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Maple, Orange and Poppy Seed Cookies.

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For those of you with my eBook, A Nourishing Kitchen, you’ll notice these pretty little stars are just a little familiar. It just so happens that they are the first cousin of my favourite recipe in the book, Lemon & Poppy Seed Cookies, with a subtle difference: their shape and flavour. Some of you may already have discovered this recipe in our December newsletter. Well today we decided it was time to share these babies with the world. So, without further ado, I share the recipes for cookies that are very close to my heart (and taste buds).

Go pop the kettle on peeps and take a load off, it’s time chillax.

Maple, Orange & Poppy Seed Cookies
Prep time: 1 hour including resting and cooking time.

1.5 cups cashews, ground to meal
1 cup arrowroot/tapioca flour (plus a little extra just in case)
½ cup coconut oil, melted
Zest of a whole orange (or at least 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 egg, lightly whisked
¼ cup of maple syrup (or rice malt syrup)
A good pinch of salt

Turn on the oven to 155*c

Combine the cashew meal, arrowroot flour, salt, poppy seeds and orange zest. Mix in the coconut oil, syrup and egg. I tend to use my hands here to work it to a dough-like texture. If you find the mixture too dry add a little extra oil, if too wet add a little extra arrowroot.

After combining the mixture into dough, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill and solidify to ensure easy rolling.

Place the dough between two sheets of baking paper and roll it out until it is very thin (mine are about ½ centimeter). If it sticks to the paper you will need to add more flour. Using a cookie cutter, cut your desired cookie shapes and place onto a baking paper lined baking tray. Keep following this process until you have finished your dough.

Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Check them at 15 minutes and thereafter every 7 or so minutes – they will burn quickly given the nut composition. Once out of the oven allow them to cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Any remaining biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for a week or two.

Are you living your ideal life? (plus a fantastic eCourse to help you ensure you do).

 

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These days my life is a constant recalibration, a regular ‘check in’ of an adrenal system at risk of overdrive, the consequence of a Type A personality battling to find the STOP button. Only a couple of short years ago, there was little, if any, ‘self assessment’. On and on I charged, pushing as hard as I could to reach those targets, surpass expectations, to succeed. It wasn’t long before the universe had other plans for me, landing me flat on my back, incapable of writing a ‘to do’ list, let alone conquering one. It was at that point I knew I needed to find (and properly manage) said STOP button, before I blew another gasket and drove myself to an early grave.

So here I am, 3 years on from a CFS diagnosis. I’m as healthy as can be, establishing a new business and career that incorporates all that I am most passionate about – whole foods, clean living and boundless energy. Nearly 18 (very intensive) months in, I’m pinching myself that my career has transformed in such a way (from a corporate office to a highly diverse home based business), yet I’m deeply aware of a marked neglect in other areas of my life, of values that I hold dear. It was this awareness that lead me to the door of Melbourne Meditation Teacher and creative business coach , Kate James of Total Balance.

Kate James, of Total Balance.

Kate James, of Total Balance.

Over 2.5 hours, Kate helped clarify those values that are most important to me, the combination of which will enable me to live my ideal life – one of balance, freedom, connection and authenticity. Kate encouraged me to dream, think big and to pursue the things I love in a balanced and authentic way. During this session we put a number of action steps and goals in place that would ensure I don’t get lost in the ‘noise’ of a busy career, rather fostering a life that is true to all those values held dear. As simple as these steps may seem, they include a 15 meditation in the middle of every day to help calm my adrenals and enforce rest and stillness; an exercise regime that must never come second to work demands; restricted social media activity (i.e. switching off a night) and most importantly, blocking out time in the diary for connection – with friends and family and other interests outside of work.

During the birth and growth of my business, I have found it easy to get lost in the noise, hurling along from one task to another. Now however, I am armed with a bunch of commitments and a sense of accountability to Kate, with a checklist in black and white serving to remind me of my digressions. It’s now about recalibrating, again and again.

I wonder, do you feel the need to stop, to re-evaluate your direction? Are you living your ideal life? Have you taken the time to consider what your ideal life even looks like? Perhaps like me, you need guidance – to help map your values and ensure you are in fact living the life of your dreams.

