What to Cook This March

Learn what's in season this month at cookieandkate.com!

For once, I am early. I thought we might as well get a jump start on March (Happy Leap Day!). Spring is near Kansas City, that’s for sure. I’m thrilled for warmer weather, but the spring forecast for clouds and spring showers doesn’t bode well for cookbook photography. I’m chasing light through my house while the sun’s still out and praying for more sunshine. Please send your extra sun rays my way!

March brings fresh greens, peas and asparagus to the markets. You’ll find my March recipe picks below. We ended up with a strong taco theme, which I love. Don’t forget to post photos on Instagram when you make a recipe shown here—tag your photo #ckmarch and #cookieandkate so we can all share the experience!

If you’re looking for more March cooking inspiration, check out my full March seasonal post, which features even more recipes.

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It’s a BOY!

Sweet Potato Brownies-2

When we first found out we were pregnant, my trusty ‘app’ calculated the due date as 28th Feb. My first thought was maybe we’ll have a ‘leap year’ baby?

How cool would that be?

Well turns out young Finbar Brennan had other ideas.

But I’m so thrilled this little bundle of joy came early. Not that I’m biased or anything but he really is the cutest. Very similar to his doting big brother Fergal at this age.

We’ve been having the best ‘koala’ cuddles. Even in this 35C+ (95F) heat. I’d forgotten how divine newborns are.

To celebrate the safe arrival of Finbar do I have a recipe treat for you!

Sweet potato and brownies! Together at last! (and they don’t have any added sugar!).

I know. Lots of exclamation marks but I can’t help myself at the moment…

________

Sweet Potato Brownies

Having gestational diabetes has really opened my eyes to new ways of baking without adding sugar or flour. There’s a whole new world out there! After lots of experimentation, including growing my own, I’ve settled on pure powdered stevia as my fave low carb sweetener. I order mine online. It’s expensive but a tiny bit goes a super long way so not so bad when you look at cost per use.

Important note: the stevia I use is concentrated stevia on it’s own. NOT ‘Natvia’ type blends of stevia and sugar alcohols (usually erythritol). I’ve tried both and prefer the cleaner taste of pure stevia. Plus I worry about the impact of sugar alcohols on our (and more importantly our children’s) gut bacteria. If you don’t have pure stevia, see the variations below for alternative sweeteners.

These sweet potato brownies are still a bit carby but better than the alternative.

makes about: 12 squares
takes: 30 minutes
250g (9oz) roast sweet potato
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
200g (7oz) almond meal
1/8 teaspoon pure powdered stevia
4 eggs
pinch salt

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a rectangular slice pan (approx 18cm x 27cm / 7in x 10.5in).

2. Whizz sweet potato, chocolate, almond meal, stevia, eggs and salt in a food processor until you have a smooth mixture.

3. Spread mixture over the base of your prepared tin. Bake for 15 minutes or until the brownies feel firm on top.

4. Cool in the tin then chop into squares.

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Variations

no food processor? – melt chocolate and mash everything together with a fork.

no roasted sweet potato? – just scrub whole sweet potato and roast for 45mins to 1 hour at 180C (350F) or until really soft.

no powdered stevia? – replace with about 15 pitted dried dates that have been soaked in boiling water and drained. OR add maple syrup or honey to taste (about 4-5 tablespoons should do the trick).

nut-free – I haven’t tried this but you could try increasing the sweet potato and chocolate by 100g (3.5oz) each.

less patchy – the chocolate can be a bit chunky through these brownies so if you prefer a more uniform look, melt the chocolate before adding to the food processor.

Video Version of the Recipe.

——-

Big love
(from the newborn cocoon),
Jules x

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Spiralized Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadillas

Amazing sweet potato black bean quesadillas with creamy avocado salsa verde (perfect for busy weeknights!) - cookieandkate.com

I really love this job of mine, but if I had to pick a few things I don’t love about it, washing the dishes and photographing quesadillas would be pretty high on the list. Honestly, you should see my first attempt at photographing these triangular nuggets. The sweet potato noodles inside didn’t help, and the photos were not cute. Not cute at all.

