Monday, 12 November 2018

National Recycling Week - OzHarvest Fight Food Waste Event

As part of National Recycling Week 2018 (12-18 November), the ACT NoWaste Education team is running a series of events to show the behind-the-scenes of recycling and resource recovery in the ACT, and to raise awareness of the various services offered in the ACT. The series of events and open days can be found on their website, and are listed here:

  • 12 November – Fight Food Waste
  • 14 November – Residential Recycling for Strata Managers
  • 14 November – ABC Canberra radio's Lish Fejer is broadcasting from Recycling Discovery Hub, 1.45pm – 4.00pm. Tune in to 666AM to listen. 
  • 14 November – Corkhill’s Green Waste Recycling centre open day
  • 15 November – Fighting Fast Fashion
  • 15 November – Soft Landing Mattress Recycling
  • 16 November – Container Deposit Scheme’s Return-It Depot in Fyshwick open day
  • 12-18 November – Green Shed Mitchell

OzHarvest's Fight Food Waste "wasty" recipe cards

Today (12 Nov) I attended the Fight Food Waste event, where Dave Burnet, ACT Territory Manager for OzHarvest, gave an eye opening, and sometimes hard-to-fathom-statistics talk when detailing the work that OzHarvest has done over the last ten years.

Dave started by providing a number of mind-boggling statistics relating to food waste, and the growth of OzHarvest in Canberra:

- OzHarvest opened their first office in Sydney, and their second office was in Canberra which opened in 2008. Back then, they collected 1,500 kilos of food per week in Canberra. Fast forward ten years to 2018, and in just the month of October 2018, they collected 50 tons (yes, 50 TONS) of food in the ACT alone. 68% of this was fresh food and vegetables.

- OzHarvest Canberra supports over 70 charities, with currently 12 more on the waiting list.

- OzHarvest currently has 3 vans, and soon a truck will be joining the fleet.

- 1 in 5 groceries bags of food purchased is thrown away due to waste. This amounts to nearly $4000 per year, per household.

- Globally, one third of all food produced is going to waste.

OzHarvest Canberra collect from every single Woolworths supermarket, most Aldi stores, Costco, some IGA stores, Qantas and Virgin catering, and the Farmer’s Markets. They also accept ad-hoc and once-off donations from local food producers. They don’t pick up from Coles supermarkets, as Coles partners with food rescue provider Second Bite. Nor do they pick up from restaurants as chef’s manage their food supplies very well, using up excess where they can. They also don’t pick up a lot of bread, as they would be swamped with bread from local bakeries. They have to say ‘no’ to buffets and the like that have excess food, as that has been exposed to the public and is not packaged. They only accept in-date food, and food that is clear of any visible deterioration.

Dave Burnet

A couple of the really interesting food rescue stories Dave told us were:

Local Gunning based egg producer, Bumnuts Australia, contacted OzHarvest and said they had a few spare eggs. Turns out the ‘few spare eggs’ were 17,100 eggs due to fluctuations in their suppliers orders at the time!  As Dave said, you can’t turn off a chicken, so they kept on laying! I’m sure all those eggs founds wonderful homes through the charities.

Another story involved a truck driver, delivering oranges from the Riverina. He had to brake hard in his journey when a car cut in front of him, and as a result all his load shifted forward slightly. Not so much as to damage the fruit, but it did cause a tear in each of the large bags that the oranges were in. Just enough to compromise the load, and reject it by the customer at its final destination. OzHarvest to the rescue! They managed with their 3 vans to secure almost half a truck load of the oranges. As Dave said, no one in Canberra got scurvy that week!

As a final thought… food for thought as they say… Food is precious. Dave made the analogy of “you wouldn’t throw away a diamond or an emerald… so why do we throw food away, as its just as precious”.  It really makes you think that we consider so many resources dug up from the ground (think iron ore, uranium, copper etc) as valuable commodities, but don’t put the same emphasis on saving food grown from the ground.

