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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.
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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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.
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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.

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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

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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).

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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

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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…

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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Fast Roast Fish & Snow Peas

You know that feeling you get when you look in the fridge and just think ‘Meh’?

Sure there are things you could eat. But nothing ‘jumps out’ at you.

As I shared last year, when I was following one of my Soupstones Meal Plans, there are times when even I don’t ‘feel like’ cooking or eating something I had planned.

I sometimes feel ‘meh’ too!

So I had to laugh when I got this comment from Stonesoup regular reader, Dennis…

“Your words (“I found myself not ‘feeling like’ steamed fish for dinner.”) resonate with me in a bad way. This is how I feel most nights. I may get 2 meals out of a head of lettuce as it goes bad because I have those two meals then don’t want any salad again until it is a ball of green sludge in the bottom of the crisper.

But you carry on making the thing that says meh to you, until you are eating it later and it is yummy. I need to figure out how to do THAT! New title: How to get past that, “I don’t really feel like eating that today!”, feeling, by Stonesoup! (grin)”
Dennis

So here you are Dennis!

How to Get Past Feeling ‘Meh’

You know that great motivational quote… ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway?‘. It’s exactly the same when cooking.

Just ‘cook it anyway‘ is my mantra during times like these.

Although I do soften the blow by telling myself if it really doesn’t taste good, I won’t have to eat it.

It’s that simple.

And you know what? 9 times out of 10 I end up actually enjoying the meal. Go figure.

____

Fast Roast Fish & Snow Peas-2

Fast Roast Fish & Snow Peas

Now that I have a 2.5 year old in the house, I find I’m turning more and more to meals I can just pop in the oven to cook while we’re doing other important things. Like reading books, playing with Lego and drinking milk.

Fast roasting fish like this is brilliant because it’s quick AND I can just wait for the timer to ring. So I’m less likely to forget!

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 large handfuls snow peas, trimmed
2 limes, halved
2 fish fillets
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (480F).

2. Line a baking try with foil or paper and scatter over snow peas and lime halves. Top with fish (skin side down) and drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle over a little salt.

3. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until fish is just cooked through.

4. To serve divide snowpeas and fish between two plates. Drizzle over soy sauce and carefully squeeze over the hot lime (or leave for the diners to do themselves).

5. Scatter with coriander leaves and you’re done!

Variations

hot! – add a little chopped fresh red chilli to the soy sauce.

more flavour – add chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon sesame oil or a tiny pinch chopped garlic to the soy.

family-friendly – skip the herbs. Replace snowpeas with frozen peas (straight from the freezer is fine). Consider serving some steamed rice or roast sweet potato on the side.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve a side of steamed rice or cooked rice noodles.

vegetarian – roast firm tofu instead (and add the additions in the more flavour suggestion). Or pan fry the snow peas and serve with some crispy fried eggs and the soy and herbs.

different herbs – mint or basil are also great. Or a combo.

soy-free – use coconut aminos instead or use a small drizzle of sesame oil instead of the soy.

carnivore – replace fish with pork chops, chicken breasts or chicken thigh fillets. Increase cooking time accordingly. I’d start checking after 15 minutes.

no oven – just pan fry snow peas and fish in a little oil until cooked through.

Video Version of the Recipe.

What About You?

Ever feel ‘meh’ yourself? Got any tricks for overcoming it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Big love,
Jules x

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Coconut Sorbet-2

Like Edith Piaf, I’m not someone who has many regrets. Except one rather large one…

The years I spent working in the food industry developing ‘healthy’ snacks for a multinational breakfast cereal company.

When I think about the time I spent coming up with creative ways to make these ‘97% fat free’ products taste palatable, it still makes me feel a little icky.

Of course at the time I had no idea that the grains, dried fruits and sugars which were part of our ‘healthy’ ingredient arsenal were anything but good for our consumers.

I was fresh from my food science program at university where the nutrition team had talked endlessly about the perils of fats in general and saturated fat in particular. Naively I believed what I was taught.

But over the years, I’ve kept my education going. And my reading along with my self experimentation means it’s been years since I’ve been afraid of fat. Even saturated fat.

I eat eggs for breakfast most days. I adore cheese. I even look forward to gnawing on the fatty parts of a lamb cutlet (sorry vegetarian friends!).

And the best part?

I’ve never found it easier to manage my weight (well apart from this whole baby bump thing ;)

So when I get an email like this one from Erica, it makes me both angry and sad.

“I’m very keen to learn the latest views on coconut oil and saturated fats. I was always told that coconut milk and coconut oil were very high in ‘bad fats’ and that they should be avoided at all costs when cooking. But lately I have seen coconut oil products on the shelf in the supermarket (cooking spray) and I’ve also noticed that foodies are now recommending the use of coconut oil for cooking due to stability at high temperatures and health benefits.

I love coconut and would like to reintroduce some of these products in my cooking, but I’m still concerned about the warnings I’ve received in the past and I don’t want to risk my family’s health. Can you please clear up my confusion?”
Erica

It’s a great reminder that not everyone knows that ‘low fat’ and even ‘low saturated fat’ is not the way forward.

So lets talk about the benefits of coconut oil…

5 Benefits of Coconut Oil

1. It’s delicious!
I’m a believer in the adage that healthy food must taste good as well. Otherwise it’s possibly not as ‘healthy’ as you’d think (like my fructose laden ‘cereal bars’). I love to have a teaspoon straight out of the jar.

2. It’s stable at higher temperatures.
Which means it’s difficult to burn. So it’s great for cooking, especially stir frying and pan frying. For more on which oils I use and why see the Great Stonesoup Oil Crisis.

3. It helps our internal antioxidant systems.
Because it’s a rich source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), coconut oil provides the building blocks to make a molecule called beta-HBA which improves antioxidant function. It’s also helpful in treating Alzhiemer’s disease.

4. It’s a superfuel for the brain
And can help promote brain health by stimulating the growth of new brain cells.

5. It helps boost your immune system
The fats found in coconut oil (and butter) can help white blood cells recognize and destroy invading germs and tumours.

Source: Grain Bran by David Perlmutter.

