Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Best Ever Quinoa Tabouleh

easy organic quinoa tabouleh

One day, I will learn not to set myself up in situations that chronically make me angry, or resentful, or disappointed. Yes, today's little incident was in part the fault of the woman who pulled into my carpark space at ballet - oblivious to my indicator and everything - but I am fully aware that:
  • that carpark is a perpetual nightmare.
  • just up and around the corner there's plenty of street parking.
  • the time it takes to walk from up the street is less than the time it usually takes to find a spot in the carpark.
  • that particular carpark brings out the worst in me.
So, I have to take some responsibility for my frustration. I know these things already, and I have choices to make - choices that can simplify my life and keep my brain in a happier place. 

If only I could program a reminder into the GPS. With her clever, British accent: "Please do not park here. Please park up the street. Smile."

Ah yes, of course. Thank you. 
Amanda xx

Herby Quinoa Tabouleh
serves 4

Ever since my friend Jenn introduced me to quinoa tabouleh (and no I'm not telling you how long ago that was ... ), I've preferred it to the regular, traditional bulghur kind. When it's cooked, quinoa grains have a certain lightness and separation that makes them (I think) better for salads. I cut back a little on the parsley from most recipes, because I wanted to maximise the chances my 4 year old would love it, but with the garden-fresh mint and chives in there it's still pleasantly green and herby. This goes perfect with fresh bread for a light lunch or dinner, or as a side dish with anything Mediterranean.

The time
15 min prep, as long as you have pre-cooked quinoa

The ingredients
2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
1 packed cup finely minced fresh parsley (flat and/or curly are fine)
1-3 tomatoes, finely diced
2 Tbs minced fresh mint
2 Tbs minced fresh garlic chives
1/3 cup lemon juice (~2 med lemons)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt, or to taste

*Try to buy organic when you can - especially for herbs. I like knowing that my herbs are totally clean and pure! (And yes, I'm talking about parsley, mint and chives here. Seriously, people.)

best ever quinoa tabouli

The process
Mix everything together and eat!

The cost
I stock up on bulk organic quinoa and olive oil when they go on sale ... and all the herbs came from my garden (or my friend Michelle's) - so this organic salad cost me about $0.50 a serve.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Trying New Things {Fried Plantains}

This isn't really a post about plantains. Though ever since I had them in South America allllll those years ago, I'm slightly obsessed with them. Their starchy goodness. Their delectable dippability. Mmmmmmmmmm .....

Sorry. Got off track. 

Nope, this is a post about diversity. About trying different things now and then - buying those strange fruits and veggies at the green grocer, giving them a go. Because variety is what makes food interesting, and gives our bodies different nutrients. Makes our taste buds happy.

Plantains. Dragonfruit. Green papaya. Celeriac. Purple carrots. Enoki mushrooms. Radicchio. Those funny-looking heritage tomatoes. I know you've heard it said, but seriously - variety is the spice of life.

Here's what you do:
1. Next time you find an unusual-but-intriguing bit of produce at the green grocer, or the farmer's market, or even if you get one in your Food Connect box ... go with it! This is your moment!

2. Ok. You've got it home. Now what? Google it. Have a look through your favourite food blogs, foodie magazine sites, and even Wikipedia to see what to do with it. Seriously, you're going to find inspiration out there, somewhere. 

3. Whatever recipe you decide on, try to make it simple. Not only will it make your life easier, but simple preparation tends to bring out the best in produce ... you'll taste it for what it is. You might discover a new fave. 

And besides, if it doesn't work for you - just save dinner with a microwave-baked potato.

So what new things are you trying?
Chia seeds? Lemon basil? Purple potatoes?
Mmmmmmm ......
Amanda xx

Fried Plantains

Plantains are kind of like large bananas. They have a lower sugar content than bananas, and are often used when green and unripe - when they're almost potato-like in their starchiness.  They go well in bean-based dishes or ... as here ... all on their own. Plantains are (apparently) the 10th most important staple food for the world's population, so please don't take this recipe as the be-all and end-all. There are heaps of great ideas out there for them! 

Peel a green plantain and slice it into 1cm-thick slices. Saute in generous amounts of rice bran oil or butter over med-high heat until golden - then pat dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. (I like lots of salt on my plantains - sprinkle to taste.) Serve with lime, sour cream, and salsa. Or just nibble them off a plate as you walk past the kitchen. Again. And again. And again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Blueberry Quinoa Loaf

There's something about rain in autumn that makes time slow down.

