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It’s all about warm Winter salads this week.

I am often asked how I balance out my menus for so many different diets… my trick is to make a dish that items can be added or taken away, and salads are perfect for this, they are also a great way to change up the seasonal vegetables… Fall and Winter Salads are delicious, lots of roasted squashes, butternut, acorn and even my favorite squash the delicata, switch it up, try different squashes to keep dishes interesting, you can even throw in some sweet potatoes or yams.

Fill your salad with lots of seasonal greens, kale is a firm favorite in my house as long as it’s finely chopped I will add, it is full of nutrition and it works well in a robust winter salad, add in some spinach, and toss in some arugula (rocket) leaves for a little peppery spice. Next on my winter salad is broccoli or cauliflower, chopped finely, again for the fussy eaters in my house, it’s raw and totally delicious, blended with the other ingredients you will hardly know it’s in there.

Add in some carbohydrates, always whole grain as Jamie would say, quinoa is high in protein, farro, barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole grain couscous… your options are limitless, switch it up add potatoes, celeriac is a great choice roasted or add a little whole grain pasta, again so many different shapes and sizes out there.

Keep your portion sizes small for carbs, balance this out with all the glorious veggies out there, you can add ribbons of carrots, chopped red onions, one of my new favorite things to bake and add to salads is the humble beet, add chopped cabbage, red or green it works so well in a robust winter salad, add in some grape tomatoes, thinly sliced asparagus spears… just have fun, think lots veggies and think about eating lots of different colors within your dish.

Well I will put my hand up and say I never used to like fruit in my salad, I don’t know what it was about the sweet and savory combination, but it definitely was not my favorite, fast forward a few years and I love it, it just goes to show if you persist you can grow to love all different kinds of foods… anyway my go to fruit for my winter salad is pomegranate, the juice as you tap those little nutrition packed seeds onto your salad add into the dish to create its own dressing, they are bright and vibrant, and most definitely add a pop of color and nutrition to your plate. Apples and pears are definitely in season right now, so think about slicing or chopping and tossing them throughout your dish to add in some sweetness.

Last but not least is your protein, well this one is easy if you are a meat eater, seared turmeric chicken Jamie Oliver style is one protein that packs a punch of flavor and is an excellent anti inflammatory aiding dish. Perfect pork belly is a fantastic protein to add to a robust winter salad. The list goes on, spicy sausages, apple sausages add a touch of Fall flavor, crispy ground beef, perfectly seared slices of steak… take your pick they are all fantastic to add to any salad dish.

Now if you are a vegetarian or vegan beans and lentils are a perfect accompaniment for your salad, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans in all shapes and sizes, you can flavor them or you can just toss them in as they are. Now I am a huge lentil fan, red, green, French, I just love lentils, add them into a salad or make a soup to go on the side, they definitely are a great protein for a salad, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter. Of course eggs are not vegan, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition, boil them and have them on the side of your salad, make an omelette to eat with your salad, either way eggs are good with everything. Avocados, what can I say, it’s protein packed along with other nutrition, it’s most definitely delicious and I know Florrie, Mabel and I could eat them all day and every day… add them to salad and you will most definitely be smiling.

In my house we are split with dressings and toppings, some of us love a good salad dressing, some of us like it creamy, some of us like it acidic, some of us even like our salad dry with no dressing… WHAT? I know that is crazy right? Whatever way we like our salad dressing, just make it healthy and delicious. I always leave my salad undressed, then everyone gets to choose how they want to eat it. Toppings are the same, some people do not like nuts, other like seeds, have fun add some crunch to your salad your way, think sesame or hemp seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nuts, nuts and more nuts, throw on whatever you have in and crunch away.

I could eat salad every day, that combined with a good yummy comforting soup is perfect Winter food for me… here are a few ideas to help plan your meals for this week, remember always have fun, get your children chopping, get them to help with each recipe, what I find in my house is if they have contributed to making our meal they are more willing to try it.

