Category Archives: Eats

When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets

On a Culinary Adventure with Paleo Nick and Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo it’s probably not surprising to know that we never strayed too far from food-focused activities.

Woman slicing papaya | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

The fresh food markets dotted all across Chiang Mai were really interesting – not just for the photogenic subject matter, but also for the many different items on offer & the characters working there.

Fishmonger with live frogs | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

There’s no Coles, Kmart or Woolworths – this is where you buy your food whether you own a restaurant or are just cooking for the family at home. Som, our chef-friend from the Inpoo Food Shop, often buys her curry paste fresh from the markets, along with all her other produce, to save time.

Bowls of spices and curry paste | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

As westerners accustomed to often frozen but at least refrigerated, pre-packaged fresh food it was a little off putting to see piles of fresh meat and fish on display.

Butcher| When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

The thing is though, the fish is so fresh it’s still flapping about first thing in the morning and the meat is snapped up almost as soon as it’s put on display. The demand for produce seems to far outweigh the fresh food ready for purchase.

Fresh fish on ice | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

Baskets of fish | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

Chiang Mai is blessed with so many different types of fruit. Dragonfruit, jackfruit, the infamous durian, bananas, pineapple, papaya: the list goes on.

Colourful dragonfruit | When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

While we didn’t go near a durian, I tried dragonfruit and jackfruit for the first time and probably ate my weight in pineapples and bananas while I was in the country!

Bananas| When in Chiang Mai: Fresh food markets | lizniland.com

The fresh food markets of Chiang Mai are almost inescapable but they’re certainly worth exploring. It was such a great opportunity to learn more about the food and culture of Chiang Mai.

Check out my Chiang Mai tag to read my other posts about my Culinary Adventure.

When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes

There was no way a Culinary Adventure to Chiang Mai with Paleo Nick and Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo was going to go down without a cooking class or two! We ate plenty of delights while we were in Thailand but honestly, the most delicious things I enjoyed were those we made for ourselves during these cooking schools. (Commence the tooting of our own horns!)

Cooking School #1: Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School

Situated a little way out of town, the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School is a very snazzy purpose-built treehouse with picturesque semi-rural surrounds. With access to all the bells and whistles (or utensils and gas burners, as the case was) we learnt how to make a whole menu of delicious Thai dishes and even got a cookbook to recreate the magic at home.

Chef Steph | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

While the food was all super tasty, this class certainly wasn’t paleo – Nick’s face at the mention of soybean oil in a hot wok has akin to that of a small child after a fall, in that quiet moment of realisation before they let out the epic scream. There was soy sauce, seed oils, refined sugar and rice products galore. I thought that Thai food wouldn’t be too far from paleo but we quickly came to the conclusion that, just like back home, unless you make it yourself, it’s pretty hard to know exactly what’s in your meal.

Fried noodles | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Case in point was this fried noodle dish… but just quietly, it was one of my favourites! It’s not something I can see myself trying to recreate at home so it was total guilt-free vacation food. I’m not much of a pizza and cakes kind of girl – give me a random interesting dish like this that’s totally different to my everyday eats & I’m there.

This involved frying a little pile of sauced-up rice noodles until they started to crisp up together into a pattie. It was then set aside while the pork and vegetable mixture hit the wok. See, somehow I don’t think this one will be the same if I attempt to paleofy it with zucchini noodles!

Coconut milk soup & red curry fish | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

The closest-to-paleo dishes at this school were the Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, the Red Curry with Fish and the Papaya Salad. By switching to coconut oil and using a good clean curry paste, the curry has already found its way into my kitchen and I’m keen to try out the soup soon too. I may just have to post up my recreation!

One of the fun things about this cooking school was learning how to prepare ingredients in the Thai way. We learnt all the ways to slice green onion and how to cut a chilli depending on your heat-preference, as well as some kitschy decorative skills. In the vegetable dish above the curry, you’ll be able to see my green onion art and possibly make out the star I carved atop my mushroom, while below, note my attempt of a tomato rose. I haven’t cracked these out on my home dinners yet but I might just have to at least get a tomato flower into a salad sometime soon!

