vegetarian

The Ultimate Vegetarian Lasagne with Roasted Romano Pepper + Pumpkin

Roasted red pepper + pumpkin lasagneRuss and me cook together every night. Occasionally one of us will suggest we’ll cook alone to free the other up but we just kind of like cooking together. We enjoy it, it’s relaxing, plus it takes half the time and we get to chat about our day whilst chopping, stirring and getting ready to eat fabulous food. The thing is, yeah it’s a habit but a good one surely – well you gotta eat and we get to feast on delicious, fresh and nutritious meals every night. Cooking together is a lot more fun than cooking alone but we seem to have definitely assigned ourselves set roles, Russ does most of the chopping and salad bits and I crack on with the actual cooking, timings, table arranging, flavours and cleaning. Well we both share the cleaning but I’m starting to think I got the raw end of the deal being a slave to the hob! I’d challenge Russ to swap with me but his knife skills are too good and I always prefer salads made by another! We’ve both just slipped into these roles and seem to get on with them like a well oiled machine- funny how habits form over time without us really noticing. Maybe I’ll challenge him to get down and dirty with the cooking whilst I sharpen my knife skills….yeah maybe. He can keep the bathroom cleaning duties though, I don’t want to share that one or bin change day!Slice of lasagne

I adore vegetarian lasagne but I don’t buy into complicated lasagnes at all. To me, the most important aspects are the flavours and good quality pasta sheets. I’ve made a full on traditional lasagne from scratch before and it seemed to take an age, but this recipe is just perfect and takes less time, especially if you’ve pre roasted vegetables to hand. I have to say when cooking in tandem (Hi Russ!) there really isn’t any recipe that’s too much so I really have no excuses. However, this is so jam packed full of fresh and vibrant ingredients it really doesn’t need a lot of fuss and time.Roasted vegetables

I use a cheats white sauce to quicken the lasagne process further and only spread this on the top layer as opposed to traditionally distributed throughout. I find this enough but if you prefer a creamier dish then just double the creme fraiche mixture and add to as many of the layers as you like. The roasted vegetables give this lasagne a beautifully sweet flavour, transforming the plain old chopped tomatoes into a sweet, rich and extremely moreish sauce. I like to add a little chili for a spicier version, actually I add chili to almost everything so just ignore me.Lasagne - ready for assembly!

Here is a fact and an opinion: Fact first, this is much healthier than traditional meat lasagnes. The tomatoes, peppers and pumpkin make this dish extremely nutrient dense and the cheese, creme fraiche and lentils provide an excellent protein content too. Now opinion, well I believe this is tastier than any other lasagne by miles, meat or non meat. It’s the ultimate vegetarian lasagne.

Do you have quirky routines/habits around cooking?Lasagne + Russ' salad is perfection

The ultimate vegetarian lasagne

(serves 2 hungry people)

200 grams pasta sheets (I used gluten free)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 romano peppers
2 cups cubed pumpkin or squash
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon, oregano + thyme
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1/2 cup lentils
chopped parsley

cheat’s white sauce:
1 cup creme fraiche + a little water to loosen
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 cup mozzarella, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Place whole peppers + squash in an square 12″ oven proof dish. Season + drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil + roast for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil, add the onion, garlic + seasonings stirring until fragrant + translucent. Add the tomatoes + water, keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
3. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Peel the skins off the peppers (they should fall off) + chop roughly. Add both to the tomato sauce.
4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with a little water + stir through the parmesan. It should be a pourable consistency.
5. Assemble the lasagne in the square dish starting with a base layer of sauce, followed by the lasagne sheets. Continue for 3 layers of tomato base + pasta. Pour the white sauce over the assembled lasagne + place in the oven for 30 – 45 minutes depending on pasta sheets used.
6. Remove 5 minutes before the end + add the mozzarella. Place bake in the oven until the cheese is lightly browned + bubbling. Serve immediately with a big salad + garlic baguette.

Keep refrigerated, delicious eaten cold + freezable on day of making.

