Reality: my disease can kill me … dr says get serious!

You see, just as a life support machine keeps someone alive so too does my medication. Without it and without the constant supervision of a medical team of experts, my disease could take a turn for the worse and the reality is that I could die. The disease which resides in my body has the ability to cause major organ failure, including heart failure! Whoa, talk about major mortality wake up call! –

– and yet, I’ve done nothing to ensure this doesn’t happen. Nothing at all. Because I’ve always put myself last. I never feel like it will happen to me. But it could. It very well could. And if I continue down this path of pushing my health to the wayside, I’m going to end up in trouble. Big, major organ failure, sucky kind of trouble. My medication has acted as an armour of sorts, protecting me from danger while providing an unintentional false sense of security

I have taken it for granted since my diagnosis over 2 years ago. I’ve cancelled many appointments with my endocrinologist over the last 18 months because the nature of my occupation means others are affected by me taking leave. Yes, you read that right! — I have cancelled many (potentially life saving) appointments, without hesitation, because I have never, ever put myself first. I haven’t even taken any annual leave for almost 18 months for the same reasons. But truth be told, I couldn’t work if my disease took a deadly grip. I couldn’t cuddle my children, sit in the sunshine or read a book because I wouldn’t be here. That’s quite a scary reality.

Every morning I wake up to fact that I live with a life threatening disease. I have to live with this threat every day of my life. It’s not fun. Obviously. And while I understand that it’s not imminently terminal like so many others, I do wish my biggest concerns were the little things that grind at us all, but instead I’ve been forced to also think about things like who will give my children the tender kiss of a mother that they will need and desire if I were to pass away, on top of my daily stresses.

So it was with great happiness and relief combined with a bucket load of fear and confusion when my doctor told me last week that I am now in remission and can come off my medications. In no uncertain words, he also told me I had to take this more seriously. He told me to get well rested. He told me I need to lessen my stress and get serious about my health because without medication and without medical supervision, I’m at high risk. HIGH RISK. — double whoa!

So, while I am so relieved that my disease is now in remission, I am also now acutely aware that this means big changes for my lifestyle. It means good clean food and exercise must become familiar friends once again (hello chicken liver, goodbye chilli chips), it means that I have to have regular blood checks and doctors appointments but most importantly, it means I have to put myself first.

It means I have to rest my fatigued body. It means that I must reduce my stress. It means that if I do not attend every doctor appointment and get every check up, I could potentially die. This means I have to be more selfish and less of a yes person. I have to learn to say no, even if that upsets people, which it inevitably will, and that will be my hardest challenge because I care, because I’m a friend, a mother and a partner. But most importantly, I’m me and I can’t be any of those other things if I’m sick (or worse).

It also means that by doing these things I’m going to be healthier, happier, more energetic, more caring, more giving, less stressed. It means I will think clearer, cuddle more, love bigger and be a better friend and mother. It’s means I will be my old self. The happier me and I can’t wait for her return.

So even though I’m free of the medication, my journey with this disease is far from over. In fact, in my opinion it’s only just beginning but it’s going to be a great learning experience and I think it will enrich my life so much more than this disease has already done. You see, I don’t view my disease as a burden. Since learning of my disease my passion for food and healthy living is thriving and I’ve always had the mindset that it will change my life for the better. Even through all the up’s and down’s (of which there has been (and still is) many) it has given me more to be grateful for than it has taken away. It’s given me direction, clarity and new-found interests. It’s helping de-clutter my life and mind so I can enjoy the simpler things in life without stress. It’s made me aware of what I view as important and it’s helped me to rediscover who I am at an individual level. I’ve discovered a strong desire to live a much simpler life than the one I previous thought I wanted. A life which focuses on experiences not things. A life which focuses on the people in it not how much stuff I can fill it with. A happy, fulfilled life.

Now I just have to learn how to take time for myself, to breathe, to relax, to soak in the glories of life … so I can be a better mother, partner, friend and worker and live that life I desire.

