Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet

Grilled mushrooms and zucchini are tossed in bright basil pesto with an avocado twist and served over buttery millet in this light but substantial gluten free, vegetarian dinner that is sure to become a weeknight favourite.

Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life | thoroughlynourishedlife.comWhen you are surrounded by piles of unshelved books and mountains of unpacked boxes it’s tempting to ‘just have something quick’ so that you can get on with the insurmountable ‘to do’ list, and forget about sitting down to a real meal. The same thing happens on busy weeks when you aren’t moving house. But in those busy moments, when it is so easy to forget about treating our bodies well, we should take a deep breath and a few moments to focus on thoroughly nourishing ourselves. Half an hour of self care can recharge your batteries and give you the energy to face down that ‘to do’ list and defeat it. That was my story last night. Instead of opting for the quick option (cheese, avocado and rice crackers) I took an hour (including 30 minutes to fuss about with photos) to myself between gym time and unpacking time to make a real meal, the first in our new house, and then I powered through our walk in robe for the rest of the night. Now, let’s talk about what fuelled my fashion foray. Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life | thoroughlynourishedlife.comFirst, let’s talk about this pesto. This stuff is dangerously easy to eat straight from the jar. Or spread on any available edible surface. Luckily I managed to control myself and most of it ended up in dinner. I love this avocado-spiked pesto so much. It’s creamy, and smooth but still has signature basil pesto flavour. And it’s super easy to make! In the bowl of a small food processor you just whiz together avocado, almonds, lemon juice, basil leaves, salt and pepper and then stir in finely grated parmesan right at the end. How easy is that!

The pesto is the star of this dish and can save you from many a midweek dinner problem. Some more ideas for this creamy, lemony, basil-filled flavour bomb:

  • Use as the dressing for potato salad
  • Toss with cooked pasta for a super quick dinner
  • Spread it on toast at breakfast time
  • Slather it on buns with veggie burgers
  • Dip your sweet potato fries in it

So many uses for this easy to prepare, bright and moreish condiment!Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life | thoroughlynourishedlife.comIn my midweek offering this week my amazing sauce coats hearty grilled button mushrooms and zucchini with a side of buttery millet. As soon as these photos were taken you can bet I mushed everything around so that even the millet was coated in creamy avocado and basil pesto. I just wanted to maximise the amount of pesto in my face. As soon as summer comes I am planting my own basil crop just so I can have this pesto on tap at all times! No more midweek dinner dilemmas!Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life |

Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet

Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 3 | Time: 30 minutes

Veganise it: simply leave out the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dinner!

For the omnivores: toss in some grilled chicken with your mushrooms!


  • 3/4 cup dry millet
  • 1 1/2 cups salt reduced vegetable stock (or water)
  • 3 cups button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into half moons

For the Avocado Basil Pesto

  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (packed) basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Rinse millet thoroughly in water and drain well. Place in a medium size saucepan with the vegetable stock and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. When millet reaches boiling point, reduce heat to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid. Cook without stirring for 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove the millet from the heat and stand for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
  2. While the millet is boiling, make the pesto sauce. In the bowl of a small food processor combine avocado flesh, garlic, almonds, lemon juice, and basil leaves. Puree until smooth. The thickness should be similar to mayonnaise. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water if required. Stir in grated parmesan, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. On a medium non-stick grill pan (or non-stick frying pan) saute mushrooms and zucchini until cooked but still firm. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked toss the pesto through the vegetables.
  5. Divide millet between plates and top with pesto coated vegetables. Enjoy!

