Welcome to my cooking blog. My name is Michelle Jenkins. Let me start by admitting that these are NOT gourmet meals, they are NOT fine dining, but they are mine. I have cooked all of these recipes and taken my own photos. They are fairly simple recipes, most of them are quick to prepare and cook and all of them are delicious. I only post my successes! If something doesn't work out, I don't post it. I hope you enjoy this blog.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not cause permanent damage to the colon. It appears as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation. It is uncomfortable and can seriously affect a person's quality of life. Around one in five Australians experiences the unpleasant symptoms of IBS at some time (Source: Better Health Victoria).

Normally when you eat food the muscles of your gastrointestinal tract contract and relax rhythmically, moving food through your digestive system until it exits your body. It's thought that in IBS the contractions are sometimes stronger and longer lasting than normal. As a result food is hurried along the GI tract without being properly digested - causing gas, bloating and diarrhoea. But sometimes the contractions may be weak and short lived, causing constipation. IBS is estimated to affect 11% of the global population, but since there are no biological markers to test for it clinically, it's thought to be largely undiagnosed.

What causes IBS?

The cause of IBS isn't clear, but stress, altered gut bacteria, genetics and food sensitivities may all be involved. Whatever the cause, multiple factors can exacerbate IBS symptoms. These include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes and mood issues such as anxiety and depression. Research has shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin may be important in the symptoms of IBS, by altering the function of nerve cells in the bowel and causing changes in pain sensation and bowel function (Source: Better Health Victoria).

Other bowel complications

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is becoming increasingly common among the population and include: 
  • Ulcerative Colitis - usually limited to inflammation of the innermost lining of the large intestine and colon
  • Crohn's Disease - causes inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract and can penetrate into the deep layers of the intestinal wall.
Because these are diseases of ongoing inflammation, infection is a prime culprit for the cause. Research also shows they may also be autoimmune disorders meaning that your body reacts as if it is fighting a pathogen when in fact no threat is present.

Coeliac Disease is a condition in which you cannot tolerate gluten, a food protein. In these cases, eating gluten damages the small intestine and causes adverse side effects.

Intestinal Obstruction occurs when the intestines become blocked. As a result, the intestines are unable to complete processing food or pass stool (Source: Health Line).

What can I do?

  • see your Doctor for advice - they may suggest certain medications for controlling diarrhoea or constipation
  • increase fibre and water intake
  • alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can be triggers for some people, cut down or stop completely and see if things improve
  • keep a food diary and eliminate foods which cause uncomfortable symptoms
  • graze during the day instead of having 3 large meals
  • add yoghurt to your diet - a quality yoghurt with the good bacteria, acidophilus or take acidophilus supplements
  • do other elimination tests like removing lactose and gluten from your diet - do things improve?
  • try supplements like Effervescent Magnesium Ascorbate Crystals, Peppermint Oil or Artichoke Leaf Extract
  • Peppermint tea and Ginger tea are known for relaxing stomach muscles
  • remember to exercise (Source: Health Arizona and Best Health Magazine).

A personal perspective

I have suffered from IBS for most of my adult life. To make matters worse, when I had a colonoscopy, the surgeon discovered I also have a twisted bowel. I needed to eliminate or drastically reduce the following from my diet:
  • full fat products
  • highly processed foods
  • full cream milk, cheese and dairy- I switched to lactose free and skim
  • gluten and/or wheat
  • excessive amounts of pasta
  • deep fried food
If I keep these foods to a minimum (only splurge once in a while) then I'm OK. After years of suffering excruciating abdominal pain, I now know what the triggers are and avoid them as much as possible. However it isn't always possible to avoid them, i.e. eating birthday cake at your friend's birthday, so I simply have a very small piece and flush it out with lots of water. My general rule of thumb is be good to your gut 80% of the time and allow yourself to be naughty 20% of the time...it's called living!

Previous blog post...Organic Farming

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Nutrition Basics: Organic Farming

What is Organic?

Organic is a way of growing food products in greater harmony with nature, without using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones.

The organic farming boom

Organic farming is booming and has been one of the economy's best performing industries over the past five years. Global demand for organic products is rising with ongoing high levels of health consciousness. Australia has the largest area of organic farmland in the world, at an estimated 11.0 million hectares. The majority of this land comprises large rangelands for organic cattle farming.

