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So I have a bit of a weird fetish. I’m always interested in experimenting with different diets.

Mainly because I’m curious to understand how changing what I eat changes the way I feel. But also because I want to understand what it’s like for people with allergies who have no choice in the matter.

When Fergal was first born, like most new mothers I was super vigilant in observing his every move. So when I noticed he was having a bit of reflux, I did some research.

One suggested solution was to try eliminating dairy from the mothers diet. So I decided to have ‘dairy-free week’.

While I love cheese way too much to ever voluntarily avoid dairy long term, it wasn’t too difficult just for the week. It didn’t really seem to make a difference to little Fergal. But on the upside I made some great discoveries…

12 Clever Ideas for Eating Dairy-free

1. Grated nuts as ‘Parmesan’
Finely grating Brazil nuts with a microplane has been my ‘go-to’ dairy-free option for ages. While it looks the part, the flavour isn’t as good as real parmesan. But recently I’ve discovered an alternative. See below for the recipe!

2. Whipped Coconut Cream
Desserts are easily the most difficult area to go dairy free. My favourite whipped cream alternative is to chill a can of coconut cream (the higher the fat content the better) then spoon the solid cream into a bowl and leave any watery liquid in the can. Whisk until thick just like regular whipping cream.

3. Roasted pine nuts instead of goats cheese
Where you have a cheese being used as a flavour highlight, for example in a salad of roast beets and goats cheese, roasted pinenuts or other nuts can work as a replacement by providing richness and visual interest.

4. Cashew ‘Sour Cream’
You need a super high-powered blender for this to work. Soak cashews in water for a few hours, then drain and keep the soaking water. Whizz cashews in your blender adding in a little water as you go. Add lemon juice until you’re happy with the taste and keep adding water until you’re happy with the consistency. You can use a food processor but it won’t end up as creamy.

5. Cashew ‘cream cheese’ or ‘ricotta’
As above but skip the lemon juice.
And keep the water to a minimum so it’s nice and thick.

6. Coconut Yoghurt
See the recipe over here.

7. Nut milks
Home made almond milk is easy and really delicious. But it’s a bit too time consuming for me on an everyday basis.

There are some pretty tasty almond milks on the market. Some are very sweet though so you might need to try a few brands. Skip any sweetened with agave as this is almost pure fructose ( and if you’re wondering why this is a bad thing see here)

8. Nut butters in sauces
I recently made a butter chicken (aka chicken tikka marsala). The recipe called for cashew butter to finish the sauce. It was amazing the difference the cashew butter made to the curry adding lovely nutty complexity. So I’m planning on experimenting with using other nut butters in sauces. Think sate and beyond.

My supermarket stocks cashew, peanut, and almond butters in the health food section. All are worth playing with.

9. Coconut oil or copha in sweet baking
It’s hard to go past real butter in baked goods. The next best option is coconut oil or copha. But these make everything taste coconutty so be warned!
UPDATE: thanks to QB for alerting me to the fact that copha is hydrogenated and actually not a healthy choice. Stick to coconut oil please!

10. Vegetable or nut oils in baking
When a coconutty flavour isn’t an option just sub in a neutral flavoured oil like rice bran oil or peanut oil.

If the recipe instructs you to cream butter and sugar the oil won’t cream up and trap as much air as butter would. So add a little extra baking powder to make up for it. 1/2 teaspoon should do in most cases.

11. Clarified butter or ghee
Most dairy dietary problems are a reaction to the sugars or proteins in milk products. Clarified butter or ghee has had these removed so can be fine for most allergy situations. To make your own just melt butter in a saucepan. Skim off and remove any white foam from the top. Keep the lovely buttery oil in the middle and discard the white solids from the bottom.

This also makes the ghee or butter oil more stable so great for cooking at higher temps.

12. Coconut sorbet
My go to ice cream replacement. When I used to have an ice cream maker I would just churn a can of coconut cream with a little icing sugar for sweetness. I’m afraid I haven’t cracked a good coconut sorbet recipe that doesn’t require a machine. Watch this space though!

brazil nut 'parmeasn'

Brazil Nut ‘Parmesan’

I was going to call this ‘I can’t believe it’s not Parmesan’ but of course you won’t mistake this topping for freshly grated parmesan.

The good news is, even though it tastes different, it’s actually really delicious and even though I’m back to eating dairy, I often reach for this topping to give crunch and extra depth of flavour to salads and other dishes.

Nutritional yeast and onion powder are two new ingredients for me. They’re actually wonderful ways to add savoury or ‘umami’ flavours to foods without adding animal based ingredients. And I’ll let you in on a secret: they’re often used in commercial salty snacks for that very reason

Nutritional yeast is also a great source of B group vitamins.

Enough for about a cup.
1 cup brazil nuts
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1. Whizz everything together in the food processor. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

VARIATIONS
short on time / yeast & onion-free – just grate whole brazil nuts with a microplane.

nut-free – use real parmesan :) or try with sunflower seeds.

Different nuts – also great with pine nuts or almonds or cashews.

With love,
Jules x

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I just want to preface this by saying there are many excellent reasons to become vegetarian. Especially cost and not wanting animals to die in order for you to live. I get it. And I fully respect you if you choose not to eat meat for any reason. So if you’re happy not eating meat. As you were. (Oh and you might enjoy the vegan variations in the recipe below.)

But I’ve known many people over the years who have chosen not to eat red meat in favour of fish or chicken because they think its healthier. If you fall into this camp, this post is for you!

……

When I was pregnant I found myself getting incredibly tired. And even though I was sleeping a good 10 hours+ a night I couldn’t seem to shake it.

Then something made me think about iron, and that lack of energy is a typical symptom of iron deficiency. Which of course made me think of red meat. So I decided to conduct an experiment and have a week of eating red meat every day.

And the result?

My tiredness vanished. I was still sleeping like a trooper but I felt great! Now when I get that feeling of being just so tired (which doesn’t happen very often even with a 3 month old in the house) I plan a few more red meat meals. Easy.

6 reasons red meat is good for you.


1. It’s high in ‘heme’ iron.

This is important because heme iron is the easiest for your body to use. But not only that, it makes it easier for your body to use non-heme iron from plant sources as well. So you get and extra boost .

Of course there are other ways to get iron. For the pescetarians go for molluscs such as mussels, clams and oysters. And all liver (think) pate is even higher in iron and tends to be much cheaper than a steak!

2. Red meat also contains other minerals.
Such as zinc, selenium and magnesium. And as with iron, the form of these minerals is easy for our bodies to use.

3. Red meat contains lots of vitamins.
You may already know that meat contains. Vitamin B12 but it also contains significant amounts of other vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, niacin, and vitamin B6. It also has Vitamin D, which important if you aren’t exposed to enough sunlight.

4. It can contain ‘good’ fats.
Red meat from animals that have been fed grass or ‘pastured’ actually contains good levels of omega-3 fatty acids (you know the ones so found in fish that are good for your brain among other things).

5. It doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease.
Remember how we were told to reduce our intake of saturated fat to avoid heart disease? Well turns out as saturated fat intake has decreased over the years, the amount of heart disease has actually gotten worse.

I know. This is because what you replace the saturated fat with is important. It’s actually better from a heart disease perspective to stick to saturated fat than replace it with refined carbohydrates or processed oils.

The other thing to remember not all fat in red meat is saturated. A significant proportion is monounsaturated (like olive oil).

6. It’s a great source of protein.
But you probably already knew that. :)

Surely eating large quantities of meat can’t be a good thing…

I agree!

Eating large amounts of anything tends to cause problems.

I’m not suggesting that you need to eat steak 24/7. Nor is it a good idea to chow down on factory farmed and processed meats.

Just that red meat can be included in a healthy lifestyle. And can make it easier to get many nutrients we need to be happy and healthy!

beef, broccolini & basil

Beef, Broccolini & Basil

I love using ground (minced meat) because it’s more forgiving to cook and tends to be more affordable.

Enough for 2
2 bunches broccolini, chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
1-2 small red chillis – fresh or dried, chopped, optional
1-2 lemons
1 bunch basil, leaves picked

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or wok. Cook broccolini, stirring until no longer super crunchy.

2. Remove veg from the pan. Add a little more oil and cook the meat and chilli, if using on a high heat until well browned.

3. Return the broccolini to the pan. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

4. Serve with basil leaves on top and lemon halves.

VARIATIONS
vegan / vegetarian – replace meat with cooked lentils – I especially like French-style or ‘puy’ lentils here. And serve with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to stop it being too dry. A splash of soy sauce will also help give more complexity.

different veg – replace broccolini with broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, green beans or even cauliflower.

different meat – most ground (minced) meat is good here. Even chicken or pork. And sliced tender cuts such as beef fillet, lamb backstraps or chicken breast can also be used – just be careful with the cooking time.

budget – serve on a bed of cooked lentils to make your meat go further.

different herbs – replace basil with flat leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro).

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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At least once a week or so I get an email from a reader requesting the calorie count of one of my recipes or a suggestion that I include it at the bottom of all my recipes.

My response is always the same. Thanks for your suggestion, but I don’t believe in counting calories. And then I suggest they find one of the many websites that can calculate these things for them.

But I’ve been thinking a bit about my reasons for not buying into the counting of calories, carbs, fat or whatever. So I thought it was about time I put pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard, to be more accurate.

6 reasons to NOT count calories

1. Counting calories takes the joy out of eating.
This is the biggest reason for me. Food, especially sharing it with loved ones, is one of the great pleasures that should enrich our lives.

2. Counting calories encourages you to eat packaged processed food.
I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned her teenage daughter has become very interested in nutrition and has started to keep an eye on her calories. But the sad part is she’s noticed that her daughter is more likely to choose food out of a packet than something fresh because she can easily tell how many calories she’s getting from the pack.

3. Counting calories doesn’t guarantee you’re getting the nutrients you need.
As with most of life, getting the quantity right doesn’t mean the quality is also where it should be.

4. Counting calories teaches you to ignore your natural satiety cues.
We’re all equipped with a system for our bodies to tell us when we’re hungry and when we’ve had enough. The problem is it tends to be quite subtle. Especially the ‘I’m full’ signals.

Wouldn’t it be better to slow down and relearn to let your body guide you?

5. Calorie restriction doesn’t work for maintaining weight loss in the long term.
In the book ‘Why we get fat’ Gary Taubes mentions study after study showing that limiting calorie intake doesn’t lead to lasting weight loss. But if you’ve tried calorie restriction for any amount of time, you probably already know that.

6. Counting calories doesn’t address the root cause of your problem.
We don’t just eat because our bodies need fuel. Sometimes it’s boredom. Sometimes it’s emotional stuff or one of countless other reasons.

Trying to use willpower and counting every calorie isn’t going to fix what’s causing there to be a problem in the first place. Talk about setting yourself up to fail…

So what’s the alternative?

For me the easiest way to make real lasting changes to how you eat and how you feel is to put it on autopilot. What do I mean by that? I’m talking about adopting a new habit of eating mindfully. It’s about slowing down. It’s about focusing on eating so you not only enjoy your food more, you can tell when you are full.

I’ve recently read an excellent book called ‘Foodist’ by Darya Rose. One of the biggest lessons I’ve had from the book is to focus on eating mindfully. Darya has a few tips for this but my favourite is…

How to eat mindfully

When you start to load up your fork for the next mouthful, check to see if you’re already chewing. If there’s food already in your mouth, put your fork down and focus on chewing and enjoying your mouthful. There’s no need to rush to swallow. Then once you’re done you can pick up your fork and get the next bite ready.

