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A new beginning… its all about what we eat.

A while ago a friend on facebook gave me an idea… we are all becoming much more aware of eating healthier, in my family we have some health issues that need to be addressed and I am a firm believer in, we are what we eat, so its time to address those issues and get healthy again… so back to that idea, it was an idea to inspire others with a menu plan for each week, basically what we eat, we are vegetarian, we are plant based, we eat meat eaters, we are pre-diabetic and we are a clean healthy eating family… so here we go, my guide to eating healthily with a few tips here and there on other things, like reducing our waste, getting a huge bang for our buck with our groceries, becoming more eco friendly and how we can get our children not only excited by food but cooking too.

Welcome to my kitchen, I definitely am not a trained chef, I am not a nutritionist, I am an experienced Mom of 8 children, some grown up, some still in school and some still very small, we homeschool, we bake fresh bread and baked goods and we most definitely cook from scratch, fresh produce is a priority, and as much organic food as we can buy and we can afford is always number one on my list.

I have a family of very picky eaters, many years ago when my older children were much younger, I became proficient in adding in veggies into everything I made, I secretly cooked and blended a variety of healthy produce, then added them into my meals, although these days there has been many a cook book about how to do this, I was most definitely all about this many years ago… and still to this day, even though many of my children are older I still from time to time sneak the odd veggie or legume into a dish… I am all about nutrition and if I have to, I will lie, steal or sneak the vitamins and minerals into any dish.

I have gone from meal planning for 7 day increments to 3 days, with 10 people to cook for, 3 days is more manageable, not only to plan for, but to shop for.  The main priority is getting a balanced healthy diet, at all times.  I am a big Jamie Oliver fan, always have been, and always will be, after a few years break from watching his shows since moving to the US, I have recently been catching up on his newer shows, internet tv makes streaming his shows so much easier these days, he is so passionate about what he does, and his love for food is crazy, I am totally inspired to begin my own journey with health all over again.

I have three things in life that I am truly passionate about, number one is my family always, and joint second place is photography, I have taught myself how to take my camera off of auto mode and also how to use photoshop over the last 3 years, no mean feat believe me,  also, something many people may not really know is my passion for all things food, and this is my joint second place, cooking and eating healthily, the nutrition, what we need to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, I am so passionate about it, it has been suggested by several of my family members that I should train to be a nutritionist, I read so much all the time on the subject I am starting to wonder if they are right.

So lets begin now you know a little bit about me… this week is all about the soups for me, Winter is upon us, comfort foods to the max, having a warm nutritious soup on hand is always good for lunches, and even dinner, and I am all about the sides and what can I dip in that bowl of goodness.  I am all about reducing the fat these days, lowering our carbs and also bringing down the sugar content, once upon a time I would not have worried too much about adding sugar, these days I am always thinking of ways to reduce or add a natural sugar that is low on the glycemic index.  I have read several articles recently about how our bodies use the nutrition we put into them, what I was totally surprised about was how quickly some carbohydrates that we eat are turned into sugar in our bodies, making not all carbs equal, and the same for sugars, it appears that not all sugars are equal either.

Sometimes I love to experiment with recipes, but when I have a time crunch I am all for tried and tested recipes, although I have been known to mess around with a recipe from time to time, change ingredients, add in this and that… cooking is most definitely all about fun.

Soup number 1 for this week… an old favorite, very simple to make and very healthy… carrot and coriander soup.  I took the recipe and made it in my instant pot, a recent favorite purchase of mine, it makes cooking soup a breeze, you can start by sautéing your veggies then switch to pressure cooking, I loaded all the ingredients except the dairy and cilantro into the bowl, sealed it and set it to pressure cook for 3 minutes, you can then get on with other things whilst this wondrous machine does its thing… once it was finished I added in some oat milk, my favorite non dairy milk and the fresh cilantro, oh and let’s not forget at this point we need to season to taste, I then got my stick blender and in no time at all we had a delicious bowl of nutrition.

