Monday 29 June 2015

Reducing the salt - the exceptionistas

Her sister glowered at her, as only sisters can.

"Toast," she said darkly. "There's always toast." Funny how Mom's words are recalled if and only if your sister needs to hear them.

"I'll have some lasagne, Mom." The recipient of the glare was defiant.

"Sure, angel." Knowing the worst was yet to come.

"How can you eat lasagne?" the glowerer sputtered. "You're a vegetarian. You said so." And we have all had to put up with this, her tone implied.

"Yes, I am. I am still a vegetarian. I just make an exception for lasagne."

"Oh." pondered the glowerer. And then in her most sarcastic tone yet - "So you're an exceptionarian."

We have them in all our families. the exceptionistas. The vegetarians who just have bacon. Or one of my very veg friends who confessed to a toasted chicken mayonnaise fetish recently. I love her so much.

Home made mayonnaise


1 egg, room temperature
15 ml lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
15ml whey (optional)
Tiny pinch of salt
250ml macadamian nut oil
15 ml white wine vinegar (optional)


Beat egg, lemon juice, whey and mustard in blender on low for 30 seconds. Add oil slowly, in a steady stream, and watch it emulsify. If you did add the whey, leave the mayonnaise out at room temperature for 5 hours so that the whey is activated. The whey will make your mayonnaise last longer. I add 15ml vinegar when I transfer to a jar - just for added tang. Yum.

A note on whey: Whey is the clear liquid that you get if you strain yoghurt

Low sodium seed loaf

1 cup Bran
2 cups Wholewheat flour
1 cup white flour (preferably organic)
70g mixed seeds – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds, poppy seeds - any combination
10g Dry yeast
1 tbsp organic sugar syrup/honey
1 tbsp Molasses, or double the honey
Pinch of Salt
600ml Tepid water (Just warmer than room temp - about a third hot, and two-thirds cool)


  • Mix the water, yeast, molasses and honey together in a bowl/ small jug.
  • Allow the yeast to begin fermentation (+/- 10-15 minutes)
  • When the yeast is frothy it is ready to be added to the rest of the ingredients.

Friday 26 June 2015

Ten of the best #2

Last week's post, Ten of the Best, got quite a lot of attention. A few of you referred to the fact that I would now do this weekly. All because I pointed out that Saturday morning was a good time to catch up on what you missed on social media, and I was being helpful by posting this all in one place. Please be aware that this is not a commitment to do this weekly. But you were so nice, I am doing it again, Just this week. Here's a round up of my favourites. Ten of them:

For those who missed last week - don't forget your back button in your browser. It'll bring you right back here so that you can keep scrolling through all the amazing stuff.

1. We start with something heavy. Let's just say it. SA is not having a good day. Or a good week. Our government's blatant disregard for the rule of law makes us wonder if we have anything left to be remotely proud of. This was a good article from the Daily Telegraph:

2. Make you want to drink more? Here's the good news - you can, red wine is good for us. Trust me to find the article on the food you know you really want to consume. Click the pic.

3. Yayyay for Taytay. Taylor Swift is my favourite artist. She's

Monday 22 June 2015

Reducing the Sodium - Read the labels

My previous food blog explains that we eat too much salt, and how much is enough.

So, what do we do about it? Well, there are some foods that are just way too high in sodium, and we should just never eat. Ever. This goes for anything processed, packaged, and any stock powders, soup powders, pasta mixes, etc. Check out the sodium content on the left - it is standard beef stock from Woollies.

That is a massive 6770mg per 100g of sodium. Remember, we are targeting 100mg per 100g. So it is 67 times too much. Granted, you are not going to add 100g of stock powder to your stew. You are going to add 20mg (the serving size), and that has 1354mg of sodium. If you eat a sixth of the stew, that is 225mg, but still. That’s more than half of your meal allowance if you are trying to cut back to 1300mg per day. And that's just the sauce. There is more sodium in the meat, vegetables and other sides. I’d rather have little to no sodium in my stock powder, so that I can have a tiny bit on the potatoes, thank you. The good news is that you can get low sodium versions, or make your own. Far better.

