Haley, Recipes

Spaghetti squash is one of those vegetables that people know or hear about but never seem to get to know. We think pumpkin or butternut, but never spaghetti variety.

Well, it’s time we broadened our cooking horizons and introduced a new player to the team. 

Spaghetti squash is literally as its name suggests, a squash, that when cooked turns into spaghetti-like noodles. Ideal for those with a gluten or wheat intolerance and pasts is a no-go. Or those that are wanting a lower-carb option for their bolognese. 

In this recipe, however, I have modified a pretty popular home-style dish by swapping out one carbohydrate for another. Don’t get me wrong, stuffed, baked, potatoes are great, but it’s autumn and the spaghetti squash is in season. Plus it’s a perfect way to try out a new ingredient. So let’s get to it.

Serves 2-4 | Prep time 15 minutes | Cook time | 60 minutes total


1 Spaghetti squash
1/2 C water
1 Tbsp Olive or coconut oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 C kale or cavalo nero, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves. chopped fine
1/2 red capsicum, diced
1/2 C peas
1/2 fresh chilli, chopped fine (optional)
1 C grated cheese
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 Tbsp fresh herbs of choice
Himalayan salt and black pepper to season

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c.  
  2. Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthways and season the inside with salt and pepper. Place seasoned side down in the baking dish and pour in the water. Place in pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until tender when pierced.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking prep your vegetables. 
  4. To a pan over medium heat, add in oil, onion and garlic and saute for one minute. Add kale and capsicum then saute for a further 2-3 minutes until softened. Season with a little salt and pepper. Remove from heat and into a large mixing bowl. Add peas, fresh herbs, 3/4 of the cheese and wholegrain mustard then mix to combine.
  5. once the spaghetti squash has cooked, remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  6. Once cool to the touch, use a fork to scrape out the spaghetti strands and add them to the bowl of ingredients. Mix everything together.
  7. Spoon the mixture evenly back into the squash skins and top with the leftover cheese. 
  8. Place them back into the same oven for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted. Top with more fresh herbs and a side of pesto.



steve-jobs1 We all need a reset sometimes. Life is busy; we slip into comfortable habits. We no longer think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s just habit. This can be great for some parts of our life. Lots of successful people (take Steve Jobs for example) wear the same outfit every day to save them time in the mornings. It helps to give them more brain power to spend on other things. More important things. But in some cases, before you know it, you’re sticking with a habit which seemed like a good idea when you picked it up but that really doesn’t serve you now. Maybe it’s even holding you back from being your most authentic you. And this is where a reset can come in, shake things up, make you reassess things and then build up some new habits that do serve your lifestyle now. At Wellness HQ we definitely slipped into a bad habit trap around food recently. Full-time jobs + side hustles + training + time with friends. Excuses arose and before we knew it, it was the same staples for dinner all the time or the dreaded takeaways. Once you’re in there, in that space of bad habits, it can be really hard to make the shift away. Sometimes you need that extra push; something to help make that mental break so that you can start afresh. There are lots of ways to creating a reset.

– Pledge to do something every day for a month. Hold yourself accountable and let others know so that they can support you in this. Knowing that you’ve only got to get through a month, that your new habit has an end date, can make things seem more much achievable rather than stating that you’ll do something every day for the rest of your life, or never again forever. Most likely once you’ve made it through the month it will have stuck enough that you can keep going.

– Start small and manageable. By achieving small wins you can help motivate yourself to take bigger steps. Want to stop spending so much money on takeaways? Pick a night that you know you have the time + energy to cook and start there. Once you see how easy + fun it is one night a week, look at adding another night.

– Get outside of your comfort zone. Physically removing yourself from the spaces that cause the bad habits can help create that mental shift. Maybe it’s a weekend away so that when you come back to your home you can look at things with fresh eyes. Maybe it’s taking a different path to work so that you’re not tempted by the coffee shop with those delicious brioches.

– Get the support you need. Find out what is holding you back (what is really holding you back) and address that. For me recently it was a lack of inspiration about what to cook. I know that the internet is full of great recipes but that was too much for me to take in. So we started getting My Food Bag to help give me more inspiration around new food to cook (like that delicious looking salad just there). Or perhaps it’s a new Keep Cup to inspire you to make coffee at home.

