As one on the periphery of the ‘Boomer’ generation, I am slightly hesitant to use nouveau cuisine ingredients in my meals. However, as my adult children grow and in-laws arrive at family dinners, I need to cater to vegan, coeliac and pescatarian palettes, so I’m aiming to be versatile, making some low-calorie alternatives such as Edamame-fritters. Add to that, organic and Vegan menu options are appearing in lunch venues across the country, so the heat is on to keep up!
Yesterday, I dined on a wonderful dish of Edamame and Avo Smash comprising Mixed Beets, Beetroot Hommus, roasted hazlenut dukkah and plant based marinated feta, on toasted sourdough. It was delicous and the combination of colour made me remember my kindergarten days! It looked fantastic.
Edamame beans are immature soybeans and mostly found in Asian style dishes so using an unfamiliar ingredient such as this usually has me reaching for a recipe. Today, that wasn’t necessary.
Two cans of Edamame beans were looking a little lost and unwanted in my pantry and avocados are currently in plentiful supply and contain the good fats, so I seized the opportunity to recreate my own version of the Edamame and Avo Smash for lunch – sans mixed beets and hazlenut dukkah. I could hardly wait to eat it, as indicated by the missing bite in the photograph!
Do you use embrace new and unfamiliar ingredients in your cooking?
Edamame Beans Nutritional Content
They contain protein, but they also contain carbohydrates, that all important fibre, a number of essential amino acids and of course they’re low in fat and sugar and contain no cholesterol at all. They’re also a great source of minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, copper and manganese, plus they pack a punch with the vitamins too, such as Vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E. Shelled, they weigh in at 110 calories for a 100 gram portion.
The Little Tree Bake and Brewhouse nestled in the Samford Valley, to capital city Brisbane’s west, sources and incorporates local and sustainable produce into their seasonal menus. Everything on their menu is bespoke, made from scratch in our kitchen and very own bakery.
The use of essential oils for therapeutic and cosmetic use has become mainstream in recent times. With a multitude of aromatherapy products to choose from, which ones stand out from the ‘crowd‘?
What are the real benefits of using products with essential oils?
How are Essential Oils Created?
Essential oils are extracted from plant material using steam or water distillation. Selected plant materials are heated with steam, water or both until the essential oil vaporises. The oil then condenses as it cools.
Being a concentrated plant oil, they should be used sparingly and always diluted in some other medium, such as plain massage oil (cold-pressed vegetable oil) or unscented base cream (but not a mineral oil cream, such as most brands of sorbolene or baby oil)…Aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, should never be ingested (taken in by mouth), as they can be toxic.
All the products at Utama Spice, an all-natural skincare company, are based on traditional Balinese herbal knowledge and comprise 100% natural ingredients.
The farming communities in Bali, Indonesia, produce the raw materials for Utama Spice’s natural skincare products and in so doing, support local farmers in organic farming, bee farming and seaweed farming.
The company believe: “if you wouldn’t cook with it, you shouldn’t put it on your body.”
As a graduate of the Environmental Science, it is a joy for me to discover a business, such as Utama Spice Natural Aromatherapy Products, who offer a high quality, sustainable product with a low environmental impact, one that is ethically produced in harmony with nature and respectfully for humanity.
Furthermore, I was delighted to read the products contained:
No Synthetic Oils
No Synthetic Fragrances
No Artificial Colours
No Synthetic Preservatives
I found the Aromatherapy product range from Utama Spice, based in Bali, Indonesia to be a beneficial and therapeutic asset in, and around, my home. All the benefits of the essential oils are available, beautifully presented, in an easy to use pump pack.
Utama Spice Lip Balm
Being someone with sensitive skin, it was refreshing to find the Utama Spice Aromatherapy lip balms and liquid soaps were highly moisturizing, with no hint of dryness or irritation.
With all the benefits of natural ingredients like coconut oil and beeswax, infused with essential oils to lock in moisture, the aptly named WellKiss Lip Balm was a standout favourite for me.
The Tangerine and Peppermint Lip Balms were very much appreciated by my daughter, in the windy weather that we frequently experience, living here, by the coast. The whole family will be thankful for that level of protectiveness for the sensitive lip areas, come wintertime.
Utama Spice Liquid Soaps
The Man of the House found Lemongrass Liquid Soap excellent for showering and bathing and that fresh scent lingered pleasantly in our bathroom, after use.
