blogging

Aromatherapy Products

The use of essential oils for therapeutic and cosmetic use has become popular, in recent times. Many different Aromatherapy products are readily available to the consumer, some that are detrimental to the environment.

So do any aromatherapy products stand out from the ‘crowd‘?

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

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.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Aromatherapy Product Review

About Utama Spice Products

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.”

Being a graduate of the Environmental Sciences, I like to discover businesses, such as Utama Spice Natural Aromatherapy Products, that can maintain sustainability and a low environmental impact, all whilst working harmoniously and respectfully with humanity and nature, to produce a quality product.

Thus, I was delighted to trial a gift basket of just a few of the many Aromatherapy products, from Utama Spice, based in Bali, Indonesia and found their products to be a beneficial and therapeutic asset in, and around, the home.

N.B. The products contain:

  • No Synthetic Oils
  • No Synthetic Fragrances
  • No Artificial Colours
  • No Synthetic Preservatives
  • No Surfactants

Liquid Soaps and 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. Based on natural products like coconut oil and beeswax and infused with essential oils to lock in moisture, the aptly named WellKiss Lip Balm was a standout favourite.

The Tangerine and Peppermint Lip Balms were very much appreciated by my daughter, in the windy Spring weather that we frequently experience, living here, by the coast. I can imagine we will be thankful for that level of protectiveness for the lip areas, come wintertime.

Utama Spice’s range of Liquid Soaps

The Man of the House found Lemongrass Liquid Soap was excellent for showering and bathing and that the fresh scent lingered pleasantly in our bathroom, after use.

Or, if you are looking for something a little stronger to use on tougher cleaning jobs, Utama Spice also has an Antiseptic liquid soap, with the benefit of Neem Oil, as an active ingredient to knock down germs.

Body Butter Moisturizers

For those needing a more intensive moisturizer for ultra-dry skin, you will find an application of the Tropical Flower Body Butter, after showering is excellent on cracked heels, as well as those rough spots on the knees and elbows.

therapy products

Moisturizing Soaps and Lotions

As we have been recently planting lots of lavender at the Home by the Sea, I suppose it is no surprise that the family’s overall favourite Utama Spice Aromatherapy product, was the Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.

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 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.

Three varieties of Yoga Mat Spray
Photo Credit: Utama Spice.com

All the products at Utama Spice are based on traditional Balinese herbal knowledge and comprise 100% natural ingredients.

I was really pleased to read that the company maintain strict procedures to ensure the products and the raw materials are checked at every stage, guaranteeing the highest standard of quality control.

Customer Service

The company maintains a friendly relationship with its customers and conducts prompt shipping, 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 to customers worldwide.

Please note that I received no monetary incentive for this review.

It is the unbiased and honest opinion of StPA.

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blogging

Defining You, Yourself and Your Worth

The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.

Michelangelo

That was enough for Michelangelo who had exceptional talent.

For most of us, we judge ourselves more harshly.

You are so much more than your thoughts, your past mistakes, your age or appearance or some character trait.

You are completely unique and really, that is enough in this world.

Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul.

Henry Van Dyke

Charlotte Joko Beck said, “To enjoy the world without judgement is what a realized life is like.”

Our media is constantly judging everything around us and in so doing, influences our own judgements in how facts are presented.

Can you imagine a day without judging any one person or any one thing?

Pure acceptance on all levels? A healthy, open mind.

I will leave the final word this week for Sunday Sayings to a Zen proverb:

“You are already complete.

You just don’t know it.”

Something worth pondering about

Australia, Community

Something to Smile About

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.

Because…….

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.

blogging

Lavender

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.

Lavender is the plant the keeps on giving.

Amandinelavender.com.au

Opening hours may vary due to Covid. Ring ahead to check.

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blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Open the Doors

“The best time to open the door to the cages we’ve built around ourselves is now.  Live your dreams while you are able.”  Lisa Dorenfest

from Eric/ka at https://behindthesceneryphoto.com/
french doors

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
proverb

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.”

front door

The door is open.

Book review, Traditional Art, Travel

Easter in Norway

norway

Norwegian Easter Traditions

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.

Norway
Tradition Norwegian embroidery decorates the windows

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.

Norway

Beitostølen

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.

Mountain cabin
A Norwegian Hytte

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.

snowy mountains
Norway

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

Skiing Bitihorn Beitostolen Norway

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.

Rosemalt kubbestol

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!

Hand-painted-Easter-eggs-from-Budapest

Wherever you are in the world, you can still travel virtually. When are you going this Easter?

