Sunday, 30 June 2013

Lamb and Butternut Tagine with Tabouleh

Melt-in-your-mouth meat
With regard to fertility, red meat confuses me a little.  Its was neversomething I enjoyed eating.  When I was a toddler and ate red meat, it would make me ill, so my parents stopped giving it to me.  As a teen, I claimed I was allergic for school camps, but when I ate at a friends house before sleepovers I would try to eat what I could out of thanks and respect for the meal being provided.  One night my friend laughed at me saying she thought it was funny that I pushed my meat around the plate, only ate about half and then spent the rest of the night turning green.  I wonder if her parents thought I had an eating disorder - I was skinny enough.
In any case I stopped trying to eat it after that. 

When I started seeing my acupuncurist in January, hoping to balance my cycle after my miscarriage, she diagnosed me as blood deficient according to TCM, and suggested eating some red meat would help with balancing that and therefore improving fertility.  I was very happy to take her advice - especially as I conceived within six weeks of seeing her.  Other sources eg The Fertility Diet suggests a fully vegetarian/almost vegan diet would be best.  As a compromise I have promised Mr Duncan that we can buy red meat once a week, but I try to cook it with lots of veg so we're only consuming smallish portions.

So I still had half of the butternut left that needed using and half a can of chickpeas left over from the curry on Wednesday so I asked Mr Duncan to pick up about 300 grams of organic lamb to make a tagine.

Fertility focus
Butternut Squash is rich in beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A and also contains zinc and selenium which is important for ovarian and sperm health.
Chickpeas are a good plant source of protein.
Apricots are a good source of beta-carotene.
Lambis a source of protein, heme iron and zinc, though go easy on quantity as too much meat will upset the alkaline balance you're trying to achieve.
Parsley (in the tabouleh) is recommended in The Fertility Diet by Sarah Dobbyn as one of the best foods for promoting fertility with high levels of vitamin K and both iron and vitamin C which helps the body absorb iron.

  • 300 gms lamb (we used neck)
  • Ras el hanout - this is basically a mix of your best morroccan flavoured spices.  I had a small jar I received as a gift to use up, but otherwise I'd have mixed together my own from whatever I had in the cupboard.
  • Coconut oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chicken stock
  • Butternut
  • Chickpeas
  • Handful chopped dried apricots

Chop up the lamb into small chunks and rub with the spices.  Leave in the fridge to 'marinate' in the spices for at least two hours.

Set the oven to 180 C. Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil over a medium flame in an oven-proof lidded pot (I used our camp oven from the Landy, but we're planning on buying one from Le Crueset).

Brown the lamb in batches and remove to a plate.  In the same pan sweat the onions, garlic and ginger.  Return the lamb and add the chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer, cover with lid and put in the oven to cook slowly for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, stir and add the butternut, chickpeas and apricot - add a splash of water if it is too dry to nearly cover the butternut.  I mixed the butternut under the meat at this point so didnt need any more moisture.  Return to oven for another 20-30 minutes.  It is ready when the butternut is tender, the meat should fall apart.

I served this on quinoa with home made tabouleh.


Friday, 28 June 2013

Dairy Free Seafood Chowder

It tastes much better than it looks in my terrible photo

When I made paella the other night, it came to my attention that I had a bag of frozen seafood mix in the freezer.  I had thought it was frozen prawns so had to fish prawns out of the mix for the paella, but still needed to use up the remainder before it got freezer burn.  This particular seafood mix is prawns, squid and mussels and normally I'd make a seafood risotto with it, but I wanted something a bit lighter that I could throw together quickly when I got home from Cub Scouts.

In my second waitressing job, when I was a teen in New Zealand, Seafood Chowder was a very popular choice for a starter.  I had a look for Seafood Chowder recipes but the ones I found were full of cream and butter.  They looked delicious but I not really appropriate while Mr Duncan is on his blood pressure programme.

In the morning I put the frozen seafood mix in a bowl of water to thaw and de-salt.

Fertility focus
Mussels, like other shellfish are a rich source of ivitamin D and vitamin B12.  They also contain copper, iron, selenium and zinc.
Prawns are rich in zinc which is essential for healthy sperm.