OzHarvest cotton grocery bags

Head to OzHarvest’s Fight Food Waste website to learn more strategies to reduce food waste at home, at work, and at school. Especially good are the Look, Buy, Store, and Cook guides. There are also a ton of resources like meal planning guides, and "wasty" recipes to help repurpose leftovers to reduce food waste.

Leave me a comment with your go-to ideas for reducing your own food waste.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Regular Connoisseur - Preserved Lemons

Do you have a collection of gourmet food products hanging around in your pantry? Or maybe they are lurking in the back of the fridge? These are the items that you might have been gifted in an artisan food hamper, or purchased on a whim from a farmers market, or from an enticing providore when travelling around the country. Things like gourmet flavoured olive oils, balsamic vinegars, truffled salts, preserved lemons, or exotic fruity jams. Have you ever wondered what to do with them? How to cook with them? What other foods do they go with?

Well hopefully in a series of Regular Connoisseur titled blog posts, I can help shed some light on these epicurean delights, and give you some recipe ideas and tips on how to enjoy them.

Welcome to my first post in the series, this one highlighting Preserved Lemons.

Jar of Kingfisher Citrus Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are regular fresh lemons that have been cut open to expose their flesh and rind, rubbed over with lots of sea salt, and packed into jars with lemon juice and more salt. They are usually stored for up to a month at room temperature to allow the briny mixture to soften the rind, and intensify their lemony flavour. Other ingredients can be added to the jar like peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks or bay leaves, or they can be left plain. Both the flesh and the rind of the lemons can be eaten. Now I know that seems strange to eat citrus rind, but just think that is what is in marmalade!

Salt has been used for centuries to preserve the likes of fish (think salted cod), meats (like bacon), vegetables (ie sauerkraut) or fruits, as in the case with lemons. Here are some easy recipes to follow to make your own jars of preserved lemons (hello, handy Christmas presents!):

Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking, and are most commonly added to tagines, casseroles and curries. They can really be used wherever lemon is called for in a recipe, especially in savoury dishes, to impart a really intense lemon flavour.

Some ideas for their use include:

Add to couscous, along with chopped dates, almonds, sliced spring onion, and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Mix chopped lemon with softened butter and oregano, and smear between the skin and flesh of a chicken, then roast for a deep flavoured oven baked chicken.

Chopped finely, and added to a casserole with olives, chicken thighs, garlic, ginger and saffron, and slow cooked. 

Brighten up a roast carrot salad with a lemon/yoghurt dressing.

Preserved lemons also pair really well with lamb. I found a cracking recipe for Moroccan lamb meatballs, on The Girl Who Loves to Eat website, that was right up my alley. All I needed to buy was some lamb mince, and garam marsala. Garam masala is a heady fragrant spice mix, usually consisting of cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, caraway seeds, cinnamon and fennel seeds.

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs, couscous and yoghurt sauce

I tweaked the recipe with the inclusion of finely diced preserved lemons into the lamb meatballs themselves, which gave them a subtle lemony flavour. I amped up the flavour stakes even more by adding in some of the juice in the preserved lemon jar to the yoghurt sauce, and added just a few strips onto a couscous side dish. The couscous recipe I used was a simple ‘throw it together’ one, which was:

2/3 cup couscous,
8 chopped (pitted) dates,
2 sliced spring onions
Handful of slivered almonds
2/3 cup boiling water
Glug of extra virgin olive oil
Thinly sliced preserved lemons

To make the couscous, put the couscous into a glass bowl, then add in the dates, onions, and almonds. Stir to evenly distribute the ingredients, especially the dates because they are quite sticky. Add in the boiling water, and immediately cover the bowl in plastic cling wrap. This will lock in the steam and help plump up the couscous grains. After about 5 minutes, or when you can see the water has been absorbed, remove the plastic cling wrap and flake the grains with a fork to loosen them up. Then stir through the olive oil and serve the couscous with a few preserved lemons strips on top. 

