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spanish meatballs-2

This time last year I did something I wasn’t sure would work.

It all started when my friend Caroline was telling me about her experience with one of those weight loss programs that comes with an exercise schedule and detailed meal plans.

With her new, more slender figure Caroline was looking amazing.

What surprised me was her insistence that the thing she had found most helpful was the meal plans. They made it so easy to eat really healthfully day in and day out.

Each week she’d print out the shopping list and buy what was on it. Or better yet, get her husband to do the shopping.

Then at meal times she’d walk into the kitchen, look at her notes and just start cooking. No having to ‘think’ at the end of a long day.

She told me,

“Jules you really should offer a meal planning service. Some of the recipes in the plan I was following were pretty time consuming. It would be even better to have healthy meal plans using your quick, easy Stonesoup recipes.”

That got me thinking. I wasn’t sure it would work.

But I decided to give it a shot. So this time last year, ‘Soupstones Meal Plans’ was born.

Since then there have been 917 people who have used the meal plans to eat well and be well.

And today I wanted to share the stories of how Soupstones has helped change the lives of some of its members…

Daunine, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Daunine lives in the US and has a family of 4 to cook for. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Daunine, Soupstones Member.
Daunine loves the variations included for the meal plans and recipes. She loves that the meal plans focus on whole foods and ingredients she can get at the store. Since starting to use the meal plans Daunine only does one shop a week so she’s saving time.

She also finds that she’s saving money because she’s not running to the store as often and she’s wasting less because she is using what she buys. Both Daunine and her husband are food lovers and they often find themselves saying ‘I can’t believe how good this is and it’s only got a few ingredients. It’s amazing that it’s so simple and so good!

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Crystal, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Crystal is a Canadian living in Colombia. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Crystal, Soupstones Member.
It was so revolutionary for me as a cook. I could not boil water, and now I make all three meals for my boyfriend and me, with confidence. I actually, GASP, go off the recipe and add my own flair with what I have in my fridge or my spice rack… something that I could have never done without your meal plans holding my hand and helping me through the hard stuff – decision making. Fun bonus, all the recipes are delish!”

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Nyssa, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Nyssa is a student living in Melbourne. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Nyssa, Soupstones Member.
Nyssa is in remission for an eating disorder and was encouraged by her dietician to try out Soupstones meal plans. She was hesitant at first but she loves fresh healthy food so she decided to give it a try. Before using the meal plans Nyssa had a lot of anxiety about shopping for food so she found herself eating out or relying on meal replacement smoothies. Now she finds the Soupstones shopping list fantastic for getting her shopping done quickly without fuss. She’s eating at home much more and usually uses the second serving of each meal for lunch at uni the next day.

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Sherrill, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Sherrill recently turned 65 and moved from New York to Philadelphia. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Sherrill, Soupstones Member.
“My “relationship” with Jules Clancy and Soupstones is as old as Soupstones…one year.

Prior to joining Soupstones I had determined that …once again… something needed to be done about my weight. Other than chubby, I’m quite healthy with much thanks given to the genetics that have pretty much overridden my self-abuse. And, seeing as how I recently became a member of the 65-year old community, figured this is a last hurrah to really enjoy feeling, being and looking well.

Intrigued by Soupstones and Jules’s ever-growing, non-preachy beliefs about eating [honey IS good], I initially purchased one of her e-cookbooks, eventually becoming a member of the Weekly Meal Plan “club”. Jules’s recipes, philosophy, research, weekly e-mails and general chattiness continually feed and stoke the fires of my becoming more mindful, educated/questioning and cooking creatively.

In addition, shopping with the Meal Plan lists makes cooking sooooo much easier while at the same time helping cut food and money waste way back. As a single person, I am particularly happy to move from the 20-ingredient, calorie-laden, 4-to-6 servings meal to a 5-items-or less, healthy plant-based meal for two. Having always considered myself to be a good food eater [while eating too much of that good thing!] even some of the small changes [Cauliflower Rice or Zucchini Pasta] are really satisfying substitutes.

Combining Soupstones Meal Plans and Recipes with a new, regular exercise program has had the extra added benefit of making me even healthier — and 25 pounds [1.78 stone] lighter!!! Happy Birthday Soupstones!!!”

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Sound like something you’d like to try? Well now is a brilliant time to join!

Soupstones Square Logo no border

The Soupstones 1st Birthday SALE!


To celebrate this big milestone, I’m having a quick 50% OFF sale on Soupstones monthly membership.

This the first sale on Soupstones membership in almost 6 months. It’s only for a very LIMITED TIME.

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

UPDATE: The Sale is NOW OVER.

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spanish meatballs-2

Spanish Meatballs with Zucchini ‘Noodles’

I’m a big fan of meatballs in all their forms but my favourites are ones like these that you pop in the oven to bake in their sauce because they’re super low maintenance and you can do other things while dinner is cooking itself. If you don’t have an oven, they can easily be simmered on the stove top, you’ll just need to be prepared to stir more frequently.

enough for: 2-3
takes: 30-40 minutes

1 jar tomato passata or puree (700g / 24oz / 2.5 cups) 
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
450g (1lb) chicken mince
150g (5oz) almond meal
2-3 small zucchini
ricotta, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place tomato passata, capsicum, butter and paprika in a baking dish and pop in the oven to get cooking.

2. While the sauce is warming, combine chicken and almond in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and form into your preferred meatball size. Smaller ones take longer to make but will cook quicker!

3. Add the balls to the sauce and return to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes.

4. Turn and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.

5. While the meatballs are cooking, slice zucchini into fine ribbons using a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Stack them up and slice into linguine shaped ‘noodles’ with a knife. Pop in a strainer and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes or so.

6. When the meatballs are cooked. Rinse the salt from the zucchini and pat dry with paper towel. Serve meatballs and sauce on a bed of the raw zucchini ‘noodles’ with a dollop of ricotta on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – use the recipe for these lentil balls to replace the chicken and almond meal.

vegan – replace chicken and almond meal with 2 drained cans of chickpeas. Simmer the chickpeas in the sauce until hot. Serve chickpeas and sauce with the zucchini noodles and replace ricotta with roasted sliced almonds or pine nuts.

dairy-free – replace ricotta with roasted sliced almonds or pine nuts.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice, cooked couscous or cooked quinoa. Or some crusty bread and butter.

more veg – feel free to add more than just the capsicum (bell pepper) to the sauce. Mushrooms, onion, diced eggplant, sweet potato or even frozen peas will all work, you may need to adjust the cooking time to get the veg cooked through.

not-spanish – skip the capsicum and smoked paprika.

italian meatballs – skip the smoked paprika and serve with grated parmesan and basil instead of the ricotta.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if you would enjoy following a meal plan?

Here’s what Dyann said about her experience:

“I am so glad I signed up for this, but I think my husband is even happier! Every night I’m hearing comments like, “I have been eating so good lately,” “This tastes like it came from a [Thai, Indian, etc] restaurant!” “That looks like a picture in a magazine” and “The house smells soooo gooooood.”
Dyann, Soupstones Member.

For more details use the link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

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parmesan edamame-3

Now that I have a toddler in the house, I’m very well acquainted with the degree of difficulty involved with getting said toddler to eat anything green.

Fortunately Fergal loves peas, so I always keep our freezer well stocked. But there are only so many times you can serve up peas each week. So I’ve been on the lookout for a Fergal-friendly green veg alternative.

And I’ve found a real beauty!

Yep. Edamame are our new family favourite veg.

What are edamame?

Basically they’re fresh soy beans still in their pod. I always have some when I go to Japanese restaurants. They’re usually served in their pods and you just pop out the little beans inside and discard the pods.

They’re a vibrant bright green and have a lovely sweet, mild fresh beany flavour. Fergal loves them and so do my Irishman and I. So they’re definitely for adults too!

Where can I get them?

Try your supermarket freezer near the frozen pea section. My local supermarket stocks them but it’s pretty large. The next best place to look would be an Asian or Japanese grocery store.

What can I substitute if I can’t find them?

Frozen peas or broad beans would be the closet thing. Or I guess fresh snow peas or sugar snap peas where you eat the pod as well.

Are frozen veg as good for you as fresh?

Absolutely! Freezing is pretty good for keeping most of the nutrients intact. I’ve even seen studies where the nutritional content of frozen veg was better than unfrozen veg that was getting on the ‘old’ side.

What about you?

What’s your favourite frozen veg? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

parmesan edamame-3

Parmesan Edamame

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. I usually make these for Fergal (and me!) to snack on while I get dinner ready.

Enough for: 1-2 as a snack
Takes: 5 minutes

1-2 handfuls frozen edamame
1 handful grated parmesan

1. Bring a small pot of water to the boil (I usually use the kettle).

2. Add edamame straight from the freezer. Simmer for 2 minutes.

3. Drain and pop in a serving dish (if you want them to cool down quickly for small hungry mouths run under the cold tap for a bit).

4. Remove edamame from their pods and discard pods. Sprinkle with parmesan and enjoy!

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Variations

different veg / no edamame – broad beans are great (remove from the pods, simmer 2 mins and peel papery skins before eating). Or try parmesan peas (I just heat in a pan with a little butter until no longer frozen).

dairy-free / vegan – serve edamame with sea salt flakes instead of the parmesan.

more substantial – you can use the podded edamame anywhere you’d normally use frozen peas such as in soups or salads or fried rice. But since they’re a bit labour intensive I just stick to using them as a snack.

herby – add a few torn mint or basil leaves.

short on attention span – I often just cover the frozen edamame with boiling water from the kettle and leave to stand while I do other things.

More Stonesoup:

For the next update in the Jules & David project:
Menu 8. Slightly All-American

And on ‘The Yellow Bench’ What I Eat, by Fergal 18 months old.

