Diet and nutrition, Uncategorized

Chopped Salads… 

I try my very hardest to eat healthy and cleanly as much as I can, of course it’s more difficult when you are out or busy but on the whole we eat a good healthy diet… this is a difficult thing to do when you have a large family of picky eaters.  Getting my two youngest children to eat well is a challenge, I believe in never forcing them to eat, but I do try and encourage them to try something, sometimes they love it, like Florrie with fresh peas at the farm when we were picking them,  she took one taste and loved them, but when I was spiralizing the carrots she asked to taste them and hated them straight away, the face she pulled was quite funny.  I have discovered recently that their best meal of the day is breakfast, they love fresh eggs fried with coconut oil every morning, and now we get freshly laid eggs from our neighbor next door, they are delicious, they love strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon, they love smoothies and homemade pancakes, Jamie Oliver’s one cup recipe, so simple and quick, they will eat these until the cows come home, they are also delicious when you swap the flour out for a gluten free flour too. I try most days to make breakfast their most important meal of the day as they eat really well, then I feel there  is not so much pressure for the rest of the day as I know they have eaten one good meal that day.


Lunch is another meal I kind of miss with,  it’s usually just me I’m making lunch for, my babies are happy to graze after a large breakfast, I kind of always fail for myself.  I make fresh salads for Paul and Mabel, but I always forget myself… I’ve come up with a new plan, Salad lunch prep for the week, I will make enough basic salad for a week, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and scallions,  a tip I have just learnt is to line your containers with kitchen roll paper to absorb the moisture, then daily using leftovers from dinner change each salad up daily, today we will be having a lemon rosemary roasted chicken, I’m having shrimp, with a kale Cesar salad and tortilla wraps, so I’ll shred some chicken, or add shrimp and add it to the salad and bake a couple of wraps to crisp them up to add to the salad… I’m hoping this will keep me on track instead of snacking with my children.  

I have recently discovered I absolutely love chopped salad, we have had it before a few years ago, recipes from Jamie Oliver again, but I really hadn’t thought about chopping every salad we have until I visited a new salad place that has just opened in a local town, in Chopt you pick your salad then they ask if you want it chopped up, Kale Cesar salad with tofu totally chopped up and it was totally delicious.  I thought I’d try it out on my family… huge success, they prefer their salad ingredients chopped up, but as you can imagine chopping 8 salads is very time consuming, each person likes certain things in their salads, so I’ve been tossing salad ingredients into separate bowls then emptying the bowls onto a board and finely chopping them… until last night when I came up with the genius idea of the food processor, you can start with the harder veggies like carrot and broccoli, pulse them a couple of times then add the rest of the salad ingredients, it worked perfectly, and it was a lot quicker, you just have to clean up the food processor bowl and blade, but not too bad.  So my chopped salads have been a huge success, my family are enjoying them so much they are saying they do not need the carbs along with their protein just the salad it’s so filling… My only problem now is how much Salad veggies I am getting through, but at least everyone is eating their greens, well except for one extremely picky eater, who likes everything as plain as it can be.


I’ll leave you on a sweet note… I was visiting friends for lunch yesterday, I usually take desert with us, but I’ve been in search for healthier sweet treats, some I’ve made have been ok, but just not quite right, yesterday I came across this recipe for Lemon coconut muffins, they were healthier because the sugar was very low, and could easily be swapped out for honey, or some other healthy substitute, they contained coconut oil and yogurt, I think they would even be good with gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour… they were a huge success both at lunch and at home, but be warned if you try these at home, the batter is extremely thick, she does say that on the recipe, but I was surprised at just how thick it was, I added a little more coconut milk just to loosen it a little… but despite that they will definitely be something I will be making again and again.


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This and that…

Routine makes the world a more organized place… I’ve always fought against routine, but I am discovering the older I get that having a routine is the way to live, of course there is always room for something you don’t normally do, but you need routine for an organized life!

