a flexible approach to quarantine cooking | combining flavors

Quarantine cooking is no joke. With shelves bare, your kitchen cupboard overflowing with spices you never figured out how to use and annoyingly small quantities of random grains, it’s a challenge to piece together a meal.

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Let me help! Food creativity is an ability I’m proud and grateful to have. Having the patience and energy to think through what I’m putting on my plate, with barely anything at all on hand. And sharing my ideas matters to me ūüôā

If you have the following on hand, there’s a lot you can do. I’ve upped the ante in my kitchen by cooking simple, flavorless ingredients with a combination of these items to keep things fresh and new.

  • Types of seasoning/’oomph’: spices & condiments. Yes, even that random jar of mustard powder. But also pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, leftover red wine, dried herbs, dried mushrooms, ginger paste, fresh garlic and onion, fresh herbs if you’re lucky, tomato paste, tea bags (for real!), dark chocolate (also for real!), bay leaf, hot sauce, celery, dried seaweed, fish sauce, liquid smoke
  • Types of saltiness: soy sauce, stock cubes, salt, marmite or yeast extract, ¬†nutritional yeast, pesto, miso, cheese, olives or canned mackerel and anchovies, capers are salty flavor bombs
  • Types of sour: leftover white wine, vinegar, lemon and limes, other citrus fruit, fresh coriander, dried mango powder, any type of pickle, berries, lemongrass
  • An element of richness: yoghurt, coconut milk, avocado if you’re lucky, ghee or butter, hummus, shelf-stable cream, nuts and nut butters, tahini, an egg, mayonnaise, pureed vegetables
  • A crispy extra: crispy onions, crushed tortilla chips, sesame seeds, fried breadcrumbs, toasted nuts, fried chickpeas, toasted buckwheat, linseeds, flaked sea salt, coconut flakes, fried egg noodles, spring onions, sliced cabbage, fried garlic

 

Balancing these flavors will make your meals so much more interesting. Here are some ideas divided by meal category!

For a pasta dish

  • Fry garlic, onions, and/or chilli
  • Add meat and/or vegetables and deglaze in some wine
  • Stir in some pesto, chopped olives, chopped anchovies or capers
  • Top with a squeeze of lemon and¬†crispy fired garlic flakes or toasted breadcrumbs

 

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For an Indian dish

  • Cook a pulse in water with either a teabag, tomato paste, bay leaf, dried mango powder and/or a chilli, some stock, paprika, turmeric, and any other spices you may have
  • Fry any vegetables with some onions, garlic, ginger, whole cumin and coriander seed before adding to your pulse
  • Stir in yoghurt, coriander and or lime, coconut milk or a dollop of ghee
  • Top with crispy chickpeas, coconut flakes or spring onion

 

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For a Thai dish

  • Fry a vegetable, meat and/or tofu in oil, ground turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli and/or Kafir lime
  • Add noodles and cover with stock, coconut milk and/or peanut butter
  • Top with some fried egg noodles, spring onion and a squeeze of lime

 

For a broth bowl

  • Fry some garlic, ginger, chilli, onion in oil and top with stock
  • Stir in miso, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, ¬†or yeast extract
  • Add dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, lemongrass and noodles
  • Top with¬†a boiled egg
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds, spring onions, crispy onions, pickled ginger or sliced carrot

 

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For a rice bowl

  • Cook rice in stock and tomato paste, dried herbs, stock, onions, paprika and/or cumin
  • Top with stir-fried vegetables, tofu or chickpeas in garlic, and salt
  • Add a dollop of hummus, yoghurt, or smashed avocado
  • Sprinkle some nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, flaked salt, toasted buckwheat

 

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For toast

  • Spread hummus, or yoghurt stirred with pesto, or avocado on toasted bread
  • Top with a boiled egg, crispy chickpeas, or canned fish
  • Drizzle hot sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, flavored oil or balsamic vinegar

 

For an egg dish

  • Fry¬†vegetables in garlic, onion and paprika, tomato paste or soy sauce¬†and/or dried herbs
  • Crack in eggs
  • Top with fresh herbs, yoghurt, lemon or spring onions
  • Sprinkle over sesame seeds, or toasted buckwheat or pumpkin seeds

 

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ayurvedic + gut-friendly savoury oats

A warming bowl of porridge is so much more than a plate of food. Share it with a friend and it becomes a topic of conversation. Make it after a long day and it becomes a source of comfort. Let your imagination run free and it becomes a creative outlet.

