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Simple Kimchi

This sounds really silly but I used to be afraid of kimchi. I know, Even reading the words ‘kimchi’ and ‘afraid’ in the same sentence seems a bit of overkill.

But it’s true.

Hi my name is Jules and I used to be scared of fermented cabbage.

It started years ago when I was living / holidaying in New York City. A bottle of kimchi ‘followed’ me home from Whole Foods.

When I opened it there were bubbles. This thing was definitely alive. I reminded myself of my policy of ‘trying anything once’ (at least when it comes to food). And besides it had to be good for my gut microbes.

Right?

It wasn’t a love-at-first-bite story. And I guiltily left the unfinished jar in the fridge when I left town.

Fast forward 5 years and I’m in Sydney at a workshop with Sandor Katz, a champion of fermented foods. We’re learning about fermented vegetables and beverages. I’m excited about trying the sauerkraut and fermented veg.

But when he starts talking about making a paste of flour and water and korean chilli for the kimchi, I tune out.

Way too hard.

However, once I start my fermenting experiments, I realize I can control the level of ‘funky’ flavours. It doesn’t take long before I get an itch to give kimchi another try.

You know where this is headed.

So I’ll just get straight to the recipe…

But before I do… if you have any fear around fermenting at home, just remember fermented vegetables are the safest place to start. As Sandor assured us… No one has ever died from fermented vegetables. True story.

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Simple Kimchi-2

Simple Crunchy Kimchi

This kimchi is by no means authentic in that you don’t get the gassy bubbles as you eat it. However it is spicy, tangy and adds a refreshing crunch to any meal you feel needs it – asian or non-asian.

The best part about home ferments is that you get to control the amount of ‘funk’. I tend to keep it on the cleaner side, but you’re in charge. If you want funk, just leave it out to ferment for longer.

makes 1 large jar (about 1L / 4 cups)
takes about 30 minutes active time + a few days fermenting

1/2 large white, savoy or napa cabbage
1 bunch bok choy (optional)
2-3 teaspoons chilli flakes
5cm (2in) piece turmeric, grated
5cm (2in) piece ginger, grated
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 – 2tablespoons fine salt

1. Get yourself a clean, dry jar about 1L (4 cups) plus an extra little jar in case you need it.

2. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage. Finely slice either by hand or use the slicer blade on your food processor (which is what I normally do). Place sliced cabbage in a large bowl.

3. Finely slice bok choy (if using) and add to the cabbage.

4. Add chilli flakes, turmeric, ginger, fish sauce and salt to the cabbage. Toss and cover with a tea towel. Stand at room temp to allow the salt to soften the cabbage. I leave it at least an hour but you could leave overnight.

5. Pack cabbage mixture into your large jar. I use a combo of clean hands and a spoon. You want to really squash it down to release the cabbage juices. If it won’t all fit, put the extra in your backup jar. Leave a little room at the top of each because it will expand as the fermentation happens. Divide leftover juice from the bottom of the bowl between your jars. You want the cabbage to be covered by liquid. If there isn’t enough, top with a little filtered water. Top with lids.

6. Place your jar(s) on a plate to catch any juices that overflow (this happens frequently to me). Stand at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2-3 days or longer.

7. Every day open the jar to release any gas. Once I can see evidence of bubbles I usually seal the lids and pop in the fridge. Typically this is on the 3rd day but in winter it might be longer and less in Summer. If you’re not sure, I’d err on the side of putting it in the fridge earlier. If you taste and decide it’s too bland you can always leave it out again to get more funk happening. But once it’s too funky there isn’t much you can do.

8. Keep in the fridge for a few months.

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Variations

no turmeric – if you can’t find fresh turmeric, use 1 tablespoon turmeric powder. You can skip it but it give the kimchi it’s beautiful yellow colour.

no chilli flakes – you can use any form of chilli you like, dried, powdered or fresh. Just err on the side of not enough spicy heat because you can always add more. And you could skip the chilli if you prefer a milder pickle.

vegan / vegetarian – skip the fish sauce.

different veg – grated carrot, grated daikon, chopped green onion (scallions / shallots) can all be added.

salt – salt keeps the texture crunchy. So I tend to err on the side of more but you could try less if you needed to. I use finely ground Himalayan rock salt but any salt apart from Iodized salt is great. I’ve read the iodine can hinder growth of the lactic acid bacteria.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Are you into fermenting?

I’d love to hear about your triumphs (and tribulations) in the comments below.

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Turkish Poached Eggs with Sumac & Yoghurt

It happens to the best of us. Yes even the food-obsessed like myself sometimes run into a rut with our cooking.

So how do I dig myself out of the boredom ditch?

Usually picking up a favourite (or new) cookbook is enough but sometimes I like to set a little challenge for myself.

Here are two of my current go-to anti-boredom ‘games’.

1. Add a Spice.

Using different spices is by far the quickest and easiest way to make a boring old dish taste new and exciting. They don’t take up much space and last for ages in your pantry.

Here are some of my favourites:

Dried Chilli (flakes or powder) – probably the most versatile but there are plenty of other options which I’m finding myself veering towards now I have sensitive little mouths to feed.

Sumac – a Middle eastern spice that is brightly coloured red. It adds beauty and a lemony fresh flavour. Use it anywhere you’d normally think to add a squeeze of lemon. You’ll probably need to order online or go to a specialist spice store – but it’s totally worth the effort of tracking down.

Smoked Paprika – from Spain does exactly what it says on the label – adds a complex smoky flavour. Brilliant with anything tomato based, red meat and pork.

Garam Masala – my ‘go-to’ Indian spice if I’m in the mood for a bit of curry. I tend to reach for garam masala over a generic curry powder. See here for substitutions.

Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend with an exotic flavour. Works really well with fish and chicken and vegetables like eggplant (aubergine). See here for substitutions.

Baharat – a Lebanese blend of 7 spices including paprika, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. It’s a bit darker and more intense than Ras el Hanout but still works well with meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables. See here for substitutions.

Shicimi Togarashi – a spicy Japanese spice blend usually used as a sprinkle to season food instead of salt and pepper. I love it on avocado or eggs or in these spiced cashews. For more ideas see here.

Fennel Seeds – great with fish or pork or to add a boost of fennel flavour to fennel dishes like this one.

2. Add a Herb.

One of the things I love most about our little house in the country is my herb garden just outside my kitchen door. Ever since reading ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, I’ve dreamed of this little luxury. While I’ve always cooked with fresh herbs, I’ve been using them even more now I have a free supply.

Here are some favourite combinations:

Flat Leaf Parsley – on everything and anywhere you want some fresh greenness. Literally everywhere. In salads. If you’re not sure add parsley.

Rosemary – beef, lamb, potatoes.

Tarragon – with eggs (I stir it into mayo) or chicken. Works well with orange.

Dill – with fish.

Mint – in salads, with lamb, Middle Eastern dishes, Vietnamese.

Coriander (cilantro) – with chicken, Mexican dishes, Asian dishes.

Basil – tomatoes, eggplant, in salads, on pizza, Italian dishes, Thai dishes.

Sorrel – in salads (finely chopped if leaves are large), with fish.

Want a simple way to enjoy your time in the kitchen in 2017?

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

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying a different area 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/

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NOTE: Registration for 2017 closes 15th January.

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Turkish Poached Eggs with Sumac & Yoghurt-2

Turkish Poached Eggs with Yoghurt & Sumac

OMG, I can’t tell you how much I’m in love with the Turkish idea of combining yoghurt and melted butter as a sauce. It’s soo soo good. You get all the tangy creaminess of the yoghurt and then the nutty richness of the caramelised butter. It’s brilliant here for your breakfast eggs but it’s also genius with vegetables. One of my faves is to add it to charred eggplant. Also great with grilled chicken or fish.

