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spicy carrot salad

Where I live there’s an awesome local play group. We’ve been blessed to meet many other families in the area.

The other day, our playgroup talk turned to food and cooking as it often does when I’m around. (Why is that?)

We were chatting about the challenges of mid-week family dinners.

There seemed to be two camps. One group was resigned to putting up with ‘sub standard meals’ during the week and the other resorted to having dinner really late.

My heart really went out to them.

It made me realize how lucky I am. Most of the time I don’t have either problem.

Sometimes I have the problem of trying to cook with a hungry one-year-old attached to my leg. But that’s a whole other story.

It got me thinking why our mid-week family dinners are (mostly) pretty tasty and are (mostly) on the table by 6pm.

Working from home definitely helps but I think the biggest factor is that I’m pretty organized. I love thinking about what I’m going to cook and I usually have some sort of plan.

So I thought today we’d have a look at some of the benefits of meal planning…

6 Reasons to Use a Meal Plan

1. Better Tasting Meals.
I’m a food lover. The most important thing for me is that my meals taste good. Life is to short to put up with sub standard dinners.

When I was talking to members of ‘Soupstones‘ (my done-for-you meal planning service) a little while back, many people mentioned their meals had been tastier and they’d been getting more compliments since using my meal plans. There you go.

2. Increase your likelihood of cooking at home.
Cooking for yourself is one of the biggest game changers to help you look and feel your best. Having ingredients in the house and some idea of what to make with those ingredients makes it much, much easier to cook. Especially when you’re tired at the end of a long day.

3. Variety
Getting stuck in a food rut is no fun and not the best from a nutritional perspective either. Using some sort of plan is a great way to inject some fresh ideas and ensure you try new recipes from time to time.

4. Reduce Waste and Save Money
Having a meal plan that works means you’ll be buying the right amount and types of food each week and actually using them. So you’ll be less likely to be throwing out ‘veg gone bad’ at the end of the week. Both result in more dollars in your pocket and a happier planet.

5. Saving Time
By planning ahead you can save yourself time on many levels. First you can buy more when you do shop, saving you extra trips to pick up ‘this and that’ at the store.

Plus having a plan allows you to prep ahead and prep in bulk (if you like), meaning less time to get dinner on the table on those busy week nights.

6. Less Deciding What to Cook
It’s much harder to make decisions when you’re tired. Following a meal plan means the pressure is off having to ‘decide’. The decision part has already been done so you can just walk into the kitchen and immerse yourself in the soothing world of chopping and stirring.

It’s my favourite way to relax at the end of the day (apart from when there’s that one-year-old-leg situation I mentioned earlier ;)

Soupstones Square Logo no border

Like Some Help with Your Meal Planning?

Then you’re in luck!

To celebrate the 3-and-a-half Birthday of Soupstones, my simple done-for-you meal planning service, I’m having a quick 50% OFF Sale.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the ‘1/2 Birthday Sale’
use your link below:

www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

NOTE: Sale for a strictly limited time.

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“I nearly cried when your planner came through today! My life is really hectic at the moment, lots of decision making needed, stress etc and to have the planner with recipes that are easy and scrummy, portion controlled and a shopping list it was such a relief. Thank you, thank you!”
Cecelia, Soupstones Member.
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spicy carrot salad-2

Spicy Carrot & Chicken Salad

Harissa is a very hot paste made with lots of chillies. It’s commonly found in Tunisia and Morocco and is one of my favourite ingredients. You can buy it online or from good delis. My supermarket stocks it. It comes in a tube and is brilliant to keep in the fridge for an instant chilli hit. If you can’t find commercial harissa you know I’ve got you covered in the variations below.

enough for: 2
takes: 45 minutes

2 onions finely sliced into 1/2 moons
1 bunch baby carrots, tops reserved
4 chicken thigh fillets, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place onion, carrots and chicken in a roasting tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

2. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring about half way through.

3. Meanwhile, combine harissa, vinegar and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Taste and season.

4. When the carrots, onion and chicken are cooked remove from the oven and drizzle over the dressing. Serve with carrot tops sprinkled over.

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Variations

side salad – skip the chicken if you prefer.

no carrot tops – if your carrot tops aren’t nice (or a non existent) replace with a bag of salad leaves or bunch of flat leaf parsley or coriander leaves.

grown-up carrots – replace baby carrots with 4 regular carrots halved lengthwise.

vegetarian / vegan – replace chicken with a drained can of chickpeas, white beans, mushrooms or eggplant.

no harissa – replace with any chilli paste or hot sauce such as sambal oleck or sriracha. You could also substitute 2-4 large fresh red chillies that have been finely chopped.

different veg – also lovely with sweet potato, parsnip, regular potatos, swede or beets. Some veg may need cooking for longer.

more substantial – serve with flat bread or couscous that has been cooked according to the packet with some extra butter added or serve with cooked quinoa, brown rice or boiled potatoes.

short on time – pan fry chicken and onions instead and serve with the dressing raw grated carrots.

more veg – serve with a green salad or add mushrooms or eggplant with the chicken.

family friendly – use less harissa or serve dressing on the side.

low carb – replace carrots with 1 large head broccoli or a small cauliflower. And use baby spinach or salad leaves instead of the carrot tops.

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ps. Not sure if my meal plans would work for you?

Here’s what Marjorie and Emma said about their experience:

“It took me a bit to get going on it, but when I made a leap and just went and shopped from your list — Voila! It was marvelous. I made everything like you said, even if I thought, we are not going to like this recipe. It’s pretty amazing, but my husband and I have liked every single meal. I’ve heard him talk about Soupstones Meal Plans to people and he says, You read the recipe and you doubt it’s going to taste good — but it ALWAYS does! He gets very excited now to see what’s in store for the week.”
Marjorie, Soupstones Member.

“What I love most about it is that I don’t need to think of what’s for dinner. Thinking of a healthy meal for the family during the working week is tricky so I really appreciate the inspiration from your meal plans. The hard work is done”.
Emma, Soupstones Member.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the ‘1/2 Birthday Sale’
use your link below:

www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

NOTE: Sale for a strictly limited time.

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Roast Cabbage with Chunky Bacon Gremolata-2

This week I have not one but two special treats for you.

The first is a simple idea. But one it’s taken me a while to cotton on to. Sometimes I’m a slow learner.

We’re talking one of my favourite vegetables, cabbage. And we’re talking one of my favourite cooking techniques, the fast roast.

To cut a long story short, we’re talking match made in heaven.

Even if you think you’re not a fan of cabbage, I really encourage you to try it. Seriously, cabbage cooked like this is the business.

The second idea probably won’t need as much convincing because, yes, there’s bacon. (Although if you’re vegetarian, like my friend Dominica, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Just skip down to the variations below).

Gremolata is usually an Italian topping of parsley, garlic and lemon zest used to add freshness to slow cooked dishes. This bacon and almond version takes the idea to a whole new level and has a million and one uses.

My favourite is to use it on simply cooked veggies like this cabbage but it’s also fab to add crunch to soups or as a salsa to serve with cooked chicken. It’s also a brilliant way to jazz up poached or fried eggs for a super tasty brunch.

It’s so, so good!

Want to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes?

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

I really want to hear from you!
What do you like about Stonesoup? Do you have any ideas to make it better? What would you like to see more of?
Let me know in the comments below.

The winner for June is Ferryn from Austria.

A new winner will be chosen early July.

With love,
Jules
xoxo
www.thestonesoup.com

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Roast Cabbage with Chunky Bacon Gremolata-3

Roast Cabbage with Crunchy Bacon Gremolata

Inspired by the lovely Andrea Bemis from my favourite vegetable-loving blog Dishing Up the Dirt.

We’ve had this for breakfast and dinner on different days and it’s great at any time of day. I’ve also made it with white and red cabbage and have a slight preference for red because it looks prettier.

enough for: 2
takes: 40 minutes

1/2 medium red cabbage
4 slices bacon
2 handfuls roasted almonds
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
zest 1 small lemon

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Slice cabbage into 4-5 slices each about 2cm (3/4in) thick. Place sliced on a baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil or duck fat.

2. Roast cabbage for about 15 minutes. Turn and keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes or until cabbage is crispy around the edges and no longer crunchy in the middle.

3. While the cabbage is roasting cook bacon in a frying pan on a medium high heat until well browned and crispy. Cool for a few minutes.

4. When the bacon isn’t too hot chop coarsley. Chop almonds and parsley (stalks and all) and combine with the bacon along with the lemon zest.

5. Divide cabbage between 2 plates and top with bacon gremolata.

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Variations

more substantial – serve with poached or fried eggs or as a side to roast or pan fried chicken or fish. A dollop of home made mayo is also lovely.

carb-lovers – Toss in some cooked pasta, serve with crusty bread and butter or pile everything on a slice of well buttered sourdough toast.

vegetarian – make an almond gremolata by doubling the almonds, skipping the bacon and adding a small clove of finely chopped garlic. If you have smoked almonds even better.

pescetarian – replace bacon with a drained can of tuna in chilli oil.

budget – use chunky sour dough bread crumbs instead of the almonds (or substitute some).

different veg – brussels sprouts are an obvious choice and won’t need as long in the oven. Also brilliant with regular broccoli, broccolini or cauliflower – just adjust roasting time as needed. The gremolata is also great on cooked greens like spinach, chard or kale.

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Bone Broth

Do you struggle to get organized to make broth or stock on a regular basis? Well as my friend Rico says, ‘I hear ya honey‘!

I used to be the same.

Having a good supply of home made stock seems like such a great idea because the store bought stuff is never as good. But there’s also the ‘too much effort (and waste) for not enough reward’ perception.

These days, however, I’ve been loving my stock making. Especially with my Monday Night Soup project I wrote about recently.

What Caused the Change?

1. I got a good system for collecting bones.
Basically I have a large ziplock bag in the freezer labelled ‘bones’. Yes, I thought long and hard about that one ;) So now whenever I cook something with bones, they go straight into the freezer bag.

2. I developed a good workflow.
Like most of cooking (and life) having a good system and practicing makes a huge difference. Now that I have my system I look forward to my stock making days.

3. I discovered the ‘remy’.
One of my gripes about broth / stock making was disposing of all the bones afterwards. It seemed like so much waste. Then I discovered the idea of a remouillage or remy for short. Basically, it’s a weaker broth / stock you make with the bones after you’ve made the original batch of full strength broth / stock.

There are still the bones to discard at the end but it feels more worthwhile when I’ve made this extra batch.

What’s the Difference Between Bone Broth and Stock?

There’s a lot of talk about bone broths these days and really the two terms can be used interchangeably. Although for me a broth is something you’re planning to be drinking on it’s own or as a simple soup. Whereas a stock is something you use as an ingredient.

