Mushroom Croquetas

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Throwing away food is a crime. The rich minority of the world expects their tomatoes to be perfectly round and red, immaculate carrots, zucchinis, aubergines… all our fruit must look like it came out of a food magazine. The ugly vegetables get thrown away, together with tons of food that runs out of date both in the supermarkets and at home.

When legislation on food is there to protect us, there are some things that hace been taken too far. Recently we started having expiration dates on eggs for God’s sake! If an egg is bad, you will know. A bad egg stinks to the point of making you sick. I have known people to throw away perfectly fine eggs just because they were 3 days overdue. I have eaten the equivalent to a gallon of out of date yogurt while growing up. I am here, I am fine, I have no allergies and I have a strong stomach. Please don’t go around now thinking that it is ok to eat rotten food, but we should definitely reexamine our standards and be better at managing our supplies.

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Back in the day, no food turned to waste, we just couldn’t afford it and so, many recipes were born out of women’s creativity to turn leftovers into a meal. One the most famous recipes in Spain for this, is Croquetas. They are small balls of bechamel, white sauce if you prefer, cooked with whatever had been leftover from a bigger meal. It could be scraps of cured ham, maybe cod crumbles, maybe chicken from a broth… It is quite a messy recipe, it does make your kitchen dirty and it takes a bit of patience. On top of this, they are not healthy food at all. They are fried and breaded so I will not go around recommending them for people that want to lose weight but they are absolutely delicious  and as such, I thought I would share with you this lovely recipe so you can make it for your friends and celebrations.

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They good thing is that they can be prepared in advance, frozen and once you make them, you will have plenty for a while.

Ingredients (makes 25)

2 tbsp. plain flour

1 litre of full fat milk

25 gr. of butter

1 small onion

125 gr. mushrooms

Olive oil

1 egg

1 cup of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

How to…

Peel and chop the onion very finely, fry in low heat with a small amount of olive oil until they turn transparent. Add the clean sliced mushrooms and salt. Let cook until they loose most of the water in them. Then add the butter, let it melt and add the four and toast it until it looks golden brown.

It is now time to start adding your milk, little my little, about half a glass of milk each time and in between, do no stop stirring the mixture so it starts blending like a normal bechamel. Every time it starts to dry out, add more milk. You want to do that until you run out of milk, correct the salt level and keep stirring until the bechamel is thick enough and doesn’t stick to the pan any more. It can take up to 30 minutes of continuous stirring, so it is pretty labour intense.

Once the sauce is done, pour it on a large plate or tray and cover with transparent film making sure it doesn’t leave any pockets of air between the film and the mixture, this is in order to avoid a “skin” from forming on top of it.

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Let it cool down completely, even overnight.

In a bowl, beat up the egg and in another bowl pour the breadcrumbs, then take the film of the mixture and with a spoon, start making balls of around 2 to 3 centimetre diameter. It will be easier to do it you oil your hands before to stop them from sticking to your hands. Once you are happy with the ball roll it in egg, then in breadcrumbs and then keep aside. Once you are done with all the croquetas you can fry them or keep them for later in the fridge for about 5 or 6 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

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To fry them, you have to either use a frier or a small pan with enough oil to cover the balls up to the middle (about 2 to 3 fingers of oil). The oil needs to be very hot and they need to be fried in small batches to keep the oil temperature up and so they are not too close together, since they could break.

You only need to fry them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until they are golden brown.

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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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Leek & Goat’s Cheese High Protein Quiche

 

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Because eating well is a daily effort, and because we don’t have as much time as we would like to cook and become domestic goddesses, we need to find the perfect balance between healthy delicious and quick & easy.

There is a few things that fall under these category and this is one of them. A quiche is by traditional standards a fairly easy thing too cook, although not so easy to make perfect, it does take time, specially if you are making the dough from scratch. The second problem is the high amount of saturated fat in it, first with the butter in the crust, and secondly the wooping amount of cream in the mixture and the fat contained in the egg yolks.

So basically not the best idea if you are trying to be “good” or watch what you eat, but it is so tempting, so delicious and versatile… it is good both warm and cold, can be stored in the fridge for days!

As I normally do, I have looked for substitutions that will not change the flavour much but they will make a huge impact on the nutritional count.

You can actually try these easy swaps when cooking pretty much anything!

Cream –> 0% fat greek style yogurt

Eggs –> egg whites (4 eggs per recipe? 1 egg and 3 egg whites will do just fine)

If you would really keep the crust on this you could try to make it with wholegrain spelt flour, almond flour or coconut flour, chick pea flour… or a mixture of them.