It’s actually harder than it sounds but it’s the best technique I’ve come across for fostering real mindful eating AND more importantly, maximum food enjoyment!

slow roast bangers-3

Slow Baked Bangers

These days with a little one in the house, I’m all about meals I can prep in the afternoon without much effort and let them cook away while I focus on feeding Fergal and getting him ready for bed. And even though spring is here, I’m still finding the oven to be my favourite cooking method because I can set and (almost) forget.

These sausages are a big favourite. But if bangers aren’t your thing see the variations below. Or think about trying a new butcher who takes pride in making their own sausages. Quality is key here!

Enough for 2
4 onions, peeled & quartered lengthwise
4 thick sausages
1 cup red wine
1 cup stock or water
a few sprigs of thyme, optional
3-4 handfuls baby spinach to serve

1. Turn your oven on to 150C (350F).

2. Pop onions, sausages, wine, stock or water and thyme, if using an oven proof pot.

3. Bake for about 2 hours turning the sausages about half way if you get the chance to.

4. Serve on a bed of baby spinach.

VARIATIONS
short on time? – crank your oven to 220C (450F). Should be done in 45 mins.

vegan / vegetarian – replace sausages with vegetables such as a sweet potato, parsnip, carrot, beets, potato, eggplant or mushrooms. You may need to adjust the cooking time. Serve with nuts for extra protein and crunch.

different meat – chicken thighs or drumsticks work well and will cook in about the same amount of time. Osso buco or lamb shanks would be my red meat choices. They’ll need a lot longer, 4-5 hours. And you might need to add more liquid if it’s drying out.

alcohol-free – just replace with stock, water or tomato purée or a can of tomatoes.

onion-free – replace onions with a mixture of other aromatic veg such as celery and carrots.

different herbs – thyme is my fav here but rosemary or sage or a few bay leaves will be lovely too.

Video version of the recipe.

With love
Jules x

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HMM2013 square logo large

YOU can win one of 5 FREE places in the Healthy Meal Method program!

Here’s how to enter…

1. Watch the FREE training videos over here: www.thestonesoupshop.com/healthy-meals-free-training/.

2. Leave a comment below the video telling me the story of how you will embrace the Healthy Meal Method and the difference it will make to your life.

Entries will be judged by the lovely Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini and me. We’ll be looking for creativity and enthusiasm!
Entries close midnight Tuesday 1st October 2013.
______
ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED!

And the Winners are…
Ann Brunner
Lilian Zou
Diane Lambropoulos
JohnandMandy Young
Lisa (with the 9 month old son)

Thanks so much to everyone who entered.
Clotilde and I had a tough time deciding!
_____

the fine print:
* If you aren’t on Facebook you can leave a comment to enter on this page.
* The winning entrants will be notified by Facebook or email.
* The winners will be announced here on Stonesoup Wednesday 2nd Oct.
* The judges’ decision will be final and no other correspondence shall be entered into.

.

With love,
Jules x

ps. If you know of someone who might be interested, please share this page with them because I’d really appreciate it!

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Imagine…

This week I’ve got something a little different for you…

When I started preparing for my upcoming program, ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School, I took the time to interview some of my existing students.

One of the things I love about online classes is that my students are literally from all over the world. From Australia to the US to Iceland to Peru and many places in between. But it does have some limitations…

As much as I’d love to be giving out free samples of the food I cook, unfortunately the Internet doesn’t allow for that possibility yet.

The other thing is that even though there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions and interact via the comments and the live coaching webinars, we don’t get any old fashioned face to face time.

So I wanted to do the next best thing and just have a chat over the phone or Skype. My aim was to get feedback and find ways to make my next class as useful, fun and easy to digest as possible.

But I got so much more than I was expecting…

Time and time again I found people wanting to thank me for the difference the SVCS had made to their cooking and eating. And in some cases even other aspects of their lives. So I was really glad I’d recorded some of these conversations (with permission of course!)

So today I thought I’d share two of my favourites with you… Enjoy!

Emma from Wollongong Australia

With a young baby and a partner who works late, Emma found herself becoming resentful of having to cook. Until she signed up for online cooking classes last year. Now she not only appreciates the benefits of a streamlined pantry, her whole attitude to cooking has changed. And her meal time anxiety is gone.

Watch Emma’s story over here:

Emma’s Story video link

Miriam from Tweed Canada

Widowed with a grown up family, Miriam’s diabetes gave her a new reason to focus on taking better care of herself. The good news is, she is not only healthier and happier, she’s lost some weight and has even started creating her own recipes!

Watch Miriam’s story over here:

Miriam’s Story video link

Prefer audio?

Click HERE to download the mp3 for both interviews in the one file.
(you may need to ‘right click’ and ‘save link as’)

Would you like to make a real difference to your meals?

Unfortunately the doors to the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School are closed at the moment. But you can enter your details OVER HERE to be notified when they reopen.

smoked salmon chickpea salad-4

Smoked Salmon & Chickpea Salad


Now that I’m no longer pregnant it’s lovely to be able to indulge in things like smoked salmon and prosciutto. This salad is my latest favourite in a long line of chickpea salads.

Enough for 2
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 can chickpeas, drained (400g / 14oz)
3-4 handfuls salad leaves or baby spinach
100g (3.5oz) smoked salmon
2-3 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise, optional

1. Whisk lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Season.

2. Toss in chickpeas and greens and divide between two bowls.

3. Top with smoked salmon and mayo, if using.

VARIATIONS
vegan – replace smoked salmon with avocado chunks. Skip the mayo or use a vegan friendly mayo.

vegetarian – replace smoked salmon with boiled or poached eggs or some fresh goats cheese or parmesan shavings.

carnivore
– replace smoked salmon with smoked chicken or prosciutto.

paleo / chickpea-free
– skip the chickpeas and double the salad leaves and triple the salmon.

different legumes
– replace chickpeas with cooked or canned beans or lentils. Cooked quinoa is also lovely (you need about 250g / 9oz).

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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I‘ve been thinking about sugar lately. A lot. When Fergal’s Irish grandparents were here I was fascinated by how much sugar his grandpa ate.

One morning granddad polished off a bowl of rice bubbles (krispies) with 3 teaspoons of sugar. Washed it down with some tea with another 2 teaspoons and finished it all off with a club milk (chocolate biscuit). We were on holidays but still…

So I wasn’t surprised to learn that his doctor had said he was on the path to diabetes. And had given orders to cut down.

Not an easy task after a lifetime of lemonade and sugary cream buns.

Anyway it reminded me of a question I got from Stonesoup reader Brianna…

Curious about sugar free recipes and ways to reduce sugar intake when one has a terrible sweet tooth…
Brianna

So what’s the best way to reduce sugar intake?

Sugar is highly addictive so just cutting down can be incredibly difficult. If that’s the case for you, the best plan is to find an alternative.

The best I’ve found is Stevia. You can get stevia in liquid form but I’m not a huge fan. I prefer to use granular stevia that has been mixed with erythritol because it bakes and tastes more like sugar.

I usually use the Natvia brand because my local supermarket stocks it but I’m sure there are other good ones out there.

Why stevia?

It’s natural.
And so is sugar, so natural doesn’t necessarily mean good for you. But much better than the potential problems associated with artificial sweeteners.

It looks like sugar and tastes almost like sugar.
We got Fergal’s grandad (the sugar aficionado) to try out some stevia and he gave it the thumbs up. And Paddy has very high standards when it comes to the sweet stuff.

It can help improve your sensitivity to insulin.
I know this sounds a little too good to be true. A sugar substitute that actually reverses some of the damage of eating too much sugar? According to Mark’s Daily Apple, the Japanese have been using stevia extracts to treat Type 2 diabetic patients for years and years. He also quotes studies where stevia improved insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats.

How do I use it?

You can substitute granular stevia for sugar in most baked goods. Because stevia tends to be sweeter I tend to halve the amount of sugar and go from there. For example in the cheesecake recipe below the original has 175g sugar. So my starting point was 87.5g stevia but since I like round numbers I upped it to 100g.

Just be aware that it isn’t as soluble as sugar so you may find some things end up with a gritty texture. I found when I used stevia instead of sugar to poach some quinces that they were great when still warm, but after the leftovers were refrigerated the stevia had crystallised. Not the end of the world but something to keep in mind.

If you’re substituting for icing or ‘powdered’ sugar in a recipe, just grind the stevia in a coffee grinder until you can’t see any big crystals.

Need more help?

When I think of reducing sugar intake or ‘Quitting Sugar’ it’s hard not to think about the lovely Sarah Wilson and her ‘I Quit Sugar*’ books. You might find this interview I did with Sarah earlier in the year useful.

Or if you just need help with sugar-free baking, have a read of ‘Can desserts be guilt free?‘.

* This is an affiliate link so if you do decide to buy one of Sarah’s products you’ll be supporting Stonesoup too :)

sugar-free cheesecake-2

Super Easy Cheesecake (with or without sugar)

This has been my go-to baked cheesecake recipe for ages. I’ve only recently played around with a no added sugar version and am very happy with the results.

Enough for 8
200g (7oz) almond meal
100g (3.5oz) butter, melted
750g (1.5lb) cream cheese (3packets), softened
300g (10oz) sour cream (1 tub)
100g (3.5oz) granular stevia OR 175g (6oz) white sugar
4 eggs

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a 24cm (9in) spring form pan with baking paper and grease the sides with some of the melted butter.

2. Combine almond meal and butter then smooth into the base of the prepared tin with the back of a spoon.

3. Bake base for 10 minutes or until starting to brown.

4. Whizz cream cheese, sour cream and stevia or sugar in a food processor until smooth. Scrape down the sides.

5. Add eggs one at a time and whizz between each.

6. When the base is ready, decrease oven to 160C (300F). Pour filling on top of the base and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It’s done when the top is golden brown and the cheesecake feels springy when you touch it.

7. Cool in the tin.

VARIATIONS
nut-free – replace the almond meal with cookie crumbs or just skip the base.

dairy-free – are you kidding? Actually I have seen recipes using silken tofu but haven’t ever tried it.

different nuts
– feel free to replace the almonds with other nuts.

egg-free – I think you might get away by replacing the egg with an extra tub of sour cream. I haven’t tried it though so if you do please let me know how you get on!

vanilla
– sometimes I add the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean to the filling.

A quick update on my favourite tiny person…

Untitled Untitled
Fergal was 12 weeks on Friday. He’s still a champion sleeper and eater and is getting very interactive with his smiles and little laughs and super cute cooing noises.

And I’m still working on my baby photo skills. The one on the left of me and Fergal was taken by Melissa Kingham and the one on the right by Glen Brennan.

With love,
Jules x

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Recently I was chatting to my brother Dom and he asked me ‘when was the last time you were sick?’

I had to think about it for a while. And I honestly couldn’t remember.

There has been a few runny noses and some pregnancy related tiredness. But since becoming a full time Stonesoup employee, back in January 2010, I haven’t had to ask my ‘boss’ (aka me) for a sick day (even though she is very caring and understanding).

Now I can’t take all the credit for my health.

My Mum passed on her Superman-strength immune system to me so that is a huge bonus. But I do make a big effort to look after myself as well.

Meditating first thing in the morning is a habit I’m really enjoying. I try and get at least 9 hours sleep each night, although with a baby in the house that hasn’t been happening. I try and do some sort of exercise each day. It used to be running but now I’m running only once a week and walking the rest. When I walk I like to carry some extra weight either as Fergal in the Baby Bjorn or my weights vest. I also do some kettle bell swings or pushups most days for some upper body strength.

