sun dried tomatoes

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

Barbecue season is in a full swing with invitations plenty. Traditionally barbecues are not the best place for somebody on a plant based diet. If you do happen to get invited to one, it’s good to have a plan. Last weekend I made this salad to bring to a barbecue together with some veggie burgers and sausages. I bring food with me to any dinner partyI am invited to, partly because I like to cook and feed people but it’s also a way to introduce people to some tasty plant based dishes. Most of the time even the biggest meat lovers enjoy something “different”.

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In this salad I used my home dried tomatoes, they taste more “tomatoey” than shop bought sun dried tomatoes. They are simple to make if you have a dehydrator but oven drying works well too. However you wont achieve the same consistent results as ovens tend to produce uneven heat.

If you are using shop bought dun dried tomatoes the best ones for flavour comparison are sun blushed tomatoes. Unfortunately most sun dried tomatoes are preserved in sunflower oil, the one oil we should have less in our diets. If you can’t make your own or can’t buy sun dried tomatoes that are not suspended in oil, than rinse the oil off under a running tap. The home dried tomatoes are also not salty like the shop bought ones tend to be. Adjust for the salt depending on what tomatoes you are using.

In this dish I would not use roasted peppers from a jar, they tend to have a briny taste, I much prefer the sweetness of the peppers I roast myself. I do prefer to roast them in the oven rather than on the flame of my gas hob. When roasted in the oven they become soft and sweet, even green peppers taste lovely when oven roasted. Just make sure you don’t forget to pierce them with a tip of your knife before roasting to avoid any pepper explosions.

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WHITE BEAN AND PEPPER SALAD WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO DRESSING

6 bell peppers, assorted colours
2 cups cooked or 2 tins of white beans (canellini are the best)
1 tin or jar of artichokes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup home dried tomatoes (or sun blushed)
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup juice from the roasted peppers
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Pierce the peppers in few pieces with the tip of the knife. Place in a baking dish or on a baking tray lined with unbleached parchment paper. Roast for 30min or until the skin is all blistered.
  • In the mean time n a dry pan roast the pine nuts will golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Place the peppers into a glass bowl cover the bowl with cling film to let the peppers steam, this makes it easier to peel the peppers. The peppers release juices, strain these and set aside. Peel the peppers, remove all the seeds. It helps to run the peppers under water to remove all the seeds.
  • Cut peppers into strips and put into a large bowl together with the beans and quartered artichokes.
  • In a blender combine the pine nuts, home dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic, roasted pepper juice, lemon, olive oil and nutritional yeast.
  • Blend till you achieve a thick dressing, about thickness of mayonnaise. Add more red pepper juice to thin out the dressing if too thick.
  • Mix into the beans, artichokes and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.




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Home Dried Tomatoes

Small ripe tomatoes

Dehydrator
Halve the tomatoes. Place them cut size up on the dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 43C (115F) for 14-18 hours for cherry tomatoes or more if the tomatoes are larger.

Oven
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the tomatoes cut side up on the tray and bake at the lowest setting of your oven till dried. Times will vary depending on your oven and size of the tomatoes. After 3 hours check every 30minutes.


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VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

VEGAN BASIL PESTO and 2 BONUS RECIPES

It’s the annual Vegetarian Week and people may be choosing to transition to vegetarian or vegan diets. When done right, eating the plant based way can do wonders for person’s health.

The key in a successful transition to a plant based diet is to focus on all the wonderful foods you can have rather than mourning those you have lost. What about cauliflower buffallo wings, cashew nut cheese, or homemade plant strong parmesan made out of nutritional yeast flakes and nuts? All these come pretty close to the real thing. And some, I think, taste even better.

Yesterday I went to a business lunch and ended up with one of the most tasteless vegan dishes I had in a long time. On the menu it sounded reasonable, stuffed pepper with roasted vegetables and herby couscous with a side salad. The reality was different. The couscous was overcooked, bland, flavoured poorly with herbs of the dried variety. The roasted vegetables were far and few between I did struggle to taste them. The pepper itself was undercooked. I was very happy that I didn’t end up with a green pepper and felt sorry for those who did. The only saving grace was the bottle of balsamic vinegar brought as a dressing for our side salad (the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber - yawn!), I wasn’t the only person who splashed it onto the meal to add some flavour. This is the type of meal that will never make people consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Why is it so hard for some chefs to make a decent vegan meal? Surely, with a little imagination, you can halve the peppers lengthways, roast them till soft, stuff them with couscous bursting with roasted veggies, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs. What about toasted pine nuts to top it all of? How about a lush zingy dressing or a tomato sauce spiced with Moroccan spices to go with it??? Vegans and vegetarians don’t want their dish to be an afterthought, we want flavour!

