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.

 

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Belated Make It Monday… Picnic Loaf!

Oops! Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind (although I did get to spend some time just basking in God’s presence over a tasty and healthy brunch which was a true blessing) which meant that the blog post I had planned didn’t make it to the blog… oops!

I guess that’s what happens when you have a busy weekend with loads of fun things to do… the madness turns into Monday madness without much of a second thought! My weekend involved two (it would have been three but… woops…) birthday parties (one of which was mine!), selling at Camberwell Market, an impromptu visit to the Glenferrie Rd festival, an impromptu bike ride on my newly repaired bicycle- Freddie- plus brunch and workout dates! It’s exhausting just listing it.

The highlight was definitely the picnic which I had to celebrate my 26th birthday- the last of the 4 celebrations I planned (berry picking with the school girls, Moroccan Soup Bar with my bffs, The Independent in Gembrook with the parents and the afore mentioned picnic for everyone!) I just wanted something really relaxed where all my friends, their kids, their partners, their pets, who/whatever were welcome to come, have fun and relax. A picnic seemed like the perfect solution.

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We’re blessed to have plenty of beautiful parks near us and so I decided to hold it at a local park with plenty of open spaces, playgrounds and shady spots to enjoy. Instead of relying on BBQ facilities (which are often claimed VERY early on in the morning and I wasn’t prepared to miss boot camp/ask my parents to get to the park at such an obscene hour and wait around forever), I just asked everyone to bring something to share, whether it be savoury or sweet. I would make a few things, just in case everyone bought cake, cheese or chips (it could definitely happen).

I made:

Carrot and Nut Butter Pinwheels
Apple and Coconut Pinwheels
Healthy Almond Butter Brownies
Healthy Oaty PB Biscuits¬†¬†(based on link with a lot of tinkering…)
Healthy Berry Slice
Golden Latte Slice
Panzanella Salad
Watermelon, Goats Fetta and Basil Salad
The SPECTACULAR WATERMELON BIRTHDAY CAKE! (which I STUPIDLY did not get a photo of)  (similar to this)

and… Picnic Loaf!

Which was such a success I’m making it for my Bible Study tonight.

I got the idea from the amazing Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe¬†whose blog I absolutely devour. She, along with Cindy and Michael from Where’s The Beef are my blogging crushes (how sad am I?) and I find their recipes, reviews and reflections just so well written and interesting. They’re also known to my father as the enablers of my love of Vegetarianism and my recent forays into a plant based lifestyle (#veg4lent2017).

When I saw this loaf I knew I needed to make it for my picnic. So, I roasted up some carrots, sweet potato, capsicum, celery and zucchini all sprinkled with the MacGyver spice blend from Oasis Bakery, made some pesto with some sad looking coriander, almonds, lemon juice and garlic, opened up a jar of grilled eggplant, mangled a can of pickled beetroot (why don’t cans of beetroot have ring pulls- and why do they all contain sugar?!) and layered them in my wholemeal vienna loaf (no non-white cob loaves were to be found- SIGH). I also layered some homemade semi dried tomatoes, leafy mix and some basil leaves.

The loaf was super delicious and everyone who had some enjoyed it immensely! This time, I roasted my own beetroot, swapped the sweet potato for pumpkin, added some finely sliced ricotta stuffed chillies I found in the fridge and used a multigrain sourdough batard.

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I cannot imagine that it won’t be just as delicious!!

Hope you give it a go for your next picnic and that you have just as fun a time as I did!

Happy eating (and picnic-ing!!)

Make It Monday- Red is my favourite.

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I hate Valentines Day. I think it’s a day which is designed to make people wallow in discontent. If you’re already single and unhappy then there’s just a load of reminders about how you’re not in a relationship, if you’re single and happy then it’s almost like you’re being manipulated into being SAD about not having a Valentine, if you’re in a relationship then there will always be a bigger gesture, a better gift, a more “special” moment than the one you received.

Why can’t we all just be happy with what we have? I appreciate the idea of a day to demonstrate the love you have for the special people in your life… but surely you can do that any day of the year?

Whatever. It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things and if the world has a little more love in it than it’s not a bad thing.

Speaking of love, I love the colour red as anyone who has seen my a) wardrobe, b) room and c) hair would know, and as Valentines Day seems to conjure up plenty of red, pink and rose coloured merchandise, I figure it’s as good a day as any to jump on the band wagon and create a beautiful RED dessert for the day of discontent- I mean, love.

It’s a red velvet inspired NO BAKE, VEGAN, SUGAR FREE, OIL FREE, GLUTEN FRIENDLY slice.

It’s easy to whip up and it’s super delicious. You can easily sub things in and out and it’s filled with fruit, veggies, seeds, nuts and spices. You can’t go wrong.

