Hands up who knew you could roast Philadelphia cream cheese into crispy little chunks? Me either! But you can, and they add a novel saltiness to a warm potato salad, making any meal a little different. Shout out to the Simply Heaven Philly cookbook that I stole from my sister for the idea!
3 medium potatoes, diced
2tbs white wine vinegar
2tbs olive oil
1tsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
125g block cream cheese, broken into 2cm pieces
1 bunch asparagus, sliced
200g green beans, trimmed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
100g baby capsicum, sliced
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed
Salt and pepper, to serve
Combine oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar and mix well.
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with foil, spread out potatoes and drizzle with half of the oil mixture. Roast for 20 minutes on top rack.
Arrange remaining ingredients on another prepared tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Roast for a further 20 minutes.
Remove vegetables from oven and carefully combine in a large bowl. Season well and serve.
I wish I knew where – if anywhere – I’d seen this recipe, but I have no idea. I vaguely remember making something similar years and years ago with tuna, and feeling like the tuna ruined it, but I can’t even remember if anything other than rice was common to this dish. All I know is that I’ve been wanting a rice side dish that wasn’t fried rice all week, and kind of just threw it together and hoped for the best.
It worked. The husband ate the leftovers (AKA tomorrow’s lunch) as seconds, much to my horror. It was tasty yet simple (absolute perfect for a Wednesday night where I have a night of lesson planning ahead of me) but I fear that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget what I did and then never make it again. And that would be tragic.
To add to the happiness surrounding this side dish, it was far fewer calories than I’d anticipated – just 235 per serve, making it an awesome dinner with some lean meat and more veggies – we added grilled pork loin and broccoli, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This calorie count is for a yield of 5 serves; For almost exactly 300 calories, you can have it serve 4, but with the meat and veg, one fifth was perfect. And would have been a perfect amount and calorie count for lunch, too. Not that I’m bitter or anything…
1 cup (200g) raw basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1tsp minced ginger
200g cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quartered, if they’re a bit larger)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper, to serve
Preheat oven to 180C.
In an oven proof skillet, add rice and stock and bring to the boil on stove. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Turn off the burner, place a tea towel over the skillet and firmly cover with a lid. Rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another pan, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onions and cook for five minutes, until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add zucchini and tomatoes, and cook until softened but not coloured. Set aside until rice is ready.
Stir vegetables through the rice. Mix in the parmesan and egg until fully incorporated, and smooth down with a spoon or spatula.
Season well and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and firm.
I’m still feeling the effects of Maypril (with all the family birthdays plus Easter in this period, hubby and I long ago decided to combine the period from the end of March to beginning of May into one big, expensive conglomerate of cake), and am also in the middle of school holidays, which means my routine has been shot to absolute bits. As a bit of a creature of habit, I’m really yearning to get back to my “New Normal” – that is, the routine that I know allows me to eat a balanced and delicious diet (with room carved our for treats of course!) at regular times, stay active, and control my nutritional intake, while maintaining my weight. While this month has not been a disaster in the sense that I didn’t magically regain 53 (or any) kilos like I felt I surely would, I still haven’t been eating well, and I can feel “old Michelle” issues coming – I’m not sleeping well, I feel bloated, and I’m starting to run out of steam. I know I say that it’s all about Calories In Calories Out, but at this stage of the long-term game, it’s really not. Not every calorie is made equally, and you can’t eat 500 calories worth of chocolate and expect to feel the same as when you eat 500 calories of high quality protein, veggies and wholegrains. Trust me, I know this from experience!
Except for my husband’s birthday next week, I’m all out of Maypril madness so I’m back on track, and so, so happy about it! This is how I know this is a true, permanent lifestyle change for me – fun is fun, but it’s only fun for a very short while. Then I’m itching to go back to New Normal, and don’t feel the slightest bit deprived. New Normal is liberating, and it’s something I jealously guard. I refuse to give it all up for a lifetime of bloat and regret. But then, I also refuse to give up cake, so it’s all a big, mindful balancing act.
Throughout the past four weeks, it’s been lunches that have been the most difficult thing for me to plan. So to mark getting back to New Normal, I meal prepped lunch for the next couple of days. With how much rich, fatty food I’ve devoured lately, a light vegetarian option was absolutely needed, and this stew, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Ina Garten, who probably adapted it from another recipe that mine doesn’t even faintly resemble (like culinary Chinese Whispers!), fit the bill perfectly. It’s simple to make, low calorie (175 calories), packs a punch, freezes well, costs almost nothing to make, and chances are that you won’t even have to go to the shop, as it’s a meal of staples (you absolutely can use tinned tomatoes, in fact SK’s recipe calls for them. I only used fresh because I have too many and they’re starting to turn). This recipe serves 4, but you can adjust the ratios to make more or less. Four is great though, as it’s the whole can of lentils, so no waste.
3 second spray olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
6 small tomatoes, finely diced
Small pinch sea salt flakes
1 cup drained tinned lentils
2 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock works well, too)
1 heaped tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried basil
Pepper, to serve.
Heat oil in a saucepan, sweat onion and carrots over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add ginger and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, salt and lentils, mixing to combine. Cook for 3 minutes until tomatoes soften.
Add stock, curry and basil, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat back to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and stewed.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ll never make it as a vegetarian, and certainly would fail miserably as a vegan. I’d give myself until my second meal until I slipped up on something minor (like the time I put sprinkles on vegan cupcakes for a vegan family member – luckily, I caught myself just in time to decorate the second half with berries), and just give up altogether.
In saying that, I’m playing around with vegetarian lunches a lot – not for any real ethical or health benefits (although I do recognise that there are both, and the hipster hiding inside me tempts to say that’s the case!), but because there are so many delicious options. I still don’t see myself giving up animal products for more than a few hours, but I’m REALLY digging meat free meals more and more these days.
I’ve had Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella since it came out. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who does this, but when I get a new cookbook, I read it cover to cover, then attack it with post-it notes to indicate what recipes I want to cook, and ideas on how to make them my own. Yes, I’m a little crazy, and it’s hereditary, because even at 7 years old, my daughter does the same thing. How Nigella’s recipe for warm spiced cauliflower and chickpea salad with pomegranate seeds wasn’t instantly post-it-ed is a mystery, but the page flicked over while I was looking for her chilli recipe for later in the week, and I haven’t been able to think of anything else since.
As always, I’ve made the recipe a little more calorie-conscious, and to suit my taste preferences. I also skipped some olive oil, because 3 tablespoons was it was just too much – I like extra virgin olive oil as much as the next foodie, but I have my limits, both for taste and caloric intake. I also switched the parsley that Nigella recommends for my beloved baby spinach, and used sambal oelek instead of harissa. The results were phenomenal, and I’m so looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
Serves 2-3, at 312 calories for a third.
1 small head of cauliflower
1tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp allspice
1tsp cumin seeds
400g can chickpeas, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1tbs sambal oelek
60g baby spinach
75g pomegranate arils
preheat oven to 220C.
Cut cauliflower into medium sized florets.
Combine oil and spices in a large bowl. Add cauliflower and mix to coat. Tip onto a baking tray and keep bowl aside, uncleaned. Bake cauliflower for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the chickpeas and tomatoes to the oily bowl, and mix to coat. Add sambal oelek and stir to combine well.
When cauliflower is ready, remove tray from oven, and tip the chickpeas and tomatoes over the cauliflower. Return to oven for another 15 minutes.
Lay the roasted vegetables over a bed of baby spinach. Scatter pomegranate seeds over the top and serve.