My pesto recipe is full of flavour and I am giving you two different recipes to use it in :)

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VEGAN BASIL PESTO

2 cups basil pesto leaves, packed (you can also use parsley, or half and half)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 cup (50g) pine nuts ( walnuts or pistachios work well too)
juice of half lemon
5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender and process till combined. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE CIABBATA WITH PESTO
I don’t buy the commercial oil sprays, I have a Pampered Chef oil pump and use my own, good quality oil in it. No added rubbish.

3 bel peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
olive oil (in spray bottle)
10 sun dried tomatoes
1 ciabbata loaf
vegan basil pesto above

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  • Preheat oven to 220C. Line a baking tray or dish with parchment paper. Pierce the peppers with a knife in few places (to prevent them from exploding), place on the tray and bake till the skin is blistered all over (turn halfway through) about 30-40min. Place the peppers in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and let the peppers steam, this will make it easier to peel them. When cooled peel off the skin, remove the core and seeds. Best done under running water. Tear into large pieces.
  • Slice the aubergine into thin round slices, about half centimetre thick. Preheat a griddle pan. Spray the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides, grill on both sides till the aubergine is cooked through (it should be easy to pierce with a fork). Set aside.
  • To make the giant sub sandwich halve the ciabbata lengthways. Spread the inside of both ciabbata halves with the pesto, be generous (I was left with about 2 Tbs of the above recipe after doing this).
  • First cover the bottom half of ciabbata with a layer of aubergine slices, than add a layer of pepper pieces. Next layer is the sun-dried tomatoes, than peppers and lastly the remaining aubergine slices. Top with the other ciabbata half.
  • Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in a cling film and refrigerate for at least half hour.
  • When ready to eat, unwrap the sandwich and cut into individual portions.
  • PS: There is no tidy way of eating it. Have a napkin on hand.

When making the above recipe I used 2 aubergines and found myself with slices from one left over. There was also 2 tbs worth of pesto. This is what I made for lunch with these leftovers. It was delicious and I will be making a large dish for the whole family soon!


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AUBERGINE, TOMATO AND PESTO BAKE FOR ONE

1 aubergine, sliced and slices grilled (see above)
2 tbs vegan pesto
1 tin of crushed tomatoes (or passata)
6 sliced olives, sliced


  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a small baking dish, place couple tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Sandwich the aubergine slices with the pesto.
  • Make a layer of the aubergine pesto slices, cover with half the tin tomatoes, scatter with olive slices. Next repeat with rest of aubergine slices and top with the remaining tomatoes and olives. Season between laters.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
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CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”

CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”

This morning, I read an article discussing how men still see going vegan as something that makes them look weak. It’s the perception versus reality. With more and more athletes switching to the plant based lifestyle this perception should change in time. If you have doubts just watch Rip Esselstyn (in the documentary Forks over Knifes) climbing up the fire station poll, using arms only, chanting “real men eat plants”. Or check out the insane work outs of vegan athlete Frank Medrano on Youtube!

Recently, I have discovered Jim Smith and his blog http://www.finallyourtime.com . It is very inspiring to see that a change is possible at any age and indeed with great benefits. Jim has seen several health issues resolved after changing his diet, for example his Parkinson’s disease symptoms have disappeared. Read and get inspired.

And make some chickpea and sun-dried tomato balls, they are scrummy! I am making them today for a bunch of 12 year olds who are coming for dinner! Serving them spaghetti with meatballs style and doubling the recipe. Let’s home they will enjoy them as much as my family did. I may not tell them what is in them. KIDS can be awkward!

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CHICKPEA AND SUNDRIED TOMATO “MEATBALLS”
Makes 20

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp paprika
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 Tbs Tahini
1 cup breadcrumbs (regular or gluten free)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Add the onion, garlic, paprika, sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas and Tahini into your food processor. Process till all ingredients are well combined.
  • Add the breadcrumbs and seasoning. Combine well using hands.
  • Shape into walnut size balls, it will make about 20. Wetting your hands with water when doing this.
  • Bake on a baking tray lined with parchment paper for about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Turn the chickpea balls halfway through.
  • Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, or as a component of a mezze spread.


