A hint of Autumn in the air and soup season for me has begun…

Goodness me, it has been a long, hot Summer hasn’t it? There has been so much that we have absolutely loved about it – the refreshing and freeing swims in the ocean, the sunset salads and bbq’s, the early morning walks listening to the deafening choir of cicadas and the longer, more active days outside. But (and I know I am most definitely not alone in this thought) to be completely honest, I have found the constant heat to be oppressive and exhausting. At one point there it felt like every single day we were living in a sauna…the kids became sticky, slimy, grumpy and agitated and I felt as though I just couldn’t muster up any of my usual energy. I felt the strain of being a busy Mum far more than usual and (as silly as it may sound), because it was too hot to have the oven and stove on, I really began to miss baking and cooking.

Because as days become shorter and cooler there is nothing lovelier than hurling a heap of wholesome ingredients into a cast iron pot, popping it in the oven and knowing that dinner for the day is sorted. There is also something so comforting about making hearty soups that are quite literally brimming with healthy, nourishing ingredients. Soup is such an easy meal to make and I do love knowing that the kids are consuming lots of vegetables in the one bowl. It does seem to be one of the meals that we all love as a family and better still, if you make an extra large pot, it will last well for a couple of nights.

Yesterday, I used up vegetables and ingredients I had in the fridge and pantry (because some Mondays I just cannot face heading to the shops again!) and the soup was delicious. The carrots provide a beautiful sweetness when cooked well and the spinach made it fresh and added extra green goodness. Last night a Harris Farm delivery arrived and the zucchinis were so incredibly large that today I decided to make a cream of zucchini soup with potatoes, onion, garlic and fresh rosemary and bay leaves from the garden. Yesterday I also made one of my favourite gluten free Teresa Cutter breads (the chia seeds and quinoa base ensure it is packed with yummy nutrients) which goes beautifully with soup. The kids tried it…didn’t fall in love with it, but I’m always happy if they just give things a go.

These three recipes are below – I hope you enjoy.x

Carrot, Turmeric, Coconut and Spinach Soup:

Ingredients:

1 bag carrots, chopped roughly

1 onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

3 regular potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

Vegetable or chicken stock (approx 4 cups)

1-2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 can coconut milk or cream (or use regular cream if you’d rather)

Baby spinach and fresh dill (optional)

Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, carrots, potatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes then add the stock and turmeric (the stock should cover the vegetables well). Bring the stock to a simmer and cook until all of the vegetables have softened well. Turn the heat off and once cooler, add the coconut milk/cream. Blend well with a hand-held blender or use a blender. To serve, throw a heap of baby spinach leaves in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the soup over the leaves. Season with salt and black pepper and sprinkle with some fresh dill.

Cream of Zucchini Soup: 

Ingredients:

4-5 large zucchini (7-8 medium), washed and chopped

6 potatoes, peeled and chopped

1-2 large onions, peeled and chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock

Olive/coconut oil

Fresh rosemary and bay leaves

1 can coconut cream or normal cream if you’d rather (use some Greek yoghurt for a lighter option)

Method:

Heat a good lug of oil in a saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped zucchinis, potatoes and herbs. Pour the stock over the veggies and cook on medium until they have softened completely – allow to cool. Remove the herbs (they will have infused your broth with a beautiful fragrance and extra flavour) and add the cream/yoghurt. Blend well and serve with some bread of your choice.

Teresa Cutter’s gluten-free quinoa and chia bread:

Ingredients:

300 grams (1 and 3/4 cups) whole uncooked quinoa seeds

60 grams (1/4 cup) whole chia seeds

250 ml (1 cup) water (use half to soak chia seeds and the other half to combine in food processor)

60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

juice from 1/2 lemon

Method:

1.Soak quinoa in plenty of cold water overnight in the fridge.

2. Soak chia seeds in 1/2 cup water until gel like – this can be done overnight as well but stir well in the beginning.

3. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

4. Drain the quinoa and rinse really well through a sieve. Make sure the water is fully drained from your sieve.

5. Place the quinoa into a food processor.

6. Add the chia gel, 1/2 cup water, olive oil, baking soda, sea salt and lemon juice.

7. Mix in a food processor for 3 minutes.

8. Spoon the mix into a loaf tine lined with baking paper.

9. Bake for 1.5 hours or until the firm to touch…make sure you have allowed enough baking time for the quinoa to cook.

10. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes in the tin then remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. The bread should be slightly moist in the middle and crisp on the outside.