10 Minute Fig, Walnut + Lemon Thyme Fusilli

The most delicious ingredientsSo I was gonna start this post by sharing those cherished italian memories forged during the year I lived and loved in Florence but then I realised I’ve never lived in Italy and this is but a dream! So naturally, I’m going to share information on smells and my love affair with garlic.

What is it about garlic that does this to me?! The aroma of garlic gently sizzling in olive oil has got to be my all time favourite smells. I joke with Russ that you could fry any inedible and gross food or non-food (don’t ask) in garlic and I’d eat it! We end up listing a load of rancid, disgusting ‘things’ whilst agreeing that garlic would more than likely make it irresistible! Sometimes I think we’re quite immature for our age.  There’s one smell I like more than just garlic and that’s garlic and white wine cooking together – oh my god, this does it for me big time. I’m quite the garlic fan which is just as well as when we lived in Korea we were served a lot of raw garlic and I got very involved.DSC_7068

This 10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme beauty has a good hit of garlic and is one of my favourite pasta dishes. I got out of the pasta habit for a while there and I’m wondering why this happened to me. Maybe it was pasta overload whilst at university because this was definitely my staple food. Or maybe it’s the wheat and gluten ‘cos I don’t like too much of that either. But really I think I just forgot how good italian pasta dishes can be with so few simple ingredients. It’s comfort food which can also be nourishing when combined with the right ingredients. I’m a big fan of spelt spaghetti (less gluten) and also brown rice varieties so I use these when avoiding gluten overload. This fig, walnut + lemon thyme dish is enough to get me back on pasta track though. The simplicity, the flavours and the aroma are so good;  sweet figs, earthy and  creamy walnuts mingling with white wine and garlic infused fusilli.Delicious fig, walnut, wine + lemon thyme fusilli

It’s healthy too, the walnuts and olive oil make this a pasta that’s packed full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. A good fat that helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of heart disease and helps to regulate our blood sugar and insulin levels. The figs are a great source of potassium and fibre and  help to reduce high blood pressure. But really figs are just beautiful, I think they’re one of the prettiest fruits around making this dish easy on the eye! Oh yes, another thing – if you use wholegrain gluten free pasta such as brown rice, whole wheat or spelt you’ll be getting an extremely fibre rich meal which will satiate, keep you full for longer and regulate blood sugar levels. This is a perfect lunchtime or evening meal with a little italian inspiration on the side.

So, what are your favourite cooking smells?Fusilli + wine = delicious

 

10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme fusilli

(serves 2)

150 grams fusilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small glass white wine
2 figs, sliced
50 grams walnuts, toasted
generous sprinkle lemon thyme
parmesan, to serve
salt & pepper

1. Place the fusilli in salted boiling water & cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat & add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the figs & add the white wine, allowing to simmer until the alcohol burns off, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the thyme, walnuts & cooked pasta stirring through to fully incorporate.
4. Transfer to large serving bowls. Serve with a scattering of extra thyme & a generous sprinkle of parmesan

Nectarine + Apple Cobbler (GF)

Apple & nectarine cobblerDo you ever have random, superwoman type productive days when you get obscene amounts done? I have these, sporadically, and today was definitely one of those days. It makes me wonder where they come from, maybe the need to get a wriggle on, or something I ate, the sun shining…who knows. But today has been super productive in every way starting from wake up circuits class, delicious coconut oat breakfast with triple espresso (oh, maybe this is the reason!), the food shop, my day job and a delicious nectarine and apple cobbler which I’ve never made before.

