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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Lowest Fat Superfoods: Mussels

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A lot of people are dont like seafood. This generally happens in areas with no sea shore where the access to them is generally not so easy and they are not part of the traditional way of eating. Big Mistake!

It also normally means that they are quite expensive since they are not readily available and if you haven’t seen them in your family as a standard food while growing up, the changes that you would consider eaten them when you are older is less.

Travelling is great to open your eyes to new foods, some are good and some are not so good. The first time I ate pizza I think I must have been 10 or 12 years old!! I had Thai food first time 5 years ago and for a while there I didn’t like peppers or aubergine.

We all go through bad food stages, especially when we are in our early teens, “don’t like this don’t like that” generally the no-go foods are the ones our mums say are healthy. I think it is the rebellious spirit manifesting itself. Fish and broccoli generally fall under this category, and mussels do as well. They are ugly little things, you have to admit, and they smell really strong of sea water when they are uncooked, and I get that it is not everybody’s piece of cake.

One the things we can do to try mussels without having to go through the pain of preparing them is to order them when we are eating out. They come in a pot, already made and they provide long entertainment through the meal, with plenty of opportunities for chatting.

The reason why it is worth giving them a go is because as most seafood, they are almost purely protein and they are incredibly nutrient rich.

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They provide a very good amount of B12 vitamin (340% of your daily recommended intake) in only a 80gr portion, but they are also rich in the other B vitamins group.They are also an important source of: Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Iron, phosphorus, manganese, selenium and zinc.  Selenium plays a very important role in your thyroid function and manganese is involved in bone structure and the metabolism of energy.

When it comes to protein, around 15 mussels provide you with the same amount of protein that a 170 gr steak of beef, with a much lower fat content, so if you are trying to lose weight, mussels are the way to go. The have less than 2% of fat and it is all Omega 3, which helps protect your heart and arteries.

If this was not reason enough, they are a really high in Iodine which keeps your nails and hair strong and shiny! So what is there not to like about them??

I encourage you to try them if you haven’t done and expand your food horizons. Your waistline will thank you and your general health too.

If I have convince you, here is a little recipe, super easy, that you can do in less than 15 minutes!

 

Ingredients (serves 2):

750gr of mussels with their shells

2 garlic cloves

1 stalk of celery

1 bunch of fresh parsley

½ a small glass of white wine

Extra virgin olive oil

 

In a high pot (you will need the space) heat up one tablespoon of olive oil. Peel the garlic and mash it and chop the celery stick in small slices. Chop the parsley and when the oil is hot, add the garlic and celery. Add most of the parsley but reserve a little bit to garnish at the end.

The mussels should be clean (they sell them clean too, so that would help) and drained from all liquid. The best way to keep them is in water with some salt in the fridge and cook them in the 24 to 48h after buying them. When you are ready to cook them, drain them from the water and add them to the pot. Put the lid on!! This is very important because the mussels cook in the hot steam, and the lid will make the open easier and cook faster, leave them there for 2 to 5 minutes until open, add the white wine and let it boil for another couple of minutes.

Taste the flavour, but they should be salty enough as it is.

Serve immediately in the same pot (if it’s nice) or in a deep serving tray that allows the sauce to come with them garnished with the rest of the parsley, and set a bowl next to you for the empty shells.

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Enjoy!

 

Lean Sunday Roast

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One of the most important barriers when taking control of one’s diet, is the excuses to one self that come from absolutely rightful issues. My favourite of all times is the lack of time one.

Lack of time is actually a fallacy, we all have 24h in the day, the only difference is how do we make our use of them, which is generally according to our priorities.

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When you have kids, the time seems to disappear between your fingers and the things that suffer the most are generally your own wellbeing and more and more in our society, the home cooking.

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There is simply no time for it. This is a mistake because our children are learning what we are teaching them as parents, if we do not cook at home and we don’t take care of our diets, they will learn the same patterns and they will grow up to be individuals with really bad habits.

 

Today I want to share a recipe that will allow you to both, home cook and teach your children some good nutrition basics, and also will enable you to get easy access to a healthy lunches during the week, even if you don’t have kids, this is the foundation of food prepping.

It is as simple as cooking extra. Are 2 at home? 4?? Then cook twice as much and simply pack away the extra portions in neat Tupperware in the fridge. On Sunday I generally cook my lunch and breakfast for Monday to Thursday and on Thursday eve, I cook extra and make another portion for Friday.

 

Today’s super easy recipe is a Lean Sunday Roast.

The particularities of this roast versus the one served at the pub is that this one doesn’t contain simple carbs, so we will not have the traditional gravy, but a lower fat and carb alternative, and we will also be skipping the potatoes in favour of some celeriac root. With regards to the Yorkshire pudding, I skip them altogether, but you can bake your own using wholegrain spelt flour, however, if you have enough veggies and roast, you won’t actually need it, it will just make your digestion heavier and you will end up feeling bloated!

 

Ingredients:

1 lean cut of beef to roast (1.5 kg would feed 4 and 4 portions would be leftovers)

3 peppers of different colours

4 onions peeled and cut in rings

1 courgette/zucchini

1 aubergine

2 carrots

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ a celeriac root

Fresh rosemary

½ a glass of white wine

Salt & pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Pre heat the oven at 180C and in a big oven tray, set all the chopped vegetables. Chop them in medium chunks trying to end up with similar size pieces so they cook evenly. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary and sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and some water.

Rub the piece of meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, set in a tray or directly on top of the vegetables and roast for about 45 minutes depending on the size of the piece.

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Bear in mind that all the juices of the vegetables and the meat will be in the tray so you can recover them from the parchment. In order to make the gravy, take a piece of the roasted courgette and a piece of the celeriac and mash them with the sauce so it becomes a bit thicker. Add more salt to it if needed and serve with the meat.