If you are looking for something a little stronger to use on tougher cleaning jobs, Utama Spice offers an Antiseptic liquid soap which has the benefit of Neem Oil as an active ingredient to kill germs.
For those needing an intensive moisturizer for ultra-dry skin, an application of the Tropical Flower Body Butter, after showering, is an excellent remedy for cracked heels, as well as any rough spots on knees and elbows.
Moisturizing Soaps and Lotions
Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.
I suppose it is no surprise that the Home by the Sea overall favourite Utama Spice Aromatherapy product, was the Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.
Yoga Mat Energizing and Sanitizing Spray
Yoga mats can become notoriously grotty if you’re using them outdoors, so the compact size of the Utama Spice Yoga Mat Energizing Spray, was brilliant, meaning I could keep it in my handbag, for regular use after Yoga and exercise sessions.
The added bonus of knowing the essential Oil of Lemon, Bergamot, and Mint were helpful in sanitizing the mat was most reassuring, especially given the current Covid pandemic.
Quality Control of Utama Spice Aromatherapy Products
The company maintain strict hygiene procedures to ensure the products and the raw materials are checked at every stage of production, thereby guaranteeing the highest standard of quality control to create a well-made, but still handcrafted, natural beauty product.
Utama Spice Customer Service
Utama Spice maintain a supportive and friendly culture with its customers and shipping is prompt, with tracking options for orders at no extra charge. With a flat rate of $10 shipping, (free for orders over $100-AUD), the location is no barrier for customers worldwide.
If you have any issues with your order they will go above and beyond to make sure you are completely satisfied.
Discounts and giveaways are offered to customers who subscribe to their website.
Utama Spice Products Product Review Recommendation
I am very happy to commend their products to you and was thrilled with their products. I will be ordering more supplies.
So much for social distancing, I thought. Notwithstanding our relative safety here in Australia, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic.
We’re allowed to attend social events again and in my state in Australia, we’re even permitted to sing, (something not all states, are allowed to do as yet).
How fortunate are we? Believe me, I do not take this for granted.
Apart from providing our contact details at all venues, society here has, by and large resumed to B.C. levels, [i.e. – before Covid]. Just in time for all that Christmas and New Year’s Eve revelry.
Until now, people were still hesitant to get close to one another. Would social distancing and clean hygiene practices be ditched for the sake of socializing and enjoyment in 2020, now a vaccine was on the horizon?
Being one of the unlucky ones with a respiratory system prone to serious illness, I was more than happy to continue to ‘elbow pump’ people, in the greeting that Covid made fashionable, until the ends of time. Hugging friends had become a thing of the past for me.
The 2020 pandemic, as well as my recent retirement, has meant that I’ve escaped the annual torture of suffering with each year’s strain of ‘Influenza’, as well as various bugs and infections that are an occupational hazard of working, as I did, with young children. 2020 was, for me, far healthier than previous years.
In fact, I’ve not seen a Doctor all year. Yay for me!
Fast forward to this year’s New Years Eve. Much of Australian society is back to normal, except for bans on large gatherings, as in city fireworks displays. *[Mind you, I still can’t fathom why Cricket and football matches in stadiums are exempt from this ban. Is there an invisible force field that protects sports spectators from the pandemic?]
My plan for celebrating 2020 NYE at the Home by the Sea, involved attending a Karaoke Dinner at a local restaurant, with around 8 of my neighbours and friends. Dutifully, all of us scanned in our particulars, using the QR code on the table, upon arrival, for the purposes of contact tracing should anyone come down with the dreaded ‘Corona’ virus. We then looked forward to an evening of singing, good food and company. And it was indeed a fun night.
Yet, my heart did skip a beat as the waiter removed our individual plates after the first course, stating that the rest of the seven courses, would be served from disposable paper boats. Therefore, we should hang on to our cutlery, for the duration of the evening. Share plates of cheese and crackers and dessert had my hygiene radar twerking mildly, as did my wonderment at our used knives and forks scattered ominously across the table between courses.
Was I being a little paranoid about germs?
Singing into the Karaoke microphone, shared with 30 or so other drunken folk, was not encouraging for hygiene either. I couldn’t find a disinfectant wipe for the mic, anywhere on site, although there was plenty of hand sanitiser at the bar, which was well utilised. After my allotted drink or two, I relaxed, as did many others and begun to really enjoy the evening.
Abba, Shania Twain, Queen and Pink tunes were an absolute hoot to sing and really got everyone joining in with gusto. It was as if the floodgates of pent-up social energy had opened, energy they’d been harbouring for much of 2020.