  • Coconut oil
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Carrot, diced
  • Potatoes, diced
  • Water - about 500 mls
  • Seafood mix (prawns/squid/mussels)
  • Coconut milk - about 100 mls
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parsley

Sweat the onion in a teaspoon of coconut oil then add carrot and potatoes to soften (like a mirepoix if you've been watching the cooking shows).  Add water, cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until potatoes are nearly cooked. Add roughly chopped seafood mix and simmer until the seafood is heated through.

Remove from flame and blend with a hand mixer - I like my chowder chunky so I only blend about half of it, until the 'broth' becomes creamy with blended potato but there are still lots of unblended bits of seafood and veg.  Mix in coconut cream and return to flame to re-heat.  Serve garnished with chopped parsley.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Chicken Fajitas a la California

Although I was always a fan of Mexican restaurants in New Zealand, when I lived in San Francisco I discovered the delights of Californian-Mexican food.  Compared to the stodgy cheesey stuff I loved in New Zealand, Cal-Mex is light, fresh, healthy and tasty.  I regularly treated myself to dos tacos at the taqueria down the road on my way home from yoga class.  Working in Dallas, I discovered that TexMex is a very different beast and not really to my taste - too much yellow cheese.

When I get a craving for Mexican in London, I either wander down to the local Tortilla or, depending on whats in the fridge, I put together a fajitas feast.  I try to make it as healthy as possible by using my own fajitas mix, dry frying the food and using very little cheese and non fat yoghurt as extras.

We had peppers onions, tomatoes and avocado and some tortilla wraps in the cupoard.  After just starting to eat meat once or twice a week in the last year or so, in the interests of lowering blood pressure and fostering fertility I've once again decreased our meat intake.  For our Mexican meal, Mr Duncan was under strict instructions to pick up one, and only one, chicken breast which was more than enough for the both of us.

  • Fajita spice mix - I throw together a generous teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, chilli powder, dried basil or oregano and smoked paprika.  The online recipes also include salt and garlic powder, but we're off the salt for blood pressure reasons and leaving it out doesn't seem to make much difference to the taste.
  • Chicken breast, sliced crossways into strips
  • Sliced onions and peppers/capsicum (or corguettes/mushrooms/eggplant)
  • 2 tortilla wraps per person
Serve with all/any of
  • Sliced avocado
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped fresh tomato (made into a fresh salsa with onion/fresh coriander/lime if you have it)
  • Grated cheese
  • Plain yoghurt
  • Pickled Jalapeno peppers
Mix the spices in a bowl and toss the chicken strips until they are all well coated.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate while you slice up the veg.

When all the prep is done, heat a frying pan over a medium flame and cook the chicken in the dry pan, turning frequently for about five minutes until it is all sealed on the outside.  Some of the spice mix will get stuck on the bottom of the pan.  That is fine. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the peppers and onions to the pan and a splash of cold water, enough to pick up the spices stuck to the bottom and half steam the veg as you stir fry it.

Remove the veg to a plate and return the chicken to reheat.  Serve strips of filling across tortillas with extras.  Roll the tortilla and eat with your hands.  I actually find it easier to cut the tortillas in half and roll them a bit like japanese hand rolls.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Chickpea Curry with Chapati

Home made chapati
I've been reading The Fertility Diet by Sarah Dobson and although my usual eating style is very close to her suggestions I want to further increase our intake of healthy whole foods and cut down on Mr Duncan's consumption of meat.

This week we got a butternut squash and some spinach.  Now I love making pumpkin soup with any orange coloured squash and steamed spinach is one of my favourite side dishes but we have loads of spices to use up before we leave for Australia so I decided it was time for a curry.

Fertility focus
Turmeric is good for stabilising blood sugar levels which helps with managing weight and hormone balance.
Home made Chicken Stock is recommended in The Baby Making Bible by Emma Cannon for nurturing fertility
Chickpeas like all legumes are a good plant source of protein.
Butternut Squash is rich in Vitamin A and also contains zinc and selenium
Spinach, like all leafy greens, is rich in iron, folic acid and vitamin K
  • Coconut Oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Tumeric
  • Garam Masala
  • Butternut squash
  • Chicken stock
  • Chickpeas
  • Coconut milk
  • Spinach 
I made this for two (though it turned out to be three servings) with half a butternut squash, half a tin of chickpeas and about 100mls coconut milk.
Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil in a wok and sweat roughly chopped onion until softened.  Mix in finely chopped garlic and ginger then add turmeric and garam masala.

