Sunday, October 21, 2012

Farmers as the NEW 21st Century Rockstars

I have just spent a week touring through rural QLD with Rabobank, speaking with women, celebrating International Rural Women's Day.

It has been a pleasure and a wonderful learning experience.

During my travels I realised a few things:

1. As consumers of food, most of us are totally controlled (though we don't recognise it) by major corporations...what we eat, when we eat, how we eat...we are now blindly accepting what we are marketed, believing what we read/see/hear about food and are being forced into purchasing patterns, which are not necessarily in our best interests.

2. The producers in Australia are also being forced into a supply chain that is not in their - or our - best interests and this alone contributes to MASSIVE and UNNECESSARY food wastage on farm, that is sickening.

3. There are few reconised mainstream Australian voices, loud ones anyway, in the Food Security conversation globally...we have the Food Inc, Food Matters, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Furnleigh Wittingstalls doing incredible work raising awareness, but we don't have the same in Australia - and our issues are just the same...but somehow it is easy to say, oh it is happening overseas, not here...well, I am afraid to say, it IS happening here!

4. Issues that can be food related; like skin conditions, stomach pain, reflux, thyroid and lethargy are RIFE, scarily, scarily RIFE and people just put up with feeling like crap!

5. Farmers and Producers should be 21st Century ROCK STARS!!!

6. Women are AWESOME!!!

What this opportunity has provided me is further consolidation of my goals and mission and has refocused my Food Activism and inspired me to continue speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am also more determined to raise the profile of FOOD as the cause and cure for many, many issues people face.

What a wonderful, whirlwind journey!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mother Earth

The rewards of good soil: Incredible produce in your backyard!
When we teach vegetable gardening in our How to be an Urban Hippy and Traditional Wisdom Rebellion Programs, the first thing we start with (after planning your patch) is the soil.

Our soil is more important than many people realise; it provides the opportunity for growth, the nourishment for survival and is the basis upon which our entire existence rests.

The saying Mother Earth; is no lie and she is no measly contributor!

In each of the different farming systems there are different perspectives on the soil; each allocating a different reverence to the stuff the food is grown in!

Biodynamic and organic farmers believe the soil is crucial and add organic matter, including manures and composts, to improve the quality and nutritive value of the soil.

In Biodynamic systems they also add fermented preparations to the soil.

These methods of farming exclude the use of artificial chemicals and rely entirely on unique farming systems, crop rotation and care of the soil.

There have been shifts in the conventional farming methods in the last 20 years also, to a minimum till approach, which minimises the negative impacts of farming on the soil (breaking up and destruction of microbes and hummus) and a greater recognition of the value of the soil.

There has also been an improvement in understanding the importance of crop rotation and the value livestock plays in adding nutrition to the soil through their manure.

The point of all this is to let you know, that when you decide to start your veggie patch at home, no matter how small it is (even if it is a tub on your verandah with a couple of herbs in it), pay particular attention to the soil.

 If you are going to scrimp on anything…don’t make it the soil. Start with the best quality you can buy or find, beg or borrow and make sure you tend to it during the growing season by feeding it and keeping it moist and protected.

Your plants will thank you for it and in turn you will be rewarded with delicious and nutritious food.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Opal October

I have to start this month with an insight into the incredible stone that my husband has spent most of his life searching for and bringing to the surface to provide pleasure to those who eventually come to wear it. It also happens to be the birthstone for October AND is drawn from Mother Earth, which is what our months theme is!

Opal has a story that is 100 million years in the making. This illusive and incredible gemstone has captured the imaginations, fascinations and lives of miners, jewellers and lovers of colour for more than 100 years and has sustained communities across three states in Australia, consistently, for the same length of time.

I have to be honest and say that before I moved to Lightning Ridge, I had little interest and no knowledge of the stone, other than the memories of a hot and stinky trip to the place I now call home when I was a child…and the reminder of a wait in the car outside the Opal Cave whilst Mum and Dad chose the perfect remembrance of the trip. My Mum still has that stone.

