Salmon baked on a bed of fennel, ginger and carrot

This is without doubt one of my favourite meals. It is my comfort food, my celebration food and my ‘home alone for the night so I get to cook whatever I like’ food.

It is a recipe that a gorgeous family friend made for me when I stayed with her in Switzerland and since that day over 6 years ago I have made it many many times. Often just as it was made for me, sometimes with subtle changes or additions depending on what is in the fridge.

This dish is easy, does not require many ingredients but manages to be healthy and absolutely delicious.

Begin by finely slicing fennel, carrot and ginger – julienne sticks works well. I like to add onion as well as it is one of my favourite vegetables. If you like chilli slice some up too.

Chopped Veg

In a pan or wok sauté the vegetables with some olive or coconut oil until softened. Add a dash of fish sauce, a few drops of sesame oil and some salt to taste.

Sauteed Veg

Once softened – roughy 5 minutes, place the vegetables in the bottom of an oven proof dish and lay the salmon on top skin facing down. Slide into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes – I like my salmon cooked through and flaking apart, adjust for your preference.

Ready to bake

I do however find that the longer it cooks the more delicious oils ooze from the salmon and caramelise the vegetables below, enriching the flavour.

mmmmm

In my opinion, it is best served on Jasmine rice – the fragrance accompanies so well. But for a paleo or grain free option quinoa or cauliflower rice would be delicious.

yum

Now white rice has been demonised recently and there has been a shift to brown but did you know white rice is the only grain without anti-nutrient factors?? Most grains contain phytates or oxalates that bind to minerals in the body, such as calcium, reducing their absorption. Brown rice, especially Australian grown has been found to contain high levels of arsenic so the occasion bowl of white rice is ok! Rice is also gluten free, and generally well tolerated. But it can have a high GI if eaten without fat and protein such as in this dish so make sure it is a balanced meal :)

Tonight I am making this dish, and may turn my jasmine rice into coconut rice… I may add some five spice to the vegetables whilst sautéing, and I may add zucchini as it softens and tastes delicious. But I will always keep the base the same and I implore you to try it that way first…

It is cooking right now, and my god, it smells delicious!

So why is this healthy?

Ginger is wonderful for our digestive tract. It is calming, warming and tonifying. Salmon is rich is omega 3 oils which are anti-inflammatory and good for brain function, and fennel helps with any abdominal bloating or pain. Onion helps boost our immune system, and our detoxification and methylation pathways, and carrots are rich in beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A.

For those who need quantities :) The veg will cook down so multiply the quantities per person

(Serves one)

  • 1 Carrot
  • 1/2 large Fennel bulb
  • 1cm sliced Ginger
  • A good glug of oil
  • 1tsp Fish oil
  • A few drops of Sesame Oil
  • Salmon – 1 piece per person
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Rice to serve
  • Coriander to garnish

I really hope you try this, I have eaten far more of this than I should – doesn’t look like there’ll be left overs! Its just too good….

M xx

Delicious Sweet Beef Casserole

With winter in full swing the yearning for slower cooked food creeps in… And one of my favourite casserole recipes also happens to be healthy, and super easy. It is a family recipe, passed down from my mother, and her mother, and is so simple, but overflowing with flavour that you will want to make this every week. One caveat – It does not photograph well!

It has a sweetness to it that satisfies even the pickiest eaters, but has no sugar added, nor packet mix base. With only 6 ingredients this won’t break the bank either.

Simply cut up an onion, 2 green apples – preferably granny smith, and toss them in a baking dish – I use our Le Cruiset. Soften them with some olive or coconut oil, and add in some raisins or sultanas – ideally organic and without sulphur preservatives. Once softened, stir through the curry powder, and allow to become fragrant – only takes a moment. Now the meat goes in – if you have time, brown it, if not add in the coconut milk (enough to cover), warm slightly on the stove, then stick it in the oven for 2-3 hours.