If you’re nervous about poaching eggs, I used to be as well. Just use lots of vinegar and the freshest eggs you can get.

takes: 10 minutes
enough for: 2

4 tablespoons white vinegar
4 eggs
8 tablespoons natural (Greek style) yoghurt
4-6 tablespoons chilli oil or melted butter*
pinch sumac (optional)
salad greens

1. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Add vinegar and bring back to a rapid simmer.

2. Crack eggs into the water. Simmer gently for 3 minutes (longer for well done). Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and pat dry on paper towel.

3. Meanwhile, divide yoghurt between two plates or shallow bowls.

4. When eggs are cooked, pop 2 eggs on each plate on top of the yoghurt. Drizzle with chilli oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with sumac (if using) and serve with salad leaves on the side.

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Variations

*melted butter – if using melted butter I like to slightly caramelize it to add extra nutty brown flavours (although straight melted butter is good too). Just melt butter in a small saucepan and let it sizzle on a medium high heat for a minute or until it looks brown and lovely but not burnt.

dairy-free – use chilli oil and replace yoghurt with hummus.

different eggs – I adore poached but fried, boiled and peeled or scrambled would also work.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with warm flat bread or hot buttered toast for dipping.

crunchy – add some toasted nuts like almonds or pine nuts.

different vinegar – you just want something to make the cooking water nice and acidic to help the whites solidify as soon as they hit the cooking water. I use cheap white vinegar for this but you could use any vinegar you have – although it’s a bit of a waste of your fancy vinegars.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. This is the 4th year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

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It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of not only sharing my expertise but also learning from the other contributors.

I love how there’s a different focus each month to keep me on track without feeling overwhelmed.

To find out more go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

NOTE: Registration for 2017 closes 15th January.

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Roast Peaches

Last year I had a huge ‘a-ha’ moment about my business and my blog. One of those big ‘lightbulbs-flashing’ realizations.

Basically I’ve been doing you a disservice.

I’ve been apologizing for asking you to spend time in the kitchen (I did write a whole book of 10-minute recipes) instead of inspiring you to enjoy your time cooking.

I still believe that delicious, healthy food need not be complicated nor take hours and hours. And I still believe in the power of keeping things simple.

But from now on I promise to lead by example. And inspire you to enjoy one of (my) life’s biggest pleasures more often.

So let’s get the year started in a positive way with the 5 biggest reasons I just love hanging out in my kitchen (with a baby playing on the floor).

5 Reasons I LOVE Cooking

1. It’s fun.

I love that cooking give me a chance to be creative and indulge in some ‘play’ time – something we adults could do with a lot more. I adore losing myself in the rituals of chopping, stirring and tasting.

2. It’s delicious.

When you’re cooking you get to choose what you make AND what goes into each dish. You also get to choose the quality of the ingredients. So it’s easy to make things that are the most delicious to you.

Love chilli (like I do)? Then add more. Love sharp, acidic flavours (like I do)? Then add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon.

Think of it as a choose your own (tasty) adventure.

3. It’s good for your body.

The more I learn about nutrition the more I’ve come to realize that the most important factor for healthy eating is to avoid processed food and focus on using real ingredients.

And the best way to do this? Cook for yourself as much as you can.

4. It’s good for the soul.

Spending 30 minutes in the kitchen preparing dinner will put me in a much calmer, less frazzled mood than sitting on the couch for the same amount of time.

Plus it gives me an opportunity to nurture my family and friends. To express my love and take care of them.

5. The praise!

As much as I’d like to think that all these lofty benefits were what first got me into cooking, really, it was the praise.

Hearing the words ‘this is amazing’ was a huge motivator for me to keep spending time in the kitchen when I was learning to cook.

And still is.

Want a simple way to enjoy your time in the kitchen in 2017?

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

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying a different area 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/

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NOTE: Registration for 2017 closes 15th January.
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Roast Peaches-3

Sunny Roast Peaches

I only became a huge fan of peaches a few years ago when I started roasting them. It’s almost magical how a little spell in the oven transforms them into super sweet sunny globes of goodness. Now they’re one of my favourite Summer fruit.

Roasting fruit like this is brilliant for enhancing the natural sweetness without having to rely on adding processed sugar.

Fergal and Finbar just loves these peaches and will happily gobble up as many as I keep feeding them. But they make a super lovely dessert for adults too. The quantities are totally a guideline, you can double or halve the recipe depending on how much fruit you have.

takes: about an hour
makes: enough for 4-6

4-6 peaches

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

2. Rinse peaches and layer in a baking dish. Cover with foil and baked for 30 minutes.

3. Remove foil and return to the oven uncovered this time and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until the peaches are soft and squishy.

4. Serve warm or cold.

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Variations

different fruit – my favourite way to cook all stone fruit (think apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries), apples and pears. I usually quarter apples and pears to remove the seeds. And sometimes I halve apricots or plums and remove the stone, if I can be bothered. I usually pit cherries first because I’m feeding them to little ones (who I must really love because it takes for-ev-er). Smaller fruit will take less time to cook.

different flavourings – feel free to add a chopped vanilla bean or some lemon zest.

more ‘saucey’ – leave peaches to cool with a foil cover on.

short on time – serve fresh berries or peaches with ice cream or cream.

paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free) – serve peaches with coconut cream or coconut yoghurt.

With love and best wishes for the new year!
Jules x

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ps. This is the 4th year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 1.16.45 PM

It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of not only sharing my expertise but also learning from the other contributors.

I love how there’s a different focus each month to keep me on track without feeling overwhelmed.

To find out more go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

NOTE: Registration for 2017 closes 15th January.

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Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

I‘m sooo excited about Christmas this year!

Having a 3.5 year-old in the house definitely helps. Then there’s the fact that I get to deep fry a turkey.

And I’m not pregnant so there’s Champagne in my future. Actually there’s already a bottle of Pol Roger in my fridge. Yay!

To celebrate my last blog post of the year I bring you cake.

Not just any old cake. A super moist chocolate cake (which also happens to have vegetables and won’t spike your blood sugar – but no need to mention these things, especially if you have a 3.5 year-old in the house).

I also have a request…

I’m looking for recipe testers for my new baking book that I’m working on. If you’re interested in sugar-free / low carb / gluten-free treats and you wouldn’t mind doing some baking over the next few months, I’d love your help!

Either leave a comment below or email me (jules@thestonesoup.com) to volunteer your best baking services.

There will be a little surprise thank you bonus to everyone who helps out.
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Chocolate & Zucchini Cake!

Moist Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

One of the first food blogs I ever discovered was Chocolate & Zucchini by my lovely Parisian mate Clotilde. I’m still a huge fan and I just love the idea of combining two seemingly opposite ingredients to make a cake that ticks all the right boxes.

I’ve used pure stevia powder to sweeten but see the variations below if you’d prefer to use something else.

makes: 1 loaf
takes: about 60 minutes

150g (5oz) unsalted butter
200g (7oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or higher)
300g (10) zucchini, grated
4 eggs
250g (9oz) almond meal
1/4t pure stevia powder (see note below)*
2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) fan assisted. Line a loaf pan 24cm x 12cm (approx 9.5in x 5in) with baking paper.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Stand to allow the chocolate to melt.

3. Meanwhile, grate zucchini using your food processor or a box grater. When the chocolate has melted add to the grated zucchini then add the eggs, almond meal, stevia and baking powder. Mix with a spoon until just combined.

4. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the loaf feels springy when you touch it. And a skewer inserted into the middle come out without any gooey cake stuck to it.

