Upskilling and recharging

Spending time at home gives you the opportunity to try things that you may have been wanting to try but may never had the time.  One of my goals is to meditate daily and work my way through all the webinars I signed up for but never got the time to watch. Below are a few ideas to keep you occupied over the next few weeks whilst nurturing mind, body & spirit.

Take an Online course

There are lots of online courses available to cater for every need. TAFE NSW is currently offering 21 courses free of charge.  These range from business administration through to e marketing and are aimed at upgrading skills and giving a qualification which can be used to get back into the workplace.  Further information can be found at Tafe NSW Fee Free Courses .

Coursera offers a range of courses from business and universities, some of which are free.  These are mainly IT and technology based.

Khan academy offers short videos on a range of subjects from mathematics, science through to history.  These are informative and very easy to follow.

Udemy also offers a wide range of short courses free of charge.

Exercise

Staying physically active is important not only for cardiovascular health but also for flexibility.  If you are not used to exercise, then it is important to start with postural exercise to prevent injury.  If you use Instagram then #Move U have some good stability demonstrations.  If you are looking for classes then the Les Mills app is great for classes ranging from Bodypump through to Bodyjam which is a dance type class. F45 in Mona Vale are live streaming HITT classes but do require a membership.  Conny Pulvermacher is livestreaming Yoga classes from The Yoga Room at St Ives have a look at the timetable and see what works for you.

Get Google Arts and Culture

Google arts and Culture, allows you to take virtual tours of some of the top museums, galleries and theatres of the world.  So whether you want to visit  the Natural History museum in London or the teatro bibiena then try Arts and Culture google.

Meditate

Life at the moment can leave many of us feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed not knowing what the future will bring.  Meditation and mindfulness apps can help aid in relieving some of these feelings.  Puregym gives a good summary of some of the more popular mindfulness apps. My personal favourite is Gaia which offers you the option to choose the length as well so I have a favourite 12 minute meditation.

Ferment

Fermented foods are great for gut health and general wellbeing, but can be quite expensive.  They include Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefir and a whole range more.  Each different type of ferment has a different array of friendly bacteria.  Once you get the hang of them they are very simple to create and quite addictive to make.  If you would like to know more then Holly Davis has written a beautiful book called Ferment.  She also has some beautiful recipes on her website .

Learn a language

There are a number of free online language courses available so if you have ever thought you would like to expand your lingual skills try these websites.

French http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/

Spanish http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/

Italian http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/

Go to the Theatre

Whilst we can’t travel overseas one advantage of the current situation is that theatres are opening up production libraries to enable us to have the experience from the comfort of home. Time Out has produced a list of productions with streaming options in New York and London and Sadler Wells dance company is offering a range of shows free online as well .

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments for an online consultation currently but she will be back in her clinic at St Ives from 1 May.

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 .

Building Resilience

Every year in clinic I see people who are having a bad run of constant infections and having difficulty recovering. Its not uncommon for children to have up to seven viruses a year but its not good when they are getting sick more frequently than their peers and having more time off. Today I want to focus on what you can do to build your resilience to infections.

First up its important to consider the basics, diet, sleep and exercise. Then its critical to look at what nutrient deficiencies may need to be addressed and to consider how these infections are treated and whether there are supplements or homeopathics which may help with treatment.

What are the critical basics with a good diet? Well ideally one that is tailored to you and your specific requirements but also one based on the following essentials;

  1. Six serves of vegetables a day minimum (3 cups) ideally at least one of which is green leafy vegetables, one coloured and a third made up of brassica vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
  2. One to two pieces of fruit.
  3. Adequate amounts of protein equivalent to 1g per kilo per day for maintenance. For example a 70kg female needs 70g of protein a day which is equivalent to 2 eggs, a small piece of chicken and a can of tuna. If you are training you may need to increase your protein requirements to allow for building muscle mass.
  4. A small handful of nuts ,and seeds (approx 10 almonds) which provide good fats and key minerals such as zinc.
  5. Adequate amounts of carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread and other grains. At least a couple of serves a day is needed by most people.
  6. Adequate hydration in the form of 1.5-2.0L of water or herbal tea a day.

Dietary changes usually take 4-6 weeks to really start providing benefits so it can be good to look at a few key nutrients to support your immune system as well.

First up look at simple nutrients like Vitamin C and Zinc. Vitamin C ideally dosed at 500mg two to three times a day will give your immune system more support. Often when you are unwell you can also go higher with doses of up to 1 g three to four times a day to assist in fighting off a cold or flu. Zinc is a key nutrient that is often deficient in people who are frequently ill and may be helpful in doses of up to 25mg a day.

Probiotics are often recommended particularly for those who have had frequent courses of antibiotics. Increasingly now I am recommending prebiotic foods or specific prebiotics such as Partially Hydrolysed Guar Gum (a type of resistant starch from a bean). The prebiotics support a wide range of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can often be more helpful than a few specific strains of probiotics.

