Sunday, 28 December 2014

Zucchini, Mint and Goat Cheese Salad

Hello! How was your Christmas? I hope it was wonderful and filled with peace, love and joy through the presence of family, friends and good food.

My Christmas was enjoyable and did involve a few days with my family and friends, for which I am most grateful. We certainly enjoyed a feast for Christmas lunch, and subsequently Christmas dinner, Boxing Day lunch and Boxing Day dinner as we worked our way through all the leftovers! This seemingly endless supply of food was nothing to feel guilty about, as it was a most nutritious and delicious feast. Our menu included ham, smoked salmon, smoked trout, prawns and my five-spiced barbequed pork served alongside roast pumpkin, roast potato and roast capsicum, potato salad, zucchini salad and seasoned carrots and corn. For the highly anticipated dessert, I made Teresa Cutter's Baked Christmas Pudding and my oh my was it deeeeelightful, I would highly recommend!! I also made a Mango and Raspberry Trifle and of course there was a fruit platter which is ubiquitous at all my events! We ate our fill, but everyone commented on how tasty everything was, acknowledging the flavours and textures of the meal rather than simply mindlessly stuffing ourselves silly.

One dish (apart from the pudding!) which was a real hit was my zucchini, mint and goat's cheese salad. Everyone thought it was a most refreshing salad and a versatile way to utilise the often overlooked zucchini. I encourage you to try this salad as it serves as a reminder that a 'salad' is not simply just the old lettuce, tomato, cucumber combination; even your traditional 'cooked' vegetables can be incorporated into salads  to diversify your vegetable and nutrient intake over the warmer months.

Zucchini, Mint and Goat's Cheese Salad 

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as a side salad
2 large zucchini
1 bunch asparagus
20 snow peas
1/4 cup frozen baby peas
150g baby spinach leaves (or Mesclun salad mix)
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons marinated goat's cheese
Half a red onion, diced
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Cracked black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Slice the zucchini into pieces roughly 1cm wide, then cut in half lengthways.
2. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends.
3, Prepare the snow peas by topping and tailing and removing any outer string.
4. Using the boiling water, steam or blanch the zucchini, asparagus, snow peas and baby peas for 3 minutes, then rinse under cold water.
5. Toast the slivered almonds until golden brown, using an oven grill or alternatively in a frypan over a medium heat.
6. Combine the spinach leaves, chopped mint leaves and onion in a large bowl. Add the cooked green vegetables.
7. Add to the greens the lemon juice, crumbled goat's cheese, nuts and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine ans enjoy! 
Minty zucchini salad, a great way to use the abundant greens from the garden!
Nutrition Information per serve (4): Energy 570kj, Protein 8g, Fat 7g, Saturated fat 1.1g, Carbohydrate 6.8g, Fibre 5.3g, Sodium 44g. 
- Em x

Friday, 19 December 2014

Easy 3 Ingredient Christmas Cake

In case you had not yet noticed, I like to cook. I also like to share. Coming together with friends, family, colleagues, anyone, over food is always a most pleasing experience. This week at work, we held our last team meeting for the year. We organised an afternoon tea to celebrate the end of another year and of course, Christmas. We were all to 'bring a plate," which naturally got me racking my brain for something delectable to bring along. I wanted my contribution to be homemade, festive and of course delicious, but as usual it had to be relatively quick and easy to make. When I stumbled across this recipe, I knew right away that I had to make it and share it with my colleagues.

Easy 3 Ingredient Christmas Cake
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2-2.5 hours

1kg dried fruit (I used a combination of sultanas, currants, apricots, dates, cranberries and glace cherries)
750ml black tea
2 cups (300g) self raising flour

1. Place dried fruit in a large glass bowl and pour over black tea. Cover with glad wrap and leave to soak overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 180 C (or 160C fan forced) and line a large baking tin with baking paper.
3. Sift the flour over the combined fruit and tea. Stir well to combine.
4. Transfer the mixture into the lined baking tin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2-2.5 hours, or until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
5. When cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.
6. Cut into pieces and enjoy with a cuppa for a festive treat!

The dried fruit soaking in the black tea 
 The finished product, studded with pecan halves and decorated with Christmas decorations.

- You could make this recipe with any 1kg combination of fruit
- I think this would be nice with the addition of some chopped walnuts or pecans into the mixture
- Adding cinnamon, mixed spice, vanilla essence or cocoa powder would also add another flavour dimension..... I'm sure a dash of brandy or sherry would also do the trick!
- You can apparently also make this cake using 750ml black coffee, iced coffee or chocolate milk instead of the black tea 
 - I'm sure you could experiment with various flours including wholemeal, coconut or spelt flour for an added nutrient boost.

I really like that this cake was so easy to prepare but certainly made a statement when presented! It has an incredibly moist texture too. Even better is that there is no added fats or sugar in this recipe - a real rarity!  

This cake certainly proved to be a hit both at home and at work. It's so easy and I'm sure I'll be making it again for that very reason! Let me know if you make this cake yourself, and please share any interesting variations that you come up with! I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very safe, happy and healthy Christmas. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, reading my recipes and hopefully trying them out as well. Happy Christmas,

- Em x

Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge kidspot for the original recipe for this cake. It's too good not to share!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Cranberry, Seed and Dark Chocolate Cookies.

It's been a really long time since I've posted a blog. Like a really long time. I'm sorry. A lot has happened between posts; I've attended a paediatric feeding conference, a health coaching course, a non-dieting seminar (yes, you read right, a seminar on how to NOT diet!), a holiday to Bali, and a concert. Of course there have also been innumerable sessions in the gym, walks in both the sunshine and rain, afternoons in the garden and evenings in the kitchen.

A most noteworthy evening in the kitchen recently sought to produce some baked goods for a meeting at work the following day. Everyone expects a dietitian to bring something delicious to liven up a work meeting. I didn't really know what I wanted to make - I just wanted it to be ready rather quickly, consist entirely of ingredients already in my possession, be nutritious, and of course, taste delicious. And so these cranberry, seed and dark chocolate cookies came into fruition.

Cranberry, Seed and Dark Chocolate Cookies 
Makes 24
Cooking time: about 15 minutes (17 minutes in my oven to be exact; individual ovens may vary).

1/2 cup self-raising flour 
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons hulled tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
60g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85% cocoa)

1. Pre heat oven to 180C (170 C for fan forced). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
2. Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the oats, sugar, seeds, sultanas, cranberries, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until combined.
3. Add the tahini, coconut oil, honey and egg and stir well.
4. Take teaspoon-fuls of the mixture and roll into balls. Place onto trays roughly 3cm apart to allow for spreading.
5. Using the back of a fork, slightly flatten the balls. Top with small pieces of the dark chocolate.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden and dark chocolate is melted. Enjoy!!

