Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best ever flavour combinations...

...peanut, chilli and egg
tuna and olives
chocolate and peanut butter (works equally well in porridge as it does in ice-cream)
maple syrup and pecan (made for each other).


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lunch of champions

Quinoa, black beans, sweet potato, tomato, red onion, green capsicum, avocado, spices and hot sauce. Yum!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

48 hours in

It's been almost exactly 48 hours since the Thermomix arrived. Now, this blog isn't about to become an advertorial for Thermomix or a slavish rendering of Thermie (see - affectionate abbreviation already) converted recipes. But, I just want to say this. In its first 48 hours with us, we have used the Thermie to make:

1 loaf of bread (success - we even milled some of our own flour for it)
1 batch of pasta sauce (okay)
1 jug of fruit and vegetable juice (success)
1 thai green chicken curry (success for the carnivore)
1 batch of chilli jam (success)
1 batch of porridge (not great, prefer it the old fashioned way)
1 batch of muffins (okay, but I think it was more work than doing it manually).

Any way you look at it, that's quite a lot of cooking. The cool part is, all of that took a sum total of about two hours (thermie cooking times included, oven cooking times excluded). I am having fun!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Today was a milestone; I burned 300 calories during my cardio workout at the gym. Three hundred calories isn't much to write home about for a fit and active person. Indeed, four months ago, I burned at least 500 every time I hit the gym (which was pretty much every day). But in these times of MS recovery, 300 is a big deal. It is interesting looking at my otherwise healthy muscles and knowing that it is the neural pathways that are holding them back, making me feel weak, tired and unsteady on my feet. But the truly counter-intuitive thing is that vigorous exercise actually alleviates the fatigue. After burning my 300, I managed to clean the house, cook lunch and do laundry. So, the message is clear; unless I am projectile vomiting with fatigue or a danger to myself on the treadmill, it is exercise for me. This makes me happy, cos it's what I like to do.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Simple Things...

...are often the most satisfying. A salad (mostly) from my garden, fresh tiger prawns on wholemeal bread with a smear of avocado, lemon and pepper.

Followed by apple crumble, full of almond and chia seed goodness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Put it to the universe...

...and the universe provides. Last week, I blogged about the burnout of my old food processor, during which I made a fleeting nod to the unattainable wonder of the Thermomix. Well, guess what? We are getting one!!!! Actually, it's not the Universe we need to thank, but my kind and generous brother, who has bundled a life time of Christmas gifts into this one remarkable present. This is truly the Rolls Royce of kitchen appliances. It arrives next week. I am supremely excited!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Feeling alive

Reverb10 is a cool initiative that prompts you to flex your creative muscles by reflecting in writing on aspects of the year that's been. Today's prompt:

Prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Oddly enough, the most alive I felt this year and, indeed, in living memory, is the few moments during which my neural opthalmologist told me I had MS. I was literally shocked into complete presence in the moment. I could feel the tattoo of my heart and the pulse of blood in my neck, but I wasn't really distracted by my bodily functions. I was listening very carefully to what the doc said, as sweat prickled between my hand and Lovely Partner's, who was keeping me, as usual, grounded to this earth. The whole experience lasted about seven minutes, but I will never ever forget it. It is quite stunning how present I felt to my own existence at the same moment I was contemplating a future changed forever. Hmmm...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tasty tomatoes

When you get down to it, tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, if not to keep disease-free. I've never had any trouble growing tomatoes. But growing really tasty ones? Well, that seems to be another story for me. For years, it has been a hit and miss affair; sometimes sweet juicy success and sometimes a good effort but with a tad too much acid or a hint of grainy flesh. I have tried growing many varieties, adjusting my soil conditions and my aspect. But I still haven't nailed the science of the perfect tomato. This year's early crop, however, have been quite the triumph.

The only thing I can put it down to is that they grew and ripened quickly. But maybe there's something else I'm missing. Do you have a secret for growing really tasty tomatoes?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fun and minor tragedy in the kitchen

This morning I made these super yummy date and nut balls inspired by the latest edition of Delicious magazine.

They are chock full of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, cocoa and spices; calorie rich but highly nutritional.