My Ultra-Green Chopped Salad with Baked Tofu…

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it certainly feels like Term 1 of school and preschool has kicked off with a bang…while it was only last week that the kids were sleeping in and our days were unfolding with a sense of freedom and fun, we are now waking early, rushing out the door (just yesterday we had a school swimming carnival to attend!) and as a mum, I feel like the juggle has well and truly begun.

And to be honest, it’s not a bad thing…by the end of the holidays (as much as I was loving our beautiful, balmy beach days), I really did feel like we were beginning to intrude on each other’s space. It’s a very real fact of life that siblings (and parents) grow tired of each other’s company…petty squabbles began to erupt over nothing in particular and I had started to feel like there was no pleasing all of my kids at once. As much as holidays are a wonderful thing, they can also be extremely tiring, expensive and demanding. So many of my girlfriends (also busy Mums) felt that by the end of those six weeks, the kids were craving routine and time out with their own friends and own interests – that they needed balance and a little distance away from the busy family unit.

This year, I am personally experiencing greater freedom as a Mum than I have in a very long while. My youngest child Jack has begun three consecutive days at his preschool which means I now have three full days without children – and to be completely honest, it feels amazing. Because I really do understand and appreciate how healthy and important it is to have space and by the end of last year I felt as though I was craving it more than ever before. Juggling work and motherhood is tricky at the best of times and I’ve always felt that it’s so much easier to be a happy and productive Mum when we have a little bit of time out.

Let’s be real, time out for most Mums means (largely) getting organised at home for the weeks ahead – shopping, cooking, paying preschool and school bills, cleaning, washing, ironing…all of the things that none of us love to do but simply have to do. Time out has also come to mean exactly that…taking time for myself to do the things that restore me as an individual and as a Mum. All Mums know and understand this…that it’s impossible to continually give, to endlessly power on and keep everything ticking over (and the whole family happy) if we don’t give to ourselves. And it sounds so simple doesn’t it? It’s advice my own Mum Jude has always given me (speaking from incredible experience) and it’s powerful. When we don’t do the things that make us feel good, resentment can build up, as can a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion…and before we know it, we’re not much good to anyone.

Today, I took one of my favourite Vinyasa yoga classes and my teacher, Fabio touched on the concepts I have been thinking a lot about. He speaks often about the human ‘Monkey Mind’ and how usually, at any given moment, we are thinking about three or more things at once…we were stretching in a beautiful triangle pose and he said, “Now I want you to stop thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner and focus on your breath.” It made me laugh because, in actual fact, I was thinking about the bolognese I was going to cook when I got home and I was also thinking about a big job I have coming up, enrolling Sienna in her sport for the year and Chloe in her Hip-Hop dance class. He then said, “Give yourself a break when you need it, be kind to yourself…listen to your inner wisdom.” Simple words but ones which resonated with me such a lot and made complete sense. There’s a lot to be said for trusting that little voice inside and knowing when to pull back in life.

This is not a dish my kids would enjoy yet (one day I hope!) but it’s one that represents the importance of nurturing ourselves, of taking that extra little bit of time in the day to value our health and happiness. It definitely helps to get us glowing from the inside out. Mark and I thought it was delicious…I hope you enjoy…

Ultra Green Chopped Salad with Baked Tofu…

Prep time 20 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 broccoli, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1 broccolini, coarsely chopped

1 zucchini, finely chopped

100 grams mixed sprouts

50 grams baby kale, torn

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup each torn mint. flat leaf parsley and coriander

Tamari-Roasted mixed seeds, to serve

1 packet firm tofu, chopped into cubes

Avocado puree

1.5 avocados

1/3 cup well shaken buttermilk

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to high and place the chopped tofu in a baking dish that is lined with baking paper. Coat with some oil of your choice and season. Bake until lovely and golden. Set aside.
  2. Steam the broccoli, broccolini and zucchini for 1 minute. Allow to cool. Combine with sprouts, kale and spring onions in a bowl, drizzle with oil, lemon juice and vinegar and season to taste. Mix well with your hands, massaging the mixture slightly to soften the kale and work the dressing into the vegetables, then set aside while you make the avocado puree.
  3. For the avocado puree, process the ingredients in a food processor (I used my Ninja) until very smooth – season to taste and spread in the base of the serving bowls.
  4. Add herbs to vegetables, toss lightly to combine, pile salad on top of the avocado puree and serve scattered with roasted seeds.

