Best Spicy Butternut Squash

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Easy start of the week… Mondays have an awful fame for taking us all back to reality and to a world of obligations. What we have to do, our jobs, homes, groceries, children, families, noises. Lazy Sundays leave way to a feeling of having to be back on track. No more ice cream watching that movie and a bit of guilt. This is why I love cooking a bit pot of soup of Mondays that will last me until Friday. Today I would like to share with you an Autumn recipe that is hearty, filling and delicious and of course it’s been made with love and little fat to keep your hearts happy and your hips tight.

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Autumn is the season of falling leaves, of yellows and oranges, or warm cozy jumpers of blankets, of Halloween, and in the midst of all this, of Pumpkins!! Starbucks brings their inglorious Pumpkin Spice Latte and I bring the glorious Butternut squash Spice Soup, as they say, each to their own.

A bit on the nutrition side of things… Butternut squash is a pumpkin that has an elongated body and a big butt, a bit like most women 😉 pumpkin are very sweet, like carrots, when cooked they are perfect to bake pies and cakes due this high content of natural occurring sugars, so in principle I wouldn’t recommend having too much pumpkin if you are trying to lose weight, however, their glycemic charge, this is the total amount of carbohydrate that they contain, is relatively low so if the portions are controlled there is no reason to avoid it. This soup is still very low in fat, low in carbs and GI and perfect starter. Additionally it contains a fair amount of curcuma, which is highly antioxidant, helps digestion and it has been linked to Alzheimer prevention and glucose absorption reduction on people with diabetes.

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Personally from a taste point of view I find pumpkin soup a bit too sweet so I much prefer the curried version that has a bit of a spice kick and it is much nicer. This version is vegetarian but I have come across the exact same thing but including bacon and I will surely try it in the near future.

Ingredients (serves 4)

½ Butternut Squash

1 red pepper

2 Onions

1 vegetable stock cube in 1 liter of water

½ tsp Paprika

1 tsp curcuma

½ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

¾ tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Green Tabasco Sauce

Salt to taste

A few sesame seeds & coriander to decorate

Peel and chop the onions and cook them for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Add the butternut squash, mix well and add the spices. Let them soak for 1 or 2 minutes and add the stock. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until the squash is soft and melty, around 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt to taste if needed. Since this recipe has so many spices you might as well skip the salt, it does wonders for water retention to eat lower sodium.

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If you are happy with the taste, blend together with a hand blender until the soup is a smooth silky consistency and there are no “boats” floating around.

These soups and anything that contains multiple spices will taste better after a few hours, but if you can’t wait it will still be delicious!

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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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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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Tuna Tataki

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Sorry it has been a while, sometimes, life gets on the way of more important things like blogging 😉

The positive outcome is that i am having a lot more time to cook, which is obviously good news. Back in the day I used to be a picky eater, as an adolescent living at home, I didnt like fish and I didn’t like many different vegetables, it is a phase that a lot of people fo through. My redemption came by eating out. When I would refuse to try roasted red peppers at home because my mum didn’t put too much effort into making them interesting, I would give them a go in a non committal way when we were eating out. I did this through trying other people’s orders… that way if i didn’t like it there was no harm done and I could eat my own safe option.

I am sure many of you have gone through similar experiences one way or another. The reason why I am mentioning this is that one my all time claims was that everything I ate had to be very well cooked, and I would never ever eat something raw or rare… little i knew I would grow up to love sushi and sashimi and intermediate things like this tataki.

Ingredients (serves 2 -3)

100 to 150 gr. of excellent red tuna

1 scallion

Jalapeños to taste

Sesame seeds

Fresh Coriander

 

How to…

First cut and clean your tuna in a long square piece almost ready for sashimi as uniform as possible. Then tub the outside with sesame seeds.

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In a very hot pan, heat up a very small of olive oil or sesame oil if you prefer a stronger flavour. Seal the tuna on all sides for about 20 seconds on each one of then.

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Cut the piece in really thin slices, of 1/4 to a 1/2 of a centimeter and array in a tray as shown in the picture.

Chop of the scallion very thinly, the jalapeños and the coriander, keeping some full leaves to decorate and arrange on top of the sliced tuna.

Serve with soy sauce with a bit of wasabi to taste on the side.

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This recipe provides a lot of protein and it is very low in fat with barey any carbohidrate in it, so perfect for a late light dinner or to complement some plant based platter.

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Turkey Parmesan Salad

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TGIF! One of those days… this week has been sooo long, and sooo many things have happened that it feels like it has been a week and a half. Those days is it hard to bring yourself to cook or do anything at all.

So today just a quick lunch or light dinner idea! A simple green salad with a pan fried turkey steak on top. Add some shaven parmesan (just 2 or 3 sleeves for a hint of saltiness) and a bit of red cabbage for added fiber.

Two spoonful of cooked quinoa to make it more filling and dress with lemon juice or white wine vinegar (balsamic vinegar is generally very high in sugar) a pinch of salt and 1/2 a tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and that is it!

So easy, so healthy, so delicious. No need to think any further.

Happy weekend to all of you.

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!

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.