Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Reshape Your Body with Real Food Challenge

Review of the Reshape Your Body with Real Food Challenge - from

You know, as much as I tout the benefits of menu planning, the actual process of doing it bores me to tears.

It is one of my least favourite jobs!

So the past few weeks were an amazing breath of fresh air as I completed the 21 day Reshape Your Body with Real Food Challenge with naturopath Jessica Donovan from Energetic Mama.

I've written before that I've been feeling fat, frumpy and tired this past Winter.  All of this has been due to some health issues I've been having and while I definitely wanted to lose weight, what I really wanted was more energy and to just feel a little better.

I've been on Jess's mailing list for years and wasn't actually going to do this challenge until the 11th hour when she sent an email detailing how her program can help women with thyroid problems, oestrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue.

Umm, that's the exact trifecta I'm dealing with. I signed up on the spot and couldn't wait to get stuck in!

There was a daily email for the 3 weeks covering the menu, shopping, meal prep, mindset, exercise and some naturopathic advice on the specific conditions so many of us are struggling with.

So 3 weeks later, was it worth it?

In a word, YES.

Within the first few days I could see where some bad habits had been sneaking in.

I could see just how often I was reaching for something sweet, that I wasn't having a substantial enough lunch and then snacking before dinner, and that I'd become too reliant on carb-heavy foods like potatoes and brown rice.


1. It is run by a naturopath so you know the nutritional information is sound. Plus Jess is always available to answer any questions in the private Facebook group during the challenge which was great.

2. Jess specialises in treating mums and this program is designed for women with hormonal, adrenal and thyroid issues. Like I said, this is exactly what I need.

3. It got us out of a food rut. Despite eating well, lately we've been busier and tending to make the same things over and over again. The whole family appreciated some different things on the menu and they have been easily adaptable for our gluten and dairy free way of eating.

4. I loved not having to decide what was for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. The menu and shopping list were provided and all I had to do was check the menu and cook. No thought involved!

5. The food was delicious, very fresh, great variety and easy to prepare. Some of the dinners have become new family favourites and I've made them several times since the challenge.


1. The cost of the food. This was something I didn't even consider. We already a eat whole foods/no junk diet but we eat simply, and we buy and cook in bulk. Our food bill essentially doubled for the period of the challenge which was hard for us to absorb. But if you buy processed food and a lot of takeway chances are you would end up saving money.

2. The exercise program was way beyond me. If you already exercise no doubt you would be fine. But coming from a background of chronic fatigue syndrome and no regular exercise for years this was completely, and totally beyond my capabilities.

3. No ongoing access to the exercise videos. While all the menus, shopping lists and exercise planners are downloadable, the exercise videos are not, which is a shame because I would have liked to be able to work up to doing them and track my progress.

My results:
  • 1.4 kg weight loss in 21 days
  • No more bloating
  • 3.5cm off my waist measurement so my jeans are comfy again, and
  • I gained a new repertoire of fresh and delicious meals

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and I have to say I have been sticking with this way of eating quite easily.

I'm now not only planning dinners, but breakfasts and lunches as well and finding I don't really need to snack at all. I'm also more tuned into my body and only eating when I'm hungry, rather than when I'm tired or bored. This is huge!

I think this has been the perfect way to get back into healthier eating, especially with Christmas coming.

I'm not sure when Jess will run the challenge again but you can go here to get on the waiting list for next year.

Thanks Jess! It was a great investment and I'm so happy I signed up.

* This is not a sponsored post. I paid for the challenge myself and was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. You should seek medical advice before embarking on a diet and exercise program.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Salted Peanut Butter Honey Cookies (SRC)

Salted Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies - gluten-free, dairy-free, no refined sugar - from

Well, this is it. The final ever reveal for the Secret Recipe Club!

My first post for SRC was back in February 2013 when I made a delicious Chicken Tikka Masala. We love Indian food but it was the first time I'd ever made that recipe myself. And it was amazing!

I've loved getting a peek inside other people's kitchens, trying out recipes that I would otherwise have never even heard of, let alone tried.

And I think that has been the beauty of SRC. We all come from different parts of the world, have different tastes, different families and yet, we have all been brought together by our love of food.

For this final month, I was assigned Savory Moments by Amy, a stay at home mum of twins from Western NY and passionate foodie, and I knew immediately I would find some great food.

Her blog's header reads that she is 'trying to learn skills that have been lost along the way by many people of my generation: cooking, baking, growing food, preserving, and appreciating a healthy, home-cooked meal.'


This is exactly why I cook and blog too.

I think so many of us are time-poor and have been seduced by the ease of convenience foods, which in reality are chemical-laden, nutrient-deficient filler foods, setting us up for a lifetime of ill-health.

To grow your own food, even if it's just having a few pots of herbs on your windowsill, to buy what is seasonally available and then cook it from scratch is so rewarding and the best way of setting up a culture of good food in your family.

We are a predominantly gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free household these days, and I found loads of recipes on Amy's blog that fit the bill, or that could be easily adapted.