The sun has shined all day which has made Thursday even more fabulous because whenever the sun shows up, everything and everyone cheers up and looks a little brighter. I’m lucky enough to be able to do a little of my work from home so I like to sit outside and enjoy our canal bank setting. I’m so in love with our apartment, although it’s not showy or big it’s just peaceful, calming and has a beautiful outlook. If the sun was shining a bit more then I’d have no complaints because being a complete sun head makes miserable dreary days such a drag. Today was so nice that I didn’t even want to go in and cook this delicious nectarine and apple cobbler, but in the end the temptation to try some proved too much.Apples

Traditionally, I’m pretty sure it’s peach that goes in a cobbler but I had a bowl of nectarines which were getting ripe on me so I knew my recipe had use these sweet things. Apples go pretty well with nectarines too, plus I needed something else to bulk the fruit mixture out as I like a substantial dessert. I’ve been making a lot of pies and crumbles lately so I kinda needed to do something else but it’s always a hard decision when your favourite is crumble, not that I’m fixated or anything! Eventually, I decided on a cobbler because I’d never made it before but more importantly not eaten one either. I’ve always associated cobbler with the USA, mainly because I’ve never ever heard an English person talk about the cobbler they had for pudding last night and really, it just sounds like an American dessert! Like corn bread, that screams USA to me!

Apple & nectarine cobbler

Anyway, I had a good idea of how it should be but I used an oat and almond scone base for a wheat free alternative and a nuttier and creamier flavour. Really, a cobbler is just a fruit mixture with scones on top, simple but very delicious. A word of warning: when you mix all the ingredients for the batter you have to really fight the urge to eat it raw. The smell and taste (yes, I ate a bit raw) is just too much, it’s better than cookie dough.

Apple & nectarine cobbler process

It’s the kind of dessert you want, actually need in your life because this gluten free nectarine + apple cobbler is just beautiful. The scones are light and airy with oat, almond and vanilla flavours. It’s 100% wholegrain, gluten free and each serving contains two portions of fruit with less than 300 calories a serving. This last point is impossible to believe but it’s true. I know it’s not always about the calories but sometimes it just is! For me, it’s those days when I’ve been to my Mum’s for a family lunch and I’ve eaten my own body weight in goodies. Yep, these are the days I want something a little lighter ‘cos heaven forbid I skip my dessert!

I hope you’ve had a super productive day too. I’d love to know what makes you more productive than usual?Apple & nectarine cobbler

Nectarine + apple cobbler

(serves 4)

4 nectarines, sliced
4 apples, sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water
12 tablespoons stevia (adjust to sweetness preferences)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

scones:
1 cup oats (processed to flour)
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Stevia
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 egg
1/2 cup almond milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 ºC. Add the fruit filling ingredients to a large pan + simmer for 15-20 minutes.
2. Place the dry cobbler ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl mix the remaining wet ingredients and add this to the dry mixture . Be sure to combine thoroughly + set aside for 5 minutes to thicken.
3. Transfer the fruit mixture to an oven proof baking dish + top with 4 heaping spoonfuls of the cobbler batter. Bake for 30 minutes.

 

Chocolate Coconut Cream in an Almond + Oat Crust, with a Strawberry Sauce (GF + Vegan)

Chocolate pieBirthday time! Not mine though, it’s my niece Chloe’s second birthday so me and the boy are heading over for a little party and some cake with gifts in hand. I’ve just realised not only did I miss her actual birth, I missed her first birthday too, oh the guilt! You guessed it I was outta the country, I suppose you can’t make everything all of the time especially when you can’t seem to stay still for too long! Anyway, I’m here for her second which is the main thing and armed with Peppa Pig paraphernalia and more importantly – chocolate coconut cream in an almond and oat crust. Ummmm. Oh, and the strawberry sauce of course. It’s all a bit of a mouthful, but a delicious one at that!Slice of chocolate pi

Sheer peer pressure is the reason I made this. Well maybe that’s not 100% true but there was a lot. It was my Sister and Mum, they saw this chocolate cream pie and fell in love at first sight! I kinda saw their point so I said I’d make it and what a good decision that was because it’s amazing. Of course, I wanted some for myself and of course I ate the first slice. I said I’d bring the pie to the party for communal tasting but I didn’t mention there’d be a cheeky slice missing! Ooops, I’m sure no one will notice. This may be one for the adults but we’ll see how it goes down with the kiddies, if there’s any left!An easy as pie process

