Tag Archives: Cooking

The 8 essential tools for a wholefoods kitchen

Wholefood Kitchen Essentials | lizniland.com

While a sharp knife and a chopping board will get you a long way, carefully investing in a handful of small kitchen gadgets will really help amp up your wholefood home-cooking game.

Here are my always-in-the-sink kitchen essentials:

1. Stick/immersion blender

Making mayonnaise, smoothies, tahini, dips, soups and anything else you ever wanted in puree form, a stick blender is the easy-clean brother of the blender and the petit cousin of the food processor. It’ll struggle making nut milks but it’ll happily make a smooth and creamy choc-avo mousse. Keep an eye out for units with interchangeable fittings – mine plugs into a mini food processor and has a whisk attachment. Handy!

2. Proper knives

Yeah, random cheapo knives will do a decent job of dicing your chicken and roughly chopping your carrots but what about a speedy chiffonade of coriander? Or thinly sliced beef? Sharp, fancy knives may seem intimidating but the truth is blunt knives are more dangerous: have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes trying to hack into a bigger-than-your-average sweet potato with a knife that would struggle to cut butter? Practice doesn’t make 100% perfect (the wounds my chef little bro has had over the years prove that) but it certainly will help.

3. Measuring cups

Eye-balling a scoop of this & a scoop of that is all well & good for a casual cook up but good luck getting a delicious raw creation to turn out dinner party-ready without keeping track of your cacao butter to rice malt syrup ratios. These ones are live-forever Tupperware.

4. Kitchen scissors

Traditionally used to spatchcock a chook, I use my kitchen scissors for plenty beyond chicken! An easy snip-the-tip for beans (get the kids involved) and a less scary way to finely slice your leafy herbs, scissors are also handy for plain old packet opening.

5. Garlic press

Squish cloves of garlic in a single squeeze! No need to get fiddly with your knives and attempt a fine slice, a decent garlic press can even cope if you leave the skin on. A tip: Rinse it out as soon as you’re done otherwise the dried up garlic is a treat to clean off when you finally get around to doing the dishes.

6. Measuring spoons

I’ll admit, I thought these were an unnecessary addition to the kitchen when they first debuted. Now though, I use this little tablespoon daily. Ultimate nerd out: try and make a morning smoothie without needing to wash it between ingredients – start with dry items and then work through to the messier goodies. I go chia seeds, then a scoop of maca powder, honey and then nut butter!

7. Julienne peeler

This is what you need to deliver the majestic zoodle (zucchini noodle) to your table. Like a vegetable peeler/grater hybrid, this little guy makes long, thin strips out of your veg. Once you get the hang of it, make these Comfort Noodles.

8. Microplane grater

Moving into a house that my aforementioned chef brother moved out of had its advantages: abandoned utensils. This grater was one such acquisition and I don’t think I’d be able to efficiently add ginger to meals or zest fruits without it. Super sharp (I’ve copped a couple of forced manicures), your Microplane needs that straight-away rinse after use too.

So does that cover off the most used items in your kitchen drawers? What did I miss? I’ll post about my essential appliances and bigger kitchen gadgets soon. FYI, it’s a Thermomix-free zone. I’m still not convinced those things are worth the coin!

x Liz

 

Photo note: Image by me on my trusty iPhone with a little polish via the ABM Actions.

Review: Nourish by Lorna Jane Clarkson

It’s becoming increasingly apparent, through whatever wholefood-focused eating plan you follow, that low-fat dairy, wheat-based filler and low-calorie pre-packaged snacks are old news. Nourish champions a movement for less dairy, meat and simple carbs and more veggies, fish and healthful fats like coconut, avocado and olive oil.

Review: Nourish by Lorna Jane Clarkson| lizniland.com

While it’s not groundbreaking stuff for those who’ve spent some time moseying around a paleo-inspired path, it’s a promising sign that young girls looking up to the designer of their tights and crop tops will fill up on more than just air and apples.

