The Odd Room

A lovely local 🙂

Recently opened cafe in Cheltenham/Sandringham with good, thoughtfully made coffee and an inventive menu. I say thoughtfully-made because I feel that these guys really appreciate the art of coffee-making!

The Odd Room serves breakfast, lunch & speciality coffee – including a single origin Aeropress creation that I am yet to try. I stuck with my good old soy latte which was good but not great. I did, however, have an iced latte from here a few weeks ago which was impressive. It’s hard to get a good iced latte because everyone messes up the coffee to milk ratio and changes the sizing and it just gets too weak. This one was justttt right.

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..I wasn’t going to order food..but then I did. Ahh story of my life!

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We shared gnocchi with spinach, feta and roast tomatoes. Again, good but not great. (I sound like a fussy bitch but I’m not that bad!) The gnocchi was a little on the soggy side but the sauce was tasty. I didn’t even think to look at the all-day brekkie menu. Big mistake on my behalf. I feel the chilli eggs would have gone down a treat.

 

theoddroommenu

 

What was a real stand out about this place is the service. Really friendly and attentive. The place was quiet so I’m not sure what it would be like with a full house, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt! Only problem is that parking is a bit of a hassle but I will happily put that aside for a good coffee. Will be back asap for a speciality brew and breakfast next time. Definitely worth a visit if you’re going past! 

 

 

The Odd Room on Urbanspoon

Australia’s Healthy Weight Week

Get excited! It’s nearly here!

For those of you not involved in nutrition and dietetics, I guess you won’t partake in my excitement – but that’s ok, read on anyway. Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW) is run over February 16-22.

With many Australians aspiring to eat better in the New Year, the 2015 campaign aims to get people cooking at home more often. Research shows that people who prepare food at home are more likely to eat smaller portions and take in fewer kilojoules and less fat, salt and sugar. And in turn, this is more likely to result in a healthy weight.

AHWW has got a whole lot of fun stuff going on! Check out the website here for more info. There is free stuff too 🙂 Have a search for local events on near you, such as sample tastings at local health centres and nutrition seminars at sports clinics. There are events going on for most of February, not just this one week. There is a shiny new recipe ebook too. Unfortunately not covering many vegetarian options – but that’s why you come here, right?

Chef Callum Hann and APD Themis Chryssidis are the faces of AHWW, two inspiring healthy foodies who have created Sprout, a health-focused cooking school. What a fantastic idea! Maybe I will open one in Melbourne 😉

You can make an online pledge and get one step closer to those damn new years resolutions you made a few weeks ago (yeah, I made them too), or, just make an online pledge in the comments section below and entertain me instead!

The part I am most excited about is the cooking challenge. The aim is to cook everyday of AHWW, so 7 days of cooking all up. Get organised, write a plan, make a shopping list, and start cooking! Eating healthy is easy when you are making it yourself and have a little inspiration.

ahww-7-meals-7-days-challenge

Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Almost as good as eating peanut butter out of the jar.


 

 

1 x bunch parsley
1/4 x cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 x cup olive oil
1 x clove garlic
1 x TBS lemon juice
1 x TBS parmesan
Blitz it all in the food processor until it’s reached the consistency you like
Best to do the parsley and garlic first to break it down a bit
Then add seeds, olive oil, parmesan and lemon juice
Add salt to taste.

 

Pesto is traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, but don’t feel like you have to stick with the same old recipe all the time. This is pretty energy dense stuff, so don’t get tooooo crazy (one tablespoon is plenty) – I like to use pesto as a pasta sauce, or spread on toast with poached eggs, or as a dip for carrot sticks. Try using rocket leaves for another variation, or different kinds of nuts and seeds. It’s a good trick when you have a bunch of leaves or herbs that are borderline not-so-fresh anymore, just blend them up into pesto and ta-da! Good as new.

(Also, this recipe works just as well without the parmesan cheese if you want to make it vegan-friendly.)

Roast Veggies with Couscous & Yoghurt Dressing

Just something really simple with leftovers from Christmas (can you tell I started writing this a while back?). Apologies for the serious lack of posting as of late! Still in holiday mode.

