Month: August 2013

Lentil & Portobello Burger with a Quick Apricot Chutney – GF

Lentil & mushroom burgerKiller circuits this morning, a murderous self inflicted session in the living room! There was no trainer yelling at me to man up and give him twenty more, it was just Russ and I and we were going for it! In all honesty, when it’s just me I swear I don’t work out as hard but when we join forces and workout together it’s like we just push each other that bit harder. There’s an unspoken ‘keep it going’, ‘don’t be a god damn wimp’ type pressure and it’s pretty effective! This is why I love working out with someone else, time flies and it’s way more fun. Needless to say today’s Saturday session was a fabulous full body workout, followed by amazing stove top coffee and quinoa granola! But this isn’t even about granola, that granola was good though. This is about burgers, vegetarian patties, healthy bun fillers, veggie sliders….I’m always on the endless quest to find a great burger.

The great lentil portobello burger.

Lentil & mushroom burger with apricot chutney

These lentil based beauties are bursting with rich umami flavours resulting from a hearty mix  of onion, garlic, mushrooms, parmesan, soy sauce and red wine. They have a rich, earthy, savoury taste and a pleasant texture which firms up nicely after a quick fry and a good grilling. There are so many options when it comes to plant based burgers but this is ideal for those looking for a slightly richer flavour and hoping to avoid some of mushier bean varieties.Lentil & mushroom burger process

It’s pretty filling too and satisfied a ravenous circuit induced hunger nicely. The apricot chutney is definitely a good friend to this burger with a sticky, smokey sweetness shining all over the bun and down my fingers! We had our burger in polenta topped buns with lettuce, tomato and onion and it was good.Lentil & mushroom burger with salad

Who’s your workout buddy? Do you push yourself that bit harder when you have someone with you?

Lentil mushroom burger & a quick apricot chutney

(makes 2 ‘big’ and 4 normal burgers- we made 2 of course)

1/2 white onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup of portobello mushrooms, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
splash red wine
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1.2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup vegetarian parmesan, grated
1/2 cup oats
1 egg
parsley, chopped
oil for frying

apricot chutney

6 small apricots, chopped
i cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon liquid smoke or chipotle sauce

Method:

1. Saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms & carrots for 5 minutes. Add the red wine, soy sauce, thyme & cooked lentils. Keep on a low heat until all liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl & allow to cool a little.
2. Add the oats, parmesan, parsley & egg to the cooled mixture, combining thoroughly. Set aside for 30 minutes.
3. Shape into 2 large or 4 smaller burger patties.  Transfer to a greased frying pan for 5 minutes to set on one side. Turn over and finish under a medium grill for 10 minutes or until firm to the touch & browned. Reduce grilling slightly if making 4 burgers from the mixture.
4. Enjoy in a bun with salad and liberal quantities of apricot chutney.

For the pickle:

Combine all ingredients and simmer on a low heat until apricots have softened & the chutney has a sticky appearance. Add more water if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish to cool.

Paleo Almond & Chocolate Chip Cookies – GF & Vegan

Paleo almond meal

A healthier approach.

Lately I’ve been trying to squeeze a little yoga in before bedtime, to stretch out my runners legs and as part of a wind down routine. Let’s call it a spot of self care. For the most part it’s working out pretty well, it’s calming on the mind and loosening those tight muscles little by little. Years and years of heavy running along with my penchant for hard hitting circuits (pain is good, isn’t it?) means that I’m not exactly Miss flexible. In fact I’m about as flexible as a wafer! The thing is I know what I need to do to, stretch, foam roll, massage but I guess I’m a bit lazy. I’m hoping that my nightly 10 minute yoga sequence will help, I’ll let you know.Almond cookie stack

One thing I have no trouble sticking with in the evening is my nightly ice cream habit! It’s one of my vices but  really I could do with something a little healthier. I shouldn’t think a sugary dairy hit is not what my body wants before bed, despite what my mind is telling me. So I wanted to make something equally as delicious, more healthful and with way less sugar.  My mind didn’t immediately gravitate to a cookie but this isn’t any old cookie! This is a super cookie made from such healthful ingredients you could have easily get away with having them at breakfast.

