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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Banana Choc Surprise Muffins

Muffins! Most kids love them and they are quite an easy option to take on the road, for play dates and even just a special morning or afternoon tea. Typically speaking though, most of the muffins that are available to buy at cafes or in the shops are packed full of sugar, leaving you to cope with a hyped up kid once they have eaten them. This recipe replaces refined sugar with natural sources. So while they are not “sugar free”, they are refined sugar free which makes them a healthier option for the little bodies. There are many sugar free options for muffins. Remember, the more fruit you put in them, the less need for any additional sugars.

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Delicious Banana Choc Surprise Muffins

Ingredients 

2-3 Ripe Bananas, Mashed.

3 cups of self-raising flour. Use Gluten Free flour if necessary for your household

1 tbs Cinnamon

1 tbs Maple Syrup

1 tbs Honey

1 tbs Butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbs Coconut Yoghurt (can use natural yoghurt if preferred but check the sugar content!)

1 cup milk / coconut milk / almond milk

Dark Chocolate buttons/melts

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Kids in the kitchen – My kids love to help with the cooking process

 

 

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 Degrees Celsius.

Line muffin trays with muffin tins, spray with olive oil.

In a large bowl sift the flour and stir in the cinnamon

In a separate bowl mix the mashed banana, melted butter, egg, milk, honey, maple syrup and yoghurt and stir to combine.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the banana mixture

Stir to combine but do not over mix (over mixing will result in tough and chewy muffins – no one likes that!)

Spoon mixture into prepared tins, then push in one dark chocolate button in each muffin, making sure it is covered with the mixture

Bake for about 20 minutes – check at the 15 minute mark.

Allow the muffins to cool slightly.

Serve warm or cold – either is delicious.

 

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A great healthier alternative to muffins full of sugar and the kids (and adults) will love them!