Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Exercise - "The Training Effect"

I haven't spent much time on this blog discussing issues, which is totally my fault! I did have a very long, academic article all done in draft and then piked because it was too long and academic and as a result refrained from discussions on this blog. When I have time to redraft my missive I will do that, but with the new year and new resolutions, it's time to get on my soapbox.

One such issue besides the state of the food industry in Australia is the importance of exercise for every day living.

I know, I know. Everyone already knows how important it is. Every study that comes about about every Western disease practically concludes that exercise is beneficial. Along with healthy diets, exercise can lower blood pressure, lower risks for diseases from cardiac disease, strokes and diabetes to Alzheimers. It makes you feel good. There is no doubt that it can also make you look good, or at least better than you do when you don't exercise. But why don't more people do it? Why don't more people eat correctly too?

I've been reading a lot of really interesting articles on the topic of exercising and its benefits. But one that really struck me is the idea of the "Training Effect". In a nutshell, the Training Effect is what happens when a person starts regularly exercising, and they get stronger, more flexible, faster and their body becomes generally more efficient. Exercise doesn't just benefit one muscle group or one organ in the body, rather the body as a whole benefits from the exercise. Metabolism also increases. Its really very cool and one of the main reasons we should exercise (apart from preventing all those nasty Western diseases).

However, one fitness professional, James Fell, mentioned in his article in titled "Exercise and Eating Connection: Why You're Still Fat" in regard to losing weight:

"The first step to losing weight is to focus on exercise, not calorie burning. Exercise breeds healthy eating. The more you exercise, the less you crave junk.
I can't tell you how much this resonated for me. In my previous life as a corporate wannabe, I was often accused of being "the health nut" and my well-meaning co-workers would often curl up their top lips with distain at my daily lunchtime salad and poke fun of my consistently healthy eating.

However one thing was inextricably linked to my salad & fruit obsession: and that was my gym obsession. If I skipped the gym for a couple of weeks, the diet would slide too. However after a good workout, I literally craved healthy unprocessed foods. And this has happened consistently over the years since I first discovered Hi NRG aerobics in the late 80's. [Now I'm really showing my age ;-)] *

So, it would appear, I am not the only one who thinks that good eating habits follow regular exercise.

Which started a bit of research on the point. I found a reference to the issue at which refers to a study by Miguel Alonso, a researcher at Harvard University in Boston who stated that epidemiological studies have suggested that:
“Physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet. In fact, when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run.”
"Several previous studies which have measured changes in the brain and cognitive functions in relation to exercise, have found regular physical exercise to cause changes in the general working and structure of the brain, Alonso also said."**
Fascinating.  I am living, breathing, healthy proof of this.

So: if your diet is unhealthy, you're overweight and you would like to do something about it, perhaps it is time to do just start exercising every day and see what happens. 

So, it could be that the key to people eating better is exercising more. But that then begs the question: how to get people off the couch and away from the TV and Facebook?  I guess if I knew how to do that, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now :-)

Has anyone else experienced this connection between exercising and wanting to eat healthy food?

* Happily I have moved on from my g-string, fluro leotard wearing Hi NRG aerobics classes

** See article here And while you're there, check out the article too on how to avoid injury whilst Irish dancing! LOL

Monday, January 30, 2012

Recipe: Buttermilk seasonal fruit cake

I was lucky enough to find this recipe on Twitter care of our friends at @StonefruitAU as the recipe had been adjusted to include nectarines on top of the cake. It was originally penned by the recipe blog 101 Cookbooks.  I've since tried using raspberries and white peaches on top and both are delicious and very impressive looking, without spending hours toiling away in the kitchen.  In fact, this recipe is so easy I've practically memorised it and bang it out with gay abandon whenever friends drop by.  Gay or not ;-)

I've got a thing for lemon zest and this cake contains the zest of 2, which makes it extra zingy. The lemon doesn't overpower the cake but just adds depth.  And freshness that cuts through the dense wholemeal flour.


