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 ;)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Garden report- nearly 2 months on...

Wow I can't believe our little garden has been in 2 months!!
Seriously it feels like just yesterday we planted it.
So how's it doing?

Well I haven't killed it all.
I'm telling you, that's some serious progress!!!

Although it was doing significantly better 2 weeks ago when I took this photo than it is today after I've just had to prune it all back...

I gave them a little bit of food from our worm farm (highly diluted and watered in) and after that they decided to go all stalky and woody. Do you think it would be the food I gave them or just coincidence because of the weather change to spring?

Looking at that photo the lettuces have grown in the last 2 weeks at least. Just the herbs aren't doing nearly so well. Hopefully my vicious prune will help them & new growth will come.

I also had to pull the cauliflowers out because they weren't doing a thing except being eaten.

At one stage I thought that the very stalky stevia plant I had managed to find had died which I was most upset about because stevia plants are very hard to buy here. But I chopped off the one big stalk near the dirt to see what would happen and happily loads of new growth has started to grow and it's now thriving.
Go me :)

So that's our progress.

It's really great having some fresh herbs nearby so I'm definitely going to try to continue to keep them alive.
Not sure if I yet have the motivation to start a bigger garden out the front in our official vege patch though. We don't have a front fence so it's not so easy to tend with a little runnaway in the house so I'm a bit worried it will quickly get neglected.
More thought required on that one.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lamb & Mint Warm Pasta Salad

The other night we had some lamb in the fridge and I was at a bit of a loss over what to do with it. So I looked around to see what other ingredients we had that needed using up and ended up with this salad.
We were all so impressed with how yummy it was (not to mention how easy) that I decided it needed documenting for future use.
So here goes...

300 grams or so of diced lamb
Cooked whole wheat pasta to serve 4
2 cups gourmet lettuce/baby spinach
150 grams or so of halved cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic
Handful of mint leaves
Few sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Cook pasta. While that's cooking
Pan fry off lamb in a little oil & prepare the tomatoes/lettuce.

To prepare the dressing place all your dressing ingredients in your thermomix/blender/mini processor until all blitzed together (8 secs speed 9) and scrape down sides.
Add cooked lamb, drained & cooked pasta, halved tomatoes and lettuce to the dressing and mix together on reverse speed 1 for 10 or so seconds. Use the spatula to help. (or mix in together in a bowl by hand).

Serve while warm or refrigerate for later.
Serves about 4 adults.

I can't wait to make this more this summer. Such & easy and tasty summer dish that the kids both gobbled up.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

3 Ingredient "Ice Cream" Recipe....

It's a bit more melted than usual in this photo...

This isn't Ice Cream in the traditional sense, however, it is what my kids have now come to know as "Ice Cream" and is definitely our favourite recipe of the moment!
With only 3 ingredients it really couldn't be any easier and it comes out with a soft serve like consistency.
Only healthier.
And yummier.
Even if I do say so myself.

Only trouble is I'm not sure how it would be possible without a thermomix. You would probably need a food processor/high speed blender type thing & then a beater. Not so easy but still just as yummy & healthy...
Still a win.

300-400 grams of frozen fruit of your choice (can replace some of this with cubs of frozen milk/coconut milk if you want to).
1 egg white
0-50 grams of sugar to taste depending on fruit used (I don't use any for sweet fruits like banana)

Place sugar into the TM bowl and mill to icing sugar for 25 secs speed 9 (or use icing sugar if you're not using a thermomix)
Add fruits/milk & chop for 10 secs speed 8
Insert butterfly (this is where you'd want a beater), add in egg white & beat for 45 seconds on speed 4.
Scrape down the sides and beat for another 15 seconds if necessary.

Enjoy immediately.
It can be frozen for later use but it will not be as soft & creamy.

Our favourite flavours are banana strawberry, mixed red berry, blueberry or just plain banana.
We've also tried pineapple but the girls aren't as big on pineapple.

Hope you enjoy

**  Recipe originally from the Australian Thermomix Everyday Cookbook.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Soap Nuts...

One of the areas that I've been wanting to work on for a while is some of the cleaning chemicals I have on hand in my home...
I'd pretty much phased out all the harsh for cleaning floors/surfaces/bathrooms etc years ago, but I am keen to slowly find some more natural replacements for washing powder, dishwashing powder, dishwashing liquid etc...

