I Quit Sugar Week Three

Hi everyone! I can’t believe we are coming up to halfway through the programme. For week three of the Eight Week Programme we got a bit more intimate with how much sugar is actually in our foods. The focus was on learning to read labels, understand different ingredients and be able to work out what percentage of sugar comes in anything with a food label i.e. anything in a packet. This week was very informative and gave some great steps to help understand how read and digest food labels so that you actually get realistic information about how much sugar are actually eating. I already had a pretty good understanding of food labels, so this was some nice confirmation that I am reading them right and looking for the right things.

The main message which Sarah Wilson gives constantly throughout the programme is to aim for as few ingredients as possible. As I already do this with my food, this week investigated further into doing this with my skin. I read a number of article about natural skin care and what products would work best. From personal experience I know that coconut oil is a great moisturiser and make up remover, while apple cider vinegar is a great toner (when mixed with a bit of water). I am interested in learning more about the use of essential oils on skin and I will let you know what I find out. Right now on to the food…

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What I Ate: Breakfast this week alternated between coco-nutty granola and scrambled eggs. I loved both of these breakfasts, they were nourishing and fulling and gave me plenty of energy for the day. I did, admittedly, up my serving size for the granola because it wasn’t quite big enough to keep me going until lunch. As I had never made the granola before I was pleasantly surprised which how much I enjoyed it (giving my devotion to porridge), so I was quite happy to see it on the menu again next week.

Lunch/Dinner: I quite enjoyed this weeks meals. We had quite a lot of variety, still plenty of vegetables and some great flavours. It was great to experiment with the beetroot risotto made with cauliflower rice. I had made cauliflower fried rice before, but never risotto, I was impressed with how creamy it went and how much flavour the cauliflower actually held. I also loved the chicken skewers meal (admittedly I subbed the chicken for chickpea meat balls) but the flavours were great and snow peas were delicious. Other meals included: the BLAT bowl (perfect easy salad for lunches with a boiled egg), Jo’s Curried Mince (this meal was loved by the whole family) and Ginger and Lime Chicken which was also enjoyed by all. The two teenage boys of the household are holding up well, however, by Friday they were getting a bit sick of all the salads, so we added some rice in to help mix things up a bit. Overall, it was another week of delicious meals with many things which I would make again.

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How I Felt: I think my progress last week in terms of no-snacking was a bit misleading. This week is study week for university, so I was at home all week hitting the books. The difference in being at home all day rather than going in and out to class made a big difference. I tended to feel bored quicker (especially when I was sick of studying) and this lead me to feeling like snacks more. Most days I opted for my spoonful of peanut butter and that was enough to keep me going until dinner time. Other days I had a small handful of nuts. I also did have a couple of days where I felt a bit hungry around bed time again. I find this interesting because I know that lots of the time I enjoy my food so much that I tend to eat more than I probably should, so I am learning to tell the difference between feeling ‘content’ rather than actually being ‘hungry’. Any time I felt I was hungry, I would have a big glass of water and then stop and think about how I actually felt – most times I just decided I was comfortable and did not need anything to eat. I am really enjoying learning more about my body in this sense and coming into touch with how much food I actually need. On this note, I am still drinking HEAPS of water, always thirsty!

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Physical Changes: Physical changes are becoming less noticeable now weight wise. I have probably lost another kilo – half a kilo this week and I do not think I will lose much more. I am perfectly happy at this weight and quite comfortable in my own skin. On the plus side, I think I saw a definite improvement in my nails this week, they are looking stronger and less breakable! On the other hand my skin is not doing so well – I think the exam stress is not helping!

