Author Archives: mia irby

About mia irby

Hi and welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by, I really appreciate it. I 'm a lover of all things craft, cooking, DIY and natural. I've been creating all sorts of delicious healthy food, beauty products and craft items lately and need somewhere to share my recipes, successes and occasional disasters! I hope you enjoy...and feedback is always appreciated!

Lentil, chickpea and coconut soup – vegan, gluten free

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This soup recipe was a combination of several recipes I’d seen in the past and I decided that it would make for a perfect lunch soup for my work days. Living in freezing, FREEZING cold Canberra means that soups are an essential part of the winter diet – and this one is packed full of protein, complex carbs and veggies, both filling, nutritious and best of all, DELICIOUS! This soup is best served with a big piece of crusty bread. If you have the time it’s definitely worth making the No-Knead bread recipe I have posted – goes perfectly with soup!

Lentil coconut soup

Ingredients:

1 x 400g tin brown lentils, drained

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained

2 x 400g tins coconut milk (light version is fine to use)

1 large brown onion, finely diced

1 large carrot, finely diced

1 large stalk celery, finely diced

1 medium red pepper/capsicum, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large thumb-size piece ginger, finely chopped

2 hot chillies (take out seeds if you don’t want it so spicy)

4 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground tumeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

Salt & pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup tomato paste

6 cups water

2 teaspoons chicken stock powder (vegan)

1 lime

Fresh coriander/cilantro

Natural or greek yoghurt

Method:

In a large pot put olive oil, onion, carrot, celery and capsicum and cook until softened. Add garlic, ginger, chilies, spices and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. (It’s really important to cook off your spices and tomato paste – if you don’t you can end up with a “raw” taste in your soup.) Add lentils, chickpeas, coconut milk, water, stock and salt & pepper to pot and bring to a simmer.

Cook on a low temperature for 15-20 minutes until vegetables and chickpeas are soft. Add the juice of half a lime to the soup once finished cooking.

Serve soup with a big dollop of natural/greek yoghurt, a sprinkle of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, a wedge of fresh lime and some crusty bread (homemade is best!).

Serves: 10

Can be frozen.

Weekend productivity

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Being a single girl and working full time is great and all, but sometimes after a long day at work the last thing I want to do is think about cooking a healthy, nutritious dinner for my lonesome self. I’m desperately trying to save money at the moment, yet still eat as healthy and nutritiously as possible. I decided that this weekend was going to be productive, creative, and money-saving oriented – so I got busy and planned all my meals (yes – breakfast, lunch and dinner) for every single day, all for under $150. Two days dedicated to cooking (torture for some, heavenly bliss for me!) was all it took (you could do it in 1 day, but I liked spreading it out across the weekend) and I’m now organised for the next fortnight! The menu isn’t overly diverse and if you can’t cope with the same flavours/meat several times in 1 week then just alter the plan to suit you. It’s super easy to change a few things around to get a bit more variety into the meals and means that there is no “what should I have for dinner today” moments, because it’s all sorted already. The way to keep this 2 week plan under $150 is to buy seasonally (fruit and veg) or buy what’s on special that week.

Menu:

Breakfast – rolled oats with fruit (I add sultanas or stewed apples)

Lunch – soup and bread (2 soups to choose from (roasted pumpkin, sweet potato and capsicum & lentil, chickpea and coconut) and homemade wholemeal bread)

Dinner – meat (I’ve used chicken and pork this fortnight) in marinade (Italian herb, Chinese 5 spice, Thai satay) with vegetables and rice/potato/pasta (optional)

I divided my meat up into daily portions (I bought a whole chicken and divided it up to save money – $11 for 7 meat portions is awesome!) in zip-lock bags and added my marinade before sealing and freezing. Also froze my vegetables in portions, which means taking the bags out of the freezer and putting them into a dish to cook in the oven. This means low fat cooking – no extra oil/butter and no preparation time.