When making stock / broth the bones provide the minerals and gelatine (to give the body) and meat on the bones provides the flavour. So broths tend to include more meat but I don’t get too worried about it.

Bone Broth-2

How I Make Bone Broth (Stock)

Like my recent post on making muesli for my boys, this isn’t so much a recipe as a work flow. There are no right or wrong ways to go about this. Every batch I make is slightly different but that’s part of the beauty.

makes: how long is a piece of string?
takes: 1-2 days

enough bones to fill your stock pot
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
optional extras (see variations below)

Day 1.
1. Place bones in your pot (mine come straight from the freezer). Cover with cold water, leaving about 2 inches from the top so the broth won’t boil over.

2. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil. If you can be bothered, skim any foam from the top and discard it. I often don’t bother but removing this fat and protein makes for a clearer stock so I try and do it a couple of times.

3. While the stock is coming to the boil prep your veg and add to the pot.

4. When the stock has boiled, reduce heat and simmer gently uncovered for 4 – 12 hours. Top up with some boiling water if the level reduces too much. Remove from the heat and cover. You can refrigerate in the pot or just leave on the stove top like I do.

Day 2.
1. Remove bones from the pot using a strainer or skimmer and place in another large pot or a really big bowl (like I do) and save for your remy. Bring broth to a rapid boil to kill off any bacteria that have grown overnight.

2. Pour stock through a fine sieve into a heat proof jug (I do this in batches). And then transfer the strained stock into storage containers (I use glass jars about 2 cup capacity). Remember it will expand when frozen so leave some space. Seal jars / containers and pop in the fridge to cool.

3. When the fat has solidified you can remove it and save for other cooking. Or just leave it on (like I mostly do).

4. Broth will keep in the fridge for up to about 5 days (sometimes I leave it longer but I always make sure it gets a good boiling before consumption). Keeps for months in the freezer.

Day 2. The Remy
1. Place your saved bones back in the stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for as long as you’ve got (4-12 hours). Don’t top up with water because you want to concentrate the flavours.

2. Remove and discard bones. Strain remy through a fine sieve into storage containers or directly into a large saucepan to make a batch of soup (like I usually do.). If storing, refrigerate or freeze as per the full-flavoured broth.

Variations

optional extras – bunch thyme, bunch flat leaf parsley, can diced tomatoes, vegetable peelings.

more chicken flavour – include some chicken wings with your bones.

more flavour – roast bones in the oven until well browned. 200C / 400F for about 60 minutes is usually enough. I generally don’t bother but sometimes I do and it makes a richer darker stock.

more body / gelatine – add some (well scrubbed) chicken feet!

short on time – You can do everything in the one day if you like. Or skip making the remy at the end.

stronger flavoured remy – add an extra carrot, onion and stick of celery to the bones.

Like to learn more?

The best resource I’ve come across is a little book called ‘Brodo – a bone broth cookbook‘ by New York Chef Marco Cannora. It contains a whole host of broth and soup recipes (including vegetarian broths) and is well worth checking out.

And you might enjoy my 7 Surprising Reasons to Eat More Soup.

With love,
Jules xoxo
www.thestonesoup.com

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ps. Want to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes?

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

I really want to hear from you!
What’s your favourite Stonesoup recipe?
Let me know in the comments below.

The winner for June will be judged on and announced next week.

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-Honey & Almond Zucchini Cake-2

My friend Suzie, a seriously talented baker, popped in the other day and we were chatting about baking (as you do).

I was completely blown away (and honoured) when she mentioned that she had tried a few recipes from my new low carb / sugar-free baking book.

(Full disclosure: I’d given Suzie a copy to say thank you for lending me some beautiful photography props. All the pretty things in the book are hers.)

I was so, so happy to hear she enjoyed having a collection of healthier recipes that she knew were going to work. Instead of having to experiment on her own.

If you’ve ever tried removing sugar, you know, it’s tricky because sugar doesn’t just provide sweetness. It also provides bulk and binds up moisture.

It got me thinking about the mistakes I’ve made on this low carb journey so I thought I’d share some today so you don’t have to learn the hard way like I did!

3 Biggest Mistakes of Low Carb Bakers

1. Trying to Adapt Without a Proven Recipe.
This book was easily the toughest I’ve ever written. Even though I’ve studied food science and worked in baking product development, it was a challenge to find the elusive balance between deliciousness and keeping the carbs and sugar low.

While some recipes came together relatively easily (like the cake below where zucchini is used to take the place of sugar), others took many many attempts to perfect. And there were many that didn’t make it into the book, like the Double Chocolate Cookies based on black beans and cocoa powder. If my chocolate-loving 3-year-old wouldn’t eat them (and he didn’t) I couldn’t include them.

Only recipes I was 100% happy with made the cut.

2. Using Hard-to-Find Ingredients.
As a minimalist, I like keeping my pantry streamline. Baking is one area it can easily get complicated, especially when sugar and flour are off the list. So I challenged myself to avoid any obscure ingredients and stick to the basics. With the exception of pure stevia powder (which I buy online), all the ingredients I use in the book are available in my supermarket.

3. Assuming It’s Impossible.
Of all three mistakes, this was the one I most suffered from. In the past I believed that in order for sweet treats to taste any good you needed to use real sugar. But having Gestational Diabetes gave me an incentive to try sugar-free baking again, otherwise I was looking at a very long 9 months without cookies or cake.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy to make things taste amazing AND meet my health standards. But I kept being pleasantly surprised which gave me the courage to keep experimenting and ultimately write the Sunday Baking Sessions.

As Audrey Hepburn said…
‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m Possible!’.

Like to try my ‘tried and tested’ collection of healthy baked goods and treats?

SBS 3D cover FINAL

Then check out my new book, the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions‘.

To find out more go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

Love,
Jules
xoxo

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-Honey & Almond Zucchini Cake

Honey & Almond Zucchini Cake

From the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions‘.

What!? Honey in a sugar-free baking book!? Believe me, I know honey is pretty much just sugar and I treat it as such. I spent a long time tossing up whether to included this recipe in the book and decided to leave it in because a zucchini and almond cake doesn’t sound as good. AND I’ve included a honey-free variation so that if you do want to keep your cake completely sugar-free you can. Plus it’s only 2 tablespoons in the whole cake.

serves: 6-8
takes: 70 minutes

400g (14oz) zucchini
250g (9oz) almond meal
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder*
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
100g (3.5oz) neutral flavoured oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a loaf pan 24cm x 12cm (approx 9in x 5in) with baking paper.

2. Grate your zucchini (I use my food processor). Mix zucchini, almond meal, stevia, baking powder, honey, eggs, oil and vanilla (if using) in a medium bowl or just add it to the food processor. Mix with a spoon to combine but don’t stress if you end up with a few lumps.

3. Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the cake is deeply golden brown and feels springy. And a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The honey will cause it to brown more than you’d normally expect.

4. Cool in the tin before serving.

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Variations

honey / sugar-free – replace honey with an extra teaspoon vanilla extract to make 2 teaspoons total.

*important note about stevia! – there are 4 types of stevia:
1. Pure Stevia Powder – looks like icing (powdered / confectioners) sugar. It’s expensive but a tiny amount goes a long long way. We’re talking 1/8 teaspoon to sweeten a whole cake. This is what I use.
2. Granular Stevia (like Natvia or Truvia) – looks like regular white sugar. It’s a blend of erythritol and stevia. Usually 1/4 teaspoon = 4-6 tablespoons granular stevia.
3. Fresh or Dried Stevia Leaves – from a real stevia plant! I haven’t baked with them but they will behave similar to the pure stevia powder. Just add to taste.
4. Liquid stevia. I haven’t used this. But add to taste.

granular stevia – replace pure powder with 4-6 tablespoons granular stevia.

no stevia – use you favourite sweetener… Honey, maple syrup, xylitol or white sugar! Just add and taste until you’re happy with the sweetness level.

sugar lovers – use 75g (3oz) sugar instead of the stevia. If you like things on the sweeter side double the sugar.

nut-free / budget – replace almond meal with plain (all purpose) flour. Reduce baking time to 25-30 minutes. Or replace almond meal with finely ground sunflower seeds (I use a little coffee grinder) – no need to change the baking time.

different veg – zucchini is my favourite because it’s low carb and mild in flavour. But feel free to experiment with carrot, parsnip, sweet potato or butternut squash.

muffins – divide mixture between 8-10 lined holes in a 1/2 cup muffin tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

round cake – use a 20cm (8in) round cake tin. Baking time should be closer to 40 minutes.

extra pretty – sprinkle with a handful of whole or sliced almonds before baking like I have in the picture.

Shelf Life / Storage

Can be kept for 1-2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. Keeps for months in the freezer. I like to slice before freezing and defrost slices in the toaster (really delicious with lashings of butter or ricotta) but it can make a mess of your toaster!

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SBS 3D cover FINAL

ps. Not sure the Sunday Baking Sessions is for you?

Here what Ben, Ros and Kathryn had to say about it…

“My fiancée is intolerant of both dairy and gluten, so I had almost stopped baking. Unusually dense cakes, rock-hard slices and uneven bread were all typical results. However, from the “Lemon Delicious Cake” using cannellini beans and “Ginger Tahini Cookies” to the “Stupidly Easy Banana Bread” from the Sunday Baking Sessions, I’ve had success and compliments for everything!”
Ben, Sunday Baking Sessions Owner.

“All of my friends are anti sugar and I will be encouraging them to buy the Baking book, and I am looking forward to some healthy baking sessions with my granddaughter.”
Ros, Sunday Baking Sessions Owner.

“I purchased your ‘Sunday Baking Sessions’ and I am so so happy I can bake treats again without having to deprive myself.”
Kathryn, Sunday Baking Sessions Owner.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

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Broccoli Sandwich Bread-3

I have a strong memory of when I first decided to experiment with eating grain-free. Back in 2010 I was heavily into baking my own sourdough. This meant toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch most days.

But it also meant I often felt bloated and gross (especially after lunch). And I was finding it harder to manage my weight even though I was running 50km+ (31 miles) each week.

So after reading about the paleo diet, I decided to put my bread making addiction on hold, and experiment with this whole grain-free approach.

After trying it for a month, I was pretty happy with the results but found the lack of dairy and legumes too restrictive. So I created my own ‘almost-paleo’ way of eating with a focus on vegetables and including legumes and a little dairy.

I also decided to avoid ‘bread-like’ packaged products, even if they were ‘paleo’ and just focus on enjoying delicious real food. Simple.

To be honest I didn’t really miss bread. And when I ‘treated’ myself to a slice of amazing sourdough from one of my favourite bakers, the icky feeling afterward didn’t justify the pleasure. So I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing anything to avoid bread.