5. Cool in the pan then slice and serve (preferably with lashings of double cream).

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 4-6 tablespoons (add to taste).

sugar lovers – replace stevia with 75g (3oz) caster sugar (superfine). If you have a super sweet tooth you might need more – taste and add as needed.

no stevia – use you favourite sweetener… Honey, maple syrup or white sugar! Just add and taste until you’re happy with the sweetness level. If I didn’t have diabetes I’d totally be making it with brown sugar.

dairy-free – coconut oil.

nut-free – you could try replacing the almond meal with regular flour, I haven’t tried this but start with 125g (4.5oz) plain (all purpose) flour.

no fan assist on your oven? – increase the set temp to 200C (400F). Check after 35 minutes just to be sure.

________________

Thank YOU so much for reading Stonesoup this year! I really appreciate it.

I hope you and your loved ones have a really lovely Christmas.

Looking forward to sharing lots of deliciousness in the new year.

With love,
Jules x

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Turmeric & Togarashi Cashews-2

There’s a bad habit I’ve been trying to overcome for a long time now. Like most bad habits it’s a case of steps forward and backward.

One thing I’ve found super helpful is to stop feeling guilty or beating myself up. Instead, I use ‘slip ups’ as an opportunity to be a ‘detective’ to help me improve.

It’s a subtle mind shift but it makes a huge difference.

Oh yeah so the bad habit?

It’s ‘nibbling’ and picking at things while I’m cooking which means when I sit down to eat I’m not hungry.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of snacking, but I am a fan of experimenting. So I’ve been trialling sitting down and having a proper snack when Fergal and Finbar have their dinner (at the moment my Irishman and I eat after the boys are in bed).

Mostly I think it helps. But it’s still a work in progress.

One side benefit of this experiment is I’ve been having loads of fun exploring new snacking ideas

These spiced cashews are my current favourites. Although I should note they come with a warning! (see note below).

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Turmeric & Togarashi Cashews-3

Turmeric & Togarashi Cashews

This snack comes with a warning (!). The turmeric looks pretty but it does like to stain things. Especially clothes. So don’t do as my Irishman did and wipe your fingers on your jeans.

The other warning is that they’re super delicious – addictively so. Don’t be surprised if they disappear much faster than you’d think. Although with all that turmeric you can be happy they’re doing good for more than just your taste buds. They also make a great edible gift.

makes: 2 cups
takes: 15 minutes

300g (2 cups) roasted cashews
2 tablespoons schchimi togarashi*
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4t fine salt

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl toss cashews, togarashi, turmeric, oil and salt until well mixed.

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

3. Bake for 5 minutes. Check and stir. If cashews are golden, remove from the heat. If you like a darker roast leave in for another 5 minutes or so.

4. Cool. Store in an airtight container. Will keep in the pantry for weeks to months (depending on how fresh your cashews were to begin with).

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Variations

raw cashews – I usually buy pre-roasted but if you have raw cashews, just roast in the oven until lightly golden before tossing in the spice mix and roasting further as per the recipe.

no schichimi togarashi – It’s a Japanese spice mix with sesame seeds, different chilli powders and occasionally some chopped nori (seaweed). It’s super delicious and if you can be bothered tracking some down you won’t have any problems finding uses for it. It’s brilliant on avocado or soft cheese (especially labneh) or poached eggs. If you don’t have any just use sesame seeds and a little chilli powder or crumbled dried chillies and if you like toss in some chopped nori but it’s not essential.

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

no sesame oil – it adds a lovely roasted flavour but any oil you’d normally cook with will work.

black pepper – is meant to help with the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric so feel free to add freshly ground pepper to your roast nuts.

no turmeric – most commercial ‘curry’ powders have lots of turmeric so you could use a curry powder instead.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. What about you?

Got any snacks you’re loving at the mo’? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Spring Onion & Ginger Sauce

A few months ago I made a big decision around where I buy my meat. No more flavourless supermarket chicken and lamb, even if it was ‘grass-fed’ and ‘organic’.

I realized I cared too much about how the cattle, pigs, chicken and sheep are treated to trust it to the supermarket supply chain. I wanted to buy direct from the farmers I could build a relationship with and trust.

To be honest I wish I’d made this ‘rule’ for myself years ago.

And apart from the odd sausage, chorizo and black pudding, all the meat I’ve cooked since September has been from the farmers market.

It feels really good.

Mostly the price evens out about the same.

But I’ve really noticed is how much better everything tastes. Especially chicken. Especially now I can get my hands on thigh fillets with the skin on. Yum!

So today I thought we’d have a little look at my favourite chicken recipes on Stonesoup as well as share a new recipe for one of my current favourite sauces that is brilliant with (you guessed it) chicken.

Enjoy!

19 Delicious Ideas for Chicken

1. Roast Chicken Soup
My simple take on the classic way to use up leftover roast chicken bones and meat.

2. Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel
A match made in heaven. Roast fennel and chicken with orange and lemon. Amazingly fresh and, dare I say it, finger-licking good.

3. Quick Warm Chicken & Parmesan Salad
When you’re in the mood for something quick and light but not a cold meal. This is just the thing.

4. Chicken & Basil Stir Fry
Uses minced (ground) chicken so it’s super quick to cook and you don’t have to worry about over cooking the chicken. A great place to start if you’re not a confident meat cook.

5. Pesto Chicken with Zucchini
An easy Summer favourite.

6. Flattened Chicken with Parsley Sauce
If I’m cooking whole chicken, I generally ‘butterfly’ it like this because it cooks much faster.

7. Chicken & Peppers
My friend Ellen made this recently and like me was blown away by how two simple ingredients can cook down into such a delicious dish.

8. My Simple Kung Pao Chicken
A simplified version of one of my Irishman’s all time favourite things to cook.

9. Dad’s Butter Chicken Curry
So easy even my Dad can make it. And mild enough to be family friendly too (it was the first ‘curry’ Finbar ate!).

10. Coq au Vin
A French classic, it’s something I make at least once every Winter.

11. Chicken with Pine Nut Sauce
A recipe that didn’t make it into my print book 5-Ingredients 10-minutes because I wasn’t happy with the original photo and was too lazy to re-shoot. Still a favourite sauce especially now I’m having a Middle Eastern food renaissance.

12. June’s Chinese Chicken
One of my mum’s most exotic recipes from my first print book ‘And the Love is Free’.

13. Roast Chicken with Carrot Top Pesto
A brillant way to actually use your carrot tops. Especially great with home grown ones.

14. 5-Ingredient Chicken Caccitore
My super simple take on the Italian family-favourite.

15. Moist Roast Chicken with Yoghurt & Crispy Sage
An old recipe from way back in 2008, this pre-dates my 5-ingredients philosophy so is way more complicated than most Stonesoup recipes. But it’s super super delicious and really lives up to its name so if you’re up for a bigger project this is for you!

16. Salt Baked Chook
Another from the archives, this is a spectacular way to cook a good chicken! Basically you make a salty dough and wrap the chicken and bake. It’s a bit nerve wracking getting the timing right but well worth the effort if you want to impress your guests. Definitely not one for a Tuesday night after a long day at the office!

16. Spanish Meatballs with Zucchini ‘Noodles’
Gotta love a good meatball. Made lighter with the use of chicken instead of beef.

17. Super Green Saag Chicken
An Indian-inspired curry with an amazing sauce based on wilted greens. So good!

18. Cajun Chicken in a Paper Bag
Such a brilliant way to ‘jazz up’ your favourite cut chicken. Basically just toss the cook chicken and some spices in a paper bag and shake to coat. Instant flavour hit!

19. Chicken with Spring Onion & Ginger Sauce
Recipe below!

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Spring Onion & Ginger Sauce-2

Ginger Spring Onion Sauce

OMG this sauce is the business! It’s fresh. It’s zesty. It’s got lovely warmth from the ginger. And I love the crunchy texture you get from the spring onions. You have to try it!

I’ve adapted the recipe from three sources, the brilliant Momofuku cookbook, my friend Aggie (whose family are Hong Kong Chinese) and Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell who writes for the Saturday Paper.