While the onion is sweating, peel and chop the butternut squash into bite sized chunks.  Add the chopped butternut to the wok and fry off a little until all covered by spices and onion.  Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the squash.  Put on a lid and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the butternut is nearly done.

Add coconut cream and chickpeas and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens enough to cling to the back of your wooden spoon.  Stir in chopped spinach until it wilts.

I served this with home made chapatis based on a very cut down version of this recipe - basically half a cup of flour, a dash of olive oil and water, rolled very thinly and dry fried for about 45 seconds on each side.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sewing Maternity-wear for Fun and Love

Super-cute maternity cargo pants
The past week had just proved to me I no longer fitted my usual clothing as I'd been holding together my various skirts and trousers with hairbands, so I took the opportunity of the rainy day to sort through what I could and couldnt continue to wear in my wardrobe.

Cue pile of stuff that I wouldnt be able to use again until I lost the baby weight - this included most of my work tops as they were too short to cover my just emerging 15 week belly and that tell tale hairband.

Cue pile of stuff I could continue to wear with the use of some clever tricks.

Hmm.  That second pile has very little in it.  What am I going to wear to work on Monday!?

When I was pregnant the first time my job involved attending lots of boring conference calls that other people regularly called in to up to 20 minutes late.  That is a long time to keep focussed on work when nothing is happening.  I took to browsing sites showing how to sew for maternity - both mother and babe.  I looked at LOADS of links (thanks mr google and blogging pregnant women everywhere) and bookmarked the ones I liked.

So I went back to a few of these bookmarks and made my plans.  I had a pair of cargo pants I've mostly only used for gardening since the zip broke and a tank top in a similar tone that had shrunk in the wash and was NEVER going to be able to cover my belly again with which I could make maternity pants.

Perfect for re-fashioning!
I also identified some of Mr Duncan's shirts I could potentially repurpose for maternity tops.  I started with about 8 shirts I'd never, ever seen him wear. After some intense whining on his part negotiation I ended up with these two with which to do what I wished.  They're not even in my colour.  Sigh.  Needs must.

I thought I'd try to make the long sleeved purple number into the very cute refashioned maternity top at romantic history and the short sleeved shirt into the shirred maternity tunic top from DIY Maternity.

I could look in some charity shops for appropriate shirts to make tops from some of the other tutorials I liked:
Babydoll maternity top
Pintuck shirt
Snug belly T
T-shirt to pin-tuck tunic

I was all set to commence with the sewing machine in the morning.  At 11.50pm that night I experienced a sudden gush of brown water which ended in the loss of my second baby.

So that was that.

I hope, one day, to post my own versions of these tutorials.


Tuna Bean Salad / Spaghetti with Tuna sauce

I seldom bring a packed lunch to work.  There are many reasons for this
  • I am not a morning person and dislike thinking about food until I've been awake for some time
  • I dislike sandwiches (well, bread, mostly)
  • buying lunch forces me to leave my desk for at least a few minutes
  • There are several good options close to the office I am currently working at
  • I can offset some of the cost against my tax
  • If we have leftovers suitable for lunch, I like to give them to Mr Duncan so I can be sure he's eating something healthy and not stocking up on cheese baguettes at Pret.
Probably my favourite option for lunch is Crussh.  The food tastes good, feels healthy and the salads are substantial - they actually satisfy my appetite. 

Sometimes I get their tuna bean salad, but when I do I always think I could so easily make this it home and at lower cost.  Last time I took a pic of the ingredients with my camera so I could try my own version.

When Mr Duncan came home after his Australian visa medical with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, I thought it was a good opportunity to try making a tuna bean salad for our lunch for the next day.  I am normally happy to soak and cook my own beans, it costs less than and causes less gas than the cans beans you buy in supermarkets, however in the interests of using food up before we move, I'm not replacing dried goods as we run out of them and have a fair stack of tinned goods to get through too.

