Low Carb Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

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Abrupt mountain slopes rise up to the sky as if trying to touch it. Clean cold air, open lungs, sore muscles, step step step up to the top.

The sun is ruthless, blisters, sweat, the view, the silence. It’s a different world up there.

We forget that traditional food was designed to fit traditional ways of living. Sheep and cows in the high fields, men and women up with the sun and walking with the animals, to the pastures. Small wonder things like a full english breakfast and the shepherd’s pie came about.  For me, sort of small, sort of sitting on my ass half of the day and vegetarian, not such a great option, nutritionally speaking, so I have this new vegan way of cooking one that turned out absolutely delicious, and so easy!

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Ingredients (serves 3)

1 medium cauliflower

250 gr. seitan mince false meat

1/2 red onion

1 carrot

1 glass vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp flour

Salt & Pepper

Pinch of cumin

1 dash of non dairy cream

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 glass of white wine

Nutmeg

How to…

In a pan, cook the onion and the carrot in a bit of olive oil, until tender and transparent. Add the mince and mix well, then add the flour and let stick to the ingredients for half a minute and then add the wine and the cumin. Let it run dry and then add the vegetable stock, let it cook until the water is gone and there is a thick sauce instead. Correct the salt and pepper and distribute in three ramekin or oven proof dishes.

Boil the clean cauliflower until soft. Drain all the water and blend with the cream, the nutmeg a a pinch of salt. Taste to make sure is creamy and top your ramekins with it. If you are not vegan, you can sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheese. If vegan, with a bit of breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

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How to eat Pasta

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Pinch with a fork, take fork to mouth, place pasta in your mouth, chew until the food has become a paste, then swallow. Possibly gush down with a bit of red wine. Easy right?

Now, pasta is healthy food. Most food is actually healthy food. Look at the Italians, they have it everyday and their country is rather slim and the life expectancy is one of the longest in the world.  For most of us non Italians though, pasta has come into our homes as a cheese and butter smothered mixture that resembles more a fast food option than a real meal.

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Pasta is meant to be eaten with vegetables, fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh seafood and olive oil, with only a drizzle of grana padano or parmesano on top. Not a lot of people know that a carbonara sauce has no cream, but egg yolk. Of course everyone is free to enjoy pasta as they want, but if you are looking to enjoy pasta in a delicious, healthy way, check out this recipe, which I learnt in my last trip to lake Como.

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The pasta I have used is wholegrain rye macaroni which provides 14gr of fibre per each 100 grams and its manufacturing process makes it less taxing on the blood sugar levels. Cooks in 7 minutes and it should be cooled down after boiling, this brings the glycemic index even lower. The flavour is absolutely superb.

Ingredients (serves 2)

6 tbsp home made tomato sauce

100 gr. of uncooked pasta

3 cubes of frozen spinach

1/2 onion

1 clove of garlic

100 gr. ricotta cheese

2 tbsp grated grana padano cheese

Pinch of salt

How to…

Let the spinach unfreeze for a couple of hours. Boil the pasta according to the pack instructions with salt, wash with water and keep aside. In a pan, cook the onion with the garlic in a small amount of olive oil, make sure it’s very finely cut. xt19400.jpg

When cooked, add the spinach with a pinch of salt and mix well, until it’s incorporated. In a separate bowl mix the ricotta with the spinach mixture and the pasta.

In a plate, make a base with the tomato sauce, then pile up half of the spinach pasta mix and top with the grated cheese. You can microwave for 30 seconds to make sure all the elements are warm and to melt the cheese on top.

Enjoy!

 

Caprese Style Sandwich

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When I was little, my parents used to drive an hour to the closest mountain so we could play in the snow. Nothing fancy, just roll down a hill on a large piece of plastic. It was awesome, we ended frozen and starved due to the exercise and as a reward we used to stop at the old village bakery and buy a old fashioned loaf of bread. I have never smelled anything better than that wood burning in the cave-like oven and the resultant fresh bread.

Everything taste better between two slices of good freshly baked bread. Even though they are hard to come by, I have recently found an incredible new bakery that makes proper loaves of it, sourdough and wholegrain. My favourite is the spelt one, high in fibre and thus, more satisfying, slower burning carbs.

