Saturday, 28 June 2014

Baked raspberry and barley mini puddings

I thought I'd keep in the pearl barley theme (click here for my last recipe: beef and red wine pearl barley risotto) and share a recipe I made using it in a sweet pudding. Think rice pudding, but instead of using rice you use chewy, nutty pearl barley! This delicious dessert is satisfyingly high in protein and fibre, low in fat and sugar, and only 518kJ (124cal) per serve! I like these puds warm, but they are delicious cold too, and can be made ahead of time, refrigerated, and even re-heated. You can also cook the pearl barley ahead of time, just refrigerate until needed.

Ramekins have become my best friend in the kitchen of late. I love making desserts in individually portioned serves, not only because it helps you control how much you eat, but also because it looks so cute! So why not invest some money (and they don't have to be expensive, let me tell you) in some 1 cup capacity ramekins and get baking!

Baked raspberry and barley mini puddings

1/3 C pearl barley
2 eggs
1 ½ C skim milk
2 Tbsp castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 C frozen (or fresh) raspberries

1. Add barley to a saucepan of boiling water and stir for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 40-50 mins until tender but still chewy and swollen to ~1C. Drain and rinse.

2. Divide barley evenly amongst 5 x 1-cup capacity ramekins, sprayed with a little olive or canola oil. Divide raspberries amongst ramekins, placing on top of barley and set aside.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, castor sugar and vanilla until well combined. Pour evenly over the barley mixture.

4. Bake at 160°C for ~45-50 mins until puffed and just set (still with a slight wobble in the centre).

Serves 5. Can be served warm or cold.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Easy ways to get your 5 a day

If you’re anything like the 93.2% of the population (ABS, 2014) who aren’t meeting their recommended vegetable intake, you’ll know that meeting the 5 a day can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be! Here’s my guide to up your intake and enjoy your vegies in the process!

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 5 serves of vegetables a day for most adults (slightly more for younger and middle-aged men and lactating women).

But what’s a serve?
A serve of veg is about 75g which is equivalent to:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables
- 1 cup salad vegetables
- ½ medium potato or sweet potato
- 1 medium tomato
- ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, peas, lentils)- that’s right, legumes count as a veg!

So, how do you fit all of that into a day?

As an example, you could aim to include 2 cups of salad veg with lunch and 1.5 cups of cooked veg with dinner. Alternatively, you could experiment with including vegies in your cooked brekky or raw vegie sticks into a snack.

My top tips for a vegie-packed day:

      1. Make buying vegetables a main part of your weekly shop so you always have something in the crisper, pantry or freezer.
And they don’t all have to be fresh, cans of tomatoes and legumes, or frozen peas and other vegetable mixes are just as good!

      2. Stuck in a vegie rut? Try a vegetable you haven’t tried before.
Sick of the same carrots, peas and broccoli? Make an effort to try a new seasonal veg each week- eggplant, leek, silverbeet? Here’s looking at you!

      3. Spice things up… literally!
Plain veg can be a little bland- toss your vegies through with herbs, garlic, chilli, nuts, dukkah or lemon juice and make vegies the flavour stand-out of the dish!

      4. Experiment with different cooking methods.
Do you usually just boil or steam your veg? Why not try spraying with a little olive oil and stir-frying, roasting or barbequing your veg? Charred, caramelised or crispy vegies add a whole other dimension.

      5. Sneak some extra veg into your casseroles, pasta dishes or even sweet baking!
Boost the fibre of your meal by replacing some of the meat with lentils, red kidney beans or chickpeas, grated carrot or zucchini, finely sliced mushroom or capsicum or a handful of spinach. And they don’t just have to be in savoury meals- carrot and cinnamon in a cake are a match made in heaven and beetroot and chocolate are delicious too!

      6. Dish out your vegies first, not last, when plating up.
An easy way to ensure you meet your serves is to regularly stick to the ¼, ¼, ½ plate rule and dish out ½ a plate of vegies followed by the protein and carbohydrate portions of the meal.

