Cooking for patients is a delight, in fact I can't think of many other things (apart from family) that gives me tingles and that 'feel good' sensation, than cooking and helping people recover from cancer treatment.
Post chemo can be so exhausting for some people, with little energy to do anything little desire to eat, and depleted zest for life. This is where I like to come in and spice things up - well for their taste buds that is!
Helping patients get their platelet count up for the next round of treatment is really important. However, tricky it is, we must persist. The best ingredients to work with are
vitamin A rich foods like carrot/pumpkin/sweet potato, dairy, dark leafy veggies.....
vitamin K rich foods like avocados, prunes, dark green leafy veggies
Whilst sometimes it's hard to find a meal that can combine all these, plus be gluten free for sensitive tummies, I found a super delicious recipe that was given to me by a friend. I modified it slightly to be more nutritious and palatable to cancer patients. Usually I recommend having this with half a glass of pure pomegranate juice.
Of course, I enjoyed these beauties myself - and had them for lunch. It's not just for the recovering people, it's a spectacular meal for everyone. Even my kids enjoy it and it's become a weekly addition to their lunch box - please note, you'll need a little ice pack in their lunch boxes.
Bunches bok choy/choy sum or swiss chard it is up to you which you prefer. I like choy sum as leaves are large and easy to use. Discard the tough ends and wash thoroughly
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp tamari sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp miso paste
juice of half a lime
Cooked chicken - shredded AND/OR lean beef mince cooked with a little garlic
1 avocado, de-seeded and sliced
For extra filling and if you need something to keep you full longer, I suggest adding some cooked brown rice vermicelli.
1. Place the leaves in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for about 30 seconds). Drain and let leaves come to room temperature. Pat dry with paper towel and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, peanut butter, ginger, tamari, honey, miso and lime. Season with salt if needed. Add chicken or beef. If you decide to do both, halve the sauce mixture and mix them separately. Add the coriander and mint.
3. To assemble - carefully lay out the leaves on a clean surface3. If needed, use two leaves to give it strength and cover any holes - then add meat mixture, carrots and avocado. Roll them up, and slice in half.
I enjoy these with a variety of Asian herbs like Thai mint or basil.
These are scrumptious and a much more nutritious alternative to sushi. Full of flavour and perfect for people who are in between cancer treatment as it gets their taste buds excited again.
Let's face it, there's little joy in coming home from school activities or work and being drowned in the task of making a delicious dinner. I don't know about you, but my family expect something super tasty every night.
Everyone has their own tastes and dislikes when it comes to dinner time, but the one dish I know I can put on the table, even after a super busy day, that doesn't get picked apart but rather, devoured within minutes is my Super Tasty Chicken Dinner. With limited time and the thought of slaving over a stove is not appealing, this dish is super easy and a one pot wonder!
Originally my mother in law made a version of this dish, and I really enjoyed it, and to be honest, I was surprised I didn't think of it myself. Her version was much simpler to account for different tastes, and as they are Greek, the influences of lemon and oregano play a heavy role. For me and my crew, I wanted something more substantial and succulent.
What makes this dish yummy is the spices and the marriage of flavours between the vegetables and chicken. It will leave your kitchen smelling heavenly. Hopefully you will find that your family will clean the juices in their bowl with bread.
To ensure you get a mouth wateringly juicy mouthful of meat every time, I suggest using only the maryland or chicken chops (thighs) cut. Save the fancy and overpriced breasts for schnitzels - this dish is by no means glamorous and a cheap cut of meat serves perfectly.
Next is the choice of potatoes, and I always love a good Sebago or Desiree for this meal. They're firm enough to keep their shape and crisp up beautifully on the outside, while maintaining a fluffy mashy centre, perfect for soaking up the sauce.
I have a repertoire of vegetables that suite my family, and by all means, feel free to use your own click of veggies. My recipe is adaptable to suit your tastes, so feel free to add mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, olives, anchovies or sweet potato. I keep my meal agreeable to my family...
