Saturday, November 24, 2012

A new source of inspiration...

A recent source if inspiration. Love Donna Hay!!

This week when I was Christmas shopping for someone {who shall remain nameless in case they decide to read my blog} and this cookbook caught my eye for them.
I started browsing and before long I decided that Neil would really like to give it to me for my birthday (am I the only one who does that) as well as me buy them a copy for Christmas...
So it came home with us & we are really enjoying it's fresh inspiration...

Today we tried Donna's chocolate chip cookie recipe & oh my goodness they were soooo yummy!

Choc chip cookies from my new Donna Hay cook book. They are YUMMO

They are made 100 with wholemeal flour, use oil instead of butter & only have 1/2 cup of sugar in. 
But who could tell because they sure are delicious!!
I think the secret must be with the added maple syrup maybe?

Still a treat food, but oh sooo good and they will be a great addition to our picnic.
Next I plan to try her quinoa & pea fritter recipe. It's on my meal plan for later on the week so lets hope it goes down just as well.
(Pushing my hope much?)

Friday, November 23, 2012

6 months on...

It has officially been 6 months since I started this "journey to natural"...
Wow, 6 whole months already, I can't believe it!!

So I thought it might be nice to do a little audit of my fridge/pantry and see how we are really doing on our pledge to eat more whole & less refined foods...
In which case this is what my food storage looked like this morning just after my groceries were delivered:

Pantry audit 6 months on...
{and my lunch, for want of a fourth photo...}

It's a pretty good representation of how it usually looks.
Except if I showed you it yesterday it would look very empty!!... Having had guests staying for the last 2 weeks we had definitely gone through all our supplies.
{Gosh I love shopping day!!}

Overall I'm pretty pleased with how we are progressing!
I can't say that we eat 100% whole food or anything (nor do I really plan to if I'm honest - I'd miss my chocolate too much!) but I feel like I have come an awfully long way in regards to reading packets for additives before I buy things, also moving to more fresh produce and buying organic where possible.

I have to admit that I don't really buy any fresh organic produce. We just can't afford to because it's so expensive here. And especially as probably 70% of our grocery budget would go on fresh produce or dairy. But I have found that I've been able to switch to organic for most of my store goods & grains without adding much (if anything) to my grocery bill.

Most surprising I've also switched to buying mostly organic meat. I've found it's often only a few dollars a kg more expensive but the quality is much better & I feel better knowing that I'm buying hormone & additive free meat. Not to mention free range...

There are many items up there in those photos which I now use regularly and wouldn't be without, but which 6 months ago I had never used (or in some cases heard of). So I thought I might show you a few...

New {to me} grains:

Different varieties of grains I love

1) Spelt: This was definitely a new grain to me. I hadn't even heard of it I must admit. But now I love it as another wholegrain alternative to wheat flour. I grind it to flour & use it in baking or anything that you'd use "normal" all purpose flour for. You can buy it already ground to flour too. But I buy the oats because they keep longer.
Our favourite is spelt homemade pizza dough. Delicious!

2) Quinoa: I had this in my pantry for several months before I ended up gaining the courage to use it. In the end I only took the leap after tasting it at a friends house when she made me lunch one day. It is a seed which you cook similarly to rice or cous cous and is a complete protein. It has a slightly crunchy texture which I quite like.
It's great in salads and I have some baking & fritter recipes that I'm keen to try it in soon so watch this space...

3) Wholemeal pasta:  Basically pasta but made from all whole grains. Higher in fibre & nutrients than pasta made with refined white flours. I've more or less completely switched from white pasta to this and my family didn't miss a beat at accepting it much to my surprise. It doesn't go as soft as "normal" pasta, but otherwise we find it fine.
It would be cool if it was available in a few more shapes but so far I've been able to find it in long tubes, macaroni & spaghetti in Woolworths.

4)  Buckwheat: Another grain I'd never heard of before which I now love. Again I grind these to make flour and use it as a substitute in my baking etc. I often mix half buckwheat & half spelt or half white.
The kids don't notice any difference to straight white baking and I find that spelt & buckwheat don't make baking as heavy as when I use whole wheat flour. So I prefer them.

