Feta cheese alternative

I have been searching for a dairy free feta cheese recipe for ages. Finally, I made one today and it tastes well, pretty much like the real thing. So I am very happy to be sharing this with you.

Every since I was a little kid, I couldn’t eat or tolerate dairy very well. I learned to love sorbet’s instead of ice cream. I guess it’s not a bad thing, since there is so much information out there about the negatives of dairy products. Although the dairy industry will disagree – they only see the positives when it comes to consumption – which is fair enough. But when it comes to the health of my family, I will make my own decisions, not purely on taste.

So it’s taken me ages to get rid of the ‘chicken skin’ look to disappear from the back of my arms, face and neck; the hubby gets really bad sinusitis from dairy, so we very rarely do consume it. If, we do eat it, I avoid yellow cheese and opt for the white, cultured cheeses and organic if possible.

I do want to get into the habit of making my own from scratch, and a nut based one – much more fibre content (I’m all about fibre). My 2 year old, doesn’t have any allergies, thankfully, so I’m training her tastebuds for non-dairy options.

Anyway this recipe is easy to form into cubes or balls, which could then be drenched with a beautiful and delicious extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh thyme, rosemary etc. I’d bake it just to make a slight crust, so it holds its shape easier. I am making a log version, so I can slice it and add to salads or use to top off bakes and casseroles etc. This feta, crumbles like a ‘Greek’ style type so it’s a perfect addition to a salad. Bake it for longer and you get a thicker crust which makes it easier to slice to top your sandwiches with.

Please give this a go, I hope you enjoy…

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1½ tsp Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt
  • 125mL (½ cup) olive oil
  • 100mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Method

  1. Cover the almonds with filtered water, and leave overnight. The next day, I blanch the almonds and peel the skin off. This is optional – blanched almonds gives the feta a white colour with no specks.
  2. Place almonds and salt into TM bowl and grind speed 9-10, until it’s finely ground. 12-15 seconds. I usually scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and grind down again.
  3. Add the garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, mix till well combined, speed 6-7 for a few seconds. Decrease speed to 4 and in a steady stream, add the olive oil. Once oil is incorporated, increase speed to 9 for a final mix – to ensure smooth consistency is reached (as seen in photo).  
  4. Optional – Sprinkle a baking sheet of paper (big enough to fit into a loaf tin) with your favourite herbs and spices. I used Italian herbs and freshly cracked black pepper.
  5. Empty the contents of the TM bowl onto the baking sheet and form into a log – I use the baking sheet to roll it out – this way my hands stay clean and all the sides get covered with the herbs and spices.
  6. Place into loaf tin and bake in oven at 130°C for 35 minutes. Wait until cheese is cool before slicing it.

bon appetit

 


 

Conventional Method

  1. Cover the almonds with filtered water, and leave overnight. The next day, I blanch the almonds and peel the skin off. This is optional – blanched almonds gives the feta a white colour with no specks.
  2. Place blanched almonds into a food processor and grind down, till very fine.
  3. After the initial grind, add the remaining ingredients and process. Every now and then scrape the sides of the bowl and continue to process. When you are happy with the consistency, as seen in the photo, it will be easy to form into a log, cubes or balls.
  4. Optional – Sprinkle a baking sheet of paper (big enough to fit into a loaf tin) with your favourite herbs and spices. I used Italian herbs and freshly cracked black pepper.
  5. Place cheese onto the baking sheet and form into a log – I use the baking sheet to roll it out – this way my hands stay clean and all the sides get covered with the herbs and spices.
  6. Place into loaf tin and bake in oven at 130°C for 35 minutes. Wait until cheese is cool before slicing it.

Here’s an idea for what to do with leftover veggies

Today I decided to make a vegetable tart for dinner. I usually like to start cooking, well at least prepare, for dinner in the morning, just after breakfast. At this time, my toddler is able to keep herself occupied, play with her toys or do what ever she feels like doing. Now, if I would start prepping for dinner in the late afternoon, like I used to when it was just my husband and I, we would be eating dinner around 9o’clock pm. In the afternoons, my toddler just wants to hang out with me. And by hang out with me, means to sit, play and read with her, basically this is our chill session. No food preparation allowed full stop.

