Thursday, April 24, 2014

thursday recipe: spag bol with a twist

During the school holidays River and Pete headed out for an early morning bike ride that didn't go as planned. They arrived home shaken and sorry, a caring passerby had given them a lift home as River had come off his bike hard. He went flying down a hill that in the past he had walked his bike down but decided that day was the day he would give it a go. Fortunately he escaped serious injury despite the fact that he went over his bike, became airborne and landed with a thud. He walked away with a blackened bruised thumb nail, sore back and elbow accompanied with a confidence crash when it comes to getting back on the bike.

I let the shock subside and in the afternoon took River to get checked over by our wonderful family chiropractor Carmel Whelan who has been treating all of us since River was six weeks old. On the way home from visiting Carmel, who gave River the ok after sending us for an xray of his elbow (just to be sure), we stopped in at Provincia a newish local foodstore/deli and picked up ingredients for a pasta dinner, quick(ish), easy, a dish the whole family enjoys = comfort food.

If you are a bit tired of your spag bol recipe I thought you might enjoy this one. I always grate zucchini and carrot into my version, yes to get more veggies into everyone but also because the carrot provides a nice sweetness. The twist in this version comes from our friend Robin, we enjoyed dinner at her house one night and had spaghetti bolognaise with a delicious flavour I note that I wasn't quite expecting. I asked Robin what it was and she anise. A little trick she picked up off her brother-in-law. (correct me in the comments Robin if you're reading and I got brother-in-law part wrong!) Whoever came up with the idea of adding star anise it is a good one. I think you'll enjoy it too. Xx

Spaghetti bolognaise with star anise


1 tbsp butter or ghee
500g organic mince beef
1 brown onion finely chopped
2-4 garlic cloves depending on clove size and your flavour preference, crushed
1 tin diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup water or stock
salt + pepper to taste
3 teaspoons Italian dried herbs
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, finely grated
1 medium zucchini, finely grated
1 whole star anise
pasta of your choice or zucchini spirals

I added fresh spring onions and parsley from our garden to the top of this bowl

To make:

Heat butter or ghee in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat, gently fry onion til transparent.
Add meat and garlic, cook until meat is brown.
Add all other ingredients, bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 40 minutes (an hour if you have time).
Cook pasta towards end of sauce cooking time.

Dinner is ready! (Watch out for the star anise and remove it, not that pleasant to chomp into)

Monday, April 21, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: # 16 choose the best quality tomato sauce you can find

Most kids love tomato sauce. Well, truth be known it is probably the high amounts of salt and sugar in it that has them hooked. Rather than tell you to stop buying it completely my approach is always to help you make better choices, I want this wholefood thing to feel easy.

The Ingredients

So, when it comes to buying any processed food the first step is to read the ingredients. Don't be lured in by marketing claims on the front sticker with words like 'natural', '50% less salt' and so on, read the actual ingredients and if you see lots of numbers or don't recognise the names of the ingredients, take that as a clear sign to put it back on the shelf and find one that contains only real food.

For example the tomato sauce in the picture above, the ingredients are organic and are listed as follows: tomato paste, vinegar, agave syrup, rice flour, sea salt, pectin, onion powder, garlic, paprika powder.

Agave is something I don't typically use but as tomato sauce is an occasional food for us I looked past it in this case, and onion powder sounds a bit weird and processed but again as our consumption of this is minimal I am not being pedantic.

The Nutrition Info

Once you've read the ingredients, look at the nutrition panel. Reading this info takes a bit of concentration but once you know what you're looking for it becomes quicker. The information contained in the nutrition label is useful for making comparisons between brands, the key is to make sure you are comparing the same quantity in serving sizes.

For example, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. The sugar content in the sauce pictured is 3.7g per 34g serving. When I compared that to one of the big brands the sugar content in the big brand was 4.4g per 15g serving. So you can see that the big brand sauce contains over double the amount of sugar per serve. You can do the same comparison for salt which is listed as sodium.

