Chocolate Tart, what a beauty.

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I logged in to the blog yesterday after a really long act of disappearance. I come back with a few strands of white hair in my temples, I blame my job which is the same reason why I haven’t been around for a while. Loving what you do can make you overdo it at times. Taking advantage of the holiday period, I want to update you on what I have been up to in life and in the kitchen. I bring you, a delish chocolate tart that can be made in advance and it is perfect as desert for these busy holidays.

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Also I want to say hi to Simon, who sent me a super sweet hello yesterday after I had a look at what you guys had been up to. It is great to know that I have been missed a little bit 🙂

I have trying different photographic styles for my photography lately. If you have followed the blog until now it has mainly been a full of light, white background fest. I work with natural light, so getting moody, contrasted images is sometimes a bit of a challenge, so I hope you like these.

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For this cake, which can be made in advance and kept frozen, you need to make some choices before you start.

The base can be made in two different ways, either a pastry dough or with a mix of almond meal and coconut flour. The first one is a little bit more time consuming and the second one is a little bit more difficult to work with due to it being more crumbly but it is healthier. If you want the second version, you can use the base of the cheesecake i published a while ago, here today, i will leave the time consuming version which is a little different.

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Ingredients (serves 8)

85g unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 tbsp coconut sugar

1 medium free-range egg yolks

2 tbsp ice cold water

125g wholegrain spelt flour

For the filling

250g sugar free chocolate, broken into smaller pieces

2 free-range eggs

100ml non dairy milk

175ml double cream

Method

To make the pastry. Mix the butter and the flour in a food processor until it looks like a crumble. Beat up the egg with the sugar and water and add to the flour/butter mixture. Pour into a surface and work into a dough. Make a ball and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

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Place the cream and the milk in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Add the chocolate chunks and stir with a whisker until completely combined.

Take the dough and work it into a thin round shape, line the pastry case with the dough cover with aluminium foil and fill with ceramic beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and the beans and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Leave to cool in the tin.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Pour onto the chocolate mixture and quickly whisk together. Pass through a sieve while you pour into the cold pastry case.

Bake for 15 minutes in an oven at 180C and then leave in the over for a further 45  minutes. Then take out and cool.

If you prefer a shiny top layer, you can melt more sugar free chocolate and when the tart is cold, pour and spread. To decorate, make a circle with sliced pistachios and rose petals.

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Greek Salad

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Before I show you other sites of India, I thought I would go back to the basics and share with you a simple Greek Salad. Being a European stomach, Indian water can be a little on the dangerous side and to avoid the Delhi Belly, the recommendation is to stay clear of salads and uncooked vegetables all together. For this reason, I came back home with an unstoppable desire to stuff myself with just that.

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Luckily, I had all those leftovers in the fridge and this was the first thing I ate when I came back. It’s a great summer dish or a full dinner in itself and it is, as most traditional meals, quite a complete one. It has a measure of feta cheese, that nowadays you can try in low fat versions, tomatoes with all those beta carotenes, cucumber, filling but mainly water in its composition, onion and olives. I have used back olives but take your pick.

I was recently recommended to add a pinch of oregano and it was the right suggestion, it really brings the greeks flavours up, so as a top up, feel free to add a pinch of that lovely herb.
The secret for me is actually the dressing. My special (or not so special) super healthy dressing made of mustard, lemon and olive oil. In a little bowl, add 2 pinches of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of one lemon and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To emulsify this, you can either use a fork or a milk froth thingie until its a think yellow sauce. Add half of it to your salad, and you can keep the other half to use another day, it keeps very well for at least 1 week.

The good thing about this dressing is that it incorporates all the benefits of the C vitamin from the lemon and the good fats from the Olive oil and it is completely free from sugar and nasties.

I hope you like it!ensalada 2

Breakfast goodness

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There is no more to add to the discussion whether you should have breakfast or not. Clearly you should, but there are those of us who simply are not hungry in the morning. I say us because I am one of those, it takes me a little while after waking up to feel like having some food. My better half though… is another story all together. If I want to procrastinate in bed on a weekend morning, I better bring to bed a cereal bar to throw to the lion, otherwise I know there will be no peace until there are eggs on toast on the table.

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This fancy fancy breakfast is in reality no more than a glorious mix of fat free Greek yogurt, almond butter, and a pinch of sweetener. I have half a banana with mine, and I sprinkle it with toasted  sliced almonds too. Totally diet appropriate and delicious. Full of protein, and so yummy it will taste like dessert.
The best part of this is that it can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for days, so if you are slow on the morning hunger, you can grab and go and enjoy just a little later. Remember, it should be eaten within more or less an hour of waking up… for lazy ones, 90 minutes. Having a sufficient amount of calories in the morning, lowers the risk of heart disease (my cousin who is a doctor told me this the other day) so it’s just another reason to have a lighter dinner.

