The number one thing to do for both health + beauty, and how you can achieve it

We eat our kale, train our butts off and (try) to limit our sugar intake. But there’s one critical piece of the puzzle missing for optimal health and wellbeing: sleep.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Image courtesy of Pinterest

In recent years, it was common to wear that elusive lack of sleep as a badge of honour. Less sleep meant a more packed life – more work, more gym, more socialising. Sleep? Who needs it? As one famous advertisement once stated, you can sleep when you’re dead.

But sleep is back, and with good reason. From influencers such as Arianna Huffington and Elle McPherson to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, everyone is talking about sleep, and how we can get more of it.

As the New York Times recently quoted, “for years, studies upon studies have shown how bad sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contributes to depression and other mood and mental disorders, as well as obesity, diabetes, cancer and an early death.” Sedated sleep – i.e. sleep induced by sleeping pills – has been proven to be just as ineffective as poor sleep.

So why are we standing up now and finally paying attention? Whether it is the popularity of the Swedish-born “hygge” craze, rise of the sober social scene, or just that self-care is now finally being prioritised, getting our nightly dose of shut eye is in vogue and, as the Times points out, a skill to be cultivated and nourished.

So how can we achieve our nightly dose? Below are three tips to help you get your nightly zzzs.

1. Aim to eat an earlier dinner

Food takes time to digest, and a large meal eaten close to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns. Even late night snacking can impact our ability to fall asleep. Aim to eat dinner 2 to 3 hours prior to shut eye. If you need something before bed, sip on herbal teas.

2. Develop and stick to a regular routine

Getting 8 hours’ of shut eye is considered optimal, so count back from when you need to get up the next day, and organise your nightly bed time routine around that.

At least two hours prior, limit or, if possible, stop all device usage. This means ignoring those Insta stories and the incessant Facebook scrolling. This extends to iPads too, or basically anything with a blue light, as these devices have been shown over and over again to disrupt sleep, by supressing the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone.

Read a book, have a cup of (herbal) tea or take a bubble bath. Indulge in activities that indicate to your body that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

3. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary

A darker bedroom promotes an environment more conducive to sleep. If your bedroom faces a streetlight or is otherwise bright, invest in some blackout curtains or blinds, which will completely darken the room.

Your bed plays a crucial role in cultivating sleep, so make it as cosy as you can. Invest in beautiful sheets, good pillows and adequate blankets and quilts. Make your bed a destination, and one you look forward to jumping in to!

If possible keep devices out of the bedroom all together. This means no televisions in bed, and ideally, no phones either. If, like most of us, your phone doubles as your alarm clock, you may wish to invest in an old school alarm clock, again as recommended by Arianna Huffington.

And never, ever work in the bedroom, especially in your bed. Work is for the office, or home office, and that’s where it should stay.

Given that sleep is crucial to resetting both our mind and body, start prioritising it tonight.

Eating with the seasons: September

Mid September beings a change of the seasons, where we start seeing less peaches and more squash. Here's what you will find at your local farmers' market this month:

Vegetables

*Beans, string

*Beans, shell

*Beets

*Beet greens

*Broccoli

*Cabbage

*Carrots

*Cauliflower

*Celery

*Collard greens

*Corn

*Cucumbers

*Eggplant

*Herbs

*Kale

*Lettuce

*Leeks

*Lima beans

*Mesclun

*Onions

*Peas

*Peppers

*Potatoes

*Pumpkins

*Radishes

*Scallions

*Spinach

*Squash, summer

*Squash, winter

*Swiss chard

*Tomatoes

*Turnips

Fruits

*Apples

*Blueberries

*Cantaloupes

*Grapes

*Peaches

*Pears

*Plums

*Prunes

*Raspberries

*Watermelon

 

In the spotlight: FarmersWeb

Bushel bins and pear trees at Migliorelli Farm, one of the farms that FarmersWeb collaborates with.

Bushel bins and pear trees at Migliorelli Farm, one of the farms that FarmersWeb collaborates with.

As you all know, I love local food, and I strive to support local farmers and communities whenever and however I can. 

In the spotlight today is a fabulous business called FarmersWeb. I caught up with David Ross, a co-founder of the business, to learn more about FarmersWeb and chat all things local food.

 

LT: Tell me a bit about FarmersWeb (FW) and how it came about.

