I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PLAN (weeks 3 to 6 in review)

It’s hard to believe I am in Week 7 already. The fears I used to harbour around quitting sugar have now completely dissipated. I am by no means saying I plan to eat 100% sugar-free for the rest of my life, but I am convinced that quitting sugar is far easier than many would have had me believe (including myself!). With some planning and effort it is achievable… and it can be done without any sense of loss or deprivation being involved.

Some of the fabulous spin-offs of doing this program are no doubt a direct result of living consciously and “clearly”. The more aware I am of what I am consuming, the more in touch I am with what my body needs. It’s very simple. And so, quite naturally and effortlessly, I find myself sleeping enough, drinking enough water, motivated to exercise in a balanced, practical and consistent manner and keen to incorporate yoga and meditation into my daily life.

In the past, I had a habit of doing “healthy” things out of a desire to compensate for some kind of lack in my lifestyle. If I ate poorly, I would “make up for it” at the gym. At times when I didn’t exercise, I’d do a juice “detox” or meditate everyday for a short period of time. As a university student, I smoked cigarettes everyday (bleugh!) and did up to 70 minutes of pilates a day.

Although I can’t consider myself to have ever been a yo-yo dieter, I can certainly see that during periods of imbalance in my life, my relationship with food and exercise has similarly been unbalanced.

When I started this blog it was all about exploring; little adventures of an everyday variety… projects undertaken from the heart, in the home. As I scroll through older posts, I see a clear desire to experiment with gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan and raw foods. This hasn’t left me. In fact, IQS has opened up a whole world of inspiration for me. I even dream about recipe creation! What has happened during the course of this program is that I *think* I may have found a way to incorporate many of the things I love/that make me feel good into my daily routine in a holistic and sustainable way.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 3 was off to a flying start with fabulous Quinoa Porridge. Deliciously spiced with cinnamon and given wonderful texture thanks to pepitas, almonds and coconut, this breakfast, prepared the night before, was a joy to wake up to! Quick Moroccan Chickpea Stew was truly lovely; comfort food with an exotic twist. Poached Eggs with Frozen Peas, Spinach & Feta. Wow. What can I say? A delicious way to pack a truckload of greens into one meal. Loved it! Quinoa, Zucchini & Corn Fritters were loved by all, including Cupcake. A fabulous, generous, make-ahead meal that’s perfect for freezing in. The Toasties with Avocado & Cheese have become a go-to quick meal staple in our home now. They are beyond delicious, whether using a little Vegemite (trust me, it works!) or spicing things up with finely chopped fresh red chilli. Zucchini Noodles with Spinach and Basil Pesto proved to be as yummy as it is nutritious and clever. What a week!

I was travelling for 6 days of Week 4 and thus unable to follow the meal plan for almost the entire week (boo!), but made it back just in time to prepare White Bean Soup (I made a vegan version, omitting the Parmesan) and fabulous Middle Eastern Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. I was so excited to catch this wonderful tail-end of the Week 4 meal plan… and rather chuffed with my efforts to make up for lost time. I was also able to try to apply IQS-style eating principles when choosing pre-packaged meals from Marks & Spencer Simply Food during an overnight stay at a transit hotel at Gatwick Airport!

Week 5 saw us traveling again, but with access to a few basic ingredients and a small kitchenette on a boat, I was able to throw together some very modest IQS-style meals, including Veggie Scramble, Coco-Nutty Granola topped oats and Toasties with Avocado & Cheese. Upon returning home, I was stoked to the point of becoming seriously emotional, when my attempt at Roast Vegetable and Quinoa salad with Turmeric Tahini Dressing proved itself delectable. The hits kept coming with Halloumi, Lentil & Beet Salad, which my husband really loved.

Not wanting to miss out on some of the fun from the previous week, I backtracked a little in Week 6 and made Savoury Lentils, which I ate as they were with a fried egg and also incorporated into a most delish Lentil and Sweet Potato Pie. I had Coco-Nutty Granola religiously for breakfast and I also dipped into my stock of frozen IQS meals and thawed out some Savoury Muffins. Unfortunately travel, once again, made it impossible for me to follow the Week 6 meal plan (boo!). I couldn’t wait to get cooking again when I returned home!

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

Week 3 was easy peasy and I was inspired (in the kitchen and in general). Had a fabulous week of experimenting in the kitchen and discovering like-minded people online. The occasional tummy pains I experienced in Weeks 1 & 2 were gone, I felt “clear” and motivated. Out of curiosity, I did weigh myself at the gym and, as I suspected, 60 kilograms was the result.

Week 4… ruh-roh! Major spanner in the works as a result of traveling. Prior to signing up for the IQS 8-week program, I had booked an all-inclusive trip to England. I must say that staying on an organic farm, having all meals prepared lovingly and expertly by a fabulous chef (with a background in gastronomy and a love of the ideology behind permaculture) is nothing to complain about. The food was beautiful, vibrant and abundant and all the meals happened to be gluten-free. However, I ate what was served and thus I cannot claim that I was able to stick by IQS. And “Clean Week” (Week 4 of the program) was well and truly out the window. I felt rough after only a couple of days of non-IQS eating. My digestion was sluggish, I had tummy pains regularly, I was relying on coffee to get me through the afternoon, I was bloated and less motivated to exercise… I suppose that during Weeks 1 and 2 my body had begun the recalibration process that Sarah Wilson refers to, and that abandoning IQS so abruptly was a rude shock to my system.

Week 5 went semi-well. I was on track with IQS-style eating as long as I had access to fresh produce and cooking facilities. But we were still traveling (this time in the Stockholm archipelago… by boat!). I wasn’t able to follow the Week 5 meal plan for at least half of the week, so even though I did my best with IQS-style eating, it was a little disappointing to not be able to follow the entire Week 5 meal plan, however some great successes with some of the new 8WP recipes when I was back at home, helped to compensate somewhat.

