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Cauliflower Pizza-5

Have you ever tried making a pizza base out of cauliflower?

I remember my first attempt. It. was. terrible.

Soggy, with a really strong overcooked cauliflower aroma and flavour.

Yuck!

It was so bad that I decided it wasn’t a place I ever wanted to go to again. Like never (and normally I’m a firm believer in ‘never saying never’).

But a few months ago I was thinking how nice it would be to have a low-carb dinner option that fitted the space we used to have for Friday Night Pizza. And how nice it would be to get Fergal, my 3-year-old, to eat more vegetables.

So I did some research and decided to try again.

This time I used raw grated cauliflower instead of steaming it. And I added some almond meal and grated parmesan to give it more of a ‘bready’ consistency.

The results?

The first time I made it my Irishman said it was good but refused to call it pizza. However I noticed he didn’t have any problems polishing off the last slice. So I figured it must be doing something right.

Then a few weeks later when he was actually excited about Friday Night Cauli ‘Pizza’ and we were both eyeing off the last slice. I knew this new style of ‘pizza’ was going to stay in our repertoire. Regardless of what we called it.

Oh and Fergal gobbled up his as well. So it really can’t taste like there are any vegetables in it ;)

A winner!

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Cauliflower Pizza-4

Cauliflower ‘Pizza’

I was tempted to call this a tart rather than set the expectations that pizza involves. But really it is closer to being a pizza than a tart. Either way it’s delicious. And I love that it’s low-carb so I don’t have to limit myself to only 1-2 modest slices.

make 1 large pizza – enough for 2
takes about 40 minutes

500g (1lb) cauliflower, about 1 medium
100g (3.5oz) grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon psyllium (optional)
2 eggs
100g (3.5oz) almond meal
your favourite pizza toppings

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

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

3. Add parmesan, psyllium (if using), eggs, almond meal and a really generous pinch of salt. Stir until combined.

4. Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Tip the cauli mixture onto the lined tray then using your hands smooth into a pizza shaped circle about 28cm (11in) in diameter. I like to make a ‘crust’ by shaping the edges to be taller than the middle.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pizza is deeply browned and feels cooked.

6. Increase the heat to to 200C (400F) add your toppings and bake further 5-10 minutes or until you’re happy.

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Variations

psyllium alternatives – psyllium is a form of fiber. The pizza is perfectly fine without but you could use oat bran, ground chia seeds or ground flaxseeds if you like.

dairy-free – replace parmesan with extra almond meal. If you have some nutritional yeast lying around a tablespoon or so wouldn’t hurt.

nut-free – replace almond meal with bread crumbs or extra parmesan.

egg-free – use your favourite egg replacer.

martian ‘green pizza’ – replace cauliflower with broccoli.

do ahead – you can bake the base ahead of time and then just continue from step 6. Will keep in the fridge for a week or so or in the freezer for months. Defrost before baking.

smaller pizzas – feel free to make into whatever size (or shape) you like. Smaller pizzas won’t need quite as long so check after 20 minutes.

other veg – also thinking it would work well with spiralized zucchini instead of the cauli. Haven’t tried this yet so if you do please report back in the comments!

With love,
Jules x
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ps. What do you think?
Would you be willing something made with cauliflower to be called pizza? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Broccoli Soup with Goats Cheese

Recently I did a survey asking Stonesoup readers about their biggest problems with cooking and eating.

Guess what came out on top?

Meal planning.

The whole process of figuring out what to cook each week can be a challenge.

Here’s the thing… the reason you may be struggling with the process of planning and shopping is that you’re making one mistake.

If you’d like to find out more about this common mistake and how you can avoid it (and make meal planning so much easier!) then you’re in luck! 

This week I’m kicking off a free training series focused on getting rid of your meal planning headaches.

The first installment is all about the number one mistake most people make when it comes to meal planning.

It’s ready and waiting for you. Just enter your details below to get it.

___________________________

Enter your name and email below to get instant access to my FREE video training series.

You’ll discover:
– The most common meal planning mistake (and how to avoid it)
– 5 reasons you shouldn’t plan your meals in advance
– My 3-step framework for ‘reversing the meal planning process
– The ‘secret’ to cooking without recipes

NOTE: Free training only available for a limited time.

___________________________

Can’t see the signup form? Click here.

________

Broccoli Soup with Goats Cheese-2

Broccoli & Goats Cheese Soup

This super simple soup is brilliant for those days when you just need a big bowl of something warm, nourishing and green! It’s a bit fancier with the goats cheese but also super lovely without.

I normally make it with water to maximize the fresh broccoli flavour. If you want to use stock make sure it’s not too strong to overpower the brocc.

Enough for: 2
Takes: 20 minutes

3 cups water or mild stock
2 heads broccoli
100g (3oz) goats cheese, sliced
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

1. Bring water or stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Chop broccoli into bite sized pieces.

2. Add broccoli to the pan. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the broccoli isn’t crunchy any more.

3. Remove from the heat and whizz using a stick blender or a blender until you have a smooth purée.

4. Taste and season with lots of salt. Bring back to a simmer. Serve with goats cheese on top and an exceedingly generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Variations

paleo / dairy-free – serve with dairy-free pesto instead of the goats cheese. Or just skip it.

different cheese – also loved with shaved Parmesan, feta, or creamy ricotta.

fresh – if it tastes a bit flat and you’ve already added lots of salt try a squeeze of lemon.

carb-lovers – serve with crusty bread and butter or stir in some cooked quinoa, couscous or brown rice just before serving. You could serve the goats cheese on top of toast for dipping.

herby – add a bunch of flat leaf parsley or basil leaves before puréeing.

With love,
Jules
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ps. This is the only time in the next 12 months I’ll have this free training available.

To make sure you don’t miss out, enter your details below:

Can’t see the signup form? Click here.

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Chorizo & Eggplant Supper

Here’s a fact that not many people know about me… It’s one of my ‘super powers’.

I’m really great at opening jars.

It may not seem a big deal, but trust me, it totally comes in handy.

So how did I develop my super strength?

It was something I figured out during my very first job in a winery. Now making wine is awesome fun but it’s also really physical. There’s lots of pumping, shoveling, lifting barrels and climbing.

Coming from the corporate world this was a struggle for me. Plus being the only girl in the winery. It was tough.

One day I was struggling to disconnect a hose fitting from a tank. My hands were aching. There was a lot of swearing. It wasn’t pretty. Then one of the more experienced guys came over to help.

He showed me that if I lifted the hose to take the pressure off the fitting it was easy to loosen the screw.

It changed my world.

Not long after, I was in my kitchen struggling to open a jar of tomato pasta sauce. It wouldn’t budge. There wasn’t any one around with muscles I could borrow.

Then it occurred to me… The lid was under pressure (or really a vacuum).

What if I released the pressure?

I grabbed a butter knife, jammed it under the side of the lid. When I hear that satisfying ‘pop’ of the lid being released I tried again. The lid twisted almost effortlessly.

So there you have it. My ‘secret’ to opening tricky jars.

But wait! There’s more. ;)

What about that half full jar of honey or jam where the lid is literally ‘stuck’ on?

This one I learned from my Mum…

Place some boiling water in a bowl… about an inch (2.5cm) deep. Upend the offending jar and leave it lid down in the water for a few minutes. Then remove the jar from the water and using a dry tea towel or cloth carefully twist off the lid. Done.

Although if it’s still stuck leave it a few more minutes in more boiling water.

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Chorizo & Eggplant Supper-2

Eggplant & Chorizo Supper

At the end of last Summer I was heavily into roasting eggplant, zucchini and capsicum (bell peppers). This simple combo of eggplant and spicy sausage was one of my favourites!

enough for: 2
takes: an hour

1 large eggplant (aubergine)
250g (1/2lb) cherry tomatoes
2 chorizo or other spicy sausage
mayo, to serve
baby spinach or salad leaves, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). 

2. Chop eggplant into 2cm (1in) cubes. Halve tomatoes if large and thickly slice chorizo. Toss eggplant, tomato and chorizo in a large baking tray. Drizzle with a good glug of olive oil and season with salt.

3. Roast for 45 minutes. Stir and cook longer if needed. You want the eggplant to be really soft.

4. Divide between two bowls and serve with spinach / salad and mayo on the side.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace chorizo with extra veg such as sliced zucchini or an extra eggplant (aubergine). Consider serving with some roast nuts or a poached egg for extra protein.

no mayo / egg-free – replace Mayo with a dollop of soft cheese like labneh or goats cheese. Hummus will also be lovely as will natural yoghurt.

other veg – feel free to add diced onion, sliced zucchini, chopped capsicum (bell peppers) and / or whole cloves of garlic.

not hot / small person-friendly – use mild chorizo or non-spicy sausages. You can bake the sausages whole if it’s easier than slicing (or crumble the meat out of the casings).

carb-lovers – toss in cooked pasta before serving or serve on a bed of cooked quinoa or brown rice. Also great with crusty bread for mopping up the juices!

herby – toss in torn basil or parsley before serving.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. I should mention there’s a ‘catch’…
I know. The problem with the ‘butter knife’ technique is that it bends the lid so it won’t seal again completely. So don’t use it if you’re planning on reusing your jars for anywhere you need an air tight seal like preserves or jam.

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake-2

This may sound a bit crazy. But I’m going to tell you anyway…

It’s my birthday on Thursday (no that’s not the crazy part).

This year I’m actually looking forward to getting older. Like really excited about it.

Why?

Well, I’m turning 44 and all my previous repeated digit years have been really significant for me…

11 – Went to boarding school.
22 – First ‘proper’ job in product development at Kellogg.
33 – Started Stonesoup!