Fertility focus
Chickpeas like all legumes are a good plant source of protein.
Kidney Beans are rich in folate and vitamin C.
Tuna, like all oily fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which can increase production of the egg white cervical mucus needed for the sperm to reach the egg.

I replaced the kidney beans and chickpeas with a rinsed tin of 3 bean salad.  I actually buy them to use in chile sin carne however they worked fine in this.  I substituted a white for red onion, added in some finely chopped yellow bell pepper and omitted both the salt and oil. I also forgot to take a photo.

We both ate it for lunch and I liked it.  Mr Duncan even said it was okay and he'd have it again though he's not a fan of tinned tuna or having healthy lunches.  The problem was there was still half of it left over.

I didn't want to have the same dish two meals in a row and put it in the fridge.  A few days later it definitely needed using.  But it was pouring with rain outside and salad for dinner didn't appeal.  I thought about the ingredients in it - could I make it into something else?

I used to make a simple vege pasta sauce with tuna 'meatballs' - so I knew the tuna would go with a tomato pasta sauce, balsamic vinegar works with a tomato based pasta sauce too.

Spaghetti Tonno
Just as good second time around
I just stir-fried the salad for a few minutes while I chopped some garlic which I added along with a tin of tomatoes.  It simmered while I cooked the spaghetti then I mixed in some chopped fresh basil before stirring through the pasta sauce.  Garnished with a little grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley.

It worked really well and even Mr Duncan agreed that the Tuna Bean Salad and Tuna Pasta Sauce combo was one to repeat - two fast and tasty meals in one!

Hypnotherapy for fertility blocks II

Nightfall in Namibia
So after I made the appointment with the hypnotherapy practitioner I found out that Mr Duncan had 'failed' his medical for the Australian visa we have applied for and also that the baby I lost at 15 weeks in May had Trisomy 13 and they wanted to test us for translocation - in case either of us had passed the chromosomal defect on.  Given one of my motivations for making the appointment in the first place was to discover if there was something in my mind stopping my body from holding on to my babies, this was actually quite a relief.

I'm not proud.  I had a total meltdown the night before the appointment (and turned up tired, emotionally exhaused and hungover (and feeling guilty as I'm supposed to be healing my body, not getting drunk to avoid dealing with my overwhelm).  So while I had a clear intention which I discussed with the woman when I made the appointment, I was just a complete mess when I turned up.

It didn't help that the therapist thought I was there for past life regression.  But given the new information and new stressors, my original concern that I was somehow letting go of my babies because I had 'blocks' to holding them to term was no longer valid, we agreed to just let the session flow...  A bit touchy-feely for me, but I was in no condition to argue.

I shouldn't have worried. This is what came up for me:

My subconsicous mind is
  1. afraid of not being good enough, not able to have a baby
  2. afraid I might not be able to take care of a baby
  3. concerned there wont be enough money to give the baby the life it deserves
  4. worried I dont deserve it
The therapist asked to speak to any parts of me that needed to be heard.

There was a part of me calling itself 'Malevolent' who is extremely disdainful.  Malevolent is strong and has a masculine voice.  Malevolent just gets on with it and takes care of stuff that needs taking care of when Lisa is overwhelmed.  Malevolent resents having to do this and gets its revenge by making Lisa worry.  By causing Lisa physical pain like the frozen shoulder that mysteriously materialised after my last miscarriage.

Malevolent doesnt trust Lisa to take care of herself even though she's now an (extremely) capable adult.

There was a part of me who was very little and vulnerable.  She couldnt tell us her name, she was too shy and spoke very quietly.  Maybe she was 3 years old, she wasn't sure. No one was taking care of her.  Who was going to take care of her if Lisa had a baby?

Most interesting!

In the session, the therapist dealt with all of the concerns that came up and then invoked mother earth metaphors to lead me into a future progression of a successful pregnancy (note, not birth).

It all took less than 1.5 hours and I went home to sleep the rest of the day.