So enter trial 1:
Washing powder replacement options...

First up in the trial I tried out some home made washing liquid that my gorgeous friend Tammi gave me a bottle of. I was pretty happy with the results although after a few loads I did miss my laundry having a nice fragrance. What can I say, I'm a fragrance kind of girl.
But that was easily solved, I simply added a drop or 2 of tea tree oil to each wash and that satisfied my need for fresh scent very well.

I didn't get Tammi's exact recipe but if you are interested in making your own then I did find this really great resource. 10 different home made laundry recipes. Some for powder & some for liquid.

Second up I decided to try Soap nuts...

Months ago when I attended a market down south for my handmade business I'd come across them at another stall & purchased a sample packet.
But what can I say... I got sceptical, put them in my cupboard & more or less forgot all about them.

A few weeks ago I was almost at the bottom of the bottle of home made laundry liquid & I saw the soap nuts again. Still sceptical I decided half heartedly to give them a try & see what happened.
Well. Was I wrong or what.
I LOVE them.
My washing came out feeling SO very soft and was very clean. After putting a few drops of tea tree oil on the muslin bag they go in, the washing also came out smelling beautiful.

So I am sold. I will definitely be ordering more from here once my trial pack is finished.
And an extra bonus is that they work out very inexpensive.

In other words I highly recommend them :)

Have you tried any natural dish washing solutions? That's my next focus.
Some great recipes in the plans for this week...
Wanna see a sneak peak?

wholefood selection

Makes me hungry just remembering them.
Will chat again soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some new lunch box favourites...

I'm really proud to say that over 2 months after I set myself the challenge of our journey to more healthy & "natural" eating, we are still {mostly} still going "great guns."
{She says whilst sitting here eating chocolate. Ahem. ;) }
But despite my persistent sweet tooth we've been continuing to slowly change some ingredients in our pantries to more natural cousins...

I have already noticed some great health benefits for myself. I am feeling SO much more energetic and sleeping a lot better (when allowed by my children to that is ;) ). I've also lost 4 kgs without even trying. (Probably aided by high stress, but usually I put on weight when I'm stressed, so this really is a first!).

One of the areas I've been designating some time to recently are our packed lunches.
While I try not to buy heavily packaged food a lot of the time because I'm concious of the extra waste & expense they bring, it is nice to have a few on hand either for special treats for the kids or emergency situations where we've run out of home made/baked etc...

So these are some of my new favourite "natural" alternatives for Hannah's packed lunches:

I've found that it's amazing what you can find out when you actually stand there and read the packaging of things. Often the more natural choices (with less or no additives/numbers) are not even more expensive (than the other individually packaged food items) and some cases they're even cheaper.
But lets not kid myself, they are still more expensive than me making my own yoghurt or cutting up a block of cheese myself etc...

It's also really nice to see Woolworths dedicating more space in their supermarkets to both organic & wholefoods now too. It really makes it a lot easier to shop!

This is an example of the types of food Hannah takes for lunch...

Lucky for me she is a girl of routine and actually doesn't mind taking a sandwich every day.
I try and give her a good selection of at least 4 other things as well as her sandwich...
We call it a "treasure box". Usually she has a small piece of "treasure" in it (in this case it was the novelty of a "squeezy yoghurt") along with a selection of other things for example rice biscuits/corn thins, strawberries or other small berries, crackers, popcorn, dried fruit, home baking etc...

In addition they also have to take a piece of whole fruit for "sip & crunch" - Mid morning they all sit in a circle and they share all the fruit on platters that the teacher help has cut up along with a drink of water. So I tend not to go overboard on the fruit in her lunch box in addition to that.

I still feel like I could improve on the variety and things for the main portion of her lunch though. Especially for when she goes to school full time next year.

Have you got any great lunch box suggestions?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alien Pasta - A recipe {kind of}

One of the things that I really struggle to get my girls to eat is green vegetables!!!
It doesn't seem to matter what the vegetable is, if it's green they won't seem to touch it.
Perhaps with the exception of broccoli... Sometimes they will eat broccoli & sometimes they won't.
But never the less it is not ideal since green vegetables are so good for them...

So, as with everything I want to manipulate them to do (ha - just keeping it real here), I have been trying to think of a fun way to present the idea to them.
And we seem to have cracked it -
May I present to you - Alien Pasta...