Right, I’m going to convince you why you need these cookies in your life. First up, they’re utterly delicious and I’m not just saying this, truly. They’re not overly sweet and contain just a few healthy ingredients including almond meal, coconut oil, honey and almond milk. The best part is they are really low carb which is perfect for some late evening paleo snacking. The low sugar content wont give you any crashes and as they’re jam packed with almonds, this healing food will in fact stabilise blood sugar which is important if you’re crashed out for the next 8 hours. See, these cookies are amazingly for you, just check out the ingredients list for yourself. I devoured a couple last night during a ‘Dexter’ session and I must say, I was impressed all over again and I could see that Russ felt the same!Cookie dough

Cookies for breakfast anyone? I’ll be having a couple tonight, before bed,  a habit I don’t feel the urge to kick.

What do you eat to satisfy evening cravings?Almond cookies

Paleo almond & chocolate chip cookies

1 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon almond milk
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Method:

1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. Combined the wet ingredients whisking thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients to the almond meal mix along with the chocolate chips. Bring together to form a cookie dough.
2. Roll into 8-10 small cookie balls and place on a baking tray. Press down lightly with a fork.
3. Bake at 175 ºC for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Be careful not to over cook. Remove from the oven & allow to cool before storing.

“5 a day” Lentil & Spinach Stuffed Peppers- Vegan & GF

Stuffed peppers & salad

Lentil, spinach, butternut squash, tomato & onion = 5 a day in one delicious hit.

I’m itching with sheer impatience to go on holiday but there’s still 6 weeks to go so I gotta reign it in and slow down! We’re hitting Alaska and Canada in an RV and I literally cannot wait to get there, like now! It feels like forever (officially 3 months!) since we were last away and I’m too excited about hitting the Yukon national park and experiencing some of Alaska’s highlights. I’m actually thinking, ‘will I see a real bear?’! Oh and the supermarkets, I like those too. Yep, bears and supermarkets are the theme of this trip. What is it about supermarkets abroad anyway? I doubt it’s just me, they’re like a whole new world. I just love grocery shopping in the States, it’s so much better and there’s way more choice compared with the UK. I’m quite happy to idle down the supermarket aisles in any country but my own, it’s like a day trip in itself for me. Oh and the coffee, they do coffee so well and i’m not talking about frothy, chocolate dusted coffee but rather your straight up filter coffee, normal coffee. No frills coffee is good in the USA and it’s absolutely everywhere. This is a very good thing seeing as there will be a lot of driving happening. Russ is our designated driver and I’ll be busy navigating and not bear spotting! I’m a newbie to Canada but my Canadian buddy Amy has advised that the coffee chains will live up to my high standards, so ‘Tim Hortons’ and ‘Second Cup” here I come. I reckon we’ll be making an obscene amount of coffee stops on our Anchorage to Vancouver road trip so not only will I be taking in the amazing scenery (and bear watching, seriously!) but I’ll be on the lookout for coffee and big supermarkets!Stuffed peppers

Talking of supermarkets (an English one this time), I got a good deal on bell peppers yesterday and this recipe is a super way of putting them to use.  These lentil and spinach beauties contain all 5 of your ‘5 a day’, so serious bonus points here. However, sorry to disappoint but I reckon just forget ‘5 a day’, let’s all aim for 7 or more! Roasting whole veggies like bell peppers, courgette, aubergine and whole squash is one of my favourite ways to cook veggies, an oldie but a goodie! Slow baking brings out the sweet flavours of the vegetable whilst creating a soft gooey texture to the flesh. And they’re pretty accepting of most fillings. And, if prepared in advance they’re a nice and easy evening meal or a delicious cold lunch the next day. Let’s face it, these are just a good idea.Stuffed peppers process

So, why don’t you get stuffed?! Not you, the vegetables. Why don’t you stuff some veg for tea tonight? Really nice served with garlic bread, rice or cous cous and lot’s of salad. A Russ salad is preferable.Stuffing peppers

We’re planning our Christmas holiday NOW, well you gotta have something to look forward to! Where’s your next trip?

Russ' salads are actually amazing. i am a lucky girl.
Russ’ salads are actually amazing. i am a lucky girl.

‘5 a day’ lentil & spinach stuffed peppers

(serves 2)

4 whole bell peppers, tops/lids & seeds removed
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, peel and minced
1/2 can tomatoes
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano, thyme & nutmeg
1/2 cup red lentils
1 large handful spinach, chopped
1 cup cubed butternut squash
oil for frying

Method:

1. Slice the tops off 4 whole peppers, cleaning the seeds out with running water. Arrange in a baking dish and roast for 20 minutes at 180 ºC.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onion & garlic for 5 minutes. Add the seasonings, tomatoes, lentils, spinach and butternut squash, mixing to combine. Let the lentils simmer for 10-15 minutes.Remove from the heat when cooked.
3. Remove the peppers from the oven & spoon in the lentil mixture, pushing down to compact. Replace the lids and return to the oven for 15-2o minutes. Careful not to over char.

