Nutty Rice

magnesium rich foods

I was recently asked for a way to get folks and children to eat brown rice. “Disguise it with yummy additions,” I said. Or use the recipe below:

So far it hasn’t met with rejection.

[Just don’t tell anyone this is actually Brown Rice for then staunch haters of brown rice will gobble this up!!]

Brown rice is a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, manganese and B group vitamins as well as fibre s it is quite disappointing to see folks/children reject it based on its taste. This recipe complements its nutty flavour.

Nutty Brown Rice

saute onion and celery
saute onion and celery

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Season to taste
  1. Heat oil in heavy saucepan and saute onion and celery fro about 3 minutes till onion becomes transparent.
  2. Add pine nuts and cook over low heat for 2 minutes or until they are lightly browned.
  3. Add the rice, stirring well until the grains are well coated with oil.
  4. Add the Stock, Thyme and Bay leaf and bring to the boil .
  5. Cover saucepan and simmer until rice is tender and all the vegetable stock is absorbed. This will take about 45 minutes.
  6. Season if desired.

Variations: –

  • Add 1.4 tsp cumin or Turmeric towards end of cooking.
  • Leave to cool, then add beansprouts and serve as a cold rice salad.
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Lemons – The Good News

Why are Lemons a Good Thing to Have?

Acidic by nature, lemons and limes are alkalizing once eaten, due to their high alkaline mineral content. It is not the pH of the food in its natural state, it is the effect it has on the body that is important.


Delicious in a lemon cake, or freshly squeezed over vegetables, salad or washed, sliced and left to permeate in drinking water, here are a few of the benefits of lemons:

Benefits

  • Lemons are antiseptic
  • Lemon water aids digestion and can ease heartburn and bloating
  • Lemons cleanse and stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Lemon juice contains calcium, magnesium and potassium
  • Lemon juice has been known to relieve asthma
  • Because it is high in Vitamin C, warm lemon water is a favoured remedy for colds/flu
  • Lemon juice is a great skin cleanser
  • It can kick start one’s metabolism when taken first thing in the morning.
Lemons

Tips

  • Always wash your lemons thoroughly to remove any residual spray – or purchase organic lemons. Even better, plant a lemon tree of your own.
  • Just be sure not to clean one’s teeth for at least half an hour afterwards. Otherwise, the enamel on your teeth might begin to break down.

Click on the title of any of the Cakes/Cookies listed below for recipes of delicious and easy ways to incorporate lemon into your diet.

Scroll further down for a no-fail Lemon Cake recipe that I can recommend.

Lemon and Ricotta Ring Cake

IMG_20150215_161353 (Small)

Lemon Madeira

lemon madeira

Lemon Biscuits

Lemon Cheesecake

LEMON CAKe Recipe

(from The Australian Woman’s Weekly)

INGREDIENTS

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
  • ½ cup (75g) plain flour
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk – fill to within 1/8 Inch of brim of measure with milk, then top up with lemon juice

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to moderate (180°/160°C fan-forced)
  2. Grease a deep 20cm round or large loaf pan, then line the base with baking paper.
  3. Beat the butter, rind and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined between additions.
  5. Stir in the sifted flours in two batches with the milk.
  6. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake in a moderate oven for about 35 minutes or until the cake is cooked when tested.
  8. Allow cake to stand for 15 minutes before turning the cake onto a wire rack to cool.
  9. Pour icing (see below), over cake whilst still warm

Note: I don’t make icing or a topping, as the cake is sweet enough and nice enough without, but if you wish to make it, and add even more lemon juice, here it is……

Icing

Combine ½ cup (125ml) lemon juice and ¼ cup (55g) caster sugar in a jug and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour the topping over the cake whilst it is still warm from the oven.

This cake is suitable to freeze but not suitable to microwave.


Eat Like the Japanese

It seems like the only people I have seen in Japan carrying extra kilos, (Sumo wrestlers notwithstanding), has been more often than not, Australian tourists – like me! I was thinking that there was something in this. Perhaps it should be a wake up call for Aussie lifestyle and diets.

At breakfast the morning after our arrival, the reason why Japanese appear so lean was becoming obvious. But first we had to make it to the breakfast restaurant.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm, or Does It?

Factoring in that there was two complexes that make up the Washington Shinjuku Hotel, I became a tad concerned about how busy the restaurant might be, particularly at breakfast time.

Arriving promptly at the buffet restaurant at the allotted time, would be the best way to stay ahead of the crowds all wanting breakfast at the hotel in Shinjuku, or so I thought. But this is Japan.

Booking.com photo credit

So when the lift doors opened to the 25th floor, it seemed that my concerns were totally unfounded. Only a few people were waiting at the restaurant’s entrance. They had even provided a couple of chairs for us. How thoughtful, I mused.

Then it dawned on me. Chairs? How long could the actual wait time be?

It was as if they were reading my mind, because an attendant quietly placed a cardboard clock on the counter, indicating a wait time of 30 mins to be seated for breakfast. Oh!

