Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inspire Me with the New Comfort Food

As the weather cools down, the simple, light foods of summer no longer hold the same appeal. After a recent trip to the fruit shop, Big Mama was bulging with gorgeous seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, so I set to work transforming them into what has become my new comfort food. They are so low in fat and so high in nutritional goodness and flavour you'll be craving them too!

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables and Couscous


Wash and cut into chunks: zuchini, red/yellow capsicum, baby eggplants, carrot, pumpkin, red onion (small or large quartered), and whole cloves of garlic.

Place non-stick baking paper into an oven baking dish, add vegetables and 1tsp olive oil and mix to cover vegetables. Bake at 180 degrees celcius for about 1hr.

Make couscous according to packet instructions. When vegetables are cooked and soft, chop roughly and fold through couscous.

Smart tip #1 It looks amazing served on a large platter or bowl and everyone can help themselves.

To add protein to the meal, simply grill, bbq or panfry steak, lamb chops, chicken or fish.

Warm Seasonal Fruit
with Cinnamon Dusted Yoghurt

Option 1: Really any fruit can be used. Berries would be sensational.


Quarter two plumbs per person, leaving skins on.


Place in microwave and cook for 1:40 minutes. Flesh should look soft and 'relaxed'.


Top with a scoop of low fat ice cream or lite custard.

Option 2:


Take two slices of fresh pineapple, cut into wedges if preferred.


Place in small frypan and cook until heated through.


Serve in your favourtie bowl or plate adding a generous spoonful of natural yoghurt, a light dusting of cinnamon or nutmeg. Add 1tsp of honey to yoghurt if you like it sweeter.

These are so easy and simply delicious. Try them and others and post your recipes in the comments below. Get creative and try something new and eat your way to a healthier more vibrant you. (Sorry, I didn't mean for that to rhyme!)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Something In Common

Sitting by the water eating my chicken kebab, I noticed three groups of women who looked vastly different to each other; nationality, clothing style, skin colour and language, and as I sat and observed, one question resonated within me and it just wouldn't go away.

The Question

What do I have in common with these women? In an instant I decided we all had a uterus. Perhaps that was a little presumptuous. What else? We all had hopes, dreams, opinions. Possibly. Out of the seven women near me, how many actually had a life goal or dream and how many would reach it? In the end I took the safe option; we all had a beating heart. In that contemplative state, I began to wonder if it was possible to somehow connect with these seven strangers.

Opportunity Knocks

Without warning and as if it was scripted, I felt the back draft from a wing as a seagull passed over my left shoulder just as the three women in front turned around. It all happened so fast I barely had time to register what had happened until I looked down at my non-existent kebab and empty wrapper.

One of the women saw everything and immediately cupped her hand over her mouth and shrieked in disbelief. This was my opportunity handed to me with grey and white feathers! “Did you see that?” I yelped. No one said I had to be eloquent. She nodded and dug her friend in the ribs, pointing to my empty kebab wrapper. The two women to my left turned to ask if the audacious seagull had indeed stolen my kebab. I assured them it had. That was five out of seven. I was on a roll.

I turned to the two women on my right, who had been deep in conversation and facing the other way, and saw they were now captivated by all the commotion. I gave them a scrambled recap (because you can chat to strangers if you have something in common - like the weather or an act of bravado from a renegade seabird) and their eyes widened as they suddenly became very aware of the encroaching seagull population. Their lunch was now being stalked. Eat fast ladies! It wasn't quite the icebreaker I was thinking of but it was highly effective.

It's the Little Things

It's like that in relationships. Marriage is a classic example. I've been married for twenty-three years. (Yes, I know I look so young - we married in preschool!) If there's one thing I've learned is that the little things that drive you nuts about the other person, really are insignificant to the big picture of a lifetime - unless you fertilize them. Then they GROW into blood-sucking leeches that drain the life and fun out of being in the same room as that person you used to think was so wonderful you could hardly think straight around them. Boy, were we delusional! Take for example... Mr Practical. He has a habit of telling me just a little piece of information and leaving out the important part.