Ingredients (serves 4 hungry monsters)
6 chicken chops OR 4 chicken marylands
4 large potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 medium red capsicum sliced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoon capers in brine (optional, I use this instead of salt)
1 white or brown onion sliced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon Bavarian Roast Chicken Spice (see notes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
2. Pop potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for 5-6 minutes until soft around the edges but still firm. Strain and set aside
3. In a baking dish, add all the ingredients, including the potatoes. Using your hands (my favourite bit) marry the flavours together by pressing the spices into the meat and bruising the onions to release some flavours. Mix well and then cover the dish with aluminium foil (shiny side facing down towards the meat)
4. Place dish in oven covered, for 40 minutes. Then remove cover and cook for a further 30 minutes.
5. In our home we top the dish with a generous dollop of plain yogurt, but feel free to use salad or bread or with herbs. Lick your plate, lips and fingers clean!
1. The spices I am particularly fond of are from a gorgeous shop in Carlton, Melbourne. Here's the link to the spices and their store
Otherwise, this is the mix ...
Sea salt, paprika, mustard seed, rosemary, tomato, garlic, coriander, fennel, chilli, oregano.
2. Other flavours I love with this dish are:
slices of orange with tarragon;
prunes and apricots with walnuts or almonds which forms like a tagine. Incredible flavours.
1/4 tsp ground saffron instead of the spices used above
Yippee, school is back! Well actually, I lie. I did enjoy the holidays. I'm one of those parents that detests waking early (earlier than 7.30), and when it's holidays my husband allows me the sweet pleasure of sleeping in. However, when school is back I dread the alarm going off at 7.10am; I feel the need to wake up a few minutes before everyone else, just to enjoy a cup of tea before the rush begins.
Getting my clan fed is no easy task. I am finicky about what they have for breakfast, it needs to be something that will give them energy until their first break which will be about three hours away, and I understand that most of the important learning at school takes place in the morning. For this reason, I ensure my kids have a meal with adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats.
The next task is ensuring my kids have enough food in their lunchboxes to keep them satisfied during the day. Follow me on instagram, @vickytsoleridis for some pics of their lunchboxes. I'm not bento-crazed, star shaping sandwich making mother, gosh no. I'm into simple, tasty and nutritious foods. That's the key word - food. When it comes to snacks, I like to make my own so that I am aware of what I'm feeding my kids. Any ingredients with numbers, artificial colours, flavourings, preservatives are a complete no-no, and as far as I'm concerned, they are not food. It comes under the classification - rubbish - in my household. Sometimes my youngest, aged 5, will ask, "Mummy is this rubbish or food?” She understands from a young age that food is something her body recognises and knows how to metabolise and use for good in her body. Rubbish is a cocktail of chemicals and numbers that her body does not know how to use to better her brain, muscles, bones and immune system. These conversations should be had in all households. Children as young as 4 understand the difference, and if the conversation is made simple they will grasp the concept very quickly. By the time your child is pre-teen you will unlikely have to worry about them eating rubbish food for their rest of their lives. I do need to make something clear; I am by no means a martyr with food. I allow my kids to enjoy sweet and savoury treats. However, they understand what to put into our trolley at the supermarket. At parties, I allow them to choose what they want to eat. After all it is a party. They can choose all the chips and lollies they like, but as I watch them, something interesting happens. They have a little bit of rubbish and then go off and play - but as soon as the fruit and vegetables come out, they are happy to fill up on the good stuff. I am proud that they understand the importance of proper nutrition without obsessing about it. It's a fine balance, as I don't want to give them complexes or food disorders. But I am confident my kids look at me and think, well mum eats a lot (yes, I do eat a lot!), but she enjoys proper food so there's no need to obsess over it.
So, anyway… a week ago I did a write up for Essential Kids regarding lunchboxes (read it here) about lunchboxes... and from it came questions from concerned mothers – “What can you suggest for treats?” Here is a healthy sweet treat that is designed to keep your kids full and alert!