That's Hannah's dinner with a few leftovers. It actually looks more than it is
(only 2 short strands of pasta left).

Look appealing?
Not really... I won't be making it as a food stylist any time soon ;)
I guess you could just as easily call it snot pasta for the colour LOL
But do they eat it just because it has a fun name & the veges are semi disguised?
Every time!

So I thought I'd share how I made it:
{I need to say that this is off the top of my head because I vary the recipe depending on what green veges I have in my fridge/garden on the day. We quite often make it as "alien soup" instead of pasta.
Which Hannah actually requests now if I say I'm making soup.

{Also I should say that even though I made this in the Thermomix, the recipe could easily be adapted to a pot & blender version or whatever)

1 handful of broccoli florets
1 handful of cauliflower florets
1 handful of celery cut into short lengths
1 handful of green beans with the tops & tails taken off
1/2 handful of fresh parsley
1/2 handful of rocket/spinach
5-6+ leaves of fresh basil
1 1/2 Tbsp of garlic infused olive oil (or regular but I realised I'd forgotten to put in garlic so I used my garlic infused oil)
approx 1 cup of water
A dash of balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 heaped Tbsns of Parmesan cheese
2 tsp of flour or cornflour (optional)

Cooked Pasta to serve with
Diced cooked chicken (optional)

1. Put a couple of small cubes of parmesan cheese into the Thermomix bowl & whiz for about 10 seconds on speed 8 to grate. Set aside

2. Place all the vegetables & herbs into the bowl & whiz on speed 7-8 for about 10 seconds or until finely puréed.

3. Add your water, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper and cook for 13 mins on speed 2 at 80 degrees.

4. Add your flour & parmesan cheese & cook for a further 2 minutes (I didn't actually add flour today but I will from now on because it stops the water separating from the vegetables in the sauce and makes it creamier.).

5. Once finished cooking slowly go from speed 2 through to speed 8 for about 15 seconds to blend together.

6. Serve over cooked pasta & sprinkle with cooked chicken & extra cheese if desired.

Too quick & easy.

That amount was enough for the 3 of us for 2 meals so I would say that it would serve approx 4 adults.
As with all of my recipes the quantities are very "loose".
Sorry - Exact cooking is not my style unless I'm baking where it matters a bit more...

Next time I might try adding some pine nuts or cashews too.
So many possibilities.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Still here...

It's been a while since I dedicated any thought to this space...
There is good reason for that... For those that don't follow me over at Diary of a Flutter.Kat, Abbie my youngest daughter, has been very unwell recently with more than a few trips to hospital...

Yet again my brave girl visits the hospital...q

But that doesn't mean that our "natural eating" has fallen by the wayside.
If anything it's going far better than expected given everything that's been going on!

Yep, Tom has continued to have a great workout and we've been experimenting with many different recipes such as; healthy ice-cream alternatives, salads, risottos, steamed puddings, pizza, pasta sauces, loads of different baked goods and even sausages.
While eating at home we are {almost} additive free. While out we are doing the best we can. But sometimes we've been deviating from "the rules" where it suits...


Like rainbow cake & popcorn at a good friends party on the weekend. Somehow I don't think they were "natural" colours... but it was a one off & we enjoyed every bite.

Have I taken a photo of any of the good stuff though?
Not a chance.
How useless!
The only thing food I have taken a photo of recently was my home made Sunday brunch:

Sunday brunch

The wholemeal pancake batter was made by hand because I never use a recipe for pancakes, just adding the ingredients until the recipe "feels" right. But the berry & maple syrup sauce and whipped cream were both made in Tom.

There are no photos of the {actual good} food because I've been having a total holiday of the brain & only doing what's been absolutely necessary.
Which has not included thinking about blogging...

Now that I've had a few weeks break I will endeavour to continue to "diarise" things properly again though...
In other words I hope to be back :)

More soon...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wholefoods update...

I am so pleased to report that over the last few weeks I have been having a lot of successes of getting the little flutter fusspots to eat an increasing amount of whole foods.
The majority of dinners are going down a treat including home made bolognaise, "alien soup" (pumpkin & broccollini), pasta in vege laden sauce etc.

