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Before I had kids I barely used my freezer – a tray of ice, the odd tub of ice-cream and packet of frozen peas was about all you’d find. It was only once my kids started school that I discovered the time-saving benefits of freezing, especially when it comes to packing a healthy, whole foods lunchbox quickly and easily. With a good freezer stash of food and perhaps a few leftovers, I can pump out a couple of packet-free school lunches in less than 5 minutes which on mad mornings, is really important.

As it’s that time of the year when parents are back packing lunches (at least in QLD we are), I thought I’d share 5 of my favourite freezer friendly food ideas to help you to pack a nourishing, delicious school lunch in a matter of minutes.

1. Cooked meat

A good quality protein really helps to keep my kids focussed and energised throughout the school day. As I avoid processed meats in my kids lunchbox, I dice and portion left over roast, bbq’d or grilled meats and if I’m not going to use it up the next day, I freeze it in small glass containers to use later in sandwiches, sushi or fresh spring rolls. Cooked meatballs are also great to freeze (one of my kids favourite meatball recipes here).

Cooked meat can be defrosted in the fridge overnight to use in the morning.

2. Bread

Instead of buying breads with preservatives to extend their shelf life, buy a good quality, additive-free sourdough bread, slice and freeze it. I have these cloth bags which I double up (put one bag inside of the other) and keep sliced sourdough in one set and gluten free bread in a second set. It’s such a great plastic-free way to store bread.

For more about why it’s really important for your kids health to choose a good quality bread, click here.

3. Baked goodies

When I bake healthy treats (cakes, cookies, biscuits, savoury crackers, slices and muffins) for my kids, I always make a double batch (or two different things at the same time) and freeze them in large airtight containers. Crackers, cookies, biscuits and bliss balls I place straight into the container (when using plastic containers I always line with safe baking paper so the food doesn’t come into contact with plastic). For muffins, slices, cakes, pikelets etc; I lay them out on a lined tray and pop them in the freezer for an hour or so to snap freeze them and once frozen, I add them to the container to store. I usually have one container for sweet and another for savouries and both have a variety of snacks in them to choose from (so I just add to it each time I bake).

This means I only bake every 2-3 weeks and the freezer is always filled with home-made, nourishing snacks to grab and go. All baked goodies can be packed into the lunchbox from frozen. There is loads of baked treat inspiration here.

I also freeze no-bake and raw treats like bliss balls and gummies to pack from frozen. Raw and no-bake treat recipes you can find here.

4. Yoghurts, smoothies and chia puddings 

Yoghurts, smoothies and chia puddings can all be frozen in little cups or refillable food-pouches and packed in the lunchbox from frozen. By morning tea or lunch they will still be defrosted enough to eat. There are a couple of chia pudding recipes here (also checkout the fruity whip recipe). My kids love these in summer and they are also great for helping to keep the rest of the lunchbox cold (along with ice bricks on hot days).

5. Leftover soups, curries and casseroles

These can all be portioned and frozen to heat up and pack in a thermos flask for lunch (we do this a lot in winter). This is my favourite thermos (size and it keeps everything hotter for longer than others I’ve bought).

I use recycled glass jars or pyrex containers to freeze leftovers and generally take them out the night before to defrost.

The fruit and vegetable component of my kids lunch box is often the only part of their lunch that I prepare in the morning. Now my kids are old enough to pack their own lunch, the freezer has become even more important in helping them to choose healthy options to fill their lunchbox. 

I hope this has given you some inspiration to start using your freezer and pack a nourishing, whole foods lunch for your kids. For loads more posts about packing kids lunches, click HERE. You’ll also see that I’ve recommended avoiding storing food in plastics in the freezer. This post will explain why it’s really important not to freeze food in plastic containers or bags (BPA-free containers and bags are no safer, read more on this here).

All of the Lunchbox Inspiration you’ll ever need

The Well Nourished Lunch Box is a fully interactive, beautifully designed ebook that will guide you to pack your kids (and even yourself) a delicious, nutritious lunch, simply and easily. 

All of the recipes are nut-free, wheat-free and refined sugar-free, and they are able to be frozen too. Over 90% of recipes are fructose-friendly, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and suitable for vegetarians. 80% of recipes are also suitable for egg-intolerant families.

Check out all of the fabulous customer reviews HERE.

I’d love to hear what else you might use your freezer for to help you to pack a fast whole food lunch. If you have any questions or contributions, please post them in the comments below this post.
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One of my most favourite spices is cardamon. I love it’s flavour in curries, but also and especially in desserts. I think cardamon and chocolate is a flavour match made in heaven. Combined with the maple roasted macadamia nuts, this Chocolate Slice has become one of my favourite treats. If you’re not a fan of the flavour of cardamon, this is also delicious without…your call!

Health benefits

Cardamon has been used empirically in Ayurvedic medicine for treating mouth ulcers, digestive problems such as nausea, heartburn, bloating and constipation and also to support mood. It’s also a great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. The almond meal, macadamia nuts and coconut oil are fabulous sources of protein and fat that makes this a supremely satisfying treat.

Take a look at the variations (below the main recipe) for suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements.

If you’re looking to save money across pantry items such as nuts, seeds, flours and more, I personally shop at The Wholefood Collective – great whole foods at heavily discounted prices (all home delivered), click HERE to check them out.