Quinoa Salad Bowl with Cumin & Lime dressing – GF & Vegan

Mexican quinoa salad ingredients

Lunchtime salad

Lunch is my least favourite meal of the day. It’s usually a sandwich on the run, occasionally second rate canteen food, it can be a second breakfast (I know, not necessarily a bad thing) or worse still, I have no time for lunch. That’s why I like working from home. I can make lunch, I can take the time to enjoy my lunch and I don’t pay inflated prices for a simple but healthy midday meal. Russ has the right idea, he buys a job lot of ingredients at the start of the week and makes lunch at the office.
DSC_5610My body will thank me for it. Our bodies will be thankful for it. This colourful quinoa salad is bursting with protein, healthy fats and antioxidants…wait a minute, this is really the perfect midday pick me up. I love quinoa and avocado (together is best) especially with a drizzle of this mexican inspired dressing.

Salad is so underrated, it has the ability to actually be one of my favourite meals. A huge, superfood laden, bulging, hearty dressed up salad. Oh, black beans, it’s too late but the next salad will have black beans, that will really complete it. Salad is a bit like lego, you can just keep building, using a variety of colours and the possibilities are endless. Of course salad tastes much better than lego!Avocado and quinoa salad

Now I’m thinking about holidays, Mexico specifically. Well it is my second favourite cuisine and I can’t believe I still haven’t been….and I have to go, to get truly inspired, to expand my mexican mealtime repertoire (it’s really very small) and of course hit the beach. Anyway, build this quinoa salad bowl on the day or the night before. I will be.

I always eat with chopsticks but that's another story!

I always eat with chopsticks but that’s another story!

Quinoa salad bowl with a cumin & lime dressing

(serves 2)

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper, sliced finely
1 avocado, sliced
2 heaped tablespoons sweetcorn
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small red chilli, chopped & desseded if you wish
handful fresh parsley (or coriander), roughly chopped

for the dressing:

1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt & pepper twist

Method:

Assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Drizzle generously & enjoy.

Note: If, like me you will be making this the night before then I’d advise to keep the dressing in a separate container ready for when you plan to eat.

 

Grilled Beet Burger

Beet burger served in a quinoa bun

I haven’t always been a vegetarian, I used to be a ‘flexitarian’ (I ate beef!) so I really can say  that this is better than any beef burger I’ve ever eaten, hands down. For me, the taste and texture is hard to beet and I’d  make them again in a heart beet. Sorry. Seriously, I’m pretty fussy when it comes to veggie burgers and I’m beginning to think these could be the ones.  They would definitely hold their own in the veggie burger arena. I’ve gotta make them again just to make sure so I’ve lined up more beetroot and feta for another shot this week! I ‘m on a mission to perfect the grilled beet burger!DSC_5638

I really do think it’s important to have a ‘go to’ burger when you’re a vegetarian, like a silent reply to the ‘succulent’, ‘juicy’ beef burger jibes non-meat eaters seem to get! I went to a BBQ at the weekend. I was asked again,  ‘Why don’t you eat meat?’, followed by, “But what about burgers?”. But what about them, really. The thing is, I know I’m not missing out because I’ve eaten meat for the majority of my years. When I finally cut it out for good, I realised that it was me who had been missing out all this time. It’s OK though, I’m making up for it on this vegetarian extravaganza. These beet burgers are more than a burger made of beetroot to me. They are proof  that eating a plant based diet is not only healthier but infinitely tastier and aesthetically more appealing too. So, no I don’t want a beef burger thanks. I NEED to have a great veggie burger recipe up my sleeve and I’ll keep trying new ones because believe me, there is no limit to the flavour possibilities of a meatless burger. I dunno, maybe I’m just marching to the beet of a different drum. Come on, that one is good!

DSC_5623
Could these be better for you?

Anyway, about the burger. Superfood Beetroot is a great base for a burger, not only in terms of colour and texture but each burger contains 1 of your 5 a day with sizeable helpings of potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamin C. Great news and there’s more of that from the scientists too. Research has shown how beetroot can actually lower blood pressure whilst increasing blood flow to the brain which may fight dementia. Powerful.

