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10 healthy & tasty lunchbox ideas

Photo credit

Back to school it is! And with it comes the mighty daily challenge of filling the school lunchbox.

What to pack? How to make it healthy and delicious? How to make it so it’s eaten instead of brought back home or, worse, thrown in the bin?

Ahhh, yes, we’re sure these are the very questions that play on many parents’ minds. So, to help you out with this daily dilemma, we have 10 sure-thing ideas that’ll hit all the right buttons.

1. Sandwiches 

It’s not what’s in a name, but, rather, a case of what it’s made of. For wholesome sandwiches we suggest using Zeally Bay organic sourdough, or bread from Ancient Grains or GF Precinct for wheat-free and gluten-free options. As for the filling, boiled eggs, organic cheese, tinned tuna and leftover roast meats are your friends. Choose any one of them as the protein and then add any veggies, such as lettuce, cucumber, tomato, avocado and grated carrot – whatever your kids like. Choose a quality mustard or chutney if using.

2. Mini frittatas 

Choose your favourite frittata recipe, preferably one that also has some veggies in it, and instead of baking it in a large pan, use a greased muffin tin to make mini ones. Why not try this asparagus, or tuna, sweet potato and corn mini frittatas?

3. Dips & veggie crudités bento box 

Kids love bits and pieces. Hummus and avocado (guacamole) dips are good healthy options for kids. Add some cute veggie and fruit sticks, cubed cheese, and nuts (if your kid’s school allows).

4. Lettuce wraps 

Again, as with sandwiches, use leftovers (such as meatballs and roast meat), boiled egg and tuna to wraps into iceberg or cos lettuce leaves. Why not take a look at this one?

5. Stuffed mini capsicums ­­

Stuff little green capsicums (peppers) with a mixed of tuna/grated boiled egg, grated carrot, shredded lettuce and ricotta cheese. Simple, easy and healthy.

6. Fritters

Fritters make a great tasty and healthy lunchbox filler, especially if they are loaded with veggies. These vegetable fritters look just the part.

7. Apple sandwiches 

Core a whole apple, slice and place some cheese between two slices.

8. Savoury muffins

AS with fritters, savoury muffins also get kids excited. Remember, anything little and cute, right? Also, it’s easy for the little ones to eat. How about these pumpkin, quinoa and feta muffins?

9. Mini pita pizzas 

Which kid doesn’t love pizza? Plus pizzas are super quick to put together. Make it wholesome and delicious by using wholemeal mini pitas as your base; if you need a gluten-free option, we recommend GF precinct’s readymade base (it won’t be mini, though). Top the base with passata, thinly sliced veggies, and grated mozzarella, then bake for 10 minutes.  

10. Egg wrap rolls

This is ingenious. Make a thin two-egg omelette. Allow to cool a little, then use the omelette as a wrap: carefully lay some butter lettuce, thinly sliced avocado, and grated cheese and carrot as flat as possible on the omelette, then wrap. Slice wrap into thick rolls and pack tightly into lunch boxes.

Bonus tip – make it fun and enticing! 

Make your kid’s lunchbox exciting with fun shapes to encourage your little one to eat their lunch. Cookie cutters are a fantastic way to easily and quickly create shapes out of sandwiches, fresh fruit and veggies, homemade crackers, and cheese. We like this set of cute cookie cutters.

Also, cute lunch box containers help. We have plenty of food-safe stainless steel ones in store. Why not come and check them out?

Apples and Sage's Detox Green Juice

Feeling a bit sluggish? A fresh cold-pressed juice, made with organic produce, may well be the thing your body needs right now. After all, it’s January – the month following the one that bustles with activity, not to mention an overload of eating and drinking. 

So we thought we’d share our favourite green juice recipe with you. Packed full of nutrients, our green juice will detoxify and cleanse your body by helping your digestive system to eliminate waste and toxins.

