Make-ahead, Salads

Asian-Inspired Crunchy Quinoa Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I don’t think Liam will mind me saying this, because it is true, but I am definitely the more health-minded out of the two of us. I am (obviously) vegetarian, but Liam still eats meat on the odd occasion. I love eating a light and leafy-green salad for my lunch, but Liam likes something more ‘substantial’. This Asian-inspired crunchy quinoa salad has won him over on the salad front. Hoorah!

This main ingredients for this salad are taken from the Ambitious Kitchen. It is not so much about the salad (it is still really good anyway), but the ginger-peanut dressing. I have to say, it is absolutely genius. It really does make everything come together and taste wonderful. Liam and I are HUGE fans.

I do love everything about this salad: the protein-rich quinoa, high-fibre chickpeas and the crunchy red cabbage, pepper and broccoli. It is making me salivate just thinking about it!

The other day, my mother rang me asking if I’d ever eaten ‘Kwi-Noh-Ah’. Of course, I said, but I hastily corrected her pronunciation. I did get it wrong when I first read it though, as I’m sure many of us did. Quinoa is great, though, and is classed as a ‘whole protein’ due to its impressive amino acid content, and it also contains more healthy fats than other grains. Apparently, in 1 cup of quinoa (185g cooked) there is also 21% of your fibre for the day. Bonus!

This really isn’t a complicated recipe. It just requires you to cook the quinoa (which is super easy) and chop up/grate a load of veg. The dressing is made by just stirring a load of things together, and it magically somehow tastes like heaven.  What I imagine heaven would taste like if I believed it to exist and also have a taste, anyway.

This makes around 6 servings, so it is perfect for me to make at the weekend for my lunch during the week. I just keep it in a big bowl in the fridge, covered in cling film, then scoop a portion out into my lunch box every morning. Add a few spinach leaves on the side, a lime wedge and the ginger-peanut dressing, and when I open up my lunchbox to reveal this salad a little smile appears. I love love love it!

This is what you need:

Salad:

1/3 – 1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

1/2 broccoli head, cut into bite-size pieces

1 red pepper, diced

1 small red onion, diced

160g carrots, grated

1/2 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

Dressing:

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp honey (or agave)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 – 2 tbsp water (to thin if you want to)

This is how you make it:

Rinse quinoa in a jug of cold water then drain in a sieve. Place into 1 1/2 cups boiling water over a medium heat and half cover. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally (make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom – if you need a bit more water for it to cook, just add some). When cooked, set aside to cool a little.

While this is cooking, prepare all of the vegetables:

Shred the cabbage by slicing very, very thin slices with a serrated knife. Blanch the pieces of broccoli for 20 seconds by just boiling some water in the kettle and pouring it over the broccoli in a jug/bowl. Rinse under cold water to stop it cooking any more. Grate the carrot, and dice the pepper and onion.

When the quinoa is cooled, mix with the vegetables, coriander and chickpeas.

To make the dressing:

In a pan over a low heat, stir the peanut butter and honey for about 30 seconds. Take off the heat and stir in everything else. If you want, add a small amount of water to thin.

Note: If you smell the dressing, the vinegar will make your nose crease. Taste it, it will be lovely.

Stay happy,

Alice x

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Mains

Sweet Potato with Coconut, Pomegranate and Lime

We absolutely love sweet potatoes in this household at the minute. They appear on our plates in all sorts of forms, from cakes, patties, wedges or chunks, to just simply baked, with delicious toppings such as in this sweet potato with pomegranate, coconut and lime recipe.

When I was on my way home after buying the ingredients for this, I took a little detour. I went trampling through the grass and trees, following rabbits and butterflies. It was a well-needed vacation for my mind, really. Without the comfortable feeling of familiarity, it have my mind space to breathe. It is really good to do this every now and again! I took some photos on my tablet while I was frolicking through the greenery.

After all the wondering around I did (check the pictures!), I’d worked up quite an appetite! In this meal, I was wanting to experiment with sweet and savoury flavours, something that I don’t do too often. So this is different to a lot of the food that I eat, but definitely something that I’m going to have again!

As me and Liam both love sweet potatoes, we always seem to have one kicking around in our cupboard. Like an emergency potato, or something. Usually emergency food isn’t the most nutritious, but sweet potatoes are! They contain a high level of beta-carotene that is required for making vitamin A, which is important for eye health and the immune system, and they also contain loads of dietary fibre, helping to slow digestion and steady our blood sugar levels.

Even though the sweet potato has a tremendously higher level of beta-carotene than the white potato, it is generally thought of as an overall healthier version of the bog-standard white potato. However, from what I have read, they seem to be pretty similar in carb and fat stats. I think the differences in healthiness of each really comes into play when to take into account what you eat with them. For example, with a white potato, you eat baked beans, cheese and coleslaw, while with a sweet potato you may have a dollop of soured cream, or due to their flavour you might just eat it on its own. Or… with coconut, pomegranate and lime? I thought so.