Lamb Korma

This recipe uses a slow cooker. But if you don't have one, just make it on a low heat on the stove. It is so quick to prepare. And then you just leave it to stew. You could prep it in the morning, and come home to turn the heat off 4-6 hours later. We all love it (which cannot be said for all my favourite low salt recipes).

2 tablespoons butter
500g lamb – (more if the bones are in – which is fine)
1 onion - sliced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 (2cm) piece fresh ginger root, grated, or cut into small pieces
6 cardamon pods, slightly crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
200g plain yoghurt
Freshly ground black pepper
60ml cream
2 tablespoon flaked almonds
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander 

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Brown the lamb pieces until golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat into the slow cooker.
Add onion slices to the pan; cook until softened. Stir in garlic, ginger, and for extra zing some fresh chilli. Transfer to slow cooker.
Heat the cardamon pods and crushed coriander seeds in the same pan. Stir in ground coriander, cloves, turmeric and cumin. Stir in the yoghurt. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to slow cooker and mix with lamb and onions. The lamb may not be completely covered, which is fine.Cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours, or until lamb is tender. Remove bones, if you want to.

Stir in cream and almonds. Serve with naan bread and fresh coriander.

You may also like Homemade beef burgers

More recipes

Sunday 21 June 2015

Ms Conception by Pamela Power

4 out of 5 stars

This story is so familiar and true to life. In a very good way. Those of us who have balanced a career, breastfeeding, young toddlers, all the while worrying about keeping our husbands moderately happy will relate.

I loved the unashamed South-African-ness of it. Too often, I read novels set in this country that are serious and worry too much about being on the right side of the political fence and portraying the correct picture of all the many issues that trouble our country (still). But reading, for me, is an escape, and it was a welcome change to read a story that could have been me, or my neighbor, but so much funnier. Pamela Power nailed the little things, and for me, that made this more absorbing. The relaxed, confident writing style also contributed to my enjoyment.

Saturday 20 June 2015

My Father's Eyes

Do I see these things because I know him, or can you tell just by looking? The picture on the right is of a gentle, wise and loving soul – my father.

What you cannot see from the picture, but I see clearly, every time I think of him, is his eyes. Blue, according to his passport, but often with shades of green that echo mine, and sometimes tinged with fathomless grey. Yet the gorgeous colour is the least important thing to me about his eyes.

My father saw me when I was a little girl. He used those green-gray pearly blues to really see me.  He was an involved dad. He didn’t just see me running in races, swimming in galas or playing in piano eisteddfods. He saw so much more. He saw that everything I did – from trying so hard to do better at sports, at which I was a dismal failure, to dancing in a lilac ballet tutu to being top of my class – was because I wanted him to be proud of me.

We spent many long moments  gazing into each other’s eyes.

Friday 19 June 2015

Ten of the best

I am on Facebook a lot. Especially recently. When I am scrolling through my feed, I often don't have time to read articles properly, or my connection isn't fast enough to open video clips, or even lots of pictures. Then, when I do have time and speed, I've forgotten what it is I want to see. I know I should "share" to my timeline for later watching, but I don't want to do that - what if it's not great, and I've inflicted it on all my besties?

So, I thought, what about a  collection for when you are sitting in bed on a Saturday morning? Your husband has brought your favourite morning beverage, and the kids are not yet awake to claim their share of slow internet. I call that a happy Saturday.

This is my recent "best of"s - interesting articles, good songs, funny comics and clips that are worth sharing and keeping.

It isn't in any particular order.

And this post has nothing to do with the fact that this week I learned how to post a picture on my blog, so that if you "click on the picture" you go straight to the article. Flipping awesome, isn't it?

So here is the best of the social media feeds I've seen recently...all in one place.

It's a pleasure.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Bev's Best Books

I started this blog to have a place to post my reviews on the books I read, to write about things - running and healthy eating, and just life in general.

I am reading so much, that in order to try to find something you will like, you would need to trawl through my many and varied reviews, in a number of genres. Of course, I could gush over every single thing I read (in fact, members of my book club think I do that far too much) but that seems counter-productive – some have to be better than others, right?

So what I am going to do is post a regular summary page. It won’t go back too far – about three months at the most. I’ll limit the number I recommend at a time to no more than seven – the maximum number of books I could walk home from the library with as a girl, having stolen the whole family’s library cards (well, my mother's, my sister wouldn't let me).

