Have a Healthy Holiday

You can have a healthy holiday season! I love to indulge over Christmas – there is just so much good stuff to try! But I also love knowing that my New Year’s Day isn’t going to be filled with regret and too-tight skinny jeans. This holiday season I am striving for balance. Balancing cookies with smoothies; nights on the couch with hot yoga or massive walking sessions with my sister; and long ‘to do’ lists with periods of stillness.

Let’s all have a happy, healthy holiday this Christmas 2014 and get 2015 off to a nourished start!

smoothie ingredients

Keep it healthy when you can: FOOD! Glorious FOOD! It is everywhere at this time of year, and you just know that I love me cookies of all kinds, candy canes, whipped cream on pretty much everything, and big scoops of ice cream to help beat the heat. From the office to the shopping centre to parties and everywhere in between this time of year is all about the food. I am okay with that. When I can though I keep it super healthy: yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, big salads for lunch and dinners when we are at home, and minimal snacking. That way when I do indulge I can enjoy it and know that I am going to be back on track at the next meal.

Make it about something other than food: I know what I just said above, but sometimes all the FOOD gets to me and I need to remember that there are so many other things to enjoy about this season: time with family, visiting people’s Christmas displays, more time for reading, seeing friends – there are so many other things to focus on other than the food. Put in some quality time with the ones you love and leave the cookies alone for a while if you need to.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Let yourself indulge: When you do indulge, absolve yourself of guilt. Don’t even let it in the door. The best way to ruin a Christmas get together with friends and family is to worry about how many calories you are going to eat, and how you are going to burn them off. Trust me – I’ve been there, and worrying about food is the best way to trigger a binge and suck all the fun out of the indulgence of the season. Take a deep breath. Let yourself enjoy the yummy things your friends and family have created to enjoy with you. Eat your favourites, try something new and delicious, and rest assured that you can indulge without getting off the rails.

run christmas

Get a Quick Fix: I love long walks on the beach while I’m away, but I also need to work up a bigger sweat sometimes in between cookie, wine, or cheese consumption. HIIT is the perfect answer for holiday workouts that really deliver results. For an at-home workout I write down a list of 10 exercises – a  mix of weighted exercises (like squats with shoulder press) and cardio (skipping or step-ups onto a sturdy chair) and then run through it for 15 minutes without stopping. Rest for a minute and repeat. 30 minutes later I am sweaty and happy!

Try something new! I love trying out new types of exercise with my sister. We are both totally uncoordinated and willing to laugh at ourselves (and each other) so working up a sweat becomes a laughing session as well – it must burn some extra calories! We just finished up a free trial of some gym classes and this summer we are going to work on our balance with some hot yoga classes. Hilarity shall ensue. Find a friend, find a class that you haven’t tried and work up a seasonal sweat! You’ll be ahead of the game when the new year comes around – and you might have just found an exercise buddy to keep you motivated well after January 31st.

walks with storm and Jess

Check yourself before you wreck yourself: I am the queen of stress, the empress of loading myself down with way too many things to accomplish. I have learned (with a lot of help from Chris) that I need to check in with myself and ask myself whether all the things on my ‘to do’ list are necessary. Will people be disappointed because I only baked cupcakes and didn’t get time to do the cookies? Or am I better off making the cupcakes and enjoying myself, and leaving time to watch ‘West Wing’ with Chris? I’m learning that I cannot do it all, and that’s okay. So take a red pen to that ‘To Do’ list and cross out the overload.

Take some time to breathe: Further to my point above – take some time out of the shopping, baking, wrapping, visiting – and just spend some time on yourself! Find the quiet corner of a cafe, order a seasonal beverage and let yourself get lost in a book; schedule a massage and let the therapist work out the seasonal tension from your body; line up your favourite snacks along the side of the couch, make yourself a cup of tea, pop in a Christmas movie, and settle in for the slow down; pop in your headphones, turn up the Mariah Christmas album (you have it, everyone does) and walk until you have zoned out. Just find an activity that makes you feel nourished inside, away from the hustle and bustle and unnecessary pressure.

Pool day

Take time to enjoy the moment: The most important part of the season is family and friends. Stop, look around, and realise how many hearts touch yours and how many people you have to be grateful for in your life. Be in the moment with those loved ones, and carry that gratitude in your heart all year long.

