A life of health and wellness…with kids!


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Why I won’t be buying a Thermomix

THermomix free zone

Thermomix Free Zone

Yes – you heard me correctly – this post is all about why I decided not to buy a Thermomix.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to go along to a Thermomix demonstration – and let me tell you I was hooked. I came away from the demo and I desperately wanted one of those things. It was just amazing…You could do so many things with it and it was so speedy…and such little amounts of washing up…

So off I went an began to plot how on earth I could possibly begin to afford one of these gadgets. But here’s the thing..in my life right now I could simply not justify the near $2000 cost for a machine that did everything I could already do with the gadgets I already had at home.

I still wanted one.

But as the weeks of my obesession wore on I started to do some research into people who had a Thermomix and did not like it or didn’t use it as much as they thought they would. I started reading things that I found myself nodding along to. What kind of cooking did I do? Lots of quick things – stir frys and grilled meats; lots of long slow cooked things – set and forget stews etc; baking baking baking…using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Real cooking with real ingredients that I chop by hand because I enjoy the process of chopping and stirring and cooking.

How would this gadget fit into the way that I cook right now? It just wouldn’t. I had a multi function cooker that is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and risotto maker in one. I had a Kitchen Aid food processer and Stand Mixer, I have a Vitamix blender with the dry blending canister for making nut flours and other grain processing. I already made my own yoghurt with the Easiyo. I can make Custard on the stovetop. I can make bread dough by hand. There was nothing  that I needed to spend $2000 on a machine to do for me that I didn’t already have the capacity to do.

I completely understand the value if you do not already have all of these gadgets in your kitchen, or if you have a very small kitchen and need to maximise gadget for space capacity, or you didn’t already cook most things from scratch and you were wanting to learn – but for me – the investment would have simply been one of ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’. So I came to my senses and decided against it.

I think they are a great gadget for the right person – just not for me.

So that’s why I won’t be buying a Thermomix.

Andjxx

 

 


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What I ate Wednesday

Food Diary 12wbt

 

I must admit that this isn’t exactly “What I ate Wednesday” – but more a selection of things I ate in the past few days….   I decided to sign up for the Michelle Bridges 12wbt again, mainly to get access to the menu plans – because the Exercise plans really haven’t changed all that much since I last did it a few years ago. They are OK (the exercise plans) but I find some of the exercises fussy and using too much equipment – so I switch them out for something that works the same muscle group.

About two months ago I commenced “Operation Get Andjxx fit again” and I was going really well for the first month and lost about 5kg – I was feeling great and really  on top of things. They I had a crash off my bike, shortly followed by another accident at  home that left me with a big gash on my leg (Which is really really ugly), and well I basically lost all momentum and just stopped exercising and eating well for the who second month. I kept telling myself I would get back on top of it and kept feeling like it was all too hard. But it was all in my head – just the simple act of telling myself it was all too hard was enough to stop me from starting. So after starting to read the book “If not dieting then what?” by Dr Rick Kausman, I talked some of my cognitions and am back on top of things again. The book is actually really good because it helps me to tackle some of my “black or white’ thinking behaviors – and also my tendency to become obsessive about every little morsel I eat.

The bottom line is I know that I feel better when I eat healthy foods the majority of the time… and I still need to lose about 7 kg to be at a good healthy weight for my body…and exercising helps with my Anxiety – all excellent reasons to get back on the wagon!

I have been pretty happy with the 12wbt food choices this week – I just changed up a couple of things to match more with things that we already had in the house. One of the things I dislike about the 12wbt food plan is that it often requires you to buy things that expensive just for one or two meals – so I will often substitute – because frankly I just can’t afford $200 a week on shopping!

This week I have been eating Banana Porridge and eggs (on separate days) for breakfasts; chicken and salad pita pockets for lunch and a variety of things for dinner – Lamb kebabs with Cous cous salad; Lemon and garlic marinate chicken and salad, Roast chicken with Asian vegetables and my favourite – Asian BBQ  cooker chicken with chinese broccoli. For snacks I have been alternating Chobani yoghurt (Coconut or banana) with Hummus and vegetable cruidites or an APple and about 10 almonds.

I will say up front that the food on the 1200 calorie MB plan does not keep me full…in fact I would wake up starving at 3am most nights (and it’s not head hunger – it is real stomach grumbling, anger causing hunger) – so I do actually consume around 1300 – 1400 calories per day on a typical day. I lost weight on this amount of calories and it basically means I have a snack after dinner – I know that if I don’t do this it is a sure fire way to a binge – so I see it as better to eat slightly more than what she recommends and reduce the risks of a binge session.