Couscous prior to adding in the water

Tell me reader, are there gourmet food products that you have always wondered 'what do I do with that?'. Let me know, and they might appear in an upcoming post! 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Getting Jammy on ABC Canberra Radio

The weather was a perfect September spring day, the scones were freshly baked, the cream whipped, and the jars of homemade jam were lined up like numbered soldiers awaiting their fate to be judged, then devoured by the masses. Behold, this event was the Strawberry “Jam-Off”, the brainchild of Lish Fejer, an ABC Canberra producer, all-round foodie and lover of puns, and was held outdoors behind the ABC Canberra radio studio on Wakefield Avenue.

Being a foodie and food blogger who has been a guest on ABC Canberra radio before I was asked to be a guest on today’s show, along with Philida, a CWA steward at the Queanbeyan show where she judges the jam entries, and Cheryl who is a maker of jams and has submitted entries into the Canberra Show. The three of us formed the judging panel and had to quickly taste our way through all 13 jams.

Let the Strawberry Jam-Off commence!

Nearly all of the jams submitted were strawberry jam, in keeping with the theme of the show, but there were two very rebellious inclusions. One being a raspberry jam (which was a very good raspberry jam), that was nearly scratched as a non-conforming entrant, and the other was clearly a marmalade although it was labelled “Strawberry Jam Surprise”.  

One of the jams was submitted by Jamie Travers, Producer of the DRIVE show at ABC Canberra radio, and it was his first ever attempt at jam making. Unbeknownst to him, he broke three of the cardinal jam making rules;

Firstly, he did not skim off the scum that floats on the top when boiling the fruit in the pot,

Secondly, he over-cooked the jam, leaving it both a very dark colour, and having a semi-burnt flavour, and

Thirdly, he veered wildly from the recipe, and stirred through chia seeds just before bottling.

You could see his soul being slowly crushed as the judges commented on all of these aspects, so much so that Jamie declared that he would never ever attempt making jam in the future, nor would he ever eat jam again. I must admit that when tasting his jam straight out of the jar it was not very appealing, but it's molasses like flavour married very well with a mouthful of scone and cream.

Now to the judging. My background from being on the Urban Providore Australia Tasting Panel kicked in almost instinctively, and I firstly looked at the colour of each of the jams. Most had a beautiful crimson colour, with some being glossier than others. Next was aroma, of which some were more vibrant in strawberry aroma than others. Certainly not the marmalade made with Seville oranges, however that did give off excellent fruity notes and spice filled scents. Alas, Jamie’s jam gave off neither a pleasant aroma, nor had an appealing colour.

The range of jams submitted

Next element to assess was the ‘jamminess’ of each, that is how set were each of the jams. Some were quite set, and passed the ‘turn-the-jar-over-your-head’ criteria without falling out, whereas some had a thick soup like consistency and were more loose in structure. The polarising topic of using Jamsetta in jam making was raised by Lish, that is, to use Jamsetta, or to use natural pectin from lemons and other fruits. About half of the entrants used Jamsetta when making their jams (including Lish’s own entry), most used lemons, and Jamie used limes. For the uninitiated, Jamsetta is a commercially sold product containing sugar, pectin and food acid, and it is used to add much needed pectin (especially in the case of strawberries) to help the jam set, and aids in cutting down the cooking time.

Now to the tasting. We each expected that a good jam is not overly sweet, not salty, not bitter, but full of strong strawberry flavour. Most of the jams tasted excellent, but there was one that was clearly a standout…

…Number 10.

My fellow judges and I were unanimous in our decision that this was the best jam. Number 10 was a lovely strawberry jam, that hit all the right notes in terms of flavour, colour and aroma. The prize for the winning jam maker was a cake of their choice, to be baked by Lish, who firmly encouraged the winner to choose a chocolate cake, but preferably one that did not involve many complicated steps. The maker of the winning jam was a girl named Audrey who was only 11 years old! Audrey was not present at the event, but congratulations to her, and I hope that she placed a very complicated cake order with Lish.