Some of my favourites were the Turmeric and Honey Roasted Chickpeas, Avocado Chocolate Pudding, Lemony Raw Kale Salad, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Cranberries and Bog salad with maple vinaigrette to name just a few.

When it came down to it though, I decided to make something just for my boys.

I've been in a bit of  a baking rut recently, so wanted to try something new. So it had to be Amy's Salted Peanut Butter-Honey Cookies!

Salted peanut butter honey cookies - gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free - from

My only change to the recipe was to use buckwheat flour instead of the wholemeal, to make them gluten free.

I also made them smaller than stated, getting 20 cookies out of the batch instead of the 14-16 Amy suggested. I baked them for just 10 minutes but even that was too much, so if you make them small I would suggest just 8-9 minutes!

This is a great recipe to make with kids - just 5 ingredients, mix, roll and flatten with a fork. Mr 3 was my very willing helper with these and he was hovering close to taste the first one.

Salted peanut butter honey cookies - gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free - from

My boys absolutely loved these and the entire batch went in one afternoon tea. For the record I had just 2, and the other 18 were devoured by the 3 of them, along with a glass of cold milk each.

I think that makes them a winner!

Salted Peanut Butter-Honey Cookies
Adapted from Savoury Moments

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 ts bicarb soda
1/4 ts sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 160 degrees fan-forced.

Line a tray with baking paper and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, bicarb and salt.

In a large bowl beat together the peanut butter and honey until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture and stir until well combined.

Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls and place on the prepared trays. Gently press down with the tines of a fork to make a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle with a little extra sea salt.

Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes, until they just begin to turn golden brown.

Makes 20 cookies.

Thank you Amy for a great recipe, we will definitely be making them again!

And thank you Sarah E for all your hard work in keeping SRC running for us these past few years. It's been great! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

3 top tips for going gluten free (and my favourite gluten free flour recipe)

How to go gluten free - 3 top tips from

Let me say up front that I love bread. Like really LOVE it.

To me the aroma of freshly baked bread is one of the best smells in the world, so the thought of not being able to indulge in a piece, warm from the oven and smeared with butter was ... upsetting.

But after years of ill-health and lots of niggly issues that just wouldn't go away, it was time to bite the bullet and cut out gluten.

Now if you listen to mainstream media you will probably hear that going gluten-free is a fad, that there's no benefit in doing so and that it may even be harmful. I think that's rubbish personally, and naturopath Jules Galloway sums it up perfectly here.

So while I don't have coeliac disease, since going gluten free I have noticed:

- less brain fog
- more energy
- no more constant runny nose
- fewer headaches
- less bloating

Doesn't sound like a harmful fad to me!

I made the decision to go gluten-free back in July and haven't looked back.

As I was already eating a wholefoods type of diet I was expecting it to be relatively painless but I definitely got hit with withdrawal symptoms. It was fascinating to see just how much my body craved carbs and how often I would normally reach for 'a little something', a biscuit or piece of toast, something to keep me going until the next meal.

So based on my experience with going gluten free, here are my top 3 tips:

(And I just have to preface this by saying if you suspect you have coeliac disease, please seek medical advice before cutting out gluten. You need gluten in your system for the testing to be accurate so please see your doctor! For everybody else who suspects gluten may not be the best thing for you, read on).

1. Approach this as an experiment.

Going gluten free is entirely your choice, and for now, you are choosing not to eat gluten. Take each day as it comes and really listen to your body.

Keeping a journal is a great idea. Keep track of what you are eating and how you feel afterwards. For me, eating traditional wheat-based pancakes for breakfast practically sends me into a coma and makes me feel bloated and lethargic for the rest of the day. But I can eat gluten free pancakes and feel great. Seems obvious when you think about it!

2. Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free.

We are really lucky these days to have access to gluten free products in the supermarket. You can buy gluten-free bread, pasta, crackers, cakes ... you name it. But gluten free bread is definitely not the same as wheat bread. It won't taste the same, look the same and may not work in the same way. I am yet to find a gluten-free bread that is good for sandwiches although most make great toast.  Most brands are also full of additives and preservatives which is not what I want.

So instead of focusing on all the foods you can't eat (because let's face it, gluten is hiding almost everywhere), think about everything you CAN eat. Meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy products ... all of these are naturally gluten free, nourishing and delicious.

3. Plan an alternative so you don't feel deprived

If the rest of your family is having pizza, one of 2 things will happen. You will either feel angry and deprived, or you'll give in and have some. So plan ahead. Make sure you have a gluten free base on hand ready to go, or a recipe to make your own. Make a batch of muffins or bliss balls and stash them in the freezer so you have a sweet treat to have while your coworkers are gobbling down birthday cake. Feeling deprived will make you miserable, even if you're feeling better in other ways.

Now I love baking and am pretty experienced, but even I have had some gluten-free disasters. I'm talking muffins like bricks, and pizza base so tough we couldn't even break it!

The Orgran brand plain and self-raising flours at the supermarket are great, but I've also come up with my own recipe that I keep on hand. And if that's too much, a simple 50:50 blend of buckwheat and rice flours also works well for most recipes like biscuits and muffins.