But what about the Saturated Fat in Coconut Oil?

Isn’t it going to block our arteries? And cause all sorts of problems.

In a word. No.

According to neurologist Dr David Perlmutter in his book Grain Brain, current thinking (from 2010) in the American Journal of Nutrition is that eating more saturated fat isn’t linked to higher risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Like to learn more about the benefits of fats?

Including saturated fat? Then I recommend reading ‘Grain Brain’ by neurologist Dr David Perlmutter. It’s a fascinating read.

And I’d love to hear what you think? Leave a comment below and share where you’re at with the whole saturated fat thing…

____________

Coconut Sorbet

Coconut ‘Sorbet’

Since I’ve been including variations for dairy-free and vegan options on my recipes, I usually include coconut sorbet as an alternative to vanilla ice cream or cream to top sweet treats and cakes. While there are some great commercial coconut sorbets out there, they can be hard to find so here’s my recipe.

enough for: 2-4 as a side
takes: 10 minutes + 6 hours freezing

1 can coconut cream, unsweetened (400mL / 14oz)
1 ripe pear or banana
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
stevia, rice malt syrup or maple syrup, to taste (optional)

1. Place coconut cream in a ziplock bag. Place in the freezer until frozen, about 6 hours.

2. Chop pear or banana (peeling banana first) into chunks and place in another ziplock bag. Freeze.

3. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve the sorbet, remove the coconut cream and fruit from the freezer.

4. Bash the coconut cream in the bag to break into chunks (or throw it on the floor). Remove coconut chunks from the bag and place in a food processor along with the frozen fruit.

5. Whizz with the vanilla (if using) until you have a soft-serve sorbet consistency. This will take a while so be patient. If it’s not coming together add a few tablespoons water to hasten the process.

6. Taste and add your preferred sweetener (if needed). When you’re happy, serve asap or place in a container and return to the freezer for up to an hour. Longer than this and your sorbet will start to turn icy but will still be edible.

Variations

coconut milk – is fine will just be less rich than coconut cream.

no fruit / low carb sorbet – you could skip the fruit for a lower carb sorbet but you’ll need to add some stevia or other sweetener.

other fruit – feel free to play around! Berries are awesome and for a tropical vibe frozen mango or pineapple (or both) are delicious.

boozy – add a splash of vodka or white rum.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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PS. On something completely unrelated…

Just wanted to mention a program I’m a part of that I don’t have any regrets about supporting!

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

Registration for this year ends 31st January 2016.

To make sure you don’t miss out, go to:
www.simpleyear.co/course

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NOTE: Registration ENDS 31st January.

_____________

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Zucchini Noodle Laksa

Want to know something I hate about cooking? Apart from washing up, my biggest ‘pet peeve’ is single-use kitchen gadgets. You know, the tools that only have one purpose.

As a lover of simplicity I can’t stand a cluttered kitchen with cupboards and drawers crammed full of stuff that hardly ever gets used.

Which is one of the reasons I put off buying a spiralizer for so long.

I already had the technology to make ‘pasta’ and ‘noodles’ from my veggies using either my mandoline or vegetable peeler.

But a few months ago I saw a photo on Instagram of someone’s spiralized zucchini noodles and I had to do a double take. Really. It looked like proper pasta.

After much deliberation, I decided to get myself a spiralizer to try it out. With the proviso that if it didn’t earn its keep, I’d donate it to charity.

Do you need a spiralizer?

No. It’s not something you need in the kitchen like a good sharp knife and chopping board.

But! I must admit I do love mine. It’s not going to charity any time soon.

The first time Fergal and I made our zucchini ‘noodles’ to serve with a ragu, my kitchen helper actually ate all of his zucchini (even with his toddler’s distrust of green vegetables). I can’t tell you how happy I was.

Which Veg Can You Spiralize?

1. Zucchini
My go-to noodles so far because of their mild flavour and pasta-like quality. Plus it’s zucchini season around here right now!

To prep: Make noodles then noodles then sprinkle with salt. Stand at room temp to soften and warm slightly for up to 3 hours. Use raw.
OR
To prep: Make noodles then cover with boiling water. Stand for 60 seconds then drain well.

2. Carrot
Stronger flavour and higher carb content than zucchini but super pretty! And a firmer bite.

To prep: Make noodles then cover with boiling water. Stand for 2 minutes (or longer for softer noodles) then drain well.
OR
To prep: Make noodles then then pan fry in a little oil or butter.

3. Beets
I haven’t tried beet noodles yet but imagine they’d be best raw in salads or prepped the same way as carrot noodles.

4. Parsnip
Something I haven’t tried yet but imagine they’d be best pan fried in a little oil or butter.

5. Celeriac
Also called celery root these noodles have a lovely sweetish flavour. And the colour is nice and pasta-like. A good Winter time noodle.

To prep: Make noodles then cover with boiling water. Stand for a few minutes then drain well.
OR
To prep: Make noodles then then pan fry in a little oil or butter.

6. Potatoes
Another spiralizer use I have yet to try. Have book marked this idea for post-pregnancy (and gestational diabetes). We had fried potato ‘squiggles’ at a restaurant in Sydney and they were off-the-scale good from a crunch perspective!

7. Sweet Potato
OMG. I hadn’t even thought about using sweet potato until I sat down to write this post. I’m thinking these might need to be gently simmered until no longer crunchy and then well drained. OR pan frying in butter or oil. If you try it – do report back!

3 Ways to Use Your Spiralizer

1. Pasta Substitutes
The obvious choice! But don’t be limited by just replacing your spaghetti in your spag bol. You can use your spiralized noodles with any of your favourite pasta sauces. Really there are no limits.

Some ideas to try:
Mushroom Ragu with Carrot Noodles
Baked Meatballs with Celeriac Noodles
Zucchini Noodles with Broccoli & Pine Nuts.
Zucchini Noodles with Sausages & Crushed Peas

2. Noodle Substitutes
It took me a little longer to think of this but your spiralized noodles work equally well with Asian noodle dishes. Sometime even more so than with Italian style dishes because there’s usually so much flavour going on the noodles only provide bulk and texture.

Don’t believe me? Then check out my Zucchini Laska recipe below.

