Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week 26 - All things Maple & Walnut!!!!

OK, 2 of my favourite things at the moment are Maple Syrup and Walnuts, so I thought I'd do some recipes that higlight their MAGNIFICENCE!  The beauty of Pure Maple Syrup (not to be confused with Maple Flavoured Syrup - which is just sugar water & of no benefit whatsoever) is that it is a naturally occuring sugar (the sap from maple trees) that is not altered or processed in any way (however it is not considered raw as the sap is boiled to evaporate off the water & leave behind the maple sugar)- meaning the body can digest it easier and it has a lower GI (than cane sugar & honey) so that it does not give your body as fast a sugar rush.  It contains essential fatty acids, zinc & manganese which are known for their antioxidant powers, and for boosting immunity and protecting your heart.  It is a lot sweeter than sugar so, you can use it as an alternative to sugar, and use less, which is a good thing, as sugar has absolutely NO nutritional value and also because maple syrup is expensive! 

Walnuts are similar in that they also contain omega 3 fatty acids & plenty of manganese too - once again a very good anti-inflammatory, and helpful in protecting you from heart disease and high blood pressure.  The trick of the ole walnut is, however, that once toasted, a lot of it's benefit is lost.  Most of my recipes call for the walnuts to be toasted, and I do try to only do it lightly so that not all the goodness is killed.  More importantly, tho, once you have a taste for them, you'll find it very easy to snack on a few raw ones a day, or grind up a few to sprinkle on your salad - it really takes it to another level.

My favourite salad ever:  Rocket, Pear, Parmesan & honeyed Walnut Salad   

Roughly chop a bag of big leaf rocket, and slice a firm pear (or Nashi) into thin slivers, and dress them in 2 tbsp of lemon juice so they don't go brown.  Using a vege peeler, create shards of parmesan to cover the rocket.  Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil.  In a saucepan lightly toast 1/2 cup of halved walnuts, add 2 tbsp of raw honey and coat walnuts.  Turn off heat and let cool.  Using a fork, fish out the walnuts and stud the top of the salad with them.  Place pear on top, season with S & P, and give a very gentle toss, making sure there is enough oil and lemon juice to dress the salad.  Eat and Enjoy!

The next 2 recipes have been slightly adapted from the latest Donna Hay magazine which does a mouth-watering feature on maple Syrup:

Maple and Date Syrup Cake

1 cup fresh pitted dates, chopped (I used dried)
1/2 cup chopped sultanas (I used dried pears, I think you could use any other dried fruit, sultanas are just one of the sweetest)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water

Place these ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit for 10 mins.  Using a hand-held blender, blend the mix till smooth.

1 1/2 cups S R Flour (I used 1 cup gf sr flour & 1/2 cup almond flour wtih 1/2 tsp bak soda - def think you could do 1/2 and 1/2 with this recipe)
3/4 cup brown sugar ( I used 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar and then doubled amount of maple syrup)
150g butter melted
2 tbsp maple syrup (I used 4 tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Mix dry ingredients and then all other ingredients and mix well to combine.  Pour into greased 20cm round tin and bake for 50 mins till cook (test with a skewer).  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins then turn out to cool completely.

At the end of the recipe it says to boil down 2 cups of maple syrup till thick to pour over top, but maple syrup is WAY too expensive to do that for 1 cake so all I did was poke holes all over the cake (with the skewer) while it was still hot, and drizzled more maple syrup over the top so it soaked into the cake and made it amazingly moist and very more-ish.  I served it with a ribbon of cream and some toasted chopped walnuts - mmmmmmmmmmmmmm........ def a kiddy favourite.

And now for something a little different but equally as delicious:

Speck & Maple Beans

Place 1 tbsp vege oil, 200g speck trimmed and chopped ( I used nitrite-free bacon), and 1 chopped brown onion and cook for 1-2 mins till golden and tender.

