Tag Archives: food

A harvest of health

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Just think of all the beautiful sunshine that was poured into these natural delights!

My resolution to eat a salad as a main meal every day for 30 consecutive days has been going splendidly. I feel so blessed by the bountiful ‘harvest’ I’m able to buy!

Of course, I’m in a city in the twenty-second century, so unfortunately my fresh produce doesn’t come to me with bits of soil still clinging to it… One day I hope to have a little patch of land where I can experiment with growing a few of my own fresh goodies, but for now I buy the freshest and the best selections I can for my money and convenience, and it’s a blessing.

This is one way I measure wealth: when my fridge is full not just of food, but of good food that hasn’t been fiddled with too much between God’s hand and my plate 🙂

There are so many diets and eating plans out there, some of which totally take over people’s lives. That’s not for me. I’m just content to make small changes for the better wherever I can.

If the label says ‘organic’ and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. And on the other end of the spectrum, if the best-before date is in a year’s time, I don’t really want to be putting that stuff in my body!

I know most of my readers will be heading for their northern-hemisphere winter now, so salads may not seem very appealing. But may I encourage you to balance out your cold-weather comfort foods with fresh produce whenever you get a chance.

You’ll reap a harvest of health 🙂

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Salmon fishing in Johannesburg

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It’s offishal: rats love salmon!

Recently our boys got a taste of smoked trout ribbons and salmon fish spread. (I know, they eat better than some people do. I feel bad about that sometimes. For a second or two. It’s not as though withholding a treat from my bubs will magically feed someone somewhere – it wouldn’t feed anyone at all, considering the tiny amounts it takes to please these guys…)

Anyway, they went crazy for the fishy treats, and I managed to snap a few pics of the fun 🙂

rats eat fish 1

Moon grabbing and Mishka begging

Vodka testing the taste

Voddy. Must. Have. More!

Knight's desperate flying leap to get to his fish

Knight’s desperate flying leap to get to his fish

Definitely Ninja's rat!

Definitely Ninja’s rat!

Mishka asks so nicely...

Mishka asks so nicely…

Teddy bear with his fishy feast

Teddy bear with his fishy feast

Those smoked trout ribbons were their best treat so far, but on a separate occasion I mixed some salmon fish spread with brown rice and veggies for their supper. That was gulped down just as quickly:

Hmmm, need a bigger bowl?

Hmmm, need a bigger bowl?

It looks like a hug, but it’s actually a warning

Mishka's nearly there...

With Tiny out the way, Mishka’s nearly there…

MINE!!!

MINE!!!

Footnote: Just so you know, rats are only allowed high-protein treats once in a while, and even then only in small samplings. Too much protein can cause their skin to become very itchy and scabby, almost like an allergic reaction. Under normal circumstances a pet rat only needs about 10% of its diet to consist of protein, and definitely no more than 18%. Our rats have almost no protein in their staple diet, so treats such as these once in a while are fine. And as with human diets, variation and moderation are vital 🙂

30 x 30 (x 30) challenge

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So! Who’s up for a challenge? :mrgreen:

30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Earlier this week I decided it’s time to tackle Goal #72 on my 101 things in 1001 days list, namely the 30 x 30 challenge of doing 30 minutes of physical activity for 30 consecutive days.

I planned it strategically right at the start of a blazing South African summer, of course.

And that wasn’t enough, so I decided to add another ‘x 30’ on the end of that challenge too. Along with the daily physical exercise regimen, I’ve committed to a personalised detox.

It’s nothing hectic – nothing like my 21-day sugar detox – but I’m cutting out as many fatty foods, processed carbs and sugars as possible for the next 30 days, and I plan to eat a salad for at least one of my three main meals each day. I’ve reduced all my portions too, and I’m stocking my pantry I don’t have a pantry fridge and cupboards with the healthiest foods I can afford.

Or at least I will be, once payday rolls around 😀

But like I said, it’s a personalised detox. I know myself well enough to accept that 30 days without any sugary treats at all is going to be counterproductive – I’ll just give up that way. So each morning with my cup of unsweetened rooibos tea I indulge in a single, small vanilla biscuit. Treat? Check 🙂

Over time I’ve come to accept that some diet fads and detox ideas will never work for me. For one thing, I don’t do low-fat dairy. Period. It’s yucky and a waste of money and full of unhealthy additives. I’d rather enjoy a smaller portion of a full-cream product than mess around with low-fat and fat-free options.

Also, I’ll never stick to a diet plan that involves foods I’ve never even heard of, let alone eaten. If I can’t find it in the shops I usually buy from, it’s just going to be a stumbling block in my detox. Ditto if it tastes gross. You can keep your kombucha and your tempeh, thanks very much!

