A HIDDEN GEM NEAR BRISVEGAS

***** PHOTOS TO BE UPLOADED WHEN MY INTERNET BEHAVES***

Imagine closing your eyes for just a moment and as you take your first bite of the food on your plate you are transported thousands of kilometres away to Greece, or Italy, or Spain…..

Today was such a day. We live on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and we headed off this morning to Brisbane to deliver a training session for my Certificate 4 in Fitness. It was a great morning, although by the time we had finished training and chatting the day away it was well after 1pm and the natives were getting restless. It would have been easy to pick up something less than ideal at a take away store or service station but we all knew we would hate the dismal choice of vegetarian food and regret how it made us feel afterwards.

Instead we headed for Mt Gravatt Westfield Shopping Centre and headed to the food court outside. There were choices beyond belief – Italian, thai, burgers, mexican, the list goes on, but if we were paying for lunch out we wanted something fresh and delicious to make it worthwhile. Miss 16 went looking at menus whilst we did the same and she came scurrying back to tell us about a funky looking mediterranean restaurant serving some pretty delightful morsels.

We were greeted with impeccable service immediately and shown to a great table that backed on to the new fountain area in the outdoor food court area. The décor made us feel like we were far from suburbia and the energy was classy and relaxed (despite us being donned in workout gear), and no one could feel out of place. Our drink orders were taken and filled promptly, but we didn’t feel pressured to order quickly and make rash decisions.

The menu was spectacular and well-priced, with plenty of choices for all dietary requirements. The tapas menu was extensive and quite well thought out we felt. Our mouths were watering before the food was even chosen and served. We ordered 6 tapas items which for $45 we found well priced, and the serves were quite reasonable in size. We ordered Arancini Balls, Haloumi, and Breads with Dips and each were made with unique flavours leaving us wanting to just have more of the same. For mains Kevin and I shared a delicious salad with buffalo mozzarella, a chicken and salad (yes rare for us as we have been vegetarian for 3 years now, but decided to have this today – lovely meal but meat won’t become a staple in our house for the foreseeable future…content for another blogpost). Mackenzie had a pasta dish that left her very quiet and very content, and after a taste I understand why – it resembled much of the delicious pasta we had in Italy. Lauren had a pasta and scallop risotto that had a similar effect on her, she is quite the seafood lover and although I would love to try it, I am horribly allergic. The wine I had was a delicious Rose from France and worth every cent! So delicious was everything I recommend the food without hesitation!

The owners both work front of house and we found out that the chef is well trained in his art, and that this is definitely not his first rodeo – definitely evident in the food. The owner even took the time to sit by us and get to know us, telling us about the restaurants origins and the vision they had for it. I like when you get to know who you are supporting and it’s even better when they take the time to get to know their customers, something I feel is missing in so many venues now and definitely play a role in where we choose to spend our money.

Not once did we ever feel rushed the whole time we were there, which is a particularly European and Mediterranean way of eating and serving others. If you ask me these beautiful people have all aspects very very right and we will definitely go back again not just for the service and food, but for the sensational and artistic desserts we didn’t have room for (and for the really interesting dessert cocktails more appropriate when we don’t have kids with us). If you are ever down that way, definitely pop in and see them, or make a special trip – you won’t be disappointed.

Do you have a favourite place to eat that is just like you are overseas? Please tell me about it, I would love to hear.

IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE TO EAT HEALTHY

“It’s too expensive to eat healthy”

This is something I hear people say all the time, but is it true? I guess it depends on what your idea of healthy is. What are your thoughts on this statement and why?

Here are five tips to improve your eating habits on a budget

1. Know your “clean 15, dirty dozen”
If you know what they are you can shop organic on a budget. Buy your clean 15 from your local fruit and veg market, they might surprise you with some of your dirty dozen organic options too. They are generally cheaper and have awesome specials on too.

You can google these and save an image of it on your phone ready for your next shopping trip. Mrs Flannerys is a great option for those dirty dozens you will want organic. I also shop at Nude Food Organics at Kawana too…so friendly and helpful!

2. Increase the vege portion on your plate and if your keen you could try raw recipes and reduce your electricity costs too. Meat is expensive and we tend to overeat it so reduce reduce reduce.

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3. Learn to use spices and herbs and ditch the prepackaged meal makers. Flavour from original sources are far better than prepackaged stuff and contain none of the nasties either. Really if something has been processed to an inch of its life how nutritious can it be?

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4. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Buy fresh produce that’s on special and create to your hearts content. Freeze for later meals and it saves you time later on, you can achieve this by cooking more and portioning out which also prevents you from overeating too.

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5. Grow your own. There are so many options and solutions for browning your own produce now and many who do report greater satisfaction at eating healthy when its their own grown stuff. If you have children you are also showing them sustainable ways of living for the future too, and setting an example as a problem solver.

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COMING OUT

I’m coming out. I want the world to know. I’m gonna let it show. I’m coming out. ….la la lala la la….

Okay so it’s not the coming out you might think it is after my Miranda Hart style song intro, but it is a significant coming out of sorts. You see we have gone through some significant change to our lifestyle choices since just after Christmas that has elicited the strongly held opinions of others to be shoved mercilessly down our throats. Fortunately however, I take this to indicate that if they must pull apart our choices as ferociously as their slow cooked pork they must at some level sense some truth and feel challenged by these concepts.

So what is this choice I hint at I guess you wonder? Well it is that we have become vegetarian.
*GASP* I know it’s terribly radical isn’t it! I guess about as radical as choosing to stop eating McDonalds completely which we did about two years ago…but I digress. If you are wondering about what on earth drew us into this radical cult called vegetarianism (said totally tongue in cheek), it was a few things, and very much a well thought out, well researched decision.