Tomato farro salad

Harvest salad

Warm Winter salad

Superb squash soup

Spiced parsnip and lentil soup with chili oil

English onion soup

Salads are a great way to eat the rainbow, they can be a complete meal with all of your food groups on one plate. Something that Jamie said in his Superfoods show was to add feta over your salad, not too much, think of it as a seasoning, that is most definitely my new way of thinking, another quick tip is to turn a can of garbanzo beans into hummus, spread it onto your plate and place your salad on top, a great protein , with great flavor… however you make your salad, have fun, chop away, different shapes and sizes, add texture and color, your body will definitely love you for it. ♥️

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A new beginning… its all about what we eat.

A while ago a friend on facebook gave me an idea… we are all becoming much more aware of eating healthier, in my family we have some health issues that need to be addressed and I am a firm believer in, we are what we eat, so its time to address those issues and get healthy again… so back to that idea, it was an idea to inspire others with a menu plan for each week, basically what we eat, we are vegetarian, we are plant based, we eat meat eaters, we are pre-diabetic and we are a clean healthy eating family… so here we go, my guide to eating healthily with a few tips here and there on other things, like reducing our waste, getting a huge bang for our buck with our groceries, becoming more eco friendly and how we can get our children not only excited by food but cooking too.

Welcome to my kitchen, I definitely am not a trained chef, I am not a nutritionist, I am an experienced Mom of 8 children, some grown up, some still in school and some still very small, we homeschool, we bake fresh bread and baked goods and we most definitely cook from scratch, fresh produce is a priority, and as much organic food as we can buy and we can afford is always number one on my list.

I have a family of very picky eaters, many years ago when my older children were much younger, I became proficient in adding in veggies into everything I made, I secretly cooked and blended a variety of healthy produce, then added them into my meals, although these days there has been many a cook book about how to do this, I was most definitely all about this many years ago… and still to this day, even though many of my children are older I still from time to time sneak the odd veggie or legume into a dish… I am all about nutrition and if I have to, I will lie, steal or sneak the vitamins and minerals into any dish.

I have gone from meal planning for 7 day increments to 3 days, with 10 people to cook for, 3 days is more manageable, not only to plan for, but to shop for.  The main priority is getting a balanced healthy diet, at all times.  I am a big Jamie Oliver fan, always have been, and always will be, after a few years break from watching his shows since moving to the US, I have recently been catching up on his newer shows, internet tv makes streaming his shows so much easier these days, he is so passionate about what he does, and his love for food is crazy, I am totally inspired to begin my own journey with health all over again.

I have three things in life that I am truly passionate about, number one is my family always, and joint second place is photography, I have taught myself how to take my camera off of auto mode and also how to use photoshop over the last 3 years, no mean feat believe me,  also, something many people may not really know is my passion for all things food, and this is my joint second place, cooking and eating healthily, the nutrition, what we need to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, I am so passionate about it, it has been suggested by several of my family members that I should train to be a nutritionist, I read so much all the time on the subject I am starting to wonder if they are right.

So lets begin now you know a little bit about me… this week is all about the soups for me, Winter is upon us, comfort foods to the max, having a warm nutritious soup on hand is always good for lunches, and even dinner, and I am all about the sides and what can I dip in that bowl of goodness.  I am all about reducing the fat these days, lowering our carbs and also bringing down the sugar content, once upon a time I would not have worried too much about adding sugar, these days I am always thinking of ways to reduce or add a natural sugar that is low on the glycemic index.  I have read several articles recently about how our bodies use the nutrition we put into them, what I was totally surprised about was how quickly some carbohydrates that we eat are turned into sugar in our bodies, making not all carbs equal, and the same for sugars, it appears that not all sugars are equal either.

Sometimes I love to experiment with recipes, but when I have a time crunch I am all for tried and tested recipes, although I have been known to mess around with a recipe from time to time, change ingredients, add in this and that… cooking is most definitely all about fun.

Soup number 1 for this week… an old favorite, very simple to make and very healthy… carrot and coriander soup.  I took the recipe and made it in my instant pot, a recent favorite purchase of mine, it makes cooking soup a breeze, you can start by sautéing your veggies then switch to pressure cooking, I loaded all the ingredients except the dairy and cilantro into the bowl, sealed it and set it to pressure cook for 3 minutes, you can then get on with other things whilst this wondrous machine does its thing… once it was finished I added in some oat milk, my favorite non dairy milk and the fresh cilantro, oh and let’s not forget at this point we need to season to taste, I then got my stick blender and in no time at all we had a delicious bowl of nutrition.

