Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cheesy Turkey and Vegetable Lasagna


The weather is finally becoming cooler here in Perth, so warming comfort foods seem much more appealing, and this Cheesy Turkey and Vegetable Lasagna really fits the bill. While there is a fair bit of cheese in this, it is also chock full of veggies, and the kids loved it, so on balance, I call it a winner!



Cheesy Turkey and Vegetable Lasagna

2 cans condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 kilo (2lbs) ground turkey breast
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large zucchini, chopped
2 large red capsicum (pepper), chopped
1 punnet sliced mushrooms
2 cups low fat mozzarella, grated
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 packet fresh lasagna noodles

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Stir together soup and milk in a small bowl.
  2. Saute the turkey, onion and garlic together in a large frypan on medium heat for 5 minutes, breaking up clumps of ground meat.
  3. Add the remaining vegetables and continue to saute on medium heat until turkey is cooked and vegetables are tender, another 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and the dried herbs.
  5. Spread 1 cup of soup mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish.
  6. Top with a single layer of lasagna noodles (uncooked), cutting them to fit, followed by 1/2 of the turkey mixture and 1 cup of the soup mixture.
  7.  Repeat layers, then top with one more layer of lasagna noodles. Spread remaining soup mixture over top.
  8. Cover baking dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and then bake for 15 more minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

Irini's Fairy Garden


Irini just turned six (which I absolutely refuse to believe - how did that happen??!!) and of course, that brought up the vexing (first world) problem of what to get for her birthday. We really didn't want to buy her any more toys, and she has enough clothes, so that ruled out a lot of things. I wanted to get something that could inspire her creativity, and when I saw how excited she was about a fairy door in her classroom (through which a special fairy visits and leaves notes and such), I thought that a fairy garden would be fantastic. It would be great for her imagination, and it was something that she would have to nurture and look after, making it a great teaching tool as well.


The starting point was finding a suitable container for the fairy garden. I was originally going to use a large shallow saucer style pot, but when I saw this mini greenhouse at Ikea, there was never any other option! Isn't it just darling with its Scandi styling, and glass on three sides? It was the perfect size - 46cm (18") wide, 18cm (7") deep, and 46cm (18") high - so it would fit a nice arrangement of plants, but not be too big to fit in her room, as you can see above. The only downside was the front cut-out detail, pretty but not so practical, but this was easily fixed by lining the inside with heavy plastic.

To build my fairy garden, I started by using terrarium principles. The first layer in the greenhouse was a good one inch of aquarium gravel to provide drainage, and stop the roots of the plants sitting in wet soil. You could also use pebbles or rocks, and there are some artificial substitutes that are lighter in weight but still just as effective. Next comes a good sprinkling of activated charcoal (I found mine at an aquarium store) which works almost as a filter, and will keep the garden smelling fresh. The final base layer before I added potting mix was a decent covering of damp spaghnum moss (found at the garden centre), used for both its water retaining properties and as a screen to stop the potting mix from falling into the gravel. Finally, I filled the remaining space with potting mix. I just used a general mix, but you can also buy specific terrarium blends.


After the prep comes the fun stuff, actually creating the garden. My original sketch had a fairy door at one end, a little seating area at the other, and a path joining the two together. My first stop was plant shopping, with my only caveat being the plants had to be suitable for shade/indoor conditions. The first plant I came across was this gorgeous shade loving ground cover sprinkled with pale blue flowers (you can see it on the left) and I imagined it as a fairy meadow, perfect for the seating area. I then found the fern and the little pink leaved plants, and that was my door area sorted. Finally, I looked for filler plants and the taller plants with the white flowers added some height (and reminded me of holly hocks), while the violas and lobelias added dainty little lilac and white flowers to the mix.  Planted in place, and watered in well, I was happy with the arrangement!


My starting point was a darling fairy door and red toadstools that I ordered from Kim at The Magic Toybox. She hand makes all of her gorgeous fairy items to order in Tasmania, and was sooo helpful when I rang her asking her help since I needed these items in only a few days. The door has an incredible amount of detail, including wood graining, and little tiny lock, and subtle gold and silver swirls of fairy dust. Placed in front of the fern, flanked by the pink leaved plant and teeny little lanterns from My Little Fairy Garden, and with a path made from blue mosaic tiles, the entrance to fairy land was complete.


Speaking of My Little Fairy Garden, the remaining accessories also came from them. Located a short distance from Perth, they have a large assortment of fairy garden accessories, especially ones that may be more suited to an adult garden, but none the less, were perfect for what I had in mind. As well as the two lanterns you saw earlier, I also bought this rustic little bench, the bird bath, the rusty fence, and the teeny bird (part of a set of 3, with the other two to make surprise appearances down the track!).



The final touch was a paper butterfly garland attached to the outside of the greenhouse to add another layer of interest, as well as a scattering of river pebbles and glass gems, including in the bird bath to look like water, and the fairy garden was complete!  I am happy to say that Irini was thrilled, and so far we've had conversations about what plants need to survive, she's written a letter to the fairies, and has even tidied up (her already pretty tidy) room so that it is perfect for her garden now that we've placed it in her room. So, not only was it something that she likes, it is also helping teach her important lessons in many areas. Definitely a win all round!!