Just a little note: You may want a slightly smaller sweet potato than the smallest one Sainsbury’s had when I went shopping (pictured!). I was feeling rather defeated only half way through eating. If you can’t find a smaller one, just bake a large one for two people, or save the other half for lunch the next day (always a bonus when something can feed you for more than one meal!)

 

This is what you need:

Per Person:

1 Sweet potato (approx 250g)

2 tablespoons (full-fat) coconut milk

large pinch of coconut flakes

1/8 to 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (your personal preference)

1 teaspoon coriander leaves

1/4 lime

A pinch of sea salt

This is how you make it:

Preheat the oven to 210C (190 Fan) and bake your potato(es) for approx 45 minutes (although if they are as big as mine, you will need longer) until soft inside

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then make a slit in the centre and mash the potato slightly with a fork

Add coconut milk, then coconut flakes, pomegranate, and coriander. Squeeze the lime wedge over the potato, then season with a pinch of sea salt.

Enjoy!

Stay happy (Give your mind some space – get friendly with the grass and trees!)

Alice x

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Make-ahead, Soup

Moroccan Carrot, Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

I have a problem, and I don’t think I’m alone in it. My problem is that I just can’t say no! I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to miss out, in situations varying from a night out with some friends, right the way down to Liam getting himself a drink from the kitchen. I want one too! Ha! So, when there are a pile of scrummy-looking cakes on offer in the office, baked by some of my colleagues’ fair hands, I definitely can’t say no. I just have to try one.

This week there have been no less than three types of cake on offer. People have been busy over the weekend! A peanut butter and chocolate cake with a crumbly biscuit base and whipped cream topping, some lovely moist banoffee cupcakes and some delicious white chocolate and macadamia brownies. Oh my! There was no way I could resist all of these. In actual fact (and as you can probably guess), I tried all three. (Oops!)

I like to think I’m a relatively healthy person, but if I deny myself these occasional treats, well, I would probably go insane. I think it is healthy (for my mind) to allow myself things I want, rather than denying myself and leaving myself feeling unfulfilled. After treating my tastebuds, I looked at what I had to eat for the rest of the day: carrots and hummus, sugarsnap peas, an apple, a banana, a salad for lunch, and soup for dinner. Thankfully I can afford to treat myself once in a while.

I think this is what people who try to ‘diet’ forget. It isn’t about starving yourself, or following a strict ‘rabbit food’ regime, but about eating healthy and filling foods and allowing yourself a cake, or a pizza, for example, every now and again. Balance is key, and no-one is perfect!

After my cake day, I returned home to this soup, which I had made at the weekend and frozen in portions of 2. It makes 8-10 portions, so that is 1 portion of this soup a week for myself and Liam, for the next 4-5 weeks! It is a bonus if my healthy food works out as pretty darn cheap per meal as well. I found this soup on the Food52 site, and was instantly sold.

This soup is foolproof really. I’m sure anyone can throw a load of vegetables and spices into a pan and leave it to cook, then blend it all up. If you are into making your own soup, you should definitely try this one, the flavours are just wonderful. If you have never made your own soup before, well, this is is a tasty way to start.

With 6 carrots and a huge sweet potato in this soup, it contains loads of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in our bodies. This is an essential nutrient, important for keeping our cells moist and happy, and therefore able to stay free from infection. The antioxidants in these vegetables are thought to slow the degeneration of our eye health, and are also implicated in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Time to get the blender out!

Oh, and this is Liam’s favourite soup. Convinced?
 

This is what you need:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium white onions

5-6 large carrots

1 large sweet potato (approx 550-600g)

1 cup red lentils

1 tbsp harissa paste

2 tsp Ras el Hanout (you can buy this from a regular supermarket – I got mine from sainsburys)

8 cups (approx 2 litres) vegetable stock (I used 2 Knorr stockpots to make 4 cups (1L) of stock, then added another 4 cups (1L) of just water.

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

To serve:

Slice of wholegrain bread/ciabatta/your favourite bread for soup!

1 tbsp full-fat Greek yoghurt

A few coriander leaves

This is how to make it:

Heat the oil in a large pan, then cook the onions for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the remaining ingredients, put the lid on at an angle to crack a bit of room between the lid and pan, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let cool slightly, then blend with a stick blender until smooth.

Enjoy with Greek yoghurt, coriander and some bread to mop it all up.

Either freeze the rest for up to a few months, or keep in the fridge for a few days.

 

Stay happy guys!