Notes - you could also add dark chocolate into the biscuit mixture rather than only on top - I think this would be very delicious! You can also vary the fruit included in this recipe; dried goji berries, blueberries, figs, dates and apricots would surely be just as tasty. And finally, you could also vary the seeds or add some nuts; I imagine chopped pecans, walnuts, or macadamias would be a scrumptious addition here.

 Cranberry, seed and dark chocolate cookies warm and fresh from the oven.... I couldn't resist!! 

- Em xx

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunshine Muffins

I'm a creature of habit and I like routine. My Saturday morning routine may seem a little mundane but it is actually something I enjoy immensely; A class at the gym, a visit to the fruit and veg market, cleaning the house (...with some good tunes pumpin!) and a fridge cleanout and subsequent cookup. Just recently, this routine has stretched to include baking muffins, thereby rekindling my passion and love for baking scrumptious things. It's so satisfying to fill the house with that "freshly baked" aroma and to have some homemade delicacies to take as an offering when visiting family in the afternoons. Simple pleasures.

Thanks to a lemon tree laden with fruit, lemon and poppyseed muffins have featured in my kitchen for the past 3 weeks. Whilst the lemony goodness of said muffins was a real hit, this week signaled the need for something new. Hence I created these "Sunshine Muffins," named so thanks to their sunflower seeds, the tropical feel of the orange and the addictive sunshine which beamed through the window as I baked up this storm.

Sunshine Muffins 
Makes 16 small muffins (though it could make 12 slightly larger muffins)

1.5 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup plain natural yoghurt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
Rind of 1 orange, finely grated

Juice of 2 oranges
4 thin orange slices, quartered

1. Preheat over to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease or line a 12 hole muffin tray.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the yoghurt, followed by the olive oil.
4. Add the flour mixture and beat until well combined. Stir in the orange rind, orange juice and sunflower seeds and mix well.
5. Spoon the batter into muffins cases and top each muffin with a quartered orange slice. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Enjoy!

Sunshine Muffins (please excuse the poor quality photo.... they were snapped up quickly!)

What's good about this recipe? Well for one, the delectably moist texture, made possible by the olive oil and yoghurt. Soft, airy and melt-in-your-mouth worthy. This is in contrast to the crunch of the sunflower seeds for a bit of variety. Secondly, the combination of both orange juice and orange rind give a vibrant, fresh zing to these muffins which does transport you to a warm tropical paradise (well, in your mind at least). Nutritionally, using olive oil rather than butter provides heart-healthy fats whilst the addition of the natural yoghurt offers a dose of protein, calcium and electrolytes. Vitamin C is also in abundance thanks to the orange juice, whilst fibre and vitamin E are supplied by the sunflower seeds.

Nutrition Information: Per Serve (1 muffin): 760 kilojoules energy, 3.8g protein, 9g total fat, 1.4g saturated fat, 21g carbohydrate, 11g sugar, 0.7g fibre, 244mg sodium, 43mg calcium.

I hope these muffins bring a little ray of sunshine into your day! Enjoy.

- Em xx

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Healthy Apricot Delight

My sister is my best friend. She's pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie. The trouble is, we're in a distance-relationship. Laura (my sister) lives in the Melbourne 'burbs, studying hard at university and working crazy hours to make it all possible. And me? I'm still a country girl, working full time sharing my nutrition knowledge with the good folk of the Latrobe Valley. Two and a bit hours away from my bestie.

I don't like to think of Laura being all alone, so far from home. I send letters and the odd parcel her way so she can get a friendly surprise when she (eventually) checks her mailbox. Recently, I sent a little parcel containing odds and sods which had made me think of her. A bag of Apricot Delight was one of them. It reminded me of our childhood and rare occasions when we were allowed to choose treats from the lolly shop to gobble down while watching a movie. Apricot Delight would feature more often than not.

Laura informed me she had been so thrilled to find said Apricot Delight in her mailbox that she munched her way through the entire 250g packet in one sitting. To this, Laura quickly added "but it's OK, it's fruit right? It's healthy." Now, big sister (that's me), being a dietitian and all, knew this clearly was not the case, and I did then feel somewhat guilty for misleading her. You see, take a look at the ingredients list on a packet of commercial Apricot Delight. It will look something like this: Ingredients: Apricots 50%, Sugar, Glucose Syrup (Derived from Corn), Vegetable Oil, Acidity Regulator: (330), Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Corn Starch, Natural Colour: (160b), Natural Flavour, Preservative: (220). This means that merely HALF a packet of commercial Apricot Delight is actually apricot, leaving the other half full of preservatives, colours and flavourings. Hhmm... it doesn't seem so tasty now, does it? So, because my sister is my best friend and I want her to eat yummy things and remain healthy, I developed the following simple recipe for Healthy Apricot Delight:

Healthy Apricot Delight 
 Makes about 35 pieces, depending on how you cut them 

250g dried Turkish apricots
500ml boiling water
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons Melrose organic unrefined coconut oil
1/4 cup dessicated coconut, extra

1. Place the apricots in a large bowl and cover with boiling water to soften. (I left mine for ~3 hours whilst I went out a did stuff. Stuff like booking a trip away with my wonderful sister. And heading to the shops to buy coconut oil. And visiting Nana especially so I could borrow her food processor for step 2. You know, important stuff).

The apricots looking nice and soft and plump after a long soaking.

2. When the apricots are softened, drain and blend in a food processor until they are finely chopped.

 Apricots all blitzed up courtesy of Nana's food processor. I know what I want for Christmas!

3. Transfer chopped apricots back into the large bowl and add the dessicated coconut and coconut oil. Mix well.
Triple treat: apricots, coconut and coconut oil. 
4. Transfer mixture into a baking tray lined with baking paper and spread out at about 2cm thickness.

 Ready to chill.

5. Cover tray with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
6. Slice mixture into small rectangles (about 1x2cm), roll in extra coconut.

7. Finally, enjoy!

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition Information: Per serve (30g or 3 pieces): Energy 407kj, Protein 1.1g, Total fat 5.8g, Saturated fat 5.3g, Carbohydrates 9.5g, Sugars 8.6g, Dietary fibre 2.5g, Sodium 8.5mg.

I hope you enjoy this all natural, preservative-free version of this old classic. Please let me know below if this recipe is a hit with you!

- Em xx

Friday, 5 September 2014

Trekking towards Summit Nutrition

When I'm in need of inspiration, I need look no further than my beautiful parents. To me, my Mum and Dad are pretty darn amazing. They have worked themselves to the bone establishing and running their own business for 17 years whilst simultaneously raising my sister and I (tough gig, that one!). My parents have certainly instilled into me the meaning and importance of hard work and determination.