Chocolate, Maple Macadamia Slice

This Chocolate, Maple Macadamia Slice is a delicious, easy to make sweet treat – a guilt-free way to satisfy a chocolate craving.

  • 130 grams (1 cup) macadamia nuts (whole or halves)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 100 grams (½ cup) coconut oil, melted
  • 85 grams (¼ cup) sweetener ((rice malt syrup or maple syrup))
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon, (ground (optional but recommended))
  • 150 grams (1½ cups) almond meal
  • 25 grams (½ cup) desiccated or shredded coconut
  • 30 grams (¼ cup) cacao powder or Dutch Process cocoa
  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃.
  2. Place the macadamia nuts on a tray lined with baking paper and toss in the maple syrup.
  3. Pop into the oven for 6-10 minutes to toast them. They should be golden brown but please take care not to over brown them as they can go a bit bitter. 

  4. Once toasted removed from the oven and allow to cool fully (the maple sets into a nice crust once cooled).

  5. In a food processor or Thermomix combine the coconut oil, sweetener and cardamon. Mix to combine, Thermomix 5 seconds speed 4.

  6. Add the almond meal, coconut and cacao and mix to combine. Thermomix 10 seconds, speed 4.
  7. The mixture should be glossy (slightly oily) and hold together when pinched. If it seems very wet /oily you may need to add a tablespoon more almond meal.
  8. Fold in the maple roasted macadamia nuts and use the baking paper they were toasted on to line a small slice tin (I used one 18 x 26cm).
  9. Press the mixture into a slice tin very firmly with wet hands and pop into the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
  10. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Fructose friendly

Replace the maple syrup with rice malt syrup.

Nut-free

Replace the macadamia nuts with pumpkin seeds and the almond meal with ground, toasted sunflower seeds.

 

I’d love to hear how you like this combination of flavours. Let me know, leave a comment and rate the recipe too. 

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The importance of digestive health is a buzz right now – both in the media and the science community too. This global appreciation is a long time coming and I’m so glad it’s being embraced and pushed to the forefront of understanding human health and disease prevention.

Traditional medical systems have long acknowledged the importance of the gut. Nearly 2500 years ago, the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates stated ‘All disease starts in the gut’ – begs the question was he ahead of his time or is this an important wisdom overlooked…until now?

What’s the microbiome?

Everyone has a unique microbiome that houses nearly 100 trillion microorganisms (mainly bacteria). I have read that their genetic material outnumbers that of our human cells 10 to 1 – that means we are more bacteria, than we are human! Hundreds of species of bacteria reside in your gut. Some of them are friendly, while others are not (so we want a balance in favour of the friendly kind). Different kinds of bacteria have different roles within our bodies and they are critical to our health and wellbeing.

The bacteria that live in our digestive system play a key role in digesting the food we eat so that we can absorb and synthesise essential nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). Gut bugs are also involved in many other important processes in the body including regulating our metabolism, body weight, hormones, immune function, as well as influencing brain (central nervous system) function and even our mood.

Because it is so unique, like our finger prints, there is so much about our microbiome that we are yet to fully understand. However generally, a diverse gut flora is considered to be indicative of a healthy gut microbiome.

How does the microbiome develop?

Our microbiome is populated from birth (possibly even inutero) – as a baby travels down the vaginal canal it is exposed to its mothers microflora, when it is breastfed it further diversifies. It is thought that the health of both parents pre-conceptually also plays a pivotal role. Certainly throughout life, many factors shape the bacteria living in our gut – antibiotic use, illness, many medications (pharmaceutical and natural), stress, diet and lifestyle. Obviously there are things we can control and others (like our manner or birth) that are out of our control.

What is dysbiosis

Dysbiosis occurs when the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced or disrupted (so the gut flora contains too many harmful bacteria and not enough friendly bacteria to keep them in check). There are many reasons this may occur but some of the most accepted reasons include antibiotic exposure, smoking, too much alcohol, illness, stress, sleep deprivation, being sedentary or overweight and eating a poor quality diet (without much variety).

Diet, is the most important modifiable factor affecting the composition and health of bacteria living in our gut.

What you can do to support your microbiome

There are many ways to improve your gut microbiome, here I’ve outline a few practical guidelines…

Dietary variety is critical

Eating a diverse range of clean, whole foods leads to a diverse microbiome, which is essential for good gut health. The food you eat provides key nutrients that help bacteria thrive. A diet consisting of a wide variety of whole foods (preferably in season, locally grown, organic), such as fruits, vegetables, pasture raised and antibiotic-free protein and well prepared whole-grains/ nuts/ seeds/ legumes results in the gut having a more diverse flora. In fact, research has confirmed that changing-up your diet can alter your gut flora profile after just a few days.

Unfortunately, the Western diet is notoriously lacking variety. According to this review, 75% of the world’s food supply comes from only 12 plants and five animal species. Scary stuff! I always buy food that’s in season and whilst I have staples that I always buy (like carrots, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, sweet potato, onions, salad greens, zucchini, beans or peas, radish etc;) I try to rotate other vegetables so we are always eating something new. So I might buy kale one week, silverbeet or baby spinach or asian greens the following weeks. I also include other vegetables on rotation (fennel, asparagus, brussels, eggplant and veggies that have very short seasons like Romanesque cauliflower). Each week I also buy one or two veggies the kids aren’t too keen on because I never know, they may  come around to them at some stage and if I don’t offer them, I won’t know.