The Cost 

The Absolute Organic tomato sauce I purchased cost $5.96 for 340g, compared to $2.96 for 500ml for the big brand. I bought the sauce at a small independent grocer so the prices are higher than if I bought it in a bigger store, and because it costs more it is good incentive to use it sparingly!

Make Your Own

The other option of course, is to make your own then you know exactly what is in it. A quick and easy way, inspired by Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar tomato sauce recipe is to use one can of tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of sweetener of your choice such as rice malt syrup or honey and simmer this over a low heat for about 10 minutes, allow to cool and then blend until smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Last week I had half a jar of tomato paste left over (about 200g) and I added some apple cider vinegar and simmered it, I didn't add any sweetener and I served that on a vegetable pie, my boys loved it.

Tips for reducing the amount of sauce your family eats

If your family is in the habit of eating tomato sauce at most meals and you would like to change that habit, here are a couple of ways you can go about it.

1. You can explain that tomato sauce has a lot of sugar and salt in it and that eating a lot of sugar and salt is not helpful for our bodies to be the best that they can be. Tell your family that as the parent, it is your job to make sure everyone eats great food that helps our bodies be the best that they can be. Then explain that tomato sauce is a sometimes food and they can choose two or three foods that they would like to eat it with.

2. If tomato sauce has become a problem - ie. there are regular tears and tantrums about it - I suggest to stop buying it for a while. If that feels like a bold move and makes you anxious, I understand! Too much sauce hasn't been a problem in my house but other behaviours come up that have to change, and the change has been accompanied by tears. That is all part of the less fun side of parenting! In my experience with this what generally happens is there is a want - ie. tomato sauce, snack before dinner or bed, ice cream, insert your own words -  and if the answer is 'no' and the response is tears, it brings up emotion in me, I have had to learn to just let the emotion wash over me and know it will pass. As we know in parenting, the key to success is making your stand, knowing your decision is for the best and sticking to it. Children let go of emotions very quickly, they move through them (it is we adults that become good at hanging on to our feelings!) We have all witnessed our children go from laughing to crying back to laughing in minutes, you can witness the same response when changing food 'rules'.
They will get over not having sauce on everything and it will give them a chance to experience the real taste of the food, get them excited about making their own!

I hope this is helpful. If you have a friend who may benefit from reading this please share it with them and as always tell us your experiences in the comments.

*Oh and a tip about leaving comments, a few friends have mentioned they haven't a clue how to do it so I thought I'd explain...go to the end of the post and click where you see comments it will either say 'No comments' or have a number ' 2 comments' this will take you to the comment box, enter your comment and then where it says 'comment as' click on the drop down box and if you don't have a Google account just select 'anonymous' (you can type your name at the end of your comment if you want to) then hit publish.

**disclosure - if you buy Sarah's cookbook via the link I get a small commission. While I'm not into an all or nothing approach to sugar, I do have this book and am happy to recommend it for its recipes that are useful when transitioning to a wholefoods way of life.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

weekend reading - happy easter!

So I made Sophie's delicious version of hot cross buns, they turned out to be hot striped buns (piping did not go as planned) yummy anyway, shared with friends in the park with cups of hot chai.
Chai in the park is worth the effort of preparing and putting in a thermos by the way, must take real cups though definitely not the same out of picnic plastic.

I am stuffed with chocolate purely from seeing the endless stream of pictures and recipes on social media at the moment! So let's change the topic...

I really liked Sarah Wilson's post this week - just show up.

I won't be in Melbourne on Saturday June 14th but if I was I'd be buying a ticket to Publish your Passion

Discovering Emily's blog Littlest Lunch this week was a plus, I love her philosophy -
'Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can'. Amen to that.