When they're not working, you'll find my parents at the footy or rugby, in the great outdoors, or most likely in the gym. (Hhhmmm, maybe that's where I get it from.....). Dad's always trying something new in the gym, pushing a little harder and going a little further. A jog outside turned into a 5km run, then a 10km run. Then next thing you know he's planning the year around various half marathons. Similarly, a touristy climb up Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka lead to climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo. Still yearning for more, Dad pulled out the big guns this year and took on Mt Kilimanjaro. "Mt Whaaaat?," you may asking. Mt Kilimanjaro, located in Africa, is the world's tallest free standing mountain at 5895 metres or 19 341 foot tall. Technically speaking, it is not a mountain at all, but a dormant volcano. No small feat, that's for sure. However I am extremely proud to say that Dad did conquer Mt Kilimanjaro!! In honour of Father's Day this weekend, this blog is all about Dad and his Kilimanjaro adventure. He shares some of his memories, including the food he ate, below:

"Before leaving for Tanzania, I did a lot of research, some of which included the food available on the trek. My reasoning was simple; I had prepared physically and mentally for the challenge, but what if something simple like an aversion to the food caused me to fail?? Thankfully my research told me I had nothing to worry about, and I soon found for myself that was the case. Our trip was organised by a local Tanzanian group called Kilizone. I spent some time talking to our head guide John Lyimo about the food. John himself was a chef /cook, who had worked his way up the chain over twenty years. After doing some 300 summits himself, he had a very good knowledge of what  foods were available, necessary, nutritious and healthy. He, his fellow senior guides, the camp cooks, local suppliers and Kilizone management  got together on a regular basis to discuss these matters. It was surprising to learn that EVERYTHING we ate over the 8 days on the mountain was carried there by porters! No shops, no cold storage depot, no freezers - it was all carried in. This meant we got fresh food each day, including locally grown fruit such as mango, pineapple, bananas and avocado, which were abundant. 
The very first day started with a boxed lunch of chicken, fruit, juice, cake and biscuits. Upon arriving at camp that afternoon, we were greeted with popcorn, tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
The evening meal always started with soup and bread; it was very good soup too! The main meals were either meat or chicken and sometimes with rice or pasta. There were also vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potato (a curious white variety), carrot and aubergine. The meals were always tasty, flavoursome and plentiful. Dessert was usually fruit, or sometimes pancakes with jam and honey. 

Breakfast was always porridge or chocolate flavoured millet. The porridge was way more popular than the millet! Eggs, sausages, toast and tea, coffee and hot chocolate were also available. On top of the provided meals, I also snacked on trail mix (aptly named in this case!), energy bars, fruit purloined from breakfast, lollies, and chocolate bars.

One guide always ate with us, which we all thought was very nice, but it turned out it was for a reason...he watched who was and who was not eating! Higher altitude dulls your appetite and sometimes you really have to force yourself to eat; no food = no energy, no energy = no summit.  There were two occasions I had to force myself to eat; one after a particularly grueling 9.5 hours on the trail which left me windburnt, sunburnt and tired. Dinner was really hard to get down that night. I was about to refuse, due to gagging just trying to get it down, but I persevered, took my time and thankfully managed to keep it down. I struggled to eat again on Summit morning, but accepted the eggs and graciously turned down the sausages, knowing they would otherwise repeat on me for the next 12 hours! 

On top of the food, liquid was critically important. We needed to drink 3-5 litres per day. I carried 3 litres of water with me and made it a point to drink it all, on top of tea coffee, even if it meant peeing every 45 minutes! At one stage I even stopped to drink water from a stream coming straight off the mountain - nothing like it! The guides explained that particularly above 4000 mtrs they liked us to drink coffee for it's stimulatory effect, which got your heart going, your blood circlulating and supposedly got your oxygen levels up (!?) In any case, it was good African coffee!

Looking back, it seems all we did was eat and drink! It was all for a good reason; 8 of the 10 trekkers in the group made the summit, fuelled by good diet. We spent 6.5 days ascending from 1500 metres to 5895 metres, and merely 1.5 days coming down again, covering approximately 80 to 100 kms. Despite the sumptuous feasts on the mountain, I lost 2kg on the journey. 

A fabulous celebratory meal was prepared for us at the bottom. Extremely tasty rice, savoury chicken, a myriad of side dishes, and a lovely spicy tomato relish, all washed down with Kilimanjaro beer and some champagne.....we had earned it!"

Dad at the Mt Kilimanjaro summit with "Summit Buddies" Bryce (left) and Ashley (right).

Thanks Dad! Congratulations on summiting Mt Kilimanjaro and living to tell the tale! I knew you would make it, especially after watching you prepare meticulously for months and months. You are incredible! Thank you for sharing the culinary tales of Mt Kilimanjaro. I wouldn't mind trying the white sweet potato myself, with a side of that spicy tomato relish too! I also think the chocolate millet may need to be recreated for #wednesdaybreakfastclub, it sounds quite decadent! It's great to have you home safe and sound. Good luck preparing for Everest Base Camp!!!!!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Get some Pork on your Fork!

Many of my clients will say to me things like "I sometimes have pork, which I know is bad." To this I exclaim, "Absolutely not! Pork is wonderful!" Sure, devouring roast pork and crackling or a big pork chop with a thick rim of fat is certainly not something I recommend (whopping saturated fat dose there), but a lean piece of pork is a nutritional goldmine.

Did you know, lean pork (meaning pork without fat) is an excellent source of protein which will keep you full, strong and healthy. It is also rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, which support metabolism, mental function, energy, growth and prevent anaemia. Pork also provides selenium, zinc, and omega 3 for healthy eyes, brain, skin and reduced risk of illness. To top it all off, lean pork has less than half the fat of beef fillets, less fat than snapper or chicken and is a source of iron. Pork is very versatile and offers increased variety to your diet, so why not get some pork on your fork?!? 

Pork features regularly in my household, as we are able to buy it in bulk from our local butcher, making it an economic option. We typically buy a few lean pork fillets at once, add our homemade marinade of choice and leave them to marinate overnight. The next day we will cook one fillet and freeze the remaining fillets (uncooked) so we an whip them out and cook up a delicious dinner in next to no time during busy weeks. Preparation and planning is crucial to keep a healthy diet on track.