I’ll get to putting up the recipes for all food in the next couple of days, as well as the shopping list and quantities etc. for the fortnight.

I just want to add, making this bread is ESSENTIAL! People think that baking bread is hard work – it’s NOT! The recipe for the bread I make is super easy, and not that time consuming once you get your head around the concept. It is cheap to make your own bread, you know exactly what ingredients go into it, it tastes AMAZING – best bread I’ve ever eaten, and you can easily add ingredients to change the flavours. If you don’t take anything else from this, please please PLEASE give the bread recipe a go – it’s awesome! (https://miairby.com/2013/04/29/no-knead-bread-delicious-and-easy/)

I guess this is proof that with a little bit of forward planning you can save money, eat healthily and know that what you are eating has no added preservatives, colours or flavours. Oh, and everything is packed full of flavour – being organised and cutting out unhealthy fats and additives doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice flavour…I love food that tastes as amazing as it looks, especially when it’s great fuel for my body too!

No-knead bread – delicious and easy

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For a while now I’ve been making my own bread. A lot of people remark at how difficult it is and how dedicated I am to cooking…but that’s not necessarily true. This bread recipe is super easy, requires no kneading, and can be altered to change the flavours. So far I’ve cooked a few wholemeal molasses loaves as well as a caramelised onion, spinach and parmesan loaf – all of which have turned out amazing! I accidentally discovered the secret to getting this bread so light and fluffy on the weekend, and that was because I left my dough to rise the second time around longer than usual…the result?! Fluffy, light and airy bread with a delicious crunchy crust. At a glance it might seem that this bread-making process is complicated and time consuming, but once you’re organised it’s easy and can fit into a daily or weekly routine. This isn’t one of those “Oh I have 10 minutes spare time, I’ll whip up a loaf of bread” recipe – you need to plan ahead – but trust me, totally worth the effort! (original recipe from: http://www.frugallivingnw.com/frugal-homemaking/amazing-no-knead-bread-step-by-step-recipe/)

Bread ingredients

Ingredients:

6 cups plain flour (I use half white/half wholemeal)

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 2/3 cup water

2-3 tablespoons molasses (optional)

Method:

Put all dry ingredients in bowl (and molasses if using it) and slowly add water to combine. The mix should be quite wet, so if the dough is too dry add a little more water (be careful –  a little goes a long way).

Bread dough unrisen

Cover bowl with cling wrap and leave on kitchen bench for 12-18 hours to rise.

Once risen, pour dough onto lightly floured bench-top and tuck edges underneath so you create a smooth ball on top with gnarly bits underneath. Place back into bowl to rest for a further 2 hours (dough should almost fill bowl again once risen second time around).

Bread dough risen

Preheat oven to maximum temperature; half an hour before cooking time place a cast iron pot with lid into oven to pre-heat. Once pot is hot, tip bowl of dough into pot smooth side down so the gnarly bits are now on the top of the loaf. Put lid on pot and return to oven to cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour of cooking time remove the lid and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Wait until bread is cooled completely before cutting. Bread is best if left until the day after cooking to cut and eat. I keep my bread in the cast iron pot with the lid on, as this keeps the bread from going soggy or drying out. Delicious with sweet or savoury toppings…or my favourite – toasted with butter…YUM!

finished loaf

Alternate versions:

Why not add some dried fruit to your molasses dough base to make a delicious fruit loaf?

Add 1 cup of chopped black olives and a couple of stems of chopped rosemary for a yummy savoury loaf.

Add 1/2 cup caramelised onions, 1/2 cup wilted spinach & 1/4 cup parmesan cheese for another savoury version.

Choc-peanut butter health slice (healthy, vegan, & a gluten free option available)

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Choc slice

 

I found a recipe on Pinterest the other day for a no-bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal slice (original recipe here: http://amy-newnostalgia.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/best-recipe-ive-ever-messed-up.html)  that looked absolutely delicious. I decided to give it a try on the weekend, but of course had to add my own spin to the original recipe. This is quick and easy to make, and the taste is simply amazing…you won’t be able to stop at one bar that’s for sure!