 

Serve a good portion of roasted vegetables and 2 or 3 thin slices of meat.

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For the rest of the week: boil some lentils and in a Tupperware divide the remaining meat and vegetables and complement with one or two tablespoons of boiled lentils and you will have a full size meal, with lots of protein, low in fat and in simple carbs that will keep you up all afternoon.

Happy week dieters.

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.

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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Easy Healthy Dinners: Stuffed Portobello mushroom & chicken salad

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I have to come clear on this one, I didn’t actually cook this. I went out for a drink with a friend and my husband stayed home and took care of dinner.

It was a lovely surprise to come back to such a delicious display specially when it involved zero effort from my side 😉

I thought it was so good and so healthy, that it was worthy of this compilation of dinners!

So here you go, this is what he swears to me that he put in it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 big Portobello mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic

Salt & pepper

A pinch Parsley &

1 tbsp. olive oil

A little dash of vinegar

50gr. Crumbled feta cheese

For the salad

Gem lettuce

Spring onion

Tomato

Roast chicken breast sliced

Dressed with: sesame oil, salt and vinegar

Chop all the ingredients to the minimum and mix in a bowl until you have a paste, wash the mushrooms, fill them with the mixture and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes in 160C. Use this time to assemble the salad and dress it.

Bear in mind that sesame oil is very intense and you only need a little bit of it to make it flavourful

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Garnish the mushroom with a parsley leaf for decoration.

Easy Healthy Dinners: Lemony sea bass with mushroom cups and onion

Another easy way to get slimmer while you sleep!

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Ingredients (serves 2):

1 sea bass (500 gr or so)

1/2 an onion

1/2 a lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

2 cloves of garlic

12 mushroom cups

Roast the whole Sea bass in the over for about 12 minutes with some sliced onion, clean the fish to get 2 more o less clean fillets and split the onion in two dishes.

This is done with nothing added to the fish (not even salt) since you remove the skin after cooking. While it cooks, clean the mushrooms and peel the garlic and mash it with some olive oil and water. Fill the mushrooms with the mixture and a bit of salt and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Then dress the fish by grating the zest of half a lemon on top of the filets, sprinkle with salt and a dash of extra virgin olive oil (Picual or Arbequina variety).

Then take the mushrooms out and serve together.

Healthy Almost creamed spinach

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So before we jump into the weekend, I would like to share with you an old favourite of mine. It is a spinach based dish that can work as side dish to a main of meat of fish or tofu, or as a starter, minding the portions of course.

Spinach is one of those super foods that deserves the name and lives up to it, anyone born in the 70s and 80s will remember how Popeye convinced us all that spinaches would make us big and strong and you know what? he was right!

This green leaf has plenty of desirable effects in our body, it is low in carbs and fat like all the vegetables, but also it is very high in protein, nearly 3 gr per 100 gr of product, and also very high in fibre. This means that we fill fuller for the right reasons, and it helps the intestinal transit. Over and above this, there is the high contents of iron, Vitamin A, C, K and some of the group B and high contents of magnesium, calcium and potassium, all these, key to strong bones, and to avoid water retention.

It is very antioxidant and helps improving your vision and has some components that are responsible for strength building on your muscles (Popeye!!)

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The downside is that is not very good for people with kidney stones since there is a component in them that could worsen this condition, but if you are in tip top condition, jump ahead.

Some people don’t like spinach because they consider them bland and can only enjoy them when they come as a side of creamed spinach, which is a shame because all that cream and cheese kind of take away the benefit of it.

My version of this dish is much lower in fat and much higher in protein since I add cooked ham to it, making it more of a starter or even as a light dinner option.

Excuse the fast taken pics, but I hope they look yummy enough to make you want to try it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

4 squares of frozen spinach (or two portions as stated in the packaging)

120 gr of cooked ham

1/4 onion

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tbsp. of olive oil

1 tomato

50 gr of gruyere/parmesan cheese grated

Salt

In a cooking pot, cook the frozen spinach for about 5 minutes or until the frozen blocks are totally undone. Then rinse and let in a strainer to loose the water.

Then chop the onion really finely and the garlic clove and sauté them in a pan on medium heat. Cut the ham in little pieces. My trick is to make rolls and then cut it with the scissors. Then chop the tomato in small cubes.

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Put the heat up and when the pan is hotter add the ham, ideally, it needs to be a bit toasted outside, then add the tomato cubes and salt. Let simmer in low heat fro 5 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese and let it melt on top for a couple of minutes. Serve immediately.

Sauteed Artichokes with Bacon

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Lately time seems to have become a premium, it is something we are all short of and in the interest of healthy eating, sometime in the kitchen would do wonders for you. For this reason, my recipes are generally quite simple and quick,

Today I have a super quick fix for when you don’t really have many fresh ingredients at hand and you want to prepare a healthy dinner or lunch for the next day.

I have used bacon for this recipe because I had a couple of rashers leftover in the fridge, but normally I would use ham. Spanish ham would work better than Parma since it has a stronger flavour that would mix great with the artichokes.

This recipe is really high in fibre and very low in calories, great as a light dinner, although it would need some additional protein.

Ingredients (serves 1 or 2)

1 can of artichoke hearts in water

¼ onion

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp olive oil

2 bacon rashers

Salt  

Remove the water from the tin and place the artichokes in a  bowl to drain. Cut them in halves. In a saucepan, heat up the olive oil and sweat the onion, chopped finely and the garlic, adding it just a bit after the onion (since it cooks faster, otherwise it would burn) when the onion is transparent, add the bacon or the ham, cut in small stripes and let it toast slightly, then add the artichoke hearts and let simmer for 5 minutes so all the flavours mix.

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Bon Appetite!