We had pork for dinner tonight and we all agreed it was a most enjoyable, satisfying and nutritious meal. So I thought I would share it with you. I hope you enjoy the below recipe:

Five Spice Pork Fillet 
Serves 4 

500g lean pork fillet(s)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2-3 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 tablespoons boiling water
1-2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce

1. In a bowl or baking dish, add crushed garlic, grated ginger, five spice powder, cornflour, boiling water and soy sauce and stir to combine.
2. Add pork fillet and cover well with marinade.
3. Cover dish with cling wrap and leave in the fridge overnight to allow flavours to permeate the pork.
4. To cook the pork, I recommend barbequing over the grill on the barbeque, basting with residual marinade from the dish, for about 30 minutes or until pork is just cooked through.
5. Remove from grill, slice pork and serve. This dish pairs well with stewed apple and vegetables or alternatively with stir fried Asian greens and slivered almonds. Enjoy! 

Marinating 3 pork fillets, one to eat the next day (after marinating overnight) and the other 2 for the freezer. 

Sliced Fived Spiced Pork straight from the BBQ, ready to be enjoyed! 
 Five Spiced Pork, stewed apple, Tuscan cabbage and steamed carrot, pumpkin, cauliflower and corn for a wholesome, satisfying and delicious weeknight dinner.

So, dear readers, fear not pork! Add some variety to your weekly repertoire and get some pork on your fork!! For more tasty pork recipes, check out the Australian Pork Recipe Finder .

- Em xx

Saturday, 2 August 2014

I've gone nuts!

I've gone nuts. I've always been a little bit nutty, but my nuttiness has escalated of late. The truth is, I've been going nuts every day. But why not go nuts? Did you know that a healthy 30g handful of nuts helps control your weight, lowers your risk of heart disease by 30-50%, lowers mortality by 20%, reduces your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and also reduces your LDL (the 'bad') cholesterol? Just 30g of nuts provides protein, fibre, antioxidants, iron, healthy fats, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and plant sterols. Basically, this is a recipe for a healthy heart, healthy muscles, healthy skin and more energy = a happy and healthy body!

An infographic of the benefits of a handful of nuts from Nuts For Life.

I'll be honest, I have previously been a little sceptical of nuts. You see, although they are packed full of goodness, nuts are between 45-75% fat, depending on the variety. How can something with such a high fat content be part of a healthy diet? How would eating such a food on a regular basis affect my weight? Well, it's all a bit nutty really. Since adding a handful of nuts to my diet (a mixture of almonds, walnuts, pecans, macademias, brazil nuts, cashews and chestnuts in my porridge, muesli bars, snacks, meals and desserts) my weight has remained unchanged. Huh? That's right, I've added about 900kj and 22g fat to my diet each day without eliminating anything else, and my weight has stayed the same. In all honesty, I'm wishing I went nutty sooner! But how can this be so? As explained on the wonderfully informative Nuts for Life website, your one stop shop for the latest nutty news, nuts help you feel full due to their high protein and fibre content. Secondly, not all of the calories in nuts are digested! Between 5 and 15% of the energy in nuts passes straight through your digestive system without being digested. So you can have your cake nuts and eat them too! The third reason nuts help to keep you trim and terrific is that they are hard to digest, so basically your body has to work for it nuts! This increases your metabolism and means some energy will be expended whilst digesting the nuts.

But wait, how much exactly is "a handful" of nuts? The recommended daily portion of nuts is 30g. You could weigh and portion out your nuts, or you could measure out one third of a cup of nuts, an espresso cup full of nuts, or the equivalent size of a Post-It-Note.

I do hope this post has inspired you to get a little nutty this winter! The winter months are a wonderful time to incorporate some nuts into your diet. As I mentioned earlier, my nut consumption has increased lately, with nuts in my muesli, porridge, muesli bars, crumbles, tagines, stir fries, pastas, rice, cous cous dishes and even as a garnish for vegetable side dishes. If you're keen to go nuts but you're not quite sure how, check out this recipe collection or register to receive these recipe books  from Nuts for Life.

I'd love to know if you get your healthy handful each day, and if so, how? Until next time, stay happy, healthy and nutty!
- Em xx

Monday, 14 July 2014

Don't 'beef up' this winter, veg up instead!

Let's be honest: frosty mornings, rainy days and cold dark nights don't make exercise the most appealing activity during the freezing winter months. Similarly, salads and light meals become less appealing and we instead yearn for warming comfort foods. Typically these are rich, stodgy foods which are washed down with sweet energy dense beverages such as hot chocolates, chai lattes or endless cups of tea or coffee. And maybe a sweet biscuit or two to boot. Yes, these are warming and comforting foods.... but after months of eating stodgy foods and a staying curled up inside, you may welcome spring with a few extra kilos to your name.

The good news? It does not have to be this way!! You can still stay warm, comforted and satisfied throughout the winter months without 'beefing up.' How? Again, it comes down to the veg. Don't veg out during winter; be sure to maintain at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Additionally, remember to veg up and pack all your winter meals full of low starch vegetables. You can read more about vegetables and why they are so important for our health in my previous post here.

By 'vegging up,' you increase the volume of your meals and consequently increase the fibre and nutrient content whilst keeping the kilojoule (calorie) content lower. The end result: a full belly but a trim waistline!

Below is an example of a veggie-packed comfort meal which is a trustworthy winter staple:

Veggie-ful Spaghetti Bolognese 
Serves 6

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil 
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 brown onion, diced  
cracked pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
500g lean mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 ripe tomato, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 zucchini, grated
100g baby spinach leaves
1 can salt reduced red kidney beans*, rinsed and drained
8 button mushrooms, diced

 500g spaghetti 

Parmesan cheese, to serve 

*Brown lentils could be used instead of red kidney beans 

1.  In a large saucepan, bring 2 litres of water to the boil. 
2. In another large saucepan, heat extra virgin olive oil. When warm, add onion, garlic, pepper, herbs and chilli and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent. 
3. Add lean beef and cook until mince is cooked through. 
4. Add can of crushed tomato, diced fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until combined. 
5. Add grated carrot and zucchini, baby spinach leaves, mushrooms and canned kidney beans. Stir to combine. 
6. Leave bolognese to simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. 
7. Add spaghetti to saucepan of boiling water and cook according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside. 
8. Remove bolognese from heat and serve on top of cooked spaghetti. Top with extra cracked pepper and grated parmesan cheese if desired. 

Healthy veggie-ful spaghetti bolognese. 

Buon Appetit! Enjoy!