Papaya salad - Som tam | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Originally, we were going to have 2 days out at this cooking school but, while we learnt a lot about how the flavours of Thai food work and what the foundation ingredients are, we weren’t so fussed on learning how to make more food we’d have to paleofy so much to cook at home. Enter the Inpoo Food Shop.

Cooking School #2: Stupid Easy Paleo Nick Cooking Class

Across the road from our accommodation was a small restaurant named Inpoo Food Shop. Fronted by a roadside kitchen (wo)manned by Som with occasional assistance from her tuk-tuk driving significant other Payut, Inpoo was a deliciously easy favourite with the ninjas. Nick befriended the couple on day 1 and by the time we needed a second day of cooking school, Som graciously let us take over her restaurant.

Som's pad thai | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

We broke up into small teams to tackle a dish from a menu Nick created. I joined with Jose and Jen to become the Friendship Curry team. Using what we’d learnt at the first cooking school but applying paleo principles, we put together a list of ingredients and hit the markets to shop for what we needed.

Som's curry paste | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Lucky for us, Som made us a fresh batch of curry paste to use (as well as a plate of her pad thai for us to taste-test!) so we didn’t need much more than some eggs, pork, coconut milk and a couple of fresh vegetables.

Our friendship curry | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

And didn’t it turn out pretty! To boost the protein, Jen had the brilliant idea of decorating the top of the curry with boiled eggs. I was sceptical at first but I loved the finished product – both the flavour and the texture of the eggs really complemented the spicy curry. I’m keen to try doing this in my own kitchen now too.

Friendship curry team | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Our team was pretty special – we were the only group with each person from a different country! I’m Australian, Jen is from Malaysia and Jose resides in the U.S. We thought that was totally appropriate for a team taking on a Friendship Curry.

Paleo chicken satay skewers & laarb | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It wasn’t all about the Friendship Curry though – the other dishes that made the final feast were chicken satay skewers, laarb with cabbage leaves for scooping and wrapping, an epic fruit salad served up on a banana leaf and a spicy papaya salad. We invited Som & Payut to dig in first and then we all finally got to sample each others dishes. The feast even lured in some hungry Canadian backpackers so they piled up a plate too.

Sharing our feast | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It was such a fun challenge at the Inpoo but I think we really needed the first day’s cooking school to be able to know what we were doing once we were on our own. Even just knowing what all the different vegetables were at the markets would have been difficult without a bit of education. Being able to take on the Inpoo kitchen with Som really solidified the skills and techniques we learned at school #1. Even though it was a bit of an unplanned change, I thought our whole cooking class experience was great fun and totally beneficial for my expanding my cheffing abilities.

Have you seen my other posts about Thailand? So far I’ve posted about why I went to Chiang Mai, the amazing Chiang Mai lantern festival and the elephant park and ziplining adventure. It was a great trip!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Raisin Protein Slice

Want a powered-up protein snack that’s actually delicious and full of #cleaneating goodness? I took these High-Protein Oatmeal Cookies and hacked them to macro-meeting perfection.

They’re most definitely not paleo but they did the job for me when I was getting a little tired of eating so much animal protein on a macro-focused food challenge.

Peanut Butter Raisin Protein Slice | Clean eating snack | lizniland.com

Peanut Butter Raisin Protein Slice

Serves 20 | Macros per serve: Calories 159, Protein 14g, Carbs 15g, Fat 5g  

 

2 cups of puffed buckwheat
2 cups of oats
4 teaspoons of Natvia
8 scoops of protein (I used AboutTime Cinnamon Swirl Whey Protein Isolate)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup of raisins
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened apple puree
1/2 cup egg whites (I use Puregg Simply Egg Whites)
1/2 cup of plain fat free yogurt (I used 0% Chobani)
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
5 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used Mayvers Organic Crunchy – get one with nothing more than peanuts and maybe a little salt)

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Blitz the first 6 ingredients (the dry ingredients) in a food processor or blender to combine.

Add the last 7 ingredients (the wet ingredients + raisins & cinnamon) and stir to combine into a batter. Add a few drops of water if it’s a little dry (and if you use a pea protein, it might be).

Pour the batter into a lined 8 x 8 pan and pop in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until the slice is lightly browned on top. It should still be a bit fudgey.