I have a big audacious goal that I’ve been wanting to achieve for years. Until now it’s taken a second place to starting a family. But now I have my two gorgeous boys (which is more than enough!).

I wonder what fabulous 44 will bring?

But I promised you treats. And treats you shall have!

Treat Number 1. The Birthday Cake

For many years now I’ve created a special birthday cake recipe.

This year’s treat has been on high rotation since the beginning of the year – not something that happens very often because I’m always trying new things.

But it won’t take much imagination to see why…

I mean peanut butter + chocolate + cheesecake? Not exactly a difficult equation to solve.

Treat Number 2. The Birthday Sale!

The other Stonesoup Birthday tradition is my Birthday Sale. Normally it’s a 72-hour sale because I was born in 1972 but this year it’s for 44-hours only to celebrate my 44th!

This year I’m offering a discount on my eCookbook ‘How to Love Your Waistline and Your Food’ because since having a baby in Feb I’ve been on a mission to rediscover my love for my waistline.

I feel very lucky because it hasn’t been that much of a struggle. I’ve just been eating my normal way. For exercise I’ve been taking Fergal and Finbar for a walk most days. I’ve also been doing a few kettle bell swings and more recently I’ve included a Saturday morning run.

But I’m pretty sure what I’ve been eating has had the biggest impact on getting back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.

Anyway back to the sale…

LYW video 3D Cover

In less than 44 Hours, it’s OVER. ‘How to Love Your Waistline and Your Food’ for 30% OFF will go away.

You have less than 44 hours to make the most of the ‘Birthday’ Celebration Sale…

UPDATE: The Birthday Sale is now over.

To make sure you don’t miss out:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/lyw

LCGF 3D coverPLUS! If you buy during the sale, you’ll also get a FREE bonus copy of ‘The Stonesoup Guide to Eating Low Carb + Gluten-Free‘.

AND you’ll get 5 bonus audio podcast MP3s (+ written transcripts) where I chronicle my journey to loving my waistline again after having wee Finbar earlier in the year.

These bonuses aren’t available to buy on their own. The only way to get them is to buy ‘How to Love Your Waistline‘ before the sale ends.

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake-3

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

As soon as I saw a recipe for this in Nigel Slater’s latest book, I knew I had to make a low carb / gluten-free version. Luckily it was pretty easy to adapt. But I did repeat it on many an occasion just to make sure I had it 100% right, nothing to do with wanting to eat it again.

I use 90% cocoa solids chocolate because that’s my favourite these days. But feel free to use whatever chocolate you prefer. And don’t worry, if you’re into sugar, I’ve got you covered in the variations below ;)

enough for 6-8
takes: about an hour

50g (2oz) butter
100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate, chopped
250g (9oz) roasted peanuts
500g (1lb) Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temp
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia (see note below)
4 eggs
100g (3.5oz) peanut butter

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a 20cm (8in) cake tin. Place two layers of foil over the outside base of the tin to stop water seeping in when you bake in the water bath.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 30g (1oz) of the chocolate NOT ALL. Stand for a few minutes for the chocolate to melt.

3. Meanwhile whizz peanuts in the food processor until you have a mix of fine powder and chunky nuts.

4. Stir chocolate butter mixture and add to the peanuts. Pulse until just combined. (If the chocolate hasn’t melted put saucepan back on over a low heat until it is before adding to the nuts.) Taste and if it needs more sweetness add a pinch of stevia or a little sugar.

5. Spread nut mixture over the base of your tin and pop it in the freezer to set while you make the filling.

6. Clean and dry your food processor bowl. Whizz cream cheese and stevia until smooth. Add eggs one at a time scraping down the sides between each.

7. To melt remaining chocolate, bring about 2cm water to the boil in the saucepan you used to melt the butter (no need to clean it). Place chocolate in a small bowl and pop it on top of the saucepan. Make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water and is just being warmed by the steam. Remove from the heat and stand to allow chocolate to melt gently.

8. Pour filling over the chilled base.

9. Using a teaspoon top with dots of peanut butter.

10. Drizzle over the melted chocolate.

11. Place tin in a large baking tray. Make sure your foil is going to protect the cheesecake from the water and pop the tin in the tray. Fill the baking tray with hot water from the tap – about 2cm (1in) up the sides of the tin – not too much to come up past the foil.

12. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheesecake is starting to puff up a little and feels firm in the middle remembering it will firm even more as it chills.

13. Remove from the water bath and cool for about 30 minutes before chilling in the fridge for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

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Variations

important note about stevia! – there are two types of stevia:
1. Pure stevia powder (not an affiliate link) which looks like icing (powdered / confectioners) sugar. It’s expensive but a tiny amount goes a long long way. We’re talking 1/4 teaspoon to sweeten a whole cake.
2. Granular stevia like Natvia or truvia which looks like regular white sugar. It’s a blend of erythritol and stevia.
I’ve used the pure powder in this recipe but if you wanted to use granular stevia you would need 3-4 tablespoons (add to taste).

vanilla – add a teaspoon vanilla extract or the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean to the filling.

sugar lovers – replace stevia with 75g (3oz) caster sugar (superfine).

no stevia – use your favourite sweetener – just add to taste as the only function of the stevia is sweetness. If I didn’t have diabetes I’d totally be making it with maple syrup.

nut-free – skip the peanut butter and replace peanuts with digestive biscuits, graham cookies or other plain sweet biscuit / cookie.

Lots of Birthday love!
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if ‘Love You Waistline’ will help you?

Here’s what Mary had to say about it…

“I have lost 35 pounds so far by making Jules’ Reclaim Your Waistline principles the centerpiece of my weight loss program!”
Mary A., Virginia, USA

pss. The Birthday Sale is strictly limited to 44 hours from when this blog post was published.

Once it’s gone… It’s gone.

I won’t be sending any reminders.

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

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Chinese Beef Cheeks-2

Want to know something that drives me crazy?

Normally I’m a pretty relaxed person. But. When chefs / recipes writers give insanely conservative estimates of how long food will last. It really makes me mad.

I understand that no one wants to get sued from making someone sick. But what about all the food that gets wasted?

Seriously, my home made mayo is only going to last in the fridge for 3 days? Then how come I’m still alive and have been eating 2 week old mayo on a regular basis for years?

OK. Calm down Jules.

So when I got the following comment from one of my cooking school students, I thought it was a perfect excuse for a rant, which fortunately we’ve already got out of the way.

It’s also a great reason to help you make educated decisions for yourself. Oh and save lots of harmless deliciousness from meeting an untimely end!

“I am amazed how well fresh fruit and veg last when stored correctly. I often threw out food after 2-3 days before as I didn’t know how long it could last in the fridge so thank you so much for sharing that information.

One question: how do you know if food is no longer edible? Do you do a smell test and/or trust your judgement?

Chris
Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School Student

How do you know when food is still safe to eat?

1. Fresh Produce

With fresh produce you can tell by looking.. Wilted / browned / sad looking / slimy are all signs your fresh produce is ‘past it’. Eating this produce won’t make you sick, especially if you cook it but it’s not necessarily tasty. Use your judgement on what can be ‘rescued’ and what needs to go to the chooks / compost.

2. Leftover Cooked Food

First, have a good look. If you see mould or yeast spots (little shiny spots) growing then throw it out. These are generally the first to grow long before any bacteria that will make you sick.

Occasionally I’ll scrape off the mouldy bits and eat the rest (after a thorough reheating). But if serving to others, especially my children, I don’t risk it.

But if there’s no visible signs of spoilage and I’m still a bit concerned, I use the ‘smell test’. If it smells funny or just ‘not right’ then again turf it.

And if it’s passed both tests above but I’m still a little concerned, I make sure I heat it until it’s super hot before serving.

3. Packaged Food

One of my jobs when I was working in the food industry was to determine how long to allow as the shelf life on breakfast cereals, snacks and biscuits (cookies). We were always really conservative because we wanted to make sure the consumer had a great experience.

It wasn’t like one day the food tasted amazing and the next day it didn’t taste good any more. The changes in an unopened packet would gradually happen over months. The first sign would usually be a dulling of flavour or change in texture.

These products would still be edible years after the best before date expired. By their nature (very low moisture) there wasn’t any risk of food poisoning. They just wouldn’t taste very good.

But what if I’m still worried?

Please, please trust your own judgement. If it’s going to stress you out to eat something you’re better off to throw it out and waste a little food.

There aren’t any prizes for bravery in the face of questionable food stuffs, at least none that I know of.

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Chinese Beef Cheeks

Chinese Beef Cheeks

Beef cheeks are one of my favourite cuts of meat. If you’re wondering they’re actually the cheeks of the cow from the face… Not the behind! I love them because they’re full of gelatinous goodness and cook down to be super moist and flavoursome. You might need to them from your butcher but they’re seriously worth the effort.

This recipe is my simplified version of Sarah Wilson’s beef cheeks in her fab book Simpilicious. It’s one of the few things I make in my slow cooker without browning the meat either before or after slow cooking. The soy sauce is the secret ingredient here which adds all the lovely complex ‘brown’ flavours… A little slow cooker magic!

enough for 4
takes 6-12 hours

1kg (2lb) beef cheeks
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
1-4 large red chillies
cauliflower rice or steamed rice, to serve

1. Chop beef cheeks into 2-3 large chunks each. Place in your slow cooker (oven instructions below) with the soy sauce, 5-spice, most of the green onions, chillies and 1/2 cup water.

2. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or high for 5-6 hours. They’re done when the beef is super tender.

3. Taste and season with extra soy, if needed (it usually doesn’t). Serve on a bed of rice / cauli rice with with extra green onion on top.