The crowd enjoying the jams

The large crowd were then invited to share in the jams, Lish’s freshly baked scones, the large bowl of cream, and my homemade strawberry scones. Several people agreed with our winning jam selection, but they also liked several of the others. Many were game enough to try Jamie’s first ever jam attempt, and one young child rated it a 4 out of 10!! Oh poor Jamie, he just about dropped his microphone on hearing that. At least he gave it a red hot go.

My Strawberry scones

The recording of today’s Afternoons radio show can be found online on the ABC website  and the Strawberry “Jam-Off” segment commences at 1 hour, 28 minutes, and 30 seconds.

Tell me reader, have you ever made jam before?
What are your hints and tips on making a good jam? 

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Semolina Citrus and Cardamom Cake

The continuing month long journey using my Red Belly Citrus blood oranges took a cakey turn, when a post for a beautiful cardamom and citrus cake turned up in my Facebook feed, thanks to CSR Sugar. I follow CSR Sugar on Facebook and see all manner of delicious creations from them, however this cake peaked my interest mainly from the use of cardamom (yum!) and semolina. I’ve eaten cakes with semolina, just not made one. Here is the recipe as found on the CSR website, with my little tweaks noted.

For the cake:
220g butter, softened
200g CSR Raw Caster Sugar
1 lemon and 1 orange, finely grated rind and juice of each
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
200g find semolina
150g almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch fine salt
125ml natural full-fat yoghurt
3 tsps ground cardamom

For the crunch lemon syrup topping:
2 tbsps CSR Raw Caster Sugar (I added in a little cardamom pistachio sugar as well)
3 tbsps CSR Demerara Sugar plus extra to scatter

To decorate: (optional)
1 lemon, very finely sliced (I only used blood oranges candied slices, having made them the day before)
1 orange, very finely sliced
4 tbsps CSR Caster Sugar
¼ cup water

To serve:
300g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract, of vanilla pods and their scraped seeds  steeped in vodka)

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C

2. Butter and line a 22cm fixed bottom cake pan (I actually used a spring-form pan).

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter, sugar, lemon and orange rind together until smooth, lightly coloured and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well between each addition to ensure they are fully combined. Scrape down the bowl.

5. Add the baking powder, semolina, almond meal, salt, yoghurt, half the lemon and orange juice and continue beating until just combined to form a smooth light and fluffy batter. Scrape down the bowl to make sure everything is mixed through.

6. Transfer to the cake pan and bake for 25-40 minutes or until golden and set in the centre when tested with a skewer. Remove from the oven.

7. Stir the remaining lemon and orange juice (I used only blood orange juice, which gave it a wonderful crimson colour), together with 2 tablespoons of raw caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of Demerara sugar. While the cake is still warm, pierce the cake all over with a skewer and slowly pour the syrup with undissolved Demerara sugar crystals all over the cake. This will form a textural crunchy citrus layer on top of the cake as it cools.

8. If you’re using the lemon and orange slices (I used only blood orange slices) to decorate the cake, add the caster sugar and water to a small pan. Bring it to the boil, and working in batches, add the sliced fruit. Boil each batch for about 2 minutes and transfer to a baking paper lined baking tray and allow to cool.

9. When ready to serve, mix the mascarpone and vanilla together. Spoon on top of the cake and decorate with sugared citrus slices, if you’re using them, then scatter with Demerara sugar for extra crunch. (I served the mascarpone separate, and used some candied slices I made the previous day, some of which were half dipped in dark chocolate).

This recipe made for a very lovely and moist cake, and the flavour of cardamom worked in very well with the citrus. The mascarpone and vanilla was delicious, and made every mouthful of cake just that little bit more decadent.

My husband took the majority of the cake to work the next day to share with his colleagues, who agreed it was a very delicious cake. They’d definitely look forward to it again!! hint hint! 

Read about my recent adventures with blood oranges:

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Baked Doughnuts with a Blood Orange Glaze

The continuation of my blood orange journey saw the making of candied blood orange slices…. and doughnuts with blood orange glazes.

Firstly, the slices:
The candied slices were very easy to make, with the longest part of the process being their time drying out. 