Week 6 came along… so did my cycle… and a whole new boost of motivation to get back on track. Although we had another fun-filled trip (this time to the north of Sweden), I was happy to arrive home mid-week and get stuck into reestablishing healthy routines for both myself and my children. As with last month, this start of this cycle was painful, uncomfortable and my skin was out of control. Very noticeably, however, this month it took far longer to get past the “yucky” phase.

And the difference this month? Sugar.
Without question.

Whilst visiting Östersund, we were guests of family friends and, despite pre-preparing some IQS meals (Savoury Lentils included) to bring along for the journey, it was impossible to avoid certain group meals or eating a slice of birthday cake bought in celebration of my husband’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. I would have felt deeply uncomfortable to refuse to be part of the festivities. However, my hormonal health paid the price for my participation. I am glad for the experience in terms of the self-knowledge it has afforded me, as I now have a clear and direct comparison of what it’s like to have a sugar-free cycle and a sugar-fueled one.

The beginning of my last cycle was horrid. The beginning of this one was horrid too… but the nastiness was more intense and lasted far longer.

Back at home again, I found myself super-motivated and keen to jump back into the program with renewed vigour. Not only did I jump back into IQS-ing, but I started Jillian Michaels‘ infamous 30 Day Shred and Gabby Berstein‘s 40-day, 9 minute Liberation Kriya (as taught by Yogi Bhajan and Gurmukh) challenge.

WHAT I AM LOVING

Inspiration!

I am beyond inspired right now, not just in terms of health and wellbeing and not just in terms of food. Creatively things are just… flowing. I am listening to my intuitive voice and opportunities are manifesting so fast I can hardly keep up!

Routines!

It has been a joy to throw myself back into cooking IQS meals. So much so that I ended up doing my “Sunday Cook-Up” on Saturday. And, honestly, within 24 hours of being back at home after our last trip, eating IQS-style, drinking loads of water and doing a little exercise, I was noticing marked improvements in my mood, quality of sleep and digestion (all despite my cycle giving me a hard time).

Challenges!

Aside from eating/cooking IQS-style (which I genuinely love and enjoy!), I have done three 30 Day Shred sessions and on the weekend I completed a 10 km fun-run hosted by a lovely friend on her gorgeous farm property out in the archipelago. I have completed 5 days of the Liberation Kriya challenge and, believe it or not, running 10 km on a dirt/gravel trail on a hot and muggy day was easier than my first days of 9 minutes’ worth of sitting still in that pose!

I don’t have a “path” when it comes to yoga. My efforts yoga-wise have been earnest yet inconsistent and I can’t claim any in-depth knowledge of any particular yoga practice (least of all Kundalini!). But my interest in yoga has always been there. And my desire to incorporate yoga into my life in some form of daily practice has never been stronger. So when I saw Gabby Bernstein’s post about her 40-day Liberation Kriya challenge, I saw it as a call to action. Being part of the IQS 8-week program has motivated me to establish firmer, healthier routines in more areas of my life than what I consume.

Self-love!

I am seeing more each week that, with a little vigilance, eating “clean” is not only sustainable, health-affirming and immensely satisfying, it feels like a huge act of self-love.

This has been the most wonderful revelation that has come about for me during weeks 3 to 6.

 Wishing you well! <3 MM xx

PS I was fortunate enough to be chosen again for Sarah Wilson’s Picks of the week with my version of the IQS Middle Eastern Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. Woohoo! :)

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STRAWBERRIES & CREAM SUGAR-FREE TARTLETS (IQS-style, gluten-free, egg-free, summery scrumptiousness)

Midsummer in Sweden is a big deal. When you spend half the year (or more) coping with trying to survive decidedly wintry conditions, you know why. This year, in the midst of the IQS 8-Week Program, I questioned whether I should bother baking or not. The rationalisation that I needed to create something celebratory for Midsummer- if only “for the children”- overturned my reservations, and this IQS-inspired recipe was born.

In this recipe you’ll find a touch of Sweden, a little bit of Australia and a whole lot of sugar-free deliciousness. The tartlet “pastry” is based on the recipe for IQS Sugar-free ANZAC biscuits, the cream is coconut cream (my favourite!) and the strawberries I used are, of course, beautifully in-season Swedish strawberries (a quintessential part of the Swedish summer experience).

Go on… Spoil yourself and your family. And don’t feel guilty one little bit (because you truly don’t have to with treats like these!).

<3 MM xx

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STRAWBERRIES & CREAM TARTLETS (IQS-style, sugar-free, gluten-free, egg-free!)

Pastry makes approx. 40 tartlet cases

INGREDIENTS FOR PASTRY

125 g salted, organic butter
125 ml organic rice malt syrup
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125 g gluten-free organic white flour
100 g gluten-free organic oats
90 g raw organic almonds, roughly chopped
65 g desiccated organic coconut

INGREDIENTS FOR TARTLET FILLING

1 can (or more) of organic coconut cream, unwhipped or whipped depending which you prefer
A large handful of organic strawberries, fairly finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (fan).
  2. Cut small squares of baking paper (mine were approximately 5 cm x 5 cm). Cut slits from each corner of each square almost to the middle of the square, but not quite. Place in a mini tart/pie tray (of the kind you might make Christmas mince pies in).
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and rice malt syrup, stirring until the mixture starts to bubble. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Combine the bicarbonate of soda with boiling water and add to butter mixture. With childlike wonderment, watch the chemistry show commence (I love this bit!).
  5. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour melted butter mixture into dry ingredients and combine well.
  6. Let the dough “rest” for a while and come to room temperature*. This is an important stage as everything binds together, helping it to the right stage of pliability.
    *WARNING: don’t try the cookie dough at this point… you won’t be able to stop eating it ;)
  7. Scoop 1 heaped teaspoon of dough into a rough ball shape and pop into a paper-lined tartlet tray hole. Smoosh the dough down on top of the baking paper square to form a tartlet shell. You may want to try baking a test tartlet shell at this point or, if feeling brave, repeat the filling process until the whole tray is full. Be careful not to over-fill the holes. This dough will spread a little.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. If baking a cookie version of these, I would say that 20 minutes is slightly too long at this temperature (I prefer a chewier cookie), but to create a crisp tartlet shell, 20 minutes (depending on your oven) produces great results.
  9. Allow to cool on trays before lifting out using the paper corners and transferring to a wire rack. Store in airtight container*.
    *You can leave them sitting in the paper squares if stacking for storage, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
  10. Just prior to serving*, fill cooled tartlet shells with a dollop of coconut cream (whipped if you like) and top with 1/4 of a sliced strawberry.
    *The tartlet cases can be made days in advance, but the tartlets should be constructed close to the time of serving. Don’t worry, though. It only takes seconds to do if your strawberries are cut in advance.
  11. Enjoy! They are absolutely delicious, aren’t they?

