OBSERVATIONS FROM MY FRESH JANUARY

What? Are you CRAZY Ashley? How could you just eat FRESH for a whole month? 

Well, that's what I am doing, and I wanted to share my insights from the week and half that has gone by. Not insights into what I am eating or why I am have a FRESH January, but more-so my observations into what thoughts have come to me during this process. PS: I am eating mostly fresh and uncooked fruits and vegetables for the month of January - super amazing in the Aussie summer (who wants soup when it's hot???).

Observation 1: Food cravings and food psychology:

How often do you have a food craving? This month so far has highlighted to me, that it is ALMOST hourly we feel like eating something in particular. Be it rice, a roast potato (my most common one the last 12 days) or some of those comfort foods like pizza's or burgers. The psychology of food is such an interesting topic, and it is fascinating how our mind houses the control processes to bring forth cravings, I know I find myself reaching for snacks during the day - but do I really NEED that snack?!

Another thought that came to me that fits under this observation is how the pleasure and obsession that our culture has with food. It is so well embedded in our psyches from a young age - but it's mostly mental. One that stands out for me is how I associate feelings of love and fun with the less healthy foods, growing up, it wasn't very common to see a spread of delicious whole foods at a party! This is one to take note of, watch how your mind behaves with food today, and see what dish comes to mind when you think - TREATS, or PARTY or SAD.

Observation 2: Harvesting fresh and eating fresh:

Oh boy, this has been so cool! I've been lucky to have a garden that has survived some of the heat this summer and I've been harvesting fresh plus buying some incredible fresh produce from the markets (and Fresh Box!). This time of year is the best time for fruit and the vegetables just have a little extra crunch and oomph to them. I feel so blessed AND lucky that I live in a climate and a country that affords me this bounty. This month has taught me even more gratitude for living in the beautiful Sunshine Coast, thank you sun, rain and the amazing plants that grow here!

Eating fresh meals is normally not an everyday thing, some days I only eat cooked food (which is totally fine by the way!), the cool thing is we humans, or maybe more specifically, our palates, adjust VERY quickly! You absolutely CAN truly delight in the taste of fresh veggies if you know how to adjust your palate.

Observation 3: Taking food for granted:

At least three times a day we put this thing called food in our mouths, chew, swallow and digest. One thing I have noticed in the last week, is I have been more intentional with my eating and my meal prep. I must admit, whilst I work in the kitchen a lot, I had been taking food for granted. Eating distracted, cooking distracted and finding myself eating what I want, when I want. So, I've started peeling back the layers on this, to give more gratitude to food, food truly is precious, alongside sun, sleep and breathing, it is key to fuelling us in our daily life.

This process so far has brought myself back to being more more mindful and respectful at each meal. Preparing with care and enjoying the flavours and textures that nature has provided!
 

Transform Your New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions. They come around like clockwork each year, you end the year before full of food and drink, you look back on the year that was and (with unnecessary negativity) collate our regrets, skipping over the massive wins you had along the way. Then you say, "2018 is MY year! I'm gonna get fit, eat healthy, be the best Mum/Dad, climb Mount Everest, fly to Mars and back, be more organised, do the Mooloolaba 70.3 Half Ironman AND sleep more!". The first week of January is awesome, you're on holidays, you pull on the runners and get walking and plan out the BEST healthy menu for the week. Week two, you're going strong, feeling a little sore, but YOU ARE DETERMINED. Week three rolls around, it's back to school shopping time, your schedule starts to fill, you skip a few active opportunities and reach for the "simple" dinner here and there. Week four hits, you are back at work AND the kids are back at school, and well, STUFF THIS NEW YEAR RESOLUTION, I'LL DO IT NEXT YEAR!!!

My thoughts on New Year Resolutions? They are good in theory, but without the right scaffolding and support can be more damaging than good for us! We've heard of yo-yo diets, where you change your diet, lose some weight, congratulate yourself and celebrate, and put it all back on - New Year Resolutions can have this effect too, where the change you want to make encounters a challenge or time constraint and it gets put in the too hard basket just one month in! 

Have you made a New Year Resolution in the past and had success implementing the change? What about this change process helped it STICK? This question is super important to ask, as it unearths where the success lies in making any change in your world. Be it diet, behaviour or activity. 

