The slow cooker is a brilliant invention – especially at this time of year when we are craving hearty stews and soups. You put everything in and it basically takes care of itself. Throw it together at breakfast time on a low heat or lunchtime on high heat, and then by dinner you have a delicious, healthy, home cooked meal and extra to freeze – such a bonus! If you don’t have a slow cooker though, you can still make these shanks (see below).
This is one of the first slow cooker meals I put together and incidentally one of the first recipes that we introduced whilst seeing the Food Coach in the early days of our lifestyle change (so it has her tick of approval too). It is simple, healthy and very tasty! I love serving this with a sweet potato mash and some greens e.g. asparagus. It is really so comforting during the winter months. This also freezes beautifully (we think it actually tastes better after being frozen) so I usually make with 4 shanks at a time. I won’t say the kids love it (my kids don’t really love much in the way of variety!) but they did eat it – which says something (I made my sneaky cauliflower and potato mash for them – see here!).
Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks
(serves 4 adults plus a few kids if they aren’t big eaters (or eat half and freeze half)
You will need
- 4 lamb shanks
- 2 can tomatoes (diced or whole – depending on how you like it)
- 2 tbs of fresh oregano leaves
- 2 cup of brown lentils
- 2 Cups stock (watch the cooker – if it gets dry then add some more). If you can make your own beef stock – perfect! I use my homemade chicken stock (which I also regularly make in the slow cooker – recipe here)
- 1-2 tbs of brown sugar (not necessary if you don’t want to use it – you could even try some raw honey for sweetness if you like)
- 4 carrots peeled and halved lengthwise or some halved button mushrooms (optional)
How to pull it together
Throw the whole lot in the cooker (you can brown the shanks if you like. I used to (it made me feel a bit domestic goddessy!!!) but I don’t bother anymore and they are just as good.
Cook on low all day or high from lunchtime until dinner.
(If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook these in a 200 oven. Add all ingredients except lentils – cook for 45 minutes, turn the shanks, add lentils and cook for further 45 minutes or until lamb is soft.)
Serve with mashed sweet potato, cauliflower rice and/or steamed greens and enjoy! XX
Did anyone watch the Australian Biggest Loser Finale on Tuesday night? The contestants blew me away with how much weight they had shed in only 4 months!!! I am not taking away from anyone here, because you don’t lose that amount of weight without making big changes to your diet and lifestyle. Anyone who watched what the contestants were subjected to by their trainers knows that they endured a lot of blood, sweat and tears. So kudos to all of them for their efforts, they deserve to be very proud of themselves. However, the big challenge for them will be to keep that weight off, indefinitely, because let’s face it, the very nature of radical diets means that they are doomed to fail.
Andrew and I get asked all the time ‘are you STILL on your diet?’ as if what we have achieved over the past eight years was only ever meant to be a temporary fix to knock off those extra (um like 60) kilos. I can assure you, that although we often say no to unhealthy foods, we are definitely not on a diet! What we have managed to achieve however, is a complete food and lifestyle overhaul. We consider ourselves clean eaters in that we avoid processed foods and sugar but in saying that, we hardly deprive ourselves. You have probably worked out by now that we eat really delicious food – a lot of it! But we also let our hair down every now and again. We are not the type of people who beat ourselves up (too much) if it is too difficult to eat clean when we are out or on holidays and we do enjoy a drink or 2 – just not with sugary mixers. Life is short so we like to make the most of it! What we have discovered is that by turning our health around, we actually prefer good clean food and happily make healthy choices whenever possible, but again, that choice is not a deprivation, which is what a diet is really designed to do.
Traditional ‘diet’ foods substitute chemical sweeteners for sugar, and low fat rather than full fat, however these are not healthy foods. If you don’t recognise something on the ingredient panel (i.e. because it is a number or specified chemical compound which ‘diet’ foods are full of) – your body isn’t going to recognise it either! And I can guarantee that if your body doesn’t recognise it as food, your whole system is going to be confused as it tries to deal with its disposal. This is where I have a big problem with the way traditional diets treat all calories as equal – just because these chemical concoctions have little or no calories, does not make them a healthy choice. In fact just the opposite!!! I remember years ago being on the Weight Watchers diet where I happily drank a daily diet coke or 3, and indulged in artifically sweetened, low fat yoghurts and ice cream and was rewarded by the programme for doing so. So unhealthy!
