Vegan Winter Root Vegetables & Bean Hash.

Very easy to make, comforting and warming, yet light enough dish. Ultimate autumn/winter fast food. This hash can be made with any combination of seasonal root vegetables and spiced to anyone’s taste. I prefer a hint of Mexican, so I use beans and Mexican spices such as cumin, cayenne and coriander. I think Italian version, with white beans and chopped tomatoes, spiced with dried herbs could also be very nice.

This is a throw-everything-in-a-pan, very low maintenance dish. Once you prepare and chop everything, it will just sweat in a covered pan until ready. All you have to do is to stir it once or twice.  It is packed with protein, fiber and beta-carotene, and works well with wilted spinach or kale on a side.

Veggie hash

Serves 4:

  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 carton organic kidney or black beans, drained
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 medium turnips
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/4 tsp of each: ground cumin, cayenne pepper, dried coriander greens
  • 1 red chili
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric
  • rock salt to taste
  1. Wash, peel and chop all root vegetables into medium chunks and slice the onion thinly.
  2. Chop the chili finely.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add turnips. Cover and let it sit on a medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until it just starts to get soft.
  4. Add the rest of the vegetables, spices and beans and stir everything to cover with spices.
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on a medium/low heat until all vegetables are soft. This should take about 15 minutes. Check on it and stir through after 10 minutes.
  6. When ready, remove the lid, stir through once more and serve.

 This recipe is: gluten free, dairy free, vegan, low GI, low fat.

Soy Sauce, Liquid Aminos or Tamari? What is Healthier?

What is the healthiest choice when it comes to using soy sauce in recipes? I have used various types of common soy sauces, Braggs liquid aminos and tamari sauce in my cooking before, but as I try to watch my sodium and gluten intake, I wanted to know which one is the better choice. So I did some digging and Tamari seems to be the healthiest option of all soy condiments.

Braggs Liquid Aminos taste like soy sauce and just like soy sauce it is very high in sodium. The difference between liquid aminos and soy sauce is that most soy sauces contain wheat and, subsequently, gluten, as well as colour and sometimes even preservatives. In this respect, liquid aminos are cleaner, since it is just isolated amino acids from soy, but due to high sodium content, not the healthiest of options. It is also the most expensive and hard to find of all three, so really, not worth the effort.

Tamari’s  recipe is closest to the original soy sauce that was introduced to Japan from China. It is brewed by fermentation process from miso and therefore contains much less sodium and no wheat or gluten. It also should be free of any colours and preservatives. It is thicker than conventional soy sauce and tastes stronger. Tamari can be found in most well-stocked health food stored and in supermarkets gluten-free section.

Blueberry Crumble Teacake.

First time I’ve made this cake, I have used flour and more sugar than I would usually use in a recipe. The teacake came out so delicious that I thought: “if I’m going to make this often, it ought to be healthier than this”, so I’ve tried to improve on ingredients and to my surprise it came out even more delicious! Granted, I do prefer tartness to sweetness when it comes to dessert, but even my “sweet toothed” husband liked the healthier version more. It also came out much lighter, not as filling as the original version. The major difference was in texture though. Flour cakes tend to keep a nice shape even straight out of the oven. This lighter version was much more crumbly (well, it is a crumble cake after all), so I had to serve it with a spoon rather then slice it with knife. It did become more dense the next day though and I really don’t consider such things important, but I thought its worth mentioning.

Blueberry Teacake Slice

Serves 2 gluttons (ahem!) or 6 people that can be satisfied after just one slice.