- Em xx 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Spiced Pumpkin, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

I'm in love with pumpkin. It's no secret. I've had plenty of dinner dates with pumpkin over the past couple of years, and even a number of lunch dates too. In fact, pumpkin even snuck it's way into my breakfast today, in the form of 'pumpkin pie porridge.'  Now that was a good start to the day. Actually, if I'm honest, I've been enjoying a lot of pumpkin lately. The more I have, the more I want. Despite the fact I had pumpkin in my breakfast and lunch today, I yearned for it's sweet, delicious and comforting characteristics again for dinner. Some may say this is pumpkin overload (that includes a work colleague who recently told me I looked jaundiced....) but I say this is a healthy, seasonal fling. You see, pumpkin is both sweet but savoury, uplifting but grounding, comforting but exciting, and ever so versatile. I know I can rely on pumpkin; it is a trustworthy staple that is available all year round, and thus can always be found in my fridge or just chilling on the outdoor setting in the cool winter air.

As well as tantalising my tastebuds, pumpkin also nourishes my body in many ways. Pumpkin is a wonderful source of fibre and thus fills my belly without a significant kilojoule intake. It's also a wonderful source of vitamin C and beta carotene (which our bodies can convert into Vitamin A); these nutrients boost our immune system, keep us well during the cooler months and can even reduce our risk of developing certain cancers. These nutrients also promote healthy glowing skin and good eyesight. As if that wasn't enough, pumpkin also provides iron, folate, magnesium and calcium, making it a very nutrient dense food indeed. 

With this impressive nutrient profile in mind and a strong hankering for yet more pumpkin today, I got to work in the kitchen tonight and whipped up this delicious, comforting and satisfying soup.

Spiced Pumpkin, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup 
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
cracked pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
1kg pumpkin (I used a Jarrahdale variety, but any type of pumpkin could be used).
1/2 large sweet potato
3 large carrots
3 cups salt-reduced vegetable stock
1x 420g can salt-reduced butter beans, rinsed
1/2 cup plain natural yoghurt (I used Tamar Valley for it's thinner consistency)
1 cup of water, optional

To serve:
1/2 cup yoghurt, extra
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
6 slices good quality seeded sourdough bread

1. Dice the onion, crush the garlic, and set both aside.
2. Peel the pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots, and chop into small cubes.
3. In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sautee until onion is translucent.
4. Add the cracked pepper, Chinese five spice powder and chilli flakes and stir until combined.
5. Add the chopped pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot and stir until coated in spice mixture. Add the 2 cups of vegetables stock and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes or until all ingredients and soft.
6. Add the can of drained and rinsed butter beans and 1/2 cup of yoghurt and stir well to combine. Leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
7. Remove saucepan from heat and blend well using a hand held stick blender until smooth and creamy and free from lumps. *Note - you may wish to add an extra 1-1.5 cups of water at this point, depending on how thick you like your soup.
8. Spoon into bowls and top with a dollop of extra plain yoghurt, chopped fresh coriander and black pepper to taste. Serve with seeded sourdough bread and enjoy!

 Spiced pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato soup. Perfect on a cold winter night. 

I hope you will enjoy this soup as much as I did. Please leave a message below if you do try this recipe or if you have your own special pumpkin soup recipe to share. 

Until next time, stay warm, dry and well nourished, 

- Em xx


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Veggies: Do you get your 5 serves a day??

Vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy, balanced diet. A variety of different coloured vegetables provides fibre, antioxidants and vitamins including vitamin A, C, E and folate as well as minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Even better is that vegetables are low in kilojoules (calories) and thus are a great way to provide bulk and fill your belly whilst keeping your weight in check. As if that wasn't enough, eating your 5 serves of vegetables per day can also protect against developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Despite this impressive nutrient profile, only 8.2% of Australian adults consume the required 5 serves of veggies daily. Yep, you read correctly, only 8.2% (this is according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey 2011/12).

So, what is 'a serve' of veggies? According to The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2013), a serve of veggies is defined as 75g of vegetables, which is equivalent to:
  • 1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, carrot or pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried peas, lentils or beans (such as red kidney beans, chickpeas, 4 bean mix)
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn 
  • 1/2 medium potato or equivalent amount of other starchy vegetable (such as sweet potato, cassava or taro)
  • 1 medium tomato 
  • 1 cup of salad leaves    
Every day in my work I find myself encouraging people to eat more vegetables. A common complaint is that people say they "don't like" veggies or find them boring. Now I must admit that I am a veggie fanatic, so it does still baffle me when I hear some people report they eat vegetables only once per fortnight. Eating vegetables should not be a chore, it should not be boring and it should not be tasteless. Vegetables are vibrant, colourful, nutrient dense and flavoursome but we do need to treat them with respect and get creative in the way we use them to unlock their full potential!

For some tasty ideas and inspiration on how to incorporate vegetables into your diet check out the Eat For Health website. I'll also bring you some of my favourite ways to meet your vegetable requirements each day.

I'm pleased to say I've had vegetables in all my main meals and snacks today! I kick started my day with my take on the oh-so-satisying 'Carrot Cake Porridge,' as per my recipe below:

Fruity Carrot Cake Porridge 

Serves 1

-  1/4 cup muesli (I make my own muesli with rolled oats, sultanas, chopped walnuts and almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and linseeds)
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- splash of milk
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 1/4 cup grated apple
- 1/4 cup halved red grapes
- cinnamon to taste
- generous dollop of plain yoghurt, to serve

1. Place muesli and water in a small saucepan over low heat. 
2. Whilst porridge is cooking, grate carrot and apple and chop grapes. 
3. Add carrot, apple and grapes to porridge and stir to combine.
4. Add cinnamon and milk to taste (every likes differing quantities of cinnamon and milk, so I'll leave this to your discretion!) and cook, stirring, until desired consistency is reach (again, this is very personal!)
5. When your desired consistency is reached, remove porridge from stove and serve with a generous dollop of yoghurt. Enjoy!

This is not exactly your typical porridge with the inclusion of carrot and grapes but it honestly tastes divine! The carrot provides sweetness and a nutrient boost, whilst the grapes are just like big juicy sultanas which provide a nice moistness to the porridge. Even better is you know you can tick off one serve of veggies before you even head out the door for work. This dish is an all round winner if you ask me (though I may be slightly biased!). Please try this recipe, let me know your thoughts and share your tips for incorporating vegetables in your diet. 

Until next time, eat well and stay well, 

- Em xx


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Roast Veggie "Grain-otto"

Does anyone else drive to work in the morning or drift off to sleep at night thinking about new recipes to create? Or is that just me? Anyhow, this recipe is the result of a few nights of restless sleep, a couple of trips to work, an addiction to roast pumpkin and a hankering for wholegrains and soft cheese.

Those who know me well are aware that I rarely follow a recipe. I find it, well, somewhat restraining, too prescriptive. I like to change things up and put my own spin, or the "Emily-touch" on things. So, instead of making risotto, tonight I decided to create "grain-otto;" a mixture of different wholegrains, for a unique flavour and a substantial nutritional boost. 