I haven’t had couscous in ages, and I love Moroccan food. If you have never used couscous before, do it. It is the easiest thing in the world. Even easier than Easy Mac. Promise!

Roasted veggies

I had potato, pumpkin, beetroot, onion and squash left over. Whatever you have will work. Eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, carrot, parsnip. (If you don’t have anything left over, choose your favourite veggies, chop them up, drizzle them with olive oil and a bit of salt, give it a good mix and put in a hot oven. Roast till brown and cooked through.)

Couscous

Follow packet instructions – but essentially, cover with boiling water and let it stand for five minutes then fluff with a fork. I added lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt to mine. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some sultanas and chopped up dried apricots. Dried fruit + Moroccan = match made in heaven. I never understood those people who can’t have fruit in savoury food! Give it a try.

Yoghurt dressing

Mix:

1/4 cup greek yoghurt,

1/2 tsp minced garlic,

juice of 1/2 lemon,

salt & pepper to taste

1 TBS fresh parsley.

 

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If you are still in a post-Christmas/post-New Years/post-life in general haze and even this recipe seems like too much effort, go to Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy and get someone else to cook for you ;).

Rice Paper Rollin’

I heard that the weather was BEAUTIFUL today. I only caught a few minutes of the sunshine walking from work to car (about 500 metres), and yes, the sunshine was perfect.

I was hungry as usual. Sunshine + hungry = rice paper rolls. What else?

I’ve probably mentioned before that Vietnamese is my favourite cuisine, so rice paper rolls always go down well. Only problem is I find them really time consuming, mainly because my knife skills leave a lot to be desired, so I usually only make them when other people are around to eat too. Lucky I have willing house mates.

There is a bit of an art to rollin’. Like sushi. First time you do it they will probably be a mess, don’t worry! I have been making these for ages and mine still look shocking. Who cares what they look like though, right?

So I went to get all my ingredients and find brown rice vermicelli noodles! Woo! I may be a little over-excited but this is totally new for me, so looking forward to trying them. Not a huge difference nutrition wise, which I was surprised about, though they are higher in dietary fibre (only slightly!). Protein, fat and carbohydrate are all pretty much equal in comparison to the regular white vermicelli. For all my gluten intolerant friends though, rice noodles are gluten free, happy days 🙂  If you are following this recipe and very sensitive to gluten, just watch out for the soy sauce!

verm

Two hours later –> they were ok. Just ok. I found them a little chewy and tough. You can’t notice it in the rice paper rolls because there is a lot of other stuff going on, but I think I would avoid using them in a soup or stir fry. I think I will stick to the regular white kind..I have only just converted to whole wheat pasta after all, baby steps..

Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls

1 x block firm tofu

1 x tsp oil

1 x TBS soy

1 x love garlic, minced

1 x inch piece of ginger, minced

1/4 x cup dried shitake or other dried asian fungus (soaked in hot water for 20 mins)

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1 x carrot, thinly sliced into matchsticks

1 x cucumber, thinly slice into matchsticks

1 x capsicum, thinly sliced into matchsticks

1/2 x packet vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in hot water

rice paper roll sheets

ice burg lettuce, shredded

mint leaves

Dipping Sauce

1 x TBS hoisin

1 x tsp soy

1 x tsp lime juice

1/2 tsp chilli sauce

Heat oil in a fry pan and fry the ginger and garlic for one minute, then crumble in the tofu.

Cook until the tofu looks golden, about five minutes, then stir through the soy and soaked mushrooms and put to one side.

Cut up all your veggies. Make it as organised as possible to make rolling a little less annoying.

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Get a bowl of warm water and dip in your first sheet of rice paper, lay it flat on a bench and wait for it to soften so it’s easier to work with.

Layer your ingredients at one end of the circle, veggie sticks, lettuce, noodles, mint and tofu mixture. Be careful not to fill it up too much!

Start rolling the side with the mixture, then wrap the top and bottom sides and tuck it all in.

(I apologise sincerely for this method, I never realised how hard it would be to describe how to roll a rice paper roll! )

rolls

I’m not going to lie, they probably won’t look neat and tidy, but they will taste amazing!

To make the sauce, just mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Dip away.

