The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me. Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years, but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the still-partially-frozen Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)…. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight! 😉

Liquid Health: Pros & Cons of Smoothies

I just gorged on cheese. I felt like some cheese on toast for lunch but thanks to my relationship with ‘instant gratification’ I started hoeing into the Nimbin Natural before my GF bread was toasted. Then I had a couple more pieces while the griller took its turn. So by the time I’d eaten, I was full as a goog (Aussie slang for “I’ve had sufficient”).

Now, with the stomach juices working hard (& loud!) I’m feeling a tad guilty about the lack of fibre & nutritional variety in that ‘meal’. Since there’s no way I could fit a whole salad in after all that (a sign in itself…) I’m going to ‘supplement’ with a smoothie.
Good old smoothies!
How did we ever live without them before? Nutrient-dense meals-on-the-run.
They are SO easy. So ridiculously easy. And they’re a blank canvas for the Creative. The one basic ‘rule’ I can ever recall hearing somewhere is:
60% FRUITS + 40% VEGGIES/GREENS

food fervourOf course, when you get used to them (that is, when you “harden up”!) you may find you can reduce the fruit component, which is a good thing for those who want to ‘control’ their fructose intake. Intensely flavoured components of a smoothie can disguise less palatable ingredients. If you have some idea of what fruits & vegetables go well together, you’re unlikely to go too far wrong. If all else fails… Google. There are literally thousands of recipes out there in the ether.

For this one I grabbed an orange, lots of strawberries & blueberries, a banana and a couple of dates and blended them with a chunk of cucumber, a stick of celery (leaves’n’all) a handful of baby spinach and some cabbage.
I blended the solids first to break them up as much as possible, then added my liquid (coconut water in this instance) for a smoother drink.

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So full… More for later!

The thing to remember with smoothies (and here I hark back to the ‘sign’ I mentioned during my cheese story) is that by liquefying your food, it’s easier to consume more than you need, plus there’s less work for your digestive system to undertake. While that can seem like a good thing  – and it can be when you are unwell and need all the energy (& nutrients) you can get for minimal effort, while your immune system is hard at work – healthy peops are likely to become hungrier sooner (despite ingesting a salad bowl’s worth of calories). Because your digestive organs aren’t really getting the ‘workout’ for which they were designed. They need the challenge of some tough fibre or dense proteins to breakdown in the same way your body responds to the fitness challenges you (should) apply to it in training!

To this end, I don’t believe smoothies should be consumed on a regular (daily) basis. After all, human evolution didn’t involve electric blenders!

For a meal on a run, yes – if you really CAN’T make the time. For instant gratification, yes, if you really CAN’T exercise self control. And heck, even for the occasional ‘nutrient supplementation’ after a very average meal (to wit: me, today) and at the expense of excessive energy intake!

 

Red Lentil & Veggie Curry

This is one of my fall-backs. You know: one of those recipes that is quick & failsafe and you know it’s full of goodness. It’s a slightly adapted version of a soup recipe I found in a Women’s Weekly cookbook I snapped years ago, because of its title:food fervour

All I’ve done is reduce the fluid ingredients to ‘thicken’ the soup to a curry consistency. Too. Easy.

To make this delish meal you will need the following:

1 teaspoon coconut oil, 2 tablespoons red curry paste, 400gm passata (or can of crushed tomatoes if you prefer) 2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock, 1 large diced carrot, 2 finely chopped celery stalks, ¾ cup (washed) red lentils, 2 cups broccoli &/or cauliflower florets, 1 large chopped zucchini, handful of roughly chopped snow peas, ⅓ cup (80ml) coconut cream, 2 tablespoons fresh coriander

Method:

Melt the coconut oil in a very large saucepan, then add the curry paste, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the passata/tomatoes, stock, carrot and celery, bringing to a boil before reducing to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the lentils (& cauliflower if using), cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables (broccoli, zucchini & snow peas) mixing well and leave to simmer again, covered, for 5-10 minutes (depending upon how ‘al dente’ you prefer your vege). Stir the coconut cream and coriander through just before serving. food fervour

I love this with or without rice and can even gulp it down cold from the fridge when I’m in a hurry. It makes at least 4 meals for me… and I’m a pretty big eater!

If you have a bit of a clue about curries, I’d encourage you to experiment with the vegetables. My attitude regarding them is “The More, The Better” 😉

Coconut Chia Dairy Alternative

Breakfast on this fine Sunday morning has been both easy & decadent in the same breath. How good does this look?food fervour

While contemplating cooking a hot Sunday breakfast, I came across a container of soaked chia seeds I had forgotten I’d prepped earlier in the week. Bang! Instant gratification.

