April 14, 2011 § 6 Comments
Spring weather has officially arrived and I could not be happier! I love spring, mainly because I love seeing people shaking off their winter coats and spending afternoons sipping drinks in a beer garden, or long, lazy Sundays lounging in the park with the picnic basket, a couple of bottles of Proseco and a good book. It is a time of rebirth, renewal, regrowth and reconnection.
I have been bowled over with the beauty, and energy, that spring has brought here in Charlotte. Cherry blossoms and dogwoods were thick with blossom for most of March, and daffodils made blankets of yellow on the lawn of many homes. What I loved most was returning from our weekend in Pennsylvania and seeing that the city had exploded with a thousands shade of green. It was breathtaking and reminded me of growing up in the country, where after ten days away at the beach in September we would return and see that our garden had been coloured in with every green from bright apple to deep eucalyptus. I never experienced the same oomph during the change of seasons in Sydney, so this really was a sight for sore eyes.
NB and I have certainly felt ourselves energised and have taken on many projects to prepare our home for hosting spring parties. Weekends have been spent digging garden beds and planting seeds, trimming hedges and mowing lawns. To be honest I think NB was relieved when my lovely friend @ FoodieFresh came over to help me paint the porch on Sunday, and talk about women power! What a job! I also love that FF paints with the philosophy of a friend’s father – it is necessary to drink beers while painting as a form of time management. When you’ve had a sufficient amount to drink and can no longer climb up the ladder, it is time to call it a day!
The local farmers markets have also started, and we are fortunate enough to have two at the end of our rode, a stones throw away. Warm evenings and fresh produce call for keeping meals as simple as possible. One meal that ticks all the boxes is this Spring Meatball Salad. This meal was actually made by The Duck in my last two weeks in Australia and nearly all the salad ingredients were picked straight from our garden before we set the table. I simply love the nasturtium flowers 🙂
In winter, these meatballs are made and cooked in a tomato sauce made rich and delicious with cream and homemade stock. In the warmer months however they are perfect for a salad, a meatball sub or skewer them and have them as part of a cocktail party with garlic aioli. From the number of taste testings we have done on the recipe, this one is the winner!
The Duck’s Winning Meatballs:
500g or about 1 pound beef mince
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli (ditto!)
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs (make your own with day old bread in the food processor and freeze individual cup-portions in ziplock bags)
Any scraps of herbs from the crisper or garden
Any spice flavour that you like: e.g Moroccan, Cajun…
Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl with your hands. Form into small meatballs using the ‘Metro Method’, i.e. toss from hand to hand like a baseball player!
Put on a glad-wrap lined tray (=no washing!) and have a 2nd tray beside it. Once meatballs are all formed, have a pile of flour and lightly roll each one on it before setting on the 2nd tray.
To cook meatballs, heat a splash of olive oil in a large based fry pan over med-high heat. Once browned on one side, turn the meatballs over and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with foil and cook about 10 minutes until cooked through but still juicy inside (if using the meatballs for pasta, only cook 2/3 of the way through and finish cooking in sauce).
Sit meatballs aside while you toss together a salad (leaves, lebanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, marinated artichokes, olives, red onion, cannelini beans etc). For dressing, combine some of the juice from the jar of artichokes with Greek yoghurt and garlic aioli.
(note: It is worth taking the extra time to roll the meatballs nice and small so they cook faster and stay juicy. To freeze meatballs, line a baking tray with paper and evenly layer the meatballs, repeat with another layer of paper on top if needed. When frozen you can toss the meatballs into a ziplock bag and freeze. To defrost, shake them back out on to a baking tray so they don’t get squashed, and thaw in the fridge overnight.)
April 6, 2011 § 9 Comments
Here we are again. My dedication to food has wreaked havoc on my waistline.
Before I moved to America I was shocked by how many women told me that their time abroad resulted in pounds and pounds of weight gain. If you are unsure about the conversions, one pound is 2.2kg (The Duck’s method for roasting lamb: 15 minutes per pound, 15 minutes for the oven, 15+ minutes to rest) So pounds and pounds is a LOT of weight! I wondered how they had allowed the scales to tip so rapidly. Now I know. Here are some of the warnings that were given to me:
- “The portion sizes are huge”,
- “Everything is packed with sugar and cheese”,
- “The country rules Drive-Thru: food, banks, pharmacies. You will stop walking”
And now my own observations:
- When you stop working/studying full time you sit at home and eat more;
- When you don’t know many people, you sit at home and eat more;
- When you move into the middle of winter, you sit at home and eat more;
- Moving away from Eastern Suburbs yummy mummies greatly relieves the pressure of daily workouts;
- When you move to the South I have two words: Paula Deen…
So maybe keep an eye out for a few health-kick recipes coming from amidst the strawberry vines. Or maybe I’ll just say to hell with it and chocolate coat those berries instead. Tell me, what would you do??
