Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food Allergy Awareness Week

This week is Food Allergy Week (17-23 May) and it is important that we all know what to do if a reaction happens, how to minimise the risk of a reaction and to understand and support family and friends living with food allergies.

It took me about ten years of suffering to discover I had allergies to both wheat and soy. Which subsequently led me to choosing my paleo lifestyle

My soy allergy is the more severe of the two - with a reaction occurring within minutes of consuming it. If I have just the tiniest amount of soy milk, soy sauce, tofu or any other direct soybean product I will literally be in agony. Very quickly. I remember going to a new popular Ramen restaurant with some work colleagues once and before I left the restaurant I was literally bent over in pain. 

Over the years, I managed reactions with over the counter IBS related medication but nothing really worked properly. Over a six-month period, I underwent a series of medical and food related tests under the guidance of an excellent clinical immunologist and allergy specialist. 

From my experience, the consumption of processed foods and leading a busy lifestyle can make it very hard to work out what may be causing sickness and/or allergic reactions in our body. You really have to listen to your body and if you find it hard to work out, please see a specialist and get tested.

Food allergy now affects 1 in 10 infants* and about 2 in 100 adults. The most common triggers in childhood are egg, milk, peanut and tree nuts. Other common triggers include fish, shellfish, sesame, soy and wheat. 

Anaphylaxis is a generalised allergic reaction, which often involves more than one body system (e.g. skin, respiratory, gastro-intestinal and cardiovascular). A severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis usually occurs within 20 minutes to 2 hours of exposure to the trigger and can rapidly become life threatening.
Knowing what to look for is very important, especially when it comes to children who may not be able to advocate for themselves when a reaction is occurring. Here are the signs and symptoms to be aware of:
Mild - Moderate Reaction

  • Hives, welts or body redness
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes
  • Vomiting, abdominal pain, tingling in the mouth

Severe allergic reaction- ANAPHYLAXIS
  • Difficult/noisy breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Swelling or tightness in the throat
  • Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
  • Wheeze or persistent cough
  • Persistent dizziness or collapse
  • Pale and floppy (in young children)

Ninety percent of allergic reactions are caused by: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. However, any food can trigger anaphylaxis. It is important to understand that in some people even very small amounts of food can cause a life-threatening reaction. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.


A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. When we eat a food containing that protein, our immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, triggering symptoms that can affect breathing, one's gastrointestinal tract, skin and/or heart.
Symptoms of food allergy may include; swelling of the lips, face and eyes, abdominal pain, vomiting, hives, swelling of the tongue, breathing difficulty, or a sudden drop in blood pressure. If left untreated, these symptoms can be fatal.
Avoidance of the food is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Adrenaline is the first line treatment for severe allergic reactions and can be administered via an autoinjector called the EpiPen® or the Anapen®.
Approximately 10 people die from anaphylactic reactions each year in Australia and some of these may have been triggered by food.


For more information and training check out the below links: 

* Osborne et al. Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy
using population-based sampling and predetermined
challenge criteria in infants. J Allergy Clin Immunolol 2011; 127: 668-676
Please feel free to share any personal stories you have about food allergies below so we can all be better informed.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Paleo-Friendly Papaya Chicken Curry

Using seasonal produce is an important part of eating healthy and living sustainably. With papaya and papaw currently in season I was keen to experiment with it in a savoury dish for something a little bit different. 

Gerard Kath, Papaya Australia President, says that this seasons' great quality can be attributed to minimal rain and generally favourable papaya and papaw growing weather.

In case you were not aware of just how amazingly good these two fruit are for you here's the science:

Nutritional Benefits

  • contain soluble and insoluble fibre, necessary for digesitve health;
  • contain a unique combination of antioxidants that assist our immune system;
  • contain skin protective nutrients;
  • are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A and provides nearly three times as much fibre as 1/2 cup of brown rice per serve; and
  • are suitable before, during and after pregnancy due to the high folate, vitamin C and essential nutrients that promote a baby's growth and development.

Tips & How To Choose A Goodie:

1. To choose a ripe fruit - lightly press underneath the stem and it will give a little to the pressure;

2. They are fragile, a few dark spots or blemishes on the skin are normal;

3. Ripen in a fruit bowl but then store in the fridge once ripe - enjoy within two days;

4. Allow to sit out of the fridge for about 5 minutes before you eat it to maximise flavour;

5. To speed up ripening, place in a paper bag with a banana.

Now for the recipe - This is SO quick and SO easy and tastes INCREDIBLE. This has become a firm favourite at our house and will make a regular appearance on our table during papaya season each year.