Alice x

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Mains, Make-ahead

Mexican Bean Burgers

I risk sounding like a broken record, but I’ve been such a busy bee lately. I thought that putting that final citation in my overdue 18-month report would let me breathe a huge sigh of relief, but it brought the fear of my presentation, fear of the viva, and all the lab work that has been put back while I have been writing. I thought that my now-empty weekends would feel like I was frolicking through a beautiful meadow, letting the fresh smells of freedom waft up into my nostrils, but instead I’ve been overcome with the need to see my friends and family that I’ve neglected for months, and the guilt that I still can’t find the time for all of them (I don’t even have that many people to see!). I’m sat here on a Saturday in the lab office, waiting for my cells to do their thing so I can go home and try to cling on to the remainder of my spare time*.

I should have known a PhD would be like this. After all, Liam has been through it, and, along with many others, has tried to warn me of the pains of a PhD student. Somehow I thought it would be different, but no! I have not escaped. Oh well, only another 16 months to go.
At least I can go home and tuck into a tasty Mexican bean burger!

*spare time to worry about not finishing enough work for my PhD,  not having enough time to see my friends, and not having enough time to blog (obviously the most important…)

Fry!

Mash!

Mix!

Shape!

Liam found this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website when looking for something that would feel satisfying enough for a Saturday night to keep us from reaching for the takeaway menu. A vegetarian burger fits the bill perfectly! Anything between two layers of bread tends to go down well, but we tend to try and avoid a carb-heavy diet most of the time. I can make an exception for this Mexican bean burger though, as it is rammed with healthy pulses and delicious toppings.
The tins of mixed pulses I use contain chickpeas, soya beans , black eyed beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans and adzuki beans. There’s a load of fibre and protein packed into each burger, and when topped with red onion, spinach, avocado and jalapeños (our favourite!), makes a wonderfully nutritious meal. I love topping mine with soured cream too!
I eat these in the satisfying knowledge that I’ve got a good portion of soluble and insoluble fibre for the day in there, which is essential for healthy heart and bowel, respectively. Soluble fibre is thought to be effective at lowering our cholesterol levels, while insoluble fibre helps with regularity (if you know what I mean) and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Aswell as being super healthy, they are super easy and super handy, as they can be cooked from frozen for a lazy weeknight treat!

To make them, this is all you need:

1 tbsp oil for frying (e.g. rapeseed oil)

1 large red onion (I only had small, so I used 3), chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

3 cans (400g) of mixed beans/pulses, rinsed and drained

2 slices of wholegrain bread

1/2 lime, juiced

1 medium free-range egg, beaten

1 handful pf coriander, chopped

To Make:

1. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.

2. Add the garlic, chilli, cumin, paprika, cayenne, chilli powder (if using) and cook for another few minutes

3. Take off the heat and let cool slightly. If you haven’t already, you can drain and rinse the mixed beans/pulses now.

4. Pop the cooked onion/garlic/chilli/spices in a bowl with the mixed beans/pulses, and mash. Mash until approximately half is mushed up, and half still resembles beans. This will give it a nice texture.

5. Whiz up the bread in a blender until it resembles breadcrumbs

6. Add the breadcrumbs, lime juice, egg and coriander and mix it until everything is combined.

7. Shape into burgers of equal size. The size I make mine, I always seem to come out with 9, but you can make this mixture into slightly more or less, depending on your needs.

Don’t they look so appetising?!

If you want to freeze some, place them uncovered on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and pop them in the freezer. When they are frozen, portion them out into freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months (mine never last this long though because they are too tasty).

To Cook:

Fresh: Chill the burgers for 30 minutes in the fridge. Heat 1 tbsp additional oil in a pan, and fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden-brown.

Frozen: Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan). Place the frozen burgers on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with tin foil and cook for 30 minutes. I usually flip mine over half way through, too. (If you are cooking sweet potato fries too, put the fries in the oven 10 minutes before the burgers, at the same temperature, and flip them over every 10-15 minutes.)

To Serve:

Serve in a wholegrain bun with spinach, red onion, avocado and jalapenos, and top with soured cream. To make it even more tasty, serve with sweet potato fries (it is definitely worth it!)

Stay happy (these burgers are sure to make you!)

Alice x

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Uncategorized

Pure, Original Hummus

I know this is just a simple hummus recipe, but sometimes simple is what you need. Nothing extravagant, just pure and original hummus.

Although I didn’t really like hummus as a child, or teenager for that matter, hummus now has a fond place in my stomach, I mean heart. I tend to have a tablespoon of it almost every day as an incentive to eat a carrot. Sounds strange, I know, but whenever I just have a plain old carrot, there is always something better to eat. Pair it with a little tub of hummus though, and I’m crunching away, annoying everyone else around.