My husband Pete has been working on a project with Indigenous Elders for the past two years, the culmination of the work was released this week 'The Elders' Report into Preventing Indigenous Self-harm and Youth Suicide' the launch of the report has been widely covered in the media. To read more about this and to support the campaign for Elders to lead the healing in their communities please take a moment to sign the petition at

You can watch an interview about the report on SBS world news here

If you are on the Mornington Peninsula on Tuesday 29th of April and want to join me for a
Wholefood Mama workshop at Sorrento Community Centre I'd love to see you!
We'll talk about making over your pantry, dealing with fussy eaters, saving time and money and of course eat some yummy food and share recipes.
9.30am-11.30am Cost: $35.00 For bookings phone: 5984 3360

Make the biggest pot of tea you can and settle in to read through Kidspot's Top 30 food and wellness bloggers...

Happy Easter everyone x

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ask the expert: do kids need vitamin supplements?

With so many self-proclaimed experts and authorities on the internet I came up with the idea for an occasional series where I ask an actual expert (ie. someone with tertiary qualifications and experience as a practitioner) a question about nutrition or health and wellness.

Thankyou Georgia Harding, naturopath and blogger at Well Nourished for agreeing to answer:

Do kids need to take vitamins and mineral supplements or any other regular supplement?  

Over to Georgia...

This is a question I'm frequently asked and the answer is yes… no… maybe… sometimes!  Let me explain.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine said 'let food be thy medicine' - this is a wisdom I value greatly and the very reason I started Well Nourished and not an online supplement company (though I'm sure the supplement business is way more lucrative)! 

The 'cover all bases' multivitamin

There are no short cuts when it comes to health.  Therefore I believe that your time, energy and focus needs to be firmly grounded in making every mouthful count with whole, nourishing foods.  No supplement can replicate the life force and balanced nutrition in real food.

However, I'm a realist and I understand that for many reasons, sometimes things go a little pear shaped and some not-so-nourishing foods are handed out to 'fill a gap.'  A good quality multivitamin may be something you'd like to consider on these days. I see it as a bit of an insurance policy, offering perhaps a little protection (but that's your call).  Practitioner only products from your naturopath are best.  Other brands I'd consider are Blackmores or Swisse kids multis.  The 'lolly' or gummy bear type supplements I've looked at so far are a complete waste of money.

Supplement to correct deficiency ?

I'm a naturopath and well versed in the art of supplementation.  Supplementation for frank deficiency is important and necessary to avert or treat disease and disorder.  For example if a child has a blood test and is found to be suffering iron deficiency anaemia, then iron supplementation will be necessary for a period of time.

However, it is important to understand that there is ALWAYS an underlying cause that predisposed the child to any deficiency and this needs to be identified and corrected (whilst supplementing).  It may be dietary or it maybe something else like poor digestive function.  It is NEVER enough to simply supplement in the hope that the cause will correct itself. 

Also a word about iron - a lot of parents give their kids iron to 'pep' them up.  Iron supplements should ONLY be given if a blood test confirms deficiency.  Excess amounts of supplemental iron is very toxic.

You are what you eat, but also what you absorb.

One of the most common underlying causes of nutritional deficiency in children is poor absorption and assimilation of nutrients.  If you suspect that your child's digestion is below par, if they have taken antibiotics or other medications including pain relief in their lifetime, if they suffer with allergies or they aren't eating a nourishing whole foods diet, then a regular probiotic supplement can also be enormously helpful.  Practitioner only probiotics or Inner Health are your best bet.  All probiotics (at least the good ones, need refrigeration).  Of course consuming daily serves of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natural full fat yogurt or labne are wonderful ways to maintain your child's important gut flora too.

Disclaimer - Please always seek the advice of your health care professional before supplementing.

Do visit Georgia's site if you haven't already, it is full of wonderful recipes and health tips and for serious lunchbox inspiration her facebook page is the place to look. Thanks Georgia!

