Archive | May, 2012

Taking time to just be

30 May

Last week, I chucked in my job. My body was telling me to give it a break. My mind was craving a new challenge. And my spirit – my poor spirit – was silent, waiting to be granted the freedom to soar.

I’ve realised I’m not good at the 9 to 5 gig. I feel boxed in, like a little bird with clipped wings. And when I feel caged, I squirm and squawk until I finally undo the latch and give myself the permission to just float. To just be. And to trust that all will be well. My wings will grow. They’ll flap. I’ll find a new nest.

It’s now the middle of my first week as a ‘proper’ freelancer and, for the first time in a long time, I’m breathing. Not short, shallow, stressed breaths. But deep, nourishing, nurturing mouthfuls of air.

I’m still busy – incredibly so – with exciting new projects and many challenges. But it’s a busyness that I’ve created myself. I’ve chosen those clients, I’ve welcomed the work and I feel like I’m in an endless forest of opportunities, rather than a little wire cage.

For the first time in a long time, I actually feel in control of my life. And when I’m in control, I treat myself well.

I’m sitting still. I’m closing my eyes to meditate. I’m up early each day to cook a fresh brekkie. I’m slowly sipping tea. I’m listening to lovely tunes. I’m baking with wholesome ingredients. I’m not spending much money. I’m dreaming about India…

Of course, I should have lived this way while I was working for an employer. I’m sure many people don’t have to quit their job to feel the way that I am. But for me, freelancing fits.

I’m in a good place. Just letting things be.

Scrumptious sugar-free berry muffins

28 May

I’ve undertaken a bit of a baking bonanza. Since discovering sugar-free substitutes and other handy whole foods, I’ve been whipping and whirring and mixing and stirring and licking the bowl of a whole range of delicious treats.

It’s fun chucking chunky heaps of ingredients into a bowl and seeing what works. I’ve never been one to experiment with cooking, but now I’m leaving the measuring cups and tossing everything in with wild abandon (a bit like my life at the moment, actually!)

Here’s a quick treat I whipped up yesterday, while Sex and the City played in the background. I’ve written the measurements, but you can also throw it all together like I did and adjust until the mixture is gloopy.

Presenting…my scrumptious sugar-free berry muffins

What you need

  • 3/4 C xylitol (or another sugar substitute)
  • A heap of frozen berries (I used a mix of blueberries, mulberries and raspberries)
  • 1/2 C coconut oil (or another vegetable oil)
  • 1 egg, whisked lightly
  • 1 C full cream milk
  • 2 C wholemeal self-raising flour (or a gluten-free substitute. You may need to alter the wet ingredients if substituting the flour)

How to make it

  • Preheat oven to 190C
  • Mix the flour and xylitol in a large bowl
  • Toss in the berries and stir (it will turn purple/red immediately)
  • Add the milk, egg and oil
  • Stir it all together with a big metal spoon
  • Pour the batter into muffin pans. I used silicone pans to avoid greasing.
  • Put the pans in the oven for 20-30 mins. Test by poking a skewer or knife into the centre of a muffin. If it comes out clean, your muffins are ready!

Wait til the muffins have cooled before serving. I cut mine open and placed a chunk of organic salted butter inside.

You can keep the  muffins in an airtight container, or freeze them in individual zip-lock bags for a quick and easy snack.

Enjoy! 🙂

Paleo-inspired slow-cooked lamb shank smoosh

24 May

I’m nearing the end of my first sugar-free week and I’m feeling pretty good. My stomach hasn’t cramped and I haven’t experienced the 3pm slump I got the first time around.

While banning the sweet stuff, I’ve also decided to cut out grains. Just to see. I  know that whenever I eat starchy, processed foods, my gut groans and my tummy twists for hours. And all your encouraging comments on my previous post have spurred me on to keep this up. So thank you!

Of course, cutting out food calls for new recipes and a little research. While Googling, I discovered that the Paleo diet subscribes to the no-grains, no-sugar thang. Followers of the Paleo (or primal) diet stick to meat, eggs, fish, nuts, fruit and vegetables. Essentially, anything our ancestors could grow, source or kill.

Presenting…my slow-cooked lamb shank smoosh

Armed with this new info (and heaps of online resources and recipes), I set out to create a scrumptious lamb shank ‘something’ in my beloved slow cooker.

