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Kale Caesar Salad-2

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

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

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

Give up?

OK, my ‘secret’ was habits.

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

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

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

‘Which habits Jules?’

Am I a mind reader or what? ;)

My Top 5 Healthy Eating Habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple and soo effective!

Need some help with your healthy food habits?

Well you’re in luck!

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

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

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

For more details go to:

Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.


Kale Caesar Salad

Kale Caesar Salad

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

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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

pps. Here’s the link again:

Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.


Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

There aren’t many things that make me angry.  

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

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

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

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

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

There are two reasons…

1. It’s just plain wrong.

Sugar is sugar.

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

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

2. It gives people a false sense of security.

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

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

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

You know where this is heading right?

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

So what sweeteners do I use?

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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


Low Carb Chocolate Puddings-2

Low Carb Chocolate Puddings

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

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

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

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hazelnut – replace almond meal with hazelnut meal.

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

SBS snippet

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


Meaty Beans-2

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

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


What do you do?

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

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

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

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

3 Easy Steps to Substituting Ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So back to our salmon salad example…

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

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

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

Acid / lemon juice alternatives? Lime juice, vinegar.

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

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

Still not convinced you can substitute?

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

There’s another alternative!

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

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For more details, go to:


Meaty Beans

Meaty Beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hot! – add fresh or dried chilli.

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

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

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

richer – add a few tablespoons butter with the paprika.

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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

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Asian 'Spag Bol'

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

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

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

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

So how did this all come about?

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

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

Her answer surprised me.

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

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

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

Sound good?

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

For more details, go to:

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


Asian 'Spag Bol'-2

Asian ‘Spag Bol’

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

takes: 20 minutes
enough for: 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sugar-free – use soy sauce not oyster.

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

For more details, go to:



Gluten Free Pizzas-2

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

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

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

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

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


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

Gluten Free Pizzas

Gluten-Free Pizza Bases

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

makes 6
takes about an hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. What are your favourite pizza toppings?

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



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

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

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

I mean heaps.

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

It’s quick to cook. It’s inexpensive.

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

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

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

Need I say more?

23 Tasty Ideas for Minced (Ground) Meat

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

I’m always looking for new ideas…

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

But what if I’m vegetarian?

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


The Great Aussie Rissole!

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

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

Enough for 2-3
Takes 20 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 ingredients – skip the parsley

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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Coconut Pancakes-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My ‘Not-so-Guilty’ Pleasures

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

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

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

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

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

Coconut Pancakes

Coconut Pancakes

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

Enough for 1
Takes 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

5. Serve with cream and fruit.

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

no coconut oil – butter!

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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



This week I have something a little different for you!

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

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

Hi Jules,

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

This was no exception.

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

The end result was amazing!

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

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



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

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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


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

carnivore – add chorizo or spicy sausage with the peppers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

Share your answer in the comments below.

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

Entries close: 24th June 2016.

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


1-Dish Ratatouille

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

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

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

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

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

At first I dismissed the idea.

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

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

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

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

I haven’t looked back.

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

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

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

That really was key.

Which begs the question…

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

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

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

If it sounds like something that might help you:

NOTE: Registration for ends 23rd June.


1-Dish Ratatouille-2

Easy 1-Dish Ratatouille

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

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

Enough for 2
Takes: an hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

Registration ENDS 21st June.

Here’s the link again:


Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-2

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

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

But want to know the good news?

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

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

2 Easy Ways to Simplify Any Recipe

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

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

Mike’s Spiced Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Labneh

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

Stonesoup Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

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

What have I done?

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

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

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

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

Want More Simplicity?

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

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

For more details, go to:

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Spiced Roast Cauli with Labneh-3

Spiced Cauliflower Salad with Labneh

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

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

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 30 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,
Jules x

ps. Registration for Simple Year closes soon!

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

Then check out ‘A Simple Year’ over at:



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

Well the other day this happened once again…

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


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

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

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

Last Updated: June 2016

How to Spend 48 hours Eating & Drinking in Canberra

DAY 1. BREAKFAST Mocan & Green Grout

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

DAY 1. LUNCH Grease Monkey

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

DAY 1. DINNER Temporada

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

DAY 2. BREAKFAST Barrio Coffee Collective

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

DAY 2. LUNCH Eightysix

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

DAY 2. DINNER Monster at Hotel Hotel

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

If you have more time try

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to stay

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

On my list but haven’t been (yet!)…

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

Lilotang – modern Asian.

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

Walt & Burley – newish gastropub on the Kingston foreshore.

For more cities:

See the Stonesoup Guide to Tasty Travel.

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

Big love,
Jules x

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Super Easy Moussaka

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

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

Hey Jules,

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

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

I chickened out.

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


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

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

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

So it’s time we changed that!

Here’s what you need to know.

The Stonesoup Guide to Oven Temperatures

Things cook faster at higher temps.

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

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

Not a good look.

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

Most savoury dishes are flexible with temp.

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

Most sweet baked goods aren’t so flexible.

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

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

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

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

Generally fan assisted ovens will cook quicker.

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

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

Some ovens are fast and some are slow.