And now I am in love with it, opal that is.

I could tell you yarns about all kinds of things…namely that the stone has magical healing properties or that, if worn close to the skin it can cure all ills – I am sure that there are people who believe these things – those and the superstition that Opal is bad luck (which the industry believes was a myth created way back in the day by the diamond industry…). Whatever your beliefs, or mine, what I do know for sure about this stone is that it is magical and that it dances in the sunlight and plays with your eyes. Its colour and vibrancy will bring a smile to your face and the whimsical patterns created within the stone reminiscent of days lying on your back looking up at the sky and making pictures in the clouds.

It is also addictive, for the miner. Much like a gambler or a shopaholic, it is the next big find that lures them and keeps them…and curiously, it is never about the money, only about the stone.

If opal were personified, I would liken her to the mythical Sirens who woos men to the sea with their incredible song, only to find that what awaits is a watery grave. But what a blissful journey it is!

I encourage you to seek out and find good opal and come to understand it.

It is our national gemstone and is also one of the most incredible things you will ever see.

We are building a national keeping house for this treasure…a place where the stories, imagery and proof of beauty will be held and preserved for all future generations. Why not join us on this mystery and allow yourself to be wooed…..

Friday, September 28, 2012

Soft on yourself this Spring

I can’t believe how busy I have been for the past few months, I have barely had time to stop and smell the roses (or in my case, the flowering veggies in my patch!).

So my note to self at the end of September is to take some time for me.

Spring is the month of rejuvenation and life and energy and wonder….one should really make a conscious effort to spend some time reflecting on that and savouring it rather than rushing through it like a bull at a gate!

We so often bounce from one month to the next without really taking the time to experience the joy of each subtle change they bring.

September is a sneezy time no doubt, but is also when the air gets lighter and the breeze takes on a new lazy coolness that prickles the skin ever so slightly as it dances over you.

It is the month when you can wear beautiful skirts and wraps but still need to snuggle a little under the covers in the evening.

It is when you can spend lazy afternoons enjoying the sunshine with good friends and a chilled glass of something fizzy and revel in the new life that springs up around you and the bounty of the harvest.

So…next month I am going to be more mindful of the environment around me…take the time to notice the subtlety and indulge in the bliss that provides.

Are you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Recipes for Springtime!

I love beetroot and think it is a real celebratory vegetable and I am always looking for new ways to cook it!

My favourite way to eat it is raw of course…just coarsely grated and tossed with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper and a whisper of vinocotto or rich balsamic vinegar.

I also love to pickle it. Firstly boiling it in its skin and then removing the skin once they are tender. They can then be pickled in a mixture of vinegar (I like to use verjuice too) and water (1:1), black pepper corns, bay leaves and a tbs or two of sweetness (sometimes I use sugar, other times I use a syrup like maple or agave)…they last for ages in a sealed container in the fridge soaking in this brine and are delicious served with a salad, on a cheese and nibble plate or as a sneaky treat!

I have made a few really good dips out of beetroot too. Cook the beetroot and then skin and all blitz together in a food processor (I use my vitamix) with a hint of cumin, dill and about a 1/3 of the quantity of beetroot to plain or green yoghurt… Serve with homemade flat breads and a series of other dips as a delicious mezze starter to any special springtime occasion!

The most celebratory thing to do in spring is indulge in a little sweetness and the other FAB thing to do with beetroot is to sneak it into your chocolate muffins or cakes! It adds a surprising moistness and earthy flavour that everyone loves!

I LOVE Stephanie Alexanders recipe…and have replaced the gluten based flours with gluten free and always use raw cacoa/chocolate in the recipe and replace dairy with soy or almond!


·         250g raw beetroot

·         175g plain flour

·         1 tsp baking powder

·         2 tbsp cocoa powder

·         2 free-range eggs

·         1/4 cup milk

·         60g softened butter

·         1/4 cup vegetable oil

·         1/4 cup caster sugar

·         1/2 cup soft brown sugar

·         100g best-quality dark chocolate


Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin, or drop paper cases into the holes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Peel beetroot and grate in food processor with grating disc. Set aside and wash processor.

Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

Lightly whisk eggs with milk.

Process butter, oil and sugars until creamy. Gradually add egg/milk mixture, alternating with flour mixture.

Tip into the large bowl and stir in beetroot. Mix well.

Spoon mixture into muffin holes. Break chocolate into 12 pieces and poke a piece into the top of each muffin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in tin for a few minutes then turn onto a rack.
So, what are you going to do with your beetroots this spring?
Whatever it is....enjoy them, they are so good for you!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spring is THE time to be in the garden!

You should have prepared your soil at the end of winter and be ready for planting…how exciting!

September is the time to plant your summer veg; beetroot, cucumber, eggplant, lettuces, capsicum, tomatoe, silverbeet and spuds! Don’t forget your peas and snow peas – there is nothing better than harvesting those babies on a warm summers morning – a couple of years ago I picked 5kg in one day from our bushes…oh those days!

This year I have been so busy teaching everyone else how to reconnect with traditional wisdom, that my garden work is well behind…but I am determined to get back into the garden before the month is out so I too can be sharing in the bounty of the harvest!

We are still picking leeks, beetroots, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower from our patch – and the most exciting thing recently was harvesting our first asparagus!

Talk about delayed gratification – theses babies take 3 years to grow…so patience is definitely required, but there is nothing more exciting than harvesting your first REAL asparagus spear after it has stretched out from under the ground!

You should definitely plant some!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spring Senses

I have never really suffered with hayfever, but today, my head is foggy, my eyes are blazing itchy, I feel like someone has punched me in both eyes and cheeks and my nose won’t stop running….this is NOT a pleasant springtime!

The pollen in the air is incredible this year!

We have had 3 years of floods in January which means that the vegetation, even in the outback, is abundant and blossoming at its best.

The wilga and sandalwood trees are incredible, their tiny little flowers are so pretty, but deadly for anyone who gets hay fever!

My garden looks amazing at the moment too!

The nasturtiums have taken over and are sharing their vibrant and fragrant blooms with the birds and the bees and with us – they have such a delicious visual appeal and such a wonderful peppery sweetness that I am just so happy to have them there!

Anyway, back to the hayfever…there are some foods that are good for hay fever and  I thought you might be interested in giving them a go…I certainly am!

Top foods for hay fever

·         Onions: people often go the pharmacy to get antihistamine tablets. However antihistamine can be found naturally in food. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in fruits and vegetables, and is highly concentrated in onions. To get the most Quercetin as possible, remove as few as possible of the outer layer when preparing the onion.

·         Honey: there are many long time hay fever sufferers that claim that taking honey everyday helps. It's often recommended that taking a small quantity like one and a half teaspoons is the most helpful.

·         Nettle Tea: nettle tea mixed with honey is also said to reduce the mucus caused by hay fever.

·         Spicy Foods: eating more peppers and strong spices may provide natural hay fever relief as a lot of the pollen is flushed out due to the runny nose caused by spicy foods.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Have you ever over indulged?

It is easy to get caught up in indulgence in winter, isn’t it? I know that the warmth of a cup of tea at night with a couple of dark chocolates is a real treat…or those hearty stews with mashed potato and extra rice with your stir fry.

The thing about winter is that it is cold and our body needs more energy to keep warm, it is working harder to keep our outer limbs from freezing…but it isn’t necessarily a good excuse to over eat!

What our body needs is additional nutrition – quality instead of quantity.

Now is the time when you should be adding in some super foods (raw cacao, goji berries, acaci) and stocking up on plenty of fruit and vegetables to keep your vitamin and mineral count up.

If you are going to indulge, indulge in food that is going to do you good, rather than harm!

In my food coaching practice I support people to make these changes, provide cooking lessons, recipes and advise about how to avoid winter weight gain and achieve instead winter health gain!

I would love to support you to change your health outcomes with good food!

Monday, August 20, 2012

What to do with a winter veg glut?