Then earlier in the year I came across this bread recipe using broccoli, eggs and almond meal. Since I was writing a baking book I decided to investigate.

What a revelation!

Satisfyingly bready yet also low-carb and a serve of veggies? Brilliant.

It’s been so great to have the occasional sandwich for lunch. Or a slice of avocado toast. Definitely a keeper!

Like to try more low-carb / gluten-free breads?

SBS 3D cover FINAL

Then check out my new book, the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions‘. There’s also my ‘Life-Changing’ Cauliflower Seed Loaf, Rosemary & Almond ‘Sourdough’, Coconut Flat Breads, Low-carb Tortillas and plenty more…

To make sure you don’t miss out on the special introductory price go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

NOTE: Special launch price available for a limited time only.

Love,
Jules xoxo

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Broccoli Sandwich Bread-2

Broccoli Sandwich Bread

From the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions‘.

When I’m in the mood for a sandwich or a slice of toast, this is my go-to recipe. I love how something that feels and tastes quite ‘bready’ is actually a serve of vegetables. I slice and freeze so I can just defrost in the toaster as needed.

This broccoli bread does look very green, which I love but I’ve found my boys are much happier eating the white, cauliflower version instead. What is it with kids and green food?

makes: 6-8 slices
takes: about 40 minutes

500g (1lb) broccoli, 2 small
4 eggs
100g (3.5oz) almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F).

2. Whizz your broccoli using your food processor until it looks a bit like fine couscous. Or chop as finely as possible.

3. Add eggs, almond meal and salt to the food processor bowl. Stir with a spoon until combined.

4. Line a baking tray with baking (parchment) paper. Tip the broccoli mixture onto the lined tray then using your hands smooth into a rectangle about 1cm (1/3in) thick.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the bread is slightly browned and feels firm and springy when touched.

6. Cool on the tray. Cut in half crosswise and then into 3-4 lengthwise to make 6-8 slices (or cut to your preferred size).

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Variations

different quantities – the 500g (1lb) broccoli is a guideline but if you only have 400g (14oz) or up to 600g (21oz) it will be fine.

higher fiber – Add 1-2 tablespoons psyllium, oat bran, ground chia seeds or ground flaxseeds (linseeds). I’ve also made it with whole linseeds.

nut-free – replace almond meal with bread crumbs, ground linseeds (flax seeds) or ground sunflower seeds. Each of these will soak up different amounts of moisture so you’ll need to be prepared for different baking times. When I made it with ground sunflower seeds the texture was wetter and it took 30 minutes.

different vegetables – cauliflower works really well. You could also replace up to half the broccoli / cauliflower with grated raw veg like carrot, beets, sweet potato, parsnip or zucchini. I wouldn’t use all root veg though.

other flavours – I like to keep this simple so my sandwich flavours come through but you could play around with some grated parmsean, garlic or chopped herbs.

Shelf Life / Storage

Will keep in the fridge for a week or so. I like to keep it in the freezer and just warm slices in the toaster as needed.

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ps. Like a sneak peak?

Here are some samples from the book…
SBS 3D cover FINAL
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SBS 3D cover FINAL

pps. I normally don’t like to play favorites…

But the Savoury & Breads chapter in the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions‘, is the one I’ve found myself using the most since I downloaded the finished book to my phone.

And the cool thing is that since there’s no gluten or flour, there’s no need to knead! Or mess around with yeast.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the special introductory price go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

NOTE: Special launch price available for a limited time only.

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5 peanut butter chocolate fudge-3

During the week I had a conversation that reminded me of one of my ‘past lives’. It was an interview for an ABC podcast talking about my experience with gestational diabetes.

I was asked about my time working in the chocolate product development team for Arnotts, Australia’s largest biscuit (cookie) manufacturer.

While I’m glad my career has evolved in a different direction, I look back on those days fondly. Working with chocolate was awesome fun. I learned so much.

You know, important life lessons like tasting a variety of chocolate biscuits for breakfast meetings is not good for your waistline (I shudder to think what my blood sugar would have been like back then). More counter-intuitive was how different factors impact the way we perceive flavours and sweetness.

We used to do our tastings ‘blind’, so no one knew what the differences were. The results frequently surprised me. There were many more ‘levers’ I could pull to increase the deliciousness of a particular product than just adding more sugar.

I’ve been super grateful for those lessons while creating the recipes for my new sugar-free baking book. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to successfully transition to baking without sugar without my Arnott’s experience.

There’s a reason why most sugar-free treats don’t live up to expectations. It’s not easy to replace sugar.

But as I’ve learned during my journey with gestational diabetes and now type 2, it is possible!

So today I wanted to share some of my ‘secrets’ so you can make your baking taste better too.

4 ‘Secrets’ to Cooking Without Sugar

1. Use sweet real food ingredients.
There are plenty of real foods that taste sweet without being packed with sugar. Some of my favourites are berries, coconut (especially coconut oil), pears, apples, stone fruit, carrots, prunes and dark chocolate.

Very occasionally I use dates or bananas but I know they pack a pretty big sugar-punch so treat them with the caution they deserve.

What I don’t do is use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or (heavens forbid) brown sugar and pretend to myself that because these sweeteners are ‘natural’, they’re good for me. Sugar is sugar people. For me these sugars masquerading as ‘healthy’ is actually worse than plain old white sugar. They’re all going to have the same impact on your blood sugar.

2. Master the power of seasoning.
Just as in savoury cooking, it’s super important to get your seasoning right when creating sweet treats. Generally salt balances out sweetness so using less salt will make things taste sweeter, without any actual extra sugar. So I use unsalted butter and avoid adding anything salty.

There is a special (and very important) exception to the no salt rule… Chocolate!

Salt masks sweetness but it also masks bitter flavours like those found in dark chocolate. This is why salted chocolate can actually appear to be sweeter than the same chocolate eaten without salt.

3. Use sweetness ‘enhancers’.
Vanilla is my favourite way to increase the perception of sweetness without adding actual sugar. I use both real vanilla beans and vanilla extract (which I make myself by soaking vanilla beans in vodka).

But there are plenty of other options. Cinnamon, fennel and star anise are all spices which add the perception of sweetness. Licorice root also does the same.

4. Use a natural sweetener.
When I’m not able to get enough sweetness from following the ‘tricks’ above, I reach for my favourite natural sweetener, pure stevia powder.

I like stevia because it comes from the stevia plant and doesn’t contain any sugar or carbs. And when used sparingly, I like the taste.

BUT I know it’s not for everyone. If you don’t like stevia, it’s OK!

One of the best parts about pure stevia is the only function it provides is sweetness. This means that for recipes based on pure stevia powder, it’s easy to substitute your favourite sweetener (or even good old sugar) just based on taste.

Like to discover more tricks for sugar-free baking without sacrificing the ‘YUM’ factor?

Then check out my latest eCookbook!

SBS 3D cover FINAL

To pick up your copy before the launch discount ends, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

With love,
Jules x
www.thestonesoup.com
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5 peanut butter chocolate fudge-2

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Fudge isn’t something you’d normally associate with healthy treats. But this version is super special, with no added sugar and hidden ‘fiber’ in the form of oat bran. I love how the little flecks remind me of the nougat ‘bits’ in Toblerone chocolate.

makes 16-20 squares
takes: 20 minutes + setting

200g (7oz) coconut milk
200g (7oz) dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, chopped
100g (3.5oz) peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons oat bran (optional)

1. Bring coconut milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with foil or baking paper.

2. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stand for a few minutes so the chocolate melts.

3. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and oat bran (if using). I like to leave a few chunks of peanut butter in the mixture.

4. Transfer fudge mixture to the prepared tin and refrigerate for a few hours, or until set.

5. Chop into small squares.

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Variations

nut-free – just skip the peanut butter.

no coconut milk – replace the coconut milk with regular whipping cream.

fiber plus – double the level of oat bran.

gluten-free / no oat bran – skip the oat bran or replace with psyllium husks, chia seeds or linseeds (flax seeds).

super crunchy – mix in a handful of roasted peanut halves.

different nuts – use your favourite nut butter – all nuts love chocolate!

lower carb – use higher cocoa solids chocolate (90% is great). You might need to add a little sweetener but then again you may not.

Shelf Life / Storage

Can be kept for months in an airtight container in the fridge. Keeps for years in the freezer.

_______________________________

SBS 3D cover FINAL

ps. Don’t tell your family and friends these recipes are good for them!

It can be our little secret ;)

Here’s the link again:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

NOTE: Special launch price available for a limited time only.

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SBS 3D cover FINAL

You know that feeling when you’ve been looking forward to something for months and months? And when the big day arrives you can’t believe it’s actually happening…

Well that’s how I feel today as I sit down to tell you about my new eCookbook.

I’ve been dreaming about writing a baking book for the longest time. I’ve always wanted to have all the recipes for my favourite breads, cookies, cakes and go-to desserts in the one place. But writing a baking book would mean a lot of baking and a lot of tasting. While baking and tasting are some of the best parts of my job, I wasn’t so keen on the impact this would have on my waistline.

But then I had gestational diabetes. And that turned into type 2 diabetes.

Along the way, I discovered that it is possible to bake your cake and enjoy eating it too (without wreaking havoc on your blood sugar).

I discovered that drool-worthy baking without sugar, gluten or loads of carbs isn’t some impossible dream.

It’s easy (when you know how).

And so without further ado, I give you the ‘Sunday Baking Sessions’!

SBS 3D cover FINAL

To pick up your copy today, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

With love,
Jules x

ps. Just don’t tell your family and friends that these recipes are actually good for them.

It can be our little secret ;)

Here’s the link again:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/sbs/

___________________________________

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Fergals Natural Muesli-2

Back in the Summer, I had a huge ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?’ moment.

We had some friends come to stay for the weekend with their 2-year-old girl Sofia. I love having other children in the house. Mostly because it’s so fun to see how Fergal and Finbar interact with them.

But also because I like to see what other kids will (and won’t) eat. I often get great ideas for new things to try with my boys. Like this muesli.

Anyway, given that I used to design muesli (and other breakfast cereal) for a living back in my old food science days, I lept at the chance to have a crack at making a natural muesli.

Plus it was a great way to get Fergal involved in this new breakfast idea. Of course, the added incentive of sultanas (raisins) didn’t hurt.

Making your own muesli is so much fun.

Plus unlike commercial muesli makers, you can focus all your money on using the best quality and quantity of tasty ingredients. No need to have conversations like, ‘we can only afford 0.005% almonds’. And no need to allocate any of your museli budget for packaging, marketing or distribution.

And you get to make it exactly how you like. Endless possibilities!

