Welcome to your fridge

So I know most people grow up being told not to play with your food but that’s all cooking is. So as long as you’re not throwing your food around have fun. Your kitchen should not be a scary place, food is your friend. Ok it might be like a friend that you argue with a lot and doesn’t always give you what you were hoping for. But you’re stuck with it, you have to keep going back to it, your life depends on it (literally).

If you want to rekindle your friendship with food and no longer want to be a kitchen nightmare then read on. If your already on good terms with your kitchen and food but want to understand why your fruit draw always smells like your house after a party or you just want to play with your food a bit more then read on. If you want to unravel what I have dubbed the great food debate then definitely read on.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, this blog is all about food and the science behind food. I promise some interesting food facts, helpful hints and some tried and tested recipes to impress your friends.

Lets explore the fridge together…


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The great food debate… part 2 (diet a dirty word)

So in part 1 I told you what I consider the 3 rules of a healthy diet. I think rule 2 needs further deconstruction. It also leads into my mini rant of dieting (in the fad sense). So rule 2 was “the perfect diet is the one that suits your body”.  What does this really mean?

First my mini rant on the dirty word “diet”. Dictionary definition of diet: “the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats. Basically before the people become too smart for their own good diet was about what an organism ate to survive. But this has been twisted in modern society to focus more on the restrictions a person sets to lose weight, maintain weight or in some cases become over weight. I think we need to go back to the true definition and put less emphases on the weight aspect of food and more on the living/ survival aspect of food. Otherwise our children will be learning that animals like lions and sharks are not carnivorous (a diet of meat) but instead are on Atkins. Herbivorous animals will be categorised into either vegans or vegetarians depending on their consumption of animal by products. Scavengers like rats are binge eaters and omnivorous animals are fad dieters, following the latest trends. Yes this sounds ridiculous but our approach to food is becoming ridiculous. We need to stop using diet as a dirty word. A diet is what we eat and a healthy diet should not be about whether you are in the target BMI but whether what you are eating is allowing for your body to run at its very best. Ok rant over… sort of.

The best diet is like filling your car up with premium fuel, you’ll get the best mileage and your car runs smoothly, a goal we should aim for but not always possible. A good diet is like putting the right fuel in your car… it still runs well but you could improve (this is where most people sit or should at least aim for). A bad diet is putting the wrong fuel in your car… if your lucky your car will run for a little while but wont last as long as it should, unlucky and your car doesn’t start at all (this is where you need to get out of). Just like cars, different humans need different fuels. To continue with the car metaphor you wouldn’t fill a car on diesel if it runs on unleaded or visa versa and expect it to run at top performance. So you can’t fill your body with the wrong food for you (regardless of its social healthy or unhealthy tag) and expect to run at top performance.

What are the signs your fuel is not right? Well this is where it gets very tricky, mostly because everybody is different. The most significant sign is also the hardest to pick, most people just feel unwell, like something just isn’t right. There is also digestion signs like changes in frequency or consistency of faeces, nausea after eating and/or acid reflux. Then the non-digestion signs like insomnia, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, mood swings and/or dark circles under the eyes. There is the obvious weight gain and less obvious weight loss. Now these are signs and symptoms of a number of conditions not just food related, so how do we tell? Well if you are unsure there are two things you can do. 1) Remove food you think gives you these symptoms for a period and see if the symptoms go away. 2) Go to your doctor and talk to them about allergy or intolerance testing.

The best piece of advice I can give anyone who is concerned about their health, whether it is your diet or just your general health, is that you know your body better than anyone. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t and if something is making you feel ill then try to stay away from it. Also, if you are thinking about changing your diet, for whatever reason, seek advice from a nutritionist or dietition. These are the people that know the impact of food on the human body and can best advice you in matters of health and diet.

Remember food is your friend, not your enemy and a healthy diet doesn’t mean completely cutting out the yummy things in life. It just requires a little guidance for some of us.


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The great food debate… part 1

As the great food debate continues with “reality” TV shows focusing on weight loss and many news articles focusing on the obesity epidemic I thought I would add my 2 cents to the mix. While I am not a dietition or nutritionist or a doctor I have both personal and educational experience with weight gain and loss and “healthy eating”.