With love,
Jules x

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kung pao chicken

About this time two years ago my Irishman and I had a lovely holiday in Sydney staying in our friends Walsh Bay apartment with killer views of the Sydney harbour bridge.

One night we had an especially delicious dinner at Mr Wong. A seriously great Chinese restaurant in the CBD.

To cut a long story short, My Irishman was blown away by their Kung Pao Chicken.

As soon as we were home, he was in the kitchen trying to replicate Mr Wong’s KPC.

Now my Irishman is pretty handy in the kitchen but he doesn’t cook that often because I tend to hog the stove.

I love to be cooked for as much as the next girl, so I was thrilled to be the ‘guinea pig’ for his experiments.

Months later, when KPC was still on high rotation, I wasn’t quite so appreciative of being cooked for. So I took matters into my own hands and sent an email to Australian Gourmet Traveller, my favourite food magazine. I explained my predicament and asked if they could request the recipe from the chef.

A few months later my prayers were answered.

We had the official recipe! My Irishman was finally happy with his kung pao efforts. Life was good.

I’ve been wanting to tell you this story for a while now but I figured it needed a fitting occasion. And this week we have such an event!

This Friday my Irishman, aka GB, turns 40. So to celebrate I have the recipe for my (simple) version of kung pao chicken below plus a little sale…

The GB40 Sale!

GB40 sale new

When I was trying to decide how to celebrate such a milestone occasion, it didn’t take me long to figure it out.

I only have one product priced in the $40s… The ebook bundle deal where you can save $10 if you buy ‘The Tired & Hungry Cooks Companion’ and ‘Healthy & Tasty’ together.

Normally it’s $44 but for the next 40 hours you can get it for an extra 40% OFF!

To make sure you don’t miss out on the 40-hour 40% OFF price go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/bundle/

The sale is strictly limited to 40 hours, so don’t delay!

UPDATE: THE SALE IS NOW OVER.

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kung pao chicken

My Simple Kung Pao


There have been many dinner table discussions at out house on which ingredients could be left out of kung pao. I must point out that this is my simple interpretation and if my Irishman was cooking, he would stick to the original Mr Wong recipe.

Chinese black ‘Chinkiang’ vinegar is a really lovely ingredient but if you don’t have it already, use rice vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar instead. It’s not worth buying a bottle especially for this recipe.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes + marinating

450g (1lb) chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce + 2 tablespoons for sauce
4-6 fresh or dried red chillies 
1 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
steamed rice or cauliflower ‘rice’, to serve

 
1. Slice chicken into bite sized strips and place in a bowl with 1 tablespoon soy. Cover and stand for a few minutes or if possible refrigerate for a few hours but no longer than 24.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok. Add half the chicken and cook, stirring until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Place cooked chicken in a clean bowl and add the remaining chicken and the chilli. Continue to stir fry

3. When the second batch of chicken is browned and cooked through. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Stir.

4. Remove from the heat and add the additional 2 tablespoons soy sauce and the vinegar and stir well. Taste and add more soy or vinegar if you think it needs it.

5. Serve chicken on a bed of rice (or cauliflower ‘rice’ – raw cauliflower grated in the food processor) with green onions sprinkled on top.

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Variations

optional extras – handful roast peanuts, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar to marinate the chicken and another to finish the sauce.

vegetarian / vegan – replace chicken with firm tofu or use diced eggplant (add a little water and allow extra time for the eggplant to cook).

more veg – serve with steamed or stir fried Asian greens such as bok choy or Chinese broccoli on the side. I usually dress the greens with a little sesame oil. Steamed broccoli or broccolini is another lovely accompaniment. Or in Spring time consider asaparagus.

no Chinkiang vinegar – use rice vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar instead. It’s not worth buying a bottle especially for this recipe unless you are a vinegar-ophile like me and are keen to add something new to your collection.

less hot – 6 chillies should make it pretty punchy, like ‘pao’! If you prefer less heat, use less chillies and remove the seeds. Or just skip the chilli.

With love,
Jules x

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bas vin-4

Last year I read a great little book by Chris Guillebeau who fulfilled his dream of visiting every country in the world.

With the title, ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’, Chris’ latest book is all about quests. It chronicles the adventures of not only Chris’s globe trotting but a heap of other people with quests as diverse as cooking a meal from every country in the world to watching a baseball game in every major league stadium in the US.

Being a Virgo who loves writing (and crossing things off) lists, I found the whole ‘quest’ idea super inspiring.

Not only did it motivate me to finally start my ‘bucket list’, it also gave me the idea for a few mini quests that I’m working on this year.

My Quests for 2015

1. Cook every meal from David Tanis’ ‘Platter of Figs and Other Recipes’.

2. Post one photo on Instagram every day for a year.

3. Eat at every restaurant in Canberra on the Good Food Top 20 list.

4. Have a conversation in French in Paris.

The David Tanis Project

My best Christmas pressie this year was a copy of ‘A Platter of Figs ‘. I fell in love instantly with Tanis’ writing but even more so with the sound of his food.

I just love the way he tells a story about a meal and then gives the menu and recipes.

I also love that even though he is a chef, his favourite way to spend time with family and friends is to cook at home. A man after my own heart.

After reading the book cover to cover, an idea struck.

Maybe I should try and cook every meal from the book over the next year?

And the ‘Jules & David Project’ was born.

The story so far

I made our first meal last week on a suitably hot Summer’s day. If you’d like more detail on the actual menu, I’ve created a separate page over here (excuse the crappy iphone pics).

Overall I just LOVED the meal.

Of course there were many Stonesoup simplifications because sometimes I can’t help it.

I also loved the process of following someone else’s well planned idea. And the chance to try some new tricks that I wouldn’t thought of on my own.

The menus

menu seven: TOO DARNED HOT. ALORS!
menu eight: SLIGHTLY ALL-AMERICAN
menu nine: YELLOW HUNGER
menu ten: FEELING ITALIAN, PART 1
menu thirteen: FEELING ITALIAN, PART 2
menu fourteen: IN CATALONIA
menu fifteen: THE BEAN SOUP LUNCH
menu sixteen: ANOTHER EARLY AUTUMN
menu seventeen: DINNER FOR A TUSCAN
menu eighteen: A SIMPLE MOROCCAN SUPPER
menu nineteen: TAPAS PARTY (coming soon)

Plus! Watch this space for more to be added during the year…

bas vin-4

Versatile Basil Vinaigrette

As an Australian I love shortening words wherever possible. For example the dishwasher is called the ‘dish’ and this basil vinaigrette becomes ‘bas vin’. I’m not sure how David would feel about that but I think it has a nice ring to it.

I’ve simplified the recipe because I can’t help myself! David uses shallots and he uses much more oil than me. See the ‘variations’ for the original quantities and ideas for uses. He also lets the dressing sit for 1/2 hour before using and instructs that it’s best used within a few hours.

makes: a bit over 1/2 cup
takes: 15 minutes or less

1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
small handful basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Smash garlic with a generous pinch of salt to form a paste. I use the side of my knife on a chopping board but you’re welcome to use a mortar and pestle.

2. Macerate garlic, vinegar salt and basil leaves in a small bowl or bottle. 10-15 minutes or less if that’s all you’ve got.

3. Whisk in the olive oil. See below for serving ideas.

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Variations

david’s version – 2 shallots finely diced, 2 cloves garlic smashed with salt to a paste, 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, small handful basil leaves, 1.5 cups olive oil. Remove basil before serving (I missed this step and left it in… extra fiber!).

more wintery – if it’s not basil season where you are try rosemary leaves or thyme. Remove these before serving.

different vinegar – sherry or a sharp cheapish balsamic would also work. Or try white wine vinegar.

with tuna – crush 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and rub onto two tuna steaks or other fish fillets that have been rubbed with oil. Season and grill or cook in a pan on a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes each side. Serve fish drizzled with the ‘bas vin’.

tomato & pepper salad – drizzle over sliced super ripe tomatoes tossed with finely sliced red capsicum (bell pepper).

green bean salad – simmer green beans in salted boiling water until tender – about 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Toss in the ‘bas vin’ and serve as a side or top with a couple of sliced hard boiled eggs.

potato salad – simmer unpeeled whole new or other small waxy potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and cool a little. Slice thickly and toss in the ‘bas vin’.

drizzled on soup – I had some from the fridge drizzled on a minestrone-ish soup for lunch the other day. Divine!

lively green salad – brings a surprising depth of flavour to a simple green salad.

What do you think?

Would you like to see more blog posts on my David Tanis project this year? Let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to hear if you have a project or quest you’re working on.

With love,
Jules x

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japanese broccoli-2

If you’ve been reading Stonesoup for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in the power of simplicity in all areas of life. But especially in the kitchen.

And over Christmas I was reminded of just how complicated most published recipes are.

For our Christmas feast I decided to make a couple of salads from Yotam Ottolenghi‘s latest book, Plenty More.

I’m a huge fan of his books and if you’re looking for new ways to cook vegetables, I recommend having a look at Plenty More.

As with many chefs, the recipes I chose were super delicious. But when I was buying and preparing all the ingredients, I couldn’t help thinking that a bit of simplifying would make my life so much easier and I’m sure still totally tasty.

Anyway it got me thinking that while I did write recently about how simplifying my life has had such a positive impact, it’s been a while since we had a post focusing on simplicity in the kitchen. So at the risk of giving away all my secrets, here goes…

What is the easiest way to simplify recipes?

Easy. Remove any duplicate ingredients.

What do I mean by that?

I look at the ingredients which have similar form or function and then choose just one of each and replace the others with extra of my chosen ingredient.