I could forget about the frypan or Thermomix now: I had organic blueberries & strawberries, banana and the ultimate (rare) decadence – some fresh cream. (Clearly I’M not vegan, but I sometimes prefer vegan meals…) That’s all it took to make my brekky. Minimal dish washing means more time to hang out my linen and wash my car. Yay :/

Had I not had the chia prepared, this breakfast wouldn’t’ve happened. Well, nowhere near as ‘instantly’. This is a perfect example of how a little bit of preparation can help you avoid “poor food choices” when you’re in a hurry, or simply just too impatient (“Need food NOW!”).

Chia seeds soaked in coconut cream (or milk) make a perfect vegan alternative to yoghurt or cream. And it’s ridiculously simple. The ratio is usually about 1 part chia seeds to 3 or 4 parts liquid, depending upon how ‘solid’ you like your yoghurts/creams. It’s as simple as mixing them together in a container (I always use glass) sealing and refrigerating for perhaps half an hour (or 2-3 days…how hungry are ya?!) Bob’s your Uncle.

The calcium, protein, Omegas in chia seeds make this just as good, if not better than the dairy alternatives. You can also play with this basic concoction in numerous ways, adding spices (vanilla, cinnamon for example) cacao and added natural sweeteners (if you HAVE to!) For more ideas Google ‘Chia Pudding’ and you’ll find a whole host of recipes.

Watercress & Cashew Dip

Out with the kale, and in with the watercress! I have to admit I am a bit of a trendite when it comes to nutrition, but my motives are pure; I simply try to consume the most nutrient-dense foods I can. And I don’t think it’s such a bad habit, training myself to include as many “super foods” in my diet as possible.

It was this chart on David Gillespie’s “Sweet Poison” Facebook page that changed my mind:

A Life in Words(David Gillespie sourced this from the following website: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still eat kale. But I’m quite happy that my preferred leafy green – spinach – ranks higher in value!

But the fanatic I am, well, I HAVE to include it if it tops the list! So at the very next farmers market, I sought out a bunch of watercress… without considering exactly what I’d do with it. I’m not really into plain old sandwiches per se, and I’ve really only thrown it into green smoothies in the past. So I Googled. But the results were quite uninspiring.

It was while I was entertaining a couple of my closest girlfriends on the following weekend that the idea came to me: Dip! Surely if spinach and basil make decent ‘dip heroes’, why not watercress? As far as I could see, it was the best way to use a tonne of the stuff quickly. And since it’s quite fibrous, pulverising it in a powerful blender or Thermomix is ideal (as in green smoothies) because you can use more of the plant (stems etc). MORE fibre, less waste.food fervour

So I created a dip from the first spinach & cashew recipe I came across in a Google search. Watercress has a bitterness to it but also seems to leave your palate refreshed and I found that the cashews complimented it perfectly: countering the bitterness with their natural sweetness, without destroying the herb’s ‘freshness’.

It’s also dead easy: simply blend ⅓ cup cashews, 1 firmly packed cup of watercress (or a big handful!), ¼ cup olive oil, a decent dash of Himalayan salt & 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (to taste) until smooth. This may require a few pauses to scrape down the sides of the blender (or bowl if you use a Thermomix).

It also makes a great sandwich spread, and I even made a salad dressing of it by mixing in a little extra lemon juice & oil. What better way to pump up the nutritional value of other meals?

Turmeric Egg on Toast

I just rushed in from a resistance training session, and had to rush out again in minutes, so how was I going to re-fuel? Since it’s winter here, I’m loathe to make a protein smoothie in my Thermomix because it’ll chill me from within.

The quickest, warmest, high protein, healthy fats replacement is a boiled egg on toast. I boiled the jug ala Jamie Oliver style, popped the egg and water in a small saucepan and let the stovetop catch up while I pulled out an avocado and the frozen (gluten free) bread slice ….when I saw it. The frozen Turmeric bulb. How would that go with egg? Turns out: ….brilliantly.food fervour

I smashed half an avocado on the toast, spread the egg over the top, then finely grated turmeric over all of that. With some Himalayan salt (I love salty eggs) & the slimmest drizzle of olive oil, it tasted DIVINE. And I just upped the nutrient density and anti-inflammatory properties of my post-training fuel, with minimal effort.

Up there for thinkin’, down there for dancin’!

