Vegan Mushroom and Cauliflower Soup

Soup-er easy, nourishing, heart-warming and vegan – it’s just like a big hug in a bowl!

Ingredients (serves 4) 

  • 250g mushroom cups
  • 1 small whole cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 litre stock of your choice (vegetable if you’re vegan, chicken if you’re not)
  • 150g shimeji or enoki mushrooms
  • brown rice to serve

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C. Chop the cauliflower and the mushroom cups into small pieces of roughly equal sizes. Leave the shimeji mushrooms whole. Spray the vegetables with olive oil, and roast on a lined baking tray until the mushrooms are squishy and the cauliflower is browning / crispy around the edges (approximately 15-20 minutes).
  2. Cook the brown rice as per directions on the packet.
  3. Place the roasted mushroom cup pieces, cauliflower, garlic and stock in the blender, and blend until smooth. Top with the brown rice and shimeji mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pesto Zoodles

What do you call fake spaghetti? An im-pasta.

Jokes aside, this easy mid-week meal with oodles and oodles of zucchini noodles is a delicious alternative for those who are wanting to be carb conscious or just increase their daily intake of vegetables. For an added protein hit, add roasted chicken, otherwise this dish is vegan, as well as dairy and gluten free!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 medium zucchini (or you can buy pre-zoodled packs in major supermarkets)
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality basil pesto
  • 200g butternut pumpkin
  • 4 small chicken breasts (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon of dukkha (I used the pistachio dukkha by Table of Plenty here)

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C. Chop the pumpkin into chunks and lightly spray / coat with olive oil. Roast on a lined baking tray until soft and golden (about 25 minutes). If using the chicken, place the breasts onto a lined baking tray, season with salt and pepper, and roast until just coked through (about 15-20 minutes). Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Using a spiraliser, turn the four zucchini into noodles and toss in the pesto.
  3. Serve the zoodles with the pumpkin, chicken and dukka on top. Easy!

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Plant-based, high protein, dairy-free, gluten-friendly and low refined sugar – what’s not to love about this variation on chocolate mousse?!

Ingredients (serves 2) 

Method

  1. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until set (approximately 1 hour). Top with cacao nibs. Enjoy!

Buddha Bowls

Good enough for you to say ‘Namaste in for dinner tonight’, these vegetable based bowls are bursting with nutrition, and make for a terrific ‘throw together’ meal when you’re short on time. They have the added benefit of being largely plant-based (see note below) and contribute significantly to your required 5+ servings of vegetables of day.

When constructing the ultimate buddha bowl, try to experiment with textures and tastes (refer to my The Secret to Sexy Salads!) and remember, the greater variety of colours, the better your micronutrient profile.

Note some of these bowls are vegetarian rather than vegan, but most have a vegan alternative.


Tahini Tofu Bowl (Vegan) 

Tofu, tahini, sauerkraut, roasted pumpkin and sweet potato, pistachios, cranberries and leafy greens.


Black Bean Bowl (Vegan) 

1/2 cauliflower rice mixed with 1/2 avocado, 1 tbsp vegan spinach cream (a mixture of spinach and crushed sunflower seeds), 1/8 red cabbage and 1/2 stalk broccoli; topped with 1/3 can black beans and served on leafy greens.


Apple Broccoli Bowl  (Vegan option)

1 cup spinach and 1/2 stalk broccoli tossed with 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt, 2 tsp mustard and 1 tsp maple syrup, topped with 1 small green apple. Substitute the Greek yogurt for almond milk yogurt for a vegan alternative.


Za’atar Cumin Pumpkin and Pomegranate Bowl (Vegan option) 

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend including sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. Some versions also include marjoram, oregano and sea salt, while I’ve seen others throw in fenugreek and coriander seeds. To make this version above, use 1 tsp each of dried thyme and sumac with 2 tsp of toasted sesame seeds. 

Roast 1/4 kent pumpkin with 1 tbsp za’atar and 2 tsp cumin, then toss with 1/4 small roasted cauliflower, a handful of rocket and spinach, a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds, 75g Bulgarian feta cheese and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil. Substitute the feta cheese for cashew cheese in the same quantity for a vegan version.