And so on that note, I’m signing off to have a cuddle with my children and drink a nice warm cup of cacao on this glorious, rainy day.

It’s good to be alive!

Being unorganised is making me sick!

When I started this blog it was intended to be only about food, but along the way as I’ve walked ‘down healthy lane’ I’ve discovered that being healthy is not just about food so why limit this blog to only one aspect. Health involves all the aspects of our lives which contribute to our daily experiences. Some things make us happy, others not so much. Happiness is the key to health. Well, it is for me anyway.  Happiness makes us want to look after ourselves. And I want to share all those aspects with you all because let’s face it, life is not just one big never ending bowl of healthy chocolate mousse. Nope! Sometimes it’s a cake which didn’t rise or a big bowl of canned baked beans or just plain sugar riddled fudge!

I don’t want to share a false image which contributes to others feeling bad about themselves because they can’t live up to a standard which doesn’t really exist. I want to share all the parts of my life which are helping me to find happiness and health. The good, the bad and the just plain ugly.

This is my ugly.

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I don’t know about you but clutter is my worst enemy. Yet I’m surrounded by STUFF and I think it is literally making me sick as the guilt and shame take up residence in my mind. It’s presence weighs on me like a tonne of bricks. But still, there it is staring me critically in the eyes each and every day. Shaming me. And I feel seemingly unable to stop it as it engulfs my home and my mind and holds the rest of my life and true happiness to ransom. It’s a mental curse and it’s time to break it.

But if I’m to be brutally honest, the worst part of this story is that my bad habits are rubbing off on my children. My reality is fast becoming their reality. Their burden. Their weight to bare. That’s just sad. Not to mention, completely avoidable.

Over the past few months I’ve been inspired by many a minimalist page on Facebook. The philosophy of owning less and living more is one I truly believe in – it is better for us and for the environment – and each time I read their posts I am reminded about why it is so important for our overall health to be organised and clutter free. Does my daughter really need 18 pairs of tracksuit pants (that’s right 18 pairs, I counted them!). Do we really need all this stuff clogging our shelves and clouding our brains? I don’t believe we do and I know I personally feel a lot better when it’s not in my home. I’ve just never known where to start. Until today.

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I was looking for something earlier and went to open a kitchen drawer and it was stuck. On one of a thousand unwanted and unused containers that I ‘might use one day’! Pfft! I always save stuff thinking I will find a use for it. I never do. All it does is clutter my drawers and cloud my mental space.

Well, it aggravated me enough that I took everything out of the drawer then and there and put it on the bench. There was so much junk in those two drawers it was ridiculous. Seriously, if you look hard enough at the picture above you will see an empty (but clean) take away coffee cup that I thought maybe I would use again! REALLY?! SERIOUSLY?! Enough already!

My son and I had a blast cleaning this stuff together. We blew into the glass jars and made music, we tapped on the containers and made makeshift bongos. But in the end, we kept only what had a lid and only what we use often. I mean honestly, how many jars do I really need? I know I make a lot from scratch but do I need to keep every jar I come across? No. No I don’t.

The picture below is the ‘after’ shots of the plastics and jar drawers.

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And this picture below was the drawer my poor babies had to fumble through each day to find a plate or a cup. Do they really need all that stuff? After all, there is only 3 of them. Shouldn’t that mean 3 plates, 3 bowls, 3 cups?

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Here it is after … ok ok, so it’s not 3 of everything but I only kept items which are special. They were either gifts from family or we purchased them on holidays. They are memories and I am OK with that. Image

The enthusiasm endured and so I decided to give my oh so cluttered pantry a spring clean too. Check it out – and that’s not even showing the plastic bags hiding around the corner (really need to remember to take envirobags to the shops)!

The pantry went from this ….
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… to this!– Ahhh, the serenity! :)

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Whilst I’m baring my bones here, I’ll show you the inside of my fridge (but only because I gave it a huge clean out on the weekend). :)

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It feels so good to be able to go to the drawer, fridge or pantry and find what I need straight away. It’s a kind of peace. One I’ve certainly never truly known.