 

Mum’s Kifflitzers Re-Invented

I have an admission to make: until I got my Thermomix, I’d never made real custard. I’d either bought it ready-made or, worse, cooked up the powdered stuff. Yes, shocking I know. But, I learnt from my mum….monkey see, monkey do…

So when cleaning out my pantry one Sunday recently, I found a container of custard powder hiding at the back, and pulled it out to throw away. But then I had a ‘Moment’.

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I love my Mum’s handwriting…

I recalled some biscuits mum used to make that I loved: “Kifflitzers”. Custard powder was a ‘key’ ingredient. She’d given me the recipe (hand written of course) so as a tribute to her, I decided to make some before I ditched the processed rubbish for good. It’s kind of poetic and yet ironic: I’ll never see my mum again, and I’ll never buy custard powder again, so I’ll actually never make these biscuits according to this recipe again either. Even though they tasted SO GOOD…

My ‘obligatory’ changes to her original recipe, included opting for gluten free flour and vegan-friendly coconut oil instead of butter, and they turned out entirely different to Mum’s biccies, but still ridiculously more-ish. I have to add however, that some custard powders are NOT gluten free so check the ingredient list on the product packaging carefully.

My ingredient list included ⅔ cup Buckwheat flour, 125gm almond meal, ½ cup coconut sugar, 2 tablespoons custard powder, 90gms coconut oil (liquefied), 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used my homemade essence), approx 45gm almond milk.

The method is VERY simple. It takes less time than the oven takes to pre-heat (to 180ºC, by the way)! Because I’m a (proud) Thermomix owner, I freshly milled most of the dry ingredients first: placing the (⅔ cup) Buckwheat seeds and coconut sugar in together (approximately 10 seconds, Speed 9) then setting aside, so I could mill the (125gm) almonds into meal. I added the buckwheat & sugar mix back in to the Thermomix bowl, with the custard powder and mixed on speed 4 for a few seconds. For Non-Thermies, basically all you have to do is (sift &) mix all your dry ingredients together.food fervour

Add the vanilla, coconut oil & milk and mix well (Thermies 30 seconds, Speed 4-5) then mould spoonfuls onto oven trays lined with baking paper, with a little space between as they will flatten & spread during the cooking process. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending upon your oven. Because of the high oil content, they will remain soft & ‘chewy’ even after cooling. Deeelish!

 

Baby Kale & Custard Apple Smoothie

Feeling like a green smoothie just now, I opened up the fridge and found half of a custard apple staring back at me. “Hmmm” I thought, “I haven’t tried anything with one of these little fellows yet”.

food fervourWell-ripened custard apples are pretty sweet, so chances are you won’t need to add sweeteners to this smoothie. Well, I didn’t.

I threw a big handful of some baby kale leaves (a first time purchase at the farmer’s markets last week) in my Magic Bullet, peeled and de-seeded the custard apple half and added it with one super-heaped teaspoon of my homemade vanilla bean paste, a good dash of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and about a cup of unsweetened almond milk.

Because custard apple has a slightly grainy texture I made sure I blended it well. Still a trace of ‘graininess’ but the taste trumped that. Quick, easy, yum.

You Don’t NEED Ice Cream…

I have a sweet tooth, there’s no doubt about it. So satisfying the night-time urge I usually get can be tricky, considering I generally try to avoid sugar.

food fervourThe best thing to do is …make something yourself. This is pretty much my entire philosophy towards food anyway. If YOU make it, you KNOW what’s in it. It’s that simple (aside from being really important).

I used to looooove ice cream. I could eat whole tubs in one sitting, no joke. But I just don’t need to, don’t WANT to, buy it anymore because I have found the perfect, more nutritious substitute. Greek yoghurt.

Full fat Greek yoghurt. Because fat really does satiate. And I find Greek yoghurt less tart than natural yoghurt (maybe it’s just me, but it makes me feel like I’m eating thick cream…). Unlike its other dairy relatives, yoghurt is full of natural probiotic organisms = Good for the Gut!food fervour

I’ve made so many varieties in the past, but my favourite usually involves blueberries, banana, cacao in some form and a teensy bit of either maple syrup or coconut sugar (IF I even feel like I need added sweetness). Like this one I’ve just gobbled down tonight.

It’s too easy and too quick and these are two of my favourite things! Quick. and. Easy.

I sliced one banana, grabbed a handful of blueberries and plopped them in a bowl with 3 heaped dessertspoons of yoghurt. I scattered maybe a dessertspoon of cacao nibs over the top then drizzled about 1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup over it all. Bloody yum!