For the cake:

  • 100g. almond flour
  • 100g. oatmeal or oats, ground into a flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp rock salt (optional)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 5 tbsp (~40g) muscovado sugar + 1 tsp. stevia or 80g sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml milk of your choice, at room temperature
  • Zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon. 1/2 an orange can work here too.
  • ~350g frozen blueberries

For the crumble:

  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 120g coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Lightly grease a baking dish with coconut oil and set aside.
  3. Mix the first five cake ingredients together.
  4. In a separate large bowl, using an electric mixer or biceps power, beat the coconut oil with sugar, making sure all the sugar clusters are dissolved. Heat the mixture if necessary.
  5. Add the rest of ingredients, apart of blueberries, to the mixture.  Combine well.
  6. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture in small parts. Do not overmix.
  7. Pour the batter into the baking dish.
  8. Top with blueberries and let it rest while making crumble topping.
  9. Mix sugar, coconut flour and cinnamon in a bowl.
  10. Add coconut oil and rub it into the mixture until it resemble crumbles.
  11. Distribute the crumble mixture on top of blueberries.
  12. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Assuming it will last that long, this cake is even better the next day.

 This recipe is: wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian.

Green Quinoa Salad.

quinoa_salad

This healthy quinoa salad is bursting with flavour of fresh herbs and spices. It is excellent for a lunch base, main side dish or a light summer salad. Prepared in advance, it can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days in a fridge and used for a variety of lunches. Just add eggs, fish, tofu or whatever else you fancy.

Boiling quinoa, or any other grain/seed, with spices allows it to adsorb the flavour, making it less bland. I always add cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks to rice and various other spices to millet, quinoa and lentils. Adding saffron, or turmeric if you are on the budget, to lightly coloured grains turns them into a lovely golden colour.

Almonds and pecan nuts also go well with this salad and you can experiment with various herbs. Make sure to toast nuts lightly and not to burn them. They should not change colour at all.

quinoa_salad01

Serves 2 as a light salad or 4 as a side dish:

  • 150g yellow quinoa, washed and any suspicious floaty bits removed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 30g walnut halves
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (use gloves if you are too sensitive)
  • 30g rocket, washed and patted dry
  • 20g parsley,  leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 20g coriander, leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 15g chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. Place the quinoa in a pan with cold water, bring to the boil, then add cumin and salt to taste. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, until the germ starts to separate from the seed (or follow the cooking instructions). When ready, drain thoroughly and transfer into a glass bowl to cool down.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, crush the nuts to smaller pieces. You can pop them in a plastic bag and smash them a couple of times with a roller pin. That should do it. Toast them lightly in a dry pan and leave to cool.
  3. Chop chilli and spring onions, and wash, trim and chop all the herbs.
  4. When everything is ready, add nuts, rocket and the rest of the ingredients to a bowl with quinoa, season with salt and pepper and mix it up well.

quinoa_salad5_crop_sm

This recipe is: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan.

Quinoa - The Versatile Super Seed.

Quinoa is not a grain, but a seed. As most seeds, it is wheat and gluten free and contains protein. In fact, Quinoa contains all essential amino-acids, which makes it a complete protein. It is also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and B vitamins, including folic acid. It is low fat, easy to digest, and doesn’t raise blood sugar level like wheat based grains and white rice.

Quinoa comes in yellow, red or black color, but it doesn’t vary in taste, so it is possible to combine different types of quinoa in one dish. It looks good. Texture wise, in my experience, red and black quinoa types are more chewy than the yellow one.

yellow quinoa seed

I love cooking with quinoa because it is so versatile! It can be a great substitution for cous-cous, bulghur wheat or rice and it tastes great. It can also be served cold of hot and is suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. Quinoa can be served as porridge for breakfast, as a side dish or as a salad, made into sweet pudding for dessert, and it is possible to even bake with it!

Quinoa is cooked by simply boiling it in water just like rice, but for a shorter time. It is ready when the germ is separated from the seed, which should take about 10 minutes after the water is boiling. It can also be sprouted. It takes 6 hours to soak one cup of quinoa. Sprouts will appear in less then one day and will yield 2.5 cups.

 yellow quinoa seeds

 

Wasabi Spinach

wasabi_spinachI love wasabi and don’t like the taste of spinach, so this is my solution to eat more of these healthy, but  – in my opinion – bland leaves. My wasabi dressing recipe inspired me to try this, and I was so pleased with the result, I now cook most of my green leafy veggies this way. Kale, chard, spring greens – all go excellent with a combination of wasabi and coconut oil. If possible, choose a good quality wasabi powder instead of paste, as premade pastes often contain sugar and salt. I highly recommend Clearspring powder.