Let it cool before slicing into 20 squares & store in the fridge.

Review: I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson | lizniland.com

I’ve been loving this book sick since the day I bought it. So if you’re reading this to get a yay-or-nay on its worthiness for purchase, the 4-word review is: Go and buy it. It rarely rests in the bookshelf, usually perched next to my knife block ready to be splattered and tattered again.

DIY Sauerkraut | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

DIY Sauerkraut | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

A fan of Sarah Wilson since her magazine days, I enjoy her writing and style but, I have to admit, the passion for the “I Quit Sugar” movement had started to grate. It kind of surprised me how much I love this book and what it stands for. I don’t know what drew me to it given I didn’t buy the first book, didn’t do the online program and never really understood, as many don’t, why the goal was to “quit sugar” but the recipes popping up from the quest to do so were simply subbing the refined stuff for stevia or rice malt syrup. It had always sounded very SWYPO for my liking.

Choc coco-nutty granola | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

Choc coco-nutty granola | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

While IQS for Life does offer up “A chapter of chocolate” and “Celebrations and treats with which to impress the sceptics”, it is more of a lifestyle book (which just happens to include awesome-sauce recipes) with tips on everything from ayurveda to DIY sauerkraut and minimising food wastage. Be prepared to be converted to the rice syrup after learning who’s who in the sugar zoo but, more interestingly, you’ll learn how to (& have a desire to!) gut a batch of sardines, bake the most delicious faux KFC and cook up a rad paleo loaf. It’s not a paleo book specifically but, when you eat unprocessed, low fructose, whole foods, well… give or take some quality dairy and that’s what you’re pretty much left with!

Paleo inside-out bread | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

Paleo inside-out bread | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

When you figure out how sweet life is when you’re running on fat and protein, rather than on the never-ending treadmill of sugar peaks and valleys, it’s hard not to evangelise the shiitake mushrooms out of it all. Sarah Wilson is on a mission to get the world on board and IQS for Life is the perfect introduction to life without the 3pm slump, especially if you’re sceptical or even sick of the down-with-sugar message.

"KFC" and coleslaw | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

“KFC” and coleslaw | I Quit Sugar For Life by Sarah Wilson

It’s a shame Sarah often gets slammed for being anti-fruit, and down-right anti-fun, by characters who don’t understand the impact a processed diet high in sugar has had on the population. (If you need convincing on this point and don’t want it from Wilson, watch The Men Who Made Us Fat)

The main thing I love about IQS for Life is that it reaches beyond the sugar substitutes and encourages an extra serve of greens, enough dietary fat, a focus on preparation and a life of shareable food experiences.

Yeah, there’s some anti-banana sentiment and no, you can’t escape without seeing a green smoothie recipe but, all-in-all, these are recipes and life tips for normal, everyday people (regardless of whether you fully expunge your pantry of honey, maple syrup & dark chocolate chips).

Week of eats: A batch of winter breakfasts

Breakfast is my favourite meal. There, I said it. Like a mother declaring the favourite child, here I am announcing where my heart truly lies – let’s hope karma doesn’t make me ruin my dinner now!

I’ll start this round up off with the only brekkie here that I didn’t make: a beautiful vegan rice porridge from my favourite weekend haunt, One Penny Black. Accompanied by a long black and a good tabloid newspaper, it was a delicious way to start off my Sunday! Michael’s doing a 10,000 steps challenge with his work at the moment so after we chowed this breakfast down, we went for an epic walk. So epic, in fact, that he doubled his goal for the day!

One Penny Black's vegan rice porridge | Week of Eats: Winter breakfasts | lizniland.com

Three, sometimes four, mornings per week I train at Gritshed before the sun has even sensed that its alarm is about to go off. I don’t eat before I work out so by 7am when I get home, I’m ravenous! I’m never satisfied with just a smoothie, especially on a training day, so I decided to start serving one up with some quick fried eggs topped with a scoop of homemade sauerkraut. This is a fun colourful breakfast that is guaranteed to keep my belly happy.

