Thursday, June 7, 2012

Morning Berry Smoothie

I’ve been experimenting with smoothies for a few months now, but until now I’ve never remembered to scribble down what I put in the blender. My smoothies typically start with a handful of fruit, some vegetables or green juice followed, rice milk or coconut milk and maybe some whole oats, chia seeds or flax meal. I typically make dairy free smoothies. Here’s one with high antioxidants, I whizzed up just before work this morning. If you need an extra boost add a little matcha green tea powder to this recipe.

Nutritional Content: Per serving (250g) there are 347 calories. This smoothie set’s you up with wholesome carbs, protein as well as high amounts of vitamin A, manganese and dietary fiber for the day.

⅔ cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
2 tablespoons of carrot pulp (leftover juicer pulp) or 1 grated carrot
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1-2 teaspoons of honey (to taste)
1 cup rice milk (or your choice of alternative milk)
½ cup filtered water
A pinch of cinnamon
Blend all ingredients well (15-20 seconds, should do the trick) and serve in a highball with a smoothie straw.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Root Vegetable Crisps

If you’re looking for a healthy alternative snack, this is the perfect low cost solution.  Eat them as they are or serve alongside a hearty meal to bring a sweet crunch to the dish. This snack is very easy to make.
Nutritional Content: Per serving (35g) there are 56 calories. These crisps are anti-inflammatory with very low in cholesterol and are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin C2 and an excellence source in vitamin A.

2 large organic carrots
2 large organic parsnips
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots from one side in a long sweeping motion. Make sure to put a little extra pressure on when peeling. This should create a long strip, tear this in half and continue peeling the carrot on the same side, as you approach the center, take advantage of creating larger strips. Repeat this with the parsnips. You may have some of the vegetable  leftover because is not easy to peel any longer. Reserve these parts for use in other recipes. Prepare two non-stick baking trays by drizzling a tablespoon each of the olive oil and evenly coating the trays with a pastry brush (or using your hands) divide the vegetable strips in half and carefully mix the oil into the strips on each tray. Sprinkle with a half teaspoon of salt for each tray. When ready, bake the vegetable strips on high heat 450°F for 10 minutes. Check the crisps, then mix and turn them over. Now check every 5 minutes, they will be ready when crisp to touch and turning golden in colour. These crisps will cook at different times so make sure you pick out the ones that are already cooked and crisp. Eat right away. To preserve texture make sure they are sealed in an air tight container or zip-lock bag. If they go a little soft they can be refreshed in a warm oven for 2 minutes.

Eggplant & Banana Coconut Curry

I’ve been a little late on posting.. this is a April 2012 challenge: Make your own recipe. The task was to come up with an interesting and tasty meal which incorporated a selection of fruit, vegetables and condiments.  The ingredients I used in this recipe were Eggplant (aubergine), Banana and Balsamic Vinegar.

This recipe is not the healthiest or best option on those trying to avoid inflammatory foods; however it is very good for a treat. This recipe was created with my limited knowledge of Thai cooking and is a simple yet filling dish. Enjoy.
Nutritional Content: Per serving (395g) there are 447 calories. Although very high in saturated fat, it has low cholesterol.  The curry provides a good source of manganese. The dish also contains a broad spectrum of amino acids, meaning it is well balanced in protein content.

2 Italian eggplants (Italian eggplants typically smaller in size) or 5 cups chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 large white onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, freshly pressed or finely diced
1½ inch piece of fresh ginger
1 stick of lemongrass, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried chili or chili powder
2 bay leaves (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 pinch cinnamon
1 tablespoon safflower oil  (or groundnut oil)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of agave nectar (or honey)
2 ripe bananas, thickly sliced
1 handful of sugar snap peas
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
1 cup filtered water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pan,  lightly fry the eggplants in a little oil to brown the skins. Set the fried eggplants aside.  In the same pan, heat the remainder oil and add the onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili, cumin stir for 2 minutes, add the tablespoon of vinegar as well as the fried eggplant.  Next ass the coconut milk, agave nectar, bay leaves  and snap peas. Cover the pot and set heat to low. After 10 minutes, check consistency and adjust with water and season to taste and add cinnamon. Stir in the banana slices and chopped cilantro until the bananas are heated through. Serve with fresh Thai jasmine or brown rice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flax & Sesame Crackers

Here is a great recipe I came up with when trying to figure out what to do with juicer pulp! Very easy to make and extremely nutritious. This gluten-free, vegan, cracker is perfect for snacking on and is also highly anti-inflammatory.