New {to me} sugar substitutes:

Sugar substitutes I love
1)  Agave syrup: I wish I'd known about this years ago because I LOVE agave syrup. It's such a great sweetner for smoothies, salad dressings or muffins. Anything that just needs a touch of sweetening but to which I don't want to add sugar really. Same with

2)  Maple syrup: I wasn't a regular purchaser of maple syrup before either but now I use it loads. One of my favourite easy breakfasts at the moment is cut up banana with unsweetened greek yoghurt & a drizzle of maple syrup. But it's great in baking & lots of other things as a replacement to sugar. Today I used it in chocolate chip cookies and I have to say that they taste devine!

3)  Rapadura sugar: For a few months I had managed to eliminate all other types of sugar in the house other than this type, rapadura. It is (I believe) the most unrefined sugar that you can buy, so in theory has the greatest amounts of nutrients in. But it's still sugar so we try and use it sparingly.
However, I've also started buying raw sugar again recently because it's much less expensive and more readily available. I tend to alternate between the two now.

4)  Fresh dates: I've only recently started buying fresh dates. They aren't cheap but boy oh boy do they taste so much better than dried dates. If I feel like a sweet fix then these are now my go-to snack. They are great in baking or made into date balls along with cacoa & almonds or seeds & a drizzle of agave syrup They girls love those wholefood "chocolate" (date) balls a ton.

Wow that ended up getting long.
But those are a few of my new {to me} favourite ingredients anyway...

Monday, November 12, 2012

New organic skin care range...

{Not a sponsored post... just an honest user review}

A few months ago, when shopping for a new cocktail dress, I found myself "sucked into" talking to one of those booths down the centre of the shopping mall.
Now, there is one brand in particular which always has a centre aisle booth (I shall not name names) with their hard sell technique that really annoys me, and it has put me off stopping and looking at those booths ever again.
It's a bit sad really.
But this time the person was really friendly and started talking about "organic" blah blah blah and all of a sudden my ears popped up.
So I listened.
And boy and I glad I did, because it led me to this yummy yummy yummy new organic skin care range:

These are Australian made, organic (some of the products are still going through the certification process though) skin care and they are seriously good enough to eat.

It was the peel mask that first impressed me. It is made from a manuka honey blend. The lady put it on the back of my hand, left it for 10 seconds then started gently rubbing. It was then quite frightening as a whole bunch of dead skin started to flake off my hand. Ew!
But boy did my hand feel good afterwards.
I could definitely see the merits of that product for my face!

Next she amazed me with the eye gel. She rubbed a small amount over my crows feet (yes I do have wrinkles already sob sob) and all of a sudden within seconds then were gone. I could not believe it.

Then she showed me the cleanser by having me wash my hands over a white bowl. The water went grey. Seriously disgusting! And I promise you I hadn't just been in the garden, I'd been walking around the shopping mall having had washed my hands within the last hour.

So I decided to bravely give them a go. Bravely because I've been using the same product range since I was 18 - I have sensitive skin and every time I try and change I get dermatitis within a week and it's very uncomfortable.
I've even tried at least 3 organic or completely natural ranges in the past to no avail. I've never been impressed and have gone straight back to my normal.

But after 2 months using this I can happily say that I've been converted. My skin has never looked better. My blemishes heal really quickly and I haven't been getting as many hormone spots round me "special" time of the month. I've been able to wear far less make up and feel much more confident without any at all.
Quite the turn around!!

There are only a few things that I don't like about the products ...
Firstly they are all packaged the same so when the day cream, night cream & peel are all lined up on my dresser I can't tell at a glance which one is which. Small complaint really and one I've been able to get over by leaving them in a certain order, but it can be slightly annoying.
Secondly I'd kind of like the day/night creams to be in a pump bottle. Because then it would be much easier to limit how much you used & also faster when getting ready in the morning. (yep I'm even too lazy to take a lid on and off all the time. Usually I have about 10 minutes to get showered and ready in the morning so pump bottles help the whole process no end).