So, I owe props to my friend Ali of Inspiralized, who always manages to make veggie noodles so enticing. She has a blog full of recipes, a best-selling cookbook and her own proprietary contraption that turns vegetables into noodle shapes (the Inspiralizer). She’s basically taking over the world, one veggie noodle at a time, and I’m really proud of her. Veggie power!

spiralized sweet potatoes

Last week, she invited a few bloggers (myself included) to Chicago to eat lunch at Houlihan’s, which is running a special “Inspiralized” menu through June. Ali provided direction and helped develop the menu, and I was so impressed by Houlihan’s execution. Did you know that they make everything from scratch?

Plates of creative veggie noodle dishes kept showing up, and I found myself wondering why on earth I haven’t published more veggie noodle recipes. They’re really fun, and I’ll give two thumbs’ up to anything that entices people to eat more veggies.

These quesadillas were roughly inspired by the sweet potato and corn “Mexicali” flatbread we sampled last week. They’re stuffed full of spicy sweet potatoes, which were easier to prepare and cook in noodle form—no chopping required—plus black beans and just enough cheddar cheese to hold them all together. If you’ve enjoyed my Southwestern kale salad or sweet potato burrito bowls, you’re going to love these.

Continue to the recipe…

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Clementine French 75

Sunny clementine French 75 cocktails - cookieandkate.com

Hello, dear ones. Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you? I hope your weekends were better than mine. Either way, here’s a cheerful little number that is perfectly suited for brunch, happy hour or a nightcap. Think of these French 75s as extra boozy, extra bright mimosas.

clementine juice and gin

Instead of a traditional French 75 with lemon juice, I thought it would be fun to use clementines, which are in season now. I learned that clementines are really easy to juice with a handheld lemon juicer. You’ll need a few clementines per drink, so if you’re trying to polish off one of those big bags of them, these cocktails (or this smoothie) will do the trick!

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Citrus Olive Oil Cake

Citrus olive oil cake to brighten up dreary winter days! cookieandkate.com

Here’s the paradox of producing a healthy cookbook: the stress of it leads to cravings for all kinds of not-so-healthy things. Like, mac and cheese. Pizza, delivered. Spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream. Those chocolate coconut almonds from Trader Joe’s (have you tried them?!). I’m only human.

I’m in the thick of recipe writing now, and it’s tedious work. I think and re-think how to structure each recipe so it’s easy to understand. I wonder how much detail to include—will this tip help you along, or just complicate matters? Do you need to know the weight of apples used in a salad? Do I tell you how to toast the nuts in every recipe that calls for toasted nuts? So on and so forth.

That said, I’m so in love with the recipes. I have 100 sweet little recipe babies, and I’m struggling to keep them all to myself until next spring.

blood orange sugar

I decided to bake a winter cake to celebrate my cookbook progress and satisfy my sugar craving. This olive oil cake has made a couple of appearances on the blog already (orange poppy seed and lemon blueberry), and it’s always tender, light and complex in flavor. This time, it’s a pretty pink blood orange cake with blood orange icing.

The only problem is that blood oranges don’t have a ton of flavor compared to other citrus, so it’s not as intensely citrusy as the pink frosting would suggest. The lemon and regular orange versions definitely pack more of a punch, so I thought I would present this cake as a design-your-own olive oil cake with tips on how to change it up. You can use any crazy variety of winter citrus you find at the store!

Continue to the recipe…

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Feeling Tired? Try this…

Super Iron Supper-2

There have been 3 times in my life where I’ve felt felt seriously tired. Like exhausted. For an extended period.

First was during my days as an aspiring young winemaker.

While I had most amazing time learning the wine making ropes, it was long, hard, physical work. Which meant biceps that would make Schwarzenegger proud and an appetite (literally) like a horse.

