Cooking and baking are two of my absolute favourite things in life. I can spend a whole day leafing through my recipe books, picking something, gathering ingredients and finally cooking. I can lose myself in my kitchen and literally peel my anxiety off me while I work with my hands and set my own pace. Sometimes I listen to music (and sing!) or podcasts while cooking, but more often than not, I cook in silence, and I love it.
If I do say so myself, I’m quite good at it, however I haven’t been able to start developing my own recipes yet, so I am always on the lookout for inspiration. I like to get comfortable with a recipe before I start tweaking it and adding my own flair, which can be as little as changing up the meat or adding chopped nuts.
Cooking from scratch can be intimidating, I get it. It takes a lot of time, especially if you want to meal prep for your lunches for work, or your dinners at the end of a long day.
I love food but I am also health conscious and I have sworn off ready meals many years ago without looking back. I used to buy a few ready healthy meals for work lunches every week, and while they were actually all right nutritionally (no hidden crazy salt or sugar content), once you switch to cooking everything from scratch you realise how much cheaper and more satisfying it is.
Like many things in life, it’s about where your priorities are. When I was younger, I reserved home cooking for the weekends because I wanted to use my spare time in other ways. Now I am extremely focused on eating good food and making healthy choices, so I make it a priority to either cook every day or have something prepped and ready to heat up in the fridge. I also bake every week because both my husband and I have a sweet tooth and need the healthy bakes in the house to avoid making bad decisions.
It does take up a bit of my time, sure, but I find it’s worth the effort, although I wish somebody could come over and clean my kitchen every night!
Of course over the years I’ve bought books by Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry, etc to learn basics and showstoppers (wait, I’m Italian! What does it say about me that most of my recipe books are written by Brits? Question for another time….)
For everyday cooking, however, I tend to stick to a few favourite blogs focused on good, healthy food. I like to cook meals from scratch and do a lot of meal prepping, especially for my husband who leaves home at 6 am for work and needs a packed breakfast and lunch most days.
These are my favourites, gathered over a few years and in no particular order.
Skinnytaste Gina is solely responsible for introducing me to both slow cooking and courgette noodles, and for that alone she has my everlasting gratitude. I have followed Skinnytaste since before Gina turned into a New York Times bestselling author with her two great cookbooks (check them out!), and love to revisit her recipes often. Her focus is on healthy, seasonal, real food and portion control.
Some of my favourite Skinnytaste recipes:
Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup a staple of winter meal prep in our house!
Low fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread literally my husband’s favourite breakfast
Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole another amazing meal prep idea, and the flavour is spectacular: Italian approved!
Budget Bytes I definitely owe Beth a drink! Her blog and cookbook are almost daily inspiration for me. I cook multiple recipes from them most weeks, and her advice got me to bake bread from scratch and try my hand at kneading. Her smart insight and tips about food budgeting and keeping the food bill down while enjoying flavourful meals are priceless (get it?) – I am more conscious of my food budget now that my health has prevented me from working for the last few months, and Beth’s recipes are a lifesaver. Cooking and food are huge parts of my life, and I would be really upset if I couldn’t eat well: her recipes make sure I can, even with a smaller budget than I’m used to.
It’s really hard for me to pick some favourites, I could probably make a blog post titled “My 50 favourite Budget Bytes recipes”, but I narrowed my giant list down to:
Sesame Noodles with Wilted Greens: the best “there’s nothing in the fridge” meal ever. I almost always have some spinach in the fridge waiting to be used, and at least a couple of eggs handy. This recipe has come to the rescue time and time again when nobody in the house had made it to the shops. Bonus point: it makes you feel like you just ordered a tasty asian meal!
No Knead Focaccia: how much do I love this recipe? Let me count the ways…. Although I have learned to knead, I can appreciate taking the easy way out and going with a no-knead bread. This focaccia is pure perfection, and it’s excellent sandwich bread.
Ambitious Kitchen Monique’s blog is all about inspiring you to live a healthier life, with both food and exercise. She is the queen of healthy muffin recipes and has some incredible sweet treats on her blog. I use her recipes weekly! Her food photography is also on point.
Some of my favourites from Monique’s vault of delicious treats:
Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies my all time favourite cookie recipe. This is an indulgent cookie, so while I may look at the recipe
every week occasionally, I only bake it a couple of times a year!
Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken with Sticky Coconut Purple Rice another beautiful mealprep-friendly recipe. This is so flavourful you won’t believe it’s full of goodness! I am actually making this again this week and I can’t wait to tuck in again!
Flourless Black Bean and Avocado Brownie the fudgiest brownie I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten my share and somebody else’s!). It’s vegan, gluten free and full of heart-healthy fats.
Fit Foodie Finds Lee is my breakfast girl! Her oatmeal recipes are unrivalled on the web. I discovered overnight oatmeal thanks to her blog, and how easy it is to make delicious and healthy breakfast burritos. She also posts great workouts and fashion tips.
Some of my favourites from her great blog:
Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Overnight Oatmeal my all time favourite overnight oatmeal, and one of my favourite summer breakfasts. Nothing beats being able to grab a completely healthy and delicious breakfast from the fridge, with about 5 minutes of work the night before!
Stuffed French Toast I kinda stopped going out for brunch after I found this recipe. It’s filling, packed with good nutrition and 100% TASTY!
Sweet Potato Kale Hash I love love love this multitasker! It works for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can top it with an egg, have it with some toast (or both!). I’m getting hungry just looking at the picture in the recipe.
I want to end with an honourable mention for the Healthy Glow Collective, a community created by the founders of Ambitious Kitchen and Fit Foodie Finds (which I have linked to above). I heartily recommend anybody with an interest in changing their relationship with food (stop dieting, start eating well), and on the lookout for a reasonable, varied, absolutely delicious meal plan, check out the Healthy Glow Co. I have purchased and loved both their Summer and Winter plans, and really enjoyed the recipes, the variety, and the helpful shopping lists and planning component. Their workouts are also great and easy to do anywhere, a big plus.
These ladies have walked the walk and done the hard work and created a great product to help us look after ourselves, so check them out!
I hope I have inspired you to visit some new food blogs and recipes. The internet is full of interesting and unique food blogs, so please leave your favourites in the comments for me to discover. Thank you for reading!
All opinions my own. I am not in a partnership with any of these blogs, just a big fan! All photos courtesy of my husband.