Bean Burger Bowl  (Vegan)

Bean Supreme black bean burger pattie (but any vegetarian pattie will do!), with roasted pumpkin, zucchini and kale, fresh tomato, carrot and cumcumber, and a side of hummus.


Lemon Goat Cheese and Peas Bowl 

1 cup of peas mixed with 10 chopped green beans, a handful of cranberries, 1 roasted zucchini, pomegranate seeds, mint leaves and lemon myrtle goat cheese (but you can substitute with regular goat cheese and 1 tsp lemon myrtle).


Black Eyed Beans and Buckwheat Bowl (Vegan option) 

Mix 1/3 can of drained black eyed beans with baby spinach, 50g of feta cheese, 1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes (herbed, in oil) and 1/4 cup of buckwheat groats (cooked or raw). Substitute 50g of cashew cheese instead of feta for a vegan option.

Breakfast On The Go

This is a follow on from my ‘Sexy Salads’ and ‘Meal Prep for Professionals’ pieces, as I am out to prove that if a sleep-deprived and ridiculously busy doctor can make the time to organise her food, then there’s nothing holding you back too!

My colleagues at work have both teased and praised me for my breakfast choices at work. I tend to arrive hurriedly at 7 am, still in my gym clothes, madly eating a jar of breakfast while attempting to change into my scrubs and make my hair and makeup presentable. Yes I did say a jar of breakfast.

The breakfast parfait / layered breakfast jar is one of the ultimate nutritious breakfasts on the go, and surprisingly easy to make. Some of the most beautiful breakfast jars on social media have to be seen to be believed, but us mere mortals don’t often have the time for that. But if you’re keen to start the day on the wholesome foot, here are a few ideas to get you started!

Overnight Oats 

Essentially the cream-less version of Bircher Muesli. Place 1/4 cup of oats in the jar and mix with a yogurt of your choice (stick to the plain ones with less sugar, I like the plain fat reduced Chobani or Paul’s natural style yogurt) and add a scoop of your favourite protein powder if you’re that way inclined. You can also kick start the metabolism with a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric or ginger, or really mix things up with some matcha powder or grated carrot / zucchini (don’t knock it until you try it!). Then top with fruit (frozen berries work well here but also try banana, mango or stonefruit) and your favourite granola or nuts. These don’t have to be left in the fridge overnight but they thicken when they do. You can easily make a stash of them a few days in advance and enjoy a run of less-stressful morning rushes to work!


Chia Pudding

Similar to overnight oats in terms of the process, however it does require the added step of being mixed with a fork. Soak 1/4 cup of chia seeds in a milk of your choice (I find the nut and soy milks work better here for some reason) and mix well with a fork. Let it sit for five minutes and stir with a fork again and you’ll notice that the seeds develop a gelatinous coating and stick together as pudding. Allow to rest for another five minutes before topping with fruit, granola, nuts and / or yogurt, and let it sit overnight in the fridge for the ultimate thick consistency.

Want a decadent breakfast without the calories and guilt? Try 1/4 cup of chia seeds mixed with 1/2 cup of almond milk and 1 tablespoon cacao. Top with coconut yogurt, cacao nibs and a dollop of your favourite natural peanut butter – absolute bliss!

Baked Eggs

A less fancy but no less tasty variation on Eggs en concotte or Shakshuka. Pre-heat the oven to 180*C or so. For a single serve, take a large oven proof jar or ramekin and spray with olive oil. Line the base with spinach, kale or silverbeet, then add whatever tidbits take your fancy (like leftover roasted vegetables, fetta cheese, haloumi, sundried tomatoes, capsicum, mushrooms etc). Then crack two large free-range eggs over the top (don’t scramble!) and season with salt, pepper, dukkha / dried herbs / a sprinkle of cheese, then bake until the whites are firm. These can be made en-masse and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days ahead, or can even be frozen. Just reheat when ready to eat, although many combinations actually taste good cold too!