They were a raging success, except...the pressure of long term blending was too much for my 20+ year old food processor, which started emitting an alarming amount of smoke :(

Thank goodness the food wasn't spoiled. We are now fantasizing about buying a Thermomix. Back in the real world, where money is perpetually tight, I guess it's time to start saving for another food processor...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good surprise

I found out yesterday that I won a prize at work that involves a significant cash bonus. The best thing about it is that I didn't even know I'd been nominated for a prize. Good end to a fairly crappy week :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010


When you've been relegated to a saturated fat free diet for the rest of your life, the glory that is cheese covered pizza becomes a wistful thing of the past. I have been playing around with a few options to try and reclaim my pizza joy. The calzone is the best so far. Kind of like a large pizza turnover, the calzone effectively steams the pizza toppings, giving them a nice melty texture, while also ensuring the integrity of the crispy pizza dough.

This one was filled with grilled eggplant, spinach, tomato paste, tuna and mushrooms. Very tasty. Next time, I think I will try a prawn combo.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One year on...

A year ago, I finally managed to get off my arse and start losing the weight that I had let pile on over 10 years or so. I had tried to do this once before, experienced success but then sustained an injury that benched me for over three years. This time around, I'm not letting anything get in my way. I am 17kgs lighter than I was this time last year and I only have a couple of kilos to go to get to that stupid socially constructed goal I seem to have attached myself to. This last little bit is going to take a while, because illness is now constricting my activity. But I am going to get there, no matter how slowly. This has been a good year for learning a few things about myself and about getting strong. Here are a few of the things I've learned:

1. I have to put myself first sometimes.If I am fit, well rested and happy, then I am also productive and more present to people I care about.
2. I am tough - I can do a lot more than I start off thinking I can.
3. I have to plan to workout every day - that way, I get it done about 5-6 times a week. If I plan rest days, I usually end up working out 3-4 times a week because things come up. Life's annoying that way.
4. I am pretty fit, but I'm still not that strong - my core strength is shocking. I have to honour my abs (which I don't like doing, because they're my weakest bit)
5. I love wearing groovy clothes (actually, I already knew this, but I'm glad I can fit into them again)
6. Replacing an entire wardrobe, from the underwear out, is very expensive :( I am slowly getting there, but I still look like I'm wearing a tent some of the time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Many years ago, when I was a first year psychology undergraduate (before I realised that I was more interested in ideas than 'rats and stats', so switched to sociology), I was a guinea pig in a PhD student's research experiment. As was the nature of research ethics at that time, I was told nothing about what I was participating in. It turned out he was doing some kind of examination of people's responses to stress. I basically sat in a room, wired up to various monitors, being shown pictures of spiders and other 'stressful' things. I remember I had a bad cold and was sweating a lot. Anyway, shortly after this experience, I had a phone call from the PhD researcher begging me to come back in. According to him, I was his most interesting subject as I rated off the charts on both subjective and objective measures of anxiety. Personally, I think it was just the cold!

I am actually pretty anxious, but I don't think I am in the ballpark with people who suffer true anxiety disorders. I have been reminded this week of just how powerful anxiety can be. I was hosting a big forum this week, with people attending from all over the country. It was a massive undertaking and I was stressed out of my mind. The thing that really gets me, though, is my retrospective anxiety. You'd think, with the event over, I'd be having a lovely relaxing weekend. But no, instead I am playing the event over and over in my mind, stressing about small mistakes and my own inadequacies (despite the objective evidence that more than 15 people have already emailed to say what a great day they had). Do you suffer from retrospective anxiety? I'm off to the gym to try to work it off.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An excellent dinner

This rice salad is a pretty bog standard weeknight meal at my place.

But it's special because the tomatoes, eggplant and greens are all from my little pot vegie garden.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How virgin is our extra virgin olive oil?