But over time I realized it was more fun drinking wine than making it. And a career change took care of that problem.

Second was my experimental month of being vegetarian.

At the time I couldn’t understand why I felt so tired. But after discussing my experiment with a nutritionist friend, she pointed out I wasn’t getting enough iron. And of course the tiredness lifted as soon as I went back to eating meat.

Third was during both my pregnancies.

Luckily this time I knew what was up! So I made eating red meat a focus (with no complaints from my Irishman). I can’t tell you what a difference it made to my energy levels.

So if you’re feeling super tired, there’s one great place to start…

Eat more iron rich foods!

In general, I think it’s not very helpful to try and eat for specific nutrients. But the link between iron deficiency and tiredness is pretty direct so I feel it’s a worthy exception.

To save you ‘googling’ here are some ideas of my favourite ingredients rich in iron…

My Favourite Animal Based Iron Rich Foods

Red Meat
Liver including pate
Oysters
Mussels

My Favourite Vegetable Based Iron Rich Foods

Chickpeas
Leafy Greens (Spinach / Chard / Kale)
Sesame Seeds / Tahini
Cashews
Almonds
Lentils

NOTE: Eating citrus at the same time makes it easier for your body to absorb and actually use the iron you eat. So a squeeze of lemon or lime is always a great addition.


‘Super Iron’ Supper

While I prefer to focus on eating real food rather than trying to get specific nutrients, sometimes it is fun to really have a specfic focus when creating a recipe. Like this meal of my favourite iron-rich (and pregnant-lady-friendly) foods.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
1 bag baby spinach
3-4 tablespoons tahini (optional)
3-4 tablespoons lemon

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Cook beef on a medium high heat until well browned.

2. Add chickpeas and cook for another few minutes to warm. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. To serve divide baby spinach between two bowls. Top with beef and chickpeas. Drizzle over tahini (if using) and finish with lemon juice.

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Variations

vegetarian / vegan – replace beef with extra chickpeas or cooked lentils.

no tahini? – tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. You could just skip it or replace with your favourite nut butter such as almond or cashew butter. Or a handful of sesame seeds, cashews or almonds will also do the trick.

different greens / more veg – add any wilted leafy green such as kale, collard greens, spinach, chard (silverbeet).

more substantial – add more chickpeas or other legumes.

hot! – add some chopped fresh red chilli to the beef as it cooks.

Do YOU struggle with tiredness?

And have you found any solutions? I’d love to hear in the comments below…

Big love,
Jules x

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Hi There!

Before we get to this week’s blog post and recipe, just wanted to let you know about a special offer I’m running at the moment for my email subscribers only…

LY ebook collection

To celebrate the impending arrival of the newest addition to my family (and the small chance that we may have a ‘leap year’ baby), I’m having a ‘Leap Year’ sale on the complete Stonesoup eCookbook collection. Plus 4 bonus eCookbooks that aren’t available to buy on their own.

This is the first time I’ve discounted all my ebooks as a bundle in over 2 years.

So if you love Stonesoup recipes, now is a great time to get the entire collection for 60% OFF.

And it’s only available to you as a super special Stonesoup email subscriber.

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/lysale/

Jx

ps. There’s still a few ‘early bird’ bonuses available.

This includes 12 months membership for my online cooking classes and access to ALL my paid and free recipes on the one searchable website, completely FREE!

For more details use your exclusive link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/lysale/

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Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal

How to make savory steel cut oatmeal (a perfect way to use up leftover veggies on a busy weeknight!) cookieandkate.com

This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill.

Savory oats! Have you tried them? I’ll admit, I was a little nervous. I’m accustomed to oatmeal that tends toward the sweeter side. After publishing my “perfect” steel-cut oats recipe, a few of you recommended trying savory oats. Oats are whole grains, after all, so why wouldn’t they be good with savory toppings? Polenta and risotto are creamy like oats, and they’re great with savory toppings.

