This week’s Day on a Plate comes from Melanie Lionello aka Naturally Nutritious. Melanie is a Melbourne-based Nutritionist and recipe developer with a passion for cooking and creating delicious meals that serve the tastebuds as well as health. Melanie loves to cook a wide range of cuisines being Italian, living in Melbourne which is super multi-cultural and having completed her thesis in Turkish culinary culture. Melanie has worked with many brands and businesses since starting her blog including Nourish Magazine, Nespresso, Loving Earth, Bank of Melbourne and most recently, Hart and Soul developing her very own ready-to-eat Lentil and Coconut soup available nationwide in Woolworths stores!
I normally start my day at around 6.30am. The first thing I do is prepare myself a double-shot of coffee with a dash of milk and say ‘good morning’ to my furbabies, Jessie (21 years old) and Frankie (3 months old). I usually spend about half an hour playing and cuddling with them because it’s good for my soul!
I get to work on some recipes for my blog as well as brands and companies, scribbling ideas and alterations to my recipes on scraps of kitchen paper. It seems like chaos but it’s how I roll! I also always have music playing when I cook. I play my favourite records on my pa’s record player that we have in the lounge, sometimes it’s jazz or blues or just some good rock’n’roll.
Once I’ve made enough of a mess in the kitchen I get some brekky together before facing the dishes. I usually have a smoothie because I’m never too hungry in the mornings. I like adding about a cup of ice, dash of milk, some choc protein powder, bit of frozen banana, little pinch of salt, 1 tsp of peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Sometimes I’ll add a handful of spinach to up the fibre and micronutrients. I’ll normally sit in the backyard with the kitties while having brekky and scroll through Instagram and check my emails.
I get to photographing, writing and editing the recipe if it has all worked out otherwise, I’m back and square one and adjusting the recipe to make it again.
I normally try to eat lunch around now. Sometimes I make a salad, sometimes I eat dinner leftovers. Nothing fancy, just good ingredients with lots of herbs, spices, lemon and olive oil to jazz it up. I also LOVE having a sandwich for lunch. Call me old-school but I really love having a wholemeal sandwich with tomato, lettuce, some basil pesto chicken breast and olives with a cut up piece of fruit or some sliced capsicum or cucumber to munch on.
I have another coffee because I love it and it’s probably my only vice. If I am hungry I’ll have a chunk of feta or asiago cheese because the flavour and texture is so satisfying for me and I love love love cheese. I also like to keep my banana and oat mini muffins in the freezer for snacks so I will occasionally have one of those instead.
Gym time. My partner Isaac arrives home a little before this and we get to the gym for at least 30 minutes. A few times a week I also walk in the mornings for about 45 minutes and go to pilates (which I adore!) for an hour. At the gym I’ll usually do some weight training or some intervals on the rower.
I check my emails while making dinner – I am always multi-tasking!
Dinner time. Dinner is really varied for me, I always tend to cook what I have a hankering for and try to make it more wholesome. Once or twice a week I will make pasta with my nonna’s or mum’s Bolognese sauce or my pressure-cooker beef cheek ragu; we will have some seafood and salads or steamed veggies drizzled with olive oil and chilli once a week, and the rest of the week is vegetarian. I like cooking Turkish-inspired meals that I learnt how to make whilst undertaking my research in the area including red lentil soup, braised wild greens with yoghurt and rice, or stuffed peppers. A couple of times a week I’ll have a glass of pinot noir with dinner and we usually go for a 30 minute walk after dinner to catch up on each other’s days then do some stretching when we get home to get rid of the day’s tension and begin to relax.
I have a cup of tea, either peppermint, chamomile or black tea with milk, while winding down and playing with Frankie while Jess sleeps on the couch next to Isaac and I. Isaac usually plays some music around this time too (he is so talented) which is really lovely to listen to.
After some housework and food prep its bed time. Ready to relax and repeat it all again the next day!
Start by burning two of the eggplants on the stove gas hob, turning every few minutes for 15 or so minutes (they won't catch fire or anything!) and then cool them until you can handle them
Cut in half and scoop out the soft flesh, set aside for later and discard the skins
Dice the remaining eggplant and fry in 1/3 cup olive oil until tender, place into a colander, season with some salt and set aside for later
Saute onion in 1 tbs olive oil for 5 minutes until translucent
Add cumin and saute for another 2-3 minutes
Add tomato paste and saute for a further minute then add the crushed tomatoes, stock, garlic, lemon juice and a generous sprinkle of seasoning
Simmer for 10 minutes
Add the eggplant flesh and blend the soup until very smooth with a stick blender
Serve in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of quinoa and fried eggplant on top