Good eating

The delightful first birthday

In a way The Baby’s first birthday was the first day of the rest of our lives for both Mr G and I.  Playing around with icing, planning food, overcatering – my career hasn’t left any room for entertaining ever and I’m completely new at it.  I bought the Australian Women’s Weekly Vintage Birthday Cakes books from my childhood and went all out on the number 1 cake.

Here it is, freshly iced with buttercream icing that I watched a million YouTube videos on how to do because I had no goddamn idea.

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And here it is after I bombed it with a million decorations and spelled out her name (blurred) in silver balls that Mr G found in Woollies for me.

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I also made Nigella’s Nutella Cake from Domestic Goddess.  The ganache split but the hazelnuts hid it well.

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I’d never had honey jumbles as a kid (nor heard of them) but found this attractive looking recipe on Taste.com so thought I’d have a crack.  They were delicious and I’m told they were true to people’s childhood memories.  They are basically iced gingerbread renamed for some reason.  At some point when I’m less tired, I’ll start photoshopping my food photos to perfection like other blogs.

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Here’s one heavily filtered with the Instagram filters.  Those are peanut butter squares also from Domestic Goddess up the front.  They taste exactly like Peanut Butter Cups – it’s frightening.  And delicious.  Note the copious amounts of cheese and glass of champagne,  because as I quickly learned, the first birthday party is really for the grownups.

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And here’s the baby taking off because the grass is full of far more interesting things than a grownup has to offer!


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I can happily report that much champagne was drunk, the baby cried and fell asleep in her pram while the rest of us stuffed ourselves full of party food and reminisced about childhood and discussed handbags.  The little things are so brilliant so sometimes.

How I Cured My Bald Patch.

In my previous post I mentioned all my hair fell out from stress.  It was thin and breaking and terrible and when I finally fronted up to my horrified hairdresser, she loaded me up with such good advice, none of which involved buying overpriced products from her salon.  I originally thought about titling this ‘How to cure a bald patch’ but seeing as this only worked for me, and to prove that something works you have to prove it in well over a hundred people, get it peer-reviewed and then published, I thought I’d give you my anecdote instead.

First – exercise, food, vitamins.  Everyone needs these.

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My hairdresser told me to take silica and fish oil, or alternatively, eat fish.  So I did.

Then she told me to put organic coconut oil through my hair before washing it and leave it in for a while.  I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about how long.

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It smells amazing!  I use it as a moisturiser, instead of butter in cooking (if you don’t mind the coconut flavour) and for frying.

She also told me to keep putting treatments in my hair.  She didn’t care which ones, and didn’t try to sell me any.  I got a sample of Terax Crema from Adore Beauty and haven’t looked back.

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I think they’ve changed the packaging now, I hope the product itself hasn’t changed.  I only wash my hair twice a week because all of that is such an ordeal but it’s looking a million trillion times better and I love my hairdresser all the more for giving me a half hour long lecture on looking after myself and eating right.  I wish healthcare was more focused on wellbeing.  I’ve always said that if I don’t make it through my physician exams, then I’m becoming a GP that incentivises good health.

The most important thing to get my hair back though, was relieving stress.  Some stressors I couldn’t change (like my job or location) but some exercise here, some good food there, and the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’ got me there.

As did my Yoga Studio App!  If you’re like me and would like to fall out of poses in private, then this one’s for you.

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It is hands down the best Yoga app out there – I even took it to the park and fell out of poses in public I love it so much.  Great to do right after a run.

I’m happy to report that with all that on board, my hair started growing back, and my bald patch is now covered in hair.  Short and cowlicked hair, but I don’t mind at all.

Phew, enough posting for one day I think, time for some more study >__<.

Mom, I’m vegan.

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Two things happened about a month ago. The first is that I saw what can only be described as a 12 layer meat sandwich topped with cheese. The second is that I watched Forks Over Knives, a vegan documentary doing the rounds that instead of focussing on sanctimonious and militant animal rights activists, looked at two ageing cardiologists and what happened when they put all their heart attack patients on vegan diets.

