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

 

Simple, Nutritious And Delicious Avocado Protein Shake.

Well, the title says it all and it is true. This is perfect for breakfast on the go, when you just couldn’t get out of bed in time (like me today) to make yourself a proper breakfast. As usual, this recipe allows variation. For instance, the protein can be of any flavour and you can use any kind of milk instead of coconut water. Avocado is the key ingredient here – it adds texture and nutrition to the shake – the rest is customisable. The end result is a tasty shake full of healthy fats and amino acids – perfect way to start the day or as a post-workout drink.

Ingredients for 1 large or two regular shakes:

  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • One scoop/sachet of protein of your choice
  • About 300ml of pure unsweetened coconut water
  1. Place roughly sliced avocado in blender together with protein and half of liquids. Process until smooth.
  2. Pour into shaker, add the rest of the liquids and shake well.
  3. Let it sit for a minute, then share it with someone or enjoy it all by yourself.

N.B. The amount of liquids depend on how thick you like your shake to be. 300ml used here makes for a relatively thick drink, so if you like it thinner add more liquids at the end. Also, add one teaspoon of honey for taste if using natural protein. See below.

A note on protein. In this recipe I used vegan chocolate protein from Sun Warrior. It is made from sprouted brown rice with added natural cocoa and sweetened with stevia. I highly recommend this protein for vegans as it is by far the best tasting and the cleanest plant protein that I have tried.

Otherwise, I would recommend to use natural whey protein in this shake. I am not a fan of sports proteins since they are full of sugar. There is only one that I have found so far that is clean – 100% Whey from Optimum Nutrition. I’ve used it in many recipes and it is, in my humble opinion, the best one on the market. At least until I find something better.

There is a very good natural and unsweetened whey powder available from Pulsin and The Good Whey Co. The latter company also does natural whey in different flavours and just like the above mentioned Optimum Nutrition they use sucralose instead of corn syrup or aspartame. So choose your protein wisely.

This recipe is suitable for those who are looking after their blood sugar levels as part of low carb diet. Suitable for vegans if using vegan protein, and for fitness related “clean” eating.

Buckwheat - Peasant Wonderfood.

Buckwheat use in cooking dates back almost 6000 years, yet it is considered a novelty food in the west. I grew up on it in Russia. It was and still is a staple Eastern European side dish or breakfast porridge that was commonly served at peoples homes, at school and work cantinas – everywhere. It was always a sort of cheaper alternative to rice in Russia as rice was more expensive. It is ironic how the tide has turned and what used to be a “peasant food” now is a health food at a hefty cost comparing to other whole grains.

Although it ends with “wheat” it is in fact wheat-free as it is not a grain, but a seed. And yes – it is very healthy. I still cook with buckwheat often, not because I care much about my heritage, but because I care about my health. Buckwheat seeds and leaves are one of the richest source of Rutin – the antioxidant glucoside. It is one of the best nutrients for healthy blood vessels and capillary walls. It is also quite rich in protein for a seed and contains Lysine and Tryptophan among other amino-acids. This protein also binds cholesterol much better than the one in oats. Buckwheat is rich in Iron, Zinc, Selenium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.

For novices, buckwheat can be a bit tricky to cook. It must never be mushy. If it is mushy – it is overcooked! It will be edible alright, but probably not so nutrient dense and not good looking. It must be grainy and fluffy when cooked, like rice. Traditionally we would always buy toasted buckwheat in Russia – it is tastier and cooks faster. The raw buckwheat should be toasted in dry frying pan until it pops prior to cooking. As soon as it is lightly golden and fragrant, transfer it to a pan, cover with double the amount of boiled water or stock (mushroom stock or watered gravy if you eat meat goes very well with it), salt it if required and mix gently. Now you can either let it simmer for about 20 minutes on the stove top or cover it and put in the oven for the same amount of time. It is ready when all the liquid has been absorbed and the buckwheat is light and fluffy. To make it perfect, you just have to practice and taste it as it cooks. Once its very soft but the seeds are still intact – it’s ready. Always wash it carefully before use and remove any bad grains.

Buckwheat flour and noodles has been used in Eastern Russia and Japan for many years. Traditional Russian buckwheat pancakes are made with buckwheat flour and are usually savoury with filling inside. The original Soba noodles are made of 100% buckwheat and so are buckwheat dumplings that are used in Japanese soups and stews.

Here is my recipe of buckwheat and spelt bread, where I use buckwheat flour. Japanese soba noodles recipe and a  very good Russian recipe for you to try from my good friend Katrina of Russian Revels.

Some people may be allergic to Buckwheat but it is rare. Overall, buckwheat is virtually fat free, contains protein and is gluten free. It is tasty and perfect for a side dish or stuffing. Buckwheat flour is a healthy alternative to regular flour in baking, but due to the specific taste it works better in savoury rather than sweet recipes. So, give it a try – who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new favorite.

Low Carb Pasta With Vegan & Nut-Free Pesto.

This was the first time I cooked low carb Dreamfields pasta and the result was wonderful! I prefer to stick to a low GI diet, so I used to buy wholegrain pasta before, but no matter what brand and price band I went for, the result was always the same – it was like chewing a cardboard. After a while I just switched to brown rice pasta with slightly higher GI, but you have to time it really well as it falls apart very fast and it is very expensive (I buy the one that is imported from Canada). This is the first time when the taste and the texture remains the same (or even better!) even though it is modified to contain less digestible carbs.