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Here you have my take on a vegan/vegetarian breakfast sandwich that borrows the flavours of Italy in this pesto, tomato and  mozzarella toastie with basil leaves.
The one trick to it is that the tomato needs a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour, for the rest, rub the pesto to both slices of bread, pile mozzarella (about 1/3 of the ball) tomato, basil leaves and toast on both sides on mid to low heat so the cheese melts but the bread doesn’t burn…

Easy peasy, and delicious.

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Fit & Healthy Pumpkin Pie

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Hold my hand and fly with me over the night clouds, look at the ghost and witches running, the vampires and mummies lurking and the werewolves howling to the moon. Technological development means nothing tonight, we are back to being who we really are, we are unleashing our atavistic basic souls.

I hope your Halloween was nice and scary, I would like to share with you a version of the traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie that you can use to make the most of those carved scary squashes leftovers without feeling too guilty.

This spiced, warm delicious recipe has been adapted for diabetics shaping sugar for xylitol and the traditional crust for a rye flour one which is much higher in fibre and of course, wholegrain.

To be honest, the taste was fab and I think you will not notice the difference, but it the difference in nutritional values it’s very substantial.

Ingredients (serves 8)

For the crust

1 1/2 Cups whole grain Rye Flour

1/2 half a tsp salt

1/4 cup margerine

1/4 butter or coconut oil

a splash of cold water

For the filling

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

large eggs

1 can (15 oz.) Pumpkin Pure or roasted pumpkin 

1 can (12 fl. oz.)  Evaporated Milk

unbaked 20 cm  deep-dish pie shell

Whipped cream (optional)

How to…

Butter a 22 cm pie plate or skillet and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the shortening and butter (or coconut oil) un small chunks and blend with two spoons until the mixture resembles a coarse mixture.

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Add enough ice water to the mixture (a little at the time) while mixing with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough is formed. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Sprinkle with flour the top of the dough and cover with another sheet of plastic. Rolling from the center, roll until the dough is about a half a centimetre thick. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, turn the dough over and lay onto the pie plate leaving the top  piece of plastic on. Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to overnight.

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In the mean time, mix sweetener, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat the eggs in large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin and xylitol and spice mixture. Then start stirring in the evaporated milk.
Take the pie dough out of the freezer and let unfreeze for five minutes before pouring the mixture into it.

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Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 215C. Without opening the door, reduce temperature to 180° C and bake for another 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. I have topped it with sugar free whipped cream and caramelised pumpkin seeds.

To caramelise them, just toast them on a pan with a tsp of xylitol and then pour onto a stone worktop to let cool.

 

Sugar Free Peanut Butter Cups

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Give me a thousand shy Autumns like this one to cosy up in near a window with a cup of tea and watch the world go orange, red and a myriad shades of copper. I have been busy lately. Crazy busy I would say even, flying around, stressed out, digging up documents, chasing people and trying to organise a move. And thus, I haven’t updated this blog in ages, even my Instagram activity has suffered, and I endeavour to be better, but I am still in the middle of it and I can’t actually commit to it.

I have been writing too, the second part of a novel I wrote a while ago, and this is again an Autumn feeling. It is the nostalgia and quietness of it all that calls to me, that sends me spinning into the depth of my deepest darkest longings, back to my childhood.

As such, I have rescued a simple candy recipe, replicated over social media a million times, to share with you. Peanut butter cups. The scary bit is when you look at the nutritional values of the commercial brand Reese’s, so much everything you really don’t want to be eating too much of it.

These variation is a non added sugar one, I have used a sugar free chocolate brand as a base and no added sugar peanut butter and it just implies melting and pouring.

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Ingredients (for 15 cups)

1.5 No added sugar dark chocolate bars (150 gr)

3 tbsp of no added sugar peanut butter

2 tbsp. cocoa butter/coconut butter

2 tbsp of cocoa nibs

a pinch of salt.

How to…

In a small non metálico jar, put the chocolate broken in pieces and one tbsp of cocoa butter. Melt in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes or more if needed.

Line a small tray that fits in your freezer or fridge with small metallic chocolate liners and pour the melted chocolate on them, filling them up to 1/3 of their capacity.

Put them in the freezer and let them cool down for 5 minutes and in the meantime, melt the peanut butter with the rest of the cocoa butter and a pinch of salt in the microwave. Bring out the liners and fill them with the mixture for another 1/3. Cool down again, melt the chocolate and fill it up to the top and sprinkle with cocoa nibs.

The cocoa nibs add an extra crunchiness and fibre that is very yummy!

Enjoy!

