Jan 2013

BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

BALANCING LIFE WITH P&B QUESADILLA

Yesterday I managed to drop my Kitchen Aid food processor on my fingers. As I was putting it away in its rather tight space I dropped it on one finger on my right hand, that made me pull my hand away which shifted the weight of the appliance and it landed on another finger of my left hand. Only 5 minutes later I tried to stop a falling porcelain dish from breaking by offering my foot to soften the blow. The dish is fine but it was indeed heavier than I anticipated. To top it all off, this morning I managed to drop a serving spoon on a glass. The glass cracked. I put it into a plastic bag to take it to the bin outside. But alas, the bag had a hole in the bottom, the glass fell out, first it hit my foot and than shattered into many pieces! Bits of glass in a puddle, bits of glass in the gravel, bits of glass embedded in the wooden step that was made soft by the heavy rainfall. To prevent kids feet and dogs’ paws from an injury I had to remove the shards one by one....

Good things, I believe, do balance the bad things. Here are few of the good, balance shifting things. Having a breakfast with my lovely friend this morning was good for the soul. We enjoyed our food whilst watching the gorgeous song birds outside the farm shop cafe windows. Later my kids were praised by their dentist for their excellent dental hygiene, which made me puff up with pride. And finally, we exchanged contracts on our new house, making our big move very final. My husband and I have opened a nice bottle of Verdicchio to celebrate.

Sometimes, when things go bad, something gooey may just shift the balance. No, I am not promoting comfort eating but I can’t seem to find enough excuses to make my gooey sticky filling P&B quesadilla. So if things are falling on your feet, you are getting fingers stuck in the door and you managed to process a piece of plastic wrapping with your courgette dip (yes that is another story...) just grab a tortilla, peanut butter, banana and just smile :) Remember to let it cool down a little bit before eating or you may just burn your lips :)

P&B-quesadillas

(BREAKFAST) PB AND B QUESADILLA
These are fabulous for breakfast, they really fill you up. They will also hit the spot anytime you fancy something sweet and gooey.

Serves 1

ingredients
1 large tortilla
1-2Tbs organic peanut butter
1 small banana
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

method
  1. Spread the peanut butter over the tortilla.
  2. Mash the banana over half of the tortilla.
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon if using. Fold the tortilla over.
  4. Preheat a large frying pan.
  5. Place the tortilla into the frying pan and dry fry for about 1 min on each side or till the tortilla crisps up and is golden brown.

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FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Parsnips. I have to admit I have not tasted a parsnip before moving to the UK. It is not a vegetable you find on the Czech table. I do admit there are many vegetables I would rather eat than parsnips. I don’t hate them but they do not excite me very much. If you put and aubergine and parsnip in front of me I know which one I would choose.

This is where my vegetable box comes to its force, I don’t get much of a choice what is delivered. And as I like to eat seasonally I do have to give even parsnips a chance. They sure deserve it, these roots are rich in fibre, Vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6 and B1, they do contain good amounts of minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. This sure make parsnips much more interesting.

What is the best way to cook them? I love them roasted (see I said love!!!), with spices and some maple syrup. This definitely brings out their natural sweetness. I am not keen on a parsnip mash, but a soup can be delicious, especially with plenty of warming curry spices thrown in.

Last time we found ourselves in Sweet Mart supermarket we decided to buy some gorgeous Indian savoury snacks. My husband bought a portion of fiery parsnips, not something I was drawn to. I made an aubergine curry that night and we had the parsnips on the side. Beyond all expectations I must admit we were hooked instantly, the tender sweet parsnips went so well with the heat of the chili and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious!

