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Like Attracts Like – A Collaboration Success!

Like Attracts Like – A Collaboration Success!

From the first time I met Sharon on social media and then in person, I have valued all that she is and does! Her relaxed and sensible approach to life inspired me as I watched her fulfil her dream of opening up a place of her own to showcase her talents and to meet the needs of a local community.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know Sharon and I’m excited to share her with you!

Hi there, Sharon here, from ‘Little River Kitchen’!

Have you ever noticed how ‘like attracts like’ in life? 

Everyday most of us meet loads of people, but when you think about it, you only really connect with a few…but when you do, it’s usually because you share the same interests or hold the same values.  That’s how I met Sophie.

Quite some time ago, we both started following each other’s social media accounts and quickly realised we shared the same passion in life. To teach people how easy it is to make good food from scratch. 

And so, when she asked me to write this blog post I thought…what will I say? Why would people be interested in a blog about me? But then I realised, if you know Sophie, then you are my people. We speak the same language when it comes to food and living a more authentic life. So here we go. 

For as long as I can remember I have made things by hand. I’ve cooked, sewed, painted, hammered and decorated my way to where I am today (amongst many other things). I can’t help it, it’s who I am!

Every week there is something new that I am into. My poor family and friends can’t keep up with me, but I want to know so much, and I hate to be bored.

Anyway, back to the food side of things.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve cooked.

From memory, my first dish I was known for was Golden Syrup Dumplings. My Aunty Mavis taught me how to make them, and so I did…all the time…lol.​

Then I moved onto Lemon Meringue Pie. Needless to say, I had, and still have, a major sweet tooth. Thankfully since then, I have widened my repertoire to include all kinds of foods.

I love to learn how to make food that in general, most of us don’t even realise is possible for the average person to make. Cheeses, sourdough and sauerkraut can all be made easily in our own homes, and apart from the satisfaction you get from producing these foods yourself, it will save you lots of money! Once I figured out how easy it was, I became quite passionate about sharing these skills, which led me to teaching cooking classes so others could learn these skills too. 

In 2016 I began running classes from my property ‘Red Belly Farm’ in Waitui on the mid north coast of NSW. I had so much fun helping people gain the confidence to begin their own journey of cheese making, baking, fermenting, soap making, cake decorating…the list went on. 

In 2019 I moved from the farm to the beautiful seaside village of Harrington. I set up classes and established a Café in the most amazing shop front with views of the ocean. Sophie even came to teach Greek Cooking to some very happy students. 

Sadly, I bit off more than I could chew and as things got busy running the café, it left me no time to run my cooking classes. I decided to sell and now I am back to concentrating on my thing…inspiring folks to get in the kitchen and make their food from scratch. 

My favourite part of teaching classes is the stories. We gather, we laugh, and we share stories, tips and tricks that have been passed down or learned from our own journeys. I can almost guarantee we all have some memory linked to good times with food.

There is so much value in cooking. Not only in the skills required to do so, but the understanding of where your food comes from. Respecting the producers, the environment and our bodies. And then for me, most importantly, sharing what you know with as many people as you can. Teaching our little one’s the same values and handing down skills is a treasure in itself, for you and for them. ​

Here’s to making food & memories. ​

Shaz x

Sharon, thank you for sharing your passion with us and we look forward to seeing what 2020 brings along your pathway! You can follow Sharon – Facebook: littleriverkitchen and Instagram @littleriverkitchen.

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Magical Mudgee – Where to eat when in Mudgee by Suzanne Clark

Magical Mudgee – Where to eat when in Mudgee by Suzanne Clark

Suzanne Clark and I first crossed paths in an early education centre. She was doing a casual shift and I had just commenced my work placement for my diploma.

What I love about Suzanne is that she embraces you immediately! Her warm approach and her welcoming smile opens the door to get to know her and when you do, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. 

I discovered Suzanne has a Croatian background and she loved to hug everyone – what a treasure this girl is. But not only does she appreciate all that cross her path, she grabs hold of life with both hands and enjoys her life to the full.

Mudgee is on my bucket list, and when I discovered Suzanne and Damien (her husband) were heading up that way for a short getaway, I knew she’d be the best person to have share with us the wonders of this place.

So, without further adieu here’s Suzanne’s take on this great location!

