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Vegan Tropical Berry Muffins

November 23, 2011

Imagine being invited to a restuarant by a friend only to discover that you cannot eat anything from the menu.  This is what it is like for people with allergies. I’ve been on the candida diet for about 10 months now so I no longer feel dissappointed when I am faced with something I cannot eat. I simply get on with it and focus on the things I can eat. For a child who has been following an elimination diet for three months, it’s early days.

Having food allergies and intolerances can sometimes be nothing short of well, intolerable. Especially when you’re a kid. The weather in Dubai is great at the moment. Possibly the only place on earth where you actually go to the beach in winter. The Italian suggested we get together with some friends and my brother and sister in law (yeah we now have family living here) and have breakfast on the beach. “Bring coffee and croissants” he said. My first reaction was panic. Coffee and croissants was a fab idea but what about Gianluca’s allergies and mine?

Baking gluten, dairy and egg free is quite a challenge. Difficult, but not impossible. What is challenging, is making stuff that tastes good. Even for those that are not on restrictive diets.

Behold, the ultimate breakfast/ tea time snack that is so delicious that everyone, even hardcore gluten lovers ( imagine telling an Italian he cannot have pasta?)  are pleasantly surprised. These little lovelies contain no gluten, no eggs, no dairy and no sugar. Before you say it, no they are not taste free either. On the contrary they are delicious and just the thing to wean you off your gluten habit and ease you into a different (may I say healthier?) way of eating.

Give them a go. You will be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps even feel better without the bloating that often accompanies gluten rich foods. Would you incorporate  gluten, egg or dairy free goods into your diet even if you are not intolerant? Would love to know…

Vegan tropical berry muffins printable PDF version

What is it about blogging?

November 14, 2011

No, I haven’t died, I’ve just had a bit of a hibernation of sorts. Sometimes I need a bit of time out to think through all my “stuff”. To sort it out and figure out where I am going. Don’t you feel that way too sometimes? No? Well, count yourself lucky.

Our local Aquarius magazine here in Dubai featured an article about blogging this month. Interesting and thought provoking. Yes, I am a bit of a thinker. Or perhaps just a major procrastinator. One of the things that got me thinking was why people and more specifically why I started this blog. My blog started out as Edwina’s Food Stories way back in April 2009. I started blogging about my experiences as a developing photographer. Food has always been a big part of my life. Cooking from scratch has always been a normal everyday occurrence for me. Whilst I was teaching it shocked and amazed me just what parents were putting into their children’s lunch boxes. Many times a gentle reminder of what is good for children and their learning and development was all that was needed to make positive changes. Some parents were not so receptive. This got me thinking that my blog could be a way to educate people about the health benefits of good food, especially for growing children.

My posts started becoming more about food and sharing recipes than about the process of photography. On October 21, 2010, Mezzaluna was born. Around this time I also discovered a very active Food Blogging Community here in Dubai. We have a collaborative blog called Fooderati Arabia where food bloggers in the UAE are posting for your viewing pleasure.

Then, all hell broke loose. I discovered that you had to be an active social networker if you wanted people to know that you are alive. That you had to Tweet and have a Face Book Page (not just a profile) to spread the word about your blog. That you had to get people to “like” and “follow” you. That you had to share the love by “Liking” and “Following” people back. That in order to get more hits (just like addicts) you have to comment on other people’s blogs and that way you create this whole reciprocal wave of following and being followed.  I feel a little foolish just commenting on posts just because one of the blogging commandments say that’s what you need to do. I leave comments if I genuinely want to say something about the post. I do have to be honest and say that receiving a heartfelt comment on one of my posts makes my day. I do love and appreciate the comments I receive. Keep ‘em coming!

Having a beautiful blog using Macs iweb software was also not enough. The url was cumbersome and no one even knew of Mezzaluna so I had to get my very own domain name. Mezzaluna was not available, but My Mezzaluna was and as if by magic My Mezzaluna was born with it’s very own personalised domain name and everything, using WordPress as a platform. This was  back in March this year. Whew I am exhausted just writing about this so you can imagine what I must actually feel like!

