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Soften the landing into 2020

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HILIT MILNER

The best thing to do at this time of the year is to keep it simple! Although this is a time where more people are motivated to be healthy and improve their nutrition, it’s also a time where many households adjust to new schedules at work and school – making your molehill look like a mountain. And what happens when something seems unmanageable and complicated? We drop it! Which is obviously not the result that we want. So, let’s soften the landing with a few back-to-school tips and ideas.

Preparation and a bit of planning goes a long way. Sounds obvious right? Wrong. This is the hardest part, and where most busy people fail. You might be thinking that you are never prepared because preparing takes time; and isn’t this the problem in the first place, limited time? Setting aside a small window in your calendar to prepare for the weeks to come will save you lots of time and running around – investing now will reward you later.

Being prepared involves a few key steps, the first of which is meal planning. Depending on your meal planning style, it’s always useful to keep a list of favourite household dishes and, as time goes by and new recipes pop up, the list can grow. This makes planning easier, and keeps at bay the inevitable, “I’m so bored with this meal.”

Now that you have a list of favourites on hand, it’s easier to mix and match them into a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly meal calendar. I’m going to pause for a second, as I know you are already feeling your blood pressure rise, and have decided at this point that you are not this organised. Remember that this is just a guide to prevent the daily last-minute scramble. Nothing is set in stone, but it certainly helps to have a loose structure in place.

The next step is to make a shopping list based on the above-mentioned meal plan. This not only saves time and prevents you from having to run to the shops daily, it also reduces wastage and saves you a rand or two. The new year brings with it a relatively empty piggy bank, so you can help ease the load on the wallet and spare yourself some time by: sticking to your shopping list; buying food that’s in season; using a combination of fresh, frozen, and tinned foods; buying ingredients in bulk; as well as freezing portioned-out meals.

So, as you lay down the foundation for this year with newfound motivation, don’t let the hustle and bustle of January trip you up. Put one foot in front of the other, and keep things uncomplicated – you can add the frills later. Remember that your path to health is a marathon not a sprint.

Spicy quinoa and red kidney bean patties

Ingredients

(Makes 10 small patties)

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked red kidney beans (can use 1 tin)
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoon coconut/olive oil plus a bit extra for rolling
  • Salt
  • ¾ teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and one cup of water to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Chop the onion finely, and grate the garlic. Place the olive oil on a medium-heated non-stick pan, and add the onion and garlic to sauté for four to five minutes.
  4. In a bowl, add the quinoa, sautéed onion, and garlic, cumin, cinnamon, baby spinach, coriander, and half a tablespoon of olive oil. Using a stick blender or food processor, blend the mixture until it forms a semi-smooth consistency – you don’t want it to be completely smooth. Add salt to taste.
  5. Add the kidney beans once the rest of the ingredients have been blended, and pulse the blender/processor so that the mixture isn’t too soft.
  6. Brush some olive oil onto a baking tray as well as your hands. Gently roll the mixture into palm-sized patties, then place them on a baking tray.
  7. Bake the patties for 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway. Be gentle when you turn them as they are naturally softer inside than normal patties.
  8. Serve with a tomato sauce, salsa, or relish.

Tip: If you find the patties too soft when rolling, it’s an option to add a few tablespoons of flour. They will bake and form without it, but a bit of flour might help you out. Once they have been baked and refrigerated, they do firm up slightly.

Lemon and almond-crusted chicken schnitzels

Ingredients

(Makes 14 schnitzels)

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 400g chicken schnitzel (I use mini chicken-breast fillets. If using full breasts, cut into smaller pieces.)
  • 1 egg
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Tiny pinch salt (take care with younger babies)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped/dried parsley

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Place the almonds, lemon zest, paprika, parsley, and tiny pinch of salt (age dependent) into a food processor, and pulse until a crumb is formed. Pour the crumb into a flat bowl.
  3. Pound the chicken breasts to tenderise them if they are thick.
  4. Beat an egg in a separate flat bowl, and place it next to the bowl with the crumbs.
  5. Dip the chicken breasts into the egg. Make sure the whole breast has been soaked in the egg.
  6. Remove the chicken breast from the egg, allowing the excess egg to drip off.
  7. Place the breasts in the bed of almond crumb, and coat it evenly on both sides. Pat the crumbs into the breast.
  8. Place on baking paper on a baking tray.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip over and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown.

Tip: Freeze extra almond crumb or schnitzels.

Easy tuna patties

Ingredients

(Makes 6-8 medium-to-large patties)

Patties

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 baby marrow
  • 1 cup almond OR 1 cup nutty wheat flour
  • 1 tin tuna, in water/brine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ lemon (juiced)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dill dip

  • ½ cup low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 1 handful fresh dill
  • ½ lemon (juiced)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grate the carrot and the baby marrow.
  3. Drain all the liquid from the tuna tin.
  4. Place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix them together until well combined.
  5. Using your hands, mould the mixture into palm-sized patties, and place them onto a greased baking tray.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, gently flipping them over after 10 minutes.

Tip: Serve with a yoghurt dill dressing

  • Hilit Milner is a registered clinical dietitian who runs a private practice, works in a top private hospital, and has founded a wellness blog called “Sunrise by HM”. She views health holistically, starting from a cellular level and working her way out.

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