With love,
Jules x

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Fergals Natural Muesli-3

Fergal’s Muesli

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. I love that each batch is slightly different based on what we have and how heavy handed my ‘kitchen assistant’ is.

I keep my muesli mix separate from the dried fruit because it gives everyone the ability to control their fruit quantity. Plus it avoids the moisture transfer problem of the oats getting soggier and the fruit getting harder during storage. But if it makes life easier, you can store them in the one jar.

Keeps for 6 months+ in the pantry, provided your ingredients aren’t too old.

enough for: as many as you like!
takes: 10 minutes

rolled oats
seeds
nuts
fruit (optional), to serve
milk or yoghurt, to serve

1. Fill a glass or other large jar about half way with your oats.

2. Add your choice of seeds and nuts, mixing as you go. There’s no wrong way to do this. I generally pop the lid on and shake to mix but a spoon can work as well.

3. Serve your personal muesli in a small bowl with fruit (if using) and milk or yoghurt.

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Variations

different oats – I started using quick or instant oats because they’re the easiest for little mouths, but my last batch was using regular (traditional) rolled oats and everyone was still able to eat them. Steel cut oats are the least processed and have the lowest GI but are also the hardest to chew!

different nuts – I usually use almond meal so there’s no choking hazard to worry about, but any whole or chopped nuts will work. I like to be generous with the nuts because they add good fats and some protein and make the muesli even lower GI.

different seeds – linseeds (flax) and sunflower are our favourites. But feel free to add pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and chia if you like. Seeds are awesome because they tend to be less expensive than nuts but still give that satisfying flavour and interesting texture.

different fruit – I make up a dried fruit mix of sultanas (raisins), chopped pitted dates and chopped prunes that we keep in a separate jar and add before serving. Any dried fruit is great but the boys do love their sultanas. Dried apricots and apples make a lovely fancy change. You can also serve with fresh fruit.

wintery – serve with warm milk or use your oat / seed / nut mix to make a porridge (oatmeal).

bircher museli – soak oat mix over night in milk or water. Stir through grated apple and serve with more milk or some yoghurt.

higher fiber – replace some of the oats with oat bran, psyllium husks or other bran. Be generous with the seeds too!

low carb – replace the oats with finely sliced almond flakes or flaked coconut (or a mix of both). Like my paleo Coconut & Almond ‘Cereal’.

extra crunchy – serve with some Chocolate Granola or Peanut Butter Granola.

__________________________________

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Like to discover my ‘secret’ for actually enjoying getting dinner ready?

Wish it was easier (and more fun) to get dinner on the table night after night? Then have a look at my ‘Simple Dinners’ online cooking program.

For more details go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/thd/

DOORS CLOSE 26MAY 2017

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Soup Love

Leek & Kohlrabi Soup with Chilli Oil-2

I‘ve been experimenting with a new habit recently. You see, I’m on a mission to expand my soup repertoire. Especially now the days are shorter and we’re lighting the fire in the evenings.

Yes! Soup season is here! (Sorry Northern Hemisphere readers).

My habit is pretty simple.

I’ve been making soup for dinner at least one night each week. Usually it’s Monday. And usually it’s some sort of vegetable based soup like this fab little low-carb alternative to leek and potato.

I love soup night.

There’s only one pot to clean up. I can easily add bread or cooked pasta to keep my tiny (and big!) carb-lovers happy. And I always feel warm and contented afterwards.

If you need more reasons to start upping your own soup intake, you might enjoy 7 Surprising Reasons to Eat More Soup.

With love,
Jules x

ps. And the winner of the Stonesoup ‘commenter of the month’ prize is Bette.
If you’d like to be in the running to win a free copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes‘ all you have to do is leave a comment anywhere on Stonesoup. I’d really love to hear what you think.

_____________________________________

Leek & Kohlrabi Soup with Chilli Oil-3

Leek & Kohlrabi Soup


If you’ve ever wondered about a low-carb version of the old classic Potato & Leek Soup, look no further! Inspired by the lovely Andrea over at Dishing Up the Dirt, this super comforting soup is like a hug in a bowl. And better yet it isn’t going to weigh you down.

Of course, if you don’t have access to kohlrabi, there are plenty of other options in the variations below.

enough for 2-3
takes 30 minutes

1 onion
2 leeks
2 medium kohlrabi (450g / 1lb)
2 cups stock or water
chilli oil (recipe below), to serve

1. Place a medium saucepan on a medium high heat. Peel and chop onion and add to the pot with a generous glug of olive oil. Cover and start cooking while you slice the white and light green parts of the leeks.

2. Add leeks to the pot. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally until leek and onion are soft.

3. Meanwhile, trim kohlrabi (save tops for another use – you can cook them like chard) and chop into a medium dice.

4. When the onion and leeks are soft, add diced kohlrabi and stock or water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook covered until kohlrabi is tender about 15 minutes.

5. Puree cooked soup with a stick (immersion) blender. Taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with chilli oil passed separately.

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Variations

no kohlrabi / different veg – replace with potatoes or sweet potatoes (if you don’t mind the carbs). Good low-carb alternatives are celeriac (celery root), swede (rutabaga), zucchini (grate and don’t puree) or cauliflower.

carb-lovers / more substantial – use potatoes! Or serve with crusty bread and butter or hot buttered toast.

family-friendly – toss in some cooked short pasta and skip the chilli oil for the little ones.

creamy – replace stock / water with a 400mL can unsweetened coconut milk and 1/2 cup water.

thinner soup – I like this quite robust. If you prefer a thinner soup add more water or stock until you’re happy.

no leeks – replace with an extra onion.

loads of leeks – replace onion with an extra 2 leeks.

herby – add a few sprigs of thyme or sage to cook with the onion.

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Leek & Kohlrabi Soup with Chilli Oil-4

Marco’s Chilli Oil

For years my favourite chilli oil recipe involved frying fresh chillies and garlic in olive oil. But after reading Marco Cannoras fab little bone broth bible, ‘Brodo’ I’ve found an even easier method that’s just as delicious.

Chilli oil is brilliant for family dinners because it allows the chilli lovers to get their fix and the little ones to enjoy their meal without the cook having to make two separate dinners. We use it on practically everything from burgers to stir fries to our morning eggs and of course on soup!

makes: 1 cup
takes: 5 minutes + 2 hours cooling

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red chilli flakes
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder or cayenne pepper

1. Place oil, chilli flakes and powder or cayenne in a small saucepan. Warm over a medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the chilli flakes start to move around in the pan.

2. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. This allows the heat to transfer to the oil so don’t skip the cooling.

3. Strain the oil to remove chilli flakes and store in a well labelled glass bottle in your pantry (or keep it on the dining table for easy access). Keeps indefinitely.

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Variations

smoky – add a teaspoon smoked paprika with the chilli powder / cayenne.

no red chilli flakes – use large dried red chillies and crumble them so you can measure about 2 tablespoons.

milder – skip the cayenne / chilli powder

__________________________________

Wish it was easier to get dinner on the table night after night?

simple dinners logo

Like to discover my ‘secret’ for actually enjoying getting dinner ready? Then have a look at my ‘Simple Dinners’ online cooking program.

For more details go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/thd/

__________________________________

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Smoky Paprika Roast Almonds-2

Have you ever roasted nuts with spices and been disappointed that the flavourings stay at the bottom of the bowl (instead of on the nuts)?

Then this week’s recipe is just for you!

Recently I was inspired to try out a new method I’d read about from the very clever Emma Knowles in Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine.

Basically the secret is to use egg white to bind the flavourings onto the nuts. It also helps the nuts stick together into crunchy clusters.

And even better, it gives a fine crunchy coating, instead of the oily vibe you normally get from oil roasted nuts. So delish!

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Smoky Paprika Roast Almonds

Smoked Paprika & Rosemary Almonds

I just love love love the flavour of smoked paprika and rosemary together but can’t take credit for the idea. This was inspired by the roast nuts in the fab cookbook from little Sydney cafe, Cornersmith.

makes: 500g (1lb)
takes: 20 minutes

1 egg white
1-2 sprigs rosemary chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
500g (1lb) raw almonds
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl whisk egg white until frothy using a hand whisk or stick blender – no need to get your stand mixer out for this job.

2. Add rosemary, salt, almonds and smoked paprika. Toss until well combined. The fat from the nuts will deflate most of the bubbles from the egg white so don’t expect it to look meringuey.

3. Spread almond mixture on a baking tray (I line mine with baking paper for easier clean up).

4. Bake for 10 minutes. Check and stir. If almonds taste toasted, remove from the heat. If you like a darker roast leave in for another 5 minutes or so.

5. Cool. Store in an airtight container in the pantry.

Variations

no smoked paprika – use regular paprika.

different nuts – almonds, macadamias or brazil nuts would be the best substitutes or use a mixture.

egg-free – the egg is the magic which keeps the flavourings stuck to the nuts but if you need to be egg-free replace the egg white with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Shelf Life / Storage

Keeps for 3-4 weeks in an airtight container in the pantry or indefinitely in the freezer. If the nuts start to lose their crunch, you can freshen them up by popping back in the oven on a tray for 5 minutes or so.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Want to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes?

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I really want to hear from you! What have you enjoyed about Stonesoup? Do you have any ideas how I could make it better? Did you like the sound of this recipe? Let me know in the comments below. The winner for May will be judged on Monday.

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Crispy Broccolini & Chickpeas with Cashew 'Ricotta'-2

A few weeks ago I was chatting to my fabulous assistant, Caroline about a sale I was planning for Soupstones, my done-for-you meal planning service. Caroline knows each meal plan inside out because part of her job is to create the downloadable PDFs that are sent out each week from the meal plans I write on the website.

She mentioned that this year she’s been using the meal plans on a regular basis. I was curious to know how she was finding them so asked if she’d mind me interviewing her about her experience.

Over to Caroline and her husband Phil…

When you use Soupstones Meal Plans how are things different for you?

Caroline: I love that I don’t have to prepare a shopping list and decide what we’re eating the weeks I use Soupstones. I use them when I’m in a rush and don’t have time to prepare a meal plan and shopping list before doing my groceries.

Phil: It makes it easy to know what I’m preparing for dinner on the nights I cook. I know how long it’s going to take which makes organizing my evening with the kids much easier.

What specific features of Soupstones Meal Plans do you like best?

Caroline: I like the variation. When I prepare my own meal plan I tend to cook things I know the kids will eat. When we use Soupstones plans it can be hit or miss with the kids but Phil and I enjoy trying something different.

And of course the shopping list. I simply like the fact I don’t have to decide what is for dinner.

Phil: I like that it lists the time it will take to cook. (Note from Caroline: Phil only ever sees the print friendly version as I usually print that out and put it on the fridge.)

I also like that we get a bit more variation when we do the meal plans.