Slow cookers are fab. You can throw almost anything into them, go about your day and come back 8 hours later to a hot and delicious dinner. Best of all, you can cook in bulk and freeze a few portions.

What you need

Here’s what I chucked in:

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • A couple of carrots
  • A few onions
  • A handful of green beans
  • 1 can of whole roma tomatoes (organic, with as few ingredients as possible)
  • Some sprigs of rosemary & thyme
  • A pinch of oregano
  • A few slices of garlic, pushed into slits in the shanks
  • 2 cups of water
  • Loads of pepper and a dash of salt
  • A little all-purpose seasoning
And here’s how it looked before I flipped the switch:

Sweet potato mash

While that was simmering and stewing, I prepared a pot of sweet potato mash. Here’s how:

  • Cut sweet potatoes into small chunks and place in a medium-sized pot
  • Add a few sprigs of rosemary
  • Cover with water and bring to the boil
  • The potatoes are done once they are soft (check with a fork)
  • Remove the rosemary
  • Drain the potatoes and transfer to a bowl
  • Add a big dollop of organic butter, some salt & pepper and a pinch of basil
  • Grab a masher and pound those potatoes ’til they turn mushy
  • Put the bowl in the fridge

Taa daaaaaaa!

What to do next

Once the lamb shanks are cooked, skim any fat off the surface and freeze into individual portions. I also kept a couple of bowls in the fridge for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch.

And this is what I tucked into tonight:

It doesn’t look very pretty, but it was a lip-smacking bowl of smooshy goodness. And the best bit is, I now have leftover lamb bones to make into a stock (more on that in a future post). I’ve also got a week’s worth of meals for less than $5 a dish.

Bon appetit!

I can’t believe it’s not chocolate!

23 May

Brr, winter is well and truly here in Sydney. The summery skirts and singlets have been packed away and I’ve pulled out the trusty tracky-dacks.

When it’s cold, I crave chocolate. Usually the hot variety. I grew up drinking big mugs of Milo and, while I haven’t tasted the chocolate powder in years, I still like a steaming hot mug of sweetness in the evening as I curl up on the couch.

But I’m giving the no-sugar thing another go. Which means I’ve been on the hunt for chocolate-free drinks that taste (almost) like the real thing.

And I’ve found it!

It’s called Miessence Berry Radical. It’s a scrumptiously sweet, delightfully delectable sugar-free powder that turns into a rich chocolatey drink.

It’s choc-full (see what I did there?) of super-nutritious ingredients: raw cacao, acai and goji berries and several other berries.

Best of all, just one teaspoon of the super substance contains over 4000 ORAC units (this stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which measures the overall antioxidant qualities in food). You’d need to eat more than SEVEN SERVINGS of fruit and vegetables to get that! Sarah Wilson chats a little more about these benefits here.

You can buy it online here. I raised my eyebrows at the price, but you only need to plonk a teaspoon into your mug and mix with hot water. Or, do as the Aussie manufacturers say and add it to your smoothie for a chocolatey flavour. And really, when the alternative is scoffing cheap sugar-laced chocolate that makes you feel bleugh, I prefer spending a little more on a healthier treat.

Enjoy!

Today I…have the dreaded sugar comedown

21 May

They look so sweet and innocent…

I co-hosted a garden party for my nearest and dearest yesterday. I whipped up vanilla cupcakes, topped with pink and yellow butter-cream icing. Chocolate coconut slice was laid out on platters, alongside chocolate crackles, carrot cake and other sugar-laden goodies.

It was a delightful day and I indulged in a little bit of everything. Even though I’d been easing myself back into a sugar-free diet in recent weeks, I felt I deserved a little treat.

And then…part way through a conversation, my speech sped up. I felt anxious and my hands were shaking.

It had arrived – the sugar high.

I was flying! What a feeling! My friends and I, filled with food, got the giggles and collapsed on the couch in fits of laughter. I reached for another cupcake, another hit. Weeee! More sugar!

And then…after everyone had gone home and the last dish was washed, I slumped. I was utterly exhausted and had to drag myself off to bed.

It had arrived – the sugar crash.

Ugh.

I crawled under the doona, looking forward to a restful night’s sleep.

