Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How I'm using my Thermomix


The whiz-bang machine you see me caressing above is a Thermomix - an incredible German-made machine that can be used as a blender, food processor, cake mixer, grain mill and stove top.

Yes my friends, it both chops and cooks my onions for me. Paul really has outdone himself on this year's (early) Christmas present.

So far I've used my Thermomix to make lots of things, like peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter. These took less than a minute each to make and the only ingredients needed were the nuts and a little salt.

I've also mixed up cake, cookie and muffin batters, and made vegetable stock paste, strawberry and pineapple sorbet, lots of smoothies and many dinners...

Thai coconut chicken

I made this Thai coconut chicken recipe that my friend, Angela, from Striking Keys invented. It was so delicious and I cooked it in the Thermomix by making the sauce in the blender jug and steaming the rice and chicken above in the steamer insert and Varoma steaming tray. (The vegetables I stir-fried separately in a wok on the stove.)

Tomato sauce and meatballs
The Thermomix has a plug in recipe book that allows you to do guided cooking. It walks you through step-by-step when to add each ingredient, when to blend, when to cook, etc. The Thermomix even has built in scales, so you can measure your ingredients as you add them.

I used the guided cooking function to make these meatballs in tomato sauce.

In the Thermomix blender jug I processed the mince and other ingredients for the meatballs, then rolled them into balls and laid them out on the Varoma steaming tray above while I cooked tomato sauce in the blender jug. The steam from the tomato sauce cooked the meatballs. Amazeballs!

Roast chicken, potatoes and gravy

I steamed the potatoes and chicken above water that was boiling in the blender jug, then transferred them to the oven for 20 minutes to crisp up. Meanwhile, in the blender jug I made gravy with the water and chicken juices that had dripped into it. Sublime.

The finished potatoes were so soft in the centre, and so crispy on the outside. And the chicken was lovely and moist. Here's a photo of the last potato coming out of the steamer basket, ready to crisp up in the oven.

Creamy paprika chicken
This is a Quirky Cooking recipe where I steamed chicken breast slices in the top level of the Varoma steaming tray, steamed vegetables in the bottom level of it and cooked rice in a steamer inserted into the blender. Water was boiling in the blender jug to cook these three layers above. When these were all steamed, I added cashews, herbs and spices to the water at the bottom and whizzed it up into a sauce.

It was a complete meal cooked in the Thermomix, although my rice didn't cook properly. After trouble-shooting with a friend, I've learned I need to soak my rice overnight first to help it cook on the steamer function. Better for our health anyway, with all the phytic acids and what-not.

Chicken velouté, potato and leek soup and vegetable tagliatelle
Varoma steamer stacked onto the blender jug.
The Chicken velouté was another multi-level, all-in-one meal I made using the guided cooking recipe function.

The potatoes and leek steamed in the steamer basket, while the vegetable tagliatelle and chicken steamed in the two levels of the Varoma above. Then I whizzed the potato and leek up in the cooking water in the blender jug for soup, reserving a little to whisk with creme fraiche and Dijon mustard to make a sauce for drizzling over the chicken and vegetables. It was all so easy, and so delicious.

I wish I had taken a photo of the final meal for you, because it looked amazing too.

~ ~ ~

I've been loving experimenting with my Thermomix. It's amazing how powerful and clever it is. I highly recommend it, for anyone looking for a useful kitchen appliance. Have you seen one before?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cranberry oatmeal cookies (with chickpeas) ~ a recipe


I make these soft, chewy cookies fairly often for the family because they are a healthier alternative to regular cookies. The chickpeas and almond flour give them a protein base to help counteract any blood spikes from the sugar content.

I cook my own chickpeas using this method, and bag them up in the freezer in two cup portions to use for these cookies or other recipes.

I've tried to keep the plain wheat flour content of this recipe down to just 1/2 cup, but if you want a firmer, crunchier biscuit, you could increase it to as much as two cups.

Sometimes I make these cookies with raisins, other times chocolate chips, and for today's recipe I've used a mixture of dried cranberries and raisins.