Would you recommend Soupstones Meal Plans?

Caroline: I have recommended Soupstones and have had a few friends try them when you offer a discount. I find that they aren’t great for families with small kids if the kids are fussy and will not eat many of the meals. I don’t use the meal plans as they arrive week to week but choose particular plans that will work with the kids.

(Saying that I do have a friend in Canada that many years ago won a lifetime membership for Soupstones. She has 3 small kids and still uses the meal plan every week.)

Phil: I do recommend it but usually only to singles or couples (not to families for the same reason as Caroline). In conversation when someone tells me it’s to hard to prepare meals for one or two people, I tell them about Soupstones where the meals are almost always for two.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Caroline: When I do use the plan I sometimes wish it was for 6 dinners and not 5 so that I didn’t have to work out the extra meal or two. I think the layout is great and I love that I can find the plan on my phone if I need to get something and don’t have the list with me.

We don’t often make the sweet treat.

Phil: Sometimes the portions aren’t enough. I’m a meat lover so we always add the carnivore option to the vegetarian meals.

Sound like something you’d like to try?

Soupstones banner logo

Then you’re in luck…

I’m having a quick 50% OFF Easter Sale.

The sale ends in less than 48-hours.

To make sure you don’t miss out, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

UPDATE: The sale is now over.

“I’ve been using your meal plans and recipes and in just two months I feel like a new person. I’ve gained confidence in the kitchen I could’ve never imagined, saved tons of money, and as a surprise bonus, lost almost 15 pounds! I couldn’t possibly thank you enough for what you are doing.”
Shannon, Soupstones Member.

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Crispy Broccolini & Chickpeas with Cashew 'Ricotta'-3

Crispy Broccolini & Chickpeas with Cashew ‘Ricotta’

This was inspired by farmer and fellow veggie lover Andrea from the Dishing Up the Dirt. I really love one tray dinners like this. Just pop everything in the oven, set your timer, make the sauce and you’re good to go.

enough for 2
takes 30 minutes

1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
2 bunches broccolini
200g (7oz) cashews
4 tablespoons lemon juice + extra to serve
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful pine nuts (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Place chickpeas and broccolini on a baking tray. Drizzle generously with oil and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

2. While the chickpeas and broccolini are cooking, cover cashews with boiling water and stand for a few minutes.

3. Drain cashews and place in your food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup water, lots of salt and 4 tablespoons lemon juice. Whizz until you have a smooth creamy sauce, scraping the sides down a few times. Give it at least 5 minutes. Gradually drizzle in 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with the motor running. Taste and season with more salt and lemon, if needed.

4. When the broccolini stems are tender and the edges nice and crispy, sprinkle over pine nuts (if using) and pop back in the oven for a minute or so.

5. Serve your roast with cashew sauce on the side and a little extra lemon juice squeezed over.

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Variations

family-friendly – chop a sweet potato into chip pieces and roast in the oven for 10 minutes before adding the chickpeas and broccolini. Soak a handful of raisins in boiling water, drain and toss in at the end.

carnivore – serve as a side for grilled or pan fried chicken, fish or pork chops. We had it with chicken kebabs the other night and it was lovely. Or slice some chorizo or other spicy sausage and add with the chickpeas.

more substantial / carb-lovers – add chopped root veg to roast for 10 minutes before adding chickpeas and broccolini. Serve with warm pita or other flat bread.

paleo / no-chickpeas – replace with 1/2 head cauliflower chopped into florettes.

different veg – feel free to use any veg you like, just chop into bite sized pieces before roasting. Broccoli is great and if it’s asparagus season where you live that would be my pick!

nut-free – skip the cashew sauce and pinenuts and serve with hummus, goats cheese, labneh or home made mayo instead.

With love,
Jules x

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——————————-
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ps. Not sure if a meal planning service will work for you?

The only way to find out is to try it! You can cancel your membership at any time with one quick email.

And the Easter Sale ends in less than 48 hours!

To make sure you don’t miss out, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

Still not sure?

Here’s what Donna said about her experience:

“I’m loving it! It makes week nights less stressful, frees up mental space as I’m not stressing over what to cook – and it’s keeping our meals healthy.”
Donna, Soupstones Member.

For more details use the link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

UPDATE: The sale is now over.

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Quick Strawberry Muffins

Even when I was working in product development for Arnotts (Australia’s largest cookie manufacturer), I don’t think I did as much baking as I’ve been doing in the last few weeks.

Yes my oven has been getting a good workout. As has my camera and my taste buds!

There haven’t been any complaints from my little men.

Finbarello (my 1-year-old) was very happy to gobble up a whole Quick Strawberry Muffin for breakfast on the weekend. Without throwing a single crumb on the floor. Now that’s saying something!

One of the best parts about my exploration into low-carb / sugar-free baking is that I don’t worry about giving my boys things like muffins for breakfast because I know they’re actually getting loads of nutrition without a big sugar hit. Especially when they think it’s such a treat. Win win!

Anyway before we get to this weeks toddler-approved recipe, I have a small favour to ask…

I’m putting the finishing touches on my new baking book and I’d love to get your opinion.

To help out, just share your thoughts in this quick survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2CLQWF8

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you think!
___________________

Quick Strawberry Muffins-3

Quick Strawberry Muffins
(low-carb / gluten-free)

Normally I prefer to weigh my ingredients when baking because its quick and so much more reliable. But occasionally its nice to just use a spoon to measure everything.

Its also nice to only make a small batch of treats so you don’t have any ‘oh-so-tempting’ leftovers lying around! This recipe is perfect for that because it makes two dainty serves. They’re really delicious though so I’ve included the quantities for a larger batch in the variations.

If you’re not a stevia fan, see the ‘variations’ for alternative sweetener options.

makes: 2
takes: 30 minutes

6 tablespoons almond meal (40g / 1.5oz)
3 tablespoons yoghurt (60g / 2oz)
2 tablespoons oi1 (30g / 1oz)
1 egg
1 tablespoon granular stevia* (15g /0.5oz)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
4 strawberries, dehulled and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line 2 holes of a 1/2 cup muffin tray with muffin papers or squares of baking paper. Or grease two small mugs, ramekins or tea cups.

2. Combine almond meal, yoghurt, oil, egg, stevia, baking powder and vanilla (if using) in a small bowl.

3. Spoon the mixture into your 2 prepared holes. Top with strawberry chunks.

4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the muffins are deeply golden brown.

5. Cool in the tin.

Variations

extra strawberry! – double the strawberries and stir some in with the mixture before filling the muffin pans.

*important note about stevia! – there are 4 types of stevia:
1. Pure Stevia Powder – looks like icing (powdered / confectioners) sugar. It’s expensive but a tiny amount goes a long long way. We’re talking 1/2 teaspoon or less to sweeten a whole cake. This is what I normally use, however for the small batch of these muffins I use granular stevia because it’s hard to measure a really small amount of the pure powder.
2. Granular Stevia (like Natvia or Truvia) – looks like regular white sugar. It’s a blend of erythritol and stevia. Usually 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia powder = 10 tablespoons (150g / 5oz) granular stevia.
3. Fresh or Dried Stevia Leaves – from a real stevia plant! I haven’t baked with them but they will behave similar to the pure stevia powder. Just add to taste.
4. Liquid stevia. I haven’t used this. But add to taste.

no stevia – use you favourite sweetener… Honey, maple syrup, xylitol or white sugar! Just add and taste until you’re happy with the sweetness level.

sugar lovers – use 2 tablespoons sugar instead of the stevia. If you like things on the sweeter side add more.

bigger batch – to make 8 muffins you’ll need 160g (5.5oz) almond meal, 240g (8.5oz) yoghurt, 120g (4oz) oil, 4 eggs, 60g (2oz) granular stevia* OR 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder (see note above), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 16 strawberries. Baking time will be the same.

dairy-free – coconut yoghurt or coconut cream instead of the yoghurt (or use your favourite dairy-free milk).

nut-free – replace almond meal with ground sunflower seeds.

different flavourings – chunks of chocolate are a nice addition as are blueberries or raspberries or other ripe fruit.

no yoghurt – If I don’t have yoghurt I use whole milk or cream instead.

Shelf Life / Storage

I like these best on the day they’re made. Can be kept for 1-2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. Keeps for months in the freezer.

With love and thanks!
Jules x

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ps. Like to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’?

All you need to do is leave a comment anywhere on Stonesoup and you’ll be in the running for the monthly prize of a free copy of my print book, ‘5-Ingredients, 10-Minutes’.

The and the winner of the ‘commenter of the month’ prize for April is Maggie H!

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Pav Baji

My first job (that didn’t involve doing sheep farm work with my Dad) was waiting tables at a small Indian restaurant up the road from New South Wales University. It was a tiny place that wasn’t ever very busy. Which was lucky given my limited waitressing skills.

I did learn two valuable life lessons in my short tenure.

First, I am crap at waiting tables.

Second, I love Indian food.

Growing up in a meat-and-veg household where spaghetti bolognese was about as exotic as it got, I couldn’t believe the flavour explosions I experienced with each new curry the kindly Indian chef sent home with me. Butter chicken, saag lamb, beef vindaloo, dahl, mango chicken… Yum yum yum.

Talk about a party in your mouth.

Over the years I’ve had a go at recreating my Indian faves at home but had never found an Indian cookbook that matched my love of simple, fresh ingredients. Until I was researching my cookbook ‘wish list’ for Santa this year…

‘Made In India, Cooked In Britain: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen’ by Meera Sodha has answered all my silent Indian cookbook prayers (that I didn’t even know I had!)

The recipes are relatively simple, not in the 5-ingredient range but still manageable. The ingredients are mostly easy to find. Everything I’ve made from the book has been just delicious. And really authentic tasting.

We’ve been having an Indian night most weeks since Christmas and I’m yet to be disappointed.

Plus there are loads of recipes with potatoes which means my men are happy.

If you want to expand your Indian cooking repertoire, I can’t recommend this book enough!

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Pav Baji-2

Pav Baji

I’ve been making these with my Magic Low-Carb Burger Buns and they are just soo, soo good. Even Fergal (my 3.5 year old) was happy to chow down on one. The eggplant curry is equally delicious with cauliflower ‘rice’ or steamed rice if you’re in the mood for a more proper curry.

enough for: 2
takes: 45 minutes

1 large onion, peeled & diced
1 large eggplant (aubergine), diced
2cm piece ginger, grated
1 can tomatos (400g / 14oz)
2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
large hunk butter
buttered buns, salad leaves and lemon wedges to serve

1. Heat a medium saucepan on a medium high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and cook onion, covered until soft and a little browned. Will take about 8 minutes.