Let’s start with what “healthy eating” actually means for the individual and why it is so important. We should all know that healthy eating is about a balanced diet, it is about getting the right mix of nutrients to fuel our body. But why? The most obvious reason is so that we have the fuel in our bodies to conduct our daily lives. There are seven things that define a living organism (thing): 1) Respiration (exchange of gases- breathing) 2) Reproduction 3) Excretion (remove waste) 4) Moves 5) Respond to stimuli (sensitive to surroundings) 6) Grow 7) Feed (metabolise fuel for energy). All of these things require energy to complete, if one thing stops it all stops and food is at the centre of it all. So food provides us with both the fuel we need to complete these important tasks but also provides the nutrients and minerals essential for growth and repair. But here is the hard part what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another.

I think that there are 3 basic rules that everyone should follow to live a healthy life.

1) Everything in moderation; our body needs sugar (carbohydrates), salt, vegetables, fruit, protein etc to survive but in the right proportions. It is just as detrimental to eat too many “healthy foods” like vegetables and fruit as it is to eat too much “unhealthy food” like sugar and salt. High anything diets are not good for us, there is a reason humans are omnivores… we need all the different types of food to fuel and bodies.  This rule is not only for food but for everything… recreation, work, food everything. The human body copes with extremes but is not designed for it and so will only cope for so long. This is also about portion control… large meals and little movement bad, large movement and little meals just as bad. Moderation is about the matching your needs to your food intake (and the type of food you ingest). Which leads on to rule 2…

2) The perfect diet is the one that suits your body. Here everybody is different. Yes we need protein but there are many different types of protein and at different times in our lives we need different amounts and different sources. For people who vegetarianism is a part of their culture they do not have the enzymes necessary to break down meat protein. A female who menstruates should obtain more protein from iron rich sources (like red meat) than say a post-menopausal woman. It seems like common sense. People with certain health conditions need to stay away from certain foods regardless of how “healthy” they are generally. For example: bananas are a wonderful source of all sorts of nutrients and energy but if you are allergic to bananas then eating them is unhealthy. Celiacs can not eat gluten (including wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale), which means regardless of the health benefits of these foods (including most cereals, breads and a variety of other food) they must be avoided. A athletic requires a different diet to an academic both jobs require a fair amount of energy but it is different types to fuel different parts of the body. As you can see what is healthy for one person is not always healthy for another. There are a number of factors that make food healthy for us including our own medical history and our lives.

3) Natural and fresh is always better. Raw sugar, wholemeal flour and organic are just a few. If you want to eat a sweet treat bake it yourself, first of all you know exactly what is going into it, second you can substitute things to comply with rule 2. This is relatively simple, if it looks like something your grandma (or grandpa) made then your probably safe. If it looks like something a machine made then it should only be consumed sporadically (if at all). For example, frozen dinners= dehydrated food, not great for the body. Home made apple pie fine (in moderation).

So there is clearly a lot more to healthy eating than just simply eating “healthy food”, which is why there are hundreds (probably thousands) of books written on diet and what constitutes a healthy diet. Since this blog is getting very long I thought I would continue by narrowing down a few things in following blogs. (So stay tuned)


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Cleaning up egg… the easy way

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Broken egg (courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Egg can be difficult to remove from cookware and fabrics (especially when distractions occur and the eggs get over done). It breaks my heart when people destroy their non-stick cookware with abrasive cleaning products, totally unnecessary damage, just to remove the egg residue.  But there is a natural, easy way to remove egg from a number of materials without harming them. So stop taking the non-stick coating off your cookware, the paint off your car or house and the fabric off the carpet because you (or someone else) put egg on these items. A simple but highly effective approach should be implemented to combat this problem.

Step 1: Rinse the affected area with water (if it is a car or house a high pressure hose might be helpful). This will remove excess egg residue (and any chunky bits)

Step 2: Make up a solution of half vinegar (any type is fine but white is better on fabrics and paint) and half lukewarm water (more cold than hot). The volume of the solution is defined by the size of your problem… a small egg stain on your clothes or carpet requires less than a cup of solution, someone thinking it’s funny to egg your house or car requires a bucket or two of solution.