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Emotional Changes: Emotionally, I feel quite content and happy with this lifestyle. Most of the time I don’t feel like I am missing out and I do feel quite energetic each morning when I get out of bed. I had a shared morning tea this week at work, where I was asked numerous times why I was not eating anything – I had actually forgotten it was on and so hadn’t thought to bring a plate. After explaining to multiple people about the eight week programme and what it was about, I had a few quizzical looks and a couple of negative people who outright said ‘cutting out all that fruit doesn’t sound healthy, you should stop your diet now’. First of all, I really hate the word diet, so many negative connotations which do not relate to my eight week programme experience at all. Secondly, they were saying this to me whilst holding their cookie/handful of potato chips/chocolate bar. I had to refrain from pointing out the irony that they were calling me unhealthy, while they filled their bodies with sugars and artificial chemicals. Most people told me to have some hot chips or potato chips because they don’t have sugar. They didn’t seem to understand (no matter how I said it) that the point of the programme is to eat whole foods, just because it doesn’t have sugar in it doesn’t mean I should be eating it and it doesn’t mean I want to. I think that was the biggest thing for me about the shared morning tea, was that I could honestly sit there and say that I did not want any of the food on the table. I didn’t see it as a treat, rather I saw it as foods which won’t nourish my body and will probably make me feel unwell. This experience was a big step forward for me and it really showed me what a difference the programme is making.

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Next week we move on to ‘clean week’ where the goal is to lower our intake of gluten, alcohol and caffeine. As I don’t really consume the last two, my only concern is gluten because I do love my toast! It is only for five days though, and I will be very interested to see how my body feels at the end of the week. Hope everyone else is going well!

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I Quit Sugar Week Two

The message of this week was ‘replace sugar with fat’ and oh wow did we do that. Hello cheese, hello full fat milk, hello butter, hello avocados and nuts! All being eaten everyday, at almost every meal of the day. This was definitely a bit of a change to my lifestyle, however, I completely understand why fat is so necessary in our diets, and watching the IQS videos this week confirmed this for me. This week the meals felt ‘heavier’ there was a definite increase in fats and protein and probably a slight decrease in carbs. This may not actually be the case, this is just what I am instinctively feeling since I don’t measure macronutrients apart from ensuring I eat from all food groups. Overall, week two was good. I enjoyed the new recipes, with only one that was a bit of a miss. One thing that is for certain is that there was a definite upping of the vegetable intake – which I loved. I am definitely noticing more vegetables on my plate – my instagram wall is looking much greener! Here is my low down of Week Two…

What I Ate: Breakfasts alternated between a breakfast abundance bowl or buttery mushrooms. The idea of asparagus for breakfast did not really thrill me, nor do soggy greens, however I surprised myself immensely by really enjoying this vegetable packed bowl –  so much so that I had it three mornings in a row! I loved how light and full of energy I felt afterwards. I was proud that I stuck to the programme and gave it a go. It will probably become a favourite of mine on days when I don’t like the breakfast of choice. The mushrooms, however, took a lot more convincing. Having not liked the texture for years, I could not bring myself to try the dish until Thursday. At this stage, I had seen everyone’s great reviews online and stories of people similar to me – who don’t like mushrooms but really enjoyed the dish. Before I got to mushrooms however, I had to deal with my SERIOUS porridge cravings. Likely caused by the fact that I have gone from having it every day to not at all. I figured as I don’t sweeten my porridge it was fine to eat. So I had a bowl of carrot cake porridge, with added courgettes (still getting two servings of vegetables in) and a big spoonful of peanut butter for my healthy fats. I really enjoyed this breakfast and it felt so indulgent (I’m not sure why) so I figured it could be a good one to save for days when I was struggling on the programme.

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Lunch/Dinner: As lunch was leftovers it is easy to deal with these together! We’ve still had the vegetable intake up this week, lots of root vegetables, leafy greens and cabbage! Must say I am really enjoying the leafy greens more (especially cooked which I never used to like) and crispy kale in the pan – a definite favourite. The meals felt quite substantial this week and I did not snack at all. I’m quite proud of this progression as last week I really struggled with hunger and cravings between meals. Except for this weekend when I just felt ‘snacky’ the whole time. I still kept up my vegetarian alternatives – I am completely in love with these chickpea meatballs from Nutrition Stripped – and just added more vegetables. Meal of the week was definitely the vegetarian beetroot burgers! They were super fulling and loved by the meat eaters of the household. I really enjoyed eating something so vibrant – and see the pictures below of my ‘superfood burger bowl’ – a great use for my leftovers!