I had bits and pieces of left over veggies from the week… 1 lonely roasted sweet potato, 1/4 of a head of cauliflower, a few left over sprigs of parsley, coriander and dill. Throw in some caramelised onion, some garlic and heaps of cumin and there’s your perfect base for a tart – not including the tart shell.

I am all about adding nutrient dense herbs, spices and foods to my meals. I want to get the most bang for my nutritional buck, so to speak. Herbs are so full of antioxidants, fibre and minerals that it’s crazy NOT to use them. And the flavour they add is incomparable! I am also very passionate about fibre – the indigestible part of plant foods.

Fibre is an essential component when it comes to eating healthy. I mean it helps us to be happy, regular humans (by regular I mean, no constipation, going to the toilet at least 2 times a day); I want my toddler to be happy, my husband to be happy (makes my life easier), it also helps with blood sugar control, heart health, weight management, glowing skin just to name a few positives. And the average Joe doesn’t even meet the recommended daily intake of fibre, based on the standard Australian diet. No wonder there’s so many angry people out there 😉

I am sure you are aware that high fibre foods are your fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. I avoid most grains so I thought to go for a tart pastry made out of legumes, chickpeas to be specific. I feel good after chickpeas and they do pump up the fibre (and nutritional) content in this recipe without making the dough very dense and heavy in comparison to using a wholemeal flour. I buy canned organic chickpeas, so 1 tin went into the tart pastry. It adds a lovely nutty flavour and keeps the pastry soft and light.FullSizeRender 2

Anyway I hope you try this recipe, at least the pastry – the filling can be what ever you like, which ever herbs and veggies you have just lying around in your fridge. Zucchini, broccoli, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, coriander etc.

Please enjoy…

Pastry ingredients

  • 1 can organic chickpeas
  • 40g brown rice flour
  • 2 heaped tablespoons arrowroot or tapioca flour
  • ½ teaspoon gf baking powder
  • 30g olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt

What do I do next…

  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 180ºC.
  2. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Place all ingredients into TM bowl and process 5-10 seconds, speed 6 until chickpeas are a smooth consistency. Then knead for 1 minute.
  4. Press dough evenly into the tin, base and sides, I like to use my hands but the back of a spoon is also fine to use.
  5. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. No longer otherwise pastry may begin to crack.

Filling ingredientsFullSizeRender

  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced lengthways
  • 1 garlic, crushed
  • 1 small roasted sweet potato, cubed
  • ¼ head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • ½-1 teaspoon Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • finely chopped herbs of choice: I used parsley, coriander and dill
  • 2-3 organic or free range eggs
  • 2 big tablespoons organic sour cream

Method

  1. Over low-medium heat place the olive oil, cumin, onion and garlic in a fry pan, sprinkle with onion with some salt – this helps to release the onion juices and soften faster. Sautè for 5-8 minutes, until onion starts to gently caramelise.
  2. Add the cauliflower to onions and cook a minute or two, just to take the rawness out of the cauliflower – it will continue to cook in the oven. Turn off heat.
  3. Add the chopped herbs and mix until well combined.
  4. Scatter the sweet potato over the pastry base followed by the herb mixture.
  5. Whisk the eggs together with sour cream, salt and pepper; pour over the filling into the pastry case.
  6. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until egg mixture is set.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before taking out of tin. To serve: Sprinkle with more herbs or parmesan cheese or drizzle olive oil and add a large serving of salad.

FullSizeRender 3

 

Bon appetit

Something sweet & healthy

Sugar. It’s a word that used to be sweet; but that isn’t the case these days. I mean, It’s been plastered all over the media these last few years telling us how bad it is especially for our health and all!

Luckily, I am not a sugar craving type of human being any more; give me a grain of salt, preferably Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt, any day. There are a few days where I just want something sweet, but I don’t want the common sucrose, table sugar. When I am hit with a craving such as this, I want something really rich and satisfying. I’d much rather have a lick of something decadent over constantly going back for more and more spoonfuls of a particular chocolate hazelnut spread that so many people are fond of.

I know sugar is addictive. Science has proven it. I was once addicted to it. Back in the day when I was a little kid, I’d go crazy looking for something sweet. Searching high and low, in my mum and dad’s wardrobe (mum usually hid it there, thinking we’d never find it, but we always did – they obviously never learned from their mistakes ;P). If however, there was a box of ‘roses’ shortage, there’d always be a can of condensed milk in the pantry. To this day, I don’t know how I could smash a good quarter of it, right then and there! Ewww!!

