Highlights from my Sanctuary

Last week I decided I needed some R&R… and sometimes the one thing you need to truly relax is to be near your family. So I (largely) switched off from the social media world, got on me wellies and headed to my parents beautiful hobby farm for a mini-holiday. Here are some highlights!

This is my parents cottage. It is in a very small town in South West Australia called Boyup Brook. It is made of granite and is encased in vines which change from green to red throughout the year. Staring out the windows is always magic.

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The perfect reading chair!

The perfect reading chair!

Every morning started like this…

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The wonder in Lucy’s eyes when I would part the curtain and reveal this leafy world with crazy guinea fowl running around, was amazing.

Then we would go and get breakfast…

From my Instagram profile - @oliveonblonde

From my Instagram profile – @oliveonblonde

Mum and Dad truly love their animals and have unintentionally created their own farm sanctuary. Every sheep and goat that they have on their farm was rescued by them; from the countless lambs that were found alone and shivering to death in a paddock to the ‘dud’ goat that they bought after seeing it chained, unwanted and about 2 days away from a stove top. They now have a hilarious and mismatched collection of 6 goats, 13 alpacas and about 30 sheep – each has a name and most come when they are called. Here is a photo from 3 years ago… the start of their mad family. All but one of these sheepy’s is still around and Dufus is the leader of the flock.

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What happened when I took Lucy to introduce her to the them all is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I walked into the paddock and sat on top of the hill looking down on all the goats and sheep. They turned and looked at me and then from every direction started walking towards us – such a funny sight to see over 30 animals all making an executive decision to come say hello. Then when they arrived they almost lined up and took turns coming up and very gently sniffing on Lucy’s face and mouthing her nose. She could not stop giggling and they had no problems at all with her reaching out and running her hands over their wool. It was amazing. Later when I told mum about it she said that that is what they do when they are introducing a new lamb into their flock. Heart officially melted.

What a funny face

What a funny face

These are not pictures of that exact experience, but they reacted much the same. Especially my darling Charlie who is everyone’s favourite sheep. My dad cannot count the number of times that he has been gardening or fixing a fence and felt something fuzzy on his face to find Charlie giving him smooches. He will happily sit with you for hours asking for a face tickle.

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This is Sherman.

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He is the ‘dud’ I mentioned before. He has mixed up man bits and is technically known as a Cryptorchid. Basically – commercially speaking – he is useless. He is lucky he met mum and dad who scooped him up for a life of wandering paddocks.  He is also without a doubt the strangest animal I have ever met. He is slightly vacant but is also really funny. He has bulbous eyes that aren’t a regular characteristic of his breed. His horns grow like a mohawk down the centre of his head. And he stinks. He stinks to high heaven. Lucy and I were sitting alone in a paddock and all of a sudden this ungodly stench punched me in the nose. I was looking around to try and figure out what was causing this smell which is when I spied Sherman plodding across the paddock to say hello. Strange, lovely, stinky little man.

And here are some of the other cheeky buggers…

Lady Fallon

Lady Fallon

Springer... a spoilt but delightful lad!

Springer… a spoilt but delightful lad!

Fallon welcoming Lucy Goosey

Fallon welcoming Lucy Goosey

A very self-satisfied Stompy

A very self-satisfied Stompy

Gorgeous Elsabee

Gorgeous Elsabee

Photo-bombing goat…

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Allen being cheeky!

Allen being cheeky!

And of course no trip would be complete without the disobedient little arsehole…

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My parents are amazing. My mum is a feeder. If anything is wrong in life the solution starts with a meal… the bigger, the better. So when I asked for a very light, very small plant-based meal I couldn’t help but laugh when she produced this…

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You may not be able to tell from the photo … that veggies stacked weighed about 4 kilos! It was absolutely delicious even though I could barely finish a quarter of it.

I also found this little book in my Dad’s bookshelves.

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Made my heart burst a bit when I remember how nervous he was before giving the speech at my wedding. What cute little muffins they are.

I came back feeling loved, rested and content. Must be true that home is where the heart is.

Where is your special place?