To make more festive, this one in particular is embellished with salted caramel sauce made with butter or vegan butter, and caramel made of coconut sugar.

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In a pan, heat up 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup coconut sugar, let boil and reduce. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt, then mix well and add 1/4 cup of butter and dissolve. You can keep this in a jar in the fridge and reheat when you want to use it. It will be good for a couple of weeks, and it can also be frozen. Use sparingly and enjoy!

Low Carb Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

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Abrupt mountain slopes rise up to the sky as if trying to touch it. Clean cold air, open lungs, sore muscles, step step step up to the top.

The sun is ruthless, blisters, sweat, the view, the silence. It’s a different world up there.

We forget that traditional food was designed to fit traditional ways of living. Sheep and cows in the high fields, men and women up with the sun and walking with the animals, to the pastures. Small wonder things like a full english breakfast and the shepherd’s pie came about.  For me, sort of small, sort of sitting on my ass half of the day and vegetarian, not such a great option, nutritionally speaking, so I have this new vegan way of cooking one that turned out absolutely delicious, and so easy!

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Ingredients (serves 3)

1 medium cauliflower

250 gr. seitan mince false meat

1/2 red onion

1 carrot

1 glass vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp flour

Salt & Pepper

Pinch of cumin

1 dash of non dairy cream

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 glass of white wine

Nutmeg

How to…

In a pan, cook the onion and the carrot in a bit of olive oil, until tender and transparent. Add the mince and mix well, then add the flour and let stick to the ingredients for half a minute and then add the wine and the cumin. Let it run dry and then add the vegetable stock, let it cook until the water is gone and there is a thick sauce instead. Correct the salt and pepper and distribute in three ramekin or oven proof dishes.

Boil the clean cauliflower until soft. Drain all the water and blend with the cream, the nutmeg a a pinch of salt. Taste to make sure is creamy and top your ramekins with it. If you are not vegan, you can sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheese. If vegan, with a bit of breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad, Beet humus and Creamy Tahini dressing

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Long title for a laborious recipe. It is not difficult, but it does make the kitchen quite dirty since you have cook a few things separately. However it is great to prepare in advance and have it ready for later if you have invitees.

It is a vegan dish, with vegetable origin protein (chick peas & quinoa) and lots of fibre. It is also quite pretty and colorful and a great way to convince your children to eat their veggies.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the Quinoa Salad:

50 gr. of quinoa per person

1 fresh tomato peeled and chopped

1/2 spring onion

1/2 an avocado per person

Black sesame seeds to decorate

Crushed pistachios

Pomegranate 

For the dressing:

1 tbsp. Tahini

1 tsp. almond butter

1 tsp. soya sauce

1/2 tsp. curcuma

1 tsp. agave nectar

Salt & pepper to taste

Lemon juice

For the humus:

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups chick peas

salt

1 tsp beetroot powder

1 tbsp. tahini

Juice of one lemon

1/2 a garlic clove.

Cook the quinoa on water with a bit of salt, boil for 16 minutes, whisk with a fork once cooked and let cool down. Add the tomato and the onion.

Blend all the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside.

For the humus, blend all the ingredients together and correct to your liking. More lemon juice if too bitter, more olive oil to make it sweeter. Prepare this in advance and let cool in the fridge.

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To build the salad place some lettuce leaves or rocket on a plate, add the quinoa in the middle. Cut and place the avocado on top nicely. Place the humus in a pipping nozzle and distribute them in your plate. Add one tbsp of the dressing over the quinoa and then sprinkle with the pomegranate and pistachios.

Voila!! Lots of going around but nothing terrible right??

Have a lovely rest of the week!!

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!

Follow me on Instagram for daily tips & recipes @cook_yourself_slim

 

Oat-sotto, the Healthy Risotto

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Ok maybe not my best naming moment XD but I do think it’s funny. I am simple mind like that.

I love risotto, it’s one of my favourite things because I am a big cheese lover, but the combination of bacon, rice, and parmesan cheese well… it’s everything but scale friendly. Every now and then though, there is nothing wrong with having the real deal of course, I don’t have it with meat any more but it does come in pescetarian versions with seafood that are ok for me. Scallops and mussels are a great combo for example and they add lean protein and iron and lots of flavour. In this case I wanted to come up with a lighter version, one that you can eat 3 times in a week and it won’t make you feel bloated, gain weight or affect your goals in the slightest.