And of course I try and eat as well as I can.

But what is healthy eating?

I know it can be a very confusing topic. So when I got the following question from an anonymous Stonesoup reader I figured it was something I should write about.

“I am so confused about diets and which is better for you. Paleo diet seems to be protein based and no legumes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman who advocates all plant for health, some legumes. I have been vegetarian for 30 years and on/off vegan. Carbs are bad? Good? Help!”
Anonymous Stonesoup Reader

Before I share my opinion, I’d better be clear about my credentials.

I’m not a professional dietitian or nutritionist. However, I do have some credentials in the area. For my food science degree I did study two nutrition subjects (and got distinctions!) along with basic biochemistry. So do I understand the fundamentals.

These days, apart from cookbooks, I love reading nutrition and diet books to keep up to date. Things like Wheat Belly by William Davis, Sweet Poison by David Guillespie, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolfe. You get the idea. So here it is…

My 6 Guidelines for a Healthy Way of Eating

1. Find what works for you.
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I believe there are two reasons the message about what to eat is so confusing. First is the influence of big business and politics in nutrition.

The second is that we’re all slightly different in our biochemical makeup. It’s the only way to explain why some people can eat junk all day and remain lean whereas others just think about chocolate cake and they gain weight.

So really the only option is to take responsibility for figuring out what is best for you and your body.

2. Eat real food.
The rate of obesity has increased at the same rate as our consumption of processed factory food. Coincidence? I think not.

So what is real food? Michael Pollan recommends not eating anything your grandparents wouldn’t recognise as food. But that would rule out sushi for me!

I prefer to think of real food as anything that you can buy without an ‘ingredients list’ on the pack.

3. Don’t be afraid of fat. Including saturated fat.
In my first job as a young food scientist I worked on developing many low fat products. And what did we replace the fat with? Sugar. Lots of different types of sugar. I still feel guilty that I contributed to the whole ‘low fat’ fiasco.

The thing is, fat is the best fuel for us to burn for energy. I won’t go into details here but if you’re interested in reading more I recommend the following 2 articles from Mark’s Daily Apple:
What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism

It also turns out that saturated fat isn’t bad for us. It 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. Be wary of sugar, especially fructose.
So you’re probably all over the concept that eating loads of jelly beans isn’t good for you. But how about fruit? While fruit does contain vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, it’s also laden with fructose, or fruit sugar.

The problem with fructose is that it gets stored directly as fat by our bodies. Not ideal.

Then to make matters worse, our bodies don’t have a system for detecting when we’ve eaten enough fructose. So there’s no ‘off’ switch. If you’re interested in learning more about the evils of sugar and fructose ‘Sweet Poison’ by David Guillespie is a good read.

5. Go easy on grains, especially wheat.
The main problem I have with grains, even ‘whole grains’ is they provide loads of carbohydrates without enough beneficial micronutrients. So I prefer to get my carbs in the form of vegetables.

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. And it’s not just a digestive thing. In ‘Wheat Belly’ William Davis links consumption of modern wheat to all sorts of ills including schizophrenia.

6. Eat lots of vegetables.
Vitamins. Minerals. Fiber. Antioxidants. Plus they’re delicious. What’s not to love about veg!

And

I could also add ‘watch the carbs’ but if you’re avoiding sugar and grains you’ll mostly be keeping your carbohydrate intake to a moderate level. Unless of course you have a heavy potato addiction…

sesame pork stir fry-2

Sesame Stir Fry

To give credit where it is due, my Irishman came up with the idea for using tahini in a stir fry from something he read. It works so well I had to steal the idea!

Enough for 2
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bunch bok choy, bases trimmed
450g (1lb) minced (ground) pork
2-4 red chillies

1. Stir tahini and soy sauce together in a small bowl.

2. Heat a wok on a super high heat. Add a little oil and stir fry the bok choy for a few minutes or until it’s just wilted.

3. Remove bok choy and divide between two bowls.

4. Add a little more oil to the wok. Add pork and stir fry for about 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked.

5. Add the tahini mixture and chilli and cook for another minute or so. Taste and season with more soy if needed.

6. Serve pork on top of the bok choy.

VARIATIONS
vegetarian / vegan – replace pork with drained cooked or canned chickpeas. Or cooked lentils – red lentils would be best, just undercook them slightly so they don’t turn to mush in the wok. Stir fried quinoa would also be lovely.

different meat – feel free to use beef, lamb or chicken instead.

different veg
– any stir fry veg are good – snow peas, carrot, red capsicum (bell peppers), other Asian greens, broccoli.

more flavour – a little grated ginger and /or chopped garlic are lovely added with the pork.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

beets logo

ps. Stonesoup Is Hiring!

As a new Mum, I’ve realised its time to grow the Stonesoup team and take on a personal assistant. So if you are based in Australia, available to work from home and love food (but don’t worry, I won’t be asking you actually cook anything) go to:
www.thestonesoup.com/blog/pa/

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Birthday Treats!

Last year my Birthday was one of those inconvenient ones with a ‘0’ at the end. The type of birthday which warranted a trip to Denmark – on the other side of the world. The type of birthday that called for a long boozy lunch at, Noma, the best restaurant in the world (at the time).

It’s a tough life ;)

This year I’m just as excited about my birthday celebration plans. Even if they don’t involve jet-setting or famous chefs.

Fergal’s grandparents are visiting from Ireland so we’re having a low-key week by a lake at Tathra on the South Coast. Which will hopefully involve home cooked treats, relaxing on the balcony with a glass of wine and lots of ‘koala’ cuddles with my favourite tiny person.

As has become tradition here at Stonesoup headquarters, I have not one, but two treats for you to celebrate my birthday…

Treat Number 1. The Birthday Ice Cream Sandwich

For the last few years I’ve created a special birthday cake recipe. This year I was planning to do the same.

I was working on perfecting a ‘red velvet’ cake that used beets and didn’t involve fake food colouring. Then one Saturday I had the urge to make ice cream sandwiches. They were soo good that I immediately forgot about the cake and ear-marked the sandwiches for birthday treat número uno!

Treat Number 2. The Birthday Sale!

The other Stonesoup Birthday tradition is my 72 hour Birthday Sale. If you’re wondering why the choice of ’72’, it’s because that’s the year I was born. So I have a strong connection with the number 72.

This year I’ve decided to offer a discount on ‘How to Love Your Waistline and Your Food’. It was tough deciding which ebook to choose. But I have something else to celebrate – fitting back into all of my pre-pregnancy jeans! And wearing my favourite belt back on the smallest setting.

I feel very lucky because it hasn’t been that much of a struggle. I’ve just been eating my normal ‘mostly grain-free’ way, the same as in the book. For exercise I’ve been taking little Fergal for a walk most days. I’ve also been doing a few kettle bell swings and more recently I’ve included the occasional run. But I’m pretty sure what I’ve been eating has had the biggest impact on rediscovering my waistline.

Anyway back to the sale…

LYW video 3D Cover

In less than 72 24 Hours, it’s OVER.

‘How to Love Your Waistline and Your Food’ for 37% OFF (a savings of $10!) will go away.

I normally don’t discount my ebooks this much, but because it’s my Birthday I figured a nice round $10 savings was the least I could do.

You have less than 72 24 hours to make the most of the ‘Birthday’ Celebration Sale…

UPDATE: THE BIRTHDAY SALE IS NOW OVER, HOWEVER YOU CAN STILL PURCHASE ‘HOW TO LOVE YOUR WAISTLINE’ BY FOLLOWING THE LINK BELOW:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/lyw

paleo 3D coverPLUS! If you buy during the sale, you’ll also get a FREE bonus copy of The Stonesoup Guide to Eating Paleo.

This special ebook isn’t available to buy on its own. The only way you can get it is to buy ‘How to Love Your Waistline’ before the sale ends.

bday icecream sandwiches-3

Birthday Ice Cream Sandwiches

There’s a cafe in Sydney that serves ice cream sandwiches for breakfast. If it takes your fancy, by all means go for it. Personally, I’d rather have mine as an after dinner treat.

The sandwiches are quite large so I tend to chop them in half.

Oh and make sure you use good quality peanut butter. The type without any added vegetable oil or sugar. We’re adding enough sugar as it is with these cookies. And I prefer to use smooth since the cookies have enough going on texturally on their own. But if you only have crunchy PB in the house don’t let that stop you!

And one final note, this is my favourite Gluten-free cookie recipe. Enjoy!

Enough for 4-5 sandwiches
250g (9oz) peanut butter (see note above)
200g (7oz) brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g (2oz) dark chocolate chopped into chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

2. Combine peanut butter, brown sugar, egg and baking powder in a medium bowl.

3. Add chocolate and stir until just combined.

4. Scoop out heaped tablespoon chunks and place on the trays. I usually have 4-5 cookies on each tray.

5. Squish the cookies flat with your fingers and tuck any stray chocolate chunks into the dough.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown at the edges.

7. Cool on the tray.

8. When ready to serve, sandwich cookies with ice cream and prepare for a treat!

VARIATIONS
chocolate-free – just skip it

vegan / egg-free – you could try your favourite egg replacer but I’d be nervous about how they’ll turn out.

nut-free – use this flour based cookie recipe instead.

sugar-free – for me the brown sugar is critical for the lovely flavour so I wouldn’t risk it.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. Not sure if ‘Love You Waistline’ will help you?

Here’s what Mary had to say about it…

“I have lost 35 pounds so far by making Jules’ Reclaim Your Waistline principles the centerpiece of my weight loss program!”
Mary A., Virginia, USA

pss. The Birthday Sale is strictly limited to 72 hours from when this blog post was published.

Once it’s gone… It’s gone.

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

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The other day got a great question via my ‘Stonesoup by request’ survey. It also included a lovely compliment. So of course I was compelled to put it to the top of the list of topics to write about (I’m human after all!)…

What’s the best oil for cooking (olive??): I’m confused about the temperature, smoking oil, baking with olive oil.

After purchasing your ebook I am actually enjoying making dinner (easy and healthy) for the family for the first time in my life and getting very positive feedback on the results too- yay and thank you!

Sarah

Sarah’s right. It can be confusing.

So today I hope to clear up some of the confusion with a little lesson on oil stability and ‘smoke points’. I’m also going to share my (current) favourite oils and fats.

How do I know if an oil is stable?

The best indicator is to look at the ‘smoke point’ of the oil. This is just a measure of the temperature at which a given oil starts to give off smoke.

Yep. It’s that simple.

As a rule, the more pure an oil is and the less polyunsaturated fatty acids it contains (ie. the more saturated it is), the more stable it will be.

So the higher the ‘smoke point’ temperature, the more stable your oil.

Why should I care about oil ‘stability’?

Unstable oils chemically change their composition when exposed to heat (and light). They break down and release some toxic substances including ‘free radicals’.

Free radicals aren’t your friends.

They cause damage to our cell membranes, our blood vessels and even our DNA (genetic material). As you can imagine, this isn’t great. The damage leads to things like premature aging, immune problems and even cancer. Got your attention now?

My favourite fats and oils

1. Rice Bran Oil.
These days, rice bran oil is my ‘go to’ oil for cooking. It has a relatively high smoke point, so it’s pretty stable. It’s also much less expensive than olive oil.

As an added bonus it’s mostly mono-unsaturated and contains Vitamin E and some antioxidants (which combat free radicals!). So it has good health credentials.

The flavour is bland and neutral so it’s also great for making mayonnaise or for Asian cooking. Anywhere you don’t want the oil flavour to intrude.