As I have been getting pretty into hummus, and therefore buying it more often, I finally got fed up of splashing out for these expensive pots when I’d heard that it was so easy to make at home! I was looking to see if there was a special trick to making hummus when I came across this blog, who swear by blending the tahini and lemon juice first to make a lovely creamy whipped texture, before adding the chickpeas and such. I tried it, and loved it!

Many of you will also have probably heard that removing the skin from chickpeas before blending will give it a smoother texture. I’ve tried both ways, and yes, it is smoother when the skin is removed, but it took me an extra 10 – 15 minutes to do it this way. Personally, I don’t think it is worth it as the hummus still tastes great un-shelled, and this way you’re not stood round giving yourself RSI like you’re in a chickpea factory. Anyway, isn’t it meant to be quick and easy to make your own hummus? Yes, it is, so no shelling here!

This is a pretty robust recipe for the classic hummus, and now I’m excited to start playing around with it to make a different type of hummus… maybe add some roasted red peppers, or switch up the chickpeas for black beans, beetroot or edamame. They all sound delicious, it is a shame I can’t make them all at once!

Note: Carrots not necessary! Liam likes this hummus in a wrap – hummus, spinach, feta and avocado. Yum!

Oh, another note: Don’t burn out your food processor with all the blending!

You will need:

1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

1/4 cup (60ml) tahini

1 garlic clovee, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 – 3 tbsp water

Directions:

Add the tahini and lemon juice to the food processor and blend for about 1 minute. You will need to stop and scrape the sides down half way through. You should get a lovely smooth whipped texture.

Next, add the garlic, olive oil, sea salt and ground cumin. Whiz away again! after about 30 seconds, scrape the sides down and repeat.

Now add half the chickpeas and blend for about 1 minute, until they are all combined, scraping halfway through again.

Add the remaining half of the chickpeas and repeat. Blend until quite smooth. This mixture will be quite thick, so add the water, 1 tbsp at a time, until you reach the right consistency. I added 2 tbsp to mine. Whizz it all up again to make sure there are no sneaky chickpeas that evaded the blades.

Stay happy, and get crunching! (On carrots.)

Alice x

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Breakfast, Smoothies & Shakes

Glorious Green Smoothie

Everyone loves a smoothie, right? Well, we do in this house (flat)! My favourites are the green smoothies, whereas Liam loves the more indulgent ones – frozen banana, milk, chocolate and peanut butter, for example.
I love green smoothies. Why? For starters, they helped me kick my caffeine habit. It wasn’t a bad one, but I was always conscious that my intake was slowly increasing. I went from one instant coffee a couple of times a week, to 1 instant with breakfast, 1 americano when I got to work, and then another americano in the afternoon, all in about 3 years. This was too much for me! I still enjoy a cup at home at the weekend, but now I really enjoy it without feeling like a slave to it.

My motivation to get rid of the coffee came when I bought the Honestly Healthy recipe book. It is really informative on which foods are acid-forming in the body (which is bad). Coffee is apparently one of the worst. I was also more than aware that coffee can actually cause more tiredness – anyone who saw me around 3pm would have known this too.
I needed something to substitute for the coffee, but also give me a bit of a boost in energy. Enter the green smoothie!
I won’t lie… the headaches and tiredness were pretty bad – I decided to (pretty much) go cold turkey. But, it passed, and I felt really good.
Now, all this liquid veg and lack of coffee does my energy levels wonders!
I also love the fact that before, I would never eat a stick of celery, or a kiwi, or a handful of kale in any regular day. I would never eat a stick of celery in any day to be honest – I think it tastes quite vile. But whizz it up in a concoction of nutritious green yummy-ness and I’ll drink one straight down, no problem.

All of these vegetables and fruits that would have never made it into my meals or snacks, are now giving me all this extra nutrition that I wasn’t getting before. Bonus! I have recovered from the coffee-induced slump and gained an extra boost from the veg.  
This green smoothie is one of my favourites. It is from the Honestly Healthy book, with a little extra addition of a banana (or mango if you don’t like banana). I still drink one every morning ‘in replace of my coffee’ even though my coffee habit is long gone. If this is my new habit, well, I don’t think I will be trying to kick it just yet!

You will need:

A large handful of spinach

1 kiwi, skin and white centre removed

2 celery stalks, ends removed

1/4 avocado

1 banana (or about 6 x 1 inch chunks frozen/fresh mango)

10cm piece of cucumber (approx. 1/4 – 1/3 cucumber)

1/2 lemon, juiced

250ml cold, filtered water

8-12 ice cubes, depending on size

This is what you do:

1. Wash the celery, spinach and cucumber.

2. Put the spinach in the blender first. Chop the rest of the solid ingredients and add to the blender.

3. Juice the lemon into a small bowl. Really go for it! Then remove any seeds that popped out. Pour the juice into the blender.

4. Add the water and ice cubes.

5. Blend until smooth!

Stay Happy,

Alice x

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