As many of you know, I live in Australia. Or more particularly, Melbourne, AKA one of the colder cities down under. Now in April, summer has well and truly left and for many of us, has taken healthy eating with it. Suddenly, cravings for ‘comfort food’ kick in and the autumn lethargy draws away our motivation to cook. I find in summer, with the longer days & warm air I feel inspired to meal prep, make colourful salads & drink smoothies all day long. But if you’re like me, when it’s cold, it’s just a whole lot easier to order a pizza or some Pad Thai, and crawl into bed.
And whilst I’ll never say no to Thai food and pizza, it’s not the best habit to keep up on a day to day basis. Which is why I’ve decided to kick off this ‘healthy meal ideas’ series, in which I will share two or three of my favourite healthy recipes each week as some mealspiration for you all. I might even include a few extra meal/snack ideas if I’m feeling generous. Not only will this inspire me to stay healthy and be creative this winter, but hopefully it will inspire you too.
As Friday is my day off uni, I always spend time creating a meal plan for the following week, and planning my grocery list. Not only does this save me from figuring out what to eat each night, but it prevents food wastage (which we know I’m all about here), as you will only buy exactly what you need. I then do my grocery shop for the week on a Saturday, making sure to check my fridge/pantry beforehand in case I already have what I need. Whenever I next have time, I like to do a bit of meal prep, whether it be making some rice in bulk, roasting some veggies or making a meal to freeze. Meal prepping when you have time saves you so much for when you don’t!
Finally, I hope to inspire you with this series to create something nourishing for yourself, battle those cravings and stay healthy through these cold months.
It’s no secret in the foodie world, that alongside some hot toast and a cup of tea, oatmeal is the most comforting breakfast food. In my opinion anyway. I absolutely love waking up on a frosty morning, and tucking into a steaming bowl of gooey oatmeal.
Not only does oatmeal give you a giant hug from the inside, but the flavour options are endless! Banana bread? Chocolate? Carrot cake? Berry? Apple pie? Your pick.Oatmeal is such a diverse breakfast food which I will never tire of.
It also has great health benefits: oats are a complex and low GI source of carbohydrates, meaning that they allow a slower release of insulin to the blood stream (AKA, keep you going for longer). They have healthy fat & protein as well, and when combined with plant milk for calcium, and chia seeds or walnuts as toppings for extra omega 3’s, you get a whopping amount of essential vitamins/minerals in just one meal! Win win in my books.
So for this week my favourite oatmeal combination has been…(drumroll please) chocolate fudge oats. Perfect for those with a sweet tooth, and as always, can be done hot or cold.
Let’s get into the recipe/s.
Chocolate Fudge Oats (Two Ways)
Version 1: overnight/on the go oats
As much as I love hot oatmeal, I often have to rise early for uni, which means eating breakfast on the train. But who says you can’t eat healthy on the go? No, you don’t have to grab a pastry and a large latte from the nearest coffee van, as overnight oats are here to save the day! I like to make mine in a mason jar, leave them overnight, and add my toppings in the morning before rushing out the door.
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup plant milk ( I use almond-coconut)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cacao/cocoa/carob powder
1-2 medjool dates (depending on sweetness preference)
1/2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
Place dates in boiling water and set aside. Meanwhile, put all other ingredients in a mason jar (or an almost empty tahini/peanut butter jar if you’re feeling adventurous). After 10 minutes, drain most of hot water and mash dates with a fork. Add to jar. Stir all ingredients together well and place jar in fridge.
In morning, simply take it out and top it with some walnuts & blueberries or sultanas. Then enjoy this decadent but nutritious breakfast on the train, in the office or in that 9am lecture!
Version 2: hot oatmeal
This one speaks for itself. I love to enjoy on a cold winter’s morning, on my day off from uni or before heading into work on the weekend.
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup plant milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cacao/cocoa/carob powder
1-2 medjool dates chopped small
Place oats, milk & water in a pot and bring to boil. Once boiling, add cinnamon, cacao, vanilla and chopped up date/s (and optional frozen berries). Bring heat down to medium low and continue to stir until creamy/desired consistency. Pour into bowl and top with blackstrap molasses, berries, walnuts & tahini or peanut butter. Enjoy under a big blanket with some Netflix & a cup of tea.
So for this week I absolutely loved having dhal for dinner. With a Sri Lankan background, I will always have a soft spot for curry, and as the weather gets colder, my craving for it grows. So I decided this week to make a big batch of dhal, so I could freeze a couple of serves for weeks to come, and eat some this week as well. It also works perfectly to pack into containers and heat up at uni/work for lunch!
Lentils are packed full of protein, iron, fibre & folate, and are an incredible legume to incorporate into your diet. There are so many recipes that use lentils, but my favourite will always be a classic dhal. The best way to eat dhal (in my opinion) is on a bed of greens, with some hot baked pumpkin or Sri Lankan string hoppers. Add some herbs or fresh tomato on top, and you have yourself a hearty and nutritious meal!
If you’re tight for time or are short on ingredients, a quick and easy lentil/dhal style meal is the Celebrate Health Moroccan lentils which I buy from my local Coles. However, although I love this when my schedule is tight, I do find it so much more rewarding to make my own dhal from scratch (and it works out cheaper as well). And as mentioned above, you can always make a larger batch and freeze/refrigerate a few serves to use for a busier week.
So finally, I will provide you with a simple and delicious dhal recipe, adapted from a few recipes I have picked up along my travels, as well as my mother’s orginal recipe. Enjoy!
Lentil Dhal (serves 2)
Small onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
Small piece ginger, finely chopped
1-2 diced tomatoes
1 small green chilli
160g red lentils
1tsp each of vegetable stock, curry powder, turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste
Simmer onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and chilli in a splash of water or oil. Once soft, add lentils and spices, and cover lentils with water. Add bay leaves, salt to taste (I don’t use any but feel free), peppercorns (optional), and a squirt of tomato sauce (optional). Bring to a gentle boil. Move pot to small flame on low, and simmer with lid on/partially vented for fifteen minutes or until thick/desired consistency. Add splash of coconut milk and stir (alternatively use any plant milk & add 1-2 teaspoons of coconut flakes).
Serve over hot pumpkin, string hoppers, rice, or on its own. Top with herbs or fresh tomato.
So there you have it, my two recipes for this week!
I hope I have inspired you to make some hearty but healthy meals, especially if you’re living in a colder climate like myself at the moment. I look forward to sharing some more meal inspiration with you all next week.
Love to all,