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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Mediterranean Hake

 

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If you live by the sea you will know what I am talking about. It’s a sound every child that grew up with the scent of sea salt in the nostrils can identify. It is a faint, almost fading eerie sound of bells that come from the sea at down. Some days are clear but where I come from, fog is generally the background setting for the fishermen that return to shore. It grows in intensity as the waves rock the small boats and the engines buzz their way into the port. It means fresh fish. It means tired men. Fishing is done at night, is then when hakes are catch. They live fifty meters under the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they are closely related to cods. They are long, thin, slippery predators that feed on lanternfish on the continental shelf. They eat, and they are eaten, the circle of life.

They have a subtle flavour, soft and flaky that makes is a commercially important species and the star of a myriad of traditional dishes in the old continent. Modern fishing techniques, on those giant boats that carry no bells, have polluted the water with anisakis making a parasite that was seldom found in the fish an everyday problem. You see, I recently discovered why, apparently fish are processed as they are caught and the byproduct of the cleaning of the fish, it’s thrown back to the sea, where other fish feed on it. Sounds as an intrinsically good idea, until you realise that we are spreading a disease that was naturally contained before in the fish and that actually causes severe allergic reactions on human beings, well done us. Again.

If you buy your fish at a decent fishmonger, they will be able to spot the parasite if it’s there and remove it, and it is totally safe to eat. It is a highly nutritious fish, low in fat and very good for children. It doesn’t have too many bones and it’s not too “fishy” (if you know what I mean).

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I have paired my hake today with fresh tomato relish with herbs (and no sugar) and some wholegrain couscous. The fish has been cooked in the microwave (steamed) and has a lemon rind, fresh basil and olive oil dressing. All those flavours are very Mediterranean and pair perfectly with one another. It can be made in advance and just heated up in the oven so it’s great if you have people over, pretty easy and fuss free. This recipe is gluten free and low GI which makes it appropriate for low carb diets and diabetic patients. Should you be vegan and not eat fish, tempeh is a great alternative for this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 fillets of hake

60 gr. of gluten free couscous

1 bush fresh basil

Fresh Oregano (or dried if you cannot get hold of it)

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

How to…

Chop the tomatoes in small square pieces and cook them in 1/2 tsp. of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs also chopped. Let the water evaporate until the it acquires the consistency of a sauce, tomatoes are very high in water and it could ruin your dish later on.

Prepare the couscous according to the packaging instructions, usually is twice the volume of water that the one of couscous, pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, you can use olive oil too instead. You can add some sultanas and some toasted pine nuts to the couscous to make it more a more substancial meal (for lunch instead of dinner for example).

Clean the hake fillets and wash them. To cook them in the microwave set them in a tray with 3 tbsp of water per fillet and cover them with transparent film. Cook at 800w for 2 minutes and check if they are ready. Be careful and don’t put them for too long the first time around because it is very easy to overcook fish in the microwave. You can always put more time on them if needed.

For the fish sauce: grate the lemon rind and put it in a mortar, add the fresh basil and mash with pestle. Add a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and then carefully mix in 2 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil. serve the dish as per the picture if you wish or get creative.

Bon appetit!

Quinoa Salad, Beet humus and Creamy Tahini dressing

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Long title for a laborious recipe. It is not difficult, but it does make the kitchen quite dirty since you have cook a few things separately. However it is great to prepare in advance and have it ready for later if you have invitees.

It is a vegan dish, with vegetable origin protein (chick peas & quinoa) and lots of fibre. It is also quite pretty and colorful and a great way to convince your children to eat their veggies.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the Quinoa Salad:

50 gr. of quinoa per person

1 fresh tomato peeled and chopped

1/2 spring onion

1/2 an avocado per person

Black sesame seeds to decorate

Crushed pistachios

Pomegranate 

For the dressing:

1 tbsp. Tahini

1 tsp. almond butter

1 tsp. soya sauce

1/2 tsp. curcuma

1 tsp. agave nectar

Salt & pepper to taste

Lemon juice

For the humus:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups chick peas

salt

1 tsp beetroot powder

1 tbsp. tahini

Juice of one lemon

1/2 a garlic clove.

Cook the quinoa on water with a bit of salt, boil for 16 minutes, whisk with a fork once cooked and let cool down. Add the tomato and the onion.

Blend all the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside.

For the humus, blend all the ingredients together and correct to your liking. More lemon juice if too bitter, more olive oil to make it sweeter. Prepare this in advance and let cool in the fridge.