What I am Missing: I know I have already said it but I will say it again porridge. And a bit of fruit. All the summer fruits are just coming into season i.e. my absolute favourites like strawberries, apricots, peaches…. I am drooling just typing this. Not missing the actual bad sweet stuff too much, only when I can see people with it.

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How I felt: This week I definitely felt better. Saying no to treats was easier because I had it ingrained in my head – I turned down chocolate at a university lecture on the day of a test! Look at that willpower! Saying no to fruits, however, has been harder than expected. I didn’t think I actually ate that much fruit, but I think the fact that it is off limits now just means I am thinking about it more. This week we did see some heavier meals (all those healthy fats) which made me feel a bit more sluggish, but this could also be some University stress kicking in. I love that the programme tries to balance this out with lots of light vegetables and leafy greens, but having gone from being mostly meat free, eating minimal cheese and dairy free prior to starting the programme and now going back into full fat dairy and a whole lot of cheese has been a big of a change for my body. I am committed to this experiment and seeing how I go, since I don’t like to pick one ‘type’ of eating so at the moment (expect for cutting out most meat) I am going to follow the principles of the programme and see how I go.

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Physical Changes: So far the physical changes have been interesting. What most people are probably interested in is weight loss. I have lost around 2-3 kilos so far – but I did not have any goals to lose weight. What I am very happy about is the improvements in my skin. It looks more vibrant and is a lot smoother. Apart from that, I am still waiting to see if my nails strengthen up or if my hair feels any different. But having always struggled with bad skin, it’s nice to have it feeling so smooth and radiant!

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Emotional Changes: Less of an emotional rollercoaster this week. Feeling a bit more centred, with less ups and downs and an overall feeling of being content without sweet treats. I’ve decided that I only feel like sweet things when I can see them, so it’s simply a matter of avoiding the temptation and I don’t have any problems. On Thursday, I had my first day where I didn’t feel like sweet things after lunch or dinner, I didn’t have any craving symptoms and it felt like such a huge achievement! I haven’t had one slip up on the programme so far and this achievement is a great thing to keep me going.

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Hope this is interesting and not too rambl-ey for you all! Happy to answer any questions on the programme or just in general – let me know in the comments below!

I Quit Sugar Week One

 

Alas, I have done it, I’ve signed up and I am on the road to quitting sugar – hopefully. After much deliberating, thinking, pondering and questioning of the idea, two weeks ago I bit the bullet and signed up. It was actually my mum’s idea. She wanted to give herself a goal to get going with and I had been interested in doing the I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme for a while. I have the book, I have read all about it and I normally try to follow it in everyday life. However, this time was different. I was committing, I was actually going to say no to treats, and desserts out with friends and sunday baking and studying chocolate. I was going to say no to fruit for a few weeks and all of a sudden the reality hit in. I was a little bit scared, and a whole lot of excited for the journey. So mum and I signed up together to the eight week programme – opting for the omnivore plan, because as my family put it ‘they were not giving up meat as well as sugar’ and I was happy to adapt the recipes to vegetarian ones. I did deliberate purchasing the separate vegetarian plan, but in the end student budgeting kicked in and I could not justify it.

I started receiving emails telling me what I would be eating and what I would need to cook. I introduced myself on the forums – these are selling point of the 8 Week Programme. They are a full time, 24 hour support network made up of experts, IQS team members and all participants in the programme. The forums have great recipe topics about substitutions or places to ask questions if you are unsure. But they also contain general support on how to deal with cravings, what kind of exercise you should be doing and more. If you have any kind of question in relation to the programme, there will be a place in the forum to ask it. I, personally, loved reading everyone’s stories and reasons why they (and sometimes their families) had started on this journey – they were very inspiring.

One thing I loved about the programme straight off, what that if you did not like the look of a recipe you were more than welcome to change it to something you were happier with. As I consider myself a pro at healthy breakfasts already, I did this in the mornings this week and for some lunches when left overs when to other members of the family. While there is a plan provided, and food scheduled for each day, it is no struggle at all to move or substitute meals to fit into your schedule.