Getting back to the real reason for blogging. Why do we blog and why do we follow our favourite blogs? Having spent all of about nine years in marketing and sales, I know a thing or two about why people buy. After all is said and done and the chips have fallen where they may, people come back for more if you can add value. My blog has been bobbing along the waves of the blogosphere at times losing direction because I have allowed myself to be swayed by prettier blogs or blogs that are far more popular than mine. Along the way I forgot why I am here in the first place. Staying true to myself and adding value to the lives of others in whatever way I can, gives me pleasure and puts me in a place far less stressful than trying to keep up with the Jones’ (I am not actually referring to my real friends the Jones family by the way). For me, blogging is not about showing how pretty (or not) my photographs are. It’s not about telling the world what we ate for breakfast  (who cares?). It is about sharing. Sharing what I know about food. Sharing what I know about how food can damage you and how food can heal you. Sharing and hopefully teaching ( I discovered that deep down in my core I will always be a teacher) people that cooking from scratch and keeping things simple adds to your quality of life. Sharing recipes that are simple and that take people’s allergies into consideration and therefore making someone’s life a little healthier. These are the things that matter to me. Being of service. Otherwise what value do you bring?

Who do we follow? I follow a few blogs. Not many. I have too much on my plate to spend hours surfing the net and looking at blogs. I try to have a life too. Unless they add value to my life I am not interested. I read blogs that either teach me, help me, inspire me, inform or entertain me. Why should I read about your chocolate chip cookies? What is so special about them? Do they add value? Are they gluten free or egg free?  What is different about them? (By the way if you are reading this and you seriously have a recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free choc chip cookies please let me know.) This is what I am keeping in mind each time I blog from now on. Staying true to myself and my mission; to educate people about food and health and share what I am doing to be healthier ( my fight against Candida is wearing me down by the way).

This brings me to the next commandment of blogging. Thou shalt Blog Regularly. What is regularly? Once a month is regular. Once a week is regular. So is once a fortnight. Or should it be more like a bowel movement? Daily. If I like a blog, I like a blog. I really couldn’t care less if they blog daily, weekly or once in a blue moon. I did  not stop reading Zack Arias‘ blog when he took a long break to work on a new website. Nor did I stop reading Confessions of a Hungry Woman just because she sometimes has a two month break between posts. I hope those who read and enjoy my blog are not so fickle as to just give up on me if they don’t see a daily entry.

Now that I have bared my naked soul I hope you will too. What is it that makes you “like” a blog?

Just so you have something to look at before you go….

Poverty, Charity and Photography.

October 28, 2011

In August this year, we went back “home” for our annual holiday in paradise. We are among a handful of fortunate people to own our own property (and a beautiful one at that) on what must be one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. The Garden Route coast. Our house is in the sleepy seaside village of Glentana. Home to retirees and wealthy “Gautengers” (people from Gauteng province) who own holiday homes here. There are no malls or designer shops. Just God’s country. A few minutes down the road lies the historical Hoogekraal Farm, one of the oldest farms in the Southern Cape. Most of the farm has been sold to Lagoon Bay. A developer whose hope it is to develop a unique “lifestyle experience” here amongst the fynbos, above the mighty Indian Ocean with views to the majestic, purple  Outeniqua Mountains. The “lifestyle experience” will include  two championship golf courses, a shopping village, a five star hotel, the residential village and of course various water sports in the salt water lagoon. All of this apparently “nestled” in one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. How they will manage to do all this whilst keeping the magnificent natural flora, only they will know. To me it appears impossible.

It appears I am not alone in my sentiments. A group of Glentana residents, concerned about the environmental impact of the project have taken the developers to court. In an area where there has been severe water restrictions during the recent droughts, golf courses are not a good idea. It is estimated that the proposed  golf courses will use up to four million litres of water a day. I find it unbelievable that in this day and age where going green is vital for future generations, developers can even propose a development of this nature. There are numerous developments all over the world that take green issues to heart and are able to build sustainable and environmentally friendly projects. It appears as though Lagoon Bay has taken the fast cash route and not the long term sustainable route. What a pity.