The other thing that I do to make it fit into our family lifestyle is I often will cook something different for my children – or provide them with an alternative side dish. I have fussy eaters and I would much rather they eat dinner than have the fight with them about eating at all. I will do a post about this next week actually!

Is anyone else who reads my blog following the MB program at the moment?

Andjxx


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School Canteens and the Food Giants

evil food giants

Many of you may recall the recent *ahem* disagreement between certain high profile chefs and nutrition experts over the marketing of ‘liquid breakfast supplements’ as a healthy alternative for kids who don’t like eating breakfast.

It could certainly be easy to think that these food products have been created with the best interests of those who consume them in mind – especially considering that  Kelloggs is marketing their products in particular, directly at parents who are short on time and need a fast solution. Kelloggs marketing director John Broom is quoted in FoodMagazine saying “The new breakfast drinks are made with 90 percent low fat milk are low GI and contain around 10 percent sugar. They also score green on the Schools Canteens approval rating system, which indicates the drinks are among the best commercial products available for young children”. Sounds good right?

It’s true – they are BUT – and there is a big but – does this mean they are healthy and that it is perfectly OK for your child to consume these on a daily basis?

My question is How does a highly refined product such as this, without a skerrik of whole food (other than sugar) as an ingredient – even get onto the Green rating in the school canteens approval rating system?

Lets take a look at the ingredients?

cocopops ingredients

The reason it is allowed under the green category is because it is a low fat milk product – and low fat milk products under 375ml are considered to be in the green category. See below:

Canteen guidelines

However, what is alarming is that plain old full fat milk – the type that was forced upon our parents and grandparents at primary school on a daily basis – falls into the Amber category – Why is this so? Because of the FAT content.

Yes I understand that our current Australian Dietary Guidelines place an emphasis on the consumption of low fat food but in doing this, the green light has been given to food companies to change the composition (read increase the amount of added sugar) of their foods to ensure that the flavours, taste and textures remain unchanged. What alarms me most is that the same serving of full fat milk contains less calories than the example given above.  Remembering that it is consuming more calories than our bodies expend that causes excess weight gain – when food companies are telling us that it is OK too feed this manufactured ‘food’ to our children on a daily basis – it is not surprising that we have an obesity epidemic.  I haven’t even mentioned how the conversion of unnecessary (added) sugar in our diet actually contributes to fat gain metabolically – because others have done it far more eloquently than I. While I am not generally an advocate of Sarah Wilson and her I Quit Sugar tirade I do agree with her on the topic of ‘quitting  added sugar. If you are feeling scientific and would like to watch a video on the topic go and have a look at this talk by Dr Kieron Rooney from the University of Sydney speaking on the topic – it is truly fascinating.

Back to the milk.

milknutr

You will see that a 250ml serving of Full Cream milk contains 703kj, 12.3g Carbohydrate (which is all Lactose – no added sugar) and 9.5g Fat. In comparison, the product above contains 740kj, 24.3g of Sugar (of which 13.8g is Lactose) and 3.3g of Fat. Yes the full cream milk has more fat, however it also has approximately half the sugar – and none of it is added sugar – assuming you are not lactose intolerant – our bodies can metabolise Lactose very well. So in the flavoured liquid breakfast you get extra sugar  AND extra calories – not to mention extra chemicals in all those stabiliser and enhancer numbers.

I know that I would much rather my children to have plain old full cream milk with half the sugar (and I don’t know about your children but mine go a bit cray cray when they have extra sugar) and a little bit extra fat than the chemical laden liquid breakfast substitute.

We as parent have to wise up to the evil marketing that the big food giants use to appeal to parents and children if we are to win the battle against childhood obesity. If you think – who am I to be able to do something about this? Actually, you can!

Sarah Wilson has teamed up with Kieron Rooney to lobby the NSW government to make changes to the NSW School Canteen guidelines – and they need 10 000 in person signatures to make it happen. If you live in NSW and the food your children have access to in school is something that you feel passionate about then do your best to try and sign this petition. Every little bit of effort from an individual helps.

What else could you do? If you see a food item in your school canteen that you are unhappy with – let your P&C know, have a look at the healthy school canteen strategy (Other states have similar guidelines/strategies) – to back up your lobbying efforts. Many small efforts add up to results and your opinion can make a difference!

As a disclaimer to this post – I am not in any way affiliated with Sarah Wilson or her petition – it is simply a topic that I feel passionate about. Real food is more important than processed food and it is only though people power that we will get any government to take on multinational corporations. Additionally, I attended the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society 2014 conference last week and saw Dr Kieron Rooney’s key note presentation on this very topic – but it is the type on information that all parents should know – so if it enrages you too – please share!!