 

*Recipe for tartlet pastry based on this one for ANZAC biscuits found at iquitsugar.com 

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I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PLAN (weeks 1 & 2 in review)

Hi all! Firstly, I apologise for neglecting to respond in good time to the lovely comments on my previous IQS post. Traveling, working and general “mama life” have prevented me from being here as much as I’d like at all.

As those of you who have read my previous IQS-related posts will know, I own a copy of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life and it has become a go-to guide/inspiration resource for me when it comes to healthy home cooking, sans sugar. A few weeks ago, I decided to delve further into a fructose-free lifestyle experiment and, along with all the others who signed up for the latest IQS 8-week program, I have just entered Week 3.

In general I am finding the vegetarian version of the program not only easy to follow, but hugely inspirational. Slight concerns I had about the appropriateness of Aussie-developed seasonal meal plans/recipes and their relevance to me way over here in Winterfell Scandinavia, were completely unfounded. As (bad) luck would have it, the weather here has been even more rubbishy than usual, with frostier temperatures during midsummer than those Australia has been experiencing midwinter. Soups, curries and warming Mexican-inspired dishes have been just the ticket! And really, eating comforting, fresh, veggie-style food is always appropriate, no matter the weather, right? And when it comes to seasonal produce, well, it is the time of year here for certain goodies, such as berries.

Before signing up for the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether it might merely encompass repetition of information already available online (via Sarah Wilson’s blog, iquitsugar.com, etc.) or in book form. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover the vast majority of recipes are exclusive to the program. That fact in itself makes the program good value, but add to that meal plans, complete shopping lists, hints, tips, webinars, forums, online support and the encouragement of a community of sugar-free fellow participants, and $150 AUD starts to seem a very fair price indeed.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 1 was a breeze. I am sure this has something to do with the fact that I already had a foot in the IQS camp and had been recently navigating my way through going fructose-free, sans support, prior to the program’s commencement. On day 1, newly returned from a trip abroad, I found myself famished and almost teary at the prospect of not having any IQS-approved food ready to go. And then I remembered my veggie version of Sarah’s Paleo Inside-Out Bread… pre-sliced and frozen, ready for just such a mealtime emergency! Perfect. The Eggplant Parmigiana made with roasted red pepper sauce was a culinary revelation and I think I found a new favourite soup in the Thai Sweet Potato and Pumpkin IQS-style rendition I had on Tuesday (and Wednesday… and Thursday). The Berry Omelette seems to be hit with IQSers. And with good cause! It’s really quite delicious. And even the Berry Omelette cooking technique, which involves finishing under the grill, is one I will use in future for other culinary creations.

Week 2 kicked off with a to-die-for breakfast treat. Hello Carrot Cake Whip! Where have you been all my life? On the savoury side of things, there was a decidedly Mexican theme running through the meal plan for Week 2. I’m not complaining! The Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas were fabulous. My yummy Veggie Scramble breakfast leftovers on Day 3 became lunch for Baby Cupcake who, I was surprised to note, really enjoyed the zucchini. Paleo Beetroot and Rocket Risotto ticks almost every box imaginable (especially if you omit the dairy, as I did). Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo, sugar-free and with a raw component (the fresh rocket), this meal is not only clever and tasty, but surprising, nutrient-dense and pretty too. You can’t go wrong! Breakfast Bruschetta? Well, they had me at toasted sourdough. Yes, that’s right. You can eat bread whilst doing IQS (thank goodness!).

If you’re curious to see what I am eating during the program, you are welcome to visit my Instagram account, or search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg on Instagram where you will see only my images of the vegetarian IQS meals I am eating.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

A couple of things have happened during this process that are interesting… not necessarily IQS-related, but they certainly suggest that my body is receiving the fuel it needs.

Firstly, I recently ran my fastest time yet over a 5 kilometre distance. Secondly, I ran my first 15 kilometres ever last weekend. Both of these things have occurred during a period where I have only been running once a week on average (mostly very short distances) and not following any kind of training program.

As Week 2 of the program commenced, so did my cycle! Sorry if that’s TMI, but I share it only because I had terrible cramping (as you might well do if you haven’t had a proper cycle since 2010!), my skin was out of control, my moods were similarly out of whack… and yet, NO bloating! Now that is down to IQS-style eating, I am convinced of it. After 2 babies from back-to-back pregnancies, visible tummy bloating comes rather naturally to me these days. And, when I realised my cycle was returning, I was expecting at least a couple of days of dealing with one of those bellies that could potentially prompt someone to awkwardly comment “Congratulations! Baby number three!”. But no. Nothing. No bloating whatsoever. In fact, my clothes were starting to feel a little loose.

suspect that I might now just weigh on or slightly under 60 kilograms (132 pounds) for the first time since somewhere pre-kids, circa 2009. I say “suspect” because I don’t tend to weigh myself at all and don’t even have scales at home. I will confirm this matter, out of sheer curiosity, the next time I pay a visit to the gym.

For the record, I suffer from hypothyroidism (diagnosed in 2009). Furthermore, I experienced pretty massive weight gain during both of my pregnancies; 40 kg with L and 30 kg with Baby Cupcake*.