And I should probably mention that when I met Andrew in 2001 he had just lost about 25 kilos with Jenny Craig, all of which he put on, with interest, over our early years together. You can read more about his weight loss journey here.
Also most low fat versions of many foods have a higher sugar content to make them more palatable and there is so much information and research out there to show that it is sugar not fat that is our real enemy here. Check out my blog post on good and bad fats here.
Since I started The Shrinking Hubby I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to so many people who are following my blog or Facebook page and are genuinely benefiting from our story. Whether they themselves struggle with their weight or their partner or child has this issue. They all want to know how a 150 kg plus man had the discipline to lose 60 kilos through clean eating and exercise (without lap band or similar surgery) and kept it off!
I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t always been easy. Andrew’s success is largely due to the support network he has (and still has). Initially The Food Coach and myself, and then a lot of it was just me. We also have a fantastic trainer, and a great network of people we train with which is very motivating (especially at 6am in the middle of winter!) But having said that, Andrew really needed to commit and it was he who made the decision to embark on this journey and make the changes. He deserves most of the credit for the discipline that he continues to incorporate in his daily life.
You don’t get to 150 kilos simply because you have a love of chocolate or pizza. It is deeper than that. For many overweight people, food is much more than nutrition and enjoyment. It is used as a tool to deal with other issues and it makes changing the diet and getting rid of unhealthy foods really difficult. So it’s important to acknowledge the emotional side of being overweight as well as the diet and exercise front.
Of course initially, there was a lot of hard work to be done by Andrew. His diet was pretty bad, there was a lot of binging on sugar, diet coke, alcohol, fried foods etc … but once we cut out a lot of that stuff, and once he started exercising and feeling really good about himself, he really enjoyed introducing fresh, healthy and new foods into his life.
When you eat well, exercise and generally look after your body the way it deserves to be treated, you reap wonderful benefits and your quality of life improves so much. It’s more than just about your waistline (although that definitely is a pleasant side-effect), it is about that spring in your step and extra energy every day. So, no, we are NOT on a diet – this is for life!!!
Andrew embracing a healthier life in 2013
We have really been getting some cold weather lately here in Sydney (obviously not as cold as many other parts of the world!), but cold enough to make me crave warm and hearty meals. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comfort eating at this time of year as the body craves nourishment (and thoughts of bikinis and skimpy clothes are far away as we rug up with our coats, boots and scarves).
Soups are a great winter food because they are highly nutritious and comforting yet despite being relatively low in calories they can be very filling so you won’t feel any deprivation. And although I don’t subscribe to the calorie counting approach, as I do not believe all calories are created equally, it is important to watch portion sizes for obvious reasons.
I find that cooking a big pot of delicious soup at the beginning of the week is a great way to sort out dinners or lunches for work or home, and so easy to freeze in portion sizes, reheat and serve. I prefer not to heat up my soup in the microwave (I actually prefer not to use the microwave at all unless really necessary), but if I have to I never heat it up in plastic. There has been so much research to show that chemicals from plastic leech into our food when heated – and let’s face it we get enough nasty chemical exposure as it is! Rant over!
Now for my absolutely delicious Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup.
I am fairly liberal with the quantities here, so feel free to experiment with your tastes. Coconut milk/cream can be quite rich so be careful not to overdo it. The cinnamon here gives the soup a delicous sweetness which will make it hard for you not to lick your plates!
Also – you can also roast the pumpkin a day or 2 before to make it quicker for you to prepare (but be warned – it won’t last long on it’s own in the fridge!!)
Note – if you own a Thermomix, I have included the Thermomix method below – enjoy!
Cinnamon and Coconut Pumpkin Soup
What you will need:
1/2 jap pumpkin or butternut pumpkin. I used a large jap pumpkin from my sister’s garden (love fresh produce!) and chopped it in half.
1 large or 2 small onions roughly chopped
About 1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock, or vegetable stock (if you want to keep this vegan), or water would be fine too – the flavours are very rich! Here is a link to my easy slow cooker chicken stock here.
About 1/2 can of coconut milk/cream (full fat organic if possible). You may not wish to add as much as this – it depends on the amount of soup etc – so perhaps add according to taste.