It’s a bit tricky to explain in abstract terms so I have a real example of an Ottolenghi recipe I simplified for a lovely lunch over the holidays…

An example – Japanese Broccoli

Ottolenghi Ingredients List – 11 items
300g purple sprouting broccoli, broccolini or broccoli
120g French beans
180g mange tout (snow peas)
1 tablespoon ground nut oil
20g coriander (cilantro) leaves
2.5 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds, toasted
50g tahini
1 small clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Stonesoup Ingredients List – 5 items
2 bunches broccolini or 2 small heads broccoli
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

So what have I done?

1. The green veg are pretty much performing the same role, providing the bulk of the meal. So it’s easy to just increase the broccoli to replace the others.

2. The groundnut oil is tossed onto the cooked veg as an extra dressing. I just skipped this whole step. One dressing is enough for me.

3. The sesame seeds and coriander are acting as a garnish to make the dish look pretty and to add different flavours and textures. I chose to use just sesame seeds but could have easily gone the other way if I had coriander in the house.

4. Skipped the garlic in the dressing because I think there’s enough interesting flavours with the tahini, honey and vinegar.

From 11 ingredients down to 5. Easy.

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

Want to learn more?

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.

You’ll need to be quick because registration for 2015 ENDS 10th Jan.

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

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japanese broccoli-2

Super Yum Japanese Broccoli

The Ottolenghi version of this recipe is titled Broccoli with Sweet Tahini, but I think that name doesn’t do it justice. If you can get your hands on purple sprouting broccoli, by all means go for it!

enough for 2
2 bunches broccolini or 2 small heads broccoli, trimmed to bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons tahini 
1 tablespoon rice vinegar 
1-2 teaspoons honey
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Bring 2cm (1in) salted water to the boil in a medium pot. Add broccoli and cook with lid on for 4 minutes or until no longer really crunchy.

2. Combine tahini, vinegar, honey & 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. season with salt.

3. When the broccoli is cooked, drain and allow to cool down in your strainer for a few minutes.

4. To serve divide broccoli between two plates and drizzle over dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).

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Variations

more veg – feel free to add in snow peas and green beans. Ottolenghi boils them separately but I’d add the beans at the same time as the broccoli and pop the snow peas in at the last minute. Frozen peas, spinach or sugar snap peas would also be lovely. I’m also thinking the sauce would be lovely with kale in the winter.

no tahini – use other nut butter such as almond, cashew or peanut butter. Or try sun butter (from sunflower seeds). Or grind your own nuts in a high powered blender. Commercial hummus could be substituted as the whole dressing.

sugar-free – just skip the honey and go for a more savoury sauce. I’ve recently got back into using a little honey after being pleasantly surprised when researching this article for The Yellow Bench.

carnivore – serve as a side to roast or grilled fish or chicken.

more substantial – serve with steamed white or brown rice or cooked quinoa.

different vinegar – sherry vinegar would be my next choice or white wine vinegar. Or use lemon juice.

herby – serve with coriander or mint leaves.

summery – Ottolenghi cools his veg and serves the salad cold, I prefer it at room temp but it’s up to you!

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if ‘A Simple Year’ would help you?

Here’s what Carole and Kathy said about their experience in 2014…

“Participating in A Simple Year 2014 has offered me the opportunity to focus on several areas of my life and reconsider, unclutter, and ponder changes that I would not have pursued without the program. The structure of the course allows you to dig in as little or as much in each area as you care to or can manage. For me it’s been life changing.”
– Carole

“Signing up for and participating in “A Simple Year” has been one of the best things I did in 2014. It has allowed me to make some significant changes in my life, each leading to other new changes and opportunities.Several months later, after doing much of the homework, my house was much less cluttered and so calming.”
– Kathy

Registration for 2015 is only open for a few more days.

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

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spiced eggplant with farro-3

This time 5 years ago I was staying in a tiny apartment in the beautiful city of Barcelona, trying to pretend I was Spanish. Without much success.

The main purpose of the trip was to have dinner at El Buli – at the time the best restaurant in the world.

As often happens when I travel, there was lots to think about.

To cut a long story short, I made the decision to leave my safe fun job designing chocolate biscuits (cookies) and have a go at turning my blog into a business.

I had no idea how I was going to do it. But that was part of the fun!

I did know WHAT I wanted to do.

I wanted to help people by sharing my knowledge of food science and my passion for simple healthy food. I was bursting to help people like you discover what I had – that delicious healthy meals need not be complicated or time consuming.

I wanted to share that by reducing the number of ingredients and using simple techniques, cooking can be amazingly easy, healthy AND tasty.

I had no idea what lay ahead. Not even the possibility that I could and would start an online cooking school helping students from places as far flung as Mozambique, Iceland and Peru.

It’s been so much more rewarding than I ever dared to dream.

So to celebrate the anniversary of that momentous decision and to say thank YOU for reading (and because it’s Christmas!) I’m having a super limited time sale on membership to the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

kindvall_stonesoup_school_01a

Apart from my holiday bundle, this is the first time I’ve had a sale on SVCS membership since last Christmas. So if you want to start the new year by simplifying or upping your cooking skills now is a great time to join!

The 30% OFF Christmas Sale is for a LIMITED TIME only.

To make sure you don’t miss out use the link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/newsvcs/

UPDATE: The Christmas Sale is Over!

Not sure if online cooking classes will help you?

Here’s what Carol, Julie, Rebecca and Jim have said about them….

Carol, SVCS Member.
“You have changed my life! I never really thought I’d get into cooking, or be any good at it. Your simple recipes and especially your videos and attitude have given me inspiration and confidence. Really dramatic change for me. I can’t thank you enough.”

Julie, SVCS Member.
“I am also almost ready to get rid of most of my cook books, as I really only use your recipes now. In fact I tend to scan all other recipes and if there are more than 5 ingredients, or steps just pass it by. I’m looking to simplify my life, and you really have made quite a difference to that – I enjoy preparing dinner now.”

Rebecca, SVCS Member.
“I really appreciate how your (classes) have freed the way I cook. From reducing the number of ingredients, to using what I have on hand, and to your many, many other ideas: thank you. I love your approach and imagination. You have inspired me.”

Jim, SVCS Member.
“Love the videos; cooking works very well in this format.”

______

spiced eggplant with farro-3

Easy Spiced Eggplant

If I were vegetarian I’d eat a lot of eggplant. I just love its meaty texture and ability to absorb other flavours. It’s great served here as a warm salad with some farro and yoghurt but you could also use the eggplant as a chutney or relish to serve with chicken, pork or lamb.

enough for 2
2 onions, diced
2 eggplant, diced into 2cm (1in) cubes
2 teaspoons baharat or see below for alternatives
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 cups cooked grains or legumes, to serve
1 bunch coriander (cilantro) or parsley to serve
natural yoghurt to serve

1. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and cook covered on a medium heat until the onion is soft and a little brown – about 10 minutes.

2. Add the eggplant and continue to cook with the lid on, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the eggplant is no longer crunchy.

3. Add the spice and remove the lid. Keep cooking until the eggplant is soft. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

4. Toss the herbs in with your grains or legumes and divide them between 2 plates. Top with eggplant and finish with the yoghurt.

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Variations

different spices – Baharat is a Lebanese blend of 7 spices. The best substitute is to use equal parts ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Or just use one of those spices. Or use another spice blend such as garam masala or even curry powder.

carnivore – serve as a side to BBQ or roast chicken, pan fried pork chops or sausages.

no eggplant / different veg – use zucchini and/or red bell peppers (capsicum) or mushrooms.

dairy-free – replace yoghurt with hummus or a mixture of equal parts tahini, lemon juice and water.

different grains / legumes – I used farro in the photo but it would be great with lentils, barley, brown rice, quinoa, white beans or chickpeas. Or serve with your favourite flat bread or tortillas.

_____

I forgot to announce last week…
The people who purchased my new book ‘Healthy & Tasty‘ during the launch and won 12 Months of Souptones Meal Plans ($297 value) were:
– Lin Moore
– James Etheridge
– Agnes Moran
– Jeannie Sadzius
– Marion Vilkaitis

Congratulations! You’ve been contacted via email with details on how to claim your prize :)

With lots of Christmas love,
Jules x
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quick fish salad-2

Back in September, I ‘outed’ myself here on Stonesoup by revealing my 3 worst cooking habits. A bit of a brave move for an introvert like me.

Anyway, I promised to report back on my progress. So here we are!

BAD HABIT 1. Picking While I Cook

This is easily the toughest habit for me to break. So don’t be surprised that I still pick from time to time. But I do feel like I’ve made progress.

I’ve been tracking whether I feel ‘full’ or ‘hungry’ when I sit down to dinner in my habit tracking app on my phone (it’s called ‘habit keeper’). Usually it’s only one or two nights a week I’ve been over doing the ‘picking’.

Having more of a focus in this area has helped.

But the biggest change is that Fergal moved to having one nap a day. So we now have lunch at 2pm rather than midday. This means I’m much less hungry in the evenings.

It’s amazing how changes to your schedule can have a knock on effect to how much food you eat.

BAD HABIT 2. Dull Knives

OMG… This has been the easiest habit to kick AND the most rewarding. I’d forgotten how much easier it is to cut with sharp knives.

All I did was make a promise to sharpen our knives every Sunday night (or Monday if I forget). It’s amazing what a difference it makes.

I’ve even found myself sharpening mid week if they aren’t up to scratch. Love it!

BAD HABIT 3. Not Washing Leaves and Herbs

There have been countless times when I’ve been tempted to not wash my leaves. But then I’ve thought about sitting down to write this post and have dug out the salad spinner (one of Fergal’s favourite kitchen toys).

But there’s also been many a time, mostly when I’m in a hurry taking photos, that I’ve fallen back into my old ‘dirty salad’ ways.

So progress but not perfection!

What about you?

Got any bad cooking habits you should break? Or good habits you’d like to form?