Live a low-tox life

The toxins we are exposed to in our food chain and environment impact on our gut flora massively…and there are SO many. From the containers and packaging our food is stored in, to the awful chemicals found in cosmetics, sunscreens and personal care products we absorb via our skin each day. The cleaning products we use, the clothes we wear, mattresses we sleep on all potentially contain toxins that disrupt our gut microbiome and effect our health.

Before you throw your hands up and feel it’s all too hard to get you head around, let me assure you that there are plenty of small things you can do that all add up to  less stress to your body and microbiome. This post is a great start for ‘5 Ways I’ve reduced my families toxin load‘.

I’d also strongly recommend taking a look at Alexx Stuarts ‘Go Low Tox’ e-course (the next round starts very soon). It’s a life changing ecourse without any overwhelm what so ever. It’s up to us, as individuals and as parents to to learn what’s what because our governing bodies DO NOT protect us. Once you have this knowledge, you’re set for life and can pass it onto your children too. Find out more HERE.

Avoid processed foods

Processed foods are not only sterile themselves, they do not ‘feed’ or support the health of your gut microbiome. Once more additives, preservatives, emulsifiers and GM ingredients damage gut flora. Studies that have compared the gut flora of cultures who eat no processed foods have found them to be 50% more diverse than those eating a Western diet.

Especially avoid artificial sweeteners. Some research has shown that artificial sweeteners like aspartame supports the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut microbiome and is implicated in the development of dysbiosis, obesity and metabolic disorders (pretty ironic as many people consuming artificial sweeteners are trying to loose weight).

Eat prebiotic foods

Prebiotic fibre found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains (especially legumes, peas, beans, nuts, bananas, asparagus, garlic and onion) passes through the body undigested and this feeds and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria.

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, coconut yoghurt, fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut and kim chi), kombucha and kefir all contain healthy bacteria and can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut.

Drink filtered water

The chlorine in water is designed to kill pathogens so to protect your microbiome, it’s best to invest in a filtration system that removes chlorine from your drinking water.

Eat foods rich in polyphenols

Polyphenols are antioxidant plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, cacao (dark chocolate), olives, extra virgin olive oil, dark coloured berries and some herbs and spices. They are broken down by the microbiome and stimulate healthy bacterial growth.

Also…

Manage stress and address any sleep issues.

Exercise is also critical for maintaining a healthy microbiome.

Consider a probiotic supplement – Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the gut to a healthy state after dysbiosis by ‘reseeding’ it with healthy microbes.

Want more…

I have a collection of practical posts about digestive health and also food intolerance on this page. 

Is this post useful? I’d love to answer your questions or hear from you – post a comment below.
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Hearty stews and soups, especially when they contain warming herbs and spices are super nourishing in the winter time. This Lamb Harira can be prepared in 15 minutes in just one casserole dish, then it’s into the oven to slowly braise. Set and forget is my type of cooking! You can also adapt this delicious soup come stew to cook in your slow cooker if you have one.

Health benefits

This is one nutritionally balanced meal – lots of plant based fibre and available protein thanks to the lamb (on the bone) and broth. The addition of the spices further supports the digestive and immune systems, with a boost of liver supporting greens (kale and parsley or coriander) to finish it off.

Take a look at the variations (below the main recipe) for suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements. There are also instructions to make it vegetarian too!

Lamb Harira

This tasty, hearty soup is a nourishing meal that you can make ahead as the flavours just get better and better with time. You can make it a couple of days ahead of eating and it can also be frozen.

  • 1 large onion, (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, (chopped)
  • 2 large carrots, (diced)
  • 2 sticks celery, (diced)
  • 1 sweet potato, (peeled & diced)
  • 680 gram jar tomato passata (puree)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, (ground)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, (ground)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, (ground)
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, (ground)
  • ½ teaspoon ginger, (ground)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) puy lentils
  • 100 grams (½ cup) red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Good grind black pepper
  • 1 litre chicken broth or stock
  • 3-4 small lamb shanks (or 2 if very large)
  • 1 bunch kale, (leaves torn off the stems (stems diced))
  • Coriander or flat leaf parsley leaves, (to serve)
  • Lime wedges, (to serve)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 250℃.
  2. In a large oven proof casserole dish with lid, add all of the ingredients except the shanks and kale (add the stems though).

  3. Mix well to combine. Add the shanks and submerge them in the liquid.
  4. Cover the dish (with a lid or foil) and put in the oven, turning the temperature down to 150℃ immediately.
  5. Cook for 3-4 hours or until the lamb falls off the bone.

  6. Remove the dish from the oven, stir in the kale, replace the lid and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes so the kale wilts.
Serve
  1. With a wedge of lime and garnished with coriander or parsley.

Tip
  1. If you are storing or freezing it, strip the meat from the bones of the shanks and discard the bones (or freeze them to re-use to make a bone broth – there will still be some goodness remaining).

Vegetarian Harira

Replace the lamb with 250grams (approx. 2 cups) diced mushrooms and the bone broth with vegetable stock. Cook for 2-3 hours.

Onion and Garlic-free

Replace both with finely diced fennel, a extra teaspoon of cumin and chilli powder to taste. 

Make it spicy

You can serve this with chilli flakes – we always do. 