Nutritional Content:  These crackers are a good source of dietary fiber, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and a great source of omega-3 oils. There are 144 calories per serving (4 crackers).

½ cup ground flax-seed meal 
1 cup carrot juicer pulp (optional)
¾ cup filtered water (reduce amount slightly if not using carrot pulp)
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
¾ teaspoon salt
Coconut oil for greasing (or olive oil) 

Makes 20 crackers

Notes about the ingredients: Flax seed meal can be found at health food stores and some supermarkets (I use Bob's Red Mill brand). If you cannot find it ground, you can do this yourself using a food processor or Stone mortar and pestle. Carrot pulp can actually be substituted with any vegetable juicer pulp, bearing in mind the flavor will change, carrot gives this cracker a slightly sweet edge.

Pre-heat the oven to 300°F. In a bowl, combine the flax seed meal, carrot pulp, water, sesame and salt together to form a sticky dough, mix well. Lightly grease a baking sheet with the coconut oil, then spread the dough out, making sure it is level, the thickness I use is about 3-4mm, any thicker it may need longer in the oven. Before baking, score out 20 cracker squares with a knife so it's easier to break. Bake for 25 minutes. Let dry out for 1 hour in the oven, heat turned off. Enjoy with hummus, guacamole or a selection of cheeses.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme

Although organ meats are not so common in modern cuisine; they are  highly valued for their nutrition and unique taste. Matt and I eat organ meat occasionally as a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. This pâté will mature and sweeten the longer it rests, I prefer the taste 3 days after making, use sparingly as it is high in cholesterol. This recipe is a slightly adapted version of Food Network’s Terrine De Foies de Volaille.

Nutritional Content: Per serving (44g) there are 110 calories. Although very high in cholesterol, the spread is a great source of protein, iron, selenium, multiple B vitamins (including B6 and B12) and  a source of zinc and copper.

220 grams free range organic chicken livers, cleaned well
½ cup of milk (or your choice of dairy free milk)
2 fresh shitake or chestnut mushrooms finely diced
4 tablespoons of organic ghee (clarified butter)
½ cup of chopped shallots
1 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon green peppercorns, drained (if using dried peppercorns soak in water for 30 minutes first)
3 bay leaves
¾ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons Congac or Brandy
Freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Notes about the ingredients:  Free Range organic chicken livers are lower in cholesterol and do not have the toxins which accumulate in conventionally raised chickens fed with growth hormones. They are extremely nutritious. Learn more here. Ghee is virtually lactose and casein free due to the milk solids being removed, see how to make ghee at home.

In a bowl, soak the livers in the milk for 2 hour with the bay leaves. Drain well when ready, saving the bay leaves. In a large frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee over medium-high heat, add the shallots and cook until soft for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chicken livers, diced mushrooms,  half of the peppercorns, the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until the livers are well browned on the outside and still pinkish and tender on the inside. Add the Cognac or Brandy and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, making sure the livers are still tender. Remove from the heat and let cool, discard the bay leaves. Puree the mix in a food processor whilst adding the remaining ghee. Adjust seasoning to taste and process well. Pack the pâté into ramekins, small pots or tins and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Serve with bread, gluten free crackers or corn chips. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Homemade Tomato Marinara Sauce

This is a very simple recipe for a classic Italian tomato sauce. The key is in the quality of the tomatoes and the slow cook method, brings out the natural sweetness of the onions and tomatoes. No need for added sugar. Use this for all tomato pasta dishes and pizza. It beats canned Italian sauces any day. This can take up to 2 and a half hours to prepare so make in advance and use throughout the week.

