Embracing Winter… Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Soup

I don’t like the cold. I never have and when I lost weight, I started feeling it a hell of a lot more than I used to.

There was a point (when I was unhealthily obsessed with exercise and eating clean) when I was 8% body fat. This is not a good place for someone who is not training to be a fitness model or a marathon runner to be. I had no fat on me to keep me warm, my hair was super thin, my nails were brittle, my skin was drier than normal (I have naturally dry skin) and I looked gaunt around my face… and I still didn’t have a perfectly flat tummy. SO unfair.

Now, I exercise and eat healthily because I love it and the way it makes me feel. I love vegetables and fruit. I love nuts and avocado. I love seedy, wholegrain bread. I love honey and dried fruit. I genuinely prefer whole, natural foods that taste like their ingredients to overly fatty, deep fried, sugar laden foods. I know what foods fuel my body and I’m learning to listen to my hunger cues- although, this is hard especially after a period of eating to gain weight and eating (healthy foods!) when I wasn’t hungry. IT creates habits which are hard to break. But I know it’s worth it.

While my size 6 clothes and even some of my size 8 clothes don’t fit anymore, my face is full, my hair is thick and my muscles are strong. I’m extremely fit. I train hard. I’m no longer afraid of certain foods and I’m secure enough in myself to be both able to say NO if I don’t want to eat something that I wouldn’t usually (like Domino’s Pizza or KFC, both things which I’ve had to justify choosing not to eat because a] ew and b] it’s bad for me)  and able to enjoy things which I wouldn’t usually eat but want to at that time (like icecream from Il Melograno) without fearing the perceived judgment of those around me.

Winter is one of those seasons where food fears and body shaming arises. People talk about how they’re putting on layers of clothing and along with it, layers of fat. People start glorifying hot chocolates by the fire and then guiltily slapping themselves on the wrist. Ads start appearing on TV claiming that losing weight will help you “Be You” during these cold months. People start spitting vitriol about “crap excuses” like the cold and wet weather keeping people away from training.

It can be hard if you’re only starting out, if you’re coming back to training or even for those of us who train consistently and regularly.

And it isn’t ok. Winter is a hard time for fitness sometimes. It can be cold and wet. It can lead us to want to just cuddle up in front of the fire. And that’s fine! It’s about balance.

Instead of going for an outside run, do a Fitness Blender workout at home or go to the gym and use a treadmill if you’re really into running. Invest in some good quality winter gear if you really want to run outside.

Get an accountability partner who will be expecting you at the gym so you feel like you can’t let them down. If you feel really unsafe driving on wet roads etc, you could even get them to pick you up or you could suggest doing an at home work out while on skype or something similar.

You could also try winter sports to keep you fit during this time of chilly winds and icy rain. Try something like RockUp Netball, for instance!

And if you’re worried about hearty comfort foods, just remember that we’re now in SOUP season. Soup is delicious, can be super (heh) healthy and is easy to make. It can simmer all day in a slow cooker or you can whip one up in  20 mins. It’s warming, soul enriching and just all round, awesome.

I made a seriously incredible batch of soup today to take around to a friend’s place for lunch. It’s only got a handful of ingredients and it was a total case of set and forget.

Roasted Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger Soup

2 large beetroots
6 small-medium carrots
1 medium onion
A chunk of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
Vegetable Stock
Mixed herbs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) spray

Chop the first 4 ingredients into similar sized chunks, separate the cloves of garlic, sprinkle with the herbs and spray with EVOO spray.

Roast until the vegetables are cooked but toothsome. Remove the skin of the garlic. Tip the veggies into a pot and cover with the stock and blend using an immersion blender until you get to your desired texture. 

Done.

If you want, serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt and some greens stirred through your soup. Crusty bread is a (non) optional extra too.

Seriously. How easy is that? It’s also exceptionally delicious. And very healthy.

So, basically, even though winter is hard sometimes, it passes like all other things in life. I encourage you to embrace it with both arms, a bowl and a pair of super fluffy socks which you can hide under your runners. No judgement.

 

Make it Monday! The Cookbook Challenge

I have a lot of cookbooks. When my friends come over to my house, it’s often one of the first things they comment on.

But I can’t help it! My mum and I just… I don’t know. The food styling, the stories, the combinations of flavours… we just go weak and suddenly, the guy at Dymocks is standing there, handing us back our cards, along with a brand new tome of delicious recipes to try.

Of course, despite our best intentions and ooh and aahing, so often these recipes are neglected and we never end up trying to replicate the taste explosions.

There are some exceptions to this rule; cookbooks which I use A LOT but they’re a special case.

So, this year, I decided to remedy this. Every month, I’m choosing two cook books to base our meals on. In January, it was Donna Hay’s Life in Balance and delicious. Superfoods. I’ve had both of these books for a while now and have plenty of recipes bookmarked in them, but hadn’t done much cooking out of them. I chose them based on the variety they offer, the fact that most of the recipes are extremely healthy, and the beautiful food styling which they contain.

The recipes which I chose varied from vegetarian to meat loving, quick and easy to more time consuming. Some of my favourites were the Zucchini Lasagna, Lemongrass Tofu, Barramundi (or in my case, squid) Tacos, the Roast Eggplant Salad with Green Tahini and the Pumpkin, and Brown Rice Balls.

