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!

Super Light Double Chocolate Protein Puddings

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Yesterday I was thinking about making some vanilla caramel creams (I did share the recipe a while ago in the blog). They are a nice dessert if you are having a light dinner, but if there is no other source of protein in your dinner, I thought they could probably do with some more punch.

 

As a result, I came up with an adaptation, adding some chocolate flavour isolate protein powder to the mixture so they became chocolate vanilla creams.

Each one of these has 21 grams of protein 5 grams of fat and only 2 grams of carbs and 140 calories so it is a perfect snack after dinner, mid afternoon etc.

Did I mention they are pretty delicious too?

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 scoops of Lean protein isolate (chocolate flavour)

4 eggs (for the vegan version you can substitute for corn flour although it changes the macros described above)

500 ml Soy Milk

1 tbsp. of no calorie sweetener

1 tbsp. fat free raw pure cocoa powder with no added sugar

Beat the eggs and in a shaker beat the protein powder and the chocolate protein isolate until they become a shake, add the sweetener and the cocoa powder and shake again. Add to the eggs, beat until it is homogeneous and pour in 4 ramekin oven proof dishes.

Bake at 150 C for about 20 minutes au bain marie ( with water at the bottom, up until 1/3 of the ramekin dishes)

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Once they are set, sprinkle with some 70 % chocolate for decoration. ½ an ounce should be enough for 4.

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One word about the sweeteners to be used, depending on your goals, certain sweeteners just won’t cut it. For example, honey or agave syrup, which are healthy and perfectly fine sweeteners, with a low GI in the case of the Agave syrup and with other great properties in the case of honey, still are very high in carbohydrate content and calories, so in a weight loss diet, they should be avoided in favour of other non-caloric option such as stevia.

They can hamper your efforts in the gym or all the good work in the kitchen the rest of the day! In this category you can find honey, agave syrup, maple syrup and rice syrup.

Stevia does add a certain amount of flavour so I don’t like to use it unless the flavour is going to be completely hidden. Since I use very little sweetener anyway, I don’t mind using Splenda for this type of thing.

Bear in mind that 1 tbsp for 4 portions comes up at a very low dose per each one of them way below the FDA or any other organism recommendations.

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Enjoy!

Chicken & Quinoa Superfood Stir Fry

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Today I would like to talk about “food prep” which is a widely known concept in the bodybuilding community and it is not a new concept at all, but a modern way of calling the good “lunch box” that most have taken to school at some point or another.

It does take a bit of planning and effort to start doing it, but the benefits are many.

I know that there is an endless supply of possibilities to grab lunch for most of us, since canteens, take always and local delis abound and it is just too tempting to skip the hassle and just buy something off the shelves. While this is all well and good, eating like that every single way of the week can be taxing. Even if you are the person with the best intentions in the world, there are only so many healthy alternatives one can choose from, and the chances of ending up having a white bread sandwich or a BTL are just too big.

Even if you think you are going for a healthy alternative, you might be stepping into the dangers of not knowing how this particular food has been cooked.

For example, if a salad get added a sugary dressing, all the goodness of it might be compromised, and believe me, do yourselves a favour and read the ingredients of the labels to really be aware of what they are selling you as a “light” alternative, because most of the time, the reduced fat alternatives are loaded with sugars that are actually worse than the original oil content.

A simple olive oil, vinegar and salt dressing, is the best alternative if you can find it.

Same thing can be said for the fat content in two ways, the first one and more obvious is the sauces. A Thai curry sauce adds a huge amount of fat and carbohydrates to a meal and you may be thinking that what you are eating is “rice and chicken” when effectively there are about 300 calories of sugar and fat that you hadn’t taken into consideration, same goes for sweet wine reductions, caramelized things and satay sauces, but the list is truly long. The second is the way in which foods are cooked. Anything that has a coating, and has been fried is an obvious no go, doesn’t matter how light the coating may look to you, it adds a few undesirable grams of fat to your meal. Even if you are trying to control your weight, this additional fat constitutes a risk because in most cases, restaurants do not use extra virgin olive oil or other healthy fats, but cheaper alternatives that can affect your cholesterol and jeopardize your arteries and heart.

