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Super Tender Broccoli

When I was backpacking around the world in my 20s there were 2 things that I really missed…

My own bed.

And my own fridge.

I guess I also did miss having a proper kitchen. But every time I tried to squeeze my fresh ingredients into a smelly, chaotic youth hostel shared fridge, that was the part I really struggled with.

Ever since then I’ve always been so thankful for having my own cold storage space. And while it isn’t clean and tidy 100% of the time, I do take a certain pride in keeping it organized.

So today I’m going to share the 5 key principles I follow.

How I Organize My Fridge

1. Keep most in need of using items visible.
It’s so easy to forget what you have. So my first rule is to place anything that needs ‘eating up’ where you can’t miss seeing it each time you open the fridge.

It’s a small thing but makes a HUGE difference to how much food I waste.

2. Keep like things together.
This is just how my brain works. I have separate places for my cheese, my raw meats, fresh veg, prepped ingredients, my fermented veg and of course my champagne!

3. Have a regular place for different ingredients.
This just makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. So I know that half used jar of curry paste will be in he fridge door instead of having to rummage around to find it.

4. Really look once a day.
I don’t know about you, but my memory isn’t the greatest these days. So I try and have a good look in all parts of the fridge at least once a day.

This way I remember what I have and get heaps more ideas for what to cook. Plus I can move things that really need eating to a more visible position so I’m less likely to waste food. Win win!

5. Keep things covered.
The air in the fridge is really dry. The number 1. cause of food spoilage is dehydration, especially for fresh produce. So I keep all my fruit and veg in plastic bags either in the crisper or on the bottom shelf. It doesn’t look so pretty but really makes a difference to how long things last.

For leftovers and my prepped ingredients I use glass containers with plastic lids.

A Video Tour of My Fridge

Watch on YouTube

Like more?

Then I’d love you to join me for The Organized Cook!

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Registration is NOW OPEN for The Organized Cook, a 4-week online training program that shows you my simple system for:

  • Getting on top of cooking at home
  • Eating more vegetables
  • Pulling meals together quickly without the ‘last minute’ stress…

To see if it’s right for you go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/toc/

With love,
Jules xx

ps. Not sure if you have time to sign up?

Think about it, you’re always going to have lots going on. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if you had your kitchen organization handled? Imagine if you could free up some time for other areas of your life?

That’s why you get access to the program for life. So you’ll always be able to fit it into the timing that works best for you.

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

——

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salt & vinegar steaks

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to students from my online cooking school.

I always enjoy chatting on the phone or Skype with my students from all over the world. It’s fun but more importantly it gives me valuable insights into what people need help with.

One theme that kept coming up was getting to the end of the day and having that feeling of panic or dread…

‘Oh no! I’ve got to pull a meal together. What will I do?’

One of the best antidotes to this ‘affliction’ is to be a bit more organized. But I know there are some myths that hold people back from getting on top of it.

So let’s get into some myth busting!

The 3 Biggest Myths about being an Organized Cook

Myth 1. If you’re organized there’s less flexibility and freedom.
This ties in with the misconception that being organized means you have to pre-cook loads of complete meals.

But there is another way!

If you focus on prepping ingredients instead there can be loads of room for flexibility and creativity. I find it actually sparks ideas.

And even better, cooking this way means you can ‘pull together’ healthy meals really quickly which means you’re much more likely to eat at home.

As André said:
“Since completing The Organized Cook I am eating more at home because now I need less time to cook.”

Myth 2. You have to spend hours in the kitchen sacrificing your precious weekend time.
People often tell me that a lack of time is their biggest obstacle on the path to organization.

But here’s the thing, you don’t need to dedicate huge chunks of time to make a difference.

The key is to develop a strategy to help you be more efficient with the time you’re already spending.

For example, I often pop on some veg to roast (1 hour but 2 minutes active time) or cook up a pot of rice for Fergal and Finbar (15 minutes) while I’m cooking for today.