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup spelt flour (if you wish you can make this a gluten free alternative )
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 heaped Tbsp skyr (or full cream plain yogurt)
3 heaped Tbsp coconut oil - melted (it will be around 1/4-1/2 cup when melted)
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup milk (or if you prefer dairy free, choose your own nut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional - these are for flavourings - juice of half a lemon + finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon at stage 2 OR
add finely grated apple at stage 2 OR 1/2 punnet raspberries/blueberries that you will add just before they go into the oven, stage 3.
1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and grease a madeleine tray
2. In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients
3. In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients and then add this mixture to the dry ingredients
4. Place about 1 Tbsp of batter into each mould, don't worry if they're not perfect, they will even out in the baking process. If you wish, at this stage, add 2-3 raspberries / blueberries to each batter then pop into the oven
5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until they go golden brown on the edges, remove from oven allow to sit for 10 mins then pop each cake out onto a cooling rack.
6. This batter makes for about 20 mini cakes, so you will have to repeat stage 4 until all the batter is used up.
NUT alternatives - so the hero of this meal is the nut meal as it gives it plenty of protein punch and essential minerals like calcium and magnesium as well as a healthy dose of vitamin E. Should you wish to avoid using nutmeal, feel free to use something like plain flour or a gluten free flour with protein powder. My favourite is NutraOrganics fremented protein, but you can use any brand you like. I opt for a flavourless one, so I am free to create my own flavours when I bake. However, instead of using 1 cup of protein powder, you will get a better result is you use 1 cup of spelt/gluten free flour and 1/2 cup protein powder. Alternatively, if you want something that has loads of magnesium, manganese and fibre, try 1/2 cup quinoa flour or amaranth flour.
Otherwise, if you want to stick with nut meals, try hazlenut meal or coconut flour for something different.
These keep really well in the freezer for a month - or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
For something fun, I melt carob and drizzle it over the top - if your kids are not into carob, a little dark chocolate is totally fine. Enjoy health nuts!
I've become quite a retro cake fan of late, and tea time just isn't 'tea time' unless there's a slice of something sweet - like the classic madiera, some fluffy madelines or my new favourite - bundt cakes. This style of cake refers to the dish it is baked in, where the dough surrounds a tube in the middle of the pan. This pan can be simple to quite extravagant.
I had a tin in my cupbboard and decided it was time to tackle it and create something delicious as a treat after a lazy Sunday lunch. Here's my latest creation - Spiced apple bundt. Loaded with cakely spices (yes, I just made up that word), incredibly moreish, and moist. Perfect with a cuppa after a meal. You'll be transported to the 1970's - so for a moment, put the tech devices down, watch an episode of The Brady Bunch and devour the damn cake.
So, the consensus is eggs are boring or they are best eaten in the evening while on 5:2. I get it; they’re probably better suited to being sliced over a salad in the evening rather than on its own with a coffee in the morning.
Well you guys drive a hard bargain, but I’m up for the challenge. Something low calorie, high in nutrition, high satiety factor and easy to transport to work. Sure, great, yep…I can do it. *frantically researches, trials and tastes new creations…*
….four days and a terribly messy kitchen, later…
Ta da! I present to you my version of a Bircher muesli.
These recipes have nutritional value charts so you know exactly what you’re getting. Don’t be fooled by the portion of the breakfast, it may be little but it’s quite filling. I usually have half a serve and my daughter the other half, but you’re welcome to have the whole thing, skip lunch (or have a miso soup) and have an egg on salad for dinner, which will keep you around 400cal.
The great thing about this breakfast it has all the major components for a filling meal – complex carbohydrates, fibre, good fats and high in protein.
You will need to get your hands on a tub of this yogurt - avail from most supermarkets in Australia. If your'e opting for dairy free, go for the coconut yogurt on the right.