Leftovers

Leftovers are fabulous the next day and this is a great dish to make ahead or freeze (in an airtight container). My kids love it in a thermos for their school lunch. 

 

I’d love to hear how you and your family enjoy this delicious, super nourishing meal. Let me know what you think- post a comment below and rate this recipe! 

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It’s the time of the year when there are a few virus’s getting about and I’m often asked what to feed kids whilst they are already sick and don’t have much of an appetite (for more info on prevention click here). This post is not designed to replace the advice of your medical practitioner, so if your kids are seriously unwell or lose their appetite for more than a few days, please seek medical opinion.

A time for nourishment

I believe that during acute illness (such as a cold or gastro virus) nourishing your child has never been more important. In my experience, it really can help them to recover quickly and prevent secondary infection.

My 14 year old actually experienced her very first vomiting bug just last week. It was a 24 hour bug and she was back eating her way through the pantry a day on. Both my kids have never been unwell for more than a day or two and I like to think the care they’ve received in those early stages of illness, has really been part of their rapid recovery.

Rest and hydration

I think it’s really important first and foremost that at the first signs of illness, they rest. In my household this is non-negotiable. I also think it’s important that if they don’t have an appetite in the very early stages of illness, that we honour that, instead focussing on maintaining hydration which is the most critical thing during illness.

So other than room temperature water, these are the drinks I offer my kids if they are unwell…

Chicken bone broth

It has earned the nick-name “Jewish penicillin” for good reason. Not only does it contain immune supporting properties, it’s also a great source of protein and contains a range of bioavailable minerals (that are easy for the body to absorb and assimilate). I always add a good pinch of sea salt to make it more palatable and help to maintain sodium levels. It’s great during and after stomach bugs and colds. You can read more about the benefits of bone broth and how to make it here.

Herbal teas

My kids prefer herbal teas to plain water when they are unwell. Ginger and Peppermint teas are great for both digestive and respiratory illness, but any non-caffeinated herbal tea that you kids feel like will support hydration. I make them in a thermos flask so they stay warm and they can sip small amounts frequently (this also avoids spills). During a cold, my kids love this Immune Tea brew.

Coconut water

Coconut water has an impressive electrolyte composition that makes it perfect for supporting hydration. If you can get the real thing (whole young coconut) it’s a bonus, if not make sure you stick with an unsweetened brand. You can also add it to herbal tea and bone broth.

Miso soup

Miso is a great alternative to bone broth (if you are vegetarian) and is also a great source of protein, probiotics to support gut and immune health and a rich source of many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Make sure you purchase a naturally fermented paste without additives.

Foods to offer

If your child has gastro, chances are they will be without an appetite for at least 12 hours after their last vomit. Once you feel they are over the worst of it and on the mend, there’s no harm in gently encouraging them to try some food. Let them guide you as to what their body is feeling like. These are some of my families favourites…

Soup

Something very simple like bone broth mixed with an easy to digest noodle (rice or buckwheat noodles are my preference) or rice. Something like this healthy Instant Noodle Soup recipe or this Asian Immune Broth is a great choice.

A vegetable soup if palatable is also a fabulous, nourishing meal after illness.

Jelly or gummies

Jelly, only of the home-made kind, is a great way to introduce a little protein and carbohydrate. It’s so quick and easy to make and I let my kids dictate the flavour they feel like. My Lemon Turmeric Jellies are a firm favourite when they have a cold. Other jelly or gummy recipes: Orange Jelly, Mango Jelly, Chocolate Coconut Gummies. You can always use coconut water or cooled herbal tea for the liquid part of the jelly too and don’t be afraid to experiment and make your own flavours.

Bananas

Bananas are a great source of potassium so they are great if kids have had gastro. A little remedy passed down from my mum is banana mashed with a little natural yoghurt (kefir or coconut yoghurt) and a teaspoon of slippery elm powder (my son calls it nannies banana yoghurt). I remember having a friend stay and she was feeding her baby mashed banana and yoghurt for brekkie. My son was about 5 at the time and he watched her for a while and then said ‘that’s really yummy with a teaspoon of slippery elm powder in it too’ – only from the mouth of a Naturopaths son!

Something is NOT always better than nothing

A little word of warning. One of the things I’ve seen in my years of clinical practice are children who have developed food fussiness after being sick, partially because they have been allowed to eat all manner of processed foods on the premise that ‘something’ is better than nothing. Many authorities recommend flavoured yoghurt, juice, cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, jelly (packet kind) and packet or canned soup (sigh) during illness and this just breaks my heart. Sugar suppresses immune function and has no place in the diet when sick.

There are lots more posts about supporting your child’s immune system click HERE.

I hope this post arms you with info to help you and your kids to recover when illness does strike? I’d love to hear what whole foods you find help to support your kids health when they are sick. Post your contributions in the comments below!
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Each week I try to rotate the veggies I buy because I really do believe that variety is such a great way to ensure our nutritional needs are met. I also make sure a good part  of what I buy is green and leafy. Leafy green vegetables have more nutrients per calorie than any other food. Forget fancy and expensive ‘super’ foods, leafy greens like kale are as nourishing as it gets.

Kale isn’t one of my families favourite greens but that just makes me more determined to find a delicious way for them to enjoy it – and this pasta hits the mark. As it’s in season right now in the southern hemisphere it’s a great time to try this delicious meal.