“Woaaah!…”, I hear you think, “How is that possible?”. Believe me, it is! And that’s with a fairly health-focused approach to eating and, in the case of my pregnancy with L, almost daily prenatal yoga from 13 weeks right through to 9 months.

In the case of my second pregnancy, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I suffered major complications as a result of SCH and my pregnancy was considered “high risk” right from the start when I was first hospitalised until about 4 days before my due date. It’s crazy what NO exercise (even gentle short walks were out) and 10 weeks of bed rest- while pregnant- can do :P !

In any case, by being fortunate enough to successfully nurse my babies and finding it easy to maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle (including lots of yummy veggie food and moderate yet consistent exercise) simply because I enjoy it, within a few months of giving birth, I lost all of the weight gained during pregnancy… twice over! Even so, it has been at least 5 years since I weighed under 60 kilos (except for when I had a stomach bug around last Christmas!), so if indeed I do right now, it can only be as a result of following the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program**.

As interesting as that may be, far more importantly to me is how I am feeling and whether or not IQS is the energy-boosting lifestyle solution many claim it to be. To be fair, I haven’t noticed a huge shift in my energy levels yet, but I am sleeping better. And I am not craving sugar/an afternoon nap around 3pm!

Not craving sugar or having “sugar slumps” is quite an unusual state of being for me. I have joked before that I can eat dessert after every meal… including breakfast! And, indeed, I have at times. A bowl of cereal, followed by a smaller bowl of a different kind of cereal was a commonplace breakfast occurrence in my world. No more. I eat. I feel satisfied. I stay that way for hours. THAT is probably the biggest change I note at the moment.

Here’s a brief rundown of what I consider to be the pros and cons of the IQS 8-Week Program at this point:

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • Many (if not most) of the recipes in the program are not featured elsewhere and are exclusive to the 8-Week Program
  • Support from other participants, Sarah Wilson and IQS team members via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels
  • For those of us who prefer to eat veggie-style, following the Vegetarian IQS 8-Week Program means not having to scan through the pages of recipe books that are not specifically veg-focused or spend time customising “meaty” recipes
  • Vegans can omit the egg/dairy component of many of the ovo-lacto vegetarian meals… and there are some vegan stunners thrown into the program too (see Carrot Cake Whip!)
  • No bloating at that time of the month (or at all, for that matter)
  • Eating homemade, delicious, fresh and tasty whole foods- no processed junk
  • No 3pm sugar slumps
  • The meal plans are super-easy to follow, the Sunday cook-ups are a brilliant way to get organised and geared up for the week
  • Baby Cupcake likes the IQS food that she’s tried (and she’s a fruit-loving sweet tooth)
  • Trying new recipes
  • Increased mindfulness and awareness around food and how it really makes me feel

… AND that EVERY, SINGLE recipe I have tried so far is a winner! Truthfully, it is all so good!

WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH

To be honest, there isn’t much!

I have been experiencing occasional slight, yet uncomfortable, tummy pains.
I am not sure if this is due to my mild avocado intolerance and that fact that I am eating avocado more than I normally would. It could possibly be as a result of eating more dairy, however I am “veganising” quite a few of the meals with dairy content. Maybe it’s the result of having recently reintroduced one cup of coffee per day into my diet after a long period of being caffeine-free. There is a simple solution to this issue, however. Drinking water. That’s it! I have a glass of water if my tummy doesn’t feel right and in no time, I feel better. So no serious worries on that front, really.

The biggest downside thus far is that I feel quite overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of food I am producing.
The portion sizes are extremely generous. And I am finding it hard to follow the program to the letter, due to the fact that I tend to have leftover portions from every meal. Because I can’t abide wasting good food, I will skip cooking a meal in the program in favour of eating leftovers for my next meal. This means I am yet to cook a grand total of 9 of the dishes in the program! In this respect I feel that I can’t keep up/may be missing out :( … but I try to remind myself that I am eating IQS-style/IQS-approved meals and that I still have the recipes… and a lifetime of cooking meals ahead of me :P !

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Other happy spin-offs of the IQS8WP experience have included being featured via I Quit Sugar’s Instagram account with my Carrot Cake Whip, being included in “Sarah’s picks” of the week”*** with my Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas, and (inadvertently) winning a discount card from Gateau Stockholm with my photo of my IQS Breakfast Bruschetta! As I regularly buy their am hooked on their sourdough bread (Grand Blanc), I decided to mention Gateau when posting my bruschetta image. They saw it. They liked it. I have apparently won a discount card that will give me 25% off the purchase price of their products FOR A YEAR! Thank you Gateau! I’ll be positively drowning in your gorgeous sourdough ;) !

The IQS team have also made contact with me via Instagram, asking me to write to them (regarding my photographs) and I have done so. Curious to see whether they’ll respond… or what they’ll say if they do!

I am off traveling next week but truly hope that I’ll be able to share some IQS-inspired recipes before I go, so please check in here soon.

In the meantime, my very best to you! <3 MM xx

*These numbers are based on my weight just prior to giving birth to my babies, as determined by my hospital weigh-ins. I have no idea what I weighed immediately postpartum. So the total number of kilos (40 and 30, respectively) noted includes baby, placenta, that extra blood one produces during pregnancy and ALL that crazy water-retention-based H2O. I include these numbers here as, no matter what comprised that weight, my frame had to carry it- twice… and it was certainly carrying a great deal more than it is accustomed to. My bad knees and dodgy hip are a legacy of both of my pregnancies and an unhappy testament to what such weight gain can do.

**I am not trying to lose weight. If I have done so during this program, it amounts to around 1 kilogram. I mention it only because it is one of the changes I have noted since starting the program. I feel it is important to state, once again, that my focus is on “happy, healthy and wholesome”. Despite hypothyroidism, I am well within my normal healthy weight range and, other than when pregnant (!), I always am.

***Every week during the 8-Week Program Sarah picks 4 of her favourite images and they are featured on Instagram and Pinterest.

