Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Microwave: Friend or Foe?

Yesterday I was chatting to two outspoken anti-microwave-ists down at the garden and realised that there are many people out there that share the view that microwaves are evil. 
Picture sourced from internet
Luckily for me, being a university student means that my uni library proxy server gives me access to the full text of most scientific journal articles. My last summer semester assignment (investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A among non-immune travellers – yum yum wash your hands, everyone!) taught me to learn to use and love the website that is, the home page of the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.  It’s basically a database that contains masses of biomedical and genomic information relating to science and health.

Surprisingly, there were only very few articles that discussed the impact of exposure to microwave ovens radiation on human health, apart from a couple of old journal articles from the 1970s. Even then, these used data gained from investigating ovens with faulty hinges, gaskets and safety locks – presumably (at least one can hope) problems that have long been addressed and rectified.

Photo sourced from internet
One issue that was relatively heavily documented by journals in this data base was not the average concerns of the destruction of nutrients in food or the carcinogenic effects of radiation exposure. Rather, it was something more mundane.

 “A female patient, 36-years-old, complained of bilateral palatal pain on the anatomical area of upper second molars. The painful condition of palatal mucosa erosion was observed. Palatal erosions or ulcerations may be caused by heated food cooked in microwave ovens. We present a case of a bilateral palatal burn caused by cheese-pie. Concluding, any food containing cheese, when heated in microwave oven, may cause palatal burn if eaten immediately” (Kafas & Stravrianos 2008).  

The bit that got me was this: “Any food containing cheese, when heated in microwave oven, may cause palatal burn if eaten immediately”… Ahh common sense??

It’s quite a cute little article though, if you’re inclined to have a read. Due to the cooking properties of microwave ovens, food containing soft/liquid material (e.g. cheese) has a higher internal temperature, relative to external. It appears that this a particular concern in cheese pies rather than, say pizzas, because the melty cheesey material is located in the centre of the food item. When we bite into such things, the hot melted cheese flows across the mucosa of our mouths, creating that ‘burning’ feeling I suppose. Fascinating, eh?

Photos above sourced from internet

Microwave-heated food may cause serious injury if it is not allowed to cool before consumption” (Offer, Nanan & Marshall 1995).

In the end, I love the microwave. It’s possible to make oatmeal, cakes, bake chicken, etc so until there’s some conclusive evidence, I’m going to continue to use one. That doesn’t mean I stand in front of it and gaze and sniff at the contents while it’s in operation… unlike somebody in our house:

- Matilda


Kafas, P & Stavrianos 2008, ‘Thermal burn of palate caused by microwave heated cheese-pie: A case report’, Cases Journal, vol. 1, no. 191, <>.

Merckel, C 1972, ‘Microwave and Man: The Direct and Indirect Hazards, and the Precautions’, California State Journal of Medicine, vol. 117, pp. 20-24, <>.

Offer, GJ, Nanan, D & Marshall, JN 1995, ‘Thermal injury to the upper aerodigestive tract after microwave heating of food’, Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine, vol. 12, pp. 216-217, <>.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vote 1

For the last couple of months, the catchphrase (above) has plagued our lives: on television, on the radio, on billboards, in the mail each day… I suppose it’s to be expected in an election year. Despite the ever-invasive election campaign however, this year’s state election was an exciting one for me for one main reason.

I was able to vote!

It’s quite a bizarre feeling to listen to the commentary on the television while watching the pie charts and bar graphs swing this way and that, knowing that your ballot paper is being factored in there somewhere. I have always loved election night for some weird reason. I mean, I currently don’t even know enough about politics to be able to intelligently take the micky out of politicians! However, ABC’s Anthony Green does do an excellent job of making it somewhat entertaining.

My role in this year’s election was a little bit more significant than in previous years, although still quite minor. I did a fair bit of letterbox-dropping in the last couple of months and also worked on one of the booths this morning – I even managed to get in a sneaky speech at an opponent’s Rotary Club breakfast meeting a couple of weeks ago! It was the least I could do for this particular sitting MP, however, who has donated both time and money to the community (including the community garden!) in such a caring and compassionate manner. No other politician could be this genuine. 