The implication of their short sightedness is huge. Lagoon Bay could provide jobs. The original Hoogekraal farms provided housing and work to its labourers and their families. The farms are no longer and as long as the legal wrangling continues, the families that have been displaced by the development, continue to suffer. Some of these families live in small Cape Dutch style houses, now without running water or electricity. Many more live in makeshift homes and shelters fashioned out of corrugated iron sheets, wooden planks and bits of plastic. Also without plumbing, running water or electricity. This community is jobless and hopeless. Unemployment is rife as is alcohol abuse. Just off the main road to Glentana on the road to Hoogekraal sits the area’s only shop. A superette selling anything from shoe polish to onions. It also sells alcohol. Alcohol that keeps the adult community members numb to their social problems and numb to their responsibilities as parents. Sadly, even some children are not immune to the numbing effect of alcohol.

My mother first became aware of the problems in this community whenever she visited the superette to buy a loaf of  bread or milk. Snotty nosed, bare footed, hungry children would be begging for money or something to eat. After some time she began making some enquiries and soon afterwards found herself working side by side with the local social welfare department. Making home visits to the community and becoming a part of the little farm school, Hoogekraal Primere Skool (here Afrikaans is still the first language among the local population). Working with the school, she has managed to secure donations from businesses to supply the children with school uniforms and school shoes. This has meant that none of these children need come to school barefoot in the cold winter months and now all the children, even those from disadvantaged families where buying a school uniform is very low on the priority list, have uniforms. A much needed boost to their morale.

In an effort to supply clothes to the children, I appealed to the generosity of Dubai  through my Face Book page and was overwhelmed by the  response. We flew to South Africa with 25 kg of donated clothes for this community. On the day that we handed out the clothes it was heartbreaking to see children so overwhelmed by this gift. For many of them this was probably the first time in a very long time they had received “new” clothes. Gifting these clothes was an incredible humbling experience and one that every designer clad  kid/adult should experience. Always being on the receiving end does nothing for your character. By serving others, giving back to the earth and those less fortunate, you find happiness.

A Primary School was built for the local children by the farmer who owned the land. The school has sixty-six pupils, four classrooms and four teachers. The teachers each teach two grades simultaneously. The school provides one cooked meal and a fruit for each child every day. This is usually a bean and vegetable soup. There is no cafeteria, and no tables and chairs for these children to sit at whilst they eat. There is also no play equipment or playground. The area around the school is an uneven, potholed affair where the boys try to kick around a punctured soccer ball. Some kids play a game in the dirt using stones and bottle tops. Although there is real poverty and obvious neglect amongst many of the children, they all appear reasonably happy. This life is all they know.

Doing the Hokey Pokey

Doing the Hokey Pokey

Hoogekraal Primary School has now become my family’s charity project. My mom continues to work with the school and community to help wherever she can. At the moment she is involved in helping the school prepare for their first ever Christmas concert. My son Gianluca has taken it upon himself to raise funds for the school so that the children can benefit from better facilities. Through the gift of photography, I was able to take individual school portraits of all the students. This was the very first time that they had ever received a school portrait. It felt good.

No more sandwiches. A peek into a gluten-free lunch box.

October 19, 2011

 

The days of making a quick sandwich for the school lunch box are well and truly over.  You realise just how dependent you are on wheat and other grains the minute you have to  begin thinking about gluten-free alternatives for your children’s lunch boxes. Out with sandwiches, wraps, wheat muffins, bread rolls, mini hotdogs, pizza, left over pasta etc. The list is endless. Thankfully I have a child who is quite open to experimenting with new flavours so preparing the school lunch is not as daunting, however it does require quite a bit of planning and preparation.

When  cooking dinner, I now make more than I need so that there will be left overs for the next day. I also have to make sure I always have fresh fruit and vegetables like carrots,cucumbers and cherry tomatoes which make excellent finger food. Eggs and dairy are also no longer options for us, which means no cheese, yogurt or the odd boiled egg.  My staple grocery cupboard items have become rice cakes, sunflower seed butter ( which is a delicious alternative to peanut butter and hazelnut butter),  nuts (no almonds, peanuts or hazelnuts unfortunately), chickpeas (both tinned and dried) for salads and making hummous, tinned and dried beans, dried fruit, rice, buckwheat pasta, soba noodles, rice noodles and a selection of gluten free flours.