I prefer strong wasabi taste, so I don’t use any salt here. The whole cooking process should take a couple of minutes. You don’t want to overcook spinach, just heat it through. The wasabi measurement in this recipe do not provide that characteristic spicy kick. If you like to make it stronger, double the amount of powder.

Measurements for small (100g) bag of spinach:

  • 1 tsp. wasabi powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  1. Wash your spinach and pat it dry.
  2. Melt the oil in a pan over medium heat and add spinach to a pan, stirring it to cover with oil.
  3. Sprinkle wasabi powder over the spinach and stir as it wilts to distribute the powder evenly.
  4. Serve as soon as all leaves are wilted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or dry milled seaweed if you like.

Serve with fish or brown rice…or both.

This recipe is: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, sugar free, low fat, vegan.

Spiced Sweet Carrots.

This is one of my favorite way of eating carrots. Generally, I find them quite boring, but cooked in this way, they make for a good snack or side dish. The spices that I use also remind me of Christmas and of course I make these carrots quite often during winter months. The whole preparation takes not more than 10 minutes and you don’t need to keep an eye on them, which makes it perfectly stress free dish to prepare from start to finish.

Serves 2 as a side dish or a snack:

  • Approx. 0.500 g.carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. peanut or coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. clear honey
  • 1/4 tsp. each: ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • Small pinch of allspice
  • Small pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven t0 200C.
  2. Place carrots together with the rest of the ingredients in a heatproof dish, toss it well so that carrots are evenly covered in honey, oil and spices and roast for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Serve on its own as a snack or as a side dish.

 

This recipe is: gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian.

Pan Fried Sea Bass With Feta & Bean Salad.

I personally do not need a special occasion to treat myself to a nice meal, but sometimes I make something that is healthy and has enough wow-factor to serve to guests, so I sort of make a note to self that I have to repeat this recipe one day. This is such recipe – a good example of clean and healthy meal that is good enough to serve on special occasion. I do use feta cheese in this recipe, which is uncommon for me. I rarely use any dairy in my cooking, so this is an exception. I have managed to find a proper Greek feta made from sheep’s milk only.

I only use salt for the fish, as I don’t find it necessary to salt the salad if there’s lemon juice involved. I also use peanut oil for frying because it is very heat stable and does not contain PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) which we tend to consume a lot. It doesn’t contain cholesterol and has a very neutral, slightly nutty taste. After coconut oil, this is my favorite oil to use for baking and frying.

I also choose rice flour to avoid wheat and gluten. It doesn’t have any taste and it sticks to fish nicely due to high starch content, which makes it nice and crispy very fast, without burning.

 Serves 2

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
  • Juice of one lemon.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano.
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme.
  • Ground black pepper.

Salad:

  • Approx. 10cm piece of cucumber, cut to you liking.
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely sliced.
  • Few whole green olives, raw if you can find them.
  • About 60g wild rocket, washed.
  • 1/2 large or one small red onion, diced.
  • 2 celery stalks, diced.
  • 6 tbsp. canned cannellini beans, drained and flushed under the cold water. Reserve the rest of the beans to make tuna bean salad for lunch.
  • 50g feta cheese.

Fish:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut (groundnut) oil.
  • 2 boneless sea bass fillets.
  • Crystal salt or sea salt.
  • Ground black pepper.
  • 100g rice flour or just enough to coat the fish fillets lightly.
  1. Start by making the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together and let it stand at room temperature to allow dried herbs to soften and infuse the oil.
  2. Distribute first 7 salad ingredients equally between two serving plates.
  3. Pour the dressing over, distributing it equally. It should be about 2 tbsp. per plate. Then crumble feta cheese all over.
  4. Mix the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish, then dip the fish fillets into it, covering both sides. It shouldn’t be completely covered in flour though, just dusted enough to make the top crisp.
  5. Heat the peanut oil in a non-stick frying pan, then fry the fish on high heat on both sides until it is golden brown. It shouldn’t take more than 6-8 minutes if the pan is very hot.
  6. Serve on top of salad, with a glass of wine if you wish so.