Around Midnight, whilst our table was chinking glasses at a socially approved distance, a recent acquaintance I knew sitting at an adjacent table walked straight over to me, hugged me and without any warning landed a big sloppy, slightly drunken kiss, on my cheek.
“Eek! What if she has Covid?” was my very first thought.
To say the kiss felt strange, was an understatement. Something quite natural a year ago, now felt like a personal violation!
To put this into context, I haven’t kissed anyone other the ‘Moth‘, since the pandemic began! The legacy of Covid means I’ve not even kissed my elderly parents and now, this felt so – weird and wrong! Quickly noticing my shell-shocked response, the lady did offer a swift and heartfelt apology. But the damage was already done. A day later, I had my head perched over the toilet bowl/bucket, throwing up. The usual New Year’s Eve ‘Gastro’ Virus had found me. For many years, it appears regular as clockwork, in that first week of January after the New Year’s Eve parties. Was it the kiss, the unsanitised microphone, or just coincidence? Surely not the alcohol?
The silver lining, I could say was this 24 hour ‘wog,’ helped me lose some of those extra pounds I’d gained over Christmas. However, the dynamics of physical contact with friends has now completely changed in society.
Now recovered and back at the keyboard, I pondered the events as they unfolded. More worrying for me than getting a mild case of ‘gastro,’ was that folks are so quick to abandon safe hygiene practices and social distancingin the name of fun.
As far as the pandemic goes, we are not out of the woods in Australia, yet.
If you want to find other blogs of interest and read fun, uplifting and positive things that are happening in the world, head on other to Trent‘s collection of Weekly Smiles.
We all need good news stories at the moment. Right?
This week I joined in on a free Qi Gong Exercise class on the beach at sunrise. This group practises every day at the same time, and the best part is that it is totally free. No strings attached, no hidden agenda, just a wish to have a community activity that would include and welcome all.
It started with a few ladies who were going through Breast Cancer rehabilitation and has grown to include a dedicated group of instructors and attendees. The oldest is 88 years old and is an instructor on the weekend. She pulls in the bigger crowds. She is inspirational and takes me to task, in a gentle way, if I am not doing the exercise correctly.
And although it is gentle – meditative almost, I feel it in my gluteal muscles the next day! So it has to be doing something.
And I am still smiling.
The other surprise I had was to receive a generous gift of aromatherapy lotions and creams from Utama Spice in Bali. This is the first free gift I have ever received as a blogger so it certainly made me smile. It was the perfect timing as I was just writing about lavender at the Home by the Sea, recently.
Farming and rural communities are doing it tough in these times. Most of us recognize that.
You will be be delighted and surprised at the hidden gems found in many country towns and rural areas that were formerly overlooked by the overseas obsessed traveling public. Amandine Lavender is one such gem near the central Queensland coastal town of Bargara.
Those seeking a safer alternative to traveling overseas can not only support farming communities by making a day trip but also include rural towns, as holiday destinations.
Amandine Lavender Farm, Seaview Road, Bargara.
Around four hours drive north of Brisbane, Australia, or five minutes from the famous Turtle Rookery at Mon Repos, you will find Amandine Lavender farm, along Seaview Road at Bargara. See how the lavender is grown and utilized into a vast array of therapeutic and beauty products on sale at Amandine’s gift shop. Online ordering is coming soon.
Formerly a family sugarcane farm dating back 3 generations, the falling price of sugar encouraged the owners to diversify into growing lavender and developing a new business venture. The owners have transformed a pretty potting shed and garden into a flowering lavender paradise.
Amandine Lavender Products
The lavender product range includes soaps or oils, sprays and creams as well as soothing lavender sleep and relaxation balm, excellent for tension headaches, which I carry in my handbag at all times. Old favorites like sachets of dried lavender for pillows, wheat packs, or to hang in the wardrobe to keep pesky moths away from one’s clothes, are also on offer.
At Amandine farm, you are encouraged to pick as much lavender as you can carry in your hands, to take home with you. Enjoy the relaxing scent of freshly cut lavender in your own home for days after your visit.
Then when the flowers started to droop, cut them and hang them upside down to dry out. They can them be used as dried flowers or sprinkled in sachets for the wardrobe or undies drawer. Lavender foliage can be trimmed and used for propagating new lavender plants.