No surprise that as soon as I found myself with a few parsnips, I had to try to recreate this amazing dish. I only had a Scotch Bonnet pepper in the fridge which is not a typical Indian ingredient. It worked really well, lending the dish not only its fiery heat but also its lovely fruity flavour. My husband called it a close match. When he had the leftovers next day he than admitted it was a
very close match. Rested for a day and being gently reheated the sauce got even better, stickier and more intense. Parsnips have never tasted this good!

fiery-parsnip-curry

FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed (canola oil)
1 tsp nigella (kalonji) seed
15 curry leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 inch ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Scotch bonnet (Habanero chilli), left whole and slit with a knife. (chop up finely for an extra spicy curry)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
5 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunky batons
375 ml water
fresh coriander

fiery-parsnip-curry-2


method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the nigella seeds and curry leaves. Wait for the seeds to start popping. Take care not to burn them.
  2. Add the onions and cook them on medium heat till they are soft and brown.
  3. Next add the ginger, garlic and the Scotch Bonnet pepper. Cook for a minute.
  4. Add the spices, cook for about 30seconds.
  5. Next add the tomatoes, cover and cook for about 5min.
  6. While the tomatoes are cooking prepare the parsnips.
  7. Add the parsnips to the tomato together with water.
  8. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Cook gently for about 30min until the sauce it reduced and parsnips are very tender.
  9. Uncover the dish and turn up the heat for about 5 min. You should end up with a very reduced, sticky sauce.
  10. Serve with some fresh coriander and rice. Yum!

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VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

Some days only a cake will do. I baked this one on our very snowy Friday. School was closed, kids were defrosting from sledging and making snow angels, the dog was melting all over the floor. It sure seemed like a perfect time to make a cake.

I do not like to used too much sugar in my cooking, in this cake I used only 1/2 cup . It will serve 8 which means around 1 Tbs of sugar per serving. That is a fraction of sugar in most cakes. On top of this (of course) there is no butter, oil, or eggs used in this recipe. Quite a low cal, low fat treat.

This cake was tested over the weekend on my family and friends. My Brazilian friend H said she liked it even though she hates mangos! She told us when she was growing up in Brazil, kids would pick ripe mangos off the trees, eating them straight away with juices dripping all over their faces, hands and even hair. I thought that was an amazing image but apparently it put her off mangos for life.

If you feel the same way about mangos you can substitute your favourite fruit for them. I think peaches or cherries would be fantastic. How about blueberries or a large not too ripe pear. I have a feeling we are going to make many versions of this surprisingly light cake.

mango-cake

VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE
I used all whole meal (wheat) flour but to make the cake slightly more kids friendly you may want to use half white half whole meal. I must say my son enjoyed it as it was.

Makes 8 good slices

ingredients:
200g (1 and 1/2 cup) of fine whole meal (wheat) flour - or half white half whole meal
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs ground linseed soaked in 3 Tbs water
100g (1/2 cup) unrefined (or raw) sugar
250ml (1 cup) almond milk
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 large mango, peeled and cut into large dice
2 Tbs flaked almonds

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ground linseeds with the water and let sit couple of minutes
  4. In a measuring jug or a medium bowl mix the almond milk, sugar and vinegar together. The mixture will curdle, that is expected no worries :)
  5. Add the soaked linseed, and the almond milk mixture to the flour mix. Mix well together using a large whisk or a wooden spoon.
  6. Fold the mango cubes into the cake batter.
  7. Pour into a 8 inch (20cm) spring form cake tin that has been lined with baking paper (or lightly greased).
  8. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake batter.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40min. Check halfway through, it the almonds are starting to brown to quickly cover the cake with aluminium foil for rest of the baking time.
  10. To check the cake is ready insert a skewer into middle of the cake, it should come out clean.

mango-cake-2
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CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

It is freezing outside, snow is on the way according to the forecast. An actual weather warning has been issued for our area. I do hope for quite a thick blanket of snow for the kids and dogs to play in, enough to build a substantial snowman and maybe get the sledge out. We have to grab every opportunity here in England, the snow rarely last more than 2 days.

There is nothing better than a bowl of steaming hot soup, stew or indeed a curry after playing in the snow. I may just make this one again. I got the idea of pairing up cauliflower with sweetcorn from Madhur Jaffrey, the queen of Indian cookery. Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato) is one of my favourite traditional Indian combinations. Spuds had to go into my new creation too. Tomatoes, spices... and a new curry is born!