I’d love to hear about them in the comment below :)

quick fish salad-2

Quick Fish Salad

We’ve been trying to eat fish at least once a week. And I’m really enjoying it! This recipe is one of my fishy favourites. I love it with flat head fillets but it works with any fish or even chicken for that matter. Hooray for fish!

enough for 2
400g (14oz) fish fillets
2 tablespoons flour (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bag salad
mayo, to serve

1. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat with a little oil. Toss fish in the flour (if using) with some salt and pepper.

2. Cook the fish until golden on both sides, about 3-5 minutes depending on how thick it is.

3. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season and toss in the salad leaves.

4. Divide salad between 2 plates. Top with the hot fish and serve with mayo on the side.

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Variations

gluten-free – The flour is just there to add a light crispy coating to the fish but you can easily skip it or use your favourite GF flour. I used chickpea flour which adds a lovely yellowy colour.

chicken – replace fish with chicken breast or thigh fillets. Chicken will take an extra minute or 2 on each side to cook. I wouldn’t bother with the flour if cooking chicken.

beef – this salad is also surprisingly good with steak sliced into strips and tossed in the flour.

vegan – replace fish with a drained can of chickpeas or white beans. Skip the flour and just pan fry the legumes in a little oil until well browned. Use a vegan mayo or see below for other egg-free ideas.

egg / mayo-free – replace mayo with lots of lemon juice, natural yoghurt, a dollop of creamy ricotta or goats cheese or with a tahini lemon sauce (3 tablespoons each lemon juice, tahini and water).

vegetarian – replace the fish with sliced halloumi cheese. Skip the flour and pan fry until the cheese is well browned on both sides. Or try a fried egg salad.

more veg – feel free to add your favourite raw salad veg such as grated carrot, cherry tomatoes, grated beets, sliced cucumber, sliced zucchini, chopped red capsicum (bell peppers). Or add a handful of frozen peas to the pan for the last minute of cooking the fish.

more substantial – serve with home made fries or toss in some steamed potatoes or torn chunks of sourdough bread.

With love,
Jules x
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beet caviar

Recently, my Irishman came across a fascinating documentary called ‘Gut Reaction: What You Eat Could be Making You Ill‘.

To cut a long story short, the program focused on the latest research on gut bacteria and health.

It boils down to this…

Eating processed food = unhealthy gut bacteria = unhealthy person.

and…

Eating lots of fiber from fruit and vegetables = healthy gut bacteria = healthy person.

I was surprised at the number of diseases linked to poor gut bacteria. They include emphysema, inflammatory bowel disease, MS, autism and asthma.

The clear message was healthy gut bacteria calm the immune system and reduce inflammation.

So even if you aren’t suffering from these diseases, your health will benefit from eating more veg and encouraging the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria.

How do you eat more veg?

Here are my 2 favourite ways to include more vegetables (and fiber) in my diet.

1. Replace grain based foods with vegetables.
For example, instead of serving a stir fry with steamed rice, I make cauliflower ‘rice’ by grating raw cauli in the food processor. Or instead of serving my bolognese sauce with spaghetti, I dump it on a big bed of baby spinach.

Or for lunch, instead of sandwiches, I’m a fan of a big salad including legumes such as chickpeas, beans or lentils. Or in the cooler months I go for soups.

2. Eat veg for breakfast.
Forget about toast and cereal. Most days I have poached eggs with some sort of veg or salad. My favourites are raw grated broccoli or cauliflower. Or I’ll have my eggs with lentils which are packed with fiber.

What about YOU?

Got any favourite tips for eating more veg? I’m always on the lookout for new ideas so I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

beet caviar

Beet ‘Caviar’

This lovely beet sauce was inspired by Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks. Being a big fan of beets I couldn’t resist such an exotic sounding dish. And I’m glad I didn’t. We had it with some pan fried salmon and a green salad. So good (and pretty too!).

makes enough for 4 as a sauce
3 large beets
1 cup toasted walnuts
4 dates (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Trim beets and scrub and pop in the oven whole. Roast until tender, about an hour.

2. Let your beets cool then peel and pop the flesh in a food processor. Add walnuts, dates (if using) balsamic and garlic and whizz until you have a chunky paste.

3. Serve at room temperature or chill and serve cold.

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Variations

nut-free – replace walnuts with sourdough bread crumbs.

more saucey – drizzle in some olive oil for a more saucey consistency.

sugar-free – skip the dates and use sherry or red wine vinegar instead of the balsamic.

different veg – I can imagine this working well with other root veg such as sweet potato or carrot.

different accompaniments – as I mentioned it’s lovely with pan fried fish but also works well with chicken, a pork chop or even with lamb. Or serve with pita or Turkish bread as a dip or starter. Vegetarians will love it with pan fried halloumi or with grilled eggplant ‘steaks’. I had some leftovers with my poached eggs for breakfast.

With love,
Jules x
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____________________________

ps.

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Have you seen my new eCookbook?

For all the details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

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super moist zucchini & tuna salad-2

I often get asked where I get the ideas for my recipes and blog posts. And the truth is I find inspiration pretty much everywhere… magazines, restaurants, online, my veggie garden, when I’m looking in my fridge…

But one of my favourite places is the Stonesoup by request survey I set up to capture your questions or ideas for future blog posts.

It’s been a while since I took a request, so today I have a great one for you…

“How do you balance out saltiness? I liked your post on vinegar, and would like more of the food “sciency” posts!”
Marilen

For me, seasoning is the most important skill when it comes to making your meals taste delicious.

I’ve already written about ‘How to Season to Taste‘ and the ‘2 Most Common Seasoning Mistakes‘. If you need help with seasoning in general, they would be great places to visit.

But what happens when you add too much salt?

This isn’t a cooking mistake I make often. Basically, over salting is very difficult to rectify so I’m paranoid about not adding too much.

I always err on the side of under seasoning and have a jar of salt at the table for everyone to do the ‘fine tuning’ themselves.

But on the odd occasion I find myself with an excess salt situation, there is only one reliable method I turn to…

Dilution.

If it’s a soup, sauce or casserole that contains liquid you can easily add some water or other liquid to help spread the salt out. In other cases, you can dilute by adding other low salt ingredients.

For example, if you have over seasoned the salad below, you could toss in some extra zucchini or other raw veg to balance things out. Or if there’s too much salt in your bolognese sauce serve with extra unsalted pasta.

What about adding a potato?

There’s an old wives tale that adding a raw potato will ‘soak up the salt’. While it will absorb some liquid (including some salt), it’s not going to preferentially soak up the salt.

What about adding lemon or other acid?

If you google ‘fix oversalting’ most of the articles that come up talk about flavour balance and adding some acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to ‘balance’ out the saltiness. This is a high risk proposition because salt and acid tend to enhance each other.

There are some times when adding a little acid can help but more often it’s going to make things worse. So be very careful.

What about adding sugar?

It’s true that sugar and salt balance each other out. Which is why salted caramel is so delicious.

If you have a slight salt imbalance, a pinch of sugar can help. However if you’re at the stage where your dish just tastes super salty, adding enough sugar to balance is only going to make it taste really sweet and weird. I’ve tried this years ago with an over salted bolognese and ended up having to throw it out.

That’s why I stick to dilution.

super moist zucchini & tuna salad-2

Super Moist Zucchini & Tuna Salad

I’ve been really getting into grated raw zucchini as an ingredient. I love the mild ‘greenish’ flavour but the best part is all the moisture in the zucchini keeps your salad or whatever lovely and moist. My Irishman had this salad for lunch at work yesterday and he was raving about it so much he took a photo and sent it to me. High praise indeed!

enough for 1
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 small zucchini
1 medium can tuna

1. Combine lemon with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a medium bowl. Season.

2. Grate zucchini using your food processor or a box grater.

3. Toss zucchini in the dressing along with the tuna.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace tuna with poached eggs or pan fried halloumi or crumbled salty feta.

vegan – replace tuna with chunks of avocado and a handful of almonds.

carnivore – replace tuna with shredded BBQ chicken or sliced cooked sausages.

hot! – use tuna in chilli oil

fresh fish – pan fry tuna steaks or other fish fillets and serve with the salad.

different veg – use carrots, beets or cauliflower or a combination of any of the above.

no grater – finely slice the zucchini into strips using a veg peeler or mandoline then slice the strips into smaller slivers.

herby – feel free to toss in some flat leaf parsley, basil or mint.

With love,
Jules x
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______________

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ps. Have you seen ‘Healthy & Tasty’?

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

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asparagus bread torta-4

When I was studying biotechnology, (as part of my Food Science Degree) if you had asked me whether eating healthier could change your genetics, I would have automatically responded ‘no way’.

I used to think that our genes are something we’re born with. Something we can’t change.

So you can imagine my surprise when I happened across a study which showed the opposite.

Yes, changes in our lifestyles such as diet, exercise and stress levels actually change which genes are expressed in our bodies.

Amazing stuff.

In the study 30 men with low level prostrate cancer were tracked over 3 months where they changed their diets, exercised for 1/2 hour every day and engaged in stress management practices such as meditation.

As expected, the men all improved their health with lower blood pressure and weight loss. The surprising thing was they also changed the expression of around 500 genes.

Disease prevention genes were turned on and genes known to be linked to disease were turned off.

So next time you feel like getting pizza instead of cooking something fresh for yourself, remember this study.

Any positive changes you make to your lifestyle aren’t only going to impact your external health, it’s making a difference at the genetic level!

Need some fresh ideas for Healthy AND Tasty Meals?

h&t 3D cover

Then you might need a copy of my new eCookbook!

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

_______________________

asparagus bread torta-4

Asparagus Bread ‘Torta’


This unusual dish was inspired by the London chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. His was a bread ‘pudding’ but when I called my version that at a brunch we hosted, everyone was very skeptical.

Luckily I was convincing enough to get everyone to try it. My little asparagus dish stole the show. And it was competing with bacon so that’s saying something.

