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The Pounamu Prophecy - birth of a book Two women, two cultures and an ancient Maori prophecy that will change their lives. That's the tag line for The Pounamu Prophecy - my first novel. It has been a slow process, interrupted by moving...


Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...


Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...


Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....


My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 1 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...


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Brain food for toddlers

Posted on : 22-11-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Brain, Iron deficiency, Kids nutrition, Super-healthy...er...stuff


brain-kidEighty percent of our adult brain is formed by the age of three. So just at the time when our toddlers have learnt that saying “NO” causes the big people around them to act in all sorts of funny ways, we need to make sure they somehow get enough brain nutrients into them, particularly iron, zinc and omega-3 fats.

Iron carries oxygen around the body. If a muscle is deprived of oxygen, it dies. If a toddler doesn’t get enough iron the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. It can’t develop so well – and the damage is irreversible.

Healthy aging {part 3} – keeping your gut moving and your food tasting good!

Posted on : 22-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Older-age


Let’s start where we finished off yesterday – with a glass of wine! As we age our sense of taste and smell isn’t so great and a glass of wine with dinner may be just what we need to enjoy our meal. It also encourages us to sit down to a ‘proper’ meal – wine just doesn’t go well with tea and toast! We lose tastebuds as we age and food just doesn’t taste the same. To add some flavour, it’s tempting to add extra sugar or salt. Some people get into the habit of shaking the salt shaker for a certain time without even tasting the food. One nursing home was having trouble with the amount of salt their residents were lavishing on their food. So they covered some of the salt shaker holes with tape. For the same amount of shaking they got less salt! Too much salt speeds up calcium loss from the bones, sends up blood pressure and makes us more prone to dehydration. Try using more herbs and spices for both flavour and a few extra antioxidants.

Some medications, pain, depression, mild zinc deficiency, poor oral hygiene, gum disease and poorly fitting dentures can all make eating more of a chore than a pleasure. Try these ideas to help. Go for a pre-meal walk to stimulate appetite. Set the table attractively. Eat small, frequent meals. On your plate use lots of colour (from vegetables, not artificial colours) and try different textures – crispy roast veges and salad with a casserole rather than sloppy mashed potato. Stimulate your tastebuds by eating individual foods rather than piling them all on your fork in one uniform taste. Chew food well – just like your mother told you! It extracts more flavour.


About one-third of people over 65 suffer deterioration of their stomach lining which means it doesn’t make so much hydrochloric acid, pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and intrinsic factor. This reduces how much vitamin B12, folate, iron and calcium they can absorb. Vitamin B12 deficiency seriously affects the nervous system and can lead to dementia. B12 comes mostly from animal foods. To get the recommended 2-3mcg a day include some lean meat, salmon, tuna, oysters or liver.

Constipation is common in older people, especially those who are inactive. Some try to solve the problem with laxatives (not a good idea long term) and others by taking copious amounts of unprocessed bran. The odd bran muffin makes a yummy morning tea but too many will bind up vitally important minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. One study found that eating two tablespoons of wheat bran three times a day halved the amount of calcium absorbed.

Our gut contains many ‘friendly’ bacteria that enhance the immune system and make us more resistant to food poisoning and tummy bugs. But as we head into our 70’s there are less of these ‘friendly’ bacteria around. Eating yoghurt or fermented dairy drinks will add a few ‘friendly’ bacteria back into your gut. Check the use-by date to buy the freshest yoghurt as the bugs die off over time. To help these bacteria survive the perilous journey through your stomach, eat foods with resistant starch such as rolled oats, nuts, seeds, lentils, baked beans or cold rice or pasta. You may find yourself sitting on the toilet a bit more often but straining will be a thing of the past!

These foods are great for keeping your gut in top working order:

  • Banana or berry yoghurt smoothie
  • Porridge or muesli topped with yoghurt
  • Baked beans on grainy toast
  • Pasta or rice salad
  • Stir-fry beef with lots of vegetables on rice
  • Fruit salad with yoghurt
  • Sushi
  • Lean mince cooked with red lentils, vegetables and a jar of pasta sauce.

Remember to add in a little exercise, plenty of water and lots of smiles! … more tommorrow (part 4)


Teach your grandchildren to bake a potato

Posted on : 16-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Kids nutrition, Super-healthy...er...stuff, Vegetables


potato faces 1A baked potato has got to be one of the easiest meals around. You wash it, prick it and throw it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes – voila! Or, slightly more complicated – you wrap it in tin foil and throw it in the oven at 200C (400F) for an hour. It’s simple, filling and nutritious so why haven’t I done it for years, I wondered?

“Let’s bake some potatoes tonight,” I suggested to my 8-year-old son this morning. He rolled his eyes in total disinterest and asked, “Why?” I switched into ‘enthusiastic mummy’ mode: “Because I want to teach you how to do it – it’s so easy – and then you can put baked beans or corn or cheese on top – it’s so delicious. I’m sure you would love it. It’s just like having cheese or baked beans on toast, except it’s a potato!” The sell job didn’t work and we ended up with grilled salmon and vegetable fried rice!

“That’s the reason!” I realised as we sat eating our dinner with a fork. This generation eats mostly fork food – meals that can be balanced on your knees in front of TV and eaten with one hand. A baked potato, on the other hand, needs a knife and fork – both hands and a good solid table.

Potatoes New Zealand believes that ‘if a child can bake a potato, they can make a meal’. So they are calling all grandparents to teach this simple skill to their grandchildren. I’m sure they won’t mind if parents take up the challenge too. There’s three days left of school holidays and I’m determined to bake a potato with my son. It can’t be that hard, can it!


The new hero food – potatoes

Memories and recollections of the Kumara and other traditional Maori food {part 2}

Posted on : 25-06-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Maori kai, Traditions, Vegetables


kumara vegetable… continued from part 1

Heaps, heaps and heaps of kumara. Over four days, Rimaha worked single-handedly digging up about a half-acre of kumara.

A warm cloudy day without direct sunlight was preferred for sorting the piles of kumara spread around the excavations.

And there she sat, sorting and singing and telling stories about the changing seasons and the times to plant and harvest, the nights of the seasons, and the season announced by the pipiwharauroa. No activity of this kind was done without consultation with the phases of the moon. The land and the plants were fondled as though they were children.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


“E moko,

She said

“Come help me

Dig out our


Her wrinkled hands


In the brown earth

Counting sorting


There she sat and smoked

One arm akimbo skirt tucked in

Gathering the first fruits

In the kits of Tane


“These we eat now

These for the tangi

These are seed …

And these, e Moko are your


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Dug up, resigned now, kumara lay in heaps protected from the sun by their tendrils and bracken fern. I sat in the dust with Wairemana sorting and drying. She was selective about the weather because direct sunshine would blister the tender tubers. The kumara were separated into three separate heaps of large, medium, and the cut and small tubers. The damaged and the smallest were eaten immediately. No, you did not start by eating the big kumara straight away. They were set-aside for special occasions.

Wairemana showed me how to handle the kumara. I simply followed.

Ko tana ki au, “Me penei. Me penei, me pera. Kia ata haere. Kia ata ngawari to whawha i te kumara na te mea he tino ngaehe noa tona ahua. Kia tau tou rangimarie ki te kumara.”

“Be kind.” I didn’t understand.

I was shown how to carefully turn the tubers over, one by one so that any condensation on the underside would slowly seep away.

Instruction, when I need it, was never in the negative. “Me penei…” These had to be done at least three times to eliminate any residue before they were placed into large sacks for Rimaha to carry up a steep slope. This was necessary to ensure that when they were placed inside the kumara pit (rua kumara), moisture would not harm the rest of the cache.

The kumara pit was carefully planned and dug into the side of a steep slope on a site carefully selected for this purpose. The space was flattened out. Located some 200 yards up a steep slope, the pit was dug down into the clay soil some five feet deep tapering to the top opening and quite spacious at the bottom. The small opening at the top allowed access for a single person. For access, a short ladder made of a post with stepping notches was lowered into the pit. The inside of the pit was lined with bracken with an underlay of manuka brush to cushion the tubers but as well provided the necessary air conditions for their preservation. The lid covering the aperture at the top was made of two sheets of overlapping corrugated irons, which were also covered with layers of bracken and manuka brush. A shallow ditch was dug around the edges of the pit to drain away rainwater.

I helped Rimaha, where I could to carry the heavy sacks of kumara up the steep hill but it was my job to place each tuber individually and carefully one on top of the other. Yes, one by one.

When a cook up of kumara was needed, I was the one to go up the slippery slope, open the pit, fill a kit with kumara, close the pit up carefully, and come back down. Often I lost my footing and sent the kit with its contents scattered everywhere. I hated that job because most times it would be wet-cold.

I recall opening the pit and the outflow of air hitting my face – its acrid, dry smell, and the warmth which rushed out at me.

On the side of the steep hill, the pit faced the rising sun.

The design of the pit was an engineering feat, one which shows the design genius of our tipuna handed down over time. The inside of the pit, when fully closed up was airtight. This created a vacuum, which kept the precious tubers absolutely dry. Before the kumara were laid in their beds, a fire was lit inside the pit to kill off any fungal diseases, and the ashes became a part of the preservation. Then of course, there was the warmth in the ground captured in the pit when the sun came up over the ridge each morning.

The interior of the pit was also covered with layers of bracken. The pit sealed out the air, a way tested over a long time to ensure the preservation of the fragile tubers over winter.

Rimaha was a man of a few words, a very practical man, hard working, a striking figure anywhere.

“The big ones here and those smaller ones over to that side. These are the most important because they are next season’s seed,” he would say.

“That’s why we say the seeds are tapu. They need to be protected,” he emphasised.

And of course, the larger kumara were already tagged for the hui or tangi at the Roimata Marae, or simply to give away.

I watched. I listened and I followed.

Rimaha wasn’t so much into teaching, but rather he allowed me to see how it should be done correcting me only when it was necessary. A quiet man, a perfectionist, a man who watched that I followed instructions carefully. He watched over me as I placed the kumara tubers one layer upon another. When it came to the placement of the tubers, it had to be right or we could face long, tough winter months.

I often wondered in later years, when I had worked out the process used in the construction of the pit, how our tipuna knew about creating an airtight vacuum and using the warmth of the earth within the pit to preserve those precious tubers. Was it accidental? Serendipity? Did not the ancient Egyptians use the same principle in the crypts?

These are taonga in knowledge and skills handed down. Mai rano. He taonga tuku iho, as they say. The taonga of knowledge was safe with them and they passed it on to their moko pukenga to pass on.

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Part 3, the last of this series by Haare Williams, on my next post