More ideas:
Parsnip or celeriac or carrot noodles in this Simple Soba Noodle Soup.
Serve this stir fry with Zucchini noodles.
This Asian Beef with Zucchini Noodles.

3. Raw Salads
Think about your favourite shaved vegetable salads and your spiralized noodles can add a new textural element.

Some ideas to try:
Spiralized Carrot instead of grated in this Carrot Tabbouleh.
Spiralized Beets instead of grated in this Raw Beet Salad.
Spiralized Carrots in this Carrot Salad with Pesto & Cashews
Spiralized Celeriac instead of Cabbage in this Rolls Royce ‘Slaw

What about you?

Are you a spiralizer fan? Got any other tips for getting the most out of it? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Zucchini Noodle Laksa-2

Zucchini Laksa

Laksa is the most delicious noodle soup that hails from Malaysia. It’s fragrant, it’s rich, it’s spicy. Plus there are noodles to slurp! Since focusing on eating grain-free and low carb, however, laksa has been off the menu at our place. But not any longer!

I was so excited when I had the idea to use some zucchini ‘noodles’ instead of the usual wheat or rice based laska noodles. It’s really that good!

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

2 medium zucchini
1 jar laksa paste
1 can coconut milk (400mL / 14oz)
chicken 2-4 thighs, diced.
basil small bunch

1. Using a spiralizer, turn your zucchini into medium thick noodles. Sprinkle noodles with a little sea salt and stand while you make the soup.

2. Bring laksa paste and coconut milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add chicken and continue to simmer until chicken is just cooked through (no longer pink.) About 5 minutes.

3. Add zucchini noodles and bring back to a simmer.

4. Taste and season with salt or fish sauce (if you have it). Some people might like a pinch of sugar.

5. To serve divide soup between two deep bowls and top with basil leaves.

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Variations

no spiralizer – use a mandoline or vegetable peeler to slice zucchini into long ribbons then hand cut into medium ‘noodles’.

vegetarian / vegan – make sure your laksa paste is vegetarian and replace chicken with firm tofu chunks. Or use chunks of roast sweet potato instead. Cauliflower is also lovely – just simmer until florettes are tender.

carb lovers – add cooked hokkien, singapore or rice noodles with the zucchini noodles (or instead of the zucchini). Non purists could also use cooked spaghetti.

no laksa paste – use another thai curry paste like red or green curry or even an Indian curry paste. Just be careful to adjust the quantity to your liking (you probably won’t need a whole jar). The other option is to go for a coconut milk based soup so just skip the laksa paste and use a good squeeze of lime juice for some zing.

hot! – add finely sliced fresh red chilli.

no basil – you could skip it or replace with mint or coriander (cilantro) leaves.

more veg – add in chopped veg such as carrot, red capsicum (bell pepper), cauliflower and simmer until tender before adding the chicken. OR serve with a handful of rinsed bean sprouts.

Video version of the recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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PS. Like some more simplicity in YOUR life?

Then I encourage you to checkout a special program I’m proud to be a part of. This year as a presenter AND a student!

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

Including cooking and eating. Which is where I come in.

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

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NOTE: Registration ENDS 31st January.

_____________

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Best Ever Tabbouleh-2

Are you over new years resolutions? I’m not the biggest fan either.

But there is one approach I’ve found super helpful…

Rather than set specific resolutions, I choose a theme or major goal for the coming year.

Last year it was the ‘Year of Fertility’.

And given I’m sitting here with a huge basketball-like growth attached to my stomach, I think we can say it panned out well.

My favourite example was from 2008, the ‘Year of Love & Happiness’. The year I met my Irishman.

I know. Be careful what you wish for.

So for 2016 I’ve decided to have the…

Year of Simplicity!

Although I’ve been a follower of minimalism and simplicity for years now. I’ve found that over the last few years my old habits of taking on too much (and buying too much) have been creeping up on me.

With a new family member coming into the house in Feb, it’s a great opportunity to reset. To be more mindful around my choices.

AND this year my Irishman has volunteered to join me. So we’re going to be taking the Simple Year Program together to help keep us on track.

Another ‘new yearish’ habit I started last year was identifying a handful of ‘quests’ or experiences to tick off my bucket list. I’ve found public accountability really helps me stick to my plans. So here’s how I fared in 2015 and what I’m planning for the year ahead…

My Quests for 2015

1. Cook every meal from David Tanis’ ‘Platter of Figs and Other Recipes’.
I made it through the first half of the year (and book) but after getting pregnant I found I lost all enthusiasm and energy for the project and decided to ‘can’ it.

2. Post one photo on Instagram every day for a year.
BIG fail here! I only averaged a few posts a week. More to me feeling like it was ‘wasting time’ than for any other reason.

3. Eat at every restaurant in Canberra on the Good Food Top 20 list. One more to go! Having lunch at the last one next Tuesday with my assistant Caroline as a belated Stonesoup Christmas party.

4. Have a conversation in French in Paris.
Tick! Although it was with waiter in a restaurant and only got as deep as had my husband already arrived. I had hoped I would wow the lovely Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini with my French when we caught up for coffee in Montmartre but I chickened out. Still a conversation is a conversation.

My Quests for 2016

1. Post one photo on Instagram every day for a year.
And although I missed January 1, I’ve posted every day since.

2. Eat at every restaurant in Canberra on the Good Food Top 20 list.
The thing I loved about this last year was it gave me a reason to explore places I wouldn’t otherwise go to with a 2 year old. So am continuing this year. Fortunately there a quite a few new comers to the list to keep it interesting.

3. Meditate Every Day.
After learning transcendental meditation last year, I’ve found it super helpful for calming my mind and living more in the present moment. It also helps with having more patience with a 2 year old. Which can be trying to say the least!

So with a new baby on the way I want to make the commitment to continue my daily practice so it’s not something that ‘falls off’ the radar.

What about you?

Got any big plans, dreams or quests for the year ahead? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

_____________

Best Ever Tabbouleh

‘Best Ever’ Tabbouleh

Just so you know, I don’t use the term ‘best ever’ lightly. But in this case I really feel it’s well deserved. The first time I made this I thought we were going to have loads of leftovers for breakfast / lunch but my Irishman loved it so much he polished off the whole bowl in one sitting… An accolade usually reserved for dishes involving potatoes… The highest praise!

