≡ Menu

shashuska

This week I have something a little different for you!

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

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

Hi Jules,

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

This was no exception.

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

The end result was amazing!

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

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

shashuska

Shakshuka

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


enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

Variations

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

carnivore – add chorizo or spicy sausage with the peppers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

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

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

Share your answer in the comments below.

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

Entries close: 24th June 2016.

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

Share
{ 58 comments }

1-Dish Ratatouille

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

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

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

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

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

At first I dismissed the idea.

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

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

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

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

I haven’t looked back.

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

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

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

That really was key.

Which begs the question…

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 2.20.54 PM

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

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

NOTE: Registration for ends 23rd June.

___________________

1-Dish Ratatouille-2

Easy 1-Dish Ratatouille

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

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

Enough for 2
Takes: an hour

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

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

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

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

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

Print Friendly

Variations

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

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

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

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

Registration ENDS 21st June.

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

Share
{ 3 comments }

Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-2

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

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

But want to know the good news?

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

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

2 Easy Ways to Simplify Any Recipe

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

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

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

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

Stonesoup Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

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

What have I done?

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

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

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

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

Want more simplicity?

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 2.20.54 PM

NOTE: Registration closes June 23rd 2016.

Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-3

Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

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

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

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 30 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

Print Friendly

Variations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. Registration for Simple Year closes June 23rd.

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

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

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

Share
{ 6 comments }

canberra

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

Well the other day this happened once again…

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

Yay!

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

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

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

Last Updated: June 2016

How to Spend 48 hours Eating & Drinking in Canberra

DAY 1. BREAKFAST Mocan & Green Grout

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

DAY 1. LUNCH Grease Monkey

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

DAY 1. DINNER Temporada

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

DAY 2. BREAKFAST Barrio Coffee Collective

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

DAY 2. LUNCH Eightysix

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

DAY 2. DINNER Monster at Hotel Hotel

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

If you have more time try

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to stay

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

On my list but haven’t been (yet!)…

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

Lilotang – modern Asian.

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

Walt & Burley – newish gastropub on the Kingston foreshore.

For more cities:

See the Stonesoup Guide to Tasty Travel.

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

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 10 comments }

Super Easy Moussaka

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

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

Hey Jules,

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

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

I chickened out.

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

Bella

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

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

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

So it’s time we changed that!

Here’s what you need to know.

The Stonesoup Guide to Oven Temperatures

Things cook faster at higher temps.

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

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

Not a good look.

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

Most savoury dishes are flexible with temp.

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

Most sweet baked goods aren’t so flexible.

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

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

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

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

Generally fan assisted ovens will cook quicker.

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

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

Some ovens are fast and some are slow.

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

Use the middle shelf when baking.

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

Oven thermometers aren’t worth it.

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

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

How to cook 2 things with different temps

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

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

Too easy!

My Favourite Oven Temps.

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

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

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

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

Did you find this helpful?

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


Super Easy Moussaka-2

Seriously Easy Moussaka

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

enough for 3-4
takes an hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Print Friendly

Variations

vegetarian – replace beef with cooked lentils or beans.

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

vegan – combine the vegetarian and dairy-free options.

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.
Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 25 comments }

Green Spaghetti & Meatballs-2

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

Go the Irish Brennan sleeping genes!

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

It really is the little things.

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

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

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

3 Strategies to Pull Meals Together Quickly

1. simple recipes

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

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

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

2. cooking meals in advance

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

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

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

3. Prepping ingredients

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

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

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

What’s not to love about that?

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

—-
Green Spaghetti & Meatballs

Green ‘Spaghetti’ & Meatballs

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

enough for 2-3
takes 30 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Print Friendly

Variations

vegetarian – use these lentil balls.

dairy-free – use dairy-free pesto.

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

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

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 4 comments }

bunch of cavalo nero kale

I can’t really pin point when the change started to take place…

But the truth is I haven’t always been an organized person. No one has ever accused me of being ‘obsessed with cleanliness’.

I remember one of my friends mother coming to visit our share house in Surry Hills when I was working in my first ‘real job’ in product development for Kellogg. She told me she was amazed how I could look so well ‘put together’ considering the state of my room.

At the time I remember thinking ‘whatever‘.

But now I get it.

These days I’m pretty organized.

For me I’ve learned that outer chaos creates inner chaos. I actually prefer to keep things organized because it…

a. Makes me feel better.
b. Makes life easier.
c. Saves me time later on.
d. Makes me feel like a real grown up.

So today I thought I’d share some of my secrets that have really helped me get ‘on top of things’ in the kitchen (and other areas) even though I’m not a natural organized freak..

3 Secrets to Being Organized in the Kitchen.

1. Habits.

The older I get the more I appreciate the power of habits for putting healthy eating (and other aspects of life) on autopilot. Habits make all the difference especially for people like me who aren’t naturally into alphabetizing their spices and the like.

The critical habits for keeping my kitchen organized include:
– My weekly shopping habit
– Putting away the shopping as soon as I get home
– Sharpening my knives every Sunday
– Keeping a running shopping list on my phone
– Cleaning up after every meal (a new one I’m working on)
– Prepping ingredients on the weekend (see below).

2. Outsourcing.

Although I love living in a clean house, I still hate to clean. This is where outsourcing is my best friend.

On a daily basis I have a deal with my Irishman that if I stack the dishwasher he wipes down the benches. It’s a small thing but makes a huge difference.

Then I have my cleaning man, Terry, who looks after the big ticket cleaning projects like floors and bathrooms etc. Terry is the best. He even comes with endless stories about his teenage daughter and his ‘bitches’ (show dogs that is).

3. Prepping Ingredients

Now that I have two little ones, dinner time really has become a bit of a rush. Every day I’m thankful I’ve spent all these years focusing on simple 5-ingredient recipes that don’t take much time.

But the other practice that’s saved my life (and sanity) more times than I can count is prepping ingredients in advance.

I love this because it makes it super easy to be able to look in the fridge and throw together a healthy tasty meal in almost no time. But unlike cooking whole meals ahead of time I’m not ‘locked in’ to eating a particular dish. So there’s still plenty of flexibility to save us from feeling bored.

Plus! generally prepping ingredients generally increases their life span which means less waste. Bonus!

—-

easy duck ragu-2

Rosemary & Garlic Kale

I’ve called this recipe garlic & rosemary kale but I could just have easily gone for ‘greens’ in the title. Really any greens will work well. So feel free to mix it up with spinach, chard (silverbeet), rainbow chard or collards.

This is my current favourite way to serve kale. I love how the strong flavours of the rosemary especially compliment the intensity of the kale. One thing to remember if you find kale too bitter, seasoning with lots of salt helps to balance out / mask bitterness (and why salted dark chocolate can taste sweeter than regular… but that’s a whole other blog post!).


Enough for 2 as a side
Takes 15 minutes

1 large bunch kale
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 stalks rosemary, leaves picked

1. Wash kale. Don’t dry as the water will help it steam. Cut into ribbons about 2cm (1in) or finer across the stem.

2. Heat a generous glug of olive oil on a medium heat in a largish saucepan. Add kale, garlic, rosemary and a few tablespoons water to the pot. Cover and cook stirring every few minutes until the kale has wilted down. Will take about 5 minutes. If it starts to burn or is taking too long add a little more water to help make more steam.