DR: My co-founders and I noticed a connection gap in how producers and chefs connect. Producers were interested in selling to restaurants and other wholesale buyers, and chefs were interested in sourcing from local farms. Each side however had no easy way to find the other, and even once they did so, they then had to manage multiple sourcing relationships by phone, fax and email. This kept a lot of producers and buyers from doing business together. Even those chefs that sourced locally quite a bit were mostly collecting from farmers' markets, which is also time consuming and inefficient. 

We thought an online platform specially designed for these two groups would bring much-needed ease of access, transparency and efficiency to the process so that everyone could do more of it. Producers can easily post their real time inventory, manage orders, customers and payment, and keep track of sales all in one place. Buyers can find local producers to source from or work with ones they already know and do all their local sourcing on one platform. 

LT: There is a wide range of opinions on the meaning of "local" when it comes to food. What is FW's definition?

DR: We define local as a 250 mile radius from the buyer. 

LT: What has been your most memorable experience in the business so far?

DR: At FarmersWeb, we work with a wide range of producers and buyers. Some of the most rewarding moments however have been hearing from producers that have been able to use FW to streamline their business, reach new customers and boost sales as their first time selling to customer in any other way than being at a farmers' market. Likewise, hearing from chefs and other buyers who just started to source local (produce) because our platform made it easy. That's why we started the company, and it's fun and gratifying to see it happen. 

LT: What do you think is fuelling the growing interest in local food and the farm-to-table trend? 

DR: I think people are becoming more aware about what they eat, where it comes from, how it's been treated, and what's in it. Some of it is a concern for one's own health, and for some it's more about sustainability and supporting local farms and businesses. Or a bit of both. Chefs and stores that support and feature local farms, organisations dedicated to the cause such as Slow Food, as well as authors and journalists have played a big role in raising awareness of and interest in local food. 

LT: In your view, what is the biggest challenge (or challenges) that the local food movement needs to overcome?

DR: I think the movement is still somewhat in its beginning stages. Awareness and accessibility continue to be key components to driving the movement forward. 

At FW, we are trying to raise awareness that there are many local food producers to source from, and making it easy to source from them. 

Chefs and other food purchasers can continue to make a big difference by directing their food dollars towards local providers every day. Journalists can help educate the public on the benefits of eating locally and ways in which they can do so, and our elected officials can help foster a more friendly environment for local producers to compete against big food companies through such legislation as the Farm Bill but also at the local level. 

LT: How can the everyday consumer help support the local food movement?

DR: By eating and shopping at restaurants and stores that support and feature products from local producers, and encouraging their friends and family to do the same. Here in New York City, Slow Food NYC makes this easy through their Snail of Approval Program. On their website, consumers can view a directory of restaurants, bars, food and beverage artisans and stores and markets that, because of their contributions to the quality, authenticity and sustainability of the food supply of the City of New York, they have been awarded the SFNYC Snail of Approval.  

For more information about FarmersWeb, check out their website here.

How to eat on planes

My recent 'left over' salad lunch on a plane flight.

My recent 'left over' salad lunch on a plane flight.

Plane travel can be tiresome and gruelling, but there is another, larger problem when it comes to flying - food, and what to eat!

First thing's first - most people think that you can't bring food on planes. This is just simply incorrect! Below are some basic tips and ideas on staying healthy while travelling.

1. Never, ever eat plane food 

Food served on planes is simply disgusting. I don't care if you are sitting in first class, the food served on board has been prepared hours, perhaps even days in advance, and from ingredients that aren't fresh. Meals have to stay safe for consumption, so a ton of preservatives are unpronounceable ingredients are added to extend shelf life. 

2. Avoid airport food courts

Unless you are desperate, same goes for eating at airport food courts. You definitely don't need a big greasy meal sitting in you before you board a plane. 

If your only option is to grab food at the airport, look for the least processed meals. Some airports have pre-packed salads. Watch ingredients though - the dressings are packed with sugar, and they often contain added ingredients like candied nuts. They are also generally very expensive! 

Other airport options for quick snacks are small packets of nuts. Just be sure again to grab the least processed version, so go for the ones that are raw, or dry roasted with bit of salt.

3. Bring your own food!

I can't stress this one enough! If you are in for a long haul flight, aim to bring at least 2 meals - one being a fairly substantial meal (lunch / dinner) and breakfast options.