The first time I made it we had it with chicken steamed in the slow cooker (remind me to tell you about that another time). Just loved how the moist clean chicken flavours were brought to life by this vibrant sauce. It’s also great with pulled pork (in a Korean style Bo Ssam). But you could pretty much use it with any chicken… stir fried, roast or BBQ. It’s also a great way to dress up good old egg fried rice.

makes about 1 cup – enough for 4
takes 15 minutes

1 bunch ‘spring’ onions*, whites and greens, finely sliced
thumb sized piece ginger, grated
1 tablespoon sherry or rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you think it needs it. A little more soy for extra salt, more vinegar if you think it’s a bit lifeless. Or just regular sea salt if it’s lacking something you can’t quite put your finger on.

2. Stand for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour before serving with your choice of chicken (see note above). If you need to store for longer pop it in the fridge and bring back to room temp before serving. Will keep for a week or so.

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Variations

warm sauce – heat oil in a small saucepan until hot to touch then pour over the remaining ingredients. (This is good but I prefer the freshness of my recipe).

different vinegar – sherry vinegar is totally my favourite here but you could use any wine vinegar. If you have Chinkiang vinegar it would be good too.

* a note about ‘spring onions’ – in Australia they’re often sold as ‘shallots’. The ones you need don’t have the big bulby onion bit at the bottom (which I call ‘spring onions’). I think the correct term is green onions but I didn’t want to confuse you! What do you call them?

soy-free – just season with sea salt. If you have access to coconut aminos they would be the best substitute.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the food-lovers in your life?

Then I have just the thing!

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The print version of my cookbook ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’.

For more details go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake. Recipe here.

Ages ago I got a lovely request from a Stonesoup reader…

Hi Jules!
Stone Soup is my go-to recipe blog–in fact, I have no other I regularly visit! Since I am so very obsessed with your cooking style and love ALL of your recipes, I was wondering if you would possibly write a post about YOUR favourite food blogs and recipe books! I–and I imagine many other fan of yours–would be extremely interested in your own inspiration!

In my not-so-meticulous note taking style, I forgot to record the name of the lovely person who said such kind things. Which I’m kicking myself for now.

The good news is I have some of my favourites to share with you today.

And of course I’d love to hear if you have any sources of inspiration that you’d like to recommend. Please share in the comments below!

5-Favourite Food Blogs

Dishing Up the Dirt. My latest food blog crush! You have to check out the deliciousness from Andrea a self-described farmer and foodie from the Pacific North West. One of my Stonesoup readers put me on to this brilliant blog and I’m so so glad she did!

Arthur Street Kitchen – all about local food for local people. Formerly from Surry Hills in Sydney (where I used to live) now based in Brooklyn, I adore Hetty’s approach to salads and vegetables.

Orangette. Still my favourite food blogger when it comes to her writing skills. There’s something so welcoming about the way Molly writes about food and life. If you’re ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend visiting Delancey – the fabulous pizza mecca run my Molly and her husband Brandon. I just hope for your sake they have Molly’s chocolate chip cookies on the menu for dessert.

101 Cookbooks. Another oldie but a goodie, especially if you’re looking for creative vegetarian recipes. Recently inspired my obsession with combining miso and harissa (watch this space!). Love Heidi’s travel tips as well.

Green Kitchen Stories. Even though I’m definitely an omnivore, I seem to have a thing for vegetarian blogs. I guess it’s because I love veggies! Written by Stockholm couple, David and Luisa, Green Kitchen Stories is beautifully photographed. Their recipes are on the complicated side but still super inspirational.

5-Favourite Cookbooks

Cornersmith by Alex Elliott-Howery & James Grant. Based on the delicious offerings from their Sydney cafe and picklery, I love both the ethos of the Cornersmith team as well as their mouth-watering recipes. Plenty of pickles and preserves too! This has been the book I’ve gifted the most this year.

Moro by Sam & Sam Clarke. With recipes from their London restaurant, this book has really stood the test of time. I hadn’t opened it in years but was inspired one Sunday morning when I was looking for new ideas for Sunday brunch. It’s completely rekindled my love affair with Moroccan / Spanish food. Their other books are worth checking out too.

Kitchen by Mike by Mike McEhernenry. I love Mike’s food! Every time I go to Sydney I try and squeeze in a visit to his restaurant. It’s fresh and modern and traditional all at the same time. As far as chefs go, Mike keeps things relatively simple and lets the ingredients ‘speak for themselves’.

The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney Dunn. I’ve taken the ‘Cooking with Fire’ and ‘Charcuterie’ cooking classes at the Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania and thoroughly enjoyed both. Rodney is seriously one of the nicest guys and a super talented chef. I’ve cooked more than half of the recipes from this book which is really saying something!

The Kitchen Diaries Volumes III by Nigel Slater. Still my favourite food writer of all time. I could happily just keep starting from the beginning every time I finish one of Slater’s books.

5-Favourite Food-Related Books

Cooked by Michael Pollan. The man who has been championing a return to eating ‘real’ food, or just ‘food’, as he calls it, is back. This time he’s extolling the benefits of home cooking. Love, love, love that as I listen to his journey to learning to cook from scratch he’s reminding me of all the reasons I love spending time in the kitchen. Super inspirational.

Foodist by Darya Rose. I love Darya’s approach to healthy eating. After years of intense dieting Darya took a ‘leap of science’ and decided to stop dieting and instead focus on eating real food and building habits. And she hasn’t looked backed. If you’re looking to change your relationship with food I can’t recommend Foodist enough. Plus Darya is a friend and all-round lovely person! Her blog Summer Tomato is also a favourite of mine.

The Good Gut by Justin & Erica Sonnenberg – A fascinating look at the importance of our gut in overall health. And how to treat yours well. I found it especially helpful in getting back on track after having to take antibiotics earlier in the year.

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. A researched-based look at why we eat more than we think and how to eat less without noticing or feeling deprived.

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter. Written by a neurologist who also has qualifications in nutrition. I was surprised by the link between carbs / high blood sugar / diabetes and brain health including alzheimers and dementia. Frightening (and super motivational) stuff for someone like me who had gestational diabetes and now type 2.

56-Favourite Productivity Tools / Apps

Trello. If you love lists and keeping yourself organized like I do, then you’ll love Trello. I have their apps on my phone and iPad and it’s by far the best tool I’ve used for organizing my ‘to do’ lists and projects.

Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for years now but it wasn’t until I went ‘all in’ and spent a few hours setting up my Evernote to capture ALL my notes, that I really realized how useful and powerful this tool is. The best thing is that I can create notes in many different ways, writing text, forwarding email and clipping web pages. You can also save pdf documents into Evernote so I keep any ebooks I buy (or write) in there too. Everything ends up in the one place, which is also searchable.

Audible. I don’t know where I’d be without audio books. I certainly wouldn’t be able to average reading 1 book a week like I have for the last few years. Their membership pricing model makes audio books super affordable. Great for when you’re out running (or walking as I am these days), car trips or even when you’re hanging out in the garden or doing things around the house.

Instagram. Of all the social media, I find I spend the most time on Instagram. I’m @jules_stonesoup if you want to pop over and say ‘Hi’.

5-Minute Journal Their tag line is ‘a happier you in 5 minutes a day’ and I couldn’t agree more. If you’ve ever wanted to be someone who keeps a journal but have struggled to stick to it, this is the ap for you! I’ve found it especially helpful this year because I can type into it while I’m breast feeding.

Sweat with Kayla. I’ve been looking for a way to add some resistance training to my workouts without having to join a gym. I’ve really noticed that now I’m in my 40s my muscles aren’t the same as they used to be! Building muscle mass is important for insulin senstitivity too. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks but I love, love, love sweating with Kayla. Worth checking out the free 7-day trial.

kale 'cabonara'-3
Kale ‘Cabonara’. Recipe here.

