Fresh Mind & Body: A weight on my mind

I have these vivid memories of my childhood where I am standing in the middle of a group of children, all of them yelling different taunts at me, throwing dirt & stones. There was always this one girl, a tiny slip of a thing, who was the ring leader. Always her.

“You’re fat!”.  “You’re ugly!”. “You’re weird!”. “No-one likes you because you’re such a blimp!”. “You’re so fat & spongy, we can use you as a punching bag!”

And she did, so did some of the others. I would stand there, my eyes running with silent tears. THUD, in the right arm, the pain of knuckles on flesh making me grit my teeth to force back the sob trying to escape my mouth. WHACK, to the left side of my face, the sting spreading heat across my cheek & creating a fresh wave of tears as I scrunch my eyes against the impact. WHOOF, to the stomach as I double over, the breath stolen from my lungs as the punches land over & over until I fall to the ground. A swift KICK in the back as I lay curled in a ball, tasting dirt on my lips, dust heaving into my lungs as I hitch in my breath from the impact.  I do not cry out, beg them to stop, or fight back. I just take it, all of it, day after day, week in, week out.

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Dark Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

 

 

The humble zucchini, what a great little squash it is, or in this case, what a gigantic marrow it has become!  My in-laws have a thriving little veggie patch & very generously share much of their produce with us.  This particular beauty was longer than my forearm!  The risk you run with letting these get too big is that the flesh becomes woody & dry, however, not this one.  As you can see, even after one cut, the moisture is literally dripping from the core, making it perfect for adding moisture to a rich combination of dark chocolate & buttery decadence of this particular cake.
 

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Quick Recipes: Frozen Yoghurt with Fresh Mango

 Did I mention to you yet that I got an ice cream maker for Christmas?  Haha, I jest!  If you have been anywhere near the FreshHomeCook Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages of late, you will know how obsessed I am with my new gadget!

I have been merrily churning away all sorts of combinations, some with dairy cream & milk, some with coconut cream & some with rich, tangy & oh-so-creamy natural yoghurt.  

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Fresh mind & body … I hate exercise

I loathe exercise.  Have I mentioned it before?  Well I do, always have.  The very idea of it makes me cringe & maintaining a routine when I do occasionally get myself moving is a massive effort for me.   Honestly, I feel exhausted just at the thought of words like ‘cardio’ & ‘strength training’.  Oh & just watch me roll my eyes at the mere mention of ‘endorphin rush’.  Exercise hurts, it make me go all beetroot red, sweat, smell & jiggle in all the wrong places.  Then by the time it is over, I feel like vomiting & passing out.

Nothing about that makes me feel energised & enthusiastic to do it over & over again.  Quite the opposite in fact – it just convinces me that I want to sit back down & eat more ice cream.  Now there’s an activity I can (& too often do) truly get excited about!  

So I ask myself, for about the thousandth time in the last few days, why have I just signed myself up to go to the frickin’ gym!?!?!?!  

(Image Source) 
(Holy heck … I thought contraptions like these were only found in a gyno’s office or labour ward!!) 

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Fresh Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

 
 
So, ummm, hello again.  Remember me? 

It seems this burgeoning blogging sensation, once all fired up & ready to take on the interwebs, came to an unceremonious & sudden halt.  Damn reality, why did you have to intervene & shatter my illusions of grandeur & home cooking phenomenon, (SmittenKitchen-esk), style dreams?? ;)

Well … I may be being a little dramatic & WAY, WAY over-stated about it all, but I have let the cooking & blogging fall by the wayside, along with my enthusiasm & commitment.  Since returning to work full time in September last year, I have been struggling to find the time &, truthfully, the desire to cook & photograph recipes.

So … what else is a girl to do when feeling a little down & out, wallowing in self-pity?  Why, make (& eat) ice cream of course!!

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January 21, 2014Permalink 8 Comments

Hormone Diary (part 2): Evil, thy name is Mirena®

 

As I sit there listening to the doctor’s voice, her Eastern European accent virtually slapping me across the face with it’s harsh, clipped tones, I struggle to comprehend what I am hearing. I am shaking inside, my mind’s voice rising, first to whisper, then start screaming, “Really? REALLY? REALLY?!?!”
 