I prefer to make pesto myself, because, well there’s no excuse not to. It is much tastier, you use much less salt and oil, no preservatives and there’s always room for experimentation. This pesto is vegan and nut-free. I do use nutritional yeast flakes for cheesy flavour, but it is entirely optional. Fresh herbs will dominate the taste anyway. Feel free to experiment with various herbs, the combo below is my favorite, but a little bit of mint or chives might add to the flavour too. There’s usually way too much oil in store bought pesto. Here I only use 4 tbsp and the rest of the liquids are from cucumber. It adds nutrition and a little flavour, so cucumber is excellent to use instead of water. Capers are used instead of salt, so if you don’t like capers, substitute it with half a teaspoon of good quality salt.

 Serves 2:

Required amount of low carb pasta.

  • bunch of each: basil and parsley, washed
  • about 35g of rocket (small bowl), washed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • ground pepper
  • half a cucumber (about 10 cm)
  1. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box. Usually about 10 minutes once the water is boiling.
  2. While pasta is cooking, place all the pesto ingredients in the food processor and process to desired consistency. If your food processor is small, mix the herbs with lemon juice, garlic and oil first, then add the rest of ingredients.
  3. Drain the pasta and mix it with pesto.
  4. Serve!

This recipe is suitable for those who are looking after their blood sugar levels as the GI of this pasta is low. It is also low fat, nut free, vegan and suitable for clean eating (bodybuilders will know what I’m talking about).
Contains: wheat, gluten.

Stuffed Orange.

This is not a recipe but rather an idea that I would like to share. I don’t have anything decent looking for serving soft desserts like puddings. My ramekins are too small and the rest of the wares are not pretty enough. So I’ve spotted this idea of serving a pudding in the orange skin in some magazine – I don’t remember which one, sorry – but I couldn’t find large enough oranges to make it. Well, here it is finally and I must say it looked fabulous!

You can make any chocolate or non-chocolate pudding of your choice and fill the oranges with it. I bet it would taste yummy and look fantastic with some lemon pudding or key lime cheesecake. The key is to buy very large oranges with not too thick skin, but just thick enough for it to hold while baking. Once your pudding base/dough is ready, wash your oranges thoroughly, then cut the top off. With a serrated knife, carve out most of pulp and membranes. It’s OK if you’ll have a bit left at the bottom as long as you remove most of it – the leftover pulp will give off juices while cooking and mix in with the flavour of your pudding. Reserve the pulp for juice or salad and fill the oranges with a dessert of your choice. Bake according to your cooking instructions.

I’ve made a dark chocolate and orange pudding with brandy. Yum!

King Prawns In Spicy Orange Sauce.

I found the original recipe at myrecipes.com, but as usual, I had to change it to my requirements. I swapped canola oil for coconut oil, because I try not to use vegetable oils in my cooking as they are unstable and provide too much PUFAs. Coconut oil compliments spicy food very well, have higher heat tolerance and is a source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). I have also used brown rice flour instead of cornstarch. It does the job just as well, but the starch is healthier than the potato or corn one. Adding freshly squeezed orange juice and using fresh chili and garlic is also considerably better than using packaged sauces. I served the prawns with brown rice and green soy beans for extra protein and isoflavones.

Unfortunately, my pictures of this yummy mess was not quite as appealing as the one below, so you can click on the image to see the original recipe and credits.

Please click the picture to see the original recipe.

 

Serves 2:

  • 225g cooked king prawns, fresh or frozen. Defrost the frozen ones thoroughly before cooking.
  •  Brown rice flour for coating.
  • Juice of one large orange. Don’t worry if you’ll have the bits in the sauce – it adds to the taste.
  • 2 tbsp. Braggs liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce.
  • 2 tbsp. natural honey or 1 tbsp. dark agave nectar.
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar. Try to use the one without gluten. I use Clearspring brown rice vinegar.
  • 1 tbsp. raw coconut oil.
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped.
  • Piece of 1.5 inch ginger, peeled and shopped.
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squeezed.
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste.
  • 3 tbsp. water plus extra, to thin the sauce if it gets too thick.
  • 3-4 spring onions, sliced.
  1. Combine juice, aminos, agave and vinegar; set aside.
  2. Coat prawns in flour and set aside.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic, chili and tomato paste with water to pan; stir-fry until fragrant and coated in tomato paste.
  4. Mix in orange sauce and heat everything through, but do not allow it to boil.
  5. Add prawns and onions and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. If it gets too thick, add a little water.

 

Soft Vegan Brownies.

These delicious, soft, melt-in-your-mouth brownies are completely guilt free. Not only they are vegan, baking with ground almonds and agave nectar instead of sugar makes them low-GI, wheat and gluten-free – heavenly! You can substitute Agave nectar with Xylitol if trying to avoid fructose.

Yields 12 squares.

  • 200ml rice milk
  • 100g vegan (dairy-free) dark chocolate, broken to pieces. I used 85% one.
  • 1 ts. vanilla extract
  • 50ml dark agave nectar
  • 50ml/50g pure coconut oil plus a little for greasing
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  1. Grease the flameproof square dish with oil and preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Pour milk into a small pan, add chocolate pieces and vanilla extract and stir over a low heat until the chocolate has melted and incorporated into the milk. Do not let mixture to boil, very low heat is the key here.
  3. Remove from the heat, add coconut oil and agave nectar and stir until the oil has melted.
  4. Mix dry ingredients together, breaking any almond and clusters, then gradually pour the liquid mixture into the dry one, whisking it as you pour. The resulting mixture should be not too thick, smoothie-like consistency.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for about 40-45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before slicing it into squares. Enjoy!

This recipe suitable for low-GI, clean, vegan and free-from diet.