I’m very excited to share Kate with you today, along with her fantastic eCourse entitled Dream, Discover. Do. This highly comprehensive 8 week eCourse will help you discover your strengths and values, it’ll help you identify any limiting beliefs holding you back from following your dreams, and it’ll help you create change in your life to ensure you are living your version of an authentic, meaningful life. For all the information you need, including a little video snap shot of the wonderful Kate, jump on over here. The course commences 14th February.

Don’t wait until the universe slaps you on the back – be your truth, now.

A winning Gingerbread Smoothie, for any time of the year.

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As many of you would know, we ran a Christmas competition in December and received a whopping 120+ entries for festive inspired recipes. Today we are very excited to share the winning recipe with you all. Thank you Melanie Lionello (IG: @naturally_nutritious) for this delicious creation – it is indeed a winning smoothie, for any time of the year.

I now present to you, the much anticipated recipe: Gingerbread Smoothie!

Gingerbread Smoothie

Serves 1.

1 cup almond milk
1 banana
1 dessert spoon chia seeds
1 date
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp mixed spice
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Throw all the ingredients into a blender and combine. Pour into a glass and stand for 10 minutes, allowing the chia seeds to emulsify and the smoothie to thicken. Garnish with whatever your heart desires – I think walnuts would be just delish. Here we showcase chunks of Melanie’s gluten free gingerbread biscuits. The recipe for these will feature in our upcoming eBook, the next in the ‘A Nourishing Kitchen’ series, ‘Morning’, due to be released early 2014 (such a tease, I know ;).

If you’re yet to grab a copy of my whole foods eBook, ‘A Nourishing Kitchen’, you can do so right here.

No one should go without lamingtons on Australia Day – so from us to you, a Lamington recipe.

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Gudday mate!

For all of our international friends, January 26th is Australia Day and on this particular day we tend to celebrate all things Aussie. Snags and prawns on the barbie, lamb chops grilled to a crisp, creamy coleslaw, pavlova, cool beers…and lamingtons. If any one tells you being healthy is boring, that you miss out on all the fun stuff, tell them to come and see me – I’ll set them straight! In fact, I’ll start right now by sharing this guilt free lamington recipe (guilt free if you don’t eat the whole tray, that is). So hop to the kitchen, whip up some lamingtons and indulge the healthy way. Happy Australia Day Aussies, I can’t wait to see your creations!

Australia Day Lamingtons.

Makes approximately 16 lamingtons.

For the cake:
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup almond meal
2/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup rice malt syrup or sweetener of your choice
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of vanilla pod

For the icing:
2/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cacao
3 tbsp almond milk
3 tbsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
+
1 1/2 cup desiccated coconut

To make the cake, preheat your oven to 160C. Grease a 20cm x 30cm baking tray with a little coconut oil and line the baking tray with paper, the oil will help the paper adhere nicely to the tray.

Melt and combine the coconut oil, rice malt syrup and vanilla extract. Beat the eggs with a whisk until thickened, foamy and creamy. Gradually add the coconut oil mixture while still beating the eggs, then add baking powder and the tapioca and almond meal. Fold all ingredients through carefully. Pour into prepared baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until slightly golden and a skewer comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Once cool, trim the edges off the sponge cake and cut into 4 equal strips lengthways and then into small squares (I used a ruler to ensure the squares were even, and they were just under 4cm wide). Pair up the sponge squares so one sponge sits on top of the other.

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At this point you can either fill your sponge with Raw Raspberry Vanilla Chia Jam  or simply fill with chocolate icing (I think the chia jam sets these lamingtons apart from their plain and boring cousins 🙂 You will need no more than a teaspoon of filling, too much and the lamingtons will slide apart.

To make the chocolate icing simply combine the coconut oil, cacao, almond milk, rice malt syrup and vanilla and stir until smooth. Spread dessicated coconut onto a clean plate. Now it’s time to get messy. Use a butter knife to spread a layer of chocolate icing over all sides of the sponge. Then dip and roll in the coconut, covering all sides. Set aside on a wire rack, if it’s a warm day I’d advise putting them in the fridge to set slightly.

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Guest of the Month: How to be your most fertile self, by Dr. Nat Kringoudis (plus a Super Fertile Slice recipe!)

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Hormones can do crazy things to the best of us ladies – one minute we’re as cute as pie/butter wouldn’t melt in our mouths, the next we’re full of irrational arguments (come on ladies, be honest), banging headaches, tender breasts and abdominal pains. Now it’s no secret that I’m (currently) childless but that doesn’t mean fertility should be any less important to me, or those of us who are not currently looking to make babies. Being fertile is a whole lot more than kids – it’s about being at your optimum health.

