Pumpkin Soup

This immune boosting pumpkin soup combines extra vegetables with some added herbs and spices to help boost your immune system and fight off those winter nasties

INGREDIENTS:

500g – 1 kg of pumpkin. I used a combination of Jap and Butternut.

2 potatoes peeled and diced

2 sweet potatoes peeled and diced

1 brown onion peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic crushed

2 carrots roughly chopped

2 sticks of celery roughly chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock. For my vegetable stock recipe click here: https://thecontentedlife.com.au/2015/08/25/recipe-stock/

METHOD

  • Preheat oven at 200 degrees celsius
  • Remove skin off the pumpkin and cut into chunks
  • Place in a baking tray lined with baking paper and drizzle with olive oil and some pink Himalayan salt
  • Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until it is soft and tender and slightly brown. Cooking time will depend on your oven
  • Meanwhile prepare all the other vegetables
  • When the pumpkin is cooked, remove from oven
  • Add onion and garlic to a soup pot together with a little olive oil. Fry until fragrant and transparent
  • Add in pumpkin then add in 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs tumeric, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp curry powder. Mix to combine
  • Add all the other vegetables and cover with the vegetable stock. You can add some water if necessary.
  • Continue to cook for approximately 20 minutes. I reduce the heat and cook for additional time to develop the flavour but if you are short on time, it is ok to eat now.
  • Using a hand bar mixer with a soup attachment, blend the soup until it is smooth. You can also use a blender or similar tool but allow the soup to cool slightly before blending.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh corriander
  • This is a perfect meal to make in bulk and have for some meal options at work

The Importance of Saying “NO”!

Stress!
Is stress and overwhelm really worth it?

This week I have had a bit of a wake up call. You see, I am the first to recommend that people slow down, assess what is important in life and learn to say NO when they are feeling overwhelmed. Yet I am also the first one to continuously say yes to things, to overload myself and think that I can do it all. The truth is, I can’t do it all. The more I take on, the more things I juggle, the more I drop the ball on things I wouldn’t normally. Leaving this perfectionist to feel more stressed…more anxious, leading to the inevitable snap at the ones I love and hold dear.

But why? It’s not going to prove anything when I lose all the people and things that matter most to me because I have sacrificed time with them, or have been emotionally absent even if physically there. No amount of money is worth the time that is lost, the lost opportunities to create happy memories because I am running on empty and stressed trying to do it all, trying to be everything to everyone simultaneously. I don’t want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember a cranky Mum. This is not the life that I aimed to create for my family. We moved from the city so we could create a better work-life balance. To make family our priority, not work. I am very conscious that this is my last year before my youngest makes the transition to school. Our time together is short. My one day I have with her should be our time, not time I give to someone else while she sits on the floor beside my desk playing with her toys and demanding my “absent” attention.

This week I have learned to say No. This is a huge step for me. Perhaps I have walked away from a fabulous opportunity. Perhaps I have committed some form of “career suicide?” Or…perhaps I have FINALLY learnt that, anything that does not bring immediate joy and fulfilment is no longer a priority for me…WOW! I guess I just applied the Marie Kondo theory to my life!?

BUT WHY?
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we create a life where busy is seen as normal? Why do we place so much emphasis on our careers and our income? Why do we think that the meaning of success is to be constantly busy, rushing from here to there, never truly stopping to appreciate all the people we have in our lives, the ones that matter most! Stopping to appreciate all the moments that make this life worthwhile?

Sometimes we need to reflect on what matters most in life!

This week I have truly learned the importance of stepping back and assessing what matters most in life. There may be a time when I can juggle those multiple balls with finesse, but for now, my little people need me, my wonderful husband needs me, I need me, to be at my best! And in order to do that, I need to say NO!

Hoping you all find the balance you need in your life and find the strength to say NO when you need to.

Jen xox

Jenny Wehlow is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist, a photographer, a mum and a wife…among other things. 