Clearly, something this good just had to be inspired by the wonderful blog, ‘Oh She Glows’. The only deviation was to use 200 grams of chocolate rather than the suggested 340 as it just seemed like such a lot! Definitely a good call as the finished pie was still extremely rich and chocolatey, just perfect.Chocolate pie + strawberry sauce

I’m not a technical kinda cook, more a comfort food, make it up as you go kinda girl but this looked so good I just had to try it. I had visions of a crumbling crust and a floppy innards ‘cos for some reason I don’t trust myself with pie crusts or things that have to set. However, I’m pretty inspired because this worked out so well, the crust set perfectly with the first slice popping out with real ease. Me and my Mum had to hold back from just eating the pie crust alone the aroma was so good. Come to think of it I had to try really hard not to drink the coconut cream before filling the crust too. I’m glad I didn’t because the chocolate cream set to perfection and had the dreamiest, richest and creamiest of flavours, decadent stuff. The oat and almond crust makes this absolutely gluten free and the coconut cream, vanilla & vegan chocolate make for a simple, healthy and dairy free filling. Miles tastier than any other chocolate pie I’ve ever had and it’s 100% void of wheat and dairy – yes it is possible and here’s the proof.Chocolate pie & strawberry sauce

Although the process looks full on, it’s in fact very simple and can be whipped up in no time. 15 minutes baking, 2 hours in a freezer and you’re done, just don’t forget to take it out! I had no problem here, I couldn’t get the thought of eating this chocolate coconut pie outta my head let alone forget about it!A slice of pie

Chocolate coconut cream pie

(12 slices)

crust:
3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup oats

coconut filling:
1 can coconut milk, chilled overnight
200 grams dairy free milk/dark chocolate, broken
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

strawberry compote:
500 grams strawberries
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons maple syrup
i teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175 ºC + grease a 12′ pie dish. Place almonds in a blender & pulse to a bread crumb texture. Add the remaining crust ingredients (apart from whole oats) & pulse until a dough forms. Now add the oats & pulse so that the oats are fine but retain some texture. The dough should stick together when squeezed between your fingers. Process for longer if this is not the case.

Sprinkle the crust mix into the pie dish evenly. Starting from the middle, push down firmly with your fingers until the pie crust is compact. The more compact, the better.Prick with a fork 5 times & bake for 15 minutes. Remove after baking & allow to cool.

To make the sauce, mix the cornstarch with some water to form a paste & place in a small pan. Add the remaining sauce ingredients & simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the coconut cream from the can taking care to separate the cream from the water. Add cream & chocolate to a pan over a low heat, stir until nearly dissolved. Take off the heat & pour into the pie crust. Transfer to the freezer for 2 hours or until set. Keep chilled & serve with the compote. Pie can be frozen for up to a week.Enjoy.

 

 

Caramel Maca Chocolates – GF + Vegan

Caramel chocolatesAs a kid (and adult!) I had a big thing for white and golden caramel chocolate, especially Caramacs, Milky Bars, white chocolate mice, well white chocolate anything really. I’m just a fiend for white and gold chocolate full stop but the thing is it’s just so sweet, my taste buds must have matured or something! A lot of commercial white chocolate is rammed full of sugar and trans fats so the plan was to make some myself. Plus I was also looking for an excuse to use my heart shaped silicone chocolate moulds!Chocolate making!

These aren’t really like traditional white or golden chocolate because they contain lucuma and maca – they’re Peruvian superfood chocolates! The lucuma provides natural sweetness in maple/caramel tones and the maca gives a malty cereal flavour making them great additions. Both are super healthy for you, so this chocolate is turbo charged with a natural sweetness and a lot of goodness.

Maca, also known as the Peruvian ginseng is an adaptogen which basically means it helps the body to adapt to particular stresses, allowing it to deal with these and adapt naturally. In my opinion this is what makes maca a superfood but of course there’s more to this wonderful root from the radish/broccoli family. It’s rich in protein and B vitamins which is helpful for vegan diets and it’s renowned for it’s positive effects with regards to endocrine hormones balance, fertility issues, mood balance, osteoporosis, skin conditions and as an overall energy tonic. I must start adding this to my smoothies more often.