 IMG_0427
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November 26, 2013Permalink 36 Comments

Must make Banana Bread bake

 
Must Make Banana Bread Bake
 
I have this recipe on speed dial in my ever growing list of ‘must bakes’ – it is one of my absolute favourites.  I don’t know why I haven’t blogged it before now – I think maybe I was thinking there are so many Banana Bread recipes out there, no one wants to see another one!!  Then I thought about it some more & realised that in order for me to settle on this particular version, I tried lots of different recipes & am always looking for my next ‘favourite’, even while I am touting the ‘favourite-ness’ of this one.
 
Yes … mine is a fickle brain indeed!  Suffice to say, I decided sharing is never a bad thing – especially if you are like me & want to experiment with different combinations, textures & flavours. I took my main inspiration for this from the ever amazing Bill Granger.  
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Slow cooked Pork Medallions with Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato

 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
Do you have a slow cooker?  I love mine!  My sister bought it for me for Christmas about a gazillion years ago, well, maybe about 10, but it has become such favourite kitchen gadget of mine over the years. I like the idea that you can set it & walk away, but more than that, I love how incredibly tender it can make even the toughest cuts of meat.  
 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
Mine is the electric type, you can plug in & set to cook on a low or high setting, meaning you can cook dishes anywhere from 4 up to 8 hours.  This style of cooking allows the ingredients to essentially stew in their own juices, sealed in moisture from a sauce & the cooker itself keeping everything moist.  The longer you cook the more tender things become.  Amazing for cooking large quantities of meat, like a leg of lamb, side of beef & in this case, medallions of pork.
 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
I have a small confession … I am not a huge fan of pork, (except if it’s bacon, then I am a fiend for it!).  I find things like grilled pork chops & roast pork to be quite bland in flavour & more often than not the meat is dry & chewy.  Now, it may just be the way I have cooked it in the past, but, in short, I just don’t get all that excited about eating it.  It was my mum who convinced me to try this particular recipe &, well, she was, as usual, right.  This combination of lean pork medallions, slow cooked with the sweetness of fresh apples & sweet potato, then infused with an earthy punch of sage & thyme & closed out with a zesty little hit of orange rind is absolutely delicious!  
 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
The meat literally falls apart by the time it is cooked for 4 hours it is so tender.  The medallions are bursting with the flavours of the other ingredients & most importantly to me, it is moist.  Not sure who came up with the idea of pork & apple together, but, well, GENIUS!!  What a marriage, oh & slow cooked apples … drool!!
 
You could add other vegetables, I would recommend more woody or starchy ones like parsnip, turnips or potatoes.  You can softer, wetter ones like pumpkin, beans, capsicum or the like, but just be aware that slow cooking breaks these type of veggies down quite significantly & they can go to mush.  If you do decide to use them, put them in towards the end of the cooking process, maybe an hour or so before serving.  This will help them keep their shape, flavour & colour.
 
Here’s how this particular recipe came together for me;
 