The first Sunday cook up was pretty easy – just a whole lot of Quinoa. Being a good IQS participant I put some in my freezer, and also prepped some vegetables in advance. I then followed the meal plan for the rest of the week. The meals had a lot of variety, but given the time of year they were all loosely based on salads and involved lots of leafy greens and greens in general. I definitely felt like I upped my vegetable intake, from just week one. Here is a sample of some of the things we cooked: Spinach Ricotta Open Sandwiches, Detox Veggie Mix Up, Berry Omelette and my personal favourite the deconstructed sushi bowl.

 

 

Feedback on the meals (from two teenage boys) was pretty good. They liked most things, didn’t complain too much about the extra vegetables and seemed to like the flavourings on the meat – which is what I call a win. I enjoyed most of the meals. Personally, the portion sizings for breakfast were smaller than I am used to and I felt hungry most days. I normally eat a big breakfast then decrease the size of my meals throughout the day, so in the coming weeks I might follow this and do some breakfast ad-ons to keep me going. But the recipes themselves were easy and took no time at all to prepare – which was great!

How I Feel: I was surprised at how quickly the first sugar cravings came on – like almost on day two. I don’t think I felt worse physically (i.e. no headaches or anything) but mentally I definitely felt like I wanted something sweet. To combat this, particularly in the evenings, I would often just eat a spoonful of peanut butter (no added sugar or salt of course) straight from the jar maybe an hour after dinner. Sarah does recommend having a teaspoon of coconut oil, but I don’t think I am quite ready for that yet! My peanut butter was just enough to help me feel like I wasn’t missing out on something sweet. I’m hoping the sugar cravings will go away soon, but realistically I know I have a long way to go on that front.

Verdict: Week one was good. I enjoyed the meals, not the cravings. I will be sad to say goodbye to fruit and am a bit scared about going completely cold turkey, but this is what I signed up for, so I will do my best. Stay tuned here and on instagram for more updates!

Review: Hippie Lane App

Hi friends, as I have no recipes to share at the moment (being just about to start the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Programme) I thought I would try out something different instead and give you a review of something which I have been using. As a poor student, spending money on anything normally results in a debate in my head something like: “why do you need it”, “how many times will you use it”, “will you actually use it again”, “don’t lie to me, be realistic” and as a result by the time I purchase something I expect it to be bloody fantastic because I have convinced myself to spend money. So after waiting for at least six months, a couple of weeks ago the money spending side won the debate when I decided to purchase the Hippie Lane App. After the endless posts on Instagram of healthy, vegan and delicious looking Mars Bars, Twix’s, Snickers Bars and Peppermint Slice I really could not resist any longer. If you haven’t heard anything about the app, I will give you the low down.

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It was developed by Taline Gabrielien (check out her website here and to die for instagram account here) a gorgeous and creative lady who also loves sweet things and was determined not to give them up after learning she had intolerances to wheat, dairy, eggs and soy. The hippie lane app is the result of over a year of hard work and dedication to making treats healthy. Taline focuses on nourishing her family and proving to anyone that living with food intolerances does not have to be restrictive. The design and photography is breathtakingly good and the app’s interface is easy to navigate and use. But really, the most important thing when purchasing a recipe app is the recipes.

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The focus is definitely on vegan treats (I have not purchased the two upgrades yet which contain savoury and breakfast options). Many of the recipes are raw, while a few require cooking. The common ingredients are mostly staples in raw and vegan kitchens – lots of nuts, dates, coconut and rice malt syrup. Some recipes also seem to require a few extra fancy powders, which left me wondering how crucial they were to the recipe if I did not have them. The recipes are all definitely loaded with calorie heavy ingredients, so it is best to watch your serving size and stick to the suggestions. At present I have tried four recipes off the app. The chocolate mousse, salty caramel popcorn, neapolitan chia pudding and triple layer chocolate banana slice.  Because of the ingredients and their expense I definitely consider making these recipes a treat. The recipes have all been perfectly laid out, clearly written, easy to follow and timed accurately. They have, obviously, also tasted delicious and have been enjoyed by healthy foodies and skeptics alike.