3. Remove from the heat and season generously with salt and pepper. See below for usage / serving ideas.

Print Friendly

Usage Suggestions

as a side – serve as a warm alternative anywhere you’d normally use a green salad.

for breakkie – top with poached eggs and some mayo.

in soup – toss in the cooked greens just before serving.

instead of pasta – serve your favourite bolognese or ragu on a big bed of this tasty kale instead of heavy old pasta.

with pasta – toss in cooked pasta and serve with lashings of grated Parmesan.

with legumes – toss in your favourite cooked lentils, beans or chickpeas for a more substantial meal. Finish with some roasted nuts or grated cheese.

fishy – toss in drained canned fish such as sardines, tuna or salmon. Or serve as a side to pan fried or BBQ fish steaks. A little lemon will help.

carnivore – toss in some cooked sausages, chorizo or crispy bacon. Or serve as a side with roast meat or a steak and some mayo.

Variations

different greens – will work with pretty much any greens such as spinach, baby spinach, chard (silverbeet), collard greens, beet tops.

carnivore – serve kale as a side to chicken or a steak.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in cooked pasta, quinoa or brown rice.

different herbs – thyme or sage also work well.

lemony – toss in some lemon juice at the end.

no garlic – just skip it. I often do!

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 4 comments }

Cheesey Cauli Mash

It can be heart breaking. I know. You’ve slaved away to make a beautiful, healthy meal. Poured your heart and soul into it.

And it gets left on the plate. Usually with a disdainful look.

Mothers of small children are probably the most familiar with this unpleasant scenario. As I (unfortunately) know only too well these days with an almost-3-year old in the house.

Sometimes I wish I was one of those parents talking about how their child loves olives and broccoli and kale and chilli and anchovies. But then Fergal wouldn’t be the Fergal I know and love. And I wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity to (hopefully) help him learn to love a bigger variety of food.

Plus fussy eaters can come in all shapes and sizes so if you have a larger one on your hands these tips are for you too!

4 Tips for Coping with Fussy Eaters

1. Try to see it from their perspective.

Our tastebuds and eating history are all different. So it’s super important to remember that what you experience when you pop that delicious broccoli in your mouth isn’t the same for others. You can’t know what it’s like for them so keep the judgement out of the equation.

2. Take the pressure off yourself.

One of my playgroup friends told me about a book that really helped her family. And mine. Basically the deal is that as the cook it’s your job to put appropriate food on the table.

And that’s it.

It’s then up to your eater (and his / her tummy) to decide how much of this to actually eat.

I’ve found this mindset shift super helpful. Because it’s no longer my responsibility to ‘get’ Fergal to eat his dinner. So I don’t stress if he leaves the table with an empty stomach. It’s his call.

Of course, you know that toddlers are super smart and as soon as you stop trying to ‘get them’ to do something they’re waay more likely to do it themselves.

3. Cook in bulk.

I have a dream that we sit down to eat the same thing as a family every night. But reality is Fergal has his dinner at 6 and my Irishman and I eat after the boys are in bed. At this point Fergal is a tiny carb-lover whereas we’re the opposite so a one-size-suits-everyone meal isn’t happening.

Rather than cook two meals every night I’ve found cooking in bulk to be key!

If I cook a special meal for Fergal like his favourite Egg Fried Rice I make 2 or more servings for lunch or another dinner. Most nights I try and just add carbs to whatever we are having. Again cooking in bulk really helps so I have a supply of cooked rice, quinoa, pasta, spuds or sweet potato to just heat and serve during the dinner scramble.

4. Keep trying.

As Winston Churchill said,

‘Never give in – never, never, never, never.’

Just keep offering a variety of food. The thing to remember is it can take eight or so exposures before we enjoy some ingredients so persistence is required!

For more on this I recommend reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s book ‘The Man Who Ate Everything’ where he tells the story of his quest to overcome all his food dislikes.

—–
Cheesey Cauli Mash-2

Cheesey Cauli Mash

Cauliflower is one of my favourite veg because it’s so versatile not to mention delicious! I also love it for fussy eaters because it’s super nutritious without any off putting green colour. Too good!

enough for 2 as a side
takes 15 minutes

1/2 cauli chopped into chunks
2 handfuls grated cheese
4-6 tablespoons cream or butter

1. Place cauli in a pot with about an inch (2.5cm) water. Bring to the boil and then simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes or until cauli is no longer crunchy.

2. Drain well and return cauliflower to the hot pan. Add cheese and cream or butter and whizz using a stick blender or potato masher until you’re happy with the texture.

3. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Print Friendly

Variations

dairy-free / vegan – use olive oil or coconut oil. Skip the cheese or add a few handfuls cashews or pinenuts to the pot for the last few minutes or cooking. A few teaspoons of nutritional yeast can help boost the cheesy flavours.

different cheese – most hard cheese will work like cheddar, parmesan, Gruyere or Emmental.

different veg – try broccoli, celeriac (celery root), parsnip, sweet potato or of course good old spuds! Or a mix of any of the above.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. Do you have any fussy eaters in your house?
I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Especially any tips that have worked for you!

Share
{ 29 comments }

Fermented Chilli Sauce

This is a little weird. But I feel compelled to share it with you anyway…

I love microbes.

Yep. Bacteria, yeasts and fungi have fascinated me ever since I learned about them in science class. (My favourite subject btw… I know I am a freak).

There’s something about these microscopic fellas that that really capture my imagination. 

And more importantly my taste buds!

So you won’t be surprised that I chose to major in food microbiology when I was doing my food science degree. And that my honours thesis investigated the changes in the bacterial populations of blue vein and Camembert cheeses as they age.

Oh and did I mention I also had a career as a wine maker?

Yes. Obsessed.

You know those ‘anti bacterial’ cleaning products and hand sanitizers. I HATE them. Just because there are a few ‘bad egg’ species doesn’t mean we should be eradicating a whole form of life.

Calm down Jules.

So before I start going on a rant that would make my Dad proud (He loves them too. More than me even. He once stopped showering because he wanted to cultivate his ‘beneficial bacteria’).

But I digress.

Today I m sharing why I love fermented foods, how you can incorporate them in your diet AND the recipe for my fermented chilli hot sauce!

4 Reasons I LOVE Fermented Foods

1. They’re delicious!

Cheese, wine, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi… And chocolate! Need I say more.

2. They’re (mostly) easy to digest.

Basically during fermentation bacteria and fungi start digesting food for us. For example in yoghurt making lactic acid bacteria  turn lactose into lactic acid. And for miso paste fungi and bacteria digest soy protein to make it easier for us to use (and much more delicious!)

3. They’re a great source of probiotics.

Probiotics are microbes which result in some benefit when we eat them. Typically they’re live cultures of lactic acid bacteria.

According to Sandor Katz in ‘The Art of Fermentation’ There are many health benefits linked with probiotics. My favourites include preventing colds, preventing respiratory tract infections, improved liver function and preventing cancers. For more on this (including citations of scientific studies see Katz’s book).

4. They’re an easy way to eat more veg!

Well fermented vegetables are at least. I love just grabbing a jar from the fridge and plonking it on the table for an instant extra serve of veg.

How to easily include fermented foods in your meals

You probably don’t need me to tell you how to eat yoghurt or cheese. Or chocolate or wine for that matter. So I’ll share my fave ways to eat fermented vegetables…

Temperature matters!

The major thing to consider is heating above 115F (47C) will kill the live bacteria so best to serve chilled or at room temp. 

A little goes a long way.

Fermented veg pack a big flavour punch and they do provide a decent amount of salt so I wouldn’t want to sit down to a whole bowl of kimchi or ‘kraut. Better to use more as a condiment or side dish.

For breakfast:

My go-to is with poached eggs, salad leaves and a slather of home made mayo.