I want to cover off how you can make a change (be it a New Year Resolution or just an Any-day Resolution) that sticks and has the desired effect. So before you write down your resolution (or if you want to review the one you have written), follow these steps FIRST for success:

  1. Start with your WHY, why do you want to make a change? Is it for your health? For your family? The WHY is super powerful to help you get through the habit changing pain that could lie ahead, write it down somewhere where you see it every day (TIP: Grab some whiteboard markers and write it on your bathroom mirror!);
  2. Now it's time to look at why you haven't made this change before, what has got in the way for you to stop you from achieving this goal? Was it time, energy or laziness? This step is important as they will be the saboteurs you need to watch out for on your journey.
  3. Now it's time to write down your goal or resolution, plan it out and seek out the following support:
    1. An accountability friend - this person will keep you on track and check in with you as you make the changes to ensure you don't get distracted or disheartened by your saboteurs;
    2. Structure - a structured process is fundamental for success, step by step with measure points keep you focussed AND breaks it down into bite size pieces;
    3. Community - surround yourself with people who are on the same journey, this support will keep you inspired and ensure you share the trials and tribulations together!

So, what's your WHY, who/what are your SABOTEURS and what is your RESOLUTION? Share it with me in the comments - I will check in with you in a month to see how you are going (seriously!).

Mango Salsa Cups Recipe

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Equipment:

  • Saucepan for rice noodles 
  • Large frying pan 
  • Mandolin (optional) 
  • Grater or Mandolin for ginger 

Shopping List:

  • 1 lg. 450 g Mango 
  • 2 lg. 250 g Avocado 
  • 2 med. 350 g Cucumber 
  • 1 med. 150 g Red Onion 
  • 1 med. 100 g Capsicum (Red or Orange is best) 
  • 1 lg. 50 g Lime, juice 
  • 3 Tbsp 25 g Mint, minced (or Coriander) 
  • 1 sm. 20 g Green Chili, minced 
  • ¼ tsp 3 g Salt 
  • 1 pkg. 250 g Tempeh, plain (check GF?) 
  • 1 Tbsp Cooking Coconut oil 
  • 1 Tbsp Tamari 
  • 1-2 Tbsp Ginger, fresh 
  • 1 pkg. 250 g Thin rice noodles (ideally 1 size up from vermicelli) 
  • 2-3 tsp Toasted Sesame oil (fragrant one) 
  • 1 lg. head Iceberg lettuce 
  • to serve Tamari 

Instructions

  1. Cook Noodles: Boil enough water to nearly submerge the rice noodles into. 
  2. Add the rice noodles and cook for ~3 minutes on high heat. 
  3. Remove from the heat and taste-test for doneness. You should be able to leave them sit in the hot water now until you're ready for them but if they are already well cooked to your liking, drain the water now. 
  4. Once drained, pour the toasted sesame oil over and toss through, to prevent from sticking together. 
  5. Make the salsa: Prepare and chop the mango, avocado, cucumber, onion, and capscium into small bite-sized pieces. 
  6. Add all remaining ingredients for the salsa to a large bowl and toss gently until evenly mixed. 
  7. Cook the tempeh: Prepare a large frying pan on med-high heat. 
  8. Slice the tempeh into thin slices ~ 3-4mm thick. 
  9. Thinly julienne or grate the fresh ginger. 
  10. Add all ingredients for the tempeh slices to the frying pan and cook on med-high heat until slightly browned on both sides, flipping them every few minutes. 
  11. Prepare Lettuce: while the tempeh is cooking, wash and prepare the iceberg lettuce by cutting around and into the stem to remove it. 
  12. Gently pry off one leaf at a time, trying to keep them intact. Having cut into the stem will make this much easier. 
  13. Serve: Less is more! Prepare yourself to eat 3-4 lettuce cups each, so try not to pile everything into one, even though it could fit. Start with a little bit of noodles down the bottom, add some salsa and a slice or two of tempeh. 
  14. Wrap up and have some extra tamari on hand for drizzling or dipping as needed. Enjoy! 
  15. PS. This is not the best meal for first dates - but it's delicious!!! ;) 
     

Notes/Tips:

  • Alternatively to iceberg lettuce, you could also wrap these into rice wraps for a slightly more lunch-box friendly or less-messy meal. If you cannot find tempeh, tofu is a great substitute too. 
  • The easiest way to prepare mango with the least amount of waste is to slice the cheeks off either side of the pit, as close to the pit as possible. Hold a mango cheek in your hand and with a drinking glass in the other, ideally one with thinner edges, scoop the edge of the glass into the edge of the mango pressing firmly into your hand until you have scooped out the flesh into the glass. 
  • Tempeh is like a fermented version of tofu. It is seen to be a healthier choice for this reason. Always choose organic soy products. 