Paleo-Friendly Papaya Chicken Curry
Serves 4

1 tbs olive oil
1/4 korma curry paste ( try to choose one with no added sugars)
500g papaya, peeled, deseeded and mashed
400ml can coconut milk ( organic if possible)
2 free range or organic chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced into strips
Handful of Kaffir lime leaves ( optional)

Over a low heat, heat oil and korma curry paste in a pan or casserole dish until fragrant.

Add papaya and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer.

Add chicken and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add red capsicum and cook for another 2 minutes.

Serve with cauliflower rice *

Easy Cauliflower Rice
Wash & cut into pieces
Crumb using a food processor or grate it using a grater. Use what you need and store the remaining in fridge. It can also be stored in the freezer.
Fry it in olive oil, coconut oil or quality butter until tender. Season with S&P.

Garnish curry with thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaves and season to taste.

* Using a chopped onion in your cauliflower rice is optional. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney

“It’s just a jump to the left”

Photo Source : The Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show, the musical, has been popular with audiences around the world for over 40 years and it’s easy to see why. It’s fun, energetic and just a little bit different.

Well, actually it’s very different. Quirky, fun and a little bit sexy.

Having only vague memories of the movie as a child I was unsure as to what to expect on opening night at Sydney's Lyric Theatre.

I was blown away.

Overall, performances were stunning. A great combination of witty dialogue, singing, dancing, great costumes and lots and lots of fun.

Photo Source: The Rocky Horror Show
Starting with the lead - Craig McLaughlin, who won the 2014 Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Musical for his performance in last year’s Rocky Horror Show in Melbourne, is amazing as Frank N Furter. With only the occasional Aussie twang sneaking into the dialogue early on in the show, he does a fantastic job as the risqué character.

Amy Lehpamer is equally impressive as Janet and Stephen Mahy is convincing as her partner Brad. I am a huge fan of Lehpamer, having seen her perform as Christine Colgate in the 2013 Sydney production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  

Bert Newton is refreshing as the Narrator, his quick wit, experience and professionalism evident as he plays off responses from the audience.

In fact, all the performers deserve praise for their roles. 

The audience is encouraged to participate, particularly during The Time Warp when most of the audience jumps to their feet bouncing away to the set moves. The die-hard fans that arrived in themed costume also impressed us. It adds to the fun vibe of the show.

A crazy, fun and sexy night out. Highly recommended.

Photo Source: The Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show, Sydney Lyric, The Star, Pyrmont; $69-149.

Sydney – Until the end of May
Melbourne – From 12 June…

The Food Mentalist attended opening night as an Official Rocky Horror Blogger

Monday, March 30, 2015

Taste the Difference with Heat Beads

In case you haven't noticed, the quintessential Australian barbecue has undergone a change and we can thank the popularity of 'southern' style smoked meats in restaurants and cafes. Buffalo wings, beef brisket and pulled pork are just a few of these tasty treats and they are easy to do yourself.

Here at home we've had a gas bbq for a few years ( mind you, we haven't used it in quite a while mainly because it guzzles up the gas and its annoying to clean) - Seriously, who has the time!

So when the team at Heat Beads asked me if I wanted to try the good old fashioned coal bbq to taste the difference I got excited again about cooking outdoors. I was curious as to whether it did offer a noticeable difference in taste.

Heat Beads Chimney Booster & BBQ Starter Chimney - Far Left
Heat Beads are an Australian owned and operated company and I remember Dad prepping the heat beads coals to add to our home built bbq up the back when I was a kid. It always took what seemed like ages to get going!

I must admit, I had visions of us battling with rolled up newspaper and starters to get the coals hot. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that technology has advanced somewhat since I was a kid. 

The Chimney Booster and BBQ Starter 
The Heat Beads range now includes the high quality Heat Beads Firelighters and the Heat Beads BBQ Starter Chimney. The most recent addition includes the Heat Beads Chimney Booster which cuts BBQ lighting time to just 12 minutes. 

So with my Weber and Heat Bead accessories I got Pete on the case and I assisted, ahem, supervised...

Actually I marinated some delicious organic chicken wings in minced ginger, garlic, apple cider vinegar and a little raw honey. We also grilled and smoked some free range pork chops. 

The Heat Beads Chimney Booster was super easy to use and super quick! The coals and hickory smoked chips we added gave the wings and pork a delicious smokey flavour. Very different to the flavour that we usually get from cooking on our gas barbecue. 