      7. Eat the rainbow.
And no, I don’t mean the Skittles rainbow. Try eat a range of vegetable colours every day- red, orange, green, purple, white- they all contain different vitamins and minerals, so eating a variety will mean you make it easier to meet all your nutrient needs. Aim for at least 3 different colours or types of veg on every plate.

      8. Don’t ‘save’ all your vegie portions for dinner- spread them throughout the day.
Some grilled tomato, mushrooms and wilted spinach with eggs & toast for brekky, some roasted chickpeas or carrot and celery sticks with hommus for a snack, and a delicious salad sandwich or leftover stir-fry for lunch. Just to name a few!

      9. Join the meat-free Monday revolution.
Change the way you think by planning meals around types of veg rather than types of meat. Stuffed capsicums, cauliflower ‘rice’, grilled vegie stack, lentil burgers, red kidney bean burritos or pumpkin soup. There are so many delicious dishes that make vegies the star.

      10. Get in touch with nature and where your vegies are coming from.
Why not grow your own vegie patch? It doesn’t have to be big and there’s something very satisfying about eating home-grown, nothing-added, fresh-as-you-can-get veg! Don’t have the space? Check out your local farmer’s markets and get to know the growers.

Image source:

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Beef and red wine pearl barley risotto

I'm a big fan of risotto- such a hearty winter dish. It always amazes me how thick and rich it becomes just by the slow cooking process. But I wanted to see how it would work with pearl barley (my latest favourite grain) and with red wine and beef instead of white wine and chicken, which is the most common risotto flavour combo. And it turned out quite well, if I do say so myself! I topped it with sliced beef steak but it would also work with slow cooked beef in the dish. This dish does take some time to prepare, so make it worthwhile and cook up a big batch and freeze some for next time!

Why not experiment with your own risotto this Winter? A basic recipe requires a grain (such as aborio rice or pearl barley), stock (chicken, beef or vegetable), wine (white with chicken or veg and red with beef or lamb) plus some onion, garlic and vegetables! 

Beef and red wine pearl barley risotto
1 C pearl barley, soaked in 3 C water for at least 2-3 hours, then drained and rinsed
3 C reduced salt beef stock
2 C water
½ C red wine
1 brown onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 C mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ C carrots, sliced
4 C thinly sliced silver beet or spinach
350-400g lean beef steaks
1 bunch broccolini

  1.  Saute onion, garlic, carrots and mushrooms in a large saucepan over medium heat until just soft.
  2.  Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, bring stock and water to the boil, then keep on a gentle  simmer.
  3.  Add pearl barley to the saucepan over a low-medium heat and stir to coat. Add wine and cook, stirring, until most of the wine is absorbed.
  4.  Add ½ C (or 1 ladel) of stock at a time to the barley, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until most of the stock is used and the barley is tender but still chewy, and is no longer absorbing any more liquid (~45-55 minutes).
  5.  In the last 10 minutes of the cooking, sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper and cook in a frypan over medium-high heat until cooked to your liking. Remove from the pan and slice.
  6.  Add silver beet or spinach to risotto and stir until wilted (adding more liquid if necessary).
  7.  Meanwhile, steam broccolini until just cooked.
  8.  Serve risotto topped with slices of steak, with broccolini on the side.

Serves 4-5

Saturday, 7 June 2014

8 Things People Say That, As A Dietitian, I Hate!

Food is one of those things that everyone knows, because everyone eats! Unfortunately for Dietitian’s like me, who have studied hard for four years at university in a highly competitive and academically challenging degree, this also seems to automatically make everyone an expert on food, nutrition and health. It comes with the job. But sometimes people say things that just really get to me. Here’s my top eight (and my rebuttals- I used to be on the debating team, alright?):

      1. "I know this [insert fad diet here] works because my [insert acquaintance, celebrity, or random person on the internet, here] did it and lost so much weight!"
Ah, Dr Google. What would we do without you? Well, not have people waste money and effort on weird diets that only work while you’re on them, then cause repeated cycles of shame and food envy, for one. Fad diets are just that- passing fads. If they were really that miraculous for our health and weight, we’d all be on them. And then they wouldn’t be called diets, they’d just be called eating.