I am sad to admit that at the moment, our veg patch is not looking like it has in past years, I have been so busy keeping everyone else inspired through our programs: Cook Well Be Well, How to be an Urban Hippy and through the I’m Not Fussy Food School, that I have not had much spare time to tend to it….I do dream of the day when I am like Jamie Oliver or Hugh Fernleigh Wittingstall and have a full time gardener that I can bounce around with when I have a few spare minutes….but who takes care of all the hard work in the patch!

All that aside though, we are still reaping rewards from the work I have managed to squeeze in  – beetroots, leeks, silverbeet and parsley are still abundant. Our nasturtium looks incredible and we have parsnips that went haywire and a few carrots. Of course the pumpkins from the autumn harvest are still perfect and we have a handful of spuds left from the last crop!

The best thing to do with this is to roast them….I love to throw in some sumac and pepitas/sunflower seeds for flavour and extra crunch and serve with a side of steamed spinach and a glass of rough red!

This roasted veg makes a FAB soup too, blitzed together with homemade veg stock it is delicious and hearty, especially when served with a homemade sourdough from the wood fired oven (yes….yum!).

This is a truly delicious celebration of the winter veg!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Binging on the good stuff

I definitely eat too much cheese sometimes…I am a member of a cheese club in Tasmania and they make the BEST cheeses….I order them in and simply can’t help myself…my body definitely does not like it, but somehow the resistance is too great and I just can’t avoid it…I eat too much! Worse yet is when I make my own haloumi or bocconcini...bring on the indulge!

This is an irregular (treat?) occurrence so is not a problem in my life, but it is easy for this occasional splurge to become a regular habit if there is something more sinister driving behaviour.

We regularly hear and read about binging in its well-known forms – including bulimia and binge eating disorder, but we don’t often hear about the over indulgence on health…is it possible?

Are there people out there who overdo the exercise regime, to the point of obsession; or people who take food restriction to extreme? Yes and for all the same reasons that bulimia and binge eating disorder are damaging, so is this.

What the behaviour is masking, or reflecting, is deeper emotional issues that need to be exposed and managed.

I did a great interview with Dr Joann Lukins earlier this month and we explored this idea together – she provided some really useful guidance for people who might be worried about their binging behaviour.

It is worth listening to.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Augustus Gloop – the modern day dilemma?

One of my all-time favourite movies as a kid was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I LOVED the crazy Wonka and the extraordinary world he created (Gene Wilder is still my fav, but Johnny Depp did a pretty great job too) complete with edible trees and Oompa Loompas!

Of course Charlie is the hero of the story and we are compelled to gasp as we watch in horror as the other horrid children get justice for their badness, but how far from ourselves are those wicked children?

The one who is particularly gross is Augustus Gloop, who gets stuck in the chocolate river drain pipe whilst gorging on all that liquid sweetness!

Whilst is angry mother berates the crazy Wonka, I have always asked myself; what role did she play in her child’s over indulgence and why is she not punished whilst her son is? I think Grandpa makes mention of it sometime in the script, but has always puzzled me.

In many ways, we now live in a version of the Chocolate factory.

Think about it.

Our every dream and desire has been created and provided at our very finger tips are sweets and treats and foods beyond our wildest imagination. They can be purchased, freely and easily – in store or conveniently online.

In a sense, the opportunity to indulge in binging behaviour, like that displayed by Augustus Gloop, has become easier, more accessible and in a strange way, somehow encouraged through marketing and purchase portals.

Have you let your indulgences become out of control?

Binging by definition is a period of unrestrained, immoderate self-indulgence, which of course we are all prone to and definitely participate in at some time/s in our life.

The concern is not that behaviour, in one off instances, but if the indulgences become regular or more frequent and becomes a habit, or something that happens in response to something else.