Ingredients
  • 1c coconut sugar or other unrefined sugar
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2t vanilla essence
  • 2c cooked chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1c rolled oats
  • 1/2c almond flour
  • 1/2c plain all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4c dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate drops
  • 1/2c walnuts, optional

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180°/ 350°F and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a food processor, blend together the sugar and butter on medium until smooth. 
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and blend them in.
  4. Add the chickpeas, rolled oats, almond flour, plain flour and salt and mix them until just combined.
  5. Add the cranberries and walnuts (if using) and mix on a low speed until they are dispersed and a thick dough forms.
  6. Spoon dollops of dough onto your prepared baking sheet and press gently with a fork to flatten.
  7. Bake at 180°/ 350°F for 13 minutes, or until the cookies are golden and just set.
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to three days, or freeze.

~ Peruse more Craving Fresh recipes here. ~

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best ever skincare products

Christmas is just around the corner so head over to World Organic and write your shopping list. I'm planning to treat my loved ones to a number of these beautiful products.

If you remember, I told you earlier in the year that after years of trialling different skincare products, looking for ones that would do amazing things for my skin without loading me up with toxic chemicals, I discovered THE range in World Organic.

World Organic was developed right here in New Zealand by naturapath and medical herbalist, Megan Douglas.

Lovely things to know about World Organic
  • Organic actually means organic. Every product under the World Organic umbrella is BioGro certified, which gives me huge peace of mind.
  • World Organic is unique in its use of supercritical extraction technology; the cleanest, purest way to extract a plant’s value and deliver it to your skin, with maximum effect.
  • Products are great value for money. Megan has kept the price as low as possible, without sacrificing on quality or ethics to do so. She has saved money by choosing not to pay for retail space. This means you won't find World Organic products in stores, but you will find them sold directly via Consultants at parties or via their webstores. I love these products so much that I've become a Consultant. You can order any products through me or my webstore, www.worldorganic.co.nz/cravingfresh. Simply register as a customer in the top-right-hand corner (circled in red in the example screenshot below). Then you can shop online to your heart's content.
  • World Organic sources many of its herbs and plants from a community of organic farmers in India, who are regenerating land that was depleted by industrial farming. World Organic pays these farmers above market rate for their herbs, to give them a real livelihood and help them heal the land.
  • World Organic products are packed full of goodies. They do not contain fillers or junk of any sort, just the most therapeutic combination of natural ingredients that replenish, rejuvenate and heal the skin. 
  • These products work. I have seen significant improvement in how my skin looks and feels. It's less dry, and it looks younger, brighter, firmer and fuller. 
  • Products smell amazing because the ingredients used are natural and amazing - things like calendula, rose attar, honeysuckle, sweet orange, fractionated coconut, aloe vera, lotus, vanilla, amaranth, pomegranate, juniper berry, ylang ylang, shea, amla... you get the idea.
  • World Organic rewards customer loyalty with a 20% discount after the first $150 is spent. This makes these products even better value for money.

  • World Organic has developed two separate ranges: The Organic Skin Co. for everyday skincare needs, including body wash, sunblock, moisturisers, cleansers and make up; and River Veda, a more luxurious, pampering range. These ranges are expanding all the time, but both contain gorgeous products I love, and I'm sure you will too.


There is so much more I could say about World Organic, but I will leave it there for now.

If you would like to know more, email me at cravingfresh (at) yahoo (dot) com. (Close the gaps and replace '(at)' with '@' and '(dot)' with '.'. I've just written it this way to avoid the spam bots who love to haunt me so.)

Or you might like to join my Craving Fresh World Organic page to stay tuned with product offerings: https://www.facebook.com/cravingfreshworldorganic

And of course you can register directly as a customer at www.worldorganic.co.nz/cravingfresh.

Have you heard of World Organic before? Tried it? I'd love to hear your experiences. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Choosing a natural birth

This is an old post that I'm re-posting. It's interesting to see the decisions I made with L, that have carried through for S and J.


Wow! Every day I look at my daughter, L, and feel amazed. Amazed that she's really here, seemingly out of nowhere, and all mine. Seeing her all fresh and new to this world inspires me to do the best I can by her.

What follows is a little bit of my pregnancy/birth story, as well as my where-to-from-here plans for raising a healthy, happy baby girl.