Okay folks, these are my tips for a healthy Thoroughly Nourished Life holiday season! What are your tips for staying healthy and happy over the festive season?

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Whether you are celebrating with your someone special, with your friends, or treating yourself to a night in on the couch I hope you enjoy this day and really feel the love that is all around you.

Chris and Amy bokeh

 

If you’re looking for some sweet treats for your sweetheart, why not try:

Happy Valentines Everyone.

Come back tomorrow for a new sweet treat to make over the weekend.

Lunchbox Love: Recipe Round-Up and Inspiration

I have fond memories of my school lunches. Peanut butter sandwiches (before good old PB was banned from the schoolyard), Vegemite sandwiches, carrot sticks, muesli bars (my favourites were choc chip or apricot and yoghurt), almonds, little tubs of yoghurt, a homemade treat. My lunches were never boring and always contained a balance of everyday foods and sometimes foods. My sister and I started packing our own lunches (for the most part) when we were about nine or ten, but the days when Mum or Dad would pack our lunches were a little more exciting – with Mum there was always a little extra treat –a slice of cake or a cookie – and my Dad makes the best curried egg sandwiches on the planet (his secrets: fresh white bread and lots of butter and curry powder).

I was never the kid who swapped her lunch in the playground, but sometimes Caroline (who I have known since we were twelve!) would bring me some homemade garlicky, spicy Indian chutney that I would spread on my white bread and ham sandwiches in a blend of Danish-Indian culture that was delicious.

When I was working at home there was no need to think ahead about lunch. Whatever I felt like when midday struck is what I would conjure up. Usually some variation of salad, or in the winter a huge bowl of steamed vegetables with mustard (or cheese…). Now that I have rejoined the full-time workforce I don’t have the opportunity to make whatever I would like, and given my picky stomach I can’t rely on the local sandwich/ hot food bar when lunchtime rolls around. I am also quite conscious of making the healthiest, most nourishing decisions whenever I can because I need to fuel my exercise correctly, and I have room for cookies/cake/m&ms/cheese/chocolate…

After a few weeks of ‘just winging it’ when it comes to my lunch I have noticed an increase in the number of times I have reached for a carton of low-fat cottage cheese and some crackers or a carton of microwave soup. As someone who loves her vegetables I am missing my midday veggie fuel, and as someone who also likes to have a bit of routine/planning in her life (ahem), I have decided that I need to get re-inspired to love my lunchbox again.

I have rounded up my favourite lunchtime recipes from Thoroughly Nourished Life, and a few for inspiration to get me going. My aim is to share something new and delicious with you all every week and inspire you to love your lunchboxes too.

From the archives:

Tomato, Butter Bean, and Brown Rice Salad – Two lunches from one cook!

Butter bean, tomato, and brown rice salad

Roast Pumpkin, Mushroom, and Brown Rice Salad with Soy-Sesame Dressing

Big batch of salad.

Roasted Tomato Thyme Soup – Pop into a plastic container and reheat at work. Sprinkle cheese and onions on afterwards.

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Summer Vegetable, Herb, and Cheese Fritters – Two days worth of lunches  (without the egg of course)

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Inspiration from around the internet:

And, a little something sweet…

Or maybe one of these…

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Okay readers, hopefully that should provide all of us with some inspiration for our lunchtime nibbles. I can’t wait to share some lunchbox love with you all in my next Lunchbox Love post.

Tell me dear reader, what is your favourite work day lunch? Weekend lunch? 

Any memories of school yard lunches?

Why I am a Vegetarian Who Loves Meat

Two red glistening slabs hit the hot metal with a sizzle. The primal smell of cooking flesh fills the small kitchen with a satisfying nourishing fug. I turn from the pan, nose twitching, remembering the taste of grilled meat, my mouth waters: perfectly-medium porterhouse with buttery mushroom sauce; spicy mince patties coated in tangy tomato relish sandwiched in fluffy white buns; prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts oozing melted brie. I pick up a can opener and reach for my protein instead: chickpeas. The salty, ferric taste of flesh has not passed over my tastebuds in nearly three years.

I am a vegetarian: once my decision to be a herbivore was made I was sworn to it for life. Plant-fuelled since August 13, 2010.