Firstly, I have detested handling raw meat for many years now to the point of feeling a gag rush up my throat requiring me to work hard to refrain from allowing it to totally surface. My hate of raw meat and the smell of cooking meat was so bad that I would sometimes have to leave parties that had strong smelling meats being cooked like kangaroo or pig on a spit – I couldn’t even eat it if it were too overpowering.

Secondly, we have had such wars with our you gets about eating anything over the past years that getting her to eat meat was like world war three. She absolutely hated any meat she had to chew. Totally turned her nose up at it and I’m sad to confess that I put my foot down and made her eat it much to the decimation of any harmony at the dinner table.

Thirdly (and this was the deal breaker for us), we decided to watch the movie Food Inc. through watching this movie and doing our own research afterwards we decided that in fact it was not aligned with our values to contribute to what was going on in the whole food chain process.

So we decided to stop eating meat to begin with, and to work towards taking out eggs and dairy too. My eldest is already dairy free by choice after a visit to a dairy farm and a bit of research on her part…and we will follow her lead. Of course it is always a choice, if my children asked me tomorrow for a steak then I would oblige with an option that is the most humane I could find – because ultimately I want this to be a choice they make for themselves when armed with knowledge, but so far they are more than happy to have no meat in their diets.

Are we sick? No. Are my kids poorly? No. Are we going to suffer? No. In fact we feel great for having done it!

We do get the odd comment that it will affect our children’s health negatively, but from everything I have seen so far my children have a much more nutritionally dense intake than many other children. I don’t consider those fast food chains, so called ‘breakfast’ bars or packets of sugar laden and chemical laden rubbish to be nutrition and neither do my children. My children eat spinach and avocado for breakfast, curries choc full of vegetables, and drink juices that would make your cells explode with delight, because they know now how to listen to what their body needs at any given time and are usually right.

So there we have it – I’m out!!! Proud to speak our truth. So if you visit and want to eat meat we won’t hang you or put you on trial for it….we just wont have any in our house. I dare you to try at least one meat free day a week and see how you feel – but it is your choice.

Hope you have had wonderful holidays, Passover, Easter. 🙂

CREAMY BASIL AND CASHEW PASTA

Welcome to my children’s new favourite recipe. In fact my seven year old calls it her favourite more than daddy’s – and let me say that is a feat! Of course you can change this around to be nut free too by taking out the cashews, adding more flour, and substituting rice milk for coconut cream. Feel free to share this but share the love and let people know where you found this yummy stuff.

Pasta for four people – approx 400g of penne pasta – can be gluten free, or even zucchini ‘pasta’ spirals.

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INGREDIENTS

1 brown onion finely diced
2 garlic gloves smashed and chopped
2 cups of basil ripped
2 tspn plain flour (can be gluten free)
500mls organic rice milk (or dairy free alternative)
1 cup of cashews (preferrably soaked in water for 2 hours)

Coconut oil for cooking.

METHOD

1. Brown onion and garlic with coconut oil.
2. Add basil leaves and cook til moderately wilted.
3. Set aside in bowl.
4. Heat 1 tbs of coconut oil in pan, mixing in flour to make a smooth paste.
5. Slowly add rice milk on a low heat, mixing well to ensure no lumps.
6. Blend basil, garlic, onion, and cashews until smooth.
7. Add to creamy mixture and heat through.
8. Stir through cooked pasta

*Please note – this mixture can be frozen and reheated. If it dries out add some more rice milk and stir through*s

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VEGETARIAN YELLOW CURRY

There is nothing like a tried and tested recipe to make your taste buds sing, especially when it is nutritious and wholesome, and approved by some very picky children. This used to be our chicken curry favourite but now that we have become vegetarian we now just use pumpkin instead of chicken and my girls just love that. Although this appears to have a lot of preparation in it, I assure you it doesn’t actually take too long and if you double the quantities like we do, it makes enough for dinners for my shift work or even another nights dinner that can be frozen.

My children constantly ask me to make this for them and I have made it for a few other people now , with it going down a treat! This weekend however I got the big thumbs up from my nieces four little ones as they sat around the table to this yummy dish – meat free too! Not one of them complained, and they all had smiles on their faces at the end. So here is the recipe – please enjoy and share – and credit to where you found the recipe is always appreciated.

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INGREDIENTS

1 onion sliced
2 shallots diced
1 leek sliced
1 capsicum sliced
1 celery stalk diced
2 zucchini – finger length wedges
2 cups green beans
2 carrots – finger length sticks
4 cups broccoli florets
4 cups pumpkin cubed – partially steamed or cut in smaller cubes

Coconut oil – for wok
2 tbs Valcom Yellow Curry Paste (more if you require more heat)
1 400ml tin Ayam Organic Light Coconut Cream (more to alter consistency)

*Serve with Basmati rice or cauliflower ‘rice’ *

METHOD

1. In a wok (or alternative) brown onion, shallots, and leek in coconut oil.
2. Add capsicum and celery until partly cooked through.
3. Add zucchini, beans, carrots and broccoli – placing lid on until partly cooked through.
4. Stir through curry paste thoroughly.
5. Add in pumpkin.
5. Pour in coconut cream and stir through.
6. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes or til cooked, on low heat.
7. Serve with ‘rice’ of choice.

SERVES 4

*Please note – we are vegetarian however if you are a meat eater you can choose to add free range chicken breast by sealing in wok prior to first step*

GOOD HEAVENS, GOOD CHOCOLATES

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Wow…chocolate made from coconut oil, agave nectar and cocoa powder….love love love