If you do develop another cold or flu my favourite herb is Elderberry and the product, Sambucol, which is available in pharmacy as lozenges or capsules can be useful for assisting in recovery. There are also specific homeopathic remedies which can assist which are covered in my blog on Treating Colds and Flu. Based on this year’s strains the remedies which should be considered are Arsenicum for gastric type flus and also Gelsemium for a more traditional presentation with fever, fatigue and aches and pains.

If you get really stuck and you have cold and flu symptoms I am available to do Zoom consultations as well. You can book in at Elemental Health on (02) 8084 0081 or online.

Meal Plan Week One

Getting organised to have surgery I was confronted with the reality of a very small freezer compartment and the need to educate my family on the requirements for healthy meals to assist my recovery. My goal is to document my usual weekly meal plan to provide a list of instructions and I thought it was worth sharing as you may like to use some of the recipes.

First up I always like to bulk prepare a few options on a Sunday to make the week easier. The current favourite is my version of Lasagne which is gluten and dairy free however it can be Spaghetti Bolognaise one night and Lasagne the next night.

  1. Turkey Mince Bolognaise and Lasagne
  2. Lamb Chops and Roast Potato with stir fried broccolini
  3. Chicken and Cauliflower curry
  4. Mushroom and pea risotto
  5. Chicken noodle soup asian style

Turkey mince bolognaise

750g turkey mince
1 brown onion finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and diced and 1 large eggplant roasted
1 jar of passata (chopped tomatoes)
1 glass of red wine or (1/2 each wine and beef stock)
1 tsp chili (optional)
1 clove garlic crushed

Start by placing the eggplant in the oven at 180C for 45-50 minutes. Pierce it with a fork in a couple of places. In a little olive oil saute onions and carrots on a low heat for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add mince, continue cooking until mince is browned. Scoop out eggplant which should be soft and then add remaining ingredients and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Serve with pasta and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

To make Lasagne use approximately half the sauce to layer in a casserole dish with Lasagne sheets. Organ’s lasagne sheets work well but make sure they are well covered. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes covered.

Mushroom and Pea Risotto

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 300g mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1L chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Medium leek diced
  • Olive Oil

Risotto is a favourite of mine as there are so many options and its an easy way to increase vegetables in the diet. Saute a leek in olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Add the rice and stir gently for 1-2 minutes. Then add white wine and stir as it absorbs. Add a cup of water and allow it to absorb into the rice. Then add sliced mushrooms and 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir though and allow to absorb. Do not boil rapidly but rather simmer, stirring frequently to stop it sticking to the pan. Gradually add in remaining stock one cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb. Add in the peas with the last cup of stock.

This recipe usually takes around 40-45 minutes of cooking time. If its nearly finished put the lid on and allow the last bit of stock to be absorbed, after turning off the heat (or moving off the burner).

Serve with a little grated parmesan or diced parsley.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 300g cooked chicken breast
  • Rice Noodles
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 200g snow peas
  • 800mL chicken stock
  • 2 Tblesp White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tblesp Sesame Oil
  • Soy Sauce

Add white wine vinegar and sesame oil to a large soup pot. Finely slice mushrooms and sauté in oil mix for a few minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Meanwhile cook noodles separately by placing in boiling water and leave covered for a few minutes.

Reduce heat to a simmer and add shredded snow peas, chicken and bok choy until chicken is warm. Season with soy sauce. Separate rice noodles and pour soup over and serve. (4 servings)

Christine Pope is recovering from surgery at the moment but is usually practicing at Elemental Health at St Ives.

Five easy lunch salads

One of the best things about finishing school in my view was the end of boring sandwiches for lunch. There is no reason that this needs to be the only option and having a variety of easy salads for lunches can be a good way to improve your child’s diet as well as adding some variety. There are a few salads it’s easy to pack for lunches and if you can add a small ice brick to the lunch box it can be kept cool as well.

What would I recommend ? These are my top 5 for the lunch box.

  1. Easy Chicken Caesar.
  2. Wombok with grilled chicken
  3. Tuna nicoise salad – this is an easy version from Delicious. Roasted potatoes can easily be substituted for the boiled version and add more flavour.
  4. Mexican rice salad
  5. Ham and corn pasta salad – a simple favourite from Taste.com and I usually try and use good quality ham off the bone to give it better flavour.

Easy Chicken Caesar

  • 300g chicken tenders
  • 1 Cos Lettuce
  • 100g proscuitto
  • 2-3 slices of old bread
  • 1/4 cup Aoili mayonaise (or plain mayonaise with 1 clove crushed garlic)

Grill chicken tenders until golden brown and set aside to cool. On a baking tray lightly oiled cook the prosciutto and diced bread at 180C for 8-10 minutes. Prosciutto should be crispy and able to be flaked across the salad. Wash the cos lettuce well and spin dry and then cut into 2 cm slices. Combine lettuce, prosciutto and dressing and serve with grilled chicken and croutons. For the lunch box it may be better to package the croutons separately and add just before eating. (Makes 2 serves).