Nutritional content: This recipe has a low glycemic load however tomatoes aren’t anti-inflammatory so I currently minimise the amount of dishes with tomatoes. It is low in cholesterol, a good source in Vitamin A and a very good source of vitamin C. Approximately 155 calories per portion.
8 medium to large fresh tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon mixed Italian dried herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme etc.)
1 teaspoon salt
Salt and black pepper to taste
 (makes about 5 portions)

Preparing Fresh Tomatoes
The tomatoes will need to be de-skinned and de-seeded before cooking. The easiest way to do this is to core the tomatoes and heat shock them. To do this cut a cross at the base of each tomato before soaking them in cold water. Prepare a boiling pot of water, pick out the cold tomatoes and drop them into the boiling pot, within 30 seconds you should see their skins loosen. Remove them from the hot water and hand peel the tomatoes. Separate the seeds and reserve them in a separate bowl. Once the tomatoes are chopped, press the juice of the discarded seeded parts with  a sieve and add the juice to chopped tomatoes.

For the Sauce
To make the sauce, heat a large pan over medium–low heat and slowly cook the chopped onions in the olive oil. Stir occasionally and cook until starting to brown, this will take about 10 to 15 minutes. When ready, add the chopped tomatoes, juice and crushed garlic to the pan. Increase the heat to medium for a few minutes, once starting to simmer set the heat to low. Add the salt and dried herbs and let simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally. If you would like to use fresh herbs add them near the end. Season to taste.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Choco-Beet Cupcakes

A month ago Matt and I started on an anti-inflammatory diet in the hope we’d be able to relieve his CFS symptoms nutritionally. The diet eliminates refined sugars of all kind. Much of the sugar’s we’ve been consuming come from root vegetables and fruit alone. I’ve decided to pick up the mixing bowl for the first time with this sugar restriction... what I came up with is a deliciously moist, healthy, gluten-free, lactose and casein-free, sugar-free recipe for chocolate cup cakes.

Nutritional content: Approx 130 calories per cupcake (with icing), they are good source of Vitamin A and very good source of anti-oxidant, Manganese with only 3 grams of sugar per cake.

For the Cake
6 tablespoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 tablespoon gluttonous rice flour (sweet rice)
1 teaspoon xanthium gum (optional, provides a better texture)
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 tablespoons organic ghee (clarified butter)
1½ tablespoon of walnut oil
1½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
10 drops liquid stevia
2 free range eggs
½ cup raw beets (finely grated or food processed)
½ cup of raw finely grated carrot (1 medium carrot)
¾ cup filtered water (or as needed)

Vegan Chocolate Icing
¾ cups of soy powder (available in natural/organic food stores)
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or vegetable spread)
5 drops of stevia
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 drops vanilla extract
Water as needed
A small handful of raw cocoa nibs to decorate (optional)

Notes about the ingredients: I use organic ingredients where possible. I feel this is a necessity for ghee and eggs as organic free range produce has better nutritional content  (i.e more omega-3 oils). Ghee is virtually lactose and casein free due to the milk solids being removed from the butter. It is a great alternative to butter for those with dairy allergies, if you cannot find ghee it is easy to make. The beets and carrots are required to provide sweetness and more importantly, structure in the cake where sugar is not present. Agave is a low glycemic index alternative fructose sweetener and is a common raw vegan substitute for sugar and honey. Stevia is a herb with very sweet tasting leaves. It's a natural, calorie-free sweetener which can be purchased in powdered or liquid form, we prefer the liquid in this kitchen!

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F, and ready the muffin tin with cupcake cases. Start by mixing the ghee and oil until well blended.  Stir in the stevia drops, agave and vanilla extract. Sift in the cocoa powder, add the processed beets, carrots, eggs and mix very well. Next, sift in the flours including the baking powder (reserve the baking soda for later). After combining, add the water slowly to create a more fluid batter. Lastly, in a separate bowl, pour the apple cider vinegar with the baking soda so that it fizzes up. Carefully fold this into the cake mix making sure not to stir too much. When ready, spoon the batter into the baking tin. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Leave out on wire racks to cool.