Fried eggs, sauerkraut & a speedy smoothie | Week of Eats: Winter breakfasts | lizniland.com

It’s been almost a year since I cut out the grains and dairy but I’ve recently been introducing buckwheat into my morning meal to great success. I find soaking it overnight & then warming it up with some creamy coconut or almond milk in a porridge is a beautiful way to kick into gear on a cold morning. Give my dairy-free buckwheat, chia & maca porridge a try for yourself!

Buckwheat, chia & maca porridge | Week of Eats: Winter breakfasts | lizniland.com

If I have oven space & a few minutes to spare on the weekend, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find me putting a batch of granola together. I always experiment with whatever flavours I have available. This one was made with coconut flakes, buckwheat puffs and a few other scoops of fruits and seeds. If you haven’t made one for yourself before, give my Grain-free fig and hazelnut granola a crack and then start experimenting.

Coconut, fig & buckwheat granola | Week of Eats: Winter breakfasts | lizniland.com

 

Want some more breakfast ideas? Here’s my round up of squeaky-clean paleo breakfast options.

What’s your favourite thing to have for breakfast? While I love my eggs & savoury brekkies, I’m really enjoying a good porridge lately – I blame winter! A guy I work with can’t even stand the thought of breakfast – that could never be me!

Recipe: Dairy-free buckwheat, chia & maca porridge

Buckwheat, chia & maca porridge | Gluten free, dairy free & vegan winter breakfast recipe | lizniland.com

I’ve always been all about the eggs for breakfast. Even as a kid, no sleepy Saturday morning was complete without dippy yolks and buttered toast soldiers. And although I wouldn’t say times have changed, the wintery cold mornings of late have definitely had me thinking about warming bowls of creamy porridge.

Enter buckwheat. Is it paleo? Nope, not if you’re all hardcore about your anti-grain movement (it’s referred to as a ‘pseudograin’). But, if you follow a more paleo-inspired approach, I’m with Chris Kresser: if it works for you, soak it & psuedo on.

Even though it’s gluten-free, buckwheat is still a starchy guy so it’s a good option on days where you need a bit more energy – I usually only have this breakfast on training mornings. It’s not necessarily a great option if you’re trying to trim some kilos (same goes for spuds, rice and any other carbolicious eats) but hell, it has got to beat a croissant, right?

To keep it kind to your insides, minimise the anti-nutrients by soaking your buckwheat groats overnight in a bowl of water. I sort this out the night before and leave it covered with plastic wrap on the bench. So yeah, you need to plan this one the night before. C’mon now though, your future self will be thanking you so hard for laying the groundwork for such warm creamy goodness.

Recipe: Buckwheat, chia & maca porridge

Serves 2 hungry humans | Start it the night before

  • 1/2 cup of buckwheat groats, soaked overnight (go for natural groats, not the toasted ones)
  • 1 cup of almond, coconut or other milk of choice
  • 1 grated nashi pear (or just use an apple when the nashi is out of season)
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons of maca powder (yeah, it’s a ‘superfood’ but it’s quite delish!)
  • Hearty sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • 4 sliced dried figs (or a small handful of raisins or similar)
  • For garnish & added deliciousness: a little pile of blueberries, fresh or frozen-thawed

Drain & rinse the soaked buckwheat and combine it, along with everything except your garnish into a saucepan on low-medium heat.

Stir regularly as it all warms together and thickens for around 5-10 minutes. If you need any extra liquid to get it to your desired consistency, slowly add either some more milk or water.

Turn off the heat, stick the lid on & let your porridge settle into that creamy puddle of awesome you’re craving. Meanwhile, get your blueberries & serving bowls ready and make sure your breakfast buddy is out of bed.

Dish it out & get stuck in, without burning your tongue.

 

If you give this recipe a try, hit it with a filter & tag me in it on Instagram. I’d love to know how you go!

Pork Ewe Deli + Endive, fig & root veg salad

An epically delicious wagyu bresaola at our favourite Spanish restaurant, Barrio 2304 (post to come!), led us to check out the new-to-town charcuterie, Pork Ewe Deli on Saturday morning.

Pork Ewe Deli Mayfield

Situated on Maitland Road, Mayfield, this deli brings the best flavours from around Australia and Europe to Newcastle in the shape of amazing cheeses, cured meats, terrines, pate and pretty much any other deli-cacy (see what I did there!) you can imagine.