We all need a fresh start sometimes. Here’s hoping you start building a new, amazing habit today.


So is a carrot “worth” the same cooked as it is raw? Is an apple picked in the United States as nutritious as one picked in Warkworth?  Hmmm, no I am not posing deep philosophical questions- I am talking about Bioavailability. What? Bioavailability – is simply, how easily a nutrient you ingest is absorbed into your body and used. After you take your beautiful picture of a brunch meal with friends and take that first bite, the magic begins. Well, the science… Let’s chat about the factors surrounding different nutrients + how well they are absorbed. Bearing in mind that if I mention that a certain cooking choice for a certain vegetable decreases the nutrients absorbed in your body – don’t be alarmed. 60% of absorption is better than 0% absorption. A microwaved broccoli will likely have more nutritional benefit to you than a large cheese pizza. Some foods are better cooked. Some are better raw. Some are better soaked or crushed or chopped. Some foods are better with a glass of wine (this has nothing to do with bioavailability whatsoever, but the enjoyment factor).

Food Preparation: Chopping, crushing, soaking produce
garlicThis can release nutrients available for your body to absorb by breaking down plant walls and releasing different enzymes that help to form other nutrients. Here’s an example: crushing garlic releases alliinase – this enzyme helps to create allicin, a compound that can protect against disease in our bodies. Soaking grains, pulses + legumes (dried) can reduce phytic acid – phytic acid can block zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium absorption. It’s favourable that many cooking techniques we know or that were told to us from our mummas actually had nutritional value, whether they knew that or not!

Timing of preparation
If you cut up a vegetable or fruit, it’s ideal to consume as soon as you can, particularly if the food has been finely chopped- this is so not to allow too much oxygen to have an effect on the nutrients. Lemon juice or a similar acid squeezed on foods like potatoes or apples that discolour quite quickly can slow this factor down.

Local Love: ASAP (As Soon After Picked!)
Local produce is not just for the hippy-hearted amongst us, it’s actually the best option for maximised nutrients in a food. The main plant is the life source for a food, once plucked from the life source, it makes sense that nutrient flow is decreased in that food right? To maximise vitamin + mineral content (and taste!), eat local where you can: maybe plant a small herb garden? I may live in the smallest flat in the whole of Auckland, but there’s a few little pots of edibles happening for me. I encourage you to have a go! Radishes are easy, herbs, lettuces, spinach + chards are all best to plant around this time of year. A farmers market kg of ugly apples may be more nutrient dense than a kg of organic apples from Spain.

Cooked versus Raw
brussels-sproutsSimply, both- depending on the actual food. Heat breaks down B vitamins, folate + vitamin C in foods so that suggests that they should be eaten raw for less nutrient loss. For example, sunflower seeds, peas, brussels sprouts (I admit, this one might be a tad hard for me to enjoy!), broccoli, avocado, cauliflower, kale, capsicum and spinach. There is 3 times MORE vitamin C present in raw spinach then there is found on cooked spinach. You will tend to lose these water-soluble vitamins with rapid boiling + extreme heat. So slow and low is a better way to keep them better intact. Sautéing, roasting, steaming, even microwaving (technically) are good ways to keep higher nutrient density when you choose to cook. That old style of boiling is the best way to lose those nutrients friends! Time to teach Nana an updated cooking method for her green veggies. Though you know what? You can KEEP the water from the boiling veg process and use as a stock or broth in other cooking, there you go! Recycled nutrients? I’m going to copyright that. Cooking can give the best nutrient content in many cases though. For example, your yummy tomatoes have lycopene (an awesome antioxidant) inside them. When they are boiled, research shows that lycopene is increased by 25%. Cooking your vegetables that have beta-carotene significantly increases the absorption ability. For your carrots, sweet potato + tomatoes (think of those colours – red, yellows + oranges – as generally contain beta-carotene) cooking breaks down the tough plant cell walls, so go for it! Cooking can make meats + eggs more absorbable by denaturing the protein (don’t worry, you can still get ‘them gains’), it is definitely a better option for your digestive health. 