Back to school for me means setting a new routine for myself and my little ones, keeping the house clean and tidy with only an hours worth of housework a day, doing some yoga and getting some homeschooling schedule set in place for Florrie… These are just a few things I have been gradually working on, taking my time to work out the best schedule around Tate’s nap times!

As you all know I am also a huge fan of healthy home cooking and menu planning, I have been working on improving and incorporating this full time into our lives… My older children frequently look in the pantry and fridge and declare we have nothing in, I have finally worked out why… Because I do not buy junk food at all anymore, my grocery list is made up of healthy fruit and veggies, grains and protein, I also include lots of home baking ingredients, so I guess our cupboards are bare… Of junk food!

This week I bought two cast iron skillets from Costco, these are something I have been looking at for a while, they are a chemical free way to cook, which I really like, hopefully they will last me for years to come and they were cheap $36 for two… A bargain! Of course I had to try them out so I decided to make homemade flour tortillas… They were a huge success and so were my skillets for making them in! I don’t think I will ever buy flour tortillas again, they were so easy to make with very few ingredients and they tasted delicious!

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Smoothies have become an almost every day way of life, you could say we are addicted… my freezer is filled with frozen fruit… Freezing bananas is a perfect way to keep bananas ready for smoothies, I’ve bought flax seed, chia seeds and wheat germ to add in for extra nutrients and I always try to add coconut water, so good for digestion and your stomach! When I make smoothies for just Florrie and I, I add lots of fresh spinach and veggies, unfortunately when I make them for my older children they can detect the slightest amount of non fruit products and then they protest… Best to keep to fruit… At least they drink them that way!

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Coffee in bed…

When I wake up I need my coffee, two cups to be exact otherwise I feel like I cannot start my day and function properly… This must be something in my head, a habit because I drink decaf 99.9% of the time, so there is nothing in my cup of coffee that will actually wake me up, just my head telling me I really need it! The question is could I switch to a morning smoothie instead, I have been having smoothies most mornings but after my two much needed cups of coffee. I have been sneaking in healthy veggies along with the fruit and yes I have to say I am loving them as part of a breakfast routine but seriously could they replace the coffee?

Breakfast is another issue, most researchers say breakfast is a vital part of your day, but I struggle with breakfast, firstly it makes me hungrier much faster and secondly it seems I am cramming a lot of meals into my day, maybe just the smoothie is just the answer, although I am loving my new Kashi cereal from Costco, 2 packets of a fruity whole grain that is gluten free and very delicious!

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The dairy free milk that I am loving the most is the rice milk I bought in Shoprite last week, we have used it in hot drinks, milkshakes and cereal, it tastes good, slightly different from cows milk but on the whole I think it’s taste is the nearest to my usual fat free organic milk, the price is good too, so I would say this is a success!

Coconut milk products are a good dairy free alternative to my usual yogurts, ice cream and milk based sauces… Coconut products like oil, water and milk seem to be the new super foods to use in all your cooking and baking, I usually have them on hand but they are not my usual go to products, but I am planning on this changing in the future! I have made pizza dough using coconut oil instead of olive oil, it worked really well, I have also replaced cows milk with coconut milk in cheese sauces, again it worked well but I have never had coconut water which is meant to be great for your digestive health, so something to try!

My biggest challenge with reducing my dairy intake has been cheese… If anyone out there can point me in the right direction for dairy free cheese, you would make me extremely happy, as I love cheese of all kinds… And I am missing it!

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Allergies and a pain in the neck!

Having a baby with allergies is proving a challenge…but a challenge this mommy is willing to take on! We visited a gastric pediatric doctor recently as there were concerns about Tate’s liver and his bilirubin levels… Thankfully his liver seems fine, but he does have a jaundice that is linked to breastfeeding, no big deal, or so I thought, but after several repeat blood tests we are now going to have several more tests done in the coming weeks… hopefully in time his bilirubin levels will drop as he begins to eat solid foods and less breast milk… What also came out of this visit though was his milk allergy, she took one look at his mucus poohy diaper and told me that he most definitely had a milk allergy, she explained how my reducing or eliminating milk proteins from my diet would help my baby if he was fussy, so after many sleepless nights I thought it would be worth a try and it worked… A solid 6 hours of sleep… BLISS!