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To build the salad place some lettuce leaves or rocket on a plate, add the quinoa in the middle. Cut and place the avocado on top nicely. Place the humus in a pipping nozzle and distribute them in your plate. Add one tbsp of the dressing over the quinoa and then sprinkle with the pomegranate and pistachios.

Voila!! Lots of going around but nothing terrible right??

Have a lovely rest of the week!!

Sunday Blues

Just wanted to share a picture with you, this is a blue smoothie, tinted with blue matcha and made of vanilla protein, frozen banana, blueberries and dragon fruit.

There is something about blue food… we are love a bit of quirky! Happy end of the week.

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Oat-sotto, the Healthy Risotto

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Ok maybe not my best naming moment XD but I do think it’s funny. I am simple mind like that.

I love risotto, it’s one of my favourite things because I am a big cheese lover, but the combination of bacon, rice, and parmesan cheese well… it’s everything but scale friendly. Every now and then though, there is nothing wrong with having the real deal of course, I don’t have it with meat any more but it does come in pescetarian versions with seafood that are ok for me. Scallops and mussels are a great combo for example and they add lean protein and iron and lots of flavour. In this case I wanted to come up with a lighter version, one that you can eat 3 times in a week and it won’t make you feel bloated, gain weight or affect your goals in the slightest.

Instagram is a great source of inspiration for this things sometimes and a few weeks ago I came across this savoury porridge trend that I thought could work great for this purpose. The recipe here today is vegetarian since I used parmesan cheese, the real deal, but should you want to avoid it, there are some vegan alternatives that could work just as well.

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The rice in this recipe in actually oats, in case my clever naming got you confused. Then the recipe is exactly the same as an actual risotto, only with less fat, less cheese and significantly less cooking time, which is also a plus if you are short in time.

If the oats are the right ones, this is a gluten free recipe and low carb too.

Ingredients (serves 2)

100 gr. wholegrain oats

100 gr. finely chopped onion

1 smashed clove of garlic

1 cup white wine

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or half olive oil half butter)

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup sliced mushrooms

4 chopped green asparagus

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese or vegan alternative

Salt and pepper

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How to…

In a pot, heat up the oil and cook the onion an garlic slowly until tender and transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and the asparagus. Two minutes later add the oats and mix well with the rest of the ingredients to mix the flavours. Add the wine when the pot is hot and let it evaporate. Then start adding the stock little by little and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the cheese and let rest for one more minute. Serve immediately to avoid the oats from going too soft.

Bear in mind the texture is softer than with normal rice, but still delicious.

Enjoy!

 

 

Protein Vegan Pasta Bolognesa

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If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably know by now, I am slightly obsessed with protein. This is because I know for a fact that in this particular macronutrient is were the basis for a more balanced diet lays.

Since I stopped eating meat and I only fish on occasions, how to get high amounts of protein in my meals has become a concern and I am always looking for alternatives to traditional lean proteins (your poultry, red meat etc.)

Even though the body can survive on a much smaller percentage of protein than we think, when we are talking about diet and weight control, protein has the ability to keep us fuller for longer and our body uses up about 30% of its total calorie content in digestion. This is called the foods thermogenic effect. I am constantly striving to offer you delicious, yet healthy alternatives to traditional foods, in case like me, you are on the unfortunate part of the world that puts weight easily.

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In this case I wanted to show you a pasta dish that is made with chick pea fusilli. That is it, I swear to you that this is the only ingredient, 100% chick pea flour. It provides 6 gr. of fibre, 50 gr. of carbohydrates and a whooping 20gr. of protein per 100 gr. My portion though is 50 grams and I add to it some vegan “mince” with home made tomato sauce, fresh cherry tomatoes, yellow and red pepper and fresh basil. I cook my pasta for 9 minutes with a handful of broccoli florets thrown in half way, to increase the size of my plate adding goodness but not calories.

I am sure you will be able to find similar alternatives in supermarkets near you, they are increasingly popular. You can find them lentil, soja and chick pea based and even though the brands have different flavours, you can try until you find your favourite. This one tasted just like regular fusilli. The added benefit is that these are gluten free!

This is a way to get your family to eat less meat and no one will notice the difference!

Ingredients (serves 2)

100 gr. chick pea fusilli

200 ml. home made tomato sauce (no added sugar)

5 cherry tomatoes

1 cup red and yellow pepper chopped

Fresh basil

2 cups broccoli

2 tbsp. of parmesan cheese or vegan alternative

115 gr. of vegan “mince” or extra lean mince meat

How to…

In a cooking pot, boil some water with salt and add the fusilli, let cook for 4 minutes and then add the broccoli and let boil for another 5 minutes (check your pasta cooking instructions and add the broccoli just 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time).