In order to minimise my MS, I have recently started following the Overcoming MS approach. This includes a diet with very limited saturated and altered fats, which means a shift to cold-pressed oils and pretty much exclusive use of extra virgin olive oil for cooking purposes. Imagine my surprise to read Choice Magazine's rather damning review of the 'virgin' status of many extra virgin olive oils on the Australian market. The facts are here. Thanks to Robskee for pointing this out. I am going to rethink my consumption choices (yet again - sigh) based on this information.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dosing up

So, last night I took my first full dose of Rebif, the drug of my neurologist's choice to assist with minimising the progression of my MS. Rebif is one of a class of beta interferons - proteins that are produced by our bodies to kickstart our immune system responses. I have to inject it three times a week using a very groovy automated device that makes robot noises and lives in my fridge between shots. The side effects of this medication, which are experienced by the majority of its users, include flu symptoms, needle site infections and necrosis. Hey, it could be a lot worse. One of the medications my neuro suggested I consider has a higher success rate than Rebif, but can also result in a fried brain. Hmmm, I passed on that one. Anyway, so far, it seems I am in the small category of lucky folk who don't experience significant side effects. Apart from the odd lump and bump, it's been smooth sailing thus far. But, is it doing me any good? Who knows.

This is my first foray into taking serious medicine on a sustained basis. The jury is out for me on whether this will be a lifelong commitment. I don't really mind the injections (although, travelling with a virtual fridge by my side is going to be a bitch), but I'm not yet convinced that the available medical responses are quite the ticket for a life free of MS symptoms. Anyhoo, more on that another time. What has creeped me out about this whole experience is the pervasiveness of the drug industry the minute I was confronted with intervention choices. My neurologist told me about the available drugs but strongly recommended this one. He's the expert, right? So, I went with that. Soon after, the 'community nurse' dropped round for a visit. She is employed by the drug agency. She was very nice and she told me her job was to help me get used to taking the drugs. Nanoseconds later (and I'm not sure if this was a freudian slip or just a boutof honesty), she told me her main job is to make me stay on the drug. Durr! What I found more alarming than this was that my neuro and the nurse could have been reading from the same script in terms of how they described the drug, the side effects and the benefits. It made me wonder, just who does this doctor work for?! Anyway, paranoid responses aside, this is a whole new world and one I'm not sure I like at all.

Banana and pecan loaf

For the last six weeks, I have been adapting my diet to align with George Jelinek's Overcoming MS approach. This basically means a whole foods plant and fish based diet extremely low in saturated and altered fats. The science is explained in his book and summarized here. So far, I'm doing pretty well. It's only the baking that I'm having trouble getting my head around. So, I was very happy last night to produce this tasty and easy banana and pecan loaf.

1cup self raising flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 shot espresso
2 ripe medium bananas
1 egg white
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (supermarket brand is best as this is the least flavoured and aromatic)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Pinch of salt

Line a loaf tin and preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
Mash bananas and steep in espresso for about 10 minutes. Add golden syrup and sugar and mix well.
Add oil, egg white, flour and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in nuts.
Pour into tin and cook for 35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Turn out and don't burn your fingers rushing for the first piece.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What does it feel like to have MS?

MS is such a variable disease, that no one person can describe what it's like. All of us who have it are looking at different combinations of symptoms and different trajectories for progression. For those of us with the relapsing-remitting kind (as distinct from the progressive kind), having MS can feel dramatically different from day to day. For me, today, MS feels like a small electrical fire has started in my right foot and is creeping its way up my leg. Thankfully, today, MS for me doesn't feel like vision impairment, cognitive problems and extreme fatigue. Here's hoping for tomorrow, and the next day....

Living in the now

I am currently on Day 16 of the Chopra Centre's 21 day meditation challenge. Apart from sounding disturbingly like some kind of reality tv show spin-off, this has been a great experience. Every day, I tune in for a guided meditation; 10 minutes or so to breathe, be mindful of self and surroundings, and be in stillness and silence. There is much to be said for stopping doing in order to be for a short time every day.

