put me out to pasta

chilli soup breakfastThere was time when I would travel through Asia eating bowls of chilli. I would slurp chilli soup for breakfast. The steaming bowl of fire would fizzle my nose hairs and make me weep. I was in my own little burning hot heaven.

More recently I have developed a digestive sensitivity that has changed my eating habits. I still test the boundaries but often regret it later, “whoa, Fajita-repeater!!”

The list of foods that my body tells me to avoid grows… spicy foods, fried foods – pretty obvious so far but then add, pepper, oranges, salt, some meats, capsicum, onion, garlic…

On a recent trip to Indonesia I realised that my burning-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travelling days are numbered. This change to my eating habits may have a significant impact on my travelling style of mixing with the locals over a shared plate.

Gone are the days of Chinese Miscellaneous Animal-product Soup in a village where you are clearly the minority. Each spoonful was a game of “what part of a chicken is that?!”.

Gone are the days of plates piled high with stir-fried chillies in an alley restaurant. I recall a dish described to me as “corn with chilli” where the corn kernels were used as the garnish.  

It’s pushing 40 degrees in this little café off a dirty street in Indonesia. The humidity isn’t high today; there isn’t enough moisture in the air to settle the dust churned up by passing scooters. My order of ‘grilled chicken with vegetables’ is served to me as pepper crusted chicken pieces, with a side of mostly raw capsicum, garlic and onion. There is a garnish, a slice of carrot cut into the shape of a flower sits on the side of the plate. I poke at the carrot that has been recycled from the previous diner’s plate wondering statistically how many people may have handled this piece of carrot and if they washed their hands. I pick at the chicken to try to extract some of the inner pepper-less meat.

My husband scoffs down his lovely looking lemongrass and chilli curry. He’s telling me how wonderful it is. Sweat is dripping off his cheeks. I’m hungry. I start fantasising about a bowl of pasta. I think about a trip to Italy where I could eat salads without fear.

It has become clear to me, I’m not what I used to be. It’s time I was put out to pasta.

In another time, I look around the room searching for clues and then back to my Miscellaneous Soup. The bustling people around us have the benefit of knowing the local language. I look down at my spoon, “…maybe that’s not even a part of a chicken…”


almond milk: homemade

I don’t eat much dairy these days. I find that if I divert too far from goat milk cheese and natural yoghurt I feel worse off. Yellow cheese rarely makes an appearance on my menu. To add to my fussiness, soy milk is expensive and it tends to curdle in my coffee. So with the help of my fan-dangled new kitchen tool (a thermomix), I decided to make my own milk – almond milk – and it was surprisingly quick and easy.

1 cup almonds (I used blanched but you can use raw almonds).
About 3 cups of water to soak almonds overnight (this will make them easier to blend).
In the morning, drain the almonds and place in the thermomix (or equivalent quality blender) with about 700ml clean water.
Blend almonds (gradually move from speed 6 to speed 9 for 40 sec) to achieve a fine grind of the almonds.
Place a nut milk bag* into a jug or line a sieve with muslin and pour the almond milk through the bag/muslin.
With clean hands, squeeze the milk out of the muslin into the jug.
You’ll be left with a jug of almond milk and a bag of almond pulp/meal.

Your homemade milk will last 3 -4 days in the fridge. Shake before use.
Adjusting the water content down will make a creamier milk.
Uses for almond pulp/meal to follow.
*nut milk bags are available from some health food shops and online.

almond milk coffee

jelly bubble bath: a parent’s beauty regime

My beauty regime has taken a turn since becoming a parent. And then another more drastic turn when I went back to a fairly demanding full time job just recently. My leisurely home-made day spa beauty regime has become an ‘as needs’ pluck or snip on the run. I now look for ways to combine the two: Parenting and pampering that is, not plucking and running as I assure you that will never end well. Have you ever poked yourself in the eye with tweezers? I have. It sets you back a bit.

Drum roll, the Jelly Bubble Bath. It’s super fun for little (and big) kids to have a tutti-frutti bubble bath. And it’s probably a lot healthier than actually eating the jelly.

jelly bubble batha packet of jelly
a dash of bubble bath
a slosh of almond oil (optional)
a ducky (not really optional)

ducky in the bath

the diet factory: paleo patty

Food fads fascinate me.

Lately I’ve been reading about the Paleo Diet. Which essentially is a diet based on the eating habits of the paleolithic era. Yes, that’s the one with cavemen that had just discovered tools and fire.