In a nutshell, whether or not you are trying to lose weight, a homemade meal is almost always a better alternative to a store bought one.

Later on this week I will be giving tips on what and how to prepare your food without too much hassle at all, with just a few easy tricks you will be able to improve the quality of your nutrition, save some money and maybe even loose a few pounds.

Today I would like to share with you a Chicken and Quinoa Stir fry, it is one of my favorite options to bring to the office because it contains everything that my body requires, it fills you up with slow releasing energy, with healthy fats, tons of protein and low GI carbs. Low fat, low carb, high protein, unprocessed and very high in fiber. What is there not to love!

Ingredients (serves 3)

450 grams of chicken breast

120 gr. Of quinoa

½ red pepper

½ green pepper

½ yellow pepper

1 red onion

3 mini bok choy

A bunch of green asparagus

A handful of snow peas

2 handfuls of Kale

5 fresh coriander stalks

1 red chili

1 green chili

1 tsp. of mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed garlic

A little sesame oil

I have prepared a visual guide on how to add the ingredients but it is so easy that you may not actually need it.

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First boil the quinoa in water with a touch of salt, follow the packaging instructions but it should normally take 16 minutes at low heat (to keep simmering).

Once the quinoa is ready, chop all the ingredients (check picture) and heat up a little bit of sesame oil in a wok. Add fist the garlic, then the seeded mustard and then the chicken. Allow the chicken to get a bit golden and then add the rest of the vegetables except the bok choy and kale, that will be added at the end.

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Once all the veggies have been incorporated add the soy sauce, mix well to allow the flavours to mix and add the quinoa. Finally sprinkle with the juice of a lime.

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Enjoy!

Skinny Savoury Pumpkin Fritters & Avocado Mash

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With Halloween almost upon us, I thought today it would be the best day to share with you a recipe that features (again) the star ingredient of the season, PUMPKIN!!

In this case a delicious one we had a couple of weeks ago for brunch in east London.

Asian style pumpkin fritters with lots of spices and avocado mash.

Great for breakfast or brunch, with healthy fats from the avocado, slow carbs and high in fiber, and if you make them like this, also very low in fat and quite calorie controlled!

This version is vegan but it was quite difficult to pan fry the batter, I think that adding a couple of whisked eggs to the mixture would help with the consistency.

It would also be great with a poached egg on top.

Ingredients (for 2 or 3 people)

350 grams of butternut squash or pumpkin

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of grated ginger

½ onion finely chopped

1 red chili

2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander

1 tbsp mustard with seeds

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

2 tbsp oat bran or oat flour

Salt & pepper

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For the avocado mash…

1 avocado

½ lemon

salt

To make these, boil the pumpkin until soft and add all the spices. Mash until everything is blended. Spray a non-sticky pan with extra virgin olive oil and when hot, add a dollop of the mixture, spread to form a 5 cm oblong fritter and let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes. With the help of a spatula, turn around and repeat. If your pan is big enough probably worth making 2 or 3 at the time.

It was delicious with a bit of Jalapeno Tabasco sauce too.

While they cook, you can mash in a bowl a whole ripe avocado with a dash of lemon juice and some salt (to your taste). Serve together with a slice of lemon and some salad.

Happy Halloween!

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Easiest Healthiest Green Stir Fry

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It happens every now and then that I buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies and then something comes up. A dinner an unexpected lunch a trip… all of them getting in my carefully planned meals to use all the fresh food and once messed up, I have bits and pieces, leftovers of different things that by themselves do not constitute a meal, but sometimes, can be put together to become a nice last minute dinner.

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It fills me with pride to open the fridge and hear that little voice saying “there is nothing” and start bringing out things like half a pepper, half an onion, a sad fennel bulb that has been there for a couple of weeks and in 5 minutes, I have in my hands the ingredients for a really nice improvised…STIR FRY!!

Pretty much anything can become a stir fry. It is one of the easiest ways of utilizing what is lying around in your kitchen. You just need to stock up on a few basics so they are ready in your kitchen when the time comes (sesame oil, soy sauce & fish sauce) and I would also recommend having some ginger since it lasts for a long time in the fridge and it does add a very nice flavour to it.

Today’s recipe is a full green stir fry that could serve as a side dish to any fish, meat or tofu of your choice and it can be cooked in 10 minutes.

This recipe is a weight loss dream, low fat, low carb, no sugars, high fibre, packed with vitamins and the goodness of the non processed green ingredients, so enjoy as much and as often as you wish.

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Ingredients (flexible, whatever fresh or semi fresh veggie would work)

1/2 green pepper

1 fennel bulb

½ Onion

5 asparagus spears

Half a bowl of cauliflower florets

1 clove of garlic

1 Bok Choi

A dash of sesame oil

A pinch of grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

A dash of fish sauce (or vegetarian equivalent)

Heat up the sesame oil in a wok and then pan fry the garlic, cut in very little pieces, when golden, add the onion and then the rest of the vegetables. Cook for 3 minutes, add the fish sauce, cook for another

2 minutes, add the soy sauce and turn the heat off. Leave rest for one or two minutes more and serve.

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Serving suggestion: sprinkle with cashew nuts and peanuts.

 

Super Food Vanilla Caramel Chia Pudding

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I recently came across Chia seeds, you can find plenty of pictures on Pinterest, Instagram and other social media claiming the miraculous properties of this tiny little seeds. I read a bit about them and they really seem to be amazing, the key benefit is the high density of their nutrients, one serving is around 1 ounce (28 grams) and within it, you have 4 gr. Of Protein, 9 gr. Of fat (this is a lot, but 5 of those are Omega 3 which you would want to incorporate to your diet anyway) and 11 gr. Of Fiber. Not to mention that apparently they have more antioxidants that Blueberries, and more calcium gram on gram that dairy, which makes them specially good for people that don’t dairy, like vegans.

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Even when protein and fats can be sourced alternatively within your meals, fiber can be an elusive one specially on low carb diets when no bread, flour or pasta is included. Fiber is essential to keep you fuller for longer, so a dessert made of chia seeds could very well top up a light dinner or lunch, and keep you satisfied until the next morning/dinner.

They are packed with vitamins and all of this for only around 100 calories per serving and the best thing is that they are very versatile. You can sprinkle them on cookies, over porridge, you can have them with drinks and make desserts with them!

They don’t need to be cooked, they absorb so much liquid that they just need to be immersed in it for 24h and let them become a dessert by themselves!

This is my first attempt at them, so I only used half a portion to make one pudding, which made them more liquid than I have seen in other recipes. I think this basically comes down to personal preference and the texture that you like.

When I first tried it I was a bit wary, but it turns out it is actually pretty good! It reminded of those tapioca balls in bubble tea, but in a lot more interesting nutritional package. I totally recommend it!

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 tablespoons Chia Seeds (8 if you want a more dense texture)

450 ml of Light Soya Milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon Caramel flavouring no added sugar

4 tablespoons coconut milk (reduced fat)

Sweetener of your choice to taste

How to make them…

So easy! Just mix all the liquid ingredients, if the coconut milk is not liquid, warm it up to mix it with the soya milk first, taste the flavour and add sweetener until you are satisfied.

Pour the chia seeds at the bottom of the containers where you will be making them, I have used the one from Weck because they can be closed and secured with metallic piec

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Add the liquid to the pots, close and shake each one for 30 seconds. Leave for 10 minutes and shake again. Shake again one hour afterwards and then you can leave them in the fridge overnight. They will be ready in the morning!

The seeds will fill up with water and duplicate their size several times. They have a gooey texture but not unpleasant and these soft vanilla and caramel flavour really make them delicious.

Don’t be scared to try new things!

Gluten Free Wholegrain Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Today post is a bonus post, just like the recipe that I am going to share is a bonus food. You might or might not be familiar with the concept “cheat meal” but this recipe falls under this category.

A cheat meal is one meal a week where you eat whatever you feel like. And I mean whatever, a treat of your choice, a cheeseburger with white bread and bacon and fries with mayo. A pint of Ben & jerry’s ice cream, a bit of both… doesn’t matter. The role of this meal is to “cheat” your body to avoid it from getting used to a) too low calories b) too low fat c) too controlled food intake (as in clean)

It is particularly important in the context of a body building or fitness diet, when the athlete or amateur has a strict calorie or macronutrient diet and eats clean and lean on a constant basis.

Fitness athletes and sports people that compete in body categories follow processes of “bulking” or “cutting” these are first a phase in which you over nourish your body so it creates lean muscle (with specific training for it) and then a “cutting” phase in which you reduce your calorie intake to be at a deficit and reduce your body fat percentage to the desired level (normally between 12 and 16% for women and 4 and 7% for men).

This principle also applies to people on a weight loss journey specially if they have been on a diet or on a calorie restriction for long period of time and their body could simply “adjust” and their weight loss could stop, what is called hitting a plateau.

Having one cheat meal a week will shock your metabolism giving your body the message that he will get big portions, high fat, simple carbs again, and therefore it is absolutely ok to burn some more fat, because there is more food where that came from! It will also impact your mentally, allowing you to have a social life a date, a celebratory meal and not feel like the journey doesn’t allow you to eat anything you crave. Also it can be a great way to replenish the glycogen (what fuels your muscles) on your body in low or extremely low carb diets, and you will work out with a lot of extra strength after it.

If I go out for my cheat meal, I will eat whatever I feel like in the menu, and it is fine, but if I am cooking it at home, I try to add something extra to it, in this case, I tried a new recipe for a Lemon Drizzle cake, which turned out to be delicious. It is a gluten free alternative, not because it is less fattening, because it’s not, but because I used wholegrain rice flour and almond flour, both full of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. The almonds bring a good amount of healthy fat to the mix as well, and I have observed that gluten free cakes usually have a moist and texture that makes them better than their traditional counterparts! I think it’s because of their higher fat content.

So please feel free to enjoy this cake but do it knowing that it is a treat.

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Ingredients:

200 gr. Butter (room temperature)

200 gr. Almond Flour

200 gr. Raw Moscovado Sugar (cane unrefined sugar)

100 gr. Wholegrain Rice Flour

½ tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Baking powder

3 Eggs

3 lemons

75 gr icing sugar (and 3 tbsp of water)

How to…

Heat up the over to 180C, beat up the sugar with the butter and add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Once this mixture is creamy and uniform, add the rice flour, the baking powder and the almond flour. Add the juice and the zest of one of the lemons and keep the zest and the juice of other two for the drizzle. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (18 to 13 cm diameter), mine is made of silicon so it doesn’t need to be greased but if your is metallic you will need to grease it to avoid it from sticking.

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Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This cake takes a bit longer than others due to the consistency of the ingredients.

In the meantime, heat up the lemon juice in a saucepan with the water and the icing sugar and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until it has the consistency of a light syrup.

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Once the cake is ready, let it cool down for 10 minutes and then pinch the surface with a toothpick all over the surface, pour the syrup on to the cake with the help of a spoon so it spreads out evenly. Let the cake sit for around 30 minutes to let the lemon drizzle set through the cake.

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So this cake is a reasonably healthier alternative than the classic version due to the higher fiber, higher protein and good fats (almond) and raw sugar, but it is still a cake, and it is still a treat, so enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet.