A healthy food & lifestyle blog specifically catering for & dealing with the symptoms & conditions of : Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) & Intracranial Hypertension (IH).
Looking at healthy food & food alternatives- redesigning classic recipes & new recipes;
Dealing and living with chronic health conditions on a daily basis- & research about the conditions;
Alternative therapies & remedies, gardening, arts & crafts...
Before undertaking any recipes found on this blog please look to the note in 'Cookery' !

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Christmas Gifts: Strawberry and Rosemary Jam...

For our families and close friends, this Christmas gone by, I decided to once again make home made gifts as a small gesture of love during the Holiday Season!

This year I decided on jam, and un-made baked goods in jars (recipes to follow), and I am very happy with the results that I got and the feedback from recipients... so much so that I am now in love with making things in jars!! hehe

But seriously I am very happy with how it all turned out and how it went down, and I have had requests for more jam- so watch this space. The jam is on the healthier side of your 'normal' jam.
As it has no artificial preservatives AND is great for those with insulin resistance (PCOS and endometriosis, as well as other health conditions) and is diabetic friendly, as it uses low GI cane sugar.
Which is used to provide slow and sustained release of energy (just don't eat a whole lot at once, and pace your consumption of the jam to over at least a couple of weeks).

With the use of cane sugar (and I suppose the rosemary too) the jam developed a richer, fuller flavour. Consequently making it very different from any other strawberry jam that I have tasted... I rather enjoyed it!!
Before you start the recipe I you should always sterilise your jars!!
Now I could have posted all of that information here, which would lead to a very long a drawn out post, but I decided that I would just direct you to the Kilner Jar website.
Here they have a great detailed post on how to STERILISE your jars in numerous ways.
They also have excellent posts on The Four Spoilers, a Guide to Jams and a Checklist for Jams.
On the left- strawberries hulled, lemons juiced and rosemary, all ready to be chopped;
On the right- the foam ready to be skimmed off the top.
Makes: roughly 9 cups!!
1360g- (5 1/2 punnets)
strawberries, hulled and chopped
3 1/4 cups
low GI cane sugar, divided
1 1/2 tbsp fresh
rosemary leaves
5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest

  1. Place strawberries into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Using a sharp knife roughly chop half the rosemary, and finely chop the rest.
  2. Add rosemary, sugar and lemon juice to strawberries. Bring to boil, stirring often. Cook at low boil for about 25 minutes, or until jam has thickened. Use large spoon to remove any foam that surfaces as it cooks.
  3. Put plate in freezer for about 90 seconds. Spoon a teaspoon of the hot jam onto the cold plate and let it rest for 30 seconds. Tip plate to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slowly. If mixture is thin and runs down side of plate quickly, the jam is too soft. Return pot to heat and cook jam 5 to 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and repeat test.
  4. Ladle hot jam into sterilised jars (I used 230ml clip top), leaving 2-3cm headspace. Wipe rims with clean, damp rag to remove any food debris.
  5. Place the rubber seals onto the top of the jar and close the clips. Place the jar in a large pan and cover the whole jar with water. Bring to the boil for 30 minutes. Once boiled, leave the water and jars to cool completely before removing. The process of boiling the jars in water is adding extra heat to the contents, which is allowing a vacuum seal to form.
Allow your jam jars to cool for 24hrs, untouched. After the 24 hour cooling period you need to check your jars to make sure an airtight seal has formed. To check the seal, undo the clip and lift the jar by the lid only. If an airtight seal has formed the lid will not move, now fasten clip, label and store. If the lid moves, an airtight seal has not formed and you must reprocess your jars or eat the contents immediately.
Once the seals have formed, store your preserve jars in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Once the jars have been opened only store your jars in the fridge and consume the contents within 2 weeks.

For your labels, I just used simple stick on labels and created my own design for a larger almost square front label, then I used a slimmer rectangle sticker and wrote on the ingredients, the date I packed the jam and 'Store your jam in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Once the jam has been opened store your jam in the fridge and consume the contents within 2 weeks.'

So that's that!
I hope you jam turns out well, please let me know how you go and if you liked my recipe- also if you have any favourite jam recipes please share!!


Hey guys,
Sorry things have been quiet and my post have been very sporadic over the past few months...
As you may or may not have guessed things have been quite busy and a bit hectic to be honest.

As stated in my last posts M. and I went to Forster for Christmas.
Over the Christmas break we saw a fair whack of our friends...before Christmas M. had his work party in Sydney, but we were already in Forster so we drove to Newcastle where he stayed with some of our friends for the night and caught the train to Syd.
I also got the chance to catch up with them, but then left to catch up with another friend for a couple of hours before heading out to yet another friends to stay the night- I maximised my time in the hunter for the short time period I was there and saw as many people as I could!!
It was great seeing them all and having a good catch up is always great for the soul!

We had three Christmas'- one with my family (sans Mum, Dad, and my soon to be sister-in-law); one with M.'s Mum, Mum's partner and his brother; and one with his Dad, Grandma, Aunt and Uncles, Dad's partner and her daughters.
We did my family the weekend before Chrissy, we all gathered down at a local park and had a pretty awesome BBQ, had some pretty epic play time in the kids playground, and did presents (well M. and I did- we only do kids for presents, and as we don't have kids we don't get anything. I also give out a small handmade gift to each family- recipes to come).
On Christmas morning we headed round to M.'s mums place and had a yummy fruit breakfast, some of her AMAZING Christmas cake! and presents.
Then we headed back to M.'s Dads for more presents (the Dad's partners daughters have kids), a massive Roast Christmas Lunch with all of his Dad's side of the family and some relaxed drinks....unfortunately my body had other plans though!!
It isn't nice to talk about but I had a period from hell, it was heavy and extremely painful AND it did end up interrupting my fun on the day- I had to depart the festivities a while after lunch to go rest with ice packs and extra pain killers.

We came back just before New Years and spent New Years Eve having a lovely home cooked meal and some relaxed drinks at a friends place.
After New Years things have been rather busy between medical appts; catching up with friends in our local area; heading back to Forster again for a weekend; and then this weekend just past I flew up to Brisbane to visit my younger brother, his missus and their little one.
A couple of weeks ago, M. and I headed back to Forster to visit family again. M. did some work for his dad at the caravan park he runs and I attended my sister-in-law's (second eldest brother's wife) 30th Birthday Party at the Tuncurry Race Courses, followed by taking my eldest brothers little ones to Stardust Circus and making pizzas!!
Australia Day itself was pretty quiet for us, but on the public holiday on Monday M. and I we packed up some simple yummy food and went on a picnic out to a little park by the beach further down the South Coast.
It was very windy that day, but we lucked out and found a protected area, which was awesome.
Last weekend I flew to Brisbane to not only visit my younger brother and his little family, but to attend my soon to be sister-in-law's Bridal Shower. It was a backyard party that was truly fabulous, her bridesmaids did an amazing job with the decorations- a mad hatter like tea party theme, and some absolutely delicious food, followed by some fun games.
Since Christmas and New Years my health has been not so great, after the abysmal period I had over the break my hormones and pelvic pain and health conditions have not improved at all, in fact I'd say they have perhaps worsened.
I'm not on any Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) meds atm so my cycles are a little all over the place, even so they were normally within 34-40 days, but atm I haven't had a period in over 45 days and my pelvis is very freaking painful!!! At times I’ve had symptoms that would normally prelude a period but it does not eventuate for some reason, so for now I am just waiting.
With my IIH things have taken an interesting turn...
My GP finally listened to me and allowed me to have a blood test to prove that my dehydration was getting beyond the point of reasonable and that I was not able to treat it at home myself.
My blood results came back with some expected but not so good results, my sodium was on the high side of 'normal'; my chloride was was moderately above the 'normal' range; my renal function/kidney function was just inside the stage 2 of CKD (which I am not very happy about as I have been on her about my dropping eGFR for a while now, as it has been slowly dropping), my bicarbonate is on the lower end of 'normal'; and my blood pressure was low- all of these things clearly indicate I am dehydrated!!!
So she finally agreed that yes I am chronically dehydrated and wrote a letter to my neurologist stating that I have chronic dehydration, that my endocrinologist has previously done tests to see if the dehydration, night sweats and hot flushes were caused by hormones, sickness, or likely to be medications- it seems to be more likely medications, with Diamox (one of my IIH meds) being the culprit for the dehydration, as it is a diuretic.
So I recently went to see my Neuro, Dr O. and he agrees the dehydration is indeed chronic and in need of treatment. We talked about how I am still having headaches everyday and that sometimes I am able tell the difference between an IH high pressure headache and a dehydration headache.
Once more we talked about Intracranial Pressure (ICP) Monitoring, but I said that I am worried that with my not knowing the extent of my dehydration headaches compared to my IH headaches I do not really want to go ahead until we know for sure that it is IH. Better to be safe then sorry!
He agreed, and suggested that I come off Diamox, to treat the dehydration and see if the headaches minimise/ or if they get worse due to coming off the Diamox and my ICP increasing. Then if and or when my headaches do get worse then we go in for the ICP Monitoring.
I have now been off Diamox for three weeks and my dehydration has indeed slowly improved, but unfortunately my headaches have increased and the symptoms are more IH high ICP pressure headaches- meaning that coming off the Diamox has been a bit of a catch 22!!!
I am going to wait a bit longer until I decided for sure that we go ahead with the ICP monitoring soon, as I would prefer to wait until the Diamox is completely out of my system.