And then it was 1.30 and I was still wide awake. With sugar surging through my body, I twitched and tossed and turned, willing for sleep to arrive.

What was going on? My body was depleted, it needed sleep. Yet my brain was on an endless treadmill of thoughts. I tried reading, I tried meditating. Nothing would switch it off.

On top of that, my stomach was a sickly, swirly pit of nausea.

Eventually, I drifted off. And I woke up feeling terrible.

It’s a frightening feeling, having little control over your body. Desperate for sleep but being unable to switch off. Having such a potent substance swirling through every system. I can see now why David Gillespie calls it ‘sweet poison.’

Quitting sugar…again

I’m going to view yesterday’s gorge-fest as a final hurrah. A salute to sugar. Thanks for the fun (and the crappy hangover!), but now this body needs to get back to living cleanly.

Armed with a stack of sugar-free recipes, Sarah Wilson’s new ‘I Quit Sugar Cookbook‘ and a fresh resolve to fuel my body with fresh, natural foods, I’m side-stepping sugar.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been researching the effects of sugar, and the benefits of fats, and come to the conclusion that I should cut out fructose and  see if it works for me. See if my body sings.

I’ll share my ups and downs with you as I give the no-sugar thing another go.

I don’t view my previous attempts as failures. I simply wasn’t ready to accept the change. Now, the message is stronger. The proof – yesterday’s scary surge and slump – more convincing.

This time, I’m going to go gently. I won’t force the change or wallow in guilt if I slip up. But with each meal and every snack, I will ask myself: “Does this food fuel my body with natural nourishment? Why do I want to eat this? Will I feel better or worse after eating this?”

Have you quit (or attempted to quit) sugar? How did you find it?

My latest love – coconut oil

15 May

Today, I smell like a coconut. I’m wrapped in a lovely coconut cocoon, with the smell taking me back to my recent trip to Thailand.

I picked up a couple of bottles of coconut oil before flying out of Koh Samui. There, the oil was slick and runny. After the 10 hour plane journey home, and the cooler temperatures here in Sydney, it solidified. But I simply pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds to melt it into a glorious pool of oil.

Lying on my yoga mat, I slather the glossy grease over my limbs and across my torso. I massage it into my temples and breathe in the tropical scent. Sometimes I even play a soft sound in the background. It’s the ultimate relaxation ritual and my latest obsession.

Here are some other wonderful ways to use coconut oil:

  • Work a small amount through your hair, focusing on the ends. I find it nourishes my locks more than Moroccan Oil. Just don’t use too much or leave it on for too long, because your hair will look like it’s constantly wet and you’ll smell like a cake. A 10c piece size on your tresses for a few mins should be enough.
  • Rub it over stretch marks, scars and cellulite. I’ve already noticed a smoother and more even skin tone.
  • Add it to a salad or to your cooking. Apparently, coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that help regulate your weight and reduce the risk of heart disease. It may also help with IBS symptoms and aid digestion, thanks to its anti-microbial properties.
  • Soak in a coconut oil bath. I don’t know if this is a good idea; I just made it up.  But it sounds heavenly!

So what are you waiting for? Go on, grab a bottle and come join me in coconutty heaven!

A prayer for mums past and present

13 May

I didn’t spend Mother’s Day with mum. I would have loved to, but I couldn’t get the time to take the trip north.

Instead, I packed up a little box of CDs and a small elephant I’d bought in Thailand and shipped it up to Mum’s in time for today.

She unwrapped it as we spoke on the phone and told me about the odd jobs she’d be doing in the afternoon.

I spent the day doing the same – cleaning out the oven, mopping the floors, Googling sugar-free recipes and laying low.

Friends were at family functions, treating their mums and tweeting the evidence. My Facebook feed was filled with photos of high tea and cake. Mums and daughters hugging. Love.

Mother’s Day is a lovely way to celebrate the selfless souls in our lives. The women who have given and continue to give us their love and endless encouragement and support.

Today I whispered a prayer and wrote a note to my dear friends who are without their mothers. I asked God to wrap angels’ wings around them, to comfort them and sing them a sweet song. Just like mum.

I can’t pretend to understand their loss, so I won’t write about it. Instead, I am writing this post to honour mums who have passed. I pray for their peace and for the children they left behind. Let their love forever linger.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

xx

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