For lunch:

Add a few spoonfuls to a salad or your leftovers from the night before. Also great with natural yoghurt for a savoury twist.

For dinner:

Plonk your jar in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. You’d be surprised how well some fermented veg can add zing to pretty much any meal.

For dessert:

Just kidding! Even I’m not crazy enough to suggest fermented veg with ice cream or chocolate ;)

Want more?

For more recipe ideas check out:
My Yoghurt recipe
My Sauerkraut recipe
My Fermented Veg recipe

For more reading inspiration, I highly recommend:
‘The Art of Fermentation’ by Sandor Katz
‘The Good Gut’ by Justin & Erica Sonnenberg
‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson (for more easy ferment recipes)
—-

Fermented Chilli Sauce-2

Fermented Chilli Hot Sauce

My Irishman loved his hot sauces and is always bringing new ones into the house. The ingredients lists on some of these things makes me feel ill just thinking about them. Artificial colours anyone?

This sauce is a vibrant red. And I just love the fresh fiery flavours. Of course the heat level is all about the type of chilli you use (always a moving target!).

makes about 2 cups
takes 15 minutes + fermenting time

500g (1lb) large red chillies, halved
5g (1 teaspoon) fine salt
1/2 cup water

1. Whizz chillies, salt and water in your food processor until you have a chunky paste. 

2. Transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover with a lid and leave on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight. I put mine on a plate to catch any spills if it overflows.

3. Leave for 2-5 days until the sauce tastes as tangy as you want. It’s a good idea to open the jars every day to release any gas buildup.

4. When you’re happy it’s good to eat.

5. Will keep in the fridge for a few months.

Print Friendly

Variations

green – use green chillies!

mild – deseed the chillies or use mild ones

hot! – use some super hot chillies like habanero or Thai birds eye.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. Which camp do you fall into? Bacteria lover or anti? And would you like to see more recipes for fermented foods? Let me know in the comments below!

Share
{ 69 comments }

kale 'cabonara'

This topic might seem a little hypocritical, given that one of my most successful products is a meal planning service where I supply recipes and shopping lists each week. But here’s the thing, while this detailed plan-in-advance approach is brilliant for some people, it doesn’t work for everyone.

I know because I’m one of those people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve used my Soupstones meal plans many times and have really loved not having to ‘think’ about dinner. But after a week or so, I start to get ‘itchy feet’, so to speak.

So if you’re like me, and the idea of committing to a meal plan makes you feel too constrained, then listen up because I have a treat for you!

But before we get to that, lets look at the reasons why you’re right to ditch conventional meal planning ‘wisdom’.

5 Reasons Meal Plans Don’t Work

1. It’s almost impossible to predict what you’ll feel like.
It could be that the weather turns unpredictably cold and you feel like something warming and comforting rather than the light salad you had planned. Or maybe your day ends up dragging on forever and the last thing you feel like when you get home is spending the time required to prepare the meal in your ‘plan’.

2. Your schedule is probably going to change.
Modern life can be unpredictable. It’s far more likely that something will come up. Given this variability, isn’t it a little bit too much to ask that we plan in advance when we know the plan is probably going to change anyway?

3. Planning in advance take a lot of time.
I know, because I used to spend a few hours every week, looking through my cookbooks and magazines and writing detailed lists. And then there was the time spent gathering my exotic ingredients.

4. It can lead to a lot of waste.
There are a few components to this. It could be your plans change so you don’t get to cook the ingredients you have and they go bad. Then there are the leftover bits of ingredients that were purchased for a specific recipe that are tricky to ‘use up’.

5. It stifles creativity.
This is the bit that I really find problematic! Traditional meal planning and shopping with a list limits your ability to choose your produce based on what looks best on the day. It also limits your options of what to cook, rather than having the fun of cooking something based on what you have in the fridge or pantry.

What if there was another way to approach meal planning?

Well the good news is there is!

You just need to learn how to ‘reverse’ the process.

It may sound scary, but in fact it’s a really liberating way of approaching meal planning. Much quicker and easier than traditional meal planning.

Over the last few years, I’ve been teaching students at my Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School how to ‘reverse’ their meal planning with my 2-Minute Meal Plan System.

When I asked my students whether they have been able to achieve the results they were hoping for with this new meal plan system, the overwhelming majority answered ‘Yes!’.

So how does the 2-Minute Meal Plan work?

Basically there are two key components…

2 Keys to the 2-Minute Meal Plan System:

1. A super simple ‘formula’ to help you figure out how much food you’ll need to buy.
The formula I’ve developed is really quick and easy to work out. If you can count, you’ll be able to do this in your head.

It tells you how many types of protein (or main events) and vegetables to buy. This gives you the freedom to shop for what looks best, rather than having a rigid list.

The formula helps get the quantity right so you don’t end up with more than you need. While still giving you as much flexibility as you need. If you’d prefer to have a few specific recipes in mind before you shop, the formula will help with that as well.

2. The collection of ‘template’ recipes.
These help you learn to cook based on the ingredients you have on hand. Freeing you from the constraints of traditional recipes.

It includes general templates for how to make different classic dishes. For example a great stir fry, a quick soup or a fragrant curry. Each template comes with suggestions for variations so you’ll be able to adapt them to the ingredients on hand. It’s a way to learn to cook more creatively, while still having a basic recipe to follow.

Ready to reverse YOUR meal planning process?

2MMP 3D Cover

Well you’re in luck!

I’ve packaged up the 2-Minute Meal Plan System into a simple eCookbook.

For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. Not sure if the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ can help YOU?

Here’s what Rellie and Juliana have said about it…

Your book has changed my life! I LOVE it! I am the crappiest cook ever but my confidence has soared (as have the amount of meals my family actually eat!) It is so simple and easy to follow.”
Rellie, 2MMP owner

“Brilliant book. The title doesn’t quite do the book justice. I know how to cook, I know how to shop, I know how to plan…I didn’t really NEED your book, but I love it! There is something fresh about this book. The template recipes are us such a nice change from a regular cook book. Thank you and keep up the good work.”
Juliana, 2MMP owner

pps. Here’s the link again:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

Share
{ 3 comments }

Ihad a lot of internal struggle about writing this blog post. Normally I’m not a ‘warts-and-all’ type of girl.

While I’m not exactly a perfectionist, I do like to have things at least presentable before sharing with the world.

But then it occurred to me that we can all learn something from my incredibly neglected veggie garden… Which edible plants are pretty much indestructible. The food that can survive the last few months of my heavily pregnant / bringing a newborn home life.

So here we go. I hope you find this helpful!

————
Veg garden April 16

Summer Salad Garden

Apart from herbs, my number 1 priority in veg gardening is to keep us well supplied with organic salad leaves. This is because buying leaves is expensive and they tend to be very perishable. Plus a green salad is my ‘go-to’ accompaniment to any meal.

Last year my salad leaves really struggled in the searing heat, so this year I put in a new little bed in a nice shady spot on the Eastern side of the house. Since Finbar was born it’s been completely neglected and over grown with rocket (arugula) going to seed. But over the Summer this little plot kept our salad bowl filled with butter lettuce, cos lettuce and rocket (arugula).

————
Veg garden April 16

Abandoned Berry Patch

Ever since tasting my mum’s strawberries I’ve dreamed of having a berry patch of my own. One of my first garden projects was to plant multiple varieties of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in this corner patch near our front door.

This year we had heaps of strawberries but unfortunately the birds and/or shingle back lizards got to them before Fergal and I had a chance.