Health benefits

Kale’s high level of nutrients (both vitamins and minerals) coupled with many potent, immune enhancing and anti-inflammatory Phyto (plant) chemicals, results in much-needed virus protection at this time of year. I believe consuming greens daily during winter (when they are in season), is a key factor in preventing colds and flu. Nature, as always, provides.

The combination of the quinoa and rice in the pasta along with the almonds forms a complete vegetarian protein too making this a nutritionally balanced, vegetarian meal.

Take a look at the variations (below the main recipe) for suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements. You’ll also find a tip for convincing leafy green reluctant kids.

If you’re looking to save money across pantry items such as nuts, seeds, flours and also gluten-free pasta (I buy the Ceres Organic Rice and Quinoa pasta here), I personally shop at The Wholefood Collective – great whole foods at heavily discounted prices (all home delivered), click HERE to take a look.

Kale Pesto Penne

This dish I developed out of wanting to include the nourishing stems of the kale in a meal. I often save them to add to bone broth but I wanted another option… and so this delicious, nutritious pasta was born. 

  • 4-5 large stems of curly kale, (washed well)
  • 2 cloves garlic, (peeled)
  • 50 grams (approx.) parmasan cheese
  • 1 cup almonds, (toasted)
  • Big handful basil leaves
  • Juice and zest one small lemon
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper, (to taste)
  • 250 grams rice quinoa penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tbsp water
  1. Start with stripping the leaves off the kale stems, tearing them into small pieces and finely chopping the remaining kale stems.

  2. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a large pot and boil the chopped stems (not the leaves) for 5 minutes (or until they have softened). Strain and set aside.

  3. Refill the pot with water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cook your penne until al dente.

  4. Meanwhile make the pesto.
  5. In a food processor, chop the garlic. Thermomix 5 sec, speed 7.

  6. Add the parmesan and process until finely grated. Thermomix 10 sec, speed 7.

  7. Add half of the almonds and pulse until finely chopped. Thermomix pulse approx. 3 times.

  8. Add the basil, cooked kale stems, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and pepper and pulse until it forms a course pesto. Thermomix pulse approx. 3-4 times.

  9. Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and return the pan to a moderate heat. Add the extra 2 tablespoons olive oil and water and then add the kale leaves. Sauté stirring constantly until it is just wilted (but not browned).

  10. Once they are wilted, return the pasta, pesto, remaining toasted almonds to the pot and stir to combine over a low heat.

  11. Serve immediately.
Nut-free

Substitute the almonds with toasted sunflower seeds.

Gluten-free

Choose a gluten-free penne (I love rice and quinoa pasta).

Dairy-free and vegan

Replace the parmesan with nutritional yeast and a good teaspoon of sea salt. 

Add in more veggies

I love to add in other vegetables sometimes too. A handful of cherry tomatoes, broccoli and sautéed mushrooms work really well, as does roasted sweet potato.

Add chicken or tuna

To up the protein content of the meal (though no longer vegetarian) add in cooked chicken or a can of tuna. 

If your looking to convince your kids in the greens department…

Click HERE for loads of tips and recipe ideas.

 

I’d love to hear how you like this simple pasta dish. It’s super tasty and so nourishing – you can leave a comment or rate the recipe below.

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Food and food culture really fascinates me. I believe the very best thing about traveling or meeting people from different cultures is becoming more informed about their way of life and of course, exploring their traditional food.

Every country or community’s unique cuisine reflects its distinct history, lifestyle, values, and beliefs. I just love how traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next and how it operates as an expression of cultural identity.

So with Ramadan beginning today, I’ve asked my friend Souad to share what Ramadan is, as well as a recipe for Fatteh (pita with chickpeas and yoghurt) – a divine meal that features on her table regularly. Trust me, Fatteh is so delicious and will absolutely become a regular on my own table  – my whole family loved it, it’s SO easy to make and definitely proves that the simple things in life, are often he best.

What is Ramadan?

Fasting during the month of ‘Ramadan’ is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Ramadan is in the ninth and most sacred month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. The fasting of Ramadan is obligatory for every healthy person and takes place from sunrise until sunset. However young children, the elderly, travellers, pregnant women and people in poor health are amongst those that are exempted from fasting.

The foods of fasting and Ramadan

During Ramadan, Muslims fast by waking up very early (known as the ‘Suhoor’) and eating a pre-dawn meal to help sustain their mind and body throughout the day. Suhoor should be nutrient dense, yet not too heavy and contain a combination of high quality protein, fibre-rich food, hydrating vegetables and good sources of fat; in addition they also consume water and or tea (preferably herbal). Food choices do vary from culture to culture. Foods eaten can include dates, eggs, traditional soups with choice of protein, oatmeal, a variety of homemade dairy products (labne, shanglish) with bread, olives, cucumber and tomatoes. Once the sun rises, the fasting Muslim is not allowed to consume any food or water until sunset. 

‘Iftar’ time (breaking of the fast) occurs at sunset, where it is customary to break the fast with dates and water as this helps to restore sugar and salt levels and rehydrates the body. Then Muslims pray the ‘Megreb prayer’ and then return to the dinner table to have their meal.