Speaking of aloo gobi, I found another great variation on the theme, an aloo gobi ball, that I bought in my favourite veggie supermarket Wild Oats. It was delicious but rather fiery, causing me to hiccup during the whole car journey home. We have since renamed it to Burn Your Gobi Ball.

My son is getting into his curries, but doesn’t quite enjoy too much heat hence leaving the green chilli whole, that way you get the flavour without too much heat. Feel free to chop it up or indeed add another one if you like it even hotter! Do search for fresh or frozen curry leaves, I buy them fresh from my other favourite shop Sweet Mart and keep them it the freezer. Cook them from frozen, nice and easy.

A lot of my recipes are oil free, but I have yet to take the plunge with curries. However in comparison with traditional Indian cooking I use far less oil. You get a great result with just half a tablespoon. I think that hitting the whole spices and leaves with hot oil creates amazing flavour base for you curry. I use rapeseed oil but I am sure coconut oil would be great too if that is your preferred medium for frying.

Keep an eye on the cauliflower, it shouldn’t fall apart but needs to be tender. Melt in your mouth potatoes are an imperative too. If you prefer you can add the tomatoes in the last few minutes of cooking to get a fresher tomato taste, I like them cooked well. Enjoy with rice or an Indian flat bread and top with some fresh coriander if you happen to have some in the fridge. Leftovers are great heated up in a tortilla - quesadilla style!


cauliflower-sweetcorn-curry


CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1/2-1Tbs rapeseed oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 green chilli pepper, slit in the middle (or chopped if you prefer a spicier curry)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
black pepper
2 tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 cup of sweetcorn (frozen is fine)
500ml water
salt to taste
fresh coriander


caulisweetcorn-curry-2

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and cumin seeds. Heat till they start to pop.
  2. Add the cauliflower and onion, fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and chilli fry for 1 minute.
  4. Next add the garlic, ginger paste, turmeric and black pepper together with tomatoes. Fry for 1 min.
  5. Add the sweetcorn and water. Cook till potatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 20min.
  6. Season and garnish with fresh coriander if you wish. Serve with rice or Indian breads.

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YELLOW CARROT SALAD

YELLOW CARROT SALAD

Kids seem to get a kick out of quirky and unusual things. Yellow carrots, therefore, were a big hit. I was a bit worried they may not taste good, as it was the case with the beautiful stripy aubergines I bought a few weeks ago. Glad to report yellow carrots delivered on taste.

Even though I bought them from the supermarket, where all the fruits and vegetables seem to be of uniform shapes and sizes, the yellow carrots were wonky and gorgeously misshapen. Just the way veg should be.

yellow-carrots

I wanted to accentuate the sunshine colour of the carrots and adding a yellow pineapple seemed the best way to do. It turned out to be a perfect choice as it not only looked great but everybody loved the gorgeous sweetness and freshness of this simple salad.

It was served as a part of a mezze meal. My friend was just at the tail end of a detox so I wanted to serve fresh, easy, uncomplicated food. Apart from the carrot salad we had my raw courgette dip (
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/cd27fb3b34f77fee3058fa84c453ae2d-72.html ), beetroot falafels (/www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog/files/ac326fc7e745955899b46d24741566c2-108.html ) , olives, lots of raw veggies to go with the falafels, tahini dressing and spicy patatas bravas (those I forgot to photograph... will make them again soon). It was freezing outside but we sure were eating sunshine :)

yellow-carrot-salad

YELLOW CARROT SALAD

ingredients
4 large yellow carrots
1/2 medium pineapple
2 large oranges

Using a box grater finely grate the carrots.
Cut the peel and the core off the pineapple and chop into small bite size pieces (about 1 - 1.5cm)
Mix the carrots with the pineapple and add the juice of 2 oranges.
Serve. This salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.


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COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

This week I was catching up on my post Christmas ironing, two back breaking sessions each lasting two hours! To make my job easier I watched some cookery shows on TV. Watching Nigella made me realised how much we have in common. No I do not indulge in pigs ears, deep fry bounty bars or have an obsession for alliteration.

Like Nigella, however, I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with eating it, cooking it, writing about it, talking about it. I love discovering new flavours and ingredients (like the yellow carrots I bought today). Most of all, like Nigella, I love cooking for myself.