Was this helpful? Tell us about your experiences with children and supplements. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: # 15 eat more veggies

Before we get on to kids eating veggies let's take a look at how many veggies you eat each day.
Yes you! (And me!) Our actions speak volumes beyond our words, it is important that our kids see us eating vegetables throughout the day, most of us could do with including vegetables in all our meals and snacks instead of just saving them for dinnertime.

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommended minimum daily intake of vegetables for adults is 5 serves: one serve equals half a cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad.

The recommended amounts for children varies depending on age but in general terms for toddlers 2.5 serves, pre-schoolers 4.5 serves and then from age 9 onwards, five serves.

If you are looking at these figures thinking your family's intake needs to increase, below are some suggestions for ways to get more veggies in.

The main thing to remember is not to get too hung up on whether your kids eat a specific vegetable or not and to just keep presenting vegetables to them in different ways, steamed, mashed, baked, in curries, casseroles, pasta sauce and so on. Encourage your children to at the very least taste vegetables, tell them they don't have to eat the whole thing but you do expect them to taste them.

11 ways to get more veggies in 

 - Break the cereal or toast habit at breakfast and instead start the day with a handful of spinach in a green smoothie or in scrambled eggs, alongside the eggs add a serve of cooked tomato and mushrooms or some avocado.

- Have a breakfast salad of lettuce or spinach, grated carrot, beetroot, capsicum, whatever veggies you have on hand add in a boiled egg or two and your favorite dressing.

- Soup is also a great way to start the day especially with the weather cooling here in Victoria.

- Zucchini slice is popular with most kids and is perfect for breakfast.

- Salads and/or soups are the way to go at lunchtime, the combinations are endless!...try my quick lunch salad or Robin's quinoa, roasted veggie, marinated chickpea and fetta salad.

Mid morning or afternoon snacks:

- carrot and celery sticks with home made hoummos, tzatziki or avocado dip.

- Veggie sticks and a handful of nuts

- Savoury muffin with lots of veggies grated in

- a cup of minestrone


- grate vegetables into every dish you possibly can: home made hamburgers, spaghetti bolognese, curries, casseroles, lasagne, tacos, all of these dishes are great opportunities to sneak more veggies in. Having said that, I don't believe that vegetables should always be hidden, children need to see veggies in various forms and encouraged to try them.

- I serve a salad plate of veggie sticks, avocado, cherry tomatoes, whatever is in season, before dinner when my boys start telling me they are hungry. Part of the key to children eating vegetables is they must have an appetite, so when they tell you they are hungry before dinner if it is still a while away put together a salad plate and let them eat that instead of filling up on processed snacks or carbs.

The other keys to veggie success is of course to make sure your fridge is well stocked with a seasonal variety, having easy access to them means you will eat them! My friend Anthea washes and chops veggies into sticks and keeps them in a container of water in her fridge so her boys can easily snack on them.

You'll find plenty more inspiration over at Veggie Mama, and at Veggie Smugglers and I highly recommend reading French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon.

And if you really want to dive in, sign up for Heather's 30 day vegan course.

Where are you at with veggies? What would you add to this list?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

stills collection

1. School holiday adventure to Melbourne, highlight for River and Sol = going on the tram for the first time.

2. As if we hadn't had enough water with all the rain, the water wall at the National Gallery is always fun.

3. Oh my lovely mother-in-law and her sweet tooth, she does make me smile. On our trip to Melbourne Pepe as she is known, took the boys and I out for breakfast. Banana pancakes with maple syrup and Persian fairy floss are her number one pick at Ernest V (432 Glenhuntly Road Elsternwick).

4. Journal Cafe one of my old Melbourne faves.

5. Was so happy to finally get to my friend Mel's beautiful flower shop, Cecilia Fox (221b Blyth Street Brunswick).

6. Back at home, the last tomatoes of the season from our garden along with parsley and chilli that went into risotto. I only make risotto a few times a year and love it every time.