Based on the hunter-gatherer diet, one consumes meat, fish, shellfish, leafy vegetables, fruit, seeds (and insects). The modern paleo puts potatoes, dairy and wheat onto the list of no-nos, and suggests one undertakes occasional fasting (to mimik when the paleo-shops are shut).

I do agree that consuming the least amount of processed food is better for us. The ethos of this diet is almost right. And it’s a big step up from the Dukan Diet which told us to only eat protein, become terribly constipated and then eat a kilo of prunes to get back on track to being our same fat selves only feeling clogged and blotchy and now frightened to leave the house. But my brain is substantially larger now than my paleo pal (about 31%) and my life expectancy as a first-world supermarket-warrior is 80 years compared with her 20 years.

I think if we asked Paleo Patty, she would choose the goats cheese with crusty bread, olives and a lovely little Cab Sav too. She’s not that silly.

Homo heidelbergensis skull

image: http://en.wikipedia.org/ 

the family lifecycle of the common cold

It always hits the weakest first. The toddler goes down. It’s messy, demanding and exhausting …for everyone.

As parents it is your responsibility to carry the load. The load is in the shape of a small box or basket in which you carry emergency supplies: A box of tissues; a packet of wet wipes; an absorbent rag; the thermometer; and, the children’s panadol. This basket is carried from room to room, as you follow them on their distracted disillusioned rambling path of one short lived entertainment to the next.

By day three it’s getting really nasty. Those clear boogers that you thought were unappealing at the time have turned green and gluey. The double-nostril-green-bubble-sneeze is a frequent occurrence. So frequent it doesn’t even make your stomach turn anymore. Child-free friends look on in undisguisable horror.

But what’s the absorbent rag for, you ask? The cough that ends in puke. Enough said.

Evenings degenerate into a whiny noise. My whinging is driving me crazy. “Would you watch TV please?! I just want to have a shower at some point today. Cook your own damn dinner!”

It’s now day four. You couldn’t smell a week old prawn in the sun if it was stuck to the front of your shirt. Your nose is raw from the tissues that claim to be as soft as duck down. You opt for using the wet wipes to blow your nose. They’re cool and comforting. Hubby says that you remind him of changing nappies. It’s the smell of wet wipes on my face. I can’t smell it. I don’t comment.

Poppet is full of energy again. She’s bouncing off the walls. “Dance, mummy! Dance!!” She’s as harsh as a Russian gym instructor and I feel like a Sun Bear. Maimed and hobbling around, hunched, sad, and missing every beat. “Dance!!”

Day five: I’m crunching on Tissue Salt pills like beer snacks.

As day six rolls around I’m back on board. I’m thinking a trip to the park might be nice today. The bedroom door creaks, and slowly, Daddy the Flu Zombie emerges.

Roy Lichtenstein

image: Roy Lichtenstein, Still Life with Glass and Lemon (1974)

ratatouille: a healthy dinner in 15 minutes!

Ratatouille is a super fast and super healthy meal. What’s more, I think it’s super tasty. You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a basic ratatouille but you can jazz it up with extras like parmesan or romano cheese, olives and more fresh herbs, like basil and parsley. Don’t make your vegetable chunks too big, this will slow cooking time.

Ratatouillle1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red capsicum, 2 cm dice
1 eggplant, 2 cm dice
1 zucchini, 2 cm dice
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp thyme leaves
½ cup water
½ tsp sugar (sugar will balance the acidity of the tomatoes)
handful of baby spinach

In a medium saucepan, start by frying the onion in the olive oil.
Add the remaining ingredients, minus the baby spinach.
Simmer for 10 minutes or until eggplant is soft and cooked.
Watch the moisture level, add a little more water if you need to, the aim is a thick sauce but not too dry.
As soon as eggplant is reaching ‘cooked’ which is 5 minutes before serving, prepare couscous (1:1 with boiling water, cover and allow to absorb for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork).
Finally, add the baby spinach and stir through. …Bon appetit!

Alternatively, serve with brown rice, pasta, a bread stick, or on its own.


spinach and chickpea curry (or, how I decided to just buy beans in a tin)

The most discerning of you will notice that this isn’t a picture of chickpea curry.

If you have read my page about a spoonful… you will know that I stopped buying beans in a tin. It was one of my great ideas for eating healthier, minimising waste, or some such rubbish that I’ve since forgotten.

Last night I thought I’d make chickpea and spinach curry. What is usually a quick and easy meal with a tin of chickpeas became an hour and a half of boiling the dang peas, followed by a frantic throwing together of miscellaneous-veggie pizzas with whatever was in the fridge/garden (while the chickpeas still boiled in the pot).