So they’re not exactly bad for you but here’s a few tips for the preparation stage. Squeeze as much juice out of the beets and onion before mixing with the other ingredients. Soak the mixture for at least 30 minutes so the flavours infuse and the oats swell to form a pink, plump meaty lump. This results in a nicely workable mixture that makes burger formation easy peasy,  Lastly, I felt that frying them on one side and finishing under the grill gave the best end result. All set? Oh but a word of warning first: after grating, squeezing, patty forming a beet mix, be prepared for the beetroot massacre on your hands and chopping board and hands post recipe? Totally worth it though.Beet burger -step by step

Served simply in a quinoa bun with fried onion, parsley and lettuce.

Russ thought these were hard to beet too!
Russ thought these were hard to beet too!

Grilled beet burger

(serves 2)

1 apple size raw beetroot, peeled & grated
1/2 small onion, peeled & grated
1 clove of garlic, peeled & grated
75 grams oats
75 grams feta, grated
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 organic egg
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt & pepper
oil for frying

Method:

1. Combine the beetroot, onion & garlic. Squeeze out excess juices and return to the bowl.
2. Add the oats, feta & basil. Mix thoroughly.
3. In a seperate cup/bowl mix the egg, oil, salt & pepper. Add this to the main bowl, combining thoroughly. Leave to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes.
4. Form into 4 small or 2 large patties.
5. Heat oil in a pan. Fry burgers on one side for 5 minutes & finish under a medium heat grill until browned. Serve immediately.

Paleo Almond Pancakes & Quick Blueberry Compote – GF

Take two!

I have a confession to make…

These pancakes didn’t turn out as I’d planned and that was a problem for me because I’m still unlearning being a perfectionist. It wasn’t a disaster, not even close, they were delicious. They just didn’t look exactly as I’d expected and this bothered me, at first. So I tried again and although they came out neater, plumper and cuter, guess what? They still tasted the same, they were still delicious, they weren’t a failure, they were just flatter and randomly shaped.Bleberry almond pancake

Just two simple things, less milk and a little baking soda, resulting in a thicker batter second time round. I remember now, I poured in a tad too much milk, this is what happens when you’re hungry and making delicious pancakes! The hand shakes, the concentration slips, you get the picture. It’s actually a good thing I made these again because now I know not to make pancakes when you’re really hungry! At least I got to have a double helping pancakes, every cloud all. The thing is though, I don’t actually like perfect, or neat and tidy either.  This wasn’t the problem. My perfectionist brain was the problem,  they were NOT how she had pictured and she wasn’t amused. Eventually she got lost!

Blueberry almond pancakes second time lucky!“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  Salvador DaliImperfect pancakes

You can tell the difference, right? These darn almond pancakes aren’t supposed to be perfect and they weren’t, by any stretch of the imagination. These are perfectly imperfect Paleo pancakes. Perfect isn’t welcome here anyhow. But the taste, the taste was delicious and this is the important part because delicious and healthy is the aim of the game.

A bit about the pancakes. Made from almond flour, these are perfectly Paleo and although I’m not a Paleo girl myself, I do see the benefits of going a little easier on the grain. Almond flour like coconut and peanut flours is ideal for baking these low carbohydrate recipes. Almond flour is a favourite of mine because I adore almonds with their sweet, fragrant creaminess- the main reason why I was a cherry bakewell and marzipan fiend as a child.. So making pancakes with flour and milk from the delectable almond is quite exciting for me and if it turns out that I have a few less grains, that’s just a bonus.Almond pancakes & blueberry compote

Another thing about these pancakes is they’re super filling but not in a lead brick afternoon slump full but more a light, energised ‘I’m super productive’ way! What’s more is they’re fluffy, nutty and sweet with a blueberry compote that’s way too delicious for just 3 ingredients. Just perfect.

It all gets messy in the end.
It all gets messy in the end.

Paleo Almond pancakes & quick blueberry compote

(serves 2)

1 cup almond flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
coconut oil for frying
extra maple syrup for serving

For the blueberry compote:

1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon of stevia
3 tablespoons water

Method:

1. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a measuring jug whisk the milk, egg & syrup. Combine the wet & dry ingredients, whisking thoroughly.
2. Heat the coconut oil in a griddle pan over a low heat. Ladle a spoonful of batter into the pan & cook until golden brown and just set. Flip & repeat until batter is all gone.
3. Serve warm stacked pancakes with blueberry compote & extra maple syrup.

Blueberry compote:

Heat all three ingredients over a low heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until desired consistency.

Easy vegan smokey fennel sausages

Smoked fennel vegan sausage

Easy & meat-free!

Supermarkets are chock a block with nicely packaged veggie sausages, both fresh and frozen, so why bother making them yourself? Well, in my opinion the flavours are usually pretty dull, the majority are over processed and I just don’t think shop bought sausages are that good. Anyway, this recipe is really easy, with a professional looking end result so I had to give it a shot. Oh and I’ve been looking for a tasty filler for my lunch rolls and these looked like they could be a contender.