The desire to be involved in the political scene in some capacity was instilled in me at a young age. In year one, aged six, I declared that I was going to become the first female prime minister of Australia. I didn’t anticipate Julia Gillard beating me to it… although I still have a chance to become the first Australian born female prime minister of Australia. So there. Ha.

Dad used to work as an electorate officer for a state MP during my primary and secondary school years so that kept me somewhat in the loop I suppose you could say. I was still a bit too young to fully comprehend the issues surrounding this particular MP in the media and the implications of her actions; my most vivid memory of this lady is one where we are both hiding behind the couch at  staff party of some sort, downing five or six ice-creams apiece and giggling like naughty children. We also gained one of our closest and most beautiful family friends by Dad being in that job so for me, it was quite a happy time. The office was also an excellent place of refuge during school holidays when the summer heat was beyong extreme. 10 year old me didn’t care about having to stuff and seal hundreds of envelopes as long as it meant I was in air-conditioning!

By the time this goes online, I will probably be among various old farts and fartesses, watching the numbers on the television through the haze that always seems to descend on the bars of RSLs and football clubs. Hopefully there will be something to celebrate later tonight :-)

- Matilda 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Raw Chocolate Milkshake... it just became even more miraculous!

A couple of months ago I posted about my most recent chocolate obsession: the raw chocolate milkshake

At first I stuck to the recipe strictly, terrified that even the slightest deviation would ruin the end product. However as I became pressed for time and, dare I say lazy, I began to throw random amounts of ingredients in and just hoped for the best. Touch wood, nothing disastrous has happened so far. In fact, my latest version is even more delicious than the original! IMHO.

(People who use ‘IMHO’ instead of 'in my humble opinion' tend to annoy me… apologies for the hypocrisy.)

Raw Chocolate Milkshake à la Matilda

5 Tbsp raw cacao powder (or cocoa… cacao is a little pricey so I cheat sometimes)
2 avocados
3 small peeled & frozen bananas
2 Tbsp raw honey
Dash sea salt 
1 cup water
2 ice cubes

Directions: Blend baby, blend!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beetroot Burgers

This morning I left for uni with all of the valleys of skin on my fingers holding rivers of reddy brown. No amount of scrubbing throughout the morning could rid my hands of the colour. In fact, I’ve given up on it completely and plan on letting time take its course. Such is life when dealing with beetroot.

The last couple of months have seen the odd beet pop out of the ground but in the last week, the results of mid-January’s sowing have finally started to appear. Up until now, we have mostly been boiling the beetroots to use in salads but today I was desperate to try a recipe I have had my eye on for a long time: beetroot and millet burgers from none other than Green Kitchen Stories.

Photo from Green Kitchen Stories 
Transient heavy rain meant that running training this morning was cancelled (I make myself sound really athletic here but the truth is that this was going to be my first session…) so after a little bit more of a lie in, I crawled out of bed and started to prep the ingredients for when I arrived home in the afternoon. More than anything else, there were only the 4 required beetroots in the fridge and I wanted to make sure I got to them before anyone else did!

Edit: half-way through writing this I read somewhere that lemon juice is the secret to getting the stains off. Or to wear gloves so as not to get it on you in the first place. Duh.

The only times I ever used to eat beetroot in burgers were those canned slices we got to put on top of our hamburger patty at school camps and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the artificially sickly sweet taste of canned beetroot; but there’s nothing quite like the fresh stuff. As we’re currently trying to limit our intake of red meat at the moment, putting beetroot on top of the burger patty was sort of defeating the purpose. So that’s why the beetroot is the burger.

I would be kidding myself if I claimed mine turned out to look anything like Green Kitchen Stories’ (please ignore the slightly uncooked top of one and the very-crumbly side of another) but I’m pretty sure they tasted just as good. If not better: the beets only came out of the ground yesterday!! …And the eggs, out of the bums of the chooks the day before.

Beetroot & Millet Burgers (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)
10 burgers

1 cup water
½ cup millet (rinsed in hot water)
4 small beetroots
1 large carrot
1 onion
4 eggs
1 handful lemon balm (chopped)
Sea salt & pepper


1. Bring the water to the boil in a small pot and add the millet and salt. Cook it on low for 10 minutes and set aside.

2. Grate the beetroots and carrot and dice the onion.

3. Mix millet, the grated vegetables, eggs and spices in a bowl. If you feel that the mixture is a bit too watery, add some flour, oats or more millet.