I’m really sorry if it’s not asparagus season where you live. See the variations for alternative veg ideas.

enough for 4-6
500g (1lb) asparagus (about 2 bunches)
2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 croissants, sliced about 1cm (1/2in) thick
2 large handfuls grated parmesan cheese
green salad, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Break the woody bottoms off the asparagus and pop in a loaf pan 24cm x 12cm (approx 9.5in x 5in) with a little oil.

2. Roast for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is almost tender.

3. Combine milk, eggs and parmesan in a large bowl. Season. Toss in the croissants to moisten.

4. When the asparagus is cooked, place on a chopping board and slice half into chunks, leaving the remaining stems whole.

5. Line the loaf pan with baking (parchment) paper. Layer half the croissants in the pan. Sprinkle over the chopped asparagus. Layer in the remaining croissants and pour over the rest of the egg mixture. Top with whole asparagus spears.

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until well browned and puffy. If you touch the top with your finger it should spring back.

7. Cool a little before slicing and serving with salad.

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Variations

dairy-free – replace milk with your favourite dairy-free milk spiked with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, I’d personally go with almond milk. And you might want to use bread instead of buttery croissants. Use about 8 slices of a rustic loaf like a sourdough chopped into cubes. And just skip the parmsean.

gluten-free – replace croissants with about 8 slices GF bread that have been cut into chunks. You might like to substitute cream for the milk to make up for the lack of croissant butteriness (I would!).

different veg – when it’s not asparagus season I’d try broccolini, zucchini, eggplant (aubergine) or red peppers or a combo. Adjust the roasting time of the veg as needed.

carnivore – toss in some cooked sausage or crispy chopped bacon in with the chopped asparagus in step 5.

pescetarian – add some chopped smoked trout, smoked salmon, tuna or canned salmon in with the chopped asparagus in step 5.

more decadent – the first time I made this I used cream instead of the milk. It was really good!

With love,
Jules x
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ps. Not sure if ‘Healthy & Tasty’ can help you?

Here’s what Ruthie had to say about her purchase…

‘Hey Jules,
A BIG Thank You for another “can’t wait to get cooking” e-book! Have already glanced through and am inspired to start creating some culinary magic. I’m intrigued and eager to try your “Broccamole” recipe… two world’s colliding here with deliciousness!!
I also LOVE how so many of your recipes are naturally gluten free (as this is a dietary requirement for me) and that you provide variations in other recipes to suit, where possible.
Congrats on another great compilation, all the best, Ruthie :)’

Ruthie, ‘Healthy & Tasty’ Owner.

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

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roast cauli with chorizo

Recently I’ve been reading a fab little book by one of my blogging friends. It’s called ‘The Butcher and the Vegetarian’.

It chronicles my friend’s journey from vegetarian to occasional meat eater for health reasons. And it’s a great read.

Tara talks about growing up, when her mother was all about making everything as healthy as possible. They often ate steamed veg with brown rice and NO oil or salt. Not exactly tasty.

It made me a little sad because I think there is often a misconception that healthy food can’t be pleasurable.

The thing is, if you eat broccoli and actually enjoy it, you get the same health benefits as if you ate it like it were a badge of honour.

So today I wanted to share my favourite tricks for making veg taste amazing… Because aren’t we all more likely to eat more veg if we actually enjoy them?

6 Ways to Make Vegetables Taste as Good as Potato Chips*

1. Use salt
Many vegetables contain a lot of bitter flavours. And while a love of bitterness can be acquired, there is something you can do to mask it.

Yes, our old friend salt.

Really it makes a HUGE difference. Don’t be worried about the negative health connotations associated with salt. That’s for when you’re eating industrial-sized quantities, not the small amount of sea salt that it takes to mask the bitterness in your broccoli.

Salt is also great because it enhances flavours.

2. Use butter or olive oil
Fat carries flavour and provides fat soluble vitamins which tend to be lacking in veg. So it’s actually better for you to use butter or olive oil when cooking veg.

Needless to say, the tastiness factor should also be considered!

3. Don’t boil your veg
One of the easiest ways to make veg taste yuck is to boil the hell out of them. Boiling is also problematic because your water soluble vitamins end up down the sink.

These days, the only veg I boil are broad beans, edamame and spuds for roasting or when I’m making mash.

So how do I cook my veg? Read on…

4. Roast, pan fry or stir fry
I love roast veg but they can take a while, so I often pop them in a frying pan for a speedier alternative.

Unlike boiling, these dry heat methods of cooking help add yummy caramelized flavours to your veg and remove excess moisture. Which is why they’re so delicious!

5. Use good quality veg
When I was little I hated peas. Boiled frozen peas were all I knew. And then one day when I was older I had a life-changing spring vegetable soup at a little restaurant called the Lynwood Cafe which had its own vegetable garden. I couldn’t believe that I not only liked the freshly picked sweet peas, I loved them.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with frozen peas. They’re a brilliant vegetable to have on hand.

I tell the story as a reminder that all veg are not equal when it comes to flavour. The carrot you get from the supermarket generally never holds a candle to one you grow yourself.

6. Use tasty accompaniments
I’m a big fan of using tasty accompaniments to make my veg more palatable.

Here are some of my favourites: chorizo, chilli, soy sauce, parmesan, miso paste, bacon, pesto, fresh herbs, spices and hummus.

roast cauli with chorizo

Roast Cauli with Chunky Chorizo

Roasting cauliflower is the easiest way to turn it into a super tasty treat. I love how the pale colour of cauli makes the chorizo pop. The cauli also packs a nutritional punch just as weighty as broccoli and its other brassica cousins. I’ve used oregano in the picture because I was out of parsley and the oregano in my garden needs eating up.

enough for 2
1 head cauliflower
2 chorizo, sliced into chunks
1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar
1 bunch flat leaf parsley or oregano, leaves picked
1 handful roasted almonds or other nuts

1. Preheat your oven to 250C (475F).

2. Chop cauli into bite sized little ‘trees’. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with a little oil and a splash of water. Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes.

3. Remove foil and scatter chorizo over the cauli. Season with salt. Return to the oven uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice until the chorizo is cooked and the cauli is soft in the middle and browned.

4. Combine vinegar with 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Season.

5. When the cauli is cooked, toss the dressing in. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

6. Divide between 2 plates and serve with herbs and nuts on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – Skip the chorizo. Add a pinch of smoked paprika to the dressing. Serve cauli, herbs and nuts with a poached or fried egg or a dollop of cooling ricotta.

vegan – replace chorizo with a drained can of chickpeas. Add a pinch of smoked paprika to the dressing.

more substantial – serve with pita bread, steamed brown rice, hummus or cooked quinoa. Tossing in chunks of sourdough at the end so it soaks up the chorizo oil can also be really lovely.

nut-free – replace the nuts with extra chorizo. Or serve with toasted breadcrumbs instead.

different meat – any sausage can be used here. Or try finely sliced strips of chicken thigh.

* Thanks to the lovely Darya Rose for the title inspiration. And for those of you not familiar with ‘potato chips’ they’re the Australian version of ‘French Fries’.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. Have you seen my latest eCookbook?

h&t 3D cover

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

pps. I’ve had some really lovely feedback on the book already.

Here’s what Eve had to say about her purchase…

‘Hi Jules, just a quick reaction…
I am so excited about this eCookbook, congratulations!
I purchased it almost instantly as I knew you would not disappoint me… and indeed, even after only a quick glance through it, this is again a success.
I love how you always find ways to make tasty food in all its simplicity! Even with a busy schedule, I’m always eager to try one of your recipes… Can’t wait to try one of these!
Congrats!’

Eve, ‘Healthy & Tasty’ Owner.

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h&t 3D cover

OK, I’m super excited and a little nervous because it’s been almost 2 years since my last new eCookbook.

Anyway, here goes…

‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy’ is now ready!

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

With love,
Jules x
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slow roasted lamb shoulder-6

I love this time of year.

Here in Oz, Summer is just around the corner and the lure of long lazy days on the horizon. Yay for holidays.

Even though we don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving here, I love the concept of this holiday.

When I lived in California, I really embraced it. Taking the time to get together with your loved ones and give thanks with a big feast thrown in.

What’s not to love about that?

But the holidays can come with their fair share of stress.

So I thought I’d talk about the 2 biggest mistakes most people make when it comes to entertaining. And of course my tips for avoiding them…

Mistake 1: Trying to do too much

It’s so easy to get carried away when planning a feast. Even though I’m a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible, especially in the kitchen, I still fall for this rookie mistake from time to time.

So what’s the solution?

Easy. Write down your menu. Leave it aside for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.

Then read through and cut out anything that feels like too much effort. Be ruthless!

Mistake:2 Not allowing enough time

Things in the kitchen always take longer than you expect. Even for experienced cooks like me.

Again the solution comes down to planning. And being realistic and honest with yourself and realistic.

If you think you could do with some help in the planning department, I have something you might find helpful over here.

Here are some of my favourite recipes for entertaining…

Starters

roast butternut pumpkin-4
1. Roast Butternut ‘Hummus’ – serve with flat bread or crusty bread or celery sticks.

broad bean pesto-3
Broad Bean Pesto – If it’s not broad bean season make it with frozen peas. Either way serve with crusty bread.

Mains

slow roasted lamb shoulder-6
Succulent Slow Roast Lamb with Spicy Beet Sauce I love slow roasting meat because you end up with super tender meat AND it can be done ahead so there’s no stress about getting the timing right.

ham
Amazing Glazed Ham – if you’re in charge of the main protein forget about turkey and focus on the ham. A glazed ham is super forgiving and you don’t need to stress about getting it cooked through because it’s already cooked. You just need to focus on getting it looking gorgeous and glazed. I make this every year and this year we’ve even cured and smoked our own ham but you don’t need to go to that much trouble. The other great thing about ham is that is tends not to be ridiculously expensive.

pecan crusted sweet potato-4
Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato – if you need to keep the vegetarians happy, this is the main course for you! If you have any carnivore guests I can guarantee they’ll want to try this too.

warming onion & white bean bake-2
Onion & White Bean Bake – This will double as a side if needed.