During the writing of this post the author gorged on cheese and crackers, peanut butter & celery, nuts, seeds, milk and chocolate. Simultaneously.
February 12, 2011 § 10 Comments
“I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert”
Ah yes, a sentiment I’m all too familiar with. But what’s life without a little sweetness?? Just ask Marie Antoinette.
Candy is not really my thing, it never has been, but bring me a slice of orange & poppyseed cake, a shortbread biscuit or a scoop of ice cream and I’ll be yours for the taking.
But, every now and again a girl has to curb her addiction, and this recipe is about having my ‘cake’ and eating it too…
(makes 1 litre)
4 just ripe bananas
1 cup berries (frozen or fresh)
3-4 tbl unsweetened cacao powder
1 cup greek yoghurt or 2/3 cup coconut milk
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Freeze in an empty yoghurt container or a glass bowl, stir after a couple of hours and allow to reset.
…Admittedly, this isn’t as decadent as ice cream but it has no added sugar and no added fat. Once the gelato has completely frozen it will be VERY hard and icy, so just take it out of the freezer about 15-20 minutes before you want to serve. I like to grate some dark chocolate over the top or sprinkle it with ground nuts. And remember to get creative, it’s the soup of dessert, which means you can throw in any spare fruit you have lying around, or Cold Rock it up by stirring through goji berries, crumbled biscuits, chocolate pieces, nuts or dried fruit before freezing.
February 11, 2011 § 6 Comments
I still haven’t mastered hummus, I think it’s just one of those things that you need to be taught by a Lebanese mother. However, considering my lack of Lebanese-mother-friends at the moment I thought I would just have another crack at it myself, and I’m certain that we’ve made progress since the first attempt.
Yesterday was play day with the food processor, whenever I pull it out I tend to have a good blitz in one go. After breadcrumbing, ice cream making (stay tuned for that), health ball buzzing and mashed potato whipping I looked at the chickpeas in the fridge and decided – it’s you and me kid.
My rough helpings of ingredients might guide you, but don’t quote me on them! For about 2 cups of chickpeas (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed) I added 2 big tablespoons of unhulled tahini, the juice of 1 large lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic and maybe 1/4 cup olive oil. Then it wasn’t pureeing as much as I would like but I think this had more to do with the wattage of my food processor than the quantity of ingredients, so I just kept feeding it homemade chicken stock (which I finally have down to an art form!) until it smoothed out a bit. Then I poured in the balsamic vinegar and oil from my deli olives and buzzed along a bit more.
In the end it was still quite grainy, and this is where we need the work, but the taste was nice and not too chickpea-ish.
I served the hummus with dinner last night, as an alternative to butter for nice chewy bread, and while I don’t think anyone else tried it I made a terrific discovery! When I was clearing the table I stirred the remaining pesto into the hummus bowl and wouldn’t you know it, the taste was awesome! I had hummus on toast for breakfast and can’t walk past the fridge without dipping in with my teaspoon.
Now to just work on the texture and I may declare hummus victory (but if you know a Lebanese mother please send her my way!)
February 1, 2011 § 11 Comments
Don’t you love a change of scene?! The new sights, the new sounds, the new tastes! Today marks my sixth day in America and I’m settling in to my new home splendidly! Today I spent over an hour browsing through the supermarket where I bought apple sauce, Southern marinades and the ‘O’ (Oprah) magazine – how American am I dearests?! And you’ll find that most of the fresh produce at the supermarket is organic, no price quirks, it just is. Speaking of organic, yesterday NB took me to Earth Fare, a delightful organic superstore where I nearly emptied the ‘bulk buy’ section of its nuts, oats, seeds, grains and licorice – give me a scoop and it seems I can’t stop…There are also a large number of farmers markets in my neighbourhood alone and a giant Asian warehouse further out. WOW! For some reason I thought I was moving into a fresh food drought – perhaps I was blindsided by all the grits, pies, ribs and cajun fare that I tasted at Thanksgiving??!
Oh, and did you know that Target in America has a Starbucks and other takeaway counters instore?? Shopping to the smell of popcorn is a bit of a change, but after being in there for 2 hours this afternoon buying laundry goods and stationary I almost needed some.
Which brings me to today’s recipe! Make these little round bites of pureed dried fruits, nuts and seeds, for a great high-energy snack on the run, or after dinner with a cup of coffee or cocoa on a cold winter’s night.
You have probably seen similar morsels for sale at organic stores for $$$, but why buy when you can make your own? I made a big batch with the food processor I bought today and froze half for next week to keep them super fresh. And don’t feel for a minute that you need to stick to these ingredients! Try goji berries, brazil nuts, grated licorice, spirulina, peppermint essence, or dried Syrian blueberries. Next time I’ll dust the outside with coconut but I could only find sweetened today in the supermarket so I’ll wait until I get my hands on some of the natural stuff!