ABOUT TO BOARD THE “I QUIT SUGAR” TRAIN FOR THE 8-WEEK PROGRAM (plus weekly menu planner template for FREE downloading!)

Before I start the official IQS 8-week program on June 5, I thought I’d share a meal plan that I came up with, doing IQS solo-style a few weeks ago, using I Quit Sugar For Life as a guide-book, along with inspiration from Sarah Wilson’s blog, Instagram account and the IQS website.

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If you take a look at the meal plan above, you’ll notice a couple of things instantly. Namely, the lacto-ovo vegetarian theme (this was my choice, but the IQS program caters to meat eaters and can also be adapted for vegans!) and the fact that I don’t mind eating the same meals a couple of days in a row ;).

As I went through I Quit Sugar For Life, exploring more recipes, what I ended up making and eating each week became a little more varied, but I definitely had my favourite eats and treats (see tip at the end of this post). I added a couple of recipes from blogs and other books that were not the work of Sarah Wilson or her team, but were in line with the IQS philosophy. It helped greatly to create a structured meal plan with page reference numbers and a shopping list as, when cooking every meal from scratch, being organised is the best way to keep things manageable (and sustainable, long-term).

And of course, being organised when it comes to cooking saves valuable time no matter how you are eating or whether or not you follow a program. So for anyone needing a printable menu plan template, this one has spaces for writing not only the dish name, but also key ingredients and page numbers/website sources. There is an added row for including extra things (beyond the standard 3 meals per day). These could include stock-ups (like purées to be made in advance and frozen), desserts, snacks, etc. Ingredients can then be tallied up and added to the shopping list at the bottom of the page.

I am not sure if others will find this menu planner as user-friendly as I do, but when I searched for something similar myself, I couldn’t find it. So I created this template. And I’ll share it here for FREE downloading :).

FREE WEEKLY MENU PLANNER TEMPLATE DOWNLOAD

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When it comes to the 8-week program, I am looking forward to having some clear direction, new inspiration and the opportunity to “eat clean” alongside others who are as curious/motivated/inspired as I am. I ate sugar-free for a few weeks (and still eat IQS-friendly foods 80%-90% of the time now), and really enjoyed it. I noticed subtle yet marked improvements in many aspects of my health and wellbeing and I look forward to getting stuck back into IQS with renewed vigour. My Stockholm bestie will be joining me on this journey too, and having someone to swap notes with (and have sugar-free afternoon teas with) will no doubt be part of the fun.

Unfortunately I will be away from home as the program starts and will be unable to follow the first 3 days of as I had hoped. The other big disadvantage we have, being in Scandinavia, is that the program is based around seasonal produce… seasonal in Australia! Ruh-roh! Luckily we are rather crafty and fairly good at making culinary substitutions, so will do so as necessary ;).

There are two versions of the IQS 8-week program and I have signed up for the vegetarian one. The cost (if paying upfront for the whole 8 weeks) is $150 AUD. From the IQS website:

What you receive.

A fantastic weekly meal plan with simple, delicious and filling recipes – including a vegetarian option.
Weekly motivational video and two live webinars with Sarah.
Support from a team of doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, counsellors, health coaches, personal trainers and more.
Daily advice, tips and tricks to help you quit the white stuff for good.
Weekly payment option.

June 3 is the last day to sign up, so if you’re interested, get onboard NOW! Toot, toot!

<3 MM xx

PS If you want a yummy breakfast tip, try Sarah’s Coco-Nutty Granola. It’s apparently the most popular recipe from Sarah’s first book. I make a new batch every week now, had it for breakfast myself just this morning and absolutely vouch for its deliciousness. Vegan, healthy, clean-eating yumminess in a bowl!

 FOR MORE IQS-RELATED INSPIRATION:

I QUIT SUGAR TOO (an experiment in going fructose-free and eating whole)
DIY CHOCOLATE BUNNY BUTTON DECORATIONS, IQS-STYLE (and my 15 seconds of Instafame)
SUGAR-FREE EASTER TREATS & BEETROOT RED VELVET CUPCAKES (for an IQS-inspired celebration)

OUR FOOD REVOLUTION WEEK! (cooking with Poh, Jamie Oliver, Maximillian Lundin, friends & kids… phew!)

Hi lovelies! Hope you all had a fabulously foodie Food Revolution Day (or a good regular Friday the 16th of May, if you didn’t take part ;) ). I “cheated” a little again this year and celebrated FRD in numerous ways over multiple days (not that Jamie would mind, I am sure).

My week began in a cooking frenzy when a dear friend, The Green Brunette, popped around for a Poh’s Kitchen-inspired afternoon. We had to juggle fixing the remaining mis en place (I had done as much as possible in advance), cooking Poh’s divine Chunky Cream of Mushroom soup, making her delicious Parmesan Croutons, baking her version of Potatoes au Gratin, settling/feeding Baby Cupcake, eating lunch, picking L up from nursery school, organising snack time for the kids, remembering to take some pics and hastily snapping away for late posting on Instagram (lol) AND baking Poh’s perfect Chewy Choc-Chip Cookies. We had an approximate time frame of around 2.5 hours… for all of this :P. A potentially hectic/stressful afternoon was made thoroughly enjoyable because, simply, we all love food, chatting, playing and experimenting! And of course, we had wonderful guidance and inspiration direct from Poh’s Kitchen* ;).

On FDR itself, cooking with Jamie Oliver was on the agenda. I happened to be close to my computer as Jamie, DJ BBQ, Cupcake Jemma and a great gathering of school kids and teachers went live to air on Food Tube for Jamie’s live cooking lesson. When little L came home from a visit at his grandparent’s house, we watched the video again and cooked together. It was honestly one of the loveliest kitchen experiences we’ve had together. L, who is 3 years-old, was no doubt excited to see the big kids cooking and to have Jamie talking “directly” to him (he said “Jamie Oliber loves me.” Bless! <3 ).