Sweet and fragrant lucuma is pretty special too and is a fantastic sweetener that doesn’t actually raise blood sugar levels. How that is even possible, I do not know! Derived from the subtropical fruit of the lucuma tree, this powder contains 14 essential trace elements including potassium and calcium and is rich in B vitamins. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, regenerative and has been shown to aid skin repair and wound healing. I’m in.Simple & vegan chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t think making chocolate from scratch was for me being super easy to buy and a lot cheaper too. However,I wanted to make something that was actually good for me, dairy free, with less sugar, contained maca (don’t ask me why!) and of course would make use of my love heart moulds. So I found this recipe on the Sunfood website which looked really easy and is also supercharged with healthful ingredients, like maca. It wasn’t only simple, it was very quick too -just a case of melting the cocoa butter and adding the remaining ingredients before transferring to silicone moulds for the freezer. See- 5 minutes tops. I found I didn’t need as much lucuma (I used just 4 tablespoons) but you can pretty much gage quantities as you combine the ingredients. The key is to create a consistency that’s not too thin but also not overly thick so it can’t be poured into the moulds with ease.I also added two tablespoons of sweetener and a tad more vanilla than the original recipe for a softer flavour.

Easy process for a superfood chocolate

The taste was quite a shock at first as they’re nothing like my Caramac memories but fear not these are delicious in their own spectacular superfood way. Like shop bought chocolate these had a very creamy taste and texture but the flavour is much less sweet with malty cereal undertones. Satisfying. Update: I’ve just eaten another and it tasted better than the first, they’re very moreish! Although I thought ‘do it yourself’ chocolate wasn’t for me, I am ever so slightly converted, mainly because it’s so easy, the results are pretty good and you can control the sweetness levels and flavours too. The plan is to make a darker coconut variety next, or peanut butter, or spiced orange……..

What’s your favourite chocolate and do you make your own?Heart shaped chocolates

Caramel maca chocolates

(makes 20 small chocolates)

1 cup cocoa butter
4 tablespoons lucuma
1 tablespoon maca
vanilla pod, deseeded
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon agave nectar

Method.

1. Melt the cocoa butter over a very low heat until no solids remain.
2. Transfer to a bowl & add the remaining ingredients, mix until smooth.
3. Transfer mixture to silicone moulds or paper cases. Freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the moulds before the chocolates reach room temperature.

Grain Free Coconut, Apple + Cinnamon Muffins – GF + Paleo

DSC_6649Panic over! I thought I’d run out of coconut flour but  I managed to scoop just enough out (just) to make these amazing muffins. Yes, they really are amazing because they’re grain free and low sugar but taste delicious! Of course I was too happy to make a muffin with all three of my favourite ingredients – obviously coconut flour was involved but so were my over lovers, cinnamon and apple. I just love these two together, what legends.A lot of eggs!

That’s exactly what I thought too: such a lot of eggs! The thing is coconut flour isn’t like those other grains, it sucks up any fluid put it’s way and these eggs help to bind the mixture which creates a moist yet low carb muffin. The apple and cinnamon just transport these to another level for me and the honey adds just the right sweetness. I’ve been eating them all week and they are goooood, just sweet enough, deliciously spiced with cinnamon, nicely light but still moist with apple and raisins.A lot of muffins!

What’s more is they’re wholesome, natural with endless selling points: grain free, low carb, high in medium chain fatty acids (they’re good fats and the ones the body doesn’t readily store but would rather use as energy), blood sugar regulating, fibre rich and a protein kick to boot. Are you’re sold yet? These didn’t last long because they’re the perfect snack and tick off all of the criteria from my snack wish list: easy to transport, delicious, healthy, low carb/high fat, contains at least one form of coconut, cinnamon friendly and a provider steady energy. Job done.A ray of sunshine!