This is Ziggy, the three legged Ancient. He lives in the now pretty much all the time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We have been enjoying some wonderful birds in our garden of late. Being from southern parts, I still marvel at the sheer scope of biodiversity that is, literally, in one's face in a Queensland backyard. One of my favourites at the moment is a pair of fig birds, who have been chowing down on the berries in a palm tree that overlooks our front deck. The male is particularly fetching, sporting an olive back, yellow belly and a wonderful red 'zorro-mask'. I could look at him all day!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Today, I ran for 30 minutes on the cross-trainer and burned 200 calories. I then did 3 sets of 12 repetitions on 3 upper body weight machines. This is about 25% of what I was able to do 3 months ago. But, more importantly, it's about 35% more than I could do last Wednesday, and 100% more than I could do two weeks ago. As I was struggling along on the cross-trainer this afternoon, I was feeling the self-pity levels going up (I gave up the cross-trainer months ago, when I braved the possibilities of running on the treadmill, and hadn't looked back til MS came to visit). So, I had a stern word to myself and decided to reframe. 'What's good about the cross-trainer  and not being able to do everything I could do 3 months ago?', I asked myself. Well, the most obvious thing is that I can use it! If I got on a treadmill right now, the lower body weakness and almost imperceptible muscle tremors I have would see me on my arse (or, worse, my face) pretty quickly. But there are other good things about it. The cross-trainer works my arms as well as my legs, so my upper body is getting a better workout than it has for ages. On this note, because of the unsteadiness in my legs, I am also doing more weight training. Frankly, my arms are looking pretty cut! And the other great thing (which I didn't find out until later) is that, an hour after my workout, I was well enough to wash my hair, cook my dinner, and empty the dishwasher. There's no way I could have done all that just two weeks ago. I am reframing. Thiings are definitely looking up today.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Springtime in the Garden

Happy eggplants.

A regenerated curry leaf tree.

Robust rogue tomatoes.

Lebanese cucumber starting to fruit.

Basil fighting it out with the grasshoppers. Who will win?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Well, it's been a long time between posts. A few days after my last post, I celebrated my 39th birthday. For my birthday, I got an awesome new cookbook, a wonderful cooking pan, a renewed subscription to my favourite magazine, Delicious (are you seeing the theme here?) and some weird vision problems. Within days, it became apparent that I had a visual field defect. I am not medically proficient at all, but you know something's wrong when the doctors start looking tight lipped and you magically find yourself having appointments with specialists at 7am on the weekend and getting booked in within hours for medical tests that usually have week long waiting lists. Unbeknownst to me, the main reasons for visual defects are brain tumours and strokes. Fortunately (hey, it's all relative), it turns out I have the lesser of three common evils; relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

So, I've been getting my head around what this means for me, while also dealing with the realities of being symptomatic (read: feeling like crap most of the time). The good news is, my vision is restored. But every day is a roller coaster of symptoms, including acute fatigue, neuropathic pain that makes my right side feel like it's on fire, muscle spasms and (this one's the best and, perhaps not surprisingly, often under-reported symptom) extreme constipation. So, in the space of three short months, I've gone from being my version of a super-jock and, incidentally, feeling pretty proud of myself for losing 17 kgs through regular exercise and minor dietary modifications, to being barely able to lift my breakfast cereal spoon to my mouth some days.

That's not the end of the story, though. Finding out you've got a degenerative neurological condition is a great wake-up call. I am still busy trying to work out what's important and what makes me happy (this will probably be a perpetual work in progress). But I have already considerably reduced my workaholic tendencies, started meditating and begun enjoying more contact with the people who matter to me the most. All good. I have also become a student of George Jelinek's approach to overcoming MS. His excellent website is here. This means a new lifelong commitment to a diet including virtually no saturated or altered fats. I have said farewell to milk, egg yolks and most cheese (just trying to give up parmesan forever). I use only cold pressed oils and only extra virgin olive oil for cooking. I get to eat a lot of fish but no meat (this is no problem, as I love the former and haven't eaten the latter since 1991!). I can no longer fry or roast at high temperatures, but I can steam, stir-fry, and bake at moderate temperatures to my heart's content.

Prof Jelinek's approach also includes a strong emphasis on exercise. The good news here is, I love exercise. The bad news, which I really hope is temporary, is that the fatigue and balance problems I am currently experiencing is really limiting my capacity for exercise. I have gone from 6-7 workouts/week burning 400-600 calories each session to 1-2 sessions/week burning 200 calories. Still, I am cautiously optimistic that this will change with time. And for now, I am happy that I am still motivated (if not always physically capable) to exercise. I am also happy to report that I have not regained any weight and have managed to keep all emotional eating at bay whilst going through a pretty emotional time.