You won’t see me grabbing a quick sandwich or couple of Ryvitas for lunch. I believe it is not a waste of time to cook or prepare something delicious just for one. This is my me time, I love it. Of course not everybody has the time, that’s where batch cooking comes to its force, freezer full of stews and soups can ensure you have a nutritious meal when pressed for time. Even salads can be made ahead. Some keep really well even for a few days. Just don’t try to store tender leaves that have a dressing on.

Lunch for one can be a brilliant way to use up odds and ends from your fridge or pantry. Got some leftover rice, one lonely noodle nest or half a pepper in the fridge? Bits and bobs get my cooking mind going! Yesterday I found that lonely nest of noodles, some Brussel sprouts and a recipe idea was born. Delicious it was too! If you want, double it, triple it.... just maybe go easy on multiplying the curry paste, you don’t want it to blow your head off. I did fancy some edamame beans or just regular green beans, but my freezer was bare.... hence the peas. Can’t complain, they did taste great.

brussels-sprout-noodles

BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL
Beware that Thai red curry paste very often contains dried shrimp or fish sauce, if like me you want to avoid those, read the ingredients!

For 1

ingredients
1/2 cup of light vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
80g of flat Asian noodles (rice, wheat or buckwheat, whatever you have)
1-2 tsp vegan red curry paste (they very in heat)
1 cup of Kara coconut or other non dairy milk (not coconut milk from a can)
12 Brussel sprouts
couple handfuls of frozen peas, green beans or edamame
1 Tbs smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the veg stock, add the onions and simmer till soften.
  2. In another medium sauce pan cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water.
  3. While the onions are sauteing prepare your Brussels sprouts. Peel off any unappealing leaves of the sprouts, cut of the stalk end bit and halve them lengthways.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the onions together with the Brussels sprouts.
  5. If using green beans or edamame add them now too.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 5 min or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  7. Now add the peas and peanut butter. Heat up together, the peanut butter should melt into the sauce.
  8. Add the cooked noodles, just heat them up.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  10. Serve generously garnished with chopped coriander and an extra lime wedge.



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ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

Couple days ago I started to read The Spectrum by Dr Dean Ornish. Fascinating read! I love the man’s philosophy, spirit but also the fact that everything he suggests is backed by science. And any man who can do a TED MED presentation with a baby in his hands certainly gets my vote.

Dr Dean Ornish has amazing results in slowing the progression and even reversing heart disease with lifestyle changes. His method is even available on Medicare in the USA. Quote from The Spectrum:
“ Our research has shown that your body has a remarkable capacity to begin healing itself - and much more quickly than people once realised - when we address the underlying causes of illness. For many people, the choices we make each day in what and in how we live are among the most important underlying causes.”

No surprise I was eager to read today’s big news article (in several papers) :
Tomato pill could save lives. Indeed a new “tomato” pill has been developed, it contains lycopene in amounts equivalent to eating 6lb of tomatoes daily!!! That, I do admit, would be a very difficult thing to do. The trial has been on a small scale but scientist are very optimistic, predicting this pill could save thousands of lives. Further trials are of course needed.

Ateronon (the pills name) has shown to improve the function of the endothelial cells and boost their sensitivity to nitric oxide. Dr Dean Ornish’s, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn’s or Dr Joel Fuhrman diets will do the same. No need to wait for Ateronon to come to the the market just follow the advice of one of these doctors.

Even if this pill does prove to be as successful as the scientist behind its development tell us, there may still be a downfall. People like to pop a pill instead of improving their lifestyles, it is the easy way out, but not s solution. I believe it is Dr Fuhrman who said : "You can't medicate your self out of a bad diet." I certainly prefer the benefits of a healthy diet over any pill.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2258035/Wonder-pill-harnessing-health-secret-Mediterranean-diet-cut-risk-strokes-heart-attacks-fight-cancer.html


carrot-hummus


ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

Makes about 2 cups

ingredients
3 medium carrots
1 tin chickpeas, drained, chickpea water reserved
1 garlic clove
1 Tbs tahini
1 Tsp ground cumin
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
large handful of chopped fresh coriander