In the words of Norwegians, God Påske.

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Linking to Trent’s #Weeklysmile

Easter Holiday Norway Fieldfare CabinNorwegians, 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.

Easter Holiday Norway skiingAnyhow…

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Early morning sunrise photography
Food, History & Traditions

Cook Eat Repeat Challenge – Healthy Breakfast Eggnog

I have been following Moons’ blog, Bits and Pieces for some time now and read her post on a traditional form of Chai style tea that originated from Calcutta, as well as the beautiful traditions that surround this drink and its preparation. She’s challenged the blogging community to write about a drink that is a favourite or one that has a special meaning, for you.

sverige
Stockholm

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.

craft
Placemat upcycled to a teapot cosy

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.

eggnog
Photo Credit: best-eggnog-recipe/

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*
  1. Break the egg in a large mug and whisk vigorously with a fork.
  2. Add the sugar and whisk again until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract and mix through.
  4. Add milk and whisk thoroughly until combined
  5. Grate nutmeg on top to cover with a small grater
  6. Enjoy!

*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.

strawberries

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:

sandy beach
Community, Mental Health, Motivational

Exercise – I hate it, so I found a solution.

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.

Stradbroke Island
Adder Rock

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.

black and white sepia beach

Balance

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.

jump happy

Hatha Yoga

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.

https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/types-of-yoga/hatha

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.

Digestive Benefits

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.

Immunity

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.

daisy

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.

handstand on sandy beach

More subtle forms of yoga aid and prepare for a meditation that may relieve stress and benefit the body, mind and you, the soul.

Here is how to reduce stress via some simple meditations you can do at home.

For more specific poses for knee and back pain click here at this blog

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Namaste

Community, Food

Minestrone Soup Recipe

vegetables

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.

Minestrone

Minestrone

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.

vegetables

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.

Recipe – My Minestrone

  • 1 tbspn Olive Oil (cold pressed virgin olive oil is best)
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Onions, sliced and diced
  • 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
soup

What you can do whilst watching TV or listening to some good music, otherwise known as the:

Method

  1. Begin to heat the stock in a large saucepan.
  2. In a separate pan, saute bacon, onion and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes, and add the stock.
  3. Add prepared vegetables and basil leaves to the pan and saute for about 3-5  minutes depending on the quantities used.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!  
  6. I like to remove the Bay and celery leaves at this point, otherwise it is difficult to retrieve them later on.  
  7. Add the dried pasta, herbs and seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook for about 8 -10 minutes. It should be starting to smell oh-so-good!!!    
  9. 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
  10. Add around extra 1/2 – 3/4 cup stock or water, to thin it down a little.
  11. 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!

soup
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Food

Work Lunch Done – Quinoa Salad

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!

Forgot to edit out the brand name – sorry.

“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. “

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa

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.”

vegetables tomato salad

Problem #1:

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 I should have approached the task.

Easy, right?

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†

Ingredients:

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

Dressing Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil

4 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

Method:

  • 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.” 

https://www.livescience.com/51324-spinach-nutrition.html

*Lorelle’s Vegan option: Substitute water for chicken stock and omit honey in dressing.

How to Prepare Quinoa

Rinse Quinoa under running water prior to cooking to get rid of saponins, which are found on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor. Some brands may have already been rinsed.

2 cups (240 ml) of water/chicken stock in a pot, turn up the heat.

Add 1 cup (170 grams) of raw quinoa.

Boil for 15–20 minutes.

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Superfood Salads are Something to Ponder About for Work Lunches

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Community, History & Traditions

Sunday Sayings – The Soul

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”

Dorothy Day

Scallops and waldorf salad
Scallops salad

My daughter asked me yesterday, ” What really is the ‘soul‘?” Her intellectual brother-in-law quipped it was part of a shoe, and his partner added that it was the Capital of South Korea! But I knew what ‘soul’ she was referring to, but I’d never really explained it in simple terms before, so I was momentarily speechless.

bird

Each time I tried to define that immaterial part of a human; that spirit self which we might deem to constitute a soul, I found it was difficult to explain without using some kind of religious reference. And I am not religious!

In order to find clues that might point to an explanation of such existential matters, I turned to the traditional proverbs and sayings. As usual, they were a good source of information.

Some proverbs intrinsically link the concept of a soul with nationhood and language, identitiy itself, perhaps. This appears to occur across a variety of the world’s cultures, and ones as diverse as Scottish Gaelic and Irish, to Malay, Spanish and Indonesian.