One cup of chopped carrots…

  • 52 calories
  • 12.26 grams (g) of carbohydrate
  • 3 g of sugars
  • 1.19 g of protein
  • 0.31 g of fat
  • 3.6 g of fiber
  • 1069 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 7.6 vitamin C
  • 42 mg of calcium
  • 0.38 mg of iron
  • 15 mg of magnesium
  • 45 mg of phosphorus
  • 410 mg of potassium
  • 88 mg of sodium
  • 0.31 mg of zinc
  • 24 mcg of folate
  • 16.9 mcg of vitamin K

Making them a power house of super charged nutrition.

Soup number 2 for this week… another favorite, usually around Thanksgiving or Christmas time, using up the ham hock for flavor, these days the ham hock has been replaced with liquid smoke or sweet smoked paprika to replace that taste, but still as delicious and most definitely as nutritious… spit pea soup, vegetarian style.  I have made split pea soup for many years now, it is my husbands favorite over the years especially around Christmas time when we have had a ham, we use the bone with some of the meat still attached and cook it within the soup, these days my husband is a vegetarian so I needed to replace that smokey ham taste with something, and Smokey paprika is my favorite replacement. Split Peas will provide you with 21 grams of fiber and 28 grams of protein, among loads of other nutritional goodness, making it a fantastic winter comfort food soup.

Both soups are full of goodness, very budget friendly and you will be eating it for days to come, we just change up the sides, sometimes a roasted veggie sandwich with sourdough bread toasted, sometimes crackers and cheese, sometimes roasted squash or sweet potato wedges, today we had a quinoa salad with nuts, berries and roasted squash on the side, now I cannot claim to have made this one, but I know this guy called Trader Joe that can make life a little simpler sometimes.

‘[‘Tomorrow we are heading out for brunch, a great place we know, all made from scratch and all farm to table, my favorite.  I will be putting a lentil bolognese in the slow cooker for when we get home, some of us will have this with pasta and ground sausage, the rest of us will have it with roasted butternut squash wedges and a green salad.

Well that is what we are eating for the next few days, low carb, low sugar, but always healthy and nutritious, I try to incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies, so right now we are eating lots of squashes, pomegranates, apples and pears, all full of flavor and packed with lots of nutrition… (just a little hint, keep all those veggie scraps, do not throw anything away including the seeds from the butternut squash, freeze them ready for an awesome homemade, ultra budget friendly, almost free broth made in your slow cooker or instant pot, recipe to follow soon) Be happy and stay warm… and remember eat the rainbow. 🌈

 

 

 

Tate's milestones

8 months old yesterday…

Tate is 8 months old and one day today… Crazy huh?

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This little boy is a bundle of energy, when he is awake he is always on the move, he loves to touch everything and pinches and scratches my chest all the time as he discovers what I feel like. He doesn’t really put all things in his mouth, including food, he is not a big fan of solid foods and just drops any finger foods straight to floor! He is not crawling but can definitely get himself around the floor, he can go from laying to sitting, but he is not confident in doing it at the moment! He can sit unaided but I still put something behind him as if he wants something he will just roll backwards to get it!

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Tate is still such a happy baby, even with the three teeth that have popped up in this past month, he is the latest of all my children to get teeth though! He has his two front teeth at the bottom and his left front top one, the right one is sitting in the gum, I wish it would just break through as he has not been sleeping at all well, waking every hour and then I end up nursing him then falling asleep with him tucked beside me in my bed!

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At his latest check up on Monday he weighed 18lbs 14ozs dressed, the same weight Florrie was at a year old… He is definitely my chunky monkey, but I love it! The Gap is definitely the place to shop for chunky baby boys, the sizes are good and the styles are the trendiest… I’m definitely loving dressing this little boy!

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In the last month Tate had his first Halloween, we didn’t go trick or treating this year, but we did attend the Library’s Annual Halloween parade, so cute… Florrie and Tate had a pumpkin theme this year… Pumpkin fairy and Pumpkin Pixie costumes were handmade lovingly by Mommy and Nanny, and even if I do say it myself they looked so gorgeous!