The types of food served vary by region. However mostly, families start with a simple soup, then move onto grazing the table with a variety of dishes ranging from casseroles, rice and legumes, salads and vegetables and of course meat/chicken/seafood. The fasting Muslim can continue to eat and drink until sun rise. It is highly encouraged to be more conscious and wary of what and how much you eat, focusing more on eating small amounts of healthy, wholesome, hearty foods and abstaining from processed and sugary foods, maintaining control and not over indulging. And to importantly, stay hydrated!

More than just fasting…

Throughout this month, a Muslim must do his utmost to refrain from negative behaviour, like swearing, lying etc and increase good behaviours. This is to help the Muslim build spiritual character and personal awareness by increasing charitable deeds, attending congregational prayers and maintaining ties with family, friends and neighbours.

End of fasting…

Ramadan comes to an end at the sighting of the crescent moon which indicates a new month. It is then, Muslims celebrate with a feast called ‘Eid-al-Fitr.’ This lasts for three days and is filled with family and community activities, gifts for the children and plenty of eating.    

I really enjoyed putting this post together, thanks so much to Souad for sharing this valuable insight into Ramadan and her recipe for Fatteh, such a fabulous, delicious meal.

I buy my chickpeas (as well as nuts, seeds, flours, tahini etc;) from The Wholefood Collective. They have great whole foods at heavily discounted prices (all home delivered), click HERE to take a look.

Fatteh (pita with chickpeas and yogurt)

This is a traditional Middle Eastern dish with many variations depending on each cultural preference. It’s always served in one big serving plate amongst family and friends. In Souad’s Lebanese household, she grew-up with this dish as a favourite in Ramadan during Iftar.

Take a look at the variations (below the main recipe) for suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements (some are Souad’s variations as one of her children is dairy-free, others are mine because I can’t help myself and want everyone to try this recipe).

  • 2 Lebanese wrap breads
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, (fresh soaked overnight and then boiled until soft or you can use 2 cans)
  • 375 grams (1 ½ cups) full-fat natural yoghurt
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Juice half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons water (optional if the yoghurt is very thick)
  • 250 grams lamb mince
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup pine nuts, (toasted (to serve))
  • Small handful chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 160℃.
  2. Place the Lebanese bread on a tray and bake for 10 mins, turning half way, until browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside. Alternatively, cut the bread into small wedges and fry them on the stove in 1 teaspoon ghee.
  3. Cook the soaked chickpeas by boiling until soft and cooked through (approx 10 minutes if they are well soaked). Drain them prior to serving, season and set aside. If using a can, drain and rinse them and then heat in a pot with a little water and sea salt until warm.

  4. Meanwhile, place the yoghurt, garlic, salt, tahini, lemon juice and water in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. Thermomix mince the garlic, 3 seconds, speed 8. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend, 30 second, speed 5.  

  5. If necessary, add more water (plain or from the chickpea water) slowly to the yoghurt until desired consistency is obtained. You want the yogurt to sit on the chickpeas (unlike in the pic – I over thinned it, Souad tells me it should sit on top of the chickpeas instead of sinking through doh!)

  6. In a small fry pan, melt the ghee and cook the minced lamb over a high heat for about cook 3-5mins or until it’s cooked through. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

  7. Break up the Lebanese bread into small bite size and arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of a deep serving platter bowl (or casserole).
  8. Top with the warm, drained chickpeas.
  9. Top the chickpeas with the yogurt sauce and then spread the lamb and ghee evenly over the yogurt.
  10. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley and enjoy immediately.
Serve:
  1. Traditionally, Souad tells me she would serve the Fatteh with various sides including olives, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut and spring onion (though this can vary depending on personal preferences)

Dairy-free

Replace the yoghurt with coconut yogurt. Can also replace the ghee with olive oil.

Gluten-free

Replace the Lebanese bread with a gluten-free wrap. Vegetarain Omit lamb altogether.

Vegan

Omit the lamb and drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil. Plus the dairy-free option.

Nut-free

Replace the pine nuts with toasted sunflower seeds.

Garlic-Free

I would replace the garlic with a half teaspoon of cumin and smoked paprika (in the yoghurt sauce).

 

I’d like to thank Souad so much for this fabulous insight into Ramadan and the food that features on her table during this sacred month. Souad has three beautiful boys and is passionate about whole foods and raising happy healthy kids. She has contributed so much to the Well Nourished community over the years and I can’t wait to meet her in person one day.

 

I’d love to learn more about cultural food experiences so if food is part of a religious or sacred celebration in your culture, I’d love to explore it in future posts. Feel free to email me (via the contact form in the footer of this page) if you’d like to share an insight and/or a recipe. Cheers Georgia x

 

I’d love to hear how you enjoyed this post and recipe – post a comment below and rate the recipe if you love it too. 

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This yoghurt cake has long been a go-to cake of mine. Like all of my recipes, it’s evolved over the years (from a high sugar, refined flour cake) – I’ve always loved the nice moist crumb yoghurt cakes produce. I’ve been keeping this recipe aside for a special occasion and with Mother’s Day coming up, here we have it.

Seeing as the weather has cooled off a bit, I thought I’d make it with winter fruit and warming ginger. When I made this one to photograph, my daughter said it tastes like a ‘real tea cake’ – ha ha! Compliments are hard to come by from teenagers so I’ll take it as a win.

If you’re not a fan of pear and ginger, don’t despair, it is very easily adapted to other flavours. Take a look at the variations below for all the details as well as suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements.