Add:  1 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp worcestshire sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup beef stock (I used home-made chook stock)
1 cup tomato puree
1 & 240g can each of butter beans, cannellini beans, borlotti beans & kidney beans (rinsed and drained) - good way to get rid of the backlog of cans in yr pantry!
S & P

Stir till well-combined.  Cover with tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 mins or until thickened.  Yummy, and perfect for winter's night vegetarian dish on it's own, or as a side to some grilled meat or with some toasted sourdough.  It's quite hard to find baked beans in the supermarket that are actually genuinely nutritious (without sugar & additives) and this is just so much more flavourful then any tin!

OK, and some more sweet delights:  Simple Baklava  (thanks to Giada de Laurentiis)

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chopped apricots
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I just used almond meal!)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch salt

Process all of the above ingredients till fine crumbs.  Empty into a little bowl and add 4 tbsp honey & mix in.  Melt 125g butter and then start brushing 12 sheets of filo pastry individually, and divide into 2 stacks of 6 sheets.  Slice each stack into 12 squares (3 down, 4 across).  Place each square into the bottom of a greased muffin mould (on a muffin tray).  Place tablespoonfuls of the nut mixture into each pastry and then fold over the rest of the pastry to form a little sachet.  Brush with a little extra butter on top and bake in mod oven for 20 - 25 mins till golden and crispy.  

This is an amazingly simple baklava and a fab crunchy sweet.  Yes, it has pastry and I have not investigated a gf solution but this is a nice little sugar-free treat.  And my philosophy with baking is - if you've made too much for one day (as in there is a chance you will go overboard gutzing them all down yourself), then make sure you bestow a few on a friend as a little treat.  I am blessed with a lovely friend who loves baklava, so I made sure I made some the day before I saw her so after I had my two, I passed the rest on!

And for a very easy nutty sweet cake there's Flourless Maple Walnut Cake.

Grease and line the base of a 9 inch cake pan.  Preheat oven to 180C. 

Toast 1 1/2 cups of walnuts and process till fine meal.  Separate 4 large eggs and mix egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1/2 baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Add walnuts and beat on low till combined.  Whip egg whites till doubled in size but not stiff.  Gently fold into nut mix until just combined; and pour into cake pan.  Bake for 25 - 30 mins till skewer comes out of cake clean.  Drizzle a little extra maple syrup over top if you want.

And there ends this delicious foray!  Wish I'd taken a few more photos to show you how great they were but you'll know how great they are when you cook them YOURSELVES! 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

6 months on - Where I'm at!

I suddenly realised that it must be close to 6 months when I was writing Week 25.......where did all that time go?  It gave me a sudden urge to look back on the beginning of this "adventure" and see how far I'd come, and whether I was fulfilling my motives for starting on this journey in the first place. 

So, in 6 months what have I achieved????

1  I have lost 14kgs!  yay!  It was tough at times, esp when at 10kgs, everything stalled for almost a month.  However, I am finding I am probably averaging a kilo a fortnight, which is just perfect thank you.

2  I have built up a lot of muscle and core strength thru my thrice-weekly PT sessions at the gym.  I know my body looks heaps better and I'm really pumped that I continue to really enjoy boxing and training.  Most of the credit has to go to my PT as she comes up with new strategies, new forms of torture and then has to bear the brunt of my displeasure at being made to suffer.....

3  I have lost ALL my physical symptoms of fibromyalgia - no pain in my ankles, wrists, fingers, toes, or other joints!  It is truly hard to believe that I suffered this agony daily, with no hope in sight.  (Thank you God)

4  I'm not nearly as exhausted and fatigued as what I once was;  I have more energy and other than just normal physical tiredness from gym, I feel great, and am able to easily get up at 5 am on my gym mornings.

5  I've been gradually exchanging all my body products to organic or "safe" ones - I'm using Neways bodywash, mouthwash, toothpaste and facial moisturiser, have found some good Organic Care shampoo & conditioner, and am using a combination of A'kin, and Trilogy organic products for the rest of my facial care.  That has been really difficult, as my skin and scalp always rebel with any changes made - I have had on & off dandruff issues and acne break-outs as my body not only gets used to a new diet but a new cleaning regime as well.  As someone said to me - "these new "healthy" products have to work its way thru all the chemical layers you've piled onto your skin & scalp to be able to begin to nourish and feed your body again" - it does make sense.