I hope you have all been well and that your Holiday season was jolly and that this new year brings happiness and joy!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Oven-Baked Arancini with a Marinara Sauce...

Arancini is known for being an appertiser- rice stuffed balls.
Something you may not know- Marinara Sauce is not a seafoody as some may think!!!
It is actually just your basic tomato based sauce, its a starter sauce that is then built on.
But it is great on its own too....

Serves: 4 (makes 8 arancini balls)
   2 eggs
   3/4 cup GF/WF flour
   1 cup GF WF bread crumbs
   roughly half the quantity of the Ham Off the Bone Mushroom and Thyme Risotto
   drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
   small bunch rosemary sprigs, leaves removed and roughly chopped
               (leave some small tips to poke in the top of the arancini)
   2 tbsp dried parsley
   3 dried sage leaves, chopped
Marinara Sauce 
   2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
   1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
   1 tbsp chilli sauce
   1/2 tsp sea salt
   freshly ground pepper
   1/8 cup grated carrot
   1 400g can whole peeled tomatoes
   1 tsp dried oregano
   1 tsp dried thyme
   1 bay leaf
   small handful fresh basil leaves (optional)  
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, and saute over low heat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the grated carrots and chilli sauce then cook another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their liquid and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon (or just crush them with your hands, like I do).
  4. Add the bay leaf and dried herbs. Stir sauce then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Note – if the sauce is too bright or acidic, try adding a pinch of low GI sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes).
  5. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf, stir in chopped basil.
  6. Meanwhile, line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Place the flour in a shallow medium bowl. Lightly whisk the eggs in another bowl. Spread the GF/WF breadcrumbs, and herbs over a plate and mix.
  7. Use wet hands to shape a handful (about 1/2 cup) of the risotto into a ball. Repeat with the remaining risotto to make 12 balls.
  8. Roll 1 risotto ball in the flour and shake off excess. Dip in egg, then roll in breadcrumb mix, pressing to coat. Pinch the top slightly to make a pear shape. Place on the prepared tray. Repeat with the remaining risotto balls, flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
  9. Drizzle olive oil over the arancini . Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.
Serve the Arancini on a 'bed' of Marinara sauce and with a fresh garden salad side.

Ham Off the Bone Mushroom and Thyme Risotto...

This year I am not doing Christmas with all the trimmings- which means I am not doing a ham like I did last year, but that doesn't mean I am not having any at all....

 This scrumptious creamy risotto is a great recipe for ham left overs, be it Christmas Day ham or the sneaky shoulder of ham before Christmas (like M. and I did).
And the leftovers can be used to make a favourite of mine- Arancici!!

M. and I won't be home for Christmas this year but up the coast in his hometown of Forster, also where my older brothers live.
I am greatly looking forward to spending some time with our families and also catching up with some friends.
But it means that I don't get to do as much cooking as I can't really get into someones kitchen and just take over without feeling like I'll get in trouble.
And to make it worse I wasn't organised enough this year to get much baking done- M. and I have been fairly busy this lead up to Christmas, but I feel like overall generally I am much less organised compared to last year- and I think there may be a reason for that- my IIH has been getting gradually worse (but I am not going to get into that now).
I still plan to get some baking done, but first is getting my card making done, Christmas shopping done and jam making done (yup I am making jam this year for our immediate families this year)...so watch this space!!
Anyway back to the point- HAM!! Yummy ham....

Serves: 6- 8 (or 2-4 with left overs to make Arancini)
   2 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil 
   1 medium onion, finely diced 
   2 garlic cloves, finely diced
   200gm ham off the bone, finely chopped 
   2 cups Arborio rice 
   1 cup dry white wine 
   5 to 6 cups vegetable stock 
   1 1/2- 2 cups small field mushrooms, thinly sliced 
   Large handful thyme leaves 
   1 tbsp vegan spread 
   Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. In a small saucepan, warm the stock over low heat. In a separate large saucepan warm 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and most of their liquid, and set aside.Add the ham and cook for 4 minutes and set aside as-well.
  2. In a large pan or pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about three minutes. Add the Arborio rice and cook with softened onions for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently and cooking until grains are slightly glassy in appearance. 
  3. Add white wine and stir until liquid is almost all absorbed.  Ladle in stock one cup at a time, remembering to stir often.  A good way to tell when the risotto needs more liquid is by using your wooden spoon to cut through the risotto.  If the liquid runs back together, then keep on stirring.  however, if it stays parted, then add another ladle of stock.  
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Cook for a further 20- 30 minutes or until rice loses its opaqueness and has softened but still has a subtle bite to it- rice should be firm and the risotto creamy. 
  6. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, ham, spread and thyme.
Serve topped with rocket leaves, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a crack of pepper and a side of homemade crusty GF WF Sourdough Garlic and Herb Bread.     
(The bread isn’t homemade, just the yummies :P  )

Monday, 18 November 2013

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Nutella)...