Suddenly, it's nice to sit in a dimly-lit room. Lights seem too ... brash. The darkness makes it easier to hear the rain falling, easier to daydream. The clock ticks, the fridge clicks on. This is Tori Amos weather, Aqualung weather. Time to turn on the classical music station and fall into a quiet trance.

Forget about rules, facilitate peace. 

It's a day of droplets at the window and good food magazines and dreaming about berry crumbles baked in forest-bound cabins with woodburning fireplaces. (Please, please, please!) A day for scarves and warm socks. Dog in lap.

A great day to hang out with a friend, let the girls run off on their own, let her make you a hot, strong tea and an exceptional lunch. Scope out her magazines. Take a big, deep breath.
And some pictures.

And of course, when you get home, you bake. In your townhouse kitchen in the city. While your child watches 2 straight hours of tv.
(Yep, I do that sometimes, too)

Remember - peace is good. We all deserve moments to daydream - or bake - in our own rain-falling little worlds. You're still a good great parent.

And this? My husband just asked for it to go on 'The Shortlist.' He has NO idea there's quinoa in there. Hahahahaha. So I'm a good mum and a good wife. This day is awesome.

Happy Rain Day,
Amanda xx

Blueberry Quinoa Loaf
makes 1 loaf

I don't know if it's the sour cream or the quinoa (or my chronic over-stirring), but I find this comes out with that gorgeous texture of a poundcake. It's beautiful as a loaf, and I don't think I'd make muffins out of it. Besides, with a loaf you can cut yourself slices and pretend you're at a cafe ... a slightly messy, slightly noisy cafe. (But they do have your favourite tea ... )

The time
10 min prep + 1 hr baking + 20 min cooling

The ingredients
1 extra-large organic egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup soured milk* (or 1 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar)
1/3 - 1/2 cup raw sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
2/3 cup cooked quinoa
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

*I save my past-date milk for baking! Just remember not to pour it in your coffee by accident...

**Try to use organic ingredients when you can.

The process
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (360F) and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients in the order listed trying not to overmix once you get the flour in there. Tip the batter into the lined loaf tin and whack it in the oven for about 1 hr, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. (Start checking at about 45 minutes.)

3. Remove from the oven and the pan and cool completely (if possible) before slicing. Serve with butter (= breakfast) or cream (= dessert). Store in the fridge ... if there's any left ...

The cost
Leftover quinoa is free, right? Well, pretend you're going to throw it out, then save it, and you get to be thrifty and virtuous. (And delusional. But who's judging.) This organic loaf cost me about $5-$6.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chunky Chocolate Nut Cookies

Today, I learned about perspective.
Bear with me, and I'll tell you the story.

But first, let's look at the cookies we'll make later.
Ok, ready?

This morning, we took the bus. 

Well, actually, Nelle and I waited for HALF AN HOUR for a bus that - when it came - was so full that it didn't even stop.

As it cruised past, I rolled my eyes. And growled. And said - to no one in particular - "are you serious?"
Nelle replied chirpily, "I'm not serious."

The sign at the bus stop suggested the next bus was 20 minutes away, so we started walking to kindy. Which is a long way for little legs.
And involves many, many hills. Serious hills.

I was grumpy. I wanted coffee, NOW. I wanted a bus, HALF AN HOUR ago.

And Nelle looks up at me and smiles.  "Mummy, I love walking with you!"
And as we walk past the next busstop, the bus comes and we hop on and are saved from the mega-hills to come. 

The End.

So, what do I mean about perspective? Well, for me - with all my infinite scheduled plans for the day, the bus not coming was a potential day-ruiner. But for Nelle? It meant a walk with Mummy, holding hands, noting the flowers and seeds on the trees and the cars passing by. She didn't care we were late for kindy, or that I hadn't had coffee yet, or that we waited for ages for a bus that never eventually came. 

Because she waited with Mummy. 

I totally need to channel that kind of thinking.
And make cookies.
Related topics? Probably not. But here you go anyway.