This month at we are exploring Binging and have some fantastic articles about it. I would encourage you to take a look!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beat the Winter Blues with the Mind

I had a wonderful Sunday morning chat with Dr Louise Greenstock a while back (you can download it at and she was talking about the power of the mind in managing mood, happiness and a whole range of other things that impact on us daily. It got me thinking that winter is a time when our anxiety can increase and our mood can spiral down; shorter days and dwindling light can contribute, but so can being closed inside or getting cold. It is important to take care of oneself and nurture the body and mind at this time of year – and particularly to find a personal mantra that shifts the focus from what you don’t want to what you do.

One strategy I use is positive self talk and gratitude.

I have developed a short ritual in the morning that speaks to the truths I know about myself and the vision that I have for the day ahead. I repeat the words to myself quietly, reiterating the positive and kick starting a productive frame of mind – almost like a computer reboot.

I am also mindful that when things get tough, the days are short and the sunlight and time seem more limited and nothing seems to be going right…I am to be grateful rather than resentful.

This is sometimes easier said than done, but definitely works and is something I have had to keep reminding myself to do for many years. For instance, instead of getting anxious and uptight about traffic jam (not a problem for me personally as I live 100m from my workplace), be grateful that the universe has provided you the opportunity for reflection or has saved you from a potential accident that may have awaited otherwise. If a work deal falls through, be grateful for the new opportunities it has presented and the time it has freed up.

It is worthwhile listening to the podcast with Louise, I have listened to it quite often since we recorded it, just as a reminder of how important the mind is to your overall wellness.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What to plant in Winter

Winter often gets the cold shoulder in the veggie patch as it does require a bit of extra fortitude to rug up and brave the breeze to get into it, but it is worth it AND if you are going to eat out of your patch into springtime, definitely necessary!

There are plenty of veg you can get started from seed at this time of year (July), and it is worth investing the $40 or so to buy a small plastic covered hot house, just to give them a bit of protection. Otherwise, find a nice, sheltered, warm place for the seeds to start their germination.

You will be rewarded at the end of winter with a garden about to burst at the seam, the minute the sun lingers a little!

Winter is also a great time for planning and preparing the soil – and for making new gardens! Make the most of sunny Sunday afternoons and do yourself a favour by investing in a back yard veg patch…and improve your Vitamin D intake at the same time!

What can you plant at this time of year?

Cool and temperate zones

Broad been, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, lettuce (seeling), onion or leek (seeling), spinach (seeling)

Tropical and sub-tropical zones

Beans, beetroot , broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cucumber, leek, onion, silverbeet (seeling), spinach (seeling), tomato, lettuce, pumpkin, pea, melon, corn

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Super FAV Winter Veg Recipe

We have an abundance of pumpkin this winter, delicious varieties including jap, blue, golden nugget and another that I am not sure about, it could be a hybrid that snuck out of the compost heap at the end of summer!

I have any number of pumpkin recipes, mostly they play to the sweetness of this nutritious and highly underrated veg, but my favourite is a very versatile and highly adaptable pumpkin soup.

The reason I say versatile and adaptable is that it basically takes whatever you have left in the pantry or fridge and turns it into a hearty meal for a hungry family.

To make the soup base, start with any combination of garlic, onion, leeks and celery and sweat in a large pot until nicely browned and suitably fragrant. Then add ½ a decent sized pumpkin chopped into chunks. At this point you can also add any other root veg you fancy, or have wilting in the bottom of the fridge; parsnip, swedes and turnip are in season at the moment and carrots, potato or sweet potato will also do just fine! They need to be cut into similar size of the pumpkin, but be sure not to add so much that it will overpower the flavour of the pumpkin, it is after all the hero of the dish.

Now you need to add enough water to cover the vegetables – and then add a bit more…because now you are going to add another pantry staple – soup mix, barley, lentils, green peas, white beans etc… about 250g will be sufficient, but if you want a really thick soup, add more!

These will all cook together in the soup, once the ingredients are all soft – blitz it up and serve with crusty bread and a squeeze of lemon.

This soup is a great way to sneak in some extra fibre and nutrients as it includes hidden legumes and vegetables which are very important for a healthy diet – if you want to get really cheeky add an apple or a pear for a bit of extra flavour and a serve of fruit!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Welcome to Winter

Well it is time to rug up and get out your woollies, winter is well and truly here. As long as I can stay warm, I love this season!