One last thing
I’d like to quickly mention that coupling certain foods can increase the bioavailability of nutrients. Many of us know the classic “Vitamin C + Iron pairing” and it works naturally in many dishes thankfully! Oats + mixed berries are a staple for me and getting lemon squeezed onto your eye fillet + kale side is an absorption dream.

Bioavailability is a fascinating topic and worth delving further into. However, I will say don’t stress too much if you boiled, ate raw, chopped sideways or forgot to squeeze your citrus. Nutrients are still present. As we said at the beginning, 60% absorption is better than none. If you are eating beautiful colours from plants, healthy happy meat, variety in whole grains then I can safely say, you are getting some good nutrients flowing through your body. For further questions or references for the above articles please contact Bess Kilpatrick Mason.


IMG_0243When I read a health article or a recipe blog, I want to know something about the writer. That maybe they don’t always live this blissful, perfect, food-focused life; that there is more to them than mountain top experiences. I am sure there is… but sometimes I think, “Far out, I cannot even manage my time and make a piece of toast for breakfast let alone photograph, post + scribe poetry about my gluten free kale granola with vegan activated buckwheat milk from Panama.” So I thought it was worthwhile sharing a little about myself so that I seem like a real person that has a past, present and hopefully exciting future. And by the way, I do like buckwheat and would probably love Panama.

I’m an Australian born and bred Nutritionist who loves her home in Melbourne and the people that make it just that: home. I’m also very happy with my Kiwi husband working in a private health clinic on the North Shore in Auckland. I grew up dancing which influenced my mindset for food/nutrition quite negatively before it became positive. The industry mostly calls for skinny and if this is not your natural physique, don’t eat until you get there! It was actually when I stopped a full on dance regime and finished University that the unhealthy mindset became action, as opposed to just the negative thoughts. A few health complications took hold and I realised skinny did not equal healthy. Thankfully love and good, patient people jumped in. Mum taught me to cook and to love experimenting with food, which turned me into a foodie before I stop myself. I adore being in the kitchen with a killer recipe and delicious ingredients.

thai foodThis was pre-New Zealand. I studied both an exercise science degree and postgraduate nutrition studies in Melbourne, I danced a whole bunch, worked at numerous cafes/organic stores, taught food education in primary schools and wondered, what does one do with all this? Well, one from my generation goes abroad, don’t they? Yes. And sometimes, it is insanely life-changing. I had the opportunity to go to Northern Thailand and work for Destiny Rescue, a Christian NGO who rescue children from sex- trafficking. I started up a café for this organisation + trained young rescued girls in hospitality skills, confident customer service, both English and Thai cooking as well as language while running a full six day a week, 7am-11pm operation with them. I taught some dancing on the side as well.  It was so much more than I could have ever expected. I was challenged out of my boots, not just over there to use some skills and help some cute kids. These girls became my life whether I had wanted them to or not. I became the big sister, boss, youth worker and gave my all trying to help these kids on their journey forwards from pretty dire + traumatic situations. Tiny girls with huge pasts + presents. You kind of get over yourself when you spend time with amazing people who have not known the education, comfort, security, wealth, opportunity, love and health that you have. It is remarkably humbling. The only thing more humbling is how quickly you revert back into a Western mindset “I can’t believe the organic store no longer stocks my favourite almond butter”. We can be so ridiculous sometimes, can’t we? There is nothing wrong with almond butter, but maybe we need to get some perspective sometimes. Thailand is a stunning backdrop for all its harsh undercurrents. The vibrant food markets, the chillis, the food! The girls taught me a thing or two in the kitchen and I taught them a thing or two in return. I realised the therapy in cooking + being able to create. I think it was pretty big healing for these tiny Thais and for small-to-medium Bess too.

limesthaimarketFast forward about 2-3 years and here I am. Living on the North Shore, I miss many things in other parts of the world but adore the ocean so close to my front door, the freshness of the fish my husband has been catching off his paddleboard and the hike-able hills all around. I enjoy working as a Nutritionist as I get to see people from all walks of life with all sorts of needs! Nutrition is one part of the whole deal. A perfect diet will fail if your body never moves or your mind never stops. You are much more useful if all of you is working optimally. I am passionate about food education: from primary aged kids learning to enjoy broccoli, to adults who want to prioritise cooking a meal for the family. It’s awesome. In an age of immediate and convenience, learning to take time with our food makes it taste better and feel better.