If rice bran oil isn’t available where you live, my previous favourite cooking oil was peanut oil. You can get ‘cold pressed’ peanut oil which tastes like, errh peanuts. The oil I was using was commercially ‘deodourised’. It had a neutral flavour and didn’t make everything taste like PNB.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
You’re probably aware that extra virgin olive oil tastes delicious and is high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, so healthy as well. It’s my go to oil for salad dressings and drizzling on things like soups and stews just before serving for extra richness and flavour.

Unfortunately olive oil doesn’t have a super high smoke point. Which means it isn’t a great choice for cooking at high temperatures.

I’ve also conducted an experiment and found that the delicate flavours of expensive extra virgin olive oil are lost during the cooking process. So it’s a bit of a waste of money to cook with your best EVOO.

If you are planning to roast or pan fry with olive oil, it is best to use refined ‘extra light’ olive oil which has a higher smoke point than virgin oils.

3. Butter.
When it comes to flavour butter wins! While the fat component is stable with high saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, the milk proteins cause browning and smoking.

I use it for the frying pan when flavour is important and the heat won’t be too high. Things like scrambled eggs, omelets, pancakes, softening onions or mushrooms (see recipe below).

But if I’m planning to use butter for high temperature cooking like pan frying or roasting, I ‘clarify’ it to remove the proteins. It’s much less scary than it sounds. All you do is melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour the clear butter oil off the top, discarding the white solids (protein and water) below.

Butter is also surprisingly healthy (more details over here).

4. Other
I use sesame oil for flavour in Asian dishes. I always add it at the end because, you guessed it, it doesn’t have a high smoke point.

I sometimes buy a can of duck fat for roasting potatoes. Duck fat adds the most amazing flavour. It’s saturated so you don’t need worry about the stability in the oven. But not so easy on the wallet!

I buy coconut oil from time to time to use in baking. Generally I prefer the flavour of butter but if I did ever need to be dairy-free I’d reach for coconut oil.

Are you trying to eat low fat?

While we’re on the topic of fats and oils, it makes me angry (and a little sad) when I hear people still talking about how a low fat diet is healthy.

So if you’re still making the ‘low fat’ mistake, I strongly encourage you to read my ‘truth about fat‘ blog post over here.

mushrooms with lentils-3

Mushrooms with Lentils

Two of my all time favourite ingredients together in a one pot meal. Yay!

The butter here adds flavour to our mushrooms but it also is important for softening and balancing the acidity from the tomato paste.

Enough for 2
3-4 tablespoons butter
4 large field or portabello mushrooms, sliced
250g (9oz) cooked lentils
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

1. Heat butter over a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add mushies and cook, stirring every few minutes or until mushrooms are browned and tender. About 10 minutes.

2. Add lentils and tomato paste and cook until warm.

3. Taste. Season and serve with parsley on top.

VARIATIONS
short on time? – use a drained can of lentils instead of cooking your own.

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

need help cooking your lentils? – just simmer like pasta until tender. Depending on the type of lentil it will take from 15-30 minutes.

paleo / lentil-free – replace lentils with minced (ground) beef – make sure it’s well browned and cooked through before serving.

different veg / mushroom-free – replace mushies with eggplant (aubergine), kale, broccoli brussels sprouts – whatever you feel like really.

Video version of the recipe.

Which oils do you prefer to cook with? Let me know in the comments below!

With love,
Jules x

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One thing I find really annoying are recipes that call for using small amounts of perishable ingredients. You know the type I mean. Recipes that leave you with half a bunch of parsley, a few tablespoons of goats cheese or half an avocado…

Apart from being annoying, these leftover bits tend to end up getting wasted as they hide in the fridge.

When I was a young food scientist, learning how to develop new breakfast cereals, I learned an important lesson. Always try to round the ingredients on your formula (I always found it funny that in food factories there were ‘formulas’ not ‘recipes’) to the nearest lot or pack size.

This made it much easier and quicker for the factory workers to just use say, 3 bags of flour, rather than fiddling around with measuring 86.335kg flour. It also meant there wouldn’t be random partially used bags floating around the factory.

This practical lesson stayed with me.

It followed me around the world as I dabbled in the dark arts of becoming a wine maker. And of course continued on into my food blogging hobby that has since become my funnest and most rewarding career to date.

Anyway, you may not have noticed, but for my recipes on Stonesoup and my online cooking classes I try to keep leftover ingredients to a minimum. It’s just a natural part of my simple cooking philosophy.

But when you’re following someone else’s recipes (It’s OK. I’ll try not to take it personally ;) and you need help reducing leftover ingredients and waste in your kitchen, here are my 3 favourite tricks for leftover ingredients…

1. Avoid leftover ingredients.
My first port of call is to avoid leftover ingredients all together. Often the easiest way is to just skip the ingredient, like the green onions in my soup recipe below.

If skipping it isn’t an option, I look to use up all of the ingredient at once. So I’d use the whole bunch of herbs instead of the 1/2 bunch called for in the recipe. You get the idea.

2. Store the leftovers correctly.
We go into the best way to store fresh produce in my classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. But the general rule of thumb is cooler temperatures are best for most fresh ingredients.

So keep them in the fridge for starters. After temperature, moisture loss is the next biggest destroyer of fresh ingredients, so make sure they’re protected. I tend to store my produce in plastic bags in the crisper section.

The real trick is to keep them somewhere you’re likely see them again to remember to use them. See here for tips on avoiding ‘refrigerator blindness’.

3. Try some ‘mise en place’.
If you haven’t heard of ‘mise en place’ you can get up to speed on it over here. But the short story is… if you know you aren’t going to be able to use an ingredient, there’s always a way to treat it so it will last.

For example, a half bunch of basil can be turned into a tasty Sicilian nut pesto. Or if you don’t have much time, just pop the leaves in a jar and cover with olive oil for a quick basil oil that will last for weeks rather than days.

chickpea egg drop soup-3

Egg ‘Flower’ Soup

One of the first things we made in my home science class at school was the Chinese restaurant classic egg drop soup – crab and sweet corn. I remember at the time being super impressed with how adding the thin steam of beaten egg at the end gave the soup such an exotic texture. I then pretty much forgot about trying to make it myself until a few months ago, which is a long time between soups. I can’t remember what inspired me to make a soup with egg in it, but I’m so glad I did!

If you’re wondering, the ‘flower’ in the title just refers to the beautiful and unique appearance the egg gives our soup.

I just realised that this recipe leaves you with leftover green onions. Just when I’ve been telling you that I usually try and avoid them… Whoops. If you used the whole bunch they would completely overpower everything. To avoid leftovers, either just omit them or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.

Enough for 2
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas(400g / 14oz), drained
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 eggs, whisked
4 green onions, optional

1. Bring chickpeas and stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes. Season with soy sauce.

2. Turn the heat as low as possible. Slowly pour eggs into the soup in a fine stream, while stirring the soup constantly so you get lovely fine ribbons of egg.

3. Remove from the heat and serve.

VARIATIONS
leftover-free – omit the green onions or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.

vegan / egg-free – replace eggs with an extra can of chickpeas. To thicken the soup puree with a stick blender so that some of the chickpeas are smooth and others still whole.

chickpea-free – replace chickpeas with a drained can of sweet corn. Or remove the kernels from 2 cobs of corn and simmer until cooked before adding the egg.

carnivore – for a chicken soup replace chickpeas with finely sliced 2 chicken breasts. Simmer until just cooked before adding the egg.

fancy – toss in a few handfuls of cooked crab meat.

Video version of the recipe.

5 Ingredients 10 Minutes Update!

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

It’s been a while since I mentioned my print book which was published back in March this year. The good news is the Kindle version is now available!

I downloaded it onto my iPad and phone recently and gave myself a ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ challenge to cook dinner from the book most nights last week.

Let me tell you, as a new Mum, it was such a lovely to be able to browse the recipes on my phone while breast feeding. But it was even better to have dinner ready so soon after putting little ‘F’ to bed. I’m not sure what I was doing before that, but I definitely need to go back to using my own quick, healthy recipes!

For more details, including some free sample recipes go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/sample-recipes/

With love,
Jules x

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You know when you haven’t thought of something in ages. Or perhaps there’s something that you haven’t heard of before. And all of a sudden you’re hearing about it everywhere…

Well that’s been happening to me a lot lately. And the topic ‘du jour’ is fasting. My obstetrician, my Irishman’s boss, even one of my favourite fashion bloggers have all mentioned they’ve been dabbling with different forms of fasting.

So when I saw this request come in on my Stonesoup by request survey, I decided it was time for a blog post about ‘not eating’ for a change.

Hi Jules.

I would be interested in your opinion on intermittent fasting.

I know it seems like a “new” craze/fad diet/whatever, but it is something I have practiced on and off for a while after reading Brad Pilon’s Eat, Stop, Eat, and more frequently since watching the BBC’s Horizon documentary last August.

Your recipes fit very well in my non-fasting days, as they’re not “too” Paleo and they’re tasty, healthy and filling. Would you consider commenting on this way of eating?

Claudine

My experience with fasting

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to practice fasting. When we decided it was time to start a family, I stopped fasting because I was worried it might not be conducive to fertility. Then once I was pregnant I was too hungry to even think about it.

But back to my experience of actually fasting…

I first heard about the concept, from Leo over at Zen Habits back in about 2009 when he mentioned the concept of intermittent fasting and recommended an ebook called ‘Eat Stop Eat‘.

After reading the ebook, I decided to give this fasting thing a go. The idea is to take 1-2 days per week when you don’t eat anything in a 24 hour period.

The first few times I tried it I was amazed that it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as you’d think. I’d have breakfast in the morning and then skip lunch and dinner and have breakfast a little later the next day. This way I’d get in my 24 hours but I wouldn’t actually have to go a day without eating something.

And I really liked the way I felt.

My head felt clearer and sharper. My body felt lighter. And man did I enjoy my breakfast when the fast ended.

The other thing I liked was the extra time that suddenly became available on fasting days when I didn’t have to plan, prepare, cook and clean up. A nice little side benefit.

But then I did a fast when I was travelling for work. It didn’t go so well. I found myself getting super irritable. So after that I gave the fasting a rest.

A few years later my Irishman and I decided to try fasting again. This time we just did a mini fast and skipped dinner and sometimes breakfast the next day. We found we got the good fast feelings of clarity and lightness, without me becoming a cranky-pants.

I don’t remember either of us seeing any amazing results to our actual weight. But we both enjoyed feeling lighter and clearer enough that we’re planning on getting back into fasting soon.

Benefits of fasting

According to Brad Pilon in Eat Stop Eat, the scientifically proven benefits of intermittent fasting include:

– Decreased body weight (and body fat)
– Increased insulin sensitivity
– Increased growth hormone levels
– Decreased food related stress
– And 6 more benefits.

As I mentioned before, I loved feeling cleaner, clearer and leaner. I also really noticed how much extra time I had on fasting days when I wasn’t preparing, eating and cleaning up after dinner.

The downside to fasting

As I discovered, there’s the potential to become irritable.

Pilon admits that some people experience headaches, similar to caffeine withdrawal headaches. But he also mentions that most people get over these after their first few fasts.

To see any benefits from a weight loss perspective, it’s important to keep eating normally on your non-fasting days. And it can be tough not to have a few little ‘rewards’. I also suspect that you need to be fasting twice a week for weight loss, not the once a week ‘mini’ fast we were doing.

But that being said, I’m keen to get back into experimenting with fasting when Little F no longer needs my milk-making services.