But it must be wrong I thought, as there was only one couple ahead of me, wasn’t there?

Several minutes later, we were ushered into a specially assigned waiting room…. full of guests waiting for breakfast. Water, mints and reading material was provided. This was a little concerning! When was breakfast?

All was good though, because a mere 20 minutes later, we were invited to enter the restaurant. I was still impressed by the Japanese organizing capabilities. A waiting room – great idea!

JAPANESE ORGANIZATION


We were given breakfast cards to keep and use at our table. An ingenious concept that I had not seen before. Just flip your card depending on your status, ‘Having a meal’ when you take one or those,’ more please,’ trips to the buffet and ‘End of Meal’ when you leave.

No confusion or wasting table space with empty tables waiting to be cleared of dirty dishes, in the restaurant. Such a clever idea. So Japanese and so organized.

Breaking the fast

Endless varieties of lettuce featured at the buffet

As well as a slight obsession with fresh lettuce, (so far the single most recurring food theme of this holiday), an array of pro-biotic fermented foods such pickled kelp, mustard greens, dried plum and leeks featured significantly at the breakfast buffet.

I was starting to see more reasons why Japanese have a healthy diet.

You had to be super quick if you wanted to try these Deep Fried Fish Balls and the cooks could not keep up with the demand for Gyoza. Two foods that are probably not that good for the waistline.

I wasn’t sure what the above delicacies were. Apart from the greens, it looked like leeks, some kind of breakfast cereal on the left and beans and pasta in the middle. Any ideas?

I focused on the pomegranate juice; (at least I think that is what it was), but I could not altogether resist the American style donuts and had to satisfy my curiosity with a Japanese Sweet Potato Cake, ( bottom left in the photo below). Yes I was satisfied – but the cake was a little too sweet to eat for breakfast, but still quite delicious!

The view from the buffet window might have taken my breath away, but it did nothing to assuage my appetite. Plenty of walking was scheduled for today, so that would work off the donuts, wouldn’t it?

More about our day, walking over 15 kilometres around Shibuya next time.

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Turning Japanese

How do you spend two weeks travelling Japan, with a teenager in tow, during the season of the ‘Crimson Leaves?’ By seeing incredible nature and having numerous experiences, good, bad, funny and serious, but all of them, unique. In fact, sometimes I felt like this old eighties song:

Leaving Australia

I was a little unsettled by a shaky start when we arrived at the check-in counter at the airport for our departure. Miss Teenager Now Adult suddenly realized she had left her passport at homer.

“Why didn’t I check this myself?” I chided myself inwardly, as we made a frantic phone call to a family member, who lived nearby.

They came to the rescue with a hasty trip to the airport drop off zone! Lucky they live so close, I thought! Apparently even flight attendants occasionally forget their passports, (and it’s usually at Christmas time), at least according to the Airport Ground Steward!!  He did not seem especially sympathetic to forgetful Staff, but was a tad more reassuring for Miss Teenager Now Adult. She responded to this kindly reassurance by slipping back into the standard mode of ‘parents are so embarrassing / awkward teenager,’ reproaching me sharply with a instruction to, “Stop Talking Mum,” albeit in hushed tones so the Steward would not overhear.
However, her surly adolescent mood was placated when confronted with a chirpy and upbeat check-in clerk, who offered us a Business class check in, as a thank you for trialing their new facial recognition software. “I hope this new software isn’t costing jobs,” I gently admonished as we zipped through passport control.

First Impressions

This wasn’t my first trip to Japan; although it had been some time since I had been in Tokyo itself so I was anxious to see how much had changed since my visit 14 years before.

On touching down in Narita, we were escorted to a luxury limousine electric van, the comfy, serene interior of which made for a silent sixty minute glide/drive to Shinjuku, our destination for the next three nights.

As bedazzling as the metropolis outside the window was, I felt certain the quiet interior of the limousine belied the sounds outside. Endless streets of high rise skyscrapers, a sea of commuters on the streets and buildings lit up like Christmas trees wizzed by our window, in a never ending parade.

Inside the glass encased megaliths, I could see Japanese citizens still working hard at their desks, even though it was 8.30 in the evening. A diligent population!

Food


Miss Teenager Now Adult was not at all keen to eat anything for dinner. For some reason, she seemed to have lost her appetite on the plane. Rationalizing that she needed to eat something to sustain her energy levels for the following day of planned walking, we ventured down to the main streets of Shinjuku, and found convenience stores variously called: ‘Family Mart’ or ‘Ministop’ or a little ironically, ‘Lawson.’ I let out a sigh of relief when we bypassed the temptations, on offer, in the street vending machines. It seems that Japan has brought that range to an absolute art form, as you can see in the photo.


Little Miss chose to eat noodles and potato chips, [surprise, surprise], which certainly required her to use a few detective skills to discover which flavour might be similar to her Aussie preferences. Of course, she remained unconvinced Green tea flavored Noodles or Matcha Potato chips would be welcomed by her thoroughly Australian digestive system.