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Variations

additional flavours – a few cloves or garlic and some finely chopped ginger are lovely additions but not essential!

no slow cooker – just pop everything in a large casserole dish with an extra 1/4 cup water (so 1/2 cup in total). Cover with baking paper as above and seal the top with two layers of foil. Bake for 4-5 hours at 120C (250F) or until beef cheeks are super tender.

soy-free – use coconut aminos instead or 1/4 cup fish sauce and 1/4 cup beef stock.

no beef cheeks – use your favourite slow cooking cut of meat such as osso buco, beef short ribs, chuck steak, brisket, chicken drumsticks, pork ribs, pork shoulder, pork neck, lamb shanks. But beef cheeks really are worth tracking down!

vegetarian – replace beef cheeks with large flat mushrooms or sliced eggplant and use a good veg stock instead of the water – just roast in the oven covered (180C / 350F) for about an hour – you don’t get the benefits of slow cooking veggies that you see with meat. Serve with a generous handful of roasted cashews for extra protein and fat.

Big love
Jules x

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ps. How do you feel about this?

Are you happy to trust your own judgement? Got some questions? I’d love to hear in the comments below…

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Pork & Fennel Burgers-2

Life is good at the moment.

Finbar is sleeping through the night. My Irishman and I have our ‘adult time’ evenings together again (at last!).

Spring is in the air.

AND I’m working on an exciting new project.

It’s early days so I can’t share much BUT I really could do with your help…

I’d love to get your input so I’ve created a short survey.

To share your thoughts just go to:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SM5D5SQ

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Pork & Fennel Burgers

Pork & Fennel Burgers

Pork and fennel is one of my favourite sausage flavour combos. So no surprises that it also translates to a tasty burger! The other thing I love about this dish is the layering of fennel seeds with the fresh fennel in the salad.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

450g (1lb) minced (ground) pork
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large bulb fennel
1 bag rocket (arugula) leaves
mayonnaise, to serve

1. In a bowl combine pork and fennel seeds. Season and form into 2 patties.

2. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Rub burgers with a little oil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle.

3. Meanwhile combine lemon with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season. Shave fennel using a mandolin or sharp knife.

4. Toss shaved fennel in the dressing with the rocket.

5. Place cooked burgers on 2 plates. Top with salad and drizzle over the mayo.

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Variations

5-ingredients – skip the rocket (arugula) or fennel seeds.

vegetarian – add fennel seeds to these chickpea burgers.

egg-free – use natural yoghurt instead of the mayo or use a commercial vegan mayo.

no fennel – replace with 2 small zucchini or just use more salad leaves.

different meat – chicken, turkey or even beef are all good.

more substantial – serve on burger buns (and fries).

no fennel – just skip it. Or replace with some fresh red chilli.

pescetarian – use finely chopped fish or cook fish fillets with the fennel seeds and serve with the salad and mayo.

more veg – serve with a green salad.

Big love and THANKS!
Jules x

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ps. It would really mean so much to me if you could help…

Just go to:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SM5D5SQ

It won’t take long. I promise!

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Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel-3

A few weeks ago I had a little ‘rant’ about my view on natural sweeteners. It generated some great discussion in the comments which I loved.

It also made me really think about the term healthy eating and what it means to me.

But before I get to that…

I have to tell you about this weeks recipe. It’s really a keeper! Citrus and fennel is a match made in heaven. Trust me, you need to try this one.

Anyway back to ‘healthy’.

The biggest lesson I’ve had from teaching people from around the world in my online cooking classes over the last 6 years is that there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

We all have our individual biochemical quirks.

For example some people, like me, have poor insulin sensitivity so having lots of carbs causes big problems with blood sugar. Whereas someone else may have excellent blood sugar control and can happily eat carbs without gaining weight or becoming diabetic.

It’s super important to experiment and find out what works best for you.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d share what works in my world…

What ‘healthy’ means to me

– Low carb / high fat
– Gluten-free
– Grain-free
– Real food (NOT processed / packaged)
– Full fat dairy, meat fish & eggs
– Lots of vegetables
– Mostly savoury

BUT!

While I eat like this most of the time, I’m a huge believer in the concept of ‘never say never’. So when I’m at an amazing restaurant, I forget all about health and just go for pure indulgence.

If there’s a food I really love, I can always find space for it at some point.

Although that being said, I find the more healthy food I eat, the less I crave treats or the ‘treats’ that I crave actually fall into my definition of healthy. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now over to you…

What does healthy mean to you?

I’d love to hear in the comments below…

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Need some help with eating more healthfully?

Well you’re in luck!

HMM2013 square logo large

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

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

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

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

Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.

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Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel-2

Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel

Inspired by the Citrus Braised Fennel in the Cornersmith Cookbook. I love that their recipe said ‘make this one!’ And was so glad I followed their advice. I’ve added chicken to make it a complete meal and swapped to cooking in the oven instead of the stove top so it’s less labour intensive but still just as delicious!

enough for: 2
takes: 60 minutes

1 large bulb sliced 1cm (1/2in) thick
juice & zest 1 lemon
juice & zest 1 orange
6 chicken drumsticks
green salad, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place fennel in a baking tray, preferably so it sits flat in one layer but don’t stress if you need to overlap a bit. Sprinkle over zest and juice of your lemon and orange and top with chicken. Add 1/2 cup water and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt.

2. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes.

3. Uncover and turn chicken. Roast for another 20-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and fennel is tender.

4. Taste cooking juices and add more salt if needed. Serve with green salad on the side.

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Variations

porky – replace chicken with thick pork sausages. Or cook fennel on its own with the citrus and serve with BBQ or grilled pork chops.

vegetarian – replace chicken with a drained can of chickpeas tossed in for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve with roasted almonds or pine nuts.

other chicken – use breasts or thigh fillets and remove when cooked (will take 30 mins or less) or serve fennel as a side to a classic roast chook.

herby – toss in a few springs of thyme.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in cooked rice, quinoa or couscous to soak up the citrusy goodness.

other citrus / lower carb – try lime instead of the orange.

Big love,
Jules x

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

Here’s what Martha and Cynthia said about their experience…

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

“After doing HMM I’m starting to simplify, I now realize we don’t have to have 4 dishes for dinner during the week. If I can get a veg and a protein into a simple and healthy dish, that’s all it takes! I didn’t realize that cooking with so few ingredients could be so tasty…and it’s so easy.”
Cynthia, Healthy Meal Method Student.

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

Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.

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Kale Caesar Salad-2

I bet you won’t be able to guess my secret weapon in losing my baby weight this year. Go on, give it a try.

No, it wasn’t running 50km a week like I used to.

And it definitely wasn’t ‘eating less’… Ever tried to do that when you’re breast feeding? Not going to happen.

Give up?

OK, my ‘secret’ was habits.

Yep I just focused on building (or re-building) the habits that put healthy eating on ‘autopilot’. Habits make it second nature so you don’t have to ‘think’ – especially important for us sleep deprived mammas!

Seriously, without my habits I’m not sure how I would have made it through those challenging early months.

So if habits are the key to making healthy eating almost fool-proof I know the next question you have is

‘Which habits Jules?’

Am I a mind reader or what? ;)

My Top 5 Healthy Eating Habits

1. Eating real, home cooked meals.
You know the deal, cooking at home with real food is pretty much always a healthier choice than processed factory food. Given that I work from home and live in the middle of nowhere, if I want to eat I pretty much have to cook.

2. Having a shopping habit.
No, not retail ‘therapy’… Shopping for food. Basically I go to the supermarket every second Thursday and to the fresh produce market on the alternate Thursdays. Then once a month or so Finbar and I go to my farmers market and really stock up on meat and poultry which I freeze and lots of long-lasting organic veg like cauliflower and cabbage which will keep for 2-3 weeks or longer in the fridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple and soo effective!

Need some help with your healthy food habits?

Well you’re in luck!

HMM2013 square logo large

I’ve just opened up registration for my online cooking program ‘The Healthy Meal Method’.

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

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

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

Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.

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Kale Caesar Salad

Kale Caesar Salad

Inspired by the talented guys at Mocan & Green Grout – one of my fave cafes in Canberra. If you aren’t a kale fan, see the variations below for alternatives. There are endless possibilities.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large bunch kale, finely sliced
6-8 tablespoons mayo
2 handfuls grated parmesan + shaved to serve
2-4 poached eggs (optional)

1. Heat a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Cook bacon until crispy.

2. Toss sliced kale with mayo and parmesan in a large bowl. Taste and season as needed, depending on your mayo and cheese you might not need salt.

3. Divide salad between two bowls. Top with crispy bacon, shaved parmesan and poached eggs (if using).

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Variations

dairy-free – replace the parmesan with toasted sliced almonds or chopped brazil nuts.

carb lovers – toss in some torn sourdough croutons or serve with hot buttered toast on the side.

different greens – feel free to use cos (romaine) lettuce, baby spinach, or any other salad. I’m keen to try it with bitter wintery radicchio leaves or witlof (belgan endive). Also great with finely shaved cabbage or brussels sprouts.

vegetarian – replace bacon with smoked tofu or smoked almonds or roast peppers or sun dried tomatoes.

no mayo – make a creamy dressing using 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 4 tablespoons natural yoghurt.

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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

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

Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.

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Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

There aren’t many things that make me angry.  

I do get a bit worked up when a certain 3-year-old puts my shoes in the toilet. But you know what pisses me off even more?

It’s when I read blogs and cookbooks that use ‘natural’ sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, dates or agave and imply that these are a better choice than regular white sugar.

I know it’s tempting to fall into this trap. I’ve been there myself.

