Archives For Meal Planner

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

When I began to write this post, I realised I have begun another eggplant featured post. I’m seeing a pattern here, that I’m just loving the aubergine right now. On checking, eggplants are in season (in Australia) – being from summer through to early Autumn.

As per my previous post, I’ve been overindulging far too much lately, and eating more animal-protein based dinner than I care to admit. This has negative ramifications on my body. Contrary to popular diet fads, I don’t thrive off protein-laden meals. I admit, I have met some people who do, and this just proves that we’re all different, and have different dietary needs. There are only very few dietary rules that apply to the masses, and these are more like guides rather than absolutes. You can find these in the About section of this blog.

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Cannellini bean smash, avocado, preserved lemon from Milkwood, Melbourne.

Cannellini bean smash, avocado, preserved lemon from Milkwood, Melbourne.

I’m making a stand for breakfasts in 2014. Long ignored and often forgotten as we rush off to work. I want to challenge you right here and now, to make a commitment to eat breakfast every single day of January.

That’s a whole 31 days of breakfasts.

Sounds easy? Reflect back on the past couple of months. How many times have you rushed out the door on an empty stomach, eaten toast in the car, gulped cereal at your desk? I see it far too often than I like in clinic. The people who need to nurture their health the most, presenting with crippling ailments have a history of skipping breakfast.

Eating breakfast is one of the most straight forward actions you can make towards better digestion, more energy, better coping skills, balanced emotions, clearer skin, and losing weight.

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Simply comforting

Uncomplicated yumminess, and awesome for leftovers

I was drawn to this dish because of it’s simplicity, the nutritional profile and blood building properties of lamb. See, us females have a tendency to deficiency of blood – and I’m no different. We burn up our blood stores though stress, work, high emotions, physical blood loss, and me, well study depletes me the most. Being blood deficient can cascade to many other ailments – I will tend to anxiety and insomnia if I allow my blood (physical and energetic) to wane. You might get terribly lethargic, have dry skin, hair, nails, get tired eyes and/or floaters, be highly emotional, unable to cope in general, be pale, listless, have menstrual problems or can’t fall pregnant, physical and emotional rigidity, sweat profusely at night, just to name a few.

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Breakfast sugar free granola made by my gorgeous sister-in-law.

Breakfast sugar free granola made by my gorgeous sister-in-law.

Being a breakfast worshiper, the importance of eating time has been an influencing reason to my love of the first meal. It’s no new concept, the Chinese knew that eating too late – related to the horary cycle, circadian rhythms, and being too close to bed time – will slow down digestion. Actually, we have a saying:

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, and dinner like a pauper.

What happens when digestion is slowed down? We put on weight. It’s kinda repetitive for me to say this, but I’ll say it again for impact: when the digestion is slowed down, we can’t process our food. When we can’t process our food in the manner of extracting nutrients and expelling waste, all that we eat gets pushed out into our system as a toxic, dirty, repugnant waste to get stored between our fat cells…making us fatter.

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I wonder if you too have asked this question. It’s perfectly reasonable; when you think about it, cooking is a total bother. By the time we’ve had a full days work who has time to cook? And that’s not accounting for all the family commitments.

Sad to say it, but I think cooking has become a luxury. I write about food and I say that hand on heart that sometimes I just don’t have the time to cook.

I have an analogy that I say to myself (and others) constantly, it’s called ‘The Aeroplane Analogy’. If you’ve ever flown, you’ve heard the safety message. When they get to the bit about the oxygen mask, the message always says to fit your mask before helping others, children included. It’s common to perceive that looking after yourself first would be considered selfish, and selflessness as doing ultimate good. This is martyrdom in it’s negative form and it boils down to this; you’re no good to help and assist others if you’re not first fit and able yourself.  It’s not beneficial for your health, it’s not beneficial to your family, it’s not beneficial to society if you don’t look after YOU first. Then henceforth go on and do good.