Six or so months ago, I made the executive decision to discount the advice I had been given by my gynecologist (the advice was that the contraceptive pill was my ONLY option in terms of sorting out my hormone issues long term) and booked in to see Dr. Nat Kingroudis of The Pagoda Tree. Within a couple of months of seeing Nat my hormones rectified themselves and my body reached a happy equilibrium, the natural way and the pharmaceutical company lost it’s monthly sale. Now I’m not saying the pill isn’t for everyone, but please be your own healthcare advocate. Make sure you know what you’re taking and why you’re taking it and whether or not it is the most suitable option for your own personal needs. Western medicine can often be very one eyed, I’m simply encouraging you to broaden your view.

Without further ado, I am so very excited to introduce Dr. Nat Kingroudis to you all today.

How to be your most fertile self.

Tell us about what you do.
Where do I start!?  Ok well, I’m a Dr of Chinese Medicine (Herbalist and Acupuncturist), a natural fertility educator, speaker and author.  I’m also the producer and co-host of Healthtalks, the web health series.  I am the owner of The Pagoda Tree, Melbourne’s home of alternative therapies for fertility and health!  Oh and I’m a mum and wife!!

What are the top 2 misconceptions in your industry?
The fertility industry is riddled with misconceptions.  My mission is to change the way people view the word ‘fertility.’  Fertility isn’t just about babies, but having a thriving reproductive system free from issues like PCOS and Endometriosis or other hormone imbalances.

One of the two big misconceptions is that if you have such conditions (PCOS/Endo etc) that you will have issues falling pregnant.

The other is that the pill is entirely safe – so many women have troubles whilst on and then after coming off the pill, it’s insane but we’re living at a time where these a pill for this and a pill for that and women seem to find comfort in that.  Unfortunately that isn’t necessarily a safety net!  So helping women be well informed and understand their own health better is my goal.

What can you offer someone who is not geared towards making babies?
Everything!  I created my Debunking Ovulation ecourse by default.  But what I realised is that I needed to reach out to young women to help them understand their bodies better and to help create awareness around alternatives to treatment of gynecological problems.  Band-aid approaches that the current medical models use, just don’t work!

How does Traditional Chinese Medicine differ from western medicine in terms of what it offers for fertility?
Much of what western medicine offers around fertility is an approach of fixing symptoms and not the root cause.  They know only to use the pill or invasive surgery as the solution for almost all gynecological issues.  Reality is, the pill isn’t actually solving anything but rather putting a big band-aid over the problem and of course when problems are left untreated, they manifest and only become bigger problems once the blanket is lifted.

Understanding the root cause of illness is key.  Symptoms are just signs, nothing more – in fact I often find symptoms more useful than blood tests!  If we can figure out what our bodies are actually telling us, then we can treat the root cause – which is most often gut health.  i.e acne, period pain, irregular menstrual cycles, PMS etc are all signs the bodies hormones are imbalanced.  The pill will never ‘rebalance’ hormones but rather, do the complete opposite.  We know that if a woman has had hormone imbalance before taking the pill, the imbalance will be far worse when she stops taking it.  This is treatable in most instances and the key to solving help problems long term.

What are your top 3 health tips?
1.  Be in bed by 11pm – the body rejuvenates most before midnight.
2.  Stress less – work out exactly what’s worth stressing about and why.  Chances are, it’s not worth the bother.
3.  Eat for wellness.  Let food be thy medicine!

What is an ideal ‘day on your plate’ for optimum fertility?
I’m an egg woman.  Breakfast generally revolves around eggs in some form.
Lunch is very often a soup or stew or some fish with greens and fermented foods thrown in for good measure.
Dinner is mostly fish with veggies or roast veggies with organic grass fed meat.

My principles are:
+ Protein and therapeutic fats at every meal
+ Always organic where possible
+ If it doesn’t serve me, I go without!
+ I limit grains and avoid gluten at all costs.  Both place a lot of load on the gut.
+ Keep sugars to a minimum.

maca slice


Favourite “fertile” recipe?
So basic and so delish, not to mention all the maca is there to balance hormones!

The Super Fertile Slice

Makes 1 small slice tray

2 cups of medjool dates
1 cup of buckinis
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
½ cup goji berries
1 tbs maca

For the topping
The darkest rawest chocolate you can find.  I love the blackout variety.