Recipe: Protein Balls

Raw Cacao Protein Balls

I have been asked many times for my recipe for my protein balls so thought it may be an opportunity to actually write it up. Basically, the rule of protein balls is, well, there are no rules. You can get creative and add what you like. Mix it up to cater to your individual tastes. Just be sure to keep the ingredients clean and healthy.

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Ingredients:

1 handful of dates, chopped

1 handful dried apricots, chopped

1 handful mixed dried seeds and nuts – I like to use pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews but add what you like

1 – 2 tbs coconut

1 tbs raw cacao powder

1 tbs honey (organic is preferred but whatever you use will be fine) or, alternatively any other natural sweetener of choice.

2 tbs organic coconut oil

extra coconut to roll.

The process could not be simpler. Simply add all the ingredient into a food processor and blitz for 60 seconds or until it reaches a consistency you are happy with. If you want the ingredients to be finer, blitz for a bit longer.

Then spoon mixture in a dessertspoon, or smaller if you prefer smaller pieces.

Wet your hands and roll each spoonful into balls

Coat with coconut or crushed nuts whatever you prefer.

Enjoy!

Store in the fridge and eat as a snack. Particularly great for the mid-afternoon energy slump or sugar craving.

I use LovingEarth organic Cacao powder.

Not only is it organic, it is fairly traded from Satipo in the Peruvian Amazon!

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Did you know:

Cacao is packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants? 

Cacao is often referred to as a “Superfood” and for good reason. It contains a higher amount of antioxidants than blueberries, which are known to be great for our health. Antioxidants are essential for good health. They help to absorb free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals can cause cell damage which long term, causes disease, illness and early ageing.

Cacao also contains a high amount of Magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most common Nutrient deficiencies in the Western world and it is this deficiency which can contribute to a range of health issues. It is also common in those with mental illness – perhaps a reason why there is a higher incidence of diagnosed depression these days. Magnesium is essential for heart health, energy and brain function. Chocolate cravings commonly indicate that there is a magnesium deficiency present.

The promise of “New Year, New You”

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I have a bit of a confession to make!

I subscribe to far too many “health and wellness” blogs. It started while I was studying Nutrition as I was trying to fill my life with all things healthy and motivating. Over the years, I began following many more and generally have not unsubscribed from any. The result? My inbox is constantly bombarded with conflicting advice and a whole lot of misinformation about Nutrition. I have learned that many of these are written by people with minimal or no qualifications in the field whatsoever. Yet sometimes what they publish is so convincing that I am left doubting my own knowledge! And I should know better right? I have spent 4+ years (and still going) studying the human body and nutrition.

As the clock ticked over midnight and we turned another calendar year my inbox was inundated with emails about “the best way to lose weight this year”, “make this year your lightest yet”, “what NOT to eat to achieve the body of your dreams”, “The health foods that make you fat”. My gosh! Is this what the WELLNESS industry has become? Focusing on losing weight and fuelling peoples insecurities about their bodies? Making people fearful of foods – even REAL FOOD? Telling us all that we are NOT good enough?

 

Each New Year there are multiple advertisements targeting those who make resolutions to lose weight and get fitter! There are so many programs and supplements to choose from. Year after year, I have sat back in silence and listened to friends, family and even strangers discussing the latest program they have decided to try. But this year, I have decided to speak up more and call out this bullshit for exactly what it is!

 

Long lasting changes take time, effort and long term lifestyle changes. It is not something that can be achieved in 30days. It is about re-educating ourselves about health, fitness and wellness and making the decision to integrate achievable changes that we can maintain the results for a long time (aka a lifetime). Its not about restriction and starving ourselves to achieve a certain weight in a certain amount of time. Its about changing our habits so that they are healthier habits! It is about achieving BALANCE!

 

I say this so often: Health is not the number on the scale. Weight loss is a side effect of good healthy practices. Health comes first, weight loss comes second.