But since having gestational diabetes and monitoring my blood sugar levels I’ve been forced to change my view on all sweeteners. Even using fruit to ‘sweeten’ baked goods.

And like any recent convert, now whenever I see a reference to ‘natural sweeteners’, it really drives me crazy.

There are two reasons…

1. It’s just plain wrong.

Sugar is sugar.

Even if there are slightly more minerals in honey and maple syrup and more fiber in dates, your body essentially treats natural sugars the same way… The glucose part spikes your blood sugar levels and caused all the insulin related chaos. And the fructose goes into your liver to be stored directly as fat. Yes fat.

It’s a bit like low nicotine cigarettes, sure they’re slightly better but they still give you cancer.

2. It gives people a false sense of security.

It’s human nature right? Oh this cake is made using healthy ‘natural’ sweeteners. That means I’m fine to have another slice.

I wish I could remember where I read a study about this phenomenon. From memory researchers compared the amount of cake eaten by two groups of people. Group A were told the cake contained a certain amount of calories per slice. And group B were told it contained twice as many calories.

They were then invited to eat as much cake as they liked.

You know where this is heading right?

The people in group A who thought the cake was healthier ate significantly more cake. More!

So what sweeteners do I use?

Before my gestational diabetes and subsequent diabetes diagnosis I didn’t mind using honey and maple syrup as a treat.

But now that I’m watching my blood sugar, I stick to stevia.

My favourite is pure stevia powder (not an affiliate link) which is expensive but a tiny amount goes a long long way. We’re talking 1/4 teaspoon to sweeten a whole cake.

I also keep granular stevia like Natvia on hand for when I just need a tiny bit of sweetness like in a cup of chai or turmeric tea or these puddings below. But I limit it because it contains erythritol as well as stevia and I suspect the erythritol isn’t great for our gut microflora.

What about you?

Which sweeteners do you use? I’d love to hear in the comments below :)

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Low Carb Chocolate Puddings-2

Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

I love these for so many reasons. First they’re not going to spike your blood sugar. But more importantly they only take a few minutes to stir up AND use ingredients you probably have in your pantry – perfect for those nights when you haven’t planned anything for dessert but then feel like something warm and chocolatey.

The good news with this recipe is the stevia is only providing sweetness and doesn’t have any other function so you can easily substitute your preferred sweetener or even use sugar if that’s what you have. See the variations for ideas.

I like them with lashings of double cream but if you’re OK with a sugar hit ice cream is also good.

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

4 tablespoons (30g) almond meal
3 tablespoons (45g) milk
2 tablespoons (12g) cocoa powder
1 pinch pure stevia or 1 tablespoon granular stevia (15g) (see below for alternatives)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease two 1 cup ramekins or oven-proof tea cups.

2. In a small bowl mix almond meal, milk, cocoa powder, stevia, egg, vanilla and baking powder until well combined. Taste and add more stevia if needed. Divide mixture between your prepared ramekins / cups.

3. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the puddings feel springy to touch. I like them slightly underbaked so they’re squidgy in the middle. Serve warm or at room temp.

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Variations


no stevia
– use you favourite sweetener… Honey, maple syrup or white sugar! You’ll probably need 2 tablespoons because stevia tends to be pretty instense but taste and see.

dairy-free – use your favourite non-dairy milk such as almond, hemp or coconut.

ginger puddings – replace the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger.

peanut butter – add a big tablespoon of peanut butter to the centre of each pud before baking.

double chocolate – add a square of dark chocolate to the centre of each pud before baking.

hazelnut – replace almond meal with hazelnut meal.

nut-free – I haven’t tried this but replace the almond meal with 2 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil – and they won’t be low carb any more.

more servings – I’ve included the weight measurements in case you have more mouths to feed!

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. And yes there’s more than 5-ingredients in these puddings but sometimes it’s good to break your own rules ;)

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Meaty Beans-2

It’s a rainy Tuesday night. You’re home late. You’re tired and hungry but it’s OK.

You have a plan for what to cook for dinner. But then as you’re getting out the ingredients, you realize there something missing…

Yikes!

What do you do?

a. Freak out. Get back in the car to buy missing ingredient.
b. Freak out and decide screw it, I’m having toast instead.
c. Keep calm because you know there’ll be something you can substitute
d. All of the above.

OK. So option ‘d.’ All of the above really doesn’t make sense in this example. But I do love a good option ‘d’ so I’ve included it anyway ;)

But whatever your natural response, I’m sure you would prefer it to be option ‘c.’

I often get emails from people saying they wish they were better at finding substitutions. So today I thought I’d share my approach to ingredient substitution.

3 Easy Steps to Substituting Ingredients.

1. Trust your instincts.
Remember Henry Ford… ‘
If you think you can or think you can’t you’re right either way’
.

A positive mindset is key to figuring out your best substitute.

Even if you aren’t an experienced cook, you are an experienced eater! You know what you like so you can figure out what will work best for your taste buds.

2. Think about the key ‘function’ of the missing ingredient first.
So is your ingredient providing protein? Like salmon in a salmon salad.

Or is it a flavour highlight? Like a grating of lemon zest in the salad.

Or is it a textural highlight? Like a sprinkling of pine nuts in said salad.

Or is it providing some acid? Like lemon juice in the salmon salad.

Or is it keeping everything moist? Like olive oil in the dressing.

Or is it providing bulk / carbs? Like a handful of sourdough chunks in the salad.

3. Choose a substitute ingredient which also fills that function. Or ditch it all together.

So back to our salmon salad example…

Alternatives to the salmon might be cooked chicken, canned salmon, canned tuna, hard boiled eggs…

Flavour higlight / Lemon zest alternatives? Skip it. Add some lime zest, or roast peppers. Or add some fresh thyme of a completely different flavour highlight.

Textural highlight / pine nut alternatives? Skip it. Add other nuts. Add some croutons for crunch. Add some snow peas or red capsicum (bell peppers) for crunch.

Acid / lemon juice alternatives? Lime juice, vinegar.

Moistness / olive oil alternatives? Natural yoghurt, macadamia or other oil, mayonnaise.

Bulk / Carbs? Cooked couscous, cooked quinoa, pasta, barley, lentils, beans, noodles, chickpeas, roast veggies…

Still not convinced you can substitute?

The you could, of course, just stick to cooking Stonesoup recipes so you always know there will be the ‘variations’ section to help bail you out. But even as much as I love my own recipes, that does seem a little dull.

There’s another alternative!

ingredient thesaurus logo

If you join my Soupstones Meal Planning service, you’ll also get a free bonus ‘Ingredient Thesaurus’ to download and keep forever. It’s a go-to reference for substitutes for most common ingredients (and some not so common ones as well).

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For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

—–

Meaty Beans

Meaty Beans

These were inspired by one of my favourite breakfast sides at Hotel Hotel in Canberra. Their ‘meaty beans’ are usually a combo of chickpeas and other dried beans slow cooked with pulled pork. So good! For my meaty beans though I prefer to use beef (for the extra iron pregnant ladies need!). And I used minced (ground) meat because it’s inexpensive and then I don’t have to worry about it getting tough during the cooking process.

enough for: 4-6
takes: 2.5 hours + soaking

500g white beans
500g (1lb) minced beef
2 tins tomatoes (400g / 14oz) each
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
baby spinach or other greens, to serve

1. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover with water and stand for as long as you’ve got (8 hours is ideal but no longer than 48).

2. Drain beans and place in a large oven proof dish with the beef, tomatoes, paprika and 2.5 cups water. Cover with a lid or foil.

3. Bake 180C (350F) for about 2 hours or until beans are tender.

4. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve with baby spinach leaves on the side and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Variations

short on time – skip the soaking but be prepared for extra ‘gas’. Or use drained canned beans (about 4 cans) instead and skip the water. Just cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the beef is cooked through.

more mexican – add some dried or canned chipotle chillies and serve with sour cream.

hot! – add fresh or dried chilli.

vegetarian – skip beef or use some dried lentils instead. And don’t forget to change the name!

paleo – use fresh shelled borlotti or broad beans instead. Reduce the amount of water (1 cup should be fine) and reduce cooking time to 30 mins or 1 hour or however long the beans take!

lower carb – use puy lentils instead of the beans. Skip the soaking time and expect the cooking time to be about 45 mins.

richer – add a few tablespoons butter with the paprika.

no smoked paprika – it’s worth seeking out but you can use regular paprika. Or use cayenne pepper (1tsp) instead. Or just skip.

different meat – any ground meat like lamb, pork, chicken or turkey would work. OR use diced meat off the bone like chicken thigh fillets or chuck steak – anything you’d normally put in a curry or stew.


Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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Soupstones Square Logo no borderps. Not sure if a meal planning service will work for you?

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www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

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Asian 'Spag Bol'

Imagine coming home after a long day. You’re tired. You’re hungry. Then imagine having dinner waiting for you.

Imagine something healthy AND super tasty prepared by one of your (I’m hoping) favourite food bloggers… Me!

As much as I’d love to come around to your place every evening and cook, I’d hate for Fergal, Finbar and my Irishman to feel neglected. So I guess we’ll have to leave that scenario for another day.

Luckily I’ve come up with the next best thing…

So how did this all come about?

A few years ago I was talking to my friend Caroline. At the time she was excited about a new weight loss program. It was one of those ones that comes with an exercise schedule and meal plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A few months later Caroline was looking amazing with her new, more slender figure. I asked her how she had found the whole experience.

Her answer surprised me.

While the motivation and commitment to exercise had really helped, the thing she loved the most were the meal plans. Each week she’d just print out the shopping list and buy what was on it. Or better yet, get her husband to do the shopping.