One cup of chopped carrots…

  • 52 calories
  • 12.26 grams (g) of carbohydrate
  • 3 g of sugars
  • 1.19 g of protein
  • 0.31 g of fat
  • 3.6 g of fiber
  • 1069 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 7.6 vitamin C
  • 42 mg of calcium
  • 0.38 mg of iron
  • 15 mg of magnesium
  • 45 mg of phosphorus
  • 410 mg of potassium
  • 88 mg of sodium
  • 0.31 mg of zinc
  • 24 mcg of folate
  • 16.9 mcg of vitamin K

Making them a power house of super charged nutrition.

Soup number 2 for this week… another favorite, usually around Thanksgiving or Christmas time, using up the ham hock for flavor, these days the ham hock has been replaced with liquid smoke or sweet smoked paprika to replace that taste, but still as delicious and most definitely as nutritious… spit pea soup, vegetarian style.  I have made split pea soup for many years now, it is my husbands favorite over the years especially around Christmas time when we have had a ham, we use the bone with some of the meat still attached and cook it within the soup, these days my husband is a vegetarian so I needed to replace that smokey ham taste with something, and Smokey paprika is my favorite replacement. Split Peas will provide you with 21 grams of fiber and 28 grams of protein, among loads of other nutritional goodness, making it a fantastic winter comfort food soup.

Both soups are full of goodness, very budget friendly and you will be eating it for days to come, we just change up the sides, sometimes a roasted veggie sandwich with sourdough bread toasted, sometimes crackers and cheese, sometimes roasted squash or sweet potato wedges, today we had a quinoa salad with nuts, berries and roasted squash on the side, now I cannot claim to have made this one, but I know this guy called Trader Joe that can make life a little simpler sometimes.

‘[‘Tomorrow we are heading out for brunch, a great place we know, all made from scratch and all farm to table, my favorite.  I will be putting a lentil bolognese in the slow cooker for when we get home, some of us will have this with pasta and ground sausage, the rest of us will have it with roasted butternut squash wedges and a green salad.

Well that is what we are eating for the next few days, low carb, low sugar, but always healthy and nutritious, I try to incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies, so right now we are eating lots of squashes, pomegranates, apples and pears, all full of flavor and packed with lots of nutrition… (just a little hint, keep all those veggie scraps, do not throw anything away including the seeds from the butternut squash, freeze them ready for an awesome homemade, ultra budget friendly, almost free broth made in your slow cooker or instant pot, recipe to follow soon) Be happy and stay warm… and remember eat the rainbow. 🌈

 

 

 

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The land of the free…

Memorial Day weekend feels a little early this year, I guess because it’s almost a week before May closes out and June begins… despite feeling a little odd that we have celebrated and we have almost a week left in this month, we had an awesome time.

We celebrated an event that happened earlier last week on Saturday, Lewis’ Graduation with a glass or two of Prosecco, followed by an awesome family evening of chatting and laughter. Sunday was a fun day… NOT, we tackled the crowds at Costco in desperate need for some food it was a must… not one that I would have chosen if our cupboards weren’t completely bare.

Memorial Day was so much fun though… it started relatively early for us, Paul was preparing to take F and T to our local town parade, candy bags ready for the big collection and I was getting ready to take M to meet someone she has been chatting to on her college forum. We arrived in Morristown a little early so Century 21 is always a must to look around, for those of you who don’t know what Century 21 is, it’s a shoppers paradise with 3 floors of discounted brand clothes, shoes, homeware , make up, bags… you name it they have it… always so much fun to mooch around.

Later I had a couple of hours to myself, so after my much needed Starbucks I took myself and my new camera off to explore, it felt really weird for it just to be me, normally I have someone with me… but today just for an hour or two it was me, myself and of course my beloved camera… I love to people watch, so combined with awesome buildings Morristown didn’t disappoint, it was totally alive with Memorial Day crowds, sitting, chatting eating and just simply walking around.