These light and tasty treats are perfect with an afternoon cup of tea. They’re healthy enough to go with breakfast too, really they’re just screaming out ‘healthy snack’ for any time of the day!

What’s your ideal afternoon snack?Deliciously moist coconut muffin

Grain free coconut, apple + cinnamon muffins

(makes 10-12)

5 eggs
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 apple, grated
1/4 cup nut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
handful raisins
1 tablespoon honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. In a mixing bowl, whisk (or blend) all the ingredients (apart from raisins) thoroughly ensuring a smooth batter.
2. Fold through the raisins & allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Line a muffin tray with paper cases & spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each case.
3. Bake for 15 minutes until the muffins are brown & not too soft to touch.
4. Leave to cool before removing & storing.

Sun Dried Aubergine Bake + Italian Kale Salad – GF

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself” ~Rita Mae Brown

I’m not having a bad day or getting deep on you, I just love this quote, well quotes generally. It’s one of many I’ve been reading whilst I should be working. I do this a lot! But I need  inspiration every now and then and this is just a reminder that it’s OK to make choices slightly outside of the box or against the grain. It’s all about keeping strength in the face of social conditioning because let’s face it at some point we’re all subject to societal expectations. Not that I’m making any radical choices right now (although that depends on your idea of radical!) but occasionally I do feel the pressure to do things a certain way and I need to reality check when this happens. I don’t want to be in a box anyway! I usually just search quotes on a certain subject and lose myself in a sea of inspiration. I guess I just love random, out of the blue musings, such a great way to distract my mind from a mundane task or worry that I’m headed down wrong choice lane, wherever that may be. At least making an aubergine bake is definitely not down that lane!Aubergine bake italian style

I don’t often cook Italian food  but when I do I wonder why I don’t make the effort more! This really is gorgeous, especially with this mediterranean inspired kale salad. Lately, I’m just loving this massage your food malarkey, it gives the kale a much softer taste and texture as a result of the oil and lemon infusing their magic. I think I’ll be manipulating my kale a lot more! Of course any salad would work well with this, I’m just looking for more excuses to get more kale in to my meals and as I should be.Italian kale salad

Kale is a complete powerhouse of nutrients and has got to be one of the healthiest veggies on the block. Check this out: 1 cup of this humble green veggie provides 1327% of our daily vitamin K needs, now that’s powerful stuff! Let’s just take this fact as an indicator of it’s superiority in the healthy foods arena as it also contains impressive levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, tryptophan, copper, iron, calcium and fibre. Of course there’s more, it’s jam packed full of anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory nutrients too, wow! Apologies for the science lesson but I’m just writing a quick note to myself: eat more kale! Slice, griddle, assemble & bake!

So the bake, well I call it bake but I’m sure there’s a pretty Italian name for this. Anyhow, this recipe is really simple (just slice, griddle, assemble and bake!), unbelievably tasty and full of vitamins and phytonutrients. Apparently, aubergines contain nasunin, an important free radical scavenger that helps protect brain cell membranes, I know – scientific stuff and I’m not one to turn down a brain boost! This is a great alternative to lasagne, especially if you’re looking for a lighter option as it’s very low in carbs. However, I cannot eat this without bread, it’s just one of my  rules.

Delicious aubergine bake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to quotes, what’s your quote of the day?

Sun dried aubergine bake

(serves 2)

2 aubergines, sliced lengthways 1/2 cm thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt & pepper
1 can tomatoes & half can water

generous sprinkle parmesan (vegetarian), grated

Italian kale salad

2 handfuls fresh kale, stalks removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 fresh tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
handful olives, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, charring on both sides in a griddle pan over a low heat. This will need to be done in batches.
2. Meanwhile lightly fry the onion & garlic in a pan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
3. Spoon a little mixture into an oven proof dish. Arrange one layer of the aubergine & repeat with a thin layer of sauce. Repeat until all slices have been used. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven 5 minutes before the end to add the cheese.