I also found that keeping the flavours of the marinade simple allowed the smokiness from the coals and the wood chips to permeate the meat. The meat itself had a lovely subtle smokey flavour and remained tender and moist.

Preparing for deliciousness
Smoking it up
Smokey free range pork chops and marinated organic chicken wings
We served our smokey meats with a big tasty green salad of kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and carrot zoodles. 

Click here for more great BBQ tips and demos. 

This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Win: Earth Hour Launch - Planet to Plate

Earth Hour has just released Planet to Plate: The Earth Hour Cookbook - ahead of Earth Hour on Saturday 28 March 2015 at 8.30pm. 

Photo Source: Earth Hour
Earth Hour began in Sydney 2007, initiated by WWF-Australia to raise awareness about the effects of climate change. Since then Earth Hour has spread to 162 countries and over 7,000 cities, making it the world's largest environmental movement.

Photo: Earth Hour
The cookbook is a collection of 52 delicious recipes from Australia's biggest culinary names including Luke Mangan, Neil Perry, Colin Fassnidge, Kylie Kwong and Sarah Wilson.

The cookbook celebrates Australia's food and farmers and helps to remind us all that we need to address global warming in order to keep up our supply of fresh and healthy homegrown food.

Photo Source: Earth Hour
My favourites include Neil Perry's Spanish-style chicken casserole, Justine Schofield's Stuffed tomatoes and Dani Valent's CAN-DO Muesli.

Proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will go to supporting Earth Hour's work with schools, small business and community groups.

To purchase your copy of Planet to Plate head to earthhour.org.au and/or register your event for Earth Hour 2015.


To win one of two (2) copies of Planet to Plate: The Earth Hour Cookbook simply tell us your top three (3) tips for sustainability. Perhaps you recycle or reuse? Or have a tip to help reduce energy consumption? Or you may have a favourite farmers market you frequent?  

* Please include a valid email address with your answer so you can be contacted if you win.

Entries are open to Australian residents and close at 12pm, Friday 27 March 2015.

TFM received a copy of Planet to Plate for review purposes.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thriller Live - Lyric Theatre - Sydney

After a very l-o-n-g week, I took Mum to the theatre on Friday night to see Thriller Live - a celebration of the career of the world's greatest entertainer - Michael Jackson.

Photo source: Thriller Live 

It was my first visit to the Lyric Theatre at Sydney's The Star, and I was very impressed. The theatre itself was comfortable with ample leg room and good vantage points from all seats. 

But nevermind the theatre - what about the show?!!?

I wasn't sure what to expect, but what can I say other than WOW!

To give you some background: Thriller Live first debuted in London in 2009 and has been going strong ever since - with a world tour, 26 countries and over 3000 shows globally. It has also earned the titled of the the West End's longest running show in the Lyric Theatres 125 year history.

Photo Source: Thriller Live
The tributes begin with tunes from the Jackson Five and move through to the 1990s, with about 30 of MJ's biggest hits including Billie Jean, Bad, Man In The Mirror, Smooth Criminal, Black or White, The Way You Make Me Feel and Thriller. 

This tribute show is jam packed full of energy which doesn't abate during its two and a half hour production. An impressive multi-level set, complete with screens takes the audience on a journey from nightclubs to the streets of New York, while energetic dancers bound across the stage reminding us of the classic MJ moves.

Many of the cast are from London with Australia's Prinnie Stevens one of the lead vocalists. All six of the lead vocalists do an impressive job, although Australian Mig Ayesa's diction needs a little work. He would also benefit from losing his fake American accent which comes across as somewhat strained and cheesy during the commentary. 

Prinnie Stevens : Photo Source: Thriller Live

Alex Buchanan was by far the standout performer - he absolutely nailed every song he sung and his dancing was flawless. Prinnie Stevens was a close second, her vocals were impressive and she brought a great sense of fun and professionalism to the stage as the only female lead vocalist.

Sean Christopher impersonates Michael Jackson brilliantly during Billie Jean & Smooth Criminal. Dressed in white, with glove, and hat pulled down low - it's easy to get lost in the moment and imagine you are watching the real deal. His moonwalk had the crowd cheering.

By the end of the show, the crowd was on its feet, swaying and dancing to the tunes. It was a great night out and the perfect way to end a busy week. 

I'm off to purchase some MJ classics. 

Thriller Live is playing at The Lyric Theatre in Sydney for 3 weeks only. To buy tickets click here

The Food Mentalist & Guest attended Thriller Live as guests.