The first thing gave me a new appreciation for the word nausea. The second got me thinking – what would happened if I went vegan? Would I starve? Would my muscles desiccate before my eyes? Would my bones snap from lack of calcium. Actually Forks Over Knives countered those last two and let’s face it, in this society you are never going to starve unless you work really hard at it.

So I eschewed animal products in favour of a plant based diet (the non-controversial way of saying diet-based vegan but more on that later). I never ate much meat or eggs, and only ever had milk in coffee or on cereal so I didn’t find it too hard, I just swapped out milk for soy (again controversial, again more on that later).

What struck me was that the entire lolly aisle was now more or less off-limits. Want chocolate? Can’t, it has milk solids unless you buy 80% dark which incidentally has health benefits. Want sour gummy worms or party mix or marshmallows? – can’t it has gelatin (processed cow hooves). Ice cream? Milk and eggs. Cookies, a Snickers? Milk solids milk solids milk solids. One exception is Oreos which curiously, are vegan – that’s not a cream based filling in that centre! Goodbye yoghurt and yogo snacks, diet lite desserts, goodbye shortbread.

No wonder those patients in Forks Over Knives reversed their type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol when they followed a vegan diet. And here I am, a couple of weeks in to what is possibly one of the best presents I’ve given to myself. Suddenly I find thousands more ingredients to use that I never considered before. I discover that swathes of Asia are vegan of vegetarian by nature and that ‘mock meat’, non-soy based texturised starches have a long and trusted history. I discover that I like hoisin mock duck better than the real thing. My mind is clearer than its ever been and my skin needs a tenth of the attention I’ve ever given it.

But there is always a downside and much as I’d love to tell you that it’s all just too hard, it’s not the food that’s the hard part of going vegan. It’s the people. To date here are the responses I’ve received.

I could never do that.
I don’t get this response. Why are you saying this to me? I could never do half the things you do, because guess what, I’m not you!

What about protein?
If you never did biology or chemistry then I forgive you because I never had and learned all that later to get into medicine. But come on. Eggs and meat and not the sole sources of protein on the planet. They are high in protein yes, but guess what? To get more protein, I get to eat more!

What about calcium?
Forks Over Knives addressed this pretty well. The US is one of the highest dairy consumers on the planet. They also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. What’s missing here? Milk is not the only source of calcium, and bone density needs calcium, sunlight, and weight bearing exercise to maintain itself. This is scientific fact. Pumping yourself full of calcium and not doing any load bearing and staying inside all day will do nothing for your bones.

It’s so inconvenient when you go out though!
Actually this one is true. Most places are not well set up for vegans. My husband and I set a rule that if we go out and there’s no vegan options, we’d rather not be a drag so agreed to go vegetarian if there were no vegan options. It’s worked well! I’ll pull the cheese off pizza, go for eggs and if there’s no vego options, go for fish. It’s really not hard, it means we occasionally get some nutrient variation and have a good time with our friends.

You won’t get what you need to get fit!
I’m still going to the gym and I have more, not less energy. There’s a lot of food-related anxiety out there which people don’t even know they have, they interpret these anxious beliefs as truths. My advice is that for every belief you have, Google it – you might be surprised!

Soy is evil yada yada oestrogen something something
Apparently the evils of soy rumours were sown by the dairy industry in the eighties but rather than do the legwork of verifying that, I need only to point out that China and Japan have consumed many and varied soy products in their diet for thousands of years, that they have managed to procreate just fine, and that the Japanese enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

I can’t resist temptation
Yeah you can. You just have to want this more than you want that.

What about chocolate? Carob is gross!
I agree, Carob IS gross and if you thought this was the only chocolate substitute then like me you’re a child of the eighties whose Mum might have given you all carob eggs one year and hoped you wouldn’t notice – but I digress. first of all 80% dark chocolate has no milk solids so is vegan by default. Secondly milk solids are only used to keep the chocolate solid, it’s mainly cocoa butter and sugar so the vegan chocolates now just use a vegetable fat in place of that. It’s not quite the same, but worlds apart from gross carob.