 

So you really want to lose weight? Become fitter and healthier this year? Then make the CHANGE! Make the COMMITMENT to make long term changes slowly over time. Make the commitment to make these changes so they become a habit, they become part of your lifestyle. Not a diet with an end date, or a six week exercise programme.

 

Eat more real foods (fruit and vegetables) and less processed foods (which, by the way, include powdered protein and weight loss shakes). Drink enough water in your day.

  • EAT LESS,
  • MOVE MORE,
  • DRINK LESS,
  • CONNECT MORE,
  • STRESS LESS,
  • SLEEP MORE

 

And if you need help, seek advice from a qualified health professional. Not the latest 30day cleanse in a box which does nothing to educate you about real, long term changes.

Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry with Organic Udon Noodles

A stir fry is a really quick and simple way to prepare a wholesome meal full of a variety of vegetables, maximising your nutrient intake in one meal!

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Ingredients:

Vegetables:

  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 capsicum
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced on diagonal
  • 1 carrot, halved and sliced on diagonal
  • 4 mushrooms sliced thinly
  • half broccoli, heads either broken or cut
  • 1-2 sticks celery, cut
  • cabbage of choice
  • spring onions (green shallots)
  • any other vegetables you like

Protein of choice. Tonight we used chicken but you can use beef, lamb, pork or just have it as a vegetarian dish if you wish.

Sauce:

I tend to mix it up a little but tonight was;

  • 1-2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs hoisin sauce
  • 1/2tbs oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbs sesame oil

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Method:

  • Add 1 tbs of coconut oil (or oil of choice) into a cool wok. Add in the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is transparent. You don’t want the garlic or onion to brown as it will become bitter and start losing their immune boosting properties.
  • Remove them from the heat.
  • Add the chicken and cook until browned. Remove from heat.
  • Add in the harder vegetables (so in this case I kept the cabbage and spring onion to the side). Cook for about 2 minutes. Add a small amount of water and let them steam to lock in the nutrients but make them a little softer.
  • Add the onion, garlic and chicken back in.
  • Add in the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Throw in the udon noodles (prepared earlier according to packet instructions, usually just boiling), and the softer vegetables (cabbage and spring onion). I also throw in a handful of raw cashew nuts for some extra crunch.
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Top with some fresh coriander and serve.
  • Enjoy

 

 

Zucchini Fritters

Ah! Zucchini Fritters. These little delights really are my go to for a quick and easy meal. You can combine as little or as much as you like so they have the potential to become a nutritional powerhouse for Breakfast, lunch or dinner. There really is no right or wrong way to make these either so they are the perfect meal to cook where you to start tailoring to your own tastes, including any favourite ingredients and avoiding any you don’t quite enjoy. Get creative, mix it up and discover how you like them!

 

 

Ingredients:

Must haves:

  • 1 zucchini grated
  • 1 – 2 eggs

Optionals (mix and match or make up your own):

  • 2 – 3 cherry tomatoes, sliced finely
  • small amount of capsicum slice finely
  • small amount of red onion diced
  • handful baby spinach sliced finely
  • 2 mushrooms sliced

you can also add;

  • 1 tbs self raising flour or other flour alternative of choice
  • cheese of choice; parmesan, feta or good old tasty cheese
  • any other vegetable you desire

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Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Be sure you mix the egg thoroughly (you can beat with a fork or whisk prior to adding all other ingredients)
  • Spray a pan with olive oil or use butter if you like.
  • Place a spoonful of mixture in the pan. Cook each side for approximately two minutes
  • You can eat these by themselves or serve with a good leafy green salad.
  • You can make them ahead of time and prepare for meals on the road, for lunches to take to work or they are simply perfect as a complete meal on days that you just don’t have the time or energy to cook. Much quicker, easier and more cost effective than takeaway and you are filling your body with the good stuff it craves! Win Win!!

