Confused by Zucchini? 5 simple ways to use it in meals.

One of the best ways to keep your food budget under control is to eat seasonally. At the moment Zucchini is in season and Harris Farm is offering the imperfect picks known as unruly Zucchini at good prices. So how do you make the best use of Zucchini? One of my favourites is a stir fry with ginger and orange but its also lovely in ratatouille, grated in fritters or chargrilled in salads.

Zucchini is a low carb vegetable with one cup of zucchini providing 3g of carbohydate, 40% of your daily Vitamin A requirements and is a good source of carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and vision.

A few other options for zucchini recipes from some favourite sites and a few recipes for inspiration;

Gratin with Potato and Zucchini

  • 500g potato sliced thinly
  • 4 small zucchini cut into small rounds
  • 2 red capsicum finely sliced
  • Thyme

In a casserole dish layer zucchini, capsicum and potato. Start with zucchini on the bottom and finish with potato on the top and sprinkle with 2 tsps dried thyme. Cover with lid and cook in over an 180C for up to an hour. Serve as a side with grilled meats or fish.

Stir fried zucchini with ginger and orange

  • 600 g zucchini
  • Small knob of ginger
  • peel of half an orange grated
  • 2 Tblsp Soy Sauce

Cut zucchini into batons. Grate ginger finely and saute lightly for 30 seconds in a wok. Add zucchini and stir fry until soft and a little blackened. Stir through the grated peel and add the soy sauce, stir through for 30 seconds and then serve.

Simple Potato Curry

One tablespoon curry paste,
1 tsp each cumin, mustard, ginger and garlic
One onion
2 potatoes
1 piece sweet potato or pumpkin or 2 carrots
2 red capsicum
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk


Add a little oil to the pan and a chopped onion plus the spices. Fry the onion in the spices. Add two potatoes, a quarter pumpkin, two red capsicum (scrub potatoes, don’t peel – less work and better for you). Cut all the vegetables about the same size – for instance, in quarters.

Chop and slice salted eggplant and two zucchini. (Before you use eggplant – slice it, pour salt on it and then after 10 minutes wash it off). Stir this through, add a can of chopped tomatoes, cover for 20 minutes, cook on low heat. Check that the potatoes are getting soft. Add a small can of coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins before serving.

Variations: add a bunch of spinach (chopped) or Chinese cabbage a few minutes before it is finished cooking. Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online.

Balancing Blood Sugar

Did you join me for my Natural Medicine Week Webinar? If you missed it or want a review of the highlights then click through to the youtube recording or scroll through the powerpoint which is attached below.

In the webinar we cover the following topics;

  • Blood Glucose and insulin how does this work and what does this mean for you?
  • What are the risks from a health perspective of poorly managed blood sugar?
  • Which diet is best able to assist you to manage blood sugar
  • A simple meal plan to help you put it altogether

The webinar recording is linked below.

I

If you have any other queries please pop them in the comments below or book in with Christine on 02 8084 0081. Christine Pope is an accredited naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is offering both in person and online consultations.

Natural Medicine First Aid 2022

Did you miss my latest webinar for Natural Medicine Week ? If you want an overview of how to treat coughs, colds and stomach upsets as well as common injuries please review the powerpoint links below or click through to the youtube recording further down.

The recordings are linked to my youtube site and can be accessed by clicking on the link below, but please feel free to subscribe to the channel for updates.

Thanks to all those who attended the workshop and please consider following my blog for future updates on all things natural medicine. If you are interested in treating common illnesses and injuries have a look at these recent blogs;

  1. Treating Colds and Flu at home
  2. Natural medicine first aid – bruises, sprains and strains
  3. Stomach Aches and Pains
  4. Post Viral Fatigue (and other symptoms)

Christine is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointment can be made on 02 8084 0081 or online at the website.

Six ways to increase your energy

One of the most common reasons for people to see a naturopath is that they are really tired and lack energy. If you are feeling like this at the moment its important to understand why your energy is low but there are also several things you can introduce which may help improve your energy levels on a permanent basis.

The area of the body that produces energy is a component of each cell called a mitochondria, think of them like little factories. As we get older the number of mitochondria in the body can reduce, typically we see a halving of the levels between 20-40 and then again by the time we reach 70. These mitochondria can also be damaged by a range of environmental factors which means they don’t work as effectively and produce less energy.

There are a number of “hacks” which can improve both the number of these little factories and also the quality. Most people are aware of the benefits of regular exercise however they may not be aware that muscle cells will build more mitochondria as a result and they will operate more effectively. However often when people are really fatigued they are not in a position to exercise so these are my top six strategies for improving cellular energy. There are other strategies however this list focuses on those with minimal costs.