In a food processor or thermomix, combine dates and coconut.  Once combined, add in buckinis and goji berries and only blitz a few times to mix through.  The base is best rough.

Press into a small baking dish or loaf tin lined with baking paper and allow to set in the fridge.

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler until runny.  Pour over the top of the slice and allow to set.

Note: Loving Earth is a great place to look for buckinis and maca.

What are your thoughts on the effect of stress on our bodies?
This is the modern day illness.  Stress is a huge factor in regulating hormone function.  It affects how the thyroid and adrenals work.  Typically our adrenals are designed to release cortisol in short bursts when stressed.  But stress wasn’t supposed to be a constant run in the background type of daily occurrence – our bodies are set up to cope with stress like “there’s a freakin’ huge grizzly bear over there so run for your life” kinda thing and the response is that the body shuts down, the blood gets rapidly sent to your arms and legs (away from your internals) and you can run like the wind.  But when we are in a constant state of stress, the adrenals go into over drive – producing much more cortisol which affects progesterone since both cortisol and progesterone compete for the same receptor sites in the body and cortisol will always win.  The end result of this is high oestrogen levels, which go on to cause all kinds of issues like infertility, menstrual irregularities, amenorrhea and hormone disruption.  It’s especially important for women to understand how this affects them and their long-term health – right through to menopause!

So you see – stress is a disaster!

When life gets hectic, what do you do to help yourself relax?
Getting out into the sunshine with my family is one of my most favorite things to do!  I also really enjoy being social – so to relax I might have a dinner party!  Might sound like I’ve gone mad when I say such things but I find it super relaxing!

Tell us about your gentle body cleanse, and why it is so important. How does it differ from other cleanses out there?
Ha!  I’m glad you asked!  I never intended my gentle body cleanse to go as crazy as it has!  It’s a vegan cleanse which I don’t generally advocate for a long term vegan diet simply because there are key elements in meat that aren’t found in anything else necessary to balance hormones – but it can be good to give the digestive system some down time so it’s focused around several elements.;

Cleansing the liver and the gut via supplements, probiotics, a cleansing drink and eating very easily digested foods.  It is literally like a good old chimney sweep for the gut!  What I find is on the back of the cleanse, peoples gut function is improved, they feel great, have more energy and continue to maintain a new level of wellness.  It’s super!

What is one thing you do for your health every single day without fail?
Eat for wellness.  We are in control of what we eat – nobody else can perform this task.  I aim to constantly fuel my body for wellness.  And the other thing I do everyday – kiss my kids.  Does wonders for the soul!

How to Detoxify Your Life + tickets now on sale for our “Detox Your Pantry” event in February!

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It’s that time of year – many of us are slowly coming back to ‘reality’ post festive breaks, having hurled ourselves to the close of 2013 and popped out the ‘other side’ full of the best intentions for the year that will surpass all others. For many I realise, this can be a daunting place. With notebooks full of resolutions and steadfast, (albeit often wavering) determination our intentions can soon become an overwhelming prospect.

It is for that reason I want to share with you an article I wrote for the wonderful Aritsan online magazine last year, to help remove any overwhelm you may feel around resolutions associated with ‘detoxifying your life’. I am also very excited to announce the release of tickets to the first in our series of Detox Your Life’ events. ‘Detox Your Pantry’, launches Thursday 13th February in Melbourne. The below article provides an overview of our coming events. Thank you for the overwhelming interest so far – you can pop on over to learn all about our coming event and purchase a ticket right here.

Detox Your Life.

For many of us it takes a rude reality check to get our health and our lives in order. There we are, screaming through life at an increasingly hectic pace, desperately chasing the bottom of our ‘to do’ lists, trying to keep up with a technology fuelled world that has both improved efficiencies and removed simplicity from our lives. We’re consuming foods conveniently processed and packaged to suit our ‘grab and go’ lifestyles, foods marketed by huge brands as health promoting, disease fighting and energy enhancing. We’re juggling everything. At breakfast we’re watching TV, checking social media feeds, glancing at newspapers. Squeezing in time to exercise we’re deafening the experience by ‘plugging in’- to iPhones, iPods and iTouches. The modern world, with all of its advances, is making many of us very sick. For many, it can only be considered a blessing when that reality check strikes.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an illness so debilitating that I was forced to close a business and move interstate to live with my parents. There were off the Richter scale toxicity readings – lead, petrochemicals, mercury and pesticides. Battling with unimaginable fatigue and brain fog, life, as I knew it, came to a halt. I needed to make some serious changes.