Home & Jalapeños

Landed back on Melbourne ground this week! It’s so nice to:

a) be driving on the right side of the road again

b) be able to get a good coffee

c) not have to worry about adding sales tax + tips where ever i go

I love travelling, but I am always, always happy to come home to Melbourne.

I’m feeling a little out of my element in terms of blog writing at the moment (a mixture of jet lag and me not posting for a while I guess), so bear with me!

I ate a lot of good food in America. Actually, I just a lot of food in general (the vast majority of it going into the ‘holiday only’ category of the food pyramid). I could write about my hunt for the perfect bagel…my handmade donut…my cheese feast at Reading Terminal Market… but I think there was one common element to all of my memorable food experiences in the US; the jalapeño chilli (or pepper in the US). Yeah, I know, it surprised me at first. But then I thought about it, and it was, in some form or another, on my favourite pizza, my favourite drink, and my favourite grilled cheese, who would have thought!?

jalapeno

Chilli is a tough one when it comes to cooking for other people and individual preference, what is ‘mild’ for some could be unbearable for others. My tolerance is slowly increasing, and I think I can handle the heat pretty well! The compound in chilli that gives it it’s heat is known as capsaicin. It acts as an irritant to our body’s tissues which is what we feel as a heat and burning sensation. Interestingly, drinking a glass of water when you’ve eaten something too hot can make the sensation worse, as it spreads the irritant around more! Better to have a glass of milk or some yoghurt on hand.

Capsaicin has been gaining a bit of attention lately in it’s role as a weight loss therapy. It’s mechanism of action is thought to be related to it’s effect on dietary thermogenesis, which is basically the energy that the body requires in order to ‘burn off’ the food we eat, it usually contributes to about 10-15% of our overall energy expenditure for the day. This, in conjunction with it’s very minimal contribution to energy intake (only 4 calories in one jalapeño), has led to the idea that it can be a useful addition to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. Small but significant effects have been found supporting the idea that capsaicin may play a role in decreasing appetite and also fat oxidation. For those who struggle with the heat of chilli, this literature review suggests trying the CH-19 sweet pepper, which contains the capsaicin but none of the heat. From a quick google search it looks like it is quite rare to find in its whole food form, so supplements appear to be more readily available.

Aside from it’s potential merits as a weight loss tool, chillies and capsicums are a great source of vitamin A and C and are full of antioxidants (try and go for fresh rather than in a jar). If you are a bit hesitant to go straight for the jalapeño, try the larger green or red chillies first, and take out the white membrane and the seeds before you eat them to reduce some of the heat.

Will post a recipe soon..after i recover form my jet lag and Christmas lunch food coma. X

American Beauty

No recipes to share today, and no MSB either – I am on the other side of the world in the good old U.S of A!

Long story short; I am on a university study tour learning about the differences in American and Australian approaches to food and nutrition.

This is the second time I have been to the U.S, first time to the East coast, and I am learning a lot and visiting some fantastic locations such as Wholefoods, Honest-Tea, the National Institute of Health and McCormick.

First impressions:

  • Junk food is cheap! This was no surprise.
  • Serving sizes are big, but not all the time, and more so when dining out (McDonald’s do not do their ‘super size’ anymore) which we were quite disappointed about!
  • The range of products available to consumers is huge, almost overwhelming.
  • Vegetarians/vegans and those with food intolerances are much more well catered for than in Australia.
  • Wholefoods Market is health food heaven! Expensive, but heaven.

Some of the amazing new products I have found so far…

  • vegan tuna – this was something I had never seen before! Appearance wise, very similar, taste wise I actually didn’t love it that much, it was a little oily.
  • tofu shirataki noodles
  • seitan products – it’s really hard to find seitan in Aus but it’s everywhere here! Had a couple of varieties which have been ok..nothing fantastic yet..
  • Daiya dairy products
  • lots and lots of new chocolate and lollies! (think giant gummy bears and chocolate with bacon pieces)
  • beverages; low sugar iced tea – Honest Tea have a good range with very minimal sweeteners.
  • no-egg egg salad
  • lots of exciting salad bars!