6  I have a daily supplement regime too - While trying to stick to a candida diet as much as possible (except for that addictive maple syrup) for the last 6 months, I took a full course of Natren's Natrabifidus powder and then the Natradophilus powder - to clean out any icky yeast or fungi.  I also take a good dose of Vit C powder as your body loses so much of that through stress, which is the number one reason of yr immunity suffering and resulting in yr getting sick.  I also have a great mineral supplement from Neways called Feroxin, which gives me a boost of all those important trace elements that we never get enough of in our daily diet.  These are all mixed into a small glass of organic juice that I have each morning.  Throughout the day I will sometimes use some organic flaxseed oil, coconut oil, wheatgrass, or alfalfa as an addition to smoothees or salads.  The multitude of supplements you can take is breathtaking but it is so up to the individual what they can or want to take.  (Oh, and I also have homeopathic oral sprays that boost immunity, help the hormones & to help the liver function well - as you may have noticed, easy for me to forget too!)

7  DIET - *I have cut my coffee consumption (80% of the time) to 1 cup a day.  My other hot beverage of choice at the moment is Tulsi honey chamomile tea.  I occasionally will have a normal cup of black tea or moroccan tea (green & mint), but I really try to stick to caffeine-free teas such as peppermint & pomegranate & my honey chamomile.....mmmmm. 
                 *My main liquid intake is water - and lots of it.  I try as much as possible to have this with lemon juice as it is such a great cleanser and alkiliser - do not underestimate the power of doing this one small thing!
                 *I am still grain-free as much as possible.  I avoid rice, pasta, bread, flours, pastry, crackers, etc - anything grain-based basically.  I really believe in nutrient-dense food, rather than artificial fillers.  I would much rather imbibe in hi-caloric, nutritious whole food, then settle for stodgy, gut-fillers that may have less calories but have little nutritional benefit.  Instead I use nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, and coconut) and seeds (buckwheat, and quinoa are my favourites) and this has opened up a whole new world for me that I love.  Nuts are especially known for having a higher fat content (esp coconut) BUT these are little packets of perfect nutrition with their health benefits far outweighing anything else.  But like anything in our food world - gluttony is a sin, there is no reason to gorge on any of these things! 
                 *I am loving RAW food - raw food is alive and FULL of very beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals that haven't been cooked out.  I believe eating veges cooked can be healthy but I believe eating veges raw can be healing!  I thought I would get sick of eating salads pretty quick but I have discovered so many awesome combinations that I still enjoy doing that as much as possible.  I've also experimented with a lot of smoothees and sweets too, and have bought a dehydrator so I can experiment more with keeping things as close to their natural state as possible.  I really try to focus on a 50% raw diet, with mainly salads for lunch and snacks that vary all the time as I do like a raw, vegan choc crackle, but still also enjoy a baked grain-free, sugar-free muffin too! 
                 *My idea of sweet has changed a lot, I do not crave it most of the time but I still treat myself with "healthy" goodies as it's one of life's pleasures but I rarely ever touch refined sugar.  My natural sweetener choices are maple syrup, honey, agave, and coconut palm sugar.  I can use these as substitutes in almost any recipe.
                 *I have cut my dairy intake a lot as well. I admit my skim milk is of no nutritional benefit whatsoever - if I want calcium I eat more almonds, or more green veg - a much better way of acquiring it!  My smoothees are either made with filtered water or coconut water.  I still put organic full cream milk in the kids' but I always take out my portion first before I add the milk.  I rarely eat yoghurt but I am known to imbibe in cream as a treat - mmmmmm - and I do love my cheese, a weakness that will prob never leave me.  I use plenty of butter in cooking but my spread of choice will always be avocado!  I use to hate those buckwheat crispbread I bought and now, I cannot get enough of them:  loaded with avo, lettuce, tomato, grated carrot and a sprinkle of cheese - delicious!  It's so funny how your tastes change as you get used to eating more whole and wholesome food!