Vegetable slice alternative: Preheat the oven to 200*C and line a small brownie tray with baking paper. In a bowl mix 6 eggs, 1/2 cup of plain flour of your choice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tsp baking powder and then throw in 1 cup of whatever finely chopped vegetables you like – chopped spinach, rocket, tomatoes, mushroom, roast potato / pumpkin, steamed broccoli, grated carrot, zucchini etc. Sprinkle with your choice of cheese and seasoning, then bake until just set (10-12 minutes). The result is 4 servings of a portable, delicious, fluffy, quiche-like slice!


Smoothie Jars 

As long as you use an airtight jar, these can be made the day before for the ultimate portable liquid breakfast (and you usually get two servings out of each). Try blending 1 cup of nut milk, 1 cup of spinach, 1/2 cup of frozen berries and a 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to increase your daily intake of leafy greens. Need refuelling after your morning workout? Try blending 1/2 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of plain yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, 1/4 cup of oats and 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter. Skip the banana bread and instead use 1 cup of almond milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 banana, 1/4 cup of oats, and 1/2 tsp each of cinnamom, cardamom and ginger. It’s pretty hard to stuff these up nutritionally, just use fruit instead of sweeteners and limit the amount that goes in. Also stick to blending rather than juicing as this tends to extract the flavour and sugar from the fruit / vegetables without retaining the amazing fibre that helps to keep you full (and your bowels regular!).


 

Meal Prep For Professionals

The meal preppers. We’ve all seen one. Those mystical people on Instagram who manage to make a month’s worth of meals in one go, leaving themselves organised and thus carefree to do whatever they like instead of wasting time on cooking. If you’re a fan of eating chicken, broccoli and brown rice every day for the next month, this may seem like a fantastic idea. But for many of us, this seems both daunting and tiresome.

I am one of those people who enjoys ‘meal-prep’ but within reason – I have figured out a method that works for me. I love cooking, it’s my way to unwind and de-stress after work. However, I hate the morning rush to work (which starts before 5am for me on a day shift) so if I have any chance of a healthy lunch at the hospital, I need to be prepared.

Enter the Frozen Salad. Yes you heard me correctly.

These are salads that you can easily make ahead, with little cooking, that can be customised to any dietary requirements, that freeze well and just require some reheating when ready to be consumed. Now obviously there will be no lettuce featured here, but if you replace the foliage with various vegetables that are able to be eaten heated,  then you’ll open your mind to a whole different world of salad creativity!

Constructing The Frozen Salad 

  1. Choose your base: I cook quinoa in the microwave and then mixing it with Dijon mustard and tomato paste, and I’m also a huge fan of those 2 minute brown or black rice packets from the supermarket (the Ancient Grains from Coles is particularly good). Easy!
  2. Choose your foliage: I tend to stick with spinach, rocket or kale because they withstand the freezer well and taste reasonably palatable when reheated.
  3. Choose your protein: Chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, black eyed beans, salmon and tofu are all firm favourites of mine here! But you could also throw in your leftover chicken or beef from the night before, whatever takes your fancy!
  4. Choose your vegetables: I know you’ve already got foliage but trust me, once you realise the many different options available, you’ll want to experiment! Roast whatever vegetables you have with some olive oil, salt and a sprinkle of herbs or seasoning of your choice and add them to the mix – think sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, turnips and carrots. It’s also a great way to use up the vegetables that are edging slowly closer to their used by date but won’t all be eaten in time. Don’t forget your canned vegetables if you’re short on time as well, particularly corn and beetroot.
  5. Choose your miscellaneous flavoursome toppings: Cherry or semi-dried tomatoes, roasted or finely sliced raw capsicum, pickles, dukkha or a sprinkle of strong cheese all work magnificently as your finishing touches!

You will quickly get the hang of this as you discover which flavours you like (and I’ve attached a few ideas below!). When an hour of meal prep can save you a week’s worth of stale cafeteria sandwiches or deep fried junk, then why not give it a go?!


Black beans, chick peas, roasted sweet potato, leafy greens, grana padano cheese.


5 Ancient Grains mixed with mustard and tomato paste, with red kidney beans, sundried tomatoes, leafy greens and capsicum.