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Cut the carrots into carrot sticks
  3. Line a small baking tray with baking paper. Add the carrots and 4 Tbs of water. Roast for about 30 min or until carrots are caramelized and softened.
  4. In a food processor or a blender combine the carrots, chickpeas, tahini, cumin, lemon juice and process till quite smooth, adding the chickpea water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  5. Stir in the chopped coriander.
  6. Enjoy!
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BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE

BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE

Growing up the only beetroot we ate came pickled from a jar. Nothing wrong with a bit of pickled beetroot I always thought it was delicious. I do think that Czech pickled beetroot is so much better than the one I can get in the UK. So much sweeter, yummier, I especially love the whole baby beetroots, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to eat a whole jar in one sitting....

These days I do prefer to use fresh beetroot. The possibilities are endless. I can always marinated it to get a lovely pickle like taste. I love raw, grated beetroot in salads, juiced, made into smoothies or raw soups. It is also great roasted with balsamic vinegar, or simply boiled and made into salads or mixed with grains to make a “risotto” (check out some of my other beetroot recipes).

Everybody is familiar with Russian Borscht, the famous beetroot soup. I know, traditional recipes don’t need to be messed with but I couldn't resist playing with it a bit and here is the result: borscht with attitude. I have infused the Russian soup with some Thai flavours. It will sure wake up your taste buds! I do wonder if my Russian friend will like it...

borscht-with-attitude

BORSCHT WITH ATTITUDE
This is easily doubled if you are feeding more people. I didn’t think kids would go with the spiciness of this dish hence the 2-3 portions...

Serves 2-3

ingredients
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced into 1cm (less than 1/2 inch) pieces
2 medium beetroot, diced into 1 cm pieces
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 Tbs vegetarian Thai red curry paste
1 medium-large potato, diced into 1 cm pieces
2 cups shredded cabbage
125ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened almond milk
lime to taste
fresh coriander

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat about 80 ml (1/3 cup) of water.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
  3. Add the carrot and beetroot together with the red curry paste.
  4. Cook for about 1 min.
  5. Next add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for 10min before adding the potato.
  7. Cook further 10 min before adding the cabbage.
  8. Cook further 10 min or until the beetroot is cooked through.
  9. Add the almond milk and just heat up.
  10. Finally add lime juice to taste (I used juice of half a lime and a bit extra at the table)
  11. Serve in soup bowls garnished with coriander.

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GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD

GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD

It is the 1st of January 2013. The first day of the new year. After a night of celebrating many of us are making new year’s resolutions. Weight loss will and exercise will be at the top of the list for sure. The papers are already rating diets and introducing new ones. Manhattan diet anyone? This morning I have received an email suggesting I hold a detox party!

Eating healthy shouldn’t be reserved only for January. It should be something we simply just do. I have a big appetite. My mum in law asked me how come eat as much as I do and don’t put weight on. It certainly is the foods I choose to eat, and the foods I choose not to. And I don’t always have a New Year’s Eve buffet in front of me.

So for a healthier 2013, let’s eat real food. Cook from scratch more. Eat more raw foods. Let’s realize our health is in ours hands. Move, smile, love more and stress less. Make time for yourself, the people you love. Make choices right not only for you but for the planet. Live with compassion. Be a part of the big picture.

And if you have over indulged the last week or so, try my grandma’s cleansing salad. Three ingredients, minimum effort and it is incredibly healthy. One of the salads ingredients is the super sauerkraut. It only contains 27 calories per cup, while being full of Vitamin C and probiotics. What a perfect start to the new year!

Saurkrautsalad

GRANDMA HANA’S SAUERKRAUT SALAD
You may notice carrot in my salad, this was part of the sauerkraut that I bought from my Polish shop. If you can, get some unpasteurised raw sauerkraut to get the beneficial bacteria. If you can’t find it you can use sauerkraut from a jar too.

Serves 4

ingredients
3 cups sauerkraut
2 medium apples, diced
1 medium red (or sweet white) onion, finely chopped

method
Just add everything together and enjoy.
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