Just some of my collection of nuts and seeds

9  I am so not perfect and I still make plenty of MISTAKES!  Some days I still crave bread, esp when I bring in a warm, fresh loaf that has that magical sweet heavenly smell.  Sometimes I will eat 4 pieces in a row spread with soft butter and sugar free jam - oh, it is delightful, and altho I don't feel the best afterwards, I will feed that need and then move on.  This happens occasionally, and I'll wear that. I don't care for choc so much but some nights after the kids are in bed, I will make up a choc sauce (70% dk choc and cream) and pour it over sliced banana and guzzle it up.  BUT I don't do that every day, and it could be a lot worse, so once again I won't beat myself up about it.  (This is still pretty good on a Whole Foods scale - but not such a great thing to do last thing at night.

10 Learning properly about my body's digestion was also a major turning point.  As the mornings are the time that our bodies are trying to eliminate the useless stuff, it is important not to overstress our digestion by scoffing down HUGE breakfasts that essentially stops up our systems and can cause a lot of fermentation. (The only exception being fruit as this is digested super fast so does not slow things down too much - so you are welcome to eat as much as you want.)  This goes against the grain of everything we are taught about having a good breaky to start the day, but I've learnt too much about this all to ignore what works extremely well for me.  I now fast for the morning, have a big lunch, snack through the afternoon (when our bodies are primed for taking in food) and try to finish eating at night a good few hours before bed so my body is primed for investing a lot of energy into utilizing all the nutrients I've taken in.

This is what works for me!  I do not expect anyone else to agree with my ideas 100% as we are all individuals and what works for me, may not work for you.  But hey! if you need somewhere to start this may be a good place.  I am sooooooo thankful for the people who have supported me so much in this journey so far, especially my family and my lovely sisters.  I want to know I am showing my kids how important it is for food to nourish you, not to make you sick and how excercise needs to be a part of our day-to-day activity.  I want to continue learning and not pretend I know all there is to know.  One of these days I may list some of the awesome books I have read which have really helped me - especially by Phillip Day, Eric Schlosser, William Dufty, Barbara Cousins, Gillian Mc Keith and the DVDs like Food Matters, Simply Raw and Food Inc. 

But, most of all I am still learning that physical discipline is great to do, but spiritual discipline is of even more importance.  I would never have come this far without the constant amazing graciousness of God - who holds me, comforts me and reminds me that preparing for our eternity and storing up things for Heaven, is of a higher priority than being consumed constantly with earthly worries, problems, and vanities.  I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit so I will continue to strive to give Him the healthiest & holiest place to abide - however, whenever those old doubts, lies, and stresses, start to weigh me down - I set my eyes on Jesus - my Saviour who has lifted me out of the miry clay, and set me on a safe and secure Rock.  All thanks go to Him!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 24 - 3 day juice fast

Well, I'm glad that's over but never underestimate the value of a disciplined time of restricting food intake and cleaning out yr body a bit.  I had to keep reminding myself to "get over it, food is not everything!" but that's not to say there wasn't still a little cheating.  And do you know why - HABIT!  I didn't actually search out food when I was hungry, it was just natural to pick at something when I was cooking, and when I was baking.  I wasn't even THINKING, I just did it - and then I kicked myself.  DOH! 


Started last night (Saturday) as I just feel so bloated and abnormal after getting back from holidays. I didn't feel hungry so decided to officially start my fast then & there.  Drank nice tall glasses of lemon water.  This morning I religiously made my juice and while clenching my fists so tight they cramped, I refused my husband's offer of coffee.  Took the opportunity to explain that I would need a little help in staying strong for the next couple of days, and he readily agreed. 