2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour (I used organic spelt)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup caster sugar or brown sugar (If you prefer the cake sweeter you can double the quantity)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a little
zest of 2 lemons
1 punnet of raspberries (more if you like) or other fruit in season - blueberries, peaches, nectarines... experiment!
3 tablespoons large grain raw sugar (I used coffee crystals)
1 teaspoon large grain salt


Heat oven to 200C degrees. Grease and flour (or line bottom with baking paper) a 25cm tart/quiche pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk, whisk in the melted butter, and the lemon zest. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined - try not to over mix and its generally fine if you can still see bits of unmixed flour in the cake.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, pushing out toward the edges. Drop the berries across top or place slices of peach, nectarine etc. Squish some with your fingers so the colour bleeds into the top of the cake in the oven.

Sprinkle with the coffee crystals (raw or plain sugar will do, I've experimented with all and coffee crystals work the best) and then the salt. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until cake is done (or a toothpick in the center comes out clean).

Be prepared for the oohs and ahhs that will greet this little beauty.  Serve with organic vanilla yogurt, thickened cream or icecream.  Serves about 12 as the cake is quite filling.

Recipe: Meatless Monday - Vegetable Tagine

I must confess straight up that I don't have one of these very cool ceramic tagine thingamies, with its lovely round spouted lid, heavy lipped plate and shiny ceramic outer casing.

I have wanted one for ages and in fact, I almost bought one just to make this recipe as authentic as possible.  But Mr YourLocalMarkets threatened that we'd need to knock out a wall in the kitchen to store it if one entered the house, so I refrained from buying one and conceded that the Le Creusset pot would make a perfect substitute, even without its lovely Moorish shape.

With pot at the ready, I set about to make this vegetable tagine for family members who are vegetarian and found the recipe at Lifestyle Food from the lovely Anna Gare.  I really only tweaked it a little, and the results were incredible.  The flavours danced around in our mouths and had the perfect combo of spices, garlic and lemony zest to really bring the pot of veggies to life.  One word of warning though: this is not a 30 minute Jamie Oliver quickie; rather, it's more when you have a few hours to prep and cook it, on a lazy Sunday perhaps.

Suitable for vegans too; just don't garnish with yogurt.

Vegetable Tagine - Ingredients
Chermoula marinade

  • 1 roasted red capsicum
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  • 4 cloves ground
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds ground
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds ground
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¾ cup coriander (50gms)
  • ¾ cup Italian parsley
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Rind and flesh of 1 lemon (disregard pith)
  • 400gms kumera
  • 3 baby fennel, quartered (or use 1 fennel, quartered)
  • 5 purple carrots (you can use potatoes if you can't find this heirloom carrot)
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into thick strips
  • 3 baby eggplant, cut in half length ways
  • 1 zucchini, cut into about 6
  • 4 roma tomatoes, cut in half (I could only fit 3 in my pot as they were big roma's)
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 pitted prunes
  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked
Method: Chermoula
Roast the red capsicum in a moderate oven for 30-60 minutes, until the skin is charred. Remove from the oven and  place in a plastic bag so the steam helps to lift off the skin. While the capsicum is roasting,  lightly roast ground coriander and cumin seeds in pan. Grind roasted cumin, coriander and cloves in a mortar and pestle. Put all chermoula ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little water if the paste is too thick to blend properly.

Method: Veggies
Coat kumera, carrots, fennel, capsicum, eggplant and zucchini in marinade mix and lightly fry in big heavy based saucepan or tagine. 

Top with tomatoes, cinnamon, bay leaf, prunes and vegetable stock. Cover and cook for about 1 hour until vegetables are tender. Add cooked chick peas and cook for a further ½ hour. Serve with couscous and natural yogurt.

The original recipe says it serves 4: however 4 of us ate and the photo at the top is the tagine after we'd had dinner, leaving us lots of lovely leftovers for Meatless Monday today. So probably serves closer to 6. 

Did I mention that this was absolutely freakin' delicious? As this was more labour intensive than most of my Meatless Monday meals, next time I make it I will double the chermoula ingredients and freeze the chermoula paste for another occasion. In fact, chermoula could become my 'pesto de jour'.*

*Kitchen cupboards may be removed soon to accommodate a lovely new shiny tagine......