For the icing, mix the coconut oil well until smooth, add the vanilla extract, stevia and sifted cocoa powder mix in the soy powder and slowly add water until a desired consistency is reached. Use when cakes have cooled and finish with cocoa nibs.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Halo Halo

For those unfamiliar with the dish, Halo Halo is an extremely delicious refreshing filipino dessert which is much loved, especially on a hot and humid day. There are so many variations to this recipe that every halo halo experience is difference. However a few standard flavours and textures are always present in this dessert: crushed ice, evaporated milk, ube, beans, fruit, coconut and ice cream. Here's my late night sundae style variation, serves 2.

1 cup crushed ice
½ cup ube jam (see my Ube Jam post)
2 scoops mango ice cream (this can be difficult to find as most places sell mango sorbet, Haagen-Dazs does a very good one if you can get your hands on it)
⅔ cup jackfruit slices (canned jackfruit, drained and sliced)
2 tablespoons of macapuno slices (young coconut flesh, this can be bought in jars)
2 teaspoons of aduki beans (ready to eat, you may also use unflavoured kidney beans)
½ cup of  agar agar jelly peices (I used a great recipe I found here which I cubed, this is optional)
2 tablespoons of evaporated milk

Prepare two sundae style glasses or small bowls. Spoon a layer of ube jam, followed by beans and macapuno in each glass. Cover entirely with a layer of ice and repeat, adding in jackfruit too. Cover this with ice once again and continue assembling the two glasses until full making sure the top level is ice. Spoon the evaporated milk on top. Now add the scoop of mango ice cream the rest of the jackfruit, macapuno and agar agar cubes.

Ube Jam (Purple Sweet Potato)

I was excited to find frozen packs of grated ube (purple sweet potato/yam) in the asian store recently. I immediately thought of Ube ice-cream and the ultimate icy filipino dessert Halo Halo. It's a unique flavor of eastern Asia you cant seem to find readily in the west. After some searching online I came across a recipe for Ube Jam on Filipino Foods Recipe . This jam seems pretty versatile, so I decided to make a ½ batch with Halo Halo in mind.

500g  ube (purple yam)
½ can of evaporated milk
½ can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup of butter or margarine
1 drop of vanilla extract (optional)

Firstly, boil the ube (unpeeled) in water for approximately 30 minutes, drain and cool. Peel the yam and finely grate. In a large pan on medium heat, melt the butter, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Add the grated ube yam and turn the heat down to low. Keep on mixing the ingredients for about 30 minutes or until sticky and a bit dry (but still moist) This can be tiresome to do but it is necessary to ensure a good consistency. The flavour and colour will deepen as it cooks. Add the evaporated milk and continue to mix for another 15 minutes. Let cool  by placing the jam on a large platter.

I separated the mixture into 3 batches and saved a couple in the freezer. Ideas for ube jam: use in cake batter to make a light ube flavored lilac cake, mix with cream and sugar to make homemade ube ice cream. Add confectioners sugar to the mix to create ube icing, a spoonful of ube jam blended with coconut water for a great bubble tea! base!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

These are healthy gluten free, vegan and very easy to make. Whenever we end up in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant we never fail to order these. I think the key ingredient for authenticity is thai basil leaves. I've omitted the vermicelli rice noodles in this version. The dried rice paper sheets can be found in asian supermarkets.

For the spring rolls:
1 pack of dried rice paper sheets
2 handfuls of lettuce leaves (Romaine is recommended for it's crunch)
3 medium sized carrots, sliced thin, julienne-style
120g of firm Tofu, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
1 small bunch of thai basil

Prepare the filling ingredients ahead of time and set to one side of the work area. Make sure there is a clean surface, ideally a large chopping board, to roll the spring rolls. Pour some hot water (not boiling) into a large mixing bowl or container large enough to soak the rice paper. Gently soak the rice paper one at a time, it may take between 5 seconds and 15 seconds to soften completely but make sure the paper is no longer stiff.

Take the softened rice paper and carefully lay out on work surface. Place lettuce, tofu, carrots and thai basil  down the middle of the paper. carefully wrap the rice paper and roll tightly to finish the roll. Please note that the rice paper is fragile and will end up breaking if the wrap is forced too tightly, however it is necessary to have some level of tightness otherwise it will come apart.

Repeat this until the filling is used up and save the leftover rice paper. Cut each roll with a sharp knife into three sections. This make approximately 8 rolls. Serve these with either sweet chilli sauce or Peanut dipping sauce.

