Stir fry: chicken and pork

stir fryI LOVE stir fry. It’s so quick to whip up, and it really packs a nutritional punch, with very little effort. Chopping vegetables can be incredibly therapeutic, and adding all the ingredients fuels my creative juices. I always feel energised after eating stir fry, too. Perhaps it’s because the quick cooking time reduces nutrient loss. Or perhaps it’s because of the combination of iron-rich vegetables and delicious organic meat. Or maybe it’s just my addiction to chillies, always liberally poured on top of any stir fry I make! The sweet fruit adds a delicious kick to this recipe.

Here’s a recent supper sensation:

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken thighs, roasted and chopped
  • Approx. ½kg pork neck
  • ½ a young, sweet cabbage, chopped
  • About 10 medium spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 – 3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 generous handful of raisins
  • A few cloves of garlic, to taste
  • Salt, paprika and ginger to taste

Method

  1. Gently heat olive oil in a pan.
  2. Sautée onions, garlic and spices for a minute or two.
  3. Add pork and stir fry until just brown – about five minutes.
  4. Add everything else except the chicken and raisins.
  5. Stir fry for about 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken and raisins, and heat for a few more minutes.
  7. Season to taste.

We served this with chilli onions and home-made mayonnaise.

Chococcino muffins

Chococcino muffins

Chococcino muffins

Experimenting a little with the delicious triumph that was our grain-free chocolate cupcakes, I decided to try chococcino muffins for an early evening kick. Here they are:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter – we used the delicious and imminently affordable macadamia nut butter at our local Spar, but you could use anything you prefer, or even make your own. I think sunbutter would work too, though you run the risk of the cupcakes turning green.
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ginger (optional)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp ground coffee
  • 4 tbsp raw honey
  • ½ cup raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the raisins in a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the raisins and pulse for a few minutes.
  4. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases.
  5. The original recipe I used said “bake for about ten minutes”. Ours took at least 20 minutes, so I recommend letting your nose guide you, and poking them with a stick when they smell done, to make doubly sure.

Grain free, sugar free, dairy free chocolate muffins (can be nut free)

Chocolate cupcakes - grain free and sugar free

Chocolate cupcakes – grain free and sugar free

This weekend has been a lot of fun for us! My friend is moving house, and we’ve had the joy of looking after her lovely kids for the weekend. She thinks we’re helping her. Heh heh. In fact, it’s all part of our evil plot to steal the adorable munchkins and keep them for ourselves!

Dexter, the young evil genius of the pair, decided we needed to bake chocolate cupcakes.  A super-quick Google search delivered a delicious-looking recipe for grain-free cupcakes, and a little inventive adding and substituting delivered my new go-to cup cake recipe (until the next one appears).

Chocolate Cup Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter – we used the delicious and imminently affordable macadamia nut butter at our local Spar, but you could use anything you prefer, or even make your own. I think sunbutter would work too, though you run the risk of the cupcakes turning green.
  • 1 small banana (optional but subtly delicious)
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ginger (optional)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 4 tbsp cocoa
  • 4 tbsp raw honey
  • ½ cup raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the raisins in a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the raisins and pulse for a few minutes.
  4. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases.
  5. The original recipe I used said “bake for about ten minutes”. Ours took at least 20 minutes, so I recommend letting your nose guide you, and poking them with a stick when they smell done, to make doubly sure.

I’m off to bake another batch … and fill out some adoption papers, I think. This full-house thing really works for me. 😉

SCD Updates (intro diet)

We’ve only been on the intro diet for two days. The guidelines all over the web say 2-5 days, but I think for the sake of all of our sanity we’ll transition into phase 1 tomorrow. I can’t tell you how appealing butternut looks right now!

Today I found this post, which helped motivate me a lot.

We’ve been very strict, although I did let the girls each have bananas today. Red Riding Hood has terrible nausea and vomiting, but there’s a bug doing the rounds, so I don’t think it’s related to the diet. As a result of the bug, she has only eaten the one banana and a little diluted pure fruit juice today, and most of that has come straight out again. Even so, her tummy is a lot less distended and hard than it has been up to now. Her eyes look clearer, too. I can’t say how she’s sleeping since last night was one of those hellish nights moms fear and dread.