Roast Vegetable "Grain-otto" 

Serves 2 people

2 cups raw, diced pumpkin
1 fresh beetroot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
2 tb black rice
2 tb pearl barley
2 tb freekeh
2 tb quinoa
1 tb sultanas
1.5 cups boiling water plus extra 1/2 cup boiling water.
1 tsp vegetable stock powder 
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup broccoli
1/4 cup walnut halves
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
cracked pepper
extra virgin olive oil 
1 handful baby spinach leaves
2 tb fetta cheese
1 tb pepitas

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Line a baking tray with foil. Place dice pumpkin and beetroot and garlic in baking tray and bake for ~20 minutes.
2. Combine black rice, pearl barley, freekeh, quinoa, sultanas and stock in a small saucepan. Cover with boiled water and heat over medium heat until water absorbed.Once absorbed, add additional 1/2 cup boiling water and continue to cook until absorbed.
3. Cut broccoli into small florets. Remove woody end from asparagus. Cut remaining asparagus stalks into 4cm lengths. Steam broccoli and asparagus for ~3 minutes.
4. Remove baked pumpkin and beetroot from oven after about 20 minutes, or when soft. Set aside to cool slightly.
5. In a medium frypan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add roasted garlic, diced onion, dried oregano and 3-4 shakes cracked pepper and cook until onion becomes translucent.
6. Add pumpkin, beetroot, sauteed broccoli and asparagus and stir to combine. Add baby spinach and cook until wilted.
7. Add cooked grains, walnuts and goats cheese and stir to combine all ingredients. Cook until cheese melts.
8. Divide mixture into 2 bowls and garnish with pepitas and extra cracked pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Note: This dish was quite satisfying as a meal in itself (due to the higher protein content of the grains, nuts and seeds), however would be delicious with the addition of smoked salmon, chicken, tofu, tempeh or chickpeas. It would also make a great warm side dish or cooled salad. Mum also had the innovative idea of using this as a stuffing in chicken breast fillets for a very satisfying meal. 

This dish provides lots of fibre, vitamin, some protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates and best of all will keep you feeling full for hours. I thought this was a delicious, quick dinner, however as mentioned above, there is lots of room for adaptation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this recipe itself or any other creative ways you have to enjoy it. 

- Em xx

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Product Review: Be Natural Pink Lady Apple & Flame Raisin cereal

I don't often buy breakfast cereals, as I tend to stick to the au naturel rolled oats or spelt, homemade muesli or perhaps Weetbix (which I am aware is not strictly au naturel). My dedication to oats and muesli is quite obvious upon inspection of my Instagram account.....
Despite my love of oats and muesli, I must admit I could not resist a recent supermarket promotion which saw Be Natural breakfast cereals on special for $2 per 405g box. Bargain! What began as an innocent 'taste test' has lead to a highly desired new breakfast option!

You'll find Be Natural cereals in major supermarkets in 4 varieties: 5 wholegrain flakes, Manuka honey and spice clusters, cashews with almond, hazelnut and coconut, and the Pink Lady Apple and Flame raisin variation which I trialled and thoroughly enjoyed! 

Be Natural Pink Lady Apple and Flame Raisin fruit, flakes and clusters: What's good about it?

1. Wholegrains: This cereal is based on 5 high quality wholegrains - whole wheat grains, oats, triticale, barley and rye. Whilst a lot of breakfast cereals are highly refined and have minimal fibre, this one supplies 10.2g of fibre per 100g of cereal, which is quite impressive. (By comparison, 100g rolled oats supplies 9.5g fibre). This high proportion of wholegrains and great fibre content helps to keep your appetite and energy levels in check throughout the morning, assists the management of blood sugar levels, provides essential vitamins and minerals and helps keep you regular! 

2. Low sugar content - Delicious pieces of dried pink lady and granny smith apples, combined with raisins, give this cereal a suitably sweet flavour. There is some additional 'sugar' or sweetness added to this cereal in the form of raw sugar, brown rice syrup and honey, however these are added in seemingly low proportions. Impressively, this sweet tasting cereal contains just 15.5g of 'sugar' per 100g of cereal, which is well within the limits recommended by health organisations such as the Australian Government and Baker IDI heart and diabetes institute.   

3. Low in fat - The main sources of fat in this product would be the linseeds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a small amount of added oils. Rest assured, these inclusions provide valuable levels of healthy fats which can actually help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Having said that, this product is low in fat overall, providing just 4.5g total fat and 0.6g saturated fat per 100g - again well within the recommendations of the aforementioned organisations.

4. Low sodium - Sodium is another name for salt. Salt can be found in just about every processed food product, meaning that on average, Aussies consume well above the safe amount of salt each day. Consuming too much salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart complications. To minimise your risk of high blood pressure, look for food products with less than 400mg 'sodium' per 100g. The good news is Be Natural Pink Lady and Flame Raisin cereal contains 200mg sodium per 100g cereal. Yet another tick....

5. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives - The ingredients list of this cereal certainly is free of any added artificial stuff, as is advertised on the front of the pack. It's reassuring to read that Be Natural "passionately believe that simple natural ingredients are the best" - so that is exactly what they supply! This company even supports Landcare and environmental protection; that's why the cereal box is made from 100% recycled material! Got to love an environmentally friendly company!

6. Great taste and texture - I really enjoyed both the taste and texture of this product. As mentioned above, it has a suitably sweet flavour, paired with that deep nourishing flavour of wholegrains. I liked the crunchy texture of the wholegrain flakes, however this was easily softened with a decent splash of milk and a few minutes standing time, if crunchy is not your thing. Most of all, I loved the addition of the 'clusters' of linseeds, pepitas and oats for some added crunch and sweet pop hidden amongst the flakes.

Overall, I would not hesitate to buy this product again, and I highly recommend it for a tasty, healthy breakfast cereal option. Actually, why limit it to breakfast? It makes for a great snack too!

Until next time, eat well, stay well and please send any comments or topic requests my way!

- Em xx

** Please note the thoughts and information provided in this post are my own and I have no affiliation with the Be Natural company. If you would like more information about any Be Natural products, you can check out their website  

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Nutrition and Cramps

I recently investigated the topic of nutrition and cramps as part of my role as dietitian at Gippsland Power Football Club. After educating the Power boys about cramps, I thought I'd share this information with you too, so you can minimise your risk of experiencing the dreaded cramp.  

Cramps which occur during exercise, scientifically known as 'Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping' (EAMC) are painful, involuntary muscle contractions which stop any sports person dead in their tracks!