Apple, Onion and Sultanas    Pre oven

I like to put it in with the lid on. After an hour or so move the lid slightly off centre so some moisture can escape, and it will cook down, then with half an hour to go take the lid off all together if it is still too moist (Mine tends to be reduced enough so I skip this step). It will be browned and caramelised on top and totally delicious.(I have tried this in the slow cooker and it didn’t work nearly as well.. the higher heat means the fruit breaks down completely and the liquid reduces). The taste cannot be described. It is not like a curry, you would barely know it had coconut milk in it, and the fruit is no longer recognisable.. it is just delicious! If you are pressed for time this works very well with mince too…

Sweet Beef Casserole  IMG_6581

So how much of each should I use?

For 4 people:

1-2 brown onions
2 granny smith apples
50gm raisins or sultanas
3 tbsp curry powder
1.2kg meat – chuck steak or stewing meat works well
2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk
A dash of water if the meat isn’t covered with liquid

I like to serve it on a bed of jasmine rice, however it is also delicious on couscous or quinoa (or for a paleo option try cauliflower ‘rice’/‘couscous’ – recipe here). Pair it with some broccoli and voila!

If you have any chutney a dollop on top works very well, as does cucumber or banana mixed through natural yoghurt as a yummy side to stir through.

I promise you will want to make this again and again.

M x

The Versatile Cauliflower

For the last few years people have been posting recipes using cauliflower instead of things like rice, couscous, pizza bases and mash – and I thought, hmm I like cauliflower, but really, is it going to live up to those delicious carbs? Well, in an effort to eat less of these types of carbs I decided to try it, and low and behold – it is delicious! The first dish I made using cauliflower as couscous my boyfriend took one mouthful and said – ‘This is BETTER than couscous’, I kid you not.

cauliflower

So how do you do it, and what do you do with it?

It is really easy! For ‘couscous’ and ‘rice’ it is essentially the same process – just the application that differs. Grab yourself a cauliflower – I find that half a cauli is plenty for the two of us, with some leftovers so multiply accordingly. As I have a Thermomix I cut the half into four pieces, and pulse it in two batches. The ‘pulse’ or ‘turbo’ button is handy because it blitzes it at high speed for a short burst. It normally only takes 3-4 bursts.
Cauliflower ‘rice'

Once it is blitzed it will resemble rice or couscous and from here toss it into a frying pan with some olive oil/coconut oil or butter. I also like to sauté some garlic or onion first then add the cauli, and toss through some coriander or parsley depending on what I am serving it with. Below are some ways I have used it recently.

Cauliflower ‘rice'

I have made it into ‘couscous’ and put some baked chicken and brocollini on top.
This was so easy, and delicious – the chicken and brocollini were cut up and baked for 30 minutes with lemon, five spice and garlic.

Baked Chicken with Cauliflower ‘couscous'

Next I made it into ‘rice’ (same as couscous really) and used it as a base for a stir fry..

 IMG_6631

And one of the best to date – a Sheppard’s pie – with cauliflower mash, instead of potato. The amazing benefit of this is that it stays so moist, where potato tends to go a bit dry, especially if you make enough for left overs and reheat it the next night.. mmmm.

Cauliflower Sheppard’s Pie

So how do you make mash? Cut up the cauli, put it in a pot with water to cover it, and bring to the boil. Boil for around 5 minutes of until a knife easily pierces the cauli, then strain. If you have a blender or Thermomix, throw it in there, with a few tablespoons of butter, or oil of your liking, and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a high powered blender grab your masher and do it by hand.

We made a yummy savoury mince with peas, carrots, celery, zucchini and tomato paste, covered it with the yummy mash, and some cheese and baked until golden – around 25 minutes. It was so tasty!

All of these dishes are paleo, gluten free, and deliciously healthy. They can be easily altered to add your favourite flavours or veggies as well.

Let me know if you have a favourite way to use cauliflower!

M x

My ‘Day on a Plate’ – with a difference

Ok, so there has been a lot of press this week about the ‘Day on a plate’ phenomenon due to UK ‘Juice Queen’ Kara Rosen outlining her tiny food intake, and the rehashing of Pete Evans activated nuts debacle. (They are actually better for you though, but I digress).

I thought I might share my day on a plate – but catering to two days. One I like to call ‘How I wish I always ate’ and the other ‘I am human and food is delicious so don’t judge me’.