Grilled Mushrooms and Zucchini with Avocado Basil Pesto and Millet | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life |

Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing

Get ready to roast all the winter root vegetables until they are sweet and soft then pile them on top of buttery millet and garnish with a yoghurt-based roasted garlic and marjoram dressing. This dish is comforting, super simple, and filled with good-for-you, fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeSometimes on a Tuesday night on the way home from the gym you get a call from your little sister telling you that she is going to hospital because she has pains in her chest. Sometimes you feel powerless because there is nothing you can do so you need to go home and do something that keeps your hands busy because otherwise you will go crazy. So you go home and peel and chop and roast vegetables while eating roasted almonds and dark chocolate. Or so I hear. Note: she is now home and fine. Not a heart attack just a strained chest muscle. Phew. Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeNot only are winter vegetables the best for keeping worried hands busy, they are exactly what my body is craving right now. I love all the winter vegetables in their sweet, carbohydrate-storing glory – parsnips, beetroot, sweet potato, swedes, turnips – send me your root vegetables and I will love them. Winter vegetables are hardy, they grow in the rough, hard, cold ground to nourish us all winter long. And when you blast them with heat they will reward you with sweetness, straight from the earth.Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeI used a mix of my favourite winter root vegetables in this dish, and you can replace the ones that you aren’t too fond of (I am aware that not everyone shares my love for swedes – the vegetable, not the people) with your favourites. The most important thing to remember when roasting a large amount of vegetables is to make sure that your pieces are all roughly the same size. This way they will cook in a similar amount of time and you won’t have crunchy beets and soggy sweet potatoes. Ick. These, mostly uniformly sized, chopped winter veggies were cooked through and soft, but not squishy, and the mix of vegetables provided contrasting flavours in each bite. See, even in the middle of winter variety abounds!Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeI paired my roasted vegetable gems with millet. I love this ‘pseudo-grain’ (it’s really a seed) for it’s naturally buttery flavour, and how easy it is to prepare. Much like quinoa it goes into a pot on the stove, boils, simmers, sits and voila! Ready to serve in under 20 minutes! The yoghurt sauce was inspired by aioli. I love aioli, but I’ve never tacked it at home (yet…). I had some thick Greek yoghurt, some garlic, and marjoram in the fridge. Roasted garlic is my siren song, so into the oven it went where it turned from sharp edged fresh garlic to golden, molten roasted garlic heaven. Mmmm. The plain sweet, roasted vegetables and buttery millet welcomed the herbed garlic yoghurt dressing perfectly. Gather your favourite winter vegetables and let’s make this tonight!Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing

Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 4

Note: the vegetables listed below are what I used in my dish, but feel free to replace them with your favourite winter veggies!


  • 2 medium beetroot
  • 1 large swede
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 5 large shallots (substitute two red onions)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked millet
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock


  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves (substitute oregano if you’d like)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek/natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons verjuice/lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and line a large rimmed baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Peel and chop beetroot, swede, sweet potatoes, and parsnip into fairly uniformly sized pieces, just larger than a playing dice. Peel shallots and slice in half.
  3. Place chopped vegetables onto baking tray, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap head of garlic in foil and place on tray too. Roast vegetables for 25-30 minutes or until soft in the centres.
  4. While vegetables are cooking, prepare the millet. Rinse millet thoroughly and then place in a medium sauce pan with vegetable stock. Place over high heat and bring to the boil. Once the millet is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, and place the lid on the sauce pan. Cook for 15 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat, allow it to rest for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
  5. To make the dressing. Peel and quarter shallot. Place into a small food processor with marjoram and whizz until finely chopped. Squeeze heads of roasted garlic out and add to food processor. Whizz until combined.
  6. Add yoghurt, verjuice, and salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
  7. Divide millet between plates, top with vegetables, and garnish with yoghurt dressing.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Millet and Roasted Garlic Marjoram Dressing | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry | Vegetarian | Gluten Free |

Midweek comfort is a weekly requirement in our house, but instead of turning to the takeaway menu I dig around in our vegetable drawer for stir-fry inspiration. This is my latest favourite full of big fresh flavours. It’s nourishing comfort. Comfort food you can feel good about.