What about you?

Have some favourites you’d like to share? Please, please let me know in the comments.

Big love,
Jules x

ps. Looking for Christmas gift ideas for the food-lovers in your life?

Then I have just the thing!

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

The print version of my cookbook ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’.

For more details go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/

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no-bake chocolate pecan 'pie'-3

There aren’t many things I regret about living in Australia. Apart from when I’m face-to-face with a tiger snake, I love living here.

But I do wish we celebrated Thanksgiving.

When I lived in California, I really embraced the holiday. I love the whole concept. I mean, taking the time to get together with your loved ones and give thanks for all the joy in our lives, with a big feast thrown in.

Now that’s what I call a holiday!

So to celebrate Thanksgiving from afar this year, I have two treats for you!

Treat Number 1. – THE ‘PIE’!

There’s chocolate. There are pecans. And you won’t have to turn on the oven.

Need I say more!

Treat Number 2. – THE ‘BLACK FRIDAY’ SALE!

After all the indulgence of the holidays, I figured some simple, delicious recipes might be just the thing you need…

h&t 3D cover

So I’m having a 72-hour sale on my ‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy‘ eCookbook. Which is packed with ideas for mouth-watering, flavoursome meals using real, fresh ingredients.

The SALE ENDS in less than 72-HOURS!

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

Made With Love 3D CoverPLUS! If you buy during the Black Friday Sale you’ll also get a FREE bonus copy of my ‘Made with Love‘ eCookbook – my go-to guide for edible, home made gifts.

This 124 page ebook isn’t available to buy on Stonesoup, it’s only available as a free bonus to people who purchase ‘Healthy & Tasty’ during the Black Friday sale.

________________________

no-bake chocolate pecan 'pie'-2

No-Bake Chocolate Pecan ‘Pie’

I’ve used the term pie very loosely here. While there isn’t any pie ‘crust’ the pecan topping give a lovely crunchy nutty contrast to the silky chocolate filling, so you definitely won’t feel like you’re missing out! It’s perfect for entertaining because you can get it all ready well in advance and just leave in the fridge until it’s time to serve.

enough for 6-8:
takes: 15 minutes + 2 hours to set

250g (1 cup) whipping cream (35% milk fat)
200g (7oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
200g (7oz) whole pecans, roasted

1. Line a loaf tin with baking paper so the base and sides are covered.

2. Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the chocolate into chunks and place in a bowl.

4. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes so it melts.

5. Stir until smooth then pour into the prepared pan. Arrange pecans on top, only using the best looking ones.

6. Refrigerate until set – about 2 hours or more.

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Variations

milk or white chocolate – don’t be tempted to substitute in milk or white chocolate because there won’t be enough cocoa butter coming from the chocolate to ‘set’ the pie.

dairy free / paleo – replace the cream with coconut milk OR other dairy-free milk like soy milk or almond milk. The flavour profile will change, but not necessarily in a bad way.

proper ‘pie’ – either pour the mixture into a pre-cooked and cooled pie crust. OR crush about 120g (4oz) of plain sweet biscuits (cookies) and mix with 30g (1oz) melted butter and spread over the base of the pan before filling with the chocolate mixture.

different nuts – feel free to use other nuts like almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts or cashews.

With love,
Jules x

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h&t 3D cover

ps. Not sure if ‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy is right for you?

Here’s what Eve and Wendy said about it…

‘I am so excited about this eCookbook, congratulations! I love how you always find ways to make tasty food in all its simplicity!’
Eve, H&T Reader.

‘Importantly, the recipes are tasty – food has to be delicious as well as healthy for me.’
Wendy, H&T Reader.

pps. The sale ENDS in less than 72-hours.

I won’t be sending any reminders.

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

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Spaghetti Squash_

The first time I read about spaghetti squash, I dismissed it as one of those ‘too good to be true’ ideas.

A low carb vegetable that looked like spaghetti?

Impossible!

But the more I saw it around, the more I wanted to try it. At the time there wasn’t anywhere I could buy this magical vegetable so I ordered myself some seeds and had a crack at growing my own.

Long story short, my growing attempts were unsuccessful.

Then about a year ago my local veggie shop started selling them. Experimentation began.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

At first I just roasted it whole until really soft then halved and scooped out the seeds once it was cooked. This was OK but I found separating the seeds from the flesh once it was cooked a challenge.

My current favourite method is to halve crosswise (which results in longer ‘strands’ than halving lengthwise). Scoop out the seeds with a spoon (much easier when the flesh is still hard). Drizzle with oil and roast, cut side up for about 45 minutes at 200C (400F). It’s done when you can easily separate the strands with a fork.

I have seen recipes where you roast cut side down but find this not as good because
(a) you don’t get any lovely browning flavours.
(b) there’s less moisture loss so you end up with more watery flesh.

7 Super-Yum Ideas for Spaghetti Squash

1. A Low Carb Bangers & Mash.
Stir in a heap of salted butter to the warm cooked squash and serve anywhere you’d normally serve potato mash. Or favourite is with good quality butchers sausages.

2. Rosti or Fritters.
Use the roast flesh instead of potatoes in these rosti. I haven’t tried this yet but imagine it would be super delicious.

3. Topping for Shepherds Pie.
Use roast spaghetti squash instead of cooking the cauliflower for this Simple Shepherds Pie. Would also be lovely as a topping for a classic fish pie too.

4. With Your Fave Pasta Sauce.
The knee-jerk reaction is to serve it with a bolognese or ragu. But it pretty much works with any pasta sauce, especially creamy ones like in the boscaiola recipe below.

5. Soup
Use instead of roast butternut in this wonderfully warming soup.

6. Noodle Soup.
Stir into an Asian-style noodle soup instead of the zucchini ‘noodles’.

7. Rice Replacer.
Use a big pile of roast spaghetti squash to serve as a low carb alternative to rice. Brilliant with curries or stir fries.

Are you a spaghetti squash fan?

I’d love to hear about how you cook yours. Let me know in the comments below…

——–

Spaghetti Squash 'Bosciola'

Spaghetti Squash Boscaiola

OK so this recipe is very heavy on the mushrooms and lighter on the squash. Just how I like it. If you’re not a super big mushroom fan, like my Irishman, you might be better following the ‘less mushroomy’ variation below.

While this recipe only calls for half a spaghetti squash, I always roast the whole thing because leftovers keep really well. If you’re stuck for ideas for how to use it, just serve with your favourite pasta sauce on top.

enough for 2-3
takes 60 minutes

1/2 spaghetti squash
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1kg (2lb) button mushrooms, sliced
6-8 tablespoons cream
2 handfuls grated parmesan + shaved to serve
1 bag salad leaves, to serve (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Scoop out seeds from squash and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes or until flesh is tender and separates into spaghetti-like strands easily with a fork.

2. While the squash is cooking, brown bacon with a little oil in a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Remove bacon from the pan and keep warm.

3. Add more oil to the pan and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring every few minutes until mushies are well browned and tender. Add cream and simmer for a few minutes then remove pan from the heat.

4. When the squash is cooked, use a spoon to scoop out the ‘spaghetti’ strands and add add these to the pan with the mushies. Bring everything back to a simmer then stir through bacon and grated parmesan. Taste and season with salt as needed.

5. Divide between 2-3 plates and top with extra shaved parmesan and salad leaves (if using).

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Variations

vegetarian – replace bacon with smoked tofu or toss in a handful of roasted almonds at the end. Or just skip it.

dairy-free – try a tomatoey sauce instead. Use a can of tomatoes instead of the cream. And serve with shaved brazil nuts in place of the parmesan.