How to Grow Your Own Lavender
Amandine has self-guided propagation activities in their garden potting shed but you can always grab an information leaflet and try cultivating lavender, at home.
When to Pick and Trim Lavender
Spring flowering lavender should be cut in Spring whilst the winter flowering forms should be picked in autumn in order to take advantage of the best time to grow lavender from existing plants.
Cultivation of Lavender
Cut a leaf tip of lavender, about two inches, or 5 -8 cms long, dip the end in a rooting powder (available from nurseries or larger supermarkets), and place in a good quality potting mix. Water it in, then cover and seal with a plastic bag, setting it aside for a few months.
After several months, you will be delighted to find you have created new lavender plants of your own, at no cost.
Lavender plants do prefer a dry soil; they don’t like to moist ground for too long. That is why they prefer coastal climates and have not problem tolerating windy conditions.
Conveniently, these are the conditions we have at the home by the sea. I will be potting out some more of these hardy and highly perfumed beauties soon.
Before you panic, I’m not advocating opening up borders and businesses in the midst of a pandemic. Far from it, I err on the side of caution and conservatism when it comes to nasty bacteria and viruses.
Rather, I am referring to opening the door to our minds and our lives, which often stays closed, to the present moment.
The Present Moment
When old friends get together, they reminisce about the past. Older people love to chat about those heady, carefree days of youth. Their stories are tinged with regret. Regret that they didn’t do more, see more, love more.
Why is it we close our mind to really seeing the world around us, as each moment passes by, a moment that we will never be able to fully experience again? Many of us appear to prefer our own thoughts and stick with thinking that revolves around plans, or worries, for the future, and regrets or reminisces about the past.
When our minds are fixed in the mental construct that is the past or the future, we are more likely to create anxiety within ourselves.
Our Public Persona
Most of us have secrets and thoughts we stash away in the far recesses of our mind. We rarely show our complete self to another person. Presumably for fear of rejection. Because rejection hurts. So we present a public face and persona to the world and our private self is only for the movie that is running in our own minds.
It seems we now prefer to see what everyone else is doing, via the medium of a glass screen than to be involved in life, with all our senses.
Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world that occurs when we’re afraid it will hurt us or let us down. Cynics always say “no.”
If we always say no, we miss out on learning and growing. Saying yes leads to firsthand experience and knowledge. “Yes” is for strong, open-minded people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”
Marc and Angel
Why are we ignoring the immediate world around us?
Could we be preferencing cynicism over wisdom?
As Marc and Angel state,
“Accepting some level of risk in life is important. Everything you want to do takes daily practice.
Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.
Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to remember years from now.
Make decisions and act on them. Make mistakes, fail and try again.”
Easter is a time when Norwegians head for the hills, or in Norway’s case, the mountains.
Most families have a cabin they own in the ‘fjeller’ – or mountains, decorated in traditional Norwegian ‘Hytte’ style. ‘Hytte’ means cabin, plural ‘Hytter’, in Norwegian.
Hytter are timber cottages decorated with Norwegian crafts such as Traditional Rosemaling Art, woodcarving, weaving and embroidery, with mostly rustic interiors, fitted with benches topped with reindeer furs, (sitteunderlag), and other traditional furnishings.
Norwegian ‘Hytter’ Mountain Cabins
Hytter, or cabins, are quite rudimentary houses, partly because of the remoteness of their locations and partly due to the Norwegian tradition of getting back to nature. Visiting a family mountain cabin at Easter is a therapeutic time for Norwegians to ski, breathe in the fresh mountain air, relax and for a short time, not rely on everyday modern conveniences.
So when I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Hytte in Beito, high up in the Norwegian mountains with Norwegian friends, how could I resist?
The area known as Beito is part of the community at Beitostølen, an elite skiing location where the likes of the Norwegian Olympic ski team spent their time. Norwegian-Australian friends who heard I was going to visit Beitostølen, were quite rightly jealous, reacting with comments like,
“That is where the ski team practice.”
“Do you realize how lucky you are to be going to Beitostølen?”
I did. It was different to any other holiday I had experienced.
The Hytte at Beito comprised three timber cabins, with adjoining composting toilet and washroom; that would later hold a shower at some point in the future.
The cabins, themselves, were not equipped with running water, so we sponged ourselves using a bucket, with water sourced from the nearby spring. Fetching the water is a chore that would traditionally be delegated to children.