Still, I love meat. I love its versatility. I love the smile a perfectly crisp slice of bacon elicits on my boyfriend’s face when I slide a full Sunday breakfast in front of his barely-opened eyes. I love the moans that rise unbidden from a table of otherwise professional people when they lift pork ribs to their mouths: the flesh so tender from four hours in the oven that angels and demons weep together.

I am a vegetarian. I am a vegetarian who loves meat.

I love meat because I love to feed the people I love. And those people eat meat. Cooking for them nourishes me in ways that no food group can. Placing a dish on the table for my loved ones to share is the balm to a rushed day, a thank you without words, and the very least I can do when they help me so much.

Last night was cold and damp – the perfect weather for Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy.

Make it for the ones you love.

Slow Braised Lamb Shanks

Slow Braised Lamb Shanks

Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy

This can sit in the oven on low heat for hours, which makes it perfect for a lazy Sunday dinner. Just chop everything at lunch time and then allow the meal to braise slowly in the oven all afternoon until you feel like gathering the family to the table.

I served this meal with rice and steamed green beans, but it would be perfectly at home atop a billowing cloud of buttery mashed potatoes or some cheesy polenta, or served more simply with thick wedges of fresh-baked bread to sop up the gravy.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-large lamb shanks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 purple onion, diced finely
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced into chunks
  • 3 pieces short-cut bacon
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 6 shallots, peeled
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups salt-reduced beef stock
  • 1/4 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup puy lentils

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (300ºF) and make sure you have all your vegetables prepared as per the ingredients list.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stovetop safe casserole dish. Brown lamb shanks all over, then remove to a plate.
  3. Add onion, mushrooms, bacon, oregano and thyme and sauté until bacon starts to crisp. Add flour and stir until you can feel the flour start to thicken slightly.
  4. Add shallots, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, and port. Replace lamb shanks in the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Turn off the heat, cover casserole dish with lid, and place in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for two hours (or more if desired) until the meat is falling off the bone. Half an hour before you wish to serve the casserole add the puy lentils and stir well.
  7. Place lamb shanks onto plate and spoon over the lentil, bacon, and mushroom gravy.
  8. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or thick wedges of bread. Enjoy.

 

“In fact, people who posses not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients and bringing disparate people together as family and friends. There’s a reason that when opening one’s home to guests, the first thing you do is offer food and drink. Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” 
― Juliet Blackwell 

Eggs and Tea

Tonight I couldn’t stop thinking about eggs. Fried eggs specifically. Fried eggs with drippy, runny yolks on top of a pile of sautéed green things with salt and pepper, and just a little more salt. I sat in the lecture theatre tonight trying to engage in active thought about personal essay forms and Montaigne and Didion and Dillard, but all I could think of was eggs.

I don’t think it really was the egg specifically; more, it was what the egg represented: comfort, curling up under a green and floral motley blanket made by Mum, doing some writing while the TV plays some British police show or another in the background. I wanted my bowl of steamed greens, and my runny, runny yolk, and a cup of green tea to soothe my beating heart at the end of another full and wonderful day.

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Now I sit here, at an hour a little too late to blog anything particularly substantial because of a brain drained by discussing the central argument and tone of the fabulous Joan Didion’s ‘Goodbye to All That’ (check out this book for the essay and other wonderful writings). And I write about the want for eggs, and tea, and comfort. And I have had all three. And I am happy and ready to rest my eyes.

Now, off to bed with all of you and I’ll see you in the morning.

Sweet dreams dear readers.

My relationship with food: Food and family

I grew up in a family that loves food.

We weren’t ‘foodies’ by any stretch of the imagination, but we always had fresh, home-cooked, handmade, delicious food on our table. My Dad has long been recognised as being the world’s biggest sweet tooth: this man could eat Willy Wonka under the table where confectionary is concerned. My Mum is one of those gorgeous European women who only uses real butter, believes in the power of the potato, and makes the best scones – ever (even according to my farm-raised father).

My sister and I had a childhood filled with happy food memories. We always had homemade birthday cakes; poor Mum has been asked to do many things including, but not limited to, butterflies, witches, and The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz (that one was mine!). Treats tucked into lunchboxes were made in our family kitchen, and to this day there is nothing better than my Mum’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies (I’ve adapted it so I can eat it too…) or my Dad’s recipe for melting moments (this one is a gluten free work in progress).

