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How to Read Labels – The Simple Way!

How to Read Labels – The Simple Way!

Sharon Selby | July 11, 2019

This is the busy mums no nonsense, get to the point, ESSENTIAL guide to reading labels

 

When I’m at the shops with my boys, I don’t have the luxury of time, the opportunity to stand still, or the quiet to calmly decode and decipher a food label. But understanding and reading food labels is important. So if you want to crack the code and scan them quickly, like Neo from The Matrix, here’s my no-nonsense, get to the point, just need to know the important bits, ESSENTIAL guide to reading labels.

 

Start With the Ingredient List

This is easy. Ingredients are listed with the highest quantities first and in descending order. To be as close to nature as possible with a packet, avoid long lists of ingredients…ideally anything between 1 – 5 ingredients.  And by ingredients, these should be recognisable as real food, i.e. rice, quinoa, cinnamon etc. If you can’t pronounce or recognise a word, chances are its not food but a chemical concoction made in a lab that should be avoided.

Food Labelling

Get Savvy on Serving Sizes

Then double it. I have never eaten a serving size suggested on a packet…nor have my kids.  Most interesting is counting how much sugar is in a serving. Sugar is listed in grams…not helpful, so let’s convert that into teaspoons to get a real idea of how much there is. Here’s how: take the sugar amount on a packet, e.g. 16g per serving then divide it by 4 to get the teaspoon measurement.  That’s 4 teaspoons. Now you’re likely to double that or more if your family is anything like mine. For many, well-meaning health-conscious parents we give our kids cereal and perhaps a juice at breakfast. Check out how much sugar that is and remember to double the serving size. Many children today are sent off to school already having consumed close to 20 teaspoons of sugar.  Its no wonder they then can’t sit still for hours!

 

Be Aware of Sugars In Disguise

Sugar is a hidden ingredient in pretty much all processed foods and is often not even labelled as sugar. So here’s what you need to know.  Anything ending with ‘ose’ is sugar and probably the worst kind. Here are some other names for sugar: sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose solids. And just because it doesn’t end in –ose, doesn’t mean it isn’t sugar.  There are loads of other names for sugar such as cane juice, dextrin, diatase, golden syrup etc. If you want to read more about sugars in labels then this is a great article.

Understanding Fats

Just like we did with our sugar calculation you can do exactly the same when it comes to checking out how much fat really is in a packet.  Now not all fat is the enemy. In fact contrary to popular belief fat can be very good for you. Get in the know and read about what fats to eat and what fats to avoid in my blog post here. Unfortunately, when it comes to processed packet foods you can be certain those fats are bad and ugly.  These vegetable oils, trans fats and hydrogenated oils such as canola, corn, soybean and sunflower oils are used so bacteria doesn’t touch it, allowing these packets to sit in our supermarket shelves for long periods of time. Makes you think if bacteria don’t want it, perhaps we shouldn’t either?   But don’t go and do the understandable mistake of going fat-free or low-fat as these products have just replaced fat with sugars and toxic fillers.

Get a Grasp on Artificial Ingredients and Chemical Substances.

If you’re a mum you’ll really want to pay attention to this. Food additives refer to any substances that are added to change food in some way before it’s eaten. Additives include preservatives for extending shelf life, flavouring and colourings for improving taste and appearance.  You can recognize the majority of them in a packet as they are numbers, but food marketers are getting savvy and can also label them in words hoping to confuse the hell out of you. They may look harmless on a label, but don’t be fooled.  Let’s check out a few common ones that a health-conscious family might not be aware of:

BHA and BHT

A preservative found in most cereals. These are used to keep food from going rancid, but they have a number of health problems. Some studies claim they worsen ADD, ADHD and cause other behaviourial changes.  They’re also known to cause respiratory issues such as asthma and skin conditions.

Sodium Benzoates

Found in most fruit juices. They can greatly cause hyperactivity in kids, asthma, headaches, skin irritation, stomach upsets and can damage DNA in cells.

Sulfites/Sulphur Dioxide

Commonly used in dried fruit such as raisons, sultanas, apricots, etc. Did you know dried apricots shouldn’t be orange? That’s the preservative at work.  A dried apricot is brown and tastes delicious. The potential effects are many, from asthma and other respiratory issues, bronchitis, rash or hives, stomach upsets and more. The Wholefood Collective sell beautiful, high quality organic dried fruits which are sulphur free. 