Have a great week, and maybe ... just once or twice to start ... try looking at something from a different perspective. Tell us about it!
Amanda xx

 Chunky Choc & Nut Cookies
makes ~16

I love these cookies because they're so tasty, nourishing and versatile. You can throw into them whatever nuts and seeds you have on hand ... you can use butter instead of the oil and sour cream ... you can chop up whatever your favourite chocolate is, noting that the recipe only calls for 80grams (and most chocolate bars are 100g, heh heh). Happy, happy.

The time
10 min prep + 10 - 15 min baking

The ingredients
1/4 cup rice bran oil (or softened butter)
1/4 cup sour cream (or softened butter)
1 organic egg
1/2 cup rapadura (or brown) sugar
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 pinches sea salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup mixed crushed nuts + seeds (my latest batch included walnuts, almonds, chia seeds and sesame seeds)
80 g chopped dark chocolate

*Try to use organic ingredients when you can

The process
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (360F). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix everything together in the order above - first the fats (the oil/sour cream/butter), then the egg, then the sugar ... mixing with a spoon at each stage. Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Use your hands to form the mix into little balls, place them on the cookie sheet and use a fork to press them down slightly. You should get ~16 smallish cookies.

3. Bake for ~10-15 minutes until the tops are golden and don't sink in when you press on them with your finger. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. These'll last a week, ha ha.

The cost
One of the reasons this recipe features sour cream is because I found some Barambah Organic on mark-down for $0.99 a container (usually it runs around $3, still totally worth it). My experience with sour cream is that it typically lasts longer than its use-by date, particularly if unopened. Use your best judgement. My batch of organic cookies cost me about $5.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Easy Peasy Salsa Verde

I'm pretty sure salsa verde is our favourite salsa - though I feel I should reserve that judgement for our next trip to Phoenix ... (so many to try!) Saying that, we wrap jars of salsa verde in socks and tuck them into our suitcases every time we come back from the US. Only microbrews compete for sock-space.

And I just. learned. how. to. make. it. 
Oh, lordy. This makes me happy.

Verde means 'green,' so this is a fresh, bright salsa made from green things - fresh coriander (cilantro), jalapeno peppers, lime juice and - most essentially - tomatillos. What's a tomatillo? It's distantly related to tomatoes, looks something like a green one, and has a lovely tart flavour. Sadly, it's something I've never seen fresh here in Australia ... but you can buy it in tins at your favourite ethnic supermarket, or online here

While you're there? Pick up a tortilla press. I adore mine. And some chipotle powder.
Amanda xx

Salsa Verde
makes 1 1/2 cups*
*I'm only estimating this because I was so excited, I forgot to measure!

I've used raw zucchini in my salsa verde for good measure - adding extra nutrients and thickening it up slightly. I initially made this salsa for a friend's going-away feast, to go with bean or chipotle chicken tacos on a do-it-yourself buffet. But since? I've cheerily tipped it over cheesy naan breads, plantains and rice, and soft-boiled eggs on toast. Nom. It's so fresh.

The time
5 minutes

The ingredients
9 tomatillos
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 Tbs pickled jalapenos (more if you like it hotter)
1 bunch of organic coriander, leaves only*
1 small raw zucchini
pinch of sea salt

*NOTE: Save your stems! Clean, chop and freeze them for instant coriander goodness when cooking.
**Try to use organic if you can. Here in Australia I doubt you'll find organic tomatillos, but at the least try to find organic coriander. I prefer buying leafy things chemical-free. 

The process
Blend! Seriously - all you have to do it put everything in a blender and whizz it up. Taste and add chili, lime or salt to taste. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

The cost
A large tin of tomatillos costs ~$6 here in Oz, but you'll only use about half of them. They come in a vinegary liquid, so just keep the extra tomatillos in their liquid in a glass jar in the fridge and make another batch when this one runs out. I buy pickled jalapenos because I love the flavour, and again, they'll last for ages in the fridge. I estimate my batch of salsa - all organic except for the tomatillos and jalapenos - cost me $6 to make. Not super-cheap, but super-good nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Apricot and Ginger Lassi

Sometimes the best recipe is SIMPLIFICATION. It's a stressful week, so why make it more stressful? Why not clear my schedule of appointments and places to be, have dinner with friends, and spend time in the kitchen with Nelle? 

Yesterday I rescheduled the week's appointments [free as a bird], and you know what? 
Instantly, I felt relief.