My sister, Mel, gave me the book Well Adjusted Babies at my baby shower and it was great to read in the weeks leading up to the birth. It opened my eyes to alternative ways to prepare for birth and care for L's health and happiness. I've jotted down some of the decisions I've made below.

Enjoying baby
Towards the end of my pregnancy I had a bath each day where I would rub my tummy and sing songs to baby, just enjoying the time with her and anticipating her arrival. I've tried to continue on, enjoying L each day, giving her as much love, encouragement and stability as I can. She is a wonderful little girl, pure delight for Paul and I.

Raspberry leaf tea
In the last few weeks of pregnancy I drank two to three cups of red raspberry leaf tea each day to help prepare my uterus for labour.

Craniology
A week before L was due I visited a craniologist/bowen therapist to get my spine and pelvis aligned for birth. I didn't want anything making it harder for L to come out.

Homeopathy
Before the birth I consulted with a homeopath and purchased remedies to take during labour. The two I used the most were Gelsemium to strengthen contractions, and Arnica to help prevent bruising and tearing. I continued to take Arnica for three days after the birth to help with swelling and bruising. 

Pain relief
I chose not to use medical pain relief during labour as there can be negative side effects for the baby. (My labour was relatively straightforward and only lasted eleven hours, but I imagine if their had been complications or it had dragged out a lot longer I would have changed my mind on that.) Instead, I used heat to help with the pain. I spent most of the labour in the bath, where Paul held a hot shower head to my lower back during contractions. When I was out of the bath I pressed a hot wheat pack to my back. (L was posterior for most of the labour, so my back took a beating.)

Antibiotics
I would've liked to have avoided giving L antibiotics for as long as possible. Unfortunately I'm a Strep B carrier (about 30% of women are) and it's life threatening to babies so I chose to be fed antibiotics during labour to help prevent L contracting it. 

I looked at alternative ways of preventing passing it on to her and found tea tree oil can help, so added a few drops of that to my daily bath leading up to the birth. After birth, swabs were taken from L and it looked like she had contracted Strep B so we were transferred to Waikato Hospital where she was put on antibiotics. Not ideal, but better than her getting a life-threatening illness. 
In some cases, antibiotics are a good option. I just want to avoid using them for minor ailments if I can. (I know I tend to freak out at the first sign of pain or discomfort in L, so I'm not sure how this will go in reality when she does get sick.)

Vitamin K
Newborns have naturally low vitamin K levels and some babies are at risk of haemorrhagic disease, which is why the Ministry of Health recommends babies be given a shot of vitamin K at birth. 

Paul researched this one and decided there was no way L was going to get injected with vitamin K as their is a link between it and childhood cancer, among other reasons.

Instead, I took a pregnancy supplement that included vitamin K and we specified in our birth plan that we didn't want it injected, but would consider whether she receive it orally if the birth was traumatic. 

In the end L did have bruising and swelling on her head because she had to turn from a posterior to an anterior position in the birth canal, so we opted to give her vitamin K orally. This required three dosages over a six-week period.

Breastfeeding
I was all set to breastfeed because I had read so much about the benefits of it for babies. Unfortunately my body had different ideas. I was able to produce some milk, but by far not enough to feed L. 

A lactation consultant gave me several ideas to try boost my supply - expressing between feeds, eating rolled oats, taking domperidone, taking Lactation AOK (a natural booster), eating LSA (ground linseed, sunflower and almond) - but to no avail. After eight days of doing everything we could, I agreed to give L formula. We used a lactaid so I could still breastfeed her while the formula was fed through a small tube into her mouth.
We tried to continue this method at home but L hated the tube and kept spitting it out. In the end we switched to a bottle and that was so much better. I still breastfed a little bit to try and get my helpful antibodies into her system, but after three months L refused the breast so then it was all bottle. I did express from time to time, but it seemed so pointless - mere drops for 15-20 minutes solid work.

I admit, this has been really hard for me. I've had to deal with feelings of failure as a woman and mother. Paul comforts me by pointing to L and saying "Look! She's healthy, she's happy." 

