French Onion Soup

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Warming hands and bellies since time inmemorial, I have had an inconsistent love-hate relationship with soups. It has been a few years now that is gone to the love side and I think it will stay there forever.

You see my mother used to feed us the same vegetable soup every day from Monday to Thursday while growing up. Every day, the same thing. Followed by some fish, meat or poultry but the same starter, that is when the hate phase started. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that soups were indeed a whole wide world in themselves and I started being more open minded.

Living in Switzerland for a few years and starting to get into skiing, I got the chance to try this Onion Soup, one of the many Gruyere containing specialities of Valais, and it was love at first sip. It is rich, sweet, sour and salty with those subtle herb flavours from the thyme that made me realise what a great addition to my collection this would be.

So after a trip to the slopes of the Mont Blanc, I trialed it at home and I can say with no doubt that is is an easy one to crack. The key to be honest, is patience. Since I don’t like to use sugar in my recipes unless is absolutely necessary, I stripped my recipe from it and made it for it in time.

The main effect of the sugar in this recipe is to make the onion go dark quickly and facilitate that caramelisation, which to be completely honest, you can achieve but cooking it for 30 minutes instead of 15. Also I find that the longer you cook it the more flavour it will have. My recommendation, this is a real crowd pleaser, so if you have people over, is a great way of impressing them, with a good fresh out of the oven presentation.

If you keep the amount of cheese under control, this is actually a pretty light soup, for an even lighter take, skip the bread or use a rovira type of cracker._XT19943

Ingredients (serves 5)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

3 very large onions finely sliced top to bottom

2 sprigs of thyme 

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml dry white wine

1 heaped tbsp wholegrain flour

50ml brandy/sherry wine

1 litre vegetable stock

5 thick slices of bread, 100% wholegrain sourdough

5 tbsps grated Gruyere cheese

How to…

In a large frying pan heat up the olive oil, when hot, add the chopped onions, the thyme and the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over a medium to low heat, until they are cooked and have a dark brown hue, stir often so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and keep cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the white wine and then let boil until it has reduced by half. Add the brandy or sherry, then add in the stock and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours mix. Pick out the thyme and then pre heat the grill in the oven. Toast the bread on one side and set aside.

Before serving the soup, taste it for salt and correct if needed. Pour the soup into the bowls, top with a slice of bread and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

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Breakfast goodness

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There is no more to add to the discussion whether you should have breakfast or not. Clearly you should, but there are those of us who simply are not hungry in the morning. I say us because I am one of those, it takes me a little while after waking up to feel like having some food. My better half though… is another story all together. If I want to procrastinate in bed on a weekend morning, I better bring to bed a cereal bar to throw to the lion, otherwise I know there will be no peace until there are eggs on toast on the table.

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This fancy fancy breakfast is in reality no more than a glorious mix of fat free Greek yogurt, almond butter, and a pinch of sweetener. I have half a banana with mine, and I sprinkle it with toasted  sliced almonds too. Totally diet appropriate and delicious. Full of protein, and so yummy it will taste like dessert.
The best part of this is that it can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for days, so if you are slow on the morning hunger, you can grab and go and enjoy just a little later. Remember, it should be eaten within more or less an hour of waking up… for lazy ones, 90 minutes. Having a sufficient amount of calories in the morning, lowers the risk of heart disease (my cousin who is a doctor told me this the other day) so it’s just another reason to have a lighter dinner.

To make more festive, this one in particular is embellished with salted caramel sauce made with butter or vegan butter, and caramel made of coconut sugar.

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In a pan, heat up 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup coconut sugar, let boil and reduce. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt, then mix well and add 1/4 cup of butter and dissolve. You can keep this in a jar in the fridge and reheat when you want to use it. It will be good for a couple of weeks, and it can also be frozen. Use sparingly and enjoy!

Smoothie Inspiration

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I am in the middle of a move and in my very personal box and bureaucracy hell, I have no time for cooking pots. It sucks and I hope I will get some time to get back in the kitchen soon but in the meantime, I am sharing with you a picture of some of my creations for instagram. I rarely share them here because then can hardly be called recipes, but I love the challenge of making gorgeous smoothies and colourful parfaits that are both healthy and beautiful. Knowing how many people don’t like fruit and veggies, I am on a mission to make them look irresistible.

These is greek yogurt plain, with blueberries and with more blueberries to achieve the different colours.

So wish me luck, and I will be with you shortly!

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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!

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.