Me: "Did someone just call?"

Mr P: "Yep, it was your sister..." (silence and walking away) And......? Nothing.

Now, my sister lives light years away so if she calls, there's a purpose. What did she want? Is everything okay? Is she coming to visit? TELL ME. But no, all I get is silence. Because this ticks me off so much, I go silent too... on the outside. On the inside, I'm venting. 'Don't tell me then! You do this every time! You always expect me to ask you for all the little details, well I'm not playing your games anymore.' And so it goes on. I know you never behave like this. Me either - it's just a hypothetical situation to illustrate my point.

What gets to me the most is that he's oblivious. When I finally confront him (incidentally, my tone can sometimes be interpreted as a little 'snippy' by this stage depending on the time elapsed since the first misdemeanor), he has no idea why I've got attitude. That ticks me off even more - hypothetically!

Me: "Soooo, why did my sister call?"

Mr P: "Don't know, she said she'd call back when you're home." Argh! So why didn't you just say that in the beginning? That's forty-seven minutes of my life, I just wasted and can't get back. (I tried holding out for longer, but I just had to know!)

Let it Go

When puffs of steam pump from my ears and nostrils, I need to walk away. So I'll fold washing nosily which, incidentally is not an effective measure to gain sympathy and/or attention. I'll make the bed so tight, a toothpick couldn't get between the sheets. I'll stand there and rub toothpaste splatters off the bathroom mirror and grumble about the burden of cleaning up after other people, which has nothing to do with what just happened but it's still a valid opportunity to rehearse and nurse the hardships I face. Hypothetically. Then I'll make a decision to calm down and remember what we have in common. All the good stuff.

Relationships never start out perfect but when they're watered with appreciation, kindness, patience and breakfast in bed, they continue to grow just as we do.

Much can be achieved in a moment and a life time, if we let go of what makes us different and focus in on what we have in common. Differences divide us into categories but finding what we have in common, even if it's that you both draw breath, places you on common ground. That's where bridges can be mended, walls can tumble down and hearts can begin to heal.

Copyright 2010 Philippa Vette (please don't reproduce - wait for the book!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Inspire Me With Gorgeous Food

As I sit down to write, it's raining and autumn is unashamedly here. The aroma of fresh Mediterranean vegetables roasting away in the oven is wafting through the house. Garlic is always included just for the pure sensory pleasure it provides with every long, deep breath.


Inspiration is all around us,we just need to look for it. I've been pouring over my cookbooks for fresh, healthy meal ideas and it's really made a difference in my perspective towards good food, not diet food.

Diet is a Four Letter Word

When most people think of diets, immediately they think of deprivation. So right from the beginning I'm calling for a boycott on the 'D' word. It's all about balanced meals eaten throughout the day to nourish our bodies and it should taste amazing. I am not a dietitian - I am a motivator so it's up to you to seek your own independent advice on what's right for you but it doesn't take a genius to figure out we need to exercise more than the calories we consume, if weight loss is our goal.

So here is a recipe to get you started. With some meal planning and smart shopping you can have the whole family looking forward to dinner time. Enjoy. Philippa x0

Slow Cooked Beef dusted with Moroccan spices, fresh dates and lemon

This recipe has been requested ever since I put it as my status update on Face Book.


Cube steak (beef) rump/blade/chuck and roll in 1tsp each of turmeric, cumin, paprika and a good pinch of white pepper. Light spray of olive oil in a fry pan and sear meat until it gets a little brown.

Smart tip #1. Applying heat to dry spices intensifies the flavour and aroma of the spices.


Transfer to slow cooker or baking dish. Add favourite veggies cut into similar sizes such as; capsicum, green beans, red onion quartered, cubed pumpkin and zucchini. Throw in chopped fresh dates and lemon sliced and quartered - rind and all.