I've been feeling a bit more sane since.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Chicken and Prawn Spanish Paella

My wok masquerading as a paella pan
Although the veg box only came on Tuesday, I have used up most of the veg already what with the Endive and Asparagus salad, Tuna bean salad and fresh mussels with tomatoes.  Some weeks are like that.

Yesterday Mr Duncan failed the medical for his Australian visa with high blood pressure so needs to lose weight and lower it.  For him this means cutting out bread/dairy/salt/fat.

So with barely any fresh veg and a bunch of storecupboard stuff we need to use up before we move I remembered a cheap and nutritious meal I used to throw together when I was at University that would meet the criteria for Mr Duncan's dietary changes.  At its most basic is only onions, rice and tinned tomato, with whatever leftover meat or veg can be found.  I prefer a ratio of twice as much veg as rice.

Tonight's version was
  •     thumb-sized bit of leftover chorizo, sliced thinly and chopped
  •     1 onion, chopped
  •     crushed garlic
  •     1/2 yellow pepper/capsicum
  •     turmeric
  •     1/2 cup dry brown rice
  •     chopped fresh chilli (out of the freezer from last year's harvest)
  •     tinned tomatoes
  •     frozen peas and frozen corn
  •     shredded cooked chicken breast (from the roast chicken I did a couple of weeks ago)
  •     frozen pre cooked prawns

Sweat the chorizo over a medium heat until it releases fat then add the onions, garlic and pepper.  Stir until softened. Add rice and mix into the veg to absorb any moisture.  Add tomatoes, turneric and chilli, stir and cover.  Stir every five or so minutes to allow the rice to absorb the liquid easily and add water if it needs more moisture. When the rice is nearly ready stir in the remaining ingredients and cook until they're heated through and the rice is fully cooked.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hypnotherapy for fertility 'blocks'?

Last week I made an appointment to see a Counsellor/Hypnotherapist.  I have been worrying, given how difficult it was to get pregnant in the first place, and the two consecutive miscarriages, that somehow my mind/body connection was working against me.  That maybe I was blocking myself somehow and preventing myself from having a baby.

Why would I think that?

I had an unconventional childhood.  By the standard of todays more child-centric world I think my sisters and I were probably quite badly neglected but this was the 70s and no-one intervened although it was clear that neighbours and the parents of friends were keeping an eye on us.  In retrospect I can see my mother was depressed and overwhelmed bringing up three small children on welfare after her husband left her for another woman.  She was a diabetic with a drinking problem and her way of dealing was to not deal.  Block it out and blame everyone and everything else.  Do not take any responsibility for anything at any cost.  

In the absence of anyone else taking responsibility (my older sister would get angry that my mother wasn't acting the way proper Mothers' were supposed to and storm out, my younger sister just cried) I took a lot on my shoulders.  I dealt with stuff, but resented it and clearly remember swearing to myself I would never allow myself to be in the same situation - responsible for children without the wherewithal or money to keep them safe and happy.

I studied and practiced hypnotherapy when I lived in New York in the early 2000s and in sessions with former clients who came to me for their fear of public speaking, the root of that fear would most often be a time when they were young and said something that people laughed at which made them feel embarrassed.  They would swear to themselves they'd never put themselves in a situation which made them feel like that again which manifested as the fear of speaking in public.  After resolving this conflict in our sessions the fear would be gone.  You see the parallel?

So I was looking for something quite specific.  There are many hypnotherapists who can give you relaxation and guided visualisation sessions but I wanted someone proficient in more interactive techniques.  It was really tricky to determine from the websites I reviewed whether or not the practitioner had the skills I was after.  Eventually I phoned one who offered past life regression - not because I wanted that, but because regression requires the interactive skills I was looking for.  Unfortunately he was a out to go abroad for some time, but referred me to a colleague who I called and made an appointment with.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Witloof, Endive, Chicory and Asparagus Salad

Simple super-salad
One of the things I like about getting a veg box each week is the variety of fresh seasonal produce.  Sometimes I get an item I've never really used before and this is always an opportunity to discover new flavours and methods of cooking.

