Creamy mushrooms and zucchini side dish

IMG_1376Who doesn’t like creamy mushrooms? My kids love them so much that I thought that this would be a great way to disguise green veggies that kids otherwise struggle to eat. Zucchinis being the case in point. This side dish is super simple to make with only a few ingredients. Tonight I served this with roasted lamb shanks but it would also make a great weekend brekky served with eggs and avocado. My kids ate the whole serving of this and asked for more.

Ingredients:

1 punnet (150g) mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini (or other greens of choice eg spinach), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cream (I like the thick mud cream)
unrefined salt
cracked pepper

Directions:

Melt butter in frying pan. Add mushrooms and zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat stirring occasionally until veggies are cooked through and soft. Stir through the cream and gently heat covered for a few minutes before serving (do not allow cream to boil).

Variations:

  • omit greens entirely if you want unadulterated creamy mushrooms.
  • add a splash of white wine after adding in mushrooms for extra flavour and oomph!
  • add a sprinkle of fresh or dried thyme after adding in mushrooms for extra seasoning.

 

 

 

“So How Was School Today?”

Kid_drawingI recently read this article from my son’s school newsletter and thought I would share it. It is written by the Assistant Head of Junior Preparatory Years 2 – 4 of The Scots College and the idea behind it is to ask more specific questions about your child’s school day rather than simply, “How was school today?” which often results in a response of “good” and not much more.  

25 Ways to Ask Your Kids “So How Was School Today?”

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?) [I often play this game of highs and lows with my kids: What was your high today? What was your low?]

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favourite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

You can see how these may be useful in opening up more meaningful dialogue between yourself and your child. I’m going to give them a try to curb groundhog dog questions and answers. Hey, with a bit of modification, what not try some out on your partner?!? Could provide for some humorous or creative responses…

OMEIO – the latest new online organic deli for Sydney-siders

star_anise-omeio-high_resOmeio is Sydney’s newest online store that provides fine, organic, artisan food delivered to your door.  It was founded by a gorgeous young couple with Greek background- Niko and Klara- both passionate about organic products and wholesome foods.  Klara’s background is in psychology and she works as a bilingual counsellor with migrant communities. Niko currently works as a chef in an organic restaurant in Surry Hills.  

Following a two year venture sourcing the finest organic products, they have just launched this week their online deli which offers a unique shopping experience to all Sydney siders. 

What sets Omeio  apart from all other on-line stores is that they have chosen, and work exclusively with, ONE artisan for each product category in order to limit the choice to only the highest quality goods.  They have chosen to stock my activated nuts, muesli, chocolate, power bars, and date coconut balls. Ovvio Organic spices were chosen for the spice category, Pepe Saya for the dairy category,  Miellerie from Tassie for honey and The Big Marquee for coffee. All the food items available on their online store are handpicked, handmade and packaged by the artisans themselves.  I am also impressed by their range of local and International print books and magazines on offer including Gather, Modern Farmer and Kinfolk. 

They are currently offering free delivery to the entire Sydney metro area until Thursday 11th September

You might be interested to know that the name Omeio comes from the Greek word “Ομειος”, which means the same or similar. It represents the idea that all we need to be healthy can be found in nature, and the more similar our lifestyle and diet are to the elements we can find in nature, the better our lives will be. 

Check them out here and happy online shopping!Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.14.12 pmScreen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.28.46 pm Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.29.00 pmScreen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.29.18 pm

My interview with A Wholefood Lover’s Guide to Sydney

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.21.03 pm“A Wholefood Lover’s Guide to Sydney” is a new online guide to living a wholefoods lifestyle in Sydney. It’s basically the who’s who, the what’s what and the what’s on of the Sydney wholefoods movement. It was founded by writer and public relations consultant Ilona Marchetta in July this year. Ilona has made it her mission to bring you the latest and most trusted information about the people, places and products on Sydney’s wholefoods scene. I think the online guide is shaping up to be a wonderful resource for Sydney-siders and those visiting Sydney.

I was recently interviewed by Ilona about my wholefoods journey and lifestyle, my greatest influencers, and the ins and outs of my day.  Check out the interview and the online guide here.

Is soy good for us?

img-soy-products-3I was recently asked to write a piece about soy products for a publication and thought that I would share my views on soy with my followers on this blog.