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeOne of our favourite family take-away choices (B.G.F. that is, before gluten free) was Chinese food from the local shop. My sister and I went to school with the owner’s children, and we followed them when they moved stores and expanded into two locations. The China Rose has long been a mainstay at the family table, and they will certainly never forget us after one memorable night… A little background: no-one in the TNL family (save for my BIL Trent) is known for their balance and co-ordination. We are the experts of forgetting that we have things like elbows and hipbones, trying to singe or stab ourselves at nearly every meal, and walking into things… One fine night Mum and Dad went to collect some takeaway, and my Mama decided to walk at full speed into their new, shiny, plate glass window. Down she went like a stunned bird, and home she came with a nearly broken nose and two black eyes instead of the large special fried rice and beef in black bean sauce. Poor Mama. Impressions of the incident may not have helped matters…

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeToday’s dish takes its cues from those China Rose nights. Flavours that are perfect for those nights when you crave comfort, but with a Thoroughly Nourished Life twist to make them a little kinder to your waistline. These are sucker-punch strong flavours and the sauce is so good I could have eaten it by itself. Bright, fresh broccoli (my favourite vegetable) is stir-fried briefly and then paired with chewy baked tofu and they all get a generous coating of a crazy flavoursome spicy honey, orange, and ginger sauce. Seriously, I want this sauce on everything. Just a few easy to find ingredients can make all the difference to a simple mixture of vegetables and tofu. Make sure you serve it on a bed of rice to enjoy every morsel of sauce. And, if you aren’t that into tofu, this also works wonderfully with chicken (this herbivore hearts her omnivorous friends too).

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifePut away that take-out menu and get into the kitchen! The tofu takes the longest amount of time, but in under 45 minutes(mostly hands-off) you can create your own fresh, easy and healthy version of classic comfort food and with less chance of walking into a glass wall (Sorry Mum) and more chance of feeling good about your dinner choices.

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry

Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 2-3 generously | Time: approximately 60 minutes


  • 300 gram block harm (firm) tofu
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (ensure this is gluten free)
  • 1/ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice bran oil (or other flavourless vegetable oil)
  • Large head of broccoli (about 500 grams)

For the sauce

  • Juice and zest of 1 large orange
  • 4 cm (~ 1.5 inch) piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (ensure this is gluten free)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon honey

To serve

  • 2 stalks spring onion, thinly sliced
  • Slices of orange and rice to serve


  1. Wrap tofu in several layers of paper towel. Place between two plates and weight the top with several cans or a heavy book. This will help to extract the extra moisture from the tofu so that it gets extra crispy in the oven. Leave the tofu to drain for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the tofu is draining, preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together cornflour, salt, pepper and Chinese five spice (if using).
  4. Remove tofu and slice into approximately 1.5 cm cubes. Toss tofu cubes in cornflour mixture and spread out on prepared baking tray. Bake for 30 -40 minutes or until the outsides are golden and crispy.
  5. While the tofu is baking chop the broccoli into medium florets. You can chop up the stems too or save them for another use.
  6. Make the sauce: whisk together all ingredients and set aside until required.
  7. When the tofu is finished cooking stir-fry the broccoli. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and saute for 2-3 minutes or until brightening in colour. Add sauce and reduce heat to low. Cook until sauce thickens slightly and broccoli is bright in colour but still firm.
  8. Add tofu to the broccoli mixture and mix through until coated in the sauce.
  9. Remove from the heat and serve with rice, sliced spring onions, and extra wedges of orange.

Honey, Orange, and Ginger Broccoli and Tofu Stir-Fry | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad with Paprika and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Quick announcement: Thoroughly Nourished Life now has a Facebook page. Come and join me at the table for the latest updates, interesting articles, and recipes.

On Saturday I went to see The Hundred Foot Journey. In addition to being a great story about love, family, and the power of the human spirit, this movie made me want to do nothing but cook for a week. The wide panning shots of fresh market vegetables, and watching the characters prepare and devour delicious dishes with the same intense love I feel for food got my cooking brain hungry for some time in the kitchen. Having this in my head when I went grocery shopping after the movie may have been a bad idea. I ended up with a basket overflowing with lush spring vegetables and fruits. Luckily I have so many ideas for recipes to enjoy them in, and share with you.

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

I couldn’t resist this beautiful eggplant while I was shopping on Saturday, especially after the French market scenes of tables laden with eggplant and its summertime brethren. Eggplant is one of those foods that falls into the ‘love it or hate it’ category of vegetables. I’m a lover. I’m hoping that after you try this salad you will be an eggplant lover too.