Sides

green chickpea salad-3
Green Chickpea Salad – chickpeas are still one of my all time favourite foods. And this salad is no exception. Kale makes a brilliant ‘pot luck’ salad green because it tastes better after a bit of time marinating in the dressing, more than you can say for most regular salad greens.

burnt carrot salad-3
Burnt Carrot Salad – This is still on high rotation in our house. It’s best if you toss everything just before it’s time to eat, so it is a little bit higher maintenance. But worth it!

potato salad-7
Preserved Lemon Potato Salad – the preserved lemon makes this salad far more exciting than a regular mayonnaise-heavy potato salad. There are 2 other delicious potato salad recipes to choose from on this page as well. If there’s an Irish person among the guests you may have them pledging their undying love for you… don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)

roast cauliflower & quinoa salad
Warm Salad of Roasted Cauliflower & Quinoa – also great served at room temp. Just keep the cheese in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Quinoa always gets loads of questions and compliments.

rolls royce 'slaw
Rolls Royce ‘Slaw – One of those salads that can sit in the fridge as long as needed. Especially good at barbeques.

lentil & beet salad-8
Roast Beets, Lentil & Balsamic Onion Salad – this one takes a little bit of effort to prepare but is super low maintenance after that. Great if you aren’t sure how long it will be before you eat.

Sweet Treats

toblerone ice cream cake
Toblerone Ice Cream Cake – only make this if you know there will be plenty of freezer space. Guaranteed crowd pleaser.

croissant surprise bday cake-4
Croissant Surprise Cake – I can’t tell you how many readers have contacted me telling me of all the compliments they’ve had after making this cake. Great because it will sit at room temperature for hours or is equally happy straight from the fridge.

chocolate peanut butter cake-5
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake – This cake is super easy and super rich. And it’s better if you make it the day before. Get ready for the recipe requests!

molly's chocolate chip cookies-3
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies – the salt makes them slightly unusual but apart from that they’re as good as cookies get. I love taking these to parties because they’re easy to serve and don’t create any washing up.

Like to overcome your entertaining mistakes?

holiday special square logo NEW2

To celebrate the Holidays this year, I’ve bundled together 4 quick online cooking classes.

They include:
* Stress-Free Entertaining
* Thanksgiving, Made Easy
* Make Your Christmas Merry
* Made with Love (Delicious Gifts Made Easy).

AND if you join today you’ll get access to all 4 quick classes for LESS THAN the price of 1.

To get all the details and make sure you don’t miss out on this LIMITED TIME offer go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/holiday/

With love,
Jules x
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_____________________________________________________

ps. And if you’re interested in simplifying your life in 2015, the early-bird pricing for ‘A Simple Year’ ends 15th November!.

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To make sure you don’t miss out on this really great program go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

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Zucchini Mac & Cheese

Today I have a bit of a favour to ask…

In a few weeks I’m going to be releasing my new eCookbook called ‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy‘. I’m super excited about it because it’s been almost 2 years since my last new book.

But before I put my latest ‘baby’ out into the big wide world, I’d love to get some feedback on it.

That’s where you come in.

If you’d like to be one of my early ‘previewers’ and score a free copy of ‘Healthy & Tasty’ before it’s available for sale, I’d love to hear from you.

To register your interest, just leave a comment below letting me know how you could benefit from having a FREE copy of ‘Healthy & Tasty’.

The competition is now closed. Huge THANKS to the over 300 people who entered!
The winners have been notified via email.
And the winners are (drum roll)…
Wendy 
Emily 
Alison
Mike
Jess 
Ali
Dena
Laurie
Amy Findakly
Susan
BC
tom
Amanda Brook
Crystal
Robyn
Joann
Narelle
Lisa

UPDATE: ‘Healthy & Tasty’ is NOW Available!

h&t 3D cover
For all the details including the special 30% OFF launch discount go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/handt/

The fine print:
There are 20 FREE copies up for grabs.
Entries close: Monday 3rd November.
Entries will be judged by me. I’m looking for creativity and enthusiasm.
_______________________________________

Zucchini Mac & Cheese

Zucchini Mac & Cheese

This is a recipe that was inspired by English chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It certainly fits in with the ‘tasty’ criteria for my new ebook but with the pasta it didn’t really come up to scratch from a health perspective. So rather include it in my new eCookbook, I thought I’d share it here.

enough for 2
4 zucchini, sliced finely
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
4 tablespoons cream
150g (5oz) short pasta
2 handful melting cheese
salad leaves, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Bring a pot of water for the pasta to boil.

2. Heat a little olive oil on a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add zucchini and cook until the zucchini are super soft and reduced. 10-15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to the packet timing. Drain.

4. Add garlic to the zucchini (if using) and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove pan from the heat and toss in the pasta, cream and half the cheese.

5. Divide the mixture between 2 x 2cup oven proof dishes. Top with remaining cheese and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until everything is hot and the cheese has melted.

6. Serve with salad leaves on the side.

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Variations

carnivore – brown some bacon or crumbled pork sausages and toss in with the pasta.

more substantial / carb lovers – serve with garlic bread.

different cheese – I use a combo of emmental, gruyere and parmesan but cheddar, mozzarella and swiss cheese are also good.

vegan / dairy-free – just toss the garlicky zucchini through the cooked pasta with a little extra olive oil. And serve with finely grated brazil nuts and a handful of mint or basil leaves on top.

healthier / more veg – replace some or all of the pasta with steamed chopped cauliflower.

different veg – the zucchini are pretty special here because they cook down and concentrate in flavour but you could use asparagus, broccoli, peas, red bell peppers (capsicum) or cauliflower.

gluten-free – use GF pasta (I did) or replace the pasta with steamed chopped cauliflower.

With love,
Jules x
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___

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ps. And if you’re interested in simplifying your life in 2015, the early-bird pricing for ‘A Simple Year’ ends SOON.

To make sure you don’t miss out on this really great program go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

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yogic green salad

This time 5 years ago I was at a big crossroads.

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, earlier in the year I’d had a glimpse of another life. Writing my first cook book was an experience that I’d loved so much.

Maybe it was my calling to write about food?

At first I dismissed the idea. How on earth could I earn as much money as I did in the corporate world?

But like most good ‘scary’ ideas, it kept coming back.

About the same time I’d discovered the blog, Zen Habits. I was getting deeply into the concept of simplicity in life. As I read about Leo’s own transition 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 put my mind to it, and really simplified my life, I could live on a fraction of the amount.

All of a sudden the change seemed within reach 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 16 month old.

And for the last few years I’ve made way more money than I ever did as an ’employee’.

The thing is, 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?

You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this. Well I just wanted to share a really exciting project that I’m a part of…

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

If it sounds like something you might be interested in go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

___________________

yogic green salad

Yogic Green Salad

This salad was inspired by my Kundalini Yoga teacher, the lovely Odette. In preparation for a special early morning practice recently, Odette encouraged us to try a 24 hour ‘green foods’ detox. As she was describing a suggested meal of peas and avocado, all I could think was ‘yum’. And here it is…

enough for 1
2 handfuls frozen or freshly podded peas
1 avocado
1 lime
1 handful pistachios (optional)

1. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small pan on a medium high heat. Add peas and stir fry for a few minutes until they’re hot. If using frozen just pop them straight in the pan from the freezer.

2. Place warm peas in a bowl. Top with scoops of avocado and a splash of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Serve with pistachios on top (if using).

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Variations

different veg – use chopped asparagus, green beans, broccoli or podded broad beans.

more veg – serve with a handful of baby spinach, mint, flat leaf parsley or basil leaves.

carnivore – it won’t exactly be a yogic detox salad but feel free to fry some chopped bacon, sliced chorizo or chicken thigh fillets before cooking the peas.

nut-free – just skip the pistachios or serve with the herbs suggested above.

more substantial / carb lovers
– again this will take it outside the realms of a ‘yogic’ salad but you could serve with crusty bread and butter or toss in some cooked quinoa, brown rice or other cooked grains.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. Here’s what people are saying about ‘A Simple Year’ 2014…

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

“Signing up for and participating in “A Simple Year” has been one of the best things I did in 2014. It has allowed me to make some significant changes in my life, each leading to other new changes and opportunities.”
–Kathy

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easy fish curry-2

Do you ever feel ‘too tired to cook’ after a long busy day? Well you’re certainly not alone!

A few years ago I surveyed Stonesoup readers for their biggest cooking challenges. The number 1 response was being ‘tired at the end of a long day’.

We all know what that feels like.

But how do you make it easier to cook when you’re tired AND hungry?

Or as one of my students calls it…’HANGRY’.

So here’s my simple 2-step process to make it easier to get into the kitchen and cook the delicious, healthy meals you and your family deserve…

STEP 1. Have actual food in the house

If there isn’t food in the house we’re all more likely to pick up takeout than go to the store, buy ingredients, come home and cook. Food in the house gives you a HUGE head start.

I find there are 2 parts to this.

First, having a well stocked pantry can be a huge life saver.

The other piece of the puzzle is a regular system for buying fresh ingredients. It might be an idyllic weekly trip to the farmers market, a Monday night supermarket run or an online order that gets delivered.

The type of system isn’t important. Just find one that works for you.

STEP 2. Have a collection of fast, simple recipes at your fingertips.

Having a collection of quick, healthy, easy recipes is key. If you know dinner is only going to take you 10-15 minutes, aren’t you more likely to be able to find the energy you need to make it happen?

