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.

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Bon appetit

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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