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!

 

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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.