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

Use the middle shelf when baking.

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

Oven thermometers aren’t worth it.

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

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

How to cook 2 things with different temps

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

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

Too easy!

My Favourite Oven Temps.

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

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

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

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

Did you find this helpful?

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

Super Easy Moussaka-2

Seriously Easy Moussaka

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

enough for 3-4
takes an hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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vegetarian – replace beef with cooked lentils or beans.

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

vegan – combine the vegetarian and dairy-free options.

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.
Big love,
Jules x

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Green Spaghetti & Meatballs-2

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

Go the Irish Brennan sleeping genes!

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

It really is the little things.

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

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

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

3 Strategies to Pull Meals Together Quickly

1. simple recipes

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

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

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

2. cooking meals in advance

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

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

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

3. Prepping ingredients

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

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

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

What’s not to love about that?

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

Green Spaghetti & Meatballs

Green ‘Spaghetti’ & Meatballs

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

enough for 2-3
takes 30 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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vegetarian – use these lentil balls.

dairy-free – use dairy-free pesto.

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

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

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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bunch of cavalo nero kale

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

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

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

At the time I remember thinking ‘whatever‘.

But now I get it.

These days I’m pretty organized.

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

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

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

3 Secrets to Being Organized in the Kitchen.

1. Habits.

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

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

2. Outsourcing.

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

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

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

3. Prepping Ingredients

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

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

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

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


easy duck ragu-2

Rosemary & Garlic Kale

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

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

Enough for 2 as a side
Takes 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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Usage Suggestions

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

for breakkie – top with poached eggs and some mayo.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

different herbs – thyme or sage also work well.

lemony – toss in some lemon juice at the end.

no garlic – just skip it. I often do!

Big love,
Jules x

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Cheesey Cauli Mash

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

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

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

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

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

4 Tips for Coping with Fussy Eaters

1. Try to see it from their perspective.

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

2. Take the pressure off yourself.

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

And that’s it.

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

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

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

3. Cook in bulk.

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

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

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

4. Keep trying.

As Winston Churchill said,

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

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

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

Cheesey Cauli Mash-2

Cheesey Cauli Mash

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

enough for 2 as a side
takes 15 minutes

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

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

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

3. Taste and season with salt as needed.

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

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

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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


Fermented Chilli Sauce

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

I love microbes.

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

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

And more importantly my taste buds!

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

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

Yes. Obsessed.

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

Calm down Jules.

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

But I digress.

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

4 Reasons I LOVE Fermented Foods

1. They’re delicious!

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

2. They’re (mostly) easy to digest.

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

3. They’re a great source of probiotics.

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

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

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

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

How to easily include fermented foods in your meals

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

Temperature matters!

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

A little goes a long way.

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

For breakfast:

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

For lunch:

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

For dinner:

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

For dessert:

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

Want more?

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

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

Fermented Chilli Sauce-2

Fermented Chilli Hot Sauce

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

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

makes about 2 cups
takes 15 minutes + fermenting time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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green – use green chillies!

mild – deseed the chillies or use mild ones

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

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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


kale 'cabonara'

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

I know because I’m one of those people.

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

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

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

5 Reasons Meal Plans Don’t Work

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

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

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

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

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

What if there was another way to approach meal planning?

Well the good news is there is!

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

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

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

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

So how does the 2-Minute Meal Plan work?

Basically there are two key components…

2 Keys to the 2-Minute Meal Plan System:

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to reverse YOUR meal planning process?

2MMP 3D Cover

Well you’re in luck!

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

For more details, go to:

Big love,
Jules x

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

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

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

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

pps. Here’s the link again:


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

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

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

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

Veg garden April 16

Summer Salad Garden

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

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

Veg garden April 16

Abandoned Berry Patch

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

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

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

Veg garden April 16

Kitchen Herb Garden

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

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

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

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

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

Finally a win for me! Take that possums.

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

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

Veg garden April 16

Main Veggie Bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veg garden April 16

New Veggie Beds

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

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

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

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

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

Veg garden April 16

The Sad Story of my Orchard

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

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

I know.

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

All very expensive.

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

Veg garden April 16

Trees in Pots

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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

Big love,
Jules x

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


Shichimi Togarashi Beef

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

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

But it’s not all bad news.

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

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

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

What is Shicimi Togarashi?

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

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

6 Tasty Ideas for Shicimi Togarashi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Substitutes for Shicimi Togarashi

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

Shichimi Togarashi Beef-2

Shichimi Togarashi Beef

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

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

Enough for: 2
Takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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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.


As Fergal would say… Ouchies!

No fun at all. 

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

Eat. More. Magnesium.

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

But I do have 2 exceptions. Iron and magnesium. 

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

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

So what are the best food sources of magnesium?

1. Cocoa Powder or Dark Chocolate.

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

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

2. Seeds and Nuts.

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

3. Fish.

Especially oily fish like salmon and mackerel.

4. Leafy Greens.

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

5. Others.

See this list for other sources.

Which brings me to this weeks recipe!

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


Anti-Cramp Salmon

Anti-Cramp Salmon

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

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

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

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

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

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

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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.