Bahasa jiwa bangsa. Bahasa menunjukkan bangsa.
Language is the soul of a nation. Language represents the nation.

Indonesian Proverb
Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck

Apparently, King Solomon tied the concept of a ‘soul’ to personality traits and interactions with others:

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind;

it is destroyed when you are cruel.”

Whilst Aristotle is thought to have said:

The soul never thinks without a picture.”

the Mexicans contrastingly focused on what nourished the soul:

Conversation is food for the soul.

Mexican Proverb

and it was the Polish that thought mostly of its expression:

Conscience is the voice of the soul.

Polish Proverb

What does the concept of the ‘soul’ mean for you?

Do the sayings reflect the relevance of the meaning of the word today?

Does one’s soul play an intrinsic part of your identity, or is it significant in determining your values, or life’s purpose?

Or is it rather only an ethereal, mystical entity of which you feel detached from, in real life?

I invite you to join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important. What is yours?

Mostly anonymous, proverbs are a portal through time to generations past and echo a diverse range of cultures. They speak of the experiences of many lessons learned and the wisdom from thousands of lives already lived. They offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton.

Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

orange and cinnamon cake
Cakes, Community, Food

Ten Minute Orange Cake Recipe

Reminiscing about my Danish Grandmother who used to cook Orange cake for Sunday afternoon tea, I remembered how, as a child, I looked forward to visiting her house as I could smell the aroma of baking, as we arrived.

Anyone can find ten minutes to spare, right?

How long does it take to post on instagram with all those hashtags that must be included?

You can abandon convenience food a.k.a. supermarket style prepared cakes, in favour of a freshly baked treat and know that it is not difficult nor time-consuming.

And it tastes SO much better!

This cake took me less than 10 minutes to prep, due to speedy preparation in the processor.

Then you simply wait for the oven timer to ring, while you check your social media or email and voila! Time for tea!

Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon this quick and easy recipe will have your mouth-watering for more. Apart from the sugar content, and a small amount of necessary butter, there are no extra unhealthy ingredients; plus it has the advantage of a bit of Vitamin C and delightful orange flavour.

Processor Orange Cake

A cake that is good for you! Yay!

Delicious as is, there’s no need to add any frosting or topping, eat it straight out of the oven.

A dusting of vanilla/icing sugar, or a simple mix of icing sugar and small amount of juice to soften to a clean frosting would be a nice option, if you aren’t counting calories or sugar content.

recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Caster or fine grain sugar, but ordinary sugar will do.
  • 1 cup Self Raising flour (Self Raising flour is the same as 1 cup plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 2 tablespoons extra of normal plain flour
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) soft butter
  • 2 eggs

Method:

1. Combine sugar, flours, and orange rind in food processor with butter. Blitz sporadically until just combined.

2. Pour Orange juice through the chute with motor on.

3. Add eggs and blitz till smooth. Not too much though or your cake won’t be light.

4. Pour into well-greased bar tin (something with a base about 12 x 22cm/ 5 x 9 inch) that has been lined with grease-proof or baking paper.

5. Bake in a Moderate Oven 180º C, ( 375º F), for 40 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Ensure the cake cools for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack.

If would be nice with a Cream Cheese frosting.

When you are unsure of what to serve for tea, let them eat cake –

Orange cake – No fuss to ponder about.

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xanthostemon chrysanthus
Community

Sunday Sayings

Happy Mothers Day to all the Mothers in Australia for today. I also wish a Happy Mothers Day to those who wanted to be Mothers and couldn’t and all those who have strained Mother – child relationships.

Often it is Mothers or Motherly figures, who have plenty of experience in maintaining perspective as well as minimizing negative emotions. The Dalai Lama does as well.

  • Perspective
sweden border

“Disregard small issues.

The most important skill in staying calm is not to lose sleep over small issues. The second most important skill is to be able to view all issues as small issues.”

The Dalai Lama

  • Negative Emotions

“Anger, jealousy, impatience and hatred are the real troublemakers and with them, problems cannot be solved. Though one may have temporary success, ultimately one’s hatred or anger will create further difficulties.”

“Negativity is never the solution.”

The Dalai Lama

Is it Mother’s Day in your part of the World?

Several years ago, I became fascinated with traditional proverbs and sayings, their metaphorical layers and the many different interpretations found within those succinct few words. I marveled at their ability to transcend race, religion, opinions and age.
Mostly anonymous, they are a portal through time to generations past and echo a diverse range of cultures, and the experiences of many lessons learned and the wisdom from thousands of lives already lived.
They offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton. Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.