As a Nutritionist, I guess I should give some advice?! My wellness advice is, don’t be pretentious about your health + food, be real about it. Embrace it, look after it and enjoy it. But remember that there is more to life than the latest trainers + food trend. There’s a big wide world out there that might just be better off if you add to it with your time, heart, healthy choices and your blessed circumstances. Until next time, here’s a yummy and simple Thai dish for you to make.



No one enjoys being challenged in the area of excess do they!? I’m sorry to say I might be adding to the cacophony, however, do take your time to read on as it may explain some missing energy + vitality in your life.

The following are some honest facts about our internal powerhouse, the liver. And just before you roll your eyes at the healthy kid who probably has never overindulged in her life (incorrect judgement!), I’ve had liver inflammation/damage that has caused me to become a little bit serious about the following.

So here we go…

The Liver. What does it do?lemon-detox-diet

Your liver is one of your most important organs as it has a support role in each system inside you (digestion, hormone production, etc). It filters everything that we eat, drink and inhale and can convert all this energy into a storage form (glycogen) for later use. It’s a great system. And it can cope with a lot of what we throw at it. You definitely don’t need to subscribe to any special well-marketed detox magic diets, your liver can do all the detoxing that your body needs!

Makes sense that we should put useful things through the liver system as opposed to detrimental things yes? So how…

How we hurt it

The liver works pretty darn hard and is quite easy to clog. The stresses that we put into it don’t help, these even include environmental stresses such as pollutants + toxins. Another article for another day (and not by me!), but it is suggested that the toxic cigarettes that we still see around us might not just be affecting the lungs.

Psychological stress is a biggie, more and more research regarding stress impacts show direct relations between psychological stress + “hepatic disease” or, liver problems. In the brain’s ‘liver’ control area, stress can impair blood flow to the liver (not ideal) + subsequently the workload placed on the liver. Stress also produces cortisol + adrenaline and this causes the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, spiking blood glucose levels. Basically, you are not fighting ninjas or running from prehistoric wildlife, you are likely sitting at your work desk with body systems working at 200%.

Another huge impactor on liver health is indeed, our favourite fermented friend, alcohol. The annoying truth is that it’s toxic for our body, so it gets sent straight to the detox room, the liver. The liver can cope with a small amount of alcohol. However, only a small amount at any given time. So if you drink more than the liver can deal with, drink too regularly or too quickly your liver cells struggle to process it. AND they put other jobs, such as detoxing + filtering EVERYTHING ELSE that enters your body, on the backburner.

Hmmmm.. Are you struggling with never-ending lethargy? Sluggish feelings? Hormonal mood swings? Weight gain? Tenderness near your stomach/chest? Plus alcohol is a diuretic, dehydrating us. It forces the liver to get water from elsewhere – generally another body system. Having headaches? Regular issues with constipation? I’m suggesting that if alcohol (alongside stress + caffeine excess) might be causing great pressure on one of your most important organs.

I haven’t even mentioned processed + high trans fats foods yet… I’ll leave you to mull over this information before overloading you with that!

How we heal it

Like most living things, being well looked after is the best way to heal + strengthen the liver. Your lovely liver is vital for your well-being.

Stressed? Maybe it’s time to decrease the coffee (an adrenaline promotor!) and get some herbal teas and fresh water through your body. Perhaps a new hobby in 2016? Perhaps it’s time to add some yoga, stretching, swimming, deep breathing + REST to your life. Mental + physical rest please my friends!

Maybe drinking too much? Moderate alcohol is essential for your liver health. I recommend less than 4 nights per week that have alcohol in them and no more than 4 standard drinks in one session. Maybe 2016 is the time to break some habits.

Liver Loving foods

The best way to look after this guy is to feed it properly, with real foods. Here’s some to get you started:
– Beets + green tea both have antioxidants + increase efficient liver function.
– Avocados have properties that help the filtering process in the liver.
– Lemons + grapefruit are awesome for vitamin C, a powerful vitamin in liver health. Grapefruit can also help to flush carcinogens from the liver system.
– Leafy greens, walnuts, garlic + turmeric are all foods with detoxing, cleansing + support roles in the function of your liver.