The other brillant thing is that it’s grain and gluten-free thanks to the addition of almond meal instead of bulghur wheat. Which has the added bonus of giving a richer, creamier salad.

Unlike most salads, this one is fine in the fridge for a few days before serving if you do need to make ahead.

enough for 2-4 as a side
takes 15 minutes

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 bunches flat leaf parsley
1 large red bell pepper (capsicum), diced
handful almond meal

1. Combine lemon juice, 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper in a medium salad bowl.

2. Chop parsley leaves and stems as finely as you can be bothered with. Toss in the dressing.

3. Add bell pepper and almond meal. Toss again.

4. Taste, season with extra salt or lemon juice, if needed.

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Variations

more herby – replace some of the parsley with mint, coriander (cilantro) or basil.

nut-free – replace almond meal with a few handfuls cooked couscous or quinoa.

more traditional – replace bell pepper with chopped fresh tomatoes.

more substantial – wrap in pita bread or tortillas to eat as a sandwich. Or toss torn pita bread in the salad (with a little more olive oil and lemon to prevent it becoming too dry). Or serve with shredded roast or cooked chicken.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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PS. Could you benefit from simplifying YOUR life?

Then I encourage you to checkout a special program I’m proud to be a part of. This year as a presenter AND a student!

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

Including cooking and eating. Which is where I come in.

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

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NOTE: Registration ENDS 31st January.

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Raw Blondies

Here we are at the end of the year and I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to you for reading Stonesoup this year. I really appreciate your time and attention!

And while I’ve got you I have a quick favour to ask….

I’m always looking for ways to make Stonesoup a better blog so I’d really love to get your feedback. In particular the answer to these two questions…

1. Why do you read Stonesoup?
2. What should I stop doing / start doing to make it better?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And before I go I have a Christmas treat for you!

I’ve really been getting into baking (or in this case not-baking) with whole food ingredients and skipping the processed sugar and flour.

These blondies are one of my current favorites. Although I must say the chocolate ‘variation’ is also pretty addictive…

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Raw Blondies-2

Raw ‘Blondies’

These may not look the prettiest but believe me they’re super delicious. Especially if you’re a fan of caramel flavours. And the best part is there’s no need to bake.

makes enough for 6-8
takes: 15 minutes + 30 minutes cooling

100g (3.5oz) pitted dates
150g (3.5oz) almond meal
50g (1.75oz) melted butter or coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
2 tablespoons psyllium or oat bran (optional)

1. Place dates in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Stand for 5 minutes.

2. While the dates are standing, weigh out your remaining ingredients into your food processor.

3. Drain dates and add to the food processor. Whizz for a few minutes or until you have a smooth mixture that clumps together.

4. Dump your mixture into a loaf pan lined with baking paper and use your hands to smooth out until it’s the height you prefer. Don’t spread the mixture over the whole base. Only use half or less.

5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Then chop into tiny squares.

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Variations

chocolate brownies – add 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder to the mix.

different nuts – feel free to use other nuts or nut meals. Pecans are particularly good.

short on time – pop in the freezer to firm up. Will take about 10 minutes.

medjool dates – no need to soak, just be sure to remove the pits.

nut-free – struggling with this one. Sorry!

dairy-free / vegan – use the coconut oil option.

more decadent – cover with a layer of melted dark chocolate.

Video version of the recipe.

I really hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas. And look forward to ‘seeing’ you in the new year when Stonesoup returns on January 12th.

Big love
Jules x

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ps. If you’d prefer to keep your comments confidential, just hit reply to this email and share your thoughts. I’ll be reading every response :)

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Go-to Dressing-2

A green salad is my favourite go-to when I want to add more veg to a meal.

Especially now Fergal is older and we’re trying to have more family dinners, it can be ‘too much’ effort to mix up a salad dressing and toss in some leaves.

But over the last few months I’ve discovered a trick that makes salad making 1000% easier (and more likely to happen!).

Just make your dressing in bulk and keep it in a bottle on the dining table. That way all you need to do at dinner time is get some leaves in a bowl. And then dress once you’ve sat down and the rush is over.

It’s a simple idea. But like many simple ideas, it really makes a difference…

Got any tricks you use to eat more salads and/or veg? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

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Go-to Dressing

Go-To Salad Dressing

This has been my go-to salad dressing for years. The addition of soy sauce gives saltiness but also a really lovely and unexpected depth of flavour. I tend not to add herbs or garlic so it can be kept on the dining room table (for months) instead of the fridge. But see the variations for other possibilities.

makes: more than 1 cup
takes: 10 minutes

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sherry, rice or wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Measure out and combine ingredients. Pour into a jar or bottle.

2. Seal and shake well. Taste and add more soy or some salt as needed.

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Variations

soy-free – replace soy sauce with coconut aminos or skip it and season with sea salt instead.

different oil – EVOO is my favourite but you’re welcome to use other well flavoured oils if you like.

sweeter – use balsamic vinegar or a caramelized red wine vinegar or a tablespoon honey.

herby – a few leaves or tarragon are lovely. As are a handful of chopped parsely or basil. If using herbs keep in the fridge and use asap, preferable no longer than 2 weeks.

mustardy – add 1-2 tablespoons dijon or wholegrain mustard. OK to keep this at room temp.

garlicky – I’m not the hugest fan of garlicky dressings but feel free to add a small crushed clove of garlic. Keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks if using garlic.

single serve – to dress enough salad for 2 people I usually use 2-3 tablespoons EVOO, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon soy sauce.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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Pregnant Lady Mayo-2

You know that uneasy feeling you get when something isn’t right? But for whatever reason you keep pushing the feeling away with your best ostrich-head-in-the-sand impersonation.

For ages I had that feeling about my cooking oils.

Back in the day, I used to keep two oils in the house. An expensive extra virgin olive oil for salads and drizzling and a cheap olive oil for cooking.

It was simple and pretty economical. Life was good.