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Long story short: if you love raw vegan treats and having fun making layers with food and spending time in the kitchen then this is the app for you. I would maybe avoid it if, I had a date or nut allergy, but that is at your discretion. The one thing that is certain is that the photography and food porn alone meant it was worth it for me.

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Vegan Cottage Pie

I’m not sure if its just me, but cottage pie has always been a source of comfort food. The mixture of mince and veges, with creamy mashed potatoes topped with the all important melted cheese just screams cosy winter nights snuggled up by the heater. After a blustery, rainy day filled with thunderstorms, hail and other completely non-spring appropriate weather I had a craving for comfort food. So I took on the challenge and re-created a comfort classic. My vegan version of cottage pie features five different vegetables and I often add more for sides. It contains nothing nasty or harmful to our bodies and I think still tastes delicious.

I received some recipe inspiration from Jamie Oliver and Bite NZ, and you can find their respective recipes here and here. There is plenty of variation in the types of vegetables and legumes which you can add for a health kick. I’ve used frozen vegetables like peas and corn before with equally great results. So use up what ever is left floating around the fridge and enjoy!

Ingredients:
750g-1kg of Root Vegetables, diced (I used Pumpkin and Sweet Potato)
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 Large Carrots, diced
2 Green capsicums, diced
3 Large Silverbeet (Chard) Leaves, sliced
400g Crushed Tomatoes
2 x 400g Tins of Brown Lentils, drained (Chickpeas also work fine)
Salt, Pepper and your favourite herbs for seasoning

Method:
First, place your diced vegetables into a pot and boil until soft. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Second, while your vegetables are boiling, heat the olive oil in a pan on a medium heat, add the onion and sauté until soft.
Third, once the onion is clear add the remaining vegetables and sauté until they start to soften. Then add the lentils and tomatoes.
Fourth, allow the ingredients to simmer for around 5 minutes, you may need to reduce to a low heat. Once they look ‘combined’ take off the heat and pour the mixutre into the bottom of a casserole, or oven-proof dish.
Fifth, drain your mashed root vegetables and mash until creamy, then spread the mash over the top of the lentil mixture, ensuring it is evenly spread.
Sixth, place the dish in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180 degrees. Once the top looks slightly crunchy and golden, your cottage pie is done!

Say hello to… Megan from ‘Apron Strings and Sticky Fingers’

I have a treat in store for you today, I have teamed up with a lovely fellow New Zealand food blogger in a wee exchange so that you can learn a bit more about both of us. Megan of (apronstringandstickyfingers) has generously answered some questions for me and agreed to share a favourite recipe of hers (which you can find at the bottom of this post). I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about both of us.

Introduce yourself in a couple of sentence – name, age, where you live etc
Hi, my name is Megan, I’m 18 and I live in New Zealand. My biggest passion is food and sharing the wonderful way it enriches our lives with others. I’m a pretty simple girl to please…give me a whisk, fluffy socks and a furry friend.

  

Describe your perfect day
I’d start off by going for a nice long run. Then I’d head down to the beach to watch the sunrise, and maybe attempt to do yoga without getting sand everywhere. I think the rest of the day would involve lounging around in the sunshine, eating watermelon and sipping on ice cold lemonade.

What is your favourite recipe right now?
I absolutely cannot resist berry crumble. I made a healthy version on my blog, and I can’t get enough of it.

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What is your favourite way to spoil yourself?
I’m not ashamed to say, I am a typical girl…nothing says I love you like a new pair of shoes ( or yoga pants, I’m not picky)

Why does healthy eating and living appeal to you?
To me it just makes perfect sense. Eating well and treating your body with the respect it deserves makes you look and feel amazing. Also, real food tastes so much better. Is there anything better than freshly picked strawberries?