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Healthy Red Velvet Slice

Base:

1 cup of oats (GF is necessary)
1 cup of buckwheat groats
2 tbsp of cacao nibs
2 tbsp of homemade apple sauce
2 tbsp of aquafaba
1 tbsp of raw cacao powder
2 tsp of mixed spice
Splash of vanilla extract

Mix all together (legit that easy!), adjust spices and flavours for taste. Add sweetener of choice if necessary.
Press into a glad wrap lined slice container and place in freezer.

Filling:

2 beetroots
1 cup (roughly) raw coconut flesh
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbsp of  HM apple sauce
1 tbsp of raw cacao powder
1/2 cup of buckwheat groats
2 tsp of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together until smooth with some crunchy buckwheat pieces still intact (or all smooth if you want! Your circus, your monkeys!) Add sweetener to taste, if desired.

Spread over base

Topping:

Handful of puffed rice
Handful of goji berries
Raw cashews
Dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 a lemon

Soak cashews in boiling water until ready to blend.
Blend cashews with lemon juice until a smooth paste forms.

Sprinkle puffed rice and goji berries over the filling.
Spread cashew layer over top before sprinkling over the cherries and cranberries.

Pop it in the freezer until ready to serve! Remove 30 mins or so before serving to slice into bite sized fudgy pieces!!

Enjoy!! xx

 

 

 

 

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- Two timing, time saving

Every Tuesday night I go to my Missional Community Group where we study the Bible and discuss last Sunday’s sermon. We also share dinner together, potluck style and talk about our lives and what happened on last weeks episode of¬†Survivor.¬†I love cooking for my group. I’m known as the salad girl and I try to make something vegetarian as there are a few vegos in our group and I know I would want as many options as possible to choose from if I was a vegetarian. I also love playing with vegetables and introducing my friends to vegetables they’ve never even heard of before, let alone tried! So, normally every Monday night after gym, I put together a dish to nourish and feed my friends.

I also love making my own granola and I had some left over aquafaba (the juice from the chickpea can) which was getting close to needing to be used YESTERDAY. But when would I find the time to use it?

Ah. Time to double time it.

I prepped the salad first, popped the vegetables into roast and while that was happening, mixed together my granola. Then, at the end of the veg roasting, I added the rye bread (as I was making a panzanella) and also slid my granola into the hot oven.

While the veg and bread finished off, my granola got nice and toasty and clumpy. When I removed the veg, I turned off the oven and left the granola in there to finish off.

Easy done!

Cooking is all about using your time economically. This also saved on power- instead of turning the oven on twice- it was just used once. Woo!

These recipes are both super yummy and super healthy so give them a go!

Fennel and Beetroot Panzanella16388247_10154611670798101_952221201630006392_n

2 beetroots, chopped roughly
2 fennel bulbs, chopped roughly, fronds reserved
TBSP of Italian Herb mix (I buy mine from Oasis Bakery)
Spray EVOO
Splash of lemon juice
1 apple
1/2 a bunch of parsley
Salt and pepper
Stale rye sourdough
Herb infused Apple Cider Vinegar
Mixed leaves

Place the beetroot and fennel on a baking paper lined tray, spray with EVOO and sprinkle on the herbs and lemon juice. Season.

Roast for 30mins at 200C

While this is happening, chop/tear your bread into bite sized pieces and sprinkle the ACV over it. Once the 30 is up, add your bread to the baking tray and cook for another 10 minutes until the bread is nice and toasty. Remove from the oven, add the apple (you can roast the apple too if you want, but I like the contrast of textures and the apples I have at the mo are super yum) and parsley. Once the veg cools, mix through the mixed leaves.

You could also add some ricotta or feta, olives, sundried tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, etc. Be creative and taste as you go!

Apricot and Cardamom Granola 

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Handful each of:
Oats (x2)
Buckwheat groats
Steel cut oats
Pecans
Almonds
Dried Apricots soaked in a tea of your choice (I used T2 2 Stones Apricot and Plum Tea)
Puffed rice

TBSP of mixed spice
A few TSP of pure vanilla extract
A few TSP of ground cardamom
A few TSP of turmeric
Aquafaba as needed

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding the aquafaba as needed to moisten all ingredients and get it nice and clumpy.

Spread granola over a sprayed baking tray and cook for about 15mins in a 200C oven. I often turn the oven off and leave the granola in there to cool and crisp up completely. Add puffed rice and store in an air tight jar.

Granola is so versatile, add whatever flavourings and spices you want. Use whatever base you want, nuts, oats, other grains… Add dried fruits or not… Add sweeteners and oils if you want. I like mine pretty lean so I try not to use any sweetener apart from the fruit and spices. Aquafaba acts in place of oil to make it nice and clumpy but it’s not always crispy like an oil based covering. Do whatever you feel is best.¬†

I hope you can find your flow in the kitchen and that cooking becomes as much a joy for you as it is for those who you cook for.

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!

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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