Each night she’d walk into the kitchen, look at her notes and just start cooking. No agonizing over what to make. No having to ‘think’ at the end of a long day.

Then she said,
‘You know what would have made it even better? Some of the recipes were a little time consuming, it would be brilliant to have meal plans using your simple Stonesoup recipes.’

Sound good?

Soupstones banner logo

If you’re like my friend Caroline and could do with some meal planning help, then you’re in luck…

For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

“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.

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Asian 'Spag Bol'-2

Asian ‘Spag Bol’

Growing up spaghetti bolognese was one of my all time favourite meals. I can’t remember where I got the idea to give this old family favourite an Asian twist, but trust me, it’s just as delicious!

takes: 20 minutes
enough for: 2

2 large carrot (noodles)
450g (1lb) ground (minced) beef
2-4 tablespoons oyster or soy sauce
1-2 red chillies, sliced
2 green onions (shallots)

1. Scrub carrots and turn into ‘noodles’ using your spiralizer or shave into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandoline.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok. Cook beef, stirring often until well browned. Add chilli and remove from the heat.

3. Add the sauce. Stir well and taste. Add more sauce if needed.

4. Toss in carrot noodles. Serve with green onion on top.

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Variations

lower carb / different noodles – use zucchini ‘noodles’ instead or cooked spqghetti squash. And use the soy sauce option.

carb lovers – use cooked rice or wheat noodles instead of carrot.

sugar-free – use soy sauce not oyster.

vegetarian / vegan – replace beef with crumbled tofu or cooked lentils.

extra flavour – add chopped garlic and/or ginger with the beef.

crunch – add a handful of roast cashews or peanuts (that’s what my Irishman does!)

Big love,
Jules x

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Soupstones Square Logo no borderps. 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.

For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/ss/

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Gluten Free Pizzas-2

Once there was a girl and her name was Jules. One day she convinced her Irish husband to try going gluten-free.

Thank heavens potatoes don’t contain any gluten, otherwise the girl wouldn’t have stood a chance.

The one thing they were really going to miss was their regular Friday night pizza date.

Luckily the girl loves a challenge so she set out to find a gluten-free pizza base that would pass some incredibly high standards.

To keep a long story short, there were many failed attempts.

Many.

But finally the girl found something that they both enjoyed, even if it wasn’t exactly as good as regular pizza. It was close.

Gluten Free Pizzas

Gluten-Free Pizza Bases

One of the best things about these pizza bases is you can make a big batch and freeze the par-baked based ready for quick meals. If you don’t already have xanthan gum in the pantry, just leave it out.. The texture will be less chewy but still delicious! Adapted from a recipe by Melbourne chef Karen Martini.

makes 6
takes about an hour

500g (1lb) chickpea or other gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon xantham gum (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
750 ml (3 cups) water

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

2. Place flour, baking powder, xanthan gum (if using) in a large mixing bowl. Add oil and water and whisk to make a smooth batter. It’s more like a runny cake batter than a dough as such.

3. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Weigh out 200g (7oz) of the batter. Top with another sheet of baking paper. Use your hands to push the batter into a pizza shape about 20cm (8in) diameter or slightly larger.

4. Bake with both sheets of paper for 10-15 minutes or until the base feels firm and the top layer of baking paper peels away easily.

5. Place pizza base on a wire rack to cool while you bake the remaining batter. When cool remove the bottom layer of paper.

6. To serve, crank your oven to its highest setting. Top cooled bases with your favourite pizza toppings and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the toppings are cooked and the base is crisp.

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Variations

do ahead? – absolutely! The cooked bases will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and in the freezer for months.

no xanthan gum – just skip it. The texture will be slightly less chewy but still good.

no chickpea flour – Chickpea flour goes by many different names including besan, gram flour and garbanzo bean flour. I like it because it’s much cheaper than commercial GF flours and has more fiber and less carbs. But you can use any commercial gluten-free flour mix. I wouldn’t use straight rice or potato flour as the protein content will be too low.

low carb – I find if I stick to two slices it’s fine for my blood sugar. But chickpea flour is still about 60% carbs so while it’s better than wheat flour at about 75% carbs it’s not what I would consider low carb. Chickpea flour does have more fiber as well so it’s a better alternative to wheat. I have been working on a recipe using cauliflower and almond meal as a pizza base so watch this space!

crisper base – use a pizza stone preheated in your oven and dust the bases with a little more flour before baking.

pizza topping ideas – in the photo above I’ve used a tomato based sauce with cheese and fresh chilli with fresh basil. Other favourites include Kale & Onion, Salami & Ricotta, Potato & Rosemary, and for the adventurous the ‘Tiger Pizza‘ using Vegemite.

gluten lovers! – looking for a traditional wheat based pizza dough? Head over here for my favourite.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. What are your favourite pizza toppings?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Rissoles

Ialways feel a little self conscious when I go to my farmers market on a Saturday morning.

I only go every few weeks to stock up. My first stop is usually the organic vegetable section for cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage and the best broccoli in the world. But my vegetable purchases don’t cause the embarrassment…

It’s when I pickup my meat order and there is so much minced (ground) meat.

I mean heaps.

I LOVE my ‘mince’ as we call it here in Oz.

It’s quick to cook. It’s inexpensive.

It’s always tender because any tough muscle fibres have been chopped up. Which also means it’s very forgiving, so if you overcook it won’t be ruined.

And since I buy the special ‘fatty mince’ from Claire and Sam, it’s always super tasty and never dry.

I also love that it’s so versatile as you’ll see when you browse through the recipes below.

Need I say more?

23 Tasty Ideas for Minced (Ground) Meat

1. Baked Meatballs
2. Moroccan Meatball Tajine
3. Yoghurt & Kofta Curry
4. Spanish Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles
5. Stuffed Sweet Potato
6. ‘Super Iron’ Supper
7. Beef, Broccolini & Basil
8. Bacon Sang Choi Bau
9. Sesame Stir Fry
10. Chicken & Basil Stir Fry
11. Shichimi Togarashi Beef
12. Chinese Beef & Beans
13. Chinese Chinkiang Beef
14. Seriously Easy Moussaka
15. Green ‘Spaghetti’ & Meatballs
16. Green Curry Stir Fry
17. Ground Beef with Kale
18. Spiced Beef with Hummus
19. Salt Crusted Burgers
20. Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry
21. Buttery Zucchini with Ground Beef
22. 5-Ingredient Shepherds Pie
23. The Great Aussie Rissole! (below)

I’m always looking for new ideas…

What’s your favourite way to use minced meat?
Share your ideas with the Stonesoup community in the comments below.

But what if I’m vegetarian?

No probs! Just substitute cooked lentils like these for any recipe calling for plain mince. And use this lentil ball recipe for any of the ‘meatball’ recipes. You might also like these chickpea burgers.

Rissoles-2

The Great Aussie Rissole!

At first glance I know these just look like a burger or meatballs but there’s something really special about the humble rissole. As far as I know they’re an Australian invention. I hadn’t had them in years until I was inspired to make a much simplified version of the rissoles in the Three Blue Ducks cookbook. Talk about a winner!

I like to serve mine with salad leaves and some Mayo but you’re welcome to pop them in a burger bun with a splash more ketchup if you like.

Enough for 2-3
Takes 20 minutes

500g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
75g (3oz) almond meal
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 handful pine nuts
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley (optional)

1. Mix beef, almond meal, egg, pine nuts, parsley (if using) and a little salt in a large bowl.

2. Using your hands form into patties. It’s up to you how big or small. I like mine medium sized so they don’t take too long to cook.

3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat and cook rissoles for about 5 minutes on each side until well browned and just cooked through. Be careful as the sugar in the ketchup makes them easy to burn.

4. Serve with salad leaves or however you like your burgers.

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Variations

sugar-free – just skip the ketchup or replace with 1 tablespoon tomato paste.

egg-free – just skip the egg. The texture will be slightly dryer and more prone to crumbling but it won’t be the end of the world.

5 ingredients – skip the parsley

nut-free – skip the pine nuts and replace the almond meal with soft bread crumbs.

vegetarian – add pine nuts, ketchup and parsley to these lentil balls.

Big love,
Jules x

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Coconut Pancakes-2

There’s one thing I don’t think my Irishman and I will ever agree on. And that’s the ‘news’.

I avoid current affairs in all its forms as much as I can without being a complete hermit. I love my ‘low information diet’, a term coined by Tim Ferriss. It frees up my time to read things I care about like, let me think… Oh yeah like food and wine.

Plus I don’t get exposed to all the gloom and doom.

Glen on the other hand, is always reading the Guardian or listening to current affairs on the radio when driving. He thinks I’m crazy when I talk about how much time he’s wasting.

But just between you and me, I am glad someone in the house knows what’s happening in the world. And I love that he sends me links to interesting articles.

Like the one recently where chefs were asked to reveal the processed snack foods they loved in secret… Their ‘guilty pleasures’.

It was a bit of fun that got me thinking about my own ‘low brow’ indulgences.

I know this sounds a bit boring but there aren’t any processed foods I crave. Truly.

I do love ice cream but since my diabetes and focus on eating low carb to keep my blood sugar under control, I haven’t missed it.

I think there are two reasons. First the less carbs I eat the less I crave them. And second is I’ve really embraced eating high fat which keeps me feeling full.

There are plenty of things I eat now without restriction that 1990s Jules studying ‘low fat’ nutrition at university would have had so much guilt around.

So here’s my list of ‘not-so-guilty’ pleasures that I turn to when I need a treat.