But if I’m to be honest, I really need to be able to keep to this way. How? By finding joy in the small things. Play music with the glass jars, it’s a memory my son will keep forever. Laugh, smile and get it done because it makes me feel so much better without the weight of it all pulling me down.

I did all this while the dinner ingredients roasted away in the oven. We had a simple roasted pumpkin, corn and red pepper salad with tuna and my homemade 30 second avocado mayonnaise. It was delicious. A not so good photo tonight cos, you know, I was busy getting organised! ;)

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It really only took about 40 minutes. And in the words of my husband-to-be “Imagine how quickly you would get through it if only a little was done each day”. Or another of his favourite sayings “If we only did one percent each day, that’s 365% in one year”. It certainly is a good angle of perspective, don’t you agree?

And on that note, so the maintenance begins. It really is about doing what I can every day. A little is better than nothing. I’ve got a long way to go until I reach minimalist status but what better place to start than my favourite room in the house, the kitchen.

Next on my hit list is my dreaded walk in robe which is not so walk in and definitely not being used as a wardrobe.

I guess what I hope from this post is that it reminds others who also feel weighed down daily that is possible to feel lighter. For me, it is starting with decluttering my life so that my positive thoughts and ideas have room to shine through.

Until next time, shine bright xx

5 days of .. easy weeknight meals .. day 5

I’ve made it no secret that one of my favourite seasons is Spring. The feeling you get when the crisp air meets the mild sunshine, which glows gloriously on your back, is just about as perfect as nature can get. The golden glow that fills the sky, the chirping of birds as they gather food for their newly born young and the sensory overload one gets from the colours and fragrance of which abound from the fresh blooms that adorn the plants which have laid dormant for many months. Indeed, there is a lot to appreciate about the beautiful season that is Spring.

It is during spring that our plates are filled with colourful foods, making light meals after a warm day so pleasurable. I don’t know about you, but I love to eat according to the seasons and just as a big bowl of stew during autumn and winter is like food for our souls, so too is a light salad using fresh baby produce during spring to me.

Lamb, cucumber and peas pair with spring like pumpkin to autumn and watermelon with summer. It just works. I mean, it really works!

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This dish concludes the first of the 5 days of series and with a delicious meal like this ready in under 20 minutes, you won’t be disappointed.

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herbed spring lamb with cucumber & minted pea salad
serves:
4-6
time: 20 minutes (10 prep, 10 cooking)
notes: This recipe calls for freshly podded peas so if you can find them in your garden or supermarket, perfect. If not, frozen baby peas which have been thawed but not cooked will also be suitable. ** Lamb cutlets are not exactly the cheapest cuts around. You could substitute them for lamb steaks or let the adults indulge in the cutlets while the children enjoy some lamb sausages.

Ingredients:
lamb cutlets (3 cutlets per adult, 1-2 cutlets per child)
1 tbs macadamia oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp rosemary (I used fresh but dried will work too)
1 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
salt and pepper

salad:
2 large cucumber
1-2 cups podded peas
handful mint
100g feta

dressing:
1/2 cup greek or natural yoghurt
1 tbs mint
1 clove garlic
lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to season
2 tbs mint to be stirred through after mixing

In a mortar and pestle (or coffee grinder) crush fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme,  couple of pinches of sea salt and a twist of pepper. Grind until fine.

Coat lamb cutlets in a drizzle of oil, be sure to rub it all over. Then season lamb cutlets with herb salt and fry on griddle pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning only once. Remove from heat and allow to rest for the same amount of cooking time.

While the lamb cutlets are cooking, peel cucumbers into ribbons using a peeler by starting at the top and peeling down lengthways. Next add a small handful of sliced mint, freshly podded peas (or thawed frozen baby peas). Season with salt and pepper.

For the dressing, put all the ingredients (except 2 tbs mint) into a large jar and process with an immersion blender (stick mixer) until combined (about 20-30 seconds). Slice the 2 tbs mint and stir through with a spoon to combine. If needed, add extra lemon juice, salt and pepper to your liking.