I cooked some up and stirred in extra salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and cheese (Parmesan). Then I topped one bowl with a fried egg and both with lightly dressed, lemony arugula. I was skeptical for the first few bites, but now I can vouch for the idea.

steel-cut oats

I can’t claim that my choice of toppings was the be-all, end-all of savory oats, but I’m offering it as a starting off point. Think of savory oats as an alternative to a stir fry—they’re both cheap, veggie-packed, improvised dinners, perfect for busy weeknights. I keep my pantry stocked with Bob’s Red Mill’s steel cut oats, so savory oats are always an option.

My next savory oats might feature sautéed mushrooms (like this) or sun-dried tomatoes for some extra-savory umami flavor. Sturdy greens (like kale or collards) sautéed with garlic sound epic. What sounds good to you?

Continue to the recipe…

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What to Cook This February

Learn what's in season this month at cookieandkate.com!

I know, I know. We’re ten days into February now. I just couldn’t sit on this idea until March! I’ve been missing my monthly seasonal produce guides (here’s February!) and know that some of you have, too. Those posts detail what’s in season each month, with cooking suggestions and lots of links to more recipes.

Meet my new, abbreviated refresher guides. You’ll learn which types of produce are in season now, and find one recipe that goes with each. Will you cook through them with me? Like, can we have a virtual cooking club?

I thought it would be super fun to post photos on Instagram when we make a recipe shown here—tag your photo #ckfebruary and #cookieandkate so we can all share the experience! I can’t wait!!!

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How I Got Pregnant at Age 43 (even though I have PCOS)

Marinated Kale Salad-2

I still remember the first time I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). On one level I was relieved to have a ‘reason’ for my irregular periods. But then came the real shock.

‘It’s going to be really difficult for you to fall pregnant naturally’.

Ouch.

I was 31 and newly married. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear.

But life has a funny way of working out for the best. Even when things seem to be going seriously off the rails.

That marriage didn’t work out. For a while I got used to the idea of never having a family of my own. And I was cool with that.

And then I met a certain Irishman.

After a while things were getting serious so I felt I had to share my big fertility ‘problem’. I knew he really wanted to have a family so I was pretty much expecting that to be the end of that.

But (fortunately) he wasn’t put off. In fact he didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

Now that we have one beautiful boy and another babe due very soon, I’m so grateful that this is where we ended up.

I’ve really wanted to share my story because I know how frustrating fertility problems can be. And I also know how unhelpful modern medicine can be.

If this can help just one other couple, it will be worth writing.

Of course, if you’re already sorted in the fertility department, just skip down to this week’s recipe. It’s delicious whether you have a family or not!

How I got pregnant naturally at age 40 and age 43

1. Stopped taking the pill.
You’ve probably heard of someone who stopped taking the pill and was pregnant the next month. It happens.

But if you’re likely to have fertility issues, the longer you’re on the pill the longer it’s going to take your body to get back to some sort of natural cycle. If I had my time again I would have switched to an alternative form of contraception much earlier in the process.

2. Changed my diet to mostly paleo / low carb.
I wasn’t sure of the mechanism but I knew there was a link between insulin and the fertility hormones. Going low carb made a HUGE difference. It enabled me to go from having one period in 6 months to having a relatively regular cycle. If you’re only going to follow one tip from this post this would be the one!

3. Took a pre-conception multivitamin.
Your doctor is going to recommend folate and iodine. I figured I may as well cover the rest of my bases as well even though I prefer to get my nutrients through whole food meals rather than supplements.

4. Experimented with fertility prediction sticks.
My gynecologist recommended these. Basically there’s an increase in certain hormones just before ovulation. Peeing on these sticks tests for the hormone and when it’s detected you should be ovulating within 24-48 hours. Of course if you have PCOS this hormone tends to be elevated for longer so the test isn’t as accurate as it is for women with regular cycles.

I found them more trouble than help and didn’t bother when we were trying the second time. If you do decide to use them buy in bulk online instead of paying a fortune at the chemist.