Andjxx


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How does my Garden Grow? October 13th – 19th

homegrown peas

The Garden is making me so Happy right now!

I know that the beginning of spring is usually a time when people feel a bit despondent about the produce (or lack there of) that is coming from the garden but as this is the first time in 3 years that I have had a productive vegetable garden, it is making my heart sing.

homegrown produce

 

I brought in the last of the Broccolli this week – a crop which I planted with no expectations of actually eating anything from the planting – purely just to fill a gap in the garden over winter. The peas are being extra abundant this year – and the chickens are still warming up to the fact that it is spring. We getting 3 – 4 eggs every two days at the moment.

The greens garden is now empty of Kale – which all went to seed at the first hint of heat – and was fed to the chickens, but the spinach is still going very well and I am enjoying it in my green smoothies.

spinach

I planted Calendula all through the veggie garden – both for a touch of colour and to attract some beneficial insects to the garden. They are just starting to flower now and while I should be collecting the flowers to save the petals for Calendula Salve (For Little B’s eczema) – I am just enjoying the flowers right now.

gareden

 

I have been very organised this year and have created a fenced area for the veggie garden – just in case those pesky chickens escape – at least they won’t be able to get in to the main veggie beds. I am planting my pumpkin plants into compost at the far end of the picture also. The cabbages at the top of the picture have been totally eaten by cabbage moth caterpillars and have also gone to seed – so they will be being pulled out soon and replaced with something else – not 100% sure what yet.

seedlings

Last but not least are the babies – waiting patiently to be put into the garden one the chances of frost have passed. I planted a few tomato plants into big pots to allow them to grow big prior to planting out this year and it has been a successful strategy so far. The plants are doing really well. In there I also have some Chilli, Capsicums, and eggplant. I may end up keeping one or two eggplant in a pot – just to see how they go. I have a few varieties of Tomato planned this year. I will save that for a future post.

How is your garden growing this spring? Trying your hand at something new?

Andjxx

 


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and so I bought a Dehydrator…

Aldi Dehydrator

I have been waiting and waiting for Aldi to stock these Lumina Dehydrators again so that I could justify buying one – just to have a go and see if I like the result. So last week when I saw these in the Aldi catalogue, I put it in my diary so that I didn’t forget to go and grab one.

So far I have only used it a couple of times and having absolutely no experience whatsoever with food dehydrating – I had no expectations of what it should perform like.

My low expectations aside – I think that if you want a basic dehydrator for dried fruit and nuts that you make yourself – then this is  probably a very good option – at least until you out grow it and need something bigger and more comprehensive – by which time, I dare say you could probably justify spending more money on an expensive dehydrator.

On  the first day I bought a punnet of Cherry Tomatos and I had some strawberries in the fridge and I thought that I would just give it a go. I put them in at 70 degrees and the strawberries were done at about the 7 hour point and the tomato’s ‘semi-dried’ by the 10 hour point. The strawberries were great – like tasty little lolly treats. The tomatos were a bit tart – and I have since discovered that certain varieties of tomato make for a better ‘sun-dried’ affect than others.

On Saturday I put in some pineapple, banana, apple and kiwi fruit. The apple, kiwi and banana were all dried enough for our liking at the 10 hour point, the pineapple had an extra 4 hours the next day and probably needed longer – however, the little ones wanted to eat it so it didn’t really matter.

Dehydrated pineapple

The key is to choose good tasting fruit to start with – as if the fruit is sour then this is only intensified. The kiwi fruit tasted a little bit like sour lollies. The pineapple and banana were divine and the apple tasted like – well – dried apple.

I look forward to doing some more experimenting with it and to being able to use it to preserve any excess that we might have rather than it going to waste or simply to have another preservation option available. It is definitely a good feeling to be able to put these things into the school lunch box knowing that it is just fruit and nothing else.

On the downside, I had to say goodbye to my bread machine as a trade off to getting the dehydrator. It went to a good home though and will see many more loaves yet I am sure.

Andjxx

 

 


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So I have to do some work on myself now…

Time for me

Four and a half years is approximately how long I have been neglecting myself now.

Sure there was a time there in the middle of the two boys where I was doing pretty well and it has mostly been all downhill for the past two years in particular. But I have had a little health wake up call of late and it is time to heal and mend from all of the increased stress that has been the past two years. Gosh I am getting all teary just writing this. I don’t even know if my new job is actually going to be less stressful but in a way I think that it just has to be.