Becoming an organic farmer is not simple however. The barriers to enter the organic farming industry are moderate, mainly due to the lengthy certification process and conversion costs. Some farmers are deterred by the difficulty and potentially lower income involved in the conversion process to organic farming. Full organic certification requires a farmer to produce organically in accordance with all requirements of the organic standard for at least three years. (Source: Organic Farming in Australia). However barriers are expected to decline as organic farming becomes more popular and organic produce becomes more sought after.

What is 'Certified Organic'?

Certified Organic products must be grown and processed according to the AUS-QUAL certified National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce.

Organic Foods Are:

  • Regulated by strict standards and yearly inspections
  • Processed without synthetic colours, flavours, preservatives and other common additives
  • In greater harmony with nature using methods to protect soil, water and air quality
  • Safer for farmers to grow
 For information about Organic Certification see Better Health Victoria.

What is organically grown in Australia?

Types of organic produce available in Australia include fruit and vegetables, dried legumes, grains, meat and meat products, dairy foods, eggs, honey and some processed foods. Animals raised using organic methods are treated humanely and with respect. For example, chickens are free range and not kept in cages, and cows are not kept in feed lots. Organic farming is also concerned with protecting the environment and working in harmony with existing ecosystems, including conserving water, soil and energy, and using renewable resources and natural farming cycles.

Benefits of eating organic food

Several studies have compared the nutritional content of organic and conventionally grown plants, and most have shown no significant differences in key vitamin and mineral content. However, although the differences are small, research has shown that some organic food has:

Other benefits include
  • The animals are raised in a pasture as nature intended and feed on grass and hay
  • Animal feed contains no additional growth hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products
  • Under Organic Certification the use of antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, growth promotants and genetically modified organisms are banned so there is no possibility of human consumption
  • All products are produced without gluten and preservatives which is perfect for people with gluten intolerances and those cutting out preservatives, additives and chemicals
  • Organic meat contains full minerals, nutrients and omega-3 fatty acid profile of typical green pasture raised animals
  • No genetically modified (GM) components
  • No exposure to irradiation
  • Organic farmers minimise damage to the environment by using physical weed control, and animal and green manure

Next blog post… Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nutrition Basics: Pesticides, Antibiotics and Hormones in Farming

When you're shopping for food or whilst cooking, do you ever think about what is in the food we eat? Do you ever wonder about the pesticides which are used on freshly grown produce? Or the added hormones and antibiotics in our meat?

If you eat a steak bought at the supermarket, you're ingesting a lot more than meat with every bite... you're also consuming hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. The same goes with a typical glass of milk you drink. That's because agriculture has take every step to ensure it squeezes the absolute most out of the animals it farms regardless of how it affects your health, or the welfare of the animal.

Let's talk about pesticides

Pesticides are designed to control the nuisance and damage caused by pests, and have contributed to reducing disease and increasing food production worldwide. But the availability and widespread use of pesticides also has the potential to pose unexpected risks, both directly and indirectly, to our health. (Source: Earth Easy). Chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are used in plant and animal farming to boost production and ensure adequate food supply. The crops are sprayed with pesticides and inevitably some of those pesticides remain on the crops. When animals eat grain, they are ingesting pesticide residue and when we eat the animals, we too are ingesting this residue. Residues can be harmful to humans if taken in large amounts and that why chemical levels in food are set by law. Since pesticides accumulate in the fatty portions of plants and animal foods such as red meat...butter and cheese are pesticide magnets. Some people choose to buy organic produce to avoid pesticide residues. Organic farming grows produce without the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides (Source: Better Health).

Let's talk about antibiotics

Antibiotics are used widely in food animals as growth promoters and to prevent and treat infection. Avoparcin, a glycopeptide related to the human drug Vancomycin, is used in Australia as a growth promotant in pigs, chickens and cattle. As well as oral administration and injection of antibiotics, small amounts are mixed into animal feed for weeks or months at a time. Feed dosing provides ripe conditions for the emergence of resistant strains. Antibiotics are also sprayed onto fruit trees to prevent and treat infection. Traces of antibiotics that remain after the initial spraying may encourage emergence of resistant strains of bacteria. During spraying the wind can spread low concentrations of the antibiotic further afield, possibly increasing the risk of resistant bacteria. In both cases, it is possible for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to enter the food chain, ultimately reaching humans (Source: ABC).