Time flies when you are having fun… my final stop for the day was our friends Pool for a swim followed by a delicious BBQ. I met Paul and our children there, by the time I arrived F and T were already in the pool, splashing around with Jill, they had had an awesome time at the parade with their Dad and their candy bags were full, well fuller than they had been when they started the day, the sun was shining but the temperatures were so pleasant… it really was the perfect way to spend Memorial Day afternoon into the evening… friends, good food and beautiful weather.

Back to a normal week… last few weeks of schooling both home and High School… counting down until school is out for Summer Break, finally I will be able to kick back and relax a little… well almost I forgot we are about to enter Birthday Season in our house, and that is always a crazy busy time.

Diet and nutrition, Florence, plant based diet, Uncategorized

Road to getting fit and healthy…

IMG_2035As I get older my weight has spiraled, I have never had weight issues before and I do not like the loss of control over my size, so before I get any older I need to get a grip and get fit and healthy.

Over the past few years I have played around with exercise, the odd phase of Yoga with youtube, a little bit of low impact cardio, damn it I have even considered a few laps in our friends pool or on vacation enough exercise for a week or two… in reality I have never really stuck to any program of exercise since I was in my thirties.

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Diet is exactly the same, I have fluctuated from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, I have tried the paleo approach, I have counted calories and I have even tried to starve myself, nothing works and I have not stuck to anything with success.

So what is a girl to do… suddenly it hit me, I really need to get real, whilst on vacation a few weeks ago I decided to try out the treadmill in the hotel gym, I had no sneakers with me so I went barefooted, gross I know, but I promise I cleaned everything down after I used it.  I actually enjoyed using the treadmill each day and it was surprising how I improved even after only a few days, I followed it with a few laps in the pool and then of course some fun time with my children, I felt so much better in myself.

Which brings me to today… we now own our own personal treadmill, a bargain purchase on Black Friday, I have found a low impact cardio video on Youtube and a quick morning Yoga morning session to add to my morning routine.

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It is time to get real people and kick this middle aged body into shape… I started a loose exercise routine on Saturday and as the week has progressed it has developed and shaped its way into something I can do everyday, I can adapt it if I need to.  I have even purchased scales, something I swore I would never do as I was anorexic in my teens and obsessed with my weight… but now I am armed with a lot of research on health and nutrition I am determined to lose weight the sensible healthy way.

Today after completing 6 continuous days of exercise, 99% gluten free and plant based diet I have lost 7lbs, now I know this may not continue at this rate, but I am very happy to have it as a starting point… so how have I done it?

Every morning, I am definitely a morning exerciser, some people prefer afternoon or evenings, I like to have my routine done before I sit down to breakfast… anyway every morning I start my day with a very quick 5 minute wake up yoga session, stretching out my body, then I set an Interval training 30 minutes session on the treadmill, my usual distance is about 1.4 miles going from a slow walking pace to a slow run, believe me I couldn’t even do this when I first started, after I have recovered from my walk/run, I move onto a 20 minute low impact cardio workout to tone my muscles then finish with a 5 to 10 minute, depending on how bored my children are, mediation to focus for my day.

I have been very careful with my diet this week, I think 90% of my shopping cart this week was fresh organic produce, when my kids look in the refrigerator all they see is fruit and vegetables… and you know what this week nearly everything has been used in my nutritious buddha bowls for dinner every night.  I have been 99% plant based and gluten free, I have felt so much better, no bloating, sorry TMI, more energy and I feel much calmer.  Breakfast usually consists of vegan gf whole grain toast and something like avocado or vegan cream cheese with lots of veggies, like tomatoes, arugula or baby kale.  Lunch has been a butternut squash gf based pizza with organic tomato sauce, no cheese but lots and lots of super healthy veggies and for dinner we have eaten the rainbow, both cooked and raw in our variations of buddha bowls, if you have not tried them take a look at all the different recipes out there or create your own bowls of perfectly balanced nutrition… It is a great way to get your children eating healthier too, let them create their own bowls, F and T would fill theirs with cucumber, avocado, apples and pasta, but hey its healthy so I will be happy.