No regrets | Review: Nourish by Lorna Jane Clarkson | lizniland.com

Proving she’s got the chops for much more than dreaming up tank top designs and fitspo slogans Lorna Jane Clarkson’s recipes are mighty tasty and most are simple and quick to whip up. I’ve had this book for quite a few months now and it is a top shelf favourite.

Assuming you’re down with chia seeds, all up on gluten-free whole grains and hip to your nut “mylks”, Nourish is a totally accessible cookbook and healthy living manifesto which goes well beyond green smoothies and salads.

Breakfast smoothie | Review: Nourish by Lorna | lizniland.com

The recipes on the highest rotation are the frittatas and the Breakfast Smoothie (don’t tell Sarah Wilson what’s in it though – hello banana, honey & mango!). That smoothie gets varied depending on what’s in the fridge (I’ve subbed the banana & spinach for avocado & it worked a treat) and we usually eat a couple of eggs with it for added protein too.

The frittatas are a great way of using up leftovers too – an excess cooked chicken thigh, some sagging greens and scrapings of a forgotten jar of pesto have all made their way into this recipe. They’re those special recipes that, once you nail the basic format, you can choose your own adventure.

Frittata | Review: Nourish by Lorna | lizniland.com

This Christmas our young teenage nieces got a copy of this book. They’re at an age where the food they eat now will shape what kind of food they eat when they move out of home & have to fend for themselves. The girls are keen to learn about new foods and taste test different things so it’s a great time to get them excited about real foods.

The thing I like most about Nourish is, as the name suggests, the focus on nourishing your body – not on eating to a particular label or restricting anything in particular. By filling yourself up with good food and focusing on having things that your body needs, you can stay healthy without it becoming an obsession.

Lorna Jane is becoming a healthy living juggernaut but I couldn’t be happier with the message she’s peddling. Inspire away, LJ!

When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes

There was no way a Culinary Adventure to Chiang Mai with Paleo Nick and Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo was going to go down without a cooking class or two! We ate plenty of delights while we were in Thailand but honestly, the most delicious things I enjoyed were those we made for ourselves during these cooking schools. (Commence the tooting of our own horns!)

Cooking School #1: Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School

Situated a little way out of town, the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School is a very snazzy purpose-built treehouse with picturesque semi-rural surrounds. With access to all the bells and whistles (or utensils and gas burners, as the case was) we learnt how to make a whole menu of delicious Thai dishes and even got a cookbook to recreate the magic at home.

Chef Steph | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

While the food was all super tasty, this class certainly wasn’t paleo – Nick’s face at the mention of soybean oil in a hot wok has akin to that of a small child after a fall, in that quiet moment of realisation before they let out the epic scream. There was soy sauce, seed oils, refined sugar and rice products galore. I thought that Thai food wouldn’t be too far from paleo but we quickly came to the conclusion that, just like back home, unless you make it yourself, it’s pretty hard to know exactly what’s in your meal.

Fried noodles | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Case in point was this fried noodle dish… but just quietly, it was one of my favourites! It’s not something I can see myself trying to recreate at home so it was total guilt-free vacation food. I’m not much of a pizza and cakes kind of girl – give me a random interesting dish like this that’s totally different to my everyday eats & I’m there.

This involved frying a little pile of sauced-up rice noodles until they started to crisp up together into a pattie. It was then set aside while the pork and vegetable mixture hit the wok. See, somehow I don’t think this one will be the same if I attempt to paleofy it with zucchini noodles!

Coconut milk soup & red curry fish | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

The closest-to-paleo dishes at this school were the Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, the Red Curry with Fish and the Papaya Salad. By switching to coconut oil and using a good clean curry paste, the curry has already found its way into my kitchen and I’m keen to try out the soup soon too. I may just have to post up my recreation!