The first thing I have done is I have given up caffeine. What! I know …crazy right. But it has been almost a week now and the only time I have missed it was on Sunday morning with our cooked breakfast. A nice pot of plunger coffee was part of the ritual. I have replace it with peppermint tea mostly, with a few other herbals thrown in for good measure and the odd decaf cappuccino at the shops. The biggest thing was the diet coke. I was a can a day, had to have it, drove to the shops especially kind of addict. For the first few days I switched to Caffeine free Diet coke, but it gave me a really strange feeling in my chest, similar the the one I get from Coke Zero – it is such a strange feeling that drinking it isn’t worth it. So that’s gone too.

Why all this? Well I have a feeling that I may have a bit of adrenal fatigue going on  and along with a host of vitamin supplements, giving up the caffeine is strongly recommended.  I am giving it 6 months to see how my energy levels are and try to determine if it has made any difference at all.

The second thing I am doing is giving myself the next 6 months to get back down to my happy weight and back to running regularly. I have also started playing field hockey again for the first time in about 20 years. Having a sport to play every week gives me a bit more motivation to get some level of fitness back again – just so that I can run around for 50 minutes with out feeling exhausted and tired the next day.

So I have signed up to the Michelle Bridges 12wbt again…because I absolutely don’t have a choice but to lose weight. I am six kilos about my previous ‘happy’ point and my ideal weight is around 66kg – right now I am 10kg over that.

So I decided it is time and that this will be my focus for the next six months.

Wish me luck!

xxAndjxx


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A week on from my Retreat

Buddah, Avrajita

This time last week I was sitting in a yurt  in Kangaroo Valley with a bunch of strangers about to embark on my first Yoga retreat. The weekend away – run by a Canberra local,  Simplicity Retreats was something I had planned for quite some time as my introduction to the world of retreats – and I was not disappointed.  Despite the initial nervousness of spending a weekend with strangers – we were all there for the same reason – time away from our stressful lives to find space and time to contemplate.

The amazing venue in Kangaroo Valley is just what you would expect from a retreat center – a hidden gem filled with many spaces of quietude and peace.

Avrajita

I have to say that while the yoga part was fabulous – perfectly paced and pitched for those who may not have done yoga for some time – the part I enjoyed the most was the free time. Time to sit in front of the continuously glowing fireplace and read from the well stocked library, to knit, to chat with others when you felt like it – or just simply to sit. And of course to snuggle up under those beautifully cozy blankets.

Yoga Retreat Kangaroo Valley, Avrajita

Avrajita

My second favorite part was the most amazing food that we were served all weekend by the amazingly positive and radiant Angie from Angie Gluten Free. The beautiful, nourishing, organic vegetarian fare was nothing short of amazing and it was fantastic to have the opportunity to try things that may have seemed out of reach outside of this environment. Angie instils love into every element of her food and I truly think that  you can taste that in the end result. I felt so clean at the end of the weekend that I was afraid to eat normally again!

Angie Gluten free, yoga retreat catering

The sleeping arrangements were in a separate purpose built area and consisted of king size bunks with an ensuite in each ‘cabin’. I shared with a lovely lady and was very comfortable.

Avrajita

As tends to happen – this weekend away came at a time when I needed it ever so much. I definitely want to go away again next year – my intention is to go Bali or Thailand for a slightly longer retreat – but if that doesn’t work I would most certainly go to Avrajita again with Simplicity retreats – it was sublime!

IMG_4179


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Whaere has the Happy gone?

Happy Life Quote

Happy Life Quote

 

This may be the truth but of late my outlook on life has not been all that Happy. To be honest I have been far from the mother I would like to be in the past few months and this makes me sad. Circumstances in our family and working lives right now are less than idea and there is not a whole lot that we can do about this in the short term.

As someone whose natural tendency is to awfulise and catastrophise – this combination makes it very difficult for me to see a way out of the bleak reality that is our life right now.

I have just had two weeks off work which has been an absolute blessing and as this break draws to a close I am feeling a much renewed sense of capability and a small element of vision to carry me forward for the next few months. But I have also realised that I need to quiet my overactive, overthinking mind and declutter my life in order to simplify my approach. More than anything, this is about  self preservation of Sanity. I can’t make my work go away – I am the only one working right now.

I try very hard to remain positive but to little success.

I need to do something to regain the Happy Mama part of this blog. I look back on photographs from 18 months ago and I see a completely different person. One who had energy and vibrancy, one who cared much more about her appearance and level of self care, one whose eyes sparkled in pictures who was enthusiastic about blogging and sharing her life.

Now all I see is blah, dullness and how everything is just hard – right down to getting out of bed in the morning.

Surely she is still there – I’m just not sure how to find her anymore.