It was lovely getting some sleep, well that was until Memorial Day Monday when we sat Tate in the shade on a friends deck whilst we had a swim, after a nap I noticed how snuffly he was, as the day went on he seemed to struggle with breathing slightly, this had happened the previous week too when we had done the same thing, there was a lot of pollen everywhere so it leads me to think there may be a link. It has taken several days of very limited outdoor exposure but Tate is definitely less snuffy, for the past two nights he has slept a full 6-7 hours before waking and he seems much more content!

After a week of being very careful with the dairy in my diet and limited pollen exposure I have a beautiful happy baby… Fingers crossed it continues, but who knows, each day is very different with a newborn baby!

Having a young baby means organization is important, so now that my Mum has gone home and salad season is upon us, I am implementing a new healthy eating campaign in our house and to do that I need a system of chopping all fruit and veggies when I get home from grocery shopping, that way salads and smoothies are so quick and easy, with a young baby and a three year old in the house who knows how much time I will have available for meal prep from day to day, and after some of the articles I have read recently eating cleanly and healthily, real food is important because who knows what secret ingredients lie in processed every day foods we buy from the grocery store!

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Kitchen prep has been a life saver this week, I woke up on Wednesday morning with an extremely painful neck, after a doctors appointment yesterday it appears to be a swollen disc that is pinching a nerve… Great, the doctor says it can take anything from one week to several weeks to heal! All my well thought ahead chopped fruit and veggies have meant that we still can eat healthily without doing too much! Lean green smoothies for breakfast are proving to be a healthy favorite for Florence, with hidden ingredients like carrots and spinach, she actually asks for a smoothie every morning! We have been having salad with everything this week, lots of healthy greens and chopped mushrooms make up a filling salad bowl each day, all completely dairy free and no gluten in sight!

On the subject of gluten, Costco’s are once again proving to be the best place for gluten free products, ranging from cereal for breakfast to burgers for the grill later in the day, all are very reasonably priced and taste delicious! Their huge box of spring mix salad leaves are organic, naturally gluten free and a bargain price for the amount you get! Another great shop for gluten and dairy free products is surprisingly Shop Rite, a large selection of everything dairy free from milk to yogurts to ice cream products, again all were very reasonably priced… I managed to get a large tub of vanilla coconut milk yogurt for adding to a big bowl of strawberries, a vegan mayonnaise and delicious coconut milk ice cream! My dairy free milk of choice this week was rice milk, so far I am liking it, but the true test will be when I add it to my new gluten free organic cereal I purchased from Costco this week!

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Product reviews

… My Vitamix!

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I have often stood in Costco and watched the Vitamix demonstration, wow, that is a fabulous blender, so many appliances in one machine… Hot soup, cold sorbets, thick smoothies, milkshakes, pizza dough and so much more! I could never justify the amount of money it cost though, instead I bought several blenders, each one returned because it did not live up to a great blender, I have bought a juicer, which is great but very time consuming making the juice then clean up is even more time consuming, and a food processor which sits unloved on my kitchen side… paul told me long ago to invest in the vitamix, you always pay for what you get, would I buy a cheap mixer instead of my beloved kitchen aid mixer… No, I most certainly would not, I love that machine and use it almost every day, so why is this vitamix any different, so after many hours of reading reviews and watching yet again another Costco roadshow demonstration I bit the bullet, what did I have to lose, with Costco’s fabulous return policy… Take it home and try it, if I don’t love it my money back in full!