Step 3: Vinegar/water all mixed together needs to be applied to the problem area (again the method will be determined by the size)… egg baked onto cookware pour solution into said container, for fabric dab with a soft sponge (or wash cloth), on the house or car then use a bigger sponge. Allow the affected area time to soak… again the time is determined by the size and age of the egg “incident” the longer the egg has been there the longer you soak it for… but generally it is long enough when the egg shifts after being touched with a clean (wet) sponge/ cloth or tape/ hose (while you eat breakfast, brush your teeth or do other jobs provides the perfect multitasking opportunity)

Step 4: Rinse the affected area (you may want to now clean with detergent appropriate to the area just to remove any residue and to get rid of the vinegar smell)

I know you all wish someone had told you this sooner because it would have saved a lot of time and effort. Now you know… spread the word before more cookware is sacrificed needlessly. I know there are some doubters out there so let me explain how it works. It’s simple really, egg is a protein and vinegar is a mild acid. Vinegar contains acetic acid, a mild acid, that denatures (or breaks down) the protein structure, once the egg has no structure it is no longer able to cling to your property. Basically egg, like all protein, is made of amino acids bonded together creating amino acid “strings”. To remove the egg you need to cut the strings, acetic acid (in vinegar) does just that. Imagine you have a lose thread on your jumper, pull the thread with your hand and you are going to end up damaging the jumper, take a pair of scissors to it and the thread is removed without the damage (vinegar is like a pair of scissors on the lose threads of egg protein).

So next time you spill or over cook egg don’t stress just reach for the vinegar and you’ll have that egg gone in no time (sorry for sounding like a vinegar infomercial). Get the stain quick and DO NOT use hot water, this makes it worse. If you want to know what else vinegar can remove check out The Vinegar Institute website


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Milk… is it really the cure to the spicy burn?

Putting out the flames

If you’re like me you are not in to spicy foods. Once that flavour hits your tongue that’s it; beads of sweat start to appear on your head and if you were a cartoon character smoke would be billowing out of your ears (good thing I am not a cartoon character). Ok so maybe that is just me but I’m sure most people will have a point in their life were they have what I dub “the fire tongue” (your mouth is screaming as it burns). For people who like that taste, good luck to you. For people more akin to my reaction, how do you rid yourself of that horrible feeling? The old wives tales would suggest milk, yoghurt or even alcohol but do any of them really work?

First, what is considered a spicy food, well that depends on your taste buds but officially speaking it is any food that contains the chemical capsaicin. Capsaicin is an oil found in fruit from the Capsicum genus, which includes chilli peppers and paprika (crushed capsicum seeds). However, while bell peppers (commonly called capsicum) are part of this family most do not contain capsaicin. Capsaicin binds with receptors in the mouth and triggers the “burning” sensation that tells us the food is hot. So if you want to stop the “burn” you need to get rid of the capsaicin.

So we eat capsaicin containing food and our mouth burns, to remove the burn we have to remove the fuel (capsaicin). Remember capsaicin is an oil, so there is no point reaching for an ice cold glass of water. We all know (or at least should) that oil and water doesn’t mix so dousing your mouth with water will do no good. How do we get rid of the oil then? Well you could rinse your mouth out with vegetable oil, which will bind to the capsaicin and remove it from your mouth. I’m not sure about you but this is not something that really appeals to me. Next, you could drink alcohol, another oil loving compound that will bind to the capsaicin and remove it from your mouth. However, beer does not have enough alcohol to actually help remove capsaicin. So unless you are keeping 70 proof alcohol around just in case its not really an option.

The best solution… dairy. Yes, the old wives tale is true, a glass of cow juice will bind with the capsaicin and remove the burn. Milk (and other dairy products) contain casein, a protein that binds strongly with capsaicin oil, removing the problem from your mouth. Yoghurt and ice cream are considered better than milk. Youghurt and ice cream work better because of there thickness, they are much thicker than milk and will stay in the mouth longer. This means they can bind to more of the capsaicin and remove it faster.

Rice, bread and other starchy food are also good at relieving the burn. While these don’t bind to the capsaicin it does remove the capsaicin from the mouth. The starchy food soaks up the capsaicin oil from the top of the tongue and causes the capsaicin to be swallowed along with the starchy food.

So next time you need to douse the flames of a spicy meal reach for the starch or dairy and you’ll be good to go.


Posted by on 17/09/2011 in Uncategorized


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Salt, the ancient food preserver.

Salt: the kitchen helper

A chicken and salad sandwich is never the same without salt and it is a must with hot chips. Good old sodium chloride (NaCl) salt is useful as more than just a  seasoning. So salt has been an important part of life  since Neolithic caveman (according to the Salt Institute)  because it has many uses and is important for us to  live. Until industrialisation came along and made the  process easier salt was a very expensive commodity.  Obtaining salt involved mining or evaporating sea water  and capturing the salt. It is still mined today but the  process is automated.

