Saturday, September 6, 2014


Ever since I can remember Mum has, at least once a fortnight, fashioned 'pickies' for dinner.  Pickies, in our family, means food that we can 'pick' at.  Cheese, cold meats, bread, olives - essentially antipasto.

This is by far mine and M's favourite way to eat - it's generous, sharing and just fun (especially in front of the TV with a glass of Dad's vino).

Lately I've been trying to get creative with my 'pickies' and turn it into a fun way to use up left overs at the end of the week.  This week, as I've been unwell and not really cooking, I took my feeling-a-little-more-human self into the kitchen to try and use up some of the poor vegetables starting to look sad in my fridge.  

 The results are below...


Onion, Apple and Oregano Focaccia
Panned Fried Haloumi
Grilled Asparagus
Boiled Eggs
Cabbage and Rocket Coleslaw
Pan Roasted Pumpkin with Chilli Salt
Chilli Oil
Tomatoes and Pickled Onions

First step was getting the focaccia going.  I always make up my dough as I've done it enough times to know what to do to get different results, but this time I wrote down exactly what I did!  GASP!  Good blogger.

- 1 dessert spoon of dry yeast
- 1 dessert spoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- A pinch of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of warm water (it must be luke warm or the yeast won't activate - it could be killed!)
- 3 cups of plain flour (I only had wholemeal so that's what I used) + extra flour for kneading

- Mix all ingredients except the flour and stir
- Add flour (using more or less until it comes together as a dough)
- Tip onto a floured bench and knead for at least 3 minutes (adding more flour if needed - you almost always do).
- Put back into bowl, cover with a towel and put into a warm place for half an hour or until it doubles in size (I heat the oven a little, turn it off and put it in there - make sure the oven isn't too hot when you put it in - it needs to feel like a summer's day).
- Take out, knock some of the air out and knead for about 15 seconds, then roll out ready to top.

(I suggest putting breadcrumbs on your tray base as it always gives an awesome crispy base finish and the tray is super easy to clean at the end with no oil!)

- 2 brown onions, sliced
- 1 granny smith apply, cut into matchsticks
- A splash of olive oil
- A knob (about a tsp) of butter

- Small handful of fresh oregano

- Fry everything except the oregano together until caramelised and gooey (if it starts to dry out add some water instead of oil to keep things cooking and keep it a it lighter but make sure it dries out totally before putting it on the dough)

- After putting the topping on the dough, stir through or spray a little olive oil on the oregano and place on top.

BAKE in a hot oven (200-220c) for about 12 minutes.  I finish it under the grill as my oven is useless.

I never understand why people buy pizza bases - they are so expensive and these are so easy and so cheap!  Once you do it a few times it really takes no time at all.

You can buy this yeast at any supermarket.  This tub of mine has been in the freezer for almost a year and it's still fine.


PAN FRIED HALOUMI - cut haloumi into 1cm strips and fry until golden each side.  Coat with lemon juice and pepper.

PAN ROASTED PUMPKIN WITH CHILLI AND SALT - Just raw pumpkin slices tossed in dried chilli flakes, sea salt and olive oil before cooking on the pan.

CABBAGE AND ROCKET COLESLAW - Finely shredded cabbage and rocket with about a tsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with a tsp of mayonnaise stirred through.  

I don't really like mayo, but when I use it I use this one - available in supermarkets.  M is also a fan.  In fact, if it weren't for M, I'd just use Greek yoghurt with some salt & pepper in it's place.

I think the rest is self explanatory.

Do you ever do 'pickies' or an antipasto night?

How do you use the leftovers in your fridge at the end of a week?

I try very hard to never throw out food (I throw something out maybe once a month).  A huge advantage of learning how to cook is knowing how to put everything you've got to use together.  If I see pumpkin going soggy well, we're having pumpkin tonight.  If the eggs are getting old I'll use eggs and so on.  With a few pantry staples it's easy to use the fresh things you have (and I'll share my pantry staples soon).

Happy Weekend!
Nat x

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Like way-too-many people right now, my cold has escalated to more of a flu.  I've been at work most of the week but am home today as there was no way I could get myself out of bed before 11am this morning.  Pretty gross.  