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

The first important step to take when approaching an eggplant dish is to pick out the perfect eggplant. You want to find one that has tight shiny skin with few marks and no soft spots. Eggplants can vary in skin colour from dark purple to the stripy version I found in the fruit market on Saturday. They are all tasty and delightful. I think there’s a metaphor there somewhere. Our eggplant is cubed and coated in a mix of warm spices and oil and then spends some time roasting in the oven before meeting our other ingredients: roasted almonds, brown rice, and mixed green leaves. The whole bowl is then coated generously with a paprika and roasted garlic dressing. The honey and garlic based dressing is worthy of the hearty ingredients in this salad.

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

If you are searching for a sturdy salad to fill your lunchbox throughout the week then you have found it. I found that the flavours of the dressing developed and intensified over the week. You can also leave the dressing separate and add it just before eating if you are worried about the greens becoming soggy. I’m hoping that once you take a bite of crunchy toasted almonds, nutty brown rice, crispy fresh greens and olive oil softened eggplant you will fall in love with this salad, and make room for some eggplant in your next dish.

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad with Paprika and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Serves 3-4 | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Vegan option: replace honey with maple syrup or agave nectar


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 400 gram tin chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 4 cups mixed baby greens
  • 3 stalks spring onion
  • 1/4 cup (packed) basil leaves

For the dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
  2. Top and tail eggplant and dice into two centimetre (1 inch) cubes. In a small mixing bowl mix eggplant with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Place on prepared baking sheet. Wrap the cloves of garlic in aluminium foil and place on baking tray too. Bake for 45 minutes or until eggplant is softened.
  3. In the last ten minutes of baking spread almonds across another baking tray and roast. Remove from oven and cool then roughly chop.
  4. While the eggplant is cooking, place brown rice and vegetable stock in a medium size saucepan. Bring to the boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer rice for 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the rice is cooked but still firm to the bite.
  5. In a large mixing bowl toss together eggplant, almonds, brown rice, and rinsed chickpeas.
  6. Finely chop spring onions and basil and add to the bowl along with the mixed greens. Toss well.
  7. To make the dressing whisk all ingredients together. Add to salad and mix well so that the dressing can permeate every bite.

Spiced Eggplant and Chickpea Salad | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

So, dear reader, have I convinced you to try eggplant in your next salad? Have you seen The Hundred Foot Journey yet?

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto (gluten free)

I work with a gentleman who has a booming great laugh. When he is in a meeting room you can hear him across the office and through the walls. His laughter drowns out phone conversations. But I love it because it sounds like true mirth to me.

Did you know that as we grow up our laughter rates fall from about 400 times a day as a toddler to an average for adults of only 15 times per day? Not a very funny statistic at all in my opinion. The sound of a laugh is the precious, and I think in this often too serious world that we need to bring back some of the laughter.

Do you remember being younger and laughing more? I can think back to high school and walking home in the afternoons with my sister and friends and just laughing into the clear blue sky until I thought my cheeks would fall off. Who doesn’t want to feel that happiness again?

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

And laughter has so many beneficial health effects too. According to WebMD, research has shown that laughter helps with: increased blood flow, better immune response, decreased blood sugar levels, and better relaxation and sleep. The Mayo Clinic takes it further revealing long term benefits of laughter such as pain relief and increased personal satisfaction. So, to live a thoroughly nourished life, we need to increase the amount of laughter we get in every day.

I am not an adult who is naturally buoyant, so I am lucky to have Chris in my life. He can see the fun and laughter in nearly any situation, and has a wide ranging appetite for comedic relief. We watch stand-up comics on television, satirical political shows, and send each other funny cartoons throughout the day. My Mum, Dad, and sister all take part in group emails where we share funny emails with each other too. I guess I might be over the average for adults then!

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

This mushroom risotto was made on a wintery Tuesday night. A night where we had both stumbled home through the darkness (our porch light is defective) and wanted something that could be cradled in our hands while watching British comedy panel shows. By the end of the night tummies were filled and cheeks were hurting.