And finally, I’ll probably never stick to a diet plan that cuts out one or more food groups altogether. Yes, I do intend to give a month of vegetarianism a go e.v.e.n.t.u.a.l.l.y (despite my repeated failures in that area), but I still don’t expect it’ll become something permanent. I like my food, and I love variety in everything, so that’s what my current diet plan is based on 🙂

I started the challenge on the 13th of November, so that it ends the day before my dating anniversary with Ninja… at which point I believe we can celebrate with a well-deserved, detox-destroying romantic dinner.

The salads have been easy to fit in and perfect for the hot weather, but the exercise is obviously the harder part. I often get to walk for more than 30 minutes during lunchtime at work, and there are stairs to climb and weights to lift at home. No excuses!

Being the pedant that I am, I laid out all of this in a handy checklist. And here it is, free for you to download should you wish to attempt something like this for yourself 🙂

My 30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Here’s to good health and achieving our goals!

Zest

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

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For our Spring Day feast I made us a really quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert. It only uses three ingredients and satisfied every palate, rounding off our feast with a treat that’s both fruity and sweet. I don’t really have a proper name for it though, so let’s just call it a strawberry and marshmallow dessert.

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

You could start making this dessert the day before your dinner party. I did, by preparing some jelly (I think you guys call it Jell-O overseas?) in four dessert glasses. I only had the raspberry flavour in my cupboard at the time, but you could always experiment with different options. And I’m sure this would work with other fruit too, such as bananas or peaches.

Jelly base for dessert

Jelly base for dessert

This jelly base set overnight in the fridge, so all I had to do today was to slice up some fresh strawberries and prepare the marshmallow sauce.

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

The hot marshmallow sauce was a random idea I’d had. I wasn’t sure it would even work, but luckily it did 🙂

In a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water) I melted together about two cups of mini pink and white marshmallows. I guessed they’d become quite sticky, so I first greased the bowl with vegetable oil. As they started melting I stirred in a little milk, which thinned and smoothed the sauce beautifully.

Melting marshmallows

Melting marshmallows

The last step was then simply to spoon the warm, sweet, sticky sauce over the strawberries, and serve them up.

I was concerned the marshmallow sauce would be too sweet (you know how sickly sweet they get when you cook them over a fire?), but when the sauce mixed with the tart, unsweetened strawberries, the balance was perfect.

Quick, easy, cheap, creamy, sweet and almost healthy – it’s everything you want in a dessert! 😉

Spring Day feast

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Happy Spring Day to those in the southern hemisphere! Sorry my northern friends, I don’t mean to rub it in that your warm weather is slowly seeping southwards 😉

But winter isn’t over for us yet – it was absolutely freezing icy cold this morning. When we went to church we joined huddles of hunched-over people wrapped in thick coats and jerseys. Even the heartiest singing didn’t warm us up today!

Thankfully, though, Jozi is usually sunny even when it’s cold, so as I write here this afternoon I have warm bright sunshine flooding my desk… and cheerfully highlighting all the dust I haven’t got around to cleaning… Meh.

Anyway, enough of that. What I’m really here to write about is the delightful Spring Day feast I made for Ninja and my parents today. My folks were originally coming over to meet their new ‘grandrats’, but since that’s been delayed we just turned it into a celebration of the first day of spring.

Spring Day 2013

Spring Day 2013

For the decor I chose mismatched and cheerful colours, using what I had around the house instead of spending extra on new fancy stuff. For example, I had these bright orange paper cups in the cupboard, so I just prettied them up with spring-themed flower stickers.

For Marzipan

For Marzipan

I used my multicoloured bamboo placemats and colourful serviettes left over from my first special dinner. Ninja had also bought these cool 3D/holographic bookmarks for each of us, so we gave my mom the horsey one and my dad the eagly one (oops, couldn’t resist inventing a word there).

For Daz

For Daz

I also snipped a few sprigs off a jasmine bush to use as our centrepiece. I so enjoy the scent of those flowers: it always tells me my favourite season has arrived at last.

Jasmine

Jasmine

And now for the best part: the food 😀 I made us a three-course meal as follows:

Spring Day menu

Spring Day menu

In case you can’t see the text on the pic, our starters were those mini pizza mushrooms that I first made for this dinner and then again for this dinner. I also recently hosted my in-laws for lunch and made it for them too. In fact, I could quite easily make that starter for every fancy dinner for as long as I live, and never tire of it. Those ‘shrooms are just so darn delicious!!!