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how to make the best gut-healing oatmeal

Oatmeal, porridge, whatever you wanna call it. One thing: treat it like risotto.

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Oats are like the perfect middle-ground between incredibly indulgent and incredibly nutritious.

I was probably born with a spoonful of oats in my mouth. Wherever I was, at home, at school, on holidays, oats always made an appearance. Except my oat consumption has changed drastically since those dairy and microwave days. I actually used to pour cornflakes on top of my porridge. That crunch was everything. Now it just comes in a different shape (i.e. spoonfuls of PB)!

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green zombie popcorn + why I created #healthoween

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And it’s Monday again. As it turns out, this weekend is Halloween weekend! I am super duper excited.¬†See, I didn’t end up doing much last year, because I wasn’t ‘in the know’. I don’t know how it happened, but I felt very uninformed about what was going on!

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#septemberwhole30 week 3: what I ate + how I feel

Wow, this week has gone by so fast. And successful in terms of non-scale victories. Like snacking. I like snacking, but I’m finally learning not to snack so much.
I’ve not been keeping track of my food so well (or taking photos of it!), but I’ll do my best to recall what I’ve been eating, making, tasting and maybe even smelling.

day 15

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Breakfast is always the same. I’m really intending to change it up next week, which’ll be the final week of my Whole30. 2 fried eggs (in coconut oil), a slice or two of bacon, and some not-so-optional avocado. Yay.
Lunch is pretty interesting. I attempt to make pork sausages out of minced pork, sage and mustard but they turn out to be incredibly wet. So I decide to hash them with some cauliflower rice instead of making patties and serve it over a black kale salad, with some sauerkraut and avocado. My dressing of choice remains the same; tahini, apple cider vinegar and some seasoning.
I don’t snack today. That is a major non-scale victory for me, because I’m normally itching to eat something in between meals. I did have a mandatory black coffee at some point, like evry day.
Dinner is a simple roast chicken, with turmeric and cumin. It turns out amazing this week, really juicy and crispy-skinned, and I serve it with some potatoes, mashed with a little clarified butter.

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#septemberwhole30 week 2: what I ate + how I feel

It’s Sunday, two weeks into my very first Whole30. I feel like I’ve been on this for months already. I’m getting the hang of it, whilst simultaneously feeling like I am not experimenting enough in the kitchen. I know I can do better!

In terms of health improvements, my digestion is 100% improved. Amazing. Not so amazing I may have to restrict my dairy or gluten intake in the future. We shall see. Oh and my sleep. My goodness I have not slept so deeply since childhood. I put my head on the pillow and I don’t wake up until the alarm wakes me. I am so lucky to have seen results two weeks in already. If you haven’t seen much improvement, please don’t give up. I know it’s not easy, but just keep going. It only gets better.

So anyway, week 2 has been a tasty week of meals!

day 8

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Please ignore the nails. Week 2 feelz.