I’ve written of my love of risotto before, and this one is even easier to make on a weeknight after work because most of the work is done by the oven. While I love standing at the stove and stirring away my stress, sometimes I want to come home, roast some vegetables and put rice and liquid in the oven too. Thirty minutes later (or one glass of wine later) you combine the two and presto! Dinner is served. I have used Swiss brown mushrooms here as they have an earthier, more wintery taste to them. I also added a small splash of cognac, feel free to leave it out, but which adds a subtle background taste. If you cannot find shallots (look carefully in the onion section of the grocery store) then feel free to use two small purple onions.

Tell me dear reader, what makes you laugh?

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from this recipe at Taste | Serves 4 | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Make it vegan: leave out feta cheese at the end


  • 200 grams shallots (also called French shallots)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 400 grams Swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 250 grams Arborio rice
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Peel brown skin from shallots, slice in half lengthways, and place on baking tray. Put tray into preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes.
  3. While the shallots are roasting. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Saute garlic, mushrooms and dried rosemary and thyme until mushrooms are soft.
  4. Add rice and cook until the grains are shiny and coated with the oil. About 1 minute.
  5. Add cognac and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Add stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Carefully spoon the rice mixture into a large ovenproof casserole dish and cover tightly with lid or aluminium foil.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes covered, then remove lid and cook for a further 10 minutes or until rice is softened but still firm to the bite and liquid has been absorbed.
  9. Remove from oven and stand aside for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove shallots from oven and remove any burnt pieces.
  11. Stir shallots, parsley and feta into risotto.

Serve with a side of laughter.

Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Vegan Black Bean Chilli

Chris and I ate so much of this chilli the other night that we gave ourselves stomach aches. On Sunday after Mother’s Day breakfast, a quick run, two hours spent cleaning the oven, and a smoothie for lunch, I needed to set something bubbling away on the stove while I got down to some dissertation writing business (some of the aforementioned activities may have been procrastination tactics…). This is the second time in as many weeks that I have made a big pot of this vegan black bean chilli. The first time I greedily kept it all to myself. When Chris finally managed to scavenge a bite out of the last bowl he said ‘mmm good chilli.’

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Now, when your meat-loving, bacon-snuggling, chicken-chomping darling boyfriend expresses interest in your vegetarian – nay, vegan – dinner, lady, you better pay attention and make another pot of chilli – stat!

This is one of those best dishes layered with spices and filled with vegetables that makes your house smell like a home. As you ladle the thick, chunky stew into bowls and sprinkle it with coriander and spring onions you can feel a blanket of cosiness wrapping around you and your loved ones. Add some toasted bread, or some crackers, even some avocado chopped on top would go well. Then take yourself to the comfiest spot in the house, curl up beside the one you love, and nourish body and soul with a bowl of this vegan chilli.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, the boyfriend did end up having some roasted chicken breast stirred through his, which was enough to fill the ‘meat category’ for dinner.)

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Vegan Black Bean Chilli

Adapted from Cookie + Kate’s Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chilli. Thanks Kate for letting me feature my adaptation here.

Serves 6 | Vegan | Gluten Free |

I used dried black beans that needed soaking overnight. If you want to use canned black beans or even kidney beans, just skip the soaking step. If you wish for a milder chilli you could leave out the chilli flakes and decrease the chilli powder to 1 teaspoon. 

You could serve the chilli with these scones, or this cornbread if you feel like doing some baking while your chilli bubbles away. 


  • 1 cup dried black beans
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ½ medium red capsicum
  • 2 stems celery
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • Sprinkle of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 800 gram tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Chopped coriander, spring onion, avocado and other toppings to serve


  1. Place beans in a medium size bowl, cover with water, add baking soda and stir. Allow to soak for 8 hours, or overnight.
  2. Dice red onion, carrot, capsicum, and celery. Peel sweet potato and chop into small chunks.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or small stock pot over medium heat.
  4. Add vegetables to sauce pan. Sauté vegetables for a few minutes or until onions start to go clear and carrots begin to soften.
  5. Crush garlic and add to pot along with spices, tomatoes, and vegetable stock.
  6. Drain beans and rinse very well. Add to pot.
  7. Give everything a big stir and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for up to two hours. Stir every so often so that the chilli does not stick to the bottom of the pot. The liquid will reduce to a gravy-like consistency and the vegetables will soften during cooking time.
  8. Ladle into bowls, top with garnishes of choice and enjoy.
  9. Chilli will keep in the fridge for 3 days in an airtight container, or in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Despite our Sunday night stuffed-with-chilli tummy aches, we will definitely be making several more batches of this during the next few chilly months (oh, a pun at the end!).