Our recent road trip to Mudgee!

My husband and I recently visited the Mudgee Region, which I was pleasantly surprised with the wonderful vibe from the countryside, cafes, restaurants, bars, bakeries and the friendly locals.

Wherever you go, you’re greeted with a smile and wonderful service. One of the local eateries we visited twice, was the Mudgee Brewing Co, right in the heart of Mudgee. We visited this historic venue on the Sunday evening and following Friday night. Each time we were greeted by friendly staff, who responded to our requests with a smile, professionalism and efficiency.

Friday and Sunday evenings at the Mudgee Brewing Co. are a great time to go, enjoy a drink, yummy food and sit back and listen to live music. 

On the Sunday evening, we began with a couple of drinks, Craft Beer for hubby and I enjoyed a refreshing cold Moscato, on a warm spring evening.

We ordered the Baked Fries Board, with pork belly, aioli, chilli jam and cheese. We followed this up with the finger licking good Sticky Chilli Jam Brewery Wings, with ranch sauce and jalapenos. Everything was delicious and it was great to sit in the courtyard, as one of the musicians played a mean harmonica and may a tune.

The following Friday evening we ordered the Pork Crackle to begin with and our jaws dropped when the Brewery Pork Crackle arrived at our table. It was the size of Uluru…ok possibly a slight exaggeration, but bloody BIG none the less impressive, delicious and definitely memorable and that was just the first course!

We then ordered the ribs Our Way, dry rubbed, bone in pork Belly with IPA BBQ sauce, slaw and corn, which was lip smackingly good! Of course, I had to lick my fingers to ensure every flavour was devoured. Soooooooo yummy!

The ambience of the Mudgee Brewing Co. is relaxed, rustic and is Mudgee’s only boutique micro-brewery and restaurant. The historic venue features live music three nights a week and is a great place for an easy-going dinner and catch up with friends. It’s a relaxing place that makes you feel like a local, no matter where you’re from.

This place is a real local gem, with fabulous table service, great food and drinks, it’s perfect for enjoying some ice-cold beer, local Mudgee wine and of course, the local produce.

Definitely recommend The Mudgee Brewing Co. and great to see a family run local business, who’s main goal is to promote Mudgee, local wine makers and farmers, while increasing tourism in the Central West region. 

Do yourself a favour and drop in for a drink and meal, you won’t be disappointed!

Damien and Suzanne, thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

And the good news is, we’re planning a tour to Mudgee late April! This will be a 5-day trip up to Mudgee where we’ll get to try all the magic in Mudgee such as a 5-course degustation at the award winning Pipeclay pump house, a garden walk through Zin House, wine tasting, cooking workshop and lots of great conversation! If you love to experience the world around you, try delicious food and meet new people, email us for more details – info@insofiaskitchen.com.au

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An Introduction to the Mediterranean Table: How to use Haloumi Cheese

The Mediterranean table is one of the most delicious and healthiest you will find in the world. The crazy thing is, not many know of the goodness of this way of eating. It’s all about fresh, seasonal produce pulled together to create a healthy and tasty dish, just like the vegetarian pizza pictured above.

I grew up eating Greek village salad, Moussaka and baklava. It was a way of life to sit down with others and eat food made from scratch, every time. It wasn’t until I met my Aussie husband and discovered people ate canned spaghetti, they poured salad dressing out of a bottle and they spread tomato paste on their pizza base (I know many still do this so no offence meant here, just emphasising how different it was to what I was used to).

Maybe you’re one of those lucky ones where your parent or grandparent would always cook from scratch…you can remember the aromas wafting through the house, that chocolate caramel slice, or the lamb roasting slowly in the oven or the smell of buckwheat pancakes early in the mornings.

During the winter months, my mum would make flat bread on the weekend. This bread was extra delicious because instead of baking it in the oven, mum would fry it in a shallow frypan with a little olive oil. If I was being a little lazy and staying in bed that little bit longer on a Saturday morning, the smell of olive oil heating up in the pan and knowing there was creamy feta cheese on the menu, I would jump to my feet and race into the kitchen ready to feast on this deliciously good food.

But my fondest memories of food in our home was when my dad would fire up the barbecue with coals and kindling and prepare lamb chops, spicy sausages and his delicious marinated chicken wings – oh those were the days! We used to proudly proclaim to our friends he was the Barbecue King and if they were lucky enough to visit us during a barbecue in our backyard, they too would wholeheartedly agree with us.