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

less mushroomy – halve the amount of mushrooms and double the amount of spaghetti squash.

herby – toss in some chopped chives or flat leaf parsley at the end.

no spaghetti squash – use 2-3 spiralized zucchini or carrots instead. Just cook them in the pan with the mushies until the zucchini / carrots are warm and no longer crunchy. Or serve the creamy mushroom sauce on baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

With love,
Jules x

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Peanut Butter Granola

Want to know one of my favourite favourite things to eat?

While I adore oysters (preferably with champagne) from time to time, my current addiction is a bit less sophisticated.

Yep. I love, love, love me some peanut butter. Mostly straight from the jar on a spoon. Yum.

So when one of my Instagram friends posted a photo of her peanut butter granola, I just had to get myself into the kitchen and make my own low-carb / gluten-free version.

It took a few goes to get the peanut butter intensity right, but I persevered. I know. The things I do just for you.

I like it to use as a crunchy topping for a bowl of natural unsweetened yoghurt and berries for a quick breakfast.

But it’s also great as a dessert with lashings of double cream or ice cream. With or without fresh fruit or a drizzle of melted chocolate.

You could also add some sea salt flakes and serve it as a snack to have with drinks.

So many delicious possibilities!

—–

Peanut Butter Granola-2

Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola

In our house we go through at least a jar of peanut butter a week. So it’s a huge understatement to say that we LOVE it. Especially Pics from New Zealand. While we happily eat is straight from the jar on a spoon, we also love it in this super crunchy granola.

This is one of those rare cases where I find smooth peanut butter works slightly better than crunchy. Although if you’ve only got crunchy in the house, it will be good too.

And I should note the peanut butter seems to slow down the browning process without slowing down the roasted flavours. So it can get over-roasted quite quickly. I tend to pull it out before the colour is as brown as I would normally let it get to be on the safe side.

takes about 45 minutes
makes 1 large tray

50g (2oz) butter or coconut oil
200g (7oz) peanut butter
250g (9oz) coconut flakes
500g (1lb) roasted peanuts
200g (7oz) flaked almonds

1. Preheat your oven to 150C (300F). Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.

2. Place coconut flakes, peanuts and almonds in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle over the peanut butter mixture. Toss until the everything is coated in the peanut butter goodness.

3. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Spread over the nut mixture into an even layer.

4. Bake for 15-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until the granola is golden brown or slightly darker. Cool on the tray before storing in an airtight container in the pantry.

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Variations

vegan / dairy-free – use coconut oil.

traditional granola – if you’re OK with carbs and gluten replace some of the coconut with rolled oats.

chocolate granola – try the recipe over here.

different nuts – feel free to replace some or all of the peanuts with other chopped nuts.

no coconut – I use coconut flakes because they’re inexpensive compared to other nuts and lighten the texture but you could just use more flaked almonds or other nuts if you aren’t into coconut.

sweeter – I like to keep it on the more savoury side but feel free to add a little stevia, honey or maple syrup to the melted butter mixture.

snacky – toss in sea salt flakes and serve with drinks.

Big love!
Jules x

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ps. ‘Early Bird’ registration for ‘A Simple Year’ ENDS THIS WEEK!.

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

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying a different area of your life each month. If you join us I’ll show you how to simplify not only your approach to healthy eating but also your kitchen and your cooking.

I love how there’s a different focus each month to keep me on track without feeling overwhelmed.

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

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NOTE: ‘Early Bird’ discount on registration ends 13th November.

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Saag Chicken-2

You might not believe me. But there is a down side to following your dream. Well at least when that dream revolves around writing, reading, talking, thinking, photographing AND cooking food.

Yes being surrounded by delicious things is brilliant on one hand. But it also means a lot of opportunities to overindulge.

I hate it when I’ve had a big day in the kitchen ‘tasting’ this and ‘picking’ at that and I sit down to dinner and just don’t feel hungry any more.

As my Irishman says, ‘hunger is a tasty sauce’.

I always feel like I’m missing out when that particular condiment is absent.

The good news is I’ve found some simple strategies that help me avoid over eating.

And better still, they actually help me enjoy my food more.

3 Simple Tips to Avoid Overeating AND Enjoy Your Food More

1. Sit down at a table.
How can you give your food the respect it deserves if you have half your attention on the TV or your Instagram feed? Sitting down at a table and shutting down your devices or other distractions is probably the easiest thing you can do to enjoy your food more and feel more satisfied.

While I do sit down for all my meals, I’m definitely not perfect! I have a terrible habit of ‘picking’ at things as I cook. Since I make Fergal sit down to eat his snacks and meals it’s only fair that I lead by example, so am working on it.

2. Eat slowly.
It’s hard to really savour and enjoy your food if you’re shoveling it down. I’ve found the best way to eat more slowly and really appreciate every bite is to ask myself a simple question when I’m starting to load up my fork.

Is there food already in my mouth?

If yes, I put down the fork and wait until I’ve finished that mouthful before loading the next. It takes a bit to remember but once you build the habit you’ll be surprised how effective it can be.

3. Chew.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to count every bite. Where’s the fun in that?

Here’s what I do…

When I feel the urge to swallow, I remind myself to chew just a few more times. Simple and for me really helpful.
____________

Want more simple ways to streamline your healthy eating?

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

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

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

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NOTE: ‘Early Bird’ Registration ends 13th November.

—————————–

Saag Chicken-3

Super Green Saag Chicken

One of my first real jobs was waitressing at an Indian restaurant. While I was pretty crap at waiting tables, I did develop a deep love for Indian food. One of my all time favourite curries was an intensely green spinach sauce called ‘saag’. It’s amazing with lamb but also great for giving chicken a meaty ‘iron’ rich boost.

Although spinach is traditional, I prefer it with the more intense flavour of kale. But any greens are good. It’s one of those dishes where the complex curry flavours satisfy the taste buds and the greens satisfy your body. So good!

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

450g (1lb) chicken thighs or breasts, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 bunches spinach or kale, washed & sliced into ribbons
4-6 tablespoons cream
natural yoghurt & chilli oil (optional), to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a large pot. Brown chicken, on a medium high heat stirring every few minutes until just cooked through. Remove and place in a clean bowl.

2. Add a little more oil to the pan and toast curry powder on a medium high heat for about 20 seconds. Add the chopped spinach / kale and a splash of water. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes until the greens are wilted down. Check and stir every few minutes and if drying out or starting to burn add more water.

3. Remove from heat and add cream. Roughly puree the greens with a stick blender or leave chunky. Taste and season with lots of salt and pepper. If you’d prefer a stronger curry flavour add more curry powder.

4. Return chicken to the pan and heat again until warmed through. Divide between two bowls and top each with a generous dollop of yoghurt and a drizzle of chilli oil (if using).

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Variations

different greens – Use whatever greens you like such as collards, silverbeet (chard), rainbow chard, beet tops,

carb lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice, warm naan bread, or steamed potatoes. Or knock yourself out and go with all three!

dairy-free – use coconut cream.

vegetarian – It’s brilliant with the Indian cheese paneer (just crumble through at the end). I’ve tried it with home made paneer and it was amazeballs, if a little time consuming. Or pan fry some halloumi and serve with. I imagine saag chickpeas or lentils would be amazing. My Irishman loves it with a handful of roasted cashews on top.

no chilli oil – use dried chilli flakes or powder or chopped fresh chilli for some visual interest and extra heat.

mild / little person-friendly – use garam masala instead of curry and skip the chilli oil.

Big love
Jules x

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—————–

ps. This is the 4th year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

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It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of not only sharing my expertise but also learning from the other contributors.

I love how there’s a different focus each month to keep me on track without feeling overwhelmed.

To find out more go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

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Veg Garden Spring 16

There are many things I love about not being pregnant. Drinking wine in the evenings with my Irishman tops the list without question. But being able to bend down in my garden is definitely up there. It’s the simple things.

Since my last edible garden update where I shared a warts-and-all ‘tour’, I’ve been spending more time tending my veg.