I will sort by genre, and give a very quick summary of why you will like the book. If you are interested, click on the picture of the book to link through to my full review. (I know, I know, how clever am I? Don't tell my daughter how long it took me to get that right. Let's just say longer than it took to write this post. But the links work, I checked every one!) And don't forget to use the "back" button to come right back here when done. 

Oh, and no spoilers. Anywhere.

Chick Lit/ Women’s fiction – a huge genre, I know.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – this is an exceptional book, because it manages to be funny, shocking and clever, all at the same time. I looked for a quote to give you some of the essence:
Bonnie and her mum are both members of Amnesty International," said Abigail.
"Of course they are," murmured Madeline. This must be how Jennifer Aniston feels, thought Madeline, whenever she hears about Angelina and Brad adopting another orphan or two.”
A tale of murder and mystery set at a junior school, with heaps of laughter and craziness thrown in.  You can see their faces, hear their voices. It’s like they’re your neighbours. Oooh!

New favourite author – Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer is just fabulous (not just cos our names sound similar). She has written quite a few books, but I only discovered her recently. She grew up partly in SA, now lives in Wales. She never set out to be a crime writer, and was most surprised, when her publisher gave her a contract for a second book, the condition was to include a crime. (She wanted to write about an alien abduction.) Her books have murders, or crimes, she says, because those are the plots that best develop her characters, and she can explore all the relationships and human drama. It works. Think Jodi Piccoult with as much angst but more action.

Rubbernecker is about a doctor with a personality disorder, fascinated by death and it's  also about coma patients. It is (I know, because I talked to her when she was in SA recently) Belinda's favourite, and has been nominated for all sorts of awards.

The Shut Eye is my best - it's about a little boy who goes missing, the last trace of him being footprints in drying concrete. Go on, you know you want to.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

5 reasons to run in winter

This morning was the third day. Of not running. I woke so early – it was still dark. I had to run. I didn’t want to. Not even flop, drop and hop worked for me today. (That is a routine I learned from a friend on Facebook, it’s brilliant) I had tea. I was reading. Not going to run. So I thought I’d post an encouragement to all of you struggling with the same thing. Five reasons we should run in winter.

We all eat too much in winter. How many different carbs did you have for dinner last night? How much red wine? And what about dessert? If you’re anything like me– the answers to those questions are five, too much and are you really asking that question, please don’t ask me that question. I rest my case - that’s exactly why we should be running – we ate too much last night.

On the way to school, me in my unattractive running gear, no make-up on and looking at the frost on the grass pavement, I moaned about the cold. One of my daughters commented: “So don’t run then. It’s way too cold. Why do you run when it’s cold?” I had to dig deep. Why would anyone run when it’s cold? I thought my answer was pure genius. “I run, I get cold, but then my bath…there is nothing like a warm bath after a run on a cold day. It’s divine.” She rolled her eyes and raised her eyebrows at the same time.

Monday 15 June 2015

Home made rolls

These are so much nicer when you bake them. And you can. I am the world's worst baker, so if I can, you can too!

4 cups white bread flour (cake flour also works)
1 packet instant yeast (10g)
1 tablespoon honey
Dash of salt (or lo-Salt, if you have it)
1 tablespoon malt powder (if you don’t know what on earth this is, substitute molasses, or treacly syrup, or just add a little more honey)
1 egg
1 eggwhite
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 and a quarter cups water, tepid.

These are baked by me - promise. I sprinkled sesame seeds to look professional
Combine 3 cups of the flour and the other dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. I use a stand mixer, with a dough hook but I have made these using my sister’s hand held mixer. The dough is quite sticky, so I haven’t tried to knead by hand. If you do, make the kneading for ten minutes.

Mix in the water, honey, eggs and oil. Knead in mixer for 5-7 minutes, adding rest of flour slowly. The dough should form a fairly manageable large ball. If it looks stringy, and isn’t coming away from the sides of the bowl, keep adding flour.

Cover with glad wrap, and a tea towel, dampened with warm water. It will double in size in about 40 minutes.