Then I started reading about olive oil having a low smoke point. Which means it breaks down at high temperatures releasing free radicals and other nasties. Not great for cooking.

So I did some research and switched my cooking oil to rice bran oil.

Why rice bran oil?

It has a nice high smoke point. So stable for cooking with. And I could get it in bulk at the supermarket so it’s not prohibitively expensive. Plus is doesn’t have much flavour so I could use it for my mayo too.

Back to the good life. Or so I thought…

Over time I started to learn about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are the ones that come to mind when you think of the benefits or fish oils. Omega-6s, tend to be found in vegetable oils and unlike omega-3s they aren’t great for your health. Mainly because they promote inflammation.

Wasn’t rice bran oil really a type of vegetable oil?

That nagging thought tried to push through but I just buried my head a little deeper in the sand. And as any good ostrich knows it’s pretty difficult to hear much less think down there.

But since I’ve been experimenting with eating MORE fat. I had to let the thought through.

And wouldn’t you know it? Rice bran oil has virtually no omega-3s and loads of omega-6 fatty acids. Not good.

More research…

I tried coconut oil but wasn’t a fan of the flavour in all situations. I tried macadamia oil but the flavour didn’t work so well and besides I couldn’t afford more than a tiny bottle. Avocado oil didn’t work on both flavour and smoke point grounds. Peanut oil was just as bad as rice bran from a fatty acid perspective. And I already knew to avoid canola or any other ‘vegetable oil’.

What did that leave?

Olive oil, duck fat (delicious but expensive) or clarified butter / ghee (tasty but some work required).

So I looked further into the olive oil thing. And finally got some good news.

Extra virgin olive oil did indeed have a low smoke point (160C / 320F). But refined olive oil, my old favourite ‘cheap’ oil, had a respectable smoke point (200C / 400F). Surely I wasn’t often exposing my food to temperatures higher than that?

So I started checking the temperatures as I was cooking with (luckily my Irishman has a ‘thing’ for temperature probes so we own a laser temperature gun). And the actual food wasn’t getting that hot. Phew.

The great Stonesoup Oil Crisis was resolved.

I went back to using two olives oils plus a few more. Here’s where I’m at today…

My Current Fats & Oils Collection

1. Extra virgin olive oil.
For salad dressings and drizzling.

2. Extra light olive oil.
For every day cooking such as pan frying and roasting. And making mayo as in the recipe below.

3. Coconut Oil.
For baking sweet treats, cooking stir frys and curries. I love the sweet flavour it gives to cakes but not so keen on it with my breakfast fried eggs and kale.

4. Salted Butter.
Our favourite is Kerrygold the Irish butter. Butter from grass fed cows is preferable because the type of feed influences the types of fatty acids in the butter. So grass-fed = more beneficial omega-3s. I actually came home with 6kg (12lb) Kerrygold in my suitcase on our recent trip to Ireland.

5. Unsalted Butter.
For baking cakes etc. I use it when I don’t want the flavour of coconut oil to come through.

6. Duck Fat.
This saturated fat is really stable so great for roasting at high temps. It’s also super delicious especially on roast potatoes. Expensive though.

7. Rice Bran Oil.
On the odd occasion that I deep fry food, rice bran oil is my go-to because it is stable at high temps. Since I’m not frying very often I figure the exposure to the extra omega-6s isn’t going to cause a big problem.

What about you?

What oils do you use for cooking? Are you having your own great oil crisis? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

Pregnant Lady Mayo

Pregnant Lady Mayo

By using boiling water you can ‘pasteurize’ your egg yolks and make safe mayo for pregnant ladies… hooray! Also much safer for everyone else. Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

This recipe can be halved, but if your food processor is very large you’ll need to be extra careful when adding your oil to make sure it doesn’t split. And I like the flavour that onion powder gives but it’s totally optional.

I used to not like using olive oil for mayo because I found it gave a bitter taste. But there’s a food science solution to this! Just be sure to be generous when seasoning with salt because salt helps to mask bitter flavours. It really makes a huge difference.

makes: 3 cups
takes: 15 minutes

2 egg yolks at room temperature
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice, sherry or white wine vinegar
1 scant teaspoon onion powder (optional)
3 cups extra light olive oil or other neutral flavoured oil

1. Whizz egg yolks and boiling water together in your food processor with a big pinch of salt. Add mustard and vinegar and whizz again.

2. With the motor still running, add the oil a few drops at a time, then build up to a thin stream and then a slightly more daring stream until most of the oil is incorporated.

3. Taste and season, adding the onion powder now (if using). Feel free to add more vinegar, onion powder or mustard if you like. Whizz to combine.

4. If the mayo is a little too runny, add the remaining oil. Too firm, add a little cold water.

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Video version of this recipe.

Variations

no mustard – just skip it!

herby – stir chopped herbs like chives, dill, parsley or basil through your finished mayo.

garlicky – add a clove or two of crushed garlic.

lemony – replace vinegar with lemon juice and add the zest of 1 lemon.

limey – replace vinegar with lime juice and add the zest of 1 lime.

no food processor – just whisk by hand. Will work just as well and give you good arm muscles at the same time!

Big love,
Jules x

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Heidi's Red Lentil Hummus-2

Like any good addict, I have little stashes all over the house…

There’s a stack on my bedside table, on the bookshelf in my studio, in the lounge room. But it’s my kitchen stash of cookbooks (pictured above) that really tells the tale.

Why?

Because these are the ones that I’ve actually cooked something from recently.

I love cookbooks. I never get tired of flipping through the pages, reading every detail. Getting inspired. Getting hungry.

Here are my current faves. (ie. the ones in the kitchen squashed in next to my toaster).

13 Favourite Cookbooks of 2015

1. My New Roots by Sarah Britton
You wouldn’t think a ‘plant based’ book would be helpful for someone who was experimenting with eating ‘full Paleo’. But back in September when I was such an experimenter I found Sarah’s book really useful for alternatives to dairy. If you have any interest in creative ways to cook more veg this beautiful, vegetable-focused book is a winner. Checkout Sarah’s blog for a taste of what’s in store.