So things have definitely improved!

Now that Spring is in the air around here (well at least it is today, I might be lighting the fire again tomorrow), I thought I’d share how things are growing…

Veg Garden Spring 16

My Salad / Greens Garden

At the moment my main goal is to grow enough salad and greens so we don’t have to buy any. Basically because home grown greens taste so much sweeter and more alive than store-bought veg. Plus they’re more perishable so having a handy supply in the garden means I’m less likely to waste them.

To kick start my Winter garden I planted a heap of seedlings from this old guy at my farmers market. He’s a real old Aussie who calls everyone ‘mate’. I love him.

Anyway, after planting my tiny lettuces, kale, spinach and chard (silverbeet) I was feeling like a proud mamma. So you can imagine how devastated I was when I woke up to find there had been a possum attack leaving my ‘babies’ decimated.

It. was. the. last. straw.

No more Jules-nice-girl. It was time for the big guns. Enter ‘the nets’.

All I can say is ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’

Oh and ‘take that possums’.

Luckily with their new protection my seedlings (except for the Tuscan kale) recovered and we’ve had salad or greens in some form on the go. Not enough to cover all our needs but heading in the right direction.

Now there’s also some broad beans which are coming along nicely. Can’t wait to make this Addictive Broad Bean Pesto again.

I also have bok choy, more rainbow chard, rocket (arugula) and Asian salad greens in my future. Yay!

—–

Veg Garden Spring 16

My Herb Garden

So as my Dad says, ‘you wouldn’t read about it’. In my last garden update I shared my ‘crafty’ trick for out-witting the local possums in their hunt for flat leaf parsley. Basically just planting basil (which they don’t like) around the parsley. It worked for months.

BUT get this…

The very next day after publishing that blog post, I came out to find my parsley completely mauled by you-know-who. Who knew that possums read blogs? Or that they had such excellent taste to read Stonesoup?

Now that we’re netting positive, my herb garden has really come into its own.

OMG! I can’t tell you how much better food tastes with a variety of fresh herbs at my kitchen doorstep.

Ever since reading ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ I’ve dreamed of this little luxury and this year I’ve finally ‘nailed it’. I have masses of flat leaf parsley, chives, coriander (cilantro), chervil, sage, red veined sorrel, thyme and oregano. With mint and rosemary planted elsewhere.

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Spuds
Spuds

The Spuds!

One of my favourite times of the year in the garden is our annual family potato harvesting sessions. This year was especially fun because Fergal was really into it. There’s nothing like the ‘magic’ of pulling potatoes from the ground. Plus we had a surprisingly bountiful crop.

Since my boys (and man) love their spuds I decided to go ‘large’ with our potato planting this year. I’m experimenting with more exotic varieties to make it even more fun. Have planted Carlingford, Red Norland & Purple Congo (which keep their colour when cooked!).

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Veg Garden Spring 16

The NEW Strawberry Patch

Last year we had quite a few strawberries but either the birds or blue tongue lizards got to them before Fergal and I could. So this Winter we relocated the strawbs to a less lizard-infested part of the garden at the front of the house. And of course have added netting! Looking forward to some full-flavoured organic berries with lashings of double cream.

—–

Veg Garden Spring 16

My Modest ‘Orchard’

After sharing my orchard sad story last time, I’m happy to report there’s some great news this spring! My three remaining trees are all still alive AND the plum actually had blossoms recently so I’m hopeful this will mean there is some home gown fruit in my future. I have a net ready so don’t get any ideas birds of Wamboin.

From left to right there is rhubarb which you can’t really see, a Winter Nellis Pear, a Moya Plum and a Burre Bosc Pear. Oh and my favourite 3-year-old. So far so good on the growing boys project.

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Veg Garden Spring 16

Garlic City

One of my most successful crops last year was my garlic. Thankfully something neither the kangaroos nor possums enjoy.

It tasted amazing AND I got a little burst of pride every time I reached into the pantry to pull out a clove or two (or 40 for the time I made Lamb with 40 cloves of garlic!). We really loved that lamb so I planted 3 times as much this year.

Looking forward to being able to give home grown garlic as gifts in the future.

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Asparagus

An Asparagus ‘Surprise’

Vegetable gardening has an element of unpredictability that I love. Especially when you think something is completely dead only to find it reappearing months later.

Can’t tell you how excited I was to find these baby asparagus growing in with my garlic a few weeks ago. One step closer to having a huge asparagus patch.

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Veg Garden Spring 16

My Cumquat Tree

A lovely gift from my super thoughtful mother-in-law for my birthday last year, I just love this little tree. There have been ripe cumquats ready for picking for a while now, but I have been ‘saving’ them for some reason. Although now it’s starting to flower again it must be harvest time. Can decide whether I should just eat them fresh or poach them with spices.

Decisions, decisions.

____________

Do you grow your own food?

What are your latest triumphs and disasters? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

I have so much to learn!

Big love
Jules x

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ps. Looking to Simplify Your Life?

In case you missed this last week…

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

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying a different area 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/

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NOTE: ‘Early Bird’ Registration ends 13th November.

—————————–

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W3 roast mushrooms

Last weekend I was digging through the Stonesoup archives looking for a curry recipe when I was reminded of why I have a love-hate relationship with my blog comments.

I love that you, as my reader can let me know what you like or don’t. And I love being able to learn from you.

But sometimes it can be hard when you put your heart and soul into your work and someone give it the ‘thumbs down’.

Anyway, on the Vindaloo blog post as well as some instructive comments there was one saying how they didn’t understand my obsession with using 5-ingredients.

I remember at the time feeling really down about it. But after some thought I could see where they were coming from.

Why 5? Why not 6-ingredients? Or 4?

You know it’s not the exact number that matters. It’s about the principle of keeping things simple. Choosing a number just gives me a framework to create in.

And there are plenty of reasons to keep your cooking simple. Well at least some of the time ;)

4 Reasons I LOVE to Keep My Cooking Simple

1. Simple food tastes great!
I’m still amazed how delicious food can taste when you cut back on the number of ingredients and let your produce ‘speak’ (err taste?) for itself. Sure fancy restaurants meal with layers and layers of flavour are lovely, but when I’m cooking for just me, I love to ‘wow’ my taste buds with the beauty of my ingredients.

2. Simple food is easier to prepare.
A blessing for us home cooks who don’t have an army of ‘sous chefs’ to do our washing and chopping.

3. Less cleanup!
Less ingredients to put away. Less dishes to wash. Worth it for this benefit alone!

4. More flexibility.
People often say how much they love the ‘variations’ I include at the bottom of my recipes because it allows them to make changes to suit their own tastes and dietary requirements. One of the biggest reasons I can do this is the simplicity of the original recipe.

AND it’s not just in the kitchen…

As I mentioned in January, 2016 is my year of ‘Simplicity’.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy with a new baby and a 3-year-old in the house. But I have made some progress which has really been helped by following along with ‘A Simple Year each month.

Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed:
– Feeling happier.
– More time for the things that are important to me like gardening, crazy kitchen projects, reading, yoga, meditation, knitting, walking and running.
– A less cluttered, calmer house.
– Enjoying my meditation more.
– Appreciating the ‘miracle’ of my little family more. And yelling at them less (still a work in progress though!).
– More organized with my personal finances.
– Better at mindful eating = enjoying my food more and over-eating less.
– More thankful for all the good in my life.
____________

Want more simplicity?

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

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying a different area 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/

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NOTE: ‘Early Bird’ Registration ends 13th November.

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Mushroom 'Toasts'-2

Roast Mushroom ‘Toasts’

I love roasting mushrooms because it’s super easy AND you end up with the most delicious, intense, almost ‘meaty’ morsels. They’re my new favourite diabetic-friendly replacement for toast. I adore them spread with iron-rich pate as in the photo above but they’re pretty much good with any of your favourite savoury toast toppings. Think grilled cheese, tuna melts, hummus or even smashed avocado with lashings of salt and pepper.