Cochineal; Carmines (120/E120)

Packets that say ‘no artificial colours’ double check! They’re right, cochineal is fairly natural but you might not like where it comes from as its animal derived.  To be specific the extract is obtained from the dried bodies of the female Dactylopius insect. The potential effects: anaphylaxis, asthma contact dermatitis. May cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some people.  Is prohibited in foods for infants! Found in many drinks, biscuits, baked products and desserts. Yum!

MSG (monosodium glutamate) (621/E621)

Also goes by numerous other names such as yeast extract. This is a flavour enhancer that is best avoided.  Symptoms are numerous and varied such as allergic and hyper-sensitive reactions, asthma, behavioural problems, depression, headaches and migraine and learning difficulties to name a few. Prohibited in foods for infants.

You’re probably asking how can this $**t really be allowed in our food?  Sadly it is and most of these chemicals have never even been tested so who knows what the long term effects are?  Worst of all they’re everywhere. However help is here, you can start easily avoiding some of these nasty chemicals with one clever little app.   Introducing The Chemical Maze.

Chemical Maze App

The Chemical Maze App

A gentleman by the name of Bill Statham wrote The Chemical Maze and created an app so that you can instantly and anywhere identify dangerous food additives while you’re shopping or at home.  Cool right?

With this app, next time you come across an ingredient or number and want to check if it’s ok, this app will tell you along with the symptoms and where it comes from.  It’s easy and very convenient!

Of course, there’s more to labels than the above, but if you have a good grasp on these five points then you are truly on your way to making better food choices for you and your family.

My other last tip: shop around the edges of the supermarket and not in between the aisles…that’s where all the ‘products’ are and not the ‘produce’ (the fresh stuff).

Happy savvy shopping mamas!  I hope this has helped. If there is anything you’d like to add I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Find more delicious, nutritious recipes, healthy eating articles, courses and classes on Sharon’s website, Deliciously Allergy Free.

Share your awesome wholefoods knowledge with us on Instagram with #myTWC

 
Spilling the Beans! How to Prepare & Cook Dried Beans

Spilling the Beans! How to Prepare & Cook Dried Beans

Sharon Selby | June 17, 2019

With the Paleo craze trending at the moment, it’s understandable to see that beans aren’t quite getting the attention they used to.  However, I find them to be a deliciously nutritious part of our diet, they help to maintain digestive health, lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels thanks to their protein and fibre and, in some cases, their iron content.

I also find regularly consuming beans is a great way to reduce my meat intake. They clearly do the trick, as my three boys don’t complain when they are served up beans instead of steak.  My cooking is either that good or they’re frightened of their mother/wife!

Either way, I’m here to spill the beans on why they are actually so good for you.

Firstly it’s important to note beans must always be prepared and cooked properly as they contain high levels of lectins, which can cause health problems and unpleasant side effects. However, when boiled long enough, beans lose their toxicity and become a real superfood, probably the most budget-friendly way to consume a whole host of great nutrients too.

How to Prepare Your Dried Beans

Chickpea Bowl

Clean ’em: Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.

Soak ’em: Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking – I usually do this overnight (hint: cut a bean in half; if the centre is still opaque, keep soaking). I add a bit of ACV in the water to help the process.

Rinse ’em: After soaking, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, and then skim off the foam.

Rinse ’em: After soaking, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, and then skim off the foam.

Spice ’em: To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.

Simmer ’em: Cover and simmer for the suggested time. Check out this handy bean cooking chart for times, conventional and pressure cooker times.

Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Shortcut

Home Made Baked Bean Ingredients

However, if you’re short on time I do buy tinned organic beans in BPA free tins. Just be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can and you’re good to go.

So to entice you, here is a quick rundown of some of the best-known beans around and how they can improve on your health.

Adzuki Beans

Adzuki Beans

Why are they awesome? Great for heart health thanks to their potassium and magnesium levels, which are good for regulating blood pressure and improving blood flow.  High in essential B vitamins – necessary for cellular energy production that fuels metabolism. Also good for liver cleansing.