Cut off the ends of two blood oranges, then thinly slice the remainder. In a saucepan, combine ¾ of a cup of caster sugar with 2 cups of cold water. Bring the sugar and water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low just-bubbling summer. Carefully place the orange slices into the water, and let them simmer for about 50 minutes.

Every now and then, I would shift the slices from the bottom of the pile in the saucepan to the top, just to ensure they all cooked evenly through. After 50 minutes, carefully remove them using tongs, and lay on top of a wire cookie cooling rack with a metal tray underneath to catch any drips. Be careful moving them, as they are quite soft by this stage. Let them air dry for about 24 hours.

As for the leftover sugar/water mix, you will find that this has gone a beautiful shade of deep red from the juices. Keep this to use as a simple syrup for making cocktails, or use it as a sauce to pour over pancakes, ice cream, or a chia pudding. Red Belly Citrus themselves suggested to me over Instagram to keep on cooking the sauce down to make a stretchy blood orange taffy…. or cook it for longer to turn it into toffee. They accidentally reduced some of this sugar/water mixture down a few years ago and discovered the wonderful properties that result from the added cooking time. They cut up their toffee pieces and stir it through ice cream to make a wonderful cassata. Yum!!!!

After the candied blood orange slices are dry enough, dip half of each slice into melted chocolate and devour with glee!! As they have cooked for 50 minutes, the skin is really soft and easy to eat, just like citrus rind is in marmalade. Plus the added bonus of chocolate + orange equals JAFFA! One of my most favourite flavours.

The doughnuts:
Firstly, do you spell it donuts or doughnuts? I think donuts is the more Americanised version (think Homer Simpson and "Mmmmmm... donuts"), and doughnuts is the more English/Australian version. Do you agree?

I bought two doughnut pans several years ago because I wanted to make baked versions, instead of investing in a deep fryer. Don’t get me wrong, I love to munch on a deep fried doughnut at the first chance, I just didn’t want to own a fryer and deal with the oil, and the clean up, and the oil, and well, all that oil really. Plus it would be too tempting to whip up anything (read Tim Tams in batter… banana wrapped in bacon… that sort of thing). Just think, I’m missing out on some kind of wonderful experimental deep fry up party! Alas my waistline is not sorry…. So back to the doughnut pans….

They are super easy to use, and you can spoon the mixture right into the pans, so no need for messy piping bags. I made these with cinnamon, and loosely followed Ina Garten’s recipe which is found on the Food Network website. I say loosely as I tweaked the sugar levels much lower than what the recipe called for, and did not follow the end dipping ritual of butter, cinnamon and sugar, as I wanted to glaze them instead.

So the recipe I used goes as follows…

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of plain flour, 75g caster sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, and a scattering of salt. In a separate bowl, melt 30g of butter, then whisk in 1 egg, 1.25 cups of milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and use a spatula to make sure everything mixes together. Carefully spoon the mixture into the (sprayed) doughnut pans, and make sure to only fill them about half way, or else they lose their doughnutty definition and look more like muffins! Bake in a 350 degree oven (lower heat by 20 degrees for a fan forced oven) for 15-17 minutes, until they are light golden brown in colour and appear to come away from the sides easily. After removing from the oven, leave in their trays for about 5 minutes, before turning them out onto a cooling rack.

When they are cold, they are ready to glaze. I mixed up two types of glazes. The first was 1 cup of sifted icing sugar with about ¼ cup of blood orange juice. Add in the juice slowly until you reach the desired glaze thickness. I kept mine nice and thick.  For the other glaze, I used 1 cup of sifted icing sugar and a little milk. Again add in the liquid slowly until you get the thickness you like. I also added in a little grated blood orange zest.  Dip in the tops of the doughnuts to the glaze and set on cooling racks to harden, or dribble over the glaze the doughnuts in pretty patterns. I even scattered on a few coloured sprinkles, because… well, sprinkles. Have fun with them. You could even turn them into a Birthday Cake of sorts, by making a huge pile of them! 

They made about 23 doughnuts in total, and trust me, they don't last long!  

What is your favourite flavour of doughnuts? 