There have definitely been a good share of sticking points too... like they're still not accepting home made bread at.all, and I made a delicious dish the other night with a variety of beans in which actually made Hannah gag bless her. She has never a bean/legume lover unless they are blended and very well disguised and apparently nothing has changed.

The most surprising things they have accepted have been:

**  getting them to eat coleslaw. That is definitely a first for Hannah! It took me about 30 secs to make in Tom with a lemon oil dressing and most astonishingly Hannah loved it and even went back for seconds.

**  slowly getting them to accept home made yoghurt. It tastes so sour that I must admit I'm still sweetening it a bit with sugar & vanilla for them. But even getting them to eat it at all after rejecting it at the start is good progress. I figure I'll just sneakily reduce the sugar slightly each time I make their bowls until they're used to the taste.

**  the fact they loved the organic corn chips...

I must admit that those chips are definitely delicious and are way tastier than the ones full of additives!!  Chips are such a rare treat in this house but it's nice to have a few foods like that in the cupboard for treats when we have family movie night or when I want to treat Hannah to something special in her school lunch etc...

**  my girls raiding my new herb garden...

Today I talked them through what all the herbs were and upon request gave them a taste of each of them. It all came about because I had picked a bit of mint for me to eat and they wanted to have a taste too. Well one thing led to another and before I knew it they happily sampled them all and were asking for more.
Seriously unbelievable!

Are these really the same two girls that would refuse any food with green bits in before they had even tasted it?! They even asked for more lettuce!
I guess growing the food themselves and fully understanding the food cycle really does play a vital role in getting them to be open to different foods.

So much so that I couldn't believe it, but I actually had to tell them they weren't allowed to pick any more without asking me first - hey just weren't stopping eating them otherwise.
- I really wasn't anticipating this new kind of pest threat to my garden LOL
(Needless to say the stevia plant is the going favourite...)

So good progress overall, but I would't exactly say we were ready to claim full whole food status yet or anything close. Not when chocolate churro's (and chippies & nuggets) have been on the menu in the last few days that's for sure ;)

Maybe I could pretend they are 'vegetables' or something? - they kind of look like carrots don't they? Haha yeah nice try...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More new guests in the kitchen...

On Tuesday afternoon I got the rare chance to pop to the shops for the afternoon without any real agenda. Just to get outside my four walls & see some of the world for a few hours.
So as well as taking some time to get pampered and get my hair done, I also meandered through the shops to see what inspiration I could find for our new whole food diet.

First of all I perused the bookshop for ages. Such bliss to do this at my leisure without any children squawking at me "I'm hungry... I need the toilet... Can we have this one..." etc etc.
I'm afraid that I did not come home empty handed and this new cook book came home with me...

Nobody in my house is actually gluten-free, but there are literally 100s of great whole foods recipes in here and I thought it would be a good resource to expand my use of different flours & legumes etc.

So far it looks like a really great book! The only thing that I don't like about it is that the majority of the baking recipes have xantham gum in. I get why it's there, but I'm not sure I'm happy to introduce that into our diet unnecessarily (since we aren't gluten free) and therefore can't see me using a bunch of the recipes. However, despite that there are loads of other great recipes in there that I can see myself using.
And because we aren't gluten free I figured that for the xantham gum ones (for example the cakes or pastas) I could just use my normal wheat based pastries/batters/breads etc. in those situations.

As well as the new book I also came home with this from Kmart:

That totally broke the bank - it was a whole $12! (lets not get into how they could make it for that price...) I figured this would be a really fun addition to the kitchen and I already know that Hannah will just love it.

And the last new guest to my kitchen is by far the most exciting...

I had a phone call from my Dad (he's the Andrew of the apron - I made that for his Christmas present a few years ago) this morning to ask how we'd feel about having a visitor next week. I knew he was contemplating coming for a visit in October but when he went to check flight prices he worked out that it was only $1 dearer to come next week instead of in October as originally planned.
So he decided to book tickets and arrives this Sunday for two weeks.
Nothing like a short notice surprise visitor to make my day :)

I'm SO excited! He will be here for Abbie's surgery and also her 2nd birthday.
It is a shame my Mum can't make it too, but she is not yet retired like him and they just had a long holiday in Brisbane in May to meet my new niece so she's used her leave.