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Now I am not saying I have been perfect, I have drunk a glass or two of wine each night, I even had two pieces of a Terry’s chocolate orange and I am still having sugar in my coffee, but I have improved at one stage I could have drunk the liquor store empty of wine… well not really but you get the idea, I was also having half a bag of mini Kit Kats a night with Paul and I was drinking 3 sugars, 4 if I had a coffee from Dunkin Donuts… everyone has their vice and mine is a little sugar in my coffee each day, and of course that much needed glass of wine to end my busy hectic days.

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New year…

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I’m not sure it really feels like New Year to me yet, for the first time ever I slept right through it, getting stomach flu on vacation was not quite the plan but it happened anyway, hot, cold shivers, violent headaches, stomach pains, nausea and the dreaded run to the bathroom, all led to me wanting to just sleep in bed for three days, but I didn’t, you are only on vacation for such a few days and I wasn’t going to let this thing keep me from getting out and enjoying Arizona, but I did let it allow me to sink into bed early each night and sleep on and off through each evening and night, including New Years Eve… so there were no tears of something lost and happiness of something new this year, just sleep and then more sleep.

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Although I was still kind of out of it on New Year’s Day, feeling a little better but not even 75%, we spent the day in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been privileged to go to… Sedona AZ… if ever you are lucky enough to travel to Arizona make sure Sedona is on your places to visit list, well that’s if you don’t decide to just stay there for a few days… everywhere you look the views are just stunning and surreal, sit in Starbucks sip coffee and the views are phenomenal, grab lunch at one of the many places to eat and the views are out of this world… my only criticism would be that some of the places are a little too touristy and the shops tend to be a little generic, but I wasn’t there to shop, even though we did do a little, obligatory teenage girl Sedona sweatshirt shopping, Mom and Florrie got handmade healing necklaces, oh and an unexpected find of summer Harlem pants… to just sit relax and take in that fantastic scenery that just surrounds you everywhere you look is just amazing and so calming.

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I don’t know why but I always feel a little apprehensive at the New Year… the thought of what a New Year can bring, has had me a little depressed this year. It is silly because really it’s just another day, but it really seems such a big deal… I was reading all these positive New Year posts on social media and I had to stop and give myself a good talking too, although last year was tough with my Mum getting sick there were lots of positives… three of my older sons all have good jobs now, we have had three vacations, one was unplanned to see my Mum, but we still got to see family and friends and see the new regeneration of a town we grew up in and our older children grew up in, our children are all doing well and are happy, Paul and I are in a really good place with our relationship right now and my Mum is through her chemo now and on the other side, she is the bravest person I know and I am very proud of her. So I think I need to start looking at New Year in a new light from now on… how exciting is this year going to be?

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No resolutions from me this year, another first… just intentions to be a healthier more positive me… I want to continue my healthy eating campaign… get back to the cardio and yoga I was doing until I damaged my ankle, no more excuses though, more meditation and learning to relax… and over this winter I want to stay in the warm hibernate by the fire and fuel one of my passions photography, I want to improve my skills, more reading and practicing, I want to be as good if not better than the talented people of the photography Facebook groups I follow.

But for now I am going to enjoy my last two days in Sunny Arizona… relax in the warmth, soak up as many rays as I can because on Saturday when we arrive back home it will be freezing and I need this warmth to last through until Spring… Happy New Year everyone 🎉

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We are what we eat…

Getting older sucks… I have gained weight and I haven’t changed the way I eat, your metabolism slows down and the middle age spread begins… are you kidding me? Really?