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Why Eating Breakfast is Important

Breakfast! Some dig it, some don’t! While some are ravenous when the day breaks, others simply don’t have an appetite and skipping breakfast is common practice. At the risk of sounding “old school”, I believe breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. As a nutritionist, I think there is more evidence to support the important role a healthy and nutrient dense breakfast plays on overall health, rather than the idea intermittent fasting.

SKIPPING BREAKFAST CAN CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN:

Many people have the false understanding that skipping any meal will lead to weight loss. While you may lose weight initially, this is not sustainable and skipping meals long term can contribute to weight gain as well as hormonal imbalances. Here is why;

  • Skipping meals forces your body into “starvation mode” which actually lowers your body’s metabolism. Your body will start storing the next meal in its reserves, which actually increases weight.
  • Skipping meals, and particularly breakfast, increases the chance that you will start craving refined sugars and carbohydrates during the day. Eating these foods will increase your waist line and decrease your overall health. Also, these foods lack the nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.

Breakfast is just that; “breaking the fast”. You have naturally fasted overnight (unless you wake in the middle of the night to eat – and that is a whole other issue) so having a good protein rich breakfast each morning helps to provide your body with the energy it needs for the day and helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which is so important for maintaining a healthy weight.

Studies have also shown that people (and more importantly kids) who have a healthy breakfast, have better concentration levels during the day and retain more information. So having a good quality, protein rich breakfast supplies your body with energy as well as ensuring your ability to focus. Just think about it, when you are hungry are you focused on the task at hand or are you thinking about food? Or just not thinking at all? Eating regularly during the day is also important for mood management. So start the day right and eat to fuel BODY and MIND!

Research has also shown that skipping breakfast can contribute to BINGE EATING. When your body is in starvation mode it will crave the quick energy foods – Sugars and refined Carbs (Chocolates, energy drinks, biscuits, cakes and lollies). While these may help to satisfy your hunger quickly and give the body the much needed sugar spike, their energy release is short lived, and you will feel hungry just a short time later, leading to overeating and long term increase the risk of Obesity. This can also increase insulin resistance and increase the risk of pre-diabetes. Something you really want to avoid.

WHAT IS A GOOD BREAKFAST:

While many of the breakfast cereals available in the supermarket shelves are marketed as healthy breakfast choices, these are often loaded with sugar, are high in sodium, artificial colours and flavours and hold little nutritional value. So what do I recommend?

Eat real food. Get back to basics! Eat lean proteins (free range eggs are great), Fresh fruit, whole grains, make your own Granola and stay away from sugary cereals or refined carbohydrates. Select a good Natural yoghurt (Greek style, or Coconut Yoghurt) and mix in some fresh berries and sprinkle some LSA (A ground up mix of Linseed, Sunflower seeds and Almonds). If you are not a fan of breakfast, start small by making your own smoothie including REAL FOODS. These are quick and easy and can be taken with you on the road for your commute to work. If you love your toast, swap your white breads for a good quality sourdough or at very least a grain bread which is lower GI.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Start the day right and the rest will follow.

 

 

 

 

The making of our very own little #notsolittle Vegetable Garden

Anyone who has been following The Contented Life on Instagram may have noticed there has been some intense garden projects happening here. Well we are very excited to tell you that we have been busy building the foundations for our own Vegetable Garden.IMG_8515-1IMG_8474-1

When we moved, one of the things I missed about our old home was our little vegetable garden. It was nothing magnificent, but it was ours. A place where the kids and I played, looked after the plants and they, in return, looked after us by providing some yummy vegetables for us to pick and eat.

Having some fun digging and playing in some deep holes
As a Nutritionist I believe in knowing your foods journey, and what better way to know then to grow your own (Yep, Michelle Bridges I am a “Freak”…I own that). But as a Mum, my true inspiration to have this space is driven by the desire to get my kids outside. Out in Nature, in the great outdoors. Experience what life truely has to offer that is not ruled by the allure of the television or iPad screens. I have such beautiful memories that were created at my grandparents house. We would spend hours exploring the neighbouring bushland, walking to the local beach, followed by feeding the ducks at the pond (running from snakes) and then collecting rhubarb and strawberries from the garden that my Nanna would prepare for dessert. Our visits there provided us with a little sanctuary away from the scheduled lives we had in the city. I wanted my kids to have similar experiences in life. That was part of the reason we decided to move from the city and have a coastal life and be closer to my husbands family farm. The best of both worlds!