Oh and why am I calling him a guest to my kitchen?
Well, my Dad is a great home cook and taught me everything I know. He LOVES the kitchen (clearly I did not inherit that gene) and I'm half wondering if he's coming to visit to see Tom not us ;)
I wonder this because literally as soon as I got my Thermomix Dad was emailing me websites & recipes to look at and had looked up all the specs.
So I can imagine Tom will really be put to test in the next few weeks.

I guess we can watch this space & see what masterpieces we'll come up with :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slooooow going...

Last night I got the "luxury" of heading out grocery shopping all by myself.
Wow that so rarely happens in this house!
So I wanted to take the opportunity when it arose, to really take my time and focus on reading the packets of what I was buying. - Without anybody pulling on my arm/leg or tapping their foot!

And wow again...
Was it ever a slooooow job!!
Lucky I did go by myself because my family sure would have been frustrated with my pace!
Although I'm hopeful that once I become familiar with which products to buy that it won't take nearly so long.

I thought I would tell you about what I learned on my journey.
But before I do I should probably explain...
 the food rules I'm trying to now stick to when I buy:

 **  I'm trying to only choose products with 6 or less ingredients.
4 or less is preferable.
And those ingredients should all be ones I recognise.
 (Not ones more applicable to a science experiment)...

**  Trying to buy organic as much as my budget allows.

  **  I'm trying to choose fresh products grown in the state we live in where possible.
(That's one thing that I have to say is very easy in Australia, because they really do encourage the "buy local" mentality here. So it's definitely easier here than in many other places I've lived!)

  **  I'm trying to buy foods which are as unrefined and as close to their "natural" state as possible.
That means avoiding products with added sugar, salt, white flour, white rice etc...

So, what did I learn? 
(apart from that reading every single packet is mind numbingly slow...)

 **  I learnt that despite how much better for me it is, I just could not bring myself to pay sometimes 4 times the price for an organic product. (Like $7.99 for an organic celery verses $1.99 for "normal")
Perhaps I will be able to over time, then again perhaps not.
But for now I've decided to go for a balanced approach of buying organic where our budget allows, and otherwise just buying food with the least additives and most "wholeness".

 **  I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a good selection of organic meat at my local big name supermarket, and at a price not too dissimilar to the "normal" meat. Therefore I was able to stock up on organic beef, chicken & pork without feeling like I was breaking the bank.
I also purchased regular kangaroo steak which we love in this house. It's not marked as organic but I would imagine the likelihood of those being farmed with antibiotics etc.. are pretty slim! (Although it is quite possible my assumption is totally invalid).

 **  That the hardest things on my shopping list to buy without "numbers" in are; table spread, bread & cereals. In fact table spread or bread without numbers just do not seem to exist in the Woolworths hemisphere (at least that I could find!).
In the end for those two items I just went for the lessor of all the evils and chose those with the fewest ingredients & only 1 or so numbers.
- I would have preferred not to have bought them at all, but since those are staple things in our house and especially since my girls are currently refusing to eat home made (or bakery made) bread, then they came home with me for now... Especially since my girls will actually willingly eat wholemeal or multigrain shop bought bread but not even 100% white home made bread. Go figure.
It baffles me but why not, but I will have to consider it a work in progress.

 **  Amazingly I learned that more often than not "homebrand" (our equivalent to a generic no-name brand) were not only the cheapest options but also the ones which were the most "real" and with the least crap added.
That absolutely astonished me! I would have been certain it would be the other way around and the more expensive well known brands would have been less likely to have the added crap.
But apparently not! At least not in all the products I looked at for example cream cheese & bread to name a few.
What a pleasant surprise!

**  And lastly I learned that there are actually some "junk" food options for my treat loving children to be found in the organic whole-foods section, which also weren't all too outrageous in price. For example I purchased some organic dark cooking chocolate (amazingly only $1.99) to make something yummy with as well as some organic cheese-flavoured corn chips ($2.99 for a large packet). Admittedly the latter may have had a few more than 6 ingredients (maybe 8 or so), but on the plus side I knew every one of them, amazingly they were all on my "acceptable" list of foods so they came home with me.
Whether my fussy children actually like these "healthy" alternatives of junk food remains to be seen though LOL...