5. Measured my temperature every morning.
Another waste of time I didn’t bother with second time round.

6. Learned to really understand my fertile signs.
This was a game changer! Basically it’s about tracking the consistency of your vaginal ‘mucus’ through out your cycle. I took a course called Debunking PCOS (not an affiliate link) with Melbourne based doctor that really helped me get my head around this concept.

Along with going low carb this was huge! If you have an irregular cycle, understanding your body’s mucus sounds gross but is really the key.

I also used the Clue App (not an affiliate link) to track my cycle… Brilliant for spotting trends and just feeling on top of it.

7. Stopped running and started walking instead.
I used to run 50-60km a week. I stopped at the beginning of August on the advice of a fertility doctor and we fell pregnant in September with Fergal. Too much exercise can be just as problematic as not enough. A doctor friend suggested that running causes problems because it gets the body to over heat.

8. Took a holiday.
After trying to get pregnant for over 18 months with one miscarriage, things were getting a little stressful. Thankfully we had planned a trip to Europe for my 40th birthday. We decided not to think about fertility stuff while we were away and wouldn’t you know it… we came home pregnant with Fergal.

9. Focused on keeping stress levels to a minimum.
Second time around we had another European holiday booked as backup but I decided to focus on removing as much stress from my regular life as possible. Minimal work commitments. No goals. Turns out we conceived before the trip!

10. Took up meditation.
This was part of my stress reduction program for our second. I started daily meditation in April and we were pregnant in June. I have no idea whether it helped with the fertility but I definitely noticed meditation helped me be much more patient when dealing with a two year old!

11. Kept believing it would happen.
This can be the most challenging part. Especially as the months (and years) ticked on. But I kept reminding myself of all the people I knew who struggled to get (or stay) pregnant and who now have the families they were hoping for. If you want something bad enough you’ll eventually find a way to get there!

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Lime & Tahini Kale Salad

Inspired by the lovely Ella Woodward from her first book ‘Deliciously Ella‘ which is filled with plant based recipes. When I first made this I was completely obsessed I think I had it three times in one week. I adore how the lime and tahini come together to make a super flavoursome dressing.

takes: 10 minutes
enough for: 1-2
1 large bunch kale
2 limes
4 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Remove tough stems from the kale and slice or tear into bite sized strips. Place kale in a large bowl.

2. Squeeze over lime juice and drizzle with tahini and soy sauce. Toss salad with your hands massaging the kale as you go.

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Variations

no tahini – use almond or cashew butter instead. Or replace tahini with extra virgin olive oil for a less creamy salad. You could sprinkle in some toasted sesame seeds for flavour.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss in torn flat bread or tortillas OR some cooked quinoa or rice and an extra squeeze of lime to make sure the salad doesn’t dry out.

carnivore – toss in some sliced cooked steak or chicken – I love this steak version!

no lime – use lemon instead.

soy-free – replace soy sauce with coconut aminios or use salt to season instead.

Big love,
Jules x

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Spicy Black Bean Soup

Amazing vegetarian black bean soup, ready in 45 minutes! This soup makes great leftovers, too. cookieandkate.com

How are we feeling on this post-Super Bowl Monday? I am moving slow. Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes that doesn’t get enough love on the blog. When I took the original photos, I was scrambling to go home for Christmas and made do with terrible lighting. The photos have been bugging me ever since.

Fortunately, the photos haven’t scared all of you off from making it. If you check out the comments, you’ll see that this soup has quite a few fans. It comes together pretty quickly thanks to canned beans, but the soup tastes remarkably fresh and delicious with the addition of carrots, celery and garlic. Cumin and a little bit of sherry vinegar (or lime juice) add a Cuban flair that takes it over the top.

spices and black beans

I learned a lesson when I made this recipe for the first time over two years ago, which is that a soup doesn’t need a long list of spices for a complex final flavor. Aromatics make all the difference. This soup is a million times better than the store-bought variety. It’s the best!

Continue to the recipe…

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