My favourite gluten-free flour mix

200g sorghum flour
200g buckwheat flour
200g white rice flour
100g brown rice flour
300g potato starch
1 tbs psyllium powder

Place all ingredients into a very large bowl and use a whisk to mix well together.

Store in an airtight container.

If I was to add a top tip #4 it would be to choose your start date carefully - don't make things harder on yourself by quitting gluten a week before your birthday or Christmas or some other normally gluten-free celebration.

To help you on your gluten-free journey I've done up a handy printable showing 10 of my favourite gluten-free grains, their health benefits and how to use them. Just click on the image below to grab your copy now!

Get your free 10 Gluten-free Grains PDF

Have you gone gluten free? Did you notice any great improvements? How has it changed the way you cook and eat?

I would love to hear your thoughts.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Little Charley Bear Cake

How to make a wholefoods Little Charley Bear cake - free from additives and refined sugar - from

'Mummy, can I have a bear cake this year? Pleeeeeeese?'

It's s not just my kids who start planning their birthday cake months ahead of time, is it?

While the whining can be annoying, the benefit is I have months of time to think about how to make a bear cake!

Mr 5 received a Little Charley Bear for his first birthday and it has been his constant companion ever since. He's only spent one night apart from him, and that was when he accidentally left him at daycare and I didn't even know he'd taken him there. We survived the night. Just. But it's not an experience I would care to repeat.

So when he asked for a bear cake for his 6th birthday, I knew I would have to make it a Little Charley Bear cake. How could I not?

I always make my kids birthday cakes even though cake decorating is not my strength, and of course these days we avoid artificial colours and flavours like the plague which makes the more brightly coloured cakes a bit of a challenge.

Good thing bears are brown!

How to make a Little Charley Bear cake

First thing was to find an image I could use as a template. There are surprisingly few Little Charley Bear colouring pages online, which is basically what you are after. What I found was a still from a You Tube video called 'How to draw Little Charley Bear.' Perfect.

I saved the image, cropped off the bears on the sides and pasted it into PowerPoint.

My cake tin measured 33cm long so that was the maximum size for the image.

Enlarge the image to 33cm, then copy it onto 2 slides - one with the top half and one with the bottom half. Then print out both slides and tape them together to form one 33cm high image.

Lay a sheet of baking paper over the top and trace the outline and details with a sharpie.

Cut out the image.

Lay the template over your cake and using a sharp knife at 90 degrees, carefully cut around the edge, holding it with one hand to prevent it slipping.

Carefully slide your cake onto a prepared cake board and you are ready to decorate!

Wholefood Chocolate Sheet Cake

400g white spelt flour
100g raw cacao powder
2 tbs baking powder
250g unsalted butter, softened
1/4 ts fine sea salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
500g rice malt syrup
250ml water
1 ts vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 150 degrees fan-forced.

Grease a 23 x 33cm tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and using electric beaters, beat together at low speed until combined, then on high speed for 2 minutes until smooth and glossy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approx 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cover with a tea towel to stop it drying out.

Cream Cheese Icing
500g cream cheese (in blocks)
250g butter
150g coconut sugar
2 ts vanilla extract
30g raw cacao
2 charcoal capsules

Beat together the cream cheese, butter, coconut sugar and vanilla together until smooth.

Remove about 1/4 of the icing and set aside in a small bowl. This is for all the light coloured parts on the tummy and eyebrow.

Remove 1 tablespoon of this icing and place into another small bowl, this will be for the brown inside the ears.

Add the cacao to the rest of the mixture and mix until smooth and completely combined.

Place 2 tablespoons of this mixture into a small bowl and add the contents of the charcoal capsules - mix until well combined. You should have a strong black icing.

Take a small amount of the black icing and add it to the tablespoon of light icing set aside - add little by little until you get a darkish grey-brown. This is for inside the ears.

Wholefoods Little Charley Bear Cake - free from additives and refined sugar - from

To decorate

Prepare your template and cut out the cake as per instructions above.

Place the cake onto your prepared board. I use a large cake board covered with wrapping paper.

Cut strips of baking paper and slip them under the edges of the cake. This keeps the board clean while you ice the cake. Just pull them away when you are finished for nice crisp edges and a clean board!

Cover the whole cake, top and sides, with a thin coat of the chocolate icing. This is the crumb coat and it seals in all the crumbs and gives a better finish. Place the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes for the icing to firm up before moving on to the next step.

Now you need to cut out each element from the template.

Starting by cutting out the light colour tummy. Lay it on the iced cake and using a skewer trace around the edge. Fill in with light coloured icing. Repeat with the smaller pawprints on the tummy and fill in with chocolate icing.

Repeat for paw and ears, and use black icing for the nose and eyes.

Serve immediately or if you need to put the cake in the fridge, bring it out an hour beforehand to warm up.

Use a skewer to draw the outlines of his arms (don't be like me and forget to outline the outstretched arm!)

So there you go.

If I can make a Little Charley Bear cake, anyone can!

And free from refined sugar and artificial colours.

Happy Birthday Mr 6!

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