Since water was scarce this Summer I turned off the irrigation which meant the raspberries and blackberries dried on the vine. Need to rethink my berry patch dreams and definitely include some bird netting!

————
Veg garden April 16

Kitchen Herb Garden

We had another bumper basil crop this year so I’ve stocked the freezer with ziplock bags full of my Sicilian Nut Pesto which is dairy free. This bed also has thyme, tarragon and chives from last year.

I’ve also got a healthy stash of lemongrass which I grew from seed (proud gardening moment!). Very excited about using this in Thai inspired dishes and as fragrant skewers for kebabs.

My other ‘win’ in this garden bed is my flat leaf parsley.

The possums and I have been waging war over parsley ever since we moved into this house. It’s their favourite thing to eat. I wish I could say I’ve been winning but the truth is the possums have been ‘whipping my ass’… Until now.

I noticed last Summer that they left my basil alone so this year I planted my parley within a barricade of basil.

Finally a win for me! Take that possums.

The only problem is the basil is going to die off as soon as we have a frost so need to come up with a plan B for my parsley ASAP. Wondering if sorrel will work?

Not so successful was the sage and oregano I transplanted from another part of the garden. You can’t really see in the picture but they are well and truly dead. Will have to buy new pots of these.

————
Veg garden April 16

Main Veggie Bed

My vision for this bed was to have masses of tomatoes, chillies and eggplant. I also planted some watermelon which I grew from seed from the melon one of our playgroup friends (thanks Linda!).

I also thought I’d have an experiment to see how tomatoes go if the aren’t staked. Not a good idea.

We ate a few super sweet cherry tomatoes. But the rest became fodder for a huge variety of birds my arch enemies, the possums. I did try to beat them to the punch by making a salad of green tomatoes but it wasn’t one of my finest culinary moments.

On the up side, having all the different birds eating the tomatoes has made for interesting viewing as Finbar and I have been sitting on the couch breast feeding!

And by now you can guess who mauled my beautiful glossy eggplant and my lone little watermelon.

The few chilli plants that survived did well. Now I just need to transplant them into pots so they can hopefully survive the Winter in my little greenhouse.

My next garden job is to plant this bed to winter greens and salad.

————
Veg garden April 16

New Veggie Beds

Fergal and I spent most of last Autumn and Winter moving rocks and digging for two new terraced garden beds. They were a brilliant source of salad and greens during the Spring and early Summer.

And the spuds which we harvested at Easter were a success!

I have a bit of a paranoia that we are about to enter an extreme drought like the one from my childhood in the 80s. So I’ve been buying water for the garden to save our rainwater for the house. Of course, buying water to grow veggies isn’t economically the smartest move so I decided to stop irrigating these beds once the potatoes had died off.

Needless to say my zucchini, delicata squash, spaghetti squash and salad in these beds died off.

Not sure what my next move will be for these new beds. Thinking I might wait until the Spring when Finbar is older (and I have more time).

————
Veg garden April 16

The Sad Story of my Orchard

Actually this could be a whole blog post on it’s own. But to cut a long story short, last Winter I planted about 18 fruit trees in a boggy patch I’ve been grandly calling my ‘orchard’.

As I now know, heavy clay soils aren’t idea for fruit trees so most of them hardly grew at all. Then in a cruel twist of fate the ones that did survive were eaten by kangaroos.

I know.

Anyway my plan to overcome the clay problem is to replant the trees into raised beds which will also hopefully keep the ‘roos at bay. Longer term I’ll need to net them from the birds which will also help with the kangaroos if the raised beds aren’t enough to keep them away.

All very expensive.

So I thought I’d plant the few trees that did survive into some raised beds near the house to wait until I’ve saved enough money to fulfill my grand orchard dreams. I’m now down to three survivors. A plum and two pears.

————
Veg garden April 16

Trees in Pots

To end on a happier note, I have three healthy trees in pots along the north side (that’s the sunny side down here for you Northern hemisphere readers) of the house.

The closest one in the photo is a super healthy bay leaf tree that I’ve had since the 90s. It’s traveled with me from Sydney to Adelaide to the Barossa Valley back to Sydney then to Cooma and now here in Wamboin. We’ve come a long long way together.

The next skinny tree is a Meyer lemon my Irishman’s folks gave us last year as a wedding anniversary present. It doesn’t look like much but the first lemons we picked a few weeks ago are phenomenal. So fragrant and lemony.

The next tree along is a cumquat. Another gift from Glen’s parents which has masses of baby cumquats on it. Can’t wait for them to ripen!

What about you?

Let me know if you’d like to see more posts on my journey to become a better gardener. And if you have any tips for minimal effort gardening, I’m all ears! Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. If you’d like to see my edible garden in a healthier state check out this post I wrote last year.

Share
{ 84 comments }

Shichimi Togarashi Beef

So I have a little confession… After simplifying my spice collection a few years ago, I’ve fallen off the simplicity wagon, so to speak.

Yep a quick look in my spice box and you’ll see all sorts of things in there.

But it’s not all bad news.

A few months ago my Irishman, Fergal and I were having breakkie at Barrio, one of our fave cafes in Canberra. My Irishman ordered the Togarashi on Toast and was quickly raving about it.

Which reminded me. Did’t I have some Shicimi Togarashi, in my collection.

When we got home I delved into my trusty spice box and there it was. We immediately started experimenting and fell in love. Actually truth be told my Irishman fell even more in love than me so I got him a huge bag for his birthday a few months ago.

What is Shicimi Togarashi?

It’s a spicy Japanese spice blend usually used as a sprinkle to season food instead of salt and pepper.

The ingredients can vary but my favourite one from Herbies Spices in Sydney lists the following ingredients: sea salt, chilli, white poppy seeds, golden and black sesame seeds, orange peel, mustard, sichuan pepper and lemon myrtle.

6 Tasty Ideas for Shicimi Togarashi

1. With avocado.
The obvious is on avo toast but basically anywhere avocado goes, Shicimi Togarashi will work. Think salads or even a Japanese take on guacamole.

2. With Eggs.
Poached, scrambled or fried or even on an omelette, a little sprinkling of Shicimi Togarashi instead of black pepper will really bring your eggs to life.

3. On Chicken.
Roast or pan fry any cut of chicken and serve with lashings of Shicimi Togarashi.

4. With Fish and Seafood.
Again, I prefer to sprinkle on after cooking so you keep all the vibrant fresh flavours. Or better yet serve with finely sliced sashimi or sushi.

5. With Red Meat.
See the recipe below for a stir fry idea but it’s also a great way to jazz up a grilled steak or lamb chop.

6. With Nuts.
One of my Irishmnan’s favourite salty snacks at the moment is to toss some with roasted peanuts. Super tasty!

Substitutes for Shicimi Togarashi

You could try making your own by mixing some chilli powder with sesame seeds and a little orange zest. But really chilli powder or flakes on their own with a little sea salt will do. It just won’t have the fragrance and depth of flavour.
——

Shichimi Togarashi Beef-2

Shichimi Togarashi Beef

Since Finbar was born we’ve been having a stir fry renaissance around here because they tick the key boxes of quick, healthy and tasty. So of course I couldn’t resist experimenting with my new fave spice in stir fry form!

Minced or ground beef is my first choice because it’s so quick to cook but this will work with plenty of other protein sources… See the variations below for ideas. 

Enough for: 2
Takes: 15 minutes

2 bunches bok choy, chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons shichimi togarashi, + extra to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan and cook bok choy, stirring frequently until just wilted but still crunchy. Remove from the wok / pan and pop in a clean bowl.