I can handle this. All of this. Yes, indeed.
Amanda xx

Apricot and Ginger Lassi
serves 3

I don't usually give you recipes with 'specialty' ingredients, but I found apricot juice (nectar) at the organic shops last week and had to give it a try. It's beautiful! Thick and rich and full of flavour! It makes an excellent popsicle. And, it suits the tangy yogurt of the Indian-style lassi so well ... this is a perfect accompaniment to a curry, or just a chill-out drink in the afternoon.

'Cause chilling out is good.

The time
5 minutes

The ingredients
1 1/2 cup plain organic yogurt
1/2 heaped tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cups cold apricot juice

The process
Blend everything and serve as-is or over ice. 

The cost
This cost me about $1.20 per serving, done with organic ingredients.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day - Fig and Apple Oatmeal with Chia and Flax

I don't even know how to describe motherhood. It's more challenging than a PhD, I know that. It makes me happier than chocolate, or foot massages, or even both at the same time. It can make me feel as golden and glowing and powerful as the sun, or as powerless as a defunct and drifting satellite. (What can I say? I love sci-fi.) 

I adore my daughter, I love being her mother, and I really really want to continue with this motherhood thing for a long, long time. Like till I'm 90 ... or 95 ... at least. 

Nelle's been doing her own baby's washing ...

Mother's Day is a haunting time of year for me. There's a poster on our bedroom wall that Robbie and Nelle made for me on my first ever Mother's Day - it's Nelle's feet, stamped in pink and green and blue and yellow paint, spelling out 'I Love Mummy'. I look at this poster every single day - multiple times a day - and it fills me with happiness. 

But, it's happiness with an edge. Because when they made me that gift, for my first ever Mother's Day, we had no idea what was coming.

Yep, it's that time of year.
My cancerversary (a term I like to think I coined ... and which elicits a rolling of my husband's eyes every time I say it ... ) falls every year just after Mother's Day, bringing all that darkness into the back of my throat, like reflux. 

I never can quite figure out what to do with those uncomfortable thoughts when they hit me, the pangs of sadness, the twinges of guilt. They're there. They're part of me. I know they're important, but I don't want them to control me. So, I wring myself out with yoga. I sing at the top of my voice to music, and dance in the kitchen. I shatter my body with workouts, because somehow making my body stronger might just make me stronger, too. I eat too much chocolate. And compensate with green tea. I feel close to something, close to healing, close to seeing my daughter go to school (after all). Close to moving beyond this. Swallowing the fear, the anger, the uncertainty ... for at least another 6 months or so. 

Close to acceptance.

The longer I go without recurrence, the better my chances of survival. The better my chances of watching my daughter graduate and my own hair turn gray. Of traveling Africa, India and Central America. Of writing this book. Trying that pre-digested coffee that's supposed to be so amazing. 

So, I guess I should be celebrating this milestone. This four years.
Or maybe I'll just climb into bed with my baby girl and hold her tight.

With all my heart, Happy Mother's Day,
Amanda xx

Fig and Apple Oatmeal with Chia and Flax
serves 3

This recipe was a huge hit with the family - probably because it's a little sweeter than my usual. I shred the apple directly into the oats, rather than boiling it separately. It's so much easier that way! If you can't get fresh figs you could probably substitute soaked, dried figs instead. 

The time
15 minutes

The ingredients
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup milk
3 fresh figs, chopped
1 unpeeled apple, coarsely shredded
1 Tbs rapadura sugar
1 Tbs each ground chia seeds and ground flaxseeds
pinch of sea salt

maple syrup and milk, to serve

*Try to use organic ingredients when you can

The process
1. Bring the oats, water, milk, figs, apple and sugar to the boil in a heavy saucepan - then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir regularly, until the oats are cooked - about 10-15 minutes.

2. Then, remove from heat. Stir in the ground chia and flaxseeds.

3. Spoon into bowls and serve with a splash of cold milk and a drizzle of maple syrup. Plus a cup of hot, black coffee to counterbalance the sweetness.

The cost
Definitely less than $5 to do this organic, but how much less will depend largely on the cost of the figs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Non-Toxic Ant Control

Let me just put it out there that if there is such a thing as reincarnation ... I'm in deep sh*t.
Particularly after this latest vendetta against the ants.