So is this fasting thing a fad?

Its a good question. In one sense it probably is. I’m sure there are lots of people will try it out now that its topical and then move onto the next shiny new diet craze that comes along.

But the thing is, fasting or going without food for long periods of time, would have been a part of life for our paleo ancestors. And as Pillon mentions in his ebook, fasting has been an integral part of many religions for centuries.

One thing I found interesting was that according to Pillon the original research study that found the Mediterranean diet to be beneficial for heart disease was conducted on people living in Crete. What the study didn’t mention was that these people use a combination of dietary restrictions and fasting for religious purposes for 180 to 200 days a year.

So if you’re a Greek Orthodox Christian person or follow one of the other religions that recommends it, fasting is probably not anything new or faddish at all.

Like to learn more?

eatstopeat2012

If you think fasting might be something you’d benefit from, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the ebook Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon.

Brad Pilon has a degree in nutrition and worked in the sports supplement industry. He’s also a body builder and is super passionate about discovering what works for weight loss. He loves reading scientific journals for fun. So he’s done all the research ‘heavy lifting’ for you.

If you do decide to buy Eat Stop Eat using the Stonesoup affiliate links on this page, you’ll be supporting the Stonesoup business too. THANK YOU!

blat salad

The ‘BLAT’ Salad

There’s a cafe my Irishman and I have been going to quite a bit recently that has a ‘BLAT’ sandwich on the breakfast menu. While it doesn’t sound as appealing as a BLT, the addition of avocado far outweighs the dodgy sounding name.

The other day I was inspired to turn said sandwich into a lunch time salad. To be honest I prefer this lighter ‘paleo’ salad to the sandwich version. I love when that happens.

Enough for 2
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
3-4 handfuls lettuce leaves
1 avocado
large handful semi dried tomatoes

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

2. Combine vinegar with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Season.

3. Toss leaves in the dressing. Sprinkle over chunks of avocado, tomatoes and the hot crunchy bacon.

VARIATIONS
vegan – replace bacon with sliced grilled or roast mushrooms.

vegetarian – skip the bacon and serve with a poached egg on top.

more substantial – toss in a drained can of white beans such as cannellini or butter beans in to warm up in the bacon fat and add to the salad.

don’t have semi dried tomatoes? – replace with halved fresh cherry tomatoes instead.

Video version of the recipe.

What about you?

Have you experimented with fasting? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

With Love,
Jules x

eatstopeat2012ps. The links to ‘Eat Stop Eat‘ are affiliate links. So if you decide to buy you’ll be supporting Stonesoup!

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kindvall_stonesoup_school_B

The Announcement!

I’m super excited to announce that I’m working on a new online cooking course! I’ll have more details soon but in the mean time I want to make sure I’ve covered everything. That’s where you come in…

The Favour

I have a couple of questions. Any chance you could help out? Great! Just share your thoughts below…

THANK YOU!
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your help.

If you want me to contact you as soon as the new course is ready, just leave your name and email address below:

With love,
Jules x

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As you’ve probably guessed from the ‘variations’ I include at the bottom of my recipes, I’m a huge fan of ‘tweaking’. Unless I’m testing recipes for a book or my online cooking school, I rarely cook the same thing twice.

There are many benefits to being a chronic ‘tweaker’. The biggest is I rarely feel bored with my cooking, or like I’m ‘stuck in a rut’. Tweaking keeps thing tasting fresh and interesting.

The other plus is that it allows me to use the ingredients I have in the house. Which minimizes waste and also cuts down on trips to the store.

Recently I got a lovely email from a Stonesoup reader who had purchased one of my ebooks, that made me realize there are people who struggle when it comes to substituting meat…

“There are some great recipes in the book, and I’ve been enjoying it, but I was disappointed that very few recipes use pork. I enjoy beef and chicken, but both are very expensive, and I often can get pork for a much better price. Even to just include some adaptations for substituting pork would be helpful.”
Thank you,
Susan

As I explained to Susan, just because a recipe calls for a certain type of meat, it doesn’t mean you can’t use something else. Sure the end result will be different, but there aren’t many occasions that a little substitution will lead to something that doesn’t taste as good as the original.

You just need to know the 2 golden rules…

Golden Rule 1. It must ‘sound’ good in your imagination.

There can be the odd ‘surprise’ in cooking. That thing you thought was going to be amazing that doesn’t quite work and vice versa. But these ‘surprises’ happen less often than you’d imagine.

So the first test is to ‘imagine’ the dish in your mind. If you think it’s going to taste great, then odds are you’ll be right!

Golden Rule 2. Keep the ‘type’ of cut consistent.

There are two types of meat:
i. Tender cuts like steak, which are best for cooking quickly at high temperatures.
ii. Less tender cuts like beef short ribs, which will be tough if cooked like a steak, but will turn into something melting and tender if left to simmer for long periods of time.

My rule of thumb is that you need to keep the ‘type’ of cut consistent. So the ‘tender’ cuts can be used pretty much interchangeably. And same with the less tender meats.

So when you’re substituting stick to one of the columns below and you’ll be fine.

More Tender Cuts

BEEF: Fillet / Tenderloin / Sirloin / New York Cut / Porterhouse / Entrecote / Striploin / Ribeye Steak / Rib Fillet / Scotch Fillet / Cube Roll / Minced (ground) Beef.

CHICKEN: Breast / Tenderloin / Whole chicken / Thigh Fillets / Minced (Ground) Chicken.

PORK: – Fillet / Tenderloin / Pork Cutlets / Loin Chops / Pork Chops / Pork Belly (Side Pork).

LAMB: Fillet / Tenderloin / Lamb Cutlets / Rack of Lamb / Lamb Loin Chops / Leg (Gigot) / Minced (Ground) Lamb.

FISH: All Fish Fillets / All Whole Fish.

SEAFOOD: Prawns / Lobster / Shrimp / Crab / Oysters / Calamari.

OTHER: Sausages.

Less Tender Cuts

BEEF: Chuck / Brisket / Beef Cheeks / Beef Shin / Osso Buco / Ox Tail / Beef Short Ribs.

CHICKEN: Drumsticks / Legs with the bone in / Thighs / Marylands.

PORK: Ribs / Spareribs / Shoulder.

LAMB: Lamb Shanks / Shoulder / Ribs / Neck chops / Minced (Ground) Lamb.

FISH: NA.

SEAFOOD: Octopus / Large Squid.

OTHER: NA.

pirri pirri chicken with carrot tabbouleh-2

Pirri Pirri Chicken

It’s hard not to love the fresh heat of Pirri Pirri sauce. While it’s traditionally paired with chicken, like I’ve done here, it’s equally delicious with pork or fish. I’d even be happy serving it with beef and lamb. Just remember to stick to the ‘tender’ cuts.

Enough for 2:
1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
1 teaspoon chilli
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 chicken thigh fillets

1. For the sauce, whizz the capsicum (pepper) with the chilli, smoked paprika, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a food processor or blender. When smooth, taste and season.

2. Trim the chicken thighs and bash out using the palm of your hand until the thighs are roughly even in thickness.

3. Place thighs in a bowl and cover with half the sauce. Marinate for a few minutes or up to 48 hours (if marinating for more than an hour keep refrigerated).

4. Heat a little oil in a pan and cook the thighs for 3-4 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in the middle. Serve thighs with the other half of the sauce.

VARIATIONS
carnivore – any tender cuts of meat or fish will work well here.

can’t find smoked paprika? – just skip it or use regular paprika.

vegetarian – replace chicken thighs with thick slices of halloumi. Skip the marinating and pan fry halloumi until golden on both sides and serve with the sauce.

vegan – replace the chicken thighs with thick slices of firm tofu or seitan. Sliced eggplant would also be lovely – just cook until tender.

grilled peppers – make the pirri even more intense and smoky by using 2 grilled and peeled red peppers instead of the fresh capsicum.

Video Version of the Recipe.

pirri pirri chicken with carrot tabbouleh-3

Carrot ‘Tabbouleh’

Using carrot instead of bulger wheat makes for a much fresher and crunchier version of tabbouleh. The carrot also give a sweetness that I love. I’ve kept it super simple here to use as a side but you could dress it up to work as a meal in its own right… See below for ideas. As with regular tabbouleh, this salad will keep in the fridge without wilting too much. So you can make it ahead of time if needed.

Enough for 2 as a side:
2 carrots, grated
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season.

2. Toss in carrot and parsley.

VARIATIONS
herby – replace some or all of the parsley with other leafy herbs such as mint, coriander (cilantro) or basil.

crunchy – toss in a handful of almonds or pine nuts.

more substantial – serve with a big chunk of feta.

tomatoey – a handful of cherry tomatoes will also work well here either as well as or instead of the carrot.

With love,
Jules x

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If you’ve been following Stonesoup for a while or if you’ve read my print book 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes, you’ve probably noticed that I use a lot of canned legumes in my cooking.

What can I say…

I’m a huge fan of lentils, beans and especially chickpeas. And while I often used dried legumes and cook them from scratch, I’m equally as likely to turn to the super convenient canned option.

I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, with a newborn in the house, that as the amount of time I have available to spend in the kitchen has dramatically decreased, the number of times I’ve been turning to canned legumes for quick, nutritious meals has increased.

The thing I often get asked about canned foods is ‘are they safe to eat?’ And the biggest concern tends to be around the presence of BPA.

What is BPA?

The short answer is that BPA or ‘Bisphenol A’ is a chemical that has been used to make plastics since the 1950s. If you’re into heavy organic chemistry, it’s all over here on Wikipedia.

Should I be concerned about it?

To my mind, yes. It’s not worth the risk. Especially if you’re an infant or are pregnant or breast feeding.

It’s known that BPA can ‘mimic’ the action of the hormone estrogen in our bodies, and has been linked with obesity and problems with brain development.

My policy is that the less plastic comes in contact with my food, especially when it’s heated, the better.

How do I make sure my canned foods don’t contain BPA?

There are 2 options here.

1. Look for cans that claim ‘BPA Free’ on the label.
In my local supermarket there aren’t any cans that make this claim (yet). So I rely on option 2 below.

2. Buy cans that don’t contain white plastic lining.
Canning is an old and very effective method of preserving food. The thing is, the original cans didn’t contain any plastic linings and really you don’t need them. Even for acidic food like tomatoes, plain cans are fine. And the best thing about using cans without any plastic lining is that you can be sure there isn’t any BPA or any other plastic nasties that we don’t really know much about.

The only downside to this method is that the only way to tell if the can contains BPA is to buy one and open it. So it does take a little experimentation. If you’re in Australia, I’ve done the hard work for you. But if you’re elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to do this yourself (sorry!).

So for the Aussies, I’ve been buying the Macro brand of canned chickpeas, cannellini beans and lentils, which are organic and don’t contain plastic lining.

For canned tomatoes, I buy the Annalisa brand – the tricky thing here is that some cans contain plastic lining and some don’t. How do you tell? I’ve found that the cans with the date code on the bottom of the can in a single line are plastic lining free. Whereas the cans with the date code written over 2 lines contain plastic lining.

Easy.

chilli con tuna-2

Chilli Con ‘Tuna’

The idea for this recipe came from one of my Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School students. It’s funny I would never have thought to replace the beef in chilli con carne with fish. But canned tuna works really well here.

This is a great ‘pantry’ recipe to have in your repertoire. Although it does benefit greatly from some fresh herbs and a little sour cream, from both a taste and appearance perspective, it’s delicious (if not quite so pretty) on its own.