Perfect Spinach Salad with “Creamy” Dressing

Vegan – Soy Free – Gluten Free – Paleo

Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main

I would like to officially motion that making a tasty plant-based salad is an art. Maybe I am fussy but I die a little inside when I arrive somewhere and find that the only option I have is some iceberg salad with a few quartered tomatoes on top. And sometimes I find myself blankly staring at a pile of vegetables and I draw blanks too so it is completely understandable. Who would have thought something so seemingly simple could be so hard to perfect? This is why I have set myself a goal this summer – I am determined to master the art of scrumptious and simple salads! Considering it was 34C today I got to try this one out at a good old family BBQ… and it’s a goodie!

The dressing is a particular win for me! It literally took 5 minutes to make and could be stored ready for any other occasion. Once a massive fan of the Caesar Salad I still sometimes find myself craving a creamy dressing. This is the perfect alternative as the Dijon Mustard makes it feel rich without all the nasty side-effects that come with heavy dairy-based dressings.

Also wanted to shine the spotlight on my newest favorite things!!! At the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta the other day I bought some reusable produce bags from one of my fave company’s: Onya Bags. They are light, washable and come in a whole range of funky colours (in packs of 5 or 8) and you can buy them here. So if you can… make sure you wrap your baby spinach in these sustainable solutions rather than useless plastic produce bags.

Ingredients

Salad

  • Baby Spinach (enough to fill your platter… as this is the base you can judge how much you use)
  • Green Olives – I used about 20. (chilli and garlic went really well!)
  • 2 x Avocados, sliced
  • 1 x Cucumber, sliced
  • Sundried Tomatoes, cut into strips (as many as you want)
  • 50g x Pine Nuts, (I used more because I love ’em)

Creamy Dressing

This dressing will keep for up to a month if you leave out the herbs! I left out the herbs until just before I served with the salad.

  • 3 Tablespoon x Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon x White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon x Dijon Mustard
  • Some fresh herbs finely chopped (I used a small handful of basil)

Method

Arrange all your salady bits on a platter in a pretty way

Roast or dry fry your pine nuts. Set aside to cool slightly… those little buggers can get hot!

Mix all your dressing ingredients together and shake well. Pour over salad just before serving.

Aaaand… nom nom nom.

Why Should I Activate My Grains?

Buzzwords are pretty fascinating to watch – especially within the realm of health trends. Out of nowhere they creep into the daily vernacular and ceaselessly poke us and prod us until we finally cave in and ask the goddamn question –How the hell do you pronounce Açaíand why should I give a damn?! And then before you know it everyone is asking the question and all of a sudden it is mainstream. The latest craze to cross this threshold would have to be ‘Activation’ specifically when referring to food preparation. I bit my lip… I ignored the ‘activated’ products in health food stores… but finally it got me… I had to ask… what the hell is food activation?! Short answer?… Activation is bloody complicated. I found very scientific explanations (like this one) and after reading it a couple of times dumbed it down for myself. Here’s the deal…

The Great Grain Debate

The whole process of ‘activating’ foods comes back to the Great Grain Debate: are they good for us or not? Grains are packed full of nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals which – at surface level – qualify them as healthy option. BUT on the other side of the fence, grains also contain antinutrients (like Phytates, lectins and gluten) which bind to vitamins, minerals and enzymes and make all those aforementioned nutrients impossible to absorb or digest.

I think of it a bit like getting a beautiful, organic floret of broccoli and then deep-frying the hell out of it! Sure, it started healthy but the process that we have used to consume it renders all those valuable nutrients utterly useless. The same argument applies to legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs – which is why these little superfoods are sometimes wrongly considered the pariah’s of wellbeing.

So what does ‘Activating’ have to do with it?

The antinutrients found in grains and nuts are basically Mogwai’s – they are allergic to water! When we soak these foods before consumption we can dramatically reduce the amount of antinutrients in them and improve their digestibility. This is how many traditional cultures (like Indian) have prepared their grain for centuries – a culture that has far fewer of the dietary ailments and diseases of Western Cultures. Look at the below Global Obesity Map, compare India (still using traditional activation methods) with Australia or the US (do not activate foods) and make up your mind on whether grains and legumes are the problems or just the way we consume them…

How to activate

Easy. Soaking your grains/nuts/legumes for 12 – 24 hours is the first step to activate the food. In the case of grains though, they are covered in an insoluble fatty layer which make is very difficult for water (on its own) to penetrate the surface and dissolve all the nasty phytic acid. To counteract this it is important to add a mild acid to penetrate this layer. The best type of acid to use is Citric (lemon juice!) but acetic acid (vinegar) or lactic acid (whey or yoghurt) can work too.