They keep well in the fridge so I usually roast a whole batch then warm them in a frying pan or the oven as I need them for breakfasts or lunches.

enough for 3-4
takes 30 minutes

6-8 medium portabello or flat mushrooms
1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 bunch thyme (optional)

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

2. Trim mushroom stalks and place in a baking dish stem side up. Scatter with garlic, thyme (if using), salt & pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and tender.

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Variations

dairy-lovers – use butter instead of oil.

sliced – feel free to slice the mushies first. Expect the cooking time to be slightly less. And they’ll be much tricker to use as ‘toast’.

small mushrooms – button mushrooms, swiss brown or shittake can all be used. Expect the cooking time to be slightly less.

exotic mushrooms – if using oyster, enokki or other exotic mushrooms follow the same method but check much earlier.

different herbs – thyme is my go-to for mushroooms but sage or rosemary are also lovely.

Big love
Jules x

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ps. This is the 4th year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

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It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of not only sharing my expertise but also learning from the other contributors.

I love how there’s a different focus each month to keep me on track without feeling overwhelmed.

To find out more go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

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Chorizo & Kale Soup-2

The other day I was having loads of fun updating my ‘about’ page. And it occurred to me that you might not know all this stuff.

So this week I thought I’d share probably more than you want to know about the ‘brains’ behind Stonesoup.

Oh and I have an amazing soup recipe for you too!

14 Fun & Random Facts About Me

Hope this works!1. I’m addicted to home made mayo and eat it most days. Sometimes for every meal! I also love peanut butter, salad greens (a meal isn’t a meal without something green), stinky cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, butter, beets, kale, lentils, steak tartare, a good roast chook, poached eggs, chickpeas, dark chocolate and double cream.

2. I live in a beautiful part of rural Australia with my Irish husband and our two young sons. We’re between Sydney and Canberra and I feel blessed every day that we get to wake up among the gum trees, birds and kangaroos. The men in my life feel blessed we have plenty of space to grow potatoes and play our music as loud as we like.

3. I don’t believe in diets or counting calories. Because they take the pleasure out of food AND for most people they don’t work in the long term. I believe it’s much more effective to focus on building healthy habits around eating well and being active.

4. I have PCOS and Type II Diabetes. So in spite of what I said above I do (mostly) restrict my own eating to low carb / high fat to keep my blood sugar under control. It also makes me feel especially blessed to have conceived my boys naturally in my early 40s.

5. I created the White Tim Tam. The full story is that I have a degree in Food Science. My early career was in product development for large food companies like Kellogg and Arnotts (owned by Campbells). If you’re not an Aussie, Tim Tams are an iconic Australian chocolate biscuit (cookie) and definitely not diabetic-friendly!

6. I am terrified of snakes. But have somehow ended up living in an area with a large population of deadly (and aggressive) tiger snakes. I tell myself that ‘if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger’, but I still scream and run away whenever I see one.

7. I have a ‘thing’ for bacteria and yeasts. So I love making my own fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut. When I was studying food science my honours thesis was in food microbiology looking at the bacterial populations of Blue Vein and Camembert cheese – any excuse to eat more cheese!

8. I have 2 science degrees (food science and wine science). I had a brilliant time working all over the world making wine including France, California and Australia. I also learned one important lesson, making wine is hard, hard work. It’s much better to just pay someone else to make it so I can focus on the drinking part!

9. I HATE when people ask me what my last meal would be. Mostly because I don’t like thinking about not being able to eat any more and also because it’s so tough to decide! That being said, I would love my last meal to start with champagne and oysters. And possibly end with blue cheese and Château d’Yquem (dessert wine).

10. I enjoy food styling and photography and take pretty much all the photos for Stonesoup. However I’m terrible at photographing people, especially myself.

11. When asked for my ‘occupation’ on forms I usually write ‘author’ because (a.) I actually am a published author and have also written several eCookbooks. And (b) it’s much easier than having to explain the whole blogger / online cooking school creator / meal planner thing.

12. I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world including el bulli (before it closed), Noma in Copenhagen and el celler de can roca. We pretty much always plan our holidays around a restaurant reservation. Although these days with our small family that tends to be more casual day time places.

13. I have dreams of growing most of our own food. But have a very long way to go. At the moment I’m happy keeping up the supply of fresh herbs, salad greens and eggs from our chooks.

14. Did I mention how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE food? Oh, you get the picture. Good!

Still want to know more?

Inquisitive aren’t you? You can read my whole story over HERE.

_______________________________________________

Chorizo & Kale Soup

Spicy Kale & Chorizo Soup

One of my all time favourite mid-week meals is Chorizo & Kale which satisfies both my Irishman’s need for something meaty and spicy and my need for lots of greens! This soup version ticks all the same boxes while being even more comforting and satisfying.

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

2 chorizo, or other spicy sausage diced
2 bunches kale, finely sliced
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar
shaved parmesan, to serve (optional)

1. Heat a large pot on a medium high heat. Add a good glug of oil to the pan and cook chorizo, stirring every few minutes until the sausage is browned and cooked through. Remove chorizo from the pan and place in a clean bowl. Leave as much of the spicy oil as you can.

2. Add kale and stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes or until kale is wilted and tender.

3. Remove from the heat and puree soup using a stick blender.

4. Add vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

5. To serve divide soup between two bowls. Top with chorizo and parmesan (if using) and finish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace chorizo with semi dried tomatoes or char grilled red peppers and add a tablespoon of smoked paprika to the soup with the kale. You might like to serve with a poached egg for extra protein.

dairy-free / paleo – skip the parmesan or replace with sliced almonds.

different greens
– feel free to use collard greens, spinach, baby spinach, chard, rainbow chard or silverbeet instead of the kale.

no chorizo – any spicy sausage or salami will work. You could also use fresh sausage, just crumble and cook as per the recipe.

hot! – serve with a good drizzle of chilli oil.

carb-lovers / more substantial – add cooked pasta, couscous, potatoes or rice and bring back to a simmer before serving. You might like to double the amount of chorizo too. Crusty bread and butter as a side also works well.

richer – serve with a big dollop of mayo on top of the chorizo.

Big love
Jules x

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beef & broad beans

This might surprise you, but I haven’t always been a good cook.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s at university that I even began really cooking. And I wasn’t any better (or worse) than my flatmates.

I did have lots of enthusiasm and was willing to try new things. And the more I cooked, the more I enjoyed it, and the more delicious the results became.

There was one problem.

I was a slave to recipes.

While recipes were a good way to learn different techniques and ingredients, they had some frustrating limitations.

Like what happens when you can’t find a particular ingredient? And what do you do with that leftover half bunch of herbs? Or jar of sauce?

Or worse still, what do you do when you need to eat but don’t have time to search through your recipe collection and go shopping for exotic ingredients?

Over the years, with a lot of trial and error, I began to learn to cook more instinctively, on my own.

Without other people’s recipes.

Subconsciously I started thinking of recipes in general terms rather than specific ingredients and steps.

From there, I developed a collection of starting point or ‘template recipes’. So whenever I walked into the kitchen and looked into the fridge to figure out what to cook, I had a head start.

I knew what had worked before to make that soup or stir fry and could use that knowledge as a springboard for a new dish or meal.

And since then I haven’t looked back.

Would you like to learn to cook without recipes?

Then check out the final installment of my FREE training series.

The third video takes you through my ‘secret’ to cooking without recipes!

___________________________

SORRY! FREE TRAINING IS NOW CLOSED.

___________________________

With love,
Jules
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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.

___________________________

___________________________

SORRY! FREE TRAINING IS NOW CLOSED.

___________________________

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.

___________________________

________

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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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.

________________________________

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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