2. Mr Hong by Dan Hong
I can’t help but think of Dan Hong as Sydney’s answer to David Chang, the chef behind the Momofuku empire. This is the book I reach for when I’m after some serious deliciousness. From ‘secret’ tacos to amazing curries I love Hong’s work. Definitely a lot more than 5 ingredients though.

3. Near & Far by Heidi Swanson
A girl after my own heart, Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks loves food and travel. She’s combined both passions in this stunning book. I especially enjoyed reading about her travels in Japan, Morocco and India and the accompanying recipes. Lots of tasty new vegetarian ideas including the Red Lentil Hummus recipe below.

4. Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward
Another plant based blogger, it’s hard not to be caught up with Ella’s enthusiasm for veggies and real food. A self-taught cook Ella’s recipes err on the side of simplicity that I like.

5. Four Kitchens by Colin Fassnidge
Speaking of the word simplicity, it doesn’t really seem to be in Dublin / Sydney chef Colin Fassnidge’s vocabulary. That being said, I’ve loved this book as inspiration for my more extravagant weekend cooking. Especially when entertaining. There’s lots of effort required but sometimes even I enjoy making more complicated dishes as long as the deliciousness factor is there.

6. Kitchen by Mike by Mike McEnearney
I was devoed (that’s devastated in case you’re wondering) when I found that the Kitchen by Mike restaurant in Sydney had closed. But thankfully I had Mikes book which is a lovely tribute to the seasons with a balance between health and deliciousness that not many chefs get right. Good news is he’s opening in new digs in 2016.

7. Going Paleo by Pete Evans
This was an impulse purchase that inspired me to experiment with a month of eating ‘full paleo’ back in September. Not for everyone. But I did find some good ideas for making the paleo transition. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve gone back to eating what I call ‘mostly paleo’ so including legumes and dairy because I didn’t feel any extra benefits with the extra restriction. And boy did I miss my cheese.

8. Recipes for a Good Time by Ben Milgate and Elvis
I was going to write, ‘another Sydney chef book’ but these aren’t just any Sydney chefs. They own Porteno, the restaurant where my Irishman and I had our wedding ceremony and reception. So these guys hold a very special place in my heart. While there’s a lot of amazing meat recipes, it’s worth buying just to find out their secret to their amazing brussels sprouts with lentils.

9. A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis
OK confession time. SO I had a plan to cook every meal from David Tanis’ poetic book this year. And while I did make it half way through, I had to quit. As much as I loved the food, the multi course meals were too much for me to attempt, even on a Saturday night once I got pregnant and started going to bed at nanna o’clock.

10. In Search of Perfection by Heston Blumenthal
This might seem like the odd one out given that Heston and I fall at the completely opposite ends of the simple-complex cooking range. While I haven’t cooked anything from this book exactly, I have taken some inspiration from it. And my Irishman uses it to make his killer spaghetti bolognese. I do love Heston and the fact that he’s made food science sexy.

11. The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney Dunn
If you’re ever thinking of visiting Tasmania, make sure you book in for a cooking class at the Agrarian Kitchen. My Irishman and I have done their chacuterie course and another on cooking with fire and loved every minute. It also helps that Rodney is one of the nicest guys ever. Love his paddock to plate approach to cooking.

12. River Cottage Australia by Paul West
I’m a huge huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the original River Cottage series so I wasn’t sure how I would find an Australian version. Truth is I love it! The recipes tend to be your classics in a made-from-scratch way. If you’re looking for inspiration and new ideas you might not find them here. Although I have book marked the cheese making section to try one day.

13. The Blue Ducks Real Food by Mark Labrooy & Darren Robertson
My Irishman gave me a copy of the Blue Duck’s latest book for my birthday and I’ve loved everything I’ve made from it so far. The focus on real food is really refreshing. And I love that there’s a section devoted to fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Looking for a delicious Christmas gift?

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

Since we’re talking cookbooks, I couldn’t not mention my own print book, 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken about it but when I was in London in June I had coffee with my publisher and was very excited to learn that they had recently done a second print run!

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Heidi's Red Lentil Hummus

Heidi’s Red Lentil Hummus

As much as I love playing around with different versions of hummus, AND as much as I adore red lentils, I can’t believe I hadn’t ever thought to put the two together. As soon as I read Heidi’s recipe I was itching to try it. While similar to hummus made from chickpeas, there’s a subtle difference in flavour. But the best part is it only takes a few minutes to cook the lentils unlike chickpeas which need soaking and long simmering. I might even go as far as to say this is my new go-to hummus recipe.

makes: about 3 cups
takes: 25 minutes

250g (9oz) red lentils
2/3 cup tahini
3-4 tablespoons lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add lentils and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain really well and allow to cool.

2. Whizz lentils, tahini, lemon and garlic in a food processor until really smooth. Give it a good 5 minutes.

3. Taste and season generously with salt. Heidi calls for 3/4 teaspoon. If the hummus is too thick add a little water, whey or extra lemon. If too runny (like mine was) add more tahini. Whizz and taste again and adjust as needed until you’re happy.

4. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil anywhere you’d normally serve chickpea hummus.

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Video version of the recipe.

Variations

no tahini – the purists won’t like it but cashew or almond butter works fine instead.

milder – skip the garlic.

other legumes – use 2.5 cups cooked chickpeas, white beans or other lentils.

paleo – replace lentils with cooked root veg. Roast sweet potato is especially delish. No need to simmer of course.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. And a BIG thanks for all the lovely comments and messages about my gestational diabetes diagnosis last week.

I really appreciate your kind thoughts. And the good news is, I’m actually finding it fascinating to be checking my blood sugar after every single meal. So enlightening to be putting my nutritional theories to the test on a day to day basis.

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Steak with Asian Zucchini 'Noodles'

On Monday I got a phone call which made me feel like a bit of a failure.

It was from my doctor saying they had the results of a recent test and that I basically have gestational diabetes.

My mind was screaming…

“That can’t be right… I eat so well. There must be a mistake.”

But the results were there.

You know the ironic thing??

I was already planning to write this week about eating low carb. I had a request from a Stonesoup reader which went something like this…

“I am supposed to eat a gluten free diet also no carbohydrates (according to Quack ). Because of blood problem.