Note: Tamari-roasted seeds are available from select green grocers in packs that usually contain pepitas, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. If they’re unavailable, substitute for roasted nuts of your choice.

My Eat-The-Rainbow, Vegan Chilli with Crunchy, Sweet Potato Wedges…

It’s a little bit hard to believe that 2017 has arrived isn’t it? The lead up to Christmas was hectic for our family, to say the very least…each morning I’d wake and somewhat frantically check the kid’s schedules, work on my own Palmy Platters commitments and chat to Mark about what his week ahead held…and then we’d discuss what was happening at our building site each and every day, to try and maintain our focus and keep properly organised. And I really did love it…the pace, the deadlines, the craziness and the rise in social engagements but to be perfectly honest, I’m loving (and embracing) our slower, more subdued holiday pace a little more. I was chatting to a girlfriend the other day and we both agreed how more often than not we don’t even realise how busy we are until we stop…how tired we are until we allow ourselves to pause and take deep and much needed breaths.

Last year (I’m still getting used to saying that!), we headed off on a road trip up North on Boxing Day morning and it was the best thing we could have done. I’ve written before about how much I love a road trip…the romantic sense of freedom they allow as sceneries change and music plays…and the undeniable and wonderful feeling that with every passing kilometre, you are travelling further and further from the worries and stresses of home. We were lucky enough to catch up with beloved family members who we haven’t seen in a while, which was so restorative for our souls and very important for the children. Mum has always said that the more people who genuinely love our little ones, the better and I couldn’t agree more – there is nothing like being enveloped in the warmth of family love to allow their little souls to blossom and experience (and understand) true and real happiness.

After a lot of relaxing, loads of fun and a fair whack of over-indulging, Mark and I felt very ready to kick 2017 off with a bit of a cleanse. I’ve never been one for fad diets and crazy fitness regimes (as I just don’t believe we can sustain them) but I truly believe in the benefits of eating wholesome, colourful, home-cooked food…of running on the beach, taking supervised fitness and yoga classes and swimming in the ocean…of getting earlier nights and subsequently deeper, more beneficial sleeps…there’s a lot to be said for being kind and caring towards ourselves…so we can happily (and easily) give more to others.

I made this Vegan chilli for Mark and I yesterday – it was absolutely delicious and ticked every box for us. Healthy and cleansing food needn’t be lacking in flavour and depth and this dish goes to show how absolutely amazing plant-based recipes can be – we just need to think outside the square sometimes! Please feel free to add a dollop of Greek yoghurt or some grated cheese to make the dish a little more substantial and suited to your own tastes. As it’s packed with ginger and turmeric, it also has some wonderful anti-inflammatory properties…it also makes a lot and is extremely economical. If you don’t have sweet potato, replace it for brown rice, quinoa or organic corn chips.

My recipe is below, I hope you enjoy.x

Vegan Chilli:

For the pureed paste:

2 large carrots

2 Spanish Onions

1 knob ginger

1 teaspoon coriander root (optional)

2-3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground paprika

1 teaspoon stock powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon rock salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh, dried chilli

For the Chilli:

1-2 tablespoons grapeseed, coconut or olive oil

1/2 bunch Silver beet, shredded (remove the stems and the white stalks)

1/2 bunch celery, chopped

1 can drained corn or 1 cup boiled fresh corn

1 red capsicum, diced

1 can black beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 can chopped tomatoes

To Serve:

1-2 sweet potatoes – oven roasted

Avocado

Lime cheeks

Fresh coriander, chopped

Natural yoghurt (optional)

Grated cheese (optional)

Rock salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a baking dish with baking paper. Slice the sweet potato into chunky fingers and leave the skin on. It’s packed with nutrients and becomes wonderfully crispy when the potato starts to cook. Coat the sweet potato in some oil of your choice and season with some rock salt. Roast on high for approximately 30 minutes or until lovely and crunchy.

For the chilli paste…blend or puree all of the ingredients together until a lovely, orange puree forms. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based frying pan and add the orange curry paste. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes (it may start to splutter if on too high so keep the temperature just below medium). Add the canned tomatoes and all of the vegetables. You may need to add a little water at this point to thin out the sauce. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until all of the spinach is wilted. Add the beans and give a good stir. Taste for flavour – season a little more at this point to suit your tastes.

To serve: Arrange the sweet potato fingers in a bowl and spoon the chilli on top. Serve with avocado wedges, lime cheeks and scatter liberally with fresh coriander.