 

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup coconut oil

– 200g block 70% cocoa chocolate, broken into pieces

– 1 cup crunchy peanut butter

– 2/3 cup raw honey

– 2 cups rolled oats (use puffed rice or quinoa here if you want to make a gluten free version)

– 1 cup dried fruit – I used dried apricots, dates, craisins and sultanas

– Desiccated coconut to sprinkle on top

 

– Place coconut oil, peanut butter and honey in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Add in broken chocolate pieces and microwave for a further minute. Take out mixture and stir – the chocolate should be melted and all ingredients should be incorporated. Add dried fruit and oats to chocolate mixture and stir until well combined. Press mixture into a greased and lined lamington tray, sprinkle with desiccated coconut, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove slice from pan and cut into bars (my tray made 24 pieces of slice – cut 6 x 4). Keep slice in airtight container in fridge for up to a week.

A little ray of Sunshine…and Stella

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If you know me you’ll know I’m a massive animal lover. I have been blessed in my life to have the most gorgeous, clever, funny, cute and cuddly dog in the world. Her name is Sunshine (aka Sunny, Sunny Bear, Bear Scout, Shines) and she is a Maltese Terrier x Poodle. She will be 5 (human) years old this year…and has been an absolute joy to have her in my life thus far.

Sunny

Sunny has a best friend named Stella, who is my mum and dad’s dog. Stella is 1 year older than Sunny and is the boss lady of the two of them. Stella likes to demand attention/pat time at every opportunity and isn’t quite as hyperactive and bouncy as Sunshine.

Stella

These two little furry friends bring so much joy and happiness into our lives. It’s always lovely to be greeted at the door with such enthusiasm and love, whether you’ve been gone all day or just went out to check the mailbox!

If you are thinking of getting a dog and want something low maintenance, happy, smart, minimum exercise required, no shedding or malting – then a Moodle is for you!

Sunny and Stella

Lemon Coconut Oat Slice

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If you are anything like me then you LOVE anything citrus, especially sweet treats. This recipe is a take on one of my Grandma’s slices. The original is yum and uses dried apricots, however I’m a sucker for anything citrus and wanted to make the same texture slice but a different flavour – and the Lemon Coconut Oat slice was born! Using 5 ingredients and no need for cooking, this slice is quick and easy to make and never lasts long once prepared.

Ingredients:

– 3/4 pkt plain biscuits (I use shredded wheat biscuits, but milk arrowroot, malt-o-milk etc. biscuits would work fine)

– 3/4 cup rolled oats

– 3/4 cup desiccated coconut + extra for top

– 3 lemons

– 1 tin sweetened condensed milk

– Coconut oil for greasing and baking paper to line tin

Ingredients - lemon slice

Method:

– Grease and line a square cake tin (I use a 20cm or 8″ tin)

– Put the biscuits into a food processor or blender and blitz until it looks like a fine crumb. Repeat the process with the rolled oats.

– Place crushed biscuits, oats and coconut into a large bowl and mix to combine.

– In a separate bowl mix the zest and juice of 3 lemons with the tin of condensed milk until combined.

– Mix the lemon condensed milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

– Press mixture into the tin and sprinkle the top with extra desiccated coconut. I find it easiest to push the mixture into the tin with the back of a spoon and then really press it into the corners once the extra coconut is on top (which keeps the mixture from sticking to your fingers).

Slice in tin

– Refrigerate the slice for approximately 6 hours or overnight. Take out of fridge and cut into bars (I get 32 bars from this size tin – 4 x 8)

Cutting the slice

Enjoy!