How to get a list of food that is free of above. I am old so not too smart with these things.”

Weird coincidence, right?

Anyway now I’m used to the idea, you’ll be happy to know I don’t feel like a ‘failure’ any more. I’m actually looking forward to learning what I can about the whole diabetes, insulin, blood sugar and diet puzzle.

And finding ways to improve my diet. After all I’m far from perfect!

My 3 Favourite Ways To Eat Low Carb

1. Swap grains for veggies (and legumes).

For most of us the biggest source of carbs in our diets comes from grain based products like breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice. About 5 years ago I started experimenting with reducing and even eliminating grains from my diet and I can easily say it’s had the biggest positive impact on my waistline.

These days I have eggs and some sort of vegetable for breakfast instead of a bowl of All Bran. For lunches my go-tos are salads, soups or leftovers instead of a sandwich.

Then for dinners my fave substitutes for grains are to use vegetable ‘noodles’ made from zucchini or carrots instead of pasta or rice noodles. I also love cauliflower ‘rice’ (raw grated cauli) instead of steamed rice. Or sometimes I’ll just serve my stir fry, curry or ragu on a big bed of baby spinach instead of rice or pasta.

For wrapping things I love iceberg lettuce leaves or (my latest discovery) cabbage leaves instead of tortillas or flat bread.

The possibilities are endless but best of all I never feel like I’m missing out.

2. Choose savoury over sweet.

Sweet treats are the other big source of carbs. So there’s a big opportunity to go for a handful of nuts over a cookie at snack time and a cheese plate instead of dessert.

3. Focus on real food. Not ‘low carb alternatives’

If you switch to processed packaged foods labelled with ‘low carb’ you’re really just swapping one problem for another. And usually paying a premium in the process.

Real food with lots of veggies is the way forward.

How about you?

Got any tips for eating low carb? Or are you a confirmed carb lover? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

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Steak with Asian Zucchini 'Noodles'-2

Asian Beef & Zucchini ‘Noodles’

I took this photo a while ago before I invested in a spiralizer. So the ‘noodles’ in the picture were made using my mandoline to slice the zucchini into fine strips and then hand sliced into thinner noodles. While that method is good, I have to say the look and feel you get from the spiralizer is so much better! More on that soon. But if you don’t have either, no stress – see the variations below for suggestions.

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

2 steaks
2 medium zucchini
2-4 red chillies, sliced
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Remove steaks from the fridge (up to an hour ahead).

2. Wash zucchini and slice into ‘noodles’ either using a mandoline or spiralizer. Sprinkle with a little salt and stand at room temp to soften.

3. Heat a frying pan on a very high heat. Scatter a very fine layer of salt over the bottom of the pan and add the steaks.

4. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side for medium rare (or 3-4 minutes for medium) or until cooked to your liking.

5. Remove steaks and place on 2 warm plates. Carefully wipe out the excess salt from the hot pan.

6. Add zucchini ‘noodles’ and chilli to the hot pan without returning it to the heat. Allow the noodles to warm through then add the soy sauce. Taste and add more soy as needed. If you want the noodles hotter, pop the pan back on the heat but I find there’s usually enough residual heat to get things warm enough.

7. Spoon zucchini, chilli and sauce over the steaks and serve hot.

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Variations

no mandoloine / spiralizer – either slice the zucchini by hand as finely as you can or use a vegetable peeler.

budget – replace steak with minced (ground) meat. Just brown it in a little oil (without the salt crust) then toss in the zucchini, chilli and soy.

vegetarian – replace steaks with cooked white or black beans. Just warm everything in the pan.

more veg – feel free to use more zucchini or add other ‘noodle’ veg such as carrots and/or red peppers. Some fresh herbs like mint or coriander (cilantro) would also be lovely.

paleo / soy-free – use fish or oyster sauce instead of the soy or replace with coconut aminos.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice OR toss cooked rice, singapore or hokkien noodles in with the zucchini.

Big love,
Jules x

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Chickpea & Za'atar Cabbage Wraps-2

If you had to nominate your strongest ‘super power’, what would you choose?

For me, it’s easy.

My ability to simplify things, especially in the kitchen would have to be it. Hello 5-Ingredients!

Earlier in the year I wrote a post where I showed how I simplified one of Yotam Ottolenghis recipes which was great fun. So I thought it about time I tackle another one.

But first, the basics…

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.

Cabbage Wraps – An Example.

As you may have guessed from the photo above, todays inspiration comes from one of my fave vegetarian blogs, My New Roots. Well worth a read whether you follow a plant based diet or if you’re like me and love your veggies AND your meat.

My New Roots:
Spring Cabbage Wraps with Couscous, Za’atar & Spicy Tahini Dressing
Ingredients list
– 17 items
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
grated zest 1 organic lemon
1/2 cup kalamata olives
8 whole cabbage leaves
1 cup cooked butter beans
handful fresh pea shoots
1/3 cup tahini
1 large clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon raw honey or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup ground sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Stonesoup:
Cabbage Wraps with Chickpeas & Za’atar
Ingredients list
– 5 items
2-4 cabbage leaves
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
4 tablespoons lemon juice + wedges to serve
4 tablespoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons za’atar

So what have I done?

1. Combining substantial ingredients.
The couscous, olives and butter beans are providing the filling for the wraps. I could have chosen one of these to use but I was in the mood for chickpeas so they replaced all three.

2. Simplifying the flavours.
The red onion, parsley, lemon zest, pea shoots, cayenne, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and honey / maple syrup are adding extra flavours (and some colour). I chose to slash this down to just tahini and lemon to make a simple sauce for the wraps. If I was allowing myself an extra ingredient I would add in the parsley for some freshness and greenery.

3. Outsourcing the spice blend.
Instead of making my own za’atar, I used a commercial one.

From 17 ingredients down to 5. Easy.

(see below for the complete (simplified) recipe.)

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

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What about you?

I’d really love to know about your ‘super powers’! Do tell in the comments below…

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Chickpea & Za'atar Cabbage Wraps

Cabbage Wraps with Chickpeas & Za’atar

There are so many things I love about these wraps! The tahini sauce is an old favourite but combining it with za’atar, a middle eastern spice blend is something I hadn’t done in ages.