If you’d like to explore more strategies for being efficient in the kitchen I’m going to be going much deeper in my new online program, The Organized Cook, which I hope you’ll join me for.

Myth 3. Pre-prepared food is not as healthy as fresh.
Just because fresh food is healthy, doesn’t necessarily mean that food cooked in advance is not.

Whenever we cut or cook food we’re exposing it to oxidation and light or heat. So any light, oxygen or heat sensitive nutrients will be lost during food prep.

Whether we eat the food straight away or store it and eat in a few days time doesn’t make a significant difference. Most of the sensitive nutrients will have already been lost either way.

The way I look at it, if prepping ahead means I’m going to eat more veggies, this totally outweighs any slight loss in nutrition from prepping and storing.

Ready to be feel more Organized?

Well now’s your chance!

THD 2016 square logo

Registration is NOW OPEN for The Organized Cook, a 4-week online training program that shows you my simple system for:

  • Getting on top of cooking at home
  • Eating more vegetables
  • Pulling meals together quickly without the ‘last minute’ stress…

To see if the Organized Cook is right for you go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/toc/

_________________________

salt & vinegar steaks-2

Salt & Vinegar Steaks

When I was growing up ‘salt and vinegar’ was my favourite flavour of potato chips (crisps). But it wasn’t until my brother was staying with me and cooked his version of these salt and vinegar steaks that I had the inspiration to use that classic flavour combo in my cooking. Thanks Dom!

enough for: 2
takes: 30 minutes

1 bunch broccolini or broccoli, chopped
2 steaks
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt flakes

1. Remove steaks from the fridge preferably an hour before you want to cook them, or as long as you’ve got.

2. For the dressing, combine vinegar with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

3. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a little olive oil and the broccoli / broccolini and a splash of water. Cover and cook stirring every few minutes until the veg are no longer crunchy, about 5-10 minutes. Place veg in a clean bowl.

4. Increase heat to medium high. Rub steaks with a little oil and sprinkle with salt.

5. Cook steaks for 3-5 minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking.

5. Place steak on 2 plates. Drizzle over dressing and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving with the broccolini / broccoli on top and extra sea salt flakes.

Variations

different salt – my brother loves commercial garlic salt or onion salt with his steak.

vegetarian – replace steaks with sliced halloumi cheese. Pan fry halloumi on a medium heat until golden brown on both sides. No need to rest the halloumi before tucking in. OR replace steak with hummus + a handful of almonds.

vegan – try salt and vinegar beans. Replace steaks with a drained can of your favourite beans. Warm in the pan and serve with the veg and dressing. Consider adding a handful or roasted almonds or pine nuts for some extra protein and crunch.

different veg – replace broccoli or broccolini with sliced zucchini, snow peas, frozen peas, sugar snap peas or red bell peppers (capsicum). Or just serve steaks with salad leaves on the side.

more substantial – lovely with mashed potatoes, roast potato or fries, cauliflower mash or a packet of your favourite potato crisps (chips). Or just serve some crusty bread and butter.

different meat – also great with pork chops, lamb chops or lamb cutlets. I also love salt and vinegar sausages (simmer sausages in water for 10-15 minutes before draining and browning in a little oil in the pan).

pescetarian – replace steaks with fish and replace balsamic with lemon juice.

different vinegar / sugar-free – I love the sweetness of balsamic here but you could use any wine or rice vinegar. Sherry vinegar is also a hit.

more veg – serve a green salad on the side.

low carb – I use a cheap balsamic which is lower carb. For strict low carb use 2 tablespoons wine or sherry vinegar instead. For more easy Low Carb ideas check out my new website Deliciously Diabetic.

With love,
Jules x
www.thestonesoup.com

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ps. Not sure if The Organized Cook can help you?

Here’s what Samantha and Pat said about their experience…

“I’m planning more often and are more confident in trusting my instincts. Being better prepared has kept us from eating out too often.”
Samantha, The Organized Cook Student.

“I am planning ahead more often and have less anxiety when it come time to cook the evening meal. The Organized Cook helps simplify the meal planning and preparation process. And access to all of the healthy recipes is great!”
Pat, The Organized Cook Student.