Dietary vegans aren’t ‘real’ vegans
After watching Forks Over Knives I was all set and ready to go, googled a ton of vegan recipes only discover this really interesting argument on the Internet about how ‘real’ vegans didn’t consume palm oil because of rainforest destruction. I found this interesting because to grow anything you’ve kind of gotta chop down something, but efficient farming is all about getting the most nutritional bang for your buck per square metre (another reason why high meat consumption is bad for the planet). Also interesting because by definition, vegans are people who don’t eat animal based products. But apparently not. According to my more militant colleagues, veganism is a ‘way of life’ and not a nutritional choice. So unless you’re wearing hemp and using solar electricity only and basically not participating in the human race then you’re not a real vegan. Then I saw someone call themselves a weekday vegan which was great.
These are just words. You are who you are. How you eat is a personal choice and really definable by no one. People who call themselves ‘ethical vegans’ are by definition calling the rest of us ‘unethical’ which isn’t true. And if they don’t eat palm oil but do eat any farmed food does that make them semi-ethical? Again words, semantics, this is all meaningless. I’m here for health reasons and a dramatic reduction in animal based food with a massive increase in plant based food is good enough for me.

So how do I tackle all this overwhelming opinion that launches my way whenever I say the v word? I tell them that there is so much heart disease, obesity, and cancer in my family that it is the right thing to do for me, based on what I’ve learned about plant based nutrition and health. That I’ve seen the consequences of poor diet in the hospital too many times to count, that I know what I need to do. There is evidence appearing now relating high animal fat diets to types of cancer. I don’t want that for myself. And after I explain that, it’s all okay.

Bake.

Donna Hay's Choc Peppermint Creams

Yes it was Valentines Day recently.  Yes I took the opportunity to stuff myself stupid, make something nice for my husband, and look at what I found in last years Donna Hay Christmas issue?  I should probably wax more lyrical about Donna Hay magazine.  I love it.  Say what you like about her, her magazine and cookbooks are simple and fantastic.  I don’t want to think about food.  I don’t want complicated.  I want to shove stuff in the oven or in a pot or on a pan and have it taste good.  Food snobs can go and live in another corner!  These turned out fantastic – although don’t bother using Lindt dark, they came out way too strong, and I’ll wager that it probably doesn’t even need dark chocolate in the cookie mix.  Don’t be lazy like me and chop the chocolate roughly, do it properly or melt it down.  Next time I’ll probably leave it out though, it overpowered the peppermint.  That didn’t stop me eating far too many and taking the rest to work to get the evil little bastards out of the house.  Here’s the recipe

Choc peppermint creams.

150g butter, softened
1/2 cup (90g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (175g) golden syrup
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1/4 cup (25g) Dutch cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda, sifted
200g dark chocolate, chopped
peppermint cream
2 1/2 cups (400g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons milk

  1. Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy.
  2. Add the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda and beat until a smooth dough forms.
  3. Add chocolate pieces and mix until well combined. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
  5. Roll 1 tablespoonful of the dough into balls at a time. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and flatten slightly, leaving room to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are cracked. Allow to cool on wire racks.
  6. To make the peppermint cream, place the icing sugar, peppermint extract and milk in a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.
  7. Spread half of the biscuits with the peppermint cream and sandwich with remaining biscuits. Makes 18.

Donna Hay Magazine Issue 60

FF Inspired Weekend!

Anyone who knows me in reality knows I’m a die hard Faux Fuchsia fan.  I’ve converted several friends and have taken to thinking a lot about the space in which I live.  I’d like to say I never have chipped polish, but truth is I never have polish because I’m not allowed to wear it at work (nurses have run after me, bottle of remover in hand as a medical student!) and my place never really rises to greet me, more it sort of slumps over with exhaustion just like I do when I get in the door.  Is it wrong that I’ve started thinking about specialising in General Practice just so I have the time to get out in a garden or paint my nails?  Or God forbid, join the most of the modern world in never having to do night shift?

I’ve had eerily fewer weekends to work this rotation which has had the nice effect of feeling like doing stuff on the weekend, you know, other than sleeping or cancelling on friends social do’s for the purpose of sleeping.  Years ago I bought a steam press at an opshop for sewing and rarely use it, but last weekend hauled it out to do my lovely organic bamboo total-waste-of-fabric doona cover that wrinkles when you breathe near it.