So, with this change in life, so the blog changes. From now, I start documenting the food, foibles, and fitness adventures of a woman living with MS. Well, maybe not from right now (I'm wrecked from writing this post). But next time, I promise....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Recipe number two - dahl with spinach

As an undergraduate, I shared a house with someone with a passion for dahl. Whenever it was their turn to cook, we would be presented with this stodgy, oversalted yet curiously bland mass of lentils and rice. I have never recovered from this culinary assault and have thus avoided dahl for nigh on twenty years.

I decided to suck it up and prepare dahl with spinach from Delicious Magazine's July edition. Served with rice, yoghurt, fresh coriander and mango chutney, it was so tasty that I am officially recovered from my past dahl-phobia.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Recipe number one

Kicking off the holiday eating goals, I cooked Bill Granger's pumpkin and cinnamon muffins (actually, I was forced to cheat on my goal from the start, as I have made these before. I had planned another recipe then realised I'd missed a vital ingredient which will have to wait for a trip to the market on Wednesday).

They are very tasty and, because the pumpkin gives a lot of the sweetness, very low on sugar. They also taste great crumbled on my banana porridge.

If only I could work out how to rotate my photos in my iPhone blogger app!

Off to the gym now...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Holiday goals

Well, it's been a long time between posts. Work has been a bitch and I have only just managed to crawl over the finish line to 10 blissful days of annual leave. 'Work-life balance' and 'flexible working hours' are myths perpetuated by those who want to keep us switched on at all times. I am knackered! The good news is that, through all this, I have managed to continue with my commitment to exercise and good eating. Sixteen kilos down now :)

To celebrate time off, I plan to do a bit of everything I like. My holiday goals:

1. Cook a new recipe every day
2. Plant some stuff, prune some stuff
3. Go to the gym every day that I am home (having two nights away)
4. Read at least two crappy novels and one more serious one
5. Sleep a lot
6. See at least two movies


Friday, May 28, 2010

Livening up a stir fry

This week at the Brisbane markets, I came across a perfect red cabbage. Stir fried along with pumpkin, spring onions, red capsicum, tofu and choy sum. A riot of colour and flavour :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tasty noodle soup

Sometimes after giving myself a flogging at the gym, I am overwhelmed by the need for lean protein, carbs and greens. Today's lunch is inspired by Chocolate Buddha, my 'go to' lunch place whenever I am in Melbourne's central business district. Green tea noodles, enoki mushrooms, and choy sum simmered in miso broth and topped with grilled salmon and spring onions. Heavenly!

For the love of veggies

I am obsessed with food, but I really can't understand why so many people have an aversion to vegetables. I just don't get it. Don't get me wrong, I am a total carboholic and am as easily seduced by a good piece of cake/bread/baked good as the next person, but who can look at the vibrancy of a wonderful plate of vegetable stirfry and not be excited...?

With some tofu and a hint of sesame seeds, this is the kind of lunch that really makes my day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eleven, exercise and enchiladas

I went to the gym today for the first time since Wednesday. I have had a cold and have been waiting out the congestion. The good news is I was as fit as I was last week (I fear deconditioning!) and I have now lost 11kilos. In honour of this milestone being met, I did 4.4km on the treadmill and ran at least half of it. I have been trying to turn myself into a runner using the Couch to 5k training program. I really don't think I was born to run (sorry, Bruce). My feet are very flat and anything faster than a shuffle makes my shins scream. Still, I am getting there.

Dinner was truly great- sweet potato, corn and blackbean enchiladas, served with avocado, mixed greens from my garden and garnished with coriander, also from the 'vegie pot patch'. Delish.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vegetables in pots

Well, it's hit and miss in my garden at the moment. A healthy crop of beans and lettuces were destroyed by heavy rain, and the leaf eating grasshoppers continue to wreak havoc (hey, it's autumn, guys. Time for you to leave). I am still getting used to gardening in Brisbane and have realised the sun's arc is really different to Melbourne (I'm a quick learner, not!). So, I've planted out a vegetable pot garden on our driveway in order to make the most of the available light.

All is well so far - I have two healthy zucchinis, a happy curry leaf tree, mixed lettuces and rocket, and very happy coriander. A rogue eggplant has also come up. I don't think it will survive the winter, but I'm going to let it go and see what happens. So far, the possums have stayed away from everything except the parsley. I have been dressing the vegies with blood and bone; being herbivores, our possum buddies don't like the smell. Looking forward to my first zucchini harvest this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mmmm...rice paper rolls....