Slow cooked Pork Medallions with Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
Serves 4
Thick cut port medallions slow cooked on a bed of fresh sliced apples, sweet potato & carrot & basted in stock & fresh herbs. Pork & apple are a perfect match & slow cooking keeps the meat moist & tender, also allowing time for the flavours to infuse.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
  2. 8 - 10 pork medallions (grass fed if you can find them - they are much nicer)
  3. 2 brown onions, thick sliced
  4. 4 cooking apples (granny smiths, or similar), cored & thickly sliced (about 1cm)
  5. 1/2 - 1 sweet potato (depending on the size), peeled & thick sliced (about 1cm)
  6. 1 - 2 carrots (depending on size), thickly sliced (about 1cm) - I don't peel mine, but you decide
  7. Rind of up to 1 orange
  8. Bunch of fresh sage leaves
  9. Bunch of fresh thyme
  10. Nutmeg to sprinkle
  11. Salt & pepper
  12. 2 cups reduced salt vegetable or chicken stock
  13. 1 - 2 tablespoons corn flour (optional)
Instructions
  1. FIRST;
  2. Heat butter or oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat.
  3. Brown the pork medallions an all surfaces - should only take a couple of minutes on both sides.
  4. Add the onions & saute until slightly softened.
  5. THEN;
  6. Place a layer of onion, apple sweet potato & carrot on the bottom of either of slow cooker pot.
  7. Sprinkle with nutmeg, place 3 or 4 sage leaves & season with a little salt & pepper.
  8. Arrange 4 or 5 of the pork medallions on top & sprinkle with orange rind.
  9. Repeat another layer of onion, apple, sweet potato & carrot, nutmeg, sage leaves & salt & pepper.
  10. Add the remaining pork medallions & sprinkle with orange rind.
  11. Add any remaining ingredients to the top of the pork.
  12. Combine stock with corn flour (optional) & pour the mix over the ingredients & around the sides of the pot.
  13. Cook on low setting in a slow cooker for 4 hours.
  14. Serve with fresh greens, rice, sauerkraut or as I did, quinoa salad (recipe link in main post).
Notes
  1. Tips / Suggestions;
  2. If you don't have a slow cooker, then you can preheat the oven to 150oC, (non fan forced), place the ingredients in a covered casserole dish & bake for 3 hours.
  3. When using a slow cooker, make sure your main ingredients are covered in liquid, otherwise the meat in particular will dry out. Also don't take the lid off if you can avoid it. If you feel it needs basting, do so, but not too often. The heat & steam that gets captured in the cooker is what keeps the dish moist & tender.
Adapted from Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes
Adapted from Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes
FreshHomeCook http://freshhomecook.com/
So, if, like me, you are not a huge fan of pork, this might be one way to include it in your repertoire & make you go “Mmmmm”, & not “Meh!”
 
Oh & it is especially tasty when served with a fresh crispy salad like my Quinoa with Roasted Pumpkin & Fresh Greens.  I guest posted this gorgeous recipe over with the wonderful Tara from Gluten Free Hart recently.  It is one of my favourite & goes sensationally with this.  
 
Well, enough from me good people.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
 
 Slow Cooked Pork Medallions w/Fresh Apple & Sweet Potato
 
Are you a fan of pork?  Which way do you prefer it cooked? 
 

Cheers,

Jodie xx

Cook!  Eat!  Enjoy!

Hormone Diary (part 1) … body-jacked by an alien

In my mid-20′s, I was at a peak in my career, my professional & personal confidence were at their best & I felt like I could accomplish all.the.things!  

all the things1

 (image source)

It was in my late 20′s that I developed a cyst on my thyroid gland & all things changed.  At some point I felt a decline, but I put it down to external pressure & stress causing a minor glitch.  No big deal – that’s why they paid me the big bucks, all part of the job, or so I told myself.  I pushed on.  I found a lump, the doctors called it an ‘alien growth’, on my throat, but a biopsy proved benign, the doctors told me I was fine, no need to worry.  I blindly believed this & I just kept going.

Into my 30′s now & I started to feel tired, really tired, like bone weary tired, so I stopped exercising & worked more hours to keep up, because I thought that was the reason.  I started feeling a shaky & panicked, like I needed to be somewhere, do something, remember something, finish something, start something, decide something, there was always something.  This would last all day & at night I would toss & turn, my heart racing, my legs writhing constantly, my exhaustion clouding my mind.  I was losing weight rapidly, so NOT something I have ever been able to do & my hair started to thin & fall out.  I ignored it & kept going – I kept telling myself it was just stress. I was fine, no need to worry.  

all the things3

(image source)

Then there was a day when my then boss called me in & asked me if something was wrong & why was I not producing the results expected of a Senior Manager in my position.  I was gob smacked & completely devastated, I had no idea I was so far lost, leaving so much unfinished & so utterly disorganised, but I was.  The dam broke, my world flooded & I felt myself sinking.  I cried every day, before work, during work, after work.  It was bad.  I could not regulate my emotions.  I had no self control left, if I started to get worked up, it would escalate quickly & I had no ability to contain the avalanche of emotions that would come pouring out, not personally, not professionally.  It was chronic, it was suffocating, it was debilitating – I felt like I had been body-jacked by my own hormones & ‘I’ was no more than a whisper of thought locked in a alien mind & body.  Turns out it was also kind of life threatening.