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Gestational diabetes? Maybe…

I have to say this pregnancy has not been one of my best, I don’t think it’s my age because when I had Farrel at 27, I remember feeling the same… I blame those boys, I seemed to sail through both of my girls pregnancies! I have been waiting patiently for my pregnancy bloom, but it just hasn’t happened, so at 30 weeks I am resigned to 9 more weeks (c section at 39 weeks) of just making the best of how I feel!

Last week after taking the glucose test I was urgently called into my doctors office… Low iron and a high sugar in my blood… Alarm bells… Gestational diabetes… That explains exactly how I have been feeling and looking! Thankfully my OB wanted me to try the diet route first, I was happy about that… High protein, low sugar, low carbs… Basically limited whole wheat carbs or gluten free, lots of protein and very little sugar, fruit included! Now I thought this would be easy, but the first few days were tough… It is surprising how many things we buy and eat that are bad carbs and very sugary, but thankfully we have the internet and Pinterest these days… Life on a special diet does not have to boring, the recipes are endless, and as I am making everyone in my house eat these foods, for ease of planning and cooking, I am getting into full swing… Tonight we have a delicious egg and baked tomato with pesto with a spinach salad and quinoa mix… Lots of protein and iron rich spinach!

After a lot of research over the weekend I have bought blue agave as a sweetener, tofu, I love tofu, very low sugar nut bars for a snack, blue corn chips are meant to be good for blood sugar levels as long as they are not fried, but baked… It has been very interesting to understand how the body works… Protein seems to be a key ingredient along with lots of veggies in most special diets, so this is my thoughts on planning my diet over the coming weeks!

Breakfast seems to be the most difficult to plan and eat well, as I am usually rushing out somewhere, so with this in my mind I have researched one of my favorites baked oatmeal, I can place all the ingredients for a pumpkin baked oatmeal into the Ninja and just switch it on in the morning! Pumpkin is meant to be a super food for diabetics, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, of course we all know that oatmeal is a very slow release complex carb that is good for all diets, making this a perfect breakfast, full of energy and nutrition, it can be made dairy free by using coconut or almond milk and by simply using gluten free oats it becomes gluten free!

Pumpkin pie oatmeal in the slow cooker
My changes to this recipe are… instead of the brown sugar I will add only 1/4 cup of blue agave sweetener, and to replace the pumpkin pie spices I will add cinnamon and nutmeg. Also an addition of a tablespoon of non fat Greek yoghurt adds much needed protein to your nutritious breakfast too!

The moral of this story is when you are feeling very sorry for yourself, as I was last week and finding it difficult to cope with diet changes… Positive thinking and lots of research can make you feel much better, after not eating well on Saturday and feeling dreadful and ending up in bed early on Saturday evening, I am determined to get my blood sugars reduced by just diet alone, I hate taking medication and feel it should definitely be used after trying natural methods for most things… On the plus side we are eating really well now, lots of raw vegetables and complex carbs, paired with lean proteins… Delicious!

On a quick side note… If you are trying to live your life more healthier, or have been diagnosed with a disease that requires a special diet… Go grocery shopping in Costco, over the past few months they have introduced so many new organic healthy choices, all at good competitive prices. Over the past few weeks the new items I have bought are, freekah, a healthy grain like quinoa, very low sugar snacking nut bites, ancient grain spelt flour pretzels, a quinoa and healthy rice mix… Everything has been organic too, which is a big plus in my book! My other faves are their baby kale mixed salad, their own fat free Greek yoghurt, full of protein and now they actually have a very reasonably priced large bottle of avocado oil! There is so much more organic choices to choose from… It’s well worth a visit!

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Recipes to try…
Black and wild rice salad with roasted squash
Olive rosemary bread

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A quiet life… At last!

Life has been kind of quiet recently… Thankfully! I have been concentrating on learning to not spend money, all of my life I have been reckless with money and it’s just not a good thing, so right now I’m learning how to spend our money wisely… What that means for me is a lot more days at home not cruising the aisles in Target… Ha, ha! I have been completing projects that needed doing like hats for Florrie’s Attic, replacing all my cushion covers and a lot more home baking and cooking, which really gives me a sense of achievement when I feed my family wisely! My life is usually so busy and hectic I have really enjoyed some down time to get on with things I’ve wanted to do for a while!