Breakfast is two slices of streaky bacon (I get mine from M&S. It isn’t nitrate-free, but I’m still looking. It’s sugar-free, which matters to me the most right now.), 2 eggs and an entire small avocado. I’m struggling with digesting all this meat, and I order some HCL for stomach acid. I haven’t tested it yet, but it is very likely that I have low-ish stomach acid. Hopefully my body will adapt, otherwise I will have to revert to eating more fibre-rich starches when I am done. I’m pondering transitioning back into a much lower meat diet (90% plant-based) if my body rejects the paleo movement. But I am absolutely convinced I need grains. Like oats and amaranth and buckwheat. I read an article about digestion on PaleoLeap and read that it is normal for digestion to slow down at the beginning of a paleo shift, because fats are replacing grains and grains contain bulking fibre. I might need to eat more vegetables.
For lunch, I finally got to taste my sauerkraut, which has been in the making for 10 days. It’s so delicious, I have it with romaine lettuce, boiled potatoes, garam masala chicken breast in coconut oil and a mayonnaise (from Waitrose, all natural. I fail at making my own.) and apple cider vinegar¬†dressing.
For dinner, I make pork loin with a big kale salad, roasted potatoes and cooked cabbage. Again, very delicious. I’m getting a little comfortable with my cooking, I’ll have to keep my creativity in check.

day 9

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september whole30: week 1, what I ate + how I feel

Happy Monday lovelies ūüź≠

One week down, 3 to go. We can do this. Even if our digestion is completely out of whack and we can’t stand the sight of ghee anymore. We’re fine.

I thought I would give you an insight into what I have been eating this week, at home and on the road. It’s not been easy every day, but I’m proud of pulling through!

 

day 1:

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Monday morning, post late-night pizza feels (has anyone else tried Domino’s newest pizza with fresh rocket and Prosciutto? It was so¬†worth it.)¬†I am craving something healthy!
For breakfast:¬†two eggs fried in coconut oil, a quarter avocado with hot sauce (Red Hot) and some mushrooms, saut√©ed in coconut oil + bone broth. I normally have toast. I didn’t miss the toast.
For lunch: a crispy chicken breast on a bed of leaves with a tahini, basil, garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar dressing.
For dinner: homemade beef burger patties (spiced with cumin + paprika) + roasted potatoes + crispy black kale.
I did¬†snack on a handful or two of nuts, I must admit I hadnt quite grasped the concept of not snacking unless you absolutely need it. I promise I’ll get better.

day 2:

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#septemberwhole30 week 1 thoughts: SWYPO

SWYPO, or Sex With Your Pants On, is the term used by Melissa Hartwig, creator of the Whole 30, to describe recipe recreations of our comfort foods using compliant ingredients. A commonly used example is banana + egg pancakes, which are not allowed, even though banana and eggs are compliant ingredients. Pancakes, waffles and anything that attempts to mimick the real deal is out, because it doesn’t serve you well. And I agree!
Apart from the initial temptation to make paleo bread and tortillas, leaving all the foods I can’t stop eating behind is not excessively hard. I’ve done it before and I know what to expect. It’s all about the mindset (and of course I know it’s hard. I’m just trying to make it easier. Tough love applies to yourself, too.)

SWYPO closely relates to ‘Foods With No Brakes’, the foods we start eating and can’t stop eating. Like potato chips or sweets. Or almond butter; Foods With No Brakes don’t have to be junk to make you crave more. I watched Melissa’s live Facebook Q+A on this topic¬†today (day 3) and I realised I could fine tune my approach and improve it for the 27 days to come. I didn’t sit down to evaluate my Foods With No Brakes at the beginning, but it is worth doing now.

processed carbs

Carbs are a big thing for me. I love them dearly, and I’m a massive bread-lover. I have my addiction under control, but always wish I could have seconds of my rye sourdough after having a slice or two for breakfast. My attitude towards bread is not healthy, hence it is a Food With No Brakes. And so is pasta, healthy crackers and rice cakes. Even oats in the morning! I can just eat and eat and eat. Luckily, these are all out by nature (wheat! gluten!), so it won’t be as hard to resist. Two years ago, I moved from Europe to England, where bread is like sponge. That quickly put me off the bread, because I couldn’t find anything I liked. Added to this, I wanted to lose weight and cleaned up my diet. I missed the bread at the beginning, but got very good at avoiding it, and then I didn’t miss it anymore. I know I can manage my addicition, because I have in the past!

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