I am actually eating a whole lot better over here than what I thought I would be, and would like to dispel the stereotype that America is full of bad food! Firstly, Washington DC is a super active city – lots of runners and fit people! Also, there are plenty of healthy options to turn to if you don’t want a burger and fries.

More importantly, food industry and government are doing so many huge things to combat the obesity epidemic and make an impact on population health. Everyone in the food and nutrition industry in some way or another is doing something to improve, whether it be McCormick’s salt-free seasoning or Honest-Tea’s low sugar beverages or the thousands of amazing research projects going on at NIH – the wheels are in motion! It has been inspiring and uplifting to realise that the outlook of our population health is not as dire as what I once thought. Of course – there are still major problems, conflicts of interest and disparities, but so far I have been impressed.

Stay tuned. Philadelphia and New York comin’ up! x

[To my American readers: would you agree with my first impressions? Has anyone been to Australia before and noticed a difference within the food and nutrition industry? Please share!]

Misty Water-coloured Memories…of French Toast

November 2014 – Recipe Redux Theme

A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful

In the US, November marks the Thanksgiving holiday. But many of us are especially thankful for food memories we have shared with friends or relatives throughout our lives. Was it a special meal you ate as a child? Or, maybe it was a food you grew and harvested with your own children. Please share one of your favourite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe.

So hard to narrow it down…my food memories are a bit of a blur. My dad is the cook in the family, mum never, ever enters the kitchen, so I have my dad to thank for my passion for cooking and food. In saying that, dad and I do not share a passion for nutritious food, so my memories consist of donuts and french toast at breakfast time! Not the best start to the day..

I’m putting a healthy spin on a usually sugar-laden,  low-fibre and high GI french toast recipe. By using naturally sweet ingredients such as cinnamon and vanilla, less sugar is needed. Incorporating more fruit will also naturally sweeten the recipe too. This means lower kilojoules overall and less of the processed stuff! Switching a boring white loaf of bread to a wholemeal sourdough means more fibre and also lowers the GI load = staying fuller for longer and not having crazy spikes in blood sugar = win 🙂

French toast doesn’t need to be bad for you. If made using this recipe, it’s actually quite a nutritious breakfast. Fibre and carbohydrates from a good quality bread, protein from the eggs and a good source of calcium from a side serving of the yoghurt dressing. Plus your getting in a serving or two of fruit 🙂 Just use an olive oil spray in a non-stick pan to fry the bread – sorted!

I got a little excited and made a vegan caramel sauce too..couldn’t help myself! It was delicious. But it uses a lot of dates so ups the sugar content significantly. This recipe is just as good without the caramel sauce, but if you are feeling decadent then go for it!


 

Stuffed French Toast with Caramel Sauce

(serves 2)

4 x slices wholemeal bread

2 x eggs

1/4 x cup milk (soy, dairy, rice)

1 tsp x vanilla extract

1 x banana

1 x tsp cinnamon

olive oil spray

Jalna low-fat vanilla yoghurt

Caramel Sauce

8 x medjool dates, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

200mL x milk (I used macadamia)

1/8 x tsp salt

1/2  x tsp lemon juice


Soak dates in boiling water for half an hour

Whisk eggs, milk and vanilla in a shallow dish

Mash banana and cinnamon in a bowl

Spread two pieces of bread with banana mash and top with another piece of bread so you have a sandwich

Soak each sandwich in the egg mixture (about 5 minutes for each side)

Spray a pan with cooking spray and heat up

Using a spatula, carefully place one sandwich in the pan and cook each side for about two minutes or until golden brown

Put the first piece in a warm oven while the second is cooking

stuffed

For the sauce…

Drain the dates

Place dates, milk, lemon juice and salt in a food processor

Blend until smooth

Add more milk if you want the sauce a bit thinner

caramel

To serve… 

Slice each sandwich on the diagonal and top with caramel sauce

Serve with a side of vanilla yoghurt

 french toast

This one went down a treat. A good option for weekend brunch if you have some time on your hands and a willing participant to feed. In the spirit of Thanksgiving…thanks to my dad for the Recipe Redux inspiration! Enjoy xxx

Broccoli Pasta and Getting with the Program

Ah so the weekend was momentous… I did two things that are almost entirely unheard of: 1) I ate pasta and 2) I joined Instagram. BIG deal.