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Once cooked, throw away the water and reserve the pasta. In the same cooking pot, add the cherry tomatoes and the chopped peppers and spray with olive oil, let cook for a couple of minutes and add the tomato sauce. Add the vegan mince, this is already cooked so you wont have to wait long. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and 1 tbsp of the vegan or parmesan cheese.

Divide in two plates and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and fresh basil and enjoy.

Best Pea & Spinach Soup

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I promise you it is the best you will ever have. Well maybe you are very stubborn and will not be willing to admit it, but it will be at least top 3! What is special about this soup, is that is based on a traditional Finnish soup that I tried many years ago.

I had never been a massive fan of peas… I guess like most children, those mushy, green little balls were mainly something I had to patiently remove from paellas, rices, other foods that I liked…mainly an annoyance this is. Luckily for me, I developed a brain later on in life, and I became more adventurous with food, this paired with an excellent parental education that engraved in my brain the fact that “If you go to someone else’s house, you eat what you are given and you say how good it was” led me to trying for the first time the winning combination that makes this soup special. Mustard!

I know now you are still reading out of curiosity, so please know that Ham and Pea soup has been a traditional northern European speciality for centuries and traditionally, incorporates this seasoning into it, giving it a tart, vinagre like punch that is just so delicious! Since I don’t eat meat, I have developed a vegan alternative to this traditional soup, also incorporating spinach to make the traditional soup a bit lighter and removed the ham. If you are a meat eater, don’t hesitate to add a bit of ham in the cooking process and blending it together and you will get a smoky, delicious flavour.

Peas are also a very respectable source of many things. At only 74 calories per each 100 gr. of product, you get 5 to 6 gr. of fibre, 6 gr. of protein and very good levels of iron, calcium, vitamin C and magnesium along with multiple vitamins. It is also low in sugars and the carbohydrate content is of slow absorption making them perfect for weight loss diets, low carb diets, and diabetic patients (regardless of their medication of course).

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What else can I say… it is also very easy to make so totally worth trying and including this soup into your every day diets, without a doubt!

Ingredients (serves 5)

300 gr. frozen or fresh peas

300 gr. frozen spinach

1 Onion finely chopped

1 l. of vegetable stock (if doing the vegan option, if going for the traditional one, just add a 200gr. clean piece of smoked ham or a ham bone)

Dijon Mustard

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

How to…

In a very small amount of olive oil, cook the onion finely chopped until transparent. Then add the frozen peas, the spinach and add the vegetable stock (or the ham and water), salt and pepper and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Remove one cup of the peas and set aside and blend the rest of the mixture correcting the level of water, it could be too dry or too liquid and therefore your soup would be too liquid or too chunky. We want the soup to be a little chunky though, kind of thick, but of course this is a personal choice! Once the soup is roughly blended is ready to be served.

In a bowl, serve the amount of soup you wish, add a teaspoon of dijon mustard on top and some drops as decoration. Garnish with some of the peas you had set aside and if you want, with a bit of mint and enjoy. img_9888

Miss Iceland & Healthy Vegan Melomakarona

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Today browsing through Facebook, I have found an article about Miss Iceland, apparently she has quit the Miss Grand International. Whatever ridiculous pageant this is, to tell a perfectly beautiful, slim woman to eat “water” for the finals, skip breakfast and have a salad for lunch, is plainly criminal.

In a world like the one we live in, acts like this should not go unpunished. Enough of this already. Her goodbye letter in social media says it all. She actually explains that her shoulders are bigger than some other participants because she was in her country’s athletic team. We should be encouraging this type of healthy beauty and not perpetuating anorexic stereotypes that only cause harm to our younger generations.

 

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I went out for dinner last night and I drank almost half a bottle of an excellent Spanish wine with my friend and hell of a lot of fresh bread, a bit of a cheese platter and we even shared dessert. We were so full we texted each other about it afterwards. Today I was probably a bit heavier than usual, but you know what? It was totally worth it. It was an awesome time, with a great friend and fantastic food. I am just as beautiful (or ugly) as I was yesterday, with or without the extra weight.

This web is about eating and keeping a healthy weight, but above all, it’s about understanding that there has to be a balance and life is meant to be enjoyed, and to have proof that there are big faceless organisations that work relentlessly to make women feel like s*** just because they are not in a catwalk  shape should be punished. For that, we have the Victoria’s secret Model show and that is more than enough.

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So today I was going to share with you a recipe of a not so skinny-me cookies and I think it is perfect considering the mood 😉 so go ahead and make a batch of these. The are not low fat, in fact they are quite high in it, but they are still pretty healthy. They are wholegrain, refined sugar free and plainly delicious. The are Greek and called Melomakarona. They are apparently eaten over xmas, so here we are starting the celebration early!