I can hear you asking…

“Great Jules, but where am I going to find such a collection?”

To be honest, you don’t need to look any further than Stonesoup. This collection of 50 healthy 10-Minute meals is a great place to start.

BUT if you want a collection of super easy, healthy and yummy recipes that you can save on your phone or tablet to access any time, even when you’re not online, then I have just the thing for you..

THCC2 3D Cover

The best selling of my eCookbooks is called the ‘Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion’.

It’s all about helping you avoid becoming ‘Hangry’!

If you’s like to discover more go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/tiredhungrycookscompanion/

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easy fish curry-2

Easy Fish Curry

My Irishman and I have been on a mission to eat more fish so we have been having a regular pescetarian Monday. This curry was inspired by one such Monday. I’ve found buying fish at our local farmers market makes fish cooking much more affordable and delicious. I’ve served it on a bed of cauliflower ‘rice’ (raw grated cauliflower) but you’re welcome to use steamed basmati rice if you prefer.

enough for 2
450g (1lb) fish fillets, chopped into chunks
1-2 tablespoons garam masala
1-4 red chillies, chopped
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz), chopped
4 tablespoons whipping cream (35% milk fat)
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked

1. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium high heat.

2. Add the fish and brown for a few minutes. Then add the garam masala and chilli. Stir for a few seconds.

3. Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the fish has cooked through.

4. Stir in cream and bring back to a gentle simmer.

5. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with coriander on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – replace fish with drained canned chickpeas or home cooked chickpeas.

vegan – replace fish with diced eggplant. Will take longer for the eggplant to cook in the sauce, around 20 minutes. And replace cream with coconut milk.

dairy-free – replace cream with coconut milk. Butter or ghee could also be used instead of cream.

different herbs – if coriander (cilantro) isn’t your thing consider basil, mint, a handful of fresh curry leaves. Or just skip the herbs.

carnivore – replace fish with diced chicken thighs fillets or sliced steak. Adjust the cooking time as needed.

no garam masala – replace with a mild curry powder or loads of black pepper and a little ground cumin.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. Not sure if the Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion will help YOU?

THCC2 3D Cover

Here’s what people are saying about it…

“I’m really enjoying the Tired and Hungry Cooks Companion – it’s helping me to become somebody who actually cooks for herself! Because there are few ingredients, I can read the recipe once and remember it. I am starting to have repertoire of recipes in my head. I’m saving money because I am not buying lunches or eating out. I’m enjoying my food more.”
Jen, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.


“I love your latest eCookbook. It has been my saviour with a newborn along with international postings for my husband. We are currently in South America and even though not all the ingredients are available, the fact it’s transportable and 5 ingredients to whip up in minutes has saved our night life!

Emma, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.


“I love how your five-minute meals are actually meals, not just haphazardly thrown-together salads or supplemented pre-packaged ‘foods’. Most of those recipes are exactly the amount of effort I’d want to exert if I was tired and hungry, but didn’t want to settle for noodles or fast food.”

Aldrea, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.

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

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moroccan meatball tajine-3

When I was getting into cooking, one of the few things I found really intimidating was working with spices. I’m not sure what caused my ‘spice phobia’ but I do remember only using spices if the recipe called for them. I’d always use exactly the types and amounts listed.

Talk about restrictive.

Over the years, with a lot of trial and a little bit of error, I’ve adopted a more liberated approach to cooking with spices.

Why Use Spices?

If you’re ever short on time or short on space in your pantry, spices can be an absolute life saver when it comes to making food taste amazing.

Not only that, using different spices is by far the quickest and easiest way to make a boring old dish taste new and exciting.

What’s not to love about spice?

Anyway its been literally years since I last wrote about spices on Stonesoup so I thought it was high time that we had a little spice love.

I specifically wanted to share my 3 favourite spice blends because these days I find I’m far more likely to reach for a blend than faff around with adding a heap of different single spices.

Using spice blends means you get the complexity of flavour of loads of different spices all in the one little packet. Love it!

My 3 Favourite Spice Blends.

1. RAS EL HANOUT
This is a Moroccan spice blend that translates as ‘top of the shop’. It’s traditionally the best spice blend a Moroccan spice merchant will sell. The ingredients lists can be lengthy, with as many as 23 different spices. And as you can imagine the flavour is exotic and complex without being too ‘out there’.

It’s my favourite blend for the tajine recipe below and it works really well with fish and chicken and vegetables like eggplant (aubergine).

Best substitute for Ras el Hanout: Equal parts paprika, coriander, ginger and a pinch of saffron OR just ground coriander.

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

Best substitute for Baharat: Equal parts paprika, cumin and cinnamon OR ground cumin.

3. GARAM MASALA
I always spell this Indian spice blend wrong but think I’ve got it right today! For some reason garam masala is my ‘go-to’ Indian spice if I’m in the mood for a bit of curry. I tend to reach for garam masala over a generic curry powder.

I think this is because garam masala tends to be more laid back than some in your face curry powders. Which tends to suit my cooking style better.

Best substitute for Garam Masala: Mild curry powder OR loads of black pepper.

What about you?

Do you have a ‘spice phobia’? What are your favourite spices or blends? I’d love to hear in the comments below :)

____________________

moroccan meatball tajine-3

Moroccan Meatball Tajine

This is a dish I’ve been making for years and am kinda surprised I haven’t ever written about it on Stonesoup. About time! It’s a brilliant example of how using spices can transform a boring old dish (Italian meatballs) into something exotic and super tasty.

enough for 2-3
1 onion, peeled & chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
125g (5oz) almond meal
2 teaspoons ras el hanout, baharat or ground coriander
1 jar tomato passata or puree (700g / 24oz / 2.5 cups)
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked
cauliflower rice or cooked couscous to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Place onion in a small pan on a medium heat with a little oil and cook until soft but not browned. About 5 minutes or a little longer.

2. Combine cooked onion, beef, almond meal and your chosen spice in a large bowl. Season generously with salt. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place in an ovenproof dish.

3. Pour over the tomato passata or puree and top with butter. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or longer until the meatballs are browned on top and cooked through.

4. Serve meatballs on a bed of cauliflower rice or couscous with coriander leaves on top.

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VARIATIONS
to serve with couscous – cook couscous according to the packet but add some extra butter.

to serve with cauli rice – grate 1/2 small cauliflower using your food processor or a box grater and serve meatballs on top. No need to cook or warm it.

different accompaniments – great wrapped in lebanese bread, tortillas or other flat bread. Could be served with your favourite pasta.

short on time – skip the onion and simmer the tajine on the stovetop until the meatballs are just cooked through. You might also like to skip the meatball rolling and just cook the meat more like a bolognese sauce.

different meat – beef is a favourite but lamb is also great. Pork, chicken, turkey or buffalo could all be used.

vegetarian – try adding the spice above to these lentil balls.

nut-free – replace almond meal with soft bread crumbs or cooked quinoa.

dairy-free – replace butter with lots of extra virgin olive oil.

different herbs – mint, basil, parsley or baby spinach are all great.

italian meatballs – just skip the spice and serve with basil instead of the coriander.

indian meatballs – use garam masala as your spice and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt.

With love,
Jules x
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easy chinese chicken

If I mention the words ‘mindless eating’, what thoughts pop into your head?

Probably nothing healthy, right?

For me ‘mindless eating’ normally evokes thoughts of chowing down on junk in front of the TV or computer. Big bags of chips or pop corn at the cinema. Or shoveling ice cream straight from the tub.

While I’m a huge fan of the concept of MindFUL eating, I’ve also come to appreciate that there’s a place for mindLESS eating in a healthy lifestyle.

Really? Mindless eating = healthy?

Mindless Eating for good is a concept I discovered via the lovely Darya Rose. It was coined by researcher Brian Wansink in his awesome book, ‘Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think’.

Basically Wansink’s research team have found that our bodies aren’t very good at accurately keeping track of how much food we eat. Most people can eat 20% less and not actually feel like they’re missing out on anything.

Wainsink calls this the ‘mindless margin’. It’s basically a ‘buffer zone’ where our brains don’t detect whether we’ve eaten more or less.

Over time, the extra (or less) food eaten in the mindless margin adds up to weight gained (or lost!).

So today I wanted to share some tips from Wainsink’s book that I’ve found helpful.

3 Tips to Eat Less Mindlessly

1. Use smaller plates
It’s an optical illusion but it really does work. The same amount of food look like much more if served on smaller plates. So you’re more likely to feel satisfied with less.

Same goes for smaller glasses, something to think about if you’re trying to limit your wine consumption. (Nothing to see here…)

2. Serve (slightly) less food
Most of us keep eating until our plates are empty. So a great way to eat less is to serve yourself less food to begin with. The trick is to find a balance, you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out. It’s about keeping inside the ‘mindless margin’.

3. Only serve healthy options in the middle of the table.
I love serving big platters of food in the middle of the table because it looks so appealing. But as you probably know yourself, if food is there it gets eaten.

I’ve found by serving healthy options like salad and vegetables in the middle, I still get the look and feeling of abundance. However keeping the extra servings of meat and potatoes in the kitchen, means we’re far less likely to have too much of these.

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easy chinese chicken

Easy Chinese Chicken

The simple sauce for this chicken was inspired by my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. A bit of garlic, some 5-Spice powder and soy sauce. So easy and really delish. I can get Chinese 5-Spice at my local supermarket but if you can’t, an online spice merchant will be able to help you out. Or see the variation below for an alternative.

Enough for 2
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g (1lb) chicken thigh fillets, slice into bite sized pieces
250g (1/2 lb) snow peas, trimmed
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
handful cashews

1. Combine 5-spice, garlic and 2 tablespoons oil. Toss in the chicken and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got. A few minutes is fine but for anything longer than an hour, keep it in the fridge.

2. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan on a very high heat. Add snow peas and stir fry until bright green and just cooked but still very crunchy. Remove to a clean bowl.

3. Heat a little more oil in the wok and stir fry chicken until well browned and just cooked though. About 5-10 minutes.

4. Return snow peas to the pan to warm through. Remove from the heat and toss in the soy sauce.

5. Serve in two bowls with cashews on top.

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VARIATIONS
vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced hallomi and pan fry until golden instead of stir frying.

vegan – replace chicken with sliced eggplant. Allow more time stir frying for the eggplant to cook properly. Undercooked eggplant is one of my least favourite things.

no Chinese 5-spice – make your own approximation with equal parts ground cinnamon, fennel seeds, black pepper and star anise. Or at a minimum just use cinnamon and fennel.

different veg – asparagus, sugar snap peas, bok choy, broccolini, broccoli, Chinese broccoli, red capsicum (bell pepper), zucchini (courgettes).

more veg – serve on a bed of cauliflower ‘rice’ (grated raw cauli).

carb-lovers – serve with steamed rice or rice noodles cooked according to the packet.

different meat – minced (ground) chicken, chicken breasts, pork fillet, steaks – any tender cut that will stir fry well.

With love,
Jules x
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kale 'cabonara'-4

I‘m a huge believer in the power of habits for helping to put everyday decisions on autopilot, making it much easier to live a healthy life.

One of the things I’ve learned in my study of habit formation over the years is the power of public commitment.

Earlier in the year, I joined Febfast and committed to a month without alcohol.

It was tough. Especially the night we were staying with friends in Sydney and everyone else was drinking really lovely wine.

One of my friends tried to persuade me to have some. They weren’t going to tell anybody…

It was tempting.

But you know what kept me from caving?

The thought of having to sit down here and admit to you that I had broken my promise.

While Febfast is long gone, I have a few bad cooking habits that I’ve been trying to kick on my own. And if truth be told, I haven’t been having much luck.

So today I’m ‘outing’ myself on my 3 worst habits. I’ll report back in a month or so to let you know how I’ve gone.

BAD HABIT 1. Picking While I Cook

As I mentioned in my interview with the lovely Darya Rose a few weeks ago, picking at food while I cook has long been my worst cooking habit.

Now that I’m getting dinner ready for Fergal before I start cooking for my Irishman and me, it’s been getting worse.

I hate that feeling of sitting down to dinner and not being hungry.

Darya had some brilliant advice around setting boundaries for snacking, like using a plate and only doing it sitting at the table. I’ve been working on implementing this for a few weeks now, and while I have made some progress, there have been times when I have had my official snack and still picked while cooking.

I need a bit more help with this one.

BAD HABIT 2. Dull Knives

Even though we have top quality knives and the easiest sharpening system ever, I’m very embarrassed to admit that I can easily go weeks if not months without sharpening.

I know dull knives are dangerous. I just can’t explain this terrible habit apart from being super lazy.

So I commit to sharpening my knives at least once a week on Sunday or Monday. I’ve started this week off with sharp knives. It feels great.

BAD HABIT 3. Not Washing Leaves and Herbs

I think this habit started when we were buying most of our veg from the supermarket. Those pre-washed bags of salad leaves and herbs are just ‘oh so easy’.

Now we buy the lions share of our veg from the farmers market. I’m loving the increase in quality and freshness but have honestly been ‘pretending’ to myself that the leaves don’t need washing.

When clearly they do. I know.

I can’t believe I’m going to put this in writing, but we had a guest staying who found a slug in the salad. Even that mortification hasn’t wrenched me out of my slothfulness.

It’s definitely time for a change. So when I report back I’m planning on my salad spinner being my new best friend.

What about you?

Do you have any bad cooking habits that you’d like to break? Or even some good habits you’d like to form?

I’d love to hear about them in the comment below :)

_________________

kale 'cabonara'-4

Kale ‘Cabonara’

OK so if you’re a purist when it comes to the naming of dishes, you’d better block your ears. I know that cabonara traditionally includes egg yolk and no cream, but I really liked the sound of kale ‘cabonara’ and I felt more in the mood for cream than egg yolk… so that what we have.

Enough for 2
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 bunch kale, ribs discarded (if tough) & leaves sliced into ribbons
1-2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons cream
2 large handfuls grated parmesan + extra to serve

1. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook bacon on a medium high heat until well browned.

2. Remove bacon from the pan and add the kale and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes until the kale is wilted and deep green in colour. It will take about 5-10 minutes. If it starts to burn, add a splash of water to help generate some steam.

3. Return bacon to the pan and add cream. Stir over the heat to warm through then remove from the heat and add the cheese.

4. Divide between two plates and serve with extra cheese if you like.

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VARIATIONS
more substantial / carb lovers – toss in some cooked pasta at the end. A drained can of chickpeas or white beans will do the same job without causing blood sugar problems.

paleo / more classic cabonara – replace cream with 2 egg yolks. Add the yolks with the bacon off the heat. And see the dairy-free option.

dairy-free – replace cream with 2 egg yolks and replace parmesan with grated brazil nuts and if you like a teaspoon of nutritional yeast.

vegetarian – replace bacon with chopped smoked tofu – a really lovely ingredient. OR serve with a big handful of smoked almonds or other nuts.

different greens – as much as I love kale, any leafy greens such as spinach, baby spinach, chard or silverbeet can be used.

vegan – cook sliced kale with garlic in olive oil and serve with more olive oil and a good few handfuls of roasted nuts or cooked legumes.

With love,
Jules x
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bacon & cabbage-2

A few weeks ago, my Irishman was in a lift with a family with a sick baby. He mentioned that he has a one-year-old and the other parents were like, ‘Oh you must be used to him being sick’.

My Irishman was a little taken back by this.

Over dinner he told me about his encounter with the sick child.

We both realized we’ve been very lucky with Fergal. Apart from the odd runny nose, he hasn’t ever been really sick. (Excuse me while I just go and touch some wood!)

But is this just good luck? Or good genes? Or something we’re doing or not doing?

In all likelihood, it’s a combination. However, our habits and lifestyle must be having an impact.

4 Ways I Keep My Family Healthy

1. We eat real food.
The rate of obesity has increased at the same rate as our consumption of processed food. Coincidence? I think not.

What do I mean by ‘real food’?

Basically, it’s anything without a complicated ‘ingredients list’ on the pack. Or better yet, food that doesn’t come in packages. Like vegetables, fish, meat etc.

While most of our food falls into the ‘real’ category, we don’t obsess. I’m happy for occasional processed conveniences like commercial curry pastes or tomato ketchup.

2. We go easy on grains, especially wheat.
The main problem with grains, even ‘whole grains’ is they provide loads of carbohydrates without enough beneficial micronutrients. I prefer to get my carbs in the form of vegetables and legumes.

Even if you think you don’t have a problem with wheat or gluten, you may find your health improves if you experiment with removing wheat from your diet. It’s not just a digestive thing. In ‘Wheat Belly,’ William Davis links consumption of modern wheat to all sorts of ills including schizophrenia.

3. We aren’t afraid of fat. Including saturated fat.
Whenever I write about fat it tends to be controversial. The whole ‘low fat’ movement has a lot to answer for.

Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In our house we love olive oil, butter, cream, nuts, avocado and bacon.

Not ready to stop being fat phobic? Then check out:
What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism

Also, saturated fat isn’t bad for us. In 2010 a panel of heart disease experts concluded that reducing saturated fat intake doesn’t reduce the risk of heart disease.

Saturated fat tends to be the most stable fat for cooking and can actually be beneficial. If you think I’ve gone crazy, read 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat.

4. We eat lots of vegetables.
Vitamins. Minerals. Fiber. Antioxidants. Plus they’re delicious.

What’s not to love about veg!

______________

In case you’re wondering, I’d better be clear about my credentials.

I’m not a professional dietitian or nutritionist. However, I did study nutrition at university. For my Food Science Degree I took two nutrition subjects (and got distinctions!) along with basic biochemistry.

___________________
bacon & cabbage-2

Super Yum Bacon & Cabbage

My Irishman tells me that bacon and cabbage is a traditional dish from Limerick. He’s a big fan of his Mum, Geraldine’s version.

I knew it was a bit risky to mess around with a family favourite but I couldn’t help myself. Instead of boiling the cabbage, I just soften it in a little oil which saves time and reduces the risk of any ‘smelly’ cabbagey flavours.

enough for 2
3-4 slices bacon, chopped
1 bunch leeks, washed & white parts sliced OR 1 onion
1/2 small cabbage or 1/4 large, sliced
1 tablespoon rice or other wine vinegar

1. Heat a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Add a little olive oil and brown bacon.

2. Then add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring when you think of it.

3. When the leeks have started to soften, add the cabbage and a splash of water. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes until the cabbage is ‘al dente’ or just soft. Somewhere from 5-10 minutes.

4. Season with salt and pepper and vinegar. Serve hot.

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VARIATIONS
different cabbage thicknesses – I like to slice my cabbage finely using my knife, so not as fine as a mandoline. This way the cabbage cooks quickly. If you’re after a more chunky look, cutting the cabbage into 1 inch ribbons will also work, just expect a longer cooking time.

more veg – serve with flat leaf parsley leaves, baby spinach or a few spoonfuls of home made sauerkraut.

different cabbage – I’ve used white cabbage in the picture but we love this with red cabbage (and balsamic vinegar) or savoy as well. You could also use brussels sprouts, just remember to slice them finely so they cook quickly. Kale can also be used.

vegetarian – just skip the bacon and serve with a salty cheese crumbled over like feta.

herby – a little thyme or sage added with the onions is also lovely.

carb lovers – serve with steamed or mashed potatoes.

vegan – replace bacon with smoked tofu or skip the bacon and serve topped with roasted or smoked nuts such as almonds.

With love,
Jules x
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