Currently…Haloumi, Date, and Almond Salad

Here at Thoroughly Nourished Life I am currently:

Thinking: I wish I could have a vacation to Los Angeles in the early 90s. With Richard Gere. At the Beverly Wiltshire. With a credit card I didn’t have to repay. Yes, I am watching Pretty Woman. The rest of this list will be peppered with references. My apologies.

Enjoying: The combination of salty, squeaky haloumi, sweet dates, and vinegary dressing. Perfect for a mid-shopping lunch date at a fancy Beverly Hills cafe.

Haloumi Date Almond Salad | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Feeling: Satisfied after a flavoursome dinner salad that was a little naughty (fried haloumi anyone), a little nice (spinach, almond). and thoroughly nourishing.

Wearing: In reality? A pair of jean shorts that Chris hates, a singlet with a mustard stain (please don’t judge), and a cardigan (pre-Autumn continues). In my Richard Gere fantasy? Probably this dress, because, who wouldn’t?

Needing: More dates, almonds, spinach and haloumi so that I can make another batch of this salad next week. Also, one of these to follow. And a bubble bath while listening to Prince (or is that the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince?).

Haloumi Date Almond Salad | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Wanting: This Pretty Woman print for our new home. And to go and pick at the leftovers of this Haloumi, Date, and Almond Salad that are currently residing in my fridge.

Planning: What I am going to bake over the Easter long weekend. Large bowls of salad will be required to counteract the forecast sugar consumption. I may also be planning on binge-watching Pretty Woman and singing ‘Wild Women Do’ on my long weekend runs.

Drinking: A cup of green tea. Every morning. Every night. All day. It keeps me going.

Haloumi Date Almond Salad | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life


Haloumi. Date, and Almond Salad

Gluten Free. Vegetarian. Serves 2.

Inspired by Shutterbean’s Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds


  • 1/2 medium red salad onion
  • 1 tablespoon seeded mustard
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Generous pinch each salt and black pepper
  • 75 grams haloumi
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 120 grams baby spinach leaves


  1. Thinly slice red salad onion and mix with seeded mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside until needed.
  2. Slice haloumi into small squares bout 2cm square and 0.5cm thick (about the size and thickness of a scrabble tile)
  3. Heat a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add haloumi and almond. Fry, stirring occasionally until the haloumi is browned on both sides.
  4. Place baby spinach leaves into a large salad bowl. Add haloumi and almonds and pour over onion dressing. Toss well until everything is coated in the vinaigrette.
  5. Serve and enjoy.

Now, currently I am finishing my cup of tea and off to fantasise about a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive. Wild women do, and they don’t regret it.


Roasted Carrot and Mountain Rice Salad

I was asked recently to seriously consider these questions: What do you want from your life? What would you like people to say about you at your 90th birthday party?

I was being asked to think about my life goals in reverse. What do you want to be able to say when you reach the end? Let that lead your life goals rather than looking out from the situation you find yourself in at the moment. The glasses looking from here into the future are murky and smudged, but the lens from that future point back to where you are anchored at present is sharper.

When I (hopefully) reach that milestone birthday and have blown out the candles on my three-tier chocolate cake (you know it) what would I like people to say about me? What would I like to be able to say about my own life?

Firstly, I would want people to say that I lived, I didn’t just survive or exist, I lived my life. I took risks and played the game of life. I didn’t sit on the sidelines. I was the adventurer, the discoverer, the unafraid.