Today’s chilli beef and bean con carne has been a day-long exercise in boiling and draining and rinsing and boiling again and rinsing again – because the last thing we need is to have a house full of phytohaemagglutinin toxin poisoning and be expelling chilli beef and beans like something out of The Exorcist! And don’t think that you can save time and energy by cooking kidney beans in your slow cooker either, because that makes them 5 times more toxic than a raw bean. Oh the pressure!! (Insert: raise back of hand to forehead and tilt)

There’s no such thing as ‘whipping up a quick meal’ with the dry bean. It’s hot, frustrating, tiresome, water-consuming work. And I haven’t even started cooking yet!

On a scale of 1 to any other number, I’d have to say no, it’s not worth it.

Kale tomato pizza eggplant capsicum olive pizza not with chickpeas

Kale and Tomato Pizza, Eggplant Capsicum and Olive Pizza, not with chickpeas

… And in case you’re wondering what happened to the chickpeas in the end: I just baked some of them with Moroccan spices to make a wine-time snack. They don’t taste that great and they are like little rocks. Essentially, I spent all that time re-hydrating them only to re-de-hydrate them with some spice on! (insert: eyerolling)

ginger soy barramundi on rice with bok choy

The most time consuming part of this dish is cooking the rice. It’s clean, healthy, quick, cheap and tasty. For the vegetarian option, substitute fish for tofu.

barramundi fillets
soy sauce
ketchup manis
ginger, small julienne
garlic, thinly sliced
rice to serve
Asian greens to serve

Put the rice on.
In a suitably sized pan to hold your fillets, pour in about 2 tbsp of each soy sauce and ketchup manis, add the garlic and ginger and about 3 tbsp water.
Turn on the heat and mix the sauce.
Add the fish (skin down), essentially you will be poaching the fish so keep adding water in small amounts if the sauce becomes too thick and sticky. If you have a lid, put it on.
Dinner is done in 15 minutes from start time.

Serve over rice with quick steamed Asian vegetables (bok choy, choy sum, pak choy, whatever).

Sub: Barramundi for sea bass, snapper or almost any white fish. Barramundi for thick cut tofu.

ginger soy barramundi with bok choy

perhaps I’m just easily impressed

On a recent trip to the beautician I was overwhelmingly impressed with what turned out to be an underwhelming everyday item.

About to have my first pedicure in a long time, I had arrived at the (new to me) salon feeling that mix of excitement and awkward anticipation that you only get before someone you don’t know is about to scrub the calloused skin from the bottom of your hoof. I walked in and casually jumped, crawled, wiggled and clawed my way up onto the ‘work bed’.

The bed was surprisingly warm and I started to relax into my magazine as she assessed the damage. I was assuming there was some amazing wizbangery at play. Some incredible tool – a dazzling mutli-function treatment bed – perfectly designed. It must cost a fortune to set a place up with all these beauty gizmos. Where does one even buy hot wax? I’ve never seen a nail file like that before! Thank goodness there aren’t too many mirrors in here. And now they’ve got heated beds! (My mind can be quite busy)

I complimented her on this exceptional treatment bed. Perhaps a little too freely… So maybe I was bordering on gushy, but I said, “wow, great heated bed, I love this, so cosy, I need one of these, it’s great, really relaxing, so amazing…”. Never deterred and always focused on her professionalism, she smiled delicately and said, “well, yes, you can get one, it’s just an electric blanket”.

one for the fashion unconscious

This is about ridiculous shoes. You know them. Heels that go forever. Pointless straps that try to make us look delicate. Platforms that make us seem a foot taller. We all love them. We want them. We buy them. We just wish we could walk in them.

We can’t help it, push it too far, all common sense leaves us. “Oh, these are fabulous!” we quietly croon to ourselves while getting dressed. It’s that significant social function. Perhaps a wedding, maybe a party. You’re going to be a star! You’ve obviously forgotten that you’re going to be in those shoes for hours.

Each step is agony. You start to wish that your dang heel would just snap off. Hobbling. Leaning. Politely wincing. Hunched over like you might almost be about to start crawling.

Someone once said, some rubbish like, ‘a woman never takes off her shoes’ – but they obviously haven’t tried walking in a pair of 14 cm platform pumps. Its do or die out there.

Looking great needn’t be a near death experience, just do them up tight, limit it to 20 minutes, maintain focus, stay on the carpet, be carried on stairs, don’t drink and don’t walk!