Toss a spoonful or two of the dressing through the salad to combine well. Finally sprinkle crumbled feta on top and another twist of cracked pepper.

To plate up, place 3 cutlets on a plate. Serve with the cucumber salad on the side and a generous dollop of the dressing on top of the cutlets.

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5 days of .. easy weeknight meals .. day 4

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Trust me when I tell you this: You are NEVER going to miss bread again after you’ve tasted this burger! The hardest thing about making this dish is waiting for the chips to cook so you can devour the whole thing! It’s a beautiful moment when it all comes together.

Make this dish on a Friday to kick start your weekend the right way! (or eat it every night which is what I am tempted to do)!

It’s a delight.

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Gorgeous beetroot is coming into season here in Australia and it’s such a pleasure to cook with. I used pickled beetroot (recipe not on blog yet but can be found on my Facebook page). If you don’t want to make pickled beetroot, simply roast some along with the chips. You won’t regret it. Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin in particular are two betalains which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

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Rocket is peppery and delicious. This little salad green is an excellent source of vitamin A, rich in B-complex vitamins such a thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-6. It’s also a very good source of folate.

This is my idea of the perfect gluten free burger. It’s also vegetarian and really, really good!!

Because this recipe is made from scratch I’m entering it in Made with Love Mondays. http://cookinwluv.blogspot.fr/p/made-with-love-mondays.html

I’m going to let the recipe speak for itself now.

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grilled haloumi & portabello burgers with pickled beetroot, fried onions & spicy avocado mayo
serves: 4-6
time: 25 minutes (5 prep and 20 cooking)
notes: Try my homemade pickled beetroot recipe on my facebook page or roast your own slices using the method below. I used the homemade pickled beets and they go very well. Don’t leave out the beetroot (unless you can’t stand the stuff), it’s a vital component to bring the flavours together. ** Let the haloumi rest for a couple of minutes before you try to pick it up. It’s much easier to hold like it’s bread burger cousin then – and all burgers should be eaten with your fingers!

Ingredients:
2 x packets haloumi
4 x portabello mushrooms
4 x cloves garlic
2 x brown onions, sliced
rocket, one handful per burger
beetroot slices (use homemade pickled beets or if roasting you will need whole fresh beets)

Mayonnaise:
1 egg
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
salt
avocado (I used 1/2 and avocado)
chilli flakes, optional

Chips:
Sweet potato
Macadamia oil
salt

Preheat oven to 220C (non fan forced) and start by cutting the sweet potato into chips. (The bigger the wedge, the longer it will take to cook). Coat lightly in macadamia oil and season with salt. Place flat in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper.

Peel, crush and chop the garlic and mix with a tbs oil or butter (I used butter). Coat the underside of the portabella mushrooms with the garlic butter and brush a dab on the top of each mushroom to prevent them from drying out. Lay them with the undersides facing upwards on the tray with the potatoes. Pop in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until cooked. ** Be sure to keep an eye on the mushrooms and beetroot. If they cook earlier than the chips remove them from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm. Continue cooking chips until soft and golden.

*** If baking your beetroot, scrub them (peel them if you want) then coat with oil. Season with salt and add to the tray with the chips and mushrooms. If no room, bake them on a lined tray on the shelf below the wedges.

While the chips and vegetables are baking, heat a fry pan over high heat. Add a tsp oil with a tsp of butter to the pan and toss in sliced onions. Turn down to medium and cook until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

While the onions are cooking you can make the spicy avocado mayo. Take the egg and put it in a large jar with a lid wide enough to fit the immersion blender (stick mixer). Put the avocado, oil, chilli, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper into the jar. Insert the blender and blend until combined, about 20-30 seconds. Taste, add more vinegar and salt and pepper as needed).

Next, slice haloumi in thirds lengthways (I was able to slice my 180g block into three slabs, if yours are smaller cut in half). When the onions are finished remove them to a bowl and set aside. Over medium high heat and add 1 tsp oil to the same pan used for the onions. Fry the haloumi until it is golden on each side, about 1-2 minutes each side. Remove from heat and drain on paper towel.