How to use them: Create yummy patties with cooked adzuki beans, combined with rice, onion, garlic, fresh herbs and egg and shallow fry.  Add to soups, stews and casseroles for extra fibre, protein and flavours.

Add some adzuki bean spaghetti to your next order!

Black Beans

Black-Turtle-Beans

Why are they awesome? Promotes blood health due to their very high iron levels, which is essential for carrying oxygen in our blood cells and for the production of haemoglobin.  Also a good source of fibre to cleanse and protect the colon.

How to use them: Enjoy in salads with vegetables and fruit high in vitamin C, such as oranges or spinach.  Eating pulses with vitamin-C-rich foods increases iron absorption, as the type of iron found in plants is harder to absorb than iron found in meat. Enjoy them in Mexican dishes such as black beans salsa, enchiladas and chilli.

Add some to your next order!

Butter Beans

Home Made Baked Beans

Why are they awesome? A quality source of potassium, iron, copper, manganese and soluble fibre – all essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and digestive tract.  Also great for building and repairing muscle tissue in the body.

How to use them: A great alternative to chickpeas for a butterbean hummus. Its mild and creamy taste is also a lovely addition to a salad.

Add some to your next order!

Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas

Why are they awesome? Great for bone health, thanks to being rich in manganese, which helps build bones as well as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.  Also, they help regulate appetite and reduce food cravings.

How to use them: Hummus anyone?  Aside from the obvious, chickpeas are great in casseroles and stews as well as salads and even cookies! Starting with dried chickpeas is also the best way to make falafel. Check out Yottam Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Add some to your next order, canned or dried!

Kidney Beans

Kidney Beans

Why are they awesome? A lovely bean to add to your diet to improve digestion and bowel regularity thanks to both its soluble and insoluble fibre.  Also high in blood building iron, phosphorus and vitamin K, suggesting these beans have an anti-cancer effect.

How to use them: Cooked rice and kidney beans make a complete protein meal. Enjoy with sautéed chopped onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and season with chili powder, coriander, thyme, salt and pepper.  Perfect replacement for flour in baked goods such as cakes!

Add some to your next order, canned or dried!

Lentils

Greek Lentil Salad

Why are they awesome? Lentils of all types are great for cardiovascular health thanks to their extremely high levels of molybdenum and iron.  Lentils are also rich in vitamin B1, which helps regulate the nervous system and maintain a steady heartbeat.

How to use them: Sprouting lentils increases their levels of amino acids creating food that is a complete protein in its own right.

Add some to your next order!

Mung Beans

Mung Bean Dahl

Why are they awesome? Green mung beans have long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to keep the body running smoothly due to their detoxifying properties and anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, they help lower cholesterol and can help lower blood pressure.

How to use them: A staple of Chinese cooking, they can be added to any stir-fry and salad. In Indian cookery, mung beans are soaked and blended with spices, fresh chilli and coriander to make savoury pancakes.

Add some to your next order!

So whether you enjoy adzuki beans, black beans, butter beans, chickpeas, lentils or mung beans, beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around. Check out the full range of TWC’s beans and pulses and enjoy!

Ready to start cooking up some beans at home? Try these bean-alicious recipes!

Sneaky Beans Super Sweet & Gooey Lunchbox Cake

Super Versatile Home Made Baked Beans

Gluten Free Mexican Pork and Black Bean Pie

Protein Packed Greek Lentil Salad

Lentil Chilli Sin Carne Recipe

Chocolate Bean Pudding for Breakfast

Find more delicious, nutritious recipes, healthy eating articles, courses and classes on Sharon’s website, Deliciously Allergy Free.



25+ Smart & Simple Swaps to Supercharge Your Health

25+ Smart & Simple Swaps to Supercharge Your Health

Sharon Selby | May 26, 2019

Sometimes a big health shift can seem like a daunting task. But you don’t need to clear out your whole pantry at once to start to implement smarter choices into your life.

Try printing off this list and check off all your changed habits as you go!