These recipes smell AMAZING while they are cooking in the oven- the actual bread and then the roasting hazelnuts for the spread!!
It's somewhat tempting to just it before you finish all the steps... but it is well worth it as when it comes together it's like a banana chocolate hazelnut dream boat.

I got a hankering for banana bread the other day after waking up to another day of constant rain... it has been raining all fortnight.
It makes me very thankful that we strung up some string inside a while ago for our laundry, otherwise we would be in a pinch and would definitely be out of clean undergarments by now!!
But this rain is great for the garden and it is also great for making you feel like you want to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, some banana bread, a good book (or a movie, or a tv series- like Stargate or Star Trek!!) and a blanket.

So banana bread it is.... but I decided to try something a little different and also make some choccy hazelnut spread, 'nutella', too...

   1/3 cup sunflower oil
   3/4- 1/2 cup agave, depending on taste
   2 eggs
   2 cups plain wheat free/ gluten free flour

   3/4 tsp baking powder
   1/2 cup quinoa milk with chia, or any other dairy free soy free alternative

   1/4 tsp vanilla
   1 tsp cinnamon
   2 tbsp lemon juice
   3 overripe bananas, mashed

   roughly 1/2 cup dairy free soy free dark chocolate chips/ squares
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

   1 cups raw hazelnuts
   3/4 tsp vanilla
   2 tbsp 2 tsp cacao powder- I ended up using more like 3 tbsp and 1 tsp
   1/4 cup agave- I ended up using more like 1/3 cup
   pinch of salt
   2 tbsp- 1/3 cup quinoa milk with chia, or any other dairy free soy free alternative                    - I ended up going for the 1/3 cup, plus I also added some water

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a loaf tray with a little sunflower oil. Line with baking paper. Use a whisk to beat the oil, agave, vanilla, lemon juice,  and quinoa milk in a small bowl until pale and creamy. 
  2. In a separate large bowl combine the flour and baking powder.  
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Set aside to cool a little.
  4. Make a well in the dry mix and slowly stir in half the ‘wet mix’. Using a wooden spoon beat the mix and slowly add the remainder of the ‘wet mix’. Add the mashed banana's and eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Take roughly 1 1/4 cup of the batter out and pour into the chocolate bowl, mix well.
  6. Pour 2/3 of the banana mixture into the prepared loaf tray. Pour the chocolate batter over the banana mixture, and then finish off with the remaining banana mix. Then using a spoon give the mix a couple of swirls.
  7.  Bake in oven for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 minutes to cool slightly, before transferring the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  8.  Keeping the oven at the same temperature of 180°C. (Or if doing it another time, preheat the oven). Roast the hazelnuts on a sheet of baking paper for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle rub the nuts together in a towel to remove the skins (not all of the skins will come off, but try to get as much off ass you can).
  10. Add the hazelnuts to a food processor and blend on low to medium speed. Blend until the nuts have turned into a smooth butter.
    You will have to stop a couple of time and scrap down the sides.
  11. Slowly add the rest of the ingredients, leaving the milk till last.
    You will find that you need to scrape the sides down again a few times, and you may need to add more milk to get it smooth.  
  12. Test and add more ingredients if needed, to your taste!!!
    ( I like mine quite chocolatey and a little sweeter- more like the store bought)
  13. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kafta (Lebanese Beef Kebabs)...

Makes: 22 skewers
   1/4 kg lean beef mince
   2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
   2 tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
   1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
   1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
   1/4 tsp ground allspice
   3/4 tsp dried mint
   1/2 tsp ground cumin
   1/2 tsp ground coriander
   1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
   1/2 medium onion, grated, drained in a strainer
   Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large bowl combine beef, parsley, tomatoes, paprika, cayenne pepper, allspice, mint, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, onions, salt, and pepper. Mix well together.
    Using a tablespoon as weight guide, take portions of beef mixture and mould them around the end of each of the skewers.
  2. These are traditionally cooked on a hot charcoal fire in a grill, but devoid of that heat up a large skillet or grill; on medium to high heat, add oil and grill, turning, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes (for each)
Served with Quinoa Tabbouleh, Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip and gluten free wheat free flat bread.
Make yourself a wrap, or just eat it as you like!!

Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip...

Serves: 4 to 6
   2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
   2 cloves garlic, minced
   2 bunches of English spinach
   400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
   1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
   1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
   1 tsp kosher salt
   1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 of the spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
  2. Place the remaining olive oil, spinach mixture, cannelloni beans, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a small serving bowl.
I served mine with Quinoa Tabbouleh, Kafta and gluten free wheat free flat bread.
Make yourself a wrap, or just eat it as you like!!