One of the fun things about this cooking school was learning how to prepare ingredients in the Thai way. We learnt all the ways to slice green onion and how to cut a chilli depending on your heat-preference, as well as some kitschy decorative skills. In the vegetable dish above the curry, you’ll be able to see my green onion art and possibly make out the star I carved atop my mushroom, while below, note my attempt of a tomato rose. I haven’t cracked these out on my home dinners yet but I might just have to at least get a tomato flower into a salad sometime soon!

Papaya salad - Som tam | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Originally, we were going to have 2 days out at this cooking school but, while we learnt a lot about how the flavours of Thai food work and what the foundation ingredients are, we weren’t so fussed on learning how to make more food we’d have to paleofy so much to cook at home. Enter the Inpoo Food Shop.

Cooking School #2: Stupid Easy Paleo Nick Cooking Class

Across the road from our accommodation was a small restaurant named Inpoo Food Shop. Fronted by a roadside kitchen (wo)manned by Som with occasional assistance from her tuk-tuk driving significant other Payut, Inpoo was a deliciously easy favourite with the ninjas. Nick befriended the couple on day 1 and by the time we needed a second day of cooking school, Som graciously let us take over her restaurant.

Som's pad thai | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

We broke up into small teams to tackle a dish from a menu Nick created. I joined with Jose and Jen to become the Friendship Curry team. Using what we’d learnt at the first cooking school but applying paleo principles, we put together a list of ingredients and hit the markets to shop for what we needed.

Som's curry paste | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Lucky for us, Som made us a fresh batch of curry paste to use (as well as a plate of her pad thai for us to taste-test!) so we didn’t need much more than some eggs, pork, coconut milk and a couple of fresh vegetables.

Our friendship curry | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

And didn’t it turn out pretty! To boost the protein, Jen had the brilliant idea of decorating the top of the curry with boiled eggs. I was sceptical at first but I loved the finished product – both the flavour and the texture of the eggs really complemented the spicy curry. I’m keen to try doing this in my own kitchen now too.

Friendship curry team | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Our team was pretty special – we were the only group with each person from a different country! I’m Australian, Jen is from Malaysia and Jose resides in the U.S. We thought that was totally appropriate for a team taking on a Friendship Curry.

Paleo chicken satay skewers & laarb | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It wasn’t all about the Friendship Curry though – the other dishes that made the final feast were chicken satay skewers, laarb with cabbage leaves for scooping and wrapping, an epic fruit salad served up on a banana leaf and a spicy papaya salad. We invited Som & Payut to dig in first and then we all finally got to sample each others dishes. The feast even lured in some hungry Canadian backpackers so they piled up a plate too.

Sharing our feast | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It was such a fun challenge at the Inpoo but I think we really needed the first day’s cooking school to be able to know what we were doing once we were on our own. Even just knowing what all the different vegetables were at the markets would have been difficult without a bit of education. Being able to take on the Inpoo kitchen with Som really solidified the skills and techniques we learned at school #1. Even though it was a bit of an unplanned change, I thought our whole cooking class experience was great fun and totally beneficial for my expanding my cheffing abilities.

Have you seen my other posts about Thailand? So far I’ve posted about why I went to Chiang Mai, the amazing Chiang Mai lantern festival and the elephant park and ziplining adventure. It was a great trip!

Review: I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson | lizniland.com

I’ve been loving this book sick since the day I bought it. So if you’re reading this to get a yay-or-nay on its worthiness for purchase, the 4-word review is: Go and buy it. It rarely rests in the bookshelf, usually perched next to my knife block ready to be splattered and tattered again.

DIY Sauerkraut | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

DIY Sauerkraut | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

A fan of Sarah Wilson since her magazine days, I enjoy her writing and style but, I have to admit, the passion for the “I Quit Sugar” movement had started to grate. It kind of surprised me how much I love this book and what it stands for. I don’t know what drew me to it given I didn’t buy the first book, didn’t do the online program and never really understood, as many don’t, why the goal was to “quit sugar” but the recipes popping up from the quest to do so were simply subbing the refined stuff for stevia or rice malt syrup. It had always sounded very SWYPO for my liking.