This week we got two heads of something that looked like little lettuces.  But they weren't baby gem lettuces so what were they?  Mr Duncan said chicory but I thought it was endive.  It turns out we are both right though I prefer the name for it used by the Belgians - Witloof or 'white leaf' as it is indeed the white leaved vegetable grown from the chicory root in darkness after the chicory root is harvested.

So what to do with it?  I found a lot of recipes for braising it (and I particularly liked this one), but I didnt think that would go well with grilled salmon.  Then I discovered the asparagus in the fridge - a salad it would be.

Fertility focus
Asparagus is packed with fertility rich nutrition including folate, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc
Endive is rich in vitamin K, iron, zinc and folate

I simply trimmed and blanched the asparagus and tossed it with the roughly chopped witloof and some cherry tomatoes in a dressing made from wholegrain mustard and balsamic.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Dairy Free Banana Chocolate Mousse

As I mentioned, Mr Duncan is banned from dairy, I still have too many eggs and there is an over-ripe banana that needs using.  He's feeling sorry for himself and wants a dessert.  Like most of my recipes, this one derives from the need to use things up instead of throw them away.  What can I give him using what we currently have in the house?

The base recipe is from a magazine I copied into my recipe book in the years before we had the internet, when I was still living in New Zealand. 

The Ultra Chocolate Mousse
3 eggs, separated
200 gms dark chocolate, melted
100mls cream, lightly whipped
Stir egg yolks into melted chocolate until well blended.  Whisk egg whites until stiff, fold into chocolate mixture until evenly blended.  Fold in whipped cream and spoon into bowls.  Chill for two hours and serve with extra whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

I've followed this recipe and served in glasses to dinner guests many times.  It is dead easy to do and always garners many compliments.  However it is rich, doesn't meet Mr Duncan's dairy ban.

This is what I did instead
Dairy Free Banana Chocolate Mousse 

Fertility focus
Banana is a good source of vitamin B6 which contributes to hormone balance.
Dark Chocolate is rich in antioxidants which help protect sperm and eggs from damage by free radicals and also contains arginine which is good for fertility.

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 overripe banana, well mashed
  • 100gms dark chocolate
Melt chocolate and blend with mashed banana.  Stir in egg yolks. Whisk egg whites until stiff.  Fold chocolate/banana mix into the egg whites.  Spoon into glasses. Refrigerate.

Melting the chocolate
Separated eggs
I mix a little of the egg white into the chocolate mix before folding it back into the eggwhites so it is not too heavy

Folding complete

Serve in glasses

Friday, 14 June 2013

Spanish Tortilla

Who knew eggs and potato could taste this good?
We have loads of eggs at the moment because I ordered an extra half dozen for my custard experiments, and somehow ordered double again the next week.  Mr Duncan came down with the lurgy and was coughing his lungs out and keeping me up all night,so I banned him from dairy which has put a temporary end to my custard making.

When I have an overabundance of potatoes and/or eggs I often make a spanish tortilla.  Although the basic recipe is just eggs, onions and potatoes, as with most of my favorite recipes you can add whatever you have in the fridge like, to jazz it up.

Tomorrow we are attending a picnic and because I'm no fan of bread I like to take alternative dishes that are equally hand friendly.  This is one such dish.  Just make it the evening before and chill in the fridge.  You can either slice into wedges and wrap them individually in clingfilm or cut into bite sized chunks and use toothpicks to serve.

  • 6 eggs
  • sliced onion
  • sliced potatoes
  • olive oil
  • sliced bell pepper
  • sliced chorizo

In a heavy bottomed or oven proof pan over a medium heat, sweat the chorizo and remove to a plate.  Saute the onions and bell pepper in the chorizo fat until soft.

While onions and pepper are cooking, wash and slice the potatoes thinly, then rinse the potatoes to get the starch off them.  Dry the potatoes by blotting with a tea towel.

When it is cooked remove the onion mix to a plate, pour into the pan a dash of olive oil and saute the potatoes, mixing occasionally to prevent the ones on the bottom from sticking.  Remove from heat when the potatoes are just cooked through.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and mix, but not too much.  Not airy like a fluffy french omelette, but just so that the whites and yolks are well mixed.