Goldilocks has lost 2kg! This is a bit of a shock since she really doesn’t have any room to lose any weight. She has a headache and she’s been tearful most of today and part of yesterday. She didn’t seem to sleep too well, either. She’s hungry, which is a good sign since she often goes for ages not being hungry. She still hasn’t had a bowel movement, but it has only been two days, after all. Her concentration in school today was much better. (An awesome advantage of home education is that I can keep track of this myself).

Papa Bear is a bit tired and has a vague headache, but he actually seems really well – more motivated and “present” than usual. This might be a result of having more sleep since we’re pretty drained by the detox and we’ve been getting our eight hours.

I have a raging headache, sore joints and all over lethargy. Frankly, I want a chocolate bar, a pillow, and my privacy! But I know this is the natural result of yeast die-off. It’s well documented and frankly, I’m getting off lightly from what I’ve read. My skin is clearer and my tummy is a different shape – much less distended than it was on Sunday night. I am amazed at how fast it’s working!

The hardest thing to give up has been coffee. We can reintroduce that tomorrow though, so long as it’s weak. Apparently cocoa is a no-no, but I seriously need to investigate that! In three weeks it’s Goldilocks’ birthday. She learnt to ride her bicycle yesterday (YAY!!) and wants to go on a bicycle picnic for her birthday. I’m working on a menu for the picnic that is SCD-legal and party friendly.

I’ll update again at the end of phase 1, which should be in about a week or so. I’d love to hear from anyone trying the diet or considering it.

Update on costs

I was right when I said R165 seemed a little light for our family for a week. We had to top up yesterday, so week 1 is currently sitting at R210. Still not bad for our family.

SCD, Here we Come!

Alright, we’re ready. On Saturday we went shopping and bought everything we need for the SCD Intro Diet. This is supposed to last for three days (give or take a day), and it cost us R164. That’s really, really good for three days for our family, so I think perhaps it won’t last as long as I’m hoping. But some of that stuff will last longer than three days, like the eggs, so we’ll see.

I spent most of Sunday (the bits where we weren’t at Church), preparing for the diet. I have given my family their “last meals.” (Pies and crisps. I know. Don’t judge me). I have cooked up a gigantic pot of chicken-and-carrot soup, 36 meatballs, 8 bowls of grape jelly and a dish of purèed carrots. I also have 40-odd eggs in the fridge, just waiting to be breakfast!

Now, I don’t know how long this lot is supposed to last, but it feels like about two days’ worth. Except the jelly – that’ll get us through today only. Again, we’ll see. The intro diet is supposed to take between two and five days, so we’ll re-evaluate on Tuesday night and decide what to do next. I foresee another full day of cooking in my future, though.

Here’s what I hope to achieve from all of this preparation:

  • Fewer headaches (especially for Goldilocks and me);
  • Fewer stomach cramps (especially for Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood);
  • Better concentration (esp. Papa Bear and Goldilocks);
  • Fewer mood swings (all of us);
  • Better skin (mainly me);
  • Fewer allergic reactions (all of us but especially Papa Bear);
  • Fewer nightmares (Red Riding Hood);
  • Better sleep (all of us, but esp. Papa Bear and me);
  • More energy (the Big Bears again); and
  • Better focus.

When I list these like this they really don’t seem that serious. One might even wonder why we’re bothering with such a strict diet and lifestyle change. But the thing is that the headaches are really debilitating at times, leaving the girls in tears and me wishing I could get away with tears! The girls spend a lot of time doubled over in agony at their stomach cramps (and their relief is our demise as they expel the offending bubbles. Sorry to share but this journey is important to me and I need to remember as much of where we started as possible so that when I look back I can see real change).