Serves 1 

  • 1 cup kale leaves
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 apple
  • small handful mint
  • small handful parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger

Push each of the ingredients through your juicer, as per your juicer's instructions. For maximum benefits, drink your juice immediately, or store in the fridge and drink it within 24 hours.

If you don’t have a juicer, fear not! Just try one of our cold-pressed juices from our juice bar while you do your shopping instead. Don't they look pretty?

 

 

 

5 health benefits of apple cider vinegar

Photo credit: Phongnguyen1410

There are a lot of wild claims about apple cider vinegar on the internet. It’s been touted as the liquid gold that can do everything from increasing your energy to making your skin glow. Here, we take a look at 5 of the more credible health benefits of apple cider vinegar.

1. Regulate blood sugar and aid in diabetes

Studies done in humans have shown that vinegar can increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels – after sleep and in response to a meal.

These findings show that apple cider vinegar can help people with Type 2 Diabetes, a disease that’s characterised by insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin.

Despite this benefit, however, it doesn’t mean you can neglect your diet.

2. Weight loss

Since vinegar can lower blood sugar and insulin levels, it’s plausible that it could also help you to lose weight.

A study in 175 obese Japanese individuals showed that daily vinegar consumption reduced belly fat, waist circumference, blood triglycerides and weight. However, as with diabetes, you still need to exercise and eat healthily if you want to lose weight and maintain it.

3. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure

Studies done in rats have shown that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol, triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

As results in animals are not always translated to Homo sapiens, we need research in humans to confirm these cardiovascular benefits.

4. Shiny, healthy hair

Even though there isn’t any formal research in this area, many advocates swear that apple cider vinegar makes their hair glossy and scalp dandruff-free.

Beauty bloggers of all things natural purport mixing one part vinegar with one part water, then applying it to your hair and leaving it in for 5–15 minutes before rinsing.

5. Digestion

It’s been long known that drinking apple cider vinegar, diluted in water, can help to improve your digestion. Taking diluted apple cider vinegar before a meal is believed to stimulate digestive juices and breakdown food.

These digestive benefits only apply if you use unpasteurised (raw) and unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’. Commercial brands are pasteurised and devoid of the enzymes and healthy bacteria that help with digestion.

Which apple cider vinegar to use

We believe it’s important to use real apple cider vinegar – the raw, unpasteurized kind, with the ‘mother’. With its brown, murky strands, which rest at the bottom of the bottle, the mother is full of good bacteria and, therefore, is beneficial for your gut. While Bragg is the most widely available and, perhaps, the cheapest, we love and highly recommend the local, biodynamic brand Mock Red Hill. Both are available in store.

How much?

Apple cider vinegar seems to be safe. Even though some people also drink it diluted in water, the most delicious way to consume it is in salad dressings. Common amounts range from 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) to 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) per day.

Do you take apple cider vinegar? How has it helped you?

 

Need a gluten-free Christmas? Try these.

Mince pies. Fruit cakes. Puddings. Yes, it’s that time of year. But if you need to give gluten a miss, it doesn’t mean you need to forego on the yumminess – we have goodies that’ll make your Christmas deliciously gluten-free without anyone being the wiser.

 

We particularly love this gluten-free fruit cake from Mandy’s. Gluten-free goodies are usually filled with rubbishy processed starches and soy, but not this cake. It’s mostly fruit, with a bit of sugar. And the main gluten-free flour used – buckwheat  – is high in protein. It’s a deliciously moist beauty too.

Next on our favourite list are these gluten-free GF Precinct mince pies. If you’ve eaten GF Precinct’s gluten-free breads before, then you’ll know of their second-to-none quality and taste – and these pies do not disappoint. The ingredients, as with Mandy’s fruit cake, are clean and tasty to boot. Think currant, apple, raisins, sultanas, orange peel, lemon zest, lemon juice, brandy, mixed spice and nutmeg. Need we say more?