Day 1:

Breakfast: I don’t tend to eat early, if anything I fast a little when I wake up. I do have some apple cider vinegar in water most mornings though, and then just wait until I am hungry.

I typically sauté some zucchini, mushroom, kale, onion, coriander/parsley in olive or coconut oil, normally adding in a dash of water to soften the veggies so they aren’t ‘frying’ per se. Once they are almost cooked I crack an egg over top of them, mix it around and make a veggie scramble. YUM. Some salt and pepper to season, and it keeps me going for hours. Sometimes I put it on a piece of sourdough, sometimes I have it as is. If I have left over quinoa in the fridge I might put that in.

Veggie scramble

May or may not contain kale this time.

I used to find that this didn’t sustain me, and I would add matchsticks of sweet potato or potato before the other veg – it worked really well and tasted great. Yes I know potato is one of those veg we have a love hate relationship with – but it contains good amounts of silica, and you’re not going to use much.

Lunch:

If there are no leftovers I’ll often go to the fridge, stare for a bit, then throw together a salad. Rocket, spinach leaves, capsicum, mushroom, tomato, avocado – really whatever is in there, with some tinned salmon or tuna on top. Yes canned fish has its downsides so don’t eat it everyday, but sometimes it is better to have some fish, rather than none. If not tuna or salmon, I might add some boiled egg. If it is summer and the coconut oil is melted I’ll drizzle that over, otherwise some olive oil, and a dash of vinegar.

IMG_5567

It won’t rotate :(

Dinner:

Often a chicken and veggie stir fry with quinoa, or some baked salmon with sautéed brocollini – both super easy, nourishing and healthy.

Brocollini in a pan with coconut oil, chilli, garlic and ginger is a great side dish to almost anything. Sometimes I add in beans, or asparagus, other times bok choy. The coconut oil adds an amazing flavour as it is held in the leaves and is very satisfying.

For stir fries I’ve found that adding some chilli, ginger and garlic, along with fish sauce, and five spice can do amazing things.

I try to make sure each meal has a good balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates. However most meals are a bit more on the ‘paleo’ side generally – low carb, good fat, and quality protein. I feel great knowing that I have included vegetables in every meal, and optimised my nutritional intake.

 

Day 2: (Which tends to precede Day 1, rather than follow it :) and is typically on the weekend)

Breakfast:

We head to a cafe and I cannot help but order a bacon, avocado and feta bagel – because YUM.

Lunch:

We are bored, and don’t have any plans for the afternoon so we head across the road to the pub for a late lunch. May as well have a beer/glass of wine, and try their tasting platter. God those lamb shank empanadas were good, and the croquettes? mmmm.

We wander into town, stop for another vino at a cute bar where there is live music. So great to have lovely weather, and great entertainment.

There is a cycling event on so we stop at the food trucks – one does the most delicious ham, cheese and mustard crepes – we share one.

IMG_5881

There is entertainment all around the park so we sit and listen to the band, and have a Pimms.

A few hours of listening to music, watching the entertainment, and walking the cycling circuit pass and we find another food stand – they have lobster and shrimp rolls – on a brioche bun no less. Delish.

We grazed all afternoon, had a wonderful day, and walked home feeling slightly full, but happy. Yes I woke up the next day feeling foggy and lethargic, but some apple cider vinegar, some veggies for breakfast and a healthy lunch picked me up again, and as much as I might lament the unhealthy choices, life needs to be about moderation. As long as there is more of your Day 1, than Day 2 you are on the right track.

What do your Day 1/2 look like? Do you think these health nuts posting their Day on a Plate also have days like this where they stop being so strict?

M xx

Navigating the supermarket and avoiding the devil (sugar).

Oh my gosh! Uni, exams and a trip to Fiji have meant this blog has been severely neglected. But I was sent an interesting article today by a reader that spurred me to add some of my own tips.

Heaven!

Heaven!

The article is here and outlines how to navigate the supermarket, some common food myths, what to, and what not to eat, and simple ways to get around this.

I like it because it is what I live by, and is also correct. So many articles and advice provided by nutritionists advocates things like margarine – which I wrote about and explained here, and also advise the use of low fat dairy which is basically sugar.