That said, I really feel for people with children, partners, full time jobs and a list of commitments enough to keep you busy for the next 10 years. It’s hard enough for me to take the time to nurture oneself living this busy urban life.

Through my experience and deep desire to do everything, I have cultivated a few tricks to make the job of caring for the colloquial ‘me’ little easier. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t about 1980’s microwave cookery. Sticking with a healthful approach, here’s my top 10:

  1. Make stock to freeze in batches. Defrost when called upon in recipes and as broth base with a few fresh veg, herbs, poached chicken and noodles thrown in. Easy.
  2. Pre-prepare a couple of different varieties of aromatics that form the base of most mediterranean dishes to freeze and keep ready. My fave combinations are:
    Sofrito: garlic, onion, carrot, celery, parsley
    MIrepoix: carrot, celery, onion
    For Risotto: onion, garlic, celery
    For soup base: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, fennel
    Cook in olive oil, butter or a combination of the two, until soft. I always add a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook a variety of legumes and freeze in portions in their own cooking water to have on hand when needed. Cheaper and healthier then canned. Don’t know how to cook legumes? Visit here.
  4. Learn some basic sauces which can be used as dipping sauces and marinades or baking. They’re alarmingly easy way to make almost anything really tasty. Some examples:
    Chinese: garlic, ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, chinese rice wine (Shao Shing cooking wine), black vinegar (can substitute with balsamic) and sesame oil. Great for cooking eggplant and meats. Serve with rice.
    Thai: Rice wine vinegar, brown or palm sugar, garlic, ginger, chillies, fish sauce, soy sauce, coriander. Use to flavour rice and noodles
    Vietnamese: Lime juice, brown or palm sugar, water, fish sauce, coriander. Spring rolls anyone?
    Mexican: salsa of finely diced tomatoes, chipotle, coriander, white onion – anything from tacos to fish to spooning over steamed asparagus.
    Béchamel: Roux made with butter, flour and milk. Make the basic then vary it up by either adding mustard, herbs, cheese or use chicken stock instead of milk (veloute). Use in lasagne and especially good to bake vegetables with.
    I recently learned this Lebanese fave: 1 cup tahini + juice from 1-2 lemons. Mix with a dash of water then simmer until smooth consistency. Top Trevelly, then bake finishing with toasted pinenuts, or sautéed spinach with caremelised onion.
  5. Already got the oven on? Pop in some cubed root veg of any combination (whatever happens to be laying around). It’s amazing what you can do with some roast veg + a carb (ie. cous cous, rice, pasta, soba noodles) and a few flavourings (see point 4). I like to add a handful of nuts (quickly pan roast to kill off any surface bacteria and bring out a real nuttiness flavour) which really makes for a rounded vegetarian meal, however there’s nothing stopping you pan frying a nice cut of free range meat, slicing and mixing that in as protein content. Add some fresh herbs (see point 8 below).
  6. Cook your breakfast porridge the night before, ready to heat ‘n eat on weekday mornings when time is a factor.
  7. Stewed seasonal fruit ready to go. Kind of goes with point 6 above. Having a batch of stewed fruit ready to dollop on porridge saves a bunch of time. Or enjoy for dessert – just top with a crumble made from oats, butter, brown sugar and bake on 180C for 15 – 20 mins until crisp.
  8. Potted fresh herbs ready to use. It’s amazing what one can do with fresh herbs to add flavour and healthful content. I haven’t banged on too much about herbs in the past (don’t worry, something is brewing), which is a shame because these are nature’s vitamin pills and anti-everything’s all rolled into one.
  9. Have a small selection of nuts and seeds on hand. Sprinkled over the top of salads, noodles, porridge, bakes, roasts really impresses folks.
  10. Keep a supply of pita bread in the freezer. They can be great for wraps (hello falafels!), easy pizza bases or cut up and toasted in the oven for crisps. Use corn tortillas for a gluten free option.

I’d love to hear of any shorthand tips for the kitchen you have.

Look after yourself,
Becki xx


Typical Sardinian Breakfast. My version sans poached eggs. Because I suck at poached eggs.