Last, but not least, is this pretty innovative plum pudding ice cream from the folks at Gundowring. Using chestnuts and almonds from the Murray Valley, fruit from South Australia, and the fresh creamy Gundowring milk, this ice cream makes for a delicious and cool – not to mention, gluten-free – treat. Perfect for the summery Aussie Christmas, it'll happily sit next to any traditional plum pudding and fruit salads.

All these gluten-free options are perfect for your Christmas table, or to give as a ‘no-brainer’ gift to friends you'll be seeing over the Christmas season. Or simply keep a secret stash in your pantry – not the ice cream, though!

These products are available in store now. Shall we see soon, then?

Merry Christmas,

The Apples and Sage Team xx

Eight tips to keep your health this festive season

The kids are on holidays. There are countless parties and family gatherings at which you ‘need’ to be. Presents to buy. Shopping to do. And holidays to sort out. Then there’s all that food.

You get the picture.

So, here are our 8 top tips to keep your health (and sanity) in check as you fast approach Christmas.

1. Do not skip meals

Take the time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner made with nutritious wholefoods as much as possible. You will give yourself a better chance of eating less processed foods, and making smart decisions when your body and mind are nourished.

2. Hydrate

About 70% of your body is made up of water. It moisturises you from the inside out. So, drink enough water, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in water. Your brain and skin will thank you for it. Especially if you have one too many (see tip below) at this time of year.

3. Go easy on the alcohol

Consider having your first drink after you’ve eaten something solid. Then alternating your drinks with water. Sparkling water can make you feel as if you’re still having something special. This way you can enjoy the festivities without having a tipple too many – or end up with embarrassing moments!

4. Keep physically active

Unfortunately, exercise easily falls by the wayside at times of busyness and stress. Keep your commitment to exercise – consider it as keeping an appointment with a good friend or boss! Schedule it into your diary. Exercise is a natural antidepressant. So, when you feel great, you make much better choices. 

5. Get enough sleep  

We understand it’s party time, and the occasional late night can be quite fun – but not when it becomes a day-to-day affair. If you regularly skimp on sleep, you won’t be in the right frame of mind to make even the simplest of decisions – what to eat, what present to buy, etc. So back yourself with getting enough sleep most nights.

6. Don’t overcommit or feel obligated

Plan and select only those events that reasonably fit into your schedule. As you commit, schedule them into your diary. Keep stock of what you agreed to by checking with your calendar daily so that you are not overcommitting. You will have a ‘gut feeling’ as to how many events per week are too much for you. Also, when you can, only say yes to those that get you excited. To RSVP with a no, there is no need to explain. Simply say you’re unable to attend.

7. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Whether you’re cooking the Christmas feast, doing the shopping, sending out cards. Lists help, and so does delegating. Even though you may love to do it all, it may be wise to enlist some helpers. The same applies for buying presents – write a list for whom you’re going buy a gift, and what it’ll be before you head to the shops. You will save yourself a lot of time and energy – and enjoy this time of year even more. 

8. Focus on the fun, not food

When you have an engaging conversation – or are dancing! – at a party you more likely to forget about the food because you’re having fun. We tend to look for food at a party when we’re bored, unsure or nervous. If you’re an introvert, finda kindred spirit and get chatting. Or, if you’re at home, and the fridge or pantry is calling you with its Christmas goodies, busy yourself with other fun stuff – such as wrapping presents, writing thoughtful cards, calling loved ones, sorting out photos – or even pumping up the music to dance! (Yes, did you notice that we like to dance?)

We hope you like our 'sage' advice. Got any of your own to share?

The Apples & Sage team xx

 

Our 'Apples and Sage' Stuffing Recipe

It’s only 22 days to Christmas. And since Christmas is all about family and feasts – well, for the adults anyway – do you know what’s on your menu?

When it comes to cooking your Christmas feast, whether you’re traditional or unconventional, our apples and sage stuffing – which is also gluten and dairy free – is sure to please all.