Even though cramps have been affecting sports professionals and 'weekend warriors' alike for years and years, still no one is 100% certain as to exactly WHY they occur. The following points detail the risk factors for cramps and how to manage each one respectively: 
  • Fatigue - cramps are more likely to occur in over-worked, tired muscles, so be sure to rest between training sessions. Ensure you don't over-do things and of course stretch well before and after exercising. Cramping is less likely to occur in athletes who are well trained and conditioned for their sport. Keep your fitness levels up and take things slowly when returning to exercise after injury or time off training.  

  •  Dehydration - hydration is important for heat regulation and electrolyte balance. Be sure to start exercise well hydrated. Depending on the type and duration of your exercise, you may also need to drink fluids during your exercise. This is the case in a game of AFL; players should sip fluids on-field and also during break times. After exercising, ensure you replace all fluids lost; this is done by weighing yourself before and after exercise. You need to drink 1.5 times as much fluid as you lost in order to fully rehydrate. 
  • Sodium imbalance - some athletes lose large amounts of sodium (a.k.a salt) in their sweat, leading to sodium imbalances. This can be minimised by taking in some salt before, during and after exercise. This may be in the form of a sports drink such as Powerade or Gatorade, a handful of salted nuts or pretzels, or an Aussie favourite - a vegemite sandwich!! 

  • Potassium imbalance - like sodium, potassium is an electrolyte which is lost in sweat and is crucial for optimal muscle function. Potassium levels can be kept topped up by drinking potassium rich sports drinks, again such as Powerade or Gatorade, and eating potassium rich foods such as bananas or oranges, before, during or after exercise. 
  • Calcium imbalance - calcium is another electrolyte involved in muscle function. Keep calcium levels maintained by drinking or eating calcium rich foods such as milk, yoghurt or cheese. These make great pre- and post exercise snacks. 
  • Magnesium imbalance - magnesium is yet another electrolyte which assists the muscles to contract. Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are rich in magnesium as well as calcium, so eating these pre- or post exercise is like getting 2 nutrients for the price of 1!!! Ensure you also include other magnesium rich foods in your day-to-day diet, by eating foods such as dark green veggies, wholegrains and nuts. You can read more about the legendairy role of dairy foods in sport nutrition, along with some tasty dairy recipes, here
  • Baseline diet - don't get caught in the trap of over-focusing on your diet on the day of, and before exercise. Your day-to-day, baseline diet is just as important. Eating a wide variety of foods will supply you with a diverse range of nutrients and lots of energy to train and allow your muscles to grow and repair themselves. Avoid foods which are very high in fat, as having too much fat in your arteries will reduce blood flow to your muscles.   

As you can see, there are a number of factors which affect your risk of developing cramps. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cramping is to eat a well balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids, train well and rest well each day.

- Em xx 

For more information on cramping, sports nutrition, or to find an Accredited Sports Dietitian, check out the Sports Dietitians Australia website.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Superfood Crumble

On these dark, cold and drizzly autumn (and winter) evenings, there is no better end to a meal than a sweet, delicious fruit crumble. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty bored with the 'typical' crumble that's re-hashed year in, year out; the butter, sugar, flour, oats combination just doesn't cut it for me anymore. So I decided to do something about it. I tuned in to my tastebuds and got my creative juices flowing. 

This recipe is a heavily modified version of the apple crumble recipe in Mum's 35 year old 'Cookery The Australian Way' cookbook:

  Mum's retro Cookery The Australian Way cookbook. 

Emily's Superfood Crumble

Serves 8-10 people. 
Note: I had extra crumble mixture left over; you may use more or less depending on the size and depth of your baking dish. I cooked the leftover crumble mix on a baking tray for 20 minutes - it was delicious as a crunchy 'nibble mix' or addition to yoghurt. 
For the fruit filling:
- 10 apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples)
- 1/4 cup boiling water 
- 500g frozen raspberries

 For the crumble:
- 1/2 cup wholemeal self raising flour 
- 1/4 cup ground LSA mix 
- 6 tablespoons rolled oats (rolled spelt would be a nice variation)
- 6 tablespoons dessicated coconut 
- 5 tablespoons Mayvers' unhulled tahini 
- 4 tablespoons honey 
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds 
- 3 tablespoons pepitas 
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts 
- 3 tablespoons dried blueberries 
- 3 tablespoons sultanas 

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Peel and roughly slice the apples. Place apples in a large saucepan with boiling water and simmer until apples are softened (about 20 minutes on low heat). 
2. When the apples are softened, add frozen raspberries and cook for a further 5 minutes to combine. Remove from heat. 
3. In a bowl, rub the flour and LSA mix into the tahini to form a crumble. 
4. Once combined, add the oats, coconut and honey and mix well. 
5. Add the sunflower seeds, pepitas, walnuts, blueberries and sultanas and stir well to combine all ingredients.
6. Pour the apple and raspberry mixture into a baking dish (the one I used was about 30x15cm) and spoon crumble mixture over the top.
7. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until filling is warmed through and crumble topping has browned. 
8. Remove from oven and serve with vanilla custard, yoghurt or ice cream. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear your thoughts on my Superfood Crumble - please give it a try let me know how it goes! Until next time, happy eating! 

- Em xx

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Things I Love: Cinnamon

This is my first post dedicated to 'Things I Love.' 

First cab off the rank is cinnamon. I've got somewhat of an addiction to cinnamon - I go through a sachet of cinnamon powder each week. My Dad actually asked me if I was snorting the stuff!! (I'm not, for the record).

Looking back, I think my love affair with cinnamon began after I visited a spice garden in Sri Lanka 4 years ago. A local spice merchant gave us a tour and allowed us to witness how various herbs and spices were grown. We were also able to sample some of the products and learn of alternative uses.

Cinnamon is such a versatile 'spice' and it's uses expand far beyond the cinnamon doughnuts and cinnamon buns with which it is often associated.

Natural cinnamon powder, specifically cinnamon cassia not only tastes great but may also provide numerous health benefits.

Cinnamon is traditionally grown in south east Asian countries. 'True cinnamon' which is usually grown in Sri Lanka, is only a thin layer from under the bark of the cinnamon tree and thus has a mild flavour. Conversely, 'Cinnamon Cassia' has a higher content of the bark of the tree and thus has a much stronger flavour. Cinnamon Cassia is typically grown in India, Indonesia and Burma.

Cinnamon can be purchased in sticks of the bark (as pictured above), or ground into a powder for easy incorporation in cooking.

As mentioned, it is a versatile ingredient which adds warmth to an array of dishes, both sweet and savoury. Take for example this traditional Sri Lankan chicken curry by the incredible Charmaine Solomon, this Moroccan lamb tagine or this comforting fruit crumble. I get my daily dose of cinnamon on my breakfast, either in my porridge or on my muesli and yoghurt.