My ‘Not-so-Guilty’ Pleasures

1. Very dark chocolate – current favourite is Lindt 90% cocoa solids. Love it with a cup of vanilla rooibos tea or if I’m feeling really indulgent a cup of unsweetened chai made with full fat milk.

2. Nut Butter on a SpoonPics ‘really good’ peanut butter is a fave in our family. We go through at least a jar a week. But I also keep cashew butter, almond butter and ABC (almond, Brazil, cashew) in the house.

3. Double Cream – from when I was living in California, I know this isn’t readily available everywhere in the world. If you think about whipping cream it’s usually 35% milk fat. Well double cream is a more concentrated cream usually around 50% fat. It’s divine! I use it anywhere you’d normally serve ice cream (like on the pancakes below). I also love to add a big dollop with my home made yoghurt and grain-free granola. But the truth is I like it best on a spoon straight from the tub (no double dipping of course, I’m not a savage).

4. Fruit. After eating hardly anything sweet there are few things better than crunching into a cold pink lady apple. Or slurping mango. And what about berries. Add some double cream and that’s all the indulgence I ever need…

5. Coconut Oil on a Spoon. If I feel like something sweet after lunch I find a spoon of coconut oil does the trick.


Coconut Pancakes

Coconut Pancakes

Inspired by a recipes from Eleanor Ozich’s cookbook, My Petite Kitchen. This is a recipe where the light fluffiness of coconut flour really comes into its own. Feel free to serve with your fave pancake accompaniments.

Enough for 1
Takes 15 minutes

20g (3/4oz) coconut flour
30g (1oz) coconut oil , melted & extra to cook
2 eggs
80g (1/3cup) milk
fruit + cream, to serve

1. Combine coconut flour, oil, eggs and milk in a jug or bowl. Whisk until smoothish.

2. Melt a little more oil in a small frying pan on a medium high heat. Add about 1/3 of your batter and cook for a few minutes until the mixture is starting to bubble and looks cooked around the edges.

3. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook on the other side for another 30 seconds or so. Just enough to brown it. 

4. Remove the pancake and place on a warm plate while you make the remaining cakes.

5. Serve with cream and fruit.

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Variations

no coconut flour – make my paleo pancakes instead using 2 eggs and 4 tablespoons almond meal per person and skipping the milk and melted coconut oil.

no coconut oil – butter!

savoury pancakes – use salted butter instead of oil and serve with savoury accompaniments. I love baby spinach and mayo.


Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Just thought of another reason packaged food doesn’t tempt me…

All those years working in the food industry with unlimited access to tim tams and and pop tarts certainly means I ate more than enough to last a life time. Plus when you know what goes into processed food it really loses its appeal.

I prefer my food (and cups of tea) made with ‘grá mór’ (big love) as my Irishman says. ;)

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shashuska

This week I have something a little different for you!

Yep. Instead of me doing all the talking, err writing, I’m handing over to one of my students from my online cooking classes.

So here’s what James had to say about the Shakshuka recipe (see below for full recipe) from one of my classes.

Hi Jules,

So this was one of those stone soup recipes where I thought – hmm, spinach, capsicum and pasta sauce. This is going to taste bland and not be filling. I’m not sure if it is the simplicity but stone soup recipes often make me feel like this, and then prove to be otherwise.

This was no exception.

So, I went off to find the ingredients, I was lucky to get long bell peppers, which are sweet in taste. I also chose a puttanesca sauce for instant heat and threw in some chorizo I had left over (not veggie, but yummy).

The end result was amazing!

My other half who is a pasta addict, was amazed at the way the spinach replaced the role of pasta, providing the much needed “bite”. The flavour was great and it was really filling. This (after broccoli and chorizo (with egg rather than mayo) is my new favourite.

For anyone that hasn’t tried this, please do. It is great and so simple.
James

shashuska

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Tunisian dish of baked eggs. I love it because it’s super versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you don’t have access to harissa (a super hot and delicious Tunisian chilli paste) see the variations for alternatives.


enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 red bell peppers (capsicum), chopped
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (1.5 cups)
1 tablespoon Harissa (optional)
4 eggs
handful labneh or other soft cheese (optional)
1 bag baby spinach

1. Heat a little olive oil on a medium heat in a large fry pan. Add peppers and cook stirring every now and then until they are soft. Between 5-10 minutes.

2. Add tomato sauce and harissa (if using). Bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and more harissa if you prefer it hotter.

4. Break the eggs into the sauce. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny.

5. Serve eggs and sauce on a bed of baby spinach with cheese scattered over (if using) and lashings of black pepper.

Variations

no harissa? – any hot sauce, chilli paste, or finely chopped fresh red chilli can be used, just be careful not to add too much.

carnivore – add chorizo or spicy sausage with the peppers.

not hot – reduce or skip the harissa. Still a really lovely dish.

vegan / egg-free – replace the eggs with a drained can of beans. And replace the cheese with a handful of roasted almonds or pine nuts.

dairy-free – replace the cheese with a handful of roasted almonds or pine nuts.

short on time – skip the peppers or use pre-roasted peppers.

more substantial / carb lovers– serve with hot buttered sourdough toast, warm flat bread or tortillas.

more veg – soften an onion with the peppers. Other possible additions include mushrooms, sliced zucchini or eggplant.

different cheese – ricotta, goats cheese, goats curd, shaved parmesan.

home made labneh – labneh is a ‘cheese’ made by straining yoghurt to remove some of the moisture. To make your own take natural plain yoghurt and place in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, tea towel, a cloth or other cloth that you’re happy to touch your food. Place the sieve over a bowl to catch the liquid ‘whey’ refrigerate until the yoghurt is as thick as you like. I usually leave it 6-8 hours. The whey can be used for smoothies, fed to your pets (except if you have pet fish!) or I just drink it straight. The labneh will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for weeks.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. I really do want to know if you’ve tried any of my recipes yet?

If YES, what has been your favourite so far?
If NO, what do you think has been holding you back?

Share your answer in the comments below.

And as an added incentive (see I really do want to know!), I’m giving away a FREE copy of my print book, ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes‘ to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Happy to ship it anywhere in the world.

Entries close: 24th June 2016.

UPDATE: The winner is Julia! Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment :)

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1-Dish Ratatouille

Want to know one of the scariest things I’ve ever done?

Well there was the time this summer I came face to face with a tiger snake on our front terrace…

But even scarier was the decision to quit my corporate job and start my own business.

At the time I loved my job designing Tim Tams (chocolate cookies) for Australia’s largest biscuit manufacturer. I mean who wouldn’t love working with chocolate?

However, writing my first cook book had given me a glimpse of another life. A life without bosses or a long commute. A life where I controlled which projects I worked on. A life where I could help people eat better.

At first I dismissed the idea.

How could I earn as much money as I did in the corporate world?

About the same time I discovered the blog, Zen Habits. As I read about Leo’s journey simplifying his life and going from a job he hated to full time blogger, it dawned on me…

I didn’t need to match my 6-figure corporate salary. If I focused on living more simply, I could survive on a fraction of the amount.

All of a sudden the change seemed possible and in January 2010 I quit my job.

I haven’t looked back.

These days I feel incredibly blessed. I get to help people all over the world discover that healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. I only work on projects I love. I have the freedom to fit in my work around taking care of my two young boys.

And I make way more money than I ever did as an ’employee’.

I wouldn’t have made it here if I hadn’t simplified my life.

That really was key.

Which begs the question…

What opportunities might open up if you started to simplify YOUR life?

If you’d like to find out, there’s a project I’m a part of that will make it easier.

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It’s called ‘A Simple Year’ and basically it’s a year long program of guided simplicity. It focuses on simplifying a different area of your life each month.

If it sounds like something that might help you:
www.simpleyear.co/

NOTE: Registration for ends 23rd June.

___________________

1-Dish Ratatouille-2

Easy 1-Dish Ratatouille

Over the Summer I’ve had a bit of an eggplant fetish happening. I wish I could say that it was from all the eggplant in my garden but the sad truth is my 3 tiny aubergine were mauled by possums before they were ripe. 

One of my fave ways to prepare eggplant is this super simple ratatouille. Gotta love a dish you just chop some veg, set your timer and let the oven do the rest!

Enough for 2
Takes: an hour

2 red capsicum (bell peppers)
2-3 zucchini
1 large eggplant or 2 medium
1T sherry or red wine vinegar
1 bunch basil or parsley, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Chop veg into 2cm (1in) chunks. Place veg in a large roasting pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to mix. Sprinkle with salt.

2. Roast veg for 45-50 minutes. Stirring once or twice.

3. When all the veg are soft, remove from the oven toss in the vinegar. Taste and season with more salt and /or vinegar if needed.

4. Toss through herbs and serve hot or at room temp.

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Variations

different veg – finely chopped onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes or diced tomato, fennel or summer squash. Or even some mushrooms for a bit of Autumn flavour.

caponata – replace the zucchini and capsicum with an extra eggplant and finely chopped onion. Toss in toasted pine nuts to serve.

carb-lovers – toss in cooked pasta, quinoa or brown rice and serve with grated Parmesan.

more substantial –  add some protein! Cooked chicken or sausages or chorizo are great. Or try  a poached egg, grilled Halloumi, salty feta, a handful of nuts or cooked beans or legumes for vegetarians.

favourite lunch – toss in a drained can of sardines or tuna and serve on a bed of salad leaves.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Here’s what people are saying about ‘A Simple Year’…

“Participating in “A Simple Year” has offered me the opportunity to focus on several areas of my life and reconsider, unclutter, and ponder changes that I would not have pursued without the program. The structure of the course allows you to dig in as little or as much in each area as you care to or can manage. For me it’s been life changing.”
–Carole

“Signing up for and participating in “A Simple Year” has been one of the best things I did. It has allowed me to make some significant changes in my life, each leading to other new changes and opportunities.”
–Kathy

Registration ENDS 21st June.