Sea salt and cracked pepper
Chives to serve
How to pull it together:
Chop up the pumpkin into fairly even sized cubes and place on baking paper in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with cinnamon, sea salt and pepper. You can spritz with a bit of olive oil (but please don’t use those aerosol cans – they are so bad for you!) and bake in a 180 degree Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) oven for about 40 minutes or until roasted through.
When the pumpkin is cooked or you are ready to make the soup, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large soup pot or saucepan and sauté the onion with a sprinkle of salt (to stop it from burning) until transparent. Add the roasted pumpkin and toss through until well coated. Add the stock or water until the pumpkin and onion are covered and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool until ready to serve. When ready to serve, blitz the soup with a hand held blender or in a food processor. Bring back onto the heat and add the coconut milk/cream stirring until well combined. Serve with a sprinkle of chives.
If Using A Thermomix:
Add the onion to the mixing bowl and chop speed 5 for 5 seconds.
Add the butter or coconut oil and saute for 3 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 2.
Add the baked pumpkin and broth or stock to cover. Cook for 20 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 1.
Add coconut milk and blitz speed 9 for 1 minute.
Season to taste and serve sprinkled with chives.
Hmmmm enjoy X
My 4 year old has recently been shown to have a gluten and dairy intolerance. The gluten I can handle, to some extent, as we have pretty much already eliminated most gluten from our diet. Bread is a bit tricky however, and I’m finding myself spending a fortune on a gluten free loaf that doesn’t contain additives and vegetable oils. It is definitely time I start investigating making my own gluten free bread I think – watch this space!!!
Dairy, on the other hand, for a child who’s favourite foods were cheese and yoghurt is a bit of a nightmare.
I have to say though, after a trip to the supermarket to investigate my options, I was mortified. I mean, seriously, all the products marketed gluten and/or dairy free are FULL of chemicals, vegetable oils, preservatives and a plethora of other numbers that I don’t even really want to look up. I mean what are the manufacturers really saying – ‘hey your poor child clearly has a sensitive digestive system, I know let’s take the gluten/dairy out of this product and flood it with crap- I’m sure it will go down wonderfully’. Keep in mind that most of these products are directly marketed at our kids.
So, I have decided that I simply have to spend even more time in the kitchen than I already do and get creative with my cooking and baking so that I can feed my children the kind of food they deserve, despite their intolerances (bearing in mind that my children could be the fussiest kids ever).
One of my new creations are these delicious vanilla cupcakes that are gluten, dairy and sugar free. I trawled through the internet and cookbooks looking for such a thing and couldn’t find it, so I have made up my own and am proud to say that not only do I find them absolutely delicious but MY KIDS DO TOO! And they seriously take about 5 minutes to pull together. Winning! So give them a go – they are delicious on their own, but you could add chocolate chips, banana, blueberries, cacoa powder (1/4 cup would be good) – whatever you like really. You could omit the dates and they are a delicious savoury base for breakfast muffins.
Gluten, Dairy and Sugar Free Vanilla Cupcakes
(serves 18 mini cupcakes)
You will need:
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free – from health food stores)
2 organic/free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup macadamia, coconut or olive oil
¼ cup milk of your choice (I used almond milk)
½ – 3/4 cup of pitted dates
How to pull it together:
Put all ingredients in your food processor and blitz until well combined (dates in particular).
Spoon into mini cupcake papers and bake in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees) for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Careful – they tend to burn easily on the top.
I really don’t need to say much about this recipe – the simplicity of these amazing and nutritious ingredients really speak for themselves. It’s a great one to serve at a BBQ or to make up at the beginning of the week for lunches. It’s seriously tasty!
Quinoa, Kale and Haloumi Salad – serves 4
What you will need:
2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa – I have used both white and red with this recipe – it depends what kind of mood you’re in really …
1/2 – 1 bag of baby kale
500 grams haloumi (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup flat parsley leaves (optional)
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sweet, smokey paprika
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
In a jar shake up the lemon juice, paprika and olive oil with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. (you may wish to play around with this according to your taste)
How to pull it together:
Cook up your quinoa by bringing 1 1/2 cups of quinoa and 3 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes. To add flavour you could add some lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon juice if you like. You might also like to cook your quinoa in chicken stock rather than water – I haven’t tried this but it sounds delicious!
While the quinoa is cooking, brush the haloumi with a little olive oil and cook in a hot pan until golden.
Once the quinoa is cooked, toss through the baby kale and parsley with the dressing until well combined. Top with the golden slices of haloumi and serve.
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