Living as I do in Australia, meant things like fetching water in the snow proved to be a novel experience. I was the first to volunteer for this task as it was another chance to be outside in the hushed, cosy silence of the snow-covered hillside.
If it meant I was to traipse through knee-deep snow to collect water, those mediative moments of silence, amidst the breathtaking mountain scenery, inhaling fresh Norwegian air and hearing only my muffled footsteps, were merely a comforting, restorative practice for me.
Norwegian Hytte Meals
Hytter meals are simple, apart from breakfast. The traditional hytte breakfast is a feast of eggs, salmon, cheese, bread, jam and vegetables, such as cucumber and carrot and also perhaps some yoghurt/kefir or waffles. Our bodies needed lots of food, ostensibly, to keep warm and active out in the snow.
Lunch is almost non-existent, but really after the filling Hytte breakfast, who needs lunch? A Norwegian chocolate bar, known as a ‘Quiklunsj’ (Quick lunch), or an apple, would suffice.
Dinner is mostly a laid back affair of home-made soup, cold meat such as lamb or boiled sheep and bread, or ‘Lompe’ – basically a hot dog, with a bread-like wrap made from potato flour, cooked on the outside barbeque or grill, of course.
Things to do at the Hytte
We spent the daytime out of doors, unless it was snowing heavily. We skied, tobogganed, slide down snowy slopes with the ‘akebrett,’ a paddle like slide, or the snow bike; walked about in snowshoes, built snow castles, threw snowballs and made plenty of snow angels, and snow “candles,” just because.
Once darkness arrived, it was time to ‘play’ inside, talking, drawing or Rosemaling – another Norwegian tradition, which is actually my great passion. If it was snowing hard outside during the day, there would be more Rosemaling as wells as card games or puppet shows, for the children. We read books too, as there was no TV, nor phone reception, unless you visited the grocery store a few miles away.
To get into the full spirit of the Norwegian Easter experience, I read one of the rivetting crime novels from Norwegian crime fiction author Jo Nesbø to complement my surroundings. He is a compelling writer and if you have not come across him before, you can read a Book Review.
The Hytte was good, clean fun and a really healthy, energetic holiday.
Was it cold by Australian standards?
Yes, but did I like it?
Absolutely. I loved it.
Being at the tail-end of a Norwegian winter, the weather towards Easter is generally calm, without storms. After a cold night, the sun could be so warm, my face became tanned!
During these sun-filled days, the Norwegians would enjoy sitting against a sunny wall, their face upturned towards the sky, taking in much needed Vitamin D that their bodies had missed during the long, dark winter. They even have a word for this kind of activity: Solveggen.
Warming the soul and the body!
This is what the Norwegian Easter did for me, too!
Wherever you are in the world, you can still travel virtually. When are you going this Easter?
Norwegians, Easter, cabins and crime literature belong together like horse and carriage – a tradition that started over 90 years ago. Here you can find out how to celebrate a typical Norwegian Easter.
First: Ensure that you have skis – either bought or borrowed. Also, make sure you have ski wax even if you are not sure how to use it. There is always someone along the tracks that can help a ‘forlorn wretch’.
When it comes to clothing it is important that it has red color, preferably with a home knitted wool sweater that smells of last year’s bonfire.
But wait a minute. If you do not know it already: Norwegians love skiing, especially at Easter, and many go several miles to their cabins where to spend the vacation. Surprisingly many people ski into a different era where outdoor toilet, drafty cabins and totally deserted landscape are considered paradise.
I do like drinking tea and now I have access to tea suppliers selling specialised leaf teas, it won’t come as a surprise to hear that I enjoy a cup of ‘Stockholm blend’ tea – (goodness, even my house is called the ‘Stockholm Design’ by the Builder). But it is not tea, that I will be writing about today, but a nutritious drink that makes a great breakfast food – a powerhouse of nutrition on the go. Perfect for busy people and kids.
Traditional Juletime Egg Nog
For many European and Americans, Eggnog is a popular drink to have at Christmas. Harking back to a 14th century concotion called Posset – a kind of curdled milk mixed with ale, Eggnog and cold, winter days just seem to go together. Maybe that’s the added whisky or rum that warms the body and the soul, perhaps? The link below is for the traditional Christmas Egg Nog recipe from Jamie Oliver, but my drink is altogether different.
As most know, or might suspect, I live in a warm climate and as such we don’t have the need to have warming drinks to get us through a snowy morning.