For more details use your link below:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/toc/

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Hummus with Chorizo & Roasted Hazelnuts-2

Have you ever dreamed of being able to walk into the kitchen, look in the fridge and go ‘I’ve got this and this and this. I’m going to put these things together and make something that tastes good’?

Well you’re in the right place!

When I was first learning to cook I followed recipes religiously because I didn’t have the confidence to cook on my own. But I remember wishing I could just ‘throw something together’.

These days that’s pretty much how I cook most days. I see what I have and take it from there.

So how did I make the leap?

It was a few things. Practice and being willing to give it a try certainly helped.

But one of the biggest game changers was developing the habit of prepping my ingredients.

Why ingredient prep?

Because there’s nothing like opening the fridge and seeing loads of possibilities. Being able to grab out a tub of this and a jar of that and know you’re going to be eating something truly tasty and healthy soon!

There’s something about having about having the broccoli already chopped and roasted or the lentils already cooked and seasoned that makes it easier to imagine what you can make.

It really gives confidence that you can throw a meal together. Not to mention making you feel on top of things as you look into your beautifully organized fridge.

But apart from the creative, inspirational side of things, there are plenty of practical concrete reasons…

Saves time – prepping ingredients in advance makes it so much quicker to get weeknight (and other) meals on the table.

Plus cooking in bulk generally doesn’t take much more time. For example making a big pot of quinoa and freezing the extras means you’ll have quinoa ready to go without spending much more time than packing it up.

And there’s no extra cleanup either!

Keeps thing flexible – unlike making a whole meal in advance, prepping ingredients doesn’t ‘lock you in’. For example some roast sweet potato could become a warming soup for a cold rainy day. BUT if the weather is unseasonably warm it can just as easily turn into a sweet potato salad.

Reduce waste – for many ingredients, especially fruit and veg, prepping and partially cooking makes them keep for longer. This is because cooking destroys enzymes and reduces the presence of spoilage microbes.

For example, where that bunch of organic kale may start to go yellow and sad looking after a week in the fridge, if you cook it down it will easily keep for two weeks or more.

Not only is wasting less fresh produce good for your conscience and your wallet. It’s much better for the planet too!

How to master the art of ingredient prep.

1. start small & plan for success.
So you’re probably all excited to get going but the worst thing you can do is buy a fridge full of fresh produce, get overwhelmed and forget about them.

The real power of the art of ingredient prep is turning it into a habit so it becomes practically effortless.

So focus on taking baby steps and focus on really building the habit first. You can always upscale your ingredient prep efforts later, once you have the habit embedded.

2. Choose 1-2 ingredients to prep.
I’ve included a ‘cheat sheet’ to download and keep. Use it to get ideas. If you’re not very confident in the kitchen it’s a good idea to decide how you’re going to use them. And make sure you get any other ingredients you need.

3. Buy your ingredients and prep them.
See the ‘cheat sheet’ for instructions. Download link below.

4. Use your ingredients one night this week!
And congratulate yourself for taking the first step to becoming more organized in the kitchen!

Your ingredient prep ‘cheat sheet’

StonesoupIngredientPrepCheatSheetIMage
Click HERE to download your cheat sheet.
You may need to ‘right click’ and ‘save link as’..
_______________________

Hummus with Chorizo & Roasted Hazelnuts

Hummus w Chorizo & Almonds

‘Things’ on a bed of creamy hummus are some of my favourite quick, healthy mid-week meals. While the Spiced Beef with Hummus from my FREE eCookbook will always be one of my go-to meals, this version using chorizo is a close second. Love the contrast of the hot spicy sausage with the cool creamy hummus, the crunchy hazelnuts and the fresh greenness of the salad. So good!