I would want people to know that I lived my life with love. I let love guide my actions and decisions. It might not always be the wisest of actions, but letting love guide your life will lead you to more unexpected blessings than letting logic guide your every step. I would want the people gathered around my armchair to know that I loved them, for them to be able to say that we never parted on an angry word, that they always knew I loved them, that I showed my love through service to the people around me.

I would want the speeches to say that I was leaving work behind that mattered; I had created something that would endure long after my name had been forgotten by my descendants. I had crafted something that touched people’s lives, not in a grand way, but in some small way that was unique to me.


I would want people to reminisce about the meals we had shared at the kitchen table. Our home had always been open to any travelling past, any lonely soul, any celebratory moment, and there was always a spot at the table for the ones who wanted to stay. I would want them to talk about the simple nights, the rowdy nights, the late into the morning nights, the breakfasts, the long lunches, and the smell of baking wafting from my ever-busy stove. I would want to look over at Chris and see in his eyes the shared memory of nights when it was just the two of us, hungry after a walk, with a bag of mixed rice and a few carrots, that became nourishment and a moment stolen from a day dictated by the world’s demands. That too speaks of love, of what my life goals really are.

This meal came together in the middle of a busy week. Chris was waiting at the door for me when I got home, and suggested that we go for a walk along the harbour. We walked along, hand in hand, the most timeless expression of togetherness, of being tethered heart to heart. We talked about now, about then, about the future. We arrived home relaxed and I carried that spirit of simple joy into the kitchen. Some mixed rice, a few sweet carrots, some basil freshly picked from my co-workers garden, some honey, and a dollop of mustard, added together we had dinner fit for two.


Roasted Carrot and Mountain Rice Salad

I used a mountain rice blend (from here) because Chris doesn’t like brown rice, and white isn’t quite right for a salad. You could of course, replace the mountain rice with the same amount of brown rice or even spelt. Cooking times may vary from those listed below. Replace honey with agave or maple syrup to make this a vegan meal.

Serves 2-3. Gluten free. Vegetarian. Vegan option.


  • 1 cup mountain rice blend (see note)
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 small carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon local honey
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds
  • 2 cups rocket leaves

For the dressing

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon local honey
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons seeded mustard
  • 1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F) and line a medium size baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Place rice and water in a medium size saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Drain rice, return to pot and cover to keep warm.
  3. While rice is cooking. slice carrots lengthwise into long fingers. Place into a bowl with olive oil, honey and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out onto prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Spread almonds onto a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Watch them carefully because they will cook very quickly. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. While the rice and carrot are cooking make the dressing. Place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk vigorously with a fork. Set aside until needed.
  6. To serve: spread rocket leaves onto a large platter. Spread rice over the rocket. Place carrots on top. Pour over the dressing and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

I served mine with some toasted chickpeas while Chris enjoyed his with crispy skinned salmon. This salad is equally pleasant and filling as a meal in itself.

Garden Vegetable Risotto

Very rarely do I give myself the chance to just stare into space anymore. Once upon a time I was a Walter Mitty style champion of adventures in the ether. I need to bring that mind-wandering time back into my life: for stress relief, and for creativity to flow.

Risotto is a dish that forces you into a slow down; it encourages a mental hiatus. You are bound to the stove for the better part of half an hour tending to the tide of rice and liquid.

Risotto is active meditation.
You peel and measure. Heat and stir. Add liquid and wait for the magic of absorption and stir and stir and stare out the window while the grains swell and soften.
Shower in your vegetables and herbs and watch them surrender their juices and flavour to the dish.
Just let your mind wander into the night while the cheese binds everything together and then gather at the table and share your imaginings with the one you love.

And the thing you will love about this risotto is that it is easy, and it uses ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard. It’s creamy without being heavy thanks to the creamed corn, which also means that it is lower in fat than traditional risotto. This risotto will save you time after a busy day because even with the grating and chopping it only takes about 40 minutes from start to finish. Enough time to make a cup of tea and let your mind wander.

Garden Vegetable Risotto

Gluten free. Vegetarian, vegan without the cheese.
Serves 4 satisfactorily. Chris’s suggestion: pair with sausages or chicken for an omnivorous meal. A salad would round this out nicely.

