Monday, August 25, 2014

My Paleo Choice

So it has taken me about 10 years to get to this point in my life where I finally feel like ' I get it'  with regard to food, health and nutrition. I don't purport to be an expert and I realise that everyone is different and our bodies react differently to food. 

Caveman Fast Food - Banksy
A friend of ours actually started on his Paleo journey early last year and I remember thinking he was crazy. "How can he give up gluten and all grain? He's not even a celiac! What about the wonders of wood fired pizza!!!" I said to Pete. Meanwhile, Dave was losing weight, getting fitter, feeling better and he had a certain glow and confidence about him that we all seemed to be lacking. 

It's very easy to be resistant to things we don't understand or choose to ignore.

my health history
My road to good health has been a fairly long one, and I'm still on it. But, for the first time in a very long time I feel good, I have more energy, am no longer hungry between meals and I'm losing (my baby) weight. 

As long as I can remember I have suffered with stomach pain, low platelets, and frequent and long lasting colds, flu & bronchitis.

The catalyst for change was a severe case of the flu where I literally couldn't get out of bed for several days. It was terrible. In the months ( and years) leading up to this point I had suffered through countless colds and my doctor could not offer any reason as to why I got them more than most. Not only did I get more colds than most but they lasted longer and often developed into secondary infections requiring antibiotics.  

the dietitian
In my early 20's I started seeing a prominent Sydney dietitian - who not only cost me a small fortune, but after a series of tests, had me on a diet plan packed full of fibre, soy, lean meats and dairy. A healthy Thai takeaway (no curry) was also promoted and I'd often grab a stir fry on my way home from work or uni. I was actually quite fit at the time and was going to the gym at least daily sometimes twice and wanted to make sure I was eating the best I could for my body. 

But my insides were struggling. 

I would get up each morning, consult my expensive diet plan and have my bowl of All-bran or wholemeal toast, some low fat dairy or protein and a big glass of low fat soy milk and I'd head off to work or the gym. And whilst I looked pretty good on the outside, my insides began to rebel. I often had stomach pain so bad I would be doubled over in pain convinced that my appendix or gall bladder had burst. 

After more tests including that for celiac disease - I was assured by my dietitian that I was on the right track and should continue on her plan. But things got worse. So much so that I ended up at the doctor one day crying in pain. An x-ray of my gut revealed a frightening image. My high fibre dietitian-endorsed diet was having the opposite effect. 

After realising my dietitian wasn't helping, I decided to save my money and try and work it out myself. For years I was convinced coffee was to blame for some of my problems and so I went through periods of not drinking it. It didn't work though, I still got pain.

I was so confused. 

Busy working shift work and studying, I just battled through it. 

Fast forward to 2011 and I went to my GP in tears and in pain begging for a solution. Blood tests revealed I had low platelets but nothing more and ultrasounds were all clear. He then sent me straight to an allergy and clinical immunology specialist. 

Finally, I was getting somewhere. 

After a series of specific food related tests I discovered I was allergic to soy and wheat products.  This was my aha moment. 

The specialist told me that most people have some level of wheat allergy mainly due to the highly processed grains we eat. She also told me that allergens can build up in our bodies for several days before symptoms present and therefore it can be hard to determine what is causing the problem without proper recording and testing. 

the trainer
I flashed back to years earlier when I trained with Steve Willis aka The Commando

Steve Willis - Image Source:
At the time, Steve told me that he avoided grain related carbs and instead preferred to get his carbs from vegetables and urged me to do the same.Whilst it wasn't referred to as Paleo back then, it is something which he strongly believed in - A good balance of protein, carbs from vegetables, healthy fats and some fruit. He also believed strongly in the success of the 80/20 rule - 80% comes down to what you eat and the remaining 20% relates to how you train and move. He also told me I should look at food as fuel for the body. I wish I had paid more attention to these principles back then.