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BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

One more day to go before we see the year 2013 off and welcome the new and exciting year 2014. By now I am ready for a detox! Yes, I have overindulged and under-exercised. There was chocolate, or shall I say there were chocolates, wine, meals consisting of several dishes (even though healthy they were rather gargantuan). And than there were yesterday’s cocktails provided by my friend. She makes cocktails by emptying her bar contents into a jug and topping this concoction with some juice. I do admit they were unassumingly lethal yet delicious.

Do I feel a degree of guilt? Sure I do, but no point dwelling on this, I am detoxing starting the 2nd of January. And recording what I eat on this blog will definitely help the cause. But first, we have our New Years Eve celebration ahead of us. We always have lots of nibbles like sushi, dips, olives, little sandwiches and lots of other things. The aim is to fill up our plates with stacks of bits and bobs and keep going back for more.

My baby peppers with cashew cheese look indulgent and are (of course) dairy free. They are very easy to make. You can even play “guess what’s in the filling” with your guests (just make sure they don’t have a cashew nut allergy!). If you feel brave you can use some mild chillies instead of baby peppers.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! MAKE YOUR YEAR 2014 FILLED WITH LOVE, LAUGHTER, HEALTH AND DELICIOUS PLANT BASED FOODS.


stuffed-baby-peppers

BABY PEPPERS WITH CASHEW CHEESE

1 cup cashew nuts
1/4 (60ml) + 1tbs water
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
salt
lemon juice
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
10 olives, chopped into small pieces
small handful of basil, chop finely
14 small sweet peppers

  1. Soak the cashews in water for about 2 hours.
  2. Drain the soaked cashews, place in a blender together with 1/4 cup water and the nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Blend till smooth (or as smooth as you can get it). You will have to scrape the sides of the blender few times. If the mixture is too thick you can add extra tablespoon of water.
  3. Put the cashew cheese into a bowl. Season with salt, add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives and basil.
  4. Cut the tops of the baby peppers and carefully scoop out the seeds. Using a small spoon (or if you fancy a piping bag) fill the peppers with the cashew cheese.
  5. Chill before serving.

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SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS

SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS

There are not many people who are willing to cook for me. I can actually count them on the fingers of my hand. I know this is familiar to anybody who eats differently than what is seen as the norm. Whether you are gluten free, vegan or raw you will find yourself being invited to very few dinner parties. You will be seen as the awkward. Hopefully one day the awkward will be the norm and the norm will become awkward.

My friend J is my dinner party buddy (that sounds way to posh! We just like to cook for each other). We have a very similar food philosophy. Nobody else gets excited about kale coming to season the way we do. We will text each other about organic kale’s appearance on the shelf of the Better Food Company. She has even brought me a bag of kale as a present before. She knows me well.

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kale pieces stripped off the stalks

I have been trying to convince other non believers into embracing the humble yet amazing kale. I would say my success is about 50/50. Kale chips are the ace card in my pocket. Most people who try them fall under their spell. In one day I had 2 friends on the phone asking for my kale chip recipe :) Yesterday another friend announced they were eating kale chips all last week. I couldn’t be happier.

Brendan Brazier’s “sour cream” and onion kale chips still are the most popular in our house, but these seem to be close second. I think anything tastes better with sun dried tomatoes. If you still are a kale chip virgin please have a go. Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, they taste great made in the oven too (both methods are in my recipe). They will loose their RAW tag but they will still make an incredibly healthy and tasty snack.


SUN DRIED TOMATO KALE CHIPS
1 bag of kale with stalks (350g, 12oz)
2/3 cup cashews (soaked for half an hour and drained)
1/2 cup water
4 sundried tomatoes, soaked for 30 min
1/2 tsp dried garlic
1/2 tbs brags aminos (or tamari)

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the sundried tomato sauce

  1. Strip the kale leaves from their stalks.
  2. Wash thoroughly. Rip any larger pieces into bite size pieces.
  3. Dry will in a salad spinner. You will need to do this in three batches. Place the kale into a large bowl (you will need the largest bowl you have)
  4. In a high speed food processor blend all the remaining ingredients into a smooth sauces.
  5. Pour the sauce over the kale leaves and massage it into the kale so that all the leaves are cover with sauce.
  6. If using a dehydrator, place the kale onto your mesh dehydrator sheets (I use 3 in my Excalibur). Dehydrate at 115F (46C) for 12-14 hrs. Crunch test after 12 hours, if the kale chips are not crunchy enough dehydrate for couple more hours.
  7. If using an oven preheat it to 300F (150C). Spread your kale evenly on 2 baking trays and bake the chips for about 25 minutes. After the first 10 minutes keep checking on our chip every 5 minutes. Every oven is different and the kale chips can burn quickly.
  8. Store in an airtight container.
  9. Enjoy!

