Hello and welcome to Kitchen in the Valley

My name is Kat and I am a wife, mother and self trained cook from Canberra, Australia. I love to cook and I LOVE to eat. But more than that I am passionate about feeding people. I love nothing more than to welcome my friends and family into my home to share good food and good stories. Whether it be a relaxing BBQ with gorgeous summer salads or a hearty winter casserole followed by an ooey-gooey chocolate pudding, my guests inevitably find their way back to my kitchen, savouring the delicious smells and gorgeous flavours that emanate from within.

I am a firm believer that food is something to be shared. It brings us together during times of great happiness and great sorrow. It breaks down barriers and opens up a safe space to share in each others lives regardless of our many differences. As a passionate advocate for diversity, this is something that is particularly important to me.

I am also becoming more and more passionate about the ability of food to nourish and heal our bodies without deprivation. My first foray into a Paleo Diet in 2012 was so boring and mundane that it simply wasn’t sustainable. I can therefore appreciate why people speak ill of of diets and lifestyles that promote and encourage healthy living if they are assumed to be boring and restrictive. My goal is to inspire you to see that healthy food doesn’t need to be bland and boring, but rather exciting and delicious!

I invite you to come with an open mind and an open heart, explore my recipes, read my blog posts and share in all that arises from Kitchen in the Valley.

Nothing brings people together like good food. 

Anonymous

My Food Journey – Getting Back to Basics

My parents tell a story that as I child I would wake up in the morning and ask what was for dinner. Apparently even as I child I planned my day around food! Perhaps this love affair was fuelled by the fact that I live in Australia where the fruit and veggies are fresh and abundant. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was surrounded by people who were passionate about cooking and feeding others.

As a child I would spend hours with my mother, godmother and grandmothers in their kitchens. Mum taught me the basics, teaching me how to throw together a simple yet delicious stirfry for dinner or corn fritters for a weekend lunch time. Each Monday was a treat as I visited my godmothers’ house and was invited to help her bake sweet cakes for the hordes (it was an open door policy at her house). I loved the creativity, the mess and the joy it bought others to eat our creations. Visiting my grandmothers’ houses in Sydney was equally as exciting. After a 3 and a half hour car trip from Canberra to Sydney, we were treated to delicious hot meals and baked goods that were lovingly served up within minutes of landing on their doorstep. My mother’s mother will always hold a special place in my heart for her famous ANZAC Biscuits and Lemon Pavlova.

Before too long I was starting to build a nice little collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines. I specifically asked that gifted cookbooks be signed and dated by those doing the gifting – a tradition I’m glad to have retained after all this time. During my teenage years, these cookbooks served me well in learning all about different cooking methods.

I continued cooking and creating into my early twenties, however, this passion was largely put aside while I struggled through University. In 2009 I met my husband who not only loved my food, but also loved to join me in the kitchen and cook beside me – a match made in heaven. When he proposed in 2012 he told me outright that a large part of his decision was based on my cooking (cheeky bugger!). While this moment was one of the best in my life, it was also during one of my hardest times.

In May 2012 and at the age of 27 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I struggled through month after month of debilitating fatigue, experiencing an overwhelming flu-like tiredness, tender aching muscles, sleep disturbances and brain fog on a daily basis. The disruption to my life was significant as I ceased all social activities including hobbies, limiting myself to part time work, and largely abandoning the life that I once had. Ironically, my level of fatigue would generally only be considered mild in comparison to those who are housebound or bedbound – I have a lot to be thankful for! This continued for approximately 18 months with little reprieve.

I’d seen various doctors, nutritionists and more. Those who believed that there might genuinely be something wrong with me gave me band-aid solutions at best. Others made outright statements that someone my age “simply shouldn’t have fatigue” or made questioning faces of disbelief whenever I described my symptoms.  The only luck I’d had  shifting the fatigue was when I trialled a diet that was free of grain, dairy, sugar, legumes and processed food. The removal of inflammatory foods significantly eased my fatigue, although didn’t solve it completely, and unfortunately the recipes I’d been given were so bland that it didn’t stick. I had changed my food habits with the aim of healing my body, and yet this new diet was so mundane that it simply wasn’t sustainable. I hated the idea that food should be boring. It wasn’t me.

After awhile I found an amazing doctor in Sydney who identified a number of issues that contributed to the fatigue. Like many people who experience CFS the triggers were numerous. They included a viral infection, the physical stress of trying to lose weight, the emotional stress of grieving for my beautiful sister who had passed away the year before, more emotional stress from work and the re-emergence of glandular fever – and these were just the triggers! He also identified that I have a genetic condition called MTHFR – (VERY simply) a condition which causes you to improperly process folate and B12 which are basic building blocks for energy production in our bodies.

My fatigue started to lift as we worked together to address these matters and I subsequently started reintroducing foods that no longer appeared to inflame my system. I maintained a fairly consistent gluten free diet for a number of years, but couldn’t help myself when it came to sugar and dairy. Day-by-day, week-by-week, they slowly crept back into my life.

I had a relatively good couple of years in the followup.  Hubby and I were married surrounded by family and friends in 2013, we were lucky enough to travel to Europe for 2 months in 2014, and in August 2015 we were blessed with the birth of our son Charlie. Somewhat unexpectedly for someone with a history of CFS, I fared quite well during the immediate year following his birth, likely because I was particularly strict about getting enough sleep by putting myself to bed at 8pm each night when he went down! Unfortunately, this good stretch came to an abrupt halt.

In December 2016 the nightmare returned and the fatigue set in again, this time the result of hormonal changes after stopping breastfeeding. With each new week the symptoms became worse and worse until I finally sought help, stopped work, and again set out on a period of rest and healing. The symptoms have been slightly different the second time around, with greater brain fog including problems with memory and concentration. The fatigue has been overwhelming with days where I’ve had less than 50% capacity. But I’m still here, fighting, learning and striving for good health.

This journey has helped me come to the realisation that I need to seriously and permanently clean up my diet to ensure that I am giving my body the best opportunity to thrive. Past experience has shown that omitting grains, dairy and sugar has had great results for my fatigue so that is what I am doing again. I am revisiting old recipes, discovering new ones, and diving headfirst into the world of all things Paleo. It’s the start of a new journey that both terrifies and excites me. But my health is worth it.

So here is to a new journey in food and health! I hope you stick with me along the way!

 

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. 

Virginia Woolf

Confessions of a Foodie – What this Site Is and Is Not

  • I am currently following a strict paleo diet in a bid to nurture and heal my body. For the most part, my recipes will be free of gluten, grain, dairy, refined sugar and processed foods.  But never fear – healthy food can be tasty too – just let me show you!

  • There will be times when I will publish recipes that fall outside of a paleo approach. These may be family favourites or much loved treats that simply can not be replaced by alternatives.

  • I am not a trained nutritionist, dietitian, health coach or doctor. I create recipes to suit my own health journey. Blog posts about health or diet are simply the result of my own research and should not be taken as fact. I encourage you to take what you will, explore, experiment and always be on a never ending journey to learn about your own body and its needs.

  • Kitchen in the Valley is a space to share recipes of my own creation. At times these recipes will be inspired by the work of others. Where this is the case, I will take all measures to credit the original recipe and author.

 

Do you like what you see? Why not subscribe to my mailing list to receive my latest recipes, blog posts and updates.