cream and adding some water to your onions going dry when they're frying instead of extra olive oil are all things I do without even realising, (as a lot of my healthy readers would!).

But sometimes I completely change a recipe, to the point of it turning into something that has just been 'inspired by' rather than adapted, that way I can eat a super yummy food all the time without ever feeling overly full or like it should be a sometimes meal. Who wouldn't want to do that?
This is one of those meals.

Pancakes with Berries and Yoghurt

1 egg white
2/3 cup of wholemeal plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Enough low-fat milk (or rice milk or soy milk) to make a batter.

Cook in batches in a small non-stick fry pan - no oil or butter needed.

Cook in microwave on high for 1 minute, stirring half way
(or until juicy and warm)

Use Greek yoghurt and sprinkle with cinnamon & a small drizzle of honey.

Serves 1, and I have no idea how many calories are in it as the only 'c' word I'll use when cooking healthy is common sense.

An alternative is grating an apple into the pancake mixture and topping the yoghurt with raisins, also very yummy.

What do you completely substitute with healthy ingredients and call a treat anyway?

My Vodka, lemonade and lime has recently turned into sparkling water and lime in the same glass as I do the Vodka, I think that's my most far-fetched one.

Stay well,
Nat x

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review; Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter

As you know, I love food. I think this is a result of the house I grew up in where food is used to celebrate, commiserate and compensate. Occasionally, I go through a phase of being uncontrollably addicted to a certain food and the most recent for me, was peanut butter.

For a long time, as I ate 2-3 tablespoons straight from the jar a day, I ignored all nutritional information on peanut butter. Sure I knew it was high in fat and calories, but I loved it! (especially with honey). I'm now a reformed peanut-butter-aholic,

Peanut butter is a funny spread. Some people swear off it due to it's high fat content, and some people endorse it as a good source of protein with your breakfast. I'm with the latter, in moderation, but you have to choose the right kind.

Let's have a look at Sanitarium Natural peanut butter.

This PB is 100% peanuts.

Why does this matter?

Regular PB contains salt.
Regular PB contains sugar.
Many regular PBs contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Nobody knows what effects long term exposure to hydrogenated oils are having on our bodies, but apart from the obvious trans fats, I have heard (read) everything from theories about it being linked to degenerative diseases, to heart disease and diabetes. Why would you put that in your body when there's a healthier alternative? Even if you really really super think it needs salt and sprinkle a little on, it's still much better.

Pros; It's 100% peanuts so it could not be more natural, and it's got no added salt, sugar and is obviously lower in trans fats than many other peanut butters.

Cons; It doesn't keep fresh as long without the hydrogenated oil and it tends to separate (get oily - watch out when you open it) and need mixing.

Verdict; It's fantastic stuff and about a million times better than regular peanut butter, but you can't escape the fact that peanuts are fatty in themselves so it's just a healthier alternative, not a green light to triple the amount you put on your toast. 1 tablespoon is the equivalent in calories of a large banana, so think about what you want to use your calories on. If you love your PB, it's worth it!

Do I eat this? Yes, 2-3 times a week in the recommended serving size.

Would I give this to kids? Absolutely, on wholegrain toast for breakfast with some fruit and a glass of milk would be a great kids breakfast.

It's $3 for a tub of this in Coles (crunchy and smooth, in the health food aisle).
If you're a peanut butter lover like me, please give it a go!

Stay well,
Nat x

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

As Cookie Monster would say, "Chocolate Buttermilk Cake is a sometimes food".

This cake was, amazing. Also, amazing-ly rich. Make it for a special occasion.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
(as seen in The Australian Women's Weekly 'Cake Favourites')

180g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster
4 eggs, seperated
3/4 cup (110g) self raising flour
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk

Chocolate Filling
400g dark eating chocolate, melted
250g butter, melted
1/2 cup (80g) icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan forced.
Grease deep 20cm round cake pan. Line with baking paper.
Beat butter, extract and sugar in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until just combined.
Transfer to a larger bowl, stir in sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk.
Beat egg whites in a clean small bowl until soft peaks form.
Fold egg whites into cake mixture in two batches, pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake cake about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan.

Meanwhile, make chocolate filling. Reserve 1 cup.

Split cake into three layers (I only did two - too scared it'd break!)
Place one layer on serving plate and spread thinly with chocolate filling.
Repeat with remaining layers and filling.
Spread reserved filling over cake.
Refrigerate 3 hours before serving.

Chocolate Filling
Combine chocolate and butter in medium bowl; stir in sifter icing sugar. Cool filling to room temperature and beat with a wooden spoon until thick and spreadable.

This cake says it serves 10, but it's far too heavy for a regular slice, so I'd say 20.
It is worth noting mine kept fresh in the fridge for 5 days before it started to dry out.

A definite sign that something good was cooking.

I wished her luck.
Yes, my cakes are all assigned genders.


I had to get M to cut it, I was too scared I'd screw it up.

Cool ganache! I was up until 12.30am waiting for this stuff to cool down.

This actually looks better than the final result.

No one said I'll get an award for food photography.

Stay well, and eat cake!
Nat x

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Part II; This is how I Detox

I would very much like each of you to read that I ate chocolate and cake on the first of these days, (Tuesday), and recognise that you can eat healthier and still have your cake, and eat it. The reason I cut down on sugar for 2 days was because my body said, 'no more please'. Today, my body said, 'I want to try that cake'. My entire life is about listening to my body, and, as a result, only in the past 3-4 weeks have I achieved the ability to eat what I like, when I like, and feel no guilt. Ever. When you can have it all, you don't want it all.