Off to the markets for inspiration and stocked up on plenty of bananas, avocadoes, pineapple, celery, baby spinach leaves & passionfruit - all to inspire me for nice juices.  Skipped the fresh sourdough and raw vegan treats!  Off to church and happy sucking on my bottle of lemon water.  Home and not really feeling hungry so wasn't hard to make wraps for the family for lunch.  Then off to shops for some delightful distraction.  Was going to treat myself to a juice from a juice bar, but was too busy and didn't feel hungry enough - YAY!  Home to prepare myself for dinner torture but I had decided to cook chicken in tomato sauce with pasta as it's not my fave thing.  Worked a treat, and focussed on my lovely cherry juice/smoothee - banana, frozen cherries, spinach leaves & coconut water.  Worked well!  More water and didn't even need a hot herbal tea to tide me thru the night.  Was a little headachey thru night so took some nurofen, hmmm.... I have a feeling the worse is still to come.....


Woke up feeling rather depressed at knowing there was another day ahead where I could not excitedly plan a day of fabulous food - humph!  And it was gym day - could barely pull myself out of bed, felt very tired which is very unusual for me.  Off to gym and altho the PT went easy on me, it hammered me.  Kept drinking my water but was getting h-ache and feeling light-headed.  Ick, home to lovely shower and panadol. The kids had friends coming round so while I was still feeling satiated from my morning juice (p'apple with vit c & probiotic powder) I got them involved in baking brownies (gf flour & sweetened with maple syrup & coconut palm sugar).  I have to be in the mood to enjoy brownies but when they came out of the oven, they were so gooey and heavenly - AAAAAHHHHHHHH, it was hard, but I sucked back a small bottle of coconut water & blood orange juice, and just handed them all out to be eaten:  RESULT - none leftover to be tempted by.  Chatted all morning on the couch with a friend and sipped on a honey and chamomile tea. 

Okay, so now it was lunch time and was really struggling to keep my mind off FOOD, really hard.  Pulled out cruskits and made them up with avo, vegemite and grated cheese for the kids.  Mmmmm..... cheese ........ cleaned up the scraps on the chopping board (in my mouth) and then got the kids into bed for naps before lying down with another headache - *sigh*. Babysitter over so popped out to Mrs Flannerys to stock up on other groceries.  Water in arvo, and a couple of soy crisps.  *Stop thinking about food, stop thinking about food.*  The 2nd day really SUCKS!  Sister over in arvo to stay night so in preparation for making dinner, I set about creating a delectable juice with the flesh of an orange, a peeled apple, a lemonade lemon, some filtered water and 2 passionfruit.  Very refreshing and sipped it down before and after tea.  Made mini meatballs out of some organic beef sausages with potato mash and honey carrots, and just popped some meatballs in as they cooked - I had to check they tasted OK, and I didn't even blink till later - another DOH!  Lemon water rest of night.


The end is in sight.  Some friends were coming for dinner that night so was going to end my fast by then.  It was easier to refuse the coffee this morning - a small victory!  Juice in morning again and started on preparing dinner - Apricot Chicken, smelt heavenly and did do a purposeful taste test before putting it in fridge till later.  Then there was choc oat cookies that Wendy made with kids - yes, a taste-test ....... and then the apple crumble ....... no taste-test but was starting to think - what's the diff, I should just finish the fast now and be done with it, no matter.  Nah, the guilt wasn't worth it, I decide to just keep suffering it out, as cheating as I was.  Another headache again - more coffee withdrawal??  Off to pathology then with Bailey and glad to be out of house at lunch time.  Then, some more lovely distracting shopping - nope, I will not have a coffee, I will just finish my water - *smile*.  Another small victory. 

Home, and those blasted cookies!  *sigh* oh, well!  Nearly did it.  A small portion for dinner but really enjoyed that apple crumble after.  And that's that! 

I know the initial reaction from most people is "why bother, why make life harder than it has to be?"  I really believe that fasting can be a great discipline of "refusing your fleshly desires" - sounds corny but in a lot of life we really need the whole "mind over matter"  philosophy to succeed in not being tempted to do things we know aren't good for us.  And this is a great excercise in that.  However, my thinking went a bit further in that I was trying to put the focus on food further back in my mind, and bring to the forefront more important things like my relationship with my kids, and my relationship with God.  I know it doesn't make sense as fasting seems to make you think about food MORE, but there are moments of clarity when you realise how freeing it is NOT to have to plan your food, not to have to waste time eating, but can focus on something else instead.  It also helps to know that you don't need that much food to get through life - it can change your perception on how food-needy you are.