And there are positives. L has been sleeping through the night since she was two months' old, and Paul and others have been able to feed her too - giving me an occasional break. I think it has also given me more compassion for others - we can have the best intentions for our children, but sometimes things just get in the way.

Goat's milk formula
We use a goat's milk formula for L instead of cow's milk because it is gentler on her stomach, less allergenic and doesn't aggravate mucus membranes like cow's milk can. (Downside is it's three times the price, so L costs almost as much to feed as Paul and I do.)

We always use filtered water when making up the formula, to try and keep out as many nasties as we can.

Vaccination
This is a controversial topic, but I think it's an important one. Whether to vaccinate your child or not is a huge decision - yet Ministry of Health campaigns and doctors' advice would make parents think it's a given, stating the following reasons:
  • An unvaccinated child may be at greater risk of contracting childhood illnesses.
  • These illnesses and diseases are a serious health threat for a child if contracted. They may even be fatal.
  • Not vaccinating is socially irresponsible, as unvaccinated children place other children at risk.
  • A child may not be able to attend daycare/school unless he/she is vaccinated.
Why am I against it? Well Adjusted Babies summed it up well:
  • Vaccine immunity may not last.
  • Vaccinations may threaten a child's health rather than help it.
  • The health threat for a child exposed to the stabilising and preserving substances contained in vaccines is unknown.
  • The long-term health consequences of vaccines are unknown.
  • Vaccine dosage is the same for all children, irrespective of age and weight.
  • A vaccinated child's natural immunity may suffer.
  • Children today receive almost three times the number of vaccines of children raised in the previous two to three decades.
  • Vaccines may not protect your child against illness. In fact, their is a chance of contracting the very disease the vaccine is supposed to be protecting against. The antibody response may persist, mutate, or over-react, appearing later with a sinister health threat or consequence.
  • Should the artificial immunity diminish and the individual be re-exposed to the antigens as a teenager or adult, the health consequences are unknown. It is suggested that the severity of experiencing these diseases increases with age and can often be fatal.
I'll also add in:
  • Vaccines are not properly tested, yet they are sold as 'safe' for all.
I'm strongly against vaccination, while Paul can see the merit of some vaccinations. Our compromise is that we won't give L any vaccinations until she's at least two-years-old. After that we'll look at each vaccination on a case by case basis. 

I've also given my GP a copy of Just a little prick, by Hilary Butler so he can get an idea of some of the reasons behind our decision.

My plan instead is to feed L the best diet I can, minimise her exposure to toxins (not germs), and let her build up her immune system naturally. I will also look for alternative ways to treat her when she gets sick, trying to avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

National didn't go

National won the New Zealand election. I didn't cry, but I also didn't sleep well.

I'm so gutted about this, but I'm going to share a lovely, uplifting post that my friend, Catherine, wrote on Facebook this morning. It helped me swallow the bitter pill...
"Feeling a bit disappointed about the election result not going how I hoped it would. But I still have hope. The leaders of our nation have been chosen by the people and I love that we live in a country where that is able to happen.  
"I am a little concerned that some of the issues that were important to me when considering my vote may not be addressed in the way I hoped they would.  
"Those issues for me are: closing the gap between the very rich and the very poor; and ensuring that the Kiwi kids living in poverty are looked after. If those issues are also important to you, no matter who you vote for (and I believe every vote is valid - we all want the best for NZ, there are just different ways of doing it), election time is not the only time you can make a difference.  
"If you are able, you can donate time or money to organisations such as Kids Can or the Auckland City Mission, or donate food to local food banks.  
"You can support businesses that are working towards offering a living wage to all their employees like The Warehouse and write to those who are not and explain to them why you think this issue is important and how it influences where you spend your money.  
"Vote with your wallet!  
"But most of all, you can offer hope to those around you. Smile at everyone you come across and encourage them if you can because you never know what they are going through.  
"New Zealand is more than the government that runs it. It's the people that live in it."

Isn't that just beautiful? I hope you're as inspired to action as I am. Bless you all. And thank you Catherine for easing the tight knot in my chest that was preventing me from sleeping.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chocolate caramel protein shake recipe


This chocolate caramel protein shake recipe is big and super refreshing after a workout. I make it in a large jar and store it in the fridge, so I can pour a glass as desired over the course of a day.