At one point, after assembling our first wrap, L started running in circles around the kitchen singing “Rainbow salad wrap! Rainbow salad wrap!” :D. He loved using a grater for the first time (with supervision, of course!), shaking the dressing jar, pouring the dressing, helping with wrap assembly and eating the finished product. Actually, he couldn’t get enough of those wraps. I assumed we’d have lots of salad and tortilla breads leftover, with only 2 adults eating the food plus a toddler hanging around who’d already eaten dinner with his grandparents. Not so. After all three of us got stuck in, there was enough remaining to make only one wrap the next day. I must admit, I was a little sceptical about how tasty these wraps would be, but they were clearly a success!

GET THE RAINBOW SALAD WRAP RECIPE HERE

Oh, and for those of you who’ve wondered if Jamie managed to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD™ attempt for the ‘Most participants in a cookery lesson in 24 hours (multiple venues)’, it was done! Congrats to Jamie, his team and all the participants worldwide!

WATCH JAMIE’S RAINBOW SALAD WRAP COOKING LESSON HERE

I had barely scrubbed down my own kitchen and stacked my dishwasher at the end of FRD when, the very next day, I headed off to the professional kitchen at Restaurang Akademien to attend Maximillian Lundin’s vegetarian (vegan) cooking workshop. After 4 hours of broken sleep (ugh), I was not in the best form to tackle a full day of cooking/knowledge-absorbing (let alone in Swedish), but the day was exciting, my partner was thankfully super-lovely, Maximillian was hugely inspiring, his team were encouraging and the food itself was absolutely delicious. Maximillian’s food philosophy is much like my own and the theoretical side of what he shared with us resonated with me very much. He has been at the pre-”hipster foodie” forefront of the contemporary organic food movement in Sweden and now aims to promote veganism amongst chefs, restauranteurs and the general public here. No mean feat, given Sweden’s meaty history! But if any man’s up to the task, it’s Maximillian Lundin. Even his name is impressive.

There were some real high points of the day… and the menu.

Lunch was delicious and featured some seldom-seen-in-Stockholm-but-wonderful flavour combinations (orange and corn, for example). It was lovely to chat casually over a glass of chilled Jus de Pomme Pétillant with Maximillian and two of the ladies who shared my kitchen work station. When the conversation turned towards South Australia, my heart sang. The beyond-favourable impression my home state has made upon these Swedish foodies was wonderful to hear about.

Back in the kitchen, my cooking partner encouraging/trusting me to hastily create a vinaigrette based around whole spices- for the first time- was an enlightening experience. I am starting to recognise certain strengths I have in the kitchen, in conjunction with the areas that require improvement. An intuitive understanding of flavour combinations is something I have working for me. My love of pottering around the kitchen, taking my time reading and rereading recipes, chatting, etc., would make me, in my “raw state”, a potentially disastrous addition to a commercial kitchen environment!

I was thrilled to get a copy of the Årstiderna cook book that Maximillian collaborated on and proud that we were some of Årstiderna‘s very first customers, way back when their business began… and before trendy “Eko Stockholm” was in full swing. We were encouraged to take food home with us which I, of course, did … and I loved the fact that Baby Cupcake could eat any of the dishes without me worrying about her getting ill (she seems to be dairy protein intolerant, although test results have been inconclusive thus far).

The raw cake was a particular hit with the little ones (ok, the big ones too). I now have my own swanky Restaurang Akademien apron and diploma… and a name badge which, I realised upon returning home, had been upside-down all day. Ugh. The perils of chronic sleep-deprivation**, people. I need to take my own advice :P

Last but not least, my Sunday morning began with a quick baking session to prepare cookies for a friend who offered me technical support via a comment on a desperate Facebook status update (back when my computer was dying on me). I promised that, when he visited Sweden again, I’d bake something to thank him for his assistance.

He flew in from LA on Sunday morning.
He was eating my cookies that afternoon.
Now, you can’t say Miss Marzipan’s not a woman of her word ;)

Hoping you all had a fabulous weekend. And if you celebrated FRD 2014, please drop me a line to let me know what you got up to! :) xx

*Poh’s new book, Same Same But Different, has just been released in Australia! It looks amazing and I plan to have a copy smuggled into Sweden for me ;)

**Perhaps “chronic” is an exaggeration, but I have not had 8 consecutive hours of sleep (the amount I used to rely upon daily!) since pregnancy insomnia kicked in around July 2010 when I was pregnant with L. Despite Baby Cupcake currently weaning herself, my body seems to still brace itself for nursing on demand throughout the night, and I wake repeatedly as a result. Oh well, this too shall pass…

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO YOU (and a timely, “motherly” reminder to myself!)

Want an easy way to look and feel better that’s fad-free, cost-free, completely natural and almost as easy as breathing?

It’s simple. Drink more water and get more sleep!

I created this little graphic to remind myself that my sometimes-overlooked-yet-most-obvious basic needs should never be last on my list of priorities, no matter how “busy” I am.

MissMarzipan_drink_water

Happy Mother’s Day to all celebrating. I hope your families are spoiling you, or at least showering you with the love you deserve every single day! And I hope you got to sleep in ;)

<3 MM xx

FOOD REVOLUTION DAY 2014 (get onboard with Jamie Oliver & a global community of foodies of all ages on May 16!)

There’s just one week to go until Food Revolution Day is upon us again.

Haven’t heard of it before? You’re welcome to check out my post about what we got up to for FRD 2013. For FDR info in a nutshell, read on. Or you can get all the information you possibly need, plus tips, links, freebies and recipes directly from foodrevolutionday.com :)

WHAT IS FOOD REVOLUTION DAY?

Food Revolution Day is a global day of action to keep cooking skills alive.
It’s about celebrating the importance of cooking good food from scratch and raising awareness of how it impacts our health and happiness – we believe that everyone should know about food and it starts with getting kids food smart, making cooking fun and inspiring a love of food that will last a lifetime. Food Revolution Day is a campaign by the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation in the UK and USA, and The Good Foundation in Australia. To date, 74 countries have taken part and over 900 ambassadors are championing our cause worldwide.