So now I am all alone at home, sick of eating toast and seriously have no energy to stand in the kitchen for more than about 2 minutes.  Fast food is a must.

Vermicelli rice noodles are great for quick lunches and insanely cheap.  To prepare them all you have to do is sit them in boiling water for about 2 minutes (or until tender) and drain.  That's it!  They are super plain though so they do need some flavour (they are, after all, just rice).

Today I slothed into the kitchen, prepared my rice noodles (about 1/5 of a packet of the Wai-Wai ones available in major supermarkets and grocers) and opened the fridge and pantry to see what I could add.


Before I jot this down please note that quantities and the ingredients of the below are not the point of this post.  If you don't have rocket, use spinach, shredded lettuce, peas.. if you don't have tuna use a boiled egg, left over meat, legumes.. if you don't have cabbage use snow peas, carrot, bean shoots, capsicum...  It is easy to make fast food if you just have a go and don't be scared.  Use some common sense (raw eggplant won't taste great, for example) and just throw things in trust that some dressing will bring it together.  Food isn't only meant to give us the nutrients we need - it's also meant to be fun to eat and prepare.

- Rice noodles (about 1/5 of the Wai Wai packet above)
- A handful of fresh rocket
- A handful of finely shredded red cabbage
- 1 fresh red chilli
- 1 can of John West 'light' tuna (I prefer Serena or Safcol, but Max is a John West fan and this is all we had)
- A splash of Tamari (about a dessert spoon  - this is a reduced salt organic soy sauce, if you use regular soy sauce I'd suggest using a little less)
- About 4 drops of sesame oil (it has a super strong flavour)

- Pretty self explanatory - chop everything (finely shred the cabbage; don't underestimate the difference textures and the size of your chopping will make to a meal).  Wash the rocket, slice the chilli and add everything to a bowl.
- Prepare the rice noodles, drain, then add to the bowl with the vegetables while still warm (helps them warm a little).
- Add the sesame oil, tamari and tuna (drain the tuna well), and toss.

That's was all I had to do to have a proper lunch.  

If you have some sesame seeds you can be bothered toasting, some spring onions you can be bothered slicing or some fresh herbs (mint or coriander would be especially nice) I'd sprinkle them on top - would definitely add to the flavour.

Other dressing ideas -
- Orange juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and chilli (or chilli sauce - and go light on the fish sauce, keep tasting it)
- Melt a little peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce into some orange juice and water
- A little coconut milk with some salt, chilli (or chilli sauce) and fresh mint would be yummy too.

I can make this, with the flu, in 3-4 minutes.  Much less time than it would take me to pop to a drive through and bring something home #healthynothard

What are your go-to quick lunches?

Nat x

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


At the moment, the way I see it, there are two sides to the 'healthy' fence;

1 - The nutrition fanatics cramming as many nutrients into their dishes and their days as humanly possible, often eating with nutrition as first priority and everything else secondary (think kale chips, cake made of watermelon and 'super-simple' protein truffles made of 10 super-expensive elements).

2 - The other side; the people not currently as healthy and strong as they could be and wanting to get there.  Often they'll be on a meal delivery or points program, buying the low fat / low calorie items in the supermarket, trying to go for walks, buying the latest diet book and definitely reading some of the nutrition nut blogs and getting totally overwhelmed by the idea of moving from their weekly pizza fix to a cauliflower and kale impostor.  I see too often these people copping flack on the internet but they really do have the best of intentions, just not the best knowledge or skills and who can blame them?  Health, nutrition and especially weight loss is big money-making business, there's a lot of confusing information out there.  

(with a hole in it)

When I was 18 I at fast food at least 4 times a week, never did any exercise and was 20kgs heavier than I am now.

When I was 23 I never ate starchy carbs, obvious fat (cheese, cream - anything) or sugar, I was vegetarian (I eat fish now) and worked out daily (mostly twice a day).  I was 7kgs lighter than I am now.

Today I am very happy being somewhere in the middle.

This blog is focuses on that middle ground.