Instead of This Have this
1. Tap water1.Filtered water
2. Table salt2. Sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, dulse flakes
3. Vegetable oils 3. Olive, coconut oil, animal fat or ghee
4. Margarine4. Ghee, butter (if tolerated), tallow, chicken fat
5. Low fat/zero fat cows milk or soy milk5. Full fat all the wayAlmond milk, rice milk
6. White sugar6. Coconut or rapadura sugar
7. Processed sugar7. Dates, maple syrup, brown rice syrup
8. Commercial honey8. Raw honey
9. Milk chocolate9. 70% and above dark chocolate
10. Chocolate chips10. Cacao nibs
11. Cocoa powder11. Cacao powder (raw)
12. Salted nuts12. Raw nuts
13. Bread crumbs13. Almond meal, quinoa flakes or brown rice flour
14. Crisps14. Brown rice, seed crackers, popcorn
15. Cheese15. Avocado, hummus and nut butters
16. Fruit juice16. Whole fruit
17. Iceberg lettuce17. Spinach, rocket, silverbeet, kale
18. White rice18. Brown rice (soaked overnight)
19. Wheat pasta19. Rice/quinoa pasta or zucchini noodles
20. Gluten-containing grains20. Cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, cauliflower mash, sweet potato mash
21. Oven chips21. Baked sweet potato chips
22. Tortilla wraps22. Lettuce leaves
23. Canned fruit23. Fresh fruit
24. Condiments24. Spices
25. Mayonnaise25. Mashed avocado
26. Toast26. Sweet potato slices (toasted)
27. Breakfast tea27. Herbal tea
28. Processed dressings28. Olive oil, lemon and balsamic vinegar

Do you have any additional healthy swaps you’d love to share? Post them below.

Find more delicious, nutritious recipes, healthy eating articles, courses and classes on Sharon’s website, Deliciously Allergy Free.

Share your healthy swaps with us on Instagram with #myTWC

Great Sources of Calcium (When You Can’t Have Dairy)

Great Sources of Calcium (When You Can’t Have Dairy)

Sharon Selby | March 21, 2019

 

Thanks to the overzealous marketing from the dairy industry, we’ve been conditioned to think that the only sources of quality calcium, come from cows milk in the form of butter, cheese, yoghurt and milk. It’s true that we need calcium for bone and dental health, but also for muscle development, healthy blood pressure and healthy skin.

However, many suggest that calcium from dairy (cows milk) is not the most easily absorbed and can be quite inflammatory to the body. Cows milk protein is also the number one allergen amongst children and it’s suggested that 6 out 10 people have some form of reaction to it. It makes you wonder then if there really is a biological need for us to consume dairy in such high doses, or even at all?

Turns out there are many other sources that are just as high (or higher) in absorbable calcium than dairy products (and without the negative side effects). Not only that, for our bodies to absorb calcium we need good levels of vitamin D and magnesium. The body uses magnesium to convert vitamin D into its active form so that it can be used in calcium absorption. And that’s not done so well with dairy.

Better options come from natural food sources of calcium (like fatty fish with bones in) and are good sources of Vitamin D, which makes the calcium in these foods more absorbable. So non-dairy food sources of calcium can often be healthier as they’re also sources of other vitamins and minerals which allow the body to absorb calcium more effectively and put it to good use.



Calcium Food Sources

While dairy is the most common food source of calcium, it’s by no means the only food source or even the healthiest. There are many nutritious and dairy-free foods that are an excellent source of calcium. Here are some great options that are budget friendly and with these tips really easy to add in the diet for you and your children.

 

Bone Broth

Bone broth is an excellent source of calcium and our immune systems love it (double whammy!). A stack of minerals get leached from the bones, and these minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals, all really easily absorbed. The great news, if you’ve never cooked it, is that it’s so easy to make at home. Literally you just need two ingredients: 1) filtered water and 2) leftover chicken bones. Boil them up for anywhere between 8 – 24 hours in a large simmering pot or slow cooker and you’re sorted. Use this broth daily in stews, casseroles, spaghetti bolognaise, gravy, sautéing vegetables and as an absorption liquid for rice and quinoa. Basically, wherever water is required in a savoury dish use broth…it’s healthier and makes dishes so much tastier. Make a large batch and store in small containers in the fridge and freezer.

 

Fish with Bones

SardinesFish with bones are an excellent source of calcium. An easy and inexpensive way to consume fish with bones is in the form of canned fish like salmon (with bones) and sardines (with bones). The bones become soft during the canning process so they can be easily chewed and consumed with the fish. Since these foods are also a good source of Vitamin D, they enhance digestion of the calcium and make it more usable. I get my boys to eat sardines by grilling them in a bit of olive oil so they become a bit crunchy and they taste great with eggs or as a spread on sourdough toast with avocado. Also, use wild tinned salmon in homemade fish burgers.