Because I have an almost two year old, little toddlers are more inclined to pick something sweet. I’m always thinking of what to make, meals and snacks, that pack a nutritional punch. It’s almost winter here, and this last week, we both have been fighting a head cold of some sort. Oranges are in season, and how good is it they are filled with heaps of immune boosting nutrients? We’ve got vitamin C, bioflavonoids, beta-carotene, lutein, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and a bit of calcium just to name a few.

My toddler has not had the best appetite over the last few days due to being a little under the weather. I know she’s fine, but being a mum, you want your child to eat (I’m sure this resonates with the maternal people). We are blessed in Australia, because we have access to such delicious fruit, and by fruit I mean the humble AVO! Avocados are nutrition powerhouses, and my little one, does NOT like them! So, what do I do? Hide it in her food. Mash it up with banana, sweet potatoes/potatoes, in her porridge, smoothies and in ‘desserts’.

If you haven’t tried a chocolate avocado mousse, I know it sounds weird, but let me tell you, it’s so rich and creamy, so satisfying and it doesn’t leave you feeling heavy, when you compare it to a dairy milk version; please give this ago. Sweet treats are an occasional food. They contain sugar, be it glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, whatever. Sugar is still sugar – just choose a better option. I always opt for a sweetener that is less processed than sucrose aka common table sugar, so I use sweeter fruits like ripe bananas, apples, pears, oranges, figs, prunes, dates. I also like molasses (although I have to be in the mood for this one), coconut sugar, pure maple syrup and honey.

Anyway here’s my recipe. Please enjoy.

Vegan Choc Orange Mousse IMG_5390

perfect portion for 2

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of raw cashew nuts
  • a good pinch of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
  • 3 tsp – 3 tbsp raw cacao, according to taste
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut – optional
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 oranges, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, deseeded and peeled

Method

  1. Place cashews, salt, sugar, coconut and cacao into TM bowl and grind 10 seconds, speed 10, until the cashews are ground up. Scrap sides and bottom of TM bowl to loosen, as nuts can turn into butter and if they are stuck to the walls of the bowl they won’t incorporate nicely into the mousse.
  2. Add avocado and oranges and blitz for up to 1 minute, speed 10. or until your desired consistency has been achieved. Scrape down sides every now and then.
  3. Spoon into glasses and place in the fridge. Or not. Just eat the mousse, enjoy 😉

IMG_5387

Bon appetit


Conventional method

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth in consistency – about 5 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to scrape sides.
  2. When nice and smooth, spoon mousse into glasses or bowls and either eat straight away, or if you can wait, pop them in the fridge for a few hours.

Healthy eating is easy. Or is it??

Creating healthy habits takes time, especially when it comes to healthy eating. I found that it all comes down to being organised. In the early days as a first time mum, I thought that I’d have enough energy to just do normal house duties, prepare lunches and dinners for my husband and I, get back to my exercising, blah, blah, blah. I did make a few lasagna’s, meatballs and other meals that I put in my freezer during my last trimester, ready for when time was going to be short. Oh man, was that an eye opening experience! How much energy gets zapped when you are breastfeeding? And all those sleepless nights or very little sleep? I was so glad that I did have frozen meals ready for consumption! But you can imagine how fast they dwindled away.

So now, I really like preparing meals that are healthy but really fast and easy to make. This does require getting organised, especially in the kitchen, including the pantry, fridge and freezer.

First, clear clutter off bench tops. Have a clean slate to begin with. For me, it’s less chaotic, which helps me move around the kitchen faster and think clearer too.
Pantry needs to be stocked with basic staples to help prepare quick meals. For example: dried quinoa, dried apricots, canned chickpeas and vegetable stock are perfect ingredients to make a Moroccan-style tagine in 30 minutes, easy.
Get ahead whenever possible. If you’re into smoothies each morning, pre-cut and clean vegetables and fruits and place in air tight containers in the fridge; this makes mornings that little bit easier, you just dump the ingredients into the blender.
Another way to get ahead is to double up on recipes. You can fridge or freeze the second batch; all you have to do is reheat or steam during the week for a meal in minutes. Great recipes include: soups, stews, beans or even wholegrains that take longer to cook, like barley.
Make meals simple. Eggs, scrambled with tossed greens, sliced avocado and grated raw carrots is perfectly acceptable, yummy and super fast. You get my drift.