The consumption of soy products has grown in popularity in Western societies in recent decades on the notion that soy is a healthy food. After all soy is eaten in numerous countries in Asia without ill effect. And I too jumped on the soy bandwagon in my 20s consuming soy milk instead of cows milk (and scouting out every other soy product under the sun). I still see a lot of clients in my nutritional practice who come to me initially consuming soy milk.

Here’s the thing: traditional Asian societies only ever ate soy beans (which are technically a legume) that were very long fermented (i.e. for numerous days or weeks) eg miso, natto, tempeh, soy sauce or tamari (which is wheat-free soy sauce). This is because soy beans contain extremely high levels of  phytates which wreak havoc on the body including creating nutritional deficiencies, gut permeability (leaky gut) and inhibiting certain digestive enzymes. Traditional societies discovered that only through a process of very long fermentation can the toxic levels of phytates in soy beans be reduced making soy beans more digestible. Small infrequent consumption of these traditionally long fermented soy bean products is ok for the average person who is not suffering from any digestive issues. However, eating large amounts of unfermented soybeans on a regular basis is not a good idea (eg soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, tofu, edamame, soy flour).

Beyond the issue of phytates, soy has additional problems. Soy beans also contain phytoestrogens which adversely affect hormones and can lead to reproductive issues such as infertility.  A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that consuming just 1 cup per day of soy milk decreased  sperm count, especially in men who were overweight or obese. Other studies found that phytoestrogens in soy may adversely effect male reproductive hormones and sperm capacitation (an important process sperm must go through after being ejeculated into the female reproductive tract). Soy phytoestrogens also have potentially harmful effects on women. A large review of 47 studies found that soy phytoestrogens reduced levels of LH and FSH, 2 hormones essential to fertility and reproductive health, and increased menstrual cycle length (source: Chris Kresser). I don’t think it is coincidental that I see many vegetarian yoga practitioners who eat large amounts of tofu in their diet and are unable to fall pregnant.  Studies show that fermenting soy decreases but does not completely eliminate phytoestrogens.

The research on soy is not however clear-cut. Some studies (like the ones mentioned above) show harm, while others show no harm. On this basis I take a highly precautionary approach. Given that soy is not essential to health, is not nutrient-dense, contains extremely high levels of phytates and that soy phytoestrogens may cause reproductive and endocrine problems, I would recommend avoiding unfermented soy entirely and only consume long-fermented soy products in small infrequent amounts. The table below sets out a quick summary.

 

 

 

 

Running another gluten-free cakes and muffins workshop on Sunday 21th Sept, 9am – 1pm (ish) 

For those who couldn’t make it or missed out for spot in this coming Sunday workshop I will be running a second class on Sunday 21 September. IMG_8320

We will be covering how to make the following cakes and muffins using my 7 (yes 7!) favourite gluten-free flour substitutes (some may surprise you!):

(a) Greek almond coconut cake with orange syrup
(b) all-raw cheese cake
(c) frozen raspberry coconut cake
(d) banana berry buckwheat muffins
(e) chocolate cake
(f) coconut cake
(g) ‘Flaounes’ (Cypriot cheese and sultana savoury muffins)
(h) moist white sweet potato cinnamon tea cake

IMG_8520Cost is $120 per person and includes:

  • theory discussion on grains, gluten, gluten substitutes and sweeteners
  • detailed handout including theory and recipes
  • practical demonstrations
  • hands-on experience
  • food tasting
  • opportunity to ask questions and buy left over cakes and muffins!

This workshop is ideal for:IMG_6875

  • those who are gluten-free or wish have more gluten-free options (note that 3 of the recipes contain dairy)
  • cake and muffin lovers who want to learn how to make their own healthy versions using only unprocessed, nutrient-dense ingredients
  • people who want to transition off processed sweets and want a healthy substitute for themselves or their family members
  • parents looking for inspiration as to what healthy sweet/savoury ideas to include in kids’ lunchboxes or for birthday parties or any occasion
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IMG_0246Where: 23 Kent Street, Waverley, 2024.
 When: Sunday 21 Sept 9am – 1pm ish
Spaces limited to 10. Spots typically book out within 24 hours so get in quick! If class is fully book up I will run a third class in subsequent weeks.
 