Homemade beef burgers

Jamie’s Burgers - adapted to be lower sodium

12 water biscuits or few matzos, crushed, or two handfuls white breadcrumbs – salt free

500g minced beef

1 large egg

1 tsp mustard (or mustard powder – to your taste)

A generous few shakes of mixed spices (I used a combo of cumin, coriander, ginger and cloves, ground in spice grinder)

Olive oil

Mix all the ingredients except the olive oil and shape into patties. Drizzle with olive oil and leave covered in the fridge for a bit.

When you are ready to cook them, fry until cooked – about 5 minutes on medium to high heat.

Garnish with lettuce, tomato and fried onions (compulsory in our house) on freshly baked rolls. Serve with oven-baked chips if you want them - try adding herbs, fresh rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil, with just a sprinkle of lo-Salt. And here's the link to home made tomato sauce. My favourite.

Why low sodium? Read here.

More recipes

Reducing the salt and home made burgers

I promised a recipe a week – you got one last Monday for Broccoli Soup. And today, you get one for Homemade Beef Burgers.

But first, the story…reducing the salt:

I’ve got high blood pressure. My sister has polycystic kidneys, which she got from my Dad. My eldest daughter has had a few kidney stones. So clearly, one of the things we need to do as a family is eat less salt. Not exactly rocket science. But easier said than done.

You may think that eating less salt is merely not adding it. Yes that helps. As does cutting out all processed and prepackaged food.  In fact, that probably solves most of the problem. Problem is, even once you have done that, you are still getting too much salt daily. There is salt in almost everything – carrots, celery, and even spinach. And even if you “never add salt”, you may be getting too much.

So “how much is enough?” I hear you ask. Less and less, actually. The more studies are done, the more research shows that less is more, in this case. When we consulted a dietician for kidney stones, she gave us some sound advice – For normal people no more than 1 teaspoon per day (or 2300mg). That is a third of a teaspoon with each meal. For those of us who need to eat less salt, it is half of that. You can achieve this if you eat foods with no more than 100mg of salt per 100g of serving. 

Most fruit and vegies are fine, actually. As are most foods that are fresh and not smoked or cured in any way. But how do you tell?

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

5 out of 5 stars

So, I’m not giving anything away if I say the book is about two brothers. They are born at the same time as the Nazi party in Germany. The book follows their lives and loves and weaves a wonderful tale of childhood fun, romance and then war. My husband reads more war stories than me, so I’ll quote him here: “Where the book earns its accolades is how it provides insight into the workings of the national psyche in Germany over this tumultuous time. How does a nation slowly turn on the Jewish people and become complicit in the extermination of millions of people? Elton brilliantly critiques the evils of nationalism, elitism, racism, through the lives of his characters.”

This was a brilliant read. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Not only was the history well researched, it was written from such a personal perspective, that I couldn't put it down, except when I needed a break from the raw emotion. And then I had to take it up again, because I couldn't wait any longer to see how the story developed.

I read it start to finish in a single day, and it left me breathless at times. Who says historical fiction can’t be page-turning of note?

One of my books of the year!

You may also enjoy Time and Time Again by the same author.

ISBN:  9780593062050

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton

4 out of 5 stars

Imagine if you could go back in time and change one thing in history. What would you do? Hooked? I was. Once I’d stopped trying to think of all the things in my life I’d go back and do differently, I did start to think about society – where did it all go wrong?

But what really drew me in is that I cannot imagine writing about this. How do you begin to plot a novel where altered history is your canvas? Where do you start? How does it end? Just. How anything?

Having read Two Brothers, I had no doubt that if anyone could write this, it would be Ben Elton. He is a brilliant storyteller, and manages to take history and find the familiar, the personal, and still keep the facts intact. In this novel, Hugh Stanton is the one who must ride off into the sunrise of time and save the universe. And, an ex- army MacGyver type with no personal ties, he is the very person for the job.

Friday 12 June 2015

I get knocked down...

I remember the first time. It was a cold morning. We were blowing on our cold hands, rubbing them together as we started our run from school.

Anyone ever run a gauntlet? For those of you who haven’t, here are a few examples: Warning – you may need to use some imagination…

Gauntlet  #1: Negotiating a very long queue at Woollies with a toddler (or two) in tow. Make that a hungry toddler who eyes all the brightly coloured, attractively packaged sweets/chocolates and other unhealthy choices. And you have maxed your credit card. And you have just enough cash for the bread and milk you have to get. 