Remove the chips and mushrooms from the oven. Finish the mushrooms off by frying in the pan for an additional minute to give a grilled flavour.

To assemble:
Take one slice of haloumi, top with rocket, beetroot, onions and a dollop of the spicy avocado mayonnaise. Top with a mushroom.

Season the wedges with salt and pepper and serve a handful along side the burgers with an extra dollop of the mayonnaise for dipping.

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5 days of .. easy weeknight meals .. day 2

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I don’t know what it’s like at your house but around here we can’t seem to go more than a few days before being begged for spaghetti bolognese to make an appearance at the dinner table.

But with wheat and gluten allergies seemingly prevalent in our home, the heavy guilt weighs on my shoulders every time I serve it up the traditional way. However, this version has removed all the guilt and added a side of flavour and some nutrients to boot!

It’s also wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, nut and soy free. Inspired by the delightful Caitlin over at roostblog.com, I substituted the spaghetti squash for zucchini and added some extra flavourings.

Have you ever used a spirooli? It’s the most handy tool in a gluten free home. It takes plain old vegetables and breathes new life into them, reinventing them as noodles. Check out it’s handy work below. It’s pretty cool. However at just under $50, they’re not cheap. So if you don’t own one and can’t justify spending that kind of money, then use a vegetable peeler and peel down the zucchini, to make it into fettuccine type strips.

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day two:

spaghetti bolognese reinvented
Serves: 4

Notes: Don’t overcook the zucchini. You want them to still have a little crunch and texture. If you over cook them they’ll go all mushy (still usable but mushy and not as pleasant). Don’t overdo it. Also, don’t waste the zucchini cores – dice them up and throw them in with the onion and fennel. Waste not want not. ** If you have a tomato allergy simply omit the pasata. The flavour combinations in this dish are simple and delicious on their own without the tomato base.

Ingredients:
zucchini (for spaghetti) – (I use 2 per adult and 1 per child)
3 tsp oil, for frying
500g mince (you can use 250g pork and 250g beef for juicier results)
1x brown onion
3x cloves garlic
1 cup fennel, diced (use celery if fennel is out of season in your region)
1.5 cups pasata (tomato pasta sauce) or 1x can BPA free tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 tbs fennel seed, ground (use mortar and pestle or coffee grinder)
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs dried oregano
Fresh basil, handful (or as much or as little as you like)
Salt and pepper to season
Chilli flakes (optional)
1 avocado, mashed, to serve

Using a spirooli, make zucchini spaghetti (if you don’t have this awesome gadget get one! you can use a vegetable peeler to make fettuccine style zucchini noodles. Toss 1tsp of oil through to coat the noodles. Heat a deep set fry pan (or enamel crock pot) over a medium/high flame. When hot add zucchini noodles and fry for 2-4 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, peel, crush and chop the garlic. Dice the onion and fennel. If you’re using the zucchini cores, dice them up now too.

When the zucchini noodles are ready set them aside. Add another tsp oil to the same pan and add the garlic, onion and fennel (and zucchini cores if using). Cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the fennel seed and oregano. Fry for an additional 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove to a separate plate.

Add the remaining tsp of oil. Turn the heat up to high and add mince and fry until browned. While it is browning, chop the olives. Add them to the browned meat and stir to combine. Add the onion mix back in at this point.

Next, add the pasata and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes over medium/low heat until the sauce reduces slightly and gets a deep colour. Ensuring all the meat is cooked through. Add more of the fennel seed and oregano for additional flavouring if you like. This step can take as long or as little as you like. You can remove as soon as the meat is evenly cooked or if you have more time you can leave it simmering for a while. The longer it simmers, the better the depth of flavour.

When ready, remove from heat. Toss through the zucchini noodles and torn basil to coat with the sauce. Serve in individual bowls and top with a few basil leaves and a dollop of mashed avocado. For heat lovers, drop a pinch of chilli flakes on top to finish it off.