I moved to an almost entirely unprocessed and organic whole foods diet, a diet as close to nature as possible, free of refined sugar, gluten and hidden additives. As far as possible, I removed all toxicity from my environment and I embraced activities such as meditation and yoga, activities that would serve to restore my energy and bring stillness and balance into my life.

So what exactly are whole foods?
These are foods that are unrefined and unprocessed, as close to nature as possible. Most significantly whole foods serve to decrease our reliance on supplements. They include fresh fruit and vegetables, unpolished grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – foods full to the brim with fibre, nutrients and disease fighting phytochemicals (often referred to as antioxidants) protecting us from chronic disease. Now I’m not about to sit down and eat a whole cow so an eye fillet is not, strictly speaking a ‘whole food’ but you get the drift (significantly, it is not processed meat, such as sausage). Whole foods also include health promoting good fats such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Not included are low fat alternatives (devoid of most of their nutrient content), refined sugar (a substance considered poison by our bodies) and packaged store bought foods such as biscuits, cakes, most breads and fizzy drinks – most of which are laden with preservatives and additives, none of which are doing us any good.

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It is for this reason it’s best to spend less time in supermarkets and more time at markets, buying farm fresh, locally sourced, unadulterated produce. Whole food meals consist predominantly of a protein source (such as chicken, lamb, beef, eggs or fish) and cooked or raw vegetables. For the vegans or vegetarians amongst us, there are quality protein options such as quinoa, legumes or tempeh. Healthy treats can be made from scratch with combinations of nuts, seeds, spices, and natural sweeteners. An exception to my whole foods ‘way’ is 100% whey protein powder, a pure protein source allowing more variety at snack time, such as in my ‘Pretty in Pink’ Beetroot Smoothie.

Detoxifying your life. 
Once you begin to understand the hidden dangers lurking in your bathroom and kitchen cupboards (and on your food) it’s a joy to remove them. Too many of us are ingesting poisonous substances through the food we eat and the washing up liquid we use; we’re lathering them on our skin and in our hair; we’re painting our nails and cleaning our teeth with them. Why choose to clean your kitchen benches and bathrooms with products labelled as poisonous? To commence a toxicity cleanse in your home, simply start in one room and work your way around. Read the back of the products; where there is a harmful warning sign, replace that product with a naturally derived product. If your body cream lists a multitude of ingredients you’ve never heard of it, throw it. The same goes with the food you purchase. Where possible buy fresh, organic, locally sourced food that has not been sprayed to the hilt with pesticides.

Restoring energy and balance.
Finding stillness was one of the biggest blessings for me of all. Slowing down enough to meditate and to feel the benefits in my body and energy levels. Commencing a yoga practise that would gently build my strength and bring my awareness back to my breath. ‘Mindfulness’, ‘living in the now’ or ‘being present’ are words and phrases we hear bantered around more and more and for many these seem unattainable, even baffling. This is simply about doing one thing at a time (like eating, washing the dishes, talking to a friend). When we multi task we invite clutter in and this clutter serves to wear us out. By slowing down, finding stillness and therefore bringing more rest into your life, you will conserve and restore your energy.

Cleaning up your life and your diet is not a project that should happen over night. Start simply by gradually ‘crowding out’ the lesser quality food choices, visiting health food stores and markets over supermarkets, noticing the warning signs on labels. Try hopping out of bed just 15 minutes earlier to sit in stillness and commence a meditation practise. Turn off the TV during dinner and enjoy conversation with your loved ones, whilst you chew your food and appreciate its flavours and textures. Change just one small thing and every single thing changes.

 

Waldorf salad with notes of anise and lemon.

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You can’t beat a really good salad, as long as said salad is texturally ‘sound’ with ample crunch factor and interesting titbits to suprise you. Salads in my house tend to be a left overs graveyard where anything goes. I like to go nuts with different colours, raw & cooked ingredients, seeds, nuts…whatever. Whack it all in, mix it up, devour. Easy as. And ideally you’ll have made enough to keep aside (undressed) for tomorrow’s lunch.