Gauntlet #2: Imagine you are a small edible fish. You have to swim against the current to get to your food source. Not only that, the shadows of sharks and other hungry predatory fish are looming. How fast will you swim? 

Gauntlet #3: You are playing a game of touch rugby with a group of people much bigger, stronger and faster than you. You catch the ball, but there is no one else to pass it to. You have to make a dash for the try line. There are only 4 huge boys who are defending. You run like hell. 

So our version of the gauntlet on this fine wintry morning is the fact that we are in our running gear – you know – tight leggings, figure hugging lycra, caps hiding bed hair.

Saturday 6 June 2015

My food journey: The basics

The story – there is always a story with food. It’s never only about the food, is it?

I have always considered myself a fairly healthy person – eating and exercise wise. I had two children in my early thirties, and didn’t worry about weight much, as I never had to really. As a teenager, if I wanted to lose weight, I watched what I ate for a while, and was fine.

Kids at school, I started walking/running as exercise with a friend, and the bug bit. I loved running, and lost some weight, which was a bonus. Then, gradually, year by year, my weight increased, kilogram by kilogram, until I weighed what I had done at my most pregnant. I was still happy, and still running. One day I looked at a photograph, and I had to admit, I looked overweight. At this point, I should mention that I am a shortie – 5 foot 2. The other shorties out there know this truth - when I put on weight, I look fat quickly.

I read an article in the Times magazine on why exercise won't make you thin that claimed that although exercise has benefits, weight loss is not one of them. In short, we have a limited amount of self-control. If we control ourselves sufficiently to exercise, it is unlikely that we have enough resistance left to avoid the doughnut/pastry/pizza we crave. This rang true for me. Thus began my journey.

Bev's Broccoli Soup

Compulsory ingredients:
Broccoli - whole or florets
1-2 Onions (peeled- one large or two small)
Chicken/veg stock (low sodium or homemade) adjust quantity depending on ingredients.

Optional ingredients:
Leeks - 3-4, or just the one leftover in the fridge
Baby marrows (courgettes), turnip and potato all work too.
Rocket, basil, spinach, watercress, coriander - again if you like it, and up to a cup of each.
Garlic - to your taste

It's nicer if you fry the ingredients in coconut oil or butter in the pot you will use to make the soup - for about 3-5 minutes. But you don't have to. Throw everything into the pot and cover (just) with stock. Bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and blend until smooth. Yum. I like it just like that.

But if you want to you can heat it up and add cheddar cheese (not too much) or cream. 

This was inspired by Sarah Wilson in her book - "I quit sugar", but I couldn't find an online link.

More on low sodium

In the beginning - the start of my journey

Serve with Freshly baked home made rolls

Miss Fortune by Albina Hume

Albina Hume has a most interesting life. Born in a small village in the Ukraine, Albina found opportunities where most of us would just work on surviving. She faces down a number of setbacks, and her persistence and determination to follow her dreams is remarkable.

We follow her to Greece, where she works as an exotic dancer. She is frank and honest about the string of relationships, some good and some bad, with the men and the women who she meets in Greece and when back in Ukraine. She tells of the horrors of jail, illegal border crossings and working for and with people who don’t share her desire to do the right thing. The matter-of-fact telling underplays some of the horrors she endures, which made for more engrossing reading. Albina is not ashamed of her mistakes and is open with us about her quest for love and the success that she believes that will bring. There is a lot to tell in this part, and I felt that perhaps some of the detail could have been sacrificed for a better appreciation of the characters involved.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

The Whip by Karen Kondazian

4 out of 5 stars
The Whip is “inspired by the true story of Charlie Parkhurst”. I love reading historical fiction, and thoroughly enjoyed the author’s take on this famous stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo, discovered on death to be a woman (all true). The title says “inspired by”, which implies that this has a large degree of fiction, which it does, and was well told. Critics have asked for more accurate history, but I disagree – the fiction part is also important, and here a story was created out of a remarkable life.

Karen Kondazian has a beautiful writing style. Her sense of place and setting evokes vivid images, and it is no wonder that there are a number of fans who are suggesting this be made into a movie.