I looked for a recipe online and I made some adjustments to make a little less taxing on the hips. I hope you enjoy them, so far the feedback has been really positive from all the test subjects!

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Ingredients (makes 35 biscuits)

7/8 cups or 500 gr. wholegrain flour (I used Saracen wheat which is an ancient grain)

1 1/2 cup Olive oil 

3/4 cup xylitol

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup cognac or brandy

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

For the syrup:

2 cups water

2 cups honey

2 cups xylitol

1/2 a lemon juice

Crushed walnuts for decoration

How to make it…

It is actually pretty simple to make these cookies, mix all the dry ingredients shifting them so they mix throughout. In a large bowl, mix the oil with the orange juice, the xylitol, the cognac and mix well. Once the mixture is homogeneous start adding the flour little by little. It will start to be drier by the end and ready to be shaped into biscuits.

These are quite large, the are a bit elongated and fit in your closed fist.

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Set them on a baking parchment and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 175C. They should be a bit cracked on the surface.

While they bake, you can bring to a boil in a saucer the honey, xylitol and water and let it boil for a couple of minutes, then add the juice of half a lemon.

When the biscuits come out of the oven, give them a short “bath” in the syrup in batches of 4 and let them absorb the juice over a cooling rack and then sprinkle with crushed walnuts for decoration.

In case you want to make these vegan or totally non sugar skip the honey and just use more fruit juice and reduce the syrup a bit more to make it more dense.

Just so you know, xylitol is a natural sugar, it comes from birch. It has some real benefits for the health to the point of being used as medicine. It also prevents tooth decay and it is good for diabetes since it doesn’t cause a rise in Glycemic index (blood sugar). It is also quite pricey but an excellent sugar substitute.

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Mediterranean Summer Vegetables & Herbs

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This is one of those recipes that is classic, easy, delicious and uber healthy. Why is this? it is low in fat, it is made solely of fresh veggies. There is a similar version of it in most mediterranean countries, it is called ratatouille in France, Pisto in Spanish and Kapunata or Ciambotta in Italy, Shakshuka in the Middle East and Menemen in Turkey. Take your pick! The differences in these recipes are less than the similarities. They can incorporate potatoes or aubergines, be more or less spicy and the herbs utilised vary a bit depending on the region.

This is a traditional summer dish for a very simple reason, the ingredients used mature in summer! If you are lucky enough to ever have had a vegetable garden or have friends and family who do, you probably know that there is about a month, in which tomatoes, green beans and zucchinis come out of your ears. You will be stuck with way more zucchinis than you would possibly be able to eat in three months. When your vegetable garden is big and the amount of veggies is well… overwhelming, you have to find creative ways to preserve it and this was one of them in the past.

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The same way you can make fruit preserves, you can make preserves for vegetables, so this recipe was made in bulk and then set in jars to be consumed during winter, when there was scarcity of fresh ingredients.

In this case, since i do not have a vegetable garden, I have just made enough for a few portions that can be kept in the fridge or frozen if needed. The base recipe is just vegetables, but in most cases some protein is added to make the dish complete, so it is served as side dish to meats, fish or my favourite, with an egg. You can just crack the egg on top of it and let it poach in the hot vegetables, or fry it separately and add it later, like I have done in this case.

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It takes some cooking time to make this dish, but it is uncomplicated and pretty much anyone can master it, no problem.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 zucchinis 

2 large onions

2 cloves of crushed fresh garlic

1 red bell pepper

800 gr. of ripe peeled and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Sucralose sweetener

Herbs & spices: fresh basil, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger and fresh oregano

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Start by washing all the vegetables and peel the onions. Chop the onions in small quarters of less than 1cm. In a large bowl, heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the onions for a few minutes, while you cut the other vegetables. Straight after the onion, add the red pepper, the crushed garlic and sprinkle with salt. while it cooks, chop the zucchinis in small pieces and add to the pan too. After 3 to 5 more minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and the herbs together with the salt, pepper and sweetener to tamper the acidity of the tomatoes. Now how much of the herbs? only you can answer this, but it is very much a matter of personal taste. As a guidance, I would add a tsp of each one of them, a little more ground of the ground coriander and a little less of cumin, because it is quite overpowering in this dish.

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Let cook for about 1 hour, at low heat so it simmers slowly with a lid on and stirring every 10 minutes.

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Serve with fresh basil and an a fried egg for a low fat, low carb, high protein, super nutritious lunch or dinner. Happy weight loss!

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