Let's talk about hormones

In today's large factory farms hormones are widely administered to cattle in order to artificially accelerate their growth and increase their milk production. Hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) are naturally occurring hormones such as oestrogen, or synthetic alternatives, which are used in cattle to accelerate weight gain. HGPs—used in Australia for more than 30 years—are used on about 40 per cent of Australian cattle and annually add $210 million to the value of the beef industry. (Source: Food Standards Australia). 

Cows treated with hormones produce 15% more milk than regular cows and they grow 20% faster so this is great news for the farmer. The bad news is that this has no benefit for us and actually poses a significant threat to our health. Dairy contributes to extensive hormonal problems and can also lead to acne and diabetes as a result (Source: One Green Planet).

Many cancers are hormone-related, such as breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Any excess hormones in your food may increase your risk. Giving hormones to cattle has significant implications on the animal's welfare. Many calves are stillborn or die shortly after birth, while, as a result of induction, mother cows are susceptible to dangerous health complications: retained foetal membrane (placenta), weakened immune systems, and risk of infection. (Source: Shell Ethics).

An interesting fact: Russia has banned the importation of both American and Australian beef due to growth hormones (Source: ABC). Despite the World Health Organisation, international studies and the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration concluding: "there is unlikely to be any appreciable health risk to consumers from eating meat from cattle that have been treated with HGPs", the European Union has banned the use of HGPs and the importation of treated meat. Average hormone concentrations in cattle treated appropriately with the ‘natural’ hormones are within the normal hormone range of untreated cattle (Source: Truth About Hormones).

What can I do?

You could change your shopping habits. When you buy food from now on, it will help to know the following definitions:
  • 'Natural' means minimally processed and doesn't include artificial ingredients or preservatives
  • 'No Antibiotics' means documentation has been provided to Food Standards Australia proving no antibiotics have been used in production
  • 'No Hormones' means documentation has been provided to Food Standards Australia proving no added hormones have been used in production
  • 'Cage Free' means poultry raised without battery cages
  • 'Free Range' means poultry allowed to roam outdoors
  • 'Organic' means organic meat and eggs raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics. Feed must be 100% organic and have access to the outdoors
  • 'Grass Fed' means cows who eat grass instead of grain. This means the meat is lower in saturated fat and contains higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids
  • 'Pasture Raised' means not only were the animals raised without cages and with access to the outdoors, they actually got to live the way we imagine farm animals should live...outside on fresh green pasture
  • Buy locally grown produce from farmer's markets
  • Buy organic produce
  • Wash fruit and vegetables before eating
  • Know which fruits and vegetables have higher levels of pesticide residue
  • Grow your own produce
  • Use non-toxic methods for controlling insects in the home and garden
  • Understand food labels 
For information about food labelling requirements in Australia, see Food Standards Australia.

Previous blog post...Soil Quality and Fertiliser

Next blog post...Organic Farming

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nutrition basics: Soil Quality and Fertiliser

Let's talk about soil!

A plant is only as nutritious as the soil it was grown in. It makes no difference how many serves of fruits and vegetables you eat per day, if they are grown in nutrient-poor soil they won't be as good for you as you think.

Australia has some of the oldest land surface on earth and while rich in biodiversity its soil is among the most nutrient poor and unproductive in the world. This is due mainly to the country's geological stability, which is a major feature of the Australian land mass, and is characterised by, among other things, a lack of significant seismic activity. Only six per cent of the Australian landmass is arable. Large volumes of water are required from both surface and groundwater supplies. Australian soils are highly dependent upon vegetation cover to generate nutrients and for stability. Land clearing, water extraction and poor soil conservation are all causes of a decline in the quality of Australia's soils. (Source: Australian Government).

For this reason, the agriculture industry uses fertiliser on its crops.