My take on EggNog is completely non-alcoholic, is chocked full of nutritional goodness and makes the perfect start to your morning, especially if you don’t have to time to cook, or eat, a hearty breakfast.
My version of Egg Nog looks the same as in the above picture but is way easier to prepare, packs a punch nutritionally and is suitable for children as well as adults, as there’s no alcohol added.
Healthy Breakfast Drink
Many of the working population are rushed! There’s no time to prep a cooked breakfasts. Others might not feel like eating early in the morning and can only face black coffee! This twist on the traditional egg nog prepares your body and mind for the day, fills the tummy and takes seconds to prepare.
Kid Friendly Breakfast Egg Nog Recipe
1 – 2 Eggs depending on your mug size
1 teaspoon Sugar – Caster sugar dissolves faster
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Milk – can be almond/coconut/full fat/skim or soy
Whole Nutmeg * – freshly ground from the whole nut*
Break the egg in a large mug and whisk vigorously with a fork.
Add the sugar and whisk again until the sugar dissolves.
Add cinnamon and vanilla extract and mix through.
Add milk and whisk thoroughly until combined
Grate nutmeg on top to cover with a small grater
*One of my kids used to get a little confused calling nutmeg – egg mut. Whatever works we thought – regularly calling it ‘egg mut, ‘ until they became teenagers.
Breakfast Egg Nog Variations
Fruit Egg Nog: -Add raspberries or strawberries, even mango and pulse in a Nutribullet or blender, for a fruity, vitamin filled hit!
Choc or Mocha – Add 1 teaspoon cocoa powder and/or coffee diluted with a little boiled water for those with a really sweet tooth or coffee cravings.
Nutritional Benefits of Egg Nog
As well as the milk component contributing to the dairy and calcium RDA components in your diet, ingredients such as eggs and spices round out the benefit of a daily Egg Nog drink, (without the alcohol).
One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. The egg is a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Nutmeg is low in Cholesterol and Sodium, is a good source of Fibre, and Manganese and support mood, digestion, sleep, good skin and brain health. It may also lower blood pressure. But don’t binge on it. Too much may not be so helpful.
Start the day with a Breakfast Egg Nog or Egg Nog Smoothie! This drink works equally well in filling up children’s tummies at afternoon tea time. This stops them snacking on junk before dinner!
Join in with Moon’s Cook Eat Repeat Challenge here:
When you live in a hot climate, exercising is hard. The will to jog or pump iron in the blistering heat of a steamy summer’s day, is almost impossible to find.
Entering my fifth decade, I discovered that if I didn’t exercise regularly and followed my ever increasing sedentary lifestyle, my body and its joints quickly became stiff. The flexibility and mobility of my youth was lost. As we age, many of us find this loss might even become permanent, if we don’t find a way to move.
Balance is also the first of our senses to deteriorate with the passing years, so it is vitally important to find a way to preserve that sense of balance, for as long as you can. How many older folks pass away or deteriorate after a fall and the consequential broken hip?
Gentle Exercise with Benefits
If you find the prospect of jogging or hard aerobic exercise unbearable, as I do, Yoga is the perfect way to begin an exercise routine and achieve some gentle movement, in your body. If you are able to devote a few minutes each morning or even three times a week, you will find that before too long, your body will begin yearning to stretch.
The best thing about Yoga is that it is designed for people of all ages and levels of fitness. The beautiful thing about Hatha or most styles of yoga, as opposed to the punishing regime of Bikram or hot yoga, is that it is not competitive. You work at your own pace, listening to your body, gradually encouraging it to stretch and strengthen when it’s ready.
Hatha Yoga practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit.
But don’t think you won’t get any sort of workout in Yoga if you like something more challenging. You can choose to push your limits, if you are able, but you will do it gently and safely and calmly. No stress, no over reaching your body. Just gentle stretching.
Practising Yoga not only keeps you fit and toned, but provides innumerable benefits to the internal systems of the body as well. The many forward bending asanas, or positions, stimulate digestion and elimination.
Calming the Nervous System
Twisting poses and backbends stimulate spinal nerves, benefiting the entire nervous system but please start out small, very small, if you haven’t exercised for some time.
Yogic stretches and accompanying breathing techniqes are one of the best way to calm an over-stimulated nervous system, and with regular practice, you’re find that you are able to relax and face life’s difficulties more easily. Inversions – even as simple as forward bending and touching you toes, pump up your blood circulation and can even counteract depressive feelings.
