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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…

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

————————

Chinese Beef Cheeks

Chinese Beef Cheeks

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

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

enough for 4
takes 6-12 hours

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

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

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

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

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Variations

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

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

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

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

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

Big love
Jules x

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ps. How do you feel about this?

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

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Pork & Fennel Burgers-2

Life is good at the moment.

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

Spring is in the air.

AND I’m working on an exciting new project.

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

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

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

——

Pork & Fennel Burgers

Pork & Fennel Burgers

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

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Variations

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

vegetarian – add fennel seeds to these chickpea burgers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

more veg – serve with a green salad.

Big love and THANKS!
Jules x

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

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

It won’t take long. I promise!

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Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel-3

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

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

But before I get to that…

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

Anyway back to ‘healthy’.

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

We all have our individual biochemical quirks.

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

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

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

What ‘healthy’ means to me

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

BUT!

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

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

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

Now over to you…

What does healthy mean to you?

I’d love to hear in the comments below…

—————

Need some help with eating more healthfully?

Well you’re in luck!

HMM2013 square logo large

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

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

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

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

Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.

—————

Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel-2

Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel

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

enough for: 2
takes: 60 minutes

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

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

2. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes.

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

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

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Variations

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

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

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

herby – toss in a few springs of thyme.

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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

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

Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.

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Kale Caesar Salad-2

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

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

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

Give up?

OK, my ‘secret’ was habits.

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

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

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

‘Which habits Jules?’

Am I a mind reader or what? ;)

My Top 5 Healthy Eating Habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple and soo effective!

Need some help with your healthy food habits?

Well you’re in luck!

HMM2013 square logo large

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

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

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

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

Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.

—————

Kale Caesar Salad

Kale Caesar Salad

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

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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Variations

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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

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

Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.

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Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

There aren’t many things that make me angry.  

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

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

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

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

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

There are two reasons…

1. It’s just plain wrong.

Sugar is sugar.

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

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

2. It gives people a false sense of security.

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

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

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

You know where this is heading right?

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

So what sweeteners do I use?

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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

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Low Carb Chocolate Puddings-2

Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

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

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

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

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

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

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

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

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

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Variations


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

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

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

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

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

hazelnut – replace almond meal with hazelnut meal.

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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Meaty Beans-2

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

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

Yikes!

What do you do?

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

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

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

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

3 Easy Steps to Substituting Ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So back to our salmon salad example…

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

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

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

Acid / lemon juice alternatives? Lime juice, vinegar.

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

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

Still not convinced you can substitute?

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

There’s another alternative!

ingredient thesaurus logo

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

Soupstones banner logo

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

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Meaty Beans

Meaty Beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Variations

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

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

hot! – add fresh or dried chilli.

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

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

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

richer – add a few tablespoons butter with the paprika.

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

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


Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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Asian 'Spag Bol'

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

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

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

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

So how did this all come about?

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

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

Her answer surprised me.

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

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

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

Sound good?

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

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

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

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Asian 'Spag Bol'-2

Asian ‘Spag Bol’

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

takes: 20 minutes
enough for: 2

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

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

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

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

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

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Variations

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

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

sugar-free – use soy sauce not oyster.

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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