To be honest, I'm an overly-compassionate kind of insect killer ... I can't kill cockroaches, and I actually feel pangs of guilt when I crush a mosquito. But ants. You know, I'm fine with them outside - I know they're important to ecosystems and stuff. But trains of ants and ants and ants across the walls, up the walls, down the walls, into the walls, across the house. That I cannot stand. ARGH!!!!!

So, in my attempts to get these things under control using non-toxic means, I had to resort to:
  • chamomile
  • cinnamon
  • chili powder
  • lavender
  • peppermint
  • eucalyptus
  • borax + honey
  • borax + peanut butter
  • and chalk

It's been epic, let me tell you.

It's been a looooooong few weeks, with these ants. The painful thing is that they aren't particularly interested in food - just warm, happy nesting spots. Like my bamboo steamer. Or the bread maker. Or the space between the two sliding glass doors in the shower. Who can blame them? Winter's coming. It's getting snuggly cold out there at night, and I don't even have thousands of tiny eggs and a queen to tend.

I can't even in good conscience tell you I've 100% succeeded, because I'm still re-applying my ant control measures every couple of days ... and I still have a couple of ant trains. Just not in the dining room. (Out of sight, out of mind ... )

So, what's worked? I'll tell you what didn't work. Chamomile, cinnamon, chili powder, and peppermint did not work. Vodka did not work. White vinegar worked moderately. Borax in combination with tasty morsels of food did not work.

The ants and I were initially excited about borax + honey. Till they gave up on it 5 minutes later.

What worked? CHALK. I know, crazy. And I did look like a crazy lady colouring in my walls and door frames with good old fashioned white chalk. But you know what? Ants HATE the stuff. They won't walk across it, so it's a great way to 
  • stop ant trails in their tracks, and
  • block entry points (if you can find them - this is one of my sticking points)

I know, it's a bit of a fashion statement for the house - but if you have light coloured walls like we do, you'll hardly notice the chalked bits. I coloured in corners and edges and doorframes and windows and places where the ants were coming in or trekking through. Eventually when I have this thing under control I'll wipe off the chalk, yes. But till then? I look at it and fondly remember battles won.

My chalked dining room walls. Bet you could even do it stylistically ...

What else worked? EUCALYPTUS OIL. I love the stuff - it wins yet again. Pop it in a spray bottle in a 50:50 ratio with water, attack, and win back your walls (!). The spray technique works particularly well in combination with chalking, as the ant trails will bunch up at chalk-points and you can nail them with eucalyptus there. (Sorry, little fellas). Plus the house smells really nice, fresh, and sinus-clearing.

Non-toxic ant control. I wouldn't say it's easy - it's certainly not as easy as dumping ant powder or spraying your house - but it's a helluva lot nicer for you and the environment. What about you? Do you have any non-toxic ant remedies to confess share?
Amanda xx

Monday, May 7, 2012

Triple Sprout Spring Rolls and My Favourite Peanut Dipping Sauce

I've lived here in Brisbane for more than 7 years now, but May still feels like spring. The days are shortening, the nights are cooling, and we snuggle up in our un-insulated living room to watch the latest Masterchef series.


We've had the barbeque out for nearly half our dinners lately, and we sit around the glowing embers wondering why we haven't done this more.

The garden is full of new things, sprouting things, ripening things. Greenness everywhere. The sun is warm but somehow less threatening. Watermelon drips down our faces.

It's autumn, but not. 

And all this fresh green begs to be made into salads and tossed onto pizzas fresh out of the oven and tucked up in rice paper rolls.

So, who am I to argue?

Nelle and I sat at the table one lunchtime last week and made these spring rolls out of our garden bounty, plus the 3 types of sprouts we bought at the market - pea shoots, mung bean sprouts, and alfalfa sprouts. She dipped hers in German-style mayonnaise; I dipped mine in peanut sauce.

We made extra, for our lunches at work and kindy. We even saved a couple for Daddy. 'Cause we're nice like that. It was a challenge, though, to share the peanut sauce. It's growl-worthy. 

So enjoy your spring, or your spring-y autumn, or whatever season it is wherever you are ... and have a look at what's fresh and new around you.