 

Stuff it into a turkey or chook, roll it into a pork loin or mix it into minced meat to make your burger patties (hello BBQ Christmas!). Or, for vegetarian meals, use it in a gratin and as a stuffing for baked capsicums. You can also sprinkle it over a veggie lasagna or quiche before cooking in the oven.

As you can see, there are a myriad of options for our delicious stuffing. Isn’t the name fitting too? We thought as much as well.

Here’s to getting deliciously stuffed this Christmas.

Apples and Sage stuffing recipe

  • 2 apples (Granny Smith or Golden), cored and diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped sage
  • 1 onion, diced (optional, or 2 tbsp spring onion)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup Gluten Free breadcrumbs (we like to use GF Precinct or Naturis buckwheat bread, which we lightly toast and allow to cool before processing into breadcrumbs)
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp Himalayan salt 

 

Combine all ingredients. And work your delicious magic.

Enjoy,

The Apples and Sage Team xx

PS: A very important note – Still need to get your turkey for Christmas? One without hormones and chemicals? Then you better be quick. Call us on 9836 6132 or drop in by 14 Dec to place your order. You'll have to make your own stuffing, though. But we've armed you with a recipe, plus we sell the ingredients too – even the apples and sage!

PPS: Hams are also available in store, or they can be ordered by 14 Dec as well.

Watermelon granita

Big and juicy, watermelons make for a messy treat. Yet, it’s a treat worth its size – despite watermelon juices running down your chin. 

Why? Because watermelon packs a mighty nutritious punch. Think nutrients such as lycopene (a powerful antioxidant), and vitamins A (for your eyes), B6 (for your nerve and immune health) and C (to boost your immune system). 

And being made up of a whopping 92% of water, watermelons are super cooling and cleansing too. Just what you need for the long summer days. 

Here’s a delicious watermelon granita recipe that is sure to keep the kids (and adults) happy and cool this summer.

Watermelon granita recipe

 

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion.

  • flesh from 1 x 500 g piece watermelon
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • torn mint leaves for serving (optional)

 

Roughly chop watermelon flesh and puree in a blender or food processor – you need 1½ cups of puree.

In a bowl, mix the puree with the lime juice and maple syrup. Then pour into a shallow tray and freeze.

To serve, scrape the granita with a metal spoon or fork, and piled loosely into chilled glasses with mint leaves scattered on top. (Or you can pulse the granita quickly in a food processor, before spooning into an airtight container and freezing until needed. The trick is not to delay serving for too long as the granita will become a slushy mess – or too icy when you go to refreeze).

Tip: Don’t know what to do with the leftover watermelon rind? Well, don’t toss ‘em out. There are plenty of things you can do, from pickling them to making chutneys and salads. Once you're done making the granita, why not try this watermelon rind, carrot and pineapple slaw recipe from the Watermelon Board, and reduce your food waste at the same time?

[Photo source: Flickr]

5 reasons to eat glorious stone fruit

There are only 18 sleeps to summer, and you know what that means, right?

Yep, summer’s treasure trove of fruits is upon us.

Summer’s fruits are the season’s way of telling us that we need a quick source of energy and hydration to get through its long, hot days. And stone fruits get our pick!

The mighty stone fruit family includes peaches, cherries, nectarines, apricots and plums. And we think they’re all delicious, but that’s not the only reason to eat them.

Here are 5 body-loving reasons to get some stone fruits into you this summer:

1. Keeps you regular

With the soft skin and flesh, stone fruits are full of fibre. Fibre helps you to cleanse your insides by encouraging healthy bowel movement. It also keeps you feeling full for longer, and, for this reason, has shown to benefit diabetes (see below) and control weight.

2. Protects your eyesight

The vibrant yellow-fleshed nectarines and peaches, and especially apricots are rich in beta-carotene — an important antioxidant and the precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A can help to protect your eyesight. It’s also required for healthy skin and mucus membranes, and for night vision.