So far so good, I have used this machine every day since the weekend, the soups are delicious and hot, if you don’t like smooth soups, save some of your ingredients and pulse at the end of the cycle for texture. I have also made fruit smoothies, this was a little more challenging as I have a freezer full of frozen fruit, I added the ingredients in the order their cookbook stated, but some of my fruit was frozen, I added carrots and kale, two vegetables I had in, switched my vitamix on, but I did have to use the muddler a few times to get my frozen products moving, I also then added a small amount of orange juice just to thin it out slightly, but my overall smoothie was delicious, packed with nutrients and went down well with my little 2 year old, who would never eat carrots or kale… So success, I am loving this vitamix!

I have not tried other features of the vitamix yet, the list is endless, pizza dough, muffins, cake breads, sorbets, ice cream, frozen cocktails… But so far for this season of warming soups I have a huge thumbs up, easy lunch time tomato soup in minutes is always a plus in my book, add a nutritious grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and then any leftovers can be used as a pizza topping later on for hungry children!

My lunchtime super easy tomato soup recipe… Courtesy of the Vitamix!
(Then use as a pizza sauce later… It worked well with no complaints)

1 can of organic chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of organic tomato purée
3/4 cup of vegetable stock/broth
1/2 chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
A small handful of fresh basil leaves sliced

Place the vegetable broth, followed by the tomatoes, purée and then onion into the vitamix set to the soup setting press start and let it run it’s cycle, when finished add salt, pepper and basil leaves, pulse several times… Then serve with whatever you fancy… Hot, yummy and nutritious!

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Freezer love

I love my freezer, I love to freeze leftovers, I love to freeze an abundance of fruit and vegetables… I just love to have a freezer full of produce, but of course the trick is not to overfill your freezer so much that you never get to use the produce at the back or stored deeply below the current food in there, I love to virtually empty my freezer before restocking it, it gives me real pleasure to see an empty freezer just before I do my weekly grocery trip, of course my children are never too thrilled by this, but personally I love that feeling that I have used wisely all of my groceries before I restock… I just hate waste!

So, on the subject of freezers, I was thrilled this week whilst I was on my weekly trip to Costco, the fruit and vegetables in there looked so enticing and abundant I had to stock up, now I know everything in Costco comes in huge sizes and even for our larger than average family, when it comes to fruit and vegetables, we cannot get through the package sizes either, so with that in mind I still filled my cart with cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, asparagus and so on, I think my cart was mainly healthy fruit and vegetables this week, but I had a plan… Now this is where my freezer comes in, I bagged half of each container into ziplock bags and placed them into my freezer… Genius, right? I can hear you all saying but the fruit just does not taste the same after it is frozen and you are right, but it is perfect for smoothies, homemade ice cream, muffins, cheesecake, sauces, juicing, the list is endless… Of course it is great for adding to cocktails too! So now I not only have a refrigerator full of healthy fruit and vegetables but a freezer well stocked for all our summer favorites too… Not only healthy but budget friendly too!

Still on the subject of freezers, my new plan is to cook and freeze batches of beans, pulses and lentils… I love, love, love these ingredients but more often than not I find I just don’t have the time to cook them along with dinner or I just simply forget to, so after a little research I have discovered that all of these ingredients freeze and reheat well… So batch cooking these ingredients will mean I can always have them on hand in my beloved freezer, meaning that we will be eating much healthier too!

Recipe for chocolate covered strawberries

1 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I used Kirkland semi sweet)
1 1/2tablespoon of coconut oil ( I used Trader Joes)
20 fresh strawberries

There are two ways of melting your chocolate with the coconut oil, the first is taking a great amount of care in your microwave, they burn easily so melt them in 30 second bursts until they are smooth and melted, the other way, which is the method I used is to take about an inch of boiling water in a pan, place your bowl of chocolate and coconut oil over the water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water and then let your boiling water slowly melt your chocolate for a few minutes, once it is smooth and melted take it off the heat and wash and pat dry your strawberries, then coat each strawberry with the chocolate mixture, taking care not to cover the green leafy part, place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, then place in refrigerator to chill then serve with anything you like… Delicious!

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