2. Heat a little more oil on a very high heat and cook beef, again stirring frequently until browned and no longer pink.

3. Return bok choy to the pan. Add soy sauce and stir well. Taste and add more soy if needed, remembering the togarashi will also add some salt.

4. To serve divide between two bowls and sprinkle over shichimi togarashi. Serve extra togarashi on the side.

Print Friendly

Variations

different protein – chicken thighs or breast, steak, beef strips, pork, white fish fillets,  squid or prawns (shrimp).

vegan – stir fry bok choy (with extra veg if you like) and serve with chunks of avocado and togarashi on top plus a few handfuls cashews or other nuts for extra protein.

vegetarian – serve bok choy and togarashi with fried or poached eggs on top. Or cook an omelette in the wok and serve that. 

soy-free – use fish sauce or coconut aminos instead. Oyster sauce will also work.

no togarashi? – oh no! It’s worth ordering some online or heading to a spice specialist or Japanese grocery. But failing all that just use a little dried chilli.

more flavour – add some finely chopped garlic and/or ginger to the beef.

more substantial/ carb lovers – serve with steamed rice or your fave cooked noodles. You could also serve with chunks of avocado or do as my Irishman does and sprinkle over some roasted cashews.

more veg – add you fave chopped stir fry veg to the bok choy like carrot, snow peas, red bell peppers (capsicum), zucchini, broccoli, or Chinese broccoli.


Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 11 comments }

Anti-Cramp Salmon-2

The worst ones for me happen in the middle of the night. I wake up feeling panicked. All focus on my leg.

Cramp!

As Fergal would say… Ouchies!

No fun at all. 

But the good news is there’s something you can do to reduce the likelihood of cramps…

Eat. More. Magnesium.

Normally I’m not a fan of the nutritionist approach to thinking about food in terms of nutrients. Like counting calories it takes the joy out of eating. I prefer to focus on getting as much variety as I can from whole foods. So much easier and more delicious!

But I do have 2 exceptions. Iron and magnesium. 

As I wrote recently, when I’m feeling tired (especially during pregnancy), I find upping my intake of iron rich foods makes an amazing difference.

The second exception is, you guessed it, magnesium for cramps.

So what are the best food sources of magnesium?

1. Cocoa Powder or Dark Chocolate.

By far the best source. Ever wondered why women tend to crave chocolate at that time of the month?

To be honest this is my go-to when cramps are getting to me. I just have a square of dark chocolate (90% cocoa solids) after dinner. 

2. Seeds and Nuts.

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are the best. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, pinenuts, cashews and sesame seeds are also good.

3. Fish.

Especially oily fish like salmon and mackerel.

4. Leafy Greens.

Is there anything leafy greens can’t do? Think spinach, chard, silverbeet and kale.

5. Others.

See this list for other sources.

Which brings me to this weeks recipe!

I thought it would be fun to create a meal focused on magnesium rich ingredients. And so we have my Anti-Cramp Salmon! Just follow with some dark chocolate or hot cocoa to get the maximum effect…

—–

Anti-Cramp Salmon

Anti-Cramp Salmon

The name of this dish doesn’t do it justice. I love how the tahini and lemon juice make an instant tasty sauce for the fish. And how the pepitas provide crunch and some pretty visual interest.

I also love cooking fish this way because you don’t have to think (as long as you remember to set your timer!) and it avoids your kitchen smelling fishy.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 salmon fillets
1 bag baby spinach
4-6 tablespoons tahini
handful pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 lemons, halved

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F). Place salmon in an oven proof dish or tray and  roast for 10 minutes or until cooked to your liking.

2. Serve salmon on a bed of baby spinach. Drizzle with tahini and scatter over pepitas and finish with lots of sea salt and black pepper. Serve lemon on the side.

Print Friendly

Variation

vegetarian / vegan – replace salmon with cooked or canned black eye peas, beans, chickpeas or lentils warmed in a little olive oil.

seed-free – replace tahini with a drizzle of tangy natural yoghurt (preferably Greek style) and replace pepitas with some chopped red peppers or pomegranate seeds.

no oven – just pan fry the fish in a little oil. About 4 mins each side on a medium high heat.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in some cooked brown rice, quinoa, couscous, barley or buckwheat with the spinach.

more veg – serve with grilled veg such as zucchini, eggplant and/or red peppers. Or some sauerkraut on the side.

carnivore – replace salmon with chicken thighs or pork chops. Adjust cooking time as needed.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
(From finally my baby sleeps land!)
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. I’m really interested to know…
How do you approach healthy eating? Do you focus on specific nutrients or calories? Or do you try eating for variety? Or real / whole food? Share your approach in the comments below.

Share
{ 15 comments }

Egg Noodle Pad Thai

Want to know the most stressful thing that happened to me during my recent pregnancy? Being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes.

Of course, like most things in life that feel like the ‘end of the world’ at the time, it turned out to be a HUGE blessing. On three levels.

First, it’s forced me to overcome my fear of needles. Testing your blood sugar 4 times a day will do that.

Second, it helped me understand why I gained a crazy amount of weight during my first pregnancy. (Hello 20kg / 40lb) So much that I had lots of strangers asking me if I was having twins towards the end.

Third, it really gave me a first hand understanding of how different foods influence my blood sugar levels.

So today I thought I’d share some of the more surprising revelations I’ve had over the last 6-odd months of testing my blood sugar first thing in the morning and then again after (almost) every meal…

6 Surprising Lessons from Monitoring my Blood Sugar Levels

1. Eating low carb makes a huge difference to weight gain during pregnancy.

During pregnancy the placenta puts out chemicals which decrease the effectiveness of insulin which means your blood sugar is naturally higher (to feed the baby).  So when you eat carbs during pregnancy you end up with a bigger spike in your blood sugar than you would normally get which leads to more weight gain.

This is why eating low carb during pregnancy makes a huge difference. I ended up 6kg (12lb) lighter at the end of this pregnancy compared with my first. And the only change I made was to be (mostly) low carb and monitor my blood sugar.

2. The effects of a high carb meals last a long time.

This really surprised me but having a higher carb meal in the evening would mean my fasting blood sugar levels the next morning were higher than normal as well.

3. Low GI foods still increase blood sugar.

Just because a food is considered to be low GI doesn’t mean it won’t cause a spike. The spike just won’t be as big as with higher GI food.

4. It is possible to make delicious, low carb AND sugar-free sweet treats.

When faced with no alternative I really got into baking with stevia during this pregnancy. The secret I’ve found is to use a pure stevia powder instead of stevia mixed with sugar alcohols like Natvia. I like the powdered form because I found it doesn’t have the aftertaste or gritty texture of Natvia. It can be a little tricky to convert recipes but mostly they turned out fine.

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a low-carb / sugar-free / gluten-free baking book. If that’s something you’d be interested in let me know! Either in the comments below or shoot me an email to jules@thestonesoup.com.

5. Speed of eating makes a difference.

I had a few long restaurant meals where I didn’t worry about carbs (a girl has to have some fun) and was surprised that my blood sugar was fine after the long leisurely lunches and dinners Phew.

6. Quantity makes a HUGE difference.

I was reminded on a few occasions having a few bites of dessert or pizza isn’t going to wreak havoc. Little indulgences here and there are fine. And I found I enjoyed them even more than normal because there was the element of the ‘forbidden’.

Where to from here?

Given the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is super high in women who have had gestational diabetes, I’m on a mission to avoid that fate.

So the plan is to stay (pretty much) low carb / high fat. Same as during my pregnancy but not quite as strict. And make sure I get enough exercise. For now that’s trying to do my 10000 steps every day. But longer term I’m planning to get back into running.