After months of morning sickness we are finally back on track for a healthier diet, Mabel is very happy about this… I have been kind of menu planning, but not strictly, I have ideas of what our menu will be for the week and then I shop the basics and plan each day as I go. My favorite place for recipes at the moment is the whole foods app on my iPad, everything tends to be healthy and is easy to adapt to ingredients you have in. I am trying to bake sweet treats every day to help fill the gap with so many hungry children…

What we ate yesterday…

For breakfast Florrie and I had cereal, after that I prepared the pioneer woman’s pizza dough recipe, I had run out of olive oil so I substituted it with melted coconut oil, I wasn’t sure how it would work but I preferred it. I also put pumpkin chili in the crockpot, now this is a favorite of mine, but not such a favorite for my children, so the pizza was for them, I am loving homemade pizza at the moment, so easy and very tasty! My children are all so very fussy so I am now making very basic pizzas, last night was cheese and a chicken pizza, then I make up a salad and top mine with it, so good, last night I chopped some cherry tomatoes and shredded some baby spinach leaves, to that I added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and salt and pepper, so yummy on the pizza! Finally I made some pumpkin oatmeal muffins, now I told my children they were apple as they think they do not like pumpkin, instead of sour cream I did add apple sauce, so I was not lying and they loved them, see they do like pumpkin, they just don’t know it!

Pumpkin chili in the crock pot

1 pack of ground turkey ( I used Costco fresh meat)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of pumpkin purée ( I used Trader Joes organic)
1 sliced red bell pepper (I used 1/2 packet of Trader Joes frozen bell pepper slices)
1/2 pack of frozen artichoke hearts (I used trader joes)
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons of chili flakes
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 can of drained black beans (or any beans you have to hand)
1 cup of red lentils 1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of flour
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Lightly brown the ground turkey with the oil and then add to the crock pot, then add the can of tomatoes, the pumpkin purée, the pepper, artichokes, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, paprika, red lentils and water, mix thoroughly and cook on low for 5 hours. After 5 hours whisk in the flour to thicken, and then add the beans and spinach, mix again and let this cook for another hour… Serve and enjoy with the topping of your choice… I like grated cheddar cheese, slices of avocado and sour cream!

Pumpkin oatmeal muffins

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup fat free milk
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin pan.
In your mixer whisk together egg, apple sauce, milk, butter, pumpkin, brown sugar, then add flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and oatmeal and gently fold into egg mixture until just combined. Spoon batter into lined muffin tins and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. I then decided to melt 1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of coconut oils and then drizzled it over the muffins!

Both of these recipes are adapted from the Wholefoods app… Very healthy and extremely tasty!

With the clocks going back last weekend and the evenings getting darker so much earlier, my evenings seem so much longer… How does that work, more hours in one day, more time to knit or crochet… Florrie’s Attic has some new things arriving very soon!

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Is it Fall already?

I am definitely a fan of Spring and Summer… I would go so far as to say they are my favorite seasons… But there is definitely something to be said for Fall… I love the flavors of Fall, pumpkin spice, warm apple cider and the array of beautiful soups served with crusty bread that can be created, I love the slightly cool breeze and the warm sunshine mixed together, but most of all I love the silence as the children go back to school after a wild and crazy summer of madness! Now if we only had Fall to contend with and not the harsh temperatures of Winter to follow, I would be very happy, I could very easily live in a warmer climate all year round and be very happy!

Back to school is looming, one more day with no alarms and one more day to get organized, I think this year I am the least organized I have ever been… Still no shoes for Mabel, no school binders and no haircuts, I am running out of time! I love that first day they are back at school… On one hand I miss my children’s craziness in the house, but on the other hand the calmness is wonderful, no lunches to make, no fighting over the programs on the tv and no arguments for a few short hours… Peace and quiet reigns!

An easy recipe to start of this Fall, or should I say soup season from my favorite chef, Jamie Oliver … store cupboard lentil soup

Happy Back to School to everyone… Lets hope this school year is a good one!

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