The other brilliant idea (thanks Sarah B!) is to use cabbage leaves as your wrapping ingredient… Much lighter than using pita bread or other grain based wraps but more substantial and more nourishing than good old iceberg lettuce (my previous go-to veggie based wrap).

Enough for: 2 as a light meal
Takes: 10 minutes

2-4 cabbage leaves
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
4 tablespoons lemon juice + wedges to serve
4 tablespoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons za’atar

1. Divide cabbage leaves between two plates.

2. Drain chickpeas and rinse with boiling water from the kettle to warm them. Skip the warming if it’s a really hot day.

3. Place warm chickpeas in your cabbage leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

4. Combine lemon juice, tahini and 4 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. Season.

5. Drizzle tahini sauce over the chickpeas and top with za’atar. Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.

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Variations

carnivore / paleo / legume-free – replace chickpeas with ground (minced) meat such as beef, lamb or chicken. Brown the meat in a pan with a little oil before using to stuff the cabbage. Or use roast diced root veg like carrots, parsnip and sweet potato.

chickpea alternatives – cooked couscous, quinoa, lentils, butter beans, other beans or a combo of any of the above.

no za’atar? – Replace with sesame seeds, or fresh thyme leaves. OR make your own by combining 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 1/4 cup ground sumac, 2 tablespoons dried thyme and 1 tablespoon dried oregano (Sarah B.’s recipe). Or order online from a good spice supplier. If you do buy it’s also great sprinkled on cooked eggs, chicken and fish.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss cooked couscous, quinoa or other legumes with the chickpeas OR replace cabbage leaves with warm pita bread or tortillas.

more veg – sprinkle over flat leaf parsley leaves, mint leaves and/or pea shoots. Grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers toss in with the chickpeas would also be lovely.

no tahini? – tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds you could use almond butter or cashew butter instead. OR replace the whole sauce with well seasoned natural yoghurt (full fat of course!).

hot! – do as Sarah B. does and add some cayenne pepper or other chilli powder to the tahini sauce.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. This is the 3rd year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

After a few very ‘unsimple’ years in my life… getting married, having a baby and buying a house (and tiny farm) I’ve been getting back into practicing simplicity myself. So I’m going to be following along with the whole program next year.

Super excited to have the amazing Leo Babauta from Zen Habits leading the month of mindfulness in September! Can’t wait.

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

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5-Ingredient Chicken Caccitore-3

A few weeks ago I experienced something completely new. I was ready to stop cooking all together.

I’d just finished photographing and videoing the new recipes for my Tired & Hungry Dinners program. As much as I was proud of the work I’d done, I was over having to think so hard.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I love my job. Normally I find creating in the kitchen energizing and fun. But the little ‘bun’ in my proverbial ‘oven’ was making me feel otherwise.

Luckily there was enough energy left for one good idea…

I made November my month of ‘outscourcing’ thinking about what to have for dinner.

So I’ve been using my Soupstones Meal Plans for the past two weeks.

And I’ve LOVED how easy it’s been to download the shopping list, get my ingredients and then just walk into the kitchen each night, check the meal plan and start cooking.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

Like last week when the meal plan included Steamed Fish with Soy & Ginger. I found myself not ‘feeling like’ steamed fish for dinner.

However I had the ingredients, so I made it anyway. And it was delicious!

How about you?

If you’re happy with your current meal planning system then skip down to the recipe below.

BUT if you’d like to stop having to think about dinner so much, then listen up!

Soupstones Square Logo NEW

I know this time of year may seem wrong to be starting something new. But it’s actually times like now when we get busy that the ‘wheels tend to fall off’ our everyday healthy eating.

Now is actually when we need the most help.

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

5-Ingredient Chicken Caccitore-2

5-Ingredient Chicken Caccitore

At the moment I’m finding myself turning to dishes like this that you can just pop in the oven and practically let dinner ‘cook itself’. I’m especially fond of chicken drumsticks because they’re super economical plus you get all those lovely bones to gnaw on. The other thing I love about this dish is the way the olives bring an exotic complexity to such a simple lineup of ingredients.

enough for: 4
takes: 60 minutes

8-12 chicken drumsticks
1 jar tomato passata (puree) (700g / 3cups)
4 tablespoons butter
2 handfuls black olives
2-3 medium zucchini

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place chicken, tomato and butter in an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the chicken in one layer.

2. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the foil, turn the chicken, add the olives and bake uncovered for another 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Taste and add extra salt if needed (the olives will bring some so you may not need it).

4. While the chicken is cooking slice the zucchini into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, mandoline or spiralizer. Season with salt and allow the ‘noodles’ to stand at room temp to warm up and soften slightly.

5. To serve divide zucchini noodles between 4 plates and top with chicken, olives and sauce.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace chicken with large mushrooms and serve with some shaved parmesan or crumbled feta for some extra protein.

carnivore – these flavours are also lovely with lamb shanks, beef short ribs or osso buco but you’ll need to cook covered for 4-6 hours at 150C (300F). Uncover and add the olives for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

carb lovers / more substantial – serve with hot buttered pasta or egg noodles (and skip the zucchini if you like).

more veg – add chopped onions, garlic, carrots and/or red capsicum (bell peppers) to the sauce before cooking. Serve with chopped parsley or basil on top. And add a green salad on the side.

paleo / dairy-free – replace butter with coconut oil or olive oil.

bone free – If you don’t share my love of bones, use chicken thigh or breast fillets. You’ll need to reduce the cooking time to about 30 minutes or so depending on their size.

other chicken – also feel free to use a whole chicken chopped into 8 pieces instead of the drumsticks. Or chicken thighs on the bone or chicken marylands (thighs + drumsticks).

tomato-free – replace tomato passata (puree) with chicken stock and add a halved lemon to cook in with the chicken. Squeeze lemon juice into the sauce before serving.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. And a quick clarification…

Last week I wrote about my best decision ever. The decision I described was my best career decision. My overall best life decision of course was marrying a certain Irishman and having our family!

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