My new favourite salad… beetroot, pumpkin and walnut

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We are heading towards warmer weather so what could be better than a new salad to try. Quick to pull together, satisfying, healthy – Nothing beats a big healthy salad for nutrients, taste, weight management and freshness. This one is my new favourite .. I hope you like it too.

Beetroot, walnut and pumpkin salad

3 cups diced pumpkin
3 beetroot – peeled and diced
2 cups walnuts
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of paprika or chilli
Small block of feta cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar ( I used a balsamic glaze because I like the sticky sweetness of it )
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Lots of salad leaves – whatever you have in the garden or fridge is fine.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place pumpkin and beetroot on a lined oven tray and bake until tender – around 30 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.
Melt butter in frypan and add walnuts tossing to coat. Add in salt, brown sugar and chill or paprika and stir until sugar is melted and nuts are coated well. Place walnuts on a baking tray and bake in oven for 8 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make dressing mix together balsamic, honey, lemon juice and olive oil. I put them all in a jar and give them a good shake.

Place salad leaves on a large platter.Drizzle over dressing, toss through to coat leaves. Add pumpkin and beetroot. Crumble feta over the top. Add walnuts. Serve.

You could vary this by adding some orange or tangelo segments, blue cheese, avocado or pine nuts instead of walnuts. Mix it up to find the version you like best. Make sure you send me your winning variations in the comments section.

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Spring has sprung – time to get planting ….

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Looking around my garden I can see signs of spring everywhere. The trees are budding and starting to sprout baby leaves, flowers are blooming and the veggie patch is giving us more produce than we can keep up with.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my veggie patch. It’s my happy place. I go there to get my hands in the soil, to hang out with my chickens, clear my head and to soak up some vitamin D while I watch things grow.

We are currently awash with broccoli, fennel, greens of all types, peas, spinach, herbs, celery, beetroot to name a few. I’m looking forward to some great meals from all of this and getting into my spring prep and planting for the warmer months ahead.

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This is a great time of year to have a go at growing some of your own food. It tastes better, is more nutritionally dense and has hardly any fuel miles. I think the best part though is being able to wander into the garden and pick something for lunch or dinner knowing that you grew it yourself. I love that there are no sprays, fertilisers, pesticides or any other nasties on our little patch of land. We have no problems with weeds, pests or poor harvests and it all comes down to great soil. Healthy soils means healthy plants means no need for all the other awful things that all too often get into our food supply.

So how do you get started ? Try some of the most hardy and productive plants first to get your confidence up. You can grow any of these in the ground or in pots. I have had the most success with raised beds because they keep the weeds out and the moisture in meaning plants can tolerate a bit of neglect more easily.

Create a soil mix of 1/3 each mushroom compost, garden soil and compost or composted cow manure and away you go. Plant your seeds or seedlings, give them a good water, pop them into the sun surrounded by some sugar cane mulch to keep them warm and happy and watch them grow, grow, grow.

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The Easy Ten
Mint
Zucchini
Spinach
Leafy greens – Asian greens or lettuce
Cherry tomatoes
Radish
Shallots/Spring onions
Parsley
Celery
Hardy herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano

Its easy to get bamboozled by all the loads of information and complicated theories about how to best grow food but my advice is to keep it simple and enjoy the process. Good soil, enough water and sun and you are on your way.

The CSIRO Survey – How do you rate ?

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The CSIRO recently conducted a survey on the dietary habits of 12,000 people. The results are not great. Sadly the survey had to specify that hot chips are not counted as a serve of vegetables. Only 1 in 20 respondents was found to eat a healthy amount of vegetables.

The average score for most respondents was around 50 – 60/100. I took the test and held my breath as I waited for my results. There were a few questions about eating meat and animal based products which I thought may (in their eyes) drop my score. I feel good about how and what I eat and that was reflected in my score of 86/100.

I was not really all that surprised by the findings of the CSIRO survey. I see people all the time who think their diet is good but on questioning is actually lacking in some basic sources of protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit.
Fruit and vegetables are incredibly important for so many body functions. They supply nutrients, fibre and a healthy source of carbohydrate.

If you’re game take the test here –  https://my.totalwellbeingdiet.com/healthy-diet-score

I find it particularly hard when this involves babies and children. Often parents and carers are well meaning and doing their best with what they have but just a little bit of basic diet information goes a long way towards growing healthy kids.  Let’s just set the record straight once and for all – potato chips, hash browns, jelly fruit cups, fruit drinks, pop tarts etc DO NOT count as servings of fruit and veg. By the same token chicken nuggets, processed meats, sausage rolls, fish fingers DO NOT count as healthy proteins. White bread, cakes, biscuits, muesli bars DO NOT count as good sources of carbohydrate.

I hear all the time “But this is what my child eats – if I don’t give them this they wont eat anything”. I promise you that if you don’t have these things in your home and explain to your children why you’re not going to buy them anymore they will find other better things to eat. There may be a few transition grumbles but ultimately they will thank you for it.

There are lots of great alternatives to these ‘non foods’ that I am sure you and your children will grow to love. They will be healthier, happier, a good weight and likely to live longer  –   isn’t that what we all want for our children and ourselves ?

Take a stroll through my recipes for some inspiration and get your kids involved in the cooking process. If they are cooking too they are much more likely to try what you have made.

Good luck and happy eating !