Ever had to make a meal for people who have just had a baby? If I’m honest, I used to be filled with dread when the next meal rota request appeared in my Facebook messages. It’s not because I didn’t like to be asked or couldn’t be bothered. I just never knew what to cook! I would feel this pressure to make something good plus there is the logistical issue of making a meal that uses few dishes to transport and won’t spill all over the car when you veer slightly to the left or right.
Good friends of ours had a gorgeous baby girl and so I signed up for their rota and this time around I didn’t feel concerned about it. I think that may be because I’ve done so much more cooking from scratch in the past year that I have a whole wealth of meals under my belt and a whole new sense of confidence in my ability to cook something well. I also relished the opportunity to give my tired, adjusting to a new way of life friends a clean, nutritionally dense meal that would do them good.
On Tuesday I got Sarah Wilson’s (founder of I Quit Sugar) new book Simplicious. It is choka blok full of her ideas, tips, recipes and general approach to food and food consumption, which I think can be pretty much summed up by the following:
- Eat clean nutritionally dense foods (i.e. very little sugar and processed foods and a ton of veg)
- eat gut-friendly food
- use leftovers
- shop local
- use sustainable ingredients
- live out mindful consumption (use “daggy” veg, seasonal veg, cheap cuts of meat, cook in bulk to maximise use of energy and save time, get as much as you can out of every food item and minimise waste) and not just regarding food.
In summary, LIVE SIMPLY.
I’m totally on board.
So, I thought I’d write a blog post about the cooking I’ve done this week to demonstrate what this looks like, bearing in mind that I’m still finding my feet with it. From the off, I have to say… IT’S BEEN FUN.
In Simplicious, Sarah talks about creating a ‘flow’. This is when you go through a routine of food prep that involves using the oven for one thing and then another, using water to boil some eggs and steaming veg on top, then using that water for something else, using one bit of a vegetable for one thing then using the the peel (or whatever’s left) for another thing… Once you get into a habit of this it all just comes naturally and I’ve noticed, just progresses into more leftover use and minimising of waste. Why? You just think differently.
Sundays we have got into a flow of having a roast dinner (well, most British people do right?). Once we have chowed down I chuck the chicken carcass into a big pot with any leftover gravy, the veg I roasted under the chicken to flavour the pan for gravy, a bay leaf, water and maybe a garlic clove or any carrots or celery that is a bit past it, and that boils away for a couple of hours. From now on I will also add any peel from preparing the veg for the roast. The next day I use this stock and any leftover veggies, maybe some of the leftover chicken to make soup. Or I might cut a butternut squash in half and put it in the oven at 160 for an hour and use half for the soup and the other half for a dinner. I make a soup that will give us lunch for a few days and it’s not been time consuming and is clean of anything other than the raw ingredients. My kids love having soup and so I try to give it to them regularly because when veg is on their plates in it’s natural form they are repulsed, for some reason. Soup is kind to their guts and full of nutrition so a good option. Also, I sometimes give it to them to drink in a little tea cup. Often with kids, presentation goes a long way!
For this soup I simply fried some chopped onion and carrot and let it sweat a bit. At this stage I also chucked in some ground cumin. Then added some sweet red pepper and let it sweat a bit more. Then added my stock and the last of some red lentils that needed using and let it simmer for 15-20 mins. Finally I seasoned it and then blitzed in my Vitamix. Easy.
So, here’s what I cooked for my friends…
I roasted the butternut squash in the afternoon leaving the oven on after making some Tam Tim’s. The Aussie equivalent of a Penguin. I did this with my son who loves to make chocolate biscuits. They are gorgeous. Crazily, both my kids loved the uncooked biscuit dough. Honestly, if you think you could never get your kids to quit sugar, think again. I couldn’t have enjoyed the dough myself as it was rather bitter and a drier texture than most cookie doughs. The fact they liked it meant I could keep the off cuts for them and so didn’t throw even the tiniest bits away.
After making these, I had leftover melted chocolate and leftover ganache… in true Simplicious style I couldn’t possibly throw these away! So I coated some grapes in the melted chocolate and blended the ganache with natural yoghurt. Since grapes have a fairly high fructose content and I’d had a Tam Tim, I figured it would have to be a sweet treat for another day… But I didn’t want it to spoil in the fridge before we ate it. Then it occurred to me I could use my lolly moulds to turn it into ice lollies! I figured it might be fun for the kids eating a chocolatey lolly with whole grapes in. Will have to see how it goes down… They are unpredictable creatures. I can’t tell you how chuffed I was to have produced, not only delectable biscuits but also, with only adding two further ingredients, four ice lollies! It’s so satisfying. Whilst I was cooking this I also had a parmesan rind bubbling away in water to produce stock. In the book Sarah adds prosciutto rinds but I didn’t have any. What I did have was one chicken wing leftover from our Sunday roast! What the hell can you do with one chicken wing?! So I put it in with the parmesan. Turns out, bone broths etc are very good for you and can be made into drinks! Watch this space. Since it was sitting next to our dinner (meatballs and spaghetti all cooked in one pot), I chucked some in that to add flavour as I didn’t have any parmesan to put on top and put the rest in ice cube trays to freeze.
Whenever I make something that is particularly delicious, I end up taking a mouthful and saying to my husband, something along the lines of…
“Try and tell me this isn’t the most amazing thing ever!”
He sighs, and usually agrees it is the best thing ever. This meatball dinner literally was. Was all made in one pot and with meatballs pre-prepared and straight out the freezer.
We had the same salad as I made for my friends (crushed green olive from Simplicious but adapted to what I had in, which by that stage didn’t actually include olives as I didn’t have enough). This salad uses the whole celery, leaves and all. Who else has always just pulled off one stalk of celery at a time? Well I always did and ended up probably leaving a couple of inches of a stalk behind and then discarding the leaves and then ending up with the thinner stalks in the centre going all bendy. I’d leave them in the fridge for a while thinking I might use them in something else since they were no longer suitable for a salad. More often than not, they got chucked. When making this salad I just lopped the very ends of the stalks off and then chopped down the whole bunch. Whatever’s left can be dumped in a pot of water to keep fresh. Genius. Plus the leaves are really tasty!
I made Sarah’s powerhouse dressing, which took all of 30 seconds and there is stacks left for another day.
Well, I think I’ve said enough now… I could talk about today and having used broccoli stalks, beetroot leaves, and the water I par-boiled broccoli in to make a soup. It’s green and earthy and different, but I love it.
But I’ll leave it there. I have enjoyed cooking this week and despite having produced a lot, I don’t feel I’ve put in a lot of effort. I can’t describe the satisfaction of knowing I’m minimising food wastage and really getting the most out of what I have bought.
AND, most importantly, putting highly nutritious and completely delicious food into my body.
Win, win, WIN!
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