7. A lot of flowers here today, they are my other love aside from wholefood. This little teapot filled with flowers is bringing me joy on my kitchen windowsill. It's the simple things that matter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

weekend reading

Although this list didn't quite make it up on Friday as per usual it is still the weekend and hopefully you will have a moment or two on Sunday to read through these links...

If you are in the mood for cake, Jude's walnut and yoghurt one sounds delish.

Take a look at Wholefood Hub's Easter packs for making your own raw chocolates this Easter.

We can always count on Sonia to have holiday cooking covered, here's her comprehensive guide to hot cross bun recipes. Thanks Sonia! And I'll add my spelt hot cross bun recipe here.

Off Easter for a moment, this list of 10 ways to heal a leaky gut is worth a read.

I flicked through My Darling Lemon Thyme the cookbook in my local newsagent this week it looks fantastic can't wait to buy one (like I need another cookbook!)

Simply Wholefoods is a new discovery for me I thought you might like it too.

Thinking of Kellie this weekend as she is at the waiting stage for baby number 2 to arrive. She could be in labour now! Blessings on a beautiful birth xx

I thought this post 'Rainy day activities to keep you sane' might come in handy next week if the weather is anything like this week was.

I hope you are enjoying the school holiday weekend. See you back here next week xx

Thursday, April 10, 2014

thursday recipe: back-to-basics fritatta

Sometimes, you just have to cook what you want to eat even when you know your kids aren't going to eat it. I broke my own 'I only cook one meal at dinner' rule. There was a bunch of kale in the fridge starting to look a bit wilty and a dozen eggs, the perfect beginning of a frittata that I knew my boys wouldn't really love and I didn't have the energy to do any convincing. So I set out black olives, boiled eggs, cucumber and capsicum sticks for River and Sol and if they got through that there were nori rolls with avocado coming their way. In the end everyone was fed. Vegetables were eaten. Nothing was wasted. And money was saved by not going out to buy more ingredients to cook something different.

Do you cook frittata? If you haven't before it is so simple and a great way to use up veggies, I make a simple one with baby spinach and fetta River and Sol are happy to eat it, this version was made with the following:

1 small bunch of kale roughly chopped
2 spring onions chopped
a handful of cherry tomatoes halved
a few tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley
6 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Combine veggies and herbs in a bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and add in the cheese.
Heat a fry pan and add a knob of butter, stir fry the vegetables in the butter for 2 minutes then pour in the egg and cheese mixture.
Cook over a low heat until the frittata is starting to set, to finish either bake in the oven for 5 - 8 minutes or place under a grill to finish cooking and brown the top.

Serve with a salad and you have a quick nourishing meal.

For more fritatta inspiration see:


The Kitchn


What's your favorite combo in a fritatta?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

soul food: on vulnerability

Two years ago I had a mentoring session with wonderful woman Samantha Gowing and yes we talked vision and strategy but it was the clanger that Sam dropped in my lap, that I wasn't expecting that rang in my ears and in my being for days...and still does.

Going into the session I knew if I was to get the most out of it, I had to be brutally honest and share what I was scared to share and face up to what I had to do differently to get the results I wanted. In short, I had to render myself vulnerable which is not something I do easily (does anyone?) I have at times in my life been a slave to perfectionism and to being overly independent: "I must do it all perfectly and do it all by myself" which ironically is something that my dear mum modelled to me and really I should have been able to see very clearly that it made her life harder.

In my mind, to ask for help means I have failed, means I am not good enough; in being perfect I prove my worthiness. When in reality I know I am perfectly imperfect but that is the trickery of the mind isn't it?!

I'm sharing this with you today for two reasons: the first one is a selfish reason I am working on changing my ways and what better place to practice than on the internet! And on a less selfish note I'm fairly sure I'm not alone on this one and figure sharing my experience and thoughts on this might be helpful to someone else.

So on we go. Even though my style is boho and my plate runneth over with lentils: I am in truth intensely ambitious. I want to be my best, I want to do more, achieve more, deliver more. I question this sometimes. Is it that I am trying to prove something, and who to? Or is it that I just want to live my life to its fullest capacity and not let a moment glide by?