If you feel like you need extra carbs simply spirooli a sweet potato into noodles. Just be sure to saute it for a couple of minutes before adding the zucchini. Because it is a harder vegetable it will take a little longer.

I hope your family/household love this dish as much as we do here!

5 days of .. easy weeknight meals .. day 1

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DAY ONE:

Zucchini ‘Pasta’ Carbonara

Well, the votes for the first post topic for the 5 days of series came in and there was an overwhelming response for easy weeknight meals. Let’s face it, we’re all tired at the end of the day and cooking a gourmet meal for ravenous little people at nightmare hour doesn’t seem logical (or wise – have you met my 3 children at 5pm)??

So to kick off the new series we are starting with meals which can be prepared in a flash after a busy day. I’ve tried to make healthier versions of the typical family favourites (to ensure co-operation from younger members of your family) and tonight we are starting the series with a firm favourite … pasta carbonara.

I like to eat gluten free (mostly) due to my Grave’s Disease, so there is no wheat pasta in my version of this creamy dish. Speaking of cream, well you won’t find any of that here either. This dish is wheat, gluten, dairy and egg free.

I’ve measured this dish on a per person basis to ensure no wastage, therefore you will need to add as much or as little as recommended per person. If you want, prepare a little more than needed to have as leftover lunch to ensure you have a healthy meal the following day.

This dish should take no more than 15-20 minutes including prep and cooking time. It’s nutritious, full of vitamins and a healthier alternative to the traditional pasta carbonara.

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini (I used 2 per adult and 1 per child)
  • 3x cloves garlic
  • 1 brown onion
  • Ham (I use about 2 slices per person for a light meal or 4 for dinner)
  • Peas (just toss ‘em in, no need to measure – use as much or as little as you like)
  • Parsley (a handful)
  • Chard (or baby spinach) – a small handful per person

For the sauce:

  • Coconut Milk – (I used 1/2 cup for one serving – toss in the whole can (milk and cream) if making for more people). You can add water if too thick.
  • 1 tbs Tahini
  • 1 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

To serve:

  • 1/4 lemon per person
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:
Peel skin off zucchini (you can use it in this dish if you like or pop it in a container and use it in a green smoothie for breakfast). Using a vegetable peeler, shave down the zucchini to create strips of ‘fettuccine’. Reserve for later.

Peel, crush and chop garlic cloves and add to olive oil in fry pan. Add brown onion and fry until transparent (about 2 minutes). Chop ham into bite sized pieces and add to onion mix. Fry for another 2 minutes or until ham starts to brown.

Add zucchini strips to ham mix and toss to combine. Fry for 3-4 minutes until zucchini starts to soften. Then add peas, parsley and chard (or baby spinach). Toss and turn heat down to medium.

Prepare sauce by adding all the ingredients into a jar and stirring with a fork until combined. Pour over the zucchini mix and toss to combine. If zucchini is soft you can remove from heat now, if not cook for a few more minutes or until zucchini has softened.
Serve in individual bowls and season with salt and pepper. Add one lemon wedge on the side to be squeezed over before eating. You could also add chilli on top if you like a bit of heat.

** Try this dish with left over chicken instead of ham or add mushrooms for extra protein and a rich, earthy flavour.

You can easily make this vegetarian or vegan by omitting the ham or replacing it with tempeh or tofu. It could even be enjoyed raw if you prefer – and that would make it even faster to prepare.

Don’t be afraid of the zucchini noodles if this is your first introduction. When cooked correctly they’re so delicious you won’t even realise you’re not eating pasta.

Another one not to be afraid of is coconut milk. There’s actually a lot of new evidence which states that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Some even go so far as suggesting that people who eat full fat products actually eat less than those who eat low fat due to triggering brain receptors which make you feel satiated and full. I’m also not a fan of low fat coconut milks due to the added ingredients. If you have to have a low fat diet for medical reasons, perhaps replace the coconut milk with smooth ricotta cheese instead (I haven’t tried this so if you do be sure to leave a comment) or use low fat coconut milk if on strict orders from your doctor.