Gathering around the table with loved ones has a way of creating long term memories not only for you, but also for your children, something that is important for their wellbeing as kids and as they step into adulthood. When you gather around the table, you have a captive audience, an opportunity where everyone can talk with each other, share your own stories when growing up, have a laugh together, a place where natural connection is developed and not forced.

One of the many gatherings I treasure is Greek Easter. It’s a time where we celebrate our faith in God and our gratitude for the family we have. In our home, the Saturday before Easter Sunday was often filled with music as we prepared traditional Greek savoury and sweets for Sunday lunch. It was ‘all hands-on deck’ as most times we had 30–40 guests joining us the next day and you know what they say, ‘many hands make light work’ and truly it felt easy because everyone got involved. The whole lamb (as pictured above) was the centre of all our celebrations as we gathered around it waiting for the first cut to test if it was cooked through – oh we would all squeal with delight as soon as that succulent tender lemon infused lamb hit our taste buds!

Today, with our three daughters all grown up and we now have a couple of grandkids, we are making sure we continue these traditions centred around our Mediterranean table so they too will grow up with the best of memories, and a healthy way of eating!

One great love of ours is Haloumi cheese. The traditional way many Greek families prepare this cheese is to make Haloumi Saganaki. Saganaki simply means to fry. We slice the cheese first, then dip it in a bowl of water to wet it, before dredging it in a bowl of plain flour. We add a little oil in a small shallow frypan (okay a lot more olive oil) and once the oil is heated, we fry the cheese on both sides and then serve with a squeeze of lemon and freshly baked crusty bread. So delicious! But there are so many ways you can use Haloumi and one of them is to add it to a salad once you’ve fried it. Below I have included an easy recipe I love to share with everyone. Seriously, it’s so easy and so delicious, I hope you try it and if you do, please send me photos – I always enjoy seeing your creations!

Chickpea and Pumpkin salad with Haloumi (Serves 4)

400g pumpkin seeded, peeled and diced into 3cm cubes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling on pumpkin

1 teaspoon ground paprika

2 cups baby rocket

2 cups of chickpeas, cooked and drained

3 spring onions, finely sliced

¼ cup sliced sundried tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Olive oil for frying haloumi

8 slices haloumi, lightly coated in plain flour

Sesame seeds (optional)

Honey Mustard Dressing

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons of honey

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 180*C and prepare a lined baking dish. Place cut pumpkin on tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle spices on top. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

In four small salad bowls, evenly distribute baby rocket, chickpeas, spring onions, sundried tomatoes and pumpkin. 

In a shallow frypan, heat oil and cook halloumi for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden. Place two slices of halloumi on top of each salad.

Mix together dressing ingredients and pour evenly over salad. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve immediately.

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6 Keys to Raising Kids to love Wholefoods

Key 1: Create an environment where your kids appreciate wholefoods

 

One of the keys to teaching your kids to be lovers of wholefoods is to surround them with good food choices. Exposing them to a variety of foods from different cultures free of preservatives and any other nasties will give them a taste for real food and real flavours. The first few years are foundational to building good habits.

Key 2: Expose kids to a variety of foods, even the ones you don’t like eating

Now this is a biggie for me. So it’s confession time – I don’t like eating raw tomatoes! I wish I did because they look scrumptious hanging from the vine in our summer garden. But when our kiddies came along, I was determined not to pass that dislike onto my kids. The first one was fine, she ate pretty much everything but then my next two didn’t. I would even go to the extent of pretending to eat the raw tomato when sitting at the dinner table but nope it just wasn’t in them. I tried! So my advice is – give them the opportunity to decide for themselves, don’t say anything to put the idea in the head and in the end, they will choose what they like and what they don’t like.

Key 3: Food is primarily to nourish you not to emotionally comfort you

Hands up if you are guilty of this one? Both my hands and feet are up! I like eating chocolate but there are some days when you just need that big bowl of pasta to make the world right again. It’s important to role model to our kids that food is first and foremost there to nourish us, give us good health and not to look to food to meet our emotional needs.