I remember he told me that every now and again he would test his body - He told me of a time where he had dined out with his family at an Italian restaurant and had eaten pizza and pasta. He said it left him feeling heavy, bloated and depleted of energy for the next few days. I remember thinking that Steve was on to something but I was too young and busy (not disciplined) to really implement it. Instead I trained hard and ate some of the things Steve recommended and I lost weight and got pretty fit. I felt pretty good but still had pain and would get colds more frequently than most. I just put it down to shift work and being busy and kept going. 

the paleo lifestyle
Getting influenza fuelled my interest and research. Enough was enough. Following on from what I had discovered through allergy testing, I had a chat with our friend Dave who directed me to some great podcasts, websites and general Paleo principles

Photo Source: Robb Wolf

To get an idea of what these principles involve, Chef Pete Evans describes them in a recent article:

"In an (activated!) nutshell: the paleo way promotes the minimisation of sugary and starchy foods, moderation of protein intake, the liberal consumption of fibrous vegetables and greens (raw, lightly cooked and/or fermented/cultured), nuts, seeds, eggs (if tolerated) and as much dietary natural fat as needed to satisfy the appetite and support the brain and nervous system.

A small amount of seasonal fruit is optional.

The diet avoids grains, legumes, conventionally-raised meats, conventional dairy, non-organic produce, GMOs and processed foods.

We embrace 100 per cent organic, pasture-fed-and-finished meats, wild seafood from unpolluted waters, free-range poultry and pork (with no hormones or antibiotics), wild game (if available), organically-grown produce, nuts, seeds and healthy sources of natural fats" - Pete Evans.

Pete Evans is also about to launch The Paleo Way and here is a sneak peek - To view it just enter the Password - 'Paleo' 

I have been following these principles for a while now and feel the best I have ever felt. My choice to do so has been a means to heal my body from the inside. Once I started to investigate the the inflammatory effects grain and other foods can have on the body it all started to make sense. I am confident that this type of lifestyle best suits my body and I urge you to do your own research and hope you can join me.

a new direction
In light of this new lifestyle, I'm excited to announce a new direction for this blog. The Food Mentalist will now examine the role of food on our health and include recipe favourites without gluten, grains, refined sugars or dairy. This new focus is great for those that follow Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Primal lifestyles.  I hope this blog can help inspire you to get healthy and nourish your body. Even small changes can make a huge difference to our health and wellbeing. 

I also urge anyone who suspects they may suffer from any form of food intolerance,allergy, related pain or reaction to go see a specialist like I did. There really is no need to suffer through it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Cake & The Tart + Win a Woolworths Gold Prize Pack

I'm pretty excited to be bringing you two recipes this week and an amazing competition- Two readers will win a huge hamper full of delicious Woolworths Gold Products and a $100 voucher to purchase ingredients to get you cooking.

The Cake & The Tart

First let's get onto the cake. Dessert is best eaten first, right?

To make this cake, I used two of my favourite products from the Woolworth's Gold range: Jarrah Honey ( Total Activity 20+) & Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The Jarrah tree is a native to Western Australia and grows in native forests including those around the Margaret River region. The honey itself has become popular for its medicinal properties, low glucose and its antimicrobial levels.  The Total Activity (TA) score of the honey refers to its ability to destroy bacteria. The higher the TA the more active the antimicrobial strength which come from the natural enzymes in the honey. These levels are actually higher than Manuka Honey from New Zealand. 

I love it.

The honey has a lovely caramel aftertaste which is perfect for both the cake and the eschallots I use in the tart.

Woolworths Gold Italian olive oil is a finely pressed olive oil, from the iblei mountains of sicily. It has a fresh and fruity taste and its quality is evident.

Citrus & Honey Olive Oil Cake

This cake is a new creation of mine, is free of nasties, is gluten, grain,dairy and sugar free and paleo friendly. 

It doesn't need any icing or topping but if you so desire you could top it with chopped nuts or see below for a great coconut honey frosting.