For the peanut dipping sauce:
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon of gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
3 cloves, finely ground

Combine all the ingredients above to create the sauce, it's similar to satay and works well with fresh spring rolls.

Home made sweet chilli sauce:
 Juice of 1 lime
¼ rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of white sugar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons of very finely diced red chilli or chilli paste (adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh corriander (optional)

Mix all ingredients well until sugar has fully dissolved and serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creamy Corn Chowder

This is my very own variation of New England style corn chowder. It's sweet delicate and very filling soup, enjoy with salted crackers of fresh bread. I made this using a home mix of gluten free flour, feel free to use wheat flour.

1 can (15 oz) sweet corn kernals (drain ⅓ of the water)
½ White onion, diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced (save the celery leaves if you have any) 
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1½ cups of vegetable broth
¾ cup of heavy cream
¼ cup of milk

To thicken (optional, add to desired consistency): 
2 tablespoons of gluten free flour
1 tablespoon of water 

To garnish:
Finely chopped celery leaves and fresh parsley
Lightly fry the onions and garlic for 2 minutes in olive oil. Add salt and pepper and the can or corn with the leftover water from the can and vegetable broth and let simmer on medium for 5 minutes. Add cream, milk and celery and gently stir, simmer for a further minute. At this point you can judge the consistency of the soup. Some prefer thicker chowders, gradually add the thicken until you reach a good consistency. Sprinkle herbs and serve. (Serves 3) 

Black Bean Tamales

My first Daring Cook's Challenge January 2012 from Mexican Tamales! I fist had these only a few months ago and had never heard of them before I moved to the US. Great as a starter, snack or for breakfast and healthy too.

Approximately 15-16 dried corn husks, soaked with hot water and left overnight.

For the filling:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomato with green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon garlic salt ( I substituted this with 2 cloves fresh minced garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly chopped corriander (optional - my own addition to the recipe)
For the tamale dough:
4 cups masa flour (corn tortilla mix)
3 cups vegetable broth
½ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well, set aside. To make the masa dough. Combine the olive oil, salt and masa mix in the bowl and beat until combined (I always beat by hand, but an electric mixer is recommended). Gradually add 2 cups of vegetable broth to the mix. If the mixture seems to dry (you can taste it for moistness at this point) add more broth 2 tablespoons at a time. The mixture should be firm enough not to crumble too much but not too sticky.

To prepare the tamales, you will need to wrap them in the corn husks and secure them with corn husk strips. To make the strips, take 2 corn husks and tear them into a ¼ inch wide strips. Keep the wrappers soaked to avoid them drying out. Lay one corn husk on the worktop or chopping board and place a heaped tablespoon of masa dough on the husk, press out into a square shape leaving at least 2-3 inches of husk at the bottom. Now carefully spoon the filling down the centre line of the masa dough square. Carefully fold the dough and wrap. Make sure the dough is pressed into the other side and the corn husk is wrapped tight. fold the lower end of the husk upwards and secure with a husk strip and repeat.

When ready to steam, use a large pan and that the tamale's are sat upright in the steamer, if there is space you may want to fill up with aluminum balls to keep them upright. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk. Unwrap and enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kale and Feta Penne

I found this recipe whilst searching for healthy kale dishes. I've modified the original recipe (link) to give it a more Mediterranean flavour. This dish would go perfectly with a side of black olives. 

4 cups of brown rice pasta (or whole wheat pasta)
6 cups of fresh green kale, roughly chopped
1.25 cups of feta cheese, crumbled
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small lemon

Cook the pasta in a large pan as per instruction but do not add any salt or oil. Meanwhile lightly fry the sliced garlic in the olive oil on low heat until soft (approx 3-5 minutes). Drain the pasta and return to pan. Slowly mix in the kale with the pasta, the heat will wilt the kale and reduce the size and add the garlic and oil. Add the feta and combine well. At this point freshly grate the rind of a lemon into the pot, I'd probably use a third of a small lemon however adjust to taste with salt and black pepper. You may wish to add a few drops of lemon juice before serving.

Serve either warm or at room temperature.