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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Figs, Pine Nuts & Goats Cheese salad

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Well.. what is there NOT to like about this combination? In case as me you were not a massive pine nut fan, all you need to do is toast them in a pan, and then try them warm, they are supper nutty and delicious. This is a very summery dish, that can also lead well into autumn due to the cheese and the fact that the best time for sweet juicy figs is actually September.

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Figs are often considered a fruit that is extremely high in sugar,  and they may not be dieting material if you are planning on eating a whole plate of them. On the other hand, they have a lot of fibre and aid digestion, protecting our stomach at the same time. On the back of this, figs are excellent laxatives and they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, helping your body slow the ageing process.

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Additionally they have been proven to control the blood sugar levels and figs and their leaves are recommended for people with diabetes for this reason. They are also very effective to help you expectorate when you have a cold or the flu, this is, they help get rid of the mucus in the respiratory track.

Add some protein into the mix and green leaves to increase the fibre and satiating power and you will have an awesome starter or a light dinner.IMG_6528

Ingredients (serves 2)

3 figs

60 gr. of goat’s cheese or vegan alternative

2 tbsp. of pine nuts (toasted)

Mix leaf salad

Olive oil & balsamic vinegar

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How to…

Choose a pretty serving dish. People will be more willing to eat your food if it looks beautiful. It is what it is… we eat with our eyes!

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Lay your mix salad leaves on it forming a bed. Chop your figs in quarters and lay them on top of the lettuce alternating the tops and bottoms like in the picture, it will not alter the flavour, but looks better 😉

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Crumble your goat’s cheese or vegan cheese with your fingers and distribute evenly over the figs, then top it up with the pine nuts. To toast the pine nuts, simple place them in a hot pan with no oil until brown, and move them around every now and then so they don’t burn. If you want the salad to be warm toast put your pine nuts when they are still hot.

Dress with one tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, and one of balsamic vinegar.

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Leek & Goat’s Cheese High Protein Quiche

 

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Because eating well is a daily effort, and because we don’t have as much time as we would like to cook and become domestic goddesses, we need to find the perfect balance between healthy delicious and quick & easy.

There is a few things that fall under these category and this is one of them. A quiche is by traditional standards a fairly easy thing too cook, although not so easy to make perfect, it does take time, specially if you are making the dough from scratch. The second problem is the high amount of saturated fat in it, first with the butter in the crust, and secondly the wooping amount of cream in the mixture and the fat contained in the egg yolks.

So basically not the best idea if you are trying to be “good” or watch what you eat, but it is so tempting, so delicious and versatile… it is good both warm and cold, can be stored in the fridge for days!

As I normally do, I have looked for substitutions that will not change the flavour much but they will make a huge impact on the nutritional count.

You can actually try these easy swaps when cooking pretty much anything!

Cream –> 0% fat greek style yogurt

Eggs –> egg whites (4 eggs per recipe? 1 egg and 3 egg whites will do just fine)

If you would really keep the crust on this you could try to make it with wholegrain spelt flour, almond flour or coconut flour, chick pea flour… or a mixture of them.

This recipe is dead simple, perfect party pleaser if you are going to a BBQ or a dinner party, it is like a giant egg muffin really 😉

The recipe is low fat and very high protein and has very low carb content.

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Ingredients (serves 5)

4 eggs

200 ml egg whites

3 leeks

1 tsp of butter/vegetable oil

120 grams of soft goat’s cheese or vegan equivalent

1 tbsp of parmesan cheese

170 grams of fat free greek style yogurt

Salt & Pepper

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How to…

In a pan, melt the butter or oil and cook the leeks, washed and chopped julienne style (this is in 1/4 cm wide rings) until they are soft and cooked throughout.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, the egg whites and the yogurt. Spray a round over proof container with olive oil and pour over the egg mixture. Add the cooked leeks spreading evenly over the surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Crumbling the goat’s cheese with your fingers, place all over the quiche, and then sprinkle with with parmesan.

Cook in the oven at 180/200 degrees celsius for about 35 to 40 minutes, then turn off the over and let it cool inside for another 10 minutes inside the oven.

Let it rest for another 10 minutes on a rack before serving with your favourite salad or veggies.