4.  Heat oil in a frypan and fry the burgers for a couple of minutes on each side on medium heat.

- Matilda

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day!

Each year on March 8, International Women's Day is celebrated to acknowledge the economic, social and political achievements of women in the faces that they have faced. The theme of IWD 2012 is Women's Economic Empowerment. This is to raise awareness that gender inclusion, as well as the world's growth and prosperity, depends on the ability of women to gain access to quality education meaningful employment and other resources.

  • Among the 1.4 billion people living on just over a dollar a day, 70% are women
  • Women do two-thirds of the world's work but only earn 10% of the world's income
  • Women produce half of the world's food but own only 1% of the world's land
  • Out of the 100million adults who can't read or write, two-thirds are women

There are people out there right now at morning teas, lunches, exhibitions and seminars on women's issues - so join them! Celebrate the vital role that the woman/women in your life play. Whether it be at a family, local community, national or international level, each of them is special. Take some time to reflect on what they have done and what they have achieved, as well as help to promote and work towards gender equality in both developing and developed nations. 

- Matilda

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate, Cream and Pumpkin Pie Parfait

The last couple of months have seen me try my hand at a couple of vegan recipes, more out of interest than anything else. The results I’ve been getting have been surprisingly tasty… main savoury dishes, cakes, milkshakes – the lot has been great! It’s all mainly due to an American vegan blogger called Katie, who is the creator of the blog Chocolate-Covered Katie.

Initially I was extremely sceptical and quite suspicious of vegan cooking (I find it nearly impossible to imagine a life without eggs!) but lately I’ve been in the vegan mode of things, thanks to Katie and her amazing desserts. A couple of weeks ago I made a variation of her Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Pie and can unashamedly say that I ate three quarters of it in one sitting… It. Was.  So. Good.  And unlike the time when I downed a whole Woolies chocolate mud cake in one go, it didn’t make me feel queasy at all. All I felt was satisfaction. Good quality chocolate + tofu = win.

Ever since eating the chocolate pie, I have been obsessed with the idea of using tofu as a base for desserts. The garden has just pumped out its last pumpkin for  what looks like might be a while now, so I thought to use some in Katie’s Pumpkin Pie Pudding. Chuck that in a glass with some chocolate mousse and whipped cream, garnish with seasonal fruit and you’ve got yourself a light and tasty summer dessert!

Also, sorry about the ugly photo. I wasn't originally going to blog about this and only took the photo under protest at the insistence of my guinea pigs (i.e. parents). Hence the haphazard plonking of the three layers... 

Chocolate, Cream and Pumpkin Pie Parfait (using recipes adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie)

1 quantity pumpkin pie mousse (recipe below)
1 quantity chocolate mousse (recipe below)
1 quantity whipped cream (recipe below)
Seasonal fruit of choice (I used nectarines)

Directions: Put a dollop of one of the above (I started with chocolate) in a serving glass, top it with another (pumpkin) and then the third (whipped cream) and continue to layer until just below the rim of the glass. Top with fruit and eat.

You can also make fruit layers in between the mousses – I ended up doing this with leftover nectarines while I was eating.

Whipped cream: place all ingredients in a food processor and blend
190g silken-firm tofu
½ tsp vanilla extract
Sweetener, to taste

Pumpkin Pie Mousse: place all ingredients in a food processor and blend
120 grams silken-firm tofu
½ tsp cinnamon + nutmeg
120g cooked and mashed pumpkin
2 Tbsp liquid (I just used water)
Sweetener, to taste (honey, sugar, etc)

Light Chocolate Mousse: place all ingredients in a food processor and blend
110s silken-firm tofu
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
Small dash salt
Sweetener, to taste

For a more decadent chocolate mousse, try Katie's newer version. Yum.

And leftovers? Make another parfait, eat the separate layers as they are or them in a sundae or serve with cakes, fruit, etc! I used mine in my breakfast the next morning: wholemeal artisan toast topped with mashed banana and whipped cream ahhh heaven on a plate. 

- Matilda