Example: Activating Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has the most protein out of any other grain. That’s not it’s only asset – these little babies are packed full of nutrients like iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, zincmagnesium, fibre, vitamin B6 and the antioxidant Vitamin E. They also contain over sixteen triterpine saponins – translated to cancer fighting superheroes!

Basically, with all these beneficial vitamins I wanted to ensure that I am absorbing as many as possible – get some bang for my buck! Being pregnant has also made me super-vigilant that what I put in my body doesn’t only affect me anymore. So here is how I activate it;

  • Get 200grams of Quinoa and rinse thoroughly
  • Place into container and cover with water
  • Then add 2 tablespoons of Acid. I always use 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice but you can use Whey, Yoghurt or Vinegar (go for unpasteurised Apple Cider if possible). Stir the acid gently through your Quinoa.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Ideal would be 24!
  • After it has soaked rinse and then cook however you like. I cooked mine in vegetable stock and then mixed through chopped vegetables, mint and coriander. Threw in some sultana’s and (activated) cashews for good measure.

I hope this has helped shed some light on why we should activate grains! When I hear the word ‘Activation’ I don’t just roll my eyes and think of the utterer as a health nut… I get it… and I dig it baby!!! If you want to read more about it I found this article really useful too. Happy soaking!

Paleo Pizza Crust (Grain, Gluten and Dairy Free)

Dairy Free – Gluten Free – Grain Free

Preparation time – 10 minutes; Cooking time – 45 minutes

Makes 1 Large or two Medium-Small Pizza’s

When I first heard of the ‘Paleo Movement’ I was dead set against it. It just seemed like a big excuse to eat a shitload of animals to me. But now that I have looked into it there are a lot of elements that I really agree with. For example, grains are not great for you (with the occasional exception like quinoa), that all calories are not equal (a Mars Bar has less calories than an avocado) and that we should all try and eat an organic, whole diet where we can, chock-a-block full of leafy greens. The diet – scrap that – lifestyle is still more dependent on meat than I agree with but the more I look the more I find that Paleo and Vegetarian philosophy’s can coexist. You can read all about being Paleo here and then adapt them to your Vegetarian/Vegan with recipes like the ones found here. I have also noticed that my fave wellness blogger (aka The Wellness Warrior) is basically a living example of vegan paleo. Check her amazing blog for constant healthy inspiration.

Cut a few of those proteins out and you’ve got a very healthy vego diet.

Anyway… if you make some Paleo adaptions in your life you will surely notice that Coconut (in every incantation) is the hero!  Coconut oil and coconut flour particularly. Coconut Flour is actually made from the left over flesh of the coconut which would usually be discarded as a waste product: a great eco-incentive to use it. What this also means is that it is full of protein and low on carbohydrates. It is also has more fiber in it that 4 times the amount of oat bran, 2 times the wheat bran and 3 times the ground flaxseed. It also has a subtle coconut taste that is perfect for baking sweet or savoury goodies. One drawback is that it is very dry so do not go 1:1 with your standard flours.

Anywho… here is my grain-free pizza crust made with coconut flour. My hubby and I shared half a pizza each and were perfectly full after it without feeling heavy and sluggish. Great success.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 1 cup of dairy free milk – coconut, rice or almond milk (whatever suits you!)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary (finely) chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Equipment

  • Baking paper (or you can use oil)
  • Baking tray or pizza stone
  • Rolling pin (or in my case… old jar!)

Method

1.  Preheat your oven to 170 C (or 375 F)

2.  Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix until smooth and well bound. It is quite a wet dough mixture. Roll into a bit of a ball with your hands.

3.  Now I didn’t do this… and it made removing my delicious cooked pizza very difficult! Place a sheet of baking paper on tray or stone and brush it with oil (the Paleo oil of choice is coconut).