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 chorizo, sliced or crumbled
1 cup hummus
2 handfuls roast hazelnuts
1 bag baby spinach leaves

1. Heat a little oil in a medium frying pan and cook chorizo until well browned on both sides and cooked through.

2. Divide hummus between two plates. Top with cooked chorizo, hazelnuts and salad leaves.

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Variations

no chorizo – use other spicy sauasage, salami or ground meat. Add a little chilli if you want more heat.

no hummus – to make your own, whizz 1 drained can chickpeas in the food processor with 1 clove garlic,

vegetarian – replace chorizo with roast veg and serve with a drizzle of chilli oil or your favourite hot sauce.

low carb / paleo – use the Roast Cauliflower Hummus from my new website, Deliciously Diabetic.

nut-free – replace hazelnuts with extra chorizo or crumble over some feta or goats cheese.

more substantial / carb lovers – serve with warm tortillas or flat bread.

With love,
Jules
xoxo

ps. Want to be more organized in the kitchen?

Introducing…

THD 2016 square logo

The Organized Cook, a 4-week online training program that shows you my simple system to get on top of cooking at home, eating more vegetables and pulling meals together quickly without the ‘last minute’ stress…

To see if the Organized Cook can help you go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/toc/

_________________________

“I am planning ahead more often and have less anxiety when it come time to cook the evening meal. The Organized Cook helps simplify the meal planning and preparation process. And access to all of the healthy recipes is great!”
Pat, The Organized Cook Student.

_________________________

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blat salad

Years ago, when I was a young food scientist working in product development for Kellogg, the company introduced a ‘clean desk’ policy.

I hated it.

Before the new policy I was happy to be the most messy person in the department. Life was good except I could never find what I was looking for.

After the new policy, my boss started to ‘remind’ me constantly to change my ways. It’s never a good idea to have your boss on your case, so I chose the lesser of two evils and started putting away my things at the end of every day.

You probably know where this is heading.

Yep.

I ended up loving having a clean desk. It made coming to work much more pleasant. It helped me think clearer. And I could find things quickly when I needed them.

It took a while but over time this policy spread into other areas of my life. Including of course my kitchen!

So here they are…

6 ‘Golden Rules’ of an Organized Kitchen

1. Simplify.
If I was only going to give you one rule this would be it. I can’t stress enough how having less equipment in your cupboards and less ingredients in your fridge and pantry makes is so much easier to feel organized.

So how do you simplify?

This is a huge topic on its own but the first place to start is just being mindful of what you bring into the kitchen.

Ask yourself:

‘Do I really need this?‘

The next step is to clear out and review what you have. Any out-of-date ingredients or equipment you haven’t used in months should go.

If you’re struggling with letting things go, do what I do and create a ‘things to donate to charity box’. Keep this in your garage (or shed).

Having this step makes it easier because you can change your mind if you find you are actually missing that hot dog warmer or popcorn maker.

2. Keep like things together.
I find it best to keep similar items together. For example I have one cupboard for plates, another for mugs, another for pots, another for cleaning supplies etc.

3. Keep things where you use them most.
Easy access makes being in the kitchen a smoother experience so you’ll want to spend more time there!

For example, I keep salt and pepper on our dining table so they’re always there when we eat. And I have salt and pepper in the pantry for seasoning when I’m cooking.

Other examples are keeping a jar with utensils next to the stove so they’re easy to grab when I’m cooking. And I have my knives on a rack on the wall in the middle of the kitchen so they’re within arms reach.

4. Clean as you go.
One of the worst feelings is walking into a dirty kitchen and having to spend precious time cleaning before you can even start cooking.

I’m afraid that apart from getting a cleaning robot or a live-in maid, the only way to avoid this is to have a personal rule to clean on an ongoing basis.

If you find yourself with a minute to spare, ask yourself ‘what can I clean now?’ It can take a while to build this habit but you’ll never regret it.

5. Do it now.
This is a trick I picked up from Gretchen Reuben in her brilliant book ‘The Happiness Project’.

Whenever you see something that could be put away or cleaned, say to yourself ‘do it now’ and follow through. This really worked for me so now I automatically pick things up and put them away.