One of the main discussions lately has been about the detrimental effects of sugar – and that if we had had a low sugar craze rather than low fat the world would be a much better place. A great video that will explain it is Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It is not short but outlines the way sugar is digested, and how easily is turns to fat, and discusses how fructose is metabolised like alcohol and causes issues with the liver. Just the name triglycerides gives away the fact that most stomach fat is sugar – glyceride from glucose. Another great resource if you are looking at giving the No sugar diet a try is Sarah Wilsons, I Quit Sugar – she has multiple books and recipes available, and has a great Facebook page with lots of info. If you do need to buy products with added sugar, be aware that glucose is much better than fructose/sucralose/aspartame etc, and remember that 5gm equals one teaspoon of sugar. If something has 20gm sugar in it, would you be happy eating 4tsp of sugar??

Now getting back to the article, my lovely reader asked if I had any extra tips – and the one I sent back was the 80:20 rule – which I’m sure I’ve spoken about before. Aim to be good at least 80% of the time, and the other 20 will keep you sane, is how I see it. Don’t become so pedantic about what you eat that the stress of it is causing more issues by releasing too much cortisol! (which will lower your immunity and put you in an oxidative state).

We buy and make all of our food from scratch (apart from some basics of course), and a lot of people are baffled at how we do that. Once you start you will see how easy and often cost effective it can be.

Some other easy supermarket tips to help avoid sugar and processed foods include:

Cooking your own simple pasta sauce. I don’t mean slaving away in the kitchen for hours, nor making a bolognese. I mean cooking a tomato based sauce in a few minutes like the ones you would buy in a jar with an essay worth of ingredients.

Just grab some tinned tomatoes or pureed tomato passata, put it in a pan with some sauteed onion and garlic, add some chilli if you like spice, and some basil – viola! Its probably cheaper than a ready made sauce! And to that I would normally add some veg like zucchini, mushroom, kale etc. You could add ricotta and spinach, oregano, parsley,  bacon (part of the 20% sorry), mince of course, or chicken. A dash of cream if you like it a bit richer and you have a meal in under 30 minutes.

Ready made stir-fry sauces in foil made by Maggi etc are another thing I refuse to buy – of course some of the basics are already processed like soy, oyster, fish sauce, and hoisin, but find one that is the least offensive/organic, or just use chilli, garlic, ginger, and five spice like I do. Simple, cheap, fresh and delicious. If you store ginger in the freezer it is really easy to grate and adds such a great flavour.

Another one that frustrates me is pancake mix. It is so so simple to make pancakes from scratch and has 1/10th the ingredients. One egg. One cup of flour. One cup of milk. That is it. If you want to feed more people, double/triple it. Will make about 6-8 depending on how big you like them. Just mix it all up, let it rest a few minutes and ladle into the pan. If you like them fluffy rather than thin, use self raising.

That goes for cake/muffin/cupcake mixes too – they drive me crazy and taste so artificial. Recipes with butter, eggs, flour and milk are everywhere, and we have most of these things in our cupboards. I am not vegetarian as you can see, but these can be substituted for olive oil, flax ‘eggs’, spelt flour, and soy/rice/almond milk etc.

One question my reader found hard to comprehend in the article was how bad breakfast cereals are. They are so processed that the grain portion, whether it is wheat or corn or rice, breaks down in the body so quickly and converts to sugar as there is no fibre or protein left to sustain it. And when eaten with low fat milk that has had the fat removed (but would  slows the absorption of sugar/carbs and lowers the GI) it is going to make you hungry by 10am. I always have protein for breakfast, after a nights ‘fasting’ you need to eat it or your body will start taking it from muscles. And the heart is a muscle so this is important. I have eggs, or sardines on toast, or quinoa porridge. I try and make sure I get my 20gm of protein at breakfast time. Milk and yoghurt provide some, but not normally enough. If you like oats have then with milk and nuts.

To be honest I’m finding it hard to write this post as this is just what I do, and have done for many years, so to think about what people buy processed and don’t know how to make from scratch is tough! I would love you to add comments and ask questions so I can add more tips and recipes!