Note: It’s important to griddle the aubergine prior to baking to soften them, plus a griddle effect looks nice too. I’ve never assembled this without pre-cooking them but I guess this would be fine as long as the total bake time is extended.

Salad:

1. Place the kale & chopped onion in a bowl or on a chopping board. Combine the oil, lemon & salt in a small bowl. Massage the dressing into the leaves & onion mixture for 3 minutes.
2. Place on serving plate and dress with remaining ingredients.

Goodness Green Spinach, Kiwi + Spirulina Smoothie

Putting the green into a green smoothie!I cannot tell you how happy I am to be drinking green smoothies. Why oh why has it taken so long for me to start this habit? I am loving my Vitamix too, who knew such a simple thing could do so many amazing things. Anyway, this is the first (of many!) green smoothies I’ll be making in this little darling. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the Thomas Crown Affair remake (the one with Pierce Brosnan), I think I was about 18 when I watched it. Anyway, there’s a scene with Renee Russo drinking one of these green smoothies and I remember wondering what the hell it was! Randomness, I know but I felt the urge to share that. It also goes to show how the US are space ages ahead when it comes to certain super foods and health crazes. Green juicing has become pretty mainstream now but I have to say the office were still a little taken back by my large glass jar crammed full of green stuff! It’s literally everywhere though, I watched ‘Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead’ the other night and was amazed by how juicing can actually transform lives. Of course these people were extreme cases and personally I couldn’t juice for extended periods of time but it really opened my eyes to the health benefits of a time limited juice diet.Smoothie making

This particular smoothie contains spirulina which of course is entirely optional but gee whizz it gives a superb health boost and really puts the GREEN into a green smoothie. This amazing post on Mind Body Green is all the evidence I need to put a teaspoon into my greens. I buy this green algae from Holland & Barrett but there are good bargains to be had on Ebay too.DSC_6594

I’m the first to admit it isn’t exactly pretty but the taste is utterly delicious! The kiwi, banana and almond milk balance out the spinach and spirulina flavours perfectly, resulting in a silky, smooth, supercharged health tonic that has you feeling on top of the world! Of course, if the spirulina makes this green smoothie just a little too green for your taste, just leave it out.Spirulina smoothie

It’s near impossible to list the vitamin and mineral boost this drink provides but let’s just say there’s hefty amounts of vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E, K, magnesium, potassium, calcium and tryptophan. It’s high in fibre and protein and the perfect health tonic for a pick me up late afternoon or as part of a power breakfast.Smoothie all gone!

Spinach, kiwi + spirulina smoothie

(serves 1)

2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 kiwi, skin removed
1/2 frozen banana
1 teaspoon spirulina (optional)
1 cup almond milk

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz on high for 45 seconds or until smooth. Enjoy the goodness.

Simple Celery Soup – Vegan

Simple Celery SoupWhy do you hate celery? Maybe I’m being a little presumptuous but if in fact you’re not a hater, then why do so many people detest poor old celery?

I’m guessing it’s something to do with the taste, texture or appearance.  But to me, fresh celery has a pretty inoffensive grassy, earthy flavour, a nice crunchy bite and is quite attractive when compared to some other vegetables! Simple Celery Soup

This simple celery soup is versatile too – topped with crunchy peanut butter, a long squirt of salad cream, lovely in salads, smothered in cheese, a pasta sauce, simply roasted and of course lovely celery soup.

I remember having this soup when I was a kid and loving it, almost a bit too much for a ten year old! For some reason I haven’t had it since and lord knows why because it’s simple, super cheap and pretty good for you too.Simple Celery Soup

To me celery is an impressive little vegetable considering it’s 95% water. It’s packed full of antioxidants and provides sizeable quantities of Vitamin A, C and K, folate and potassium.

I reckon I could sell celery to any doubters and this smooth, silky, creamy soup is a sure fire way to convert those who are not yet celery fans.