(image source)

One day in a fit of despair I touched my throat & realised not only was that alien growth back, but it had grown, a LOT.  How did I miss that?  What was happening to me? I dragged myself to my GP & was quickly referred to an Endocrinologist for further examination.  After being poked & prodded by the specialist, I was taken up to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne for a full gamut of testing, that revealed the cyst, now roughly the size of a golf ball, was indeed the issue. The sucker had attached itself to my thyroid gland & was merrily sucking the life out of me, sending my body into overdrive & causing my thyroid to become overactive.  According to the doctor, my body was working so hard it burning through a similar amount of energy to that of a runner in a marathon, every.single.day!  

What I wished I looked & felt like;               What I actually looked & felt like (DOH!);

    

  (image source)                                          (image source)

The thing was, instead of resulting in an almighty endorphine rush & sense of achievement, I was caught in the midst of an overproduction of thyroid hormones causing an array of imbalances in my body & mind that were literally breaking me down from the inside out.  Heart, liver, kidneys – all struggling to keep up & keep going.  No wonder I felt so tired!

Thankfully, there was also a treatment, frighteningly it included taking radioactive iodine.  The doctor showed me these little pills, tiny two tone capsules – take them & this will all go away he assured me.  They looked so innocuous, but were filled with poison.  It is very hard to reconcile being asked to willingly ingest something so toxic into your already damaged body – aren’t we all taught that two wrongs don’t make a right?!?  After much discussion, research & encouragement from my J-man, I swallowed those tablets like a couple of paracetamol.  It was kind of anti-climactic, no fan fare or marching band, no magical moment of ‘change’, just me sitting quietly in a hospital cubicle, alone, terrified, tears rolling down my cheeks, silently hoping I had done the right thing.

In the end, I’m glad I did it, because not long thereafter, the alien began to shrink, then eventually it disappeared.  The first thing I got back was my mind.  I could think clearly, see clearly, control my emotions & feel confident I was making sound decisions.  Some time after that, with much hard work, healthy eating, regular exercise & perseverance, I got my body back.  Put the two together & I felt healthy & whole.  I felt in control & back in charge of my life, my emotions & my choices – it was amazing!  For a while anyway.

Roller Coaster

(image source)

As with so many things in this life, when you play with chemicals, there are always side effects.  When I decided to swallow those little pills, I knew the risks, I knew it was not over for me in the long run, but sometimes, we have to live for the now & deal with the later, well, later.  The eventual reaction to my action was my body betraying me again, failing under the pressure of chemical intervention.  While there was no more cyst to battle, my thyroid gland had been damaged by the treatment & became under active.  My metabolism slowed, I put on a LOT of weight, started losing my hair & developed acne along my jawline so painful I could not stand to be touched anywhere near my face, just for starters.  Once again, I felt lost, exhausted & overloaded with uncontrollable emotions.  The difference was I was aware it was likely to happen, so with a much quicker realisation & intervention, I was placed on thyroid medication & not long after I found my balance again.  As before, first I got back my mind & later, with effort, I got back my body.  I even managed to create life with that body, not once, but twice.  Not bad for a broken down, alien growth surviving hormone bomb! 

It’s about 8 years & two children later.  I have become complacent about my health, my eating & my exercise.  I also made a decision I thought was best.  I carried on, despite the the cues, despite the signs.  I trusted that everything was fine, no need to worry.  I didn’t read the fucking fine print before I signed on the dotted line to unwittingly upset the delicate balance that is me & my mind & my body.  I have once again been body-jacked by an alien & this one’s a real bitch.

 ripley1

(image source)

Want to hear more?  Stay tuned, part 2 to follow soon …

 

Cheers,

Jodie xx

Cook!  Eat!  Enjoy!

Of blogging, dreams & apathy …

If you’d been anywhere near social media during the week from about September 8 to 15, I have no doubt you will have seen some reference to the Problogger Event on the Gold Coast.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed #pbevent – but it’s a lot!

What is PBEvent?  The PB team says, “The ProBlogger Training Event has been created for bloggers of all levels to come together to learn and network – with the goal of building better blogs”.  And from my experience that about sums it up!  Two jam packed days of all things blog … & fun & food, with a whole load of inspiration thrown in!

I was fortunate enough to win a ticket to attend after entering a competition some months back through Oz Blog Hosting.  The truth is I would never have considered going had this not happened.  Why?

1.  Not in the family budget.
2.  Fear!
3.  Fear!
4.  Oh & of course, fear!

You get the idea.

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