If you want to actually START getting into creating healthy eating habits, just remember that consistency is the key. It’s the little things that you do everyday that matter the most. Focus on positive changes; don’t beat yourself up for all that you believe you do wrong in your diet. Focus on ‘adding’ good foods to your meals over ‘foods to avoid’. As humans, if something gets taken away from us, that’s all we think about. We just don’t do well with voids. If we feel a void, that’s when our motivation drops. So this is why we need to shift our focus onto addition; you will not only start to feel good about the healthy changes you are implementing, you’ll be further inspired to do more positive changes and in turn, less of the negative.

On days when I don’t have a lot of time, for example when it’s my turn to have mother’s group at my place, I think up of meals that are quick to prepare. I am going to share today a ricotta gnocchi recipe and my mushroom gravy sauce. When you are starting to eat a little bit more healthy for you and your family, you’re not going to swap all their favourite meals for healthy, weird tasting ones. What I suggest is to add healthy ingredients to favourite recipes. Add finely grated vegetables into bolognese; mix in wholegrain pasta into white pasta; add some quinoa into white rice – they cook the same time. Doing this over a few weeks or months will prepare tastebuds and create a new liking for your new, upgraded family recipes, without any fuss.

So in this case, I’ve opted for a ricotta gnocchi over potato gnocchi a). I prefer ricotta gnocchi over potato gnocchi; b). it’s quicker to make – without having to boil or bake some potatoes in advance; c). I don’t really like potatoes – I’ve really got to be in the mood for them. If you can get your hands onto organic ricotta (or organic dairy in general), it’s always a bonus.  You can even make organic ricotta if you buy some organic milk, that’s a recipe for another time.

I don’t do well on wheat at all, but I have found that I can have a few gluten containing grains a few times a week. I used spelt flour instead – I’m yet to experiment with almond meal, but I’m afraid it won’t have the same consistency as smooth, ricotta gnocchi. Anyway I hope you will try this, please enjoy.

 

Ricotta Gnocchi perfectly serves 4ricotta gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 500g organic ricotta
  • 150g organic white spelt flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • a pinch or 2 freshly ground black pepper
  • 60g organic grated parmesan* – this is optional, but it does just add a beautiful flavour

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into the TM bowl and knead dough until it comes together. Ensure you don’t over work the dough otherwise it will be too dense. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  2. Turn out onto a non-stick silicon mat and divide dough into 4.
  3. Take 1 portion and roll it into a 1.5cm diameter log and using a pastry knife or spatula, cut into 2.5cm pieces. Lightly sprinkle with flour to prevent from sticking. Repeat this step with remaining portions. At this stage you can freeze gnocchi or cook straight away.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Gently place gnocchi into boiling water. When gnocchi is cooked, they float to the top, count to five and take them out with a slotted spoon.

At this stage you can add what ever sauce, pesto, roasted veggies – like pumpkin etc. or place into a frying pan with a little olive oil. I usually reheat the gnocchi the next day on a fry pan, get a little colour on them; that is, if there are any left overs!

My favourite way of serving ricotta gnocchi is in a beautiful mushroom gravy. Here’s my gravy recipe.

Mushroom Gravygnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 20g butter or olive oil
  • 250g mushroom, sliced, you can use a mixture of your favourite varieties Autumn is here so this means pine mushrooms are in season
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 450g chicken stock
  • 100g cream
  • 2-3 teaspoons arrowroot or corn flour
  • ½ bunch continental parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½-1 lemon, juiced

Method

  1.  Place parsley in TM bowl and chop 3-5 seconds, speed 6 and set aside.
  2. Place onion and garlic into TM bowl and chop, 3-5 seconds, speed 7; scrape down sides with spatula.
  3. Add oil or butter and sauté 5 minutes, varoma, speed 1.5.
  4. Next add to TM bowl, mushrooms, bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper and cook 12 minutes, 100ºC, reverse, speed 1.
  5. Dissolve arrowroot into cream and add to TM bowl and continue cooking until sauce has thickened 3-5 minutes, 100ºC, reverse, speed 1.
  6. Add parsley in the last 30 seconds then add lemon juice to taste.ricotta gnocchi w