Enough for 3-4
2 large onions, peeled & chopped
400g (14oz) can tuna in spring water, not drained
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz each)
2 cans beans (400g / 14oz each), drained
1-2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes

1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until soft. About 10 minutes.

2. Add tuna and canning liquid, tomatoes, drained beans and chilli.

3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until everything is hot.

4. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more chilli, if needed.

VARIATIONS
prettier & tastier – serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and a few handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro) or flat leaf parsley leaves.

paleo – replace beans with a head of cauliflower, finely chopped into little trees. Make sure you simmer until the cauli is tender.

carnivore – replace tuna with 450g (1lb) ground or minced beef. Brown beef in the pan with the onion before adding the remaining ingredients and continuing from step 3.

vegetarian / vegan – replace tuna with 2 cans drained lentils or 450g (1lb) cooked lentils (boil like pasta until tender).

budget – use and extra can of beans and half as much tuna.

different beans – red kidney beans are traditional in chilli but feel free to use chickpeas or white beans such as cannellini or butter beans instead. Black beans will also work.

different chilli – if you can’t find chilli flakes, feel free to use any other fresh or dried chillies.

Video version of the recipe.

______

budget class logo

Mastering the Art of Cooking in a Budget…

On a completely unrelated topic, I recently donated to the profits from the last 12 months of my ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget’ class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School (SVCS) to two different charities: Oz Harvest and Feeding America.

Which reminded me to let you know…

The doors to the rest of the SVCS classes are closed at the moment but the budget class is still open to new students.

So if you’re keen to learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals while sticking to your budget, I recommend checking out the class.

It’s ‘pay what you can afford‘ so you can access the class for as little as $1.

And as I mentioned earlier, the profits are donated to charity. A chance for Stonesoup to help others.

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

With love,
Jules x

ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so signup today to make sure you don’t miss out!

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At the risk of sounding a bit nerdy here, one of the habits I’ve developed over the last few years is to choose an area in my life to focus on or experiment with each month. Sometimes it’s something I do on my own but often I’m able to convince my Irishman to join me.

For example there was vegetarian month a few years ago and then alcohol-free month (aka ‘Famine February’). We’ve also done exercise every day month and of course the current focus is all about parenting.

Recently we experimented with going gluten-free for a month.

Since adopting a ‘mostly’ paleo approach to eating a few years ago, gluten products haven’t really featured heavily for us. Except for our weekly ‘cheat day‘ where anything goes.

The interesting thing is that even only having gluten once a week or so, my Irishman had been having some ‘digestive’ problems. Which sparked the idea to experiment with going completely gluten-free.

The good news is that it made a huge difference to the digestion problems. And really it wasn’t as difficult as you’d think.

By approaching it from a ‘let’s focus on what we can eat’ mindset there are so many options that don’t include gluten or rely on expensive commercial ‘gluten-free’ substitutes.

Here are 16 15 of my favourite GF ideas.

BREAKFAST

1. eggs not toast
While there are some surprisingly good gluten-free breads available these days, they tend to be very expensive. A better and even healthier alternative is to switch to having a hot breakfast a few days a week. Fried eggs are my Irishman’s favourite where as I prefer mine poached (and am very much enjoying my post-pregnancy runny poached eggs).

2. gluten-free granola and yoghurt
Feel free to use a commercial granola or muesli. But if you’re up for making your own, I recommend this lentil granola or this decadent chocolate option.

3. quinoa porridge (oatmeal)
My local supermarket now stocks rolled quinoa in the health food section. I’ve been loving using it to make a gluten-free porridge or oatmeal, pretty much just cook it the same way you’d cook oats.

4. gluten-free oats
Oats themselves don’t contain gluten but are often produced on equipment that also processes wheat so there can be gluten present from cross contamination. These days you can find oats that have been kept gluten-free but they do tend to come with a hefty price tag.

UPDATE: Thanks to the Stonesoup readers who emailed and commented to let me know I was wrong here. (I should know better than just using Wikipedia for my research!). I’ve since learned that gluten is the name for a group of proteins. Oats do contain a protein that is classed as a ‘gluten’, although it’s a different protein to the one in wheat which is also classed as a gluten. So oats can be wheat free, if handled and processed on separate equipment. But they can’t be gluten free. So if you’re coeliac oats can still cause problems.

Interestingly it’s apparently illegal in Australia to label oats as being gluten free but not so in other countries.

5. chia seed bran, psyllium, gluten-free oat bran instead of wheat based bran.
If you love your wheat bran based cereal, try using one of the above options instead. I particularly love chia seed bran because it isn’t as gloopy as psyllium and is quite high in protein.

LUNCH

6. lettuce leaf wraps
Instead of regular wraps or sandwiches wrap your filling in iceberg lettuce leaves. You’ll need more filling to make up for the lack of bread.

7. lunchbox salad
Make a composed salad to take to work with you. I’ve been doing this for years without thinking too much about it but Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall brought the idea to life in his book River Cottage Everyday.

Here’s how you do it…

i. Choose a protein.
Think leftover cooked meat or fish, canned tuna, boiled eggs.

ii. Choose something to bulk it out.
Starchy foods work well here such as canned chickpeas or beans, leftover cooked potatoes, roast vegetables or cooked quinoa. Or try some vegetables like finely chopped raw or steamed broccoli, grated raw vegetables, salad leaves or avocado.

iii. Add a highlight ingredient.
Like goats cheese, other cheese, roast nuts, fresh herbs (basil, mint or parsley are best) olives or cherry tomatoes.

iv. Add a ‘dressing’.
It could be just a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or a big dollop of pesto, hummus or olive tapenade.

8. legume salads
Toss your favourite sandwich filling with a drained can of chickpeas, beans or lentils and a little olive oil for a quick lunch salad. In Winter you can warm the legumes first in a pan with a little oil.

DINNER

9. skip the crackers or bread
If you’re in the habit of having cheese and crackers / bread or dips and crackers to start a meal, either skip the crackers or replace with raw veg such as carrots or celery.

10. vegetable ‘pasta’ or ‘noodles’
There are so many options to replace your pasta with vegetables. My favourites are zucchini ‘fettuccini’ (see varations below for cooking instructions), carrot ‘spaghetti’ (shave with a vegetable peeler to get ribbons then cut into ‘spaghetti’. Simmer in boiling water until just tender) or zucchini ‘orechetti’ (slice zucchini into coins and pan fry in a little oil until just tender).

All can be used in Italian style dishes or to replace wheat based noodles in Asian cooking.

11. a bed of greens
Serve your favourite bolognese or other hearty pasta sauce on a bed of greens. Baby spinach is great or try wilting greens such as kale, spinach, collards, chard or silver beet in a pan with a little olive oil.

12. almond meal ‘bread crumbs’
Replace bread crumbs in meatballs or meat loaf with almond meal. Same goes for bread crumbs used as a coating.

13. cauliflower ‘couscous’
Whizz raw cauliflower in a food processor until you have instant ‘couscous’. No need to cook but if you’d prefer it warm you can heat it through in a pan with a little oil before using.

14. red lentil ‘couscous’ or ‘risoni’
Just boil red lentils until tender. Drain and use anywhere you’d use couscous or risoni (little rice shaped pasta).

BAKING

15. almond meal ‘flour’
The problem with most commercial gluten-free flours is that they’re very low in protein whereas wheat flour contains gluten so has a higher protein level. So I’ve found that just substituting ‘gluten-free’ flour doesn’t give good results.

Almond or other nut meal or ‘flour’ tends to give better, if heavier results. In general I’d recommend looking for a recipe that is designed to use almond meal rather than experimenting yourself. Most of the recent sweet treats on Stonesoup are either gluten-free or contain a GF variation.

I’ve been experimenting with flour from higher protein sources like chickpeas and quinoa but haven’t found anything I’m super happy with yet.

16. GF ‘pastry’ for tarts
My favourite ‘cheat’ way to make GF tarts is to crumble commercial GF cookies or biscuits like shortbread and combine with a little melted butter. Then spread the mixture in your tart shell and chill until set.

mung bean pasta-3

GF Mung Bean Pasta with Rocket & Chilli


Mung bean pasta is something I discovered in a health food shop. While it sounds a bit to ‘healthy’ tasting and is quite green in colour, it’s actually surprisingly delicious and hits the spot when you’re in need of some pasta ‘comfort’. It’s gluten free but the best part is that it’s very high in protein and fiber and much lower in carbs than regular pasta. Win win!

I don’t normally like to recommend brands because the Stonesoup readership is global, but the one I’ve been using is called ‘Explore Asian’.

Enough for 2
150g (5oz) mung bean fettuccini or other pasta
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large handfuls rocket (arugula) leaves
2 large handfuls grated ricotta salata or parmesan

1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water as per the packet directions.

2. Drain pasta and return to the pot.

3. Toss in 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, chilli, lemon juice, rocket (arugula) and about half the cheese.

4. Taste and season. Serve in bowls with remaining cheese sprinkled over.

VARIATIONS
different pasta – Just use your favourite gluten-free pasta. Of course it will also work with regular pasta as well. I prefer long pasta like fettuccini, linguine or spaghetti for this for some reason. But short pasta will be fine too.

paleo / pasta-free – replace cheese with finely sliced prosuitto or ham and replace pasta with zucchini ‘noodles’. For zucchini noodles, shave 2-3 zucchini (courgettes) into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Layer onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and bake (200C / 400F) until tender, about 10 minutes.

no pasta – replace pasta with a drained can of chickpeas or white beans. Heat the beans in a little oil in a frying pan then remove from the heat and continue from step 3.

vegan / dairy-free – replace cheese with chopped or finely grated brazil nuts (use a microplane).

carnivore – toss in some torn, finely sliced ham or proscuitto as well as or instead of the cheese.

different leaves – replace the rocket (arugula) with basil, flat leaf parsley, baby spinach or finely shredded raw cabbage.

less heat – just skip the chilli.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. What about you? Do you struggle with food allergies? Got any favourite Gluten-Free ideas? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below…

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One of the biggest sources of inspiration for my musings on Stonesoup is the Stonesoup-by-Request Survey I setup earlier in the year. Or questions that come in via email.

The thing is, I’ve been blogging for 7 1/2 years so there’s a whole heap of tips and recipes that if you’re a new reader, you won’t have seen. And of course there are many questions that have already been answered over the years…

So today I thought I’d take you on a ‘tour of the Stonesoup archives’ and go through 10 questions that have come in recently that already have answers on Stonesoup…

1. REFRIGERATOR BLINDNESS

Q. I would love to hear your favorite way to clean out the fridge…what do you make out of those odds and ends when you need to go to the grocery but haven’t, or are headed out of town, and would like to leave the ice box empty?
Juliana

A. This is one of my favourite topics of all time! I like to think of it as ‘refrigerator blindness’, something we all suffer from time to time. Here are 4 steps to cure refrigerator blindness including some general ideas to turn the bits and pieces into actual meals.

2. DIABETIC FRIENDLY

Q. If you could post some diabetic-friendly recipes, that’d be great! My dad was just diagnosed and I have a very strong family history of the disease so it’s time for me to start eating healthy, preventatively.
Melissa

A. Love that you’re being proactive Melissa! Basically most of the recipes on Stonesoup for the last 2-3 years are diabetic friendly, except for the sweet treats. Basically my eating style is mostly low GI, perfect for diabetics. And if a recipe doesn’t fit, look at the variations, usually there will be a ‘paleo’, ‘slow carb’ or ‘low carb’ option that will be suitable for your situation.