Then eat it.
Amanda xx

Triple Sprout Spring Rolls 
with My Favourite Peanut Sauce

The time
10-15 min prep + 10-15 min rolling

The ingredients
The rolls
Really you just need good-quality rice paper + fresh herbs and veggies.

Some of my favourite inclusions are:
mint, coriander, lemon basil and/or parsley
julienned carrot and/or radish
lettuce, amaranth, spinach, sorrel, and/or rocket
thin strips of cucumber or raw zucchini
mungbean, pea, radish, broccoli and/or alfalfa sprouts
rice vermicelli

The sauce - makes ~1 cup
adapted from Steven Raichlen's High-Flavour, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking
3 Tbs natural peanut butter
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 spring onions, minced
1/3 cup hot water
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar
2 tsp honey (optional)
1 tsp hot sauce

*Try to buy organic when you can - especially for the greens

The process
1. Organise all your salad ingredients on a big plate or benchtop. Put all the sauce ingredients into a heavy glass jar and shake till combined. The hot water should help penetrate the stickiness of the peanut butter, but if it doesn't just use a spoon to mix everything. Add water if you need to - it should be mayonnaise-thick, not toothpaste-thick. Adjust the sauce to how you like it - more or less chili, thinner or thicker, and so on.

2. You can either let your guests roll themselves, or do it ahead of time - Basically you dip a dried rice paper roll in warm water to soften it, then roll it up around your fillings like a burrito. Don't worry about prettiness - you'll get better after a few! Cut in half, or don't. Dip away.

The cost
I've found that rice paper does vary in quality - so you might want to splurge out a little and that will help keep your rolls from tearing as you make them. Saying that - it's not expensive stuff. I spent $8.99 for a packet of 20 or so non-organic papers, and the salad within is pretty inexpensive - especially if you take what you can from the garden. My rolls - mostly organic - probably cost me less than $1 each, including sauce.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Best Deodorant & Antiperspirant You'll Ever Use

This one's from the archives - as good as ever - and with new, pretty pictures. It's one of my most popular posts, so if you haven't tried this recipe, it's a good one to start with! Plus, check out the comments for some great tips - if you have sensitive skin, or allergies.
"Best ever" - I know, this is a big claim! And for such a simple, natural product ... but you are going to love, love, love this one!

The Best Deodorant/Antiperspirant You'll Ever Use
Makes a batch that'll last a month or so for 2 people
For men or women

The time
5 minutes

The ingredients
2 small jars and a small brush for application

For the cream
1/4 c extra virgin coconut oil
2 vitamin E capsules
5 drops tea tree oil

For the powder
1/2 c baking soda
1/2 c corn starch
5 drops tea tree oil
2 dried bay leaves (optional)

The process
1. Mix together all the cream ingredients, poking a hole in the vitamin E capsules and squeezing out the contents. Put into a small jar.

2. Put all the dry ingredients straight into a small jar and shake to mix.

3. You're done! To apply, put a small amount of the cream in each underarm and then dust with the powder. Best to do this before you have your lovely black sweater on as it can be a little messy ...

... but saying that, this product doesn't cause funny marks on clothes, it doesn't smell strongly, and it really works for a whole day or more!

How does it work? Well, these ingredients have antibacterial and antifungal properties and/or absorb moisture. And the cream helps hold the powder onto your skin. Clever, eh? I wish I could say I invented this ... I actually found the recipe on a forum long ago (but sadly have lost the link ... ) Ah, well. Share the love, right?

NOTE: You can use either the powder OR the cream if you want, but you get the best-working product from both. And, the powder is an excellent shoe deodoriser!!

The cost
When I started buying organic-y deodorants, I was shocked at how expensive they were - $9 for a roll on? Ouch! I used organic ingredients here when I could ... and check this out - refined organic coconut oil (I had some non-virgin stuff to use up): $0.75. Tea tree oil: $0.20 (it is so hard to guessimate essential oils!). Vitamin E capsules: $0.10. Baking soda: $0.40. Cornstarch: $0.50. Organic bay leaves: dried myself from the markets ages ago ... $0.20. All in all? $2.15, for 2 people, for at least a month. Good stuff!

Aluminium and antiperspirants and health
Aluminium (or aluminum for Americans) is a common and controversial ingredient in many store-bought antiperspirant/deodorants.