Totally Healthy Brownies

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Chocolate comes from the Cocoa Tree which is original from Mexico. Legend has it that Quetzalcoatl gave it as a present to mankind and so its name means God’s Food in greek. It had enormous political, social and religious meaning all across Central America and it first came to Europe in the hands of the Spanish conquerors.

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Initially it was consumed mixed with cane sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, and it was a beverage. It remained a liquid pleasure until 1928 when cocoa butter started to be extracted and at the end of the XIX century the first pralines were born.

There is something warm and cosy in a cup of hot cocoa in a rainy day, this might be because it is sweet and delicious but also because cocoa has a good dose of fibre and micronutrients that produce a feeling of wellbeing.

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Brownies came later. Most people that enjoy a healthy dose of chocolate know that the darker the better and that it’s not the healthiest thing you can eat, so for all of us that love a bit of that nutty, utterly chocolaty flavour, here you have a healthy version.

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Gluten free, refined sugar free, Low GI and very low carb. Win win win win and vegan.

I hope you like it. Best served with a cup of tea.

 

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Ingredients (makes 9 brownies)

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 60 gr. unsweetened dark chocolate 
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs or flax eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 espresso coffee
  • 10 walnut halves, crushed

How to…

In a pot, melt the oil, and the chocolate and add the cocoa powder. Then add the sugar, salt and the coffee. Let cool down for 5 minutes and then add the eggs and the rest of the ingredients and bake at 180C for 25 minutes.

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NY Style Blueberry WOW Cheesecake

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People around here are trying to find the summer, it is nowhere to be seen. Rain is our constant companion and dark mornings are to be expected and so, instead of colourful salads, we are all thinking about baking. No need to be fit if the bikini is safely stored away.  The first time I tried a New York style baked cheesecake I was living in London. I was curious, so i looked up a recipe and gave it a go. It was the BBC good food website one, which later became the object of a popular campaign when the BBC announced their intention to close the site. Luckily for us, all britons and some adopted Londoners like myself signed a petition to stop this from happening and today you can still find some of the best recipes in the world up on the net, for everyone to enjoy.

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This cake rocked my world. I had until then only tried non bake cream cheese cakes with homemade strawberry jam my mum used to make and it although it was a good cake, it just couldn’t compete with the fluffy creaminess of this amazing creation.

Ever since, I tried the cake in a famous bakery in NY and in pretty much all the restaurants that feature it on their menu, with various results. I have a low carb, low fat alternative to this recipe that I have posted before but this one, is the original, absolutely scrumptious version by BBC, to which I have made a couple of changes (the icing on that one was not a blueberry one) and I am happy to present to you today.

Absolute showstopper. Enjoy!

For the crust

  • 85g butter melted, plus extra for the tin
  • 140g crumbed digestive biscuit
  • 1 tbsp sugar

For the cheesecake filling

  • 900 gr cream cheese
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp)
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
  • 200ml soured cream

For the cheesecake topping

  • 100 gr frozen blueberries
  • 20 gr of sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Fresh blueberries and mint to decorate

How to…

Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to fan 160C to 180C. Line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment paper. For the crust, melt the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the biscuit crumbs and sugar so the mixture is evenly moistened. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while preparing the filling.

For the filling, increase the oven temperature to fan 200C/conventional 240C/gas 9. In bowl beat the soft cheese at medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar, and a pinch of salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the whisker twice.

Continue by adding the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, scraping the bowl and whisk at least twice. Stir in the soured cream until smooth, then measure 200ml. Continue on low speed as you add the measured soured cream. Whisk to blend, but don’t over-beat. The batter should be smooth, light and somewhat airy.

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Brush the sides of the springform tin with melted butter and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling – if there are any lumps, sink them using a knife – the top should be as smooth as possible. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to fan 90C and bake for 25 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and open the oven door for a cheesecake that’s creamy in the centre, or leave it closed if you prefer a drier texture. Let cool in the oven for 2 hours. The cheesecake may get a slight crack on top as it cools.

In a pot boil the frozen blueberries, the sugar and lemon juice for the topping for 10 minutes, then leave to cool and add the pectin or agar agar and whisk with a fork. leave to cool almost completely and then spread over the cheesecake right to the edges. Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Run a round-bladed knife around the sides of the tin to loosen any stuck edges. Unlock the side, slide the cheesecake off the bottom of the tin onto a plate, then slide the parchment paper out from underneath.