Here’s the link again:
www.simpleyear.co/

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Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-2

Back in November I shared my 2 best tips for how to simplify any recipe.

This is a skill I really see as one of my ‘super powers’. After all, you can’t write a blog about simple recipes with only 5 ingredients unless you’re a little obsessed with keeping it simple.

But want to know the good news?

It’s also a skill you can easily develop. You just need some guidelines and some practice…

I had quite a few requests for more examples. So here we go!

2 Easy Ways to Simplify Any Recipe

1. Combine like ingredients.
This is always my starting point. Look for any ingredients that are providing the same function and instead choose one. You’ll need to adjust the quantities accordingly. The example below is the best way to illustrate what I mean.

2. Don’t be afraid to outsource.
There are no prizes for making every single part of every meal you eat from scratch. So ‘cheat’ when you feel like it. My favourite examples are to use commercial spice blends or commercial sauces such as hummus, mayo, pesto or curry pastes.

AN EXAMPLE:
Mike’s Spiced Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Labneh

24 ingredients 7 steps
50g dried chickpeas
pinch bicarbonate soda
50g salt
100mL extra virgin olive oil
1 cauliflower
2 red onions
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup raisins soaked in 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted & cracked
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
1 bunch mint, leaves picked
50g baby spinach
100g labneh
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar

Stonesoup Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

6 ingredients 4 steps
1/2 cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons rice or wine vinegar
1 bag baby spinach
2 handfuls Labneh or thick yoghurt

What have I done?

1. Replaced the spices with a good quality curry powder. This took us from 11 spices to just 1. I always find it funny when chefs call for curry powder then also add extra of many of the spices that are already in the powder. If your curry powder is tasty enough you’re not likely to miss the added nuance of the additional ingredients.

2. Replaced all the herbs with just baby spinach. From 3 leafy ingredients to 1. This gives the greenness and freshness without needing to buy mint and coriander (cilantro) or needing to pick the leaves! 

3. Ditched the raisins and hazelnuts… Another 2 ingredients gone! Sure they add sweetness and crunch but trust me there’s enough of a party going on in your mouth that you won’t miss them!

4. Skipped the chickpeas. Just because I was serving as a side salad to some BBQ lamb cutlets. For a main course salad I’d leave them in.

Want more simplicity?

If you’re interested in learning how to simplify not just recipes, but the whole of your life, then I recommend checking out A Simple Year.

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying different areas of your life each month. If you join us I’ll show you even more ways to simplify not only recipes but your kitchen and your approach to healthy eating.

For more details, go to:
www.simpleyear.co/course

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NOTE: Registration closes June 23rd 2016.

Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-3

Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

Inspired by the brilliant Mike McEarnehy formerly chef at Kitchen by Mike and now at No1. Bent St Sydney. Love his fresh produce-driven approach to food and am dying to eat at his new restaurant. In the mean time I’m making do with cooking from his book, ‘Kitchen by Mike’.

And I should mention I’ve made this 3 times in the last two week. Something unheard of around these parts. Definitely one for you to try!

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 30 minutes

1/2 cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons rice or wine vinegar
1 bag baby spinach
2 handfuls labneh or thick yoghurt

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Toss cauli, onion, curry powder and about 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a roasting pan.

2. Roast spiced cauli for 15-20 minutes or until well browned and tender.

3. Allow cauli to cool a little while you make the dressing. Mix vinegar with another 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season well.

4. Toss dressing and baby spinach in the pan with the cauli. Serve with dollops of labneh on top.

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Variations

main meal / more substantial – toss in a drained can of chickpeas or lentils (or use home cooked) when the cauli comes out of the oven. Or serve as a side to BBQ lamb cutlets or roast chicken.

different greens – replace baby spinach with cooked kale, flat leaf parsley, mint, coriander (cilantro), salad leaves or a combo of any of the above.

dairy-free / vegan / paleo – replace Labneh with roasted hazelnuts, almonds or chunks of avocado.

carnivore – serve as a side to BBQ lamb cutlets or roast chicken. Or toss some raw chopped chicken thighs to roast with the cauli (make sure it’s cooked through – might take a little longer).

more substantial / carb lovers – toss in cooked brown rice, quinoa or pasta. Might need a little more olive oil.

different spices – try mixing it up with other spice blends. Garam masala is great or try a Moroccan spice blend like ras el hamout or the Lebanese blend baharat.

to make your own labneh – just line a sieve with clean cheesecloth or a tea towel. Place yoghurt in the lined sieve and leave it over a bowl or jug in the fridge for the water to drain off. As little as an hour can make a difference but some people leave it for two days. The longer the thicker. Use the whey (liquid) in smoothies or just drink it like I do.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Registration for Simple Year closes June 23rd.

Normally we don’t allow new members during the year but this time we thought we’d have a little ‘end of financial year’ experiment.

So if you’d like some help to simplify your recipes, cooking, kitchen, pantry and your approach to healthy eating. As well as simplifying other areas of your life from decluttering to mindfulness to your relationships.

Then check out ‘A Simple Year’ over at:
www.simpleyear.co/course

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canberra

Isn’t it funny how often someone calls out of the blue when you were only just thinking about them?

Well the other day this happened once again…

I had the urge to call one of my dear old friends. When she answered she said she was just about to text me. She had booked in a trip to Canberra (my closest city) for the June long weekend.

Yay!

My friend is just as heavily into food as I am so of course our conversation turned immediately to the Canberra restaurant scene. 

Which reminded me I’ve been meaning to add in a Canberra entry to the Stonesoup Guide to Tasty Travel. Given this is the closest city to our little farm house, it’s been tough choosing which is why I’ve been procrastinating.

But with a visitor in the horizon I figured if I was writing for her I should share it with you too!

Last Updated: June 2016

How to Spend 48 hours Eating & Drinking in Canberra

DAY 1. BREAKFAST Mocan & Green Grout

Crazy name, quirky decor and super delicious food. One of my faves for breakkie or lunch. The type of place where everything looks almost too pretty to eat. Oh and great coffee, even the decaf! They do some dinners as well so you have no excuses for not fitting in a visit to Mocan.

DAY 1. LUNCH Grease Monkey

For the best burgers in town head straight to Grease Monkey. Fergal is a huge fan of their chips and ever changing milkshakes. You can eat inside or out in the under cover outdoor area (perfect if you happen to have a messy toddler with you!).  Plus there’s a full bar and plenty of wine by the glass to keep the adults happy. Oh and don’t forget to order a side of the pickles! 

DAY 1. DINNER Temporada

This has been my choice for my Birthday lunch the last two years running. And given how much I love to try new places that’s saying something. It’s a casual, shared plates type of place with seriously delicious flavours and a wine list to do everything justice. Open for weekday lunches as well.

DAY 2. BREAKFAST Barrio Coffee Collective

My vote for the best coffee in the ACT! No decaf but they make their own nut milk so you’re totally covered if you’re dairy-free. Actually it’s worth trying even if you normally have a latte. It’s a small space and you might think they’re only about the coffee but the food is some of the tastiest in town.

DAY 2. LUNCH Eightysix

We had Mothers Day lunch here this year and I’m still thinking about the blackened chicken and melt-in-the-mouth beef cheeks. So good! The space is intimate and the service super engaging and thoughtful. The only down side is its on the expensive end.

DAY 2. DINNER Monster at Hotel Hotel

I adore Sean  MacConnell’s food and the modern space that is Monster Kitchen & Bar. This ain’t no regular hotel restaurant. And don’t forget the fire place(s)! Just what you need during a Canberra Winter. The only weak link is the service. One day it will be spot on and the next practically nonexistent. Still I keep going back. Open all day so if you can’t make dinner try for lunch or breakkie.

If you have more time try

Little Bird – new cafe with an awesome breakfast menu and solid lunches. Everything I’ve tried has been super delicious and Fergal is a thumbs up for their brownies! If you’re after a more casual lunch for day 2 this would be my first choice to swap with Eightysix.

Pialligo Farmhouse – Beautiful setting among a vineyard this is another good choice for a celebrational lunch or dinner when you’re no so concerned about price. Creative food that’s beautifully presented. We had lunch there when Fergal was small and the staff were super accomodating.

Locale – a neighbourhood pizza joint in Deakin that does the best gluten-free pizza in town. Their regular dough is great too. And there are plenty of meat and veg options to keep low carb diners satisfied.

Silo Bakery – If you love your sourdough then don’t miss silo for breakfast or lunch. We used to go all the time but since my diabetes diagnosis I haven’t been because it’s hard to get something that isn’t temptingly bread based and carby.

Italian & Sons – love the simple Italian fare here. If you’re in the mood for pizza or pasta this is my favourite. With their wood fired oven you get the real deal. And if you’re like me and more in a low carb frame of mind there are always plenty of meat, fish and vegetables to keep me happy.

Aubergine
– if you’re after more of a fine dining experience then this is the place for you. Caroline and I had the Stonesoup Christmas party dinner here last year and loved every minute and every mouthful. The service was spot on and really looked after my pregnant-lady dietary requirements.

Akiba – a fun isakya style casual Japanese / Asian place in Civic. Lots of delicious shared plates. Can’t wait to go back and try all their raw fish and meat dishes! 

The Cupping Room – close to Canberra Uni, this is another excellent cafe serving serious coffee. The breakkie and lunch menus are creative without being too out there. And Fergal loves their chips! One of the owners won the world barista championship recently.

Morks –  a modern Thai joint on the Kingston foreshore. Definitely worth a visit if you’re after a Thai feast.