To our surprise and delight, she was so impressed with one flavour, (something akin to sour cream and chive flavored potato chips), that she promptly posted a ‘Two minute noodle and chip review,’ on Snap chat, her favorite social media platform. They must have been impressive, I guess.

As for me, I grabbed a humble ‘sanger,’ featuring a large amount of lettuce. Being a former vegetarian, I loved the tribute to green matter on the Family Mart sandwich. Basically it was a lettuce sandwich with a tiny amount of ham and cheese, rather than the reverse! Yay for lettuce! I was later to discover lettuce and greens were a recurring culinary theme on this vacation. No wonder a Japanese diet is considered healthy.

Hotel Shinjuku Washington

Our Hotel room was most likely large by Japanese standards, but more than adequate for the two of us. We were perched on the 23rd floor, so the view was nothing short of spectacular.

Our view

As with most hotels and indeed traditional Ryokans, Japanese accommodation comes with almost everything one needs, so you can ‘go light’ with your luggage. As well as complimentary disposable guest hairbrush, hair ties and toothbrush, Q-tips, Nail files and other hygiene tools for personal use, we were supplied with complimentary slippers and Pajamas.

But be warned the pajamas/yukata, supplied, are unlikely to feature in a fashion magazine, any time soon, so they ARE for personal eyes only…. hence the reason I didn’t take a photograph of me wearing them! [Think time warp to retro hairdressers of 1950’s and you would not be too far off]. Having said that, the pajamas and the Washington hotel itself, was extremely comfortable, and provided us a good dose of our required beauty sleep, only surpassed by breakfast the following day. But more of that, another time.

Washington Hotel Shinjuku

Close to Shinjuku station, Meji shrine and Gyoen National Garden and Metropolitan Government Building

Chome-2-9 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Described on Google as a “straightforward hotel offering a refined steakhouse & a posh restaurant with city views.”

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Last Minute Christmas Ideas

Decorations are in the shops from August in some places, carols are playing over the speakers in shopping centres, and Christmas comes earlier and becomes more commercialized every year.

Even kids are organized early, these days. When my children were younger, a lengthy Christmas wish list of various items ranging in price from in expensive to earth shattering out of my budget, expensive, would appear on my bedroom wall, about a month before Christmas Day. Just in case I was unsure of what exactly to buy for them for Xmas. 

Kids growing expectations of Christmas gifts

There is expectations around gift giving now. Mind you, can’t really blame the kids for trying, even if the follow through does not reach such dizzying heights.

Humbling was the child from a family, at school, who said, when asked what they got from Santa, “A new lunchbox for school.”  Did this pull at my heart strings?  Oh yes, indeed. Makes me think of many possible alternative options for low cost or free activities, as gifts, that one can request and give for Christmas.

(Write these up onto pretty gift cards, placed in a “surprise bag” and could be pulled out by each child/ adult, as a kind of lucky dip/Christmas game)
* A warm and cosy evening/day spent doing whatever each child wishes, one on one, without disturbances from computer, phone, mobile phone or Ipod, Ipad etc etc.  It might be a board game, cocoa and a chat, playing games, like hide n seek, or pictionary/ monopoly.

* A Christmas themed movie or power-point presentation for Grandparents and/or extended family

* Building a cubby house, go cart, or raft together. This can be as complex or as simple as you like: the full wooden hammer and nails bit, or a large cardboard box.

* Sewing or embroidering a calico/reusable plain shopping bags, with permanent markers or paint

*Make low cost decorations for the tree with pre-printed felt, ribbon and glue.

Embroidery star decoration
Simple – cut out printed felt or embroider and glue to make low cost decorations

* Making the Christmas cake/ lolly or cookie jars to give to others.

* Setting out tea light candles all along your street and letterbox dropping others on surrounding streets to do the same. We do this and call it ‘Santa’s highway’.

Tivoli

* Making a card or memory album for Grandma

* Constructing a year in my family chronicle to give out to family members at Xmas with recipes, funny stories, and photos.

* Challenge the kids to present a puppet show or play to family members on Christmas Day. Make a video to give to them when they are older

* A talent quest for family members with a Christmas theme

(Chocolate Prizes for all entrants)

* Swimming or running races or even Trampoline competitions if you have one

* A Forest hike

* A walk or play on the beach, perhaps with the promise of ice cream afterwards.

* If the kids are into books, a trip to the library or bookstore or book exchange

Lucerne christmas

There are plenty more ideas available on the net or in books, so these are just a few that came to me, off the top of my head. This kind of experience will stay in a child’s memory for longer than the short lived joy of getting a cheap plastic toy that may be broken/forgotten in a few months time.

Christmas need not be super expensive. Be creative and have fun, and still be giving a priceless gift that has the bonus of being environmentally friendly.

These activities will surely be something kids might ponder about when they reminisce about Christmas past.

Ways to save money this Christmas and still have fun with the family.

How do you manage Christmas spending?

Have you got a way to save money and still have fun with the children?