Today’s salad is the perfect companion to a barbecue on a hot summers evening. Lots of cool crunchy cos lettuce, slices of crisp apple, mandatory walnuts for aforementioned crunch factor. All you need is a small blender (or a whisk in it’s absence) and a mandolin or sharp knife and off you go. Get some friends around, pop the barbecue on and pretty up your table with this festive number. I promise they’ll love it.

Waldorf Salad with notes of anise and lemon.

For the salad:
2 apples, cored and finely sliced
1 large celery stick, finely diced
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 core of a cos lettuce, leaves separated

For the dressing:
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup greek, full fat yoghurt
1 tablespoon dijon or French mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

1/2 cup walnuts

Prepare the salad ingredients and pop them into a bowl of iced water whilst you prepare the dressing.

For the dressing, blend the egg yolk, yoghurt, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper until smooth. Combine the oil in portions, slowly blending as you do. Taste. Add more lemon juice if you prefer more lemony tang.

Combine with salad with the dressing and walnuts and mix well.

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A supermarket salad dressing-free fridge: say hello to a Creamy Coriander and Lime Yoghurt Dressing.

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Since jumping onto the whole food, additive free bandwagon a few years ago, not one salad dressing bottle has appeared in my fridge, unless of course it was made by me. What that means is when at home, I always know what I am feeding my body. There are no food colourings, additives or preservatives lurking in my salads. Yes, it does mean my dressings have a short shelf life and yep, that means I have to make it and eat it quickly…but isn’t my health worth a little extra preparation time every now and then?

There is no doubt that the speed at which we all now live, indeed our expectations around ease and efficiency (the desire to have everything at our fingertips) has created habits that often do us more harm than good.

Did our great grandparents buy salad dressings with 27 ingredients, most of which we can’t even pronounce? Nope. I bet most of them made their own mayo with their very own elbow grease (imagine!). They made the time. I know we are all very busy people, but I’d rather be a little busier in the knowledge that the nutritious food I consume is good for me – such that myself and those around me can look forward to a healthy future.

Creamy Coriander and Lime Yoghurt Dressing.

This dressing works beautifully on the Thai inspired quinoa fish cakes in my eBook, A Nourishing Kitchen (see below), on salads, as a dip, in wraps – you name it! It’s perfect for summer.

1 cup loosely packed coriander, leaves only
1/2 cup greek yoghurt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 heaped teaspoon lime zest
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons coconut vinegar (white will also suffice)
Pinch of sea salt

Throw all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. The sauce may be a little runny initially. Refrigerate and it will thicken up.IMG_8168

Free radical fighting choc-mint and berry smoothie. A ‘tough as’ smoothie.

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This smoothie was the result of a post holiday empty fridge and a strong sense that I needed a hefty dose of free radical fighting antioxidants post a slightly over-indulgent festive season (slightly? Hardly!). Enter my antioxidant powerhouse – a minty choc-berry ‘need a spoon consistency’ smoothie, blended until smooth and creamy and ready for teaspoon dippage (my favourite way to eat a smoothie is not to be able to ‘drink’ it).

“So what are the benefits of antioxidants?” And “why is fighting free-radicals so important to our health” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are produced as part of everyday life.  Even breathing in oxygen is enough to cause the production of free radicals! Under healthy conditions the body has the ability to neutralise these free radicals on its own, but external factors such as pollution, UV radiation, alcohol, chemicals and smoking can cause an overload of free radicals that the body is unable to cope with, leading to damage. It is this damage that is the primary cause of visible and internal aging and can also contribute to inducing illness. Examples of damage caused by free radicals include:

  • joint inflammation
  • eye (and sight) deterioration
  • accelerated aging
  • increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers
  • damaged nerve cells in the brain

The Benefits of Antioxidants.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that neutralise the negative effect of free radicals in our bodies. Oxidation in the body produces these free radicals which in turn cause oxidative stress/damage within the body.  Antioxidants, as their name suggests, are capable of stabilising the free radicals before they cause damage.

As an example of the protective effects of antioxidants, the lycopene in tomatoes may help protect men against prostate cancer, the lutein in spinach and corn may reduce the degeneration of the eye lens, and flavenoids may help to lower the risk of heart disease.

Some of the best overall sources of antioxidants are berries, walnuts, raw cacao, sunflower seeds, pomegranates, and ginger. Just think of these as the super foods of the antioxidant world!