If you’re looking to save money across pantry items such as nuts, seeds, flours and much more, I personally shop at The Wholefood Collective – great whole foods at heavily discounted prices (and delivered to my door), click HERE to take a look.

Pear and Ginger Yoghurt Cake

This simple, healthy yoghurt cake is an adaptable basic cake that I know you’ll keep coming back to.

  • 100 grams butter, (melted)
  • 250 grams (1½ cups) full-fat natural or unsweetened Greek yoghurt
  • 170 grams  (½ cup) sweetener ((honey or rice malt syrup))
  • 3 free-range or organic eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh, finely grated ginger (or 2 teaspoons ground)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 300 grams (2½ cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 ripe pear, (cored and thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons rapadura or coconut sugar
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170℃ (fan-forced). Grease and line a spring form pan/ tin with baking paper. I used a 22cm cake tin.

  2. In a mixing bowl or food processor, beat the butter, yoghurt, sweetener of your choice, eggs, zest and ginger until well combined.
  3. Add the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt and blend again for a few seconds to just combine.

  4. Now gently fold in the spelt flour and mix until the flour is just combined. The more you mix this, the heavier the cake will become, so less is certainly best.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, top with the pear, sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is firm in the middle (a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean). 

Thermomix
  1. Melt your butter 90, 1 min, speed 3. Add the yoghurt, sweetener of your choice, eggs, zest and ginger and blend 1 minute, speed 4.
  2. Add the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt mix 5 seconds speed 4.

  3. Add the spelt flour and mix 5 seconds, lock the lid, on the flour symbol. Scrape down the sides and fold any uncombined flour as much as you can by hand. You really don’t want to over process it, less is best.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, top with the pear, sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is firm in the middle (a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean). 

Serve…
  1. This is so yum served with double cream, or creme fraiche.

Store…
  1. In an airtight container for a few days. 

  2. It can also be frozen (also in an airtight container)

Dairy-free

Replace the butter with macadamia nut oil and the yoghurt with coconut yoghurt. If you need it to be nut-free you can use coconut oil, but it will effect the taste and texture (the cake will toughen as it cools). Another option is olive oil.

Fructose friendly

Choose rice malt syrup as your sweetener and replace the pear with berries and omit the sugar on top. Take a look at the flavour combo’s below.

Gluten-free

I haven’t tested this with a gluten-free flour as yet. But this Basic Easy Healthy Cake recipe is my all time favourite gluten-free cake (but not nut-free). Another great gluten and nut-free cake is my Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (this recipe also makes one large cake).

White spelt

You can certainly replace the wholemeal spelt with white spelt flour – this will produce a lighter, less dense cake batter.

Egg-free

I also haven’t tested this but suspect it will work well with chia egg or aquafaba.

Another flavour

So for all of these – omit the ginger and pear.

  • Lemon Yoghurt Cake – double the lemon zest and place very thinly sliced pieces of lemon on top (before baking). This is lovely with the ginger too (your call).
  • Orange Yoghurt Cake – add the zest of one orange and place very thinly sliced pieces of orange on top (before baking). This is lovely with poppy seeds sprinkled on top too.
  • Raspberry Yoghurt cake – top with fresh or defrosted raspberries.
  • Apple Tea Cake – add a tablespoon of cinnamon to the cake batter. Thinly slice one apple and arrange on top. Mix a teaspoon of cinnamon in with the sugar and sprinkle on top.
  I’d love to hear how you enjoy this cake – please post any questions or feedback in the comments below or rate this recipe.

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This week, psychotherapist Jane Faulkner joins us once again with another valuable post. Seeing as winter is ahead of us here in Australia, I thought I’d start sharing some practical tips and strategies to stay well and support your immune system to over the coming months.

The media is once again bombarding us with news of a new ‘super flu’ threatening this winter. I believe there is no single herb, vitamin, pill or potion to reduce your susceptibility to infection – rather many complex factors impact the immune system’s vitality. Your bodies immune army needs to be strong, period!

Many lifestyle factors impact the immune systems vitality (I’ve written about some of these in detail here). As a general rule four key factors which help to keep yourself and your family well include:

  1. good hygiene,
  2. eating a variety of whole foods (to ensure your macro and micronutrient needs are met)
  3. heading outside and moving your body regularly (gentle, regular movement and sunlight)
  4. and finally managing your stress levels, which is what Jane is here to discuss today…

Words by Jane Faulkner

Thought body connection

I am always amazed at the human body and how interconnected every part of us is. We can think a thought and this is enough to send chemical reactions throughout the body to help us to react, respond or relax. Unfortunately, so many of us don’t realise the powerful impact that our thoughts have upon our body and our entire sense of well-being. Our thoughts and where we choose to place our attention has a huge impact upon our health. 

You see, even though our world has changed dramatically, evolutionally, our brain is very old and parts of our brain are still operating as if we are cave men and women. These parts of the brain are trying to keep us alive which means that they are keeping an eye out for life threatening events, they are pattern matching and they are often looking for the negative in everything. 

Now back in cave man time this was fine, we had to survive lions and bears, the stress was sudden and intense and then we could move on. Nowadays, the stressors are different, instead of worrying about a lion jumping out from behind a bush we have constant concerns about money, job security, raising children, relationships and keeping up with the Jones’s. Our body doesn’t get a break from the constant barrage of stress hormones and from our ongoing worries and thoughts. This negatively impacts our health, especially our immune system and our hormonal balance. 