6. Build habits.
I’ve saved this for last because after golden rule No. 1, simplify, habits are the next biggest game changer.

By building habits you put being organized on autopilot. It becomes automatic – something you don’t have to think about.

This is HUGE because you get the benefits of feeling in control and ‘on top of it’ without having to think or try too hard.

Some of the habits that make my life so much easier (and more organized) include:

  • shopping on a regular basis
  • keeping a running shopping list on my phone
  • doing things ‘now’ as I mentioned above
  • putting my groceries away as soon as I get home
  • really looking in the fridge every day so I know what needs eating up
  • prepping ingredients on the weekend or whenever I can (usually when I’m already in the kitchen).

There you have it!

My 6 ‘golden rules’ which really help me be organized in the kitchen (and other areas of life).

Want to be more organized in the kitchen?

Introducing…

THD 2016 square logo

The Organized Cook, a 4-week online training program that shows you my simple system to get on top of cooking at home, eating more vegetables and pulling meals together quickly without the ‘last minute’ stress…

To see if the Organized Cook can help you go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/toc/

_________________________

“The Organized Cook means less last-minute stress, more relaxed cooking. I would recommend it because it reduces stress when it comes to cooking and shopping”
Anke, The Organized Cook Student.

_________________________

blat salad-2

Bacon & Avocado Salad

I’ve really been getting into flavour pairings lately inspired by a fab book, The Flavour Thesaurus by Nikki Segnet. It’s hard to go past salty crispy bacon and cool creamy avocado as an match made in heaven. I love this salad because the bacon and avo make it nice and filling yet it’s still fresh and bright. Perfect for lunches or brunches.

Enough for 2
Takes: 15 minutes

4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
3-4 handfuls lettuce leaves
1 avocado
large handful semi dried tomatoes

1. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook bacon on a medium high heat until crispy.

2. Combine vinegar with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Season.

3. Toss leaves in the dressing. Sprinkle over chunks of avocado, tomatoes and the hot crunchy bacon before serving.

Variations

vegan – replace bacon with sliced grilled or roast mushrooms.

vegetarian – skip the bacon and serve with a poached or boiled egg on top.

more substantial / carb-lovers – toss in a drained can of white beans such as cannellini or butter beans to warm up in the bacon fat and add to the salad. You could also just toss in torn sourdough.

no semi dried tomatoes? – replace with halved fresh cherry tomatoes instead.

more veg – add chopped raw veg like snowpeas to the salad.

Big love,
Jules
xoxo

ps. Stay tuned for the next installment of my 6 part series on Kitchen Organization where we’ll go deeper into the Art of Ingredient Prep – one of my key personal habits!

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fiery harissa paste from Made With Love

Don’t you hate it when you get home from a long day and your dinner isn’t a good as it should be? Don’t you hate it when getting a weeknight meal on the table becomes another source of stress?

Me too.

The good news is preparing dinner can actually be a chance to relax and unwind. A chance to nourish yourself and your loved ones with good food and good company.

Even on busy week nights.

The secret is to harness the power of meal planning without falling prey to the common mistakes…

3 Meal Planning Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

1. Complicated recipes
If you’re a food lover like me, you’ve probably made this mistake more than once (like I have!). Choosing overly ambitious recipes means when it comes time to cook you’re either going to struggle to find the energy OR you’re going to be eating really late.

Happily, building a repertoire of recipes that are both simple (hello 5 ingredients!) and satisfying is something I’ve been doing for years and years. I’m still surprised how allowing each ingredient to speak for itself can be so delicious.

2. Inflexible plans
If there’s one constant in our modern lives it’s that things are always changing. So you need to allow some flexibility otherwise you’re going to end up with lots of waste.

For my meal plans I take two approaches to add flexibility.

Firstly, I include a ‘waste avoidance strategy’ for every ingredient so if your plans change, you’ll know what to do with your ingredients so you don’t end up wasting them.

The second part is including a ‘wild card’ night rather than planning every single meal. This way you can adapt as needed.