Add onion, pepper, chorizos and potatoes to the eggs.  Mix carefully until all ingredients are covered by egg.

Wipe out the pan, heat a little more olive oil over a low flame and pour the whole mix in.  Cook until just about set on the top.

At this point what you're supposed to do is put a plate over the top, tip out the tortilla and slide back into the pan to cook the other side.  My big cast iron pan is too heavy for me to do this, though I do it with tortillas made in my omelette pan.  Instead I put it in the oven, under the grill, to cook the top.

Onions and peppers

Remove to a plate

Drying sliced potatoes

Just cooked

Mixing into the egg

Cooking over a low heat

Ready to finish off under the grill

Monday, 10 June 2013

Healthy Potato Salad

Not wanted by my german class
I recently started eating a little red meat for the first time in my life in the interests of improving my chances to conceive/carry successfully.  We have a great butcher in our neighbourhood and Mr Duncan has been known to be a bit over-enthusiastic in his purchasing of the 'meat of the week' so we had some 'bonus' fresh sausages that needed using.

Abel and Cole provide potatoes in our veg box every week and at the moment they're dainty salad potatoes, however we really don't eat potatoes that fast so I'm forever skipping the potatoes in our order.  Additionally I ordered extra eggs for my custard making experiments but Mr Duncan came down with a really bad cold which has gone to his chest so I've banned him from dairy until it clears up.

Sounded like a barbeque to me - sausages with potato and tomato salads.

When I was at high school, one of the activities we did for my German class was hold a German pot-luck lunch.  As a very serious teen and a bit of a swot, I went to a lot of effort to research and translate a traditional german potato salad recipe from the library.  To my embarrasment and shame, I was the only one to bring a dish that required plates or cutlery and no one ate any, preferring the packaged cakes and crisps brought by other class members.  I was so mortified I abandoned my mother's only tupperware serving container with a lid that fit in the hope that no one would associate me with the debacle - healthy food!  Sorry Mum.

My potato salad recipe has evolved from that one.

  • Potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Gherkins
  • Onion
  • Plain yoghurt
  • Lemon juice
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • Fresh herbs

Chop potatoes into evenly sized chunks and boil until just done, rinse with cold water and let cool.  Medium boil a couple of eggs in with the potatoes (rinse with cold water and let cool).  Finely slice some onion into half rings.  Chop up a few gherkins/pickled cucumbers.  Chop the eggs and gently mix it all together with dressing made from plain yoghurt, lemon juice (think 90:10), wholegrain mustard and salt/pepper to taste.  Throw in some fresh parsley or chives if you have some to hand.

If I dont have yoghurt I sometimes make an olive oil dressing - basically replacing the yoghurt with a bit of olive oil and using more lemon (50:50 ratio).

I also threw together a quick tomato salad with the mozzarella remaining from the pizza the other night, some onion and fresh basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pizza and salad

Technically it was Mr Duncan's turn to cook but when I got home from Cub Scouts on Friday evening he wasnt home.  I phoned, and it turned out he was stuck on the bus in a detour/traffic jam.  So I took pity (I was starving) and took his turn to cook.

When I check my Abel and Cole order each week to see if I need to skip anything planned for the weeks order (sometimes we just can't handle four weeks in a row of the same veg and I very seldom get through the allocated potatoes every week) I also check the offers section.  The agreed household budget rule on grocery shopping is - even if it is expensive, if it is discounted more than 10% then we can order it.  Its also a good opportunity to introduce new things to our diet.

Now Mr Duncan is a big fan of pizza.  He's a fan of bread products in general - and they havent been kind to his metabolism or body shape.  I really like german style dark breads with lots of chewiness and find it hard to pass up a good french baguette or home made sourdough but the mass produced bread (and baguettes) I've found in the UK just dont do it for me. I really wasnt sure what made me like or not like certain breads until I read The Food We Eat by Joanna Blythman which explains the difference between the flour used in modern mass baking and traditional stoneground flour among other things that put me off eating completely if I think too hard about it (and dont even get me started on the sugar filled bread they sell in the US).