Panfried salmon with crunchy Asian slaw and wilted greens


Sauteed silverbeet and kale with celery, dukka and grana adano cheese (eaten with eggs on the side).


Pearly barley cooking with crushed tomatoes, with kidney beans, corn, celery and kale.


Roasted vegetables with sage and thyme, with Mayver’s Super Spread (a blended mixture of nuts and chia seeds).


Pearl barley and lentils with kale, asparagus, capsicum and tahini.

The Secret to Sexy Salads

There is nothing sexy about soggy lettuce (unless you have a niche fetish for damp foliage, in which case, best of luck to you!). We’ve all had those superb salads that make us revalidate healthy eating as a delicious life decision, as well as those other inferior salads that leave our souls and stomachs empty inside.

So what is the secret to constructing a truly sexy salad? It’s all to do with balance. Balance the textures, balance the flavours, and rejoice in the tasty nutritious harmony that results!  For the novice home cooks, this may sound easier said than done, but fear not – follow this simply guide and you’ll be well on your way to salad stardom.

Balance the macros
First of all, make sure to include a mixture of carbs, protein and fats; this will ensure your salad will actually keep you full. Some suggestions include;

  • – carbs: quinoa, rice, buckwheat, pasta, freekah, potato, pumpkin
  • – protein: beans, lentils, chicken, salmon, tuna, lean cuts of red meat, haloumi, tofu
  • – fats: avocado, olive oil, nuts



Add the foliage 

There’s no rule saying you must use lettuce! Try different varieties of fancy lettuce, beetroot leaves, spinach or kale for something mild, rocket for something spicy, or celery leaves for a more aniseed flavour.



Balance the flavours

This is the slightly tricky part but it gets easier with practice! Aim for three of the five tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury. Some suggestions include;

  • – sweet: mango, orange, peaches, tomatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, a drizzle of honey
  • – sour: apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • – bitter: lemon, lime, grapefruit
  • – salty: salt obviously, seafood
  • – savoury: miso, grains


Balance the textures

Now this is how you boredom bust your salads! Think about what you’ve already got and go through a little mental checklist. Have I got something crunchy? If not, add nuts or seeds. Have I got something soft / squishy? If not, add soft cheese, tofu, avocado, pumpkin etc. Have I got something in between? If not, think about your vegetables like capsicum, corn, beans etc.



Dress your salad

Always leave the dressing until you’re just about to serve to prevent your bottom from going soggy (the salad I mean). Rather than the calorie laden high sugar dressings from the supermarket, I often choose for a small sprinkle of oil (try macadamia, avocado, olive or rapeseed) and a spritz of vinegar (like balsamic, apple cider or white / red wine vinegar).

Ta-dah! You are now well on your way to slaying at salads. See, you can make friends with salad after all!

Healthy Fudge Brownies! 


They’re vegan, gluten and dairy free, with no added sugar, and they definitely help kill the cravings! 

Ingredients (makes 16)

  • 4 medium bananas
  • 1/2 cup cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
  • 1 small handful cacao nibs 

Method 

  1. Blend the banana, cacao, baking soda and vanilla until smooth. 
  2. Stir in the chopped nuts. 
  3. Line a brownie tin with baking paper. Pour the mixture in and top with cacao nibs. 
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 180*C until just cooked, then chill in the fridge until firm. 

Healthy chocolatey heaven! 

Recipe adapted from one by @lilsipper on Instagram 

Vegan Protein Cookie-dough Balls


Dangerously moreish and salmonella-free! 

Ingredients (makes 12) 

  • 300g can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup pea protein 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence  
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon Coco2 spread (or raw peanut butter) 
  • 3 tablespoons water 
  • Sprinkle of stevia (optional) 
  • Raw or vegan chocolate of your choice, a few squares chopped into rough chunks

Method

  1. Blend all the ingredients in the food processor until a dough forms. If you prefer it slightly sweeter, add the stevia to taste. 
  2. Mix in the chocolate.
  3. Roll into balls and chill in the fridge.
  4. Devour with guilt-free enthusiasm!