Key 4: Reward kids with your presence not food

A few years ago, in my other life, I was completing a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and went on my first practicum. Being a home schooling mum, I didn’t last, it was just too restricting and regimented for my liking. But what really took me by surprise was the jar of lollies on the teacher’s desk. I was amazed with the epidemic of childhood obesity surrounding us that the Department of Education would allow this but that’s a conversation for another day. My love language is quality time and if I am going to reward my grandie, she gets me! My time is her reward not food. Let’s face it, most of us grew up being rewarded with lollies but it’s a new day and time to do things differently!

Key 5: Get your kids involved in the planning, shopping and creating dinner

This is my favourite! I love teaching kids how to cook and so when my kiddies were in their growing years, I would involve them in the cooking process. As they grew older, I would have them plan a meal once a week, write out a shopping list, I would go to the supermarket with them, let them meander up and down the aisles and them I would wait for them at the register to pay for the food items. Then we would go home and the cooking would begin. Today they are all very capable and fabulous cooks! My next adventure is with my grandies!

Key 6: Practice hospitality and gather your family and friends around the table serving wholefoods

Now this is at the heart of who I am. I love to gather my family and friends, opening not only my home but ultimately, my heart. I love to cook from scratch and present to them wholesome food filled with love. There is only one table and everyone from every generation gets to sit at it. There are no ‘children’s’ tables to one side or let’s get the kids fed so then we can sit and eat – nope we gather young and old and together we feast. This is one of the greatest keys you can hand to your children.

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5 ways to add more wholesome goodness to your diet without starving yourself!

One: Add more greens to your eggs on toast

I am a big advocate of eating a couple of eggs each day. Long gone are those days where we were afraid to eat a couple of eggs a week due to cholesterol concerns. We are better educated today and know that small oval of goodness goes a long way supporting our health. So add some greens – shredded lettuce and sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, lightly charred zucchini strips or even make some fresh basil pesto – whatever is your liking, do it and enjoy the benefits of lots of greens in your diet.


Two: Swap your morning biscuits or slice of cake for a raw bliss ball or two

My husband grew up in a family where morning tea and afternoon tea was a tradition not to be missed. I remember first visiting his parents home and they had dessert every night with their evening meal. That was never my experience. We grew up eating sweets on special occasions. And even though many of these traditions are lovely and bring family and friends together, it can be a trap to indulging. But hey let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s serve up something more nutritional. Raw bliss balls are filled with goodness – medjool dates, raw nuts, coconut and citrus zest equals to cutting down refined sugars and adding more nutrients to what we eat.


Three: Swap your spaghetti meat sauce for a vegetarian chickpea or lentil sauce

I have got to say it; my vegetarian moussaka is deliciously good! Legumes are a super food we don’t use enough of and I for one are looking for ways to add more to my meals. And if that sounds way too much out of your comfort zone, why not swap half of your spaghetti mince with lentils or chickpeas and start the change over slowly? That way you can make the adjustment in small amounts and you won’t shock your family or your taste buds!


Four: Plant yourself a small herb garden

Herbs not only add flavour to your food but they are packed with high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. In fact, the humble parsley contains more Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron and Calcium than lettuce. So plant yourself some herbs and add them in just about everything and enjoy good health!


Five: Explore a different culture for healthy recipes

The Mediterranean diet is well researched and documented as one of the healthiest ways to eat. Why not check out a different culture each month and cook up a scrumptiously healthy dish to surprise your family. One of my favourites is the French dish Ratatouille. Layers of seasonal vegetables in a tomato rich sauce and cooked slowly in the oven, it’s a winner for me. Or how about Swordfish Souvlaki soaked in a lemon and olive oil marinade and served with Greek salad? Hmm…now that sounds good too!


Recipe for My Style Ratatouille

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 eggplant, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, halved lengthways and thinly sliced

6 Roma tomatoes, cut into small chunks

1 red capsicum and 1 yellow capsicum, deseeded and cut into chunks

1 cup French beans, ends removed and cut in half

2 red onions, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 cup basil, chopped

1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped

2 cups tomato passata

zest of 1 lemon

Salt & Pepper

100g feta, optional

METHOD
  1. Preheat oven to 170*C. Lightly oil a baking dish.
  2. Place in baking tray one layer of vegetables and herbs topping with half of the tomato passata. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat finishing with lemon zest.
  3. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper and cover with foil. Bake in oven for 1 & 1/2 hours or until cooked through. Remove foil, sprinkle feta on top and bake a further 10 minutes.