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crunch time
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100% RAW/MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE

100% RAW/MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE

One of my college assignments is to go on a diet for a week and do a presentation to the rest of the class. This is going to be quite an exciting experiment I can’t wait to see how we all get on. We have several liver detoxes, juicing and alkalising and ayervedic diet, and many more. My choice was quite easy. No, it is not Atkin’s because I do value my life :) I am going 100% raw for a week. I love raw food but have never done 100%, maybe for a day, but not for a week.

The purpose of the exercise is to pick a plan and follow it. I was originally going to follow Matt Amsden’s Rawvolution but the breakfast required 2 young Thai Coconuts per day which is not something I have readily on hand. Quite frankly I could not see myself wrestling 2 coconuts every morning. Not on a school day! Kids breakfast, lunch, coconuts... too much to handle.

I am starting the 100% plan tomorrow and will report everyday (or that’s the plan). I am using The Raw Food Diet by Christine Bailey, this means her recipes not mine. Not something I am used to doing, not three times a day. There is lots of planning and preparation, I have shopped, soaked, chopped, processed, dehydrated and I am ready.

Before I start my exciting endeavor here is my own raw recipe for marinated mushrooms stuffed with walnut and sun dried tomato pate. Enjoy.

yum yum
veggies

MARINATED MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH WALNUT AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO PATE
Serve these with a green salad for a light dinner. They are also fab as canapes.

Serves 4 as a main dish with a salad, or 8 as canapes

ingredients
300g (10oz) small portobello mushrooms
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Braggs Liquid Aminos (or Tamari or Shoy)
100g walnut
handful of parsley
30g (1oz) sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt

stuffed-raw-mushrooms

method
  1. First prepare the mushrooms. I like to peel the outer skin, it allows the marinade to penetrate easier.
  2. Put the mushrooms into a glass bowl, add the balsamic vinegar and Braggs Liquid Aminos.
  3. Cover with lid or cling film and leave to marinate for 24 hrs in the fridge. Make sure you gently shake the mushrooms now and than.
  4. Make the pate. I used my own “sun-dried” tomatoes made in the dehydrator. If using regular sun-dried tomatoes, soak them for half an hour.
  5. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and process till ti comes together to a coarse pate. You may have to add 1 or 2 Tbs of water. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
  6. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Divide the pate among the mushrooms and serve.
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ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE

ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE

Last night we were watching the Red Nose Day on TV, amazing amount of money was raised for some very worthy causes. All of the stories of the people in need, whether in Africa or the UK, are truly heartbreaking. An African woman died from AIDS leaving behind her HIV positive daughter. The medicine she was supposed to take to keep her alive cannot be taken on empty stomach as it can be too toxic. She gave up her share of food so her daughter had enough to take her medicine thus condemning herself to a premature death.

Today walking through the town we came across a Mexican restaurant serving a 3 pound burrito. It may not be as big as those on Man V Food but still nobody needs to eat this much in one sitting (not even for a lousy T-shirt). See the disparity? Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

The sad thing is that the type and amounts of food people in the Western world eat today can result (and it sure does) in chronic diseases and an early death. Not to mention the destruction of the environment. I couldn’t believe that I read in the today’s Daily Mail article about king prawn production in Thailand. To keep up with the demand from the Western world, man groves in Thailand have been destroyed to be converted into prawn pools. Fishing for the prawn feed destroys the marine life. The workmen, trafficked from poorer countries, work in terrible inhumane conditions. This makes me very angry. I could say my conscience is clear, I don’t eat prawns, thus don’t participate in this appalling industry. However this is about all of us. I do appreciate not everyone will stop eating prawns but everyone should be aware of where their food comes from and be shown how to make better, more ethical choices. This is the only planet we have and we are collectively responsible for its future.