The ancient Yogis believed that holding a ‘downward facing dog’ posture for up to 30 minutes could cure depression! Perhaps that is a stretch, (no pun intended), but I think holding a pose like this, would certainly distract anyone from feeling bad about themselves, albeit temporarily!
What is the Secret?
The breathing exercises incorporated in yoga, bring increased oxygen to the blood, which then washes through the body’s cells, rejuvenating them from the inside out. It is the squeezing and releasing of muscles within the many physical poses that then creates many of the bodily benefits.
Yoga asanas may also affect the glands and regulate the production of hormones, something modern medicine finds difficult to control without nasty side effects. In fact, hatha yoga does wonders for all systems of the body and for your general immunity.
Even a small effort at this form of exercise is repaid almost instantly with increased feelings of well being.
With regular yoga practice, you will quickly notice how your body feels lighter, livelier and more limber.
Depending on the Yoga exercises you choose to do, you can focus on improving your balance, strength and/or flexibility and general mobility.
More subtle forms of yoga aid and prepare for a meditation that may relieve stress and benefit the body, mind and you, the soul.
Before the southern summer heat vents its spleen and the northerners tuck themselves in for winter, a nutritious meal that might ward off cold and flu viruses that accompany seasonal changes, could be just what we need.
Such as Minestrone served with some crusty rolls/baguette slices.
There are a multitude of recipes for Minestrone out there, from basic to gourmet, but I tend to think the best for me, is a mixture of both. Something easy to prepare, easy to cook and simple to remember, especially when I am out shopping for ingredients.
Saute, simmer and sip…..that is my mantra when making soups. You don’t want to be fussing too much, nor for too long.
Minestrone Soup can be a complete meal in a bowl, providing plenty of protein, carbohydrate, minimal fat, green vegetables, lots of fibre plus vitamin C, A , B, beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc and more.
It is also a great way to use up those leftover vegetables that are heading towards their use-by date.
The recipe can be adapted to feed a hungry horde or a small two person family. Another advantage is that you can cook this in one large saucepan, if you wish (read: less washing up), or you may prefer to saute the ingredients separately. This is totally your choice.
2 rashers Bacon ( this is optional, if you want to keep it vegetarian)
500 ml (2 U.S. cups) Beef/Chicken/Vege Stock, plus 1/2 cup extra stock in reserve.
An assortment of vegetables which might include:
2 – 3 Carrots, sliced & diced
1/2 cup sliced cabbage
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, diced but keep leaves and top of stalk whole
1/2 cup Frozen/fresh sliced beans
2 zucchinis, diced into large chunks
1/2 cup Spinach, chopped roughly (frozen or fresh)
1-2 Handfuls of torn fresh basil leaves
440 g (15oz) Can Chopped Tomatoes
120g (5oz) tin Beans of your choice (cannellini, kidney or even a can of four bean mix)
1/2 cup dried Pasta* , preferably small shells/spirals but any pasta will do nicely
* Time-saving tip: Use leftover cooked pasta, instead of dried/fresh.
splash of red wine (optional)
2 Bay leaves
Herbs such as Oregano, parsley
Salt and Pepper
Shaved Parmesan cheese (fresh) for garnish
What you can do whilst watching TV or listening to some good music, otherwise known as the:
Begin to heat the stock in a large saucepan.
In a separate pan, saute bacon, onion and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes, and add the stock.
Add prepared vegetables and basil leaves to the pan and saute for about 3-5 minutes depending on the quantities used.
Add the chopped vegetables to the stock mix along with the whole celery leaves, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and red wine) and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 10 minutes – quite enough time to take a power nap, relax, change the playlist, check email, (although I don’t encourage the latter). You could even try some of the wine, if you decided to add some to the soup! Not too much, though, or you might forget to include the last few steps of the recipe!
I like to remove the Bay and celery leaves at this point, otherwise it is difficult to retrieve them later on.
Add the dried pasta, herbs and seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for about 8 -10 minutes. It should be starting to smell oh-so-good!!!
Drag yourself away from the computer, or the wine, to check on the stove! At this stage, it should look a bit like a thick casserole as opposed to a soup. You can leave it this way, if you prefer, or
Add around extra 1/2 – 3/4 cup stock or water, to thin it down a little.
Heat through, taste test to adjust seasonings, and serve, garnished with a little fresh shaved Parmesan.
Voila – A complete meal in a bowl and little washing up!
This salad has something a little different for ingredients and looks great on the table due to its intense color and flavour. All the more perfect and refreshing, if it is summer, in your part of the world!