Aluminium and breast cancer
Ok, so this has been a popular issue in the media of late ... particularly because so many women get breast lumps in the upper/outer quadrant of the breast (mine included!). But, the reality is that there has been no direct and conclusive link between aluminium and cancer. As science goes, some studies say yes, some say no.

However, when you shave your underarms you create small cuts through which whatever chemicals you put on that skin can get into. Think about that for a second ...

In the body, aluminium can act as an estrogen mimic - and estrogen feeds many breast cancers (including the one I had). So, I for one, am taking no chances. Read more about this here or, for a recent scientific publication - here.

Aluminium and pregnancy
I know I read not to use aluminium-based antiperspirants while I was pregnant or breastfeeding (or aluminium cookware, for that matter). But I tried to find any sort of reputable article to link to, and failed.  Aluminium ingestion in large doses by a pregnant mouse does negatively affect the neuro-development of her fetal offspring, and there is evidence that humans can raise their blood levels of aluminium via eating lots of aluminium-containing antacids (check ingredients!) or using lots of aluminium-containing antiperspirants. For a comprehensive medical article about chemicals (including aluminium) and pregnancy, read here.

My opinion 
As a scientist, I know that the way science works is that one study shows this and another shows that. It can be hard to follow sometimes! But as technology and methods and ideas move forward, we get more definitive answers.

When it comes to my health, and the chances that breast cancer may or may not come back ... well, I'm not willing to wait for the definitive answer. I'm happy to change these things in my life that I can, like cutting out the use of aluminium. That's just the way I do things. It's up to you to choose for yourself, but I would encourage you most of all to think critically about what you put in and on your bodies. The large companies out there that make the products we use everyday are not always looking out for our best health interests. So Think. Question. And, if you see something you don't like, Change.

Treat yourself well!
Amanda xx

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Secret to Truly Awesome Fried Rice

Some nights (and I love these nights), Robbie takes Nelle out on a date. Just the two of them. Often it's a walk down the road to the Chinese restaurant, with its big tank of lobsters and airport-lounge carpet, to share a special fried rice. Or, as Nelle calls it, 'special rice.' With 'crawns.' (She loves crawns)

I sit at home - glass of red wine in hand - and exhale.

This is my special rice. It doesn't have prawns, or meat of any kind, and I think over time I've got the balance just right. It's rich without being oily - which is a win in my books. Experimentation is awesome, by the way ... on something you can hardly do wrong.

And you know what the secret is? Eggs. Lots of them. Scrambled. 
Making this special rice both tasty and sustaining. Survival rice. For when daddy doesn't take the kids out ...

Amanda xx

Special Truly Awesome Fried Rice
serves 3-4

The time
10 min prep + 15-20 min cooking

The ingredients
The eggs
1 Tbs rice bran oil (or use olive)
4 large organic eggs
1/4 cup milk

The veggies
1 Tbs rice bran oil (or olive) 
2 spears of celery, minced
3 small scallions or green onions, minced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbs soy sauce
+1 more Tbs soy sauce (later)

+ 3 cups cooked rice
+ soy sauce, to taste

*Try to use organic when you can! Pick up other veggies at the market on the weekend and try them out, too.

The process
1. Mix the eggs and milk together in a bowl, then saute them over medium heat in 1 Tbs of oil until they're soft-scrambled - that is, scrambled but still wet looking. Maybe a little under what you'd want to eat all on their own. Remove from heat and set aside. (You can leave them in the pan - that's ok).

2. In a clean frying pan or wok, saute the celery and scallions over medium heat in another Tbs oil until the celery has softened. Then add all the other veggies and stir pretty regularly until the corn is cooked (5-10 minutes). 

3. Add the cooked eggs, the rice, and 1 more Tbs soy sauce to the veggies and crank up the heat slightly. Keep stirring, and let the rice get golden if you like. This is really just the part where you combine everything and remove any excess moisture from the fried rice - so go ahead and take it off whenever you like. 

The rice, that is. I don't know what you were thinking.

4. Serve in bowls with extra soy sauce, to taste.

The cost
Fried rice is easy to make with pantry staples - rice, eggs, and whatever veggies you have on-hand. I usually keep peas and corn in the freezer, so this is my basic 'special rice' - feel free to try out different combinations! Made with organic ingredients, this dish'll probably cost you about $8-$10.