I want to help people see that you can be healthy without it being hard (#healthynothard)

You can get healthy ingredients from your local grocer or supermarket and they don't have to cost the earth.  You don't fail because your husband and your 3 year old want spaghetti that isn't made out of zucchini or water soluble fibre (hi, slim noodles, I am talking to you and I am definitely not eating you).  You don't have to spend $14 on a bag of flour that will make you 1.5 cakes.  If you can, or want to - great, go ahead, I do sometimes and I really admire these people that never want a big cheesy pizza (power to you!) and stalk their instagram as much as the rest of us, but there is an in between.  There is a way to not have a huge grocery budget and still eat healthy.  

All you need is a little knowledge and to learn to cook.  That's it and that's what I hope to give you a tiny bit of here.

Nat x

Monday, September 1, 2014


Today is the start of Spring and I had big big plans.  This is my absolute favourite time of year - the longest possible time until winter arrives again, my birthday, M's birthday, our anniversary, a lot of family birthday's, Christmas, NYE, Summer's down the coast, day light savings and this year at the end of it all, I will get married.

But today is not at all what I thought it would be!  Last week M had a nasty cold and I was flouncing around in my work out gear all smug that I didn't get it...

Yesterday I woke up with such a sore throat I couldn't talk or swallow.  That'll teach me.

So I didn't get to do anything I had planned for Sunday and I'm at home with a head full of bricks (I'm sure that's what's in there) and no appetite.  Not very fun.

What do you do when you have a cold?

I make orange and ginger juice.  Pretty easy - squeeze oranges and, as I don't have a juicer (I looked into it a while back but really I just don't want one), I use the microplane to get some ginger in straight from the freezer (where I keep my ginger so it doesn't go soft). 

Joining my juice this morning was a bowl of overnight oats with cinnamon, berries and pomegranate (just in water).  I never eat any dairy when I have a cold - not because I think it generates more mucus, but because it just adds to that  'heavy' feeling I get in the stomach when I'm all stuffed up.

This Australian Beer Festival cup I got two years ago is the perfect size for the juice of two oranges.
I also take super hot baths, keep myself insanely warm and drink a lot and a lot of water.
If it gets really bad, I swallow whole cloves of garlic and don't get out of bed.

Sadly, like the rest of the world, I still haven't found the cure...  if you have, you have to let me know!

I'll be back with my plan for my healthiest summer ever as soon as I feel like I'll actually be able to action it.

Hope you've all had a better start to Spring than I have!

Nat x
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Sunday, August 31, 2014


So I discovered Pinterest a few weeks ago.  All the stuff I love will go there now.  

Every Sunday I try to get some food prepped for the week as many of us do.... Today, my throat is super sore and I am exhausted (hooray for colds!  I thought I'd escaped) so I only got one meal out.

The point with doing something like this is if you have a few good base flavours, you can throw any vegetables you have in, a protein and then some rice/qinoa/pasta - whatever is taking your fancy that week.

Healthy, not hard.


So pretty much if you have these ingredients in your pantry (even then you can cut out the beans and chilli), you can make something tasty.

Chop up that onion and clove of garlic to fry them off (and chilli if you like it), toast the paprika for half a minute before adding the tomatoes and the oregano. 

Then add whatever vegetables you have lying around... I always try to get some corn in as M likes it, and I think capsicum and paprika are tasty together.  

I added some brocolli as I had an aging head on my fridge top shelf.
(exact quantities I used were -
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp smokey paprika
- 1 fresh red chilli with seeds
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 can peeled chopped tomatoes
- 1 can of kidney beans (use black beans if you have a choice, much tastier with this)
- 1 capsicum
- 1 cup of frozen corn kernels
- 1 head of brocolli
- 1.5 small mugs of uncooked basmati rice (for 2 generous servings (M) and 2 mid-size servings (me))
- I added a handful of peas at the end)

Leave it to cook for at least 20 minutes (I go longer and add water at intervals so it doesn't dry out - I prefer canned tomatoes to be cooked a while).  Add salt to taste.

If you want to use chicken, beef etc - I'd fry it up with the onions.
If you have pre-cooked beans like I did, rinse them super well and add for the last 2-3 minutes.

Boil up some rice/quinoa/whatever you like (M is a cous cous fan but I like basmati rice) and layer it up in containers.

I thought this would be a great come back post but it was actually a little too simple.