Aside from being a tasty addition to foods, cinnamon, specifically the Cinnamon Cassia variety, also boasts some health properties. It is rich in B vitamins, polyphenols and antioxidants. There has been quite a lot of research done regarding the health benefits of cinnamon, including it's use as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent.There have even been claims it could reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and cancer!

Recently, studies have been investigating the role of cinnamon in Type 2 Diabetes, with claims that regularly consuming cinnamon may help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels by reducing the rise in blood glucose after eating. At this stage the evidence is inconclusive, with some studies providing conflicting results. More well-designed research studies are needed before we can fully understand the effects of cinnamon consumption and just how much we need to consume to reap the benefits of this wonderful spice. 

At this stage, however, we do know that cinnamon tastes delicious, can be easily added to our meals, and is readily available in the supermarket (that's if I haven't bought it all....). There are no risks to using cinnamon in cooking and it's a great way to give an all-natural, slightly sweet flavour to your food without the addition of sugar - this itself could be enough to help lower your blood glucose levels!

So, 'watch this space' in terms of the health benefits of cinnamon, and start experimenting with adding it to your foods.

Now excuse me while I sit back with a mug of cinnamon chai tea....

Em xx

Monday, 21 April 2014

Nourishing the body, mind and spirit.

As an Accredited Practising Dietitian, I spend my days helping people nourish their bodies with a variety of food and regular physical activity. Earlier this month, I was reminded that nourishing the physical body is only a small portion of caring for our overall health and wellbeing.

At the beginning of this month, I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in stunning Byron Bay, at the inaugural Body Positive Retreat , facilitated by the wonderful Fiona Sutherland and Sarah Harry. Although initially excited by the prospect of the retreat, I was highly apprehensive about attending; how would I cope spending a week with complete strangers, no gym, and no control over what I would have to eat?? A week of living outside my comfort zone ensued!

Despite being plagued with apprehension and guilt for attending the retreat, I am so grateful I attended this enlightening escape. My mind has certainly been broadened to encompass mental and emotional health as part of looking after myself.

There is no doubt the retreat was challenging; day 1 and I was already challenging my thought processes in a group discussion about body image. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve the 'thin ideal?' How many people in the world actually look like that? Why do we (I) aspire to look like the girl on the front of the fashion or fitness magazine? You know, the one who has been photo-shopped and airbrushed to an inch of her life. Yeah her! Good luck with that. The body positive retreat made me consider, what if, instead of criticising ourselves for not looking like the cover girl, we looked inside ourselves and celebrated all our wonderful qualities? It's hard, but from what I learned over those few days in Byron Bay, it's also oh so worth it.

During the retreat, we also discussed the wonderful work of Dr Rick Kausman and his If Not Dieting, Then What? work. This led to talk of (and an attempt to practice) 'mindful eating' - the challenge of being truly present whilst eating; paying attention to the appearance, smell, texture, mouthfeel and taste of food. Quite different from shovelling it all down whilst sitting in front of the TV. It is amazing how different food seems when you really pay attention to it! There is no moral value attached to food when eating in this manner, you just appreciate it for what it is and where it has come from.

Yoga and meditation also featured heavily throughout the retreat as a way to connect with our bodies. I will admit I struggled big time with the yoga and the meditation on day 1! Compared to the high intensity gym classes I usually complete, the yoga felt very much like a waste of time. However, once I came to understand it and connect with my breathing and my body, I fell in love! I really struggled to slow my racing mind, but at the end of the retreat I was surprised by how calm and clear I felt.

Not a bad view for early morning meditation. 

Another fascinating topic of the retreat was sleep. Often overlooked, but ever so important for our health. The lovely Thea O'Connor spoke on how a 20 minute nap can re-invigorate the body and also calm the mind. You can join the #napnow revolution by napping for good health and getting your colleagues to do the same. Go on, you will be more productive if you do......

In regard to the food on offer during the retreat, all I'll say for now is oh my. There was a sumptuous array of wholesome fresh food which was just to die for. I think that is a post in itself though....
 I did purchase the chef's cookbook and have attempted to copy a recipe or two already. Man I ate well over those few days!

That has been a very slight snapshot of the joy of the first Body Positive retreat. It was such a wonderful experience which I am so thankful to have attended. I have come away feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and with a greater understanding of myself. I've also returned home with a few new friends, a wealth of knowledge, some yummy recipes and a positive mindset. I hope I can continue to use positive thinking to appreciate things for what they are and enjoy the present moment. It takes practice but I;m willing to try and would encourage you all to do the same!

Until next time, stay positive, love yourself, and thank you for reading.

Em x

Saturday, 8 March 2014

True to my name

Hello and welcome to my blog, Orchard Fresh Nutrition. For my maiden post, I thought I'd share a bit about myself and what has inspired me to create this blog. 

So, I'm Emily. An Accredited Practising Dietitian working in community health. My passions lie in creating nutritious meals and snacks, eating delicious foods, and moving my body. More recently I've also developed somewhat of a green thumb, growing my own vegetables and fruit. (Although I must pay credit to my Dad for watering said plants and thus keeping them alive). 

As a dietitian, my work life and home life sort of blur into one to a degree; it's all about good food and good health. What I love about my work is that I can communicate what I know and what I have learnt about nutrition and health, and share this knowledge in 'plain language' to the clients I get to meet each day. There is soooo much misinformation relating to nutrition in our media and it makes me cringe! No wonder people are confused!

By the time people have been referred to me, they have many many questions and perhaps false ideas which I love to debunk. The most common myth I would hear is "I thought fruit was bad for you?" Seriously, I would hear this on a daily basis. This question always makes me think back to my teenage years, and a routine trip to the dentist. The dentist commended me on yet another visit with no cavities and no work required. I remember Mum saying in response, "Well, Em is true to her name, she eats foods from the orchard, not the lolly aisle." And it is true; I wake up to a big bowl of fresh fruit every day, and fruit or veggies are my go-to snacks. So when people come to me and tell me they avoid fruit because 'I thought it was bad for you,' I really do get a bit mad! 

Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet. According to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGTHE), all adults should consume 2 serves of fruit daily. Fruit provides essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamin C, vitamin E, and antioxidants and phytochemicals. 

Even if you have diabetes, it's absolutely fine to have a banana or to have a handful of grapes... just not the whole bag; like with everything, it's all about moderation. 

The AGTHE recommends we consume 2 'serves' of fruit daily, with a serve being equal to the one medium piece of fruit, 2 small pieces of fruit, or one cup of fruit salad. However, if you are tossing up between snacking on an extra piece of fruit, or a slab of cake, then nutritionally fruit wins hands down!

My advice: fruit is a a nutritious, delicious and essential inclusion in your daily diet  - after all, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away.'