3. Not planning!
At the other end of the spectrum is the problem of not having a plan at all. You know where this leads… no food in the house which means you’re far more likely to eat out or order takeaway. Which is fine occasionally but not when it’s happening most nights.

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Like Some Help with Your Meal Planning?

Now is a great time to try a different approach!

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 ENDS in less than 48-hours!.

_____________________

“I nearly cried when your planner came through today! My life is really hectic at the moment, lots of stress. 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.

_____________________

Harissa Chicken

Firey Harissa Chicken

When I was first learning to cook I once made a ‘fiery’ harissa chicken from a recipe in a magazine. There was a huge ingredients list and it took forever but the thing I remember most was using 50 red chillies in the marinade. My fingers burned for days after preparing so many chillies with no gloves. This version is a much more simple (and just as tasty) homage to that dish. See the variations if you’re not sure about harissa.

enough for: 2
takes: 35 minutes

8 tablespoons Greek style yoghurt
1-2 tablespoons harissa
450g (1lb) chicken thigh fillets
1/2 small cauliflower, chopped
2-4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch mint, leaves picked

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Combine yoghurt and harissa. Taste and season.

2. Chop each thigh fillet into 2 pieces. Toss chicken in half the yoghurt mixture. If you have time you could let it marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge. Or just keep going!

2. Place chicken on a baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, whizz the cauliflower in the food processor until you have really fine ‘grains’ that look like couscous.

4. Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add cauli and cook until the cauli is hot. Season.

5. Serve chicken on a bed of the cauli ‘couscous’ with mint leaves on top and remaining spicy yoghurt spooned over.

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Variations

no harissa? – harissa is a Tunisian spice paste. You can get it online or from good delis. My supermarket stocks it. It usually comes in a tube or a jar. You could substitute and chilli paste like sambal oleck or even your favourite hot sauce. Another option is to finely chop a heap of fresh red chillies.

dairy-free – make a marinade using 1-2 tablespoons harissa and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Serve drizzled with tahini or mashed avocado instead of the yoghurt sauce.

vegan / vegetarian – replace chicken with firm tofu. The yoghurt and harissa really add loads of flavour to tofu. Or replace chicken with sliced eggplant. You may need to cook a little longer. Another option is to replace chicken with a trimmed bunch of baby carrots for fiery harissa carrots. Vegans will need to see the ‘dairy-free’ suggestions.

more substantial / carb-lovers – serve with cooked quinoa, cooked lentils or couscous cooked according to the packet. You may also like to serve flat bread.

pesetarian – lovely with any fish fillets. Reduce the cooking time to about 20 minutes or less, depending on the size of your fish.

different meat – also great with lamb chops or steak.

different herbs – coriander (cilantro), flat leaf parsley, chives or basil.

paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free) – use coconut yoghurt or replace yoghurt with olive oil and a little extra harissa.

more veg – toss diced red onions, red peppers (capsicum) and carrot through the cauli couscous.

With love,
Jules
xoxo

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

Here’s what Dyann, Emma and Stephanie said about their experience:

“I am so glad I signed up for this, but I think my husband is even happier! Every night I’m hearing comments like, “I have been eating so good lately,” “This tastes like it came from a [Thai, Indian, etc] restaurant!” “That looks like a picture in a magazine” and “The house smells soooo gooooood.”
Dyann, 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.

“The meal plans are simple, easy to prepare, tasty and healthy. I love that it comes in a simple PDF format with a shopping list already broken down. You’ve made it SO simple to actually cook meals 5 nights a week – it’s wonderful!”
Stephanie, Soupstones Member.

pps. There’s really only one way to find out if they’ll work for you…

Try them!

To make the most of the ‘1/2 Birthday Sale’ and try the meal plans out, use your link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

NOTE: Sale ENDS in less than 48-hours!.

____________________

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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.

_____________________

“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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Soupstones Square Logo no border

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

__________________________

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

________________________________
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.

__________________________________

simple dinners logo

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…

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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?

2MMP 3D Cover

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.

SBS snippet

__________________

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