After Mexican food, my all time favourite cuisine is Vietnamese (but don't tell my Lebanese aunties, or I'll be in strife for culinary disloyalty!). Rice paper rolls are a reasonably regular staple at our place these days, as Brisbane isn't quite the mecca of Vietnamese cuisine we were used to in Melbourne, so we make our own.

I fill mine with rice vermicelli, firm tofu marinated in whatever spins my wheels at the time, grated carrot and cucumber, finely chopped shitake mushroom (the dry kind, rehydrated), coriander, mint, and crushed dry roasted peanuts (or cashews). I dress the filling with fish sauce, lime and a bit of sweet chilli (hmmm, sounds a bit Thai-Vietnamese fusiony).The mixture is awesomely good and carries me through in standalone form as a salad for work lunches. However, it takes on an even more stellar flavour when wrapped in rice paper skins and dipped in...a combo of hoi-sin, fresh peanut butter, lime juice and chopped chillies. Tasty!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter recovery dinner

Today I indulged in an Easter ritual; the cooking and consumption of Bill Granger's chocolate french toast (you can find the recipe and photo here). After four months of a pretty 'whole foodie' diet, this was quite a shock to the system. After several days of dreaming and planning out the french toast extravaganza, the reality left me feeling sick (sorry, Bill). I managed to stave off the worst of it with a 65 minute run on the crosstrainer. But my body was still in need of revival, so dinner was my version of gado gado:

As many veggies as I could get my hands on - broccoli, carrot, green beans, snow peas, squash, zucchini and choi sum, thrown in the steamer with some tempeh. Steamed for as long as it took me to make a dressing of fresh peanut butter, soy sauce, sweet chilli, cumin, tumeric and cider vinegar, with some warm water added to thin it out. The whole thing assembled along with some red capsicum and a hard boiled egg and slathered with dressing. Very tasty. Made my tummy feel better, and enough left for lunch tomorrow. Wish I didn't have to go back to work :(

What a difference aspect makes

Two zucchini seeds, planted on the same day, into the same medium, and receiving the same watering and feeding regime....
This one faces north, gets full sun until about 3pm each day:

This one face east, gets morning light and falls into shadow about 11am each day:

This guy and his three mates are just not happy. Time to pull them out and start again. I am opting for a container garden for my veggies now, so I can move them around as the sun's arc changes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black Bean Bliss

When I was an undergraduate (20 years ago? Eek!), I lived in southern California for a year and did a fair bit of travelling in Mexico. I have never recovered from the wonder of real Mexican food and it is a source of persistent distress that it has not become a mainstay of Australia's multicultural palate. Imagine my thrill when Lovely Partner arrived home the other day with a bag of glossy black turtle beans. It has been a week of bean bliss (although, certainly not of authentic Mexican cuisine, of which I still dream wistfully). I forgot to photograph everything, but here are a couple of favourites...

Black bean dip

Cooked black beans, garlic, cumin, lime juice, hot sauce, yoghurt, salt and pepper blended in the food processor and topped with chopped tomato and coriander. Delish!

Swordfish with blackbean salsa and roasted sweet potato

I've sworn off swordfish for ethical reasons, but when Lovely Partner unwittingly brought this locally caught morsel home, it had to be eaten. Gotta say, tasting it again made me feel self-righteously sacrificial about my ethical choice!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This weekend is all about...

The first limes on my patio lime tree...

Watching the happy beans grow...

Looking for shy beetroot seedlings...

Welcoming the lettuces...
Enjoying a gift from the caffeine gods, all the way from Melbourne...

...and relaxing with some soup.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mid-week dinner

Work from home day today - my favourite! In the garden, the seedlings are looking good, with no sign of possum interference (touch wood). In the gym, I pumped some serious iron for about 40 minutes and did 35 minutes on the cross trainer. Am now 8.5 kgs down and feeling strong.

In the kitchen, I managed a cooked breakfast (porridge), a cooked lunch (pasta with roast pumpkin, basil and feta), and ended the day with this... version of a nicoise salad, with lime honey mustard dressing. Tasted good. And the added bonus? An extra hardboiled egg for lunch tomorrow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekend in the garden and the kitchen

This weekend in the garden, I:

  • Mowed the lawns and used the clippings to mulch a bed in preparation for planting;
  • Fed my citrus trees - the leaf-eating grasshoppers have even been munching on my lemon tree, but it keeps fighting back;
  • Examined, with obsessive care, the progress of last weekend's seed planting. So far, the purple king beans are up, but there's no sign of the bush beans...