Organic versus chemical fertilisers

Organic fertiliser is usually made from plant or animal waste or powdered minerals. Examples include manure and compost, as well as bone and cottonseed meal. They are sometimes sold as 'soil conditioners' rather than as fertiliser, because the nutrient ratios are difficult to guarantee. Organic fertilisers may be processed in a factory or at a farm. Organic fertilisers improve the structure of the soil and increase its ability to hold water and nutrients. Over time, organic fertilisers will make your soil and plants healthy and strong. Since they are the ultimate slow-release fertilisers, it’s very difficult to over fertilise and harm your plants. There’s little to no risk of toxic build-ups of chemicals and salts that can be deadly to plants. Organic fertilisers are renewable, biodegradable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. (Source: Debate over Chemical and Organic Fertilisers).

Chemical fertiliser (also called inorganic, synthetic, artificial, or manufactured) have been refined to extract nutrients and bind them in specific ratios with other chemical fillers. These products may be made from petroleum products, rocks, or even organic sources. Some of the chemicals may be naturally occurring, but the difference is that the nutrients in chemical fertilisers are refined to their pure state and stripped of substances that control their availability and breakdown, which rarely occurs in nature. Repeated applications may result in a toxic build-up of chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium in the soil. These toxic chemicals can eventually make their way into your fruits and vegetables and long-term use of chemical fertiliser can change the soil pH, upset beneficial microbial ecosystems, increase pests, and even contribute to the release of greenhouse gases. (Source: 
Debate over Chemical and Organic Fertilisers).

Fertiliser use and agricultural production: Australia 

The above chart demonstrates the rise in agricultural production over the last three decades and the increasing use of fertiliser inputs (ie. nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium shorthanded as ‘NPK’) to achieve that level of real production. This provides an indication of the enhancements in production due to fertiliser, whilst acknowledging that other factors such as better herbicides and insecticides are also making a contribution. (Source: IAMA). 

If you're interested in reading about fertliser use in Australia, and the history of, see this link.

So now we know our fresh produce is grown in fertilised soil, but whether it is grown in chemical or organic fertiliser, we may not be entirely certain of. What about other toxins like pesticides, antibiotics and hormones? According to Better Health Victoria chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are used in plant and animal farming to boost production and ensure adequate food supply. (Source: Better Health Victoria).

What can I do?

  • Buy unsprayed or organic produce
  • Grow your own and use organic repellants
  • Get to know your local growers
  • Identify the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide load
  • Buy produce from farmer's markets
  • Wash your fruit and vegetables before eating and dry well with paper towel - dispose of the paper towel

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yellow Vegetable Curry

This was thrown together the other night in a hurry. I had not planned dinner so had a look in the fridge and pantry and came up with this nice surprise. It's tasty but not too spicy and packed full of vegetables. This serves 4.


  • 2 tablespoons yellow curry paste
  • 2 tins (800ml) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • ½ red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • ½ green capsicum, roughly chopped
  • ¼ eggplant, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ zucchini, roughly chopped
  • 1 squash, roughly chopped
  • Handful of broccoli florets
  • Handful of green beans, ends removed and cut into 2cm pieces
  • 4 mushrooms, stalks removed and roughly chopped
  • Coriander for garnishing
  • Dried shallots for garnishing
  • Noodles of your choice - I used 2 squares of vermicelli
  1. Heat oil in a wok and add the curry paste. Stir and heat for about 2mins
  2. Add the coconut milk, stir well and simmer for 2mins
  3. Add the hard vegetables, i.e. carrots, broccoli and green beans, simmer for 2mins
  4. Add the remaining vegetables except the mushrooms, and simmer for 5mins
  5. Add the mushrooms, fish sauce and brown sugar and simmer until the noodles are ready
  6. Feel free to add water if there isn't enough sauce for you. If it's too spicy, add more coconut milk, but if the spice is just right, only add water to extend the liquid
  7. Cook the vermicelli noodles (or noodles of your choice) as per packet instructions
  8. Drain the noodles, place in a bowl and pour the curried vegetables over the noodles
  9. Garnish with chopped coriander and dried shallots.  D-E-L-icious  XD

Monday, June 1, 2015

Banana and choc chip cake - slow cooked

Who knew you could make a cake in a slow cooker? Well it seems you can. I was sceptical and refused for many months...until today.

This cake is light and moist and versatile. You can omit the choc chips, substitute with white or dark choc chips, add chopped nuts or even some seeds. This is how it's done...