Apparently, the key to homemade sausages is the vital wheat gluten which binds the recipe and is the main ingredient in seitan. I purchased the powder from Ebay, 100 grams at first because new ingredients scare me! When it arrived I noticed it was sold by a fishing bait company……..ummmm slight confusion and worry. After sending an email to the company my mind was put at ease – apparently they buy this stuff to sell on as bait! I’m no fisherman so who am I to question?

I used the Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe for inspiration but being short on vital wheat gluten and lacking nutritional yeast and soy sauce there’s quite a deviation. I also formed 6 sausages rather than 4 as the mixture went quite far. I would have preferred to use white beans but completely forgot to buy them so subbed these for kidney beans which were ok. So after confirmation that the key ingredient is meant for human consumption I got to work on this ridiculously easy recipe (pretty much a throw it all in and mix it up). I had no idea what to expect from the vital wheat gluten but it really is quite……..well weirdly wonderful I guess. It’s stretchy, glutenous and snaps into any shape formed pre-steaming! During the mixing stage it starts off pretty sticky and then becomes stretchier,  forming a workable sausage ‘meat’. These don’t look the most appetising in the formation stage but once steamed they take on a smoother,  sausage like appearance.

Vegan sausage collage

Vital wheat gluten is fantastic for carrying strong flavours and is pretty robust stuff so it can take a beating in the pan or steamer. These are also a great base for adding other flavours instead of the paprika and fennel. Apricot, apple and sage would work really well in these.

The end product is quite chewy but not in an unpleasant way, I’d make them again! These were enjoyed sliced in a chunky roll with salad, mustard and pickles.

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Smokey Fennel Vegan Sausages

(makes 6-8 sausages)

1/2 cup beans, pre-cooked (cannelini, haricot, kidney)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, grated
100 grams Vital Wheat Gluten
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
A healthy twist of cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. Cut out 4-6 square tin foil sheets to set aside. Meanwhile get steaming apparatus ready.
  2. Mash the beans in a bowl so that no whole ones are left. Then add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed.
  3. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll into sausage shapes and roll into the foil squares. Be sure to secure them at each end by twisting.
  4. Place in the steamer for 40 minutes.
  5. Unwrap and enjoy straight away or chill for later use.

Beer Bread

Perfect with a pot of tea.
Perfect with a pot of tea.

Introducing beer and bread.

Bread making looks like such a lot of work and this always puts me off making my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking but not only is there already a huge variety of bread pre-made, packaged and all set for my trolley but there’s always something I’d rather make more than a loaf.  So I’ve never actually made bread and this needs to change  for several reasons. Here are three of them: 1)We all know the shop bought stuff is full of unnecessary additives. 2) I’ve heard bread making is therapeutic, who doesn’t want free therapy? 3)I just want to get good at bread!

I’m starting basic though. I thought I’d give beer bread a shot as it’s one of the few breads I can’t  find in the supermarket. Also, this beer loaf is not like those other bread recipes. No kneading, no resting and no yeast involved. How divinely simple. Sometimes you just don’t want complicated and time consuming but rather, easy and quick. Isn’t everything already complicated enough?

Easiest recipe ever, no concentration needed.

There are lots of beer bread recipes out there and most use three basic ingredients but I decided to wing it a little and came up with this. It turned out pretty good and is delicious with savoury and sweet things. Using wholemeal flour not only increases the fibre content but adds a nutty flavour too (I don’t much like white bread anyway). I brushed the top of the loaf with butter and topped with seeds mid way through cooking for added crunch and protein.  Oh, and of course I used a bottle of strong beer. I love beer and I love bread so I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to make this easy peasy loaf!

Enjoy slathered in butter, jam or honey with a hot cup of tea.  Alternatively, serve as an accompaniment to a hearty soup.

Bread and jam collage

Now I’ve got the bread making bug. Next time I might get involved with yeast and kneading.

Beer Bread

(makes 12 slices)

375 grams wholemeal self raising flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
330 ml of BEER (I used IPA extra strength)
1/4 cup of seeds (optional but recommended!)
butter & extra seeds for coating 10 minutes before the end.

  1. Place the flour, sugar & salt in a mixing bowl and stir through the beer until well combined. If using add the seeds at this point.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake on 180 º C for 50 minutes. If desired remove from the oven 10 minutes before the end and brush lightly with melted butter and top with extra seeds.
  3. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

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