1 cup almond meal
1 cup coconut flour
4 free range/organic eggs
200ml coconut cream
4 tbs Woolworths Gold Jarrah Honey
125ml Woolworths Gold Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil, plus extra for greasing pan
zest of 2 lemons, limes OR oranges ( depending on your preference and what is in season)
1 tsp bicarb soda

Preheat your oven to 150'C. Grease a 20cm (8inch) round cake tin ( I use a profiline non-stick pushpan).

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and simply pulse or blend on low until all ingredients are well combined. 

Spoon mixture into greased cake pan and place in oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool in pan and then store in airtight container. Keeps for 3-5 days.

Enjoy with a cup of green tea or espresso.

Frosting - (Optional)
1 1/2 cups coconut cream
1/2 cup Woolworths Gold Jarrah Honey 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste

Using a hand blender simply whip together the above frosting ingredients and spread over cake. Yum.

Crustless Bacon, Zucchini & Mozarella Tart

This crustless tart is super easy to make and is perfect for an easy dinner served with a salad or as light lunch. You can vary the vegetables - Get creative and add your favourite seasonal vegetables.  I often add cubes of roasted sweet potato, asparagus, capsicum or , green shallots or mushrooms. I used the Woolworths Jarrah Honey, Olive oil & the lovely creamy Buffalo Mozzarella in this tart.

4 large eschallots - sliced thinly
1 rasher of gluten free bacon chopped
1 tsp Woolworth's Gold Jarrah Honey
4 free range organic eggs - lightly beaten
1 ball of Woolworths Gold Buffalo Mozzarella - torn into pieces
1 zucchini, chopped or shaved into ribbons
a small handful of cherry tomatoes halved
fresh herbs in season - try thyme, basil, parsley or oregano (chopped)
Woolworth's Gold Italian Olive Oil

sea salt and cracked pepper 

Preheat your oven to 200'C and grease a pie dish with olive oil and set aside.

Cook your sliced eschallots, and bacon in a pan with a good glug of olive oil. ( you can add about half of your chopped herbs at this stage if you like) After the eschallots have started to turn transparent, add the teaspoon of honey and continue cooking until the onions and bacon turn a lovely caramel brown colour. 

Remove from heat and arrange over the base of your pie dish.

Next, arrange the remaining vegetables on top of the caramelised eschallots and bacon and pour over your egg mixture. Top with your mozzarella, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until egg mixture puffs up and the tart looks set.

Top with fresh herbs and serve hot or cold.

Win with Woolworths Gold

Woolworths are giving two lucky readers the chance to win a hamper packed full of fantastic Woolworths Gold products & a $100 voucher to inspire creativity your kitchen.

To win, all you have to do is comment below and tell us which recipe you prefer 
(The Cake or The Tart), OR comment on the corresponding Facebook or Instagram post.  

Terms & Conditions

  • Open to Australian residents only
  • Two winners (total) will be chosen from The Blog, Facebook & Instagram 
  • Entries close Sunday 24 August @ 11.59PM EST
  • Winners will be announced via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram 
  • Winners are encouraged to share their creations using the #WoolworthsGold hashtag once they receive their hampers & voucher
Goodluck x

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Petite Kitchen - A Review

"A clean way of eating that our generations seemed to have lost sight of" - Eleanor Ozich

It's not often you discover a cookbook that becomes your everyday bible for what to cook. Talented New Zealand food blogger Eleanor Ozich believes in cooking with simple seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are both delicious and nourishing. 

Eleanor adopted a simple, clean way of eating as a way to cure her daughter from eczema and behavioural problems. After eliminating grain, sugar, additives and preservatives from their diet their whole family underwent a transformation which resulted in "Energy, positivity and a new lease on life"

Her blog Petite Kitchen and subsequent cookbook is the result of that transformation. Eleanor's philosophy is that food can be both a poison which causes obesity, depression and health problems but it can also be something that can be used to cure, fix and cleanse the mind and body.