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always ate well. Vegetables every night for dinner, carrot sticks and fruit for snacks, and no sugary breakfast cereals. Going out for dinner was a treat, and my sister and I would get all dolled-up when Mum and Dad took us to the local KFC or Pizza Hut for dinner ‘out’. It might seem funny to other people that we considered these restaurants an occasion to dress for, but when I was a little girl I knew that those were splurges for our family, and so proper attention and care should be paid.

This is a lesson that I have carried through my life. When I go out to dinner, I enjoy the ritual of planning a proper outfit, putting on make-up and perfume, and showing respect for the time I get to spend with my dining companion/s.

Little sis and me in the kitchen

I was a chubby child. Once I hit about eight my height didn’t quite keep up with my weight and so I grew into what I call a ‘pleasingly plump’ child: pure genetics at this point. Until I hit about fourteen it didn’t really bother me overly much. I just accepted that I was larger than my (still) fairy-sized sister, and that all the kids at my school came in different shapes, colours, and sizes. Although there were some at school who would tease me, I was okay. I spent many of my lunchtimes buried in a book anyway. The characters went on adventures where no one cared what brand of clothes I wore, or that I couldn’t play sport, or that I was the child known as ‘teacher’s pet’. King Arthur, the knights at his round table, and I went swashbuckling across England to defend Camelot; Tamora Pierce’s characters showed me worlds unknown; Terry Deary entranced me into non-fiction wonder with Horrible Histories; and, Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth were female role models when I was looking at what sort of lady my parents would want me to be.

I digress. Up until early high school food was just something yummy. Something I didn’t give much thought to except that I was okay with eating Vegemite sandwiches for lunch everyday, that I liked red apples not green ones, and that I was the chocolate flavoured anything and Jess was caramel.

Food was family meal times, and love packed in a lunch box.

Spring cleaning: the mind

My enthusiasm for spring has wound its way through my last few posts. They are peppered with references for my love of clear skies, new flowers, bright sunshine, warmer days, and the promising bounty of the season. Another part of spring that I am fond of is spring cleaning. Although I tend to accumulate a lot of stuff (especially books and papers), I actually do enjoy a good clearing out. Shedding the weight of possessions that keep us rooted in past worries is a rebirth that does not have to be reserved for the turn of the season. A few weeks ago I set out on a mission to throw out some old magazines and paperwork that was no longer of any use, and to make room for the magazines that I just can’t seem to stop buying.

Amidst the old university documents (I really don’t need another paper I wrote on nutrition for kidney disease, do I?), assorted recipes (safely filed away now), and screen-printed Google maps for places I now know off by heart, I found evidence of heartbreak. Evidence of malice, punishment, and depression. Documents from an oppressor. Namely, me.

I have had a long and complex relationship with food. There have been stages in my life where it was comfort, and stages where I controlled it to achieve my weight goals. There were times when I used bingeing or restriction as a punishment. As each piece of paper, each record of that time, hit the bottom of the recycling bin I felt a weight lift from my shoulders, a cloud’s shadow blow away from the sun.

Now, with spring and its spirit of new beginnings making a bright and promising start, I feel the need to share my story. Expose the stages I have been through in my quest to live in harmony with food and my body. There is a common irony that many food bloggers have had issues with food, and it is true that many of us choose to share our journey online. Now I too wish to share my story, not necessarily in the pursuit of helping other people (although that would be a nice side benefit) but rather to commit in a public space, to the final clearing out of these cobwebs that have haunted me for so long. To shed the weight not only from my body, but to finally own where I am in my journey, the peace I have achieved and the challenges that I still face with what I put on my plate.

A confession. An absolution. A commitment.

So stay with me over the next few days while I tell you a story. The journey of a girl who circled her way around loving food with some challenges on the way.

I have called it ‘The 5 Fs of my food relationship’:

  1. Family and food
  2. Full of food
  3. Fitness and food
  4. Fear of food
  5. Friends with food

Please, leave comments, and questions, and (if you feel comfortable) your life experiences, in the comments section below each post. Part of a thoroughly nourished life is taking the time to weed the garden in time for the new season’s growth, so here I go.