Sardina. Located off the west coast of Italy and second largest island in the great salty pond known as the Mediterranean, to Sicily. Known for it’s long living folk who feast off simple meals with bountiful fresh produce grown locally.

Sounds like a great way to start the morning.

This breakfast was made for me recently and adapted from A Sardinian Cookbook by Giovanni Pilu and Roberta Muir. I have to say the Turkish can reclaim their baked eggs and the whoever’s, their eggs benedict*. Me? I’m all Sardinian (even though I’m a bastard breed of Northern Italian and whatever goes into making up Australian).

Ahem, anyways onto the recipe. Quite easy. All you need is pane carasau / pane di musica…not that economical, quick to make or easy to find, so I substituted with split and toasted wholemeal pitas – I used the mini kind – or you can try Lavosh. Layer 4 pieces per serve with a good quality passata, which I used my own by first soaking tomatoes in boiling water (about 1 minute) then peeling and seeding. Roughly chop the flesh and simmer for 20 – 40 mins with a pinch of salt and a bay leaf. More economical if doing in large batches and buying end-of-season, not-quite-perfect tomatoes. Also add shaved parmesan and fresh basil in the layers. If you’re like me and don’t have fresh basil on hand, but have salvaged bunches of basil before it goes off and minced in a food processor and drowned in olive oil and pinch of salt to be stored in the refrigerator, you’re going to be in luck.

Ideally you want to top with a couple of poached eggs since this particular morning I couldn’t poach an egg if my life depended on it. I took the picture above sans poached eggs (but still ate the little rascals anyway).

world's worst poached eggs

It takes pure talent to achieve poached eggs like this.

What makes this simple breakfast so delectable, I reckon is the slathering of tomatoes that are rich in umami…that I-can’t-get-enough-of-it savoury yumminess. I also happens to be filling and uncomplicated. Kinda like how I prefer my men.

Sardinian breakfast. Tomato passata, parmesan, basil, pane di musica, poached eggs

Possibly better looking than mine. But both were as tasty as each other.

*Wikipedia doesn’t know the originator of eggs benedict, therefore subsequently, neither do I.


The perfect antidote to Sunday night miserable weather, this Tuscan soup is a winner. Traditionally a leftovers soup – Ribollita meaning “reboiled” – using minestrone and stale bread, but to us this is just as good as real meal.

Thanks to my housie for suggesting it…we are going to be eating well this week! This recipe is adapted from River Cafe Cookbook. Should get 6 servings out of it.

2 red onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 sticks celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped incl stalks
3 cups cooked cannellini and/or berlotti beans
2 stalks kale, leaves seperated, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 250g tin organic tomatoes
2 cups veg stock, heated
3 stale ciabatta rolls, hand torn into chunks (can use loaf equivalent)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Pancetta finely sliced and pan fried to crisp – for serving (omit if vegetarian)

In a good slurp of olive oil, sauté onions, celery, carrot and parsley with 1/2 tsp salt and a good grinding of fresh black pepper for 30 mins until flavours well blended. Add garlic halfway through.

Add kale, tomatoes and their juice and enough veg stock to cover. Add another 1/2 tsp salt. Simmer gently for 30 mins.

Meanwhile divide beans into 2 portions, set 1 portion to the side and purée the 2nd portion.

Once veg cooked, add whole and puréed beans and torn bread and a good slurp of olive oil. Add more stock if necessary, however you want a nice thick soup. Check for seasoning, adjust if necessary. Simmer for 3 minutes and serve with Pancetta on top.

Impressive vegetarian starter: Smokey carrot kibbeh stuffed with labne and cavallo nero

Easter was celebrated this year with friends in the form of a feast of seasonal autumn (or Fall if you prefer!) produce. This is the first dinner party I’ve hosted since staging in two healthy minded New York restaurants last year. A timely reminder of how satisfying preparing a meal for loved friends is.

This is part one of a four part series on creating Autumn Easter Feast, which includes recipes.

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