Here it is, working it’s magic.  Once you get the hang of it, it blasts large swathes of fabric into oblivion.

And here’s the doona cover on my bed…

As you can see, I rampantly under-cushion but I’ll fix that one day.   After all that work I then made a salad of orange, , rocket, fennel, pistachios and prosciutto dressed with some orange juice and balsamic.  I’m a huge fan of salads as meals.  Afraid it’s not enough?  There’s a reason why the French eat bread as a side!

Here’s a photo of my perfume collection.  I bought the one at the front in Grasse in the South of France where Fragonard has their factory.  If you’re in Melbourne you can buy it from Klein’s.  I love those kitsch sparkly animals – they’re a knockoff off Estee Lauders yearly perfume compact.  Mr G thinks I’m crazy.  At least my perfume shelf rises to greet me.

The perfume behind the front one is also by Fragonard.  In fact I’ve gone off generic designer perfumes completely after visiting the South of France.  They all smell the same to me now.  That won’t stop me repurchasing Boss Orange Sunset (the new one) time after time though.  It is the most worksafe perfume around.  I’ll upload my picutres of Europe one of these days.

In other news, I got an Asos order the other day.  Is it just me or do their tops run large?  I always thought a UK8 was a touch smaller than an Australian but I was proved wrong by swimming in them.

Time to go and destroy all my good work – am moving house in a week.

On the subject of family…

I command you to get yourself to a bookshop and pick up a copy of My Abuela’s Table by Dani Germain.

Dani is a something kindred spirit in that she also ditched her old career, risked ruin and ridicule (sounds familiar!), and switched from science to design.  In class she decided to illustrate all of her grandmothers recipes (Mexican), and the class held a competition which just happened to be judged by a publisher.  And guess what?  By following her dream and doing what she loved, someone discovered her, and gave her a book deal.  You can visit her blog here.  Buy the book, I did, and now it holds a prized spot on my coffee table, it is simply beautiful and I’ll post pictures of the first thing I cook!

P.S.  You can buy a tortilla press (if so inclined) and the right flour, from The Essential Ingredient.

P.P.S.  Not affiliated (well maybe very loosely), but I just love the book and her story.

Greenhouse by Joost (and the pink umbrella)

A few weeks ago Mr G randomly heard about that foodie dedication to all things recycleable and organic,  Greenhouse by Joost and decided to go.  Fortunately this was before it appeared in the SMH and we got a table at 1pm really easily.  In Sydney this is completely unheard of.

The theme was organic.  They pulled it off.

The menu was typical of organic and seasonal produce restaurants, short and sweet.  And very, very good!

This was mullet with heritage tomatoes.  I don’t know how they get the skin that crispy but I’m sure it involves butter.  And the tomatoes were amazing.  My only complaint was that they served it on some sort of untreated recycled wood and the mullet soon tasted like untreated recycled wood.  It’s not the culinary experience you’d think it was.  But it just made me eat the damn fish faster!

Mr G had the wagyu steak and salad and wasn’t disappointed.

While we were there, one of the cruise liners decided to leave the harbour.  It was a bit surreal watching that giant ship move past the window.  A bit post-apocalyptic.  I half expected it to take off.

Then we drank coffee from recycled jam jars.  Post 90s organic recycled nu-hipster cred?  Tick.

And then there was a lady outside with a pink umbrella.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her, I was obsessed!  It was a dull-ish day and the pink umbrella seemed to light up everything around her.

I stalked her through The Rocks for a while before Mr G announced I was being creepy and to stop it.

Anyway, I recommend Joost – the food is good, so is the coffee.  No disappointments.  I saw a lot of people ordering the pizza – now this place grinds their own flour and makes their own.  As someone who makes their own pizza this can only mean one thing – tough and chewy.  Don’t go there expecting great pizza.  It’s organic, it’s wholesome, but I can guarantee you there are better things on the menu.  Like that lovely mullet!