So why does the human body need salt? Most people have heard of electrolytes, yes? Well if you haven’t electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity in our fluids and tissues. Basically they make sure that our nerves fire and our muscles move (including the important ones like our heart). They also make sure that our cells don’t burst from too much water or shrink from not enough (in “science terms” they help to maintain the osmotic balance in our body). So basically our body really needs electrolytes, the main ones are sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium and calcium.We lose salt by sweating and urinating which we need to replace from our food (well unless you want to just eat or drink salt, I don’t recommend it because it doesn’t taste great).  Sea salt and rock salt (unrefined salt) contains not only sodium and chlorine but also trace minerals, like magnesium, so is an important source of minerals. Once again we are back to salt as a seasoning. But it can also be useful in combating disease and infection.

“Rubbing salt in the wound” is an old saying that I am sure most of us have heard (if you haven’t you’ll just have to believe me it’s common). Ever gone into the ocean with cuts, stings a lot doesn’t it? Well imagine if you have a knife or arrow wound and someone rubs salt into it, it would burn. But salt is one of the oldest know medical treatments, it is mentioned in texts from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and Chinese (and many others). If you still don’t think that proves that it is very good, I can understand. But the 0.9% saline in your first aid kit that you use to wash out wounds (any sometimes eyes) yes that’s right saline=salt (dissolved in water). I think the most compelling argument for salt as a disinfectant is our immune system uses salt as a first line of protection against bacteria (our tears, sweat and blood all contain salt). But why is it a good disinfectant? Salt controls osmotic balance in living things. Salt on a wound draws water out of the area (by osmosis) and drying the area out (microbes require water to survive), no water= no life. No microbes on the infected area means no infections.  This ability of salt to dehydrate also reduces swelling (which is mostly fluid) and therefore pain. This is the same thing that happens when you put salt on a slug or leech (although I’m pretty sure they are in a lot of pain). Salt is not the best disinfectant in modern times but it is still useful as a first treatment (especially if you have nothing else). Salt’s antimicrobial properties, once discovered changed humankind forever, which brings us to the next very good use for salt.

Salt preserves food! Once this was discovered it wasn’t as important that you eat the whole lion (or tiger, or bear or if you weren’t that good squirrel) you just killed straight away you could… wait… save it for later. Ok you can’t save it for as long as the fridge but come on this was before electricity and a massive breakthrough at the time. Salt is a good preserver for the same reason it is a good disinfectant. It doesn’t allow microbes to grow were it is because it has a high osmotic pressure, which denies microbes of the water necessary for survival.

Salt is not just a tasty seasoning, it is an ancient and incredibly important part of our lives. Although most people take it for granted. So next time you’re adding it to chips remember take a moment to appreciate it. If you have a sore throat add a desert spoon of salt to a cup of warm water and gargle and be amazed by the difference.

This blog might be a little try but in all fairness we are talking about salt.

If you still don’t think you know enough about salt check out the Salt Institute website: or for more increndible uses check out


Posted by on 06/09/2011 in Uncategorized


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Bananas, an expensive treat…

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Banana's an expensive treat (courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Bananas are an expensive treat (at least here in Australia), so it seems to be  an investment to have this sweet fruit. You buy a beautifully yellow bunch of  bananas but before you get to eat them all they start turning brown. Blink and  they are black, squishy, slightly alcoholic but never fear, these are the bananas  you want to make the most amazing moist (sorry, to the moist haters out  there) banana cakes or breads. Keep reading and you will be given the secret  recipe (making it not so secret but still just as good).

Ok before we get on to the recipe (which I know you’re all dying for) let me  explain the reason why your bananas go from perfect for eating to being slightly  iffy so quickly. For bananas it’s all about the temperature. Bananas are  harvested when they are still green (this is called the “hard green phase”).  During transport they are kept at 15°C, this keeps them locked in the hard green phase. Before they reach the supermarket they are placed in ripening rooms (yes that is what it is really called) to, you guess it, ripen into the yellow bananas you buy at the store.

A ripening room is like a cool room but instead of it being where cold food is stored, it is for bananas. So it is not cold at all, in fact it is a room that creates the perfect banana ripening conditions. The heat is turned up to 17°C, apparently perfect banana ripening temperature, are the humidity is control. Basically the bananas are tricked into thinking they are still on the plant and will ripen.

Interesting fact about fruits (including bananas), as they ripen they produce a gas called ethylene. Ethylene helps in the ripening process (yes amazingly the fruit produces gas that helps it ripen).