...and all the zucchinis have come up. Now we pray that the possums have found a more interesting food source elsewhere...

The lettuces and beetroot are also making a showing, but they're too small for meaningful photography at this stage.

This weekend in the kitchen, I have:

Made a moroccan fish stew, care of Bill Granger. The recipe is here. I made it with locally caught mahi mahi. It tasted great. We have a saying in our house; 'in Bill we trust'. That is, we never mess with Bill Granger's recipes. If you follow them, the food always comes out fantastically.

I was over at Saucy Onion, where I was inspired by Indira's Saturday pizza. Mine is not nearly as pretty as hers, but I did make the dough! Topped with a bit of tomato paste, roast pumpkin and fetta, then garnished with basil from the garden after it was cooked. Tasted great!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Half way there...

Today I did a nice long 90 minutes on the cross-trainer at the gym. For what they're worth, the scales tell me I've lost 7.5 kilos, which is half of what I need to get to where I want to be (I can't talk about 'goal weight' and 'smashing it up in the gym'. It makes me feel like a Biggest Loser contestant!). Of course, the scale is a fickle thing and next time I check it may not be such a happy story. But, for today, I'm going with it! No fun cooking food tonight - I have been procrastinating and need to apply myself to meeting a work deadline which is going to take me long into the night. So, leftovers it is...

Ten hour work day menu

Started the day with porridge. Looks a bit grim but tasted great. The oats were cooked with milk, water, a mashed banana and cinnamon. On top, a teaspoon of macadamia nut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. The banana makes it sweet enough, so I will skip the syrup next time.

Followed up with a latte chaser, care of our trusty Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. With the family barista away for a while, it was not quite the caffeine perfection we are used to in this house, but it was pretty tasty...

A yumbo sandwich for lunch - baked ricotta, slow roasted tomato and mixed lettuce on Sol Breads' awesome organic mega-grain bread.

After 30 minutes of cardio at the gym, dinner was a couple of slabs of tofu basted in Disaster Bay Chillies' fabulous kasoundi and baked in a hot oven for 25 minutes, served with yoghurt, steamed rice and sauteed kale dressed with pepper and lemon juice. Meets my standards for a workday dinner - preparation time about 8 minutes and taste factor high.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dinner: chilli prawn pasta with garden-fresh basil

Inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe in this month's Delicious Magazine, with a few twists of my own...

Serves Two:

200g dried pasta (I used spaghetti. I LOVE spaghetti!)
8 green prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 brown onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1 medium red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
1/4 cup verjuice
1 large handful fresh basil (one of the few things surviving the pests in my garden this summer)
8 cherry or mini roma tomatoes
2 Tblspn olive oil
parmesan cheese, finely grated.

Brush tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, place in a baking pan and roast in a cool (160 degree) oven for 40-50 minutes, until nicely caramelised.
Prepare pasta as per its cooking instructions
Sautee garlic, onion and chilli in remaining olive oil for 5 minutes. Add verjuice and simmer for 3 minutes. Add prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes, turning prawns as needed.
Divide pasta into serving plates. Pour on prawn/onion mix, place tomatoes and top with roughly torn basil.
Add pepper and parmesan to taste (some people think it is gauche to eat parmesan with seafood pasta, but I love it!).


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Putting in the autumn crop

I was meant to be working on a journal article today. Instead, I walked dogs, went to the gym and did 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training, then decided to plant out some Autumn crops.

After harvesting a gorgeous quantity of castings from my trusty worm farm, I did a bit of soil conditioning, working in the castings and some blood and bone. It's been raining here for over a week, so the soil was very easy to work with. I put up the stakes for a new crop of purple king beans. Then I threw in some bush beans, mini beetroots, mesclun mix and coriander. I am being pretty slapdash with vegetable gardening at the moment. A swarm of leaf-eating grasshoppers and some hungry possums all but ruined my spring planting efforts :( so I am trying to remain detached.