The cabinet at Pork Ewe Deli Mayfield

We snaffled up a slim wedge of Beaufort cheese (a French raw cow’s milk cheese) and a pile of freshly sliced capocollo (dry-cured pork neck) but wow, everything in the cabinet looked absolutely delicious.

Beaufort and Capocollo at Pork Ewe Deli Mayfield

While we certainly would’ve been happy to kick back and chow down on our purchases straight up for lunch, in a bid to get some more nutrients into the mix, I put together a hearty salad to accompany our unpasteurised French cheese & mouth-wateringly awesome-sauce deli meat.

Recipe: Endive, fig & root veg salad

  • Root vegies of your choice (parsnip would be great, potatoes, turnip, swede & onions will also work a treat)
  • A bunch or two of baby endive
  • ~10 fresh mint leaves
  • Handful of dried figs (sliced & soaked in a little bowl of water for 20 minutes)
  • Dressing: 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses + juice of half a lemon + olive oil + salt & pepper

Roast a pile of whatever root veg you have floating around – I opted for chunks of sweet potato & swede with a sliced red onion for good luck. I find that you can never roast too much veg – I always try and roast double what I think we’ll need and it never seems to go to waste.

Endive fig and root veg salad

Sprinkle your favourite selection of seasonings on top  – I went with olive oil, sesame seeds, ground cumin, hazelnut meal, some dried thyme & dried chilli flakes – before throwing it all in a hot oven to soften up & crisp nicely around the edges.

dried figs

While the oven is doing its thing, slice your dried figs and get them soaking. When they’re in season, fresh figs would be ideal here.

For a dressing, I kept it simple with pomegranate molasses, lemon, a crackle of fresh salt & pepper and a good glug of olive oil. Whisk it until combined, or better yet, put your ingredients in a little jar & shake it like a polaroid picture.

Salad raw cheese and capocollo

Once the veg is done, toss everything together in a bowl & serve it up.

While I’m sure the French would be shaking fists that such a delicious cheese be served without a baguette, I can report that making a little taco out of your capocollo and filling it with tangy endive is a sure-fire way to keep your tastebuds onside.

If you’re a Newcastle native, or even in town for a visit, be sure to support this new local superstar. Pork Ewe Deli is definitely a new favourite of ours!

Week of eats: A taste of Darwin

As I type with frozen finger tips, I definitely know I’m back home in the winter weather & no longer holidaying in Australia’s sunny ‘Top End’, Darwin. We flew in late last night & are still stepping over half-emptied bags and laundry piles.

Until I get all my photos sorted & some more thoughts organised, I thought I’d share some of the stand out food moments from Darwin’s restaurants, cafes & much-loved markets.

It has to be said: it’s hard sticking to our primarily Paleo eating template when there’s crocodile burgers to taste. This trio from the infamous Humpty Doo Hotel was our inspired grub of choice en route to see the jumping crocs – pics to follow, don’t you worry!

Humpty Doo Hotel Darwin burgers

The Asian influence on the food scene in Darwin is particularly noticeable at the markets which pop up throughout the surrounding suburbs right across the weekend in the dry season. This laksa most definitely lived up to the recommendations we had from both locals and previous travellers. I got this at Mindil Beach Markets but apparently the favourite laksa-vendor to many is to be found at Parap’s Saturday markets.

Mindil Beach Markets laksa

The Asian influence (especially South East Asian) is not limited to market food – there are plenty of restaurants in Darwin dishing up rice paper rolls, creamy curries and spicy seafood. Chow was a notable favourite.

kimchi chow restaurant darwin

Good coffee in Darwin is notoriously hard to find but newcomer The Pearl offered one of the better beans (we ranked it 2nd behind Pierre’s long blacks at Rawgasm Cafe in the mall). Being from increasingly cafe-saturated Newcastle though, we are pretty snobbish with such things! While the coffee was certainly above the local average, it was the inspired cafe food that grabbed our attention. This Arabic rice pudding was a feast for the senses.

The Pearl Darwin cafe pudding

Have you been to Darwin? What were your thoughts on the food options?

I’ll be sharing more from our Top End adventure over the coming week – stay tuned!

