It’s quite simple. I like things that taste good.
I’m also conscious in this day and age we’re in a circus. We’re master jugglers who are continually throwing work, children, sport, social life, our own businesses and downtime around in the air trying to skilfully catch each one and make room for the next. It’s quite exhilarating to watch a talented performer throw more and more balls in the air. As an audience we sit perched on the edge of our seats, waiting for one to drop – hypnotised by the rhythmic flow. We applaud gleefully once it is finished and turn to each other and say, “wow, that was so cool. I wish I knew how to juggle”.
But the thing is, we do.
We do it everyday. And, it is not sustainable.
If there’s one thing I am big on, it is good food. Quality produce that fuels your mind, muscles and is enjoyable to eat. I recently interviewed Australian food legend and chef Stephanie Alexander and we had an insightful conversation about the ‘family table’, or lack thereof. Society now is geared to eat in front of the television, packaged food and often unconscious of it’s nutritional value or origin. While we are ‘busy’ focused on our work commitments, setting up businesses and tending to our children’s needs we can and do neglect the beautiful ritual of creating food.
Cooking need not be daunting. You also don’t need to create masterpieces that are worthy of photographing and putting on Instagram, but great if you do! If you look through people’s posts on Instagram it’s possibly the world’s biggest digital recipe book. We freakin’ love to photograph our food and share it. It’s like a virtual dinner table with lots of strangers, a communal habit that unites us all.
I’m not a puritan and will indulge now and then. As I come from a Eurasian culture, food is an integral part of family life. My growing up years are filled with memories of big family dinners, parties, gatherings and all of them centred around eating. Even now, when I go to visit my mum who lives interstate – she’ll ask me a month in advance what I want to eat! I totally love that. Her love of cooking stemmed from a very young age and she has finessed the art, no doubt it’s passed onto me.
But in the interest of keeping things simple, I’ve plucked out a few recipes I’ve been making regularly while on this weight training program. For most people, the concept of making food can be overwhelming. For others, it can be an exciting time to try new things and be rewarded with an end result. These few recipes are great staples you can fall back on, add to and modify – which are very important principles for me in cooking. To be able to experiment and see what else a basic recipe can produce.
So, let’s get stuck in.
The first one is a Protein Cheesecake. I’m starting with this one, as I genuinely love it. A friend in my training program who lives in the States emailed it through to me and I have made it four times in the last 7 weeks. As I was not hitting my protein levels everyday, I was eager to find ways to increase it. This was like finding a treasure map to protein gold!
Macro’s: 834 calories; 123g Protein, 63g Carbs, 10g Fat
12oz – Fat Free Philadelphia Cream Cheese (340g)
10oz – Fat Free Greek Yogurt (285g)
2 whole eggs
3/4 Cup – Granulated Splenda (or powdered Stevia)
1/4 Cup – Milk
Scoop – Vanilla Protein Powder (42.5g)
1 tsp – Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp – Kosher salt
Directions: All ingredients at room temperature.
1. Preheat Oven to 160C (325F) – Prepare 6″ round cake pan with non-stick spray and baking paper in the bottom.
2. Cream Cheese in mixer – mix on medium until creamy – scrape sides of bowl down.
3. Add splenda – mix on medium until incorporated – scrape sides of bowl down.
4. Add eggs one at a time while on medium. Again…scrape.
5. Add the rest of the ingredients – mix on medium for 3 minutes.
6. Pour in pan
7. Bake at 160C (325F) for 30 minutes. Turn oven to 95C (200F) for 50min – 1 hour. Remove and let cool on the counter. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Now, with this recipe I will talk you through some of my variations that are tried and tested: I have cranked the oven a bit higher (to about 180C) and baked it for around 40-45 mins and it has been great. It cooks through, holds form and is slightly moist still. This could be handy if you are pressed for time (or hungry!) To make a chocolate variation, I’ve added 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. I’ve also substituted the Vanilla Protein Powder for plain protein powder if I’ve added cocoa in that has stevia or a natural sweetener in. You can serve the cheesecake with fresh or frozen (thawed berries), peanut butter (trust me, this is delicious!) and also add a crust if you want to smash up some biscuits (remove the baking paper if you do this) – please note the macros will change if you add a crust.
You can also substitute the milk for freshly brewed coffee which is also a great way to enhance the flavour. Okay, onto something savoury now. Quick and easy Chilli.
200g Lean beef steak mince = 40g protein, 23.6g Fat
110g Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese (shredded) = 30g protein, 20g fat
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil = 9g fat
Half an onion (finely chopped)
100 grams Chopped peppers
200/300 ml of water
4 tomatoes (chopped)
1 chilli (chopped)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves (peeled and finely sliced)
Fat: 52.9 g
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.
- Add the onion, peppers and garlic. Sautee for about five minutes on a medium heat.
- Add the spices and chopped chilli, fry through for a few minutes.
- Next, add the mince and cook until just browned through.
- Add the water and tomatoes and simmer for about 15-20 minutes on a low heat.
- Serve with grated cheese on top.
With this recipe I have made many, many additions. You can add broccoli, broccolini, mushrooms, extra chilli and spices for more heat. I add these in when the water goes in, because I like them to hold a bit of crispness still (the vegetables). If you are vegetarian you could use red kidney beans instead. The cooking time would be halved for this. I’ve also added grated zucchini with the grated cheese and that is a great way to include extra vegetables as well.
Back to something slightly sweeter… pancakes, but made with Lupin flour. For those that are not in the know, lupin flour is quite high in protein (up to 40%), is gluten free and has incredibly strong health properties – including: controlling blood sugar levels, high source of fibre and is one of the best natural sources of the amino acid arginine which is beneficial for blood performance. It’s slightly salty in taste and the texture is like cornmeal. It is used widely in Australia, but not so much in the States. Lupin Flour pancakes
1 cup flour (substitute a half cup of white flour for lupin flour, I also substitute the white flour for buckwheat flour)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit when using lupin flour)
2 tablespoons sugar
(you might consider adding a big squeeze of honey or an additional tablespoon of sugar)
Mix above ingredients, then add:
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil (I use olive)
To help the lupin stick together, add a heaped tablespoon of plain yogurt (or mashed bananas)
Mix this, let sit while your pan warms up. The baking powder will make the mix rise considerably; add more milk if the batter looks too thick. I drop tablespoons of this into the frying pan, as I like to eat them as small pikelets. Cook until golden brown on both sides. The serving options are endless. I put desiccated coconut, a bit of coconut sugar and peanut butter (!) on them. Honey is a lovely sweet addition with fresh berries or sliced banana and cinnamon.
These three recipes tend not take me more than 15 mins or so in preparation time. The cooking time varies, with the pancakes being the one you’ll need to factor in around 15-20 minutes of you cooking them. All these dishes can be served into portions, put into containers and help you during the week in terms of having food ready to eat. Having food ready to go is a good feeling and simple recipes are fun to make, I play music and really enjoy the experience of knowing I am setting myself up for some great nutrition.
Next week I’ll be chatting about the perils of eating out and what to do when choosing food (and not caving in!). I hope these few recipes help you reduce the juggling act of preparing food. It’s only a small window, but incremental steps are always a good starting point. Let’s leave the art of throwing multiple balls up in the air to the true circus performers.
For now, enjoy cooking and please drop me a comment and let me know how you go. What challenges do you face when it comes to cooking high protein food and what recipes do you have that you love cooking up a storm with?