I really like lunch boxes with separate compartments. This enables you to pack a selection of foods without them all becoming mixed up. They have the added benefit of having fewer containers to wash up afterwards. On this particular morning, the said lunch box consisted of a salad made with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives and a drizzle of olive oil. Some carrots and thinly sliced grilled steak left over from the previous night. For dessert some fresh strawberries.

Ok so a bit of a fiddle from the usual sandwich. However, a much healthier option. It’s visually appealing and your child is getting complex carbohydrates, protein and a whole bunch of anti-oxidants.

This particular lunch box came home empty. That’s success in my book!

 

October 16, 2011 World Food Day

October 16, 2011

“Food Prices – from crisis to stability” is the theme for World Food Day this year. It also coincides with Blog Action Day 2011. It’s crazy that my previous post was all about obesity and the excess food many of us consume whilst more than half of the world’s population is starving. The issue of food, its sustainability, cost, production and consumption is a huge one. A subject that may be overwhelming to most of us, yet we are all active participants whether we realise it or not. Our food choices, the contents of our shopping trollies and  our wasteful lifestyles are all contributors to this worldwide phenomenon and problem. So many of us will simply say “What can I do? I am only one individual? How is what I do going to make any impact?” Of course you are right. No individual can make a difference. However I believe that if we all just do one little thing towards helping, we can have an impact. Perhaps I am naive and too idealistic, but I do believe that we need to spread this awareness and we need to start thinking about what we can do as individuals.

Food prices have sky rocketed in recent years. I am sure you all know this just from the increase in cost of your usual shopping trolley. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, state that prices are going to remain volatile, and that efforts need to be stepped up to strengthen the resilience of small farmers to improve  food security over the long term.

Below are some  fantastic  educational resources to help us understand what we are up against. Perhaps you will find something here that you could manage to do. Let me know what you think. Your thoughts and replies are always appreciated.

You absolutely need to see this:

What can you  do to make a difference?

Greenmarket Farmers Markets

Make a donation

Follow and do what The Urban farming Guys are doing.

Think before you buy chicken, meat and other products from animals

Great ideas how you can get involved immediately from The Meatrix

National School Lunch Week, The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

October 11, 2011

When I was contacted by The University of Southern California to share these horrific statistics in celebrating National School Lunch Week, I simply could not refuse. Childhood obesity and all its associated health problems has had a significant impact on all areas of Health Science and Public Health and is an ever increasing worldwide problem. Almost daily I am confronted with overweight children on the school playground and in our school and community swimming pool. I am always shocked that young children can be this neglected. It is certainly a case of over eating and under nourishing. We must also remember however, that it is not only overweight children (and adults) that are running the risk of health issues. There are many, many people who are skinny and equally under nourished. Unfortunately this always equates to a lack of education on the part of parents and with that the sad consequences of ill health and the various social issues that accompany this phenomenon.

I  hope that these statistics will create an awareness that our health, and the health of our children, is directly related to what we eat and the type of life we lead.  National School Lunch Week, runs this week until October 14th.

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Infographic

Exploring Hong Kong with Kids.

September 27, 2011

In July we spent a three day stop over in Hong Kong. When people talk numbers, I switch off (I like to think it’s because of the dodgy maths teachers I had at school). I knew that we were going to encounter a lot of people, but I don’t think I quite appreciated just how populated a place is where more than  7 million people actually live.  For the first time in my life I experienced what it was like to be swept up and carried along in a wave of heaving human bodies. It felt claustrophobic,  exciting, interesting and exhausting.

Hong Kong comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, The New Territories and several smaller islands of which Lantau Island is one. We stayed on Hong Kong Island in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It suited our needs perfectly. We could take the hotel shuttle bus to Central Station and from there take the Metro to anywhere we wanted to go. We made use of all of Hong Kong’s public transport; the metro, the tram, taxis and of course the Star Ferry. It all works pretty efficiently once you get the hang of it.