4.  Put onto paper and roll out to be quite thin. If you prefer it a bit thicker that is fine but it will be a ‘cakier’ base. My husband and I quite liked it though and didn’t feel too full after eating it.

5.  Bake in your heated oven for 20 minutes. Test that the base feels dry and springy.

6.  Remove and top with your fave toppings. Mine was full of mushrooms, jalapeno’s, capsicum, sundried tomatoes and goat’s cheese.

7.  Bake for a  further 10 – 15 minutes until pizza is golden. Cut and then nom nom nom.

Wellness and the Perfect Green Smoothie

It would appear that all Area Managers from my different life ‘zones’ have convened and decided on a very different strategy and direction for my body – and that direction is Wellness. Not just wellness but glorious, radiant, toe-tapping, skirt twirling, early rising, hair shining wellness.

It started when I fell pregnant. Suddenly I realised that I actually do have the willpower to eat well I just haven’t had the motivation; namely someone else’s health not just in my hands but in my belly, blood and brain. Then came the life changing event that has been the Plastic Free July challenge. As I mentioned in this previous post, during the challenge I realised that I had been taking my own health for granted and in turn disregarding the planets state by patronising too many supermarkets and too few organic farmers markets. It was time to get serious and by all accounts the first stepping stone towards this brand of vitality is to get familiar with Green Smoothies. But first I will explain why…

Staying Alkaline

For our bodies to function properly we need our internal environment to lean towards the alkaline side of the pH scale rather than the acidic. If our bodies are too acidic they become a breeding ground for loads of diseases including cancer. It also causes exhaustion, premature aging, muscle and joint pain and osteoporosis. To see a full list of ‘acidic’ symptoms see here.

Basically, if ‘Acidity’ was a nightclub within your body then the Who’s Who of unhealthy living would be invited – stress, lack of exercise, alcohol, drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational) and lifeless, packaged food. To be Alkaline we need to focus on a diet of clean, organic, plant-based foods and live a lifestyle that encourages calm and tranquillity. But you don’t need a science degree to know what to eat! I found this really handy guide for making sure you consume foods that are on the right side of the scale.

If you want to find out what your pH level is then you can get the tests from any Chemist. Here my favourite wellness blogger (The Wellness Warrior, Jess Ainscough) explains how to pee for pH! She also has an amazing post about acidity in relation to cancer here. A must read!

Enter The Dragon(fruit)

What better way to start your day then, than with a huge glass of green to alkalise your body and protect you from illness? As The Wellness Warrior so rightly explains;

“These vegetables act as mini-transfusions for the blood, a health tonic for the brain and immune system and a cleanser of the kidneys”

Here are some additional benefits you will get from your glass of greens;

  • Green leafy vegetables are full of chlorophyll which (molecularly speaking) is very similar to human blood. So when you consume chlorophyll you almost trick your body into producing more haemoglobin which is full of oxygen and therefore great for our cells.
  • Smoothies are full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins, photo-chemicals and health bacteria which build muscles and help your digestion.
  • They taste yummy and are quicker to eat and digest than a massive bowl of spinach (unless you’re Popeye – his skills are mad).
  • A strange discovery that seems to be echoed by other devotees – the more green you have, the more green foods you crave.

Formula for the Perfect Smoothie

There is a simple formula you can follow to make the ultimately balanced smoothie which will maximise the health benefits you receive. This being said though – there is no limit to the amount of flavours and ‘breeds’ of smoothies. If you are more of a recipe inclined individual then I have provided links to some of my favourite recipes too (go straight to next heading, pass go, collect $200).

Recipes

Basic Green Smoothie from Wellness WA– This is a super simple but uber tasty smoothie!

Banana Kiwi and Mango from the amazing Vegan Sparkles– With the added awesome of Spinach!

Raw Cacao Smoothie from Vegan Yack Attack – Chocolate can be a breakfast food!

Wellness WA also has this amazing database with heeeeaps of recipes.

More Recipes – Sign up to The Wellness Warrior and you not only receive this amazing e-book chock-a-block of Green Smoothie Recipes but get updates straight to your email. Click here to sign up.

Happy Blending! I’d love to hear your favorite Green Smoothie Recipe in the comments…

That Sophie Monk Ad: Am I Insane?