Enjoy my 5:2 community…
Ingredients (normal version)
½ cup rolled oats (I uses Bob’s Red Mill organic oats)
1 medium apple grated (skin on)
½ tsp cinnamon
1 mango cheek diced
80gm Icelandic yogurt (preferably skyr if you can find it and if you can't find either, a very low cal yogurt)
1 tsp chia seeds
1/3 cup water (1/2 cup if you don’t want it too thick)
½ capful of Rochway’s fermented coconut water concentrate (optional)
If you’re not doing 5:2 and you want something indulgent, add a tablespoon of nut butter or drizzle honey and add sesame seeds. For my husband I add acai berry puree and peanut butter, but he’s not a 5:2 guy. These are so delicious, but crazily high in calories, so skip them if you're doing 5:2. I pop them on for my kids for extra oomph!
This beauty has the peanut butter with cacao powder. HEAVEN
Gluten free version
Replace oats with millet flakes, same quantities.
Lactose free version
Replace skyr with Nudie Coconut yogurt. The reason why I like this one, is because it’s low calorie, it uses coconut water instead of coconut milk. Other brands use coconut milk, which is fine when you’re not on a 5:2 day, because the calories are insane!!
Happy eating folks. If you have a version you’d like to share let me know in the comments. Next recipe will be something with egg *giggle*
Below are the nutritional labels for each recipe, and remember each recipe makes two serves.
Before you go all ‘ewww’ on me, hear me out. Ghee is amazing. I promise you, once you try it, you will wonder why you never gave it a chance before. For those who are already ghee enthusiasts, you will know how delicious this nutty oil is. I think those who are not into ghee, may have a thwarted opinion of what it actually is. Maybe they have conjured up images of rendered offal fat or beef tallow. Who knows what bizarre images people have of ghee? But I’m here to tell you, ghee is essentially butter, and we all know how much I lurrrrve butter. Did I just partially purr like a cat? Yup, that’s how much I love it. Paleo fanatics no doubt will agree ghee is the way to go. Before I go on, I must state that there is some confusion surrounding ghee and clarified butter. Clarified butter is when the water has evaporated from the butter fat. Ghee takes clarified butter further and allows it to bubble for a while so that the butter caramelises. It’s essential that the butter simmers for about 30-40mins. Not boil, just simmer gently until the bottom of the pan with the milk solids starts to caramelise but not burn. You will recognise this step, because your kitchen will fill with an exhilarating aroma.
I make my own ghee and use it in a wide variety of cooking. It’s scrumptious when making scrambled eggs, delectable in curries and luscious on rice or with a warm dosa. Totally salivating like a Pavlov dog.
Ingredients – makes about 450gms
2 x 250gm best quality unsalted or salt reduced butter (I like organic ones from Gippsland Victoria)
Cheesecloth to strain and separate the milk solids from ghee
1 x 500gm Mason jar
Notes: I store my ghee at room temperature, no need to refrigerate. It can last for months but mine rarely lasts beyond 3 weeks. Ghee has a really high smoking point which makes it ideal for cooking. People who have dairy sensitivies can enjoy ghee as there is no lactose or casein.
Before we got married, my husband was used to having his eggs scrambled with olive oil. Now, it’s a different story. It’s all ghee ghee ghee! The taste is sensational.
We are big raw foodies in our home. We much prefer raw veggies than cooked (unless it’s potatoes, pumpkin, Jerusalem artichokes etc). My kids devour at least 4 different vegetables everyday. It’s something I instilled in them from a very young age. When my daughter comes home from school, awaiting her in the lounge room is a bowl of vegetables and some cheese to tie her over until dinner time. I mix it up, but it can be anything from carrots, celery, corn, cabbage, broccoli stalk, avocado (okay, technically a fruit), capsicum etc. Both my girls love it. And over time, I have introduced to them a little dressing or dip to go with the vegetables. This meant that the introduction of salads with dinner became easier and more palatable.