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5 Keys to Embracing a Healthy Way of Living in Community with Others Exploring Body, Soul & Spirit through Food

What I love about the Mediterranean Lifestyle is that it’s not just about deliciously good food, but it’s also about getting together to share a meal, share your hopes and dream and to motivate each other to keep moving, naturally.

The Blue Zones group (https://www.bluezones.com) have been investigating this lifestyle for over a decade now and have found what my ancestors knew and lived for centuries – a life in community is a life that gives us purpose and fulfilment to live healthy lives.

I remember when I first visited my dad’s village in Milia, Central Greece the residents had a communal building where everyone gathered on a daily basis to talk, play cards, eat together and do life.

As I shared this experience with my dad (now living for decades in Australia) he said that was his daily experience when growing up in his small village nestled into the hills of this beautiful part of Greece.

Being our first visit to my dad’s village, my uncle was keen to show us how he made yogurt in a small room under the house, the very place my dad grew up making yogurt with his family.

He took us for walks along the side of the mountain where he was growing his seasonal vegetables and showed us the place they used to walk as youngsters to collect water from the natural spring coming out of the side of the hill.

It’s a dreamy lifestyle but I’ve also heard the stories of when my dad and his brother had to walk for miles up and over the mountains through deep snow to get to school or the local shop. That suddenly shattered the dreamy picture I was forming in my mind!

We went there to visit my uncle and his wife, we left with connections with just about everyone in the community, photos we would treasure for years to come and quite frankly, we are richer for it today.

But seriously, how can we live a more ‘communal’ kind of lifestyle where people are not drowning in loneliness, dreams are realized and our body, soul and spirit is nurtured in the best possible way?

Below are 5 keysI believe will help you on your journey of embracing a healthy way of living in community with others. I’ve also included my favourite homemade pizza recipe for you to invite your friends over and prepare together and then sit around your table and share.

Enjoy the read and drop by with your comments telling us how you are living a healthier way. Oh, and don’t forget to hashtag #insofiaskitchen with your photos when posting on social media!

 

Key 1: Eat together

Eating together is far more exciting than eating alone. If you happen to be on your own, seek out some quality friends and invite them around for dinner. Life is all about good relationships shared – don’t eat alone!

Key 2: Meet regularly with a friend/s and share your hopes and dreams

We all have hopes and dreams for a bigger and brighter future. It’s important to share them with someone you can trust. Open your heart, become vulnerable and make a plan to meet at a café with a good friend and together, share what’s on your heart – make sure you share and you listen – making your friendship a two-way connection.

Key 3: Nurture your spirit – meet with likeminded people and explore how to fulfil your spiritual need

In our very intellectually driven society, we often neglect our spirit side. There are three parts to us and all three parts count. Gathering likeminded people – that is those that seek to discover more about their spiritual side – and explore what it means to be spiritually fulfilled.

Key 4: Stay Active

I love to go swimming – all year round. There is just something special about that ocean water that even when it’s cold, it has a way to bring you alive and fill you with so much hope for your days ahead! It almost sounds like a spiritual experience – and maybe it is – but one thing for sure, I feel like a new woman after I’ve had a paddle around our ocean baths. Whatever activity it is that you enjoy, go for it!

Key 5: Make Healthy Food Choices

Making healthy food choices starts in our mind. Deciding what is good for my body will then not only improve my body health, but also my soul and spirit health. Choose to eat lots of vegetables on a daily basis, a couple of pieces of fruit for energy and metabolism and protein to build muscles and sustain hunger pangs. Set yourself a goal to only purchase fresh food items, avoid packaged food, bottled sauces or dressings and you are starting off well.

Pizza Dough

Makes 2 medium size bases

Ingredients

3 cups plain flour, sifted * 2 teaspoons dried yeast * pinch of salt * ½ cup semolina *

3 tablespoons olive oil * 1 cup lukewarm water

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add flour, dried yeast, salt, semolina and oil. Mix with a butter knife. Add water slowly, mixing to a soft dough. On a floured surface, knead for 4 – 5 minutes. Add a little oil in large bowl and return dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm, draught-free spot for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.
  2. Lightly spray 2 medium size pizza trays with oil. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a floured surface for 3 – 4 minutes. Cut into 2 equal parts and roll out on a floured surface each one to fit pizza trays.