The main course was ham and spring onion clafoutis with roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado with basil pesto mayo. This is where I had the most fun, since I love experimenting with new dishes and flavours. (I’m determined not to lose that interest even though I no longer have as much spare time for experimenting as I had before…).

I’d never made a clafoutis (say: ‘klafootee’) before, but I based my recipe on this one and simply substituted ham and spring onions for the basil and tomatoes. I also used four small ramekins rather than one big dish. It’s such a simple and easy recipe, and my family enjoyed it (though we all added some extra salt, without which it would have tasted far too mild and milky).

Tomatoes ready for the oven

Tomatoes ready for the oven

The roasted cherry tomatoes are an idea shared with me by my best friend. She first made it for me with pasta and wilted spinach (oh, how well we ate that day!), but the tomatoes work perfectly on their own too. Simply wash them, pop them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with whatever herbs and spices you like (I used origanum, pepper, chives and salt). Then bake them for 30 minutes at 180 °C – which was ideal in this case because that’s the same as for the clafoutis, so I baked them together.

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

As you can see from the pic above, the poor clafoutis had no patience with me fussing with the photography… it started to deflate almost as soon as I took it from the oven 😛 Still delicious though.

The basil pesto mayo was also a hit (with everyone except my plain-eating husband, hehe). Since I enjoy basil but can’t eat the garlic they usually put in commercial pestos, I decided to make my own pesto. As a replacement for the pine nuts used in standard pestos, I added a few spoons of ground almonds. Hmmm. Didn’t do much for me. Then I simply mixed up low-fat mayo and milk, and stirred tiny shreds of fresh basil into the mix. Yum! A perfect complement to the plain avocado, with none of the disadvantages (for me at least) of using garlic.

And the dessert of fresh strawberries and hot marshmallow sauce? That’ll be my next post 🙂

My favourite meal of the day

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Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day :mrgreen:

Nothing gets me up and out of bed like the anticipation of a good breakfast. While Ninja is one of those people who dislike eating too early in the day, I’m ready to nom as soon as I’ve opened my eyes.

Recently I’ve changed over from cold cereal as my standard start to the day, to a warm bowl of cooked rolled oats with a variety of toppings. Warm, healthy, tasty and filling… the ideal first meal of the day.

I loathed oats when I was a kid, but that’s probably because I only encountered them at church camps and other strange places, where they were cooked until they were grey and flavoured with salt as well as sugar. Gag. The oats I make for breakfast these days are gourmet in comparison!

The bowl pictured above shows one of the best combinations I’ve come up with so far. The oats are cooked in coconut milk and water, with a dash of vanilla essence. Then I top them with dried cranberries, blueberries, raisins and goji berries, drizzle on some honey and sprinkle cinnamon and a few flax seeds on top. YUM!

And when summer hits South African shores, I think I’ll stick to my warm winter cereal but top it with more fresh fruits instead 🙂

Do you enjoy oats for breakfast? What toppings have you tried before?

Cat that got the cream

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Last weekend Ninja and I took a little road trip with my parents to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We stopped for brunch at a sweet restaurant in an interesting nursery, where I caught this resident cat enjoying breakfast on a nearby vacated table.

Cat and cream 1

There’s just something compelling about the self-contained, quiet contentment of a cat caught in a moment like this.

Cat and cream 2

I loved the leisurely way he repeatedly inserted a paw into the cream jug, lifted it out and slowly licked off the thick cream. When I stopped to take pictures, he turned his unhurried gaze on me for a moment and then simply resumed his dining.

Cat and cream 3

Cats are truly incomparable creatures. Imagine for a moment that it had been a dog who’d sniffed out the cream. The jug would’ve been knocked to the floor through joyful enthusiasm and the cream would be all over his muzzle before you could yell ‘Down, boy!’

But a cat is never that uncouth. He just silently claims the cream as his rightful treat, and indulges so sumptuously and yet so neatly, that not a drop is spilled nor a whisker out of place when he is done.

A tog in training

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Tog as in photog. As in photographer. Okay, okay, never mind… 🙂

Here are some of the practice pics I’ve been snapping lately as I bond with my beastie!

Meringue with strawberries and cream

I can’t take credit for the cooking on this one: my mom treated me to this meringue with strawberries and cream when I visited her the other day. Yum, I love my mom! 🙂

Aloe

Aloe

Classic South African flora: a flowering aloe plant.

Robin

Robin

This wild Cape robin-chat has ‘trained’ my parents to feed him whenever he sings at their kitchen door… and he does this about seven times a day! Adorable free pet 🙂

New fur for Flea

New fur for Flea

And speaking of pets, here’s our fuzzbutt Flea. Can you see how her fur has grown back pitch black in that patch under her arm?