Some busy nights, I will have just a salad with a little cheese and a hard boiled egg or a tin of tuna. But salads can get boring and sometimes tasteless. I love tabouli, but find burghul (cracked wheat) quite harsh and over powering. Then I discovered Fregola. It’s a tiny toasted pasta, incredibly low GI and really nutty and tasty. It’s so delicate and filling which is why it’s my number one choice for adding to salad dishes in place of burghul.
½ cup cooked and cooled fregola (cooked according to instructions – and you could use more if you want)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped coriander
¼ cup chopped mint
½ capsicum roughly chopped
½ avocado chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 Lebanese cucumber peeled and chopped
1-3 tablespoons chopped Spanish onion or spring onion (depending on taste)
½ a lemon juiced
¼ cup top quality olive oil (I like Rosto’s olive oil from Toscano’s)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and consume immediately.
Notes : This salad is not really crispy so it will go even more soggy if you leave it over night. If you, like my husband want protein with every meal, then add what you like but I find shredding left over roast chicken through this salad works really well. My girls like it with chicken or some cooked lentils. I can have it with nothing added and always find myself satisfied because of the fregola.
Dal is the soulfood of India, prepared with different spices to accommodate the varied flavours around the nation. How ever it is made, there's something comforting about an amazing dal on a cold evening. Some nights my husband will come home from work, expecting a wonderfully elaborate meal, and more often that not, he will be pleasantly surprised, and other times all he'll see is a pot of lentils on the boil. Though when I serve the dal, as much as he may be disappointed, he always licks the bowl clean - tremendously satisfied by the warmth in his belly. My favourite way to inhale a bowl of dal is with a couple of dosa's or some basmati rice; accompanied with yogurt and drizzled with ghee. It's a staple in my home, and yet I totally dismissed putting on here, until a lovely friend asked for a 'healthy' recipe. I love that term 'healthy', because everyone assumes that I am 'healthy' but in reality I'm naughty like everyone else. Nonetheless, he asked for a recipe and whether or not I delivered on his expectations, I am unsure - but one thing is certain - he ignited an idea inside me. I am going to start a pulse recipe page for a little while. So for the next few weeks I will share some of my favourite legume &/or pulse recipes.
With this recipe, you can adjust the 'heat' as much as you like. This is the way I like my dal but adjust to your taste.
You will need...
* If you’re not used to consuming pulses you may find you get a little gassy or have abdo discomfort. The phytates and high levels of fibre cause the issue. If it bothers you, next time you make it, soak the lentils in water (to completely cover them) and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (as a side note, it’s supposed to be a lactic acid of some sort – but acetic acid will do fine). Allow to soak for about an hour or two. Rinse really well and then use as normal. Soaking reduces the phytic acid content substantially which not only helps with gas, but ensures that that your body can absorb the other important minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium which would otherwise by inhibited. Traditionally lentils are consumed with yogurt (loaded with lactic acid and probiotics) and helps naturally alleviate tummy concerns….
*As lentils are not a complete protein source, if you want to get more bang for your buck, try mixing with rice or quinoa. I like mine with freshly made dosa (freakin’ heavenly!!) For a healthier alternative you can also try brown rice. Also, this meal is really delicious as a left over, and wrapped in roti bread with some paneer or haloumi, and slugged down with a mango lassi.
* Sometimes I add mouth sized morsels of sweet potato, potato, zucchini, cauliflower etc for extra oomph. In my experience, these are best added pre-steamed in the last couple of minutes of cooking rather than at the beginning as they tend to get too mushy and the lentils lose that gorgeous silky creamy finish. Plus, I enjoy tasting each individual vegetable.
*Completely optional – but makes all the difference in taste – is to get about 1-2tbsp ghee, melt it lightly add a pinch of cumin seeds and when they become aromatic and ‘pop’ add some chilli (any type you like), some crushed garlic. When the garlic has just started to brown, remove from heat and drizzle over the dal.