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This year I made a request. I asked my husband to build me a veggie patch. I looked through multiple Pinterest pages and made my own board. Compiling images of my dream garden. Somewhere I could spend time with the kids and get them involved in the process.

 

The whole process was a family affair with help from our nephew…

…and Grandad
The whole project was a family affair…equal parts fun, getting dirty, learning new skills, and (of course) the frustration of juggling the kids needs and our desires to get the job done. But it provided us with an activity to do all together, as a family. Grandad and our Nephew offered a helping hand too. As long as they were fed and kept hydrated (coffee and H2O, and perhaps a beer at the end of a long day) they kept working.

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The handyman at work. He is amazing!

As we began the project it started off relatively small, utilising some dead space where the kids play equipment used to sit, but it kept on growing and my dream plans were magnified by about 1,000! My husband, never one to do things by halves, decided to really make a veggie patch. And so the “Taj Mahal of veggie gardens” (as it is lovingly known) was born.

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The whole process was amazing. I was even given lessons on how to use the “Man tools” (AKA – Auger – basically a big massive drill,  drop saw and nail gun). Hubby sourced some old timber and wood from the family farm and we used these to frame and build the garden beds – “Upcycling” at its best. As we finished the garden beds, it was time to choose the ground cover surrounding them. Although some crusher dust and pavers would have done the job, hubby decided he wanted more work and a deck was the only way to go.

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Once everything was ready, it was time for the dirt. Some good organic soil was the only option from the local landscape supplier (no complaints here) and wow, it was good. We had to leave it to settle in for a couple of weeks and then I was allowed to purchase the babies. I made a few trips to the markets and the garden shop to pick out the seedlings. We were also gifted some seeds from a neighbour. Given that I am not really a “green thumb” and would be learning along the way, we decided to start off with a small selection and add to it later once we knew how everything was going.

We chose;

  • Beetroot
  • Beans
  • Red Onion
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Blueberries
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Silverbeet
  • Carrot
  • Rocket
  • Capsicum
  • Chilli
  • Strawberries
  • A good selection of herbs including: coriander, parsley, rosemary, mint, dill, oregano, basil and chives.
  • and some lavender to help repel insects.

They have been growing for a good 2 months now and, although some are still small, they are going so well with some plants even providing us with some tasty delights. We have had such fun picking things straight from the garden and eating them.

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So, this turned into a much larger project than first planned, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Its our own little sanctuary in our backyard and the kids are constantly excited when they see new things sprouting or the vegetables taking shape or changing colour. They get even more excited when I tell them it is ready to pick and eat. This will be a constant source of free entertainment and the kids are receiving a vital life skill. Learning that nature is fascinating and provides lots of fun and nourishment (for body and mind) if we allow it. Learning that food can be grown and not just purchased  in a box in a supermarket aisle. Learning about the different fruits and vegetables and why we eat them.

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How great is it to let the kids know how food is grown, that it does not come pre-cut, pre wrapped or even pre-prepared, and how we CAN do it ourselves. There is no better satisfaction than eating something that you have helped nurture and grow. The kids love learning and being involved in this whole process. It provides a great opportunity to teach them about plant food and the importance of the “paddock to plate” philosophy.

 

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If you have a space in your backyard, why not get planting. It doesn’t have to be large or be a massive project (like ours became). Even a few small pots of herbs, strawberries or tomatoes will be a great start. Get the kids involved. Get them outdoors in the sunshine, giving them a good dose of Vitamin D, and let them learn how to nurture something that, in turn, will help nourish them. Body and Mind!