2. Add eggplant and more oil and stir fry for a few minutes before adding ginger, tomatoes and garam masala / curry powder. Simmer, covered for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then until eggplant is really tender.

3. Add butter and allow it to melt in. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more butter or spice if needed.

4. Divide eggplant mixture between your buttered buns, top with salad leaves and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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Variations

more substantial – add a handful roast cashews or peanuts for extra protein and crunch.

dairy-free – use coconut cream instead of the butter.

hot! – add a few chopped chillies with the spices. Or use a hot curry powder or add some dried chilli to taste.

low carb – use these low carb burger buns or serve on a bed of cauliflower rice instead.

more veg – add chopped mushrooms, zucchini and/or capsicum (bell peppers) with the eggplant. Or stir in some baby spinach to wilt at the end.

herby – use fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves instead of the salad. Mint or basil are also good.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Had any cookbook discoveries recently?

I’d love to hear about your favourites in the comments below. And if you do leave a comment you’ll be in the running for the monthly prize of a free copy of my print book, ‘5-Ingredients, 10-Minutes’.

The and the winner of the ‘commenter of the month’ prize for April is Maggie H!

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Fresh Pea Pasta-2

A few months ago I had an illuminating conversation with the other mothers at playgroup. We were talking about how much we spend on food.

It was amazing how different the range was. And it reminded me that it’s been ages since I wrote about the financial side of cooking.

So here we are.

3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Costs

1. Cook from scratch
Convenience is expensive because the more processing (and especially packaging) a food goes through, the more it costs to produce. So it’s best to cook things yourself where possible. Baking your own bread or making your own yoghurt or even your own wine vinegar are excellent places to start.

I find that apart from the financial benefits, home made food often tastes better. Plus it’s generally better for you because you know exactly what ingredients were used to make it.

2. Reduce your meat intake
We all know that animal products tend to be expensive. If you do find cheap meat, you’ve got to question why it’s so cheap.

Interestingly, in my playgroup discussion it was the ‘mostly vegetarian’ family who had the lowest monthly food costs.

There’s no need to turn completely vegan overnight. Try going meat-free a few times a week. Another great option is to decrease the amount of meat in a recipe by supplementing with lentils, beans or even tofu. Or think of ways to use a little meat as a garnish to keep the carnivores happy without the cost of a steak.

3. Consider frozen veg
Years ago I read a study comparing the nutritional content of ‘fresh’ and frozen veg. In many cases the frozen veg actually outperformed the ‘fresh’ vegetables. Especially when the non-frozen veg were on the older side.

Frozen veg are also brilliant from a waste persepctive because they’ll happily hang out in your freezer until you need them. Unless you’re like my Dad and put the frozen veg in your refrigerator when you get them home…

budget class logo

Like more help reducing your food costs?

Then check out the ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget‘ program at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

The program is ‘pay what you can afford’ and I created it as a chance to help people who can’t afford my other programs.

While cooking real healthy food on a budget may seem difficult, it’s not impossible and in this class I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/budget/

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Fresh Pea Pasta

Fresh Mint & Pea Pasta

Along with Fergal’s Fried Rice, this is one of my backup quick dinners for my boys. I usually have cooked pasta in the freezer so all I have to do is remember to defrost the pasta a few hours before dinner. This has the added bonus of reducing the impact of the pasta on our blood sugar because the cooking and cooling process creates ‘resistant starch’ which our bodies use as fiber – something especially great for gut health.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

200g (7oz) pasta
4 tablespoons butter
3 handfuls frozen peas
mint small bunch (optional), leaves picked
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil. Add pasta and set your timer according to the packet directions.

2. Meanwhile, warm butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Add peas and cook for a minute or until the peas are hot. The less cooking the fresher everything will taste.

3. Remove peas from the heat and mash using a stick blender or a fork until you have a chunky saucy puree.

4. When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss into the peas along with the mint and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and season with more lemon, salt and pepper if needed.

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Variations

cheesey – serve with lashings of grated parmesan or toss in crumbled feta or goats cheese.

different herbs – replace mint with basil or parsley.

less mess / one pot – cook pasta and drain then make the sauce in the pasta cooking pot.

more fiber / more veg – soften an onion or leek in the butter before adding the peas. Toss in a few handfuls of baby spinach or cooked greens with the cooked pasta.

low-carb – replace some or all of the cooked pasta with spiralized zucchini (courgettes).

more substantial – use more butter, or more pasta or serve with roasted nuts such as pinenuts or almonds.

dairy-free – olive oil instead of butter.

carnivore – serve the pea sauce with cooked sausages, roast chicken or BBQ lamb chops.

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budget class logo

Like to learn more about Cooking on a Budget?

Then I highly recommend taking the ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget‘ program at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

The program is ‘pay what you can afford’ and I created it as a chance to help people who can’t afford my other programs.

While cooking real healthy food on a budget may seem difficult, it’s not impossible and in this class I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/budget/

With love,
Jules x

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ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so signup today to make sure you don’t miss out on this great deal.

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Savoury Cheese Cake-2

Before we get to this weeks recipe, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Here at Stonesoup ‘head quarters’ I have a little tradition. Around the time of the ‘birthday’ of each of my eCookbooks I have a once-a-year sale to celebrate my ‘baby’ becoming a year older.

This month it’s one of my most favourite ‘book children’, The 2-Minute Meal Plan – A Revolutionary Approach to Planning and Cooking Healthy Food Fast.

Do you struggle with meal planning?

Then the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ can help!

So how does the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ work? And how is it different?

Basically it’s all about ‘reversing’ the meal planning process. Instead of deciding what to cook first and then buying ingredients, the 2-Minute Meal Plan teaches you to do your shopping first and THEN deciding what to cook.

This is a game changer for 3 reasons.

1. It takes a fraction of the time that a traditional meal plan takes. No sitting down and writing a big list.

2. It allows greater flexibility, you’re not locked in to a particular meal that you may or may not feel like on the night.

3. It allows you to shop with the seasons based on what looks best (and is generally less expensive) rather than having to buy what’s on your list.

If this seems a bit to scary, you can take baby steps. And I’ll show you how in the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’.

Like to try this new approach to meal planning?

2MMP 3D Cover

For the next 48-hours only you can get the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ at 30% OFF in the ‘Book Birthday’ Celebration Sale.

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

UPDATE: THE SALE IS NOW OVER.

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OK good. Now let me tell you about this cheesecake…

I’m a huge huge fan of cheesecake in all its forms but had never even considered the idea of turning it into a real cheesey salty affair until I was reading one of my Christmas presents, Honey & Co. – Food From the Middle East. (A brilliant book which is well worth checking out if you like Middle Eastern food).

Anyway when I spotted their Savoury Cheesecake I just had to try it.

And what a winner!

We had it for Sunday brunch and I remember wishing I had made more. The texture is surprisingly light, almost like a souffle. And the salty cheese makes it so so satisfying.

It’s super delicious here with the roast zucchini but feel free to use any of your favourite pizza toppings to top it instead. I’ve also made it with chunks of roast eggplant. Yum!

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Savoury Cheese Cake

Melt-in-the-Mouth Savoury Cheesecake

I love this cheesecake so so much. I’ve served it multiple times for brunch but it’s also fab as a simple vegetarian weeknight meal. I like it best when still warm from the oven but am totally happy having cold leftovers for lunch the next day. If it’s not zucchini season where you are, see the ‘variations’ for alternative topping ideas. And if you’re short of time you can easily roast the zucchini at the same time you cook the cheesecake and then serve it on top.

enough for 4 as a light meal
takes: 30 minutes

3 small zucchini (500g / 1lb)
small bunch mint, leave
250g (9oz) cream cheese (Philadelphia), softened
200g (7oz) feta
3 eggs

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Slice zucchini into rounds and pop in a roasting tray. Drizzle with a little oil but don’t add salt because you’ll be getting lots from the feta.

2. Roast for 20 minutes or until zucchini has softened and started to brown. Remove from the oven and toss in the mint.

3. Meanwhile, place cream cheese, feta and eggs in a food processor and whizz until well combined. There will still be a few tiny lumps from the feta. Grease a 20cm (8in) oven proof frying pan or spring form pan. Spoon the cheesey mixture into the pan and smooth out the top. Press the cooked zucchini into the top.

4. Bake cheesecake for 15 minutes. Turn and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until browned around the edges and puffed up a little. Serve warm.

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Variations

short on time – bake zucchini at the same time as the cheesecake and serve on top. Or skip the zucchini and just serve with a side salad for greenery. Or try a big dollop of pesto just before serving.

different veg – roast eggplant is really good, grilled red peppers, roast mushrooms, roast diced root veg like sweet potato, wilted greens.

carnivore – top with salami or proscuitto as well as or instead of the zucchini.

no food processor – just mash the cheeses and eggs together with a fork and go for a more chunky, rustic style.

different cheese – replace feta with goats cheese or ricotta.

more substantial – serve with a side of bacon and/or hot buttered toast. For a more middle eastern vibe serve with warm pita bread.

Big love,
Jules x

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__________________

ps. Not sure if the 2-Minute Meal Plan will help you?

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Here’s what Daniela and Kate said about it…

“The most helpful part for me was the different approach to shopping, shop for veggies with freshness in mind, not a recipe. What a great idea! I’m finding it easier to use all the veggies I buy this way…”
Daniela, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

“The whole system was very useful to me. I learned better planning of meals for a week and, besides that, to improvise with ingredients. Preparing food ceased to be stressful factor and became a joy!”
Kate, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the ‘48-Hour Birthday Sale
go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

UPDATE: THE SALE IS NOW OVER.

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Zucchini Fritters

I have an evil plan. I like to call it ‘how to get small boys to eat more vegetables without resorting to hiding them’.

Like most plans, evil or otherwise, some days there is progress. Other days it feels more like regression.

One of my recent ‘progressive’ days was when I made these Crispy Zucchini Fritters for Sunday brunch. I had already had success with potato rosti, so I figured crispy fried treats may be tempting enough for Fergal to overcome his moratorium on green vegetables.

It worked!

They were so popular with all my men there weren’t any leftovers. And when I suggested to my Irishman that they might make a nice St Patrick’s Day celebration, he agreed with the proviso that they be served with Guinness, of course.

Happy St Patricks Day!

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Zucchini Fritters-2

Crispy Zucchini Fritters

I find fritters a bit fiddly to make. They’re not the sort of thing to serve a huge crowd. But I’m happy to take the time on a Sunday morning for our little family so my boys are enjoying some vegetables rather than just scoffing the bacon or black pudding. Normally I’m all about the mayonnaise for dipping but after ‘extensive’ testing my Irishman and I agreed that the fritters are actually better with refreshing natural yoghurt or some labneh.

enough for: 2 as a light meal
takes: about 30 minutes

3 medium zucchini (500g / 1lb)
pinch salt
2 eggs
150g (5oz) almond meal
small bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped (optional)
oil for frying
natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Grate zucchini using your food processor or a box grater. Add a pinch of salt, stir and stand for a few minutes. Pat with paper towel to remove some moisture but no need to get it really dry.