My 10 basic building blocks of paleo eating

I love experimenting with new recipes & finding new ways to whip up delicious feasts. That said though, there are a few basic meals that I always come back to, most of which revolve around the building blocks in this list.

Combine them with each other, with other recipes you find or use these as the basis to create your own adventure. Nail this list of recipes, and the cooking world’s your oyster (or other shellfish of choice).

10 paleo building blocks

 

1. Cauliflower rice

You need a food processor or blender to make this one worth your while but it’s worth the purchase to have this alone in your arsenal. All you need to do is break a raw cauli into florets, whizz til ricey-looking & then toss into a hot frypan with your choice of flavours & cover for a few minutes until slightly softened. Picture B is a cauliflower fried rice I made with sliced chicken thighs, sliced omelette & assorted fridge-cleanout vegetables. Try it plain with salt & pepper & a squeeze of lemon to accompany fish, or experiment with sliced almonds & turmeric to replace a Moroccan-inspired couscous.

2. Zucchini noodles

Use either a standard veggie peeler or a julienne peeler (this is what I use) shred zucchinis into noodles. Let them dry out for 10-20 minutes or so & then throw them in a hot pan with some coconut oil & a sprinkle of powdered garlic (Picture C). Once you’ve got that down, indulge in these Comfort Noodles.

3. Garbage stir-fry

We covered this one in the breakfast round up but it’s a format you can whip out any old time. Clean out the fridge, slice everything evenly, stir fry in some coconut oil & call it a meal. Make sure there’s a serve of protein involved & if you’re throwing in any leftovers, make sure this is their final outing – only reheat food once.

4. Chicken thighs

While I don’t mind a tin of (sustainably caught) tuna on my lunchtime salads, I do love a good chicken thigh (Picture D). I cook up a batch in the oven on the weekend with S&P, a sprinkle of paprika & garlic and a drizzle of oil. Let them roast for 20 minutes or so at 220°C, until they’re crispy around the edges & cooked through.

5. Boiled eggs

I keep a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge at all times. Throw them in salads, have them as an emergency breakfast or scoff them with raw veggie sticks for afternoon tea. For a refresher in making perfect ones, check out this article.

6. Roasted veg

Cold salads are fine in the summer but they aren’t as appealing come blustery winter days. When you’ve got a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, prep a tray of veg to go in as well – brussels sprouts, fennel, zucchini, eggplant & tomatoes, not to mention starchier options like pumpkin & sweet potato, all get their delicious on in this scenario.

7. Mayonnaise

Queen of the condiments in my opinion, the humble mayonnaise can have some offensive ingredients when bought off the long-life supermarket shelf. An egg, some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon & your choice of seasonings are all you need to whip your own in less than a minute. Legit.

8. Meatballs

Whether you make balls, bangers or burgers, mince-y concoctions are cheap, tasty & portable. Like boiled eggs, they’re totally versatile & easy to batch cook. Melissa Joulwan has an epic collection in her book Well Fed 2 & on her website.

9. A slow-cooked bulk meat fest

Another one for the winter days, cooking up a big pot of melt-in-your-mouth meat is a beautiful way to get your house smelling amazing & your co-workers jealous of your leftover lunches for days. Pulled pork is always a favourite and don’t forget about cheaper cuts – they’re perfect for the slowcooker.

10. Guacamole

Like mayonnaise, guacamole is a top condiment to dollop on salads to up your healthy fat quota & shines as a dip with veggie sticks.

Breakfast: A future without Sultana Bran

When there’s no toast, no cereal, no oats & not even a dollop of yogurt on the menu, breakfast can seem insurmountable. And of course there’s eggs but, without toast, how do you turn them into a meal?

It’s ok, I’ve been there

My friends, it’s time to flip your thinking. What if you could just think of breakfast as Meal #1 or #2 of the day. Mind blown? The only reason we think we need to eat a certain way at a certain time is just because we’ve been raised to believe that’s the way it is. If you’d grown up in China, donkey meat pastry pockets or a steaming bowl of wonton soup might be your morning jam (or your Coco Pops, as it were).