And that's where we're currently at.
Want to see what AU $140-170ish dollars buys at the supermarket/organic market these days?...
(I can't actually remember exactly how much I spent but it was one of those two numbers LOL)

Most of the expense would have been meat. That is well over a weeks supply of meat for us so our freezer will be well stocked.
If Neil was going to be home I would have had to buy more fresh produce than that, but he flys back to work tomorrow and we still have quite a bit left from last week.

I try and spend around the $150 per week mark excluding nappies, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that my spend hasn't appeared to increase dramatically despite trying to buy organic as much as possible.

Now just to do something with it all...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Planting our garden...

Today Hannah & I planted a {little} garden...

It's a small start, of mostly herbs, but it is a start at least.

We have...
Coriander, Italian flat leafed parsley (we already have the other parsley in our front garden), rosemary, mint, fennel, chives, rocket, oregano, stevia, a variety of lettuce & cauliflowers.

We purchased a selection of some organic & some standard herbs in pots to plant. Typically the organic ones were twice the price, however, they were also at least twice the size so I felt a bit justified in the extra expense.

The vegetables especially are all planted a bit too close together for now & will probably need re potting at some point in the future, but that's assuming I can even keep them alive in the first place.
I have such a black thumb, so if we work on a 50% hit rate (which to be honest is optimistic) then we should be right ;)

I'll keep you posted on their survival rate...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Digesting' the week...

I'm still here!
It's just been a bit of the week from hell really, so no time for blogging. But surprisingly our "new start natural" has actually been going very well overall, despite the fact that time at home has been limited.

I say overall because at one stage we ended up having takeaways (McDonalds, Red Rooster & hospital cafeteria food) for 3 meals in a row as we trekked back & forth between hospitals, but considering the circumstances it could have been worse.

This week we've been continuing to "play" with our new toy Tom and make things I never ever would have had the notion to make before.
For example...

Butter (& Butter Milk):

Sooooo quick & easy to make with the thermomix, but I have to admit that unless cream was on special then this is not a cost saving. For that reason I can't see me making this regularly.

Almond Milk:

I had high hopes for this helping me find something to replace milk now that I've gone off dairy again... but what can I say, dairy-free milks just don't do it for me. However it is good in things like porridge etc... because it tastes better than if they were made with water.

Yoghurt & Cherry Sauce:

Again yoghurt was super easy to make with the thermomix. Although unlike butter I'll definitely be making this again!
My first batch came out with a bit of a weird texture but it still tasted great and I suspect it was the milk powder I used. I realised after I used it that it had 2 additives in it and I'm picking that they messed with the end result. Next time I won't bother with milk powder to thicken & will see how it works without it.

Copious amounts of baking:

I'm finding that if I commit to spend a solid hour and a half or so in the kitchen then I can usually pump out at least 4 baked items. And the best thing is that the mess is sooooo minimal!
The freezer is now well stocked with healthy whole food snacks for Hannah's school lunches. Score.

Most things have been a roaring success and the girls have liked them. With the exception of the breads that is. I just can not get my girls, particularly Hannah, to eat home made bread to save my life!
Hopefully it's one of those things which the more I expose her to it the closer she'll get to accepting it. But for now it looks like that's the one sticking point in my plan to make our own baked goods.

I've also make a good number of dinners in the thermomix as well.
On Friday night I made bolognaise sauce in the thermomix by first grinding steak & bacon down to make mince. It literally took 3 presses of the turbo button & there I had my mince and it was seriously the most delicious bolognaise ever. Even Neil said so & both girls gobbled it up.
I have to see if I can recreate that one and write down the recipe because it was well worth making again! Especially as it had lots of hidden veges in ;)

And that is where I'm up to.

Probably the most surprising thing this week about our experience with the thermomix has been Neil's response since he got home. He waited patiently for me to show him how it worked for the first 4 days, but there just wasn't the opportunity (that was the period of takeaways and more takeaways since we were up in the city at the hospital). Finally I gave him a brief demo of what all the features did by using it to reheat & blend up some left over soup that a friend had made us.
He was super impressed and very intrigued.
But that's not the impressive part -
The next morning he got up to the girls and gave me a sleep in. When I got up at 8.30am he had used the thermomix to make everybody porridge for breakfast.!
Then today he used it yet again to make me boiled eggs for breakfast.

So I reckon on that grounds alone it has been well worth the money. Because it if can get my husband into the kitchen then it must be quite some machine ;)

Back soon...