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pure Glow Cleanse Recap


http://pureglowcleanse.com.au/

So this post is super, super late - I had it on auto-post, but for some reason, it never posted. But, better late than never, right!

Last weekend, I spent 3 days consuming nothing but juice, as I drank my way through a 3 day Pure Glow Cleanse, and it was absolutely fantastic. I waited a week, so I can could share with you not only my immediate thoughts on the cleanse, but also how I felt in the week after as well.

Firstly, I have to say that the cleanse was fantastic. As I said in the previous post, I've done my own juice cleanse before, and it was hard work to get it all done, especially when you realize that you need a new juice every couple of hours. Having it all done for you, sitting there ready in the fridge, made it much easier to stick to the whole process.

So I started early Saturday morning, driving to pick up my juices (they deliver, but the timing was better for me to pick up). I wasn't exactly sure where they were, but I shouldn't have worried, the most amazing smell was wafting out of the Pure Glow building - it was crisp and fresh and delicious!  The girls were lovely, and I grabbed my box and was on my way.

The cleanse lasts for three days, and each day you consume 6 different juices/smoothies, roughly every 2 hours. Above are the juices in my fridge, 1-5 on the top shelf, and number 6 on the bottom next to the eggs. First juice off the rank is their Sunrise Elixir, a mix of cucumber, lemon, aloe vera and filtered water, and it really is a great way to start the day. It is crisp and refreshing, and the tart lemon kick really woke you up.

The next drink is the Glowing Green Smoothie, and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit dubious just looking at it.  As my son so aptly described it, "Mummy, it looks like something a monster would drink"! However, it ended up being my favourite out of the six. With kale, cos lettuce, cucumber, celery, pear, avocado, parsley and lemon, it was thick and creamy, and really, really yummy!

Green Guru was also chock full of greens, and was delicious as well. The kale, cos lettuce, cucumber, green apple, mint and lemon combined so beautifully together, and the mint was the perfect touch. I've actually started making this one regularly at home, I liked it so much.

I've always liked carrot and ginger juice, so it was not surprise that I loved juice number 4, Good Karma. With carrot, lemon, green apple, ginger, tumeric and grapefruit, this juice was complex and earthy and quite indescribable. I've being trying to recreate this one at home, but haven't quite hit the nail on the head, so I am hanging out for when I do another cleanse. What I loved most about this juice was it really gave you a zing of energy right when you needed it, and it was a nice change from all of the green, green, green!

Juice 5, Buddha Juice, was my least favourite. I think towards the end of the day, I was simply over all of the green, and the cucumber, apple, mint and lime, while still nice, just seemed a bit like same old, same old.

What I started to call my "dinner juice", Chai Vanilla Dream, was the final juice, actually a nutmilk made from almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews combined with some dates for a touch of sweetness, and yummy chai spices for flavour. I love chai, and I love nut milks, so this was the perfect way to end the day. I can also imagine this would be delicious warmed up if you felt like you needed something hot for "dinner."


So how did I actually feel during the cleanse? Mostly, I felt pretty good. The first day was definitely the toughest, and was probably made tougher due to my lack of adequate prep. I only prepped for a couple of days, so I think the sugar and caffeine withdrawals hit pretty hard! By around 4pm, the only way to describe the way I was feeling was fuzzy. It was almost like I was in a fog - it was hard to think straight, and even my vision just seemed a little blurry. By the time I had the Chai nutmilk, though, I was fine, and I didn't experience anything this severe again.

Throughout the cleanse, I never actually felt "hungry"; I certainly felt like eating, but that was more out of habit than any real feeling of hunger. By the third day, I felt lighter and definitely clearer, and despite not eating any solid food, I actually felt quite energetic. I did supplement the cleanse with a fair bit of herbal tea (the lovely PG girls even give you some to go with the cleanse) and would usually make myself a cup whenever I felt like eating. This habit is something that I've maintained, and I find it a very soothing and relaxing habit to have!

The question everyone asks about a cleanse - will you lose weight? For me, the answer was no. My weight at the end of the three days was exactly the same as when I started. However, my skin looked clearer, and I felt a lot better than I have in ages. However, while I didn't lose weight immediately after the cleanse, I lost a bit over a kilo over the course of the next week, and I really put that down to the recalibration and refocus on healthy eating that came as a direct result of the cleanse.

So, end result? I highly recommend the Pure Glow Cleanse to anyone, and plan to do another one in a couple of months. Do I think a juice cleanse is necessary for our bodies to detox? Not really... I think our bodies are designed to eliminate waste pretty well on their own. However, given the way that we treat them in this modern age, taking a few days every couple of months to recharge and reset can never be a bad thing.


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PS: This is not a sponsored post, and I am paying for this juice cleanse myself.

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