Make it at night and you've got an easy breakfast ready to go for those busy mornings.

I love to use mesquite powder in this recipe, as it gives a taste of caramel in superfood form.

Not familiar with mesquite powder? One Green Planet has done a cool overview of it; here's a quote...
"Mesquite is high in protein, low on the glycemic index, and a good source of soluble fiber, meaning it digests relatively slowly and does not cause spikes in blood sugar. This gluten-free powder is also a good source of calcium, iron, lysine, manganese, zinc, and potassium."
I use mesquite powder like I do other spices, as an accompaniment to sweet things like my Chocolate oatmeal breakfast pudding. You only need a little bit, but it really rounds out the flavour of chocolate goodies, especially helpful when you're trying to make sugar-free versions.

Ingredients
  • 1c almond milk (I either make my own or buy a sugar-free version from the supermarket)
  • 1/2c cottage cheese
  • 3T protein powder (I buy the Evolv Whey Protein Isolate version)
  • 2T cocoa powder
  • 1T Natvia
  • pinch of salt
  • 1t natural vanilla essence
  • 1t mesquite powder (I buy the Lifefoods brand from my local health food shop)
  • 1.5 cups ice
  • 1 cup water

Method
  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or, you can do as I do and blend directly into a large jar using a hand blender. 
  2. Serve in a tall glass, topped with whipped cream if desired.

Makes four servings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Books, books and more books

OK, so the ol' blog has been a bit quiet of late and some of you may have been wondering where I've been. Thank you for wondering!

I have been lost in the world of books. You see, now that I'm an Aucklander, I have access to the Auckland Library network, which is immense and amazing.

Every book I could wish for is here and able to be reserved for FREE online and sent to my local library for me to pick up. So I've been reserving and reading by the bucket load over the past few months. It's been fun.

Most of the books I've read are dystopian YA/Teen fiction. But I've also read the odd Fantasy novel and other fiction.

In case you're looking for good reading material, below I've listed the books I enjoyed. I've read more than this, but won't bother telling you about the duds.

My friend Angela, from Striking Keys, recommended many of these books to me, so I'll link her reviews where she's done them.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I loved this. So witty, insightful, heartbreaking and joyful. The characters are fabulous - all of them.

The Birthmarked series (Birthmarked, Prized and Promised) by Caragh M. O'Brien. (Read the Striking Keys review here.)
  

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor - conclusion to the wonderful Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Read the Striking Keys review here.

The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet and Cress) by Marissa Meyer. Read Striking Keys reviews here and here. I'm hanging out for the next book in this series to be released.
  

The Partials series (Partials, Fragments and Ruins) by Dan Wells. Read the Striking Keys review here.
  

Inside series (Inside out and Outside In) by Maria V. Snyder. Lots of twists and a courageous female protagonist.
 

The Slated series (Slated, Fractured and Shattered) by Terry Teri. An interesting series that kept me guessing.
  

Two books in the Graceling Realm Series (Graceling and Bitterblue) by Kristin Cashore. Read the Striking Keys review here.
 

The Princess Academy series (Princess Academy and Palace of Stone) by Shannon Hale. Read the Striking Keys review here.
 

The Divergent Series (Divergent, Insurgent and Allegient) by Veronica Roth. Read the Striking Keys review here.
  

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (Conclusion to the dreamy Shiver trilogy)

The Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdoms of Gods) by N.K. Jemisin. This series swept me off my feet.
  

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (book 1 in the Raven's Shadow series). Read the Striking Keys review here. I'm waiting for Tower Lord (book 2) to arrive at my library.

The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan (book 1 in The Black Magician trilogy)


Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (a fun and light modern take on Pride and Prejudice, my favourite Jane Austen book.)

Always Emily by Michaela MacColl - a historical fiction novel based on the lives of Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I found it an interesting insight into their world.

Other authors I LOVE are Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. I will read anything by these guys and am hanging out for the third book in Rothfuss's Name of the Wind series. My favourite dystopian series is The Hunger Games. I haven't read it this year, so I haven't included it in the above list, but it's the best in my opinion.


What have you been reading lately?