It’s amazing how only a few days after the birth, my blood sugar levels decreased. I’ve also noticed that I’m less sensitive to carbs than I was during pregnancy.

Will keep you posted…

———

Egg Noodle Pad Thai-2

Egg Noodle ‘Pad Thai’

Pad Thai is probably the most famous Thai noodle dish which I absolutely adore. Unfortunately it’s traditionally made using rice noodles which are delicious but very high GI. Fortunately I’ve found an alternative, inspired by Sydney paleo chef Pete Evans… Make ‘noodles’ using eggs so they’re super filling, blood sugar-friendly and delicious. Win win win!

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

6 eggs
1 tablespoon soy sauce for eggs & 2 tablespoons for dressing
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
handful bean sprouts and/OR 1 bunch coriander (cilantro) (chopped)
handful roasted peanuts

1. Stir eggs and 1 tablespoon soy sauce together in a medium bowl.

2. To make the noodles, heat a medium frying pan on a medium high heat. Add enough egg mixture to cover the base of the pan. About 1/4 – 1/3.

3. Cook your egg ‘pancake’ until mostly set, then turn and cook on the other side for 30 seconds or until cooked through. Remove ‘pancake’ from the pan and place on a clean plate.

4. Repeat with the remaining mixture until you end up with 3-4 ‘pancakes’.

5. Stack the pancakes up and roll into a log. Slice into ribbons as fine as you can be bothered.

6. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, ketchup and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl. Toss in egg ‘noodles’, beansprouts (if using), coriander (if using) and peanuts and serve.

Print Friendly

Variations

sugar-free – use 1 tablespoon tomato puree instead of the ketchup. Or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes.

nut-free – replace with shredded cooked chicken.

carb lovers / more substantial – cook rice noodles according to the packet and toss in at the end. Or serve with steamed rice.

more veg – toss in finely sliced carrot, red capsicum, snow peas and/or mint leaves.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

ps. Are you interested in low carb / sugar-free baking?
If you’d definitely want to buy a Stonesoup healthy baking book, do let me know in the comments below. Or via email jules@thestonesoup.com. It’s an idea I’m excited about but I only want to do it if there’s enough other people excited about it too!

Share
{ 110 comments }

St Patricks Salad-2

I often get asked how I keep coming up with new recipes all the time. And the thing is, I love to play around in the kitchen.

In fact it would be harder for me NOT to try new ideas.

Mostly the process goes something along the lines of this.

1. I have an idea.
2. Cook and test it on my family.
3. If we love it, I make a shorthand note of the recipe in my Evernote.
4. If we have ideas for improvement, I’ll tweak and test again.

Then when it’s time to prep recipes for the blog or whatever new project (book or program) I’m working on, I dig into my notebook and choose the best ones.

Simple.

It’s rare for me to love a recipe and not want to share it straight away. But this week I have something really special!

An idea I’ve been keeping to myself for a whole year… Since St. Patrick’s Day last year, in fact.

Being married to an Irishman, St Patrick’s Day is always something special in our house.

Even more so since we were married two years ago on the 16th March. Nothing like having your wedding anniversary the day before paddy’s day to make it easy to remember!

And here it is! My St Patrick’s Salad.

—-

St Patricks Salad

St Patrick’s Salad

So I made this salad for dinner last St Patrick’s Day because I had a bumper crop of basil on hand and I wanted to make dinner something really green. I can’t remember for the life of me now what we ate it with! Although something tells me it was sausages.

The great thing about raw broccoli in salads is you don’t need to worry about wilting and they can improve with some time. So feel free to make this one a day ahead and keep in the fridge.

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 15 minutes

1 bunch basil, leaves picked
2 tablespoons lemon juice
large handful grated Parmesan
1 head broccoli

1. Place basil in a food processor with lemon juice and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Whizz until you have a chunky paste. Stir in parmesan. Taste and season with salt and possibly more lemon. If it looks a little dry add more oil.

2. Finely chop broccoli by hacking through it by hand. I like to leave some chunky bits and have others finer but it’s up to you.

3. Toss chopped broccoli in the basil dressing and you’re good to serve.

Print Friendly

Variations

short on time – whizz the broccoli in the food processor before making the dressing.

no food processor – just finely chop the basil by hand and stir with the remaining dressing ingredients.

dairy-free / paleo / vegan – replace cheese with nuts such as cashews, pine nuts or brazil nuts.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in some cooked grains like quiona or brown rice OR some torn bread (if you have some Irish soda bread that would be prefect!). OR why not serve it on a bed of mash and really make your Irishman happy.

more protein – serve as a side to grilled pork sausages or chops. Or roast chicken OR lamb cutlets OR pan fried black pudding if you really want to be Irish. Or toss in some halved boiled eggs or some cooked chicken. Also good with some drained canned tuna or salmon.

different herbs – if basil isn’t in season where you are, feel free to substitute in flat leaf parsley.

can’t do raw broccoli? – it really is lovely but feel free to toss chopped steamed broccoli in with the dressing instead.

different veg – this pesto-like dressing is also brilliant with shaved zucchini, steamed asparagus or cauliflower. Also thinking it would work on shaved cabbage.


Video Version of the Recipe.

Do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

I’m guessing there hasn’t been much raw broccoli in your Paddy’s day past! But you never know. I’d love to hear how you celebrate in the comments below.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 17 comments }

Beef & Broccoli Pasta Bake

I wish I could say I was an adventurous eater as a child.

The truth is I loved my pasta just like the next kid. So it’s hardly surprising that my favourite comfort food meals as an adult are good old ‘spag bol’ and my mum’s tuna pasta bake.

And also not so surprising that when I was testing my blood sugar during my gestational diabetes that the two highest readings were for spag bol and tuna ‘dish’.

But here’s the thing…

I should have known better.

I could have avoided these ‘off-the-scale-high’ readings AND still indulged in a little late pregnancy comfort eating.

So today I thought I’d share my favourite easy ways to make pasta a little healthier so I remember the lesson myself!

3 Easy Ways to Make Pasta Healthier

1. Cool and reheat.
You know how ‘wonder white’ bread looks and tastes pretty much like white bread but has more fiber? Well that’s due to something called ‘resistant starch’. It’s a form of starch that tastes delicious but that our bodies can’t digest so it passes through like other fiber.

And the best part is to generate this ‘resistant starch’ it’s super easy. All you need to do is cook your pasta and allow it to cool. And hey presto some of the starch will change into the ‘resistant’ form. Then when you reheat the food it stays resistant. So there’s no need to eat cold pasta to enjoy the extra fiber.

2. Add some veg.
Mixing in some veg like the broccoli in the pasta bake below essentially just ‘dilutes’ the pasta so you’re eating a smaller serve. Of course clever toddlers (and adults) can easily bypass this ‘trick’ by choosing to eat around said veg.

3. Add fiber to the sauce.
A tip I picked up from a Stonesoup reader a while ago. By adding a few tablespoons of fibre like oat bran, psyllium or chia seeds (ground are best) to your pasta sauce, you up the fiber in the whole dish and this slows down how quickly your body digests the pasta and therefore reduces blood sugar spikes.

I’d love to hear from you…

What are your favourite comfort foods? Share in the comments below.
_____

Beef & Broccoli Pasta Bake-2

Pasta Al Forno

‘Al forno’ sounds really cosy doesn’t it? My Italian is pretty much non existent apart from food and cooking terms so I might be wrong but I translate ‘al forno’ as ‘in the oven’ or baked. Apart from the deliciousness / comfort factor it’s hard not to love a good pasta bake for their convenient ‘do ahead’ nature.