Bon appetit

Something about Nuts

Every now and then, I like to make my husband a vegetarian option for his sandwich fillers. Personally, if I would have the same sort of deli, cured, smoked meat in my sandwich everyday, I know I’d definitely get sick and tired of that filling pretty quickly. And not to mention, how ‘heavy’ or hard on my digestion it would be; don’t even get me started on what sort of ingredients/chemicals are in those ‘foods’ (if you can call it that). I actually never buy any of those sorts of meats anyhow.

I usually bake a lentil and brown rice loaf or a pumpkin seed and sunflower seed loaf, but this time, I just didn’t want to turn my oven on a). it takes ages for it to preheat; b). having the oven on will only make my kitchen hotter – I’m usually really hot as it is anyway and c). I usually over bake the loaves and they are a firm and dryish consistency, that’s why lots of mayonnaise or a slice of tomato really makes it yummy and easier to swallow.

I love steamed puddings. Why not make a savoury steamed nut pudding? I thought to myself. Nuts are packed full of nutrition, minerals in particular, good fats and protein, have heaps of fibre and therefore leave you feeling fuller for longer. I am sure that you’ve heard of activating nuts before. It is a good idea to ‘activate’ raw nuts. All you have to do is soak them over night in cool or room temperature water; drain off the water and rinse the nuts of the impurities – the enzymes have now been ‘activated’ and the enzyme inhibiting factors or anti-nutrients will now be ‘washed away’. This makes the nuts easy to digest, is easier on the liver and you absorb more nutrients this way. They do go off within a few days, so activate as many nuts as needed to prevent wastage. Or you can activate kilos of nuts at a time, dehydrate them and pop them back into the freezer ready to use anytime.

When making this pudding there is no need to dehydrate the nuts to make them crunchy again; however, if you want to make a nut butter, it is a good idea to dehydrate them.

So here is my creation…steam nut loaf

You can play around with whatever nuts or seeds you like. I like cashews as they give a creamy texture and walnuts as they make everything taste just that bit more savoury and not sweet. Use which ever herbs you prefer – the possibilities are endless 🙂

Steamed Nut Loaf (Pudding) Recipe

Ingredients
100g raw cashews
160g raw walnuts
130g stale bread (I use spelt sourdough)
3 eggs
260mL water
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp vegetable stock concentrate
30mL extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 a bunch parsley, including stalks, roughly chopped (conventional must be finely chopped)

Thermomix Method

Place cashews and walnuts into TM mixing bowl and grind 30 seconds on speed 9. Set aside.
Place roughly chopped parsley and stale bread into TM mixing bowl and chop 5-8 seconds, speed 7; scrape down sides.
Add remaining ingredients into TM mixing bowl and mix on speed 6, 15-20 seconds or until well combined.
Pour mixture into greased pudding basin and place a piece of baking paper over the top secured with a rubber band – I found that when I put the lid on the pudding dish the varoma lid did not close. Place pudding basin into varoma dish and put varoma lid on.
Without washing TM bowl, pour 1.2L of boiling water, straight from the kettle, into TM bowl; set the timer on for 50 minutes, varoma temperature, speed 2.5. The pudding is ready when the middle starts to rise. Test with a skewer if unsure- if it comes out clean, then it’s ready to be consumed.

steamed nut loafTip onto a plate, slice it up and I like to have it with a gravy or sauce, either a mushroom and parsley sauce or a homemade tomato based gravy.

It’s great as a sandwich filler with mustard, mayo and slices of tomato; or it’s a perfect Mock Roast Turkey for any festive celebrations.

 


 

Conventional Method:

Grind nuts in batches in a coffee grinder or blender. Place in large mixing bowl.
Finely dice the onion, finely chop the parsley and crush the garlic clove and place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Combine well and put mixture into a greased pudding basin and cover with lid. Place basin in a large pot and fill with boiling water till it reaches halfway up the basin. Place lid on pot and let steam for an hour and a half (maximum 2 hours). Don’t forget to keep topping up the water with more boiling water.


 

Bon appetit