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 for sore throats

My kids have always been a little worried when they were first getting sick, except when they had a sore throat as they would be excited as they could have honey! Good quality Manuka honey that is usually combined with a lemon and garlic tea.

The first symptom that many people notice with a cold or flu is often a sore throat. A niggling or slight scratchiness initially and then within a few hours it has developed into a sore throat. Depending on the symptoms its usually a good idea to provide gentle immune system support and some appropriate homeopathic remedies. Three options are useful for supporting the immune system manuka honey, elderberry and lemon and garlic tea.

Sore throats are often a precursor to a cold or flu so supporting the immune system with Elderberry is ideal. A good over the counter option for Elderberry is the product Sambucol which comes in capsules or lozenges. The advantage of a lozenge is that it provides a way of topically treating the sore throat. This option also tastes a lot better than most which helps if you are treating children.

For sore throats where there is also congestion or a cough its usually helpful to add a good quality tea combined with manuka honey. To make lemon and garlic tea boil up 5 cloves of garlic with a quartered organic lemon in about 1L of water. Bring to the boil an then reduce to simmering on the stove for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on as this ensures that the limonene essentials oils are retained in the tea. One to two cups a day with a teaspoon of good quality Manuka honey will help with symptoms and recovery.

Homeopathic medicine is a useful way to support recovery from a sore throat. Its usual to match the symptoms of the sore throat to the homeopathic remedy. First up look at the location of the sore throat, is it on the left or right side. Then look at the type of pain associated with the sore throat, is it dry, sore, stabbing or burning ? Check to see if anything makes it better or worse (this is what we call the modalities), this could be that its better for cold or warm drinks for example. It could be a little different in that they are better for covering the throat. Then look at any other symptoms that are occurring at the same time and see if they have a similar patter.

Two remedies that focus on the side on which the sore throat starts are Lachesis and Lycopodium, Lachesis tends to start on the left side and usually is associated with burning pain in the throat. Lachesis is also known for people who may have a sore throat but can still talk incessantly. People who need Lachesis often find drinking doesn’t help but eating my provide relief. Lycopodium tends to start on the right side or is worse on the right side and the pain is usually better for warm drinks.

Hepar Sulph is often useful where the pain extends to the ears and the sore throat comes on after a cold or after getting chilled.

Where the throat is more infected and glands are swollen you should consider Mercurius Solubulus (Merc Sol). When this remedy is indicated there may be excessive saliva such that the pillow is drenched in the morning as well as bad breath. The sensation in the throat could be dry or burning pain. This remedy can be of significant benefit in the acute phases of glandular fever.

For more information on managing the symptoms of acute illnesses see the recent blogs Treating colds and flus naturally , Stomach Aches and Pains and Natural Medicine First Aid .

Christine is a practicing Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives and can be contacted on 02 8084 0081.

Healthy Lunch boxes and snacks

School holidays can be a welcome relief from prepping the dreaded lunch boxes. It can be difficult to be inspired about providing healthy lunches and snacks five days a week. In this blog we will be reviewing some ideas on prepping lunch boxes as well as providing you with a list of snack ideas and recipes. Scroll down for a link to a recipe book with five snack ideas for lunchboxes.

Ideally lunch boxes include a range of healthy foods your child enjoys which can keep them motivated for a full day at school. There are six key features to consider when organising a lunch box.

  1. Think about the macro content , that is try and include protein and carbohydrates at every meal to maintain energy levels over the day. Carbohydrates are typically quick at releasing energy but if the meal is solely based on carbohydrates (bread, rice or pasta) then energy levels lag after an hour or two. Protein is ideal for slow release of energy and also to maintain balanced blood sugar through the day. Protein sources can include meat, fish , chicken, eggs as well as vegetarian proteins like legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or tofu and tempeh.
  2. Use vegetables with dips instead of crackers or corn chips. Most people struggle to get children to eat enough vegetables so including carrots, capsicum or cucumber with humuus or a dip just helps increase the nutrient quality of their diet and normalise eating vegetables. Harris Farm also carries little snack packs of mini cucumbers and carrots which can be an ideal size for lunchboxes as well as maintaining their structure through the day.
  3. Salads are a good alternative to sandwhiches but need to be robust enough to keep in a school bag in the heat. Ideally pack in a thermos to keep them cool or include a small drink bottle with frozen water to keep it fresh. Good options can include a ham and rice salad, tuna nicoise or shredded chicken with coleslaw. Cabbage salads tend to be more robust and keep better. A family favourite is this wombok salad which works well with chicken drumsticks for lunch.
  4. Stock the freezer with useful options, many muffins freeze easily and make an ideal snack. Mixing it up with options like banana muffins, chocolate pumpkin muffins and zucchini and goat cheese muffins (recipe in the snack book below).
  5. Prep home made treats and make enough for a few days and keep in air tight containers. Home made popcorn can be an ideal treat to add to lunchboxes and adds a good dose of fibre as well. Other home made options can be trail mix with dried fruit and seeds (avoid nuts for school lunchboxes) or crispy chickpeas.
  6. A couple of pieces of fruit can be an ideal inclusion. From a packing perspective apples or mandarins are easy to pack however its always a good idea to have variety and include small tubs of berries, kiwi fruit or melon or a couple of small apricots or plums.