This recipe is dead simple, perfect party pleaser if you are going to a BBQ or a dinner party, it is like a giant egg muffin really 😉

The recipe is low fat and very high protein and has very low carb content.

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Ingredients (serves 5)

4 eggs

200 ml egg whites

3 leeks

1 tsp of butter/vegetable oil

120 grams of soft goat’s cheese or vegan equivalent

1 tbsp of parmesan cheese

170 grams of fat free greek style yogurt

Salt & Pepper

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How to…

In a pan, melt the butter or oil and cook the leeks, washed and chopped julienne style (this is in 1/4 cm wide rings) until they are soft and cooked throughout.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, the egg whites and the yogurt. Spray a round over proof container with olive oil and pour over the egg mixture. Add the cooked leeks spreading evenly over the surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Crumbling the goat’s cheese with your fingers, place all over the quiche, and then sprinkle with with parmesan.

Cook in the oven at 180/200 degrees celsius for about 35 to 40 minutes, then turn off the over and let it cool inside for another 10 minutes inside the oven.

Let it rest for another 10 minutes on a rack before serving with your favourite salad or veggies.

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150 Calorie Low Carb Burrito

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

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

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

Ingredients (for one):

100 ml. egg whites

1 tbsp oat bran

A pinch of oregano

A slice of parma/serrano ham

1/4 avocado, sliced

1/2 small tomato

2 jalapeño peppers

fresh coriander

spring onion

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

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

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

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

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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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Meatless Monday & Breakfast

There is a subject that keeps coming up in conversation with friends, the decision of some people of going meatless and even further, with no animal products whatsoever in their diet and weather this is a good decision health/planet/happiness wise.

I wrote an extensive post on what i thought about it a while ago so I will go not into it again, I do think that there are many arguments to go both sides and the opinions are so diametrically opposed that it is very hard for one side to convince the other one.

There is a fact of life though that is non disputable and it is the excessive amount of meat and animal flesh that we consume nowadays in the western world, which due to extensive farming and some morally questionable actions has now become affordable for everyone and something that before was a more scarce consumption is now the norm.

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This has lead to some very serious health issues in our society and some even more serious issues for our planet. I know the idea of going vegetarian or vegan is for many an absolute deal breaker for many and i do not advocate for it myself, but i do firmly believe in reducing the consumption of meat to what it was when farming was sustaible, in a conscious effort to reduce the impact on the planet and on our health. That is the reason why i think that meatless Monday is a great idea!

Why??

  1. You start your week making a conscious effort to improve or innovate in the kitchen, making dishes that you would not normally make
  2. Thinking actually makes us aware, and when we are aware of our decisions and they are not the heat of the moment, they are better for us. Nobody actually thinks tomorrow for my Meatless Monday I am going to make myself something really unhealthy full of butter and cream.
  3. Sets you off to a good start! And when someone invests some time in themselves and in their health and wellbeing, they are more likely to stick to it for the rest of the week.
  4. Your diet becomes more varied. You can substitute meat with products that you wouldnt normally eat! Chick peas, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, you can make anything out of vegetable protein sources
  5. These foods are generally high in fibre and lower in fat and have no cholesterol so they are very good for you.
  6. The planet will smile. Hippie as it may sounds, you going one day a week without meat will decrease the demand, if we all did it, the demand would decrease and we would not have the need to destroy forests and crops to feed cows that are being mistreated in a high production farm. Yes my friends, not many cows live happily in the mountains and fields eating grass and then being used for meat, the vast majority of the meat we consume comes from farms that would you very sad if you would see them.

Dont know where to start?? No worries, I am here to help.

Breakfast: Cononut Vanilla Oat Bran with berry compote

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In a pan, bring 250 ml of coconut milk (unsweetened) to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of Oat Bran and a few drops of vanilla essence and sweetener to your taste. Put it in a bowl and sprinkle with raw cocoa powder, matcha tea powder, sliced almonds and some berry compote. I make my own by cooking frozen summer berries in 1/2 cup of water with the juice of half a lemon and adding sucralose at the end.

This is high in fibre and low burning energy and it is very sweet and delicious due to the coconut milk.

Lunch: a big bowl of salad, lettuce, spinach… with 1/2 a ripe avocado, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa or lentils , spring onions, chopped tomato, and a tbsp of nuts on top (with no sugar or additives) penauts, walnuts, pine nuts… and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice.

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Snack: a piece of toast with peanut butter, or an apple with peanut butter, or a piece of fruit with a glass of coconut or soy milk with unsweetened cocoa.

Dinner: butternut squash soup and salad with chick peas.

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It is actually not that difficult and it can do wonders for your good intentions! Let me know if you try it and how you get on!