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Guilt Free Protein Pizza

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Yes you read correctly. Pizza and guilt free together. And what if I tell you it is also low in fat and high in protein? too good to be true?? And what it i add that is also gluten free so if you have a friend that has an intolerance, you can cook this for him or her??? Even better!!

To top it up, it is also completely plant based, so you can use this recipe on your meatless days or if you have high cholesterol and want a healthier alternative to the normal high saturated fat cheese and pepperoni pizza. Of course, needless to say, what you put on your pizza as topping will make all the difference but the base will always be low fat, gluten free and higher in carbs than normal pizza.

And how is this miracle possible? Well there is no miracle, just a smart little substitution of normal white flour (lacking nutrients and just as bad as sugar) for some more nutritious alternative that is also higher in protein and fibre. Chick pea flour!! So yeah, no magic here, just chick pea flat breads to bring pizza to a whole new level, one that you could enjoy every day if you wanted to because it is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and a very complete meal with a very good ratio of protein and carbs. Chick pea flour has a very low GI that keeps your blood sugar levels stable, so perfect post workout meal if like me, you are a bit of a fitness fan.

I took the base recipe for the flat breads from BBC Food which is my go to website for base recipes, they always come up perfect and they are very easy to follow, their recipe was for 6 flatbreads but I could only make 6.

The topping is made of caramelised onion and vegan cheese with rocket on top, but if you are not vegan you could use any low fat type of cheese you have home, like feta or mozzarella and add the rocket once the pizza is out of the oven.

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Just a note on the caramelised onion, a lot of people put sugar in it to make it caramelise and become really brown quicker, it is not necessary! You just need to be patient. There is enough natural occurring sugars in onion to ensure caramelisation, so just let it sit on the pan for a long time, about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes on low heat and you will get there with no help from added sugar. Also adding salt at the beginning will help, since it will make the water come out of the onion quicker.

Without further ado… here it’s how you do it!

Ingredients (for 6 pizza bases and 3 toppings)

For the flat bread:

250 gr. of chick pea flour

400 ml cold water

salt & pepper to taste (doesn’t need much salt)

For the topping

1 & 1/2 onions

15/20 gr. cheese

1 handful of rocket

In a bowl, put the chick pea flour, the salt and pepper and start adding water and whisking with a fork to make sure your dough is homogeneous. Once it is all mixed, let it sit overnight so the flour can really absorb the water.

Spray a non sticky pan with olive oil and make a flatbread like if you were making a pancake, letting it cook about one and a half minutes per side.

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At the same time, you can slice up your onions and in a large pan, heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil and let them cook on low heat for 30 minutes. It could help to put high heat first to start the cooking and it doesn’t matter if the onion sticks to the bottom of the pan since this dark brown residue will add to the colour later on. If it is too dry, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water. Once your onion is brown and caramel like,  you are ready. You can keep this onion in the fridge for a few days too, and the flatbreads can be frozen, so you don’t have to eat all at once.

Preheat the over at 180 degrees C and set your flat bread with the onion and cheese under the grill for 6 minutes until the cheese starts to brown too, take it out and add a handful of rocket, this will give the pizza a lot of freshness and a slight peppery flavour that is sooo yummy.

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The nutritional content for the flatbreads are: 183 calories, 19 carbs, 3.6 fat, 8.1 protein

The fat content is based on cooking them with very little oil. almost nothing, but if you add more, bear in mind this could change.

Let me know if you give them a go! Enjoy

 

 

 

 

Best Crustless Quiche

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In order to properly plan your meals, there are many different diet types out there, if someone is trying to lose weight, and slightly desperate to do so quickly, you can find a myriad of options that promise quick results all with a flat tummy as an advertising. Flat as in fitness model flat, not normal person on an empty stomach flat. This has been of some concern to me for a while, because I have been through many of these diets, recommended by friends, or advertised through a magazine, you name it, the choice is endless.

Now I am older, and I am wiser and I know better and I fight against these misconceptions on a daily basis, because some of this diets are just lies or stupid approaches to eating with minimum real impact on your body composition, but others, are straight harmful for your metabolism, your body and if sustained long term, some are life threatening.