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Panna Cotta with Blood Oranges

I was fortunate to recently be gifted an entire box of blood oranges from Red Belly Citrus. Owner Len is indeed very generous in offering entire boxes to foodie types, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself working through the box, making delicious dishes using this wonderful fresh Australian produce. Follow my upcoming blog posts to see what marvelous creations I create using this superb fruit.

My delicious box of fresh Blood Oranges arrived via a Fastway courier in the early afternoon. I got chatting with the delivery driver, and discovered he had not had his lunch yet. I reached into the box of blood oranges he just dropped off to me and handed him a couple of oranges. I asked “Have you had blood oranges before?” to which he then told me about his previous jobs in hospitality and catering, and being allowed to take home leftover fruit platters. That’s when he and his family shared in having blood oranges.  He thanked me for the fruit, and was on his way.

Now… what to make with all these blood oranges?

I have always wanted to try my hand at making panna cotta, so I headed down to the local shops to buy some cream, and few other ingredients to use with these oranges over the next few days.

I have always thought that making panna cotta was hard. Don’t ask me why, I guess because I’ve always had perfectly set, unmoulded, creamy panna cotta when out at restaurants, I assumed it would be a tricky dessert to master. How wrong was I!!  I found this really easy recipe on the Australian Woolworths website (note: this is not a sponsored post). I pretty much followed the recipe, minus the plum syrup, and simply poured the mixture into small glass dishes so there was no unmoulding required. See? Easy peasy.

The recipe that I used goes as follows:

Whisk 3 teaspoons of powdered gelatine with 2 tablespoons of hot water in a medium sized bowl. Use a bowl that allows you plenty of room to run the whisk around.

Next, combine 300ml pure cream, 200ml milk and 45 grams of caster sugar in a saucepan, and heat until it’s just about to boil, but do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat, and spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the cream mixture into the gelatine. Whisk that in. Then pour the gelatine mixture back into the cream mixture and thoroughly combine it through.

Strain this combined mix through a fine sieve to remove any lumps, into a Pyrex measuring jug. I used this jug has it has a pouring spout. Next, pour equally into 4 small glass dishes. You end up with just over 500ml of liquid, so that makes for a dessert serving of about 125ml each which is an ideal size. Pop these into the fridge to set. They take around 3 hours to be set enough to eat, but are still perfectly fine the next day.

When serving, I chopped up the flesh of a blood orange into small pieces, removing any pips. Pop this flesh into a small dish and put into the microwave – covered with paper towel – for about 40 seconds to heat it through. Spoon the orange pieces over the panna cotta, and scatter over crushed pieces of pistachio nuts.

Voila! An easy dessert that is destined to impress any dinner party guest, or to just have as a fancy dessert at the end of the day.

1. I used light milk, as it was the only milk I had on hand, and I noticed that my panna cotta set into two very distinct layers. Both layers were equally set, so the gelatine worked, but I think the density of the pure cream rose to the top, and the lighter milk settled near the bottom. Next time I might use a higher fat milk so this doesn’t happen again. It still tasted perfectly fine.

2. Alternatively you could cook the orange pieces in a small saucepan to give them a more stewed texture, but the microwave does a similar job, in a fraction of the time.
I also gifted six oranges to our new neighbours. They are a Defence family who have moved here from the Northern Territory. Their young boys have only ever known NT weather, so they have been quite shocked by the cold Canberra winter weather. The first weekend they were here, there was snow visible on the Brindabella mountains. Eeek! Let’s hope Spring hurries up for their sake and we get some warmer temperatures. I hope they enjoyed fresh oranges! 

Stay tuned for more delicious blood orange posts! 

Sunday, 29 July 2018

All Things Citrus on ABC Radio Canberra

You know those old sayings… ‘when life gives you lemons’ and ‘when life throws you a curveball’?  Well combine the two, and last week life threw a virtual grapefruit my way! Laura Dawes from ABC Canberra Radio contacted me on the Wednesday, asking if I was available to take part on air in the Fridge Fossick segment with Anna Vidot the next day on the Thursday afternoon. Eeeeeeeeek! Say what??? “Um, yes sure, I’d love to… what’s the topic?” I asked. “Citrus”, she replied. Now I’m no expert on the topic but I thought I knew enough a-peeling things about citrus, I curd talk my way through a 30 minute (orange) segment. Oh, did I mention that Anna is a lover of food puns? I thought, this should be fun. Scary and out of my comfort zone, but fun.

So with less than a day’s notice I set to work jotting down a few citrus related ideas, recipes, stories and tid bits, not quite knowing what questions would come my way, or what direction the talk would go.

Thursday afternoon I arrived at the ABC studios on Wakefield Avenue and parked in their exclusive Visitor Only car park right outside the front door. I felt very cool walking up the stairs and into the foyer. Chit-chatting with the security guard, he said I was a little early for my appointment, and said I could wait on the nearby chairs. No way was I going to be late for a radio timeslot, so I sat down to gather my thoughts, and catch up with the now very active thread on Twitter started that afternoon by Anna, with listeners posting their ideas about citrus, and their funny food puns. I made a note to mention some in my on-air talk.

I was greeted by the lovely Laura, who took me through to the Green Room, which was confusing as it had white walls, grey carpet and red furniture!!!! (I know, green room is the common term). All the while the nearby radio was playing Anna’s Afternoon show. I looked through the large glass window into the next studio to see Anna, who had just finished talking to her previous guest. It suddenly dawned on me…. eek, I’m up next! Then Lish Fejer, another ABC presenter, arrived and said she would be joining Anna and I for our segment. You see Lish is an avid foodie, and an even greater lover of puns. She said she wouldn’t miss this segment for the world. I’m glad she joined us as she is a vibrant spirit, full of interesting food ideas and food puns, and she’s a riot to talk to.

So into the studio I went, sat next to Lish, with Anna on the opposite side in control of all the dials. In front of me was a ginormous microphone that I had be really close to in order for my voice to be picked up. It was a little nerve racking when the segment began, but once we all started chatting time just evaporated, and it was a lot of fun. Several listeners texted and emailed in their ideas and suggestions for using citrus, including one fellow foodie Nick Brightman (aka Canberra Foodie Chef) who suggested making Limoncello from a glut of lemons. Great idea Nick!

This link will take you to the entire Thursday Afternoons episode, and our segment comes in at 1 hour 31 minutes. Enjoy!

Here are just a few really interesting citrus facts that I came across, but didn’t have time to mention on air, as the 30 minute show seemed to go very fast. For your vitamin C induced enjoyment:

- Key Lime Pie is a staple Florida dessert found widely on USA menus, but did you know that it actually uses a type of lime called a Key Lime?

- Pink grapefruits came about from radiation being used to trigger mutations in the fruit to achieve the pinky/crimson flesh colour.

- Whats the difference between a Cara Cara orange, and a Blood Orange? Cara Cara’s get their colour from lycopene, which is what gives tomatoes and watermelon their red colour, they are seedless, and originate from Venezuela. Blood Oranges however have a darker coloured flesh derived from anthocyanins which are rare for citrus fruits to have, as generally these compounds are found in berries and red wine. Blood oranges originate from Spain and Italy.

- The world’s heaviest pomelo weighed in at 4.8kg and was grown in Japan.

- Lemons make a great natural cleaner. Sprinkle your sink with baking soda (bi-carb) and rub a lemon over it. Rinse down for a sparkly finish. Or slice up a lemon, pop it into a glass bowl with some water, and microwave it for a minute or two. Wipe down the inside of your microwave straight after for a clean finish.

With thanks again to ABC Radio Canberra, Laura Dawes, Anna Vidot and Lish Fejer for having me as a guest presenter. It was a lot of fun.

So reader, what are your go-to tips for using up a glut of citrus fruits? What are your favourite recipes? And have you ever been on the radio? 