Choc coco-nutty granola | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

Choc coco-nutty granola | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

While IQS for Life does offer up “A chapter of chocolate” and “Celebrations and treats with which to impress the sceptics”, it is more of a lifestyle book (which just happens to include awesome-sauce recipes) with tips on everything from ayurveda to DIY sauerkraut and minimising food wastage. Be prepared to be converted to the rice syrup after learning who’s who in the sugar zoo but, more interestingly, you’ll learn how to (& have a desire to!) gut a batch of sardines, bake the most delicious faux KFC and cook up a rad paleo loaf. It’s not a paleo book specifically but, when you eat unprocessed, low fructose, whole foods, well… give or take some quality dairy and that’s what you’re pretty much left with!

Paleo inside-out bread | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

Paleo inside-out bread | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

When you figure out how sweet life is when you’re running on fat and protein, rather than on the never-ending treadmill of sugar peaks and valleys, it’s hard not to evangelise the shiitake mushrooms out of it all. Sarah Wilson is on a mission to get the world on board and IQS for Life is the perfect introduction to life without the 3pm slump, especially if you’re sceptical or even sick of the down-with-sugar message.

"KFC" and coleslaw | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

“KFC” and coleslaw | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

It’s a shame Sarah often gets slammed for being anti-fruit, and down-right anti-fun, by characters who don’t understand the impact a processed diet high in sugar has had on the population. (If you need convincing on this point and don’t want it from Wilson, watch The Men Who Made Us Fat)

The main thing I love about IQS for Life is that it reaches beyond the sugar substitutes and encourages an extra serve of greens, enough dietary fat, a focus on preparation and a life of shareable food experiences.

Yeah, there’s some anti-banana sentiment and no, you can’t escape without seeing a green smoothie recipe but, all-in-all, these are recipes and life tips for normal, everyday people (regardless of whether you fully expunge your pantry of honey, maple syrup & dark chocolate chips).

My 10 basic building blocks of paleo eating

I love experimenting with new recipes & finding new ways to whip up delicious feasts. That said though, there are a few basic meals that I always come back to, most of which revolve around the building blocks in this list.

Combine them with each other, with other recipes you find or use these as the basis to create your own adventure. Nail this list of recipes, and the cooking world’s your oyster (or other shellfish of choice).

10 paleo building blocks

 

1. Cauliflower rice

You need a food processor or blender to make this one worth your while but it’s worth the purchase to have this alone in your arsenal. All you need to do is break a raw cauli into florets, whizz til ricey-looking & then toss into a hot frypan with your choice of flavours & cover for a few minutes until slightly softened. Picture B is a cauliflower fried rice I made with sliced chicken thighs, sliced omelette & assorted fridge-cleanout vegetables. Try it plain with salt & pepper & a squeeze of lemon to accompany fish, or experiment with sliced almonds & turmeric to replace a Moroccan-inspired couscous.

2. Zucchini noodles

Use either a standard veggie peeler or a julienne peeler (this is what I use) shred zucchinis into noodles. Let them dry out for 10-20 minutes or so & then throw them in a hot pan with some coconut oil & a sprinkle of powdered garlic (Picture C). Once you’ve got that down, indulge in these Comfort Noodles.

3. Garbage stir-fry

We covered this one in the breakfast round up but it’s a format you can whip out any old time. Clean out the fridge, slice everything evenly, stir fry in some coconut oil & call it a meal. Make sure there’s a serve of protein involved & if you’re throwing in any leftovers, make sure this is their final outing – only reheat food once.

4. Chicken thighs

While I don’t mind a tin of (sustainably caught) tuna on my lunchtime salads, I do love a good chicken thigh (Picture D). I cook up a batch in the oven on the weekend with S&P, a sprinkle of paprika & garlic and a drizzle of oil. Let them roast for 20 minutes or so at 220°C, until they’re crispy around the edges & cooked through.