My Christmas Menu 2018

This time of year excites me so much! Celebrating at Christmas parties, summer bbq's and of course Christmas Day itself. Every meal I sit down for I am incredibly grateful for, the synergy of the sun, earth and seed bringing such deliciousness and nutritiousness to me! Christmas time always brings a glut of foods to our tables, which is not the ideal scenario, topped with the volume, many of the festive foods are packed full of sugar, fat, salt and artificial STUFF.

I wanted to share with you the food that will be appearing on my Christmas table this year - to inspire you and show how you can have healthy, wholesome food without the volume and unnecessary flavour additives and enhancers!

Now - the only catch to getting these recipes is this, you have to join Cook With Me LIVE (there are two options, free & the Plus+ archive) - if you're reading this after December 9th you may have missed your chance to catch the recipes. Head to www.cookwithme.live to get signed up and receiving the recipes (or if you are late, the archive access is 100% worth it, think of it as your growing, living healthy cook book!).

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Bruschetta Salad with Gluten Free Croutons

Crazy good. We all love bruschetta, it's a fantastic appetiser, but have you ever tried this as a main? I've taken bruschetta and made it a salad PLUS added in some delicious gluten free seed bread croutons to round it out!

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Tropical Trifle

This outstanding trifle-turned-healthy will turn heads and excite tastebuds, with reduced sugar, healthy jelly and egg free custard - you can make this your own topping with your favourite fruits (if you are in the northern hemisphere, I recommend using winter fruits, apples, pears and berries!).

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French Corn Salad

I first enjoyed this salad on a school exchange to France, it combines my favourite citrus (grapefruit) with fresh, sweet corn. This is .a gem of a festive side dish, and I know you will love it as much as I do!

Each mouthful takes me back to my stay in Dijon, France - the best way to travel, with your tastebuds!

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Buckwheat Neatloaf

I'm experimenting with a plant-based Christmas spread this year, and have perfected this delicious (trust me carnivores!) lentil and buckwheat loaf. It has the texture, flavour and mouthfeel of a traditional meatloaf and will (possibly!) trick a few guests.

 

What's on your menu? I would love to know!

Meal-Replacement Shakes are like Aspirin for a headache…

We live in a world of instant gratification. Seth Godin put it best: “Shipping an idea went from taking a month by boat to a few days by plane to overnight by Federal Express to a few minutes by fax to a moment by email to instantaneous by Twitter. Now what? Will it arrive yesterday?”  So when we have a headache, we expect that we can pop a pill and be done with that headache (at least until the pill wears off).

In the rush of instant gratification, we are losing sight of the effects of our actions. We are thinking shorter and shorter term and many of us no longer understand the concept of investment for a future gain – even if by “future” we mean 1 day away.

If that Aspirin didn’t kick in within 30 minutes you would probably say it didn’t work, much like if your Dominoes pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes it would be free. We are being trained to think short term so that we don’t see the costs in the long term.

The point that we are missing is not about whether the Aspirin worked or not, it is about the fact that the Aspirin was only ever designed to get rid of a symptom.  You may successfully get rid of the symptom (short term) but you probably haven’t solved the underlying reason why you go the symptom in the first place and why you will get another one in the future (long term) or possibly something worse.

What would motivate you to take a meal-replacement shake? For some people it is to lose weight. For others, it is because they couldn’t be bothered cooking and possibly begrudge the fact that they even have to eat – what an inconvenience.  My heart genuinely goes out to you which is why I wanted to write this, I see it all too often.

Both are very big topics which deserve proper attention separately, but both are also symptoms of a greater underlying cause. For the sake of this blog, I will try to bring the two together for the people who experience at least a slight combination of both reasons for resorting to meal-replacement shakes.