It’s not that I have a problem with pasta – I am all for good carbs and wholemeal bread and grainy goodness…but I really just never eat it. A couple of years ago it was an entirely different story, I LIVED off pasta, literally, my pasta bowl would be the size of my head. I was running a lot at the time so it was entirely warranted…in addition to living with my then-boyfriend, so naturally dinner time became a competitive sport between us. Fast forward to now and my pasta love has waned entirely…but I just had a craving for it one evening out of the blue!

So this is a recipe I used to make a long time ago. If I remember correctly it’s an Italian dish that is traditionally made with anchovies. If you eat seafood then go for it and use anchovies because they add a lot to the flavour. But I omitted them this evening now that I am a boring, sad vegetarian (please note my sarcasm). Oh and don’t be shy with the garlic..(you also probably shouldn’t make this on a night that you have to go anywhere/interact with anyone you are trying to make a good impression on). Just a friendly warning.

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Broccoli pasta

(serves 1 if you’re really hungry)

75 g wholemeal pasta

1 x head of broccoli, chopped (include the stalk)

1 x garlic clove, finely sliced

1 X small red chilli, finely chopped

 2 TBS x olive oil

1 TBS x parmesan

1 x lemon (juice + rind)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

Blanch broccoli for 2 minutes until it turns green, remove from water

Using same pot, cook the pasta

Heat olive oil in a pan

Add garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute

Add broccoli and cook for a further minute

Drain pasta and add to pan along with lemon juice and rind

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with parmesan

Now I know wholemeal pasta can be a bit blah and often tastes like cardboard…but it really does have a lot more fibre than regular pasta and is higher in protein too..so I really do encourage it. If you couldn’t care less about fibre and protein content that go nuts on the white stuff, no judgement here! Traditionally the recipe suggests cooking the broccoli until it starts to soften and go a bit mushy..I love my  broccoli crunchy so I don’t cook it for too long, and the less you cook it the more vitamins it retains – vitamin c in particular quickly leaches into water- so the less cooking time the better 🙂 A lot of people throw the stalk away and just use the florets, but the stalk is good too! Just cut off the outer edges so you are left with the middle bit, slice it up and cook it as normal.

Oh and I almost forgot about the other major event: the Instagram bit! Encouraged by my dear friends I thought I would attempt to catch up with social media and jump on the Insta bandwagon. So follow me, friends. It will be fun! #themelbeanian #awkward #foodie #completelyoutofmyelement xxx

Hummus

Snack ideas, snack ideas, snack ideas .. I had a friend ask me for some healthy snack ideas and hummus was the first thing that came to mind. It’s everyone’s favourite dip, right? Who doesn’t like hummus?!

I stopped buying it from the supermarket a while ago when I realised how damn easy it was to make. And how much nicer it is too.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 9.05.18 am

Hummus is super versatile and I use it for a million different things…

  • spread on toast or crackers
  • as a dip with carrot sticks
  • stirred through a salad as a type of dressing thing
  • spread on toast or pita bread with a poached egg on top and a bit of chilli (my brekkie this morning!)

It’s also very easy to adapt it to the way you like it..sometimes I use paprika instead of cumin..or add in extra garlic or a drizzle of olive oil to make it a little smoother..anything goes (i like to live on the edge)!  The one in the picture has orange rind in it…I wasn’t a fan but the housemates approved.

hummustoast1

The chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans in the US) are probably one of my most loved ingredients. They are high in fibre, they are cheap, they are filling and low in saturated fat. One cup of chickpeas has 12.5g of fibre and 14.5g of protein, nice! The tahini is made from sesame seeds, that’s it! Sesame seeds and tahini are a good source of calcium, too (try and get the unhulled type as opposed to the hulled if you can find it).

 

All you need:

1 tin of chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini

1 clove of garlic

1 TBS lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin

Put all your ingredients in a food processor and blend away till smooth

Feel free to change the quantities in this (i like a lot of lemon and tahini)

hummus toast

Eat me!