Spicy tomato lentils with vegetables & hummus (gluten free, vegan, lactose free)

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Spicy lentils with roasted vegetables and hummus

Spicy lentils with roasted vegetables and hummus

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on a bit of a health kick at the moment and am thoroughly enjoying whipping up delicious food that is super tasty and also nutritionally amazing. This next recipe doesn’t take long to cook start to finish, and I have listed the instructions in order of cooking, so you can have this meal on the plate in under 1 hour start to finish (once you put your veggies on to roast the rest of the meal is super fast). Make sure you make plenty because it’s great for lunch the following day.

Spicy Tomato Lentils with  vegetables and hummus

Ingredients:

Lentils: 1 tin brown lentils, 1 tin crushed or diced tomatoes, 1 medium brown onion – finely diced, 3 cloves garlic – crushed, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or smokey depending on your taste), 1/4 tsp dried chilli (you could add fresh, 1 small birds-eye chili minus the seeds), 1 stock cube (vegetable), Salt and pepper, Fresh herbs ( I used parsley and basil)

Vegetables for roasting – I used cauliflower and carrot (you could use beetroot, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli – any vegetable that is delicious roasted), 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or smokey depending on taste), 1 tbsp EVOO, salt and pepper.

Washed baby spinach leaves and hummus (recipe on another post) to serve.

1. Cut up vegetables for roasting into bite-sized pieces. Put into a baking dish along with the EVOO, paprika, slat and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for approximately 40 – 50 minutes @ 180°C.

2. Add 1 tbsp of EVOO to a saucepan, add diced onion and cook until soft. Add crushed garlic, paprika and chili and cook until spices are aromatic. Add drained tin of lentils to pan and stir to coat in spiced onion mix. Add the tin of tomatoes and the crushed stock cube to the pot. Simmer lentils for approximately 8-10 minutes and then turn off heat. Add chopped herbs to pot right before serving (this ensures that your herbs don’t go limp and overcook).

3. When vegetables are suitably roasted it’s time to assemble. Cover your serving dish with a layer of baby spinach. Top with a huge scoop of tomato lentils and then stack on a heap of roasted veg. Finish the dish with a big dollop of hummus on top.

Hummus and its many uses

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If you are anything like me then you’ll already know all about hummus, and how simple and easy it is to make at home. Traditionally hummus is served as a dip, however I use it for a lot more than that. It’s a delicious, low fat, protein-packed spread that can be used in many different ways. I like to use organic chickpeas, tahini and lemons for mine, and find that each batch needs modifying to taste. I have included my basic recipe below, but taste as you go. You have to take in to consideration things like the size variations of garlic cloves and lemons.

Uses for hummus:

– as a dip with crackers, bread or veggie sticks

– as a spread on sandwiches, wraps or pita bread – pack on some hummus and salad stuff and you have yourself a delicious meal

– add a little water to a couple of tablespoons of hummus for a delicious, vegan salad dressing

– pour over roasted veggies for a delicious sauce

– pack onto uncooked chicken breasts and bake for a yummy lunch or dinner meal

– serve with felafels for a tasty dipping sauce

Recipe:

  • 1 tin chickpeas – make sure you reserve the liquid
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp tahini paste
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 medium sized lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and pepper

In a food processor or blender place chickpeas, half the juice from the chickpea tin, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, EVOO and cumin and whiz until smooth. If your hummus is too thick add a bit more of the chickpea liquid. Taste – sometimes you need to add more garlic, juice, oil or tahini depending on ingredient sizes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to wait until the end to do this, as often it doesn’t need much salt if you use enough lemon and garlic.

Store your hummus in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, if it lasts that long. If serving as a dip I like to add a glug (yes, that is a measurement!) of olive oil over the top, and then sprinkle with a mix of paprika and cumin.