I can see myself loving these next week when I get back in to the gym, or when I go hiking up the mountains in search of squirrels and moose!!
Date and Nut Balls
~makes about 15~
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup cashews
100g blanched almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
150g pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
2 tbs sesame seeds
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs honey
Lightly toast the nuts in a dry frypan over medium-low heat. Place in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped.
Add oats, apricots, dates, prunes, sesame seeds, cocoa, cinnamon and honey and process for 2-3 minutes or until mixture forms a paste.
Divide mixture into golf-ball-sized portions and roll between lightly moistened hands to make about 15 balls.
Roll the balls in extra cocoa, pulsed pepitas or coconut to coat. They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks but stay super fresh in the freezer, remove 10 minutes before serving.
As they say down here in the South, hope y’all come back now
*blush. eat. sigh. dream. travel*
December 14, 2010 § 8 Comments
It’s that time of year again when gym sessions become victim to Christmas parties and healthy eating becomes victim to Christmas parties and Christmas parties become victim to Christmas parties (whatever that means!) But you know what I’m talking about?? December is the one month when we say, oh just one cocktail (when we normally don’t drink during the week), just one blini, just one mini meat-pie. But suddenly you found that ‘just one’ is happening Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, (fortunately I work Mondays) and then one day you wake up with a food hangover and roll over to see that you’re lying next to some overweight, greasy, ash-faced rager – oh wait, that’s just the mirror! This is when you remember that in the last week you have probably consumed two family meat pies, 1kg of creme fraiche and enough vodka to knock out Lindsay Lohan.
You might not want to hear this (I certainly didn’t) but it’s my duty to play the grinch.
The average slice of bacon and leek quiche is 30% fat
Each party-sized sausage roll is over 120 calories (please ignore this if you are coming to my Christmas party on Saturday where I intend to serve homemade party sized sausage rolls!)
A single spring roll has 103 calories – and let’s be honest, not that much flavour
Vegetable samosas might be moreish but at 377 calories per serve…
Just 10 potato chips is 111 calories or 30 minutes of fast walking
Pretty dreadful stuff huh?!!?! And then we get in an alcohol haze that creates a magnetic pull between our mouths and the chocolate fondue fountain, not to mention the caloric-density of alcohol itself (1 glass of champagne – 107 calories, 1 Cosmopolitan – 146 calories, an average 170 calories in beer…)
But I’m not suggesting you be a dieting bore! There are just a few tips to help you out, like the Elves help Santa:
Say no to the first round of hors d’oeuvres, they nearly always come around again
Check out what’s on offer first. If you would normally never order a spring roll but love your cheese then treat yourself with the latter instead of acting like a kid in a candy store and taking one of everything.
Share a dessert with someone
Have a healthy snack before heading off to these functions as chances are there won’t be any real sense of dinner so you will get confused about your state of hunger and continue to graze all night.
On this last point, you’ll often read suggestions about a protein rich bite before a canape party, for example snacking on some turkey or having a hard boiled egg…riiiight, sounds delicious! So yeah, if I did this i would be eating a meaty, eggy snack FOLLOWED by delicious party food! Woops! Instead, I find that a small meal, which I can sit down and enjoy, works a treat. A cup of vegetable soup for example (I like to have single serve portions in the freezer) or this yummy Barley & Roast Vegetable Salad. And if all else fails, stick your toothbrush in your bag and when you become tempted with seconds duck into the bathroom for a peppermint dessert.
Happy Festive Eating Blushers!!!
Barley and Roast Vegetable Salad
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut 200g pumpkin into generous chunks (it’s Christmas after all, not the time of year to be stingy). Toss pumpkin with olive oil, pepper and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. Transfer to roasting tray with 1/4 bunch of basil and roast for 10-15 minutes. When pumpkin is 2/3 cooked, add 1 large chopped zucchini and 1 large lebanese (finger) eggplant and return to oven for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.
Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of stock to the boil, add 1/2 cup barley and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Drain and set aside.
Finely slice 1/4 red cabbage and 1/2 spanish onion. Steam in a saucepan with a lid, with a dash of white wine vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar. Towards the end of cooking toss in a large handful of spinach/rocket mix.
In a large bowl combine barley, cabbage mixture and roast vegetables. Drizzle with one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or to taste). Serve with crumbled fetta, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and freshly chopped basil and chives – or whatever Italian style herbs you may have on hand.
September 22, 2010 § 3 Comments
It’s racing season, and I’m not talking about horses.