Anyway, on the odd occasion we fancy a delivery, Mr Duncan wants pizza.  I'm pretty anti takeout foods to begin with so pizza from any of the chains do not appeal to me at all.  When I found the What On Earth pizza bases on offer it seemed like the solution to a number of things:
  1. Mr Duncan being able to have pizza for dinner
  2. Having that pizza be healthy and nutritious
  3. Getting Duncan to do his fair share of cooking
  4. Avoiding the high cost of crappy delivery pizza when we cant be bothered cooking properly
So when they are on offer, I buy a packet and keep them in the freezer.  We always have something in the fridge that needs using up makes a good topping.

Tonight's pizza topping was
  • homemade passata from the freezer
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • chorizo
  • fresh basil 
  • buffala mozzerella (Mr Duncan produced with a flourish when he finally turned up, thereby showing he actually intended to cook and had even thought about it in advance!)
and served it with salad made from
  • couscous
  • rocket/arugula
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • parsley
  • basil

Ready in under 20 minutes and delicious!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Red Lentil Soup

Poor Mr Duncan, after going to all the effort of making a lamb chop dinner last night, he wasn't able to eat it.  It turned out he had a fever and no appetite.  Today he's been in bed sleeping for most of the day (when he's not coughing his lungs out).  I made him chicken noodle soup for lunch, but he just sipped some of the broth and went back to bed.

For dinner I made red lentil soup - nourishing, easy to digest with protein and iron. I normally make a Turkish kırmızı mercimek çorbası recipe when I make red lentil soup, but had no root veg and wanted something a little less spicy and more warming so went for a bit of a morroccan feel with the addition of cinnamon and turmeric.

Fertility focus
Lentils are a good source of folic acid, full of iron and provide a non-meat form of protein.
Home made Chicken Stock (I basically follow the same method as Naturally Knocked Up) is recommended in The Baby Making Bible by Emma Cannon for nurturing fertility and was also suggested by my acupuncturist for building my blood, as I eat little red meat.
Turmeric is good for stabilising blood sugar levels which helps with managing weight and hormone balance.
Cumin is considered good for uterine health in Ayurvedic medicine.

  • coconut oil
  • cumin seeds
  • ground coriander, tumeric, smoked paprika, cinnamon, salt, pepper
  • 1 diced onion
  • approx cup red split lentils
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 500 mls home made chicken stock
  • additional water
  • red chilli flakes
  • lemon juice
  • chopped parsley
In your soup pot, toast the cumin seeds over a low heat, melt the coconut oil and add the remaining spices.  When the spices are aromatic, sweat the onion until soft.  Add lentils, tomato and chicken stock (I just add mine stlll frozen), bring to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir in red chilli flakes and chopped parsley.

Blend with a stick blender until almost smooth (I like a bit of texture), garnish of natural yoghurt and parsley sprigs and serve with pide.



What is creativity?

Creating life from seeds - for tasty meals!
I was blessed with a good head on my shoulders and did fairly well at school without feeling like I had to try too hard.

Frankly I am a curious person and I found school pretty interesting.  I used my curiosity and confidence in my ability to read and understand what I read, to teach myself how things worked and how to make things I couldn't afford to buy.  I sang and participated in drama productions.

My sisters didn't enjoy school in the same way that I did.  My Mum said that it was because I was academic and my sisters were creative. That we were equal, but different.  Thus I was pigeonholed and accepted the fact I wasn't a creative type.

One day when I was in my late twenties a friend commented that I was SO creative in so many ways.  I was shocked by her comment.  I wasnt creative! I didn't try to come up with ideas, much less compete with my talented sisters when it came to things like drawing and dancing. 

But she pointed out my love of cooking and making up recipes, my confidence around a sewing pattern, my interest in growing my own vegetables, the way I liked to strip back and restore furniture - all my creativity was practical.  Thanks Lisa C.

This put a whole new spin on it for me.  I am very creative going about my day to day life and in problem-solving.  One day I may even attempt to muscle in on my sisters' territory of art with some drawing or painting lessons.  In the meantime, I am interested in fostering creativity in my life with the vague idea that strengthening creativity outwardly will be synergistic with creating new life.

I'll record some of my creations relevant to fertility and pregnancy here.

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