VEGETARIAN TOPPINGS

Ingredients

1 batch of pizza dough * 1 cup pumpkin, diced in 2cm pieces * 1 cup sweet potato, diced in 2cm pieces * 4 tablespoons olive oil * ½ teaspoon paprika * ½ teaspoon ground cumin * ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper * 1 cup tomato passata * ½ red capsicum, diced in 1cm pieces * ½ cup slivered almonds * 50g feta, crumbled * ½ cup pitted olives, sliced * 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded * 1 teaspoon dried herbs * salt & pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C. Place pumpkin and sweet potato on lined tray. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil on top, sprinkle spices and pepper on top. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until cooked. Remove. Cool.
  2. Spoon passata on prepared pizza dough spreading with the back of a spoon to the edges. Scatter pumpkin, sweet potato, capsicum, almonds, feta and olives over dough. Top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with dried herbs and season.
  3. Increase oven heat to 200*C. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until dough cooked through and cheese melted on top.

Sophie x

 

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3-STEPS TO CONQUERING A SWEET TOOTH!

I am just wondering if I am going to bore you with a blog about bliss balls?

Sure, nearly everyone has heard of them, tried them, made them and we must be ready for the next trend to come out but seriously, these little morsels of delicious goodness are worth shouting from the roof tops on how nutritious and delicious, not to mention how easy they are to prepare!

If you have a food processor or blender, you’re set to go!

So let me tell you why I had this sudden urge to make these.

I was eating chocolate – way too much of it. It was my ‘go to’ stress reliever and well you know I was telling myself the antioxidants were good for me!

Hands up if you know what I’m talking about?

I knew I had to change this habit. I knew I needed to be taking care of myself and filling my body with good food. I knew I needed to be ‘mindful’ of what I was consuming.

What I love about this recipe is that the ingredients are all good for you, they’re easy to make and generally, I have all those ingredients ready to be used in my pantry. Not only that, there’s no sugar added as the dates give it all the sweetness it needs. Winning!

Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients and removed the seed from the medjool dates it’s just a matter of throwing everything into the food processor (hold off on the coconut cream until you’ve blitzed the nuts) and it does the work for you. Finish them off with rolling them in some desiccated coconut and that’s it.

These ooey, gooey, fudgy bliss balls are just what you need to keep you reaching out for healthy and whole foods

Try the recipe and share your comments and tag #insofiaskitchen on social media with a photo of your creation!

FUDGY COCONUT & CACAO BLISS BALLS

Ingredients

12 medjool dates, pitted and chopped in half

1/3 cup of walnuts

1/3 cup of almonds

1/3 cup of pistachio

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup cacao

1/3 cup desiccated coconut

1/3 cup coconut cream

½ cup desiccated coconut for rolling

Method

  1. Place dates, nuts, seeds, cacao and desiccated coconut in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add cream and pulse until mixture comes together and all ingredients well combined.
  3. Roll into walnut-size balls, roll in desiccated coconut or leave with out and place in airtight container storing in fridge for at least 15 – 20 minutes.

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HOMEMADE FAST FOOD – and why it’s better for you!

Homemade fast food can be nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare. That is, when made with whole food ingredients using good olive oil and no preservatives. Let’s be honest here, whenever I have eaten fast food while out, I always come away with a sore belly. The extra salt, preservatives and questionable oils used does not do my health any favours!

Below is a picture of whole chicken roasting on a spit – all we did was marinate with citrus and a little spice! Deliciously good!

I have a few favourite fast foods or let’s say, street foods I love to cook at home. The first one is a homemade burger, filled with lots of salad and a tasty and nutritious lamb mince pattie.

Really why would you eat any other?

And what’s so good about this is you can make the patties ahead of time, freeze them individually and then pull them out when you require them. I don’t buy sauces (although my daughter has been known to sneak tomato or barbecue sauce into the house) I generally make a tzatziki dip to use on our bread. The tzatziki is easy to make and with only four ingredients needed, it’s a winner!

(Grab the recipe from my cookbook – In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under available to purchase online if you don’t have a copy as yet) www.insofiaskitchen.com.au

In my other life, I worked in Early Childhood settings and used to love teaching the kids how to make healthy food.