I will expand on these topics in upcoming posts as well :)

Mxx

Barley Risotto with Roasted Veggies and Spinach..

Last night I made a barley risotto, and after I’d started cooking I turned on MKR  (My Kitchen Rules) to find they were making it in the grand finale.. Sixth Sense???

The reason I made it had nothing to do with MKR and more to do with Alcohol Free April – which turned into Alcohol Free 3 weeks. We were strict 99% of the time, however after 3 weeks I guess we thought we would see some results. So far all we had noticed was that it was easier to get up on a Saturday and Sunday morning! We went for early walks, we enjoyed sitting at local cafes having a leisurely breakfast, and ate very healthy food – as that’s what we craved. The one upside I had noticed was that I seemed to have lost some of the pudge around my middle that was hard to shift.. a few centremetres of bloat, just gone. Amazing.

So how what did all this have to do with barley risotto? This last few days we decided that we had done what we had wanted, we had proven to ourselves we could do it, we had given our bodies a break – and we decided, being ANZAC day it was right to honour my grandfather, and those who fought, with a beer at the RSL. And some red wine with dinner. Friday was a tough day at work for my amazing boyfriend so the rest of the red went well with our chicken and salsa wraps. Saturday turned out to be an amazing day weather wise so we celebrated our return to alcohol with some beer on the  balcony. And this brings me back to my point. Today we woke up feeling crap. Our usual walk was questioned – but we dragged ourselves out knowing it would help. We were drained and sluggish and when dinner rolled around all we wanted was  something simple, full of vegetables, fresh, healthy, and tasty.

We had Arborio rice but for some reason I wasn’t sold.  I went through our pantry in my mind and remembered I’d bought biodynamic barley at the beautiful shop around the corner from uni (Spelt Quinoa – Fitzroy). I googled to see what quantities to use with what and made it up from there!

It was everything I had hoped, warm, comforting, healthy, and filling and the added benefit was that it was light.. sometimes risotto can be a bit dense and heavy, but with barley, whilst it was less cohesive, it still had the creamy texture with the added benefit of being full of whole grains.

Barley is full of fibre which helps us metabolise fats, reduces cholesterol in the blood due to its beta glucan content, reduces the risk of colon cancer, and makes short chain fatty acids which are an important fuel source for our cells. It is also a good source of selenium and other vitamins and minerals.

Barley Risotto with Roast Veggies and Spinach

  • 1 cup Barley
  • 4 Cups of stock
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine/Verjuice
  • Herbs/spices – I used cumin, oregano, basil and parsley
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 capsicum
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 spring onions
  • parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • Handfull of spinach
  • 2 large mushrooms, chopped
  • labne – optional

Start by chopping all of your veggies into cubes and preparing them for roasting with a drizzle of olive oil, and some cumin sprinkled on top. You can use whichever veggies you like – I just raided the fridge. Pop them in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for around 30 – 50 minutes depending on your oven, your roasting tray and veg size.

Veg in oven

Once the veggies are underway grab 2 pots, fill one with the stock and add  the chopped garlic and onion to the other with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil. Allow the stock to boil and then reduce it to a slow simmer.

onion

Soften the onion and garlic until slightly translucent, and throw in a bay leaf and some herbs – as mentioned I used dried basil, parsley and oregano, but would have loved to add thyme or rosemary if i’d had some available.

Barley

Add the barley to the onion/garlic/oil mixture and stir for 2 -3  minutes allowing it to become coated and warmed. Pour in the white wine or verjuice (great non alcoholic alternative) to deglaze the pan and then its’s time to start adding the stock!

Simmering

The process is the same as with arborio rice – add in a ladle full of stock at a time and allow it to be absorbed before adding the next ladle. The benefit with barley I found was that it was less likely to stick and didn’t need constant stirring. I added a few more herbs after a taste test, and some salt and pepper – just go with what you feel is right. When the barley is almost at your preferred texture add in the mushrooms and spinach and allow to wilt slightly.

mix together

When the veggies are roasted, and the barley has softened to your liking add it all together in the pot with some spring onions and parmesan cheese, stir, and serve! I found that it took around 40 minutes to get the barley to the consistency we wanted, however I probably could have had it on a higher heat – possibly reducing the time. I would also like to try it in the thermomix as that produces wonderful risottos..

voila

Viola! I gave it to the boyfriend and he said ‘Oh, Yum!’. We didn’t have any leftovers. If you were making this as a main dish for more than 2 people I would increase the amount of Barley. I wish i’d made enough to have some today but alas… I’m sure we will be making it again soon.