Lastly the price is an obstacle. To be honest I never would have bought these had I not been offered them at a crazy crazy discount and promised that I could bring them back if my skin got irritated. Because when she first told me the full retail price I actually laughed at her.
Really I did!
I told her that she was a funny lady & did I look like I was in a position to spend that much on skin care (dragging my two kids around the shopping mall in the middle of the day!).

But now I've tried them I don't know what I'll do if I don't get that price again next time (which she's promised me I can have next time though) because I'm afraid I'm hooked.
Great NZ Manuka Honey is expensive though, but still why does organic have to be so pricey sometimes?!
Does my head in.

For those that can afford it (and ask for a special deal like I got ;) ) then this is well worth trying though. I promise you, it feels so good on your skin. If you can get passed the smelling good enough to eat part that is... I've been tempted to taste it on several occasions just to see if it does taste as good as it smells - probably not a good look haha.
You can find their website here. The lady in Garden City, Perth is lovely and she will post anywhere in Australia for free if you ring your order through. Otherwise I'm pretty sure it will show stockists on their website.

I'm a convert that's for sure.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Natural "deodorant"

{Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and I paid for my deodorant just like everyone else ;) }

A month or so ago I picked up this natural deodorant to try when I went to Perth Upmarket. It got my attention since I'm on my quest to move more natural in my beauty products as it is WA made, made 100% with natural ingredients and as you can see from the label it was a natural beauty award winner this year.
Most importantly it is aluminium free.
So I thought I'd give it a go.

In Perth it is really hot in Summer (and often Spring & Autumn too for that matter) so I find myself needing a good deodorant here more so than I every have before. We've already had some hot days this Spring (34 degrees Celcius) since I have been using it and so far I have found this deodorant performs really well.

If I'm honest I would like it to have a scent. But when I smelled all the scent options at the market I found them too strong for my liking so I got the unscented option. Perhaps next time I will bravely try one of the scents.

They have a website where you can buy it online, and there are 6 different scents available as well as the unscented which I went for. However I have to say that the market price I paid was $5 less than the online price, so if I was having to buy this online I'm not sure I could bring myself to pay $15 for deodorant.
$10 wasn't quite hard to stomach. But I would definitely buy it again for the market price!!

Has anyone got any other natural deodorant recommendations?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy Thermomix Muffins...

I've been experimenting with this recipe for a few weeks wanting to share it with you....
It has become my new go-to muffin recipe because it's quick & easy, you can reduce the sugar to your liking and it only has 50grams of butter in. So by the time I add my fruit & a wholegrain of choice they can be a not too un-healthy filler-upper for the kids (or me for that matter ;) )

We've made a bunch of different flavours;
Sultana, cinnamin & apple
Vanilla Cupcakes
Strawberry & White Chocolate
Chocolate Chip

And they all taste great.
But our favourite have to be the Strawberry & White Chocolate...
They are melt-in-your-mouth-and-eat-them-all-straight-out-of-the-oven good!!
Mmmm mmmmm.....

So here goes, hope you enjoy :)

110 grams of buckwheat or splelt flour
110 grams of white flour
50-100 grams of sugar depending on your taste
1 tsp of baking powder
1 egg
50 grams butter
190 grams of milk
fruit/spices/vanilla to suit

1. If grinding your own flour grind on speed 9 for 1 minute. Set aside.
2. Add butter, sugar & egg. Mix on speed 5 for 15 seconds
3. Add dry ingredients & milk and mix on speed 5 or 15-20 seconds
4. Add any fruit/chocolate chips/chunky stuff of your desire and mix on REVERSE speed 1 for 10-20 seconds
5. Spoon even amounts into 12 muffin cases and bake for 15-20 minutes on 190 degrees until they spring back when gently touched.
6. Try and wait until they cool down before enjoying so you don't burn your tongue ;)