In my session with Sam I took a deep breath and told her the number one thing I wanted to change: my tendency to play small. In essence my tendency, to hide. And then in bright flashing lights Sam beamed back to me, "You are modelling this to your children." OMG! moment. I had never for a second considered that.

I read once that we need a reason bigger than ourselves to change. My children are my reason.

What do I mean by playing small? I mean holding back, not revealing my truth because that would render me vulnerable and that is not something I want to be. This habit started young for me, growing up in a single parent family as the oldest child I took on the role of making life easy for others, even if it meant putting my dreams and desires on hold or to the side. It's not my intention to sound like a martyr or sound woe is me, I am just sharing where I noticed the pattern began. Without awareness there can be no change. This habit continued for me into my adult life and career.

Here I am a few months off turning 40 and it is time to come out of hiding, stop playing small and to live more truthfully by rendering myself vulnerable to rejection and criticism yes, but the flip-side of that is rendering myself more open to joy and success.

So, how to make the change? Well I have grappled with this over the last two years because playing small had become such an ingrained habit that I haven't really known how to change it.

But now I do. The answer my friends is to be honest, in every moment. To be quiet and listen and trust the voice within you that whispers quietly until you hear it loudly guiding you in every moment, it wants to be heard and more than that it wants to be revealed. Voicing your needs, dreams and desires and having them met does not mean that someone else misses out and suffers. We do no one any favours hiding our authentic selves, least our children.

Thank you Sam for shining a light on this for me x

If you relate to what I have written here take a look at Brene Brown's TED talks The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

Can you relate to this? I'd love you to share your stories in the comments.

Monday, April 07, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: #14 keep food guilt in check

With the school holidays and Easter upon us I thought it was timely to write about this topic. Today I am delving into the emotional heart of wholefood living because there's a whole lot more to this than what's on your shopping list. Warning, I delve deep!

In an ideal world, guilt, blame and shame would in no way be part of anyone's relationship with food but the reality is that these emotions around food are common for lots of people. Especially I would say, people who are either wanting to or are in the process of transitioning to a wholefood way of eating. Because you see, it can very much be a two steps forward one step back experience as you learn new recipes, new places to buy food, better ways to be organised and so on. There will be some days where you will revert back to old 'comfort' foods or as is the case with school holidays and Easter there will be so many 'opportunities' to eat less nourishing foods that it can potentially feel overwhelming and like you have somehow failed if fish and chips, ice creams and chocolate eggs are eaten. Hello guilt, blame, shame.

Send those emotions packing I say. Progress not perfection is our mantra here.

On the school holidays I maintain our wholefood way at home and do my best when we go out, by taking food with me, sharing a wholefood picnic with friends that sort of thing. However, when the times arise that my boys eat 'junk' food most likely in the form of hot chips, a treat from their grandparents, Easter eggs, an ice cream with friends I don't get hung up about it and if I feel like eating some of that sort of food too I join them!

I am very mindful of the range of emotional aspects of eating because I spent twenty years of my life with an exceptionally poor body image - including much of my childhood - self-loathing at times for my poor food choices was chronic and unrelenting. I am beyond grateful to have moved through that (by doing lots of emotional healing work) and I wish that no one else ever had to feel that way - especially children.

If you are still carrying around negative emotions and thoughts about food and your relationship with it from your childhood and you are now a parent, it really is time to work on letting them go because consciously or unconsciously you can be sharing them with your children. I warned you I was delving deep!

This holidays keep things in perspective, certainly make your offerings to your children nutritious and delicious and fun but if things veer off track here and there be kind to yourself and know that you will get back on track soon and over the years you will naturally veer off less and less.

Alexx Stuart posted this sweet reminder on this topic on her facebook page.

Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comments I'd love to hear them and your story may just be the inspiration someone else needs.
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