Back to the ripening rooms. The bananas are exposed to the warm 17°C air and their own ethylene. The ripening process has started. The bananas respire (breath) in these conditions (I mean you would too, it is kind of like going into a sauna) and like being in a sauna the banana pores open up. So basically its like a day at the spa for bananas. As the pores open the air softens the flesh (the bit you eat) until the skin is a lovely yellow colour. The bananas are kept in this ripening room for 6-7days (the temperature dictates the colour at the end of this process). The temperature is never allowed to go above 18°C or below 13°C, so as not to spoil the fruit.

The ripening process complete, the bananas are a nice yellow colour, and are transported to the markets for purchase by you. So as you can see, your bananas are usually ready to eat straight away.

Now you know the journey of a banana you will be able to understand why the banana skin discolours quickly. The banana is still giving of ethylene, which is continuing the ripen process. So if you store your bananas on the bench in the fruit bowl (with other fruit also giving off ethylene) you are going to accelerate the rate of ripening (especially when you consider that the temperature on the bench is usually up in the 20-30°C range). Your also going to see the rest of the fruit in the bowl ripen quicker. Storing your bananas in the fridge decreases the rate of ripening but the chilled temperature causes the skin to discolour faster (which means they don’t look as good to eat but are still perfectly fine).

My advise, keep the bananas separate from the rest of the fruit. I store mine the fridge because even with a brown skin the flesh is still firm and good to eat. It’s when the skin is black and the flesh is squishy that it is time to make a banana cake (whether they are on the bench or in the fridge). Storing your bananas in your backpack in a brown paper bag is never recommended.

Ok banana cake recipe time: just watch the video below. If you want the written version then it can be found on the recipe page.


Posted by on 30/08/2011 in Uncategorized


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To Eat or Not To Eat? That is the question…

What is best before?

Ok truth time, virtual hands up if your fridge could use a clean out? Most of us have something in the fridge or cupboard past its best before date or its used by date. But what’s the difference? Is it still safe to eat or   should you just throw it away? Keep reading this blog if you want to make the most out of your food. I know I do, food is far too expensive to waste.

Best before dates, used by dates… what’s the difference? Simply put used by dates you should pay more attention to than best before dates. Best before dates indicate foods still safe to eat after the date, provided they are stored correctly and not damaged. It is legal to sell undamaged food after the best before date unlike food with a used by date (which can’t be sold after this date). Used by dates indicate the food is probably unsafe to eat after this date. There are two main reasons for this 1: nutrients in food can become unstable or 2: bacteria (not the good kind) increases on the food. This is especially important for things like eggs that may look fine but may really just be an extended trip to the toilet waiting to happen.

Nutrients becoming unstable is an excellent phrase for scary people, but I had to look it up to find out what it really meant. Basically it is a confusing way to say the food doesn’t look, taste or feel like it’s meant too.

Bacteria increases on the food, trust me you don’t want that. Truth time, most of our food has micro-organisms (like bacteria) on it, some are fine others aren’t so good. These micro-organisms, if they are the bad ones, are called pathogens. These pathogens are on some food (especially those high in protein like meat, poultry, eggs and diary) and in the correct numbers (called infectious numbers) they can at best give you two way diarrhoeal at worst can be lethal.

So how can we avoid these dangerous bacteria? Proper food storage is important, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Keep leftovers (cooked or dried food like flour and pasta) in airtight containers and try not to handle food too much. Food handling is also very important. Cook everything that should be cooked, cooking at 60°C will kill most things. Bacteria also don’t really like soap and warm water so wash your hands and anything you cook with. Simple solutions can save lives and a lot of toilet paper.

Don’t believe me, well how about a 30 year expert in food science and technology. Jane Page has worked in a variety of companies in the food industry. For the last 20 years Jane worked as a Technical Manager for Pizza Hutt (she had a lot to do with keeping Pizza Hutt food safe). So don’t take my word for it, have a listen to what Jane has to say on food safety.

Interview with Jane Page

The simple message to take away from all this information… used by dates are the important ones. After the used by date most foods should be thrown away. Use common sense, if the food doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Avoid cans that have been dented or are bulging, meat that smells and is green and dried goods (like flour) that just simple looks wrong. Follow these simple rules and use a bit of common sense and food will be your friend.

If you want even more information check out: Food Standards Australia and New Zealand


Posted by on 30/08/2011 in Uncategorized


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