August-December seems to be the peak time for athletes (and “athletes”) as they shake of the winter dust and hit the tracks for marathons, triathlons and ocean swims. The starting gun at the August City to Surf seemed to kick off events, and then it was training time for last weekend’s Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon, where Kenyan born Isaac Serem was the first to cross the finish line in 2h 29m 30s. Now it’s all triathlons, half-marathons and fun runs up until the Bondi to Bronte ocean swim on December 5, and then begin the Christmas charity walks and social sporting events!
I make myself starving just thinking about it!
Admittedly I haven’t participated in any said athletic challenges, but I often find myself at the finish line to celebrate my friends’ achievements with a beer and a steak sandwich! Running may not be my thing but food and how it affects our training is right up my alley! So my involvement in getting our nation fighting fit will be from the sidelines and in the kitchen…if you’re in training this post is for you!
Hydration is the key to athletic performance, losing just two per cent of your body fluids during racing can lead to dehydration, which decreases physical and mental performance and you’ll feel like you’re working twice as hard. Even if you stop reading now and just follow this one piece of advice, you will have achieved the most beneficial effect of any single nutritional intervention.
A rough guide for hydration:
- Drink 150-300ml every 15-20 minutes of high intensity exercise
- Take breaks during long races to rehydrate, you will not be wasting your time
- Drink up before: you know you’re well hydrated when your urine runs pale to clear 30 minutes before the race
- Drinking sports drinks for races longer than 10-15 km is beneficial to rebalance the fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates in your system. (Running for under 10 km doesn’t require this and if you’re training for weight loss watch the carbohydrate and sugar count in these drinks) – Coconut water is also the best natural source of electrolytes, calcium, potassium and magnesium…plus eating a bit of the flesh will replenish your body with vital healthy fats
EATING AHEAD – DIET + TRAIN = RESULTS
As for your pre-race week the new train of thought (no pun intended!) is to eat slightly fewer carbs than normal 4-7 days before the race and then eat normally + a little extra starch for the last 4 days while gently decreasing your running mileage to rest the body.
More in-depth information about the ratio of carbs to fat to protein can be read here
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE RACING…
The night before a 10 to 15+ km race it is recommended to eat a low-fat, carbohydrate rich meal and again at least 2-3 hours prior to the start. This is what we call carbohydrate loading and ensures your muscles have enough glycogen (energy reserves) to get you to the finish line.
Spinach, mushroom and pine nut baked risotto
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat a non-stick frypan over low heat and gently roast 2 tbs pinenuts for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
Increase heat to medium add 2 tsp olive oil. Add 1 small onion (finely diced), 1 garlic clove (crushed), and 10 medium field mushrooms (sliced). Cook for 4 minutes or until lightly golden.
Place 2/3 cup arborio rice, 1 ¾ cup chicken stock, and mushroom mixture into a baking dish and stir to combine. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until most of the stock has been absorbed.
Add 1 cup baby spinach leaves, freshly ground pepper and half the pinenuts, stir gently to combine. Divide risotto between two plates and sprinkle with reduced-fat fetta and remaining pine nuts.
(Note: You could turn this into a chicken risotto by cutting 4 thigh fillets into large chunks and half cooking in the frypan after the pinenuts. Set aside and return to dish at step 3 with the rice, stock, mushrooms etc).
Brown fried rice
For the best fried rice I like to cook the rice the night before and leave it in the fridge. This dries it out a bit and stops the dish going soggy when you add sauces.
Heat 1/2 tsp rice bran oil or vegetable oil in a non-stick wok. Pour in 2 eggs (lightly beaten) and cook for one-minute, swirling gently. When egg is almost cooked take the wok off the heat and slide omelette out. Roll the egg up and slice into rounds.
Return wok to heat, add 1 tsp oil and saute 1 garlic clove (crushed), 2 tsp ginger (finely chopped), and 1 small onion (diced).
Add 2 tsp Shaosing (Chinese cooking wine) and 60g lean smoked ham, bacon or pancetta (sliced). Stirfry for 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup cooked brown rice, stir to combine. Add 2 tbs light soy sauce, 2 sliced spring onions and 100g green beans, green capsicum (sliced) or frozen peas. Add egg and stirfry until heated through.
Divide between two warmed bowls. Serve with lime wedges.
THE DAY OF…
Get off to a good start with an energising breakfast. Bananas are carb-dense, easily digestible and a great source of potassium – awesome pre-race food!
Wholemeal crumpets with grilled banana and honey
Meanwhile, toast 2 wholemeal crumpets until browned to your liking.
Top crumpets with banana, 60g reduced fat ricotta and 2 tsp honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.
Why don’t you complement your breakfast with an energy smoothie?! Always have your favourite fruits chopped and frozen in the freezer to make it nice and thick without icecream!
(recipes and images courtesy of Fitness First Online)
Take the time to stretch.
Refuel with a protein based meal.
Crack open a beer! Well done!
Read an interview with a racing cyclist/chef here for the low down from the kitchen and the track.