Three days is really not enough time to experience everything Hong Kong has to offer. With a 9 and 11 year old in tow we decided to follow  Eyewitness Travel’s Top 10 Hong Kong. In order to get a feel for the city, we decided to check out the popular sites like the Big Buddha & Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island,  The Escalator which is a 792 meter (2598 ft) long escalator which links Central, and So-Ho, the harbour, Hong Kong Park, the street markets, where we only passed through briefly since wrestling with throngs of people is not our ides of fun, and of course the food on offer. We did a lot of walking the streets and I have to say in general the boys handled it very well. Of course we had to stop for refreshments quite  often since little bodies don’t have as much staying power as bigger ones and much encouragement to keep going was often needed. It was monsoon season, so not the best of weather to see the Big Buddha or Hong Kong from the Peak, but we had to make do with what time we had.

Big Buddha in the mist

Garden in the mist at Po Lin Monastery

Of course the food markets were the most interesting to me. Food in supermarkets is ridiculously expensive, however quite affordable and of course much more interesting at the markets. I was struck by how hard people work in this city. I never saw (although I think there might be…) beggars. Everywhere people were busily going about their work either on the side walk eateries, food markets, collecting cardboard for recycling, preparing goldfish for transport, cutting flowers, cleaning; lots of activity just to add to the already frenzied atmosphere.

It’s also quite easy to go gluten-free here. Rice being the staple, there is not much to worry about. Breakfasts at the hotel were an interesting combination of traditional Chinese food i.e. Dim Sum (a type of dumpling) and Congee ( a thin rice porridge) and the typical western fare of cereals, yoghurt, eggs, waffles with syrup (guess what the boys ate), fried sausages, bacon and fruit. I have to mention here that I was struck by some of the Chinese families in the dining room. Those who ate their traditional food of congee, dim sum and fruit were much more slender than those who were tucking into the western breakfast. Just something I observed. Of course we spent a good part of our time munching on delicious dim sum, little soft dumplings made with rice flour, encasing minced pork and shrimp, lots of lightly steamed baby pok choy and sprouted broccoli, steamed rice, rice noodles, shrimps and the list goes on and on. One of the things I think one has to do in Hong Kong and simply not think where the food is coming from or how it was handled. I think if you do, you probably won’t eat a thing. I was struck by the obvious lack of hygiene in the street restaurants (however none of us got sick, although I was grateful that the boys had their vaccinations updated before we travelled), what appeared to me to be a lack of respect for food, especially of animal origin. I think the reason may be because there are just so many people who are all trying to make a living and trying to survive what looked to me to be a hard life. This is of course just my opinion based on a very short observation. Eating and observing was all part of the fun, and although we refrained from eating meat and fish on the streets the vegetable and rice dishes were all delicious.  As with all eating in foreign countries, the trick to discovering the best restaurants is to see which ones are full of locals. This is true for Hong Kong too. In a small restaurant, full of local people, we feasted on fish, and the most delicious, cholesterol inducing lemon chicken. The boys loved it and we simply couldn’t get enough.

The other thing about Hong Kong that struck me was that I did not actually see any litter on the streets. For a city with this many people, it is remarkably clean, apart from the public toilets which must rate as one of the worst in the world. However, you can smell the pollution in the air. It is something that follows you around. Not tangible, but somehow you can feel its presence like a ghost. It is only when you leave the island and head towards the airport that you can see the air over the city thick with smog and pollution.

Hong Kong is an interesting place to visit. It can however be very claustrophobic, and certainly my children found it so. On the last day when we had had enough of the humidity  and the throngs of people, we headed for a mall and…..to Starbucks. The Mall was not dissimilar to any of the malls in Dubai, but on this particular morning it brought stillness and respite.

I would like to visit Hong Kong again. Next time however, it would be nice to explore some of the outlying islands where life is a little more tranquil. I hope. Can you relate to this?


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