Perhaps that's where the focus on healthy food needs to return to - simplicity.

Nat x

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Follow me @_lemonliving 

Always time for coffee in Melbourne.
(This was at La Manna in Essendon Fields)

A little Buckley snuggling under an old t-shirt of M's on the spare bed.
None of us are loving winter.

Facing the freezing cold insane wind for a morning walk (which soon became a jog to warm up!)
El Cheapo giant sunglasses optional.

I'm not eating sugar for July. Maybe even longer if I feel as good as when I did this last time.
Sarah is the inspiration, but I don't avoid fruit on any level.
I'll see how I go and let you know.
I started July 1st and don't miss it yet!

Japanese on a Friday night.
Always good.

After a Saturday morning work out.  No better way to start the weekend.
No fancy gym gear or equipment required!

A simple lunch of toast, ricotta, tomatoes and rocket 
(or, as I sometimes see it spelt, roquette...?)

I've had a super busy few days but I'll be back blogging this week!

Happy Sunday and give yourself something to look forward to for tomorrow.... (15 minutes of extra sleep, anyone?)

Nat x

Thursday, July 3, 2014


So I saw this interview on Vogue with Lorna Jane Clarkson and thought answering the questions myself would be a good quick way to give you a glimpse into how I live - especially for those that don't know me or only just started visiting my blog.

I adapted one of the questions as I didn't just write a book (I hope, one day, I can say I did..).

So, hi, I'm Natalie!
I don't own a fabulous brand (though, for the record, mine would be Natalie Joan.. catchy?) and I'm not famous, but I'm pretending like I am just for a minute...

What is the first thing you do in the morning? I stream line my morning as much as possible, so apart from get ready to head out the door there's not much for me to do. As soon as I get up I do a little stretch at my bed side. If I have the energy (rare in winter), I change and head straight for my back room to either cycle (stationary) or do some yoga.  Mostly, though, I walk straight to the kitchen, drink a glass of warm water (sometimes with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, depends how I feel), and then jump straight in the shower to get ready.  I drink a cup of green tea while I do my hair and make up and another 1 or 2 with breakfast.  

What is your exercise routine? I make sure I exercise a minimum of 5 days a week (this means two of the days I'm super-busy I'm not squeezing it in and can relax once I get home).  I try to just do what I feel like doing on the day but I do make a point of fitting in 2 weights sessions a week (one focused on upper body and one on lower) as it makes me feel the strongest and makes the biggest difference to my shape. I also set myself little challenges (at the moment I'm working towards 50 push ups in a row).  I don't focus on 'get abs' or whatever, I just like to feel strong.

What is your philosophy towards nutrition? Practice common sense and look to your healthy relatives and especially grandparents. Eat the healthy foods you like - you don't need to make a green smoothie to be healthy.  There is no one solution for everyone so don't get hung up reading hundreds of nutrition books trying to find 'the answer'.  Listen to your body, experiment and see what makes you feel your best.
What does your typical daily diet include? I change every day, I would go insane being one of those (fabulously dedicated) competitive body-trainy-weight people who meal prep and eat the same thing brekky lunch and dinner 5 days in a row.  

For me, breakfast is always a must as it is my favourite meal of the day, either overnight oats or home made fruit-free muesli with berries (I buy the frozen 1kgs Nanna's bags from the supermarket freezer if fresh isn't available or affordable), or other fresh fruit - whatever I have available, maybe some spinach and plain or greek yoghurt, or some toast with eggs, peanut butter or avocado most mornings.  

Morning snack is always needed at work and is always a piece of fruit.

Lunch totally changes all the time - left over dinner, usually soup, stew, pasta, rice.. I eat most of my carbs at lunch.  Salads in summer, always with some protein - eggs, beans, sometimes tuna.  I'm not a fan of sandwhiches but I will occasionally take fresh bread and the ingredients for a salad sandwich.  
Dinner is never the same as I adore coooking.  I only eat rice or pasta one night a week as I feel very full and heavy after a big meal at night, but apart from that it's whatever is in season, in the fridge, was on special or looked beautiful at the store cooked into whatever I can think of when I get home from work!