I have posted the article on my facebook, but if you haven’t read it here is the link. Truly shocking:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2294246/Love-eating-prawns-Youll-right-tell-THEY-fed-on.html

Ponder over the article with a bowl of this on hand :)

aubergine-pepper-dip

ROASTED AUBERGINE AND PEPPER DIP/SAUCE
This is such a versatile recipe. Great as a stir in sauce for gnocchi or pasta (pesto style), fabulous on bruschetta or rye bread, yummy as a dip, homemade baked pitta or tortilla chips... Just make sure you crush the garlic clove before putting it into the food processor, nobody likes to crunch on a piece of garlic...

ingredients
1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
1 red pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
5 sun dried tomatoes
1 cup of parsley
1/2 cup walnuts

Great as a stir-in sauce for gnocchi or pasta.
gnocchi-roasted-aubergine

  1. Heat grill (broiler) on high. Line a baking sheet with some aluminium foil. Pierce the aubergine and pepper with a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. Place the aubergine and pepper on the baking sheet and put them under the grill.
  3. Grill until the pepper skin is blackened and the aubergine very soft. This will take 10-15 minutes. You may have to take the pepper out before the aubergine is done.
  4. Put the pepper into a bowl and cover the bowl with cling film, this will make it easier to take the skin off. When cooled, peel the pepper. Remove the stem and seed but reserve the juices that collect inside the pepper.
  5. Make a slit lengthways into the aubergine and scrape out the flesh.
  6. Put the pepper with juices, aubergine, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and walnuts into your blender or good processor.
  7. Process until all ingredients are well chopped and mixed together.
  8. Use this as a quick stir in sauce for pasta or gnocchi, spread for bruschetta or a dip for pitta chips.
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SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP

The big health news today is definitely the UK Government’s plan to vaccinate healthy children against flu. Most articles say “children are to be given” others talk about “being offered” a free flu vaccine. Whether offered or being given the way BBC reported this news tonight it looks a sure thing.

I know there are three camps when it comes to vaccinations:
1. No worries, feel vaccines are necessary to protect children, happy about it
2. Not comfortable but will do ahead with the usual childhood vaccines
3. Vehemently against it
I have always been in the second camp, I feel uncomfortable giving this horrible cocktail of dead or weakened viruses mixed with chemicals to my kids. On the other hand I felt that I would rather they wouldn’t contract diseases such as polio or diphtheria...

When it comes to flu vaccine I am leaving the “in the middle” camp and I am making my way to camp 3. We have managed to eradicate polio and diphtheria in most countries due to vaccination. We will not be able to do that with flu. This fellow is clever, not only there are many strains, the influenza virus can mutate to keep us guessing, therefore vaccines have to be reworked each year. Nobody knows which strain of flu may be rampant during a particular year therefore there are no assurances.

Most of the articles state that children very rarely suffer complications from the flu. Last time I had flu I was out for several weeks, my son (who was around 4) just fell tired and had no appetite for just one day. That was all. This vaccine is meant to reduce the spread of flu via kids, ensuring what is called herd immunity. This makes me very uncomfortable.

We should look for a voice of reason and that, for anybody in health field, is Cochrane Database of Systemic Review. Dr Fuhrman (in his book Super Immunity) mentions Cochrane review of flu vaccine: “The Cochrane review also looked specifically at the vaccination for children against the flu. After reviewing the data on fifty-one studies addressing the effectiveness and safety of flu vaccines for children, the Cochrane reviewers were shocked with our government’s (USA) policy of universal vaccination“. In the USA the scientist behind Cochrane review noted that most of the 15 members on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices had financial ties to the vaccine industry. Not a big surprise is it?

In no way, I would belittle how dangerous flu can be, and the vulnerable need to be protected. But I do wish for an independent research, careful consideration and when this scheme is rolled out, I want parents to be given an option to opt out and without being pressured by both government and surgeries.

SMOKED TOFU SAUSAGES WITH SMOKEY KETCHUP


smokedtofusausages

ingredients

sausages
4 spring onions (scallions)
8 sun dried tomatoes
2 tins of canellini beans
225g (1/2lb) smoked tofu, cut into large pieces
2 heaped tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
Cornmeal

smokey ketchup
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbs cider vinegar + 1 Tbs water
1 or 2 Medjol dates (to taste)
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 and 1/2 cups tomato passata


method
  1. First chop the spring onions, I used food processor to do the job.
  2. Next add the sun dried tomatoes, chop roughly.
  3. The beans go in next and process until mostly smooth.
  4. Add the tofu, paprika and nutritional yeast to the food processor and process till well combined but not completely smooth.
  5. Remove the blade from the food processor. Pour some cornmeal into a shallow bowl.
  6. Make 8 sausages out of the tofu mixture (wet hands before each sausage) and roll them in the cornmeal.
  7. Place the sausages in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  8. Prepare the ketchup.
  9. In a small saucepan place the vinegar, water and shallow, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the shallot is soft and the liquid is gone.
  10. Add the paprika, dates and tomato passata, cook on low heat for about 30min until rich and thickened. Let it cool down.
  11. Place the sausages on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake at 180C for half an hour, turning half way through. The sausages should be golden brown.
  12. Serve with a crisp green salad and the ketchup on the side.