Take a moment to consider the health of your liver, keep it happy + healthy and you’ll find it does the same for you.


bess-kirkpatrick-mason I feel sympathy for the old carbohydrates. They are so badly reputed that they often get put into the ‘cannot’ category before they can even defend themselves. Believe me, I’ve had my fearful days, months – years, perhaps – about carbohydrates. It’s taken time and research to help me understand how to utilise carbohydrates as fuel for my body. But I would like to share some truths that may be fresh and encouraging information. Dare I say it? Whole intact grains, tubers, legumes, rice and even potatoes are all foods that I now eat more regularly, and enjoy more than ever before. My health and vitality are better for it. Truly, with more words to spare I could share my personal account! Carbohydrates, in a nutshell (or should I say in a wheat husk), are the most efficient source of energy for your human body. Your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose (blood sugar) and your body NEEDS this glucose for energy for your organs, your tissues, your cells. This is so important to remember: It is impossible to survive without (the right amount of) glucose in your blood and in each body cell! To make carbohydrates, plants trap the sun’s energy inside molecules of glucose. When you eat plants, your digestive system breaks the carbohydrate back down into glucose, which travels through your bloodstream into your cells. The cells then process this glucose, releasing the captured energy and to use for fuel. What lovely efficiency! For those of you who have a fear of carbohydrates, think of it this way: you’re eating sunshine! In essence, this is the sun’s energy in a form we can eat. Oh, bless. Ponder this, especially if the word ‘carbohydrate’ strikes fear into your very soul… ALL PLANTS are carbohydrate sources. YES, ALL. This means that an extremely low-carb or a no-carb diet means an extremely low- or no- plant diet. And I hope that the majority of our readers esteem whole, plant-based eating. A thought or two further: a serve of our much-loved kumara contains more carbohydrates than the humble potato, as well as more than 2 slices of wholemeal bread. This information is not intended to make you tremble, but to embrace the Kiwi favourite (and all root vegetables) in a balanced amount. Stoke your digestive fire, friends. Whole wheat, rye and barley are gorgeous pre-biotic foods that increase good gut bacteria. The very serious issues of coeliac disease aside, grains (many of which are gluten-free) are nutritional powerhouses with their vitamins, mineral, fibres and even proteins! Let me be clear; I am the last person in the world to recommend highly processed carbohydrates. There are many imposters that give good carbohydrates a bad name. For example – white refined flours, sugars, lists of preservatives that no-one can pronounce, are all highly refined carbohydrates with very minimal intact nutrients. These are a tremendous force leading to epidemic obesity, chronic disease and decreased quality of life. I love good fats; I love quality protein; I don’t eat a high carbohydrate diet; I eat moderate amounts to fuel my body optimally. Close-up of buckwheat noodles with aubergine, beans and sesame So, what next? Firstly, let’s stop going nutty when we hear ‘carbohydrates’. They will not kill you! Instead, eaten appropriately, they can boost your energy, sustain your focus, increase digestive health and give you a greater appreciation for the wide variety of beautiful whole foods available to us. I feel saddened by diets that remove food groups from the mainframe of a person’s intake. No food group is wholly bad. It’s how we achieve balance. Imagine the fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and the plethora of good food from this earth you are avoiding that can truly be great fuel for your body. Pointers for Carb-Appreciation: – Beautiful sustaining whole grains and complex carbohydrates are great energy sources: explore them! – Prioritise the real and untainted options. For example, your body doesn’t need 10 pieces of commercial white bread in a day. Maybe it does need a few slices of homemade wholemeal bread, though. (Try to make some! It’s a fun and creative way to get yourself back in the kitchen!) – Eat carbohydrates at each meal. Steel-cut oats for breakfast with fresh berries and coconut yoghurt! Wild rice salad with Asian greens, chilli and poached chicken for lunch! Or perhaps baked kumara at dinnertime with some white fish and greens. – Eat slowly, and allow your body to digest what you have fed it. – Move and utilise your fuel! We weren’t made to be sedentary beings. Fuel well to move well! – Mindfulness, balance, variety and joy are the perfect blend that will sustain and optimise your energy. Be balanced, not scared! Till next time, Bess x
  • I am happy to discuss quantities further, as well as carbohydrates for individuals with coeliac disease and for different lifestyles. We all have a different body to fuel and so I have not given average quantities for this reason.
  • Carbohydrates and food security: a quick note for those concerned with food sustainability and looking after our earth. The environment cannot keep up with grain-free demands. A worthy conversation. If this spikes your interest, please feel free to contact me!