For me winter means a mesmerising log fire, hearty soups, warming tagines and slow cooks, mittens, scarves and funky felt hats!

It also means consolidation in the garden. Winter is a time to give a bit of extra love to the soil in the way of nutrients (compost or soil improver, or in our case, cow poo and shredded newspaper) and extra mulch. In our temperate climate we are also able to start planting new seeds for a spring transplanting (we have a little greenhouse which helps this), it is so exciting to see new growth…and imagine the possibilities for the table!

Winter is often the time when we do garden structural adjustment or extensions –often, we have taken the opportunity during winter to light a fire outside, rug up and get building.

There have been many an afternoon where I have come home from work, just on dusk, changed into my gardening clothes and wiled away the hours moving dirt, digging holes or mulching garden beds….with rosy red cheeks, a smug grin and the knowledge that the fire is warm inside, it is a blissful feeling!

If you live in the tropical north, I think you are missing out.

After the bright seasonal serenade of the autumn colours subside, winter can sometimes feel gloomy, but if you take the season in hand and celebrate all that makes it special – the food, the festivals, the ambience and the outdoor recreational opportunities, there is much to be excited about.

Be joyous this winter – and shout about what you celebrate this season!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm a bit miffed: Gluten Free discrimination...

I am gluten free (and lots of other things) for my health and I am FED UP with the discrimination - yes, it is discrimination, there I said it.

I call it discrimination simply because of the lack of acceptance, this constant back and forth 'is it real or is it a fad?' is a bit like the challenges people with a mental health issue face - if you can't see it, it mustn't be real.

Well, I can tell you that the pain, discomfort and exhaustion I experience when I eat something I shouldn't is very, very real.

Now there are businesses who are embracing this new paradigm and the gluten free industry is booming, but there are still the naysayers who doubt and discriminate in their commentary and their businesses.

Last week I read an article that sought to put some perspective around the 'myths' and 'truths' of the whole gluten free 'thing'. Whilst the author did present two sides of the argument, some of the comments that appeared under the article, and the things that were missing, made my blood boil.

I think we need to start to see this whole debate in a different light and name it as 'choice' and see the people in the debate as real people, with real challenges.

For them this is not about choosing to have an allergy or intolerance (who in their right mind would choose that?), it is about having the right to make choices that keep you healthy, not make you sick.

The truth is that there is a divide in this country between people who choose wellness and those who don't.

In the gluten free debate there are people who choose not to consume foods that harm them and those who either are not harmed by it or choose to consume it anyway.

The very idea that the people who make a CHOICE (god forbid you get to make a choice in this democratic society) for wellness are being 'fussy', being 'precious' or 'making trouble', is outrageous!

When did CHOICE become a dirty word?

There are those of us who are deeply affected - and for some, harmed to the point of certain death or long term damage, by food.

We, because of this, choose NOT to eat certain things.

Let me ask you this, if you had the choice between eating a slice of bread and ending up in hospital, writing in pain on the floor, vomiting, coping with severe bloat or diarrhoea - or NOT eating it...what would you do?

Seriously, what would you do...or more importantly, what would you NOT the bread I would think!

This is a VERY serious issue for LOTS OF PEOPLE!!! This is not a 'fad', or a 'myth' or something that a few people made up and created. This is real and it is here to stay.

People who live gluten free are not fussy, nor are they 'precious'. In fact some people I know who live with allergies and chronic illness and manage their health through diet are some of the bravest people I know.

And even if people are choosing a gluten free lifestyle because it makes them feel better - not because they are a coeliac or have an intolerance, who cares, when did wanting to feel good become a crime punishable by name calling and discrimination - aren't we moving on from that?

The gluten free marketplace is rapidly growing, that's a simple supply and demand is creating new employment, new industry and new opportunities for businesses to capitalise...isn't that good?

We need to accept this new paradigm (choosing health that is) and embrace it, not constantly bring it down.

End the discrimination by conversation and choose health yourself!