5. Boiled eggs

I keep a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge at all times. Throw them in salads, have them as an emergency breakfast or scoff them with raw veggie sticks for afternoon tea. For a refresher in making perfect ones, check out this article.

6. Roasted veg

Cold salads are fine in the summer but they aren’t as appealing come blustery winter days. When you’ve got a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, prep a tray of veg to go in as well – brussels sprouts, fennel, zucchini, eggplant & tomatoes, not to mention starchier options like pumpkin & sweet potato, all get their delicious on in this scenario.

7. Mayonnaise

Queen of the condiments in my opinion, the humble mayonnaise can have some offensive ingredients when bought off the long-life supermarket shelf. An egg, some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon & your choice of seasonings are all you need to whip your own in less than a minute. Legit.

8. Meatballs

Whether you make balls, bangers or burgers, mince-y concoctions are cheap, tasty & portable. Like boiled eggs, they’re totally versatile & easy to batch cook. Melissa Joulwan has an epic collection in her book Well Fed 2 & on her website.

9. A slow-cooked bulk meat fest

Another one for the winter days, cooking up a big pot of melt-in-your-mouth meat is a beautiful way to get your house smelling amazing & your co-workers jealous of your leftover lunches for days. Pulled pork is always a favourite and don’t forget about cheaper cuts – they’re perfect for the slowcooker.

10. Guacamole

Like mayonnaise, guacamole is a top condiment to dollop on salads to up your healthy fat quota & shines as a dip with veggie sticks.

Things I Love Thursday: 12 Sep

Here’s what’s been floating my boat this week 🙂

  • Researching all things Paleo! This meal planning template was a particularly useful find.
  • Pinterest funnies, especially this:

  •  Celebrating the birthday of my best friend since forever on the weekend. Friendship established 1992 & still going strong!
    Nina's birthday

    Here we are as chubby-faced primary schoolers 🙂

  • LOVE GRIT! Is it a tough workout? Here’s my post-GRIT face… Pooped!post grit
  • This Paleo Pizookie recipe with this banana ice cream recipe… Decadent but still a tick in the technical paleo book!

Paleo pizookie

  • And on banana ice cream: OMG!? I’d seen this article from The Kitchn before but just thought it was a bit of a beat up, or that I’d need some fancy-schmancy Thermomix-style blender. Ahhh no! It is pure magic! I shared the recipe with a workmate & he’s now using it as a bribery tool with his toddler. Bribery with just a frozen, blended banana – so simple! Just make it. You’ll see.

Things I Love Thursday: 25 July

Unashamedly flogged from blogger babe Gala Darling (who I’ve followed since forever), I present to you Things I Love Thursday. This is a love letter to all the things I’ve been digging in the last week (and a request to the heavens for more of the same!)

  • Getting so much stronger & more powerful through the magic of GRIT! To the uninitiated, it’s a super high intensity interval training workout that only goes for 30 minutes… but occasionally induces spews from participants. Major! This week I bumped my weights up a little, got through more push-ups on my toes & got through way more reps holding form. Loving it! This video is fairly produced but gives a pretty good overview.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxFFCUXBu40&w=560&h=315]

  • Getting an unexpected late birthday parcel from my brother & his wife (who were both runners up in major cheffy awards this week – clever!) It got incorrectly delivered to a friendly neighbour who thankfully did not keep the new set of Peter Alexander pjs with cute accompanying hairband for herself and came door-knocking instead. Phew!

Lost birthday present

  • My pressure cooker… I shouldn’t love an appliance so much but it’s seriously fantastic. Pressure cooker, slow cooker & saute machine all in one shiny counter-top, easy-clean machine.
  • My ever-supportive other half who doesn’t get mad when I dive into bed with frozen feet and demand he warm them up with his own bed-toasty toes
  • Learning & being involved in new things at work. “User experience” is a big deal at work (and for good reason – we want users to have good experiences, right?!) and today I was involved in pulling together a load of research to map out some Personas for a new project.
    From UX mag:

A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.