Ok, so I admit I really do need to excercise more, but I’m a busy Mom of 8 children, I include my older ones too, from first thing in the morning until I sit down with that much needed glass of wine I’m on my feet rushing from here to there, but according to my OBGYN that’s not the type of excercise that is going to burn off those calories at my ripe old age, well he didn’t mention the ripe old part, I’ve just added it in so you get the picture… he says I need at least a 20 minute cardio routine per day that will get my heart racing, so even my gentle morning yoga routine does not fit the bill for getting my heart racing I’m afraid. Food is also important and consistency, 4-6 healthy small meals a day, well the small portions are not a problem for me as I’ve never eaten large meals, but 4-6 is a huge problem, I can go hours and sometimes forget to eat… ok so here we go, new me, I am determined to beat this middle age spread.

I love healthy foods, I love salads, I love soups, I love fish, I love veggies, I even love radishes too, so how hard can this be? 4 to 6 small portion meals/snacks a day together with a low impact cardio workout, just to start me off and some yoga to keep my joints supple. The hardest part of a carefully thought through menu plan is the prepping, to have a healthy menu for Paul to go to work with is the planning a prepping the day before… this week we are keeping it simple and doing a ‘let’s see what we can make with what we have in’ using up supplies in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry… so next week we can start a fresh in an organized way… does anyone else do this once a month, to clear out the old ready for the new?

Let’s start with Breakfasts that I can easily prepare in advance… healthy banana, oats and honey waffles, perfectly preprepared and easily transported if you have to go out…

Serves 2
One cup of gluten free oats
I cup of dairy free milk, almond or coconut (if using coconut I suggest 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
1/2 a banana
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute… add 1/4 cup of the batter to a lightly oiled waffle maker and let it cook for 2-3 minute.
Serve with fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt or for a dairy free option a tablespoon of almond butter 😋

My next easy to prepare breakfast is raspberry, coconut chia pudding…

Serves 2
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of raw honey
2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Take the first three ingredients place them in a blender and let them blend for 45 seconds, divide the blended fruit milk into two mason jars then add 2 1/4 tablespoons of chia seeds, place the lid onto the jar and shake to mix the chia seeds, place in the refrigerator over night… top with a few raspberries and a tablespoon of sliced almonds 😋

Now if I’m staying in I love a slice of whole grain gluten free bread with avocado and grape tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze and if Paul is going to work I make him a super healthy veggie omelette ready to cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a piece of fruit. Another healthy on the go breakfast is a smoothie served with a hard boiled egg for protein.

Lunches are much easier when you are at home, your choice is endless, I love salad, cheese, eggs, veggies, homemade hummus and steamed veggies, but planning a healthy portioned out work lunch takes a lot of prep… 5 meals, 5 healthy carbs, 5 healthy lean proteins and plenty of veggies ready for a busy week of working… quinoa, brown sprouted rice, sweet potatoes, ground turkey meatballs, oregano chicken and Cajun pork, all leftovers from a past week dinners and lots of veggies, but when you are home you can quickly bake some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, add in a little arugula and a lightly fried egg, finally whip up a Harrissa dressing… so good 😃

Heathy fish and chicken tacos are my favorite dinner option, polenta crisped salmon and chicken tenders served with warm corn tortillas, salad and a healthy mango salsa, easy healthy and filling. Dinners are always a challenge in my house, some of us need GF carb options, some of us don’t like veggies, some of us are mainly vegetarian, except for a little fish and some of us are such basic eaters that meat and plain pasta is all they will eat. Salad is my friend, I can add a protein and then a healthy carb and it covers most diets in my house… but soup season is on it’s way, although I love Summer, I personally love soups they are so versatile, healthy and can stretch your budget sideways.

Snacks are my biggest challenge for planning ahead, each time we eat we are meant to have a complex carbohydrate, a protein and a fat, so getting that right in a snack is a huge headache for me… protein bites were simple and nutritional for a snack, gf oats, almond butter, honey and then I added chopped nuts dried fruits and seeds. Another idea is brown rice cakes, and almond butter, or fruit and a handful of nuts… but with all the planning snacks still remain something I think about last and quite often forget to eat myself… I am working at it though… slowly 🙃

… and then we always need an occasional treat, I try my hardest to make these treats as healthy as possible, like lemon muffins made with yogurt and honey… light and delicious 😋

Whatever you eat, try to make it nutritional, delicious and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Photographic diary, Uncategorized

A much needed vacation…

We have been back from our vacation for a week now and I am ready for my next one… Seriously you don’t realize you need to get away from life until you actually do it!