Carlie, one of our Gritters, introduced me to Pinkfarm, a Facebook page run by two busy mums who love their wholefoods & healthy living. The Pinkfarm ladies have coined the term “Royal Breakfasts” & it’s worth checking out what they & their kids sit up to each morning. They actively avoid eating standard breakfast fare & come up with magnificent healthful feasts.

It might feel a bit wild to think of tucking in to a steak & veg for your morning meal, & that’s totally ok, but you need to stretch your thinking: life is still worth living without Sultana Bran.

So where to from here?

Stick to the rules we’ve been given with this 21-day challenge: a palm-size piece of protein, a couple of serves of veg & a good dose of healthy fat. Yep, you’re going to be hating life quick-smart if you’re waking up to a steamed chicken breast & salad each morning so you need to break some barriers & change the breakfast game.

My best breakfasts happen when I:

  • Cook extra vegies &/or meat the night before
  • Am prepared with some pre-cooked bits & pieces (meatballs, egg muffins, boiled eggs & cooked mince)
  • Have a fridge full of options
A 'royal breakfast': Leftover beef, kale & cauliflower rice, topped with an egg

A ‘royal breakfast’: Leftover beef, kale & cauliflower rice, topped with an egg

More often than not, I eat a combination of eggs, a couple of vegies & sometimes some kind of leftover meat. This can vary between scrambled, fried or poached eggs & I alter the veg based on what’s in the fridge but it always involves a green leafy. I often cook up a batch of meatballs or lightly seasoned mince on the weekend to use in breakfasts too.

…but aren’t I going to get sick of that?

Nope, not if you keep mixing it up! Here’s a few different ideas to get you thinking:

…but I don’t have time to cook in the morning, let alone sit down

I’d say have a smoothie but… with no fruit & no milk (coconut, dairy or almond milk) & when you’ve already downed a protein shake post workout, do you really want to? Mate, if you’re on for slurping cold spinach, celery, protein/an egg or two & water, I bow down to you. There’s a motherload of smoothie recipes here though if you’re interested.

Let me introduce another option to you: pre-cooking. Get organised in advance & you can either heat & eat at work, wrangle the kids with one hand while chowing into a muffin with the other or just take it a little slower knowing your breakfast can be in your face in mere seconds.

  • Egg, veg & meat muffins – mix & match some extra veg into these & swap out the meat depending on what you prefer/have on hand
  • Egg muffins
  • Frittata – slice it up & serve it with some sauteed veg if you have the time, otherwise chow it down however you can
  • Boiled eggs – pre-boil some eggs so you can peel & eat whenever & wherever you need to. These are perfect with a salad for lunch too.
  • Meatballs – like the above, make these up & eat hot or cold on the go or sliced up into other delicious dishes
  • Breakfast casserole – use your preferred mince (turkey is tasty!)
Paleo delicious muffins

Smiley egg muffins

…but I don’t like eggs

If you’re hate a runny yolk but are cool with a quiche-y egg style, see above. Otherwise, if you just can’t handle the little suckers or need a break from them, try some of the following:

  • More meatballs… Top ’em with guacamole & dish up with some sautéed veg (mushrooms, tomato etc)
  • Or kill two birds with one stone & put the avocado inside the meatball… Wow.
  • Hit the zucchinis hard with a Zuke-fest breakfast 
  • Paleo guru Mel’s power breakfast:
  • Fiesta breakfast bowl
  • Zucchini pancakes – grate a zucchini, finely slice a shallot & mix them with an egg & whichever herbs & spices strike your fancy. Pan fry dollops of it in a little coconut/olive oil until browned on both sides & set in the middle.

How did I do? Have I convinced you that you can rock your early morning meal?

Be sure to comment if you’ve stumbled across any awesome breakfast ideas, or if you’ve created your own morning masterpiece.

Les Mills 21-day Nutrition Challenge

Les Mills, the genius people behind my beloved Grit, has a 21 day challenge which basically involves going squeaky clean, low-carb paleo (with the addition of a post-workout shake) for 21 days.

I’ve been thinking of doing a Whole 30 or similar lately & when this was raised at Gritshed, I thought it would be an ideal way to reduce the number of sweet potatoes I was ploughing through & have a break from my nightly dark chocolate anti-oxidant habit.