Try something right now…think about the most recent negative experience that you have had and notice how your body starts to feel. Do you get tense, sweaty, agitated, sad? Now, think about a recent positive event and again watch how your body responds, do you start to feel lighter, less tense and more open? My point is that our ability to decide where we focus our attention has a direct impact upon our physical health. You decide your thoughts and energy flows where attention goes. Sounds woo, woo I know, however, it is life changing. 

You decide your thoughts… energy flows where attention goes. Supporting your health via your thinking

Science is now proving that our state of mind impacts our state of health and vice versa. So if we feel good about ourselves, generally we make healthier choices. The use of mindfulness as a practice has exploded due to the link between being mindful and aware of the present moment and increased health. When we are present, we are less likely to be dwelling on the past, panicking about the future or stuck in old negative, self-destructive ways of thinking. We are actually rewiring our brain and shifting out of the oldest part of our brain, the part that does fight , flight, freeze really well, to the newest part of our brain that is able to see the bigger picture, solve problems and find solutions. 

My top 5 helpful tips to support your health through your thinking:

  1. Train yourself to keep coming back to the present moment, notice the simple things that are surrounding you.
  2. Tune into your senses, be aware of what you are smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, hearing in each moment
  3. Keep it simple. If your mind is going nuts with loads of thoughts; practice taking a big breath out- like a sigh. It’s amazing how much tension a good sigh can release. 
  4. Learn to get in touch with your feelings and express how you feel. This is so liberating and it’s a very grown-up practice. When you express how you feel and own your feelings, everyone knows where they stand with you. No more guess work for friends and family and you get the chance to get your needs met- double bonus!!
  5. Talk your problems through with a trusted friend or mental health professional. Talking through your problems often helps you to come up with solutions. Seek out counselling or professional support if you have a habit of always seeing the negative in everything.

YOU have the power to choose your thoughts and to impact your health and well-being every moment, of every day! I hope this post helps you.

Jane Faulkner is a psychotherapist, registered nurse, yoga teacher and the founder of Equine Assisted Therapy Australia, an organisation that provides training, retreats, programs and individual sessions that aim to provide individuals with new and authentic ways to grow and learn more about themselves. Connect with Jane HERE. We’d love to hear from you -post a comment or question below.
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Well there’s a distinct change in the water, even here in sunny Queensland with a little bit of a chill in the air in the evening and morning. Autumn and winter are my favourite seasons here on the Gold Coast, the skies are blue, the days are dry and sunny – way more comfortable for this old girl than the humidity of our summer (now I’m sounding like my mother ha ha).

Which brings me to this budget friendly, quick and easy to make,   nourishing soup. It’s a little winter warmer to mark the change in season as I LOVE me a bowl of soup.

I actually developed this recipe recently to support a great community program by The Fruit Box called The One Box – where fresh produce is purchased directly from local markets and suppliers and distributed to families doing it tough. I worked with a list of the ingredients available in the box and I came up with four recipes (using at least four ingredients available in the box – depending on seasonal availability). The Fruit Box then print my recipes onto beautiful designed recipe cards and distribute with the box. So the families receiving the food boxes not only get a box full of nourishment, but some recipe inspiration to turn the goodies into a delicious, nourishing meal.

So for this recipe, the ingredients I chose from what was available were onion, celery, potato and milk…and this simple soup was born!

Take a look at the variations (below the main recipe) for suggestions to alter the recipe to suit your specific dietary requirements.

Creamy Potato Apple Soup

This is a delicious blend of carbohydrate by way of the vegetables and apple, coupled with protein from the broth and milk.

  • 30 g butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, (peeled and roughly diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 long sticks celery, (cut into pieces)
  • 2 medium sized potatoes ((approx. 300g) peeled and diced)
  • 1 small sweet potato ((approx. 100g) peeled and diced)
  • 2 small or one large Granny Smith apples ((approx.100g) peeled and diced)
  • 370 ml 1½ cups chicken bone broth or stock (or vegetable stock)
  • Sea salt and black pepper, (to taste)
  • 60 ml ¼ cup full-fat milk (of your choice)
  1. In a large pot add the butter or oil with the onion, garlic and celery. Sauté over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the onion starts to soften.
  2. Add the potatoes, sweet potato, apples and broth or stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a high simmer. Cook until the potato is soft and falls apart (when skewered with a knife or fork).
  3. Allow to cool a little, add the milk and blend with a stick blender or in blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
Thermomix
  1. Chop the onion, garlic and celery 5 seconds speed 5.
  2. Add the butter or olive oil and cook 5 mins, 100, speed 1.
  3. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple and broth or stock.
  4. Cook 15 mins, speed spoon, 100.
  5. Remove the lid and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Add the milk and blend 30 seconds, speed 5-6 (take care to gradually increase the speed).
Dairy-free

Choose olive oil and a nut milk. 

Vegetarian and vegan

Use vegetable stock and for vegan the dairy-free variations. 

Onion-free

Replace the onion with fennel, finely chopped and sautéed as above.

Garlic-free

Replace the garlic with a pinch of cumin and cayenne pepper.

 

I’d love to hear how you enjoyed this soup. You can post a comment below and let me know. 

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