This cookbook is filled with healthy,nourishing recipes that we have found really easy to prepare and they all taste so fresh and amazing.

Recipes are grouped into the three main meals of the day as well as extras like Light meals & sides, Dainty nibbles, and Drinks. There is also a handy Basics section at the back which include stock recipes, dressings and an easy raw chia seed jam.

What I really love about the cookbook is that each recipe is coded to indicate whether it is Gluten Free, Dairy Free or Suitable for vegetarians or vegans.And, Eleanor suggests alternative ingredient suggestions to convert all her recipes to Gluten Free if desired. 

Favourites include the Beetroot & Brown Rice Risotto, Posh Prunes in a Spiced Orange Syrup, Garlic & Lemon Zest Peas Smashed with Avocado, Sweet Potato, Carrot and Cashew Soup, Caramelised Shallot & Thyme Frittata w/ Buffalo Mozzarella and the delectable Peanut Butter Milkshake. These are only a few of the dishes we have already made and loved!

Perfect as a light lunch or a side salad - Eleanor's Garlic & Lemon Zest Peas Smashed w/ Avocado is absolutely delicious. Try it for yourself below.

Photo Source: Petite Kitchen

3 cups frozen peas (about half a large packet) 
1/2 a brown onion, finely sliced 
2 tbsp butter (or olive oil) 
4 cloves of garlic, 
finely chopped zest and juice of one lemon 
a handful of italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped 
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped in to pieces 
a handful of pumpkin seeds 
a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil   

In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter or olive oil until sizzling. Add the garlic, and peas, then cook while stirring for a couple of minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Add the lemon zest and juice, parsley, avocado, pumpkin seeds and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Using a spoon, or potato masher roughly mash together until well combined. Drizzle with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. 

Photo Source: Petite Kitchen

Serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a light lunch. 
*gluten free 
*grain free 
*wheat free 
*dairy free (if olive oil is used in place of butter) 

Published: 1 May 2014 
Imprint: Murdoch Books
ISBN: 9781743362914 
Hardcover Category: Food & Drink 
Extent: 240 Pages 
RRP: $39.99 

You can purchase My Petite Kitchen online


Friday, August 15, 2014

Smart Tuna Pasta

After a crazy couple of months and a move, we have finally settled into our new place and have managed to get connected again. I have also drastically changed my diet and approach to food but more on that in a future post.

Prior to our move, the lovely team at Vetta pasta sent me a few samples of their new Smart Pasta range consisting of two healthier alternatives for pasta lovers - High Protein Low Carb and Cholesterol Lowering. 

Using the High Fibre, Low Carb spirals Pete and I made this delicious tuna pasta dish. It's super easy and super tasty. 

Smart Tuna Pasta
Serves 4

375g pack of Vetta High Protein, Low Carb Spirals
1 red onion , peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh red chillies , deseeded and finely chopped
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bunch fresh basil , leaves picked, stalks chopped
2 lemons, zest and juiced
2 tins organic tomatoes whole or chopped 
1 400g tin of Safcol of other sustainable tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese or goats cheese to crumble

Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion, chilli, cinnamon and basil stalks on a medium to low heat for 5 minutes until onion has softened. 

Next, turn up the heat and add tomatoes, tuna and a good pinch of salt. Break the tomatoes up using the back of a wooden spoon, then bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Meanwhile, cook the Vetta spirals in a pan of salted boiling water according to the pack instructions. When al dente, drain the pasta in a colander and reserve a little cooking water.  

Toss the hot pasta in the tuna and tomato sauce with the roughly torn basil leaves, another dash of olive oil, the lemon zest and juice and Parmesan ( if using). Mix together well. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if it gets too thick. Season if needed and sprinkle with crumbled goats cheese if desired.

Serve with a nice glass of red. Enjoy x