Free Radical Fighting Choc Mint & Berry Smoothie

Handful fresh blueberries
Handful fresh mint
2 frozen strawberries
130g coconut water
1 raw egg (optional, or choice of protein powder)
1 dessert spoon chia seeds
1 heaped teaspoon maca
1 heaped teaspoon ground flaxseed
1 heaped teaspoon raw cacao
1 heaped teaspoon goji berries
1 tablespoon organic natural yoghurt

Simply combine all the ingredients in your blender and whizz it up. Pour into your serving glass and allow to sit for twenty minutes to allow the chia seeds to soften. Voila!

What’s your favourite free radical fighting recipe?

Feeling the festive excess? Here’s 7 naturally liver cleansing foods.

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Okay troops – let’s play an honesty game:

  • Who overindulged over the festive period? (Amy: just a little. Oh ok Mum, you’re right, a bit more than a little).
  • Who’s feeling sluggish? (Amy: me and I need to clean up my act).
  • Who’s jeans shrunk? (Amy: mine. Damn that washing machine ;-))
  • Who’s going to miss their afternoon siestas? (Amy: me, I fell asleep every afternoon with a book. Non-liver related but worth a mention. Damn I’m going to miss that siesta today!).

So, in light of my honest responses, know there is no judgement here! But read on… your liver will love us again I promise.

The primary way in which your body expels toxins is via the liver, which detoxifies and cleanses your body by continuously filtering the blood of poisons that enter it through the digestive tract, the skin, and the respiratory system. But when your liver becomes overworked as a result of stress or excessive exposure to toxins (insert festive excess here), your entire system can be thrown off balance, and in turn your health affected for the worse.

Without a well-functioning liver, your body will be unable to cleanse itself and absorb nutrients, which is a recipe for a health disaster. Dr Karl Maret MD writes about the importance of effective liver function:

“The thousands of enzyme systems that are responsible for virtually every body activity are constructed in the liver, the proper functioning of the eyes, the heart, the brain, the gonads, the joints, and the kidneys, are all dependent on good liver activity. If the liver is impaired from constructing even one of the thousands of enzyme systems the body requires, there is an impairment in overall body function and a resultant greater metabolic stress on the individual.”

So, given a hefty portion of us need to show our livers a little more love right now, we list below seven important foods (and our recipes to inspire you) that you may want to consider incorporating into your diet to get you back on your way to a healthy liver.

7 Naturally Liver Cleansing Foods

1. Garlic.
Garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds that activate the liver enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. Garlic also contains allicin and selenium, two powerful nutrients proven to help protect the liver from toxic damage, and aid it in the detoxification process.

2. Grapefruit
Grapefruit is rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, two powerful liver cleansers. Like garlic, grapefruit contains compounds that boost the production of liver detoxification enzymes. It also contains a flavonoid compound known as naringenin that causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it.

3. Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with catechins, a type of plant antioxidant that has been shown in studies to eliminate liver fat accumulation and promote proper liver function. This powerful herbal beverage also protects the liver against toxins that would otherwise accumulate and cause serious damage.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables such as arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens, and chicory also contain numerous cleansing compounds that neutralize heavy metals, which can bear heavily on the liver. Leafy greens also eliminate pesticides and herbicides from the body, and spur the creation and flow of cleansing bile. Add some extra greens to your diet by juicing them into the ‘softer’ green juice, but be sure to allow the juice to come to room temperature (or at least don’t drink straight from the fridge) to allow for optimum digestion and nutrient absorption.

5. Avocado
Rich in glutathione-producing compounds, avocados actively promote liver health by protecting it against toxic overload, and boosting its cleansing power. Here’s our Overnight Avocado, Coconut & Lemon Cheesecake

6. Walnuts
Walnuts, which contain high levels of l-arginine, an amino acid, glutathione, and omega-3 fatty acids, also help detoxify the liver of disease-causing ammonia. Walnuts also help oxygenate the blood, and extracts from their hulls are often used in liver-cleansing formulas. Why not make yourself a Walnut Brownie Breakfast Mousse for breakfast, a great way to prep yourself for an alert and energised day.

7. Turmeric
Turmeric, one of the most powerful foods for maintaining a healthy liver, has been shown to actively protect the liver against toxic damage, and even regenerate damaged liver cells. Turmeric also boosts the natural production of bile, shrinks engorged hepatic ducts, and improves overall function of the gallbladder, another body-purifying organ. Why not add turmeric to your morning omelette, a THI fave!