3. COCONUT YOGHURT

Q. What is coconut yoghurt, can you make it?
Olga

A. It’s dairy-free yoghurt made from coconut milk. There’s recipes for both coconut and regular yoghurt included in ‘What you should never do when making yoghurt at home‘.

4. RECIPES FOR 1 PERSON

Q. I’d love some recipes for one person – or enough for 2 portions with one suitable to freeze.
Marje

A. Most of the recipes on Stonesoup are written to serve 2 people. I do this because that’s how many I’m usually cooking for. But it also makes it super easy to halve recipes if you’re cooking for 1. They’re also easy to double or triple if you have more mouths to feed. So you can pretty much just browse through the recipe index to find something suitable.

5. MAKING SOUP THICKER

Q. I made a really yummy soup that was supposed to get thick because you added half & half. I was trying to be good so I bought fat free half & half that still used milk and cream. The soup was kind of watery even though it tasted really good. We froze some of it. How can I make it thicker? There are potato slices in the soup and they didn’t help it get any thicker.
Gail

A. Firstly, we really need to get you away from thinking that fat is bad! Please please pop over and read The Truth about Fat. And then promise me you’re going to stop buying ‘fat-free’ or ‘low fat’ products. They are NOT healthier options.

(Sorry about the little rant there). Back to the question of thickening soup. There are basically 3 options.

1. If you don’t want to change the soup you can simmer it until it reduces and thickens. But this can take hours.

2. My preferred option is to add more solid ingredients to the soup. If you’re short on time, a drained can of beans, chickpeas or lentils will instantly thicken things up. OR if you’ve got longer you could add a few handfuls of couscous or quinoa or rice and then simmer until they are cooked and thickened.

3. If the soup has solids in it – like your potato slices, you could puree some or all of the soup and return to the pan. Be careful with pureeing potato though because the starch can end up making your soup thick and ‘gluey’.

6 KEEPING LEFTOVERS SAFE

Q. I would like to know more about keeping food for longer and just how long certain things can be kept in the fridge, etc. You touched on it a while back and I became more confident at using leftover bits and pieces together in a dish. If you could provide some recipes and hints and tips on leftover bits and pieces that would be great. I hate throwing out leftovers, but there’s never enough for another meal and I never know what to do with all the bits! Thanks for the great site… I look forward to your emails when they come… they inspire me…
Heather

A. Great topics Heather! In terms of maximising the life of your leftovers see The Dos and Don’ts of Keeping Leftovers Safe. And then for tips on what to do with leftover bits and pieces, the best article is 4 steps to cure refrigerator blindness which has 4 different ‘types’ of meals or I use the bits and pieces to make whole meals.

7. COOKING QUINOA

Q. What’s the best way to cook quinoa? I’ve heard you have to soak it first to remove the bitter taste. I tried this, soaking overnight, but then because it had swollen I wasn’t sure how much water to add to cook it, or for how long. I ended up with quinoa porridge! I’d love to know how I should be doing this!
Isobel

A. I LOVE quinoa Isobel. And it’s actually super easy to prepare. No need to soak quinoa. But you should rinse it thoroughly because the surface of quinoa contains a chemical called saponin that has a bitter soapy taste. Most commercial quinoa will already be washed and have the saponin removed but it’s a good idea to rinse it just before you use it in case there are residues.

Once it’s rinsed, just cook it like pasta in a pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes (I usually set my timer for 12 minutes) until it’s tender. Then drain and it’s ready.

For more info see 12 things you should know about quinoa.

8. RECIPE ORGANISATION

Q. How do you organise your recipes?? We are dairy-free and sugar-free and I’m trying out gluten-free at the moment too! So when I come across a great recipe, I will make some sugar or dairy substitutions. If it’s really great, my ideal scenario would be to write this recipe out and file it somewhere in a really great filing system! The reality is that I’ve got heaps of cookbooks, with some recipes that are great in each of them. And then a few different folders of trying to collect ‘favourite’ recipes that never quite come together to serve the purpose. Any suggestions?
Nadia

A. One of the reasons I started Stonesoup was to keep track of my favourite recipes. My trusty assistant, Sarah, is working on a project at the moment to make sure all my recipes from my blog, online cooking school and all my books (both print and ebooks) are all included on my cooking school website so my students (and me!) will have access to ALL my recipes on the one searchable site.

Of course, if starting a blog is a bit extreme, I highly recommend getting an account with Evernote to keep track of everything. For more details on how to make the most of Evernote for recipe organisation see The Art of Recipe Organisation.

9. RSS FEATURE

Q. Great site and content. Keep it up. Would love to see an RSS feature in addition to the email service.

A. For my RSS reader you can just search for the feed for a particular website and add it to your feed. Or go to www.feeds.feedburner.com/stonesoup/zQie

10. COOKING ON A BUDGET

Q. How to eat well on a poor uni student budget!

A. I’m so glad you asked this question because it’s a topic close to my heart. We all go through times when we don’t have as much money as we’d like and healthy eating can be one of the first things to slip… Just when you need it most!

To get you started, check out 18 Tips for Minimising Your Food Costs.

But if you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend taking the ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget‘ program at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

budget class logo

Like to learn more about Cooking on a Budget?

The program is ‘pay what you can afford’ and I created it as a chance to help people who can’t afford my other programs.

While cooking real healthy food on a budget may seem difficult, it’s not impossible and in this class I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

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

With love,
Jules x

ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so sign up today to make sure you don’t miss out.

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[NOTE: The images are some of my favourite recipes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. Click HERE to find out more about my online classes.]

I often get emails asking for recommendations for blogs similar to Stonesoup. Without trying to be arrogant, I haven’t really come across anyone else focusing on super simple, healthy 5 ingredient recipes that can be made in minutes.

But there are plenty of blogs and books I admire and love so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here today.

And of course I’d love to hear if you have any sources of inspiration that you’d like to recommend. Please share in the comments!

Food Blogs

The Mindful Foodie. I met Lesh, the brains behind The Mindful Foodie when I was speaking in Melbourne a year or so ago. As a health coach, Lesh is super passionate about helping people get healthy and happy by eating real food.

Chocolate & Zucchini. One of the first blogs I ever discovered and still a favourite when I’m in the mood for some Parisian food insights.

My New Roots. A relatively new discovery for me, I haven’t ever cooked anything from this beautifully photographed blog… it’s not exactly ‘minimalist’. But I’ve gleaned plenty of great ideas to help make my cooking healthier and more veg focused.

Orangette. Still my favourite food blogger when it comes to her writing skills. There’s something so welcoming about the way Molly writes about food and life. If you’re ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend visiting Delancey – the fabulous pizza mecca run my Molly and her husband Brandon. I just hope for your sake they have Molly’s chocolate chip cookies on the menu for dessert.

101 Cookbooks. Another oldie but a goodie, especially if you’re looking for creative vegetarian recipes. Love Heidi’s travel tips as well.

Non-Food Blogs

Wearing It Today. I get super excited every time I get and email in my inbox from the lovely Laura, a London based stylist. She’s been on maternity leave for the past 9 months but has started posting again, all be it infrequently.

Style Notes by Maggie Alderson. I’ve been following Maggie for over a decade since discovering her column in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Good Weekend’ section. These days I devour her (fiction) books as soon as they are released and in the meantime enjoy her observations on fashion and life via her blog.

Zen Habits. It’s hard not to love Leo’s minimalist approach to life. And I always feel a little bit happier when there’s a new post from Zen Habits in my email inbox. I was lucky enough to have coffee with Leo last time I was in San Francisco which was awesome fun but I did walk away on a massive caffeine high.

Tim Ferriss. As I mentioned recently, I’m a huge fan of Ferriss’ books, especially the 4-Hour Work Week. Love the blog too.

I Love Marketing. Dean Jackson and Joe Polish know a lot about marketing. If it’s something you’re interested in I recommend subscribing to their weekly podcast and start listening from the first episode.

Marie Forleo. A business blog geared towards female entrepreneurs (I love that word!). Love Forleo’s simple approach to life and business success.

Cookbooks

I’m limiting this to my current Top 3, otherwise I could be here all day.

The Kitchen Diaries Volumes I & II by Nigel Slater. Still my favourite food writer of all time. I could happily just keep starting from the beginning every time I finish one of Slater’s books.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. This is the 3rd book from Ottolenghi and head and shoulders my favourite. The recipes aren’t very minimalist but I love the way he combines flavours and textures.

Cumulus Inc. by Andrew McConnell. This is the book I turn to when I want inspiration for a dinner party or something new and different for my Irishman and me. Definitely more ‘weekend’ cooking when you have loads of time. I’m slowly working my way through the whole book and have loved everything so far except for a couple of the desserts. If you’re ever in Melbourne, make sure you schedule a visit to the restaurant of the same name.

Non-Food Books

Goals! by Bryan Tracy. I’ve been setting goals and not achieving them for years. I still have a long way to go but this little book pulled together the missing pieces for me in my goal setting and how to actually get results. I also love Tracy’s ‘Eat Your Frog’. As an added bonus my brother and I have laughed over many unintentionally ‘comic’ moments with Tracy’s delivery.

Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach. A very practical, down-to-earth guide to personal finances which also manages to inspire you to take control and start saving.

The Magic of Thinking BIG by David Schwartz. I love this book. It inspired me to dedicate 2011 as the Year of Thinking Big. For the record 2013 is the Year of Family for me, but I’m thinking it’s about time I gave Thinking BIG a re-read.

Productivity Tools

Trello. If you love lists and keeping yourself organized like I do, then you’ll love Trello. I have their apps on my phone and iPad and it’s by far the best tool I’ve used for organizing my ‘to do’ lists and projects.

Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for years now but it wasn’t until I went ‘all in’ and spent a few hours setting up my Evernote to capture ALL my notes, that I really realized how useful and powerful this tool is. The best thing is that I can create notes in many different ways, writing text, forwarding email and clipping web pages. You can also save pdf documents into Evernote so I keep any ebooks I buy (or write) in there too. Everything ends up in the one place, which is also searchable.

Moleskine Notebooks. While I love all things digital, there’s something about writing in a notebook, even if your handwriting is illegible as mine. I use my Moleskine for my daily ‘to do’ list and keeping track of random things like new recipes and ideas.

iPhone Apps

Audible. I don’t know where I’d be without audio books. I certainly wouldn’t be able to average reading 1 book a week like I have for the last few years. Their membership pricing model makes audio books super affordable. Great for when you’re out running (or walking as I am these days), car trips or even when you’re hanging out in the garden or doing things around the house.

Instagram. Of all the social media, I find I spend the most time on Instagram. I’m @jules_stonesoup if you want to pop over and say ‘Hi’.

Shopping List. The creators of this app obviously thought long and hard about its name. Super helpful to have your shopping list with you at all times! I love that in the ‘shopping’ mode your items are organised by aisle (you setup the categories) and that I can text or email my list to a certain Irishman.

Evernote & Trello. Part of what makes these ‘productivity tools’ so useful is that you can access them from wherever. Both have iPad apps as well.

Gratitude365. This year I’ve started writing a list of things I’m ‘thankful’ for before I go to bed. You don’t really need an app for it, but I do find the little calendar which notes which days I skip does motivate me to make sure I do it every night.

Shake It Photo. Still my favourite camera app. It’s hard to go past the ‘old school’ polaroid noises and images.

What about you?

Have some favourites you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments.

w3 roast veg salad-2

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I‘m not a huge fan of celebrity chefs. Although I do love a bit of Heston and Jamie and of course Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I find the whole chef tendency to over complicate cooking a bit off-putting.