Dark Leafy Greens

Kale Dark Leafy GreensDark leafy greens are another great dietary source of calcium, though some are better than others. Collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, kale and broccoli are all ranked really well for being absorbable sources of calcium while spinach and seaweed ranked low on the list. Dark leafy greens are also great sources of folate, Vitamins A, C, E and K and B-vitamins.  My boys will have dark leafy greens in morning smoothies and bok choy in stir-frys. I also sneak these dark green leaves in my spaghetti bolognaise sauce and blitz them along with a ton of other vegetables.

 

Seeds

Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds are all good sources of calcium. In addition to their calcium content, these tiny seeds are also a good source of antioxidant-rich vitamin E and copper—a nutrient that supports white blood cell health.  Enjoy on top of porridge, in homemade muesli bars (here’s are some great recipes), in smoothies and on top of salads and as snacks.

Dried Figs

FigsThis is a surprising one, but dried figs are up there when it comes to calcium content. They’re an excellent source of dietary calcium. Dried figs are available year-round, and make great additions to baking, trail mixes, and plain snacks! When I found this out I replaced my children’s raisins with chopped up figs. Don’t go overboard…these are still very high in sugar but a great and generally fuss-free option to add calcium in the diet.

 

Other Foods

Other sources of calcium are oysters, seafood, broccoli, oranges, sweet potato and pumpkin, blackstrap molasses, almonds, tofu and edamame and seaweed. Check out the recipes on this website for inspiration. All the recipes are dairy free.

So the long and the short of it is this – calcium from dairy is actually not as bioavailable to our bodies as in some other food sources. And by choosing alternatives you may also be increasing your intake of other valuable vitamins and minerals.

 

Find more delicious, nutritious recipes, healthy eating articles, courses and classes on Sharon’s website, Deliciously Allergy Free.

Share your favourite dairy-free treats with us on Instagram with #myTWC.

 

Wholefoods Easy Easter Biscuits

Wholefoods Easy Easter Biscuits

Sharon Selby | March 20, 2019

This is a GENIUS recipe!

So easy, so forgiving, so quick and tastes delicious. I adapted it from My Mummy Made It’s fab tiny teddies recipe.

Nobody has to miss out as these morish delights are gluten, dairy, egg, peanut, nut, sesame free, additive and refined sugar free. Phew! They’re healthy too, with the goodness of natural sweeteners and the immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil.

The chocolate drizzle is purely optional and I only added this as a fun addition for the Easter festivities. However, you really don’t need to bother. They are amazing without! If it’s not Easter, bake these cookies for school lunchboxes, birthday parties, Christmas or a quick afternoon treat.

Jazz them up even further with the addition of some beautiful Summer Hill Pantry fruit sprinkles and sparkles.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 8 – 10 minutes
Serves: 16 medium sized biscuits

Ingredients

¼ cup coconut oil (slightly softened)
¼ cup honey, maple syrup or brown rice syrup
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon arrowroot/tapioca flour
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon coconut flour
¼ teaspoon bicarb soda
Pinch of salt

Optional Chocolate Drizzle

3 tablespoons of cacao
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil

Method

1. Pop all the ingredients into a food processor and process on medium until combined and crumbly. You can use a bowl and wooden spoon too and mix by hand.

2. Pull the dough together with your hands and shape into a large ball. Wrap baking paper around it and let it rest at room temperature to firm up.

3. Preheat oven to 180C/360F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

4. Roll the doll out between two sheets of parchment paper to about 5mm in height.

5. Using a cookie cutter (or simply cut into squares or diamonds) cut out shapes and transfer to the lined baking tray. Complete until you have used up all the dough.

6. Pop in the oven for about 8 – 10 minutes depending on the size of the biscuits.

7. As soon as they are golden brown and cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. As they cool the biscuits will firm up and ready to eat.

8. Or for extra fun whip up the chocolate drizzle ingredients together in a small bowl and splash over the biscuits and allow to set before serving.
Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days (if they last that long).

Recipe Information: Dairy, gluten, wheat, nut free, egg free. Vegetarian

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