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Cooking From Scratch

68012622_ciwblvla_c

 

** This post originally appeared on one of my blogs from well back in the day – this week I am doing a retrospective of some past writing – I hope you enjoy!**

We had a little lunch gathering for a few friends yesterday – not quite like the picture above – but hey I am dreaming of summer and being able to spend serious amounts of time outdoors!

We cooked up a  bit of an Indian feast including a couple of vegetarian curries (Eggplant and Chickpea as well as this Aloo Gobi ). We also made a Goat Madras – yes you read right – Goat.

Back in our pre-children days we regularly went to a great Indian restaurant in Brisbane called A Night in India (High st, Toowong – I thoroughly recommend!). My husband and his friends regularly ordered a goat dish for the novelty factor – and really it is a novelty. It doesn’t taste all that different to Lamb!

For the first time I went to a specialty spice store and bought a authentic Indian madras spice blend. If you have never been to one of these places they are quite an eye opener – all the things you can buy in bulk! Rice and Spices…. but I digress. I think that doing this made such a big difference to the flavour of the curry – it was perfect!  Add rice and poppadums – we were all very happy! If anyone is interested I improvised basing the curry on a combination of this Goat curry recipe and this one.

I found it interesting to hear one of our friends telling the other girl (Who I had only met once before briefly) that I make everything from scratch (she was referring to the pumpkin hummus that I made). Is it that strange to cook from scratch? Is that a reflection of the quick and easy society that we live in?

I cook most things from scratch for a number of reasons:

– so that I know what has gone into the food – no chemicals, additives or preservatives.

– so that my children see cooking and preparing food as a normal part of growing up and that we don’t always just go to the shop when we want something.

– value for money!

So I’ll leave you with the Eggplant and Chickpea curry recipe – but tell me –

Do you prefer to make things from scratch???

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

Serves 4 as a main

2 medium Eggplant

200g Green Beans

1 onion – diced

1 Tin chickpeas

1 tin Lentils

1.5 tbls Tamarind paste

2 Cups water

1 tbls yellow mustard seeds

2 tbls Garam marsala

200ml Coconut milk

Rogan Josh curry spice blend

2 tbls minced ginger

1 tblsp minced garlic

Method

Chop eggplant into 3 – 4 cm cubes, spray with olive oil spray and cook in a 200 degree celcius (180 fan forced) oven for 20mins.

Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a pan with approx 2 tbls olive oil – cook gently until the onion starts to  brown. Add the mustard seeds and Garam Marsala and cook until fragrant (about 1 min). Add spice blend and mix through thoroughly. Add tamarind and water and stir through. Allow to cook down and reduce slightly. Add eggplant, lentils, chickpeas and beans and cook for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add coconut milk in the last 5 minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice!

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:: Healthy Dinners:: The story of a Pizza thats Amore

Pizza is a fairly regular meal choice in our home – which you may think is a strange choice for someone who supposedly encourages a healthy lifestyle. I actually think that Pizza done well is an excellent and wholesome meal. Let me elaborate further.

When you make your own pizza from scratch or you purchase it from someone else who you know also makes their pizzas in a traditional manner and from scratch, using fresh ingredients – you can usually find that particular pizza is full of fresh goodness. Whole foods and the absolute freshest ingredients are key. As is making your dough from scratch. And not using TOO much cheese.

I really enjoy the whole process of the pizza coming together. Making Pizza dough – like bread is a bit of an art and every recipe you find seems to be slightly different. Also like bread, it does take a little practice before you begin to get the feel for the dough.

Pizza This dough is so needy!

This dough is so needy!

Kneading the dough in itself can be a challenge sometimes – it is always a balance between the stickiness of the dough before the gluten starts to take effect and makes it become all stretch and smooth and lovely and not using too much flour on your hads to stop the said stick doug from, well… sticking.

Then you walk away and let all that yeasty goodness do it’s work.

Pizza Dough Rising

Dough Rising

I actually drove all the way over to the other side of town to pick something up while this dough was rising! Talk about multitasking!

Punch it down, give it another knead, lightly spray some oil on the pizza tray and the roll and stretch out the dough to fit. I just love the organic-ness of homemade Pizza dough.

Pizza Rolled and Ready

Rolled and Ready

Add your toppings of choice – a good guide is a little meat and a lot of vege! Then a smattering of cheese (I *may* have had more than a smattering here given that bocconcini was one of my toppings.)

Pizza Nearly Ready

Nearly Ready

We did have a slight pause at this point as I discovered that while I thought I had turned the oven on, the little munchkin had actually pre-programmed it by randomly pressing buttons and it hadn’t preheated at all. So 45 minutes and a little bit of gardening later, here you have it!

Pizza Yum

Yum!

xxAndj

What is your favourite sometimes food dinner?