Cheddar is what we had on hand, but you can definitely use Parmesan or Pecorino if you have it available.


  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 400 gram tin creamed corn
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 6 sage leaves finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated cheddar, and extra to serve
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Warm stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until transparent.
  3. Add arborio rice and stir until grains are shiny and coated in olive oil.
  4. Add warmed stock one ladle at a time, stirring well between each addition and ensuring that each ladleful is absorbed before adding the next.
  5. When all liquid has been added and mostly absorbed, add creamed corn, grated carrot and zucchini, and peas. Stir well to combine.
  6. Add fresh herbs and simmer for 5 minutes or until the peas are cooked.
  7. Just before serving stir in cheese and season to taste.
  8. Serve with extra cheese.


How do you meditate dear reader? Do you cook? Run? Sit quietly? Me, I run and cook, and dance in the kitchen while singing pop tunes.

Quick Creamy Tomato Soup

As soon as I feel the slightest indication of rain or cooler, wetter weather moving in over our sun-bleached plains and golden crisp grass I insist on getting into comfort food cooking. I think I might have thrived somewhere that experiences four seasons. We get about two and a half here in Brisbane: Summer, not quite summer, and wint-eh (like winter but not quite as cold). On those days that there is a chill in the air, or the storm clouds start gathering on the horizon I take full advantage of the drop in temperature to make something that is only suitable when you can comfortably hold your face over a steaming bowl of something long enough to enjoy eating it.

Last week we had such an evening. I drove home beneath threatening skies with a hopeful thrum for rain beating in my heart. When I opened the door Dad was cooking something tomato-filled, spicy and hearty for himself and Mum – ‘Pork Creole’ he has since named it (I need to enlist his help with recipe names clearly).

Quick Creamy Tomato Soup

It seems Dad and I had the same idea. Something hearty and tomato-y was needed on such an evening. I pulled out the soup pot and started chopping, simmering, and taste testing.

I have made a tomato soup before. Something light and perfect for a summer night. This is heartier, richer, deeper and more satisfying. It has weight and heft from the lentils and potato, which also make it slightly creamy. It’s full of herbs both dried and fresh, and at the end you add a dollop of your favourite collection of antipasto things to give it a rich, salty, briny finish.

Perhaps one of the most perfect things about this soup is that you can make it in the dead of winter, with tinned-at-their-peak tomatoes, and recapture that late summer feeling all year long.


Quick Creamy Tomato Soup (vegan, gluten free)

Serves 4

Note: I used a pre-made Italian herbs paste here because I have it on hand all the time and it’s a great way to supplement the herbs that come out of my garden. And it makes dinners quick!

My antipasto mix was from the supermarket deli and contained my favourites: semi dried tomatoes, green and black olives, and feta. Use your favourite, or simply top with a generous spoonful of grated cheese.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium washed potato
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup uncooked red lentils
  • ⅓ cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs paste 
  • 2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¾ cup your favourite antipasto mix, for finishing


  1. Peel and dice onion. Dice carrot, potato, and tomato.
  2. Heat oil in a medium size pot (I used a 4L soup pot) over medium heat.
  3. Add diced onion and carrot and sauté until onion is transparent. Stir in potato and tomato. Cook for about 4 minutes with the lid of the pot on.
  4. To the pot add peeled tomatoes, red lentils, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and dried thyme. Stir until well incorporated.
  5. Leave to simmer on a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils and potato have broken down.
  6. Add Italian herbs, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and mix well.
  7. Remove from heat, and using a stick blender (bar mix thingy) blend soup until creamy. Be careful, the soup will be very hot!
  8. Ladle into bowls and top with scoops of antipasto.
  9. Serve with bread or, as I did, with crackers and a slice of sharp cheddar.

Quick Creamy Tomato Soup

This yields spectacular leftovers, and only gets better after a day or two in the fridge. Perfect for winter work lunches.

Tell me, dear reader, do you dive straight into the comfort foods as soon as the weather turns? I know some of my northern hemisphere friends are probably ready to send winter our way by now – what have you guys been cooking to keep warm?