It feels like my brain is refusing to function at the moment.

  My yoga practice is a struggle, my gym progress is declining and just living day to day is a way bigger challenge than it should be. Studying is hard, planning for my business is harder; teaching yoga has been some what of a relief as I have to be completely present—however, during some classes I forget things and I’m left stumbling, trying to remember simple words like “back” or “thigh,” and don’t even get me started on the Sanskrit pose names… A few days ago, I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this—What’s going on? Am I losing my mind? So, I had a blood test and received a message from my doctor less than 24 hours later saying my iron levels were the lowest they’ve ever been. Wow, what have I done to myself? How did I let it get this bad? Could this just be because I’m female? Because I’m vegetarian? Does my body just suck at absorbing iron? I don’t know, but it’s been a huge wake up call. I look back at my diet over these past couple of months and realize that I haven’t been eating properly; I haven’t been taking note of where my iron is coming from in my diet. If you’re feeling exhausted all the time for no real reason and/or never refreshed even though you’re sleeping normally, iron deficiency might be something to consider. It might be a good idea to go get it checked out. Iron is an essential mineral as it carries oxygen throughout your body. If you don’t have sufficient iron, your body cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Without enough healthy oxygen circulating in our bodies, we become fatigued easily. This can affect our memory, which explains why I keep forgetting words while teaching and why I feel overwhelmed when trying to remember things—usually, my brain is excellent at remembering dates, times and my never-ending to-do list. It can also affect our immune systems, meaning our bodies are unable to effectively fight off infections, so when winter comes, we’re prone to catching everything that’s going around. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Iron deficiency is the leading nutrition disorder in the world. Over 2 billion people worldwide are anaemic, a condition commonly caused by iron deficiency. “Iron deficiency and anaemia reduce the work capacity of individuals and entire populations, bringing serious economic consequences and obstacles to national development.” (WHO Report) Women in particular are notorious for having low iron, and it only gets worse during menstruation. Then, add in vegetarianism or veganism and bam! If you’re not watching your diet closely and making sure you’re getting the right nutrients, you could easily fall off the healthy-iron-level bandwagon—and it’s really not that fun down here. Yesterday, I received an IV dose of iron to give me a good boost, but I hope this will be a one off thing. I would hate to rely on drugs to give me a nutrient that is so commonly found in food. It’s also a very expensive option, and it resulted in me feeling quite nauseous and spiked my blood pressure for a while. The best option? Take control of the situation yourself! People have been asking why I don’t just eat meat a couple of times a week, but I know that meat isn’t right for my body; I have known this since I was a little kid. Red meat in particular negatively affects my digestion and causes a lot of pain, which is why I stopped eating it three and a half years ago. Since I stopped eating meat, my iron hasn’t been drastically low; in fact, for a while, it was higher than what it had been when I did eat meat. If you think your iron may be a little on the low side, I strongly advise you to get on top of it now. Try adding some of these foods into your diet: 1. Spinach 2. Lentils 3. Dried fruit: apricots, peaches, raisins etc. 4. Collard greens 5. Soy beans 6. Pumpkin seeds 7. Black beans 8. Kale 9. Broccoli 10. Strawberries Even if you are eating plenty of iron, your body may not be absorbing it, so make sure you eat plenty of vitamin C to help the absorption process. Try these foods: 1. Citrus fruits 2. Berries 3. Mangoes 4. Kiwifruit 5. Papayas I really encourage taking a close look at what you’re putting in your mouth, check that everything is filled with healthy vitamins and minerals so you’re getting the very best out of every meal. Don’t wait until you’re feeling exhausted, forgetful and sick before you make the change!   First published here at elephantjournal.com

Call Now Button