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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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!!

 

 

Healthiest Shepherd’s Pie

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Nutrition is a funny thing. There are many misconceptions out there of what is healthy and what isn’t, and I am often surprised by how little people know about how what they eat impacts their body.

Back in the 70s, mothers all around the world, whose traditional role was to take care of the family and nourish the children so that they would grow nice and strong, used to cook plenty of stews and traditional dishes, filled with potatoes, that provided carbohydrates and lard or oils to make sure that it was substantial enough.

Today, unfortunately, children and adults do not play on the streets any more and have a very sedentary lifestyle, which translates in a reduced calorie intake need, so most of the traditional recipes, have therefore become outdated or something that is generally too heavy for most people. Still we love those beautiful dishes and if cooked properly or adjusted to our needs, they are a great way of getting into our body the nutrients that we need to fuel it.

In this case, I have tackled the British all time favourite, Shepherd’s Pie, with a view on keeping it nice and light.

In case you wonder how do I take my decisions when it comes to making a dish less fattening or taxing on your body,  I normally try to strip all those elements that are high in sugar or fast digesting starch and I reduce the fats to a minimum. That way, the dish retains most of its flavor and protein together with slow burning carbs, and only good fats in a small amount, to ensure a well balanced meal that will sustain you until your next meal.

One very important part of nutrition is digestion, if anybody is interested, I cam develop the subject more in depth in another post, but just a little clarification, you body digests first the carbs, then the protein and lastly the fats, and it takes your stomach between 1 and 4 hours to do so. The bigger the amount of food, the higher the content of fat, and less you chew your meal, the longer it will take your stomach to do so, and the heavier you will feel. Ideally, we should split our meals in 5 smaller ones, to speed up digestion and make it as easy as possible for your body, and also to distribute your energy levels throughout the day.

Have I bore you enough already?? 😉 So on to the recipe then!!

I took a traditional lamb shepherd’s pie recipe and I swap it for lean beef. Cooking it with lamb would be fine as long as you are not trying to lose weight or maintain it because lamb’s meat has a high fat content. If you choose to cook with lamb, consume in more moderation.

The other important swap is the mashed potato, that I have changed for cauliflower mash. This means that the glycemic impact (ie. your blood sugar levels and the concentration of carbs) is a lot lower, which will make this dish much easier to digest and a hell of a lot less fattening.

Ingredients (serves 4)

350 gr. lean ground beef

150 gr. celeriac chopped in small cubes

3 small red onions

1 clove of garlic

1 tomato, peeled and deseeded

1 carrot

Salt & pepper

1 liter of beef stock

1/2 cauliflower

Nutmeg

30 gr. of grated gruyere cheese

150 ml. soy milk/milk low in fat

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

 

First of all, peel and chop finely all the vegetables, poach them in a large pan with the olive oil (onions, celeriac, carrot, garlic & tomato) with a pinch of salt, this is important so they loose their water content quicker. Poach them for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft and caramelized.

Add salt & pepper to your ground beef and incorporate it to the vegetables. Cook for a couple of minutes until it’s well mixed and add the beef stock. Reduce to medium heat and let boil for 30 to 40 minutes (until the water has evaporated).

 

In the meantime, steam your cauliflower and when it’s done, add a pinch of salt, nutmeg and the milk, and blend it in a food processor until you have a thick uniform mash.

Once your meat is cooked, pour it on an oven proof dish and layer the cauliflower mash on top. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Cook in the over at 160C for 35 to 45 minutes and serve with a side of salad, peas or any green of your liking.

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!

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.