2. Combine the salted zucchini, eggs, almond meal and mint (if using) until thoroughly mixed – I just do this in the bowl of my food processor.

3. Heat 1cm (1/3in) oil in a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Test a little drop of mixture, when it starts sizzling vigorously, start scooping heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. I usually cook 5-6 at a time. Shallow fry until well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in a low oven while you continue cooking the rest of the mixture.

4. Serve hot fritters with a good dusting of sea salt flakes and cold yoghurt on the side for dipping / drizzling.

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Variations

with potato! – replace some o the zucchini with spuds. Or for a whole potato experience, these rosti are a total winner.

different veg – if you can grate it, you can probably use it in place of the zucchini. Think sweet potato, potato, carrots, butternut pumpkin (squash) or parsnip or any combo of the above.

different herbs – mint and zucchini are a match made in heaven but feel free to use some chives, parsley or even basil.

nut-free – replace almond meal with ground sunflower seeds or use your favourite flour my choice would be chickpea flour.

lighter – use 3 eggs whites instead of the whole eggs.

burgers – form the mixture into 4 burger patties and pan fry in the oil until well browned and cooked through.

baked – not as tasty as fried but definitely lower maintenance! Drizzle oil in a baking tray and top with scoops of the fritter mixture. Bake 200C until well browned – about 20 minutes as a guess.

zucchini nests – use your spiralizer instead of grating.

brunch! / more substantial – serve with poached eggs and a salad. A bit of bacon or black pudding wouldn’t go astray.

Big love,
Jules x

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___

ps. Want to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes?

I really want to hear from you! What have you enjoyed about Stonesoup? Do you have any ideas how I could make it better? Did you like the sound of this recipe? Let me know in the comments below.

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Pav Baji

I was feeling a bit down when I sat at my desk to write this post. You know one of those days where it’s just a bit ‘blahh’.

Anyway, I found myself reading through the comments on my most recent blog post.

Instantly I felt better!

Hearing from Stonesoup readers always lifts my spirits. With two small children in the house I don’t get to respond as often as I’d like, but I love the interaction that blog comments allow. Even if it’s hearing from someone who has had problems with one of my recipes. I genuinely love the feedback.

Which brings me to the something ‘new’…

The Stonesoup ‘Commenter of the Month’ Award!

To give you an extra incentive to share your thoughts on Stonesoup, I’ll be giving away a copy of my print book, 5-Ingredients 10-Minutes the first week of every month.

And the winner for March is Jo Crosby!

To be in the running to win, all you need to do is leave a comment anywhere on Stonesoup.

I really want to hear what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be feedback on a particular recipe or a general comment on anything that’s resonated with you. Or not!

Entries are open to anyone from around the world.

Really looking forward to hearing from you!

Magical Low Carb Burger Buns!

Before I go, this week’s recipe is something I’m currently in love with. It’s not something I normally say about food but I really love these buns! Yes they’ve changed my life in the last few months.

It’s been so lovely to have an easy-to-make soft bread roll in my repertoire (and my freezer). They were a winner for sandwiches with our leftover Christmas ham, cheese, pickles and mustard. And my old lunch favourite tuna and mayo rolls have been popping back.

Plus they’re brilliant for proper burgers without worrying about my blood sugar levels.

All this talk about sandwiches and I just realized I haven’t tried them in a BLT – need to get onto that ASAP!

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Low Carb Burger Buns

Magical Burger Buns (Low Carb)

These burger buns are the real deal. They’re now my go-to whenever I’m in the mood for a low carb sandwich or, of course, a burger! Don’t be tempted to try them without the psyllium – it’s really the critical ingredient for getting the light soft, burger bun texture (it also adds lots of fiber!)

makes: 4
takes: 60 minutes

100g (3.5oz) almond meal
25g (1oz) psyllium
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites* (120g / 4oz)
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
sesame seeds to sprinkle (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a tray with baking paper.

2. Mix almond meal, psyllium, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg whites, boiling water and vinegar. Stir until just combined. Stand for 5 minutes to allow the mixture to cool and the psyllium to absorb the water.

3. Divide mixture into 4 and form each into a little disc about the diameter of a burger bun. I find using wet hands helps stop it being too messy. Place discs on your prepared tray. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).

4. Bake buns for 55-60 minutes or until well browned and risen. To double check they should sound hollow, like a loaf of baked bread when you tap on the bottoms with your finger tips.

5. When the buns are cooked, cool on a rack to stop the bottoms going soggy.

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Variations

* no egg whites – you can use 2 whole eggs instead (the buns texture will be slightly heavier but still delicious!)

nut-free / budget – Replace almond meal with finely ground sunflower seeds (I use a little coffee grinder) – no need to change the baking time.

larger batch – I often double the batch to make more for freezing. Cut in half cross wise before freezing so you can easily defrost in the toaster.

no apple cider vinegar – you can skip it, or use another wine vinegar – something that tastes good but not balsamic!

no psyllium – Don’t be tempted to try them without the psyllium – it’s really the critical ingredient for getting the light soft, burger bun texture (it also adds lots of fiber!)

Shelf Life / Storage

Keeps for 1 week in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer. Just warm in the toaster or oven before serving.

Big love,
Jules x

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PS. Want to win a copy of my print book ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes?

I really want to hear from you! What have you enjoyed about Stonesoup? Do you have any ideas how I could make it better? Let me know in the comments below.

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Zucchini 'Noodle' & Pesto Salad

There aren’t many things I’d go back and change about my life if it was possible. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there is value in all our life experiences. Even the things that seem really ‘shite’ at the time.

But there is one thing I wish I’d figured out at a much younger age…

The power of habits.

I wish I had known that habits are the key to putting healthy eating (and other parts of life) on ‘autopilot’. I wish I’d known that habits make healthy choices second nature so you don’t have to ‘think’.

It would have saved me so much struggle, effort and pain.

But at least I know now. And so do you!

So if habits are the key to making healthy eating almost fool-proof, it begs the question ‘Which habits Jules?’

My Top 5 Healthy Eating Habits

1. Eating real food.
The rate of obesity has increased at the same rate as our consumption of processed factory food. Coincidence? I think not.

So what is real food?

Michael Pollan recommends not eating anything your grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food. But that would rule out sashimi for me! I prefer to think of real food as anything that you can buy without an ‘ingredients list’ on the pack.

2. Having a shopping habit.
No, not retail ‘therapy’… Shopping for food. If you’re going to be cooking real food, you need ingredients in the house.

Basically once a week I do some sort of food shop. Usually on a Thursday for the supermarket or the fresh produce market in Canberra. Or on Saturday for the farmers market where I stock up on fresh veg and meat direct from the farmers so I know it’s been raised humanely.

More recently, I’ve been able to do some of my ‘shopping’ for fresh herbs and veg in my garden – but we’re a long long way from self sufficiency in that arena.

3. Eating low carb.
With my gestational diabetes I was already in the habit of keeping my meals as low carb as possible. And after learning that unlike most women with GD, my diabetes had decided to hang around for good, I’ve just kept going with the low carb thing.

To be honest I really enjoy eating like this. I find the less carbs I eat the less I want to eat them. Plus I’d much rather have healthy stable blood sugar than a bowl of pasta any day.

4. Eating LOTS of fat.
If you’ve tried eating low carb and have struggled it was probably because you weren’t eating enough fat. Basically we can either burn carbs or fat for energy. If you choose to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster that comes from eating carbs (especially if you’re diabetic) then you need fat.

My favourite fats are home made mayo, grass-fed butter, olive oil, home made chilli oil and coconut oil.

5. Mindful Eating.
Want to know the easiest way to enjoy your food more AND avoid over eating? It may sound like it wouldn’t help, but I’ve found eating mindfully makes a world of difference.

It takes some practice but it’s a habit I highly recommend you experiment with. I have two techniques that really help.

First I focus on chewing. When I feel the urge to swallow I get myself to chew a few more times.

The second technique I learned from my friend Darya Rose is to wait before there is no more food in my mouth before loading up my fork for the next mouthful. So when I pick up my fork I try and remember to check that my mouth is empty.

Simple and soo effective!

Need some help with your healthy food habits?

Well you’re in luck!

HMM2013 square logo large

Registration for my online cooking program ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ is still open for a few more days.

It’s a 6 week online training program that teaches simple healthy cooking habits.

It arms you with simple tools and strategies to help you make real lasting changes to your life so you can ‘eat well, be well’ with minimal effort.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/hmm/

Note: Doors close 3 March 2017.

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Zucchini 'Noodle' & Pesto Salad-2

Zucchini ‘Noodle’ & Pesto Salad

This is going to sound like a big call but I’m willing to ‘go there’ anyway. This was my favourite thing on our table this Christmas. Yep better than the deep fried turkey – although only just. Man was that one tasty turkey. But back to the salad, it has such freshness and vibrancy yet the noodles provide the comfort you’d normally expect from a bowl of spaghetti. I’ve been serving it mostly as a side salad this Summer but it would only take a poached egg, some sardines, a generous handful of shaved Parmesan or a little cooked chicken to turn it into a meal.

And another thing I love about this salad is that it’s not a ‘delicate flower’ that will wilt if you don’t serve asap. It’s actually happy sitting around at room temperature for an hour or so. And the leftovers keep really well in the fridge!

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 15 minutes

2 medium zucchini
6 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons lemon juice
bunch basil, leaves picked
handful pine nuts

1. Cut zucchini into spaghetti-like noodles using a spiralizer, vegetable peeler or mandoline. Sprinkle with some fine salt and stand for a few minutes to soften.

2. Combine pesto and lemon in a large bowl.

3. Toss zucchini noodles in the pesto dressing along with the basil. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt or lemon, as needed.

4. Serve with pine nuts scattered on top.

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Variations

dairy-free – use a dairy-free pesto or basil oil.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in some torn sourdough croutons, boiled new potatoes or cooked spaghetti.

complete meal – add some protein like poached eggs, some sardines, canned tuna, a generous handful of shaved parmesan or feta, or a little cooked shredded chicken.

different herbs – if it isn’t basil season use flat leaf parsley, mint or some salad leaves instead – you just want some leafy fresh greenness.

different nuts – pine nuts can be expensive so feel free to use almonds, brazil nuts or cashews instead.

nut-free – skip the pine nuts or use shaved parmesan, crumbled feta or slices of fresh goats cheese instead.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if The Healthy Meal Method can help you?