Smart tip #2. The big, plump Turkish dates are divine but can be expensive. I used about six and when they're chopped or quartered it looks like there's more.


Now add 250ml of beef stock, 1-2 cloves of garlic (chop or use garlic press) and a splash of Worcester sauce. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 1 hour then turn down to low for 4-5 hours or until meat and veggies are tender. To thicken sauce (if necessary) add a tsp of plain four with enough water to form a smooth liquid paste and stir into sauce and watch it thicken. Repeat if required.

Smart tip #3. Add a little of the flour mixture at a time until you get the sauce to the consistency you like.

For oven baking. Slow gook at 170 degrees Celsius approximately depending on your oven. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours. Serve with fluffy couscous, rice or creamy mashed potatoes (no butter added please!)

NB. The photo is from a spring lamb recipe in The Sydney Morning Herald ( http://www.smh.com.au/) There is also a gorgeous slow cooked roast lamb recipe worth checking out.

Remember portion sizes. Just because it's yummy doesn't mean you should eat more of it. Go for 1Cup couscous/2/3Cup rice/1 Cup mashed potato and 1Cup Moroccan mix. If you need more food opt for a side salad to help fill you up. Low fat dressings, squeeze of lemon juice (my favourite) or naked salad is also very 'in'. Enjoy the flavours. Try it and tell me what you think.

WARNING: I get inspired by a recipe then tweak it the way I want it. All these measurements are suggestions only because I don't really follow recipes, except baking. (*husband rolling eyes and nodding*) If you're really systematic and orderly - this could drive you insane and if that's the case, I apologize and bon appetit!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Enjoy The View

As Alicia perched by the open door of the aeroplane at fourteen thousand feet, icy air delivered a swift back-hander to her face. One thought dominated all others, 'I'm actually going to do this!'

It was something Alicia had wanted to do for a long time and turning thirty brought it to the forefront of her mind and right up to the top of her priority list. With the arrival of overseas friends, the wheels were suddenly set in motion. It wasn't long and she was climbing through the clouds above the breathtaking Great Dividing Range. What makes an intelligent person take such a risk?
The thrill of the free-fall. Hold that thought...

Thank You Mr Spielberg

Ever since Jaws, I've been spooked by dark, deep water. The underwater shots of legs frantically treading water would send my brainwaves into back flips, gluing me to shallow water as I mentally calculated how many centimetres of water a shark would physically need to survive in, near the shoreline. Dumb, I know. As I grew older I ventured out further but I was always ready to bolt (like the cartoon characters do above the ground before taking off,) back to the beach if required. So when we went swimming as a family yesterday at the broadwater on the Gold Coast, little did I know that my bravery or rather, the resident fear I'd accommodated all these years, was about to be challenged.

The Moment of Reckoning

There are shark nets situated around our tranquil swimming spot for the simple fact that sharks have often been spotted in the area. Way out past the middle is a pontoon where swimmers dive or lay out in the sun to dry. Because of the whole Jaws scenario, I was never remotely interested in venturing out that far, though my two older boys often did without any kind of issue - until yesterday...

#2 son, aged 10 started freaking out about swimming over to the pontoon and although no one was forcing him, he kept slipping between wanting to and too afraid to. Then, out of my mouth came these words like someone else was speaking them, "I'll come with you." What! I couldn't believe I'd just said that. Say 'no', say 'no'! "OK," he said, his face lighting up. Oh terrific. No backing out now. Da-dum, da-dum (Jaws music).

Facing the Fear

Climbing onto my back, he stuck to me like a limpet as we paddled over. Every time he started talking about seeing shark fins near us (yikes!) I calmly distracted him with the Sea World helicopter flying overhead and the jet boats doing spins out on the broadwater. We made it safely and without any panic attacks (from either of us) and it wasn't long and he was bomb-diving off the pontoon and swimming back to the beach unassisted. (Incidentally, I did not wish to bomb-dive but surprisingly, I wasn't scared either.)