  1. Thirty minutes of daylight as close to waking as possible. This is an invaluable reset for your body’s circadian rhythms and helps you produce a reasonable amount of melatonin. Melatonin is important to generate sleep but turns out it also helps with cell repair and can improve energy. Literally one week of eating my breakfast outside followed by a short walk saw a significant improvement in my energy levels.
  2. Mild stressors for the body such as cold can improve energy quality. Its really important with this strategy to start with a very modest amount and slowly increase. A cold swim in a mountain stream might be the goal but start by having a minute or two of your shower with cold water. If you are very temperature sensitive start with it on your arms and legs and then gradually move to the trunk.
  3. Eat in a 11-12 hour window. Allow the bodies waste systems to function effectively by giving them a reasonable window to operate with. This is particularly important if you suffer from brain fog as a result of tiredness. This is really fairly straightforward and may just see you have breakfast at 8am and dinner at 7pm.
  4. Reduce your exposure to blue light from computers and devices. This could involve using blue light blocking glasses however a lower cost solution is as simple as switching off all devices at least one hour before your bedtime. Blue light blocks the production of melatonin and results in more difficulty in getting to sleep. Low melatonin will also reduce the ability of the mitochondria to repair themselves and result in a worsening of fatigue.
  5. Sleep in complete darkness using blockout curtains and turning off all lights and devices. Good quality sleep is essential for energy as cell repair happens during our deep REM cycles. Typically if you aim for 7-8 hours of sleep you will have between 3-5 REM cycles. Each cycle tends to be longer with the first being about 90 minutes. For more information on improving your sleep quality read my blogs on Can you build up sleep Pressure and Six Sleep Myths Debunked
  6. Reduce inflammation in your diet as much as possible. Chronic inflammation reduces your ability to produce energy in your cells. The first step could be avoiding any known allergens or intolerances and the second to try and ensure that you are having at least three cups of vegetables a day. For more information on reducing inflammation my blog on Post Viral Fatigue has some useful resources. More generally to understand which vegetables are most useful for your health What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?

There are also a range of strategies to improve energy using tailored diet plans and supplements however these need to be prepared in consultation with a practitioner to ensure that underlying triggers are identified and addressed.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments on 02 8084 0081 on online at Elemental Health .

7 days of Iso cooking !

Having completed two rounds of COVID Iso I thought it would be helpful to share some meal ideas to get you through the pain. Fortunately through COVID we have a weekly delivery from my organic supplier so there is plenty of food available and then it is really just a question of how much time to spend cooking. For most of the time it was just the two of us so between some bulk meals and a little bit of contactless delivery we had a fairly good range of options over the long weekend.

So what was on the menu ? The first night a big batch of Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with vermicelli noodles, mainly because I forgot to put on the rice early enough. That gave us enough for two nights dinners.

CHICKEN AND CAULIFLOWER CURRY

2 tablespoons curry paste
600 gm chicken breasts (cut into bite size pieces)
½ cauliflower – cut into small flowerets
1 head of broccoli (2 cups peas can substitute)
1/4 cup peanut butter (or nut butter like ABC mix)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can coconut milk
Coconut oil

Brown chicken in a small amount of oil. Remove from pan. Put oil in pan and fry curry paste for 30 seconds. Stir in nut butter, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Add cauliflower (steamed lightly for 8 minutes before adding) and broccoli (also steamed for 5 minutes) until cooked through and then return chicken to pan and warm through. Serve with rice or vermicelli noodles.

Easter lunch was supplemented by a share of the prawns that were delivered by my Mum. I added a couple of interesting salads, namely a Warm Cherry Tomato salad and a Ceasar salad with croutons from the Herb and olive foccacia and a little crisped prosiutto! The tomato salad went particularly well with the prawns and the use of leek rather than onions as recommended in the recipe worked well with the honey, herbs and oil saute. Given the amount of the cooking liquid I really just added a spash of balsamic rather than making a separate dressing.

My original plan for Easter was a family lunch and my centrepiece was turkey with stuffing cups. Fortunately the turkey was two pieces of buffe so we will have a few meals from it. This time it made two sets of dinners with roast vegetables and green beans one night and then the leftover roast potato with a side of broccoli and cauliflower roasted with lemon, garlic, olive oil and rock salt. This side is my favourite as it is quick to make and very tasty thanks to the lemon garlic oil and rock salt.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who enjoys finding lots of good food that’s gluten free. If you enjoyed this blog you might also like A tea lovers guide to the Blue Mountains and Gluten Free North Coast. Please add any other suggested restaurants in the comments section below.

Gluten free Canberra

So many plans for February were cancelled it was a bit surprising that my Canberra trip actually went ahead. Part of the trip was associated with a Board role for COSBOA, which involved an in person Board meeting and the pitch finals for the Accelerator for Enterprising Women and other part was actually to have a short break and explore Canberra and surrounds.

Part of my planning with a trip is to check out recommendations on Trip Adviser and see what gluten free options are available and well rated. For any one with specific food intolerances or preferences there are a number of filters you can choose to enable you to see what the best options are in the area. There have been quite a few closures as a result of COVID lockdowns so its usually advisable to make sure that any venues are still open and trading hours are unchanged. Usually checking out that social media is current works but if you are really keen on a place call and check. Staff shortages mean many cafes and restaurants are limiting hours or days.

First up we looked out for a few good breakfast options with bonus points for some different breakfasts. The most scenic option was a cafe called Local Press at Kingston Foreshore on Lake Burley Griffin. The best local option (close to our hotel) was Eighty Twenty. Local Press has a number of gluten free and vegan options with the ability to build your own breakfast with your preferred vegetables and protein. My choice was the LP Veggie bowl with broccolini, carrot, wild rice pilaf, sesame crusted avocado and pickled cabbage and I added some house cured salmon. The combination was the perfect breakfast fuel and had a good range of different textures.

80/20 actually has four locations in Canberra and specialises in providing a range of allergen friendly food. Whilst I usually like to load up with vegetables and protein to really give the menu a workout the buckwheat waffles were obviously the best idea. Served with pureed date, maple nut crunch and seasonal fruit plus vegan ice cream the waffles were very tasty and satisfyingly sweet. Other options included smashed avocado, various acai bowls, a big breakfast and a veggie bowl.

On this trip we revisited a few of my favourites including the wonderful Akiba where the food is Asian fusion, Tipsy Bull with a great range of gluten free options and Pillagio Estates. These were probably the pick of the dining options in fact we enjoyed the Tipsy Bull so much we went back for a second meal when out trip was extended for a few extra days.

The Tipsy Bull has a friendly up market bar vibe with both in door and garden seating. It is reknown for its excessive number of gins on its menu however it offers a full range of cocktails and more usual beverages as well. Not the reason I enjoy going, but apparently gin is very big at the moment. The food is designed around share plates with the usual recommendation being that you order three small plates, two from the garden and one large plate to share between two people. The stand out dishes for us were the tuna ceviche, the large chicken plate and the crispy squid. In terms of garden dishes its always worth ordering the cauliflower if its on the menu, however the street corn and broccolini were also interesting options.

Akiba has a coeliac friendly tasting menu which is always worth ordering, but if you are going a la carte, make sure the miso eggplant, crispy squid and the fried rice with prawns are on your list. The seafood is also excellent and the kingfish sashimi is well worth ordering. The menu is really flexible and on one occasion when I ate with a colleague who was vegetarian we did enjoy a really tasty meal, particularly the mushrooms tofu and cashew.

Pillagio Estates has an extensive range of house cured meats and salmon in its cafe and at the fine dining restaurant. We were aiming for the cafe before we went for a bushwalk and accidentally drove to the fine dining at Pavilion. Despite our hiking gear staff were very considerate and offered us the option to dine in and were so glad we did. Since we had already thought ploughman’s lunch we did a fine dining version with a selection of the farm’s produce and a few sides from the garden. There was a little too much food realistically and one of the standouts was the Heritage Carrots with Sunflower hummus. There were five large carrots which in addition to the hummus made for a very substantial side. Paired with a garden salad and the Smokehouse Charcuterie Board it was a delicious meal and very relaxing looking out over the gardens where the vegetables were harvested.

The other activity for a little bit of balance after all these meals was a few bushwalks around Canberra. The All Trails app showed a wide range of graded options but my favourite walks were at The Arboretum. We walked up Daisy Farm Hill on a hot day and enjoyed the views from the peak and then to cool down walked through a beautiful 100 year old cedar forest. The other walk that is really worthwhile is the two bridges walk which takes you in a loop around part of Lake Burley Griffin.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who enjoys finding lots of good food that’s gluten free. If you enjoyed this blog you might also like A tea lovers guide to the Blue Mountains and Gluten Free North Coast. Please add any other suggested restaurants in the comments section below.