This one was inspired by David Tanis from his book ‘A Platter of Figs’.


enough for 4
takes: about 40 minutes + cooling time

300g (10oz) short pasta
2 heads broccoli, chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef or chicken
4 tablespoons double or heavy cream
2 handfuls melting cheese, grated

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Simmer pasta as long as the packet recommends. Set the timer so you can add the broccoli for last 2 minutes.

2. Drain pasta and broccoli.

3. While the pasta is cooking, heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook meat, stirring until browned. Season with salt.

4. Combine cooked meat, drained pasta and broccoli and cream in the pasta pot. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Refrigerate until you’re ready to cook (up to a week or so).

5. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Scatter cheese over the pasta and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and everything is hot.

Print Friendly

Variations

low carb – replace pasta with an extra head of broccoli. Simmer 2 minutes drain and use as per recipe.

paleo – replace pasta with extra broccoli. Use a tomato based sauce instead of the cream (add a can of tomatoes to the beef and simmer to reduce down a bit). And use almond meal or grated brazil nuts insteead of the cheese. Give everything a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to keep it nice and moist.

gluten-free – use GF pasta, I like ones using quinoa flour OR see the low carb + paleo options.

vegetarian – replace beef with extra cheese and cream OR use cooked green lentils for more protein and fiber.

different veg – try cauliflower, asparagus or broccolini as well as or instead of the broccoli. Frozen peas will also work (no need to simmer first).

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 6 comments }

mushrooms with butter beans

Back in January we had one of my wine making friends, Tobes, and his girlfriend, Anna, come to stay.

Fergal was instantly smitten with Anna, because she arrived on a train. Then she offered to take him on a walk to our dam.

This really sealed the deal because apart from listening to music and eating dark chocolate, there aren’t many things Fergal loves more than throwing rocks in the dam.

When they got back I was cooking dinner and Anna was looking through my cookbook collection and picked out a copy of my print book 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes.

Fergal sat next to her at the kitchen bench as she flicked through the book, showing him pictures and telling him ‘Your mum made a cook book‘.

It’s funny to observe what sticks in the mind of a 2.5 year old.

Now, 2 months later, when Fergal sees my book on the book shelf, he always says ‘Your mum made a cookbook‘.

It still makes me smile.

Anyway speaking of said cookbook, since it was originally published in March, I thought I’d share a recipe from the book to celebrate my book’s ‘birthday’.

These mushrooms with butter beans came to mind because one of my dear friends, Mitch, always tells me they’re his favourite quick meal whenever I see him. (Which unfortunately isn’t that often given he lives in Sydney).

If you’d like to find out more about the book that Fergal’s mum made go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com


mushrooms with butter beans

Mushrooms with Butter Beans

Mushrooms are one of my favourite veg. And I agree with Mitch, it’s hard to believe that such a simple meal could be so tasty. I’ve used portabello mushrooms but large field or pretty much any other mushrooms would be equally delicious.

enough for 2
Takes: 15 minutes

2-3 medium portabello mushrooms
1 can butter beans (400g/14oz), drained
2 tablespoons butter
squeeze lemon
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)

1. Heat a medium frying pan on a high heat with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

2. Add mushrooms and fry, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are brown and softened.

3. Add beans and butter and cook until heated through.

4. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

5. Serve scattered with parsley (if using).

Print Friendly

Variations

vegan – skip the butter and use olive oil instead.

carnivore – feel free to fry a few rashers of bacon in the frying pan first then cook the mushrooms. Or you could try serving with pan fried chicken or pork.

carb lovers / more substantial
– toss in cooked pasta.

paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free) – replace butter beans with roast sweet potato.

more veg – serve with a green salad on the side. Or toss in a whole bunch of flat leaf parsley that’s been roughly chopped.

Big love
(from a newborn baby induced trip to sleep deprivation city),
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 7 comments }

It’s a BOY!

Sweet Potato Brownies-2

When we first found out we were pregnant, my trusty ‘app’ calculated the due date as 28th Feb. My first thought was maybe we’ll have a ‘leap year’ baby?

How cool would that be?

Well turns out young Finbar Brennan had other ideas.

But I’m so thrilled this little bundle of joy came early. Not that I’m biased or anything but he really is the cutest. Very similar to his doting big brother Fergal at this age.

We’ve been having the best ‘koala’ cuddles. Even in this 35C+ (95F) heat. I’d forgotten how divine newborns are.

To celebrate the safe arrival of Finbar do I have a recipe treat for you!

Sweet potato and brownies! Together at last! (and they don’t have any added sugar!).

I know. Lots of exclamation marks but I can’t help myself at the moment…

________

Sweet Potato Brownies

Sweet Potato Brownies

Having gestational diabetes has really opened my eyes to new ways of baking without adding sugar or flour. There’s a whole new world out there! After lots of experimentation, including growing my own, I’ve settled on pure powdered stevia as my fave low carb sweetener. I order mine online. It’s expensive but a tiny bit goes a super long way so not so bad when you look at cost per use.

Important note: the stevia I use is concentrated stevia on it’s own. NOT ‘Natvia’ type blends of stevia and sugar alcohols (usually erythritol). I’ve tried both and prefer the cleaner taste of pure stevia. Plus I worry about the impact of sugar alcohols on our (and more importantly our children’s) gut bacteria. If you don’t have pure stevia, see the variations below for alternative sweeteners.

These sweet potato brownies are still a bit carby but better than the alternative.

makes about: 12 squares
takes: 30 minutes

250g (9oz) roast sweet potato
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
200g (7oz) almond meal
1/8 teaspoon pure powdered stevia
4 eggs
pinch salt

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a rectangular slice pan (approx 18cm x 27cm / 7in x 10.5in).

2. Whizz sweet potato, chocolate, almond meal, stevia, eggs and salt in a food processor until you have a smooth mixture.

3. Spread mixture over the base of your prepared tin. Bake for 15 minutes or until the brownies feel firm on top.

4. Cool in the tin then chop into squares.

Print Friendly

Variations

no food processor? – melt chocolate and mash everything together with a fork.

no roasted sweet potato? – just scrub whole sweet potato and roast for 45mins to 1 hour at 180C (350F) or until really soft.

no powdered stevia? – replace with about 15 pitted dried dates that have been soaked in boiling water and drained. OR add maple syrup or honey to taste (about 4-5 tablespoons should do the trick).

nut-free – I haven’t tried this but you could try increasing the sweet potato and chocolate by 100g (3.5oz) each.

less patchy – the chocolate can be a bit chunky through these brownies so if you prefer a more uniform look, melt the chocolate before adding to the food processor.

Video Version of the Recipe.

——-

Big love
(from the newborn cocoon),
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 13 comments }

Super Iron Supper-2

There have been 3 times in my life where I’ve felt felt seriously tired. Like exhausted. For an extended period.

First was during my days as an aspiring young winemaker.

While I had most amazing time learning the wine making ropes, it was long, hard, physical work. Which meant biceps that would make Schwarzenegger proud and an appetite (literally) like a horse.

But over time I realized it was more fun drinking wine than making it. And a career change took care of that problem.

Second was my experimental month of being vegetarian.

At the time I couldn’t understand why I felt so tired. But after discussing my experiment with a nutritionist friend, she pointed out I wasn’t getting enough iron. And of course the tiredness lifted as soon as I went back to eating meat.

Third was during both my pregnancies.