If you are looking to make a quick lunch, possibly to take to work, and still have leftover that can double for a light and healthy dinner, then this Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad, I’ve adapted from Lorelle’s recipe might be a perfect option. [After all who likes a soggy sandwich for lunch, or has the energy to make a nutritious gourmet meal, when work finishes late.]
As the main ingredient was “Quinoa,” one of those buzzy superfoods that everyone is talking about, and I noticed a bag of tricolour Quinoa just begging to be used in my pantry, I thought I’d try it out.
In addition, this recipe has pomegranate and I do like pomegranate!
But first a little about Keen-wah, or Quinoa!
“Quinoa is gluten free, high in folate and Magnesium, and Manganese. Quinoa is (also) high in fiber, protein and has a low glycemic index. It has been linked to weight loss and improved health.
Red quinoa (which takes on a brownish hue when cooked) has a richer taste, slightly chewier texture, and somewhat nuttier flavor compared to white quinoa. It’s often the quinoa of choice for cold salads as it holds its shape better during cooking. “
“Quinoa is also high in B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.
These important molecules have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects in animal studies. “
Potassium has the added health benefit of, “protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.”
Lorelle’s wonderful recipe suggested using Pomegranate Molasses as an ingredient for the salad dressing. But where would I find that?
Not in the mainstream supermarket, that’s for sure.
Lorelle suggested I try to source it from a Middle Eastern Grocer. That required finding one first, and getting a free day to go there, so instead, I decided to adapt Lorelle’s recipe using some extra honey in place of the Molasses and adding a few of my own ingredients, that I had in my pantry.
Recipe on the go.
NB. I have included the usual way to prepare Quinoa at the bottom of this post.
Then I encountered another problem I had not anticipated –
Problem #2 –
How do I peel the pomegranate, and get those beautiful juicy capsules out?
How do you do that, I thought? Anyone have a suggestion?
There was a somewhat aborted attempt, by me, to cut the pomegranate in quarters and then scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon.
Those in Club Pomegranate ‘knowhow’, can probably imagine the slightly shocking scene that soon confronted me:
Tens of dozens of small ruby red pomegranate capsules flinging about in all directions over my kitchen bench and floor as I tried valiantly to scoop them out. To which, my son who had just arrived hoping for something to eat stood at the door of the kitchen, with his mouth gaping, pointing quizzically towards the floor.
What’s happened here? he said, his face aghast.
I looked down at the ruby red smears on my hands and all over the kitchen floor – quickly realizing the creamy-white tiles were now reminscent of a scene from a B grade Murder Movie. “I was trying to remove the pomegranate seeds,” I said. “But I am not quite sure how.”
The look of his face made me think he remained totally unconvinced I wasn’t killing some poor creature, for its meat.
Luckily for me, and somewhat late to the party, Youtube came to my rescue.
This is how Ishould have approached the task.
Only when you know how!
So Helter Skelter Scene averted, and tiles duly mopped clean, I was back to the salad.
I did add some other minor variants to the Lorelle’s ingredients list, so I do hope she doesn’t mind.
Here is how it turned out:
Looks pretty scrumptious and I am happy to recommend it.
Instead of sharing it with my family, who are prone to turn up their noses at strange new dishes, I took it to work, for lunch.
Work lunch – Done!
Here is the full recipe:
Chickpea & Quinoa Salad
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked Tri-colour Quinoa
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 ½ cups chicken stock*
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can corn kernels, rinsed and drained
1/2 punnet Gourmet Pecorina tomatoes,
(I used yellow and red ones for contrast)
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped mint
1 cucumber, [diced]
½- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan heat the Olive oil.
Add garlic and sauté lightly
Add Quinoa and stir over low – medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the chicken stock* or water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 mins or until water is absorbed.
Cool completely. Once cool, fluff the Quinoa to separate the grains.
Mix cucumber, herbs, and the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl, before adding the cooled quinoa and toasted nuts and seeds.
Mix all ingredients for the dressing together. Pour over Quinoa salad and mix well.
Serve on a bed of spinach* leaves for an extra nutritional boost of Magnesium, potassium, Vitamin K, A, and Iron.
* “Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium and magnesium, two very important electrolytes necessary for maintaining human health. Spinach provides a whopping 839 milligrams of potassium per cup (cooked). As a comparison, one cup of sliced banana has about 539mg of potassium.”