I also used the books as the basis for a dinner party I hosted which was a roaring success. We enjoyed Haloumi and Sage Roasted Broccoli, a Smokey Pumpkin and Spelt Salad and a Spiced Kangaroo Skewers with Beetroot and Tahini Salad. All three dishes were absolutely perfect and were well received by the whole party.

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Pumpkin and Brown Rice Balls with Roasted Carrots
(and a zucchini, watermelon and coriander salad)

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Roasted Zucchini Lasagna

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Chickpea Gnochhi

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Roast Eggplant and Cauliflower Salad with Green Tahini Dressing

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Smoked Trout (DISCLAIMER: NOT HOME SMOKED LOL), Zucchini and Quinoa Salad

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Dinner Party Good Times
(they started eating before I could get a picture of the food… DEVO)

January has been a fabulous month of delicious and healthy food and I highly encourage you to check out these two amazing books!!

Happy cooking (and reading!)

Amy xx

Make it Monday- Back to school bikkies! [Vegan, refined sugar free, low gluten]

I love cooking. I love playing with flavours and adding a pinch of this or that. I’m not great at measuring. I’m not an excellent follower of recipes. I adapt and change and invariably add more vegetables and garlic than the recipe asks  for (because you can never have enough of either).

This makes me a pretty good cook, I have to say. I know how flavours match and meld and bounce off each other and play.

BUT.

It also makes me a pretty crap baker.

Especially as I like to tone down sugar, fat and traditional flours in my baking which has resulted in some pretty spectacular failures. However, there are some exceptions to this rule and when I was teaching I became quite popular amongst students because at least once a  term I would bake biscuits or brownies or something similar for them (and while I hope this is not the ONLY reason they liked me… bribery works, my friends). What follows are two of my never fail biscuits recipes which are much healthier than your average biscuit. And if I can’t mess them up, even with my aversion to recipes, than neither will you. Promise.

I’m going to write the recipes verbatim from the book I sourced them from (but I’ll also add in my experiments at the end:

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage: Light and Easy 

I LOVE this book and highly recommend you get a copy, along with the other River Cottage cookbooks. Easy to follow recipes, fresh flavours and a real focus on produce. Sometimes they can be a bit Brit-heavy in terms of locality (the types of fish he recommends are always ones I would never buy due to the air miles involved and the fact we have our own local versions!) but it’s easy enough to adapt.

So, without further ado:

Spiced date and almond cookies

  • 200g pitted dates
  • 2cm knob or 15g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs (see after recipe for my vegan version)
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground chinese 5 spice
  • optional: pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 170C

Place dates and ginger into a food processor and blitz until it’s a thick, smooth paste. Add eggs and other ingredients and blitz until a sticky dough forms.

Wet your hands and roll the dough into little balls- what ever size you would like and place on baking tray. Flatten with your fingers until they’re about 1cm thick.

Bake for about 20mins before removing to a wire rack and let them cool before eating. They should be golden in colour and firm around the edges. They’ll keep for ages in the fridge or several days inbaking an airtight container.

Experiments: These are great with a mixture of almond meal and buckwheat flour! I’ve also use my own ground almonds as a base and added coconut flour (beware with coconut flour- only add small amounts at a time as it is SUPER thirsty. I’ve also used a mix of dried fruit- my latest experiment (pictured) is apricots/dates. I also add ground ginger as well as fresh ginger which makes them kind of like a healthy gingerbread or a gingernut biscuit!

Vegan option: I used 3 tbsp of aquafaba (the juice from a can of chickpeas or other legume) for each egg (so 6tbsp for this recipe) and it worked perfectly!

baking2

Oaty, nutty, fruity cookies

  • 200g of natural, crunchy peanut butter
  • 75g runny honey 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
  • 75g raisins
  • 50 g oats

Preheat oven to 170C

Place PB and honey in a mixing bowl and beat it together (you may need to melt it slightly first depending on the consistency of your PB and honey.
Add the egg and beat it in thoroughly. Add bicarb and combine. Add the dried fruit and oats. Your dough should be chunky and stiff.

Wet your hands and roll the dough into little balls- what ever size you would like and place on baking tray. Flatten with your fingers until they’re about 1cm thick.Leave some space between them because they will expand.

Bake for 10 mins and then cool on a wire rack. Best eaten within 2-3 days of baking.

Experiments: Yet again, I’ve played with this one a lot. I’ve used alternate nut butters, including a mix of tahini and pb (pictured).

I’ve also played with the sweetener. To make it vegan, try maple syrup or molasses (or obvs, you could use sugar). In the ones pictured, I used only 5ml of blackstrap molasses as I’m not a big sweet tooth. 

I also used a mix of raisins and dried apricots in the pictured batch and I added cinnamon, pure vanilla extract and mixed spice to the mixture too.

Unfortunately I totally forgot about adding bicarb so this batch didn’t rise as much as the last batch I made did, but they still taste fantastic- just a little denser. 

Vegan option: apart from playing with the sweetener, aquafaba is a God send here. 3 tbsp subbed in for the egg. 

Give them a try and let me know how it all goes!! ❤

Happy baking! xx