Instagram is a great source of inspiration for this things sometimes and a few weeks ago I came across this savoury porridge trend that I thought could work great for this purpose. The recipe here today is vegetarian since I used parmesan cheese, the real deal, but should you want to avoid it, there are some vegan alternatives that could work just as well.

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The rice in this recipe in actually oats, in case my clever naming got you confused. Then the recipe is exactly the same as an actual risotto, only with less fat, less cheese and significantly less cooking time, which is also a plus if you are short in time.

If the oats are the right ones, this is a gluten free recipe and low carb too.

Ingredients (serves 2)

100 gr. wholegrain oats

100 gr. finely chopped onion

1 smashed clove of garlic

1 cup white wine

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or half olive oil half butter)

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup sliced mushrooms

4 chopped green asparagus

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese or vegan alternative

Salt and pepper

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How to…

In a pot, heat up the oil and cook the onion an garlic slowly until tender and transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and the asparagus. Two minutes later add the oats and mix well with the rest of the ingredients to mix the flavours. Add the wine when the pot is hot and let it evaporate. Then start adding the stock little by little and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the cheese and let rest for one more minute. Serve immediately to avoid the oats from going too soft.

Bear in mind the texture is softer than with normal rice, but still delicious.

Enjoy!

 

 

Nutty Caramel Healthy Granola

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I have read somewhere that to make granola is so easy it can be hardly called recipe. Indeed is easy, however if you have never done it, some basic instructions would be appreciated even if is only useful to avoid having to try a couple of things before it works out.

Granola is very fashionable at the moment. When people are becoming more and more aware of how bad the breakfast cereals are for you (and your kids) in reality, ladden with refined sugars and hardly any real nutritional value other than lots of fast burning carbs, homemade things that SOUND healthier are rising in popularity. Problem? Well if you have a look at the amount of sugars contained in most store sold granolas, they should actually be considered a dessert. Because let’s be honest, non refined sugars like honey and syrups, are still sugars.

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Nothing wrong with a bit, but often difficult to eat the recommended dosage. The key to a granola versus a normal muesli is that has been oven baked and it is caramelised which makes it crunchy and sweet. In this recipe I have tried two things, one with a low carb sugar, Agave syrup, and the other one with birch sugar, xylitol. Both of them have the advantage of a low GI (Glycemic Index) making the carbohydrates slower to burn sustaining energy levels longer. The benefit of the xylitol over the agave is the amount of calories since agave has pretty much the same as regular sugar and is very high in fructose (not so good), so the version with xylitol is better but the flavour is different to the traditional ones made with honey and the sorts.

In any case, this is not breakfast cereal, this is something you can add to a smoothie bowl, a yogurt or a dessert. Is it not expensive, adds really good taste to your food and it’s visually very pretty which also makes you like more what you are eating.

For example, a whipped coconut yogurt with some berries and granola is  a fantastic alternative to a tradicional sweet dessert, a breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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Ingredients:

500 gr. oats

10 hazelnuts, chopped

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 tbsp. coconut oil

2/3 tbsp. xylitol syrup or agave nectar

How to…

Preheat the oven to 165C and in a large bowl melt the coconut oil and the xylitol. The add in all the ingredients except the sliced almonds and the raisins.

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Make sure all the ingredients are mixed with the oil and xylitol and spread evenly on an over tray. Bake for 15 minutes, then bring out and mix in the almonds and the raisins and get back into the oven  for another 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Wait until it is completely cold before storing. It can be kept in an air tight container for about 6 weeks.

Enjoy!

 

Bulimia & Other diets

Eating-Disorders

I haven’t posted for a few days because I have been travelling, specifically to Tokyo and the time difference and the workload haven’t allowed me to dedicate the time I wanted to my side activities like this blog, which I love to write. So sorry everyone!

Those of you who have ever flown long haul probably know that there are very few things to do on a plane, and one of them is watching movies. Since I don’t get much spare time to watch anything on my daily life, I always take this chances to catch-up with all the films I have missed in the last months.

One of the movies I watched on the way back was Amy, a documentary about the life and tragic death of the British Singer Amy Winehouse, you probably know the story as I did (unless you have watched the documentary) a young Jewish girl with a great talent for singing and song writing, out of a lower class suburb in north London made it to stardom only to fall into a deep hole of drug and alcohol abuse that lead to her dead at the age of 27. Sad story, not the first one of this kind, the 27 club is a highly populated one, filled with some unforgettable figures from the music scene since the 60s.