Monday, 25 June 2018

Being Mindful about Eating

There is so much opposing information these days about diet and nutrition, it’s no wonder we end up being confused about what are the right foods to nourish our bodies. Nutritional guidelines have constantly changed over the decades, and advice seems to flip-flop about what foods are “good foods” and what foods are “bad foods”. We are constantly bombarded with this advice from magazines, television, the internet, the food manufacturers, the latest cookbooks… it seems everyone has something to say about food.

Yet today, with all our knowledge, technology and food abundance, we are becoming fatter. Almost 2 in 3 Australian adults (63%) were overweight or obese in 2014-15. One quarter (26%) of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2014-15.( 

This is due to a number of factors, but a big one is not restricting ourselves to sensible portion sizes, and as a result, overeating. The main reason for growing fatter can sometimes be as simple as having too many calories than what our bodies need to function. This excess gets stored, and if its not converted into energy, our fat stores increase. Go to any supermarket and look at a product packaging. Have you noticed how many recommended serves there are on the packet? Too often we eat more than what is advised. Now go to a cafĂ©, or a restaurant. Is the meal based on an average serving size? Often its not, but we have a tendency to want to finish the plate, or eat the entire sandwich. We don’t like to see food wasted, and often taking food home is not allowed by many eateries. So what do we do?

Enter Michele Walton, aka the “Food Lovers Dietitian”. Michele is an accredited practising dietician, as well as a food and travel blogger, and has devised a program that educates participants with sensible eating advice, plus allows all the foods that you already love and enjoy to eat. Most often diet programs and weight loss strategies see the introduction of new and sometimes strange foods (as well as shakes and powders) which are often expensive to buy, hard to stomach, and as a result difficult to continue with long term. Michele recognises this and offers a program that allows you to still enjoy all the foods you really truly love, but also offers advice, hints, tips and tweaks to incorporate these foods along with a healthy eating regime.

Michele’s website ( already offers a plethora of good advice like tips on achieving a healthy weight, tips when eating out, and meal planning. She wraps all of this good advice into the three month (90 day) program called The Food Lovers Dietitian Coaching Program which extends with:

- Daily emails
- Weekly one-on-one communication
- A dedicated Facebook group for participants
- Menu inspiration ideas and recipes
- Meal planning guide and checklist; and
- Constant reinforcement and motivation.

She first starts with a firm grounding in basic nutrition which covers all the food groups – carbohydrates / proteins / fats / dairy / vegetables and fruits, so nothing is excluded. Vegetarians and vegans are catered for as well. Appropriate portion sizing and energy statistics are provided, to better understand how much energy is in everyday foods. Some food can seem small in volume (think cheese) but packs a wallop in the calorie department.

She then moves onto mindset, and understanding hunger. It is quite eye opening to stop for minute and actually listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. So often we confuse signals from our tummy for hunger, when in fact it might be thirst. Or are we really truly hungry… or just bored? or stressed? or think we should eat because the clock tells us to?

The program then moves onto hints, tips and tweaks to make better food choices, especially when dining away from home. Next time you are dining out, consider asking for calorie dense dressings on the side (or skip them entirely), or choose two smaller entrees for your meal instead of a one larger one. If dining with friends, consider sharing a meal, or splitting a dessert so you can both enjoy the flavours. Remember… the first bite will taste EXACTLY the same as the last bite, so choose how much of something you really want to have, especially if its gooey and sweet!

The main lessons that I have learnt on this Program are
- That no food is off limits
- I am more conscious of the food decisions that I make
- I decide if it is ‘calorie worthy’, and
- I am now equipped with a toolbox full of ideas and advice for healthy eating and weight loss strategies.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still indulge in a burger and beer now and then, plus I will have that slice of cheesecake (usually shared) but I am having more salads and lighter meals, eating more vegetables, and cutting down my portion sizes to more appropriate ones. Weight loss takes time, and I feel that I am now better equipped than ever before after participating in Michele’s Coaching Program. So far on the program, I have lost nearly 7 kilos, and have kept it off which is a major plus. The lessons I have learnt on this Program are easy to stick with, and incorporate into everyday life. 
Thank you Michele!