Here’s what Julia and Nancy said about their experience…

“After using HMM I am enjoying cooking more simply and wasting less food, which saves lots of money. I am more organised and plan meals around using the most perishable items in my fridge first. HMM is great for anyone who enjoys food. It takes the stress out of cooking, especially for busy people, including families.”
Julia, HMM Student

“I am almost 60 y.o. and until now had no consistent shopping habits or plan. I knew what was healthy but not how to make it simple. I am thrilled to have found an approach that deals with habits so well. I’ve given myself permission to keep it simple and use the recipes as templates for adaptation.”
Nancy, HMM Student.

pps. Here’s the link again:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/hmm/

Note: Doors close 3 March 2017.

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Roast Broccoli & Chicken Caesar Salad-2

1. Healthy Habits

As you probably know from first hand experience, when it comes to eating healthier, change is really hard if you’re relying on will power.

This is because we only have a finite amount of willpower each day. As the day wears on, our will power reserves get depleted which is why it can be so difficult to exert self control when we’re tired.

So what’s the alternative? Habits.

By focusing on building healthy everyday habits, you automate your decisions. This way eating healthy isn’t something you battle with at every meal, its on autopilot so healthy choices become effortless.

2. Your Pantry

I grew up on a sheep farm and the closest supermarket was a 40 minute drive away. So the concept of a well stocked pantry is something that comes naturally to me.

Just the knowledge that I am prepared saves a heap of stress AND it means I can usually find something to make, even on nights when I feel like I don’t have the energy to cook.

We’ll be covering a detailed step-by-step guide to setting up and actually using your life-saving pantry / fridge / freezer in the Healthy Meal Method which I hope you’ll join me for.

3. Investment Cooking

There’s a ‘secret’ weapon I’ve discovered for avoiding waste, an idea I stole from the restaurant world.

Chefs call it ‘mise en place‘ but I think of it as ‘investment cooking’. It’s where chefs prepare ingredients up to the point where they’re ready to be used during food service.

It may be as simple as washing and chopping vegetables. Or more complicated like roasting veg or cooking up a big pot of lovely lentils.

The main benefit in a restaurant (and your home!) is that it makes it quicker and easier to get food on the table after the customer has ordered (or got home from work!). It also usually extends life of fresh produce.

This is a key component to the ‘Healthy Meal Method’ which is why I’ve included step-by-step plans to get you into the habit of ‘investment cooking’ on a regular basis.

And the best news is, it can take as little as 1/2 an hour a week to make all the difference.

4. The Art of Adaptation
(Learning to Cook with What You Have)

They say there are 2 types of cooks: those that like to follow recipes and those that consider a recipe to be nothing more than a gentle suggestion.

Which camp do you fall into?

These days I’m definitely a recipe-is-just-for-inspiration type of cook. But it wasn’t always the case. When I first started to get into cooking in my early 20s I always followed the recipe. As my confidence grew, I began to tweak a few things here and there.

Then during my wine making days, I started leaving recipes behind. Each week, I’d go the the local farmers market and buy whatever looked good. During the week I’d experiment and cook from the heart based on the ingredients I had in the house. It was liberating and so much fun!

Don’t worry, I’m not saying it’s wrong to follow a recipe. But there can be a few problems with a recipe-centric approach to cooking on a daily basis…

Thankfully, the art of adaptation is a skill that anyone can learn. I’ve helped hundreds of cooks like you make the transition. And you can take baby steps to get there.

If you join us for ‘The Healthy Meal Method’, you’ll discover all the tools you need along with 10 of my favourite most ‘adaptable’ recipes which will give you a starting point or ‘training wheels’ to help you flex your own adaptation muscles.

With time you too will be able to cook with what you have.

Like to put your healthy eating habits on ‘autopilot’?

HMM2013 square logo large

Then join me for the 2017 edition of my online cooking program, ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ – an online training program that teaches simple, healthy cooking habits.

It arms you with simple tools and strategies to help you make real lasting changes to your life so you can ‘eat well, be well’ with minimal effort.

For more details go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/hmm/

“HMM has really given me the tools to eat healthier and cook for myself at home more.”
Martha, Healthy Meal Method Student.

——
Roast Broccoli & Chicken Caesar Salad

Amazing Roast Broccoli & Chicken Caesar-ish Salad

Roast broccoli is one of my all time favourite things to eat. I’d take it over roast spuds any day (although the men in my house are firmly in the potato camp). It’s especially tasty when cooked in a hot oven like this because you get the lovely charred crispy bits on the outside. Plus its quicker to cook. So even if you’re not a Caesar fan, I really encourage you to try the broccoli!

enough for: 2
takes: 30 minutes

2 heads broccoli
4 chicken thigh fillets
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
handful grated parmesan
shaved parmesan, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Chop broccoli into bite sized little trees and finely slice broccoli stems. Slice each chicken thigh into 4 strips.

2. Place broccoli and chicken in a roasting pan and drizzle with a little oil.

3. Pop in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine lemon, mayo and grated parmesan in a medium bowl to make the dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

5. After the 10 minutes, stir the chicken and brocc to move the outside pieces into the middle so everything cooks a bit more evenly.

6. Roast for another 5 – 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and broccoli is tender.

7. Toss hot chicken and veg in the dressing. Divide between two plates and serve with extra shaved parmesan on top.

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Variations

mayo-free – replace mayo with extra virgin olive oil, sour cream or natural yoghurt.

vegetarian – skip the chicken and serve with a poached or boiled egg instead. Or toss in drained canned or cooked white beans or chickpeas.

more veg – toss in chopped cos or romaine lettuce, baby spinach, finely chopped raw kale or fresh parsley leaves.

more classic Caesar – replace roast broccoli with chopped Cos or Romaine lettuce. And add some chopped anchovies to the dressing.

carb-lovers / more substantial – toss in cooked pasta, cooked chickpeas or torn chunks of sourdough bread.

dairy-free / paleo – replace grated parmesan with grated brazil nuts and replace shaved parmesan with roast almonds or pine nuts.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. I’d love to hear from you.

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to healthy cooking? Let me know in the comments below.

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Miso & Harissa Roast Cauliflower-4

Ever ‘resolved’ to start eating healthy only to have the wheels fall off after a short time?

Well you’re not alone!

There have been plenty of times where I’ve tried (and failed) to make healthy changes in my life.

The good news is it wasn’t your fault your resolution didn’t stick. Pretty much everyone struggles to succeed if they’re relying on willpower.

As Kelly Mc Gonigal Ph.D writes in her book, ‘The Will Power Instinct’ willpower is something we all only have a finite amount of. This is why it can be so difficult to exert self control at times.

Especially when we’re tired. Because our willpower ‘reserves’ are at there lowest at the end of the day.

So what’s the alternative?

In a word. Habits.

By making healthy habits a part of your everyday life you can essentially ‘automate’ daily decisions. And avoid the need for willpower.

This way, eating healthy isn’t something you battle with every meal. It’s on autopilot so healthy choices become effortless. Even enjoyable.

What sort of habits are we talking about?

For me, my weekly shopping habit is the foundation because without it I wouldn’t have lots of veggies in the house. And you can’t eat something that isn’t there.

Cooking for my family on a daily basis is another key. As are getting 8 hours sleep and making sure I eat my meals sitting at the table (no snacking on the go).

It’s different for every person of course.

We don’t all need to follow the exact same habits. The secret is working enough healthy habits into your life so your ‘autopilot’ is steering you in a healthy direction most of the time.

That way you can not only indulge in that Friday night pizza or Sunday afternoon ice cream, you can enjoy it completely guilt-free. And without any ill effects.

Like to put your healthy eating habits on ‘autopilot’?

HMM2013 square logo large

Then join me for the 2017 edition of my online cooking program, ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ – an online training program that teaches simple, healthy cooking habits.

It arms you with simple tools and strategies to help you make real lasting changes to your life so you can ‘eat well, be well’ with minimal effort.

For more details go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/hmm/

__

_____________________
Miso & Harissa Roast Cauliflower-2

Miso Harissa Roast Cauli

I can’t remember where I got the inspiration to combine Japanese miso paste with Moroccan harissa. But I’m so so glad I did. Talk about a flavour bomb. To be honest I love roast cauliflower on its own, but with this dressing it is seriously one of my favourite things to eat. Ever. And I take these things seriously. Very seriously. You definitely need to make this one!

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons harissa
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cauliflower, chopped into florettes
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 small bunch kale, finely sliced

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F).

2. Combine miso, harissa and olive oil in a small bowl.

3. Place cauli in a roasting pan. Toss half the miso-harissa dressing over the cauliflower. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until cauli is cooked through and browned around the edges.

4. Meanwhile, add the vinegar to the remaining dressing. Taste and season, adding more miso, harissa, vinegar or just some salt if needed. Although it’s probably delicious just as it is.

5. When the cauli is cooked, toss in the kale and extra dressing and serve warm or at room temp.

Variations

different veg – also lovely with broccoli instead of the cauli. I can imagine the dressing would also be brilliant with roast sweet potato, butternut squash, zucchini or even roast spuds. If you’re not into kale, try a bunch of flat leaf parsley or a handful of baby spinach leaves to add the leafiness.

more substantial / carb lovers – toss in some cooked couscous, quinoa or brown rice. Or serve with warm flat bread.

complete meal – serve with grilled or pan fried chicken or fish. Or crumble over some feta or your favourite goats cheese. A handful of roast nuts (I’m thinking almonds, pine nuts or macadamias) would add excellent crunch and some more substance. A few poached or fried eggs wouldn’t go astray either. And one day I’m going to try it with cooked lentils and on another day with cooked chickpeas.

no miso – my supermarket stock white miso (shiro) in the Japanese section, but if you don’t have any, just use 2 tablespoons soy sauce instead.

no harissa – OMG you really should try and get some. It’s a Moroccan chilli and spice paste that adds incredible flavour. But substitute any chilli paste or chilli sauce or even some chopped fresh red chillies. Just add a little at first if you aren’t sure of the heat intensity.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if changing your habits could help you?

Here’s what Nancy and Julia said about the ‘Healthy Meal Method’…

“I am almost 60 y.o. and until now had no consistent shopping habits or plan. I knew what was healthy but not how to make it simple. I am thrilled to have found an approach that deals with habits so well.
Nancy, Healthy Meal Method Student.

“After using the Healthy Meal Method I am enjoying cooking more simply and wasting less food, which saves lots of money. I am more organised and plan meals around using the most perishable items in my fridge first. The Healthy Meal Method is great for anyone who enjoys food. It takes the stress out of cooking, especially for busy people, including families.”
Julia, Healthy Meal Method Student.

What do you think?

I’d really love you to join us for this years program!

To see if ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ is right for you go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/hmm/

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