Quinoa custard (gluten free, vegan, lactose free) with stewed apples

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Quinoa custard

It’s those cold winter nights that get me in trouble when it comes to delicious, warm comfort food. I have tried and tested many recipes to hit that sweet craving, and I think this is the one that I love the most! It’s a delicious custard/pudding made with quinoa (the most diverse ingredient ever!) and coconut milk. I also made some stewed apples with sultanas to go alongside the custard, and it’s definitely a recipe I’ll be making again and again. The best part about this recipe is it takes just 4 minutes to cook in the microwave, so no waiting around for baking time, and the fact that it’s nutritious, healthy, protein-packed and vegan doesn’t hurt either! The custard is super creamy with a coconut undertone, but not too sweet. The apples and sultanas just give it an extra yum factor…it really is spectacular for something good for you!

Ingredients:

1 cup organic quinoa flakes

1 tin coconut milk (you could use the light version, but I didn’t bother)

1/2 tin water (I use the water to wash out any leftover coconut milk stuck in the can)

1 tbsp brown sugar, plus an extra 1 tsp

1 apple (I used a Granny Smith)

2 tbsp sultanas

2 tbsp water

In a heat proof bowl mix the quinoa, milk, water and 1 tbsp brown sugar. Peel and finely slice the apple. Place into a zip-lock bag along with the sultanas, extra 1 tsp of brown sugar and water. Place bowl of quinoa in microwave along with the sealed zip-lock bag. Cook for 2 minutes on high, then stir the quinoa and shake the apple bag a bit. Put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes on high. If the quinoa gets too thick just add some water, soy milk or almond milk and cook for another minute. Serve the quinoa in a bowl and top with the stewed apples (make sure you spoon some of that caramel sauce over the apples – it’s delicious!) Enjoy!

It’s a first…

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Well, I’ve finally done it…I’ve started a blog! I’m so excited to be joining the online world of amazing people with brilliant, clever and creative ideas. I’m going to start posting my recipes as I cook them, as I need a way to document and share – and this seems to be the way to do it.

I’m hoping to be able to inspire people to try new things, and also to be able to share creative energy with others so I am also inspired. I kind of suck when it comes to taking photos, and have to start remembering to take photos of the process and not just the end result. I’m sure the more practice I get at blogging the better I’ll get…hopefully!

Lately I’ve been trying to eat more healthily in an attempt to lose weight…and it’s working. It’s such an awesome feeling to see the results of hard work. Now I just have to be a little more diligent with exercise and I’ll be a fit, strong, healthy chick. I’ve found that it’s little things that actually make a big difference. Portion control was never my strong point, but I’ve started eating my meals off a bread and butter plate rather than a dinner plate. This has worked wonders. Also, I try and eat 80% fruit and veg, pulses, grains and legumes (such as quinoa, oats, chickpeas and lentils) and 20% protein. I obviously have a small percentage of ‘junk’ food, which usually isn’t too junky these days. I’ve found there are lots of options these days to substitute ingredients for other not-so-healthy ones. This means you can have your cake and eat it too!

I’m also loving one natural product that seems to cover everything. It has about a thousand amazing uses, and I LOVE it. Coconut oil…get on it! I use it as a facial cleanser – it takes off all my eye makeup so easily, as an all over body moisturiser, as a hair treatment (I have crazy curly hair – this seems to tame the fly-aways and keep my Diana Ross impressions at a low), as my before-bed face moisturiser, as a lip balm (although I’ve discovered the most amazing recipe for homemade lip balm…AMAZING!), for cooking (instead of olive oil), use as a substitute for butter in recipes, as a body scrub when mixed with salt, sugar or ground oats…and the list goes on. It truly is an amazing natural product, and my skin has improved drastically since using it. If you haven’t tried it before I highly recommend it. Just make sure you buy a good organic, cold pressed, raw coconut oil. You can purchase it at most health food stores, and these days even at the local Coles or Woolworths (although I couldn’t find it at Woolies yesterday, but I know Coles has a great brand and it’s not too expensive).

I’ll start adding recipes and try to jazz this up a bit…but keep checking in, as I’m super keen on getting this blog functional and useful for anyone who is interested. Feel free to add any suggestions you may have or any recipe requests…I’m always keen on trying new recipes or altering old ones to make them even tastier.

Peace, love and harmony,

Mia x