We can’t wait for these little beauties to keep growing and provide us with our very own home grown food. I am so glad we embarked on this family challenge. We spend so much time up here together…the kids love helping to water the vegetables and love using the deck as a “race track” for remote control vehicles, or scooters and bikes. It also doubles as our watering hole too. A place to sit back and enjoy a beer or a wine in the late afternoon glow of the sun  while watching the kids play and taking in THE CONTENTED LIFE.

 

 

Homemade Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls…for some reason they bring back memories of my childhood. Hot summer days at the beach followed with a sausage roll from the bakery on the way home, a very special treat. All the crumbs dropping on to my lap as we sat under a tree and ate them. But mostly, for me, they bring back memories of every single party or family event we had. My mum has made her own sausage rolls for as long as I can remember and this is her special recipe. There are many different options for these – including adding extra vegetables in the mix, but here you go…

 

Ingredients 

1 kg lean mince

500g sausage mince

a combination of fresh and dried herbs. About 1 tbs of each including;

  • parsley (fresh is best)
  • italian herbs (dried ok)
  • oregano (fresh or dried)

1 cup of breadcrumbs – you can use pre-made or make your own. (There are also Gluten Free breadcrumbs available on the shelves if you need them.)

2 cloves garlic – crushed

2 eggs

Puff pastry – can also get Gluten Free if necessary

salt and pepper

OPTIONAL EXTRAS:

  • You can grate some carrot and zucchini and include it in the mix.
  • You could also cut some baby spinach or silverbeet finely, just place in boiling water for a good two minutes, rinse under cold water and then drain the extra water out.
  • You can also place feta in the mixture too for some extra cheesy yumminess.

Get creative and see what you like.

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius.

 

Using your hands, mix all ingredient together until it is well combined. Using your hands allows for a little food therapy but it is also better to “feel” the mixture to make sure the texture is just right.

Using the puff pastry, divide each sheet into 3 equal lengths.

Roll out the meat mixture into sausage shapes (approximately 1 tbs)

Place the sausage mixture on one edge then roll the puff pastry over. Rub some egg white on to the edge and pinch together.

Cut into equal parts (depending on the size you want but we tend to make bite size pieces which is awesome for the kids and as finger food at parties).

Repeat until all of the meat mix is used.

Gently slice across the top of the pastry on a diagonal to allow steam release as you cook.

Place on a lined baking tray, and spray with olive oil then place in the oven cook for approximately 20-30minutes until the pastry is golden.

 

You can also prepare extra and place in the freezer. Perfect to have on hand for when unexpected visitors pop past, a great afternoon tea option for the kids or even an extra accompaniment for soups.

 

 

Seed Snap Crackers

These little beauties are full of flavour and by combining a load of seeds, they make a healthier alternative to most of the crackers on the market.

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Make these and have them on hand for afternoon snacks or for the next event you host.

I have tried a few different recipes for this but have finally perfected it to my liking.

Enjoy!

imageIngredients:

1/2 cup each of;

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup each of;

  • sesame seeds
  • linseed meal
  • chia seeds
  • sprinkle of pink himalayan salt (approx 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbs unhulled tahini (optional but it does add to the flavour and consistency)
  • sprinkle of maldon sea salt to taste

METHOD:

Add all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Allow to rest for about 20-30 minutes to allow the chia seeds and linseed to expand and bind the mix

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Spread the mix over the baking tray.

Use another piece of baking paper to squish it down – i made them pretty thin but have previously made them thicker. It depends on how you will be using them – you don’t want them snapping too easily under the weight of your dip.

Sprinkle with the Maldon Sea salt – or other salt of choice.

Cook in the oven at about 150 degrees celsius. After they have been cooking for 25 minutes, remove them from the oven and score squares, or rectangles using a sharp knife. There is no need to cut through.

Place them back in the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until they are golden in colour.

Serve with hummus, beetroot dip or any other flavours you fancy. Or alternatively, they are equally as good on their lonesome!

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