Sounds like I got a lot out of a measly 3 days, hey?  This isn't the first time I've fasted and I have actually fasted for 3 days before so I have learnt a few things along the way.  At the end of the fast I really was determined to start a regular 1 day a wk fast again.  I initially did this when Bailey started at speech therapy, it was my way of focussing on praying for what was to come for him, and be really centred on Christ holding us up at a time when it was tough knowing how our boy was going to go with all this knew learning.  It really was a blessing, and I miss that feeling of closer connection when sacrificing pleasurable things to be more centred on Him.

This was not a very spiritual fast - with school hols and keeping kids occupied etc I didn't get to spend much time in prayer as I hoped but there were moments of clarity and seeking God, and I did have a break through in that I got the chance to go into a kindy and talk over the possibility of Bailey starting there - very, very satisfying and a huge answer to prayer in providing me comfort in the next step I am to take with him.  Thank you God! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 23 - Glorious Fraser Island!

Well, I'm back!  What an awesome holiday, I cannot explain how great it was to be buried in the middle of an island wilderness for a week and enjoy all of God's amazing creation!  The sky, the water, the trees, the wildlife (whales, manta rays, fish, dingoes, birds, turtles), the friends, the fabulous food, the amazing sunsets and seeing my hubby and kids sooooo happy.  Just priceless!

And even tho I happily enjoyed myself while away, it was with a great deal of relief I got home to discover I had maintained my weight.  I didn't do any "purposeful" excercise throughout the whole week, but  there was plenty of walking, climbing sand dunes (awesome calf work-out) and just constant activity;  so I didn't feel like I had taken it too easy.  There were a few glasses of wine throughout the stay, and way too much coffee, and some other special treats - like beer-battered freshly caught fish, pancakes with bacon & maple syrup, and LOTS of sausages - but all nicely balanced with lots of salads, some fruit smoothees and lots of good wholesome meals, thanks to all the pre-prep!  I must include this amazing recipe that my friend cooked for us while we were away - a few things in it that I don't ususally imbibe in (due to Candida rules), but overall - very healthy!


150ml white wine
100ml soy sauce
100ml mirin
100ml water
2 cm fresh ginger peeled & grated 

Simmer all the above ingreds for 2 - 3 mins and then add in 1 white onion finely sliced and simmer for 5 mins till onion is soft.  Add 500g rump steak very finely sliced or shredded and let simmer a further 1 - 2 mins till just cooked.

To serve, layer baby spinach leaves around your bowl, top with some steamed rice and then ladle over some of the beef broth.  Can be garnished with chopped cherry tomatoes or cucumber, sliced avocado, or grated carrot.  Finish off with some pickled ginger and a drizzle of japanese mayo. 

It was so delicious and utterly filling!  The hubby absolutely loved it too.

I got pretty sick just before we left - yep, sure sign of stress.  Got a cold and have had an awful week of interrupted sleep thanks to the coughing and congestion.  During the day wasn't so bad, so could have a rest occasionally which is not usually possible when not on holidays.  Am still feeling a little foggy and sniffly now I'm back, but I suspect it will gradually disappear.  The other thing I noticed when I got sick was that I broke out in pimples - eeek!  I don't know whether this was the way my body was coping with trying to get rid of the toxins, but it was awful.  I am so not used to it and it took all week to heal up again.  I am sure there may have been other contributing factors too.  I have been drinking a lot of coconut water and smoothees lately, and I reckon my body could be adjusting to that too.  It is such a delicious and nutritious drink, and I really prefer using it in my smoothees instead of milk.

Anyway, I am currently on my juice fast, I started on Sat night and will hopefully go till Tues night (when we have people coming for dinner!) so will blog about it as I go.  See you all!