Not only is it supercharged with nutrients, it cost less than £1 to make. It’s quick too, taking less than half an hour to make and can be stored in the fridge for a leftovers lunch.

On the occasions I don’t feel like cooking I usually make a simple soup, they’re so time efficient that I can’t really find an excuse not to cook fresh.Simple Celery Soup

Give your body some goodness and make some super cleansing, hydrating simple celery soup. Even more delicious when served with fresh, warm bread.Simple Celery Soup

Delightful Simple Celery Soup

(serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme (optional)
1 head of celery, cleaned & chopped roughly
1 white potato or 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 litre of vegetable stock
pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a non stick pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup using a blender. Hand held works fine.
  4. Return to the pan, check seasoning and serve.

Smoked Chipotle Black Beans – GF

Beans, taco & tortillaThis is my favourite, most delicious dish EVER! Really, I mean it, I adore these black beans, they’re my go to comfort food and always will be. Some cuisine is just better without meat and even when I wasn’t veggie I always preferred my Mexican meat free, same for Indian come to think of it. Of course now I prefer everything meatless and I eat these chipotle beans a lot. If I had a pound for every time I’ve made these I would be…….well maybe not rich but it would be enough to put a smile on my face! Now I’m actually wondering how much it would be!

Food like this makes it easy to be a vegetarian. They’re delicious, simple, full of goodness and adaptable! What more could anyone want? Except perhaps eating them at the beach, in Mexico, watching the sunset, listening to the gentle crash of the waves with a coconut margarita in hand. I digress but I can dream and it’s good to do so! Anyway, I’m proud to say that Russ classes these as his favourite food, EVER! So much so that we eat them twice a week sometimes and always once. Is that a bit habitual? The thing is I love them, they are comforting, healthy and a real vegetarian victory!Russ & his black bean taco!

I prefer to use black beans for the size, colour and softer texture but this works perfectly well with kidney, pinto, haricot and black eye beans. In fact, kidney beans being just under thirty pence in most supermarkets make this dish a seriously cheap option.  For added sweetness, texture and nutrient bumping I add cubed squash and red pepper but they’re equally yum with carrot, green peppers (any peppers), sweetcorn, peas and courgette. See what I mean about being super healthy – full of protein and vitamins!Beans, salad & tortilla!

I know chili and chocolate is no new partnership but I was still a little reticent when I first lobbed a hunk of gloriously dark chocolate into my chili bean hard work. However, it adds a real deep rich colour and aroma when combined with the smokiness of the chipotle chili. The chipotle dried chilies will need overnight soaking but I’ve found that a few generous shakes of chipotle sauce work pretty well if you don’t these. Smokey dried chillies are fantastic for Mexican cuisine and simply require soaking for five or more hours.  We buy our chipotle chillies from the Mex Grocer who provide an amazing array of Mexican goods. I make a point to never run out!! Yep, in fact I’m addicted to these beans and stuff my tortillas to the brim with them, there’s no such thing as too much! Just ask my tortilla………Chipotle chili & licked bowls!

Fantastic served with crunchy tacos (always heat before serving – gosh it’s like a completely different food), soft tortillas, lettuce wraps (for those wanting something lighter). or simply rice and nachos. Dress up or down with copious amounts of salad, cheese, sour cream and salsa and be transported to chill choco black bean heaven. Prayers answered!

Smoked chipotle black beans

(Serves 2)

1 tablespoon of oil
1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
salt & pepper
2 chipotle chilies, presoaked & chopped finely
1/2 can of tomatoes & 1 can of water
4 squares dark chocolate (dairy free for vegan beans)
1 teaspoon oregano/cumin/coriander/cinnamon
1 cup of squash (peeled and cubed)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 handful of coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a non stick pan. Gently fry the onion, garlic and pepper. season with salt & pepper.
  2. Stir in the chipotle chili, tomatoes, water, chocolate, spices & squash. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Stir through black beans & coriander until heated through.
  4. Serve as a hearty stew or as a filling for tacos & tortillas.

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