The problem with a vacation is its never long enough, Saint Augustine, Florida 2016 flew by… It took a lot of organization getting all 8 of us on the plane, settled in our condo, driving around in our rental cars and then onto Disney World… I was a tad frazzled by the time we parked our car at the airport on Monday evening, I had been packing, organizing and checking everything was in place for our trip away, it took me quite a few days to relax and enjoy.

 
We were very lucky our condo was fantastic, it was set in beautiful grounds with a gorgeous pool.  Historic Saint Augustine was a 20 minute drive away, well worth the visit, we chose to ride the trolley car, just so we could see everything in the extreme heat wave that was happening whilst we were there, although I have to say riding the trolley car to get around and see everything wouldn’t have been my choice had it not been so hot, I love taking photos and this method of being a tourist is very restrictive for someone with a love of photography.

Not to sound like a tourist guide, but if you ever get the chance to go to Saint Augustine Florida take it, but be sure to avoid July and August, it’s hot and crowded, it is truly beautiful though!
I had planned our vacation with a trip to Orlando, specifically Disney World, this was such a mistake, in hindsight we should have done this first, it was so busy and so hot it was exhausting, we needed a vacation from our two days in Disney.  I love all things Disney, unfortunately some people in our party didn’t feel the same, it was hot crowded, but in my mind Disney is where we all become children again and seeing Florence and Tate’s faces were just the most magical experience in themselves… It was worth every moment of the heat and the crowds…

On our last day in Orland we chose a slightly quieter option, when I say slightly I mean very slightly… Hollywood Studios was our destination for the day.  We got to sit down in the cool quite a lot which was a bonus and we got front row seats for the excellent Beauty and the Beast show, being a huge fan this was so magical and to just watch Florries face was just amazing.


The question now is ‘where shall we go to next?’

Happy Summer everyone 😍

Florence, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday sweet baby Girl 💟

Today is the last day my baby girl will be 4, her sweet face, her chubby cheeks and her cute little smile are only four for just today, tomorrow she will wake up and be a whole 5 years old… 

It’s crazy to think it was 5 years ago that I was planning to go into the hospital and meet my little girl… From the very first moment I saw her beautiful face I was totally in love and knew that this little girl was going to be very special in all our lives.  Today she is funny, smart and the bestest big sister a little brother could ever have.


Florence’s favorite thing to do is stay at home and play with her toys, she loves her toys so much, babies, Barbie dolls, kitchens, dolls houses, soft toys… the list is endless.  She loves to paint, draw, chalk and write letters.  Another of Florence’s favorite things is water, she loves to have a bath for hours upon end with all her toys joining her, she loves to play with water and most of all she likes to swim in water at the pool or at the beach, she is definitely my little water baby.


We have a crazy life with so many people living in our house, Florrie loves her siblings, each and every one of them, Mabel does her hair beautifully and paints her nails, Blu is just Blu with her and she adores him, her older brothers all adore her and in turn she has a special place in her heart for each of them.  Oh I must not forget our dog Simba, yes we do still have Simba and Florrie enjoys spending time with him.


Florence has been to dance classes which she loved, unfortunately the classes stopped and we now need to find another little dance school which we love as much as the last one, hopefully she will be starting dance again after the summer.  She is right now playing soccer, her Dad is the coach, she loves to run around play the games with the ball and meet the other girls.


This little girl makes me smile every day, she says the funniest things, she loves life and I’m glad at the moment I have chosen to homeschool her, it means I get to spend everyday with her, learning along with her, sometimes I teach her and other times she teaches me, more often than not it is her showing me something… She is crazy, funny, beautiful, but most of all she is simply amazing and we all love her to bits…

 


Happy Birthday sweet Girl… Have a wonderful day tomorrow 👑