Around the water cooler this week there is a lot of talk about that Sophie Monk / Lynx advert. If you have 3 minutes of your life that you don’t particularly care about you can see the ad hereMama Mia questioned whether it was clever or crass. SMH shrewdly analysed the hypocrisy of Unilever: a corporation that feeds highly sexualised young women to hungry males with one hand (Lynx) and then claim to empower the women that they have just served up with the other (Dove ‘love your body’). Anti-sexploitation campaigners (such as Collective Shout) are calling for consumers to boycott any products that fall under the Unilever umbrella.  And now this lowly blogger poses a question to you;

Am I insane or is everyone mad about the wrong thing?!

Yes, the ad is sexist, ageist and racist but giving the Wash Your Balls campaign the attention it is so desperately craving does nothing but encourage those crafty advertising creatives to go one step further next time (please refer United Colours of Benetton circa 1980’s).  Stop talking about it and it will go away. What cannot be disregarded is the key to this companies undoing – the type of controversy that cannot be manipulated to garner free publicity (the good kind, anyway). Yet this is the information that is being ignored the loudest!

Unilever Supports Animal Testing

Unilever test their products on animals such as dogs, cats, pigs, monkeys, rabbits and rats. These animals are locked in small cages for their entire lives where their only respites are the times that they are tested upon. Ingredients and finished products are tested on animals using a variety of methods which include;

The Draize Eye Test

The toxic substance is dripped under the lower eyelids of rabbits who are then monitored for their reactions.

The Draize Skin Irritancy Test

Animals are put into full body restraints where their fur is shaved and their skin is applied with the ‘irritant’ for a period of 4 hours to verify whether the product is corrosive – displayed through redness, burns or blistering.

The Lethal Dose Test

The lethal dose test measures the amount of a toxic substance that will, in a single dose, kill a certain percentage of animals in a test group. “To avoid interference with results,” no painkillers are administered. During a lethal dose test, the experimental substance is forced into the animals’ throats or is pumped into their stomachs by a tube, sometimes causing death by stomach rupture or from the sheer bulk of the chemical dosage. Substances also are injected under the skin, into a vein, or into the peritoneal lining of the abdomen; they are also often applied to the eyes, rectum, or vagina, or forcibly inhaled through a gas mask.

Please keep in mind that several hundred animals may be used for every substance that is tested. Unilever also chooses to test products that are not legally required to undergo any form of testing.

I am not into shock tactics BUT I do think that everyone needs to see the reality of animal testing. Below is a PETA video called ‘Testing 1, 2, 3…”. If you have not made the link between animal cruelty and the products that you buy please be brave and take the time to watch it;

What Can You Do?

There are two very simple steps that every one can take to end this cruelty.

  1. Boycott any companies that test on animals. If you are not sure PETA has this handy online sources where you can type in the brand/company and see for yourself. Click here to use it.
  2. Tell them about it!!! Write to the company and tell them exactly why you are taking your hard-earned cash elsewhere. Get your friends and family to. Forward details to everyone you know. The more they hear the more likely it is they will change. Corporations listen when something affects their bottom line.

In the end it all comes down to Consumer Power – vote with your dollar and all of a sudden people start listening.

Brands To Avoid… (some will shock you)

It can be hard to discern which brands fall under which companies. Here is the Unilever ‘brand wagon’ that you should avoid if you do not want to support animal cruelty;

Backwards

This is happening day-in and day-out yet the only reason Unilever are in the news today is because they scripted a tacky advert with a whole lot of juvenile double entendres. Yes, it pushes some fairly lack-lustre ideals on an impressionable youth but surely disregarding the barbaric torture of defenseless animals is the more deplorable of the two? I am in no way trying to trivialize the massive and scary issue that is sexism. Then again, I do sometimes feel that we need to apply some Never Ending Story logic to it and let The Nothing swallow it up; ignore the non-consequential assaults like this ridiculous advert and focus our energy onto real injustices. We can all turn off the TV and this ad goes away. It is a very different story for the millions of animals that are tortured and killed each year in the name of cosmetics.

Take a stand for something important today-  Boycott any companies that animal test!