Food Revolution Day is open to anybody, whether you’re a school, organisation or individual.
Many activities are organised by supporters in their local area or voluntary Food Revolution ambassadors who champion food knowledge and cooking skills in their communities. To get involved, you can either organise your own activity, get in touch with your nearest ambassador to see what they’re doing, or apply to become an ambassador here.

Why have a day of action?
Learning about food and how to cook from scratch is one of the most valuable skills a child can ever learn.
This knowledge used to be passed down from generation to generation, but now, with an overreliance on unhealthy convenience foods, millions of people lack the confidence and even the most basic skills to cook for themselves and their families. By educating children about food in a fun and engaging way, we’re equipping them and future generations with the skills they need to live healthier lives.

 

MissMarzipan_Jamie_Oliver_FRD_2014

WHAT’S ON MY FDR AGENDA THIS YEAR?

Something incredibly simple, that I have dubbed (in my head!) “Cook from a Book!”. Like many people, I suppose, I covet cookbooks. I feel inspired and comforted when flicking through their pages. They truly are, for me, as picture books are to my 3 year-old son. I feel moved by the stories the images tell. They are my ultimate coffee table books and one of my “happy places” to visit.

 

MissMarzipan_Jamie_Oliver_FRD_cookbooks

 

The downside of having a healthy, ever-expanding collection of recipe books? Feeling guilty that a lack of time prevents me giving them the usage and attention they deserve. Mid-week particularly, when cooking/planning meals, I’ll tend to fall back on old favourites and staples… or quickly look up a recipe online, modifying it to suit my tastes/the contents of my pantry.

So, keeping it simple, FRD 2014 will see me choosing a cookbook from my shelf and trying at least 3 new recipes. And because my son adores Jamie Oliver* and loves to help me cook (even though that sometimes involves nothing more than whisking air around in an empty mixing bowl!), we will be attempting to join in with Jamie’s live cooking lesson.

To celebrate this year’s Food Revolution Day, Jamie will be leading the biggest-ever live cooking lesson and he wants you to join in, wherever you are in the world. You’ll learn to make his tasty, nutritious rainbow salad wrap, especially chosen with kids in mind, so that everyone can get involved. We’ve also created a lesson plan to give you a bit of assistance in preparing for Jamie’s demonstration.

To help us achieve our goal, we’ve teamed up the educational group, TES who’ll be streaming Jamie’s live cooking lesson to schools across the world. We want to get one million kids cooking on the big day and, with your help, we can make this happen! Wherever you are in the world, tune in live or watch his pre-recorded video on 16 May – you have no excuse to miss it!

And how cool is this? Taking part in Jamie’s live cooking lesson means becoming part of the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD™ attempt for the “most participants in a cookery lesson in 24 hours (multiple venues)”. What kid wouldn’t think that fact in itself was pretty awesome?

Last year I collected contributions on behalf of some of my foodie friends here in Stockholm, and collectively we made a donation to support The Good Foundation in Australia.

This year, via Prizeo, contributors to the cause have the opportunity to win a cooking lesson with Jamie himself and a VIP restaurant experience in London! You’d be nutty not to enter ;)

HOW AMAZING DOES THIS SOUND?

Hi guys, Jamie here!

For the second year running, we’ve got an incredible prize up for grabs: you and a friend will come to London, where I’ll give you a cooking lesson and teach you a few tips and tricks to become a kitchen ninja.

As part of the prize, we’ll fly you to London, put you up in the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, give you £1000 spending money and I’ll make sure you get a signed copy of my latest cookbook, Save with Jamie, too.

There are also loads more bonus prizes, too…

… Big love,

Jamie O xx

ENTER THE COMPETITION BY MAKING A DONATION HERE…

 

Food Revolution Day is on May 16, people! Mark it in your calendar if you haven’t already done so :)

Drop me a line if you’re participating too… would love to hear what you are up to for FDR 2014!
<3 MM xx

*or, as he calls him, “Jamie Oliber”

FRD on Instagram
foodrevolutionday.com
Win a cooking lesson with Jamie Oliver + VIP restaurant experience!

DREAM & DO (it’s that simple!)

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently found myself pondering the manifestation of dreams. Last weekend I decided I wanted to break down the formula for the “recipe for happiness and success” in the simplest of ways, to create a kind of mantra for myself… some words to live by, if you will. I then created this little graphic to embed those words/that idea visually my mind, before taking it a step further and actually putting it into practice.

MissMarzipan_yes_and_no

 

A day later, after literally waking up from a dream about a possible direction my life could take (towards something that moves and excites me), I jumped online to find out what I could do to make this dream a reality.

Doors opened immediately.

This “process” never ceases to amaze me!

I’m a little sad that Deepak Chopra’s current Meditation Experience, Finding Your Flow, will be ending in a few days, but hopefully I will be able to maintain a consistent meditation practice moving forward, even if it involves just 10 minutes per day of stillness.

If it is true that the answers we seek are within us, surely we must be quiet if we wish to hear them…

MM xx

 

If interested in my reflections on Deepak Chopra’s previous 21-Day Meditation Challenges, see links below:

 

 

SUGAR-FREE EASTER TREATS & BEETROOT RED VELVET CUPCAKES (for an IQS-inspired celebration)

It seems as though I am always in the midst of some kind of health-kick around the approach of Easter! Maybe it’s the masochist in me, but I’d prefer to think it’s simply a matter of loving the challenge of creative problem solving. Baking is a joy to me, especially on festive occasions. So, not to be deterred by my current sugar-free eating habits, I made use of some of Sarah Wilson‘s recipes and gave them an Easter-y twist.