Ottoman – a Canberra institution. The dining room is a bit dated and formal but don’t let that put you off the food. If you love Turkish cuisine like I do you’ll really enjoy every mouthful.

Where to stay

My no. 1 choice would be Hotel Hotel. But have also heard good things about the Hotel Realm.

On my list but haven’t been (yet!)…

Vincent – a new wine bar in Barton next to Little Bird. Currently only open in the evenings and Fri lunch. Can’t wait to go!

Lilotang – modern Asian.

Chaiman + Yip – a Canberra institution that recently moved location.

Walt & Burley – newish gastropub on the Kingston foreshore.

For more cities:

See the Stonesoup Guide to Tasty Travel.

Have I missed anything? If you’re a Canberra local I’d love to hear about your favourites in the comments below.

Big love,
Jules x

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Super Easy Moussaka

A few months ago I got a question from one of the members from my done-for-you meal planning service I call ‘Soupstones’.

It’s went something, well actually, it went exactly like this…

Hey Jules,

Tonight’s dinner was divine: The Satay Curry from Soupstones (meal plan) 99. MUST make it again!

Anyway, tonight’s plan was actually Italian Sausage Supper + Divine 4 Ingredients Cheesecake.

I chickened out.

Can I cook them in the oven together, even though one is 170 and the other 200 degrees celsius. Are there guidelines i can use as dictate what can be cooked in the oven, and what temps?

Bella

FYI. Cheesecake is in the oven now. Sausage supper is for tomorrow. :-)

My answer was yes you can absolutely cook them in the oven together. Best to set the temp to 170C to make sure the cheesecake is fine. And expect the sausage supper to take longer than the recipe.

As I responded to Bella, I realized I haven’t ever written about oven temps here on Stonesoup.

So it’s time we changed that!

Here’s what you need to know.

The Stonesoup Guide to Oven Temperatures

Things cook faster at higher temps.

Of course you already knew this. So if you need / want to cook something in a hotter oven you expect it to take less time and start checking earlier.

Where it gets tricky is for larger pieces of meat or baked goods like Bella’s cheesecake. If the temperature is too high the edges will start burning before the middle is done.

Not a good look.

So in Bella’s case I’d choose the oven temp to suit the cheesecake and let the sausages just take longer to cook.

Most savoury dishes are flexible with temp.

Cooking sausages at 170C (325F) instead of 200C (400F) isn’t going to make a huge difference apart from the time.

Most sweet baked goods aren’t so flexible.

Two reasons for this. First as I mentioned above is the potential for uneven cooking (burnt edges).

The second is that baked treats tend to have a smaller window of time between ideal and under or over baked. Another reason to prioritize the cheesecake.

It’s OK to use different temps to the recipe.

Just expect the timing to be different and you’ll be fine.

Generally fan assisted ovens will cook quicker.

Which is why most recipes will tell you to reduce the set temp by 20C / 50F with fan ovens.

The theory is the fan moves the air in the oven to redistribute the hot air that rises so you get more even cooking. A fan definitely helps so I pretty much always use the fan but still find some unevenness with my current oven.

Some ovens are fast and some are slow.

Having lived with many different ovens over the years I’ve found some ovens just tend to run ‘hot’ and cook things quickly. And of course others are slower.

Use the middle shelf when baking.

Just so you’re more likely to get good air circulation around your baked treat and therefore more even baking.

Oven thermometers aren’t worth it.

I’ve tried a few different ones and they tended to cause more trouble than their worth. Falling over and generally getting in the way. I prefer to just use the oven settings and go from there. After all the aim is to have properly cooked (and delicious!) food. There aren’t any prizes for baking at exactly 180C for exactly 30 minutes.

Although if your oven doesn’t have any temperature markings on it (and I’ve lived with those) a thermometer can be helpful.

How to cook 2 things with different temps

It’s simple. Use the set point for the most delicate item or for the one with the lowest temp. And expect the other item to take longer than normal.

I’d probably put the more delicate / lower temp dish on the lower shelf as well.

Too easy!

My Favourite Oven Temps.

100C / 200C – super slow cooking for meats etc. similar to a slow cooker.

180C / 350F – for most baked goods, cookies, cakes, pastries etc.

200C / 400F – for cooking everything else. Roasting veggies, fruit, cooking baked dishes (like the moussaka below) and reheating food.

250C / 480F – aka ‘cranking it’. For pizza, fast roast fish and times when I’m running super late.

Did you find this helpful?

Or got another question? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Super Easy Moussaka-2

Seriously Easy Moussaka

I’ve never really thought about moussaka until recently when I was craving lasagne but wanting a low carb alternative. The only downside is that like lasagne this is a bit time consuming but I’ve kept it as simple as possible!

enough for 3-4
takes an hour

3 medium eggplant
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef or lamb
700g (3cups) tomato passata (puree NOT concentrated tomato paste)
300g (1 1/4cups) sour cream
2 handfuls grated parmesan
baby spinach or salad leaves, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Slice eggplant about 1/2 inch (1cm) thick. Place on an oven tray and drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

2. Roast eggplant until really soft – about 30 minutes, turning about half way.

3. Meanwhile, brown meat in a hot pan with a little oil. Then add the tomato and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Taste and season with salt if needed.

4. Cover the base of an oven proof dish with the meat. Layer over the cooked eggplant and top with remaining meat.

5. Mix sour cream and Parmesan then spread carefully over the top. Depending on the size of your dish it may not completely cover so I leave some space around the edges (see photo).

6. Bake 200C for about 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly and browned on top. Serve with salad on the side.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace beef with cooked lentils or beans.

dairy-free – replace the sour cream and parmesan with a few handfuls almond meal or soft bread crumbs. Scatter over the top to give a lovely crust.

vegan – combine the vegetarian and dairy-free options.

more veg – feel free to layer in other cooked veg like roast zucchini, capsicum (bell peppers) or mushrooms.

carb lovers – add in a few layers of lasagne sheets and expect to cook for longer.

Video Version of the Recipe.
Big love,
Jules x

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Green Spaghetti & Meatballs-2

I have some good news this week! Yes things around here have started to return to some sort of normality because wee Finbar has been sleeping for 11 hours straight most nights.

Go the Irish Brennan sleeping genes!

Which means I’ve been getting my precious 8-hours. Even better I’ve been having time to have a relaxed dinner with my Irishman. And even a few glasses of wine.

It really is the little things.

One thing about this return to ‘normal’ life is it’s given me a chance to reflect on how I’ve managed to cope with those crazy early days of having a new baby in the house.

We’ve still been eating really well. And apart from the sushi I picked up for lunch on the way home from hospital, all our dinners have been home made.

So today I thought I’d share the strategies that have really helped. Because you don’t need to have a newborn to benefit from some help to feel ‘on top of things’ in the kitchen!

3 Strategies to Pull Meals Together Quickly

1. simple recipes

2016 is my year of ‘simplicity’ and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful for that focus!

I’ve been relying heavily on my stonesoup favourite 5-ingredient recipes like my Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry or Super Yum Bacon & Cabbage. Seriously I can’t stress enough how delicious and easy your meals become once you focus on a handful of key ingredients.

So yes I’ve been all about just cooking my own creations and not using cookbooks etc.

2. cooking meals in advance

To be honest this isn’t my favourite strategy because it can make me feel a bit locked in so I don’t do this often.

But there is a place for cooking whole meals ahead of time.

Before Finbar was born I did cook up and freeze a big batch of my baked meatballs, the green version of my meatballs (recipe below) and my simple moussaka (recipe coming soon!). And on the nights I just needed to warm dinner and serve I was thankful to my ‘past’ self.

3. Prepping ingredients

As I mentioned last week, preparing ingredients ahead of time is one of my key strategies for keeping organized.

I love this approach because it makes it so quick and easy to pull together healthy meals while allowing some freedom and variety.

I also find it makes it easier to be spontaneous and cook without recipes. Plus prepped ingredients tend to have a longer shelf life so there’s less waste.

What’s not to love about that?

And you don’t have to spend hours on the weekend to make it work. I’m a huge believer in using the time you’re already in the kitchen more effectively to take the pressure off.

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Green Spaghetti & Meatballs

Green ‘Spaghetti’ & Meatballs

I’m so glad I invested in a spiralizer to make noodles out of veggies. My favourite are these green ‘spaghetti’ from zucchini which work so well with pesto. If you don’t have a spiralizer don’t worry! You can use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to make slices of zucchini more like pappardelle.

enough for 2-3
takes 30 minutes

500g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
2 teaspoons onion powder (optional)
75g (3oz) almond meal 
2-3 medium zucchini
6-8 tablespoons pesto

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Combine meat, onion powder (if using) and almond meal in a large bowl. Season with salt.

2. Scoop with a soup spoon and roll into meatballs. Place balls in a baking tray as you go.

3. Pop meatballs in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.

4. While the balls are cooking make spaghetti from your zucchini using a spiralizer. Or shave into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin.

5. When the timer goes turn the meatballs and top with the zucchini. Return to the oven for another 2-5 minutes to warm the zucchini.

6. Remove from the oven and serve with pesto on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – use these lentil balls.

dairy-free – use dairy-free pesto.

to make pesto – whizz a large bunch basil in a food processor with 2 handfuls grated Parmesan, a handful pine nuts, a clove of garlic and enough extra virgin olive oil to make a chunky paste.

carb-lovers – toss in cooked spaghetti or serve with garlic bread.

no onion powder – just skip it or replace with a chopped onion softened in a little oil.

nut-free – replace almond meal with soft bread crumbs. Or just skip it. 

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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