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.

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Food & Colours

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We all like to eat pretty. We are more willing to try new foods when those are presented to us in a nice way, we eat with our eyes. Colourful arrangements are more succesful than boring brown bowls of lentils, delicious as those may be!

The key to helping others or ourselves try and love new foods or make our meal times for enjoyable, is to find little tricks to make our food as attractive as possible. Think about eye candy since this works for everything in life, from beautiful people to expensie clothes… everything displayed nicely is desired, and costs more.

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I have been playing around with colours lately and this is my take on green, a colour that wouldnt necessarily make part of desserts until you get familiarized with Matcha, the japanese green tea that is packed with antioxidants and stimulants that is great to burn fat and minimise the effect of the free radicals.

So what about combining the great properties of matcha powdered tea with another superfood, the chia seed?? Well then we have a lovely dessert that is full of protein, fibre, good fats, antioxidants and fat burning properties.

In case you havent heard it before, matcha is not a tea as such, it is a vibrant green powder that is made with the green tea leaf in its entirety, that is why it has such powerful benefits compared to the infusion of the leaves.

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You can find this powder in any asian shop and also in most health food stores now a days, it is quite expensive but very little goes a long way. Just half a teaspoon is enough to make a full cup of it.

The recipe for this dessert, as simple as it gets is as follows:

Ingredients (4 small portions)

4 tbsp. Chia seeds

400 ml coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Sweetener

1 tsp matcha powder

Cherries or any other fresh berry to decorate

How to?

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the fruit, mix well with a whisk and let the chia seeds reach their full size (they absorb the liquid) until they take a loose pudding consistency.

Distribute in your ramekins or serving pots and when you serve, decorate with a cherry or berry. Very sweet, and healthy! Oh, and totally vegan so perfect for Meatless Monday!

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Tuna Tataki

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

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

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

Ingredients (serves 2 -3)

100 to 150 gr. of excellent red tuna

1 scallion

Jalapeños to taste

Sesame seeds

Fresh Coriander

 

How to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peas, Ham & Bacon

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This is an express post with a quick recipe for busy people! Just a quick recipe with 4 ingredients that takes 15 minutes to make and it is super healthy and delicious. It is a traditional Spanish recipe and the main ingredient is peas.

Peas are a low GI carbohydrate which means that they are good at maintaining your blood sugar levels under control, avoiding those peaks that send you directly to the cookie box. They are rich in fibre and protein and they have a lot of vitamin C , calcium and magnesium.

To make the most of their protein content, it is good to add some rice or bread to it, or mix a bit of animal source protein (this is depending on your personal preferences). In this case, we mix them with ham and or bacon and it does the trick.

Vegetable proteins are not as readily available for the body to use as the ones from animal sources, they need the addition of other amino acids to make them “complete” this can be achieved by adding: cereals (bread, rice) or combine with meat or fish or some cheese or dairy product.

Without further ado…

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

 

500 gr of fresh peas (if already peeled, 300 gr)

2 rashers of bacon

1 slice of cured Spanish ham

½ a red onion

1 clove of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

 

Boil the peas for 10 to 15 minutes until soft (that will depend on the quality of the peas), drain them from water and reserve. Chop the onion and garlic very finely and poach in ½ a tbsp. of olive oil until soft. Add the bacon and the ham cut in small bits and let it sweat the fat & flavour. Add the boiled peas and let them shimmer for 5 minutes.

The shouldn’t be completely dry so don’t drain them completely.

Enjoy.

Low Carb Guilt Free Burger

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Since today is Friday   , and it is a wonderful thing to think of the weekend ahead.. I don’t know about you but I normally use these days to rest and I usually place my cheat meals or somehow less basic meals on these two days. It’s a way to enjoy them with my friends and family and makes it all more enjoyable. When you are trying to lose weight of reach a certain fitness goal however, the amount of “celebration” in this Celebratory meals is normally a bit more constrained, but this doesn’t mean that you do not deserve a bit of happiness.

Since for me, the low carb diet is the one that generally provides the best results, I would like to share with you this recipe of a low carb bacon cheese burger, which is also quite moderate in fat content.

I did mine with lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese, and you could even do it with turkey bacon, I used normal pork smoked bacon (British bacon) simply because I love it haha 😉

Of course, this recipe is not rocket science but hey, I thought it was worth sharing the idea!

Ingredients (serves one)

150/200 gr of lean ground beef

1 lettuce leaf

1 slice of tomato

1 slice of smoked British bacon

1 slice of reduced fat cheese (I prefer gruyere but cheddar works just as well)

½ tbsp. of mayonnaise

½ tbsp. of reduced sugar ketchup

2 slices of Aubergine (or Portobello mushrooms)

How to do it?

Pan fry the aubergine slices (don’t make them too thin or they will break) in the same pan and set aside, one minute on each side is enough.

Season the meat with salt, pepper and any spices that you like (I add garlic and onion powders normally) fry the burger pattie in a non-sticky pan without any added oil until it is cooked to your liking. My recommendation is to leave it slightly pink on the inside for better taste.

When you turn around the pattie to cook on the second side, put the cheese on top so it melts and in the meantime, just assemble the burger! My preference is: Aubergine, mayonnaise & ketchup, tomato meat with cheese and bacon, then aubergine again.

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Instead of Aubergine, you can use Portobello mushrooms if you prefer, they make grabbing the burger easier, more like a bread bun than the Aubergine, but I couldn’t get hold of them this time so I tried this other version!

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Enjoy!