One of our most popular recipes was the lamb keftedes (mince patties).

I would first show the kids how to make fresh bread; we would allow it to proof and then bake in the oven as a slab. Next we would mix the recipe for lamb keftedes, cook them and once bread is baked, we cut small squares and assemble all of it to make these cute mini burgers, adding a little cheese, tzatziki and lettuce. They were a hit!

Here is the recipe for my mini patties:

Lamb Keftedes (Mince Patties)

Ingredients
½ kg lamb mince
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 onion, grated
1 egg, beaten
½ cup bread crumbs or quinoa flakes for gluten free eaters
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
oil for shallow barbecue or grill
salt & pepper, to taste

Method
1.  Place mince, vinegar, onion, egg, breadcrumbs or quinoa flakes, fresh herbs and spices in a bowl and knead ingredients until well combined.

2.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

3.  Roll into mini patties, flatten slightly.

4.  Heat oil on barbecue or grill and cook patties 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from plate or grill and drain on absorbent paper.

Another fabulously good ‘fast food’ is pizza scrolls. These are easy to make.

Make up a batch of dough, once it’s risen and proved, roll out and top like you would a pizza. Ingredients such as roasted pumpkin & sweet potato, feta, olives, red capsicum are a few of my favourites. Starting from one end, begin to roll gently but firmly. Wrap roll in plastic wrap, freeze and when ready to use, allow to sit on bench for 20 minutes or until slightly thawed and cut slices. Place on baking tray and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes of until golden and cheese melted.

And there my friends, you have a fabulous fast food dish that doesn’t include the added extras that are not the best for our health.

My other favourite ‘fast food’ I love to cook at home is sausage rolls and pies.

In the past, I have bought the party pack of sausage rolls and pies but I assure you, once you make your own, there’s no going back! I made my own puff pastry but grabbing a good quality puff pastry from the supermarket will save you a lot of time.

Make your favourite pie filling – I love to make a curried lamb or lentil dahl filling for my pies. You can use mince, chicken or even just vegetables.

For my sausage rolls, I use lamb mince and fresh herbs with some spices.

Well that’s some of my favourite homemade fast food! What about you? What do you like making at home that is considered fast food or street food? Don’t forget to share #insofiaskitchen and spread the love!

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Eating Together At Meal Times – And why this is important in a growing child’s life!

In a recent article, Anne Fishel, co-founder of a non-profit organisation, The Family Dinner Project stated,

…family dinners encourage children to eat more fruit & vegetables and fewer fried foods and soft drinks. When kids grow into young adults, they keep benefiting from the practice of regular family meals and are more likely to keep eating healthy food once they have left the family home.

This is definitely good news! Not only this, but the article went on to discuss the benefits of a healthy mind, healthy social interactions and healthy overall life.

But there was one very important warning – kids that sat in front of the television eating were most likely to become overweight by the time they were in their middle years of primary school.

I believe it is important for our kiddies and as a family that we as parents lead by example – teaching our kids about healthy food choices, eating the same food at the same table and practicing healthy social interactions between adults and kiddies around the table.

Dinner is a fabulous time to relax around the table, conversing about our day and learning from each other. This is where the art of conversation is developed.

Here are a few pointers to get your kids sitting around the table, eating the same food with you:

1.    Involve them in the preparation of dinner. Converse about the benefits of each food product, what you like about it and so on. Help them to understand how good the food is for our bodies.

2.    Avoid snacks given to the kids late in the afternoon. This can curb their hunger and make it more difficult for them to want to eat their dinner.

3.    If the kids get restless at the table, get them to talk about their favourite… book, teacher, movie, activity etc… Taking turns to talk, practicing listening, respect the ideas of someone else are all good learning opportunities.

4.   Set up some boundaries when at the dining table. Some examples may be – everyone must finish eating before anyone can leave the table, talking with food in your mouth can create a messy spray in someone’s face – let’s not go there! Everyone gets the opportunity to share something they are thankful for while everyone sitting at the table etc.. Everyone helps clear the table, stack the dishwasher etc..

5.    Create an atmosphere of celebration every time you gather around the table. Celebrate each other, celebrate good food, celebrate life.