  • The birth of the #royalbaby Prince George – don’t whine, it’s lovely! Sweet couple got their sweet kid.
  • Making plans for some DIY projects (and not just the dinosaur craft!) I’ve got my eye on the dining stools for a serious revamp – stay tuned!

Weekend in pictures: 19-21 July

Dinosaur craft. That was the biggest revelation of last week for me. After stumbling across this dino clutch bag DIY and this dino serving dish DIY, just about all I could focus on this weekend was accumulating all the pieces to get happy with dino-DIY! My friend Lee and I are tackling the dish on Sunday – excitement!!

Me & my DIY dinosaur

There were non-dino related activities too – a girl & her man have gotta eat, right?! Friday night incorporated this awesome skinny apple crumble. Without fresh cranberries available, I used some sliced up Medjool dates (& cut the honey back a bit). And to pump up the crumble topping, I stirred in a scoop of pumpkin seeds. Served up with a scoop of ice cream, M was in heaven.

Skinny Apple Crumble

After a heavy GRIT session on Saturday morning, I headed out to do the aforementioned dino shopping, but not before a coffee pitstop at local favourite Rolador. It’s nearly always a decent wait for whatever you order, whether you’re dining in or ordering from the side roller door, but given it’s always good it’s worth settling in for (good time for a scour through Pinterest, I say!)

Rolador cafe

The other great purchases of the weekend were these two Women’s Weekly cookbooks: Pressure Cooking & The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits. OMG. When I saw Beautiful Biscuits there was no way I was leaving without it. It’s the ‘vintage edition’ and my mum has the original.

New Women's Weekly cookbooks

Growing up, this was the book Mum would pull out when she had to ‘bring a plate’ or whip out a slice for a function. The slice I always, always wanted her to make was the below. A peanut butter, chocolate major deliciousness! While we got it once or twice, it was serious ‘treat food’ & looking at the ingredients as an adult, I can see why!

Beautiful biscuits kid dream

Funnily enough, when asked which recipe from the book he’d like me to make first, M suggested the below coconut chocolate slice… which was Mum’s go-to slice! I can definitely see why – delicious, easy & an ingredients list full of kitchen basics. And while I don’t wish to upset the ladies of the Women’s Weekly test kitchen, I did hack the icing slightly with great return. Instead of the suggested icing sugar/milk/cocoa topping, I mixed half a tin of light coconut cream (leftover from Friday night’s pressure cooked Massaman) and half a block of dark chocolate over a low heat for an icing of coconutty, ganachey goodness!

Beautiful biscuits slice

Sunday morning was all about brunch and coffees on the sunny deck at The Locale. I thought I hated their coffee but M suggested I try my latte with full cream milk, rather than my usual skim order… Lo & behold, it was great! There’s a few places around town that I don’t love for coffee so I can’t wait to taste test them with the milk switch – I think there must just be a skinny milk doing the rounds that’s a bit funk!

Locale coffee

After breakfast we hit the farmer’s markets & then finished off the rest of the groceries before hitting the carwash. It was a DIY car wash but it felt machine-y when you can sit inside to watch the suds run down the windows!

carwash

We decided to old-school it up for Sunday lunch & cooked up a chook & roasted vegies for a proper feast. After some initial browning, the chicken was done in the pressure cooker (with a recipe from my new book) in just 25 minutes! It was beautifully juicy and for less than halfa, I’ll definitely be doing it again! I made a chilli lime sauce to drizzle the chicken, which was stuffed with lemon, oregano & garlic. The vegies consisted of squash, garlic & brussels sprouts with a hearty drizzle of caramelised balsamic vinegar to finish.

Sunday roast

The final image of the weekend though goes to these beautiful dusky lilac roses which smell so delightful. Fresh from the farmer’s markets, I can’t think of a better way to spend $10!

Roses