However, for the rest of us, I believe that when combined with nutrient dense, low calorie foods such as those in this recipe, you are getting a complete meal packed full of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. Green peas are are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients and are high in vitamin K, manganese and folate while zucchinis are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin B6.

A delicious, healthy meal in under 20 minutes!

Go forth and enjoy! – You won’t know what to do with all that free time!

raw lemon, honey and pistachio cheesecake

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By now most of my friends and family know that I’m somewhat obsessed with raw desserts. There’s not a lot to not like about them. They’re healthy, packed full of vitamins and nutrients and pretty easy to make (even non bakers like myself can pull off a fairly descent raw dessert). So it may come as no surprise to those close to me that I am experimenting with different flavour combinations in search of a match made in heaven.

I think this lemon, honey and pistachio combo comes pretty close.

The raw base I use never really changes, although this time I used cashews instead of my usual walnuts. The filling comprises a few ingredients and is decadently smooth and creamy you won’t even miss the cream cheese.

This dairy, gluten and egg free dessert is sure to go down a sweet treat. Cut it into portions and freeze for delicious and healthy after school snacks or save for yourself as an after dinner treat.

A quick note: The filling is green (my favourite colour so naturally I love it) but nonetheless green is different to most desserts we eat. I think the green is complimentary to the pistachios and because of that it, for me works beautifully. My kids loved this dessert (even the non-avocado eating one)!

Ingredients:
Base:
2 cups cashews
1 cup pistachios
19 dates (I would use less next time as the base was a little too sticky for my liking – start with less and add more as needed)
Filling:
3 avocados
2 tbs coconut cream
1 cup coconut oil
2 tbs honey (use rice malt or maple syrup to make this vegan)
Juice from 1 lemon

Method:
Put nuts in a food processor and blitz until crumbs. Add about half the dates and process to combine. Add more dates as needed to bind the dough together. When combined, press into prepared tart case and put in freezer while you make the filling.

For filling, simply combine all ingredients except coconut oil into the food processor (no need to clean it from the base). Process until smooth and while processor is running add coconut oil. Continue to process until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Once creamy, top base with filling and finish off with crushed pistachios on top. Put in the freezer until set. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes prior to serving.

To store, simply cut into portions, cover and freeze.

Happy ‘baking’.

layered spring salad …

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I love spring. It’s one of my favourite seasons. Autumn being the other. But what I love about spring is that to me it represents simplicity, colour and the beginning of new life as the deciduous trees start to return to colour and the gardens begin to bloom their beautiful, bright flowers. In my garden right now the snow peas are sprouting and the butterflies are fluttering about. It’s a thing of beauty.

So as an ode to this glorious season (and out of sheer necessity as I had only a handful of ingredients at my disposal), I made this salad. It’s a simple dish which can be recreated in under 5 minutes. And the best part is most of the ingredients are staples many of us have in the fridge (or garden) on any given day.

I used fennel in this dish as I had some in the fridge however generally it’s starting to go out of season in Australia around this time. Simply replace it with celery if you don’t have any handy or can’t find any at the shops.

High in vitamins and minerals and big on flavour, this salad will fast become your new go-to ‘fast food’ lunch.

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, sliced
1x ripe tomato, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fennel, thinly sliced
Sicilian olives (or your olive of choice)
Feta (as much or as little as you please)
Thyme leaves, to scatter on top
1/4 lemon, for juice
Olive oil, for drizzling (you don’t need a lot)
Salt and Pepper, to season

Method:

Simply layer slices of cucumber, tomato, onion and fennel in a small serving bowl. Top with olives and dollop feta around. Scatter thyme leaves over the top and finish off by squeezing the lemon juice over and then a little drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

This is really a delightful meal. You could add left over chicken or tuna (or other protein of your choice) if you wanted to but I enjoy this light salad as it is.

Serve it with your favourite herbal tea and enjoy it in the fresh spring air!