My skin breaks out all the time. It’s painful and decidedly embarrassing, given that I really am too old for this kind of thing. I’ve even had to cancel client meetings because of my skin (or headaches, or tummy troubles). Papa Bear and Goldilocks battle to concentrate and often Papa Bear’s not even here, despite being physically present. He also battles terribly with hay fever, and his hay fever, tiredness and tummy troubles have kept him out of meetings and appointments, too. Not being able to concentrate affects us all and I imagine things can only improve if we have better moods and better focus.

My vision for the outcome of this new eating plan is that we will have energy, joy, focus, time (because of better sleep and better planning), success (because of more confidence and fewer canceled appointments), and all-round awesomeness. I know the beginning is very tough indeed, and I don’t expect it to be easy, but I am looking forward to the long term results. I’ll keep you posted.

So, why the coconut?

Cracked-open coconut. (Kimi’s, not mine).

Have I mentioned SCD? I’m sure I have and you’re probably like everyone else who knows me by now: over it! But whether or not you’re over it or you’ve never heard of it, it is fascinating and I can’t wait to get started. All I need to do is read the book, understand the book, and get started.

I have started reading the book, so I know that coconuts make up a big part of the diet. They are a good source of a lot of the things our bodies need, and easily digestible. Coconut milk can be used as a regular milk substitute. It can be turned into yoghurt, and used for smoothies and ice cream. The liquid inside the coconut is a valuable source of electrolytes and the flesh is delicious and multi-functional.

Empowered by all of this information and ready to act, I headed off to the green grocer and bought the first coconut I have ever personally owned. Nestled among the bananas (to make it feel at home), we admired it for a few days, then finally decided to depilate it on Monday morning. I had expected the process to take long, and I supposed it did, but not as long as anticipated. Removing the hairy husk was followed by driving a nail into the eyes to see if any liquid came out. It did not.

Next up was the extremely satisfactory process of hammering it open. I wrapped the coconut in a dish towel, took it outside, and holding it down firmly by the dish towel I hammered away with semi-gay abandon. It was fun. Highly recommended.

Once it was broken open, I faced the tedious task of scraping off the softish brown outside of the flesh with a sharp knife which, despite the element of danger, was rather dull. The blender served well to break the flesh into the recognisable consistency of dessicated coconut, though without so much of the dessicated. I really enjoyed discovering the thick, waxy white by product smeared on everything (not sarcastic, I promise), and used that to great effect in lieu of cooking oil for frying the onions I used for dinner.

Using the method I found here, on the wonderful Nourishing Gourmet blog, I made coconut milk. I thought it was delicious, and really enjoyed it in my coffee. It was a little thin, but I think that’s because of the ancientness of the coconut I’d bought, which had not even a drop of liquid inside.

Given the cost of the coconut, the labour involved, the sheer delight of hammering the thing open (which in my mind is worth the cost all by itself), the by products (“oil”, coconut pulp), and the health benefits of it all, I think this is a potentially worthwhile pursuit. I could have made more coconut milk by using more water. (I used two cups, then one cup, while the recipe suggests two cups, then two cups. That made 2.5 cups of coconut milk). I could also have squeezed the pulp harder to get more out, I later found, and I now know that I need cheesecloth. Is that stuff reusable? I should probably have let it stand in the water for longer too. Some people even simmer it gently, which I may try next time.

لذيذ! (Delicious!)

Bright and beautiful vegetables. So pretty.

I have no idea how to pronounce لذيذ but it is the Arabic translation of delicious (thanks, Google!). It’s appropriate for this post because it refers to the deliciousness of our Moroccan dinner this week. Enjoying cooking is a relatively new adventure for me, and thanks to the Internet, it’s possible – nay, easy! – to create virtually any concoction you can imagine. I had so much fun making delicious Moroccan Soup andHerby Flatbread(Click on the links – they’re worth a look and there are loads of other yummy things there, too).

Flatbread. Should it be quite so brown?

What made it even more entertaining was being assisted by DD#2 as she began the journey towards domestic mastery for herself. She’s so entertaining and uniquely, innocently wise. What a joy! We peeled and sliced and diced and chopped and mixed and stirred and then cleaned it all away. She also made me a miniature garden from roses and celery leaves, and populated it with a Lego village and Lego characters. Considering the available space in our cosy cottage kitchen, that is quite an achievement.