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WHITE BEANS AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD

WHITE BEANS AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD

There was a time I thought I couldn’t imagine my life without cheese. How foolish was that?! Not eating cheese is easier than I thought (not when eating out) and I don’t miss it at all. I think I miss some of the dishes I used to make but I am slowly getting through reworking them and quite frankly with discovering new favourites many of the old food memories are rather faint now.

We all know cheese is not healthy, in the USA it is responsible for the majority of saturated fat intake as the consumption had nearly tripled since 1970 to 31lb per person. In UK cheese consumption is on the up too (some 12.5% between 1999-2009), mainly due to people spending less time in their kitchens and relying on ready meals and take aways. Convenience food seems to be loaded with cheese, especially the veggie options. Companies have made the cheese content their selling point, just take a look at the take away pizza companies trying to intice us with “double the amount of cheese” and “stuffed crust”. That should be enough to keep us away but unfortunately it seems to draw more people in.

Cheese sandwich maybe be a lunch of choice for a lot of traditional veggies but looking back I think of it as quite a boring way to eat. For the sake of your health, the poor dairy cow and the environment try something new and full of flavour to put on your bread or in a wrap. Here is my quick and easy white bean spread, made in minutes in a food processor. It makes a great change from hummus and is as versatile.


whitebeanspread

WHITE BEAN AND ARTICHOKE SPREAD
If you want to make this spread into a dip just add some of the liquid from the tinned beans. If you are using sun dried tomatoes and artichokes preserved in oil rinse them under running water to get the oil off.

ingredients
1 tin of white beans (canellini or butter beans), drained (keep the liquid)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
8 sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted
1 tin of artichokes, drained

method
  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor or a blender. Process till quite smooth but still with some texture (see photo). If too thick add some of the reserved bean liquid.
  2. Spread on some good quality whole grain bread. I like the thin fermented rye or organic quinoa breads.
  3. Garnish with thinly sliced vegetables, red onions, cucumber, tomato...


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MESSY SPAGHETTI


Today my daughter’s class held a cake sale to raise money for some new toys for their classroom. All the Mums (and one Dad) made some fabulous looking and tasting cakes. I decided to make dairy/egg free cupcakes, I thought it would be lovely for children with allergies to be able to buy a treat.

My trusty Robin Robertson (1000 Vegan Recipes) cupcake recipe at hand I was ready to go, only to realise that almond milk may not be the best milk to use with allergies in mind and not having any other send my heart racing... A light bulb moment and I saved the cakes with soya yoghurt!

My friend’s little boy came to the cake sale and bought 2, started to eat one, and came back for another. After a while he was back clutching another coin, wanting 4th one for his tomorrow’s lunch box. To see his smile and excitement just made my day, it was one of those the small things that make a difference. His mum told me this was the first time he was able to come to a cake sale and buy a cake (or 4). As my friend says: “Bless his cotton socks”. Good deed done. The warm feeling, truly priceless.

Tired out from the cakes sale and consequent traffic jam on the way home from school, I didn’t feel much like cooking. Stood in front of my fridge the only idea that came to my head was messy spaghetti. It really takes so little effort, open few jars, cut up few things, toss it together.... actually this is something I make in one portion quantity for my lunch, only takes 10minutes and beats any old sandwich.

MESSY SPAGHETTI

If I was making it for myself I would add some chilli flakes to the garlic, but with my kids in mind I did omit them this time.

messy-spaghetti

ingredients
400 g wholewheat spaghetti
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
20 each green and black olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbs mini capers
8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut up
8 artichokes, quartered
2 Tbs parsley, chopped

method
  1. In large pot of water cook the spaghetti.
  2. While the pasta is cooking heat a large frying pan (large enough to fit all the spaghetti when cooked) and toast the pine nuts. They should be fragrant and golden brown, take care they will burn in no time. Set aside.
  3. In the same frying pan heat the oil and gently fry the garlic (and chilli flakes if using).
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (except parsley) and gently heat through. You can add couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
  5. Add the spaghetti and toss with the sauce. Mix in parsley, pine nuts and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a green salad.
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