Some meal ideas are:

  • Salads (I recently ate my soba noodle salad on a flight to Aspen)
  • Quinoa with roasted vegetables
  • Almond butter + fruit for breakfast (you can buy small individual packets of nut butters)
  • Bread roll + avocado and fresh tomato (breakfast)

With a salad, you can throw a bunch of raw veggies in an airtight container (avoid glass jars as you won't be able to take them on board). Pack a whole, uncut avocado and slice on top of salad when you eat it, to add some good, filling fats. It's also a great way to use up whatever produce you have left over in your fridge before you go away!

Snack suggestions are:

Pre-made salads and meals keep well for several hours - longer if you take a cooler bag and a frozen ice pack (you can take frozen liquids through security, just make sure they don't melt first). Just remember to grab some plastic knives and forks from an airport cafe. 

If the flight is only an hour or more, it is unlikely you will need to eat at all, so remove temptations to snack on the cookies or other food they hand out on board. 

The key here is preparation. Never go hungry on a flight again when you pack your own fresh, healthy fare! 

 


How to keep fresh herbs fresh

There is nothing better than fresh herbs to add depth and flavour to a meal, especially with the bevvy of herbs available at the farmers' market during the summer. The only problem is, when not cared for properly, fresh herbs can wilt and turn bad at the drop of a hat. Here are a few tips to keep your herbs in tip top shape all week long.

Treat them like flowers

Just like flowers, fresh herbs come in bouquets. Treat them as such, by snipping off the end of their stems and storing them in a glass or jar filled with water. 

Keep basil at room temperature, but all other herbs can be stored in a glass in the fridge, covered lightly with a plastic bag to ensure freshness.

Fridge basics

Harder, woodier herbs, such as rosemary, can be wrapped gently in a damp paper towel followed by plastic wrap then placed in the crisper. An airtight container will also work. 

Washing étiquette

Only wash fresh herbs just before needed. This keeps dampness at bay, and helps to extend their life. 

Freeze like a boss

Along with other freezer favourites (soup, pesto etc.), fresh herbs can be frozen in some olive oil to preserve for use in colder months, when fresh produce is less readily accessible. I spotted this cool idea on The Kitchn where they point out that this trick is best done with hardier herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano. 

Freeze in ice trays with some olive and throw into a pan when sauteeing onion, leeks or other vegetables to infuse the delicious taste of the herbs through your cooking. 

 

Colourful cauliflower: How is it different?

Colourful cauliflower.jpg

You may have heard me before banging on about the importance of eating the rainbow. Well how much more rainbow can you get than gorgeous colourful cauliflower?! While everyone is familiar with the common white cauliflower, the colourful ones are brimming with goodness. But what are these varieties, and how are they different?

Nutritional profile

While white and colourful varieties of cauliflower share many of the same nutritional benefits, the colourful ones are said to be higher in several vitamins and minerals.

Purple

The purple variety gets its gorgeous dark hue from the same flavonoid elements responsible for the deep colours in red cabbage, purple carrots and various berries. These are called anthocyanins and they are understood to be an essential nutrient for good eye health. Some research even suggests they may alleviate some inflammatory conditions as a result of their strong antioxidant profile.

Yellow / Orange

These beauties are packed full of carotenoids, which give the vegetable its stunning colour. The darker the pigment in the cauliflower, the higher level of carotenoids it contains. Carotenoids are essential nutrients that work as potent antioxidants to keep our skin, eyes and mucous membranes at optimum level.

When eating foods with carotenoids, remember to include some good fats too, as these nutrients are only broken down and absorbed when eaten with a little fat. 

Cooking

Unlike purple beans, which lose their deep colour after cooking, colourful cauliflower retain their deep hues throughout and post cooking. These varieties are just as simple to prepare as traditional white cauli. Here are some ideas:

If nothing else, these caulis add a gorgeous depth of colour to your dinner plate and will transform even the most simple dish into something special. 

Eating with the seasons: August

summer squash.jpg

And summer rolls on. Get your hands on these delectable goodies at your local farmers' market!

Vegetables

* Beans, string

* Beets 

* Beet greens

* Broccoli

* Cabbage

* Carrots

* Cauliflower

* Celery 

* Collard greens

* Corn

* Cucumbers

* Eggplant

* Herbs

* Lettuce

* Leeks

* Mesclun

* Onions

* Peppers

* Potatoes

* Radishes

* Scallions

* Spinach

* Squash, summer

* Squash, winter

* Swiss chard

* Tomatoes

* Turnips

* Turnip greens

Fruits

* Apples

* Blackberries

* Blueberries

* Cantaloupes

* Currants

* Peaches

* Plums

* Prunes

Experiment with one new vegetable and fruit per week and expand your cooking repertoire. 