That's when I thought about Alicia and the courage that was present to enable her to do what she really wanted to do. Here are some absolute gems she discovered through her adventure:

  • Looking out the window she was certain they were high enough to do the jump but it was only 2,000 ft. They were heading for 14,000ft. If she'd jumped when she thought it was right - she would've died. Don't let your dream die just because your timing was off. LISTEN TO THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE.

  • While WAITING to jump, the crew did a fantastic job of keeping the atmosphere electric with excitement and positivity. THE ATTITUDE OF THOSE AROUND YOU MATTERS.

  • It's the tandem's responsibility to engage the parachute and ensure you land safely. YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO JUMP! Stop trying to figure everything out. Learn as you go.

  • Once you've jumped, OPEN YOUR EYES AND ENJOY THE VIEW!
It's tempting sometimes to withdraw and become an observer instead of a participant. One or two bad experiences can knock your confidence and leave you vowing to never try again. Never say never. Don't forfeit the best days of your life. They're closer than you think.

I didn't love it out on the pontoon, but my son did. Swimming out to the pontoon was his free-fall moment but I had to address the fear I had, to enable him to experience the thrill awaiting him. He knew it would be good, that's why he waited and then help arrived. It may not have been quite the same as Alicia plummeting to earth at 200km/hr but it was just as important.

Don't let your life become a slogan for what might've been. Evaluate the risk, seek advice and support from those with experience, take the first step and open your eyes and enjoy the view!

copyright 2010 Philippa Vette

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rumours of Chocolate

It was bedtime and the word had got around that there was chocolate in the house. Chocolate had been banned for a while after several weeks of birthday cakes, party treats and Easter, so when a person who shall remain nameless, brought the groceries home and there was a delicious slab of sinfully indulgent dark chocolate amongst the wholemeal tortillas and rice crackers, the atmosphere amped up to just below a frenzy! I however, was calm.

Part of what I do, is motivate and support women in good decision-making and healthy lifestyle choices so when the choc-o-meter skyrocketed in our household, I knew it was time to rein it in before parts of me could not be reined in anymore!

Plan to Change

So, armed with my Big Salad and my food and exercise plan for the week, I was well on the way to not only staying on track but implementing healthy habits for the long term. Therefore, when the word, 'chocolate' was shouted around the house on the night in question, I was ready for it. Did I calmly say, "No thank you, I'm not eating any," like a 'normal' person? Unlikely. Instead I yelled, "Noooo. Get that stuff outta here!"

The two older children bolted into the room to see what atrocity had just occurred, at precisely the same time as I hurled the offensive object towards the door. For the record, no one was hurt but my actions did leave some bewildered looks on their faces as if to say, "What's your problem? It's only chocolate." But to me, it wasn't just chocolate - it was a distraction from my goal.

Get Some Gumption

The reality is; no one is going to force you to live a happy life. Change is confrontational. Have you noticed when change in coming, there's a prickly kind of feeling on the inside? That's because something is about to be different and we don't know if we're going to like 'different'. Rather than thinking about the negative and unsure things, focus on the positive. Imagine how good it could be. What if the change ends up being one of the highlights of your life?
Make the Right Choice - Not Just an Easy One

It takes a series of good choices to over-write the habit of bad choices but it's entirely possible to overhaul your life and make your end even better than your beginning. After all, life is not a spectator sport - be a participant! Experience the thrill. You be the one others gather around to hear your story.
It'll take every ounce of courage, determination and a good, workable plan, but if its really important to you, you'll find a way to make it happen - if not you'll find an excuse! When your mind is made up and your focus is set, nothing will deter you. Not rainy weather, not a busy schedule, not grisly, unco-operative kids and especially not even rumours of chocolate.
(Revised and re-posted from Oct '09)
copyright 2010 Philippa Vette
NB. My appologies for the line spacing towards the end. Despite numerous attempts, it doesn't seem to want to co-operate! Hope it doesn't distract you either!! PV.