These are just a few ideas of how to make your gathering around the table a place of success for your kids. I am sure many of you can add some more to this list. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. In the meantime, keep creating fabulous food and tasting memories! And go ahead, share with your friends and don’t forget to #insofiaskitchen when reposting.

Sofia xo

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5 ways to enjoy eating out with your toddler!

The first time I ever ate out was when I was 13 – yep 13! Growing up in a Greek home, surrounded by a healthy Mediterranean cuisine you could wish for, there was no need to eat out.

I remember heading out to the movies on George Street in Sydney. There was a group of us and it was a big outing! As I sat in McDonalds eating my cheeseburger and fries, I knew there and then this wasn’t going to be a regular occurrence in my life!

In my home, we loved to eat Avgolemono (Greek egg & lemon soup), Lamb Souvlaki (marinated with olive oil, lemon and Greek herbs) and Pastitsio (layers of pasta, slow-cooked lamb and creamy béchamel sauce) and always washing it down with a freshly cut Greek salad.

Since my initiation into ‘eating out’ I have visited some lovely places to eat and even though I prefer to stay home and eat home-cooked food, I do love getting out and letting someone else do the dishes for me!

Recently, I was spoilt by my daughters who took me to a lovely place called Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen – located at 16 Pokolbin Mountains Road, Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley. It is a mostly organic kitchen and open every day from 9am – 4pm.

My eldest daughter, who has a toddler and new born, was considering leaving her kiddies with her husband on our outing. My other girls quickly reminded her how much I would love the kids to be with us!

We had a lovely time, it was family friendly, fabulously delicious food and our toddler had just as much fun as we did.

Sometimes it is easier to leave the kiddies behind just so you can get some ‘down’ time, but you know what, I loved having my grandkids with us and between the four of us, we managed to keep her interested and out of mischief!

So here are my thoughts as to how to enjoy eating out with your toddler (and older kids).

1. Practice sitting and eating around the table as a family at home, so when you are out, it’s a natural overflow of what’s expected.

Life is busy – no arguments there! I encourage you to at least set aside three days a week to sit at the table and enjoy a meal with your family. When we sit around the table together, we learn how to converse with one another, how to take turns, we develop listening skills and learn how to appreciate the opinions of others which helps us expand our thinking about the world around us. When you practice at home, it’s a natural overflow of what’s expected around the table even when you are out.

2. Include your kids in the process of ordering the food.

When kids are included, they are less likely to act up and want to be noticed. Notice them when they are behaving and include them in what is ordered, give them the menu to ‘read’ and encourage them to give their order to the waiter/waitress. This teaches your kids about the process that takes place in a restaurant, builds their confidence and teaches them how to make healthy and smart choices (with some leading by you!).

3. Don’t wait until they’re starving, before leaving home offer them a piece of fruit to keep them going – that way you avoid a ‘hangry’ episode!

With my own kiddies, I used to give them a ‘small’ meal before going out so that it kept them going and we only needed to order a small serve for them (keeping the cost down and keeping  the wastage to a minimum). Also, it meant you could enjoy eating your dinner without them fussing about and they were quite happy to colour-in or play with their small bag of goodies.

4. Pack them some ‘no fuss’ activities to do at the table.

One option is to offer your kids to watch ABC kids or a kiddie episode of something – and for a short period of time, sure but as an overall rule, I would tend to steer away from this and have them prepared with crayons or pencils and a small book to colour. Or even pack a small ziplock bag with play dough so they can create their little creations, as they love dough at this age. And when they are older – what about a game of ‘I spy ‘ around the restaurant or something similar? And if possible, with your little one’s, give them a little run around before going inside to sit down – this helps with burning some of that energy! It’s really important to promote connection with our kids and we do live in a world where everyone’s head is in that little piece of technology called a mobile phone. I’m not here to judge but encourage you to keep the balance.

5. Maintain the expectations throughout the experience, just like home.

When you are actively maintaining expectations at home around the table, then it will be easier for your kids to know how to behave when out. If you don’t want your child to be climbing on the dining table when out, start by not allowing them to climb the dining table at home – it saves with the confusion for your child. Remind your child what’s expected when you’re out, repeating it to them during the night if you need to (which can be often with toddlers!).

I’m looking forward to hearing your stories and what works for you! Email them to info@insofiaskitchen.com.au and feel free to share this blog!