Bloated and not sure why? Just ask
Dr  Google, he'll know.

2. "Carbohydrates are evil… especially after 5pm."
Anyone who claims a food group is evil has obviously no idea what the word ‘evil’ means. So let me set the record straight. Carbohydrates are not evil. They will not hide in you pantry til you’re asleep and happy and come into your room to stab you in the eye with one of their pointy edges (spaghetti? Here’s looking at you), or call you names, or even make you fat! Wholegrain carbohydrates (and even the regular white kind, in moderation) are an essential part of our diets, providing us with energy, fibre and a whole range of vitamins and minerals. As for the ‘no carbs after 5pm’ rule? Absolutely. Unfounded. Rubbish.

      3. "I’ve been eating terribly lately so I’m going to do a detox to cleanse my liver."
The liver is an amazing organ. Its main job is to filter out toxins. In fact, it’s been doing it perfectly well every day since you were born, so what makes you think it needs your help now? Really want to show your liver and kidneys a little TLC? How about just eat well in the first place.
'Detoxing' is marketing genius- create a problem that doesn't
even exist, tell people about it, then tell them you can fix it
with your amazing product!
      4. "Coconut oil is so good for you. So I use it for everything- I even eat it by the spoonful because I heard it prevents [insert horrible diseases here]."
While I would personally prefer to choose unsaturated oils like olive and canola that are backed by copious amounts of scientific research, I have nothing against coconut oil in moderation. But, and to quote a recent blog post I read and loved (click here) “when has it ever been a good idea to eat oil by the spoonful?”.

      5. "I’m intolerant to gluten" [when they have never had a single test and don’t even really know what gluten is- see youtube clip, above]
Coeliac disease is a serious condition. Even the tiniest amount of gluten can make a person with it very sick and result in them not absorbing important nutrients properly. They have to use separate toasters, avoid storing gluten-containing and gluten-free foods together and be extremely vigilant when eating out or buying their groceries. It is not a disease I would wish upon anyone, so why would you willingly want to subject yourself to its treatment? What’s more, eliminating gluten will not help you lose weight or make you healthier. In many cases it does the opposite, because many gluten free products are loaded with extra sugar and fat to make them taste better, and often lack the fibre of the gluten-containing versions.
Clean eating? Sure the idea is good, but
who came up with that name?!
      6.  #cleaneating
I really don’t understand the premise of clean eating. Like, does that mean all other food is dirty? That said, if your ‘clean eating’ just means you are cutting out junk and overly processed foods and replacing them with whole fruits, veg, grains etc then go for it! But the hashtag should really just be #eatinglikeanormalhealthyperson.

      7.  [In an article or conversation about obesity and the rise in lifestyle diseases] "Obesity is a growing concern and rates of type 1 and 2 diabetes are also rising."
Type 1 diabetes has NOTHING to do with obesity. It is an autoimmune disease, not a lifestyle disease. The two types are very different and I find it very insulting to lump sick (and often skinny!) kids and adults, who have no choice when it comes to getting diabetes, in with the type 2 diabetics who have diabetes because of poor lifestyle choices (and even that is not everyone- there are many risk factors for diabetes, not all of them lifestyle-related). So get your facts straight journo’s.

      8. "I object to vaccinations so my kids will never get them."
Ok, so this may not be nutrition related, but its science related, and people who take an anti-vaccination stance really bug me. It’s fine to have your own opinion but please don’t put the health and safety of your child AND every child who ever comes in contact with your child, at risk of terrible diseases that science has the ability to prevent.

If all else fails, just eat real food (and for goodness sake,
ask a professional about your health issues!)