How do you make the best choices for your health while balancing your personal life, study and other commitments?
I have to admit, this is a tough one. However, my philosophy is that life is all about balance.The way I see it, you spend time on the things you care about right? So if you really care about living a long and fulfilling life then it is essential that you make your health a priority.
I make time each day to prepare good food, move my body and think positively because my health is just as important to me as getting good grades or spending time with my friends.

How do you remain motivated and inspired to exercise? 
I’m motivated to exercise because I need it to survive! (not to be dramatic.) Exercise gives me energy, passion and excitement for each day, without it I feel sluggish, slow and somewhat depressed. I also set small goals for myself which keeps giving me something to strive for. At the moment I’m aiming to run 15km without stopping.

Who are your role models? 
In terms of food, my biggest role model is Nigella Lawson. I’ve watched her cooking shows since I was a kid. She has such charisma and charm. When writing my blog posts I feel that she has been a big influence in my style.
When it comes to healthy living, my absolute favourite is Jordan Younger. She has an amazing blog, and is so genuine, open and honest. She is basically living my dream, and so I really look up to her.

Do you have an active living ‘mantra’ which you live by?
My favourite quote is “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
For me, I want to hold on to those I love, the things that bring me happiness, and my passion which brings joy to others. On the flip side, I want to let go of things which will hold me back from reaching my full potential such as, doubt, self-loathing and negativity.

Now here is her delicious ‘Banana Bread for Babes‘ Recipe for you all to enjoy!

  • 3 ripe bananas (i.e. not green…preferably a bit spotty and fragrant)
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g flour (I used buckwheat)
  • 4 dates, chopped (maybe 6 because we both know you can’t resist…)
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (best spice again)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup greek yoghurt (really important! Note: greek yogurt isn’t from Greece…)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

You need to start by mushing up the bananas. Then you mix the eggs, vanilla and maple syrup in. Add the dry ingredients, then the yoghurt. Now it’s time for the dates and raisins. Plonk it on in to a greased loaf tin. Sprinkle a cascade of green confetti (AKA pumpkin seeds) onto your loaf and bake at 180 degrees C for 45-60 mins (or more if you prick it and it doesn’t come out clean!). Then enjoy smothered with peanut butter!
Find the original recipe here.

Cauliflower Soup

Even though we have just had the first day of spring here in New Zealand, I still can’t get enough of this creamy delicious soup. As a child I absolutely hated soup. I think any form of pureed or liquid vegetables was not well received by any child. I am also still scared with pre-school memories of ‘soup’ which was basically random chunks of vegetables in water – or at least that’s how my childhood brain remembers it. Safe to say, I am a soup skeptic. I’m also a bit wary about cauliflower. So its safe to say that I was a bit nervous about my trying this recipes and I will happily say I was pleasantly surprised and have now gotten to the point where I crave this soup.

This recipe is generous, it creates enough for multiple dinners or lunches – or if you’re like me you’ll end up eating it straight for like three days. The ingredients are simple, and easy things that you have on hand and they come together beautifully. I think my favourite thing about this soup, is it’s creamy texture. It’s light and full of air and delicious with buttery toast on the side. I’ve played around with adding peas and spinach once the soup is cooked and blended and they are both great additions if you want to add more vegetables. If not, it is perfect the way it is!

Ingredients:

75g of Butter / Around 1/4-1/3 cup of Olive Oil for vegans
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves of crushed garlic
2.5 tbsp of morrocan seasoning
1 large cauliflower chopped
100g vegetable stock concentrate
600ml water
400ml coconut cream
200ml milk of choice
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Firstly, melt the butter/warm the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic slowly until the onions are transparent.
Secondly, add all of the remaining ingredients expect the coconut cream. Simmer the mixture gently until the cauliflower is soft (around 15 minutes).
Thirdly, with a stick blender or normal blender puree the mixture until smooth. You might have to do this in two or three batches depending on the size of your blender.
Fourthly, return the smooth mixture to the saucepan. Add the coconut cream and bring to the boil – at this point add any extra vegetables that you would like! Serve with your favourite toast and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this easy soup recipe as much as I do. It’s a staple for meat free nights and a deliciously comforting lunch on blustery days.