 

The reason why I am mentioning it, is that actually, Amy did not overdose, she died of alcohol poisoning on a very weakened body. This weakened body was in such state because she had been suffering from bulimia from the age of 15, a condition that went untreated and everybody in her environment overlooked as the least of her problems, but that did cause in the end her death. Looking for some information about this subject, I found one of the best articles I have read about eating disorders using this documentary and this particular case as an example. For those of you who might be interested, this is the link to it:untitled

http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/861-we-need-to-talk-about-amy-winehouses-eating-disorder-and-its-role-in-her-death

 

I will not go in depth into this issue because the article featured if you follow the link already said it all better than I ever could, I would like instead to talk about the part of the education and the family support of Amy Winehouse (or the lack of it) that led to her holding on to her eating disorder and how this situation is much more common that we think, with thousands of women and some men falling at a very young age into this trap.

 

Bulimia and Anorexia are the extreme psychological conditions, the end game that can start with any of the other diets that are out there that could actually also be considered eating disorders because they, well, “disorder” our eating. You name it, the intermittent fasting, the juice detox, the Atkins method, the paleo method, the Dukan diet, the zone, weight watchers, low carb, low fat, the cayenne pepper and syrup diet… the list is endless and all of them have something in common, they work when followed, they don’t when not.

The problem is that these are all based on extreme restrictions or suppressions of entire food groups leaving our bodies shaking.

 

Simples!!

It is amazing to read on press continuous claims saying things like “traditional diets” don’t work, we must find another way to tackle weight loss since obesity has become the new plague of our time. In this article in particular they were talking about genetically tailored diets, the new hive, trying to find a new personalised diet that will once and for all adjust our food intakes to keep us healthy and slim. Sounds like a miracle? Yet the problem is that genetically we will probably not be supposed to eat doughnuts all day long.

It is a great idea in principle to use our genetic imprint to achieve the best possible nutritional plan and use it to create our diet. A lot of people will be willing to spend a lot of money in something like this, and it might be really useful for us to get a diet profile from our childhoods to learn to eat according to our body’s specific needs but it will not give us a free pass to eat whatever we want, potentially chocolate will still be off limits for 98% of the people if your gold is trying to stay fit and healthy. It should be something to be consumed occasionally. Traditional diets say so, and genetically tailored made ones will say exactly the same thing. Though luck!!

 

What the media seems to fail to explain when they say “ Traditional Diets” fail, is that it is not the diet that actually fails, but the dieters. Let me explain this, if you are overweight buy a significant amount of kilos, let’s say 15 for the sake of discussion, how did you get there? Did they appear in your belly and hips overnight? Most probably not. They are the result a of a lifetime of nutritional errors and a bad diet (as in how you eat every day) and a lack of an active lifestyle (namely sports) that has taken you to this point. If you change your diet in order to lose weight, and you manage to lose 12 kilos, and then you go back to your sedentary pre diet eating habits, guess what, your 12 kilos will come back with them and probably will bring friends!! It is the law of nature, old habits, old body!!

The key to a successful weight loss, whichever diet you choose, is to make it a lifestyle, lifetime long sustainable change. It doesn’t make any sense to put your body in a state of deprivation, which could potentially compromise your metabolism not to mention your mental stability. Some of the well-known effects of a low carb diet sustained in time can be lack of energy apathy and depression, intermittent fasting can lead to drowsiness, but the worst is the feeling that you cannot eat something, because this is exactly what you will be longing for all day long.

So back to your diet, and the weight you have lost and the hunger you have developed for the things that you haven’t been eating… what happens? Well you start eating everything and bang, the dreaded yo yo effect will come and kick you in the ass. Metaphorically and physically.

The more restrictive your diet is the worse will be the bounce effect to normal. If you are not prepared to life on a low carb diet the rest of your life, simply do not start a low carb diet.

Each person is different, in this, the media and papers are correct, and there is not one correct nutritional approach that fits all. Each one of us needs to take a long honest look at one selves and make a commitment to our diet for the rest of our lives. Am I going to be a low carb? Am I going to be a low fat? Am I going to fast? Or am I going to eat less amount of food, try to keep the fat and carbs under control and increase my physical activity?? Whatever you think it will work for you in the LONG TERM is the answer to you.

Finally I would like to also put out there, that having some flesh over the bone is totally healthy and beautiful. As long as you have an active lifestyle and your BMI is between 20 and 25 you are a healthy individual. The rest is AESTHETICS, and they are not necessary. So if you think or think that you are a bit chubby, but you are healthy, and you struggle to diet and you start and finish a fad diet every week, please do yourself a favour and stop!! Accept who you are and accept the beauty of your body and enjoy the food you love, because if you want to lose weight you need to love being skinny more than you love chocolate ice cream.

And Chocolate ice cream is amazing 😉