3. Reduces inflammation & boosts the immune system

Stone fruits are full of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to prevent oxygen damage to fats, which helps to reduce chronic inflammation and protect against many modern lifestyle diseases. Also high in the antioxidant Vitamin C, stone fruits also give a boost to your immune system.

4. Promotes nerve and muscle health

Bananas are not the only fruit with high levels of potassium. Stone fruit contain high amounts of this mineral too, which is essential nerve and muscle health. Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, irritability and increased blood pressure.

5. Fights-off obesity-related diabetes

Research has shown that peaches, plums and nectarines have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight-off obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To us, this makes sense, since these fragrant and juicy fruits are full of fibre and antioxidants.

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Now that you know how healthy stone fruits are, why don’t you enjoy them while they’re in season?

You can grill them, bake them, poach them — or eat them messily over the sink with the juice running down your chin and arm. They’re also great in cakes, flans and muffins too.

Just remember to go organic, as stone fruit are known for retaining pesticide residue.

So come in store and get your favourite stone fruit for a delicious, peachy summer! 

[photo credit: http://bit.ly/1wcPvXc]

We’re having a party & you’re invited!

[image source]

Guess what? Apples and Sage has turned 1, and we’d like to celebrate with our most favourite folk — you!

While that might sound cheesy, it’s entirely the truth. You see, many business fail within their first year of opening up shop, so, literally, we wouldn’t be here without you.

To show our deepest gratitude to our great community of customers and suppliers, we’re hosting a week-long party, starting this coming Monday, 6 October. And you’re invited.

Expect plenty of tastings from our favourite organic wholefood suppliers. Think The Grateful Harvest Kombucha, Pana Chocolate, Dr Chan’s Ferments, The Fermentary Sauerkraut, Ed’s Breads, Forage Cereal, Loving Earth, First Press Coffee, Cob’s Popcorn, Conscious Chocolate, The Raw Wine Company, Dairy Farmers Cheese, Coconut Magic Bars (gosh we could go on) plus plenty more.

There will be loads of great specials in-store throughout the week too.

Please extend this invitation to your family and friends who haven’t had the chance to visit us yet, especially anyone seeking to eat better and look after their health.

So, please come in and help us to celebrate what we’ve created together.

Frankly, we can’t wait!

Asparagus is here! + A zesty asparagus recipe

We’re excited! Spring has sprung. And do you what that means for real foodie lovers like us at Apples and Sage?

Asparagus is in season!

Asparagus only comes around once each year: in spring, and may stretch into early summer. So if you’re buying it any other time of year, know that it has been imported.

[photo source: Flickr]

Not only is asparagus tasty, it’s also a healthy green vegetable! With good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid and potassium (and a little iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc too), it makes for a great vitamin and mineral hit.

At Apples and Sage we like to use asparagus in omelettes and frittatas, salads (quickly blanched), and stir fries. But our favourite way is pan-fried and served with eggs for breakfast. Here’s a recipe for zesty, pan-fried asparagus. Enjoy!

Zesty asparagus

Serves 2 | Cooking time 5 minutes | dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 12 spears)
  • 2 tsp olive oil or ghee
  • 2–3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • zest of half lemon
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • sea salt and black pepper, to season
  • crushed hazelnuts (or any nuts), to serve

 

Wash and dry the asparagus spears.

Snap off the woody tips (they snap off easily; it takes off about 2 cm/1 inch).

Chop the spears in half.

Heat oil/ghee in a fry pan over low–medium heat.

Add the garlic and zest. Sauté for a few seconds.

Next, add the asparagus spears. Sauté for about 3–4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. We like ours firm and a little crunchy.

Squeeze over some lemon juice and season. Then sprinkle over the crushed nuts.

Serve as a side to any main dish. Or enjoy with a couple of eggs and yummy sourdough toast for a quick, easy and delicious breakfast.

Variation

Not a fan of asparagus or it’s not in season — try this recipe with broccolini or broccoli instead.

What’s your favourite way to eat asparagus?