 

This recipe is: gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, pescetarian, high protein, clean, low GI, low carb, low sodium.

Scrambled Tofu With Herbs.

This is a great alternative to eggs and a perfect example of healthy, clean, high protein and low fat breakfast. Add some berries or a grapefruit on the side and you have your healthy protein and lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Don’t skimp of fresh herbs – the more the better! Here I’ve only had parsley and spring onions, but chives, basil and dill are good to use too. I also add frozen sweet peas when I have them – they add lots of flavour.

It looks just like scrambled eggs, doesn’t it? The key to flavour the tofu is spices. Make sure you add your favorites. I usually use rock salt and freshly ground pepper, a little turmeric, cayenne and paprika. Typically you would need:

  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 block of semi-firm tofu
  • couple of bunches of herbs of your choice
  • Spices
  1. Heat the coconut oil in the frying pan and crumble the tofu block. Add spices and fry on high heat for a few minutes until most of the tofu liquids are evaporated, mixing it continuously to spread spices evenly.
  2. Reduce the heat, add greens and heat through for a minute or so.

The whole process should be very fast. You wouldn’t believe how nice it tastes! I’d take it over egg scramble anytime. This recipe is suitable for those of low-carb, low-fat, clean diet. It is vegan and wheat and gluten free.

Cooking With Seaweed.

There are many types of seaweed (sea vegetables) available for sale, such as Kelp, Nori, Irish Moss, Wakame, Hijiki, Kombu, Sea Lettuce, etc., and all of them are highly nutritious and healthy. Some add salty taste to food, other types are somewhat sweet, so it can be used in a variety of dishes to add nutrition. Seaweed is highly alkaline, one of the richest source of iodine that is so important for proper thyroid function and might help to lose weight, contains most of the minerals, vitamins and amino acids, but very low in calories.

It comes in a dry or fresh form and can be either soaked and used for soups and stews, or used as dry flakes or strips. I like to cut Nori sheets into long strips and mix it with brown rice for extra nutrition. It also adds colour and crunch to it. To me, a little bit of seaweed is also a must in most soups, stews and salads. Sea lettuce is my favourite because of its neutral taste that can go with anything. Nori sheets can also be used instead of wheat or corn tortillas to make healthy, gluten and sugar free wraps.

Another great thing about seaweed is the thickening agent called Agar. It is a substitution for gelatin and it is usually sold in transparent flakes that are easy to use for making your favorite jellies and other desserts and dishes where gelatin is required. Derived from seaweed, it is of course vegan.

Be careful when buying fresh seaweed as it must be absolutely fresh with no signs of rotting. Fresh seaweed is very healthy, while spoiled one, just like any other food, is toxic. Fresh seaweed must be vacuum packed and stored in refrigerator. Dried seaweed can be stored for a long time even after opening, but it must always be tightly sealed to avoid exposure to moisture and too much air. Dried seaweed expands a lot when soaked, so don’t be put off by a tiny bag or dried greens – a little goes a long way. Soak it according to instructions before cooking and wash away any sand grains. Nowadays, most common types of seaweed such as Nori and Wakame can be bought in any large supermarket. Most other types can be bought from health food stores, independent fishmongers, or ordered online.

Oh, now I miss that “sea salad” I used to have when I was a kid. It was ready made meal of seaweed, sea cucumber (they look like giant worms, but they are delicious!), clams and calamari rings…yum! Yes, I ate all sorts of weird and wonderful things growing up by Japanese sea.

Dried Nori sheets and sea lettuce

 

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