But there is one cheffy technique that I do love and embrace frequently.

I’ve written about it before but basically it’s the concept of ‘mise en place’ or preparing ingredients / components for a dish so that they can be used during service.

There’s actually a whole program I teach at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School on how this concept can be applied to make your life as a home cook as easy as possible.

Anyway today I want to talk about legumes in general and dried beans in particular.

In my own cooking, I’ve been finding myself cooking up a big batch of beans or lentils each week. I’ve come to think of it as ‘legume of the week’ and I’ve been having heaps of fun with it.

So when I got this question from Juliette, I had another reason to talk beans…

“I know it might sound lame, but can you talk about easy ways to deal with dried beans and lentils? The whole pre-soaking thing drives me away from them, thinking it’s too much planning/commitment in advance.”

I know the whole world of pre-soaking can sound a little intimidating but really it’s not that tricky. You just need to know a few things…

What needs pre-soaking?

My rule of thumb is simple:
1. Lentils DON’T need soaking
2. Larger legumes like beans and chickpeas do.

Why pre-soak?

1. It speeds up the cooking process by partially re-hydrating the beans.

2. It helps avoid gas by ‘pre-digesting’ the beans.
This is the more important reason for me. Basically beans contain complex carbohydrates that are difficult for our bodies to digest and often cause the ‘toots’ associated with the ‘musical fruit’. Soaking allows enzymes in the beans to become active and start breaking down or ‘pre-digesting’ these carbs, so we avoid the whole gas thing.

How long do I need to pre-soak?

Ideally somewhere between 8 and 48 hours. Which is a pretty big window, really.

And if you are short on time, remember that some soaking is better than no soaking. So if you only have 2 hours or 6 hours that’s better than nothing.

Longer than 48 hours isn’t the end of the world either. But if you leave them too long the beans will start to rot. But you’ll know if that happens. So don’t stress about it.

What happens if I change my mind?

Totally no problems. You can drain the soaked legumes and keep them in the fridge for a week or so before cooking. Or if you need longer they can be frozen to cook whenever you’re ready.

And how do I cook them?

Easy. And it’s the same for all legumes. Put them in a big pot and cover generously with water. Then bring to the boil and simmer until the legumes are tender.

For lentils this will be in the 15-30 minutes range.

For beans and chickpeas you’re looking at usually 1-2 hours. But I have known some beans to take longer so be prepared to keep on cooking and testing for doneness.

It wasn’t that scary, right?

bean bowl with poached egg-3

Bean Bowl with a Poached Egg

Don’t you love the idea of a ‘bean bowl’? I think it just sounds so comforting and warming. I wish I could say I thought up the idea on my own but it was inspired by a photo on Instagram by the lovely Sarah from My New Roots.

This is one of those recipes you could take in any direction depending on your mood and what you happen to have in the house. So please just use this as a springboard for ideas.

Enough for 3-4
2 onions, peeled & diced
500g (1lb) cooked or canned beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or bean cooking liquid
1 bunch cavalo nero, kale or other greens, sliced crosswise
poached eggs, to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Add onions and cook over a medium heat until soft.

2. Add beans and liquid or stock and cavalo nero or greens.

3. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until the greens are cooked and everything is hot.

4. Taste. Season and serve with a poached egg on top.

VARIATIONS
paleo – replace cooked beans with a head of cauliflower or 2 heads broccoli cut into florettes and change the name to ‘veg bowl’. Serve with extra poached eggs to make it more substantial.

vegan – replace poached eggs with a few good handfuls of cashew or other nuts.

carnivore – after the onion has cooked, fry some pancetta or bacon or crumble some sausages in and cook until browned then continue as per the recipe.

egg-free – if poached eggs aren’t your thing replace them with some cheese. Shaved parmesan is lovely or you could use any soft cheese like buffalo mozzarella, goats cheese, ricotta or even blue.

other greens – collards, spinach, silver beet, chard, kale, baby spinach.

different legumes – feel free to use any cooked bean or lentil here. You could also use ‘non-legumes’ like brown rice or quinoa or millet.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. A huge THANK YOU for all the lovely emails, comments and well wishes for Fergal! We really appreciate it and couldn’t be happier.

I always thought newborns were boring with the sleeping all day. Happy to report I was wrong. They are so much fun!

And if you were wondering, I will post some photos. Just give me a chance to figure out how to photograph a wriggling body. Definitely a whole lever more complex than photographing food!

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It’s a …

So Stonesoup is coming to you a little bit late this week. But I have a very good reason…

Yes. It’s a BOY!

Fergal St. John Brennan was born on the 21st June.

If you’re into the baby stats he was 4.5kg or 10lb and 53cm long. Yes a BIG boy. I seem to have been feeding him very well already.

And to celebrate we have cake!

Fergal seems completely happy for now to stick to milk, although if he’s anything like his father I’m sure one day he’ll be asking me to make this cake for him.

fergal cake-6

Little F’s Steamed Caramel Cake

You know how some cakes tend to cook and be dry on the edges but moist in the middle? The original versions of this cake kept doing that to me until I stumbled across the idea to ‘steam’ the cake by putting a plate on it to capture the steam as it cools. This keeps everything super moist and lovely. Thanks to Margot Henderson via a steamed chocolate cake recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller for the idea.

The other secret to success with this cake is to make sure you use real white chocolate. Check the ingredients list to make sure your white chocolate is made with real cocoa butter rather than crappy vegetable oil.

Enough for about 10
100g (3.5oz) butter
250g (9oz) white chocolate (made with real cocoa butter), broken into chunks
6 eggs, separated
200g (7oz) brown sugar
250g (9oz) almond meal

1. Preheat your oven to 160C (320F). Grease a 24cm (9in) springform pan.

2. Melt butter in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate chunks. Allow to stand while the chocolate melts.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until super light and foamy. Gradually beat in brown sugar until well combined.

4. When the chocolate has melted stir and add egg yolks to the mixture.

5. Add the chocolate mixture and almond meal to the egg whites and fold gently until just combined.

6. Carefully transfer the mixture to your prepared tin.

7. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is deeply golden and feels springy in the middle when you touch it.

8. Remove cake from the oven. Cover with a plate and allow to cool and steam for at least an hour.

VARIATIONS
vegan / egg-free – I’m afraid the eggs are really key to the texture of this cake.

dairy-free – I haven’t tried this but you could easily replace the butter with coconut oil. And replace the white chocolate wiht a combination of 100g extra coconut oil, 100g extra almond meal and 50g extra brown sugar. If you do try this let me know!

nut-free – replace almond meal with 150g (5oz) plain (all-purpose) flour. Again I haven’t tried this but it’s where I’d start.

Video version of the recipe.

fergal cake

Peanut Butter Ganache

Inspired by peanut butter ganache on the most amazing Fender Bass Guitar cake my super talented sister, Naomi, made for my Irishman’s birthday back in January.

If you live in Sydney and ever need a creative birthday cake, she’s the girl! Get in touch via My Little Sweet.

As you can see from the photo this makes a super generous covering for the cake but I really love having the sweet and salty thing going on. Feel free to reduce the quantities if you prefer more cake with your ganache.

150g (5oz) cream
250g (9oz) white chocolate (with real cocoa butter)
300g (11oz) peanut butter (with no added sugar)

1. Bring cream almost to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat. Break chocolate into small chunks and add to the cream.

2. Stand for about 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.

3. Stir well then add the peanut butter. Stir again.

4. Allow to cool to room temperature to thicken before using to decorate your cake. Will take a few hours. Or if you’re short on time pop it in the fridge for an hour to chill but don’t forget about it. You don’t want it rock hard!

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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Last year I took an online business course. One of the things I found super valuable was that we were encouraged to buy a book called ‘Strengths Finder‘ and take a test to discover what our strengths were.

Anyway one of my key strengths is that I’m a ‘futurist’. Which basically means I’m always thinking about the future.

Which wasn’t a huge surprise to me. I’ve been ‘dreaming’ of owning a little farm with a not so little veggie patch for years now. And I’m often thinking of my next meal while I’m enjoying the current one.

It was only natural that I started thinking about the concept for my next book well before the ink was dried on my contract with Penguin for ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘. As you can imagine there are loads of ideas floating around in my brain. But one of my favourites is ‘5 Ingredients 1 Pot’.

So I was super excited when I got the following question from a ‘Coffee Kittie’, a Stonesoup email subscriber…

“I have a tiny kitchen (as in, no stovetop, and only a crockpot and mini-oven to cook with). Do you have recipes that are “one-pot” meals? I like to eat my foods all together for the most part to cut down on space and wash-up needs. I (a-hem) also have a tiny sink…”

So today I thought I’d share some of my favourite ‘one pot’ meals that have already appeared on Stonesoup.

AND ask your opinion…

What do you think of ‘5 Ingredients 1 Pot’ as a concept for my next book?
Is it something you’d be excited about? Or do I need to keep my thinking cap on?

I’ve created a super quick 2 question survey for you to share your thoughts OVER HERE. Or feel free to answer in the comments below…

25 Healthy One Pot Meals

You may think of ‘one pot’ meals as things that take a long time to cook. But it isn’t really the case. So I’ve divided the list into ’15 minutes or less’ and longer cooking meals.

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lamb shanks with prunes

Lamb Shanks with Prunes

Lamb shanks are one of my all time favourite cuts of meat. One of the things I really miss since my Dad sold the farm is having access to home grown grass-fed lamb and home grown lamb shanks in particular. We used to joke that it was a shame sheep only had 4 legs!

If lamb isn’t your thing, see below for alternatives.

I like to keep things simple and just serve this on a bed of baby spinach leaves. But you could serve with mash, steamed rice or buttered pasta or add in a can of chickpeas if you prefer.

Enough for 4.
4 lamb shanks
4 red onions, quartered lengthwise
200g (7oz) pitted prunes
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
1 stick cinnamon, optional

1. Preheat your oven to 150C (300F).

2. Place lamb, onions, prunes, tomatoes and cinnamon, if using in a large casserole or cast iron pot. Cover with a can full of water (or 1 1/2 cups).

3. Cover with the lid or some foil and bake for 4-5 hours or until lamb is super tender.

4. Taste and season.

VARIATIONS
slow cooker – reduce water to 1/2 cup. Cook on auto for 10-11 hours or until lamb is tender.

vegetarian / vegan – I love large mushrooms slow cooked like this. Replace lamb with 4-8 large field or portabello mushrooms. Halve the water and cooking time.

different meat – anything that works well slow cooked such as osso buco, chicken drumsticks or marylands, beef short ribs, pork neck, lamb neck chops, pork spare ribs, duck legs. You’ll need to adjust the cooking times.

different fruit – I love prunes here. They’re not exactly the most glamorous fruit but they cook down into the sauce to give a hint of sweet richness without overpowering. And then there’s all that fiber. But you could use dried apricots or dried apples instead if you prefer.

fruit-free – replace prunes with baby carrots or parsnips.

Video Version of the recipe.

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5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

Do you have a copy of ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ yet?

No? Then what are you waiting for?

It’s inspired even my not-so-into-cooking brother to get into the kitchen!

For more details about my latest print book including some FREE sample recipes from the book go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com

With love,
Jules x

ps. I’d really love to know what you think… Is a book on ‘5 Ingredient, One Pot’ recipes something you’d be interested in buying? Share your thoughts OVER HERE or in the comments below.

pss. I’ve recently been having a massive comment spam problem, so I’ve had to change the comments so that they will be moderated before being displayed. I’m doing this myself so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Sorry but I will get there!

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