Wombok with grilled chicken

  • ½ wombok (Chinese) cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 2 stalks celery or 100g beans sliced
  • 100 g snowpeas or a small can of corn
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Olive Oil (2-3 tblesp)
  • White wine vinegar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 ttblsp each of soy sauce and sesame oil

Cut up finely and toss together. Finely sliced vegetables enhance each others flavour.

Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil and white wine vinegar and toss through the salad. The more robust vegetables keep well and you could easily have this as a side with dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day. Just add shredded chicken (150g per person) and make sure you drain well before storing.

Mexican Rice Salad

1 cup cooked rice

1 can of black beans washed and drained

1 small can of corn

1 red capsicum diced

1 punnet cherry tomatoes halved

1 avocado diced

Dressing : 2 Tablespoons of lime juice and 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine ingredients including dressing and mix well.

A nice addition to this recipe is a small bag of corn chips or a tortilla.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. She typically tries to send her family with leftovers for lunch the next day and it probably works 3 days of the week! Appointments can be made on 8084 0081.

A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas

Whilst organising a Christmas menu around allergens may seem a little challenging the basics such as prawns, ham and turkey don’t require a lot of modification apart from finding a suitable stuffing! Mince pies and puddings require more significant modifications.

One significant issue is the ratio of stuffing to turkey. This recipe for stuffing cups from Donna Hay is a great solution to that option. I have made it by substituting gluten free breadcrumbs and nuttelex (for the butter) and they work really well. Just make sure your pancetta is gluten free too!

The side dishes for Christmas can be a range of salads or hot dishes, there are some useful suggestions in my blog on Four easy ways to add Brassica vegetables to your meals. Salad options with a dressing based on either mayonnaise (no dairy) or oil and vinegar can also be a good way to add vegetables and variety to the day.

Focussing on baking these are my two essential Christmas recipes and they are both from my Mum!

Mince pies (Makes approx 36)

Fruit mince – I jar

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

2 1/2 cups of gluten free flour,

1/2 cup castor sugar ,

185g butter (or Nuttelex for milk protein allergies)

2 eggs.

Combine butter and sugar, add flour until mix is like crumbs and then mix through egg to combine. Put on a floured surface and loosely knead. Wrap and chill in fridge for an hour before using.

Rollout pastry between two sheets of baking paper or on a floured surface. Cut into small rounds and use half for the base and the remainder for the lids. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of fruit mince into each pie and then seal lids by pinching the pastry together. Cook at 180C for 12-15 minutes.

Christmas Pudding

250 g each raisins, currants, sultanas and 60 g peel

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

4 eggs

1 cup plain gluten free flour

3 Tblspn Rum

250 g Butter or Nuttelex (Dairy Free)

2 cups soft breadcrumbs from gluten free loaf

Rind of an orange and a lemon

1/2 tsp each salt, mixed spice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and bicarb soda.

Chop raisins and peel, add other fruit and combine with rum. Leave covered overnight.

Cream butter, sugar and fruit rind. Add eggs slowly beating each in well then stir in fruit in alternation with the sifted flour and spices and breadcrumbs.

Place in greased pudding dish. Cover with foil and simmer for 6 hours. Keep water level about half way up the pudding bowl and check levels regularly.

Serves 10-12 people.

Ideal to serve with Coconut Milk icecream such as Over the Moo Vanilla Bean or Coyo Vanilla or Vanilla Bean and Nutmeg.

Dealing with the smoke haze.

The smoke haze in the Sydney basin has already lasted longer than most of us expected and many people are suffering particularly those with respiratory conditions or allergies. This week Sydney jumped to the ninth most polluted city. So what you can do to protect yourself for the next few weeks?

1. Hydrate – the body needs to be properly hydrated to keep mucous membranes moist and to flush out toxins. The mucous membranes filter out toxins and provide protection so if you are really dried out consider using a saline nasal spray or eye drops for more protection.

2. Exercise Indoors or not outside when smoke is visible. Air quality may be better inside with air conditioning rather than outside. This is particularly important if you are already asthmatic or lung function is compromised.

3. Avoid other toxins because this is a good way to lighten the load on your bodies detoxification systems, like liver and kidneys, as they already have more work to do. Toxins could be cigarettes or alcohol or foods which your body reacts such as dairy or gluten.

4. Supportive nutrients for detoxification. This could just involve dosing yourself on Vitamin C twice a day or with chronic mucous you could look at N-Acetyl Cysteine to help reduce mucous in your system.

5. Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods: garlic, turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, beetroot and pineapples. Foods with a high sulphur content like garlic help support detoxification pathways.

6. If you do work outside consider the use of a well fitted mask to reduce exposure to fine particles.

What other strategies can you suggest? Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

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