Luckily this time I knew what was up! So I made eating red meat a focus (with no complaints from my Irishman). I can’t tell you what a difference it made to my energy levels.

So if you’re feeling super tired, there’s one great place to start…

Eat more iron rich foods!

In general, I think it’s not very helpful to try and eat for specific nutrients. But the link between iron deficiency and tiredness is pretty direct so I feel it’s a worthy exception.

To save you ‘googling’ here are some ideas of my favourite ingredients rich in iron…

My Favourite Animal Based Iron Rich Foods

Red Meat
Liver including pate
Oysters
Mussels

My Favourite Vegetable Based Iron Rich Foods

Chickpeas
Leafy Greens (Spinach / Chard / Kale)
Sesame Seeds / Tahini
Cashews
Almonds
Lentils

NOTE: Eating citrus at the same time makes it easier for your body to absorb and actually use the iron you eat. So a squeeze of lemon or lime is always a great addition.


Super Iron Supper

‘Super Iron’ Supper

While I prefer to focus on eating real food rather than trying to get specific nutrients, sometimes it is fun to really have a specfic focus when creating a recipe. Like this meal of my favourite iron-rich (and pregnant-lady-friendly) foods.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
1 bag baby spinach
3-4 tablespoons tahini (optional)
3-4 tablespoons lemon

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Cook beef on a medium high heat until well browned.

2. Add chickpeas and cook for another few minutes to warm. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. To serve divide baby spinach between two bowls. Top with beef and chickpeas. Drizzle over tahini (if using) and finish with lemon juice.

Print Friendly

Variations

vegetarian / vegan – replace beef with extra chickpeas or cooked lentils.

no tahini? – tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. You could just skip it or replace with your favourite nut butter such as almond or cashew butter. Or a handful of sesame seeds, cashews or almonds will also do the trick.

different greens / more veg – add any wilted leafy green such as kale, collard greens, spinach, chard (silverbeet).

more substantial – add more chickpeas or other legumes.

hot! – add some chopped fresh red chilli to the beef as it cooks.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Do YOU struggle with tiredness?

And have you found any solutions? I’d love to hear in the comments below…

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

Share
{ 7 comments }

Marinated Kale Salad-2

I still remember the first time I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). On one level I was relieved to have a ‘reason’ for my irregular periods. But then came the real shock.

‘It’s going to be really difficult for you to fall pregnant naturally’.

Ouch.

I was 31 and newly married. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear.

But life has a funny way of working out for the best. Even when things seem to be going seriously off the rails.

That marriage didn’t work out. For a while I got used to the idea of never having a family of my own. And I was cool with that.

And then I met a certain Irishman.

After a while things were getting serious so I felt I had to share my big fertility ‘problem’. I knew he really wanted to have a family so I was pretty much expecting that to be the end of that.

But (fortunately) he wasn’t put off. In fact he didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

Now that we have one beautiful boy and another babe due very soon, I’m so grateful that this is where we ended up.

I’ve really wanted to share my story because I know how frustrating fertility problems can be. And I also know how unhelpful modern medicine can be.

If this can help just one other couple, it will be worth writing.

Of course, if you’re already sorted in the fertility department, just skip down to this week’s recipe. It’s delicious whether you have a family or not!

How I got pregnant naturally at age 40 and age 43

1. Stopped taking the pill.
You’ve probably heard of someone who stopped taking the pill and was pregnant the next month. It happens.

But if you’re likely to have fertility issues, the longer you’re on the pill the longer it’s going to take your body to get back to some sort of natural cycle. If I had my time again I would have switched to an alternative form of contraception much earlier in the process.

2. Changed my diet to mostly paleo / low carb.
I wasn’t sure of the mechanism but I knew there was a link between insulin and the fertility hormones. Going low carb made a HUGE difference. It enabled me to go from having one period in 6 months to having a relatively regular cycle. If you’re only going to follow one tip from this post this would be the one!

3. Took a pre-conception multivitamin.
Your doctor is going to recommend folate and iodine. I figured I may as well cover the rest of my bases as well even though I prefer to get my nutrients through whole food meals rather than supplements.

4. Experimented with fertility prediction sticks.
My gynecologist recommended these. Basically there’s an increase in certain hormones just before ovulation. Peeing on these sticks tests for the hormone and when it’s detected you should be ovulating within 24-48 hours. Of course if you have PCOS this hormone tends to be elevated for longer so the test isn’t as accurate as it is for women with regular cycles.

I found them more trouble than help and didn’t bother when we were trying the second time. If you do decide to use them buy in bulk online instead of paying a fortune at the chemist.

5. Measured my temperature every morning.
Another waste of time I didn’t bother with second time round.

6. Learned to really understand my fertile signs.
This was a game changer! Basically it’s about tracking the consistency of your vaginal ‘mucus’ through out your cycle. I took a course called Debunking PCOS (not an affiliate link) with Melbourne based doctor that really helped me get my head around this concept.

Along with going low carb this was huge! If you have an irregular cycle, understanding your body’s mucus sounds gross but is really the key.

I also used the Clue App (not an affiliate link) to track my cycle… Brilliant for spotting trends and just feeling on top of it.

7. Stopped running and started walking instead.
I used to run 50-60km a week. I stopped at the beginning of August on the advice of a fertility doctor and we fell pregnant in September with Fergal. Too much exercise can be just as problematic as not enough. A doctor friend suggested that running causes problems because it gets the body to over heat.

8. Took a holiday.
After trying to get pregnant for over 18 months with one miscarriage, things were getting a little stressful. Thankfully we had planned a trip to Europe for my 40th birthday. We decided not to think about fertility stuff while we were away and wouldn’t you know it… we came home pregnant with Fergal.

9. Focused on keeping stress levels to a minimum.
Second time around we had another European holiday booked as backup but I decided to focus on removing as much stress from my regular life as possible. Minimal work commitments. No goals. Turns out we conceived before the trip!

10. Took up meditation.
This was part of my stress reduction program for our second. I started daily meditation in April and we were pregnant in June. I have no idea whether it helped with the fertility but I definitely noticed meditation helped me be much more patient when dealing with a two year old!

11. Kept believing it would happen.
This can be the most challenging part. Especially as the months (and years) ticked on. But I kept reminding myself of all the people I knew who struggled to get (or stay) pregnant and who now have the families they were hoping for. If you want something bad enough you’ll eventually find a way to get there!

_______

Marinated Kale Salad

Lime & Tahini Kale Salad

Inspired by the lovely Ella Woodward from her first book ‘Deliciously Ella’ which is filled with plant based recipes. When I first made this I was completely obsessed I think I had it three times in one week. I adore how the lime and tahini come together to make a super flavoursome dressing.

takes: 10 minutes
enough for: 1-2

1 large bunch kale
2 limes
4 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Remove tough stems from the kale and slice or tear into bite sized strips. Place kale in a large bowl.

2. Squeeze over lime juice and drizzle with tahini and soy sauce. Toss salad with your hands massaging the kale as you go.

Print Friendly

Variations

no tahini – use almond or cashew butter instead. Or replace tahini with extra virgin olive oil for a less creamy salad. You could sprinkle in some toasted sesame seeds for flavour.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in torn flat bread or tortillas OR some cooked quinoa or rice and an extra squeeze of lime to make sure the salad doesn’t dry out.

carnivore – toss in some sliced cooked steak or chicken – I love this steak version!

no lime – use lemon instead.

soy-free – replace soy sauce with coconut aminios or use salt to season instead.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

instagram-icon Pinterest_Badge_Red facebook_icon

_

Share
{ 17 comments }