This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a statement suggesting that cured meat has been linked to cancer (duh!). Some of my smug vegetarian friends have been rubbing it in my face on social media, which has irritated me. As I smile through gritted teeth, I know that my iron and protein levels are higher than most of them however I do give my body a rest from animal meat at least twice a week. This week is slightly different, as for some reason I don't feel like consuming meat (and this was before the WHO released their scare statement). It's Wednesday night and I decided to try something totally different as my husband is away and thought I could create something without fearing criticism. Originally it started as a warm carrot and lentil salad but after raiding my fridge I freestyled further and added other goodies. It's a sweet salad but you can alway omit the fruit and replace with other root vegetables.
I am a fan of sweet meals, anything from tagines riddled with prunes to rice laced with barberries. You get the jist, that hint of sweetness to cut through some of the heat really appeals to me (but not my husband). This dish is just that - spicy but sweet. Looking back, I really could have added more freshness like thin slices of radish but I will do it next week! Enjoy this scrumptious warm salad.
1 cup Beluga Lentils washed
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 3/4 cm slices
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1.5 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala (or ras el hanout)
1 ripe mango, coarse diced (1.5 cups)
small bunch of coriander, chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pistachios or cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Place washed lentils in a large pan. Ensure water covers the lentils by an extra 3-5cms. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain then put in a bowl (don't leave in colander as they tend to go soggy).
2. Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add carrots and cook in a single layer – they’ll give off a bit of water at first. Keep cooking, tossing gently every three or four minutes until the carrots are deeply browned, about 12 minutes.
3. Push carrots to the side, add a bit more oil, then add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add in your drained, cooked lentils with the cinnamon and garam masala. Stir to toss and cook until heated through.
5. Carefully add in the mangoes, stirring to combine well and keep heated.
6. Stir in coriander and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. If your mango is not that sweet, you may need to add agave/honey. Sprinkle with nuts just prior to serving.
Persians are big on herbs - and I mean huge. I cannot recall a time at my Aunty's home where a massive bowl of herbs was not on the sofreh (table spread). Every meal is accompanied with salad and herbs. It's the life blood of this race. I swear their colons must be so clean, as the amount of greens they consume is out of this world. Mint, coriander, parsley, chives, radishes, you name it. So when it comes to soup, the Persians make no exception. They add cups of herbs to their soup. Whilst originally, Persians didn't consume much meat, favouring casseroled legumes and pulses with rice or bread (much like the Indians), as time has passed the addition of too much meat has crept in. However, regularly, most families opt for vegetarian days and this soup is a perfect example of a protein packed, high fibre, vitamin rich dish. It is ideal for any seasons, but I particularly enjoy it in spring.
Here is my take on the Persian Bean soup. You can add more spices if you like, but my family prefers is plain (I prefer HOT! but as Mick Jagger said, 'You can't always get what you want'.)
Asheh Hoobebat (Bean Soup) - makes a lot! About 6 serves.
1 cup mixed beans, washed and soaked overnight
1 large onion finely diced
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 bunch spinach
3 cups parsley
3 cups coriander
1 cup chives
1 cup mint
salt & pepper
1. Saute diced onion and minced garlic in some oil until just past translucent. Add turmeric and mix well. Add beans and 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook covered for 1 & 1/2 hours
2. As the beans are cooking, get your greens ready - wash thoroughly and chop well. (but not minced, just chopped). The key to this dish is to ensure that the herbs have no stalks. Remove the leaves from the stalks entirely, except for the chives of course. This is time consuming but worth the effort. It makes for a lovely consistency.
3. Add the greens to the soup and cook on a gentle medium heat for another 1 & 1/2hrs with the lid on. Check the soup after this time and make sure the beans are cooked through. As you will have many different beans - make sure they're all soft. Now season to taste.
4. Serve with a dollop of yogurt (the way I like it) or with some cooked onions.
This soup is so versatile, you can add root veggies or some chicken pieces, even some quinoa. The possibilities are endless. But it's the herbs that make this dish. It's superb!