The reason the labne is optional is because I forgot to add it at the end. I went to the trouble of draining some greek yoghurt and then left it on the bench! I did stir a bit through when having seconds and it was divine, it added a creaminess that I will certainly remember next time..

I love experimenting with new recipes – and this base can now be used for so many other risott0 combinations – what should we try next??

M xx

2 Ingredient Pizza Dough, and the Meal Plan Update

Dear me – where has this month gone?! My meal planning so far has only amounted to trolling through countless recipe books, writing down a list of great recipes, and building a list of staples/options for shopping.

We haven’t had takeaway once though and whilst we haven’t planned ahead for the week, we have planned each day and made some pretty yummy stuff.

Since starting our alcohol free month I would estimate we have saved over $200 although I haven’t noticed any other effects healthwise.

Here is a list of our meals for the last week – We were out Monday and Tuesday:

  • Wednesday 3rd April – Five Spice Beef Stir fry with veggies
  • Thursday 4th April – Balsamic Marinated Chicken with BBQ Corn and Homemade Sweet Potato Wedges
  • Friday 5th April – Out with friends at After the Tears, an amazing Polish Restaurant in Elsterwick
  • Saturday 6th April – Dumplings at China Red (AMAZING) before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Hilarious)
  • Sunday 7th April – ‘Summer’ Lasagne – Recipe to come
  • Monday 8th April – Leftovers
  • Tuesday 9th April – Homemade Pizza with Fig, Pear and Rocket Salad – Recipe to come.

I’m going to start with the Homemade Pizza recipe, rather than the lasagne, as it was so much fun to make and turned out much better than I expected. My trepidation was due to an unusual pizza base ingredient, and to be honest – I didn’t think it would work. I squatted next to the oven watching with surprise as it rose and browned and the final result was amazing.

So what was this strange ingredient? Yoghurt. My pizza base was made of equal amounts self raising flour and natural/greek yoghurt.

You just mix them in a bowl – 1 cup of each will make one pizza base – stir to combine, get your hands in there to bring it together in a ball, and then knead it on a floured surface for around 6 -8 minutes.

Pizza dough

My dough was a bit sticky so I did need to have extra flour on hand to sprinkle over it. Once it was nice and stretchy I floured my rolling pin and started to make the base – this is where I thought it was all going to fall apart. The dough stuck to the board, and the rolling pin and I fretted. Some more flour was added, and some baking paper was put underneath so we could transfer it easily to the hot pizza stone. I started to roll again and amazingly it became this round, even beautiful pizza base to which we added toppings. In future at this stage I would probably cook the base for a few minutes, as the topping was almost overcooked by the time the base was done.

Pizza

With a tomato base, we added mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, roasted capsicum, prosciutto, pesto and mozzarella cheese. Some of my amazing twitter friends also offered incredible suggestions such as a caramelized onion base, or a sweet potato and chorizo topping, or potato dipped in olive oil/salt/rosemary. These along with feta, pine nuts and baby spinach sound incredible. Now that I know this base works we will certainly be upping the ante on the toppings!

We took it out of the oven, served it up and with apprehension took a bite. It was light, it was fluffy, it was soft, and overall delicious. My only addition might be a bit of salt or herbs to the base.. The added benefit was that afterwards you didn’t have that bloated ‘I’ve just eaten too much pizza’ feeling. It didn’t sit like a rock in your stomach.

To serve alongside I made a rocket salad with pear and fig, which I shaved some parmesan onto, and drizzled with olive oil and rocket.. Viola!

Salad

 

If you would like any other the other recipes let me know – and I would love to hear if you try this dough!

*Credit must go to Pinterest where I found this pizza dough recipe – it is originally from this site.

 

M xx