The worst of these are the cleanser diets based on syrup and cayenne pepper. A combo that is meant to “activate your metabolism due some components on the cayenne pepper” and some other idiocies I have read. Our metabolism is not as naïve as we are, and the only thing that he is going to do in such case is slow down. All these juices, meal replacements, chemicals that people try to sell us with the promise of a beach body will certainly do something for you:

  1. Make you lose water (therefore the perceived weight loss)
  2. Muscle mass compromise: 90% of the time your body will consume your muscle mass for energy

So here is what happens: you don’t incorporate the nutrient x through your diet because you are master cleansing for a week for example, but your body needs it to keep normal bodily functions such as body temperature, structural cell maintenance, your heart beat… and it will start using the reserves that are available, this might be a bit of fat, but it will also be muscle tissue. Muscle in this case is not a priority for your body because muscle is a metabolically active tissue, this means that to sustain it, it requires additional energy to be sustained, whereas fat doesn’t. You see where I am going?

Your body will burn whatever is on hand to keep you warm and alive and when you are done with your diet you will have: a compromised metabolism that will literally jump over any calorie you give him, a few less pounds of water, a little less fat and a lot less muscle. The problem is that regaining muscle takes a lot longer that regaining the fat and the water, which will be restored within 1 or 2 weeks once the starvation period is over.

Basically, you are much better off eating a varied balanced and healthy diet, not only will respect your body, it will also keep you mentally on track without those dangerous feelings of deprivation that lead to binge eating.

Today, I would like to share with you a very easy recipe for a really tasty dish, a quiche but with no crust to make it a bit lighter. The carbohydrate content comes from the vegetables in the mixture and is literally packed with protein. It is also very pretty so if you have guests and you are trying to stay on track, it helps to cook things that even though are healthy, look like they aren’t.

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Ingredients (serves 6)

8 eggs (or 4 eggs and 12 egg whites for lower fat)

4 cubes of frozen spinach (fresh is better but I didn’t have any)

4/5 cherry tomatoes

1 small roulade of goat’s cheese

2 slices of smoked bacon

10 gr. of grated parmesan cheese to gratin

200 ml. light soy milk (or your milk of choice but low fat)

1/2 red onion cut in thin rings

Cut the bacon in strips and sauté them in a pan for a couple of minutes until the fat has dissolved. Add the spinach and stir well.

In a bowl, beat up the eggs and add the bacon and spinach and the milk. Mix well and pour into a quiche mold. Spread your onion rings over the surface then cut the goat’s cheese into thin-ish slices and place them nicely on over the surface of your quiche.

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Finally put the cherry tomatoes strategically to give it a bit of colour and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

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Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at 150C.

Enjoy!!

 

 

The Ultimate SUPERFOOD Salad

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Maybe I should actually say superfoods, given the fact that there is not one but several highly nutritious foods in a plate of this beautiful and colourful salad.

Broccoli which we already talked about it the past, salmon, a powerful source of Omega 3 fatty acids to protect your arteries, spinach, full of protein and vitamin c and iron, feta cheese, low in fat but high in protein and calcium and edamame beans, which have all the benefits from the soy and all the benefits of a bean, making you fuller for longer and helping your digestive system with their high fiber content.

Salads a wonderful thing, they exist in an infinite possible combination, some of them more successful than others and very easy to adapt to one’s personal taste by swapping ingredients for something that you might like more.

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This recipe is very high is protein and good fats and has a small amount of low GI slow burning carbs that can be increased depending on your macronutrient needs. As you will see it is a pretty simple thing, with only a slightly different dressing that makes all the difference by bringing the flavours together and make this a salad that is better than the sum of its parts.

Ingredients (serves 2)

200 grams. poached salmon

50 grams. low fat Feta cheese

2 tbsp. of pine nuts

2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach

2 cups of steamed broccoli

1 tbsp. edamame beans (loose from the pod)

For the dressing

2 pinches of Salt

1/2 a tbsp. Dijon mustard in grain

1 tbsp. White wine vinegar

1 tbsp. Soja sauce

4 drops of Sweetener

Lay the spinach on a plate to make the base of the salad, scatter the broccoli evenly over it, then the poached salmon in flakes, sprinkle with fetal cheese and pine nuts.

I buy my pine nuts raw so I toast them myself on a pan with no oil whatsoever, just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

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Mix the dressing well and dress the salad with it and serve immediately. This particular mix of ingredients is meant to give it a slight Asian touch, which goes very well with the salmon and the edamame but of course you can avoid this just by removing the sweetener and soy sauce from the mixture.

Enjoy!

 

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Slim-Waist-OK Moussaka

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The Greek traditional recipe for Moussaka is not complex but as with many traditional dishes in the Mediterranean cuisine, is very high in fat and quite time consuming. A bit of history of nutrition here that explains why these dishes are generally so highly energetic, they originated in a time of our development when most of our Jobs happened in the fields or taking care of cattle. The energy needs of the peasants and housewives in the old days, were likely to be twice as high as the one of us, sedentary human beings of today.

When you need to find a way to consume 5000 calories a day, a plate of moussaka dripping in oil providing 1000 calories per portion, was actually very good news for our body!! This is the reason why we are programmed, as a race, to rejoice in hyper caloric meals such as a tub of Ben & Jerry’s or a full McDonald meal with French fries and a Sundae. Our caveman brain loves it!! The brain doesn’t know that we don’t have to go to the forest to cut logs for the next 5 hours to prepare for the winter, but to watch Netflix for 6 hours instead while laying on a sofa, and so when we eat such a high amount of nutrients it produces a kick of happy hormones, endorphins, dopamine… Not good!!

We are the only race that eat for emotional reasons and these sneaky hormones might just be the reason for it. I feel sad, I eat chocolate ice cream, I feel better! Magic? No. The problem is that we also the only race with the capacity of abstraction and suffering related to body image issues.

Moussaka and the likes of it, are absolutely delicious scrumptious recipes that we should keep enjoying, however, I prefer to adapt the recipe to make it more fit the needs of our bodies, and I have come up with a low carb, low fat alternative to the traditional one, that tastes really really well and takes significantly less time that the original one.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250 gr. Ground Beef under 5% fat content

500 gr. Canned tomatoes

½ onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Fresh or dried thyme/oregano/basil

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

4 drops of sweeter

1 Eggplant

40 gr of grated cheese

100 gr of 0% Greek yogurt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To prepare this recipe I use two small over proof non sticky plates, each one serves 2 and I freeze one.

First of all, turn on the over at 150 C degrees and let it warm up. Wash the eggplant and cut it in slices, ½ a cm thick. Cover an oven tray with baking paper and spread the aubergine slices evenly. Sprinkle with salt and leave them “sweat” for 5 to 10 minutes while the over gets to the right temperature.

In the meantime, chop the onion very finely and poach it in 1 tbsp of olive oil at medium heat. Add the 2 cloves of garlic & salt and when they are all transparent and soft, add the canned tomatoes.

By now the oven should be hot, put the aubergine in the middle and let it roast for 10 minutes while you finish the tomato sauce.

Add the spices to the tomato sauce, the cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, sweetener and herbs, smashing the tomatoes to pieces with a fork. Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. After 10 minutes in the oven, turn the eggplants around and let them cook for another 5 minutes.

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Take the aubergines out of oven but don’t turn it off.

Now, we are not using any white sauce or oil to cover the base of the plate but some of the tomato sauce instead so reserve one or two tablespoons. Then add the ground meat to the remaining tomato sauce and let it cook for 4 to 5 minutes, and correct the salt and pepper.

Once you have the aubergines, the meat with the tomato and the plain tomato, is time to build up the moussaka!

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Put the plain tomato on the base of the plate, then line it up with roasted aubergine. It might look a bit dry, and considerably drier than if you would have fried it in oil, but once in the oven all the juices will mix and they will be soft and melty. Set a layer of meat over the aubergine and then drop 3 or 4 hazel sized dollops of 0% fat Greek yogurt, on it, this substitutes the white sauce and it will add a creamy taste to the dish without any added fat and with lots of protein instead. Then add another layer of aubergine pressing down to make sure everything is nice and tight and if your dish is full, sprinkle with the grated cheese for the gratin.

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If you have a higher dish or a larger one, you might want to have 2 layers of meat and aubergine, in any case is the same!

One is ready, just cook in the oven for 20 minutes and serve with a green salad.

Enjoy!