It's liberating, try it!

Day 3 & 4;

(beautiful & sunny, why am I at work?)
(no exercise)

Usual lemon water
Home made muesli with a sprinkle of corn flakes, stewed apples and fresh strawberries covered in milk
Green tea

Morning Snack
1 ruby grapefruit
Tablespoon of coconut chips

Out with a friend - Singapore rice noodles with vegetables & tofu
1 row Lindt milk chocolate

Afternoon Snack
1 small piece of vanilla cake (colleagues birthday)

Dinner (at my parents' place)
1/4 Rye Mountain bread with 2 olives & half a fresh chilli
Stew of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and chickpeas in spices with cous cous
(Mum now admits I've had an influence on her cooking)

(snowed under at work)
(20 minutes free weights)

1 piece rye toast with tahini & honey
5 fresh strawberries

Morning Snack
Fruit Salad with shaved coconut

1 piece toblerone

Afternoon Snack
4 plain rice crackers

Mashed sweet potato topped with sauteed green vegies (in garlic), and kalamata olives.
2 dates for dessert

I kind of forgot to record my food the next day. I could make it up, but I'm honest like that.

I didn't lose any weight, but felt a whole lot better. I've since embarked on avoiding added sugar or high carb feels after 4pm to avoid feeling puffy, and as a result I am sleeping better and needing less for breakfast. Amazing how the lighter I eat at night, the less I need to eat the next morning.

In the mean time, I have been diagnosed with a nasty infection and am on antibiotics. Ugh.
Although, between us, this is the first time I've had a 'normal' illness that isn't a result of CFS or CFS medications or a reaction to coming off CFS medication. I have an infection - what a normal thing to say! It's kind of nice, I mean, if I have to be sick...

Has anyone else decided to clean up their diet/'detox' lately?
How's it going?
What are you doing?

Stay well,
Nat x

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Things About Me

Welcome to the lazy blog post, created by me feeling a little run down and sleepy.

The detox went well, really well, and I do feel great. I did, however, become very busy and run down due to external, non-detox factors, and only managed to record 2 more days, which I will share with you next post.

I've been sent quite a few questions lately about my food, health and generally how I live, what I do and what my favourite food is, etc. So I thought I'd write one of those pieces where I capture little parts of my life and put them into a few paragraphs.

An Asian-inspired noodle soup I've been making a fair bit of lately.
Purely for decoration.

I am a vegetarian because I don't feel natural when meat goes into my body. I am also against eating animals on moral grounds but believe everyone has the right to make the choice themselves. I cook meat because the boyfriend, M, loves it and it does feel right to him to eat it. He is usually home between 2 and 3 hours later than me, so I cook his dinner.

I don't have a signature dish because I don't like cooking the same thing too many times, however I am known to make a good vegetarian curry, lemon butter, mushroom risotto and eggplant parmigiana.

My favourite food to eat is anything carb-loaded; pasta and fresh bread absolutely top that list.

My all-time greatest comfort food is breakfast cereal. I officially have 15 boxes in the house. I never eat them for breakfast, but for dessert.

I prefer to cook savoury meals over desserts. I think it's because I like to eat savoury more than dessert, however that's not to say I don't have a sweet tooth. I find savoury dishes to be more of a challenge too - almost anyone loves something filled with sugar and butter.

My favourite cooking magazine is probably Good Food Australia. The recipes featured are always interesting but never so complicated or out-there unique that you'd never make it. I own a lot of cook books, but the most reliable ones would be a tie between anything by Women's Weekly, and Cookery the Australian Way text. The Cookery the Australian Way was my text book in year 7, and I constantly refer back to it for basic recipes to then alter.

My pet hate is when people use pre-packaged products to make their recipes. For example, one mainstream cook book constantly uses canned soups and tinned foods as recipe bases. It's really not that hard to just go from scratch.

I believe the only way to live is eating and being healthy, but I try very hard not to preach this belief. I really believe that food can be used as preventative medicine, and this is why I am about to start studying to be a nutritionist. I don't believe the increasing incidence of magazines and the increase in packaged and 'fast' food being consumed is any kind of coincidence.

It makes me sad that people think I am nuts for reading the label of everything. I think people are nuts if they don't.

I don't exercise religiously, but rather when my body feels like it. I believe the worst thing you can do is commit to an exercise regime that you don't enjoy, so I just do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it. If I don't feel like exercising for a week, so be it. It has taken me a long time to stop being nuts on exercise, but when you wear yourself out, you learn the hard way.

From a mental health perspective, I believe friends are more important than many people realise. The perspective of a good girlfriend over your partner or family is often completely different and refreshing. You'll be amazed how well your friends know you.

I also think people separate physical activity and mental activity too much. Making time for meditation and for a run as two separate things is unnecessary - you can relax the mind as you run, or walk, or do your weights. Exercise can be very hypnotic if you treat it the right way. Think of how great you feel after a serious alone-in-lounge room dance.

Lastly, stop trying and everything generally falls into place. My stomach is flattest when I am not stressed, not obsessed over what I eat and not exercising to a planner.

And how to make that noodle soup?
I invented it, so it's not too authentic or special, but it feels clean so I life it.
In a big pot of water, place crushed garlic, ginger, a dash of soy sauce and a day of kecap manis. Bring to the boil.
Add broccoli, bok choy, diced carrots and cubed tofu. Simmer until broccoli is tender.
Serve on a bed of prepared rice vermicelli noodles.

Stay well,
Nat x