In the spotlight: Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi.jpg

Kohlrabi. Kind of looks alien-like doesn't it?! Rest assured that it isn't, and in fact, it is really delicious. The key is knowing how to eat it!

What is kohlrabi?

A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi comes in both pale green and (less common) purple hues. The taste is mild, similar to a turnip or a chestnut, yet with a slightly peppery tome. 

While usually available year-round, its best season is mid July to mid November (Northern hemisphere). 

How to buy kohlrabi

When you spot kohlrabi (especially the rare purple variety!) look out for firm, solid bulbs which will keep longer. Larger bulbs can sometimes be tough, so choose medium-sized varieties with crisp looking leaves. 

How do you eat it? 

While the entire plant is edible, the most commonly consumed part is the bulb at the bottom. Kohlrabi is a versatile little veggie, and can be eaten both raw and cooked. 

When raw, incorporate into salads, like the Ottolenghi's kohlrabi and cabbage salad (pictured below) or simply drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and eat as a snack, like you would a radish.

If cooking, cut into wedges or cubes, drizzle with olive oil and roast in a hot oven and allow the flavours to sweeten. You can also steam or stir fry.  

Ottolenghi's kohlrabi and cabbage salad with sour cherries and dill

Ottolenghi's kohlrabi and cabbage salad with sour cherries and dill


Eating with the seasons: July

Heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil and smoked sea salt

Can you believe it is already July?! This year is flying by, and we are well into the throng of summer in the northern hemisphere.

What does this mean for seasonal eating? Below is a list of all the divine vegetables and fruits that are filling the farmers' market stands this month. Stay tuned for lots of simple, fresh summer recipes too!

Vegetables

* String beans

* Beets

* Beet greens

* Broccoli

* Cabbage

* Carrots

* Collard greens

* Corn

* Cucumbers

* Herbs

* Lettuce

* Lima Beans

* Peas

* Peppers (capsicum)

* Potatoes

* Radishes 

* Rhubarb

* Scallions

* Spinach

* Summer squash

* Swiss chard

* Tomatoes

* Turnip greens

Fruits

* Apples

* Blueberries

* Cherries

* Peaches

* Plums

* Strawberries

* Raspberries

Remember - try to let the ingredients choose you, not the other way around, so look out for the freshest and ripest produce you can, and work up a recipe around that. If you're stuck for ideas, don't forget to ask your local farmer for suggestions! 

5 reasons to eat local

Know where your food comes from

Know where your food comes from

These are strange times we live in when we have no idea as to the origin of our food. We are happy to enjoy the red flesh of tomatoes all year round, top our oatmeal with strawberries each morning, and reach for the earthy, wooden tomes of asparagus for a hearty winter risotto.

Little do most know, if it not meant to be this way. Just like the weather, food cycles through seasons. One most unfortunate offspring of globalisation is that reduced travel time and cheaper overheads have allowed growing cycles to continue perpetually, with their bounty exported all over the world. The result is a flood in our grocery stores of strawberries in winter, root vegetables in summer and avocados and bananas all year round. 

Thankfully there is a way to reclaim control over what we put in our mouths and it is a simple solution that starts at home. Below are a few reasons highlighting the importance of seasonal, local eating. 

1. Local ensures freshness

Consuming produce that has been grown in the correct cycle and harvested at its peak is the best way to ensure maximum freshness and quality. 

2. It builds and strengthens communities

When you source your fresh produce from a farmers' market, you are doing more than just buying groceries. A local shop is a vote with your wallet. Each dollar you spend at your local market goes back to the farmer who grew your produce, not to big agriculture.

Keeping farms financially strong ensures the continued availability of local food for our communities. Through our food choices we can profoundly alter the state of our most precious supply chain, returning it to how it should be. 

3. It is better for the environment

Produce that is available year-round is that way because it travels to your grocery store, often covering thousands of miles before it is ready to be purchased.

Local food avoids this issue. A true farm-to-table system works by delivering freshly harvested food directly to the market or consumer, meaning the distance travelled is dramatically reduced. 

Secondly, because of the quick delivery time, local food doesn't clock up hours sitting in a warehouse or cooler, both of which place a huge energy drain on the environment. 

4. It raises awareness

Knowing where your food comes from is powerful knowledge. Having a level of awareness when it comes to food selection means that we immediately become intimately involved in the sourcing process. When we demand clean, sustainable and fresh food, instead of mass-produced, tasteless options, we become informed consumers. 

5. It promotes simplicity

Cooking a delicious meal from scratch isn't complicated and it doesn't have to involve a hundred ingredients. When you cook with high-quality food, the flavours speak for themselves, and you find that you need less to achieve more. 

Eating with the seasons: June

Radishes are in season at the moment

Radishes are in season at the moment

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm very big on seasonal eating. Buying produce direct from your farmer, at your local farmers' market, ensures that you are eating with the seasons, and therefore eating the way nature intended.

It is almost mid-June and we are almost at summer. With the warmer weather, there are more and more delectable things hitting the markets. Here is a quick run down of what is in season this month:

*Asparagus

*Beets

*Beet greens

*Broccoli

*Cabbage

*Herbs

*Lettuce

*Mesclun

*Peas

*Radishes

*Rhubarb

*Scallions

*Spinach

*Squash, summer

*Swiss chard

*Turnip greens

*Strawberries

Have fun with these ingredients by trying out some new recipes. Remember, when you eat with the seasons, food always tastes better! For some spring recipe inspiration, check out my strawberry and rhubarb crumble recipe or my arugula, mint and watermelon salad.

How to host a seasonal dinner party

A spring table setting

A spring table setting

Entertaining at home is a daunting task for many people. There is much to be planned and prepared, and sometimes just the thought of the shopping list can turn off even the most determined of us.

Hosting a dinner party is made instantaneously less stressful however when you embrace seasonal eating. Not only is it often much easier to source the food, but eating foods in season ensures freshness, quality and a taste profile that simply cannot be beaten. The flavours really speak for themselves, so simple preparation goes a long way when it comes to taste. 

Here are some tips to help you host a successful seasonal dinner party.

1. Plan ahead

If you don't already know, do some research and check out what vegetables and fruits are currently in season. A quick walk around your farmers' market is the easiest way to do this. Take some snaps of the produce you would like to include on your menu.

Next, check out some recipes that include seasonal produce. Try to find ones that feature your produce as the main taste so you can plan your meal around that one flavour. 

Determine what you will serve for nibbles, first and second course and dessert one week before the dinner party. 

2. Shop

Once you have a date for your dinner party, and have planned the menu accordingly, determine where and when you can shop to ensure you get the best ingredients. For example, if your dinner party is on a Thursday, but your local farmers' market is only open on Wednesdays, get as much produce as you can on the Wednesday, then complete the shop on the Thursday with any leftover things you may need.

Remember, quality trumps quantity here, so buy the highest quality produce you can afford. 

3. Read the recipes

Read your planned recipes from start to finish. If you are attempting a particularly tricky dish, it may pay to try it in advance of the dinner party, to see how it turns out.

With full knowledge of what you need to cook, you may be able to prepare many of the elements ahead of time, which will save you extra stress on the night. Things that can often be made in advance are sauces, dressings and some desserts. As you are cooking a seasonal meal, it is best to keep your menu light, so you should be able to put together the remainder of your menu relatively easily in the hours leading up to your guests' arrival. 

4. Don't overcomplicate

As I said above, seasonal eating is about highlighting the natural flavours of food. This means that you don't need to cover food in heavy cream dressings, marinades or batter. Use the juiciness of tomatoes to your advantage, or the sweetness of strawberries to enhance a dessert, instead of sugar. 

5. Choose your drinks

Seasonal entertaining doesn't stop at the food. When you know the dishes you are preparing, you can plan the drinks menu also.

If you're unsure about which wine goes with which dish, don't be shy to ask the salesperson at your wine shop. As a general rule, the lighter the meals, the lighter the drinks. For spring and summer, think light summary cocktails or aperitifs to begin, followed by white wine or rose. If you're entertaining in winter, try red wines and heavier dessert wines. 

6. Think outside the food

Seasonality also extends to other areas of your dinner party. Think about the flowers for your table setting. In spring, peonies make the perfect bouquet, whereas carnations are a lovely choice for the colder months. 

7. Remember to have fun

As much as hosting a dinner party is about the food, it is also about having fun! Spend time with your guests, engage in conversation and have a few glasses of wine. After all, what's the point in slaving away in the kitchen if you can't enjoy it?!