Normal paleo rules are in play but there’s also guidelines around portion sizes and timing of meals, as well as reducing your starchy carb intake.

Here’s the lowdown from Les Mills food dude Corey Baird:

So who’s with me?

I’m kicking this off on Wednesday March 19th & will be rolling through until Wednesday April 9th. For those clever cats playing at home, yep, that’s 22 days. Why is that? Well, it’s our anniversary in early April & we have a deluxe dinner booked at our favourite local restaurant Subo. While they do the most deliciously delicate meals of mostly locally sourced ingredients, I’m not missing out on a decadent feast due to possible traces of starchy carbs.

That’s my declaration of my only off-the-plan meal. I’m making the choice here to indulge in something I’m planning & totally looking forward to. This is vastly different to chowing into a block of chocolate at 9pm, or devouring a parcel of hot chips for a lazy dinner. And this is the secret to staying on the clean-eating bandwagon.

We’ve all had our slip-ups, felt like crap & ate our feelings.

The difference we want to develop with this challenge & with eating going forward is that you can & will be able to make a choice about everything that goes into your mouth. This isn’t about being hyper-aware of calories or ‘bad foods’, it’s about making choices. If you genuinely want that piece of chocolate, or that 7-course degustation in my case, & it is a choice you are consciously making, get in there & don’t feel guilty, enjoy it!

If you do fall victim to a carbalicious convenience food or a stray pile of deep fried business, get over it & get straight back on with cleaning up your act ahead of your next meal.

Don’t wait for the next day. Don’t wait for the next week. Don’t give up

Until launch day, I’m going to be posting a bunch of tips & bits to help you prepare for the challenge. Preparation is a big part of eating this way & even though it might seem like a load of work to start off with, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly & find the best way to make it work for you.

Once things are underway, I’ll still be posting regularly both here & via Instagram to share my experiences & delicious discoveries.

Let’s change the game.

Recipe: Best ever guacamole

For my mate Lee’s engagement party, she requested I bring a big batch of my Best Ever Guacamole. Plonked next to platters of vegetable sticks and corn chips, two trays of this stuff were pretty well demolished before I’d collected a glass of wine to sample some with.

What have we learned? Always make too much guacamole!

Don’t think you have to make this for a function either – I often make a batch on a Sunday & we use it through the week in salads or as a mini Mexi-fiesta with carrot & capsicum sticks. It’s also good dolloped on your morning veg & egg scramble or as a topping for whatever protein you’ve got on the dinner menu.

Guac on a speedy lunch of greens, sweet potato & eggs

Guac on a speedy lunch of greens, sweet potato & eggs

This recipe serves 4-6 guacamole-loving individuals as a party starter. Scale the recipe as required & store in the fridge. It’ll last for a few days – unless you eat it all, which is likely.

Best ever guacamole

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 spring onion/shallot (whatever you call the long green ones. You could sub in red onion here if you’re left shallot-less)
  • 4-6 slices of jarred jalapeños (adjust depending on your heat preferences)
  • 1 lime (or lemon)
  • Salt (Use some good stuff – ain’t nobody got time for that Table Salt business! I use Himalayan pink salt)

Finely slice your shallots & jalapeños and mush the suckers in a mortar & pestle (or with the back of a fork) until they’re a good green mess.

Add the juice of half the lime & grind in more salt than you think you should (about 1/2 – 3/4 of a teaspoon to start off with)

Mix everything together, cover & put it in the fridge for around 30 mins (& up to a few hours) to get the flavours mingling to the max.

When you’re ready to serve, or when the desire for guac overwhelms you, mash in the avocados.

Be sure to taste as you go – you want a good combination of flavours. Don’t be tempted to put in a bucketload of lime though; if it tastes like it’s missing something, you probably just need to add a little more salt. Stir it through & then taste again. You’ve got your other lime half though if you do need a little more zesty action.

Make ahead tip: When I made this for Lee, I mashed up the shallot/jalapeño/lime/salt mix a couple of hours before the party & then added in the avocado just prior to serving, adjusting seasoning accordingly.

A tower of sweet potato nachos crowned by delicious guacamole

A tower of sweet potato nachos crowned by delicious guacamole