RSVP:  To secure your spot  you will need to:
1. text me on 0407 871 884 to confirm that there are spaces available. Spots can only be reserved for 24 hours; and
2. transfer $120 (referencing your name and ‘cakes’) into this bank account:
Account name: star anise organic wholefoods (aust) pty ltd
BSB: 062 000
Account no: 15110110
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Please feel free to forward to any friends or family members.

Cancellation policy: once funds are deposited into my bank account they are non-refundable but can be transferred to another cooking class/workshop upon 48 hours notice.michIMG_1945

A tribute to the most important people in the world: our farmers!

IMG_0521Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hanging out with and engaged in riveting conversation with Rob Lennon from Gundooee Organics and Mark Hopkinson from Emerald Hill Beef. These farmers came to Kingsleys Meats butcher for an open day of meet and greet and BBQ sizzle. It was a terrific opportunity to connect with the people who rear our meat and to ask them questions and learn more about the source and provenance of the foods we eat.

Rob Lennon is Australia’s version of America’s Joel Salatin. He has a brain the size of a planet and I always feel humbled in his presence with his wealth of knowledge. Rob farms premium organic wagyu beef in a manner that I would call the high water mark of Australia’s beef farming practices. His farm (Central West NSW, about 5 hours from Sydney) is Australian certified organic and his wagyu beef is supplied to numerous butchers and providores around the country (listed on his website) plus a couple of restaurants (eg Agape Organic Restaurant) .

Here are just some of the things that we talked about that you might be interested in learning:IMG_0523

  • Rob talks a lot about the importance of biodiversity of the microflora in the soil. Understanding and building healthy, balanced soils is the greatest priority on his farm. The nutrients in the soil end up in our bones and body, so everything comes back to the health of the soil.
  • Rob’s cattle graze on predominantly “deep rooted native perennial grasses“. This goes beyond the “grass fed and finished” requirement because a “grass” also includes the cereal grasses that produce grains such as wheat, oats, barley, rye etc. THAT I didn’t know! Cereal grasses are grown in a monoculture environment with little top soil.  The high water mark is “deep rooted native perennial grasses” which have access to different soil types which all contribute to supplying a varietal mix of nutrients to the plants, have better access to moisture, are adapted to our specific climate and are well established in the soil giving them resilience and affording permanent soil cover. So not all “grass fed and finished” meats are the same. Deep rooted native perennial grasses are the best, followed by cereal grasses,with grain-fed cows being at the bottom of list (in terms of nutrition, taste, animal ethics and environmental sustainability).
  • IMG_0522Wagyu (breed of cow) is naturally marbled with fat throughout the muscle meat, even though the cows are fed only grass. For most other breeds of cow, if they are grass fed the fat is encased around the perimeter of the muscle meat and not marbled through it. Grain-fed cows produce a heavily marbled effect which the Japanese in particular covet. However Rob’s wagyu is the best of both worlds because it is grass fed and finished AND naturally marbled which when cooked provides that melt in your mouth delicious taste experience.
  • Sometimes the best way to remove weeds is to let them run their course as their very existence provides an environment where they will naturally die out without use of chemicals. You can draw analogies here to the human body.
  • Resting meat after is has been cooked is important to allow the muscle fibres (which have tightened and contracted during cooking) to relax providing a better mouth feel. Resting meat also allows the juices to be reabsorbed providing more juicy tender meat.
  • Cooking meat in one whole piece then cutting it into individual steak sized serves provides for better tasting and less inflammatory meat as less surface area of the meat is exposed to a hot surface.

IMG_0518Thank you Rob and Mark and to all of the farmers out there who raise their livestock with compassion on the most healthy pastures and who are committed to providing the best quality meat through a sustainably functioning farm ecosystem.

What can you do?

  • Support the farmers whose beef is raised on deep rooted native perennial grasses or at the very least cereal grasses (as opposed on grain-fed)
  • Find a butcher who has done this due diligence for you who you trust and who has close relationships with the farmers he buys from
  • Before digging into your meal, take a moment to have a think about where the meat has come from and all of the people and things involved to getting your food from soil to plate. I sometimes play this game this with my kids to get them thinking about how connected we all are, the numerous steps in the chain, and to not take our food for granted.

 

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