I started by making Easter eggs from Raw Breakfast Ball mix (recipe found in I Quit Sugar For Life)… like so…

MissMarzipan_protein_ball_easter_eggs

SPECKLED MINI PEANUTTY PROTEIN EASTER EGGS

WHAT YOU NEED

1 square dark chocolate (86%), melted
1 quantity/batch of your favourite sugar-free protein ball mix (of a light colour, preferably)
A toothpick

DIRECTIONS

  1. Instead of rolling walnut-sized protein balls, take a slightly smaller amount and form into little egg shapes.
  2. Dip the end of the toothpick into the melted chocolate and dab tiny dots of chocolate randomly on each egg.
  3. Allow to set in refrigerator.
  4. Eat them as they are, serve them in coconut nests (see below) or use as cake decorations.

 

MissMarzipan_proteinball_Easter_eggs_coconut_nests3

COCONUT NESTS

I came across a recipe for a large coconut “nest” cake decoration in I Quit Sugar For Life and was struck by an idea to make mini-nests* with which to decorate cupcakes.

I didn’t modify the recipe itself, only the directions. So I won’t post it here. But honestly, any coconut macaroon recipe should work if followed along with the directions below. If you want to create sugar-free coconut nests you could try this old recipe I posted years ago, maybe, but use only the egg whites (whisking them before adding the other ingredients) and omit the sugar, using 80ml rice malt syrup instead! And do let me know if it works or not! I’d normally experiment myself, but I’m a little pressed for time right now. ;)
Alternatively you could buy Sarah Wilson’s book!

WHAT YOU NEED

1 batch of coconut quinoa nest mix (page 138, I Quit Sugar For Life) or 1 batch of coconut macaroon mix
A mini pie tin (of the sort you would use for making mince pies)
A spoon (to help mold the nests)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease the pie tin.
  2. Spoon heaped tablespoons of coconut mixture into the little pie forms and press down with your fingers/the back of a spoon. This will help form a nest-like shape.
  3. Bake nests in the oven for around 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before carefully removing from tin.
  4. Once cool, fill the nests with what you like (the Speckled Mini Peanutty Protein Easter Eggs above are a good festive option!).

MissMarzipan_DIY_coconut_nests

*They are best eaten on the day they are made, however I have also frozen some in an airtight container and plan to serve them filled with strawberries and coconut cream at a later date (I might try defrosting and crisping them up in the oven for a few minutes first).

 

… And I wasn’t about to leave my Easter baking binge at that, so I took it a step further and made…

MissMarzipan_beetroot_redvelvet_Easter_cupcakes1

 

BEETROOT RED VELVET CUPCAKES
Makes 12

INGREDIENTS

2 large raw beetroots, grated
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp of cinnamon
A pinch of  salt
375 ml almond meal/flour
80 ml raw cacao powder
60 ml macadamia oil (or coconut oil)
60 ml rice malt syrup
1 tsp of baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C then line a cupcake tray with 12 cupcake cases.
  2. Blend all ingredients until cake batter is smooth.
  3. Spoon batter into cupcake cases and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool cupcakes on wire rack.
  4. Frost cupcakes with whipped cream with a little stevia (I used 1/2 a teaspoon of stevia to 500 ml of whipped cream) or whipped coconut cream (1 tin) with 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla powder added.
  5. Decorate if desired. For an Easter-fied version of these cupcakes, try making Coconut Nests and  Speckled Mini Protein Easter Eggs to sit atop your cupcakes.

MissMarzipan_beetroot_redvelvet_egg_nest_cupcake3

 

*I can only assume that it is ok to post this closely modified version of Sarah’s recipe as Sarah’s Beetroot Red Velvet Cupcake video (from The Morning Show) is publicly available and I have found this recipe online elsewhere. I do, however, urge you to check out her books, in particular I Quit Sugar- The Chocolate Cookbook, in which the original recipe appears!

 

I was once again extremely flattered when Sarah Wilson chose my little Easter cupcake creations amongst those she mentioned in her IQS Easter treats post on Instagram! It’s lovely enough to receive a favourable response from my family when I make something for them, but receiving a virtual nod of approval from the creator of the original recipes herself is the icing on the proverbial sugar-free cake!

MM xx

MissMarzipan_Sarah_Wilson_IQS_regram

 

THE COURAGE TO SAY YES (or no)

Why are some of the simplest words the hardest to vocalise? Today I have been pondering the power of yes and no, making a pledge to myself that I will make use of them, as appropriate and as my heart & instincts lead me. I have recently been doing some intense “heart searching”, asking for signs and being open to hearing the answers. As is customary when I go through a process such as this, coincidences* appear at every turn, things begin to flow** and I feel inspired.

It’s a touch scary too!

And so, being a “visual person”, I created this simple quote graphic to inspire me, based upon the very thoughts I have been mulling over all day.

I am excited at the prospect of being able to share with you the fruits of my saying yes (and no) over the course of the next few months. I anticipate that the next year will see huge and wonderful changes happening in my life.

In the meantime, I thank you for the continued support and inspiration you all share with me by being here, sharing your stories and by following your own hearts and paths… MM xx

MissMarzipan_yes_and_no

 

*You wouldn’t believe them if I listed them all, but one of many is the fact that I entered into this period of deep self-reflection and heart searching just as Deepak Chopra’s new meditation experience began. Each day, I find the reflections/meditations beyond spookily appropriate, exactly mirroring my own personal reflections of the day.

**The experience (aptly entitled Finding Your Flow!) has now been running for a week, but it is not too late to register here for FREE!

From The Chopra Centre site:

An inner guide for transforming your life!
Did you know that there is a flow of powerful energy that permeates every aspect of our reality? When aligned with this flow, we’re tapped into the pure, unlimited source of all peace, possibility and potential. Actualize your vision for authentic wellbeing with us on 4.14.14, when we will embark on a 3-week journey toward true transformation. We’ll reveal the secrets to finding your flow and teach you how to leverage its mighty power to effortlessly carry you like a river current to all of the joy, love and fulfillment you desire.

If interested in my reflections on Deepak Chopra’s previous 21-Day Meditation Challenges, see links below: