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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Healthy Black Bean Vegan Burgers

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Recently I went through some documentaries that enforced previous notions of what is healthy eating and how to go about it. What i didn’t know, was the impact that those decisions make in the world we live in.

The vast majority of people turn their heads to the other side, not to see. They KNOW that reality that lies within, but they do not want to acknowledge is there, because if they do, they might feel bad about themselves. They might even want to change something, and changing habits is not easy.

I have spoken about it before in this blog, you can find a long article about veganism scrolling down the page if you are interested.

However it is not really about becoming vegan, it is about gaining awareness. Awareness over the fact that according to the UN, 53% of our CO2 emissions come from the meat industry (I mean all types of meat and dairy), that is way larger than the cars, planes and industries of these world. The impact on the planet of the excessive animal protein consumption is vile. As always, there are two sides to this coin, the economic development  of certain areas depends on cattle and related business so it is not about not eating meat. It is about making the meat you consume count.

Why not start by having a vegetarian/vegan day a week? Just give it a go! It is fun, it is easy and it will spark your cooking creativity. You don’t know where to start?? Here is where. Make note on today’s recipe and try it out next Monday for a good start of the week.

Also, in terms of health benefits, these way of eating tends to be cholesterol free and lower calorie/fat so it may even help you shred a few pounds.

About these burgers, I took the recipe from another blog and I have to say, it would probably benefit from a bit of egg white to hold it together since cooking them can be a bit messy, therefore the uneven shape of mine.

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Ingredients (makes 4 large patties)

250 gr. butternut squash

1 can of black beans washed and rinsed

1/2 an onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 tbsp of cumin

1 tbsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of oats

Veggies to accompany, I used broccoli stems, lettuce leafs, avocado, hummus.

How to…

In a pan, cook the chopped onion until transparent, then add the butternut squash cut in small cubes.

Let it cook until is soft and then add the beans and spices, rinsed and let the water evaporate as much as possible, this will make the patties drier and easier to work with.

With a food processor or a hand blender, mix all the ingredients and add the oats, this will give your mixture a lot more texture. Add more if required, you want the resulting mixture to be slightly firm.

Form the patties and cool in the freezer for 30 minutes.

You can cook them in the oven for 45 minutes, or in a non sticky pan for about 15. In the oven, they could melt and become a mess, so I would rather the pan, flipping them around a couple of times and bearing in mind they will expand and become bigger so they could invade each other’s personal space. If this is something burgers feel touchy about lol.

Another solution is too cook them with metallic rings around, like the ones that restaurants use to form vertical salads.

You can use these patties to make proper burgers or just eat them with veggies and some avocado as me, because I am a low carb-er. Your choice.

I promise you, no one would be asking for a steak if you serve these.

Happy next Meatless Monday!IMG_6140

 

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

 

 

 

 

150 Calorie Low Carb Burrito

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Today I woke up really hungry, I had a long training yesterday and I think I am still feeling the aftermath. Since today i will rest, I will eat less carbohydrates than in a normal day, since my energy requirements are lower, that way I also get to rid myself of some water and wake up lighter tomorrow, ready for a new week.

So I came up with a low carb breakfast burrito that is simple and delicious and quick and easy to fix.

It is super high in protein and healthy fats and very tasty.

Ingredients (for one):

100 ml. egg whites

1 tbsp oat bran

A pinch of oregano

A slice of parma/serrano ham

1/4 avocado, sliced

1/2 small tomato

2 jalapeño peppers

fresh coriander

spring onion

In a food processor, blend the oat brand and egg whites with the herbs for a few seconds and then make a “tortilla” with it on a non sticky pan.

The oat bran is there to add fiber, it will make the tortilla more consistent but also will help you keep fuller for longer and your blood sugar controlled!

Once this is done, set in a plate and lay your other ingredients on top. If you want the vegetarian option you can substitute the ham for humus and it will be just as delicious.

Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and roll. Voila. Easy, nutritious, good for you and all the other stuff… and only 150 cals. You can complement this breakfast with some fresh fruit or yogurt. If it is a dinner, best to have it with a salad because fruit has too much sugar before bed 😉

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Nutella Slim Nice Cream

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I love ice cream. It is my guilty pleasure, it is the one thing I cannot put down, i just cannot. My husband has to take it from my claw like hands and and look at my how-do-dare face when this happens and I have to fight against it, so simply give in every now and then, because let’s be honest, and life without ice cream, is just not worth living, in my opinion.

Recently I came across this vegan idea for making what has been called nice cream. I guess the nice part comes from the fact that is totally cruelty free, no animal products, nothing chemical… just full of goodness and truly delicious! I promise you it is. I couldn’t believe it myself but it is true.

So this is a very good alternative to the traditional gelato that is made with cream and sugar and you can make it in 3 minutes. I am compiling a series of flavours that work. So far I have mastered Peanut Butter and Nutella, but I have the feeling that the coffee caramel will be amazing too.

Sun is shining upon us today so why not give this a go?? Do you have a ripe banana? You have most of the work done then 😉

Ingredients (for one big portion or two smaller ones)

1 large ripe banana

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 small handful of hazelnuts

A pinch of sweetener

 

How to?

Peel and chop the banana in edible pieces and freeze for about an hour. Then put the frozen banana in a food processor with the hazelnuts and the cocoa powder and the sweetener and blend until you have a smooth deep chocolate colour paste. Serve with your choice of toppings. I tried no topping and some coconut flakes and sliced almonds, but with more time the sky is the limit.

This recipe is sugar free, unprocessed and raw and if you make sure you cocoa is gluten free, it is also gluten free, vegan very low in fat and fabulous.

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