For some more recipes for snacks download the recipes from the link below for a range of ideas for lunchbox snacks.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental health St Ives. You can make appointments to discuss from meal planning on 02 8084 0081 or book online.

Therapeutic Juicing

Juicing is a useful way to increase nutrients in the diet and can also be used therapeutically. There are many foods which you can use with health benefits and a regular juice can be a good addition to your diet. It can also be a good way to get your three cups of vegetables daily. Here are three of my favourite combinations that you may find helpful.

Celery juice is known for its benefits in reducing fluid retention however what do you use if you can’t stand celery? My first juice is a delicious blend and can easily be adjusted for specific preferences. Key is the pineapple and cucumber. Papaya is also helpful for fluid retention (and improving digestion) but you can increase other ingredients to compensate if you don’t have papaya handy.

Fluid Retention

  • 1 cup chopped Pineapple
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1 Apple (green or red)
  • 1/2 cup papaya
  • 1 cup green spinach

Pineapple is a good source of bromelain which is useful to reduce inflammation and fluid retention. If you don’t have papaya add a little more pineapple. If using organic food then you do not need to peel the cucumber or apple.

Place in the blender or juicer and blend until smooth. You may need to dilute a little with water.

This next juice is a good way to get an energy boost in the afternoon as well as generally increasing vegetable intake in the diet generally. I do like to add a little ginger but that may not appeal to everyone.

Energy Boost

  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 small beetroot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 Apples

Peel the carrots and beetroot and then juice with the celery and apples. A delicious addition is a small knob of ginger.

One of my favourite social media sites for new recipes is Simple Green Smoothies and they also provide great information on how to blend to make a good green smoothie. The basic recipe is as follows;

  • 1 cup leafy greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1 cup of liquid such as coconut water, nut milk or dairy
  • 1 cup of fruit (having it frozen makes it easier to store)

Blend the greens initially and then add liquid and mix through. Follow up with fruit and blend until smooth and creamy.

Do you have a favourite juice recipe please feel free to share in the comments below.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Easter cooking gluten free.

This Easter weekend with so many of us stuck at home it could be a good time to try your hand at cooking a few new things themed around the holiday. For example fish pie for Good Friday which is usually a fasting day in Catholic households which translates as no meat. Saturday could be about some gluten free hot cross buns and Sunday might be time to get out the big guns with some gorgeous sides for the prawns and ham. Monday you will probably be living on leftovers but these easy banana muffins could be a nice addition to breakfast or afternoon tea.

The fish pie recipe is from Taste.com and uses almond milk in place of dairy. The gluten free hot cross bun recipe is from the Healthy Chef. Some healthy sides for Easter could include the following;

Roast vegetables with chili jam

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 red and 2 yellow capsicum
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 medium zuchini

Slice vegetables thinly and halve tomatoes. Spray with olive oil and bake uncovered in hot oven 20 minutes. (200 C) Turn and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Chilli Jam

  • 1 medium onion chopped finely
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 4 large tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 80ml dry sherry
  • 2 chilis seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar

Combine ingredients in large pan and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve with roast vegetables.

French beans provencale

  • 500 g green beans
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp parsley

Wash beans, top and tail. Steam until tender Meanwhile heat oil in saucepan , stir in garlic and parsley and a pinch of salt. Add beans and toss until well combined.

Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablesp Honey
  • 1 Tblesp oregano, tarragon and basil
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 punnets cherry tomatoes
  • Vinaigrette – 2 Tblesp Balsamic, 1 Tblesp Olive Oil and 1 tsp mustard.

Heat oil stir in honey and herbs. Add onion and brown stirring constantly.. Lower heat and add tomatoes and stir gently. Serve warm and sprinkle with vinaigrette and chopped basil.

Vinaigrette – combine oil and mustard and beat in balsamic vinegar.

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (add to sugar)
  • 50 g butter
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free self raising flour or 1 cup gluten free self raising flour plus 1/2 cup of almond meal or coconut flour (coconut gives it a nice moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup choc chips preferably dairy free (or 1/2 cup frozen raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Melt butter, mix in sugar and then egg. Add in alternately flour and bananas and stir well. Then add in the choc chips. Spoon mixture into 12 muffin cases or greased muffin tray. Cook 15-20 minutes at 180 Celsius. Muffins should be lightly browned when cooked.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. Her favourite tool for finding new recipes is googling ingredients.

Meal Plan Week Two

Following on from the previous blog (Meal Plan Week One) I am documenting some healthy eating suggestions for my family as I am still not able to prepare food easily. Well I can prep some things but lifting and bending is still challenging post surgery.

This week’s meal plan included the following ideas;

Simple Potato Curry

One or two tablespoons curry paste ( two if you prefer it spicy),
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 its finished cooking.Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added.

Chicken Caesar Salad

  • 300 g cooked chicken breast fillet
  • 2 panini diced (or 3-4 slices of gluten free bread)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Aoili
  • 1 Large Cos lettuce cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • Grated parmesan (optional)

Lightly spray panini or bread cubes with olive oil. Brown in oven for 8-10 minutes at 180C. Allow to cool. Place prosciutto on a non stick tray or on baking paper and also cook until crisp, approx 7-10 minutes at 180C.

Place cos lettuce cut into bite size pieces in a large salad bowl and toss with Aoili until it is spread through the lettuce. Layer on cooked chicken, prosciutto and croutons and if desired grated parmesan.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who is based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Okra – mucilaginous veggie

Okra is an unusual vegetable as it contains a mucilaginous gum which thickens stews and casseroles. It is known for its use in gumbo in Creole cooking however it has a wider range of uses and is worth including on a more regular basis.

A small study of okra conducted in 2013 (1) showed that okra reduced the production of fat and increased the breakdown of cholesterol. The only other food with a similar cholesterol lowering effect is oats.

Nutritionally okra has a high level of Vitamin C and folate as well as moderate levels of magnesium and potassium.

Looking around for recipes for okra I was focussed on finding a breakfast option to copy the one I had enjoyed in Fiji at a breakfast buffet. What I did find was some really useful side dishes which would add flavour to any meal.

1 Roast sweet potato and okra this is a good combination of flavours and additional vegetables as a side for grilled meats.

2. Tomato and okra stew a filling side dish or a tasty breakfast option.

3. Okra and Potato Hash this would make a good breakfast option as well as a side dish.

4. Easy Roast Okra this is a simple roasted version with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Of course no blog on okra would be complete without a gumbo recipe and this chicken and chorizo gumbo from Taste.com looked straightforward.

Let me know whether you find okra is a worthwhile addition to your vegetable intake after you have tried the recipes.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments on 02 80084 0081 or online at the website .

(1) Hypolipidemic activity of okra is mediated through inhibition of lipogenesis and upregulation of cholesterol degradation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23606408

Carrots – seasonal veggie inspirations

Carrots are a versatile vegetable and nutritionally a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamins B6 and K as well as minerals such as potassium . The beta carotene in carrots can be converted to Vitamin A. They are also good food for the microbiome as the soluble starch in carrots is largely pectin.

Carrots have the advantage of being ideal raw or cooked. Carrots are available year round and are usually very reasonably priced so a great addition to the weekly shop.

How do you include carrots in your meal plan? Well in addition to being a great side dish on their own they combine well with so many flavours to add to a meal. Often the base of many casseroles or pasta sauce is to start by sauteeing carrot and onion as these “fragrant” vegetables add to the flavour profile of a dish. Adding a carrot can be a good way to increase the quantity of vegetables in a dish.

Here is a list of recipe suggestions for including more carrots in your cooking. Some of these are from recent blogs and others are just recipes I use all the time at home. Carrots are also a favourite to add to roasts as they absorb flavours beautifully specially if you cook them with the lamb or chicken.

Turkey Mince bolognaise – turkey mince is a good light option for pasta sauce.

Carrot and Apple Salad – an easy and quick combination from Carol Ray with walnuts and a lemony dressing. A nice change from coleslaw.

Carrot Pumpkin and Coriander Dip this is a slightly spicier combination but makes a really interesting change from humuus.

Carrot and Onion Side Dish

  • 500 g carrots peeled and cut into rings
  • 2 brown onions peeled and sliced in thick rings
  • 2 Tblsp fresh chopped continental parsley
  • Olive Oil

Steam carrots lightly for 3-4 minutes so they are still crisp but cooked. Saute onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped continental parsley.

My favourite way to serve carrots is roasted however this combination with roasted parsnip (Maple roasted carrots and parsnip) is simple and a delicious way to get children to eat more vegetables as well.

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