Steaming stoup.

I so enjoyed the language style of the recipe writers: practical and unfussy and really doable. Of course, in true Me-style, I substituted what I needed with what I had. And garlic. In fact, I wrapped most of a bulb of garlic in foil, drizzled it in oil and herbs, and roasted it in the oven as an aperitif. *Sigh*. Perhaps next time DH will get some. I’m afraid this time (third night, third experiment, same outcome) I ate the lot. So much of hhmmm.

Garlic. Yum!

I managed to remember the camera before I had served the food, so here are some pics from the delicious event.

 

 

Souper Successful. Hur hur.

Cost-cutting cuisine

For as long as I can remember I have loved healthy food and been fanatical about nutrition. I think two key things contributed to this in my formative years. The first was that my brother has cystic fibrosis and so a lot of our early years revolved around what he could or couldn’t do or eat, where he could or couldn’t go, and so on. We knew a lot more about healthy nutrition at that age than any of our peers.

Secondly, our family has a colourful and diverse range of allergies and intolerances, so growing up involved a lot of careful juggling around what would fill us, taste good and not kill us! (That’s an exaggeration, you understand).

In my adult years I have become heavily dependent on truly brilliant supplementsthat keep us healthy and well (not just “not sick”). So much so, in fact, that I even share these great supplements with anyone who wants them, and after seeing the phenomenal turn around in our family’s health, that list includes pretty much most of the people we know.

Even so, however, good nutrition is about more than just popping pills. It’s also about what we do put into our bodies, and what we don’t. That’s why I try so hard to feed my family good, balanced, nutritious, low GI meals and healthy snacks as much as possible. We usually have masses of fruit in the house, and if there are biscuits I try to keep them low GI, gluten free, dairy free ones. Where possible I replace sugar with xylitol or honey.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like it would be a good idea to share some of my adventures here, on my blog. I am no Nigella, and not even much of a run-of-the-mill domestic goddess. Most of my meals fail on presentation, but at least they’re USUALLY delicious and almost always nutritious. Not to mention being super-affordable, which is key right now.

Here’s tonight’s offering:

Pasta with Lentil Mush (title needs work; suggestions welcome).

Slowly heat red lentils with salt and Italian herbs until very soft. Drain.
Cook gluten-free pasta to taste.
Roast some vegetables in the oven. Broccoli and courgettes work very well for this, as do carrots and beans.
Finely chop a large onion and braise until soft and transparent/golden, then add 2 chopped tomatoes, a coupe of peeled and chopped carrots, some ginger and some garlic (to taste).Add the lentils and mix well. Mix in the roasted veggies (try to get some of their “veggie juice”, too – yummy!).
When this mixture is thoroughly smooshy, add some good quality tomato sauce (rich in lycopene, an essential antioxidant).
You may want a little more tomato sauce for the colour.
Serve the lentil mixture on the pasta – hot!

We added Nando’s hot chilli sauce for the grown ups because a) Chillis are a good source of capsaicin, which is good for nasal and chest problems, and induces feelings of happiness as a result of the release of endorphines, and b) We love it! The girls had their’s neat.

Everyone said it tasted great. DH even had seconds … I don’t know if he actuallyrealised he was eating lentils!

I’d share a picture but we ate it all, sorry about that :( .

The great thing about this meal is that it is full of goodness and low on cost. Seriously, we all have onions and lentils in the cupboard right? You can make anything with those two items alone. Kinda …

On a side note, don’t stint on tomato sauce. I know we’re all on budgets here, but a good tomato sauce is an awesome and worthwhile investment. The antioxidants are great for the whole family and many kids eat anything when it’s disguised in a tomato sauce super-hero cloak. The problem is that a cheap, synthetic tomato sauce is so bad for your family it would be better to feed the kids fries than to disguise broccoli in that swill.  I’m just saying.