The sweetest face

The sweetest face

I also have a bit of amazing news to share: I’ve been asked to extend my current contract of office work until the end of the year, instead of wrapping up in August.

This offer from my boss came as a major blessing and a big relief to Ninja and I, as it means I’ll be getting a few extra salaries this year above what we’d planned for… which of course also means that our budget will quickly recover from the knock it took with my camera. The Lord has been so generous to provide this ‘safety net’ – and all that after I’d taken the leap of faith to get my camera!

Anyway, that’s all from me for today. Hope it’s sunny where you are :mrgreen:

Resisting temptation

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Temptation

Six days left of the 21-day sugar detox, and I’m quite proud of my progress. I’ve managed to avoid sweet and carby temptations for over two weeks now – though it’s not so easy when they get handed to me on a platter!

The cute vanilla and white-chocolate cupcake pictured above is from a work colleague’s birthday tea. My friend and I who are doing the 21DSD each took a cupcake… not to eat but to freeze at home, in readiness for this coming Sunday when the detox ends.

Shew. I haven’t been so close to sugar in weeks. I held it close and inhaled the sweet creamy scent…

But since I’m so close to the end I didn’t want to spoil my good streak. So I snapped a pic and hastily stashed away the cupcake in the freezer.

A marvel of self-control.

:mrgreen:

Seriously though, this detox hasn’t been as hardcore as I expected it to be. In fact, once it’s over I think there are quite a few lessons I can take away and principles I want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

For example, I’ve discovered that I really don’t need sweetener in my tea. With the possible exception of some rather earthy herbal infusions, most of my teas are palatable enough without honey.

I’ve also realised that although carbs do have a place in my normal diet, I can happily reduce the amounts I eat and still feel full. So I can enjoy a warm bowl of oats on a winter’s morning – but it doesn’t have to be a big bowl, or every morning, or sweetened overly much.

I’ve learnt that there are many other fine flavours to be enjoyed other than just ‘level-10 sickly sweet’! So I’ve started looking at sweet treats with new eyes now. I feel drawn to flavourful, healthier, freshly baked, homemade treats rather than store-bought ones packed full of unnecessary extras.

I’ve been surprised at my resistance to my old cravings. I think the beauty of the 21-day sugar detox is that by telling your brain that ‘it’s just a detox, not a diet’, somehow your body relaxes and doesn’t feel so deprived anymore 🙂

On the downside, though, I would be happy not to see meat for the next month. Cutting out carbs has made me increase my protein portions, which isn’t so appealing to someone who was never much of a carnivore in the first place. Hmmm… methinks that once this detox is done, I should give that month of vegetarianism another shot…

Sugar-free gluten-free coconut crumpets

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This 21-day sugar detox has been a surprising experience so far. Until I began this detox, I had no idea such a thing as coconut flour even existed!

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Crumpets/pancakes made with coconut flour

Of course once I discovered it, I immediately wanted to try making my favourite food with coconut flour :mrgreen: As you know by now, my favourite food is crepes (called pancakes here in South Africa), with crumpets (called pancakes overseas) following a close second.

The various recipes I browsed through seemed to suggest that crepes would be a bit tricky (though not impossible) to get right with coconut flour, so I decided to try out a recipe for crumpets/pancakes instead. I came across this recipe, which seemed simple and used ingredients I had on hand.

I adapted it a little because I can’t have honey or other sweeteners while I’m on the 21DSD detox, so this is what I used:

Ingredients

4 whole eggs

1/4 C coconut flour (finely sifted to remove all clumps)

1/4 C plain full-cream yoghurt

1 t vanilla essence

1 t mixed spice

Butter/oil/coconut oil for frying

Coconut flour pancakes

Ingredients

Most of the info I read about coconut flour referred to how quickly it absorbs liquids. Since I didn’t want these crumpets to soak up too much butter, I only used a little butter and fried the pancakes in a non-stick pan. It was perfectly easy:

Method

1. Mix all ingredients to make a batter.

2. Fry spoonfuls in a little oil/butter on a medium to high heat.

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

Fry crumpets in coconut oil, vegetable oil or butter

3. Carefully flip over when the bottom has cooked and bubbles start to form around the top edges.

4. Once golden brown and cooked through, remove from pan and drain (if needed).

Make sure both sides are golden brown

Make sure both sides are golden brown

5. Serve with your toppings of choice.

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

Coconut flour pancakes with green apple and pecan nuts

These turned out pleasantly delicious, but I did miss the sweetness I’m used to. To pep up these healthy crumpets, I enjoyed them with my daily allowance of one green apple, as well as some pecan nuts and desiccated coconut.

Not a bad way to make it through another sugarless day 😉