  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ cup butter (melted in microwave)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup plain white flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium bananas -mashed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

  1. In a bowl combine butter, eggs and sugar. Mix well
  2. Add in baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 cup flour. Mix well
  3. Add in the other cup of flour. Mixture should be thick
  4. Mash Bananas well and then add to mixture. Mix well
  5. Add the choc chips and mix well 
  6. Place 3 metal egg rings in the bottom of the slow cooker and add 1 cup of water to the empty slow cooker
  7. Place the cake mixture into a round silicone cake mold and place the cake mold on top of the egg rings
  8. Cook for 4 hours on low with a tea towel placed under the slow cooker lid
  9. The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Banana & Coconut Muffins - guilt free

Using wholemeal flour and no butter or sugar makes these muffins guilt-free. This recipe makes 12 and they go well with a morning or afternoon cuppa!

  • 2 cups wholemeal flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted slightly in the microwave if it isn't already a liquid
  • 1-2 tablespoons of honey, depending on how sweet you like them. I only used 1
  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled 
  • 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius
  2. Spray your muffin tray with coconut spray oil
  3. In a large bowl mix together with a wooden spoon the flour, baking soda, salt, desiccated coconut and baking powder. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and drop in the eggs, coconut oil, and honey. Mix with a fork until it just comes together and set aside. The mixture will look a bit dry but it's OK
  4. In a small bowl mash the banana with the back of a fork
  5. Fold the banana into the muffin batter and mix well with a wooden spoon. You'll need to distribute the clumps of banana and coconut oil around the bowl and kind of 'press it' all together with your spoon. When it stops resembling a crumbly dough - stop
  6. Spoon into a 12 cup muffin tray leaving room at the top for expansion
  7. Bake until they begin to brown on top and a toothpick comes clean when inserted in the centre, about 15-18 minutes

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spicy Vegan Soup - slow cooked

Everyone thought I was crazy starting to prepare soup on a 35 degree day. I must have had an inkling in my subconscious that it would cool later in the day...sure enough it did. A huge southerly hit and the temperature dropped 15 degrees in about 20 minutes. This soup was easy to make, it's healthy as, and it's Vegan. It takes about an hour and this amount serves 6 bowls...lovely served with crusty rolls.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ green capsicum, roughy chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pearl barley
  • 400g tinned corn (or 2 full length corn cobs, kernels removed and cob discarded)
  • 400g tin lentils (or 400g dried green lentils, rinsed and pre-soaked)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rock or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 500ml water
  1. On a medium to high heat in a large saucepan, heat the oil, throw in the onion and garlic and stir with a wooden spoon
  2. Add the celery and carrots, turmeric, curry, cumin, coriander, fennel, salt and pepper and stir well
  3. Add a splash of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to mix the spices into the water
  4. Stir often, for about 5 minutes so the carrots can soften slightly
  5. Add the cauliflower, capsicum, pearl barley, vegetable stock and water, then stir, bring to the boil and turn down to simmer for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes add the corn and lentils, stir and simmer for another 40 minutes
  7. Serve into bowls with crusty bread rolls...D-E-L-icious XD

New URL for this blog

Hi fellow foodies. 

I have changed the URL (internet address) of this blog
to make it more professional.

If you've bookmarked this blog,
you will need to update your 'favourites'
so you can find us again:

See you soon with a new recipe

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Roasted Curry Vegetable Medley

Whilst driving home from work I developed a craving for roasted veggies. I didn't want plain roasted veggies though, so I thought I'd spice them up a bit. I was very happy with the result as it turned out lovely. This is made in a large oven tray, so has minimal washing up, serves 4, and is perfect served on a bed of mashed potato.

Cut all these veggies into approximately 2cm chunks:

  • ½ large sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • ¼ eggplant, peeled


  • 440g can of chic peas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons rock or sea salt (not ground)
  • 1 teaspoon back peppercorns (not ground)
  1. Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Drizzle the oven tray with the olive oil and throw all veggies and chic peas into it
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the top and toss gently with two wooden spoons
  4. Cover the oven tray with foil and cook for 20mins
  5. Remove from oven, toss the veggies again and return to the oven for another 20mins or until the veggies are soft enough for your liking
  6. Serve with mashed potato...to soak up the yummy spicy juice  XD