Before I get to my specific point on this topic, lets just quickly get a few of the reasons why meal-replacement shakes are not a great idea, in terms of your health, out of the way first:

1.     They’re highly processed;

2.     They contain ingredients that are ‘foreign’ to the body and usually are made in a lab;

3.     They have a very limited range of nutrition, as compared to something in whole food form such as an apple for example;

4.     Just because they have counted the calories in the drink, doesn’t mean it is right for your body (and not all calories are created equal);

5.     Just because the ‘best scientists and dietitians in the world’ approve of the product, doesn’t mean it will work for YOUR body and what you’re going through right now;

6.     They are often high in sugar, fake sugars, dairy, isolated proteins, flavours, and other nasties;

7.     They don’t require chewing, so your digestion suffers;

8.     They can’t bring you as high of quality of fibre so your regularity often suffers;

9.     They fill you up on liquid so you often drink less and become dehydrated, potentially chronically;

10.  They’re not fixing the underlying problem!!!

I realise that I may have opened up other cans of worms above, but if you could just for the sake of this one topic, allow me to expand on point #10 – they aren’t solving your problem.

If you’re overweight, or if you couldn’t be bothered cooking healthy food for yourself the problem is probably because you’ve never been taught how to prepare healthy food in a way that is enjoyable and doable, and as a result of that, you have probably not had the greatest relationships with food for a very long time.

If you see cooking as a chore, you are just lacking skills and the personal experience with how amazing healthy food can make you feel. I get it. If you have never experienced that wonderful vibrant feeling of waking up in the morning bright, feeling amazing and well, and ready to enjoy the day with enthusiasm for what’s to come then you have no idea what you’re missing out on – so it’s hard to want it because you may not even believe it is possible for you.

Well it is. If not complete vibrant ‘perfect’ health then at least a whole magnitude better than you currently feel.

Can you imagine your car still running perfectly well in 5 years time if you consistently gave it the cheapest fuel and every now and then stretched it a bit further with some water in the tank?  I’m guessing not.

Why then do we expect our bodies to sort themselves out for better health on a cheap and nasty meal-replacement drink (that some manufacturer is making a fortune on)? I don’t care what you paid for the drink, it will NEVER compare to nourishing your body with wholefoods.

It’s like yelling at a person who doesn’t speak English, for not understanding what you’re saying to them in English – useless! Our body speaks the language of real food, eaten in the state as close as possible to how nature designed it.  It doesn’t speak the language of highly processed chemicals whether they are marketed to you as “nature identical” or not.

I’m sorry, but science isn’t that smart. Science doesn’t have a clue, and fully admits it, about how all the magic happening within a tomato can be good for your eyes. They think it’s the lycopene yet when they give straight lycopene to someone, it doesn’t have the same effect as just feeding them the tomato. It also doesn’t taste half as good or provide any delicious reward.

Our society gathers around food for a reason. It is meant to be enjoyed and it is meant to truly nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits.  Can you imagine everyone coming over for a dinner party and having shakes from a can together?

We are all onions in some shape or form, with many layers to our problems.  Reaching for regular meal-replacement drinks screams to me that at the very root of the problem lies a lack of skill and knowledge in the kitchen – and this is fully ‘fixable’.

The body holds no grudges and is very quick to reward you when it finally feels understood. We just have to learn how to listen and care just enough to take action for a positive shift in your daily habits.

I would love to be able to give you the “magic bullet” right now and say, here! Just do this – but then I would lying to you and I would be doing exactly what the food manufacturers have tried to do to you.  It may not be a “quick” fix (learning new skills) but ANY step in this direction will begin to improve things that you never even knew could improve and it will never be an investment you wish you hadn’t made.

In the meantime, if you’re loving those shakes, start by making your own meal-replacement shakes at home – we call them smoothies.  You can pack whole ton of nutrition into them without much effort at all, you just need to have real food on hand and a blender… and I think you (by proxy) have just inspired me to show you how easy it is on a future Cook With Me Live video… watch this space (and if you’re not already signed up to receive the recipe each week for free, go here: www.cookwithme.live).

Until then, please at least read the ingredient list on the shakes you use and start researching the ingredients. If they come from a lab or have an MSDS sheet, you probably want to spare your body the effort.  Please love your body, at least enough to respect it by putting only real food into it.  If you can’t do that, then feel my love for you, hopefully through this writing, so you can bring your gifts to this world from a happy, healthy space.