You have five minutes to make a nutritious meal – what do you do? 
Either a salad with spinach, feta, grated vegetables or left over roasted ones, a hard boiled egg, avocado, maybe smoked salmon.... whatever's in the fridge! Or miso soup as I adore the stuff and with some broccoli, mushrooms, rice noodles and tofu it is too easy and so comforting.
What is your favourite recipe?

I don't have a favourite and I very rarely follow recipes which is why I am so bad at writing them... but I do follow recipes for most non-cake desserts, so a good pudding or chocolate mousse is always a winner!
How do you keep your health in check when travelling? 
I carry a snack everywhere no matter what - it's usually nuts and fruit.  On planes I take my own snacks.  I seek out supermarkets in foreign towns and cities as there is always a salad pack or some carrots or cheese and fruit.  The eggs, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes are always my pick at a breakfast buffet as the muesli and yogurt is usually packed with sugar. I opt for soup in restaurants or for lunch and always get a green side and I walk everywhere as it's the best way to see everything anyway!  I don't worry about sticking to an exercise regime while travelling - for me, it's always a holiday and the walking is enough.  If I feel like burning some energy then squats, push ups, sit ups etc travel quite well!  Putting on a kilogram or two on holiday is not the end of the world, but I like to feel healthy and vibrant while I travel.  
What is your favourite restaurant dish? 
I pretty much always order some sort of seafood pasta.  I make them at home but they are always better in a restaurant for me.  My favourite restaurant recently changed owners and the new chef is no where near as talented as the previous, so if you have any suggestions for a great seafood pasta in Melbourne I'd love to hear it!
So, what's your favourite restaurant dish?
Do you work out on holidays?
Nat x

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Early last year I told my travel agent I was seeking a sunny holiday within Australia to escape the coming Winer and could she look into Noosa for us as I've always wanted to visit.  She said yes, but she had a better idea.

Broome and Cape Leveque.

M & I took this trip in August last year.  My grandfather was so ill that we considered not going, so I didn't really share the trip at the time (and he passed a month later).  But, in the depths of the Melbourne cold right now and no plans for another sunny escape as I save my pennies for a big trip next year, I am reminiscing.

If you've never been to this beyond stunning part of Australia, you absolutely must visit.  It is so beautiful it doesn't seem like real life (and if you need a travel agent to organise it I am happy to pass on the details of mine).

Here comes the photo spam!

This is Broome Airport as you arrive.
Yes, the shed.


Had lots of fun renting this big 4WD (everyone has them up there - they are needed!) and a Prado to get up to Cape Leveque.

Palm trees at Cable Beach.

Matso's - by FAR the best place for a drink and a feed.

Although they don't look all that, possiby the best F&C I've ever had.

Cable Beach Sunsets will not disappoint.

I'm obsessed with the flowers you find in northern Australia.

Cable Beach at sunset.

This guy sets up a wood-fire pizza trailer nightly.
I believe he was called M&J's pizza and he was outside the school - definitely look for him if you're in town!

Just a bit excited.

On the road to Cape Leveque - Bumpiest ride of my life!  3 hours of red sandy road.  M drove the whole way.  Amazing experience.

Road to Cape Leveque.

The view from our tent (Pop Louie) at the ridiculously amazing Kooljaman at Cape Leveque.

From our tent balcony.
Yes, tent balcony.
I kid you not we watched whales play in that ocean.

Sunset from Pop Louie.

The most beautiful beach I have ever seen.  Ever.
Still at Cape Leveque.

In the camp grounds.

The effect of the sunset on the rocks.
I couldn't believe my eyes it was so breathtaking.

As it's a camp site you have to take your own food up to Kooljaman (pack a collapsable esky if you're flying), but they do have a restaurant which uses bush tucker in the dishes.
Like everything else up there, it is amazing.

Back in Broome at the markets trying local ice cream.

The amazing plant life at the oasis of a b&b our agent booked us for our last night.
After a couple of hot nights in a windy tent it was divine.

Have you been to Broome or Cape Leveque?
Would you go?

I want to go back SO badly.  

I get really sad when I meet people that have been all over the world but never beyond Melbourne or Sydney within Australia.  We have such a stunning country right here.

Do you have any winter escapes booked?

Nat x